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Title: The Miner's Right, A Tale of the Australian Goldfields
Author: Rolf Boldrewood
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0607091.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: September 2006
Date most recently updated: September 2006

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The Miner's Right, A Tale of the Australian Goldfields
Rolf Boldrewood



Chapter I



I AM in Australia at last--actually in Botany Bay, as we called the
colony of New South Wales when Joe Bulder and I first thought of
leaving that dear quiet old Dibblestowe Leys in Mid-Kent. More than
that, I am a real gold digger--very real, indeed--and the holder of a
Miner's Right, a wonderful document, printed and written on parchment,
precisely as follows. I ought to know it by heart, good reason have I
therefor, I and mine. Here it is, life size, in full. Shall I ever
take it out and look at it by stealth in happy days to come, I wonder?

Yes, I am here now, at Yatala, safe enough; as I said before, with
my mates--Cyrus Yorke, Joe Bulder, and the Major. But I certainly
thought I should never get away from England. One would have imagined
that a younger son of a decayed family had never quitted Britain
before to find fortune or be otherwise provided for. Also, that
Australia was Central Africa, whence ingenuous youth had little more
chance of returning than dear old Livingstone.

As for me, Hereward Pole, as I had but little occupation and less
money, I was surely the precise kind of emigrant which the old land
can so gracefully spare to the new. Gently nurtured, well intentioned,
utterly useless, not but what I was fitting myself according to my
lights for a colonial career--save the mark!--for I had been nearly a
year on a farm in Mid-Kent, for which high privilege I paid, or rather
my uncle did, 100 sterling.

So, I had learned to plough indifferently, and could be trusted to
harrow, a few side strokes not mattering in that feat of agriculture.
I could pronounce confidently on the various samples of seed wheat
submitted to me, and I had completely learned the art of colouring a
meerschaum by smoking daily and hourly what I then took to be the
strongest tobacco manufactured.

It wasn't bad fun. Jane Mangold, the old farmer's daughter, who was
coaching me, was a pretty girl, with rosy cheeks, a saucy nose, and no
end of soft, fluffy, fair hair. We were capital friends, and she stood
by me when I got into disgrace by over-driving the steam-engine one
day, and nearly blowing up the flower of the village population of
Dibblestowe Leys. Now and then I had a little shooting, and a by-day
with the Tickham hounds. Life passed on so peacefully and pleasantly
that I was half inclined to think of taking a farm near the Leys at
the end of my term, and asking Jane to help with the dairy, poultry,
cider, and housekeeping department. Then a little incident happened
which changed the current of ideas generally, and my life in
particular.

It was one of the fixtures of the Tickham hounds, which sometimes
honoured our slowish neighbourhood. Old Mangold, being grumpy, had
told me that I might go to Bishop's Cote, or indeed considerably
further, for all the help I was to him. I had cheerfully accepted his
somewhat ungracious permission, and mounted on a young horse I was
schooling for Dick Cheriton, a farmer's son of sporting tastes, I made
my way over, pleased with my mount, satisfied with my boots, and
altogether of opinion that I was better treated by fortune than usual.

I could ride, to do myself justice, and shoot. Second whip or under
keeper were the only posts for which I was really qualified. I could
make a fly and tie it: could somehow hit the piscatorial need of most
days and most waters. Mine was rarely an empty basket. In fact, I was
like a very large majority of the young Englishmen of the day, in that
I could do a number of useless things, mostly relating to field sports
and manual accomplishments. Tall and strong, with thickish dark-brown
hair, I had my mother's features and dark grey eyes, that didn't
usually look anywhere but in people's faces. For the rest I was wholly
ignorant of every conceivable form and method of money-making, and
could not have earned a crown to save my life.

Please to imagine me sitting sideways on my horse, thinking whether
there might be time to have a smoke before the hounds threw off, then
suddenly aroused by the rattle of carriage wheels, which denoted a
stronger pace than was generally resorted to by county families
assembling at a meet. Hastily looking round I saw a pair of grand
looking brown horses, which had evidently bolted with a landau
containing two ladies. The coachman was sitting still and doing his
best, but he had only one rein; the other, broken short, was dangling
from the near horse's head. I knew the horses, and, of course, the
carriage. I had often remarked them at the village church; they
belonged to the squire, who was my host's landlord. I knew, of course,
the lady of the Manor by sight, having gazed at her afar off; but the
girl, who was by her side in the carriage--pale and proud yet
despairing, with a piteous look of appeal in her large, dark eyes--I
had never seen before.

We were both early. The hounds had not yet come up. Save the village
apothecary in antigropelos, and a stray horse-dealer or pad groom,
there was hardly a soul near. My resolution was taken in an instant. I
knew that the road they were speeding so fast along gradually
commenced to descend. A longish hill, flint bestrewn, with a turn and
bridge at the end of it, would soon account finally for all concerned.

I took my five-year-old by the head and raced for the hedge and
ditch. He gave a highly theatrical jump into the road just by the side
of the carriage. I saw both the ladies gaze with astonishment as I
sent him up to the head of the reinless carriage horse. 'Help us, oh
help us!' cried Mrs. Allerton, 'or we shall be dashed to pieces.' The
younger lady did not speak, but looked at me with her pleading eyes in
such a way that I felt I could have thrown myself under the wheels
then and there to have been of the slightest service.

Nothing so sacrificial was required of me. Jamming my youngster,
fortunately one of the bold temperate sort, against the near side
carriage horse's shoulder, I got hold of the loose rein, and dragged
at his mouth in a way that must have hurt his feelings, if he had any
thereabouts. The coachman seconded me well and prudently. Between us
we stopped the carriage within a quarter of a mile, and saved the
impending smash. The rein was knotted, the bits altered to the lower
bar, and peace was restored.

Both ladies were ridiculously grateful, though the younger, after
impulsively placing her hand in mine, when her mother--as I found her
to be--had shaken mine several times warmly, rather looked than spoke
her thanks.

'Haven't I seen you somewhere?' at length asked the elder lady. 'I am
sure I know your face and voice.'

I mentioned something about Dibblestowe Leys and Mr. Mangold.

'Ah, of course, I was stupid not to remember you before. You will
tell us what name I shall mention to the Squire, as that of the
gentleman who so gallantly saved the lives of his wife and daughter.'

'Hereward Pole,' said I, bowing and blushing--one blushed in those
days; 'very much at your service.'

'One of the Poles of Shute, surely not? Why, I remember the old place
when I was a girl. And your dear mother, is she still alive? I shall
hope to see her again. What a wonderful coincidence. And, now I think
of it, you are like her, especially about the brow and eyes.'

'Mamma, perhaps Mr. Pole would like to have his run with the hounds,
now that we are all safe. We needn't stay in the road all day. I see
they have put the hounds into Holling-bourne Wood. Papa says it was
near Durnbank; so if Mr. Pole cuts across these two fields with that
clever horse of his be will be just in time.'

'My dearest Ruth, you are a matter-of-fact darling; but I daresay Mr.
Pole will enjoy the run after all. You young people are so strong. My
poor nerves will be agac for days, I know. May we hope to see you on
Sunday to dinner, my dear Mr. Pole? I suppose Mr. Mangold can spare
you on that day.'

'Or even on a week-day, perhaps,' said the young lady maliciously.
'You had better get away; I see something like business over yonder.'

I bowed low, and plunging in a dazed way at the hedge, was mortified
to find that my steed adopted the tactics of multum in parvo, and got
through rather by force of character than activity. However, I flew
the next two fences in very creditable style, and reached the outer
edge of the covert as Reynard had stolen forth, a few moments in
advance of old Countess and Columbine, the detectives of the pack, and
was well away with the leading hounds before the carriage was out of
sight in the direction of Torry Hill.

The run was a cracker. How well I remember it still. I sailed along
in the first flight all through. Indeed, so well was I carried, that I
never had a chance of riding the young horse again, as he was promptly
snapped up at a large advance upon his previous selling price. A
single day with its occurrence brightens or shades a life. Fate takes
the dial, and turns the hands with strong slow fingers, and we think
we can carve out our own path in life, can choose the good or shun the
evil that lieth around us. Now, like children, are we hurried forward
or frightened back on the track of doom!

When I returned to the Leys late that evening Jane was most anxious
to hear everything about the day. Had there been a good run? Was I
well up? Did Dick Cheriton's horse carry me well? She didn't see why I
should go riding other people's young horses. My neck was more
valuable than Dick's--a gambling, drinking, good-for-nothing fellow.
Was the Squire's lady there, and her daughter Miss Ruth? The under-
gardener had been down from the hall to see Deborah the dairy-maid,
and had told her that they were going to the meet because Lord Arthur
Gordon was to be there. He was staying at the hall.

I must have been more curt than usual in my answers; perhaps I was
tired or cross: men sometimes are, for no reason at all, like women.
Anyhow, Jane was disappointed, and left off questioning me, saying
that 'she supposed I would find my temper after a night's rest. Only
she did think--' and here there must have been a few tears, as I found
myself consoling her efficiently and protesting all kinds of
palliatives, Mr. Mangold having as usual gone to smoke his pipe in the
snug sanded kitchen, which he said was a hundred times more
comfortable than Jane's smart parlour, which he never would call a
drawing-room, much to her distress.

On the following Sunday I announced my intention of going to church,
a practice to which I generally conformed on the ground of mixed
motives, involving as it did a pleasant walk back through the lanes
with Jane. To her wild astonishment and that of the parish generally,
I was most cordially greeted by the lady of the Manor; hardly less so
by Miss Allerton, and finally carried off in the sacred hall-carriage
before the eyes of the dismayed villagers, who looked upon it as
something hardly less than a translation to realms Elysian.

On arriving at Allerton Court, a grand old Elizabethan pile, we were
met on the steps by the Squire himself, who most warmly acknowledged
his indebtedness to me for the signal service which I had rendered his
family. Delighted to find that I was the son of his old friend Dunston
Pole, while I was in the neighbourhood he hoped--indeed, he would take
no denial--that I must look upon his house as my home. He was aware I
was learning farming at the Leys with old Mangold. Very worthy old
chap, and paid his rents with much more punctuality than many of the
newer lights. Pretty daughter too, Miss Jane. Mind what you're about.
Must not go about breaking hearts; though girls look out for
themselves nowadays pretty well, he must say that, however. I must
come over and shoot. They alway thought there was some of the best
cock-shooting in England at Allerton Court, and as for hunting, he
would mount me to the end of the season. I needn't ride five-year-olds
after to-day; though the one I steered to the Hollingbourne must have
been a 'nailer,' if his informant spoke truly.

The Squire's address was fragmentary and conventional, but the tone
of my whole reception was so truly sincere that I felt at once that my
position as the friend of the family was assured. The lady of the
Manor looked at me with a truly maternal warmth of affection, and from
time to time recapitulated for the Squire's benefit every incident of
our joint thrilling adventure.

'Never was so near being a widower, my dear,' he said. 'I wonder who
there is in the county that would have suited me? Never thought of it
before! One should always be prepared for those kind of things though;
couldn't have replaced my ladybird here though so easily, eh, Ruth!'
and a tear gathered in the old man's glistening eye.

'You are a wicked old papa,' said she, holding up a finger
reprovingly; 'you would have thought very little about successors and
such rubbish, you know, if poor mamma and I had been dashed to pieces,
which we should most certainly have been but for Mr. Pole's help and
good riding.' And here I received a half-shy, half-grateful glance
that made me consider myself a Paladin, and the lovely girl, the
fairest of the fair, like her that was to reward le brave et beau
Dunois, who of old returned from Palestine.

This was all very well, but one could not return from Palestine
without having in the first instance gone there. It was no doubt
mighty easy for such fellows as Dunois to go to foreign parts. Very
little capital was required, and fighting, if a hazardous, is
comparatively a cheap species of investment. Now, in these latter
days, a man must either stay at home, leading an inglorious and
unprofitable life, or be able to lay his hand upon a good round sum of
money with which to be a backwoodsman in Canada, a squatter in
Australia, a sugar grower in Natal, or an indigo planter in Nepaul.
The days of cheap yet dignified adventure seemed, ah me, to be fled
for ever.

Matters went on smoothly for me during the rest of my sojourn at the
Leys. I learnt a decent amount of farming, and, indeed, gained a
reasonable meed of praise from old Mangold. This advance in
agricultural knowledge was due rather to increased attention on my
part than to the time which I was enabled to devote to my duties; for,
indeed, Miss Mangold told me with more acerbity than I had suspected
her of possessing, I was always up at the Court, and, as she expressed
it more familiarly than elegantly, in Miss Ruth's pocket.

I mildly repelled the accusation of living at the Court, excusing
myself as to frequent visits by saying that one wanted a little
change, and treating with silent scorn the unauthorised allusion to
any part of Miss Allerton's sacred costume.

'You didn't want so much change once,' she said, tossing her head,
which still looked pretty enough with her fresh colour and soft
abundant hair; 'but times are changed I can see.'

'I shall have to go away next month,' said I, evading the latter part
of her remark. 'You and I mustn't part bad friends, Jane.'

'I'm not bad friends,' she said, 'though some people are so fickle
that they run after every new face they see just because people are
high up in the world. I shall be sorry when you go, for it will be
fearfully dull--worse than ever. But what will you do after you go
away--take a farm about here? It will want money to do that, with the
stock and rotation of crop you're bound to, and all the other fads for
making farmers spend money instead of landlords nowadays.

'I don't know what I shall do, Jane,' I answered somewhat
reflectively. 'It appears to me that I have not much chance of doing
anything in England.'

'But you wouldn't go out of England, Hereward--that is Mr. Pole,'
said the girl hastily, while the colour left her cheek. 'You wouldn't
go to America or India or any of those places, surely?'

'Why not?' said I bitterly. 'What earthly use is a fellow like me
crawling about in England? I have no profession. I have no money. And
the only thing I can try for is the post of a farm bailiff, a
gamekeeper, or a second whip. Even these need recommendations. No; I'm
a useless gentleman, and they might as well have drowned me like a
blind puppy as bring me up to such a fate.'

'Oh, don't you talk like that!' cried the good-natured Jane, much
moved by my unwonted bitterness and the tragic view of my position.
'Surely your friends will do something for you. Set you up in a farm,
or get you a place under Government. You might be happy enough that
way, if you would only be contented.' Here she sighed softly. Poor
Jane!

'I could never be contented,' said I, 'with anything short of a
decent position in the world. I hate the sameness of an everyday pokey
life. I must travel, or get away from England and try my luck
somehow.'

'Why don't you ask the Squire to make you gamekeeper at the Court?'
she said mischievously; and then, marking my sudden change of
countenance, said: 'Oh, don't be angry, Mr. Pole! But I hear father
coming--'

Some days after this conversation I received a letter from my uncle,
in which he drew my attention to the fact that the year during which
he had consented to pay for my training at Dibblestowe Leys had well
nigh expired. After that time he should be unable to do anything
further for me, unless I chose to take a junior clerkship in the
Treasury or a situation as farm bailiff; either appointment he doubted
not that he could procure for me.

I was much minded to answer hastily, telling him that he need not
trouble himself about such means of maintenance. Then I bethought
myself that I ought seriously to think the matter over. Careless and
reckless as I had been up to this time, a change had taken place in my
position which swayed the whole current of my thoughts.

I had become sensible that my early admiration for Ruth Allerton had
gradually ripened, from the opportunities which had been, perhaps
unwisely, afforded us of knowing one another fully and unreservedly,
into a deep, altogether uncontrollable passion. Gradually had our
hearts become attracted, then inextricably intertwined in that
mysterious bond of soul and sense--that complete instinctive union of
every thought and feeling, which perhaps rarely occurs so indissolubly
as in early youth.

We had spoken no word on the subject to each other. Yet had we
discovered methods of divining each other's inmost thoughts. And as
soon as I commenced to think about leaving the neighbourhood and
ending the pleasant life of that most idyllic year, ah, me! the whole
truth flashed upon me with lightning-like revelation.

Curiously enough, I had scarcely realised it before. Utterly
contented with the friendly liberty which I had enjoyed, I had, with
the utter carelessness of youth, rested satisfied with the present. I
was by no means so new to the world that I did not gauge the utter
impossibility of my gaining the consent of Ruth's parents to an
engagement--even were she favourable. County families don't usually
arrange the marriages of their daughters on such terms as I had to
offer. Granted that she was weak enough to assent to any mad
proposition of mine, what possible hope could I entertain of carrying
out an engagement? I firmly believe, looking back to that time, that I
had no other intention than loyally to abstain from compromising or
entangling her. I would take my leave calmly of the old hall court and
its loved inmates, and afterwards I would leave England. I was fixed
in that opinion; nothing would persuade me to remain pottering in this
crowded old country, eating away my heart with a sense of poverty,
inferiority, and misfortune. England was no place for a younger son.
Without money, more than one of my ancestors had left it to seek his
fortune. So would I.

I prepared then for quitting Dibblestowe Leys with something like
method. I wrote to my uncle stating that I had no inclination to
remain in England and commence a painful ascent to a competence by
beginning at the bottom rung of the ladder. That my mind was made up
to go to America, north or south, I hardly cared which. That possibly
I should make for California, then in its second year as a gold-
producing country. That he might help me to emigrate if he would. But
that if he did not, I should go before the mast and work my passage in
the first ship that would take me. His answer was that he thought I
was mad, but that if I was determined to go, he would pay my passage,
and find me a trifle by way of outfit.

I did not mention this notable determination to Ruth, reserving it to
the last; perhaps constitutionally unwilling to make a painful
statement until it was absolutely necessary. Meanwhile, I commenced to
use my practical opportunity effectively; to that end I worked every
day for a short time in the blacksmith's shop attached to the farm,
for which fascinating work I had always had a boyish taste.

One bright morning I was relieving the striker for a short time, when
he pulled a grimy newspaper from his pocket. He was a broad-
shouldered, muscular young fellow of twenty, who had always been a
kind of humble friend and ally of mine. Passionately fond of shooting
and fishing, I had taken pains to get him a day's rabbiting
occasionally, and had let him carry my basket now and then when we had
an afternoon's holiday and set off for the trout stream. 'Would ye
look at this, Mr. Pole?' said he. 'I ha' gotten it from a brother of
mine in Australia, who went there in a big ship called the Red Jacket
last year. Quartermaster, Jack was; and seems loike he's runned away,
and gotten hissen up the country to a place they call Ballyrat, where
they're a rootin' out the gold like spuds.'

'That must be all nonsense,' said I, unable to take in so much of the
unusual at one gulp.

'Nay, but it is na,' he replied. 'He sent me the letter and two
newspapers as I've got at the kitchen as ye'd like to see 'em. Here's
the letter. Happen ye'd like to read it. It's Jack's fist sure enough.
He wants me to go to him, and I'd go fast enou if I had any neighbour
folk as'ud go with me. But I can't think to face so far by mysen.'

'Ha! Joe,' said I, raising the heavy hammer and bringing down stroke
after stroke with a strangely excited feeling, which made the heavy
tool tremble in my grasp like a tack hammer. 'Wants you to go, does
he? Well, maybe you might have a mate after all.'

I finished my hour's striking, shod a horse, and pointed some farm
tools, thinking the while that I might find such skill valuable in
rude lands. My task done, I ventured to the Grange, and, locking
myself in my bedroom, opened the epistle of Mr. Jack Bulder. Thus it
ran:--

'BALLARAT, October 10, 1851.

'DERE BROTHER--This comes from the land, and not from the good ship
Redjacket, as I expected to write home from wen I left the Leys, in
consekens of my having run away from the old ship, wich I never thout
to have done, only every crew in Melbourne harbour has done the same,
and your brother Jack isn't worse than other people. We all cut it,
dere brother, because of the goold, which they told us was tremenjus,
and too much to resist, and so we found it. Since I have cum here I
have made three hundred pound besides two nuggets which i kep in a
wosh lether bagg. There is plenty more ware that cum from. Dere
brother, if I was you I would cum here at once, and don't let nothin'
stop you, I send forty pound; it ain't much, but it will pay your
passidge. Dere brother, let nothing kepe you from cummin' hear. This
is a very nice country and we all xpeck to make our pile, that is
fortun, in too yeares, at farthist. Dere brother, put yourself aboard
a ship at once is the advice of yours truly.

JOHN BULDER.

'P.S.--My mait has just found a lump of goold worth fourty pound.
When you go to Melbourne, go to the Oriental Bank and ask for John
Bulder; they will know my address. I send the Star and the Herild, as
will let you know what is happening every day here, quite comman.'

I carefully read the newspapers after perusing this characteristic
but conclusive epistle. They were well printed and respectably
conducted. I marked the following paragraph with an instinctive
feeling of relief and approbation, as follows:--

'We are glad to be enabled to chronicle the good fortune of our old
friends Billy Watson and party. They struck good gold on the Monkey
lead last month, and have washed up 200 loads to-day for 300 oz.,
worth at present price 1100, no bad result for six weeks' work for
four men.

'The Blue Danube Reef has, we hear, come again on the lode at the
300 ft. level, and the specimens are excessively rich. Shares
immediately went up, and it's reported that Mr. Smarter, by timely
sales, cleared 2700 profit upon his original investment. We wish him
every success.

'A bazaar was opened yesterday for the benefit of the local
hospital, which we are glad to see was extensively patronised. Too
much praise cannot be bestowed upon those ladies who have taken so
much pains and bestowed such unremitting personal labour on this
exceedingly attractive exhibition. More than 400, we hear, were
collected and subscribed. When we think of the great uncertainty of
life and limb existing in mining communities, it is obvious that such
an institution, efficiently worked, is almost inestimable. We trust
that the miners will rally round this unsectarian charity at another
time. Meanwhile, may the Green Gully Hospital flourish and its
founders meet with all manner of success.'

Here, in my circumstances, was a manifest revelation. It was plainly
indicative of the country to which to go, and the reason for which to
go. In other lands long toilsome years must be spent before there was
even the chance of a fortune being made. In this wonderful country a
single month might place one in that blessed condition of
independence, that no amount of self-denial and labour in England
could secure in half a lifetime.

I read and re-read the newspaper--the Star--from end to end. The
more I read was I convinced of the bona-fides of the information, and
the general advantages of the locality. I saw by the section of
'Police News' that offences were unsparingly punished in accordance
with British law. Deeds of mercy and charity were by no means omitted
from the daily life of the toilers for gold. It was not all couleur de
rose as the record of casualties and accidents proved. Still the fact
remained incontestible that fortunes were being made weekly, daily, in
that favoured spot. The gold deposit was not likely to be worked out
very soon. Other finds were referred to. It was the modern Eldorado. A
two month's voyage would land one there. My mind was made up. I would
try the gold region, and either win fortune, with whom fame is
generally on speaking terms, or pay the usual penalty.

I informed Joe Bulder of my decision. Somewhat to my surprise he at
once proposed to accompany me. 'I'm nowt but a plain lad, Mister
Pole,' said he, 'but you might loike to see a Dibb'stowe face in
foreign parts; and I'll stand by thee hand and foot, I reckon. I'm
tired of working here for farmer Mangold. Doesn't thee see blacksmiths
be a gettin' a pound a day oot there?--shoeing horses a pound a set.
Why, thou'st made a pound thysen this marnin', besides sharpening they
picks at a shillin' each. Danged if I don't keep t' forge while thee
goes a seekin' for gowd, and we can share and share loike.'

Joe little thought that he was advocating the great Australian
mining custom of 'dividing mates,' by which most generously equitable
portion of the unwritten law, fortunes have been made and shared on
every goldfield in Australia. 'I shall be only too glad to have such a
good fellow with me, Joe,' said L 'It's a bargain. The next thing is
to find a ship.'



Chapter II



My intercourse with Allerton Court and its inmates had continued as
usual. A half-regretful tone had certainly characterised our latter
interviews, since I had allowed it to be known that I should not
remain at Dibblestowe Leys. May it have been that in each heart was
still some unacknowledged feeling that I might not finally quit the
neighbourhood, or, at any rate, go no farther away than the county in
which my uncle resided. A few questions had been put by the Squire and
Mrs. Allerton as to my future projects. To these I had answered
without strictly defining my intentions. I had, in return, received
good advice from the Squire, on the subject of making up my mind and
taking a path in life. They little dreamed of the one I had chosen.

At length, however, the day before my departure arrived, and I rode
over to the Court to pay my farewell visit. The Squire was away at a
neighbouring farm, and Mrs. Allerton had accompanied him for a morning
drive. I found Ruth in the old-fashioned garden, near the fish-pond, a
place where a stone balustered terrace had been built, nigh which was
a seat which commanded an unrivalled view in our eyes. There were
Hollingbourne Woods and Torry Hill--the marshes by the sea, with the
isle of Sheppy like a cloud in the hazy distance.

It was called the Lady's Seat, and was popularly supposed to have
been placed there and much affected by an ancestress who had lost her
lover in the battle of Long Marston Moor. It was the favourite resort
of Ruth, who was of a contemplative and studious disposition. Here she
was accustomed to take her sketch-book or a volume, and spend many a
glad spring morning or still summer afternoon under the shade of the
ancestral oaks. Half instinctively I wended my steps thither, when I
heard that the Squire and Mrs. Allerton had driven over to Ollendean.

'You find me here all alone,' said she, 'and I am not sorry. I have
been reading the Bride of Lammermoor over again, and making myself
low--spirited over the woes of that most unlucky Lucy Ashton. Yet, I
cannot but think, if she had acted with more firmness, and been true
to her better nature, the tragedy need never have taken place. She was
a victim of indecision.'

'What, in spite of her mother, that terribly despotic matron?' said
I, 'and the prophecy?--

'"When the last Laird of Ravenswood to Ravenswood shall ride.
And woo a dead maiden to be his bride.
He shall stable his steed in the Kelpie's flow.
And his name shall be lost for evermoe!"

What girl could stand against such a rhythmical doom, even leaving
out the inexorable parent?'

'Some girls would--most of them, I hope,' she said, looking dreamily
across the far wide landscape, over the greater part of which her
ancestors had once held lordship. 'It might have rent her heart well
nigh to resist her parents, but there was no other course to pursue.'

'Do you think you would have had strength of mind and constancy
enough to have kept faith with the ruined, ill-fated Ravenswood?'
asked I, with a sudden impulse; 'think of the superior claims of a
smooth, safe marriage with the prosperous Laird of Bucklaw.'

Her cheek flushed for a moment, but her eye met mine with an artless
candour, which showed how little she realised the analogy.

'It's hard to go at once from romance to reality,' she said, 'and I
can hardly imagine the situation occurring to any one in these modern
days; but, surely, if she had ever loved him, she must have clung to
him more for his poverty and his banishment. As for agreeing to her
mother's hateful project, she must have been mad, poor thing, as she
afterwards proved to be, when she permitted them to speak of it to
her. But suppose we leave Sir Walter here,' putting the book on the
seat, 'and walk down the beech avenue this lovely morning. Have you
had any sport lately? I don't think you have been over for a week.'

For a while, as we walked along the well-known avenue which followed
the brow of the eminence, through the opening of which the hills, the
valleys, with their woods of hazel and Spanish chestnut contrasted
strangely with the dreary marshes, a momentary forgetfulness of my
plans and purpose possessed me. We talked as usual upon the hundred
and one subjects which were common ground between us. The state of the
county politics, the new clergyman in a neighbouring parish credited
with advanced views, the box of new books from Mudie's, the grand run
from Staplehurst, in which the Squire had been well up with the
hounds, a great dinner party which was to take place next week and to
which I was to come and practise a part in a charade. A string of
half-sisterly confidences which had always, since our first meeting,
been open to me, and of which neither of us had ever thought, except
as trifles, which might pass between ordinary friends or relatives of
similar ages. My heart had only now undeceived itself. Hers was as yet
strong and unfaltering, with the unspecting confidence of innocent
girlhood.

I have often thought since that Ruth Allerton was a very uncommon
type of womanhood, singularly unversed in the lore of the affections,
in which knowledge girls of her age so often discover a premature
shrewdness. Unlike most of her contemporaries, she was indisposed to
the amusements befitting her age. The Squire abhorred London, and
rarely went except when he could not avoid it. To Mrs. Allerton there
was no happiness where her husband was not. And so it came to pass
that Ruth had lived a life practically isolated from the gay world,
fully absorbed in her own pursuits and resources.

When I recall the subjects upon which our long talks chiefly
turned--such unusual ones, for instance, as what was the happiest
state of life, whether to live for oneself or for others? This we
decided very strongly in favour of the unselfish line, as who at our
ages would not? A great and often resolved scheme for hers was, how to
do the greatest good to the poor in this or any other neighbourhood,
without destroying their independence and self-respect. How many plots
against capitalists did we hatch in this behalf--as lawyers say.

What was the exact proportion of mental and bodily labour most
fitted to produce true health of sense and spirit. Whether voluntary
or involuntary labour was most beneficial.

Since then, how many different women of every creed and clime, rank
and degree, have I known, only to confirm my fixed opinion, that she
was a choice floweret of the rarest type of womanhood. For, old or
young, rich or poor, wise or vain, homely or fair, I have never met
with any woman like her.

Surely, there never was one more unconscious of her personal
attractions. They were sufficiently visible to the ordinary gaze, yet
she rarely troubled herself to heighten them in the slightest degree,
never alluded to her form or face, hardly to those of others, and
never but as illustrations of a fact. Plainness of apparel, except on
occasions when she could not escape adornment, invariably
characterised her, though she, perhaps, was a little exigeante as to
material. I used laughingly to tell her that she would make an
excellent Quakeress, but that her muslin would always be wonderfully
fine, and cost more than any one else's.

Now, all this pleasant companionship must perforce come to an end.
No more arguments when, with the pure light of truth shining from her
earnest eyes, she would combat my utilitarian views, often adopted to
arouse opposition, and to evoke the enthusiasm in which I delighted.

I did not, excited as I was with the idea, realise within myself the
completeness of disruption which would be caused from all my old ties
and life moorings.

'Ruth,' said I, 'do you know that a sense of mournful foreboding is
creeping over me, lovely as is the day and perfect the scene. I have
bad news which I must tell you. I am about to leave Dibblestowe Leys,
and, and, indeed, England, perhaps for some years.'

'Leave England,' she said, with such a sudden, sharp intonation,
almost a cry of pain, that I looked up amazed. 'Oh, you are not
speaking in earnest, Hereward; tell me you are not.'

'I must go away from this place, happy as I have been here,' I said.
'And as I have no fortune, nor the slightest hope of making money
here, I must go to some part of the world where I may, if I have luck,
make it quickly.'

She had looked at me for one moment with a wild, piteous gaze of
incredulity. Then she sank down on a rustic seat bench, and, turning
away her head, sobbed unrestrainedly.

'Ruth,' said I, 'dearest, darling Ruth! do not grieve so. I may,
after all, only be a short time absent. Besides, most men have to
leave their homes in youth. Why should I expect a better fate? If I
had dreamed that you would feel it thus, I might have--'

She interrupted me with a wave of her hand, as if forbidding me to
continue my explanation. I sat down beside her and permitted her to
give free course to her grief.

After awhile she turned her face towards me,--that sweet face I so
often see in my dreams. It was calm and still, but with the strange
unnatural look which comes when all hope has passed away.

'Why did you tell me so suddenly, Hereward?' she said, softly. 'You
see you have made me confess to caring so very much for your
departure. If I had had more warning, I might have behaved like a
young lady of the period, and hid my heart behind a cheerful farewell.
Are you not sorry for your hastiness?'

'I am more glad than I ever was at anything in the world since I was
born,' I said, throwing myself on my knees before her, and kissing her
cold hands, until they seemed to burn with the wild fever of my own
blood. 'But I feel as if I had treated the Squire and your mother
dishonourably, in winning their daughter's heart, under what they will
consider false pretences.'

'We have both been to blame,' she said, sorrowfully, 'if people are
to be blamed for loving each other fondly, without a thought of evil
or deceit. But we could not help it, I suppose. And I can certainly
declare, that I did not think I cared more for you than for a dear
friend whose tastes and feelings seemed much to harmonise with and
elevate my own. And now you are going away--for ever, perhaps; must
you go away? Does love always begin by making people utterly
wretched?'

'I must go away,' I said, 'unless I am to ask the Squire to please to
support me for the love of his child, or unless I am to content myself
with a position of sordid penury, as hateful to myself as it would be
dishonouring to you. No, dearest; there is but one path to me now--
that of honour and adventure. The die is cast. But what are we to say
for ourselves at the Court?'

'We must tell the truth, of course,' she said, proudly. 'There need
be no concealment. I am not ashamed of my choice, my own Hereward--are
you? Then let us go boldly to my dearest mother. I will tell her, as I
have always told her, everything from a little girl. You are to dine
here to-night, so you will have to tell my dear old father.'

'And what will he say, Ruth, do you think, when I mention my very
handsome expectations?'

'He may be angry or grieved at first, but you must not mind that. The
worst will soon be over. And he is so generous and just in all his
thoughts--he will consider my happiness before everything. Tell him
what you hope to do in--in--this far country; and that in a few years
you will come to claim me. There is no more to be said. It is the
truth, and the truth, he is fond of saying, always prevails.'

All this was very well, and as my darling looked into my face with
her tender, honest eyes, I felt it to be in a way reassuring; but the
truth was, in the present case, that I was most horribly frightened,
and having a clearer view than my unworldly love, of the extremely
inadequate grounds upon which I had sought her affection, dreaded the
dinner referred to, as if it had been a feast to precede dissolution.

Having made up our minds to dare the dreadful alternative of facing
the Squire, Ruth and I, with the happy rashness of youth, commenced to
look upon our joint future as a thing assured, in some form or other,
and to make plans with the cheerful confidence of birds in a premature
spring.

After dinner, during which Ruth had been very quiet, even
distraite,--but as she was often so, less notice was taken of her mood
than would have been the case with a girl whose spirits were
ordinarily lighter,--I opened the trenches.

'I am afraid I shall have to say good-bye, soon, to this
neighbourhood, and to all my pleasant visits to Allerton Court,
Squire,' said I, gulping it out.

'How is that?' said the Squire, 'leave the country side! why, we
couldn't do without you--who is to drive Mrs. Allerton, and get ferns
for Ruth, and sketch ruins for Dame Ermentrude?'

This was an old aunt, a special patroness of mine, who lived in what
was called the Old Dower House, and who petted me for want of much
other kin to waste her loving heart upon.

'Why, we shall be altogether moped and desolated. I wanted you to
ride that new horse for me this next season. Why not stay another year
at the Leys? You won't know too much farming then, I'll be bound.'

'And what am I to do afterwards?' said I. 'No, Squire, the long and
the short of it is, that I have made up my mind to strike out a new
path for myself, if not in this country, in some other.'

Here Mrs. Allerton and Ruth left us, and I continued with a boldness
akin to recklessness.

'And I have something more to tell you, Squire,' said I, looking him
full in the face, 'something, I am afraid, that you will not approve
of, but it cannot be helped.'

'What the deuce is the matter?' said the old man, 'you haven't
married Miss Mangold? I should consider that imprudent, I must say,
but not my affair.'

'Never mind poor Jane Mangold, Squire,' said I. 'It is no laughing
matter. Your daughter and I have discovered that we love one another,
and have this day plighted our troth. You will not suspect me of
making dishonourable use of the confidence with which you have always
treated me, but, the fact is, I believe we neither of us suspected the
state of our feelings, and the avowal of them to-day was the purest
accident.'

'What?' said the Squire, jumping off his chair with alarm and
astonishment, 'do you mean to tell me that you two young fools have
engaged yourselves to be married without asking any one's leave in the
matter? What in the name of everything imprudent have you to marry
upon, Master Hereward? What geese--idiots--deaf-and-dumb blind
incurables, have Mrs. Allerton and I been, and, Ruth, too, the last
girl I should have ever thought would have dreamed of such folly. My
poor Ruth!'

'Squire,' said I, 'I will say good-bye, and get back to the Leys. I
see you are too excited to hear what I have to say tonight.'

'No, no, boy,' he said, motioning me back to my chair. 'Mustn't turn
you out like that. You've always been a good lad, and one after my own
heart. But the inconceivable folly of two children like you wishing to
be married. Why, it will be time enough for you to be thinking of it
this day ten years, and not then, if you haven't a home to offer her.
And to think of my folly! I am the person most to blame in the
matter.'

'But, Squire,' said I, 'suppose I make a fair thing, as fortunes go,
in five years, I shall then be six and twenty, and not so unpardonably
young. Ruth is not eighteen, so she could afford to wait till she was
three or four and twenty, without wasting her bloom.'

'Wait be hanged!' said the choleric old gentleman, 'she would wait
for twenty years. I know her nature; but do you think I want to see my
girl shrivelling up into an angular old maid, with her temper and her
health both soured together, her good looks gone, and her life wasted
for the sake of a fellow who is, as like as not, racketting on the
other side of the globe, and taking the matter very coolly? And what
is this wonderful plan, may I ask, for making a fortune in five
years?'

'I am going to Australia to try my luck at these goldfields we hear
so much about. There is no doubt they are wonderful places, and the
yields are enormous.'

'All lies, I dare say,' said the distrustful senior. 'Anyhow, I have
no great opinion of colonies; lots of people go there, who are no
great good when they leave, and they come back a great deal worse.'

'Look at the paper,' I said, and I unfolded the Forest Creek Herald,
which I had kept and read and re-read till I knew the names of all the
people on the diggings as well as if I had lived there.

'People write queer things in newspapers, even in England,' he said,
reaching out his hand for the journal in question. 'I hardly think
they can be very trustworthy in a colony.'

'Read for yourself,' said I. 'I think the internal evidence shows
intelligence and respectability. There are chapter and verse for the
many wonderful things recorded.'

'Certainly, it is well printed and got up,' he said, relenting
somewhat as he glanced over it; 'and really, it does seem all very
wonderful and enticing. If I were a young man, I think I should take a
run there myself. What does this mean? "We are gratified to learn that
the shareholders in the Welcome Home Reef, who have been for more than
a year hoping against hope, have struck good gold in their three
hundred and fifty feet level. This at once sends up the shares to
seventy-five and eighty. They were offered at seven ten last week. One
gentleman whom we could name has realised twenty thousand pounds, in
addition to his Sandy Creek profits, within the last fortnight." '

'It means,' said I, 'that a few energetic workers have been rewarded
for their pluck and patience,--and after a fashion which would need
half the years of a man's life to develop in England.'

'I must say,' he continued, looking over the alluring announcements,
'that such enterprises wear a very feasible appearance, as described
here.'

And he began to quote afresh.

'"The Crinoline Claim washed up for four hundred loads on Saturday
last; the dirt went well over two ounces to the load. Not so far off a
thousand pounds a man for eight weeks' work. The shareholders are
comparatively new arrivals." That sounds encouraging, I must say,'
said the partly mollified elder. 'But there is no certainty, no
certainty. Ah, here's another. "All previous finds on the field have
been reduced to insignificance by the great find of the Welcome
Nugget, at Whipstick, by Happy Jack and the Fiddler. Its net weight
was 170 lb. 6 oz. Its value is estimated by the manager of the Bank of
New Holland as not less than 8000 sterling." Ha! ha! we don't pull
them up in old England like that, Hereward, lad! I suppose there'll be
no keeping thee, I should go myself if I were young again.'

On the morning after the storm--the winds and waves having somewhat
abated--a calmer consideration of matters ensued. Of course, Ruth had
confessed all things to her mother, and with feminine perseverance and
entreaty had fully enlisted that kindly matron on her side.

'When I married your father, my dear,' she said, 'he never expected
to succeed to this dear old place. Several lives lay between us and
its possession, all of which were inscrutably removed. We had to
undergo many things; but we never repented of the tie which had joined
us before we came to our kingdom. Still, some provision is needed to
be assured. I must say, I think Hereward very brave for resolving to
go to such a horrid country, and not more adventurous than a young man
should be.'

It was finally settled that our engagement, which could not be
annulled without an amount of judicial cruelty which neither parent
had the heart to inflict, should be conditionally ratified. I was to
be permitted to seek my fortune in the far unknown land, concerning
which they had such very slender information. Ruth would wait at home
for five years, if that period should be consumed in the not always
speedy process of making a fortune.

Have I before stated that the Squire and his wife were not average
specimens of the upper classes of the day? Strange to say they elected
to consult, the feelings of their child. They did not scoff, after the
first natural outburst of the Squire, at youth and strength, high hope
and honest determination. Nor secretly resolve to compel Ruth to
accept the first middle-aged suitor of indifferent morals and
unexceptionable fortune that presented himself. That such would have
been the course pursued by a very large majority of parents occupying
the same or a higher social position, my experience of life enables me
to assert fearlessly. Thank Heaven, my darling had been blessed with a
father and mother of wholly different ideas; otherwise she might not
have been her sweet self, and the star which shone so brightly amid
the storm-clouds which enveloped my career might have sunk for ever in
darkness and despair.

We, happy and heedless children that we were, felt as transported
with joy as if we had received permission to marry next month. Ruth
was one of those maidens to whom watching and waiting have ever been
nearly as suitable, indeed, quite as secretly satisfactory as the
immediate fulfilment of their hopes, as affording scope for the self-
sacrifice which constituted so large a portion of their nature. And I,
on the other hand, felt moved with the natural passion of adventure,
so strong in early youth, to kill my dragons and slay my enchanters in
decent profusion, before I entered into the undisturbed possession of
the fairy princess and the enchanted castle.

Of course, Mrs. Grundy outdid herself in protestations against the
madness of the Squire for even sanctioning our engagement. A young man
without a penny in the world, who was going to a rude wild country
like Australia, from which he never would be heard of again. And
really, it certainly was so difficult to believe--here they were
permitting that nice, sweet girl--she had not much money to be sure,
but she belonged to a county family--to engage herself to a penniless
youngster, without money, profession, or expectation!

Fortunately for me, both the Squire and his wife treated such babble
with supreme contempt. They were absurd enough to desire above all
their daughter's happiness. They knew her steadfast disposition too
well to doubt her constancy--to think of coercing her will. The affair
was--even the marriage which it foreshadowed--a fixed and settled
thing, not to be gossiped about but to be made the best of.

The Squire made an attempt to prevent my emigration which, like most
English people of assured position, he looked upon as more bitter than
death. He offered me one of his own farms at a low rent, with a
promise of a loan of money sufficient to stock it. But my pride was
fully aroused. My determination to do something worthy of the
inestimable treasure they had confided to me was unalterable. So, in
despite of all obstacles and hindrances, a month saw my passage taken,
and all preparations made for my voyage to the other end of the world.

My uncle did not attempt to alter my heroic determination; he acted
sensibly, if not affectionately.

'I observe in the papers,' he said, 'that very astonishing finds have
been made by the adventurers who have crowded from all lands to the
Australian goldfields. You are young and strong, and totally without
occupation. All the better for you that you have good blood in your
veins. Your sisters will need every farthing of what was left by my
brother. Still, I can make shift to pay your passage, and find you a
decent outfit. You may make a fortune. Many as broken a ship has come
to land. Write now and then and say how you get on. We have not,
perhaps, been the most affectionate of relatives. When you reach my
age you may, perhaps, understand some of the feelings of a
disappointed man. Sincerely I bid God to bless and speed you.'

He shook my hand more warmly than I thought it was in his nature to
do. My sisters hung weeping around me. In a few minutes the dog-cart
came to take me to the station, and I left the home of my boyhood--for
ever. Joe Bulder joined me at the station. That evening we slept on
board the grand clipper ship Marco Polo, Captain Driver, bound for
Melbourne, in company with four hundred and fifty other passengers, of
every conceivable age, profession, and variety of mankind.



Chapter III



APPARENTLY we escaped all perils of the deep. To them I do not need
specially to refer. For here we are at the Yatala diggings, I and my
worthy mate and friend, Joe Bulder, both considerably altered in
several ways. Two men are sitting by a large fire of logs, near the
doorway of a small tent. They are old mates, and the other
shareholders in the claim. Our party consists of four, which is much
the most common number, particularly where the sinking is deepish as
here at Yatala.

As to dress and general appearance, I don't think any one would have
recognised the fresh-coloured, moderately well got-up youngster who
used to sit in the Squire's pew at Bishop's Cote Church, or even the
amateur farm-labourer holding the plough occasionally, or driving the
engine at Dibblestowe Leys. The man who has just come out of the tent
wears certainly a different appearance. He is arranging his raiment
preparatory to commencing 'the night shift'--eight hours uninterrupted
work, nearly one hundred and fifty feet below the earth's surface. The
which term commences at eight P.M., finishing at four o'clock in the
morning. This man is taller and broader than the slight stripling who
left England four years since in the Marco Polo. His arms are bare to
the elbows, up to which is rolled a close-fitting flannel shirt. They
are bronzed with exposure to a fiercer sun than that which ripens
England's harvests, and the muscles stand out, cord-like, in relief.
Round the waist, which is that of an athlete in high training, is a
leathern strap tightly belted. He wears trousers of moleskin which,
though clean and of fairly good cut, have, from constant washing with
water holding a large proportion of clay in solution, become of a
bright and cheerful yellow, altogether incradicable. Yet, though the
garb is plain and workmanlike, there is no trace of unnecessary
coarseness of habit. The short hair and trimmed beard are those of the
fashion-guided unit of humanity, while a studied air of cleanliness
denoting regular baths and ablutions is plainly visible to the
observant eye. This man is Harry Pole, the digger, myself, kind
reader, after four years' steady, ill-rewarded toil at Australian
tralian and indeed, New Zealand goldfields--no nearer, as may be
surmised, to the fortune which was to precede the priceless gift of
the hand of Ruth Allerton.

Let us listen to the conversation of this man and his comrades.

'I don't see the use of going any furder with this confounded claim;
here we've been bustin' ourselves for the last three months, night and
day, and not a foot nearer to the gold than we was when the first
shovelful was took out. We haven't a pound to bless ourselves with,
and we're in debt to Mrs. Mangrove, at the Beehive store, that deep
that I'm ashamed to go in for powder, or a bit of fuse. We're on the
bottom safe enough, and there's not gold enough to put on the p'int of
a needle. I say ding it this very night, and let's try for a show
somewhere else.'

This encouraging speech, which most accurately described our
financial position and prospects, capital and expectations, is made by
Mr Cyrus Yorke, a young man of unusual physical power, but weak as to
the reasoning faculties. He is of English descent, born in Australia,
and though possessing many good qualities, is incorrigibly careless,
besides being averse to sustained labour of body or mind. He is the
only man of the party who is not a bachelor. His wife is a good-
looking, good-tempered little woman, with twice as much sense as her
spouse. She is the housewife for the party, and is treated on that
account and for other reasons with great respect and consideration.
Indeed, but for her conciliatory ways, it is most probable that some
one of Yorke's many provoking sins of omission or commission would
have led long ere this to his exclusion from the party.

'We're bound to see the end of this drive,' I say, in an
argumentative tone. 'Everybody believes that the "lead" lies due west
of us, and in thirty or forty feet we must strike it, if it's there at
all. It would be foolish to throw away all our work and expense,
perhaps, just a few yards from good gold.'

'We're bound to drive oot to the last inch,' said the square-set
determined-looking man smoking a short black pipe. 'Harry here's
marked and ciphered it all out, and we all agreed to it. What's the
use of throwing up the sponge afore the fight's over? What dost thou
say, Major?'

'I fully agree with Pole,' said the individual addressed, who, in
monkey--jacket and generally rather roughish array, was lying on one
of the stretchers reading an English newspaper. 'He has worked out the
thing, as you say. I was too lazy to follow him. But he is generally
right and Cyrus is always wrong; so, perhaps, he had better take his
line and mind his immediate business, which is to tackle this night
shift, and wire-in at the cross-cut without any more humbug.'

'Well, I'm blessed,' growled the unpopular candidate, 'if that ain't
a nice way to talk to a mate and a shareholder, Major One would think
I was a wages-man, the way you three coves bosses it over me. You'll
rouse the British lion one of these fine days, and so I tell you.'

Apparently Cyrus Yorke was minded to defer poking up that long--
suffering royal beast, until a more convenient season--for he walked
on to the 'brace' and commenced to peel off his heavier garments,
preparatory to descending into the bowels of the earth, without more
ado.

'You're all agin me,' he said, as he opened his vast chest and
stretched his colossal arms above his head, as if trying whether his
joints were about to act in their usual manner. 'But that's the way in
this country, the majority always has the pull. It's time that kind o'
thing was stopped, I think. Now, Mr. Joseph Bulder, you go and lead
the old mare. I s'pose you don't want me to break my back, as bad as I
am.'

'Thou'rt a rattlin' fine chap, if thou'd use thy four bones as is
summot like, and drop botherin' thy old turnip of a head, as God
Almighty never intended ye to do nowt wi' but tak' ither folks'
orders. I'll back thee to put down a shaft agin any chap in Yatala.
But don't thee go argufying, for it spoils thee. Ask thee wife else.
Steady! Bess, old girl.'

Cyrus Yorke made no further reply, but clasping the rope with his
hands above his head, placed one foot in the loop at the end and swung
himself off the wooden stage, which is always built at the mouth of a
mining shaft. A 'sprang,' being a stout piece of hard wood, was
inserted between the rope and the iron roller on which the rope ran
and thus the miner was slowly and steadily lowered down the deep,
dark, apparently fathomless shaft.

In being lowered, dependent upon a single rope which, though
apparently strong, has been known to break, the sensations are
complicated if the depth be much over a hundred feet. The closeness of
the sides of the shaft to the explorer gives a species of false
security, by no means borne out by reason. An inexperienced cragsman
would hardly consent to be lowered a hundred and fifty feet over the
face of a Hebridean precipice, with the sea a thousand feet below, and
nought but the sky and clamouring sea-fowl around--above.

Yet one adventure is fully as dangerous in reality as the other. Let
but a sudden spasm, or syncope, attack the adventurer in the shaft,
and if he loses hold of the rope, no power on earth can save him. The
smooth hard sides of the shaft furnish no foot-hold, did the velocity
acquired in falling not prevent him from making use of them. Down,
down, he must fall until the end of the long cruel pit be reached--and
then, let those say who have ever assisted to raise a man, who from
carelessness, foul air, any one of the many accidents common to
miners, has fallen down a deep shaft.

In this instance Cyrus was not fated to illustrate any of these
dismal theories. Holding the rope easily with one hand, and
occasionally preventing by adroit touch of foot against the sides of
the shaft the rope from swinging round, and so discomposing his
equilibrium, he passed swiftly yet surely down to the bottom level,
and having exhausted his small supply of ill-temper, crept along a
gallery running at right angles to the shaft, where, seizing a pick,
he commenced to knock down on to the floor of the gallery a stratum of
mixed sand, pebbles, and small quartz fragments. Of these there was a
layer about nine inches thick in the roof of the gallery, or 'drive,'
as it is invariably called in Australian mining parlance. He had
dragged after him a large raw hide bucket which he found in the bottom
of the shaft. This he set up on end, and quickly filling, drew to the
shaft and attached to the iron hook at the end of the rope by which he
had descended. He then pulled twice a small line which hung down,
almost invisible, close by the wall of the shaft. This line moved a
rude apparatus, in the nature of an indicator, at the mouth of the
shaft. It was a hammer--like piece of hardwood above a plate of tin,
on which, at each pull of the line, it smote smartly. The meaning of
the percussion was, attention--all ready--or pull up, as the case
might be. The old mare appeared to understand it, for she at once
pricked up her ears, moved herself square to a singletree by which her
trace-chains were fastened, holding herself in readiness to draw.

'Go on, old woman,' said Joe Bulder, 'haul away.'

The intelligent animal, long trained to this particular kind of work,
needed no further urging. Setting herself staunchly to the collar, she
drew steadily at the rope, now tightened by the weight of the leathern
bag, with, perhaps, a hundred weight and a half of gravel therein. She
walked along the track made by her own feet, called by miners the
'horse walk,' its position being formally indicated by two lines of
very hastily constructed rail fence, and drew the auriferous burden
yet nearer to the upper air. When she reached the limit of the horse
walk, denoted merely by a sapling laid across two forked up-rights,
she stopped promptly, holding, however, the rope, and neither turning
nor yet permitting it to slacken. At that moment the bucket appeared
slightly above the brace at the shaft, and was taken by the topman,
Joe Bulder, who, lifting it to one side, unhooked it and placed on the
hook an empty bucket of the same construction, ready for the
unpromising descent.

The lower portion of the rope is disconnected with the former one,
and the mare being informed--one really does not see how--that her
tenacity is no longer needed, complacently turns round and trots the
whole way in, quite unaided, turning herself with great agility at the
end, and disengaging the rope from her hind legs most cleverly. I
then, in turn, take hold of the rope, place my foot in the leathern
bucket, and go down slowly out of the sunshine in the humid darkness
of the lower earth, with the prospect of eight hours continuous work
before me.

After all, it is not so hard to bear. We are, all four of us, in
magnificent health and condition, 'fit to go for a man's life,' as
Cyrus Yorke says, which means that we are hardened by toil, trained
down by exercise and regular diet, until very little improvement could
have been made upon our condition, had we to run a match against time,
fight bushrangers, or accomplish any of the feats of strength, speed,
or endurance, which men are foolish enough to attempt for cash or
vain-glory in the pride of early manhood.

We are gold miners, neither more nor less--diggers, as the more
general term is. Such we have been for the last three or four years,
during most of which time we have been together, sharing the same
toils or privations, transient successes or protracted misfortunes.
Joe Bulder and I have, of course, been associated since we left
England together. The Major and Cyrus had by chance become mates in
the colony of Victoria, where we first met them, and by the merest
hazard joined forces with us. Since then we have journeyed together.
Quitted moderate goldfields where nothing more than an easy liberal
livelihood was to be had for the stern hazards of a new rush, at a
moment's notice. Here, 'dividing mates,' as the mining phrase is, one
half of the party, when times were bad, working at bush or other
labour, in order to provide food and raiment, tools and lodging for
the whole, while the other pair tried the mining ventures of the
locality, on the chance of striking, at any moment, a fortune, small
or great, to be loyally and equally divided into four parts.

That the Major, as he was always called, had been an officer in Her
Majesty's army, and in the cavalry arm of the service, no one doubted
for a moment who had been in his company, and who was capable of
verifying the habitudes of an officer and a gentleman. To what
regiment he had been attached, he did not think it apparently
necessary to explain, nor did we at any time ask him. Such examples of
reticence were innumerable 'on diggings.' Silence was generally
observed as to people's antecedents. It being obvious that to go about
questioning everybody as to what position he had originally occupied,
and for what reasons he had concluded to adopt a miner's life, would
have been altogether futile, besides being patently ridiculous and
impertinent. And it will be conceded by all who have gained their
experience upon Australian goldfields, that for whatever sins diggers
may be responsible bad manners, and lack of genuine courtesy, cannot
be reckoned among them.

The Major, a man of four or five and thirty, was in the full vigour
of manhood. He had evidently seen a good deal of the world, and in
many phases of society, though he habitually spoke little of himself
and merely permitted such glimpses of his European experience to
escape him half unconsciously. He was extremely fond of reading, and
though by no means zealous in the performance of manual labour for its
own sake, performed his quota efficiently enough. He and I, with Joe
Bulder, usually shared one of the smaller tents. We took our meals in
common. This might have been distressing under the circumstances. But
Joe's and Cyrus Yorke's original habitudes had become so altered by
the influence of travel and cultured association, that few of their
superiors would have objected to their companionship on the warpath.

Mrs. Yorke and the two children had the cart, with its tilt and other
accommodations, to themselves, and, indeed, this nomadic dwelling was
far from uncomfortable, with its divers and manifold contrivances for
ease and comfort.

Does it occur to some, as yet unexpatriated, that the life I have
roughly sketched was a dull, laborious, well nigh unendurable
existence, to be led by men who had the hereditary title to move in
good society, nay, who had at one time of their lives shared that
lesser Elysium? Was such the case, when, added to the specific
drawbacks, was that of hopelessness as to the future, quickly
subsiding to dull indifference? Let us calmly consider.

As a matter of fact, we were far from miserable. Indeed, if I assert
that we were in a condition bordering upon absolute contentment, even
happiness, incredible as it may appear, I should be nearer the mark.
For consider, in the first place, miners are absolutely their own
masters, perfectly independent, quamdiu se bene gesserint, utterly
free from fealty to all but the Queen and the commissioner. We were
'by many a league of ocean-foam' separated from Her Most Gracious
Majesty, but the latter potentate was an abiding and highly vitalised
fact.

I see him now. How many years have rolled by. Yet I stand up and feel
inclined to lift my hat, as if it were yesterday. An erect, stalwart,
middle--aged man, sitting his wiry thoroughbred with careless ease,
bold-visaged, eagle-eyed, with the stamp 'of ours' writ large, like
our mate, the Major, on every movement of his body, on every
expression of his face, on every trick of speech, as he calls to the
half-dozen grey-hounds that follow him through the camp, as if his
thoughts dwelt more with them than with the crowding miners who press
and throng to get a word of audience, a passing nod, or even a look of
recognition from the autocrat of the goldfields.

And, in good sooth, Captain Blake, formerly of Her Majesty's 11th
Hussars, was an autocrat by instinct, habit, education, and
circumstance, if ever there was one upon God's earth. He it was,
certainly, who more inexorably than the Roman Centurion, was wont to
say, 'Go here, or go there,' and to this man, 'do this, and he doeth
it.' For, from his decision, there was, at that time, no appeal. The
Medes and Persians had apparently drawn up the scanty Goldfields'
Regulations of that day. Crude and inapplicable to the multiform
elaborate complications of the mining industry, the largest
discretionary power was implied. And William Devereux Blake, well
known at many a mess-table in England and Ireland as the Devil's Own
Billy Blake, was precisely the man to accept all the responsibility of
the position. It would have crushed a weaker man. But with a clear
head, an utterly fearless, perhaps aggressive, organisation, and a
natural turn for acting as a leader and ruler of men, he had hitherto
avoided misadventure in his consulship. Large were the issues with
which he had to deal, and puzzling were the mining laws which he had
to administer. A bold, ready, decisive manner sufficed to carry him
through everything; and though occasional dissentients might object to
his decisions as illogical, he was both highly popular and legally
successful.

To him were daily submitted the numberless questions of mineral
ownership which arose in such a community as ours; a gathering of men
from every country under Heaven, where each, by chance or choice, had
come to occupy under certain written and unwritten laws, so limited a
portion of the earth's surface that it was measured by feet. Under it
might be the hidden treasure, the reward of a lost youth--a ruined
life--the mere rumour of which had brought the greater number of us so
far over the main, across so many a weary mile of wood and wold.

To decide equitably and rapidly, to maintain unswervingly, and to
enforce rigidly, the decisions arrived at after the hearing of such
evidence as was forthcoming, required natural gifts which few men
possessed. But 'Billy' Blake had been cast by Nature at his birth for
the 'role' of a chieftain, and most eminently qualified was he for the
part which he was called upon to play.

At one time his decisions were given in the modest structure which
served as the court-house, wherein were tried daily such offences as
opposed the statute law of the land. At another they were delivered as
he sat on horseback amid an angry crowd of a thousand excited men. But
in no instance did the surroundings make the slightest difference in
the despotic tone of utter finality which clothed them. Men spoke of
his acts and words with bated breath. The commissioner had 'decided'
this or that point of mining law. He had turned this man out of one of
the richest claims on 'the field' and put another into possession of
it--and a fortune. He had sentenced Towney Joe to six months'
imprisonment with hard labour for stealing five shillings' worth of
wash-dirt. He had threatened Red Dick that, if he heard of his beating
his wife again he should have twelve months within stone walls. He had
told Ned White, upon that worthy making sarcastic reference to the
commissioner's uniform coat as a fortunate protection to the wearer,
to put up his hands, and dismounting, had then and there so
'straightened' him 'inside of three rounds,' that Ned hadn't a word to
say for himself, and was ashamed to show his face for a fortnight
afterwards.

On the other hand, when Jim Black's wife had come crying to him,
saying her husband hadn't the price of a miner's right, and it was
very hard because he knew where there was some good ground, and he
dursn't put a pick in it, because any one with a 'right' could take it
away from him, he had sworn at Jim for a lazy blackguard, who was
always trying to rob the Government, and declared, if he caught him
digging without a miner's right he would send him to gaol straightway
and then tossed a sovereign to the sobbing woman, telling her to take
out a miner's right for her husband that very day, and to keep the
balance for the children.

Every kind and variety of legend was current about the commissioner.
He was the ogre of the fairy tale, the good knight of the romances,
the wicked baron of the middle ages, the pitiless official--all by
turns.

The great pro-consul had been away on leave of absence when I and my
comrades first came to Yatala; so we did not immediately meet. But
daily, so much, and such extravagant reference was made to his acts
and deeds, opinions and manners, that all unconsciously we looked
forward, as did, apparently, the larger part of the population, to the
momentous period when the Captain should come back.

In the meantime the interest of the dwellers and delvers of Yatala
was divided by other social and official celebrities, some of whom
were sufficiently characteristic.

Next to Zeus, the all-powerful, came the Inspector of Police, Mr.
Merlin, an astute, fine-edged, courteously combative personage, who
always reminded me of a Toledo blade, habited in the dress of the
period. An animated rapier--if such a type of humanity be consistent
with natural laws. Precisely that weapon and no other, being difficult
to confront, to evade, to handle, or even to hold scabbardless. Only
really innocuous when securely sheathed and placed on the shelf. There
was little overt aggressiveness about him. He was the least
egotistical of men, inasmuch as whatever ideas of superiority to his
surroundings he might have cherished he rarely expressed them. The
exploits and adventures of which he may have been the hero he never
narrated; accomplishments he may have been the hero he never narrated;
accomplishments he may have possessed, and did in several notably
excel, but he never alluded to them. His reserve was impenetrable; his
caustic though courteous manner invariably the same. Yet few there
were of the Yatala community who did not acknowledge pleasure in his
society, coupled with a slight infusion of fear. There was an
involuntary dread among the miners in his presence, lest he might rake
up from the limbo of forgotten sins some deeply compromising charge.
Men respected him, liked him, but, above everything, they feared him;
and, in consequence of this peculiar feeling he could walk through a
crowd of five thousand men, and bear off a prisoner (if necessary)
like a hawk appropriating a pigeon from a dovecot.

To him was chietly owing what few British-born people could have
realised without actual personal knowledge, the extraordinary state of
order and good government which prevailed in our singular community.
There was the utmost personal freedom and independence, as enjoyed in
all Her Majesty's colonies, without lawlessness or licence. The
reckless bullies of the Californian mining towns were as impossible
here as Criflins and Enchanters. The great crowd of waifs and strays
was sufficiently intelligent to know the laws, and apparently had
reached a moral standard sufficiently high to obey them, and to yield
uncomplainingly.

Our life, albeit so far unsuccessful, laborious, and monotonous, as
some might have termed it, was not necessarily dull. Let it be
remembered that we had the magician Youth on our side. Thus it rarely
lacked interest, variety, even enjoyment.

For was not the population itself one ceaseless, never-ending mine
of observation? An unending wonder-book to him who had eyes to see and
ears to hear, who, moreover, possessed the key to the cipher, and so
read much that was sealed and closely locked to others.

Who were the men, the women, evidently gently born and nurtured,
some of whom were daily encountered, performing the humblest tasks
amid the rudest surroundings? Was there not material for scores of
romances in this privilege of companionship with them, which was our
daily common lot?

When some careless miner, or even a half-tamed bushman or ordinary
labourer turned digger suddenly unearthed gold, which would have
almost sufficed for a king's ransom, was there not novelty and romance
in this? in beholding the human grub swiftly metamorphosed into the
butterfly--sometimes awkwardly fluttering amid his brilliant juniors,
at other times soaring with adjustable wing, as if born to the
inheritance of air and light?

For the rest, albeit that our lot was that of daily labour, it was
such a measure of exertion as came easily within the scope of the
strong sinews and muscles of youth. There was in it nothing
undignified, and the possible triumph at any given hour of any day
glorified the drudgery which might, nay, daily did, for some comrade
or other, end in splendour undreamed of and dazzling.

Our habitudes, maugre the daily labour, were distinctly those of
gentlemen. The Major and I rose from our plain pallets to bathe in the
neighbouring streamlet, or to 'tub' if such water-course was not
within reach, as regularly as when we lived in England. Our working
clothes were of necessity plain and coarse, but the work over, or the
holiday afternoon having arrived, on which all miners, however good
their 'prospects,' make a rule of declining work, our dress was not
widely different from what it would have been in a country town in
England. Let all idea of long-haired unkempt ruggedness be rejected as
the vogue of Australian miners. Even Joe and Cyrus wore their hair
clipped to a most soldierly shortness of staple, as, indeed--barbers
abounding, and doing a most lucrative business--do by far the greater
majority of the miners everywhere.

I had, of course, arrived in Australia believing that I had only to
establish myself upon any known and accredited goldfield to unearth a
fortune without delay. Even in unknown and non-accredited regions I
had visions of miraculous finds; visions of ledges of gold-bearing
rock and nugget--strewed gravel floated before my eyes waking and
sleeping. My limited knowledge of geology was pressed into the service
of my imagination. I knew, of course, the leading formations in which
gold chiefly occurred. Such knowledge would surely aid me in the
discovery which was to mean home and friends and native land now
rapturously regained, with the angel of my dreams, radiant at my
return, as her celestial prototype.

Soon after I had fairly commenced my practical course of fortune--
digging these flattering hopes vanished. I found gold-mining to be
like any other profession, composed mainly of hard and unrelieved
drudgery. A living was certainly to be made by it in a general way,
barring accidents, sickness, or exceptional bad luck. The prizes were
tangible and patent. But like those of all professions, or even
lotteries, they were so few and far between, as merely to suffice to
stimulate the crowd of unsuccessful toilers, who wore out their lives,
their hopes, their strength, not unfrequently their morals and
reputations, in the delusive quest.

Among the miners, though the community comprises and ever will
comprise some of the best and noblest examples of manhood, were many
who had suffered grievously from rude association and the corroding
effects of disappointment. These men had accepted their destiny. They
were life-long miners. The salvation of an exceptional find could
alone restore them to the social surroundings they had once and for
ever quitted. Working patiently while need was, they had lost the
power to resist the temptation to spend in aimless dissipation the
temporary gains which from time to time they secured. 'A good rise'
was the signal for a week's revelry. Debts were paid; all necessary
repairs to the mining requisites made. The remainder of the money
received for their gold was wasted in excess.

In a few weeks the ex-foreign office clerk or university graduate was
to be seen with a serge shirt and clay-stained clothes, patiently
sinking, driving, sluicing, or reefing as the case might be--as fixed
to his endless search as though he had been a gnome imprisoned in the
depths of the treasure mountains of the Hartz.

We did not take Cyrus's advice. It would, financially, have been
better for us if we had. But, of course, that could not be foreseen.
If we knew for a certainty where the gold was not, we should probably
be able to point unerringly to where it was, which would lead to the
most astounding results, especially if the knowledge was disseminated
simultaneously. The evil of this universal promulgation of knowledge
was exemplified in the following digging episode.

Every one knows, that is, every one who has been a few years on a
goldfield and carefully read up the regulations, omitting those which
have been repealed, from time to time, that, when a 'frontage claim'
is blocked off, that is, marked off as a permanent parallelogram,
instead of being a 'chose in action,' or progressively developing
mining tenement, any one can take up or seize upon the 'block off it,'
or desirable section of land outside of the said frontage claim, by
simply putting in four pegs before any one else.

Now the frontage claim or section upon the lead, or ancient river
bed, was known to be rich because it had been worked, the gold
extracted and turned into cash fortnightly, so that a very fair notion
could be gathered of its richness. As, however, the shareholders were
limited to an allotment of two hundred and forty feet in length, being
at the rate of forty feet a man, along the course of the lead, it
followed that the 'block,' or so much of the auriferous stratum as lay
outside of this two hundred and forty feet by three hundred, would be
tolerably rich also. The shareholders in the claim I allude to, No. 5
Sinbad's Valley, had made 8000 a man (there were six of them) in less
than as many months. This I know of my own knowledge, and can prove if
required. One of them was a Cornishman. Just before the claim was
worked out he said to me--

'Harry, what do you think? I'm going home to Trevenna on Monday.'

'Are you, cousin Jack?' said I. 'I think you're a wise man. Have you
written to tell them all?'

'Not a line,' said he. 'They think I'm dead or lost. How they'll
stare. I don't think any of 'em ever saw a ten pound note in their
lives. To--morrow's the last day's work as I shall do. Go by the coach
Monday, and off by the overland mail steamer as sails from Sydney on
Thursday next. Won't that be a holiday trip, eh mate?'

'It will, indeed,' said I, rather regretfully, and I am afraid,
envying the poor fellow in my heart.

He was right. The next day was the last day on which he ever worked;
but not in the sense in which he intended it. In lifting a heavy
petrified fossil tree trunk which the waters of that long buried
primeval stream had rolled down its golden sands, he overstrained
himself. On Sunday night he was a corpse; and on Monday, the very day
he was to have taken the first stage of his trip home, we followed him
to his long home, in the spacious newly enclosed cemetery, already
commencing to be thickly sprinkled with newly-dug graves. Later on I
saw the cheque for seven thousand some hundreds of pounds (less
expenses and the Curator of Intestate Estates' fees), which was
remitted to the relatives in curious, old fashioned, steep--streeted,
pebble-paved Trevenna.

Well, the adjacent lot to the highly-satisfactory 'golden-hole
claim,' as the miners phrased it, was to be had for the pegging-out
first. The pegging--out, that is, the placing of four stout sticks,
one at each corner, was easy enough. It was the 'first' business, the
priority, which was difficult, if not impossible, of attainment.

The whole field was aware that at some time, not earlier than six
o'clock A.M. on a certain morning, the shareholders of No. 5 Sinbad's
Valley would mark out their claim for good and all. One second after
which operation any alert persons might put in four pegs, one at each
corner of the coveted adjoining block claim, and so hold the ground.

On the night before the battle, five hundred men, by curious
coincidence, bivouacked on the ground, each man with a sharpened stick
and gold--sharpened determination to secure a corner of the Aladdin-
glorious treasure-chamber.

Precisely as the dawn's fresh pearly gray succeeded the misty cloud--
wrack of the waning night, four shareholders of the frontage claim
suddenly appeared with prepared stakes and marked out their
carefully--measured earth-portion, none daring to interfere with them;
but the instant that their task was completed there was a rush like
the advanced guard of a charging regiment of grenadiers. The confusion
which resulted defies description.

At each corner of the coveted block stood a couple of score of men,
each wildly and frantically endeavouring to place his particular stake
as near two of the frontage pegs as possible, and as accurately
opposite and the regular distance. Men fought and struggled, cursed
and struck and fell, as each raised high his stake or peg and strove
to hammer it in securely. A few intimate friends or joint-operators
with the frontage party were seen to appear on the scene suddenly,
only a few minutes after the marking-off and essay to occupy. These
were usually supposed to have 'the office,' or special information
from the shareholders, and to 'stand in' with them; but these in their
turn were swept forward and over in the mad rush of the eager crowd.
For five minutes indescribably wild confusion prevailed. Then the
crowd sullenly parted. Certain pegs and stakes were seen planted,
sheaflike, in each corner, and the 'blocking-off of No. 5 Sinbad' was
over. The result of this attempt to symbolise priority of occupation,
by means of pegs or stakes, possibly among the most ancient landmarks,
has been accurately retained by the photographic art. 'The apparatus
can't lie,' and a wandering artist, of that persuasion, attended the
performance and faithfully reproduced both the pegs and their owners.

Mr. Commissioner Blake had no easy task, it will be seen. He was only
required, in the exercise of his duty to take evidence and decide as
to which four pegs had been placed in the corners of the block-claim
off No. 5, first after the shareholders of No. 5, and, having decided,
to place those persons to whom the pegs belonged in possession of the
claim.

He did what he could. He rode down to the place attended by two
troopers and a dozen dogs, and narrowly inspected the pegs. He even
counted them, making one hundred and sixty-two in all.

'Who put in the first peg in the north-east corner?' he demanded.

'I did.'

'No, I did; 'twas me, Captain.'

'Me plenty plant 'm that one waddy,' said a civilised aboriginal.

'I put in first peg, Massa, sure as there's snakes in Virginny,' sung
out old man Ned.

'No, no, my peg; I thrust it in with this meri,' yells Maori Jack,
brandishing his war club, and showing his sharpened anthropophagic
teeth.

'C'est le mien, c'est le mien, sacrs cochons que vous tes,
sortons,' grinds out a Frenchman.

'Das ist mein numero ein--ein--ein,' growls a German, 'haben sie der
fader gesehn? er ist todten--spitzbuben--Donner un' blitzen.'

'Where are you shovin' to?' grumbles a--but no, it is unnecessary to
specify the nationality of the last speaker; 'd--n you all, you may
take my share, if we ever reach within a hundred mile of Wingadee
agin. I'm full up of these here blank diggings. Let me get out of this
blank crowd. Call this digging? I say it's wild cattle meeting. I'll
cut it while the play is good.'

'D--n the whole lot of you,' roars out the irascible Commissioner,
charging right among the excited crowd. Why the blazes didn't you come
and have it out earlier in the day. Get home, all of you, and mind
that not a soul stirs the surface till I give leave. How the devil am
I to tell who is the first man? I know no more than Adam. But, anyhow,
I shall reserve judgment until to-morrow morning. Come up to the camp
at ten o'clock and I will there and then deliver my decision. In the
meantime, no one touches the ground with axe, shovel, or pick, or I
shall know the reason why.'

On the following morning, as the Commissioner sat in his office, a
small building, with a room for himself and one for his clerk, a back
room and a passage, a large crowd gradually collected before the door.
At ten o'clock precisely the office door was thrown open, and the
Commissioner's clerk, standing therein, informed the crowd that the
Captain was inside, and would receive the names of every man who had
put in a peg in the block off No. 5 Sinbad's Valley.

His orders were these. Each applicant was to enter the passage by
the back door. As he passed through his name would be taken down on a
slip of paper by him, the clerk, and placed in a ballot-box, to be
dealt with by the Commissioner afterwards according to his sovereign
will and pleasure. A cheer was given as this announcement was made,
and a string of men commenced to pass through the back door and out of
the front, leaving their names in the course of transit. In half an
hour all was completed. A hundred and sixty men, forty applicants for
each peg, for only four men could be shareholders, awaited the fiat of
the Commissioner. At a respectful distance a motley crowd of three or
four times the number regarded them attentively.

This being completed, the Captain appeared at the doorway, and, amid
loud cheering, commenced a brief oration. He said that he had given
this particular case great consideration, that the confusion which had
occurred was in consequence of the Government having framed some new
regulations without submitting them to the commissioners. This one in
particular--with regard to frontage-block claims--was a d--d stupid
one, it seemed to him. He had no hesitation in saying so [loud
cheering]; but however that might be, it was the law! And, of course,
he would take care that it was rigidly obeyed.

He would now proceed to select the names of the four men to whom he
should adjudge the ownership of the block off No. 5. He should do it
by lot, as they would agree it was totally impossible to sift the
evidence or arrive at any conclusion by ordinary methods, in the case
of a hundred and sixty pegs, all put down about the same time. He was
not going to try, at any rate.

'Mr. Watkins,' this to the clerk, 'would you please to bring forward
the ballot-box. I turn away my head and select this ticket at random;
[reading] it contains the name of James Grant. The second, taken out
similarly, is Patrick Mahony. The third is that of--a--Ewen Campbell.
And the fourth is that of--a--John Smith. I hereby adjudge these four
men to be the legal occupiers and shareholders of the block off No. 5
Sinbad's Valley. God save the Queen!'

The crowd cheered. The one hundred and fifty-six disappointed
claimants said never a word, and the four men named received peaceable
possession of the claim, which turned out a very rich one, and which
they worked out to the last ounce. One man, whom I saw afterwards,
bought a snug farm with his share of the gold; and I visited him in a
neat freestone cottage which he had erected.



Chapter IV



WE worked hard, doggedly, persistently, and yet all was unavailing.

We 'hung on,' as the miners said, to our claim, driving and delving
with pick and shovel, through the long hot days, or in the silent dark
cold nights. No luck, no gold. Having no money was not the worst of
it. Our balance on the wrong side had run up with the storekeeper, who
trusted us to considerably over a hundred pounds. A large sum, when it
is considered that our assets were almost nil, or such as, if sold,
would have made a very slight impression on the account.

We became unhappy and despondent, more especially Cyrus Yorke, whose
'I told you so from the beginning,' was daily more aggressive and hard
to bear. Our storekeeper friend, John Mangrove, did not seem to care
so much. He had 'followed the diggings' for many a year. He and his
smart, bustling, business-like wife were quite used to giving fabulous
amounts of credit, to what they termed 'an honest crowd,' meaning a
party of men who might be relied upon to pay when their luck turned.
Mrs. Mangrove, indeed, laughed at our undiggerlike despondency when we
came up one Saturday night and vowed we would not take some beef and
flour for our married mate, having no money, and having that morning
decided to 'jack up' or thoroughly abandon work at our present claim.

'We must go and fossick for a bit now,' I said, 'just for enough to
make the pot boil; but we won't take any more of your "tucker," Mrs.
Mangrove, without paying.'

'Bother the paying!' said the buxom, cheery woman, 'we shall get our
money some time or other; but how are you and the Major to fossick, or
anything else, without a scrap to eat. You must and shall take your
rations till times mend. Luck always turns if you stick to your fight
like men. Don't tell me you're down in the mouth. You've got to work
till you make a 'rise,' for my sake, and how can you work without
tucker?'

'All right, Mrs. Mangrove,' said the Major; 'you know what is good
for us. We are your boys, you know. Can't you lay us on to anything?'

'Well, as you're good boys, I don't mind letting you hear of a
little whisper I caught this morning of a rush out at the Eight Mile,
that they say is going to be a regular fizzer. It is called "The Last
Stake," and there are only half a dozen claims marked out. You'd be in
time to-morrow morning early. I saw some awfully rich specimens that
Tim Daly had.'

'Specimens are deceptive,' I say; 'but we will mark out four men's
ground there to-morrow, only two need work till it's payable. Cyrus
and Joe will go splitting or fencing until times improve a bit to pay
the tucker--bill.'

'All right,' said Mrs. Mangrove, 'nothing like facing it. My old man
and me was down to half-a-crown, and hardly a pair of boots between us
once at Eaglehawk; but we dropped on to a shallow patch, and I puddled
it in a washtub, didn't I, John? We made eighty pound out of that
patch in two days.'

'You was allers a good 'un to work at a pinch, I will say that,'
growled John, 'though you're tongue do run a bit fast sometimes.'

'If I didn't do a bit of blowing we might shut up shop,' she
answered; 'you know that very well, Master John. Here, Harry, take
this bottle of whisky with you; you and the Major want something
besides tea just now. You're looking dreadful thin of late, and you'll
be laid up with the fever if you don't mind. Give that Mrs. Yorke of
yours a sip, it won't hurt her, a small drop. She's got a precious
soft-headed husband, I can see.'

'You see a many things,' said John, 'can you see it's past twelve
o'clock; the sergeant'll be turning everybody out directly. I shall
shut up. Good--night, mates.'

After this interesting colloquy, by which we felt much cheered and
invigorated, we went home and indulged in a glass of whisky punch
each, which did not demoralise us much, not having touched anything
for a month previously. We also insisted upon Mrs. Yorke joining us;
she and Cyrus had not gone to bed. So we drank success to our next
start, and slept very soundly afterwards.

The stars were in the sky when the Major and I quietly arose and
wended our way out to the locale of The Last Stake Quartz Reef,
alluded to by Mrs. Mangrove, and walking the four miles briskly
reached it soon after daylight. Early as was the hour, others were
there bound upon the same errand. We could see where the ledge of
white silicate rock had been bared and workings commenced with a view
of following it down. Carefully noticing the direction of the reef, we
placed our two pegs, denoting two hundred feet in length along the
line of the reef, and giving a title to the full width of one hundred
yards on each side of the base line, whatever that might be. Once so
placed, if only a minute before the next coming, this act constituted
a perfect mining title to all gold within such defined boundaries. The
law allowed three days grace for occupation and efficient work to take
place. If such work were not commenced within three days, any other
miners might summarily take possession of or 'jump' the claim. Wending
our way back to breakfast, there being no necessity to take any other
measures at present, we explained the position of affairs to our
fellow shareholders. I took the initiative from habit, and laid great
stress on Mrs. Mangrove's kindness, which had enabled us to begin
again in a respectable and promising manner, instead of having to take
to fossicking like so many 'hatters'--solitary miners. Both the Major
and I considered The Last Stake Reef to look like 'a good show;' but
there were expenses and of course food for the whole party. These we
should not get out of the reef for some time. And we were all averse
to sponging on kind Mr. Mangrove more than we could help. I,
therefore, proposed that Cyrus and Joe should take a job of bush work,
the wages of which--such labour being very well paid just then--would
suffice to placate the butcher and baker for the whole party, until
the reef turned payable, which it was pretty sure to do. If not, we
were only where we were before.

'That'll do,' said Joe; 'I was just a longing like for a bit of farm
work this fine sharp weather. I ha' had such a spell of driving that
I'm regular cramped. It was pretty wet down there, too, and I'm
afeared of the rheumatiz. I saw Mr. Banks this morning, and he offered
Cyrus and me half a mile of fencing at good prices.'

'They just was good prices,' said Cyrus; 'I only wish I could have
tumbled across 'em down the country, I'd never have come digging--
would I, little woman?'

'I'm sure I don't know, Cyrus,' she said, 'you were never very
contented, and if you had'nt come here, you'd have gone somewheres
else. But I do hope we'll make a rise on this reef. We've been lower
lately than ever I remember since the party was a party.'

'We should have been lower down still, Mrs. Yorke,' said the Major,
'if it had not been for these capital scones of yours, and the way
your good cookery saves the rations. I suppose it's because Cyrus has
such a tremendous appetite that you were first driven to economise by
method and high art.'

'If I've got a good twist, I can do a day's work,' said the
Hawkesbury giant, opening his chest and raising his great arms. 'But
we'd better get away, Joe, and see Mr. Banks about this fencing. I'd
be sorry if he let it to any other chaps. The Major and Harry can
begin and rig their stage at the reef. I don't think much of reefs. I
believe in the alluvial myself.'

Then it was all settled. Next day we had cut our logs, rigged our
stage and windlass, and were soon 'sinking for the reef,' which,
whether volatilised from a lower chemical centre or laterally
secreted, was not visible on the surface where we had put down our
pegs.

In a few days we 'struck it,' followed it down, discovered small
specks of gold almost invisible to the naked eye, and at the first
crushing were rewarded with a handsome dividend.

We thought our fortunes were made; we put on two wages men, and
worked with renewed energy. The next, and the next, dividends were
good; but one dreadful day it became apparent that the reef had
'pinched out,' become gradually smaller and more difficult to find.
Finally, it disappeared altogether.

There was the alternative of sinking perhaps another hundred or two
hundred feet, on the chance of its being struck at a greater depth,
and 'carrying the gold better as it went deeper.' But this style of
operation was only suited for men with capital. We resolved not to
risk the little we had.

Altogether we got about a thousand pounds for our share of the gold
in little more than two months. That, of course, was not so bad. Out
of this the claim was in debt to Mr. Mangrove about two hundred and
fifty pounds, which was religiously paid up at once, thus leaving
nearly two hundred pounds per man. Each, probably, had some few
personal and private debts, which had to be liquidated. A certain
refitting of wardrobes was imperative; other matters, too, had become
attenuated during our longish term of ill-luck. A few presents to
friends who had sympathised with us in our distress were also thought
suitable. Eventually, the experienced goldfield's resident will have
no difficulty in understanding that forty or fifty pounds each was
about the outside amount which remained in our pockets, after a week's
holiday and final settlement of affairs.

This statement but too often correctly describes the course of a
miner's life even when there is no overt dissipation. His very
virtues, his truthfulness, energy, and good faith aid him in
extravagance, so to speak, for they enlarge his facilities for credit,
which are so elastic while health and strength last that he can get as
deeply into debt as he pleases.

When he does meet with a fair slice of luck, such as I have referred
to, the greater part of his gains are swept away in repayment, while
the balance remaining is so small that, to his easy mind, it seems
hardly worth saving. 'Plenty more where that came from' is the most
popular mining motto, which is true enough in a sense, but not always
easy to reduce to practical application.

I had seen and encountered so much in my own person of this
tantalising see-saw of apparent prosperity and real poverty that I had
insensibly commenced to be drawn into the fatal vortex of
indifferentism which is so apt to characterise the habitual miner,
from whatever class originally drawn. I was beginning to be satisfied
with the periodical intervals of ease and comparative luxury, to be
more and more incapable of making any sustained effort to free myself
from rude and unworthy surroundings. The fortune which I had hoped
for, how much more accurately could I now gauge the slender
probability of my winning it! The return to dear England, the union
with my long-cherished darling, the transfigured angel of my dreams.
How much more nearly this approached, with every flying minute, to the
faint hopes of Heaven, and misty realisations of eternal bliss which
visit the average believer.

In my despondent moods, when, after weeks of severe labour the end
seemed no nearer, I allowed my spirits to droop to the lowest depths
of despair. Why had I ever permitted my thoughts to range to such mad
impossibilities? Had aught but the insane heedlessness of youth caused
my fancy to soar so high, only to fall with more stunning shock? Was
there the most distant hope of my ever realising ten or twenty
thousand pounds by ordinary mining, with which to present myself in
the course of the coming year to the Squire, and to claim the ecstatic
reward? Midsummer, moonstruck madness the whole! No greater
expectation, truly, as it now appeared to me, was there than if I were
engaged in digging potatoes.

And yet such prizes were to be had, and did occasionally, at Yatala,
fall to the grasp of the lucky--chiefly undeserving adventurers.

While I was in this undecided and, above all, agonising state of
mind, I received a letter from Ruth. We had not been forbidden, in so
many words, to correspond, but it had been explained to me by the
Squire that while matters remained in such an extremely uncertain and
precarious state, he thought I should agree with him that a regular
correspondence would be inconsistent, etc., that, of course, he left
it to me, and so on. The consequence of which was that, appreciating
his consideration, I refrained from pouring out my heart as I
otherwise should have done, and merely wrote, from time to time,
certain matter-of-fact epistles. In them I stated my plans, described
my place of residence, and gave my reasons for expecting good things
in the way of gold discovery.

The hue of despair which had commenced to pervade my life of late had
commenced to tinge my letters, doubtless, and so awakened a feeling of
irrepressible tenderness and compassion in that dear heart that knew
but one deep, still-flowing current of self-sacrificing love. Whatever
the cause, I one day received from Mrs. Mangrove, who also officiated
as postmistress, amid her other multifarious avocations, a letter,
bearing the delicate characters so indelibly traced upon my heart.

'A letter from home, Harry, English postmark, come from your sister,
your mammy, or your sweetheart. Don't be angry now; if you'll give me
the address, I'll write and tell her what a good boy you are. Not like
some of the swells here, who are the biggest rapscallions out, instead
of setting a good example to us poor ignorant lower-class mullocks,
eh, John?'

'What are you blowin' about now, old gal,' said the sententious John,
removing the pipe from his mouth. 'I don't know about "mullock." God
made all men free and equal, and though anybody can see as Harry and
the Major are regular right-down swells, and so far and away ahead of
us, what does Bobbie Burns say--"Who hangs his head for honest
poverty"--and settera?'

'Come, you're not so poor, nor over and above honest either, John,'
retorted his better half--'that is, if you get a chance, and was dead
sure of not being bowled out. It's I that knows you--still there's
worse on the diggings. And now, here's your letter, Harry, and if
you'd like to step into my back parlour and read it in comfort--
there's no one in there, nor won't be till the Mildorah mail comes in.
Take your beer with you.'

I accepted the offer of my worthy friend and banker; so, sitting down
upon the sofa and locking the door, I abandoned myself thoroughly to
the half-painful thrill of memory ere I commenced to translate into
half--whispered speech the loved and familiar characters.

Ere I opened the letter I gazed long upon the fateful scroll. How
much of my former life came back to me; how sharp the contrast
appeared with my present existence! I saw myself as I once was, how
differently lodged and tended. The old Court, with its look of
immemorial stateliness and reposeful comfort that now seemed luxury
undreamed of, more than half forgotten in the rude surroundings to
which I had insensibly adapted myself. And amid them my lot was fated
to be east, for how many years yet? for my lifetime it might well be!
for how could I endure to return an unsuccessful, disappointed man--I
that had so obstinately severed the links that bound me to the home of
my youth--the position to which I had been born. I had seen men as
gently nurtured, better educated, aye, with far higher attainments,
after brave battling with hopeless odds, sink gradually year by year,
yet more deeply into the slough of low companionship and sensual
indulgence. They had despaired of returning ever to the dim, far--off
world of their lost heritage; had been contented thus to wear out the
days of a despised, self-contemning existence. If such things happened
to them, why not to me? I was alone. My long pent-up dread of the
worst for a moment overpowered me. I leaned my head upon my hands
before the unread letter, and the hot tears, never before shed since
childhood, rained down upon the tawdry table-cover.

The unwonted passion aroused me. I brushed the evidences of weakness
from my eyes, and, rising to my sense of manhood, raised the precious
evidence of woman's fidelity. I well knew what tender assurance I
should find of fondly-cherished, brightly-burning love--unalterable
faith, unswerving holy confidence. Yet, how many instances had I known
where men, having trusted as deeply and loyally, had been heartlessly
deceived. I had watched life-wrecks which had dated from the receipt
of just such another letter in outward seeming. They, with delicate,
deadly strokes, had yet rung the knell of hope--of faith in woman's
sacred truth. Such was not to be my doom, whatever else the Fates,
which I had commenced to dread, might have in store for Hereward Pole.
How I drank in the sweet sense of the precious, priceless symbols--
thus dumbly that spake--

'MY OWN DEAREST, EVER DEAREST HEREWARD--Your last letter, written
from Yatala, roused me from a fit of depression which had crept over
me, I hardly know why; perhaps, from its being so long since I had
received one. I re-read it before I could do more than gather that you
were well, and still bravely striving to discover that terrible,
delusive gold, which seems to be such a will-o'-the-wisp--in spite of
the golden tales which come by every mail from your far land. I was
unspeakably cheered by this bare knowledge, and shall never fear
gloomy presentiments again. But I had had so many. I read--for I read
all the papers I can get hold of from Australia--about terrible mining
accidents, till I was half unconsciously in the habit of connecting my
beloved with the dangers and the deaths that seemed so common, and
little regarded. I pictured you suddenly overwhelmed by a fall of
earth in your subterranean abode, sometimes blown up by an explosion,
like those awful ones in coal mines. What a dreadful one was that in
Wales the other day. We happened to be at Llanberis, for a change for
poor mother, who has been ailing lately. I went down and saw the poor
women, whose sons and husbands, brothers and (alas!) lovers, had been
reft from them in an instant. How many forms of grief were there. Now,
I could sympathise with them, unlike many who merely viewed it as one
of the far-away calamities that we read or hear of, and turn from to
the next excitement or frivolous pleasure. My aching heart found some
relief in aiding and comforting those whom I could reach. I felt in a
strange way cheered and lightened when my task was done. But oh! how
unspeakable was the relief when I saw your dear hand-writing again,
and knew that you were safe and strong and hopeful as ever, though, so
far, unsuccessful.

'Then, as I, for the sixth time, devoured your letter, I discovered
a desponding tone in your expressions, that I had never before
noticed. You did not speak with your old gallant disregard of present
ill-luck, and hope for future fortune, as you used to do. My woman's
quickness divined a kind of dull resignation setting in; a more than
usual dwelling upon your rashness in quitting England, joined to a
deeper regret for having, as you say, induced me "to link my life with
that of a beggar and an exile--to forfeit the paradise of my
childhood's home for the accursed outer-world of labour and privation,
which would be my portion if I followed you."

'All this, dearest, I look upon as sinful disbelief in God's
goodness; besides which, to speak of an infinitely less worthy matter,
it is very wicked of you to doubt my love. That you possess "once and
for ever." It may not be all that you fondly fancy, but such as it is,
it is yours--all yours--while life lasts, and beyond the grave, if
there we retain the feelings which animate our souls on earth. Perhaps
I am saying more than I could ever express if we were nearer, but,
separated by so vast a distance, we may be doomed never again to hear
each other's voices, I feel as if I must give expression to every
thought of my heart, lest you might die and never know how its every
pulse beats for you.

'After seeing the stony despair of some of these poor women's faces
at Pent-y--glas; after hearing their dreadful agonising shrieks, as
one after another of the dead miners was carried up from the pit mouth
and laid in his cottage; after witnessing the frantic delight with
which the rescued were welcomed back to life, joy that sometimes
threatened like to death, you must pardon me for believing mere want
of success to be a small thing in true lovers' eyes, compared with
those ghastly realities.

'Want of success, indeed! Why, what does it mean, that my high-
hearted Hereward should not look it in the face, and frown it down, as
of old. Have you not life, and love, and health, and strength? that
stalwart form? that steady eye? When these fail it will be time enough
to despond, to retract, to despair, to lose faith in God and man.

'But you will do none of these, my own darling. You will still work;
you will still pray. Remember that there is another year, yet untried,
before us, during which the reward of all your long labour and heroic
self-denial may be found. My prayers may be answered, and your work,
which according to the good old monkish legend, is also prayer,
because done in a good spirit, will bring its reward. Keep up your
heart for both our sakes--for the love's sake which is your Ruth's
life. When that time is finished, come home to the old land, and be
sure if you can quell that stubborn pride of yours--do I not love you
the better for it--my dear old father will welcome you as a son. But
if you will not or cannot come, I will never upbraid you, and more--so
prepare yourself--no power on earth shall then keep me from coming to
you, to follow your steps in weal or woe, so long as we both shall
live.

'I have written you a woman's letter. It is the longest I ever sent.
But I did feel so lonely and wretched. It has eased my heart. Would
that it could lighten yours; perhaps it may. God keep and bless you,
my own beloved.--Yours ever, in weal or woe, in the old world or the
new.

'RUTH ALLERTON.'

I rose from the perusal of the heaven-sent letter an altered man. I
pressed it to my lips, to my heart. Then I vowed silently, yet
solemnly, to God, to work and deny myself from aught but needful rest
and sustenance, until the time was expired, for her sweet sake--the
best, the tenderest, the truest of mortal women, for her sweet sake--
the angel that had stirred the dreary pool of doubt. I was healed; of
that I had no doubt. Should I ever be suffered to thank her by my
life?

'My word! I'll go bail there was a bank draft in that letter,' said
Mrs. Mangrove, coming in suddenly; 'you look so cheered up by it. Must
be good news, or something like it. I thought you were going to jack
up at the claim when you came in, or had got the fever, or something.
But now you look like a different chap altogether.'

'I am a different man,' I said. 'I believe my luck's going to
change, Mrs. Mangrove; and if you and John will always back us right
out, I believe we shall make our pile yet, and you will have a slice
of it.'

'Never mind that,' said the good-natured dame. 'If you take all your
stores from us, and pay your bill, that'll be enough for John and me.
Our profits are pretty smart. We only want to get our goods off. But
you and the Major and your other mates, you're a good crowd to work; I
will say that for you; stick to those new prospectors. There's
something in that lead, I'll go bail. There's no fear but what you'll
drop on to it by and by. John and I ain't afraid to speculate a
hundred or two; we've not followed the diggings five years next
Christmas to be afraid of giving a bit of credit to rale out--and-out
good working men. No, nor five hundred at the back o' that; you're
right for anything you want, tools, expenses, powder and fuse, as long
as we last out. Now, you'd better have a whisky, and get home before
the moon sets. Those holes is nasty things to be walking through when
it's dark.'

I declined the refreshment, but thanked the generous-hearted creature
with a warmth that made her and her husband exhibit signs of distress.
I then made off down the brightly-lighted street, and following a
narrow but well-worn track which threaded the hundreds of shafts,
wide, dark--mounthed in the moonlight, like silent monsters watching
for their prey, soon reached the somewhat isolated spot, where our
tiny camp was situated.

My mates were all asleep. I was not sorry for that. I was so filled
with the deep pervading excitement which the reading of my thrice-
blessed letter had caused in me, that I should have with difficulty
compelled myself to interchange the ordinary courtesies of
conversation. I was as a man who had found a huge and hidden treasure.
I could no longer concern myself with the poor coins and cares of
daily life, until I had had time to reflect upon my joy and good
fortune.

'How good, how pure she is; what more than mortal fidelity has marked
my Ruth's conduct,' I thought, as I lay down on my humble couch. 'How
many girls in her position would have caught at the first excuse to
free themselves from an engagement that must involve poverty and
privation--that might even end in exile; and yet she had kept her
faith, had been true to the vow made on the well-remembered terrace,
as we stood looking over woodland vales. How had I deserved such
fidelity. Still, there was something in a man's strength, a man's hope
and struggle for success. She should have her reward, if a single-
handed swordsman could hew his way to success and glory. There was a
year of the precious granted time to spare now. Perhaps the casuarina
might not have changed her gloomy filamental raiment once more before
the tide would have turned--the fulfilment would have been 'assured.'

The next day was Sunday. The Major and Joe had been on the night--
shift; I had, therefore, all the day before me to dream over my last
found happiness, to permit my mind to wander over the past, to hope
and resolve for the future. No mining, no work of any sort, was
carried on on the Sabbath at Yatala. An utterly unbroken stillness
reigned over the whole strangely assorted camp on the sacred day. In
some countries such would not have been the case; men would have
pleased themselves as to the course they took. But here, the whole
sentiment of the place was as distinctly English as if the concourse
of adventurers had been located in Surrey or Kent. The Australian
colonies are not only in many ways contented to be English in act,
manner, and thought. They are the English of a century back in many,
in perhaps the highest embodiments of the national character. And
there was no more thought in Yatala of Sunday work, or openly-avowed
Sunday dissipation than of a carnival in Glasgow. Moreover, such
labour was against the law of the land, which as I before remarked,
was by no means suffered to remain a dead letter at Yatala. Under 29
Carolus II. c. vii. sec. 7, an information would have been laid by the
sergeant with exceeding promptitude; and the fine would have followed
with mathematical precision of effect after cause.



Chapter V



NEXT day being Sunday, we breakfasted late, and by no means
uncomfortably. When miners are provided with provisions at all, they
are good of their kind. Fresh beefsteaks, grilled to perfection, and
served up hot by our miraculous cook and good fairy Mrs. Yorke,
baker's bread (there were five tradesmen of the craft in Yatala),
fresh butter, and new laid eggs, with hot coffee, were all
forthcoming. We had previously performed our ablutions and dressed
ourselves with a trifling amount of extra care. The Major and I messed
together in our weather-tight abode, wherein was a small extemporised
table. Cyrus Yorke, his wife, and Joe Bulder had their meal at the
family tent.

'Well, Pole,' said the Major, 'what was the result of your business
interview with Mrs. Mangrove? Is she going to sell us up at the end of
the month, or have you blarneyed her into another excursion towards
the Insolvent Court?'

'She is a brick,' I returned, 'and John is not a bad fellow either.
They have promised to back us until Christmas. After that we must take
our chance.'

'By Jove!' said my friend, 'she is a tower of Shinar, in the brick
line; a regular goldfield's guardian angel--a tutelar divinity! I
don't know what all! We shall strike the gutter yet, depend upon it.
And yet, consider my improper exultation! Depending for my daily steak
(how famous and tender this one is; that little woman of ours has had
it hanging up a week--bless her); depending, I say, for my daily bread
and butter on a poor woman's bounty--what would the old 77th say to
it. Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, eh?'

I had determined to spend the day in tranquil self-communion. To that
end I sallied out, with some slight provision for a midday meal, for a
long day's walk; the Major electing to pass the time on the broad of
his back, working up his arrears of light literature, of which we
always received from home a generous supply.

'Going for a regular all-day constitutional, Harry, are you?' he
said. 'Well, every man to his taste: this is a free country. Seems to
me we get a fair share of exercise without a twenty mile hump on
Sundays. Keep your eyes open, for a likely gully for prospecting.'

He began to cut the leaves of his Saturday Review, and I departed. I
was in no mood for the grim pleasantries, the instructive scientific
articles, the scathing criticism of that magazine of pure English and
merciless sarcasm. Welcome had been its arrival to us in many a dull
unrelieved term of labour in the glaring dusty midsummer, or the
dreary winter weather, when the rows of tents stood on a plateau of
knee-deep mud. But now I longed to speed forth across the low green
hills strewn with diorite, across the sharply outlined ridge, where
the great white blocks of quartz gleamed in the morning sun, adown the
long eastern slope, for miles through the park--like southern forest,
where, over the thick greensward, the forester kangaroo and the
wallaroo alone run, where eager green and gold parrots chattered and
screamed--where the blue heron fished silently by the reed--fringed
creek, where the eagle soared calm and peerless amid the loneliness of
the firmament. And there I, too, could be alone and relieve my heart,
that seemed almost bursting with unshared thought and thankfulness.

After hours of rambling and a gradual descent, I found myself in a
defile which slowly widened, until it became a pleasant meadow-seeming
flat, partly overgrown with high grass and patches of rushes. The
hillsides had been precipitous, and an easier path having been found
by the strayed horses and cattle of the miners, Nova Scotia Gully, as
it had been called by a wandering Blue Nose, had been completely
neglected.

A promising place for 'prospecting.' Yet nowhere did I see the shafts
and heaps of rock or gravel which tell in a gold country of the hasty
search for the precious metal. Instinctively reasoning on these
passing thoughts, half looking out for a pleasant spot for my midday
halt, I mechanically wandered to a depression where a lofty
eucalyptus, fallen before a hurricane blast, lay with its bared roots
sheer athwart a tiny water-course. Below this natural embankment was a
pool filled with pellucid water.

'Here,' I said, 'I will dream out the day, translating myself as
nearly as may be in spirit to the pleasant land of my fathers, and
linking my soul to hers, whose pure steadfast heart has so
strengthened and lightened mine.'

Hour after hour, after my frugal midday meal, I lay on the grass
under the vast trunk of the fallen forest-monarch, and dreamed of
green England's meads and time-worn crumbling keeps, of the half-royal
residences of the great nobles--the time-honoured halls of the squires
and county gentlemen. I saw again the ancient gables of Allerton
Court, the ivy--buttressed village church, the plodding unambitious
farm-labourers, the old women in their caps, the clerk withstanding
the ever troublesome boys, trying in vain to restrain from sounds and
antics, secular if not profane, the calm voice of the clergyman
reading the prayers, or preaching the sermon. How much out of keeping
would any excited action or unfamiliar doctrine have been in that
haven of repose and assured joys? And then, turning first to one side
and then to the other, with a smile or a pleasant word, as either
parent spoke, came my own, my beloved, my peerless Ruth Allerton.

Should I ever see her again, hear her voice, under the great lime
trees I remembered so well, when we watched for the first shivering
whisper as the evening breeze came sighing up over hill and dale? What
a waste world was there between us! What a mournful, pale-gleaming,
endless plain of ocean! Nor only such, but the great desert of
Poverty, where the dwellers are for ever Bedouins, raiders, outcasts,
desperate or despised dwellers on sufferance, by the border of the
high-walled cities of wealth and respectability.

Thus did I think; thus muse during the little season of leisure which
was allotted to me. The short day was fading fast ere I had completed
my round of thought. Ilenceforth, action would obliterate
contemplation. But I felt that in my life I had made a fresh
departure. Kneeling on the turf by the gnarled tree-trunk, scarred and
scattered as by the fire-storms of centuries, I swore solemnly that,
until the year expired, I would neither pause nor slacken in my search
for the magical metal. Magical--it would be the long lost
Philosopher's stone, would it not transmute the base dross of my
present life into the minted treasure of honourable security--
successful love?

The lengthening shadows, the more distinct woodland cries, warned me
that I must tread the homeward path. At twelve o'clock that night I
should have to go on to the 'night shift,' when eight hours of
continuous labour were before me. But my heart was light, my purpose
firm. Hope had never glowed so brightly in my breast since first I
quitted England's shore, with all the sanguine strength of boyhood's
expectation. As I stood up and faced the glowing west, where the rich
hues of sunset poured a full glory upon the long green vistas of the
waving woodland, a fragment of quartz attracted my attention. I picked
it up and applied the usual miner's test. A few minute specks of the
dull yellow, but unmistakable metal were visible. I hastily scooped
out a handful or two of the surrounding earth, and improvising a dish
from a circular bark covering of a hole in the nearest tree, washed it
in the little rivulet. The result was a few grains of gold. This was
fully satisfactory, as giving a few grains to so small a quantity of
the gravel, the proportion to a cartload, the usual alluvial miner's
measure, would be far beyond ordinary yields.

