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Title: Policy and Passion
Author: Rosa Praed
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0607231.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: September 2006
Date most recently updated: September 2006

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Policy and Passion
Rosa Praed



INTRODUCTORY NOTE

IN placing before the English public a novel dealing exclusively with
Australian life, a few prefatory remarks may not be inapplicable.

That the mother country should be comparatively unacquainted with
the features and characteristics, the innerworkings, the social
interests, and great and petty political aspirations of this most
promising of her offspring, is a fact principally to be attributed to
the onesidedness of the intellectual intercourse which at present
connects Great Britain with the Antipodes.

By means of books, more especially contemporary fiction, the
Australian of the second generation may render himself familiar with
most phases of British society. On the other hand, the Englishman
desirous of penetrating to the hidden sources of thought and action
which govern the lives of his colonial brethren, though he has to
acknowledge deep obligations to several influential English writers
and to a smaller number of Antipodean authors, must deplore the
limited medium of communion offered to his imagination by the
literature emanating directly from Australia.

It can be no matter for conjecture that when in the course of years
Australia shall have appropriated to herself an independent position
among those occupied by more ancient nations, and shall have
formulated a social and political system adapted to the conditions of
her development and growth, she will possess a literature of her own
as powerful and original as might be prognosticated, from the
influences of nature and civilisation brought to bear upon the
formation of a distinct national type.

But the time for this is hardly yet ripe.

Yet, the fluttering heart-beats and spasmodic efforts; the struggles
after a dimly recognised good, and the many failures of achievement;
the conflict of personal and patriotic ambition; the imperfect
assimilation of traditional ideas with unconventional circumstances;
the contrast between human passion unsoftened by the veil of
refinement with which civilisation drapes that which is foul, and of
rudely-expressed yearnings after the nobler motives of existence--all
these contending elements which go far towards making up the sum of
young life in the individual or the race, appeal with pathos and
peculiar interest to the parent nature which has given them birth.

It has been my wish to depict in these pages certain phases of
Australian life, in which the main interests and dominant passions of
the personages concerned are identical with those which might readily
present themselves upon an European stage, but which, directly and
indirectly, are influenced by striking natural surroundings, and by
the conditions of being inseparable from the youth of a vigorous and
impulsive nation.

The scenery described here is drawn directly from nature; and the
name of Leichardt's Land--a tribute to the memory of a daring but ill-
fated explorer--is but a transparent mask covering features that will
be familiar to many of my Australian readers.

But it is to the British public that I, an Australian, address
myself, with the hope that I may in some slight degree aid in bridging
over the gulf which divides the Old World from the Young.

R. M. PRAED.



POLICY AND PASSION



Chapter I. At Braysher's Inn.

BRAYSHER'S, the chief inn at Kooya, was a one-storied, wooden building,
placed at the junction of the two principal streets of the township. A
wide verandah, enclosed by dingy railings which had been originally
painted green, and filled with squatters' chairs and small wooden
tables, extended round the two visible sides of the hotel. A bar, much
frequented by the roughs who came down from the bush 'for a spree,'
faced one of the streets, and a coffeeroom, which served as a rendezvous
for the passengers by Cobb's coach to and from Leichardt's Town, and
opened by glass doors on to the verandah, fronted the other
thoroughfare.

It wanted now about an hour to the time at which the coach usually
started, and the vehicle, ready to be horsed, was drawn up beside the
sign-post. It was a clumsy affair, painted red and yellow. A wooden
framework supported an awning, of which the leather curtains might be
pulled up or down at will; in front there was a high driver's box; two
wooden benches faced each other behind, and at the extreme end was a
third, only to be approached by a scramble over the backs of the
others. The coach was generally drawn by five horses.

The time was half-past four in the afternoon of a sultry day in
February. A storm brooded in the distance, and there was an ominous
stillness in the atmosphere. The oleanders and loquat-trees before the
opposite houses looked brown and thirsty. The acacias in the inn
garden drooped with sickly languor; and the spiky crowns of the golden
pine-apples beneath them were thickly coated with dust. Flaming
hibiscus flowers stared at the beholder in a hot, aggressive fashion.
There was no green shadow anywhere to afford relief to eyes wearied
with brightness and colour. Brassy clouds were gathering slowly in the
west, and the sun, beating pitilessly upon the zinc roofs of the
verandahs, was mercilessly refracted from the glaring limestone hills
that formed the eastern border of the township.

Two long roads intersected each other at the inn corner. One
stretched away into the bush, where it wound among gaunt gum--trees,
and lost itself in the dull herbage with which the country was
overgrown; the other seemed to terminate abruptly upon the summit of a
chalky ridge, where a clump of grass trees, with their brown, spear-
like tufts erect, looked like sentinels to the barren scene.

Wooden-porticoed shanties, alternating at intervals with brick public
offices; newly-painted stores, which displayed all varieties of wares;
and gaudy public-houses, round which clustered brawny, sunburnt
navvies, lined, but did not shade, the streets. The general air of the
place was one of inaction. Sometimes a bullock-dray, piled with bales
of wool or station stores, would rumble by; or a covered cart, driven
by a weather-beaten German woman from some neighbouring selection,
would pause for a moment in front of Braysher's, while its owner
interchanged a few words with some acquaintance lounging at the bar.

More frequently a bushman, in Crimean shirt and moleskins, with his
coat strapped before him, would clatter over the stony road and
dismount before the inn. First, he would unsaddle his horse, hanging
its bridle on to the railings of the verandah, while the animal,
accustomed to the habits of the place, would find its own way to the
water-trough. Next, the new-comer would don his coat, and sidle across
to the post-office opposite, whence he would shortly return, laden
with letters and newspapers, which he would place upon the arm of a
squatter's chair in readiness for inspection. Then, after carefully
choosing the shadiest side of the verandah, he would stretch his legs
at full length, dangle his feet over the railings, call for a glass of
grog to wash the dust out of his throat, thereby intensifying the
redness of a sun-baked face, and would finally set himself to the
perusal of his correspondence.

Many bushmen had arrived at Braysher's that afternoon, and all had
gone through exactly the same formula, with the occasional addition of
a greeting to one or other of those already assembled on the inn
verandah.

'Good-day to you;' 'Steaming hot;' 'Looks like a storm brewing;'
'Very dry up country;' 'Fine weather this for the cotton-growers;' and
such-like interjectional remarks sounded unfamiliarly in the ears of
an English gentleman but lately arrived in Australia, who was leaning
against one of the verandah-posts, contemplating with languid interest
the scene around him.

He was smoking, and apart from his air and physique, the silver--
mounted match-box in his hand and the perfume of his expensive cigar
sufficiently indicated him to the intelligence of the bushmen as 'a
chap from the old country.' Nevertheless, his tall, broadly-built
figure, bronzed, highbred face, and soldier-like bearing, had no
generic affinity with the lank limbs, the fresh-coloured, supine
features, and frank gullibility of the typical new chum. The boldest
old hand would hardly have attempted to play a practical joke upon
Hardress Barrington.

He looked about thirty-five. The upper part of his face was fine,
with a touch of nobility in the high forehead, broad at its base, but
slightly receding at the crown. The darkbrown hair fringed off in
little rings from the temples. The brows were strongly marked and
wrinkled together in a frown, which deepened the indentures of the
sockets, and gave to the grey eyes a remarkable intensity of
expression. The nose was straight, with a somewhat coarse conformation
of nostril, and had on each side a deep line extending below the upper
lip. The mouth was concealed by a heavy moustache, and the clean-
shaven, slightly prominent chin was cleft in the centre. A handsome
man, upon whom it would be impossible for the stranger not to bestow
several glances of interest, and of whom it might be safely surmised
that he had travelled much and had come into contact with various
grades of society.

'I suppose that Cobb's coach is on its last legs now,' said one of
the squatters, relighting a short black pipe that had expired between
his lips. 'I shouldn't wonder if we had steam-carriages to Leichardt's
Town before December year. Do you think that Longleat will carry his
railway bill this session?'

'There'll be a stiff fight over the Speech,' said a red-faced
bushman, in a cabbage-tree hat, laying down the Leichardt's Town
Chronicle, which he had been diligently perusing. 'Middleton has been
blowing no end, up north; and there are some snug berths to be given
away. Folks must have an eye to their own pockets; and for all the
blather that people talk about impartiality, there's no doubt that
bribery tells in the long-run.'

'I'll back Longleat,' said another. 'He is the devil for sticking to
his purpose. He said he'd make the colony, and he is going the right
way to work. What Leichardt's Land wants is money, and money means
Immigration and Public Works. Hullo, Tom Dungie! Down from the
Koorong, eh? Why, you've given the little piebald a sore back with
your hard riding.'

Tom Dungie, the mail-man, who had halted at the post-office across
the street, had just removed his saddle with its load of brown leather
post-bags, and was ruefully regarding a puffy spot above the loin,
which threatened unpleasant consequences to a dearly-loved pony. Two
other horses which he had been driving, one of which bore a pair of
empty saddle-bags, were browsing by the wayside. Dungie was a tiny fat
man, with small, twinkling grey eyes, a round face, and a whining
voice.

'It's from all the lies I'm a-carryin',' he squeaked. 'The little
piebald, she's a righteous 'oss; and Lord! them Parliamentary
rigmaroles--there's seven of 'em in blue envelopes from Kooralbyn--do
hact like a James's blister upon a sensitive back.'

A shout of laughter greeted Tom Dungie's explanation but he
maintained an imperturbable gravity during the explosion.

'Who's the hack for?' inquired one of the dwellers at Braysher's.

'It's that there lord at Dyraaba as has a new chum agoin' in for
colonial experience,' squeaked Dungie, giving each of the
supernumerary beasts a sharp smack on the wither. 'I say, Mr.
Braysher, put the 'acks up, and don't let 'em be turned out for any of
your swell customers. My word! it's awful dry to-day--Longleat's on
the road behind.'

'Longleat!' shouted a group of men at the bar; and soon the cry
spread through the township. Even the children playing at fives with
the pebbles in the road caught it up, and their mothers rushed out to
join in the excitement. Before many minutes a small crowd had
assembled in front of Braysher's.

'Who is Longleat?' asked the Englishman.

'Longleat!' echoed a hirsute squatter, who expectorated freely, and
frankly owned to American origin. 'Longleat!' he repeated, not looking
at his questioner, but gazing over the heads of the crowd into the
vista of houses and distant trees. 'Wal! it's my opeenion, sir, that
it 'ud be worth your while to study up the politics of this 'ere
rising colony, ef it's only to become acquainted with the career of
Thomas Longleat, of Kooralbyn--a remarkable man, sir. The Champion, of
the working class; the Pillar of Progress; and the Enemy of a
tyrannical and parsimonious democracy.'

The speaker drawled out with lagging eloquence his emphasised
adjectives, hitched up his trousers, and slouched to the other end of
the verandah, his eyes still fixed upon the distant object of his
attention, which was rapidly resolving itself into a flying speck
advancing mid a cloud of freshly-raised dust.

'But who is Longleat?' inquired Barrington again.

'Member for Kooya, and Premier of Leichardt's Land,' replied a spry
little stockman in moleskins.

'Thank you,' said Barrington.

'A remarkable specimen, sir, of the vicissitudes of Australia,' said
the first speaker, returning to his former position against the
verandah-rails. 'It's a known fact that Thomas Longleat began life in
this colony as a bullockdriver. He ain't ashamed to own up to it. A
bullockdriver on these very roads that he is spanking over now with
the finest team in Leichardt's Land. A man as yoked his own beasts,
and spread his tarpaulin, and chewed his quid of tobacco when the
day's work was over; and now, why if he floats his Railway Loan, her
Majesty will make him a Knight of St. Michael and St. George, as sure
as we're standing in Braysher's verandah. Here he comes.'

A buggy, drawn by four steaming chestnuts, rattled down the road, and
was pulled up in front of the hotel. A stout red-faced gentleman with
a swelling chest and commanding presence, clad in white linen clothes,
and wearing a broadbrimmed puggareed hat, descended from the vehicle.
He was followed by a wizened-up little man, with very thin legs and a
hooked nose, whose ferret-like face was fringed by a border of iron-
grey hair, and wore an unpleasant, saturnine expression.

The mob set up a cheer, which Longleat acknowledged by a good--
humoured salutation, while his voice, sonorous but unrefined, sounded
clearly above the uproar, as he addressed the innkeeper.

'Hi, Braysher! Good-day to you. I am going to Leichardt's Town by the
coach to-night; but Mr. Ferris will be stopping here for a day or so.
Look after my horses, will you? Have you got four stalls empty?'

The innkeeper advanced and touched his hat, a mark of deference he
had not shown to any of the previous arrivals.

'Well, sir, we're pretty full, but we'll manage. There's Dungie
brought down two hacks for that there lord up your way; but they can
go off to the paddock, and we'll make room somehow for your team.'

Mr. Longleat smiled, tickled and somewhat flattered by the evident
fact, that 'that there lord' was in Braysher's estimation of very
small importance compared with himself.

He shook hands with some of the men in the verandah, called for a
tumbler of cold water which he drank standing, and said in a
patronising tone to his companion, who had ordered a glass of brandy
in the coffee-room:

'A bad thing, Ferris. Stick to Adam's ale in a hot climate.
Temperance and success, that's been my motto, and I've got no cause to
complain of the way I've got on in life.'

Mr. Ferris retreated scowling to partake of his refreshment; and the
Premier, after throwing a 'chaffing' word to Dungie, who was inclined
to resent the summary expulsion of his horses, turned his eyes upon
Barrington. He stared at the Englishman with a half-angry curiosity,
as though he recognised in him the representative of an order for
which he had no liking.



Chapter II. The Premier.

THE mob round the hotel had thickened fast, and as the Premier stood in
Braysher's verandah surveying the crowded street, the rowdies set up a
series of shouts.

'Hooray for Thomas Longleat! Go it, old chap, for the Railway; pitch
into the obstructionist crew! Down with Middleton and his sneaking
northerners!' concluding with an unanimous cry, 'I say, Longleat, give
us a bit of talk. Open your jaw while you're waiting, and let 'em have
it hot.'

The Premier shook his head, half deprecating, half acknowledging his
popularity with the Kooya mob, now considerably augmented by a band of
idle navvies in blue shirts and felt caps, to whom the cry of 'the
Railway' was the herald of a new era of pay and plenty.

'We don't mean to let you clear out in this 'ere---coach till you've
told us what's agoin to become of us when Parliament meets,' cried one
of these insistents, perching himself upon a wheel of Cobb's.

'We aren't the sort of chaps to be put off any longer with these 'ere
screws,' shrieked another rough, who had clambered to the box-seat.
'It's steam 'osses that suits our money. Hooray for Longleat's
railway! Come, go it, old chap! Tell us that you hain't got no
intention of caving in to them stingy oppositionists.'

The Premier came forward to the edge of the verandah, and took off
his hat. As he stood in the glare of the declining sun, his head
thrown back, his big chest expanded, with his broad capable forehead,
his keen eyes looking out steadily from under shaggy brows, his under
lip slightly protruding and giving to his coarsely--moulded face an
expression of suave self-complacency, in spite of the drawbacks of
evident low birth and vulgar assertiveness, there were in his bearing
and features indications of intellectual power and iron resolution,
which would have impressed a higher-class mob than that now waiting
eagerly for his words. His brawny hands, rough still with the traces
of work and exposure, grasped the verandah-rails, while he began to
speak in an easy conversational style, unembellished by any flowers of
oratory.

'Electors and friends,' said Mr. Longleat, 'you've asked me to make
you a speech before I travel down to Leichardt's Town, in Cobb's coach
yonder; and I dare say you would all cheer me as loudly as your lungs
would let you, if I just took that vehicle for my text in a tirade
against the petty jealousy of northern politicians, who grudge to the
populated south a means of locomotion of which there ain't enough of
squatters, let alone free selectors, to make any use up there. But
it's not my way to abuse the bridge that has carried me over, and I
won't cry down Cobb's coach, that, scores of times when I have been
driving hard all day from Kooralbyn, has saved my horses' legs and my
own temper. You can't have railways at a moment's notice, my men; and
it's not so very long ago that we all thought it a fine and wonderful
thing to have any sort of a public conveyance between Leichardt's Town
and Kooya. It's a nice, roomy, well-built vehicle, and has done its
work well; and I mean no disrespect to Mr. Cobb when I say to you here
that I hope, before two years are out, to travel from this town to the
metropolis in one that'll be easier about the springs, and more
commodious for the carriage of our wool and cotton to port, and our
meat and vegetables to market.

'I have driven fifty miles to-day, along a roughish bit of country,
and am not much inclined for public speaking; but since you want to
know what my policy is going to be this coming session, I'll tell you.
I'm going to fight might and main for your railway; and if the public
feeling is what I take it to be, there's not much doubt but that
you'll have it. Not because you want it. I do the best I can for my
constituency, but I bear in mind that Kooya is not the only electorate
in Leichardt's Land. It's because our colony requires the fresh
impetus which she will receive from the circulation of new moneys,
that I'm going to move heaven and earth to float the Loan which I
shall bring before Parliament at the opening of the session.

'There are folks up north, and down south too, that say the Ministry
will knock under, and that when Parliament meets the Railway question
will be shuffled over, and the Opposition conciliated, because Thomas
Longleat likes power and place, and means to stick to his seat in the
Treasury. Now, I say that's a lie! Thomas Longleat never knocked under
in his life, and he's not going to be trodden on now. If he is
thrashed, and the country goes agen him, he'll take his licking and
bide his time; but if he knows that the country is with him, he'll
fight for her while he has got a voice to speak with and a leg to
stand on. The Railway Loan will be the party question of this session,
and upon it my Government stands or falls. You all know me here; it's
my way to carry through what I've set my mind on. It's my
determination--some call it luck and some call it obstinacy--that's
got me on in life. I ain't ashamed to tell you that I began in
Leichardt's Land bullock-driving along this very road I'm going over
to-night. I was a rough sort of chap in those days, my friends, but
I'd got the will in me strong even then. I said to myself, "I'll
rise," and I have risen. I've climbed inch by inch, step by step, till
I'm nigh the topmost bough of the tree; and I'm proud of what I've
done. It's Leichardt's Land that has made me; and when I see my
benefactress low and sinking, it's not surprising that I want mine to
be the hand to lift her up again. We are watching a critical point in
her history. Nations have their turning-points, their times of
weakness and depression, the same as human beings. Leichardt's Land is
like a sick person whose powers have been enfeebled, and whose
glorious capabilities have been contracted by years of parsimonious
neglect. She needs a fillip. You have heard of a wonderful operation
called transfusion, by which fresh vitalising blood is sent coursing
through languid veins, and a new impetus is given to the springs of
life. It is the transfusion of money, the blood of nations, that
Leichardt's Land requires to make her flush and strong.

'Let a temporary loan, which will, ere long, repay itself fourfold,
be poured into her treasury, and we shall see, in a short space of
time, railways penetrating, to the very heart of her rich pastures;
bridges spanning her rivers; her mines yielding gold and jewels, her
plantations sugar and cotton; the European market supplied with her
wool, and the colonial market with her produce. My friends, the Loan
Bill, which will come before the House immediately, is not a mere
question of internecine jealousy and party rancour, but of the
introduction of new life and vigour into a glorious but debilitated
colony!'

Longleat, as he concluded his peroration, his rough eloquence
kindling as he opened upon his subject, stood for a moment, his
shoulders thrown back, his face bland, his under lip projecting, ere
he proceeded with his address.

But at this moment the coach-horses, ready harnessed, were brought
round from the inn-yard, and there arose some little confusion amidst
the crowd in the street; while the sound of a woman's cry arrested any
further words with which Mr. Longleat might have intended to occupy
the five minutes which must elapse before the starting of the coach.

A lady dressed in black, slight and delicate-looking, had been pushed
somewhat violently against one of the posts of Braysher's verandah.
She was evidently a passenger by Cobb's to Leichardt's Town, and being
alone, and naturally alarmed at finding herself in the centre of a
political demonstration, was making for the shelter of the hotel.

The Premier, attracted by the cry, glanced downwards from his raised
position, and met the appealing gaze of a pair of dark eyes which he
knew well. With more agility than might have been expected, judging by
his age and figure, he vaulted the railings, and in a moment was at
the lady's side.

'Mrs. Vallancy!' he exclaimed! 'How is it that you are here?'

She grasped his arm, and her eyes beamed with gratitude upon his
face.

'I have been staying with the Ansons, at Cooranga. Mr. Anson brought
me down, but could not wait to see me off in the coach. I am going to
Leichardt's Town this evening.'

'So am I. I shall be able to look after you. You've been knocked agen
the railings. I hope you are not hurt?'

'No; it was a mere nothing. I am not hurt--only a little frightened,
but quite happy now that you are here. I am glad that I have heard you
speak in this way. It impresses one in a different manner to the dull
debates which one listens to from the Ladies' Gallery. And, you know,'
she added in a lower tone, 'I make rather a merit of not taking any
great interest in politics; it would not do for me to side openly
against my husband, whatever I might think and wish in private.'

Mr. Longleat pressed his companion's hand, appreciating her delicacy
at its very highest pitch. A man of coarse fibre is apt to attribute
ultra-refinement to a woman by whom he is attracted.

Mr. Vallancy was a member of the Legislative Council. Though
notoriously needy, and desirous of a Government appointment, he
belonged to the Middleton faction, and had made himself peculiarly
obnoxious to the reigning Ministry. The Premier had become acquainted
with Mrs. Vallancy a short time before the present date; and
notwithstanding the inimical attitude of her husband, certain casual
meetings and suggestive conversations had deepened a budding interest
into something more than commonplace social intimacy.

'I am sorry that you should have been annoyed by the crowd. I--they
insisted upon my speaking--upon my word I could not have got out of
it. I wish I had known that you were to be here.' He spoke with a
nervous utterance that, except in the presence of ladies, was unusual
to him.

'Ah!' said Mrs. Vallancy in a tone half-melancholy, half-arch, 'I
know that you are the idol of the mob; such popularity must be very
delightful. I sincerely hope that you will carry your Railway Bill. I
had never before connected it so personally with you. Party questions
have been sources of annoyance to me. This one will possess a more
agreeable interest.'

They had stepped on to the verandah, and Mr. Longleat placed one of
the canvas chairs for his companion to sit upon. All the men turned to
look at her, but not one, except Barrington, took his pipe from his
lips. Though she was perfectly aware of the attention she excited, she
did not appear to be embarrassed by it. Her hat had been tilted back
by the push she had sustained, and her low brow and fine eyes were
fully visible. The latter were black, slightly prominent, and restless
and dissatisfied in expression; her mouth, a curved red line, was more
characteristic than sweet; her colouring was clear and pale: her voice
low and remarkably distinct.

The nervous excitability and sensitive refinement which her face and
manner suggested, were quite calculated to impress such a temperament
as that of Mr. Longleat; but although his admiration was obvious, it
was evident that he had not acquired perfect ease in her society. In
spite of the feminine experience implied by two matrimonial
bereavements, and the bringing up of a daughter, companionship with
women of a particular calibre gave him an uncomfortable sense of
inferiority, and made him conscious of certain lapses in grammar, and
faults in pronunciation, which considerable proficiency as a public
speaker and years of unwearied self-education had not enabled him
entirely to surmount.

'Is Miss Longleat with you?' inquired Mrs. Vallancy.

'No,' he replied. 'She is at Kooralbyn.'

'I am longing to see her again. Some friends of mine who met her in
Sydney last winter wrote to me in raptures about her beauty. Is she as
lovely as ever?'

Mr. Longleat smiled, and elevated his head with an air of gratified
pride.

'Yes,' he said, 'I think she is handsomer now than I've ever seen
her. She took her place in Sydney amongst the best of 'em.'

As he spoke he caught Mr. Barrington's eye, and scowled with
incipient dislike. Though Mrs. Vallancy was sitting a little apart
from the other loungers in the verandah, Barrington was sufficiently
near to have overheard her remark and the Premier's reply. An
expression of amusement passed over the Englishman's face, as he
mentally pictured a coarse, gaudily-dressed Antipodean belle, whose
every gesture would inevitably offend against his refined European
taste. His supercilious smile incensed Mr. Longleat still more deeply,
and as Barrington turned away he asked angrily:

'Who is that man?'

'He is evidently a stranger,' said Mrs. Vallancy.

'A new chum going up to Lord Dolph's,' explained one of the bushmen.

'I could have sworn that he was one of those cursed English swells,'
muttered Longleat; 'we don't want that brood out here. I'm pretty
quick at guessing what a man is made of, and my first impressions
don't often deceive me. It's instinct; and somehow I don't cotton up
to Lord Dolph's new chum.'

The horses had by this time been put to the coach, and the driver,
with the reins in his hand, was calling his passengers to mount.

Mr. Longleat helped Mrs. Vallancy to ascend, and took his place
beside her in the back bench unoccupied by anyone else.

'The box-seat has been reserved for you, sir,' said the driver.

'Never mind,' answered Longleat. 'I've got a lady to look after. I'll
sit here.' Mrs. Vallancy cast upon him a look of ineffable gratitude;
the other travellers clambered up; the coachman flicked his whip upon
the horses' backs, and the lumbering vehicle clattered off mid the
shouts of the rapidly-dispersing mob.

'Hooray for the Premier! Longleat and his railway for ever.'



Chapter III. The Premier's Storekeeper.

BARRINGTON stood on the verandah of the inn and watched the coach till
it was out of sight. Mr. Ferris, who had now emerged from the
coffee-room, stole softly to the railings and sidled towards the
Englishman, casting at the stranger furtive glances from his keen grey
eyes, while with one lean hand he stroked his grizzled beard.

The sun was setting behind a range of distant hills. Storm-clouds
were still threatening, and the deepening dusk had mellowed the
glaring white of the limestone ridges into neutral grey, and had
subdued into harmony the hard outlines and ungraceful colouring of the
wooden and brick erections upon each side of the street.

'Not much of a view,' said Mr. Ferris, looking up in a bird-like way
into Barrington's face; 'but picturesque in a manner of its own.'

'I suppose that one admires the landscape because it is unlike those
with which one is familiar,' replied Barrington.

'European travellers say,' continued Mr. Ferris, 'that there are no
striking features in Australian scenery. Bah! they cry--the eye
wearies of endless gum-trees. But that is a mistake. Those who speak
so have not penetrated into the heart of the country. Ah! we have
mountains in the Koorong district, sublime with a wild grandeur that I
have never seen equalled. It is nature--nature only which reconciles
me to my exile.'

'You call your life here exile,' said Barrington. 'I presume that
you are English? Have you lived for long in Australia?'

'Nine years,' replied Mr. Ferris. 'No,' he added, correcting
himself, 'it will be ten next September. I find it difficult to
calculate the course of time when the months are all alike, and when
they are passed in forests and not in cities.'

'Yet to you, a lover of natural beauty, this ought not to be a
hardship.'

