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Title:      Moondyne (1879)
Author:     John Boyle O'Reilly (1844-1890)
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Language:   English
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Title:      Moondyne (1879)
Author:     John Boyle O'Reilly (1844-1890)





BOOK ONE - THE GOLD MINE OF THE VASSE.



THE LAND OF THE RED LINE

WESTERN AUSTRALIA is a vast and unknown country, almost mysterious in
its solitude and unlikeness to any other part of the earth. It is the
greatest of the Australias in extent, and in many features the richest
and loveliest.

But the sister colonies of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland are
famous for their treasure of gold. Men from all lands have flocked
thither to gather riches. They care not for the slow labour of the
farmer or grazier. Let the weak and the old, the coward and the dreamer,
prune the vine and dry the figs, and wait for the wheat to ripen. Strong
men must go to the trial--must set muscle against muscle, and brain
against brain, in the mine and the market.

Men's lives are short; and unless they gather gold in the mass, how
shall they wipe out the primal curse of poverty before the hand loses
its skill and the heart its strong desire?

Western Australia is the Cinderella of the South. She has no gold like
her sisters. To her was given the servile and unhappy portion. The dregs
of British society were poured upon her soil. The robber and the
manslayer were sent thither. Her territory was marked off with a Red
Line. She has no markets for honest men, and no ports for honest ships.
Her laws are not the laws of other countries, but the terrible rules of
the menagerie. Her citizens have no rights: they toil their lives out at
heavy tasks, but earn no wages, nor own a vestige of right in the soil
they till. It is a land of slaves and bondmen--the great penal colony of
Great Britain.

"There is no gold in the western colony," said the miners
contemptuously; "let the convicts keep the land--but let them observe our
red line."

So the convicts took the defamed country, and lived and died there, and
others were transported there from England to replace those who died,
and every year the seething ships gave up their addition to the terrible
population.

In time, the western colony came to be regarded as a plague-spot, where
no man thought of going and no man did go unless sent in irons.

If the miners from Victoria and New South Wales, however, had visited
the penal land some years after its establishment, they would have heard
whispers of strange import--rumours and questions of a great golden
secret possessed by the western colony. No one could tell where the
rumour began or on what it was based, except perhaps the certainty that
gold was not uncommon among the natives of the colony, who had little or
no intercourse with the aborigines of the gold-yielding countries of the
south and east.

The belief seemed to hover in the air; and it settled with dazzling
conviction on the crude and abnormal minds of the criminal population.
At their daily toil in the quarries or on the road parties, no rock was
blasted nor tree uprooted that eager eyes did not hungrily scan the
upturned earth. At night, when the tired wretches gathered round the
camp-fire outside their prison hut, the dense mahogany forest closing
weirdly round the white-clad group, still the undiscovered gold was the
topic earnestly discussed. And even the government officers and the few
free settlers became after a time filled with the prevailing expectancy
and disquiet.

But years passed, and not an ounce of gold was discovered in the colony.
The Government had offered reward to settlers or ticket-of-leave men who
would find the first nugget or gold-bearing rock; but no claimant came
forward.

Still, there remained the tantalizing fact--for, in the course of years,
fact it had grown to be--that gold was to be found in the colony, and in
abundance. The native bushmen were masters of the secret, but neither
bribe nor torture could wring it from them. Terrible stories were
whispered among the convicts of attempts that had been made to force the
natives to give up the precious secret. Gold was common amongst these
bushmen. Armlets and anklets had been seen on men and women; and some of
their chief men, it was said, wore breast-plates and enormous chains of
hammered gold.

At last the feeling in the west grew to fever heat; and, in 1848, the
Governor of the penal colony issued a proclamation, copies of which were
sent by native runners to every settler and ticket-of-leave man, and
were even surreptitiously distributed amongst the miners on the other
side of the red line.

This proclamation intensified the excitement. It seemed to bring the
mine nearer to every man in the colony. It was a formal admission that
there really was a mine; it dispelled the vague uncertainty, and left an
immediate hunger or greed in the minds of the population.

The proclamation read as follows:


L5.000 REWARD!

The above Reward will be paid for the discovery of the Mine from which
the Natives of the Vasse obtain their Gold.

A Free Pardon will be granted to the Discoverer, should he be of the
Bond Class.

No Reward will be given nor terms made with Absconders from the Prisons
or Road Parties.

By order, F. R. HAMPTON, Governor.
Official Residence, Perth, 28th June, 1848.

But nothing came of it. Not an ounce of gold was ever taken from the
earth. At last men began to avoid the subject. They could not bear to be
tantalized nor tortured by the splendid delusion. Some said there was no
mine in the Vasse, and others that, if there were a mine, it was known
only to a few of the native chiefs, who dealt out the raw gold to their
people.

For eight years this magnificent reward had remained unclaimed, and now
its terms were only recalled at the fires, of the road-making convicts,
or in the lonely slab huts of the mahogany sawyers, who were all
ticket-of-leave men.



THE CONVICT ROAD PARTY.

IT was a scorching day in midsummer--a few days before Christmas.

Had there been any moisture in the bush it would have steamed in the
heavy heat. During the midday hours not a bird stirred among the
mahogany and gum trees. On the flat tops of the low banksia the round
heads of the white cockatoos could be seen in thousands, motionless as
the trees themselves. Not a parrot had the vim to scream. The chirping
insects were silent. Not a snake had courage to rustle his hard skin
against the hot and dead bush-grass. The bright-eyed iguanas wee in
their holes. The mahogany sawyers had left their logs and were sleeping
in the cool sand of their pits. Even the travelling ants had halted on
their wonderful roads, and sought the shade of a bramble.

All free things were at rest; but the penetrating click of the axe,
heard far through the bush, and now and again a harsh word of command,
told that it was a land of bondmen.

From daylight to dark, through the hot noon as steadily as in the cool
evening, the convicts were at work on the roads--the weary work that has
no wages, no promotion, no incitement, no variation for good or bad,
except stripes for the laggard.

Along the verge of the Koagulup Swamp--one of the greatest and dismallest
of the wooded lakes of the country, its black water deep enough to float
a man-of-war--a party of convicts were making a government road. They
were cutting their patient way into a forest only traversed before by
the aborigine and the absconder.

Before them in the bush, as in their lives, all was dark and
unknown-tangled underbrush, gloomy shadows, and noxious things. Behind
them, clear and open, lay the straight road they had made--leading to and
from the prison.

Their camp, composed of rough slab huts, was some two hundred miles from
the main prison of the colony, on the Swan River, at Fremantle, from
which radiate all the roads made by the bondmen.

The primitive history of the colony is written for ever in its roads.
There is, in this penal labour, a secret of value to be utilized more
fully by a wiser civilization. England sends her criminals to take the
brunt of the new land's hardship and danger-to prepare the way for
honest life and labour. In every community there is either dangerous or
degrading work to be done: and who so fit to do it as those who have
forfeited their liberty by breaking the law?

The convicts were dressed in white trousers, blue woollen shirt, and
white hat; every article stamped with England's private mark--the broad
arrow. They were young men, healthy and strong, their faces and bare
arms burnt to the colour of mahogany. Burglars, murderers, garotters,
thieves--double-dyed law-breakers every one; but, for all that, kind
hearted and manly fellows enough were among them.

"I tell you, mates," said one, resting on his spade, "this is going to
be the end of Moondyne Joe. That firing in the swamp last night was his
last fight."

"I don't think it was Moondyne," said another; "he's at work in the
chain-gang at Fremantle; and there's no chance of escape there--"

"Sh-h!" interrupted the first speaker, a powerful, low-browed fellow,
named Dave Terrell, who acted as a sort of foreman to the gang. The
warder in charge of the party was slowly walking past. When he was out
of hearing, Dave continued, in a low but deeply earnest voice: "I know
it was Moondyne, mates. I saw him last night when I went to get the
turtle's eggs. I met him face to face in the moonlight, beside the
swamp."

Every man held his hand and breath with intense interest in the story.
Some looked incredulous--heads were shaken in doubt.

"Did you speak to him?" asked one.

"Ay," said Terrell, turning on him; "why shouldn't I? Moondyne knew he
had nothing to fear from me, and I had nothing to fear from him."

"What did you say to him?" asked another.

"Say?--I stood and looked at him for a minute, for his face had a white
look in the moonlight, and then I walked up close to him, and I says--'Be
you Moondyne Joe, or his ghost?'

"Ay?" said the gang with one breath.

"Ay, I said that, never fearing, for Moondyne Joe, dead or alive, would
never harm a prisoner."

"But what did he answer?" asked the eager crowd.

"He never said a word; but he laid his finger on his lips, like this,
and waved his hand as if he warned me to go back to the camp. I turned
to go; then I looked back once, and he was standing just as I left him,
but he was looking up at the sky, as if there was some'at in the moon
that pleased him."

The convicts worked silently, each thinking on what he had heard.

"He mightn't ha' been afraid, though," said low-browed Dave; "I'd let
them cut my tongue out before I'd sell the Moondyne."

"That's true," said several of the gang, and many kind looks were given
to Terrell. A strong bond of sympathy, it was evident, existed between
these men and the person of whom they spoke.

A sound from the thick bush interrupted the conversation. The convicts
looked up from their work, and beheld a strange procession approaching
from, the direction of the swamp. It consisted of about a dozen or
fifteen persons, most of whom were savages. In front rode two officers
of the Convict Service, a sergeant, and a private trooper, side by side,
with drawn swords; and between their horses, manacled by the wrists to
their stirrup-irons, walked a white man.

"Here they come," hissed Terrell, with a bitter malediction, his low
brow wholly disappearing into a terrible ridge above his eyes. "They
haven't killed him, after all. O, mates, what a pity it is to see a man,
like Moondyne in that plight."

"He's done for two or three of 'em," muttered another, in a tone of grim
gratification. "Look at the loads behind. I knew he wouldn't be taken
this time like a cornered cur."

Following the prisoner came a troop of "natives," as the aboriginal
bushmen are called, bearing three spearwood litters with the bodies of
wounded men. A villainous-looking savage, mounted on a troop-horse,
brought up the rear. His dress was like that of his pedestrian fellows,
upon whom, however, he looked in disdain--a short boka, or cloak of
kangaroo skin, and a belt of twisted fur cords round his, naked body. In
addition, he had a police-trooper's old cap, and a heavy "regulation"
revolver stuck in his belt.

This was the tracker, the human bloodhound, used by the troopers to
follow the trail of absconding prisoners.

When the troopers neared the convict party, the sergeant, a man whose
natural expression, whatever it might have been, was wholly obliterated
by a frightful sear across his face, asked for water. The natives
halted, and squatted silently in a group. The wounded men moaned as the
litters were lowered.

Dave Terrell brought the water. He handed a pannikin to the sergeant,
and another to the private trooper, and filled a third.

"Who's that for?" harshly demanded the sergeant.

"For Moondyne," said the convict, approaching the chained man, whose
neck was stretched toward the brimming cup.

"Stand back, curse you!" said the sergeant, bringing his sword flat on
the convict's back. "That scoundrel needs no water. He drinks blood."

There was a taunt in the tone, even beneath the brutality of the words.

"Carry your pail to those litters," growled the sinister looking
sergeant, "and keep your mouth closed, if you value your hide. There!"
he said in a suppressed voice, flinging the few drops he had left in the
face of the manacled man, "that's water enough for you, till you reach
Bunbury prison tomorrow."

The face of the prisoner hardly changed. He gave one straight look into
the sergeant's eyes, then turned away, and seemed to look far away
through the bush. He was a remarkable being, as he stood there. In
strength and proportion of body, the man was magnificent--a model for a
gladiator. He was of middle height, young, but so stem and massively
featured, and so browned and beaten by exposure, it was hard to
determine his age. His clothing was only a few torn and bloody rags; but
he looked as if his natural garb were utter nakedness or the bushman's
cloak, so loosely and carelessly hung the shreds of cloth on his bronzed
body. A large, finely-shaped head, with crisp, black hair and beard, a
broad, square forehead, and an air of power and self-command--this was
the prisoner, this was Moondyne Joe.

Who or what was the man? An escaped convict. What had he been? Perhaps a
robber or a mutineer--or, maybe, he ad killed a man in the white heat of
passion. No one knew--no one cared to know.

That question is never asked in the penal colony. No caste there. They
have found bottom, where all stand equal. No envy there, no rivalry, no
greed nor ambition, and no escape from companionship. They constitute
the purest democracy on earth. The only distinction to be won--that of
being trustworthy, or selfish and false. The good man is he who is kind
and true; the bad man is he who is capable of betraying a confederate.

It may be the absence of the competitive elements of social life that
accounts for the number of manly characters to be met among these
outcasts.

It is by no means in the superior strata of society that abound the
strong, true natures, the men that may be depended upon, the primitive
rocks of humanity. The complexities of social life beget cunning and
artificiality. Among penal convicts there is no ground for envy,
ambition, or emulation; nothing to be gained by falsehood in any shape.

But all this time the prisoner stands looking away into the bush, with
the drops of insult trickling from his strong face. His self-command
evidently irritated the brutal officer, who, perhaps, expected to hear
him whine for better treatment.

The sergeant dismounted to examine the handcuffs, and, while doing so,
looked into the man's face with a leer of cruel exultation. He drew no
expression from the steady eyes of the prisoner.

There was an old score to be settled between those men, and it was plain
that each knew the metal of the other.

"I'll break that look," said the sergeant between his teeth, but loud
enough for the prisoner's ear. "Curse you, I'll break it before we reach
Fremantle." Soon after he turned away, to look to the wounded men.

While so engaged, the private trooper made a furtive sign to the convict
with the pail; and he, keeping in shade of the horses, crept up and gave
Moondyne a deep drink of the precious water.

The stern lines withdrew from the prisoner's mouth and forehead; and as
he gave the kindly trooper a glance of gratitude, there was something
strangely gentle and winning in the face.

The sergeant returned and mounted. The litters were raised by the
natives, and the party resumed their march, striking in on the new road
that led to the prison.

"May the lightning split him," hissed black-browed Dave, after the
sergeant. "There's not an officer in the colony will strike a prisoner
without cause, except that coward, and he was a convict himself."

"May the Lord help Moondyne Joe this day," said another, "for he's
chained to the stirrup of the only man living that hates him."

The sympathizing gang looked after the party till they were hidden by a
bend of the road; but they were silent under the eye of their warder.



NUMBER 406.

SOME years before, the prisoner, now called Moondyne Joe, had arrived in
the colony. He was a youth--little more than a boy in years. From the
first day of his imprisonment he had followed one course: he was quiet,
silent, patient, obedient. He broke no rules of the prison. He asked no
favours. He performed all his own work, and often helped another who
grumbled at his heavy task.

He was simply known to his fellow-convicts as Joe; his other name was
unknown or forgotten. When the prison roll was called, he answered to
No. 406.

In the first few years he had made many friends in the colony--but he had
also made one enemy, and a deadly one. In the gang to which he belonged
was a man named Isaac Bowman, one of those natures seemingly all evil,
envious, and cruel; detested by the basest, yet self-contained, full of
jibe and derision, satisfied with his own depravity, and convinced that
everyone was secretly just as vile as he.

From the first, this fellow had disliked and sneered at Joe; and Joe,
having long observed the man's cur-like character, had at last adopted a
system of conduct toward him that saved himself annoyance, but secretly
intensified the malevolence of the other. He did not avoid the fellow;
but he never looked at him, saw him, spoke to him--not even answering him
when he spoke, as if he had not heard him.

This treatment was observed and enjoyed by the other prisoners, and
sometimes even adopted by themselves toward Bowman. At last its effect
on, the evil nature was too powerful to be concealed. With the others he
could return oath for oath, or jibe for jibe, and always came off
pleased with himself but Joe's silent contumely stung him like a
scorpion.

The convicts at length saw that Bowman, who was a man capable of any
crime, held a deep hatred for Joe, and they warned him to beware. But he
smiled, and went on just as before.

One morning a poor settler rode into the camp with a cry for justice and
vengeance. His hut was only a few miles distant, and in his absence last
night a deed of rapine and robbery had been perpetrated there--and the
robber was a convict.

A search was made in the prisoner's hut, and in one of the hammocks was
found some of the stolen property. The man who owned the hammock was
seized and ironed, protesting his innocence. Further evidence was found
against him--he had been seen returning to the camp that morning--Isaac
Bowman had seen him.

Swift and summary is the dread punishment of the penal code. As the
helpless wretch was dragged away, a word of mock pity followed him from
Bowman. During the scene, Joe had stood in silence; but at the brutal
jibe he started as if struck by a whip. He sprang on Isaac Bowman
suddenly, dashed him to the ground, and, holding him there like a worm,
shook from his clothing all the stolen property, except what the caitiff
had concealed in his fellow's bed to insure his conviction.

Then and there the sentence was given. The villain was hauled to the
triangles and flogged with embittered violence. He uttered no cry; but,
as the hissing lashes swept his back, he settled a look of ghastly and
mortal hatred on Joe, who stood by and counted the stripes.

But this was years ago; and Bowman had long been a free man and a
settler, having served out his sentence.

At that time the laws of the Penal Colony were exceedingly cruel and
unjust to the bondmen. There was in the colony a number of "free
settlers" and ex-convicts who had obtained land, and these, as a class,
were men who lived half by farming and half by rascality. They sold
brandy to the convicts and ticket-of-leave men, and robbed them when the
drugged liquor had done its work. They feared no law, for the word of a
prisoner was dead in the courts.

The crying evil of the code was the power it gave these settlers to take
from the prisons as many men as they chose, and work them as slaves on
their clearings. While so employed, the very lives of these convicts
were at the mercy of their taskmasters, who possessed over them all the
power of prison officers.

A report made by an employer against a convict insured a flogging, or a
number of years in the terrible chain-gang at Fremantle. The system
reeked with cruelty and the blood of men. It would startle our
commonplace serenity to see the record of the lives that were sacrificed
to have it repealed.

Under this law, it came to Joe's turn to be sent out on probation.
Application had been made for him by a farmer, whose "range" was in a
remote district. Joe was a strong and willing worker, and he was glad of
the change; but when he was taken to the lonely place, he could not help
a shudder when he came face to face--with his new employer and
master--Isaac Bowman.

There was no doubting the purpose of the villain who had now complete
possession of him. He meant to drive him into rebellion--to torture him
till his hate was gratified, and then to have him flogged and sent to
the chain-gang; and from the first minute of his control he began to
carry out his purpose.

For two years the strong man toiled like a brute at the word of his
driver, returning neither scoff nor scourge.

Joe had years to serve; and he had made up his mind to serve them, and
be free. He knew there was no escape--that one report from Bowman would
wipe out all record of previous good conduct. He knew, too, that Bowman
meant to destroy him, and he resolved to bear toil and abuse as long as
he was able.

He was able longer than most men; but the cup was filled at last. The
clay came when the worm turned--when the quiet, patient man blazed into
dreadful passion, and, tearing the goad from the tyrant's hand, he
dashed him, maimed and senseless, to the earth.

The blow given, Joe's passion calmed, and the ruin of the deed stared
him in the face. There was no court of justice in which he might plead.
He had neither word nor oath nor witnesses. The man might be dead; and
even if he recovered, the punishment was the lash and the chain-gang, or
the gallows.

Then and there, Joe struck into the bush with a resolute face, and next
day the infuriate and baffled rascal, rendered ten-fold more malignant
by a dreadful disfigurement, reported him to the prison as an absconder,
a robber, and an attempted murderer.



BOND AND FREE.

THREE years passed. It was believed that Joe had perished in the bush.
Bowman had entered the convict service as a trooper, but even his
vigilance brought no discovery. Absconders are generally found after a
few months, prowling around the settlements for food, and are glad to be
retaken.

But Joe was no common criminal nor common man. When he set his face
toward the bush, he meant to take no half measures. The bush was to be
his home. He knew of nothing to draw him back, and he cared not if he
never saw the face of a white man again. He was sick of injustice and
hardship sick of all the ways of the men he had known.

Prison life had developed a strong nature in Joe. Naturally powerful in
mind, body, and passions, he had turned the Power in on himself, and had
obtained a rare mastery over his being. He was a thoughtful man, a
peacemaker, and a lover of justice. He had obtained an extraordinary
hold on the affection of the convicts. They all knew him. He was true as
steel to everything he undertook; and they knew that, too; He was
enormously strong. One day he was working in the quarries of Fremantle
with twenty others in a deep and narrow, ledge. Sixteen men were at work
below, and four were preparing a blast at the head of the ledge, which
ran down at an eagle of fifty degrees, like a channel cut in the solid
rock. The men below were at the bottom of the channel. A pebble dropped
by the four men above would have dashed into their Midst.

Suddenly there was a cry above, sharp, short, terrible--

"Look out down there!"

One of the half-filled charges had exploded with a sullen, mischievous
puff, and the rocks at the head of the ledge were lifted and loosened.
One immense block barred the tumbling mass from the men below. But the
increasing weight above grew irresistible--the great stone was
yielding--it had moved several inches, pressed on from behind. The men
who had been working at the place fled for their lives, only sending out
the terrible cry to their fellows below--

"Look out down there!"

But those below could only look out--they could not get out. There was no
way out but by the rising channel of the ledge. And down that channel
would thunder in a quarter of a minute the murderous rocks that were
pushing the saving stone before them.

Three of the men above escaped in time. They dared not look behind--as
they dung to the quarry-side, out of danger, they closed their eyes,
waiting for the horrible crash.

But it did not come. They waited ten seconds, then looked around. A man
stood at the head of the ledge, right before the moving mass--a
convict--Moondyne Joe. He had a massive crowbar in his hands, and was
strongly working to get a purchase on the great stone that blocked the
way, but which actually swayed on the verge of the steep decline. At
last the bar caught--the purchase was good--the stone moved another inch,
and the body of the man bent like a strong tree under the awful strain.
But he held back the stone.

He did not say a word--he did not look below--he knew they would see the
precious moment and escape. They saw it, and, with chilled hearts at the
terrible danger, they fled up the ledge and darted past the man who had
risked his own life to save theirs.

Another instant and the roar went down the ledge, as if the hungry rocks
knew they had been baffled.

Moondyne Joe escaped--the bar saved him. When the crash came, the bar was
driven across an angle in the ledge, and held there, and he was within
the angle. He was mangled and bruised--but life and limb were safe.

This was one of several instances that proved his character, and made
him trusted and loved of his fellow-convicts.

Whatever was his offence against the law, he had received its bitter
lesson. The worst of the convicts grew better when associated with him.
Common sense, truth, and kindness were Joe's principles. He was a strong
man, and he pitied and helped those weaker than himself. He was a bold
man, and he understood the timid. He was a brave man, and he grieved for
a coward or a liar. He never preached; but his healthy, straightforward
life did more good to his fellows than all the hired bible-readers in
the colony.

No wonder the natives to whom he fled soon began to look upon him with a
strange feeling. Far into the mountains of the Vasse he had journeyed
before he fell in with them.

They were distrustful of all white men, but they soon trusted him. There
was something in the simple savage mind not far removed from that of the
men in prison, who had grown to respect, even to reverence, his
character. The natives saw him stronger and braver than anyone they had
ever known. He was more silent than their oldest chief; and so wise, he
settled disputes so that both sides were satisfied. They looked on him
with distrust at first; then with wonder; then with respect and
confidence; and before two years were over, with something like awe and
veneration, as for a superior being.

They gave him the name Of "MOONDYNE," which had some meaning more than
either manhood or kingship.

His fame and name spread through the native tribes all over the country.
When they came to the white settlements, the expression oftenest heard
was "Moondyne." The convicts and settlers constantly heard the word, but
dreamt not then of its significance. Afterwards, when they knew to whom
the name had been given, it became a current word throughout the colony.

Towards the end of the third year of his freedom, when Moondyne and a
party of natives were far from the mountains, they were surprised by a
Government surveying party, who made him prisoner, knowing, of course,
that he must be an absconder. He was taken to the main prison at
Fremantle, and sentenced to the chain-gang for life; but before he had
reached the Swan River every native in the colony knew that "The
Moondyne" was a prisoner.

The chain-gang of Fremantle is the depth of penal degradation. The
convicts wear from thirty to fifty pounds of iron, according to their
offence. It is riveted on their bodies in the prison forge, and when
they have served their time the great rings have to be chiselled off
their calloused limbs.

The chain-gang works outside the prison walls of Fremantle, in the
granite quarries. The neighbourhood, being thickly settled with pardoned
men and ticket-of-leave men, had I been deserted by the aborigines; but
from the day of Moondyne's sentence the bushmen began to build their
myers and hold their corroborees near the quarries. For two years the
chain-gang toiled among the stones, and the black men sat on the great
unhewn rocks, and never seemed to tire of the scene.

The warders took no notice of their silent presence. The natives never
spoke to a prisoner, but sat there in dumb interest, every day in the
year, from sunrise to evening.

One day they disappeared from the quarries, and an officer who passed
through their village of myers, found them deserted. It was quite a
subject of interesting conversation among the warders. Where had they
gone to? Why had they departed in the night?

The day following an answer came to these queries. When the chain-gang
was formed, to return to the prison, one link was gone--Moondyne was
missing.

His irons were found, filed through, behind the rock at which he worked;
and from that day the black face of a bushman was never seen in
Fremantle.



THE KOAGULUP SWAMP.

WE arrive now at the opening scene of this story. Eight days after his
escape from Fremantle, Moondyne was seen by the convict Dave Terrell, on
the shores of the Koagulup Swamp. In those eight days he had travelled
two hundred miles, suffering that which is only known to the hunted
convict. When he met the prisoner in the moonlight and made the motion
to silence, Dave Terrell saw the long barrel of a pistol in his belt. He
meant to sell his life this time, for there was no hope if retaken.

His intention was to hide in the swamp till he found an opportunity of
striking into the Vasse Mountains, a spur of which was not more than
sixty miles distant.

But the way of the absconder is perilous; and swift as had been
Moondyne's flight, the shadow of the pursuer was close behind. No tardy
step was that of him who led the pursuit of a man with a terribly maimed
face--a new officer of the penal system, but whose motive in the pursuit
was deadlier and dearer than the love of public duty.

On the very day that Moondyne Joe reached the great swamp, the mounted
pursuit tracked the fugitive to the water's edge. A few hours later,
while he lay exhausted on an island in the densely-wooded morass, the
long sedge was cautiously divided a few yards from his face, and the
glittering eyes of a native tracker met his for an instant. Before he
could spring to his feet the supple savage was upon him, sending out his
bush cry as he sprang! A short struggle, with the black hands on the
white throat; then the great white arms closed around the black body,
and with a gasping sob it lost its nerve and lay still, while Moondyne
half rose to listen.

From every point he heard the trackers closing on him. He sank back with
a moan of despair; but the next instant the blood rushed from his heart
with a new vigour for every muscle.

It was the last breath of his freedom, and he would fight for it as for
his life. He sprang to his feet and met his first brutal assailant, a
native dog--half-wolf, half-greyhound--which sprang at his throat, but
sank its fangs in his shoulder.

A bullet through the animal's brain left him free again, with steadied
nerves. Even in the excitement of the moment a thrill of gratitude that
it was not a man that lay there passed through him; He flung his pistol
into the swamp, and dashed towards the log on which he had gained the
island. Beside it stood two men, armed. Barehanded, the fugitive flung
himself upon them, and closed in desperate struggle. It was vain,
however; others came and struck him down and overpowered him.

He was put in irons, and found himself in charge of the most brutal
officer in the penal service--his old fellow-convict and employer, Isaac
Bowman.



THE BRIBE.

WHEN the party had travelled a dozen miles from the convict camp, the
evening closed, and the sergeant called a halt. A chain was passed round
a tree; and locked; and to this the manacles of the prisoner were made
fast, leaving him barely the power of lying down. With a common prisoner
this would have been security enough; but the sergeant meant to leave no
loophole open. He and the private trooper would keep guard all night;
and according to this order, after supper, the trooper entered on the
first four hours' watch.

The natives and wounded men took their meal and were stretched on the
soft sand beside another fire, about a hundred paces from the guard and
prisoner.

The tired men soon slept, all but the sentry and the captive. The
sergeant lay within arm's length of the prisoner; and even from deep
sleep awoke at the least movement of the chain.

Towards midnight, the chained man turned his face toward the sentry, and
motioned him to draw near. The rough, but kind-hearted, fellow thought
he asked for water and softly brought him a pannikin, which he held to
his lips. At the slight motion, the light motion, the sergeant awoke,
and harshly reprimanded the trooper, posting him at a distance from the
fire, with orders not to move till his watch had expired. The sergeant
returned to his sleep, and again all was still.

After a time the face of the prisoner was once more raised, and with
silent lip, but earnest expression, he begged the sentry to come to him.
But the man would not move. He grew angry at the persistence of the
prisoner, who ceased not to look towards him, and who at last even
ventured to speak in a low voice. At this the fearful trooper grew
alarmed, and sternly ordered him to rest. The sergeant awoke at the
word, and shortly after relieved the trooper, seating himself beside the
fire to watch the remainder of the night.

When the prisoner saw this, with a look of utter weariness, though not
of resignation, he at last closed his eyes and sank to rest. Once having
yielded to the fatigue which his strong will had hitherto mastered, he
was unconscious. A deep and dreamless sleep fell on him. The sand was
soft round his tired limbs, and for two or three hours the bitterness of
his captivity was forgotten.

He awoke suddenly, and, as if he had not slept, felt the iron on his
wrists, and knew that he was chained to a tree like a wild beast.

The sleep had given him new strength. He raised his head, and met the
eyes of the sergeant watching him. The look between them was long and
steady.

"Come here," said the prisoner, in a low tone; "I want to speak to you."

Had the gaunt dog beside him spoken, the sergeant could not have been
more amazed.

"Come here," repeated Moondyne. "I have something important to say to
you."

The sergeant drew his revolver, examined the caps, and then moved
towards his prisoner.

"I heard you say you had spent twenty-five years in this colony," said
Moondyne, "and that you might as well have remained a convict. Would you
go away to another country, and live the rest of your life in wealth and
power?"

The sergeant stared at him as if he thought he had gone mad. The
prisoner understood the look.

"Listen," he said impressively; "I am not mad. You know there is a
reward offered for the discovery of the Vasse Gold Mine. I can lead you
to the spot!"

There was that in his voice and look that thrilled the sergeant to the
marrow. He glanced at the sleeping trooper, and drew closer to the
chained man.

"I know where that gold mine lies," said Moondyne, reading the greedy
face, "where tons and shiploads of solid gold are waiting to be carried
away. If you help me to be free, I will lead you to the mine."

The sergeant looked at him in silence. He arose and walked stealthily
towards the natives, who were soundly sleeping. To and fro in the
firelight, for nearly an hour, he paced, revolving the startling
proposition. At last he approached the chained man.

"I have treated you badly, and you hate me," he said. "How can I trust
you? How can you prove to me that this is true?"

Moondyne met the suspicious eye steadily. "I have no proof," he said;
"you must take my word. I tell you the truth. If I do not lead you
straight to the mine, I will go back to Fremantle as your prisoner."

Still the sergeant pondered and paced. He was in doubt, and the
consequences might be terrible.

"Have you ever known me to lie?" said Moondyne.

The sergeant looked at him, but did not answer.

At length he abruptly asked: "Is it far away?" He was advancing towards
a decision.

"We can reach the place in two days, if you give me a horse," said
Moondyne.

"You might escape," said the sergeant.

"I will not; but if you doubt me, keep the chain on my wrist till I show
you the gold."

"And then?" said the sergeant.

"Then we shall be equals. I will lead you to the mine. You must return
and escape from the country as best you can. Do you agree?"

The sergeant's face was white, as he glanced at the sleeping trooper and
then at the prisoner.

"I agree," he said; "lie down and pretend to sleep."

The sergeant had thought out his plan. He would insure his own safety,
no matter how the affair turned. Helping a convict to escape was
punished with death by the penal law; but he would put another look on
the matter. He cautiously waked the private trooper.

"Take those natives," he said, "all but the mounted tracker, and go on
to Bunbury before me. The wounded men must be doctored at once."

Without a word the disciplined trooper shook the drowsiness from him,
saddled his horse, and mounted. In half an hour they were gone. Moondyne
Joe and the sergeant listened till the last sound died away. The tracker
was curled up again beside the fire.

Sergeant Bowman then unlocked the chain, and the powerful prisoner rose
to his feet. In a whisper the sergeant told him he must secure the
native before he attempted to take the horse.

Moondyne went softly to the side of the sleeping savage. There was a
smile on his face as he knelt down and laid one strong hand on the man's
throat, and another on his pistol.

In a few moments it was over. The bushman never even writhed when he saw
the stem face above him, and felt that his weapon was gone. Moondyne
left him tied hand and foot, and returned to the sergeant, who had the
horses ready.

When the convict stood beside the trooper he raised his hand suddenly,
and held something toward him--the tracker's pistol, loaded and capped!
He had played and won. His enemy stood defenceless before him--and the
terror of death, as he saw the position, was in the blanched face of the
sergeant.

"Take this pistol," said Moondyne, quietly. "You may give it to me, if
you will, when I have kept my word."

The sergeant took the weapon with a trembling hand, and his evil face
had an awed look as he mounted.

"Call the dogs," said Moondyne; "we shall need them tomorrow." In answer
to a low whistle the wolf-like things bounded through the bush. The men
struck off at a gallop, in the direction of the convicts' camp, the
sergeant a little behind, with his pistol ready in the holster.



THE IRON-STONE MOUNTAINS.

MOONDYNE took a straight line from the Koagulup Swamp, which they
"struck" after a couple hours' ride. They dismounted near the scene of
the capture, and Moondyne pulled from some bushes near the edge of a
short raft of logs bound together with withes of bark. The sergeant
hesitated, and looked on suspiciously.

"You must trust me," said Moondyne quietly; "unless we break the track
we shall have the sleuth-dog tracker after us when he gets loose."

The sergeant got on the raft, holding the bridles of the horses.
Moondyne, with a pole, pushed from the bank, and entered the gloomy
arches of the wooded swamp.

It was a weird scene. At noonday the flood was black as ink, and the
arches were filled with gloomy shadows. Overhead the foliage of trees
and creepers was matted into a dense roof, now pierced by a few thin
pencils of moonlight.

Straight toward the centre Moondyne steered from several hundred yards,
the horses swimming behind. Then he turned at right angles, and pushed
along from tree to tree in a line with the shore they had left. After a
while the horses found bottom, and waded.

"No more trouble now," said Moondyne. "They're on the sand. We must keep
along till morning, and then strike toward the hills."

They went ahead rapidly, thanks to Moondyne's amazing strength; and by
daylight were a long distance from the point at which they entered. A
wide but shallow river with a bright sand bottom emptied into the swamp
before them, and into this Moondyne poled the raft and tied it securely
to a fallen tree, hidden in sedge grass.

They mounted their horses, and rode up the bed of the river, which they
did not leave till near noontime. At last, when Moondyne deemed the
track thoroughly broken, he turned toward the higher bank, and struck
into the bush, the land beginning to rise toward the mountains when they
had travelled a few miles.

It was late in the afternoon when they halted for the day's first meal.
Moondyne climbed a mahogany tree, which he had selected from certain
fresh marks on its bark, and from a hole in the trunk pulled out two
silver-tailed 'possums, as large as rabbits. The sergeant lighted a fire
on the loose sand, and piled it high with dry wood. When the 'possums
were ready for cooking, the sand beneath the fire was heated a foot
deep, and making a hole in this, the game was buried, and the flies
continued above. After a time the embers were thrown off and the meat
dug out. It looked burnt and black; but when the crust was broken the
flesh within was tender and juicy. This, with clear water from the
iron-stone hills, made a rare meal for hungry men; after which they
continued their travel.

Before nightfall they had entered the first circle of hills at the foot
of the mountains. With a springing hope in his heart, Moondyne led the
way into the tortuous passes of the hills; and in a valley as silent as
the grave, and as lonely, they made their camp for the night.

They were in the saddle before sunrise, and travelling in a strange and
wild country, which no white man, except Moondyne, had ever before
entered. The scene was amazing to the sergeant, who was used to the
endless sameness of the gum forests on the plains of the convict
settlement. Here, masses of dark metallic stone were heaped in savage
confusion, and around these, like great pale serpents or cables, were
twisted the white roots of tuad trees. So wild was the scene with rock
and torrent, underbrush and forest, that the sergeant, old bushman as he
was, began to feel that it would be dangerous for a man who had not
studied the lay of the land, to travel here without a guide. However, he
had a deep game to play, for a great stake. He said nothing, but watched
Moondyne closely, and observed everything around that might assist his
memory by-and-by.

In the afternoon they rode through winding passes in the hills, and
towards sunset came on the border of a lake in the basin of the
mountains.

"Now," said Moondyne, dismounting by the lake-side, and turning loose
his horse to crop the rich grass, "now we may rest. We are inside the
guard of the hills."

The sergeant's manner had strangely altered during the long ride. He was
trembling on the verge of a great discovery; but he was, to a certain
extent, in the power of Moondyne. He could not help feeling that the man
was acting truly to his word; but his own purpose was so dark and
deceitful, it was impossible for him to trust another.

The punishment of falsehood is to suspect all truth. The mean of soul
cannot conceive nobility. The vicious cannot believe in virtue. The
artificial dignity imparted by the sergeant's office had disappeared, in
spite of himself; and in its place returned the caitiff aspect that had
marked him when he was a convict and a settler. Standing on an equality
with Moondyne, their places had changed, and the prisoner was the
master.

On the sandy shore of the beautiful lake they found turtles' eggs, and
these, with baked bandicoot, made supper and breakfast.

On resuming their ride, next morning, Moondyne said: "To-night we shall
reach the gold mine."

The way was no longer broken; they rode in the beds of grassy valleys,
walled by precipitous mountains. Palms, bearing large scarlet nuts,
brilliant flowers and birds, and trees and shrubs of unnamed species-all
these, with delicious streams from the mountains, made a scene of
wonderful beauty. The face of Moondyne was lighted up with appreciation;
and even the sergeant, coarse, cunning, and brutish, felt its purifying
influence.

It was a long day's ride, broken only by a brief halt at noon, when they
ate a hearty meal beside a deep river that wound its mysterious way
among the hills. Hour after hour passed, and the jaded horses lagged on
the way; but still the valleys opened before the riders, and Moondyne
advanced as confidently as if the road were familiar.

Towards sunset he rode slowly, and with an air of expectancy. The sun
had gone down behind the mountains, and the narrow valley was deep in
shadow. Before them, standing in the centre of the valley, rose a tall
white tuad tree, within fifty paces of the underwood of the mountain on
either side.

When Moondyne, who led the way, had come within a horse's length of the
tree, a spear whirred from the dark wood on the right, across his path,
and struck deep into the tuad tree. There was not a sound in the bush to
indicate the presence of an enemy. The gloom of evening had silenced
even the insect life and the silence of the valley was profound. Yet
there was startling evidence of life and hostility in the whirr of the
spear that had sunk into the tree before their eyes with such terrific
force that it quivered like a living thing as it stood out from the
tuad.

Moondyne sprang from his horse, and, running to the tree, laid his hand
on the shivered spear, and shouted a few words in the language of the
aborigines. A cry from the bush answered, and the next moment a tall
savage sprang from the cover and threw himself with joyful acclamations
at the feet of Moondyne.

Tall, lithe, and powerful was the young bushman. He arose and leant on
his handful of slender spears, speaking rapidly to Moondyne. Once he
glanced at the sergeant, and, smiling, pointed to the still quivering
spear in the tuad. Then he turned and led them up the valley, which soon
narrowed to the dimensions of a ravine, like the bed of a torrent,
running its perplexed way between overhanging walls of iron-stone.

The sun had gone down, and the gloom of the passage became dark as
midnight. The horses advanced slowly over the rugged way. A dozen
determined men could hold such a pass against an army. Above their heads
the travellers saw a narrow slit of sky, sprinkled with stars. The air
was damp and chill between the precipitous walls. The dismal pass was
many miles in length; but at last the glare of a fire lit up the rocks
ahead.

The young bushman went forward alone, returning in a few minutes. Then
Moondyne and the sergeant, proceeding with him to the end of the pass,
found themselves in the opening of a small valley or basin, over which
the sky, like a splendid domed roof, was clearly rounded by the tops of
the mountains.

A few paces from the entrance stood a group of natives, who had started
from their rest at the approach of the party.



THE KING OF THE VASSE

BESIDE the bright fire of mahogany wood, and slowly advancing to meet
the strangers, was a venerable man-an aborigine, tall, white-haired, and
of great dignity. It was Te-mana-roa (the long-lived), the King of the
Vasse.

Graver than the sedateness of civilization was the dignified bearing of
this powerful and famous barbarian. His erect stature was touched by his
great age, which outran, it was said, all the generations then living.
His fame as a ruler was known throughout the whole Western country; and
among the aborigines even of the far Eastern slope, two thousand miles
away, his existence was vaguely rumoured, as in former times the
European people heard reports of a mysterious oriental potentate called
Prester John.

Behind the aged king, in the full light of the fire, stood two young
girls, dark and skin-clad like their elder, but of surpassing symmetry
of body and beauty of feature. They were Koro and Tapairu, the
grandchildren of Te-mana-roa. Startled, timid, wondering, they stood
together in the intense light, their soft fur-bokas thrown back, showing
to rare effect their rounded limbs and exquisitely curved bodies.

The old chief welcomed Moondyne with few words, but with many signs of
pleasure and deep respect; but he looked with severe displeasure at his
companion.

A long and earnest conversation followed; while the cunning eyes of the
sergeant, and the inquiring ones of the young bushman and his sisters,
followed every expression of the old chief and Moondyne.

It was evident that Moondyne was telling the reason of the stranger's
presence--telling the story just as it had happened--that there was no
other hope for life--and he had promised to show this man the gold mine.

Te-mana-roa heard the story with a troubled brow, and when it had come
to an end, he bowed his white head in deep thought. After some moments,
he raised his face and looked long and severely at the sergeant, who
grew restless under the piercing scrutiny.

Still keeping his eyes on the trooper's face, he said in his own tongue,
half in soliloquy and half in query--

"This man cannot be trusted."

Every eye in the group was now centred on the sergeant's face.

After a pause, Moondyne simply repeated the words of the chief--

"He cannot be trusted."

"Had he come blindfolded from the Koagulup," continued the chief, "we
might lead him through the passes in the night, and set him free. He has
seen the hills and noted the sun and stars as he came: he must not leave
this valley."

The old chief uttered the last sentence as one giving judgment.

"Ngaru," he said, still gazing intently on the trooper's face. The young
bushman arose from the fire.

"He must not leave the pass, Ngaru."

Without a word the young and powerful bushman took his spears and
womerah, and disappeared in the mouth of the gloomy pass.

Te-mana-roa then arose slowly, and, lighting a resinous torch, motioned
the sergeant to follow him toward a dark entrance in the iron-stone
cliff that loomed above them. The sergeant obeyed, followed by Moondyne.
The men stooped to enter the face of the cliff, but once inside, the
roof rose high, and the way grew spacious.

The walls were black as coal, and dripping with dampness. Not cut by the
hands of man, but worn perhaps in ages past by a stream that worked its
way, as patient as Fate, through the weaker parts of the rock. The roof
soon rose so high that the torchlight was lost in the overhanging gloom.
The passage grew wide and wider, until it seemed as if the whole
interior of the mountain were hollow. There were no visible walls; but
at intervals there came from the darkness above a ghostly white
stalactite pillar of vast dimensions, down which in utter silence
streamed water that glistened in the torchlight.

A terror crept through the sergeant's heart, that was only strong with
evil intent. He glanced suspiciously at Moondyne. But he could not read
the faces of the two men beside him. They symbolized something unknown
to such as he. On them at that moment lay the great but acceptable
burden of manhood--the overmastering but sweet allegiance that a true
man owes to the truth.

It does not need culture and fine association to develop in some men
this highest quality. Those who live by externals, though steeped in
their parrot learning, are not men, but shells of men. When one turns
within his own heart, and finds there the motive and the master, he
approaches nobility. There is nothing of a man but the word, that is
kept or broken--sacred as life, or unstable as water. By this we judge
each other, in philosophy and practice; and by this test shall be ruled
the ultimate judgment.

Moondyne had solemnly promised to lead to the mine a man he knew to be a
villain. The old chief examined the bond of his friend, and acknowledged
its force.

The word of the Moondyne must be kept to-night. Tomorrow the fate of the
stranger would be decided.

They proceeded far into the interior of the mountain, until they seemed
to stand in the midst of a great plain, with open sky overhead, though
in truth above them rose a mountain. The light was reflected from myriad
points of spar or crystal, that shone above like stars in the blackness.
The air of the place was tremulous with a deep, rushing sound, like the
sweep of a river; but the flood was invisible.

At last the old chief who led the way, stood beside a stone trough or
basin, filled with long pieces of wood standing on end. To these he
applied the torch, and a flame of resinous brightness swept instantly
over the pile and licked at the darkness above in long, fiery tongues.

The gloom seemed to struggle with the light, like opposing spirits, and
a minute passed before the eye took in the surrounding objects.

"Now," said Moondyne to the sergeant, raising his hand sweeping it
around--"now, you are within the GOLD MINE OF THE VASSE."

The stupendous dimensions of the vault or chamber in which they stood
oppressed and terrified the sergeant. Hundreds of feet above his head
spread the shadow of the tremendous roof. Hundreds of feet from where he
stood loomed the awful blackness of the cyclopean walls. From these he
scarce could turn his eyes. Their immensity fascinated and stupefied
him. Nor was it strange that such a scene should inspire awe. The
vastest work of humanity dwindled into insignificance beside the
immeasurable dimensions of this mysterious cavern.

It was long before consciousness of his purpose returned to the
sergeant; but at length, withdrawing his eyes from the gloomy sketch of
gloomy stretch of iron-stone that roofed the mine his glance fell upon
the wide floor, and there, on every side, from wall to wall, were heaps
and masses of yellow metal--of dust and bars, and solid rocks of gold.



A DARK NIGHT AND DAY.

THE old chief led the way from the gold mine; and the strangely assorted
group of five persons sat by the fire while meat was cooked for the
travellers.

The youth who had escorted the white men from the outer valley was the
grandson of the chief, and brother of the beautiful girls. Savages they
were, elder and girls, in the eyes of the sergeant; but there was a
thoughtfulness in Te-mana-roa, bred by the trust of treasure and the
supreme confidence of his race, that elevated him to an exalted plane of
manhood; and the young people had much of the same quiet and dignified
bearing.

The revelations of the day had been too powerful for the small brain of
the cunning trooper. They came before his memory piecemeal. He longed for
an opportunity to think them over, to get them into grasp, and to plan
his course of action.

The splendid secret must be his own, and he must overreach all who would
to-morrow put conditions on his escape. While meditating this, the
lovely form of one of the girls, observed by his evil eye as she bent
over the fire, suggested a scheme, and before the meal was finished, the
sergeant had worked far on the road of success.

The chief and Moondyne talked long in the native language. The sisters,
wrapped in soft furs, sat and listened, their large eyes fixed on the
face of the Moondyne, their keen senses enjoying a novel pleasure as
they heard their familiar words strangely sounded on his lips.

To their simple minds the strongly marked white face must have appeared
almost superhuman, known as it had long been to them by hearsay and the
unqualified affection of their people.

Their girlhood was on the verge of something fuller; they felt a new and
delicious joy in listening to the deep, musical tones of the Moondyne.
They had long heard how strong and brave he was; they saw that he was
gentle when he spoke to them and the old chief. When he addressed them,
it seemed that the same thrill of pleasure touched the hearts and
lighted the faces of both sisters.

"One outside, and two here," was the dread burden of the sergeant's
thought. "Two days' ride--but, can I be sure of the way?"

Again and again his furtive eyes turned on the ardent faces of the
girls.

"Ay, that will do," he thought; "these can be used to help me out."

The sisters retired to a tent of skins, and, lighting a fire at the
opening to drive off the evil spirit, lay down to rest. Sleep came
slowly to every member of the party.

The old chief pondered on the presence of the stranger, who now held the
primal secret of the native race.

The sergeant revolved his plans, going carefully over every detail of
the next day's work, foreseeing and providing for every difficulty with
devilish ingenuity.

The sisters lay in dreamy wakefulness, hearing again the deep musical
voice, and seeing in the darkness the strange white face of the
Moondyne.

Before sleeping, Moondyne walked into the valley, and lifting his face
to heaven, in simple and manful directness, thanked God for his
deliverance; then, stretching himself beside the fire, he fell into a
profound sleep.

In the morning, Moondyne spoke to Koro and Tapairu in their own tongue,
which was not guttural on their lips. They told him, with much earnest
gesture and flashing of eyes, about the emu's nest in the valley beyond
the lake, and other such things as made up their daily life. Their steps
were light about the camp that morning.

At an early hour the old man entered the gold mine, and did not return.
To look after the horses, Moondyne, with the girls, crossed the valley,
and then went up the mountain towards the emu's nest.

The sergeant, with bloodshot eyes from a sleepless night, had hung
around the camp all the morning, feeling that, though his presence
seemed unheeded, he was in the deepest thought of all.

Whatever his purpose, it was settled now. There was dark meaning in the
look that followed Moondyne and the girls till they disappeared on the
wooded mountain. When at last they were out of sight and hearing, he
arose suddenly and moved towards the mouth of the mine. At that moment,
the young bushman from the outpost emerged from the pass, and walked
rapidly to the fire, looking around inquiringly for Moondyne and the
girls.

As the sergeant explained in dumb show that they had gone up the
mountain yonder, there rose a gleam of hideous satisfaction in his eyes.
The danger he had dreaded most had come to his hand to be destroyed. All
through the night he had heard the whirr of a spear from an unseen hand,
and he shuddered at the danger of riding through the pass to escape. But
there was no other course open. Were he to cross the mountains, he knew
that without a guide he never could reach the penal colony.

Had the sage Te-mana-roa been present, he would at once have sent the
bushman back to his duty. But the youth had drawn his spear from the
tuad tree at the outpost, and he proceeded to harden again its injured
point in the embers of the fire.

The sergeant, who had carelessly sauntered around the fire till he stood
behind the bushman, now took a stride towards him, then suddenly
stopped.

Had the native looked around at the moment, he would have sent his spear
through the stranger's heart as swiftly as he drove it into the tuad
yesterday. There was murder in the sergeant's face as he took the silent
stride, and paused, his hand on his pistol.

"Not with this," he muttered; "no noise with him. But this will do."

He stooped for a heavy club, and with a few quick and stealthy paces
stood over the bushman. Another instant, and the club descended with
crushing violence. Without a sound but the deadly blow, the quivering
body fell backward on the assassin's feet.

Rapidly he moved in his terrible work. He crept to the entrance of the
mine, and far within saw the old man moving before the flame. Pistol in
hand he entered the cavern, from which, before many minutes had passed,
he came forth white faced. As he stepped from the cave, he turned a
backward glance of fearful import. He saw that he had left the light
burning behind him.

Warily scanning the mountain side, he dragged the body of the youth
inside the mouth of the cavern; then, seating himself by the fire, he
examined his pistols, and awaited the return of Moondyne and the girls.

In the sweet peace of the valley, the livid and anxious wretch seemed
the impersonation of crime. He had meditated the whole night on his
purpose. All he feared was partial failure. But he had provided for
every chance; he had more than half succeeded already. Another hour, and
he would be sole master of the treasure--and, with the sisters in his
power, there was no fear of failure.

It was a terrible hour to wait; but at last he saw them coming, the
lithe figures of the girls winding among the trees as they crossed the
valley.

But they were alone: Moondyne was not with them!

They came with bent faces, as if thinking of pleasant things; but they
started with affright, and drew close together, when they saw the
stranger, alone, rise from the fire and come towards them.

With signs, he asked for Moondyne, and they answered that he had gone
across the mountain, and would return when the sun had gone down. This
was an ominous disappointment; but the sergeant knew that his life would
not be worth one day's purchase with such an enemy behind him. He must
wait.

He returned to the fire, the girls keeping distrustfully distant. He
feared they might enter the mine, and too soon discover the dreadful
secret; so, getting between them and the rock, he lay down at the
entrance.

Like startled deer, they looked around, instinctively feeling that
danger was near. The evil eyes of the sergeant never left them. He had
not foreseen this chance and for the moment knew not how to proceed.

The sisters stood near the fire, alarmed, alert, the left hand of one in
the right of the other. At length their quick eyes fell upon blood on
the sand, and followed the track till they met again the terrible face
at the mouth of the mine.

And, as they looked, a sight beyond the prostrate man, coming from the
dark entrance, froze their hearts with terror.

The face of the aged chief, his white hair discoloured with blood,
appeared above the dreadful watcher, and looked out towards the girls.
The old man, who had dragged his wounded body from the cave, rose to his
feet when he saw the sisters, tottered forward with a cry of warning,
and fell across the murderer.

Paralyzed with horror, the sergeant could not move for some moments. But
soon feeling that he was not attacked, he pushed aside the senseless
body, and sprang to his feet with a terrible malediction. In that moment
of his blind terror the girls had disappeared.

He ran hither and thither searching for them, but found no trace of
their hiding place or path of escape. At length he gave up the search, a
shivering dread growing upon him every instant, and hastened to catch
the horses. He began to realize that his well-laid plan was a failure.

There was now only one course open. He must take his chance alone, and
ride for his life, neither resting nor sleeping. The girls would run
straight to Moondyne; and he must act speedily to get beyond his reach.

In a few minutes the horses were ready, standing at the entrance of the
mine. The sergeant entered, and, passing the flaming basin, loaded
himself with bars and plates of gold. Again and again he returned, till
the horses were laden with treasure. Then, mounting, he called the dogs;
but they had gone with Moondyne.

Once more the chill of fear struck like an icicle through his heart at
his utter loneliness. Leading the spare horse by the bridle, he rode
headlong into the ravine and disappeared.



ON THE TRAIL.

IT was evening and the twilight was grey in the little valley, when
Moondyne reached the camp. He was surprised to find the place deserted.
He had expected a welcome--had been thinking, perhaps, of the glad faces
that would greet him as he approached the fire. But the fire was black,
the embers were cold. He looked and saw that there was no light in the
gold mine.

A dreadful presentiment grew upon him. A glance for the saddles, and
another across the valley, and he knew that the horses were gone.
Following the strange action of the dogs, he strode towards the cave,
and there, at the entrance, read the terrible story.

The sight struck this strange convict like a physical blow. His limbs
failed him, and his body sank till he knelt on the sand at the mouth of
the mine. He felt no wrath, but only crushing self-accusation.

"God forgive me!" was the intense cry of heart and brain: "God forgive
me for this crime!"

The consequence of his fatal selfishness crushed him; and the
outstretched arms of the old chief, whose unconsciousness--for he was not
dead--was fearfully like death, seemed to call down curses on the
destroyer of his people.

The years of his life went miserably down before Moondyne till he
grovelled in the desolation of his dismal abasement. A ban had followed
him, and blighted all he had touched.