I decided to take possession at once of this lucky portion of the
earth's surface, from which I anticipated the realisation of my
fondest hopes, and commenced to cut four pegs, by placing which in the
ground, one at each angle of the claim, I could, according to mining
law, take perfect and inalienable possession. But all suddenly a
feeling arose, vital and instinctive, which arrested all action--it
was the Sabbath day. True, I had employed it most literally as a day
of rest, of idle reverie, not availing myself of the regular preaching
and prayers conducted by the minister of each denomination on the
goldfield. Still, so strong was the reminiscent tradition of my
childhood that I could not, for the life of me, commit so total a
breach of all my early teaching and belief as to mark out a claim,
thus doing actual work, and following my regular work-a-day avocation
on Sunday. The old village chimes came back to my heart, to my ears, I
could almost have sworn. My mother's voice, sweet, grave, low-toned--I
seemed to hear the very words which inculcated self-denial, reading of
the Word, heeding the commandments, 'Thou shalt not labour, thou and
thy son, and thy daughter, and thy servant, and the stranger that is
within thy gates.' I heard it all in memory's wondrous phonograph, as
the full tide of life rolled backward, and I saw myself a schoolboy at
the knee of a pale lady with wistful eyes and a radiance of holy love
beaming around her worn features. All this I saw and heard. I could
not sin against knowledge. I was not as one of the reckless gold-
hunters with which the camp was thronged. I could not do the deed.

'It matters not,' thought I, 'the place is rarely visited. I will
come to--morrow after my shift is over. That will surely be time
enough; and now I must stretch out if I wish to save the light.'

I cast down the stake, turned my back upon the temptation, and
stepped out manfully towards the camp. As I left the spot the sun's
level gleam seemed to light up the scattered quartz fragments with a
glitter which transformed them into golden ingots. The strange
laughing kingfisher of the south (Dacelo giganteus) perched upon a
dead tree in my path, where his extravagant and ludicrous cachinnatory
succession of notes, ending in a long-drawn ha-ha-ha, had a weird
derisive chuckle to my ears. Was I turning my back upon a fortune, in
obedience to the bidding of an outworn superstition? No, assuredly
not! Yet my heart misgave me, and an evil presentiment commenced to
depress my so lately exulted faculties.

The moon was up as I passed the track which for the last mile,
running through an abandoned lead, was a narrow riband of safety amid
a region of shafts of all depths and suddenness of approach. The lead
with its hundreds of mounds, its black yawning pit mouths, had a
ghostly appearance in the still clear, cold light as of a graveyard
awaiting the unburied dead of a battlefield. The narrow path led
onward, over, and around the lesser hillocks, passing the edge of
sullen, narrow mine-mouths, where the displaced clod or pebble went
rumbling and murmuring long--long--long--minutes it seemed, though but
seconds in reality--ere the dull thud or splash at the bottom told of
its completed errand. What would a man's fate be if belated or
tarrying too long at the wine-cup he stumbled into one of those
entrances to the nether world? I had known of such a fate happening to
more than one stalwart miner, who had risen that day in rude health
and well nigh giant strength. More than one skeleton had I known
scooped out, months, nay years, after the disappearance of a comrade,
only to be identified by the clothing that enwrapped the bones. But
such would never be my fate. I knew every yard of the track. I rarely
travelled the path but by daylight, and no living man could assert
with truth that he had ever seen Hereward Pole under the influence of
intoxicating liquor.

When I reached our camp fire, I found all preparation for our evening
meal in such a state of perfect arrangement as induced me to suspect
what indeed was the case, that the Major had been considerately
awaiting my return.

'Thought you were never coming,' he growled, with affected sulkiness
of tone. 'Mrs. Yorke, please to put the gridiron upon the fire at
once, and the steak upon the gridiron one minute afterwards. I'm so
delighted you've returned safe, Master Harry. I was just thinking how
my supper was in a fair way to be ruined. Not that I was going to be
fool enough to wait for you ten minutes longer; but how could a
fellow--I put it to you as a gentleman and a man of the world--how
could a fellow enjoy his steak knowing that he would have to go up to
the camp and report his mate's probable death by flood and field--
gunshot or suicide, or miscalculation of distance, in the morning.'

'A decidedly epicurean view to take of my probable decease,' rejoined
I; 'but your friend the coroner will find no inquest necessary at
present. It was very good of you to wait supper for me, dead or alive.
How delightfully the steak hisses and simmers; wait till I have just
time to dress the least bit, and it will be done to a turn. I have
news, too.'

To change my outer coat for an old--very old--shooting jacket, but
still distinguished as to cut, to replace the heavy walking boots by
shoes, and to perform certain splashings, did not occupy many minutes.
When I came forth from the recesses of the tent, refreshed and
charitable of mood, the steak before referred to was in the act of
being placed upon our humble board. Such it was, literally, being a
section of a cedar plank about two feet wide, supported on trestles,
which rendered transport and packing a very simple transaction.
Covered with a clean cloth, it was sufficiently large for the present
dinner party, the number of which never required to be increased.
Potatoes baked in the ashes and served up hot, coffee, white bread in
very excellent rolls, with honey and fresh butter, completed our meal.
There was one rare and indispensable adjunct, that of appetite, which
we rarely lacked, and which I may frankly confess to have provided in
a very high state of perfection on this particular occasion.

We had eaten with satisfaction, we had washed down the solids with
cups of coffee; we had lighted our pipes, and were miles beyond any of
the lower unamiable forms of conversation, when I thus spoke--

'Major, I did not go out expressly with a view of prospecting to-day.
I want to tell you that I came across something which I fancy will
materially alter our worldly expectations.'

'Nobody said you were going prospecting,' observed the Major quietly.
'Nobody thought you had as much sense. We knew you would lie under a
tree all day, and dream of the perfections of--what's her name--Miss
Allerton. Besides, I know you have the narrow English notion of
Sunday.'

'I didn't go out prospecting,' said I; 'as you kindly observe, I had
not sense enough; but I made a discovery all the same. What do you
think of that?' said I, suddenly producing one of my specimens.

The Major took it carelessly in his hand, looked narrowly at the
sides and facets, moistened it with his tongue, squinted at it, and
finally, with an air of high professional skill, said--

'To my mind it's awfully good, fine gold showing all through it--the
best kind of stone, always. Rich enough for everybody. You took up a
claim of course?'

'Well, no!' said I, 'Major, I did not. I have, as you say, some
lingering traditions about my early days, and I could not disavow
them. We can go and take it up early to-morrow after I come off the
night shift. We must be all four there to put in the pegs, you know?'

'Yes, and an awful bother, too. Why can't one man, in the name of his
partners, take up a claim--always supposing that they have the
requisite number of miner's rights?'

'Well, of course; but there's something to be said on the other side.
Occupation is the great fundamental principle of the miner. Otherwise
the capitalist might, by proxy, delegate, and so on, monopolise half
the good ground on a goldfield.'

'You be hanged,' growled the Major, 'you're talking now like an
intelligent practical miner, a friend of the people, and so on. But
we'd better all start at sunrise to-morrow morning, if it's a good
show.'

On the next morning, accordingly, four men might have been observed
wending their way eastward from Yatala, at an unusually early hour.
They walked rapidly forward, silent, strong with steadfast resolve. It
was the midwinter; the frost was white upon grass and shrub, the
drooping points of which were bright and crystal-glittering.

'It occurs to me,' said the Major, after a long pause, in an ill-used
tone, 'that we are most confoundedly cold, and most probably
proceeding on a fool's errand as well. Ten to one there's nothing in
this claim after we have pegged it out.'

'I allus reckoned this was a lucky gully out here,' said Cyrus Yorke,
'and much about the lie of the place where Harry talks of. I had a
mind to peg out there myself once.'

'And why didn't you?' said I.

'Well, something put me off it,' said Cyrus, the most inconsequent of
men. It was an excuse that we all eagerly accepted.

'This gully does shape like the real thing,' said Joe Bulder. 'I'll
be bound when we get on a mile farther we'll all be of the same mind.
I wish we'd thought of it a week ago. All the gold seems running this
way. There's the Australian Maid, the Blue Snake, and the Doubtful
Card, all struck gold in the same line. I believe we'll be on the
gutter this time if we stick in to work at once.'

'I can only say,' returned I, 'that in all my experience'--we were
beginning to talk, nay, to think, like men who had possessed no
interest but those allied with the search for gold since childhood--
who dreamed of no other distraction for the years that lay between
them and the grave--'in all my experience I never saw any thing more
promising.'

'Dare say not,' said the Major scornfully, 'all goldfield ventures
are promising. Devil mend them. They are his lures specially and
entirely. I should never be surprised at seeing him come and carry
away a miner, or elevate the editor of a mining newspaper bodily. What
lies--only inferior to those of the Father of those inventions--must
he have hatched, have supported! What an atmosphere of dissimulation
must he have experienced, nay, have revelled in!'

'We have only to cross that ridge and we are in sight of the spot. I
am sure that you will be taken with it. Push on boys; a fortune is
waiting for you. I am as sure as that we stand here that the Nova
Scotia Prospecting Claim will run gold into our pockets like a
schoolboy making dumps.'

'Seeing's believing,' said the Major, quite inconsequentially. 'We
have had not quite so much of that lately. Why, who is this, and what
is he doing so early? By Jove, it's Gus Maynard. What's up, Gus?'

Gus Maynard, an American, ranked highly in our metallurgical
phalanstery. Well-educated and well-mannered, he was one of the
enigmas which abound on goldfields, but which, after the incurious
mental habit which prevails in these societies, doubtless for good and
sufficient reason, no one attempts to solve. Unobtrusive, yet manly
and direct of demeanour, he was equally bon camarade with the humblest
miner and with the educated, and what might be termed aristocratic
section. He was thoroughly practical, in spite of his rather advanced
geological theories, and had not wielded pick and shovel, from
Suttor's Mill to Hokitiki Beach--terraces, for nothing.

'I've been pegging out a fraud, I reckon, for the 999th time,' he
said, with the slow monotone which few northern Americans contrive to
evade. 'The early bird gets the worm, you benighted Britishers are
fond of saying. My notion is that he rushes out before he completes
his ciphering, and so gets "had" by a stock broker, an insurance
agent, or some other varmint.'

'Or by a betting man, eh Gus?' said I; 'but where have you been
pegging out, and where are your mates?'

'Gone home; but I can show you their miners' rights, if you wish.
Just marked out a prospecting claim, and if I hadn't sworn never to
waste words on a hole till I saw the gold come out of it, I'd say it
was a good one.'

'Show it to us, Gus,' said I faintly. As I spoke a sudden thrill of
pain struck through me, while I saw in my mind's eye countless loads
of ounce wash-dirt stacked around my spot.

'Know where there's a big fallen tree, a little well hole like, just
in the dip of the flat? There you have it. I'd spotted this Nova
Scotia Gulch for some time, and this morning I up and drove pegs, with
the other three boys, because I had a dream four others were going to
take it up.'

'Would you know any of them again?'

'One of 'em had a velvet coat on. I remembered that, for I never saw
one here.'

'You're dream carried true as a pea-rifle, Gus,' said I. 'The fit
took me to put on an old velveteen shooting jacket yesterday that I
had in my kit. I wish it may bring you no ill luck, but it's my claim
that you've just taken up. The Major and I and the other two mates are
on our way to mark that very claim. I was there all day yesterday, but
couldn't put in a peg because it was Sunday.'

'And a very good reason, too,' said Gus; 'suited us admirably. But
hadn't you better come on and take up No. 1 South; it may be a good
show. We've taken up five hundred feet square, and will set to work
the day after to--morrow.'

The Major burst into a fit of immoderate laughter. 'Harry,' said he,
'we're not going to make our fortune this time. Fate and Gus Maynard
have been too much for you. Let's have the melancholy satisfaction of
seeing Gus's pegs, and noting whether they are all en rgle. If not
we'll "jump" him.'

I mechanically followed our transatlantic friend, though I felt more
inclined to sit down and cast ashes on my head, in sincere imitation
of the older races, who thus very naturally vented their emotions.

It was too true. The fallen tree--the pellucid basin, no longer
stood unsoiled by the hand of man. They were in the centre of a
square, at each corner of which was a substantial peg, with a trench
cut to show the intersection of the angles. Every bit of ground which
but yestereven I so fondly trusted to be the means of restoring my
fallen fortunes, was now inalienably vested in others.

For, according to mining law, well known and carefully studied by us
all, 'prior occupation,' if but of five minutes' standing, was
sufficient to establish a right valid as that of an immemorial
freehold. I knew Gus Maynard too well to doubt that he had neglected
any of the necessary forms. My golden estate was as completely
forfeited as if I had remained in England.

Not entirely to lose all our labour we marked out the first claim,
after the prospecting claim, in a southerly direction. This, however,
as by law established, would be but half the size of the premier or
prospecting claim, and to my jaundiced vision did not appear to be
half as likely to contain gold.

'What are you going to call it, Gus?' said I. 'It may as well have a
name.'

'We'll call it the Nova Scotia Lead,' said Gus. 'The man this gully
was named after was a friend of mine, and a real smart chap, but so
darned unlucky, that I believe if he bought an axe the handle would
split before he got home.'

'Perhaps his luck will turn some day,' said I, 'nothing like
perseverance.'

'Well, so it may,' said the mild-mannered, but somewhat obstinate
Gus; 'in about thirty or forty years, may be, he might have a throw
in. Then, most likely he'd pass in his checks right away. I'm a great
believer in luck. I never had much myself, or I shouldn't be here, you
bet. And an old Indian woman told me once--but--let's talk of
something else.'

'What did she tell you, Gus?' said I, reckless in my despair, and not
disposed to acquiesce in any man's softly superstitious moods.

'It's nonsense, no doubt, but all her tribe swore--I hunted with them
when I was a boy--that old Tacomah was never known to be wrong, and
more than a score of deaths had occurred in the exact order she had
predicted. It was this,' continued he, while a shadow covered his
face, like a dim presage of coming ill--'She said I should go to a far
land across sea, to find gold; that I should have my desire, but that
when I had reached it to beware, for the end was nigh.'

'Every man's end must be nigh whose fate compels him to live in this
infernal place,' said the Major. 'We work like niggers, and live like
black fellows (this was rather unfair to Mrs. Yorke); we never see any
gold ourselves, and yet have the privilege of looking at other fellows
handling it and hugging it as their own. Now, I know you'll be on it
here, and as you're a sporting man, let us have a wager.'

'All right,' said Gus, a born gambler, who, though prudent and highly
respectable, had a book always at the Metropolitan Races, 'what shall
it be?'

'I'll lay a hundred to two in fives,' said the Major, 'that you get
nothing payable out of this claim. If you win I sha'n't miss the brace
of fives. If it turns out a real golden hole, five hundred pounds
won't be worth considering--will it?'

'Done, and done again,' said he heartily.

The bets were written down carefully and methodically. After a while
we returned to our old claim, crest-fallen it is true, but fully
resolved to make a stand upon No. 1 South Nova Scotia Lead, and to
free ourselves from debt, if possible, if we didn't make our 'pile'
just yet.

We sold out our old claim for a ten-pound note; and in a couple of
days, with our belongings at Nova Scotia Gully, had logged up and made
a start with another shaft.

The sinking was good. No rock, no water. Gus and his party were soon
down to the bottom. That is, the alluvial drift, the sand and water-
worn pebbles, the gravel and debris of the long dead, deeply buried
stream, which in past ages had rippled and murmured under the blue
heavens, heard the birds call amid the trees, which lined its banks
and reflected the still azure of a southern sky.

Now waterless, soundless--blind, dumb, and imprisoned it lay, with a
hundred feet of the earth's crust upon its bosom--that bosom which was
once more bared to the light of day, solely by reason of the gems and
scattered treasure which lay amid the sands of shore and channel.

Man, the arch--disturber, burying himself deep below the soil, and
groping, mole fashion, in his sunless galleries, was able to trace out
all the meanderings of that sunless stream. Even the dark hard stone-
like fragments of the perished forest did he exhume, scrutinising the
grain of the timber which had fallen, the fruit which had ripened, the
leaf which had withered in the long solitary aeons of dimmest Eld.

When the first 'prospect,' the first pan of alluvial gold-drift, was
sent up to be tested, we stopped work and joined the anxious crowd,
who pressed around, deeply curious and, indeed, directly interested in
its proved value.

The manner of separating the clay, sand, gravel, etc., from the
precious metal, is much after this fashion: carrying his tin pan or
dish to the nearest water, the miner--Gus himself in this present
instance--dips the vessel beneath, and immediately commences a half-
circular, half-vertical, rotatory movement, suffering the clay--
stained water to pour off, to be replenished from time to time, and
always leaving less and less debris behind it.

After successive washings and castings forth of the pebbles by hand,
nothing is left but a narrow crescent of sand, on the edge of which a
border of dull red grains, specks, small particles, and a few
irregular yellowish fragments, are plainly visible. There is no
mistaking the king of metals. As Gus holds up the dish first for mine,
and then for the inspection of the eager crowd, each man takes a
rapid, earnest glance, and draws back. Then a wild cry bursts forth,
hats are thrown up in the excitement of the moment, and the more
intelligible utterances can be translated into 'fine gold, mostly,
some rather coarse and water-worn--half a pennyweight to dish.'

This was success, indeed, triumphant, intoxicating success. The rule
of three sum under such circumstances, which every miner entrusts to
his mental arithmetic, runs thus: two dishes to a bucket, sixty
buckets to a load, which makes three ounces, or 11 odd to the load--
the load meaning a reasonable quantity for one horse to draw in a box
cart. The wash-dirt has in a general way to be subjected to a puddling
machine, a shallow wooden cylinder, like a large circular trough, in
which a species of harrow is drawn by an unlucky horse, which
continues his unending round, like the traditionary mill horse, until
he must be heartily sick of the whole concern.

Poignant regret and bitter disappointment were over, though so little
a matter as the delay of a day's marking out had lost us what promised
to be as good a claim as any on Yatala. In fact, 'a gentle fortune,'
as Cyrus observed. We comforted ourselves with the belief that in No.
1 we had a claim which would almost necessarily be a good one--might,
indeed, be as rich, or, indeed, richer than the prospecting claim.

Taking the general nature of 'leads' or dead rivers, it chiefly
obtained, that if gold were found on one portion of them, it extended
to all the claims within a considerable distance. Sometimes, of
course, it was not so. All the gold in the locality appeared to have
been shovelled by malignant gnomes into one crevice, in the familiar
phrase of the miners, 'a pot hole,' leaving the rest of the lead non-
auriferous and disappointing. This we knew to be possible, but did not
think probable. We accordingly worked away, stimulated daily by the
pile of wash-dirt rising high on the side of the prospecting claim's
brace--a pile in which the gold could be seen with the naked eye. At
length we bottomed. Our shaft was down amid huge gray boulders of
limestone which formed the bed rock of the locale. The drift was
reached. With what anxious eagerness did the Major and I carry out our
first dish of wash-dirt to 'try a prospect.' Inch by inch the sand and
gravel lowered in the dish, the clay--stained water flowed and flowed,
till at length, in the full view of a hundred men, the last streak of
sand and minute gravel was left. In vain we looked, with practised
eye, for the faint red rim which had comforted us in the prospecting
claim. I shook the dish, and with the action dispersed and reunited
the remnant sand. It was of no avail. No trace--even the faintest--of
'the colour' could be descried. With a half angry, half humourous
roar, the crowd parted right and left, while the verdict was
proclaimed, expressively if not elegantly, by Cyrus Yorke himself, who
cried aloud, plain for all men to hear.

'Bottomed a duffer, by gum, not the colour itself, no mor'n on the
palm o' my hand.'

We tried a few more dishes, all with the same melancholy result. Not
a scintilla of the magic metal. Our labour had gone for nothing. We
felt humiliated in the opinion of the crowd, many of whom had a
personal interest in our success, as their claims, following after
ours, would have been enhanced in value. Others, in despite of the
stern mining law, were evasive of regulations and were awaiting our
success, in order to commence sinking on their own account. Others had
speculated in shares for the rise, and now found themselves hung up in
a falling market. All these persons regarded us, with more or less of
justice, as having done them an injury.

About the same time or, indeed, within a few days afterwards, No. 1
North, with Nos. 2 and 3 on either side, bottomed with similar
results. It was the more astonishing, as all the while the prospecting
claim was raising any quantity of wash-dirt, and the market value of
shares therein had risen to one thousand pounds per man. How I almost
cursed my too rigidly puritanic education!

Cast adrift again, we struck out for pastures new in the mining-
nomadic sense, and, disappointed--not despairing--commenced a fresh
shaft some ten miles off--this time on a Saturday night, and in an
extremely promising flat, in which, as usual, I sanguinely trusted to
find my schatz, like the drei reisende auf ihrem wege. The schatz,
however, was not, as yet, for anyone--except Gus Maynard, it seemed.
The Nova Scotia base line was changed by the commissioner, upon the
impassioned application of scores of distressed miners, some with
large families, others without any encumbrance, as they are politely
termed in Australia. All kinds of efforts were made to trace the gold;
but no gold could by any means be traced, except in the unlucky-lucky
prospecting claim--the shareholders in which were Gus Maynard and
party, and not Harry Pole and Co., alas!

Then was the well--known frontage expedient tried of 'swinging the
base line,' which the commissioner was empowered to do, when called
upon by a majority of the registered claim--holders, on any given
frontage lead. This somewhat remarkable operation, well-nigh
impossible to explain to nonmining intelligence, and sufficiently
confusing even to those who had the dear-bought privilege of mining
experience, may be illustrated as follows. Chapter VI

AFTER sinking in every claim to the bed rock, on the imaginary course
of the lead, not only is no gold found, but, from the depth and
character of the strata, it is evident that the lead or ancient river-
bed cannot possibly run in that direction. Then, after due application
to the Commissioner, the base line is altered or 'swung,' i.e. freshly
marked on another imaginary course, and the registered claims only, of
equal size and number of men--of precisely the same rotation--are
marked out afresh on the new base line. All previous markings and
occupations are thereby annulled. Only the new ones are valid.

This mode of procedure, originally framed by officers thoroughly
versed in all mining law, had stood the test of experience. If not the
fairest mode of distribution of risk, it was the best compromise that
could be effected between opposing interests. Still curious
contretemps were continually occurring. When No. 6, let us say, was
measured off and allotted on the new line, it would be found, perhaps,
that No. 5's shaft, seventy feet deep, the last twenty through basalt,
and a highly expensive exploration, was now situated in No. 6 claim.

Thereupon the No. 5 men would come to the Commissioner and represent
that they were all married men with large families, and that they had
spent their last shilling in sinking the said shaft, and if No. 6 were
allowed to have it what a hard case it would be; and wouldn't his
honour allow them to work it still, and drive (or tunnel) into No. 5
their present claim?

A Commissioner who was soft-hearted or philanthropical would probably
be disposed to assent to this very feasible suggestion. Thereby he
would straightway complicate matters, and get the whole lead into
confusion, inasmuch as if No. 5 got gold in No. 6's claim, there would
be a very nice bit of work cut out as to the distribution of it.

Of course, Captain Blake, after years at the Meroo in the early days
of Louisa and Lambing Flat, had seen far too much of that kind of
thing to be taken in. He would simply tell them to 'go to the devil'
and read the regulations. He and they alike were bound by what they
saw there. They were clever enough to read them, underline them, and
worry the life and soul out of him, William Deveroux Blake, by taking
technical objections, God knows. Then let them obey the law whatever
it was, and not come bothering him with ridiculous applications. It
was as fair for one as another. As to wives and families, and such
like rubbish (in the way of argument he meant), it was waste of time
to introduce such matter into the question. Lose their shaft? Of
course they must lose their shaft. And any block claim that the new
base line, as newly surveyed, took in, must stop work till the
frontage line was proved. How were men to expend capital, and develop
the deep lead properly--answer him that--unless they were defended in
the possession of their duly registered frontage claim, he asked? They
must be protected in following the registered claims on the lead
wherever they were found to go. Much grumbling was occasionally heard,
and threats were now and then used. But a commissioner of goldfields
should know how to put down his foot, and when once planted in
accordance with his reading of the law, should never raise it.
Firmness invariably, in the long run, succeeds, with large bodies of
men.

As I said before, we had the base line altered over and over again at
Nova Scotia Gully, until the south claim levels were nearly turned
into the north and vice versa. The old shareholders in the prospecting
claim were quite contented. They, of course, did not budge. Their
claim was central, measured off by the mining surveyor. It was daily
turning out loads of wash-dirt from half an ounce to an ounce to the
ton. It seemed inexhaustible too. The stratum of wash-dirt was the
thickest ever known in an Australian goldfield. It was in some places
of the unparalleled--well--nigh incredible--depth of forty feet. Think
of that, said all the experienced miners; years and years of work.
When would it come to an end? But, jammed between the fossiliferous
gray limestone walls of a tremendous 'crevasse,' it seemed to be only
what the diggers called a pothole. It apparently came from no other
'run of gold,' led to none, certainly. Hence was the disappointment
deep and bitter in proportion amid all the unsuccessful comrades of
the hero of this wonderful discovery, Gus Maynard.

Again we were disappointed. Not for the first, not for the tenth--the
twentieth time! We had simply, failing to find gold in our claim,
known as No. 7 North Nova Scotia, lost our time, our labour, and every
shilling which we had been compelled to disburse for what are called
in mining phrase 'expenses,' that is rope, tools, iron work, wax
candles (for working below), and any other matters without which
'sinking' cannot be carried on. We had gone more deeply still into
debt to our good friend and backer, Mrs. Mangrove; and really, I felt
quite ashamed to face that truly generous and estimable woman.

'So you're "duffered out" again, Harry!' she said, in her usual
cheery accent; 'well, you are an unlucky beggar, I must say. I don't
think that young lady of yours will have any great catch of you. And
the Major, he's just as bad. He generally buys a few yellow books
after he's had a regular march down like this, and lies on his back
and reads for a week. Your mate, Joe Bulder, he always seems to me to
take it to heart too much; he sits, and smokes, and grizzles about it,
no end. And that Hawkesbury chap, he never takes on at all; he's too
careless to fret about anything: he leaves all that to the poor little
wife--. just like you men, that is. But you are an unlucky crowd, and
there's no use saying you ain't.'

'I'm afraid we are, Mrs. Mangrove,' I said sadly, for my heart was
low enough, I confess. 'If I hadn't sworn an oath to keep on till the
end of the year, I'd throw the whole thing up. As it is, I don't know
what we shall do, for I can't think of asking you for more credit.'

'You needn't ask for it, Harry, my boy; you shall have it without
asking, to the end of the year, as you've sworn such a big oath about
it. My word! I haven't followed the diggings all these years, me and
John, without having to put the pot on now and then. We'll chance it
till your time's up, just for the luck of the thing. Perhaps you'll
make a rise, and pull us through, and something over.'

'And suppose we don't?'

'Then we can "blue the lot," and your tucker account can go with many
another good pound as we've seen the last of. But mind you, it ain't
all losings, not by a long way. Didn't Joe Hall put us into that Mary
Jane reef, as we're drawing good divs. out of to this day. And German
Harry gave us a half share in the Fatherland. It was down a bit to be
sure, but we got eight hundred pound for that, and four good washings
up, too. So you go and fossick out another good show, and I'll stand
to you, whether the old man likes it or not. Take a nip, won't you;
it'll keep your pecker up. No? Then have a glass of beer--it's only
she-oak, but there's nothing wrong about it, or we should have had a
funeral or two by now, this hot weather.'

I accepted the table-ale of the colony, said 'God bless you, old
woman,' to my kind and generous, if somewhat unrefined, friend in
need, and walked back to Nova Scotia Gully.

There I found the whole party so nearly posed in the different
conditions that Mrs. Mangrove had predicted of them, that I burst out
laughing in the Major's mildly-inquiring face. That calm warrior was
never truly and unaffectedly surprised--if outward appearances were to
be considered--at anything.

He looked up from a cheaply-published 'yellow-back' novel of the
period, which he had apparently borrowed since I left in the morning,
and which, lying flat upon its back, he had been engaged in
assimilating.

'Been drowning atra cura in the flowing B. and S. Harry?' he said.
'It's a terrible temptation when fellows have just "duffered out," I
admit. A debauch of light reading I find, however, has less
reactionary vengeance about it. I don't seem to mind drinking so much,
but I can't stand the repentance. That's what keeps me so virtuous.'

'I am not "on," most noble centurion,' I made answer; 'but I have
just had a great yarn with Mrs. Mangrove--God bless the dear old
woman--and she described so exactly the way you all took bad luck,
that, when I found you with your yellow-back, whatever it is--'

'The Count of Monte Christo, my dear boy. Of course, I've read it
before; but it's a fine, long, solid romance, and I thought this the
most appropriate time for a big read, so I went and borrowed it from
Burton--but go on.'

'Well, there's poor Joe, smoking and looking like a man who, having
made up his mind to hang himself, is now devoting all his mental
powers to fixing upon a suitable tree. She says, truly, that he feels
it too much, and that Cyrus, who has gone fast asleep, leaving his
wife at the water-tub, and all the plates and dishes to finish before
she goes to bed, doesn't feel it half enough.

'"To each his sufferings: all are men

Condemned alike to groan.

The tender for another's woes (that's me).

The unfeeling for his own (that's you),'

quoted the Major with emphasis. 'I am at present so deeply penetrated
with the scoundrelly ungrateful way in which his monde has treated the
deserving Edmund Dante, that I have no tears to spare for our own
apparently real misfortunes; but I do no mind quitting the "Chteau
d'If" for a few minutes to inquire whether or no we are to starve, or
whether we have eaten our last, or rather Mrs. Mangrove's last, beef
and bread.'

'That admirable woman has pressed upon us a whole elysium of "tick,"
'I say, 'that is until Christmas, when she will probably withdraw,
leaving us to perish financially if we continue to be the prey of the
gods.'

'But not until then?' the Major inquired, with a certain air of
indifference, returning to his romance.

'No,' I said; 'our existence literally, and as a mining party, is
secured until then. If we don't make a rise before that time, we shall
have to become wages men, bush-rangers, or knock-about-men on a
station--farm--labourers.'

'I was one once,' murmured the Major, with his eyes fixed on his
book.

'What, a bush-ranger?' inquired I eagerly.

'No; not so good as that. But Mayne and I--remittances being
disgracefully long in coming--contracted to dig a lot of potatoes for
an old buffer near Tenterfield. We dug away with great industry; it
seemed an easy sort of game, but I couldn't help cutting most of the
potatoes in half. These I had to bury to avoid detection, which led to
old Baggs (that was our master's name), referring blasphemously to the
smallness of the crop. I looked virtuously grieved.'

'Heroic virtue,' I said; 'and how long did it last?'

'More than a month, I assure you. One day our letters came--Mayne's
to the care of John Baggs, Esq., Bubbrah, and two addressed Major
Blank, you know, late 77th Regiment. How old Baggs stared when I took
mine from him. "These for you?" he said, gasping audibly. "Without a
doubt they are, hand them here, Baggs--there are not two ex-majors of
the 77th knocking about this beastly hot village of yours. Perhaps
you'll send for the spades, and let a boy bring our swags down to the
village. We're going there now. There's hardly time to order dinner.
Better drop in and join us? one o'clock sharp." "No, thank ye, er, er,
Major. Well, I'm blowed," said he, and walked off.'

Let me strive to produce, as we are out of employment, a picture of
that strange settlement, a mining community in its first inception,
while the colours are fresh upon memory's pallet. What should I have
thought of it, familiar as all things are now, had I been suddenly
deposited before the door of our tent, in the old happy, sleepy days,
at Dibblestowe Leys.

For as eye can see, the area of settlement--several miles square--is
denuded of timber, the felled or burned trees represented by unsightly
stumps in all directions. Within this clearing every kind of building
and tenement is carelessly strewed. Tents, log-huts, with the walls
built American fashion of horizontal tree trunks; slab-huts of split
heavy boards, Australian fashion, placed vertically, and for the most
part not impervious to heat or cold; bark-huts, of which both sides,
and sometimes doors, are composed of sheets of the flattened
eucalyptus bark--this material composing the roof both of this and the
previously described architectural edifices. The more ambitious
buildings are of weather-board, sawn pine or hardwood boards, roofed
with large sheets of galvanised iron. These are chiefly confined to
the streets of the township proper. This is held to be the maximum of
architectural solidity, elegance, and durability, from a digging point
of view, beyond which no reasonable man could frame an aspiration.

To the untravelled European mind such a picture of household
habitudes would doubtless present the idea of ugliness, squalor, and
privation difficult to realise or exaggerate. As with most superficial
conclusions, the idea would be erroneous. Among other factors of a
beneficent nature the climate stands prominently forward. The interior
of Australia, for the most part, enjoys seasons, mild, rainless,
devoid of storms and tempests, rendering unnecessary the durable
abodes of more northern regions. There is no want of space, land is
cheap and accessible. The Miner's Right--that talismanic document--in
addition to conferring the potentiality of untold gold, had other
powers and magic qualities. It provides the holder with a perfect
title to an allotment of the earth's surface, varying from a quarter
of an acre within town boundaries, to four times the quantity in a
suburban location, always supposing that 'payable gold' is not
demonstrated to exist on or below the surface. In such case any
fellow-miner may claim to dig thereon, previously compensating the
householder, as may be fixed by arbitration, the Commissioner, as
usual, being the final arbiter for the affront to his Lares and
Penates.

It follows hence that the thrifty miner who possesses the treasure,
not less common on Australian goldfields than in other places, of a
clearly managing wife, is enabled to surround himself with ordinary
rural privileges. A plot of garden ground, well fenced, grows not only
vegetables but flowers, which a generation since were only to be found
in conservatories. He has a goodly array of laying hens, occasionally
evan a well-fed pig. On a rainy day, when the claim is off work, the
domestic miner is often seen surrounded by his children, hoeing up his
potatoes or cauliflowers, or training the climbing rose which
beautifies his rude but by no means despicable dwelling.

Entering such a hut, as it is uniformly, but in no sense of contempt,
termed--a hut being simply lower in the scale than a cottage--you will
there find nothing to shock the eye or displease the taste. As in a
midshipman's cabin, economy of space may be the rule but untidiness is
the exception. Not only is the earthen floor scrupulously swept and
perhaps damped with sprinkled water every day, but the space to a
considerable distance in the rear of the premises. All scraps and
refuse are raked into heaps, and on Saturday, which is invariably a
half-holiday and cleaning-up day, carefully burned. The meal to which
the married miner sits down at mid-day is 'generally composed of
excellent beef or mutton, roast or boiled, bread of the best wheaten
flour, vegetables and tea,  discrtion, always supposing the claim to
be 'in full work.' At less prosperous seasons, no doubt, there is
occasional need for distinct but seldom for distressing retrenchment.
Before that stage sets in the married miner generally betakes himself
to hired work of some sort, for the neighbouring squatters or farmers,
until he 'gets a show again' in a mineral point of view.

When the field becomes so worked out that there is no longer hope of
employment at his favourite occupation, the domestic miner generally
sells his improvements and the good-will of his little holding to a
more sanguine or more stationary comrade, and packing wife and
children, furniture, pots and pans, shovels and picks, cocks and hens,
upon his dray, catches the old horse, and migrates to the next
promising 'rush,' whether fifty or five hundred miles distant. Arrived
there, he selects an unoccupied allotment, and proceeds to levy on the
adjacent forest for a fresh dwelling, which in a few days presents in
all essential respects a striking resemblance to the home he had just
quitted. This done, he attacks the green or gravelly garment which
garbs the bosom of the Mighty Mother, with his old patient industry
and a courage undaunted by a hundred defeats.

Among this class of miners, constituting a very large proportion of
the mining population on every goldfield, it will be seen that the
chance of lawless behaviour being supported is slight. Malcontents and
criminals doubtless there were in due proportion to the exceptional
circumstances which brought together the community, but the police
being aided by the whole body of respectable miners, and still more
strengthened by the propriety of public feeling, there was little
probability of crime rioting and reigning unchecked, as (unless their
own chroniclers are marvellously and unnecessarily mendacious) was the
case on the American gold and silver fields.

Had such characters as Slade, and others, but presumed to have shown
themselves in Yatala for a single day, they would have been hunted
down and extirpated, I venture to say, with as little delay and
compunction as the tiger which once escaped from a travelling showman
in the neighbourhood of Dibblestowe Leys. Not a trace of sympathy
would have been shown with their acts and braggart blood-deeds. I can
fancy the speechless astonishment mingled with wrath unspeakable, with
which Sergeant M'Mahon would have received the astounding statement
that the portly host of the Freemason's Arms had been shot dead by Ned
White or Bill Jinks, across his own bar. Hardly more surprise and
incredibility would have been evoked had the news appeared in the
Yatala Watchman that the Church of England clergyman, a Cambridge
graduate, and a most highly respected personage, had been scalped by
Bungarree, the black fellow, an aboriginal chieftain, who (when in
liquor) was wont to assert his prior right to the whole goldfield, and
his fixed determination to petition Queen Wikitoria for a share of the
weekly gold escort.

The carrying of arms, that apparently natural and necessary habit in
the United States of America, was here a monopoly enjoyed by the
police. Even threatening to shoot was an offence punishable by law. A
worthy Downeaster was, for that offence only, promptly apprehended and
haled into 'The Logs, as the strongly timbered lock-up was usually
termed, for merely using the threat of shooting. He was called upon to
find sureties to keep the peace in the sum of one hundred pounds, and,
to his dismay and mortification, retained a night in duress for the
first time in his life, he averred, such sureties not being
forthcoming. The Commissioner, with his usual good-nature, sent word
to one of his countrymen, who appeared and tendered bail to the
amount, so that the free and enlightened citizen was liberated.

The town of Yatala, where the houses, huts, and cottages were so
close to one another that every foot of frontage had its value, was
composed of two principal and seven or eight cross streets and lesser
thoroughfares. The larger shops, especially when lighted up at night,
were gorgeous with plate glass, and brilliant in display of all the
wares requisite for a mining community. There were haberdashers,
grocers, fruiterers, tailors, shoemakers, butchers, bakers,
booksellers, not noticeably different in the appearance of the
warehouses and wares from their city prototypes. Paint and calico,
varnish and gilding, with the glare of well-fed oil lamps, made the
outer presentment dazzling to behold. The tourist, walking down the
main street at night, in the midst of a surging, stalwart, but most
well--behaved crowd, must needs be struck with astonishment at the
close resemblance of the mushroom town to the real, legitimate,
accredited cities of an older world.

The back premises of these imposing structures would seldom bear
close scrutiny, shading off as they did to bark and tin, and sometimes
calico continuations. But commodious and weather-proof, they answered
fairly well the purposes for which they were intended. The most
prosperous establishments were naturally the licensed hotels and
public houses. Of these there were a hundred and seventy in all. A
very large number, doubtless, but any attempt to limit the licensing
produced such a crop of 'shanties' or sly-grogshops, that the
magistrates granted licenses to nearly every one who chose to apply
The license fee, 30, was rather high. But, presumably, a demand for
such entertainment existed, or persons would not be found willing to
lay out their money on the speculation. Upon these establishments,
which are generally suspected in rude communities of being seed-beds
of disorder, a strong hand was kept. They were only permitted to have
music with dancing at their saloons once a week. This permission was
applied for in writing to the Bench, and liable to be promptly
withdrawn at any time upon complaint by the police.

Gambling, in an open manner, was sternly repressed. Hotel keepers
were fined severely if convicted, and every particeps criminis was
similarly dealt with. Mr. Jack Hamlin, in spite of his engaging social
qualities and latent nobility of nature, would have had a bad time of
it at Yatala. Strictly under the surveillance of the police, Mr.
Merlin's cold gray eye would have been invariably upon him; and it
would have been unsafe to have offered long odds that the sergeant did
not eventually run him in for contravening some of the statutes which
he knew and loved so well.

Although many of the miners could not have been described as
religious persons, yet was Yatala, on the whole, a very church-going
community. The Protestant denominations were well represented. The
Church of England, the Presbyterians, the Wesleyans, and the
Congregationalists had all built, without a sixpence of Government
aid, very neat and commodious edifices in which service was held, by
ordained ministers, twice on each Sunday regularly. Sunday school,
visiting societies, and other allied associations were as plentiful
and well kept up as in any settled parish. The Roman Catholics had
perhaps the most imposing building, except the Wesleyans; but then
Cousin Jack Tressider, an opulent Cornish miner, had given eight
hundred pounds to the latter, which had enabled them to have stained-
glass windows with varnished seats, and divers other decorative
distinctions.

I was never done wondering at what struck me first as the chief
characteristic of this great army of adventurers suddenly gathered
together from all lands and seas--viz. its outward propriety and
submission to the law. Closely applicable was the description of the
mixed host at the leaguer of Valencia--

'There were men from wilds where the death wind sweeps.

There were spears from hills where the lion sleeps.

There were bows from sands where the ostrich runs--

For the shrill horn of Afric had called her sons

'To the battle of the West.'

And, indeed, swarthy, grizzled Californians, red sashed and high
booted, with great felt sombreros that took all kinds of fantastic
shapes--jostled stalwart 'Geordies' and Cousin Jacks, whose fresh
faces told that they had never before left the shores of old England.
Frenchmen and Spaniards, Germans and Italians, Hungarians and Poles,
Greeks and--Trojans? Well, I may not swear that any unit of that
richly variegated crowd had quitted the windy plains of Ilium, or the
banks of Simois for Yatala Creek--but if that once famous nationality
was unrepresented at the great Yatala rush, it stood alone in
disfranchisement.

The compatriots of Achilles and Ajax, though not of Hector and Paris,
were sufficiently numerous, proving, as one marked their stately
forms, their flashing eyes and chiselled features, that the modern
inhabitants of Hellas have not relinquished the birthright of godlike
strength and beauty, which witched the world, when 'the fearless old
fashion held sway.'

Yet, though the narrow streets actually trembled under the feet of
the surging crowd of grand-looking athletes that thronged the well-
lighted thoroughfares, and filled the shops and tavern bars after
working hours, there was no lawless act, no wearing of deadly weapons,
no foul language, no open drunkenness or offensive parade of
immorality; far more decorous of demeanour and easy to thread than the
ordinary crowd of a manufacturing town or a metropolis. What was the
reason of this strange reserve, this almost unnatural decorum?

It was apparently a triumph of moral control! It was not wholly the
spontaneous propriety of a highly intelligent, travelled, experienced
community. Human nature, in the mass, though often unduly maligned,
scarcely attains such results unaided or unrestrained.

A patent fact was, that the vast crowd was under the sway of a very
smart officer of police, who, with two sergeants, a couple of
detectives, and about a score of constables of the rank and file,
about one man to each thousand, kept the whole of the great band of
adventurers in perfect and admirable order.

Such, in other colonies, had not (vide Mick Hord, barkeeper, ex-
miner, storekeeper, pugilist, etc.) always been the successful result
under such circumstances. 'Perleece, Mr. Merlin,' he said one day to
that officer, 'talk about perleece, and call this a "rush." I've known
a rush of forty thousand men, and seen 'em kickin' the perleece from
one end of the town to the other.'

'I was not at the Red Hills, my dear boy, nor Sergeant M'Mahon
either,' said Mr. Merlin, smiling with that way of his that somehow
did not tend to reassure people. 'I should not advise any one to
commence that kind of thing here.'

Whatever the reason, no one did apparently care to take the
initiative in any kind of disturbance, though such was often
threatened.

The inspector, Mr. Merlin, was always extremely keen at knowing
everybody and everything which it concerned him to know very
thoroughly. Patient and calculating, too, always averse to use force
when diplomacy would suffice. Yet utterly impartial and pitiless in
the execution of his duty when need was. He was, therefore, respected
by the miners generally, as a man of capacity, liked for his bonhomie,
superficial as they knew it to be, and secretly feared by all those
who recalled 'sins unwhipt of justice,' which were the precise traits
of character needed by a man in his position.

Sergeant M'Mahon, the second in command of this somewhat minute
battalion--have I described that good old warrior before?--was a man
to whom not less than to Mr. Merlin the peace of the goldfield
population was mainly owing. He was truly an astonishing combination
of natural sagacity and acquired wisdom, as recognised in the force.
Emigrating from county Mayo in his youth, he had passed his earlier
manhood and middle age in the ranks of the New South Wales police. To
say that he was shrewd, active, rarely at fault, was to give but
little estimate of the unerring half--instinctive accuracy with which
he pounced upon a criminal, if wanted, like a lurcher upon a leveret.
An immensely powerful man, with a fair share of activity, he was
invincible at close quarters, armed as he was with the terrors and
majesty of the law, which he had, so to speak, incorporated with his
own personal presence, until no man could separate them. His air of
authority and grave official dignity soared far beyond all vain
attempt at description. Kings might be regal of aspect and Emperors
unapproachably grand, but the sergeant's majesty of demeanour was,
perhaps, not exceeded by any crowned head in the universe.

A steady reader, he had mastered the intricacies and forms of
ordinary police-court law to such an extent that few of the
stipendiary magistrates, and none of the unpaid justices, could
successfully contravens his legal dieta; while, in the matter of
foresight and discretion, he possessed a fund which would have set up
an ordinary Lieutenant-Governor, or a couple of chairmen of Quarter
Sessions.

The old Adam--not to mention the eager tameless spirit of the Western
Celt--occasionally displayed itself, lighting up the dark gray eye,
and changing the quiet, unimpassioned tones. But rarely was such a
manifestation descried by the laity. Respectful to his superiors, firm
yet reasonable with his subordinates, carefully civil or humorously
polite to the general population, sudden and startling in any coup
d'tat the hour for which had arrived, the sergeant was a man whose
successful aim in life was to prevent minor revolutions, and who only
needed a national one to have become a General of Division.

Like many of the generals of the empire, a slight solecism here and
there might be observable in his speech. But the courage, coolness,
and organisation were there, and a natural consciousness of power
about the man effectually prevented any appearance of incongruity,
bordering on ridicule.

Mounted troopers and foot constables composed the contingent. Their
duty was to arrest, or cause to be summoned to the police court, all
such as betrayed themselves ignorant of the statute law of Great
Britain, as adopted in the colonies, by committing breaches thereof.

It might seem futile to punish such offences as ordinary drunkenness
or evil speech in the streets of a mining township by fine or
imprisonment. Nevertheless the thing was done, and done effectually.
Every offence against the law was taken cognisance of instantly, dealt
with promptly, and punished sharply. All knew what they had to expect.
The administration of justice was entirely impartial, and the law was
backed up by the whole force of genuine diggers. They knew full well--
being, perhaps, the most intelligent, experienced, and, so to speak,
cultured class of ouvriers in the world--that the strong arm of the
law would only be weakened to the detriment of the whole society.

As for petty mining thefts, the stealing of small articles of value,
of wash-dirt or auriferous drift--these offences were so manifestly
contemptible as well as immoral, that the whole field, as one man,
worked for the detection and apprehension of the offender, who had no
more chance than a lurcher among a pack of hounds. There was no
lynching, however,--the invariable result of a weak executive. Once
handed over to the 'secular arm,' all were assured that justice would
be done. Six months' imprisonment, even in the case of the smallest
value stolen, might be taken to be a sufficient deterrent penalty.

It was true enough that the whole population did not consist of
industrious, straightforward miners. Every army has its fringe of camp
followers, wretches who murder the dying and strip the dead. The great
mining army of Yatala was not exempt from this ghoul-like
accompaniment. Harpies of every length of beak and talon full surely
congregate wherever gold is plentiful on this earth. There it was
unearthed daily, to the value of thousands, of tens of thousands of
pounds. Gamblers and thieves, men and women of the worst reputation,
flock to a new rush. Among these there were men known to have
committed one murder--suspected of more. But their persons were known,
and their every act and word carefully watched. There was little
chance of indiscriminate pillage or death-dealing at Yatala.



Chapter VII



SOME difficulty was encountered in quelling the gambling mania among
the Chinese. Watchful and cunning, though they were in the habit of
congregating to play 'fan-tan' for largish sums, the police never
could catch them. One fortunate evening the sergeant surrounded the
house of Mr. Lin Yun, and captured thirty-five Mongolians in all,
bringing with him, in triumph, their strange instruments, their copper
and brass counters, and all kinds of collateral evidences. A handy
interpreter was found, and the upshot was that Lin Yun was fined ten
pounds, and the rest five pounds each, with a threat of imprisonment
for the next offence. This broke up the confederacy.

When the Chinese are in excess of, or nearly approach in number the
white population, they are difficult to manage. It was not so as yet
in Yatala, though a time came. As traders or labourers, house servants
or gardeners, they were more industrious than and as trustworthy as
the whites; while their breaches of the law were by no means numerous,
considering their proportion to the population. After a quarrel in a
gambling house, one Chinaman drew a knife and stabbed another, with
whom he had an altercation. The others at once secured him, while a
messenger ran to report to the sergeant, by whom the culprit was at
once carried into captivity. He was subsequently committed for trial
in due course, the court-house being crowded with his countrymen, and
at the assizes found guilty and sentenced to death. His sentence was,
however, commuted to imprisonment for life.

Looking back upon that exceptional, perhaps abnormal settlement, of
which, however, I was for some years so completely a part that I
doubted at times if my old life at Dibblestowe Leys, with my visits to
Allerton Court, and my morning tramplings over the brown fallows, had
not been a dream, and this my true and real existence, I see many
things to be admired as well as some which were to be deplored and
condemned.

Let me here testify of my own knowledge and experience to a much more
than ordinary amount of Christianity. By this I mean that adoption of
the spirit of our religion, which finds vent in sympathy, charity, and
abstinence from evil speaking and evil judging.

The main body of miners are, by circumstances, led to assume much of
the demcanour and mode of thought which prevails in club life. They
have graduated in the University of Travel, and are in a general way
too experienced as gentlemen adventurers, and men of the world, to go
blurting out their sentiments, like simple villagers, upon every tiny
question of manners and morals that arises. Prompt and decided in
action when need arises, they fully appreciate these qualities in
their rulers. But they exercise a large measure of toleration, and
have learned very thoroughly the high expediency of each man minding
his own business. Only watch their bearing in the case of the family
of a dead comrade, of hospital funds, of sudden misfortune or
bereavement, of undeserved obloquy. I have never seen any body of men,
in any land, so ready of hand in relief, so prompt and generous in
aid, so delicate and effusive in sympathy.

A modern community is incomplete without its newspaper. At Yatala
there were two, diametrically opposed, of course, in law, religion,
and politics. One journal was strictly conservative, upholding the
Government, with the administration of justice, and all things and
persons pertaining thereto. The other, the Watchman, was democratic,
not to say destructive, scoffing at the constituted authorities,
sneering at the police, badgering the magistrates, impeaching the
Commissioner himself, and continually calling on the great body of
miners 'to assemble in the night and sweep away all tyrants and
goldfields officials, together with the absurd contradictory
regulations which hampered their honest efforts and tramelled their
virtuous industry.' The editor of this exciting, not to say
inflammatory journal, was named Fitzgerald Keene.

Clever, fairly educated, and morally unprejudiced, he, like another
historical scribe, was quite capable of raising a wale upon that
epidermis which it suited him to thong, whenever such to him seemed
necessary for the purpose of the hour. Ingenious in discovering the
weak point of an adversary, he would concentrate and exaggerate until
the uninitiated were almost fain to believe that there must be some
ground for this furious invective, this wholesale denunciation.

When once he had singled out an official for attack, no part of the
whole moral surface seemed to escape him. Caution was cowardice and
irresolution, pitiful indecision, conscious incompetence; firmness was
obstinacy; decision was tyranny; coolness was contempt of the toiling
masses; silence was dumb idiocy; speech in explanation was drivelling
insanity or ludicrous display of ignorance. There was no pleasing him.

'The only cure (of course) for all this miserable official muddling
and disgraceful apathy on the part of an effete and corrupt government
that stood tamely by while a great interest was being plundered and
blundered through daily, was that the hardy and intelligent miners of
Yatala should "roll up," and take the law, the government, the land,
and the gold into their own hands.'

After reading one of these anti-monarchical productions, Mr. Merlin,
with his customary coolness, intimated to the editor that it was very
well written--so much so that he himself would not be surprised if
some fine day it, or a similar proclamation, did actually arouse the
mining population to some mad revolutionary act; in which case he
would take upon himself to arrest the author of the whole mischief--
the writer himself--and that he would so far honour him as to make the
arrest with his, Merlin's, own hands.

Mr. Keene turned rather pale at this piece of voluntary information,
which he did not work up into a 'paragraph.' For some weeks afterwards
there was decidedly less red pepper in the leading articles of the
Watchman.

It was not to be supposed that the rough and ready partition of
twenty or thirty tons of gold, to the value of something under two
millions of pounds sterling, was to be effected without a little
litigation. Law, of course, there was in abundance, and a very good
thing, too, though it bore hard upon our particular party. The vulgar
error arises that disputes are more easily settled without law or
lawyers. Such is by no means the case. Unlearned people, when the
casus belli is presumably important, are tedious and difficult to deal
with. Unaware of the nature of evidence, they waste the time of the
court far more than any professional men, however prone to take
objections.

In order to lay down the law there must of necessity be lawyers. At
Yatala there were four, who not infrequently had their hands full
between police cases, civil processes, and mining suits. When it is
borne in mind that the mining laws, as settled by statute and the
regulations founded thereon, were in some instances intricate and,
perhaps, ambiguous, that a large discretionary power was vested in the
Commissioner, and that a cheap and accessible court of appeal
existed,--a rehearing before two magistrates, who were empowered to
reverse the most elaborate decision of a Commissioner, if they saw
fit,--it may be calculated how many suits came on for hearing before
our administrators, and how crowded the court--house was on nearly
every day in the week.

The legal gentlemen consisted of duly qualified solicitors. Such only
were empowered to plead and conduct cases before the court on behalf
of clients. No miner was debarred from pleading his own cause, but he
was not permitted to cross-examine witnesses, or to address the court
on behalf of another. It was held that such conduct would trench on
the vested rights and privileges of professional gentlemen. And as all
matters were settled at Yatala--notwithstanding it was a goldfield,
and a diggings in far-away Australia--principally and in accordance
with 'the law of England, in that case made and provided,' and not as
ardent reformers chose to suggest, so the status of the profession was
upheld.

The chief personages among the band of advocates, who occasionally
pocketed in a week fees that would have made a junior barrister's
mouth water, were Mr. Markham and Mr. Cramp. They were nearly always
employed on different sides, and either had or simulated a distinct
personal antagonism--whether merely forensic or otherwise it was
difficult to determine; but the fierceness of their tones, the
bitterness of their sarcasms, the desperate tenacity with which they
fought over the last shred of the probability of victory, with the
power and elaboration of their addresses to the court, would have
stamped them as advocates of a high order before any tribunal.

There was, perhaps, no great difference in their legal attainments.
In mining experience they were level. Both had paid in hard cash, in
common with all outside speculators, for whatever trustworthy
knowledge of actual mining they had gained. No wonder that they threw
sufficient energy into their advocacy of mining suits, when it was no
uncommon thing in the flush times of a goldfield for the lawyer on
either side to receive a half or quarter sleeping share in the mining
property at stake. In one instance, a quarter share so given, or
promised, realised within a short space of time no less a sum than two
thousand three hundred pounds sterling.

Mr. Markham was a ruddy-faced, full-whiskered, middle-aged bachelor.
He apparently kicked all care behind him, and thought of nothing but
his business during the day, with a steady game of whist in the
evening, and a few congenial friends with whom to share the flowing
bowl, which regularly at 11 P.M. made its appearance in the shape of
whisky and water. His friends said he was a man of regular habits, and
knew exactly how much was good for him. His enemies said that he drank
hard, if regularly, and was undermining his constitution. They called
him careless, indolent, and fitful in the discharge of his duties. His
friends (and they were many and less lukewarm than such easy-going
well-wishers generally are) averred that no more watchful and rus
diplomatist ever veiled consummate art under a carefully careless
manner. However that might be, Mr. Markham had a pretty high average
of verdicts to score to his legal bat, and in all leading mining or
criminal cases some curiosity was always displayed to know which side
Markham was on.

A family man, of staid and austere morals, Mr. Cramp had his own good
points, and was valued accordingly. He was closely and technically
acquainted with mining and common law to an extent that made him a
dangerous antagonist, when anything was to be gained by a fatal
objection. When a point of law happened to be in his favour he would
seize upon it and shake it, as a learned judge remarked, 'like a dog
shaking a rat.' There was no fear of a Bench or a Commissioner
forgetting his vantage ground, once he descried it. Painstaking and
perspicuous, he was dangerous with a bad case, and irresistible with a
good one. A tendency to irritability, of which his adversaries
occasionally made use, was perhaps his weak point. But he was
conscious of this defect, and under ordinary circumstances refused to
'rise' to any bait, however tempting.

Of the two other professional gentlemen, one was a Frenchman, who had
successfully mastered the difficulties of our English tongue, as well
as the intricacy of our laws. He was indeed a man of unusual talent--
an orator, a logician, a tribune of the people, a republican of very
advanced opinions. But for the genuine British distrust of a
foreigner, Dr. Bellair would have taken a high rank as a political
leader as well as a lawyer and a physician. But the invincible British
prejudice against 'a Eyetalian, a Mossoo, or summat o' that there
sort,' was sufficient to neutralise the fire of his oratory, the
fervour of his philanthropy, and the ardour of his (adopted)
patriotism. The Bench had occasionally great difficulty in controlling
him; his temper was utterly unmanageable, and occasionally landed him
in disrespectful allusions to the quality of the law as at Yatala
administered. The magistrates with much tact and kindness bore with
him, trusting to his sense of propriety, which was delicate, to bring
matters round. But the Commissioner, who was too awful a potentate to
be bearded with impunity, had once sworn that he would incarcerate him
in that provisional dungeon, 'the Logs,' if he did not then and there
apologise and retract certain words, which he accordingly, with a bad
grace, consented to do.

The fourth advocate was an elderly gentleman, who had formerly
enjoyed a large metropolitan experience, and a well-deserved
reputation for exactitude in the recollection of statutory enactments
from Carolus I upwards. He was scarcely so familiar with the
subtleties of mining law and phraseology as his younger brethren, and
though as good as ever in the labyrinth of common law, found a
difficulty in adapting himself to these latter-day developments.
However, so great was the general press of legal exercise that he had
his hands full, and was rarely without more business than he could get
through at his somewhat steady pace.

However, for some few weeks there came one of those lulls and seasons
of depression which occasionally take place on goldfields. None of the
claims, except the Nova Scotia, had been yielding richly for some
time. We had cleared out from that unlucky neighbourhood, and were
down fifty feet on the Liberator Lead, so called after the great Dan
O'Connell, a party of whose countrymen had taken up a prospecting
claim, of which strong hopes were entertained. So much confidence was
felt that the value of shares all along the lead were steadily rising,
and we, in No. 4, began to hope that we might be in for a good thing
at last.

That man must be inconsiderable of mark, extremely cautious or
unnaturally inoffensive, who does not possess enemies. Among these
natural antagonists, who seem born for the chief purpose of working
evil to foredoomed men and women, one individual always stands
prominently forward. Whether fostered by chance, or developed by
circumstances, the enmity is unmistakable. Deadly, unsleeping hate
fills the whole nature of the creature. And they are exceptionally
fortunate for whom the gods act as shield and buckler, so that the
evil eye is dimmed, and the renegade from civilisation foiled.

The dangerous classes of Yatala, very fully represented at times,
held among their evil celebrities a man named Algernon Malgrade. He
had been known by name to me before I left England as a gambler and a
low profligate. By birth one of an old county family, he was shunned
by acquaintances and scouted by relatives. More than one shady
transaction had left him not wholly unscathed. Toleration is long
extended to the merely extravagant and selfish spendthrift, so long as
certain society laws are not infringed. But at length a day came when
a wholly unpardonable escapade caused Algy Mal, as his friends and
humble imitators called him, to be 'cut' beyond all hope of
rehabilitation. The flat of expulsion from the inner circle is often
delayed; but when it once goes forth the sentence is stern and
irrevocable. Malgrade strove against it, with a sneer and a mocking
laugh, for a while. But the odds were too great, and one fine day,
like many another bad bargain, the goldfields of Australia were
enriched by his presence and example.

We met at Yatala soon after his arrival. Flush of money, as not
having wholly exhausted his outfit, he was looked up to by theperhaps,
not fastidious set with which he chose to ally himself. He was by way
of greeting me as an old acquaintance. We had met more than once, but
I repelled his overtures, and showed his companions plainly that I
meant to keep clear of him. From that moment the whole evil nature of
the man seemed to concentrate itself in a settled and passionate
hatred, as violent as it was irrational.

In a score of different ways he soon announced himself as my sworn
foe and antagonist. At all the meetings upon matters of local interest
we invariably were ranged on opposite sides. He was not without
talent; indeed, he possessed a superabundance of natural gifts, which
he might have turned to material advantage had he listed. He had a
persuasive manner of talking when he cared to hide the unclean spirit
which dwelt ever within him. He was accomplished, graceful, and, as
far as animal courage went, utterly fearless. Reckless and
remorseless, he needed but mediaeval power to have furnished a true
type of the Visconti of old, sparing neither man in his anger nor
woman in his lust. In these modern days, and under the democratic
miner rule, such personages are only covertly dangerous.

At the amiable Algy, therefore, we could afford to laugh, and the
Major, more than once, caused the evil sneer to deepen by carelessly
inquiring whether he had heard from home lately, or whether a club to
which they both formerly belonged was still as celebrated for its
Madeira as ever. From this abode of bliss we knew that Malgrade had
been driven forth by a well-high unanimous ballot of the members.

Though I had the worst possible opinion of his heart, and regarded
the man's intellect as merely subservient to his appetites, I could
not for the life of me return his detestation of me in kind, or cease
to take a certain interest in his actions. For one thing, he was
wonderfully good-looking. His recklessly indulged passions had, as
yet, written no evil record upon face or form. The fair hair was still
bright, the blue eyes still steadfast and clear. And a certain
appearance of fallen-angel pride clung to him in the midst of his
degradation. I could not help cherishing a dim hope that some day he
might thrust from him the foul incrustation of vice and crime, and
return to his natural position among men.

The Major never omitted to laugh at my credulous optimisms, and to
sneer at my ignorance of the world, on these occasions.

'You ought to know a thing or two by this time, Harry, but I doubt if
you ever will,' he would say. 'If a man doesn't pick up an accurate
method of gauging the moral attributes of his fellow-men at a
goldfield he will never analyse worth a cent. And here you are, just
as much carried away by this infernal scoundrel's regular features and
soft voice, as that handsome pantheress that he's stolen somewhere.
She'll poison him some day or he'll knock her brains out, I feel
certain. And what the loss to society would be in either case, I
should fear to over-estimate by the faintest expression of regret.'

'You are rather too hard on the other side,' I made answer. 'You have
no sympathy for human weakness. I say it is a piteous thing to see the
decadence of creatures originally noble and formed for higher things.'

'Bah!' retorted my unconvinced friend. 'Do you remember what Athos
and Co. did with Miladi? That she-devil of a Dolores--she's no more
Spanish than I am Greek--will give you a rough turn, as Cyrus would
say, some day, if you let her so much as look at you--"I think I knows
'em!"'

All of a sudden, without any previous warning, a wonderful rumour
arose that the prospectors in the Liberator Lead had struck incredible
gold. Although they had not yet announced it, the excitement
occasioned by this statement was astounding to those who had never
known the tremendous force of the passions which, from time to time,
stir the crowds which make up a goldfield's population. At one moment
you would imagine them to be the most logical, law-abiding body of men
in the world; at another time a brigade of red republicans would be
liberal conservatives compared to them. In this instance no one but an
eye-witness could have credited the turmoil which arose. As the report
was soon passed around in every paper in the colony, strangers began
to arrive within a month of the first announcement, whose worn draught
animals and vehicles told of far and fast journeying. Every unoccupied
person, male or female, young or old, from Yatala and within twenty
miles of it, was apparently massed around the wings of the famed
Liberator Lead. Daily the numbers swelled. The forest was felled. Huts
were erected in all directions. Tents were like the sands of the sea
for multitude, or the advance guard of an army. All was eager
excitement and feverish expectation. The prospectors of the Liberator,
as of every other lead or course of auriferous deposit, were bound by
the regulations then in force to report 'payable gold' as soon as such
had been struck, and to hoist a red flag as denoting the discovery. In
default of such advertisement, for the general benefit, they were
liable, according to custom and practice, to have their claim 'jumped'
or taken forcible possession of by any party of miners who could prove
that they were concealing the golden reality.

The prospectors made no sign. They refused to state precisely what
the indications were. They simply declared that they had not as yet
'bottomed' or sunk down to the alluvial drift, immediately above the
bed rock, and which alone is likely to be auriferous. Some of the
impatient holders of claims on 'the line' frontage, and others, who
were merely 'blockers' or the occupants of ordinary chance claims,
anywhere in the vicinity, were more than impatient--they were
threatening and abusive. They insisted that the shareholders were 'on
gold,' for their own purposes hiding the nature of the deposit,
cheating the public, disobeying the regulations, and injuring their
fellow miners.

The chief man of the party, a grand-looking herculean Milesian,
quietly rejoined that they had not bottomed yet, that they had nothing
to show or report, though the indications were good, that when the
time came they would at once report at the Commissioner's office. In
the meantime they would answer no questions, nor let any one go down
their shaft, except by order of the Commissioner.

That gentleman, who had condescended to appear on the occasion, and
who began to realise that a crisis was approaching, asked Mr. Phelim
O'Shaughnessy how long they expected to be, the sinking being easy,
before they were on the drift?

'About a week.'

'Then, on this day week I will be here,' said Captain Blake,
addressing himself both to the speaker and the mob, 'and on that day,
whether gold be reported or otherwise, I will send down two men to
examine the workings and to report to me.'

'All right, your honour,' replied Phelim. 'There's no two ways about
us. Any one your honour likes to send down is welcome, but we're not
going to let all the rapscallions in the country down our shaft just
because they happen to think we're to slave and murther ourselves
intirely for their convanience--to find gold for the likes o'them--
coch 'em up, indeed; the lazy naygurs.'

At ten o'clock in the morning of Monday, the 17th May, which was the
day week following, the Commissioner sat on his horse beside the
shaft, in much the same careless attitude as before. But the scene was
changed in some important particulars. Gold had been duly reported. A
red flag proudly flaunted from a lofty pole in front of the claim,
while a crowd of five thousand souls, eager, earnest, dangerously
roused at once by the strong passions of greed and anxiety, swayed and
surged around the little group.

On a new and presumably rich lead it was no unusual matter to see a
concourse of this kind. But rarely was there so much feeling shown as
here. Rarely were there so many knitted brows and scowling faces;
rarely so much savage and insubordinate language. How had it all come
about? Mr. Merlin, with a couple of troopers, well armed and mounted,
rode behind the Commissioner. Why was this semi-warlike accompaniment?

The solution was this. A short time previous several fresh
regulations had been drafted, and had become law, which to a certain
extent altered the existing customs, more particularly as regarded
frontage.

That which more particularly affected the present question was
Regulation 22, reciting as follows:--

'When the sinking in new ground shall be found not to reach a depth
of a hundred feet in dry ground, or sixty feet in wet or rocky ground,
of which the bottoming of three or more shafts on the supposed line of
lead shall be a sufficient test, unless the Commissioner shall
specially sanction a further testing, all marking on the line of lead
shall be null and void, and the ground shall be open for taking up
claims in the block form, the frontage holders having a preference to
select their claims in rotation, according to their priority of
occupation on the supposed lead.'

This then was it which so agitated the seething human mass, which by
this time included, as well as the true miner, men of every rank,
trade, and occupation, lured to the banks of the Waraldah Creek by the
wildly exaggerated reports which had gone forth.

So much depended upon the accident of the golden drift being struck
at a foot or two below instead of above the magic number of a hundred
feet.

Should this rich deposit be proved to lie at or beneath the specified
depth, the rich claims, already numbered and registered as far as
fifty, down the lead, would belong only and inalienably to those who
had months before occupied and registered them according to law.

But should the golden seed of discord repose upon a drift shallower
than the regulation number of feet, every man in the crowd might deem
that he had a share in the golden subterraneous channel; possibly
might delve within a fortnight into a recess as rich as that of
Aladdin, or of the one to which Ali Baba procured the entre at so
great personal risk.

But would the Commissioner pronounce the 'open sesame'? For it lay
with him--with him only rested the responsibility, graver than often
befalls one man in a century, of dashing to the ground the hopes of a
body of hardworking legitimate miners, or of unloosing the flood of
half--infuriated physical force, which needed but one word from his
lips to burst the bonds of restraint. The anxious chafing thousands
were only too ready to scatter themselves with pick and shovel, a
swarm of human locusts, upon the golden ground which they seemed to
devour with their eyes.

The word was 'Block.' But would Captain Blake utter it?

There was much to be done yet. Both sides were strongly represented--
legally, officially, socially, as well as numerically.

'And many a banner will be torn.

And many a knight to earth be borne.

And many a sheaf of arrows spent.

Ere Scotland's King shall cross the Trent.'

'In the first place, I shall send down two practical miners to
examine the wash,' quoth he. 'I intend to satisfy myself as to the
fact of payable gold to begin with.'

He looked around--scanning the faces of the miners nearest to him--on
the crowd.

'Here, Tom Denman, and you, Geordie, my boy, get away down and send
up a couple of dishes of wash-dirt. Then we shall all see if it's
worth fighting about, and not have a row about nothing.'

Two stalwart miners stepped forward, and the man called Geordie, a
middle-sized but tremendously muscular specimen from 'cannie
Newcassel,' putting his foot in a loop of the rope, closed his hands
upon it above his head, and was rapidly lowered down. In a few minutes
the rope came up empty, and Tom Denman descended.

In less than a quarter of an hour the hammer indicator rose and fell
upon its tin sheet, whereupon the rawhide bucket used for the purpose
brought to light a collection of sand, quartz fragments, rounded
pebbles, and gritty greenish clay--loam. This was unanimously
pronounced a 'very nice wash,' and being placed in a couple of tin
dishes beneath the strict supervision of the Commissioner, was taken
to a neighbouring pool of water and placed in readiness for the two
miners who had excavated it. These returned gnomes having been brought
to light, at once commenced to 'pan off,' according to the recognised
rule and practice.

Dipping the full dish into the pool, each man held the vessel aslant
while he washed among the gravel and small stones, permitting the
water to flow uninterruptedly over and away from the wash-dirt. The
clay-stained water assumed a bright yellow hue. As the stones became
cleared of the encrusting dirt, the miner carefully examined them for
traces of adhering gold and then threw them on one side. Gradually the
sand and clay disappeared over the rim, in the unvaried steady flow of
water, the dish being held slightly downwards and off the level.

The sandy deposit at the bottom grew finer and finer, as with a
peculiar half circular motion the water and the outer grains were
ejected and the heavier particles retained. At length there remained
but a narrow segment of darkish sand at the bottom of each dish, while
plain for all to see was a streak of deep though dull yellow
particles, chiefly fine in grain, but sprinkled with coarser grains,
some of which were of the size of wheat.

'Here you are, sir,' quoth Tom Denman, exhibiting the residuum
respectfully to the Commissioner. 'There's no mistake about that.
Geordie and I took these from different parts of "the face." I haven't
seen such a prospect for some time. A good half ounce to the dish, and
Geordie's, I can see from here, is better.'

'I declare the Prospecting Claim of the Liberator Lead,' said the
Commissioner, passing the dish to the nearest of the eager crowd, 'to
be in possession of payable gold.'

The first man who looked at it shouted out, 'half an ounce to the
dish,' and threw up his hat. Hundreds, of course, were not near enough
to see, but the tone and the action were sufficient. A cheer rose from
the vast multitude that roused the wallaroos in the sandstone spurs of
the Dividing Range miles away.

'The next thing to determine,' said the Commissioner, 'is the depth
of sinking. A good deal will depend upon that. One of you men give my
compliments to Mr. Underlay, the mining surveyor, and ask him if he
will come here. I wish him to measure this shaft. I know he is not far
off.'

'It's never a hundred feet sinking,' yelled an excited miner, in a
ragged red shirt. 'All the field knows it ain't much over ninety. They
may have bin and sunk through the bottom to make it handy for their
friends in No. 1 and 2, where they've got half shares. But there's no
hundred feet in it, and it ought to be "block" out and out, this
blessed minit.'

Here the multitude caught up the word, and sounded it over and over
again in a vast reverberating chorus. For nearly a quarter of an hour
nothing could be heard but 'block'--'block'--'block.'

'What the devil do you mean by making all that row, you fellows,'
said the Commissioner irascibly. 'Do you think it will make any
difference in my decision if you yelled yourselves hoarse and shouted
till doomsday. Thank you, Mr. Underlay,' he continued, with a rapid
change of manner. 'Will you have the goodness to go down this shaft
and measure the exact depth from the surface to the top of the "wash."
That I shall take leave to consider to be the real depth of sinking.'

Before he had well done speaking, Mr. Underlay, the mining surveyor,
an active, resolute-looking youngster, had his hand upon the rope, and
was on his way towards the lower regions. After a short sojourn he
reappeared, holding a tape line, and after comparing and verifying his
measurements, pronounced the words 'Ninety-eight feet eleven inches.'

Again a wild cheer rent the air, while the excited individuals of the
outer crowd so pushed inwards under the impression that 'block' was to
be declared, and claims given away there and then, that the
Commissioner's horse began to get impatient, and Mr. Merlin and his
troopers were under the necessity of turning round their chargers
several times, which resulted in inconvenience to the toes and other
portions of the frames of the vanguard.

'Understand once and for all,' said Captain Blake, 'that by
Regulation No. 22 I am bound to allow three shafts to be bottomed on
gold, on the course of the lead, before I finally decide upon the
average depth of sinking, and before I declare the lead to be worked
either under block or frontage. I shall, therefore, return this day
week at the same hour. If the requisite number of shafts have been
bottomed on the lead by that period, I will deliver my decision as to
the question of block or frontage.'

Then a hoarse roar arose from the crowd, as of some hungry monster
baulked of its prey. But further remonstrance or interference was not
thought of. The Captain rode carelessly and peacefully homeward,
lighting his cigar, and calling to his dogs, as if no such torments as
gold and gold diggers, prospectors and claim-holders, frontage men and
blockers, existed upon the hardly entreated earth.



Chapter VIII



IT is not to be supposed that our party added in any way to this
state of incipient disorder, though we had taken up No. 4 North under
the old frontage system and were sinking with might and main to get
down and know our fate. We had every reason to think our claim would
be unusually good. The indications in the prospecting shaft disclosed
'a show' of which the oldest miners spoke with bated breath.

But where the coming decision touched us, and the other frontage men,
was in this wise: if we happened to drop right down on the 'gutter,'
or main course of the lead, we were all right; we should be allowed so
many days to mark out our claim of a hundred and sixty feet, forty
feet a man along the lead, and two hundred back, and it would be all
right. That area of ground, all on gold, was a very fair allowance for
four men.

But if we were not exactly on the course of the lead, but a little to
the right or left of it, and if the block system was declared next
week, matters would be very different. We should have to mark out our
claim there and then. It could not afterwards be altered by a single
inch. This would have to be done at haphazard, instead of by cautious
'proving' the ground, as under the frontage system. And if we missed
the lead it might be taken possession of by any random blocker, just
pitchforked here from another colony. We should lose the reward of
months and years of work, the certainty we had a right to expect when
we registered under the frontage system.

In the interim much agitation took place. Councils and caucuses were
held. Letters and petitions despatched profusely to the Minister for
Lands, who in those days held ultimate control over all mining
affairs. The newspapers exhausted themselves in leading articles, each
tending to exalt and glorify a different mining policy.

One gave a strictly conservative support to authority. 'The frontage
system, framed as it was with the advice of experienced officials, was
considered by intelligent miners to afford a highly needful guarantee
for capital invested in mining enterprise. Without capital there would
be little mining worthy of the name, more particularly where, as in
Yatala, the difficulties of piercing the basaltic strata, and of
subduing the flow of subterranean streams, had to be surmounted. Still
it was the opinion of many competent authorities that the frontage
system had had its day. The field had been for some time in a
languishing state. Many hard-working men were out of employment. There
were specific regulations which had to be interpreted with a literal
exactitude independently of personal feeling or private interest. And
no one who knew Commissioner Blake doubted but that he would decide
according to the letter of the law, and carry out that decision with
unbending firmness.' Thus the Beacon.

This was the opportunity which the opposition journal had been
waiting. And cheerfully did Mr. Fitzgerald Keene avail himself of the
happy convention of circumstances.

'Many occasions had arisen during the last decade of shameless
oppression and official incompetency, when the long suffering mining
community, comprising a singularly large proportion of the
intelligence, the energy, and the industrial enterprise of the land,
might have spoken out with effect. True to their law-abiding
instincts, they had hitherto remained loyal to the Crown, and obedient
if not humble before constituted authority. But now the time had come,
the hour had struck, when they must proclaim themselves to be freemen
or for ever endure to be known and treated as slaves. Under the
iniquitous mining statutes, and the still more contemptible mining
regulations, their intelligence had been stultified, their freedom had
been mocked, their opinions derided, and their industry fettered.

'Still there had been a pretence of fair play--there had been a
tendency, erratic as had been the course pursued, in the right
direction. Now, in this thrice accursed muddle which had taken place
at The Liberator, would the herd of down-trampled miners, numerically
the strongest body of labourers in the land, stand by and consent to
their own ruin and spoliation? Was there not a man from old Ballarat
to utter the magic words "roll up?"

'And would a monster meeting separate without compelling present
safety, and exacting material guarantees for the future?'

It was not altogether a sterile soil into which these seeds of
revolution were so recklessly cast. It was a mob. Though vastly
superior, as I have elsewhere stated, in its composition to most other
mobs, it yet possessed their inherent characteristics. By the turn of
a straw its action might have oscillated from good to evil, from
patience and obedience to insubordination and wildest excess.

Among other expedients and demonstrations of the time, each party
favoured large and imposing deputations. One day the frontage men and
their adherents, backers, friends, acquaintances, etc., would march
into town, several hundred strong, with banners flying and a band of
music, to which a drum of sonorous, mysterious power lent effect.
Forming in front of the Commissioner's office, they would request an
audience.

When that gentleman sent word to say that he would consent to see
them as soon as he had completed his immediate business, the crack
speaker of the connection would be detailed for the occasion. When he
appeared that gifted person would fire away at the unmoved
Commissioner for twenty minutes or so without a check.

'He could inform him that the honest and legitimate miners whom he
saw now assembled had come to lay their grievances respectfully before
him, and to ask him if he was minded to have mercy upon them, upon
their helpless wives and children, depending upon their rights as
holders of frontage claims for bread? or, was he going to be carried
away by the senseless clamour of a mob of strangers and adventurers,
who had not a shred of title to the land they sought to plunder. Had
not they, the frontage men, conformed to the laws laid down by the
Government closely and obediently; had they not duly registered their
claims, incurred debts from their storekeepers and business men on the
field on the strength of the security of tenure guaranteed by the
frontage system? And now, after waiting for days, and weeks, and
months, were they to be told that, because a new and unjust regulation
had been made, because the first few shafts on the lead had not proved
to be the full hundred feet in depth, were they to be turned out of
their property--for it was as much theirs while they paid for their
Miner's Right as the lands of Mr. Howard or Mr. Stanley, neighbouring
country gentlemen? Were they to be turned out of their claims just
when they were seen to be worth holding? No! They were honest men and
loyal subjects, but there was a point beyond which men could not be
urged. If justice were not given them in this matter bloodshed would
be the end of it. They said it sorrowfully but firmly, and upon the
heads of the Government the crime would rest.'

The speaker, who was a bachelor, and had last week had a quarter
share in a frontage claim given to him as a retaining fee, almost wept
at this point, and, with a look of sorrowful but manly appeal, closed
his address amid cheers and applause.

The Commissioner always heard out such addresses, knowing from long
experience that when a grievance has been rankling in the breasts of
men, ordinarily silent about their dissatisfactions, nothing is more
unsafe than to deny a hearing when they demand one.

'You may do as you please about granting their petitions,' he was
wont to say. 'You may do what they don't like, or do nothing at all.
But if you wish to rule large bodies of men peaceably, always hear
what they have got to say. It is an inestimable safety valve.'

So Captain Blake listened to the eloquent miners' advocate, and gazed
at him and the assembled crowd with an approving and benevolent
expression. At the end of the oration he told them that 'he was sorry
for them personally, if by any act of his, in carrying out the
regulations, they should lose their claims on the Liberator Lead, some
of which to his knowledge had been held in despite of difficulty and
privation, for many months. But, above all, it would depend upon what
proof was furnished to him of the depth of the sinking, and upon other
particulars which would bring their claims under the provisions of the
mining regulations. He would examine most carefully the evidence and
those sections which bore upon the case in point. After that he would
give his decision. He would frame that decision most elaborately, so
that it should be in accordance with the law. And when it was given he
should see that it was carried out. That was all he had to say to
them.'

Whereupon they always thanked him for his courtesy and departed. The
Commissioner went back into his office. The band struck up afresh, and
the excited crowd dispersed, to walk six or seven miles back again.

A report would soon arise, that they had stated their case to the
Commissioner with such power and pathos--the orator of the deputation
would, perhaps, be responsible for this--that he had promised to
decide in favour of the frontage men. The blockers being thereby
infuriated would resolve to come in and state their wrongs. Being, as
the proletariat, much more numerous than the frontage holders, who
represented capital, they would 'roll up' so successfully that a crowd
more than a thousand strong would, on the appointed day, be seen
marching in a tremendous long line, four abreast, down the main street
of the town, halting finally at the Commissioner's office. That much
tried official would certainly begin a sentence with blank, and end it
with the same, placing divers other blanks in the middle, all having
reference to the eyes and future prospects of the majority of the
members of the band and the personages of the deputation.

After thus blowing off the steam, he would meet them at the door, and
listen tranquilly to what they had to say. Then the advanced democrat
who was their philosopher and spokesman would thus open the trenches--

'As miners, and as men, they had come there to-day, not with any
intention of threatening or intimidation,'--the Captain looked quietly
at the speaker as he said this, who passed on to the next sentence--
'but to protest mildly yet firmly, as became legitimate miners,
against any monopoly of the field, whether it was by men claiming to
be frontage-holders, or any others, he cared not who they might be, or
what they were called.

'If they were not all experienced miners who were here assembled this
day, they all were the holders of Miners' Rights--many of them had
families many had helpless relatives depending upon them. Some had
come from a distance it is true. But what of that? as long as they
were at this moment dwellers in New South Wales, they had as much
right to a fair share of any payable ground that turned up as the
Governor himself. All they wanted was justice and impartiality. Let
every man be allowed to mark out his claim, and get gold or not as his
luck went. The law said, if the ground was under a hundred feet deep
it was no frontage, and must be worked on the block. All they wanted
was the law. The Commissioner was appointed to carry out the law, fair
and equal, between man and man. They knew very well that the Liberator
Lead was no frontage lead--but block, that is, ground to be worked in
ordinary block claims. And block they hoped the Commissioner would
declare it to be. It would be better for the whole field, and not
leave the gold that was intended for the country at large in the hands
of a few.'

'To this the Commissioner would reply that--'he would very closely
examine the ground when three or more shafts had been bottomed on the
lead, and would then give his decision in accordance with the strict
law of the case. They might depend upon that being done when the time
came, that is, when that number had been bottomed. Until that time
came he could not, of course, tell them what his decision would be. He
hoped it would be found to be according to law, and excepting by the
Appeal Court there was not much chance of its being altered.

The speaker then essayed to get another hearing, reminding the
Commissioner that 'they represented four thousand men. They were not
going to boast or make threats; but they were determined to have
justice, peaceably, if possible, but if justice was denied them they
would consider the advisability of using the power which their numbers
gave them.'

At this point the Captain's patience--for the most part an algebraic
or unknown quantity--abruptly gave out. He reminded the speaker that
the miners had never gained anything by physical force in New South
Wales, and as long as he had anything to do with mining, he trusted
they never would. He had said all he had to say. They had fully
explained their case, and could add nothing more, it appeared, but
empty threats, which were utterly contemptible. He was busy now and
begged to retire. Then he went in and closed the door.

In consequence of the reported 'bottoming' of certain shafts,
punctually to the hour on the morning appointed, the Commissioner rode
up to the Liberator Lead. There was hardly standing room for a mile
around. The line of shafts could be traced by the flags which each
exhibited. At the Prospector's, being 'on gold,' streamed a red flag,
emblem of success. Also on three other shafts, Nos. 1, 2, and 3 North,
which had bottomed on the supposed line of lead, thus forming a
sufficient test of the depth of the ground according to the conditions
of regulation number twenty-two.

When the great man appeared, a deep hoarse sound rose indistinctly
from the enormous crowd. Fully five thousand men had gathered hours
since to await his approach. His fiat, to be given that day, was
looked for with an intensity almost painful to a sympathetic
bystander.

Upon Captain Blake alone, apparently, the immense concourse, the
strained attention of the masses, the weight of responsibility, had no
visible effect. He regarded the whole scene and its peculiar features
with haughty immobility.

Riding to the first claim, he said to the men who were 'off work,'
and standing at the mouth of their shaft, shareholders of No. 1.--

'You are on gold?'

'Yes, sir, we've struck it all right.'

'At what depth?' is the next question.

'Well, about a hundred feet,' they answered.

'I shall send down two men first, and then measure your shaft.'

'All right, Captain.'

Two selected miners, as before, were lowered down the shaft,
returning as hitherto, in the case of the Prospectors, with tangible
proof of the highly auriferous nature of the deposit.

'So far, so good; now Mr. Richardson,' here advances the mining
surveyor, 'have the goodness to measure this shaft.'

Mr. Richardson descends; then, after due delay, regains this upper
earth, distinctly enunciating--'Ninety-seven feet five inches.'

At which statement a cheer from the blockers for the first time
wakes the forest echoes, and a thousand caps or hats are thrown
excitedly into the air.

The same formalities are carefully gone through with No. 2 and No.
3. Each is demonstrated to be 'a golden hole.' When measured, No. 2 is
declared to be ninety-three feet and a half; No. 3 ninety-one only.
Each declaration elicits a bursting cheer from the majority of the
crowd.

Then the Commissioner braces himself, sitting squarely on his horse
and confronting the assembled multitude. His address is brief. But
rarely have words more power. This only does he say: 'I declare the
Liberator Lead to be "on the block."'

This simple word would appear to have converted the whole assemblage
into a crowd of raging lunatics. With one mighty cry rather than a
shout the crowd broke up, apparently prepared to take immediate
possession of the Tom Tidler's ground then and there handed over to
them.

'Stop!' roared the Commissioner, in a voice of thunder which
dominated the great mob, and almost immediately reduced those within
hearing to a listening attitude. 'I give the holders of frontage
claims twenty-four hours to mark out their claims in rotation,
according to their priority of occupation--the ground will then be
open for taking up claims in the block form.'

'I belong to No. 6,' said a tall miner; 'we haven't proved it yet.
We hardly know where to take our ground. Won't you give us a day or
two more, Captain? It's rather rough on us frontage holders.'

'Not an hour--not a minute,' replied the Commissioner. 'I have
adhered strictly to the regulations. I didn't make them, and I cant
help the ground not being deeper. That's your affair. I have given my
decision, and by the Lord I mean to stick to it. Good-morning, all of
you.'

A world of opposing forces and passionate feelings was soothing in
the hearts of the men to whom he thus bade adieu. That single word
'block' had sufficed to render possible hundreds of working parties,
which to-day would be procuring timber, rope, tools, and provisions.
At the same hour on the morrow they would be eagerly commencing a
shaft, having previously put in the indispensable four pegs, which,
with the more necessary Miner's Right, secured an unalienable title to
the coveted landed estate.

On the next day, the spot so lately void and bare resembled a human
rabbit warren. Every where trees were felled. Everywhere the miner was
seen, mole like, burying himself in the orthodox narrow shaft, and
throwing up the yellow clay which was the upper stratum. In a week the
principal street of the village of O'Connell was a mass of gaudy-
looking shops, filled with every kind of ware--every third house of
course a public house. Vehicles of all kinds crowded the narrow way,
and with difficulty threaded the crowd of wayfarers of every age,
calling, and nationality. Within a month the four banks were all day
long weighing, buying, sifting gold, while bundles of notes and
handfuls of sovereigns were handed over the counter with apparently
careless confidence.

As soon as the main body of block claims began to bottom, gold
flowed in with almost fabulous profusion. And still the rumour grew
and increased, until people from the uttermost ends of Australia
commenced to leave their ordinary avocations and turn their heads
towards the new Eldorado--the great, unprecedented, fabulously rich
Liberator Lead near Yatala.

Our party had been exceptionally fortunate. We had No. 4 on the
lead. There was neither rock nor water. We had the luck to bottom
'dead on the gutter,' that is, immediately over the defunct river, and
to find the whole of its long buried bed, with the usual admixture of
gravel, sand, and waterworn pebbles, richly studded with gold.
Occasionally, indeed, we took several ounces of gold from a single
dish of wash-dirt. When it is reckoned that two dishes, in miner's
measurement go to a bucket, and sixty buckets to a load--about a ton
of earth--and that half an ounce to the load is thought a rich lead,
it may be imagined what properties the Liberator claims were held to
be.

Our fortunes were made, we all knew. We had about three years' work
before us before we could bring 'to grass' our buried treasure--the
sands of this long dead Pactolus of the South.

We were in the proud position of being able to 'put on wages men,' or
hired miners, at three pounds each per week to assist us. We also
bought a 'whip horse' for forty-five pounds, which staunch and well-
trained animal drew up the precious gravel, and in many ways
economised labour. We calculated that if the yield kept up at the
present rate, we should clear from fifteen to twenty thousand pounds
per man before No. 4 was 'worked out.' This was worth waiting and
toiling for.

'Well, Joe,' said I, one day, 'this is better than striking in old
Grimsby's forge at the Leys, isn't it? We've got our pile at last.'

'I doubt it is,' said he, as he leaned back for a moment, and then
sending his pick into the face at which we were working, dislodged a
quantity of the precious wash-dirt. 'We'd never ha' picked up a "slug"
like this at yon old Dibblestowe--not but what I've wished myself back
there many times.

'Yes, Joe,' said I, taking from him the rough red heavy clay-stained
lump, which looked like an ordinary bit of conglomerate, but which we
knew to be a nugget of almost pure gold, weighing more than fifty
ounces, and worth two hundred pounds. 'This didn't grow in Farmer
Mangold's turnip fields, did it? I've wished myself at the old
village, too, I can tell you. However, this is going to pay us for
all.'

'Happen it is!' he said, 'and not before it's time, too. I was
getting full about digging, and but for you I'd ha' ta'en my passage
home again, worked it before the mast, long and long ago.'

'You'll go home and be a gentleman now, Joe,' said I. 'Anyhow, you
can buy a big farm or two. You might settle down near the Leys and
marry Miss Mangold yet, if she'd have you.'

'No fear, said Joe, using one of the Australian idioms which he had
grafted on to his homely Kentish speech. 'She'd a niver touched me
with a pair of tongs, she was that proud and set up like then. But
do'st know what?' Here he made a pretence of whispering, though, being
but the two of us in the 'drive,' a hundred feet from air, there was
not much chance of being overheard. 'Jack Thursby told me he believed
he seed her at Warraluen.'

'Jane Mangold at Warraluen? But how did he know anything about her?'

'Well, she got talking about Dibblestowe Leys, where she lived in
England, as she should say. Then he up and told her he come from close
about there, and as there was two chaps Harry Pole and Joe Bulder, as
was diggin here,--he didn't know aught about you being a gentleman
born,--and how as they come from the same place. Then she gave a sort
of cry, and says, "Oh, surely it isn't Hereward Pole--don't you tell
him I'm here in this hell, for it's nothing better." And then, he
said, she cried badly, and went on terrible, till Black Ned, as she's
married to, swore at her and threatened to knock her brains out if she
didn't give over. I'd like to a bin there.'

'Good God,' said I, 'and is this the end of pretty, innocent Jane
Mangold. How is it we never heard of it before.'

'Well, this chap, he kept it dark for a bit, but one day he and I was
on a bit of a booze, and it all came out. It's a 'nation pity, ain't
it now. Jack Thursby said he beats her awful, and some day he'll be
the death of her--and it won't be the first he's made away with.'

'I wonder if we can do anything for her,' I said. 'Some day I must
take a ride over to Warraluen and see her, though I hardly know how to
help her. Still she shall have the offer of my assistance--poor--poor
Jane.'

Then I fell to thinking how strangely intermingled our lives had
been. More wonderful than any romance it seemed, if we two, who had
wandered over the peaceful uplands and oak woods of Dibblestowe Leys,
hardly more than boy and girl, should now meet once more again in the
far, strange, gold town of Yatala.



Chapter IX



IT is generally taken for granted in Britain that every person in a
colony must of necessity know, or be known by, everybody else. Mr.
Smith, of Sydney, on furlough, is importuned to carry a letter to Mr.
Jones's cousin in Queensland, while his disclaimer as to personal
knowledge of Miss Thompson's brother in Victoria is evidently looked
upon with suspicion. It seems hopeless to attempt to convey to old-
world people correct ideas of the enormous distances which separate
the settlements of a newly-peopled continent; impossible almost to
explain the nature of those social divisions which still further tend
to prevent the universal brotherhood which is held to characterise the
Arcadian existence of colonists.

They cannot imagine the necessity for such lines of demarcation 'in a
colony,' clearly as they are defined and rigidly enforced in every
third-rate county town and old-fashioned village in Britain.

As a matter of fact, there are few places in the world, London
excepted, where individuals may be more securely hidden from kith or
kin, early friends, and later acquaintances than in Australia. And no
place in Australia furnishes greater facilities for personal
effacement than a large goldfield. A squarely built man in ordinary
miner's garb, known as Jack Scott only by his associates, passes by
carrying a tin dish and a shovel: how are you to divine that this
particular Jack is the son of a clergyman, and the grandson of a
general in the Indian army, who will presently die and leave him a
fortune, when the whole thing comes out? You are summoned as a juror
to attend the coroner's inquest held on a poor fellow found in an
eighty-feet shaft, where he has fallen overnight, having missed his
way in the dark. He was 'Bill Jones' to all men, and lo! his brother
arrives from town to attend the funeral, and it seems poor, easy-
going, unambitious Bill, contented with the society of 'equals'--the
shareholders in the claim--and an occasional carouse, was the cadet of
an ancient house, the members of which are broken-hearted at his early
ignoble death. How many instances of this decadence had I noted? How
often had I dreaded in moments of despondency a like fate; shuddering
to contemplate in myself a possible waif, hopelessly stranded on the
shore of despair and evil hap!

It had easily occurred, then, that Jane Mangold and I, though we had
been living considerably less than a hundred miles apart, had never
met, had never heard of each other, until this recent chance. Now that
I was assured of her near presence, an intensely eager desire, a
thrill repeated from the ardent boyish period, when

'She was a part of those fresh days to me, urged me with resistless
power to gaze upon that face once more of my old friend and playmate.'

I had often analysed my feelings towards the girl who had so nearly
been linked for ever with my destiny. I had never been absolutely 'in
love' with her, as the phrase goes. But the vivid unreasoning
admiration of early youth for the first fair form and face might
easily have ripened into a passion. From this misfortune--the grave
error of declining to a lower level of birth, breeding, intellect, and
sentiment--I was saved by a loftier, a purer, a more absorbing
devotion.

Yet he who has once been inspired by a woman, even with feelings
short of the highest degree of admiring interest, rarely ceases to
regard her with a peculiar tenderness. If there be generosity in his
nature, he is ever ready to stand forth as her champion, ready with
aid or counsel. And students of the human heart are wont to aver that
the friendship which might have been love has ere now expressed itself
in acts of sublime self-abnegation to which the world furnishes few
parallels.

On the following Saturday, therefore, I borrowed a horse for the
journey to Warraluen, 'putting a man on'--that is, hiring an
experienced miner for the sum of ten shillings per diem, to perform my
duty in the claim until my return.

Before the stars had left the sky, I rode quietly and steadily forth,
thereby giving my horse, fresh from a run on grass but a few days
since, a chance of settling to his work by degrees. As the sun rose
higher I quickened my pace, and riding fast, but not unreasonably, the
well-seasoned animal brought me within sight of the substantial little
township of Warraluen before sundown.

As I rode up the narrow street, serpentine in construction, as in all
gold--founded townships, I looked carefully for the hotel which I had
been informed that Edward Morsley kept. The settlement differed in
some respects from the one I had quitted. Its prosperity depended
almost wholly upon quartz reefs. In their nature, the reefs or ledges
of quartz rock are more permanent as to the gold crop than the
alluvial deposits which can be rifled in a comparatively short time.
Whereas the great depth of the matrix, as a rule, and consequently
slow, steady extraction of the golden stone, necessitates a more
protracted service, a more settled population. Hence the populations
of 'reeling districts' are for the most part famed for comfortable
cottages, well-grown orchards, and a general air of well-paid,
contented labouring life.

The miners in this particular locality were chiefly Cornish-men,
hereditarily accustomed to subterranean labour in their own land.
Laborious, enduring, and efficient in their own occupation, to which
many of them had served a life-long apprenticeship thousands of feet
below old 'ocean's swells and falls,' in Wheal Maria or The Great
Dungavel, they were said to be by no means so suave of manner or
agreeable in association as their cosmopolitan brethren of the
alluvial goldfields. The aggressive, sullen nature of the untravelled
Briton was still uncorrected by association with the outer world. They
formed a community within themselves, and, as such, shut up to the
development of their own peculiar tendencies, some of which were less
pleasing than remarkable.

At this particular time the reefs at one end of the line of shafts,
upon a mountain crest far above the town, had been lately yielding
enormously, and were renowned throughout Australia. The 'Cousin Jacks'
were, therefore, in great force. Much given to brawling amongst
themselves, they were more than likely to be uncivil to strangers. The
small force of police, hitherto thought sufficient for their
subjugation, was all inadequate when a dozen reefs in line were
sending up ten ounce stone--even better than that, it was whispered,
and hundreds of wages men, employed by the great absentee companies,
received their three pounds each as regularly as Saturday came.

In some respects, therefore, I had arrived at an inopportune season.
Saturday night was pay night, and the vinous aspect of the groups I
encountered--so different from the men at Yatala, except perhaps upon
a high festival--convinced me that I had chosen a bad day for my
entrance into Warraluen. However, I bestowed myself at the first
available inn, and after needful refreshments and a couple of hours'
rest, strolled out into the well-lighted streets.

'Well, lad,' said a short man, whose blue-black curly hair and deep-
set eyes betrayed the 'Cousin Jack,' while his enormous spread of
chest redeemed him from any imputation of insignificance, 'thou farest
all as one as a stranger, loike? Where be'st bound?'

'To Morsley's Inn, if I can find it among these crooked streets of
yours,' I said, slightly irritated at my want of success and
inauspicious surroundings.

'Black Ned?' said the pocket Hercules, rolling himself around, and
not resenting the imputation on his town, but steadying himself for a
comprehensive look at me. 'Be'st a friend o' thatn? Not by the looks
o' thee--danged sight more loike to be friends with yon pratty mawther
as he's gotten boxed-up there wi' him--more's the pity.'

'Can you show me the house?' I asked, not much disposed for the sort
of conversation that I foresaw could only be extracted from my
acquaintance.

'Show thee t' house--why, I'm a gannin' theer, straight as I can go.
There's a dance there t' night, man--a ball! and we'll fare there
together, Billy Pentreath and a friend, an owd friend--eh, lad? I'll
show thee the missis. Mayhap she'll dance with thee--thou'rt a tidyish
soart o' chap.'

After a short walk, and a considerable amount of tacking indulged in
by my guide before he could 'fetch,' as he expressed it, the 'main
drive,' we fronted a large, imposing, two-storied brick building.
Beyond doubt it was a gala night, as the profuse lighting up, the
group of men and women round the doors, the sound of music which
issued from the open windows, abundantly testified.

'Why, here's Billy Pen,' said a red-bearded giant, who looked like
Odin or Thor about to enter a modern Valhalla. 'Here's Billy a coming
to see the ball, and another chap. Whose yer friend; a Geordie, most
like?'

'No fear, Red Gaffer--dunna thee moind about Geordies. Seems as he's
a Yatala man, and a golden hole man, as I'm warned,' said Billy,
improvising slightly for the benefit of his audience, and unaware that
he was so far clinging to truth. 'Wants to buy a few shares in
Frohmand's, and Barrell's, and Caird's. But let's in, boys, and don't
obstrooct th' entrance.'

A shout of laughter greeted this imposing utterance of Mr. Pentreath,
performed with some difficulty. But seconding his expressed wish with
an energetic shoulder movement, which even the giant did not care to
withstand seriously, Mr. William Pentreath rolled through the open
door into the hall of mirth, whither I followed with comparative ease.

'E. Morsley's Reefers' Arms,' as the large gilt letters on the front
of the house proclaimed it to be, had always been celebrated as a
'dance-house,' where from time to time gatherings were permitted by
the police for the avowed enjoyment of music and dancing. This
privilege had always been fenced round with restrictions and sparingly
conceded by the police authorities. It was found, in the early history
of the goldfields, that these assemblages of men of all classes and
characters, excited by liquor, flush of money, and urged on by the
presence of women, more fair than honest, led to many undesirable
results. It was then enacted that each hotel keeper who desired to
have music and dancing in his licensed house, should apply in writing
for the permission. This application was referred to the police
officers, who recommended or otherwise. If broils had taken place,
robberies been hatched, or bad characters been encouraged to frequent
the house on former occasions, the police stated objections, when the
application was sternly vetoed by the Bench of Magistrates. In no case
was such permission granted oftener than once a week. It was,
therefore, no scene of wild, unhallowed revelry upon which Mr. Billy
Pentreath and I were about to intrude, no reckless orgy, but a fairly
regulated entertainment, in which, if there was a certain license as
to liquor and language, no great abuse of either would be possible.
Still, I knew well that, had the woman I had come to seek retained her
former feelings and principles, there would have been as much
likelihood of her joining in a gipsy feast on the common near
Dibblestowe as willingly lending the sanction of her presence to
revelry like this.

The room was large and well lighted by lamps which hung from the
ceiling. The floor good in a general way, although uneven towards one
end, where the difference in the height of the wall showed that a
smaller room had been annexed for greater public accommodation. A
brass band of considerable power, and by no means inharmonious time,
was at the moment performing a German waltz, to which about a hundred
couples gyrated with orthodox slowness and precision. Of the women,
some were handsome and showily dressed, others again were homely,
middle-aged, and plain of attire, the wives of working miners who had
a mind for once to enjoy themselves, and, at the same time, make sure
that Sam or Joe would be back in time for his 'shift' at the claim.
These were, in the main, reputable and hardworking women. It was easy
to see many who deserved neither of these epithets. But whether fair
or honest, there was one striking fact apparent, that women of any
kind were at a considerable premium at Warraluen. More than half the
couples were men dancing with men. The saltatory instinct must be,
even when diluted by descent, of great original strength, if one may
judge from the fact that men, long absent from the pleasures of
ordinary civilisation, when met for purposes of amusement, will dance
for hours contentedly with one another rather than not dance at all.

At the end of the room was a highly ornamental bar for the sale of
liquors, behind which was displayed in tempting profusion every kind
of alcoholic stimulant. Officiating here, in company with an assistant
whose time was completely taken up in serving the drinks which were
ceaselessly called for, was a tall dark man, showily dressed according
to the taste of the locality, and affecting a kind of spurious
gentility which I thought sat ill on a lowering, savage cast of
countenance.