'Sir,' said Mr. Ferris, with a grandiloquent air, 'I have my
theories. Let the young seek inspiration in the woods, the aged in the
breath of towns. There is a close link between nature and humanity. To
glorify the one necessitates sympathy with the other. A poet pent up
for life upon the fairest desert island would produce few stanzas
worthy of immortality.'

'You mean,' said Barrington, 'that the ideal must be yoked to the
practical, or inspiration becomes bathos. You yourself are an artist,
perhaps?'

'I have indeed known the flutterings of enthusiasm, and have tasted
the bitterness of unappreciated effort,' said Mr. Ferris, in a
joyless, piping tone, with his eyes fixed upon the wooden verandah-
post in mournful abstraction from his surroundings. 'Aspiration has
been the keynote of my life. Failure, its refrain.'

'That is a melancholy experience,' said Barrington, in a sympathetic
manner.

'How many are dowered with the yearnings of genius, and cursed with
executive inability!' cried Mr. Ferris, almost fiercely. 'How many
have lived too soon or too late! In how many has the divine fire been
almost quenched in youth, and has emitted but a feeble flame in old
age! But why do I talk of myself?' he added with a sudden deprecatory
gesture. 'It is a morbid egotism that seeks vent in self revelation to
a passing stranger. Leichardt's Land only sees in me the shadow of her
Premier's greatness. Anthony Ferris, sir, at your service. Thomas
Longleat's accountant, store-manager, indoor man of all work at
Kooralbyn.' He waited a moment, then said: 'I glean that you are a new
arrival in Australia, but I have not heard your name.'

'Barrington,' replied the Englishman, shortly.

'I knew a man of that name,' said Mr. Ferris in a tone of dismal
retrospect, 'a long time ago--he was a friend of Edmund Kean. Poor
Kean! He used to say, "If I had Barrington always with me, I should
never go wrong!" Did you ever see Kean, sir?' he added with sharp
enthusiasm. 'Ah! that was an actor! Such fire! such wit I I never knew
Shakespeare till I knew Edmund Kean.'

'He was rather before my time,' said Barrington.

'True; you are a considerably younger man than I. But I have seen
others more nearly your contemporaries. Macready--he was statuesque,
and had studied--Charles Young, Kemble. I could criticise these, but
Kean deprived me of the power of judgment. Shall I ever forget that
slender man of diminutive stature and finely--chiselled features,
whose piercing orbs held the spectator spellbound while he spoke? I
saw him last in "The Merchant of Venice"--"Signor Antonio ..."' quoted
Mr. Ferris, in a low intense voice, with deep, dramatic intonation;
then after repeating a few lines, he suffered his head to droop
dejectedly upon his breast. 'I cannot do it,' he said; 'the manner has
passed from me. I am getting old, and I forget...You saw Longleat just
now?'

'Yes,' replied Barrington; 'I was interested, amused, by the
excitement his arrival created.'

'People call him my patron. Thomas Longleat patron to me! There is a
man who not many years ago was absolutely uneducated. I taught him all
that he knows of the classics. I corrected his maiden speech in the
Assembly, and now he jeers at me for a fool. It is such a man as that
who succeeds in Australia. May I ask whether you are visiting the
Antipodes from mere curiosity, or whether you have thoughts of
becoming a cattle farmer?'

'I shall remain in Australia, if the life suits me,' replied
Barrington.

'It will not. Settle your mind at once upon that score. You will be
miserable, whether you make money or lose what you have. By-and--by
you will acknowledge that I am a true prophet. To the refined
Englishman, reared mid the associations of art, literature, music, the
drama--accustomed to European luxury, and the charm of congenial
society--Australia, if not a hell of discontent, must be a sink of
degradation.'

'You speak strongly,' said Barrington, 'and certainly not
encouragingly; but I imagine that a man of moderate calibre would be
content to exist in a country which afforded him the opportunity for
becoming wealthy.'

'Wealthy--yah!' snarled Anthony Ferris, in a manner indescribable
upon paper. 'Money is, after all, but money's worth. For instance,
what sort of occupation can there be to a man like me, in weighing
sacks of flour, chronicling pounds of beef, and calculating roods of
fencing? Is it not a suffocating degrading slavery? And such, to you,
will be the disgusting routine of station--life. Stock-riding or
shepherding, branding or shearing, buying and selling, weariness of
body and slow atrophy of intellect. You are not young enough to
anticipate compensating wealth; when, if it comes, you will have lost
the capacity for enjoyment. Excuse my curiosity--are you married?'

'No,' replied Barrington.

'You will then lack the incentive of working for a beloved object,
which sweetens toil to me. I dare say that the uneducated would
consider my lot enviable. I have abundance to eat and drink--a
comfortable house to live in; I am putting by for the benefit of my
child'--Ferris's face softened curiously--'nevertheless, you see
before you a disappointed man.'

'May I ask in what particular line you were unsuccessful?' asked
Barrington.

'There was none. My ambition was boundless; it embraced every phase
of art. Vague aspiration has been my curse. I had not courage or
patience to continue struggling against fate. Had I possessed
Longleat's insensitive nature I might have succeeded.'

'Mr. Longleat is also English by birth?' asked Barrington, curiously.

An odd, malignant smile passed over Mr. Ferris's face.

'Yes, English by birth, certainly. Good-afternoon, Tom Dungie,' he
added, addressing the mailman, who had approached the verandah--
railing. 'What is the news up Dyraaba way?'

'It's you that ought to tell us the news, Mr. Ferris,' said Dungie.
'Folks say that Dyson Maddox is to be the new Minister for Lands, and
that he is to marry Miss Longleat. Is it true, do you think, sir?'

'It's not unlikely,' said Mr. Ferris. 'Miss Longleat is a lady of
caprices. She may be seized with the caprice for matrimony. I dare
say, I dare say; and I wish it might be true; but I have not been
informed upon the subject.'

'Well,' squeaked Dungie, in his nasal tones; 'I'm sure I wish Mr.
Maddox joy of his bargain. She's a handsome young woman; and if she's
got nought else, she's got brass. They do say as she is rare winnin'.
Gells with tin-mines at their backs don't grow like wild cherries,
with the stones outside ready to be picked for the stretching.' Tom
Dungie always chuckled audibly after uttering what he considered a
sharp speech. 'Folks tell,' he whispered mysteriously, 'that the young
woman with the black eyes--her that sat beside the Premier on the
coach--is a rum sort, and that he has got pretty thick with her
lately. Do you think he's hit?'

'That's a married woman,' said Mr. Ferris; 'her husband is in the
Council.'

'Marriage ain't no security,' remarked Dungie, reflectively. I've
heard said that 'twur like drinking a glass of doctored grog: directly
you've swallowed one, yer mouth begins to parch for another--and
that's the way with women of a sort; there's some of 'em as can't get
on without men. She warn't nought to look at, though: it's colour as
takes me: but a man mostly fancies his opposite, and Longleat has got
enough red for two. I wur told to look out for a gentleman from
England,' added Dungie, making a lurch in Barrington's direction. 'The
lord at Dyraaba sent a 'ack down and a pack 'oss for the swag. I said
as I'd show the gentleman the short cut, which is pretty stiff for a
new chum.'

'Do you mean Lord Adolphus Bassett?' asked Barrington.

'Oh! that's his name, is it? Some folks calls him Mr. Bassett, and
some Mr. Dolph, and other folks Lord Dolph. I never knowed rightly
which it wur, and it ain't of much odds.'

'I knew him in England,' said Barrington, 'and I'm going to stay with
him now. Does he live far from here?'

'Nigh upon forty mile. I shall start at daybreak with my mails. Can
you ride, sir?'

'Yes,' answered Barrington, laughing.

'I asked because new chums don't, mostly. Didn't know whether you'd
be able to keep up with the little piebald. She's a rare un to go, she
is. That there lord ain't much of a hand with a buck-jumper, but my
lady, lor! she can sit like Old Nick. Well, you'll hear me calling in
the morning,' added Dungie, affably; and with another bow, which was
accomplished by laying his hands upon the pit of his stomach, and
bending forward as far as the laws of balance would permit, he walked
away.

Presently a bell rang in the coffee-room, and all who had remained in
the hotel flocked in to a somewhat nondescript evening meal. There was
a smoking joint at one end of the table, a tin teapot at the other,
and bread, butter and vegetables were placed promiscuously down the
sides. Two women, who were respectively Mrs. Braysher and her maid of-
all-work, waited.

The bushmen--rough specimens of humanity--congregated together.
Barrington and Mr. Ferris took their seats a little apart from the
rest of the company. There was very little conversation while the meal
was in progress. The men were hungry, and plied their knives and forks
vigorously, washing down the tough beef and hard bread with copious
draughts of tea. Mr. Ferris, who had taken his stimulant beforehand,
likewise drank tea. Barrington called for a pint of sherry, and was
brought a muddy decoction, which he tasted, made a wry face, and set
down.

'Don't drink wine in Australia,' said Mr. Ferris; 'it is bad. Take to
spirits; that is the way with most Englishmen. You'll start with
theories about colonial wine. I did; but, like me, you'll find that
they are a delusion. There is a good wine made in the south; but till
the intercolonial duty is abolished it will never become the national
drink. Brandy is cheaper. So we ruin our nervous systems with strong
tea, and our digestions by promiscuous nips. You will be asked a dozen
times in the day to "come and have a nip;" and if you are weak-minded,
as I am, you'll yield till you find that without a stimulant you are a
poor creature. The higher your mental calibre, the more you'll drink.
It is Longleat's boast that he is temperate. Yah! a fig for temperance
when a man has the frame of a Hercules and the insusceptibility of a
bullock-driver! You don't seem to have much appetite. I see that you
have been accustomed to a different style of cooking. If you have
finished we will sit out in the verandah. There's a storm in the west,
but its strength will be spent before it reaches Kooya. The thunder
has cooled the air already, and we shall be able to smoke in
comparative comfort.'

Mr. Ferris led the way to the verandah, and pulled two arm-chairs to
a breezy corner. He then produced his leather tobacco-pouch and a
short black pipe, and began to smoke, drawing deep breaths, as though
he enjoyed the narcotism, the soft air and the fading light, while
every now and then he uttered in a snarling, neutral tone, some
discursive remark upon Australian customs, or sneering allusion to his
master. He seemed a man oppressed by an immense burden of discontent.

The verandah was almost empty. Most of the bushmen had taken up
their hats and had gone out. There was a circus performing in a
neighbouring street, and the attraction, weighed even against the
charms of the coffee-room, was too potent to be resisted. Every now
and then shrill bursts of laughter, and the braying of musical
instruments, sounded through the murky night, of which the darkness
was at regular intervals illuminated by flashes of sheet-lightning in
the west.

'You have lately come from England,' said Mr. Ferris, edging a
little closer to his companion. 'I dare say that you have lived in
London, eh?'

'Yes,' said Barrington with a short laugh; 'I'm very well acquainted
with London.'

'You've seen the best in the world then. There's no place like
London, except perhaps Paris. Lord!' peering with his little grey eyes
into Barrington's face, 'that's what I call life. Balzac and Paul de
Kock, eh? I dare say now that you know all the club gossip and
theatrical scandal. I like a spice of the devil; it's piquant, it's
refreshing. Now it would interest me to hear who are the newest
singers and actors, and the painters who have become famous since I
was in England. I might perhaps recognise familiar names. I used to be
considered a good critic in my day. At Kooralbyn I have a few gems,
slight things, done for me by comparatively insignificant artists, in
whom I saw the germs of future eminence. If you are a lover of art, I
shall be happy at some time to show you the sketches.'

Barrington thanked the old man, and, humouring his fancy, talked on
with the air of one to whom the subject was familiar, of the latest
operas, the last Academy, the newest scandals in the fashionable and
artistic world, the gossip of the clubs and theatres, while every now
and then Mr. Ferris would interrupt him with some eager question which
showed how deeply he was interested.

'And you have left all this!' he exclaimed at length. 'You have
deliberately chosen a life of toil and discomfort amidst the wilds of
Australia in preference to one of refined enjoyment in England! You
surprise me.'

'My visit is only an experiment,' said Barrington; 'I have not yet
determined to remain in Australia.'

'Excuse me,' said Mr. Ferris, with hesitating curiosity; something
in your manner and bearing leads me to suppose that you have been in
the army; am I right?'

'I was in the Guards,' replied Barrington, incautiously. A moment
later he regretted his want of reticence.

'The Guards,' repeated Ferris. 'I am more than ever astonished that
you can entertain, even as an experiment, the idea of living in
Australia.'

'I am no longer in the army,' said Barrington, curtly; and added, in
a manner that left no room for further questioning: 'I think you said
that you knew Lord Dolph Bassett?'

'He has a selection down the Koorong, about fifteen miles from
Kooralbyn.'

'Kooralbyn is the name of Mr. Longleat's property?' asked
Barrington, anxious to divert the conversation from himself. 'A native
word, I presume?'

'Meaning the "abode of serpents." Certain poetic swains have dubbed
Miss Longleat the Enchantress of Kooralbyn, and, in a confusion of
classical metaphors, have addressed her in sonnets as Medusa and
Circe. Apart from its feminine attraction, Kooralbyn is worth a visit.
The country is wild, picturesque, inspiring. It might be the refuge of
a Timon, or the dreamland of a poet. Come over and see it. But you err
in using the word property. In your acceptation of the term, there is
no property in Australia. The owner of freehold is the petty
agriculturist, the representative of a lower order of settler than the
squatter. The bloated aristocrat is he who leases from the Crown, and
whose rich pastures are only his own till a new land law, a mine, or a
railway turns a horde of free selectors loose upon his borders. Mr.
Longleat professes impartiality and sympathy with all classes. It is
his political creed, and he finds that it brings him in popularity.
Lord Dolph took up land on Kooralbyn. Longleat smiled grimly, and
offered to help him brand his cattle. They are the best of friends,
but at first the squatterarchy of the Koorong rose up in a body and
named its hero, martyr.'

'Lord Dolph, then, is a free selector?'

'He cattle-farms a few thousand acres after an amateur fashion. My
lady breaks in the horses and takes care that the calves are branded.
It is said that she has an eye to business, and does not disdain
nuggeting.[1] She was a Koorong girl, a sonsie Scotch lassie, and he
married her because he was told that it was the correct thing for a
bushman to have a wife. He builds rustic bridges, fancies pigs and
poultry, plays the piano, and poses as a squatter in moleskins and a
cabbage-tree hat. She manages the farm.'

[1. To nugget: in Australian slang, to appropriate your neighbours'
unbranded calves.]

'A fair division of labour,' returned Barrington.

'You will find it dull at Dyraaba,' continued Mr. Ferris; 'and Lord
Dolph will probably propose a visit to Kooralbyn. Mr. Longleat will be
in Leichardt's Town occupied with political matters, unless, indeed,
the Ministry goes out at the beginning of the session. I shall,
however, be charmed to introduce you to my wife and daughter. You may,
or may not, see Miss Longleat; that will be as the caprice takes her.'

'Your allusions to this young lady pique my curiosity. Is the
Enchantress of Kooralbyn a person indeed out of the common; or is she
merely a pretty rustic, spoiled by flattery?'

'Rustic!' repeated Mr. Ferris, chuckling softly to himself. 'I dare
say that you have seen some of the most beautiful women in Europe;
nevertheless you will certainly admire Honoria Longleat. A fine piece
of flesh, with money to enhance her charms.'

'She is an only child then?'

'No; Mr. Longleat has been twice married. His first wife, the mother
of Honoria, was a beautiful drab, whom I believe he picked lip at the
Diggings. His second was the daughter of a squatter on the Ubi Ubi.
She died at the birth of a girl, her only one, now a child of seven.
The Premier's matrimonial arrangements and my own have been curiously
similar. I also have had two wives; my second is still living. I have
my theories, sir, upon marriage as upon other subjects. I consider a
carefully-discriminated diversity the important element in a
generation of a perfect style. Since I could not succeed in making a
mark in the world, I was determined to beget a celebrity. I chose my
wife upon physiological principles. The result would have been all
that could have been desired had she presented me with a son. Mrs.
Ferris has failed in the one duty which I required of her. You see,
disappointment is my doom.'

'But, Miss Longleat's fortune?' suggested Barrington, recalling the
old man to his own point of interest.

'True! When Honoria, Longleat's eldest daughter, was a baby in arms,
old Jem Bagot, a ticket-of-leave man, and the Premier's pal when they
drove bullock-teams together between Leichardt's Town and Kooya, left
her a bit of land in the Tarrangella district, which was then
considered of little value. This bit of land is now the great
Tarrangella tin mine, bringing in somewhere about four thousand per
annum.'

'And is this fortune absolutely her own?' asked Barrington,
excitedly.

'It will be, absolutely, upon the day that she is twenty-one. At
present the income is accumulating for her benefit. Oh, she is a great
heiress. There's Kooralbyn and Mundubbera, the valley of the
Leichardt, the house in Leichardt's Town, and the Lord knows how many
political pickings, to be divided between her and little Janie. And
she is her father's favourite. A fine thing to be transported in the
old days, eh? if a man had brains and luck. A fine thing for a woman
to be handsome and rich. What does it matter if her father was a
bullock-driver, and her mother--' Mr. Ferris shrugged his shoulders
significantly. 'In polite society nobody asks any embarrassing
questions. There's only one thing in the world better than money and
beauty, and that's genius. I have a daughter too, Mr. Barrington, and
I am as proud of her as Longleat is of his, but in a different way--a
very different way.'

'Miss Ferris is talented, perhaps?' said Barrington.

'My Angela will be a great artist,' said Mr. Ferris, lifting his head
with a sublimity of conviction that amused while it silenced his
companion. 'Sir,' he added, with a kind of proud humility, 'I know my
weakness; I know my failings. The soul of genius was born with me, but
not the power of fulfilment. I have prayed that I might be the father
of an artist who should combine inspiration and execution. Do I not
know the ecstasy of vision, and the hell of inability? I said to
myself, 'I will beget a son who shall be great.' Two generations could
not be foredoomed to failure. Instead of a son, a daughter was born to
me--a frail creature, visionary and mystical, with an extraordinary
development of the creative faculty. From the day that, as a child,
she drew upon the floor and wall rough sketches with a piece of chalk,
I devoted her to the cause of art. Nature has been her nurse. Cradled
in the lap of inspiration, she has led an ideal life among woods and
mountains. It is for her sake that I labour; for her sake that I
submit to insult and degradation. I have saved a thousand pounds to be
expended upon her artistic education. In a year's time I shall take
her to Italy; in ten, the name of Ferris will be renowned.'

Barrington listened in amused toleration of the old man's tall talk.
He no more believed in Angela Ferris's genius than he believed in
Honoria Longleat's beauty; yet he felt a languid interest in both
subjects, and would have liked to pursue them. Clearly there was a
covert antagonism between Ferris and his patron; and being an observer
of human nature, in default of better occupation, Barrington was ready
to follow up the current of jealousy and crabbed conceit to its
source. The old man, however, rose abruptly.

'You seem a link between my former life and the present. Your
companionship has excited me beyond my wont, and I have talked of
matters which are purely personal. Pray attach no importance to my
wandering speech. I am a soured old man. Now, I have smoked out my
pipe, and the storm is threatening closely. There has been heavy rain
in Leichardt's Town. I'll say good-night. You start early to--morrow
morning, but we shall meet ere long at Kooralbyn.'

Mr. Ferris shuffled indoors to the coffee-room, and thence to bed.




Chapter IV. The Weaving of the Spell.

THE coach rattled on beyond the outskirts of Kooya, past plantations of
pine-apples and bananas, and pretty wooden cottages embedded in
orange-groves and vineyards, till cultivation and even clearing ceased,
and hedges of cactus and acacia, or rough stockading that divided the
settlers' paddocks from the road, gave place to monotonous forests of
she-oak and eucalyptus, where there was the brooding stillness of a
coming storm. At intervals the driver paused before a bush inn, of
which, at long distances apart, there were several standing solitary
among the trees, to change horses, call for the mail, or give the
passengers an opportunity of descending for refreshment. The night
closed in; a murky cloud grew black overhead, and occasional growlings
of thunder told that the storm was advancing.

Mrs. Vallancy and Mr. Longleat were practically alone in the hinder
part of the coach, and their tête-à-tête, carried on under cover of
the rattling of bolts and springs, the flapping of curtains and
general din of motion, was inaudible to the men in front.

'How kind of you it was to give up the box-seat and come here to
amuse me,' said Mrs. Vallancy in her pathetic monotone. 'It would have
been too horrid had I been placed beside any of our companions. I can
never be sufficiently grateful to Providence for sending you to
Leichardt's Town this evening.'

'I do not like to think that you often travel by yourself in this
way,' said Longleat.

'I do not often travel by myself,' replied she, mimicking his tone,
'only when necessity obliges me, as is the case tonight. I thought
that you admired independent women. You have certainly said so,' she
added, alluding to one of his public speeches in which he had
advocated female labour in certain Government departments.

'The women I meant aren't of your sort. There's things which drag
down both sexes alike, and both should be on the same ground. I should
like to see all women taught to work for their bread. When I meet one
with the pluck to take her own line, and fight against poverty and
prejudice, I respect her for it; but it cuts me to the quick to see a
young, timid, and, if you'll excuse my saying it, pretty creature like
you, who has the right to look for protection from others, jostled
about in this way. You should not travel alone at night in a public
conveyance like Cobb's. You lay yourself open to--to--'

'Unpleasant remark,' she said, concluding his stammering sentence.
'Yes, I understand; you are right: but it is not my fault--you ought
to know that I dislike it. If you were my--my father let us say--you
would not allow me to go about like this. But you are not my father. I
have no one to take care of me--except my husband. I am married, yet
there is no one more solitary than I am. The world is hard to me. I am
thrown upon outsiders for sympathy and support. And because two or
three friends who happen to be men give these to me, society judges me
cruelly. Is it not so?'

Mrs. Vallancy turned her large eyes upon Mr. Longleat with a frank,
confiding expression of which she was mistress. He was regarding her
fixedly, but as their eyes met, he abruptly withdrew his gaze; and
turned his face away without answering her plaintive question.

Given a nascent interest, rapidly deepening into a powerful
predilection, and an unconventional combination of circumstances,
which places the admirer in close propinquity with the object of his
attraction, it will depend entirely upon the man's idiosyncrasy
whether the position inspires deference or awakens passion.

In the case of the typical gentleman, that chivalrous loyalty which
is as much inherent as the result of education, forbids the merest
suggestion of license; but the man of coarse fibre and rude training,
who has made it his creed to seize opportunity for the furtherance of
ambition or the accomplishment of desire, and who is ignorant of the
subtle definitions of a refined code of honour, though he may
accurately limit his intentions, has less control over his emotions.
Such a man does not analyse his inner feelings. There are in his
nature no softening shadows, nor can he comprehend the imperceptible
blending of passive interest with active regard. With him the
machinery of passion comes into sudden play, and startles by the
violent effect it produces.

Mr. Longleat sat silent for some moments, taking no notice of several
discursive observations with which she sought to relieve his
embarrassment. He felt shy of addressing her, and tried to steer his
thoughts into more impersonal channels. He endeavoured to direct them
towards the political conflict in store for him, which for months past
had held his nerves in a state of tension. In the estimation of the
inhabitants of Leichardt's Town the coming session was merely a
pleasant stimulus to excitement, and the present determinant of a
railway that must sooner or later be built.

To Longleat, it meant the crowning act of his career, upon which
rested the balance of victory or defeat. It was the climax of a
struggle for supremacy involving his dearest ambitions and affections.

The least poetic man who has succeeded in life is conscious at times
of a vein of romance permeating a temperament that he has been proud
to style 'matter of fact.' It is the perception of the ideal side by
side with the actual, that gives courage to encounter and surmount
difficulties. He who is devoid of imagination rarely accomplishes a
great enterprise. A man may scoff at superstition and yet have a dim
consciousness of occult influence at work upon his destiny. At this
moment Mr. Longleat felt a curious presentiment that he was
approaching a crisis in his fate, and that Mrs. Vallancy, whose
presence affected him so strongly, had unknowingly identified herself
with his failure or success.

As they drove on through the deepening darkness, a sense of unreality
oppressed him, and it seemed to him that he was being whirled in a
dream through an enchanted forest to a destination of which he was
ignorant. At last, ashamed and annoyed at his unusual susceptibility,
Mr. Longleat started forward and pulled himself together, uttering an
ironical 'Pshaw!'

'What is the matter?' asked Mrs. Vallancy.

'Nothing. By the way, I hear that Mr. Fielding has sailed for
Melbourne.'

'He left Leichardt's Town last week by the mail-boat,' replied Mrs.
Vallancy, with a perceptible alteration in her voice.

'Is it true that you went down to the Bay to see him off?'

'Yes. My husband was with me. Was there any harm in that?'

'I suppose not,' answered Mr. Longleat. Then added a tone of
displeasure, 'You were very friendly with Fielding when he was in
Leichardt's Town.'

'Are you, too, going to cavil at my friendships?' said Mrs. Vallancy,
plaintively. 'I had fancied, though indeed I can hardly tell why, for
we have known each other but a short time, that I could always count
upon kindness from you.

'I need not tell you that you may always count upon that,' replied
Mr. Longleat. 'Will you not say--friendship?'

'What could one desire more than kindness? If I asked anything else,
I should beg that you would put aside any feeling of animosity you may
entertain towards my husband, and that you would come and see me
sometimes. You have not been within my doors.'

'I--I have not ventured,' stammered Longleat, who had alternations of
boldness and timidity; 'but if I may see you home after your journey--
'

'My husband will probably meet me at the Australasian when the coach
arrives,' said Mrs. Vallancy, 'but if not, I shall gratefully take
advantage of your offer. 'Ah!' she cried, 'what a vivid flash! I am as
weak as a baby in thunder and lightning. I can only hide my face and
tremble.'

'There's a storm coming up,' said Longleat, 'but it is from the
mildest quarter, and will soon be over. Do not be frightened.'

'I cannot help feeling terrified. Of course I know that the chances
are a thousand to one against any harm befalling me; the terror is
partly from association. When I was a child, my nurse used to keep me
good during a thunderstorm by telling me that God was angry, and still
I cannot overcome the uneasy sense that some one who has no sympathy
with my weaknesses is scolding me mightily.'

Then came another flash, followed by an angry concussion, and she
cowered back, laying her trembling hand upon Mr. Longleat's arm.

Presently she asked:

'Are you ever angry with your daughter?'

'Angry with Honoria! By jove, no! She has a spice of the Tartar in
her composition, and would not stand being scolded. She takes her own
way. I dare say it is fortunate for us both that her will does not
often clash with mine.'

'And when it pulls her in a contrary direction to that which you
wish, you turn and let her lead you?'

'No,' replied Longleat, gruffly. 'In some matters I'm a fool where my
daughter is concerned, but for all that, I'm master of myself.'

'She must be very happy,' continued Mrs. Vallancy, plaintively.
'When I was quite young I had my own way too. I used to think that I
needed only to ask in order to get what I wanted; but since I married
I have found life different. After all, we white women are no better
off than the lubras;[1] we are sold like them, and then we have to walk
behind our lords and bear their burdens.'