Years were pressed into minutes as he crouched beside the maimed bodies
of his friends. The living man lay as motionless as the dead. The strong
mind brought up the whole scene for judgment. His inward eye saw the
fleeing murderer; but he felt more of pity for the wretch than of
vengeance. The entire sensibility of Moondyne was concentrated in the
line of his own conscience. Himself accused himself--and should the
criminal condemn another?

When at last he raised his face, with a new thought of duty, the trace
of the unutterable hour was graven upon him in deep lines.

Where were the sisters? Had they been sacrificed too? By the moonlight
he searched the valley; he entered the cave, and called through all its
passages. It was past midnight when he gave up the search and stood
alone in the desolate place. In the loose sand of the valley he scooped
a grave, to which he carried the body of the young bushman, and buried
it. When this was done he proceeded to perform a like office for
Te-mana-roa, but looking toward the cave he was startled at the sight of
the sisters, one of whom, Koro, stood as if watching him, while the
other, aided by an extremely old woman, was tending on the almost dying
chief, whose consciousness was slowly returning.

Benumbed and silent, Moondyne approached the cave. The girl who had
watched him shrank back to the others. Tapairu, the younger sister, rose
and faced the white man with a threatening aspect. She pointed her
finger towards the pass.

"Go!" she said, sternly, in her own tongue.

Moondyne paused and looked at her.

"Begone!" she cried, still pointing; and once again came the words,
"begone, accursed!"

Remorse had strangled grief in Moondyne's breast, or the agony of the
girl, uttered in this terrible reproach, would have almost killed him.
Accursed she said, and he knew that the word was true.

He turned from the place, not towards the pass, but towards the
mountains, and walked from the valley with an aimless purpose, and a
heart filled with ashes.

For hours he held steadily on, heedless of direction. He marked no
places--had no thoughts--only the one gnawing and consuming presence of
the ruin he had wrought.

The dogs followed him, tired and spiritless. The moon sank, and the sun
rose, and still the lonely man held his straight and aimless road--across
mountains and through ravines, until at last his consciousness was
recalled as he recognized the valley in which he stood as one he had
travelled two days before, on the way to the gold mine.

Stretching his exhausted body on a sheltered bank beside stream, he fell
into a deep sleep that lasted many hours.

He awoke with a start, as if a voice had called him. In an instant his
brow was set and his mind determined. He glanced at the sun to settle
his direction, and then walked slowly across the valley, intently
observing the ground. Before he'd had taken a hundred paces he stopped
suddenly, turned at right angles down the valley, and strode on with a
purpose, that though rapidly, almost instantaneously formed, had
evidently taken full possession of his will.

Sometimes persons of keen sensibility lie down to sleep with a trouble
on the mind, and an unsettled purpose, and wake in the night to find the
brain clear and the problem solved. From this process of unconscious
cerebration Moondyne awoke with a complete and settled resolution.

There could be no doubt of the determination in his mind. He had struck
the trail of the murderer.

There was no more indirection or hesitation in his manner. He settled
down to the pursuit with a grim and terrible earnestness. His purpose
was clear before him--to stop the devil he had let loose--to prevent the
escape of the assassin--to save the people who had trusted and saved him.

He would not turn from this intent though the track led him to the
prison gate of Fremantle; and even there, in the face of the guards, he
would slay the wretch before he had betrayed the secret. Death is on the
trail of every man; but we have grown used to him, and heed him not.
Crime and Sin are following us--will surely find us out, and some day
will open the cowl and show us the death's-head. But more terrible than
these Fates, because more physically real, is the knowledge, ever
present, that a relentless human enemy is on our track.

Through the silent passes of the hills, his heart a storm of fears and
hopes, the sergeant fled toward security. Every mile added to the light
ahead. He rode wildly and without rest--rode all day and into the night,
and would still have hurried on, but the horses failed and must have
rest.

He fed and watered them, watching with feverish eyes the renewal of
their strength; and as he watched them eat, the wretched man fell into a
sleep, from which he started in terror, fearful that the pursuer was
upon him.

Through the day and night, depending on his great strength, Moondyne
followed. While the fugitive rested, he strode on; and he knew by
instinct and observation that he was gaining in the race.

Every hour the tracks were fresher. On the morning of the second day, he
had found the sand still moist where the horses had drunk from a stream.
On the evening of that day he passed the burning embers of a fire. The
murderer was gaining confidence, and taking longer rest.

The third day came with a revelation to Moondyne. The sergeant had lost
the way--had turned from the valley that led towards the settlement, and
had sealed his doom by choosing one that reached towards the
immeasurable deserts of the interior.

The pursuer was not stayed by the discovery. To the prison or the
wilderness, should the track lead, he would follow.

At first the new direction was pleasant. Dim woods on either side of a
stream, the banks fringed with verdure and flanked with bright flowers.
But like the pleasant ways of life, the tempting valley led to the
desolate plains; before night had closed, pursuer and pursued were far
from the hills and streams, in the midst of a treeless sea of sand.

Nothing but fear of death could drive the sergeant forward. He was
bushman enough to know the danger of being lost on the plains. But he
dare not return to meet him whom he knew was hunting him down.

There was but one chance before him, and this was to tire out the
pursuer--if, as his heart suggested, there was only one in pursuit--to
lead him farther and farther into the desert, till he fell on the barren
track and died.

It was sore travelling for horse and man under the blazing sun, with no
food or water save what he pressed from the pith of the palms, and even
these were growing scarce. The only life on the plains was the hard and
dusty scrub. Every hour brought a more hopeless and grislier desolation.

How was it with Moondyne? The strong will still upheld him. He knew he
had gained till they took to the plains; but he also knew that here the
mounted man had the advantage. Every day the track was less distinct,
and he suffered more and more from thirst. The palms he passed had been
opened by the sergeant; and he had to leave the trail to find one
untouched. The sun flamed in the bare sky, and the sand was so hot that
the air hung above it in a tremulous haze. In the woods the dogs had
brought him food; but no living thing was to be hunted on the plains. He
had lived two days on the pith of the palms.

On the third day Moondyne with difficulty found the sand trail, which
had been blown over by the night breeze. He had slept on the shelterless
desert and had dreamt of sweet wells of water as the light dew fell on
his parched body.

This day he was quite alone. The dogs, suffering from thirst, had
deserted him in the night.

He began the day with a firm heart but an unsteady step. There was not a
palm in sight. It was hot noon before he found a small scrub to moisten
his throat and lips.

But to-day, he thought, he must come face to face with the villain, and
would kill him like a wild beast on the desert; and the thought upheld
him.

His head was bare and his body nearly naked. Another man would have
fallen senseless under the cruel sun; but Moondyne did not even rest--as
the day passed he did not seem to need rest.

It was strange how pleasant, how like a dream, part of that day
appeared. Sometimes he seemed to be awake, and to know that he was
moving over the sand, and with a dread purpose; but at these times he
knew that the trail had disappeared--that he was blindly going forward,
lost on the wilderness. Toward evening the cool breeze creeping over the
sand dispelled the dreams and made him mercilessly conscious.

The large red sun was standing on the horizon of sand, and an awful
shadow seemed waiting to fall upon the desert.

When the sun had gone down, and the wanderer looked at the stars, there
came to him a new Thought, like a friend, with a grave but not unkind
face--a vast and solemn Thought, that held him for a long time with
upraised face and hands, as if it had been whispered from the deep quiet
sky. Slowly he walked with his new communion, and when he saw before him
in the moonlight two palms, he did not rush to cut them open, but stood
beside them smiling. Opening one, at length, he took the morsel of pith,
and ate, and slept.

How sweet it was to wake up and see the wide sky studded with golden
stars--to feel that there were no bonds any more, nor hopes, nor
heart-burnings.

The Divine Thought that had come to him the day before was with him
still--grave and kindly, and now they two were so utterly alone, it
seemed almost to smile. He raised his body and knelt upon the sand,
looking upward, and all things seemed closing quietly in upon him, as if
coming to a great rest, and he would have lain down on the sand at
peace; but a cry, a human-like cry, startled him into wakefulness--surely
it was a cry!

It was clear, and near, and full of suffering. Surely he had heard--he
had not dreamt of such a cry. Again--God! how near and how keen it
was--from the darkness--a cry of mortal agony!

With a tottering step Moondyne ran towards the woeful sound. He saw by
the moonlight a dark object on the sand. The long, weak cry hurried him
on, till he stood beside the poor throat whence it came, and was smote
with pity at the dismal sight.

On the sand lay two horses chained at the neck--one dead, the other dying
in an agony of thirst and imprisonment. Beside the dead horse almost
buried in the sand, as he had fallen from the saddle, lay a man,
seemingly dead, but whose glazing eyes turned with hideous suffering as
Moondyne approached. The wretched being was powerless to free himself
from the fallen horse; and upon his body, and all around him, were
scattered heavy bars and plates of gold.

Moondyne loosed the chain from the suffering horse, that struggled to
its feet, ran forward a few yards, and fell dead on the sand.

The men's eyes met, and the blistered lips of the sergeant for it was
he--moved in piteous appeal. Moondyne paused one stern moment, then
turned and ran from the place--ran towards the palm near which he bad
slept. With hasty hand he tore it open and cut out the pith, and sped
back to the sufferer. He knelt down, and squeezed the precious moisture
into the mouth of the dying man--the man whom he had followed into the
desert to kill like a wild beast.

Till the last drop was gone he pressed the young wood. Then the guilty
wretch raised his eyes and looked at Moondyne--the glazed eyes grew
bright, and brighter, till a tear rose within them, and rolled down the
stained and sinlined face. The baked lips moved, and the weak hands were
raised imploringly. The sergeant back dead.

Moondyne knew that his last breath was contrition, and his last dumb
cry, "Pardon."

Then, too, the strength went from the limbs and the light from the eyes
of Moondyne--and as he sank to the earth, the great Thought that had come
to him filled his heart with peace--and he lay unconscious beside the
dead.

The sun rose on the desert, but the sleeper did not move. Before the day
was an hour old, other forms rapidly crossed the plain--not wanderers,
but fierce, skin-clad men, in search of vengeance.

They flung themselves from their horses when they reached the scene; and
one, throwing himself upon the body of the sergeant, sprang back with a
guttural cry of wrath and disappointment, which was echoed by the savage
party.

Next moment, one of the natives, stooping to lay his hand on the heart
of the Moondyne, uttered an excited call. The spearmen crowded around,
and one poured water from a skin on the face and body of the senseless
man.

They raised him to the arms of a strong rider, while another took the
reins, and the wild party struck off at a fall gallop towards the
mountains.

When Moondyne returned to consciousness, many days after his rescue, he
was free from pursuit, he had cut for ever the bond of the Penal Colony;
above him bent the deep eyes and kind faces of the old chief and the
sisters, Koro and Tapairu, and around him were the hills that shut in
the Valley of the Vasse Gold Mine.

He closed his eyes again and seemed to sleep for a little while. Then he
looked up and met the face of Te-mana-roa kindly watching him.

"I am free!" he only said. Then turning to the sisters: "I am not
accursed;" and Koro and Tapairu. answered with kind smiles.




BOOK TWO - THE SANDALWOOD TRADE.



THE MATE OF THE CANTON.

IT is midwinter, in a little Lancashire village on the coast, not far
from Liverpool. One quiet main street, crossed by three or four short
side streets, that lead in the summer days into the sweet meadows and
orchards. One of these side streets has only three houses on one side,
separated by goodly gardens. The house in the centre is the smallest,
but it is extremely neat, and the garden fairly glows with colour.

This is the home of Mrs. Walmsley, a Widow; and the garden is looked
after by herself and her daughter Alice, about sixteen years old. The
house on the right of Mrs. Walmsley's belongs to Mr. Draper, the richest
man in the village, a retired shopkeeper. The house on the left belongs
to Captain Sheridan, a bluff old Irishman retired from the navy, and now
Inspector of Coast Guards, whose family consists of his son and
daughter--Will Sheridan, the son, being just twenty years old.

At the gate of Draper's garden, opening on the streets, stands a
handsome young man in the uniform of the merchant marine. He is Sam
Draper, first officer of the Canton, arrived a few weeks before from
China.

"Good-morning, Alice," he says in a cheerful but not a pleasant voice,
as Alice Walmsley passes down the road.

Alice stopped and chatted lightly for a minute with her old schoolmate.
Draper evidently paid her a compliment, for her cheeks were flushed as
she entered her mother's gate standing near which was young Sheridan,
whom she slightly saluted and hurriedly passed, much to his surprise,
for their relations were, at least, of the oldest and closest
friendship.

"Alice," said Will, in a wondering tone as the girl passed with her
flushed face.

"Well--did you speak?" And she paused and turned her head.

Will Sheridan loved Alice, and she knew it, though no word had been
spoken. He had loved her for years in a boy's way, cherishing her memory
on his long voyages, for Will, too, was a sailor, as were almost all the
young men of the village; but he was soon to leave home for a two years'
service on Sam Draper's vessel, and of late his heart had been urging
him to speak to Alice.

He was a quiet, thoughtful, manly young fellow, with nothing particular
about him, except this strong secret love for the prettiest girl in the
village.

"Yes, I spoke," he answered hesitatingly, as if wounded; but perhaps you
haven't time to listen."

"What is it, Will?" she said in a kindlier tone, and smiling, though
before she spoke she saw with a side glance that Sam Draper had gone
away from the gate.

"O, it isn't anything particular," said Will; "only there's rare skating
on the mill-pond, and I was going there this afternoon."

"And--?" queried Alice, archly.

"Yes--I wish you would," said Will, earnestly.

"Well, I think I will," she replied, laughingly, "though you haven't
told me yet what I am to do."

"Why, go skating with me," said Will, highly pleased; "Sam Draper and
his sisters are going, and there will be a crowd from the village.
Shall I come for you at three?"

"Yes," she replied, "I'll be ready--" and as she turned towards her
mother's house the flush was in her face again.

Will Sheridan walked lightly on, thinking happy thoughts. Passing
Draper's gate, Sam Draper stepped from the shrubbery, whence he had
observed the interview. He was a tall, handsome fellow, with fair hair
and blue eyes; not the soft blue which usually denotes good-nature, but
a pale, slaty blue that has a hard and shallow look. He had a free and
easy way with him, that made people who met him for the first time think
he was cheerful and amiable. But if you observed him closely you would
see, in the midst of a boisterous laugh, that the cold, blue eyes were
keenly watching you, without a particle of mirth.

There was something never to be forgotten by those who discovered this
double expression in Draper's face. He had a habit of waving his arms in
a boisterous way, and bending his body, as if to emphasize the
heartiness of his laugh or the warmth of his greeting. But while these
visible expressions of jollity were in full play, if you caught the cold
and calculating look from the blue eyes that were weighing you up while
off your guard, you would shudder as if you had looked suddenly into the
eyes of a snake.

Draper knew, too, that his face could be read by keen eyes; and he tried
to mask even the habit of concealment, until, at last, his duplicity had
become extremely artful and hard to be discovered. But he always knew
the people who bad caught his eye and read his soul. He never tried his
boisterous manner on them again, but treated them gravely and quietly.
But these were the people be bated.

Seven years before, when he and Will Sheridan were schoolboys, Sheridan
not only saw through the falsehood of Draper's manner, but exposed it
before the whole school. Nearly every boy in the school had had some
reason to dislike Draper, but his loud, good-natured way had kept them
from speaking. But when Will Sheridan publicly pointed out the warm
laugh and the cold eye, the friendly word and the cruel act, everyone
saw it at a glance, and a public opinion against Draper was instantly
made among his schoolfellows, which no after effort of his could quite
remove.

From that day be nourished in his soul a secret desire to do Sheridan
some injury that would cut him to the quick.

Not that Draper had no friends--indeed, he was always making new
friends--and his new friends were always loud in his praise; but when
they ceased to be new, somehow they ceased to admire Sam Draper, and
either said they were mistaken in their first impression, or said
nothing.

Both young men were sailors. Some years ago the English merchant service
was almost as well ordered and as precise in discipline and promotion as
the Royal Navy, and young men of good position entered it as a
profession. On his last voyage Draper had become first mate; and Will
Sheridan had lately engaged to take his old place on the Canton as
second mate.

As Draper stepped from the shrubbery and hailed Will with a cheery word,
his hand was outstretched in a most cordial way, and his lips smiled;
but his eye was keen and smileless, and as cold as ice. He had known for
years of Will's affection for Alice Walmsley; and it was commonly said
in the village that Alice returned his love.

"Why don't you ask Alice to go skating this afternoon?" said Draper.

"I Have just asked her," said Will, "and she is going."

"Bravo!" said Draper, in a hearty tone, so far as the sound went; "I
thought she would like to be asked, when I told her, half an hour ago,
we were going."

Will Sheridan had some light word on his lip, but he did not speak it;
and his smile faded, though without apparent cause, while he looked at
Draper's pleasant face.

"She didn't say he had told her," he thought, and somehow the thought
troubled him. But he put it away and forgot all about it before the
afternoon.

The mill-pond was covered with skaters when Will and Alice arrived. They
had often skated together before, and because Alice was timid on the
ice, she used to hold Will's hand or take his arm; and now and then, and
as often as he could, Will's arm was around her, as he struck out
strongly and rapidly.

Unconsciously they had assumed settled relations towards each other--she
resting on him with confidence, and he quite assured of her trust.

To-day there was a disturbing element somewhere. Before they had been
ten minutes on the ice, Will noticed that Alice was, for the first time
in her life, listening inattentively to his words. And more than once he
saw her looking over his shoulder, as if seeking someone in the crowd of
skaters. After a while she evidently found whom she had sought, and her
face brightened. Will, at the moment, asked her some question, and she
did not hear him at first, but made him repeat the word.

With a strange sinking of the heart, he followed the direction of the
girl's eyes, and was just in time to see Sam Draper kiss his hand to
her--and Alice smiled.

Will Sheridan was a sensitive and proud young fellow, and his quick
feelings of honour were wounded by what he perhaps too hastily deemed
the deceit of Alice Walmsley. A change had certainly come in her
relation to him, but what right had he to charge her with deceit? He had
no claim on her--had never spoken a word of love to her in his life.

The evening had closed when he left her at her mother's gate. They said
"Good-night" in a new fashion--the words were as cold as the wind, and
the touch of the hands was brief and formal.

After that Will did not ask Alice to walk or skate with him. He called
no more at her mother's house as he used to do. He went to none of the
usual places of meeting with her. If he had gone, he should have been
all the more lonely; for he could not pretend to be pleasantly engaged
with others while his heart was full of pain and unrest. But he could
not help watching for her from his room window; and surely it were
better for his happiness had he overcome this too.

He saw that where he used to be, there every day was his rival. He heard
Draper's loud and happy voice and laughter--and he noticed that Alice was
happier and far more boisterous than ever he had known her--and that her
happiness and gaiety became even louder when she knew he was observing.

But at last came the time of the Canton's sailing. On the evening before
leaving, Will Sheridan went to Mrs. Walmsley's to say good-bye, and, as
Alice was not there, he remained talking with her mother, with whom he
had always been a favourite. After a while he heard the gate swing, and
saw Alice approaching the house, and Draper looking after her from the
gate.

When Alice entered, he was standing and bidding farewell to her mother,
who was weeping quietly.

Alice understood all, and the flush faded from her cheek.

"Good-bye, Alice," he said, holding out his hand. "You know I am going
away in the morning." He had walked towards the door as he spoke,
keeping her hand, and now they stood in the porch.

He saw the tears in her eyes, and his courage gave way, for he had only
a boy's heart to bear a man's grief; and he covered his face with his
hands and sobbed.

In a few minutes he was calm, and he bent over the weeping girl.
"Alice," he whispered, tenderly, and she raised her tear-stained face to
his breast. Poor Will, yearning to take her in his arms, remembering
what he had seen, only pressed her hands in his, and, stooping, kissed
her on the forehead again and again Then he walked, tear-blinded, down
the straight path to the gate.

A moment after, he felt a man's hand on his collar, and, turning, met
the hard eyes of Draper. Sheridan's face was still quivering with the
powerful emotion.

"What do you mean, Draper?" he demanded angrily, dashing the hand aside.

"I mean to let you know," said Draper, contemptuously, weighing the
words, "that I saw all your snivelling scene, and that I have seen all
your impertinent attentions to that girl."

Will Sheridan controlled himself by a violent effort, because the name
of Alice Walmsley was in question.

"That girl, as you impertinently call her," he said, calmly, "is one of
my oldest friends. My attentions have never been impertinent to her."

"You lie, you cur!" brutally answered Draper.

Though few words had been spoken, here was the culmination of an enmity
that was old and rankling. On both sides there had been repression of
feeling; but now the match had touched the powder, and the wrath flamed.

The word had barely passed the insulter's lips, when he reeled and
tumbled headlong from Sheridan's terrible blow. As soon as the blow was
delivered, Will turned, and walked towards his own home, never even
looking behind.

It was half a minute before Draper picked himself from the frozen earth,
still dazed with the shock. He showed no desire to follow, or continue
the quarrel. With teeth set like a vice, and a livid face, he looked
after the strong figure of Will, till he turned into his father's house.

Next day the young men left the village, and entered on their duty as
officers of the Canton, which lay in a Liverpool dock. No one knew of
their quarrel, as neither had spoken of it, and there had been no
witnesses.

The preparations for sea kept them apart for several days the vessel
sailed from Liverpool, and soon cleared the Channel. Two weeks later,
when the ship passed, on a beautiful night, within right of the Western
Islands, the young men came face to face on the poop. Will Sheridan had
come on deck to enjoy the delightful scene, not thinking that the first
mate was officer of the watch.

"Draper," said Will, in a friendly tone, holding out his hand when they
met, "I did not know you were engaged to Miss Walmsley. We should both
be sorry for what happened that night."

The eyes of Draper glittered like steel as he answered in a sneering
tone--

"And who told you, Sir, that I was engaged?"

"I judge so from your conduct," said Will.

"You are not a good judge, then," answered Draper.

"Then there's all the less reason for us to quarrel, man. Take back your
insulting words, and let me apologize for my violence."

"My insulting words--let me see, what were they? Ah, yes,"--he spoke
slowly, as if he meant to wound with the repetition--"I think I said that
I had been a witness to your snivelling scene of farewell--and that I was
acquainted with your unsought and impertinent attentions to that girl.
By the way, I may tell you that she herself made me acquainted with the
offensive persistence of her obtuse admirer."

"She told you?" said Will, staggered by the word. "She said my love was
offensive to her?"

"Ha! No--not love exactly," said the other, with the same biting sneer;
"I believe you never gave her a chance to fling that in your teeth."

"Take care, Draper!" said Sheridan.

"Well, let us go on with the insulting words, as you choose to call
them. I also said you were a liar, if I remember well and a cur--did I
not?"

"Why do you repeat the foul words, man?" asked Sheridan, indignantly.

"Why, because I used them after careful choosing and because they are
true! Stay!--" he added, raising his voice, and backing to the rail, as
he saw Sheridan approaching. "I am the first officer of this ship, and
if you dare to raise your hand against me, I will shoot you like a dog.
We'll have no mutiny here."

"Mutiny!" cried Sheridan, more astounded and puzzled than angry. "What
in heaven's name are you talking about? I want to be calm, Draper, for
old times' sake. You call me vile names, and threaten my life, and yet I
have given you no earthly cause. What do you mean?"

"I mean, that he who pretends to be my friend, while he ruins my
character, is a liar; and that he who tells a slander in secret is a
coward."

"Slander your character?" said Sheridan, "I never said an ill word of
you--though I have unwillingly become acquainted with some things that I
wish I had never known."

The latter part of the sentence was slowly added. Draper winced as if
cut with a whip.

"You have made a charge" continued Sheridan, sternly, "and you must
explain it. How have I slandered you?"

Draper hesitated. He hated the man before him, like a fiend; but he
hated still more the subject he had now to touch.

"You knew about that girl in Calcutta," he said, now fairly livid with
passion; "no one in England knew it but you."

"Yes," said Sheridan, slowly, "I learned something about it, against my
will."

"Against your will," sneered the other, "was it against your will you
told the story to--her?"

Draper never repeated Alice's name, as if it were unpleasant to his
tongue.

"I never mentioned your shameful affairs," answered Sheridan, with scorn
and indignation; "but you are justly punished to have thought so."

"You did tell her!" cried Draper, terribly excited; "you told her about
my marriage in Calcutta."

"Your marriage!" and Sheridan stepped back, as recoiling from a reptile.
Then, after a pause, as if speaking to a condemned culprit--

"Your infamy is deeper than I thought. I did not know till now that your
victim in Calcutta was also your wife."

With lightning rapidity Draper saw the dreadful confession his error had
led him into. He knew that Sheridan spoke the truth, and he hurriedly
attempted to close the grave he had exposed.

"She is dead," he said, searching Sheridan's face; "you should have
known that, too."

"Dead or alive, God have pity on her!" answered Sheridan whose face and
voice were filled with revulsion and contempt. "For her sake, I pray
that she may be dead; but I do not believe you. I shall see that those
be warned in time who are still in danger."

Sheridan deliberately turned on his heel and entered the cabin, while
Draper, confounded and dismayed at his self conviction, leant on the
rail looking out at sea, cursing his own stupidity that had betrayed
him.

"Who else could have known?" he muttered; "and who else could have told
her? But she doesn't wholly believe it and, when I swore it was false
that last evening, I think she believed me. I'll take care, at all
events, that he shall have no chance to unsay my word."

For hours the brooding rascal walked the poop deck, till the watch was
changed, when he went below, and tried to sleep.



COUNTERMINING THE MINER.

WILL SHERIDAN'S life on the Canton was a restless and unhappy one from
the night of his altercation with Draper. He was daily associated with a
man who had exposed his own villainy; a caitiff so vile, that he had
sought, and probably still intended, to blight the life of a girl he had
known from childhood.

The discipline of the ship required a certain courtesy and respect
towards the first officer. This formal recognition Will paid, but
nothing more.

A few days after this meeting Draper made an advance towards intimacy;
but this was repelled with such cold severity as showed him that he had
nothing to expect in future from Sheridan's forbearance.

"Do not dare to address me as a friend again," Will said, sternly; "I
shall write to England from the first port, and expose you as the
scoundrel you are."

Draper's dry lips--his lips were always dry--moved as if he were speaking,
but no words came. His shallow eyes became wells of hate. He passed by
Sheridan without reply, and went to his room.

There are a hundred ways in which the chief officer of a large ship can
grind his inferiors; and Sheridan every day felt the subtle malevolence
of his enemy. But these persecutions he did not heed. He knew that
underneath these symptoms lay a more dangerous rancour that, sooner or
later, would try to do him a deadly injury.

What the form of the attack might be, he knew not. But he prepared
himself for emergencies. Will Sheridan was not only a brave and
straightforward young fellow, but he had a clever head on his shoulders.

"Why should I let this cunning scoundrel injure me?" he asked himself.
"His villainy is easily seen through--and I'm going to watch him
closely."

He did watch him, and it served him well. Every secret and dangerous
move he saw and disarranged. A trumped-up plan of mutiny among the
men--which would have excused bloodshed, and the shooting of an officer,
perhaps, by accident--he nipped in the bud, and almost exposed the
machinations of him who hatched it.

Draper soon understood that he was playing with his master, and changed
his method. He began to wait for an opportunity instead of making one.

This will be the case almost invariably; when honest men axe fighting
cowards and slanderers, the surest way to defeat them is by constant
watchfulness. Evil-minded people are generally shallow, and easily
countermined. Only, when they axe countermined, they should be blown up,
and never spared.

The Canton touched at Singapore for orders, and was detained a week.
Will Sheridan resolved that on the night before she sailed he would
leave the ship. Draper seemed to divine his purpose, and watched him
like a tiger. But Will's constant attention to duty, and his equable
temper, deceived the watcher.

The night before the Canton was to sail, Will dropt a bundle into a
dinghy under the bow, swung himself after it, and went ashore. A close
search was made for him next day by the police, headed by Draper, the
law in those ports being rigid against deserters. But he could not be
found, and the Canton sailed without her second officer.

The first thing Will Sheridan did when he knew he was out of danger was
to write to Mrs. Walmsley, warning her of Draper's marriage in India.
This done, he set about getting some sort of employment.

He was in a strange place, and he knew no business except that of the
sea. In a few days he shipped as mate on a barque bound found for West
Australia, in the sandalwood trade.

A large and lucrative trade in sandalwood is carried on between China,
India, and the penal colony. Vast districts in West Australia are
covered with this precious wood, which is cut by ticket-of-leave men,
and shipped to China and India, where it is used in the burning of
incense in the Josshouses or temples, and in the delicate cabinet and
marquetry work which is so plentiful in oriental countries.

This was a life that suited Sheridan's vigorous temperament. He found
his occupation pleasant, and would have quite forgotten the enmity of
Draper; but he still feared that his influence over Alice Walmsley had
not been broken.

He spent a year in the sandalwood trade, and was thinking of taking a
trip to England, when he received a package through the post-office at
Shanghai, containing all his letters, and a brief unfriendly message in
Alice Walmsley's handwriting, informing him that she was Captain
Draper's Wife, and that she scorned the cowardly nature that sought to
destroy an honourable man's good name by malicious falsehood.

Will Sheridan was dumbfounded and grieved to the heart. In all he had
previously borne, in his efforts to crush out of his heart a hopeless
passion almost as strong as his life, he had, he thought, sounded the
depths of his love for Alice Walmsley. But now, when he knew her utterly
beyond his reach, and saw opening before her a desert life of misery and
despair, the pity in his heart almost killed him. He would have given
his life then that his enemy might be an honourable man. Her letter did
not wound him, because he knew she had been deceived.

At first, he knew not what to do. He feared he had been hasty--he did not
actually know that Draper was a villain his own accusing word was not
enough, perhaps, or it might bear an explanation. Should he write to
Alice and take back his cruel charges? Or should he remain silent, and
let time unravel the trouble?

To do the first would be wrong--to do the second might be woefully
unjust. The true course was to find out the truth; to go to Calcutta and
learn for himself; and if he were wrong, to publicly make
acknowledgment. If he were right, he could remain silent if it were for
the best.

Two months afterwards, Will Sheridan returned from Calcutta to Shanghai.
He had found out the truth. He proceeded at once to West Australia to
join his ship, and from that time he wrote no more to England. One part
of his life, the sweet and tender part, without fault of his, had
suffered woefully, and had died before his eyes. It was shrouded in his
memory, and buried in his heart. Like a brave man, he would not sit and
mourn over the loss. He set his face to his duty, hoping and praying
that time would take the gnawing pain from his heart.



THE SANDALWOOD AGENCY.

ABOUT a year after his trip to Calcutta, while his ship lay in Shanghai,
Sheridan received an invitation to dinner from the chief owner, a
wealthy and acute old Scotchman, whose palatial residence and beautiful
grounds overlooked the town. He was surprised at the courtesy, and
showed the invitation to the captain, a kind old sailor, who had formed
an affection for Will from the first.

"Go, go, my lad," said Captain Mathews. "It's a piece of luck, no doubt.
I've heard that the old man has a daughter, or a niece, though I believe
she's rather tough; but what's that, when she has a shipload of money?
You're in luck, youngster; of course you'll go, and in your best rig,
too. I'll lend you my old claw-hammer coat."

"Thank you, Captain," said Will, smiling inwardly, as his eye took in
the short but portly dimensions of his old friend; "but I think I'll go
as a plain sailor, without any pretence at society dress."

"Well, I don't know but you're right, Sheridan," responded the captain;"
a sailor's jacket is fit for any man or any place, lad, when he who
wears it loves his profession, and is worthy of it."

That evening saw Will Sheridan enter Mr. MacKay's drawing-room, as
handsome and gentlemanly a fellow as ever gave an order through a
trumpet.

"Mr. Sheridan," said the kind old merchant, coming forward to meet him,
"you are welcome, for your own sake, and for that of a dear old friend.
You are not aware, I think, that your father and I were midshipmen
together forty years ago."

Will was surprised, but gratified. He had half expected to be
patronized, and indeed was more than half prepared to resent such
treatment. Mr. MacKay presented Will to his family--Mrs. MacKay, an
invalid, and his step-daughter, Miss Gifford, a handsome, buxom,
good-natured maiden lady of a certain age.

They were all very kind, and they treated Will as an old and privileged
friend. He forgot all about the patronage, and enjoyed himself
immensely. Such an evening of home life, after years of rugged
seafaring, was delightfully restful.

At dinner, Mr. MacKay recalled story after story of the time when he and
Will's father were careless youngsters on His Majesty's ship Cumberland.
Will was still more surprised to find that Mr. MacKay had recently been
in communication with his father.

"I saw your papers, Mr. Sheridan," explained Mr. MacKay; "and knowing
that my old friend was in the Coastguard Service in England, I wrote to
him. I found I was right in my conclusion; but I thought I would say
nothing about the matter for some time. You will pardon me when I tell
you that I have been observing you closely since you entered the service
of our Company."

This was the first reference to their relative positions which had been
made. Will did not know what to answer.

"You have seen a good deal of our sandalwood trade," said Mr. MacKay,
changing the subject; "what do you think of its prospects, Mr.
Sheridan?"

This was too extensive a question for Will, and he faltered in his
reply. He had, he said, only considered his own duties in the trade, and
they offered a limited scope for observation.

The old merchant, however, returned to the point.

"Captain Mathews tells me that you have expressed to him your
dissatisfaction at the management of our affairs in West Australia."

"No, Sir," answered Will, with a smile, "not with the management, but
with the mismanagement."

"Ah, just so," said Mr. MacKay, "we will talk more about this
by-and-by."

When the ladies had retired, Mr. MacKay again took up the subject.

"You think our affairs in Australia are mismanaged, then?"

"Well, Sir, it appears to me there is no system whatever on the other
side, so far as the Company's interests are concerned."

"How is that?" asked the keen business man opening his eyes. "Does not
our agent purchase and ship the sandalwood?"

"Yes, he certainly does, and that's all be does--and that's nothing,"
said blunt Will, "at least for the Company's benefit."

"Please explain," said Mr. MacKay, nervously.

"Well," said Will, in his earliest way when interested, "as you know,
the sandalwood is cut away in the bush, from sixty to a hundred miles
from the shipping station at Bunbury. It is cut by ticket-of-leave men.
From them it is bought by speculators, who team it to Bunbury; and from
these fellows, who manage to control the wood, your agent buys it at the
wharf, paying whatever price is asked."

"You would have him do more?" asked Mr. MacKay.

"I would change the whole plan, sir, if it were my concern. First, I
would lease all or as much as I could, of the sandalwood land direct
from the Government, then I would set my hired cutters to work and then
carry the wood in my own teams to the wharf. The original cost can be
decreased by at least fifty per cent. And, besides this, there are other
valuable substances, such as gum, tan-bark, and skins, that could be
carried and shipped at the same time."

The merchant listened attentively to the broad outline of Will's plans,
which he spoke about quite freely, as one outside the matter, but
familiar with it.

"Mr. Sheridan," said Mr. MacKay at length "our Company has decided to
change our agent in West Australia, and it gives me great pleasure to
offer you the position. I will see," he added, interrupting Will's
surprised exclamation, "that you shall have sufficient power at your
disposal to carry out your ideas with regard to the extension of the
trade."

Will hardly heard another word for the rest of the evening. His mind
scarcely took in the change--from the poor and unknown sailor, at one
step, to a man of large influence and position, for such would be the
Australian agent of so wealthy a Company.

When he returned to the ship his face flamed with excitement, as he
related the wonderful story to his old friend Captain Mathews, who
became even more excited than Will and declared many times over his
glass of "Old Tom," "that they were beginning to see things right at
last," and that "no man could do land business so well as him who was
trained at sea," and divers other sentences filled with wisdom drawn
from personal pride and marine philosophy.



THE TEAMSTERS' TAVERN.

"CURSE that fellow!" hissed Lame Scotty through his clenched teeth; "I
hate him." The word was emphasized by a blow on the rickety table that
made the glasses jump.

The scene was a public-house in the little mahogany town of Bunbury,
West Australia; the time, six months after Will Sheridan had assumed the
sandalwood agency. The speaker was a ticket-of-leave man, a wiry,
red-eyed fellow of middle age, whose face had the cunning ferocity of a
ferret. His auditors were a shaggy crowd of woodcutters and ex-convict
teamsters, the latter group sitting, with him at a long table.

"Don't talk so loud, Scotty," said a rough-looking man of immense
stature, with an axe strapped on his back, who leant smoking against the
fireplace; "don't shout so, my friend, or Agent Sheridan will hear it,
and kick you out of the team he gave you for charity."

"Kick me out!" retorted Scotty, with an oath; "he daren't touch me.
Curse his charity; he gave me a team for his own interest."

"Bah!" said the big woodcutter, without moving, "you were always a brag.
He gave work and wages to you and a lot of your ugly gang there, for
downright charity; and, like the hounds you always were, you have no
thanks in you."

Though the gang so broadly referred to were at the table with Scotty, no
one resented the woodcutter's epithet, though dark looks were flung at
him.

"This agent has ruined the sandalwood trade," said Scotty, addressing
himself to the aroused woodcutters. "Before he came here, a poor man
could earn a few pounds; but now we ain't any better than chain-gang
men."

A murmur of approval from the teamsters followed the remark, and Scotty
felt that he had struck a popular note. Even one or two of the
woodcutters at another table struck the board in approval.

"No, you ain't any better than chain-gang men, that's true," said the
brawny bearer of the axe, still quietly smoking; "it nor you never were.
There's where the whole boiling lot of you ought to be still. You talk
of ruining poor men," he continued, slightly shifting his position, so
as to face Scotty, "you darned fox! I know you-and these men know you,"
pointing to the group of woodcutters. "Before this new system came with
this new agent, you and your rats there had the whole trade in your
hands. You bought from the cutters at your own price, and you paid them
in rum. You cheated the woodcutters and swindled the dealers, till the
wonder was that some day you weren't found chopped to pieces for our
villainy."

"That's true as Gospel," said one of the woodcutters who had lately
applauded Scotty. "You're an infernal set of vampires, you are."

Scotty and his ill-looking crew realized that the woodcutter had got the
drop on them, dead sure."

A stamping and tramping in the outer room or store suggested new
arrivals, as the place was a kind of inn. All eyes were turned on the
door, where entered, one after another, about a dozen powerful fellows,
in the picturesque garb of stockriders, who noisily but good-humouredly
sat them down to the large central table, and called for something to
eat and drink.

The interrupted discussion was not resumed but a whispered and earnest
comment on the new-comers began among Scotty's gang.

"Where do you fellows hail from?" asked the big woodcutter, after
waiting a while, and in a friendly tone.

"From Dardanup," said one of the stockriders. The whispering between
Scotty and his friends ceased, the last word passed round being strongly
emphasized, "Dardanup Irish."

There was a colony of Irish settlers at Dardanup, free men, who had
emigrated there forty years before, when the Western colony was free
from the criminal taint. The families were all related to each other by
intermarriage; and the men of the whole settlement, who had been born
and reared in the bush, were famous throughout the colony for strength,
horsemanship, good-fellowship, and hard fighting qualities.

"From Dardanup-eh?" said the big woodcutter, with a mischievous smile at
Scotty's group. Then you be Agent Sheridan's new teamsters, maybe?"

"Ay, we're going to take those teams up to-morrow," said a strong
fellow; and then, to call the waiter, he hammered the table with his
enormous fist.

"Why," said the woodcutter, in his bland way, "it might be as you're the
Maguire boys from Dardanup?"

"Only eight Maguires in this crowd," said the table-hammerer, with a
pleasant look round the circle.

Scotty and one or two of his friends here gently left their seats, and
sauntered towards the door.

"Don't go," said the woodcutter pressingly; "don't be in a hurry,
Scotty, man; why, it isn't ten minutes ago since you wanted to chaw up
that d--d Sheridan and his teamsters."

Scotty scowled at the woodcutter. "A man can come and go as he pleases,
can't he?" he growled.

"O, ay; but don't leave the friends as you wanted to meet, just now.
Here, you Dardanup fellows, this is your ganger in the teams; this is
your 'boss,' as Yankee Sullivan says. This is the fellow that says Agent
Sheridan darsn't order him, and that the agent went down on his knees
and begged him to drive his black ox team."

"He'll never drive it again," said one of the Dardanup men.

"Why won't he?" demanded one of Scotty's friends.

"Because I'm going to drive that team," said the six-foot Australian,
wheeling his seat with an ominous velocity.

"Ho, ho! ha, ha!" roared the big woodcutter, enjoying the fallen crest
of the braggart; "but you can't have that team Maguire; Scotty will make
ribbons of you."

And the man with the axe heavily stamped on the floor in his boisterous
enjoyment of Scotty's discomfiture.

The Dardanup man rose and walked toward Scotty, who sank back with so
sudden a dismay that he stumbled and fell headlong, while a waiter,
entering with a tray of plates and glasses, tumbled across the prostrate
bully.

At this there was a loud laugh, and the six-footer from Dardanup sat
down again. Scotty, too, was wise enough to profit by the hilarity. He
picked himself up, laughing with the rest.

"Come," he cried in a jolly tone, but with a humiliated aspect, as if he
feared his offer would be refused, "let us have a drink and shake hands,
no matter who has the teams."

"Bravo!" cried the Dardanup men, who were just as ready to drink as to
fight.

The bottle was passed round, and every man drank with Scotty, except the
big woodcutter.

Scotty handed him the bottle and a glass, noticing that he had not
tasted.

"No, thank you," said the big man, with a shake of the head, "none of
that for me."

A few moments afterwards one of the Dardanup men held up his glass to
the big man of the axe. "Drink with me," he said.

"Ay, lad," said the woodcutter, "pass your bottle. I'll drink with you
all night."

Scotty pretended not to have noted nor heard; but as soon as he could he
escaped from the room with his associates. The Dardanup men ate a mighty
supper, and afterwards had a wild time, in which the woodcutter was a
partaker.

Powerful and hearty fellows, full of good-nature, but dangerous men to
rouse, these young Australians, and their strong blood was excited by
the new enterprise they had undertaken.

A combination had been made among the ticket-of-leave teamsters and
buyers against the new agent of the sandalwood trade, who had
revolutionized the old system. It had come to a serious pass with the
business, and Agent Sheridan, knowing that a weak front would invite
ruin, had resolved to test the opposition at once rather than wait for
its bursting.

He rode to Dardanup, and called a meeting of the stockriders, who,
though every one born in Australia and bred to the bush from infancy,
had a warm feeling for Sheridan, perhaps because of his Irish name. He
laid the case before them without hiding the danger.

The ticket-of-leave teamsters were resolved to destroy the Sandalwood
teams of the Company by rolling great rocks on them as they passed
through the Blackwood Gorge.

The Blackwood Gorge was the narrow bed of a stream that wound among the
Iron-stone Hills. In the rainy season it was filled with a violent
flood; but for six months of the year its bed was quite dry, and was
used as a road to reach the sandalwood districts. For more than thirty
miles the patient oxen followed this rugged bridle path; and for the
whole distance the way zigzagged between the feet of precipices and
steep mountains.

It would be an easy matter to block up or destroy a slow moving train in
such a gully. And that the discharged ticket-of-leave teamsters had
determined on this desperate revenge, the fullest proof was in the hands
of Agent Sheridan.

He had considered the matter well, and he was resolved on a plan of
action. He told the Dardanup bushmen that he wanted twenty-four men,
twelve to act as teamsters and twelve as a reserve. In a few minutes he
had booked the names and settled the conditions with two dozen of the
strongest and boldest men in West Australia.

The meeting in the tavern was the first intimation the ticket-of-leave
men had that their plan had been discovered.

Next morning the teams passed peacefully through the little town, while
the discomfited Scotty and his friends looked on from their
skulking-places, and never stirred a finger.

That evening, in the tavern, Scotty and his men were moodily drinking,
and at another table sat half-a-dozen Dardanup stockriders. The
woodcutter with the axe was smoking, as he lounged against the
fireplace.

Why didn't you Dardanup boys go alone, with the others? he asked the
stockriders.

Scotty and his ill-looking group turned their heads to hear the reply.

"We staid behind to watch the wind!" answered one, with a laugh.

"To watch the wind?" queried the big woodcutter.

"Ay," said the Dardanup man, very slowly, and looking squarely at the
ticket-of-leave teamsters; "if the wind blows a stone as big as a
turtle's egg down the Blackwood Gorge to-morrow, we'll put a swinging
ornament on every one of those twenty gum trees on the square. The rope
is ready, and someone ought to pray for fine weather. Just one stone,"
continued the giant, who had risen to light his pipe; and as he passed
he laid a heavy hand on Scotty's shoulder, as if by chance; "just one
stone, as big as a turtle's egg, and we begin to reeve that rope."

"Ha, ha! ho, ho!" roared the woodcutter, and the shanty shook with his
tremendous merriment. When his derision had exhausted itself, he sat
with the Dardanup men, and drank and sang in great hilarity over the
routing of Scotty's gang.

From that day, the new agent of the sandalwood trade was treated with
marked respect by all classes in West Australia.



IN SEARCH OF HIS SORROW.

NINE years crowded with successful enterprise had made Will Sheridan a
strong man in worldly wisdom and wealth. His healthy influence had been
felt and acknowledged all over the West Australian colony. His direct
attack on all obstacles never failed, whether the barriers were
mountains or men.

He had raised the sandalwood trade into cosmopolitan commerce. In nine
years he had made a national industry for the country in which he lived;
had grown rich himself, without selfishly seeking it; and, in
proportion, had made millionaires of the company that employed him.

When men of large intelligence, foresight, and boldness break into new
fields, they may gather gold by the handful. So it was with this
energetic worker. His practical mind turned everything into account, He
inquired from the natives how they cured the beautiful soft kangaroo
skins they wore as bokas, and learned that the red gum, tons of which
could be gathered in a day, was the most powerful tan in the world.

He at once shipped twenty tons of it to Liverpool as an experiment. The
next year he transported two hundred thousand pounds' worth; and, five
years from that time, Australian red gum was an article of universal
trade.

He saw a felled boolah-tree change in the rainy season into a
transparent substance like gum arabic; and, three years afterwards, West
Australia supplied nearly all the white gum in the markets of
civilization.

One might conclude that the man who could set his mind so persistently
at work in this energetic fashion must be thoroughly engaged, and that
his rapid success must have brought with it a rare and solid
satisfaction. Was it so with Agent Sheridan?

Darkest of all mysteries, O secret heart of man, that even to its owner
is unfathomed and occult! Here worked a brave man from year to year,
smiled on by men and women, transmuting all things to gold; vigorous,
keen, worldly, and gradually, becoming philosophic through large
estimation of values in men and things; yet beneath this toiling and
practical mind of the present was a heart that never for one day,
through all these years, ceased bleeding and grieving for a dead joy of
the past.

This was the bitter truth. When riding through the lonely and beautiful
bush, where everything was rich in colour, and all nature was supremely
peaceful, the sleepless underlying grief would seize on this strong
man's heart and gnaw it till he moaned aloud and waved his arms, as if
to put physically sway--from him the felon thought that gripped so
cruelly.

While working, there was no time to heed the pain--no opening for the
bitter thought to take shape. But it was there: always--it was alive
under the ice--moving in restless throbs and memories. It stirred at
strange faces, and sometimes it beat wofully at a familiar sound.

No wonder that the man who carried such a heart should, sooner or later,
show sign of the hidden sorrow in his face. It was so with Will
Sheridan. His worldly work and fortune belonged only to the nine years
of his Australian life; but he knew that the life lying beyond was that
which gave him happiness or misery.

He became a grave man before his time; and one deep line in his face,
that to most people would have denoted his energy and intensity of will,
was truly graven by the unceasing presence of his sorrow.

He had loved Alice Walmsley with that one love which thorough natures
only know. It had grown into his young life as firmly as an organic part
of his being. When it was torn from him, there was left a gaping and
bleeding wound. And time bad brought him no cure.

In the early days of his Australian career he had received the news of
his father's death. His mother and sister had been well provided for. They
implored him to come home but he could not bear to hear of the one being
whose memory filled his existence; and so he never wrote to his people.
Their letters ceased; and in nearly nine years he had never heard a word
from home.

But now, when his present life was to outward appearance all sunshine,
and when his future path lay through pleasant ways, the bitter thought
in his heart rankled with unutterable suffering. Neither work nor
excitement allayed the pang. He shrank from solitude, and he was
solitary in crowds. He feared to give rein to grief; yet alone, in the
moonlit bush, he often raised his face and hands to heaven, and cried
aloud in his grievous pain.

At last the thought came that he must look his misery in the face--that
he must put an end to all uncertainty. Answering the unceasing yearning
in his breast, he came to a decision.

"I must go home," he said aloud one day, when riding alone in the
forest, "I must go home--if only for one day."



THE DOOR OF THE CELL.

IT was winter again. A sunburnt, foreign-looking man stood on the poop
deck of a steamer ploughing with decreased speed past the docks in the
long line of Liverpool shipping. The man was young, but, with deep marks
of care and experience on his face, looked nearly ten years older than
he really was. From the face, it was hard to know what was passing in
the heart; but that no common emotion was there might be guessed by the
rapid stride and the impatient glance from the steamer's progress to the
shore.

It was Will Sheridan; but not the determined, thoughtful Agent Sheridan
of the Australian sandalwood trade. There was no quietness in his soul
now; there was no power of thought in his brain; there was nothing there
but a burning fever of longing to put his foot on shore, and then to
turn his face to the one spot that had such power to draw him from the
other side of the world.

As soon as the steamer was moored, heedless of the Babel of voices
around him, the stranger passed through the crowd, and entered the
streets of Liverpool. But he did not know the joy of an exile returning
after a weary absence. He did not feel that he was once more near to
those who loved him. It was rather to him as if he neared their graves.

The great city in which be walked was as empty to him as the great ocean
he had just left. Unobservant and unsympathetic, looking straight before
him, and seeing with the soul's vision the little coast village of his
boyhood, he made his way to the railway station, bought a ticket for
home, and took his place in the car.

At first, the noise and rush of the train through the cold evening of a
winter day, was a relief to the restless traveller. The activity fell
upon his morbid heart like a cold hand on a feverish forehead. But, as
the sun sank, and the cheerless grey twilight crept round him, the
people who had travelled from the city were dropped at the quiet country
stations, and sped away to their happy homes.

A man came and lighted a lamp in the carriage, and all the outer world
grew suddenly dark. The traveller was alone now; and, as the names of
the wayside stations grew more familiar, a stillness fell upon him,
against which he made no struggle.

At last, as once more the train moved to a station, he arose, walked
slowly to the door, and stepped on the platform. He was at the end of
his journey--he was at home.

At home! He passed through the little station-house, where the old
porter stared at his strange face and strange clothes, and wondered why
he did not ask the way to the village. On he strode in the moonlight,
glancing at familiar things with every step; for ten years had brought
little change to the quiet place. There were the lone trees by the
roadside, and the turnpike, and down in the hollow he saw the moon's
face reflected through the ice in the mill-pond; and seeing this, he
stopped and looked, but not with the outward eye, and he saw the merry
skaters, and Alice's head was on his shoulder, and her dear voice in his
ear, and all the happy love of his boyhood flooded his heart, as he
bowed his face in his hands and sobbed.

Down the main street of the village he walked, glancing at the bright
windows of the cottage homes, that looked like smiles on well-known
faces. He passed the post office, the church, and the inn; and a few
steps more brought him to the corner of his own little street.

The windows of the Draper's house were lighted, as if for a feast or
merry-making within; but he passed on rapidly, and stopped before the
garden gate of the widow's cottage. There, all was dark and silent. He
glanced through the trees at his own old home, which lay beyond, and saw
a light from the kitchen, and the moonlight shining on the window of his
own room.

But here, where he longed for a light, there was no light. He laid his
hand on the gate, and it swung open before him, for the latch was gone.
He passed through, and saw that the garden path was rank with frozen
weeds, and the garden was itself a wilderness. He walked on and stood in
the porch, and found a bank of snow against the bottom of the cottage
door, which the wind had whirled in there, perhaps a week before.

He stood in the cheerless place for a moment, looking into his heart,
that was as empty as the cottage porch, and as cold; and then he turned
and walked down the straight path, with almost the same feeling that had
crushed him so cruelly eleven years before.

He passed on to his own home, which had been shut out from his heart by
the cloud that covered his way; and a feeling of reproach came upon him,
for his long neglect of those who loved him. Those who loved him! There
was something warming in his heart, and rising against the numbness that
had stilled it in the cottage porch. He stood before the door of his old
home, and raised his hand and knocked twice.

The door opened, and a strange face to William Sheridan met his look.
Choking back a something in his throat, he said, with an effort--

"Is this Mrs. Sheridan's house?"

"It was Mrs. Sheridan's house? Sir!" answered the man; "but it is my
house now. Mrs. Sheridan is dead."

Another cord snapped, and the stranger in his own place turned from the
door with a moan in his heart.

As he turned, a young woman came from within to the porch; and the man,
with a sudden exclamation, stepped after him, and placing his hand on
his shoulder, said earnestly,

"Be this William Sheridan that we thought were dead?" and, looking in
his face and recognizing him, he muttered "Poor lad! poor lad! dont'ee
know thy old schoolmate, Tom Bates, and thy own sister Mary?"

Taking him by the arm, the kind fellow led Sheridan to the door, and
said--

"Wife, here be thy brother Will, safe and sound, and not drowned, as Sam
Draper told us he were--and d--n that same Draper for all his evil
doin's!"

Then William Sheridan felt his kind sister's arms on his neck, and the
associations of his youth thronged up like old friends to meet him, and
with them came the sweet spirit of his boy's love for Alice. They came
to his heart like stormers, to a city's gate, and, seeing the breach,
they entered in, and took possession. For the second time that night,
the strong man bowed his head and sobbed--not for a moment as before, but
long and bitterly, for the suppressed feelings were finding a vent at
last; the bitterness of his sorrow, so long and closely shut in, was
flowing freely.

Brother and sister were alone during this scene; but after a while,
Mary's kind-hearted husband entered, a rugged but tender-hearted
Lancashire farmer; and knowing that much was to be said to Will, and
that this was the best time to say it, he began at once; but he knew,
and Will Sheridan knew, that he began at the farthest point he could
from what he would have to say before the end. Will Sheridan's face was
turned in the shadow, where neither his sister nor her husband could see
it,--and so he listened to the story.

"Will," said his brother-in-law, "tha knows 'tis moren ten years since
thou went to sea, and that great changes have come to thee since then;
and tha knows, lad, thou must expect that changes as great have come to
this village. Thy father took sick about a year after thou went, and
grieved that he died, hear from thee. Samuel Draper wrote to his people
that thou'd turned out a bad lad in foreign countries, and had to ran
away from the ship; and when that news came, it made th' old people
sorrowful. Thy father took to his bed in first o' th' winter, and was
dead in a few months. Thy mother followed soon, and her last words were
a blessing for thee if thou were living. Then Samuel Draper came back
from sea, looking fine in his blue uniform; and he said he'd heard
thou'd been drowned on a voyage from China. He went to sea again, six
months after, and he's never been here since; and 'tis unlikely," Mary's
husband said very slowly, "that he ever will come to this village any
more."