'Yon's Black Ned, blank him,' said my companion, 'as large as life,
and twice as nasty if a' dared; let's over and have a drink, and he'll
tell us a' the lees as is agoin' about Frohmann's, Caird's, and
Bolterman's, and the lot on 'em. You're a wantin' sheers for a Sydney
company, eh lad? That's your little game. I seed it soon as ye said
fust word.' And here Billy winked at me with a portentous cunning, the
effect of which was much enhanced by the difficulty with which he
performed the feat.

Whether with characteristic shrewdness he had assumed that, whatever
my real errand, there was no need to advertise it, or whether my
appearance suggested an agency for the purchase of reef shares, then
popular with speculators and rising fast in the market, I could not
divine. But I instantly saw the advantage of following the hint
accidently given, and being made known to Mr. Ned Morsley under the
style and title of a purchaser of shares in the great reefs which were
then sending all the Australian world mad with hope, fear, and regret.

Such buyers were always, of necessity, provided with a sufficiency
of ready cash; and the bearer of promptly available moneys has always
been a welcome guest at hostelries of every grade since the days of
the Tabard.

When, therefore, Mr. Pentreath lumbered up with diagonal dexterity
to the bar, narrowly avoiding the destruction of more than one couple
of performers, and further informed Morsley that I was Mr. Poole, a
friend of his, from Yatala, as was 'on the gutter' in the best blank
claim in the blank field, and was bound to have the pick of all the
sheers as was for sale in the leading reefs on the blank Hill, the
sullen face of the host assumed an air of laboured welcome, and even
an ominous, half-gracious, half-sinister smile illumined his dark
visage.

'You're only just in time. I had some of Frohmann's this morning,
but they're gone. There's a half-share in Caird's, and two-quarters in
Bolterman's, that I can put you on to. The men were here this morning;
one's off to Sydney, and the other's just spliced--that's why they
want to sell--d--d fools both.'

'Eh, thou'lt find him some, I warrant thee, as long as there's a
loomp o' quartz o' th' hill the soize o' a brickbat. Whoy, thou'st
grinnin' aal over t'face loike a Cheshire cat. But coom, what'll thee
tak', Mr. Poole? let's booze up, summat near the mark. Ned, what's
thine? whoy, here's t' missis and Grizzly Joe as is finished their
dance aready. Stir thee stumps, Ned. It's Billy Pentreath's shout, all
round. Blanked if thee don't own the handsomest wife from here to Los
Angeles.'

Mr. Pentreath threw a five-pound note upon the bar and looked
defiantly around, as a tall American miner, with close shaved face and
heavy moustache, lounged up to the bar with his partner, followed by
the first detachment of the dancers, whose waltz had suddenly come to
a full stop.

I looked at Mr. Grizzly Joe's partner, guarding myself carefully
from any appearance of unusual interest. The first glance showed me
that it was Jane Mangold, the woman whom I had last set eyes on as she
bade me farewell at the Leys. I could recall her figure and dress even
now, as I watched her run hurriedly into the old-fashioned porch at
the entrance to the rod-brown many-gabled farm house.

We had met again. And here!

I was changed, as the boy changes to the man, when the days of
lightly carried duties and pleasures have passed away, and those of
the stern taskmasters of later years have worked their will on mind
and muscle. But I was still free--had I the world's goods--to resume
my former place in the land we had both quitted, even, perhaps, with
added fame and the prestige of the roamer and adventurer. While she--?

Our eyes met, and for one moment the flush upon her face faded so
suddenly that I thought Mr. Pentreath's favourable romance had failed
in its effect, and that I should stand confessed before the jealous
eyes of Ned Morsley, as a former friend and admirer of his wife.

For the moment, however, he had been engaged professionally--and
hastily seizing tho wine glass before her, she drank it hurriedly,
and, turning to her partner, with a forced laugh made some commonplace
remark about the heat of the room, and her fatigue as mistress of the
house and principal partner at these troublesome balls.

The next minute Morsley returned from his spirituous search and, with
a peculiar look at his wife, introduced me as a friend of Billy Pen's
from Yatala, who had come over to buy a few shares.

'Very glad to see him or anybody from Yatala in this rough place,'
she said, half looking down, but with assumed carelessness of manner.
'But I thought all the shares were sold that were worth buying.'

'Never you mind about that, Jenny,' Mr. Morsley said, with a kind of
jocular gruffness. 'Billy and I could find him some shares if every
claim on the hill had been sold twice over.'

'I've no doubt of that,' she returned, sarcastically. 'The question
is, whether Mr. Poole--I think you said--would care to buy.'

Here the band struck up a popular war dance of the period, and the
room being immediately made noisily cheerful with stamping and
trampling to the somewhat exigent time, I formally solicited the
pleasure of Mrs. Morsley's hand for the dance, thereby anticipating
the intentions of half a dozen burly aspirants, one of whom, evidently
considering that a dance was a dance, promptly thus addressed Mr.
Pentreath--

"Ave a shottise, Bill?'

It was not for the first time that my arm had encircled my partner's
shapely waist. In old times there had been rustic junketings, picnics,
and other informal merrymakings, at which a little dancing was
allowable, if not ostensibly in the programme. As soon as we swung
clear of the encircling crowd at the further end of the room, where
there was an outlet to a small garden with seats and other appliances
for availing of the refreshments ordered at the bar, we stopped by
mutual consent and looked in each others eyes. For one brief moment
they met, and then hers, which wore a troubled and half-appealing
wistful expression, sunk suddenly before mine, as she hurriedly broke
the silence.

'This is like--and yet how dreadfully unlike--old times, isn't it?
Who would ever have thought that Jane Mangold and Hereward Pole would
have met in Australia, in such a place as this, too, Oh, my God! who
would have dreamed it? Don't say a kind word to me--don't--or I shall
burst out crying and then Ned will--'

'Are you afraid of him?' I said. 'Will he be angry if he finds you
and I are old friends?'

'Of course he will. I am not afraid of him, or of any one else,' she
said, turning on me with a sudden light in her eye and a defiant look
which marked the change from the innocent country girl of old days.
'But I know he'll kill me one of these days. And now let us finish our
dance, or these people will wonder. My miserable story will do some
time when we can have a quiet talk together. I try to forget! Oh, if I
only could.'

We whirled off to the familiar measure, to which with an odd,
inexplicable impulse we addressed ourselves gaily. It afforded strange
feelings of relief. We did not again stop till the dance was over.

So complete was the recognition of the once familiar face, that I had
hardly asked myself whether or no the alteration in her appearance had
been favourable or otherwise. Scanning her features more closely, I
was astonished to confess that as far as outward seeming went, Jane
was now incomparably more attractive than she had ever been. Her
complexion still, as ever, wonderfully delicate, pure-tinted, and but
faintly coloured with a warmer glow, was of the class so rarely seen
save amid the green meads and sheltered vales of the British Isles.
Her figure had but altered from that of girlhood to the more perfect
symmetry of the more fully developed woman. The blue eyes, though
their expression--ah me! had changed, were softly radiant, as of yore.
Added to all, there was an air of self--possession--of higher
resolution and quickened intelligence, that had been absent in the
dear innocent old days of Dibble-stowe Leys. She was then a bright-
faced, merry, wayward country maiden--much resembling her whom Chaucer
limned--

'Wincing she went as doth a wanton colt.

Sweet as a flower, and upright as a bolt.'

Now, it may be that she had sinned and suffered, borne hard usage,
and flung back bitter words; but the sorrow and the shame, the
suffering and remorse, had been all powerless to deprive her of that
gift, so fatal, alas! to many a possessor among Eve's daughters.

She was still graceful and striking-looking, nay more--a dangerously
beautiful woman.

I remained at Warraluen some days. I continued my fortuitously--
formed friendship with Mr. Billy Pentreath, who devoted himself to my
service and entertainment, being, apparently, curiously anxious to
justify his hastily-conceived description of my character and errand,
by letting me into some of the confidential mining operations which
had then financially so much interest for all classes of society in
New South Wales.

I kept up the idea, which now thoroughly pervaded the larger portion
of the community, by purchasing guardedly a few 'interests' from time
to time out of the largish number submitted for my approval, and by
assuming a gay and careless manner, much at variance with my habit and
present inclination.

Thus Billy Pentreath, and his friend Harry Pole from Yatala, became
fully accepted as the last novelty in speculative mineral society.

Even the suspicious Morsley relaxed his grim, menacing demeanour,
regarding me, doubtless, as one of the harmless pigeons of the golden
period, whose pecuniary pinions were fated to be even more completely
and effectually plucked than usual.

Meanwhile opportunities were freely afforded me of hearing poor
Jane's sad story. After my departure from the Leys she had become (she
told me) restless and dissatisfied with her home and her ordinary
duties. Her father was, as she thought then ('not now--not now,' she
said, with how sad a look and sigh), hard and unkind. After several
quarrels, resulting in settled home discomfort, she in a fit of pique
and rebellion accepted Dick Cheriton's addresses. Marrying him without
her father's consent, they emigrated to Australia, full of the golden
expectations which, about that time, the great days of the Turon, of
Ballarat, and Bendigo, lured so many hapless rustics from their homes,
little dreaming of the ferocity of the dragons that guarded the
Hesperides of the South. They arrived at Ballarat in the early days of
that astonishing treasure-city, now with a population of many thousand
souls, with banks and churches, railways and public schools, with
parks on gala days crowded with school children, and regattas with
fleets of boats upon Lake Wendouree; then a vast camp of cabins
clustered beside the sodden banks of a muddy creek, or on the slopes
of a gloomy forest, where in endless ranks stood charred iron--seeming
stems of the great eucalypti. Some of the usual consequences followed.

Richard Cheriton, weak and dissipated, had, after a temporary run of
luck, swiftly succumbed to the temptations of the scene and the
period. Hard drinking and reckless gambling had made short work of him
and his capital, and within three years of their landing, the ruddy-
faced farmer, whose mild misdeeds in his native county would almost
have counted as virtues amid the fierce whirlpool of vice in which he
had lately revolved, was laid in the crowded cemetery, a shattered
wreck, an imbecile, and a pauper.

Lonely and wretched, though flattered for her beauty and distracted
amid the thousand excitements of the great goldfield, Jane had, half
in despair, half in instinctive feeling of self-preservation, accepted
the first apparently favourable offer of marriage made to her. Ned
Morsley, apparently wealthy and successful, courted for his money, and
veiling his villainy under a mask of careless dissipation, easily
imposed himself upon her.

His wealth and his protection were alike shams. A wandering
adventurer, he had dragged her from one goldfield to another, from
colony to colony, or had deserted her, leaving her well-nigh to
starve, unaided and unguarded. Used as a lure and a decoy, yet subject
to paroxysms of causeless jealousy on the part of her husband, she had
often experienced the vilest abuse, the grossest ill-treatment at his
hands. Loathing herself and her surroundings, an inherent vigour of
organisation, joined with the sustaining power of a false excitement,
had hitherto served to keep her alive.

But how weary of her life she was, she again and again told me, with
bitter tears. She would long since have ended it, but that her father
was alive, and she clung to some half-instinctive hope that she might
yet see him, and end her feverish wasted life near the cool brook and
under the aged trees of the quiet village, where for generations her
race had lived and died peacefully, innocently, happily.

'Oh! if I could only see the Leys again,' she sobbed, leaning her
head against my shoulder in the abandonment of despairing and
passionate grief, 'how happily I should die. I do not wish to live. I
have long ago come to hate my life. Alas! false and wretched dream
that it has been. But if I could only get away from these hateful
heaps of earth, this miserable monotonous existence, this sickening
endless turmoil about gold--the accursed gold--ruining alike in body
and soul those who have it and those who have it not--I could sleep
away my life peacefully and thankfully. Oh, Hereward, my friend, my
brother, of the old glad, innocent days, you cannot think what a joy
your coming has been to me. Do you think God will ever let me go
back?'

I soothed the weeping woman, and offered such poor consolation as I
could think suitable to her hopeless state. But that nothing could be
done I was only too well aware. How can any woman of any degree be
helped against her husband? She had chosen her fate and must abide by
it, enduring torture only short of legally punishable violence, hardly
restrained, indeed, within such bounds.

I was to leave Warraluen next day. I could not longer prolong my stay
without causing inconvenience to my partners at Yatala, and probably
exciting unfavourable remarks at Warraluen. I promised to aid and help
my unhappy friend in all loyalty, and caused her to promise that if
matters became dangerous or intolerable she would trust herself to my
care at Yatala where I would do for her what a brother might.

In keeping up my character with Billy Pentreath, as an earnest mining
speculator, I had purchased more shares in Frohmann's, Cairds, the
Frenchman's, and Bolterman's than I had at first intended, but the
money stood at my credit in the Bank of New Holland, at Yatala, and
with the true mining disdain of the odds, I considered that a
favourable rise was quite as likely to take place in their market
value as the reverse.

When I returned to Yatala, after my week's unwonted recreation, I was
accompanied as far as the first inn, about ten miles on my way, by Mr.
Pentreath and a few friends, who were determined that I should not
quit 'The Hill,' as Warraluen was familiarly called, without some sort
of public recognition. We rode along, therefore, with a free rein as
far as Spraggs's, as the hostelry of that gentleman was chiefly
designated, irrespectively of a patently aggressive signboard,
legended The Jolly Miner, and representing a suspiciously well-dressed
individual in recent possesion of a fabulously large and brilliant
nugget. Thither arrived, champagne was demanded, and my health was
proposed by Mr. Pentreath as a legitimate miner and a true friend, as
was a honour to his country and to Yatala, which tho'it was only
alluvial--in a manner of speaking--had some tidy claims on it, and
'whoever met his friend Harry Pole from theer, would find him a man,
whether the sinkin' was deep or shallow--and here was his jolly good
health, with all the honours, three times three--hurrah.'

But for leaving poor Jane to bear unaided her miserable fate, I
should have quitted Warraluen with a much lighter heart than I had
entered it with. I made shift, however, to feign the requisite amount
of hilarity, and parting cordially with my kind-hearted Cousin Jacks,
I breasted the line of steep green hills around which the road wound,
and 'they went on their way, and I saw them no more.'

       *   *   *   *   *

Once more at Yatala, and again seated at our humble board, I had
hardly completed my mutton chop, and commenced to extract the
impartial local news from yesterday's Beacon when suddenly a low,
rumbling sound attracted my attention. Something which I could not
analyse, aroused a kind of sickening anxiety, and I looked out. God in
heaven! what was that? I could see plainly the shaft and the staging
of Gus Maynard's claim. As I looked I saw the woodwork on the top of
the shaft driven up as by an unchained hell-blast, the bark roof of
the sun-covering is burst upwards as by an explosion, and comes down
in fragments all over the spot. Is it fancy, or do I see the heavy
pile of crossed logs, ten or twelve feet from the surface of the
earth, stagger--and fall ruinous to the earth? Does the adjacent
ground disappear and finally remain stationary, as a hideous, dry,
formless pond?

It is even so, and my senses have not deceived me. There is a general
rush from all sides to the place. Men commence to work frantically for
a time, and then stop, and say sadly that there can be no help.
Finally we discover the nature of the terrific accident which
Providence has seen fit to suffer.

The Nova Scotia claim has fallen in. All the present workings are for
ever closed, and Gus Maynard and seven stalwart miners, who this
morning were full of lusty life, are lying crushed lifeless clay in
the sealed up galleries, and a hundred feet from the day. The heavy
props which supported the drives had given way simultaneously, and an
enormous mass of superincumbent earth fallen in upon the doomed
miners. The suddenly expelled air, driven out through the shaft as by
a tube, had produced the volcanic effect we had witnessed. There is no
going down the shaft, no volunteering to risk life for the chance of
saving dying or crippled men, as when the fatal fire-damp slays or
only stupeties the miner in the ancient workings of British coalmines.
All such effort was useless. All trace of shaft or drive was here
completely lost. Fresh shafts, of course, will be sunk, fresh
galleries excavated, the old workings will be freshly scooped out of
the jealous bosom of the dread mother--for the gold is still there, in
fine dust and shot-like grains, and rugged, rough, red ingots. Such
prizes will always tempt the heedless heart of man. Against these will
he cheerfully barter afresh his life and limb, health and strength.

But Gus Maynard and his mates will never more be seen on earth, never
more appear in the forms known and loved so well--for wives and
orphans are weeping hopelessly now--till the sea gives up her dead,
and the caves and dark places of the earth render up those that lie
'prisoned with them, awaiting the last dread trump.

When I dragged my feet back to our tent that night--for how
unwillingly move the members when the heart is heavy--I felt as if a
cloud of evil omen had gathered around our fortunes and prosperity.
All were silent, all desponding. Gus was a universal favourite, and
there were few at Yatala that night who did not sorrow as for a friend
or a brother.



Chapter X



I HAD not, however, much leisure for the indulgence of grief in the
matter of poor Gus Maynard, sudden and terrible as had been his fate.
For we had no sooner quitted the sorrowful procession which had at
length returned from the buried mine-works than Cyrus Yorke, who had
been away all day, dashed in with the astounding intelligence, 'Our
claim has been jumped.' The words were simple, but no addition could
have exaggerated their significance.

From the first we had been almost instinctively aware of the framer
of the plot which had done us so great an injury, which might even yet
compass our ruin. Malgrade was the man whom each tongue amongst us
simultaneously named and, with the sole exception of Mrs. Yorke,
deeply and vengefully cursed. I am not sure now whether that prudent
matron did not utter a wish connected with his prospective condition
of existence which sounded less like a prayer than a prophecy. He had
bided his time, and had dealt us a shrewd blow. In the long history of
human strife, how unwise has it ever been to underrate a foe. Wiser
than his fellows was he who said of old, 'Consider your enemies if you
would be safe and strong--heed not your friends.' And, doubtless, what
a coign of vantage has the stealthy, patient-watching brigand over the
unsuspecting toilers--the heedless wayfarers of life. Daily, nightly,
his thoughts are marshalled solely with a view to the season of
opportunity, which sooner or later an ironic fate appears to grant.
Thus had it been with us. The blow had found us unprepared. And though
we had the ordinary means of defence, we were by no means sure that a
joint in our armour would not be discovered, in which case no mercy
need be hoped for.

But it was apparent Malgrade was not our sole antagonist. In all
privateering on goldfields and other tempting vicinities, the
initiated are aware that the alliance of capital with labour is
indispensable. In the 'ebony' trade and other adventurous semi-
mercantile enterprises, as well as Captain Kidd and his merry men,
there must be the moneyed speculator, grave possibly, decorous of
mien, but nevertheless not unwilling to furnish the outfit of the long
low waterwitch of a schooner for a consideration. He 'planks down' the
dollars requisite for the purchase of prints and necklaces, fetters
and gunpowder, rum, small arms, and other necessaries. The crew must
be paid and money found for the personal expenses of Captain Kidd as
well, unprejudiced commander and thorough seaman that he is. In
requital of which by no means paltry outlay a swingeing share of
profits, when the middle passage is safely passed and the death-scared
sable crowd 'sold and delivered,' is cheerfully yielded to the
foreseeing man of money.

Such philanthropical individuals, loth to behold energetic men
languishing for lack of means, have from the earliest records existed
in every land. No more complete microcosm than a goldfield is to be
found among human communities. It follows in natural sequence,
therefore, that the sleek, remorseless trader in 'fellow-creatures'
lives' was not far to seek at Yatala. Our ban-dog, Malgrade, had given
him the office; the calculation was simple and reassuring, and the
matter being settled with the celerity characteristic of the locale,
the funds were instantly forthcoming.

Mr. Isaac Poynter was a stout, florid, voluble personage, whose sleek
black hair always shone in such oppressively lustrous fashion as to
suggest that in his former trade as a butcher he had contracted the
habit of anointing it with suet, and was unable to relinquish the
practice now that less inexpensive pomade was accessible. He had
followed many trades on various goldfields, including that of
unlicensed liquor seller, and having accumulated a considerable
capital by the consistent exercise of the strictest dishonesty, had
settled down into the ostensible occupation of sharebroker and mining
agent, with which elastic vocation he combined those of money-lender,
gold-buyer, and receiver of property more or less disputed as to
title.

This astute personage, as well as Mr. Algernon aforesaid, honoured
our party by a grudge for several reasons hardly necessary to specify.
The Major and I, he had been heard to say, were infernal stuck-up
swells, who thought themselves too good for the society of parties in
trade, while them fellers, Yorke and Bulder, had refused to stand in
with him in a little safe speculation, and had had the cheek to offer
to kick him off their claim. He'd had it in for 'em, and had settled
in his own mind for to give 'em a rough turn some day, and now they'd
see who they'd got to deal with.

Long practice of every conceivable evasion of the mining laws had
made him familiar with modes by which, without infringing rules, the
honest occupant of a claim could be harassed, ousted, besieged, and
black-mailed. Any swindling device which Poynter was not acquainted
with--and such an acquirement was, in the opinion of the looser
members of the field, 'not worth knowing' was promptly supplied by
Malgrade. It will be easily seen how difficult it was for our
straight-going, unsuspicious band to foil the machinations of foes so
deliberate and experienced.

The necessary arrangements having been made and the plan of the
campaign mapped out with Prussian completeness of detail, nothing
remained but to find the requisite number of 'honest hard-working
miners' who were to be the ostensible actors and moral scapegoats in
the affair.

Such men, of course, were to be had. The price was tempting, being no
less than a half share each in the claim, if the fortress fell and the
condottieri were successful. This was formally made over by legal
transfer in the mining registrar's office, the rank and file being far
too experienced to trust their superior's promise in such an affair.
Besides this, it was agreed that they should receive wages at the rate
of half the ordinary tariff, amounting to thirty shillings per week,
during all the time occupied in professing to work on the ground,
attending court, or in any way furthering the plot.

This was but the ordinary custom, and without such a payment the
humblest miner on the goldfield would not have given his services. The
men, in addition to being average practical workers, required also to
be fully experienced in all mining usages and regulations, lest they
might be betrayed into any illegal act which might jeopardise their
title to the property.

Each detail having been long thought out, was now executed with a
precision 'worthy of a better cause,' as the apologetic formula runs,
doubtless originated by some moralist, wondering in his secret soul
why the fiend's emissaries were always so faultless in drill, so true
to their colours, so zealous and so sleepless.

And yet, the outcome of this recondite calculation was the apparently
simple and harmless proceeding of four men putting in corner pegs, and
going through the form of picking a shovelful of earth from the sand
surface of No. 4 Liberator Lead.

Yes, long before that pawn had been advanced upon the chessboard,
whereon was to be played such an exceedingly still game with live
pieces, many a gambit, many a check and counter-check had been conned
over. Money had been lodged in the bank, arrangements had been made
for sub dividing shares, for forming a committee, for engaging
professional aid, for floating a company, if the need arose.

Mr. Cramp and Dr. Bellair had both received a retaining foe in case
of accidents, and with veiled but malignant expectation the chief
conspirators awaited the next move.

The requisite period, sacred to the law's delays, was fulfilled. All
needful preliminaries were executed. The day of trial arrived. In all
mining causes the method of procedure was this: every case must be
tried before the Commissioner, who sat as primary judge. He heard the
evidence in full and gave his decision; but in view of the natural
impatience of the mere ipse dixit of one man, even a man so widely
respected and even feared as the Commissioner of all the southern
goldfields, the Parliament of New South Wales in its wisdom had
devised a mode of further trial. An appeal lay to a court composed of
two or more magistrates of the territory, who were empowered to rehear
the whole case, and afterwards to confirm or reverse the previous
decision. If still further objection were taken to the verdict, and in
any important mining case involving large amounts such proceedings
were the rule rather than the exception, a last appeal would be heard
before the Supreme Court, by whom the matter was adjudicated upon and
finally settled.

Thus it came to pass that we looked despondingly along a vista of
legal proceedings on protracted, if probably successful, action, but
which was surely fraught with profuse expenditure along the whole
line. However, there was nothing for it but to attack the beleaguering
force and compel them to raise the siege, or for us to yield up the
citadel. The last act we held to be impossible. We had, without an
hour's delay, retained Mr. Markham, soon finding cause to congratulate
ourselves upon our promptitude.

Punctual as usual on the appointed day, that gentleman arrived early,
smiling and confident of mien. The streets appeared to us to carry an
unwonted crowd. Many a miner left his work that day. Captain Blake
rode up followed by his dogs, as was his wont, at ten o'clock sharp.

Throwing the rein to his orderly, he entered the court-house, and
took his seat upon the bench with a stern and resolved air. He foresaw
six hours of steady attention to a series of interminable technical
details with which he was already painfully familiar, and all such
methods of spending the bright summer days William Blake cordially
hated, though, under compulsion, few men more successfully
administered the apparently complicated but really equitable and
comprehensive mining statutes.

Then, advancing with stately steps, the sergeant caused to be opened
the principal door of the court-house. In a few moments it was crowded
to the rails which protected the professional gentlemen, the parties
to the suit, and the witnesses. Dr. Bellair and Mr. Cramp appeared for
the other side. Both editors were in their places when the case--Pole
and party versus Ingerstrom and party--was formally called on by the
clerk of the Bench.

Mr. Markham stood up at once, and made the opening address.

'He was not there to defend illegal action; he trusted that he knew
too well the principles of law, the requirements of justice, to
attempt to pursue a short-sighted policy, whether on the part of his
clients or any others. But he would say that a more scandalous outrage
upon mining law, goldfields custom, and even the ordinary rules of
equity which guided the transactions of society--as between man and
man--had, hitherto, not been numbered among his experiences. However,
knowing that there was a long day before the Court, he would not
detain it further, but proceed to call his witnesses. Harry Pole, go
into the box!'

I stepped upon the modern rack, where in this over-civilised age,
heartstrings strain and quiver in agony, as that dread agent of the
law, 'yclept the barrister, plies probe and scalpel. My operation was
simple and painless.

'Your name is Hereward Pole. You produce your Miner's Right, of date
January 185--, the present year.'

This was done. The important piece of parchment, about the size of a
bank cheque, was handed first to the Court, and then to Messrs.
Markham and Bellair, by whom it was as closely scrutinised as if,
indeed, it had been an informal bank note.

Further judicious examination elicited from me the important facts
that 'I had, on the 10th of August last, about a quarter past six in
the morning, in company with Joseph Bulder, Cyrus Yorke, and Edgar
Treseder Borlase, generally known as "The Major," put in a peg, not
less than three feet long and three inches in diameter, and had
affixed the same in an L trench not less than six feet long and six
inches deep on the north--east boundary of the claim of four men's
ground, known as No. 4 Liberator Lead. The three other shareholders
mentioned put in similar pegs and cut similar trenches at the same
time in my presence. The land was then vacant crown land, there being
no one in possession or occupation thereof, or any pegs, shaft, or
workings whatever visible. Furthermore, I had within three days
thereafter, in company with the other shareholders, commenced to work
the claim, now known as No. 4 Liberator, and had assisted to work it
without intermission until the trespass by defendants. I had seen the
defendant Ingerstrom break the surface of said claim with a pick. This
was the trespass complained of.'

This cross-examined by Dr. Bellair: 'The measurement of the claim No.
4 was so many square feet. It was more than forty feet per man along
the base line of the lead. It was not an exact parallelogram, but was
of an irregular shape. There was not more than the number of
superficial feet allowed by the regulations to a claim of four men's
ground. The Commissioner had formally allotted us this claim soon
after the Prospecting Claim struck gold. The quantity of ground so
granted to us was not illegal by the regulations, so far as this
deponent knew. Would not swear one way or another as to its being
illegal to grant a claim in a form different from that laid down in
the regulations.'

Here Mr. Markham objected. His learned friend was compelling the
witness to answer a question which referred to a matter of law, not of
fact. The witness's opinion as to a point of law was not relevant to
the issue. The witness might hold an erroneous opinion as to mining
law, or a correct one. In either case his opinion would, he submitted,
be valueless as evidence. The Court was not concerned with what he
thought with regard to mining law, or any other abstract subject,
merely with what he did.

The Commissioner ruled that the question could not be put. As Mr.
Markham had stated, 'the Court did not care a straw whether or not
witness had the whole Act and Regulations at his fingers' ends, only
what he did on that tenth day of August last.'

Dr. Bellair differed in toto from his friend Mr. Markham, and was not
disposed to accept the dictum of the Court unconditionally. 'As a
Doctor of Medicine, a Doctor of Laws, and a Barrister of the Supreme
Court of New South Wales, he held himself entitled to contravene the
ruling of any Chairman of a Quarter Sessions, much less a magistrate
presiding over an inferior tribunal as was that of a Commissioner's
Court. But he would proceed.'

The Commissioner was gratified to hear that. He was as little
disposed to question Dr. Bellair's legal attainments as to make trial
of his medical skill, but he wished him to understand most fully that
he, William Devereux Blake, was judge in his own little court, and
should demonstrate by prompt and decisive action (to which he trusted,
however, that he should have no occasion to resort) that he would
permit no disrespect or contempt of court as long as he sat there. He
would remind gentlemen that much evidence remained to be taken.

Cross-examination proceeded with: 'Was certain that his party
commenced work on the third day after pegging out No. 4. Had another
claim on the Last Stake before that. Was working there till the 6th.
Then abandoned it as they all considered the Liberator Lead the better
show. Had more than one washing up at No. 4. Dividends were declared.
Declined to state how much gold per man was divided. Were satisfied,
at any rate, and did not want it stolen from them by defendants, or
any other ruffians.'

Witness was here admonished by the Commissioner and told that he was
only at liberty to answer questions, and not to refer to the morality
of the defendants' presumed course of action.

Joseph Bulder is likewise sworn. He produces his Miner's Right of
date 1st January 185--, and gives corroborative testimony as to the
occupation of No. 4 claim.

Edgar Treseder Borlase, sworn, states: 'Is a miner, residing at
Yatala. Produces Miner's Right of date 1st January 185--. Assisted in
the presence of the two previous witnesses and Cyrus Yorke in taking
up the claim known as No. 4. Has worked regularly upon it ever since.
Will swear that he has never been away more than a day at a time since
they commenced work. If so has been employed in doing work for the
benefit of the claim. Is a practical miner; has worked at several
other goldfields before coming here. Doesn't know exactly the number
of superficial feet in the claim; believes it to be about the right
quantity for four men's ground. The right quantity would be so and so.
If he had time could calculate it easily enough. Am not sure that he
could do it accurately here. The Commissioner gave them their claim in
that shape, partly because he chose to do so, and partly because in no
other way, since the base line was swung, could they get their fair
proportion of ground. Did not think that defendants acted otherwise
than as--'

'Thanks, Major,' this from Mr. Markham. 'I will not trouble you any
further.'

'Cross-examined by Dr. Bellair: 'Was formerly in the army, in the
77th Regiment. Have seen some service. Was not in any way compelled to
quit the army. Would have knocked down any man who asked him this
offensive question outside this Court, but was aware that it was his
duty to treat all persons in that Court with becoming respect. Trusted
that the learned counsel would assist him by his line of cross-
examination in so doing. Did not wish to answer questions upon other
than mining transactions. Was a miner here in every sense of the word,
and expected miners' treatment--that of honourable consideration and
manly fair play.'

(Slight signs of gallery approval promptly suppressed.)

Amos Burton called: 'Is the holder of a Miner's Right, but at present
does wood carting. Was in the vicinity of No. 4, Liberator Lead, very
early on 10th August, in the morning, and there saw the last witness
and three other men marking out a claim. It might be No. 3, or No. 4.
They took their time over it, and hammered in their pegs, and dug
trenches all ship-shape and reg'lar. Saw no one there before they
came. Believed the land to be vacant. Do not know the shape of the
claim. Only, if any one took it up according to the regulations, these
men did and no mistake.' (Is directed by the Court not to volunteer
his opinion upon legal points.) 'Anyhow they were in occupation.'

Cross-examined by Dr Bellair: 'Is not a friend of the last witness,
or the party, that is, not partic'lar. Knows Harry Pole, remember him
at Cold Point. The Major was there, too. Always believed in 'em as
legitimate diggers. Diggers will take advantage sometimes if they can
work it with the regulations and the ground's good. Wouldn't do so
himself--that is, not unless it was a "clean jump," and the wash was A
1.'

Ah Sing, storekeeper and general dealer, is next called, and sworn by
blowing out a match, repeating after the clerk of the court a formula
declaratory of the fact that, if he do not now speak the truth his
soul will perish as that match is blown out: 'Was on such a day on the
line near Liberator Lead. Wantee catchee that one piecee horsee dlive
em cart Milliwa velly early morning--sun come up allee samee wantee
breakfast. See Hally Pole, Joe, Major, and 'nother man--big man--peg
out claim, altogether. See um put in pegs, dig tlench, quite esure, no
foolee me, allee samee digger. Know digger way, catchee claim once
Myer Flat.'

Cross-examined: 'Digger buy things my shop, little boy, old woman,
young woman, allee samee Ah Sing. Suppose catchee money, suppose swear
lie, go to hellee quick, same as Doctor and evlybody.' (Is requested
by the Court not to include professional gentlemen in his theories of
future punishment) to which he replies, 'All lightee, Doctor stop at
home, no tell lie. Ah Sing no tell lie, Commish'ner. Commish'ner
shutee up bad Chinaman, logs, my word.' Being asked if he knows
anything about the present mining regulations, replies, 'Me plenty
savee, Hally Pole takee up No. 4, and that Dutchy man, plenty jumpee.
No more savee.'

Mr. Markham submitted that their heathen friend had shown his ability
to take a comprehensive grasp of the nature of the suit. (Laughter.)

Dr. Bellair would not further examine this witness, whose evidence he
regarded as either venal or wholly untrustworthy for want of
intelligence and sense of moral responsibility.

Cyrus Yorke is called. He walks up through the closely-packed crowd,
who, partly knowing him as a shareholder in the claim, and one of the
parties to this cause clbre, make way for him as he slowly marches
up, squaring his vast shoulders, and taller by the head than the
audience, composed though it be of men of more than average stature.
But Cyrus stands as near seven feet as six in the Wellington boots
which he always adopts for great occasions; weighing besides over
seventeen stone, below which the hardest of regular work does not
reduce him. He is not a man to be jostled in any congregation, however
dense. As he walks forward to--day, neatly dressed in suitable
garments, he is the very pink of cleanliness, and does full justice to
Mrs. Yorke's talents as a laundress. His linen is spotless as that of
a crack espada among the bull-fighters of Valencia. A grand specimen
of Anglo-Saxon manhood is Cyrus, as developed by the kindly conditions
of Australian life. I cannot help contrasting him with the ordinary
specimens of the English farm labourers, from which he is sprung.
Generations of un-remitting toil, privation, and anxiety for the
morrow, had in most of these instances stamped a look of almost
painful endurance indelibly upon form and features, writing them down
as hewers of wood and drawers of water, adscripti gleboe born thralls
of a higher race and a more favoured class. But this man's external
presentment bore the record of years spent in easily borne tasks and
well-requited effort, of long intervals of repose and recreation, of
seasons of pleasant social intercourse and free independent action.



Chapter XI



THE evidence, however, of Mr. Cyrus Yorke proved to be less striking
than his appearance, save that portion of it of which the effect was
on the wrong side.

He had pegged out on the 10th August with me, the Major, and Joe
Bulder. He had assisted to commence work three days afterwards, and
worked and occupied the claim without intermission until those four
scoundrels, with other scoundrels backing them, whose names he did not
know, but might find out some day, 'jumped' it.

Is told by the Commissioner that he must not refer to the moral tone
of any of the parties to the suit. Replies that, as an honest man, he
can't help it. Is assured by the Commissioner that his honesty will
land him presently in the lock-up for twenty-four hours for disrespect
of court, upon a repetition of the offence. Cyrus grumblingly
subsides.

Is certain that there was no person in occupation when he and his
mates took it up legally, and in proper digger fashion. If they have
no right to it, no claim on this field is properly taken up.

Mr. Markham asks the well-meaning blundering giant no more
questions.

The Doctor, with a look of evil triumph, rises quickly, looks at
Cyrus with a vivisecting eye. In a voice of terrific acerbity, he thus
began--

'Produce your Miner's Right, Mr. Cyrus Yorke, if you have such a
document.'

There was a moment's ominous pause, during which the whole Court, to
the smallest gamin, was pervaded by an intense, almost painful
interest. The spectators stirred and leaned over towards the witness,
silently gazing upon him as he was about to speak the words which, if
in the negative, would seal the doom of the claim. Here was a man who,
out of his own mouth, was perhaps about to convict himself of a breach
of the law, which would have the tremendous consequences of depriving
his party of the prize actually within their grasp--the well-earned
reward of years of toil, hardship, suffering. Only for the sake of ten
shillings, too. That was the price of a Miner's Right for the first
half of the year. After June it was reduced to a crown. A claim worth
fifty, sixty, perhaps a hundred thousand pounds was going to be lost
or held before their eyes, for half a sovereign, and a shilling's
worth of trouble! It was, indeed, as more than one bronzed, weather-
beaten spectator remarked under his breath, 'as good as a play.'

And was there no natural pity, no trace of sympathy among the hearts
of those who saw the blow, so crushing, so disastrous, about to fall
upon comrades by whose side many had worked, with whom they had
interchanged the simple offices of goldfields' friendship, who had
tended one another sick and wounded, who had knelt by the grave of
each other's dead, who knew that the man about to speak had a true
wife and prattling children to be helped or beggared by the upshot?
Truth to tell, the excitement of the spectacle much outweighed the
interest, and almost obliterated the sympathy.

For the rest--the miner belongs to a class with whom the gambling
element has ever been strong, even to apparent madness. In his
ordinary avocation he places upon the cast his health, his fortune,
his life, and, possibly, the food and shelter of his wife and
children, whom let no man say that he loves less passionately and
enduringly than his more stationary fellow labourer.

But he is accustomed, from the commencement of his perilous trade, to
see fortunes approach with dazzling nearness, then--

'like the Borealis race.

Flit ere you can point their place.'

He has seen the treasure which was to crown and justify life's toil,
an existence of desperate adventure and untold hardship, so often
missed by a hair's-breadth, that he has lost the faculty of wonder and
pity at such mere daily occurrences. He is not hard-hearted, few men
less so, only he is prone to regard all human effort and temporal
reward as the direct concomitants of the world's grand demon 'Luck.'--
All other explanation seems to him futile.

So it might be our luck to lose this claim, the richest on the lead,
the best on the field, a fortune to each shareholder. As surely it
might be another 'crowd's' luck to get it--they, and their backers,
the secret partners and abettors in this conspiracy, who 'stood in'
with the actual operators, and found the cash for these very expensive
law proceedings, which, of course, the actual jumpers, men of straw,
could not furnish.

'Will you produce your Miner's Right, witness, I ask you again?'
thundered the irascible doctor.

There was not the slightest variation from his usual sleepy monotone,
not a change in his leonine countenance as Cyrus placidly answered.

'I haven't got one--leastways, I haven't got it here.'

A suppressed sound, half sigh half groan, proceeded in a muffled
involuntary way from the great assemblage at the fatal announcement.

'What do you mean then,' demanded the triumphant advocate, 'by
occupying crown lands, and illegally mining for gold thereon with your
companions, without a shadow of title? Answer me, do you hear?'

'I apprehend, Doctor Bellair,' said the Commissioner, 'that such a
question is not relevant material to the issue. The Court is only
concerned with facts. The witness's opinion as to the legality of his
previous acts does not touch the point at issue.'

'I ask, Mr. Commissioner, do you disallow the question I have just
asked?'

'Most certainly, for the reason I have just given,' said the
Commissioner, with cheerful promptitude.

The Doctor gnashed his teeth, figuratively, and thus proceeded--

'Do you know, then, where your Miner's Right is?'

'I do not.'

'Will you swear, then, where you saw it last, or will you swear that
you have one at all?'

The witness declared that 'he would do nothing either one way or the
other. That he might, or he might not, have a Miner's Right. Anyhow,
he had not got it then, in Court, that day--they must make the best of
it.'

And here Cyrus looked defiantly round upon the crowd, with the air of
the lion caught in the toils.

'I don't know that I need go any further with this case, your
worship?' said the Doctor, with an air of the calmest assumption. 'The
whole case is perfectly plain. The occupation is bad--has been illegal
from the first, and--'

'I must protest against my learned friend making his speech upon the
merits of the case at this stage of the proceedings,' said Mr.
Markham. 'He never was more mistaken in his life, if he thinks he is
approaching a verdict for his clients.'

The real fact was, that Mr. Markham had, after hearing the damaging
admission of Cyrus Yorke, given up all for lost, as far as it was in
the indomitable nature of the man to do so. But he thought it due to
himself and his clients to repudiate all likelihood of so dire a
catastrophe, and to suspend his judgment till the evidence had been
exhausted on both sides.

The Commissioner was of the same opinion. But years of experience,
marking thousands of involved cases, had taught him the necessity of
wearing the legend audi alteram partem close to his heart,
metaphorically. He therefore said, 'If you have any witnesses, Doctor,
I shall prefer to hear them.'



Chapter XII



'VERY well, your worship,' said the Doctor, biting his lips. 'Call
Carl Ingerstrom. Stop--I ask the last witness--Did you see this man on
No. 4 claim on the morning of the 12th December, and if so, what did
you say to him?'

'I did see him loafing about the claim on the 12th,' said Cyrus, 'and
I told him if he didn't clear I'd kick him out of it that hard as he'd
never find his way back.'

'Ha! that will do, Mr. Yorke. You give very good evidence indeed.
Permit me to compliment you upon it.'

A large, respectable-looking Teuton steps into the witness-box. His
name is Carl Ingerstrom. He produces his Miner's Right, completely en
rgle, and deposes as follows, with a clear, unhesitating air, though
somewhat shifty as to the eyes--

'It vas de morgen of de dwelvth Tecemper I goes to numper vour of de
Liperator Lead mit Mick Docheroty, Santy Mag Vails, and der Bommer. Ve
dakes new begs and buds dem in de blases of dere begs. Ve vas occupy
de ground--ve gommence do to vorks by beginnen to sinken anoder shaft.
Dey rons and brevents us from vorken on our glaim--de last vitness,
der breitmann, and anoder man. Ve has a sommons for de drespass. Ve
knock off vorks dill de case is dried. Ve are here.'

Of course, this is a bare statement of the course of procedure
necessary on the taking possession of a mining tenement, so as
effectively to put the other occupants on their title. In the
completeness of that title lies the gist of the whole action at law.
And in that completeness very few of the more experienced spectators
now believe.

Cross-examined by Mr. Markham. Is asked what induced him to peg out a
claim in full work and occupation, and known to be on gold. Answer:
'Dat is de very reason--vould you hafe me beg out a glaim as is got
nodings for do bay vages and du croob, and lawyer and alle teufels? I
haf zeen Mr. Ikey Boynter, he adfice me not to shoomp noomber vour. I
say I will do all as I d--n like, shoost like an honest miner. I
belief as der didle of de glaim is bat. I know Mr. Malcrate; he is ein
herr hoch bes ahlter. I gif him one half share out of bure freundlich.
I haf zentimend--en sprach du deutsh. I lofe him. I gif all my freunds
half shares. Ve are all mades--hed and fest, in dis glaim.'

Michael Docherty, Alexander M'Phail, and Thomas Bommer (alias 'Tommy
the Clock,') are severally sworn and examined. Their Miners' Rights
are perfectly legal. Their evidence is, in essentials, identical with
that of Carl Ingerstrom. They have legally taken up and occupied No. 4
Liberator Lead, always supposing that the former occupation and
tenancy were bad in law.

Finally, the case for the defence is concluded, and Mr. Markham
rises to commence his speech.

The Commissioner looks at his watch.

'I can sit until five,' he says, 'if that will enable you to
conclude your remarks.'

'I think I shall be enabled, your worship, to bring my address to an
end within that time,' says our counsel, 'though I cannot promise, in
view of the very important nature and extent of the issue, to abate
one iota of my privilege to address the Court, in order to clearly lay
before it any point of the case that may seem material to the issue.'

'Certainly,' groans out the Commissioner resignedly. 'Of course,
this case will have to be adjourned, in order to permit the counsel
for the defence to be heard in reply. Now then, Mr. Markham.'

Mr. Markham, availing himself of the permission, at once commenced a
lucid and masterly analysis of the whole mining law and custom bearing
upon the case, than which no advocate was better fitted to display and
unravel, no judge more qualified by experience to deal with than the
Commissioner.

Hasty and impatient by nature, William Blake was a man whose clear
intellect enabled him to comprehend with rapid and comprehensive grasp
the apparently involved cases that were constantly brought before him.
He could detect the flaw in the most subtle of reasoning with unerring
accuracy. His attention never flagged, nor did his memory fail to
retain the most minute detail during the weary length of the
protracted cases with which a crowded goldfield inundated his Court.

Ours was one of the most important cases which had occurred for a
long time, and we had full assurance, as had every miner in that great
gold region, that every legal formality would be scrupulously complied
with. We knew that, if the fortunes of himself, his family, and his
whole kindred had depended upon the verdict, that our advocate could
not have been more tireless, more energetic, more watchful, more
desperately resolved to win, by the employment of his every gift and
faculty, than he was now.

He drew a picture of the long discouraging struggle with fortune,
which most miners had experienced. The travel and voyage from one
colony to another. The terrible privations, by cold or heat, famine or
poverty, silently borne or uncomplainingly defied! The weary waiting,
the soul-sickness of hope deferred. The possible failure of health,
the chances of accident, all the best gifts of mortality offered on
the cast of the die. Life itself cast down recklessly as the last
stake against gold.

Then the horizon brightens; a fortunate find is made. The last hope,
when so many were vain, has proved successful. The old dream of home
and native land and longing early friends is no longer a romance but a
tangible reality. The richness of the claim is proved. The ceaseless
labour is for once munificently rewarded. The toil of years is at
length duly compensated.

But what then? Envy and greed, watchful and eager as harpies, swoop
down. A sham title is set up to the property--so fairly, so truly, so
honestly acquired.

'But not legally,' interjects the irrepressible Doctor.

'Am I to be interrupted in this way?' says Mr. Markham, appealing
gravely to the Bench.

The Doctor is informed that it is hardly correct for him to interpose
during Mr. Markham's address.

He apologises, and the speech proceeds.

'A sham title,' he repeats, 'is set up. These loafing scoundrels (he
must apologise for the expression--but they are not legitimate miners,
or self--respecting labourers of any kind) who had shammed occupation,
shammed efficient labour, were set on by, if possible, greater
scoundrels than themselves, only with a little more money, and who
even now, in the background, were watching, spider-like, for the
enmeshing of their prey. He trusted, however, that the web of deceit
and chicanery would be rent on this occasion, would be swept into
infamous oblivion by the besom of the law in the hands of Justice.
(Applause.) Proceeding to quote a number of well-known decisions in
mining cases he traced the gradual growth of the assumption--for it
was no more--that all the partners in a mining enterprise should
suffer in title, in property, in person, in their very mining
existence, if but one had failed to provide himself with what, he
admitted, was an indispensable preliminary to all searching for gold
upon the public estate--on the lands of the crown--a Miner's Right.
And he characterised as cruel, oppressive, and ultra vires of all the
spirit and even letter of the common law of the realm, and, therefore,
of the statute law under which the Commissioner was now adjudicating,
this crushing and extreme penalty of forfeiture of the claim. If the
work of men's hands, righteously won and manfully laboured at, was to
be handed over to the first sneaking informer who discovered a paltry
technical defect, then the goldfields would soon cease to be composed,
as they were now, of the very flower of the working classes. They
would no longer have among them the more stalwart and intelligent
individuals of those above the grade of labour, if such there were,
but a concourse of thieves and assassins, cut-throats and gamblers--
the scum of the nations of the earth.

Not a single point which could by any means be brought to bear upon
the question at issue was omitted. Not a standard authority or leading
case was left unquoted. Not an appeal to honest judgment, to good
conscience and equity, as he maintained the Commissioner's Court as at
present constituted to be, not a single part of the evidence which was
favourable was left without reference; and when, candles having been
procured and the hour of ordinary sitting long passed, the exhaustive
oration was brought to a close by a solemn and impassioned peroration,
in which the high magistrate was besought to right the oppressed and
free the administration of goldfields law from the reproach of
constructive unfairness and over-litigation which had so long clung to
it, the Court adjourned with one universal feeling on the part of the
crowd of spectators, that justice was with the cause of the last
speaker, and that he had nobly cleared away all doubts from the minds
of his hearers.

On the morrow, punctually at the usual hour, the officials of the
Court were in attendance. Directly the doors were thrown open by the
police, an eager crowd of miners, business people, and even strangers,
attracted by the cause clbre, poured in, filling every seat and foot
of standing room.

Dr. Bellair was to make his speech in reply, and all knew that the
Commissioner would then give his decision, that important verdict,
which though certain to be appealed against, was rarely, in such cases
as this, reversed.

But little time was lost. After a few moments the case was again
called on. The Doctor commenced his reply. His nervous, eager
countenance was toned down to a decorous appearance of calmness and
gravity much at variance with his volcanic temperament, as he, with a
great show of deference and respect, addressed the Commissioner,
'whose experience and thorough knowledge of mining law,' he said, 'had
made his opinion weighty, and his decisions all but immutable,
wherever a goldfield gathered together its strangely constituted
population. He would implore him to dismiss from his mind all
knowledge of the different social footing of the parties to the suit;
to obliterate all fanciful ideas of presumed equity and false
generosity of sentiment, and to cling tenaciously and sternly, as a
British judge should do, to the only pure and unmixed truth--the
unquestioned and unquestionable law. This power, this rock, this law
of the land, his clients he should be able to demonstrate, had most
unmistakably on their side. Whoever they were, whatever they were, he
only claimed for them the status of the ordinary legitimate gold
digger, who, however, with his Miner's Right, had the proud privilege
of being able to occupy and search for gold every acre of the broad
crown lands of this great colony of New South Wales. They had never
forfeited their right to justice. He should not dwell on this portion
of the facts, in opening his case, were it not that so much stress had
been laid by his learned friend on the previous career of the
complainants, on their long course of evil fortune, and their present
prize, which it was asserted his clients had conspired to wrest from
them.

'Whether it was so or not, he would submit, it did not touch the case
in any shape. What was it to his worship, sitting here as judge both
of law and of fact, how or with what success the complainants had
laboured? If they had given their whole lives to an unsuccessful
pursuit of gold, or fame, or happiness, had not others, all the world,
indeed, with but few exceptions, done the same? The Commissioner did
not sit here to redress the wrongs of society, and pose himself as a
second-hand Providence, reading the hearts and rewarding the hidden
motives of men, but to administer the law, not to make it--as the
great Bacon, with almost divine wisdom defined it, not to consider
probable compensations of fate, but to hear and determine within the
limits of the statute, and only with regard to sworn evidence brought
before him. He himself knew the Commissioner, and the whole tenor of
his previous decisions--decisions which lent stability and assurance
to the great interest he was called upon to control--too well to dream
that he would otherwise think, otherwise act. But he ought,
considering the quality of the ad captandum arguments used by his
learned friend, due, no doubt, to the defects of his cause, not to
pass over this aspect of the matter.'

The Doctor then, warming to his work, to our dismay briefly and
trenchantly dealt with the evidence, bringing out the default of that
unlucky Cyrus, as to his missing or wilfully evaded Miner's Right,
into full and distressing prominence. He showed that, over and over
again, claims which had turned out to be the richest and most valuable
on their field had been ruthlessly forfeited in consequence of similar
illegality. It was as firmly established as anything could be by a
series of judgments, by the consensus of opinion, by the unwritten
custom of mining law that in all such cases the default of one
shareholder made the whole occupation bad. If the previous occupation
was bad, the land was in the position of vacant, waste crown lands,
which his clients had had a perfect right to enter upon. They had
legally done so; they had worked until prevented by force by the
complainants. Their title was perfect. He defied any one to find a
flaw in it. If a verdict was not given for them in this case, then the
whole previous weight and authority of mining law fell to the ground,
an unsubstantial and baseless fabric. All future decisions must rest
on caprice and injustice, on personal feeling and improper partiality.

'But he had no fear of any such result, though, if it occurred, he
would carry the case on behalf of his clients, poor and of small
account as they were, through every court in the colony, including the
highest, the Supreme Court, if it cost him every penny he had in the
world. But,' he repeated, 'he had no fear of such a contingency, such
a perversion of right, such a miscarriage of justice. The experienced
magistrate, the proconsul he might call him, before whose words of
fate the fortunes, almost the lives of men, had before now trembled in
the balance, could not, dared not (the Commissioner's eye glowed, and
then rested fixedly on the impassioned advocate, who seemed
transfigured into a tribune, shrieking forth the wrongs of oppressed
humanity, and proclaiming gospel of the people's rights) dared not, in
the clear light of his fame for strict justice and stern impartiality,
record other than one verdict, one decree. He had no fear for the
issue. He rested upon the firm basis of the evidence they had all that
day heard. It was from first to last unassailed, unassailable; the law
was plain, the issue certain. He awaited but the formality of his
worship the Commissioner's sanction to place his clients in possession
of the ground of which they and the public at large had been illegally
deprived.

Now came the exciting last act of the melodrama so likely to
terminate in tragedy as far as we were concerned. The Commissioner
calmly looked over his notes, and prepared to deliver his decision
amid the ominous hush and suppressed excitement of the crowded Court.
Not a sound was heard, though the spectators in the rear of the
assemblage raised themselves on tiptoe, and strained every ear with
deepest curiosity to hear the words of fate. The Commissioner, in
whose hands lay life and death (so to speak), who had the power to
take away from us all that made life worth living for, to doom us to
the barren and hopeless existence of unrewarded toil and hope long
deferred from which we had so lately emerged, commenced his address.
It would not be long, we knew. It was not his wont to 'improve the
occasion' in the hundreds of cases, more or less important, which he
administered monthly. He was fully aware that his audience, whether as
malefactors or parties to civil process, understood the consequences
of legal wrong-doing on the facts of the case fully and accurately
without explanation from him or any other magistrate. His duty was to
administer the law, with which as a class they were singularly well
acquainted, without favour or affection; and this he always did
shortly and decidedly. He was very careful in arriving at his
decisions; but once given they were as the laws of the Medes and
Persians. If they could be shown to be ultra vires or informal, well
and good; let the higher courts see to that. But he, William Blake,
had never been known to alter a decision, and as long as he was
Commissioner of Goldfields never would be.

Thus he began--

'This was an information laid for trespass by Pole and party,
complainants, who sought to cause Ingerstrom and others to abate
trespass upon a certain mining tenement, known as No. 4 Liberator
Lead.

'The gist of the matter clearly lay in the evidence given on the part
of Pole and party, as to the legality of their prior occupation of No.
4 claim, before referred to. It had been proved before him this day in
Court that they had taken up, that is, occupied and worked the claim,
had sunk upon and traced the auriferous drift, had taken out wash-
dirt, and received and shared dividends, long before the defendants
had appeared upon the scene. If they had in all respects complied with
the regulations, there was no doubt about the complainants possessing
the prior right. Upon that proof being complete the whole title
hinged. If it were not so proved, no natural feeling of sympathy on
his part, no consideration of the crushing severity with which a
breach of the goldfields' regulations would be visited on their heads,
in the event of their forfeiture of so rich a claim as No. 4 had been
proved to be, would prevent him from recording a verdict adverse to
them. He, sitting there, had nothing whatever to do with the feelings,
nay, the equitable right of individuals. He had always, he hoped,
clearly interpreted and enforced the law, and the law only. Such he
would continue to do, he trusted, to the end.

With regard to the occupation of Pole and party, it had been shown
that three of the shareholders possessed Miners' Rights. But the
fourth shareholder was unable to produce that indispensable permit. He
must, therefore, be presumed to be without it, and, in such a case, he
was an unauthorised occupant of crown lands, whether for residence or
mining purposes. He had no locus standi. He could not legally apply
for relief of any kind to that Court. Any share which he possessed
must be forfeited. He was also liable to a fine, with imprisonment in
default of payment.

'This, however, was not all. It had been long held by mining
authorities that, unless all the shareholders taking up a claim were
possessed of Miners' Rights at the time when they pegged out and
commenced operations, their action was illegal as far as taking
possession of crown lands for gold mining purposes, under the Act, was
concerned. The occupation, he repeated, if but one even of the
shareholders was not at that time the holder of a Miner's Right, would
be bad in law.

'In this case, it had not been shown in evidence before him that
Cyrus Yorke, one of the complainants in the trespass case now before
him, was the holder of a Miner's Right when No. 4 claim was first by
them taken up. That default, in his opinion, invalidated the whole
title. Not the slightest doubt existed in his mind upon the subject.
He would, therefore, give a verdict for--'

Here an uproar arose in the body of the Court towards the entrance
door, of such a pronounced, ungoverned nature, that the sergeant,
looking at first pained and then justly indignant, marched with long
dignified strides and a sternly resolved air to the scene of disorder,
as if to bring the offenders, there and then, before the Court for
doom.

He reappeared, however, with an altered and relaxed visage, escorting
gallantly our good friend Mrs. Cyrus Yorke, on the other side of whom
was Mr. Markham, who ever and anon inclined his ear in confidential
legal intercourse. The little woman held one hand triumphantly aloft,
in which was something which stirred our hearts anew and caused the
flickering light of hope to be freshly irradiated with a glow of
celestial illumination.

'Your worship,' commenced the sergeant, 'I beg respectfully to state
that the apparently disorderly conduct in Court was caused by the
attempts of the friends of this witness to procure her admission to
the vicinity of your worship.'

'Sergeant M'Mahon, the irregularity is fully explained. You desire to
address the Court, Mr. Markham?'

'Yes, your worship. I tender this witness, the wife of one of the
complainants, who has most important evidence, material to the issue,
to give. I am aware that the proceedings on the side of the
complainants have been closed, but, your worship's Court, as that of a
Commissioner of Goldfields, is one of equity and good conscience, and
I trust that such evidence as this witness may produce, will not be
shut out.'

'I object to any such proceeding as monstrous, illegal, and perfectly
unprecedented,' shouts Dr. Bellair, with a most excited air. 'The
evidence has been closed. The whole proceedings finished, but the
actual pronunciation of the verdict, in defendants' favour, of course;
and now you ask to have the proceedings re-opened, for what possibly
may be perfectly unnecessary evidence.'

'We shall see that,' said Mr. Markham, with a sanguine air. 'Will
your worship admit the evidence?'

'The question with me, in such cases as I am called upon to try under
the Mining Act and Regulations, is less whether the evidence be
informally tendered, than whether the nature of it be material. In
this case I will shut out no evidence that may possibly bear on the
legality of my decision. Swear the witness.'

'Mrs. Yorke, go into the box,' said Mr. Markham. 'You are the wife of
Cyrus Yorke, one of the complainants who has given evidence in this
case to-day?'

'Yes.'

'Do you produce a Miner's Right, and, if so, in whose favour, and of
what date?'

'I do. I took it out for my husband, one day in Louisa, knowing how
careless he was in such things, and put it into a box for safety. It
was hidden under the children's clothes, or I should have had it out
in Court long before this. Goodness knows what--'

'Have the goodness to hand it to the Clerk of the Court,' interrupted
the Commissioner.

The truly important document was inspected with eager eyes by that
functionary, who respectfully handed it to the Commissioner. He read
aloud the talismanic signs--

'Cyrus Yorke. 1st January 185--. Issued in the Registrar's office at
Louisa. To remain in force till 31st December 185--, (Signed) 'William
D. Blake, P. M., Commissioner.'

An utterly irrepressible sound of relief and amazement escaped the
lips of the majority of the listeners. There was the missing link, the
indispensable, vitally necessary legal act, in default of which this
tremendously rich claim was about to be forfeited and transferred to
the enemy, as sure as anything ever was in this world.

'Silence in the Court,' growls the sergeant, but with a sympathetic
intonation noticeable through all his official severity.

'I demand to see this paper, this Miner's Right as it is called,'
here breaks in Dr. Bellair, with a voice of mingled passion, regret,
and disbelief. 'How do we know that it has not been manufactured for
the occasion. I demand the fullest investigation as to how and when it
was issued, and I protest against any notice being taken of it as
evidence in this most improper manner.'

'You may protest, Doctor,' said Mr. Markham, good humouredly, 'but my
client's case is complete. I am in a position to prove by the evidence
of the Mining Registrar at Louisa, that the Right produced was taken
out by witness during the week following Christmas of last year--she
very properly determining to make sure that her husband should not be
placed in a false position. I wish all wives were as careful on the
goldfields. Now you can examine the witness, Doctor, and make what you
can of her.'

'I shall do so, without your permission,' cried the fiery little
advocate. 'Now then, Mary Ann Yorke. Is that your real name; are you
married to the complainant, Yorke?'

'I'd soon show you, if I had you down on the Blue Lead,' said the
little woman, trembling with passion, and suggestively raising her
hand. 'What do you mean by--'

'Mrs. Yorke,' said the Commissioner, suavely but firmly, 'you must
answer Dr. Bellair's questions, and I would remind you not to become
excited in this Court. Answer the questions shortly, and to the best
of your knowledge; the examination will soon be over.'

'Yes, Commissioner, yes, your worship,' said poor Mrs. Yorke, already
repenting her of her just indignation, in that it might imperil the
cause; 'but what does he mean by trying to make out I'm not an honest
woman, and don't have my right name? I'll name him if he tries that
on, as sure as my name's Mary Ann Yorke.'

'I trust I shall be protected by the Court,' said the Doctor,
defiantly. 'It is necessary that I should test this woman's
credibility, which I have every reason to doubt.'

'Certainly, Dr. Bellair, but I must ask you not to put such questions
needlessly, as may be offensive to the witness's feelings of modesty
and self-respect.'

'I claim the privileges of the Bar! and I defy your worship to abate
one jot or tittle of those privileges in my person. A judge of the
Supreme Court could not do so.'

'You will find, Dr. Bellair, that I am judge in my own court, and
that I will interfere very decidedly, if you pursue a line of cross-
examination which can only have the effect of distressing the
feelings, and outraging the moral sense of the witness--in this case,
a most exemplary and respectable woman.'

The Doctor snorted indignantly, and went on with his cross-
examination; but although he made himself sufficiently disagreeable to
Mrs. Yorke, whose eyes became so round and fierce, that we all felt
alarmed, particularly Cyrus, at the probable consequences, he did not
choose to adopt the vivisecting process permitted to counsel in the
higher courts. He knew full well, by experience, in spite of his
bravado, that he would be peremptorily stopped by the Commissioner,
one of whose fixed principles it was, never to permit a woman,
whatever might be her character and antecedents, to be needlessly
harassed in the witness box, or treated with unnecessary disrespect.
So the day wore on.

'Why did her husband not take out his own Miner's Right; wasn't he
man enough to do it?' said the Doctor.

'He was man enough to work hard for his family, and had never denied
them anything--not like some folk, a spending their money away from
home, and isn't very particular what company they went into on the
sly; but he hadn't no head for business like. And wasn't there many a
good all--round man on this field, as the same could be said of?'

All Mrs. Yorke's timidity gradually left her. Such is generally the
case with female witnesses. And, being fully aroused to a sense of the
Doctor's antagonistic position to the party, answered him with such
vigour and unexpected epigram, that the Court, more than once, felt
compelled to interfere. However, nothing could be got out of her but
that she had taken out the Miner's Right for the use and benefit of
her husband, 'as any wife as had any sense had good call to do.'

'Why, I might have one myself, Doctor,' she continued, 'for all you
know, or the baby in arms, bless him! The Act says, "any person,"
don't it? It doesn't say man or woman, child or sucking babe, does it?
I shouldn't wonder if I knew as much mining law as you do, Doctor,
close up.'

'I opine that we do not come here to listen to this woman's
disrespectful maunderings about mining acts and regulations, your
worship,' said the little man, loftily. 'I demand the protection of
the Court.'

'Who do you call "this woman?" ' Mrs. Yorke was just commencing to
inquire, when she was told by the Commissioner that she might stand
down after signing her name to her deposition.

'One moment, your worship. I wish to interpose one question, said
Mr. Markham. 'What mining registrar did you get your Miner's Right
from? who issued it?'

'Mr. Allen, of Louisa. I went over there about some quinces; and I
saw him write it down in the but of his book. It'll be there, with the
day and date, I know. There's no get away, you take my word, your
worship.'

'That will do, Mrs. Yorke. We will not detain you.'

And the little woman retired to a seat, previously casting a look of
withering indignation at her late opponent.

The Commissioner, apparently, did not see the necessity of making
two speeches upon the same subject. Besides, it was getting late. He
briefly gave the reasons for the decision he was about to pronounce.

'He had stated, he thought, in his first address that the missing
link in the chain of evidence for the complainants was an important
one--no less than the Miner's Right of Cyrus Yorke, one of the
original and prior occupants. Had the defect in the evidence not been
cured, a verdict must have been given by him virtually for the
defendants--"No trespass committed."

'The last piece of evidence, although from circumstances tendered so
late in the day, that some magistrates would have felt justified in
shutting it out altogether, had clearly proved that the complainants
were each and all legally authorised when they went on the ground.
That they had prior occupation could not be doubted for an instant.
They had worked their claim for gold, had washings out of it, and
shared dividends. As to the size of the claim, and its irregular
shape, that was partly caused by the course of the lead, and was a
minor matter in his eyes. So long as they had no more than the number
of superficial feet allowed in four men's ground, he saw no illegality
in that circumstance. He, therefore, unhesitatingly pronounced a
verdict for complainants, with one hundred and fifty pounds costs
against defendants, who were hereby ordered forthwith to abate
trespass.'

At this announcement a general impulse tempted the closely-packed
crowd to cheer. The sergeant looked around with so horrified and
severely surprised expression of countenance, that the audience
relapsed into the dumbness of church-goers. Mrs. Yorke wept for joy,
and infected with that strange contagious feminine luxury a young
woman who sat next to her, and who, being a relation of one of the
jumpers, might be said to belong to the enemy's camp.

'I give notice of appeal!' promptly said the fiery little advocate.

'Lodge your money within seven days, and a written notice in due
form,' said the unmoved Commissioner.

'I desire to apply for an injunction also, to restrain Pole and party
from washing up and getting gold from my clients' claim while this
suit is pending.'

'And I oppose the granting of any such instrument,' said Mr. Markham.
'My clients have been placed in this position for no fault of their
own. They have lost valuable time. They have been compelled to attend
here without a shadow of reason, and debarred from their legal rights.
And now your worship is asked, forsooth, to keep them idle for another
three or six months.'

'Under the circumstances, I refuse to grant an injunction,' quoth the
Commissioner.

'I shall only be compelled to apply to a judge of the Supreme Court,'
replied Dr. Bellair.

'It is not for me to suggest to whom you may or may not apply,'
answers the Commissioner. 'I shall grant no injunction, if every
barrister in the colony made separate application. The Court stands
adjourned to this day week.'

Whereupon there was a general stampede to the nearest hotels on the
part of the witnesses, spectators, complainants, and defendants; while
the Commissioner, evidently not in the humour for conversation,
mounted his well-known hackney, which was brought to the office door
by a trooper, and departed in the direction of the police camp,
whistling, as he went, to his dogs, but evidently not 'for want of
thought.'

'The melodrama had been played. The dnoement was satisfactory as
far as we were concerned. But more uncertainties and a further
experience of litigation awaited us. The prize was too rich to be
abandoned at the first check; Dr. Bellair, a man, when in the guise of
an opponent, not to be lightly regarded. He had, it was reported,
received a transfer of a 'sleeping quarter share,' that is, a
proportion of the property of the claim, involving a sixteenth of the
entire profit, without the necessity of representing or paying for the
services of an able-bodied miner.

This might be worth a thousand--two--three thousand pounds. No doubt
it was worth a considerable amount of trouble and legal research. We
did not expect to be let alone for long. Of course notice of appeal
had at once been given by the opposite side, and the sum of money,
stated in the regulations, lodged with the registrar of the district
court.

But we went to work again, and made haste to raise enough to
complete a machine-full of washdirt, which, when put through or
puddled, produced a sufficiency of gold to pay all our late law
expenses, and leave us a comforting surplus, thus demonstrating also
the unabated richness of No. 4.

Hardly, however, had we completed this gratifying transaction than
one of our late antagonists arrived in company with a police trooper,
and called upon us to stop working on their claim.

'Your claim!' said Cyrus Yorke, striding up to him and lifting him
off the ground, as if he had been a schoolboy, instead of a wiry,
muscular labourer. 'You may serve out your injunction, or summons, or
whatever it is that you've got the bobby to help you with; but if you
call No. 4 your claim again, I'll drop you down the shaft as sure's as
there's homminey on the Hawkesbury.'

We had seldom seen our easy-going, careless partner so excited
before. Like most slow-moving intellects, his faculties were capable
of great expansion when fully aroused. Once or twice we had marked him
in the thick of an affray. Like Athelstane the Unready, when his blood
was up, knight, and squire, and yeoman, and villain went down with
wondrous suddenness before the South-Saxon giant of Wiseman's Ferry.
On this occasion there was no need for deeds of valour. The miners of
Yatala had long since discovered the futility of resorting to physical
force.

'I say, Cornstalk, I shall have to put the bracelets on those mutton
fists of yours,' said the trooper good humouredly. 'That chap's on the
Queen's service, or all the same. Here's a Supreme Court injunction,
which I hereby serve by giving to your mate, Harry Pole, here. D'ye
hear? Let go this honest old miner, or you'll drop in for it. I've
seen as big a chap as you straightened afore now.'

Cyrus was too good a subject of Her Gracious Majesty to resist the
law's representative. He relinquished Mr. Bommer with a gentle shake,
growling to himself meanwhile like an interrupted grizzly. We
capitulated. I called out 'below there.' The indicator rapped, and
presently the Major and Joe Bluer emerged from the lower depths, clay-
stained and disgusted.

'Blocked again!' quoth the Major, 'what an infernal shame. It's
enough to demoralise a man altogether and irrevocably, this forced
idleness. Enough to drive him to take to--well--Alison's History of
Europe, or even Martin Farquhar Tupper. Do you ever reflect for one
moment,' he said, facing the astonished jumper, 'what may be the
consequence of your unprincipled litigation? Heavy reading, incipient
dementia, violent inanity, imbecility. And all because you won't
respect the tenth commandment. Had you a mother? Did you ever attend a
Sunday school? Had you so much as a maiden aunt? Answer me.'

'You be hanged,' said the half-puzzled, half-irritated catspaw, who
had evidently been drowning his sense of defeat in the flowing bowl,
from his flushed and heavy-eyed look. 'You think because you and Harry
Pole are swells that you can carry things all your own way on the
field. But we'll learn ye different before we've done with yer.'

'And you think, because you're a pack of loafing blackguards,'
retorted the Major, roused for the nonce, 'that you can interfere with
fair working miners, and steal claims that you have no more right to
than the bank in Main Street. We shall see you all in gaol for half a
year for our costs, that's one comfort, and it's a great pity we can't
put your underhand friends and backers there along with you.'

'You'll be pulled for using language calculated to cause a breach of
the peace, Major,' said the trooper, 'if you don't stash it. Come
along, my noble jumper, you've served your injunction, and that ought
to satisfy you for one while.'

So the malignant departed, rather to my relief, for there was
nothing to be gained by being summoned to Court, and fined under the
5th clause of the Vagrant Act. No. 4 was sufficiently near a public
road, thoroughfare, or place, to tempt our adversary to swear that we
were within the meaning of that very stringent clause.

Our wisest plan was to comply with the law, to hang up our buckets,
put away the rope, and abide the issue. A deep claim is not a property
that can be worked, or larcenously interfered with, without remark.
The only way that our golden hoard could in any way be rifled was by
the men in one of the adjacent claims driving or making a lateral
gallery over our boundary below, when our washdirt might have gone up
their shaft in the light of day, and no one been any wiser. This has
been done before now.

In addition to this safeguard, the neighbours on either side were
straightforward and honourable men. We also possessed another legal
preventive. By application to the Commissioner we could at any time
obtain an order to descend and survey either of the adjacent shafts,
when, by means known to all miners, we could soon discover if any
subterranean encroachment had been made.

We were stopped accordingly. It was a bore, but the other side could
not work either; and being precluded from hard work, with plenty of
money to spend, and no unpaid debts, or anxiety about the morrow, was
a very different thing from our former experiences.

So we all preserved our souls in peace for the six weeks that elapsed
before the appeal could be heard. The Major read every book in the
library of the Mechanics' School of Arts, besides buying so many that
they may seriously interfere with the comfort of our sleeping
apartment. Joe Bulder smoked a good deal more than was good for him,
and anathematised those scoundrels of jumpers with more fervency than
propriety. While Cyrus ran his horse in several exciting sweepstakes,
and won or lost as the case might be.



Chapter XIII



TIME, which brings all things to an end, and which had never passed
so slowly for us before, even in our worst 'tucker' days, brought on
the hearing of our appeal. It was heard before four magistrates in
petty sessions assembled; and the whole weary evidence taken over
again without the omission of a single detail. It certainly was a fact
that Cyrus Yorke's being now the proud possessor of a Miner's Right
led the opposite side to dwell with less persistent energy upon that
point. But on the other hand they devoted the whole strength of their
resources to bring out in strong relief their other allegation, viz.
that the irregularity of the shape of our claim constituted a fatal
objection.

An appeal lay to two or more magistrates under the Goldfields Act of
30 Victoria, No. 8 (long since repealed), and was not so much an
appeal upon certain clearly defined points of law as a total re-
hearing of the whole case at issue. Hence the defeated party,
generally being shrewd enough to discover the weak point of their
evidence the first trial, not unfrequently took measures to strengthen
that precise gabion or outwork when the appeal was heard. No doubt in
some parts of the land the magistrates of the territory, not
familiarly acquainted with mining law, constituted a wholly
unsatisfactory tribunal before which to decide such delicate details
and complicated issues. But the Justices at Yatala had been so
thoroughly trained by a long series of mining cases and appeals during
years past, involving vast sums and most important consequences, that
the more important personages of the higher courts were hardly better
up in the rule of evidence and the statutory necessities of their
position.

So the whole lengthy evidence was fully and patiently heard; no
detail was omitted; the irregular shape of the claim, and the number
of superficial feet which it measured, must have been as well known to
the habitues of the Court as a catch sum in arithmetic to the boys of
a public school at examination time.

At nightfall the magistrates retired to confer among themselves. And
after a quarter of an hour's council delivered their decision by the
mouth of the chairman. The appeal was dismissed with seventy-five
pounds costs against the appellants.

All recourse had now been exhausted but one. Of that one, however,
our antagonists were determind to avail themselves.

Furious at defeat, and with a few sarcastic sentences reflecting upon
the legal capacity of the magistrates, for which he was promptly
called to order, the Doctor at once hurled his last challenge at our
heads in the form of a notice of appeal to the Supreme Court.

He was informed that he could do so in the manner set forth in the
regulations, by naming the points upon which he desired to appeal, and
by lodging a sum of money as guarantee for the costs of the
respondents in the event of the appeal being dismissed.

Money was still forthcoming, it appeared, as these expensive
preliminaries were at once complied with.

Thus for the second time we were victorious. As we left the Court
amid the congratulations of the crowd, Mr. Markham cheerfully asked
the Doctor if he had made arrangements for sending the case home to
the Privy Council after the Supreme Court had decided against him?

Frowning darkly, he replied that, 'It was not so very certain that he
might not be compelled to take that step also. He had had reason to
distrust the law of colonial judges before now.'

Here the crowd cheered him, evidently pleased with his indomitable
courage. And we went straight to our claim, and put on a shift before
midnight.

A week at least must elapse before the judge in chambers--in his
metropolitan seclusion--could be moved to grant an injunction to
further restrain us from working until the last appeal should be
tried. We therefore concluded to make hay while the sun shone, or
rather to dig gold while the coast was clear. To that end we put on a
crowd of wages men, who extracted such a ceaseless output of washdirt
that our foes used to come to the claim and declare that nothing would
be left of their inheritance, so to speak, if we were not stopped.

The Doctor tried the Commissioner and the magistrates for a
restraining order, offering to make affidavit that bloodshed would
ensue. But the former said if a few rascally, loating jumpers were
knocked on the head it would matter little. And the other men in
authority had doubts as to the legality of any but judicial
interference at this stage of proceedings.

One fine day, though, an imposing document, with the judge's sign--
manual appended thereto, did make its appearance, and was duly served
upon us; but before it arrived we had washed several machines of dirt,
and extracted the best part of two thousand pounds in hard cash from
the 'mining tenement' in dispute.

'Yon dirt goes better and better every load,' said Joe Bulder.
'Danged if I don't chuck that Doctor down a wet shaft if we're muddled
about much langer a' this fashion.'

There was nothing for it, however, but to sling up the rawhide
buckets, and put No. 4 out of commission once more. It was hard, too,
to see even other claims along the lead, with their red flags
flaunting in the breeze, and the whip-horses hauling steadily at their
ascending loads, or trolling back briskly and kicking playfully when
the descending rope permitted such gambols.

We had, perforce, to endure more wearisome monotonous inaction and
delay. Our appeal case in the Supreme Court was set down for hearing
at the end of a crowded session, as luck would have it, and
immediately before the long vacation. Australian judges are, as a
rule, worked very hard, and have not the leisure of their European
brethren. At this particular time the course of litigation, consequent
upon an unprecedented period of inflowing wealth, had well-high
exhausted the metropolitan bench, the bar, and even the sufficiently
numerous solicitors. Two or three stupendous squatting actions,
notably the great Terri-hi-hi Creek case, had swallowed up the last
remnant of that admittable patience and attention to minutest details
which so honourably distinguishes the British wearer of the ermine.

To the passionate grief and indignation of Dr. Bellair, who stopped
but little short of a threat of impeachment before the British Houses
of Parliament, the great appeal case in Pole and party v. Ingerstrom
and party, which was beginning to be in all men's mouths, the value of
the claim in dispute being variously stated from a hundred thousand
pounds to a quarter of a million, was not brought on before the close
of the session.

So it was left stranded with other forlorn argosies, and compelled
to abide the humble position of remanet.

We were hardly less disgusted than our enthusiastic opponent that
his frantic adjurations had beaten themselves vainly against the rock
of judicial imperturbability. Whatever were we to do for the three or
four, possibly six, months which would probably intervene before we
could put a pick again into the tantalisingly rich washdirt of No. 4?
How were we to spend our money or our lives in this confounded Yatala,
thrice-read volume that it was to all of us?

Events follow quickly in those new lands upon which the Southern
Cross looks down from the untroubled skies, fortunately for those sons
of hazard and adventure, for whom the measured march of the old world
has ever been too tame. I had wandered listlessly homeward one evening
from a long day's walk, more than usually depressed with the thought
that the waters of evil fortune were closing darkly over our heads in
spite of our transient gold gleam, when I was struck by the unwonted
appearance of activity displayed by the Major.

Our premises also had undergone a temporary alteration. The tent was
down; various articles of furniture were assuming their well-known
travelling appearance. Joe Bulder was briskly busied in abetting the
transformation of everything into light marching order. Suddenly I
became conscious of an unwonted hum as of earnest voices amongst our
circumjacent acquaintances. I began to recognise the symptoms of the
complaint.

It was not for the first time that I had known a great goldfield
infected by it. Forms were flitting about in the gathering twilight,
lanterns were being lit in preparation for night work. Horses were
driven-up, the hobble chains and bells of which sounded their
continuous characteristic chime. A word from time to time caught my
ear, in which 'The Oxley,' 'Only a hundred and odd miles,' 'Five
ounces to the dish,' 'Good sinking,' 'All block claims,' were
increasingly distinct.

Before I stopped at the spot of earth which had been immediately
before our own tent door, I was fully aware of the cause of the
unwonted agitation which characterised the night.

A rush was on and a big one at that, as I heard an American digger
inform his mate.

'You're a good fellow, Pole,' said the Major, 'in your way--a man of
high principles and irreproachable morals; but these infernally long
walks amount to a defect in your character. Here have we been sounding
boot and saddle all day, and couldn't get "tale or tidings of you," as
Mrs. Yorke says. Lend a hand with this cord. Do you want to put
anything else in this box of yours? I've packed it for you.'

'I'll see in the morning,' I said. 'Where's the rush?'

'Where's the rush?' echoed the Major, still tugging away at an
obstinate cord with which he was securing a very bulging and battered
portmanteau. 'Have you been in a cave all day? or where in heaven can
you have deposited yourself not to have heard of the Great Rush to the
Oxley--the biggest thing that's happened in Australia yet, and that's
going to knock Ballarat and Bendigo into a cocked hat?'

'So good as that?' I queried languidly.

'Good!' shouted the Major. 'Nothing ever heard like it, even in
California or Eaglehawk. Three ounces, five ounces, ten ounces to the
dish, regular chunks of gold, no rock, no water. All shallow sinking
and block claims; none of your confounded frontage, all law and
humbug. I like the good old-fashioned blocks--when you get it, you get
it and no mistake. There won't be a soul on the field in a week,
except those who are on real good gold. And it must be good to keep
fellows here after what we've heard.'

'How about No. 4; give it away?'

'No, most noble stoic, we are not exactly going to do that, badly as
we have been treated by luck, law, and litigation. You and I and Joe
are going "right away," as poor Gus would have said, and Cyrus will
remain and be the dragon on guard.'

'I suppose we must start at daylight? It's a great nuisance,' I
said, 'having this kind of thing to do over again.'

'You haven't gone mad by any chance,' said the Major, taking a light
and peering into my face, 'as the defendant in Racker v. Smith did? A
ten thousand pound claim was something to lose when all the world knew
that he was in the right. No, we haven't quite lost No. 4 yet, in
spite of the Doctor and all his works. But softening of the brain must
be setting in, or you would never think of losing an hour, much less a
whole night, when there's a rush like this on. No, we've hired a
spring-cart and horse by the day, and the fellow will be here with it
when the moon rises. You'll have to look slippy.'

'You seem in a wonderful state of sanguine anticipation, Major,' I
made answer; 'one would think you were totally unfamiliar with the
chance of digging life. Doesn't it strike you that our ordinary luck
will attend us--all the best claims will be taken up before we get
there, or we shall most industriously bottom a duffer, or having by
the strangest fluke dropped on to the gutter, it will be proved
incontestibly that some one has a better right to it. I am sick of the
whole thing. I'll stay and shepherd No. 4, and you can take Cyrus and
Joe.'

'You be hanged! you're malingering, and I want to shake the blues
out of you. You'll be all right in a week. Besides, think of the
glorious novelty of the whole affair. We're both ready to hang
ourselves here. I don't believe there's a book I haven't read within
fifty miles. And I ask you as a brother officer and a gentleman--I
mean as a man and a digger, what are we to do till that blessed
Supreme Court appeal is heard?'

'All right,' I murmured, 'I have no preference, as people in the
provinces say about roast fowls at dinner. Who is the Commissioner?'

'Blake himself, no less--ordered off at a moment's notice. They
think there's no other man in the service can handle such a crowd as
is likely to be camped on the Oxley within three months. Nor is there,
by what we hear. He'll have his work cut out for him, too, they say.
There are vessels laid on from San Francisco already.'

'It will realise Mick Hord's mild exaggeration of a rush with forty
thousand men. I say, are Merlin and the sergeant and all the rest
coming too?'

'Everybody but the Clerk of the Bench they say. There's a new one
appointed there, a fellow just out from England. Goring wrote me about
him; stammers a bit, but a great character they tell me. A deal of
daring originality about him. I look forward to him as a kind of
compensation in the circulating library line.'

'Going to keep Joe Bulder?'

'Not for long; he must come back and help Cyrus do nothing, more's
the pity; but we can't trust the noble Persian's discretion; and Joe's
head is a very good one, if he'd had any encouragement early in life
to use it instead of his hands.'

The moon rose, the cart came, and we went. Nothing was placed in the
vehicle but our indispensables in the way of clothes, bedding, our
simple cooking utensils, and of course our tools. The road lay under
our feet in the clear moonlight, white and dusty, between the withered
grass and the tall tree-stems. The air was fresh. The heavens brightly
azure. The horse was active and powerful, and his owner, well paid,
drove briskly forward.

There was little trouble in finding the road, which led through the
park--like forest which surrounded Yatala to the plains of the Oxley,
on the head--waters of which this last-found Eldorado had arisen. Had
we felt any uncertainty it would have been quickly removed, for in
front, behind, on every side were wayfarers journeying to the same
goal, of every kind, in every sort of conveyance, with every
description of animal.

Bullock drays and horse drays, American express waggons, hand-carts
drawn by men, and even wheelbarrows propelled by sturdy arms
containing all the household goods of a family. Women laden with
immense bundles were dragging young children by the hand, or as often
carrying infants at their bosoms.

Sometimes a drove of cattle with wild riders behind them would come
silently and all ghostly in the moonlight upon the strangely hurrying
crowd. As silently, too, retreat, only to move parallel with, but far
distant from, the disturbing concourse, whose physical needs they were
destined to supply.

The whole movement had the appearance of something between a
pilgrimage and a fair suddenly cut adrift from its moorings, and
compelled to travel forward in grotesque procession to another land.
So mixed and incongruous did the component parts appear. So unsuited
and unusual to the rude travelling that was imminent, the yet ruder
labour to come. I should have enjoyed the humorous contrasts of the
scene, but hope deferred had indeed rendered the heart sick--sick unto
death, with a despondency as new as oppressive, with a sombre
presentiment I tried in vain to shake off.

We travelled day and night, only allowing ourselves needful rest and
food, and bearing hard upon the good horse that carried our chattels.
On the sixth day we reached the Oxley, and had a free and
uninterrupted view of the Great Rush.

It was a strange sight. We, who had seen many goldfields, had never
seen one exactly like this before.

The auriferous deposit had been so exceedingly rich in one particular
point or cape of land which ran into the river that an unprecedented
density of mining settlement had taken place there. This was the
famous 'jeweller's shop,' where the very earth seemed composed of gold
dust, with gold gravel for a variety. Thousands and tens of thousands
of pounds worth of the ore had been taken out of a few square feet
here, and no blanks had been drawn for many yards immediately around.

We were fortunate in meeting a friend we had known in Ballarat, who
immediately gave us the carte du pays.

He himself was such a man as one meets at goldfields, in the islands
of the South Seas, in the desert, or in London, indifferently and
apparently without any particular reason why he should be in one place
more than another. But chiefly in the waste places of the earth,
though he was as much at home in a West-End drawing-room as here where
we found him, darkly handsome and cool as ever, leaning against a tall
tree trunk, smoking a carefully coloured meerschaum, and gazing
tranquilly upon the curious human mass below.

'Olivera, as I live! who in the world would have thought of seeing
you here?' said the Major.

'My dear fellow,' said the stranger slowly and impressively, 'this is
precisely the place where you should have been certain of finding me.
Haven't I been at every great rush since California in '49?'

'Well, yes, I believe you have; you're a sort of auriferous wandering
Jew. And what does your peripatetic wisdom think of this small
assortment of the excellent of the earth. And hadn't we better join
forces?'

'This will be one of the richest goldfields I have ever set eyes on.
My geology and experience are both at fault, if it be not so. But I
will not join you, for I have been so uniformly unlucky that I believe
there is a fate involved in it.'

'Oh, that's all humbug, luck turns; try again.'

'Mine will turn, but not yet. I shall go on mining to my life's end,
for my spirit has never yet yielded to evil fortune; but no party that
I have ever joined has ever been successful, now these many long
years, and I will never more share with others my disasters. I dig, as
Harry of the Wynd fought, for my own hand. I have a claim, though,
worked by wages men; and I will point out to you what I think a very
favourable conjunction of strata.'

'All right, old man. We bow to your superior wisdom, and place
ourselves in your hands--drive on the cart.'

We skirted the great throbbing hive of eager workers spurred up by
greed and gain to such desperate efforts that an unnatural silence
reigned over the scene. Even their looks were changed. Instead of the
frank expression of the ordinary miner, always ready for a little
cheerful conversation, these men looked like the worn and troubled
artisans of a great factory, where an untimely lassitude or
carelessness might lead to the rupture of machinery or the danger of
dismissal.

We went down, however, with Olivera to the spot which he pointed out,
near which, indeed, his own claim was situated, and under his auspices
pegged out four men's ground.

'You see,' he said, 'this is a place where the greenstone and the
granite meet. In such a conjunction there is always gold, and heavy
gold too.'

'But it was unoccupied before we came. Why did you not take
possession of it yourself? You could not know that friends were coming
either?'

'My dear boy, if I had taken it up, there would not have been gold in
it. My luck would have prevented that highly desirable result.'

After pegging out our claim, we addressed ourselves to the task of
putting up our tent and making ourselves comfortable for the time
being.

We had forty-eight hours in which to arrange matters before we were
required by law to go to work, so that there was time to spare. We had
also to get hold of a fourth man as mate and shareholder, not so easy
a matter in a community of strangers.

We wanted a man who could work, also one that would be reasonably
easy to live with. A high moral standard we should not insist on; but
neither did we care to be troubled with a dissolute rowdy or a
drunkard.

The man with the spring cart had been paid off after depositing our
baggage, and was taking a reconnoitring tour preparatory to returning
to his family at Yatala.

We had put up our tent, and firmly secured it with pegs and ropes
against wind or weather. We were standing aimlessly watching the
unceasing crowd that passed to and fro, like ghosts in an Inferno,
when Joe suddenly uttered a strongish ejaculation, and relapsed into
the Kentish idiom.

'Danged if I didn'a think I should see 'un some day, and it's coomed
at last.'

'See who, Joe?' I asked.

'Why him,' quoth my henchman, strongly excited. 'Dost see yon man a
talking th' chap in th' red shirt and high boots. That un's brother
Jack, sure enow.'

It had always seemed to us a curious thing that we should never have
met with Mr. Jack Bulder in the flesh, though his memorable letter and
remittance had been the proximate cause of our emigration. We had
heard of him repeatedly, sometimes at one place, sometimes at
another--in Queensland, Victoria, New Zealand by turns; but always
something had interfered to prevent his looking up his brother during
all the years that both had been in Australia.

I turned and saw a good-looking, well-dressed individual, who did not
carry out my pre-conceived notion of a forecastle Jack. It was he,
nevertheless. I watched Joe Bulder go up to him and say something
which caused him to turn round sharply. I saw both men confront and
look steadily at each other. Then followed a sturdy hand-clasp, which
was all the greeting beyond 'Well, Jack, is't thou old man,' 'Why,
Joe, I never thought you'ld turn out half as smart a fellow,'--which
was considered necessary by the emigrant Britons after fifteen years'
absence. They walked over towards me.

'This is my brother Jack, Mr. Pole, him as wrote the letter, as I
show'd you at Dibblestowe forge,' said Joe, with some effort and
shyness. 'You'll remember it.'

'I remember it well enough, Joe,' I said, 'but for it you and I would
never have been here. I hope your brother has more to show for his
time than some of us.'

'Glad to see you, sir,' said Mr. Jack Bulder, raising his hat, and
discovering by his address that the university of travel had sufficed
to impart a polish to which Joe had not attained. 'You're Mr. Pole
that my brother came out with. It's a good sign, he's stuck by you so
long.'

'It has spoken well for both of us,' said I, 'we have been firm
friends and true mates all this time. And now, what do you think of
this rush?'

'It's the best I've seen yet,' he said promptly. 'And I saw Ballarat
at the start. I've been here since the prospector struck gold. I
happened to be working in a gully nigh hand when the news came.'

'And how have you done?'

'Well, not so bad. Our party's just broke up, because we worked out
the claim. We divided four hundred and fifty a man for three weeks'
work.'

'That's good, isn't it,' said Joe; 'worth picking up, eh?'

'Pretty fair,' said the experienced miner, 'but nothing to what some
of 'ems doing. I've banked my share, and I'm looking out to nip in
again--while the market's up.'

'You can have a share in the claim which we've just pegged out,' said
I. 'We want a fourth man, and were, indeed, looking out for one.'

'Whereabouts is it?'

'Close by here--near that greenstone dyke.'

'Oh, if it's there, I'm on. I had some notion of that spot myself;
it's as likely a place as anywhere on the field. Now Joe, you and I
can wire in and see which is the best man.'

'I'm on,' answered Joe, a ray of humour irradiating his honest
countenance. 'I could'na work alongside o' thee when thou wast at
Dibblestowe. But I reckon I can handle a pick with thee or any other
man, now.'

This, of course, was a very fortunate concurrence of events. We had
secured a really first-rate worker, and a man of experience on the
field. Besides, I took much interest in him, as a brother of Joe's,
one of the best and truest fellows that ever broke bread.

The Major, returning after a long talk with Olivera, was pleased to
find that we had secured so good a mate. He went through the form of
touching the pegs, to ensure strictly legal possession. (A burnt
child, etc.) The brothers went away together, presumably to have a
good talk, as Englishmen ever do, and unburden their minds.

Soon after daylight next morning they returned, bringing with them on
a pack horse Jack's tent and worldly possessions, including various
mining tools, and other articles more or less useful. This was a
convenient arrangement for us, as the brothers agreeing to keep house
together, the Major and I had the other tent to ourselves.

Little time was lost in preliminaries. The sun was not high before we
had our stage and windlass up, and were delving away at mother earth
as if we intended to solve the question of her central fires.

We were none of us new at the trade; there was a certain emulation
between the patrician and plebeian element, for we worked in pairs. We
were all young and in top condition. The consequence was, we got down
at such a pace that more than one of the daily arriving parties
stopped, all eager as they were, to wonder at the rapidity with which
our beautifully straight and even shaft was boring, as if with a
gigantic auger, towards the bed rock.

Olivera used to come and gaze at us, and then go back and inspirit
his wages men with tales of our prowess, they naturally not being
quite so anxious to strain every nerve in an enterprise in which they
were less directly interested.

Though they had a week's start of us, we bottomed on the same day,
and by nightfall the field was aware that Olivera's half-share men had
bottomed another duffer, and that Pole and party, from Yatala, were so
'dead on the gutter' that every dish they took out was half gold.



Chapter XIV



IT was certainly one of the richest finds we had any of us
encountered, and we had been where the gold lay as plentiful as shells
by the sea shore. Directly we were down, we drove across to the outer
edges of our boundary, lest some smart neighbour (for we were closely
surrounded by this time) should subterraneously encroach and get into
our treasure chamber, before we had full knowledge of its outer walls.

This sort of thing had happened before, within our own knowledge.
More than once a too easy party of miners in rich ground had, when
down upon the lowest stratum, suddenly found, as they said, 'the
bottom drop out of their shaft,' all their hopes of wealth untold
falling with it into an unknown abyss.

This abnormal proceeding had resulted from smarter neighbours having
driven, or made lateral galleries all about their under world, taking
the gold up their own shaft, and perhaps clearing out altogether to a
distance before their iniquity became manifest.

There was certainly the method of legal recovery of damages and value
of gold so abstracted, if wilful encroachment and felonious taking
could be fully proved. But on a thronged and quickly--shifting
alluvial goldfield, like the Oxley, the chances were against receiving
satisfaction in full. Probably, too, the ill-gotten gold was sold or
spent before the discovery was made, transferred almost as far beyond
the bailiff's reach, if a judgment was obtained, as the quart of
whisky which the Highlander defied the Customs officer to confiscate.

As I said before, our party was too rus and experienced to lay
itself open to such peculiar pillage. We drove and raised our washdirt
without anxiety or molestation, and afterwards separated it from the
attendant clay and gravel, by the old-fashioned expedient of a 'tom.'
This abbreviation of 'long tom' is a sufficiently lengthy trough made
of sawn boards with a plate of perforated iron at one end. The
auriferous gravel, here placed, has a constant stream of water playing
over it, the gold remaining in crevices specially prepared. Our wash-
dirt was so exceptionally rich that very little treatment sufficed for
it. At the end of the week's washing up, we discovered that we were
each making at the rate of a thousand pounds a man, or fifty-two
thousand a year. A most respectable income. Even my friends of Mid--
Kent would have allowed this; though many of them maintained, to their
dying day, that gold digging was more or less an immoral occupation.

Well as we were doing, of course many others in our vicinity and
other places were as richly rewarded. Our claim was soon well known as
the Greenstone Dyke run of gold; one consequence of which was, that
every available yard of soil, for more than a mile round, was taken
up, thus preventing us from extending our operations, or continuing
further search in the same direction.

We did not mind this, for, in addition to our present slice of luck,
we had, in deference to Jack Bulder's advice, bought up all the
'interests,' that is, shares, half shares, and quarter shares on or
near the supposed run of gold that we had struck, which were for sale.
We had cash in hand, and so were able to speculate to advantage as
many of our neighbours were poor men, not long come on to the field.
So that when the Greenstone Dyke Lead became so notoriously lucrative,
we had more strings to our bow than one, and several sources of
income.

Yet it seemed very hard that Olivera, who had shown us the lead and
demonstrated by geological facts that the gold must be there, should
get not an ounce of it; his claim being one of the very few blanks
that were recorded on the lead.

Besides, as all the claim holders had closed round as far as could be
seen in every direction, he was thereby shut out from getting another
claim, even within hail of his first favourite spot. There was nothing
for him but to go to a distant portion of the field and try his
fortune there. He did so, taking his losses, as usual, very coolly,
only saying 'Just my luck. There's plenty more on this field, more
than these blockheads dream of, who have been crowding so eagerly
here. But it is rather hard to be almost the only man who has duffered
out on a lead of my own discovering. But you will do me the justice to
say, that I expected it from the commencement.'

So Mr. Dycecombe Olivera, whom we had got into the habit of calling
The Don, from his dark and somewhat foreign appearance, calmly
departed with his vassals, and chose another site for a probable gold-
mine, about due west of the present workings. This other was due east.
Perhaps he thought that a direct antithesis might break the spell.

While we were working together before the successful result of our
co--operative enterprise, I had instinctively occupied myself with
observing the characteristics of our new mate, Mr. Jack Bulder.

His certainly was an organisation dear to the psychological inquirer.
He was much cleverer and more amusing than poor Joe, whom he
continually rallied about his simplicity and the close--clinging
rusticities he had been unable to shake off.

'Hang it, Joe,' he used to say, 'why you're just the same yokel as
you were when I recollect you blubbering like a great girl, when I
went away to sea.'

'Happen I mightn't see so much to blubber about, if ye were gannin'
noo. When folks is young they're foolish like. I had na been long from
mother's apron-string then. I'm none as forrard as thee, I'll allow,
but I can do a many things as I never thout to learn in foreign parts.
And I can work and haud a still tongue, lad.'

'I never could,' laughed the elder brother. 'I never could in my
life; there you have the advantage of me, as you will find some day.
However, you can work, and no mistake, Joe. I didn't think there was a
man in Yatala, or here either, who could work alongside of me, so easy
and regular as you have done.'

Jack Bulder did himself no more than justice when he half stated
that no man on the field could work alongside of him with pick and
shovel in a shaft. He was one of the most wonderful performers in the
shaft--sinking line that we had ever dropped across. Strong, quick--
witted, and absolutely tireless; he had the ready-for-anything turn of
mind of a trained sailor. Full, also, of mechanical expedients in any
emergency, he displayed a fertility of resource which furnished the
most unaffected astonishment to his brother. Joe could not
sufficiently express his wonderment at such a genius having appeared
from out of the Bulder family, and their surroundings in Mid--Kent.

'Danged if I know whether it be the sailoring or the digging as has
made thee the man thou art,' said he, in one of his vain attempts to
explain the transformation which had taken place in his elder. 'Seems
to me as if they sent all the young chaps frae Dibblestowe aboord ship
for five year, and to the diggin' for five year more, they'd never
want no poor law nor unions. Why, half-a-dozen chaps like Jack'd mak
the fortune o'a dozen towns like Dibblestowe; they'd toorn all the
ploughmen into farmers, and all the farmers into squires--danged if
they wouldn't.'

Without going quite so far as our worthy Joe in his theories as to
the best means of vitalising the latent forces of the peasantry of
Britain, the Major and I did full justice to the merits of our new
comrade. We had always regarded Joe as the model Englishman of the
labouring class; but his senior had all his unerring common sense,
propriety of feeling, and incalculable staying power, apparently, with
far more initiative faculty.

Whether it was the seafaring or the digging experience which had
made the man he was of him, we, of course, could not determine.
Anyhow, he was an interesting psychological study, and as such,
afforded endless matter for reflection and comparison to the Major and
myself.

Not that we, after our dearly bought and curiously varied
experience, were too prone to take the most attractive new
acquaintance wholly upon trust. Hundreds of human disappointments,
personal and vicarious, had served to cure us of the Arcadian
trustfulness with which we might have entered Australia. Indeed, the
half reproachful conclusion was strictly applicable to us, which
passed sadly from the lips of a dtenu in the cells of one of Her
Majesty's metropolitan gaols.

Two prisoners in the exercise yard, serving their sentence, were
heard one day conversing in earnest tones, such as aroused the
attention of the warder, watchful lest plots for breaking gaol should
be incubating. It proved merely to be the discussion of the probable
success of an appeal to the Head of the Department--formerly a
Commissioner of Goldfields--for some alleviation of duress.

'Do yer think we could gammon the chief bloke, Bill,' said the milder
ruffian. 'He looked a good-'arted cove when we see him last?'

'I'm afeard it's no go,' croaked Bill, with despairing cadence, 'he's
been too long at them bloomin' diggins.'

Such, alas! had been our too realistic destiny. Without losing our
reverence for the higher qualities of our common nature, we had
learned to distinguish between the true and the false; and, for most
purposes of deceit and imposture, such as are unblushingly practised
upon the excellent of the earth--we had been 'too long at the
diggings!'

'Confound the fellow,' said the Major one day, when we had had a
lengthened discussion about him; 'he's as good as a new novel, very
nearly. But for him, and a torn copy of Adam Bede, I should have been
out of all intellectual rations--perhaps, taken to beer and dominoes.
Still (reflectively), he's got one fault, a very bad one, in my
experience of character, real and fictitious. I can't call to mind a
faultless hero, who hadn't a screw loose somewhere, connected with the
leading machinery, too. Now, our friend's too d--d perfect altogether.
I'm sorry for it. But mark my words, Pole, there's something to find
out about him.

We, therefore, placed a percentage of our judgment, while basking in
the sunshine, to the suspense account, so to speak, of Mr. Jack
Bulder's energy and capacity; for, did he not splice our rope, much
worn and not to be replaced, improvise an anvil and point out picks
after hours, manufacture a superior kind of windlass with a patent
brake, and twice the ordinary power, besides fishing out a new
auriferous gully, before Olivera, who, however, endorsed his judgment
and took up a claim broadside on to us. This, of course, was after we
had worked out our 'goldsmith's window' as the adjacent diggers
christened it, and recommenced to dig out another fortune.

Our first claim possessed the very great advantage of being easy to
work, besides being fabulously rich; that is, the wash-dirt could be
got out and treated with almost a tithe of the terrible work and loss
of time necessary at poor old Yatala. So Jack and his brother, working
all the time like two benevolent Trolls, with zealous emulation, it
came to pass that we were clean worked out and had sold the good-will
of our claim to some new arrivals for 'a cool hundred,' before many of
our neighbours at Greenstone Gully were half done with their 'dirt.'

As may be easily imagined, this assimilation of the 'root of all
evil' to the familiar tuber which merely needs in ordinary seasons to
be dug up and put in bags (ours were chamois leather, to be sure), was
not without its effect upon society at large, civilised and
uncivilised.

Rumour had caught up, magnified, and sent fleeing on the wings of the
wind to every quarter of the globe, sensational inflations, gold
coloured and rose hued, until all Europe, Africa, America, and even
Asia, to the bounds of 'far Cathay,' grew familiar with the gold farms
on the banks of the Oxley, where the crops were gathered all the year
round; where the streams trickled over treasure untold, and the very
rocks were of virgin gold!

Our own astonishing successes, and, indeed, those of numberless
fellow--workers, could not fail to produce a violent commotion among
the floating populations of the earth. But Aladdin-chamber inventories
must have been sown broadcast to account for the tidal-wave of
stranger hosts which now came rolling in upon the river flats of the
Oxley.

Not only did every colony of Australia, every province of New
Zealand, send in, apparently, its able-bodied contingent, but
Americans, Canadians, Germans, Frenchmen, Italians, Swiss, Cockneys
and Highlanders, Scots and Irishmen, Spaniards and West--Indian
Creoles, arrived, apparently in shiploads.

Moreover, and on this modern invasion our conscript fathers looked
darkly and with sullen disapproval, long strings of Chinese,
grotesquely attired, and heavily burdened, came thronging along the
well worn trail which led from the arterial highways of the coast.