[1. Young aboriginal woman.]

Now the storm broke in quick, angry claps of thunder and vivid
flashes of forked lightning, which illuminated the coach in momentary
gleams, and showed the frightened leaders, as, snorting and plunging,
they turned wildly in their traces.

'Who-oa!' shouted the driver, as he cut the animals sharply with his
whip. 'What are you shying at now?'

The coach rattled on over a wooden bridge, while the rain descended
in heavy drops that penetrated the ill-constructed awning.

'Oh dear!' sighed Mrs. Vallancy, 'I'm getting so wet.'

Mr. Longleat unstrapped his poncho and placed it round her shoulders,
then with one hand held down the flapping curtains in order to protect
her somewhat from the driving shower. A strong wind had succeeded the
late stillness, and blew upon their faces, bearing an exhilarating
sense of coolness. Gradually the thunder became fainter, and the
lightning less brilliant; the storm was passing over, and the
passengers in front began to talk again about politics and crops and
cattle--conversation in which at any other time the Premier would have
joined with interest, but which tonight resembled in his mind the
refrain of a vivid dream.

Soon the wind and rain ceased; the sky became clear and blue; the
Southern Cross rose gem-like above the horizon; and the moon shone
brightly. The horses were brisk again, and the coach splashed heavily
through the pools left by the storm; the clammy heat had given place
to a delicious feeling of freshness and moisture; the air was fragrant
with the perfume of wild-flowers and scented gum; and myriads of
insects, silenced during the day by the choking dust, filled the night
with inarticulate murmurings.

The houses along the road became more numerous, and the lights of
Leichardt's Town shone, one by one, like stars through the trees. The
bush merged imperceptibly into a straggling street, and the coach
paused for a moment to pay toll at a bridge which spanned the
Leichardt River. The stream, here about a quarter of a mile wide, and
with scarcely a ripple upon its leaden surface, rolled between low
wharf-lined banks and green gardens towards the sea. The lights of
small craft, dotted here and there, seemed like reflections from the
sky above; and the moon shed her beams across the track of a ferry--
boat that plied monotonously to and fro. Over the water there was a
faint, distant buzz; but here, the tinkle of the steamer bells, and
the voices of the boatmen calling to waiting passengers, 'Hoiahoi-o--
over,' were the only distinct sounds in the deep stillness.

The coach drove slowly across the bridge into the city proper. Here
the streets were wide and well-built, the shops gaily lighted, and the
traffic considerable. Now the driver pulled up before a large hotel in
the principal thoroughfare.

A little crowd had collected about the verandah; the passengers
alighted, and the Premier assisted Mrs. Vallancy to the ground. She
gazed helplessly about her.

'I cannot see my husband,' she said. 'Since he is not here I will
gratefully avail myself of your escort--at least to the ferry.'

The Premier hailed a passing jingle. He placed Mrs. Vallancy and her
luggage upon the back seat of this ill-balanced vehicle, and
stationing himself in front with the driver, gave the order, 'To the
Emu Point, Upper Ferry.'

Leichardt's Town is curiously situated upon three peninsulas, lying
parallel with each other, and formed by the snake-like curves of the
river which divides them. The city lies in the middle, and is called
the north side in contradistinction to South Leichardt's Town, with
which it is connected by a bridge, while Emu Point, the suburb where
Mrs. Vallancy lived, faces it again on the opposite bank. It will be
readily seen that, whereas to follow the windings of the river would
necessitate a journey of some miles, by taking the ferry three times
in a direct line, the distance from one side of the town to the other
might be rendered comparatively slight.

The site has much natural beauty to recommend it. Like a broad blue
band the Leichardt flows between undulating stretches of lightly-
wooded country. Here and there, beyond the line of wharves and stores,
the banks rise rocky and precipitous, and overgrown with ferns and the
variegated latarna; but mostly slope gently to the water's edge in
gardens and grassy pastures, fringed with mangrove; while in the
suburbs white roads wind among clumps of feathery bamboos, or by
acacia hedges, which bound pretty villas and verandahed cottages. In
the distant west there lies a low range of hills, which shuts out the
view of the river; to the east the broadening stream hurries downward
to the sea.

The lower part of the middle point, to which Mr. Longleat and Mrs.
Vallancy were at this time driving, is intersected by a long street,
at one end of which lies a ferry, while at the other the Parliamentary
Chambers, comprised in an imposing stone structure of the modern
nondescript style of architecture, overlook the river and South
Leichardt's Town. The extremity of the point is divided into two
allotments. In one of these stands Government House, surrounded by its
trim lawns and shrubberies. The other is laid out in parterres, grass-
plots, and cool walks, overshadowed by flowering mimosae, palms, and
bunya-trees. These gardens are always open for public resort. Opposite
them, the river-bank rises high and rocky, and is crowned by villas
overgrown with creepers, and commanding a view of the whole town. Here
Mrs. Vallancy lived.

Near the Houses of Parliament, encroaching, as it were, upon the
public pleasure-grounds, and divided from them by a screen of bamboo-
trees, there is an enclosure in which at that time stood Mr.
Longleat's town-house. It was a two-storied building, with green
venetian shutters and a deep verandah, and was hidden from the street
by clumps of oleanders and two giant Moreton Bay fig-trees.

But Mr. Longleat and his companion, driving straight towards the
ferry, passed considerably to the left of this house, which lay almost
the length of the street behind them, when, after dismissing their
jingle, they stood upon the wooden ferry steps, and waited till the
plash of oars announced the return of the boat.

They seated themselves at the stern, and were rowed across the river.
The boatman talked freely as he leisurely dipped his oars. His name
was Pettit, and he was a well-known character in Leichardt's Town. He
spoke in a precise, dogmatic manner, and moved a pair of toothless
jaws in a rapid and discursive monologue.

Yes, there had been a heavy storm--but it made no odds to him; wet or
dry, it was his business to pull across that 'ere darned river; and
there was folks as swore if the boat warn't at one crossing, and
cussed wuss if it warn't at the other...He didn't want to name no
names, but there wur a gent living not very far up the Emu Point hill,
as wur sometimes a bit tight, and most often waxy. He wished now that
the House was going to sit, that this 'ere gent, who was a member of
the Council, would go and strike his diggings at the other side. And
if Longleat, he added, unconscious of the identity of his passenger,
would get another bridge built, instead of making a railway that wur
only good for squatters and free selectors, why he, for one, wouldn't
cry out.

Mr. Longleat paid the toll of pence, and offered Mrs. Vallancy his
arm, to aid her in ascending the steep hill. The road was rough and
the dwellings scattered, and there was no light but that of the moon
to guide them along the straggling street, wet with the late downpour.
They walked up the rugged footpath, her occasional stumbles and
clinging hold deepening Mr. Longleat's sense of protection, while in
his breast rose a strong feeling of indignation against the supine
indifference of Mr. Vallancy, who had permitted his wife to make so
late a journey unattended, and who, by failing to meet her at the
stopping-place of the coach, had left her to the tender mercy of any
chance traveller who might offer his escort across the river.

Longleat's thoughts found vent in words.

'It is not right,' he said impulsively, 'that you should be left to
shift for yourself in this way...Suppose that I--that I had not been
travelling down from Kooya this evening, what would have become of
you?'

'I should have arrived in Leichardt's Town in the most commonplace
manner,' replied Mrs. Vallancy lightly, though there was a tremor in
her voice which did not fail to deepen his compassion. 'Then, not
finding my husband at the Australasian, I should have taken a fly to
the ferry. Pettit would have been delighted to offer me his
protection. I should have procured the escort of a little boy from the
Ferry House, and should have reached home in perfect safety. Oh! I am
accustomed to taking care of myself. There are not many knights-errant
in Australia, Mr. Longleat, and I have looked too long on the dark
side of human nature to expect, under any circumstances, to find that
men are actuated by chivalrous impulses. I should at first have felt
shy and extremely uncomfortable, and the storm would have frightened
me horribly; afterwards I should have looked at the situation from a
philosophic point of view, and should probably have listened with a
deep, personal interest to the political conversation of the men in
front of me. I now feel myself quite in a position to judge of the
advantages of your projected railway...I suppose,' she went on, 'that
you will soon be in the thick of your Parliamentary battle. I used to
feel glad when the Session opened. While the House is sitting I am
left more alone, and have greater liberty to do as I please. That is a
bad speech for a wife to make, is it not? But you understand me; and
why should I play the hypocrite when all the world knows so well what
I must feel? Now I shall be rather sorry when the conflict begins, for
I have learned to look upon you as a friend, and politics will keep us
apart.'

'I do not see why that should be,' said Longleat.

'You and my husband belong to antagonistic factions.'

'That need not make any difference to you and me. Look here, Mrs.
Vallancy; I'm not the man to brag about my own doings, but it's a fact
that I should not have worked up to the top of the tree if I hadn't
stuck staunch to my friends, irrespective of faction. It is not
because your husband is on Middleton's side that I--that I--' he
stammered, hardly daring to finish the sentence which had almost
escaped him.

'That you dislike him,' added Mrs. Vallancy, softly. 'I know--I
know--I'm afraid that he is not--popular...I wish,' she exclaimed
impulsively, then hesitated--' I wish that he was not in the Council.'
She paused, uncertain of her ground, then boldly tried to frame in
words the thought which during the drive from Kooya had been uppermost
in her mind: 'If he had some regular employment which would bring him
in money and furnish him with a vent for his energies...We are very
poor; we are deeply in debt. I bear the burden of it all. I am a
miserable woman...It would make me so much happier if--You could help
me to become happier.'

'I don't see how that is possible,' said Longleat, looking down upon
her, and not exactly apprehending her meaning. 'I cannot rid you of an
incubus, as I would do if I had the power. Tell me in what way I can
help you. If I can do anything for you, you have only got to ask me.'

'Suppose,' said Mrs. Vallancy, emboldened by his manner, and turning
her eyes towards his face as they walked on together--'suppose that I
were to ask you to give my husband an appointment--a police
magistrate's post, perhaps--work which would take him away from
Leichardt's Town--from temptations.'

The Premier started as though he had been stung, and Mrs. Vallancy
felt in a moment that she had overshot her mark.

'You need not be afraid,' she exclaimed, in a bantering tone; 'I
would not for the world tamper even by suggestion with Ministerial
policy--I know that subject is sacred. Don't rebuke me too severely
for my boldness; I could not bear to fall under your wrath. But, apart
from joking, I thought that it was considered diplomatic to buy off an
opponent.'

'That may be the creed of some politicians,' said Longleat,
excitedly; 'it isn't mine. I've kept my hands clean since the day I
took my seat upon the Treasury bench. My worst enemy can't say agen me
that I've ever given away a Government place to curry favour with an
adversary or to pay a friend. I'm glad that you call it joking, Mrs.
Vallancy. It 'ud cut my heart to refuse you anything that you asked
for serious; but I couldn't do that.'

'Promise me that you'll think no more of it,' she urged; 'I couldn't
bear to feel that you were angry with me.'

'It wouldn't be possible for me to be angry with you,' he said.
'There are--there might be other ways of helping you, if you'd let me
name them.'

'We have reached my cottage,' she said, pausing before a wicket--
gate, which gave access to a dim-looking garden situated upon the brow
of the hill. 'You will come and see me soon, and tell me what is in
your mind. Won't you come in now? Oh yes! my husband will be glad to
know,' she added, with a touch of sarcasm in her tone, 'that I have
been so efficiently escorted from the Australasian.'

Mr. Longleat hesitated for a moment, then entered.



Chapter V. Mrs Vallancy's Home.

MRS. VALLANCY and Mr. Longleat walked up the narrow path leading to the
house and stepped on to the verandah, which was wide and breezy, and
upon one side overlooked the river. The wooden posts were festooned by
trailing creeper, through which the moonbeams shed quivering shadows
upon the boards; and without, the shrubs of heliotrope and purple
magnolia that bordered the grass-plat made the night air heavy with
perfume.

Mrs. Vallancy softly tried one of the venetian shutters, then finding
that it did not yield to her touch, rang a little bell that hung
against the wall.

Presently a maid opened the French window, and Mrs. Vallancy led the
way into the drawing-room, a pretty room, encumbered with furniture,
unoccupied, and dimly lighted by a shaded lamp, which was placed upon
a small table near the fireplace. There was a door upon the opposite
side of the apartment, which was closed.

'Is your master at home?' asked Mrs. Vallancy.

'I think, ma'am, that he is smoking in the dining-room,' was the
reply.

Mrs. Vallancy motioned Mr. Longleat to a seat, opened the inner door,
and passed into the next room, where she faced her husband.

He was an unprepossessing-looking man, tall and rakish, with a
shambling gait and dissipated appearance, yet with the indefinable
stamp of gentility upon his features and clothes. Mr. Vallancy's
income was known to be almost nominal, nevertheless he was always
well-dressed, played high, had loose cash, drank expensive wines in no
small quantity, and, though he kept but a small number of servants,
lived luxuriously.

'What the deuce was all that tomfoolery about the Ansons?' was his
greeting to his wife; 'and why didn't you come home when you first
intended?'

'They wished me to remain, and I did not suppose that my absence made
any difference to you. They nursed me, and were kind to me. You seem
to forget, Edward, that I am not strong, and that I need
consideration,' said Mrs. Vallancy; and Mr. Longleat, in the next
room, remarked the defiant tone of her voice.

'It would be strange if I forgot it. You are always wanting a change
and posing as an injured innocent. Your ill-health is entirely owing
to your abominable temper. I think that it is time you came back,
though when you are at home you make yourself so deucedly unpleasant
that I am glad to be rid of you.'

'I expected that you would meet me at Kooya,' she said, resentfully.

'You might have known better. I have not the money to travel about
the country at your pleasure.'

'You have generally money to do what you like,' she retorted in a low
tone. 'Take care what you say: there is some one in the drawing--
room.'

'Whom have you got here now?'

'As I was alone, Mr. Longleat, who travelled with me in the coach,
was kind enough to accompany me from the Australasian,' said Mrs.
Vallancy, in a louder tone, as she threw open the door behind her, and
Longleat, feeling some what uncomfortable, rose and advanced towards
the husband and wife.

'How do you do?' said Mr. Vallancy sulkily, shaking hands with his
political foe. 'It's very hot this evening. The storm don't seem to
have cleared the air much.'

'The thunder is still hovering about,' said Mr. Longleat. 'I think
that I ought to be going across the water again. I only wanted to see
Mrs. Vallancy safe within doors. It's getting late, and I've had a
long journey from Kooralbyn.'

'You're down for the Opening, I suppose,' said Vallancy. 'You'll find
no end of fellows at the club. Have something before you go. Connie,
why the deuce don't you see that there's ice in the house?'

'I do not care about anything, thank you,' replied Mr. Longleat,
hastily. 'Nothing, I beg. I must really be off. Good-night. Good-
night, Mrs. Vallancy.'

'I'll let you out,' she said, moving on before him.

She held the door open for him to pass through, then closed it behind
them both. When they had reached the verandah, she paused, and timidly
touched his arm.

'You'll come again soon,' she said. You see I want friends; 'I'm
nearly always at home in the afternoons. Come in a day or two--before
Parliament opens.'

'Yes, I'll come,' said Mr. Longleat, forgetting, under the influence
of the moment, a prudent resolve that he had made in the verandah.

'Connie!' called Vallancy, from within.

'Good-bye,' she murmured, waving her hand lightly; then re--entered
the dining-room, where her husband had seated himself at the table.

'Give me a kiss,' he said. 'I'm glad to see you home again. I wish
you'd look happier. I've had cursed bad luck at cards to-night, and I
was annoyed because you never wrote to me from the Ansons. If I had
known that Longleat was in the next room, I should not have spoken to
you so angrily.'

'What does it matter? it is nothing new,' she said, without moving to
grant him the embrace for which he had asked.

Her apathy showed no trace of resentment. He looked at her for a
moment with an expression half ironical, half despairing; then
sullenly drooped his head upon his breast. Presently he asked
suddenly: 'Where is the brandy? Get me some, if you please.'

'I would not take any more, if I were you,' she replied coldly.

'If you were me, and had business matters to worry you, you'd be glad
enough to take something which would help you to forget them. Bring me
something strong. I'm tired; I cannot drink this wash.'

'I suppose that I have my worries too,' she answered bitterly. 'If I
had yours, I'd face them honestly. I wouldn't drink champagne every
evening and leave my butcher unpaid; I wouldn't play at cards, and
smoke expensive cigars, and talk big, when I knew all the time that I
could not meet the bills I'd asked my friends to back for me; I would
not besot and stupefy myself till there wasn't an ounce of manliness
left in me.'

'You're a bold woman, to speak to me in this way,' said Vallancy.
'What do you mean?'

'If you had been a true man you would never have asked Brian Fielding
to lend you money!' she exclaimed recklessly.

'Who told you that? What has he been saying? It was money that he
owed me. Explain yourself.'

'It was money borrowed,' said she, incisively. 'It is not the first
time that you have--turned circumstances to your advantage; but I
warned you to spare him. I warned you not to goad me too far.'

'Have you suddenly turned prude?' said Vallancy, roused by her
manner. 'I've let you have your own way without asking questions; but
if I really believed that you cared for Fielding, I'd--'

'You'd borrow more money from him,' said she, with bitter sarcasm.

'You go too far,' said Vallancy, lifting his sullen, red eyes from
the table-cloth. 'Take care how you irritate me. I know you too well
to give you credit for any sentimental weakness. I have allowed you
liberty because I knew that you were too selfish to abuse it. I
discovered long ago that you only married me because you thought I was
rich. How rightly you have been served! If you had taken any pains to
please me, I should have been a different husband to you. You have no
heart. Even when the child died you did not fret.'

'A woman does not fret when her heart is broken,' said Mrs. Vallancy,
with the sound of suppressed tears in her voice. 'You make me hard.
You teach me to be bad--'

She was leaving the room, but he detained her.

'You have not got me the brandy.'

She went out, and presently returned with a decanter of spirit which
she placed before him.

'Don't go yet; I have something else to say to you. Why did you bring
Longleat here to-night?'

'I told you that we were travelling together in the coach. Seeing
that I was alone he very kindly brought me home. I could do nothing
else than ask him in.'

'I detest that man!' exclaimed Mr. Vallancy, savagely. 'I would do
him an ill-turn if I could. I owe him more than one. They would have
given me the chairmanship of committees if he had not been against me.
Well, his day is nearly over.'

'Do you think so? Surely he will carry his Loan Bill.'

'I would lay any money that he does not. The majority will oppose
him.'

Mrs. Vallancy shrugged her shoulders, but said nothing.

'Forbes has resigned the police magistracy of Gundaroo,' continued
Mr. Vallancy, 'and Middleton has promised it to me, if he comes into
power. It's a beastly hole. You won't like going there.'

Gundaroo, a new northern settlement, was at that time the Ultima
Thule of civilisation in Leichardt's Land, but the post was important,
and there was a considerable salary attached to it.

Mrs. Vallancy looked interested.

'You would take it?'

'Yes; for a short time. There seems no prospect of anything better;
and the screw is good and would help me to get rid of this load of
debt.'

'Middleton is not in power yet,' said Mrs. Vallancy quietly, and left
the room.

'If I could only persuade Longleat to send him there,' she said to
herself as she stood looking at her pretty but haggard face in the
toilet-glass. 'Have I no heart? Oh, Brian you know that--'

*   *   *   *   *

A word about Connie Vallancy.

Her father had been one of the first Government Residents in
Leichardt's Land. In the early days of the colony, when emigration was
principally confined to the more energetic members of the upper
classes of English society; when handsome cadets, full of pluck and
adventure, became dare-devil pioneers, eager to distinguish themselves
by feats of horsemanship and reckless bravery; when hardships were
numerous, and the joys of life scarce, so that a pretty girl was
worshipped as a goddess straight from Olympus, Connie Brabourne had
been the belle of the district.

Before she was seventeen there was hardly an unmarried man in the
colony who had not made her an offer. She was a terrible coquette,
exacted admiration as her tribute, and thought it rather a feather in
her cap to be styled a heartless flirt. At last came upon the scene
one Brian Fielding, a tall handsome squatter, well born and travelled,
with no money to speak of, but plenty of assurance, and with a
fascinating manner that women found it difficult to resist.

The two fell desperately in love with each other, and entered into an
indefinite sort of engagement, of which the consummation was to be
delayed till Brian possessed a station of his own and a house in
Sydney. But Connie's father was ambitious; and she too was vain and
light of love, and had cherished lurking visions of life in England,
of costly clothes, and unlimited admiration from higher quarters.
Brian went back to his post of superintendent at an inland station,
which had an unpronounceable name, and a mail once in three months;
and Connie, to whom flirting had acquired a new stimulus from the fact
of its being a forbidden luxury, was left unsupported in the midst of
temptations to inconstancy, and finally threw over her lover in favour
of Mr. Vallancy, who had aristocratic connections and the reputation
of wealth.

There was a story of intercepted letters, of treachery and
compulsion; but be that as it may, Connie Brabourne married Mr.
Vallancy in the Leichardt's Town church, and went off with him for her
honeymoon in England.

She soon found that her husband's riches were mythical, and that her
'grand match' resolved itself into poverty, brag, a taste for
expensive luxuries without the means of gratifying it, and doubtful
treatment by her new relatives, who flouted her and despised him. She
was at first passionately discontented, then fell into a state of
listless melancholy, and finally became reckless and defiant.

After a year or two of Bohemian existence in Europe, during which
Connie's knowledge of the evil side of humanity deepened considerably,
they returned to Leichardt's Land.

Mr. Vallancy was created a member of the Legislative Council, and
made it his aim to get into power; but, being of an aggressive and
cantankerous disposition, contrived to render himself so obnoxious to
both political parties that the lucrative Government appointment which
he hoped to obtain always dangled temptingly just beyond his reach.

He would condescend to no secondary place, and was loth to deprive
himself of the opportunity of making disagreeable allusions in the
House. Nothing less than the bait of a police magistracy and a good
salary would have satisfied his pride; and as his influence was small,
and his abusive attacks were merely pinpricks, the Government in power
always hesitated to buy him at his own price. He kept up a good
appearance, though everyone knew that he was steeped in debt, and
there were ugly rumours afloat as to the source of the ready money by
means of which he staved off disgrace.

An unfortunate marriage may produce in a woman either a state of
passive indifference or of emotional craving after some outward form
of satisfaction. In Constance Vallancy's case flirtation seemed the
only antidote to disappointment. She had no high-souled yearnings to
carry her beyond the influence of her passionate excitability. She had
begun life with the self-made compact that caresses and admiration
were to be her portion, and seeing that they were denied her from a
legitimate quarter, could not overcome a sense of ill-usage, while in
her heart there was always present a cankerous regret after Brian
Fielding, the one man she had truly loved.

Her disposition held no truth-compelling instincts to define the
boundary between right and wrong, and contact with an ignoble, self--
indulgent nature brought into force a tendency to deceit. She lied to
her husband, justifying falsehood as a weapon against irritable vanity
and unreasonable abuse. So she fed her morbid longings upon the
stimulant of coquetry, and though she had not suffered actual
shipwreck, had more than once steered dangerously near the rocks.

Shortly before the opening of this story Brian Fielding, still
fascinating and still poor, reappeared in Leichardt's Town, and
renewed his acquaintance with Mrs. Vallancy. He had met her at first
with a simulated indifference, which had roused her old passion and
piqued her desire for conquest; then he alternately sought and avoided
her, and finally had drifted into a sweet but dangerous friendship.

This state of things was broken by Mr. Fielding's sudden departure
for Melbourne on a matter of business, likely to result in a permanent
appointment in that city.

The fact of his wife's former engagement was a secret to Mr.
Vallancy; otherwise it may be doubted whether, base though he was, he
would have encouraged the intercourse. Connie had flirted scores of
times since their marriage, and he had profited by her love of
admiration to borrow money from her adorers; but, to do him justice,
he did not doubt her fidelity. He loved her after an unreasonable
fashion, at one time caressing, at another upbraiding her, and making
her the confidante of his petty ambitions and knavish intrigues, till
any womanly delicacy that she might have possessed was blunted to
cynical indifference.

A weary distaste for life fell upon her after Brian's departure. She
panted for freedom, and scorn of her husband became transformed to
active hatred. Oh to be rid of the incubus! She was reckless enough to
have eloped with Brian had he been willing to take her. But there was
no money on either side; she could not ruin his prospects, and there
were times, too, when she felt that her influence was waning, and
almost doubted the sincerity of his devotion. And now he was gone, and
though he had promised to write to her--had sworn not to forget her,
the consolation of his presence had departed from her. Money-troubles
were weighing upon her. She was beginning to feel the pressure of
want; creditors threatened. She was wretched; felt ill, and was losing
her beauty. Her overmastering desire now was to escape from the
irritation of her husband's presence, and to secure wealth and freedom
from annoyance.

At this juncture she became intimate with the Premier.



Chapter VI. 'You Must Marry Honoria Longleat.'

EARLY the next morning Barrington and Tom Dungie left Kooya. The former
was mounted upon one of Lord Dolph's hacks, while Dungie rode the little
piebald, which he frequently apostrophised in terms, admonitory or
admiring. He carried his mail-bags strapped in front of his saddle, and
drove before him the pack-horse, which bore Barrington's luggage
conveniently disposed in two canvas bags.

For some miles the road led through a semi-cultivated locality,
beside portions of uncleared forest, alternating with paddocks where
browsed the lean kine that supplied Kooya with milk and butter; past
bush homesteads where children clustered round the log door-steps, and
shouted at the sight of strangers; by fields of yellow maize and
plantations of cotton, in which the flakes of down had just burst
their brown pods--till at last the trees almost met over the narrow
track, even the public-houses ceased, and the last log-hut that marked
the bounds of human habitation for miles to come had been left behind.
Now Barrington felt himself to be in the bush.

This forest solitude, filled with the incessant chirp of locusts, the
winging of butterflies, and rustling of the tall dry grass, the
monotonous 'Hoo-hoo-hoo-ooo' of the Wonga pigeon, and shrill screech
of the jackass, was quite unfamiliar to the Englishman, whose rambles
had never before extended beyond the boundaries of Europe.

Tom Dungie rode at a jog-trot which covered the ground quickly, and
was not distressing to man or beast. The mail-man was a garrulous
little creature, and when he was not talking to his companion
addressed a disjointed soliloquy to his horse.

'Now then, stoopid! Hain't yer learnt the track yet? Well, you air an
old 'umbug, you air! Can't yer tell a log when yer sees one? Now then,
'urry along: stir your stumps! we've got to be at Kooralbyn to--
night.'

'I dare say that you find Kooralbyn a pleasant stopping-place,' said
Barrington, already identifying the name with Miss Longleat.

'I don't know that it ain't a little better nor some others,' said
Tom, critically. 'I'm took into the kitchen instead o' being sent to
the huts; but the glass of grog ain't as reglar as might be. It
depends mostly on what I bring--leastways, on what I has for Miss
Longleat.'