Tom Bates ceased speaking, as if all were told, and stared straight at
the fire; his wife, Mary, who was sitting on a low seat near him, drew
closer, and laid her cheek against his side, weeping silently; and he
put his big hand around her head and caressed it.

Will Sheridan sat motionless for about a minute, and then said, in a
hard monotone--

"What became of Alice Walmsley? Did she--Is she dead also?"

"Nay, not dead," said his brother-in-law, "but worse than that. Alice
Walmsley is in prison."

Will Sheridan raised his head at the word, repeating it to himself in
blank amazement and dread. Then he stood up, and faced round to the two
people who sat before him, his sister hiding her weeping face against
her husband's side, the husband patting her head in a bewildered way,
and both looking as if they were the guilty parties who should be in
prison instead of Alice.

Had they said that she was dead, or even that she was married, he could
have faced the news manfully, for he had prepared his heart for it; but
now, when he had come home and thought he could bear all, he found that
his years of struggle to forget had been in vain, and that a gulf yawned
at his feet deeper and wider than that he had striven so long to fill
up.

"In the name of God, man, tell me what you mean! Why is Alice Walmsley
in prison?"

Poor Tom Bates still stared at the fire, and patted his wife's head; but
a moment after Sheridan asked the question, he let his hand close
quietly round the brown hair, and raising his eyes to Will's face, said,
"yes" in a low voice--

"For murder. For killing her child!"

Will Sheridan looked at him with a pitiful face, and uttered a sound
like the baffled cry of a suffering animal that finds the last door of
escape shut against it.

His brother-in-law knew that now was the time to tell Will all, while
his very soul was numbed by the strength of the first blow.

"They were married in the church, as you know," said Mary's husband, "and
they lived together for some time, seeming very happy--though Mary and I
said, when it was all over, that from the very clay of the wedding there
was a shadow on Alice's face, and that she was never seen to smile.
Draper was a captain, and his ship was going to India, and Alice wanted
very bad to go with him. But he refused her at last so roughly, before
her mother, that poor little Alice said no more. Five months after his
going, her child was born, and for six months the poor ailing thing
looked like her old self, all smiles, and kindness, and love for the
little one. Then, one day, there walked into her house a strange woman,
who said that she was Samuel Draper's wife. No one knows what passed
between them--they two were alone; but the woman showed the papers that
proved what she said. She was a desperate woman, and, with no one else
in the house, she was like to kill poor Alice with her dreadful words.
Alice's heart was changed to stone from that minute. The woman left the
village that day, and never was seen here again. But that night the
little child was found dead beside the mother, with marks of violence on
it. Poor lass! she was charged wi' killing it--she made no defence; she
never raised her head nor said a word. She might have told how the thing
happened, for we knew--Mary and I knew--that Alice never did that. But she
couldn't speak in her own defence--all she wanted was to get out of sight
and hide her poor head. Poor little Allie--poor little Allie! She never
raised her hand to hurt her child. It was accident, or it was someone
else; but she couldn't or wouldn't speak. She was sent to prison, and
her mother died from the blow. God help the poor lass to-night! God help
poor little Allie!" And the warm heart overflowed, and husband and wife
mingled their tears for the lost one.

"And this was Samuel Draper's work?" asked Sheridan, slowly.

"Ay, damn him for a scoundrel!" said the strong yeoman, starting to his
feet, and clenching his fist, the tears on his cheeks, and his voice all
broken with emotion. "He may keep away from this village, where the
people know him; but there's no rest for him on this earth--no rest for
such as he. Mother and child curse him--one from the grave, the other
from the prison; and sea or land cannot shut them out from his black
heart. Her father was a seaman, too, and he'll sail wi' him until the
villain pays the debt to the last farthing. And Allie's white face will
haunt him, even in sleep, with her dead child in her arms. Oh, God help
poor Alice to-night. God comfort the poor little lassie!"

William Sheridan said no more that night. His sister prepared his own
old room for him, and he went to it; but not to sleep. Up and down he
walked like a caged animal, moaning now and again, without following the
meaning of the words--

"Why did I come here? O, why did I come here?"

He felt that he could not bear this agony much longer that he must
think, and that he must pray. But he could do neither. There was one
picture in his mind, in his eye, in his heart--a crouching figure in a
dock, with a brown head sunk on her white hands--and were he to try to
get one more thought into his brain, it would burst and drive him mad.

And how could he pray--how could he kneel, while the miscreant walked the
earth who had done all this? But from this hateful thought he reverted
with fresh agony to her blighted heart. Where was she that night? How
could he find her and help her? If he could only pray for her, it would
keep him from delirium until he saw her.

And he sank on his knees by the bed where he had knelt by his mother's
side and learned to pray; and again the old associations came thronging
to his heart, and softened it. The sweet face of his boy's love drew to
him slowly from the mist of years; and gradually forgetting self, and
remembering only her great sorrow, he raised up his face in piteous
supplication, acknowledging his utter dependence on divine strength, and
prayed as he had never prayed before. Such prayers are never offered in
vain. A wondrous quiet came to the troubled heart, and remained with it.

When he arose from his knees, he looked upon every familiar object
around him with awakened interest, and many things that he had forgotten
came back to his memory and affection when he saw them there. Before he
lay down to rest, for he felt that he must sleep, he looked through the
window at the deserted cottage, and had strength to think of its former
inmates.

"God give her peace, and in some way enable me to bring comfort to her,"
he said. And when he arose in the morning this thought was uppermost in
his mind--that he must search for means to bear comfort to the afflicted
heart of Alice Walmsley.

From his sister and her husband he learned that Alice was confined in
Millbank Prison in London, and he made up his mind to go to London that
day. They, seeing that he was determined on his course, made no effort
to oppose him. He asked them not to mention his visit to anyone in the
village for he did not wish to be recognized; and so he turned from the
kind-hearted couple, and walked towards the railway station.

Sheridan now remembered that he had brought from West Australia some
letters of introduction, and also some official dispatches; and he
thought it might be a fortunate circumstance that most of the official
letters were addressed to the Colonial Office and the Board of Directors
of Convict Prisons.

In the penal colony of West Australia, where there are few free
settlers, and an enormous criminal population, a man of Sheridan's
standing and influence was rarely found--and the Government of the colony
was desirous of introducing him to the Home Government, knowing that his
opinions would be treated with great consideration. He began to think
that these letters might be the means he sought for, and he made up his
mind to deliver them at once.



MILLBANK.

ARRIVED in London, he proceeded at once to the Colonial Office, and left
his letters for the Secretary, and with them his address in the
metropolis. He went through the same routine with the dispatches for the
Prison Directors. Then, though his heart craved instant action, he was
forced to exercise his patience, to wait until these high and perhaps
heedless officials were pleased to recognize his presence.

The great city was a wonder to him; but, in his intense preoccupation,
he passed through it as if it had been familiar from childhood. On the
day after his arrival, not expecting an answer from the officials, one
of whom--the Colonial Secretary--was a cabinet minister, he tried to
interest himself in the myriad strangeness of London. He visited
Westminster Abbey and the British Museum. But, everywhere, his heart
beat the same dolorous key; he saw the white face, the slight, crouching
figure in the dock, the brown hair bowed in agony and disgrace. On the
walls of the great picture gallery the gilded frames held only this
pitiful scene. Among the tombs of the kings in Westminster, he thought
of her ruined life and shattered hopes, and envied, for her sake, the
peace of the sleeping marble knights and ladies.

All day, without rest or food, he wandered aimlessly and wretchedly
through the sculptured magnificence of the galleries. When the night
closed, he found himself--almost unconscious of how he had come to the
place, or who had directed him thither--walking with bared and feverish
brow beneath a high and gloomy wall--the massive outer guard of Millbank
Prison. Hour sped after hour, yet round and round the shadowy, silent
precipice of wall the afflicted heart wandered with tireless feet. It
was woeful to think how near she was, and to touch the sullen
granite--yet it was a thousand times more endurable than the torture and
fear that were born of absence.

Surely, if there be any remote truth in the theory of psychic magnetism,
the afflicted soul within those walls must have felt the presence of the
loving and suffering heart without, which sent forth unceasingly silent
cries of sympathy and comfort. Surely, if communion of living spirits be
possible, the dream of the lonely prisoner within must have thrilled
with tenderness when his fevered lips were pressed as lovingly to the
icy stone of the prison wall as once they were pressed to her forehead
in affectionate farewell.

Back to his hotel, when morning was beginning to break, the lonely
watcher went, spiritless and almost despairing. The reaction had begun
of his extreme excitement for the past four days. He passed along the
lonesome river, that hurried through the city like a thief in the night,
flashing under the yellow quay-lights, then diving suddenly beneath dark
arches or among slimy keels, like a hunted murderer escaping to the sea.
Wild and incoherent fancies flashed through Will's feverish mind. Again
and again he was forced to steady himself by placing his hand on the
parapet, or he should have fallen in the street, like a drunken man.

At last he reached his hotel, and flung himself on his bed, prayerless,
friendless, and only saved from despair by the thought of an affliction
that was deeper than his, which he, as a man and a faithful friend,
should be strong to relieve and comfort.

It was past noon when he awoke. The fever had passed and much of the
dejection. While dressing, he was surprised to find his mind actively at
work forming plans and surmises: for the day's enterprise.

At breakfast, a large official letter was brought him. It was; a brief
but unofficially-cordial message from the Colonial Secretary, Lord
George Somers, appointing an hour--two o'clock on that day--when he should
be happy to receive Mr. Sheridan at the Colonial Office.

Under other circumstances, such an appointment would have thrown off his
balance a man so unused to social or formal, ways as this stranger from
Australia, whose only previous training had been on a merchant ship. But
now, Will Sheridan prepared for the visit, without thinking of its
details. His mind was fastened on a point beyond this meeting.

Even the formal solemnity of the powdered servant who received him had
no disturbing effect. Will Sheridan quite forgot the surroundings, and
at length, when ushered into the presence of the Colonial Secretary, his
native dignity and intelligence were in full sway, and the impression he
made on the observant nobleman was instantaneous and deep.

He was received with more than courtesy. Those letters, Lord Somers
said, from Australia, had filled him with interest and desire to see a
man who bad achieved so much and who had so rapidly and solidly enriched
and benefited the colony.

The Colonial Secretary was a young man for his high position--certainly
not over forty, while he might be still younger. He had a keen eye, a
mobile face, that could turn to stony rigidity, but withal a genial and
even frank countenance when conversing cordially with this stranger,
whom he knew to be influential, and who certainly was highly
entertaining.

Will Sheridan was soon talking fluently and well. He knew all about the
penal colony, the working of the old penal system and the need of a new
one, the value of land, the resources of the country, the capabilities
for commerce and all this the Secretary was most anxious to learn.

After a long interview, Sheridan rose to take leave, and the Secretary
said he hoped to see a great deal of him before his return to Australia,
and told him plainly that the opinions of a settler of wealth and
intelligence on colonial matters in West Australia were just then of
special importance to the Government. He also wished it were in his
power to give Mr. Sheridan pleasure while he remained in England.

There was only one thought in Sheridan's mind all this time, and now was
the moment to let it work. He said he desired very much to visit the
convict prisons in England, and compare the home system with that of the
penal colony.

The minister was gratified by the request, and, smiling, asked which
prison he would visit first. Will mentioned Millbank; and the minister
With his own hand wrote a few lines to the governor, and handed the
paper to his visitor.

Will Sheridan took his departure, with a tremulous hope at his heart,
and drove straight to Millbank Prison.

There is something strange, almost unaccountable, and yet terrible, in
the change that appears, in half a century, in the building of prisons.
Few people have thought of this perhaps; but it contains a suggestion of
a hardening of hearts and a lessening of sentiment. The old prisons were
dark and horrible, even in aspect; while the new ones are light and
airy. In the latter, the bar takes the place of a wall--and the box is
often ornamented with cast-iron flowers and other slightly but sardonic
mockery. Better the old dungeon, with its gloom; better for the sake of
humanity. The new prison is a cage--a hideous hive of order and
commonplace severity, where the flooding sunlight is a derision, and the
barred door only a securer means of confinement. For the sake of
sentiment, at least, let us have the dismal old keep, that proclaims its
mission on its dreadful brow, rather than the grinning bar-gate that
covers its teeth-like mils with vulgar metal efflorescence.

The great penitentiary of Millbank, is, or rather was, an old fashioned
prison, its vast arched gateway sombre and awful as a tomb. It has
disappeared now, having been pulled down in 1875; but those who visited
it once, or who even passed it will never forget the oppression caused
by its grated and frowning portal. In the early part of this century,
the Government of Great Britain determined to build an immense
penitentiary, on the plan laid down by Jeremy Bentham in his celebrated
"Panopticon, or the Inspection House."

Bentham's scheme proposed colossal prison, which should contain all
England's convicts, and dispense entirely with transportation. The
Government, acting on his plan, purchased a large and unhealthy tract of
flat land, lying beside the Thames, and on this the unique structure was
raised. The workmen were ten years in completing it; but, when it was
finished, Englishmen said that it was the model prison of the world.

And it certainly was a great improvement on the older prisons, where
those confined were often herded, many in a room, like cattle--the
innocent with the guilty, the young and pure with the aged and the foul.
In Millbank every prisoner had his or her own cell--a room of stone
(walls, ceiling, and floor), with a large and heavily-barred window.
Each cell was eight feet square. The prison was built in six vast
pentagons, radiating from a central hexagon, from which every cell was
visible.

The entrance to the prison, from the street, was a wonder of
architectural gloom. First there was a dark archway of solid masonry,
from the roof of which, about six feet from the portal, sprang a heavy
grate or portcullis, with spear-points apparently--ready to fall and cut
the unfortunate off for ever from the world. Far within the arch
appeared a mighty iron gate, ponderously barred, with an iron wicket,
through which an armed warder could be seen on sentry within the yard.

These details were not noticed by Will Sheridan as he entered the
echoing archway; but he was chilled. Nevertheless, by the cold shadow of
the surroundings. The warder within came to the wicket, and took the
letter, leaving Will outside. In a few minutes he found that his
introduction was an "open sesame." The governor of Millbank himself, an
important gentleman in a black uniform with heavy gold facings, came
speedily to the wicket, the ponderous bars were flung back, the awful
door rolled aside, and Will Sheridan entered.

The governor was very gracious to his distinguished visitor. On learning
of his desire to see the arrangements of the prison, he himself became
the guide.

An hour was spent in the male side of the establishment, which was an
age to Will Sheridan. While the governor thought his attention was
engaged in observing the features or motions of some caged malefactor,
the mind and fancy of the visitor were far or otherwise engaged. He did
not see the wretched, crime-stained countenances in the cells he passed;
but in every one he saw the white face, the brown hair, and the
crouching figure that filled his mind.

At last the governor asked him to visit the female prison, in which the
discipline was necessarily different. They passed through a long passage
built in the wall, and entered the corridors of the female prison.

Sheridan's heart beat, and the blood fled from his face, leaving him
ghastly pale, as he passed the first iron door. He feared that the
governor might notice his agitation; and he wondered how he should learn
whether Alice were there or not.

As he walked down the corridor he noticed that on every door was hung a
white card, and, approaching, he read the name, crime, and sentence of
the prisoner printed thereon. This was a relief to him. As he walked he
read the name on every card, and on and on they went, up stairs and
down, and round and round the pentagons, until he thought she surely was
not in the prison, and the governor concluded that his visitor evidently
meant to see all that was to be seen.

When the last corridor on the ground floor was entered, Will read every
name on the doors with a despairing persistence, and his heart sank
within him as he came to the last.

The governor opened the door at the end of the passage, and they entered
a light, short corridor, with large and pleasantly lighted cells. Here,
the governor said, were confined those prisoners who, by extreme good
conduct, had merited less severe treatment than the others.

Will Sheridan's heart leaped within him, for he knew that this was the
place where he should see her.

On the doors were simply printed the names and sentences of the
occupants; and at the fourth door Will stopped and read the
card.--ALICE WALMSLEY.



LIFE.

Seeing him pause and intently examine the card, the governor beckoned to
the female warder, who was in the passage, to come and open the door.

The woman approached, the key in her hand, and stood aside until the
gentlemen withdrew from the door. Will turned and read her intention,
and with a shudder he put her back with his hand.

"No, no--not her," he said hurriedly. Then recollecting himself "No, no;
the prisoners do not like to be stared at."

Next moment, before he could think of the consequences, he turned again,
and, speaking rapidly, said--

"I am wrong. I should like to see the interior of this cell."

The lock clicked back, the heavy iron door swung open, and William
Sheridan saw Alice Walmsley before him.

She had been sewing on something coarse and white, and a heap of the
articles lay at her feet. As the door opened, she stood up from the low
seat on which she had sat in the centre of the stone-floored cell, and,
with her eyes on the ground, awaited the scrutiny of the visitors,
according to prison discipline.

Will Sheridan took in the whole cell at once, although his eyes only
rested on her face. She never looked on him, but stood in perfect
calmness, with her eyes cast down.

She was greatly changed, but so differently changed to Will's
expectations, that he stood amazed, stunned. He had pictured her
fragile, broken, spiritless, wretched. There she stood before him, grown
stronger than when he had known her, quiet as a statue, with a face--not
of happiness, but of intensified peace, and with all that was beautiful
in her as a girl increased a thousand fold, but subdued by suffering.
Her rich brown hair had formerly been cut close, but now it had grown so
long that it fell to her shoulders. Her face was colourless, for want of
open air and sunshine. A casual observer would have said she was happy.

Something of her peace fell upon William Sheridan as he looked upon her.
Suddenly he was recalled to consciousness by a simple movement of hers,
as if averse to inspection. His heart quickened with fear and: sorrow
for his impulsive action in entering the cell, for now he would give all
he possessed that she should not look upon his face. He turned from her
quickly and walked out of the cell, and he did not look round until he
heard the heavy door swing into its place.

When he had walked so far from the cell that she could not hear his
voice, he asked the governor what work these privileged prisoners were
engaged in, and was almost startled into an exclamation of astonishment
when the governor answered:

"They are just now engaged on a pleasant task for themselves. They are
making their outfit for the penal colony."

"Is she--is that prisoner going to the penal colony?" asked Will
Sheridan, scarcely able to control his emotion.

"Yes, sir; she and all those in this pentagon will sail for West
Australia in the next convict ship," said the governor.

"We shall send three hundred men and fifty Women in this lot."

"When does the ship sail?" asked the visitor, still apparently examining
the door-cards.

"On the 10th of April--just three months hence," answered the governor.

With his eyes fixed on a ponderous door, which he did not see, Will
Sheridan made a sudden and imperative resolution.

"I shall return to Australia on that convict ship," were the words that
no one heard but his own soul.

"I thank you, Sir, for your courtesy and attention," he said, next
moment, to the governor; "and as I wish to examine more closely the
working of your system, I shall probably trouble you again."

The governor assured him that his visits to the prison would be at all
times considered as complimentary; and Will Sheridan walked from
Millbank with a firmer step and a more restful spirit than he had known
for ten years.



SIR JOSHUA HOBB'S CONVICT MILL

LORD SOMERS, the Colonial Secretary, had evidently conceived a high
opinion of Mr. Sheridan from his first brief visit. He soon renewed the
acquaintance by requesting another interview. In the course of a few
weeks their relations had become almost friendly.

Their conversation was usually about the Australian colonies, on which
subject the Secretary found Sheridan to be a perfect encyclopedia. It
seemed that every possibility of their condition, latent as well as
operative, had come into his practical mind, and had been keenly
considered and laid aside.

But Sheridan was a child in London. He was supremely ignorant of
everything that this nobleman considered necessary to existence. He knew
nothing of British or European politics--did not even know who was Prime
Minister. It gratified the genial and intelligent Englishman, on their
frequent rides through the city, to impart information and pleasure to
his Australian friend.

One day Mr. Sheridan received another large official letter this time
from the Chief Director of Convict Prisons, Sir Joshua Hobb, who,
without apologizing for the delayed acknowledgment of Mr. Sheridan's
letter, asked him to meet the Board of Directors on the next day at
noon, at the Department in Parliament-street.

Sheridan kept the appointment, and became acquainted with the half-dozen
men to whose hands Great Britain had intrusted the vast burden of
punishing and reforming the criminal class.

Half an hour's conversation, though of a general nature, astonished Will
Sheridan, by convincing him of the stupendous conceit and incompetence
of these men. They talked glibly about the weight of a prisoner's loaf,
and the best hour to light the cells in the morning; they had statistics
at their finger-ends to show how much work a convict could perform on a
given number of ounces of meat; but they knew nothing whatever of the
large philosophy of penal government.

The Chief Director, Sir Joshua Hobb, however, was an exception, in so
far as he had ideas. He was a tall, gaunt man, of fifty, with an
offensive hauteur, which was obviously from habit rather than from
nature. His face said plainly: "I know all--these gentlemen know
nothing--it is not necessary that they should--I am the Convict System."
He reminded Sheridan of a country pedagogue promoted to high position
for some narrow piece of special knowledge. He looked superciliously at
Sheridan, as if to ask--"Do you mean to pretend, before me, that you
know anything about prisons?"

"Confound this fellow!" said Sheridan to himself, five minutes after
meeting him; "he deliberately delayed acknowledging my letters, to show
his importance."

But Sir Joshua Hobb was an "expert" in penal systems. He had graduated
from a police court, where he had begun as an attorney; and he was
intimately acquainted with the criminal life of England in its details.
But he had no soul for the awful thought of whence the dark stream came,
nor whither it was going. He was merely a dried mudbank to keep it
within bounds for a little way.

The admiration of his colleagues was almost reverential. Mr. Sheridan
was informed by several of the Board--in subdued voice, of course, so
that the great reformer should not be put to the blush--of his wonderful
successes in the treatment of criminals.

"They all hate him," said Mr. Pettegrew, one of the Board.

"I give you my word, Sir, that every criminal in England hates the name
of Sir Joshua Hobb. He has made them feel his power, Sir, and they know
him."

"He was knighted by the Queen for his Separate System," said another
Director.

"Is that your present system?" asked Sheridan.

"No," said the Director. "At present we are on the other tack."

"The Separate System was a failure, then I presume?" inquired Mr.
Sheridan.

"Not a failure, Sir, but it was abandoned out of regard to the
sentimental reformers. It increased insanity from 12 to 31 per 1,000.
Sir Joshua himself was the first to find it out."

"And then you adopted the Public Works System, did you not?" asked
Sheridan.

"No, not so soon. When his Separate System failed, Sir Joshua introduced
the mask--a cloth skull-cap coming down over the face, with eyelet
holes--to promote a salutary shame in the prisoners. He was made a Knight
Commander of the Bath for that wonderful invention."

"Then that system gave beneficial results?" inquired Mr. Sheridan.

"Well, there was no doubt of its moral excellence; but it increased the
insanity from 31 to 391 per 1,000. Sir Joshua himself was the first to
discover this also."

"He certainly deserves the name of a discoverer," thought Sheridan.
Then, aloud--

"And your present system is his invention, also?"

"Yes, our present system is wholly his. We are just now examining
results. We discover one peculiarity, which Sir Joshua hardly knows how
to class; but he says it certainly is a proof of progress."

"May I ask what is this peculiarity?" inquired Mr. Sheridan.

"That within three years insanity has decreased 2 per cent," answered
the Director, "while suicide has increased 17 per 1000."

"Sir Joshua inclines to the opinion," said another Director, who was
listening, "that this fact proves that we are at last getting to bear
closely on the criminal principle. The law is touching it--there is no
escape--and in despair the baffled criminals give up the fight, and kill
themselves."

There was something fearfully repugnant to Sheridan's broad and humane
view in all this, and he would gladly have escaped from the place. But
the Directors meant to impress him with their ability to manage the
entire Penal System, both in Australia and England. To secure this
general management, Sir Joshua Hobb had recently introduced a bill to
Parliament.

"Have you heard, Sir," said Sir Joshua, addressing Sheridan with a
patronizing kindness, "of the proposals made to the Government as to
penal reform, by Mr. Wyville, of West Australia?"

"No," answered Sheridan, smiling at his own ignorance. "I have never
even heard of Mr. Wyville."

"Indeed!" said Sir Joshua, with a stare of rude surprise.

He is the most influential man in the West Australian penal colony."

"I never heard his name before," simply answered Will.

"He, perhaps, resides in a district far from yours, Mr. Sheridan," said
one of the Directors. Mr. Wyville is a wealthy settler from the Vasse
District."

"From the Vasse!" repeated Sheridan, quite surprised; "I thought I knew
every man, rich and poor, bond and free, in that district. I have lived
there many years."

Sheridan saw that his importance was lessened to the Board, but, strange
to say, increased to the Chief Director, by his confession of ignorance
of Mr. Wyville. However, Sir Joshua continued to speak.

"Mr. Wyville wants to introduce the sentimental idea into our penal
system--an absurdity that has never been attempted. There is only one-way
to blend: punishment with reform, sir--by rigid rules, constant work, low
diet, impersonal treatment; and all this kept up with unflagging
regularity for all the years of a prisoner's sentence."

"With educational and religious influences added, of course," suggested
Mr. Sheridan.

"No, Sir, not of course," said Sir Joshua, in a tone of severe
correction; "a chapter of the Bible read by a warder every morning, in a
regular way, may do some good; but these influences have been
overrated--they, are of the sentimental School. The quality that is
absent in the criminal class is order, Sir, order; and this can best be
supplied by persistent and impersonal regularity of work, meals,
exercise, and sleep."

"You subject all prisoners to the same course of treatment?" asked
Sheridan.

"Precisely," answered Sir Joshua. "Our system is the measure of
normality, Sir. We make the entire criminal or, abnormal class pass
through the same process of elevation, and try to reach one standard."

Mr. Sheridan would have asked what the standard was, and how many had
reached it, and what had become of those who had failed to reach it, who
had sunk under the Draconian yoke; but he thought it prudent to keep the
questions back.

"Suppose a youth commit a first offence," he said, "or an hitherto
respectable and industrious commit a crime in a moment of passion--will
you treat him as if he were a professional criminal?"

"Precisely," repeated the eminent reformer; "our system regards
criminality as a mass, and ignores its grades. This is our leading idea,
sir--uniformity and justice. The criminal body is diseased--our system is
the cure, sir; physician and cure in one."

Accustomed to say the word he meant, Will Sheridan could hardly restrain
an indignant comment. "Confound the man," he thought, "he would take a
hundred men, with as many diseases, and treat them all for the cholera."
He concluded that Sir Joshua would have earned distinction as a torturer
as well as a reformer, but he did not say so. As soon as possible he
ended the conversation, and withdrew from the presence of the Directors
of Prisons.

"Lord help the convicts!" he thought, on his way to the hotel. "No
wonder they are eager to be sent to the penal colony."



MR. WYVILLE

AT the hotel, Sheridan found a note from Lord Somers requesting him, if
disengaged, to call upon him that afternoon. Half an hour later, he and
the Colonial Secretary were riding together towards the West End.

"By the way, Mr. Sheridan," said Lord Somers, "there is a gentleman in
London I want you to meet, who knows a great deal about the Australian
colonies, and especially about the West. He is our chief adviser on the
proposed reform of the Penal System."

Indeed said Sheridan, interested at once. This is the second time
to-day, I surmise, that I have heard of him. Is his name Wyville?"

"Yes; do you know him?"

"No," answered Sheridan; "I have never heard of him. Sir Joshua Hobb
does not like his reformatory ideas--which inclines me to think Mr.
Wyville must be a superior man."

Lord Somers laughed. "Sir Joshua Hobb is, indeed, a strong
counterblast," he said; "by nature, two such men are compelled to be
antagonistic to each other."

"You admire Mr. Wyville, my Lord?" asked Sheridan.

"Thoroughly," answered Lord Somers. "He is a most remarkable man--a man
of exalted principles and extraordinary power. His information is
astonishing--and what he speaks about, he knows absolutely. I fancy he
has lived a long time in the colonies, for he is enormously wealthy."

"Is he an old man?" asked Sheridan.

"No, I don't think he can be forty--certainly not more but a person of so
much force, and with a manner so impressive, that really one forgets to
think of his age. He is altogether a notable man--and I may say, in
confidence, that even the Prime Minister has more than once consulted
him with advantage on Colonial affairs."

"You interest me exceedingly," said Sheridan. "Such men are not common
in Australia."

"We are beginning to think otherwise," laughed the Secretary. "And yet
you Australians seem to learn everything without newspapers. I remember,
when Mr. Wyville first appeared here, some years ago, he might have
dropped from the moon, so oblivious was he of the doings of the European
world."

"He must have lived in the bush," said Sheridan, smiling.

"Why, he had never heard of the Crimean War," said the Secretary; "and
when I mentioned the Indian Mutiny to him, one day, he gravely stared,
and asked 'What mutiny?' Are you so utterly removed from civilization--from
news, in your bush?"

"Well, Mr. Wyville must certainly have had the minimum of society,"
responded Will; "we usually get a report, however vague, of what your
civilization is doing."

"Shall we call on Mr. Wyville?" asked Lord Somers; "he lives in
Grosvenor Street."

"I shall be delighted to meet him," said Sheridan; and a few minutes
afterwards they stopped before a large and handsome mansion.

Mr. Wyville was at home. A coloured servant showed the gentlemen into a
rich reception-room, in which Sheridan's quick eye noted many Australian
features of decoration.

The coloured servant seemed a negro, of the common African type to the
superficial eye of Lord Somers. But there was an air of freedom about
him, an uprightness in the setting of his head on the neck and
shoulders, the effect being heightened by blue-black hair, that stood
straight out like a handsome and very soft brush, which at once
attracted the attention of Sheridan.

"Australian!" he thought, half aloud; "is it possible that a bushman may
be trained in this way?"

He smiled at the absurdity of the thought, but was struck once more by
the man's air as he turned to the door.

"Mir-ga-na nago mial Vasse!" said Sheridan, in a low voice,
--("Mir-ga-na," a common name among bushmen, "you have known," or "you
belong to the Vasse.")

The black man turned as if a shot had struck him, and stared at the
gentlemen, not knowing which had spoken.

"Nago mial wan-gur Vasse?" repeated Mr. Sheridan.

"Tdal-Jung nago Vasse! Guab-ha-leetch!" answered the man, the look of
amazement slowly changing to one of deep pleasure and curiosity. "My
mouth knows the Vasse! That is good!"

"By Jove!" said a pleasant voice from a window recess in the room;
"please ask what was the prince's name in his own country."

There came from the recess a handsome, well-set man, who greeted Lord
Somers in a familiar manner.

"Oh, my dear Hamerton," said the Secretary, "I have great pleasure in
making you acquainted with another Australian gentleman, whom you will
find as interesting as Mr. Wyville."

The gentleman bowed. Sheridan liked him from the first look. An
aristocrat, stamped; with a broad, open forehead, clear, honest eyes, a
firm mouth and jaw, and a manner above trifles, and careless of form.

"Mr. Hamerton is a priest of the new order," said Lord Somers to
Sheridan in mock-earnest; "he is a journalist and book maker--hungry for
novelty as an epicure."

The black man had remained in the room, statuesque, his eyes fixed on
Sheridan's face.

"Mr. Sheridan, will you please ask his royal name?" said Hamerton.

"Wan-gon-di?" said Sheridan to the man. "Ngarra-jil," he answered.

Mr. Sheridan motioned him to go.

"He is Ngarra-jil, a native of the Vasse country," said Sheridan.

"Is this really a language, with even an approach to regular formation,
or the local gibberish of incoherent tribes?" asked Lord Somers.

"I have not studied its form," answered Mr. Sheridan, "but it certainly
is not a mere local dialect. The same things have the same names all
over the continent, with only a slight difference between the Swan River
and Sydney--two thousand miles apart."

"How did you guess this man's particular nativity?" asked Hamerton.

"I have lived at the Vasse many years," said Sheridan, "and have grown
familiar with the people. I believe the Vasse natives are the most
superior tribe in Australia."

"You are right, sir," said a deep voice behind them; "the Vasse people
are the parent stock of Australia."

"Mr. Wyville!" said both Lord Somers and Hamerton, with sudden gravity
and respect.

Sheridan turned, and met the eyes of him who had spoken--deep, searching
eyes, that held him strongly for a moment, then passed quietly to
another direction.

Never, among all the men he had known, had Sheridan seen such a man as
this. The head, with all its features, the eye, the voice, the whole
body, were cast in one mould of superb massiveness and beauty. There was
no point of difference or weakness. Among a million, this man would not
have merely claimed superiority, but would have unconsciously walked
through the opening crowd to the front place, and have taken it without
a word. Before him now stood three men least likely of any in London to
be easily impressed--a young and brilliant statesman, a cynical and able
novelist, and a bold and independent worker; and each of these felt the
same strange presence of a power and a principle to be respected.

Nature, circumstances, and cultivation bad evidently united to create in
this man a majestic individuality. He did not pose or pretend, but spoke
straight the thing he meant to say; yet every movement and word
suggested a reserve of strength that had almost a mysterious calmness
and beauty.

He was dressed in such a way that one would say he never could be
dressed otherwise. Dress was forgotten in the man. But he wore a short
walking or shooting coat, of strong dark cloth. The strength and
roughness of the cloth were seen, rather than the style, for it seemed
appropriate that so strangely powerful a figure should be strongly clad.

His face was bronzed to the darkness of a Greek's. His voice, as he
spoke on entering the room, came easily from his lips, yet with a deep
resonance that was pleasant to hear, suggesting a possible tenderness or
terror that would shake the soul. It was a voice in absolutely perfect
accord with the striking face and physique.

"Mr. Sheridan," he said, holding out his hand, which the other took with
a feeling of rare pleasure, "we should not need a formal introduction.
We are both from a far country, where formality is unknown; and I have
been quite intimate with your plans and progress there for several
years."

Sheridan could hardly stammer a reply, he was so profoundly astonished.
He could only recall the wild nature of West Australian life, and wonder
how it could have contained or developed this important man.

"You have studied with some effect," continued Mr. Wyville with a smile,
"to have learned the language and discovered the superiority of the
Vasse tribe."

"My life for nine years has been passed among them," answered Sheridan;
"but the possibility of training them to European manners I should not
have thought possible."

"Oh, civilization is only skin deep," said Mr. Wyville, pleasantly. "The
gamut of social law is not very extensive; and a little skill, practised
with kindness and attention, will soon enable one to run over all the
keys."

"You really think it possible, Mr. Wyville," asked Lord Somers, "to
transform the average savage into an obedient footman?"

"Yes, my lord, I know it is possible--and I have seen stranger things
accomplished with little difficulty. Refinement and gracious
intercourse, even according to civilized rule, are quite in keeping with
the natural character. We assume that to be savage which is contrary to
our habit; but this is no proof of inferiority. Degraded civilization is
brutal, indeed; but the natural or savage life is not."

"Then," said Mr. Hamerton, "why can't we put all our savages in
Australia through your civilizing process, and do away with savagery at
one stroke?"

"Why not begin at home?" quietly asked Mr. Wyville.

"Ah, just so; I hadn't thought of that!" and Hamerton lapsed into
listening, with a shrug.

"Have you actually civilized your savage servant?" asked Lord Somers.

"I don't think I quite know your meaning, my lord," answered Mr.
Wyville. "All my people are Australians taken from the bush. I am well
served, and honestly; and I have no gossips in my household, for no one
in Europe can speak to my people--except Mr. Sheridan here," he added,
smiling.

"But how have you changed the nature of the bushmen?" asked Lord Somers,
very much interested.

"I haven't changed it; my men are bushmen still. I have attempted no
change whatever--and that is the secret of my success. It is true, I have
asked Ngarra-jil and the others to wrap some warm cloth round their
bodies while we live in this cold climate; to open the door when the
bell rings; and to drive slowly and carefully in the streets. This was
learned easily in a week or two. The bushmen are natural horsemen,
trained to riding through close woods. We have no collisions with other
carriages, I assure you. Then, again, my men, being savages, never lie,
and never steal."

"But is not this actual civilization?" asked Lord Somers.

"I really don't know," said Mr. Wyville.

"Ha, ha!" chuckled Hamerton. "I really think it is!"

"Yes, you may laugh, Hamerton; but this is very interesting," said Lord
Somers. "Have your men retained any of their savage ways, Mr. Wyville?"

"I think they have kept all their natural customs, which people in
England call savage ways. They eat and sleep in their own fashion--I do
not see any reason for imposing my way upon them, if they prefer theirs.
Mine is in itself no better, except as it pleases me. They even keep
their familiar implements, if they please."

"What, for instance?" asked Lord Somers.

Mr. Wyville touched a bell. Ngarra-jil appeared at the door.

"Yanga dan-na womerah," said Mr. Wyville.

The Australian disappeared, and in a few moments returned to the door,
holding three or four long and slender spears in one hand, and the
womerah or throwing stick in the other.

Lord Somerton and Mr. Hamerton examined the weapons with great interest,
vainly trying to draw a word from the observant Australian; while Mr.
Wyville took Mr. Sheridan aside, and conversed with him for several
minutes.

On taking their leave, Mr. Wyville gave Sheridan a cordial invitation to
come and see him soon, as he had much to say to him.

"You will find me at home almost always," he said.

"And if Mr. Wyville is absent, you will certainly find Mr. Hamerton,"
said Lord Somers, jestingly.

Before they parted, Lord Somers informed Mr. Sheridan that Hamerton was
a wealthy gentleman, who had refused to adopt his hereditary title, and
who had also decided to earn his own livelihood, making a yearly
division of the profits of his estate among his farmers and tenants.
This had earned him quite another kind of title amongst the upper
classes; but he had gone on working in his own way, and had already won
for himself an honourable name as an author.

"Hamerton is a Republican now," said Lord Somers, after a pause; "he was
a Socialist in the University."

Mr. Sheridan remarked that he seemed quite to agree with Mr. Wyville's
opinions.

"Yes," the Secretary said, "he has been much attracted to this
remarkable man--more so than to any one he has ever known." Lord Somers
also mentioned that the Government was about to introduce a sweeping
reform of the entire penal system, at home and abroad, and that the
assistance of Mr. Wyville bad been deemed of the utmost importance.

"He has already reformed our system at the Andaman Islands, the penal
colony for India," said the Secretary; "but the Australian colonies
offer a profound problem. If possible, we are bound, he says, to use the
convicts not merely as slaves, preparing the way for civilized life, but
to transform them gradually into a healthy basis of population."

"It certainly is a wide field, and a grand undertaking," responded
Sheridan, "and it is terribly needed. But Mr. Wyville is an uncommon
mind. I trust his views will be largely heeded by the Government."

"He has the matter in his own hands," said the Secretary, confidentially
and earnestly; "the Prime Minister has asked him to draft the entire
bill."



THE UPAS TREE

IN a few days, as soon as he could do so without apparent haste, Will
Sheridan visited Millbank again, and was escorted by a warder to the
governor's office, where he was graciously received by that dignitary.
Very soon, Sheridan adroitly turned the conversation on the transport
service, and the class of prisoners to be transported in the next ship.
The governor, who was a portly old army major, was willing enough to
talk on this subject.

"The Government has no special ships for transport," said the governor;
"we charter a large reliant vessel, and fit her up for the voyage. The
Houguemont, which will sail in April, is now lying at Portland under
preparation."

"The convicts to be transported you select from those who are best
conducted, do you not?" asked Sheridan.

"No," said the governor, "only the women. These are the healthiest and
best among their class; because they are soon released in Australia, and
get married to liberated men, or go to service in settlers' houses. But
the men who go to Australia are the opposite--they are the worst
criminals in Great Britain. They are first selected for their sentence;
men imprisoned for life, or for twenty years, are sure to go. Next we
take them for re-conviction; we want to send away as many professional
criminals as possible. Then we make up the number with strong young
fellows, who have never been in prison before, but who are able to do a
good deal of hard work."

"I presume the Australian authorities soon give this last class their
liberty, and encourage them to become settlers?" said Sheridan,
inquiringly.

"Quite the contrary," answered the governor, very gravely, as if he,
subordinate though he was, could see the wrong of the system. "These
men, who should be punished lightest, have the heaviest burden in
Australia. The professionals escape hard tasks, by knowing how; but
these poor fellows, being strong, and ignorant of the rules, are pushed
into the quarry gangs. The chain-gang of Fremantle, of which you have
heard, is filled with these men. Very rarely, indeed, does a really
dangerous criminal get heavy punishment in prison. As a rule, the worst
characters outside are the best in prison."

"It is a bad system," said Sheridan. "Does Mr. Wyville's plan propose a
reform?"

"Mr. Wyville," said the old governor, walking towards the door, which he
closed; then, sinking his voice almost to a whisper, "Mr. Wyville is a
man and a Christian, sir. I have heard him say that the true penal law
should be filled with the spirit of Christ, and that our present code
had none of it. He is going to change the whole machinery. He knows more
about humanity and reform than a regiment of your K.C.B.'s."

The bluff old Major mopped his face with his large handkerchief. He was
excited.

"Pardon me, Mr. Sheridan," he continued. "I speak too quickly against my
superiors, perhaps. But I don't do it often; and I think you Australian
gentlemen may have a good deal of influence in making the new law."

"You know Mr. Wyville intimately, Major?" asked Sheridan. "I have known
him for five years, sir," answered the governor; "since first he visited
this prison with an order from Lord Palmerston. He has done more good to
convicts in that time than all the men in Britain--I'm free to say that,"
added the Major, emphatically. "Four years ago I called his attention to
an extraordinary case among our female convicts--the very prisoner you
saw the other day. She had never prayed, and had hardly spoken a word
for five years after she came here. Mr. Wyville took an interest in her,
and he has changed the whole manner of her life."

"By what means?" asked Sheridan, profoundly interested.

"Means?" repeated the governor, again resorting to his sail-like
handkerchief; "it was done in his own way--unlike any other man's way.
That poor girl's life was saved from insanity and despair, by what do
you think? By a poor little flower--a little common flower he went and
pulled in my garden down there."

Sheridan was about to hear the story of this strange event, when a low
knock came to the door. The governor opened it, and there entered and
stood near the threshold two ladies dressed in black, with snowy
head-dresses. They were Sisters of Mercy, who attended the female school
and hospital. They had come for their ward keys, without which it was
impossible to pass through the pentagons, each ward or passage ending
with a door.

The governor treated the ladies with respect and courtesy. He handed
them their keys with a knightly bow, and, as they retired, he bowed
again, and waited until they bad, reached the end of the passage before
he closed the door. Sheridan who was a Catholic, was gratified and much
surprised at seeing all this.

The governor turned to him with a radiant face. "God bless them!" he
said, earnestly. "They may believe in the Pope of Rome, but it doesn't
prevent them spending their lives for the love of God."

"Are they constant attendants in the prison?" asked Sheridan.

"Yes, they might as well be penal convicts, for all they see of the
outside world. It was through these ladies, and the little flower I
spoke of, that Mr. Wyville did so much for the poor girl. I'll tell you
that story some day, Mr. Sheridan, if you care to hear it. Just now I
have to make my rounds of inspection. Will you join me?"

"With pleasure," said Sheridan; and they passed into one of the male
pentagons.

It was a monotonous and unpleasant routine, this visiting of the wards.
Will Sheridan was glad when they entered the female pentagon, after half
an hour's rapid walking. When at last they came to the short ward in
which Alice was confined, Sheridan's heart was beating rapidly.

The door of Number Four was open, and one of the nuns was standing in
the cell beside Alice, who sat with her work in her lap. Will Sheridan
heard the low sound of her voice, as she spoke to her visitor, and it
thrilled him like a strain of exquisite music. In after years, he never
forgot the subtle pleasure and pain he experienced at the sound of her
soft voice in that brief sentence.

The governor stood at the doorway, and greeted Sister Cecilia,
respectfully, then passed on. Will Sheridan had only for one instant
rested his eyes on Alice; but he went away happy, his heart filled with
gratitude. The old governor wondered at the earnest warmth of his manner
as he thanked him and took his leave.

When Will Sheridan emerged from Millbank Prison, he seemed impatient,
and yet pleased. He hailed a cab, and drove straight to Mr. Wyville's.
He was drawn there by a deep, pleasurable feeling of mingled respect,
gratitude, and expectation. He felt unaccountably light-hearted and
joyous. He had no actual thoughts, but only happy perceptions. The world
was changed. He did not know in what the change consisted; but he
certainly was a different man from the unhappy stranger who had wandered
round Millbank a few weeks before.

He sprang from the cab in Grosvenor square, thinking he would quiet his
excitement by walking the remainder of the way. As he turned into
Grosvenor-street, his eye was attracted by a low and elegant brougham,
driven by a coloured coachman who wore a peculiar oriental dress. This
driver had caught Sheridan's eye at first, and he was rather surprised
when he recognized Mr. Wyville's Australian servant, Ngarra-jil.

In the carriages, sat two young girls of extraordinary beauty and
similarity of face and age. They were dark-skinned rather than
"coloured," with intensely black hair and flashing eyes. Their faces
were of a splendid, rich bronze, warmer than the Moorish brown of Spain,
and darker than the red bronze of Syria. They were wrapped in soft furs,
their faces only visible. They might have been twins; they were
certainly sisters. They were talking and smiling as they spoke, as the
brougham slowly passed Sheridan, and drew up at Mr. Wyville's door.

The ladies sprang lightly to the sidewalk, having thrown off their
heavier wraps in the carriage. Their dress beneath was still of rich
furs, of two or three colours. They walked lightly to the door, which
was held open by a black servant, and entered the house.

The incident surprised Sheridan; but he was little given to curiosity.
"Those ladies," he thought, "are certainly Australian natives, and yet
it seems absurd to believe it. But, then, it is no stranger than
everything, connected with this remarkable man."

At Mr. Wyville's he found Lord Somers, who had brought a copy of Sir
Joshua Hobb's new Prison Bill, and Mr. Hamerton. The greeting of all was
pleasant, but Sheridan was especially pleased with the almost silent
cordiality of Mr. Wyville.

They had been conversing on criminal matters; and the conversation was
renewed.

"Mr. Wyville," said the Secretary, "I wish to ask you a question I have
put to many philanthropists, with varying results: Have you ever sought,
or, rather, have you ever found the roots of the criminal upas tree?"

Mr. Wyville stood facing the window; he turned towards the Secretary,
and his impressive face was in shade, as he answered, in a low tone--

"Yes, my lord, I have sought for it, and I have found it."

"Then, why not announce the discovery? Why not lay the axe to the root
of this tree of evil, and let the world, or at least England, be freed
from the criminal incubus?"

The question was earnestly put, and Hamerton and Sheridan, he with deep
interest, watched the face of Mr. Wyville till the answer came.

Because, my lord, the tree of evil is a banian--its roots drop from
above; its blood is not drawn directly from the soil, but pours from the
heart of the main stem, which you think healthy. Its diseased branches
ramify through admirable limbs, and cannot be separated with a knife."

"You are allegorical, Mr. Wyville, but I presume that you mean--

"That the criminal principle is rooted in the heart of society,
underlies the throne--or let me say, that the throne cannot escape injury
if the axe be laid to its base," said Mr. Wyville, speaking slowly. The
nobleman glanced nervously at Hamerton, who was smiling broadly, as if
intensely pleased.

The Secretary could not give up the point just then, having reached
dangerous ground. And as Wyville remained silent, he was forced to
continue.

"My dear Mr. Wyville," he said jocosely, "you speak today almost like a
French Republican, and I fear Mr. Sheridan will conceive a violent
prejudice against you. You mean, of course, that the law dare not
attempt to suddenly suppress all crime for fear of exciting revolution?"

"No, my Lord, that was not my meaning," said Mr. Wyville.

"Well, then, I give it up," said the pleasant nobleman, laughing, and
turning to Hamerton to change the conversation.

"Don't you think, Mr. Hamerton, that with all the public and private
money spent in charity and religious work in England, the existence of a
great criminal class is a vastly difficult problem, and a monstrous
popular ingratitude?"

"I agree as to the problem," answered Hamerton, becoming grave; "but I
do not quite see the ingratitude. But may I ask Mr. Wyville to read us
the riddle of his allegory, or to continue it further?"

"Pray do, sir," said the Secretary, seeing no escape.

"My lord," said Mr. Wyville, slightly smiling, but yet very earnest in
look, "my views are personal, as my researches have been. I have drawn
no political dissatisfaction from foreign schools. I have merely sought
among the poor and the tempted for the dangerous and the lawless; and I
have found them, and lived among them, and have investigated the causes
of their state. I have followed the main root of the criminal plant till
I found it disappear beneath the throne; and its lateral issues run
through and under the titled and heredity circles that ring the
monarch."

Hamerton opened his eyes and locked his hands tightly, as he looked at
the speaker; Lord Somers seemed puzzled, and rather dismayed; while
Sheridan enjoyed the conversation keenly.

"Do the roots spring from the throne and the aristocracy, or enter their
crevices from the outside?" asked Hamerton.

"They are boon of aristocracy," answered Wyville, impressively. "They
spring from the rotting luxuries that fall from the tables of kings and
earls and hereditary gentry. They creep from the palaces, where custom
and care are too strong for them, and they crawl to the cabins and seize
on the hearts of the poor for their prey. The seed of crime is in the
flower of aristocracy."

"You speak in paradoxes now, sir," said Lord Somers, interested in spite
of himself.

"I take aristocracy as the efflorescence of the social and political
evil," said Mr. Wyville, now deeply moved by his theme. "It presupposes
the morality of hereditary classes. Men would not, in a justly ordered
state, be born either to luxury, poverty, disease, or crime. I do not
know where or how mankind began to do the social sum wrong; but I do
know, for I see, that the result is appalling--that millions have evil
for a heritage, as truly as you, my lord, have your entailed estate."

"But how can this be changed or bettered, my dear Mr. Wyville, except--by
the spread of charity and religion among the wealthy?" asked the peer.

"Ah, pardon me; I consider these things from another standpoint. Charity
among the rich simply means the propriety of the poor being
miserable--that poverty is unfortunate, but not wrong. But God never
meant to send the majority of mankind into existence to exercise the
charity and religion of the minority. He sent them all into the world to
be happy and virtuous, if not equal; and men have generated their evils
by their own blind and selfish rules."

"Surely, Mr. Wyville," interrupted Mr. Hamerton, "you do not believe in
the American absurdity that men are born equal?"

"I do not think the Americans mean that in your sense, answered Wyville.
"I do believe that every generation men should have a fair start, and
let the best lives win."

"But it never can be done," said Lord Somers.

"It has never been tried, I think, except by fanatics or philanthropic
charity-mongers, who have done more harm than good. The good shall not
come from the stooping of the rich, but from the raising of the poor;
and the poor had better remain poor for another cycle than be raised by
charity, and so pauperized and degraded."

"How would you begin the improvement, had you absolute power?" asked Mr.
Hamerton.

Mr. Wyville checked himself with an effort, as he was about to speak.

"You have led me to utter latent thoughts rather than opinions," he
said, smiling, and looking towards the nobleman. I fear my upas roots
have led me out of bounds."

Mr. Hamerton seemed annoyed at the check, and strode across the room
impatiently.

"Confound it, Somers," he cried, "throw off your official airs, and take
an interest in principles, as you used to do. Mr. Wyville, I beg of you
to continue; you should not only talk freely here, but I wish to Heaven
you could preach these things in Westminster Abbey--"

"Let me recall the question of this excitable person, Mr. Wyville," said
his lordship; "he asked how you would begin the reform of society, had
you absolute power?"

"By burning the law-books."

"Splendid!" cried Hamerton.

"And then?" asked Lord Somers.

"By burning the title-deeds."

"Magnificent!" ejaculated Hamerton.

"Could society exist without the law?" asked the nobleman.

"Not just yet; but it could have a better existence with better laws. At
present the laws of civilization, especially in England, are based on
and framed by property--a depraved and unjust foundation. Human law
should be founded on God's law and human right, and not on the narrow
interests of land and gold."

"What do you propose to effect by such law?" asked Lord Somers.

"To raise all men above insecurity, which is the hot-bed of
lawlessness," answered Mr. Wyville.

"But by what means can law make poor men rich?" asked the nobleman.

"By allowing no one to hold unproductive land while a single man is
hungry. By encouraging small farmers, till every acre of land in England
is teeming with food."

"But men do not live by bread alone. Englishmen cannot all be farmers.
What then?"

"By developing a system of technical education, that would enable the
town and city populations to manufacture to advantage the produce of the
fields and mines."

"Admirable!" cried Hamerton.

"But this is revolution," said the nobleman.

"I know not what it may be called, my lord," responded Mr. Wyville,
impressively; "but it is lawful and right. This can all be achieved by
legal reform, even under present laws."

"Let me not misunderstand you, Mr. Wyville," said the nobleman,
seriously. "Would you propose that the estates of wealthy men be wrested
from them by law?"

"Not without compensation, my lord; and not at all unless they refused
to cultivate the soil or to pay the heavy tax necessary to insure
cultivation. I would do no wrong to make a right. No inherited nor
purchased land should be taken for the benefit of the people without
giving a fair recompense to the aristocrat."

"Well, and having done all this, where should we be?" asked Lord Somers.

"At the starting-point," answered Mr. Wyville, with a sad smile; "only
at the starting-point. At present, the level of society is insecurity,
poverty, misery; from which spring fear, ignorance, disease, and crime.
Under a better system, the lowest point would be at least sufficiency,
enough for all the human beings in the country; and this, in time, would
eradicate much of the evil, perhaps most of it."

"Do you think, if there were enough for all, there would not still be
some who would steal?" asked Hamerton.

"For a time there would be," answered Wyville, gravely; "perhaps for a
thousand years or more we should have remnants of common crime. Men have
been thousands of years learning to steal, and cringe, and lie; at least
give them one thousand to unlearn."

"But if it take so long," said Lord Somers, laughing, "we may as well go
on as we are."

"Not so, my lord," answered Wyville, and as he spoke, his face was
lighted with an exaltation of spirit that made it marvellously beautiful
and powerful; "no man who sees the truth, however distant, can
conscientiously go on as if it were not there. Thousands of years are
vast periods; but the love of human liberty and happiness shall reach
out and cling to the eternal. Let every man who believes, faithfully do
his share, sow the seed that he has received, and in God's time the
glorious harvest will come of a pure and truthful people, whose
aristocrats shall be elevated by intelligence and virtue, and the love
of humanity, and not by accident of birth and superiority in vice and
pride."

The three who heard were deeply moved by the earnestness of the speaker,
whose whole being seemed filled with the splendid prophecy. Lord Somers
was the first to speak, returning to the subject of the Penal Reform
Bill.

"And yet, Mr. Wyville, with all your enthusiasm for social reform, you
have given us a bill which is filled with practical attention to
existing institutions."