Simultaneously with the advance in force of the great army of miners,
an official camp had been formed, where Captain Blake took up his
headquarters, accompanied by Mr. Merlin, the sergeant, and a strong
body of police, further reinforced a few days afterwards.

The Commissioner, with military prevision, selected as a site a high
bluff or point surrounded on three sides by the deep and rapid waters
of the Oxley. A stout palisaded fence was at once run across the neck
(a narrow one) on the side facing the diggings, thus forming a
convenient paddock for the troop horses, while, as a strategical
position, it was capable of scientific defence, should the need ever
arise.

The tents were pitched, pending the erection of the necessary
buildings, the horses let loose, the Captain's dogs chained up, the
Union Jack flaunted on a sapling appropriate for a flag-staff, and Her
Majesty's Government was fully represented.

It was apparent to us that it would take the Commissioner and Mr.
Merlin 'all their time,' as the diggers phrased it, to keep the field
in the same state of order and subjection as had obtained at Yatala. A
better sous-officier than Sergeant Mac-Mahon they could not possibly
have had. But, beside the enormously increased population which now
gave every sign of being massed upon the ground, there were other
elements likely to be infused which might lead to revolt and
disorganisation.

On the first Saturday afternoon, after having heard that the new
Clerk of the Bench had arrived, we went to call upon him. He was also
Mining Registrar, Agent for the Curator of Intestate Estates,
Registrar of the Small Debts Court, Coroner, Commissioner for
Affidavits, and the holder of several other minor offices, which are
generally appendages to the appointment.

We found him in the large tent which did duty as a court-house, of
one corner of which he had possessed himself. Evidently not a man of
method, he was surrounded with books and papers relating to his
office, all in such a state of inextricable confusion, that an average
licensed surveyor (of all men, perhaps, most experienced in making a
tent habitable and officially effective) would have swooned on the
spot.

'Now then, w-w-what's your name,' he called out in a loud voice,
without looking up, 'don't keep me w-w-waiting all d-d-day.'

The Major smiled. He looked up angrily. 'How d-d-dare you presume to
l-l-laugh, sir, in Her M-m-m-ajesty's t-t-tent, sir, taking up the G-
g--government time? D-d-don't you know every minute of my t-t-time's
worth a g-g-guinea?'

The Major having by this time extracted his card, presented it, at
the same time saying, 'Mr. Bagstock, I believe, permit me to introduce
my friend Mr. Pole.'

Mr. Bagstock gave one hurried glance at the card, stared wildly at
us, then with a rapid alteration of manner, got up and shook hands
warmly with us.

'D-d-delighted to see you, I'm sure. Charlie Grant--b-b-best f-f-
fellow in the world--s-s-said you were out here. W-w-wrote, I believe.
Live near this p-p-pandemonium?'

'We live in it,' said the Major; 'we're familiar demons.'

'But wh-wh-what do you d-d-do, then?'

'Dig,' I said, 'and are not badly paid for it just at present.'

'Regular miners?' said our new acquaintance, still wonderingly. 'Good
God! you don't say so. Got one of th-these and all?' Here he pointed
to a book of Miners' Rights, upon which he had been scribbling names
as fast as he could write before we came in which accounted for his
unconventional reception.

This he explained as we talked afterwards, during which conversation
he showed himself a most amusing man of the world. His habit of
stammering was so repeatedly useful in giving point and accentuation
to his witticisms, that we doubted seriously as to whether it was
natural or assumed.

A vein of eccentricity, amounting to recklessness, pervaded his
character, which I thought could either be accepted by the mining
population as legitimate humour and pleasantry, or be seriously
disapproved of, and so lead to the severance of official relations.

He freely confided to us his views as to the performance of his
duties, as well as his general opinion as to the best mode of treating
the heterogeneous population with which he was brought into contact.

'F-f-f-irmness, my dear fellow, and k-k-keeping them in their p-p-p--
laces; depend upon it that's the l-l-line to take, and cut s-s-short
all their d--d t-t-technical details.'

'Hulloo! what is it? Ex-c-c-cuse me M-m-major?'

Here a burly digger advanced with a document carefully folded up in
his hands.

'Are you the gen'lman as takes the hafferdavys?'

'C-c-certainly; all I can g-g-get.'

'Well, Mr. Cramp said as I was to make my hafferdavy afore you, where
you see my mark here, as I was the owner of these town allotments in
Bathurst.'

'All r-r-right, s-s-swear away.'

Here he looked around for the official Bible, which ought to have
been within reach, but which was probably buried under some of the
piles of papers, books, forms of summons, warrants, informations,
etc., which lay around as if in upheaval a corner of a stationer's
shop had fallen in just then.

Not seeing it he continued: 'This is your signature, and the contents
of this affidavit are t-t-true, so h-h-help you God. Half a guinea!'

The man looked rather confused and uncertain, but produced the coin,
and then said, 'I didn't see no Bible, sir?'

'N-n-never mind. K-k-kiss the book when you g-g-get home!'

Overawed by the authority and impressiveness of Mr. Bagstock's
manner, the miner, not one of the pestilent educated sort, departed,
and we only awaited his safe clearing out to laugh heartily.

'Allow me to congratulate you upon your savoir-faire,' said the Major
with much politeness; for a newly-landed official, I don't recollect
seeing your equal.'

Bagstock confronted us with a face of absolute gravity.

'Where do you s-s-suppose I should be if I d-d-didn't cut short these
f-f--fellows' trifling objections. C-c-can't waste the G-g-government
time, you know.

There was a humorous twinkle in his eye as he said this, which nearly
set us off again; but his command of feature was perfect. So,
arranging for him to dine with us and Olivera on the following day,
and promising to send a guide to the camp before the appointed hour,
we took our leave.

'By Jove,' said the Major, 'our friend will either be a distinguished
ornament to the service, or he will be mentioned in such a way in
Blake's despatches that the Government will require his services at
Bourke or Wilcannia without delay.'

'I don't know about that,' I said. 'He has plenty of "pluck and
assurance," as Deuchatel said the other day, and foreseeing rather
wild times, I incline to the belief that he will develop into a
celebrity.'

'Talking of distinguished people,' said my companion, 'I heard one of
these Victorians, who are arriving in such hordes, address Jack Bulder
familiarly by a different name. The man evidently knew him well. He
acknowledged him, but little more, and went on with his work. He
looked up afterwards and said something about "a purser's name being
handy now and then in this country."'

'What did the fellow call him?'

'Dawson, I think; not his own name, at any rate.'

'It can't matter to us,' I said; 'he may have married, and since he
was on the diggings, as the men say, and have reasons not affecting
his general character for not wishing to be brought back under a
warrant, to answer a charge of maintenance. Such things happen now and
then. Look at Westerman's case.'

'I am surprised to hear a man of your high moral tone talk in that
way,' said the Major sarcastically. 'No, I don't think our
accomplished friend, somehow, fears that the flowery fetters of
matrimony may resolve themselves into prosaic handcuffs; but I am
convinced he has reason to dread some eclaircissment or other. In
spite of his ceaseless work--and he is the devil, bon diable if you
will, at that--he has a restless look. And I wouldn't give very heavy
odds that he doesn't drink.'

'Why, he never touches anything,' said I greatly astonished.

'Bad sign,' replied the Major, 'very bad; that is the reason why I
think so.'

Our speculations, were, however, confined to our own breasts. In the
daily increasing rout and turmoil of the greatest concourse of people
ever gathered together upon (temporarily) the richest goldfield in
Australia, it did not appear to matter much about private character,
more than upon the moral standard reached by any given soldier in a
decisive battle.

Our time was much taken up with our own highly exciting work, for
which we were still rewarded beyond our most sanguine expectations. As
all the early comers were similarly successful, and as it was from
time to time requisite to defend one's ground against aggressive
strangers, ignorant of mining or, apparently, any other laws, there
was absolutely no leisure whatever. The Commissioner rode his horses
almost to death, having to decide so many hundreds of cases on the
ground daily; and though rapid and decisive as usual, the immense
population of the field, with its daily multiplying gold areas,
employed every moment of daylight, and still left a margin of small
disputes undisposed of.

It was in one of these where our new mate distinguished himself by
prompt action peculiar to himself. One afternoon we discovered that
four unprepossessing-looking strangers had pegged out a corner of our
claim, and were proceeding to sink thereon, under the pretext that we
held more than our proper quantity, and that there was 'spare ground
between us and the next claim.' It was merely a pretext, as we knew,
but annoying, as it might be a week or two now before the Commissioner
could come down and adjudicate. Before which time, as the ground was
shallow, these fellows might have their shaft down and commence to rob
us in daylight.

It must be explained that so rich was the yield of gold at this
particular gully, every foot of ground represented no in considerable
sum. A certain number of superficial feet only was allotted to each
miner by the regulations. If he, working separately, or his party
collectively, occupied more than the legal allowance, any other miner,
making the discovery, might take possession of it, as ground held in
excess, and if he proved his case it was allotted to him by the
Commissioner.

Hence, in rich localities, it was customary for men to go round the
claims with a tape line carefully measuring the areas. If they
discovered a sufficient quantity of ground 'held in excess,' barely
sufficient to sink a shaft upon, they made a practice of taking
possession of it. In some cases they managed to work these fragments
of claims, and secure a portion of the general treasure; in others
they effected a compromise, and sold out their titles to the original
holders. This was not held to be a manly or reputable course of
conduct by the miners generally, and, indeed, was chiefly adopted by
the loafers and scamps of the goldfield. But, on the other hand, no
miner had any right to take up more ground than he was legally
entitled to, and if he was thereby damaged it was his own fault.

We however, and also Olivera, had always been scrupulously careful to
measure accurately our due and lawful quantity, holding it for the
reasons recited wrong and inexpedient to do otherwise. We were,
therefore, convinced that the attempted occupation was only an
impudent struggle for blackmail, by forcibly encroaching on our claim.

The Major and I had resisted by all means, short of personal
violence, this invasion of our rights, and were engaged in a stormy
altercation with the leading man of the party, a tall, fair-bearded,
dissipated-looking personage. He affected an American accent, but was
evidently one of those pernicious scoundrels known as 'whitewashed
Yankees,' who having been a few years in the States, make the fact an
excuse for imitating the alleged license of the worst class of
American rowdies.

'Now, look here, mister,' he was saying when the two brothers came
up, 'ye don't allow, I guess, that we've come all the way from Bear
Valley to let you Britishers freeze on to every likely gulch you con--
clude to mark out on this all--fired rich placer. No, sirree. I reckon
there's a smart chance of one handy now, and hyar goes my peg.'

Suiting the action to the word, he raised a stout pointed sapling end
and prepared to drive it into the earth. At the same moment Jack
Bulder with his brother Joe appeared on the scene, having both
stripped to their working clothes for the shift.

Walking rapidly up, the elder brother appeared to have fully
comprehended the situation, and backed up sturdily by Joe, was
evidently ready to carry out mine or the Major's order. In the moment
he cast eyes upon the tall man his manner changed suddenly and
remarkably.

He rushed forward and, for a moment, his eyes glared at the stranger
with an expression of hate, loathing, and wrath unspeakable, almost
demoniac in intensity, which distorted his whole countenance. The
direst earthly tragedy could furnish no fitter exposition.

His enemy--for such he was, doubtless, and the feud was not of
yesterday--gazed at him with an air of deepest surprise, mingled with
dismay.

'So it's you? blast you!' he hissed out, 'thief and betrayer that you
are; hasn't the earth swallowed you up yet? Drop your peg and clear
while you can. Why should I have your blood on my head? curse you! You
won't?--then--'

Wholly dominated, as it seemed, by uncontrollable, furious passion,
and, indeed, hardly giving his antagonist time to do anything, who
stood speechless, still holding the peg, John Bulder dashed in upon
him with the agility of a panther, and with scarcely less ferocity.

Pushing aside with his right hand the stake held cudgel-fashion as if
it had been a walking-cane, he struck the stranger such a blow with
his left as only an Englishman, early trained by the village lanista,
can inflict. Down went the man prone, without sense or motion, and his
antagonist stood beside him for one moment grinding his teeth and
looking at the bleeding face, as one who hesitated whether he should
follow up his natural instincts and stamp the life out of his foe as
he lay beneath his feet.

At the same instant Joe Bulder walked forward and in a sort of
mechanical manner knocked down the man nearest to him. All conflict
being highly contagious, the Major and I advanced, upon which the
others of the invading party threw up their hands with a gesture of
disavowal, and declined the combat temporarily.

'You seem rather hot property, mates,' said the more respectable-
looking one of the twain. 'I'm not agin a friendly round, when
everything's agreeable; but it strikes me there's been enough rough
and tumble for one morning. Yankee Jake brought us here; he said he
knowed the ropes, and it was the regular thing to go in and jump a bit
of ground or we'd never get none.'

'Well, now that you've discovered that it's a highly irregular
thing,' said the Major, 'perhaps you'd oblige me by clearing out, and
taking Mr. Yankee Jake with you, alive or dead. He looks like the
last.'

That distinguished individual not being quite dead, slowly raised
himself and looked around with an air of deadliest malice at his foe,
who stood near him, as if with wrath unsated.

'Get up,' he said, 'you hound, and take your rotten carcass out of my
sight. Why don't I drive my knife into you and make an end of it? It's
almost worth while.'

Jack looked so tigerish, as he glanced at the bleeding wretch, laying
his hand upon the sheath-knife which, sailor fashion, he always wore
at his belt, that the man hastily, though with difficulty, arose, and,
assisted by his mates, limped off the claim towards the place where
their bundles lay. Before finally departing the tall man turned
towards us, and with a face hardly human in its expression, bleeding
and distorted as it was, groaned out.

'I owe you another for this, Ballarat Jack--d'ye hear? and I'll pay
it yet, as sure as my name's Jake Challerson.'

The man whom he addressed made no answer, but with his hat over his
eyes, and his breast still heaving with suppressed passion, passed
into his tent. The only practical answer to the menace was that of Joe
Bulder, who, tearing up their pegs, flung them after the retreating
party.

There was no ulterior consequence to this rather serious affray, such
as would on the morrow, as surely as it dawned, have taken place at
Yatala. But the enemy, for reasons of their own probably, did not
invoke the aid of the civil power. The police had their handsfull of
criminal cases and matters of more pressing import. And the
Commissioner, when he heard of it, said he wished to heaven that other
miners would take example by Pole and party, and not bother him about
every trumpery jumping dispute.

We were not sorry to be done with our dispute on such easy terms,
having had enough of law to last us our lives. Jack appeared to have
done the right thing at the right time, as usual; still we could not
help being impressed by the exaggerated ferocity which he had
exhibited in his encounter with the tall stranger.

'Those men were old miners, that was plain enough,' said the Major,
'and foes of no ordinary degree. I never saw mortal look more like a
demon than Jack Bulder did after he had knocked the fellow down: and
he did drop him, like a bullock. Never saw a straighter blow, fair in
the mouth too. He won't eat or talk "worth a cent," as he would say
himself, for some time to come.'

'And that ruffian hates him with no ordinary hatred either,' I said.
'I wonder what it is all about?'

'Must have been a woman mixed up with it,' mused the Major, with
grim certainty; 'no real hell-broth without her finger in it, trust
me.'

'Pooh, pooh, Major, you're too hard upon the sex, altogether.
Diggers quarrel about scores of things, apart from any question of
that sort, as we know.'

'Quarrel, perhaps. But there is that kind of feud between those two
men, if I mistake not, that only blood will quench, if opportunity
serves. What did that scoundrel mean by calling him Ballarat Jack,
too? Anything to do with the stockade affair?'

'Shouldn't wonder; but there were lots in it as well if he was
there. He doesn't talk much about his Victorian experiences, I notice.
By the way, how's Olivera?

'Well, I believe he's done rather better than usual for him. His
party got 500 out of their last claim, which will about pay wages and
something over. This is the fifth claim he has been in since he came
here, and the first in which he has seen the colour. Isn't it
wonderful? But I have known cases like it,' continued the Major,
'though rarely where the seeker was so persevering and scientific as
our friend here. However, if the gold holds out, his luck must turn
some day. No one ever knew the red to turn up for more than a certain
number of times.'

'I suppose he'll be all right if the gold holds out, but a few years
at this rate will see it out.'

'He says another generation won't, nor another after that,' replied
the Major, 'that it's mathematically demonstrable.'



Chapter XV



WHILE these minor events had been but ruffling the tide of time--ah
me! what more ripples upon the shoreless sea are all our lives, our
deaths, all fateful agony between!--the great goldseeking multitude
had swelled by constant influx to the population of a province.

There was no hill or dale within miles of the Commissioner's tents
but was covered with tents and huts. The forest was crowded with
grazing horses and working oxen. At night the vast illuminated area
resembled an army encamped, an illusion to which the not infrequent
rattle, as of musketry, as the miners discharged their firearms and
loaded afresh, lent a reality.

When, in addition to the legitimate mining population, it was known
that by far the greater number of the bad characters and escaped
criminals from all the colonies had flocked hither in aid of whatever
contingent might arrive from foreign sources, it may be guessed what a
task lay before the officials in maintaining order and good
government.

Certainly, trifling reinforcements had arrived, in the shape of more
police, as also a couple of sub-commissioners, who, under Captain
Blake's guidance, adjudicated in the less important cases which now
arose in endless succession.

An escort, duly organised, left the camp weekly, with such an amount
of gold stowed away in iron-bound boxes as would have gone far to
induce the buccaneers in old Morgan's day to have landed at Sydney and
marched across the continent for the express purpose of securing it.
All things were apparently working fairly well in groove and gear, yet
were there not wanting signs that awoke doubt in the minds of those
who, like us, had for long years 'followed the diggings.'

'Strangers and pilgrims,' of all kinds and castes, were now so common
that we should not have been a whit surprised to see the Cham of
Tartary or the Sandjiack of Bosnia, each attended by a select body-
guard in chain--mail, ride down Regent Street, as our main arterial
thoroughfare, miles long, and crowded on every foot of frontage with
shops and dwellings, was designated. Nothing was more common than to
see tourists, whose every expression of speech and apparel showed
their total want of connection with the community, appear and
disappear after a short sojourn with magic suddenness.

One Sunday morning, resting from our labours, the Major and I were at
the camp, enjoying the rare luxury of a little causerie with the
Commissioner and his subalterns, when we remarked four horsemen
passing the outer edge of the palisades towards a track which led
adown and across a ford in the river.

Not ordinary bushmen, they were sufficiently near the type to be
recognised as Australians by people of our experience. Their lounging
seat upon their horses, yet with a certain air of litheness and
instinctive ease not so observable in riders of European birth,
settled the question in our minds. More than one wore the loose cloak
or wrap of stout woollen cloth, now commencing to be in common use,
borrowed from the wild horsemen of the Pampas, and hence known as
'ponchos.' Another peculiarity which did not escape our notice was,
the unusually high quality of the horses they rode.

'Come here, sergeant,' said the Captain, motioning to that veteran,
who at a short distance was intently observing the cortge, 'did you
ever see any of those fellows before? I don't like the look of them.
Depend upon it, they are after no good.'

The sergeant saluted with due precision, and, standing very erect,
thus delivered himself--

'Well known to the police, Captain, every mother's son of them! The
man on the black horse is Frank Lardner. The big man next him is Ben
Wall, one's a Victorian native, the other hails not far from Yedden
Mountain; both have been up for cattle and horse stealing, "done
time," too. I don't see O'Rourke. There's Gilbert Hawke and young
Daly--dangerous characters, the whole lot.'

'And can't you d-d-do anything t-t-to them?' said Mr. Bagstock. 'L-l-
lock 'em up or anything as a c-c-caution; pour encourager l-l-l-les
autres, you know.'

'No charge against any of them at present, eh sergeant?' said the
Commissioner. 'No warrant?'

'Not so much as a summons, Captain, or sureties for the peace--or it
would be a grand chance entirely to take the lot. I know where they're
going to-night; and I'm as sure as we stand here that there's some
villainy in the wind, if we could only get to hear of it in time.'

'P-p-prevention's better than c-c-cure,' said Mr. Bagstock,
oracularly. 'I should l-l-lay them by the h-h-heels now, before
they've d-d-done anything.'

'Must act legally, my dear fellow,' said the Commissioner, smiling;
'we can't go beyond a reasonable amount of benevolent despotism in a
British colony. The law must be respected, and the liberty of the
subject.'

'What's the g-g-good of their being s-s-subjects, if you c-c-can't
take away their liberty?' argued the advocate, somewhat before his
age, of the yet undeveloped Jingoism. 'L-l-lock 'em up n-n-now,
Commissioner, all for their g-g-good.'

As we thus discussed their characters and prospects, a turn of the
road brought the free companions in front of where we were standing.
One and all looked steadily at our group; the leading horseman,
indeed, touching his hat in a natural and unstudied way as they rode
by. I could not but admire, after a fashion, the well-knit muscular
figures, the keen, alert, hunter-like appearance of these probable
bandits. The careless abandon of their horsemanship gave them a kind
of picturesque air not wholly devoid of romance, and I wished them
from my heart a better fate.

'Morituri te salutant, O Proconsul!' murmured the Major. 'I suppose
all these fellows will be shot or hung within the next year or two.'

'Very highly probable, indeed,' answered Blake. 'And before that
desirable event takes place, it will have cost the lives of better
men. It is a thousand pities I can't take Bagstock's advice. In some
countries that I have been in there would have been a way of managing
a lettre de cachet for such known desperadoes.'

'I suppose trial by jury and all that kind of thing agrees best with
the British constitution in the long run,' said the Major, 'but depend
upon it there's nothing like martial law at a pinch. The time may come
when we shall be glad to resort to it here.'

'Things are not so bad as all that,' said the Commissioner. 'Rather a
serious row between the Donegals and the Cornishmen on the South Lead
last Sunday night. I hear two of them and one of the Cousin Jacks were
nearly killed outright. We shouldn't have allowed that at Yatala. But
here we have a surplus population. Perhaps they'll reduce it in their
own way.'

'Things are not going on as well as Blake thinks,' said the Major, as
we strolled homeward. 'He has had great luck in holding down difficult
populations, I grant. But his bridge may break with him some day, and
it is as likely to be here as anywhere.'

'That other inspector of police that came over to stay a week or so
last month, said he believed all the "cross boys" of all the colonies
were congregated here: that there was bound to be a row--by which he
meant a revolt, I suppose--and that nothing, in his opinion, could
prevent it.'

'They can't hurt us if we're not slain outright, like Sir Albany
Fetherstonhaugh in the old border ballad by hard-riding Dick Clym o'
the Cleugh, and the rest. Our gold is pretty regularly transmitted by
escort. They won't rob that, I suppose.'

'Why not?' I said. 'You don't suppose they have any particular
delicacy about stopping that or any other drag with treasure aboard!
Fellows like those we saw to-day would be an ugly lot to meet in one
of those narrow rocky gaps, as they call them, over the line of
ranges.'

'Not pluck enough,' said the Major. 'Horse-stealing and cattle-
lifting are their favourite pastime, but standing before a police
rifle, or a brace of revolvers held moderately straight, is not in the
line of the native-born Australian brigand.'

'I hope you are a true prophet; but I hold a different opinion. These
fellows, all unused to warfare as of course they are, are never averse
to stand a shot or two for value received. But, like all Australians,
when tempted to work or fight, they believe that the risk should not
be disproportioned to the gain.'

'All the vices must be here by this time,' mused the Major. 'Even a
modest assortment of the virtues is about to join us--from Warraluen,
they say, even. The reefers, though on good gold there they say, are
so worked on by the marvellous tales of the South Lead here, that they
are nearly all leaving in a body, headed by your friend Black Ned.
Have you seen Malgrade yet?'

'No, I heard of him though. He hasn't been here long. He camps down
at that flat where those fellows we saw near the camp were making for.
He and Poynter are working together, they say, and that big fellow
with the whiskers, Harry Jefferson. He keeps the Pick and Pan public-
house, and it's a rendezvous for all the horse thieves, homicides, and
mixed ruffians on this side of the country. Blake told Merlin he ought
to make a raid there some day; that it was a regular Alsatia.'

'There's something in the air I'm convinced. We shall hear news
before long. There's a lot of these foreign fellows about that were at
the Ballarat stockade. Joe Bulder says, too, there's a good deal of
grumbling about the Chinamen.'

'It seems they have been mopping up some rich surfacing, and rather
anticipated the European miners, who didn't like it.'

'Didn't they, indeed!' said the Major sardonically. 'Well I must say
that for a nice, peaceful appointment, involving no special anxiety,
or vexed questions of law or equity, commend me to the post of
Commissioner on a large newly broken out goldfield.'

'I agree with you most thoroughly,' I replied. 'Taking the character
of the population, the ceaseless complaints and disputes, the
accidents and offences, the utter impossibility of foreseeing in what
consequences the smallest ground of dissatisfaction if left unsettled
may result, the complicated criminal and social ramifications
underlying the whole fabric, on my honour, if I had a favourite enemy
and could ensure his doing his work conscientiously, I would beseech

'The Fiend, to whom belongs

The vengeance due to all our wrongs,'

to present him with the appointment.'

It seems unnecessary to state that nearly all our Yatala friends and
acquaintances, as well as numberless strangers, were now located here.

Some of the streets were so full of well known names and faces that
it appeared as if a portion of our old gold town had been lifted up
bodily by a genie, as in the Arabian Nights, and dropped softly down
upon the banks of the Oxley.

In all the earlier gold settlements, only those who had very good
interests to represent stayed behind. As for Cyrus, he used to send
disconsolate and wonderfully spelled letters, bewailing his lot at
having to remain at a place where he could neither work nor play,
where he had nothing to do but watch a shaft, and where there was now
no more chance of a horse race than there was of a circus in a tea-
tree scrub. He had a good mind, he said, to chuck up the whole thing
and make tracks for the Oxley.

Not only friends but foes had naturally been borne in on the
resistless wave of the exodus. Malgrade and Isaac Poynter, having
joined unto them divers other evil spirits worse than themselves, were
pursuing their old courses, from the circumstances of the place, with
more unchecked license than of old. They had located themselves at a
rich and strictly disorderly section of the goldfield, which had early
gained an unenviable notoriety. More than one violent death had
occurred there. Missing men, known to have left for town with gold,
had never again been seen alive. A wild humourist had complimented it
with the suggestive title of 'Murderers' Flat.' And, somehow, it had
not lost the ominous name. Here were congregated, confessedly, the
more lawless spirits of the place. Hither came outlaws from other
colonies, over whose heads were warrants of apprehension certain to be
executed if once their identity were established. This was the cover
drawn by the police when any criminal of distinction was wanted; and
on such occasions Mr. Merlin and his troopers invariably looked
carefully to their arms, and neglected no precaution which might be
necessary against surprise or resistance.

'From information received,' the sergeant was enabled to inform his
superior officer that here the four mounted men who had passed the
camp in the evening had remained during all the preceding day and
night; that they had stabled their horses at the hostelry of Mr. Henry
Jefferson, the Pick and Pan, where Malgrade had been seen in their
company, besides other marked men; that in his, the informant's
opinion, 'something good had been put up,' the nature of which
benevolent enterprise he had not as yet been enabled to discover.

'So far, so bad,' Mr. Merlin condescended to remark. 'It would have
been something to the purpose if you had got the least inkling of what
they were going to have a shy at. I could have told him that Lardner,
Wall, and Gilbert Hawke had something on hand. What it is we're all in
the dark about. What if we arrest the lot on suspicion of horse-
stealing. I'll swear they never came honestly by their mounts.'

'Better wait,' counselled the sergeant. 'They're bound to be at some
new game before long.'

'How do you know you'll have them then?' demanded Mr. Merlin
fiercely. 'What with the confounded Donegal riots, and these infernal
Chinamen, coming over here like locusts; and the cursed dance-houses;
and just half the police here we ought to have--the superintendent
keeps one so devilish short of men--the field is going to the devil;
and I expect everything and everybody will come to grief.'

Really, there did seem to be some ground for Mr. Merlin's slightly
bilious deliverance. His order-loving soul was daily vexed by reason
of the irregularities which he was obliged to condone, knowing full
well, too, that apparent trifles were prone to swell to dangerous
dimensions.

Yet he relaxed not one jot or tittle of daily or nightly diligence;
every one under his command was kept at the utmost tension of
discipline possible to mortal man.

We, in a general way, thought that the greater concourse of
adventurers massed together from so many different sources might,
under unfavourable conditions, drift towards disaffection and revolt.
But gold, the universal lubricator, was available in any quantity in
those flush times, and to its efficacy we and all the moderates were
fain to trust.

Truth to tell, we did not trouble ourselves deeply concerning the
social life of the goldfields, or those difficulties which might beset
a conscientious police officer in the discharge of his duties. We were
sufficiently heedless of the morrow to disregard the future of the
portion of Australia in which we found ourselves. We felt a benign
trust in those who might come after. As long as we were not robbed or
murdered--contingencies against which we felt tolerably certain of
defence--we left all other considerations to fate and the lesser
providences.

Then our daily labour was engrossing, its compensation profuse and
exciting. If we could only manage to hold on, filling our pails at the
golden spring which welled up so plentifully, all Australia might
revert to a state of pliocene plasticity for anything we cared.



Chapter XVI



IT is strange to note--stranger still to attempt to reason out the
cause why, with such apparent unfairness, the gifts of fortune are in
this world bestowed. Nowhere is the anomaly more glaring than on a
goldfield. The widest divergence there apparently obtains between the
abstractly just and the actual disposition of the prizes so long
concealed by jealous Nature. The abstemious cultured toiler, careful
for an absent wife and poorly--provided family, is steeped in endless
ill-luck; while the bacchanal, the spendthrift, aye, the felon shedder
of innocent blood, drives his pick into the golden heap at will. Who
can reconcile these contradictions of circumstance with the eternal
verities?

Thus, in despite of all moral obligations, and with but little
apparent regard for the doctrine of compensation, the claims
immediately around Murderers' Flat, unenviable locale as it might
seem, yielded marvellously. Excepting the original 'Jewellers' Point,'
there was no richer spot on the whole field. The prize-fighters and
'forcats,' burglars and bushrangers, who were said to be in a majority
thereabouts, secured lawful gains of such value in a few weeks as
should have converted them to virtuous ways their whole lives after.

So it might well have been. But the chief result of the wondrous gold
spring, here so easily tapped, was a saturnalia comprehending a
succession of terrible orgies, such as even in the darkest prison days
the land had never known.

Here, fallen to the level of the dregs of humanity, could Algernon
Malgrade reside, careless of all things but of the huge gains which he
was apparently heaping up; while associating and carousing in his
hours of abandonment with the vilest offscourings of society. Here was
Dolores to be seen flaunting in extravagant silks and loaded with
jewellery. And here, urged on by the same fatal thirst for gold, did
Edward Morsley propose to settle afresh, bringing with him his
wretched, despairing wife.

Of this fresh shuffling of the cards in the game of gold, amid the
stakes of which my own life seemed so strangely commingled, I was
first informed by common rumour; more accurately soon after by a
letter from poor Jane herself. The miserable, tear-stained missive
ran--

'How can I find words to tell you that my husband has determined to
leave here for the Oxley, and, worse than all a thousand times, to
keep an inn at that horrible place, Murderers' Flat, of which I have
heard such dreadful tales. He says we can make a fortune in a year.
But I know the sort of life I shall lead there, the insults I shall be
exposed to, the daily degradation in which I shall be compelled to
share. I feel more than ever inclined to put an end to myself before
this last horror comes upon me. I have borne enough, too much, and I
solemnly swear that I will not consent to live there, whatever he may
order me to do. If you wish me to keep this wretched life unended by
my own hands, help me to get a passage home to England, dear, blessed
old England--the very name makes me weep, how bitterly God only knows!
You said you would do what you could for me--do this, the last and
greatest kindness you can ever do for me, Hereward Pole, if you think
the life worth saving of your most miserable, despairing friend,
JANE.'

This was an appeal to which I could not remain deaf, unless I had had
power to change my whole mental constitution. Whatever might be the
consequences--and I foresaw some that were unpleasant, not to say
dangerous and damaging, situated as I was--I was in honour bound to
perform the service required of me. Had I not done so, I should have
for ever regarded myself as basely selfish, cold-hearted, unworthy.
Prudence strongly strove with me in my cooler moments. But had I
listened to her dictates, I should ever have known inwardly that I had
consulted my safety, so to speak, at the expense of every feeling of
manhood, every thought of honour. I could not do it. I wrote at once
to the forlorn creature to say that I would do what she wished: in the
meanwhile I counselled prudence, and promised that I would at once
take steps to carry out a plan for her escape, which I sketched out.

It involved, of course, no trifling sacrifice on my part, but I threw
all such considerations to the winds. The die was cast. There was
nothing more to be said. I immediately set about my preparations for
going down to Sydney. Of course I explained matters to the Major, a
preliminary stage which I rather dreaded. He heard me with an ominous
silence. Then he thus delivered himself--

'I don't say you haven't acted generously, my dear fellow: it was
very kind of you, and so on, but women are such confounded fools and
so difficult to deal with, particularly when they belong to other
people, that I shouldn't like to bet that you won't live to repent
your good nature.'

'I shall never do that,' I said, 'whatever happens.'

The next thing necessary was to arrange for my journey by coach to
Sydney, and, in this respect, fortune appeared to favour me. Mr.
Bright, the Bank of New Holland manager, happened to be going down at
the same time. He had applied to the Commissioner to go down with the
escort, a privilege which was on this occasion graciously extended to
me.

'I know you're a good game shot, Pole,' he said. 'I saw you shoot at
Windaroo pigeon match when you beat Heathfield. Bring that navy
revolver with you, and we shall be a match for all the bushrangers in
the country. I always carry a brace of "shooting sticks."

'That's all very well, but they might take a sitting shot at us, as
O'Grady's father did at the sub-sheriff. I'm not so clear that the
escort's the best coach after all. There's a deuce of a cargo this
time, I hear, and we might drop in for "The Brigands of the Black
Forest" business.'

'All the better sport,' said the sporting financier. 'They won't
catch me napping, I'll be bound. And a bushranger's a better mark than
a blue rock, you must admit, Pole.'

'And a better shot, too, Captain,' said I. 'I wouldn't mind a ruffle
with some of your volunteers, but these fellows mean business when
they go on the war path. However, our passage is taken.'

The first escort that left the Oxley after our claim had washed up
was an unusually rich one. Some of the others had taken advantage of
the late rains to do likewise. The result was such an aggregation of
the 'root of all evil' as sufficed to set most of the unoccupied
tongues on the ground wagging. In any other country, perhaps, the
transit of twenty-seven thousand ounces of gold, worth more than a
hundred thousand pounds sterling, would have excited even more
comment. But we had been so much used to seeing bags and parcels,
lumps and handfuls of the precious metal handed about in dishes, tin
pannikins, and other homely utensils, that we scarcely thought more of
it as freight than of so much grain or potatoes.

In the hearts of others, however, there yet lingered, doubtless,
covetous feelings and artful schemes more or less feasible as to the
illegal appropriation of what we held so lightly, one parcel of which
would in foreign lands yield perhaps a life-long term of ease and
self-indulgence.

Among the enfans perdus of the great mining army were always a score
or two of well-known men, always ready to volunteer for a criminal
forlorn hope, supposing the prize to be sufficiently tempting.

The occasion of the escort leaving the police camp was one which
always involved critical observation and local excitement. In every
community there appears to be a distinct class, much of whose time is
devoted to the examination of contemporary means of locomotion. They
congregate to watch the steamer arrive, the train depart, the coach
come in, even the omnibus roll heavily away with unfailing
punctuality. At the Oxley, the coach arriving bespattered or bedusted
after the performance of a long fast journey over bad roads, was a
daily miracle at which, in despite of a sceptical age, the corps of
observation never ceased to marvel. But the gold escort, combining as
it did the prestige of a 'stage' with the mystery of a treasure-house,
never failed to secure a yet larger and more representative body of
spectators.

But that I had reasons of weight for visiting the metropolis at this
particular juncture, I should not have quitted my post. I did not like
leaving the barque before the anchor was down. I was wise enough to
know that any break in a labourer's life makes return to steady work
doubly difficult. But I was determined to arrange if possible for the
passage to Europe of my old friend and playmate. I wished to save her
from the dark fate, the final degradation, in which I had seen others
as fair and erst innocent--seeming, engulfed before now. It appeared
to me in the light of a sacred duty to my old home life, my old
associates. And I was determined to carry it through at all hazards.

On this occasion Mr. Bright and I had from Captain Blake what was
esteemed a rare and highly valued privilege on such occasions, namely,
permission to 'travel by the escort,' as the phrase was, that is, upon
the actual conveyance which carried the treasure boxes. Naturally such
a permit was not granted indiscriminately; but from time to time a
banker, a government official, or, as in my case, any resident of the
place in whom the Executive had full confidence, was allowed to take
his seat on the golden chariot. This equipage was represented by a
strong, heavily-built American coaching waggon, which, with relays of
four-horse teams, carried rapidly, and in general safely, the spoils
of the alluvial drifts and quartz ledges.

'By Jove! you are a lucky fellow, Pole,' said the Commissioner, 'to
be able to travel by Her Majesty's private conveyance with a thousand
ounces of your own gold on board for pocket money when you get to
town. I sometimes think I'll drop the service and take to digging in
good earnest. What do you say? I'm afraid it's too late to buy into
No. 4, or anything on the Sinbad's Valley line. But just keep your
eyes about you, Bright, when you are passing those confounded Eugowra
Rocks. We've had a whisper that Lardner has been seen near Yedden
Mountain, d--n him! You're armed, of course?'

I touched my left hip significantly.

'Of course. Too long in the country to travel unloaded. Bright has
his battery, I know. Well, bon voyage. Remember me to the Chief if you
see him. Tell him I'm worked to death.'

A stranger must have augured favourably of the early habits of the
Oxley population who had witnessed the crowd assembled at five A.M. at
the gate of the camp, at least half an hour before the departure of
the escort. Certainly, the pure, fresh air of an Australian summer
morn, dominating the stale and sickly odours of the tawdry bars and
empty, dusty streets, might have seemed to some a sufficient reason.
As the sun rose clear and ruby bright through the pale eastern pearl
fringe, lighting up the sullen gorge of Eugowra, the frowning, sombre
mountain range, my heart rose as if in unison with the gracious aspect
of Nature, and each purer, more elevated feeling seemed strengthened
and exalted. How mysteriously invisible is the form of coming evil at
certain seasons; how darkly soul--shrouding its very shadow at others.

On this day, however, success and hope encompassed me, bearing down
all doubt and opposition. The Major and Joe came to see us off, and as
I passed through the crowd I was sensible of respectful and admiring
criticism.

'That's Harry Pole, of No. 4 Liberator, and the best claim on
Greenstone atop of it,' said an old Yatala shepherd, charmed to have
the opportunity of explanation. 'Richest claim on the lead, but
disputed. Got 20,000 in the bank, and two thousand ounces in that
bloomin' escort. Very awkward, ain't it?'

'What's he want to go to town for?' queried a cynical listener. 'What
'ud you or I, mate, want to go to town for, supposin' we washed up
once a fortnight to that tune? Wants to have his 'air cut Paris-
fashion, or to see the theayter, or leave his card on the Governor-
General, may be.'

'Don't they never rob the escort?'

'Well, not much they don't, though I wouldn't say, mind ye, as it
mightn't be done by men as 'ud stand a shot for a big touch. They'd
have to work it to rights though. Here they come.'

At this moment the camp gates were opened, and the well-groomed, high
conditioned team, fed with corn that cost a guinea a bushel, and with
hay that was much dearer than loaf sugar (it was a dry year and the
crops were bad and grass there was none), plunged at their collars,
and the heavy but well-hung drag rolled out. The treasure boxes, to
the number of half a hundred or more, were lifted out from Sergeant
MacMahon's room, and counted over carefully to the sergeant in charge
of the escort. They were small, compact, and iron-bound, but judging
by the way in which they were lifted, remarkably heavy for their size.

On the box sat a senior-sergeant of police, a tall, slight,
soldierly-looking man, with a black beard which fell to his breast,
and who handled the reins like one to whom such things were familiar.
A trooper fully armed, with a Snider rifle between his knees in
addition to the navy revolver at his belt, sat beside him. In the body
of the drag, where I and Mr. Bright were accommodated with seats, were
two more constables similarly armed. A couple of mounted men rode in
advance, and as many a short distance behind. The distance was pretty
accurately preserved, under all circumstances. These troopers carried
short breech-loading carbines. Well mounted and admirably turned out,
as to uniform and equipment--for Mr. Merlin's eye spared no
slovenliness of dress on drill--they might have passed muster in any
cavalry troop in Europe.

That distinguished official was, there, of course, coldly observant,
and with such an air of guarded approval as caused every person
connected with the equipage and service, from the gold-receiver,
Sergeant MacMahon, to the last pair of mounted troopers, to consider
within themselves whether some detail of dress, duty, or deportment
had not been left unperformed.

'Bon voyage, Bright; good-bye, Pole; good-bye, Harry,' were the last
farewells that met my ear from the Major and the crowd. 'Good luck and
a jolly trip to you!' And we were away.

The weather was superb, my companion cheerful and amusing; the roads,
though occasionally precipitous, by no means painfully uneven. The
occasion was apparently fortunate. For a while I fully realised the
pleasantness of change and leisure, the cessation of the daily
revolution of the gold mill, a machine which becomes as wearisome in
time as all other monotonously coercive occupations.

Unconsciously I commenced to dwell upon the still remaining obstacles
to the homeward voyage, the contemplation of which, as too feverishly
exciting, I always resisted. While at work, it had a tendency to
unnerve and unfit for this dull unimaginative frame of dogged
endurance which is labour's truest ally. Now I could for a short time
revel in the roseate tints and golden haze wherewith the great scene-
painter, Fancy, embellishes the dingy properties of life's dull stage.

A few more months' work, a few more washings up at the present most
satisfactory rate of yield, No. 4 free from legal hindrances, fairly
gone at, and, with the wages men we could afford to put on, worked
out, the vein of auriferous drift would be quickly exhausted. Every
square yard of it would be brought to the light of day, puddled,
sifted, turned from gravel to minted gold by the rude skill of the
miner--that latter-day alchemist.

Then, at last--would Fate permit such bliss?--I should be in
possession of a sum of at least fifty thousand pounds, perhaps even
more. I should be firmly, indefensibly possessed of that title to
respect, which every man holds who can point to a competence hewn by
his own labour from the sterile, hard, at times adamantine quarry of
labour. I should have done this almost literally. I should have
disproved every word of disparagement that my enemies could have ever
used against me; have confirmed the faith of true friends; have
justified the sublime devotedness of my early love, my peerless Ruth;
have earned the right to a future of dignified ease, if not of
unalloyed enjoyment.

In the sophisticated methods of approval which hold good, in this our
day, it may well be questioned whether a man does not receive a larger
meed of honour and respect who has been simply the recipient of an
ancestral hoard. Such lands, such wealth, such rank, represent,
rateably, the labour and the prudence, the valour and the wisdom, it
may well be but the servility or the greed, of the dead men who have
gone before. Their descendant, by no merit of his own, becomes the
fortunate possessor not only of the lands and the money bags; even by
a curious fiction is credited with the possession of a large share of
the valour and the intellect which he has but little chance of
displaying, and of which it may be he is wholly devoid. He may never
have done deed or uttered speech which the humblest labourer on his
estate could not have matched. Yet, in this Pantheon of false gods and
outworn idols, men and women make obeisance yet more lowly to the
puppet of fortune than to the proved possessor of those qualities by
which families are founded and races are ennobled.

Be this as it might I had become sufficiently democratic under my
goldfields' training to believe that as Hereward Pole, the returned
Australian miner, I should be able to hold up my head in my own
country to some purpose with the proceeds of No. 4 and the Greenstone
Dyke transmuted into a bank balance. Even as an unknown adventurer of
fairly decent appearance and manners, with my trusty cheque-book by my
side, that modern Excalibur, I could hew my way to the notice of the
Queen of the Tournament. But though few knew, and fewer cared about
such a matter of musty genealogy here, I was none the less Hereward
Pole, a cadet of the ancient house of Shute, in honour and antiquity
second to none of the companions of the Norman conqueror.

How the days would fly, after I had realised and gone to town on my
final journey to take my passage by the first mail steamer! What calm
delight to rest from work, even from thought, long dreamy days,
gliding on the breezeless, languorous Red Sea, or, in glowing sunset
hours, to watch the unresting surge at play on the long mysterious
coast-line of Africa, ancientest land of wonder and of dread. Past all
mortal visions of happiness would be that day of days, should it ever
arrive, ah me! when the white cliffs, the emerald-green fields of
long-lost, long-loved Albion would greet these desert-worn eyes!

Then would, indeed, heaven open for me--here below. Then would that
whitest, purely radiant angel, gazing at me with the well-remembered,
tender-glowing orbs of love--

'Curse that infernal tree--right across the narrowest bit of the gap?
Wonder whether it blew down, or whether those Yedden Mountain ruffians
put it there on purpose; blank, blank,' objurgated the sergeant. 'Jump
out you two and take the axe; we might shift it.'

Here was an interruption with a vengeance. Brought down from realms
celestial to this saddest sordid sphere, where fierce or grovelling
passions alternately debase hopeless humanity.



Chapter XVII



'THERE'S something like a gun-barrel behind that spotted gumtree,'
said Mr. Bright, who had dwelt in the bush in his youth, 'and I'll
swear I heard a horse stamp. Save your powder and aim low all, of you,
whatever you do.'

'Look sharp, men!' growled the sergeant. A cross-looking chap, on a
black horse, was seen hereabouts yesterday, with another man answering
Gilbert Hawke's description. If Darkie and his rider's anywhere handy
now, it will be rough work in this beastly gap. Good God! here they
are. Close up, men, and defend the escort--steady--fire!'

As the word of command left the sergeant's lips, a volley of
firearms resounded, reverberating from each side of the rocky ravine,
called The Gap, which we had a short time since entered. At the same
time a body of nearly twenty men showed themselves from behind trees
and rocks.

I awake--my dream, how rudely shattered--to a full sense of my
immediate surroundings. We were attacked by bushrangers. The far-famed
pass known as Eugowra Rocks had been picked for the scene of conflict.

This now celebrated spot was on the saddle of a lofty granitic range
of hills which intersected our road to the metropolis. A tedious
ascent led to a spot where the escort coach had just space to wind
between the huge monoliths that reared themselves frowningly in our
path. The locality was densely wooded. No element was wanting for our
discomfiture. A long stretch of gently descending ground led to the
champaign below, where the road was easy and pleasant, without hill or
wood to mar the path to the farthest horizon.

We had all been looking forward to this reward of previous anxiety,
yet destined never to reach it. All the men were masked and otherwise
fully disguised. They had apparently lain in wait in this narrow
defile. Now we knew why our progress had been barred. The tree had
been felled solely for that purpose.

Our return fire was quicker than they could have calculated upon.
More than one shot told. It was not the first time I had burned powder
in earnest. Mr. Bright fired as fast and steadily as if he had been
engaged in his favourite sport of pigeon-shooting. There was little
time for observation, but I thought I recognised a figure that stole
from behind a huge rock to take up a nearer position to our ill-fated
equipage.

For several minutes, long enough for hours they seemed to me, the
fusillade was sharply kept up on either side. And more than one
smothered cry or savago oath told that our ammunition was not all
wasted.

The troopers who rode behind had closed up. Throwing themselves from
their horses, and taking what cover they could from the wheels and
body of the vehicle, they kept their Terry rifles busy. But we fought
at a disadvantage in every way. The situation had been carefully
calculated. The immense boulders on either side of the gorge furnished
only too complete cover for the attacking party. Trapped and
surprised, we had fallen into an ambuscade laid for us only too
successfully.

Debarred from opening out into skirmishing order, we were exposed to
a concentrated fire from hidden enemies. They were enabled to take
sure and deadly aim at us from behind their more complete defences.

But no man flinched. The troopers--one of whom was a smooth-cheeked
youngster, just newly landed in Australia, who had left the paternal
rectory but lately for the force, faute d'autre--loaded and fired like
veterans of the Old Guard.

'That's Malgrade, or the devil,' said I to Mr. Bright, 'he that just
slipped behind the rock from the tree. I know his walk, d--n him: no
mask can disguise him from me.'

'Just what I thought myself,' said Bright; 'let's give it him
together, the next time he shows. We ought to nail him between us.'

At the first volley two of our men had dropped, if not mortally
wounded, still decidedly hors-de-combat. We could not disguise from
ourselves that our chance was bad of coming out unscathed or even of
successfully defending our precious freight. With every fresh volley
one or other was wounded, and every moment the impossibility of long
sustaining the unequal fight was felt. Neither could we retreat and
carry the gold with us.

Of the good team that had pranced so gaily out of the camp gates this
morning one horse lay dead, and the other, badly hit, had broken
traces and bolted through the forest. One of the wheelers was
unharmed, but the other had two bullets through his body, and though
still on his legs was evidently suffering internal agony, as ever and
again he turned his eyes plaintively on us and backward to his
bleeding flank, as if mutely asking why he should be mixed up in his
master's combats.

The escort sergeant had been hit at the first discharge, as indeed
had most of us, slightly or otherwise. He however, held himself
straight, and not only fired rapidly himself, but kept the whole of
his party well in hand, urging them not to quit cover unnecessarily,
but to aim steadily and surely whenever the bushrangers exposed
themselves.

'They'll get tired of it if we can only keep them off for another
hour,' he said. 'I don't think they care about coming to close
quarters. We may get assistance before dark.'

It was not to be. Even as he spoke the brave fellow's face was
changing. I noticed the blood staining his blue uniform a bright
crimson, where it welled from his side in heavy, quick-recurring
drops.

They were the last words he ever spoke. The next moment he swayed
for a moment and fell heavily to the earth. A cry of exultation at the
fall of our leader rose mockingly amid the crags, and a rush still
nearer was made by the masked assailants, who now exposed themselves
more freely, as if sure of victory.

The man whom I took to be Malgrade stepped cautiously from behind
his rock; at that moment Mr. Bright and I fired without a second's
loss of time at his left shoulder. He fell, but was dragged behind the
rock by some one, apparently also concealed there, and who was a
taller and broader man than any one we had as yet noticed. At the same
time the whole fire of the party poured down upon us, and both Bright
and I felt ourselves wounded again.

'Only winged, I think,' said Bright, raising his right arm. 'Might
drop out of bounds, but I don't think they'll bag me this time. How do
you feel, Pole? where are you touched?'

'Under the rib, and I don't like the feel of it,' said I. 'I wonder
if we drilled that scoundrel Malgrade, if it was him. By Jove, that
young Rowan's done.'

Two troopers lifted up the poor youngster, shot through the body and
apparently dying.

'We can do nothing by stopping here, Mr. Bright,' said the second in
command, a grizzled sun-burned senior-constable, who looked as if he
had seen much service. 'We shall all get potted and not save the gold,
either; that's what I look at. The best thing is to retreat across to
that scrub alongside of Stony Pinch. I know a track down it. I don't
think they will follow us there.'

'Leaving the ship while there's a plank to stand on is devilishly
mean work,' said Bright, blazing away in quick succession as he spoke,
'but I suppose we can't do any good this time. The Sergeant stone
dead, poor fellow; that youngster's little better, and Pole here
doesn't look as if he'd hold out long. I suppose we can take the
horses and retreat in good order?'

'We can manage that,' said the senior-constable. 'They only want the
gold, blast them; and the sooner we get the black trackers on the
trail, then the sooner we shall have a chance of seeing some of it
back.'

So, keeping our faces to the foe and maintaining a brisk fire, we
commenced to retreat slowly, leading the unwounded horses and carrying
the young trooper with us. As soon as it was seen that we had given up
trying to defend the gold, no attempt was made to follow us up.
Doubtless, it was thought that in our desperation we should not prove
less formidable than at present.

One man only among the bushrangers had any personal animosity to
gratify. This was Malgrade, if, indeed, it was as I supposed. And he
had apparently received his quietus for a time. A few dropping shots
followed us as we made our way slowly and with difficulty through the
forest, which commenced to become more dense until it ended in a
perfect thicket, or what to Australians is known as a scrub.

Here we struck after a while into a narrow, well-worn path, which
led down a steep rocky defile, tortuously but distinctly. In less than
a couple of miles we debouched upon a comparatively level and thickly-
grassed meadow or creek flat. Here it was proposed that we should
rest, while the senior-constable, who knew the country well, rode
across to the nearest police station, whence the tidings could be at
once sent to the Oxley, and half a hundred other headquarters. No time
would be lost in setting a brace of black trackers on the trail of the
robbers, who no doubt would have expended no unnecessary time in
clearing out with the treasure. Assistance would, of course, be sent
to us without a moment's delay.

The trooper dashed off on the best horse of the party, within three
minutes of our halt, leaving us in the gathering twilight in no very
enviable position. As fast falling shades of night commenced to gather
around, the darksome trees which fringed the creek, the gliding waters
which murmured along its channel, the heavy hanging cliffs of the
dimly outlined mountain, gained a weird and melancholy tone. Our
feelings were closely in unison with the solitary scene, the closing
day. They could hardly be otherwise than mournful. We had started in
the morning full, if not of high hope, of that cheerful confidence in
the future, which is borne of untried dangers, untempted perils. The
gold which we bore with us was pleasantly connected with our tools and
avocations. The day was bright, the journey little more than a
pleasure excursion.

Now how darkly, how irrevocably all was changed! A dead man and
dying horses lay beside the stranded carriage which had borne us forth
so gaily in the morning. Stiff with our wounds, hungry, cold, and
weary, our attitudes were gloomy and despairing. The pale countenance
of the wounded man, streaked with blood, looked more ghastly in the
flickering light of the fire which one of the others had at length
lighted.

Is it a heated imagination, or are there other forms, strange
shadows, gliding around the watch-fire and amid the dark-leaved water-
oaks? They gather around upon the wounded man, whose laboured
breathing I seem to hear with ever increasing distinctness.

'Bright, I say, Bright! don't let those people crowd so closely
round Rowan, they will smother him. Good God! do you not hear?'

'Your head must be going, Pole,' said the banker seriously, who was
sitting on a log smoking resignedly and watching the wounded man.
'Come over and let me see where they touched you. Take care--'

But I hear no more. I rise and stagger blindly forward, and the
blood pours from my side. I see a crowd of spectres hurrying towards
me--my head swims, and my eyes are darkened as in death.

When I recovered my senses I was lying under a tree in the cool
moonlight, with Bright bending anxiously over me. All was over now, it
seemed to me.

How joyously had I marked the sun rise over this very mountain, as I
rose from my humble couch at Yatala. And now the same orb had but set,
and with it the sun of Hereward Pole's fortune. What a satiric comment
on man's vain life and vainer hopes. All was gone. Hope and fortune.
Love, gold, and life itself, and here I lay under this darksome forest
treo with the life-blood fast ebbing away, and scarce a trace would be
left of a wasted existence, blighted career.

Well, the news would soon reach Allerton Court; the country busy
bodies would be enabled to verify their long cherished foreboding that
nothing would come of my gold--seeking adventure, and that everything
had turned out exactly as they expected from the very first day of the
Squire's sanction to his daughter's ridiculous engagement.

Then I died! Can a man die more than once? Is it not a real death
when the flickering senses first dwindle down to the lowest point of
consciousness? Men arouse themselves as at a faintly--heard summons
once more to animate the sinking frame, in pain and mutest agony,
clinging with the might of despair to every last buttress of the
ruined citadel. Then an appalling sense of general departure from this
long accustomed mortal tenement joined with a mysterious boding horror
of undefined doom. A time of coldness, numbness, deadly still-creeping
paralysis over the centre of sensation--then utter darkness--
extinction.

       *   *   *   *   *

It would appear that I had not finally quitted this lower earth; for
I re--opened my eyes yet again. They rested not upon satanic or
celestial personages other than Mr. Inspector Merlin, who was sitting
by my bedside in an attitude of (for him) great patience and
amiability.

He rose quickly to his feet with a sigh of relief, remaining silent
for a short space so as apparently to enable me to realise the fact
that I was in a rude but neatly-furnished slab cottage, accommodated
with all the comforts which a small farmhouse could furnish. Then he
spoke--

'Well, Pole, old man, you're worth a brace of dead men yet--a near
thing, though. The doctor said that a shade closer to the main artery,
and you would have been gathered to your strong-minded ancestor the
Legate. Now you've got such a good-looking, neat-handed nurse to look
after you, you're sure to come out right.'

'What has become of the other--fellows, and--the gold?' said I
feebly. 'Who stuck us up?'

'Why, Frank Lardner, of course, b--t him!' said Mr. Merlin with
perhaps allowable anger. 'We know that Wall, Gilbert Hawke, and Daly
were with him, besides half a dozen other ruffians of less note.
Sergeant Webber is dead and buried. Constable Rowan not expected to
live. Watson has got a bullet in his hip, and will be lame for life.
Bright was winged, and not much the worse for it. The gold was all
taken of course, but the "wire" brought a cordon of police round them
within twelve hours, and we know they can't have got clear off with
it. We have great hope of recovering the lot within a month.'

'Thank God for that,' I said. 'I ought perhaps to think of my life
first; but if all the gold was gone I shouldn't think the other very
valuable. And so it was Master Frank, was it, with Wall, Gilbert
Hawke, and the rest? What a pity such smart fellows should have taken
to the bush and commenced with such a cold-blooded murderous outrage.'

'Pity,' said Merlin, drawing his lips slightly back, and showing his
white teeth in a way which reminded me of the jaguar aroused. 'I'd
find them pity if I saw them at the end of a half-inch line; and by---
you will see them there one day, as sure as my name's Mainwaring
Merlin. Think of poor Webber, what a fine fellow he was! I shall never
get such another accountant either,' he added reflectively. 'By God! I
could hang them with my own hands. And now I must be off. Mrs. Morton,
or whatever you call her, will be here directly. I quite envy you.'

Here Mr. Merlin took himself off, and went on the war-path, which
indeed he had seldom quitted by night or by day since the terrible
news of the Great Escort Robbery. Tireless, pitiless, even at the
highest pitch of energy and alertness in mind and body, he was a
dangerous enemy for the Yedden Mountain gang, as they were called, to
arouse, and so indeed they found it before all was done. Had I been
strong enough to smile, I must have done so at the navet of his
regret for poor Sergeant Webber, whose clerkly qualities, plucky and
clever officer as he was in other respects, mainly endeared him to Mr.
Merlin's organising soul.

The sound of his footsteps had hardly died away when the rustle of a
woman's dress told me that the nurse of whom he spoke was approaching.
Strange was it that something, even in that symbolical token of
woman's presence brought back to me a memory of the long vanished
past. But I had taxed my strength too much. Falling helplessly back
upon the pillow, I fainted. I had a dim, confused recollection of
feeling my forehead bathed, of the tender touch of a woman's hand
passing lightly over it, of a cordial held to my lips. With a painful
effort I raised my head and opened my eyes. I could hardly trust the
evidence of my senses. I thought I must be wandering again, and that I
fancied myself at Dibblestowe Leys; for the face which was bending
over me, full of womanly tenderness, was the face of Jane Mangold.

I saw again the bright blue eyes, the soft fair hair, the delicate
features of her who, before my knowledge of Ruth Allerton, had been to
me the embodiment of fairest womanhood. At the first glance she seemed
unchanged. Then I marked with pain the deepened lines in her face, the
saddened brow, the worn anxious look, which had replaced the girlish
defiant expression which I had always associated with her laughing
eyes and saucy smile. The sad handwriting which the world and its
pitiless warfare inscribes upon its victims was there indelibly
imprinted.

'Jane,' I said, 'dear Jane, are we both at the Leys again; or how do
I see you here? Ah, why did you come to me?'

'How could I help coming to nurse you, when I heard you were dying?'
she said. 'Have you not been a friend--a brother to me? Have you not
saved me from what is worse than death? And am I to do nothing for you
to show my gratitude? Mr. Merlin told me your life might depend upon
careful nursing.'

All this she uttered in her old quiet way of speaking when anything
moved her more than common. Once more vividly real, under the shadow
of death. How the old life career came back to me.

'But, Jane,' I said, 'people, will talk, and you know at Yatala it
does not take long--'

'If I am to be the cause of shame and disgrace to you, I will go
away and hide my wretched self the moment you have recovered from your
wound. It shall never be said that I helped to harm you--you who have
been better than a brother; but the doctor says, even now, that you
may not get over it. And I thought that she, that Miss Allerton, might
be glad to know that a friendly hand, even if it was poor Jane
Mangold's, helped to do what only a woman can for man at the last.'
Here she buried her head in her hands and wept unrestrainedly.

'You are right, Jane,' I said, 'and I will answer for my dearest
Ruth, that she will be grateful to you, if I see her face no more, for
smoothing my pillow before the last sleep. We have always been
friends, why should we not be true to each other to the last? Let us
keep faith with ourselves and the absent, and the world may say it's
say.'

She raised herself and looked wistfully at me.

'I only know that I should be glad if I were in her place,' said
she, 'and would thank on my knees any one that did for my lover what I
will do for you in your hour of need.'

Here I could no longer support the fatigue of conversation and, for a
space, again 'effaced myself.'



Chapter XVIII



THIS affair, of course, created an immense sensation, not only in the
immediate neighbourhood of the Oxley rush, but throughout Australia.
Certain lawless acts and deeds had been committed on all diggings. We
were not, as communities, entirely free from crime, although, as I
have attempted to describe, the average of serious offences against
life and property was certainly lower than in many settlements of
older date and higher pretensions to civilisation. But now any
delusion as to the gradually improving tendency of the race was rudely
dispelled.

A new, startling, and flagrant outrage had been committed. The affair
had been arranged with laborious foresight. The details had been
carried out with only too great elaboration. The result was complete
and successful. Her Majesty's servants and lieges had been shot down
in cold blood. The escort, always intimately associated with
Government guarantee and protection, had been captured. Hard-working
miners had been despoiled of their well-earned gold. And by whom had
this been done? By whom planned, by whom carried out? Not by the
fierce desperadoes of other climes, the probable outcome of piracies
on the Spanish Main, of murders in Sonora, or gambling in the hells of
San Francisco, but by 'sons of the soil,' as political patriotism
forcibly expressed the fact, by men reared amid the forest-farms of
the interior, who in their youth had been peaceful stockmen and
station-labourers, who had followed the flocks or hunted the wild
horse from boyhood, amid the streams and gullies of that very Yedden
Mountain which rose dark and as if frowningly in the sight of the
scene. It was to the philanthropist a grievous and discouraging fact.
To the pessimist an unholy triumph. Well might the poet deprecate the
auri sacra fames. Better hopes hitherto had been entertained. But now
the country was obviously going to perdition; the men and women reared
therein would be basely degenerate from a race whose flag the world
had been forced to fear in war and respect in peace for a thousand
years.

Such were the reflections of many honest Australian citizens, who
deplored as deeply the nationality of the criminals as the criminality
of the deed. In the meantime all imaginable steps were taken for the
capture of the outlaws and the recovery of the treasure. With this
latter attempt greater success was reached than with the former. So
complete was the cordon with which the robber band was surrounded, so
ceaseless the vigilance that left no hour of the day or night free
from tireless tracking and close pursuit, that the heavily laden pack-
horses with which they had commenced the transport of the gold boxes
were abandoned, and the larger portion of the original gold recovered.

Among the treasure-trove lay, fortunately, sealed and accurately
labelled, as were all the separate parcels, the leathern bag which
contained the contribution of Greenstone Dyke, addressed to Mr.
Hereward Pole, Bank of New Holland, Sydney. So that with the somewhat
serious deduction of 'a vision of sudden death,' a gunshot wound hard
by a vital spot, considerable loss of time, money, and peace of mind,
matters in a few weeks would be much as they had been before my
departure for Sydney.

But the capture of the band of outlaws was not so soon accomplished.
Of all outlaws, the Australian bushranger has proved the most
difficult to secure after a series of crimes has rendered him
desperate.

'Native, and to the manner born,' he possesses natural advantages
amid the wilds and fastnesses of the interior, with which the
officials of the law find it difficult, in some cases impossible, to
contend. A horseman of matchless skill and daring from childhood, with
the best blood in England, aye even of the desert, often at his
control, he is the equal of the Apache or the Comanchee in the saddle,
their superior in strength and courage. In the broken and mountainous
country near which he is generally concealed, he has the advantage of
scouts of unrivalled activity and acuteness. These 'bush telegraphs,'
as the modern robber slang has dubbed them, are of all avocations and
both sexes.

The brown-faced urchin lounging after his father's cows on a three--
legged screw, with a ragged saddle and green-hide girth, fixes his
watchful half-savage eyes upon the troopers as they enter the forest
and disappear up the winding slate-strewed ravine. They wear rough
tweed suits, and old felt hats; they are riding on stockmen's saddles
with rusty stirrup irons. But he knows them for all that, and marks
them down unerringly. The bare-legged girl tending the small flock of
sheep, or racing after the milker's calves, meets the strange horsemen
then camped by a creek, and demurely answers their questions as to
strayed bullocks. She knows 'the traps' by a dozen signs visible to
the initiated. And at midnight or before dawn the robber in the
traditional cave or the dismal deserted hut knows that the avengers of
blood are on his trail, and flees noiselessly as the night-hawk to yet
more secluded haunts.

How should they be run down, surrounded, or surprised? Well armed,
well mounted, fearless horsemen, and for the most part quick-eyed and
keen of hearing as the hunted deer before the questing hound; strong
in desperate need, and brave with the demoniac feeling that liberty
and life have been forfeited irrevocably, small wonder that the
latter-day bushrangers of the Australian continent have, ere now, for
months and even years defied the concentrated efforts of the
respectable portion of the community to arrest or exterminate them.
Such bands have for months, even longer periods, sufficed to keep a
whole country-side in a constant state of peril and anxiety. Appearing
here on a given day, robbing the mail, and parading every traveller on
a certain line of road with almost ludicrous impartiality--within
forty-eight hours besieging an isolated station, or robbing a bank two
hundred miles away.

After more weary days Dr. Winthrop, who had ridden hundreds of miles
in my case alone, at length thought I was well enough to be moved.

'By Jove! Harry, a narrow squeak,' he said; 'if the bullet had been
from a navy revolver instead of one of those derringer toys, it would
have made all the difference. Couldn't have gone a thread closer
without rupturing the coeliac axis. Mrs. Whats-her-name here has
nursed you admirably. Old friend of yours, she says. Helped to save
you as much as anything. Very pretty woman she is too. What's she
going to do now she's left that brute her husband?'

'Going home to her friends in England, and so you can tell any one
that takes an interest in my affairs,' I said, rather stiffly.

'Quite right, quite right, glad to hear it,' said the doctor. 'People
will talk, you know, especially at the diggings. Glad to know there's
no foundation, etc. Yarns get about. So the sooner you're back at
you're own camp the better. I'll tell the Major or Bulder they can
drive over for you any day. A mattress laid on one of those light
American traps wouldn't shake you much. I suppose you heard about
Merlin's men picking up the pack-horse, with ever so many gold-bags--
Greenstone Dyke lot all right among them, and so on.'

'I did hear of it,' I said languidly. 'Caught any of the gang yet?'

'No, confound them, and not likely to. The police are worked off
their legs. Though they've been very near them once or twice, they've
always got off. Been sticking up people and places all over the
country; might catch me as I go back--no knowing. They're never hard
on the learned professions though. Sure to want them all some day.
Good-bye, Harry.'

The day after this conversation Joe Bulder arrived with a quiet horse
and a light tray buggy, the movable seat of which had been taken out.
A mattress with all requirements in the shape of feather pillows,
etc., contributed by a lady neighbour and Mrs. Yorke (for Cyrus had
come over to work my share, and his wife refused to remain) was placed
therein. With Joe's help and that of Jane I was able with great
difficulty, pale, tottering, and death-like, feeble as I was, to
stretch myself on my improvised ambulance. Jane sat by my side, while
Joe walked by the horse's head, and patiently led the animal with a
careful avoidance of all inequalities in the road.

'Yon's a queer start,' he said, after a long pause. 'If some of the
folk at the Leys could see us three now, they'd think all the gold in
Jewellers' Point wouldn't ha' tempted them to cross seas. When word
coed as you was killed along o' the sergeant and all the escort clean
gutted, I felt loike as though I'd never stay another day in the land.
I offered my share to Mr. Olivera for ten thousand down, and I'd ha'
been off back next mail sure as there's hops in Kent. Dang the country
and the people too. I'm nigh sick on it all. I could wish, loike some
folk says, I'd never seen it.'

Jane gave a deep, half-unconscious sigh.

Joe had relapsed into his provincial dialect, as he generally did in
moments of excitement, and doubtless failed for a short time to
realise the very decided advance of his personal and pecuniary
position, maugre even such adventures as gunshot wounds, escort
robberies, and revolutions.

'Never mind Joe, the battle's not over yet,' I said. 'It's not like
an Englishman to jack up and give these fellows best. We'll see some
of these fellows hanged yet--those that are not shot, I mean. And
talking of being hanged, was that fellow Malgrade at the township when
the news came?'

'Nay, that he was na,' replied Joe, looking surprised, 'for a man I
know told me as he should go to his camp to borrow a long-handled
shovel early that morning. They was both away, he and his mate too;
yon long chap, as he always called Harry, him with the big whiskers.
This man tells me they didn't get back till nine o'clock; more than
that, Harry's big bay horse was knocked up, and Malgrade's hadn't no
more than a crawl in him. They'd come a goodish step by that'n, and no
mistake.'

'How do you know, Joe?'

'Why, you see, Malgrade's horse is a bit of blood--only on the cross
like himself; he's won a good many races on the sly like, droppin' in
at country meetings on the quiet, and always in condition, and big
Harry has been a cattle stealer every one says. He's a heavy weight,
but yon bay horse of his can carry him like as he was a schoolboy.
They'd ridden no twenty mile that night, nor fifty neither, it's my
thinkin'.'

'Had they anything with them?'

'Not as he could see. Malgrade had a poncho on, and might have
carried a bushel bag inside without any one being the wiser. But they
didn't want to talk. Malgrade had a stiff arm--said his nag had fell
with him and chucked him ont' the shovel, and he went off, as he was
late for his work.'

'I'll lay my life both those fellows were in the robbery. I have a
kind of recollection of a tall man on a big bay horse in the
confusion, but of course they were all masked.'

'They'd both rob a church, it's my opinion of 'em,' said Joe, 'and
Malgrade wouldn't stick at cutting the priest's throat after if there
was aught to be made of it. As for big Harry, he's an old pal of all
those Yedden Mountain boys, for I've heard him say as much.'

'If you talk any more you'll undo all my nursing,' said Jane with a
wistful look, 'and you do want to see the Leys again, and--another
place, Hereward, don't you?'

When I found myself back at the tent at the Oxley things looked much
as usual. Indeed the passing wave of excitement consequent on 'the
unparalleled outrage,' as the Beacon for once truly characterised the
late occurrence, had long subsided. Events of considerable magnitude
are so quick and recurrent in large mining centres that, as human
nature is constituted, the mental expense of prolonged interest is too
great to be borne. So having well digested the facts, stupendous as
they might have appeared in an old-world place like the Leys, that the
escort had been robbed, policemen shot, the gold carried off and
partly recovered, Harry Pole, of No. 4 Liberator, and Greenstone,
badly hurt, and the bushrangers still at large, eating and drinking,
work and play, digging and dicing, litigation and love-making,
crushing and washing up, were all being eagerly transacted at the
Oxley, much as though nothing had ever happened contrary to the
ordinary course of life.

Jane was temporarily located with Mrs. Yorke, and Cyrus bidden by
his wife to betake himself to the nearest hotel for the present.

'There'll have to be some one to nurse Harry for a good month to
come,' said that matron, 'and I've not got the time to do it, though
I'd be willing enough, as he knows; but the cooking and the washing
and the children's quite enough for one woman these short days. Jane
had better keep with me till Harry's about again. She won't do me no
harm, poor thing, and my belief is she'd have been straight enough
only for that brute of a husband of hers. Of course us poor women are
blamed for everything. But what's going to come of her when this hole
through your poor side's mended, Harry? She can't live here for ever.
There'll be a lot of yarns about it as it is.'

'Of course, she will go home to her friends in England, Mrs. Yorke.
I was going to see about a ship for her this time, if I hadn't been
stopped. It's very kind of you to have her here, I know. You may take
my word for it that everything will be done for her by me that a man
could do for his sister. We're old friends, you know; and a man may
have a true friendship for a countrywoman in her distress, I should
hope.

'Oh yes, I suppose so,' said Mrs. Yorke, a little doubtfully, 'not
that I hold with running it too fine; when folks is young, and one of
'em that pretty as people in the street turn round to look at her,
partic'lar on the diggings, where there's a lot of curious women.
Anyway, my character ain't to be shook that easy, not if I was to take
in worse than her for a spell. But I've known you, Harry Pole, these
years, so I'll take your word that everything's on the square, and
Cyrus says the same.'

'Thank you very much, Mrs. Yorke, you may trust me. I hope I shall
soon cease to be a bother to any one. And now tell me some of the
news. None of these scoundrels caught yet?'

'Not a half a one. The p'leece is doing their best night and day,
nothing but telegrams and camping out and half killing themselves and
their horses. Merlin's lamed his old gray-horse, and got an awful
cold, and is that savage no one durst speak to him. Malgrade met him
one day, though, in the street.'

'Ha! what did he say?'

'Oh, he stops as cool as you please, and says, "Good morning, Mr.
Merlin, may I ask if you have any news of the escort robbers?"

'"The ruffians are neither shot nor taken yet, Mr. Malgrade," and he
looks as if his eyes was gimlets and would bore two holes right
through him in no time. "I believe they receive intelligence from
meaner villains than themselves who probably shared the plunder
without the danger. I have reason to think there are men on this field
even now that ought to be arrested on suspicion."

'Malgrade looked just as straight at him, Cyrus says, you'd have
thought he was the honestest man in the world. Then he smiles a bit
and shows his white teeth.

'"Indeed," he says, "how very interesting. No doubt you will get them
all in time. Good morning."

'And he walks down the street as if the Banks belonged to him.'

'Then Merlin suspects him?'

'Of course he does; he and big Harry was in it up to their necks the
diggers all say. But there's no evidence, and I suppose law's law.
Yankee Tom says if they'd been where he's been they'd have been
"lynched" afore now.'

'That's all very well,' I-rejoin, 'when you're quite sure of the
right man. But it's awkward if mistakes are made. British law is the
best and fairest, and quite generally reaches far enough in the long
run.'

'Well, it ought to be sure, for it's awful slow at times; and if we
lose No. 4 I'll never believe in law nor justice again as long as I
live. However, this claim's shaping first-rate now. All you've got to
do is to get on your legs again, and we'll all have enough to keep us
without soiling our hands for the rest of our lives, if every other
man round Murderer's Flat was a bush--ranger, and I don't believe
they're much better.'

'All's well that ends well, Mrs. Yorke--which means that a good
"washing-up" will fetch everything straight. We must trust in the
Oxley "dirt" and a kind Providence.'

My wound, thanks to the tender tireless nursing of poor Jane, and the
treatment of one of the cleverest surgeons in the southern
hemisphere--a man well-nigh faultless, so that you could keep brandy
from him and him from brandy--healed apace. Three months only had
passed since the day when, with darkening eyes and flowing blood from
a mortal-seeming wound, I was dimly conscious that our gold was in the
hands of the spoiler.

Short seemed the interval, yet how had the great healer, Time,
amended our lot. My hurt was as good as cured. I felt almost as well
as ever. And the gold was all restored but a trifle of ten thousand
ounces, hidden to this day. But Sergeant Webber lay quiet in his
grave, and near him the young trooper, Rowan, poor, plucky, bright-
eyed boy, not a year from England.

For a while now a season of unusual quietude seemed to have set in at
the Oxley. There were no wars or rumours of wars as far as were known
to us. The bushrangers certainly were not yet captured, but they did
not again molest our district, and were beginning to wax faint as
impressions on men's minds. My full strength returned and I found
myself soon as well fitted as ever to do my work and enjoy 'God's
glorious oxygen' again.

The washings-up were frequent and flourishing. Our credit balance
mounted to a most respectable figure in the books of the Bank of New
Holland. From time to time we saw Jane (who had resolutely refused to
rejoin her husband) when she came out from her retirement to have a
talk to Mrs. Yorke, by whose children she was held to be a beneficent
fairy.

Having made so indifferent a start on this ever memorable occasion,
it was only natural that I should postpone my next visit to the
metropolis. The game was patently not worth the candle if one was
liable to the trifling risk of losing one's gold and being shot
through the body afterwards. So I decided to stay quietly at my work
until Christmas-time at least, then five or six months distant, and go
down by Cobb and Co.'s coach in regular orthodox fashion.

Then the question of Jane Mangold (I never could call her by any
other name) was a difficult one to settle. She took a lodging in the
town, at an inn kept by a very decent kindly widow, who allowed her
the free use of her own private parlour, and in every way maternised
her. But it was a dismal, unsatisfactory mode of life. She resolutely
refused to make other acquaintances, male or female, secluding herself
as much as possible, and only appearing on such occasions as were
necessary for her health. A blameless sequestered life in every sense
was hers. Still we thought it unnecessary that our friendly
intercourse should be altogether broken off. I was her only friend,
and from time to time we indulged ourselves in conversation and
harmless friendly intercourse. I promised her also that she should
follow me down to Sydney when I went at Christmas-time, when I would
make all arrangements for her passage and see her on board ship
myself.

'Oh, if you would I' she said. 'Sorry as I should be to see your
face no more, still I should feel so utterly free from all care and
anxiety--so uplifted to a region of bliss, if I were once fairly on
board ship, homeward bound--that I could almost die for pure joy.'

'And that joy you shall have, Jane,' I said, 'as sure as Christmas
comes and we both live. I will not leave till you are safe on board
and the vessel sailing. So have no further care in the matter. It is
only four months now.'

'But it is so much trouble,' she sobbed, 'and my passage money will
be an expense to you. How shall I ever thank you, my only friend in
this sore need?'

'Where should I have been if you had not looked after me at
Eugowra?' I said jokingly. 'Why, the doctor told me that nothing but
your good nursing pulled me through. You have saved my life,
remember.'

'And you have given me mine in return,' she said passionately. 'A
new life, a true and pure one henceforth, I swear to you, one that the
angels will not blame when my hour comes. Always remember that,
Hereward Pole; and may the good deed bring you the happiness you
deserve, if ever man did, in the future.'

'But, Jane,' I said--

She lifted her hand with a rapid gesture of farewell--and was gone.



Chapter XIX



IN the tiny forest-shaded pools, in lonely mountain tarns or stilly
meres, amid placid restful surroundings, the influence of the fallen
stone or branch agitates the surface for comparatively long protracted
periods. The unwonted disturbance is succeeded by a series of ripples
in ever-widening circles until the gazer marvels when the lakelet will
subside into pristine unruffled calm. But in the roaring flood-tide of
great rivers, or on the turbulent bosom of the mighty main, fleets
with whole crews may disappear, or argosies laden with the treasures
of Ind be whelmed with scarce a momentary displacement.

So in the wide and complicated goldfields society, had even my life
fallen forfeit to the robber's aim, short would have been the moan
made, and brief the requiem sung for me at the Oxley. The tribute of
respect and regret would have been sincere if transitory. A day's
cessation of labour would have been ordered at many a claim,
doubtless. A long procession of vehicles in all grades, horsemen and
foot, would have followed Hereward Pole, a brother miner deceased, to
the often-visited cemetery under the pine-covered hill. But that duty
well and truly performed, a few rough expressions of sorrow, a few
extra glasses to the memory of a comrade 'gone where we all must go,'
and the circumstance would be dismissed, myself almost as utterly
forgotten as if I had never been.

What wonder then that even the still uncaptured band of bushrangers,
question ardente as it was, commenced to lose novelty and interest.

The public were evidently beginning to think the piece had enjoyed
too long a run, and that the management should bestir themselves to
replace the tragedy with a genuine novelty.

That desired melodrama was already forward in rehearsal, if we had
but known it, and the leading actors were becoming so perfect in their
parts that the rise of the curtain bade fair to be demanded at no
distant date.

In the early days of mining, when great yields of gold were freely
won from the shallow alluvial deposits, a great influx of Chinese had
taken place. These aliens, for the most part harmless and industrious,
became stubborn and rebellious as their numbers made them formidable.

To the European miners, apart from their legitimate competition, they
became especially distasteful. Their filthy habits when congregated in
large camps prevented all ordinary residents from living in their
vicinity. They swarmed over the alluvial diggings directly gold was
found, monopolising the auriferous tracts. At the same time they
rarely prospected for themselves.

For a year past the great body of miners had been sullenly enduring
rather than acquiescing in this state of matters. The Commissioner had
no love for the Mongolian or other dark-skinned aliens; still they
were all equal before the law, and as long as each man could produce
his talisman, in the shape of a Miner's Right, he strictly enforced
his privilege as against the most popular and influential miner on the
field. He had, indeed, privately represented at headquarters that the
rapid absorption of newly--discovered alluvial tracts by these
swarming aliens would sooner or later lead to an meute. He had gone
so far as to suggest that they should only be permitted to work the
abandoned portions of the gold areas, where their patient and frugal
habits always secured them ample returns.

As before remarked, they were distasteful to the Commissioner, and
one morning I had reason to note the Captain's autocratic acts and
deeds. I had called early at the camp on some matter of mining
business when the Commissioner, who was always afoot soon after
daybreak, whatever had been the carousals of the previous night,
espied me and insisted that I should breakfast with him. At that time
the camp resembled a military mess, at which, besides the ordinary
mining officials, there were sure to be a few strange guests,
tourists, with perhaps a surveyor or other members of the Civil
Service on leave. Blake's hospitality was unbounded, and a good cook
was often available from among the crowd of wanderers who made their
temporary home at the Great Rush.

So I cheerfully complied, and a very merry meal it was, save for one
incident, which bordered on the tragic and might have been funereal.
It would seem that his mightiness the Lord High Commissioner had been
annoyed by the intrusion of certain irreverent miners upon the grounds
immediately in front of the official residence. They had made a short
cut to a dam on the creek, and the sight of all kinds of 'fossickers'
and such small deer trampling across the sacred enclosure commenced to
irritate our Czar. He immediately issued a ukase disallowing such
trespass, and caused a notice to be affixed to the largest gum-tree at
the entrance of the forbidden path.

Chatting carelessly, some one made an incautious remark reflecting
upon the courage of his kangaroo dogs, a grand-looking, wiry-haired
pair, which looked as though they might be 'black St. Hubert's breed.'
This nettled our host, who was passionately attached to his dogs. He
then and there swore that there was not only no old man kangaroo in
the land that Ban and Buscar would not tackle, but they would go at
any living thing that he (Blake) chose to set them on. A few moments
after this slight contretemps, I saw his brow suddenly corrugate as he
fixed his eyes upon the entrance to the path about which the late
order had arisen.

We all looked, and waited the explosion. There, sure enough, were two
Chinamen, heavily laden with pans, picks, and other mining implements,
essaying to pass on. They looked for a moment with stolid faces at the
warning placard, but, less enlightened than Mr. Jingles's historical
pointer, dismissed the subject with customary 'no savey,' and
clambered over the fence.

'Good God!' exclaimed Blake, with his brow as black as thunder. 'Am I
never to be left in peace? Here, Wharton, Somers, Hayward, where are
you all?' he roared out. 'See those infernal Chinamen--I'll teach them
a lesson. Loose the dogs!'

The police troopers, who dwelt generally at the rear--his orderly and
another or two--knowing from experience that when the Captain was in
one of his moods he brooked no delay, ran at once to the kennel and
opened the door, when not only Ban and Buscar aforesaid, but half a
score of the other big greyhounds, came teeming out through the house
like a canine avalanche on hearing their master's voice.

'Hold 'em, boys, hold 'em!' shouted Blake, and with one glance round
the eager dogs dashed into speed, and sighting the luckless
Celestials, by this time nearly through the enclosure, made for them
as if they had been a brace of stray 'foresters' from the adjacent
ranges.

The shouting had apparently only just reached the ears of the doomed
ones, for they turned inquiringly, when, catching sight of the eager
hounds stretching out, open mouthed, directly in their tracks, they
dropped their loads, and with a yell of affright made for the high
fence at the outlet.

Before they could reach it, the swifter savage brutes were upon them.
Both men were down and apparently half worried before we could do more
than start hurriedly to their rescue.

'By Jove,' said Blake, picking up his hunting crop, 'this looks
serious. Run, boys, all of you, or that brute Buscar will have the
throat out of his man.'

We did our best, I need not say; but just as we got up one man,
rising to his feet, broke through the pack, climbed up to the top of
the fence, with bleeding limbs and nearly every rag torn off him, and
stood there yelling continuously in tones that might have been heard
at Sailor's Gully, five miles off. As for the other poor fellow, old
Smoker and Ban were dragging him along the ground by the arm, Ban with
red jaws that showed he had found something other than cotton or silk
to tear.

The troopers charged desperately with us in a body, and carried off
both the men to the camp before the crowd of diggers which had begun
to assemble could interfere.

'No harm done, "boys,"' said Blake, addressing them with his humorous
audacity, which always stood him in good stead; 'only a couple of
Chinamen that couldn't read plain English, and I sent the dogs over to
translate it to them. The big man was in luck that Smoker gripped his
arm instead of his throat. His jacket was mighty well padded, for it
tangled the poor fellow's teeth.'

The crowd laughed and dispersed; and although the Beacon was loud on
the 'man and a brother' question, nothing more came of it. Blake's
sharp eye had discovered that the assaulted Chinamen, having lately
arrived, were habited in garments thickly padded with cotton, which
prevented the serious damage which might otherwise have taken place;
only an ugly laceration of the muscles of the arm showed where
Smoker's sharp teeth had at length penetrated, but nothing more than
the doctor speedily set right. And when Sing Foo and Chong Mow left
the camp that evening with considerably more strong waters on board
than they were in the habit of taking, each with a new suit of clothes
and a couple of sovereigns of the Captain's money, the younger and
less injured individual of the two was heard to express himself thus--

'Welly good man Captain Blake--welly bad dog. All litee.'

If the whole Chinese question could have been settled as promptly by
the Commissioner and his dogs, much anxiety on the part of the
Government, and, indeed, both blood and treasure might have been
saved. Dis aliter visum.

Blake had in truth long foreseen the danger. He had drafted a series
of regulations by the adoption of which all dissatisfaction might have
been removed and subsequent evils prevented. Ever decisive and clear-
headed, he would have cut the Gordian knot, as events proved, had a
larger measure of discretionary power been allotted to him after his
report went in.

It is in the nature of all great moral outbursts that minor matters
should prepare the way previously. The fuel is laid, the combustive
forces are gradually generated, the contact of metallic substance is
alone wanting; supplied through apparently fortuitous agency, the
rending explosion follows, and the volcano bursts forth in Titanic
might, whelming man and the labour of his hands with swiftest,
resistless destruction.

At our eventful corner of the earth the proximate cause of the
disturbance was the annexation by the Chinese of a newly-discovered
and very rich patch of ground called the Green Valley. Distant some
few miles from the actual township, it had been prospected by an old
acquaintance of Gus Mainard, an ex-Californian of the wild old days--
quite a different sort of person from the orderly and pacific Gus.
Having fallen upon a remarkably rich patch at the head of what he
called a 'gulch,' he had marked out his prospecting claim, had come in
to report and register--as also to tell a few of his intimate
friends--and to 'lay them on,' reserving a certain interest himself.

When he and his friends after a toilsome march returned, Sonora Joe
hardly knew the lonely gully among the hills which he had left that
morning. They could hear the hum of strange voices, too, long before
they reached the place.

'It's them darned Chows,' said Joe wrathfully. 'If I was in hail of
Suttor's Mill, and had a few of the old Forty-niners with me, I'd have
the ragged bullet through some of their hides before morning. But
there's no shooting worth a cent in this cussed country. These
blawsted Britishers have no imaginations, darn 'em!'

The scene before him and his mates might have raised a better
tempered man than the scared ex-trapper and Indian fighter. The broad
gully was turned into a great Chinese encampment. Lanterns were
flitting to and fro, giving a ghoul-like appearance to the strange-
costumed, bare-legged figures that moved and chattered in the
uncertain light. By the stakes and trenches which Joe's friends
tumbled against they could see that hundreds of claims had been marked
out, and every inch of the ground legally appropriated. Where did the
foreigners all come from? There were not anything like the number at
the Oxley, and what were there were chiefly employed at present on the
River Sluicing Claims, about which there had been many quarrels and
bitter disputes lately. One boss or headsman had indeed gone so far as
to strike his pick into a dam in defiance of the Commissioner before
his very face. But the Captain, snatching a revolver from a trooper,
had put it to his ear, and dragging him out from among his astonished
comrades, handed him over to the sergeant, by whom he was carefully
locked up for the night. He was only released upon his payment of a
fine of five pounds and a week's imprisonment for disobeying a
Commissioner.

'Wal, I heard there was a big camp of these darned skunks, under two
bosses, making their way across the mountains,' said Sonora Joe.
'They've had a fresh shipload or two for the Six Companies. But some
of them, or this child, 'Il have to go under before I lose my ground,
if the whole British army was here, and the United States' regulars to
help 'em.'

When they went up to the claim which he had left almost virgin in the
morning, Sonora Joe cursed and swore with frightfully elaborate
profanity. Beside his very pegs, which had been pulled up, sat a fat
and stolid 'Heathen Chinee' whose gratified expression of countenance
contrasted strangely with the deadly scowl which darkened the
Caucasian features. The claim itself had evidently been rooted about
in an unscientific and exasperating manner; while some of the wash-
dirt, piled in a heap close by, showed that the Mongolian instinct for
gold had not been at fault. Sonora Joe rushed forward and, seizing the
astonished pagan by the pigtail, dragged him to his feet, and then
hurled him violently to the ground.

'Clear out of this, you infernal yaller image!' roared the infuriated
miner, 'pig-rooting a man's very prospecting claim, as if it was "old
ground." Hav'n't ye eyes to see pegs and trenches? By all the devils
from here to Lone Mountain, I'll have the next man's life that comes
inside them pegs agin.'

But the men of a superior race were not likely to have things all
their own way on such an occasion. Numbers give boldness even to the
most timid animals. The man who had been thus rudely ejected raised
himself with difficulty and yelled out several words in an unknown
tongue. In an instant the human hive was aroused--it was not long
before it began to demonstrate the possession of stings. Sonora Joe
and his mates were bold and hardy men, not unaccustomed to fight
against odds. They made for some time a desperate stand. Fortunately
they were not armed with revolvers, as would have inevitably been the
case in their own land. But with the long-handled shovels and other
mining tools which lay scattered on the claim they made a desperate
rally, and more than once drove back the thronging foe.

Still they were powerless after a while against the forest of sticks
which appeared to surround them, with thickly-flying stones, even more
serious and disabling in their effects. After a short but obstinate
conflict they were compelled to beat a retreat; and when they reached
the Oxley about daylight, sore and bruised, wounded and discomfited,
to tell the tale that the whole of the Green Gully, for which a large
division of their fellow--miners had been preparing to start that very
day, was monopolised by the invading foreigner, nothing was wanting to
supply the torch for the fires of insurrection which had been
smouldering so long.

The day which succeeded this occurrence was long remembed on the
Oxley, at Yatala, and indeed throughout the length and breadth of
Australia.

Soon after sunrise, both the heralds of the community were observed
to patrol the streets with increased solemnity of mien and
preternatural importance of visage as they sounded forth in the
intervals of their tintinnabulary warnings, the customary formula for
convention of the goldfields gemote.

'Roll up, roll up. All true miners are requested to attend a monster
meeting at twelve o'clock sharp, opposite the Court-house, to consider
the injustice which has been done to the mining community by the
Chinese monopoly at Green Gully. Not a yard of this rich alluvial find
now available for Europeans. The prospectors ill-used and hunted. Roll
up, roll up.'



Chapter XX



NUMBERLESS verbal invitations of this nature had been heard before at
Yatala. At the Warraluen and other gold towns, time after time the
ominous words 'roll up' had sounded forth, generally followed up by
the gathering of a mighty crowd to listen eagerly to stormy, excited
oratory. Then the throng would gradually disperse. A committee would
be formed, with instructions to embody the wrongs of the mining
community in a petition to the Minister for Lands, who at that period,
before the inauguration of a special department with a Minister for
Mines, swayed their destinies. Sometimes the wrongs complained of were
imaginary, much fomented by demagogues and public-house politicians
for their own ends. Sometimes they had real foundation in fact. In all
cases they received recognition, oftentimes a measure of redress. This
last was occasionally tardy.

The Commissioner and Mr. Merlin were wont to regard these mass
meetings, with their fiery denunciations, as convenient safety valves.
The sergeant, who knew more of the subterranean igneous agencies,
assented in a general way to this doctrine, but thought 'the field'
required ceaseless watch and ward in case of accidents. Wide as had
been the experience of his superior officers, they had reached the
stage of careless confidence, akin to that of the sea-captain who has
weathered tempests and grazed a thousand shoals. High-handed and
daring to apparent recklessness, how many a threatened gold-field's
meute, when battalions of stalwart, strong--willed men had blocked
the narrow streets, making the very earth to shake with their tread,
had they seen evaporate harmlessly? It would be so again.

On this morning, however, though all the officials appeared careless
and unheeding as usual, they could not conceal from themselves that
matters were different. There was something in the air that boded
evil. All needful precautions were taken. The small force of police,
mounted and on foot, were placed under arms and ready for immediate
service. Even a detachment of troopers, passing through to another
district, was impressed and added to the contingent; thus making up an
effective army of about thirty men, to assail or defend themselves
from thirty thousand! As rank after rank of miners gathered at the
open space in the centre of the town near the camp, as every flat and
gully within miles--for scouts had been sent forth from early dawn--
furnished forth its quota of volunteers, the crowd became larger,
denser, enormous. It was soon openly stated that every claim on the
field was idle on that day. Yet there was hardly as much excitement as
usual; no loud talking, no eager gestures. A grave settled resolve--
the most dangerous feature of a revolutionary crowd--appeared to have
taken possession of the vast assemblage. The open space near the
camp--the 'plaza' as the Spanish--American diggers called it--was one
sea of human heads. The cross-streets were crowded far down on either
side. A rude scaffolding had been erected some time since for the
purpose of a hustings on the election of a member for the electorate.
Upon this a man suddenly sprang and raised his hand, and as he did so
a hoarse cry of greeting, a roar as of a herd of mammoths, rose from
the vast far-spreading crowd. It was one of those sounds which, heard
for the first time, instinctively thrill the heart and cause every
nerve to vibrate. It tells of that vast unmanageable force, the
physical power of the people, cast loose from all ancient moorings,
and drifting into a sea of chaos. It tells of the unchained lions that
are hungry for a prey. It pronounces, in trumpettones, the knell of
legitimate authority. And it thunders the accusation against those
whose task it is to guide mankind, that they have been slothful or
incapable in the supreme hour of trial.

The man who was thus greeted was dressed in the ordinary garments of
a working miner. His flannel shirt was open above his bare breast. His
clay--stained boots and trousers showed that he had been summoned from
daily labour. Yet one could see that he was a man of mark--one of
those strange heralds of doom, arising suddenly, like storm-birds
which sweep around the lowering horizon over the moaning sea when the
tempest's hour is nigh.

As he raised his hand and stepped forward with a free unstudied
gesture, and commenced in a resonant vibratory voice, that pierced
even to the outer billows of the heaving human sea, Mr. Merlin
observed to the Commissioner--

'It's that infernal scoundrel, Radetsky. I thought he was dead. Where
has he been hiding all this time?'

'Faith, that's your business,' said the Captain. 'He's worth more
than a thousand men where he is this day. After all, he's not a bad
fellow that I know of--except that he's a rioter, a democrat enrag,
and a Pole.'

'He's an infernal firebrand,' growled Merlin, 'and a deserter, I
believe. I wish to heavens the Russians had shot him when they caught
him, instead of letting him loose to plague us here. The sergeant
knows him well.'

'It's me that does,' said that honest officer; 'didn't I know him at
Turonia and Rocky Flat, and wasn't he nearly rising a ruction at both
places, let alone Ballarat, where they say he was in the stockade.
He's a dangerous man, none more so; but he never gave us a chance to
run him in.'

'He has got his innings now,' said the Commissioner. 'And what he'll
score before he's clean bowled no man can tell.'

The hour had come, and the man. So much was evident. As the burning
words of the exile rolled forth in sonorous, telling periods, in spite
of his foreign air and accent, the heart of every man in the vast
congregation went out to him. He told them how their interests had
been systematically sacrificed by those who should have conserved
them. How they had been taxed directly and indirectly for the purpose
of subsidising a costly system of management, which was as inefficient
as expensive. How that their time and their industry had been
swallowed up in litigation. How arbitrary rulers had coerced them,
threatened them, degraded the very name of free miners, aye, of free
manhood. How the whole system of tyranny and misgovernment had
culminated in this one last intolerable grievance--this pandering to a
monstrous wrong. This handing over the richest portions of the waste
country they had civilised, the gold they had discovered, to a pagan
horde, ignorant alike of the laws of God and man--human locusts sent
hither by the Devil to eat up the reward of their skilled labour, of
their arduous toil, of their weary exile. He spoke now to the hearts
of men who, like himself, had left behind them for evermore, home and
friends and Fatherland. (Here such a cheer rose from the foreigners
and many of the British miners as seemed to rend the very air and echo
among the forest glades for long moments afterwards.) They might
suffer this if they pleased. They might humbly stand and look on while
their comrades were plundered and their birthright given to dogs. For
him, he was resolved. It was not the first time he had shed his blood
for freedom. He might rot in gaol. He might die by the sword or the
bullets of hirelings. But, if he tamely suffered these wrongs, he was
no longer a son of slaughtered, betrayed, buried Poland, and no longer
was his name Stanislas Radetsky.

He stood for one moment as he concluded his impassioned appeal, in
which the words had poured forth in one unbroken torrent of sound,
emphasised with action that seemed the very language of his physical
being, an electrical co-ordinate of his nature. Then he waved his hand
with a gesture of defiance as if to an unseen foe, and leaping lightly
down from the rude rostrum was lost in the crowd.

Then arose, first a hoarse, deep murmur, as when the ocean slowly
thunders against the rock--battlements ere the stormwind arises in its
might, bearing on its breath, in rudely rhythmical monotone, the doom
of lonely barques, of strong-sailed navies and their crews. Then came
a storm of cheers, commenced near the place where the speaker had
subsided, and taken up from time to time till the furthermost edge of
the vast concourse of people was reached. From time to time the
menacing sound-waves ceased--only to be taken up and renewed at the
slightest outburst.

'What do you think of that, Merlin?' said the Commissioner.

'By--! they mean mischief at last,' replied that official. 'I was
always doubtful that those infernal Chinamen would lead to a row some
day. I wish I'd telegraphed for a double supply of men.'

'Not the least use, my dear fellow,' said the Commissioner. 'If these
fellows are as far gone as you say, a company of regulars would make
no earthly difference.'

'That's impossible to say--and, surely, I need not explain to Captain
Blake,' replied Merlin, with his most superfine bow, 'what a very
small proportion of disciplined troops is sufficient to awe a crowd,
however numerous.'

'There are crowds and crowds, my dear fellow,' answered the
Commissioner, patting one of his greyhounds, who looked wistfully at
the great array, divining with the instinct of his race that things
were not as usual. 'Ban here knows that there's no kangarooing for him
to-day, and he does not offer to run in any of the people as he
generally does on Saturdays. Who is getting up now? No foreigner this
time, eh?'

'It's Mark Thursby. I wonder at his making a fool of himself; but
they're all going mad together, it seems to me.'

'By Jove! so it is. My favourite digger, if I have a preference for
one of them. Serves me right; but it looks bad when old Mark Thursby
begins to "revolute."'

A very different figure from the eager, impassioned Pole now slowly
arose and raised himself to his full height. A broad, vast-chested,
long--armed figure, roughly clad, with heavy hobnailed boots neatly
laced up to the ankle. One of those children of labour whom the kindly
soil and temperate clime of Britain have reared to till the fields, to
work her thousand-fathom-deep mines, to build her endless iron roads,
to be a marvel and a boast for strength and manliness the wide world
through.

An Englishman he, and born north of the Humber; so much was evident
from his speech the moment he opened his mouth. That he was a
representative man and popular with his fellows was also demonstrated
by the cheers and favourable cries which greeted his appearance.

Standing erect and looking calmly at the vast surging mass, he spoke
without a hint, gesture, or outward sign. His deep voice was but
little raised, still it could be heard by those at a considerable
distance away, so complete and wonderful was the hush. This was a
proved doer, not a talker; a man of immense personal weight and
influence. And his every shred of utterance was valued according to
its rarity. An untiring worker, yet a man of great organising power in
mining undertakings. Utterly honest, fearless, true, and steadfast,
there was not a boy on the whole of the Oxley diggings, out to the
most distant unimportant gully, where a few ounces of gold were
gathered weekly, who did not know, had not heard of Mark Thursby of
Eaglehawk.

'I'm for the law mostly, you all know,' he said. 'Noan ivir seed me
along o' the Coort, or in t' logs, and I've been diggina' since '49 at
Suttor's Mill. But things has gotten too bad, though aw've nowt to say
agin the Commissioner nor Mr. Merlin nor agin the sargint, as is a
reet doon sensible chap as ever put the darbics on a Christian mon.
But summat's gan clean wrong, and that bad as needs ravellin' oot,
where yaller Chayneymen is gotten that bold as they'll tak t' brass
and the land both, and drive out diggers as has paid for their Rights,
and Englishmen as do'ant reckon to knock under to any folk on God's
earth whatever colour or talk they've gotten. And if you're all good
for gannin reet oot to Green Gully and takkin' it back from 'em, Mark
Thursby's for makkin' one.'

The hoarse roar which greeted this proposition, unadorned as was the
bare statement of fact with any flowers of rhetoric, was sufficient to
denote that the deeper passions of the multitude were stirred. Those
who listened were fully aware that something unusual was imminent. Of
the nature and full extent they could hardly judge. Another and yet
another speaker sprang forward and addressed the crowd, both
representative miners, and men who had shared the experiences, the
toils, and the burdens of those whom they addressed. Still no further
manifestations of feeling took place. The great mass gradually became
disintegrated, and the miners in small knots and companies departed.
But it was known in the camp that the word had been passed round for a
full muster at daybreak. What the result of that gathering might be
all might surmise, but none could with certainty divine.

A sort of council of war was held, at which the sergeant, with Mr.
Merlin and the Commissioner, assisted.

The sergeant looked so grave that the Commissioner, who had a strong
dash of reckless hardihood about him, commenced to laugh.

'It's no laughing matter, Blake,' said Mr. Merlin. 'In my opinion the
barricades are morally up, and to-morrow's sun will rise on the
largest goldfield in Australia in revolt.'

'Against which we have a force?' queried the Commissioner.

'Of thirty strong, including all branches of the service,' said
Merlin, with a mock solemnity; 'cavalry, infantry, with a reserve of
two lock-up keepers.'

'Well, we must conquer or die, it seems,' said Captain Blake
carelessly. 'I shan't retreat if there were forty thousand instead of
thirty. I don't suppose they will thirst for our blood, however
indignant they may be with regulations that don't exclude Chinamen. We
must temporise as well as we can until the Government sends
reinforcements, which they are quite certain to do within a week.'

       *    *   *   *   *

While this movement was going on, it may be imagined that our party
felt personally interested after no trifling fashion. We had
everything to lose and nothing to gain by conflict with the civil
power. Any overturning of the present state of society might be
ruinous to us socially and financially. If we got mixed up with the
rioters, we might be joined in their future defeat and punishment. If
a general scramble took place, we might lose our claim. We had no
fancy for being ruled over by the truculent scoundrels, of whom there
were numbers among the mining body, only kept down by pressure of law
and the orderly feeling of the masses. Our opinions were shared by
large numbers of the better educated miners. Nevertheless, so strong
was the esprit de corps which had grown up through years of mining
comradeship, so fixed and clear was the conviction that in the matter
of the Chinese our order had suffered wrong, that we felt bound in
honour, and indeed irresistibly impelled to identify ourselves with
the movement, disastrous though it might be to all our best interests.
At the same time, we were not without hope that we might exercise a
beneficial influence upon the crowd, thus possibly preventing
bloodshed or overt acts of rebellion.