'How is that?' asked Barrington.

'She comes down to the crossing sometimes when I'm pretty early, and
takes the mail-bag herself, and then I stands and watches her open her
letters. Lor'! I can tell by the handwriting if they're from her
sweethearts. If I happens to have a book or summat of the sort from
Mr. Dyson Maddox, it is, "Tom," says she, "I dare say you're tired.
Ask Mrs. Ferris for a glass of rum;" or if I hain't got nothing
pertikler, "Tom," she says, "what's the news Dyraaba way?" and so on,
gradual like, to Barramunda. My word! they're sharp creatures, women.
It ain't everyone as knows how to take 'em. You hain't seen her yet,
have you?'

'No,' replied Barrington.

'She's awful handsome; but, bless you, I don't take no account on
her. Some men are funky upon speaking to her. I've seen gents as
didn't know what to say when they looked at her--struck all of a heap,
like. But women is like 'osses; them as don't understand 'em is mostly
afeared on 'em.'

The narrowness of the track, which now wound among large boulders of
rock, and was strewn with loose stones, compelled them to ride single
file. They were descending a high range which commanded a view of the
adjacent country. Half-way down, Dungie paused at a little stream,
overshadowed by the glossy boughs and crimson flowers of the chestnut,
and discoursed while he let his horse drink.

'Yonder is the Koorong Crag,' said he, pointing to a mountain which
rose upon their right.

It had all the glory of inaccessibility; its turret-like summit
surmounted a deep precipice of bare rock, which could be climbed by no
man; its base was clothed with bluish-green foliage, against which the
light stems of a group of white gum-trees in the foreground stood out
in vivid contrast.

'Our black fellows say that the Debbil-debbil lives up there,'
continued Dungie. 'I've heard tell that a long time ago the rocks were
covered with creepers, and that one of the first white settlers in the
district managed to climb to the top of the mountain by holding on to
them. He made a fire upon the highest point, but a wind rose, and the
flames spread and burned all the creepers. His bones lie bleaching up
there now.'

They rode on till they reached a gorge dividing two hills. The pack--
horse, well accustomed to the narrow track worn along the steep slope,
trotted in front, occasionally stopping to nibble the tender shoots of
the young ti-trees, while Barrington followed the postman, who would
every now and then turn his head with an evident distrust of English
horse-manship.

Upon their right sloped the rocky bank of the hill they were
skirting. Cairns of grey, volcanic-looking stones, piled by Nature's
hand, and overgrown with rank grass and creeping indigo, necessitated
frequent deviations; charred logs, the remains of bush--fires, lay
across the path; the thick underwood grew dense on each side;
flowering parasites hung from the branches overhead, and bines of the
crimson Kennedia trailed into the streamlet that flowed at the foot of
the two hills.

In places the rivulet glided gently over flat stones worn smooth by
its course; here and there it tumbled in a miniature cascade over the
trunk of a fallen tree, and now lay in pools still and stagnant, with
iridescent gleams upon its surface, beneath overhanging fronds of
fern. To the left of the riders, the opposite hill rose almost
perpendicularly high above their heads. Firs clung to the rocky soil,
and native jessamine and waxen hoya shed their fragrance in the air.
The sharp st-wt of the whip-bird and the footfalls of the horses
echoed through the gorge with startling distinctness. The solitude was
intense; neither aboriginal nor beast was to be seen prowling about
this mountain fastness; only every now and then a rustling of dry
leaves would attract attention, and the sharp head of a wallabi might
be observed protruding from behind some jagged rock, and disappearing
in an instant.

At length they emerged from the ravine, and mounted to the highest
point of the range which bounded the Koorong district. Below them, the
country stretched in smooth plains and undulating ridges; and beyond
lay a succession of mountains like distant rolling waves, with here
and there a more prominent peak catching the sun's reflection upon its
stony sides, and standing out in vivid contrast to the shadowy purple
of the lower and further hills.

'Stop a moment,' said Barrington, pausing and involuntarily raising
his hat.

Beauty of nature or of art was a powerful agent in stirring his
senses to a pitch of excitement hardly warranted by his self-contained
exterior. As a boy he had sometimes lain down and wept at the sudden
sight of a fine landscape; and his pulses had tingled with keen
emotion while he stood before a beautiful statue or a lovely pictured
face. There is a poetic, quasi-intellectual passion which in some
natures is hardly less potent than that aroused by wine or women.

Dungie checked his horse, and regarded his companion with reflective
curiosity.

'Pretty, ain't it?' said he, with something of the pride of
proprietorship. 'There ain't any district in Leichardt's Land as beats
the Koorong for scenery--mountains and such like. To be sure, the
grass is not to be remarked for overfattening,' he added, with a sigh;
'but where there's big bones, there ain't often sweet flesh. Old
Anthony Ferris Kooralbyn way, he do go almost cracked over them rocks.
I've heard him screeching out his bits of poetry, till I've thought
him ripe for Woogaroo mad-house. Longleat is pretty smart about the
men he employs, but what made him take old Ferris for his storekeeper
beats the folks up here hollow...Yon is the dividing range between
this colony and New South Wales. Kooralbyn lays there,' indicating an
extensive timbered tract that stretched eastward beneath the
mountains. We are close upon Dyraaba now, and that's my place agen the
creek. It's a bit dull sometimes, but the mail keeps me running. I've
only seen three females on my selection since I took it up four years
last November. One was the gell from Barramunda, as rode down with the
stockman one Sunday arternoon, T'other was my lady. She wur a-looking
for the strawberry cow as got bogged in the creek, and t'other--'

Here Dungie paused, and silently ruminated for several minutes.

'And who was the third?' asked Barrington.

"Twur Miss MacCutchan,' replied Dungie, laconically. 'Now then, git
along, you old stoopid! You've seen this 'ere view often enough
before.'

Presently the mailman halted at a round waterhole fringed with blady
grass, and overshadowed by the gnarled branches of a giant eucalyptus
globulus. Here Dungie dismounted, stooped down, and pushed aside the
lily-leaves which floated on the surface of the pool, washed his face
and hands, and deliberately assumed a rusty black alpaca coat. His
appearance was so comical and his gravity so portentous, that
Barrington laughingly asked him the reason of these preparations.

'I knows my drawbacks,' said Dungie. 'I ain't much to look at; but
respect goes a long way. Butter don't come no quicker for fast
churning.'

With this pregnant remark Dungie's garrulity suddenly abated, and he
scarcely uttered a word till they had reached a log-hut built in a
cleared bit of scrub, and surrounded by a rude stockade, within which
grew some lank peach-trees and straggling cabbage-plants. Just outside
the hut a young woman stood busily engaged over her wash--tub. She was
extremely tall and of rich colouring, with high cheek--bones and
abundant dark hair.

Miss MacCutchan--for it was she--looked up as the mailman approached,
wiped the soapsuds from her hands and arms, and nodded.

'Have ye got anything for me to-day, Mr. Dungie?' said she.

Dungie, leaving Barrington outside the railings, dismounted from his
horse, and presented her with a well-thumbed envelope.

'My sentiments is in there,' said he, with whining gravity; there's a
year's mail-contract to run, and then I'm a-goin' to settle down on
the selection.'

Miss MacCutchan took the letter, reddened, and thrust it into the
pocket of her gown.

'Get along with you and your stupid valentines!' she cried. 'You
should buy a speaking-parrot to make your soft speeches for you. Dress
him up in your Sunday coat, and no one 'ud know the difference. I
ain't the sort of woman to be running second to a mail--contract.
You'd best be getting on your way, or you'll be late at Kooralbyn to-
night.' And she obstinately resumed the scrubbing of a pair of
moleskins.

Dungie meekly retreated, remounted his pony, and rode off by
Barrington's side. For some time he maintained silence, then remarked,
with a deep sigh:

'She's a fine young woman to look at. I've had my eye upon her for
four year. I'm pretty sure what she's made of; but I ain't a-goin' to
give up my mail-contract; no, not for her. That's the odds atween us.'

When they had ridden out of sight of the hut Dungie came to another
standstill, took off his rusty coat, re-strapped it in his valise, and
pursued his way more cheerfully. The influence of Miss MacCutchan's
presence removed, loquacity returned to him, and he expatiated freely
upon the beauties of the scenery and the population of the Koorong
district, till the paddock-fence of Dyraaba came in sight.

A narrow creek wound round the rise upon which the house was built,
and, to Barrington's surprise, was crossed by such a rustic bridge as
might have spanned the ornamental water of a gentleman's park in
England. Near the bridge, sloping down to the water, there was an
artificial rockery, the prim elegance of which contrasted strangely
with the wildness of forest and desolation of mountains that
characterised the scene.

Instead of riding over the bridge, the postman made a round to the
crossing, where the water reached to his stirrups.

'He do set store on them bits of planks and tree-stumps, does Lord
Dolph,' said Dungie, contemptuously. 'The next flood in the
Koorong'ull carry them all away. For my part, I like what's in natur'
better nor what's out of it; and the little piebald is far too 'cute
to trust her legs on that English fal-deral.'

Dyraaba lay at the foot of a rugged hill which overshadowed the
house, and was the joy of Lord Dolph's heart, and the despair of that
of his stockrider. The dwellinghouse, a four-roomed hut, was built of
slabs and roofed with bark. Two sides were shaded by a verandah
supported by rough saplings, round which twined native clematis and
scrub-creepers. The floor of the verandah was of mud; a fernery was in
course of construction against the walls, and two fine plants of the
staghorn variety flourished on each side of the doorway; a crimson
double geranium bloomed by a verandah-post, and verbenas flowered at
the sills of the unglazed windows. Behind the house a dense smoke
obscured the out-buildings.

'That's my lady makin' a spree amongst the rubbish,' remarked Dungie;
and presently they came in sight of Lady Dolph herself, who, with her
cotton gown tucked up over her linsey petticoat, was busy picking up
sticks which she threw upon the pile.

She was a comely little body, with a round rosy face, bright grey
eyes, light hair and eyebrows, and a trim waist. As soon as Barrington
appeared on the scene she exploded in a fit of giggling, threw down
her sticks, and ran into the hut, where she presently emerged with a
fair-haired, boyish-looking man, who was smoking a short pipe, and
wore his shirt-sleeves tucked up over a pair of blue--veined arms,
that Barrington had last seen uncovered on the river below Eton. They
had roughened considerably since then, and the good-looking,
aristocratic face was sunburnt and hairy; nevertheless, there was in
the youth's whole appearance an unmistakable air of refinement, quite
out of keeping with his surroundings.

Adolphus Bassett, the seventh son of an impoverished peer, having
shown small aptitude for the clerical profession, for which he had
been intended, had upon his father's death emigrated to Australia,
where he had employed his small patrimony in the purchase and stocking
of Dyraaba, and had married Maggie, the daughter of one Lamb, a
squatter on the Koorong. She made him an excellent wife, managed the
few score of cattle which Dyraaba maintained, rode as colonial women
do ride, displayed considerable culinary skill, and was tenacious of
her dignity, claiming her title even when she was engaged in salting
beef and such other unrefined occupations.

Lord Dolph shook hands heartily with Barrington, who had by this
time dismounted.

'Hallo! so you have turned up. I am delighted to see you; we didn't
half expect you to-day. Most fellows get funked over the short cut.
But Dungie is a capital pioneer. You can't go wrong if you follow the
little piebald. She's a rare one, isn't she, Tom? I say, this don't
put you much in mind of Headington, eh?'

Barrington smiled; Lord Dolph laughed, and Maggie giggled.

'Let me introduce you to my wife,' said Dolph. 'We were having a go
at the rubbish-heap. Come, if this doesn't bang Europe, as Maggie
would say, I'm blest. It's the Tyrol with perpetual vegetation. Did
you notice my bridge? I modelled it after the one at Headington. You
must come out presently and see the yards. We are setting up pigs. I
shall make no end of money out of my porkers; the selectors buy 'em.
We're thorough bush people here. I go in for roughing it like one
o'clock. It's not half bad fun; and there's excellent duck-shooting
down the creek. Come inside and we'll open the post-bag. I believe
there's an English mail due.'

Lady Dolph, with one shoulder awkwardly raised above the other, led
the way into the sitting-room, which was pretty enough, though the
walls were only canvased, and daylight might be seen between any two
of the outer slabs, which stood apart as though they had not been
introduced to one another. There was a curious application of English
aestheticism to the rude arrangements and homemade furniture of the
Australian bush. The wide fireplace was surmounted by an artistic
erection of polished cedar, crimson paper, and blue china plates.
Roughly-carved brackets supported pots of Doulton and Vallauris ware.
Engravings after Angelica Kauffmann and Bartolozzi, that might have
been filched from the Headington corridors, and photographs of
familiar English and foreign scenes, lined the walls. The canvas
chairs were adorned with crewelwork done by Lord Dolph's sisters. An
opossum rug lay before the hearth. Beneath the window stood a pine
writing-table, furnished with equipments of oxidised silver. A grand
piano filled up one side of the room, and was littered with music.
Lord Dolph, with boyish pride in a new toy, ran his fingers over the
keys, and trolled forth in a fine tenor one of Sullivan's songs.

'Is it not a beauty?' he cried. 'There's not another instrument like
it in Leichardt's Land. Headington sent it to me for a wedding
present. We had a rare piece of work getting it across the creeks.
Maggie said she'd rather have had the money to spend on bulls; but she
likes it better now that I've taught her to sing duets with me. She
has as nice a voice as there is in the district, except old Ferris's
daughter's--poor little girl!'

'Why do you pity her?' asked Barrington.

Lord Dolph touched his forehead significantly, and went on playing.

'It's in the family,' he added. 'The old man is as mad as a hatter, a
snarling, discontented creature. Longleat's storekeeper; it's a
mystery to me how he got the situation. There's a wife for a settler!'
he whispered enthusiastically, directing Barrington's glance towards
Maggie, who was sorting out the letters that had just arrived. 'Hand
them over, old girl. I wish you'd take out this note I have written to
Miss Longleat, and give it to Dungie.'

Maggie departed. Lord Dolph rose from the piano, stretched himself,
and looked with a sort of sheepish inquiry at his guest.

'I dare say you are thinking that she wouldn't suit marble halls,
dukes, and duchesses, and that sort of thing,' he said; 'but bless
you! she'd go down splendidly if I were to take her home.'

'She is unaffectedly charming!' said Barrington, with more heartiness
than he felt. 'I congratulate you.'

'Really now, I'm glad you like her, though I detest the notion that a
man's wife, like his horse, must be subject to the criticism of his
friends. I suppose that you saw my people before you left England?'

'Lord Headington went down with me to Southampton--he was very kind--
but I saw none of the others.'

'He is a rare old sort is Headington,' said Lord Dolph in a
constrained tone. 'Didn't Sir Lionel see you off?'

'No; Lionel and I never pulled over-well together. He is a prig, and
my mother leads him by the nose. His wife is a fool. I think she would
have taken my part if she dared. I disliked her, and she was sorry for
me in my trouble. My mother, whom I worshipped, was hard as a stone.'

'I say,' said Lord Dolph, 'I heard about your mess. I'm awfully sorry
for it. It's no use beating about the bush. My mother keeps me pretty
well up in what is going on.'

'I suppose,' said Barrington, looking at Lord Dolph without
blenching, 'that she told you how I had left the Guards.'

'I heard there had been a row. She wrote me some particulars. Women
are never very clear in matters of detail.'

'Your mother and mine are old friends. They have thoroughly discussed
my iniquities. You have had your information direct from head-
quarters, and I have no doubt that it is correct,' said Barrington,
bitterly. 'Look here, Dolph; the hardest cut I've ever had was my
mother's conduct in that affair. You know what she is--how cold, and
yet how fascinating. The head of the family is her god; if I had been
the eldest son I should have been immaculate. I have always felt that
she might have done with me what she chose. I hated the idea of coming
out here: when she urged it--when she seemed anxious to get rid of
me--I had no heart to resist. Now that I am here I don't know what I
shall do. Do you think that I am the stuff to make a settler?'

'Emphatically no,' said Lord Dolph. 'You would have to take up new
country, drive cattle, explore, and that sort of thing. You wouldn't
stand it.'

'Then there is a poor prospect before me. I may trust you; your
family has always been staunch to me. My brother allows me one hundred
and fifty pounds a year, otherwise I have nothing. What can I do?'

'Why!' cried Lord Dolph, with his frank, hearty laugh, 'Maggie and I
settled that when we heard that you were coming. You must marry
Honoria Longleat, and become the owner of the great Tarrangella tin-
mine.'



Chapter VII. An Australian Explorer.

SOME few days after the arrival of Barrington at Dyraaba, Mr. Dyson
Maddox and his superintendent, Cornelius Cathcart, were riding over the
ranges from Barramunda in the direction of Kooralbyn. The two stations,
with Dyraaba forming the point of a triangle between, lay about fifteen
miles apart, a convenient distance to be pleaded as an excuse for
remaining the night when alluring attractions offered themselves, and
not too far to be retraced late in the day when circumstances rendered
return desirable.

Of the two men, the superintendent, as requiring the shortest notice,
may be described first. He was small and spare, with a loosely-built
frame, upon which his clothes hung as upon a peg; a yellow face
ornamented by a tiny flaxen imperial, and narrow blue eyes. He was
always shabbily dressed. At all times a restless imp seemed to possess
his frame. When he walked, his body jerked convulsively; when he rode,
his limbs twitched as though he were a victim to incipient St. Vitus's
dance. His tone was caustic, and he affected cynicism. He had been
Maddox's companion for several years, first in certain exploring
expeditions on the northern coast which the latter had conducted, and
afterwards as manager of Barramunda.

Maddox had upon one occasion saved Cathcart's life in a flooded
creek, and this circumstance was sufficient warrant for the strong,
undemonstrative attachment that existed between two dissimilar
natures. Of late, however, a slight constraint had arisen in their
intercourse. It was suspected by both, though not admitted by either,
that this was due to Miss Longleat's influence.

Yet in what way was difficult to define. There could be no question
of rivalry between the two men. Had there been, Cathcart would
certainly have withdrawn in favour of his friend, while he would as
certainly have cloaked his generosity under an appearance of snarling
contempt. As it was, circumstances forbade him to think of matrimony.
To aspire to the heiress of the Tarrangella Mine would have been
ridiculous presumption. Cathcart would not acknowledge to himself that
Honoria attracted him; but that she constantly filled his mind was
evident, and that there was a latent bitterness in his thoughts of her
was equally certain.

Dyson Maddox was broad-shouldered and thick-set, with muscles like
iron, and a skin mellowed by exposure to the colour of untanned
leather. He had finely-hewn features, a determined mouth, and brown,
level eyes. There was brusque daring in his glance, and much frank
nobility in the sweep of his brow. He had a trick of frowning when
preoccupied, which gave a morose expression to his face; but when the
frown dispersed there was sweetness in his look. His hair curled in
heavy locks, and his moustache and whiskers were carelessly trimmed,
as though he were not accustomed to expend thought upon his toilette.

A typical Australian of the second generation, unconventional,
courageous, and energetic; lacking somewhat the graces of society, but
rich in an air of native distinction, and in the chivalry which arises
from intuitive good breeding. He was far removed from the thin-
skinned, metaphysical breed, and had none of that aesthetic
sentimentalism which is a development of Old-World civilisation. His
passions were strong, but balanced by logical power and by the
discipline of a hard life. He had a rare faculty for repressing
emotion; was deliberate in action, and slow to receive new
impressions. Though fairly cultivated, he had not followed
intellectual pursuits more closely than the exigencies of a purely
Australian career had demanded.

The master and the manager had been discoursing for some time upon
bovine matters, when Maddox remarked, apropos of an arrangement for
selling fat cattle during the winter: 'It is possible that I may not
be much at Barramunda after the opening of Parliament. I am thinking
of taking a more active part in politics this session.'

'So I imagined. Of course you have been offered the post of Minister
for Lands. It seems the pet ambition nowadays to make one's self into
a target for scurrilous attacks.'

'You take an unfortunate view of the question,' replied Dyson. 'Why
should political distinction be an unworthy aim here? There must be
interested motives underlying all party strife; they come nearer the
surface in a small community. I have always wished to be in the
Cabinet, but there are reasons which make me hesitate to accept the
position. I must, however, let the Premier know my decision this
evening.'

'But beforehand you must make yourself certain of your ground with
Miss Longleat. I understand. This is the reason of your detour by
Kooralbyn. I hope she will be there, and that you may catch her in a
listening mood. That is the worst of having to do with capricious
persons; there is no calculating their humours. Well, if you are
successful in your suit, be good enough to apprise me as early as
possible of the fact, so that I may clear out of Barramunda without
delay.'

'You have always said that you would leave Barramunda when I married.
Why should you do so? No one should interfere with you in the
Bachelors' Quarters.'

'Not even the Bachelors' Quarters would be sacred to Mrs. Maddox,'
answered Cathcart, shortly. 'Thank you, but there is not room at
Barramunda for Miss Longleat and for me. I shall take up country out
west, or go to Fiji, which seems the refuge for unfortunates just
now.'

'I have sometimes fancied,' said Dyson in a hesitating manner, though
he spoke with deliberate emphasis, 'that you were attracted by Miss
Longleat. The thought has troubled me, although I have no actual
grounds for entertaining it. I only guess at your feelings. You know
my wishes. Come, hadn't we better have the matter out?'

'Make your mind easy,' said Cathcart. 'I am too good a servant to
poach on my master's preserves. I may be a fool, but I am not such a
drivelling idiot as to suppose that Miss Longleat would think of me as
a husband. An admirer is another thing; a chimney-sweep may be at
liberty to worship a goddess. I dare say that she is piqued because I
have not thrown myself at her feet; but I have some self-respect. That
girl puzzles me. I cannot make up my mind whether I dislike or pity
her most.'

'Tell me your reasons for disliking her,' said Maddox.

'She is always posing for effect. There is nothing genuine about her
except her greediness for sensation. She is an actress who believes in
her parts. She is cold-blooded and passionate together. She is
intolerably selfish; she has everything to make her happy, and she is
morbidly discontented. She despises her father who adores her. She is
not womanly. Then her frankness is extraordinary. She is essentially a
New-World product. No European young woman could combine so much
boldness with an innocence which one is obliged to take for granted.
Excuse me if I offend your susceptibilities; you asked my opinion.'

'Go on,' said Maddox. 'Now, why do you pity her?'

'She is absolutely solitary; she has neither women friends nor
relations. As long as she cultivates fastidiousness, there can be no
sympathy between her and her father. She has been badly brought up.
What result could one expect from a Sydney boarding-school? And I
think that there is a certain nobility in her nature. She will be
either good or bad. She is discontented with herself. If she were wise
she would marry you, but I do not think she will--just yet. Our roads
separate here. I am going to meet Brown at Jaff's Peak Camp.'

'You'll not come on to Kooralbyn, then?'

'No; there are the weaners to be looked after, and the long-tailed
strawberry cow to be brought in. And I am not unselfish enough to play
bodkin.'

Cathcart turned his horse, and with a curt good-bye galloped away
through the trees, till he had disappeared over the brow of the hill.
Maddox rode on through the silent forest, descending the range and
skirting the creek, where the tall cedars, laden with the golden
berries of autumn, cast their shadows over the tracks.

Dyson Maddox's grandfather had come out to Australia holding a Crown
appointment in New South Wales. The office under a responsible
Government had descended to the son, who, in his turn, had died
suddenly before Dyson had attained his majority. Thus it will be seen
that the lad was a true native of the soil. He inherited from his
father an easy competence, and having neither brothers, sisters, nor
near relations, had no claims upon his purse. But he was not content
to plod on in conventional fashion; he must needs carve his fortune in
his own manner. It was his ambition to become one of the pioneers of
Australian civilisation. He had made several more or less successful
attempts to penetrate into the interior, and a few years before the
present date had equipped and commanded an exploring expedition,
which, with a dauntless energy seldom equalled in the annals of
Australia, had fought its way through the heart of Leichardt's Land to
a point on the extreme northern coast, hitherto only accessible by
sea.

At the risk of starvation, and of murder by the hostile tribes, whose
territories had never before been invaded by white men, the little
band, with Dyson Maddox at its head, pushed on towards the northern
peninsula. Half-way the horses perished from eating poisonous berries
in a scrub; provisions failed, and sickness thinned the number.
Nevertheless, the brave men pursued their way on foot, through forest
and desert, subject to night attacks and to daily peril of native
ambuscades, till they reached the remote seaboard township of
Gundaroo, a port commanding the northern waters, and a touching--place
for mail-steamers of sufficient importance to render the establishment
of land communication with the southern districts a matter of concern
to the Leichardt's Land Government.

In the course of this expedition Maddox's left arm had been disabled
by the thrust of a black's spear, hurled during a midnight surprise of
his camp. He was almost a cripple when he reached Gundaroo. A few
months later he knew that he could no longer draw his trigger with
certainty of effect, or rely upon his physical strength to aid him in
combating the dangers and difficulties which beset the path of an
explorer.

Thirst after unknown country had been the ruling motive of his life.
The miner who digs in the expectation of striking a priceless nugget
knows no keener excitement than that which Dyson experienced at the
first glimpse of some broad river or fertile rolling plain, never
before gazed upon by any but barbarian eyes, but which, by his
discovery, might in future ages become the home of thousands of his
race.

The abstract side of existence had few claims upon him, yet he was
not without enthusiasm of an inspiring, practical kind, and was
strongly imbued with the notion that he who places fresh territory at
the service of his country has a no less exalted mission than the
scientific investigator, the mechanical discoverer, or the
pathological inquirer.

Now this wound, inflicted by the ignominious weapon of an aboriginal,
had changed the whole current of his existence. He could no longer
lead the life of perilous adventure which had held for him so great a
charm. His health had been injured by exposure and privation, and
those anxious six months, during which death had stared him in the
face, had visibly whitened his hair and perceptibly reduced his
vigour.

He had left Leichardt's Town full of animal health and reckless
bravery; he reached Gundaroo broken-down, subdued, and prematurely
aged, his ambition checked in the very hour of fulfilment. There was
nothing for him but to return south, and to embrace a tranquil,
bucolic career, seasoned by the mild excitement of politics.

But when, after his purchase of Barramunda, he paid his first visit
to Kooralbyn, and saw again Honoria Longleat, whom he had known as a
child, now fresh from school, and radiant in the first consciousness
of power and the bloom of early womanhood, he almost ceased to regret
the life he had quitted. A vague, delicious dream, which had sweetened
his wanderings, took defined shape, and imparted a new zest to
existence. Frank, daring, original, with the touch of passionate
sensibility that he himself lacked, he felt that she was the one woman
who could make his happiness.