"Ah, it is too soon to begin; and the beginning will not be at that
point," said Mr. Wyville. "The real evil is outside the prison, and at
present our legal morality calls it good. Until society is changed by
the new common sense of abstract justice, we must temporize with our
criminal codes."

There was a pause: no one seemed willing to break the floating
possibilities of the future.

"You are going to Australia with the next convict ship, are you not?"
Mr. Hamerton at length asked Mr. Wyville.

"Yes; I wish to see the machinery of the new system put in motion.
Besides, I have personal matters to attend to in the colony."

Sheridan had started so sudden at the question, that now all three
turned their eyes on him.

"I have thought," he said, looking at Lord Somers, "that I also should
like to return to Australia on that ship."

"Would you not prefer to go in my yacht, Mr. Sheridan?" asked Mr.
Wyville. "She will sail for Australia about the same time, and you shall
command her for the voyage."

"I should prefer the ship," said Sheridan. Then, thinking he had rudely
refused, he added: "I desire very keenly to have this experience."

"You shall have your wish, Sir," said the Secretary; "and I envy you the
companionship of your voyage."




BOOK THREE - ALICE WALMSLEY.



MISERERE!

O, SPIRITS of Unrest and Pain! that grieve for the sorrow dealt out to
weak humanity, sweep from my heart the dull veil of individuality, and
let my being vibrate with the profound pulsation of those who mourn in
the depths. Spirits of Sorrow and Sympathy, twin sisters of the
twilight, touch the trembling chords that sound the symphony of wrong,
and desolation, and despair. Almighty, God, in Thy wisdom, and surely
also in Thy love Thou layest Thine awful finger on a poor human soul,
and it is withered in Thy sight even to agony and death as far-seeing,
our eyes may not discover. In those supreme moments of trial, when that
which we see is black as night, teach us to trust in Thy guidance, give
us light to deny the fearful temptation of Chance, and faith to believe
that all who labour and are heavy laden may bring their heavy burden
trustingly to Thee!

With a prayer, we enter the cell of Alice Walmsley--a cell where no
prayer had been uttered, woful to say, for the first five years of her
life therein. We look upon the calm, white face and the downcast eyes
that, during the hopeless period, had never been raised to Heaven--except
once, and then only in defiance and imprecation.

God's hand had caught her up from the happy plain, to fling her into the
darkest furrows of affliction; and from these depths the stricken soul
had upbraided the judge and rebelled against the sentence.

Alice Walmsley had been born with a heart all kindness and sympathy.
From her very infancy she had loved intensely the kindly, the unselfish,
and the beautiful. She had lived through her girlhood as happy, healthy,
and pure as the primroses beneath her mother's hedgerows. She had
approached womanhood as a silver stream ripples to the sea, yearning for
its greatness and its troubles and its joys--hurrying from the calm
delights of the meadow banks to the mighty main of strength, and
saltness, and sweetness.

The moment of communion was reached at last, when her girlish life
plunged with delicious expectation into the deep and in one hideous
instant she knew that for ever she had parted from the pure and
beautiful, and was buried in an ocean of corruption and disappointment,
rolled over by waves of unimaginable and inevitable suffering, and
wrong.

From the first deep plunge, stifled, agonized, appalled, she rose to the
surface, only to behold the land receding from her view--the sweet fields
of her innocent and joyous girlhood fading in the distance.

She raised her eyes, and saw the heaven calm and beautiful above her,
sprinkled with gem-like stars--and she cried, she screamed to God for
help in her helplessness. The answer did not come--the lips of God were
dumb--it seemed as if He did not heed nor see the ruin of one puny human
life. The sky was as beautiful and serene as before, and the stars were
as bright.

Then, from the crest of the wave, as she felt herself slipping back into
the dreadful depths again, and for ever, she raised her face to heaven,
and shrieked reproach and disbelief and execration!

On the very day of her marriage, before the solemn words of the ceremony
had left her memory, she had looked for one dread moment beneath the
mask of him who had won her love and trust--some old letters of her
husband relating to Will Sheridan had fallen into her hands--and she
shrank within herself, affrighted at the knowledge of deceit and
habitual falsehood that the glimpse had brought her. It was her first
grief and secret, and she hid it in her soul for months before she dared
look upon it again.

But a single grief, even though a heavy one, could not crush the light
out of so joyous and faithful a heart, She still possessed the woman's
angelic gifts of hope and faith. She had, too, the woman's blessed
quality of mercy. She forgave, trusting that her forgiveness would bring
a change. She prayed, and waited, and hoped--in secret confidence with
her own heart. Another influence would be added to hers ere long. When
she gave his child into his arms, and joined its supplication to hers,
she believed, nay, she knew, that her happiness would be returned to
her.

But before that day came, she was left alone. Her husband from the hour
she had given herself into his power, bad followed one careless,
selfish, and cynical course. She would not, could not believe that this
was his natural life, but only a temporary mood.

When first he spoke of going to sea again, on a long voyage, she was
pleased, and thought gladly of the change for her, who had never seen
the great world. When he coldly said that she was to remain, she became
alarmed--she could not be left alone--she implored, she prayed to go with
him.

Then came the sneer, the brutal refusal, the master's command, the
indelible insult of expressed weariness and dislike. She held her peace.

When the day came, he would have left her, for years of absence, without
a kiss; but the poor soul, hungering and waiting for a loving word or
look, unable to believe her great affection powerless to win a return,
could not bear this blighting memory. She clung to him, sobbing her full
heart on his breast; she kissed him and prayed for him, with her hands
on his shoulders, and her streaming eyes on his; she--blamed herself, and
told him she would be happy till he--returned--the thought of her coming
joy would bless her life, and bless and preserve him on the sea. With
such words she let him go.

Firmly and faithfully the loving heart kept this last promise. Months
passed, and her lonely home grew very dear to her. Her young heart
refused to remember the pain of the past, and would recall, day after
day, untiringly, the few poor pleasures of her wedded life. She would
not allow herself to think how much even of these pleasures was due to
others than her husband--to her mother and her old friends.

But all her sorrow died, and her doubt and fear fled away, on the day
when she took to her yearning breast the sweet baby that was hers and
his. God's eye seemed too full of love that day. The harvest of her
young life was the bursting of a flower of exquisite joy. Her baby was a
prayer--God had come near to her, and had sent her an angelic present.
Her life for many days was a ceaseless crooning melody of soft
happiness, mingled with prayers for her husband absent on the sea.

Then came the lightning, and blasted her fabric of joy, and shrivelled
her future life into hopelessness before her face. One moment it rose
fair and sightly and splendid; the next, it was scattered at her
scorched feet, a pile of blackened and pitiful ruin. O, day of sorrow,
would it had been of death!

It was a bright and happy morning, and she sat in her pleasant little
room, with the baby in her arms. She had been dreaming awake. She was
full of peace and thankfulness for her exceeding joy.

Suddenly, a shadow fell upon her--someone had entered the room. She
looked up, and met a terrible face--a woman's face, glaring at her and
her child. She could not scream--she was paralyzed with terror. The face
was crowded with passion--every dreadful line seemed to possess a voice
of wrath and hatred.

Alice had no power to defend herself; but she folded her baby closer to
her breast, and looked straight at the dreadful face.

"You think you are his wife!" cried the woman, with a laugh of hideous
derision. "You think he loves you! You lie! You lie! He is my husband!
He never was yours! He is mine, mine! And he lied to you!"

More was said by the woman--much more; but it all resolved itself into
this in Alice's confused memory. Papers the stranger produced, and held
before Alice's eyes. She read the written words--they were transferred to
her brain in letters of fire. Nearer and nearer came the dreadful woman,
and more threatening the insults she hissed into Alice's face. She laid
her hand on the baby's shoulder, and crushed it, cursing it.

Still Alice could not scream. Her heart gave irregular throbs--her brain
was beginning to reel. Nearer, still nearer, the hateful face--the words
struck her in the eyes like missiles--they sprang like knives at her
heart--her body grew weak, the baby fell from her breast and lay upon her
knees --O God! the silent agony--the terrible stranger had seized the
child--the mother's senses failed--the sunlight grew dark--the sufferer
fell unconscious at her enemy's feet.

When she raised her head, after hours of a merciful blank, she was
alone--her baby lay dead before her--and the love and trust of her life
lay stark and strangled by its side.

What more? Nay, there was no more to be borne. The worst had come. The
flaming rocket had spent its last spark in the dark sky--the useless
stick was falling to the earth, to be forgotten forever.

Friends! What had they to say? Kindness was dead. Shame had no
existence. Sorrow, disgrace, infamy, what had she to do with these? But
they had taken her, had seized her as their prey, and she would make no
resistance.

With bonds of faith and love and trust and hope, Alice Walmsley's life
had been firmly bound to all that was good and happy. The destroyer's
knife had severed all these at one merciless sweep; and the separated
and desolated heart sank like lead into the abyss of despair.

Then followed a blank--intermixed with turmoil of formal evidence and
legal speeches, and voices of clinging friends, who implored her to
speak and clear herself of the dreadful charge. At this word, her mind
cleared--she looked at and understood her position--and she refused to
speak--she would not plead "not guilty" when charged with killing her own
child. Her mother, broken with years and with this affliction, tottered
from the rails of the dock, against which she had leant, and sank
heart-broken on the floor of the court. She was carried to the open air
by weeping strangers--carried past Alice, who never looked upon her dear
face again.

Still she stood silent, tearless, but conscious of every act and
relation. Anguish had changed her in one day from a girl into a strong
self-reliant woman. To her own soul she said: "My life is in
ruin--nothing can now increase the burden. If I speak, another will stand
here--another who has been wronged as I have been. She was wretched
before she became guilty. Let me undergo--let me never see the face of
one who knew me, to remind me of the past. Between freedom and memory,
and imprisonment and forgetfulness--I choose the latter."

These thoughts never became words in Alice's mind; but this was the
mental process which resulted in her silence in the dock. The trial was
short--she was found guilty. Then came the solitude and silence of the
great prison.

Four white walls, a stone floor, a black iron door, a heavily barred
window, through which she looked up at the moon and stars at night--and,
enclosed within these walls, a young and beautiful girl, a tender heart
that had never throbbed with a lawless desire, a conscience so
sensitive, and a mind so pure, that angels might have communed with her.

Shall not this prisoner find peace in solitude, and golden sermons in
the waves of pain?

She had been one day and night in Millbank. The severe matron or warder
of the Pentagon opened her cell door in the morning, and handed her two
books, a Bible and prayer-book.

The window of the cell, outside the bars, was open. Without a word to
the warder, the prisoner threw the books out of the open window.

"They are not true; I shall pray no more," she said, not fiercely, but
firmly, as they fell into the yard within the Pentagon.

She was reported to the authorities. They sent the Bible reader to pray
with her, in the cell, according to the rule laid down in convict
prisons; but she remained silent. They punished her--for the dreadful
word "Murder" was printed on her door-card; they shut her up in a dark
cell for days and weeks, till her eyes dilated and her body shrank under
the meagre food. Remember, a few weeks before, she was a simple,
God-fearing country girl. Neither prayer nor punishment could bring her
into relenting, but only deepened the earnestness of her daily answer--

"I shall pray no more."

Her case was brought before the Chief Director, Sir Joshua Hobb. This
disciplinarian visited her dark cell, and, with a harsh "Ho, there!"
flashed a brilliant lamp on the entombed wretch. She sat on a low seat
in the centre of the dark cell, her face bowed into her hands, perhaps
to shut out the painfully sudden glare.

"She won't pray, eh?" said the great reformer, looking at the slight
figure that did not move. "We'll see." He evidently took a special
interest in this case.

An hour later, the prisoner was taken from her cell, and dragged or
pushed by two strong female warders till she stood.

In an arched passage beneath the prison. Her clothing was rudely torn
from her shoulders to the waist; her wrists were strapped to staples in
the wall; and, before her weakened and benumbed brain had realized the
unspeakable outrage, the lash had swept her delicate flesh into livid
stripes.

Then, for one weak moment, her womanhood conquered, and she shrieked, as
if in supplication, the name of Him she had so bitterly refused to
worship.

But the scream of her affliction was not a prayer--it was the awful
utterance of a parting spirit, the cry of a wrecked and tortured soul,
an imprecation born of such agony as was only utterable in a curse. May
God pity and blot out the sin!

They carried her senseless body to the hospital, where unconsciousness
befriended her for many weeks. A brain fever racked her; she lived the
terrors of the past every hour; a weaker body would have sunk under the
strain; but her time had not yet come.

The fever left her at last--her consciousness returned; the austere,
philanthropic women and hackneyed preachers laboured by her bedside in
rigid charity and sonorous prayer, during which her eyes remained closed
and her lips motionless.

As her strength returned, she moved about the ward, feeling a pleasant
relief when she could do a kindness to another inmate weaker than
herself. She would warm the drinks, smooth the pillows, or carefully
give the medicines as prescribed, to her unfortunate sisters. And all
this she performed silently. She never smiled, and no one but her own
heart knew that her labour for others gave her comfort.

When her health was quite restored, she had become valuable to the
physicians and warders. She was asked to remain in the hospital rather
than to go back and work in the cells.

She chose the hospital, and entered at once on her regular duties as a
nurse.

Why did she choose the busy hospital, instead of the solitary cell?
Because she was still a woman. Trust in God had been taken from her; but
she remained unselfish, or, rather, her life had assumed an exalted
selfishness, possible only to highly organized natures. Though God was
deaf, she could not believe that good was dead, for she still felt
sympathy for her fellow sufferers. God had made the world, but had
forgotten it, and the spirit of evil had taken His place.

"They say you don't believe in religion?" said a dying woman to her one
day; "then maybe you don't believe that God has punished me like this
for my evil ways?"

Alice Walmsley looked at the unfortunate--then searched her own heart
before answering. Her affliction was her own; God had deserted her--had
He also deserted this poor wretch?

"God has not punished you," she answered; "you have brought on your own
punishment."

"Then God will give me my child in the other world?" cried the woman,
with pitiful earnestness. "Oh, say He, will, and I shall die happy!"

Alice did not answer, but the iron of the question pierced her soul.
There lived beneath all the burden of her suffering a love that thrilled
her day and night, a yearning that never slept, a memory and pity of
unspeakable tenderness for her dead child. It was grief in love and love
in grief. She had tried to reason it away, but in vain. God, who had
tortured her, or allowed her torture, had seized her babe for ransom.
While she was wronged before Him, He held a hostage for her silence.

How should she answer this dying woman's question?

She walked from the ward straight to the matron's office, and asked to
be sent to the cells--she could work no more in the hospital.

Expostulation, argument, threats, had no effect on her determination.
Her resolution troubled every one in the hospital, for her services were
highly prized. But she had settled the question. The mind may delay in
solving a problem, but the soul's solution is instantaneous and
unalterable. She was sent to the cell.

A FLOWER IN THE CELL.

Five years of silent imprisonment had passed over Alice Walmsley--years
of daily and hourly change and excitement for the outer world. Five
years in solitary confinement are only one day, one day of dreary
monotony repeated one thousand eight hundred and twenty-five times.

Take a starving beggar from the street, and seat him at your table, and
tell him that he shall have food and money if he will turn his plate
face downward, and return it face upward, one thousand eight hundred and
twenty-five times--and the hungry wretch will drop from exhaustion before
half the turnings are done, and will run from your house with curses.
The solitary prisoner turns the same number of days with harrowing
weariness a thousand times multiplied in five years. The days and nights
of those years had passed like a black and white vibration over Alice
Walmsley's life. They had brought little change to the outward eye; and
the inward change was only a settlement of the elements of doubt and
disbelief and despair into a solid deposit in her heart.

No friends had visited her. When her mother died, there was left no
living relative. She had no love nor attraction beyond her cell--beyond
her own soul. Every tie worth keeping had then been torn asunder. Some
lesser bonds she since had unloosed herself. Why should any happy thing
be united to one so forlorn and wretched?

For God's pleasure she was undergoing this torture--so they told her. She
had neither sinned nor rebelled. She had been given life, and she had
grown to love it--but when the summer of her life had come, she was
drenched with affliction and wrong, which she had not earned, of the
cause of which she was as innocent as her babe, murdered before her
eyes. Her heart, hope, love, trust, had been flung down and trampled in
the dust.

The alms of prayer that were doled out by the nasal Scripture-readers
had long since been carried past her door. They regarded her as
hopelessly lost. She never spoke her dissent; but they could see that
she did not hear them, that she did not believe them. So they left her
to herself.

One day, a man sat in the governor's office with a large book before
him, in which he had been carefully reading a page on which the
governor, standing beside him, had placed his index finger.

"It is a remarkable case," said the governor; "and she certainly is not
insane."

"She was not a criminal by association?" asked the visitor, closing the
book. He was a powerfully built, dark-faced man, with a foreign air and
a deep voice. The studied respect of the governor proved him to be a
person of importance. It, was Mr. Wyville, who had recently arrived in
London, and who was visiting the prisons, with authority from the
Ministry itself.

"No," said the governor; "she was a village girl, wife of a sea captain.
Here, at page 42, we find the police reports-see, only one short entry.
The police didn't know her."

"She has never defended herself, nor reproached others?" asked Mr.
Wyville.

"Never," answered the governor. "She has never spoken about herself."

"It is very strange, and very sad," said Mr. Wyville to the governor.
And to himself he murmured, "She must have suffered fearful wrong."

Soon after, in company with the governor, he passed along the corridor,
and stopped at Alice Walmsley's cell. The warder opened the door. Mr.
Wyville did not look at the prisoner, but walked across the cell, as if
observing the window bars, upon which he laid his hand.

"The iron is covered with rust," Wyville said to the governor. "The
windows of this range certainly need repainting."

Then, apparently looking round in the same practical way, Mr. Wyville
remained, perhaps, a minute in the cell. He had scarcely turned his eyes
on the prisoner; yet the mute intensity of her face had sunk into his
heart.

"She has been terribly wronged," he repeated to himself, as he left the
prison. "God help her! she is very young to be so calm."

When Mr. Wyville emerged from the prison arch, he walked rapidly along
the river towards Westminster. He was in deep thought. He proceeded a
little distance, then stopped, and looked down on the turbid stream, as
if undecided. This was unlike the usual calm deliberateness of his
conduct. He was evidently perplexed and troubled. After pausing a while,
he looked at his watch, and then retraced his steps, passed Millbank,
and walked on in the direction of Chelsea.

It was an old habit of his to solve difficult questions as he walked;
and he selected a quiet suburb, with streets leading into the country
roads.

In the streets, there was nothing very noticeable about the man, except
his athletic stride and deeply bronzed face. He might be classed by the
passing observer as a naval officer who had served many years in
southern latitudes, or as a foreign captain. His dress had something of
the sailor about its style and cloth. But it is the inner man who
interests us: let us follow the burden of his thought.

Remorse does not end in this calmness, unless the prisoner be insane.
Her mind is clear; she is not melancholy; she is self-possessed and
firm. Her health has not suffered. Yet, she has abandoned belief in
man's truth and God's mercy. She does not claim that she is innocent;
she makes no defense and no charge; she accepts her punishment without a
complaint. These are not the symptoms of remorse or guilt. She has
abandoned prayer; she deliberately shuts out the past and the future.
Yet she is in all other respects obedient, industrious, and kind. There
is only one explanation of these contradictions--she is innocent, and she
has suffered terrible wrong.

Mr. Wyville did not return to his house till late in the evening. He had
walked for hours; and, as he went, he had unravelled, with infinite
patience, the psychological net-work that had troubled him. He had come
to a decision.

Two days after his visit to the prison, Alice Walmsley sat in her cell,
sewing tirelessly. The morning had opened like all the other mornings of
her imprisonment; there was nothing new, nothing to suggest a new train
of thought.

Someone who walked along the corridor about ten o'clock had seemed to
hesitate a moment at her cell, and then had passed on. The governor, she
thought, who had glanced through the watch-grate.

In the wall of every cell there was a minute hole, about two inches
square on the exterior, cut in the solid stone. The opening, which grew
wide towards the interior of the cell, was in the shape of a wedge. A
warder outside could see a large part of the cell, while the prisoner
could only see the eye of the warder. As the officers wore woollen
slippers, they could observe the prisoners without being heard or seen.

At this opening, Alice Walmsley thought, the governor had stopped as he
passed, and had looked into her cell. It was not unusual.

A few minutes later she paused in her work, almost impatiently, and
tried to put away from her an unwelcome thought.

After a short pause she renewed her sewing, working rapidly for a few
minutes; and then she laid the coarse cloth aside, and buried her face
in her hands.

She was thinking of her old life, of her old self; she had tried to
escape from it, but could not. For years she had separated the past and
the present, until she had actually come to think of herself as two
beings--one, who had been happy, and who was dead; the other, living but
separated from all the world--alone, with neither memories nor hopes,
neither past nor future.

Yet to-day, without apparent cause, the two selves had drawn
together--the happy Alice had come beseechingly to the unhappy one.

For an hour she remained motionless, her face bowed in her hands. Then
she raised her head, but she did not renew her work. She stood up, and
walked across the cell, and re-crossed it, in the rapid way of restless
prisoners; but on the second passage she stood still, with a bewildered
air. Her eye had caught a gleam of bright colour in the opening of the
watch-grate. There was a flower in her cell!

She trembled as she reached her hand to take it. She did not try to
recover her dispassionate calmness. She took it in her hand, and raised
it to her lips slowly, and kissed it. It was a sweet rosebud, with two
young leaves. She had not seen a flower nor heard a bird sing since she
left her own little garden.

This tender thing had stolen inside her guard. Its sweet fragrance,
before she knew of its presence, had carried her mind back to the happy
days of her girlhood. She kept the flower to her lips, kissing it. She
fed her wistful eyes on its beauty. She had been so long without
emotion, she had so carefully repressed the first promptings of
imagination, that her heart had become thirsty unto death for some
lovely or lovable thing. This sweet young flower took for her all forms
of beauty. As she gazed on it, her soul drank in its delicious breath,
like a soft and sensuous music; its perfect colouring filled her--with
still another delight; its youth, its form, its promise, the rich green
of the two leaves, its exquisite completeness, made a very symphony for
the desolate heart.

Two hours passed, and still she fondled the precious gift. She had not
once thought of how the flower had come into her cell.

"You are pleased at last, Number Four," said a female warder, who had
been looking into Alice's cell.

Number Four raised her eyes from the flower, and looked silently her
answer. For the first time in five years the warder saw that her eyes
were flooded with tears.

She did not sew any more that day--and, strange to say, the officers took
no heed of her idleness. There was a change in her face, a look of
unrest, of strangeness, of timidity.

When first she looked upon the flower, a well had burst up in her heart,
and she could not stop its flood. In one hour it had swept away all her
barriers, had swamped her repression, had driven out the hopeless and
defiant second self, and had carried into her cell the wronged, unhappy,
but human and loving heart of the true Alice Walmsley.

She was herself. She feared to think it, but she knew it must be so.
When the warder spoke to her now, she shrank from the tone. Yesterday,
it would have passed her like the harsh wind, unheeded.

That night, unlike all the nights of her imprisonment, she did not lie
down and sleep as soon as the lights were extinguished. With the little
flower in her hand, she sat on her low bedside in the still darkness,
feeling through all her nature the returning rush of her young life's
sympathy with the world.

The touch of the rosebud in her hand thrilled her with tenderness. She
made no attempt to shut out the crowding memories. They flooded her
heart, and she drank them in as a parched field drinks the drenching
rain.

Towards midnight the moon rose above the city, silver-white in a
black-blue sky, lovelier than ever she had seen it, Alice thought, as
she looked through the bars of her window. She stood upon her low bed,
opened the window, and looked up. At that moment her heart was touched
with a loving thought of her dead mother. Her arms rested on the window
ledge, and her hands were raised before her, holding between them the
little flower, as she might have held a peace-offering to a king.

Softly as the manna falls upon the desert, or the dew upon the wild
flower, descended on the afflicted heart the grace of God's love and
mercy. The Eye that looked from above on that white face upturned amid
the gloom of the prison, beheld the eyes brimmed with tears, the lips
quivering with profound emotion, and the whole face radiant with faith
and sorrow and prayer.

"O, thank God!" she whispered, her weeping eyes resting on the beautiful
deep sky, "Thank God for this little flower. O, mother, hear me in heaven,
and pray for me, that God may forgive me for doubting and denying His
love!"

With streaming eyes--she sank upon her knees by the bedside, and poured
her full heart in passionate prayer. And, as she prayed, kneeling on the
stones of her cell, with bowed head, the beautiful moon had risen high
in the vault of night, and its radiance flooded the cell, as if God's
blessing were made manifest in the lovely light, that was only broken by
the dark reflection of the window bars, falling upon the mourner in the
form of a cross. It was long past midnight when she lay down to rest.

But next day Alice began her monotonous toil as on all previous, days.
She was restless, unhappy; her face was stained with weeping in the
lone, vigil of the night. But her heart had changed with the brief rest
she had taken. She began her day without prayer. Her mind had moved too
long in one deep groove to allow its direction to be changed without
laborious effort.

The little flower that had touched her heart so deeply the day before,
lay upon the low shelf of her cell. Alice took it up with a movement of
the lips that would have been a sad smile but for the emptiness of her
poor heart. "It grew in its garden, and loved its sweet life," she
thought; "and when the sun was brightest, the selfish Hand approached
and tore it from its stem, to throw it next day into the street,
perhaps."

Then flashed, for the first time, into her mind the question--Who had
placed the flower in her cell? Had she been unjust--and had the Hand that
pulled this flower been moved by kindness, and kindness to her?

The thought troubled her, and she became timid and impressionable again.
Who had brought her this flower? Whoever had done so was a friend, and
pitied her. Else why--but perhaps every prisoner in the ward had also
received a flower. Her heart closed, and her lips became firm at the
thought.

A few minutes later, she pulled the signal wire of her cell, which moved
a red board outside the door, so that it stood at right angles from the
wall. This brought the warder, to know what was wanted. The door was
opened, and the warder, a woman with a severe face but a kind eye, stood
in the entrance. Alice had the flower in her hand.

"Have all the prisoners received flowers like this?" she inquired, with
a steady voice.

"No," said the warder.

In five years, this was the first question Number Four had ever asked.

"Why was this given to me?" she asked, her voice losing its firmness,
and her eyes filling with tears.

"I don't know," said the warder.

This was true: the hand that had dropped the flower into the watch-grate
had done so unseen. The warder only knew that orders had been received
from the governor that Number Four was not to be disturbed, nor the
flower taken away.

The door closed again, and Alice raised the flower to her lips and
kissed it. Someone had pitied her--had thought of her. She was not alone
in the world. This reflection she could not drive away. She sat down to
her work; but she could not see the cloth--her eyes were blurred with
tears, her hands trembled. At last she rose and pressed her open hands
to her streaming eyes, and then sank on her knees beside her bed, and
sobbed convulsively.

How long she remained so she did not know, but she felt a band laid
softly oil her head, and heard her name called in a low voice--

"Alice!"

A woman had entered the cell, and was kneeling beside her.

Alice raised her head, and let her eyes rest on a face as beautiful as
an angel's, a face as white as if it were a prisoner's, but calm and
sweet and sympathetic in every feature; and round the lovely face Alice
saw a strange, white band, that made it look like a face in a picture.

It was a Sister of Mercy she had seen before when she worked in the
hospital; she remembered she bad seen her once sit up all night bathing
the brow of a sick girl, dying of fever. This thought came clearly to
her mind as she looked at Sister Cecilia's face, and saw the
unselfishness and devotion of her life in her pure look.

"Alice," said Sister Cecilia, "why do you grieve so deeply? Tell me
why you are so unhappy--tell me, dear, and I will try to make you
happier, or I will grieve with you."

Alice felt her whole self-command deserting her, and her heart melting
at the kindness of the voice and words.

"Turn to me, and trust me--, dear," said Sister Cecilia. "Tell me why you
weep so bitterly. I know you are innocent of crime, Alice; I never
believed you guilty. And now I have come to bring you comfort."

Sister Cecilia had put one arm around Alice, and, as she spoke, with the
other hand she raised the tearful face and kissed it. Then the
flood-gates of Alice's affliction burst, and she wept as if her heart
were breaking.

Sister Cecilia waited till the storm of sorrow had exhausted itself,
only murmuring little soothing words all the time, and patting the
sufferer's hand and cheek softly.

"Now, dear," she said at length, "as we are kneeling, let us pray for a
little strength and grace, and then you shall tell me why you grieve."

Sister Cecilia, taking Alice's hands between her own, raised them a
little, and then she raised her eyes, with a sweet smile on her face, as
if she were carrying a lost soul to the angels, and in a voice as simple
as a child's, and as trustful, said the Lord's Prayer, Alice repeating
the words after her.

Never before had the meaning of the wonderful prayer of prayers entered
Alice's soul. Every sentence was full of warmth and comfort and
strength. The words that sank deepest were these--she repeated them
afterwards with the same mysterious effect--"Thy will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven." She did not know why these words were the best, but
they were.

"Now, Alice," said Sister Cecilia, rising cheerfully when the prayer was
done, "we are going to bathe our faces and go on with our sewing, and have
a long talk."

Alice obeyed, or, rather, she followed the example. Sister Cecilia's
unaffected manner had won her so completely that she felt a return of
her girlish companionship. All other teachers of religion whom Alice had
seen in the prison had come to her with unsympathetic formality and
professional airs of sanctity, which repelled her.

Half an hour later, Alice was quietly sewing, while Sister
Cecilia sat on the pallet and talked, and drew Alice into a chat. She
made no reference to the grief of the morning. The cases in the
hospital, the penitence of poor sick prisoners, the impenitence of
others, the gratitude and the selfishness and the many other phases of
character that came under her daily observation--these were the topics of
the little Sister's conversation.

"Why, I might as well be a prisoner, too," she said, smiling, and making
Alice smile; "I have been in the hospital seven years. I was there two
years before you came. You see, I am as white as a prisoner."

"Yes," said Alice, looking sadly at her; "it is not right. Why do you
not grieve as they do?"

"Why?" answered Sister Cecilia, gaily, "because I am not a criminal,
perhaps. I am like you, Alice; I have less reason to grieve than the
other poor things."

Alice had never seen it in this light before, and she could not help
smiling at the philosophy of the little Sister. But she was affected by
it very deeply.

"If you had remained in the hospital, Alice," said the nun, "you would
have been as much a Sister of Mercy as I am. Do you know, I was very
sorry when you left the hospital."

Every word she said, somehow, touched Alice in a tender place. Was the
wise little nun choosing her words? At any rate, it was well and kindly
done.

When she kissed Alice, and pulled the signal wire to go out, her smile
filled the cell and Alice's heart with brightness. She promised to come
and see her every day till the ship sailed; and then they would be
together all the day.

"Are you going to Australia?" asked Alice, in amazement.

"Certainly," said Sister Cecilia, with a smile of mock surprise. "Why,
those poor children couldn't get along without me--fifty of them. Now,
I'm very glad I shall have you to help me, Alice. We'll have plenty to
do, never fear."

She was leaving the cell--the warder had opened the door when Alice
timidly touched her dress and drew her aside out of the warder's sight.

"I am not a Catholic," said Alice, in a tremulous whisper.

"No matter, child" said the little nun, taking her face between her
hands and kissing her eyes; "you are a woman. Good-bye till to-morrow;
and say your prayers, like my own good girl."

Alice stood gazing at the spot where she had stood long after the door
had closed. Then she turned and looked through the window at the bright
sky, with her hands clasped at full length before her. As she looked, a
sparrow perched on her windowsill, and she smiled--almost laughed--at the
little cautious fellow. She took some crumbs from her shelf and threw
them to him; and as she did so, she thought that she might have done it
every day for five years, had she been as happy as she was then.



FOLLOWING A DARK SPIRIT.

ABOUT a week after the incident of the flower, Mr. Wyville, accompanied
by his black servant, Ngarra-jil, left London on the Northern train. The
black man was clad from throat to feet in a wrap or mantle of thick
cloth, though the summer day was bland and warm. He settled silently
into a corner of the railway carriage, watching his master with a keen
and constant look. Mr. Wyville, sitting beside the window, seemed to
observe the richly cultivated fields and picturesque villages through
which the mail train flew without pausing; but, in truth, he neither saw
nor thought of outward things.

There is a power in some minds of utterly shutting out externals--of
withdrawing, the common functions from the organs of sense to assist the
concentration of the introverted mind. At such a time the open eye is
blind--it has become a mere lens, reflecting but not perceiving; the
tympanum of the ear vibrates to the outward wave, but has ceased to
translate its message to the brain. The soul within has separated itself
from the moving world, and has retired to its cell like an anchorite,
taking with it some high subject for contemplation or some profound
problem for solution.

From this closet of the soul emerge the lightning thoughts that startle,
elevate, and deify mankind, sweeping away old systems like an overflow
of the ocean. Within this cell the Christ-mind reflected for
thirty-three years, before the Word was uttered. Within this cell the
soul of Dante penetrated the horrescent gloom of the infernal spheres,
and beheld the radiant form of Beatrice. Within this cell the spirit
that was Shakespeare bisected the human heart, and read every impulse of
its mysterious network. Here the blind Milton forgot the earth, and
lived an awful aeon beyond the worlds, amid the warring thoughts of God.

Great and sombre was the Thought which lay within the cell of this
traveller's soul to be investigated and solved. Villages, and fields,
and streams passed the outward eye, that was, for the time, the window
of a closed and darkened room.

As the pale corpse lies upon the dissecting table, before the solitary
midnight student, so lay upon the table, within this man's soul, a
living body for dissection--the hideous body of Crime. For years it had
lain there, and the brooding soul had often withdrawn from the outer
world to contemplate its repulsive and mysterious aspect. The knife was
in the hand of the student, but he knew not where to begin the incision.
The hideous thing to be examined was inorganic as a whole, and yet every
atom of its intertexture was a perfect organ.

To his unceasing vision, the miscreated form became luminous and
transparent; and he saw that, throughout its entire being, beat one
maleficent pulsation, accordant with the rhythm of some unseen and
intermittent sea. He saw that the parts and the whole were one, yet
many--that every atom had within itself the seminal part and the latent
pulse of the ocean of Sin.

For years he had looked upon this fearful body, wonderful, observant,
speculative. For years, when the contemplation had ceased, he had knelt
beside the evil thing and prayed for light and knowledge.

Day and night were as an outward breath to the soul of the thinker. The
light faded and the darkness fell, but he knew it not. His whole being
was turned within, and he would have groaned with sorrow at what he saw,
were it not for an adamantine faith in God, love, and justice, that
bridged the gulf of doubt with a splendid arch.

It was midnight when the train arrived in Liverpool. The black man,
Ngarra-jil, who had watched so long and tirelessly the marvellous face
of his master, rose from his corner, purposely arousing Mr. Wyville's
attention. He smiled kindly at Ngarra-jil, and spoke to him in his own
language, continuing to do so as they were driven through the streets to
a hotel.

Something of unusual importance had brought Mr. Wyville from London.
That night, though the fatigue of the journey would have overpowered an
ordinary man, he did not retire to rest till early morning, and then he
slept scarcely three hours. In the forenoon of that day, leaving
Ngarra-jil at the hotel, he took a further journey, to the little
village of Walton-le-Dale--the native village of Alice Walmsley.

It was clear that Mr. Wyville had come to Lancashire on some purpose
connected with this unhappy girl, for his first visit, having inquired
at the inn, was to the quiet street where stood her old home. He walked
up the weed-grown pathway to the deserted house, and finding the outer
door of the porch unlocked, as it had been left five years before, he
entered, and sat there on the decaying bench for a short time. Then he
retraced his steps, and inquired his way to the police station.

The solitary policeman of Walton-le-Dale was just at that time occupied
in painting a water barrel, which stood on its donkey-cart in the
street.

There was only one well of sweet water in Walton, the village lying on
very low land; and the villagers paid each week a half-penny a family to
their policeman, in return for which he left in their houses every day
two large pails of water.

Officer Lodge, they called him; and though he was a modest and
unassuming fellow, he made a point of being deaf to any remark or
request that was not prefaced by this title. He resented even "Mr."
Lodge; but he was excited to an indignant glance at the offensive
familiarity of plain "Lodge."

He was a small old man, of a gentle and feminine disposition; but he had
"served his time" on a man-of-war, and had been pensioned for some
active service in certain vague Chinese bombardments. It was queerly
inconsistent to hear the old fellow relate wild stories of carnage, with
a woman's voice and a timid maiden air.

As Mr. Wyville approached Officer Lodge, that guardian of the peace was
laboriously trying to turn the barrel in its bed, so that he might paint
the under side. The weight was too great for the old man, and he was
puzzled. He stood looking at the ponderous cask with a divided mind.

"Raise it on its end," said Mr. Wyville, who had reached the spot unseen
by the aquarian policeman.

Officer Lodge looked at him in distrust, fearing sarcasm in the remark;
but he met the grave impressive look, and was mollified. Besides, the
advice struck him as being practical. Without a word, he easily heaved
the cask into an upright position, and found that he could paint its
whole circumference. This put him in good humour.

"If that were my barrel, I should paint the hoops red instead of green,"
said Mr. Wyville.

"Why?" asked Officer Lodge, dipping his brush in the green paint.

"Because red lead preserves iron, while the verdigris used to colour
green paint corrodes it."

Officer Lodge wiped his brush on the rim of the paint-pot, and looked at
Mr. Wyville timidly, but pleasantly.

"You know things, you do," he said. "But suppose you hadn't no red
paint?"

"I should paint the whole barrel white--white lead preserves iron--and
then give the hoops a smart coat of black. That would make a handsome
barrel."

"I should think so! By jewkins! wouldn't it so?" said Officer Lodge.

Mr. Wyville stood on the road talking with the old man, until that
personage had quite decided to paint the barrel white.

"Now, my friend," said Mr. Wyville, "could you direct me to the office
of the police inspector of this village?"

Officer Lodge was rather taken aback. He was in his shirtsleeves, like a
common labourer, and here was a gentleman, evidently a foreigner, in
search of the police inspector; he was gratified at the important title.
He took his coat from the cart, and slipped it on, obtruding its brass
buttons on the stranger.

"There ain't exac'ly a hinspector in Walton," he said, with an air of
careless pomp; "but I'm the police, at your service, sir."

"I am very glad," said Mr. Wyville, gravely; "I wish to make some
inquiries about a case of murder that occurred in this village some
years ago. Can you assist me?"

"There was only one such a case, sir," said Officer Lodge, the
kindliness of his feminine heart speaking in his saddened tone, "I know
all about it. It was me as arrested her; and it was unwilling work on my
side. But a hofficer must do his duty, sir."

"Can we not sit down somewhere, and talk it over?" asked Mr. Wyville.

"At the inn, sir, certingly," replied Officer Lodge, "and a good glass a'
hale you can 'ave, too, sir."

They were soon seated in a quiet little room, and each had his "glass a'
hale" before him.

Officer Lodge told the story like a man who had often told it before:
all the angles were rounded, and the dramatic points brought out with
melodramatic emphasis. Mr. Wyville let him run on till he had no more to
say.

"And this strange woman, who came to the village on the morning of the
murder," he said, when he had heard all; "this woman who was Draper's
first wife--has she ever been heard of since?"

"O, Harriet Draper, bless you, yessir." said Officer Lodge she comes
back periodical, and gets into quod--parding me, sir, I mean into jail."

"What does she do?" asked Mr. Wyville.

"Well, she's a bad 'un. We don't know where she comes from, nor where
she goes to. She drinks 'cavy, and then she goes down there near
Draper's 'ouse, and the other 'ouse, an' she kicks up a muss of crying
and shouting. She does it periodical; and we has to lock her up."

"When was she here last?" asked Mr. Wyville.

Officer Lodge pulled out a leather-covered pass-book, and examined it.

"She's out of her reg'lar border, this time," he said; "she 'aven't been
'ere for a year. But I heerd of her later than that in the penitentiary
at Liverpool."

Mr. Wyville asked no more questions. He wrote an address on a card, and
handed it to Officer Lodge.

"If this woman return here," he said, "or if you find out where she is,
write to that address, and you shall be well rewarded."

"Head Office of Police, Scotland Yard, London," read Officer Lodge from
the card. "Yessir, I'll do it. Oh no, none of that," he said, firmly,
putting back some offering in Mr. Wyville's hand; "I'm in your debt,
sir; I was a'most going to make a fool of myself with that bar'l. I'm
obliged to you, sir, and I'll do this all the better for remembering of
your kindness."

Mr. Wyville took a friendly leave of good-natured Officer Lodge, and
returned to Liverpool by the next train. Arrived there, he did not
proceed straight to his hotel, but drove to the city penitentiary, where
he repeated his inquiries about Harriet Draper; but he only learned that
she had been discharged eight months before.

Neither police nor prison books could give him further information.
Disappointed and saddened, next day he returned to London.



MR. HAGGETT.

SISTER CECILIA visited Alice Walmsley every day for several weeks, until
the happy change in the latter's life had grown out of its strangeness.
Their intercourse had become a close and silent communion.

For the first month or so the kind and wise little nun had conversed on
anything that chanced for a topic; but afterwards they developed the
silent system--and it was the better of the two.

Sister Cecilia used to enter with a cheery smile, which Alice returned.
Then Sister Cecilia would throw crumbs on the sill for the sparrows,
Alice watching her, still smiling. Then the little Sister would seat
herself on the pallet and take out her rosary, and smilingly shake her
finger at Alice, as if to say--

"Now, Alice, be a good girl, and don't disturb me."

And Alice, made happy by the sweet companionship, would settle to her
sewing, hearing the birds twitter and chirp, and seeing the golden
sunlight pour through the bars into her cell.

Sister Cecilia had a great many prayers to say every day, and she made a
rule of saying the whole of them in Alice's cell.

The change in Alice's life became known to all the officials in the
prison, and a general interest was awakened in the visits of the good
Sister, to her cell. From the governor down to the lowest female warder,
the incident was a source of pleasure, and a subject of everyday
comment.

But there was one official who beheld all this with displeasure and
daily increasing distrust. This was Mr. Haggett, the Scripture-reader of
the prison.

Into the hands of Mr. Haggett had been given the spiritual welfare of
all the convicts in Millbank of every creed Christian, Turk, and Jew.

It was a heavy responsibility; but Mr. Haggett felt himself equal to the
task. It would be wrong to lay blame for the choice of such a teacher on
any particular creed. He had been selected and appointed by Sir Joshua
Hobb, whose special views of religious influence he was to carry out.
Mr. Haggett was a tall man, with a highly respectable air. He had
whiskers brushed outward till they stood from his lank cheeks like
paint-brushes; and he wore a long square-cut brown coat. He had an air
of formal superiority. His voice was cavernous and sonorous. If he only
said "Good-morning" he said it with a patronizing smile, as if
conscious of a superior moral nature; and his voice sounded solemnly
deep.

One would have known him in the street as a man of immense religious
weight and godly assumption, by the very compression of his lips. These
were his strong features, even more forcible than the rigid
respectability of his whiskers, or the grave sanctity of his voice. His
lips were not exactly coarse or thick; they were large, even to
bagginess. His mouth was wide, and his teeth were long; but there was
enough lip to cover up the whole, and still more enough left to fold
afterwards into consciously pious lines around the mouth.

When Mr. Haggett was praying, he closed his eyes, and in a solemnly
sonorous key began a personal interview with the Almighty. While he was
informing God, with many deep "Thou knowests," his lips were in full
play; every reef was shaken out, so to speak. But when Mr. Haggett was
instructing a prisoner, he moved only the smallest portion of labial
tissue that could serve to impress the unfortunate with his own
unworthiness and Mr. Haggett's exalted virtue and importance.

Mr. Haggett visited the cells for four hours every day, taking regular
rounds, and prayed with and instructed the prisoners. He never
sympathized with them nor pretended to, and, of course, he never had
their confidence--except the sham confidence and contrition of sortie
second-timers, who wanted a recommendation for a pardon.

There was another official who made regular rounds, with about the same
intervals of time as Mr. Haggett. This was [...] the searcher and
fumigator--a warder who searched the cells for concealed implements, and
fumigated with some chemical the crevices and joints to keep them
wholesomely clean. When a prisoner had a visit from the searcher and
fumigator, he knew that Mr. Haggett would be around soon.

The sense of duty in the two officials was very much alike under the
surface; and it would have saved expense and time had Mr. Haggett
carried, besides his Bible, the little bellows and probe of the
fumigator--if he had been, in fact, the searcher and fumigator of both
cells and souls.

Mr. Haggett had observed, with horror, the visits of the Popish nun to
the cell of a prisoner whom he knew to be a Protestant. Though he never
had had anything to say to Number Four, and never had prayed with her
for five years, he now deemed her one of those specially confided to his
care. He was shocked to the centre when first he saw the white-capped
nun sitting in the cell, with a rosary in her hands.

Mr. Haggett would have complained at once, but he did not like the
governor. He had been insulted--he felt he had--by the governor, who never
met him but be asked the same impertinent question: "Well, Mr. Haggett,
got your regular commission in the ministry yet?"

Mr. Haggett was in hopes of becoming, some day, a regular minister of
the Established Church. He was "studying for it," he said; and his long
experience in the prison would tell in his favour. But the years had
flown, and he had not secured the reverend title he so ardently coveted.
The Lords Bishops were not favourably impressed by Mr. Haggett's
acquirements or qualities.

The daily presence of the nun in one of his cells goaded him to
desperation. He stopped one day at the door of Number Four, and, in his
deepest chest-tones, with a smile that drew heavily on the labial reefs,
addressed the Sister--

"Is this prisoner a Rom--ah--one of your persuasion, madam?"

"No, sir," said the little Sister, with a kind smile at Alice; "I wish
she were."

"Hah !--Why, madam, do you visit a prisoner who is not of your
persuasion?"

"Because no one else visited her," said Sister Cecilia, looking at Mr.
Haggett with rather a startled air, "and she needed someone."

"Madam, I wish to pray with this prisoner this morning, and ah-ah-I will
thank you to leave this cell."

The work dropped from Alice's hands, and a wild look came into her eyes.
First, she stared at Mr. Haggett, as if she did not understand. From his
uninviting face, now flushed somewhat, and working as if the godly man
were in a passion, she turned, with a mute appeal, to Sister Cecilia.

The nun had risen, startled, but not confused, at the unexpected
harshness of the tone, rather than the words. She realized at once that
Mr. Haggett, who had never before addressed her, nor noticed her
presence, had power to expel her from Alice's cell, and forbid her
entrance in future.

She determined on the moment to make an effort for Alice's sake.

"This prisoner is to be my hospital assistant on the convict ship," said
Sister Cecilia to Mr. Haggett.

"Madam!" said Mr. Haggett, harshly, and there was a movement of his foot
as if he would have stamped his order; "I wish to pray with this
prisoner!"

He motioned commandingly with his hand, ordering the nun from the cell.

Sister Cecilia took a step towards the door, rather alarmed at the man's
violence, but filled with keen sorrow for poor Alice.

The rude finger of the angry Scripture-reader still pointed from the
cell. Sister Cecilia had taken one step outward, when Alice Walmsley
darted past her, and stood facing Mr. Haggett, her left hand reached
behind her with spread fingers, as if forbidding the nun, to depart.

"Begone!" she cried to Haggett, "How dare you come here? I do not want
your prayers."

Mr. Haggett grew livid with passion at this insult from a prisoner. He
had, perhaps, cherished a secret dislike of Alice for her old rebellion
against his influence. He glared at her a moment in silent fury, while
his great lips curved into their tightest reefs, showing the full line
of his long teeth.

But he did not answer her. He looked over her, into the cell, where
Sister Cecilia stood affrighted. He reached his long arm towards her,
and still commanded her from the cell, with a hand trembling with wrath.
He would settle with the recalcitrant convict when this strange ally and
witness had departed.

"Come out!" motioned the lips of the wrathful Scripture reader, while
his long finger crooked, as if it were a hook to draw her forth.

At this moment, a key rattled in the door at the end of the corridor,
and there entered the passage Sir Joshua Hobb, Mr. Wyville, and the
governor, followed by the two warders of the pentagon. The gentlemen
were evidently on a tour of inspection. When they had come to the cell
of Number Four, they stood in astonishment at the scene.

Alice Walmsley, hitherto so submissive and silent, was aroused into
feverish excitement. She stood facing Mr. Haggett, and, as the others
approached, she turned to them wildly.

"How dare this man interfere with me?" she cried. "I will not allow him
to come near me. I will not have his prayers. I--"

"Be calm, child!" said Mr. Wyville, whom she had never before seen. His
impressive and kind face and tone instantly affected the prisoner. Her
hands fell to her sides.

"Lock that cell." said Sir Joshua Hobb, in a hard, quick voice. "This
prisoner must be brought to her senses."

Alice was again defiant in an instant.

"Tell this man to begone!" she excitedly demanded.

"Come out!" hissed Mr. Haggett, grimly stretching his neck towards
Sister Cecilia, and still bending his lean finger like a hook.

"She shall not go out!" cried Alice, in a frenzy.

It seemed to her as if they were tearing something dearer than life from
her. She dashed the hooked hand of the Biblereader aside, bruising it
against the iron door.

"Warders!" shouted Sir Joshua Hobb, "take this woman to the refractory
cells. She shall remain in the dark till she obeys the rules. Take her
away!"

The warders approached Alice, who now stood in the doorway. She had
turned her agonized face as she felt Sister Cecilia's hand laid upon her
shoulder, and her breast heaved convulsively.

As the warders seized her arms, she started with pitiful alarm, and
shuddered.

"Stop!" cried a deep voice, resonant with command. Mr. Wyville had
spoken.

"Release the prisoner!"

Every eye was turned on him. Even Alice's excitement was subdued by the
power of the strange interruption. The Scripture-reader was the first to
come to words. He addressed the governor.

"Who is this, who countermands the order of the Chief Director?"

Before the governor could answer, Sir Joshua Hobb spoke.

"This is insolence, sir! My order shall be obeyed."

"It shall not," said Mr. Wyville, calmly, and walking to the cell door.

"By what authority do you dare interfere?" demanded Sir Joshua Hobb.

"By this!" said Mr. Wyville, handing him a paper.

The enraged Chief Director took the document, and glanced at the
signature.

"Bah!" he shouted. "This Ministry is dead. This is waste paper. Out of
the way, sir!"

"Stay!" said Mr. Wyville, taking from his breast a small case, from
which he drew a folded paper, like a piece of vellum, which he handed to
the governor of the prison.

"This, then, is my authority."

The prompt old major took the paper, read it, and then, still holding it
before him, raised his hat as if in military salute.

"Your authority is the first, sir," he said, decisively and
respectfully, to Mr. Wyville.

"I demand to see that paper!" cried the Chief Director.

The governor handed it to him, and he read it through, his rage rapidly
changing into a stare of blank amazement and dismay.

"I beg, you to forgive me, sir," he said at length in a low tone. "It
would have been for the benefit of discipline, however, had I known of
this before."

"That is true, sir," answered Mr. Wyville, "and had there been time for
explanation, you should have known my right before I had used it."

"You have shaken my official authority, sir," said Sir Joshua, still
expostulatory.

"I am very sorry," answered Mr. Wyville; "but another moment's delay and
this prisoner might have been driven to madness. Authority must not
forget humanity."

"Authority is paramount, sir," humbly responded Sir Joshua, handing the
potent paper to Mr. Wyville; "allow me to take my leave."

The humiliated Chief Director walked quickly from the corridor.

Mr. Wyville turned to the cell, and met the brimming eyes of the
prisoner, the eloquent gratitude of the look touching him to the heart.
He smiled with ineffable kindness, and with an almost imperceptible
motion of the hand requested Sister Cecilia to remain and give comfort.

Mr. Haggett still remained in the entry, hungrily watching the cell. Mr.
Wyville passed in front of the door, and turning, looked straight in his
face. The discomfited Scripture reader started as if he had received an
electric shock. He was dismayed at the power of this strange man.

"You have passed this door with your prayers for five years, sir," said
Mr. Wyville; "you will please to continue your inattention."

"The prisoner is not a Roman--" Haggett began, with shaken tones.

The hand of the soldierly old governor fell sharply, twice, on his
shoulder. He looked round. The governor's finger was pointed straight
down the passage, and his eye sternly ordered Mr. Haggett in the same
direction. He hitched the sacred volume under his arm, and without a
sound followed the footsteps of Sir Joshua.

His eager eyes had been denied a sight of the mysterious document; but
his heart, or other organs, infallibly told him that he and his chief
were routed beyond hope of recovery.



TWO HEADS AGAINST ONE.

SIR JOSHUA HOBB sat in his Department Office in Parliament street, with
every sign of perplexity and rage in his face and attitude. His contest
of authority with the unknown and mysterious man had fairly crushed him.
In the face of the officials whom he had trained to regard his word as
the utterance of Power itself, never to be questioned nor disobeyed, he
had been challenged, commanded, degraded. It was a bitter draught; and
what if he had only taken the first sickening mouthful?

He was interrupted in his morose reflections by the entrance of Mr.
Haggett, whose air was almost as dejected as his superior's.

Haggett stood silently at the door, looking at the great man, somewhat
as a spaniel might look at its master. The spare curtain of his lip was
folded into leathery wrinkles round his capacious mouth.

"Haggett," said Sir Joshua, turning wearily to the fire, "who the devil
is this man?"

"He's a rich Australian--" began Haggett, in a confidential voice.

"Ass!" said the Chief Director, without looking at him.

Mr. Haggett, returning not even a glance of resentment, accepted the
correction, and remained silent.

"Haggett," said Sir Joshua, after a pause, during which he had stared
into the fire, when does the convict ship sail?"

"In two weeks, sir."

"I want you to go to West Australia on that ship, Haggett."

"I, Sir Joshua? Leave London? I shall be ordained this year. I shall--"

"Pshaw! I want you, man. No one else will do. You can attend to private
matters on your return. I shall personally assist you with my
influence."

"Well, Sir Joshua?"

"No one else can do it, Haggett."

"What is to be done, sir?"

"I want to know all that is to be known in West Australia about this
Wyville."

"Do you suspect anything, sir?" asked Mr. Haggett.

"No; I have no reason either for suspicion or belief. I know absolutely
nothing about the man, nor can I find any one who does."

"And yet that commission--"

"Yes, that was a disappointment. In one or two cases I have heard of the
same high influence, given in the same secret manner."

"Were the other holders mysterious, too?" asked Haggett, reflectively,
folding and unfolding his facial hangings.

"They were all cases in which philanthropists might meet with opposition
from officials; and this strange but unquestionable power was given as a
kind of private commission."

"It strikes down all the rules--"

"Yes, Yes," interrupted Sir Joshua, striking the coal with the tongs;
"but there it is. It must be acknowledged without question."

"Have you no clue to the reason for which this special authority was
given to him?" asked Haggett.