When, therefore, we were visited by the committee formed for the
purpose of organising resistance to this present legalised Chinese
occupation we gave in our adhesion, only expressing our hope that
order would be maintained, and that nothing more would be done than
was necessary to assert constitutional rights.

'You bet we're not going to let the rowdies have it their own way any
more than the Chows,' said Sonora Joe, who was one of the selected
chiefs of our auriferous republic. 'If any of them begin to show out
and out ugly, we'll teach 'em what the Associated Miners' Executive
Committee can do. There's some of 'em that remember San Francisco, and
the old Vigilante days too well to make much of a muss. And, Major,
I'm deputed to ask you, sir, in the name of the miners of the Oxley,
now engaged in this little pronunciamiento, if you'll act as chief
magistrate and commissioner in any cases that may be brought before
you. We're bound to administer justice while we're working out the
Magna Charta business; and I reckon Captain Blake won't feel free to
act till things is fixed up square and monarchical again.'

'I don't expect he will,' said the Major, smiling rather grimly. 'And
for two pins I wouldn't either. But just to keep things straight, I'll
take office with you Roundheads temporarily. But remember, if it comes
to resisting the Queen's troops, I'm against you to the last drop of
my blood.'

'We don't expect nothin' else, Major,' said the Republican. 'We don't
expect any Queen's officer to desert his colours--we must all fend for
ourselves then. Mayhap it won't come to that. But they must give us up
the ground as we've toiled and moiled and wasted our lives for, or
there'll be more than one as 'll stand a shot for it. Daylight's the
word and Green Gully.'

This important colloquy took place about midnight after the monster
meeting in the town. All the early part of the night preparations were
made, sub--committees were formed, each having power to act in certain
contingencies. The miners have the faculty of organisation to a
considerable extent, and for the necessity of self-government which
has arisen under many circumstances of their migrating lives, are by
no means so much at sea as large bodies of men suddenly cut loose from
the social fabric would be apt to be. Soon after midnight, therefore,
all arrangements had been made, and the goldfield was in repose, which
gave an utterly false impression of the state of tranquillity and the
subsistence of lawless intent.

But long before the stars had left the sky the whole encampment was
astir; and as the sun rose the measured tread of ten thousand men
marching towards the police camp commenced to shake the earth, and to
warn the occupants with that strange indescribable hum which a large
approaching force, however silently disposed, always produces, that
the miners of the Oxley were at length under arms.



Chapter XXI



A STRICT watch had been kept at the camp the whole night through. In
the ghostly dawn, gray creeping o'er darksome hill and hollow, the
figures could be faintly discerned of armed men who, with their
centurion, stood at their posts, as did the Roman sentinels in long-
buried cities before the gloom and crash of the volcano. Yet, as the
van of the great hosts of insurgents neared them, the wings of which
stretched as far as could be seen, some natural anxiety must have
arisen as to their intentions in approaching the tiny citadel. The
police barracks and temporary gaol, popularly termed 'The Logs,' from
the massive timber employed in all parts of their construction, were
substantial if rude edifices, calculated to stand a siege against any
reasonably superior attacking force. But the present league, if such
it proved to be, would be as the tidal-wave of the ocean to the
fisherman's boat-shed--the lake-flood to the beaver-dam. A few shots
might be fired in desperation; a score or two of the rioters killed
and wounded. And then every man in uniform would lose his life, had he
a dozen to spare--might even be lynched or torn limb from limb by the
infuriated rioters. Crowds, in their delirious hour, have been cruel
ere now.

Still no sign of unsteadiness should be shown by the representatives
of law. The officers were grave and resolved. The men firm, in their
usual mechanical state of non-inquiring obedience.

'There are enough of them to eat us,' said Captain Blake. 'I wonder
what the beggars are going to do? That's Radetsky in front carrying
the flag. But they're not all such crack-brained enthusiasts as he is.
Sonora Joe is near him, and our friends, the Major, Harry Pole, and
that big Cornstalk. They will all be for moderation. I see some other
fellows I don't like so well; but we must take our chance. Here they
come.'

The leading body, having made a short wheel, now advanced to the edge
of the open space in front of the police camp. I most unwillingly
displayed myself in semi-martial array. All who possessed them carried
revolvers. Radetsky had girded on an old cavalry sword.

'We must go out and meet them,' I heard Mr. Merlin say distinctly.
'Hang it, we'll show them we're not afraid. Attention! left wheel!
march!'

The police troopers and foot constables, who are always instructed in
infantry drill at an early stage of their career, immediately stepped
out after the immovable British fashion, making as if they were about
to advance in the very teeth of the aroused multitude. Merlin himself,
on his grey Arab, rode on at their head as though he had the command
of something like an equal force. We could hear him say, 'Steady, men,
mark time!' as the little band executed their manoeuvre with most
creditable precision.

The Commissioner, with his usual expression of half humorous gravity,
loungingly sat on his well-known horse, close to whose feet his
greyhounds crowded, looking wistfully at the multitude as if, with the
fine instinct of their species, they had divined that a storm was
imminent.

So invariably accustomed were the greater portion of the people to
render implicit submission to the law as represented by the personages
now present, that even when their absurd inadequacy as combatants was
so sharply contrasted, a curious feeling of schoolboy shamefacedness
and moral inferiority was uppermost for the moment. Then the
reactionary element prevailed, and with a mingled sentiment of
admiration for the dauntless front of the small army of regulars and a
half painful derision of their own instinctive deference, a storm of
cheers burst from the multitude, which was taken up again and again,
till the forest rang to its mountain buttresses.

The Commissioner promptly seized the opportunity, and in a sonorous,
resolute voice addressed them.

'Sorry to see you here, men, in open defiance of the law, threatening
the Queen's representatives. I do not deny your grievances, but by
constitutional means, and those only, they would have been redressed.
Now, at the bidding of bad advisers, you have deliberately chosen to
use physical force, thereby placing yourselves in the false position
of rebels and outlaws against the Queen's Government.

(Here there was a hoarse ominous murmur, with cries of--'We'll show
the Sydney officials we're not to be trampled on.')

'You know I don't mince my words, and always speak my mind to you. I
shall do so now. Take my advice and go back to your work. Represent
your cause of complaint, which I will see duly brought before the
Government, and will back up with all the means in my power, for in
the Chinese question I am quite of your way of thinking. (Cheers.)
But, once commit yourselves to lawless acts and you'll all repent it.
Mr. Merlin, here, and myself, can do nothing with our handful of men,
good as they are. We cannot rout twenty thousand men or take them
prisoners. So we shall not try. But, mark my words--that you will have
every man of the 70th Regiment, down to the drummer boys, up here
within a month, the volunteers and all sailors and marines that may be
on the station. Can't you see that you must be beaten if they bring
artillery with them--perhaps some of you shot or hanged, who knows?
You have not gone too far as yet, though your attitude is disorderly.
Take my advice--don't be led away by foreigners, and trust to your own
Government and your own officers. They have always dealt out justice,
and will again.'

Here Mr. Bagstock, who had been an unwilling participator in the
inconveniences of the bivouac, anticipating even yet more undesirable
experiences, impatiently broke in, shouting to supplement practically
and effectively his superior officer's speech.

'Look here, m-m-m-en,' he said; 'w-w-w-hat's the use of all this m-
m--mummery? it's b-b-beastly cold, this w-w-watching, I can t-t-tell
you! Suppose you go and r-r-r-register block claims in G-g-g-reen
Gully--most of those Ch-ch-chows haven't got Miners' Rights, you
know--that's the easiest way to g-g-get possession, and quite l-l-
legal too.'

A tremendous burst of laughter followed this proposition, made with
the greatest coolness and apparent earnestness, joined with cries of--

'Well done you, Mr. Bagstock, you stay and stick to your papers. We
won't touch a hair of your head,' etc.

The point of the joke, however, which was that Mr. Bagstock received
a fee for each act of registration, and that in this hour of danger he
had been sufficiently wide awake to his own interests to suggest the
registration of a revolutionary mob at half a crown a head, so tickled
the more humorous spirits that their infectious mirth went far to
divert the rioters from their stern purposes. Even the iron-visaged
police troopers could scarcely control their features, albeit under
the terrible eye of Mr. Merlin.

The sergeant stared fiercely at an adjacent gum-tree, while the
Commissioner slapped Mr. Bagstock jocularly on the back, and declared
he would rise in the Civil Service, to which he was an honour and an
ornament.

This ludicrous contretemps, joined with the sensible address of the
Commissioner, whom all respected and believed, nearly had the effect
of allaying irritation and sending most of the men back to their
homes. But exorcists of all lands, since the world's dimmest eld, have
ever found the fiend more easy to invoke than to lay. So it was in the
present state of matters. All the worst characters in the various
mining camps were now gathered together. Also, those mercurial spirits
upon whom numbers and opportunity act as a spell for evil, found their
fitting sphere and opportunity. The moderate men were overpowered by
the subtle influence of an aroused multitude, while the wilder
elements rejoiced recklessly in their hour of triumph. Scarcely had
the legitimate miners raised their voices to cheer the Commissioner,
and to suggest that after all they had better leave the matter in his
hands, than a storm of cries, howls, and a surging rush towards the
camp showed that the time of temporising measures was past.

'What!' shouted the fierce exile, maddened by the fear of losing his
last chance of revolt against a settled government, and mingling in
his excited brain a host of old-world wrongs with present grievances,
'are we to go back like beaten hounds at the beck of a tyrant, an
oppressor of the people, who looks upon the toiling masses as dogs,
the minion of a despotic government, based as are all governments upon
the blood and labour of the foolish people, of us--of us! whom they
chain and enslave and rob, and flog and slay--do I not, Stanislas
Radetsky, bear the marks of their accursed rods? And are we to be
lower than Chinese? But I will strike the first blow for liberty, let
who will follow! Comrades, advance, we must have the camp!'

As he spoke he rushed towards the police, his eyes glaring with
half--maniacal fury, and fired his pistol point-blank at Mr. Merlin,
who sat unmoved upon his well-drilled horse, as one hardly believing
that any actual overt act of warfare would follow. At the same time a
few dropping shots were fired by men evidently acting in concert with
Radetsky, who no doubt had been secretly working for a more
compendious scheme of revolt.

The sudden report seemed to transform the impassive Merlin, who
promptly gave the word--fire! and at the same time, raising his
revolver without any appearance of haste, fired at the self-
constituted leader, who staggered, but was immediately lifted up by
those nearest to him and carried inward. At the same time an effective
volley was fired by the whole body of police, who then retreated in
good order towards their camp. I heard a bullet or two whiz
unpleasantly near me. I saw the man on my left throw up his arms and
drop in a ghastly heap by my side. And I was then hurried forward as
by a resistless wave by the maddened crowd which passed onward with
overwhelming force.

Then, indeed, ensued a tumult such as no man could imagine or
describe, and such as in all my previous experience I had never
dreamed of. Cries and curses, groans and shrieks, as an occasional
bullet sped home, arose from all around. In vain did those in the van
try to stem the mad rush onward, not willing to mix themselves up with
the insane act of Radetsky, and unwilling to provoke a further firing
from the police, who had only given a second volley, and stopped as
soon as the fire from our side ceased. All order was lost. All feeling
merged, apparently, in mad demoniac rage and thirst for blood and
vengeance.

The police had retreated within their citadel, which was capable of
being well and effectively defended, as long as their ammunition
should hold out. Built with a view to resist a sudden onslaught, it
was massively constructed of heavy hardwood logs. The heavy doors were
strong and clamped with iron. It was not particularly easy to set on
fire, so that deadliest of all resorts of the besieger was in
abeyance. The iron-bark shingles defied hasty ignition, so that the
besieged with their repeating rifles could have shot down any number
of men engaged in carrying combustibles. Moreover, the timber cleared
away by the reckless use of firewood by a large population left bare
considerable space around the camp. Hence, even with the immensely
superior attacking force, it was seen that they had a long and
dangerous task before them in compelling the surrender of the little
fortress. To storm it would have been a most useless expenditure of
blood, and only justifiable in the case of the death of every single
one of the garrison being resolved upon. Such few shots as had been
fired by the police had been more deterrent than irrevocably
disastrous fortunately. Radetsky was badly but apparently not mortally
wounded. Others were more or less hurt, but no man had been slain
outright. The rioters, much worked upon by all the moderate party,
among whom Mark Thursby, the Major, the Bulders, and myself of course,
canvassed unremittingly, began to consider whether it was worth while
sitting down for a lengthened siege before the unpromising-looking
camp, where the police could certainly hold out for several days, or
whether they had better go on and drive out the Chinese, who after all
were legitimate enemies, in possession of their gold and the cause of
the whole disturbance.

Here Sonora Joe, who meant business rather than revolt, and who was
extremely cute, like most of his countrymen, in the management of the
sovereign people, saw his way to a diversion.

'I don't see,' he commenced, as soon as the turmoil had sufficiently
subsided to secure him a hearing, 'what all this army work is going to
do with getting back our shallow ground in Green Gully! Here's these
cussed Chows working away and rootin' out the gold like spuds, while
we're foolin' round these darned old logs and waitin' for the
myrmidons of this all-fired, old Sydney one-horse Government to shoot
some more of us. They can't well be off it--and when we've got all
these boys' scalps in the block-house, I don't see how we can realise
on 'em. They won't be half as good trade as those shallow claims, and
we're losing them all the time. Guess we'd better make tracks; put the
prospectors back on to their claims; wire in on the block, and send
the hull darned lot o'those yaller niggers to h--l.'

This characteristic address, more particularly the concluding
sentiment, seemed at this juncture to strike the fancy of the
capricious crowd mightily. The artful allusion to rich gold in shallow
workings, the Miners' Eldorado, was difficult to resist. Nothing but
hard knocks were to be got by staying where they were. Gold,
adventure, revenge, were to be obtained by the onward march. Our party
enthusiastically applauded and indeed took the lead for Green Gully,
whither we had the satisfaction to find ourselves followed by the
whole crowd, a comparatively small force being left to guard the
guardians of the peace.

It may have been some seven or eight miles from the Oxley proper to
the Green Gully. A concourse of individuals, whether brute or human,
does not advance so quickly as a smaller number. Nevertheless, once
started on the road every man apparently put his best leg forward, and
very good time was made. Was it not a 'rush'? That magic word in
mining parlance! How many times had we all seen people strip
themselves of the last shilling, the last shred of property they had
in the world, to improve their fortune by risking their lives to
ensure their chances of being early at a rush which was perhaps
utterly worthless and barren when they got there.

For the miner proper, splendid possibilities seem to be the
resistless lure, and he is so constituted that the undefined
mysterious future is quite sufficient to overbalance the prosaic
present, however satisfactory and solvent soever.

In this case the majority had made up their minds that Green Gully
combined the profits of a 'rush' with the excitement of a revolt, and
their gamblers' nature was stirred accordingly to its lowest depths.

After little more than two hours' march, we came in sight of the
far--famed Green Gully, the fame of which was soon to be so widely
bruited abroad. There we saw a horde of yellow men, the Huns of this
gold--empire of ours, spread over it apparently with the multiform
ceaseless industry of an ant-hill.

A hoarse roar broke from the crowd as they marked the steady passage
of lines of workers from the claim to the creek, bearing on their
shoulders what they knew to be rich washdirt,--or why should they so
sedulously keep up the laborious process of washing and 'cradling' the
ore?

'There's my prospecting claim as thick as a bit of honeycomb with
ants, blast 'em!' cried out Sonora Joe. 'Isn't that enough to make a
white man own himself first cousin to a blind mule in a sugar-mill? Is
this what we came across those infernal sage brush deserts to 'Frisco,
and across sea hyar fur? Is the British Empire played out? and is this
here Miner's Right a bit of waste paper?'

Then he drew out the parchment document so well known to his hearers,
and flourished it on high, as though it had been the title deed of the
whole Caucasian race.

The effect was electrical. By this time the main army of miners, with
camp followers and concomitant personages of all kinds, had arrived,
and were so to speak broadside on to the incurious automatons of
Celestials, who went on without sign of doubt or trepidation, yarning
up the yellow dross as though their privilege was to last to the day
of doom. Such was it, in fact, to them.

With a hungry sudden rush as of one man, the vast crowd, like a tidal
wave, rolled on and over the host of inferior race. It was an instant
mean eclipse, followed by annihilation. The next moment, as it seemed,
the whole superficial area of the Green Gully was occupied with
European miners. In every direction were seen Chinese flying madly in
panic, their pigtails floating behind them, their loose clothes
fluttering in the breeze, their slippers discarded or only visible on
one foot, their broad-brimmed hats flying in the breeze or lying prone
and curiously suggestive on the earth. Picks and shovels were raised
in the mle, not altogether in vain. The Chinese that remained were
kicked, struck down, hustled, in every way maltreated until they
joined, like the rest, the unreasoning panic of which they had been
the victims. Sonora Joe, waving a brace of pigtails suspiciously
resembling scalps at the thicker ends, bore down on the dignified and
supercilious boss, who had so quietly sat down upon his prospecting
claim. He was then running and yelling in the most ignominious manner.
Joe could not avoid the triumph of sounding a war whoop over his
departure, and intensifying by a simple stratagem his agony and
despair at the onslaught of the white barbarians.

In half an hour all was apparently quiet. Sonora Joe was again in
possession of his prospecting claim. Many of the others had apparently
taken up claims with the greatest promptitude and despatch. There was
not a bit of spare ground left in the whole Green Gully. A couple of
thousand men were settled, apparently, upon as rich a bit of alluvial
as had been seen or heard of since old Eaglehawk. The great thing was
to keep it.

'Fancy a mob of Chinamen getting hold of a bit of ground like this,'
said more than one steady-going old hand, delighted to quit the
conflict for easy sinking. 'Let's see who'll turn us out again.'

As for the constables at the camp, they had nearly forgotten all
about them. They could forgive them, and only trusted they wouldn't
make fools of themselves and bring more bloodshed and danger on their
heads.

In those days the area of the claims was small, so that, as the
combatants carefully retained the legal measurement as between one
another, the Green Gully, which was patently rich, absorbed a very
large proportion of the leading miners, and also of the dangerous
classes. In a comparatively short time the rapid transformation,
therefore, had taken place from an invading army into a body of
peaceful miners wielding pick and shovel, or marking out their claims
with painstaking accuracy. Of the routed Celestials, not a solitary
individual remained. After a hurried consultation they had formed
themselves into some kind of marching order, and departed at a jog
trot in the direction whence they had come.



Chapter XXII



FOR ourselves, we took no part in the attack and ill-treatment of the
aliens. Of course we held such to be unlawful and indefensible, though
from a miner's point of view we could easily understand an excited mob
of mixed nationalities acting in that way. We had abstained from all
complicity in the violence done, and took no share in the reward. We
doubted not but that some kind of expiation was likely to be exacted
for these high-handed proceedings, and were resolved to keep as clear
of all blame as our comrades would permit us to do.

We, therefore, took the earliest opportunity of going back to the
Oxley, though we had some difficulty in persuading Cyrus Yorke not to
'wire in,' as he expressed it, for 'a bit of shaller, with the gold
sticking out a beggin', for half an hour, with a Chinaman's pick and
shovel, cradle and everything complete.' We dwelt upon the anxiety
such a proceeding would cause his wife, and finally carried him safely
back with us.

On our arrival at the camp we discovered, to our great gratification,
that the whole body of officials, with the police, had executed a
flank movement and retired in good order, having evacuated their
fortress and fallen back upon reinforcements. The force which had been
left to keep them in check had found the task irksome, and gradually
melted away. A scout had come in from Green Gully and given such
glowing accounts of the extraordinary richness and shallowness of the
ground, the best thing seen by living men since Eaglehawk in
Victoria--that it was not in the nature of miners to stay away from
such a rush. All the more energetic took their departure
incontinently, leaving behind a gradually decreasing band of earnest
political enthusiasts, with a sprinkling of loafers and camp--
followers.

When these, towards nightfall, saw the Commissioner, followed by Mr.
Merlin and his men, come forth in battle array, and take the road to
Warraluen, they did not see their way clear to withstand them, and
evidently thought, like that Provost of Edinburgh who considered the
good town 'weel rid of that de'il of Dundee,' that it was well to
connive at the retreat of such unpleasant, possibly dangerous
adversaries.

On the following morning, therefore, when a contingent from the main
body of the rioters, having had leisure to return temporarily from
their claims and devote a little time to public affairs, discovered
that the camp was empty, they took formal possession of the silent
cells and echoing court-house and offices in the name of the Committee
of Public Safety and the Associated Miners of Australia.

It is now certain that the bolder spirits among them entertained a
hope that this revolt would spread through the whole mining population
of New South Wales, at that time numerically large and powerful, and
that the working classes en masse would next follow suit. To this end,
and to fit themselves for future republican responsibilities, they
commenced to make laws for their own guidance, and to administer the
present code in a temper which showed that they would not permit
anarchy, violence, or petty crime among their own body.

Thus a few low-lived ruffians, who had presumed on the social
dislocation to pilfer and threaten outrage, were at once arrested and
lodged in the cells, being locked up with as much promptitude as in
the day of the sergeant's rule.

On the next morning they were tried before an elected committee of
miners and sentenced to a week's solitary confinement on bread and
water, with a significant hint that on the second offence the more
severe Californian penalties would be inflicted. This had the desired
effect. An example was at once shown and terror struck into those
baser natures that can be ruled in no other way. We and others who had
valuable claims were not sorry to see that order would be enforced.
We, therefore, in every way assisted by personal influence and
otherwise to sustain so desirable a state of self-government.

That the bank officials did not by any means approve of the present
state of matters may be supposed. They saw themselves surrounded by a
heterogenous population from whom the ordinary restraints had been
suddenly withdrawn. At any moment an organised band of desperadoes
might arrange to make a descent upon any given bank when it was well
known that thousands of pounds' worth of notes and sovereigns besides
large deposits of gold were in their safes. In a general way these
officials were highly popular; such being the rule among managers
detailed for gold-fields' work, and the ordinary mode of life being
favourable to a frank bearing joined with business habitudes. But they
had formerly had all the police at their backs; the strong arm of the
law could always be invoked for their protection. Now they were
virtually helpless, merely trusting to the good faith and honourable
feeling of a body of men who had openly defied the recognised
authorities. The position was not reassuring.

Superficial readers of the great book of human nature might have
deemed that it was a favourable time for the return of the
bushrangers, who, since the police had been withdrawn, had no
disciplined force to oppose. A fatal error! Had Frank Lardner's gang
presumed upon any feeling of sympathy among the miners their career
would have had a premature ending.

The mining community of the Oxley had revolted against their rulers
and the Government of the day because they saw the hard won privileges
of their order handed over to an inferior race, while their
remonstrances were neglected or contemned. They had openly stated
their grievances and, failing adequate redress, had then taken arms
against the authorities, in the light of day. But Lardner, Wall, and
the rest of the gang had proved themselves assassins in the first
instance, and robbers afterwards. They had stolen the gold which
represented months of toil, often persevered in (for the diseases of
camps claimed a daily toll) while the hand was heavy and the heart
faint with sickness nigh unto death. And had they shown their faces on
the Oxley at that critical period, Judge Lynch would have been
assuredly presented with a commission, when a quick trial and a short
shrift would very probably have stamped out robbery under arms, and
saved the lives of scores of better men in the days that were to come.

No such sensational visitors, however, turned up. Even Malgrade, Big
Harry, and a few others of the leading spirits of the Alsatia at
Murderers' Flat, appeared somewhat subdued, having received warning,
we afterwards heard, that a corps akin to the Californian Vigilantes
was in process of formation.

The Committee plainly made it apparent that no irregularity would be
tolerated by the mining commune so suddenly organised, excepting that
of disestablishing John Chinaman. Gold was plentiful in a general way.
The Oxley was what is called 'a good poor man's diggings.' That is,
most men--even those who were not lucky--were getting what they called
'wages and a trifle over'--meaning four or five pounds a week. A
certain amount of ready money, arising from fairly remunerated labour,
equally distributed among the populace, has always--and I speak from
experience--an effect conducive to propriety and self-respect. Thus at
the Oxley, though it came to my knowledge that a 'big thing' was
planned and very nearly came off, no unlawful interference with the
banking treasuries occurred in any one instance during the rule of the
provisional government. Indeed, a kind of Utopian order and good
guidance for a while prevailed--that kind of government 'of the people
for the people by the people' for which so many ardent patriots have
written and spoken, have fought and bled, died by sword and spear, axe
and scaffold--from the dim darksome eld till now. How long this state
of things might have lasted is another matter!

But it could not be denied by the worst enemies of democracy that,
the casus belli effectually removed, nothing could have been more
satisfactory to a philanthropist than the appearance and internal
condition of the Oxley. In the streets of our strange city were seen
none of the mournful degraded forms of poverty, no travesties of human
nature, patiently carrying out a sentence of want, hunger, and
degradation during their stay on earth. There were no poor in rags, no
houseless women, no aged paupers, no gutter children, no street boys,
no outcasts. All the viler types of humanity which deform great
cities, and even the denser rural populations of the old world, were
conspicuous by their absence. The schools were well and regularly
attended. The churches of the various denominations, the pastors of
which all remained at their posts, were crowded on the Sabbath. These
good men had in truth never ceased to exhort to submission and to warn
their congregations to keep from all riotous and violent proceedings.
In a general way they possessed much influence. But this was one of
the slow culminating crises--outbursts of human society--which kings,
priests, or rulers are alike powerless to prevent.

I by no means wish to assert that our confederated community was free
from the ordinary sins and breaches of the moral law under this
provisional government. But there was, as under the old rgime, a
wondrously small amount of open or shameless evil. There was but
little perceptible wrong--doing, nothing overt which would cause the
lover of his kind to grieve and point to the bad influence of the auri
sacra fames. Quite the contrary, in fact. Whether under our old-world
despotism, or the newer lights of poor Radetsky, Mark Thursby, and the
rest, a more serious, well-mannered, orderly-appearing settlement than
that of the Oxley did not exist upon the earth. There were human
beasts of prey among them, doubtless. They were but as the wolves and
pumas which prowl around a herd of buffaloes. An isolated or heedless
individual separated from its fellows might be occasionally beset; but
on the least alarm there are a thousand trampling feet, a thousand
glaring eyes and levelled horns, ready to crush to earth or toss
lifeless in the air the base intruder, cowardly as savage.

Even those that were physically unable to endure the strain of manual
labour found here rest and ease. A perennial side-stream of charity,
flowing from the main channel of golden gain, enriched these weaklings
and feeble brethren. Miners are always free-handed, so long as the
tide of Pactolus runs not low, and in the patronage of the smaller
industries, or in more direct alms-giving, the old, the worn-out, and
the afflicted, found ready sympathy and ample aid.

One of those invaluable literary caterers for modern civilisation,
ever ready to construct historiettes concerning lands which he has
never seen and societies which he can never have entered, describes in
one Australian novel (save the mark) a lovely and distressed damsel,
reft from her friends, and chained to the pole of a tent by a ruffian
band of diggers. In another improving tale the prepossessing, if not,
perhaps, immaculate heroine, is publicly disposed of by lottery and
carried off by the winner. How utterly, childishly impossible such
occurrences could have been in the wildest days of mining adventure,
let any digger say. Shades of the Sergeant! fancy his majestic
indignation when, from information received, he started forth to
arrest such flagrant and foolhardy criminals.

His strides would have lengthened to those which were conferred upon
the wearer of the seven-leagued boots; his very gaze would have burned
up the perpetrators of so unmanly, so unparalleled an outrage; and the
shortest possible interval would have elapsed between the first
whisper of the atrocities and the safe lodgment of all the parties to
the disgrace in the historic logs, en route for the district gaol.

No! that strange scenes have been enacted in all mining communities I
am not pledged to deny, but as far as my experiences of the Oxley and
Yatala go, premier goldfields of Australia, on each of which twenty or
thirty tons of gold had been unearthed within five years, where four
millions sterling were divided among thirty or forty thousand men,
such occurrences were not only never heard of, but were far more
impossible of occurrence than in the very heart of London or Paris.
Whatever the Miners' shortcomings, the lack of a chivalric courtesy,
of a deeply-rooted respect for womanhood is not among them.

Mr. Bright, the manager of the Bank of New Holland, was so far from
being uneasy at the situation that he positively gloried in the
warlike aspect and 'besieged resident' sort of business in which we
existed. We all believed that he would have rather liked the bank to
have been 'stuck up' with fair notice. A proverbially good shot and
quick with his weapons, he carried a regular battery about with him
for fear of being suddenly beset. We used to say that his customers
were afraid to put their hands in their pockets to extricate a check
for fear he might suspect them of feeling for a revolver and let fly
at once. One day the Major and I, strolling down the street, heard a
shot in the bank.

'Hallo! Bright has enticed in a band of robbers at last,' said the
Major. 'It's a pity to spoil his pleasure, but we may as well look in
for fear of accidents.'

When we got in it was another matter altogether. Our friend did not
look so radiant and rubicund as usual. A fume of gun-powder and a hole
in the floor suggested an accidental shot. It appeared that he sat
down rather suddenly, and jarring one of the pistols which he wore
round his waist, like the pirate captains of our youth, a six-shooter
exploded, tearing through his coat-tail and burying a bullet in the
floor unpleasantly near to his big toe.

Congratulations and libations having succeeded, he bewailed his lot
in being cast in so fearful a region. Not even during a rebellion had
any one the pluck to do anything out of the common. However, he had
advices that military and even naval reinforcements were on the road.
The rebels would be routed and discomfited in no time.

'How's Radetsky getting on? Poor devil! I shouldn't wonder, Major
when the regulars come up if they hang all the leaders, yourself
included, on that big tree in the camp reserve.'

'Radetsky will escape their clutches,' the Major said calmly. 'By
Jove! I sometimes wish I was as near the end as he is.'

'Pooh, pooh!' said the banker good-humouredly, 'wait till that No. 4
of yours is in full work again, and even without that small property
you can clear out for Europe and pick up your old form again. I wish I
had the chance.'

'Something always seems to come in the way of our luck,' said the
Major. 'First, those scoundrels of jumpers, and then this beastly
meute about Chinamen. I suppose we shall have a Russian invasion
next, if the claim is proved good in law.'

On the following day it was announced that Radetsky was dying. The
fiery enthusiast, the excited patriot, the descendant of an ancient
line and representative of a gallant nation, was about to end his days
in a rude hut in a mining settlement in a far, half-unknown land. He
whose childhood had been passed among nobles and princes, petted by
fond relatives, ministered to by devoted servants, was now dying alone
and untended save by the charitable offices of his 'mate,' a peasant
compatriot, and the neighbours, as even on a diggings the adjoining
workers are called.

Not that much was wanting which could be of real benefit to the
wounded man. The hut was small but scrupulously clean, and no care or
watching was omitted that skill or kindness could devise. The
principal medical man of the district, a duly qualified surgeon of
high attainments and world-wide experience, had attended him from the
day of his hurt. It was thought at first that he would recover, as the
bullet had not touched any vital portion of his frame. But the man's
tameless excitable nature was against him. He could not be induced to
keep quiet during the first days of the campaign, and at length, when
fever and delirium set in, and the sick man commenced to rave about
the Austrian Cuirassiers and the charges against the Imperial troops
he had led, to count up his wounds, and to name the name of Haynau
with tireless execration, Dr. Burnside told his mate that his time was
come.

'He will never make another speech, poor fellow,' said the kind-
hearted medico; 'if he had been an Englishman or a German I could have
pulled him through, but these Sclaves are as bad as Celts, they will
subordinate their reason to their emotions. You might as well try to
cure an untrained Norway falcon.'

So a few days before the important news of the arrival of the
military put all other matters out of the Miners' heads, the news of
Radetsky's death, when announced, seemed to stir the heart of every
creature on the goldfield. He had had a short lucid interval before
his last agony, had lamented that he could not have died for Poland,
but rejoiced that the blood of the last male of the ancient house of
Radetsky had been shed for liberty. Every male of his line for three
generations had perished by sword or bullet in the field in freedom's
cause; and though he would leave his bones in this far land, the
celestial spirit of freedom would hallow his grave. He thanked his
comrades of every nation for their sympathy and noble kindness, and
then died calmly and contentedly, believing that when the miners were
again aroused to strike for liberty the occasion would always revive
the name of Stanislas Radetsky.

That night it was announced in every form of public proclamation that
all the honours of a military funeral had been decreed by the
Executive of the United Miners to their leader and true comrade
deceased, and that every miner was expected to attend, that the pall-
bearers would leave the chapel at noon precisely, and that the
procession would attend the corpse to the cemetery at Green Point
Hill.

Never was such melancholy invitation more universally acceded to. It
is a matter of fact and history that hardly a creature able to perform
or provide locomotion, above the age of infancy, was absent from the
gathering to do honour to the dead. Every shred and fragment of black
cloth, crape, lace, or calico on the field was put into requisition
that day. From early morning till midday the roads leading into the
township were thronged with crowds so mixed and various that one would
have fancied that an exodus was about to take place under pressure of
national defeat or impending calamity. Men, women, and children, even
to the toddling bairn and the babe that could not be left at home,
were all there, all with one accord eager to pay the last poor tribute
of respect to the gallant exile who had lived in peace and goodwill
for long years unpretendingly and honourably with his humble comrades,
and had now sealed with his blood his devotion to freedom and justice.

For long hours crowds pressed round his humble abode where this last
descendant of the proud house of Radetsky had passed away, gazing with
strong feeling and even with tears upon the calm face of the dead. The
haughty regular features were still. There was a frown upon the
tameless brow; they could hardly believe that the bright eagle eye had
ceased to flash beneath the heavy lids which had been lovingly closed.
It seemed hard to think that a form so highly vitalised, so infused
through every nerve with eager force and restless energy, could die--
could lie cold, motionless, unheeding of the hum and stir and beating
hearts of the multitude around, whose pulses he knew so well how to
stir with his wild, earnest, defiant words.

It was even so. The delicately moulded but sinewy hand was nerveless
now, the hot pulse stilled, the tender, fearless heart cold in death.
The tongue that could denounce or defy, persuade or command, was
silent for evermore. The brave ally of the weak and the oppressed, the
friend of the needy, the brother of the forlorn and deserted, had
passed away to the land where truth is crowned and justice reigns
eternal.

There was nothing left but to turn away and weep, and to tread with
slow sad steps the familiar track to the grassy pine-shaded cemetery
on the rocky hill. The dead man was carried to the chapel in his
coffin by four compatriots--for the sons of betrayed Poland were
numerous among the cosmopolitan roving gold-seekers, that great wave
of humanity which first rolled from western and southern Europe to
America in the days of the Californian wonder-treasures, thence to the
half-fabulous land of the Antipodes.

There Father O'Rourke, an unobtrusively pious priest, who had never
ceased to warn his flock against their illegal action and rash deeds,
but had not quitted his post, read the prayers appointed over him.
Again the coffin was raised on the shoulders of the pall-bearers, and
slowly and mournfully the whole vast procession took their way to the
pine--crested hill, where the Commissioner's fancy had decreed that
the dead should lie. Behind the pall-bearers came a long array of
vehicles--buggies, phaetons, dog-carts, express-waggons, every
conceivable kind of carriage in use in the neighbourhood. Then, two
and two, a thousand horsemen, winding in an immensely long undulating
line. The guilds and brotherhoods and societies walked in array, all
carrying the regalia of their orders, and rich with banners and
plumes. Then an army of dark-clothed miners, followed by a confused
multitude--men, women, and children.

Had any one visited the Oxley township that day, it must have looked
like a fabled city of the dead, so thoroughly deserted was it. The day
was cloudless and bright. The faint breeze caused the forest trees to
quiver and rustle, the river murmured and rippled all unheeding. How
strange a contrast with the day's bright tints, the sombre dark-hued
crowd with their dread burden in the fore-front, and the Dead March in
Saul pealing and reverberating through the hushed silence of the
forest.

But a few weeks since, and he whom they mourned had been strong,
eager, tameless by toil or ease, hunger or thirst, fear or favour.
Temperate always, yet patient at his rude labour, there yet always
seemed within the man a smouldering fire of hatred of injustice, of
resistance to tyranny, of sympathy for the weak, defiance for the
strong oppressor, which needed but a breath of sympathy or antagonism
to fan into the red glowing blaze of revolt and resistance. His lot
was latterly cast amid untoward surroundings, but of such material
have the world's unforgotten brave, her patriots, heroes, and martyrs,
been ever constructed.

Hours passed of the clear, bright winter day, and still the
procession seemed winding along the road to the cemetery. When,
however, the corpse with its attendant mourners, with the priest and
the leaders of the procession, were seen to enter the cemetery, the
line of march was broken up, and in open order those who were mounted
rode at speed for the gates, while those on foot strove by short cuts
and quickened pace to make up for other deficiencies.

When the grave was opened and the coffin lowered, the priest raised
his voice and commenced the service for the dead. Every knee was bent,
every voice was hushed, and the great crowd inside the enclosure and
as far as the eye could reach knelt as one man, honouring in that hour
him who, in their estimation, had fallen for the sacred cause of
liberty and for his fellowmen.

More than half of those who thus bent the knee did not belong to the
Romish faith. But this was an occasion when all men are equal in the
sight of God, the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, before whom the wise
and the unlearned are alike helpless, alike dumb. May none ever do
anything more unbecoming to their own faith than to act as we did that
day--falling on our knees by the grave of the man all had loved, and
praying to God for his soul's rest.

In a few moments more the solemn and touching service was ended. The
cemetery was speedily emptied, the crowd broke up, and each section of
the assembly sought its home, those who were mounted returning at a
pace very different from that of the morning.



Chapter XXIII



OF course the Government of the colony of New South Wales was not
inclined to rest peaceably while its laws were being broken, its
officers withstood, and in offensive foreigners violently treated and
driven out by force of arms. No one expected that for one moment. The
British ensign, since it first floated to the breeze above the scarped
sandstone natural fortresses of Sydney, has ever truly symbolised the
good faith and firm rule of the parent land. The will of the people
has never been pandered to by the ministries of the day, ever justly
dreading that weakness of the Executive which has been the curse of
all lands where its evil growth has been fostered.

No sooner had the official despatches reached Sydney than efforts
were promptly made to march to the scene of revolt every available
soldier, sailor, marine, and volunteer that could be impressed for the
expedition.

By good luck, as some persons thought, a man-of-war was reposing
peacefully in the harbour, and within twenty-four hours her gallant
captain, his force of marines and bluejackets, with a couple of guns
for siege purposes if necessary, had started with the regiment then in
barracks and a strong body of volunteers, for a three-hundred-mile
march across the Blue Mountains to the head-waters of the Oxley.

It was a toilsome and not over pleasant journey. There were no
transmontane railways in those days, and many obstacles had to be
encountered. The weather was cold, even frosty, as one of the sailors
of the Collingwood discovered when, having committed an act of
pillage, he was promptly court-marshalled, tied up to a gun, and
received three dozen at 6.30 A.M., to the surprise and consternation
of the provincials.

However, though ranking beneath Sir Charles Napier's march through
Scinde and other feats of endurance, the difficulties of the march
were gallantly met and at length surmounted. The army, with guns in
position, colours flying, and all the pomp and circumstance of
glorious war, marched into the Oxley, and took up a position in the
rear of the camp, which had been promptly vacated at the rumour of
their approach. With them also returned the whole available police
force of the district, accompanied, of course, by Mr. Merlin, Mr.
Bagstock, and the sergeant. Captain Blake, who was an old friend of
the colonel of the 70th, accompanied that regiment, and rejoiced in
renewing his mess recollections and the routine of military life.

As for our rebels, they were much disorganised, and as usual
intestine feuds had weakened their organisation. Now that the Chinese
had been driven forth and the coveted shallow ground placed in the
possession of the legitimate miner, the revolutionary business became
distinctly a bore. Much time was wasted by the committee elected to
administer justice in the matter of mining disputes. It was wearisome
enough to listen to the interminable technical details which are
indispensable in mining evidence, and apparently not more satisfaction
was produced than of old. The suitors quarrelled and wrangled and
accused the mining assessors of being partial, prejudiced, or indeed
interested--charges which no one ever thought of bringing against the
Commissioner or the magistrates.

Their total freedom from aristocratic and official guidance was not
such a grand thing after all. It was a white elephant, costly,
troublesome, and increasingly difficult to support.

The great body of the mining population was too intelligent, well--
intentioned, and respectable to succeed brilliantly in revolt. They
had no special aims of their own to serve, no restless ambitions, no
covetousness of wealth or power for their own sakes. All that they
wished was that they might be permitted to enjoy their fascinating
occupation in peace, and that no hated aliens of inferior races should
be suffered to swarm among their camps, and spread themselves locust-
fashion over their beloved shallow ground--the prize and blue riband,
as it were, of the toilsome mining life.

And now the task was done, they did not longer care to play out the
farce of government and police administration. After all it was better
done by people trained to it and paid for it. All this gratis
magisterial work was a nuisance, and dreadfully expensive in time to
the few leading miners into whose hands it fell. Such considerations
as these were not suffered to sleep for want of iteration and support
by the Major and myself, as well as by scores of men of the same
calibre and higher logical acumen, of whom the diggings are full.

Fortunately little blood had been spilled. Except Radetsky, no man's
life had been sacrificed. The Chinese, no doubt, had been beaten and
badly handled. Sonora Joe, and some of his friends who had seen scalps
taken, it is feared shore more than closely in severing pigtails. They
could bring actions for damages.

Now that the soldiers had come, it became necessary either to resolve
to stand committed to an obstinate and bloody contest, sure to be a
losing one in the end, or to lay down their arms.

For many reasons it was thought advisable to consider seriously of
the latter course.

With the military and naval forces now near at hand, it was reported
that the colonial secretary, Sir Charles Camden, a veteran politician,
a native--born Australian, and a most able diplomatist, had
accompanied them. This was considered by the moderate party to be a
felicitous circumstance. Sir Charles was a man whom his enemies called
the High Priest of the Expedient, and his friends knew to be uniformly
successful when a dangerous difficulty needed the solvents of tact and
timely concession. It is just possible to fancy that his occasional
lack of uncompromising firmness led to political catastrophes. But
once let the imbroglio be fairly developed and disaster imminent,
there did not live in the southern hemisphere a man so effective in
unravelling the tangled skein and reducing the chaotic elements to
order and safety.

On a certain Monday morning, therefore, the advanced guard of the
force, consisting of six companies of the 70th, marched with colours
flying and bugles blowing into the camp reserve. Here they were
presently joined by the volunteers, finally by the sailors and
marines, the former dragging with them their two formidable pieces of
ordnance.

To their astonishment they were loudly cheered on taking up position
in front of the line, as they coolly unlimbered and got their
artillery ready for action.

Before all this took place, however, Sir Charles had driven quietly
into town in a dog-cart, with his servant behind him, while the plain,
middle--sized, quietly-dressed man who sat behind and who slipped down
and mingled easily with the crowd was a distinguished colonel of
engineers, then in Sydney on leave, who had joined the expedition as a
matter of interesting inquiry and novel experience.

When it was found that there was no disposition on the part of the
miners to continue their independent government, but that the camp and
other Imperial strongholds were delivered up in good order and
condition, even with the addition of a couple of prisoners in one of
the cells awaiting trial for petty larceny, negotiations were
established between Sir Charles Camden and the leading representative
miners. The upshot of this was that the Government revised the
Goldfields Regulations, making, among other changes and alterations,
by the Commissioner's advice, one which rendered illegal any
occupation by Chinese for the purpose of gold mining upon auriferous
ground which had not been worked and abandoned by Europeans for the
full term of three years.

This satisfied the mining community, and healed the rankling sore
which threatened such dangerous if not fatal results to the body
politic. Shallow ground and new ground would henceforth be
hermetically sealed to the Mongolian. The virtuous Caucasian
proprietor and his followers of the true faith would be henceforth
enabled to possess their souls in peace. I am not quite sure whether
our ally, the Emperor of China, upon whom we forced our enterprising
opium traders in and around certain jealously closed ports, would have
considered it strictly in accordance with international justice. But
it was a measure highly expedient, if not vitally necessary. For that
reason, or because it was 'a far cry to Lochow,' or, in other words, a
long way from the Oxley to Pekin, no protest on the part of his
Celestial Highness reached us.

Sergeant MacMahon made a few arrests, including some of the leading
rioters, against whom evidence of violence or special ill-treatment of
Chinese was forthcoming, and they were duly committed for trial at the
next ensuing Quarter Sessions. They were held to bail, and duly tried.
But the juries refused to bring them in guilty, and with their
discharge ended peacefully the great Oxley Flat meute, now only of
fading historical interest.

We, individually, were unaffectedly sorry when the troops left. There
was an old comrade or two of the Major's among the officers, and
though they chaffed him as having been found in arms against the
Sovereign, and so on, we held high revelry, and had many pleasant
excursions and rambles while the sailors and soldiers remained. Mr.
Bright was also a favoured guest, and his warlike reminiscences gave
the allied warriors much material for surprise and thought. He always
averred that his counsels and influence with Sir Charles, to whom he
was intimately known, contributed materially to the final and
effective settlement of the question at issue. With the departing
troops a gold escort service was improvised, which carried down all
the gold which had accumulated, to the joint relief of bankers and
depositors, among which last we were numbered.

The time had passed so quickly during all these abnormal and exciting
proceedings, that we were quite surprised to find that our appeal case
was on in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, held in Sydney.

Dr. Bellair went down in person to represent his friends and clients.
But all his eloquence and fiery declamation availed him nothing with
the modern Rhadamanthus and his periwigged compeers. The appeal was
dismissed, with so swingeing an amount of costs as against the
appellants that all thought of testing the merits of the case further
was peremptorily abandoned. No higher court of judicature remained,
except the Imperial Privy Council, with which ultimate legal resort,
or indeed with the fraternity generally, the principal backers (on the
Doctor's having tentatively defined its functions) refused, 'in Anglo-
Saxon of the strongest kind that's made,' to have further truck or
trouble.

Thus at length we found ourselves, after all our delays and
anxieties, in indisputable possession of the celebrated and coveted
No. 4. Our Oxley claim was doing so well that we felt a slight
embarras de richesses, but after a solemn council we decided to send
Cyrus and Joe back, with authority to put on men and place the claim
once more in full working order. Mrs. Yorke at once commenced to pack
up her effects; stating at the same time that she was 'full up of the
Oxley, which was a rowdy, disagreeable gold-field as ever she was on,
not a patch on old Yatala for comfort, which she had two minds never
to have come away from, only Cyrus was a man that always wanted
looking after, being that soft and good-natured as anybody might get
round him, and run him to spend money on all sorts of foolishness, as
well as taking shares in every duffer--lead on the field, as even his
own children picked up from the shepherds was no good.'

While this full explanation of the defects of his character was
proceeding, much to our amusement, though from our intimate knowledge
of our mate's ways we had little to learn, Mrs. Yorke was working away
most energetically and effectively, while Cyrus smoked his pipe with
an air of philosophical calmness, as if his wife was opening up a
subject of entirely new points of interest and abstract bearing.

As soon as we had finished the next wash-up, I was to go back to
Yatala to supervise the management, audit the accounts, and so on,
finally arranging for the carrying on of the two branches of our
mining partnership, either of itself immensely lucrative, but none the
less needing both energy and careful guidance to result in the
splendid financial success we now so plainly saw before us.

       *   *   *   *   *

In a couple of weeks, having had the satisfaction of seeing a goodly
store of the unmistakable metal lying on the rude wooden receptacle of
the machine, after all the clay and water-worn pebbles and extremely
yellow water had been finally run off, thence transferred to a camp
kettle and carefully banked, I returned to Yatala to look up Cyrus and
No. 4.

The old town, though kept on its legs principally by the frontage
claims of which ours was a sample, was comparatively deserted. Whole
streets and suburbs appeared to have vanished, and the grass was
growing on many a floor where we had been on good terms with the
occupants, and occasionally spent festive hours.

Some of the old identities still survived, and among them were Mrs.
Mangrove and old John who had so loyally backed us in our days of
adversity. That speculative but forecasting matron was overjoyed at
our return.

'I always stuck to it, Harry and his crowd would come out all
straight some day,' she said exultingly; 'didn't I, John, old man? I
always said the Major would drop in lucky, for all those yaller books
of his. Nothing like taking it cool and not breaking out in the drink
line when the party was down in the mouth for a spell, as one might
say. Some men would have been on their backs for a week at a stretch
with the hard times you've gone through. But I always did like a party
with a smart clever woman like that little Mrs. Yorke of yours among
'em to do for 'em and keep 'em straight. And your sweetheart at home,
Harry, she brought you luck, you may swear. I suppose you'll go back
and marry her when the claim's worked out and the Oxley regular done
up, and forget all of us roughs here.'

'I shall never forget you, old woman,' I said, 'you may depend your
life on that, nor John either; so make your mind easy. See what a
present I'll send you out from the old country.'

'I think John and me had better go home too,' said Mrs. Mangrove.
'You might get another rough turn, and want somebody as knew you to be
your backer again, Harry my boy.'

'No, no! none of that,' quoth John, laying his pipe provisionally on
his knee, a habit of his on the rare occasions when he thought fit to
confirm or contravene the course of the executive department.
'England's too far off to follow a rush, and too dashed cold into the
bargain. I couldn't stand it now.'

'What! worse than Hokitiki or Kiandra?' said his experienced
helpmate. 'Don't you remember our getting snowed up on the Long Plain,
and having to feed the horses on the flour they was a packin'?'

'Yes, that was rather a close thing,' assented John. 'We was pretty
near used up when they found us. I should ha' been dead only for that
spare flannel petticoat of yours; but there's no get away in the old
country, that's what I look at, and no gold neither, except what you
brings in your breeches pocket. I reckon we'll stick to old New South
Wales, for as bad as it is, while our time lasts.'

'I reckon we may as well,' said his superior officer, 'unless
anything happen to you, and then up stick and clear out, John. I never
could fancy being shovelled in here; that graveyard always puts me in
mind of a shallow rush on purchased land, where they make you fill in
all the duffer shafts. We never did no good on purchased land, did we,
John?'

'Well, if that's all as troubles ye, old woman, you'd better get the
Commissioner to register you a fancy business allotment there and you
can make the improvements all ready for the last decision, fancy
marble crib, headstone and all complete. Only some o' those fossickers
would come rooting round with a dish after a shower, prospecting,
like, for any specimens ye might have taken with ye.'

'Don't talk of such dreadful things,' said our usually unprejudiced
marchande, shuddering superstitiously. 'As sure as your name's John
Mangrove, some one will lose the number of their mess before the
week's out. I've known it happen a score of times before now. You'd
better be off to your bed afore you make any more pleasant remarks.'

This broke up the sitting, and we all departed; but strange and
grotesque as were the ideas suggested, none of us treated the
presentiment with such indifference as to jest upon it. Unlikely as
were all the circumstances, and superior as was our position to what
it had been of late years, I could not help confessing to an
involuntary feeling of gloom and boding fear which I tried in vain to
shake off.

On the morning after the conversation recorded we were hard at work
arranging for future business. The claim was too good to be left alone
for more than a day or two at a time, and the wages men, like all
other day labourers, were none the worse for personal supervision.
Cyrus Yorke and three miners were detailed for the day shift, and went
on accordingly after breakfast, the others, with Joe Bulder, having
their allotment of labour during the hours of darkness.

On our way to the claim, our large friend was in unusual spirits. He
had made a match with his horse for the following Saturday afternoon
holiday, and flattered himself that his antagonist had under-rated the
pace and breeding of his nag. Like most Australians, and one Blount in
the service of the late lamented Lord Marmion, Cyrus was a 'sworn
horse-courser.' He was, indeed, a thoroughly good judge, and, heavy as
he was, a first-class rider and whip. He had picked up a thorough-bred
horse, which had found his way, more or less feloniously and
unlawfully, into the Yatala pound, and had been sold out, poor,
ragged, and studiously disfigured, for considerably under his value.
By New South Wales law, and indeed by that of nearly all the other
colonies, a pound sale gives a perfect and indefeasible title to any
animal sold therefrom, no matter what equilarcenous acts may have led
to his incarceration.

So Saracen, a great upstanding, weight-carrying bay, 'tower of
strength, with a turn of speed,' a son of the well-known imported
English blood sire Saladin, had at second-hand become his property for
the sum of thirty pounds and a wash-dirt cart.

It was more than whispered that Larry Lurcher had stolen the animal,
then in training, out of his stables on a great breeding station to
the north, ridden him a hundred miles by day-dawn, and 'worked' him
with the aid of, as it turned out, untrustworthy confederates into the
Yatala pound. One of these said confederates was to buy him out of the
pound and hand him over to 'the first robber' directly afterwards,
thus to evade suspicion.

This worthy person did buy the horse, but utterly declined to convey
him by legal receipt to his fellow thief. Larry of course could not
explain the transaction sufficiently to regain his property by legal
process. So the unjust one triumphed, and unblushingly resold Saracen
(for his name had leaked out) for just double what he had given, and
had the wash-dirt cart, with fifteen pounds more to the good--Mr.
Merlin notwithstanding. This official was in possession of the facts
of the case--the name of the former owner of the horse, the night upon
which he had been stolen, the distance he had been ridden, and lastly
the name of the thief. But he had no evidence to connect the adroit
receiver with the stolen property. There was not material for 'a
case.' So he had to acquiesce in hard fortune, and to smile upon the
felon, mentally reserving him for a day of wrath.

Since Cyrus Yorke had become possessed of Saracen, he had improved
immensely, and was now 'fit to go for a man's life,' as he said. I
never saw Cyrus in better spirits, though to do him justice, hard
fortune or good, he was always ready to enjoy himself, holding to such
proverbs as 'care killed a cat,' 'a short life and a merry one,' 'it
will be all one in a hundred years,' and other wise saws tending to
decry undue forethought and anxiety for the morrow.

'My word,' he said, just before I put my leg into the bight of the
rope and prepared to descend the one hundred feet of our shaft, 'we're
getting rich now, and no mistake. I never expected to see the cash
rolling in, hand over hand, like this here. I feel as if I'd more than
I know what to do with already. If it wasn't for the old woman and the
kids I'd cut it, sell out, and buy a few farms on the Hawkesbury as
would keep me the rest of my life. If I win this match with Saracen on
Saturday, I don't know as I won't do it now.'

'Don't do anything rash, Cyrus,' I said; 'better see the claim worked
out, and then you can bank your money and live like a gentleman.'



Chapter XXIV



'THAT'S all very well, Cyrus,' I said, after a while, 'but you must
either do one thing or another. This racing doesn't go well with
digging. You'll have to be brought up before the Commissioner under
the "efficient working" clause and fined, or else we'll put a man on
and charge you a pound a day. We're all sticking to our fight and
you're beginning to jack up.'

'All right, Harry,' he said good-humouredly, 'don't be afraid, old
man, I'm good for a year's work yet, anyhow. Wait till I get down
directly and I'll show you how a native can handle a pick. That Joe
Bulder's a good man, but he can't do the day's work I can turn out,
though he is a Britisher. Can he now?'

'He certainly cannot,' I conceded, 'nor any other man in the claim;
only you're not quite so regular as he is.'

'You get out of my way, then, old Parson Harry. I'll be down
directly after you send the rope up; don't be long. Lower away.'

I slid softly down with my foot in the bight of the rope below the
rim of mother-earth, and in the requisite number of seconds was safely
on the shaft bottom, from which I retreated into a sideling gallery
called 'a drive,' and was about to question a wages man as to how they
were doing when I heard a sudden, rushing, unwonted sound, terminating
in a horrible dull thud upon the hard earth at the bottom of the
shaft. How my heart sickened! How did my blood run cold as I knew it
must be a man! I rushed to the shaft. Several men from the other
interior workings met there. We raised the man, for it was one, and
little but the outward presentment of what was once Cyrus Yorke. He
was not insensible, better had he been so. His first words were, 'Oh,
my God! my back, my back!'

When we raised him his whole frame was nerveless, dreadfully limp,
and incapable of being supported in an upright position. Then we
found, amid his groans and involuntary cries, that both legs were
broken, an arm, with possibly internal injuries superadded.

He was fastened in an impromptu chair and drawn up with the aid of
another miner, who went up with him, holding him as tenderly as a
brother. It is in the time of real disaster, of mortal hurt, that one
sees the true value of the manly heart. Little is said, there are no
professions, but the proverbial feminine tenderness is often equalled
by that of the chance comrades whose ordinary speech would lead a
superficial observer to infer that not one grain of sentiment could
abide with the rough exterior and ruder utterances.

Cyrus had full possession of his senses, and in answer to a question
as to how he fell, groaned out, 'I forgot the sprag.' In the
exuberance of his spirits he had jumped on to the rope and neglected
to see that the wooden wedge, which when placed in the iron roller
arrests and acts as a brake to the outrunning rope, was in its place.
The unchecked rope ran through the roller with tremendous velocity,
and poor Cyrus reached the bottom of the shaft almost as rapidly as
though he had thrown himself down it.

There was no hope from the first. A messenger was sent to tell his
wife that the earth had fallen in, and that her man was badly hurt.
This is the most common phase of mining accident; for this every
miner's wife is more or less prepared. In many instances they do not
terminate fatally. There is generally some hope; but poor Mrs. Yorke
fortunately dreaded the worst, and cried out when she saw the little
procession--

'Oh, Cyrus! oh, my man! He'll never get off his bed. I dreamed of it
the other night. If they've got to carry him, he's a dead man. I know
before they tell me.'

However, she braced herself to the task, and with dry eyes was soon
busied in making ready for him the bed, which, though in a poor tent,
was neater and more scrupulously tended than in many a grander abode.

As the four men approached with the bark stretcher, upon which lay
the huge frame of the magnificent athlete who had gone forth that
morning in all the frolic spirits of youth rejoicing in his strength,
there was already a small crowd collected near the tent door. His wife
came forward, and giving one rapid despairing glance threw herself
upon a low chair and covered her face with her hands. Then she walked
forward, and bending down kissed the pale face of the death-stricken
miner, already tortured by the spasms of mortal agony.

'Never mind, old woman,' he said, with an effort to make his big
voice sound cheery and careless as of old, 'don't take on so. The
doctor won't mend me, I'm thinking; but you'll have enough for your
share of the claim to keep you and the kids for your lives.'

'Don't talk of the claim. I wish we'd never seen it. Oh, my God!
have pity on me! Lay him down gently on the bed, please. Why can't I
die too?'

There was no need to ask them to lay their ghastly burden down
gently. A dozen willing hands were at once proffered, and as lightly
as a babe by its mother was the injured man laid upon the bed he was
never to quit alive.

Then almost mutely, but with looks and gestures full of heartfelt
commiseration, such as could not have been surpassed in the most
polished society of the old world, the crowd reverently and heedfully
went on its way and left the mourners to their sorrowful duties.

The nearest doctor was at once sent for. He came with little delay;
but beyond swathing up the wounded man, so that present pain was
minimised, nothing could be done.

The wife looked long and searchingly at his impassive countenance,
but found there no hope, alas!

'How long shall I have my senses, doctor?' said poor Cyrus.

'Forty-eight hours, perhaps,' said the man of sickness, wounds, and
death. How many death-beds had he seen? 'You had better make any
arrangements to-morrow, in case of accident. If you feel the pains
coming on badly, take some of the draught I leave you, but not unless
you can't do without it. Good-day!'

I walked out to the road with the doctor, and as far as the nearest
hotel, no great distance.

'No chance of recovery, I suppose, doctor?' I said tentatively.

'My dear fellow, he has hurts enough to kill all four of you--severe
internal injuries, fractured spine, broken thighs, arm, bah! he's a
dead man now. Sensible woman, his wife--pity.'

'Poor Cyrus, it's a frightfully sudden end. What will you take,
doctor?'

'Brandy, I think--three star.'

All the next day we watched over our poor comrade. Though the pain
which he suffered was at times agonising to the limit of human
endurance, he was perfectly conscious, and in full possession of his
senses.

'That's what makes it so hard to bear,' he said, in one of the
intervals when he lay calmed by the powerful narcotic draught, after a
paroxysm of unusual fierceness. 'Here am I took, accidental like, all
through a minute's cursed carelessness, and me as never had a day's
illness, or knowed what it was to be sick or sorry, not once in my
life afore. And just as I had my pile pretty well made, so as we'd no
call to be grizzlin' and bustin' ourselves for money as long as we
lived. Well,' he said reflectively, after a pause, 'I haven't been
what folks call a religious cove, but I never wished anybody any harm,
and I never done a mean act in my life. And I do feel it hard--
precious hard--to be rubbed out like this, after followin' the
diggings so long, just as I've made the first rise.'

Towards nightfall he felt easier, and as he lay with his wife's hand
in his, one might have hoped, but for the cruel irreparable shattering
of his whole frame, that a favourable change was at hand. He, however,
mistrusted it himself.

'You've been a good wife to me, little woman,' he said to his wife,
who now sat looking at him with a fixed gaze of grief, as if the fount
of tears was dry, 'and I've not behaved bad to you, that is, as far as
I knowed how. When I'm gone, you stick to your shares in the claims
till they're clean worked out, and then you go and settle down on the
Hawkesbury where we both was reared, and buy a good farm, and eddicate
the poor kids well. And if you marry again, as women mostly does, and
I don't see why you shouldn't, you pick a sensible, steady chap, as'll
take care of you and them. I shan't have nothin' to say again it. And
now, kiss me, old woman, and bring in the poor young uns and the
babby, bless his little round mug, for them pains is a comin' on agin,
and they won't have their father much longer, I'm afeared.'

        *   *   *   *   *

It was even so. An hour later a merciful delirium set in, and during
the long night through Cyrus never recovered consciousness--talking
mostly of his early days, among the maize fields of the old river,
where so many of the early colonists were reared.

At dawn he passed away; and when the miners went forth to their daily
work that morning, the giant frame of him whom all had known in robust
health and spirits but two short days before lay cold and stiff for
evermore.

We buried him near Radetsky, whom he had followed to the grave,
little deeming that he himself was so soon to be laid beside him, and
a crowd of mourners only inferior in number to those who formed the
death march in honour of the patriot exile paid the last tribute of
respect to the big, jolly, generous comrade whom they all knew so
well.

As for Mrs. Yorke, she refused all comfort for a while, attending to
her household tasks mechanically, but seeming as one whose mental
faculties had received a numbing blow. By degrees, however, she
rallied, and so far resumed her former nature as to resent a proposal
made to her to go 'down the country,' as she expressed it, and settle
in a quiet country town with her children.

'Poor Cyrus said I was to stop and see how the claims washed up till
the very end,' she said, 'and so I shall as long as they're worth
sticking to. I've followed the diggings so long as I should be lost at
any other life; so I'll stop on and do for you boys, just as I've
always done, till the party's broke up. There's plenty of good hard
work, and that'll keep me from thinkin' too much and maybe losin' the
little wits I have.'

So Mrs. Yorke abode with the party, knowing that she was among
friends and brothers, and that her children were under the protection
of the whole goldfield, every man in which would have gone far to aid
them in any way. She gradually became her old cheery, sharp-spoken,
energetic self again, and matters went on, as is the world's wont,
with a gradually decreasing memory of the big, easy, good-humoured
husband and father whom she used to order about with almost as little
ceremony as the children.

As soon as I had reason to believe that No. 4 could be trusted to
manage itself without my supervision, I placed Joe Bulder in charge,
and returned to the Oxley. There was no very great difficulty in
arranging poor Cyrus Yorke's affairs. He had, luckily for himself,
taken a fancy to have his will made a couple of years before, being so
much taken with the celerity with which Mr. Markham drew up that
important document for a fellow miner in extremis, that he got that
energetic gentleman to write out one exactly like it for him, leaving
everything to his wife, as had his old friend, and actually signed it.

This was most fortunate, and saved all bother with the Curator of
Intestate Estates and the necessity of commission to Mr. Bagstock--a
result which that gentleman feelingly deplored. We had then only to
place Mrs. Yorke's share of the dividends in the bank to her credit
after each washing-up, and the poor thing knew to a fraction how much
was added to her previous very respectable capital.

After I had returned to the Oxley, and these affairs, revolutionary
and otherwise, were done and over, and we had time to think over
matters in a calm and unexcited way, it occurred to the Major and
myself one night as very strange that Jack Bulder should have taken
such very particular care to keep himself out of the whole imbroglio.

'The very thing I should have expected him to have gone in tooth and
nail for,' said the Major. 'He has often inveighed against the tyranny
and harshness of the officials in the early days of mining, more
particularly in Victoria, and occasionally shown an amount of ferocity
that surprised me. Now, all through this row he has kept steadily to
his work, avoided all meetings, almost ran the risk of being
considered a traitor to a cause by some of the hot-headed rioters.
Depend upon it he has a good reason for keeping so quiet.'

'He has shown his sense,' I said. 'There were many good reasons for
keeping out of all this unfortunate affair. I wish others had thought
the same.'

'Yes, but what I mean is, that he had some feeling beyond that of
common prudence which would not have swayed such a savage beggar as he
is when his blood is up. There is some mystery, I'll swear.'

'There is some mystery about every digger,' I replied. 'There is
nothing wonderful about that. If one could only know the real history
of nine-tenths of the people that we pass in the street or work
alongside of for years, there would be the material for more startling
romances than all the fiction--weavers in Europe could manufacture in
a decade.'

'When one comes to think of it, perhaps if the Oxley Hotel bars were
turned into a veritable Palace of Truth instead of one occasionally
witnessing the unveiling of a fragment of the statue, some novel
effects and strong situations would result. But none the less do I
firmly believe that our trusty acquaintance and mate carries about
with him a secret as much more weighty and dangerous than the ordinary
miner's possessions as a square foot of nitro-glycerine is to a
canister of powder.'

'If your theory is right about his having a craving for drink, it
will all come out the first time he has a "burst." I have noticed his
being restless and excited lately. It may be that the enemy is
crawling closer to him.'

'Poor devil! Perhaps it is so. I must say I pity those alcoholisers.
It is so hopeless a case with them. And they are often such Bayards in
their sane periods.'

'Poor human nature again!' said I; 'but isn't it bed-time?'

More important matters than John Bulder's strange mood had been
passed over during the revolutionary and funereal period. So little
had I dreamed of aught but war rumours and tragedies of late, that the
absence of my accustomed letter from my darling Ruth did not unsettle
and alarm me, as such an omission usually did.

When I began to reason on the subject I told myself that there was no
fixed period for the sending of these priceless missives, and that
they were occasionally delayed until the time of my eager expectation
had passed.

I had certainly written very fully of late, and had dwelt with more
than my usual guarded prudence upon the recent successes and wonderful
expectations which had now fallen to our lot.

I had told of my wound, of the robbery of the escort, and of my slow
and tedious recovery--all of which facts had elicited the most tender
sympathy, the most fervent condolence. I had mentioned, perhaps in
somewhat slight and formal manner, the good nursing I had received
from Mrs. Morsley, which had so much tended to my recovery. But I had
forborne to state that she was identical with the Jane Mangold whom
Ruth so well recollected at Dibblestowe Leys.

My reason for this was merely an instinctive feeling that it was
better not to go into the whole question of poor Jane's Australian
career, and a doubt whether any one in England could completely
understand and accurately gauge the nature of a goldfield's
friendship, all innocent of wrong-doing as such friendships generally
are.

Better for all and safer would it have been had I told the whole
unvarnished truth, and trusted to Ruth's delicate sympathy and womanly
sense of purity to have instinctively divined the real state of the
case. As it was, my reticence gave point to the well-nigh fatal stab
to my reputation, aided the deathblow to my happiness, which my mortal
enemy had known so well how to deal.

I had tortured myself with the sickening foreboding of evil that
sensitive spirits know so well for some weeks, when a letter came with
the well--known beyond-sea postmark.

To my deep surprise it was in the squire's handwriting.

With mingled feelings I tore it open and read, with confused brain
and mist-dimmed eyes, as follows--



Chapter XXV



'ALLERTON COURT.

'SIR--Circumstances have recently been brought to my knowledge
connected with your present mode of life in Australia which have
entirely changed my opinion of your character.

'Without further alluding to facts, with which I have been made
acquainted through the correspondence of a resident at the Oxley
diggings and former acquaintance (I enclose the communication), I may
state here that I feel myself precluded from all future friendship or
association with you.

'Deeply painful as it has been to me and others to decide thus
irrevocably, you must be aware that your conduct leaves me no
alternative as a father, as a gentleman. May God forgive you. I should
be false to my heart's truest feelings if I could add that I did.--
Yours obediently.

'GEOFFRY ALLERTON.

'Hereward Pole, Esq..

'The Oxley, N. S. Wales, Australia.'

More than once had I turned and re-turned this fatal scroll, like one
who doubts and fears of doom irrevocable, spirit-crushing, eternal.

'What foulest slander, what devilish falsehood could have led to this
astounding change in the warm-hearted old squire? And if he and his
trusting charitable wife believed--as they must have done--the hateful
lying slander, what would be the feelings of my pure, gentle, true-
hearted Ruth?

And could she desert me at the first whisper of the breath of
calumny, she whom I had known to be not less gentle than steadfast?
Did I not remember with the vividness of yesterday our walk near the
upland terrace along the beech avenue, our youthful sympathy with the
Master of Ravenswood, and her scorn of the too easily-swayed Lucy
Ashton?

As I sat staring at vacancy, rigid with despair and hate of my
enemy--for who but Algernon Malgrade had, through some emissary near
his old abode, worked all this misery and ruin--I could yet see Ruth's
calm eye and severe features as she expressed her belief in the fond
faith and clinging adherence to an absent lover, noblest, most exalted
attributes of womanhood. Covering my face in an agony too deep for
words, well-nigh too great for human endurance, I took comfort from
the recollection.

Again and again I re-read the serpent-like scroll which had been cast
into my Eden of love and faith, whence I was now, it would appear, for
ever cast forth. It was addressed to an erstwhile companion and
fellow--reprobate, sharer in Malgrade's darkest iniquities, but who,
more astute or more fortunate than he, had never been actually
convicted of dishonourable conduct, and was therefore still in the
enjoyment of his social position. The poisonous extract ran thus--

'I daresay you remember something about that fellow Pole, who
migrated to this strange quarter of the globe just before I did. I
never liked the confounded prig, but did him the justice to think that
he was hard-working and what the world calls respectable. Still I
think poor old Allerton, who was ass enough to allow that nice
daughter of his to become engaged to him, ought to know that he has
been living in the most open manner with a woman named Morsley, who
left her husband to nurse him when he received a wound in the escort
robbery, and has remained with him ever since. She was said to have
been a tendresse of his when he was playing at farming with her
father, old Mangold, in Kent. People don't mind that sort of thing
here, and I am not straightlaced, as you know, but I never was a
sanctimonious hypocrite, and I can't stand fellows who sail under
false colours.'

This artfully concocted missile had not failed of its effect. Like
the frail dart, the keen point of which has been steeped in the
festering relics of the charnel house, the merest scratch was
sufficient to rankle and inflame into a mortal wound. 'The death of
hope, love, friendship, all that is, except mere breath,' had
followed. Should I ever be able to refute the calumny? Should I ever
be afforded an opportunity to clear myself of this subtle, deadliest
accusation? For the arch-assassin and conspirator in the matter was
difficult to reach. We were already known to be sworn enemies. To
charge him with the villainy, to assail him with reproaches, would
serve no good end. He would probably reply with his polished,
imperturbable sneer, well gratified to find that the barbed arrow had
gone home. For an actual hand to hand conflict the time and place were
not fitting. Men did not carry arms at our diggings, and though I felt
as if I could have crushed every bone in his body, yet I knew that he
was an adept at every kind of athletic exercise, and that an attack by
me could only end in an unseemly scuffle and a separation by the
adjoining bystanders, with an ultimate appeal to the police-office.
Satisfaction was not to be obtained in that way. I must bide my time.
He might yet be incriminated in the escort robbery. Merlin was
following up the trail like a sleuth-hound. I should yet see him in
the dock, thence to receive the full measure of his deserts.

A month passed. How I bore up under my burden I cannot tell. None can
ever know. I was fortunate in having the inestimable distraction of
full and exhausting bodily toil, which to the strong man, whose
muscular power will bear the strain, supplies an anodyne to which none
other is comparable. To the Major, who shared all my secrets, though I
had not been put into full possession of his, I confided my griefs. He
was less sardonic than I had ever known him.

'If I were weak enough to make an exception in favour of any daughter
of Eve, which I don't say I do,' he answered musingly, 'I should do so
in the case of Miss Allerton. She is, perhaps, one of the rare
feminine flowerets which a certain consensus of persons of experience
have decided to bloom once in a century. Were I in love, like you,
which God forbid, I should hope against hope.'

Did the Major sigh? I could not tell. It would be too wonderful were
it so. But after delivering himself of this most unusual sentiment, he
departed abruptly.

I was approaching a phase of stony despair, which, apparently, no
outward occurrences had power to change, when a letter was brought to
me on which I instantly descried the long-loved, long-lamented
characters of my love.

Had I been sick and like to die? Even in this hour of sanity and
security, I fully believe so. That dull, darksome despair of life, the
denial of all worth and value in existence, had set in, which kills in
some races even as surely as the sword, though silently as the fatal
cup. The Lascar casts himself down, saying I shall die, and by the
simple exercise of will--hereditarily so directed--even thus does die.
Why not the hopeless lover?

Never before had I opened one of her dear letters without being
pervaded by a feeling of joy and serenity, which seemed as with some
supernal influence to dispel the mists of doubt and danger by which my
life was environed. Fearing, as I had good reason now to do, lest the
Argosy, with all my freight of happiness, had hopelessly foundered, I
yet had an instinctive reminiscent sensation of the well--remembered
gracious influence. Nor was it illusory. Opening the letter with the
obstinately--resolved feeling of one who knows that his charter of
life or death, the release or the death warrant, lies between those
delicate sheets, I read no farther than 'My darling Hereward,' when I
threw myself on my knees and kissed the letter again and again in an
agony of love and gratitude, as though it bore the pardon of a soul
ransomed from the Inferno.

When my throbbing heart and whirling brain would permit me, I
addressed myself more collectedly to the closely-written pages, which
ran thus--

'I could not send you this before, though I grieved. They tell me
all through the delirium of my illness that you would be left in doubt
of your own Ruth, and of her love towards you, even after the wicked
slander which has so injured you in papa's estimation. For I have been
ill, very ill, my darling, and my poor brain is still weak and
troubled with the dreadful imaginings which passed through it during
the fever.

'But they tell me I am recovering now, and after the change of air
which my dearest mother and I are about to take, I feel that I shall
be quite well again and able to act with firmness. How much strength
of purpose shall I need to cling to my love through good and evil
report.

'Oh, what a dreadful thing it is that wicked people should be
permitted to work such woe to those who have never injured them. I
have barely heard of this Algernon Malgrade, whose fiendish letter has
done all this evil to us. I was merely told that he was a man whom his
friends had long cast off, and whose name was infamous in his own
neighbourhood. That he could never have been a friend of yours, and is
now a deadly enemy, I can well understand. And the deadliest foe he
has proved himself to be.

'Before I go further I MUST tell you that, though I never believed
the wicked invention, yet from papa's anger, from dear mother's
sorrow, and my own vexation that any act of yours should have been
capable of such a construction, combined to harass me with doubts and
to produce the illness from which I have just arisen. It was also most
unfortunate that you did not tell me in your letters after you were
wounded that the nurse, to whom I felt so grateful, was Jane Mangold.
Every one knew her here as a handsome flighty girl before she left
England, and all were ready to believe the worst of her after the
circumstantial falsehood which Mr. Malgrade's friend, whom I shall
always consider as bad as himself, circulated.

'But oh, my own Hereward--long loved, only loved that you are, as
from the first--I believed in your truth with all my heart and soul;
so I do now. My father's bitter anger and disappointment at what he
terms your ingratitude must yield to time and proof of your innocence.
Dear mother is again on my side, and thinks he was over hasty in
condemning you unheard. As for me, I am yours, in love and faith, as
long as life lasts; and nothing that I can imagine would tear you from
my heart, though I might die in the effort to sever myself from you.

'Write at once, calmly and prudently, to dear father and set
yourself right, as you must be able to do, with as little delay as
possible. When I think that but for this terrible escort robbery you
might even now have been on your way home, I can hardly bear to think
of the wretches who planned it, and are responsible for all the evils
which have since flowed from the crime.

'Do not lose a moment in calming the fears about yourself which I
constantly entertain, and in proclaiming your justification before my
parents and all the world. But, whatever may be their opinion--and I
pray that I may not be deemed wicked for opposing it,--I am and shall
be always, your own

RUTH ALLERTON.'

I carefully folded up and put away among my hoarded treasures this
the most rare and precious of them all--the assurance of a pure and
loving woman's devotion. Encompassed as she was by apparently well--
founded fears and anxieties, by the opposition of her parents and
friends, and the opinion of the society in which she lived, what
courage did she display! A difficult measure of antagonism for one so
gentle and tender to withstand. Yet, for my sake, she repressed her
natural desire to conform in all respects to the will of those tender
parents with whom her life had been spent in willing obedience,
choosing rather to trust in the fealty of one who, like me, was living
in a strange land, the sport of wild adventure, of untoward fate, the
undefended victim of calumny.

Whatever love mortal man could give, had ever given to woman, was
her due; and if ever man had loved truly and with all the strength of
his being, I, Hereward Pole, was that man. Why could I not at once
take steps and in person defy my maligners and for ever put to flight
all doubt of my good faith? I could almost do it. If I sold out now
and quitted the goldfields I should leave with a fair fortune, a
respectable competence sufficient to provide moderately for all my
wants in days to come. But just now, at the crowning point of fortune,
when everything, in a miner's point of view, was in our favour, it
seemed too hard to quit the still running golden stream and leave to
others the garnering of the wondrous treasures which were within our
grasp. No! I had sworn to return to the land of my forefathers with
such a portion of the golden store of this new world as should suffice
to equip their descendant with something of the old splendour of the
ancient house. I had wrested so much from the dragons which guarded
the Hesperides of the south. I would reappear, laden with what would
disarm the sneers and purchase for evermore the smiles of the fawning
crowd we dignify as society.

Yes! in despite of the weary load of overworn patience, of the
crushing sorrow, never more sharply mordant than now, the machination
of fiends, falsely called men, I would adhere to my first resolution,
never departed from, and fight out my life-battle to the close. The
stubborn pride which compelled my expatriation forbade a premature
return.

Meanwhile, all that I could do should be done. I would write both to
the Squire and to my own unfaltering high-souled love, placing before
them the fullest details, the most minute facts. My exculpation I
would leave to a just and merciful God, to my Ruth's tender trust, to
her father's honour and plighted word.

And yet, how was I to bear myself towards the ill-fated woman who
was so closely, so ominously linked with my fortunes? Was I, with
selfish dread of damage, to cast her off at the first storm summons of
wave and gathering blast, as seamen, mad with fear or reckless in
despair, cast forth the weaker comrade from an overladen skiff? Not
for even her dear love's sake, not for the risk of withering up the
life that remained to me, as a flame-scorched scroll, would I so far
dishonour my manhood by the desertion of a trust.

This late-stricken victim, this forlorn creature, alone in a world
which was thronged with foes and oppressors, had crept to my feet to
die or to be succoured in sore need in the name of the old pure
friendship of our joyous charmed youth, and was I to cast her off with
calculating cowardice because her name had been used to forge a false
indictment?

No! by heaven! some men might do this thing, might hug themselves
with the belief that the seeming cruelty of prudence was but the duty
to themselves and their stainless reputation which all men owe. But
might the Lord do so to me, and more, in the words of the ancient
record of man's earliest tragedies, if I, Hereward Pole, stooped to so
base a shelter from the storm of calumny which bade fair to whelm me.

        *   *   *   *   *

So I betook me to the poor substitute for the spoken word, which
those must ever employ who look to lighten the wrong which has been
for ages the proverbial doom of the absent. I shut myself up, and
devoted a long day to the careful compilation of a record of all that
had occurred between us since I had first seen the unhappy Jane
Mangold in Australia. I wrote humbly and patiently to the old Squire,
solemnly pledging my faith as a man and a gentleman, that no tie
existed between us save such as was almost a necessity of our
positions, and which reflected honour upon our common nature.

I stated finally that she was about to sail for England shortly, that
I had pledged myself to carry out arrangements to that effect, from
which, of course, he would see that I could not now draw back, and
that as she was returning to her father's home he might, if he
pleased, and I earnestly besought him to do so, visit her at the Leys,
and hear from her own mouth the true facts of the case. When face to
face with her, I could trust to his clear head and knowledge of the
world to unravel any apparent mystery.

My task over, my despatches sealed and posted, somewhat of my burning
anxiety was allayed. Some portion of the load was lifted from my soul.
I felt nerved to attempt the completion of my errand to this fair
land, abstracted as it had been hitherto, as by all the evil genii of
an eastern tale, and yet I had so lately yearned but to cease from
penitent, aimless struggling against fate, to sleep the sleep of the
tired wayfarer, to lie down and die!

Thus I sought out Jane; told her--for I thought it well to do so--of
the coward shaft that had been aimed against two lives. Her old fiery
nature blazed fiercely out at Malgrade's treachery.

'Liar and coward that he is!' she cried. 'I could stab him with my
own hand. He knew it was a lie--none better, but he hates me' (here
she blushed painfully) 'not less than he does you. He thought he would
ruin us both with the same miserable slander. If I was a man I would
tear his false heart out. And yet'--here the whole expression of her
face softened and changed--'I only am to blame that my name could ever
be used to injure yours, to cause you unhappiness and bring sorrow
into your life and of those whom you love. I am indeed a most unhappy
creature, born to do evil to my best friends, to those I love best;
and I have at times a foreboding--oh! so dark and fearful, when I am
long alone--that I shall yet work misery to you, Hereward Pole--my
friend, my only friend! Why was I born? Why does God make such women
as I have been--oh! why, why?'

Here her whole frame was shaken by a fit of passionate weeping which
lasted for some time before I could interfere to comfort her and
counsel a calm consideration of her future course. At length she
controlled herself by a painful effort so piteously visible through
every movement of her limbs and features that the hardest, coldest
heart must then have permitted mercy to temper justice.

Raising her tear-stained face, and essaying at first vainly to speak,
like a child who attempts to do so after abandonment to passionate
grief, she again addressed me--

'I declare, as God hears me, that I would go away this moment where
you would never hear of me more and no tongue could pierce this poor
bleeding heart afresh, but for one reason, and one only.'

'Do not do anything so rash or foolish, my dear Jane. The worst has
been said, no further harm can be done--that is one, if a small
comfort. I will hasten my trip to Sydney. What I promised you nothing
shall induce me to forego. Keep up your spirits, then. A few weeks
will see you on your way to Dibblestowe Leys, bless the old place!
Once there you can plead my cause, and clear yourself more effectively
than all the letters in the world.'

'It is a glimpse of heaven,' she said, 'and do you not think I have
been looking forward to it all these weary months as my only reason
for living? But for that, as I said, I would start away for Victoria
or New Zealand, change my name, and disappear from your life and all
that ever heard the name of Jane Mangold. How I wish I had never borne
another. But I shall stay, because--because--I am afraid.'

Here so strange and terrible an expression of fear, of mortal fear,
passed over her countenance that a half thought her brain had given
way under the strain of her sufferings crossed my mind.

'Jane, Jane,' I said almost harshly, 'what nonsense is this, what are
you afraid of, or of whom?'

'I do not know of whom, she said in a strange low voice, with her
eyes fixed on vacancy as one who peers into thick darkness; 'but I
have a horrible dread, a kind of waking dream, of being murdered. And
oh! how unspeakably awful, how fearful it must be to be killed in a
second, in some cruel, painful way--sent to judgment with all one's
sins upon one's head.'

'And who is there to kill you?' I said, trying but in vain to assume
a cheerful tone. 'Of course--well--' here I hesitated; 'but why talk
of impossibilities, these sort of things are never done.'

'They are done,' she said, still in the same low, murmuring,
unnatural tone. 'Don't you remember that case of Clara Denver, poor
thing? I saw her laughing carelessly the very day before. Still I
don't think he would do it, though I used to think so once. Twice I
dreamed of a man in a dark cloak, a sort of poncho. I could not see
his face, but he had a knife, a horrid knife!' Here she shuddered and
almost gasped for breath. 'I felt its sharp edge across my throat.
Then I woke, screaming out. Twice I dreamed this. Do you think dreams
are ever sent to warn people?'

'You have been terrifying yourself with fancies and imagining, my
poor Jane,' I said, 'until you begin to see visions. Look at the clear
sky and the bright sunshine. Where is the need for all this gloom and
sadness? You and I are still alive and well in spite of the misery
which others have caused us. Let us look facts in the face, do our
duty, and trust in God. I must tell Mrs. Yorke to make you walk a
little more--you shut yourself up too much.'

'You know I can't go walking about like other people,' she said;
'but you are always good and kind, and I feel better already. I will
try and think of nothing--nothing--till you are ready to start for
Sydney; and then God may pardon me and give me another chance for
happiness in this life. Goodbye!'

She held out her hand instinctively, and then half shyly withdrew
it, as if she recognised some additional reason why not even the minor
greetings of life should be exchanged between us; then, as I grasped
hers, said timidly, 'I suppose we may shake hands, mayn't we?'

I pressed her hand in mute disavowal of the tyranny of the idle or
evil--speaking world to bind our every act and speech. As she turned
and walked slowly, almost feebly away, I turned away my head, for I
could not bear the sight of her altered mien and form, so changed from
the bright womanly graces of old days.

It yet wanted some hours of sunset. There was no need for my
returning to the claim. I had provided for my share of the work being
efficiently performed in my absence. I shrunk from the idea of sitting
or lying down aimlessly after the tumult of emotion which I had so
recently experienced. I turned my steps towards the forest path which
led outwards from the diggings, breasting the slope with rapid stride,
and feeling the sunset breeze as it fanned my brow an indescribable
relief to a fevered spirit.

I had crossed more than one crest of the slate-strewn ranges, and
was threading the close shrubbery of a narrow grassy dell, when I saw
the woman whom we knew as Dolores coming along the track. Bareheaded,
with rapid pace and eager gesture, she turned at once towards me as
her eyes lighted on my approaching figure.

Her head was thrown back; her black hair, which was loose, fell in
great masses down her back. Her eyes were flashing, and her white even
teeth were set closely with a resolved, almost cruel expression.

I thought of passing her without appearing to take notice of her
altered mein, but dismissed the idea as I marked her evident distress
and agitation.

'Good evening, Mrs. Malgrade,' I said; 'what's wrong with you? Has
anything happened?'

'Happened!' she said, with fierce hate and scorn filling every line
of her features, and blazing in her large dark eyes that seemed aglow
with unearthly light. 'What should happen to a woman that's bound to
Algernon Malgrade but wrong and ill-treatment. What have you to say of
a man that strikes, that beats his wife. God help me! I am not THAT,
but the miserable woman that bears his name; and here I swear before
God that I will never do so more, or break bread, or live under the
same roof with him, if I starve or work my fingers to the bone for
it.'

Here the excited woman fell upon her knees and raised her hands and
face to heaven. 'I swear that I, Dolores Lusada, will never more live
under the same roof with Algernon Malgrade, or take a morsel of meat
or a piece of money from his hand, if I should starve; and if I do not
keep this oath may my brain wither and this hand rot to the shoulder.
Look here, Harry,' said she, 'do you see the pretty mark?' here I saw
that her face was bruised and cut as with a heavy blow. 'And see
here,' she pulled up her sleeve, and on her white round arm was
another livid mark that no light stroke ever made. 'And now you
despise me. I know you do. Oh, Lord God! that ever I should have come
to this!'

Then she threw herself upon the green turf, and covering her face
with her hands wept and lamented with so dreadful an agony of tears,
as if (in the phrase of childish days) 'her heart would break.'

It was not in my nature to abstain from offering such poor shreds of
consolation as I had to bestow to any woman under such stress of
circumstances. I certainly distrusted, and in a way disliked, Dolores
as much as I could dislike a very beautiful woman, which was not,
after all, a very active sentiment. I was fully aware that she might
work me evil, and that to be seen with her would by no means conduce
to my social reputation. For even on goldfields Mrs. Grundy is no
obsolete puissance.

I calmed the frantic woman, and partly persuaded her to go to a
respectable quiet lodging in Yatala, where she could remain until
either she effected a reconciliation with Malgrade, which I knew was
highly probable, constituted as women are, or made final arrangements
for separation. Go back at present she would not, nor had I the heart
to urge her.

I felt a grim half-bitter smile pass over my features as I said
aloud--

'It is Kismet. Surely I am doomed to be the champion of every
distressed dame and damsel on the goldfield. I am Amadis de Gaul or
some other mediaeval knight of romance, or perchance Don Quixote
himself. If my heart is reflected in my face, there could scarce be a
closer presentment of the knight of the sorrowful countenance. How the
Major will oppress me!'

I had brought matters to this more or less satisfactory stage, and
was departing on my own track, leaving her to follow the path to the
township which she knew very well, when a figure crossed the crest of
the hill which caused both of us to start instinctively.

It was Algernon Malgrade. I noted the exact moment when he recognised
our figures. He checked his pace for an instant, then advanced with a
slow indifferent step and studied air of lounging carelessness.

He halted within a yard, and gazed steadfastly in both faces as if to
read our very souls. Then he laughed. Devils laugh so. I felt certain
of it, though I had, of course, no means of verifying the fact.



Chapter XXVI



'So you didn't drown yourself, carissima!' he said at length, in his
soft vibrating voice, which he could render so melodious at will, 'but
have concluded to console yourself and enlist the sympathy of Mr.
Hereward Pole. Je vous en fais mes compliments, monsieur,' he added,
taking off his hat and bowing with an assumption of respectful
politeness; then turning to Dolores, he added, 'I should have thought
he had his hands full at present. If madame's temper, not to speak of
other attributes, remains unimpaired he will have reason, like me, to
bless the hour he first set eyes on you.'

Not prone to sudden outburst, rather of the older Gothic calibre,
slow of incandescence, but capable under sufficient stimulus of being
wrought up to a white heat, I had been inwardly raging since Malgrade
first came within scope of my vision. I had refrained from violence,
though at desperate cost of self-repression, not wishing to have it
bruited abroad that Dolores was the teterrima causa.

But one swift thought of the ruin he had so nearly effected in my own
case, joined to a sight at the same moment of the woman's bleeding
face as it came between me and the westering sun, precipitated such a
wave of wrath and desire for vengeance that I felt as if, like
Ugolino, I could have passed an eternity in mangling the flesh of my
foe.

Well was it said Brevis insania furor est. What is it but madness
when the whole sensorium is merged in one reckless spasm of blood-
lust, careless--if but the hate-hunger be appeased, the hate-thirst
slaked--that fortune, fair fame, life itself be spent in the effort,
lavishly as a child's toys of which he is awearied?

Powerless then, too, the disciplined will, the instinctive inherited
habit of provision, to stand against the dire half-animal transport.
The passion of Dolores, haughty and tameless as was her spirit, seemed
to pale before the superior volume of mine, as with glaring eyes I
confronted him, her enemy and mine.

'Base dog, and son of a dog!' I said. 'How dare you speak to a man
that you have wronged like me? You can beat a woman, you can lie
behind backs. Look at that woman's bleeding face. Stand up to a man,
you hound, and take the punishment you deserve, for, by--, you shall
have it now.'

A general misconception has gained credence that evil-intentioned
people decline to look fixedly upon the countenances of the just or
other sections of humanity. This may not infrequently occur; but the
converse fact must have repeatedly impressed itself upon even the most
superficial observer. Whatever his evil doings, and they were
comprehensively numerous, man nor woman could ever say Algernon
Malgrade's bright blue eyes and soft met them not fairly when he
elected to deceive. Clear were they, and burning with the fires of
hell when the demon within him was unchained; but always unwavering,
lowered neither to friend or foe.

As he stepped lightly forward with a mocking smile on his lip, I
watched their cruel light deepen and glow, as might the gladiator's
gaze in the old days of Rome, when the sword play was before Caesar,
and the deadly inevitable stroke or thrust was impending.

In the matter of science as applied in the modern arena to boxing, no
man on that great goldfield was his equal. But he had been lately
leading an indolent dissipated life, while I had been taxing for the
last few months, and therefore strengthening, every muscle and sinew
in my whole frame.

Of these and other ideas I was dimly conscious as we went at each
other with silent ferocity: on both sides the feeling of personal
antagonism was too intense to suffer the intrusion of ordinary
precaution.

From the first onset all notion of defence seemed to be abandoned,
and the strange, curiously rare, sound made by the fall of heavy blows
upon face and body, with our heaving breath, was the sole interruption
for a space to the stillness of the sequestered spot.

I must have received a larger share of the first succession of blows
that rained upon either form, but I felt or I heeded them not. I had
iron muscles, a giant's strength in that hour, and, after fighting in
to a 'half-arm rally,' which lasted for many seconds, I was less
surprised than grimly triumphant when my adversary dropped senseless
upon the turf, and lay without motion, prone and nerveless, as one
dead.

Dolores had stood the while at a little distance watching the combat,
her great dark eyes fixed upon us with an expression half fierce, half
wondering, as though the contest, while ministering to her craving for
revenge, was half painful from the mingled emotions which so
inexplicably sway that most ancient and still unriddled sphinx of
womanhood.

But when the man stirred not for a space, lying in an awkward
position, as does a corpse, she slowly and unwillingly, yet as if
drawn by a powerful influence, moved towards him, and then kneeling
down by his side changed the position of his head, and loosened the
kerchief carelessly knotted around his throat. As for me, I would not
then have touched limb or feature to have saved his life, looking on
him still with the loathing pitiless ire which the wounded serpent
excites as we watch him writhing in the flames.

My evident feeling of abhorrence, ignorant as she was of the deeper
reason I had for revenge, commenced to produce a counterpoise of
sympathy on her part. Gradually he recovered consciousness, and,
sitting up, gazed at me with a look of malice so intense, so devilish,
that I could have deemed it in my excited state to have issued from a
corpse re--animated by a fiend from hell.

Shaking his fist, he moved his mouth and essayed to speak. No words
came, though a gibbering horrible sound was produced. I saw Dolores,
with a softened expression akin to pity, place her hand upon his face;
not till then did I observe with more curiosity than regret that the
lower jaw was broken. My last left-handed blow, delivered with full
force, had caught the lower face fair, at exactly the true distance,
splintering the bone as if glass.

For the first time I felt partly avenged.

'You have shown yourself a man, Harry Pole,' said Dolores, as
Malgrade fell over and apparently fainted, 'both in your pity and in
your anger. I envy the woman who claims your love--the love of a good
man. Once I had that treasure, but lured away by a villain, such a one
as he (and she pointed to the prostrate man), I left home and
happiness for ever--for ever. You had better return to your tent. I
cannot abandon him in helplessness and pain, though in such a case he
would not think of me. We part not this time, better for both if we
did.'

Their cottage was at no great distance from the spot. When he
recovered himself he would be able to walk there easily enough with
her assistance. He was too well accustomed to feminine caprice to
wonder at her change of humour. Doubtless they would effect a
temporary reconciliation as they had done many a time and often
before.

It was late when I reached our camp. I crept to my bed and slept as
well as the pain of my sorely-bruised body would allow.

My appearance on the next morning naturally created great and
general astonishment. But I kept my own counsel. Of course, it was
shrewdly guessed that I did not so disfigure myself. And the multiform
though not dangerous injuries I had evidently received were not to be
accounted for on any 'ran against a post' theory.

But I have before stated that in no community in the world is the
anciently wise precept of each man minding his own proper business
more strictly adhered to than upon a goldfield. If somebody had
'rolled into me' or vice vers, it was doubtless my own affair. If I
had reasons for not publishing the nature of the combat, evidently a
hardly contested one, why well and good also. It would come out in due
time; and if it never did so, what matter? So my countenance was
permitted gradually to recover its normal contour and complexion
without exciting ill-bred remark or curiosity.

The great goldfield was still crowded and surging, as it had been
from its commencement, with human billows which foamed ceaselessly
around it--still ebbed and flowed the human tide over its golden
sands. For the earth, pierced and torn and riddled in every direction
for miles upon miles, still gave to the ceaseless toil of the excited
and tireless crowd gold dust and ingots in such profusion as might
have excited the envy of a gnome.

Some idea may be formed of the vast quantity actually produced by a
glance at the official register of the period. It is there recorded by
Commissioner Blake that within two years not less than three hundred
thousand ounces of gold were sent to the metropolis by the Government
escort alone. Much was also taken to Sydney or Melbourne by miners who
preferred the hazardous plan of carrying their own treasure. Making
all due allowances, gold to the value of a million and a half sterling
must have been reft from the forgotten subterranean river beds of the
Oxley during the two years that we spent there.

And now the weather of the spring I refer to came in exceptionally
wet and stormy. For weeks heavy drenching rain soaked the forests, the
plains, the low-lying flats, making lake-lots and pools of standing
water where but lately the dust rose in red or yellowish white clouds,
and the tired eyes shrank from the refracted glare of the glittering
quartz-strewn streets and the red massed mullock heaps.

The streams filled to overflowing ran foaming along their channels,
or raised above them by heavy rains amid the cloud-capped mountains at
their sources, ran riot in devastating flood, sweeping away from the
lower lands the cottage homes and crops of farmers, the flocks and
fences of the larger graziers, the dams and water-races of the sluice-
employing miner, while every week brought news of deaths by drowning
in the dangerous fords of the unbridged streams. Coach passengers, or
the horsemen or ordinary post traveller, the peripatetic labourer of
the colonies, all shared and suffered alike.

What was curious was that the winter proper, which in Australia
extends from June to August, had been exceptionally dry and fine. An
occasional week of hard frost perhaps, with the thermometer down to
25 Fahr., but on the whole glorious weather--fresh, pure,
invigorating, without tempest or inclement weather of any kind.

But in September the weather changed with the rapid unheralded
suddenness of the Australian seasons. Sleet-storms and heavy-driving
gales of polar severity succeeded the bright noons and cloudless morns
of the midwinter period.

Unprotected as our encampment was in the essentials of substantial
buildings, the change of weather fell upon us like a Russian winter
campaign.

A change came over the aspect of the whole settlement. The tents and
bark-covered buildings, blown down or soaked through and through,
looked bedraggled and forlorn. The women and children suffered much,
doubtless; for these last there was no play now outside of their
homes, in which the narrow space precluded all but huddling and
overcrowding for warmth and shelter.

The miners were now often hindered from their regular labour, and in
the intervals, when the claims were 'off work,' might be seen grouped
in or immediately around the bars of the hotels. These establishments
did a roaring trade in hot grog, for the greater convenience of
furnishing which, ingeniously contrived receptacles of boiling water
were kept simmering all day and half the night on the counters.

I was sitting with Bagstock at the camp, at which palatial residence
we were not disinclined occasionally to spend an evening, when a miner
came to the door and requested to see the Clerk of the Court upon very
urgent business.

This was no doubt informal, the 'government time' to which Bagstock
was so fond of referring, only lasting from 10 o'clock to 4 p.m., as
in more settled communities. But of course in real emergency no hard
and fast line was drawn.

'What d'ye want, my m-m-m-an?' said Bagstock, looking at the drenched
figure and splashed garments of the messenger. 'Look sharp! it's
awfully c--c-cold.'

'I daresay it is,' said the man, looking down at his steaming horse,
the heaving sides of which betokened the pace at which they had
travelled. 'I hadn't time to think about it. I was sent to ask you to,
if you'd come and marry a party to-night.'

'Marry a p-p-party?' echoes the astonished functionary. 'Couldn't
they c--c-c-come to me? C-c-can't they w-w-wait till m-m-morning?'

'They can't come, and if they wait till morning it will be too late,'
said the man solemnly, a tall gaunt Forty-Niner, as the Californian
diggers were called who had been at the first discovery.

'Where is it, th-th-then?' asked Bagstock.

'At the Gravel Pits,' said the messenger, naming a diggings more than
ten miles off, on an exceptionally bad road, and with a dangerous
creek to cross.

'The Gravel Pits! said Bagstock. 'The G-g-g-gravel Pits, and on this
sort of night!' Here the wind howled afresh and the rain poured down
obliquely in swirls and eddies as if bent on finding its way into
every cranny and corner by sideling intrusion. 'Why, I w-wouldn't go
there to-night for f-f--fifty pounds!'

'I'll give you fifty pounds, half down,' said the unknown, feeling in
his pocket, 'if you'll go at once; there's life and death in the
cards. What do you say?'

'Well,' said Bagstock, 'that alters the c-c-case; done with you! I
must muffle up, I s-s-suppose. I'll order my horse. 'Pole, you've got
y-y-yours in the stable. C-c-come along for c-c-company.'

In five minutes we were mounted and all three riding as hard as we
dared through the splashing sheets and streams of various depths that
lay across our path in every way. Bagstock was not always painfully
anxious about his work, but when actually compelled to his task there
was no fault to be found with his energy and capacity. Our guide took
the lead. I never rode in a wilder night, rarely along a rougher road.
The ceaseless rain had filled all the minor water-courses, and every
road-rut was running like a rivulet for hundreds of yards together. We
waded through sheets of water or sand waist deep in unexpected pools.
Best, our horses were tried and good. As for the message--miner, he
rode ahead, keeping straight forward towards some unknown point, and
his wiry middle-sized mustang seemed to pass with instinctive
cleverness the uneven blind tracks, dangerous to all horses not gifted
with the marvellous surefootedness of the bush--bred Australian.

A two hours' ride landed us at the Gravel Pits, a section of the
great stream of the 'deep leads' which formed the crowning glory of
the goldfield. Wonderfully rich claims had been met with here, of
which some, from the character and preponderance of the 'pay gravel,'
as our Californian friends termed it, had gained their present name.

'Here's poor Jim's hut,' said our guide, pulling up at length with a
jerk that brought us all almost on the haunches of his nag, 'and a
better mate never handled a pick. But his time's up. The confounded
low fever has about settled him. The doctor says he can't last another
day anyhow.'

'But you told me some one w-w-wanted to be m-m-m-m-married,' said Mr.
Bagstock, quite aghast. 'I'm not the undertaker. Who's the
bridegroom?'

'Why, poor old Jim is,' said the miner, taking the saddle off his
smoking hackney, and letting her go with a pair of hobbles and a large
bell which he affixed to her neck while he was talking. 'But you go
inside, both of you, gentlemen, and you'll see all about it.'

He pulled open the door of the hut as he spoke, and held it open for
us to enter.

The sight was a singular one. On a rude bedstead near the fireplace,
scrupulously clean, and warm with all the usual coverings, lay the
wasting figure of a man, the unearthly brilliancy of whose eyes and
the waxen hue of his features showed that he was in the last stage of
fever. Such a sight was by no means new to us. In crowded mining
camps, as in all armies in tent or field, typhoid fever and its allied
diseases claim their toll with fearful and awful regularity.

Day after day, when the weather was hot and humid in the late autumn,
had we heard the 'Dead March in Saul' pealing and reverberating
through the forest, and listened to the tramp of the long array of
mourners.

But these terrible muster-rolls had long ceased, and save in
exceptional cases like the present, when the Destroyer after being
battled with through long months had finally triumphed, were beginning
to be forgotten.

Another remarkable figure in the tableau was that of a handsome girl,
whose whole form and face were plunged in deepest despairing grief--
heartbroken, apparently, with the traces of undried tears on her
cheeks. She was leaning over the bed, dressed in such finery,
including a costly white silk dress, as would have excited the envy of
most women on the field. She was dressed in bridal array evidently, a
veil covering partly her long fair hair. She also wore heavy gold
earrings, a broach of the same material, and a necklace of brilliants.
A large bouquet of white roses and camellias, supplied by no
provincial horticulturist, lay on the table near to her.

We at once took in the situation. Both of us knew the sick man by
sight, as also by reputation. He had come here with his mate by way of
California, where he had worked for some years, but had originally
come from Australia, to which land he had at first emigrated from his
native country.