But he was cautious and deliberate, and did not snatch the prize when
it was, perhaps, within his reach. Honoria had her ambitious dreams of
a life of colour and excitement. Sometimes he seemed to her cold and
commonplace, sometimes unrefined. She began to mix in the world and to
taste the sweets of coquetry. She accustomed herself to associate
elegance of manners with an European education. As a slave or an
adoring mentor, Dyson pleased her well enough, but she was almost
convinced that he would not be a husband to her liking. Yet she was
not happy when he absented himself from her society. She paid
deference to his opinion: by turns she piqued and enthralled him,
offended if he refused to dance attendance in her train, despising him
for patient endurance of her whims. So matters stood, but Honoria was
not aware that he had given her a certain length of tether, and had
determined to suffer these alternations of hope and despair no longer.

After an hour's riding Maddox crossed the river for the last time,
and entered an extensive plain, commonly called 'the racecourse,' that
lay between the creek and the hill upon which Kooralbyn was built. Now
he passed through the slip-rails and was admitted into the home-
paddock. Behind him rose the mountains, sloping in a series of wooded
ranges to the plain. Herds of cattle and horses browsed upon the rich
pasture, which was dotted with clumps of trees and bordered by a
fringe of green that marked the course of the river.

The head-station of Kooralbyn consisted of a cluster of cottages
built upon the hump of a low hill that overlooked the racecourse.
Three of these buildings were placed in a garden enclosed by a high
fence, of which one portion was overgrown with passion-fruit, while
the remainder supported a hedge of cactus. Round each was a wide
verandah, partly trellised with vines, and festooned by bougainvillea,
snowy stephanotis, and the orange, bell-shaped flowers of the begonia.
The two smaller cottages, in one of which dwelt Mr. Ferris and his
family, while the other was the kitchen of the establishment, were
connected by covered passages with the larger house occupied by Mr.
Longleat and his two daughters. Outside the enclosure stood the
Bachelors' Quarters, set apart for the accommodation of passing
strangers, and for the use of gentlemen stockmen, and new chums, of
which, upon a large Australian station, there are often several.

The garden sloped in vine-covered walks towards the plain. At its
foot lay a small silvery lagoon, with lilies, white and delicate
mauve, floating upon its surface. Beyond, in the distance, rose the
amphitheatre of hills, some purple and shadowy, some grey and barren,
prominent among them the Koorong Crag to which Barrington's attention
had been directed during his ride to Dyraaba.

The stockyards and outhouses were situated at some little distance
from the cluster of cottages.

An avenue of bunyas, still in their youth, led from the stables to
the back-entrance to the garden. Maddox rode straight hither,
dismounted, and called:

'Hi, Cobra Ball!'

A black-boy, grinning from ear to ear, woolly-haired and red--lipped,
approached at the summons, and took Maddox's horse.

'Ba'al Massa want em yarraman again to-day?'[1] he asked, in the
curious vernacular common to half-civilised natives.

'Yes,' replied Dyson; 'this fellow go along a Kooya tonight. Keep him
in the yard.'

'Youi,'[2] said Cobra Ball. 'Missee Honoria along a humpey. Missa
Longleat ba'al at Kooralbyn; that fellow gone along a Leichardt's
Town. You got em grog?' he added, with an insinuating gesture, as in
taking off the saddle a flask dropped from Maddox's pouch to the
ground.

'Look and see,' said the squatter, drily.

Cobra Ball eagerly snatched the flask, uncorked it, poured a drop of
its contents upon his hand, which he smelled excitedly, then uttered
an exclamation of disgust.

'Ba'al budgery white man gammon poor fellow like it that,[3] he said
piteously, and restored the flask to its former receptacle.

Maddox walked down between the bunya-trees, and, opening a wicket-
gate which led into the garden, quietly entered the enclosure. An air
of inaction hung over the place. The two long verandahs facing each
other were tenantless, save for the bright lizards that darted every
now and then across the rough boards; and a large hound, lying under
the shade of an orange-tree, lifted his head and yapped peevishly, but
was too lazy to bark or stir. As Maddox let the gate swing back upon
its well-oiled hinges, a child of six darted out from beneath the
passion-fruit vines which covered the fence, and from which the purple
eggs temptingly hung. Her face and hands were stained with yellow
juice, which she vainly tried to wipe off upon her pinafore. She was a
queer elf-like little creature, with a yellow, old-fashioned face,
large black eyes, and dark-brown hair, that hung in a drake's-tail
wave upon her skinny shoulders.

'Oh, Mr. Maddox, Mr. Maddox!' she cried in her thin voice; 'it is
hot! I've been looking for a big green frog to put down my back and
keep me cool. Do you think that you could find me one?'

'You little story-teller, Janie,' said Maddox, good-humouredly. 'Is
anyone at home?'

'Mr. Maddox, we had the very last melon to-day, and Mrs. Ferris is
making a tart for dinner; and Euphrosyne has got kittens,' affirmed
Janie. 'She'll have to be called Old Phrosyne now,' continued the
child with reflective wisdom, 'for the kittens is the new Phrosynes;
and father has gone down to fight Mr. Middleton.'

'Is your sister indoors?' inquired Dyson.

'Little mother is in the front-parlour, or out on the verandah,' said
Janie. 'Mr. Dyson,' she ended vehemently, 'I wasn't eating passion--
fruit.'

'Janie, Janie,' called a woman's voice from the house.

'I'm coming, Aunt Pen,' cried Janie, and darted off in the opposite
direction.

A middle-aged lady, in a spotless apron and a cap adorned with many
ribbons, was rolling out pastry at the open window of the kitchen. She
was a comely body with flaxen hair and round blue eyes, bright-
complexioned and well-favoured, with an air of wishing well to all the
world, and a little flutter irresistibly suggestive of a thickly-
feathered Brahma hen, characterising her movements.

'Dear heart!' exclaimed she; 'why it is Mr. Maddox!' She gave him a
rapid nod and continued the manipulation of her pastry. 'You'll stop
for luncheon. It'll be a scrappy sort of meal; but whatever it is, I
can't give ye any better, for they are waiting for that old man of
mine to come back and see about killing a fresh bullock. You haven't
seen anything of him, I suppose.'

'No, Mrs. Ferris. I have come from Barramunda.'

'I hope he hasn't got laid up at Braysher's with the nasty grog they
make him drink. Brandy and art together, are just the ruin of him.'

While Mrs. Ferris turned for a moment to admonish the maid--servant
who was assisting her, Dyson made his way past the window, stepped on
to the back verandah of the big house, as it was called, and tapped at
the open door.

His knock remained unanswered. Ceremony is scant in the Australian
bush. Dyson entered the sitting-room, which was evidently deserted,
and paused, looking about for traces of its owner. The apartment was
large and cool-looking, ceiled and lined with cedar, the darkness of
which was relieved by white muslin curtains, and the many prints and
photographs which covered the walls. The floor was matted; an open
piano stood in one of the corners, bookcases filled the recesses.
Flowers bloomed everywhere; bowls of roses scented the air, and the
wide fireplace was hidden by ferns. Newspapers and magazines littered
the small tables. The room occupied the width of the building, and
upon the opposite side the open French windows, festooned by creepers,
framed lovely views of the plain and mountains.

'Who is there? Come in,' said a voice from without.

Maddox crossed the room, and was enchained for a moment by the
charming picture which presented itself.

A very beautiful young woman reclined in a hammock, slung at the
coolest and shadiest end of the verandah. Behind her was a trellis of
vines, upon which a few late bunches still hung; a trailing withe of
orange begonia touched her shoulder. Her head was bent, and the light
shining through the leaves upon her hair imparted to it a warm
chestnut tint. She was dressed in light-blue muslin befitting the
summer's day, and beneath its transparent folds the round lines and
delicate indentations of her shoulders and bust might be traced. One
hand supported her cheek; the sleeve had fallen back from her arm, and
its shapely curves were half exposed. She was rather a Venus than a
Diana. There was a suspicion of voluptuousness in her attitude, as,
with her feet lightly touching the ground, she swayed herself softly
to and fro in her hammock. A book was in her lap, on the ground beside
her a basket of guavas. It was the incarnation of summer luxuriance
and dreamy idleness.

She looked up with a pair of brown eyes at once farouche and
enticing. He saw a clear-tinted oval, with a low forehead; a nose that
would have been Grecian but for the faintest turn at its point, which
gave piquancy to a face that might otherwise have appeared too
severely classical; flexible lips, moist and full, slightly disdainful
when in repose, purely bewitching when they smiled; and an expression
half-expectant, half-weary.

A soft evanescent flush overspread her face as she greeted her
visitor with a little nod and a smile that must have assured him that
he was welcome.

'I half thought that we should see you to-day. I hope that you are
going to stay the night. I have been bored to death this week. I don't
find my own company particularly agreeable at any time, and it becomes
quite unsupportable when it is the only alternative to the Ferris's
society.'

'I thought that Mrs. Ferris looked especially radiant just now.'

'She is always smiling, good soul! I dislike people who take an
invariably cheerful view of life--they exasperate me. Have you been to
Leichardt's Town lately?'

'I am on my way there now; I have only put up my horse for an hour
or two, and must start again directly after luncheon.'

'Oh, tell Cobra Ball to turn your horse out, unless there is any
special attraction. In that case I should be annoyed, for I am very
jealous. I don't often stoop to entreaty, but you see that I am at my
lowest ebb. Do stay.'

'I wish I could; but the fact is that I have an important engagement
with your father this evening, and should not have come here, but that
I wished particularly to see you. You have heard of poor Carey's
sudden death?'

'Yes; papa hurried to town at once; but how can one keep posted in
political news with a mail only once a week? Who will be the new
Minister?'

'Mr. Longleat has offered me the appointment.'

'I guessed that you were the coming man, though he was terribly
close on the subject. Surely you don't hesitate. Of course you will
accept.'

She looked at him with bright penetrating eyes, though she hardly
abated the slow movement of the hammock in which she had again seated
herself.

He leaned against the verandah-post and deliberately regarded her.

'I think so,' he replied slowly. 'On the whole, I feel it best that
I should. Yet there are considerations that make me uncertain what to
do. What would you advise?'

'Oh how can you ask! Acceptance of course. I have imagined myself
into a state of frantic excitement over the Railway question. I can
imagine myself into most moods. There is no imagination, however, in
my wish to see my friends distinguished and occupying as high places
as it is possible for them to reach. I suppose there is a certain
glory in being a cabinet minister--even in Leichardt's Land...But tell
me your views, and the reason of your hesitation.'

'I am not a man of wide political influence, and, on considering the
matter, have thought that it might be more advantageous for our party
if a less decided member of the squatting faction were chosen. It is a
reproach against Longleat's Ministry that it is composed almost
entirely of squatters. Every means ought to be taken to strengthen
it--it is weaker than you suppose.'

'You are a prophet of evil,' said Honoria. 'Tell me how I can serve
the cause. I will do anything short of marrying Mr. Middleton that is
likely to promote our interests. But I think that you underrate your
popularity. You are a great explorer. You have made a name. Surely you
may consider yourself a pillar of the State.'

Dyson smiled sadly.

'I don't like you to speak in that way,' he said gravely. 'It makes
me fancy that you are laughing at me. I have done nothing out of the
common. I believe that I could have made discoveries if my health had
not failed me; and you touch upon a sore point when you allude to that
Gudaroo expedition. The passion for exploring is still strong upon me.
I sometimes think that I could face death to gratify it. But it is
silly work experimentalising upon one's self. I want now to become a
political great-gun--it seems a petty ambition--I know that you
despise it--'

'How do you know that?' interrupted Honoria. 'You would interest me
immensely if you would set yourself to analyse my character, and tell
me how far I am real and how far sham.'

'I wish that I knew,' said Dyson, earnestly. 'You are a very
difficult person to understand.'

'Not to anyone who interested me sufficiently to make me forget
myself,' said Honoria, with a soft deliberateness which gave peculiar
force to her words.

Dyson was about to speak, and glanced uneasily around, but Janie's
voice was heard outside in rapid protesting colloquy with Mrs. Ferris.

Honoria went to the back verandah and said an admonitory word to the
child. When she returned, Dyson was perfectly cool.

'I don't think anything of your objection,' she said, 'if it is so
purely disinterested as that. I begin to look upon Mr. Carey's death
as quite providential. Though you accuse me of a mock enthusiasm, I
care sufficiently for the party to feel the importance of its being
thoroughly cemented. Better a squatter than a half-hearted townsman. I
am not above owning to personal motives for my advice. I have a
selfish reason for wishing you to become Minister for Lands. You will
be obliged to spend the winter in Leichardt's Town. I want you to
belong to my world, to live my life. I missed you terribly in Sydney
last year.'

'Are you really in earnest?' exclaimed Dyson. 'I know that you are
fond of pleasure--that you like new friends. I sometimes think that
admiration is the breath of your life. You must have had your fill in
Sydney. I could not hope that you had given me a thought.'

'Yes; I dare say that I thought of you every day. I am certain that I
did so whenever I was particularly naughty. You have a way of showing
your disapproval which amuses me. Your displeasure adds zest to wrong-
doing.'

'And gratifies your sense of power,' said Dyson with bitterness. 'I
am sure that is what you mean.'

'Perhaps,' said Honoria, provokingly; then added: 'And perhaps I
cared, too, a little whether you were satisfied or angry with me.'

'Are you tired of Kooralbyn yet?' asked Maddox, abruptly.

'I liked it at first, but now the monotony stifles me. I ring the
changes upon the various employments available--lounging in the
verandah and garden, eating fruit, riding, walking, sleeping, and
reading novels, till I am bored with all. The novels only make the
dulness more unendurable, for they describe life to me as I have no
chance of knowing it.'

'You mean the life beyond Australia?'

'Yes. This is only a state of half existence. Books are so
unsatisfying. I read them greedily at first; then throw them aside in
disgust. They never take one below the surface. There must be some
deep experience, even here. Human beings are the same all the world
over; only their surroundings influence them. What we know well seems
commonplace. I would gladly exchange those mountains yonder for a tame
English meadow. At least I should be the richer for a new sensation.
It's the same with the people I meet; their conversation, their ideas,
are humdrum. I am weary of everything I see and hear ...'

'Little mother,' interrupted Janie, running on to the verandah and
standing on tiptoe, her hands clasped in excitement, 'Cobra Ball says
that it is so cool and nice under the big apple-tree on the ridge; and
I want some moss to stuff my doll's bed. Oh, do come! and Mr. Dyson
can pull me some off the branches. Mr. Dyson, you've got nothing to
do; come and help me.'

'Janie,' said Honoria, severely, 'you have been disobeying me. I
forbade you to play with Cobra Ball.'

'Whop me!' cried Janie, striking a dramatic attitude. 'I didn't mean
to be naughty, and make your heart ache, little mother. Whop me, and
drive the devil out of me, and then we'll gather moss.'

Honoria took the child in her arms, and gazed fondly at the little
dark face on a level with her own handsome head. The womanly softness
of her nature seemed to have concentrated itself in her attachment for
Janie. If her feelings could have been analysed, a strain of remorse
might have been found mingled with her tenderness. She had vigorously
hated the child's mother during the short lifetime of the latter; but
at her death, one of those floods of reaction to which her nature was
liable swept away her rancour and turned the tide of her impulses.
There was within her too strong an instinct of justice to allow her to
revenge her fancied wrongs upon an innocent baby. Janie's helplessness
had appealed to the latent mother element in her bosom; and as the
child grew older, it was observed that she was the only being to whom
Honoria was demonstrative of affection.

'I will not whop you,' she said; 'that would make my heart ache
worse. Come, then, we will go to the apple-tree. Mr. Maddox, I really
think that it is cooler out of doors than within. Will you walk with
us to the ridge?'

The opportunity for which Maddox had inwardly longed presented
itself, and he eagerly accepted Miss Longleat's invitation.

[1. [Ba'al Massa want em yarraman again to-day?] Being interpreted,
runs thus 'Does the master want the horse again to-day?']

[2. 'Yes. Miss Honoria is at the house. Mr. Longleat is not at
Kooralbyn.']

[3. [Ba'al budgery white man gammon poor fellow like it that] 'It is
not kind of the white man to deceive a poor black fellow in this way.']



Chapter VIII. The Enchantress of Kooralbyn.

HONORIA put on a straw hat which was lying on the verandah, and leading
Janie by the hand, passed beneath the vine-trellis and through a
wicket-gate on to the hill, which rose to a peak above the house, and
sloped in wave-like mounds downwards to the plain. Here, in the shadow
of the ridge, it was always green, and usually cool.

Honoria and Dyson strolled, side by side, to a little knoll over
which a giant apple-tree extended its long branches, hoary with the
greyish-green moss coveted by Janie's childish heart.

'It's like black Solomon's beard,' cried the child, clutching at a
pendent bough.

Honoria seated herself upon the bank, while Dyson filled Janie's
pinafore with moss, and sent her to the gully to gather fringed
violets before the blossoms closed at midday.

'But what for, Mr. Dyson?' cried Janie, insistently; 'what for do the
flowers shut up when it is time for my dinner?'

'Ask Angela,' said Dyson; 'she knows all about the flowers. Now run
away, and do not come back till we call you.'

There was a crisp determination in his manner which made the child
look at him wonderingly; but she departed, and he was alone with
Honoria. Though he seemed outwardly calm, his pulses were throbbing
fast. She had all the sweet unconsciousness of a coquette. The little
episode with Janie had filled Dyson's heart with fresh longing. A
woman incapable of love, he thought, could not have smiled so tenderly
upon the child. The softened expression still lingered on her face as
she idly plucked the violets which grew among the grass beside her,
and heaped them on her lap. Presently she threw off her hat, and
leaning her head against the rough bark of the tree, looked up through
a screen of leaves to the blue sky above.

'This satisfies me,' she said, as though brokenly taking up the
thought which had been in her mind during her previous conversation
with Dyson. 'This contents me for a time. I have no poetic sympathy
with nature. The flowers have no voice for me, as they have for
Angela. I prefer intercourse with humanity. But there is a warm
delight in such a day as this; in the humming of insects above and
around me; in the flutter of the leaves as the breeze stirs the
branches; in the feeling that every blade of grass is growing, and the
smallest ant enjoying existence, that seems to still my unsatisfied
longing for something different. I often come here with Janie when I
am out of spirits, and I forget for a little while that I myself want
to grow and live.'

Dyson knew not how to reply. He had fancied for a moment that her
thoughts were travelling with his own; and now he found them far upon
another road. The air-like barrier which always seemed to divide them
had never been more keenly felt by him. She looked down and caught his
wistful glance, meeting it with her frank smile, at once seductive and
chilling.

He longed to know how much of her unconsciousness was genuine; but in
some of her moods he found her quite incomprehensible: he could not
penetrate the dramatic instinct, which in her temperament carried
emotion to the pitch demanded by the part she was playing, but never
hurried her beyond it.

'You said just now,' he exclaimed, 'that you wished me to stay in
Leichardt's Town this winter--to be near you, to live your life. I
know you too well to read your speeches literally, but I should like
to find out how much you do care for my society. I have an idea that
you are not quite as false to me as you have been to some other men,
and that when you say gracious things to me--you do sometimes when you
are in the vein--there is a grain of meaning in them.'

Honoria nodded.

'That is quite true. I look upon you as my best friend, though I know
quite well that there are many points in which I don't please you.
Perhaps if you liked me better you would not see my faults.'

'I should see no faults in you,' said Maddox, 'if you had the
crowning virtue of womanly sensibility.'

'What!' she cried, 'you think me strong-minded. You are very much
mistaken in your idea of my character. I have no force of will
whatever.'

'I think that you are cruel,' said Maddox. 'It gives you pleasure to
see your fellow-creatures suffer.'

'In other words, I am a coquette. It would be more to the purpose if
you said that men were fools.'

'The last time that I was here,' said Dyson, 'you were doing your
best to make a fool of an unfortunate young man whom I sincerely
pitied. May I ask how long it has been your habit to take midnight
strolls with your admirers?'

'Oh, that has been rankling in your mind, and now you have come to
scold me. Were you concerned upon my account or upon that of the
unfortunate young man? Well, there will not be another opportunity for
compromising Mr. Byng. That tête-à-tête by the lagoon finished his
business. He is going to England in April, unless, indeed, he commits
suicide before the ship sails. Come,' she added, 'you must not blame
me if I prefer being amused out of doors to being stifled within, in
an atmosphere of prosiness and vulgarity. Is it my fault that Angela,
poor child! does not interest me, that Mr. Ferris's rhapsodies
irritate me, and that Aunt Pen's twaddle bores me? Can I help it if my
father's habits and manners jar upon me? I am odious for saying this,
but it is true. My nature is pitched in a different key to his--it may
be higher or lower--I often think that it is lower. I hope that you
are not shocked at my frankness, but surely we know each other too
well to play at propriety.'

'I wish that you would always be frank with me. Let me know you as
you really are--that is all I want. I can see that your temperament is
at war with your companions and surroundings. You are fitted for a
higher life--and your nature is so impressionable; externals affect
you deeply--that is your misfortune. But I am grieved to hear that
there is a want of sympathy between you and your father. You are the
motive of his existence.'

'Is that so?' said Honoria, softly. 'Poor papa! I don't deserve to be
so much cared for. Yet,' she added thoughtfully, 'if his affection is
anything more than pride in my appearance, and a general satisfaction
in me as a possession which contributes to his sense of importance, he
does not let me see it. I suppose that we are neither of us
demonstrative of our feelings. He is very kind to me; it pleases him
to see me well dressed, courted, and admired; he gives me plenty of
money; he is indulgent of my fancies--but there it ends. I am only a
part of his success--not of his inner life. He has educated me above
his level; we have nothing in common. I cannot tell him what is
passing through my mind, nor does he speak to me unreservedly about
himself; it is as though we had each something to hide. I have been
alone ever since my childhood. But what is the use of troubling about
me? You cannot make me either better or worse. Go on talking about
yourself, I want to feel certain that you will be Minister for Lands.'

'Honoria,' said Dyson, while a sudden flame darted from his eyes,
'what should I care whether you were good or bad, so long as I could
make you love me? It has been in my mind to speak for a long time; but
I wanted to be more sure of you--and so I waited and watched, till I
am ashamed of myself for hanging upon you like a dog; and now I have
determined to do so no longer. Suspense is unendurable. The real
reason why I am doubtful about accepting the appointment in the
Ministry is because if I do so I must be brought closer to you. I
should be on a continual rack. I could not escape from the sight or
thought of you. If you cannot love me, it will be best that I should
hide myself in the bush, or go out west and try exploring again.'

'That would be weak,' said Honoria, quietly. 'I had imagined you
different; I thought that you were strong.'

A red flush passed over Dyson's face, and he did not reply for a
moment.

'Very well,' he said. 'At least you shall not say that I am weak. I
was right; you are a cruel woman.'

Honoria bent a little towards him, looked at him swiftly, then drew
back against the tree.

'I don't want to seem cruel,' she said, 'but I must think.'

'It is not possible that you can be taken by surprise,' said Dyson.
'I have been for two years at your beck and call. You must have seen
into my heart during that time. Sometimes you have been more than
kind, sometimes indifferent. I have never felt sure of you for a day--
indeed, I have often doubted whether you could love. Strange to say,
it is your very egotism which leads me to hope. I know that I have
little enough to offer an ambitious woman like you, but I think that I
understand you well enough to make you happy.'

'If I married you,' said she quickly, as she spoke breaking into
pieces of different lengths a twig that she had picked up from the
ground, 'I should live just the same kind of life; if anything it
would be tamer, and I should have no new sensations.'

'Good heavens!' exclaimed Dyson. 'What do you mean?'

'I dare say that you'll think me a bold sort of girl,' continued
Honoria, looking at him levelly with her large eyes. 'I don't know
whether I am or not; but why should I not say what is in my mind? You
doubt whether I have any capacity for loving. Perhaps not, but there
is a kind of feeling that I should like to know if it be possible. I
have dreamed of it; I am sure that it exists. If I married you I
should go on dreaming of it, but I should never know it. And yet, if
it wasn't for that, I think I might be happy with you; it would be a
placid, monotonous existence, but it ought to satisfy a woman. I am
not easily contented. I am always wanting more--more than I have got.
I have thought of it a great deal; of course I knew what you wished. I
have sometimes fancied that it might be--now I am certain that it
never can be. There is no use in talking of it.'

'Stay!' urged Dyson. 'You say that you have thought of it a great
deal, but perhaps always from your present point of view. You have not
considered that when a woman marries, all her interests, her thoughts,
and feelings must change. She becomes quite a different person. It is
the quiet, inward joy that makes her life complete.'

'No, no,' cried Honoria, 'mine would be utterly incomplete. I need
passion, excitement. I have tried to look at the matter from another
point of view; I have observed the married people I have met. They
think themselves happy; their lives would suffocate me. I should hate
my husband in the same way that I detest men when they make themselves
ridiculous by falling in love with me; or if I did not hate him, I
should merely tolerate him, which would be worse. There must be
passions that are real, or they would not be written of in books and
acted on the stage. Not that I believe in sentiment. To be sentimental
is as bad as being humdrum; but I like the quick stirring of my
pulses, the quiver which goes through my body when there is a crisis
of emotion. What is the use of living unless one can gauge one's
capacity for sensation?'

Dyson was silent for several moments; then he said very quietly:

'What you tell me decides my fate. I should be a mean-spirited
creature if I tormented you any longer. Our lives must lie apart. I
must scrunch out the thought of you, and school myself to
indifference. I would not marry you as you are. You would always be
hankering after what, with me, you could never have, and we should
both be wretched. You are right. You will never love me. I give up
striving to gain what is hopeless.'

His tone raised in her mind an uneasy suspicion of his desertion. His
constrained utterance was the mask to deep agitation, but this she
hardly realised. He had been her slave; she could not bear to release
him. As she regarded him with the critical eyes of a possible wife,
she asked herself whether it were indeed well that she should let him
go.

There was in his appearance and manner just those traces of hard
living and rude service, that slight roughness of feature and lack of
delicate refinement in language and bearing, that jarred upon her
sensibilities and made her less awake to the energy and reliability of
his character, and the manliness and frank nobility of his expression.
But for that troublesome fastidiousness which demanded an aristocratic
brow, smooth hands, and European address, she might have acknowledged
him as a lover of whom she might justly feel proud.

Honoria was neither more nor less than a woman. She bent forward,
intercepting his glance till he was forced to meet her smile, and said
coquettishly:

'You give me up very readily. I thought that you prided yourself upon
your tenacity of purpose.'