"I have not thought of it; but I am not surprised. This man, as you
know, has reformed the Indian Penal System at the Andaman Islands,
expending immense sums of his own money to carry out the change.
Afterwards, he was received by the French Emperor as an authority on the
treatment of crime, and had much to do with their new transportation
scheme. A man with this record, accepted by the Prime Minister, was just
the person to be specially commissioned by the Queen."

"He is young to be so very wealthy," mused Haggett.

"Yes, that is mysterious; no one knows the source of his wealth. This is
your mission: find out all about him, and report to me by mail within
six months."

"Then I am really to go to Australia?" said Haggett, with a doleful
aspect.

"Yes, Haggett; there's no other way. Inquiry into mysterious men's lives
is always worth the trouble. You may learn nothing, but--it had better be
done."

"Well, Sir Joshua, I want a favour from you in return."

"What is it? You shall have it, if it he in my power."

"Send that prisoner, Number Four, on the ship; but countermand the order
for the Papist nun."

"You want the nun to remain?"

"Yes, Sir; they ought to be separated. This Wyville takes a great
interest in Number Four. It was he that sent the nun to her."

"Certainly, Haggett; it shall be done. Stay, let me write the order
now."

"Thank you, Sir Joshua," said Haggett, rubbing his hands. "There, take
that to the Governor of Millbank. Number Four shall be sent with the
first batch to the ship. The nun is to remain."

Mr. Haggett departed, and as he walked down Parliament street, glancing
furtively around to see that he was unobserved, he smiled to the
uttermost reef.



FEMALE TRANSPORTS.

THE morning arrived for the convict ship to sail, and the last chains of
male prisoners were mustered in the prison yard of Millbank, ready to be
marched to the train, for embarkation on the convict ship at Portland.

In one of the Pentagonal yards stood the female prisoners, fifty in
number. They whispered covertly to each other, enjoying for the first
time for years the words that were not orders, and the faces that were
not cold.

"What is your name?"

"How long have you served?"

"What nice hair you have!"

"Will they cut off our hair again in Australia?"

"Were you lagged before?"

"That one there, with the red mark on her cheek, was sentenced to be
hung."

"This is my second time."

These were the words that might be heard in the ranks--short sentences,
full of direct meaning, such as are always spoken when formality is
absent, and curiosity is excited.

The male chains having been inspected by the governor, who was
accompanied by Mr. Wyville, had marched from the prison to the railway
station.

Four great waggons or tumbrils rolled into the yard, to carry away the
female convicts. Before they entered the waggons, the governor addressed
the women, telling them that their good conduct in prison had earned
this change; that their life in the new country to which they were going
would be one of opportunity; that their past was all behind them, and a
fair field before them to work out honest and happy lives.

Many of the prisoners sobbed bitterly as the kind governor spoke. Hope,
indeed, was bright before them; but they were parting from all that they
had ever loved; they would never more see the face of father or mother,
brother or sister; they would never more see an English field or an
English flower. Their lives had been shattered and shameful; but the
moment of parting from every association of youth was the more
embittered, perhaps, by the thought of their unworthiness.

When the governor had spoken, they entered the tumbrils, and the guards
fell in. The old governor raised his hat. He was deeply affected at the
scene, common though it must have been to him.

"Good-bye, and God bless you all in your new life!" he said.

The driver of the front tumbril looked round, to see that all was ready
before starting his horses.

"Wait," said a tall man, who was rapidly and eagerly scanning the faces
of the women, as he passed from waggon to waggon; "there's a mistake
here."

"What is the matter there?" shouted the governor.

"There is one prisoner absent, Sir," said the tall man, who was Mr.
Haggett; "one prisoner absent who was ordered for this ship."

"What prisoner?" asked the governor.

"Number Four."

"Start up your horses," shouted the governor; and the first tumbril
lumbered out of the yard.

The governor was looking at Mr. Haggett, who stood beside the last
waggon, his face a study of rage and disappointment.

"That prisoner was specially ordered for this ship," he repeated. "Sir
Joshua Hobb wrote the order with his own hand."

"He has countermanded it," said the governor, curtly.

"When?" asked Haggett.

"Two hours ago," said the governor. "The prisoner will remain in
Millbank."

Mr. Haggett looked his baffled malevolence at the governor, who paid no
heed to the glance. Mr. Wyville stood close to him; but Haggett never
met his eye during the scene. As he departed, however, in passing him,
he raised his eyes for an instant to Mr. Wyville's face and said--

"I am going to West Australia. I shall soon return."

Mr. Wyville's face might have been of marble, so absolutely unconscious
did he seem of the presence or words of Haggett.

The tumbrils rolled from the yard with their strange freight, and Mr.
Haggett strode from the prison. He stood on the poop of the transport as
she sailed from Portland that afternoon.

More than once that day did Haggett's words repeat themselves like a
threat in Mr. Wyville's mind; and when all was silent in sleeping London
that night, he arose from the study table at which he wrote, and paced
the room in sombre thought. His mind was reasoning with itself and at
last the happier side conquered. He stopped his tireless walk, and
smiled; but it was a sad smile.

"Poor children!" he murmured; "what would become of them here? I must
instruct Tapairu, and--and then," he said, looking reverently upward
through the night, "Thy will be done."



AFTER NINE YEARS.

So the state of Alice Walmsley was not changed by the zeal of Mr.
Haggett, indeed, no change had resulted from it except the increased
hatred of the Chief Director for Mr. Wyville, and the sleuth-dog errand
on which Haggett had sailed for Australia.

Alice did not know nor think of the causes that had kept her from
transportation. One day she was quietly informed by the warder that the
ship had sailed. She hardly knew whether to be glad or sorry, for her
own sake; but of late she had not been quite alone in the world. Her
eyes filled with tears, and she clasped her hands before her.

"You are sorry, Number Four," said the warder.

"She was so good--she made me so happy," answered Alice, with streaming
eyes.

"Who?"

"Sister Cecilia."

"She has not gone," said the warder, smiling; "see, she is coming here.
Good day, Sister; somebody was crying for you."

The joy of Alice was unbounded, as she held the serge dress of Sister
Cecilia, and looked in her kind and pleasant face. The change in Alice's
character was more marked in this scene than in any circumstance since
the gleam of the flower had caught her eye in the cell. The strong will
seemed to have departed; the self-reliance, born of wrong and anguish,
had disappeared; she was a simple and impulsive girl again.

Between the innocent happiness of her young life and the fresh
tenderness now springing in her heart, there lay an awful gulf of sorrow
and despair. But she was on the high bank--she looked across the gloom
and saw the sunny fields beyond, and, as she looked, the far shore drew
nearer to her, and the dismal strait between grew narrower.

"Alice," said Sister Cecilia, gravely, when the happy greeting was over,
"it is now time that something were done for your release."

The light faded from Alice's face, and after a long look, full of
sadness, at the Sister, she bent her face into her hands, remaining
silent.

"Would you not like to be free, Alice?"

"I am happy here--I do not think of it--why do you ask me?" she said,
wistfully.

"Because it is not right that an innocent person should remain here.
Tell me the whole sad story, child, and let me see what can be done."

"O, Sister Cecilia, I cannot--I cannot!" sobbed Alice.

"O, do not ask me--do not make me think of my sweet little baby--I cannot
think of it dead--indeed, I cannot speak of that!"

"Alice," said the nun, "your baby is with God, saved from the stains and
sorrows of life. This woman," and the voice of Sister Cecilia grew
almost severe, "this terrible woman--I have heard that she is a bad and
wretched woman, Alice--deserves nothing from you but justice. God demands
justice to ourselves as well as to others."

"I cannot accuse her," answered Alice, in a low voice, gradually
returning to its old firmness. "She has suffered more than I--God pardon
her! And I know that she suffered first."

"Well, poor child," said the nun, deeply affected, "we must ask for a
pardon, then, for you."

Alice arose from her low seat, and stood before the window, looking
upward, with her hands clasped before her--an attitude grown familiar to
her of late.

"My dead mother knows I am innocent of crime," she said slowly, as if
speaking to her own heart; "no one else knows it, though some may
believe it. I cannot be pardoned for a crime I have not committed. That
were to accept the crime. I shall not accuse her, though my own word
should set me free. Do not ask me to speak of it any more, Sister
Cecilia. I shall remain here--and I shall be happier here."

Sister Cecilia dropped the subject, and never returned to it again. From
that day she treated Alice Walmsley in another manner than of old. She
spoke with her of all the crosses that came in her path, either to
herself or others. By this means the latent sympathies of Alice were
touched and exercised. She entered with interest into every story of the
sorrow or suffering of the unfortunate, related to her by the kind
little Sister.

In this communion, which, if not happy, was at least peaceful, the
months grew into years, and the years followed each other, until four
summers more had passed through Alice's cell.

During those years she had developed her true nature, saddened though it
was by her surroundings. It seemed that her youth had been too
thoughtless, too unstable, too happy, even to indicate her future. That
bright girlhood was the rich fallow ground. The five dark years of her
agony and unbelief were the season of ploughing and harrowing the
fertile soil and sowing the fruitful seed. The four years of succeeding
peace were the springtime and the early summer of her full life, during
which the strong shoots grew forward towards the harvest of ripe
womanhood.

Towards the end of these four years a word of change came to her
cell--she was once more selected among the fifty female prisoners to be
sent on the annual convict ship to west Australia.

It was during the preparation for this voyage that Will Sheridan
returned, a rich man, to find the shattered pieces of his love and
happiness. It was during one of these quiet days within Alice's cell
that he without had wandered through London, a heart-stricken man,
vainly seeking for interest in the picture galleries and churches. It
was during one of these peaceful nights within the cell that he,
without, led by the magnetism of strong love, found himself beneath the
gloomy walls of Millbank, round which he wandered through the night, and
which he could not leave until he had pressed his feverish lips against
the icy stone of the prison.

On the day when William Sheridan at last stood before the door of Alice
Walmsley's cell, and read her beloved name on the card, she sat within,
patiently sewing the coarse cloth of her transport dress. When the door
opened, and his yearning sight was blessed with that which it had longed
for, she stood before him, calm and white and beautiful, with downcast
eyes, according to her own modesty and the prison discipline.

When he passed her door a few weeks later, and saw within the
sweet-faced Sister Cecilia, and heard, after so many years, the voice of
her he loved, in one short sentence, which sent him away very happy, she
dreamt not that a loving heart had drunk up her words as a parched field
drinks the refreshing rain.

So strong and so futile are the outreachings of the soul. They must be
mutual, or they are impotent and vain. Reciprocal, they draw together
through the density of a planet. Single, the one reaches for the other
weakly, as a shadow touches the precipice, hopelessly as death.

That which we desire, we may feel; but that which we neither know nor
think, might just as well be non-existent.




BOOK FOUR - THE CONVICT SHIP.



THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE.

"Mr. Sheridan is to go before the Committee to-day, is he not?" asked
Lord Somers, the Colonial Secretary, as he sat writing in Mr. Wyville's
study, with Sheridan reading the Times by the window, and Hamerton
lounging in an easy-chair.

"What Committee?" asked Hamerton, heedlessly.

"The Committee appointed to hear Sir Joshua Hobb's argument against our
Penal Bill," said the Secretary, as he continued to write.

"Does Sheridan know anything about prisons?" drawled Hamerton.

"He knows something about Australia and the men we send there," said the
Secretary.

"Well--Hobb doesn't. Hobb is a humbug. What does he want?"

"To control the Australian Penal System from Parliament Street, and,
instead of Mr. Wyville's humane bill, to apply his own system to the
penal colony."

"What do you think of that, Mr. Sheridan?" asked Hamerton, without
raising his head from the cushion.

That it would be folly before Mr. Wyville's bill was drawn--and criminal
afterwards."

"Bravo!" said Hamerton, sitting straight; "bravo, Australia! Go before
the Committee, by all means, and talk just in that tone. When do they
sit?"

"In an hour," said Lord Somers. "We are only waiting for Mr. Wyville,
and then we go to the House."

"May I go?" asked Hamerton.

"Certainly," said the Secretary. "You may get a chapter for a novel, or
a leader for the Telegraph."

Mr. Wyville soon after entered, and the merits of the opposing bills
were freely discussed for a quarter of an hour. At length Lord Somers
said it was time to start, and they proceeded on foot towards the
Parliament House, Lord Somers and Hamerton leading, and Mr. Wyville and
Sheridan following.

On the way Mr. Wyville led his companion to speak of the sandalwood
trade, and seemed to be much interested in its details. At one point he
interrupted Sheridan, who was describing the precipitous outer ridge of
the Iron-stone Hills.

"Your teams have to follow the winding foot of this precipice for many
miles, have they not?" he asked.

"For thirty-two miles," answered Sheridan.

"Which, of course, adds much to the expense of shipping the sandalwood?"

"Adds very seriously, indeed, for the best sandalwood lies back within
the bend; so that our teams, having turned the farther flank of the
hills, must return and proceed nearly thirty miles back towards the
shore."

"Suppose it were possible to throw a chain slide from the brow of the
Blackwood Head, near Bunbury, to a point on the plain--what would that
save?"

"Just fifty miles of teaming," answered Sheridan, looking at Wyville in
surprise. "But such a chain--could never be forged."

"The Americans have made slides for wood nearly as long," said Mr.
Wyville.

Five ships could not carry enough chain from England for such a slide."

"Forge it on the spot," said Mr. Wyville. "The very hills can be smelted
into metal. I have had this in mind for some years, Mr. Sheridan, and I
mean to attempt the work when we return. It will employ all the idle men
in the colony."

Sheridan was surprised beyond words to find Mr. Wyville so familiar with
the very scenes of his own labour. He hardly knew what to say about
Wyville's personal interest in a district which the Sandalwood Company
had marked off and claimed as their property by right of possession,
though they had neglected Sheridan's advice to buy or lease the land
from the Government.

The conversation ceased as they entered the House of Commons, and
proceeded to the committee room, where sat Sir Joshua Hobb at a table,
turning over a pile of documents, and beside him, pen in hand, Mr.
Haggett, who took in a reef of lip as Mr. Wyville and Sheridan entered.

Since Haggett's return from Australia, three years before, he had
adopted a peculiar manner towards Mr. Wyville. He treated him with
respect, perhaps because he feared him; but when he could observe him
without himself being seen, be never tired of looking at him, as if he
were intently solving a problem, and hoped to read its deepest meaning
in some possible expression of Mr. Wyville's face.

On the large table lay a map of the penal colony of West Australia.

The Committee consisted of five average M.P.'s, three country gentlemen,
who had not the remotest knowledge of penal systems, nor of any other
than systems of drainage; and two lawyers, who asked all the questions,
and pretended to understand the whole subject.

The Committee treated Sir Joshua Hobb, K.C.B., as a most distinguished
personage, whose every word possessed particular gravity and value. He
delivered a set speech against lenience to prisoners, and made a deep
impression on the Committee. He was about to sit down, when Mr. Haggett
laid a folded paper beside his hand. Sir Joshua glanced at the document,
and resumed, in a convincing tone--

"Here, gentlemen," he said, touching the paper repeatedly with his
finger, "here is an instance of the sentimental method, and its effect
on a desperate criminal--and all those who are sent to Australia are
desperate. Twenty years ago, a young man was convicted at York Assizes,
for poaching. It was during a time of business depression; the
capitalists and employers had closed their works, and locked out their
hands. Nothing else could be done--men cannot risk their money when
markets are falling. During this time, the deer in Lord Scarborough's
park had been killed by the score, and a close watch was set. This man
was caught in the night, carrying a deer on his shoulders from the park.
He made a violent resistance, striking one of the keepers a terrible
blow that felled him to the earth, senseless. The poacher was
overpowered, however, and sent to prison until the Assizes. At his trial
he pleaded defiantly that he had a right to the deer; that thousands
were starving to death--men, women, and children--in the streets of the
town; and that God had given no man the right to herd hundreds of
useless deer while human beings were dying of hunger. The ignorant and
dangerous people who heard him cheered wildly in the court at this
lawless speech. Gentlemen, this poacher was a desperate radical--a
Chartist, no doubt--who ought to have been severely treated. But the
judge looked leniently on the case, because it was proved that the
poacher's own mother and sisters were starving. The prisoner got off
with one month's imprisonment. What was the result of this mildness? At
the very next Assizes the same judge tried the same prisoner for a
similar crime, and the audacious villain made the same defence.

"If it were a light crime six months ago," he said to the mistaken
judge, "it is no heavier now, for the cause remains."

Well, he was sentenced to ten years' penal servitude, and was
transported to West Australia. After serving some years there, the
lenient system again came in, and he was hired out to a settler, a
respectable man, though an ex-convict. Some time afterwards, the violent
Chartist attempted to murder his employer, and then escaped into the
bush. He was captured, but escaped again, and was again re-captured by
the very man he had tried to murder. Mark the dreadful ending,
gentlemen, to this series of mistaken lenities to a criminal. On their
way to the prison, the absconder broke his manacles, seized a pistol
from a native policeman, murdered his brave captor, and escaped again to
the bush."

"God bless me! what a shocking story!" said one of the Committee.

"Was the fellow captured again?" asked one of the lawyers.

"No," said Sir Joshua; "he escaped to the swamps. But there is a rumour
among the convicts that he is still alive. Is there not, Mr. Haggett?"

Mr. Haggett bent his head in assent. Then he rubbed his forehead and
eyes, as if relieved of a strain. He had been watching the face of Mr.
Wyville with painful eagerness as Sir Joshua spoke; but in that
impassive visage no line of meaning to Haggett's eyes could be traced.

Sir Joshua sat down, confident that he could depend on the Committee for
a report in his favour.

"Is there actual evidence that this convict of whom you spoke murdered
his captor?"

Mr. Wyville addressed Sir Joshua Hobb, standing at the end of the long
green table. There was nothing in the words, but every one in the room
felt a thrill at the deep sound of the resonant voice.

The Committee, who had not looked at Mr. Wyville before, stared at him
now in undisguised surprise. He was strangely powerful as he stood there
alone, looking calmly at Sir Joshua for an answer.

"Evidence? Certainly, there is evidence. The brave settler who captured
the malefactor disappeared; and the bushman from whom the convict seized
the pistol saw him point it at the head of his captor. Is not that
evidence enough?"

"Not for a court of justice," quietly answered Mr. Wyville.

"Sir," said Sir Joshua Hobb, superciliously, "it may not appeal to
sentimental judgments; but it carries conviction to reasonable minds."

"It should not--for it is not true!" said Mr. Wyville, his tone somewhat
deepened with earnestness.

Sir Joshua Hobb started angrily to his feet. He glared at Mr. Wyville.

"Do you know it to be false?" he sternly asked.

"Yes!"

"How do you know?"

"I, myself, saw the death of this man that you say was murdered."

"You saw his death!" said in one breath Sir Joshua and the Committee.

"Yes. He accepted a bribe from the man he had captured, and released
him. I saw this settler afterwards die of thirst on the plains--I came
upon him by accident--he died before my eyes, alone--and he was not
murdered."

Sir Joshua Hobb sat down, and twisted nervously on his seat. Mr. Haggett
looked frightened, as if he had introduced an unfortunate subject for
his master's use. He wrote on a slip of paper, and handed it to Sir
Joshua, who read, and then turned to Mr. Wyville.

"What was the name of the man you saw die?" he asked.

"Isaac Bowman," answered Mr. Wyville.

Both Sir Joshua and Mr. Haggett settled down in their seats, having no
more to say or suggest.

"You have lived a long time in West Australia, Mr. Wyville?" asked one
of the lawyers of the Committee, after a surprised pause.

"Many years."

"You are the owner of property in the colony?"

"Yes."

Sir Joshua Hobb pricked up his ears, and turned sharply on his chair,
with an insolent stare.

"Where does your property lie?" he asked.

"In the Vasse district," answered Mr. Wyville.

"Here is a map of West Australia," said Sir Joshua Hobb, with an
overbearing air; "will you be kind enough to point out to the Committee
the location of your possessions?"

There was obviously so malevolent a meaning in Sir Joshua Hobb's
request, that the whole Committee and the gentlemen present stood up to
watch the map, expecting Mr. Wyville to approach. But he did not move.

"My boundaries are easily traced," he said, from his place at the end of
the table; "the northern and southern limits are the 33rd and the 34th
parallels of latitude, and the eastern and western boundaries are the
115th and 116th of longitude."

One of the Committee followed with his finger the amazing outline, after
Mr. Wyville had spoken. There was deep silence for a time, followed by
long breaths of surprise.

"All the land within those lines is your--estate?" diffidently asked one
of the country gentlemen.

Mr. Wyville gravely bowed.

"Estate!" said one of the lawyers in a low tone, when he had summed up
the extent in square miles; "it is a Principality!"

"From whom did you purchase this land?" asked Sir Joshua, but in an
altered tone.

"From the Queen!" said Mr. Wyville, without moving a muscle of his
impressive face.

"Directly from Her Majesty?"

"I received my deeds through the Colonial Office," answered Mr. Wyville,
with a quiet motion of the hand towards Lord Somers.

The Colonial Secretary, seeing the eyes of all present turned upon him,
bowed to the Committee in corroboration.

"The deeds of Mr. Wyville's estate, outlined as he has: stated, passed
through the Colonial Office, directly from Her Majesty the Queen," said
Lord Somers, in a formal manner.

The Committee sat silent for several moments, evidently dazed at the
unexpected issue of their investigations. Mr. Wyville was the first to
speak.

"I ask to have those prison records corrected, and at once, Sir Joshua
Hobb," he said slowly. "It must not stand that the convict of whom you
spoke was a murderer."

"By all means. Have the records corrected immediately," said the
Committee, who began to look askance at Sir Joshua Hobb.

Mr. Wyville then addressed the Committee, in favour of the new and
humane penal bill. Whether it was his arguments, or the remembrance of
his princely estate, that worked in his favour, certain it was that when
he had concluded the Committee was unanimously in his favour.

"Mr. Wyville," said the chairman, before they adjourned, "we are of one
mind-that the Bill reported by the Government should be adopted by the
House; and we shall so report. Good-day, gentlemen."

Sir Joshua Hobb rapidly withdrew, coldly bowing. He was closely followed
by Haggett.

Lord Somers, Hamerton, and Mr. Wyville were speaking together, while
Sheridan, who was attentively studying the map, suddenly startled the
others by an excited exclamation.

"Hello!" said Hamerton, "has Sir Joshua dropped a hornet for you, too?"

"Mr. Wyville, this is terrible," cried Sheridan, strangely moved. "Those
lines of your property cover every acre of our sandalwood land!"

"Ah-ha!" ejaculated Hamerton.

"I thought this land was ours," continued Sheridan, in great distress of
mind. "How long has it been yours?"

"Ten years," said Mr. Wyville.

Sheridan sank nerveless into a seat. The strong frame that could brave
and bear the severest strains of labour and care, was subdued in one
instant by this overwhelming discovery.

He had been cutting sandalwood for nine years on this man's land. Every
farthing he had made for his company and himself belonged in common
honesty to another!

Mr. Wyville, who was not surprised, but had evidently expected this
moment, walked over to Sheridan, and laid a strong hand on his shoulder,
expressing more kindness and affection in the manly force and silence of
the act than could possibly have been spoken in words. Sheridan felt the
impulse precisely as it was meant.

"The land was yours," Mr. Wyville said, after a pause; "for I had made
no claim. I knew of your work, and I gave you no warning. According to
the law of the colony, and of acted right."

Sheridan's face brightened. To him personally his success had brought
little to covet; but he was sensitive to the core at the thought of
trouble and great loss to the Company, caused under his supervision.

"We return to Australia together, Mr. Sheridan," said Wyville, holding
out his hand; "and I think, somehow, we shall neither of us leave it
again. The vigour of your past life shall be as nothing to that which
the future shall evoke. Shall we not work together?"

Swift tears of pleasure rushed to Sheridan's eyes at the earnest and
unexpected words; and the look that passed between the two men as they
clasped hands was of brief but beautiful intensity.

"Well, Hamerton?" asked Lord Somers, smiling, as if astonished beyond
further speech.

"Well? What of it? I suppose you call this strange," said Hamerton.

"You don't?" asked the Secretary.

"No, I don't," said Hamerton, rising from his chair. "I call it utter
commonplace--for these Australians; the most prosaic set of events I have
yet seen them indulge in. I begin to realize the meaning of the
Antipodes: their common ways are our extraordinary ones--and they don't
seem to have any uncommon ones."



HARRIET DRAPER.

FOUR years had passed since Mr. Wyville's visit to Walton-le-Dale; and
he had heard no word of the woman he had then sought.

During this time the case of Alice Walmsley had grown to be a subject of
rare interest to this student of humanity. Scarcely a day had passed in
all that time that he had not devoted some moments to thinking, on the
innocent prisoner, and devising some allowable means of affording her
comfort and pleasure.

Perhaps the secret of his special observance of this case arose from the
fact that beneath the self-imposed suffering he beheld the golden idea.
To him this peaceful and silent adherence to a principle was a source of
constant interest.

In all those years, Alice Walmsley had never heard his name, and had
only once seen his interference. The memory of the strong dark face that
had then interposed to save her, and the look of kind compassion, were
treasured in her heart; but she knew no more than this. Sister Cecilia,
perhaps, would have told her who this powerful man was; but she shrank
from asking, and she never asked.

About a week after the event in the Committee Room, Mr. Wyville, sitting
with Sheridan and Hamerton in his study, received a letter, brought from
Scotland Yard by a policeman.

As usual with the group, when not conversing, Sheridan read, and
Hamerton lounged.

Mr. Wyville started from his seat with an exclamation, when he had read
the letter. He rarely betrayed even the slightest excitement; and Mr.
Hamerton would not have been more surprised had a bomb exploded under
the table than he was to see Mr. Wyville thrown off his balance so
unexpectedly and completely. Hamerton, however, had too profound a
respect for his friend to speak his astonishment.

"Thanks, kind and simple heart!" exclaimed Mr. Wyville, holding the
letter before him. "You have been faithful to your word for four years;
and you shall rejoice for it all your life!"

Then, recollecting himself, he smiled in his grave way and said--

"I have received long-expected news. I have found something I sought.
To-night, I must leave London for a few days; so I must say good-bye
now."

"Are you leaving England, too?" asked Hamerton.

"No; I go only to Lancashire--to a little village called Walton-le-Dale."
He turned to his desk, and was busily arranging his papers.

"Why, what's the matter, Sheridan? You are growing nervous of late."

"The name of the village took me by surprise, that is all," said Will.
He was going on to say that Walton was his native village; but the
entrance of Lord Somers temporarily changed the subject. Before it could
be resumed, Mr. Wyville had said "Good-bye," and the gentlemen took
their leave.

The letter which Mr. Wyville had received ran as follows:

"Sir,--The woman Harriet Draper, as was Samuel Draper's wife before he
married Alice Walmsley, has been arrested, for a dedly assawlt on
Draper's sister, and is at this present riteing in the lock-up of
Walton-le-Dale.--Your umbel servant,

"Benjamin Lodge, Police Officer."

Accompanied by his black servant, Mr. Wyville left London that evening;
and on the forenoon of the next day he stepped from the train at
Walton-le-Dale, and walked towards the police-station or lock-up.

It was a small stone building, containing, four rooms, two of which were
Officer Lodge's quarters; the third a court-room, with a dock or bar,
and a raised magistrate desk; and behind this, an opening room, with
barred windows, used as the lock-up.

Mr. Wyville pushed the outer door, and stepped at once into the
court-room, which was empty. He was about to withdraw, when a door on
the left opened, and Officer Lodge, quite unchanged in four years,
greeted Mr. Wyville, as if he had seen him only yesterday.

"She was out of horder bad, this time, sir; but I knew she'd turn up
some time."

"Many thanks, my friend," said Mr. Wyville; "I had almost concluded you
had forgotten."

Officer Lodge was a little hurt at this expression of doubt; but he was
quite too mild of temper for resentment.

"Where is the woman?" asked Mr. Wyville.

Officer Lodge pointed to the heavy door of the lock-up, with a grim
shake of the head. He sank his voice to a whisper.

"She's a bad 'un, she is--worse and worse hevery time. But now she's done
for."

"Done for?"

"Ay, she'll go this time, sir. Seven year at the least. She nearly
killed a woman, and she would have killed her altogether if she'd had
her way a minute longer."

"Tell me the facts," said Mr. Wyville.

"Well, sir, she were down near Draper's 'ouse all one day last week, and
she hacted queer. They came for me and told me, and I looked after her
all the hafternoon. But she were doing no harm to nobody. She only sat
on the roadside, looking at Draper's 'ouse. Towards evening she went
into Mrs. Walmsley's old 'ouse, wich is hopen, and she stayed there an
hour. Draper's sister, who was too curious, maybe, went up to the 'ouse,
to see what she were doing; and then it began. I heerd two voices, one
a' screaming and the tother swearing and when I ran to the spot, I sees
Harriet assaulting the woman, choking her and beating her head against
the stones. If I had been half a minute later, there would have been
murder."

"Does the prisoner speak to anyone?" asked Mr. Wyville.

"No; there's no one to speak to her but me; and she never hopens her
lips to me."

"Can I see her, and speak with her?"

"Yessir," said Officer Lodge "but be careful-she's not safe."

Officer Lodge carefully locked the outer door, and then approached the
lock-up. He knocked on the door heavily with the key, as if to rouse the
prisoner. No sound came from within. He turned the key in the lock, and
opened the door.

Mr. Wyville entered the lock-up, which was a room about twelve feet
square, with one window. A wooden bench ran round three sides of the
room, and in the farther comer, upon the bench, was something like a
heap of clothes.

It was the prisoner, who sat upon the bench, her back to the wall, her
knees drawn up, and her face sunk upon them. A tattered shawl covered
her, so that she presented the appearance of a heap of wretched clothes.

She did not move as the door opened, nor for a minute afterwards. But as
someone had entered, and the door had not been closed, she became aware
of the intrusion. She raised her head, and looked around on the floor,
slowly, till her glance fell on Mr. Wyville's feet. Then she raised her
eyes, till they rested on his face.

She seemed to have been in a sort of daze or waking dream. She did not
take her eyes away, but looked at the strange face before her as if she
were not yet awake.

She was a woeful wreck of womanhood. Her eyes had cavernous circles
around them, and her cheeks were sunken, as if with consuming disease.
Her hair, unkempt, was covered with the old shawl, but its straggling
locks fell across her forehead. As she looked at Mr. Wyville, some
remnant of womanly feeling stirred within her, and she raised a wasted
hand and pressed backward the tangled hair from each side of her face.

Wretched as she was, and lost, there was something beneath all the
stains that spoke of a face once comely and soft and loveable.

"Harriet Draper!" said Mr. Wyville, with unusual emotion in his deep
voice, and speaking in a subdued tone.

She moved uneasily at the name, and her large eyes grew fearfully
bright.

"Harriet Draper, I have been searching for you many years. May God
pardon the man whose crime sent you here!"

"Ach!" gasped the woman, suddenly burying her face again, as if she had
been stabbed in the breast. Then she started, and sprang to the floor,
and put her hands on her eyes.

"O God! what did he say?" she hoarsely whispered, as if speaking to
herself; "O God! God! to pardon him, and not me!"

She took away her hands, and looked severely for a moment at Mr.
Wyville. He met her gaze with a severity greater than her own.

"Yes; God pardon him, for through him you have been made guilty," he
said.

"Who are you?" she cried, becoming excited. "Who are you that pretend to
know me? No man made me commit crime. You lie! you lie! you don't know
me--you don't know him!"

Her voice became high with excitement, and her eyes blazed, as with
frenzy.

"Harriet Draper, I know you and I know him--your guilty husband. I have
searched for you for years, to ask you to lighten your soul of one
grievous crime. Before long, you will need repentance; for your health
is broken, and you cannot die with this terrible burden on your
conscience.

"What--what are you talking about?" she cried, still fiercely, but in a
lower tone. "What have I done?"

"You have committed murder."

She looked at him without a word, and increased the pitiful fixity of
her gaze by raising her hands to press her temples, as if to keep down
pain.

"You murdered Alice Walmsley's child!"

Her eyes closed, and she grasped at her breast with both hands, and
tottered backwards, sinking on the bench with a long moan.

"You killed the child, and you saw the innocent mother dragged to prison
for your crime. You have remained silent for nine years, and destroyed
your own life, while she has borne your punishment. You shall now
confess, and save her who has suffered so much to save you."

"Ha! ha! ha! ha!" screamed the woman, in a laugh so sudden and hellish,
that Mr. Wyville stepped back appalled. He had expected a different
result. Again and again the horrid laugh rang through the place, till it
bad exhausted the strength of the ferocious and most miserable being who
uttered it, and she sank heavily on the bench.

"Save her!" she cried at length, clenching her hands, and shaking them
over her head. "Ha! ha! save her! Save the false woman that sent me
here! Never! I hate her! She brought her suffering, on herself by
stealing my husband--he was only a fool in her hands!"

She rocked herself to and fro for a time, and then cried wildly--

"Why should I forgive her? Why should I save her? Am I to bear all the
misery she made? He was my husband, and he loved me, till she made him
false!"

Here she became wildly excited, almost screaming her words.

"If she were free to-day, she would seek him out, and go back to him.
Why should I save her to do that? Begone! I will not! I know nothing
about her. I would rather die than speak a word to save her!"

A fit of coughing, that almost convulsed the miserable frame, now seized
the woman; and when it had passed she sank back against the wall,
exhausted.

Mr. Wyville remained silent; he feared that more excitement might affect
her reason, or her life. He looked down upon the unfortunate being with
profound pity. He had expected a depraved and selfish nature, shrinking
from confession through selfish fear. He saw, instead, a woman's heart
criminal through its own love and truth, and cruelly unjust through
jealousy of its rival.

Darkest and saddest of human sights--the good tortured from its straight
course until it actually had become evil; the angelic quality in a heart
warped by deceit and wrong until it had become the fiendish part.

"O, man, man!" murmured Mr. Wyville, as he looked upon the wreck, but
only saw the evil-doer beyond her, "your sin is deeper than the sea. Not
here, not here must I seek to right the wrong."

He walked from the place with bowed head. Officer Lodge, without
speaking, locked the door, and followed him. Mr. Wyville sat down in the
court-room, and, after a long pause, said to Officer Lodge--

"Has this man, Draper, ever been here--since the crime was committed?"

"No, sir, he hasn't never been seen; but they say as he has been here;
that he came in the night to his own folks once. He can't never live in
Walton, sir."

"Has he been outlawed?"

"No, sir, there was no one to go again' him. The law let him pass; but
the people couldn't stomach him, though they never thought he was as bad
as this."

"You have heard, then, what I have said to this woman? It will do no
good to speak about it. She has made no confession, nor will she confess
till the hand of death is upon her. When is she to be tried for this
last offence?"

"In two weeks, sir; and she'll get at least seven years."

"Well, my kind friend, remember she has been cruelly wronged; and, so
long as she is in your charge, treat her with mercy. She is not the
author of her crime and wretchedness."

Officer Lodge promised to be kind, though his heart overflowed when he
thought of poor Alice Walmsley and her great wrong. He also promised to
send by mail to Mr. Wyville a report of Harriet Draper's sentence.

Mr. Wyville thanked him, but offered no reward.

"I shall see you again before long," he said, as he left the little
court-room. His journey to London that night was mainly consumed in
reflection on the tangled web of crime and injustice in which he had
become so deeply interested.

Two days later Mr. Wyville sat in the office of the governor of
Millbank, relating to him the story of Harriet Draper and Alice
Walmsley.

"Good heavens!" cried the kind old governor; "the case must be brought
at once before the Directors."

"No," said Mr. Wyville, "not yet; and not at any time before them.
Release cannot right the wrong of this injured woman. She must be
cleared by the confession of the criminal, and then we shall send her
case to the Queen."

"Well," said the governor, "but how are you to get the confession?"

"This woman, Harriet Draper, will come to Millbank within two weeks. If
she does not confess before the convict ship sails, she must be sent to
West Australia next month."

"We never send convicts in their first year," said the governor.

"She must go," said Mr. Wyville, warmly; "break your rule for the sake
of justice."

"I'll break it for your sake, Mr. Wyville," said the governor.

"I shall put her name on the roll."

And she must be kept aloof from the others. Can this be done?"

"Yes; we can enter her on the hospital list, and send her before the
others to the ship. She will be confined on board in the hospital."

Mr. Wyville held out his hand to the governor.

"I thank you sincerely," he said; "I am deeply interested in this case."

When he had gone, the bluff old major walked up and down his office, and
mopped his head with his big handkerchief.

"It's like good health and a good conscience to come near that man," he
said to himself. "How strange it is that he should have such deadly
enemies!"



A CAPTAIN FOR THE HOUGUEMONT.

IN Mr. Wyville's house, in the library or study, sat Mr. Hamerton. He
had been writing for hours. On the table beside him lay a heap of
documents, with large red seals, like title-deeds; and in another heap
lay a number of letters, addressed and stamped.

Mr. Wyville entered, and they talked for some minutes in a serious vein.
It was evident that Mr. Hamerton was engaged in some more important
business than usual, and that he had advised with Mr. Wyville during its
progress.

Lord Somers called, as usual, on his way to the Department; and shortly
afterwards Sheridan arrived. Mr. Hamerton continued to write, and a
cursory conversation began, the gentlemen glancing at the morning
papers.

An exclamation from Lord Somers broke the commonplace.

"Hello! What the deuce! Why, Hamerton, this must be your place. Are you
going to sell Broadwood?"

"Yes," said Hamerton, and he went on with his writing.

"The whole estate and manor house?" asked the peer, in plain
astonishment.

"The whole thing," said Hamerton, in the same prosaic tone. Will
Sheridan took the paper and read the advertisement: Magnificent and
historic demesne and manor house of Broadwood--400 acres of rich
land--entire village of Broadwood--valuable church living--antique
furniture, pictures, armour, &c.--in a word, the entire surroundings of
an English aristocrat of the first standing, advertised in the daily
papers to be sold by auction, not as a whole, but in lots.

"What do you mean by that?" asked Lord Somers. "Why not sell the right
to one purchaser?"

"Because he couldn't buy it," answered the stolid Hamerton, who was in a
mood for apophthegms.

"What! You want too much money for it?"

"No, I do not."

"Come, come, Hamerton, this is unkind. Your place is close to mine, and
I am naturally interested, independent of my sincere interest in your
affairs."

"Well, you spoke of buying the right. Now, Somers, no one man could buy
or hold the right to so much land as Broadwood in this populous and
poverty-stricken country--yes, poverty stricken: there are only a few
rich people. Eighty out of every hundred are miserably poor. The best a
rich man could do would be to buy the title-deeds; but the abstract
right of ownership would remain with the farmers who tilled the land."

"I don't understand you," said Lord Somers.

"I propose to sell the deeds to the men who already hold the land by
right."

"You will break up Broadwood and sell it to your farmers?"

"I will."

Lord Somers was seriously affected by this extraordinary announcement;
but he knew Hamerton too well to remonstrate or argue.

Mr. Wyville, looking across his paper, observed both speakers, and
listened to the conversation, evidently pleased.

"You will be no nearer to your republican idea when this is done," said
Lord Somers, at length; "you will have sold the land, but the money it
brings has not been earned by you."

"Quite true," answered Hamerton.

"Why keep it, then?"

"I shall not keep it."

"Why, Hamerton--what do you mean? What will you do with it?"

"I shall invest it in schools and a library for the people of that
section 'for ever' as the lawyers say. Mr. Wyville and I have been
looking at the matter, and we think this money will establish a school
with three technical branches--chemistry, engineering, and agriculture."

"And you--will you teach in the schools for a living?"

"Oh no; I am going to Australia."

"To Australia!" said Lord Somers and Sheridan in a breath. Then Sheridan
asked--

"Are you going to settle there?"

"Yes; I am tired of Europe. I shall never return here."

"I am glad," cried Sheridan, starting up and seizing Hamerton's hand.
"Australia is going to send out the largest-hearted men that ever owned
the earth. You will be at home there. You will breathe freely in its
splendid air. Oh, I am proud to see such men turn by nature to the
magnificent South!"

Mr. Wyville had approached the table with a look of intense pleasure. He
laid his hand almost caressingly on Will Sheridan's shoulder. As they
were placed, these three men Wyville, Sheridan, and Hamerton--they formed
a remarkable group.

"You are dangerous company," said Lord Somers, looking at them with
admiration. "You almost tempt me to follow you, or go with you, to
Australia. When do you sail?"

"Mr. Sheridan and I will sail on the convict ship in three weeks," said
Mr. Wyville. "Mr. Hamerton will take my steam yacht, and follow when he
has settled his plans--perhaps a week later."

"I am dumbfounded," said Lord Somers. "I cannot speak on this new thing.
I only foresee that I shall be very lonely, indeed, in London when you
have gone."

After some further conversation on this point, Mr. Wyville changed the
subject.

"You have engaged a captain for the convict ship?" he said to Lord
Somers.

"Yes; Captain Rogers, late of the P. & O. Company's service."

"You were not aware that I wished to engage him for my yacht?" said
Wyville.

"No; I should be sorry to take him from you. But his articles are signed
now, and good commanders for such a service are not easily found."

"If I find you a suitable captain, and guarantee his command, will you
oblige me by cancelling Captain Rogers's commission?

"Certainly--if you give him, instead, the command of your steamer."

"Thank you; that is my intention."

"But have you found another captain for the convict ship?" asked Lord
Somers.

"Yes--I have been looking into the matter with the view of saving you
further trouble. I have settled on a man who is classed as a first-rate
master mariner and commander, and who is now in London, disengaged."

"I shall make a note of it," said Lord Somers, taking out his
pocket-book. "What is his name?"

"Draper," said Mr. Wyville; "Captain Samuel Draper."

"That will do," said the Secretary. "I shall have new articles made out.
Will you see to it that he is engaged at once, and sent to the ship at
Portland?"

"Certainly. I shall attend to it to-day."

Mr. Hamerton and Sheridan, who had been talking together at the other
end of the room, now approached, and the conversation became general.
Soon after, Lord Somers said "Good-morning," and proceeded to his
Department.



CAPTAIN SAMUEL DRAPER.

IN the inner office of Lloyd's great shipping agency, in London, on the
day following Mr. Wyville's conversation with Lord Somers, the former
gentleman sat, while one of the clerks in the office brought him books
and documents.

"This completes Captain Draper's record," said the clerk, handing a
paper to Mr. Wyville. "It is from his last ship."

"Thanks. Now, can you give me his address in London?"

"Yes; No. 37 Horton-street East."

Mr. Wyville left the office, and the clerk collected his papers, from
which the visitor had taken notes.

Mr. Wyville hailed a cab, and said to the driver, "Horton street." It
was a long way off, and during the slow progress through the crowded
streets, Mr. Wyville examined his notes and arranged them carefully in a
certain order. At last the cab stopped.

"What number?" asked the driver.

"I shall get out here," said Mr. Wyville. "But you may wait for me--say
half an hour."

He walked down the quiet little street, with its uniform brick houses,
green blinds, and white curtains. It was a street of comfortable
residences of small business men and well-to-do mechanics. Number 37 was
in no way different from the neighbouring houses.

Mr. Wyville rang the bell, and an old lady, with glasses pushed up to
her forehead, and a piece of sewing in her hand, opened the door, and
looked inquiringly at the caller.

"Does Captain Draper live here?" he asked.

"Yes, sir; but he is out at present," said the intelligent old lady.

"I am sorry; I will call again," said Mr. Wyville turning to go.

"He will be in soon," said the old lady; "he comes in to dinner always."

"Then I shall wait, if you please," said Mr. Wyville; and he entered the
house, and sat down in a comfortable little parlour, while the old
woman, drawing down her glasses, went on with her sewing.

"Captain Draper is my grand-nephew," said she, after a silent interval:

"Indeed!" said Mr. Wyville. "Then you will be pleased to know that I am
come to offer him a good command."

"Oh, I am delighted!" said the old lady; "he is so good, so
conscientious. I always said as Samuel would come to something 'igh. He
has been waiting for a ship for nearly a year. I know he doesn't please
his owners, because he is too conscientious."

"You will also be pleased to hear, madam, that his owners this time will
be quite conscientious, too."

"I am so delighted!" said Captain Draper's grand-aunt.

At this moment the outer door opened, and immediately after Captain
Draper entered the room. It was rather a chilly day, and he had buttoned
his coat close up to his throat. He was not a robust figure--rather slim,
and bent forward. The past ten years bad laid a strong hand on him. The
charm of his younger manhood, the boisterous laugh and hearty manner of
waving his hand, was much lessened; but the cold watchfulness of his
prominent blue eyes was proportionately increased.

He had a long and narrow face, thin jaws, covered with faded whiskers,
worn rather long. His upper lip and chin were shaven, showing his wide
mouth. His lips were dry, as of old, but now they were bluer, and more
offensively cracked. On the whole, he was a decent-looking man in
outward appearance; as he walked rapidly through the streets, with
shoulders bent forward, one would say he was a consumptive hurrying
home. But there was a compression of the mouth, accompanied with a quick
watchfulness of eye, and an ugly sneer in the muscles of the nose, that
would make his face detestable to anyone who had the power of rapidly
perceiving character.

Mr. Wyville read the face as easily as if it were a printed page.

"Captain Draper, I presume?"

"That is my name," said the other, with a wide and unmeaning smile of
the cracked lips, in which the rest of the face took no part.

"I have come from the Treasury, to offer you command of a vessel in the
service of the Government."

"Ah--that's good. In what branch of the service, may I ask?"

"Transport," said Mr. Wyville.

"Troops, I suppose?" said Draper, still smiling.

"No; convicts."

Captain Draper placed a chair so as to see Mr. Wyville's face in the
light. As he took his seat he had ceased to smile.

"Ah!--convicts. Where are they going?"

"West Australia."

Captain Draper remained silent so long that Mr. Wyville spoke again.

"You are willing to take such a vessel, are you not?"

"Well, I want a ship--but these convict ships I don't like; I don't want
to--Are they male convicts?" he asked, interrupting himself.

"Yes, mainly; there will be three hundred men, and only fifty female
convicts on board."

"Fifty." Draper stood up and walked across the room to the mantelpiece.
He leant his elbow on it for a time, then he took up a little glass
ornament in an absent-minded and nervous way.

Mr. Wyville sat silently watching him. As Draper raised the piece of
glass, his hand trembled and his face worked. He dropped the glass to
the floor, and it was shattered to pieces. This recalled him. He smiled
at first, then he laughed aloud, his eyes watching Mr. Wyville.

"Well--I don't want that ship," he said; "I don't like convicts."

"I am sorry," said Mr. Wyville, rising; "you were highly recommended,
Captain Draper; and as the duty is considered onerous, the voyage will
be quite remunerative for the commander."

Draper's cupidity was excited, and he seemed to hesitate.

"Do you know anything about these convicts?" he asked.

"Yes; what do you wish to know?"

"How long have they been in prison?"

"On an average, about three years."

"Three years; did you ever know any to be sent after nine or ten years?"

"No; not one such case has occurred for the past twenty years. It would
be very unusual."

"Yes; well, you know, I don't care about them--but I have a curiosity. I
suppose they're all right--all about three years, eh?"

"That will be the average, certainly."

"Well, I think I'll take the ship. Where does she lie, and when is she
to sail?"

Mr. Wyville gave him all the particulars; and when his questions ceased,
Mr. Wyville drew out a set of articles to be signed.

"You came prepared, eh?" said Draper.

"Yes," said Mr. Wyville, gravely reading over the form.

"We were anxious to secure your services, and I thought it just as well
to save time. Please sign your name here--and here--and here. Thank you.
Now I shall say good-day, Captain Draper."

"The ship is ready, you say?" said Draper, following him to the door;
"then I am expected to take command at once, I suppose ?"

"No; not until the day of sailing. Your officers will see to the
preparations for sailing. At two o'clock p.m., on the 10th, you will
take command, and sail."

"Well," said Draper; and as he looked after the strong figure of
Wyville, he muttered to himself--"Well--just as well; they only average
three years. But I'd rather go on board at once, and see them before we
sail."



KORO AND TAPAIRU.

"Now," said Mr. Wyville, communing with himself, as he walked from
Draper's house, and entered his cab at the end of Horton-street, "the
elements are moving. May good influences direct them."

At his own house, he dismissed the cab, and, entering, with unusual
gravity greeted Mr. Hamerton, who was awaiting him.

"You said in your note that you had an important business communication
to make to me," said Hamerton, without appearing to notice Wyville's
mental disturbance.

Mr. Wyville did not answer, but paced the room to and fro slowly, sunk
in deep thought, his arms crossed on his breast.

"These results may follow," he said at length, evidently thinking aloud;
"but there is need of an intelligence to make them inevitable. Mr.
Hamerton," he said, stopping before his friend, and fixing his eyes upon
him, "I have a trust to offer you that involves a heavy responsibility.
Will you undertake it, for my sake, and, in case of what may come, carry
out my desire to the letter?"

"If it he in my power, I will. If it he beyond me, I will do my best to
the end," answered Hamerton.

"Yes, I am sure of it. I am very grateful." Mr. Wyville took his hand,
and pressed it warmly, with still the same grave look. He then went to a
small but massive iron safe in the room, opened it, and from a drawer
took two large sealed packets.

"Here," he said, "are two envelopes that contain all my wishes and all
my power. They are mine, so long as I am alive, with freedom to control
my actions. Please remember well my words. In case of my death or
disappearance, or another event to impede my action for those who depend
on me, these packets belong to you, to open, and read."

"Have you written full instructions therein, which I am to follow?" I
asked Hamerton.

"No, I will not instruct you, because I trust you as I would my own
soul. You will understand, when you have read and you will act for the
best. Do you promise me this?"

"I do, most solemnly; but, Mr. Wyville, suppose I should be
unable--suppose I should die before your trust were carried out--is there
anyone else to whom I may transfer the duty?"

"Yes; to Sheridan."

Mr. Wyville locked the safe, and handed the key to Hamerton.

"I shall send the safe to the yacht before we sail," he said.

"Now let us inform the children."

Mr. Wyville struck a bell, and Ngarra-jil silently entered.

A word in his own language from his master sent him out as quickly. In a
few minutes, Mr. Wyville and Mr. Hamerton went up stairs and entered a
large and richly draped room, in which the entire furniture consisted of
low and soft divans, lounges, cushions, and furs, the effect of which
was very extraordinary, but very beautiful. The room seemed to have no
occupant, as the gentlemen walked its length towards a deep bay window.

"We--are--here!" said a low voice, in distinctly measured syllables, as a
diffident child might slowly strike three notes of an air, and then
there were two laughs, as clear and joyous as the sound of silver bells,
and the light sound of hand-clapping.

The gentlemen, smiling, turned to the draped recess, and there, half
shaded by the curtains, peeped the dark, laughing faces of the
Australian sisters, Koro and Tapairu, the grandchildren of Te-mana-roa,
the King of the Vasse.

That Mr. Hamerton had become familiar to the girls was evident from
their natural and unrestrained conduct.

A residence of several years in a northern climate had arrested in the
sisters the immature development so common in warm countries. They had
matured slowly; and while preserving all that was charming and natural
of their woodland graces, the restraint of another and a gentler mode of
life covered them like a delicate robe. They were so outlandish and
beautiful, in their strange and beautiful room, that they might be
mistaken for rare bronzes, were it not for their flashing eyes and
curving lips.

As they sat in the curtained recess, greeting the gentlemen with a
joyous laugh, there entered the room a very old Australian woman,
followed by two young men, bearing trays with several dishes. These were
set down on a low square divan. The old woman removed the covers, and
with quick, short words directed the black men to place cushions around
the divan.

The sisters, Koro and Tapairu, came from their seclusion, speaking in
their own rapid tongue both to the old woman and to Mr. Wyville. They
took each a corner of the divan, seating themselves on the cushions
placed on the floor, Mr. Wyville and Hamerton taking the opposite
corners.

The food, to which each helped himself, was a savory meal of boiled
rice, yams, and rich stews, of which the Australians are very fond; and,
following these dishes, a varied supply of delicious fruit, among which
were mangoes, guavas, and the ambrosial mungyte or honey-stalk of West
Australia.

The conversation during the meal was wholly in the language of the
sisters, so that Mr. Hamerton remained silent. Koro and Tapairu had
evidently been studying English; but they could by no means converse in
the strange tongue.

As if instinctively aware that something unforeseen was about to happen,
Tapairu, the younger but braver of the sisters, had asked Mr. Wyville to
speak.

"You are soon to leave this cold country," he said, in their tongue,
looking from sister to sister; "and return to your own beautiful Vasse."

The girls answered, as if they were a single thing of nature, by a
silent and inquiring look. It was hard to read either pleasure or pain
in their faces, or anything but surprise; yet a close observer would
have discerned a subtending line akin to doubt or fear.

"Are you not glad?" asked Mr. Wyville, with a smile of astonishment at
their silence.

"Yes," they softly answered, in one breath, after a pause, but not
joyously. "Yes; we shall see the good Te-mana-roa, and we shall find the
emus' nests on the mountain. We are very glad."

The old woman, who had remained in the room, chuckled audibly, and, when
the others looked round at her, laughed outright in uncontrollable joy
at the thought of returning to her beloved life of freedom in the
forest. More rapidly than a skilled musician could evoke notes, she ran
from treble to bass in voluble gratitude and benediction. Then she slid
off to carry the joyous word to the other dusky members of this
extraordinary household.

"You will be happy in your old home in the yacht," continued Mr.
Wyville; "and this friend, my brother and yours, will take you in his
care till we see Te-mana-roa, and the Vasse."

As Mr. Wyville spoke, the hidden fear became plain in Tapairu's face.
She looked only at Mr. Wyville, her large deer-like eyes slowly filling
with tears. Her sister, too, was distressed, but in a lesser degree; and
her eyes, instead of being fixed on Mr. Wyville, passed on to Hamerton,
and rested.

"You are not coming with us to the Vasse!" at length said Tapairu, in a
slow, monotonous voice. "You will remain here."

"No, I, too, shall go, and even before you. But we voyage on different
ships."

"Why does not your brother and ours go on the other ship, and let you
come with us?"

Mr. Wyville looked troubled at the reception of his news by the sisters.
As Tapairu spoke, in the last question, his face became exceedingly
grave, as if he could never again smile. The sisters saw the shadow, and
were troubled also. Mr. Wyville, without looking at them, spoke--

"Children, you should trust that I will do what is best; and I know the
world better than you. Tapairu, I am acting wisely. Koro I am sure of
your confidence at least."

Before the words had died, Koro, with swimming eyes, had risen and taken
Mr. Wyville's hand, which she kissed and placed upon her head. The act
was full of affection and faith.

Tapairu, on whom the reproof had fallen like a blow, sat just as before,
only the light had faded from her eyes, and her bosom heaved visibly.
Her sister went and sat beside her, throwing her arms round her, as to
give comfort. Tapairu allowed the embrace, but did not move a muscle of
face or body.