He rose with the utmost difficulty, holding by a bar suspended above
the bed, as we came in, and fixed his glassy eyes upon us.

'Glad to see you, gentlemen!' he said, in a thin reedy treble, which
struck painfully on our ears when we recalled the strong man who now
lay so feeble and childishly weak. 'I wasn't sure as Mr. Bagstock 'ud
come, the weather bein' that bad. I was afeared I shouldn't be able to
make an honest woman of poor Bessy there. I couldn't have rested in my
grave if I hadn't done it--nohow I couldn't. Don't take on, girl. It
wasn't altogether your fault or altogether mine either, as things
arn't square.'

'Oh, Jim!' cried out the girl passionately, fastening her eyes upon
him with the intense devouring gaze of love mingled with despair,
'don't talk in that way. I'm glad and proud enough to be made your
wife; but I always knew that it would be so some time, and I trusted
you, didn't I? Hadn't we better wait till you get well?'

'I'm not goin' to get well, Bess, and what ain't done this night'll
never be done,' said the sick man grimly. 'So let's lose no more time.
Bill's here, as'll be best man; and they can't say as you haven't a
wedding dress and all complete, even to the bo-kay.'

Here the sick man tried to smile, but the extreme weakness of the
facial muscles prevented the attempt from becoming anything but a
ghastly contortion.



Chapter XXVII



IT was but too evident that the strength of the principal performer
in this strange travesty of the festal marriage rite would not last
out much beyond the time necessary for the registration, so Bagstock
took down the names, ages, nationality, and religion of the parties
with methodical accuracy. The while the sick man watched and listened
with painful eagerness lest anything should be omitted which might be
material to the validity of the contract.

The girl made a flickering effort to appear calm and collected and
then relapsed into her previous expression of deepest gloom; while--
how piteous to look upon--the sick man tried to rouse her, and
actually forced her with tremulous fingers to take the bouquet into
hers, clay-cold and unresisting as they were.

'What's the meaning of all this?' said I to our guide, who sat
carelessly watching the proceedings with rather a satisfied
expression.

'Well, you see, poor old Jim here, his wife--that's his first one--
and he didn't hit it over and above well, and many a year ago in
Victoria she made a bolt of it. All the boys tell me that it was her
fault and not Jim's.'

'And so I suppose he takes up with this pretty young woman when he
came on to the rush here, and they were not able to get married
before.'

'That's about the size of it, Mr. Pole. This gal, she was the
daughter of one of the selectors at Blue Gum Flats, and about two
years ago she and Jim made it up to be man and wife, like. You
remember what an upstanding good-looking chap he were.'

'Yes, indeed, he was. It's a sad change to see him like this.'

'Well, his time's up. A man must go when his time comes; he ain't had
a bad innings, but he used to fret awful at times when he thought as
Bessy wasn't his wife. Now it's all right, and he'll die happy.'

'But how can he legally marry her if his wife--'

'Bless your heart, why he only got the news of his wife's death last
week, and the moment he heard of it he orders the wedding dress, and
the earrings, the brooch, and the bo-kay all regular, and sends me for
the Registrator directly they come by "coach-parcel."'

The strangely environed marriage ceremony concluded, the new-made
bride hid her face in her hands and retired into the inner room. The
dying man lay back for a few moments, the strain upon his faculties
having apparently utterly exhausted his failing strength. Bill lit his
pipe, and seating himself by the fire seemed lost in meditation.

We prepared for our homeward ride, our horses being only hung up to
the nearest fence, a practice to which they were well accustomed.

Suddenly the sick man raised himself.

'Bill,' he said, in a husky weak voice, 'come here.'

'All right, Jim, old man,' said the other, knocking the ashes out of
his pipe, 'what is it?'

'You don't want another ride into camp to-morrow, do you?'

'Well, not particular. I'm on the day shift, too, and it's rather
tidy work putting in them setts. The ground's none too good and won't
bear playin' with.'

'Well, as Mr. Bagstock's here, and this job's over, he might as well
do the other one, and finish this register business right away.'

'What other business, Jim?' said his mate in a low voice, while
Bagstock looked from one to the other as if the mysteries of the night
were never to cease.

'Why, you'll have to register my death, won't you?' pursued the sick
man, fixing his unnaturally large fever-bright eyes upon us, 'and why
not do it now? I shall be as dead a man by this time to-morrow as ever
was stretched, and wot's the use of dragging poor Bill in and losing
another shift in the claim? He told Lovett yesterday to have the
coffin ready, so there's no call to waste a day over that.'

'Good God!' said Mr. Bagstock, 'who ever heard of s-s-such a thing,
r-r--registering a man's d-d-eath when he's alive.'

'What's the odds?' queried the persistent moribund wearily. 'It's
twenty mile there and back to the camp. As for dying, I've seen too
many chaps go under with this blamed colonial fever or typho not to
know the stages. When a man's like I've been all to-day he never sees
another sunset. So just fix it up, Mr. Bagstock, and oblige all
parties, will ye?'

Mr. Bagstock, during his short residence in the colonies, and
moreover at the diggings, had rubbed off many of his British
prejudices; but this request so transcended in its ghastly
significance all his previous experiences, so contravened all his
notions of the fitness of things, that he was on the point of flatly
refusing when he caught the warning eye of the dying miner's mate. He
whispered--

'Don't cross him, sir, he was allays the most obstinate cove out. It
might do him a mischief to be disappointed, like.'

The sick man had again relapsed into a death-like stupor, but the
strong calm spirit again rallied the fainting flesh--trembling as it
seemed on the dread margin of eternity. He read in the official's eyes
his request was granted, and then repeated for Bagstock's information,
who took down the items in a large official-looking paper ruled and
marked in spaces, the required details. It was soon over.

'It's the biggest day's work I've done this weeks,' said the sick
man. 'I'm thankful to you, Mr. Bagstock, and to you, Harry Pole, for
coming with him this perishin' night and keeping us company, like.
Poor Bess is Mrs. James Bellinger now, and no man nor woman on the
field can throw it up to her as she ain't. I shall die happy, though I
never ciphered it out as I was to die on my weddin' day. Good-night
and good-bye! for it's the long good--bye I'm thinking, and no get
away this time.'

We shook the wasted hand of the doomed man, said a natural word of
kindly farewell, departed for the world of light and life and strength
and pleasure, where in a few hours all beneath the sun would still be
strong and beauteous in heaped-up prodigality, and left the lonely
bark to push off in the dread and awful hush of midnight on the dark
waters of the shoreless ocean of eternity.

The moon had arisen, and by her silver light we rode slowly and
silently forth along the lonely road that led from the little mining
hamlet to the gold city. Our thoughts were full of the strong brave
soul which was passing away fearless and unshrinking from the dread
summons that was even now reverberating in his ears, careful in that
supreme hour but for others, loyal in the very extremity of the
weakness of the flesh to friendship and to love.

'I was t-t-told,' said Mr. Bagstock musingly, after a protracted
silence, 'that I should see some s-s-strange people on the d-d-
diggings. There never w-w-was a truer word s-s-spoken.'

And he relapsed into a silence which lasted till we reached the camp.
At that citadel all were still up, and unusual excitement prevailed. A
telegram had come up to Mr. Merlin at a late hour which evidently was
of importance; his manly brow was overclouded, and his utterances were
more curt, not to say aggressive, than ever.

'What's the matter with you, Merlin?' said Bright. 'Bilious as usual,
or is there any news about those confounded bush-rangers that seem to
be always just out of reach, like crows when a fellow has a gun.'

'Read that!' said the inspector, throwing over the modern messenger
of fate. 'Isn't it enough to make a man curse the day he was born?
There, I've just sent away all my best men, besides Sir Watkyn, and
now I haven't a tracker that could follow a working bullock over a
ploughed field.'

Mr. Bright read out the telegram--

'Ben Wall, supposed to have stolen Grey Surrey out of Bowdler's
stables last night, has been tracked through Forbes towards Jones's
sheep station. Horse has a broken hind shoe.'

'The best chance I've had since they've turned out; and to think that
it should be upset by such a casual accident. I was half a mind to
keep the men yesterday. I knew it was a wild-goose chase. Well,
sergeant, what is it?'

For that worthy officer, with cheerful visage, appeared in the
doorway, and having duly saluted thus spoke--

'The men are back, sir, and Sir Watkyn the tracker with them.'

'Thank God for that!' said Merlin with unwonted piety. 'Is he
sober?'

'Sober as a judge, sir.'

'How did they change route then without fresh orders?' said he
sternly--for no deviation from the strictest discipline was suffered.

'They got a telegram from Sergeant Redmond about Ben Wall having
been seen near Forbes. They afterwards met a man in a certain place,
after which Senior-constable Evans acted on his own responsibility.
Here's a letter, sir.'

'By Jove! we have him then,' cried out Merlin, 'unless the devil
gives him better cards than usual. Have the horses fed. Lock up that
fellow, Sir Watkyn, and have the men ready to start in an hour.'

The sergeant saluted and withdrew.

'The luck is changed, and the red hazard is coming up again,'
pursued Merlin, with a gambler's joyous exultation. 'I see it all
plainly. We shall have Mr. Ben as safe as a dingo in a dog-trap.'

'How's that?' I said; 'there have been so many false alarms.'

'It's all right this time,' said the inspector, opening his revolver
case. 'The reward is a large one, and our friend has been "given away"
at last by one of his precious pals. The worst of it is that we shall
have to watch all the rest of this cursed cold night around a deserted
hut in the ranges, and with the cold I've got I'm as likely to be a
dead man as Ben is next morning. However, vogue la galre.'

While divers plans in the council of war were being discussed, Mr.
Bright, after deep thought, contributed a suggestion.

'I can't go with you myself, Merlin, though I'd like to do it of all
things, because it happens to be our quarterly balance day to-morrow,
and though the General stands a good deal from me, I don't think he'd
stand that. But I'll tell you what I'll do--I'll lend you my
breechloader.'

'Sorry we're not to have the support of your presence, my dear
fellow,' said Merlin with much politeness, 'but we're not going duck-
shooting.'

'Nonsense. I tell you I'm serious. I wish to heaven I could have a
steady pot at that fellow Ben Wall or Frank Lardner after the rascally
way they took a sitting shot at us. But what I mean is this--' here
his manner assumed an unwonted earnestness.

'Well, what is it? Unburden yourself of this dark and dreadful
secret.'

'Now, you listen to me, Merlin.' Here Mr. Bright laid his hand upon
the sub-inspector's arm, and in a deeply impressive voice spoke as
follows: 'You take my advice--use a smooth bore and green cartridge;
it's out and out the best business when you mean close shooting at
anything under a hundred yards. Revolvers, I know by experience, are
most uncertain, though, perhaps, as I should have been a dead man
twice over if they had always been held straight, I oughtn't to
complain.'

'Well, well, old fellow!' said Merlin, actually smiling and
exhibiting a rare amiability, 'I don't know whether I won't take your
advice for once. We've had such bad luck lately with this gang that I
feel ready to do anything to change it.'

'I must say I can't congratulate you or your men on your success in
stalking or shooting either,' said Blake; 'the civilians are having
quite the best of it.'

'How's that?' demanded the inspector fiercely, looking up from his
weapons.'

'Why, you know that Campbell of Goimbla shot Daly, and Keightly shot
O'Rourke. Lardner's out of the colony apparently. Gilbert Hawke's
flown away too, so if you want to make an imperishable name for
yourself, you must come back with Ben Wall's scalp at your saddle-bow
to-morrow.'

'D--n Ben Wall, and you too!' said Merlin, roused to unusual fervour
by these taunts. 'Sergeant!' he roared, 'are the men never going to
mount. By--I'll break the senior-constable if my orders are not better
carried out. There's no discipline, no decent punctuality of any kind
on this infernal goldfield. I wish the devil had flown away with the
first man that washed a dish of dirt on the Turon. Bright, where's
that gun?'

'Here it is; and half a dozen cartridges.'

'Two will be enough,' growled Merlin, grinding his teeth; 'if I miss
that infernal scoundrel after having to watch his damnable hiding-
place in such weather as this, I wish my arm may rot to the shoulder
blade. Good-night!'

'Take me with you,' said I, 'I owe Master Ben a turn, and this is as
good a chance as I shall get. May I go?'

'You may go to the devil--that is, with pleasure, my dear boy,' with
difficulty recovering his affability. 'Look alive and have your horse
brought out. But you're half knocked up already.'

'I shall be all right when the shooting begins,' I said.

The night was now intensely dark--'the moonbeams broke and deepest
night came down upon the heath'--bitterly cold, wet under foot, wet
overhead, as we left the camp without beat of drum.

Well clothed and warmly wrapped up as we were, after the first mile
the frost seemed to strike through all to the very marrow. No sound
was heard but the occasional jingle of stirrup-iron or bridle bit, as
the horses slipped and stumbled; indeed, more than one fell in the
perilous, rough cross--country tracks we were compelled to follow.
More than one of the troopers was well acquainted with the locality,
and could have ridden it like William of Deloraine--of whom the Last
Minstrel's Lay avers--

'Alike to him was time or tide.

December's snow, or July's pride;

Alike to him was tide or time.

Moonless midnight, or matin prime.'

Still, between roaring torrents, abandoned shafts, black forest-
arches where no ray of starlight penetrated, and dismal water-logged
flats, where only the marsh-frogs made chorus, and the night-owl
hooted, we should, it appeared to me, have made but indifferent
progress but for the aid and leadership of the black tracker, Sir
Watkyn, whose sobriety had been so anxiously inquired into.

This distinguished heathen was certainly on this occasion 'the right
man in the right place.' Being commanded to take the lead at starting
by Mr. Merlin, and to look alive and keep a straight track, as if it
were the easiest thing in the world, Sir Watkyn rammed the spurs into
his charger, and rode as straight 'o'er moor and fell, through wood
and wold' as if he had a private understanding with the north star.
Wonderful, indeed, is it that he and his kindred still possess this
power, so often denied to the over--civilised individuals of the
imperial race, of passing with unerring accuracy from point to point
of the trackless wilderness, by night too even as by day.

Blindly and persistently we followed him, since better might not be.
We rode in Indian file, the troopers and I in the rear, sleepy and
over-fatigued, taking it for granted that we should reach some place
or other eventually. It was, perhaps, hardest upon Merlin, whose
cough, impossible of repression, sounded ever and anon in the most
hollow churchyard-like manner as the icy dampness of the air irritated
his bronchial passages. But no consideration could be extended to the
personal circumstances of individuals, until the robber-gang was
stamped out. To their extermination the Government of New South Wales
was pledged, and no detail or exertion was omitted which gave hope of
successful capture. Many a trooper, and not a few of the subalterns of
the force, dated the commencement of fatal chest ailments to the
ceaseless watches and night marches rendered necessary by the
prevalence of robbery under arms in the terrible winter of 186--.

It was long past midnight, and for all I knew to the contrary we
might have been heading straight for Sydney, when our sable guide
reined up short on the top of a flint-bestrewn range, where the
corrugated stems of the great ironbark trees stood black and columnar
against the ashen sky, sombrely regular, as though they had been
fashioned from the metal itself.

Merlin and the senior-constable rode at once to his side. He pointed
to a small open space below, dimly visible, as the heavens had cleared
since midnight, and the stars commenced to make the contrasts of earth
and sky faintly visible.

'You see um Sheep-station Flat,' he said, pointing downwards, while
his teeth chattered like castanets with the cold.

'D--d if I do,' said Merlin, 'but what then?'

'Sam Towney's hut long o' that flat, that old lambing station. That
fellow, Ben Wall, sit down long a that one hut, then Sam bring him
tucker to--morrow morning.'

'We'll bring him something for breakfast too, eh?' replied Merlin
with grim humour. 'But you're a sharp boy, Sir Watkyn, to bring us so
straight; sober to a fault I see, too. Well, virtue must be rewarded.
Give me that "tot" that I see tied to your saddle.'

Even in the dim light I could see the swarth face lighten up, with
flash of eyes and teeth, as Mr. Merlin produced a capacious flask of
spirits, from which he administered to the guide a carefully graduated
dram, handing the flask also to the senior-constable and me, partaking
moderately himself, and then sharing the remainder among the men.

'Now, our plan is, Pole, to lie quiet and surround the place till
daylight Master Ben's horse must be tied up or hobbled near the hut.
He can't have him in the house with him. When he comes out we must
drop him, unless the devil, who certainly has befriended him hitherto,
comes to his assistance in person.'

The necessary orders were briefly given. Merlin, myself, Sir Watkyn,
and one trooper were to spread around the front of the hut, taking
such cover as the place afforded. The senior-constable and two other
troopers were to take up their position at the rear. The horses were
to be left where we stood, all tied up by their cavalry headstalls,
with a couple of men who sotto voce cursed their luck to take charge
of them.

Led onwards again by the swarth scout, who crept along sinuously
adown the spur of the range, we silently and cautiously took up our
positions within about fifty yards of a dismal deserted-looking slab
hut with four sheets of bark off the roof and a chimney which was all
awry. Immediately at the rear of the building was a thick scrub, one
of those timber covers in which a desperate active man on a good horse
might foil even a band of Comanche Indians let alone ordinary police
troopers.

'S--t,' sibilated our guide, 'me see um two horse, one fellow gray
horse, one fellow bay, like it short hobbles.'

'That'll do, very good boy, but hold your row and lie down,' said
Merlin. 'That's Mr. Bowdler's Surrey; the game's netted. All we have
to do is to wait till he runs into the decoy.'

The black dropped on the earth, and straightway became invisible
after the manner of his kind, while we waited more or less impatiently
for the tardy dawn which was to rise for the last time on the outlaw's
career, or to add another to the list of mortifying failures.

For myself, I had no great natural inclination to the trade of
robber--hunting. I could not help feeling some qualms of pity for the
human quarry, who in the prime of early manhood was presently to be
shot down like a beast of prey, or if captured reserved only for an
ignominious death. It needed all my recollection of the cold-blooded
attempt upon the lives as well as on the gold of others, in both of
which departments I had suffered loss and injury almost unto death, to
harden my spirit to the proper pitch of pitiless resolution.

Wearily the hours passed. Stiff and sore, cold and well-nigh frozen
was I, were we all. We could hear every faint sound of the forest; the
cry of the night-bird, the rustle of the phalangers and the smaller
marsupials as they glided through the wiry frozen grass or climbed the
clear stems of the eucalypti.

We could hear the ripple of the tiny brooklet, its existence mainly
due to the late extraordinary rainfall. Gradually in spite of my
watchfulness a kind of drowsiness came stealing over me, just as the
first dim gray streaks of dawn were visible in the east--the east that
was so long of becoming illumined with the day-god's fateful ray.

Near me, however, at that moment an opossum commenced to make his
curious half-chattering, half-mournful sound. This unseasonable outcry
became so persistent that both Merlin and I, who were near each other
in the night watch, were effectually aroused. Indeed, the creature
became so riotously and aggressively noisy that I kept looking up
first one and then another of the white stemmed gums that were thinly
scattered over the flat, having completely banished the drowsy feeling
which had commenced to steal over me.

Merlin also was apparently disturbed, for he moved nearer to me and
peevishly devoted the obtrusive performer to the infernal deities. As
if the creature comprehended the uncomplimentary terms in which he had
been referred to, the noise suddenly ceased. And as the sound died
away I saw by Merlin's sudden alteration of attitude that something
had attracted his attention.

I looked towards the hut. Midway between it and the trees behind
which we stood came a man walking slowly and heedfully, as if seeking
for something near and well known which had not yet come within his
sphere of vision. His dress, which was certainly of a dull grayish
material, with a poncho over all, was so thoroughly in harmony with
the neutral tints of the sky, herbage, and the struggling light, that
he had actually quitted the hut and approached our position unnoticed.

But for our being accidentally aroused by the opossum, it is far from
improbable that he would have passed our section of the cordon
unchallenged.



Chapter XXVIII



HE was evidently searching for the gray horse which we had seen
hobbled, and to secure which he carried a bridle in his left hand. He
came unsuspiciously forward till within about thirty yards of our
post. Then Merlin, stalking forward from behind his tree, cried
'Stand! in the Queen's name!' in a voice which sounded strangely loud
and incongruous amid the hushed solitudes in the chill, gray, ghostly
dawn. At the same instant, from beside the tree that had apparently
sheltered the hilarious opossum, sprung the black tracker, uttering a
yell which made the forest ring to its farthest extent.

Ben Wall, for it was he, showed no surprise; he had carried his life
in his hand too long, doubtless had foreseen precisely this
description of reveille far too often, to betray astonishment when
the fated hour arrived.

Dropping the bridle, he faced round upon Merlin with wonderfully
instinctive quickness, firing one barrel of his revolver with
apparently the same movement of his arm, and giving Sir Watkyn the
benefit of a second shot with the slightest change of aim. That agile
son of the forest leaped high at the report, but whether from the
result of the shot, or from natural elasticity of spirits, could not
then be ascertained.

Mr. Merlin stood unmoved, but simultaneously with Wall's first shot
he brought the breechloader to his shoulder and fired with deliberate
aim. The robber threw up his arms with a convulsive motion, stood
statue-like for an instant, during which every rifle and revolver in
the party was emptied, and fell heavily upon his face--dead, and, but
for convulsive graspings of the tufted grass and autumn leaves that
strewed the soil, motionless.

We walked over to the body, headed by the tracker, who rubbed his
fore--arm with a vengeful expression of countenance. It had been more
than grazed by the second bullet, and the red drops fell fast across
the sable skin.

'Turn him over,' said Mr. Merlin. 'I thought I should hold straight
this time. There's the track of my green cartridge. Bright was not far
wrong. It's too cold for the pistol at this hour of the morning when
there's no coffee to steady one's nerves.'

Merlin's aim had been true. The cartridge of heavy shot, hardly
scattering at the short distance, had torn through the robber's breast
like a grapeshot. Death must have been instantaneous. But every Snider
and Colt in the party had left a mark. The corpse was riddled with
bullet wounds.

'Ha!' soliloquised Merlin, 'there lies Ben, stark and stiff, and not
the worst of the gang either. I know a man and so do you, Pole, that
better deserves to be there. However, wishing won't hang people,
more's the pity sometimes, so let us get back to our horses and return
to the camp. I wish to heaven these fellows would choose decent
weather to be shot in. I feel a precious sight more like a dead man
myself than a live one.'

We betook ourselves to where the horses had been left, having
previously had the corpse of the bushranger carried into the deserted
hut whence he had issued, there to abide until a vehicle could be sent
for it. We caught the noble gray horse with his companion, and led him
back to camp with us whence he was restored to his owner, much to that
gentleman's satisfaction. And ofttimes a merry girl, as in after days
she felt his free elastic stride beneath her, as he stretched tireless
over the forest turf, grew pale when told that this was the horse that
carried the boldest bushranger of Lardner's gang on his death ride.

Of the final destiny of the gang mention may be made here. Nemesis,
pede claudo, was in their case sufficiently effective in the long run.

Gilbert Hawke, like Ben Wall, was surrounded and shot dead. O'Rourke
and Daly had perished before by the hands of gentlemen whose houses
they had attacked. Gunn was captured and hanged; while Frank Lardner,
the Robin Hood of the Australian outlaws, the planner and contriver of
an evil which far outran the original conception, escaped to a
neighbouring colony, and there, as a storekeeper on a distant
goldfield, lived unsuspected a life of quasi-respectability.

Discovered, however, at length, he was apprehended with singular
dexterity and boldness by a member of the detective force, and safely
lodged in the gaol in Sydney, there to abide his trial.

Strange as it may seem--and this is no fiction, but sober historic
fact, which can be authenticated by official records--there were
technical legal difficulties in the way of full proof of his identity
and complicity in the wilful murders and attempts thereat which had
been committed by his band.

So, in vindication of the unsullied ermine of a British court of
justice, the highway robber and homicide was spared the last penalty
and adjudged but to undergo a lengthened sentence of imprisonment.
Even this, at the expiration of a term of years, during which he had
earned a good gaol character for propriety and subordination, was
commuted. And in answer to a mistakenly merciful popular request, he
who had attempted deliberate murder, had compassed robbery under arms,
and had indirectly been the cause of the loss of the lives of scores
of better men, was permitted to go free. He now breathes the free air
of heaven, and walks unchallenged in another land; while the victims
of his lawless greed, his recklessness, and his evil example, lie
rotting in premature or dishonoured graves.

       *   *   *   *   *

The year 186--was evidently the commencement of a cycle of rainy
seasons. It promised to be a year of flood and tempest. But the more
widely the windows of heaven were opened, the weather keener, the
blasts of the spring-time which, with storm and inundation, seemed
never willing to ripen into summer, the more laden the alluvial levels
of the Oxley appeared to be with gold.

The yield continued to be enormous. The escorts were fabulous; and
save that the continuously severe weather necessitated heavier
payments for carriage, and through this increased rates of prices for
all things that the miner consumed, no other untoward result took
place.

No one particularly cared. It was a land where all were rich; and men
had lost the memory of the relative values of commodities dating from
a period when money was scarce.

Olivera was perhaps the only man on the goldfield who had not at one
time or another enjoyed his share of luck. He did, indeed, get
sufficient of the root of all evil to live comfortably and pay all
expenses. But he never seemed, somehow or other, to drop upon a
'golden hole,' though such might be above, below, even within a few
inches of his claim, wherever he might chance to select it.

To him, however, a scholar, a traveller, above all a philosopher,
this persistent run of ill luck made little or no apparent difference.
He was always ready to explain the apparently inconsistent behaviour
of Providence in his particular case.

'No doubt,' he would observe, 'this total absence of what ordinary
people call success, would be dangerous to natures unaccustomed to
take a widely comprehensive group of occurrences. For instance there's
Ned Wright, ex-pugilist, rowdy, blackleg, what not; he is pursued by
the police, and finally so much harassed that in despair he attacks
honest work; he sinks with Tommy the Clock and two mates hardly better
than himself No. 2 shaft on the Pink Lead; and what is the result?
Why, that after getting down without rock or water, they bottom in the
best claim on the whole lead, and make five thousand pounds a man in
less than three months!'

'It's dreadfully aggravating,' says the Major. 'How you stand it, old
fellow, I can't think.'

'Stand it!' said Olivera, carefully filling his pipe, 'what else is
to be done? One can't bring an action against Providence. My idea is
that I'm being reserved for something better than the Ned Wrights and
Tommy the Clocks.'

'Harry Poles, Majors, Jack Bulders, and so on,' said I, laughing.

'Well, of course, there are several ways of looking at it. But after
all (one's powers of mind and body remaining unimpaired of course)
perhaps the longer the day of full fruition is deferred the better,'
pursued Mr. Olivera musingly. 'Still I shall never give up mining
until I die; and I'll take the long odds I land a big thing before I
drop.'

Not so calmly philosophical by any means was our latest acquaintance
and partner, Jack Bulder. Whether it was the wet weather and the
unfriendly sky, or the absence of his brother, before whom he always
preserved a comparatively dignified demeanour, or both these things,
joined to the monotonous regularity of our washings-up and the
swelling of our credit balance, which acted unfavourably upon his
nerves, but so it fell out that John Bulder became careless and
unpunctual in returning to the claim from the hotel where he had now
permanently taken up his quarters.

It began to be whispered about that Bulder of Greenstone Dyke was
going crooked, queer in his talk at times, not so steady as he had
been when he first 'come on the rush.' Gradually--for gossip, so rife
in older communities where events are rare and of modest magnitude, is
singularly slow and accurate on goldfields--the rumour became
confirmed that John Bulder 'drank.'

And one unlucky morning, after a lengthy absence of our defaulting
mate, a messenger came up from the Ballarat Hotel with a note from the
landlord--a very decent fellow who had known him in that gold city--
that Mr. Bulder had been 'on the burst' for several days, and that
some one from the claim, he thought, ought to come down and look after
him.

This was not good news. But neither was it unexpected. The Major had
prophesied as much. We did not moralise on it. We knew exactly how
much it meant; how much and no more.

A certain percentage of men on every goldfield, on every large cattle
or sheep station, in every country town in all the Australian
colonies, is subject to this morbid phase of alcoholism. Not by any
means the weakest or the worst members of society either.

The attitude of the public to the individual who may thus transgress
is much like that of the gaoler in the Old Curiosity Shop on the
occasion of Kit's incarceration. He did not reason much on the causes
which led to parties being committed to his keeping. Crime, as he
noticed it, was a variable and epidemic occurrence. Some had it, some
hadn't, others mildly--much like measles, smallpox, or scarlet fever.

Many men in all the localities and societies referred to drink more
than is good for them, perhaps become intoxicated frequently. But a
man who has a regular burst, or 'goes on the spree' habitually and
periodically, is classed in a different category. He is known both to
friends and foes to be one who, while having the power to refrain
wholly from intoxicating liquor for a given and definite, often a
protracted period, must have his full swing, must yield in an
uncontrolled state of utter abandonment to the craving for a debauch
when the temptation suffices, or when his hour has come.

For weeks, for days, for months, years even it may be, the
restraining power is known to last. Then chance or continuous pressure
breaks the bond of self-denial, and over the broken embankment the
pent-up passion seeks its lowest level, sweeping away tumultuously in
its flow all good intent and manly resolution.

For a space, days and nights are recklessly devoted to the delirium
of drunkenness. Then, wonderful to relate, the possessed one is
suddenly discovered clothed and in his right mind, though grievously
shaken by the 'unclean spirit which had come out of him.' A new era of
perfect sobriety, energy, and propriety then sets in.

The Major and I, therefore, much as if we had heard that Jack Bulder
had sustained severe accidental injury, or otherwise come to grief,
concluded to set out and see about him.

'I'm sorry he's broken out,' said the Major, 'the fellow's such a
strong nature, for good or evil, that there's no saying what he may
not say or do.'

'It doesn't matter what he says, that I know of,' quoth I, 'and I
don't see what he can do. 'However, we shall soon know all about it.'

When we arrived at the Ballarat Hotel, Mr. Hennessy the landlord met
us with a very solemn face. He motioned us into the little room beside
the bar which did duty as a snuggery and general office.

'Morning, Hennessy!' said the Major, 'what's up with Bulder; anything
out of the common? All the same, Pole and I are obliged to you for
sending us word.'

'Well, Major,' said our boniface, an extensively travelled man, who
knew San Francisco, New York, and Panama better than the Australian
capitals, 'I shouldn't have troubled about a little temp'ry kick-up,
but I knew Jack at Ballarat, and it's worse than that.'

'How worse?' I inquired.

'In this way. He hasn't been sober for a fortnight, as one might say,
till last Monday; since then he hasn't touched a drop but soft stuff
and tea. The curus part of it is that he seems worse and worse. I'm
afraid he's got the jumps coming on.'

'The jumps?' said I.

'Yes, the jim-jams, or whatever you make of 'em; the doctors call it
D.T., or something of that kind.'

'Delirium tremens,' I returned, 'very likely, indeed. Is he noisy?'

'He 'asn't slep' for three nights, or stopped talking; keeps on
gassin' about Ballarat, and the soldiers, that's why I sent for you.
Some of the p'leece might tumble, you know.'

Here Mr. Hennessy looked extremely knowing.

'Well, suppose he does talk about Ballarat, who cares?' I said rather
hotly, irritated with the show of concealment for which I saw no
necessity. 'Suppose all the world knew he was there.'

'But not in Eureka stockade; not as Ballarat Jack, one of the
principal leaders, for whom there is five hundred pounds reward
offered, and who was strongly suspected of killing Captain Wayse.'

'Good God!' I said, 'you don't say so? I knew poor Wayse well, and
used to dine at the mess with him in Melbourne. Do you think he was
the man that stabbed him?'

'He's in there,' said the host in a low tone, pointing to a room
upstairs. 'You can hear him talking and going on as soon as you get to
the head of the stairs. Here's the key. I've locked the door at the
other end of the passage; you take it with you and go up.'

We went quickly up the staircase, knowing that it led to a large room
on the first story, which was used for masonic dinners, quadrille
parties, political meetings, and other purposes for which more than
ordinary accommodation is required. A dozen or more bedrooms were
situated on the other side of the corridor. Of one of these Jack
Bulder had permanently possessed himself. And the other occupants
being absent on work or business, he had at this time the suite pretty
much to himself.

We could hardly imagine that he was alone, for as we approached the
door of the passage at the head of the stairs we could hear a voice
denouncing, beseeching, defying, by turns, as if in earnest
conversation with some one.

As we turned the lock in the door we heard him call out, 'Stand! not
one foot farther! I'll shoot the first man that leaves the stockade.'
We paused for one moment, doubtful whether he had arms, and then,
smiling at our faint-heartedness, pushed open the door and entered the
room.

It was a strange uncanny sight. Near the centre of the room, to which
he had withdrawn himself, stood John Bulder, barefooted, in his shirt
and trousers, much in the same state of apparel generally as he must
have used when superintending the washing of his ship's decks in
tropical seas.

His eyes, widely opened, were fixed with dreadful intensity upon a
corner of the room. The expression of his face was utterly changed, so
thoroughly that ordinary acquaintances might well have looked on him
without recognition.

Then his eyes, dilated with horror, rested upon us. His head moved
unwillingly and slowly away from the spot at which he had been gazing
as he cried aloud, in tones of unutterable anguish--

'Good God! they are almost touching him, the blood from his breast
drips over them! Will they carry his blood about to follow me through
the world and torment me before my time?'

'What's the matter, old fellow?' said the Major. 'You're rather high-
fed to-day. It doesn't do to play with D.T.'

'Who are you, and what authority have you to question me?' said the
possessed, for such beyond doubt he seemed to be for the time, still
turning back his head as if fascinated to the first point of his
regard.

'Oh! you know us,' I said; 'it's only the Major and Harry Pole, your
mates. You had better come home and have a good sleep.'

'How can I sleep?' he said in a quiet conversational tone, 'when he
is there, night and day, by my bedside in the darkness, and here when
I am awake and would leave him if I could.'

'Who is there?' I said, thinking to humour him, and knowing it to be
an optical illusion, such as are common to those suffering from a
disordered nervous system.

'Who is there?' he wailed forth, in tones that made me almost doubt
his identity, so strangely awful were they with shuddering dread and
despair. 'Who is there? who should it be but the man I killed at
Ballarat stockade, while he was smiling in my face, Captain Wayse of
the 80th. Don't you see the wound in his breast where my sword went
through him, and the blood--the blood running still?'

Here the unhappy man threw himself down on his face as one who
grovels in the dust, and drew his hands over his forehead as if to
shut out the terrible sight.

'This looks serious,' said the Major. 'He may have been in the
Ballarat riot, as a few men we both know here have been. But as to
poor Wayse, who died of his wounds the next day, after pluckily
leading his company when they stormed the stockade, he may have dreamt
all about it.'

'I don't know that,' I said; 'it seems to have burned itself in on
his brain in a way that another man's guilt could scarcely have
reached. 'I met poor Wayse once. He knew the Leys well, and told me he
had been shooting at a house close by the year before I went there.'

Here John Bulder raised himself on his knees cautiously, and then
turning away his head, sat down.

'Who spoke about the Leys?' he said in a hoarse whisper. 'He was
there, too. I was a boy; he was little better--but a gentleman, just
got his commission, and he seemed a little god to a country lout like
me. How handsome he was, and jolly, kind to all and free with his
money like a prince. Many a half-crown he gave me in the old days, for
he used to take me out with him to carry the bag. Perhaps he'll
forgive me yet before I die. Why can't I die? I couldn't be worse in
hell.'

Here the wretched man sobbed and bewailed himself as if he had been
the soft untravelled rustic his wanderings described.

After another interval he went on more collectedly, while we, seeing
that unless he was placed in charge of the police for protection
nothing could be done with him, and doubtful of how great a proportion
of truth was mixed up with these revelations, listened without remark.

'One day I had snared a hare; I used to poach a little--most of us
boys did, as much for the sport as anything, and I was just taking her
out when the keeper collared me. I was being taken off to gaol--Lord,
lord! how frightened I was--when he came by, and never stopped till he
begged me off. I could have followed him over the world when he left
the country. He gave me a sovereign, and told me either to 'list or go
to sea, that I was too mettlesome a lad to make a ploughboy of. I went
to sea, he went to his regiment, and now here am I, and he is--there.
My God, my God!'

Here he leaped to his feet and commenced walking up and down the
room like a sailor on a deck, always turning back at the same place
and markedly avoiding the corner where, according to his delusion, the
appearance still abode.

'Why did I join the rioters at Ballarat? why did heaps of good men?
because the diggers were badly treated, hunted for their licenses,
chained up like dogs, knocked down by bullies like Strongbow, and
tyrannised over by raw lads fresh from England. I fought Strongbow
fair once, and beat him too. He was as strong as a bullock, but I was
too active. He was a man, too; he wouldn't let the troopers touch me.
There was a lot of foreigners in it, too; some good, some bad, and
Americans.'

'Wasn't Yankee Jake there, too?' said I, by way of a distraction.

'He! Curse him, wherever he is! He was not an American at all, only
a white-washed one. He was an Englishman, of a good family, too,
turned out for villainy of some kind. He was a traitor, too. He sold
us at Ballarat or we should have had time to strengthen the stockade
before the military came upon us. But that's not all he did.'

'Why, what else could he do?'

'What does a man like him do? work harm and misery all his days. I
had a mate, a sailor-man, a real honest chap as ever pulled a rope or
carried a tar bucket. He'd come over in a West Indian ship after one
of his voyages, married a Spanish-American girl, the prettiest young
thing you ever saw. Poor Dick used fairly to worship her, and she
seemed that fond of him she was never happy out of his sight. Dolores
and he was like two children.'

'Dolores Lusada?' I said; 'did you know her in those days?'

'Know her, yes, and respected her, too, and every man at the White
Hills where we worked. A neater, cheerier, better wife no man had,
till this Jake, with his wheedling ways and lies and fine airs,
flattered her out of her true and safe-sailing course, and persuaded
her to dowse her flag and scud under bare poles before the wind with
him.'

'And what did her husband do?'

'Followed them everywhere to kill him. Then came back and drank--
drank till he forgot all about his troubles. But when he did, he was
mad like me.' Here he laughed in an unnatural ghastly manner. 'So they
had to lock him up for a few months. Then he came out quite quiet,
poor Dick, and went away, and I never saw him again. But why should he
have gone mad; he never killed any one.'

'Nor you, either,' said the Major. 'Somebody has told you all this.
You're only fancying these stories. Come along home with us and tell
Mrs. Yorke about it. She'll make you some tea and you'll get a good
sleep after it all, and that will set you right.'

'I would come, for I am sure you're kind,' he answered humbly, but
as if he had never seen us before; 'but he would come too, and in a
small place it would be too dreadful. His blood would run on the
floor, too. You could not help standing in it. Ah-a--h!'

Here he again assumed an attitude and expression of fear and
shuddering horror beyond all control.



Chapter XXIX



AFTER a while he commenced to pace restlessly up and down the room,
studiously avoiding the corner where the awful spectre (as to his
disordered mind it appeared) sat crouched with bleeding breast and sad
reproachful visage.

'Why did I join with the rioters?' he recommenced. 'Well--some had
good cause who had suffered cursed injustice--most of them, like
myself, just followed on partly for the sport and partly because in a
general way things wanted mending. I was young and foolish, proud of
my strength and pluck, I suppose.'

'What sort of leaders had you?' said the Major, thinking it best to
have his narrative concluded now so that relief might come to his
overladen soul. 'Were they Americans or what?'

'Some of all sorts. There was Radetsky--a fine fellow too--they put a
price on his head, though he fought for liberty. Then Peter Gawlor,
the Irishman, who lost his arm in the fight, went in for devilment. A
couple of Americans, back woodsmen, and that scoundrel who calls
himself Jake. He deserted the night before the attack; they say he
sold us, and brought on the military two hours before we were ready
for them.'

'But what madmen you all were. How could you hope,' said I, 'to have
any lasting success?

'Madmen then and now,' he groaned, 'but times were queer then. There
was nearly a general rising. If we had beaten back the soldiers we
should have been joined by the whole of the crowd, and then, if we had
marched on Melbourne with an army swelling as it went, who was there
then to oppose us?'

'Who indeed?' I said.

'A great Melbourne merchant told me,' said the Major, 'that they were
prepared for the worst. Many of the young squatters and their friends
armed themselves and formed the nucleus of an army corps at the
Central Police Barracks at Jolimont.'

'The soldiers fought well,' said the dipsomaniac with his eyes fixed
on vacancy. 'A messmate before a shipmate, a shipmate before a
stranger, but a dog before a soldier, ha! I hate them, all sailors do.
But they fought like men. They came on at the run, and many of them
dropped as we fired, but they charged with the bayonet in style, and
our lot began to flinch. I could see the captain at their head, an
active, fair-haired, young-looking man, his sword in his hand and a
smile on his face. I had a sort of feeling as if I had seen him
before, but I was too busy to look long. I saw the soldier that hit
Gawlor, and I took steady aim and dropped him. He fell on his face.'

'Well, that was all fair fighting,' said the Major, 'though you were
on the wrong side. Is that the worst of it? Your men didn't keep
steady, and the regulars marched over them. They always do.'

'That was not all. God send it was, oh! how happy I should be. A few
of us made a stand, and the captain ran up close to me waving his
sword and cheering on his men. I felt a sharp pain in my left arm as a
bayonet went through it. At the same time one of our men hit the
captain a heavy blow with the butt end of a gun. His sword dropped
from his hand, and--God forgive me--I snatched it up and ran him
through with it. As the handle jarred against his chest he looked me
full in the face. "Why, it's Keeper Jack" (that's what they used to
call me about the poaching) "all the way from Kent," he said half
wonderingly, "who'd have thought of meeting you here, old fellow.
You've hurt me, I'm afraid," and he fell backwards. I was the only man
who came alive out of the lot around him, his men saw to that. I was
wounded in seven places and laid up in hiding for three months with
500 on my head. I don't know that it's off now. But if he died why
does he go with me everywhere--why is he sitting there now?'

'It's a bad case and a thousand pities,' the Major said. 'Poor
Wayse, he was the eldest son, heir to a baronetcy and a good estate. I
knew him well, and never thought we should have for a mate the man
that killed him. But it's no use fretting; he wouldn't have thought
twice about cutting you down, Jack, I can assure you.'

'But why should I have been picked out to kill him?' groaned the
homicide. 'He that was so kind--kind's no name for it. I could have
followed him round the world. He was never hard to the rough country
lad, as I was then, but as gentle as a woman, though he was as brave
as steel. It is no use. I shall see him as he is there till I go to my
own place. And then, then he may forgive me. God have mercy upon us.'

There was now nothing more to be said or done. We descended, locking
the door, and still could hear the unfortunate victim of strong drink
and remorse continuing his harrowing entreaties to be pardoned and set
free from torment.

We told Hennessy that we had tried all means in our power, but that
nothing save medical aid would be likely to benefit him. So we wended
our way homewards, and sent our doctor, who had had considerable
experience in cases of that nature.

That gentleman administered to him a very powerful sleeping draught
to begin with, and followed it up with other remedies of such a nature
that when, a week later, John Bulder presented himself at the claim he
looked, though calm and composed, at least five years older, and moved
as a man who is making a slow recovery after a fever.

'Had a heavy bout of it this time, mates,' was the only apology he
thought it necessary to make. 'Gave a lot of trouble, and talked a lot
of d--d nonsense most likely. You had a man on all the time, I
suppose. Charge me with his wages in the next settlement, and any
other expenses the claim's been put to through me.'

How marvellous is it that reason should so completely resume her sway
after being so rudely deposed; that the reactionary feelings of energy
and application are so powerfully experienced when the opposite
tendencies have been so completely in the ascendant. But such is human
nature, on the infinite variations of which mysterious creation 'twere
vain to dilate in this brief chronicle.

When such a recovery takes place the mind and body after a while are
so completely restored to their normal tone, that the sympathising
observer might conclude not only that no criminal excess had been
committed, but that such never could again intervene in the strong and
well-regulated character.

'Until the next time,' quoth

'The Fiend to whom belongs

The vengeance due to all our wrongs.'

This alarming outbreak did not, however, affect any one but the chief
actor. Like my combat with Malgrade, it was no one's affair but his
own. Other highly respectable people suffered periodically from the
same kind of attacks. He had abundantly the means of delegating the
work he used to perform personally; so that, if he had spent his whole
time at Hennessy's, he was quite able to afford it. However, after a
few days more he paid off his representative, and commenced to work
his shift of eight hours with much the same patience and persevering
energy which he had displayed on entering the claim. His spirits rose
gradually, his appetite returned, and, as I said before, no one could
have recognised in the cheery, hard-working miner the raving lunatic
or the despairing hypochondriac we had so lately been compelled to
succour.

His presence as a chief actor at the Eureka stockade, and his
confession of having been the actual slayer of poor Captain Wayse,
whom every one regretted, was much the more serious phase of the
affair.

We knew, of course, that the Victorian juries had refused to convict
the rioters when committed for trial for the same class of offence,
and we doubted not but that they would pursue the same course in his
case.

But actual homicide was different, and if arrested on suspicion of
being one of the leading rioters at Ballarat, it would involve his
being sent in irons to Victoria; for, of course, bail would not be
taken in such a case, and that course we did not at all desire to see
carried out.

Doubtless among the miners there were many who had recognised and
could swear to him if they chose to give willing testimony; but the
general feeling of the community was with the insurgents, and against
the Government of the day in Victoria. And even if it were not so, no
miner would voluntarily assume the hateful character of informer. The
only fear was that the man known as Yankee Jake, who had reasons for
personal enmity, might lay an information before a magistrate, and so
compel the arrest of John Bulder on suspicion of having committed this
high crime and misdemeanour.

However, at the present time, the said Jake, or 'The Count,' as he
was indifferently called, had located himself in a quartz-reefing
district, known as Mason's, about twenty miles distant, where he was
understood to have made several lucky hits, to have been appointed a
director in mining companies which had been successfully floated, and
generally to be rising into a state of undeserved social splendour and
distinction.

For the present, then, it was possible that this Cerberus had his
jaws confined with a golden muzzle, on account of which his growling
and tearing were temporarily suspended.

As for John Bulder himself, 'Damocles, his sword,' if thus above him
suspended, did not produce apparent uneasiness. He worked and jested
with the same careless ease as of old, and for a few short weeks care
and strife seemed banished entirely from this our antipodean section
of the universe.

       *   *   *   *   *

As suddenly as it had commenced, the wet, cold, inclement weather
ceased. The sun shone daily with might and effulgence. The water-
courses returned to their usual channels, the marshes commenced to dry
up. The birds mated. The pasture grasses, hitherto hindered by the
harsh winds and frosts of the late winter, made haste to shoot and
burgeon with tropical rapidity of growth. All nature revelled in the
rich bloom and wondrous luxuriance of the glorious Australian spring.

How different were the roads and tracks from those which we had
lately plodded through and stumbled along. Every day added to the
pleasure of living. Every change was in the direction of improvement
and enjoyable existence. The days became insensibly warmer without
being oppressively hot. The billowy prairies waved in the faint breeze
which heralded the summer. The foliage of the slender-leaved eucalypti
showed a tinge of softer green. And ever, in fine weather as in foul,
the reputation of the Oxley goldfield, based upon the monthly
unearthing of more than half a ton of gold, remained high and
unwavering.

The weeks passed blithely along, and still so increasingly brilliant
were our prospects, so satisfactory the dividends which we received at
the Oxley, as well as those of which we had monthly advice from
Yatala, that I at length fully made up my mind to settle my affairs
temporarily the week before Christmas, and to take this long-looked-
for holiday in Sydney, where I could arrange at the same time for poor
Jane's voyage to her native land, whence, I doubted not, I should
follow her before many months were past.

At our present rate our full shareholders would divide between forty
and fifty thousand pounds a man--John Bulder's proportion being, of
course, much less than this, as he had no original interest in No. 4
Liberator, of which we now held undisputed possession.

I was loath to leave off such engrossing exciting toil, but it came
at last, the last week before Christmas, the second of the weary, hot,
dry, dusty December, which had succeeded our matchless but too brief
spring months.

I quitted my work that long-remembered day thoroughly exhausted, and,
throwing off my working clothes with a deep sigh of relief, reflected
that I should not need to don them again for a month. In the interim I
should stand once more--oh, enchanting thought!--on the breeze-swept
ocean beach, inhaling the briny odours of the half-forgotten main. At
midnight, at sunrise, I should be free to watch the ebb, the flow of
the mystic waters. In all my mining life I had not once happened to
have revisited the coast since we returned from New Zealand. And now,
excited by the near prospect of comparative rest and freedom, I
exulted in the idea of exchanging the red--lined roads and yellow
mullock heaps, the iron or wooden shanties, the sombre shadeless
forest, amid which I had sojourned so long, for the cool streets, the
lofty freestone walls, the massed flower thickets, and the unfamiliar
luxuries of the City of the Sea.

Poor Jane, too, how innocently she would revel in the novelties and
wonders of the Paris of the South, before commencing her voyage to the
old land. I looked forward, like a boy, to the brief holiday-time we
should have before we parted, perhaps for ever. My heart glowed at the
thought that I had the means and opportunity of rescuing her from a
hateful tyranny, from a life unspeakably wretched and degrading. The
faded rose, once so fresh of petal, so delicate of hue, might,
replanted in the ancestral soil, again bloom modestly, again put forth
green leaflets, shrinking delicate flowerets.

In happy peaceful years to come we might yet see her, my bride and
I, humbled and chastened of aspect, yet peaceful and respected in her
village home, gathering with every added year a fuller measure of
repose, of that divine peace that is promised to the heart's deep,
sincerest repentance.

In all this sanguine, it may be in some respects imprudent
anticipation, I can swear it before the Lord of Heaven and Earth, my
heart was towards her as that of a brother--of a brother only.

On the morrow early we were to start by the coach at day-light. When
the sun set we should be a hundred miles on our way; ere the following
midnight at our destination; once more in a land of civilisation,
where art refines repose, and enjoyment rewards industry--fitting
prelude to the life of unclouded happiness upon which I trusted to
enter early in the coming year.

The sun had long since set. The night was sultry at the same time,
but moonless, starless, rayless utterly. Some impending change in the
elemental programme had covered the heavens with a robe of vapour so
dense that when I rather impatiently essayed to make my way from our
tent to the town proper, I more than once got off the narrow track
through the network of shafts, being compelled to grope back my way
with extreme circumspection.

I attributed my restless and excited mood to the great change in my
temporary surroundings. But I felt uneasy to an unusual degree. I had
resolved to call at Jane's lodgings and warn her to have her luggage
ready to the minute in the morning, as the coach-driver was of a
ruthless and inexorable punctuality. And the disappointment of being
left behind in my overwrought state of feeling would go nigh to break
one's heart, I thoughtlessly said.

She appeared, poor girl, when I saw her, almost as childishly elated
as myself at the prospect of the speedy deliverance from her prison
house, and the translation to a higher sphere, a purer air.

We talked it over at greater length than was perhaps actually
necessary, but our hearts were full, genuinely athirst for sympathy.
As old friends, cognisant as were none others of a thousand
circumstances of our bygone life that the loosened spring of a coming
departure seemed to release from memory's coffer, we found a multiform
and unexpected fund of mutual interest.

'I shall be a good woman to the end of my days, and, as far as my
conscience will let me, a happy one,' she said, 'if I ever reach the
Leys again and see the old man's face. And it will be to you,
Hereward, and to you alone that I shall owe it--owe my salvation. God
for ever bless you for it, and help you in your need as you have me.'

I had said farewell to her and had come out into the passage of the
hotel, into which she followed me, being moved, as it seemed, to say
these parting words. This thoroughfare--a kind of corridor between two
sets of rooms--was unlighted. A gust from the rising wind suddenly
blew to the door of the apartment we had just quitted. I had reached
the outer door when some one brushed hurriedly past me. I thought it
was one of the many inmates of the house, and walked on, when I heard
a sudden sharp ejaculation, as in fear or anger, in Jane's voice, then
a horrible, choking, gurgling, unnatural sound, which sent a thrill
through every nerve of my body. I turned hastily to the doorway, and
as I did so a man again rushed by me and was swallowed up in the
pitchy darkness which now enveloped all things. Breathless with
excitement I rushed to the spot near where I had left Jane. I felt
along the wall and stopped, almost petrified, as something human
clasped my feet, and again the hoarse unearthly sound struck upon my
ear, though fainter than at first. Stooping, I raised Jane's fainting
form, as I believed. Her face fell helpless forward against mine, and
her arms clutched convulsively around my neck. At the same moment I
felt something like liquid trickling down my breast and dripping with
terrible distinctness on the floor. The hideous reality suddenly
flashed across my mind, and I cried aloud for help.

Doors were quickly opened, lights appeared, trampling feet were
heard. I was surrounded by the inmates and habitus of the house, a
quickly increasing crowd. All gazed with widely opened eyes of
surprise and horror. Full well might they gaze--for there stood I,
Hereward Pole, in a pool of blood, with a dying woman in my arms, her
throat cut with a dreadful gash which had nearly severed the head from
the body.

For some seconds all stood silent. None seemed to have sufficient
presence of mind to speak, much less to move for help, or in other
act. Suddenly a voice from the outer edge of the crowd called out in
husky strained accents,--

'Send for the police--let no one leave the place till they come. I
accuse that man of the murder of my wife.'

I looked over the heads of the crowd. There was the grim form of Ned
Morsley, while at his side, in ominous proximity, I marked the cold
features and evil sneer of Algernon Malgrade.

At that moment the crowd parted, and the sergeant, accompanied by a
trooper, strode up the passage.

'What is the meaning of all this? Ha!' he said promptly, 'some one
call the women to take Mrs. Morsley and place her on a bed. Send for
Dr. Bolton at once. Constable Grant, examine the spot closely, search
the passage and room, try if you can find the weapon with which the
wound was inflicted. Is the husband of the deceased here?

'Yes, I'm here. I wish to give this man Pole in charge for the murder
of my wife.'

I stood as one bereft of reason when I had seen the dreadful,
lifeless, unreal shape borne away by the women, all that was left of
poor Jane, but a few moments since (or was it days, months, years
since) so happy and hopeful? And I with this miscreant's false charge
ringing in my ears. I, Hereward Pole, her best friend on earth,
accused of slaying her.

'Mr. Pole,' said the Sergeant, without betraying one atom of
surprise, 'disagreeable duty, painful of course, only a matter of
form, but I must trouble you to come along with me. Constable Grant,
Mr. Pole won't think of escaping I know, but for fear of accidents,
dark night, and so on, allow me, sir--thanks,' and I felt cold iron,
for the first time, grate upon my wrists, and was on my way to the
cells where all dtenus of whatever kind or caste were primarily
incarcerated. The clock struck ten. So early in the night too, to
strike the knell of hope, life, liberty, good fame. Alas! poor human
creature, thou that callest thyself man, made in thy Maker's image,
and boastest thyself of will and energy, and election of the better
path, how darkly ironic is Fate in its dealings with thee.

One moment happy, healthful, bright with the light of love and life,
hope and joy in days to come. In the next, all thy vision red, gloomy
with the savour of blood, thy liberty exchanged for the felon's cell,
thy fame the sport of falsehood and evil hap, thy life blotted and
future marred. Wherefore dost thou not follow the counsel of the
patriarch's wife--curse God, and die.



Chapter XXX



THROUGH the long hours of that hateful night, which made a true
inferno of the close-walled, low-roofed cell, I paced its narrow
limits. My brain lay quiescent in dull stupor, or with feverish
rapidity ceaselessly revolved the scenery and action of the terrible
tragedy, in which I could scarcely realise my part as leading actor,
accused criminal. Heaven, surely, without abrogating all functions of
justice and mercy, could not suffer my conviction upon so false, so
hellish an accusation! Could it be believed for one moment that I,
with no conceivable reason for anger, had hurt one hair of her poor
head?

No. But it might be proved.

I sprang upwards, as the fiendish suggestion passed through my brain
and passed into the darkness as if to look for some subtle imp that
had personally whispered the damning thought. The links of
circumstantial evidence were not so far apart, but that malice and
persistent ingenuity might forge the fatal chain. Men as innocent had
ere now ascended the scaffold proclaiming their innocence.

What are the facts?

I am discovered in darkness, in solitude, with the dying woman in my
arms. I am naturally covered with blood. Angry voices, one of them a
man's, had been heard sounding exactly where she was last seen alive.
Then the passionate refusal to 'go home'--a phrase of double meaning.
Then cessation of speech and the awful unhuman death tones which so
strangely thrilled me.

I sickened with fear. I thought how such evidence would have tended
in the case of another so arraigned before me.

At an early hour of the day, now dawning, I knew that I should
necessarily be brought before the bench of magistrates, charged in due
form 'that I did on such a day unlawfully kill and murder one Jane
Morsley, etc.' There was no escape from that. I saw myself standing in
the dock, compulsorily exhibited for the pleasure of the curious and
idle crowd, a spectacle of guilt or shame, as opinion might incline.
What had I done in my short life that such misery, such undeserved
torments should be heaped upon me?

Worn out at length by racking alternating paroxysms, my aching
eyelids are sealed by kindly nature; a blessed sleep enfolds me
mother-like, strikes dumb and motionless the crowd of evil shapes that
flit through the unguarded portals of the brain.

But anon the busy, babbling, and remorseless day is not to be
cheated. The sun, that sun which I fondly hoped to have watched arise
as Jane and I were borne swiftly towards the sea, towards hope and
happiness, and renewed life for both of us, soon streamed through the
apertures of my cell upon me, half a felon, half a maniac, as in my
excited imagination I then deemed myself. His beams illumined the
silent chamber where she lay a corpse. What a mockery was it that
there should be aught but clouds and tempests in this melancholy star,
misnamed a world? Was it not rather a hateful prison-house, where
souls ruined and doomed in a former state of existence roamed
endlessly, cheating themselves with the hope of happiness, amused by
the malice of friends, with dreams of impossible bliss?

One of the constables fully aroused me by bringing in the wherewithal
for a rude lavation. He respectfully advised me to dress and have a
cup of tea, which would help, as he said, to straighten me a bit
before court time.

He meant well and kindly, as did all the men of the police force
stationed there, knowing me well by sight and reputation. Whether
guilty or innocent in this matter he possibly did not consider himself
bound even approximately to decide. It was not his 'case.' The
sergeant would have the getting up of the evidence, and so on. But it
was hard, he thought, to see a man like me, who had seen better days,
as the common phrase runs, locked up on such a charge. Was I guilty?
Who could say? Wonderful things in the history of crime had happened,
even in his experience on goldfields, and he was a young man; and
where there was a woman in the case, who was to say with certainty
what might or might not take place?

So Police-constable Grant calmly arranged my basin and towel, with a
small looking--glass and comb, placed a tin measure of tea with a
plate of the same material, containing bread and meat, at the farther
end of the cell, mentioned that court would be open at ten o'clock
sharp, and departed.

It was later than I thought. I had scarcely more than time to lave my
burning brow and breast plentifully with the ice-cold water, which
indeed wonderfully refreshed and relieved me, drank freely and
partaken of the smallest morsel of bread, when the iron-bound door
again clanged and Sergeant MacMahon entered with another trooper to
escort me to the court--house.

'Brushed yourself up a bit, Mr. Pole?' he said, with a kindly gravity
'It's a dreadful business, but there's no use taking things too much
to heart before the real time comes on. Have you any legal gentleman
engaged to defend you?'

'Defend me!' I said, 'what necessity is there for that? who could
think for one moment that I was guilty of such a crime?'

'Never mind the crime, Mr. Pole,' said the sergeant, his keen gray
eye resting upon me meanwhile, as if there was a printed page on my
heart which he was deciphering slowly but accurately; 'take my advice
and have Mr. Markham. You're not fit to conduct your own case. But I
daresay your mates have sent for him long before this. Please to
follow me into court.'

I walked out of the cell dreamily and did as I was told, constable
Grant following within arm's length, as was de rigueur in case of
attempts at escape. I was then taken through the crowd which filled
the court, and permitted to sit down in the vicinity of the table
usually devoted to professional gentlemen, strangers of degree, and
parties to civil suits. I saw the sergeant look over at Blake, who
nodded his head affirmatively.

The court is crammed. Even the approaches are so thronged that those
afar off desist from endeavouring to gain nearer 'coigns of vantage,'
and content themselves with sitting on the fence of the camp reserve.
There is a sickening feeling at my heart, which still keeps throbbing
with the thought that Jane lies dead, foully murdered, and that I
stand here this day in the sight of all men charged with being her
slayer. Truly my enemies had triumphed--so far I was beneath their
heels.

Of course, my friends muster strong on the occasion. I see the
Major, Olivera, and Jack Bulder, also Mrs. Yorke, the latter weeping
profusely, with a large solemn baby in her arms, Mrs. Mangrove and
other female sympathisers, all with their best bonnets on as if they
were going to church. The Commissioner is seated on the bench with two
other magistrates. They look at me with an air of not seeing me, which
long practice has enabled them to assume. It is not for them to take
for granted guilt or innocence on the part of the accused until the
evidence be concluded. There is a man charged with being drunk in a
public street. He having been locked up all night, and not being an
habitual offender, is discharged with a caution. I watched him passing
into the body of the court, and metamorphosing himself into a
spectator, with features quite relaxed and free of care. Another
indiscreet has been drunk and disorderly. He is adjudged to pay a
pound or to undergo seven days' gaol. He pays, and lightly changes
front.

'Hereward Pole, stand up! You stand charged with wilful murder; how
do you plead?'

I start as though I had been struck.

'Not guilty,' of course I exclaim.

'Swear Sergeant MacMahon,' says the Commissioner. And the sergeant
enters the witness box. On his oath he thus deposes--

'I am a senior--sergeant of police stationed at the Oxley goldfield.
About half-past ten or a quarter to eleven o'clock, P.M., yesterday,
while on duty, I was attracted by seeing a crowd at the licensed house
of Mrs. Simpson. I immediately proceeded thither, and on entering the
house perceived the prisoner standing at the top of the passage with a
woman in his arms. She was apparently in a helpless or dying state
when I approached. There was a pool of blood at the feet of prisoner.
Examined the appearance of the woman, whom I recognised to be Mrs.
Morsley, whom I had known at Grenville and Warraluen diggings as the
wife of a man named Edward Morsley. Her throat was cut almost from ear
to ear. (Sensation. The women cry piteously.) She could not speak. I
heard one sound, a kind of unintelligible moan. I caused her to be
placed upon a bed and sent for Dr. Bolton. When I saw her she appeared
to be quite dead. Edward Morsley called out from the crowd and said,
"I charge this man with the murder of my wife." I said "Very well." I
arrested the prisoner and confined him in the lock-up. I then charged
him with the wilful murder of Jane Morsley. He said, in answer to the
charge, "I could not have hurt her for all the gold in Australia."'

Cross-examined by Dr. Bellair, retained for the prosecution:
'Prisoner looked pale and horror-struck, as any one would have looked
under the circumstances.'

Dr. Bellair: 'What, even a policeman?'

The sergeant, with dignity: 'Yes, anybody but a doctor.'

Dr. Bellair: 'I appeal to the Court for protection. It is most
improper of the witness to address the counsel for the Crown in this
way.'

The Bench is of opinion that no disrespect was intended. The witness
is merely desirous of eulogising the professional nerve of surgeons.

Sarah Simpson, sworn, states: 'I am the landlady of the hotel where
deceased lodged. She had been with me several months, and was most
quiet and well-behaved in every way. Understood she was going home to
England. Mr. Pole, whom she told witness knew her in England, used to
come and see her now and then, but not often. Remembered his coming
last night. He said to me, "Mrs. Simpson, please tell Mrs. Morsley I
want to see her about being ready in time for the coach to-morrow. If
she's gone to bed it doesn't matter. Be sure and have her called
early." I told her and she went into the front parlour where Harry
Pole was. When Mr. Pole was gone, or say a couple of minutes
afterwards, I heard the parlour door slam. I heard her say, "I won't
go home, I'll die first." Ran out with others directly after when Mr.
Pole cried "Help." Saw him holding her all bleeding in his arms. Oh,
my God!'

(Here the witness fainted, and the proceedings had to be stayed till
her recovery.)

By Dr. Bellair: 'Can't think who did it. Will never think it was Mr.
Pole; he always acted the gentleman, and was a good friend to her.'

'Too good a friend, perhaps?'

'No, sir, he were not--not as I ever see or thought on, and won't
believe till my dying day.'

'Perhaps I ran in and killed her, then?'

'Perhaps you did, sir; little men is that vicious when they takes
the turn, as they might do hanything. But some one come from
somewheres and did it, and not Harry Pole, and that I'll live and die
on, poor dear!'

John Henderson sworn: 'Is a commercial traveller, and had been
several days in the house. Was just going to bed when he heard some
one cry out for help. Ran out into the passage, other people having
come with lights. He saw prisoner standing near the end of the passage
supporting Mrs. Morsley in his arms. Had seen her in the hotel several
times. There was blood on the floor, on his clothing, everywhere.
Deceased was bleeding from a large wound in the throat, which had been
cut, as the phrase is, from ear to ear.'

Cross-examined: 'Did not hear any one speak before the cry for help.
Might have been some talking without his hearing. Had been going over
his accounts before going to bed.'

'Was that his way of saying his prayers?'

'Not exactly--it was minding his business, however, and he would
recommend other people to mind theirs.'

'Was the prisoner very pale and unnerved?'

'Not more so than any gentleman--himself for certain would have
been--on suddenly encountering such a dreadful task. Could not form
any opinion as to who had committed the crime; would as soon accuse
his Worship on the Bench as prisoner of having done it.'

At this stage of the proceedings a note was placed in the hands of
the Commissioner who, after reading it, gave it to his brother
magistrates for inspection. After a short consultation, he spoke as
follows--

'A letter addressed to the Bench has just been placed in my hands.
In it Mr. Markham, who is employed on behalf of the prisoner, states
that he has been prevented attending to-day on account of other
professional engagements, and requests that the Bench will remand the
prisoner until Monday next in order that he may have the opportunity
of securing professional aid. Have you any objection, Dr. Bellair, to
the course indicated?'

'Under the circumstances of the case, none whatever, your worship,'
said the little man, with stupendous dignity.

'Call up the witnesses, Sergeant MacMahon, and let them be bound
over to appear on the day named--Edward Morsley Algernon Malgrade,
Sarah Simpson, John Henderson, are you content to be bound in the sum
of forty pounds each to appear on Monday next at the court-house on
the Oxley at ten o'clock, there to give evidence in the case of
Hereward Pole charged with wilful murder? are you content to be
bound?'

'Yes, your worship.'

'This Court stands adjourned till to-morrow morning at ten o'clock.'

The crowd passed out and separated into groups to talk over the all--
absorbing topic, with the interesting uncertainty, doubtless, of my
innocence or otherwise in the affair.

In a few minutes the whole enclosure was cleared, the courthouse
locked up. I was again sitting on my bed in the cell upon which I had
thrown myself in dull despair as I re-entered.

Was this, indeed, my life? or had I changed souls and destinies as
old writers dreamed?

It seems the first thing the Major did after quitting me at the lock-
up when I first entered it, was to send off a messenger post-haste to
Mr. Markham, with a note briefly detailing the circumstances, and
enclosing a substantial check as retaining fee on my behalf in the
preliminary inquiry which was imminent.

On the Sunday afternoon, therefore, that gentleman was ushered into
my cell, and, shaking me by the hand with his accustomed warmth and
heartiness, appeared only to perceive, like a skilful and courtly
physician, a slight social indisposition which regular treatment would
be sure to remove.

'Unpleasant affair, Harry, my boy,' he said; 'dreadfully unpleasant;
temporary inconvenience, eh? and all the rest of it. No bail allowed
either, or of course you needn't have been ten minutes in the logs.
Not but what there are worse places--delightfully cool this broiling
weather. Got a crib all to yourself, eh? I say, sergeant.

'Well, Mr. Markham,' said my chief custodian, 'what can I do for
you?'

'Why, send me a chair, of course. You don't expect me to stand for a
couple of hours while I am having a good confidential yarn about this
business with my friend, Harry, here. When it comes you can lock us
in; only don't forget to let me out about tea-time.'

'All right, Mr. Markham,' said the sergeant. 'Is there anything else
I can do for you?'

'Nothing, except you were to let me have some brandy and soda. But as
that's against the regulations, we must wait for happier times, I
suppose. Thanks, that is a good substantial chair--good afternoon for
the present.'

And he sat himself down with the greatest ease and deliberation,
while the bolt was shot to, the door clanged, and we were alone in the
cell.

Mr. Markham's face underwent a sudden and complete change. The
expression of rollicking good humour faded away as the door swung on
its hinges. When the key had turned and the bolt shot to, nothing was
to be seen but a keen concentrated gaze, whence all levity had fled
for ever.

I returned his gaze with eyes as unfaltering as his own.

'You never did it, I can see that,' he said, as if in answer to an
unspoken question. 'I had my doubts before I saw you. Don't speak now;
if you knew as much of human nature as I do, you'd believe anything or
nothing in any case where a woman was concerned. You didn't do it, as
I said before. Now, the question is, who did, and how is he to be
fixed?'

'I can't tell,' I answered wearily. 'I did not, as you truly say and
believe. Why should I have harmed a hair of her head? Poor Jane. I
would have done anything in the world for her that a man might do.'

'So I have heard,' he said drily. 'It's a pity that this brother-
and-sister business should so often be misconstrued. I don't blame
you, my dear boy; young men will be imprudent. But it would have been
better for both of you if you had let her go her own way, and you had
stuck to your work.'

'It may be so,' I said. 'It is too late to talk of that now.'

'Well, yes; and I didn't come here to moralise. The point is, who do
you think killed her, and why?'

'The man who brushed past me in the entry was the only person who
had time or opportunity. It was too dark to recognise him.'

'And you have no idea who or what he was like?'

'Something, for a moment, put me in mind of Ned Morsley. I can
hardly say why. But it could not have been him.'

'Why not?'

'Because he was among the crowd with Malgrade hardly two minutes
afterwards, when I had poor Jane's body in my arms. He could never
have stopped and joined the crowd after such a deed.'

'Humph!' said my adviser, 'the night was dark, you said?'

'The very darkest that I have seen for years. There was a
thunderstorm at midnight. I heard it coming as I paced up and down
this doghole for an hour before.'

'Poor Harry!' he said compassionately. 'You expected to be in
Sydney, somewhere about Batty's hotel, by this time. Life's another
word for disappointment, isn't it? You have a sheath knife, I see.'

I knew what he meant. I handed it to him. I had picked up the habit
of carrying such a knife attached to my belt from the sailors on the
outward bound voyage, and had found it come in too handily in a rude
wandering life to relinquish it.

'Humph! point ground down, edge like an old meat axe, very fine
knife to cut butter. What have you been doing with it lately?'

'The fact was that we came to a quartz vein at 120 foot level, and I
picked out some very good coarse gold with the point till I broke it
off, and had to grind it round. The edge was gapped by young Dawson
the other day. I lent it to him to go kangarooing. I didn't think it
worth while sharpening it, and indeed was going to give it to Mrs.
Yorke for a kitchen knife to-morrow.'

'Humph!' said Mr. Markham again. After this he sat in silence for a
few minutes. Then he aroused himself and changed the conversation,
encouraging me to talk of old English days, of my life at the Leys, of
Jack and Joe Bulder, of my fixed determination to have cleared out in
six months, whatever may have been the ebb or flow of the treasure-
tide. Lastly he commenced to ask in a general way whom I had seen that
day, with whom conversed, what well-known miners, loafers, or quasi-
criminals I had seen about the town. Finally, he exhorted me to keep
up my spirits, and to go over and over the few minutes before and
immediately after the tragedy, lest haply some important fact may have
escaped my observation.

Then he took leave of me, and knocked at the door, first moderately,
then impatiently. There was no answer. The sergeant had been called
away, and there was no one to release the captive until he returned.
Mr. Markham lit a cigar and appeared to take the forced incarceration
easily enough.

While accepting the profuse apologies of the sergeant, when he
arrived in high glee, having captured a horse-stealer--the show
criminal of the division--Mr. Markham seemed by no means fully
satiated with prison experience for the time. He lingered in the
vicinity, putting careless half--questions that were half-assertions
to the sergeant and Grant. Finally, he thanked that official most
warmly for the pleasure of his visit and the confidence with which he
had honoured him, and strolled off with a last injunction to me to
keep up my spirits and try to 'remember up' any facts and details even
up to the most minute shred of speech or action during the few minutes
preceding and following the tragedy, or otherwise I should do him no
credit as a client, and the enemy--even Dr. Bellair, who was retained
for the Crown--would have cause to triumph.



Chapter XXXI



THE door was shut behind my kindly, good-humoured advocate. He had
succeeded in raising my spirits, albeit imperceptibly. A vision of
future safety and peace rose, faintly tremulous, amid the dread
shadow-land of the dim horizon. Of happiness I did not dream; it could
never more be mine. The insatiable Fate, which had so mercilessly
dogged my foot-steps in this southland, was still relentless. My
reputation stood shamefully linked with the ill-starred dead. Her very
name was all-powerful still to injure me with those whose good opinion
I valued most in the world. Strangely impalpable Slander! How subtle,
how dire a poison art thou! Conveyed in the touch of a hand, in the
whispered breath, in the motion of the body, the glance of the eye. As
by those wondrous, deadly mediaeval agencies, the life, nay more, the
memory, the soul's weal is blasted, shrivelled, stricken dead, and
dishonoured before the magical missile, viewless as the wind, secret
as the sea, cruel as the grave. Brinvilliers and the Borgias have gone
to their appointed place; but modern society still holds those who
smile and betray to doom, who stab with words and slay with medicated
tongue. Dead or alive, poor Jane had worked me woe. Was I now to be
overwhelmed, crushed, obliterated; and was there no hope of succour?

As these and kindred thoughts passed through my mind, already
crowded with morbid and gloomy images, my dull ear became increasingly
sensible of a deep yet distant murmur, which gradually swelled in
volume and nearness to my cell. Half instinctively, as I listened, the
sound waves resolved themselves into a familiar rhythmical noise. It
was the tread of a large body of men marching in rank.

What was the occasion? Scarcely another meute? What then could it
be? In another moment the band of one of the great associated guilds
struck the first notes of that grand composition long associated with
the dead, with the last pageant in which they hold formal association
with the living. With stupefied unawakened intelligence, as to an
overture, I listened indifferently. The solemn awe-inspiring movement
was familiar to the ear, yet bearing no message to the heart. Then
flashed with electrical suddenness across me the terrible truth--it is
Jane's funeral. How had I not earlier realised the possibility of such
a ceremony, natural and inevitable as it was?

How inexplicable are the movements of the mind. But a moment since I
had schooled myself to a stoical mood of endurance of the ills that
might henceforth come upon me. I felt even a feeble kind of
reactionary resentment against the course of events which had stricken
me down so suddenly, had laid me so low. Mr. Markham's condolences had
not been without their effect. After all I was not wholly to blame. I
had done everything for Jane's best interests that a man could have
done for his own sister. I had been actuated by the best and purest
motives if such there be within this strangely concocted entity, this
jumble of 'made ground' (to use the miner's phrase), that we call
humanity. And what had been the result?

She lay dead, a disfigured corpse, denied even a seemly appearance
in death, she that was so fair. I was in a felon's cell, justly so
prisoned in the opinion of a section of the society in which I lived,
irrevocably humbled and injured in my own eyes, and in those of my
fellow-men. One thought of the sea-washed pier we had both so longed
to tread again came through my brain at the same instant.

One breath of the ocean breeze fanned my face in visionary
freshness. The contrast, even in glamour and delusion, unmanned me. I
cast myself down on my pallet and wept like a child. Long and
passionately I wept as I lay there, while the sunshine streamed
through in golden flakes telling of the bright blue cloudless skies
without, and of the dry dusty street which our feet had so often
paced. Adown this she was now passing for the last time--the last
time, ah me! to the pine-crested cemetery. There dwelt many guests
that had never dreamed of being bidden so early to take their part in
life's last promenade, to taste 'Death's coal-black wine.'

Radetsky had gone there. How strange and unnatural that his restless
heart was stilled. Cyrus, of the mighty arm, was never more to raise
so much as the weight of the dry grass stems that fluttered in the
summer whirlwinds. And now, Jane Mangold, fresh-tinted, bright-hued,
innocent wild rose, as I first remembered her in her country home; the
sad-eyed, haggard woman of these last sorrowful months, she was gone
to be alone with Death--when the train of kindly mourners should
return, who paid the last token of respect to a foully murdered
sister, a repentant fellow--sinner.

Should I be the next?

In my weakened and excited state the idea assumed a horrible
distinctness; it gradually increased to the dimensions of a fear,
almost of a form, until, with throbbing burning temples, like to burst
with pain, with beating overcharged heart, of which the pulsations
seemed to clang intolerably and loudly, I pictured myself carried past
my prison, along the self-same well-known road, and saw the familiar
faces of friends and acquaintances, decorously downcast, at the same
distance from the bier at which I had a score of times walked myself.

It seemed to be a fitting end for this accursed, feverish, treasure-
seeking life, in which the gold was so rapidly turning to ashes and
bitterness, to dead leaves, as in the folk-lore of childhood's days.

'Why,' I once more moaned out, 'did I not die by the robber's bullet?
A quick shrift, a clean death, worthy of a man, if premature and
sudden? Then I should have left behind but fond regrets, but
passionate loving tears and manly sorrow for a lost comrade--'

While now--

I must have been weakened as by a wound, become morbidly nervous and
sensitive, for this womanly passion and hysterical weakness to have
come over me. But I had hardly tasted food since first the prison
bolts closed behind me. Sleep had been either entirely absent or
broken and disturbed with frightful images. I had heard of men going
mad under such circumstances, and I at times probed and tested my
mental powers as if to discover whether or not reason was shaken.

The tramp of feet passed and ceased; the deep tones of the funeral
march died away in the distance; the shadows darkened, and finally the
cell, which in hot summer evenings felt intolerably stifling, became
filled with darkness. I slept or lay in unconscious stupor. I hardly
knew which. But I started up from time to time. In my ear sounded the
awful words, 'dust to dust, ashes to ashes,' as if spoken within my
cell, and still, ever and anon upon the night breeze came the dirge-
like echoes of the Dead March in Saul, still the wailing wind voices
of the night cried aloud of death and of doom.

Pale, unstrung, tremulous should I have found myself before the
crowded court on the appointed morning, but Mr. Markham, who has
called in before breakfast, will not have it so. His cheering voice
breaks the spell.

'I say, Harry my boy, this sort of thing won't do at all. I can't
have you grizzling and doing the handkerchief business like a peculiar
Christian or some of those repentant sinner-parties that intend to sin
again when they get another chance. You must pull yourself together a
bit or you'll do me no credit, and any goldfield's jury will bring you
in guilty for not having pluck enough to bluff it off like a man.'

'I say, governor,' this to the sergeant, 'I'll send him in a cup of
coffee from Jones's of my own particular brewing, and you'll see that
he takes it, won't you?'

'All right, Mr. Markham, you may depend on me,' said the sergeant
good-naturedly, 'and it's what I'd advise him myself, to hold up his
head a trifle higher in the court. There's no saying what evidence may
be brought forward.'

'Perfectly correct, sergeant, as usual,' said my professional
adviser, with a meaning look.

'Now, I wonder what that old fox has got in his head,' said he to me,
as the worthy official departed. 'He's the closest old file I ever
met, and I know the police have been hunting up every scrap of
evidence they can lay their hands on. I shouldn't wonder that Bellair
gets a slight surprise himself to-day. But don't expect too much,
Harry, old fellow. You never can tell till the numbers are up.'

Mr. Markham's coffee was, probably, flavoured with something more
potent than milk and sugar, or I should hardly have felt so much
relieved in mind as I did when my cell door opened, and I saw the
Major, Jack Bulder, Olivera, and Mrs. Yorke, all waiting to give me a
reassuring word and smile as I came out.

Their strong undoubting faith acted as a cordial to my worn senses.
Here, at any rate, were kindly, honest, and withal shrewd people, who
believed undoubtedly and uncompromisingly in my absolute innocence.

'He kill her,' said Mrs. Yorke to a large female with a dull
distrustful countenance, showing a soupon of the asperity which had
occasionally flavoured her discussions with Cyrus. 'I wonder if
there's people alive with so little sense as to think of such a piece
of rot. Not but what there's plenty of women on the field as wants
killing, Mrs. Muggins. I don't say there ain't, but every one knows as
he was that softhearted about females, young or old, good-looking or
homely, it was all one to poor Harry--he had a pleasant word and a
smile for all of 'em. More than that, there was nothing he wouldn't do
for the humblest of 'em in the way of kindness and rale downright
politeness, as I call it. Didn't I see him pick up a big bag of chaff
as old mother Shea, the milkwoman, was a-carrying to the cows one dry
time, and hump it the best part of a mile for her through the town,
too. He kill anybody with a petticoat on, not he! Only he was too
dashed soft, and so was run into things as artfuller cards kep' out
of, that's what he was, and I'd like to have stuck Merlin and the old
sergeant into the logs themselves for potting the wrong man, and see
how they'd like it.'

Here Mrs. Yorke's frightfully revolutionary sentiments were brought
forcibly to an end by the onward movement of the crowd, which
separated the disputants and surged into the building directly the
large door of the court was opened by the sergeant. By the favour of
Mr. Merlin, to whom she had alluded so disrespectfully, she was,
however, accommodated with a seat on the form set apart for witnesses,
and otherwise treated with distinction. The known fact of her being 'a
golden hole woman,' as the miners called her, doubtless operated to
her advantage. Wealth has its privileges all over the world, even at
the headquarters of the chief of metals.

The court was now formally opened. Mr. Markham, cool and confident,
advanced with a cheerful mien. The Commissioner and his brother
magistrates sat with unmoved countenances, like Rhadamanthus and his
peers. Dr. Bellair rose with tragic brow and a mien of awful dignity.

'Your worships, I demand that all witnesses leave the court.'

The Commissioner nodded to the sergeant, who, in stentorian tones,
repeats the formula--

'All witnesses are ordered to leave this court, until called on to
give evidence.'

With this several persons, some not previously known to me, or indeed
apparently to one another, prepare to leave the court, with some
difficulty, indeed, on account of the crush and crowding.

'Call Algernon Malgrade,' says the Doctor, with additional majesty,
and that gentleman lounges forward and goes into the witness-box, with
an air of calm indifference to the hundreds of eyes that are at once
directed upon him.

Mr. Markham looks him all over in a keen, yet leisurely, manner, with
the air of a surgeon regarding a subject upon whom he proposes to
undertake a serious and critical operation. Malgrade places one hand
on the witness-box and stares back in return with his habitual
insolence of manner. Mr. Markham softly rubs his hands and smiles
severely, with an air of peculiar benevolence.

Being sworn, the witness thus deposes: 'My name is Algernon Malgrade,
formerly in the army. Am at present a miner, residing at the Oxley,
where I hold interests in mining properties. Have known the prisoner
for many years. Knew him slightly in England before either had sailed
for Australia. Have also known deceased and Morsley for several years
since they were married, when they lived in Ballarat; knew them well
as acquaintances; always thought they lived on the usual matrimonial
terms. They quarrelled, as a matter of course, occasionally. Deceased
was a high-spirited woman. Like all handsome women, and some plain
ones, she had a violent temper; would not swear to that physiological
fact, but such had been his experience. Had heard, cursorily, that
Morsley was jealous of prisoner. Thought it likely enough, prisoner's
conduct had been most imprudent. Saw Morsley when he came to the Oxley
a few days since. He did say he should prevent his wife going to
Sydney with prisoner. Thought he intended to let matters slide--that
is the course he himself should have taken under the circumstances.
Recollected the night of the murder?--Y-e--es! He was walking up Mayne
Street, and came up while smoking to the door of Simpson's hotel. Was
leaning against the outer door, when Morsley came up. They heard
voices inside the passage; deceased, as he thought, called out, "I
will not go home, I will die first." Morsley said, "That's my wife's
voice," and rushed in. In a moment or two he came out gasping for
breath and greatly excited. I asked him what was the matter? Just then
we heard prisoner call for help, and we all went in. I saw prisoner
standing supporting deceased, who was bleeding from a wound in the
neck and apparently dying. The police came soon after, and Morsley
charged prisoner with the murder of his wife.'

'Call Edward Hill Morsley,' continues Dr. Bellair, with solemnity
unspeakable.

The spectators drew back. There was an audible murmur as the husband
whose wife had been foully murdered answered to his name, and walked
slowly and firmly towards the witness-box. I gazed at his face. Save
one, he was the man I hated and despised most on the earth. His dark
face had a stern, almost savage, expression, which gained intensity as
his deeply-set black eyes met mine; aflame with the lurid light of all
the baser passions, they seemed to glow with demoniac lustre. If there
was any tremor of body or quailing of the spirit as he lifted the
sacred book and bound himself, as God should help him, to 'speak the
truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,' he did not show it
by quiver of muscle or outward sign.

Dr. Bellair commences the examination, and extracts with practised
ease his sworn statement, the more readily, perhaps, that every word
of it is prejudicial to me, and accords with the most favourable
hypothess of the witness's own conduct.

'My name is Edward Hill Morsley. I am a hotel-keeper, and reside at
the Miners' Home, Warraluen. I was the husband of the deceased Jane
Morsley. We were married at Wendouree Street, Ballarat, and have
followed the diggings since then, about four years. We have had
quarrels now and then. Last year prisoner came to Warraluen. He formed
some acquaintance with me and deceased, whom I afterwards found he had
known in England. Deceased did not tell me so at the time, nor did
prisoner. I assisted him in the purchase of shares in the Holman
Company, and others, and was very friendly towards him. After he left,
deceased kept up a correspondence with him, and seemed restless and
dissatisfied--talking of going back to England. I gave her no cause of
complaint. At the time of the escort robbery, when prisoner was
wounded, deceased insisted on going over to Eugowra to nurse him, and
did so against my will. She refused subsequently to come back; she
stayed at the Oxley where prisoner lived, and said she would go to
England. I came over to the Oxley to see her, and if possible to
prevail on her to return to me. I went to Simpson's Hotel where I
heard she was staying. As I came up to the door about twelve o'clock,
or perhaps nearer half-past eleven o'clock, I heard deceased and some
one talking in the passage of the hotel. Deceased said in an excited
tone of voice, "I will never go home with you, I will die first." I
ran into the passage and found prisoner holding deceased in his arms;
she appeared to have been wounded. I ran out to give the alarm, but
was so taken by surprise that I could not speak. In the meantime
prisoner called out, and other people came in. I followed them into
the passage, and when the police came gave prisoner in charge for
murder. Have had quarrels with deceased like other married people, I
suppose, but had no ill feeling towards her. She was very fond of
admiration, and had a violent temper when roused. This led to
altercation of course. She was much worse after prisoner came to
Warraluen. Saw Algernon Malgrade at the hotel on the night of the
murder. Did not remark him before until the crowd came up. May have
spoken to him in the forenoon of that day. Did not have a long
conversation with him on that day--to the best of my knowledge, that
is; if so have forgotten it. Is not a particular friend of mine, not
more than a diggings acquaintance. May have seen him the day after the
escort robbery. Did not see Wall or Gilbert Hawke the day after the
robbery; saw plenty of other persons that day. Do not carry a knife on
ordinary occasions; have not got one now. May have borrowed a knife
since I came to the Oxley to do some trifling act. If so, do not
remember. Do not know a man named Luke Weston. Did not borrow his
knife the day before the murder; may have borrowed one from some one.
May have said that deceased should not go to Sydney with prisoner, but
never to my knowledge that I would cut her throat first. Have said
such things in the heat of passion--people often do; never intended
her any harm.'



Chapter XXXII



THUS far the examination-in-chief. It was now Mr. Markham's privilege
to cross-examine. Rising quickly and facing the witness one moment,
his features changed visibly as he gazed at him until they wore an
expression of rigid determination well-nigh akin in sternness to those
of his opponent. Morsley, on his part, took an attitude, half of weary
expectation, half of dogged defiance, like a swordsman who watches his
antagonist's eye and hand.

'You have stated to the Bench that you were married in Ballarat about
the year 185--. Is that so?'

'Yes.'

'Within a month of that time were you bound over to keep the peace
towards your wife under heavy penalties, having committed a brutal
assault upon her?'

'I was bound over; we had a quarrel, but I did not assault her as she
stated.'

'Oh, you had not assaulted her; she imagined it?--imagined that her
face was out and bruised also?'

'She fell down and bruised her face.'

'How did she fall down? was she running in fear of you?'

'She was leaving the room hastily when she fell.'

'No doubt she was--very hastily. She was probably afraid of her life,
as she had good reason to be. Did you then leave Ballarat and proceed
to Granville Rush?'

'Yes.'

'Did the last witness, Algernon Malgrade, accompany you, and was he a
partner with you in the Granville Arms Hotel?'

'He came with us, and had an interest in the hotel.'

'Did he suddenly leave the hotel a few weeks afterwards in
consequence of a disagreement with deceased?'

'They had some words, and he left.'

'Did not the deceased say that she would not live in the same house
with him; that he was a villain and a traitor?'

'She did abuse him, if I remember--but she was in the habit of using
strong language. Her temper was always violent.'

'Just so; and yours was particularly lamb-like. You wish the Bench to
believe that. This made no difference in your friendship with
Malgrade?'

'None at all. I bought his share of the house, and he went to Yatala
diggings when it broke out.'

'Did you say in your examination-in-chief that Malgrade was no
particular friend of yours?'

'I may have said so.'

'May have said so? You did say so, sir, most distinctly. How do you
reconcile that with the fact of your having been a partner with him,
and having taken his side in a dispute with your wife? Answer my
question.'

'A man may have business transactions with another man without being
his intimate friend.'

'Of course, of course; may purchase a property together, after having
come away from another diggings together, live in the same house, and
be so bound up together that you take his part against your own wife.
You don't call that friendship?'

'Not particularly. I'm not bound to take up all a woman's quarrels. A
man on a goldfield would have nothing else to do.'

'Certainly. I see your point, Mr. Morsley--you have proved yourself
to be a very prudent, self-controlled, amiable person. But how did you
come, at Granville, to have knocked down a man named Albert Hoffmeyer,
and broken three of his ribs, in a quarrel arising out of jealousy?'

'That is another affair. I had good reason for what I gave him.'

'Was your wife treated in the hospital immediately afterwards for a
broken arm, of the cause of which she could give no account?'

'Yes, I believe so.'

'Another accident, I suppose: fell down, probably.'

'I submit your worships,' here broke in Dr. Bellair, who had been
restraining himself with frightful exertion of self-command all the
time, 'that this line of cross-examination cannot by any possibility
bear on the case. The witness may or may not have been a model
husband, that peculiarly British institution, but I assert that his
patience or amiability is not here called in question. Your worships
have only to deal with the point as to whether there is a prima facie
case against the prisoner upon the charge for which he stands in
custody, when it will be the plain unavoidable duty of the Bench to
commit him to the next Assize Court.'

'Your worships are doubtless aware,' quoth Mr. Markham, with studied
impressiveness, 'of the great and peculiar importance that this
witness should be subjected to a searching cross-examination. The
issues of life and death are involved, and though this can be but a
preliminary examination, it is indispensable, if I am to do full
justice to my unfortunate, and I fearlessly assert, innocent client,
that no limit be set to my privileges as an advocate.'

'Innocent!' shrieked the inflammable doctor. 'Innocent! when the very
stones in the street cry out for vengeance for the blood of a murdered
woman.'

'Murdered, ay--but by whom?' said Mr. Markham in a low deep voice of
concentrated feeling, bending forward and fixing his eyes with
mesmeric force and earnestness upon the witness.

It may have been fancy, but I thought I saw the cruel eyes quail
before the sudden challenge; the form lose something of its rugged
boldness of defiance.

A vivid motion of surprise then possessed me. Could Morsley himself
have been the murderer? I had hitherto dismissed the idea from my
mind. It seemed utterly impossible, in the short space that elapsed
between the time in which the dark figure in the poncho brushed past
me in the passage, and Morsley standing on the outskirts of the crowd
demanding my apprehension as his wife's murderer--dressed also in a
lightish gray tweed suit of clothes, that he should have presented so
entirely different an appearance to that of the unknown in the poncho.

Mr. Markham evidently was following up some clue. I held my breath
and controlled the beating of my heart.

'The Bench is of opinion,' here interjected the Commissioner, 'that
Mr. Markham is justified, in cross-examination, in testing the
credibility of the witness in any manner which he may consider
suitable.'

'I shan't trouble you any further as to your domestic habits, Mr.
Morsley,' said my advocate. 'Will you please to answer me a question
of quite a different sort? You remember the escort robbery?'

The witness nodded.

'It was on Friday, the 14th April 186--, was it not?'

'I think so.'

'You think so; don't you know it was, sir?' thundered the terrible
interlocutor. 'And very good reason you had for knowing it. Now, did
you or did you not meet the last witness at a place called the Rocky
Springs, in company with two other men, whose names I needn't mention,
when you and he received a parcel from those men?'

'I did not.'

'You did not? now be careful, you are on your oath. Was one of the
men Harry Jenkinson--commonly known as Big Harry?'

'No. I never saw the last witness or him either.'

'You swear that? You did not meet either of them on the day
mentioned?'

'I may have met them in the course of a week or two.'

'But not on that day--the day after the escort robbery?'

'No, certainly not.'

'Do you know a man named George Roper?'

'Not that I know of. I can't swear.'

'Call George Roper, sergeant.'

The name is called outside of the court, and a quiet, sleepy-looking
agriculturist appears.

'Do you see that man; do you know him?' The man grinned sheepishly.

'I think I have seen him. He sold me some corn once. I see so many
people that I can't be expected to recollect everybody.'

'Of course not, of course not, Mr. Morsley; we must try and refresh
your memory. That will do, Roper. You can leave the court. And you
didn't see that man the day after the robbery at Rocky Springs?'

'I can't swear one way or the other. I may have done so.'

'At Rocky Springs?'

'No, not that I remember. At another place.'

'Very good. Now, Morsley, attend to me; be very careful in your
answer as the question is important. How were you dressed on the night
when deceased came by her death?'

Here more than one spectator leaned forward, as if anxiously awaiting
the result of his question.

'In the same dress I wear now,' he answered with perfect composure.

'Just so, a gray tweed suit. I think coat and waistcoat of the same
colour, trousers slightly darker; allow me to look at them--a very
serviceable suit, quiet, and so on. The second button seems different
in colour from the others, and--just permit me for one moment--rather
clumsily sewed on: no woman's hand did that, Morsley; comes of
quarrelling with your wife, eh? You don't recollect how it came off, I
suppose?'

'My barkeeper noticed that it had come off before I left Warraluen,'
said the witness, scowling darkly at his questioner. 'He offered to
sew it on for me. Would you like to have the tailor's address that
made the clothes?'

'Why, yes,' said Markham, as if he had expected the question, 'he
might be able to tell me if this button (here he took one from his
pocket) exactly matches the others in colour, shape, size--and also in
the shade of silk twist with which the others are sewed on. He might
be able to swear to that Morsley, or the reverse, but perhaps you can
do so.'

'How can I swear? how do I know where it comes from?'

'It was found clenched in the dead hand of your murdered wife, as I
shall be enabled to prove,' said Mr. Markham with slow pitiless
severity of tone, 'does that help you to recollect how you lost it?'

The swarthy hue of the man's face, which had gained him the sobriquet
of Black Ned, visibly paled, and his strong frame shook before he
answered sullenly--

'If you wish to accuse me of killing her, you had better say it out
at once, but I thought I was a witness and that man in the dock the
prisoner.'

'You will be quite clear about your respective positions in a short
time, I daresay,' said Mr. Markham, with cheerful confidence.

'I must again protest,' broke in Dr. Bellair fiercely, 'against the
extraordinary latitude taken by the counsel for the defence in this
case. Are the feelings of the witness to be lacerated by references to
the unfortunate deceased at every turn. Surely your worships will not
tolerate this sensational style of examination.'

'My learned friend's client will have to submit to more sensational
treatment before he leaves the court, I feel confident,' said Mr.
Markham; 'in the meantime I must request that no restriction be placed
upon my undoubted legal right to the severest cross-examination.'

The Commissioner nodded affirmatively, and the intensely interested
audience gave a kind of half-murmur, as of strained anxiety, as Mr.
Markham proceeded.

'You had on no other coat but the one you now wear, on the night
referred to?'

'No; it was a warm night.'

'You did not wear a poncho, for instance?'

'No.'

'Have you got such an article of dress?'

'Yes.'

'Where is it?'

'I left it behind at Warraluen.'

'Oh! you left it behind.'

'Yes. The weather was dry and hot.'

'And you have not worn one here?'

'No, certainly not.'

'You are in the habit of wearing a sheath knife, I believe?'

'No, I am not. I have a pocket knife.'

'Please to show it to the court.'

The knife is produced. An ordinary knife, with two blades, one much
blunted cutting tobacco. It is handed up to the Bench.

'That is the knife you had in your pocket on the night of the
murder?'

'Yes.'

'And you had no other knife in your possession?'

'No.'

'Not at any time during the week?'

'No.'

'Of that you are certain; you didn't borrow a knife from any one?'

'Not that I remember. It is possible that I may have done so during
the week, but I have no recollection of it accurately.'

'Quite right, Mr. Morsley, to be careful--you can't be too careful
in your present position, I assure you. You can go now; sign your
depositions first, though.'

Morsley had turned as if to leave the box, glaring at his persecutor
with ill-concealed hatred and malice. An evil look of triumph half
gleamed in his eyes, as he took the pen in his hand to write his name
with studied coolness. Yet his hand shook in spite of all his efforts.
Others, doubtless, noticed this. But many a strong man in that court
had been similarly affected, concerning whom there was no question of
guilt or innocence. The symptom was but too common. And the only
effect on the bystanders was to confirm the notion that Black Ned had
been 'on the drink' lately, perhaps on account of his trouble. And
that was quite sufficient in their eyes to account for tremulous
penmanship.

He raised his head menacingly as he stepped from the witness-box,
and swaggered down the body of the court with his usual insolence of
demeanour palpably exaggerated, probably for the benefit of myself and
Mr. Markham. Dr. Bellair cleared his throat and prepared to address
the court with a highly confident air when the sergeant strode forward
with one of his characteristic seven-leagued movements, and laid his
heavy hand upon the shoulder of the retiring witness.

Morsley turned hastily with a face of surprise, almost of fear,
which he vainly tried to control, while the sergeant thus spoke in
tones which filled the court--

'I arrest you, Edward Morsley, in the Queen's name; and I now charge
you with the wilful murder of your wife, Jane Morsley, on the night of
the 16th instant.'

The astonishment of every living soul in the court, Mr. Markham
alone excepted, was extreme and patent. The crowd positively gasped in
amazement, as the sergeant, exerting his great strength, pushed the
prisoner into the dock, the door of which was opened by one of the
constables and closed upon him, he appearing like a man in a dream,
dazed and incapable of offering resistance.

As for me, I sat staring before me, almost incapable of collecting
my ideas upon the subject. All that I could gather from the action of
Sergeant MacMahon was that he, for some reason, believed Morsley to be
the murderer of poor Jane. Mr. Markham, from his questioning as to the
poncho, evidently leaned towards the hypothesis that he and the man in
the poncho were one. But where was the proof? where the connection
with any act of his, and the blood so pitilessly, so cruelly shed?

Dr. Bellair was the first to awake to the need for action.

'Your worships, I beg, I demand redress against this proceeding, this
most unprecedented, most unparalleled outrage upon the person of a
witness, this insult to your authority by this autocratic policeman,
after all a subordinate officer of the force. He seems to think that
he can arrest any one he pleases. I suppose' (here the little man
stood up to his fullest height, and puffed out his chest heroically)
'I suppose he will arrest me next!'

'Dr. Bellair,' said Blake, 'Senior-sergeant MacMahon is fully
empowered to act in this matter at his discretion. He is responsible
to the head of his department. He, no doubt, has his own reasons for
the action he has taken. It is not within the province of the Bench to
direct any alteration of the mode in which he has chosen to effect
this arrest.'

'Of course,' returned the doctor, foaming with rage, 'if the police
are permitted to arrest witnesses in court during a trial, and
indecently to interrupt the course of law in any way they please in
order to trump up a case, I have nothing more to say, further than
that I shall lay a special complaint before the Minister for Justice,
the head of the Crown Law Department.'

'Take what steps you think fit, Dr. Bellair,' said the Commissioner,
'but I must ask you, however, to refrain from entering into a detailed
description of your probable action. You wish to make an application
to the Bench, sergeant?'

'I pray for a remand of the prisoner, Edward Hill Morsley, for eight
days, your worships, at the end of which time I shall be in a position
to bring most material evidence against him. In the meantime, I desire
to apply to your worships to discharge Mr. Hereward Pole from custody,
as I have decided not to proceed further with the charge against him.'

A murmur of approbation filled the court, which fell on my cars like
the sound of a far-off torrent, so confused was my brain, and dulled
my every sense, at this unexpected course of events.

There was a pause of perfect silence while the Bench deliberated.
Then Blake looked boldly and cheerily across the crowd.

'The accused, Mr. Hereward Pole, was discharged,' he said. 'The Bench
was unanimous in their opinion as to the extreme hardship of his
having been placed in his present painful position at all. Unhappily
circumstances appeared to be against him at the time of the death of
the unfortunate deceased. Sergeant MacMahon, whatever might have been
that officer's private suspicions as to the real criminal, was
therefore justified in arresting Mr. Pole. But he, the Police
Magistrate, had now much pleasure in stating, on the part of the
Bench, that after hearing the evidence brought forward that day before
the Court not the slightest suspicion attached to Mr. Pole, and he
left the court, most emphatically, without a stain on his character.'

This announcement was received with a general burst of cheering,
promptly suppressed by the sergeant.



Chapter XXXIII



THE Court was immediately adjourned.

Surrounded by my friends, I was marched off in triumph, escorted by a
great crowd that insisted upon following us down the principal street
in triumphal procession. A small band of musicians even, on the watch
for opportunities of profitable patronage, seized the occasion, and
headed the cortege, playing 'See the conquering hero comes,' 'When
Johnny comes marching home,' with other airs appropriate, in their
opinion, to my circumstances.

For me, like the victims of those death ceremonies of the olden
Asiatic communities when stupefied by narcotics, I felt confused with
a blaze of trumpets and beating of gongs and cymbals. One glance as I
left the court had shown me my enemy being conveyed to the cell I had
just quitted. His face was a study for all evil passions, baffled
malice, blind rage, and hate unspeakable. As Malgrade departed he was
hustled and hooted by the crowd. The women had come to gradually but
distinctly connect him with the tragedy in some shape, and he had
become scarcely less unpopular than the principal criminal.

The crowd left us at the cross street which led down to our dwelling,
previously calling for three cheers for Harry Pole, which were given
with great heartiness and enthusiasm before they separated.

I walked listlessly into our humble dwelling. It looked like a palace
after the hateful bare walls of the cell. Throwing myself down on my
bed I felt inclined to sleep for evermore. And, indeed, so utterly
wearied was I, so worn out with stress of mind and body, with
sleeplessness, anxiety, and pain, that I fell at once into a deep
slumber which lasted unbrokenly until sunrise on the following day.

How wondrously complicated, how tremulously, delicately fine are the
first mental movements as our being, truly unwillingly, extricates
consciousness from the trance which so strangely simulates death! How
clear yet impalpably minute is the semitone of thought which indicates
misfortune already realised, or looming dim and powerless in the
future. Magically sudden also is the thrill of relief when the soul,
signalling the dread incubus with electrical flash, simultaneously
registers the facts of safety and freedom.

So wakes the pensioned soldier, with the well-remembered sounds of
parade and drill in his ears, to contrast only more effectively with
the blessed independence of rural life in his long-lost village-home.
So wakes the newly-enriched heir, half encompassed by the shifts and
straitened ways of his ungilded manhood, to rejoice even more vividly
in his lofty halls and the tokens of unfettered expenditure. So comes
the blissful morn to the freed captive, whose first movements seem
guarded by his prison walls, upon whom the quick joy of realised
freedom instantly breaks with the beam of heaven's light.

As the sun streamed unimpeded through the window of our cabin, my
soul seemed to be irradiated, my whole being pervaded with a gratitude
so deep that for a moment I shrunk from it as disloyalty to her who
lay so cold and still in a blood-stained grave.