'How little you know me!' he exclaimed bitterly. 'A definite aim I
would follow for years; but there is something unmanly in the pursuit
of a shadow. Your love is no more to me than that; it is better that I
should face the truth. After realising that you were capable of
passion, I could not be content with the pale attachment that I know
is all you can give me. To me cold kisses and lukewarm sympathy would
be more insupportable than open dislike. But you think I do not
suffer. You know nothing of the stabbing pain that has struck my
heart, when on a sudden, as though by a flash of light, I have seen
your indifference. But I comforted myself with the thought that I
fared no better and no worse than any other man in my place. Now I
feel that I must tear you from me, even though I bleed in doing so.
Disappointment has always been my portion, and what does it matter if
I die as solitary as I've lived? There are other objects in the world
for a man besides loving and marrying. Do you remember a little
photograph of yourself that you gave me before I went out on that
miserable Gundaroo expedition? I have worn it, in a locket hung on my
watch-chain, ever since; once it turned the point of a black's spear.
That will show you how even as a child I cared for you. I hardly knew
how much I loved you till I was stricken down with fever in the bush.
I thought that I was at my last gasp. God! it was lonely! You know
what it must be--to die of fever and thirst out there. We had been for
two days without water, and the men were all out searching. In my
delirium I saw you standing beside me, with your sweet face bent over
mine, and your long brown hair floating over your shoulders. It was
like the vision of an angel. I could not die while you looked at me.
You stayed beside me till the men came back. They had found a
waterhole, and as I revived with the drops they poured down my throat,
you vanished. After that I constantly thought of you, and though I'm
not a man to believe in supernatural influences, I have always looked
upon that fancy of my sickness as a sort of omen that some day your
life would be a part of mine. It's not to be so, and I'll make a fool
of myself no longer. Shall I look for Janie?'

'Stay a moment,' said Honoria. 'Janie is down by the gully, happy
with her flowers. Mr. Maddox,' she added, her manner changing from
coquetry to tenderness with one of those capricious alternations which
were peculiar to it, 'I'm sorry that I grieved you. If you understood
me better, you would know what I feel...It would be like giving up
one's chances in a lottery when one was certain of holding the winning
number--like one's heart stopping suddenly when it had been beating
violently with expectation. If you would let us go on as we were
before, for a time--I--I can't bind myself now--I want to see more of
the world--of other people.'

'No,' said Dyson, 'we cannot go back. I meant that our talk to-day
should put us on a different footing towards each other. I have said
my say. You have spoken what was in your mind. If your heart ever
changes, I shall see it soon enough; but, as far as the future goes, I
shall put from me all hope of making you my wife. If you want a
friend, I'll be one to you; but I will try not to be your lover, and
I'll keep away from you as much as possible.'

Honoria jumped up from the grass, her cheeks aflame; but at this
moment nearer loving him than she had ever been in her life. But, as
she watched him move away, she felt as though she almost hated him. He
had placed her in a false position. He had made her feel humiliated
and resentful.

She turned her back upon him, and walked hurriedly across the grass,
calling Janie in sharper tones than were her wont.

The child ran to her sister, her pinafore and her tiny hands filled
with wild-flowers, and when she saw Dyson departing, cried loudly to
him to return. But he walked determinedly on towards the stable, and
bade Cobra Ball fetch out his horse.



Chapter IX. The Ferris Menage.

MISS LONGLEAT lingered on the plain with Janie, till there was no
probability of again encountering Mr. Maddox. When, a little after one,
she returned to the house, the Ferris family were all assembled in the
dining-room waiting her re-entrance in order to begin luncheon.

The old man had arrived from Kooya a short time before. He sat a
little apart, with his hands clasping those of his daughter, who was
kneeling on a low stool at his feet, while Mrs. Ferris, bustling about
the table, asked discursive questions touching his trip to town.

Angela was slender and fair, with the appearance of frail health
which is denoted by great delicacy of limb, waxen complexion, and
violet stains beneath the eyes. She was barely seventeen, and looked
still younger. Her features were of the purity of a cameo, her
forehead low, and her eyebrows full and extremely arched. Her mouth,
pale rather than red, was of almost infantine softness, the lower lip
drooping in a manner which suggested weakness of character. Her grey
eyes, lovely in colour and shape, had a blank abstracted gaze, and
were at once dreamy and shallow.

'I am sorry to have kept you waiting,' said Honoria, returning with
excessive coldness Mr. Ferris's greeting. 'After all, Aunt Pen, there
was no need for you to trouble yourself. You might have had luncheon
in your own cottage. Mr. Maddox has gone on to Leichardt's Town.'

It was tacitly understood that when Mr. Ferris was at home the two
families should dine apart; in company only when Miss Longleat
entertained male visitors during her father's absence, and upon such
occasions the Premier had stipulated that Mrs. Ferris should preside
as chaperon to his daughter.

'You see,' whispered Mr. Ferris to his wife, with an air of
irritated complaint, as Honoria laid aside her hat in an inner
chamber, 'she does not want me here; she did not notice me; she treats
me as if I were the dirt; she never shook hands with me.'

'You old fool!' said Mrs. Ferris, who had a brusque, cheerful method
of disposing of her lord's grievances, 'when polished silver's the
fashion, who cares for old gold? A girl that has just parted with her
sweetheart hasn't got eyes for old folk. Well, go on about this Mr.
Barrington. I'll believe in your opinion, Anthony; for, in spite of
your blather about art, ye don't want for wits--the man is no ordinary
new chum, that's certain.'

'Who are you talking about?' asked Honoria.

'My old man has picked up a kindred spirit in Kooya--an Englishman on
his way to Lord Dolph's, and, as I say, no common new chum, if his
story about the Guards is true. Things go by contraries out here. It
was only the other day we sent a lord's son to the huts. Butchers and
baronets--lords and loafers--it's all one. I'll just say two and two
make four to balance my mind.'

'You have got a new book, Angel,' said Honoria, pointing to a
freshly-bound volume in the girl's lap. 'Do you like it?'

'It is a translation from the German. I have not read it yet,'
replied Angela, coldly.

'There's a little fib,' said Mrs. Ferris, in a tone of good-humoured
contradiction that grated upon Angela's nerves. 'Why, it's only a
minute ago that I came in and heard you telling your father about the
mermaids and water-spirits, and such like nonsense that the book is
filled with. Fie! you are too big a girl to heed such fairy-tales
now.'

'Angela!' said Janie, pricking up her ears at the mention of fairy--
tales, 'you said that you'd tell me about the spirits which float
under the lilies on the lagoon. Nobody sees them but you, and you
promised to put them in a picture, so that I can understand.'

'Come,' said Mrs. Ferris, 'and let us feed our bodies as well as our
souls. There was no need to worry about my scrappy lunch; I never
thought, Honoria, but that you'd have persuaded Mr. Maddox to stay.
Why was he so anxious to be off?'

'He had business in Leichardt's Town,' replied Honoria, briefly.

'I am told that he is to be the new Minister for Lands,' said Mr.
Ferris.

Honoria was silent for a few moments. Presently she asked a question
about the political prospects.

'They say that the Ministry cannot last,' said Mr. Ferris. 'The heavy
floods inland will prevent many of the western members from reaching
Leichardt's Town in time for the opening, and the numbers are so even
that if the Opposition brings forward a motion of want of confidence
it is an absolute certainty that the Government will go out.'

'You speak as though you wished my father to be beaten,' said
Honoria, with temper.

'I'm not a party man,' answered Mr. Ferris. 'The convictions of most
people lie in their pockets, and I'm not above the weaknesses of
humanity. I had a fancy for being in town this winter, and your father
could easily have put me into a Government sinecure, but he was too
honest for that--ha! ha!'--Mr. Ferris uttered his disagreeable chuckle
'and it's of small consequence to me whether he or Middleton is in
power.'

'As for me,' remarked Mrs. Ferris, meditatively, 'I must pin my
political faith on something; and though I dare say it's very likely
that the Premier is mistaken, I'd rather take him for my block than
fashion my opinions at haphazard.'

Honoria ate her luncheon in irritated silence, and seized the first
opportunity which presented itself of quitting the table. She was in a
mood in which small annoyances jarred upon her, and she wished to take
a quiet retrospect of the scene she had enacted with Maddox; just as a
lover of the drama will re-read, in solitude, with keen delight a
play, the performance of which has deeply interested him.

Mr. Ferris's mode of lapping his cream, which, indeed, resembled
that of her father, interfered with the flow of her thoughts. She
reflected that it would add considerably to her happiness if the
Premier would for once depart from his political creed, and by
rewarding Mr. Ferris's services with a Government post, remove him
from Kooralbyn. But he would be equally odious in Leichardt's Town.
The old man's obnoxious presence was one of her minor sores; and she,
in common with other inhabitants of the district, was at a loss to
explain the link that connected Thomas Longleat with his storekeeper.

It was still more inexplicable from the undercurrent of jealousy
which the utterance of some biting allusion or cynical remark on the
part of Mr. Ferris continually betrayed.

Honoria had been at school in Sydney when, ten years before this
date, Anthony Ferris, with his wife and child, had arrived in
Leichardt's Land. Poor, and apparently friendless, he had made his way
to Kooralbyn, and after an interview with Mr. Longleat, was
immediately appointed storekeeper, at four times the rate of salary
enjoyed by his predecessor. The act had always been quoted as
illustrative of Longleat's disinterested generosity; but Sammy Deans,
a certain free selector upon Kooralbyn, who cultivated Byron and
Shakespeare, and had established a vinous intimacy with Mr. Ferris,
always shook his head mysteriously, and declared that he knew better.

Honoria had never coincided with the popular view of Mr. Longleat's
adoption of Anthony Ferris. She was of opinion that her father's
bountiful impulses ought at least to be subservient to her
antipathies. She disliked Mr. Ferris, rather for the reason adduced
against Dr. Fell than from any assignable cause. The veiled animosity
to which Longleat, pompous, self-engrossed, and in a manner liberal--
minded, was blind, had been quickly made patent to her keener
perceptions. She saw that he disliked her father, and more
particularly herself; and resented as a personal grievance that, in
spite of her frequently-expressed aversion, Mr. Ferris's society was
thrust upon her in a way at which she was unable to take open umbrage.

In truth, he was not an agreeable old man. He was variable as the
winds, sometimes morose and taciturn, at others garrulous and self--
complacent, but always displaying that morbid vanity which is the
peculiar attribute of unappreciated artists, whose ideal aspirations
transcend the critical capacity of their age.

Mr. Ferris justified his failure by the self-gratulatory reflection
that genius which misses the aim of circumstance, like steam that
exhausts its energy upon the air, is no less the potential regenerator
of the universe. He had painted pictures which no connoisseur would
purchase, and which had never cleared the portals of a high-class
exhibition. He had written poems combining fervid metaphor and stilted
inanity, doomed to be numbered amongst the myriads of rejected
addresses which represent the waste of so much nervous energy and the
expenditure of so great an amount of vicarious emotion.

At the age of forty-five he had collapsed in a fit of despair, had
thrown away his brushes and forsworn the exercise of his imagination,
and had sunk into the apathy of disappointment as Thomas Longleat's
storekeeper. He was embittered to the core, and often, when he was
alone, would weep puerile tears over the miscarriage of his favourite
ambition. Nevertheless ease was grateful to him. He had endured a
hand-to-hand fight with starvation, and for the first few years of his
life in Australia blessed the means by which he had acquired freedom
from actual privation; but, as time went on, jealousy gathered like a
slow volcano in his breast, and comparison of his own position with
that of his patron was a ready goad to animosity.

Good Mrs. Ferris, incomprehending soul, knew nothing of the inward
demon which devoured her lord, or if she guessed at its existence,
laid it to the charge of her own shortcomings in not having presented
him with the son for which she knew he longed.

'My dear,' she would say to Honoria in one of her confidential
moments--for her young charge Aunt Pen, as she was called, professed
an unbounded love and admiration, Mr. Ferris always had an
extraordinary notion that his son and mine would set the world on
fire. I don't know, I'm sure, what put it into his head, for I never
laid claim to any remarkable ideas; my family were always steady,
respectable folk, but the old fool would keep drilling into me that it
was the combination which produced geniuses, till I fairly flew round
in his face and said, "Bother your combinations and your geniuses. If
ever I have a son, which doesn't seem likely, I hope he may be a
dolt." It was flying in the face of Providence, my love, for the
Almighty is not agreeable to having His works cut out for Him like the
pattern of a gown. Never a son have I had, and Mr. Ferris has been
fain to content himself with a weakly slip of a girl who has no notion
of anything except her painting, and her mooning ways.'

Upon Angela Mr. Ferris's hopes were centred. She was the apple of his
eye, the joy of his life. He had brought her up in accordance with his
own theories of artistic education, and the result had been a strange
mixture of ignorance and premature knowledge. He had brought all
external conditions to bear upon the development of her peculiar
temperament; had, as he expressed it, 'cradled her in the lap of
inspiration,' had allowed her to run riot with nature, and had from
her childhood encouraged the free play of her vague poetic fancies. He
would not permit his wife to teach her needlework or any ordinary
feminine accomplishment, nor would he suffer her to be fettered by the
conventional rules which from the hour of her birth govern a woman's
existence. No restriction was placed upon her childish love of
reading, and she was at liberty to roam as she would through the
fields of strange fact and flowery fancy. Thus the child's mind was a
storehouse of fairy legends and half-understood classical myths. From
her youth she had been taught to regard her pencil as the interpreter
of her inmost yearnings, and the vent for her exuberant imagination.
She was solitary in her habits, and fond of wandering alone in the
bush; but so greatly had her gentle ways endeared her to all with whom
she came in contact, that even the most savage of the blacks who
frequented the mountains would not have dreamed of harming or
frightening her.



Chapter X. Hercules and Omphale.

LATE in the afternoon of that day upon which Dyson Maddox had visited
Kooralbyn, Mr. Longleat found himself crossing the Leichardt in the
ferry-boat that plied between the north side and Emu Point.

As he had sat in the club after his office-work was over, Mr.
Vallancy had entered, and had started a game of whist at five-shilling
points. The man was flushed and unsteady. He had called for brandy and
soda-water, had drunk freely, and had brought into the room an
atmosphere of bickering and braggadocio peculiarly obnoxious to the
Premier. He had made several gibing political allusions, and had so
far succeeded in ruffling Mr. Longleat's temper that the latter had
left the club. He walked towards the ferry, and took his seat in the
boat before he had quite decided whether he would call on Mrs.
Vallancy or not. Inclination carried the day. Before he had reached
the opposite side, his impulse had settled into resolve.

It was not Mr. Longleat's custom to make afternoon calls, and Mrs.
Vallancy's neighbours were considerably surprised to see the huge
white-clad figure enter the wicket-gate and tap gently at the half--
closed venetian shutters of the drawing room. The Premier always wore
white linen in summer, spotless as though it had just left the hands
of the laundress. He usually carried himself erect, with a visible
swelling of his chest and elevation of his head, as though he had
indeed the state secrets of an important colony in his keeping. There
was just a spice of ostentation in his bearing--of self--assertion in
his walk. To-day his appearance was less pompous; he stepped more
quickly; he looked a trifle sheepish. Without having actually analysed
the nature of his attraction towards Mrs. Vallancy, he had honestly
struggled against the infatuation that since the coach--journey had
been gradually intensifying, and felt himself guilty of a moral lapse
in voluntarily placing himself under its influence, in the same manner
that the drunkard, supremely conscious of sober intent, resists for a
time the fatal glass, and at last yields, trusting to the shreds of
self-control left him to bind him against committal.

Mrs. Vallancy, sitting alone in her drawing-room, observed the
Premier's approach, and herself admitted him. As soon as he saw her
face, Longleat felt certain that she had been weeping. To-day she was
clad in white, and wore a yellow rose in the front of her dress; her
voice was subdued and melancholy.

She took Mr. Longleat's rough hand with her soft, ringed fingers, and
led him to a seat of cushioned gilt wicker-work, ill-suited enough to
the Premier's substantial form. The room was full of dainty
knickknacks--small tables, Japanese screens, and cabinets, and
expensive ornaments such as might readily form part of a collection of
keepsakes. A rich yet faint odour exhaling from a bowl of creamy
magnolias pervaded the apartment. The green jalousies were partially
drawn, and the room was dim and cool.

'You have remembered me,' said Mrs. Vallancy in joyful tones. 'Good
things sometimes come when they are sorely needed; a visit from you is
one of them. I'm not very well to-day--a headache--that is always a
woman's excuse when she is cross or unhappy.'

'I am afraid that something is troubling you,' said Mr. Longleat,
destitute of the fine tact which observes but does not remark.

'And if there were,' she replied, in a tone more pathetic than
ungracious, 'who would care?' She walked to the window, lifted the
jalousie, looked out, plucked a rose with which she toyed, and
returned. Seating herself on a low chair close to her visitor, she
leaned her chin upon her hand and regarded him with a queer,
inscrutable gleam shining in her dark eyes. 'You care,' she said
presently, 'perhaps--a little.'

Mr. Longleat wiped his face with a silk pocket-handkerchief. His
heart throbbed with pity, and with a generosity which he dared not
proffer. 'Tell me what's the matter,' he said.

She shook her head in a deprecatory manner, but still led him on.

'I can't bear to see it,' continued Mr. Longleat, hurriedly, taking
her hand in his. 'It--it goes agen me, somehow. A woman like you ought
to be kept from fretting and worry. You're one of the prettiest
creatures God ever made; it's only right that you should be wrapped
round with riches, to hinder the hard things of life from knocking
agen you and hurting you...Tell me, is it--is it money?'

She gave a little nod, then wrenched her hand away. 'It isn't all,'
she said; 'not all, or half...And what is the use of telling you? It
won't make you think any the better of me, or like me any the more. I
dare say that you'll despise me in your heart for speaking about my
troubles to stranger like you.'

'Don't call me a stranger,' said Longleat, earnestly. 'I'm a plain--
spoken man, and I go at a thing straight, without beating about the
bush. Look here, Mrs. Vallancy, if you'll let me call myself your
friend, you'll find that with me the word means a good deal. I'm proud
to think that you've honoured me so far with your confidence. You
needn't be afraid of speaking out; it--it grieves me to see you
unhappy.'

'Yes, I am sure of that,' said she, gazing earnestly into his face.
'If I had not thought so, should I have talked to you as frankly as I
have done--all along? Your heart is so large, so noble, that you can
find room in it even for me. You can feel for my troubles almost as
you would feel for those of your daughter'--Mr. Longleat reddened, but
she maintained an innocent composure--' isn't it so? It comforts me to
think that some one cares for me a little. You have heard about me--
about my husband,' she went on, with her eyes downcast upon the
matting. 'You know the sort of people we are, or, rather, the sort of
people that we are taken to be. You can guess the kind of life I
lead--no, you cannot guess half or quarter of its wretchedness--and
you would despise me if I told you...You know that we are deeply in
debt; that he gambles--drinks; that he is often cruel to me. The
burden of all our misery falls on my shoulders. That was what I meant
when I said that I could be happy if he were sent away out of
temptation--if he could be sent to a place ever so far north...He
would go--he wants money--and I should be left here. He would not be
so cruel as to make me accompany him; he knows that a hot climate is
almost fatal to me. I should be justified in refusing...And then I
should be free. Oh, think what that would be to me! I should be spared
harassing scenes--daily worry, I should have peace.'

'Yes,' said Longleat slowly, and pausing between his words. 'If--if
there were--such a place--that he could be sent to.'

'There is,' she whispered, looking at him eagerly; 'there is--
Gundaroo.'

Longleat blenched. He shifted uneasily in his chair, and sat silent,
his eyes upon the ground. She went on, in calmer, silvery tones:

'Don't think that I have asked for it. I have no right--the boon
would be too great. And you may only despise me. It seems terrible to
wish one's husband to go away--I should not dare to let him know it. I
am a hypocrite--I am selfish and heartless--but I long--oh! I long for
rest. Truth is harder to face than the worst which one's imagination
can picture. I'm a cowardly woman; I quail before rough usage. I like
tender care, and soft words, and delicate clothes, and of all these my
life is barren. I never loved my husband--why should I not say so to
you?--and he knows it. I was compelled to marry him; and now I am
paying the penalty of my weakness and folly.'

'You must not blame yourself,' said Mr. Longleat. 'You've been
sinned against, and cruelly used. I left the club just now because
your husband came in, and I could not sit comfortably in the same room
with him. If I feel like that, what must it be to you? It's a sin that
a girl's married misery should be borne only by herself--and then that
it should be thought a shame for her to speak! How is it possible for
an innocent, trusting creature to tell a bad man from a good one? Her
father should look after that. Do you think,' he added, and he
trembled as he spoke, 'that I could rest easy in my grave if I had
knowingly let my girl marry to her wretchedness? God forgive me all
sins, but never that one if I'm like to commit it.'

'It mightn't be your fault altogether,' said Mrs. Vallancy. 'Your
daughter might be wilful--you don't know. I was wilful always. It
wasn't entirely because of my father and mother. I thought, as they
did, that I should be rich, and live at ease--you see, I don't wish
you to think me better than I am--and I am punished; heaven knows that
I am poor enough now.'

'What's money, after all?' said Longleat. 'What's the good of it but
to make the people one loves happy? I've got plenty. That is the light
in which, I look at it...And that is what I meant when I said that
there might be ways of helping you. If you would accept a loan from
me--to relieve you from your difficulties and put you straight--it 'ud
be nothing to me.'

'We shall never have any money; it would be impossible for us to
repay you.'

'But friends--you said that we were friends,' stammered Mr.
Longleat--'and there needn't be any question of that sort. It's what
I've done scores of times for pals on the road--and you--'

She laughed softly.

'Friendship does not often imply a partnership in purse. No--no.
Don't talk of a loan. I understand you. You have a generous heart.
Another woman might have been offended. I am not--but it wouldn't do.
You can't serve me in that way. Believe me, that I am most grateful
for your sympathy; it warms and comforts me. Now, let us drop the
subject of my troubles. I have said too much. I forbid you to mention
them again. Tell me about yourself--about your daughter. I am jealous
of her--I envy her.'

'Why?' asked Mr. Longleat, in surprise.

'For the reason that we are both women. Has she not everything that
I lack? Beauty--ah! you need not shake your head. If I was pretty
once, I know that I am prematurely old and faded now--love,
admiration, wealth; and above all, has she not you--a father who
adores her?'

'You're right there,' said Mr. Longleat, speaking with rough
earnestness. 'I worship the clothes she wears--the ground she treads.
That's about it. I only value what I am and what I've got, according
by what I am able to do for her. And yet--it's a queer thing--I don't
mind saying it to you, but I could not say it to anyone else--least of
all to her--something in my throat 'ud stop me. Women aren't the
same...For all that, it's true. I love her as I love my life. I've
told myself, when I've done a good day's work, "It's to make a lady of
Honie." She's not like her father. I've meant that she should grow up
different. There's sorts and sorts. I'm one sort, and I've educated
her to be another; I've prepared myself for it--but, Lord I for all
that, it's hard. I couldn't talk out to her as I'm talking to you
now.'

'No,' said Mrs. Vallancy, in a tone half-sympathetic, half--
interrogative.

'It's true. I'm not one to growl over the crop I've sown, but it's a
trifle hard when a man can't reap his own harvest.'

'You mean,' said Mrs. Vallancy, 'that your daughter will marry?'

'I'm prepared for that,' said Longleat. 'If she marries to my mind,
I'll not complain at losing her. All I ask is that I may be able to
cotton with the man she's set her heart on. I'm pretty quick at seeing
the wrong side of human nature. I know a pair of honest eyes when they
look into mine. And her husband must be an Australian. She owes it to
the country that has given her her money, and that has made a man of
her father...Her marriage wasn't what I meant. There's a kind of wall
between us that seems to grow thicker as she grows older--and we can't
either of us climb it. She's a lady with ladies' ways. I'm nothing to
her but a rough beggar that has knocked agen the world and doesn't
understand her. She's stand-offish, and I'm huffed--and so it goes on;
and for all my love, we go farther apart...You see I'm telling you my
troubles now.'

He sat silent for several moments, with a harassed look upon his
face. She moved a little closer to him, and laid her hand upon his.

'It's different with you,' he said. 'You seemed to be my friend
somehow from the first. I ain't shy at speaking to you. As I said
before, what is money between friends? Or if you would let me arrange
matters with your husband...He does not like me, but I do not think
that he would make any difficulty about accepting a loan from me.'

'No, no; that would be impossible,' she said; 'we could never repay
you,' she repeated.

'You hurt me,' said Longleat, 'when you talk about repayment. It is
as though your pride wouldn't let you accept anything from a rough
fellow like me. That's how I take it.'

'Indeed, you do me injustice,' cried Mrs. Vallancy, warmly. 'I thank
you with my whole heart for your noble offer. Let me accept your
friendship, your sympathy, which are sweet indeed to me, but let the
other matter rest.'

She rose, and moved to the window under pretext of raising the blind,
but in reality to avoid following up the turn which the conversation
had taken. In truth, she was anxious that he should not at that moment
divine how far upon some future occasion she might be ready to avail
herself of his generosity.

Mrs. Vallancy walked out to the verandah, and then returned.

'My husband will soon be coming back,' she said.

'I had better go,' said Longleat, feeling that he was dismissed. 'I
shall see you at the Opening of Parliament,' he added, still
lingering.

'No; I shall not be there.'

He pressed her for the motive of her absence.

'Since you will have it,' said she, 'a woman's reason. Why do women
go to rarre-shows. To wear new gowns. I have none, therefore I shall
stay at home.'

'Is it really so?' asked Longleat, looking incredulously at her slim,
white-robed figure.

'Yes, truly. I owe Madame Sophie already more than I can pay her. I
may tell you this, since I have refused to borrow your money. Now,
good-bye.'

Longleat shook hands with Mrs. Valancy and departed.

Some days later, a covered box was brought over from the north side,
and left at the Emu Point cottage, accompanied by a note, in which
Madame Sophie expressed her willingness to execute any further orders
with which Mrs. Vallancy might favour her.

Upon opening the box, Constance found that the costume which she had
coveted was placed at her disposal.

*   *   *   *   *

When residing at Leichardt's Town without his daughter, it was not
Mr. Longleat's habit to dine at The Bunyas. He was a man to whom
masculine society afforded greater pleasure than any other, and
though he neither drank nor smoked, making indeed a merit of
the abstinence which he affirmed had contributed largely towards
his success in life, the roystering conversation of the smoking-room,
and the political element which pervaded the club, was better suited
to his taste than the more refined atmosphere of drawing-rooms.

But, upon the evening of his visit to Mrs. Vallancy, he departed from
his usual rule, and, oppressed by an unaccountable sense of blankness,
he ate his dinner at home in musing solitude, then retired to his
study, where he surrounded, but did not occupy, himself with letters
and books.

Never had his home appeared more devoid of companionship: never had
the lack of sympathy in his life forced itself more strongly upon him.
He would have given much to hear the sound of Janie's prattle--to be
conscious of Honoria's sweet, if somewhat disdainful, presence. The
current of his daily interests and ambitions seemed to have been
suddenly checked, and he felt himself to be stranded helplessly upon
an unknown shore.

He was vainly trying to concentrate his attention upon some official
papers, when the door was opened, and the entrance of Dyson Maddox
furnished an opportune stimulant to his jaded energies. The Premier
greeted him warmly; it was evident that the young man was a favourite.

'I am afraid that I am very late,' said Dyson. 'The Kooya coach was
behindhand this evening. I looked into the club expecting to find you
there.'

'I was obliged to go over some of Morrison's work, and could do it
better here; but I am not in the humour for poring over papers this
evening. You got my letter, of course, and you have come down about
the "Lands" appointment?'