Mr. Wyville rose and walked to the window, glanced out for a moment,
then, turning, looked at the sisters. He approached and laid his band
with inexpressible gentleness on Tapairu's head, as he had done on
Koro's. The proud but sensitive nature yielded at the touch, and with
one quick look of sorrow and appeal, she buried her face in her sister's
bosom, and sobbed unrestrainedly.

The old woman, who had re-entered, began an excited and guttural
remonstrance against this unreasoning grief. Mr. Wyville chose this
moment to depart. He knew that the brief season of cloud would soon
pass, and let the sun shine again; that the reflection following
petulance is often the purer for the previous error.



THE CHILD'S GRAVE.

THE Houguemont, chartered by the Government to carry the convicts to
West Australia, lay in Portland Roads. She rode within the dark shadow
of the gloomy cliff, upon which is built one of the greatest of the
English imperial prisons. She was a large, old-fashioned merchant ship,
of two thousand tons burden; a slow sailor, but a strong and roomy
vessel.

She was fitted in the usual way of convict ships. Her main deck and her
lower deck were divided into separate compartments, the dividing walls
below being heavy and strong bulkheads, while those on deck were wooden
barriers about nine feet high, with side doors, for the passage of the
sailors while working the ship. At each of these doors, during the
entire voyage, stood two soldiers, with fixed bayonets on their loaded
rifles.

The hatch coverings opening to the lower deck, where the convicts were
confined, were removed, and around each hatchway, reaching from the
upper deck, or roof of the convict's room, to the lower deck or floor,
was one immense grating, formed of strong iron bars. This arrangement
gave plenty of air and a good deal of light, the only obstruction being
the bars.

Seen from below, on the convicts' deck, every hatchway stood in the
centre of the ship like a great iron cage, with a door by which the
warders entered, and a ladder to reach the upper deck.

The convicts below never tired of looking upwards through the bars,
though they could see nothing above but the swaying ropes and sails, and
at night the beautiful sky and the stars.

In the forward and smallest compartment of the ship between decks lived
the crew, who went up and down by their own hatchway. In the next, and
largest compartment, lived the male convicts, three hundred in number.
The central compartment was the hospital; and next to this the
compartment for the female convicts. The after compartment between decks
was occupied by the sixty soldiers who kept guard on the ship.

The main, or upper deck, was divided as follows: the after part, under
the poop deck, was occupied by the staterooms for officers and
passengers, and the richly-furnished cabin dining room. Forward of this,
beginning at the front of the poop, was a division of the deck to which
the female convicts were allowed at certain hours of the day. The next
section was the deck where the male convicts were allowed to exercise,
one hundred at a time, throughout the day.

The fore part of the main deck, running out to the bowsprit like a ^ was
roofed in, the angular section taking in the bowsprit. The front of this
section, running across the deck, was composed of enormous bars, thicker
than a man's arm, like those around the hatches, and within these bars,
in sight of the male convicts on deck, were confined the malefactors, or
rule-breakers.

This triangular section was the punishment cell of the ship. It was
entered by a ponderous door, composed of bars also. Its two rear walls
were the acute angle of the ship's bulwarks; its front was the row of
bars running from side to side of the vessel, and facing aft on the main
deck.

The evil-doers confined here for punishment had neither bed nor seat;
they sat upon the deck, and worked at heavy tasks of oakum picking. They
could not shirk, for a warder kept sentry outside the cage.

As these refractory ones looked through their bars at the deck, they
saw, strapped to the foremast, a black gaff or spar with iron rings,
which, when the spar was lowered horizontally, corresponded to rings
screwed into the deck.

This was the triangle, where the unruly convicts were triced up and
flogged every morning.

Above this triangle, tied around the foremast, was a new and very fine
hempen rope, leading away to the end of the foreyard. This was the
ultimate appeal--the law's last terrible engine--the halter which swung
mutineers and murderers out over the hissing sea to eternity.

The Houguemont had taken on board her terrible cargo. From early dawn
the chains had been marching down the steep hill from Portland Prison,
and passing on tugs to her deck where the convict officers unlocked
their chains, called their rolls, and sent them below to their berths.

Last of all, the female convicts bad come, fifty in number, in five
chains.

As they stood huddled on the deck of the transport, answering to their
numbers, there were hysterical sounds and wild eyes among them. At last
their chains were unlocked, and the female warders handed to each the
number of her berth, and sent her below.

Towards the end of one of the chains stood a prisoner with a white face
and a strangely calm air. She did not stare around in the dazed way of
her unfortunate sisters; but remained on the spot where they bade her
stand, motionless. She only turned her head once, with a smile of silent
comfort to some unhappy one near her who had made the hysterical sound.

When the key came to her link of the chain and unlocked it, and she
stood unshackled, another warder thrust into her band a card, and pushed
her towards the hatch. She tottered beneath the rough and needless
force, and would have fallen down the open hatchway, had she not caught
at a swinging rope, and saved herself. As she recovered, she gave a kind
of pitiful short cry or moan, and looked round bewildered, the tears
springing to her eyes. The rough and busy warder again approached her,
and she shrank aside in terror.

At this moment she felt a soft hand take her own, and hold it tightly.
The touch restored her confidence. She turned and met the sweet face and
kindly smile of Sister Cecilia. The warder at the same moment
respectfully saluted the nun.

"This is my hospital assistant, warder," said Sister Cecilia still
holding Alice's hand. "She is to be allowed to go to my room."

"All right, ma'am," said the warder, who, in reality, was not harsh, but
only rude and hurried in manner; "pass on, Number Four. Here," she
shouted to the next on the chain, "take this card--and down you go,
quick!"

And as Alice stood aside with a great sense of relief and thankfulness,
and with swimming eyes, the warder whispered to Sister Cecilia: "I'm
glad she's not going among 'em--we're all glad on it."

Sister Cecilia, holding Alice's hand, led her along a narrow boarded
way, at the end of which was a door opening, into a pleasant room, one
side of which was covered with a large medicine case, and off which lay
two bright little sleeping rooms. When the door was closed, Sister
Cecilia took Alice's white face between her hands with hearty force, and
kissed her.

"Thank God, my child!" she cried, "you are safe at last!"

Alice could not speak; but she controlled herself, and kept from
sobbing. She looked around wonderingly.

"This is my room, Alice," said Sister Cecilia; "my room and yours. This
narrow passage is for us alone. It leads straight to the female
compartment and the hospital; and no one can come here but you and I--not
a soul, for the next four months. Just think of that, child! Look out of
that pretty little window, and say 'good-bye' to gloomy old England and
her prisons. We'll be all alone till we arrive in Australia--except when
we are attending the sick."

Alice Walmsley did not answer in words--her heart overflowed; and the
kind little nun led her into the pleasanter sleeping room of the two,
and left her, saying that this was her own room for the voyage.

When she had gone, Alice sank on her knees with such a flood of feeling
as seemed to melt her very heart. With eyes drowned in tears she raised
her hands towards the frowning cliffs of Portland, while her quivering
lips moved in yearning words.

She was saying farewell, not to England, but to that which was greater
to her than England--to the little spot of earth where lay the body of
her dead child. O true heart of motherhood, that never changes, never
forgets, never loses the sound of the maternal music, once the immortal
key has been struck.

"Good-bye, my darling! O, if I had only one single withered blade of
grass to cherish" cried the poor mother; and as she spoke she saw
clearly in her mind's eye the little neglected and forgotten grave.
"Good-bye, my darling--for ever--for ever!"

She buried her face in the bed, and wept bitterly and long. Sister
Cecilia came twice to the room softly, and looked in at the mourner, but
did not disturb her. The second time she came, Alice was weeping with
bowed head.

Sister Cecilia leant over her, and placed beside her hand a little box,
covered with white paper, on which lay a sealed letter. Having done so,
the Sister laid her hand caressingly on Alice's head, and withdrew
quietly.

It was many minutes before Alice raised her tear-stained face. As she
did so, she laid her hand on the little box, and, saw the letter. She
did not heed it at first, thinking it was Sister Cecilia's. But another
instant, and she had read her own name--"Alice Walmsley"--written on the
letter, and in a hand that was strangely familiar. The written name
itself was not more familiar than the handwriting.

Something thrilled her as she took the little box in her hand, and
opened it. She found within a piece of soft mould, in which some sweet
young grass was growing, and on one side a fresh wild flower, that must
have been pulled that day.

As she looked, with blurred sight, the meaning of the blessed gift
poured into her heart like balm, and her thought rose up to heaven in an
ecstasy of gratitude.

She did not need to look at the letter; she divined its contents. But at
length she took it, and broke the seal, and read the few words it
contained:--

"Dear Alice,--The grass and flowers were growing this morning on your
baby's grave. The wild flowers have covered it for years. I hope it
shall never be neglected nor disturbed."

Yours faithfully
WILLIAM SHERIDAN

An hour later, Sister Cecilia entered the outer room, purposely making a
noise to distract Alice's reverie. But she had to come at last and touch
her arm, and take the box and the letter from her hands, before Alice
realized the revelation that had come to her. She did not see it even
then as a whole; but piece by piece in her mind the incredible happiness
dawned upon her, that she actually had with her the precious grass, with
young life in it, fresh from her darling's grave.

And later on, slowly, but by sure degrees, entered another thought, that
rested like a holy thing beside this pure affection.

The last words of the letter repeated themselves like a strain of
distant music in her ears: "Yours faithfully--yours faithfully"--and
though the sense that was touched had in it a tone of pain and reproach
that smote her, it roused her from further dwelling on her own
unhappiness.



THE SAILING OF THE HOUGUEMONT.

THE last convict had been sent below. The barred doors in the railed
hatchways were locked. The hundreds of cooped criminals mingled with
each other freely for the first time in many years. The sentries had
been posted at the hatches and passages on deck. The sailors had shaken
out the sails. The capstan had been worked until every spare link of
cable was up.

The Houguemont was ready for sea. She only awaited the coming of her
commander.

Mr. Wyville walked to and fro on the poop deck, casting now and again a
searching glance at the pier and the steep cliff road. At length his
pace became less regular, and his usually imperturbable face betrayed
impatience. It was two hours past the time when the captain had engaged
to be on board.

As Mr. Wyville stood looking landward, with a darkened brow, the chief
warder in command of the prison officers, rapidly approached him, with
an excited air, and saluted in military fashion.

"Well, Mr. Gray," said Mr. Wyville, turning, "what is it?"

"One man missing, sir! not on board--he must have slipped overboard from
the soldiers, and attempted to swim ashore."

"When did he come on board?"

"With the last chain, sir."

"Then he must be in the water still. He would strike for the mainland,
not for the island."

As he spoke, a soldier, who had run up the rigging, shouted that there
was a hamper or basket floating a short distance astern of the ship.

Mr. Wyville asked one of the ship's officers for a glass, which he
levelled at the floating basket. He saw that it moved obliquely towards
the shore of the mainland, though a strong tide was setting in the
contrary direction, towards the island. He lowered the glass with a
saddened air.

"Poor fellow!" he murmured, shutting the glass, irresolutely. He knew
that the absconder, finding the floating hamper, had placed it over his
head in order to escape the eyes of the guards. As he laid down the
telescope, a rifle shot rang from the maintop, and the water leaped in a
jet of spray within a foot of the basket. Next instant, came two
reports, the basket was knocked on its side, and all on the deck of the
convict ship plainly saw a man swimming in the sea. One of the bullets
had struck him, evidently, for he shouted and dashed about wildly.

All this had happened in a few seconds. The shots had followed each
other as rapidly as file-firing. At the second shot, Mr. Wyville looked
at the soldiers with a face aflame with indignation. As the third shot
rang out, he shouted to the soldiers; but his voice was drowned in the
report.

Next moment, he saw the levelled rifle of another soldier, and heard the
officer directing his aim. Without a word, Mr. Wyville seized the long
and heavy marine telescope, which he had laid on the rack, and,
balancing himself on the poop for an instant, he hurled the glass like a
missile from a catapult right into the group of soldiers on the top.

The missile struck lengthwise against the rifleman, and knocked him
towards the mast, his weapon going off harmlessly in the air.
Consternation seized the others, and the young officer began an
indignant and loud demand as to who had dared assault his men.

"Come down, Sir," said Mr. Wyville, sternly, "and receive your orders
before you act."

The subaltern came down, and joined Mr. Wyville on the poop, saluting
him as he approached.

"I was not aware, sir," he said, "that I was to wait for orders in cases
of mutiny or escape."

"This man could be overtaken," said Mr. Wyville. "Your guards allowed
him to escape; and you have no right to kill him for escaping, if the
law had no right to kill him for his crime."

As he spoke, he brought the glass to bear on the unfortunate wretch in
the water, to whom a boat was now sweeping with swift stroke.

"My God!" he said, putting down the glass, and turning from the officer;
"the man is drowned!"

The struggling swimmer, spent with previous exertions, had been struck
by a bullet in the shoulder; and though the wound was not mortal, it
rapidly spent his remaining strength. Before the boat had reached him,
the poor fellow had thrown up his arms and sunk. His body was found and
taken to the ship.

During this scene, Captain Draper had come on deck, unobserved. He had
passed quite close to Mr. Wyville as he spoke severely to the military
officer. A few minutes later, when Mr. Wyville stood alone, the captain
approached him.

"Am I supposed to command this ship, or to take orders also?" he asked,
not offensively, but with his usual hybrid smile.

Mr. Wyville remained silent a moment, as if undecided. The recent
shocking event had somewhat changed his plans.

"You command the ship, Sir," he said, slowly, and fixing his eyes on
Captain Draper's face, "under me. So long as your duty is done, no
interference will be possible. It may be well to understand now,
however, that there is a higher authority than yours on board."

Captain Draper bowed; then turning to his chief officer who had heard
the conversation, he gave orders for sailing.



FACE TO FACE.

THE convict ship, with all sail set, before a strong quarterbreeze,
ploughed heavily round the South of England, and then spread her arms
like a sea spirit as she swept majestically towards the deep southern
seas.

No need to moralize afresh on the weird contrast between the tall ship,
nobly and beautifully breasting the waves, and the hideous secret she
bears within--

Who, as she smiles in the silvery light,
Spreading her wings on the bosom of night,
Alone on the deep, as the moon in the sky,
A phantom, of beauty, could deem with a sigh,

That so lovely a thing is the mansion of sin,
And that souls that are smitten be bursting within?
Who, as he watches her silently gliding,
Remembers that wave after wave is dividing

Bosoms that sorrow and guilt could not sever,
Hearts that are broken and parted for ever?
Or deems that he watches, afloat on the wave,
The death-bed of hope, or the young spirit's grave.

The first few days of the voyage are inexpressibly horrible. The
hundreds of pent-up wretches are unused to the darkness of the ship,
strange to their crowded quarters and to each other, depressed in
spirits at their endless separation from home, sickened to death with
the merciless pitch and roll of the vessel, alarmed at the dreadful
thunder of the waves against their prison walls, and fearful of sudden
engulfment, with the hatches barred. The scene is too hideous for a
picture--too dreadful to be described in words.

Only those who have stood within the bars, and heard the din of devils
and the appalling sounds of despair, blended in a diapason that made
every hatch-mouth a vent of hell, can imagine the horrors of the hold of
a convict ship.

About a week out from England, the Houguemont went bowling down the
Atlantic, and across the Bay of Biscay. The night was cold and dark, and
the strong breeze held the ship steady, with every sail drawing.

Mr. Wyville and Sheridan, the latter of whom had come on deck for the
first time since the vessel sailed, in warm greatcoats, walked the lee
side of the poop; while the captain, also heavily wrapped, paced the
weather side, glancing now and again at the sails, and taking an
occasional look at the course.

"You have got over your sea-sickness?" asked Mr. Wyville.

Sheridan laughed.

"You forget that I am a sailor, Mr. Wyville," he said. "I had another
reason for keeping my room."

Will Sheridan, for months past, had often been on the point of telling
Mr. Wyville the whole story of his life, his love for Alice Walmsley,
and her terrible suffering for another's crime; but the moment still had
gone by, and he had never broached the subject. He longed to speak his
warm gratitude to the wise friend who had preserved Alice's reason and
life in Millbank.

Mr. Wyville never dreamt that Sheridan and Alice Walmsley had known each
other. He did not know that on the deck at that moment stood Sheridan's
deadliest enemy, within five yards of the man he hated, and who mortally
hated him.

"I will tell him all now," were the words in Sheridan's mind; and he
turned to Mr. Wyville, and took hold of his arm. They paused in their
walk, and stood at the foot of the mizzen mast.

At that moment the captain went towards the wheel, and bent his head to
look at the compass. The strong binnacle-light fell full upon his face,
just as Will Sheridan stopped and laid his hand on Mr. Wyville's arm.

The face in the binnacle glare was straight before Sheridan. His eyes
were arrested by it as by a spectre; his land closed like a vice on the
arm of his friend.

"God Almighty!" The words rushed from his heart in a hissing whisper.

Mr. Wyville was astounded, but he could not even surmise the cause of
Sheridan's tremendous excitement. He had seen the face of the captain as
it remained for a moment in the strong light; but he did not connect
this with his friend's emotion. He waited for Sheridan to speak.

Instead of speaking, Sheridan watched the dark figure of the captain as
he passed from the wheel to the weather side of the poop, and paced
slowly up and down. Then he drew a deep breath, tremulous with aroused
passion.

"Who is that man?" he asked in a low voice, after a long look.

"That is the captain," answered Mr. Wyville. "Let me introduce you.
Captain Draper!"

The captain walked towards them. Sheridan remained just as he had been
standing.

"Captain Draper, let me introduce--"

"Stay" said Sheridan, laying his hand on Mr. Wyville's breast, "one
moment."

He strode to the binnacle, seized the lamp, and returned with it in his
hand. When he was within two feet of Draper, he threw the light full on
his own face, sternly turned towards his enemy.

"Now!" he said "now, introduce me!"

The sight of the terrible face struck Draper like a physical blow. His
breath came in a short gasp, and be staggered back till he leaned
against the mast. He never said a word.

Sheridan turned the glare of the lamp upon him for an instant, then
snatched it rapidly away from the repulsive sight. At that moment, with
the veil of darkness suddenly torn back, Draper's face was ghastly, and
his attitude full of terror.

Will Sheridan replaced the lamp in the binnacle, and walked straight to
his own room.

Mr. Wyville was profoundly astonished and puzzled at this scene. He
remained on deck for an hour or more after Sheridan's abrupt departure;
but he did not speak to Captain Draper, who paced his side of the poop
in gloomy silence.

It was an hour of fearful torture to Draper, for, like most scoundrels
who are cowards, he suffered over and over again the agonies of shame
and exposure which he knew he had earned. But, like this class, too, he
always planned his conduct, even his words, beforehand. As soon as the
appalling interview had passed, and he found himself personally
unmolested, his adroit and subtle mind began weaving the warp and woof
of a devil's plot that should make him the winner in this contest now
begun.

He looked at Wyville, who stood grazing out on the sea, and asked
himself, "Does he know?" And he speedily ran over the signs, and
concluded that Mr. Wyville knew nothing of his relations to Sheridan. He
remembered that Wyville had called him to be introduced to Sheridan, and
he had noticed the surprised exclamation with which Wyville had observed
Sheridan's extraordinary conduct.

The midnight eight bells sounded, and the mate came to relieve the
captain from his watch; but Draper said he could not sleep, and would
remain on deck an hour longer.

In that hour, he was alone on the poop; Mr. Wyville had gone below.
Draper, looking down through the glass roof of the dining-room, saw that
a bright light was burning in Sheridan's room. As he looked at the
light, secretly and alone, a desperate hatred burned in his heart like
poison. The years of his guilt were melted down into that one hour, and
they took the form of a blighting curse. Could malediction have murdered
Sheridan, he would have been withered to death by the baneful light of
Draper's eyes.

But the hatred of a man so naturally evil as Draper is apt to turn into
practical injury. The coward who hates is never at rest; he will either
malign his enemy with foul words in secret, or he will dig a pit for his
feet. It is only manly men who can hate and hold their tongues.

As Draper paced the deck, towards the end of the hour, his tread
actually became stealthy and fearful, as if he dreaded lest the nature
of his thoughts might be read in the sound of his steps. Slowly and
carefully he turned the circumstances over in his mind. Wyville
certainly did not know of his relations with Sheridan. Sheridan himself
had evidently been surprised at the meeting. Only one knew: none else
had any interest in knowing. That one must be silenced, or--he, Draper,
must face disgrace. Once before, Sheridan had eluded his design; but
this time--and, as he concluded his walk and plot together, he glared at
the light in Will Sheridan's room, like a serpent in the outer
darkness--this time there would be no mistake or hesitation on his part.



HOW A PRISONER MIGHT BREAK A BAR.

THE days slipped into weeks as the Houguemont sailed southward down the
great commercial highway of the Atlantic. The mild airs of the warmer
latitudes surprised and delighted those who had only known the moist
climate of Britain. As the vessel sailed close to the island of Pico,
one of the Azores, the deck was crowded with gazers on the unknown land.

It was the forenoon of a lovely day. The sun shone with radiant
splendour on the soaring peak and purple cliffs of Pico. The island
seemed to most of those on the ship like some legendary land of fairy
lore. They bad never seen any country but England, and they had never
before heard even the name of this important-looking place.

On the bow of the convict ship, standing on the raised deck, which was
the roof of the punishment cell or compartment, stood three men, looking
up at Pico. These three, from the day of the ship's sailing, had been
drawn together by inherent attraction; and now, among all the queer new
friendships of the voyage, there was none stronger than theirs. And yet
they were very dissimilar, inwardly and outwardly.

One was a tall man, solemn-faced and severe, dressed in sombre garments;
the next was a small man, mild of face and manner, clad in old-fashioned
sailor's blue; the third was a very black man, whose hair stood upright
on his head when he removed his immense fur cap, and--whose body from
throat to feet was clothed in furs.

Strange it was, that this seemingly discordant trio, Mr. Haggett,
Officer Lodge and Ngarra-jil, had developed a mutual attraction, each
for the other; and, after a few weeks at sea, had spent almost their
whole waking time in each other's company.

They did not converse much, if any. Ben Lodge did not quite understand
Mr. Haggett's solemn scriptural illustrations and heavy comments; Mr.
Haggett did not pay much heed to Ben Lodge's dreadful tale of carnage in
the Chinese bombardment; and neither of them understood Ngarra-jil, nor
did he comprehend a word they said.

Yet they passed day after day in each other's company, leaning over the
vessel's side or sitting on the sunny forecastle.

The presence of Officer Lodge on board needs explanation. Two days
before the convict ship sailed, Mr. Wyville walked into the lock-up at
Walton-le-Dale, followed by Ngarra-jil.

Officer Lodge met him with a mild, every-day air, and, pointing with a
backward motion of the hand towards the cell, informed him that it was
"hempty."

"Have you any relatives or others depending on you?" asked Mr. Wyville,
falling into the matter-of-fact simplicity of the policeman.

"No, sir; no none as can't get along without me. I 'ave lived here alone
for fifteen year. I don't know a man, though, in Walton to take my
place. There's a deal of trust in this hoffice, sir; a deal of trust."

"What property do you own here?" asked Mr. Wyville.

"The donkey and water-cart is mine, though the village gave 'em to me.
That's all the property."

"I need a careful man to oversee a settlement," said Mr. Wyville. "But
he will have to go to Australia. He will be comfortably placed, much
more so than you are here; and his engagement will be permanent. I came
to offer the place to you--can you come?"

"Yessir," said Officer Lodge, as quietly as if he were asked to walk
down the street. "Do you want me to start now?"

"It is now noon; I will return to London on the two o'clock train.
Meanwhile, I will walk through the village." Turning to Ngarra-jil, Mr.
Wyville said in his own language, "You can remain here."

Mr. Wyville walked straight to the old home of Alice Walmsley, and
lingered a long time in and around the deserted and decaying cottage.
There was a warm feeling in his heart, a new and happy growth, which was
thrilled and strengthened as his eye fell on objects that might once
have been familiar to Alice Walmsley.

As he left the place, to return for Officer Lodge, it seemed as dear to
him as if he had known and loved it all his life. He turned towards it,
as he walked down the road, and there was a quiet gladness in his face.

"She will leave it all behind," he murmured. "There shall be no picture
of its wretchedness in her memory."

He passed to the court-house. Officer Lodge and Ngarra-jil were sitting
in the office, silently looking at each other. At first, Officer Lodge
had spoken to his companion; but Ngarra-jil had answered only by a gruff
and unintelligible monosyllable. Then they had subsided into perfect
silence.

"Are you ready?" asked Mr. Wyville.

"Yessir."

"Come."

They went to the rail-way station, and took their seats for London.
Officer Lodge and Ngarra-jil sat opposite each other, and continued
their acquaintance in the same silent fashion which had marked its
beginning in the stationhouse.

On board the convict ship, they had attracted the lonely Mr. Haggett,
who, in a patronizing manner at first, joined their company.

As these three stood near the bow of the Houguemont, looking up at the
purple cliffs of lofty Pico, there rose an extraordinary commotion on
the deck among the convicts.

That morning, two men, the worst and most disorderly characters in the
ship, had been locked up in the punishment crib. They had first been
sentenced to work at oakum picking; but they sat within the bars idle,
staring out at the crowd of convicts on deck, and singing and shouting.
For this they had been again reported, and the officers had now come to
take them out for further punishment.

The officers stood waiting, for him who had the key of the barred door;
and he was searching vainly in his pockets. After a while, it was
evident that the key had been mislaid or lost. The officers could not
open the barred door.

The two culprits within were the first to understand this, and they set
up a howl of derision. They danced about in their den, cursing the
officers and snapping their fingers at them through the bars.

At length a dreadful idea struck one of the desperate wretches. His eye
had fallen on the heap of loosely-picked oakum inside the bars. With a
yell he seized an armful of the inflammable material and threw it far
within the cage, against a heap of tarred rope ready for picking.

The officers stood outside, watching the fellow's action with alarm.
When he had gathered all the oakum into a pile, he drew from his pocket,
a lucifer match, and flourished it before the officers' eyes with a grin
of triumph and devilish meaning. His brutal associate within the bars,
upon whom the meaning of the preparations broke suddenly at sight of the
match, gave a wild shout of delight and defiance.

"Damn you!" he cried, shaking his fist at the powerless warders, "you
can't help yourselves. We'll set fire to the ship before your eyes!"

The dreadful threat struck terror into the convicts on deck, who began
to huddle together like sheep.

The officers looked into each other's pale faces, dumb and helpless. One
of them caught hold of the massive bars of the door, and shook them with
all his force. He might as well have tried to shake down the mast.

Yelling with delight at their power, the two miscreants within piled up
the pyre. Then, he who held the match selected a dry place on deck to
strike it. He bent down on his knees, and covered his action from the
eyes of the officers.

In another instant he sprang to his feet, holding a blazing rope of
loosely-twisted oakum. With a laugh that rang through the ship, be
applied the torch to the pile of oakum, and the yellow flame licked up
the ready material with fearful rapidity.

At sight of the flame, a cry of alarm rose from the huddled convicts,
drowning the reports of the officers' pistols, who were shooting down
the incendiaries.

It was too late. Had they used their pistols before the match was
struck, they would have acted in time. To slaughter the wretches now was
to insure the continuation of the fire. Were the prisoners let alone,
they might have become terrified at their own danger, and have quenched
the blaze before it had seized the ship.

One of the officers placed the muzzle of his pistol to the ponderous
lock of the cage, and fired. The bullet destroyed the lock, but did not
force it. At that moment, with a cry of success, an officer dashed
through the crowd, and seized the lock. He had found the key! But it
would not turn in the shattered wards. The bullet had wedged everything
together, and the bolt had become a rivet.

By this time the flames had spread over the pile of tarred rope, and had
fastened on the beams overhead. The pitch bubbled up between the seams
of the deck, and dense volumes of smoke poured through the bars.

The alarm had spread to the convicts below, and an awful sound of
affright arose from the hundreds of horrified hearts.

The officers dashed wildly to and fro. Some of the ship's crew had begun
to work with axes on the roof of the cage, which was a heavily-timbered
deck. The fire began to roar with the dreadful sound that denotes the
untamable power of approaching conflagration.

At this moment Mr. Wyville came forward, and with one glance took in the
whole scene. Everyone made way for him as he strode to the cage. The
convicts prayed him, "save us!" the ultimate appeal of terror-stricken
men.

He stood an instant looking at the fire--saw the mortal danger. In ten
minutes more no earthly power could subdue the flames.

"Shall we open the hatches, and let the convicts come on deck?" asked
the pallid chief warder, the key in his hand.

"No!" shouted Wyville, with such sudden force, that the man staggered
back in dismay.

Mr. Wyville looked at the lock, and saw its condition. He shook the bars
with amazing force.

A gust of flame and smoke now rushed through the bars and drove everyone
back, even Mr. Wyville. He rushed forward again; then turned to the
officers, who had retreated to the foremast, and called them to him. No
one moved--they were cowed.

Another instant, and a tall man pushed through the crowd, and stood
beside Wyville. It was Mr. Haggett. Their eyes met for one instant. They
understood one another.

"What do you want?" asked Haggett, in a low, steady voice.

"The silk curtains from the dining-room--quick" answered Mr. Wyville in
the same tone.

Next moment Haggett was clearing a lane for himself through and over the
crowd. He disappeared towards the cabin. They knew he would return, and
they kept the way open for him. In half a minute he flew back, in each
hand a long red silken curtain, torn from the cabin windows.

Mr. Wyville stood waiting for him, holding in his hand a heavy iron
belaying pin, which he had taken from the rail. He took one of the
curtains, twisted it into a rope, and pushed one end through the bars.
This end he brought out four bars off, and around these four bars he
wound both curtains, one after the other.

When the curtains were entirely wound in this way, he inserted the heavy
iron rod between the folds, at the two central bars, and began to turn
it end over end like a lever. The first turn made the silken rope rigid;
the second strained it; the third called out all the muscular power of
the man. But there was nothing gained.

Mr. Wyville turned, and looked towards Haggett, who approached. Both men
seized the iron lever, and pulled it down with all their force.

"This is a convict's trick," said Haggett, as they paused for breath.

Mr. Wyville made no reply, but continued the tremendous leverage. There
was a cry from the convicts: they saw the massive bars yielding--the two
outer bars bending towards the centre under the terrific strain.

Once again the upper end of the lever was seized by both men, and with a
united effort of strength pulled and pressed down. The next turn was
easily made; the mighty bars had bent like lead in the centre and then
broken, leaving two gaps wide enough to allow the entrance of a man.

When this was done, Mr. Wyville and Mr. Haggett fell back, while the
officers and sailors dashed into the burning cage, smothering the flames
with wet sails, beneath which they trampled out the fire.

The vessel was saved, and not one minute could have been spared. In the
wild uproar that followed, each one giving vent to the pent up
excitement of the moment, Mr. Wyville, turning in the crowd, met the
eyes of Haggett earnestly fixed on his face. He had often observed his
watchfulness before; but there was another meaning in his eyes to-day.

Without a word Mr. Wyville put out his hand which Haggett grimly seized.

"Thank you," said Mr. Wyville.

"That's not right," said Haggett; "you have saved all our lives."

Mr. Wyville negatively shook his head, with his usual grave smile, and
was about to pass on. Mr. Haggett slowly let go his hand, still looking
at him with the same strange expression. They had parted a few paces,
when Haggett strode after Mr. Wyville with a new impulse, seized his
hand once more in a grip of iron, and met his eye with a face working in
strong emotion, every possible reef in his immense lips quivering with
suppressed feeling.

"Forgive me!" he said; and without another word he dropped Mr. Wyville's
hand, turned, and strode off to his room by the other side of the ship.

That night, when the excitement had died, and the usual quiet had been
restored, Mr. Wyville and Sheridan walked the poop for hours. Mr.
Wyville made no mention of Haggett's strange conduct.

Towards midnight they went to their rooms. The extra-ordinary events of
the day bad kept them from talking about Captain Draper, though the
subject had been for days uppermost in both minds.

When Mr. Wyville entered his room, his eyes fell on a letter, fixed
endwise on his table to attract his attention. It was addressed to him.
He opened it, and took out a photograph--the portrait of a convict in
chains. There was no other enclosure.

On the back of it were written these words, in Mr. Haggett's dated four
years back:--

"This is the only photograph of the man known as MOONDYNE. It was taken
in West Australia, just before his latest escape from Fremantle Prison.
All other photographs of this prisoner have unaccountably disappeared
from the prison books."

Mr. Wyville gazed a long time at the strange present. Then he laid it on
the table, locked his door, and walked meditatively to and fro his
narrow room. At times he would stop and take the picture from the table,
look at it with deep attention, while his lips moved as if he were
addressing it.

At last he took the portrait, tore it to pieces, and, opening the window
of his room, threw the pieces into the sea.



DEAD SEA FRUIT.

FROM the moment that Will Sheridan had recognized Draper in the captain
of the Houguemont, his mind was filled with an acute fear that Alice
Walmsley might suddenly come face to face with the wretch who had
blighted her existence. Such a meeting might be fatal--it certainly would
be grievous.

It was the sudden touch of this fear that made Sheridan walk so quickly
to his room on the night of the recognition. It came like a flash; and
he deemed it best to consider his course of action calmly.

Sailor as he was, he knew that the commander of a ship, usually had
absolute power over all on board. He had observed, however, that Mr.
Wyville, on one or two occasions, had assumed an authority in certain
matters relating to the prisoners. This gave him comfort. In case Draper
recognized Alice Walmsley on the ship, that instant, Sheridan resolved,
he would make known the whole terrible story to Mr. Wyville, and avert
intended evil, if possible by fear, if necessary by force.

Meanwhile, Sheridan saw Sister Cecilia, who knew that he was an old
friend of the innocent and much-wronged girl, and requested her to keep
Alice at all times off the main deck. He gave no reason for the request.

"But, Mr. Sheridan," said the nun, thinking of Alice's health, "she must
come into the open air some time."

"It were better not--better not," answered Sheridan, in a troubled mind;
"it were better that she should remain all day in the hospital."

"In the hospital," repeated the wise little nun, with a pitying smile.
She evidently saw, more clearly than anyone on board, the strange
complications around her. The hearts of at least four of the principal
actors in the sorrowful drama were open to her eyes; she saw the
relations of Sheridan, Alice, the miserable Harriet Draper, and her
guilty husband.

But even Sister Cecilia, wise as she was, did not know that there was a
fifth heart deeply concerned in the play. As she repeated Sheridan's
words, her pitying smile died away into lines of sorrow, seeing how
blindly he would turn Alice's steps from one danger to a deeper one. She
recalled, too, at the word, the supreme desolation and misery of that
one who now spent her days in the hospital.

"Do not fear, Mr. Sheridan," she said, as she went on her way of mercy,
"Alice will be safe. She will remain in my hospital."

Taking this as an agreement with his request, Mr. Sheridan resolved that
his conduct towards the captain should be absolutely reserved, until the
vessel reached port. Then, what to do was beset with difficulties. That
dire punishment should overtake the villain was clear; but what if his
public arraignment would disturb the peace of Alice, whose slowly
healing wounds would thus be torn open?

Instead of coming to a decision, Sheridan resolved that on the first
opportunity he would lay the whole matter before Mr. Wyville, and follow
his advice.

Soon after entering the tropics, the Houguemont had caught the trade
winds, and sailed swiftly down the level seas. Her tall masts dwindled
pigmy-like as she passed beneath the awful shadow of Teneriffe. Her
sky-sails cut a line on the cliff a finger's breadth from the sea; while
above her towered into the air the twelve thousand feet of tremendous
pinnacle. She coasted the great North-western bulge of Africa; and here,
for the first time since leaving England, her speed was checked, the
trade winds faded and died, the sea lost its ripples, but kept its
waves, that rose and fell slowly, with long monotonous rolls, like an
ocean of molten glass. The sails of the Houguemont slapped backwards and
forwards, the ropes hung useless, the pennant clung down the mast. The
convict ship was becalmed, off the coast of Africa, seven degrees above
the Line.

The faces of the ship's officers grew serious when the wind died. They
did not welcome a calm in such a latitude, and at that season. The heat
was intense and continuous, scarcely lowering by ten degrees at night.

"I wish we were five degrees to the westward," said Sheridan to Mr.
Wyville, his old marine lore recurring to him; "I hate this Gulf of
Guinea."

"Why?" asked Mr. Wyville, standing in the shade of a sail, while the
young military officer sat beside Sheridan on the rail.

"I hate it first for its sharks--you can't dip your hand in this water,
for a thousand miles south and east, without having it snapped off. I
hate it for its low coast, where so many splendid ships have sailed
straight to destruction. I hate it for its siroccos, whirlwinds, and,
above all, I hate it for its fevers. I don't think there's anything good
about the coast of Guinea."

"That is a bad showing, certainly," said the military officer.

"Yes; and it's quite true," continued Sheridan. "No one can say a good
word about this coast."

"Not so fast, not so fast," said Mr. Wyville, smiling at Sheridan's
earnestness. "On this very coast, within two hundred miles of us, is
being solved one of the most interesting political problems in human
history. Yonder lies a settlement with a national story unequalled for
dignity and pathos."

Sheridan and the young soldier looked up, astonished.

"What is it?" asked Sheridan.

"The Republic of Liberia," said Mr. Wyville.

Sheridan looked at the soldier, who, at the same moment, looked at him.
They both smiled broadly, confessing their ignorance.

"I was too busy with sandalwood--" began Sheridan.

"And I with tactics," said the soldier, "But what is this Republic,
sir?"

"A new country, honestly acquired," said Mr. Wyville; the only country
on earth not torn by force from its rightful owners. A country where
slaves have peacefully founded a nation of elevated freedom; where black
men have faced God in manly dignity, and declared their right to wipe
out the scriptural curse; whose citizenship is an honour to the holder,
and whose citizens are an honour to mankind."

"Who are the citizens?" asked the surprised officer.

"Slaves from America!" said Wyville, with an earnestness that made them
forget the heat; "men who bear on their bodies the marks of the lash,
and on their minds the rust of accursed laws; men who might be pardoned
for hating their kind. God bless them and," as he spoke, he looked away
in the direction of the land; "the kindest and most amiable race on
earth. They have carried with them from the great Republic of the West
only that which was good--its first principles. Its unrepublican
practices they have left behind."

"Will they not become corrupt?" asked Sheridan. "When?" "When they
become rich," said the officer innocently. "It is to be feared,"
answered Mr. Wyville. "But they have one safeguard." "What is that?"
"Their climate is deadly to white men," said Mr. Wyville.

The appearance of Captain Draper, coming from his stateroom, interrupted
the conversation. The young officer stopped to chat with him, while Mr.
Wyville and Sheridan walked to the other side of the poop.

"There are two powers of government represented on this ship," said
Sheridan, determined to bring the conversation to the point he wished to
speak about: "which is in command--the civil or military? The captain of
the vessel, or the military officer?"

"Neither."

"I do not understand."

"When convicts sail from England, they are assumed to be at once in the
penal colony. As soon as the convict ship leaves land, she becomes
subject to the penal law of West Australia."

"Who administers the law on board?"

"The representative of the Comptroller-General of Convicts, the actual
authority over the criminals in West Australia."

"Then we have a representative of the Comptroller-General on board?"

"No."

"Pardon me, Mr. Wyville; you speak riddles to-day. You said a moment ago
that every convict ship had such a representative."

"Yes; unless it have the Comptroller himself."

"Then we have--Are you the Comptroller-General?"

"Yes. The office was vacant, and, at the request of the Prime Minister, I
accepted a temporary appointment. I am glad it was offered; for it will
enable me to see our new law fairly started."

The evening had closed in as they convened, and now the shade became
somewhat tolerable. Mr. Wyville and Sheridan had drawn their deck chairs
towards the wheel-house."

"I am glad there is a power on board above that of the scoundrel who
commands the ship," said Sheridan, sternly, after a long pause. Then he
continued rapidly: "Mr. Wyville, I have feared every day that I should
have to strangle the wretch; I should have told you before, but
something always prevented. By some strange fatality there is on board
this ship a woman whom I have loved all my life, and who has been
mortally wronged by this man. I have come on this ship only to protect
her."

Sheridan's lowered voice was husky with deep emotion. Having said so
much, he remained silent.

Mr. Wyville had been looking out on the glassy and slow roll of the
waves. As Sheridan spoke, his lips and mouth closed with a gradual
compression, and a light almost of alarm came into his eyes. He was
thinking of Alice Walmsley.

"You have loved her all your life," he repeated slowly, still looking,
at the sea.

"Since I was a boy--and she loved me once."

Mr. Wyville was about to speak; but it seemed as if he changed his mind.
Still his lips moved, but he said nothing.

"Who is she, and where?" he said, after a pause, and in his usual calm
voice.

"She is a prisoner," answered Sheridan; "and she is confined in the
hospital."

"In the hospital!" cried Wyville, starting to his feet, with almost a
cry of joy then, seeing Sheridan's face, he controlled himself.

"That unhappy one?

"Yes," said Sheridan, sadly, thinking, that so he described Alice
Walmsley.

"God help you, my friend! yours is a terrible grief."

"I have feared that he would see her, or that she might see him."

"Fear no more," said Wyville, tenderly; "I have taken measures to
prevent such a meeting."

"You knew, then?" asked Sheridan, surprised.

"I knew his guilt--but not your sorrow. I knew that he and she were on
this ship. It was I who brought him here; and I had beforehand secured
her confinement during the voyage in the hospital."

Sheridan was surprised at this, having so lately spoken to Sister
Cecilia on the subject. But he set it down to the customary
thoughtfulness of Mr. Wyville.

"I cannot speak my gratitude to you," continued Sheridan; "your visit to
her prison awakened in her the life that wrong and grief had crushed. I
know the whole story, and I have longed to speak my gratitude."

Mr. Wyville deemed that Sheridan referred to his visit to Harriet Draper
in Walton-le-Dale. But how could Sheridan have discovered it? He had
certainly never communicated with Harriet Draper.

"How did you learn of my visit to her?" asked Mr. Wyville.

"From the governor of Millbank."

"Ah-yes; I told him."

Sheridan felt a great relief from this confidence. He asked Mr.
Wyville's advice as to his conduct towards Draper during the voyage, and
was glad to find that it coincided with his own view; to treat him with
cold neutrality until the Houguemont had landed her passengers and had
ceased to be a government ship.

When Sheridan had gone to his room, Mr. Wyville remained on deck alone.
His heart was strangely happy that night, though he was oppressed by the
grief of his friend. For one moment he had feared that the next would
crush to death something that had grown within him like a new and
sweeter life. As he recalled the scene, his heart stood still with the
fear, even in fantasy.

"Thank God!" he murmured, as he watched the moon rise, red and large, on
the sultry horizon. "One blow has been spared!"



THE FEVER.

MR. HAGGETT at first had found himself a lonely man on the convict ship.
His position was anomalous. He was neither a minister nor a prison
officer. Had he been the former, the ship's officers and the military
officers would have taken him into their mess; had he been the latter,
the convict officials would have been his companions. But he was only a
hired drudge, a non-professional. He was called simply "the
Scripture-reader."

So he was thrown for companionship on the two other lonely passengers,
Ben Lodge and Ngarra-jil, who were glad of his company, and entirely
ignorant of his position.

Mr. Haggett's nature was by no means a bad one; indeed, in other
circumstances it would have been an admirable one. He was simply one of
those persons who make up the million, who are common vessels to hold
that which is put into them. He was a queer mixture of zeal and conceit.
His mind had two keys, as a sparrow has only two notes, and these were
earnestness and vanity.

Had he been trained as a mechanic, he would have patiently mastered his
trade, never improving on what he bad been taught; and he would have
been vain of his skill, and faithful to it.

To give such a man a field of metaphysical labour, to put into his
callow bands the absolute spiritual control of hundreds of lives in need
of wise spiritual guidance, was an experiment far more injurious to poor
Haggett than to the convicts. It is so always. A priest's vestments are
too great for small natures, which they injure, if they do not destroy.

He became puffed up with an absurd wind of conceit, that almost amounted
to real character; while the convicts, heedless before, only confirmed
their opinion that Christianity was a wordy and stiff profession rather
than a true saving principle.

When Mr. Wyville humiliated Haggett in Millbank, the blow appeared
terrible; but in truth it only struck Haggett where he was puffed. As a
man might cut a balloon with a sharp sword, Mr. Wyville's interference
and authority had gashed the swelling vanity of the Scripture-reader.

From that day, though he afterwards set out to do Sir Joshua Hobb's
dirty work, Mr. Haggett had changed--he was gradually returning to his
real nature, which was, as it ought to be, humble.

"This is a good man," something within him kept saying of Mr. Wyville;
"why are you his enemy?" And the answer came, and repeated itself:
"Because you are Sir Joshua Hobb's tool."

These thoughts floated through Haggett's mind on his first visit to
Australia; and that they had an effect on his conduct was certain. Vague
hints and doubts and clews, which Sir Joshua would have been eager to
seize, Haggett indeed had found, but had kept to himself.

Since the Houguemont sailed he had been especially disturbed in mind.
When the incident of the fire came, and he spoke his mind to Mr. Wyville
in the hurried words, "Forgive me!" it was not a sudden thought. But it
was overwhelming. As a dam may tremble for years, especially in time of
storm, and go down at last with a rush, so the last barrier of Haggett's
vanity broke that day, and left the reservoir of his conceit dry and
unsightly to himself.

A man suffers deeply who has to turn an inward eye on such a scene. But
an honest man, helped by humility, will do it, and survive; and at
bottom Haggett was honest and humble.

He did not appear on deck for days after the fire; and when he did come
out, he spent his time in strange fashion. He would hang around the
passage to Sister Cecilia's quarters for hours; and when the little nun
was on her way to the female convicts, the ungainly Scripture-reader
would start from some unexpected angle, and watch for an opportunity to
offer some service.

This continued for weeks, until at last Sister Cecilia noticed the
attention. She quietly bowed her head one day in thanks for some slight
favour; and for the rest of the day Mr. Haggett's face was lined with
good humour and gratification. .

When the ship was becalmed in the tropics, the suffering of the
imprisoned wretches in the steaming and crowded hold was piteous to see.
They were so packed that free movement was impossible. The best thing to
do was to sit each on his or her berth, and suffer in patience.

The air was stifling and oppressive. There was no draught through the
barred hatches. The deck above them was blazing hot. The pitch dropped
from the seams, and burned their flesh as it fell.

There was only one word spoken or thought-one yearning idea present in
every mind-water, cool water to slake the parching thirst.

Two pints of water a day were served out to each convict--a quart of
half-putrid and blood-warm liquid. It was a woeful sight to see the
thirsty souls devour this allowance as soon as their hot hands seized
the vessel.

Day in and day out, the terrible calm held the ship, and the consuming
heat sapped the lives of the pent-up convicts. They suffered in strange
patience. The hold was silent all day. They made no complaints. When the
officers passed among them, and spoke to them, they smiled and sat still
on their berths.

Only once, there was a sound of discontent; when the order was given
that the daily allowance of water be reduced to one pint.

Among the officers of the ship, there was silence also. They knew they
were in a latitude where calms lasted for long periods. They flushed the
decks with water constantly, to try and keep them cool, for the sake of
the prisoners below.

"We shall need fresh water in a week," said Captain Draper to Mr.
Wyville one day; "the tanks are low already, and evaporation rapidly
increases."

Mr. Wyville did not answer, except with an inclination of the head.
Words were useless.

"Where is the nearest land?" he asked Sheridan that afternoon, as they
paced the poop.

"The island of Principe is about 200 miles to the south," said Sheridan.
"There is good water there."

The thought in Mr. Wyville's mind never came to words. As Sheridan
spoke, he stopped suddenly, looking away to the north, and pointing his
hand with an eager face. A dark line, very faint, was moving on the face
of the glassy ocean.

"Thank heaven!" he said, "yonder comes the breeze."

In half an hour it fanned their faces, but so gently that still the
sails hung useless, and the pennant only stirred an inch from the mast.
But it was a breath--it was a drink. When the night fell, the breeze
strengthened, and the ship moved.

There was no sleep on board that night. The hearts of all were filled
with deep relief and gratitude. The breeze held for four days, growing
steadier as they sailed. On the evening of the fourth day, a man aloft
cried out, "Land ho!"

They had sighted Principe. From deck, the land was not seen for an hour
later; and the Houguemont stood off and on till morning, when boats
would be sent ashore for water.

At the first flush of dawn the ship was steered towards the island. A
fog lay close to the water, and the eager eyes of the voyagers only saw
a line of wooded mountain, the base and summit of which were rolled in
mist.

The Houguemont sailed into the fog-bank; and before those on board had
time to realize the change, her foresails caught the sunshine, and she
swung to within a land-locked harbour as beautiful as a dream of
Paradise.

The water broke against the wooded shores all round the lovely haven.
The hills were covered with trees to the top, and the cocoa palms
crowded their lower slopes to the very shore. At the end of the harbour
stood the little town of St. Antonio.

The Houguemont came to anchor, and boats were sent ashore to fill the
water-casks. The Swift, clear streams were seen running into the
beautiful basin of the port.

While this work was going on, a sail-boat put off from the town, and
held towards the vessel. There were three men in it, and as they came
within hail of ship, keeping to leeward, they ran up a yellow flag.

"My God!" said Sheridan, who had been watching the boat; "they have the
fever!"

"Get out as fast as you can," cried a man in the boat. "And be sure you
allow no one from shore near the ship. We have the plague in St.
Antonio."

Without another Word, the boat's course was changed, and she returned to
the town. The crew of the Houguemont needed no incentive to work. By ten
o'clock that night the casks were filled and the ship was under sail.

"A fortunate escape!" said the medical officer to Sheridan, who did not
answer, but looked at the pennant. The wind had changed, and was blowing
directly from St. Antonio.

Next morning, the beautiful island was out of sight. The convicts got
plenty of water that day, and their hearts were glad. Towards evening,
one of the warders went to the doctor's room, and said there was a
prisoner very ill, who complained of nausea and pains in the head and
shoulders. The doctor's face grew pale at the word; but he turned away
from the warder.

"Take that man on deck at once," he said, quietly, "and place him in the
punishment division forward."

The warder went to carry out the order. The doctor hurriedly consulted a
book, then left his room and walked forward.

The sick prisoner was there before him. The doctor examined him, quietly
ordered his treatment, and retired. He joined Mr. Wyville on the poop.

"We have the fever on board," he said in a low voice. "A man has been
attacked by the worst symptoms."

An hour later two more convicts complained of sickness.

They were taken from the hold and placed in the cell forward.

Next day it was known throughout the ship that the fever which the
sailors and convicts called "the black vomit," was on board; and before
nightfall thirty prisoners were seized.

The sick were taken away from the hold at first; but this separation had
soon to be abandoned. There was no room for them apart. The hospital was
full. Those who took the fever had to be side by side with their
terror-stricken fellows.

Like an angel of comfort, Sister Cecilia tended on the sufferers.
Following her steps, and quietly obeying her word, went Mr. Haggett. In
the female compartment, where twelve prisoners lay with the fever, Alice
Walmsley moved ceaselessly in the work of mercy.

On the third day, the chief officer of the ship said to Mr. Wyville--

"Captain Draper has the fever."

The doctor, shortly after, came from the captain's room, and reported
that Draper had, indeed, been seized, but with symptoms of less
virulence than the others.

"Who will attend on Captain Draper?" asked the doctor. "He will be
unconscious in another hour, and will need care."

"I will attend him," said Mr. Wyville, after a pause; "write your
directions, doctor, and I will stay beside him to-night."



HUSBAND AND WIFE.

HIDEOUS incidents filled the days and nights as the convict ship sailed
southward with her burden of disease and death. The mortality among the
convicts was frightful. Weakened and depressed by the long drought, the
continuous heat, and the poisonous atmosphere, they succumbed to the
fever in its first stages.

The dead were laid in a row on the port side, as they were carried from
the hold. Relays of sailors worked at the shrouding and burial. The
bodies were wrapped in sail-cloth with a cannon ball tied at the feet.
As each corpse was hastily shrouded, it was passed forward, and the
ghastly roll was committed to the deep.

There was no time for ceremony; but Mr. Haggett, as often as he could be
spared from the hold, stood beside the opening in the rail, where the
bodies were launched, and followed each dull plunge with a word of
prayer.

"Mr. Sheridan," said Mr. Wyville, as he came from Captain Draper's room
on the first night of his illness, "will you take command of the ship
until the captain's recovery?"

Sheridan assented; and Mr. Wyville, calling the ship's officers to the
poop, instructed them to obey Captain Sheridan as the commander of the
vessel.

As soon as Sheridan took command, he spread every inch of canvas the
ship could carry, and held her before the wind.

"We shall shake off this fever when we clear the Southern tropics," he
said to Mr. Wyville. "The cold wind round the Cape will kill it in an
hour."

Captain Draper lay in his stateroom, half comatose, muttering incoherent
words in the low delirium of the fever. By his side sat Mr. Wyville,
giving him now and again the medicines prescribed.

The sick man's face was a ghastly sight. The offensiveness of the
protruding, eyes and cracked lips was hideously exaggerated. And as he
lay smouldering in the slow fire of the sickness, he muttered things
even more repulsive than his physical appearance.

The female hospital of the ship was filled with sufferers, indeed, the
entire hold of the vessel was at once an hospital and charnel-house.
There were no regular attendants among the male convicts, those who had
not been attacked waited on those who had, till their own turn came.

In the female compartment, which was separated from the regular
hospital, Alice Walmsley had entire charge. Her healthy life enabled her
to bear an extraordinary strain; day and night she was ministering to
the stricken, and they blessed her with words and looks as she passed
from sufferer to sufferer.

The door leading thence to the hospital Sister Cecilia kept locked, and
she herself carried the key.

Sister Cecilia stood one day within the hospital, at the door of a small
room. Kneeling before her, on the floor, with streaming eyes and
upraised hands, as if praying for a life, was a woman, in the grey dress
of a convict.

"O, for God's sake let me tend them! O, don't deny me--let me go and wait
on the poor sufferers. My heart is breaking when I think that I might be
doing some good. Don't refuse--O, don't refuse me. I feel that God would
pardon me if I could work out my life caring for others."

It was Harriet Draper who supplicated the nun, and who had besought her
for days with the same ceaseless cry. Sister Cecilia would gladly have
allowed her to work for the sick, but she feared that Alice would see
her. She had been compelled for days to refuse the heartrending
petition.

"You shall have your wish," said the nun, this day, with a kind look at
Harriet, "but not in the hospital."

"Anywhere, anywhere!" cried Harriet, rising with a wistful face; "only
let me tend someone who is sick. I want to do some good."

"Harriet," said Sister Cecilia, "you have told me your unhappy story,
and I am sure you wish to be a good woman!"

"I do--God knows I do!" interrupted the unfortunate one.

"As you hope to be forgiven, you must forgive--you must forgive even your
husband."

Poor Harriet covered her face in her hands, and made no answer, only
moved her head from side to side, as if in pain.

"Harriet, if your husband were on board this ship, sick and dying of the
fever, would you not tend him and forgive him before he died?"