'Well, Harry!' said the crisp, unsentimental voice of Mrs. Yorke,
'you'd better come and have your breakfast if you're ever going to get
up again. You've had enough sleep by this time. Don't take on
overmuch--it's no use doing that. Poor Jane's gone, and there's an end
of her. We're all sorry enough for it, but fretting won't bring her to
life, and there's no use your grizzling all the health and strength
out of yourself if she is dead. I'd clear, if I was you, and cut
digging for a spell. The claims'll go on all the same as long as
they're worth sticking to.'

'I am going away, Mrs. Yorke,' I said wearily. 'I shall leave my
interests in the Major's hands. I know I can trust all the mates. My
loathing of this place, and all things connected with it, I can't
describe. I hope I shall never see a diggings again.'

'I feel pretty full up about the field myself at times,' she
answered, 'and good reason I had.' Here her face softened, and the
tears streamed down her cheeks, suddenly as an April shower. 'But I
don't know as I could better myself living in a strange town among a
lot of people as couldn't tell washdirt from mullock, and never saw a
tin dish used except to set milk in. I was quite a girl when Cyrus and
I came on the diggings first, and I've followed them so long that I
can hardly content myself anywhere else. But it's different with a
man; and I should up stick and be off to England by the first mail
steamer if I was you.'

'I daresay I shall do something of the sort directly, but just now I
feel as if I were some one else. The change that has come over me has
taken all my old feelings away. I can hardly describe it.'

'There's one thing would keep me for a bit if I was you,' she said
in a lower tone, 'and I'd wait a year to see it if I was dying to get
away.' A hard bitter look came over her face as she spoke.

'Why, what could that be?'

'To see that villain, Ned Morsley, hanged,' she said below her
breath.

'Ha!' I returned, 'I had forgotten the brute. Still I don't see how
the guilt is to be brought home to him, though I have a conviction now
that his hand alone could have struck the blow.'

'Of course he did,' she said, 'every child on the diggings knows
that, and me blackguarding the poor old sergeant and Merlin for
running you in when they only did it to throw that wretch off his
guard while they hunted up the evidence.'

'Is that the reason why they did it?' I stammered out. 'How little my
feelings seem to have counted in the matter.'

'Well, you see,' said Mrs. Yorke sagely, 'the police can't afford to
consider people's feelings, it's the "case" they have to give their
minds to, as Mr. Merlin told me. He's away at the Fish River on the
track of Gilbert Hawke; but I'll go bail the sergeant's got a few bits
of evidence that Mr. Black Ned don't reckon upon. They've got Mr.
Markham for the Crown now, and Morsley's got the little doctor to
defend him. The case will be on next Monday, and I'll be there if I'm
spared.'

'I suppose I shall not be away either,' I said. 'I may as well see
the thing out. It is only the next shifting of the scene in my life's
drama.'

There were yet several days which must elapse before Morsley could be
put upon the preliminary examination, the prelude to a final trial
before judge and jury.

This interval was more difficult to dispose of than any period which
I could recall since my arrival in Australia. I had entirely lost the
spring of action which had formerly incited me to labour. The hope of
success then lured me on. Now that success had come, the bitter blight
of sorrow, the settled night of adversity had destroyed all hope. The
future was filled with impenetrable gloom. I had had no letter from
home either since the last one from my darling Ruth, in which she had
avowed her unfaltering belief in my innocence, and her resolution to
abide by me at all hazards.

What might have happened in the interval? I trembled to think. Had
she been induced by her parents, justly, as they would argue from
their point of view, incensed against me, to marry one among the well-
born, perfectly unexceptionable suitors, who doubtless were but too
eager to offer themselves to the heiress of Allerton Court.

The hours, the days, the long bright days of an Australian midsummer,
seemed as if they would never come to an end. Yet the weariest work
was over. My prison doors were opened. My trial, in the face of the
curious crowd, with all its racking torment and corroding anxiety, had
been concluded. I was triumphantly cleared in the face of the society
in which I lived of the frightful accusation under which I had lain
prostrate.

Once more I stood a free man under the broad blue sky of heaven,
without trammel or fetter. How strange it was to feel thankful for
such a boon. I that had hitherto been as free as the bird that cleaves
the sky, without thought of cage or knowledge of captivity!

For the first day or two levees of sympathising friends and
acquaintances gave me no time wherein to think over plans for future
action. People to whom I had never spoke came from comparatively
distant diggings to shake me by the hand, and congratulate me on my
acquittal. I found that a widespread belief had existed throughout the
goldfield, that my being arrested at all was an outrage and an
injustice. They had not dreamed of interfering with the administration
of the law (there being no 'shallow ground' in the case), but were not
the less united on the score of my having suffered wrong and
injustice.

I had not, indeed, slept the second night in our joint abode when an
influential deputation, consisting of some of the leading miners and
business people of the goldfield, waited upon me for the purpose of
ascertaining if a certain day would be convenient for me to be
entertained at a public dinner specially arranged in my honour, and
designed therein to exhibit the unanimous public sentiment in my
behalf.

I was not, as may be believed, in the humour for festal assemblages
of any sort or kind. My first impulse was of unqualified denial. But
the feelings which prompted the invitation were generous and manly. I
knew that my refusal would be construed by many as, if not an insult,
at any rate as implied personal superiority to my entertainers. I had
decided at no distant period to leave the locality, and to let drift
my miner's life behind me for ever. And I could not deny but that this
would be a fitting opportunity to say farewell to those with whom I
had so long worked and dwelt on terms of perfect social equality.

How utter was the change, the revulsion of my feelings. The
goldfield, with its surroundings and associations, had all become
hateful to me. I could not walk down the street, or take part in
ordinary duty or pleasure without being reminded of the dear dead
Jane, and of the pleasant aftertime we had dreamed of when she should
be restored through my instrumentality to her old quiet home and a
life of peace, in which, shielded from every evil, she might devote
her days to good deeds and repentance. Ah me! All such pleasant pure
imaginings had been blasted, shattered into more than oblivion--into a
bitter and bloodstained memory; into a horror and a crime which must
suffice to render barren of joy years of my future life.

I had announced my intention without delay to the Major and my other
mates in the claim. I should take away the cash which stood to my
credit in the bank, and leaving the Major as my authorised agent, by
power of attorney, trust to him to guard my interest and remit
whatever further monies might accrue to me up to the time when
Greenstone Dyke and No. 4 were worked out, and either abandoned, or
made a present of to the wages men, as the case might be.

I should have more than sufficient for all my needs, and for whatever
life I should elect to lead in England or on the Continent. I could
travel. I could lead a society life, if it so pleased me, among the
haute vole of the great cities of the world, to which a man of good
family, if duly gilded and not disqualified by manners or morals to
which exception can be taken, can always procure the entre. I could
live quietly and luxuriously in the land of my birth, in town or
country, which ever might best suit my humour. In a word, I was free
to choose the perfectly untrammelled heartless life which so many
people consider to be the most precious result of realised wealth.

Such had not been the goal to which my thoughts had turned when I
placed the warm quick pulses of youth, the settled purpose of manhood,
in the scale--trusting to the hazard of brave adventure, and the
goodness of a merciful Providence for success, after a few years more
or less of honourable toil, of manly endeavour.

No! far otherwise was the pinnacle to which I had essayed to climb. A
height which should be irradiated by love and honour, as well as by
personal happiness, by the gratitude of the poor, the respect of the
rich, the encircling belief which alone finds life worthy and leaves
it ennobled.

And to what kind of stagnant existence was I now doomed? To the
selfish withdrawal from all of the honourable cares of humanity, to
the well-clothed, well-fed, well-amused passage through barren hours,
which, as by the subtle action of a mineral fountain, turns the heart
and every moral tissue to stone.

       *   *   *   *   *

During the period which elapsed between my liberation and the
examination of Morsley by the bench, the probability or otherwise of
his being the murderer of his wife was the chief centre of thought,
the leading topic of conversation among all classes at the Oxley.
Curious half--forgotten scandals were exhumed, giving colour to the
most extravagantly improbable theories as to the actual slayer and his
presumed motives.

'It was a former admirer, driven to madness by her coquetries, who
had offered to elope with her by the next American mail steamer, and
to settle ten thousand pounds upon her.'

'It was no man at all but a jealous woman-rival, who had sworn years
since to be avenged on her, and included in that evil prayer the
promise that she never should quit the goldfield alive!'

'It was a mistake from beginning to end. Fitzpatrick, just returned
from Granville Bar, had heard that his wife was staying at Simpson's
and carrying on "top ropes," as the phrase for "light life and
conversation" then obtained, had rushed over maniacally and seeing the
unfortunate deceased parting with a stranger on terms of friendship
never stopped to reason, but, the likeness being curiously close as to
figure and height, rushed in and committed the fatal deed. He and his
wife were off to California within forty-eight hours.'

These and other mournful or ludicrous versions were (as I heard
afterwards) freely bandied about and accepted as true or probable
statements.

A strong general feeling of belief in the guilt or complicity of
Morsley pervaded the minds of the more closely-reasoning portion of
the population, from the man's known savage and pitiless nature--from
the bad terms on which he and poor Jane had notoriously lived--most of
all from a general instinctive habit to think ill of him and Malgrade,
which showed the deep unpopularity which now encompassed him.

But if in reality guilty how had he so suddenly appeared among the
crowd, ready and willing to charge me with the crime? Was it in the
nature of things, was it credible that any man should commit so
diabolical a deed, and appear within five minutes apparently on a
level with other spectators, and sufficiently free from all trace of
crime to fear the searching scrutiny of the police?

Thus reasoned by far the greater number of the miners and residents
on the goldfield, and thus in good sooth did I myself incline, strong
as was my distrust of every word and deed of the ruffian to whom poor
Jane had been so fatally bound.

Could there be any other human creature so strongly interested in the
death of the unhappy woman? It could not be so.

Morsley, and he alone, must have filled up the measure of his
iniquities by dyeing his hands in the blood of the helpless creature
whose life he had ruined, sending her into the presence of her Maker,
as she had foreboded, poor soul! without one moment's preparation for
the dread ordeal.

The frank vengeance of the middle ages, when rulers had the power to
enforce personal expiation of unusual crime, would have torn to pieces
such a man by wild horses; the populace, greedily curious and
critical, would have gloated over the ghastly spectacle, watched the
rending of the living muscle, the dislocation of the tortured limbs.
And could not I, too, have shared the fierce pleasure with calmness if
not with exultation? And there was wild justice in the custom. Why
should the arch-criminal, the cool contriver, the remorseless agent in
a plot of devilish bloody deed, bear but the same penalty as the
frenzied foolish rustic, the half-besotted maniac, who slays in fury
and weeps over the deed he has committed?

However I might suffer personally, I determined not to quit the
Oxley until I had witnessed the trial of my enemy, and heard the
nature of the evidence to be brought against him.

I knew that the sergeant would not have taken the decisive step of
arresting Morsley in court and applying for a remand, unless he had
something more than ordinary circumstantial evidence in petto.
Whatever it was, the outside public, myself included, were left in
total ignorance of the nature of it. Mr. Markham was now retained on
the part of the Crown, a recognised practice which obtains in
important police cases. Dr. Bellair was special private counsel for
the accused, and I knew could comport himself with his usual intensity
and aggressiveness.

As regarded my partners, nothing could have been more considerate,
more delicate than their every word and act. The same might have been
said of every chance acquaintance of the goldfield generally. The
miners, better than most men in more conventionally apportioned
communities, understood the difficult position in which I had been
placed--appreciated the loyalty in which I had striven to carry out my
trust.

'Why didn't the darned skunk put a head on his devilry while the
pronunciamiento was out?' queried Sonora Joe wrathfully, 'then we
could have lynched him quite high-toned and respectable like. Now, I
bet the nigger will be indulged with a judge and jury foolin' round.
Couldn't do no more if he'd been a full-sized Chow destroyer in the
Flat troubles.'

'We're not quite so quick as you are, Joe, and we like to hang the
right man, you see. But I'll back British institutions against Yankee
ones any day in the long run. You'll see an infernal scoundrel get his
deserts, or I'm much mistaken, and everything done ship-shape and
Bristol fashion.' So spoke Captain Blogg, late of the Maid of Avon,
merchantman, which, having been deserted by her crew, from the
boatswain to the cook's mate, was long a sheer hulk in Hobson's Bay.
Finally, the captain and mates had to go, unless they elected to
become a band of Flying Dutchmen without the ability to fly out of the
great land-locked Bay of Hobson, where the navies of the world might
ride.

'Wal--I don't reckon to dispute John Bull's ways, not so much as I
did when first I came on these diggings. I surmise that he's a critter
as knows what he wants and mostly hez it. But you mind me, Joseph L.
Jefferson, that if there's no rope twisted for that woman-murdering
hound, there's a rifle or two will crack, as mostly carries true when
the bead's drawn on a man.'

The Major, to do him justice, never recalled any of our
conversations in which he had warned me against imprudent
entanglement, and the dangerous companionship of any one of Eve's
daughters, young or old, married or single--they were all alike to be
avoided and distrusted by the wise man.

'You're weak and low now, Pole, old fellow,' he said; 'nothing but
change--change from this confounded New World, which has become old to
us--will set you up. You've had the fever, so have I, so have most
men, the wise and the unwise--Edgar Borlase among the number, who was
left among the dead on one of life's battlefields many a year ago. But
he arose and staggered off, finally was cured and became strong,
outwardly at least. So will you. But you must change the landscape,
from these endless forests, these monotoned mullock heaps, to green
England's glades and meadows. Ha! the thought is entrancing. What do
you say, Olivera?'

'I quite agree with you,' said that calm enthusiast, who now strolled
up, meerschaum in mouth. 'We should be justified in getting the
Commissioner to send Pole down in charge of the police, only to be
released on shipboard. He has so unhinged his nervous system that
nothing but sea air and his boyhood's home will have power to cure.'

'Why don't you come back to Europe too?' I said rather thoughtlessly.
'You might as well come, for all the good you are doing here?'

Olivera's eyes flashed, and he stood for a space without speaking. I
thought I saw a slight flush pass over his dark-hued countenance.

'You are right, perhaps,' he said, 'though you cannot know the
reasons which I have for longing once more to set foot on English
soil; but it is my destiny to remain here till the hour of success and
triumph arrive. It may be that a generation shall pass before that
result. Till then I shall continue to be a miner wherever on this
broad continent the gold lure beckons.'

'You are not to be discouraged, then,' I said, 'no matter how
unfortunate you may continue to be,' charmed momentarily out of my own
sorrrows by this man's imperturbable fatalism.

'Fortunate and unfortunate are relative terms,' he replied calmly. 'I
believe firmly that before my destiny is accomplished in this land I
shall amass wealth by means of mineral discoveries, whether by means
of gold, silver, copper, or tin, I cannot say. But that my fate is
connected with one of these metals I am as certain as that we stand
here. Good-night.'

'I shall leave directly after this trial, Major,' said I, as we
prepared for rest. 'You need have no fear further of indecision on my
part. But I cannot go away till I have heard the fresh evidence which
has evidently been procured by the police. I feel as if it was a
sacred duty which I owe, not only to myself, but to her.'



Chapter XXXIV



ON the day to which Morsley stood remanded, I once more entered the
court-house, under very different auspices from those of my last
appearance there.

Accompanied by the Major and Olivera, I was warmly received by
Captain Blake, and we were accommodated with seats by special
permission of the Bench, whence we could observe the proceedings at
our leisure.

The time of opening the Court had been purposely anticipated by us,
as we wished to be freed from the inconvenience to which the
inevitable crush of the crowded building would have given rise.

The hour, however, arrived, and the man.

Had I been of a persistently revengeful nature, every feeling of that
kind must have been gratified when I saw my enemy brought in,
carefully guarded by the police, and placed in the dock. The
sergeant's expression, it is true, betrayed no other feeling but that
which might have actuated a zealous naturalist in possession of a very
rare living specimen liable to take flight at any moment. On his calm
brow, in his watchful gray eyes, was no faintest sign of moral
reprobation or even partial disapproval. Nothing but unsleeping
vigilance, nothing but inflexible determination, nothing but the most
careful reminiscent accuracy, as of a dux in a mental arithmetic class
continually examining himself lest he might have forgotten his
calculation.

As for Edward Morsley, his fierce features were clouded, as of old,
with the look of sullen defiance which was natural to them. I looked
at him from time to time, wondering in my own mind whether prejudice
caused me to see guilt in every line of his face, or whether I did him
wrong and translated the shadow of past crime into a reflection of the
deed still untracked and unavenged. Who could say? Was it real, true,
actual fact, that Jane had been foully done to death, was buried, lost
to all things beneath the sun for evermore? Why could not the dead for
one short space return and avouch the truth, confound the guilty, and
absolve the innocent? Mystery of mysteries! Portals inscrutable of the
silent eternities! what secrets do they not enfold?

Again the court is filled. The Bench is seated. The witnesses are in
attendance. Mr. Markham and Dr. Bellair, like heralds in the mediaeval
tournaments, are busy with preliminary arrangements, on which hang the
issues of life and death.

Before progress can be made with the new trial, all proceedings are
read through which have been initiated on the former occasion.

Then the Bench inquired of Sergeant MacMahon if he had procured
additional material evidence in the case on account of which the
prisoner had been remanded.

'On most insufficient grounds, your worships,' said Dr. Bellair.

Mr. Markham smiled in a gratified manner. The sergeant stroked his
immense beard, which concealed the third button of his uniform coat,
and merely remarking--

'The Bench may be of a different opinion shortly, Doctor,' said,
'Call George Corbett.'

A respectably--dressed, open--countenanced miner stepped forward and
went into the witness--box. When sworn, this was his statement--

'I am a miner, and reside at the Oxley, where I am a share-holder in
the Crinoline claim, Red Hill. On the 20th instant, on the night of
the murder, I was coming up the town, when I saw a man covered up with
a poncho come out of Simpson's Hotel and run down Mayne Street. He
stopped just opposite to me and turned into a side alley near a
butcher's shop. There is a deep shaft close to the edge of the lane.
He stopped for a second or two and walked quickly up to the hotel
again. His clothes then looked of a lightish colour, and he had no
poncho on. To the best of my belief the prisoner now before the Court
is the man. I did not speak to him, but followed him to the hotel.
There was a crowd collected there, and I heard the man in the light
clothes say, "I give that man (meaning Harry Pole) in charge for
murdering my wife." Then I heard that Mrs. Morsley was killed, and I
saw the police take away Harry Pole. Showed Sergeant MacMahon the
shaft afterwards, which I spoke of, near the butcher's; it was an old
shicer and pretty deep. It could hardly have been two minutes between
the time the man in the poncho came down the street and returned.'

Cross-examined by Dr. Bellair: 'Have no acquaintance with prisoner.
Have seen the deceased, Mrs. Morsley, several times; did not know her
to speak to. Know Harry Pole, as a digger merely; am not a friend of
his. May have passed him the time of day. Told the sergeant that I saw
a man run down the street at the time of the murder. Showed him the
shaft afterwards. It was one of the old block claims before the main
lead was struck. Must be about sixty feet deep. Have no interest in
the case one way or the other, but would do anything in my power to
bring a murderer to justice. Any man worth calling a man would do the
same.'

'That will do; you can go down,' said the doctor. 'Your moral ideas
are not called in question, and your evidence is not important one way
or the other.'

'You will see more about that, Doctor,' said the sergeant with
marked respect. 'Your worships, I desire to tender evidence personally
in the case, and request to be sworn.'

'I also desire to know whether the police are to be Crown
prosecutors, advocates, gaolers, and witnesses all in one, and acting
in the same case whenever they may see fit to try and procure a
conviction,' cried out Dr. Bellair. 'I submit, your worships, that the
fact of a police officer usurping all these powers is monstrous; in
every way most improper and unauthorised. In the name of my client I
demand the protection of the Court.'

'The Court is of opinion, Dr. Bellair, that Sergeant Macmahon has a
perfect right to tender evidence in this or any other case which, from
circumstances, may be most material. Swear the witness.'

The sergeant is accordingly sworn with due solemnity. He deposes as
follows--

'My name is John Fitzgerald MacMahon. I am a senior-sergeant of
police stationed at the Oxley. On the 20th instant I was on duty at
the lower end of Mayne Street, when I observed a crowd forming in the
vicinity of Simpson's Hotel. I proceeded there as quickly as possible,
thinking it might be a fight or a fire, and passing through the crowd
I saw Mr. Hereward Pole supporting in his arms the deceased Mrs.
Morsley. She appeared to be in a fainting or dying condition. Blood
was flowing from her throat freely, and Mr. Pole's hands and clothes
were covered with her blood. I had her placed upon a bed. About a
minute afterwards the prisoner called out to me from among the crowd
to take Mr. Pole into custody, whom he charged with the murder of his
wife. I did so. I noticed at the time that prisoner was dressed in a
gray tweed suit, as at present. I saw that one button was missing
between the upper or throat button and the third. I looked at his
hands; they were free from stain. I left Constable Grant in the house
with instructions to him to search closely around the spot where the
deed had been done. After locking up Mr. Pole (which I did to throw
the guilty party or parties off their guard)--'

'Mr. Pole is very much obliged to you, sergeant,' said Mr. Markham,
'I feel certain. No doubt he will recognise the compliment when he has
a little leisure for consideration.'

'We have to manage these things in our own way, Mr. Markham. It was
a little hard on him. I beg to resume my evidence.--I returned to the
house, and very closely and carefully examined the corpse of deceased.
In the right hand, which was clenched, I found this button (already
produced by Mr. Markham); it corresponds with the buttons upon the
coat at present worn by the prisoner, from which a button similar in
size and shape has been lately torn and replaced. I caused this button
to be compared with those upon prisoner's coat when he was asleep, and
can produce the witness who so compared them. There was a small piece
of silk thread, known by tailors as "twist," in the button. It is the
same as that used in the sewing of the other buttons of prisoner's
coat. A few hairs, as from a beard, were tangled in the clenched
fingers of the left hand of deceased. I produce them wrapped in paper.
They are black, curling, and slightly tinged with gray. They
correspond with the beard of the prisoner. The hair of deceased was
light brown, almost flaxen.'

The sergeant stooped down and placed before him on the ledge of the
witness-box a formidable parcel, which he commenced to open carefully.

'From information received, I went on the following day to a shaft
in a narrow lane close to Simpson's Hotel. I caused myself to be
lowered down it, taking a candle, and examined the bottom. I there
found a pair of loose dogskin gloves; they were on the poncho produced
(sensation); it is of dark cloth, and of a size suitable to prisoner.
There are fresh stains upon the gloves, chiefly on the right hand one.
There is a dark reddish stain upon the outside of the poncho on the
front, as if a sudden gush of liquid had produced it. I also found a
knife, which I now produce. It is a sheath knife, ground very sharp,
and slightly curved inwards. The blade and handle are stained with
blood--recently stained and hardly dry. In the pocket of the poncho
was a handkerchief (which I produce); it is marked in a woman's
handwriting E. H. M. There were also a newspaper unopened, and two
letters unopened, addressed to Mr. Edward Morsley, Warraluen.'

Cross-examined by Dr. Bellair: 'Have known prisoner for several
years, ever since he came to Granville Rush. Am not prepared to say
that he has committed offences against the law, but he has always been
an associate of bad characters. Have had him watched since the night
of the murder; do not consider that kind of espionage improper when
men are suspected of crimes such as prisoner is now charged with.
Cannot swear that prisoner is the man whom the witness Corbett saw
running towards the shaft, but consider that the evidence produced
tends strongly in that direction. Prisoner in his evidence in Pole's
case distinctly swore that he did not own a poncho. Have more evidence
to bring forward.'

'Call Luke Weston.'

A short, broad-shouldered, swarthy man with carrings now steps
forward, whose rolling gate betrays acquaintance with the high seas,
and leads to the suspicion that he left his last ship without applying
formally for leave.

He is sworn, and, hitching up his trousers, makes the following
answers to Mr. Markham--

'My name is Luke Weston. Am a miner. Came out in the Cambysus. Have
been here about three months digging. Know the chap in the dock; saw
him at Pegleg Gully last week. He was chucking his money about, but
seemed down on his luck, like. We were talking about knives, and I
threw my knife and made it stick in a board. It's a trick I learnt of
the Spaniards when I was hide-droghing in South America. He looked at
it and said the edge was sharp, too. I said it was, and no mistake. I
wanted a job, and he said he'd give me a line to a friend to put me on
as wages man at a reef at Warraluen. I took it very kind of him. He
advanced me a pound to pay my coach fare. We had a couple of drinks
before we went to bed. Just as he was going away he looked at my
knife, and I said I'd give it to him if he fancied it. I took off the
belt and sheath and all. He laughed and walked away with it. I went to
Warraluen early next morning. I look at the knife produced; it is my
knife. I will swear to it by the wood of the handle, which is a Brazil
wood. I also look at the belt and sheath produced. They were my belt
and sheath. The sheath is not leather--it is raw horse-hide dressed in
Spanish fashion. I swear prisoner is the man I gave my knife to.'

By Dr. Bellair: 'How did I leave my ship? Well, ran away, if you want
to know particulars. Lots of other sailor men did the same. Had been
drinking a little during the evening with prisoner. Was not drunk, nor
even half seas over. Got work at Warraluen on prisoner's
recommendation. Do not think it mean to give evidence against him.
Believe him to be a bloody murdering land-pirate that ought to be hung
at the yard-arm.'

'Call Constable Grant.'

He is sworn, and thus gives evidence--

'My name is Donald Glencairn Grant. I am a police constable stationed
at the Oxley. I remember the night when Mrs. Morsley was murdered. I
saw her conveyed to bed. I remained when Sergeant MacMahon arrested
Mr. Pole and conveyed him to the lock-up. I remained behind, and, in
accordance with instructions, examined carefully the room where the
murder took place. I found a gold sleeve button or sleeve link, such
as shirts are fastened with, which I produce; it was down on the floor
and was stained with blood. It has the letters "E. H. M. Ballarat"
engraved on the inside. It is rather a large stud, and is of
Australian gold, I should say. I was present when Sergeant MacMahon
found the button and the hair produced in the hands of the deceased.
He sent me to call Mrs. Simpson before we touched them. We had great
difficulty in getting them, as the hands were so tightly closed.
Immediately upon prisoner being arrested last week, I went in
accordance with previous instructions to the room which he had
occupied at the New Zealand Hotel. I found Mr. Malgrade, who has given
evidence, about to enter, but I prevented him from doing so, saying I
was about to seal up the door. I searched the room and found at the
bottom of a trunk the belt and sheath which have been produced during
the examination of the last witness. The trunk had "E. H. Morsley"
painted on the outside. It was a leathern travelling trunk or
portmanteau. I also discovered the fellow to the sleeve link produced,
which I found on the floor at Simpson's Hotel, stained with deceased's
blood. The sleeve link which I now produce was not stained; it is
exactly like the other, and has the same letters engraved, also
Ballarat. I then sealed up the door and came away.'

By Dr. Bellair: 'I was told to watch prisoner in a general way after
the murder, as evidence might be forthcoming against him. Do not know
why Senior-sergeant MacMahon did not arrest him on suspicion if he
suspected him. It was his case; I suppose he had reasons for what he
did. Do not know anything about prisoner or his wife. Have only
recently arrived on this field. Was formerly stationed at New England.
Have heard in a general way that prisoner was jealous of his wife. Did
not trouble my head about that part of the affair, it was no business
of mine. Believe it to be my duty, as a police constable, to prevent
crime if legally possible, or to aid in apprehending criminals.'

Mr. Markham suggested that if the doctor wished to examine the
witness as to the 'whole duty of man' as applicable to the police
force, he could not do better than consult that admirable manual of
regulations lately issued by the Inspector-General, and save the time
of the Court.

Dr. Bellair submitted that he had a perfect right to test the
credibility of any witness, and was not inclined to take for granted
the good faith of the whole police force, believing that they were too
fond of getting up sensational cases and manufacturing evidence which
rested upon the most fragile foundation.

As the details, which had been so carefully collected by the
sergeant, wrought themselves one by one into their appointed places,
links in the chain of circumstantial evidence which gradually
environed the prisoner, every eye in the Court was fixed upon him with
horror and reprobation. For him, he seemed wholly absorbed in his own
reflections, and apparently failed to perceive that he was the centre
of a thousand unwavering, unfriendly regards.

It was only towards the end of the protracted proceedings, as he
leaned heavily upon the front of the dock, that I marked a gradual
sinking of his muscular frame--a pallor approaching ghastliness
overspreading his features. Once only did his eye meet mine, when
arousing himself he stared me fully in the face, leaning on his arms.
If a look could have killed, my life would have ended there. Rarely do
mortal men encounter so dreadful a gaze. Such eyes may glare
hopelessly from forms tormented, accursed, in the Inferno devoted to
arch-criminals. Wretched and degraded as are the dwellers in the dark
places of the earth, even among them such demoniac malice is rarely
exhibited. I shuddered instinctively, and felt relieved to think that
this was in all human probability our last meeting.

Mr. Markham made a short telling speech, carefully confining himself
to those parts of the evidence which in his mind most conclusively
connected the prisoner with the crime. Whatever doubt their worships
might have in their own minds, it was not for them to usurp the
functions of a jury, to whom would be left the duty and responsibility
of deciding whether or no the evidence established the prisoner's
guilt. The plain duty of the Bench was to commit the prisoner for
trial at the next ensuing Court of Assize.

And this view of the case the Bench unanimously took in spite of a
tremendous ad captandum speech from Dr. Bellair, who inveighed
passionately against the insecurity and danger of circumstantial
evidence, and defied the magistrates to connect his client personally
with the deed which had been committed.

'The Bench desire to remind you, Dr. Bellair,' at length said the
Commissioner, 'that we are only acting ministerially. This is but a
preliminary proceeding. Many of your arguments, the Bench think, would
have great weight with a jury, but we have made up our minds to
commit. I would suggest that you are only wasting your own valuable
time, and perhaps that of the Court.'

'If the Bench have made up their minds, if they are resolved, no
matter what arguments may be brought forward, to take a particular, a
prejudged course, I of course cannot prevent it,' said the doctor, at
a white heat. 'With regard to the closing observation of Mr.
Commissioner Blake, I will observe that I bow to the decision of the
Bench as to questions of law; but the assertion that I am wasting the
time of the Court deals with a question of fact, concerning which I am
as competent to form an opinion as any man living, be he whom he may.'

Here the little man folded his arms and frowned ferociously at the
Bench, presenting a not inapt likeness to a frantic terrier
confronting a kennel of staghounds.

'Edward Hill Morsley,' said the Commissioner, deigning no further
notice of the irate advocate, and as he spoke the slightest sound was
audible throughout the Court, 'you are not obliged to say anything,
and what you say will be taken down in writing, and may be used
against you at your trial. Do you desire to say anything?'

'Nothing whatever,' answered Morsley, with the most perfect sang
froid.

'My client reserves his defence,' said the doctor defiantly.

'Edward Hill Morsley,' again said the Commissioner, in measured ed
and grave accents, 'you stand committed to take your trial for wilful
murder at the next ensuing Assize Court, to be holden at Russell on
the 20th January next.'

'Call up the witnesses, Sergeant MacMahon, and let them be duly bound
over to appear.'

This was done.

The prisoner was removed, amid the muttered execrations of the crowd,
who pressed to gaze at him as he was hurried away.

The Court was adjourned, and as I and my comrades walked silently
away, a load seemed lifted from my mind, in that the innocent blood
that had been shed would be avenged, and no mourning ghost, as sings
the rude folk-lore of her own land, would flit over the hearthstone of
poor Jane's birthplace, waiting in the midnight hour for justice
denied both of God and man.



Chapter XXXV



WITH no longer any reasons for lingering at the Oxley, I accordingly
made preparations for my departure at an early date. Before that event
could take place, however, the farewell demonstration in my honour,
which I had pledged myself to attend, was to come off. A few days
still elapsed before the preparations would be finally completed. Then
I should take my farewell of goldfield life; quit for ever the
avocation so familiar to me, the associates among whom I had dwelt for
long years, to embark afresh upon a path in life, if not new, so long
untrodden that it would be virtually strange.

My heart should have bounded with delight at the idea of once more
treading the soil of my native land, of mixing with my equals,
beholding my kindred, enjoying the thousand and one luxuries of which
the faint echo only reached us occasionally through books and
newspapers, or a stray denizen of those unknown far lands who appeared
without notice and departed as suddenly as he came.

But though I could not give a logical denial to this chain of
reasoning, the spring of my nature had been overstrained by my late
misfortunes, so that no prospective pleasure of any kind seemed to me
possible. What might happen when I had fairly cut adrift from my
present surroundings I could only dimly conjecture. I was willing,
nay, languidly eager to change the scene, but entirely reckless as to
the consequences.

To all my other griefs were added the crowning misery that I had not
heard one single word from Ruth since the last letter upon which I had
founded so large a superstructure of hope and gladness. What was I to
think of this continued silence? I could not believe that the whole
family had cast me off without another word. The Squire, choleric as
he occasionally showed himself, was far too high-bred to have omitted
to acknowledge the circumstantial narrative which I had so patiently
compiled in my defence.

But if not so, how was this persistent protracted silence to be
accounted for; what could have happened? I knew, or thought I knew,
the unwavering loyalty of my darling's nature, not less firm than
gentle, though loyal to parental sway. Had long-borne anguish of mind
proved too harsh a trial for that delicate frame, fit casket for the
ethereal spirit which it clothed? Had she passed from earth? And had
her parents, agonised with hopeless grief, been too careless of forms
and ceremonies to put upon record the unutterable sorrow to which they
dwelt ever a prey and a sacrifice?

Or had absence and doubt, with parental pressure added, sufficed, as
in hundreds of cases which I had known or heard of, to sway the
girlish determination; to invest a newly accredited suitor with the
charm and glamour which once were the privilege of one alone; who
could say? All things were possible during absence and
misconstruction. I deemed that I had good cause to be aweary of my
life--to loathe the sight of the sun.

Sadly resigned to the approaching fete in my honour, I took but
little heed of the great preparations, which were proceeding at a rate
which interested Mrs. Yorke deeply and caused quite a sensation in the
immediate neighbourhood of our claim. That worthy matron had just been
up to town to make some purchases at Mrs. Mangrove's store, and had
brought back the most astounding rumour. The Commissioner was to take
the chair at the dinner; all the magistrates were to be there; all the
legal gentlemen, among whom Dr. Bellair and Mr. Markham would
allegorically couch together, even as the lion and the lamb. Nearly
all the business men and every miner of mark on the field had taken
tickets. There had been nothing like it since the great Sunday-school
gathering in Verjill's paddock last Michaelmas day. Everybody was
talking about it, and Mrs. Mangrove said she was going to listen to
the speeches, and she, Mrs. Yorke, would do so too.

Kind-hearted Mrs. Yorke's prattlings did not particularly raise my
spirits, and I shrank from a festive gathering and the after-dinner
florid eloquence, which I did not doubt would take place.
Nevertheless, I would go through with it. And, after all, was it not
as well to have a permanent record of the universal good-will and
confidence of the most respectable inhabitants of the district,
showing their entire belief in my innocence of the charge laid at my
door?

I had strolled down a mile or two towards the lower end of the
'lead,' on the upper part of which we were working, and was calming my
mind with the contemplation of the far-off pearly sky-line with its
crimson shafts and quivering lances of tremulous flame, when, as I
passed along a narrow street, my attention was aroused by a small
crowd. Angry voices, one a woman's, rose in tones of alteration.

I felt more than half inclined to retreat, but the old feeling which
always impelled me forward in such cases was still strong within me,
and I obeyed it.

To my very great surprise I saw that the disputants were Algernon
Malgrade and Dolores. Both were excited beyond all bounds of restraint
which ordinarily could have controlled such temperaments. Her nature
was, I know, passionate and tempestuous, uncontrollable as that of the
roused tigress. He, to do him justice, would not have committed
himself to an unseemly brawl in the open streets, but he had been
drinking--his face was darkly flushed, and his utterance thick. There
was no want of steadiness in his movements, but I knew that he must
indeed have been drinking hard, and not for one day only, to have
brought himself to this condition. He was savage and reckless in
consequence, and having had, as he thought, some occasion of complaint
against Dolores, had given rein to his brutal nature and beaten her.

She, as before, was most wildly excited, shrieking aloud, calling
down the vengeance of heaven upon him for his cruelty and injustice,
and upon herself for her weakness in ever attaching herself to so
detestable a villain, cursing with dreadful intensity the hour she was
born and that in which she had first set eyes upon him.

All this was uttered rapidly and emphatically in a loud voice, with
the excited gestures and vehement action which belonged of right to
her hot southern blood. A crowd had gathered, evidently sympathising
with her wrongs. Anything more distasteful to all the instincts of a
man like Malgrade, low as he had fallen, dulled and deteriorated as
was even now his every moral sense, could not have been imagined.

'Stand out of the way, you fools,' he said, in a voice trembling with
rage, and with a look which caused those nearest to him to draw back
rapidly without further warning; 'and you, you jade, come home if you
don't wish me to knock your brains out where you stand. Can't we have
a few words without your calling all the field to share it, and making
as much noise as if you'd hired the bellman for a roll-up? Come home,
I say.'

His words were more or less jocular as he advanced towards her; but
whether the miserable woman distrusted him, or feared a repetition of
his unmanly violence, or whether, thoroughly exasperated, she had
become utterly reckless, no one can tell.

'Don't come near me,' she said, in a strange and lowered tone. 'I
made a vow before, but this one I'll keep. If you lay a hand on me,
you never were in such peril of your life since--since--you--'

Seemingly anxious to stop her mouth, fearful that she might repeat
something dangerously near the truth, Malgrade was apparently
incapable of further restraining himself. He muttered something and
rushed towards her as if with some violent intention. As he approached
she drew backward, still facing him, until she reached the open door
of the shop--that of a butcher--opposite to which, in the long street
which traversed that suburb, the altercation had commenced. In
retreating she was arrested by the large butcher's block which stood
just inside the doorway. She glanced at it with lightning-like
rapidity. On it lay several knives. She snatched up the largest,
sharply pointed and keen edged, and, making one desperate lunge at her
pursuer, buried it to the hilt in his body. He threw up his arms; one
spasm contorted his features; his eyes stared, widely opened but
unconscious. Then he fell forward, prone and motionless, at the very
feet of the angry woman. The jaw dropped. Algernon Malgrade was a dead
man.

Casting off my lethargy, I bounded to the spot. The features had
resumed their habitual calm. Blood was flowing from a deep small wound
immediately under the right ribs. He who but a minute before was my
enemy, her oppressor, was now a lump of lifeless clay.

With all the inconsistency of her sex, Dolores, the moment the deed
was done, and he whom with all his faults she--ay, so many women--had
loved, lay dead before her eyes--slain by her own hand; she threw down
the blood-stained weapon and, with a curdling shriek, cast herself on
her knees by his side, imploring him to speak but one word, and
calling him by every fond and endearing name.

The crowd which had closed around the corpse here opened to make a
passage for Dr. Bolton, who being in the neighbourhood had been
skilfully captured by an active young constable on duty and brought to
the spot.

He looked calmly and all unmoved upon the frantic woman, the curious
crowd, and the calm face of the dead man.

'Why, Pole,' he said, 'you and I appear to come in for more than our
fair share of tragedies. Deep incised wound, ex-act-ly above the
region of the liver; couldn't have been more accurate in her anatomy
if she had tried. Subject dead; not the least use in remaining. Death
must have been instantaneous. Constable Dickson, have the goodness to
inform the coroner that I shall be at his service at three o'clock
P.M. Better lock up that poor Dolores, or she'll do herself an injury.
Nervous twitching of the muscles of the face, incipient dementia.
Good-morning.'

This terribly tragic occurrence almost again unhinged my nervous
system, although at the proceedings which necessarily followed I was
fortunately spared personal reference. There was a cloud of witnesses
beside me; so that at the coroner's inquest, which terminated in a
verdict of manslaughter as against the miserable woman whom Malgrade
had driven by his ill-treatment to the rash deed, I was not called.
She was of course committed to take her trial at the next assizes, her
fate being in some inscrutable way destined to be again mixed up with
my name. For she had unwittingly been the instrument of vengeance
against the man who of all others had set himself most deliberately to
work me evil. He had succeeded in part, as one's enemies often do in
this world. But his punishment--was it the lottery of fortune or
retribution?--had come upon him swiftly and irrevocably. How strangely
ordered apparently that Morsley should be lying in gaol charged with
the murder of his wife, while his principal ally, coadjutor in many an
evil deed, lay dead by the hand of a wronged and insulted woman. I
believe now that Malgrade was in some form or other connected with the
murder of poor Jane. Either that he had supplied the information as to
the exact time of her starting in the coach to Sydney, or that he had
known that Morsley came up to the hotel that night with murder in his
heart. Cautious as Malgrade was ordinarily, I believe that he would
have dissuaded his more savage companion from open outrage, but his
intensely malignant feeling towards me, deepened since our conflict,
held him back from interfering.

Yes, I had been avenged on mine enemies. Swiftly, too, had the wheel
of destiny turned, far more so than is often given to wondering man to
witness with awe-stricken submission. One lay within prison walls,
whence the chance was slight that he should ever again see the blue
vault of heaven, save on the day when he was brought forth to die. And
Algernon Malgrade, whom but a few short hours since I had seen serene,
smiling, scornful as of old, apparently defiant of all men as of the
Lord on high, lay dead by a woman's hand in a street brawl.

And this was the end of the handsome, well-born, cultured aristocrat,
whom I well remembered meeting for the first time at Woolwich, when,
as a military cadet, he was the pride of his family, the idol of
doting relatives. Clever, brave, accomplished, popular, there lacked
nothing apparently which goes to make one of the most successful men
of the age.

Lacked there nothing? Yes, one thing might have been wanting. The
key--stone of the arch, supporting the fair edifice which now lay
prone and ruined. Algernon Malgrade had never possessed a heart.
Callous to the claims of others, and habitually self-indulgent from
boyhood, the moral sense, originally feeble, had been by degrees
totally obliterated. He had lived for long years a life utterly
devoted to sensual gratifications, stoically indifferent to the
feelings, the interests, the lives even, of all who might cross his
path.

And now, the victim of his own base passions had perished by the hand
of a companion in evil, whose soul he had dragged down into even
deeper degradation than her own reckless courses might have sought
out.

Dolores had spoken truly at the time of our encounter when she said
it would be better for both of them if they never again met. She was
his fate, though then he knew it not. And his death was virtually
hers. For upon the trial her manner so obviously told of a mind
diseased that by direction of the jury she was sent to a lunatic
asylum, where the sad remnants of humanity, once known in their
perfection as the beautiful Dolores Lusada, passed from mortal ken.

        *   *   *   *   *

The dinner given in my honour was indeed a very grand celebration in
its way, perhaps excepting the Sunday-school picnic alluded to, and
the Chinese riot, the very largest and most popular demonstration
known since the opening of the goldfield.

In conjunction with a natural regret at the departure of a comrade,
there was no doubt a widely-felt desire to convince me that the
popular sympathy was wholly with me in the matter of my trial and
unjust incarceration. And in this sentiment all classes, all orders
and conditions of men, appeared to share, from the Commissioner to the
bellman.

At a certain hour, late in the afternoon, I walked up to the long
room at Hennessy's, the very apartment indeed in which Jack Bulder had
transacted his delirium. That worthy and energetic personage now
accompanied me, as also the Major, Olivera, and my true follower and
henchman Joe. They formed a sort of bodyguard on the present occasion,
as did the sons of Torquil of the Oak to the youthful and lucklessly
irresolute chieftain of the Clan Quhele.

In the room above referred to were about a hundred and fifty persons
assembled, while the gallery was filled with the feminine contingent,
who had mustered in great force, in order to witness the ceremonial
and hear the speeches.

It would be easy and apparently natural to say that all this kind of
thing is a bore and an infliction that people would decline thankfully
were the opportunity afforded. But few men are so constituted as to be
totally indifferent to the nature of the feeling with which they are
regarded by any community in which they have long resided. And when,
in spontaneous unbought goodwill, an attempt is made to formulate the
silent opinion of character and conduct which has grown up in the
course of years, 'cold must be the heart, and strangely impervious to
the strongest natural impulses of humanity, that is not stirred to
sympathetic appreciation and manly gratefulness.

Calmly, well nigh indifferently, as I had schooled myself to regard
this demonstration from a distance, when I looked around the room and
saw the stalwart forms of the representative miners from many a well-
known locality, men of worth among their fellows and of trans-
Australian celebrity--I saw the officials, the lawyers, the
magistrates, the tradespeople, even some of the lowest members of the
community, brought there by approval and pure good-will alone--my
heart swelled and seemed for a moment nigh bursting when I thought I
should see their faces no more.

The Commissioner stepped forward on my entrance with his usual prompt
initiative, and thus spoke--

'Mr. Hereward Pole, I have been deputed by the gentlemen here
assembled, representing, I am pleased to see, all classes of residents
upon the goldfield and its vicinity, to present you with an address,
in which sincere regret is expressed for your approaching departure,
approbation of your conduct as a miner, a man, and a citizen, during
the years of your residence among us, coupled with the fullest
sympathy in the matter of the late unhappy occurrences to which I will
not further allude. This address concludes with an earnest hope that
your visit to Europe may be productive of lasting happiness, and that
all good fortune may be in store for you which your sincere friends on
this goldfield can desire.'

Then the address, handsomely engrossed and illuminated upon vellum,
and containing more than a thousand signatures, was handed to me by
Captain Blake.

I read my reply, in which I thanked all my very good and true
friends of the Oxley for the warm-hearted and encouraging manner in
which they had supported me in the days of my adversity. I could
hardly express my sense of the delicacy which they had shown in
arranging that I should leave the Oxley fresh from receiving evidence
of their kindness and goodwill. This token and expression of their
faith in me, I should treasure and value to my life's end. On the
goldfields, working among them, I had always, despite of adverse
circumstances, been happy and contented, and I assuredly should recall
with pleasure all the days of my life the manly character of the
miners of the Oxley and Yatala. I again thanked them for thus ending
my sojourn among them in a manner so honourable and satisfactory.

I really had great difficulty in reading my humble composition. In
spite of all attempts at steady self-control, my voice would falter as
I thought how I had been forgotten by my friends and kindred,
renounced by my plighted love, and cast off by her parents; how I had
been apparently abandoned by God and man--left to the tender mercies
of my enemies. Yet the men around me, merely comrades in toil and
privation, many of them rude of speech, and such as at one time I
should have thought shame to have associated with, had stood by me
staunchly, and had nobly, delicately, considerately thus assured me of
their firm faith in manhood and in my innocence. Such are truly
periods in men's lives far beyond the reach of ordinary words,
ordinary emotion. One of these supreme moments I felt this to be, and
my heart welled over with genuine gratitude as it tremulously
responded to the appeal.

Host Hennessy, according to the Beacon, displayed his well-known
administrative powers which, combined with an exceptionally recherch
cuisine, had raised his establishment to its well-deserved
intercolonial pre--eminence. However that may have been, there was a
very creditable display of matters edible and potable, particularly
the latter. Wild and tame turkeys were plentiful at the Oxley, and the
highly respectable wild fowl known as the wild duck--the 'canvas-back'
of Australia--were as the sands of the sea-shore. Barons of beef and
saddles of mutton preserved the British flavour of the entertainment.
Kangaroo-tail and ox-tail soup disputed pre-eminence; but according to
Merlin and the Major, who were both authorities, the dinner was
extremely well cooked and well served. The claret and hock, sauterne
and champagne, with the other wines in ordinary use, had been
specially selected by the committee, and were such as no reasonable
gourmet, especially in such hot weather, could find a word to say
against. After a fair amount of law had been granted for the exercise
of the knife and fork, the chairman, Commissioner Blake, arose and
requested attention to the usual loyal and formal toasts to which are
granted precedence in all gatherings of Britons. In due time he
requested all glasses to be filled, as he was about to propose the
health of the guest of the evening.

'When I mention the name of Hereward Pole,' he said, 'you will agree
with me, gentlemen, that we are met to-night to do honour to no
unknown man. He has dwelt among us for years, and as a man, a miner, a
citizen, and a gentleman, he has fully entitled himself to our genuine
respect and cordial liking. He has shown by his consistent behaviour
on this goldfield that it is possible, while working like a man, to
live like a gentleman. (Loud cheers.) He has, as you know, staunchly
performed his daily labour in the mine. He has never in any way
declined association with the respectable and intelligent miners of
the goldfield. Yet he has lived in all essentials as truly the life of
a gentleman as if he had occupied chambers in the Albanyand had taken
his daily promenade in the parks of Rotten Row--ay, more so, far more
so, if honourable labour be placed before indolent self-indulgence,
the soldier in the camp before the courtier in the palace. That there
are others I am aware, many others, equally well born, well educated,
well conducted, among the great army of industry, which I am proud
after a fashion to rule over. Such men, as long as they are true to
themselves, will always be treated with all proper respect by their
fellow--miners who have not had the same early advantages. They were
indeed more popular for being gentlemen by birth than otherwise. A
manly workman, no matter what his occupation might be, was always
proud and pleased to associate with a comrade better instructed than
himself. The benefit was mutual and mutually recognised. Turning from
these considerations, which, however, had impressed themselves upon
his mind during a lengthened experience, he would call upon the
gentlemen assembled, residents of all classes upon the goldfield, to
confirm his statement, that no miner more respected and generally
popular than their guest had ever bade them farewell. He remembered
him when he and his friends, Major Treseder and Mr. Joseph Bulder, and
the late Mr. Cyrus Yorke, commenced mining at Yatala. Their conduct
had always been honourable, straightforward, and manly. One and all in
the claim had made good their title to be so esteemed. And no one
grudged them the remarkable, the well-deserved success they had
attained. (Loud cheers.) He would allude, and but lightly, to a
subject which would always have a thrilling interest for their guest.
It would be painful, but he had a reason for speaking. A grave
criminal charge had been brought against Mr. Pole. Circumstances had
led to his being arrested and tried on that charge. He had been
discharged, having been thoroughly cleared from all suspicion, even
the slightest. They were here to-night representing every class in the
community--official, commercial, and industrial--and as one man it
would now go forth that they affirmed the perfect blamelessness of Mr.
Pole throughout the whole affair. He had acted with an unselfish
generosity and pure friendliness which was not often paralleled, and
they--men of the world as most of them were--were proud, for the
honour of human nature, to testify to their admiration of Mr. Pole's
manly conduct throughout the whole affair.'

Long and enthusiastic cheering resounded after Blake concluded his
peroration, wherein he wished me all the gratification the Old World
could furnish to the fresh powers of enjoyment which I should bear
from the regions of the New. In which pleasure pursuit he heartily
wished that he could accompany me.

If the amount of good feeling then and there existent in my case was
to be measured by the heartiness of the applause which greeted the
conclusion of the Captain's speech, and the sincerity of the contempt
with which heeltaps were avoided. I was that night one of the most
popular and well--beloved individuals south of the line. It was some
considerable time before it all came to an end--a large number of my
quondam pick-and-shovel acquaintances being specially anxious to catch
my eye before draining their glasses to my health and long life.

When matters had settled themselves somewhat I returned thanks as
follows--

'Friends and fellow-miners, I stand up with the feeling that it is
most likely the last time that we shall look upon each other's faces.
Thus I feel impelled to speak out with perfect unreserve the feelings
of my heart. Those among you who are miners--and it is as a miner only
that I wish you to look upon me now--have had that opportunity of
knowing me which years of association of similar labour done within
each other's sight can give, and alone can give. In such a life no man
can hide his nature, his character, from his fellows. They know his
manner of speech, his acts, almost his thoughts. His life is as a
scroll spread out for their inspection. If they believe the record to
be true, honest, manly--always making due allowance for the weaknesses
of human nature--they will be good comrades to him. They will be
friendly and courteous in prosperity, in adversity they will stand by
him like brothers--ay, as a man's own kindred often do not stand by
him. It matters not whether his rearing or theirs may have been
different, his former surroundings, his social position; if he has
come up to their standard of manliness and honourable dealing during
his career on a goldfield, the miners of Australia will yield him that
respect, that cordial good-will, and that help in his sore need which
is unknown, I believe, among any other body of men. I have lived to
experience the truth of what I am saying in my own person and in my
own circumstances, some of which have been, as you all know, painful
and unfortunate to the last degree. But I wish you all now to believe,
if it is any satisfaction to you, that I have been supported and
encouraged more than I should have thought possible by the kindness
and manly sympathy of the miners of the Oxley goldfield. When I leave,
as I intend to do on the morrow, never to return, I shall carry away
in my heart the undying remembrance of kindness received from all
classes of the people among whom I have lived and toiled, on the whole
happily. I thank my friend, and your friend, the Commissioner for the
generous way in which he has been pleased to allude to my mining
career and character; and I beg of you all to look upon Hereward Pole,
wherever he may be, as a comrade and a friend.'

When I concluded it seemed as if everybody was more or less affected
with the sadness of farewell sentiments. Mrs. Mangrove and Mrs. Yorke,
with some of their acquaintances in the gallery, were all sobbing
audibly, while even the guests, hardened as they might have been
supposed to be against the softer influences, looked rather
lugubrious. This was brought to a close by Mr. Bagstock who,
perceiving a change of programme to be necessary, took occasion to
rise and propose the health of 'the unsuccessful Miners'--an idea
which took immensely, and speedily restored hilarity. It was responded
to by Olivera, who declared his belief in the ultimate good fortune of
the class--say in twenty or thirty years--with such gravity that it
produced fresh bursts of laughter.



Chapter XXXVI



EARLY next morning I quitted the Oxley for ever, perhaps, and turned
my face southwards. The journey was this time truly uneventful, and I
found myself on the third morning once more in that picturesque city
which the sea-roving Anglo-Saxon has reared on the strand of the
peerless Haven of the South.

How divine a sensation, how blessed a relief was it to my worn spirit
to lounge aimlessly adown the crowded streets, and permit the novel
units of the surging crowd to imprint themselves half mechanically
upon my brain. Of all rests and solaces, surely none is greater, more
efficacious, than the abiding for a season in a city of strangers,
where no man bids you greeting, where none disturb the mystic peopled
solitude in which the spirit bathes and revels.

The ordinary adjuncts of civilisation were to me an aspect fresh and
fascinating beyond description.

The season was that of midsummer, often arid and desert-bare in
Australia, but the showers which the sun distils from the clouds which
flit across the broad bosom of the Pacific had refreshed the groves
and gardens which line the shores and heights. The verdurous glades
were emerald green between the flower thickets; the air was heavy with
the perfumes of a thousand gardens and orange groves; and the nights,
jewelled and bedecked with the lustrous stars that shine wide-
glittering around the Southern Cross, were to me almost magically full
of restful harmony from the measured rhythm of the surges which rolled
their soft murmurous monotones beside my couch.

As a matter of strict business I transferred my funds to the head
office of the Bank of New Holland, which amounted to fifty-three
thousand some odd hundreds of pounds sterling. I also made
arrangements for the periodical payments to the credit of my bank
account of such moneys as might result from the periodical 'washings-
up' of No. 4 and Greenstone Dyke. These were to be my last mining
ventures. I was too loyal to the sentiment of my order to relinquish
my interest in the good claims that had done so much for my partners
and myself. But I did not intend to tempt fortune again, or, as far as
I could control my destiny, have another hour's work or anxiety about
money as long as my life lasted.

Whatever might be my future course on the ocean of fate on which,
after this pleasant island sojourn to refit, my barque was likely to
drift so aimlessly, I intended to preserve myself from the sordid
cares which eat up the heart of man--'the rust and moth which corrupt'
but too often the best treasures of existence.

After a short but satisfactory interview with my banker, who,
studiously affable and courteous, assured me that the whole civilised
world of finance was deeply interested in the progress and prospects
of the Oxley, I proceeded to attire myself once more in accordance
with the family tradition of my order, and to that end placed myself
unreservedly in the hands of Mr. Knolley, the Poole of Sydney.

He must have justified my confidence; for a week afterwards, as I
took my afternoon stroll down George Street after a morning spent in
some more pronounced exercise, I could hardly resist the conclusion
that the well-dressed, hatted, booted, gloved individual whom I
encountered suddenly in a gigantic mirror of Palmer's palace of silken
sheen, and drew back respectfully from, must be somebody else,
certainly not Hereward Pole, late of No. 4.

By degrees I became accustomed to my long disused second self, the
Hereward Pole who was wont to bow to and causer with ladies, to dine 
la carte at good hotels or fashionable cafs, to mingle as of right
only with persons of a certain rank and position, to be posted up in
all the petite histoire and esoteric gossip of society, and to bear
myself--so soon do use and wont effect a change--as if I had never
known any other habitudes.

It is true that my face and neck were bronzed and tanned, burned
deeply dark where exposed to the merciless sun of the interior wastes.
And my hands were hardened and roughened out of all similarity to the
delicate feminine extremities which ornament the non-manual toilers of
the world. Still, I had always tended them after a fashion. Brown and
muscular they might be, yet still I flattered myself that in shape and
otherwise they still indicated gentle blood. I adopted gloves with
much trouble and weariness of the flesh at first, but adhered to them
religiously after I found they were working wonders in the complexion
of my unconventional digits.

And the sea--oh! the sea--glorious, unbounded, freshly beautiful as
each sun arose, lighting up the great sandstone battlements, the
scarped bastions upon which ages of storm and the unresting surge had
beaten vainly. How did I draw daily fresh health and inspiration of
tangible joyousness from the ocean breath, from the ever-changing
various wave beauty--'from calm or storm, from rock or bay,' all
savoured of the airs of Paradise, to me so long habitans in sicco,
sojourner in the monotoned wastes of the great Gold Desert. Ah! if but
she, my ill-fated friend and companion, had been permitted by a tender
Providence to have made this the first stage on her home-ward-bound
path of love and duty. But it had been ordered otherwise. And though
at times the terrible scene in which I had borne a part came as
freshly back to my mind as if the whole occurrence was stereotyped
amid the nerve tracks of my brain, yet the impression waxed feeble
with each repetition--thanks to that very feebleness of our nature
which so often acts as a safeguard from the persistent arrows of
remorse, the undying bitterness of a haunting memory.

I had selected for my residence a well-known principal hotel,
situated in what was once a fashionable portion of the city proper,
but long since abandoned to wharves, warehouses, and strictly
mercantile purposes. In the good old days when Sydney was a green-
swarded town, with a growing coast and island trade, and about thirty
thousand inhabitants, here dwelt some of the leading colonists and
merchants. Here they built themselves handsome freestone houses, with
noble verandahs and balconies and Moorish-looking high-walled gardens,
within which grew the banana and the orange, the loquat and the guava,
in tropical luxuriance and profusion. These pleasantly-secluded
retreats were towered over by the great fronds of the Araucaria
excelsa, and often in the clear summer nights, lights and music,
graceful flitting shapes and rippling laughter mingled effects with
the gleaming waters of the bay and the murmuring wave.

But all these things had passed away with the bon vieux temps that is
bewailed everywhere and which returns no more. The merchants had
become too rich to live among the haunts of commerce; they had
migrated to more newly fashionable suburbs, or sailed away across the
sea to lose themselves in older agglomerations of realised wealth and
restless hyper--civilisation. The gardens had become too valuable as
town allotments to be devoted longer to bananas and araucarias. So the
walls--old, true, massive walls, such as we see in Italian and Spanish
cities, behind which dark-eyed damsels wait languorous and expectant
for the soft-hued eve--were pulled down. The glorious spreading trees
were ruthlessly felled or rooted up--the Southern Dryads
notwithstanding--and the sacred soilauctioned at per foot to make way
for a mushroom eruption of stucco terraces and panel-gilt villas.

One of these fine old lofty, many-roomed, double-verandahed mansions,
carefully constructed of great freestone blocks, when labour was cheap
and leisure abundant, had been utilised for the use of strangers and
pilgrims, and was known as Batty's Hotel. It enjoyed a wide free view
over the bay and islets of Sydney Harbour, while from the upper
balconies were visible the grand and towering masses of the North and
South Heads--frowning lofty sandstone capes, through which, by an
entrance comparatively narrow and apparently more so than in reality,
the great liners, the huge ocean steamers, the white-sailed fleet of
coasters and seagull-fashioned yachts, could be seen threading their
way into the noblest, safest, most picturesque harbour in the southern
hemisphere, in the British possessions, in the known world.

This was one of my favourite bits of amusement and occupation when I
was not sitting or lying on the short thick doub grass turf which
lined the paved but disused streets which led down to the old wharf
and to the water's edge generally. Here I would lie by the hour gazing
at the moss--grown steps, with heavy iron rings rusting and unused,
wherever the light pleasure boats, the gondolas of the South, were
wont to be moored. In this new land, the necessary scarcity of ruins
make all edifices that savour of decay or vanished greatness
inexpressibly touching to the contemplative wayfarer. In imagination I
wove romances which fitted the circumstance of their crumbling
porticoes and trade-encumbered apartments, far otherwise occupied in
the past. I felt myself cast for the part henceforth of a dreamer, a
spectator only in the theatre of life. My career as an actor, as a
probable jeune premier, was past--irrecoverably past. Henceforth I
should sit mute, anonymous, in an unnoticed back seat, listening all
unamused to dialogue, the music, the oft-repeated dnoement, until
eyes grew dim and hearing dulled with age.

It was a dreary prospect, but what other could I hope to realise?
Mine was not the spirit of tireless philanthropy, which could go on
toiling for the benefit of the race without enthusiasm yet without
cessation--ohne Haste, ohne Raste--till the worn frame and wearied
mind lapsed simultaneously.

No! I had not so learned the gospel of life, neither had I
practically come to believe that human beings were in a general way
much the better for being helped. The world was full of shams and
impostors as it was. A large indiscriminating charity only created its
own environment of beggars and almsrecipients, as in old times the
abbey produced its crop of sturdy beggars, as the mushroom springs up
from the suddenly enriched and newly watered soil. When I felt aweary
of the purely sensuous, harmless, convalescent existence that I was at
present leading, I could put myself on board a mail steamer, and
perhaps brace myself to active virtue in the sterner clime of the
historic North.

There was one of these anachronistic mansions which I particularly
affected, appealing as it did in the character and beauty of its
architecture and surroundings at once to my surviving aesthetic tastes
and to the loneliness of my present circumstances; built upon the
natural terrace which sloped upward from a lovely and secluded bay,
and girt by a larger area of grounds, in which a small portion of the
primeval wilderness, left wholly undisturbed, had been most
artistically blended with every horticultural device which could
heighten the beauties of nature.

Much attached to the sight from early association and other reasons,
the proprietors, colonists of high consideration and great wealth, had
long resisted the encroaching tide of mere commercial enhancement of
values which had threatened to swallow up their cherished heritage.

At length, however, the golden flood could be dammed back no longer,
an enormous price had been accepted for the property. The mansion had
been cleared of furniture and now lay untenanted. The grounds were no
longer 'kept up,' and though no actual outrage upon the long sacred
privacy of the demesne had taken place, the sentence had gone forth
and Charlotte Bay was doomed.

There was something in the facade of the house--a noble mansion in
the Elizabethan style, built of pale, pink-veined, creamy freestone--
that strangely reminded me of Allerton Court. Otherwise there were no
characteristic features in common. But memory has a thousand strange
ever-recurring links and tentacles which cause the heart to stir and
tremble at the merest chance symbols, to others meaningless as the
mid-day sun, the evening breeze.

In this particular instance, I had no sooner set eyes upon the
imposing, almost feudal-seeming pile, standing in lonely grandeur amid
the strange semi-tropical woodlands, than the memories of Allerton
Court flashed before me with such suddenness and strength that I could
scarce control the impulse that urged me to passionate exclamation. So
vividly before me

'The old mansion and the accustomed hall.
And the remembered chambers and the place.
The day, the hour, the sunshine, and the shade.
And she, who was his destiny, came back,'

that I sank down upon one of the carved stone benches beneath the
gloom-greenery of a vast wild fig-tree, which had power to eclipse the
bright noonday sun; sat down and groaned aloud in freshly-summoned
agony of spirit.

Long did I sit there, half reclining in the deep shade and solitude
well nigh as perfect as when, in the previous century, the pre-Adamite
savage crept through the interlaced boughs in pursuit of the wild-wood
game. Long hours passed ere my throbbing heart commenced to be at
rest, and the paroxysms of my keen-edged regretful memories to be
lulled. When I arose the sun was sinking, the westward flame-pageants
visible in dimly burning gold behind the waving spires of the tall
feathery-stemmed Indian bamboo. Birds were calling to each other from
haunts deep in these rarely disturbed solitudes, curiously near as
they were to the hum and bustle of a large city. Slowly I moved
homewards. The waters of the bay, seen over the parapet of a low stone
wall, without intervening break of fence or building, seemed magically
mirrored into silver, gem flashing with the sunset cloud pageant.
Sullenly frowning down upon the placid glories of sea and sky, reared
itself Titan-like the great North Head. I paced along a winding avenue
leading to the outer gate. It was a garden of Armida. Above, below,
around were masses of brightly-flowering tropical shrubs. Palm trees
were mingled with the strange pale-foliaged trees, the eucalyptus,
casuarina, and banksia. The earliest discoverers had found and named
the very spot. A stone bridge, itself almost venerable with age, and
clasped with close lianas, spanned a narrow creek which ran under
great fern fronds and evergreen moss-velvet bars plashingly to the
sea. Insensibly the beauty of the hour, the fairy-like strangeness and
charm of the surroundings, acted as an anodyne to my tortured spirit,
and when I debouched from these sacred groves, as they seemed to me,
on to the red gravelled undulating highway, I felt like one who had
been redeemed from his appointed sojourn in Elfland, and from whose
eyes the glamour had fled for aye.

So strong, however, was the impression left upon me that on the
morrow and each succeeding day I sought the same enchanted spot, and
spent amid its shadowy lawns and sunless retreats the long bright
hours of the summer day. The sultry eve which in that southern clime
lengthens far into the silent, clear-hued, starry night often found me
still unwilling to change the realm of fancy for the abode of men.

I had made myself known to the under gardener, who alone lived on
the premises, chiefly as a watch against thieves and tramps. By a
liberal douceur, I had fixed myself among his mental machinery as
primarily a species of harmless lunatic prone to insensate wanderings,
but secondarily as the possessor of good clothes and current coin,
therefore well--intentioned and worthy of toleration.

Thus, though we seldom interchanged a word, an armistice, even an
acquaintance, was arranged and ratified between us. I was suffered to
roam unheeded through every secluded nook, every natural fastness,
every artificial addendum and improvement to the grounds. I came to
know at length every feature of the ample-seeming demesne, from the
cave in the natural sandstone rock, the fishpond, and the fernery, the
bath grotto, and the sea wall, to the lawns, where strange flowering
bulbs grew among the close-shorn grass, appearing annually as
regularly as the season, and yet with no record of their original
introduction. I knew every banana tree, the broad, delicate, pale
green fronds of which were alone to be seen unbroken and of perfect
shape in that sheltered segment of Paradise. I knew the birds which
dwelt amid the leafy thickets and darkly-shaded recesses; they built
tame and unharmed as if on an uninhabited island in the South Seas. As
I lay luxuriously day-dreaming in the mimic wilderness to which I had
become so strangely attracted, deeper and yet more deep became the
feeling daily that in some mysterious way this lonely romantic
mansion, these picturesque fragments of a world foreign to all the
prosaic realities of a sordid modern life, were connected with my
destiny and that of her who had been during all these weary years a
loadstone and a beaconlight to my heart--to my innermost soul.

Yes, Ruth, love and worship had alike centred in thee. Stormclouds
might have obscured thy divinely clear effulgence, gross earthly
vapours might have mingled with the ethereal essence of my spirit
homage, but thine image and thine only has ever been shrined in this
heart.

As the summer days drew on and the shadows lengthened, I made my way
for the most part to the boat wharf or jetty, which, constructed of
huge blocks of rough sandstone, had been run out into deep water over
the shelving sands. This piece of simple engineering interested me
greatly. I loved to lie at length upon the cool flags or sit upon the
steps at the end and think of how long since the trim delicately-
fashioned yachts lay at anchor close to it, while adown these very
steps, now all unused and moss-grown, had light feet tripped, while
musical voices and the gay converse of youth sounded where now alone
the wavelets of the rising tide plashed mournfully, or the wheeling
sea-bird shrilly screamed.

Hour after hour would I lie at length watching the sunset hues as
they gradually paled, and the bright tints died out of the sky, as
from a human face the warm tints when pain or grief has sapped the
sources of the blood; the evening breeze as it stole whisperingly
through the darkening shades, stirring the leaves which fell not the
winter through, and fretting the silver surface of the great water-
plain which lay so still and solemn under the star lamps as they
gradually grew into golden fire from the pale shimmering lights which
faintly trembled into being amid the azure depths.

Calmness, repose--soothing, consoling to a degree unutterable,--did I
find there in the long vigils which I ever and anon kept, rousing
myself with difficulty at midnight and pacing dreamily back to my
hotel. As the days wore on and the year had entered upon its second
month, that one which is esteemed of the highest in temperature, the
most scorchingly severe even in the fierce summer of the South, I felt
that my spirit had entered upon a fresh stage of existence, that I had
acquired a new the strength and endurance of ill which would enable me
to recreate the fragments of my long past trust in a beneficent
Providence.

Gradually, in these day-dreams and midnight musings, there came to me
an immeasurably deep and solemn conviction of the folly of resisting
the immutable decrees of Fate. What was I--what was a nation of such
atoms in the sight of the Omnipotent--that one should dare to complain
of the preordained, eternally immutable course of events? Were the
colossal forces of Nature, the dread laws of existence which governed
the immensities and eternities, to be set aside that such an ephemeris
as I should sport its hour in the sun? What were all the ills of life
compared to the furies which were evolved from a man's own conscience?
These I could confront with clearest countenance. For the rest, let
worse or better come. I was prepared for all.



Chapter XXXVII



ONE sultry morn, according to my custom, I sought my favourite haunt,
to which I now considered myself to hold a kind of title, and lay
dreamily upon the shaded greensward in true southern abandon. During
the earlier part of the day the heat had been intense; and as I
thought of the parched uplands of the Oxiey, at that season so burning
and breezeless, I wondered how I could have endured so long the
Sahara-like summers which there prevailed. Here, in this wondrous Eden
shade, all sun-glare was banished; the sun rays seemed only to
penetrate the leafy screen to be transmuted into the languorous summer
warmth that was free from all tinge of earthly discomfort--a lotus-
eating, luxurious sensation, nothing more.

Noon had long passed. The ocean breeze came sighing over the
burnished wavelets, the yellow shore, the silent groves. All nature
hasted to revive and revel in the approach of eve. I had strolled out
to my station on the end of the stone pier, and mechanically gazed at
one of the ocean liners which had arrived that day from Europe, and
was anchored at no great distance.

I fell to speculating idly upon the intentions and probable projects
of the passengers, who were even now commencing the long, and
perchance wearisome, sojourn of colonisation. Were they doubting and
fearing, or hoping all things, even as I had done in the same long
past period which I could so distinctly remember. Then I saw a boat
put off from the ship and row towards the shore.

It was an eve superb in tropical beauty--such a one surely that, if
placed with absolute correctness upon canvas, would provoke the taunts
of those critics who condemn all apparent richness of colouring as
unnaturally heightened, and thus false to nature. The numberless tiny
headlands, wooded or greenswarded, with shining waveless bays nestled
between, harbours for fairy fleets, the long incline of groves and
gardens, the lawns and terraces of which in so many instances seemed
crowded, as in old Italian pictures, to the sea rim, presenting in
their half-wild, half-cultured condition the effective contrasts of a
new land. The tall araucarias stood columnar on every height, giving
dignity and ordered beauty to the landscape. The white walls of
stately mansions and trim villas gleamed freshly bright among the dim
woods, shining like Grecian temples in the olden days of earth's
glory; while, as the western sky beame gradually empurpled and aflame
with the gorgeous pageantry of the dying sun, an unearthly brilliancy
appeared to illumine the scene, more akin to theatrical effects of
light and colour than the mere summer splendour of the hour.

As the boat was rowed, a fairy bark through a gold-empurpled sea, to
the shore, being steered, as it seemed to me, on a course that would
bring her nearer than I at first thought to the solitary disused pier,
I arose and prepared to retire, a growing dislike to strangers having
become with me intensified of late.

An inexplicable feeling restrained me. I remained. I looked
earnestly, fixedly, at the occupants of the boat. Besides the crew and
an officer of the ship, who steered, there were two ladies and a
gentleman, an elderly man I conjectured from his way of sitting.

Whether it were fancy or not I could not tell, but they appeared to
be likely to land upon the pier, my pier. After spending some time,
with stationary boat, in looking long and with interest at Charlotte
Bay House, the boat moved swiftly up to the stone steps, and the man
whom I had correctly taken to be an officer of the newly-arrived
vessel leaped ashore and fastened the rope in the boat's stem to an
iron ring affixed to the largest block.

'This is the place,' he said. 'This is Charlotte Bay, I think the
most beautiful spot in all our beautiful harbour. The pilot said it
was for sale; but if it has not been sold, we shall be able to look
over it. We have just time to see the house and garden, Miss Allerton,
before it gets dark. Perhaps this gentleman can tell us if we are
trespassing?'

At the sound of that name, of her name, I drew myself up with a
sudden impulse, and gazed eagerly at the individuals composing the
little party. An old lady, a gray-haired elderly man of distinguished
air, and a young lady walking feebly and closely veiled. Gracious
Lord! Could it be? Had the God of infinite mercy and wisdom heard my
prayers, and did I again behold my lost love in this half-enchanted
wild, on the strange far land on which I never dreamed that her foot
should press?

'No one will prevent you,' said I, quietly, to the sailor, a bright-
eyed, stalwart youngster, one of those gallant offshoots of the old
Norse brood, whom the Motherland sends out yearly on the decks of her
still increasing fleet to plant her standard and win new empires on
the furthest bounds of the round world.

'The young lady wishes to see the house--a fancy of hers puts her in
mind of home,' he said in explanation to me, as of a matter in which
he scarcely, but for courtesy's sake, sympathised. 'Perhaps you know
the paths hereabouts--they are not quite plain sailing?'

I bowed and walked ahead, closely followed by the whole party. I had
felt too deeply agitated to think of making myself known as yet. I
could not see her face, but I fastened my eyes on the form, the
outlines of which I so well knew.

'What a beautiful house!' said the young lady, for the first time
drawing up her veil. 'What a delicately-coloured stone; and oh, what a
fairy land of a garden. How glad I am that we came to this country,
darling mother, though I am afraid you and my father do not share all
my rapture. I feel as if I must soon get well now. I am ever so much
better already.'

'My darling,' said dear old Mrs. Allerton, 'your father and I live
only for you. You do not need to be told that. And this certainly is a
most beautiful place, and the climate deliciously mild when it is not
too hot. But what made you take such a fancy to come and see this
particular house? There seem to be many beautiful ones on the shores
of the harbour.'

'Don't you know, mother dearest; surely you must see,' she said.
'Why, that part of the southern wing is just like the one at Allerton
Court. It has a tiny rose garden and lawn just like the one the new
gardener made for me the year he left England. Oh, I cannot tell why,
but the feeling came over me at once as I saw it from the ship that in
some sort of way connected Hereward with this house--the one I saw in
my dream the week before we left England.'

'But, Ruth dearest, you said just now that this house put you in
mind of the old Court,' said the Squire.

I thought the frank face changed, the form aged, the bold,
undoubting, fearless regard altered, and my heart sank as an in ward
monitor suggested that I was not wholly without responsibility for the
decadence.

'Oh, but I told you at the time, my own good daddy, that the house I
saw in my dream, where we should hear of or meet with Hereward, was
like Allerton Court. Indeed, I never expected to see any house half so
beautiful as this at the other side of the world. I feel convinced
that this is the very place. My hope is renewed now that we may see
him shortly; then all doubt will be explained and disappear.'

'God grant it,' said the Squire fervently. 'But for your health's
sake, my darling, we should never have taken this long voyage, which
now seems to me the wisest thing we could have done. But the stars are
coming out. How large and bright they are. We must get back to our
good ship. We shall be all sorry to leave her to-morrow.'

During this conversation I stood like a being of another planet. I
felt as might the fabled possessor of the ring of Gyges, as though,
myself invisible, I was privileged to see the acts and hear the speech
of those who were to me at present the most important personages on
the earth's surface.

They knew me not. How should they in that dim half-shadowy
atmosphere connect the tall bronzed muscular man with the fair-faced
English stripling who had quitted England nearly seven years since.

And now my prayers had been granted, though in a way that in my
blindness I had never for one moment thought of, deeming it a thing
impossible that the Squire and Mrs. Allerton, representatives of those
English families which seem firmly rooted as their ancestral oaks,
should ever set foot upon Australian soil. Yet, though I felt a well-
nigh irresistible impulse to declare myself at the first moment when
the well-known voice fell like long-remembered music upon my ears--the
face which to me was as that of a seraph's was again presented to my
astonished gaze--yet another feeling equally strong caused me,
inexplicable as it may seem, to hesitate and finally to refrain.

When Ruth's veil was lifted it was at once apparent to me that the
almost transparently delicate features, the pathetic expression of the
bright wistful eyes, the too slender though still graceful form,
betokened but too surely the recent inroad of disease. Without doubt a
happier period of change and improvement had set in, most probably
with the voyage. Still I read but too plainly in the undisguised
anxiety with which both the Squire and his wife regarded their charge
and her every movement that but a short period must have elapsed since
the most torturing phase of fear and doubt had existed for them with
regard to her very life. And dared I now hazard, in whatever slight
degree, that precious, that inestimable gift of heaven, the health of
this fragile maiden? Had I said impulsively, 'I am Hereward Pole,'
what nervous injury to an already weakened frame might not the sudden
shock have produced?'

No--patience and self-command must still be mine. They were to leave
the vessel to--morrow, and I should have no difficulty in discovering
their hotel, if indeed they did not come to Batty's and locate
themselves beneath the same roof as myself.

In a few moments the plash of oars told me that they had sought the
protection of the noble ship which had brought them across the ocean
in safety. As favoured passengers they had been made welcome to stay
during their convenience after their arrival in port. To-morrow I
gathered that they had decided to establish themselves for a season in
Sydney.

They had departed. I was left alone to determine upon my course.
Wonderful and astonishing as were the events which had now manifested
themselves, they had not confused my brain; rather I had felt more
cool and composed than at any time since the commencement of my
misfortunes.

I could see it all now. Part of the history I read aright in the face
of my own beloved Ruth when I had the first brief glance of her
countenance at Charlotte Bay. There was graved the whole tale of my
unanswered letter, of the silence and uncertainty under which I had
languished so long.

This was the key to the mystery. Strong in her immortal love she had
borne all too patiently, and with mute inward struggling against the
gnawing worm of grief, the pangs of doubt and fear, her brave pure
spirit had been loath to succumb. Then her health had suffered, nearer
and nearer still to the dark bourne had her fragile frame, the
tremulous casket of the love-lamp, drifted.

The Squire had suddenly decided as the most direct and satisfactory
method by which the mystery could be solved to set sail for Australia.
Once there it would be comparatively easy to find out the rights of
the matter. My character, my acts would be then manifested clearly. If
my career had been stainless, then my name and fame would for ever be
established. If not, for her sake, for all our sakes, it were better
that no further doubt or hope should exist.

Their necessary preparations, though serious, were not complex or
numerous. The family was small. Be sure that the Squire had the right
kind of man as bailiff by whom the property could be managed, and
rents handed over to his agent. The voyage of course was long,
possibly tedious. But what were wind and wave or unaccustomed travel
to the fact that health and happiness might again be the portion of
their beloved daughter.

It should be well understood before we take these imprudent
unconventional people to task for their incredulity and indulgent
weakness that they had no other aim or project in life but to see the
happiness of this child of their heart's best love fully assured ere
they themselves passed away. Strange as it may appear, and eccentric
to the verge of lunacy, they did actually believe that mutual love,
based upon simple natural predilection would, if circumstances
permitted its fruition, result in perfect happiness, or as near to
that ideal condition as mortals here below ever aspire to. Money,
position, fashionable brevet, rank and consideration, they had the
clearness of vision to regard as the trifles in the great tragedy of
human destiny. They were prepared, even if they found in Hereward Pole
a toiling unsuccessful man, discouraged by ill fortune, and despairing
of the long-desired goal, yet straining onward as through the dashing
wave and gathering storm the seaman gazes at the swaying symbol, to
stand by the promise made to him. If they had found me thus toiling
honourably, poor, yet loyal to the vow in making which I left England,
they would have said--

'Come back with us and be as a son in our old age; there is the love
of your youth, in her eyes truth in absence is still shining. Come
with us across the wandering sea. Let us see our children happy in
this short life of ours, in the old home where your place is still
vacant.'

So much of the end had now come. My eyes had seen the sight I had
never imagined in wildest fantasy, the denizens of Allerton Court
actually domiciled in the South. All was well. All was tending in the
direction of my dearest hopes. On the morrow I should seek out their
residence, and presenting myself before the Squire, invite him to
search into the records of my goldfield life, and form his own
conclusions as to the allegations made against me. I at least should
not shrink from the closest scrutiny--my conscience was unclouded.

But apart from any doubt which might arise with reference to these
considerations, a terrible and paralysing fear arose in my mind lest,
after all, all plans and projects might come too late. What if the
insidious wasting disease, the unseen foo that mocks the hues, the
aspirations, the sanguine confidences of health, should prove
inexorable? If death should claim his victim even in the arms of love?

I had seen the pallor of Ruth's beloved face even in the few moments
at Charlotte Bay; had noticed the slow weariness of her step--that
step that was wont to be so light, so fairy-tripping adown the
woodland paths of her home.

Was I doomed after all, when my earthly treasure had been borne to me
across the waste of ocean, to stand sadly by and watch the gradual
fading of this floweret of Paradise? What would be my agony were her
pure spirit to exhale now, prematurely wafted to the realms of bliss?
And what a pilgrimage would be ours were the sorrowing parents, with
myself, to cross the ocean home ward-bound, with every mile of wave
and foam increasing the distance between us and the grave which held
all we loved or could ever again love on earth.

Then I reviewed my own prospects. Would my altered form and face have
power to rekindle the torch of love, or would I find a foe in the
ideal of my own personality which had so long been cherished in Ruth's
gentle breast. Had the sterner traits of manhood, the traces of toil,
hard fortune, and anxiety worn away all the bright hues of youth, all
the fabled graces of the halcyon time that memory unwillingly
recalled? I knew not. But the very doubt caused me fresh pain.

I passed a sleepless night, and as the east slowly, almost
imperceptibly, raised a bank of pearls amid the gray dim cloud wrack,
I was pacing feverishly adown the balcony watching the gray plain of
ocean gradually beam into life. As the long tremulous gold line
gleamed in shimmering ripples across the pale wavelets of the
slumbering main, no sign of that daily miracle, the marvellous birth
of dawn from night and chaos escaped me. The life of the great city,
as if painfully, awoke and stirred and laboured. Seabirds and light
graceful boats with sails as white, and speed as free, swept over the
enfranchised sea-plain. A huge steamer came through the harbour
portals breasting the churning waves, and throbbing as if with pride
throughout her mighty frame. Power, freedom, and volition seemed
granted to all but me, as if by some magic spell, upon the folding of
the trailing garments of the night. I alone felt aweary of the sun,
sadly distrusting what the day had in store for me. I strolled down to
one of the hermitages which once were piers and bath--houses, and
casting myself recklessly into the briny water swam far out into the
bay, only returning when forced to own to myself that the long swim
had taxed even my practised muscles. But the tone of my nervous system
was braced and renovated by the exercise, and I felt strengthened for
the endurance of the day's ordeal.



Chapter XXXVIII



I CONSUMED the first hours of the morning in a quest among the large
hotels, those modern caravanserais where the solvent stranger in a new
land chiefly finds a home. To my great surprise I found no trace of
the Allerton family. I sought with gradually increasing anxiety. In
vain I hurried round the city at the utmost speed that my hansom
cabman, stimulated by wild offers of increased payment, could sustain.
Apparently no such persons existed among the travelling public, easy
to trace as European passengers of distinction generally are in
Sydney.

I cursed my negligence in not procuring their address from the
officers of the Somersetshire, who no doubt had heard of the Squire's
destination, and were certain to be entertained by him after landing.

As a last resource I thought of the Clubs. Of course--how dull I was
not to have known that the Squire must have introductions, which would
secure his being at once made an honorary member of the Australian or
the Junction.

Driving up to the senior establishment I dashed into the hall, and
with an air of anxiety which evidently puzzled the waiter inquired if
Mr. Allerton was a member, and, if so, at present in the house?

That seraph in livery replied deliberately, but in accents to me
resembling the music of the spheres.

'Hon'rary member, sir. Mr. Allerton have just gone into the
billiard--room, sir. What name shall I say? Please to walk into the
strangers' room, sir.'

I almost tottered as I entered an apartment which conveyed no idea of
the proverbial luxuriousness of club upholstery. Seizing a pen, I
scribbled 'Hereward Pole' upon a sheet of note paper and handed it to
the angelic messenger.

I stood before the fireplace bracing my nerves, like one who awaits
the dread summons of fate, striving in vain to appear cool and
collected. I roused myself after a few seconds with the consciousness
that I had done no wrong; nay, had indeed achieved the task which in
the pride of my youth I had so lightly set myself to accomplish.

In another moment the quick active step sounded in my ears, which I
remembered so well in the corridors of Allerton Court. The door
opened, and the Squire stood before me.

He gazed for one moment at me with strange, unrecognising air; then
his frank features lighting up with their old kindly expression, he
exclaimed--

'Good God! Hereward, my boy, is it you at last? And to think that I
should not have known you. By Jove! though, what a man you have
grown.'

He was holding out his hand, which I shook warmly. What memories did
that touch evoke. I tried to speak, but no word would come. The tears
rolled down my cheeks as if indeed I had been the sensitive boy he
remembered at the old Kentish village, against whom he never dreamed
of guarding as a suitor for his daughter's love.

Mr. Allerton looked steadfastly at me with an eye still bright and
piercing in its regard. Then his face softened still more, and he
turned away his head visibly affected.

'My dear boy,' he said at length, 'there need be but few words
between us. That I have doubted, I frankly confess. Appearances were
against you. I see before me, in spite of all that has come and gone,
the same true-hearted fellow that left old England, and that I was
proud to call my son. But come along outside. My heart is too full for
talk in a house. Let us have a stroll in this lovely sea-park of
yours.'

In a few moments we were passing along the avenue which leads towards
the Bay, bordered on the hither side by shining tropical-foliaged
trees, comparatively old, through the stately pleasaunce which a
former governor reserved for the citizens of the nation yet unborn.
Safe from interruption, and shut out from all sounds but the low
whispering of the great fern fronds and thick--massed foliage, stirred
by the faint ocean breeze, I poured out my heart as to a father, soon
convincing the placable and trusting Squire of the falsehood of all
aspersions upon my loyalty and truth.

I roughly sketched the circumstances of my mining career, describing
my companions and detailing the history from first to last of my
friendship with Jane Mangold, fated to so tragic an ending.

'Poor girl, and poor boy, too,' said the kind-hearted Squire, 'you
have had a hard time of it; your gold has not been cheaply purchased.
I am glad that scoundrel will be hanged at any rate. I am not sure but
that you would have done as well to have stuck by old England in the
long run. And we, that is poor Ruth and ourselves, should have been
spared more misery than I can tell.'

'Many a time and oft I have repented, Squire, that I ever left the
Leys; but youth is rash. The hazards that lead to fortune will never
lack volunteers from Britain.'

'Well, I suppose we mustn't grumble. It has made a man of you,' he
said, looking admiringly at my broad shoulders and stalwart frame. 'I
hardly thought you would spread out into such a heavy-weight champion.
It must be a fine climate. Hard work seems to have agreed with you at
all events. I wonder if Ruth will know you?'

'She did not recognise me at Charlotte Bay yesterday,' I said, 'but
it was late.'

'Yesterday--was that you? Good heavens!' cried out the Squire,
deeply moved, 'what an astonishing, almost incredible, coincidence. I
shall believe in dreams all my life after. Did you hear what she said
about the house she saw in her dream before she left England?'

'I did catch something of the sort,' I answered, 'but her dear face
so enthralled me when she raised her veil that the full sense of her
speech was lost upon me.'

'Most strange--passing strange,' mused the Squire. 'There is nothing
wonderful in her not knowing you yesterday. I had not the remotest
idea of you other than as a perfect stranger, though courteous and
considerate as we all agreed.'

I smiled.

'When did the dream occur?'

'Before we quitted England. We were debating the question of leaving
for Australia, a most unlikely thing to have happened, you must
confess, when our poor girl, then hardly recovered from a terrible
attack of brain fever, informed her mother and myself that she had had
a dream of astonishingly clear and circumstantial nature. That she had
seen a stately stone mansion, unique and remarkable of appearance,
standing on the shore of a southern harbour, embosomed in a strangely
beautiful garden; that she had seen you lying on a stone bench under a
vast wide-growing shady tree with tropical foliage.'

'That has been literally true, during every day of the last month,'
I answered. 'But how almost incredibly strange that the vision should
have been so presented to her.'

'Once I should have classed such a matter,' said the Squire
solemnly, 'with frivolous fanciful imaginings and harmless delusions;
but of late I have learned that there are more things 'twixt heaven
and earth than were dreamt of in my philosophy. I am in that respect,
perhaps in others also, a changed man.'

'And what fixed your determination to cross the sea?' I said. 'I
should never have believed it if I had not seen you all in the flesh.
The Dryads at Allerton Court must have wailed audibly.'

'It was a wrench, God knows,' said the Squire, 'but one will do much
for life--and our life is bound up in the welfare of our beloved
child. She, poor dear, clung to her dream-revelation as though it had
been gospel. And as the idea had given her fresh hope, and the doctor
counselled change of scene, we made the plunge. And,' continued the
Squire, looking kindly in my face and then at the blue waters of the
bay, over which the white-sailed boats were darting before the western
breeze, 'I shall never regret the step. Now I declare I have talked
till I am hungry and thirsty both. Come home with me and plead your
own cause with Ruth. We are in lodgings.'

'That accounts for my not finding you. I made so sure you would be at
one of the hotels, and was half inclined to go back to the
Somersetshire to find out if I had not been dreaming in my turn that I
met you at Charlotte Bay.'

'Why did you not make yourself known then?' commenced the Squire; but
looking at my face he read the answer, and went on. 'A natural feeling
on your part, my boy, quite of a piece with your old self. I see the
digging and all that has not changed Hereward Pole much. In poor
Ruth's delicate state--for though she is quite a new creature now, she
had to be carried on board ship--the shock might have had ill effects.
Still I think you will find her more or less prepared--thanks to this
wonderful dream.'

'And what was your fancy for lodgings? I almost thought you would go
to Batty's where I am staying. Nothing could be more delightful or
more luxuriously commodious.'

'Well, the fact was that one of our fellow-passengers, who hailed
from Sydney, recommended our present abode so strongly, the lady being
the retired widow of a military officer he knew, and a most estimable
person, that we took his advice. So our address is 580 Macquarie
Street, where my wife is spoiled and Ruth petted as if Mrs. Pemberton
was her great aunt.'

'I have heard of Mrs. Pemberton,' I said. 'You could not be in better
quarters, and as dearest Ruth's health I could see had grievously
suffered--'

'You say truly, my dear boy; nay more, she has been raised up almost
from the grave, but by God's great mercy she has improved in health
and strength almost from the very hour we began the voyage; so perhaps
from this lovely land, where all things are new and interesting to
her, she will return fully renovated. It only needed in my opinion
that she should have her faith in you justified. Come and tell her
so.'

It was not deemed advisable even now to risk a sudden interview. The
Squire confided the important news of my arrival and rehabilitation to
his wife, who with prudent limitations imparted it to her daughter.
Finally my long-lost, long-loved faithful one was told that I was
come, was actually in the house--that I awaited her in the next room.

The door opened, she came forward. One glance was sufficient. No need
of careful searching inquiry of feature for love's swift vision.

'Oh, Hereward! oh, my love! and do we then meet again? God is indeed
merciful,' were her faltering yet eager words as she sank fainting in
my arms. I supported her to a couch, and there, with her head leaning
on my shoulder, we sat steeped in bliss so rarely granted to lovers in
this changeful world. Sorrow and trial had disappeared; our passion,
which had been tried and tested as by fire, was still fervent as ever
after the lapse of years. I had wrested from fortune her favours and
smiles. Our hopes were about to be crowned with triumphant, if long
delayed, fruition.

The happy moments lengthened to hours, which fled unheeded, and still
we sat hand clasped in hand as she listened with deepest interest to
the tale of chequered existence, until, fearful of her failing
strength, I commenced to use my newborn authority by vowing that the
Dinarzade business must be over for that day.

'I could listen for ever, love,' she said. 'What romance could be
half so interesting as Hereward's real adventures to his poor Ruth.
Poor Ruth! Poor Lucy Ashton! How often have I thought of you as my
absent Edgar Ravenswood. Never has my heart wavered; but, unlike her,
I had the best, the most tender of parents; but for them I should have
died. I am not strong now; but oh, if you had seen the shadow I was a
year since.'

'But you will be strong again, my darling,' I said. 'In this fair new
land the soft airs and bright hues will work a magic charm, which my
love will deepen,' I whispered.

'Darling,' she said, clasping my bronzed face with both her delicate
lily hands. 'I know that I shall be restored to my old self. I feel
assured of it by some inward feeling. The cloud is for ever lifted
from my life. From the morning after I dreamed about that house--it
will ever be The House Beautiful to me, I shall love it till I die--I
have felt myself a new creature. And now it has come true. My love was
there, even while I gazed upon it, and now we are here together--the
love of long ago is illumined. I am too happy to die. Death has no
power over those whom joy transforms.'

We were aroused at length by Mrs. Allerton, who came to suggest that
dinner could not be more than ten minutes' distant; that the Squire,
on learning the hour at which we returned from the domain, had refused
on principle to partake of lunch; that, as he was walking up and down
on the balcony, frequently consulting his watch, punctuality on this
occasion might be judicious.

'Poor, dear old Pappy!' said Ruth. 'It is a long time since he gave
me a lecture on punctuality at meals, as he occasionally did at home,
for reading up to the last minute, and coming down after the guests
had assembled.'

'It is a good sign,' said the kind old lady, with a sigh and a tender
look at her daughter. 'I hope you will follow papa's example at
dinner, though I must say you have been a very good girl of late. Your
country, Hereward, will have the credit of curing her. I had no idea
that you were so civilised, I must say.'

'Many English people, my dear Mrs. Allerton, think that we
Australians are just emerging from barbarism. I hope to show you some
things and places which will bear describing when you return.'

'Oh, I promise you we are not going back till we have seen all that
is to be seen,' said Ruth. 'I find that I am passionately fond of
travelling now that I have fairly commenced; and I love this country
for your sake and all the people in it, except the bushrangers, and
they might have been worse when one comes to think, poor fellows. I
intend to go to the mines to begin with.'

'You may go anywhere you like, my darling,' said the Squire, who now
entered the room, 'as long as you eat your three meals a day with a
becoming appetite. There goes the dinner bell at last. How any one can
be as hungry as I am this moment, with the thermometer at 85 in the
shade, is more than I can make out. I should never have believed it in
England. I wonder if they have got any of those delicious garfish for
us which we had at breakfast?'

       *   *   *   *   *

I had realised the ancestral paradise. A child of Adam, vicariously
driven forth from those wondrous shades, those emerald lawns wet with
heaven's first dews, the woods and waters of a world fresh from its
Maker's hand. I had been suffered to re-enter. The angel-guarded
portals, rendered invisible to mortals since that day of expulsion, as
goes the mediaeval legend, swung wide for me. To me, alone blest among
mortals, was it vouchsafed that I should wander amid groves hallowed
by the presence of a pure and perfect love, gazing in the eyes of an
Eve pure from every stain of mortal sin, as her guileless untempted
prototype.

Day after day Ruth and I strolled together adown the endlessly varied
woodland paths with but the whispering surge-voices for all friendly
auditory. We watched the moon rise over the silver lakelets of the
harbour, or threaded the mazes of the great garden-park, as the sun
drooped low amid the empurpled splendour of the wave. At such moments
life seemed distilled into a draught of supernal happiness at which we
trembled.

The days, while we gazed, glided. The summer waned, and the long--
drawn lingering light insensibly yielded a longer interval to the soft
appeals of night. My darling's strength returned apace, her step
regained its elasticity, her voice the fuller rounded tone which,
though subdued in ordinary moods, I remembered so well.

Meanwhile the Squire and Mrs. Allerton were not wholly unamused. The
former made numerous acquaintances at the Australian Club, and even
took short excursions into the country, where he looked with deepest
interest upon the highbred herds and flocks and studs of noble horses
which bad flourished under scientific culture so far, strange to say,
from old England.

'Most astonishing, truly wonderful country, this Australia of yours,
my boy,' he would say to me on his return from these excursions.
'Never could have believed that such stock could have been produced
out of England--and on grass, nothing but grass, too, that's what
beats me; no roots, no hay, no cake! How they do it I can't tell. It's
the climate, I suppose, and their being able to run out all the year
round. If we had such soil and climate in England our farmers would
get too rich.'

'But the labour, you forget that, Squire,' said I mischievously.
'You don't pay your ploughmen and hinds a pound a week, with board and
lodging, and fuel thrown in.'

'Ah,' said the Squire meditatively, 'there's something in that. The
weekly wages bill at Allerton Court would mount up if we paid at such
rates. But it's a splendid country, a magnificent country. If I was a
young man and hadn't my bread and butter ready cut and spread for me,
like some folks, I'd emigrate. It's the only career for a youngster of
spirit, I can see that now.'

'So poor Hereward did the right thing after all, daddy?' said Ruth,
putting her hand into the Squire's, and nestling her head against his
shoulder. 'And yet I know some people who said he was so foolish to
leave England.'

'Of course he did, pussy, and so did we do right in coming here to
hunt him up. There's no knowing what might have happened else. And I
know one obstinate young lady whose cheeks are beginning to look very
much rounder than they did. It must be the fish or the fresh bread and
butter, or--'

'Happiness, my dear old father, pure happiness,' said Ruth, blushing
and throwing her arms around that most indulgent of men. 'The doctor
in England, you know, said if my mind could be at rest, that health
would certainly follow. And here,' she continued, taking my hands with
both of hers, 'I have found peace and happiness, if such are permitted
on earth.'

'To that God, who in His infinite mercy has brought this to pass,
and to whom our prayers have ever been raised, even in our deepest
anguish, be all the praise,' said the soft loving voice of Mrs.
Allerton, who had joined us noiselessly.

And from every heart, as from every voice, in tones of deepest
gratitude and sincerity, rose to heaven the prayer of thanksgiving.

It was arranged that the whole party should remain in Sydney until
the approach of the mild Australian winter, when by quitting these
southern shores for England, we should reach home either in the merry
month of May, or when leafy June had summoned the full glory of a
northern summer.

To employ a portion of that interval, and at the ardent entreaty of
Ruth, I finally consented to guide the whole party to the Oxley
diggings, where their full comprehension of one section of Australian
enterprise would certainly be effected.

For several reasons, it may well be imagined, I had no great liking
for the arrangement. I had quitted the scene of my labours ostensibly
for ever. Customary, even exceptionally farewell rites had been
performed. There would be a species of awkwardness in re-appearing
upon the scene after my social demise.

I was to play also the new character of a gentleman at large in the
company of distinguished visitors from Europe, one of whom would be
speedily known to be my affianced bride.

Such difficulties and awkwardnesses as there were in the way, I had
full confidence that I should surmount. But there were difficulties,
even probable embarrassments, which the unrelieved dolce far niente of
my recent life disinclined me to encounter.

I made more than one attempt to dissuade my wilful princess from the
enterprise. I exaggerated the discomforts. I used the customary
English arguments: 'it was a rough place, and not, perhaps, exactly
fitted for people of her delicate nature,' etc.

But she turned the tables upon me by saying--

'Oh, now you are untrue to your good comrades and friends. I am
ashamed of you. Besides, you told me that there were quantities of
such very nice people there. I want to see the Commissioner, and Mr.
Merlin, and Mr. Bright, besides that delightful Major, and my old
acquaintances Jack and Joe Bulder. I remember Joe quite well,
frightening the rooks at sixpence a week for farmer Giles. In a word,
I want to see the romance of the goldfields before I leave Australia,
and sce it I will.'

Here my future proprietress stamped her foot, and looked so
deliciously incongruously fierce that we all laughed.

'Who would have thought that this was the little pale girl that was
carried on board ship?' said the Squire, patting her cheek with
intense pride and satisfaction. 'My darling, you must not take us to
the South Pole, because it is as cold as the North one, though you
might not think so; but we will go with you to the end of the world if
you will only keep strong enough to order us about. Hereward, my boy,
you'll have to take out three more Miner's Rights, I see.'

This joke, in which the Squire with pardonable exultation displayed
his knowledge of Australian institutions, brought down the house, so
to speak, and for the first time, half-seriously, realising the fact
that feminine steadfastness of character may demonstrate itself in
more directions than one, I surrendered unconditionally, and prepared
mentally for a newly--flavoured experience of goldfields' life.



Chapter XXXIX



MRS. ALLERTON, like most elderly ladies who have led carefully--
regulated existences in the ancestral mansions of an English county,
was not blessed with much curiosity. She held that the inconveniences
of travel more than counterbalanced its advantages, and, somewhat to
our joint relief, made up her mind to stay where she was. In the lady
of the house she found a most pleasant well-informed companion, ready
to afford her every kind of information about Australia without going
off the balcony. She feared naturally the altogether untried hazards
of a coach journey, and distrusted a goldfield as something between a
mining camp and a barricade. Thus she pleased herself and contented
every one by giving us three full permission to conduct the journey on
our own responsibility, and remaining in Macquarie Street till our
return.

'Now that dearest Ruth is so strong,' she said to me, 'and her father
and you are in charge, I think every change must benefit her. As for
me, I feel quite at home with Mrs. Pemberton. I never thought hot
weather would agree with me so.'

So, partly by rail, partly by coach, we made the eventful journey,
and much to my relief the latter part of the adventure was free from
any of the contretemps which occasionally happen to the best regulated
stage companies. The coaches were not unpleasantly crowded, nor where
there any inebriated personages involuntarily obnoxious and impossible
to quell except by the strong measure of leaving them behind.

We had scarcely reached the grand Alpine chain of mountains which
divides the coast lands from the interior plateaux, ere the greater
freshness and dryness of the atmosphere was sensibly felt by my
companions. Ruth's spirits seemed to rise with every change of scene,
and the appearance of the country, the open park-like forest, the
flocks which fed by the roadside, with such strange Arcadians in
charge, the occasional droves of cattle with their attendant stock-
riders, the packhorses, the swagman, pipe in mouth, stepping cheerily
along the highway, all these characteristic scenes and sounds of a far
land, were to her and to the Squire sources of unfailing surprise and
interest.

'How different all these people look from our labouring hinds and
villagers generally,' said Ruth. 'Nobody looks poor, nobody looks
depressed or dependent. You have no poor in Australia, have you,
Hereward?'

'We have plenty of people who haven't any money,' I say, 'but one
could hardly speak of them correctly as "the poor" in the collectively
contemptuous way we used to do in England.'

'That's because it's always warm here.' ('Is it though?' interjected
I.) 'People can't be really poor unless they have no fuel and very few
clothes as well as hardly any food. Now look at that man making such a
nice fire with dry wood in abundance. What is he doing that for? he
can't want to warm himself.'

'He is going to boil a quart pot full of water to make himself some
tea. He has probably some bread and meat in his pouch. Off these, with
the tea, he will make a sufficient meal, after which he will walk ten,
twelve, or fifteen miles as the case may be.'

'Why don't they drink beer?' said the Squire. 'Our washerwomen and
ladies' maids are the only people who drink tea in that way in
England.'

'Beer is neither so cheap, so portable, or so wholesome a drink in
all weathers and seasons. Bread, meat, and tea carry the Australian
labourer from one side of the continent to the other, not but what
they drink beer and strong liquors, generally, with all too little
unreserve when they can get them.'