'Yes,' replied Dyson, 'I have been turning the matter over in my mind
ever since I heard from you. I dare say you will wonder that I should
have given it a thought, except to feel gratified at the honour you
have done me. I am most sensible of that; but the fact is, there were
both public and private reasons. Are you sure that I am the man for
the place?'

'Not a doubt of it,' said the Premier. 'I have always had my eye upon
you as a likely member of the Cabinet. The screw is not a primary
object with you. We want independent men. Lycombe and Brown were
thought of, but they are free lances, and we are at odds upon the
Abolition Bill. It might have been a wise precaution to nail one of
them just at this turn of affairs, but there would have been a split
later. The other Ministers think with me. You are bound to stand and
fall by our party, and you are fitted in every way for the office of
Lands. I hope that you have made up your mind to accept.'

'Yes, I have done so. I have put aside all private feeling in the
matter. I came down by Kooralbyn to-day, and saw your daughter. You
know what my hopes were, and you were good enough to encourage them.
It is only fair to tell you that they are now at an end.'

'What!' exclaimed Mr. Longleat, looking up with an expression of
concern. 'Honoria has refused you! You don't mean to say so! I could
have sworn that she was fond of you. She is a flirt, is Honie, and
likes to be admired; but I had my reasons for believing that you were
the man she had set her heart on. This is a blow to me, Dyson. I don't
understand women. I own that I can't make out my daughter.'

'Perhaps I ought to say that some men might not have considered her
refusal hopeless. She told me that she could not love me; that she
required excitement, passion, neither of which she could find in me;
that she wished to see more of the world, and half suggested that I
should give her six months in which to make up her mind. I think she
has some regard for me, but that is not the fashion in which I must be
loved. If she has dreams of this kind, it is better that she should
seek their fulfilment. My wife must not come to me half-hearted.'

'Pooh! pooh!' said the Premier, visibly relieved. 'You cannot expect
such a prize as Honoria to drop like a ripe cherry into your mouth.
Women won't answer at once to the bit, they must be coaxed and
humoured. You mustn't give up so quickly. I thought you had more
pluck.'

'It is at an end,' said Dyson, grimly. 'I shall never try again
unless your daughter's mode of thought changes entirely. She is
restless and dissatisfied. She wishes to see life. Take her to
England, Mr. Longleat. Let her have her fill. Throw her into
intercourse with men of the upper classes, and give her an opportunity
of choosing a husband to her taste. If she returns unmarried, it will
be time enough for me to resume my suit.'

'By--!' interrupted Mr. Longleat, fiercely, 'I have seen enough of
Englishmen and of their doings. My daughter shall never marry a cursed
aristocrat. She is the fruit of a free country, and in it her lot
shall be cast.'

'If she will have it so; but she has a will of her own,' said Dyson.
'You have cultivated her intellect and perceptions; you have made her
what she is. It is out of your power to control her likes and
antipathies. Well! the subject is not a pleasant one for me. As far as
I am concerned, let it drop. Now I want to show her that I am brave
enough to live in her world without flinching from the pain of
association with her interest and pursuits. I gratefully accept the
appointment. It gives me an opportunity for which I have wished. I'll
make the necessary arrangements with Cathcart, and take up my abode in
Leichardt's Town for the winter.'

Then followed a political discussion which lasted long into the
night, and through which it is not necessary to carry the reader.



Chapter XI. Angela.

AS MR. FERRIS had predicted, Barrington found existence at Dyraaba very
monotonous. A week after his arrival he had almost decided with Lord
Dolph that he was not of the stuff to make a satisfactory settler, and
was casting about in his mind the possibility of obtaining a Government
appointment by means of the interest which his family-name and
connections would certainly procure for him. But opposed to this course
was the unadvisability of disclosing more of his immediate antecedents
than was necessary. The story of his retirement from the Guards could
hardly be revealed in its nakedness, and would deepen in disgrace from
the mystery in which it was shrouded.

The episode, which hinged upon a beautiful woman well-known in the
London half-world, and on a money transaction in which, to do him
justice, Barrington had been merely a victim to the knavish rapacity
of others, was discreditable more from the social than the moral
standard of culpability. Society must needs have a scapegoat, and in
this instance Barrington had suffered a more severe punishment than he
perhaps deserved.

Going to Australia had seemed an easy and efficacious mode of self-
effacement; but his English experiences had hardly been of a nature to
fit him for the rough actualities of a colonial career. With good
looks, a pleasing address, and the prestige of high birth, he had
possessed an entrée to the best European society. He had idealised
epicurism, and had lived for the indulgence of refined sensation. Life
to him was something more than a happy practical joke, a combination
of the labouring and Bohemian phases of existence, into which, by
means of Swiss bridges, sport, pigs, the piano, and stretches of the
imagination, a faint flavour of the pursuits of an English country
gentleman might be introduced.

It was humiliating to have forced upon him the conviction that his
super-sensuous dreams of feminine excellence must henceforth remain
unfulfilled, or take shape in--a Maggie; and that his aesthetic
philosophy, which had reduced life to the level of artistic sensation,
must in future be fed upon the excitement of cattle--hunting, the
beauties of primeval nature, and the unrefined companionship that had
as yet presented itself to him, and which was only endurable because
it lacked the pretension of vulgarity.

One morning Lord Dolph, with a faint perception that his friend was
bored and an amiable desire to further his matrimonial projects,
proposed a ride to Kooralbyn. It was arranged that Maggie should
accompany them, and that they should remain a few days. However, an
hour before the time fixed for starting, as Barrington was packing his
valise and mournfully regarding the crushed condition of his white
shirts, Lord Dolph entered, excited and apologetic:

'My dear fellow, I am awfully sorry, but I am really afraid that I
must give up the expedition to Kooralbyn. Ward, the butcher, has just
turned up from Barramunda. He wants to make up a mob of bullocks, and
I've got twenty fat uns ready for the market. Couldn't lose such a
chance of selling. Mag and I must help to drive 'em in. Perhaps you
wouldn't mind going without us. Maggie will pilot you over the ranges
on her way to the Blue Gum Camp; then you have only to follow the
river; you can't lose your way.'

Lady Dolph, who was in the sitting-room, giggled.

'Oh, no fear!' cried she. 'Come and saddle your horse, Mr.
Barrington, and we'll be off.'

Lady Dolph looked very colonial in her short grey riding-habit and
straw hat, under which her rosy, freckled face glowed with health and
good-humour.

'I'll meet you round by the Boomerang Waterholes,' she said, in
farewell to her husband. 'We must fly sharp,' she added, as she
whipped her horse into a canter, 'for Dolph is so green about the
stock that he'll be selling the wrong bullocks if I don't look smart
after him.'

As he followed Lady Dolph Bassett's lead across the interminable
ridges, Barrington reflected upon the advantages which a squatter
would derive from marrying a wife who would 'look smart' after both
her lord and his cattle.

'I suppose all Australian ladies ride well, and that sort of thing,'
he remarked, pursuing a mental train of thought. 'Is Miss Longleat,
for instance, clever about stock-keeping?'

'Honoria!' cried Lady Dolph; 'gracious, no! She is much too fine to
go out on the run. I dare say that she would not know a strawberry
beast from a roan, if you asked her. But then you see she was educated
in Sydney, and her father has always had lots of hands. She was not
brought up to the saddle as I have been. But when a squatter lives
ever so far up the Ubi, and his men go on the burst, what can he do
but make his daughters help?'

Barrington had still further food for reflection, and Maggie
continued:

'She'll be more your style, Mr. Barrington. She is English in her
ways. She makes up to be European. You don't care about Australia; I
can see that in a twinkling. Now Dolph likes the fun of it. Then he's
different. It's rough in the bush, but it is not a bad sort of life. I
dare say you think that I am rough too, but I'm pretty smart if I
like; and if Dolph were to take me home I bet I'd soon pick up English
manners. I've heard people say that is the beauty of Australian girls,
they can turn their minds or their hands to anything.'

She escorted him to the river-bank, advising him to follow the course
of the stream till he should arrive at a paddockfence, which was near
the crossing at Kooralbyn. Then she uttered a frank 'Good--bye; don't
get bushed;' and trotted off to superintend the stock--collecting.

Not trusting himself out of sight of the green line which marked
where the river ran, Barrington rode slowly along its windings. He
passed beneath glossy chestnuts and spreading cedars, now beside
murmuring shallows, and now by deep, mysterious pools, bordered by
beds of fern and arum and crossed by fallen logs, against which lay
heaped the refuse left by many a flood. The trees closed him in,
meeting high above his head, and upon all sides seemed to diverge in
interminable vistas. Sometimes a dip in the hills or a break of
foliage would reveal a glimpse of distant mountains.

Occasionally a deep gully intersecting the creek would oblige him to
make a circuit, till he found a passable spot; or a sideling that
afforded no foothold for his horse would necessitate a descent into
the bed of the creek, where every now and then he would become bogged
in a treacherous quicksand. But the sure-footed animal he rode,
although unshod, was well-accustomed to rolling stones and slippery
places, and would have found its own way to Kooralbyn without much
guidance on the part of its rider.

At last Barrington reached a two-railed fence which sank on both
sides into the water, and finding no outlet, followed it up to a set
of slip-rails which admitted him into a paddock, whence in the
distance he could perceive signs of habitation.

A herd of unbroken horses lifted up their heads as he passed, and
with their long manes and tails flowing, scampered towards a belt of
scrub that lay between the creek and the wooded ranges beyond it.
Barrington rode along a bridle-track that presently brought him to a
well-worn crossing. Below him there was a sweet murmuring of running
water over a pebbly bottom, and the river divided itself into several
narrow streams, merging lower down into one deep pool. Large crystals
lay in the rocky bed, and a ti-tree, rising from the centre of an
earth-girt stump at the junction of two rivulets, resisted the current
which swirled and eddied round its bare roots and pendent foliage.
Upon the opposite side stretched the wide plain of Kooralbyn.

It was a pretty, secluded spot. The creek-sides rose high and
shelving, and were overgrown with mulgam plants now past fruiting,
ferns, and a stiff green grass, of which the yellow bloom emitted a
powerful aromatic perfume.

As Barrington let his horse drink, his eyes wandered aimlessly along
the banks, and a little distance down the stream were attracted by the
flutter of a white dress through the trees.

A girl poised lightly upon a slippery log, which spanned a pool deep
enough to render the prospect of immersion sufficiently alarming. She
appeared to hesitate whether or not to advance, nervously drawing back
her foot and clutching at the swaying branches of a wattle-tree that
overhung the narrow bridge.

He saw that she was very young, hardly more than a child, and that
she was also very pretty. The sweet helplessness of her face, and its
dreamy, poetic expression, immediately interested him. He slipped off
his horse, and hanging its bridle to a stump, walked along the bank to
the girl's assistance.

'Are you afraid to cross?' he asked, with gentle courtesy. 'The log
is rather slippery. Let me help you.'

Angela turned her large blue eyes upon him, and a flush overspread
the waxen paleness of her skin. 'Thank you,' she said simply, 'I want
to go home. I have often crossed here before, and it is the first time
I have ever turned giddy; but just now I saw a snake in the water, and
it startled me so that I feared I might fall.'

'It was a water-snake, perhaps,' replied Barrington. 'Can you see it
still?'

'No,' answered Angela, and looked at him with her blank, appealing
eyes. 'It might have been fancy. I sometimes do imagine that I see
things which are not real. I had been reading'--she paused a moment,
with her gaze fixed upon the water, and murmured, almost under her
breath:

"The serpent's mailed and many-coated skin

Shone through the plumes its coils were twined within."'

Barrington glanced in surprise at a little green volume she held in
her hand.

'You have been reading!' he repeated. 'My child, do they feed your
poetic cravings upon such strong food as "Laon and Cythna"?'

Angela looked bewildered. 'It is beautiful, is it not?' she said. 'I
am glad that you like it too. I did not think that anyone in Australia
cared for poetry except father and myself.'

'Ah!' said Barrington. 'So, then, life in Australia is not all
prosaic. Surely the voice of poetry echoes among these mountains.
Shelley might have sung of the wild beauty of your forests.'

'You love them?' cried Angela, her face brightening to enthusiasm.
'Oh! so do I. I am never unhappy when I can wander among the trees and
by the river. They tell me so much--so much that other people do not
know...But Mrs. Ferris would like best to pen me within doors, and
teach me to do needlework.'

'Mrs. Ferris is your mother?' asked Barrington.

'She is not my mother,' replied Angela with a pettish accent. 'My own
mother is dead. Mrs. Ferris does not understand me. She thinks me
foolish. But my father says that an artist is never comprehended by
the outside world, and so I shut my lips, and dream and live my inner
life--that is all one need wish for.'

'I am gratified at your speaking to me so unreservedly,' said
Barrington, with the wish to test her.

Angela directed a swift glance at his face, and coloured again.

'You are not like the others,' she said simply. 'When I saw you
walking towards me I felt that I might trust you.'

'I have heard that you are an artist,' continued Barrington. 'I
should very much like to see your drawings.'

'They are only studies,' said Angela; 'thoughts that rise in my mind
and that I must express. By-and-by, my father will take me to Rome,
and then I shall paint great pictures.'

'Poor child!' he murmured involuntarily.

'Why? You think I shall fail,' said Angela, sharply.

'No,' he replied. 'You may have genius.'

'Yes, I have genius,' she answered, with a confident simplicity. 'I
am certain of it.'

'Genius is a rare heritage,' said Barrington. 'I hope it may be
yours. When I see your paintings I will tell you whether or not I
believe that you possess it. Come, give me your hand; I will lead you
across the log, and you shall guide me to Kooralbyn. I have not told
you my name yet; it is Barrington, and I am a friend of Lord Dolph
Bassett's. I have met your father at Kooya.'

'Oh!' said Angela; 'you are the Englishman of whom he spoke.'

'Probably. You can tell me whether Mr. Longleat is at the station?'

'There is no one there,' replied Angela, 'except my father and Mrs.
Ferris. Miss Longleat is in Leichardt's Town.'

The pang of disappointment which Barringtonn certainly experienced
was mitigated by the prospect of this innocent being's society. He
took her hand and piloted her across the log, then returned, got on
his horse, and rode through the shallow water to the opposite bank;
here he dismounted and walked on by Angela's side.

'Are you always alone in your rambles?' asked Barrington. 'Have you
no companions?'

'I have my father and the birds and the flowers. I want no others.'

'Does not Miss Longleat ever walk with you?'

Angela shook her head and smiled inscrutably.

'Tell me,' said Barrington, becoming interested, 'of what do you
think when you are roaming by yourself through the forest?'

'I make pictures in my mind,' said Angela, 'and some times when I am
sitting by the river, the running water talks to me.'

'I should like to know what it says, if you will tell me.'

'There are spirits everywhere,' said Angela, solemnly; 'I have read
it in an old book of father's, and my soul tells me that it must be
true. None but poets and young girls ever hear their voices. It is
they who send inspiring thoughts and beautiful dreams. They are
invisible except to the imagination, and their gentle murmurings can
only be heard by the soul. They lift one up on wings--that is the real
life, and the world below is only a picture. I chatter too much,' she
added, pausing abruptly. 'If you think me foolish you must remember
that no one ever encourages me to talk, and you asked me to tell you
my fancies.'

'I like to hear them,' replied Barrington. 'Do not hesitate to tell
me your thoughts freely. You remind me of a sister whom I loved
dearly, and whose temperament was of the same quaint, poetic type as
your own.'

'And she died,' said Angela, looking at him earnestly, with her hand
upon the garden-gate.

'She died at fifteen.'

'A little younger than I am,' murmured Angela, thoughtfully--'only a
little younger.'

She opened the gate, and without speaking further led Barrington into
Mrs. Ferris's parlour. It was a homely, pretty room, shaded by a
screen of grape-leaves from the western sun, with windows opening
towards the east, and the walls hung profusely with drawings in chalk
and watercolours. The spotless boards were covered with rugs of
opossum skins; the chintz covers and muslin curtains were without
speck; upon the sideboard were placed several pieces of plate, upon
the brilliancy of which Mrs. Ferris prided herself.

The old lady, in her ample gown and white cap, sat at one side of the
fireplace with a basket of undarned hose before her. Little Janie,
perched upon a stool by her side, nursed a lapful of kittens, and gave
utterance to remarks savouring somewhat of heterodoxy upon a Biblical
lesson which Mrs. Ferris had been giving her.

'Aunt Pen, if God said that somebody was to kill Jesus, Judas wasn't
so wicked after all for letting the Jews do it for if he hadn't, we'd
all have gone to hell.'

'Polly, Polly, mind your manners!' screeched a parrot in a cage by
the window, as Angela and Barrington entered.

'Where is father?' asked the former.

'In the office settling with the fencers,' replied Mrs. Ferris; and
Barrington, seeing that Angela was departing, introduced himself.

'Dear heart!' said Mrs. Ferris, 'I'm afraid that you have come over
at an unlucky time. There's no one at Kooralbyn but ourselves. Miss
Longleat went to Leichardt's Town a few days ago, and the Premier is
always away at this season. However, Mr. Barrington,' she added
warmly, 'I am more than pleased to see you. You'll cheer up the heart
of my old man, for he was just full of you when he came back from
meeting you at Kooya. I don't pretend to understand geniuses, but
he'll talk to you by the hour about art and books, and if you're fond
of the subject you couldn't go to anyone better up in it than Anthony
Ferris.'

Shortly afterwards Mr. Ferris entered with his daughter, and welcomed
his guest with an old-world pomposity, in which was a savour of
deprecation. The ménage was curious, and struck Barrington as utterly
unlike any other he had seen in Australia. There was in it an odd
blending of aestheticism and eccentricity, and Mrs. Ferris seemed the
only commonplace element in the party. Angela's innocent garrulity
appeared to have suffered a sudden check; in the presence of her
stepmother she hardly spoke, but retired to a corner with her book,
above which she furtively regarded Barrington.

At dusk, after a little preliminary flutter on the part of the
hostess, they dined. The day had been very hot, but now a breeze
stirred the vine-leaves, which cast moving shadows upon the white
board. It was like a scene out of a pastoral idyl. Upon the table was
a freshly--gathered dessert, and the cheer, though modest, attested
the excellence of Mrs. Ferris's housekeeping.

The old man produced a bottle of his master's wine; his little dark
eyes twinkled, and he stroked his grizzled beard with an air of self--
complacency. Barrington had an appreciation for the picturesque, and
this mixture of flourish and simplicity attracted him; his palate was
gratified, and he had never felt more interested.

'To-morrow you must see Angela's studio,' said Mr. Ferris, as after
dinner they sat smoking in the verandah. 'I am convinced that you will
be astonished at the talent which her drawings exhibit. She is a
strange child,' he continued sadly; 'poetic to a remarkable degree,
reserved with her own family, and apparently unimpressionable, but
clinging to the few whom she loves with an extraordinary tenacity of
affection. Here is the true artistic temperament, stirred only by the
breath of sympathy. In many respects her disposition resembles mine. I
pray heaven that her life may not, like mine, be embittered by
disappointment and inappreciation. But I have few fears; if she lives
she will become great.'

The moon was shining brightly, and Angela, in a white dress with a
fantastic wreath of flowers adorning her yellow hair, seemed like a
spirit of the night as she glided rather than walked in and out among
the shrubs in the garden. Mrs. Ferris had withdrawn to put Janie to
bed, and when a gentle snore announced that the old man had fallen
asleep, Barrington quietly rose and joined the girl, who was now
swinging herself to and fro in a hammock slung beneath an orange--
tree.

'Is that the lagoon yonder?' asked Barrington, pointing to a shining
expanse below them. 'Can we reach it from here?'

'It is at the foot of the garden,' replied the girl. 'There's a boat
upon it; would you like to come out for a row?'

'I should be delighted,' he rejoined.

She sprang to the ground, and holding out her hand with a childlike
gesture, led him to the bank of the lake, where a rudely-fashioned
canoe was moored. She unloosed the rope and stepped in, motioning him
to the seat at the stern. Then she pushed off into the middle of the
lagoon, and let the boat drift while she gathered a handful of the
lotus-lilies that floated on the surface of the water.

'Listen!' said Angela, presently; 'there's music in the air to-
night. Do you hear it?'

She watched him anxiously, as, wishing to humour her, he replied in
the affirmative. His sympathy was the 'Open Sesame' to the world of
her fanciful imagination; and indeed there was above and around that
faint, sweet murmuring which is the melody of a summer evening.

'The spirits are all dancing to-night,' continued Angela, looking at
him with her dreamy eyes and speaking with grave simplicity. 'They
always do when the moon is at its full. There's a clear place beneath
a big cedar-tree by the creek, and that is their ball-room. This
afternoon I brushed the twigs and fallen leaves away from the grass,
so that it might be smooth and clean. All the fairies meet together,
and they have a famous revel. No one knows these secrets but I.'

'And where do you learn them, Angela?'

'Now that is what puzzles me,' said the child, with a perplexed look.
'Is it when I am sleeping or waking? I do not know. It often seems to
me that this is not my real home; that my true self belongs to that
spirit-world which is hidden in all the common things that surround
our daily lives. That world has a language of its own which is audible
in the strains of nature's music. Some are deaf and do not hear it;
others hear it but do not understand. I know--I feel--and when my
stepmother says, "Poor Angel! she is only a foolish child!" I tell
myself that I am wiser than she is, and that mysteries are revealed to
me which are hidden from her; but I do not speak to Mrs. Ferris or
Honoria of what is in my mind. I am silent upon these matters, which
have only to do with myself.'

Angela took up the oars and began to row again, singing dreamily to
herself in fantastic harmonies, which Barrington guessed to be of her
own composition. She had a sweet voice, pure and sympathetic, and,
when raised, of considerable compass. Barrington leaned back in the
boat, experiencing that nerve-vibration which is peculiar to
temperaments of febrile excitability. The boundless expanse of shadowy
solitude, the stillness of the night, the gliding motion of the boat,
and the unearthly beauty of his companion, acted upon his imagination
like the fumes of opium, and he felt that he was, for the hour at
least, in an Eastern paradise.

Suddenly Angela ceased singing, and rested on her oars.

'I am so tired,' she said in her pathetic, childlike voice. 'I get so
easily tired. Let us drift; and do you talk now. I want to listen. It
is very pleasant gliding through the water like this. We will come
here every night. You won't go away soon? Say that you will not go
away.'

'My pretty child,' said Barrington, 'I will not talk of departure
to--night. When the time comes it will be difficult to resist the
charm of your sweet voice if you bid me stay.'



Chapter XII. - On the Lagoon.

UPON the following morning, at Barrington's request, Angela led the way
to her studio. It was a room in one of the outbuildings originally used
for garnering corn, and adjoined the store and accountant's office,
which constituted Mr. Ferris's peculiar domain.

The door was padlocked, and only Angela and her father possessed the
keys. The window overlooked a secluded part of the garden, where roses
grew in rank luxuriance and scented verbena filled the air with
perfume. By an ingenious contrivance Mr. Ferris had arranged that the
light should fall from above, and had caused the glass skylight to be
protected from the violent hailstorms which raged among the mountains,
by slanting sheets of zinc, that softened the glare without obscuring
the light.

A little book-shelf surmounted a pine cupboard in one corner, but
the rest of the room was lined with pictures of all kinds, in various
stages of development--sketches of grass and reeds; of sunrise and
sunset upon the mountains; of moonlight shimmering on the lagoon; dull
anatomical studies and graceful portrayals of shadowy forms, rising
from the mist or blending with the clouds. In every conception there
were touches of mystery and sadness, of high effort and divine desire,
which, though often imperfectly executed, were full of poetic
originality. The true artistic soul revealed itself in every stroke of
her pencil. Her landscapes were characterised by a delicate sentiment
that lifted nature to the pitch of idealism; her studies of the human
face and form were types of spiritual beauty, with indeed the
exception of a roughly-sketched portrait of a woman which at once
attracted Barrington's attention.

'Who is this?' he asked eagerly, while Angela stood anxiously
awaiting his comments upon her more ambitious works.

'It is Honoria Longleat!' said Angela, coldly.

'This--this Miss Longleat!' repeated Barrington, unprepared for
beauty of so high an order.

He stood for a few moments in rapt contemplation of the drawing.

'Kooralbyn is a favoured place,' he murmured.

Angela turned away, her face wearing an expression of childlike pain.

'What is the matter, little one?' asked Barrington, seeing that she
did not speak.

'You think only of her,' muttered Angela.

Barrington took her hand in his, and ranging the walls with his eyes,
gave her pictures the calm inspection of a connoisseur.

'Accept my apologies for doubting you,' he said. 'You have genius.'

Angela's eyes sparkled with delight, and she suddenly raised a cloth
which covered the painting upon her easel--a sunset study of plain and
mountain.

'What do you think of the picture?' asked Mr. Ferris, entering.
'There is scope for the imagination in this conception. A little
softening of that distance, Angela. A touch of mystery in the shadows
of yonder valley. You have work here yet, my child.'

Barrington criticised and admired freely, but presently his eyes
wandered to the portrait of Honoria. The old man observed his
preoccupation, and frowned.

'Pah!' he cried in his excitable manner, 'it is ever so; while men
have human instincts, the glory of art must shrink into nothingness
before the potency of flesh and blood. Popular taste would prefer the
portrait of a wanton to the fairest incarnation of poesy. But it is to
enrich the future and not the present that the artist toils. My
Angela, thy frail frame enfolds a divine mission.'

'You are right,' said Barrington. 'Here is no ordinary talent. Surely
you will not delay in taking her to Italy. It would be a sin to
posterity were she debarred from studying art in its highest phases.'

'My friend,' said Anthony Ferris, solemnly. 'I have carefully planned
Angela's future. In forbidding that she should be coerced; in
permitting her to roam about the bush as she would, and in giving free
play to her fantastic imagination, I have merely followed out my
theory of artistic education. The truest artist is he whose aspiration
springs direct from the heavenly fount. To produce great work, he must
from infancy have become familiarised with Nature in all her moods,
untrammelled by conventional rules, and at liberty to send forth
shoots of fancy according to the natural bent of his mind. There is
time, later on, to study the old masters--who, after all, were but
interpreters--the world of cities, the drama of society. I have had a
motive in confining Angela's sympathies within the circle of these
mountains. She must have become an artist before the petty interests
of womanhood drag down her soul.'

As her father spoke Angela's gaze turned involuntarily towards
Barrington, and the two pairs of eyes met. A deep blush overspread the
girl's face, and seemed to reveal the dawn of an agitating
consciousness. Mr. Ferris left the studio, called away by a group of
station-hands who waited without. Approaching Angela, Barrington laid
one hand upon her trembling fingers, and with the other pointed to the
unfinished picture.

'You will never be a great artist, Angela,' he whispered, 'till you
have learned to feel like a woman.'