Wild-eyed, the woman stared at Sister Cecilia, as if she had not
understood the question.

"He is on board--he is dying of the fever--will you not take care of him?"

"Oh--oh!" wailed Harriet, in a long cry, sinking on her knees and
clasping Sister Cecilia's dress. "He would drive me away--he would not
let me stay there--he does not love me!"

"But you love him--you will tend him, and you will forgive him. Will you
not?"

"Yes, I will--I will wait on him day and night, and he shall recover with
my nursing."

She dried her weeping eyes, to show the Sister her immediate readiness
and calmness.

"Take me to him," she said, with only quivering lips; "let me begin
now."

"Come, then" said Sister Cecilia; and she led Harriet Draper to the
hatch, and aft to the captain's quarters.

Mr. Wyville rose as Sister Cecilia entered, followed by Harriet. As he
did so, the sick man moved, and muttered something, with upraised feeble
arm.

With a low sob or cry, Harriet darted past Sister Cecilia, and sank
beside the bed. She took the upraised arm and drew it to her breast, and
covered the feverish hand with tearful kisses. At the touch, the sick
man ceased to wander, and turning his head, seemed to fall at once into
a peaceful sleep.

Harriet, seeing this, after her first emotion, turned to Mr. Wyville and
Sister Cecilia with a smile of Joy, and, still holding, her husband's
arm to her breast, pointed to his restful sleep. They smiled at her in
return, though their eyes were brimming with tears.

Sister Cecilia instructed her as to the attendance, and then withdrew,
leaving the guilty and unconscious husband in his wife's care. There was
joy at least in one heart on board that night. From her low seat beside
the bed, Harriet Draper watched his face, murmuring soft and endearing
words, and obeying the doctor's instructions to the letter and second.

"He will recover, and he will know me," she whispered to her heart; "I
shall win back his love by--being faithful and forgiving."

The climax of the fever would not come till the sixth day and during
these days Harriet watched her husband with scarcely an hour's rest.
Every hour that passed added to his chance of recovery, as the ship was
sailing swiftly towards the cooler latitudes.

One day, while Harriet sat beside the bed, holding the feeble hand, as
she loved to do, there came a lucid interval to her husband. She had
been murmuring soft words as she kissed his hand, when, looking at his
face, she met his eyes fixed upon her. For a moment there came a light
of recognition and dismay in his look; but before she could speak his
name, or recall his memory the light faded, and he reverted to a state
of sluggish delirium.

For the first time since she came to his side, a chill of fear pierced
Harriet's heart. For one instant she knew he had seen her. But there was
no love in the look of recognition. What if the same cold stare should
return on his recovery, and continue?

"God will not let it be" whispered her heart. "When he recovers, he will
surely love me as of old!"



WOMAN'S LOVE AND HATRED.

ON the later days of Captain Draper's illness he moaned and tumbled
restlessly. One of the worst symptoms of the fever was its persistent
hold on the brain. The sick man raved constantly, carried on excited
conversations, gave orders to the sailors, and, in the midst of these
wanderings, again and again reverted to one dark subject that seemed to
haunt his inflamed mind.

He lived over and over again, day after day, terrible scenes, that had
surely been rehearsed in his mind before the sickness. In his fantasy he
was standing by the rail of the ship, while a boat was slowly lowered,
in which sat Sheridan. As the boat swung over the raging sea, suspended
by a rope at bow and stern, the bow rope parted, the boat fell
perpendicularly, and Sheridan was flung into the ocean, and drowned.

During this series of mental pictures, the action of the raving man
plainly showed that his hand had cut the rope; and his exultation at the
completion of the murder was horrible to see. He would turn his face to
the partition, away from the light, and chuckle with a vile sound,
rubbing his hands in devilish delight.

One day Mr. Wyville sat beside the bed, intending to relieve the
tireless Harriet for a few hours. But Harriet still lingered in the
room.

Draper had gone once more through the hideous pantomime, accompanying
every act with words expressing the baleful intention. Mr. Wyville sat
regarding him with compressed lips. When the horrible culmination had
come, and the wretch chuckled over his success, Mr. Wyville looked up
and met Harriet's fearful gaze.

"Curse him!" whispered Draper, "he was always in my way. I meant it
always--but this was the best plan. Ha! ha! better than pistol or
poison--accident--ha! ha! drowned by accident!"

"Do you know of whom be speaks?" asked Mr. Wyville of Harriet.

"A man named Sheridan," she answered; he talks of him a great deal."

"A man named Sheridan!" repeated Mr. Wyville to himself. "She speaks as
if she did not know him."

He sat silent for a time, his eyes fixed on the guilty man before him,
who was unconsciously laying bare the foul secrets of his heart. At last
he turned to Harriet and said--

"Do you not know this man named Sheridan?"

"No."

The answer surprised him, and he became silent again. Presently he sent
Harriet to her rest.

"I do not see the end," he wearily murmured, when he was alone with the
sick man; "but I forebode darkly. Providence has kept this miscreant
from a deeper crime than he has yet committed. Heaven grant that he has
also been preserved for repentance and atonement!"

Mr. Wyville had resolved to be at Draper's side when the hour of sanity
returned, and to keep his unfortunate wife out of sight until he had
prepared him for her presence.

It was midnight when that moment arrived. Draper had slept soundly for
several hours. Mr. Wyville first knew that he had returned to
consciousness by the movement of his hands. Presently he spoke, in a
feeble voice.

"I have been sick, haven't I? How many days?"

"Six days."

"Are we still becalmed?

"No; we are in the Southern trades."

Draper said no more. He moved his head from side to side, trying to look
around the room. Mr. Wyville remained still and silent.

"Have you been here with me?" he asked, at length. "You couldn't have
been here all the time."

"Not all the time."

"I suppose I spoke aloud, and--and--raved about people?"

Mr. Wyville looked suddenly at him, and caught the reptilian eye that
watched the effect of the question. He was impelled to speak sooner than
he had intended, by the cunning of the fellow.

"Yes," he said, keeping his powerful look on Draper's face, as if he
addressed his inner soul as well as outward sense; "you have told the
whole villainous purpose of your heart. If you recover, you may thank
God for striking you with sickness to keep you from murder and the
murderer's doom. Had you carried out your design, nothing could have
saved you; for there are others here who knew your history and your
motive."

Draper did not answer, but lay like a scotched snake, perfectly still,
hardly breathing, but watching Mr. Wyville with a cold eye.

"Do you know who has nursed you through your sickness?"

Draper moved his head negatively.

"Would you like to know?"

He only looked more keenly at Mr. Wyville, but there was a light of
alarm in the look.

"You have been cared for by one whom you have blighted who owed you
nothing but curses. Day and night she has been with you, and she has
saved your life."

Still Draper did not move or speak, but only looked.

"You know of whom I speak," said Mr. Wyville; "are you ready now to meet
your unhappy wife, and to ask her forgiveness?"

He had risen as he spoke--Draper's eyes followed his face. The strength
of manhood, even of facial deceit, having been drained by the fever,
there was nothing left of Draper's real self but his wily nature.

As Mr. Wyville rose, the door opened slowly, and Harriet entered,
advanced a few steps, and stood still in fear. She looked at her
husband's face; for one instant his cold eye from Mr. Wyville and took
her in, then returned to its former direction.

Harriet's heart seemed to stop beating. A cold and despairing numbness
began to creep over her. She foresaw the nature of the meeting--she knew
now what would be her reception. Her limbs slowly failed her, and she
sank on the floor, not heavily, but hopelessly and dumb. Mr. Wyville,
hearing the slight sound, turned, and read the story of despair like an
open page. With a rush of indignation in his blood, almost a mounting to
wrath, he regarded Draper.

"Remember," he said, sternly, "your guilt is known. You still have one
chance to escape the punishment you deserve. It lies in her hands."

He turned from the bed, and left the room. Draper lay motionless for
several minutes, knowing that his victim and wife was grovelling in the
room, waiting for his word.

"Come here," he said at length, in a voice all the colder for its
weakness.

Harriet crept to the bed, and laid her head near his hand. But he did
not touch her.

"I want to see you," he said.

The poor woman raised her miserable face until their eyes met. Hers were
streaming with bitter tears. His were as cold and dry as a snake's. She
would have cried out his name but the freezing glitter of his eyes
shivered her impulse, and fixed her in terrified fascination.

"You and he!" he said slowly, as if thinking aloud, "And after all, you
would have been left. And so, I'm in your power at last?"

It was appalling to see the lips, the wasted lower face of the man
twist into a smile, while the serpent glance above was intensified.

Poor Harriet sank down slowly, the slow shudder creeping over her once
more. Her blood had ceased to course in her veins at the cruel
reception. She had no thoughts: she only felt there was no hope for her.

The first love of some women is mysteriously tenacious. It ceases to be
a passion, and becomes a principle of life. It is never destroyed until
life ceases. It may change into a torture--it may become excited like a
white-hot iron, burning the heart it binds; or it may take on a lesser
fire, and change into red hatred; but it never grows cold--it never loses
its power to command at a thrill the deepest motives of her nature.

Through all phases but one had passed the love of Harriet Draper. She
knew that her husband was a villain, that her hideous degradation had
come from his hand; that he hated her now and would be rid of her; and
the knowledge had only changed her love to a torture without killing it.

But the change from white heat to fierce red is not infinite. It is a
transition rapidly made. At the white heat, the woman's love burns
herself; at the red, it burns the man she loves. A woman's hatred is
only her love on fire.

"I didn't think it was you," said Draper, making no pretence to deceive
her; "I thought you were dead years ago."

Something stirred in Harriet's heart at the emphasis--something like a
grain of resentment. She had forgotten self; she now thought of herself,
and of what she had gone through for this man's sake.

"How did you come here?" he asked. "Did--he bring you here? Oh, curse
you, you've got me in the trap. Well, we'll see."

"I have made no trap," said Harriet; "no one brought me here but myself
and--you. I am a prisoner."

Draper was evidently surprised at this news; but it only momentarily
checked his rancour.

"I suppose you robbed someone, or mur--?" As he spoke, Harriet struggled
to her knees with a pitiful gulping sound, and clutched at the
bedclothes, trying to gain her feet. Draper looked at her a moment and
then continued slowly--

"I suppose you robbed someone, or murdered--" With a spring like a tiger,
and a terrible low cry, Harriet was on her feet, the coverlet in her
clenched hands, her flaming eyes on her husband's face.

"Dare!" she hissed, "and I will tear the tongue from your cruel mouth!"

For half a minute the two regarded each other. In that half minute, the
white heat of Harriet's love became red. Hitherto, she had hated the one
for whom Draper had deserted her, and had hated herself. Now, for the
first time, she hated him.

"Villain! monster!" she cried, throwing the coverlet from her with
fierce revulsion; "you speak of murder to the murderess you made? Oh,
God, God! is there no lightning to strike this man dead! Murder I have
done in madness"--she paused with upraised hands, as if she saw a
vision--"Oh, merciful God! that innocent one!"

Harriet staggered across the room at the first dreadful thought of the
bitter suffering endured by another for her crime. She had partially
repented, it is true; but, secretly, she knew that she had never pitied
her rival. Now, she could have suddenly died with grief for her wrong.

Harriet did not know that a strong hand upheld her as she fell, and
supported her from the room. She recovered in the open air, and looked
about her as if awakening from a terrible dream. Sister Cecilia came and
led her back to her old solitary quarters in the hospital.

Mr. Wyville and the doctor stood beside Draper's bed. He had swooned.

"Is he dead?"

"No," said the doctor; "he has come out of the fever quite strong. He
will recover, unless something unforeseen interfere. He is out of
danger."



THE DARKNESS OF DESOLATION

THE recovery of Captain Draper was regarded as a good omen by the
sailors and convicts; and with a return of confidence to them the fever
daily declined.

The average of recoveries grew larger, and there were few new seizures.

From the day of his interview with Harriet, Draper saw her no more.
Neither did he see Mr. Wyville. The steward alone attended him. He was
forced to ponder on the future, and every new possibility was harder to
accept than the last. During those days of convalescence, his coward
soul preyed upon by his villainous imagination, Draper suffered almost
the torments of the damned.

When the heartbroken Harriet recovered from the excitement of the
dreadful interview, her soul had only one feeling--remorse. As one dying
of thirst might sit down on the burning sand, and commune with the
devouring fire in the body, so this unhappy one sat upon her pallet in
the hospital room, and communed for hours with the newly-lighted
consuming fire in her soul.

At last Mr. Wyville entered the hospital, with the physician. He
approached Harriet, and spoke in a low tone, such as he had used when
addressing her once before.

"Do you remember me?"

She looked at him in surprise, at first; but, as she continued to gaze,
there rose in her mind a recollection that brought the blood strongly
from her heart. She clasped her hands beseechingly.

"I thought I had dreamt it in the cell--I did not know that it was real.
Oh, sir, did you not come to me and speak blessed words of comfort? Did
you not say that he was guilty of part of my crime?"

"Yes; it was I who visited you in Walton-le-Dale. I come now to say the
same words--to ask you to save the innocent one who has borne your
penalty."

"Thank Heaven, it is not too late! This moment let me do what is to be
done. Oh, Sir, I know now the whole of my crime--I never saw it till this
day. I never pitied her nor thought of her; but now, when I could ask
for even God's pardon, I dare not ask for hers."

Seeing Harriet in this repentant mind, Mr. Wyville lost no time in
having her confession formally taken down and witnessed. This done, he
spoke comforting words to Harriet, who, indeed, was relieved by the
confession, and felt happier than she had been for years. Assembling the
officers of the convict service in the cabin, immediately afterwards,
Mr. Wyville took his first step as Comptroller-General, by announcing
that Alice Walmsley was no longer a prisoner, that her innocence had
been fully established by the confession of the real criminal, and that
henceforth she was to be treated respectfully as a passenger.

When this news was given to Sister Cecilia, she almost lost her placid
self-control in an outburst of happiness. But she controlled herself,
and only wept for very gladness. Then she started up, and almost ran
towards her secluded room, to break the tidings to Alice.

Alice was sewing when Sister Cecilia entered. She had acquired a habit
of sewing during her long solitary confinement, and now she was happiest
while working at a long seam. She smiled pleasantly as Sister Cecilia
entered.

The kind little nun almost regretted that she bore news that would break
the calm stream of Alice's life. She was happy as she was; would she be
happier under better circumstances? Would the awakened memories
counterbalance or sink the benefit?

"Good news, Alice!"

Alice looked up from her sewing inquiringly.

"Is the fever over at last?" she asked.

"Better than that, my child," said Sister Cecilia, sitting clown beside
her, and putting an arm around her with tender affection. "I have
special good news, that will gladden every kind heart on the ship. One
of our prisoners, who has been in prison a long time, has been proved
innocent, and has been made free by order of the Comptroller-General!"

As Sister Cecilia spoke, she still embraced Alice, and looked down at
her face. But there was no perceptible change, except a slight
contraction of the brow-muscles denoting awakened interest.

"And she, who was a poor prisoner an hour ago, is now a respected
passenger on the Queen's ship!" continued Sister Cecilia, lightly; but
in truth she was alarmed at Alice's calmness.

"It is a woman, then?" said Alice.

"Yes, dear; a woman who has been nine years in prison, suffering for
another's crime. And that other has confessed--Alice! Alice!" cried
Sister Cecilia, dismayed at the effect of her words. But Alice did not
hear; she had slipped from her seat, pale as marble, fainting; and were
it not for the supporting arms of the nun she would have fallen headlong
to the floor.

Sister Cecilia did not alarm anyone; she was experienced in emotional
climaxes. She did the few things proper for the moment, then quietly
awaited Alice's recovery.

In a few minutes the pale face was raised, and the mild eyes sought
Sister Cecilia as if they asked a heartrending question. The little
Sister did not understand the appeal; so she only encouraged Alice by a
kind word to regain strength.

"And she!" whispered Alice, with quivering lips, now speaking what she
had looked; "where is she--the forsaken one?"

"She is on board, my child; she is a prisoner, and a most unhappy one.
She has no hope but the peace of atonement. God send her comfort!

"Amen! Amen!" cried Alice, laying her head on the Sister's arm, and
sobbing without restraint.



THE NEW PENAL LAW

THERE being no female passengers in the cabin of the Houguemont, it was
decided that Alice Walmsley should remain in her room with Sister
Cecilia till the end of the voyage. The only change made was in her
dress, and this, by some strange foresight on the part of the little
Sister, as it seemed, was quite extensively and fittingly provided for.

Alice selected the quietest possible dress, and when she stood arrayed
in it, after so many weary years in prison gray, she could not help
glancing at her face in the glass, and blushing as she looked; and at
this very pretty and womanly moment, Sister Cecilia came upon her and
gave a pleasant little laugh. Upon this, Alice blushed deeper, and
turned her confused face away, while Sister Cecilia reached after it,
and drawing it to the light kissed her affectionately.

"Why, Alice," she said, with a provoking smile, "you are quite a
beauty."

Unquestionably, even a few days without the burden of bondage had worked
wonders in Alice's life. She was no longer moody; she instantly and
naturally began to take fresh interest in everything she saw and heard
around her.

The ship cleared the Tropics and raced down towards the Cape in the
vigorous Southern trades. The blustering winds and the rough sea brought
refreshment even to the feeble, and to Alice renewed strength. Her face
lost the pallor of confinement, and her step became elastic. The years
of her imprisonment had kept dormant the energies that waste with
exertion. She began to feel as youthful and as cheerful as when she was
a girl.

One day she was standing beside her open window, looking out on the sea,
when she plainly heard above her, on the poop deck, a voice that held
her rooted to the spot.

"I cannot forsee the result"--she heard these words--"but I shall go on to
the end. I have loved her clearly always; and I shall, at least, prove
it to her before the dream is dispelled."

Alice held herself to the window, not meaning to listen to the words so
much as to obey the strong prompting of her heart to hear the honest
ring of the voice.

It was Will Sheridan who spoke--he stood on the poop with Mr. Wyville--and
Alice knew the voice. After so many years, it came to her like a message
from her girlhood, and bridged over the chasm in her life.

No other words reached her; but the conversation continued for a long
time; and still she stood beside the window, her cheek laid on her
hands, while she allowed the familiar tones to transport her back to
happy scenes.

Sister Cecilia found her so, and playfully coaxed her to tell her
thoughts; but Alice's diffidence was so evident that the little nun sat
down and laughed heartily.

The voyage round the Cape had no special interest; and a few weeks later
the officers began their preparations for disembarkation. The air grew
balmy once more, and the sky cloudless.

"We are just three hundred miles from the mouth of the Swan River," said
Sheridan one day to Mr. Wyville, when he had taken his observations.
"Have you ever landed at Fremantle?"

"Yes, once--many years ago," said Mr. Wyville, and he crossed the deck to
observe something in the sea.

Throughout the voyage, neither Sheridan nor Wyville had seen Alice
Walmsley. Each in his own mind deemed it best to leave her undisturbed
with Sister Cecilia. Mr. Wyville was still impressed with the conviction
of Sheridan's unhappy and hopeless affection for Harriet; but he was
much perplexed by her forgetfulness of his name. However, when they
reached Australia, one day ashore would clear up matters without the
pain of preliminary explanation.

Day after day, in the mild southern air, the ship glided slowly on, and
still the watchers on the crowded deck saw no Sign of land. From morning
light they leant on the rail, looking away over the smooth sea to where
the air was yellow with heat above the unseen continent. There was a
warmth and pleasure in the promise it gave.

The straining eyes were saved the long pain of watching the indistinct
line. The shore of West Australia is quite low, and the first sign of
land are tall mahogany trees in the bush. The ship passed this first
sight-line early in the night; and next morning, when the convicts were
allowed on deck, they saw, only a few miles distant, the white sand and
dark woods of their land of bondage and promise.

The sea was as smooth as a lake, and the light air impelled the ship
slowly. At noon they passed within a stone's throw of the island of
Rottenest, and every eye witnessed the strange sight of gangs of naked
black men working like beavers in the sand, the island being used as a
place of punishment for refractory natives.

An hour later, the ship had approached within a mile of the pier at
Fremantle. The surrounding sea and land were very strange and beautiful.
The green shoal-water, the soft air, with a yellowish warmth, the pure
white sand of the beach, and the dark green of the unbroken forest
beyond, made a scene almost like fairyland.

But there was a stern reminder of reality in the little town of
Fremantle that lay between the forest and the sea. It was built of
wooden houses, running down a gentle hill; and in the centre of the
houses, spread out like a gigantic star-fish, was a vast stone prison.

There was a moment of bustle and noise on the deck, through which rang
the clear commanding voice of Sheridan, and next moment the anchor
plunged into the sea and the cable roared through the hawse-hole. Every
soul on board took a long breath of relief at the end of the voyage.

A tug was seen coming from the wharf, the deck of which was crowded. At
its mast-head floated the Governor's flag. On the deck was the Governor
of the colony with his staff, and a host of convict officers from the
prison.

The tug steamed alongside, and the Governor came on board the convict
ship. He wore a blue tunic, with epaulettes like a naval officer, white
trousers, and a cocked hat. He greeted Mr. Wyville with official welcome
on account of his position, and warmly expressed his admiration of his
philanthropy.

"I understand you bring us a new penal system," said the Governor. "I
hope it is a stronger one than that we have."

"It certainly is stronger," said Mr. Wyville, "for it is milder and
juster."

"Well, well," said the Governor, who was a testy old general, "I hope
you won't spoil them. They need a stiff hand. Now, I suppose you want
those warders from the prison to get your crowd into order for landing.
Shall I order them on board?"

Mr. Wyville had been looking down on the tug, observing the officers,
who were a rough crew, each one carrying, a heavy cane or whip, as well
as a pistol in the belt, and a sword. He turned with a grave face to the
Governor.

"Your Excellency, I am sure, will see the wisdom of beginning with our
new code at once. We have here the best opportunity to emphasize its
first principles. Shall I proceed?"

"By all means, Sir; you have absolute control of your department. I
shall watch your method with interest."

At his order, the warders boarded the ship, formed in line, and saluted.
Mr. Wyville descended from the poop, and carefully inspected them as
they stood in rank.

"Go to the steward," he said to the chief warder, as he came to the end
of the line, "and get from him a large basket."

The man was astonished, but he promptly obeyed. In a minute he returned
with a capacious hamper.

"Begin on the right," said Mr. Wyville, in curt tones, "and place in
that hamper your pistols, swords, canes, and whips."

The warders scarcely believed their ears; but they obeyed.

"Now listen!" said Mr. Wyville, and his voice thrilled the warders with
its depth and earnestness. "I am going to read for you the new law of
this colony, of which you are the officers. Its first word is, that if
any of you strike or maltreat a prisoner, you shall be arrested,
discharged, and imprisoned."

The warders fairly gasped with astonishment. The old Governor, who had
listened attentively at first, opened his eyes wide, then nodded his
head in decided approval.

Mr. Wyville read the heads of the new law, emphasizing the mild points.
As he proceeded, the faces of the warders lost all expression but one of
blank amazement. The entire meaning of the law was that convicts were
expected to rise from bad to good, rather than descend from bad to
worse. In other words, it was a law meant for reformation, not for
vengeance.

In passing along the line, Mr. Wyville's eye rested on a silver medal
worn by one of the warders. He looked at it keenly.

"What is that medal for?" he asked.

"For the mutiny of two years ago," said the chief warder; "this officer
killed three mutineers."

"Take that medal off," said Mr. Wyville to the warder, "and never put it
on again. We are to have no more mutiny."

The warders were then dismissed from the rank, and instructed to go
below and get the convicts in order for disembarkation. As they
departed, Mr. Wyville gave them one word more.

"Remember, you are dealing with men, not with brutes--with men who have
rights and the protection of law."

When they had disappeared into the bold, the old Governor shook Mr.
Wyville warmly by the hand.

"By the lord Harry, sir, this is excellent," he said, heartily.

"This d--d colony has been a menagerie long enough. If you succeed with
your system, we'll make it a civilized country at last."



A PRISONER AT LARGE

THE disembarkation of the convicts was a novel scene to them, and to the
officers directing their movements. The absence of shouting and violence
made it quite unprecedented to the warders. The convicts reached the
wharf on barges, and marched in single file up the little street leading
to the great gate of the prison of Fremantle.

Inside the gate, in the centre of an immense yard or walled sand plain,
the Governor and Comptroller-General stood; and as the long line of
convicts filed by, each saluted in military fashion, and passed on to
the prison.

It was late in the afternoon when the last convict passed. The Governor
was about to leave the ground, when his attention was called to one more
stranger from the ship, who approached. It was Captain Draper. He walked
slowly, as if still feeble from his illness; but he was carefully
dressed, and was really much more vigorous than he pretended. He raised
his hat to the Governor as he approached, and received a curt return of
the salute, followed by a cold stare. The Governor had looked into
Captain Draper's case that forenoon.

"Shall I retain the crew, your Excellency?" said Draper, with an
obsequious smile, "or is the ship to go out of commission for the
present?"

"I don't know, Sir," said the stiff old Governor, not hiding his dislike
and contempt; "and I don't care, Sir. The ship belongs to the convict
department." He turned on his heel as he spoke.

"Captain Draper," said Mr. Wyville, in an official tone, "you are
relieved of your command. The ship goes out of commission."

Draper's face was a study of disappointment at the news.

"The crew will remain--" he began.

"The crew will be taken to Adelaide on my yacht, which will arrive this
week."

"Shall I have quarters on board?" asked Draper, with an alarmed look.

"No, Sir," said Mr. Wyville, shortly. "You must seek some other means of
transport."

"But," said Draper, imploringly, "there are no ships in the colony, nor
are any expected. I shall have to remain here."

"True," said the Governor, who enjoyed the scene. "There will be no
visitors here for twelve months to come, nor any means of leaving."

Draper looked from one to the other of the men before him; but he drew
no gleam of satisfaction from their faces. He began to feel a sinking of
the heart, such as all cowards feel in the presence of danger. He
instinctively knew that his cunning had been overreached, and was
useless. He knew not where to look for the hand that had played against
him; but through every nerve the knowledge rushed on him that he had
been overmastered by a superior intelligence--that he was beaten,
discovered, and impotent.

This knowledge came suddenly, but it came overwhelmingly. At one glance
he saw that he had been led into a trap, and that the door had just
closed. He turned to Mr. Wyville, crestfallen.

"If you refuse to let me go on the steamer, I might as well be a
prisoner here."

"Precisely," said Mr. Wyville.

"Except that you will be a prisoner at large," said the Governor. "There
is a saying in this colony," he added laughingly to Mr. Wyville, "that
there are only two classes here--the people who are in prison, and the
people who ought to be. Come, now, the horses are waiting; we have a
ride of ten miles to Perth before we get dinner."

The Governor, Mr. Wyville, and the gentlemen of the staff moved off,
leaving Captain Draper alone in the centre of the prison yard. He
regarded them with baleful eyes till they went through the gate and
disappeared. Then he followed, emerged from the gate, and was directed
by one of the prison guards to an inn or public-house for the
ticket-of-leave men, where he took up his residence.




BOOK FIVE- THE VALLEY OF THE VASSE



ALICE WALMSLEY'S NEW HOME

THE little town of Fremantle, with its imposing centre, the great stone
prison, is built on the shore, within the angle formed by the broad Swan
River as it flows calmly into the calm sea. At its mouth, the Swan is
about two miles wide. The water is shallow, and as clear as crystal,
showing, from the high banks, the brown stones and the patches of white
sand on the bottom. The only ripple ever seen on its face, except in the
rainy season, is the graceful curve that follows the stately motion of
the black swans, which have made the beautiful river their home, and
have given it its name.

One mile above the mouth of the river, where the gloomy cliff hangs over
the stream, are situated the terrible stone-quarries of Fremantle, where
the chain-gang works. Many a time, from the edge of the overhanging
cliff, a dark mass had been seen to plunge into the river, which is very
deep at this point. After this, there was one link missing in the chains
at night, and there was little stir made and few questions asked. Not
one swimmer in a thousand could cross a mile of water with fifty pounds
of iron chained to his ankles.

For ten miles above Fremantle, the Swan winds in and out among the low
hills and the wooded valleys. Its course is like a dream of peace. There
is never a stone in its bed great enough to break the surface into a
whirl or ripple. Its water turns no busy wheels. Along its banks are
seen no thriving homesteads. Here and there, in the shallows, a black
man, with upraised spear, stands still as an ebony statue, while his
wives and children sit upon the shaded rocks on the shore, and silently
watch his skilful fishing. Presently, without a quiver of warning, the
statue moves its arm, the long spear is driven under water like a flash,
and is raised to bear ashore its prize of a wide-backed plaice. Along
the wooded banks, the kangaroo nibbles the fresh grass, and the
bright-skinned carpet snake dives into the pleasant water, that has
become almost his second home.

On a lovely bend of the river, ten miles from its mouth, stands the
little city of Perth, the capital of the penal colony, and the residence
of the Governor. It is a petty town to-day, of four or five thousand
people; it was much smaller at the date of our story. The main building,
as in all West Australia towns, is the prison; the second is the
official residence, a very spacious and sightly mansion.

Just outside the town, on a slope of exquisite lawn, running past the great
stone prison, running down to the river, stood a long, low building, within
a high enclosure. This was the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy, where the
children of the colony were educated.

In the porch of the convent one evening, some two weeks after the
arrival of the Houguemont, sat Alice Walmsley, Sister Cecilia, and two
growing girls from the convent school.

"Yes," said Alice, in answer to some remark of the nun, "this is,
indeed, a scene of utter rest. But," she added, sadly, "it is not so for
most of those who see what we see. There is no rest for--"

"The wicked, Alice," said one of the schoolgirls, the daughter of a free
settler. "Neither should there be. Why do you always pity the convicts
so? One would think you ought to hate them."

The other girl stood beside Alice's chair, touching her soft hair with
her hand in a caressing manner.

"Alice couldn't hate even the convicts," she said, bending to smile in
Alice's face.

It was evident that the loving nature was fully alive, sending out
already its tendrils to draw towards it everything within its reach.
Sister Cecilia smiled kindly as she heard the girls, and saw their
expressions of love for Alice. She, however, changed the subject.

"Mr. Wyville's yacht, with Mr. Hamerton and Mr. Sheridan, will return
from Adelaide next week," she said to Alice. "Here is the report in the
Fremantle Herald."

Alice turned her head as if interested in the news. Sister Cecilia
continued reading.

"And then they will start for Mr. Wyville's home in the Vasse."

Alice silently sank back in her chair. Her eyes slowly withdrew from the
newspaper in her friend's hand, and settled far away on the other side
of the Swan, in a waking dream and a dream that was not content. A few
moments later she rose, and said she would walk home early that evening.

"You like your new home and friends?" said Sister Cecilia, not trying to
detain her, though the girls did. "I thought it would be pleasanter and
more natural to you than our monotonous convent life."

"They are very kind," said Alice; "and I love to work in the dairy and
among the children. It reminds me of my own dear old home in England."

She said the words without pain, though her eyes filled with tears.

"My good Alice!" said Sister Cecilia, taking her face between her hands
in the old way; "I am so happy to hear you say that. Come, girls, let us
walk to Mr. Little's farm with Alice."

With characteristic wisdom and kindness, Sister Cecilia had obtained for
Alice, shortly after their arrival, a home in a rich settler's family.
Her mind, so recently freed from the enforced vacancy, became instantly
filled with new interests, and her life at once took root in the new
country.

When she had been settled so for about a fortnight, and was becoming
accustomed to the new routine, she received a letter from Will Sheridan.
She knew it was from him; but she did not open it among the children.
When her duties for the day were done, she walked down towards the
convent, which was only half a mile away; but when she came to the tall
rocks beside the river, where she was utterly alone, she opened and read
her letter.

It was a simple and direct note, saying "Good-bye for a time," that he
was going to Adelaide to leave the crew of the convict ship there; but
he should call on her, "for the old time's sake," when he returned.

Alice read the letter many times, and between each reading her eyes
rested on the placid river. Once before, she had been haunted with the
last words of his letter, "Yours faithfully;" and now she repeated and
repeated the one sentence that was not prosaic--"I will come for the old
time's sake."

A few weeks later she received a letter from him, written in Adelaide,
telling her of the voyage, and stating the time of their probable return
to Fremantle. Alice could not help the recurring thought that he was
thinking of her.

One day, at dinner, Mr. Little spoke to her about the voyage.

"You brought us back a man we wanted in this colony, Miss Walmsley," he
said; "the man who has made the country worth living in."

"Mr. Wyville--yes," said Alice confidently; "he could ill be spared from
any country."

"No, I don't mean Wyville; I mean Mr. Sheridan--Agent Sheridan, we call
him,"

"Yes, sir," said Alice, her eyes lowered to the table.

"He's the cleverest man that ever came to this colony," said the
well-meaning farmer; "I hope he'll get married and settle down here for
life."

"O, Sam, who could he marry in the West? There is no one here," said the
farmer's wife.

"Nonsense," said Mr. Little; "there's the Governor's daughter for one,
and there are plenty more. And don't you know, the Governor is going to
give Mr. Sheridan a grand dinner, in the name of the colony, when he
comes back from Adelaide?"

Throughout the dinner Alice was particularly attentive to the children,
and did not eat much herself.

"Mr. Wyville is coming here to-morrow," said Mr. Little, presently. "He
wants to buy that meadow below the convent, to put up another school.
He's a good man that, too, Miss Walmsley; but the other man knows the
needs of this colony, and has taught them to us."

"Mr. Wyville is a man whose whole life seems given to benefit others,"
said Alice, quite heartily; and she joined the conversation in his
praise, telling many incidents of his care for the prisoners on the
journey.

But, though Farmer Little again and again returned to the praise of
Sheridan, who was his man of men, Alice sat silent at these times, and
earnestly attended to the wants of the children.



SOONER OR LATER, A MAN MUST FACE HIS SINS.

THE inn where Draper had taken up his residence, known as "The Red
Hand," was one of the common taverns of the country, the customers of
which were almost entirely of the bond class, ticket-of-leave men,
working as teamsters or woodcutters, with a slight sprinkling of the
lowest type of free settlers. The main purpose of every man who
frequented the place was to drink strong liquor, mostly gin and brandy.
The house existed only for this, though its sign ran "Good Victuals and
Drink for Man and Beast." But whatever food was eaten or sleep taken
there was simply a means towards longer and deeper drinking.

Champagne, too, was by no means unknown. Indeed, it was known to have
been swilled from stable buckets, free to all comers to the house. This
was when a crowd of sandalwood-cutters or mahogany sawyers had come in
from the bush to draw their money for a year, or perhaps two or three
years' work. These rough fellows, released from the loneliness of the
forest, their pockets crammed with money, ran riot in their rude but
generous prodigality.

There was no other way to have a wild time. In a free country, men who
have honest money and want to spend it may do as they please. But, in
West Australia, the freehanded, and, for the time, wealthy
ticket-of-leave man, can only drink and treat with drink, taking care
that neither he nor his companions are noisy or violent or otherwise
ostentatious. The first sign of disturbance is terribly checked by the
police.

Draper's introduction to this strange company was most favourable to
him. He was known to be the captain of the convict ship; and every
frequenter of "The Red Hand" was ready to treat him with respect. This
is one of the unexpected purities of convict life; it never loses its
respect for honour and honesty.

But Draper had no power to keep this respect. In the first place, he did
not believe in its existence; he was too shallow and mean of nature to
think that these rugged fellows were other than vicious rascals all
through, who sneered at morality. He felt a sense of relief as soon as
he found himself among them, as if he had at last escaped from the
necessity of keeping up a pretence of honesty or any other virtue.

Acting under this conviction, Draper let loose his real nature in the
convicts' tavern. He did not drink very deeply, because he was not able;
but he talked endlessly. He joined group after group of carousing
wood-cutters, keeping up a stream of ribaldry and depravity, until,
after a few days' experience, the roughest convicts in the place looked
at him with disappointment and aversion.

Then a rumour crept to the inn, a story that was left behind by the
sailors of the Houguemont, of Harriet's confession on board ship,
exposing the heartless villainy of Draper. When this news became current
at the inn, the ticket-of-leave men regarded Draper with stern faces,
and no man spoke to him or drank with him.

One evening he approached a group of familiar loungers, making some
ingratiatory remark. No one answered, but all conversation ceased, the
men sitting in grim silence over their glasses.

"Why, mates, you're Quakers," said Draper, rallying them.

"We're no mates of yours," growled a big fellow, with a mahogany face.

"And we don't want to be," said a slighter and younger man, with
pronounced emphasis.

"Why, what's the matter?" asked Draper, in a surprised and injured tone.
"Have I done anything to offend you fellows? Have I unconsciously said
something, to hurt your feelings by alluding to your--"

"Shut up, you miserable rat," cried one of the convicts, starting to his
feet indignantly; "you couldn't hurt our feelings by any of your
sneaking allusions. We're not afraid to hear nor say what we are; but we
have just found out what you are, and we want you never to speak to us
again. Do you understand? We are men, though we are convicts, and we
only want to talk to men; but you are a cowardly hound."

Draper's jaw had fallen as he listened; but he backed from the table,
and gained confidence as he remembered that these men were wholly at the
mercy of the police, and would not dare go any further.

"You are an insolent jail-bird," he said to the speaker; "I'll see to
you within an hour."

At this, one of the men who sat at the end of the table nearest Draper,
leant towards him, and, taking his glass from the table, cast its
contents into his face.

"Get out!" he said; and, without noticing him further, the
ticket-of-leave men resumed their conviviality.

Burning with wrath, Draper left the tavern, and walked rapidly down the
street towards the police station. As he left the inn, a tall man, who
had sat at a side table unnoticed, rose and followed him. Half way down
the street he overtook him.

"Hello, Preacher!" said Draper, giving a side glance of dislike at the
man, and increasing his speed to pass him. But Mr. Haggett, for it was
he, easily kept by his shoulder, and evidently meant to stay there.

"Hello, Pilferer!" retorted Haggett, with a movement of the lip that was
expressive and astonishing.

Draper slackened his pace at once, but he did not stop. He glanced
furtively at Haggett, wondering what he meant. Haggett ploughed along
but said no more.

"What title was that you gave me?" asked Draper, plucking up courage as
he thought of the friendlessness of the timid Scripture-reader.

"You addressed me by my past profession," answered Haggett, looking
straight ahead, "and I called you by your present one."

"What do you mean, you miserable--"

Mr. Haggett's bony band on Draper's collar closed the query with a grip
of prodigious power and suggestiveness. Haggett then let him go, making
no further reference to the interrupted offence.

"You're going to report those men at the tavern, are you?" asked
Haggett.

"I am--the scoundrels. I'll teach them to respect a free man."

"Why are they not free men?"

"Why? Because they're convicted robbers and murderers, and--"

"Yes; because they were found out. Well, I'll go with you to the
station, and have another thief discovered."

"What do you mean?" asked Draper, standing on the road; "is that a
threat?"

"I mean that those men in the tavern are drinking wine stolen from the
Houguemont, and sold to the innkeeper by--the person who had charge of
it."

Draper's dry lips came together and opened again several times, but he
did not speak. He was suffering agonies in this series of defeats and
exposures. He shuddered again at the terrible thought that some unseen
and powerful hand was playing against him.

"Mr.--Reader," he said at last, holding out his hand with a smile, "have
I offended you or injured you?"

Haggett looked at the proffered hand until it fell back to Draper's
side.

"Yes," he answered, "a person like you offends and injures all decent
people."

Without a pretence of resentment, the crestfallen Draper retraced his
steps towards the tavern. Mr. Haggett stood and watched him. On his way,
Draper resolved to leave Fremantle that evening, and ride to Perth,
where he would live much more quietly than he had done here. He saw the
mistake he had made, and he would not repeat it.

He quietly asked the landlord for his bill, and gave directions for his
trunks to be forwarded next day. He asked if he could have a horse that
night.

"Certainly," said the landlord, an ex-convict himself; "but you must
show me your pass."

"What pass? I'm a free man."

"Oh, I'm not supposed to know what you are," said the landlord; "only
I'm not allowed to let horses to strangers without seeing their passes."

"Who grants these passes?"

"The Comptroller-General, and he is at Perth. But he'll be here in a day
or two."

Draper cursed between his teeth as he turned away.

A short man, in a blue coat with brass buttons, who had heard this
conversation, addressed him as he passed the bar.

"There ain't no fear of your getting lost, Captain Draper. They take
better care of a man here than we used to in Walton-le-Dale."

Draper stared at the speaker as if he saw an apparition. There, before
him, with a smile that had no kindness for him, was Officer Lodge, who
had known him since boyhood. His amazement was complete; he had not seen
Ben Lodge on the voyage, the latter having quietly avoided his eye.

"Why, old friend," he said, holding out his hand with a joyful lower
face, "what brings you here?"

Instead of taking his hand, Ben Lodge took his "glass a' hale" from the
counter, and looked steadily at Draper.

"That's the foulest hand that ever belonged to Walton," said the old
man.

Draper was about to pass on, with a "pshaw," when Ben Lodge stopped him
with a word.

"Maybe you wouldn't want to go to Perth if you knew who was there."

"Who is there?"

"Alice Walmsley--free and happy, thank Heaven! Do you want to see her?"

Draper stepped close to the old man with a deadly scowl.

"Be careful," he hissed, stealing his hand toward Ben's throat, "or--"

A long black hand seized Draper's fingers as they moved in their
stealthy threat, and twisted them almost from the sockets; and, standing
at his shoulder, Draper found a naked bushman, holding a spear. It was
Ngarra-jil, whom he did not recognize in his native costume, which, by
the way, at first, too, had greatly shocked and disappointed Officer
Lodge and Mr. Haggett.

"There's someone else from Walton will be in Perth by-and-by," continued
Ben Lodge, with a smile at Draper's discomfiture; "and, let me tell you
beforehand, Samuel Draper, if he lays eyes on you in that 'ere town,
you'll be sorry you didn't die of the black womit."

Without a look to either side Draper strode from the tavern, and walked
towards a hill within the town, which he climbed.

He sat down on the summit, amid the rough and dry salt-grass. He was
shaken to the place where his soul might have been. He felt that he
could not move tongue nor hand without discovery. The cunning that had
become almost intellectual from long use was worthless as chaff. His
life recoiled on him like a hissing snake, and bit him horribly. Before
his death, he was being judged and put in hell.

He sat hidden in the salt-grass among the vermin of the hill, until the
night had long fallen. The stars had come out in beautiful clearness;
but he did not see them. He only saw the flame of the sins that had
found him out, as they burned in their places along his baleful career.
When the sea-wind came in, damp and heavy, and made him cough, for his
chest was weak, he rose and crept down towards the tavern, to spend the
remaining hours of the night on his bed of torture.



WALKING IN THE SHADOW.

THERE was nothing apparent in the possibilities of Alice Walmsley's new
life to disturb the calm flow of her returning happiness. Even her wise
and watchful friend, Sister Cecilia, smiled hopefully as she ventured to
glance into the future.

But when the sky was clearest, the cloud came up on the horizon, though
at first it was "no larger than a man's hand."

The visits of Mr. Wyville to Farmer Little's pleasant house were
frequent and continuous. Mr. Little's colonial title was Farmer; but he
was a gentleman of taste, and had a demesne and residence as extensive
as an English duke. He was hospitable, as all rich Australians are; and
he was proud to entertain so distinguished a man as Mr. Wyville.

Gravely and quietly, from his first visit, Mr. Wyville had devoted his
attention to Alice Walmsley, and in such a manner that his purpose
should not be misunderstood by Mr. Little or his wife. Indeed, it was
quite plain to them long before it was dreamt of by Alice herself. From
the first, she had been treated as a friend by these estimable people;
but after a while she began to observe something in their manner that
puzzled her. They were no less kind than formerly; but they grew a
little strange, as if they had not quite understood her position at
first.

Alice could discover no reason for any change; so she went on quietly
from day to day. Mr. Wyville always drew her into conversation when he
came there; and with him she found herself as invariably talking on
subjects which no one else touched, and which she understood perfectly.
It seemed as if he held a key to her mind, and instinctively knew the
lines of reflection she had followed during her years of intense
solitude. Alice herself would have forgotten these reflections had they
not been brought to her recollection. Now, they recurred to her
pleasantly, there are so few persons who have any stock of individual
thought to draw upon.

She took a ready and deep interest in every plan of Mr. Wyville for the
benefit of the convicts; and he, seeing this, made his purposes, even
for many years ahead, known to her, and advised with her often on
changes that might here and there be made.

One evening, just at twilight, when the ladies of the family were
sitting, under the wide verandah, looking down on the darkened river,
Mrs. Little pleasantly but slyly said something that made Alice's cheek
flame. Alice raised her face with a pained and reproachful look.

"There now, Alice," said the lady, coming to her with a kind caress;
"you musn't think it strange. We can't help seeing it, you know."

"What do you see?" asked Alice in bewilderment.

"Mr. Wyville's devotion, dear. We are all delighted to think of your
marriage with so good and eminent a man."

Alice sank back in her chair, utterly nerveless. It was so dark they did
not see her sudden paleness. She held the arms of her chair with each
hand, and was silent for so long a time that Mrs. Little feared she had
wounded her.

"Forgive me if I have pained you, Alice," she said kindly.

"Oh, no, no!" said Alice, with quivering lips; "I thank you with all my
heart. I did not know--I did not think--"

She did not finish the sentence. Mrs. Little, seeing that her rallying
had bad quite another effect from that intended, came to Alice's aid by
a sudden exclamation about the beauty of the rising moon. This was
successful; for ten minutes every eye was turned on the lovely crescent
that rose, as bright as burnished silver, above the dark line of forest.
In the midst of this admiration, Alice slipped away from the happy
group, and spent the evening alone in her own room.

A few days later, she sat in the arbour of the convent garden, while
Sister Cecilia watered her flower beds. Sitting so, her mind went
reaching back after one memorable incident in her life. And by some
chance, the already-vibrating chord was touched at that moment by the
little nun.

"Here is my first rose-bud, Alice," she said, coming into the arbour;
"see how pretty those two young leaves are."

Alice's eyes were suffused with tears as she bent her head over the
lovely bud. It appealed to her now, in the midst of her happiness, with
unspeakable tenderness of recollection. She held it to her lips, almost
prayerful, so moved that she could not speak.

"Only think," continued Sister Cecilia, "for nine months to come we
shall never want for roses and buds. Ah me! I think we value them less
for their plenty. It's a good thing to visit the prison now and again,
isn't it, Alice? We love rosebuds all the better for remembering the
weeds."

Alice raised her head, and looked her eloquent assent at Sister Cecilia.

"I love all the world better for the sweet rose-bud you gave me in
prison," she said.

Sister Cecilia seemed puzzled for a moment, and then she smiled as if
she recalled something.

"It was not I who gave you that rose-bud, Alice."

Alice's face became blank with disappointment; her hands sank on her
knees.

"O, do not say that it was left there by accident or by careless hands.
I cannot think of that. I have drawn so much comfort from the belief
that your kind heart had read my unhappiness, and had discovered such a
sweet means of sending comfort. Do not break down my fancies now. If you
did not give it me, you prompted the act? You knew of it, Sister, surely
you did?"

"No. I did not know of it until it was done. I should never have thought
of it. It was thought of by one whose whole life seems devoted to others
and to the Divine Master. Do not fear that careless hands put the flower
in your cell, Alice. It was placed there by Mr. Wyville."

"By Mr. Wyville!"

"Yes dear; it was Mr. Wyville's own plan to win you back to the
beautiful world. I thought you knew it all the time."

"It was nearly five years ago; how could Mr. Wyville have known?" There
was a new earnestness in Alice's face as she spoke.

"He had learned your history in Millbank from the governor and the
books; and he became deeply interested. It was he who first said you
were innocent, long before he proved it; and it was he who first asked
me to visit you in your cell."

Alice did not speak; but she listened with a look almost of sadness, yet
with close interest.

"He was your friend, Alice, when you had no other friend in the world,"
continued Sister Cecilia, not looking at Alice's face, or she would have
hesitated; "for four years he watched your case, until at last he found
her whose punishment you had borne so long."

"Where did he find her?" Alice asked, after a pause.

"He found her in the jail of your native village, Walton-le-Dale."

"Walton-le-Dale!" repeated Alice in surprise; "he took much trouble,
then, to prove that I was innocent."

"Yes; and he did it all alone."

"Mr. Sheridan, perhaps, could have assisted him. He was born in Walton,"
said Alice in a very low voice.

"Yes, Mr. Sheridan told me so when he gave me the package for you at
Portland; but he was here in Australia all the years Mr. Wyville was
searching for poor wretched Harriet. But come now, Alice, we will leave
that gloomy old time behind us in England. Let us always keep it there,
as our Australian day looks backward and sees the English night."

Soon after, Alice started to return to her home. She lingered a long
time by the placid river, the particulars she had beard recurring to her
and much disturbing her peace. In the midst of her reflections she heard
her name called, and looking towards the road, saw Mr. Wyville. She did
move, and he approached.

"I have come to seek you," he said, "and to prepare you to meet an old
friend."

She looked at him in surprise, without speaking.

"Mr. Sheridan has just returned from Adelaide," he said; "and you were
the first person he asked for. I was not aware that you knew him."

There was no tone in his voice that betrayed disquiet or anxiety. He was
even more cheerful than usual.

"I am glad you know Mr. Sheridan," he continued; "he is a fine fellow;
and I fear he has been very unhappy."

"He has been very busy," she said, looking down at the river; "men have
a great deal to distract them from unhappiness."

"See that jagged rock beneath the water," he said, pointing to a stone,
the raised point of which broke the calm surface of the river. "Some
poet likens a man's sorrow to such a stone. When the flood comes, the
sweeping rush of enterprise or duty, it is buried; but in the calm
season it will rise again to cut the surface, like an ancient pain."

Alice followed the simile with eye and mind.

"I did not think you read poetry," she said, with a smile, as she rose
from her seat on the rocks.

"I have not read much," he said--and his face was flushed in the setting
sun--"until very recently."

As they walked together towards the house, Alice returned to the subject
first in her mind. With a gravely quiet voice she said--

"Mr. Sheridan's unhappiness is old, then?"

"Yes; it began years ago, when he was little more than a boy."

Alice was silent. She walked slowly beside Mr. Wyville for a dozen
steps. Then she stopped, as if unable to proceed, and, laying her hand
on a low branch beside the path, turned to him.

"Mr. Wyville," she said, "has Mr. Sheridan told you the cause of his
unhappiness?"

"He has," he replied, astonished at the abrupt question; "it is most
unfortunate and utterly hopeless. Time alone can heal the deep wound. He
has told me that you knew him years ago: you probably know the sad
story."

"I do not know it," she said, supporting herself by the branch.

"He loved a woman with a man's love while yet a boy," he said; "and he
saw her lured from him by a villain, who blighted her life into hopeless
ruin."

"Does he love her still?" asked Alice, her face turned to the darkened
bush.

"He pities her; for she is wretched and--guilty."

At the word, Alice let go the branch, and stood straight in the road.

"Guilty?" she said; in a strange voice.

"Miss Walmsley, I am deeply grieved at having introduced this subject.
But I thought you knew--Mr. Sheridan, I thought, intimated as much. The
woman he loved is the unhappy one for whom you suffered. Her husband is
still alive, and in this country. I brought him here, to give him, when
she is released, a chance of atonement."

A light burst on Alice's mind as Mr. Wyville spoke, and she with
difficulty kept from sinking. She reached for the low branch again, but
she did not find it in the dark. To preserve her control she walked on
towards the house, though her steps were hurried and irregular.

Mr. Wyville, thinking that her emotion was caused by painful
recollections, accompanied her without a word. He was profoundly sorry
that he had given her pain. Alice knew, as well as if he had spoken his
thought, what was passing in his mind.

As one travelling in the dark will see a whole valley in one flash of
lightning, Alice had seen the error under which Mr. Wyville laboured,
and all its causes, in that one moment of illumination. Then, too, she
read his heart, filled with deep feeling, and unconscious of the gulf
before it; and the knowledge flooded her with sorrow.

At the door of the house, Mrs. Little met them with an air of bustle.

"Why, Alice!" she exclaimed, "two gentlemen coming to dinner, and one of
them an old friend, and you loitering by the river like a school-girl.
Mr. Wyville, I believe you kept Alice till she has barely time to put a
ribbon in her hair."

Mr. Wyville, with some easy turn of the subject, covered Alice's
disquiet, and then took his leave, going to Perth, to return later with
Sheridan and Hamerton.

"Dear Mrs. Little," said Alice, when his horse's hoofs sounded on the
road, "you must not ask me to dine with you to-night. Let me go to the
children."

There was something in her voice and face that touched the kind matron,
and she at once assented, only saying she was sorry for Alice's sake.

"But you will see Mr. Sheridan?" she said. "Mr. Little says he was very
particular in asking for you."

"I will see him to-morrow," said Alice; "indeed, I am not able to see
anyone to-night."

An hour later, when the guests arrived, Alice sat in her unlighted room,
and heard their voices; and one voice, that she remembered as from
yesterday, mentioned her name, and then remained silent.



THE MEETING

WITH the first warm flush of morning Alice was away on her favourite
lonely walk by the river. The day opened, like almost all days in West
Australia, with a glorious richness of light, colour, and life. The
grand shadowy stretches in the bush were neither silent nor humid, as in
tropical countries. Every inch of ground sent up its jet of colour,
exquisite though scentless; and all the earth hummed with insect life,
while the trees flashed with the splendid colours of countless
bright-necked birds.

Alice breathed in the wondrous beauty of her surroundings. Her heart, so
long unresponsive, had burst into full harmony with the generous nature
of the Australian bush.

Down by the river, where the spreading mahogany trees reached far over
the water, she loved to walk in the early morning and at the close of
the day. Thither she went this morning; and an hour later someone
followed her steps, directed where to find her by Mrs. Little.

That morning, as she left the house, Mrs. Little had told her that Mr.
Sheridan was to call early, and had asked to see her.

"I shall be home very soon," Alice said, as she went out.

But she did not return soon; and when Mr. Sheridan called, much earlier
than he was expected, Mrs. Little told him where Miss Walmsley usually
spent her mornings, and he, leaving his horse in the stable, walked down
through the bush towards the river.

The shadows and the flowers and the bright-winged birds were as
beautiful as an hour before, but Will Sheridan, though he loved nature,
saw none of them. He walked rapidly at first, then he slackened his
pace, and broke off a branch here and there as he passed, and threw it
away again. When he came to the river, and stood and looked this way and
that for Alice, all the determination with which he had set out had
disappeared.

But Alice was not in sight. He walked along by the river bank, and in a
few minutes he saw her coming towards him beneath the trees.

He stood still and waited for her. She walked rapidly. When within ten
yards of where he stood she turned from the river, to cross the bush
towards the house. She had not seen him, and in a minute she would be
out of sight. Sheridan took a few paces towards her and stopped.

"Alice," he said aloud.