'And suppose our friend's store runs out, and his money, what does he
do then?' asked the Squire.

'Present himself at the first sheep or cattle station at the time of
sunset, where he receives the dole of food and lodging for one night,
almost as a matter of right.'

'And can he do this for any length of time?'

'Virtually, the time is unlimited--until he obtains work to his
taste. If the employment or wages do not suit him he will walk
hundreds of miles before taking service.'

'So that, practically, the proprietors support a strike against
themselves, by giving sustenance to labourers who perhaps have decided
not to accept their rate of wages.'

'It amounts to something of the sort. But, at the same time, it
brings the labour to their doors, even at the outskirts of
civilisation. In the main, any differences of opinion on these points
between pastoral proprietors and their employees arrange themselves
easily.'

'And have you ever travelled in that way, Hereward?' said my fair
questioner, looking with the deepest interest, as the driver was
walking his horses up a hill, at the wayfarer sitting down on a log
and commencing his repast.

'Dozens of times, between one diggings and another, when we were hard
up--there was nothing else for it. You should hear some of the Major's
stories.'

'Poor Hereward!' said the girl, looking into my face with the deepest
tenderness and commiseration. 'How much you have undergone, and for my
sake! We must try and make it up to him, shall we not, papa?'

'You mustn't think that sort of thing the worst part of our life,' I
said, 'any man with moderate health and constitution may laugh at such
hardships under a sky as blue as this. Anxiety, settled bad luck,
sickness, debt, doubt of your ability to pay just demands, other
misfortunes, these are the true evils of a miner's life. And from
these,' I said, taking her delicate hand in mine, 'we may now, without
boasting, say that Hereward Pole is freed for ever.'

'Quite so,' said the Squire. 'A young fellow just about to be
married to a young woman, who has been waiting for him for half a
dozen years, who has made a fair fortune by his own exertions, and has
an old father-in-law who believes in him, has a very fair prospect
before him, as things go in this world; so don't let us have any more
melancholy talk--do you hear, Ruth, darling. I feel like a schoolboy
out for a holiday. I'm going to enjoy myself in every way, and talk
all sorts of nonsense till we get back to Sydney. So don't oppress me
with moralising. Your mother and I will have time to do all that on
the voyage home.'

I had written to the Major, and apprised him of my intended
reappearance on the field thus accompanied, and asked him to arrange
at the leading hotel for suitable rooms and accommodation. He was also
to inform the Commissioner and Mr. Merlin, as well as Mrs. Mangrove,
with other tried and trustworthy friends.

I did not wish to arrive at the Oxley entirely without notice. At
the same time I knew that I could trust to the consideration of the
mining population generally, as well as to that of former associates
and acquaintances, that nothing that could wound the most fastidious
delicacy would meet the eyes or ears of my companions.

In due time the Oxley, scene of so many toils and troubles, failures
and life-wrecks, triumphs and successes, was reached in safety.

Strange, and yet curiously familiar, looked the characteristic
features of a great goldfield. The winding streets, the net-work of
shafts, the parti--coloured mullock heaps, the thronging miners, the
toilers and camp--followers, earnestly energetic and yet so unlike any
other class of labourers, the throbbing clanking engines which worked
in such near proximity to many of the houses, the dull reverberating
clash of the quartz--crushing batteries--all things long familiar,
even to irksomeness in my own case, were viewed with the deepest
astonishment by the Squire and his daughter.

'What a wonderland! what a new world!' said Ruth, 'and what a
perfect treasure-house of tone and colour. I quite envy you, the
picturesque life you must have led here. My sketches will set me up
for life when I get home. There never were such opportunities for
"genre painting."'

'H--m!' said I. 'The vivid interest you display fades away in time, I
can assure you. All the same, there are worse places than a
goldfield.'

Old Hennessy, issuing from his well-ordered hostelry, received us
with respectful attention, and promptly provided the most comfortable
rooms. All traces of the journey effaced, the appearance of an
appetising breakfast interested the Squire and myself temporarily more
than the unwonted surroundings. He was specially complimentary as to
the cutlets and broiled chicken, and beheld with unaffected surprise a
magnificent cold round of beef, which occupied a secondary and
strategical position.

'You don't live on pork and molasses, eh, Hereward, my boy, in these,
ahem--diggings? I shall get quite Australian by and by. That corned
round would be hard to beat in old England. Beautifully marbled, and
just the right colour too, properly pink and not too much saltpetre.
How that piece of beef would astonish an old butcher at the Leys. He
never would believe that there was anything but kangaroo to eat in
Australia.'

After breakfast appeared the Major, 'showing great form,' as he would
have said himself, scrupulously turned out, and looking in every
detail of appearance and manner the high-bred personage he undoubtedly
was. With him, after a while, we sallied forth for a walk through this
golden land, where fresh signs and wonders met Ruth's eager gaze at
every step. Everything excited her observant faculty. The thronging
miners, the shops, the women and children--these last so sturdy and
self-reliant--the great heaps of red and yellow earth, which she made
no doubt were largely mingled with gold.

'This is like a town in Hans Andersen's Tales,' she said. 'How I
should like to set him down in Main Street--isn't that the name?--and
make him describe it in his charming simple fashion. All would be
gold-coloured, the bread, the butter, the beef and mutton, the picks
and shovels, the hair of the women and the beards of the men. I do
observe the lower garments of your fellow-diggers, Hereward, are
decidedly auriferous looking. Talking of that, sir, why don't they
come up and greet you; they haven't forgotten your expressive
countenance, have they?'

'It is a proof of the courtesy which characterises a mining
population, as I have often told you. They know me well enough, but do
not consider this to be an appropriate time for renewing acquaintance.
They are chiefly in their working clothes for one thing, and
acknowledging you and the Squire as distinguished visitors, they have
the sense to defer their recognition of a comrade.'

'Very remarkable set of people I must say,' said the Squire. 'I never
saw so many grand-looking well-set-up fellows together out of a
regiment of Horse Guards in my life. They don't look much like our
home mining or manufacturing population, I must say.'

'No finer fellows does the world hold,' I reply. 'Moreover, the
effect of travel has stamped itself plainly upon face and form. They
have most of them enjoyed a liberal education in that sense.'

'I thought there was something distinctive about them,' said Ruth;
'but now I demand to be taken to our claim, Greenstone or Bluestone,
which is it? As I shall be a shareholder I ought to go and inspect the
mine. Don't you think so, Major Borlase?'

'Most certainly, Miss Allerton. I know they are not prepared, but you
will be able to see how gold is actually brought from the depths of
the earth.'

'I quite long, I assure you, to see Mrs. Yorke and the Bulder
brothers, Jack and Joe,' she continued. 'How different they would have
been if they had remained at the Leys. I saw one of their old comrades
just before we left England, and he said--"Be you and Squire aiming to
fare to Horsetrailier all the way, Miss Ruth?" I said, "Yes, William."
"Only for to think now; moind ye bain't took by them kangaroos, Miss.
They do tell I as they be main fierce in some parts." Just fancy the
different degrees of development between such a man as William Wicker
and his travelled comrades.'

'I have an idea, Ruth,' said the Squire; 'you must get up an
entertainment, give a lecture on Australian goldfields, and so on,
when we all get back. Talk of development, it must be in the air, my
darling. Some folks are becoming positively alarming. Are your
Australian young ladies so full of speculative theory, Major Borlase?'

'We have them of all kinds,' said the Major, 'I believe, just as in
England. But I'm hardly an authority. Hereward will tell you.'

'He affects to decry your sex,' I said mischievously. 'You should
consider yourself highly honoured, Ruth, by the Major's attentions.'

Ruth glanced quickly at our comrade. The expression of his face was,
as usual, utterly impenetrable. But her quick womanly intuition
apparently read something in the melancholy eyes and haughty brow
which did not lead her to prolong the badinage.

'A man to love once and always,' she said to herself. 'He has been a
victim to some cruel woman, and has distrusted us evermore. Poor
fellow--why are the best men so often singled out for ruin?'

Then the Major's deep tones were heard.

'I used to think I had reasons to urge for my scepticism. But Miss
Allerton bids fair to shake my most cherished unbeliefs. Be content
with your own happiness, Pole, and don't add point to the misfortunes
of your less enviable fellow-creatures.'

The shaft of Greenstone Dyke and all its surroundings were much as I
had left them. The claim, though fallen off from its original
splendour, and no longer sending up dirt to the tune of eight and ten
ounces to the load, was still sufficiently rich to be regularly
worked. The Major himself had not felt called upon to continue his
manual labour. He supervised the management only. Jack and Joe Bulder
still preferred to work their shift as usual--the latter for want of
knowing what else to do with himself if he were suddenly to
discontinue the occupation of years, and the former justly
apprehensive that evil might result to him, in case he gave that
opportunity to the Adversary which idle hands are popularly held to
furnish. Wherefore, Ruth enjoyed the opportunity she had so much
wished for, of seeing her old acquaintances of the Leys.

John Bulder had finished his shift and arrayed himself in a quiet,
rather well-cut tweed suit and round hat, much like that worn by the
Major and myself before our arrival.

When he therefore took off his hat, and bowed with a certain ease
and quiet air of politeness to Ruth and the Squire, they looked
wonderingly, as if they had never seen him before. Then Ruth walked
forward, followed by the Squire; both shook him warmly by the hand.

'I never should have known you, Jack,' said she. 'Why, whatever have
you done to yourself? Now I can recognise your face again. Do you
remember picking me up once when I fell off my pony and the nurse was
so frightened? Oh, how curious it is to see our old friends so changed
and, if I may say it, improved.'

'Thank you very much, Miss Allerton,' said Jack, with much
composure, but, at the same time, with great respect. 'I've led a
roving--rather a wild life since I left the Leys, and I daresay I am a
good deal changed. It's a miracle, though, to see you and the Squire
here, looking so well, too.'

Joe was even then coming up the shaft, and so arrested the colloquy.

'This proceeding Ruth watched with the greatest interest, being much
astonished to see how steadily and cleverly our famed whip-horse, Roan
Bessie, effected the process. Joe, too suddenly shooting into upper
air and seeing Miss Ruth and 't'owd Squire,' as he would formerly have
called them, standing near the mouth of the shaft, was much more
astonished, and gasped for breath, looking from one to another, as
they both warmly greeted him, as if they had been denizens of another
world.

'You see, Joe, I have come all the way from the Leys to look at the
claim and the party,' said Ruth. 'You and Jack have been good friends
and true mates to Mr. Pole all through. He and I will always be
grateful to you for it--depend upon that, Joe.'

Joe was altogether too much overcome to say much. He stammered out
something about Mr. Hereward having brought him across the sea, and
that he'd promised to stand by him like an Englishman, and that he had
done so, he hoped. His service to Miss Ruth and the Squire, and he was
glad to see them looking so well.

'You look very well, too, Joe,' said the Squire, putting his hand
kindly on the broad Saxon shoulders, a good deal browner and not quite
so full of flesh as you used to be at the Leys, but in first-rate
condition and as hard as nails, I'll be bound. Well, you've worked to
some purpose I'm told, that's a comfort. I suppose we shall see you
back again some day?'

'May be,' said Joe, rather doubtfully, 'when the claim's worked out.
But that won't be this year, Squire. There's no use in leaving good
gold behind us, and Mr. Hereward here'll want all we can send him in
the old country, I reckon.'

'I suppose that's what you call being "dividing mates," Joe,' said
Ruth with a smile which completely overpowered the honest fellow, who
gazed at her as if she had been the tutelary divinity of all miners
and such as dive into the bowels of the earth for a living.

As for Mrs. Yorke, she completely won that matron's heart by walking
down to her cottage after lunch and spending a couple of hours quietly
with her, during which time Mrs. Yorke related to her most of the
events which had occurred at the Oxley and Yatala for the last five
years, with annotations of her own, winding up with the accident to
poor Cyrus which had made her a widow, and tearfully drawing attention
to the infant Cyrus, whose plump features wore much the same grave
uncompromising expression which had characterised his late father.

Apparently Ruth found special favour in Mrs. Yorke's sight, for she
subsequently informed me that nothing but actual eye-sight could have
made her believe that such a young lady existed in the whole world,
let alone in England, 'which the people as comes from there is mostly
stuck--up till they get their experience,' and that if I had waited
for her till I was gray it would have been nothing but reasonable.

Mrs. Mangrove also fell a victim at the first assault. We went there
together, and John was brought in to see the young lady from England
that he had often heard his wife rally me about. That worthy second
lieutenant found his custom of leaving all the talking to his superior
officer very convenient on this occasion, only he mechanically began
to fill his pipe, and being warned by a portentous frown put it back
into his pouch and stared helplessly around.

His wife received Ruth's thanks for the help which she had extended
to me in time of need with much good feeling mingled with dignity, and
would have it that she had done nothing out of the way, only in the
way of business, and such as any other storekeeper would have readily
furnished.

'The fact was, Miss,' said she, bending her keen gray eyes upon the
soft countenance of her visitor, 'that Harry here (Mr. Pole, I mean)
and the Major, and Joe, and Cyrus, they was such a straight-goin'
honest crowd, as no one could help backin' them. Storekeepers you
know, Miss, has to keep their eyes open. They know a man when they see
him, bless your heart, and can tell agood sort from a loafer or a
rowdy, you believe me. Many a time I've seen Harry here come in for
his letters, when they were getting nothing, looking as if he hadn't
had a good meal for a week. I never could help getting ready something
for him. And if he got a letter of yours, Miss (for of course I always
knew the home postmark), he'd look as if it was meat, and drink, and
gold, and everything to him for a month afterwards.'

Here the tears came into Ruth's eyes, the harrowing picture of my
probably emaciated condition proving too much for her.

'Come, Mrs. Mangrove,' I said, 'things were never quite so bad. I
must appeal to the Major. You took care that we didn't get so low, I'm
sure, and Mrs. Yorke, too. Don't you remember those beef-steaks and
the bottle of grog?'

'Well, what of that? You were both fools enough to have laid down and
died rather than run up a bill, and nothing coming in and no show
going. Bless your heart, Miss, we had to force it on 'em, hadn't we,
John? We knew their luck would turn, didn't we, John?'

'Truest word you ever spoke,' said John, surreptitiously filling his
pipe, and keeping a match in readiness for Ruth's departure.

'And now we've all seen you, Miss,' said Mrs. Mangrove, falling back
on a sense of power derived from a long course of important and
complicated business transactions, 'I can tell you this, that when you
go away there'll be only one opinion on the whole field--that Harry
has dropped upon a bit of luck that's worth No. 4 and Greenstone Dyke
twice over.'

'Couldn't ha' laid it out neater, not from the Bench,' affirmed John,
striking a lucifer match in the enthusiasm of the moment and blowing
it out again.

'Do you know I shall be quite spoiled if I stay here much longer,'
said Ruth, laughing, and shaking hands warmly with the worthy pair;
'but I shall know how to think of Hereward's good true friends when we
are far away. That's the reason I was so anxious to come to the
goldfields.'

'They'll all remember you, no fear,' said Mrs. Mangrove; 'won't they,
John.'

John all but dislocated my wrist in token of full approval and
private personal leave-taking, merely committing himself to a guttural
sound which might have been an echo of his helpmate's concluding
words.

He winked at me solemnly as the door closed, and an expression of
ineffable satisfaction overspread his features, while the subtle aroma
which simultaneously pervaded the atmosphere announced that the
unnatural separation between man and pipe had terminated.



Chapter XL



ALL the 'county people,' who are just as much a caste sacredly set
apart in Australia as in any other place, called upon Mr. and Miss
Allerton with prompt cordiality. After a few days invitations to
dinner and to visit them at their pleasant homes, for periods more or
less extended, poured in upon us. With some of these magnates the
Major and I, Olivera and others, whose social status was acknowledged,
had always been on intimate terms. And now, the tinge of romance which
clung round the fact of my long engagement being known, seemed to
intensify the proverbial hospitality of the district.

I managed by the daily use of Hennessy's well-known trotters and
double buggy to return the calls; to show Ruth and the Squire by
degrees pleasant homesteads and the great estates which lay outside of
the auriferous region. Nothing could exceed the admiration and
interest which each fresh experience evoked from both the emigrants.
Ruth's quiet high--bred manner, joined to the innocently joyous air
which had of late become habitual to her, gained favour with all her
Australian friends, while her genuine interest in the marvels of
Nature which everywhere surrounded us in this new world, gratified her
entertainers as a flattering tribute to the attractions of Australia.

Very much to my satisfaction, her tact--perhaps still more her
unselfish kindness of disposition--enabled her to strike the fortunate
medium between the indiscriminate heedless praise which colonists
distrust and the supercilious disapproval which they disdain. She
examined and compared everything of which she had former experience in
Britain; in the great majority of instances giving warm unqualified
praise to the product or custom of the new land.

Most of all, perhaps, did she please by her praise of the climate.

'I have good cause to do so,' she would say, 'for it gave me new
life. From the first moment that I breathed the faint odorous breezes
on the Australian coast till now, when I am revelling in this
beautiful, dry, pure atmosphere, an indescribable lightness of heart
has possessed me. No! Hereward, it was not altogether the sight of
you, miraculous as that appeared, it was the balmy nature of the
atmosphere. At any rate I shall live and die in that conviction.'

The Squire on this point was hardly less optimistic.

'How much we lose,' he said, 'by not travelling, by not being
acquainted with our own empire! Here I see England over again, only
under more hopeful conditions. Never saw finer meadow land in my life,
finer grain, finer cattle and sheep, while as for the horses, our
friend's four-in-hand, beautifully matched, turned out and driven,
would take high rank in the Four-in-hand or the Coaching Clubs.
Wonderful country, most wonderful! And to think that it used to abide
in my mind as a sandy waste, very hot and bare--a kind of second-hand
Sahara.'

The days wore on, and as we rode or drove through the great estates,
some inherited through more than one generation from the original
founders, more thoroughly gratified was the Squire with his
experiences, more deep in his denunciations of people who lived at
home at ease, and talked ignorantly of the labours and successes of
colonists.

'How little we know at home,' he was wont to say at the day's close,
when we were chatting over our claret in some of the well-appointed
mansions of the district; 'how little we dream of the empire which is
being built up here at the other end of the world, upon the true old
English foundations. And the people, too, regular Englishmen to the
backbone; that's what delights me; couldn't tell 'em from Kent or
Devonshire men, except that they're bigger, better fed, better taught,
and consequently more alive to their own interests and what's going on
in the world. Look at those teamsters we saw to-day, all native-born
Australians, I'm informed, not a man of them under six feet high,
broad shouldered, light flanked, as poor old Maxwell used to say, and
as upright and well set up as if they'd lodged with a drill sergeant.
We have plenty of good fellows among our farming men, and the breed's
not to be beat, but these are finer men, sir, finer men, though I
never thought I should live to say so.'

No wonder the Squire became so popular with all the gentry of the
neighbourhood. He was enabled abundantly to gratify his desire to
become practically acquainted with all the ins and outs of the semi--
pastoral, semi--agricultural life which surrounded him. He was taken
over and through great farm-steadings, where were hundreds of acres of
grain and hay crops, single fields as large as an English farm, where
droves of high-bred Shorthorns, Herefords, or Devons dotted the
meadows. He saw the woolsheds where fifty thousand high-caste merinoes
come annually to be shorn, and grieved much that he could not witness
the operation. There were mills and forges, racehorse and training
stables, shops and stores, butchers and bakers, all necessary for the
needs of the large population of workers, which sometimes a single
estate maintained. And in some of these large and complicated
establishments there was not a nail wanting, a rail out of place, the
smallest evidence of a day's delay or neglect.

'Another old-world delusion knocked on the head, Hereward, my boy,'
he would say. 'Always understood that you colonists, particularly the
Australian-born part of them, took life uncommonly easy, naturally
disposed to be indolent and so on. What do I find to be the case? that
for energy--not blind unreasoning force, but intelligent scientific
persistence--they exceed us, if indeed they do not beat us hollow. The
old country will last my time, Hereward; and there may be something
for your children, please God; but old England's going down, my boy,
and these new Englands across the Atlantic and Pacific are going up.'

The Squire might not have been so patient and persevering in his
research into the very roots of Australian institutions had it not
been that the climate so entirely suited Ruth's constitution, that her
rapid restoration to perfect health was almost daily visible to both
of us. The drier air of the interior, perhaps the most pure, light,
and invigorating in the known world, joined to the subtle penetrating
aroma of the vast forests of eucalyptus, completed the cure which the
voyage had commenced. Her light form regained its exquisite
proportions, her eyes the rare brilliancy which a pathetic incident,
or a touch of true humour in the old days ever evoked. Even at times a
riante and sportive tendency, which I had never before noticed, told
truly of the marvellous change wrought by the soft airs and bright
skies of the charmed south.

'We must get back to Sydney, young people,' said the Squire, with a
half sigh one morning as we sat in the breakfast-room of one of our
kindest hosts, looking adown the course of the winding river, the red
bluffs of which marked its course in contrast with the great meadows
which, dotted with sheep and cattle in their various enclosures,
stretched away to the spur of a volcanic range of hills. 'If we had
that land in Kent what hops we could turn out--eh, Ruth?'

'It is wicked to covet, Pappy. I am afraid you are growing
avaricious.'

'Perhaps so, but apropos to our return I really have noticed a shade
of mild inquiry in your dear mother's letters of late. I have been
obliged to put it all on the score of your surprising improvement in
health. And truly, darling, the bush air or the hospitality of our
kind friends, or the gum leaves, or the diggings, have made a new girl
of you. They won't know you when we get back to Allerton Court,
positively they won't.'

'And I feel quite grieved to go away,' said Ruth. 'Indeed, if
Hereward here had not disappointed me by getting so alarmingly rich,
just as I came out, I should have enjoyed keeping house for him at
Greenstone Dyke, I should indeed. Mrs. Yorke would have taught me how
to bake bread in a camp oven, and I should have been perfectly happy.'

'H--m!' say I. 'It's very good of you, my dear Ruth, but things are
just as well as they are.'

'Very much better,' said our hostess smiling--a wise approving smile.
'Miss Allerton is a true woman, and we all pine for self-sacrifice
secretly now and then, but les agrments are not to be despised in the
long run.'

When we returned to the Oxley, where we proposed to stay only two or
three days, en route for Sydney, we found all our friends ready to
receive us. To them was added Mr. Bright, who had been absent on
leave. This gentleman had long been an object of deep interest to Ruth
on account of his association with me in the terrible affair of the
escort robbery--a fellow combatant as well as a fellow sufferer.

The gallant banker was not at all averse to the rle of first
soldier, and presently gave Ruth, at her request, all the details of
that memorable engagement, describing circumstantially the death of
the sergeant in command, and the almost fatal nature of my wound, with
attendant incidents.

Ruth's newly acquired roses paled during the recital, to which she
listened with subdued earnestness, arising with the conviction that
Mr. Bright was a modern Bayard, and that my life was mainly due to his
valour and promptitude.

'What has become of Bagstock?' I said. 'The Squire promised to take
home some curios for his friends?'

'He has gone out to Back Creek on official business, I believe,'
said the Commissioner. 'Started before daylight.'

'Energetic young man,' said the Squire, 'nothing like attention to
business--most praiseworthy.'

Here the members of the assembled group exchanged smiles.

'It's something about a coroner's inquest, or an intestate,' said
Blake gravely. 'You were sleeping in the next room at the camp,
Olivera, what did you hear?'

'I was awakened,' said that gentleman, with his usual grave
deliberation, 'by Bagstock's clerk, who came to the window about three
o'clock. I just caught the words, "Glorious news, Mr. Bagstock,
butcher at Back Creek got drowned going home drunk last night. No will
they say--lots of money in the bank," but probably there was no
connection between the expressions.'

'Probably not,' said Blake, observing that Ruth looked deeply
pained. 'Careless young fellow that clerk. What did Bagstock do?'

'He said, "Shocking occurrence, you mean, Bunce; order my horse to
be saddled, and ask the sergeant to send a trooper to take charge of
the effects." I presume he started soon afterwards. I went to sleep.'

'The butcher has three or four thousand pounds to his credit in our
bank,' said Bright. 'Bagstock will get ten per cent as Curator of
Intestate Estates.'

'You don't say so?' said Olivera languidly. 'As good as three or
four hundred pounds legacy to our friend then. That accounts for, but
does not excuse, Bunce's reprehensible levity.'

'The butcher was bound to go soon anyhow,' said the Major. 'It is
rather a windfall for Bagstock. If two or three more of the same sort
occur, Mr. Allerton, he will be able to visit his friends in England
soon.'

In despite of our pleasant round of country-house visits, when we
returned to the Oxley, Ruth averred that she felt as if she were
coming back to the society of old friends.

'I must have an undeveloped tinge of Bohemianism in my nature,
Hereward,' she said, 'or I never could feel such an interest in a
community like this; perhaps it is a natural feeling of gratitude
because of their staunch kindness to you. There seems to me such
endless variety of character to classify, that if I lived in this
neighbourhood I should never become ennuye. Our dear old home is
sacred and delightful, but I must own that there is a dead level in
manners, customs, and conduct in an English village which rarely rises
above the monotonous.'

'You would make the same complaint here after a protracted experience
of the life.'

'Impossible,' she answered. 'Now look at that man walking towards us.
A most picturesque figure, is he not? you would not meet any one like
him at the Leys in a century.'

'He is an old acquaintance of mine,' I said. 'How goes it, Marco?'

The miner, a stalwart Genoese, with a grand black beard and a
tranquil pleasant countenance, carefully put down his pick and shovel,
and lifted his hat, bowing low with the courtesy which seems natural
to all foreigners. He then shook hands with me.

'On the whole, well; but our last shaft has just proved a failure. We
are now going to sink on a new level.'

'How long were you at it?' queried I.

'Nearly four months, six in the party.'

'And got nothing?'

'Not so much as would pay the blacksmith.'

'Oh, what a pity,' said Ruth sympathetically, probably picturing
Marco with a wife and family dependent, upon him for support. 'It
grieves me that such things can happen in a rich place like this.'

'It is the fortune of war, madame,' said the miner, with an air of
philosophical resignation. 'We must hope the luck will change.
Meanwhile, permit me to say adieu, and thank you for your kindness.'

He bowed again to Ruth, shook hands with me, took up his tools, and
strode onward.

'Now, there is a tragedy in real life,' she said, as he passed out of
hearing. 'I suppose such things daily occur here. What a grand-looking
man, so clean and neatly dressed, too. How nobly he bears his
misfortune. Could we help him in any way, Hereward? Perhaps he has
children and a wife in distress.'

'Marco Dorazzi is a bachelor, and is known to have several thousand
pounds in the bank,' I answered, smiling at Ruth's impulsive charity.
'A lost shaft, more or less, will not be the ruin of him.'

Bent upon making the best use of the short time now left to us, Ruth
persuaded me to accompany her to the homes of many of the married
miners, being most anxious to find out for herself, she said, how the
domestic business was managed. She so completely avoided all
appearance of condescension--sitting down and presently making herself
at home with the children where there were any--that the hard-working
matrons felt impelled to open their hearts to her on the spot. For the
most part, cleanly well--dressed children met her view, the elder
ones, perhaps, just returning from school, the younger ones, in all
respects, well provided for. Often a neat vegetable garden with a few
flowers and rose-bushes gave an air of comfort and slight
embellishment to their humble abodes.

'After all,' Ruth would say to me, as we strolled homeward, not
seldom meeting the man of the house returning from his 'shift' with
the evidences of toil plainly visible, 'these people live a much more
enjoyable and natural life than our English peasantry. Their cottages,
if not very substantial, are clean and suited to the country, such a
summer land as it is. You don't see those curiously-patched garments
so common in England. The terrible grinding poverty, with the
workhouse in the distance, that overshadows our poor is absent here. I
could have been very happy here myself living in a hut just like that
woman we just quitted. I am sure her rose-bushes were beautiful, and
nothing will make me think otherwise.'

'But the comforts of a home,' I remonstrated.

'What are the comforts of a home,' she replied, almost impatiently
for her, 'to a woman whose heart is eaten away daily and hourly with
torturing doubts or bitter griefs? She has a soft bed on which she
cannot rest, delicate food which no longer nourishes her, the external
shell of a life which is slowly perishing.'

'But you could not have lived here,' I persist. 'How could I have
asked or permitted you to come?'

'Why not?' she again asked, with the same earnestness of tone,
'because all the true woman is pared away, do you suppose, by the
refining process of high civilisation till no longer faith, nor
steadfast endeavour, nor patient endurance are possible to her for
true love's sake, unless under a lofty roof and amid crowds of
servants? That would be to make a puppet and a butterfly of her who
has the misfortune to be born among the higher ranks--not a loving
woman,' she added with ineffable tenderness. 'No, Hereward,' she
continued, 'it is all well ended I humbly trust. A merciful God be
thanked for my present happiness; but I vow to you that I would a
hundred times rather have lived in one of these huts and cooked and
washed for you as that humble woman there does for the man we just saw
returning, than have waited the weary solitary years which have
passed.'

'Why didn't you take somebody else?' I said. 'A man's heart more or
less does not matter much in modern society. I have thought a thousand
times that I had no right to keep you in pining uncertainty about my
fate.'

'That is possible to some people,' she said softly, 'and I do not
think I should altogether blame a girl who did so. But not possible to
me--not to me, darling. I feel now as I have never felt since the
first year you went away. I suppose you cannot well be poor any more;
but whatever happens we must never, never be separated again in this
world. You will have to make the best of it.'

Probably the best man living is wholly unable to gauge the depth and
tenderness, the ethereal pervading essence of her very nature which
expresses itself in woman's devotion. As I heard the soft chords of
that beloved voice vibrating with unshed tears, eloquent with half-
uttered tones, I was fully conscious that, deeply as I appreciated her
love and truth, I had but too often resigned myself to an apathetic
despair, while she, the solitary watcher in her far-off home, was
hourly a prey to corroding fears, palpitating on the rack of mute un-
utterable woe.

How unworthy was I of her heart's best blood, of her purest
affections, offered up on the altar of virgin love, for my sake, for
my sake only!

I could only tremble and wonder at the priceless sacrifice--could
only vow inwardly with a fervour which the uttered promise often
lacks, to partly repay by the lavish dedication of my future life the
soul's treasure which was to be entrusted to my guardianship.

       *   *   *   *   *

On our return Mr. Bright and Mr. Bagstock greeted us with much
cordiality, the latter apologising for his unavoidable absence, but
laying all the blame upon the inconsiderate action of the butcher, who
might (he alleged) just as well have waited another week.

Ruth looked grave at this, and apparently to turn the conversation
walked forward to an aboriginal woman, who with a small bright-eyed
picaninny at her back and another by her side, was soliciting 'tick
pence' in a dolorous whine.

'What a thin dress, poor thing,' said her compassionate sister on the
side of Eve, 'and a torn blanket, too.'

'That's all Bagstock's fault,' said Mr. Bright jocosely. 'He has a
bale of them at the police-office, sent up by the Government to be
given to these dark predecessors of ours. You ask him, Maria.'

'You gibbet blanket old Maria, Massa Bagtock?' whined the gin, 'all
about blanket I believe you got long a Guv'ment.'

'That one stealem blackfellow blanket, I believe, Maria,' chuckled
Mr. Bright mischievously, 'big one sell'em along a storekeeper, mine
thinkit.'

To Maria, under the influence of more than one glass of grog,
unfortunately, this appeared a very feasible suggestion. On the
strength of it she immediately raised her voice and began to threaten
Mr. Bagstock with condign punishment.

'Me yabba Massa Commishner,' she said, 'put you long a logs, I
b'leeve taken from blackfeller--me know, now, me tellum sargint--me
tellum. Me seeum blankit along a courthouse.'

We all exploded with laughter. Bagstock looked annoyed, and Ruth
rather terrified, as Maria began to perform a kind of war dance round
the badgered C.P.S.

'Hold y-y-y-your tongue, you s-s-sable storyteller. Bright, you
ought to b-b-b-be ashamed of yourself. Of course I have the blankets.
They are to be given out to the whole tribe on the Q-Q-Queen's b-b-
birthday.'

'What a thoughtful act,' said Ruth, 'do they give all the poor
creatures blankets once a year; and how many are in the tribe?'

'Once a y-y-y-ear,' said Bagstock, 'and about a h-h-h-hundred in
this tribe.'

'How I should like to see them gathering,' said Ruth. 'I have hardly
ever seen any of the Indians of the land. I think all savages most
interesting.'

'Then we'll m-m-make it the Queen's b-b-birthday, the day after to--
morrow, Miss Allerton,' said Bagstock, with decisive gallantry. 'Tell
'em it's because the winter's s-s-setting in early.'

'Oh, Mr. Bagstock, thank you,' said Ruth, 'how kind of you; but can
you do it?'

'Not the slightest d-d-difficulty,' said he, 'almanacs scarce on the
g-g--goldfields.'

'Bravo, Bagstock,' said Mr. Bright, 'and I'll tell you what I'll do,
I'll give a picnic to the school children and let Miss Allerton see
what Australian youngsters are like.'



Chapter XLI



IT did not matter much, presumably, at the antipodes about the ante--
dating of Her Gracious Majesty's birthday by a month or two. So
Bagstock sent round a herald announcing that in consequence of a cold
winter being expected, the Queen's birthday would take place on the
following Thursday, when blankets would be distributed punctually at
ten o'clock A.M.

It was wonderful how fast this piece of intelligence circulated among
the scattered aboriginals of the district. Whether the fiery cross was
borne around in the shape of a rum bottle, or the picture-writing of
the Aztecs resorted to, cannot be known. It was curious to observe,
however, on the day preceding the supposed royal birthday, how many of
Her Majesty's sable subjects were seen making, by the shortest routes
known, by hill and dale, by wood and wold, towards the Oxley township.

Not that the Australian indigne, dark of hue and strongly suspected
in these free-thinking evolutionary days of pre-Adamite proclivities,
has been found invariably incapable of the humanities. More than one
philanthropist has tested the question of pan-genesis, so ordering
that the swart son of the waste should receive his due allowance of
Eton, Latin grammar, and Euclid, in company with the children of the
White Conquest.

Indeed, the tale is told of a newly-arrived European wayfarer, sore
troubled about a variety of tracks where 'you can't miss the road,'
coming unexpectedly upon a black fellow lying under a shady tree,
wrapped in a blanket, and engaged in the perusal of one of Sir Walter
Scott's novels.

The white man stared, then said--

'I say, which of these three is the proper road to Mildool station?'

The 'savage' rose, bowed courteously, and thus delivered himself--
Medio tutissimus ibis.

'What?' shouted the Englishman.

'Don't you understand?' said the congener of the Scholar Gipsy,
pointing to the middle path--

'The middle is the safest way.

Take it, and rest ere close of day.'

The amazed Anglo-Saxon put spurs to his horse, and, arriving at the
station barely with the light, gasped out that he had met the Devil
under a tree in the forest, who had quoted Latin and talked poetry to
him.

'To be sure,' quoted the Scottish host, as he sent the stranger's
hack to the stable.

'The De'il or else an outler quey

Gat up and gae a croon.'

'It was either Old Nick or Bungaree--I did not know he was back.'

'And who the deuce is Bungaree?'

'He was a smart little black boy enough twenty years ago, when the
idea occurred to old Moxon to send him with his own sons to the Normal
Institution in Sydney, Dr. Lang's pet school. There Bungaree learned
to read and write--moreover, Latin and Greek, with all other
sophistications of the human animal, bringing home (for he was highly
intelligent) more than his share of prizes. His success gratified all
the good people mightily until he approached manhood.'

'And then?'

'Why, then, the wolf cub growled and broke his chain, took to the
bush, blankets, and a wild life among his peers, learned to love the
fire-water and to hate work and settled abiding places. It was he whom
you saw to-day.'

During each forenoon Ruth was uncommonly busy, and visited so many
shops that I inquired whether she was going to load a vessel with soft
goods souvenirs of the Oxley; but I could not extract any satisfactory
explanation, and was therefore fain to leave things to find their own
level. I also discovered her deep in colloquy with Mr. Bright and Mr.
Bagstock, and made no doubt but that with the assistance of these
worthy gentlemen she was concocting some scheme by which the guests at
the approaching school feast, or members of the aboriginal tribe,
would profit.

Mr. Bright, with his usual munificence, had invited all the school
children within a radius of ten miles to partake of his bounty, and
had arranged that, in addition to a substantial lunch, with cakes and
oranges and ginger-beer at discretion, suitable presents should be
allotted to all the girls over ten years old. This was the department
Ruth wished to supplement.

When the fateful day arrived, Ruth could hardly eat her breakfast for
excitement, and immediately after that important meal I was dragged
into the Police Camp Reserve, where the remnant of the once powerful
and numerous tribe of the Oxley (long feared of the pioneer settler)
had bestowed themselves.

It was a strange and perhaps a piteous sight. War and disease, the
fire--water of the white man, and the curses which ever accompany
civilisation, had pretty well cleared out the 'braves' of the tribe.
The men who had slain stockriders and speared cattle, killed
shepherds, and caused stations to be abandoned a score of years agone,
were chiefly absent. They lay on lonely sandhills or beside marshy
lagoons, whither they had fled in vain hope of escaping the vengeance
of the white man. A few stalwart survivors, sullen of aspect, showed
in their bloodshot eyes and sodden countenances that they had found a
panacea for all evils in the debasing habits which they had copied
from the whites. Only the gray-beards of the tribe exhibited dignity
and the true stately savage unconsciousness.

Each sat on the earth awaiting his turn of distribution; and yet
betrayed no eagerness to receive the gift to which they attributed so
much value. They understood but little English and disdained all the
arts by which a largess is stimulated.

The women and children predominated as to numbers, and these were the
objects of Ruth's deepest interest and sympathy. Some of the half-
caste children were exceedingly good-looking, and it was all I could
do to prevent Ruth burdening herself with a pretty saucy five-year-
old, whose mother offered to sell her in so many words for twenty
shillings sterling. Though the woes of civilisation had worked much
evil upon most of the women of the tribe, some of the younger gins,
especially those whose complexions were 'dishonestly fair,' were lithe
of form and pleasant to look upon. On these Ruth gazed with the
deepest sympathy and unfeigned tenderness of pity.

'Poor things,' she said, 'what a lot theirs must be! How I wish I
could help them, could shape their lives into what charity and
thoughtfulness might make of them. I feel quite sad that I shall go
away and never see these strange, half-childish, fawn-like faces
again. In their natural wistful expression I can fancy I see the half-
formed forest creature we read of, not wholly human, yet all graceful
and redolent of the old classical myths.

'My dear Ruth,' I remonstrate, 'you really seem to discover so many
wonder-treasures in my country that you will never consent to return
to your own. You ought to have married Bishop Selwyn, or some other
evangeliser of the heathen instead of plain Hereward Pole.'

'I cannot imagine a more grand and ennobling manner of wearing out
one's life,' she said, 'and you are not to laugh at me on such
subjects, sir, or I shall think that the fire of trial has left some
dross behind. Ask Mr. Bagstock when he is going to begin.'

That worthy and decisive official here advanced and saluted Ruth with
flowing courtesy. With him were the Commissioner and Mr. Merlin. These
gentlemen had been most assiduous in their attention to Ruth and the
Squire since their arrival at the Oxley.

Considerably less than twenty-four hours, indeed, had been suffered
to elapse before the higher officials from the camp presented
themselves and duly left their cards upon the new arrivals, taking the
opportunity of congratulating me cordially upon my return under such
favourable auspices. The pleasure derived from the introduction
appeared to be mutual. Ruth professed herself perfectly charmed with
the Commissioner, whose air and bearing, she alleged, possessed a
distinct flavour of chivalry hardly ever seen in these degenerate
days. Mr. Merlin's flawless courtesy and carefully veiled satire
created a natural astonishment in the Squire's mind that such a
perfect and entire chrysolite, socially speaking, could be found in
the wilds of Australia, while Mr. Bagstock's truly English appearance
prepossessed him at once in favour of that gentleman, more especially
when he discovered that his family lived in an adjoining county to
Allerton Court.

Ruth had, very properly, though partly at my instigation, not attired
herself in what some people consider to be suitable travelling
raiment, which means their oldest and plainest garments. She had not
set out with the notion that she was never to meet with any more
ladies and gentlemen, or that, such being the case, it did not matter
how unbecomingly she was dressed. On the contrary, she wore her last
consignment of costumes, not very long from Paris, the freshness and
fashion of which caused her to be regarded with a much deeper interest
than would otherwise have been the case. Her manner being gracious,
and her conversation original and piquant, she fulfilled thus all the
conditions of popularity.

The sergeant and a brace of picked troopers attended in charge of the
coveted blankets, as well to dispense one by one those useful articles
as to moderate any excessive eagerness which might be displayed by the
wilder denizens of the forest.

As they approached--the old men coming first in order--each was asked
his name, which was formally entered in a book by the clerk, when his
woollen donation was delivered and duly debited to him. After the
graybeards came the weird and awful beldames of the race. Savage
women, after youth and middle age have passed by, are certainly the
most unpleasing, not to say revolting specimens of humanity the
traveller is called upon to view. Ruth shuddered as the chattering
scolding crones came up, whining and entreating for a double allowance
of blanket, always trying to smuggle an additional one for some
fabulous grandchild, whose existence they were utterly unable to
prove.

Gradually the ranks thinned. The fortunate recipients enveloped
themselves in their prizes, or, folding them, sat down in majestic
serenity upon them. Then came the boys--shy or bold, shamefaced or
impudent--with roving hawk-like glances, rivalling those of the forest
dwellers in piercing acuteness and wandering restlessness of vision.
Lastly, the shy timidly-stepping girl children, with great gleaming
dark eyes and dazzling white teeth, half-unclosed in wonder and half
in terror.

When all, even to the tiniest elf, were supplied, Mr. Bright called
one of the troopers to roll over another great package, and, opening
it, commanded all the women to stand in a row. Then Ruth took my arm
and walked over to it, producing a bright, coloured print dress and a
warm garment fitted for winter wear. This she delivered to the oldest
'gin' with her own fair hands and in most genuine expression of
goodwill. The poor old thing looked with perfect amazement at the fair
and gentle benefactress for an instant, and then, realising the
astounding fact, threw herself on her knees before her and kissed the
delicate hand of the giver.

Then were handed out to the delighted foresters similar presents all
down the line, until each one of the women and girls was made proud
and happy by the same thoughtful gift. The men, indeed, looked jealous
and awkward as not deemed worthy to partake of the bounty of this
celestial visitant, as they appeared to deem her, but upon Mr. Bright
saying a few mysterious words in their own tongue all discontent
vanished and a pleasant anticipatory expression pervaded the party.

Finally, Mr. Bagstock called for three cheers for Her Majesty Queen
Victoria, upon which a tremendous long-drawn cry, swelling and
increasing in volume rose to the heavens, all eyes being turned to
Ruth, as if with a conviction that Her Majesty had personally deigned
to honour them with her presence; but upon Mr. Bright making another
short speech in the aboriginal tongue, which he had learned in his
early outpost days, a deeper gratitude expressed itself in a gathering
round of the whole tribe as if disposed to kiss Ruth's shoe latchet in
reverent worship. Tears of joy and gratitude rolling down the faces of
the younger women and girls showed that the darker complexion of these
children of nature denoted no essential difference in the emotional
qualities of the sex.

A portion of the tribe subsequently adjourned to the ground wherein
the sports of the children's picnic were to be arranged, and gazed on
the relaxation of the white man with edifying gravity. But, in the
interests of truth, it must be related that the greater number of the
adults betook themselves later on to the lower sort of public-houses,
where they in too many cases sold the Queen's bounty for grog. Mr.
Bagstock narrowly escaped holding a coroner's inquest upon one of the
younger 'gins,' who had excited the wrath of her sable spouse, and was
supposed to be lying at the bottom of a deep pool in the Oxley. Indeed
that gentleman, at the first bruit of the affair, picked up a worn
copy of Shakespeare in his hurry upon which to swear the jury, and was
only prevented from completing his preparations by the return of the
supposed corpse, but little the worse for blows and immersion.

There was ample time, owing to the early hour at which the ceremony
had been initiated, for the completion of this preliminary performance
before Mr. Bright's clientle arrived.

This they presently commenced to do in great force, the rendezvous
being the paddock of a friendly farmer, who granted the privilege of
strewing his grounds with countless fragments of paper parcels and
other debris of lunch to all such companies and associates as desired
to make merry in the vicinity of the Oxley.

The spot selected was within a mile of the township. One of those
natural forest parks peculiar to Australia, where green turf under the
century-old trees and a moderately level surface permitted foot races,
dancing on the green, kiss-in-the-ring, and other time-honoured rustic
pastimes.

Mr. Bright, whose hospitable tendencies were unlimited, had made it
understood that though the children were specially invited their
relatives and friends were also expected, and would be equally
welcome.

The day was of course fine. It was also moderately cool and breezy,
so nothing could be more appropriate. Buggies and carriages were in
attendance--a general holiday had been proclaimed by the Commissioner,
by whom alone miners could be allowed to be legally absent from their
claims. We all drove to the spot.

There stupendous preparations had been made and were still being made
under the orders of Mr. Bright, who had preceded us and stood in the
midst like a General of Division, ordering autocratically and issuing
commands for fresh supplies, as if he was going to banquet the
southern district en musse.

'I like to see things well done when one is about it,' said the
Squire, as band after band of happy school children marched in,
carrying banners and insignia, perfectly wild with happiness and
youth--synonymous mostly. 'But, what a spread it will have to be;
there must be a thousand children at least.'

'What a beautiful sight,' said Ruth in a tone of the deepest
sincerity. 'I certainly never saw so fine an array of nice looking
intelligent children before. So well dressed and well cared for, as
they all look. Such bright intelligent faces, too. There is also a
distinct refinement and high mental development which I don't think I
ever observed among village children before.'

'I'll back the youngsters of this district, Miss Allerton,' said
Bright effusively, 'against those of any part of Australia. I've been
all over it, and I never saw anything to compare with them, I assure
you.'

'It's a theory of mine,' said Olivera, who had joined our party,
looking as if he had just quitted a London club, 'that the fusion of
the different branches of the Aryan family, more than usually feasible
in the concourse of a goldfield's population, is favourable to a high
standard of mental and bodily excellence.'

'I don't doubt but you're right,' said the Squire. 'A border
population is always a vigorous one, chiefly superior to the races of
which it is compounded. It is to be hoped that you colonists will
educate these youngsters thoroughly. There will be nothing commonplace
about them, for good or for evil.'

'Miss Allerton shall examine them by and by,' said Bright. 'You
should hear them sing, too. Most Australian children are musical, and
all our schools attend to their chorus singing.'

'I am so pleased we were able to wait for this delightful
spectacle,' said Ruth. 'I suspect you did it partly to please me, Mr.
Bright. It was very kind of you, I could not have enjoyed anything
more.'

'I don't suspect it at all,' I said. 'Bright's quite unable to
resist any new lady visitor. It's a good thing you're going back to
Sydney, there's no end to the extravagances he is capable of
committing.'

'I hope he will never do anything that he will regret more. When we
get back I must take this for a pattern for my school feasts at the
Leys. But oh! if we could only be sure of such lovely weather.'

'There's where they have the advantage of us,' said the Squire. 'But
I hope to see Mr. Bright and our other good friends there some day.
Old England has its good points, and we must try if we can't show them
something in return for all their kindness. When do you expect to see
England again, Captain Blake?'

'Some of these fine days,' said the Commissioner, 'if my old uncle
does the right thing by my brother Jack and myself, I hope to be able
to keep a dog and enjoy a little hunting before I get too old, if I
ever do. You can't get it good out of England.'

'Have to fall back upon coursing Chinamen, eh, Blake?' said Mr.
Merlin, who had now joined us, looking refreshingly cool and as
innocent as if there was not a criminal within a hundred miles. 'I am
certain Miss Allerton would not have countenanced a chase we witnessed
one morning, eh Pole?'

'Purely accidental, I assure you,' said Blake, turning graciously to
Ruth, whose face became shaded over at this untoward allusion. 'Fact
is, my poor dogs got demoralised by living in the camp with police and
other man-hunters. Had to send them into the country, I assure you, to
rub off the effects. But here's a movement along the whole line of
infantry.'

The luncheon hour being imminent, a decided convergence had taken
place towards the tents, of which every available one had been secured
by Mr. Bright and his emissaries that the neighbourhood afforded.
Besides this, large booths, walled and roofed with boughs and
decorated with great fern fronds and tapering slender pine trees, had
been erected.

Within these a generous supply of eatables and cautiously composed
concoctions for assuaging thirst had been provided. The simple needs
of childhood were amply gratified, while their proud happy parents and
friends did justice to the good cheer, and inwardly chaunted the
praises of their generous entertainer.

'I think the last spread we had was a dejecuner at Hennessy's to
that distinguished novelist, Anthony Towers, wasn't it, Pole?' said
Bright; 'only it was attended by children of a larger growth.'

'Yes, I remember,' said the Major. 'Cuisine very fair and
Heidsieck's dry monopole to wash it down. The old Turk gratefully
acknowledged it in his book on Australia by a faint allusion and a
statement that the cookery was better than the speeches.'

'Comes of trying to give honour where honour is due,' said Bright,
'but he did mention the oysters we had that night.'

'Yes; confound him! You will go down to posterity with the Bishop
and Mrs. Proudie, and all that lot, as the munificent banker who
provided them.'

'What was it he said to you, Jack?' inquired Mr. Merlin, with
suspicious softness of manner, 'when you asked him confidentially if
he would have taken you for a native?'

Bright hesitated for an instant, and then answered--

'"Not for an aboriginal certainly." What the deuce did he mean by
that?'

We all shouted again. And Ruth 'came nearer,' as an American friend
would say, to a hearty laugh than I had seen her for many a day.

The day wore on. Though warm, the atmosphere was so tempered by the
sighing breeze, which ever and anon came whispering through the forest
trees and over the sun-glinted hill tops, that the most delicately
constituted organisation could not have felt oppressed.

The sports were nearing their close; the little ones had eaten and
quaffed and romped and played and raced to their hearts' content. Mr.
Bright had made them a speech, praising their proficiency at the
various schools, on the Board of Management of which he was a sort of
perpetual chairman, complimenting their parents and guardians upon
their robust appearance and polite manners, and winding up by formally
inviting them all to a similar picnic to take place, if he were well
and at the Oxley, on that day twelve months. If he was prevented from
attending, he was sure his friend Mr. Merlin would be happy to take
his place, knowing his warm interest in the education question, and
his proverbial liking for children.

This address, whatever might have been its rhetorical merit, was
sufficiently telling to 'bring down the house,' being specially
adapted to the audience, and boasting a peroration more attractive
than are many more ambitious efforts.

After this was over, one of the head teachers made a short reply
thanking their friend Mr. Bright, whose goodwill and kindness were
proverbial from one end of Australia to the other, and calling for
cheers for the lady from England whom they were all so glad to see
among them and for Mr. Allerton.

Then a little voice which I fancied I knew called for three cheers
for Harry Pole, a suggestion which apparently met with general
approbation, and with a terrific storm of cheers for Mr. Bright the
great array of happy children formed into their original ranks and
companies and moved away to their respective homes.

Just then a trooper came galloping up, and saluted his officer.

'Mr. Merlin, a gentleman wishes to see you.'

'Indeed,' replied Mr. Merlin, in somewhat acidulated tones. 'Lead on
at once. I very seldom see one.'

With this Parthian shaft, and his lowest, most courtcous bow, Mr.
Merlin departed, leaving us with a sensation of sic transit gloria
mundi, and a disposition to move slowly homeward.

For my part, I thought that Ruth had undergone rather much fatigue
and excitement for one day, and I was not sorry when our comfortable
rooms at Hennessy's received us, and all further exertion was
relegated to the indulgent future.



Chapter XLII



THE next morning's issue of the Beacon was filled up in great measure
by the reports in detail of the blanket ceremony and of Mr. Bright's
picnic, dwelling much upon the munificence therein displayed, and
holding up for imitation the generosity of spirit which had always
characterised that gentleman. 'We were pleased to observe among the
spectators,' the editorial went on to say, 'the distinguished visitors
from England who have lately honoured our goldfield with their
presence. Miss Allerton and her father--the Squire of Allerton Court,
in the county of Kent--accompanied by Mr. Pole, attended on the ground
during the whole day, and took the most lively interest in the
proceedings. The lady before mentioned, indeed, showed by her
generosity on both occasions that her sympathy was truly genuine; and
in the name of the residents of this goldfield generally we beg to
thank her most cordially and respectfully for the intelligent interest
in social and mining matters she has exhibited during her stay. Such
visitors from the old country, even when, as in the present instance,
of high social rank, do themselves honour as well as the mining
population by temporarily relinquishing the privileges of their order,
by mingling and conversing on equal terms with those around them. Such
truly aristocratic conduct meets with genuine appreciation on a
goldfield, and in no community is it more accurately gauged.

'Turning from such agreeable reflections, we regret deeply to have to
allude to a presentment of the darker side of goldfield life, to
verify the rumours of a tragedy enacted in our midst on the very day
when far different scenes were witnessed at the Oxley.

'Our readers have been made aware from a perusal of our exhaustive
mining reports of the daily improving character of the reefing
industry at Mason's, and of the unprecedented rates to which certain
scrip has lately reached.'

Such was then the nature of the summons by which Mr. Merlin had been
reft so suddenly from the festal scene, and from the prospect of a
soign last dinner at Hennessy's, to which we had invited him, in
company with the Major, Mr. Bagstock, Blake, and Olivera.

I was just in time to secure the copy in the breakfast-room, and to
give Hennessy a hint to suppress that and any following issue, as far
as our apartments were concerned.

What had happened was only hinted at, no further particulars being
then obtainable, but on Merlin's return late at night (he had been
officially present at the coroner's inquest) the ghastly details were
brought out in the smoking room.

It would appear that the Great Columbia and Undaunted Quartz Reefing
and Pyrites Reduction Company (Limited) had been paying so
surprisingly well of late that the management, among whom Mr. Jake
Challerson was a leading director, owning, indeed, one-eighth of the
whole immensely rich claim, determined to give a lunch in
entertainment of the metropolitan shareholders. Special coaches had
been put on and the supposititious birthday of the Sovereign had been
a gala day in every sense at Mason's.

Strangers, much wondering, clad in unwonted raiment, escorting
prepossessing personages of the gentler sex, thronged the chief and
only street of Mason's. Simple questions were asked as to familiar
goldfields' sights, and pretty expressions of wonder and delight
issued from cherry lips. Facile princeps among the perhaps
unconventional magnates of the directory, the illustrious Jake
Challerson, unapproachably apparelled, redolent of fabulous wealth,
was regarded with fluttering interest by the ladies, with ill-
concealed awe by the younger members of the party.

Flags were flying along the narrow thoroughfare which, macadamised
with glittering white quartz, and bordered by acres of plate-glass
windows, looked like a street scene in an opera. Those miners whose
labour was not actually necessary in the working had leave given, or
had given themselves leave, as the case might be, to make holiday. The
guests were hilarious and jubilant when not awe-stricken at the
statistics blandly poured forth from the well--practised lips of their
hosts. The entertainers were flowingly gracious and generous, as only
gatherers of gold au naturel ever are. Many a quaint fragment, or
matrix--encircled nugget, the weight of which astonished the fair
recipient, was transferred 'without registration' during a visit to
the strong--room on that auspicious day.

Mr. Challerson, tall, languid, romantic-looking, posed as the Comte
de Monte Christo, and gave on all sides with the thoughtful yet
unqualified profusion of that illustrious revenant.

The guests enjoyed a full survey and fuller explanation of the great
steam--driven quartz--crushing machine, with its celebrated battery,
where scores of steel--shod stampers fell ceaselessly with regular
irregularity upon heaps of pale stone throughout the long long summer
day, the star--stream silent night. They shuddered as the ground, the
whole strong edifice, seemed to quiver with earthquake tremour beneath
the tremendous thuds of the tireless Briareus. They saw, when the
streaming water carried off in solution the sand to which the matrix
had been reduced, the thin lines of gold which the water was powerless
to move, awaiting the hour of cleaning-up. They saw the very spot
where the Chinaman fell last year, shot in the act of robbing the
sluice boxes by night. Having undergone as much wonder, excitement,
instruction, and intimidation as could be borne without refreshment,
it was no wonder that the summons to lunch was hailed with deepest
approval.

Lunch was served in one of the engine-sheds, which was brilliantly
draped for the occasion, and ornamented out of its work-a-day
appearance. Champagne flowed; the service was costly; the rarest
fruits and flowers, specially forwarded by express, graced the board,
which groaned under dainties and delicacies uncatalogued.

Mr. Jake Challerson was the life and soul of the whole party After
the refection was over, the 'cage' was brought into requisition and
the whole party, prepared for fresh adventures, arrived safely at the
lower level, and walked along the great main drive which, lighted up
with coloured lamps for the occasion, presented somewhat the
appearance of Aladdin's Cave.

The miners stood respectfully at the angles of the cross-cut drives,
and listened with pleased astonishment to the soft voices and rippling
laughter which aroused the unaccustomed echoes.

At length the cage began to make periodical upward ascent. By
degrees the whole joyous party, assisted in safely bestowing
themselves by Mr. Challerson, who chivalrously remained below till the
last moment, regained the upper air.

Here Mr. Merlin, from whom the above sketch of proceedings had been
elicited by incessant questioning, declined further interrogation.
Handing in the depositions which he had brought back with him, he
desired us to read for ourselves. I was chosen lector, and amid a
silence which showed how deep was the interest, read as follows--

'This deponent, Hans Bunsen, on his oath states: "I am one of the
wages men in the Columbia and Undaunted Company's workings. I remember
the day of the picnic and lunch. A large party came to see the
workings; they were lowered down the shaft in the cage, both ladies
and gentlemen. I saw the deceased, Mr. Jake Challerson, there. I knew
him as one of the principal shareholders in the Company. He was at
Ballarat when I was there in 1851. He used to be called Yankee Jake. I
do not know if he was an American. He had been in America I believe.
He talked like one. I also knew deceased, Old Man Dick, as we called
him; he had been working for the last two years for the Company; he
was a very silent man. We used to think him a little touched--not
quite right in his head. He was a good man to work. I have heard that
he was married, and that his wife had run away from him; did not know
of my own knowledge or care, certainly not--what was it to me? Every
man's business is his own affair. There was a shot going to be put in
just at the bottom of the shaft; we wanted to take down a bench there.
The drill had been put in, and Old Man Dick was waiting with the fuse
until the party should go up. Jack Martin and I, with two more men,
were waiting in the second cross-cut till the blast went off. Old Man
Dick was in the bottom of the shaft, and helped to send up the ladies
and gentlemen. Mr. Challerson was the last. He said, 'It's my turn
now.' He was just putting his foot into the cage when Old Man Dick
pulled him down. I heard him say 'No, you don't. We'll go together
directly. Yankee Jake, your hour has come.' 'Who are you?' says Mr.
Challerson. 'You old madman, how dare you? let me go this instant.
Help, murder!' 'Blast you,' says Dick, not loud, but very deadly like,
'don't you know Richard Dunstan, whose wife you stole? Where is she
now. Chained up and whipped, may be, in a madhouse! I'm a miserable
half-mad wretch, and you're a fine gentleman, Jake Challerson; oh yes,
with money and white shirts and diamond rings and a gold watch and
friends, ha! ha! You left me in hell--when you stole Dolores; now I'm
going there for good--and so are you. Then we saw them struggle--very
hard Mr. Challerson fought, till Dick picked up a drill and struck him
over the head with it. He fell upon his knees; then Dick gave the
signal and the cage was drawn up empty."

'By the Coroner: "Why did not you and the other men rush in and
interfere?"

'"We were going to do so, of course, but at the first start we saw
Dick had a lighted candle always close by him, and the keg of powder
open with which he had been filling the drill hole."

'The Coroner: "What happened then?"

'"We saw him drag Mr. Challerson close up to the keg; he then took
the candle in his hand. We ran for our lives along the drive, and the
next minute there was an explosion like a thunderbolt, and we knew
what had happened. The whole place was filled with smoke, and stones
and gravel sent along the drive like shot. After a bit we went to the
bottom of the shaft. There we found two bodies. The roof of Mr.
Challerson's head was gone, one of his arms was blown right off. Dick
was lying on his face stone dead but not torn about. He looked as if
he had been smothered. We signalled for the cage, and with assistance
sent both the bodies up."

'John Martin, also sworn, corroborated the evidence of the last
witness. "Had been only a short time on the claim. Knew Old Man Dick
as a mate. Appeared to him to have something on his mind. Could not be
a better working man. Told him (witness) one day that his wife had
left him years ago, and that he had never done any good since.
Believed, from what he had heard, that the woman known as Dolores
Lusada was the wife of the deceased, Richard Dunstan."

'Egerton Wilson, being sworn, states: "I am the teacher of the school
established at Mason's, and have been resident there since the reefs
opened. I knew the deceased director at Ballarat, New Zealand, and in
England. His name was not Challerson, nor was he an American, though
he had lived in several States and been in California. For reasons of
his own, he assumed the American accent and professed to be a native
of that country. He was the youngest son of the Earl of Venhamsley. I
knew him as a boy, later on, when he was in the army. He was compelled
to sell out on account of a dispute at cards. He left England
immediately afterwards, and was some years in America. He came over
from California to the Turon, where I first met him. He left
afterwards for Ballarat. When I met him in New Zealand, a woman named
Dolores was living with him as his wife. She went by the name of Mrs.
Challerson. Have since heard that she left him, and is now in a
lunatic asylum. Decline to state whether deceased was connected with
the Ballarat riots, or whether I was implicated in the affair myself.
We were both residents in Ballarat at the time.'"

John Bulder, it seems, had also to be called upon to give evidence,
his name having been mentioned by the miner known as Old Man Dick to
his comrades in the claim as an old friend and acquaintance. He went
to Mason's without mentioning his errand; we were only aware of the
fact upon reading his sworn testimony. It was as follows: 'I recognise
both the deceased men before this inquest. I knew the deceased,
Richard Dunstan, many years since, though I have not seen him since he
left Victoria. He, I, and the other deceased, known as Jake
Challerson, but whose real name and title was the Honourable Charles
Dormer, he being a younger son of Lord Venhamsley, worked together as
mates at Ballarat in the year 1852. The fourth man was a Swede, named
Dirk Olafsen. Richard Dunstan's wife, to whom he had lately been
married, cooked for the party. Some months afterwards, when the Forest
Creek Rush was at its height, deceased Challerson and Dunstan's wife
eloped, and it was said lived there together. Dunstan's reason became
unsettled through grief. He was placed in the lunatic asylum at Yarra
Bend, where he remained for several years. I have seen Dunstan's wife
at the Oxley since I have been on the field. She was then known as
Dolores Lusada, which was her name before she was married.'

By the Coroner--"Richard Dunstan was an honest hardworking man, whom
every one respected. He was always most kind in his behaviour to his
wife. As to my opinion of the character of Challerson or Dormer, I
knew him to be one of the most infernal scoundrels that ever walked
the earth. Am aware that I am speaking of the dead. He ought to have
been dead long ago. Decline to say whether Challerson was connected
with the Eureka Stockade revolt; if so, it is a pity he was not shot
when better men met their fate. Decline to state whether I took part
in the rising myself. Am not aware that it concerns the facts of this
inquest. Have no intention of being disrespectful.'"

John Bulder's was the last testimony, and, with Bunsen's, placed the
motive of the deed in a light so clear and distinct that no further
elucidation was needed.

It was a sad termination to the gay party, which, full of pleasant
anticipation and ephemeral joyousness, had touched the glaring streets
of Mason's with such unwonted brightness of colouring. The glamour of
wealth, the false splendour shed by prosperity, however acquired, had
dismally disappeared. The guests had fled in panic-stricken rush. The
miners, save those needed as jurymen and witnesses at the inquest, had
returned doggedly to their work. Two shattered corpses lay in the
great engine shed, still incongruously gay with gaudy flags, which
flapped all forgotten and unheeded. And still the quartz-crushing
machine, with its ruthless ceaseless stampers, went thundering on from
mid-day to midnight, unchecked, unslackened, still keeping up the same
hungry sullen roar, as of a troop of lions.

The verdict of the jury, when divested of the legal phraseology with
which it is considered still necessary to clothe such decisions, was
to the effect--'That the deceased Jake Challerson, otherwise Charles
Dormer, and the deceased Richard Dunstan, had come to their deaths
from injuries received consequent on the explosion of a cask of
gunpowder, ignited by the said Richard Dunstan while in a state of
temporary insanity.'

Such was the verdict of the jury, which no after legal action
disturbed, but the stern sure verdict of the public at large, many of
whom had known the slayer and the slain in years gone by, was that the
prosperous criminal, the traitor, the betrayer, the false witness, and
the shedder of innocent blood, had deservedly perished in the hour of
his triumph by the hand of the most deeply wronged of his many
victims.

'It is rarely,' commented the Beacon, 'that the painful duty is cast
upon us of recording such awe-striking occurrences. The affair has
naturally created a widely--spread sensation throughout the district,
both the actors in the tragedy being well known among the mining
community, although the more prosperous performer, he who had been so
suddenly called upon to meet his fate, was of late more prominently
before the public. As for the slayer, who assumed the terrible
responsibility of compelling his own and his enemy's appearance before
the bar of Heaven, let us assume that long brooding over his wrongs
had deranged his mental powers, and that for the deed which hurried
two unwarned human beings, with all their imperfections on their
heads, into eternity, he was but indirectly responsible.'

These reflections and allusions only appeared on the day of our
departure from the Oxley, and I had in the confusion of leaving no
great difficulty in keeping them from Ruth's knowledge, not wishing to
shock her unnecessarily, or to mingle her pleasant experiences of the
goldfield with such darksome shadows. The locality being a few miles
distant from our town favoured my efforts at concealment; nor was it
until some months afterwards that Ruth learned why Mr. Merlin, John
Bulder, and other acquaintances had been compelled to visit Mason's on
the day after Mr. Bright's festa.

I arranged, on this occasion, with the obliging and ubiquitous firm
of Cobb and Co. to have a special coach put on for our party, of
course for a consideration, but one which I cheerfully paid for the
very great additional comfort. Our party was to be augmented by the
Major, who had at my solicitation consented to take a short holiday in
the metropolis and leave the care of the claim temporarily to our
trusty partners.



Chapter XLIII



IN view of our approaching departure, Ruth most conscientiously
performed all valedictory duties and ceremonies, as to which she
recognised a binding obligation. Little was left undone which might in
after years afford cause of regret.

She had revisited the bank and refreshed her memory anew with the
sight of the heavy masses of gold dust which lay darkly red in the
metal shovels which were used to weigh and apportion them. She tried
to lift again, with wondering exclamations, the mass of retorted gold
which had come in from the quartz reef--one, indeed, the heaviest of
all, from the last crushing of the Columbia and Undaunted Company
Amalgamated. She smiled afresh at the old goldfield's joke, wherein
the courteous manager made a present to her of a bag containing a
hundredweight and a half of the root of all evil if she could carry it
away. She had paid special and exhaustive visits to Mrs. Yorke and
Mrs. Mangrove, leaving with each of these representative matrons
delicately-devised tokens of her goodwill or souvenirs in the time to
come. Mrs. Yorke, indeed, parted from her with tears in her eyes, and
averred that she never had taken to any one in her life so much since
a certain lady who lived in the vicinity of her old home at
Campbelltown used to have her in and teach her on Sundays and hear her
read the Bible when she was a little girl, 'and a deal of good it did
me, if you'll believe me, Miss Allerton,' she said. 'I've seen some
rough people and rough doings since I've followed the diggings, but
many a time when I've been tempted to turn on poor Cyrus that's gone,
or do something foolish, the thought of Mrs. Blundell's kind, gentle,
beautiful face would come before me just like the face of an angel,
and I'd hear her sweet voice reasoning with me for my good, just as
plain as I did in the happy old days. I never could do anything to
displease her, and though it is twenty years ago, and she in her
grave, the very thought of her makes me feel like a little child
again. Yes, you're like her, Miss Allerton. You have the same voice,
and you're the only living soul that ever reminded me of her.'

The term of our pilgrimage was completed. It had passed over even
more satisfactorily than I had anticipated. Nothing save the last
harsh flapping of the wing of fate had occurred in the least degree to
mar Ruth's enjoyment, to subtract ought from the kindly interest which
she had from the first taken in the gold hive and its working bees.

No social duty, no farewell ceremony had been left unperformed by us.
Everything had been scrupulously carried out, as with a tender
fidelity, towards a spot we should neither of us revisit on earth.

Together had we stood again beside the grave of poor Jane Mangold, on
which now the roses were blooming and the turf was green with the
first autumn showers. Ruth's tears fell fast as she recalled how she
had nursed me with unfaltering care and vigilance during the long
weary days and nights when I was delirious after my wound, when (as
she afterwards told me) I used to make the room echo with the name of
Ruth, believing her to have forsaken and renounced me.

'But for her you might never have been spared to meet my eye again,
Hereward, and I might have died, doubting, or at least not fully
convinced of your love and truth, and to think that she, to whom we
owe this, lies here beneath our feet, under this turf, dumb,
voiceless, darkly blind to all beneath the sun. Ah me! what a
tremulous, fearful joy is this life of ours. May God give us grace to
live aright, and so order our lives that we may not fear the death
summons that seems so perilous near at hand. Oh Hereward, "the pity of
it!" if she could but have returned to the Leys, as you hoped and
intended for her, what a joy it would have been to me to help to make
the rest of her life happy. Poor, dear, ill-fated Jane! we must bid
thee farewell on this earth for evermore, but you will not be
forgotten or unmourned.' Here she stooped, and plucked one of the pale
roses from the well-cared-for grave, and sighing, placed it in her
bosom as we slowly left the spot.

It had somehow leaked out that we were to leave the Oxley 'for good
and all' on the morning after. Long before our breakfast was concluded
the Squire noticed that the streets seemed unusually crowded in the
vicinity of Hennessy's corner. He inquired if there was a public
holiday, or if any ukase of the Commissioner had gone forth
proclaiming such to be lawful and of due force and weight.

'Not that I know of,' replied the Major, who was our companion at the
morning meal, being indeed necessitated to bear us company even to the
metropolis.

'Surely they can't be intending to say good-bye publicly and
officially to us all?' asked the Squire. 'Who is it that is so
popular? They can't have formed a profound admiration for an elderly
country gentleman whom capricious fate has whisked away from his
paternal acres. Hereward they know of old. It must be YOU, Ruth! What
is your "charm," as a Frenchman would say?'

'A case of mutual admiration, love at first sight of the most
pronounced type,' said Ruth, her whole face lighting up with
enthusiasm. 'I really have taken an extraordinary fancy to Hereward's
fellow-miners; I suppose they are gallant enough to return the
compliment. I really believe they are gathering to see us off.'

This appeared to be the correct reading of the demonstration. As soon
as the light American coach with its four well-matched well-
conditioned greys drew up to the hotel door with our baggage carefully
packed in the rack--a precautionary task I had supervised at an early
hour--the street was seen to be crowded on both sides down to the
farther angles. As I led Ruth towards the vehicle, a man stepped out
of the densely-packed array, and raising his hat with a gesture of
greeting essayed to speak. We arrested our steps. It was Mark Thursby.

'Happen ye'll stop, Miss,' he said, swaying his stalwart frame
slightly, as though to accentuate the words, which with some
difficulty he appropriated for the occasion, 'while I mak shift to
give ye my respects, and the o--pinion o' the miners on this field, as
they've bidden me to do. They reckon as Harry Pole was allers a right-
down, plucky, good-hearted chap, as worked like a man, and allers went
straight, come fair weather or foul--a man as the miners was proud of,
and a credit to the field. They wish him luck, and you too, Miss, and
the Squire, wherever you go. They've made bold to ask you to accept of
this here bit of a wedding present, a trifle of gold that'll make up
into ornaments like, to remember the miners of the Oxley by when
you're far away i' th' old country.'

Here the strong man bent his head in token of obeisance, and almost
timidly presented Ruth with an assortment of metallic fragments,
enclosed in a wash-leather bag. As she took them in her hand she knew
by their weight the value of the offering, and also by the touch that
one was a nugget of somewhat uncommon size.

She looked for one moment at the grand simple face of the miner,
showing a power and dignity of its own, born of the consciousness of
vast strength, calm courage, and unswerving honesty--the cardinal
virtues of manhood. The light came to her eyes and a flush to her
cheek--less rare in these days of returning health. Then the colour
faded and her eyes filled as she said with a child's sweet unconscious
pathos, tremulously resolved, as she tried to keep her voice steady:
'I thank you sincerely, Mark Thursby, and my future husband's
comrades, for your rich and rare gift, which I shall wear on my
wedding day. I am even more deeply grateful for the message of good-
will to me and mine. I came here for the purpose of seeing the place
and the people among whom Hereward had worked so long, and who had
been so true to him in good and evil fortune. I shall be glad all my
life that I have done so, and I now say farewell, and pray from my
innermost heart that God may bless you all.'

I lifted her into the carriage. The Squire and the Major were already
on the box seat. The high-conditioned leaders reared as the driver not
unwillingly let them have their heads, when such a storm of cheers
rent the air as caused the team to take the southern road, fortunately
level, open, and well gravelled, at such a pace as freed the driver
from any anxiety about being 'on time' for the mid-day stage. As we
passed the camp we saw the whole force turned out in full uniform.
Ruth raised her tear--dimmed eyes in time to view the majestic figure
of the sergeant, whose ample beard seemed even more voluminous and
imposing than usual; to mark Mr. Merlin on his gray charger; to
recognise and return the military salute of the whole troop; and thus
we bade adjeu to the Oxley for ever. Hill and dale succeeded each
other as quickly as the shifting scene of a panorama; plain and
woodland came into view and receded beneath the tireless rattling
hoofs of the game impatient team, which now rushed excitedly at their
collars, and taxed the muscle of the driver's arm, even, with
occasional aid from the brake. The Squire was the first to break
silence.

'A twenty-mile stage to be run out from end to end at this pace, and
no gruel thought of! What would they say in England, Major? We shall
have to send here yet for our carriage horses, I foresee.'

        *   *   *   *   *

Sydney once more. Again the blue wavelets of the peerless haven, the
Italian sky, the white gleaming Grecian villas, the tropical foliage,
the breath of the ocean, the murmur of the surges throughout the
silent night. How these unwonted sights and sounds acted upon our
sense and intensified the beautiful effect of change--mightiest agent,
rarest of the luxuries purchased by wealth.

'Is this Sydney, or, by any pardonable mistake, Paradise?' murmured
the Major, as we disembarked from our hansom at Batty's, Ruth and the
Squire having preceded per four-wheeler from the Redfern terminus to
Mrs. Pemberton's. 'It was very rash of me to come down before I was in
a position to cut the whole thing, eh, Pole? Do you know I feel
inclined now to toss up whether I shall go back at all. Write a line
to the Bulders, telling them to take the claim themselves and send my
share after me.'

'Why not? you and I have enough. What's the use of making oneself
miserable for more? A few thousands more or less are "neither here nor
there," as Cyrus used to say.'

'H--m!' meditatively replied the Major. 'I must consider that part of
the case during the next fortnight. Try how the half-pay business
works; haven't had any previous experience. This is almost too awfully
jolly, I must say. Wonderful thing the sea, when you come to think of
it, isn't it? as that brown-bearded stock-rider said, do you remember,
who confessed that he saw it for the first time. Ha! ha! a breakfast
under these circumstances isn't a breakfast, is it? No; always
assuming that garfish are in season, it is a feast for the gods!'

Mrs. Allerton duly expressed and reiterated her extreme and
unaffected surprise at the appearance of her daughter, whom she and
Mrs. Pemberton asserted to have returned from her sojourn in the wilds
of the interior in positively rude health.

Sydney appeared to have agreed passably well with Mrs. Allerton,
maugre the heat and mosquitos, these latter beasts of prey being kept
at bay by the integrity of Mrs. Pemberton's curtains, while a daily
walk in the Domain and the entre to the Botanical Gardens had quite
compensated for the minor inconveniences.

Matters being in such a highly satisfactory state, no valid reason
could be adduced for deferring the ceremony which was to seal my long-
deferred, now ofttimes despaired-of, happiness. The day was actually
fixed, incredible as it may seem, and such perspective arrangements
made as included the appointment of the Major as groomsman and such
other necessary selections as befitted a very quiet wedding, where few
but the actual personages and Ruth's parents were likely to attend.

So the great, the glorious day being decided on, after such interval
as was required absolutely by the not altogether unchronicled modistes
of Sydney, the wedding raiment put in hands, nous autres had nothing
to do but to wander about and enjoy ourselves, if possible, until my
happiness could be transacted.

Somewhat to our surprise, the Squire joined us in all our excursions,
and, like Dr. Johnson with Bennet Langton and Topham Beauclerk,
professed himself keenly eager for the diversion of a 'frisk' in our
company.

'I shall regret Sydney and these pleasant rambles I know when I
return,' he would say. 'I wish the South Head lay within hail of us
elderly country fogies!'

'Surely,' pleaded the Major, 'when you can run over to Paris in half-
a--day, and have the capitals of Italy, Germany, Russia--what not--all
within a week or so when you want a little change, and can pay for it,
is there not enough to satisfy a reasonable Briton!'

'You didn't quite see my point, my dear Major. What is the advantage
of Paris, Rome, Venice, half-a-score of capitals, with all the
grandeur and glory of the world packed up among them, to me, Geoffrey
Allerton, oetat. sixty? I'm too old to take pleasure in merely
watching the parti-coloured stream of life flow by. "The brave days
when we were twenty-one" have passed away with all that gave them joy
and savour. I can't stare at picture--galleries all day long or listen
to music by the hour either.'

'Then what do you want?' quoth the Major, 'for I can't for the life
of me divine.'

'Does it not occur to you,' queried the Squire, looking at him with
the kind, wise smile I remembered so well, 'that a man of my age and
country tastes would much rather run across to a younger, a greater,
and a newer England if he could do it by a week's travel, than to any
of the places you have named? There he would see the agricultural
problems that he had studied all his life worked out--by his own
countrymen too--under other and more favourable conditions.'

'Now I begin to perceive,' said the Major. 'A light breaks in upon
me. Hereward, the governor is a bigoted agriculturist; he has
contracted the cockatoo complaint, I'm afraid; on the part of the
"legitimate miner" I protest against him!'

'Not at all,' I say, coming to the rescue. 'It's the big grazing
areas that have fetched him--hearing of Jimbour with a couple of
hundred thousand sheep, and Boorooman with forty thousand head of
cattle. Besides, we did see a hundred and fifty mares and foals in one
paddock at Wendalong.'

'And not a bad one among them,' broke in the Squire. 'Well, I confess
I could spend the winter here with the greatest possible enjoyment.
These are the things which would interest me, and I own it. Besides,
all the great properties are in the hands of Englishmen, managed more
or less in English fashion. I don't take the same interest, I admit,
in the operations of foreigners.'

'I can sympathise with you, Squire,' I said. 'For many a day I used
to watch the farmers at their ploughing near Buninyong on a fine
spring morning and long to have the stilts in my hand again. It always
put me in mind of the Leys.'

'Australia has only to bide her time,' continued the Squire, who had
become serious; 'but the march of events does not lag in these days of
steam and telegraph. As the races swarmed westward in the old-world
days when corn land and grass land became scarce, as the Norsemen
later on took to their war galleys in search of free forage and
brought home gold and captives, so now the surplus strength of Europe
is passing over both oceans. Columbia will absorb one wing; but
Australia, rich in minerals, soil, and sunshine, will bid high for the
other. We are standing here in one of the great capitals of the world
that is to be.'

'How you will surprise your old neighbours at Allerton Court when you
return, Squire,' said I.

'I have gained food for thought, my boy, which will last me for the
remainder of my days,' he answered earnestly, 'besides some
comprehension of the prospects of my fellow Britons in the south, and
that is more than most country gentlemen can say. Besides, mark my
words, both of you--we have nothing to do but talk for a day or two,
you know--a great change is coming over the British farmer, and,
through him, over the landlord. With cheap corn from America, live
stock and meat from this country, an enormous trade, hardly yet
thought of, but, it strikes me, feasible enough, how can farmer Giles
pay the rent he does now? Answer me that. He and his son must
emigrate, I say; and where can they come to with half the chance of
doing well as to a country with kingdoms of cheap land like this? And
they will come--they must come; I feel assured of it.'

'It is a thousand pities, as you say, Squire, that Botany Heads are
not within a week or ten days' trip, like America. They get the pick
of our English immigrants; the voyage is so short that they are safely
landed in less time than would have served to make up their mind about
starting for Australia.'



Chapter XLIV



THE day of days arrived at length, lingering as had been the diurnal
periods--or rather ages, aeons, eternities--which preceded it. But for
the punctual appearance of the sun, that unfailing wonder-sign in
southern lands, I might have imagined that some especial
disarrangement of the solar system had taken place for my express
discomfiture. Good kind Mrs. Allerton, in spite of my entreaties,
would not abate an hour of the stipulated time which had been agreed
upon as necessary for the awful preliminaries so incomprehensible to
men. Ruth, too, was unkind enough to smile, and remark that as we had
waited years an additional month could not matter so much. In vain I
brought forward arguments as to the frightful uncertainty of human
life, the prevalence of epidemics, the recklessness of cabmen, the
tempests of the equinox, probable earthquakes, all things, and each
which might occur to frustrate our new-found happiness if longer
delayed. Nothing availed me. I was compelled to solace myself, as had
other impatient lovers, with reflections on the curious obstinacy of a
sex which poets and romancers have, for some inscrutable reason,
conspired to depict as soft and yielding.

But the winds and the waves, the stars in their courses, the forces
of nature, with the lesser powers of human life and society, combined
to favour the votive and supreme ceremony of our love.

The sun-god of the south, celestial, effulgent, rose on the most
entrancing day that had dawned since first the summer breeze whispered
to the ocean 'neath the lone headlands or by the silver sands of Rose
Bay; surely on that charmed strand the fays of the southern main first
danced to the mystic moon. Clear and bright as the 'gold bar of
heaven' I watched God's glorious messenger of light and warmth
majestically uprise through an azure cloudless sky. It was the pale
dawn flushed and glowed. It was the city of the Apocalypse--amber and
pearl, rose, amethyst, and jacinth. All things were transfigured. It
was from a fresh creation I seemed to issue forth, redeemed from a
world of strife and labour, henceforth to inhabit a sphere of peace,
of radiant happiness, which was to know no time or limit. We were but
a small party as we met at the massive, old-fashioned, but still
favourite and venerable church, with its alleys of araucaria and
Moreton Bay fig-trees. Hard by was Mrs. Pemberton's house and the
glorious sea--terraced garden pleasaunce wherein we had wandered so
many happy hours. With the Major, whose faultless attire defied the
most fastidious club critic, came Mr. Bright, whose leave of absence
appeared perennial. The Commissioner, with Mr. Merlin and Olivera, had
managed to sever themselves temporarily from their onerous duties, and
to stand by me on that day. Certain delicate-featured willowy-figured
Sydney demoiselles, friends of Mrs. Pemberton's, who had professed
themselves quite too awfully charmed to assist at such a touching
ceremonial, officiated as bridesmaids, and these were the only
stranger guests in all the company. Ah, how different would it have
been at Allerton Court!--a remark which Mrs. Allerton could not help
making in the maternal fulness of her heart. But she saw the bright
hues of health again mantling on Ruth's check. so long a stranger to
the warmer tints, and marked the love-light which glowed and sparkled
in her soft bright eye. The flower-laden ocean breeze stole through
the open windows of the old church, and during the hush and stillness,
with the solemn tones of the aged clergyman, mingled ever and anon
melodious surge-voices, chaunting their deep rhythmical antistrophe.
The beauty and strangeness of the surroundings, where we now
indissolubly sealed our union, overcame her motherly o'ercharged
heart, and the tears of joy and thankfulness filled her eye and rolled
unheeded adown her cheek.

Our wedding dejeuner, though a tiny festival, was complete; and,
thanks to Mrs. Pemberton's taste and sympathy, utterly perfect in
detail.

Merlin confessed that he had never tasted such champagne since his
last dinner at Very's. Mr. Bright proposed the health of the leading
performers with effect and feeling. The Major was compelled to
undertake the toast 'The bridesmaids,' which doubtless he did under a
mental reservation equivalent to 'without prejudice.'

The Commissioner and the Squire arranged to meet in Northamptonshire,
not far from the historic Kirby Gate, in two years' time, which
appointment, strange to say, did come off, by reason of the uncle of
him (Blake) dying in the meantime and making testamentary dispositions
of astounding liberality.

       *   *   *   *   *

We had planned to pass our earlier wedded days amid the fern-fringed
glades and weird primeval forests of New Zealand. The month had not
ended when we were steaming south over the restless sea which heaves
and moans evermore before the still fathomless fiords of the West
coast and the snow peaks of Treble Mount. We explored the hot blue
springs of Waiwera, and luxuriated by starlight in the alabaster shell
baths of Rotomahana.

We saw the magic lake that divides the pink and the white terraces;
more marvels of the land of the Maori; the yellow and green mosaics;
the silver--fretted fairy rock-work, so beauteous seeming to the eye,
so wondrous soft to the touch. Ruth's state of mind almost approached
intoxication; her admiration was boundless.

'I can imagine all about those people who came here and never
returned to civilisation. The lotus-eaters were no myths after all.
This is the land of enchantment.'

Ruth now congratulated herself that she had, early in her
suzerainet, signified her intention of thoroughly acquainting herself
with this new world before she returned to the old for the remainder
of our days.

'We are young and adventurous now,' she said, 'or at least I am.
Before we settle down to the dear unchanging English country life, why
should not we see as much of this wonderful land of yours--the land
which has done so much for both of us--as we can? In the long dark
winters and not too sunshiny summers of our northern home will it not
be pleasant to recall this free untrammeled life--this wandering hand-
in-hand through the Eden that now lies around us?'

'I never heard of a female Vanderdecken,' I say musingly. 'Can it be
our fate to travel everlastingly, "prospecting" for hidden treasures
of knowledge till we are too worn and gray to utilise them?'

'You are the laziest creature,' she says, pretending to frown. 'I
believe you never would have made anything more than tucker--isn't
that the expression?--if it hadn't been for your mates and your
backers, male and female, eh, sir?'

'May I be permitted to express a hope that Mrs. Hereward Pole will
not come out with expressive colonialisms when--I mean if--we return
to England.'

'Mrs. Hereward Pole--how very grand a title--is generally en accord
with her surroundings, social or otherwise. But seriously, Harry
dearest, you are not in a hurry to find yourself plant l in the dear
old kingdom of Kent? Can we be happier than we are now, without a
thought of the morrow, without cares or engagements, and with "a new
heaven and a new earth" uprising before our gaze with every morn. In
the after time, if we are like other people, we shall have sufficient
sameness and settled life to content the most exigeante of British
matrons.'

'I will go with you to the end of the world,' I murmured; 'we will
sail on thus "till the sun grows cold and the stars are old," only let
me lie at your feet and gaze into your eyes, love-illumined and
tender-bright, for ever, as I do now!'

The Squire and Mrs. Allerton did not desire to explore further the
earth's surface, and having, as they thought, sufficiently improved
their understanding with travel and adventure, they placed themselves
on board the Peninsular and Oriental Company's majestic steamer
Hindostan without unnecessary waste of time. Mr. Allerton much
congratulated himself that they had evaded the rigours of an English
winter, and would arrive just in time to welcome the budding leaves of
spring.

For ourselves, we carried out Ruth's programme, to which I secretly
inclined all the more for having observed that the free unmonotoned
life of 'riding o'er land, sailing o'er sea,' was building up her
constitution to a point of vigour and endurance which I could scarcely
have hoped for in her early Australian days.

So beneath the Southern Cross we roamed far and wide and saw many
things, and ere the winter winds commenced to howl, like wolves baying
around the ice-peak of the Pole, we fled away towards the summer isles
of the purple sea, and there possessed our souls in halcyon enjoyment.

Hand in hand we watched the graceful flower-wreathed maidens of
Hawaii dance, as the earth's first-born daughters danced beneath the
broad moon's silver ray; saw the Kanaka dive through the transparent
water of coral-fringed bays, and watched the cocoanut palm wave
welcome to the fleets of swift-darting canoes with their joyous
oarsmen. We brushed with careful foot the smouldering lava of Kilauea,
through the crevices of which Ruth, shuddering, marked the red glowing
eternal fires of a nether visible and palpable hades. We gazed on the
vast blocks and silent halls of the great temple of Iono--built by the
hands of the spectral dead. At midnight we were lighted on our
homeward path by a heaving sea of molten fire, through which the red
domes of lava arose to heave and fall--in hissing fragments, amid pale
green films of vapour, and a faint lace-tracery of mist.

Still another moon and we are on board the New York City, among the
passengers, who were regaled with ice still pure as when first from
the caves of Lake Wenham, and salmon fresh as when congealed the first
day of its capture. Entering by the Golden Gate we saw the other great
gold city of the earth--San Francisco, and were entertained by a
cousin of poor Gus Maynard with the royal hospitality in which
Americans excel all the nations of the earth. Under his guidance, or
rather in his train, we 'did' the Yosemite, Los Angelos, the Mammoth
Tree, and even, what interested Ruth most, the wall of the old mission
St. Pedro, whereon were traced legends not unconnected with 'the old,
old song,' old when these old walls were young, 'Manuela of La Torre.'
Onward again by trains which threaded the awful snow solitude and lone
peaks of the Rocky Mountains, through great cities which had been
waving forest solitudes but yesterday, over prairie-oceans where the
far horizon showed nor hill nor tree--naught but endless flower-strewn
plains, as league after league stretched beneath the tireless swift-
speeding iron steed, over billowy waving seas of giant grasses and
lavish herbage products of the boundless generosity of nature in the
far west, over tressel bridges which trembled and vibrated as the long
train wound its oscillating way across shuddering abysses. We reach
the ocean of the north, again the wondrous Atlantic shore; we dwell in
great cities, wondering and awestricken at the labour results of the
Briton left free to develop his many-sided nature and boundless energy
in a new land of limitless resources. We commence to feel restless--
only a week and then home, home!--ah, me! The wanderers have reached
home--England, the dear old chalk cliffs of Albion--at last.

From my old friends and true comrades can I now part for evermore
without further mention? Can I leave the generous sympathetic reader
of these rambling pages to pine in uncertainty, rendering herself
uneasy as to what became of Mrs. Yorke and Mrs. Mangrove, whether Mr.
Merlin married, if the Commissioner returned to England, or Mr. Bright
became chief inspector of banking institutions, with carte blanche for
champagne and oysters, and unlimited leave of absence? He who indites
even so humble a chronicle of men and manners as this, which now draws
to a close--and time, too, perhaps grumble impatient youth, when the
heroine is married--cannot complete the task without a tender feeling
of regret. Have we said farewell, and for ever, to all the personages,
fair and friendly, loyal or false, gentle and simple, which have
moved, have spoken, have strutted their hour upon our tiny stage?
Shall we never meet again in this world? Alas! some are dead and gone;
even in the world of fiction there is a savour of reality; and we
could mourn--if we might--for the bright eyes that have 'forgotten to
shine,' for the brave hearts whose pulses are for ever stilled. When
the golden holes known to this day as Greenstone Dyke and No. 4 claims
were exhausted and utterly worked out, the party was broken up for
good and all. The whole plant, the whim, the tools, the huts, the
Major's cottage--every mortal thing down to a worn-out hide bucket--
was sold by auction and the proceeds divided among the shareholders.
Roan Bessie, the whip-horse that had drawn up so many thousand buckets
of washdirt, was bought in by Joe Bulder, who had made up his mind to
purchase an estate on the Hawkesbury and settle down to his old
occupation of farming. In this resolution he was supported by Mrs.
Yorke, who had definitely consented to become his wife, and to entrust
her 'pile,' as she phrased it, and the welfare of her children to her
late husband's comrade.

'Now the ground's worked out and the party broke up,' she said in
explaining the matter to Mrs. Mangrove confidentially, 'I feel that
unsettled that if there was a new rush broke out in the middle of
Californy I'd be bound to follow it, which must be foolishness with
all the money I've got in the bank. So jest as I was thinkin' how
awkward it 'ld be not to have a soul to cook for or to chaff a bit
when they come in from work, and grizzlin' over poor Cyrus as is dead
and gone, this old Joe must come and ketch hold of my hand and offer
to take a half share in all future interests. Well, I agreed to
transfer, with the parson for registrar, and I don't know as I could
better it much. Marryin's a long lease not easy cancelled if the
labour conditions ain't carried out as we've all seen on this field.
But Joe and poor Cyrus was always good mates. He's as sober and steady
as Roan Bessie, very nigh; never was off his shift, hot or cold, wet
or dry. He'll be a good dad to the young 'uns, and he's that used to
doin' what I tell him that it won't come strange to him by and by, as
it might to some chaps as never worked in the party.'

So Mrs. Yorke, holding that it would simplify matters, was married
first, and travelled down country afterwards with Roan Bessie and
another horse in a cart with the children and other portables much in
the same fashion as they had come to the rush. They could begin to be
top sawyers, she said, when they got to Sydney, and then they could
make a fair start and launch out at their leisure.

I am bound to say that their wedding, as reported in the Beacon, was
an imposing affair, and in a manner far more splendid than ours. The
Oxley Church of England building was so full that seats were not
procurable, and numbers of the friends of the bride and the
bridegroom, who had rolled up in force, were constrained to stand
outside.

A stupendous breakfast at Hennessy's is yet quoted in mining circles,
at which the health of the happy pair was drunk in every conceivable
liquor, from lager beer to maraschino, while the benediction was
pronounced in more tongues than had been set going at once since the
Tower of Babel. And the ball at night, at which the happy pair led off
the first dance, was such an entertainment as recalled the 'brave days
of old' to all old prospectors and 'forty-niners.'

Next day, before the sun was well up the camp was deserted and Joe
and his wife on their way to Sydney.

Jack Bulder had, fortunately for himself, joined the ranks of the
Good Templars some months since. He, therefore, was enabled to appear
at the marriage and subsequent festivities without risk, and on those
somewhat dangerous occasions--teetotally speaking--he conducted
himself with a perfect, though somewhat pensive propriety. He
consistently declined matrimony on his own account for the time to
come, residing at intervals with his brother, to whose children he
willed his fortune in anticipation of the sudden death which he always
prophesied would be his fate. Some years afterwards he was drowned by
the foundering of his yacht, the Favourite, in a gale, between
Melbourne and Sydney, when his bank shares served to consolidate the
increasing prosperity of the Yorkes and Bulders, the second generation
of which, well educated and well endowed, may yet take rank among
Australian notables.

Some weeks after we had left the Oxley, Edward Morsley was put upon
his trial at the Assize Court held at Russell, and after a careful and
protracted examination of the evidence found guilty of wilful murder
and sentenced to death. Beyond reiterating a statement that poor Jane
had taken her own life in despair at being at the last moment
prevented from sailing for England, he made no attempt to exculpate
himself or evade his doom.

Remorseless ruffian though he might be, he was 'brave with the she--
wolf's courage grim, dying hard and dumb, torn limb from limb.' When
the drop was finally arranged, and after he had been pinioned, he
motioned to the hangman's assistant as if wishing to speak. The
clergyman came over--he had in vain urged him to confess--and listened
intently. These were the criminal's last words: 'Now look here, what I
want to know is this: am I standing perfectly square and straight?'
The good man sighed and commenced the prayer for the dying. The drop
fell, and the innocent blood was avenged as far as human justice could
compass such expiation.

It was a fact--let us say a coincidence--that within a year of our
departure by easy stages for Europe, unlooked-for good fortune
commenced to shower its benefits upon nearly all the members of our
camaraderie. The Commissioner's uncle died, leaving him and that
brother with whose name and fame we were tolerably familiar, a
considerable fortune. Mr. Jack Blake acted up to his Christian name
and family traits (was there ever a Jack of sordid soul?) He divided
the inheritance with the Commissioner, whereupon that high official
swiftly departed for England, taking two couple of his kangaroo dogs
with him. Smoker and Spring he could not leave behind, while Forester
would show some of the home coursing men that in roughish country a
'dawg' reared in Australia could make it very hot for the hares of the
period.

The last sensational legend that will ever be told by Australian camp
fires about 'The Captain,' arose out of the grand farewell dinner in
his honour the evening before he started for Sydney en route for
Europe. The officials of the goldfield, the gentry of the district and
the neighbouring towns, mustered strong. The wines were undeniable.
The honour of the Civil Service stood involved; there was but little
flinching. Towards the end of the evening a slight difference of
opinion arose between Blake and an argumentative surgeon formerly in
the army; moreover born north of the Tweed. It referred to a question
of genealogy, leading to that of the county rank and precedence of his
family, anent which sacred subject Blake was wont to be unusually
stiff and dignified towards the small hours.

As ill-luck would have it, the contumacious doctor accompanied him
and Bagstock towards the camp after all was over, when he was ill-
advised enough to recommence the argument.

'It's a vara odd thing, noo I come to think o't,' he said musingly.
'I was quartered in Galway, close to Tuam and Dunmore, for three
years. I can recollect fine the Dillons and Brownes, the Frenches and
O'Malleys, by the score, but the de'il a Blake I can ca' to mind for
the life o' me.'

'By--!' growled the Commissioner, and as he spoke he seized him with
both hands, and exerting his enormous strength, lifted him high in the
air as if he had been a child. 'You'll remember one of the Blakes
after this night, I'll go bail.'

A deep-water race just then crossed their path in which the ice-cold
waters led from a mountain stream hurried, gleaming in the dim light.
Into this Blake dashed the unlucky Doctor, and striding forward, left
him to struggle out the best way he could with Bagstock's aid, whose
only consoling remark, as he dragged out the dripping and sputtering
victim, was 'I should have thought you had more s-s-sense, Doctor,
than to argue with the Commissioner at t-t-two o'clock in the m-m-
morning.'

A bronzed soldierly-looking man, whose straight going and utter
indifference to obstacles are somewhat at variance with his snow-white
hair and beard, has for some seasons been well known with the
Pychley--a dead shot, an authority on grey-hounds which brings him
nearly on a level with Stonehenge as a referee and authority, the
latter days of the erstwhile 'Billy' Blake of the 80th Hussars--whose
name was the synonym for feats of daring, beside which foolhardiness
was cautious prudence--pass peacefully and happily. But still in all
parts of Australia, when miners gather round a camp fire, or the
tongues grow lissom under the influence of good fellowship and potent
liquor, some racy saying or autocratic act of Commissioner' Blake's is
quoted, and for long years yet the name of 'The Captain' will be a
spell to conjure with on the banks of the Oxley.

Mrs. Mangrove and John, true to their principles, were among the
earliest arrivals at the great Matamora rush, which occurred years
after the Oxley. There they erected the first hotel and sold it at a
large profit. They built another, specially retaining the name, and
stocked a large store before the second detachment of new arrivals
flocked in. As the first American coach arrived, carrying about fifty
odd passengers, and the reins of the seven horses handled by a
gigantic Canadian were thrown to the helpers, there was such a rush to
Mangrove's Hotel that the inexperienced felt sure that a fight or a
bushrangers' raid was on (so the Matamora Herald pleasantly put it).

'It's only "the boys," John,' said the long-experienced hostess, as
the bronzed and bearded faces, fresh from Queensland, New Zealand,
Victoria, and Kiandra, welcome breathing, thronged the hotel, rustling
one another like school boys, and casting their swags recklessly on
the verandah.

Mrs. Mangrove expressed herself to the effect that it was quite like
old times. John, who had been smiling silently throughout the whole
performance, merely replying as he gave expressive nods to the hearty
greetings of old acquaintances, 'regular stunning good rush, boys; 120
oz. nugget got by one man simply.'

Mr. Bright, like the Commissioner, was indebted to a considerate
relation for a bequest which, somewhat to his regret, absolved him
from the necessity of forming branches at new goldfields and defending
the property of the Bank of New Holland like a mediaeval champion
against all comers. He and Mr. Merlin met in Paris the following year,
when the latter gentleman was enabled to display his proverbial
knowledge of gastronomy under the most favourable conditions, and
together they experienced such dinners as can only be realised in
dreams south of the line. We had the pleasure of talking over old
times with them during the shooting season at Allerton Court, where
Australian stories were reproduced for the benefit of some of the
magnates of the county--tales of wonder to which Mr. Bright's
exceptional shooting, when we got to the preserves, lent ample
corroboration.

         *    *   *    *  *

Surely it is decreed and fore-ordained that the lives of some men
should be divided into periods of war and peace. The youth of those
who, like myself,

'Have striven and toiled and fought it out.

Under the hard blue sky'

of a far land is filled full of the hazard and the glory, the grim
perils and the stormy joys of war, of dreary watching in trenches,
dogged endurance of defeat, intoxicating triumph of victory.

To some men-at-arms it is given to march proudly in through the gate
of the beleagured city of Fortune, with drum and trumpet and banners
flying, while comrades lie dead in the breach or disabled on the
plain.

Let him who emerges from the battle of life safe, enriched, and
honoured by all men, be more than content, be humbly thankful to the
great Being by whose mercy he, all unworthy, was spared while so many
perished on the march or the stricken field.

For me, Hereward Pole, the reign of peace has distinctly set in, now
and forever. Henceforth, save when the shadow of the wing of Azrael
the Death Angel, from whom no household rich or poor may claim
immunity, darkens my threshold, no faintest fear of fate or trace of
care or grief was mingled with my life.

I was fortunate in being able to purchase an estate which marched
with Allerton Court, and which the Squire, in a mild and Christian-
like way, had always coveted. The house was delightful--perhaps too
large and complete for the land which surrounded it. But for that we
did not particularly care. My son would be the heir of Allerton Court,
and in the fulness of time, upon the death of the Squire, which
apparently will not take place for long years to come--would that he
may become a centenarian--we shall occupy that time-honoured pile.

And do I manage to fill up satisfactorily the great intervals of
absolute leisure in this wholly new and untried life, free from all
necessity to work with head or hand--a pensioned idler and non-
combatant, guaranteed against all the ills of mortality except ennui?

Well, yes, I get along, and find unalloyed happiness a fairly payable
claim. Ruth and I are nearly as much at Allerton Court as at Combe
Hall, our own, our very own place, which is almost too comfortable,
not to say luxurious. The Major has pretty well taken up his abode
with us, and the Major's room is one of the recognised apartments of
the house. He is a confirmed bachelor; our friendship is, therefore,
unlikely to alter in degree. When country life palls upon us, we are
graciously permitted by Ruth to fish in Norway, to hunt in the shires,
to run down to Scotland in the grouse season, and even, one
particularly cold winter, to try a little lion-stalking in Algeria.

I am a magistrate, and thus moderately interested in county business.
Besides, London is not such a very bad place for a few days now and
then. Rome and Venice we think we know something about; but we are
forbidden to go to Russia, or to stay more than a fortnight in Paris
at a time. With a few of these distractions, always accessible within
forty-eight hours or a trifle over, it is surprising how the year gets
disposed of. Every now and then a fresh Australian turns up that I
hear of at the Reform Club, the Travellers, or the Athenaeum, and I
bring him out to Ruth's great interest and satisfaction. Olivera
himself appeared one day, having 'at long last,' as his Irish mate
said, made a fortune suddenly in tin, and become one of the leading
capitalists of Stanthorpe. He had played a waiting race, and won
fortune's sweepstake on the post in the last heat.

In my study, as the modest apartment is called which contains my
private and personal effects, hang many prints, pictures, and other
delineations, more or less en souvenir of far lands and strange
adventures. But the one which I occasionally find Ruth and the
children gazing steadfastly at--our nursery is pretty full and
Hereward the second, commonly called Harry, is growing a big boy and
clamorous for a Shetland--is a small much crumbled piece of parchment,
framed in wonderful dead gold Venetian, and which, after detailing for
the hundredth time some spirit-stirring goldfields' adventure of which
papa was the hero, she proudly describes, for the benefit of any
youthful visitors, as a talismanic document without which no one can
dig gold in Australia--none other, in fact, than a real, true,
authentic 'Miner's Right.'



THE END



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