She turned and saw him standing with an eager face, his hands reached
out to-wards her. Every premeditated word was forgotten. She gave one
look at the face, so little changed; she felt the deep emotion in voice,
and act, and feature, and her heart responded impulsively and
imperatively. She only spoke one word.

"Will!"

He came forward, his eyes on hers, and the eyes of both were brimming.
Without a word they met. Alice put out both her hands, and he took them
and held them, and after a while he raised them, one after the other, to
his lips, and kissed them. Then they turned towards the house and walked
on together in silence. Their hearts were too full for words. They
understood without speech. Their sympathy was so deep and unutterable
that it verged on the bounds of pain.

On the verandah, Alice turned to him with the same full look she had
given him at first, only it was clear as a morning sky, and with it she
gave him her hand. Sheridan looked into the cloudless depths of her
eyes, as if searching for the word that only reached his senses through
the warm pressure of her hand.

It was a silent meeting and parting, but it was completely eloquent and
decisive. They had said all that each longed for in the exquisite
language of the soul. As Sheridan was departing, he turned once more to
Alice.

"I shall come here this evening."

She only smiled, and he went away with a satisfied heart.

On that morning Mr. Wyville had started early for Fremantle, his mind
revolving two important steps which he meant to take that day. Since the
arrival of the ship he had been disquieted by the presence of Draper in
the colony. He questioned his own wisdom in bringing him there, or in
keeping him there when he might have let him go.

But, in his wide experience of men and of criminals, Mr. Wyville had
never met one who was wholly bad; he had discovered, under the most
unsightly and inharmonious natures, some secret chord that, when once
struck, brought the heart up to the full tone of human kindness. This
chord he had sought for in Draper. He had hoped that, in the day of
humiliation, his heart would return to her he had so cruelly wronged.

There was only one step more to be taken--to release Harriet, and, if she
would, let her seek her husband, and appeal once more to his humanity.

On this day Mr. Wyville intended to issue a pardon to Harriet Draper.
The Government had awarded to Alice Walmsley, as some form of recompense
for her unjust suffering, a considerable sum of money; and this money
Mr. Wyville held, at Alice's request, for the benefit of Harriet.

Arrived at Fremantle, he proceeded to the prison, and signed the
official papers necessary for the release. The money was made payable to
Harriet at the Bank of Fremantle. He did not see her himself, but he
took means of letting her know the residence of her husband; and he also
provided that Draper should be informed of her release.

He watched her from his office window as she was led to the prison gate;
and as she took the pardon in her hand and turned towards the outer
world in a bewildered way, the utter misery and loneliness of the woman
smote Mr. Wyville's heart.

"God help her!" he murmured; "she has no place to go but to Him."

This done, Mr. Wyville set his mind towards Perth, where, on his return
that day, he was to enter on another act of even deeper personal
importance. Somehow, his heart was heavy as he walked from the prison,
thinking of the next few hours. He had been more deeply impressed than
be thought, perhaps, by the wretched fate of the poor woman he had just
released.

At the stable where his horses were put up, he found Officer Lodge, who,
with Ngarra-jil, he sent on to Perth in a light carriage before him. He
followed on horseback. As he rode through the town, he passed the bank.
In the portico sat a woman on a bench, with her head bent low on her
hands. He was startled by the attitude; it recalled to his mind the
figure of the unhappy Harriet, as he had seen her in the lock-up of
Walton-le-Dale.

Something induced him to look at the woman a second time. As he did so,
she raised her face, and smiled at a man who came quickly out of the
bank, pressing something like a heavy pocket-book into his breast. The
woman was Harriet; and the man was Draper, who had just drawn her money
from the bank.

Mr. Wyville was in no mood to ride swiftly, so he let his horse choose
its own pace. When about half way to Perth, however, he broke into a
canter, and arrived shortly after the trap containing Ben Lodge and his
native servant.

Mr. Wyville had not occupied the official residence of the
Comptroller-General, but had kept his quarters at the hotel, a very
comfortable establishment. As he dismounted in the yard, Ben Lodge held
his horse, and seemed in garrulous humour.

"Mr. Sheridan were here, sir," said Ben, "and he asked after you. He
said he were going to Mr. Little's to-night, and he hoped to see you
there."

Mr. Wyville nodded to Ben, and was going towards the house; but Officer
Lodge looked at him with a knowing look in his simple face, as if
enjoying some secret pleasure.

"He's found her at last, sir," he said.

Mr. Wyville could only smile at the remark, which he did not at all
comprehend.

"He were always fond of her. I've known him since he were a boy."

Still Mr. Wyville did not speak; but he seemed interested, and he ceased
to smile. Old Ben saw that he might continue.

"I thought at one time that they'd be married. It's years ago; but I see
them as plain as if it were yesterday. He were a handsome fellow when he
came home from sea--just like his father, old Captain Sheridan--I knew him
well, too--and just to think!"

Here Old Ben stopped, and led the horse towards the stable, satisfied
with his own eloquence. Mr. Wyville stood just where he had dismounted.
He looked after Ben Lodge, then walked towards the hotel; but he changed
his mind, and returned and entered the stable, where Ben was unsaddling
the horse.

"Was Mr. Sheridan alone when he started for Mr. Little's?" he asked.

"Yessir, he were alone." Then Ben added with a repetition of the knowing
look: "Happen, he don't want no company, sir; he never did when he were
a boy, when she was 'round."

Mr. Wyville looked at Ben Lodge in such a way that the old man would
have been frightened had he raised his head. There was a sternness of
brow rarely seen on the calm, strong face; and there was a light almost
of terror in the eye.

"He were very fond of Alice, surely," said the old fellow, as he went on
with his work; "and I do believe he's just as fond of her to-day."

"Do you tell me," said Mr. Wyville, slowly, "that Mr. Sheridan knew Miss
Walmsley, very intimately, in Walton-le-Dale, years ago?"

"Oh, yessir; they was very hintimate, no doubt; and they were going to
be married, folk said, when that precious rascal, Draper, interfered.
They say in Walton to this day that he turned her head by lies against
the man she loved."

Ben Lodge carried the saddle to another part of the yard. Had he looked
round he would have seen Mr. Wyville leaning against the stall, his face
changed by mental suffering almost past recognition. In a minute, when
the old man returned, Mr. Wyville passed him in silence, and entered the
hotel.

The door of his room was locked for hours that day, and he sat beside
his desk, sometimes with his head erect, and a blank suffering look in
his eyes, and sometimes with his face buried in his hands. The agony
through which his soul was passing was almost mortal. The powerful
nature was ploughed to its depths. He saw the truth before him, as hard
and palpable as a granite rock. He saw his own blind error. His heart,
breaking from his will, tried to travel again the paths of sweet
delusion which had brought so great and new a joy to his soul. But the
strong will resisted, wrestled, refused to listen to the heart's cry of
pain--and, in the end, conquered.

But the man had suffered woefully in the struggle. The lines on his
bronzed face were manifestly deeper, and the lips were firmer set, as,
towards evening he rose from his seat and looked outwards and upwards at
the beautiful deep sky. His lips moved as he looked, repeating the
bitter words that were becoming sweet to his heart--'Thy will be done!'

Two hours later, when the glory of the sunset had departed, and the
white moon was reflected in the mirror-like Swan, Will Sheridan and
Alice stood beside the river. With one hand he held one of hers, and the
other arm was around her. He was looking down into her eyes, that were
as deep and calm as the river.

"It has been so always, dear," he said tenderly; "I have never lost my
love for one day."

She only pressed closer to him, still looking up, but the tears filled
her eyes.

"My sorrow, then, was not equal to yours," she said.

"Darling, speak no more of sorrow," he answered: "it shall be the
background of our happiness, making every line the clearer. I only wish
to know that you love me as I love you."

Their lips met in a kiss of inexpressible sweetness and unity--in a joy
so perfect that the past trembled out of sight and disappeared for ever.

While yet they stood beside the river, they heard a footstep near them.
Alice started with alarm, and drew closer to her protector. Next moment,
Mr. Wyville stood beside them, his face strangely lighted up by the
moonlight. He was silent a moment. Then Sheridan, in his happiness,
stretched out his hand as to a close friend, and the other took it. A
moment after, he took Alice's hand, and stood holding both.

"God send happiness to you!" he said, his voice very low and deeply
earnest. "Your past sorrow will bring a golden harvest. Believe me, I am
very happy in your happiness."

They did not answer in words; but the truth of his friendship was
clearer to their hearts than the bright moon to their eyes. He joined
the hands he held, and without speaking further, left them together by
the river.



MR. WYVILLE FACES A STORM

IN the peaceful water of Fremantle harbour, Mr. Wyville's yacht had lain
at anchor for several months. On her return from Adelaide with Mr.
Sheridan, she had taken on board a cargo, contained in large cases and
swathings, which had arrived from Europe some time before. She also took
on board many persons of both sexes, mostly mechanics and labourers,
with their families; and among the crowd, but with airs of trust and
supervision, as caretakers or stewards, were Mr. Haggett and Officer
Lodge. Their friend Ngarra-jil had come on board to bid them good-by,
and as he strode about the deck, naked, except his fur boka hanging from
the shoulder, and carrying two long spears in his hand, he seemed a
strange acquaintance for two persons so prosaic as Mr. Haggett and Ben
Lodge.

This thought, indeed, occurred to both of them with renewed strength
that day; and it was emphasized by the remark of one of the mechanics--

"That black fellow seems to know you pretty well;" addressed to Ben
Lodge.

"Yes," said Ben, with hesitation, and a glance of doubt at Ngarra-jil,
"we knew him in England. He was dressed fine there."

"Well," said the good-natured mechanic, "he's the same man still as he
war theer. 'Tisn't clothes as we ought to vally in our friends."

This remark brightened Officer Lodge's face, and his hesitating manner
towards his wild friend vanished. When the anchor was weighed, and the
last visitor had jumped on the barges to go ashore, there were no warmer
farewells spoken than those of Mr. Haggett and Ben Lodge to Ngarra-jil.

That evening, at Mr. Little's pleasant dinner-table, Mrs. Little spoke
to Mr. Wyville about the destination of the passengers.

"They are going to settle in the Vasse district," he said; "they have
purchased homesteads there."

"You have built extensively on your own land there, I believe," said Mr.
Little.

A shadow, scarcely perceptible, flitted over Mr. Wyville's face; but his
voice had its accustomed tone as he answered--

"Yes; I have worked out an old fancy as to the site and plan of a
dwelling-house. But the building was not for myself. Mr. Sheridan has
bought the place from me."

"Bless me!" said Mrs. Little, in a disappointed tone; "after sending
scores of workmen and gardeners from Europe, and spending four years and
heaps of money to make a lovely place, to go and sell it all, just when
it was finished! I'm sure Mr. Sheridan might go and make some other
place beautiful. It really is too provoking."

"Mrs. Little," said Hamerton, adroitly taking the good lady's attention
from a subject which she was in danger of pursuing, "will you not direct
me to some rare spot that is capable of beauty and hungry for
improvement? I, too, am hunting for a home."

The lure was quite successful. Mrs. Little ran over in her mind all the
pretty places she knew in the colony, and instructed Mr. Hamerton with
much particularity and patience.

The further conversation of the evening touched no matter of importance
to the persons present.

After some weeks the steamer returned to Fremantle, and lay at anchor
for several months, except some pleasure-trips round the adjacent coast,
arranged by Mrs. Little, and taking in many of the ladies of the colony.

Mr. Wyville was engaged every day in directing the operation of the new
and humane law he had brought to the colony. At first, it seemed as if
it must end in failure. Its worst enemies were those it proposed to
serve. The convicts, as soon as they found the old rigour relaxed, and a
word take the place of a blow; when they saw offences that used to earn
five years in chains, punished by five minutes of reproach from a
superintendent, or at worst, by a red stripe on the sleeve--when first
they saw this, they took advantage of it, and shamefully abused their
new privileges.

Among the officials of the convict service were many who watched this
result with satisfied eyes--croakers, who always predict defeat, and a
few envious and disappointed ones, who had lost some selfish chance by
the change.

At last, it came to such a condition--the reports from the outlying
districts were so alarming, and the croakers and mischief-makers became
so bold in their criticism--that even the warmest friends of the new
system held their breath in fear of something disastrous.

But through the gloom, there was one steadfast and reliant heart and
hand. He who had planned the system had faith in it. He knew what its
foundations were. When even the brave quailed, he still smiled; and
though his face grew thin with anxious application, there was never a
quiver of weakness, or hesitation in it.

His near friends watched him with tender, sometimes with terrified
interest. But, as the storm thickened, they spoke to him less and less
of the danger, until at last they ceased to speak at all. They only
looked on him with respect and love, and, did his few behests without a
word.

Mr. Wyville knew that he was trying no experiment, though he was doing
what had never been done before. It was not experimental, because it was
demonstrable. He had not based his system on theory or whim, but on the
radical principles of humanity; and he was sure of the result. All he
wanted was time, to let the seething settle. Those who doubted, were
doubting something as inexorably true as a mathematical axiom. His ship
was in the midst of a cyclone; but the hand on the tiller was as true as
the very compass itself, for it obeyed as rigidly a natural law.

One flash of passion only did the tempest strike from him. On the great
parade-ground of the prison at Fremantle, one day, a thousand convicts
stood in line, charged with grossly breaking the new law. On their flank
was unlimbered a battery of artillery; and in their rear was a line of
soldiers with fixed bayonets and loaded rifles. Scattered in front were
the convict officers, and in the centre of the line, within hearing of
the convicts, the malcontents had gathered, and were openly denouncing
the law as a failure, and declaring that the colony was in danger. Among
them, loud in his dissent, stood an officer with a broad gold band on
his cap--the deputy superintendent of the prison.

Mr. Wyville had ridden hard from Perth, whence he had been summoned by a
courier with a highly-coloured report. His face was deeply-lined and
careworn, for he had scarcely slept an hour a day for weeks. But he knew
that the turning-point had come. Six months of the new system had
passed. During that time there had only been a moral restraint on the
convicts--henceforth, there would be a personal and selfish one.

From this day the convicts would begin to receive reward for good
conduct, as well as reproach for bad.

A hundred yards behind Mr. Wyville, rode silently the two men who loved
him best--Hamerton and Sheridan. They had seen him start, had questioned
the courier, and discovered the cause. Thrusting, their revolvers into
their holsters, they had followed him in silence.

Mr. Wyville checked his steaming horse as he drew near the prison. He
rode up to the gate, and entered the yard calmly, but with such a
bearing, even imparted to the horse, as made every man feel that he was
full of power.

As he approached, there was deep silence for half a minute. Then his ear
caught the sound of a murmur in the central group of officers. He reined
his horse stiffly, and regarded them with flaming eyes.

There was no sound for a moment; then there was a whisper; and then the
deputy with the gold band walked to the front, and, without salute or
preface, spoke:--

"The warders cannot control the men by your new rules. The colony is in
a state of mutiny."

There ran a sound, like a terrible growl, along the line of a thousand
convicts.

Mr. Wyville dismounted. His horse stood unattended. Sheridan and
Hamerton closed up, their hands quietly on their holster-pipes.

It was a moment of awful responsibility; the lives of thousands were in
the balance. One weak or false step, and the yell of blind revolt would
split the air, to be followed by the crash of artillery, and the shrieks
of a wild tumult.

Two revolts stood in Mr. Wyville's presence--the warders', and the
convicts'. Towards which side lay the dangerous step?

There was no indecision--not a moment of delay in his action. With a few
rapid strides he was close to the mutinous deputy, had plucked the
conspicuous cap from his head, rent off its broad gold band, flung it on
the earth, and put his foot on it. The next instant his hand had torn
the insignia of rank from his collar, unbuckled his belt, and thrown his
sword on the ground. Then, with a voice that rang like a trumpet through
the prison yard, he called to the military officer for a file of men,
with irons.

The leader of the warders had never moved--but he had grown pale. He had
expected a parley, at least, perhaps, a surrender of the Comptroller's
plan. But he was dealing with one who was more than a man, who was at
that moment an embodied principle.

In a few moments the degraded and dumbfounded deputy was in irons, with
a soldier at each shoulder.

"Take him to the cells!" said Mr. Wyville. His stern order reached every
ear in the yard. Then he addressed the military commander.

"Limber up those guns, and march your riflemen to their quarters!"

In two minutes there was not a soldier nor a gun in sight.

"The warders will bring their prisoners into square, to listen to the
first half-yearly report of the Penal Law."

Rapidly and silently, with faces of uncertainty, the movement was
performed, and the thousand convicts stood in solid mass before the
austere Comptroller-General, who bad mounted his horse, and looked down
on them, holding in his hand the report. There was a profound silence.

Mr. Wyville read from the paper, in a rapid but clear voice, the names
of twelve men, and ordered them to step to the front, if present. Seven
men walked from the convict square, and stood before him; the other five
were on the road-parties throughout the colony. Mr. Wyville addressed
the seven.

"Men, by your good conduct as recorded under the old law and your
attention to the rules of the present penal code, you have become
entitled to a remission of the unexpired term of your sentences.
To-day's misconduct shall not stop your reward. You are free. Guard,
allow those men to pass through the gate!"

The seven men, wide-eyed, unable to realize the news, almost tottered
towards the barrier. The eyes of their fellows in the square followed
them in a daze till they disappeared through the outer gate.

There was a sound from the square, like a deep breath, followed by a
slight shuffling of feet. Then again there was absolute stillness, every
eye intently fixed on the face of the Comptroller-General.

Again he read a list of names, and a number of men came quickly to the
front, and stood in line. The new law had awarded to these a certain
considerable remission, which sounded to their ears like the very
promise of freedom.

Still the lists were read, and still the remissions were conferred. When
the report was ended, seven men had been released, and sixty-seven out
of the thousand present, all of whom had that morning threatened mutiny,
had received rewards striking away years of their punishment.

"Men! we have heard the last sound of mutiny in the colony."

Mr. Wyville's voice thrilled the convicts like deep-sounded music: they
looked at him with awe-struck faces. Every heart was filled with the
conviction that he was their friend that it was well to listen to him
and obey him.

"From this day every man is earning his freedom, and an interest in this
colony. Your rights are written down, and you shall know them. You must
regard the rights of others as yours shall be regarded. This law trusts
to your manhood, and offers you a reward for your labour; let every man
be heedful that is not disgraced nor weakened by unmanly conduct. See to
it, each for himself, that you return as speedily as you may to the
freedom and independence which this colony offers you."

Turning to the warders, he gave a brief order to march the men to their
work; and, turning his horse, rode slowly from the prison.

From that hour, as sometimes a tempest dies after one tremendous blast,
the uproar against the new law was silent. As swiftly as couriers could
carry the news, the scene in the prison yard was described to every road
party in the colony.

Among the warders opposition disappeared the moment the gold band of the
deputy's cap was seen under the Comptroller's foot. Among the convicts,
disorder hid its wild head as soon as they realized that the blind
system of work without reward had been replaced by one that made every
day count for a hope not only of liberty, but independence.

In a word, from that day the colony ceased to be stagnant, and began to
progress.



THE VALLEY OF THE VASSE.

THERE was a large and pleasant party on the deck of Mr. Wyville's
steamer as she slowly swung from her moorings and headed seaward through
the islands of Fremantle harbour. It was evidently more than a coast
excursion, for the vessel had been weeks in preparation, and the
passengers had made arrangements for a long absence.

Beneath the poop awning, waving, their handkerchiefs to friends on
shore, stood Mrs. Little and several other ladies. Standing with them,
but waving no adieu, was Alice Walmsley; and, quietly sitting near her,
enjoying the excitement and pleasure of the others, was Sister Cecilia.

There were many gentlemen on board, too, including the stiff old
Governor of the colony, and several of his staff. Mr. Wyville stood with
the Governor, pointing out, as they passed, something of interest on the
native prison-isle of Rottenest; Mr. Hamerton lounged on the forecastle,
smoking and with him the artillery officer of Fremantle; while Mr.
Sheridan leant over the rail, watching the sea, but often raising his
head and looking sternwards, seeking the eyes that invariably turned, as
if by instinct, to meet his glance.

It was a party of pleasure and inspection, going to the Vasse, to visit
the new settlement purchased from Mr. Wyville by Mr. Sheridan. They
proposed to steam slowly along the coast, and reach their destination in
two days.

The excursion was a relief to Mr. Wyville, after the severe strain he
had borne for months. From the day of the threatened mutiny, which he
had quelled by the report, the new law had become an assured success,
and the congratulations and thanks of the whole colony had poured in on
the Comptroller-General.

It appeared to those who knew him best, that, during the period of
trial, he had withdrawn more and more from social life, and had
increased his silence and reserve. This change was ascribed to the
anxiety he felt for the reform of the penal law. In his conversation,
too, even Hamerton admitted that he had become almost irritable on
personal or local topics, and was only willing to converse on abstract
or speculative ideas.

'The individual withers, and the world is more and more,' quoted
Hamerton one day, as the subject of Mr. Wyville's reserve was quietly
discussed on the poop. "I don't know what he will do for a cause, now
that his penal law has succeeded."

"He will turn his attention to politics, I think," said one of the
gentlemen of the staff; "every patriotic man has a field there."

There was a pause, as if all were considering the proposition. At length
Hamerton spoke.

"Can you call Mr. Wyville a patriot?"

"Every Englishman is a patriot," answered the first speaker; "of course
he is one."

Again there was a lapse; and again Hamerton was the first to speak.

"I don't like the word--applied to him. I don't think it fits, somehow."

"Surely, it is a noble word, only to be given to a noble character,"
said one of the ladies.

"Well," drawled Hamerton, assenting, but still dissatisfied.

"Mr. Wyville has the two highest characteristics of an Englishman," said
the old Governor, sententiously.

"Which are?" queried Hamerton.

"Patriotism, and love of Law."

There was an expression of approval from almost every one but Hamerton,
who still grumbled. The Governor was highly pleased with himself for his
prompt reply.

"Are these not the noblest principles for an Englishman, or any man?" he
asked exultingly.

"Let us leave it to Mr. Wyville himself," said Hamerton; "here he
comes."

"We have been discussing public virtues," said the Governor to Mr.
Wyville, who now joined the group; "and we appeal to you for a decision.
Are not Patriotism and love of Law two great English virtues?"

"English virtues--yes, I think so;" and Mr. Wyville smiled as he gave the
answer.

"But are they virtues in the abstract?" asked Hamerton.

"No; I think not--I am sure they are not."

There was a movement of surprise in the company. The answer, given in a
grave voice, was utterly unexpected. The old Governor coughed once or
twice, as if preparing to make a reply; but he did not.

Patriotism not a virtue at length exclaimed one of the ladies. "Pray,
Mr. Wyville, what is it, then?"

Mr. Wyville paused a moment, then told a story.

"There were ten families living on a beautiful island, and owning the
whole of it. They might have lived together in fraternal peace and love;
but each family preferred to keep to themselves, neither feeling pride
nor pleasure in the good of their neighbours, nor caring about the
general welfare of the whole number. They watched their own interests
with greedy care; and when they were strong enough they robbed their
fellows, and boasted of the deed. Every person of each family was proud
of its doings, though many of these were disgraceful. The spirit which
filled these people was, I think, patriotism--on a small scale."

"Good!" said Hamerton, looking, at the Governor; "I thought that word
didn't fit, somehow."

"Well, if patriotism is to be condemned, shall we not still reverence
Law?" asked someone. "Have you another allegory, Mr. Wyville?"

Again he thought a moment, before his reply came.

"There was a lake, from which two streams flowed to the sea. One river
wound itself around the feet of the hills, taking a long course, but
watering the fields as it ran, and smiling back at the sun. Its flood
was filled with darting fish, and its banks fringed with rich grass and
bright flowers. The other stream ran into a great earthen pipe, and
rolled along in the dark. It reached the sea first, but it had no fish
in its water, except blind ones, and no flowers on its banks. This
stream had run so long in the tunnel without its own will that it
preferred this way to the winding course of its natural bed; and at last
it boasted of its reverence for the earthen pipe that held it together
and guided its blind way."

"The earthen pipe is Law, I suppose," said Mr. Little, "that men come in
time to love."

Mr. Wyville, who had smiled at the ladies all through his allegory, did
not answer.

"But do you apply the allegory to all law?" asked a gentleman of the
staff.

"To all law not founded on God's abstract justice, which provides for
man's right to the planet. Sooner or later, human laws, from the least
act to the greatest, shall be brought into harmony with this."

"Will you give us substitutes for those poor virtues that you have
pushed out? What shall we have instead?"

"Mankind and Liberty--instead of Patriotism and Law. Surely, the exchange
is generously in our favour."

Then followed a general discussion, in which everyone had a hasty word.
Mr. Wyville said no more; but drew off the Governor and Hamerton to his
cabin to settle some geographical inaccuracy in a chart of the coast.

So the hours passed on the steamer, as she slowly rounded headlands and
cut across bays. The air was laden with the breath of the interminable
forest. On shore, when the great fires swept over miles of sandalwood
and jamwood bush, the heavy perfume from the burning timber lingered on
the calm air, and extended far over land and sea.

On the afternoon of the second day, they saw before them the mountains
of the Vasse, running sheer down to the sea, in two parallel ridges
about six miles apart.

The land between these high ridges was cut off, some four or five miles
back, by a line, of mountain which joined the ridges, thus forming the
valley which Mr. Sheridan had bought from Mr. Wyville.

As the steamer drew close to the land, the valley assumed the perfect
shape of a horse-shoe. From the sea, at a distance, it seemed a retreat
of delicious coolness and verdure. The mountains were wooded high up
their sides, and the tops were so steep they seemed to overhang the
valley. Two broad and bright shallow streams, which tumbled from the
hills at the head of the valley, wound through the rich plain, and
calmly merged in the ocean.

Exclamations of wonder and delight were on every lip as the surpassing
beauties of the scene came one after another into view.

The end of the ridge on the southern side ran far into the sea; and
here, under Mr. Wyville's directions, years before, a strong mahogany
pier had been erected, which made a safe landing-place for even great
ships. A railed platform ran round the foot of the hills, and brought
the passengers to a road shaded by majestic trees that swept towards the
farther end of the valley.

Awaiting their arrival were easy, open carriages, evidently of European
build, in which the astonished party seated themselves. The drivers were
some black, some white, but they were all at home in their places.

The scene was like a field from fairy-land. No eye accustomed only to
northern vegetation and climate, can conceive unaided the glory of a
well-watered Australian vale. The carriages rolled under trees of
splendid fern from fifteen to twenty feet in height; the earth was
variegated with rich colour in flower and herbage; spreading palms of
every variety filled the eye with beauty of form; the green and crimson
and yellow parrots and paroquets rose in flocks as the carriages passed;
and, high over all the beauteous life of the underwood, rose the grand
mahogany and tuad and gum trees of the forest.

They passed cottages bowered in flowers, and ringed by tall hedgerows
composed wholly of gorgeous geraniums. The strangers who looked on these
changing revelations of loveliness sat silent, and almost tearful. Even
those long accustomed to Australian scenery were amazed at the beauty of
the valley.

Mr. Wyville and Mr. Sheridan had ridden rapidly on before the others,
and stood uncovered and host-like on the verandah of the house where the
drive ended.

Alice Walmsley sat in the foremost carriage, and was the first to
alight, with Sheridan's hand holding hers. Their eyes met as she stepped
to his side. His lips formed one short word, of which only her eye and
ear were conscious--

"Home!"

Exclamations of wonder came from all the party at the peerless beauty of
their surroundings. The house was wholly built of bright red mahogany
beams, perfectly fitted, with rich wood-carving of sandalwood and
jamwood on angle, cornice, and capital. It was very low, only one story
high for the most part, though there were a number of sleeping rooms
raised to a second story. From the verandah, looking seaward, every part
of the wooded valley was visible, and the winding silver of the rivers
glanced deliciously through the trees. Beyond, lay the level blue water
of the Indian Ocean, stretching away to the cream-coloured horizon.

The house within doors was a wonder of richness, taste, and comfort.
Everything was of wood, highly finished with polish and carving, and the
colours were combined of various woods. Soft rugs from India and Persia
lay on halls and rooms. Books, pictures, statuary, rare bric-a-brac,
everything that vast wealth and cultivated taste could command or
desire, was to be found in this splendid residence.

Almost in silence, the strangers passed through the countless rooms,
each differing from the others, and each complete. Mr. Wyville led the
larger party of guests through the place. He had not before seen it
himself; but he was wholly familiar with the plans, which, indeed, were
largely his own.

"But it will have an owner now," he said, "who will better enjoy its
restfulness, and take closer interest in its people."

"But you should rest, too, Mr. Wyville," said Mrs. Little; "the colony
is now settled with your excellent law."

"There is much to be done yet," he said, shaking his head, with the old
grave smile. "I have not even time to wait one day."

There was a general look of astonishment.

"Why, Mr. Wyville, surely you will not leave this lovely place--"

"I must leave to-night," he said; "I am very sorry, but it is
imperative."

Then, not waiting for further comment, he took them out to the stables
and village-like out-houses. There was no regular garden; the valley
itself was garden and farm and forest in one.

Alice Walmsley had lingered behind the others, in a quiet and dim little
room, looking away out to sea. Contentment filled her soul like low
music. She wished to be alone. She had sat only a few minutes when she
heard a step beside her. She did not look up; she knew whose hand was
round her cheek, and standing over her. They did not say a word; but
remained still for a long, long time, Then he bent over her, turning her
face to his. She raised her arms, and he took her to his breast and lips
in the fullness of happiness and love.

When they left the dim little room, which was ever after to be the
dearest to them in their rich home, they saw the sombre robes of Sister
Cecilia as she sat alone on the verandah.

"Where shall the school be, Sister?" asked Sheridan; "have you selected
your site?"

"She shall build it on the choicest spot that can be found," said Alice,
seating herself beside Sister Cecilia.

"Dictation already!" laughed Sheridan, at which Alice blushed, and sent
him away.

Towards evening there stood on the verandah, having quietly withdrawn
from the guests, Mr. Wyville, Sheridan, and Hamerton. Mr. Wyville meant
quietly to leave, without disturbing the party.

"I am sorry beyond expression," said Sheridan, holding his hand; "your
presence was our chief pleasure. Can you not even stay with us
to-night?"

"It is impossible!" answered Mr. Wyville, with a look of affectionate
response; "the work yet before me will not bear delay. Good-bye. God
bless you--and yours!"

He walked rapidly away, his horse having been led by Ben Lodge before
him to the entrance.

"Good-bye, Sheridan," said Hamerton, suddenly seizing his friend's hand,
"I'm going, too."

"What? You--"

"Stop! Don't try to prevent me. I can't let him go alone. Go in to your
people, and say nothing till to-morrow. Goodbye, my dear fellow."

That night the steamer returned to Fremantle, having on board Mr.
Wyville and Hamerton.



THE CONVICT'S PASS.

ON Mr. Wyville's return from the Vasse, he set himself with tireless
will to the complete organization of the Penal Law. Not content with
writing copious rules for the guidance of warders, he proposed to visit
all the districts in the colony, and personally instruct the chief
officers of depots, from whom the system would pass directly to their
subordinates.

For many days Mr. Hamerton saw little of him, and the time was heavy on
his hands. He intended to purchase land in the colony, and bring some of
his old farmers from England to settle on it.

One day, he went to the prison at Fremantle, and waited for Mr. Wyville
in his office. As he sat there, by a window that looked over a wide
stretch of sandy scrub, he noticed that though the sky was clear and the
heat intense, a heavy cloud like dense vapour hung over all the lowland.
He remembered that for a few days past he had observed the smoky
sultriness of the atmosphere, but had concluded that it was the natural
oppression of the season.

"That vapour looks like smoke," he said to the convict clerk in the
office; "what is it?"

"It is smoke, sir," said the man. "This is the year for the bush fires."

Just then Mr. Wyville entered, and their meeting was cordial. Mr.
Wyville, who looked tired, said he had only an hour's writing to do,
after which he would ride to Perth. He asked Hamerton to wait, and
handed him some late English papers to pass the time.

Hamerton soon tired of his reading, and having laid aside the paper, his
eyes rested on Mr. Wyville, who was intently occupied, bending over his
desk. Hamerton almost started with surprise at the change he observed in
his appearance--a change that was not easily apparent when the face was
animated in conversation. When they sailed from England, Mr. Wyville's
hair was as black as a raven; but now, even across the room, Hamerton
could see that it was streaked with white. The features, too, had grown
thin, like those of a person who had suffered in sickness.

But, when the hour had passed, and he raised his head and looked
smilingly at Hamerton, it was the same striking face, and the same grand
presence as of old. Still, Hamerton could not forget the change he had
observed.

"Come," he said, unable to conceal an unusual affectionate earnestness,
"let us ride to Perth, and rest there--you need rest."

"Why, I never felt better," answered Mr. Wyville, lightly; "and rest is
rust to me. I never rest unless I am ill."

"You will soon be ill if this continue."

"Do you think so?" and as he asked the question, Hamerton saw a strange
light in his eye.

"Yes, I think you have overtaxed yourself lately. You are in danger of
breaking down--so you ought to rest."

Hamerton was puzzled to see him shake his head sadly.

"No, no, I am too strong to break down. Death passes some people, you
know; and I am one of the--fortunate."

Hamerton did not like the tone nor the mood. He had never seen him so
before. He determined to hurry their departure. He walked out of the
office and waited in the prison yard. Mr. Wyville joined him in a few
moments.

"I thought this smoke was only a sultry air," Hamerton said; "where does
it come from?"

"I think it comes from Bunbury district; a native runner from there says
the bush is burning for a hundred miles in that direction."

"Are lives lost in these fires? A hundred miles of flame is hard to
picture in the mind."

"Yes, some unlucky travellers and wood-cutters are surrounded at times;
and the destruction of lower life, birds, animals, and reptiles, is
beyond computation."

"Does not the fire leave a desert behind?"

"For a season only; but it also leaves the earth clear for a new growth.
The roots are not destroyed; and when the rain comes they burst forth
with increased beauty for the fertilizing passage of the flame."

By this time they were riding slowly towards Perth. The road was shaded
with tall mahoganies, and the coolness was refreshing. Hamerton seized
the opportunity of bringing up a subject that lay upon his mind.

"You gave me, sir," he said, "some documents in London which you wished
me to keep until our arrival here. Shall I not return them to-morrow?"

Mr. Wyville rode on without answering. He had heard; but the question
had come unexpectedly. Hamerton remained silent until he spoke.

"Do not return them yet," he said at length; "when we get back from our
ride to the Vasse, then give them to me."

"When shall we start?"

"In ten days. By that time my work will be fairly done; and the rest
you spoke of may not come amiss."

"Shall we ride to Sheridan's settlement?"

"O no; we go inland, to the head of the mountain range. Those papers, by
the way, in case anything should happen to me--the sickness you fear, for
instance--belong to one whom we may see before our return. In such a
case, on breaking the outer envelope, you will find his name. But I may
say now, else you might be surprised hereafter, that he is a native
bushman."

"A native! Would he understand?"

"Yes; he would understand perfectly. He is my heir--heirs generally
understand."

He was smiling as he spoke, evidently enjoying Hamerton's astonishment.

"Seriously, the package you hold contains my will. It is registered in
London, and it bequeaths a certain section of land in the Vasse
Mountains to the native chief Te-mana-roa, and his heirs for ever, as
the lawyers say. We may see the chief on our ride."

"Then why not give him the package?"

"Because he is a bushman, and might be wronged. With two influential
persons, like you and Sheridan, to support his title, there would be no
question raised. You see I compel you to be my executor."

"Is he not the grandfather of Koro, of whom she often spoke to me?"

"Yes," said Mr. Wyville, smiling, "and also of Tapairu. This property
will descend to them."

"Are they with the chief now?"

"No; by this time they have reached Mr. Sheridan's happy valley, where
it is probable they will remain. You see, it is possible to step from
the bush into civilization; but it is not quite so pleasant to step back
into the bush--especially for girls. Ngarra-jil, you observed, had no
second thought on the subject; he was a spearman again the moment he
landed."

The ride to Perth was pleasantly passed in conversation; and, on their
arrival, they ordered dinner to be served on the cool verandah.

While waiting there, a rough-looking man approached and touched his hat
to Mr. Wyville.

"Be you the Comptroller-General?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Well, sir, here, you see my ticket, and here's my full discharge. I
want to leave the colony; and I want a pass to King George's Sound,
where I can find a ship going to Melbourne."

Mr. Wyville examined the papers; they were all right. The man had a
right to the pass. He rose to enter the hotel to write it, holding the
documents in his hand.

"You're not going to keep them papers, sir, be you?" asked the man, in
evident alarm.

"No," said Mr. Wyville, looking closely at him; "but if I give you a
pass, you do not need them."

"Well, I'd rather keep them, sir; I'd rather keep them, even if I don't
get the pass."

"Well, you shall have them," said Mr. Wyville, rather surprised at the
fellow's manner. He entered the hotel and wrote the pass.

But, as the hand wrote, the mind turned over the man's words, dwelling
on his last expression, that he would rather have his ticket-of-leave
than take a pass from the colony yet, in any other country, it was a
proof of shame, not a safeguard. The man did not look stupid, though his
words were so. As Mr. Wyville finished writing, he raised his head and
saw Ngarra-jil watching him as usual. He raised his finger
slightly--Ngarra-jil was beside him.

A few words in the native tongue, spoken in a low tone, sent Ngarra-jil
back to his bench, where he sat like an ebony figure till he saw Mr.
Wyville return to the verandah. He then rose and went out by another
door.

Mr. Wyville called the ex-convict towards him till he stood in the
strong lamplight. He spoke a few words to him, and gave him his papers
and the pass. The man clumsily thanked him and went off.

"That's an ugly custom," said Hamerton. "I suppose you know it from his
papers. He was strangely restless while you were writing his pass."

Mr. Wyville did not answer, but he took hold of Hamerton's arm, and
pointed to a corner of the street where at the moment the man was
passing under a lamp, walking hurriedly. Following him closely and
silently strode a tall native with a spear.

"Ngarra-jil?" said Hamerton.

Mr. Wyville smiled and nodded.

"I thought it just as well to know where the man passed the night," he
said.

A few minutes later, Ngarra-jil came to the verandah, and spoke in his
own language to Mr. Wyville, who was much disturbed by the message. He
wrote a letter, and sent it instantly to the post-office.

"The callous wretch!" he said, unusually moved. He had gone straight to
Draper, by whom he had been hired to get the pass. Draper's purpose was
plain. He intended to leave the colony, and desert again his most
unfortunate wife, with whose money he could return comfortably to
England.

"What will you do with the miscreant?" asked Hamerton.

"Nothing, but take the pass from him."

"But he is a free man. Can you interfere with his movements?"

"No man is allowed to desert his wife, stealing her property. He can
have a pass by asking; but he dare not come here for it. And yet, I fear
to keep him; he may do worse yet. If no change for the better appear, I
shall hasten his departure, and alone, on our return from the Vasse."



THE BUSH FIRE

IT was the afternoon of a day of oppressive heat on which Mr. Wyville
and Hamerton started from Perth to ride to the mountains of the Vasse.
They were lightly equipped, carrying with them the few necessaries for
the primitive life of the bush.

For weeks before, the air had been filled with an irritating smoke, that
clung to the earth all day, and was blown far inland by the sea-breeze
at night.

As the horsemen were leaving Perth, they met a travel-stained police
trooper, carrying the mail from the southern districts. He recognized
the Comptroller General, and saluted respectfully as he passed.

"Where is the fire, trooper?" asked Mr. Wyville.

"In the Bunbury district, sir, and moving towards the Vasse Road. It has
burnt on the plains inside the sea-hills for three weeks, and in a day
or two will reach the heavy bush on the uplands."

They rode at a steady and rapid pace, conversing little, like men bent
on a long and tedious journey. The evening closed on them when they were
crossing the Darling Range. From the desolate mountain-road, as they
descended, they saw the sun standing large and red, on the horizon.
Before them, at the foot of the range, stretched a waste of white sand,
far as the eye could reach, over which their road lay.

The setting of the sun on such a scene has an awfulness hard to be
described. The whiteness of the sand seems to increase until it becomes
ghastly, while every low ridge casts a black shadow. During this time of
twilight the sand-plain has a weirdly sombre aspect. When the night
comes in its black shroud or silvery moonlight, the supernatural effect
is dispelled.

As the travellers rode down towards the plain, impressed by this ghostly
hour, Mr. Wyville called Hamerton's attention to two dark objects moving
on the sand at a distance.

Hamerton unslung his field-glass, and looked at the objects.

"A man and a woman," he said, "they are going ahead, and the woman
carries a load like the natives."

Soon after, the sun went down beyond the desert, and the plain was dark.
The horsemen spurred on, oppressed by the level monotony before them.
They had forgotten the travellers who were crossing, the weary waste on
foot.

Suddenly Hamerton's horse swerved, and a voice in the darkness ahead
shouted something. It was a command from the man on foot, addressed to
the woman, who, in her weariness and with her burden, had not been able
to keep pace with him, and had fallen behind.

"Come along, curse you! or I'll be all night on this plain."

The speaker had not seen nor heard the horsemen, whose advance was
hidden by the night and the soft sand. They rode close behind the woman,
and heard her laboured breathing as she increased her speed.

A sense of acute sorrow struck at once the hearts of the riders. They
had recognized the voice as that of Draper--they knew that the miserable
being who followed him and received his curses was his wife.

They rode silently behind her, and halted noiselessly as she came up
with her husband. He growled at her again as she approached.

"I am very tired, Samuel," they heard her say in a low, uncomplaining
voice; "and I fear I'm not as strong as I thought I was."

She stood a moment as she spoke, as if relieved by the moment's
breathing-space.

"Look here," he said in a hard voice, meant to convey the brutal threat
to her soul; "if you can't keep up, you can stay behind. I'll stop no
more for you; so you can come or stay. Do you hear?"

"O, Samuel, you wouldn't leave me in this terrible place alone! Have
pity on me, and speak kindly to me, and I will keep up--indeed, I'll not
delay you any more to-night."

"Have pity on you?" he hissed between his teeth, "you brought me to this,
and I am to have pity on you!"

He turned and strode on in the dark. She had heard, but made no reply.
She struggled forward, though her steps even now were unsteady.

Mr. Wyville, having first attracted her attention by a slight sound, so
that she should not be frightened, rode up to her, and spoke in a low
voice.

"I am the Comptroller-General--do not speak. Give me your burden. You
will find it when you arrive at the inn at Pinjarra."

She looked up and recognized Mr. Wyville; and without a word she slipped
her arms from the straps of the heavy load, and let him lift it from
her.

"God bless you, sir!" she whispered tremulously; "I can walk easily
now."

"Here," said Hamerton, handing her his wine-flask, keep this for
yourself, and use it if you feel your strength failing."

"Where is your husband going?" asked Mr. Wyville.

"He is going to the Vasse, sir. A whale ship has come in there, and he
thinks she will take us off."

They rode on, and soon overtook Draper. Mr. Wyville addressed him in a
stern voice.

"If your wife does not reach Pinjarra to-night in safety, I shall hold
you accountable. I overheard your late speech to her."

The surprised caitiff made no reply, and the horsemen passed on. They
arrived at the little town of Pinjarra two hours later.

Next morning, they found that Draper had arrived. Mr. Wyville arranged
with the innkeeper and his wife for Harriet's good treatment, and also
that a stockman's team, which was going to Bunbury, should offer to take
them so far on their way.

It was a long and fatiguing ride for the horsemen that day, but as the
night fell they saw before them, across an arm of the sea, the lights of
a town.

"That is Bunbury," said Mr. Wyville, "the scene of our friend Sheridan's
sandalwood enterprise."

They stopped in Bunbury two days. Mr. Wyville spending his time in the
prison depot, instructing the chief warder in the new system. They found
Ngarra-jil there, with fresh horses. He was to ride with them next day
towards the Vasse.

As they were leaving the town, on the afternoon of the third day, they
met a gang of wood-cutters, carrying bundles on their backs, coming in
from the bush.

"Are you going to the Vasse?" asked one of the wood-cutters, who was
resting by the roadside.

"Yes."

"Well, keep to the eastward of the Koagulup Swamp and salt marshes. The
fire is all along the other side. We've been burnt out up that way."

They thanked him, and rode on. Presently, another man shouted after
them--

"There's a man and woman gone on before you, and if they take the road
to the right of the swamp, they'll be in danger."

They rode rapidly, striking in on a broad, straight road, which had been
cleared by the convicts many years before. Mr. Wyville was silent and
preoccupied. Once or twice Hamerton made some passing remark, but he did
not hear.

The atmosphere was dense with the low-lying smoke, and the heat was
almost intolerable.

A few miles south of Bunbury, the road cut clear across a hill. From the
summit, they caught their first sight of the fire. Mr. Wyville reined
his horse, and Hamerton and the bushman followed his example.

Before them stretched a vast sea of smoke, level, dense, and grayish
white, unbroken, save here and there by the topmost branches of tall
trees, that rose clear above the rolling cloud that covered all below.

"This is Bunbury racecourse," said Mr. Wyville; "the light sea-breeze
keeps the smoke down, and rolls it away to the eastward. This fire is
extensive."

"Where is our road now?" asked Hamerton.

"Through the smoke; the fire had not yet reached the plain. See: it is
just seizing the trees yonder as it comes from the valley."

Hamerton looked far to the westward, and saw the sheeted flame, fierce
red with ghastly streaks of yellow, hungrily leaping among the trees in
waves of terrific length. For the first time in his life he realized the
power of the element. It appalled him, as if he were looking on a living
and sentient destroyer.

"We must ride swiftly here," said Mr. Wyville, beginning the descent;
"but the plain is only three miles wide."

In a minute they had plunged into the murky air, and, with heads bent,
drove their horses into a hard gallop. But the animals understood, and
needed a little pressing. With ears laid back, as if stricken with
terror, they flew, swift-footed.

The air was not so deadly as the first breath suggested. The dense smoke
was thickest overhead; beneath was a stratum of semi-pure air. The heat
was far more dangerous than the fumes.

At last they reached the rising ground again, and filled their lungs
with a sense of profound relief. The prospect was now changed, and for
the better.

The fire in their front appeared only on the right of the road. It
stretched in a straight line as far as they could see, burning the tall
forest with a dreadful noise, like the sea on a rocky shore, or like the
combined roar of wild beasts. The wall of flame ran parallel with the
road, about a mile distant.

"It is stopped there by a salt marsh," said Mr. Wyville; "but that ends
some miles in our front."

"Koagulup there," said Ngarra-jil, meaning that where the marsh ended
the great swamp began. The wood-cutters had warned them to keep to the
left of the swamp.

"We must surely overtake those travellers," said Mr. Wyville to
Hamerton, "and before they reach the swamp. They might take the road to
the right, and be lost."

They galloped forward again, and as they rode, in the falling dusk of
night, the fire on the right increased to a glare of terrific intensity.
They felt its hot breath on their faces as if it panted a few yards
away.

Suddenly when they had ridden about two miles, Mr. Wyville drew rein,
looked fixedly into the bush, and then dismounted. He walked straight to
a tall tuad-tree by the roadside, and stooped at its base, as if
searching for something.

When he rose and came back, he had in his hand a long rusty chain, with
a lock on one end.

"You have keen sight, sir," said Hamerton, astonished.

"I did not see it," he answered quietly; "I knew that it was there. I
once knew a man to be chained to that tree."

He tied the chain on his horse's neck, and mounted with more words. From
that moment he seemed to have only one thought--to overtake and warn
those in front.

Half an hour later, they drew rein where the roads divided, one going to
the right, the other to the left of the swamp. The travellers were not
yet in sight.

"Which road have they taken?" asked Hamerton.

Ngarra-jil had leaped from his horse, and was running along the road to
the left. He came back with a disappointed air, and struck in on the
other road. In half a minute he stopped, and cried out some guttural
word.

Mr. Wyville looked at Hamerton, and there were tears in his eyes. He
rode to him, and caught him by the arm.

"Take the other road with Ngarra-jil, and I will meet you at the farther
end of the swamp. It is only twelve miles, and I know this bush
thoroughly."

Hamerton answered only with an indignant glance.

"Do not delay, dear friend," and Wyville's voice was broken as he spoke;
"for my sake, and for those whose rights are in your hands, do as I say.
Take that road, and ride on till we meet."

"I shall not do it," said Hamerton, firmly, and striking his horse.
"Come on! if there is danger, I must face it with you."

His horse flew wildly forward, terrified by the tremendous light of the
conflagration. Wyville soon overtook him, and they rode abreast, the
faithful bushman a horse's length behind.

On their left, a quarter of a mile distant, stretched the gloomy swamp,
at this season a deadly slough of black mud, with shallow pools of
water. On their right, a mile off, the conflagration leaped and howled
and crashed its falling trees, as if furious at the barrier of marsh
that baulked it of its prey. The bush between the swamp and the fire was
brighter than day, and the horsemen drove ahead in the white glare.

They saw the road for miles before them. There was no one in sight.

Five, seven, nine of the twelve miles of swamp were passed. Still the
road ahead was clear for miles, and still no travellers.

As they neared the end of the ride, a portentous change came over the
aspect of the fire. Heretofore it had burned high among the gum-trees,
its red tongues licking the upper air. There was literally a wall of
fire along the farther side of the salt marsh. Now, the tree-tops grew
dark, while the flame leaped along the ground, and raced like a wild
thing straight towards the swamp.

"The fire has leaped the marsh!" said Mr. Wyville.

The whole air and earth seemed instantly to swarm with fear and horror.
Flocks of parrots and smaller birds whirled screaming, striking blindly
against the horsemen as they flew. With thunderous leaps, herds of
kangaroo plunged across the road, and dashed into the deadly alternative
of the swamp. The earth was alive with insect and reptile life, fleeing
instinctively from the fiery death. Great snakes, with upraised heads,
held their way, hissing in terror, towards the water, while timid
bandicoot and wallaby leaped over their mortal enemies in the horrid
panic.

The horses quivered with terror, and tried to dash wildly in the
direction of the swamp.

"Hold on, for your life!" shouted Wyville to Hamerton. "Do not leave the
road."

As they spurred onward, their eyes on the advancing fire, their hearts
stood still one moment at a piercing sound from their rear. It was a
woman's shriek: the agonized cry reached them above all the horror of
the fire.

Hamerton did not know what to do, but he saw Mr. Wyville rein up, and he
did so also. They looked back, and a mile behind saw the two
unfortunates they had come to warn. They had strayed from the road, and
the riders had passed them. The fire had now closed in behind them, and
was driving, them forward with appalling fury.

"For God's sake, ride on!" shouted Mr. Wyville to Hamerton, his voice
barely heard in the savage roar of the conflagration.

"And you?" cried the other, with a knitted brow.

"I am going back for these--I must go back. God bless you!"

He struck his spurs, into his horse, and the animal sprang to the front.
But next instant he was flung back on his haunches by Ngarra-jil,
dismounted, who had seized the bridle. The bushman's eyes blazed, and
his face was set in determination.

"No! no!" he cried in his own language; "you shall no you shall not! It
is death, MOONDYNE! It is death."

Wyville bent forward, broke the man's grasp, speaking rapidly to him.
His words moved the faithful heart deeply, and he stood aside, with
raised hands of affliction, and let him ride forward.

Hamerton did not follow; but he would not try to escape. He sat in his
saddle, with streaming eyes following the splendid heroism of the man he
loved dearest of all the world.

It was a ride that could only be faced by audacious bravery. The hot
breath of the leaping fire was moving the whole bush through which
Wyville rode. The leaves on the trees overhead shrivelled and smoked.
The cinders and burning brambles floated and fell on man and horse.

But the rider only saw before him the human beings he meant to save.
Nearer and nearer he drew; and he shouted, as best he could, to cheer
them; but they did not hear him.

He saw with straining eyes the man throw up his hands and sink to the
earth; and he saw the woman, faithful to the last, bending over him,
holding the wine flask to his parched lips. He saw her, too, reach out
her arms, as if to shield the fallen one from the cruel flame that had
seized them. Then she breathed the air of fire, and sank down. Next
moment, Wyville leaped from his horse beside them.

It was too late. The woman had fallen in front of the flame, as if to
keep it from the face of the man who had deserved so little of her
devotion; and still the hand of the faithful dead held to his lips the
draught that might have saved her own life.

One moment, with quivering face, the strong man bent above her, while
his lips moved. Then he raised his head, and faced his own danger.

Already the fire had cut him off; but it was only the advanced line of
the conflagration that bad reached the water. It was possible to dash
back, by the edge of the swamp.

The awful peril of the moment flashed on him as he rode. The horse
bounded wildly ahead; and the skilled hand guided him for the best. But,
as he flew, other scenes rose before the rider even brighter than that
before him. The present was filled with horror; but the past overtook
him and swept over his heart like a great wave of peace.

A tree crashed to the earth across his path. He was forced to drive his
horse into the fire to get round the obstacle. The poor animal reared
and screamed, but dashed through the fire, with eyes scorched and
blinded by the flame, now solely dependent on the hand of its guide. The
rider felt the suffering animal's pain, and recorded it in his heart
with sympathy.

It was that heart's last record, and it was worthy of the broad manhood
that had graved it there. He had given his life for men--he could pity a
dumb animal.

By the side of the swamp he was stricken from the saddle by the branch
of a falling tree. His body fell in the water, his head resting on the
tangled rushes of the swamp.

Once, before he died, his opened eyes were raised, and he looked above
him into the sea and forest of fire. But he would not accept that; but
upwards, with the splendid faith of his old manhood, went the glazing
eyes till they rested firmly on the eternal calmness of the sky. As he
looked, there came to him, like a vision he had once before dimly seen,
a great Thought from the deep sky, and held his soul in rapt communion.
But the former dimness was gone; he saw it clearly now for one instant,
while all things were closing peacefully in upon him.

Then the man's head sank peacefully to its couch, the limbs stretched
out for their lone, rest, the strong heart stopped its labours.

He was dead.

They found his body next day, unscathed by the fire, preserved by the
water in which he had fallen. Reverent hands lifted the burden and bore
it into the dim recesses of the bush, followed by numerous dusky
mourners.

One white man stood among the children of the forest; but he had no
claim higher than theirs. Above the dead stood the white-haired chief,
Te-mana-roa, bowed in silent grief. A spearwood litter was made, and the
body placed on it. It was raised by the bushmen, who stood awaiting the
old chief's orders.

Te-mana-roa turned to Hamerton, who alone of all the assembly belonged
to the dead man's race. The old chief read profound grief in his face,
and drew closer to him.

"This man belonged to us," he said, laying his dark finger on the wide
brow of the dead; "he was true to my people, and they understood and
loved him better than his own. We shall bury him in the Vasse."

The litter-bearers moved slowly forward, the old chief took his place
behind the dead, and the bushmen with trailed spears followed in sad
procession.

Hamerton's heart went strongly with the mourners; but he could not
question their right. Two strange spearmen stood near him, to guide him
safely through the bush. The faithful Ngarra-jil was gone, to mourn by
the lonely grave of the MOONDYNE.



THE END





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