*   *   *   *   *

It will have been remarked that to Hardress Barrington's temperament
feminine sympathy formed an essential component of happiness. That
the woman by whom it was bestowed should be beautiful and
interesting followed as a matter of course. That, like Angela,
she should also be original and poetic, was more than his
short experience of Australian society had permitted him
to hope. The young girl was to him a never-ending source of
speculation; her dreamy fancies and visionary talk, which seemed to
verge so closely upon frenzy; her undoubted genius; the frank abandon
of her manner to him, compared with her reserve to others; her beauty,
and the quaint simplicity of her life and surroundings, puzzled and
attracted him. He watched her with admiration in which was no deeper
feeling, and listened to her with pleasure. Her graceful companionship
appeared to him like the perfume of a wild flower pervading a
picturesque solitude. She seemed a true incarnation of the spirit of
these Australian wilds, which, had they been invested with European
romance, would have left his sensuous aestheticism nothing to desire.
Till now, these free pastures and grand mountains had, to his fancy,
resembled a perfectly-moulded form, destitute of the soul which brings
animal beauty into harmony with human yearnings. With Angela's society
the softening and poetic element, which he had so sorely missed during
the last few months, was imported into his life.

Barrington's nature was one readily impressed, but slowly moved.

His passions had been so often stimulated to feverish activity that
the calm vigour of healthy affection was a state of moral being that
it would have been difficult to induce; yet there were in his heart
certain pure fraternal aspirations to which Angela's frank sensibility
and innocent partiality appealed strongly.

For the first time since his arrival in Australia, he ceased to
experience a nauseating discontent, and was in no haste to exchange
the harmonious influences of Kooralbyn for the uncongenial atmosphere
of Dyraaba.

He was Angela's constant companion in her walks and rides: he hung
over her while she worked in her studio; he talked to her of Rome and
Paris, of music, art, and literature, making her the confidante of his
vague dissatisfaction with his lot, till she began to look upon him as
a hero who had suffered cruel treatment at the world's hands.

He encouraged her fantastic prattle; he read aloud to her as they sat
together by the banks of the river, or drifted in the canoe upon the
lagoon. In all this tender camaraderie there was to her a bewildering
charm. She lay down to sleep with a smile upon her lips, and awoke
with a nameless sense of joy.

Unconsciously, both to her and to himself--for unworthy motives must
not be imputed to him--he was unveiling the budding beauty of her
womanhood, and transporting her to an imaginary Arcadia where each
step taken in uncertainty is fraught with peril, where the eyes are
deceived by a false glamour, the pulses quicken and reason becomes
mute; the ground yields unreal flowers of sentiment, and the air
distils an essence subtle and intoxicating, while, alas! the lovely
landscape, appearing in the distance, fades upon approach to the
falsity of mirage.

One night, when Barrington had been about ten days at Kooralbyn, he
and Angela were as usual out of doors, and had strolled to the edge of
the lagoon. Mr. Ferris had the day before been unexpectedly summoned
to a neighbouring station upon business, and Mrs. Ferris within was
calmly dozing over her book. It was a balmy, voluptuous evening, the
moon was rising behind the Koorong Crag, and a faint breeze stirred
the petals of the lilies, and lifted Angela's hair.

The girl was in a state of fitful excitability, alternately voluble
and silent, while her vacant, rippling laugh echoed over plain and
water, and startled Barrington by its shrill joyousness. She had taken
the oars and had rowed into the middle of the lagoon, where they had
idly drifted among the lilies. Suddenly she half rose, and made the
canoe whirl round and round in fantastic circles, till, alarmed for
their safety, he begged her to desist.

'Take care,' he said; 'you will upset the boat.'

'And what then?' she cried.

'We should both fall into the water, and I should have to swim with
you to the shore; or perhaps our feet might get entangled in the
weeds, and we should sink.'

'That would not matter,' replied Angela, quite gravely. 'The water--
spirits would not let me drown.'

'Are you not afraid of the Bunyip, then? Cobra Ball says that he
inhabits this pool.'

'He is a bogie,' said Angela. 'And nothing wicked belongs to the
spirit-world.'

She recommenced her antics, and playfully threw a few drops of water
in his face.

'Mischievous elf!' exclaimed Barrington, seizing her hands.

There ensued a mock struggle, in which he tried to wrest the oars
from her grasp. Her pretty face, perilously near his own, offered a
temptation too great to be resisted. He wound his arm round her lithe
form, and kissed her lips.

Angela let the oars drop, and one of them floated away among the
lilies. He felt that she trembled, and frightened at what he had done,
released her. She leaned back in the boat, and covered her face with
her wet hands.

'Naughty child? he said, 'why did you provoke me to conquer you?'

He drew away the fingers which hid her eyes. All her mirth and
mischief had vanished, and she looked at him with an expression of
wonder and beseeching that stirred his heart with a painful emotion.

'Angela,' he said, more gravely, 'I will not kiss you again, but let
us make a compact with one another. I will be your elder brother, and
you shall be my sweet little sister, whom I will love dearly, and who
must promise to obey me when I bid her do that which is for her good.
Now, you must take my seat, and I will row you to the shore. You are
pale and trembling. You have over-tired yourself in your excitement.
See, you have splashed yourself, too; your thin gown is quite wet, and
if you remain longer on the water you will take cold.'

He placed his hand caressingly on her shoulder, covered only by her
muslin bodice, which was damp with spray and dew. Angela mutely
answered his appeal by bending suddenly forward and with innocent
fervour pressing her lips to his hand.

He relieved their mutual embarrassment by seeking the oar which had
slipped away from her hold, and then rowed her to the bank.



Chapter XIII. - Father and Daughter.

IT was announced that the Parliament of Leichardt's Land would re--open
upon the 3rd of March, and Miss Longleat's departure from Kooralbyn had
been originally fixed for the 1st; but, as has been seen, she had
abruptly changed her plans, and had commanded Mr. Ferris's escort to
town a few days prior to Barrington's arrival on the station. Had she
been aware of his intended visit, it is probable that she would have
lingered in order to make his acquaintance. The prospect of a new
excitement would have held forth considerable attraction for her at that
moment.

Since her interview with Dyson Maddox, Honoria had felt restless and
unhappy. It was certain that she had rejected him. Yet it seemed by no
means equally certain that she did not love him, for no sooner had she
apparently convinced herself of indifference, than his image would
persistently obtrude itself as the secondary figure in sundry
melodramatic situations of which fancy painted her the heroine. Poor
Honoria! Imagination presented an uncircumscribed field of action,
involving every condition of being save that of passive enjoyment.
Love, fear, hate, drawing-room comedy and harrowing tragedy were all
comprised in her repertoire; but the puzzling consideration which
interfered with her clear foreshadowing lay in the fact that not one
of the unconscious performers who played with her upon the stage of
real life, answered to the pitch of emotional energy demanded by her
own high-strung temperament. A Rachel, surrounded by tenth-rate
provincial tragedians, could hardly have felt more at a loss than did
Honoria, whose lovers, with the solitary exception of Dyson Maddox,
inspired a temporary excitement followed by a sickening reaction.

The day before she left Kooralbyn Honoria received the following
letter from Maddox:

'The Club, Leichardt's Town,' February 21st.

'MY DEAR MISS LONGLEAT.

'Forgive me for leaving you so abruptly the other day. You will
understand better than I can explain what my feelings at the time must
have been. I have thought much of what you said to me, and thank you for
your frankness; it has convinced me alike of your goodwill and your
coldness. Let me say one word upon that subject, which may henceforth be
considered closed. It is my earnest wish that you may love deeply some
more fortunate man than myself, and that thus the rich colouring which
your life lacks now may be brought into it, and make you content. For
myself, I am strong enough to stand on one side and watch the course of
events. It is possible that there may be hope for me in the future, but
I will not suffer myself to dwell upon so sweet a dream, and it is my
wish to cultivate indifference. You will hear from your father that I
have accepted the appointment of Minister for Lands. I hope that I may
have acted wisely for the support of our party. My new duties will
prevent me from calling frequently at the Bunyas, nor, under the present
circumstances, should I wish to see you often; but I beg that you will
consider Araby at your disposal if you have no riding-horses in town at
present. Pardon the suggestion, but I think that, for your father's
sake, it would be well if you were in Leichardt's Town; he is lonely
without a companion.

'Ever faithfully yours.

'DYSON MADDOX.'

Honoria read the letter several times, and turned it over to see if
there were a line or a postscript that she had overlooked; but there
was nothing to remove the impression of abandonment which the cold,
guarded sentences left on her mind. She was one of those women to whom
a possession becomes sweet in proportion as its attractions are
enhanced by the doubtful charm of uncertainty. Now that Maddox had
apparently reconciled himself to her dismissal, she felt a strong
desire to recall him. She even composed the opening words of a reply
to his letter: 'Why should the subject be closed? You have not
understood me as I wished.'...Then her cheeks flamed, and she tossed
her head. Of course such words could not be written; and did she not
know that if she were mad enough to send them, she would regret them
an hour afterwards? No, let him go! This pale, sisterly attachment was
not the love of which she had dreamed.

The last words of his note appeared to carry a veiled meaning to
which she had no clue. She was in entire ignorance of the incipient
flirtation with Mrs. Vallancy--to which, in fact, Dyson had alluded--
and was at a loss to understand Mr. Ferris's malign chuckle when she
announced that upon her father's account she wished to go to town.

'I assure you that there is no occasion to disturb yourself,' he
said, in a sneering tone. 'Your father has found society which will, I
am sure, amply replace your own.'

'What does he mean?' asked Honoria of Mrs. Ferris, when the old man
had left the room.

'Oh, my love,' replied Aunt Pen, 'it's that gossip Dungie who has
been talking. He picks up and circulates all the scandal in Kooya. The
Premier is but a man, and there are brazen hussies all the world over.
But you need not be afraid of a step-mother; Mrs. Vallancy has got a
husband, though they say that he's not any better than he should be,
either.'

Honoria elevated her eyebrows contemptuously, too proud to pursue the
subject; nevertheless, she held to her determination of joining her
father immediately. The mail-man had passed by, so that there was no
mode of informing Mr. Longleat of the change in her plans. Embracing
the idea of a surprise, she made a two days' journey from Kooralbyn,
travelling by steamer from Kooya, and arriving in Leichardt's Town
about five o'clock in the afternoon.

Mr. Ferris hailed a cab at the wharf, and escorted her to the
Bunyas. Honoria's spirits revived at the sight of the bustle around
her, and she was pleased with the appearance of the house. The
oleanders in front were still in bloom, and the verandah was adorned
with stands of choice ferns and calladiums. The maid who opened the
door looked surprised to see her mistress, and upon being questioned
said that she believed Mr. Longleat was in the garden.

'Probably you have business in town,' said Honoria haughtily,
dismissing her escort. 'We shall see you at dinner, I suppose?'

Mr. Ferris refused the curt invitation, and departed to an hotel,
where he might at least alleviate his sense of mortification by brandy
and soda-water. Honoria entered the drawing-room, threw off her hat
and gloves, and ordered tea, with a lurking hope that chance might
lead Dyson Maddox thither that afternoon.

The room had a look of late occupation. It was large and tastefully
furnished, extending the width of the house, and facing at the back a
trim lawn and shrubbery, shaded by a row of bamboos which separated
the Premier's grounds from the Botanical Gardens. Honoria turned over
the books upon the table, and with a view to her winter's campaign,
began planning a new arrangement of the furniture. But this was dull
work unaided, and she walked out into the garden to search for her
father. The recollection of Mr. Ferris's insinuations gave bent to her
suspicions; nevertheless, it occasioned a disagreeable shock to her
nerves to discover Mr. Longleat seated on a bench in one of the
shadiest alleys of the shrubbery, side by side with a lady whom she
instantly recognised as Mrs. Vallancy. No suggestion is more repellent
to a young girl's maidenly instinct than that of an equivocal love
affair on the part of her father. Mrs. Vallancy and Mr. Longleat were
sitting very close together, and one slender, black-gloved hand rested
confidingly upon the Premier's white linen coat-sleeve. The expression
of his face, as it was bent in profile over his companion, sent a
qualm of disgust and repugnance through Honoria's mind. A fierce
jealousy seized her frame and stiffened it to the coldness of ice. She
erected her crest and straitened her gait as she walked majestically
across the lawn.

'Papa,' she said, in silvery, neutral tones, when she had reached
within a few paces of where they sat--'Papa.'

Mrs. Vallancy was a woman whose emotions were under strict control,
and beyond a slight suffusion of colour she showed no embarrassment.
Mr. Longleat grew very red, and looked annoyed.

'I am afraid that I have startled you,' said Honoria, with an
enunciation which contempt and anger rendered very distinct. 'I have
just arrived. I made up my mind to leave Kooralbyn a few days sooner
than I had at first intended, and I knew that the house would be
ready. I hope that you are glad to see me, papa.'

'I am always glad to see you, my dear,' replied Longleat. recovering
his composure, and ashamed of himself for having felt guilty. 'Mrs.
Vallancy, I think you know my daughter.' The two ladies, who were
slightly acquainted, shook hands. 'Always independent-like, and taking
your own way--eh, Honie?' he added, with an awkward attempt at
familiarity. 'It isn't every young woman as 'ud have the liberty to
come to town when she chose. Are you quite well, my girl?' he said,
scrutinising her face with anxious pride. 'Somehow you seem to me as
though you weren't quite up to the mark.'

'I am very well, papa,' replied Honoria, in a chilling tone; 'only a
little tired with my journey. I have ordered tea. Perhaps you will
come into the drawing-room and have some,' she added, turning to Mrs.
Vallancy.

'I ought to be going home,' said the latter, in her appealing way.
'Your father is so kind; I was walking in the Botanical Gardens, and
he met me and persuaded me to come in and see his roses. I have been
asking him to explain the great political question, and he is so good
as to be interested in my partisanship, though my husband is a
renegade. You must not judge either of us too harshly, Miss Longleat.
It is a delightful surprise, seeing you. You are down for the winter,
I suppose?'

'That depends upon the progress of affairs,' replied Honoria. 'If
the Ministry is ousted we shall probably retire to the obscurity of
Kooralbyn. I left Janie with Mrs. Ferris,' she added, turning to her
father. 'I thought it wiser to do so, in case of our beating a sudden
retreat.'

Her effort at hilarity was caused by the appearance of Maddox in the
verandah. He had called to see the Premier, and did not become aware
of Honoria's presence till he had crossed the lawn.

He bowed gravely to Mrs. Vallancy, shook hands with Miss Longleat,
and nodded to his colleague.

For the first time in his society an uncomfortable shyness took
possession of Honoria. She hurriedly proposed that they should go
within doors, and when they were in the drawing-room poured out the
tea, handed cream and sugar and fruit, and talked volubly, with a
little caustic flavouring to her speech, which puzzled Mrs. Vallancy,
and afforded Honoria herself the zest of dramatising.

Presently Mrs. Vallancy rose, and Mr. Longleat offered to accompany
her to the ferry; thus Dyson and Honoria were left alone.

'What is that woman doing here?' she asked, turning fiercely upon
him, as though he were responsible for Mrs. Vallancy's presence.

'I am sorry to see that she and your father have become friends,' he
answered quietly.

'You know some evil of her?' continued Honoria.

'She is in an unfortunate position; her husband is a brute, and
treats her unkindly. She has the reputation of being a coquette. Men
speak lightly of her, and she is avoided by nice-minded women. That is
sufficient reason why you should not be allowed to drift into an
intimacy with her.'

'You need not fear that I shall ever be friendly with her. I detest
those eyes, at once shallow and deep, and that air of injured
innocence, which is only a mask to attract pity and admiration. A
woman can always read a woman. She is false to the core. I had rather
be a murderess than a hypocrite to my real self. It was on her
account, then--on my father's--that you advised me to come down. I am
not afraid, but thank you--that was like you. I did not know you in
your letter; it was so cold, so...It would grieve me deeply if you
ceased to--to be interested in me.'

'I can never cease to be interested in you,' said Maddox; 'but it is
wiser for me that I should shun you. I think that I understand you
better than you do yourself,' he added, with bitterness; 'you would
like me to become your lapdog again; you want me to be your slave, but
you reject me as your lover. I cannot submit to the one position; I
will not strive for the other. A man who tries to force the affection
of a woman is contemptible. Perhaps, after all, fidelity is an over-
rated virtue. I want to cure myself. If you have the nobility which I
fancy you possess, you will help me--or you will own that you love me,
and put me out of my suspense.'

Honoria sat still, with her eyes upon the ground; then suddenly she
looked up and caught his gaze. Its very ardour quenched her dawning
affection--and his appearance was rough, his coat ill-made, and by
reason of his useless arm, put on awry. Involuntarily she shook her
head; her thoughts were reflected in her face, and he read them
plainly enough.

'I am not polished enough for you,' he said. 'No; that is true; I am
not of the kind from which you will choose your husband. Good-bye,
Honoria,' he said in a husky voice. 'Look to me if you need a friend,
but do not expect that I shall be an acquaintance. I came thinking
that your father would be alone to talk over a political matter, but
it is of no great consequence, and I will not wait. Perhaps you will
kindly tell him that I will call at the Treasury before the meeting of
the Executive to-morrow.'

Honoria uttered a faint assent, and he left her.

When she was alone, she threw herself upon the sofa and burst into an
hysterical fit of weeping.

Mr. Longleat, entering a short time later, found her sitting in a
dejected attitude by the window. She had not heard him return, and he
was able to perceive the traces of tears upon her cheeks.

His heart yearned towards her, and yet he scarcely knew how to accost
her--this delicate piece of human mechanism which was his own, but not
of him, of which he was so proud, yet hardly dared to touch. He went
up behind her and laid his large rough hand awkwardly upon her
shoulder. She shrank, and turned her face away.

'Honie, my girl,' said Longleat, 'I thought you looked out of sorts,
as though you had been crying like--'

Honoria twitched her body petulantly, and his hand fell.

'I am quite well,' she answered, 'a little tired--that's all.'

'You did not use to be tired with a journey from Kooralbyn,'
continued Longleat, wounded yet persistent. 'There's something
troubling you, my dear. It's not your way, I know, to speak of what is
in your mind. You are one of the proud, reserved sort, as I've liked
you to be. A girl like you should keep her dignity, and not let those
that are beneath her into her confidence. But I'd be sore indeed if
you kept a grief from me. What's nearer than father and daughter? And
we're that to each other; nothing can alter it. I think it might be
better for us both if we talked more openly to one another; it 'ud be
better for me. A man needs sympathy sometimes. I've got a queer
feeling on me. I'm a bit of a fatalist. Something that's written up
above is going to happen, and I want to keep hold on you! It seems as
if--for all you've been to me--we had never been companions like;
there hasn't been that confidence between us that I'd have wished. Let
us stick together, Honie. Let us try to cotton with each other.'

At any other time the appeal would have touched a responsive chord,
but the distasteful thought of his friendship for Mrs. Vallancy
produced a feeling of revulsion, and Honoria's dissatisfaction made
her ungracious.

'I have always told you everything of importance to us both,' she
said perversely, 'and there is nothing on my mind now. And you have
got friends. There's Mrs. Vallancy. I did not expect to find her here
to-day. I am told that you are very intimate with her.'

'Yes, I have got to know her,' replied Mr. Longleat, deliberately. 'I
have got to like her. Ladies are not much in my line, but she
understands me. She is soft and clever and winning, and she is not too
fine to talk to a rough old man like me. And I am sorry for her. She
is unhappily married. She has got a hard life, poor thing! I--I'd be
glad, Honoria, if you would make friends with her, and ask her to come
and see you sometimes.'

Honoria's eyes flashed in wrath.

'Mrs. Vallancy will appreciate your consolation more than she will
mine,' answered the girl with a jarring laugh. 'No, I cannot be her
friend. She is not a woman whom I could ever like or respect. Papa,
you will not force her companionship upon me.'

'I see; women are as hard as the devil to each other,' said Longleat,
bitterly. 'I'll not force anyone upon you whom you dislike; but I
shall make friends with whom I please.'

He moved away from his daughter with the feeling that they had taken
opposite sides, and that it behoved him to defend his own. The request
which he had made had been prompted by a hardly defined instinct of
right. By placing Mrs. Vallancy beneath the aegis of his daughter's
friendship, he hoped to secure himself against the possibility of
dishonourable intent.

Honoria's unexpected arrival in Leichardt's Town had caused a
reaction from his late unwholesome excitement. As he had walked home
from the ferry he had almost succeeded in convincing himself that his
attraction towards Mrs. Vallancy had arisen from a natural longing for
feminine sympathy, and that having found this in the society of his
daughter, he must of necessity attach less significance to the emotion
which those half-stolen interviews in Mrs. Vallancy's dim drawing-room
had produced in his frame.

Yet in his moments of deepest infatuation, he had not admitted the
existence of guilty feeling. A man drifting towards passionate
admiration of a married woman, does not readily own to an unlawful
attraction. It takes the name of friendship, pity, conveniality of
taste--anything but love.

'I'll do as I please,' he repeated. 'I've a right to choose my own
friends, and if they don't suit you, Honie, we must keep apart. You
have been educated different to me, and we don't think alike. I am not
complaining of that; it is what I meant all along. My heart has been
so set on your being a lady that I would not have had you like myself.
That has been my pride. I hated the aristocrats. I hated their caste
prejudices; their laws made for the rich and not for the poor; their
cant and hypocrisy; their snivelling contempt for honest, independent
men. I wanted to show them that my daughter--the daughter of a
bullock-driver--could be as delicate and fine as their own. It might
have been happier for me if I had let you grow up rough, like Maggie
Lamb; but whether or no, I would not change you. There's plenty of
money; spend it and make yourself happy. Buy as many gowns and
trinkets as you like, and hold up your head so that everyone shall
envy you. As I said before, there hasn't been much companionship
between us, and perhaps it was not to be expected. It has come upon me
lately, this feeling of loneliness. There's not much satisfaction,
after all, in riches and power.'

'Papa,' said Honoria, in a choked voice, 'I would have been more to
you if I could. You have not brought me up to take a deep interest in
your occupations, or to understand your thoughts.'

'That's where it is: I wanted to make a lady of you; I wanted the
whole of Leichardt's Land to say, "There's Thomas Longleat's
daughter--fit to be a duchess." I have kept you apart from me on
purpose. I have done it for your good and for my pleasure, and I'm not
grumbling at my own work. There has always been love between us,
Honoria--I'm certain of that--but where there's no confidence, love is
apt to die out. It would cut me to the heart if you were to grow
ashamed of my rough ways, or to go agen me--'

'Papa,' cried Honoria, 'you speak very strangely. I don't want to go
against you; I am very grateful for all that you have done for me. You
know that I am most anxious for your political success. I have wished
to make you happy.'

'Ay, ay! I am not complaining of you,' said Longleat; 'I only said
that I felt lonely-like...You shook my hand off your shoulder just
now...If things came out agen me you would not take my rough old head
and lay it there, where you could not abear my hand to rest...You are
a fair-weather child, and I have reared you so. It's all success that
tells with you...I have got a queer longing on me. A man needs more in
life than only to be proud of his own. Perhaps if Janie's mother had
lived I should not have felt so. She would ha' made it up to me.'

'You never mention your first wife,' said Honoria, in a stifled way.
Her filial sentiment was not great; she did not remember her mother,
and had a vague notion that it was better not to talk of her. Yet in
some inexplicable way she resented the slight to her memory implied by
Longleat's frequent allusions to her successor.

Longleat reddened consciously.

'Poor Sarah!' he muttered--'I married her at the diggings. She wasn't
my sort; she had fine ways. She had some education--she was a London
girl--she...There, do not talk of her...You never knew her--you had
best let her alone--'

'At any rate I am her daughter,' said Honoria. 'You do me an
injustice,' she added hysterically, and left the room, her eyes
swimming in tears.

'Honie, Honie!' Longleat called after her despairingly; but she did
not return. She had her cry out in her own chamber, then stiffened
herself with an air of reserve; so that when she sat down to dinner
with her father she met his tentative advances with cold
incomprehension, and discussed the political prospects with as much
calm interest as though no tender spot had been touched in her heart.

The Premier was in an excited mood. Contrary to his usual custom, he
drank several glasses of wine rapidly one after the other, scarcely
eating, but talking volubly.

'The townspeople are shouting that the Government is in a bad way,'
he said. 'Middleton and his party are chuckling in their sleeves; but
he who laughs longest laughs most. The floods out west have kept five
of our men from getting down. If they don't arrive in time, the
Opposition will have a good chance of ousting us. But I mean fighting,
and if stone-walling tactics will tide me over, by George I'll use
them!'

Honoria asked pointed questions which showed her appreciation of the
situation; yet, with all her interest was mingled a half-contempt for
what she considered the pettiness of the object. What did it matter,
after all, whether Longleat or Middleton were in power?

'You don't seem to get the steam up,' said her father. 'You will be
as excited as any of them when the House meets. Mind you, I am not
saying that we shall not be beaten this time, but I'll let you into a
secret. There's another shot in my locker; I have set my heart on
coming out winner. The Premier of Leichardt's Lands is a big man in
the colonies now, but he will be a bigger man yet before he has done.'

He rose from the table and shook his great shoulders.

'I feel hot and out of sorts,' he said; 'I think that I will take a
stroll down towards the Gardens. You will be going early to bed.
Perhaps I shall turn into the club and see if Dyson Maddox is there; I
fancy that he wanted to talk to me this afternoon.'

Honoria delivered the message that Dyson had left.

'Were you surprised to hear that he was Minister for Lands?'

'No,' she replied. 'He is the most likely man you could have chosen.
I think you have done wisely.'

'He has a good head upon his shoulders. The time may come when he
will step into my shoes. Honoria, I had counted upon your being the
Premier's wife. It has been a bitter disappointment to me that you
have made up your mind agen him. Perhaps you'll think different by--
and-by.'

'No,' she exclaimed defiantly; 'I shall never think differently.'

The Premier looked at her wistfully, and took up his hat.'

'Good-night, my dear.'

He went out and walked down the street, his white linen clothes
making him a conspicuous object in the half-light. It was one of
Honoria's grievances that he did not as a rule change his apparel for
dinner. She watched him from the dining-room windows. As in her
jealous misgivings she had thought probable, he passed the turning
that led to the club, and went on towards the ferry, then was lost to
sight beneath the shadow of the bamboos. The girl smiled grimly and
uneasily. She was ashamed of the suspicion, yet was half ready to
believe that he was on his way to visit Mrs. Vallancy, and had the
miserable conviction that her power was failing her on all sides.

In truth, when be had left the Bunyas, Longleat had no fixed bent for
his footsteps. They had turned unconsciously towards the river, and,
as the boat was lying at the ferry-steps, he got into it.

He was the only passenger, and the boatman Pettit was loquacious as
usual.

'It were a bad thing for folks as could not walk steady to live at
Emu Point. Vallancy had had a close shave of falling in not an hour
since. Not but what a ducking had been like to sober him; and Lord,
how he swore at the Premier! He warn't agoin' to let him carry his
railway. He'd be d--d if the Government stopped in a week after
Parliament opened!'

Longleat boiled with indignation. He reflected upon a promise he had
made the day before, and of a proposition which he meant to bring
forward in the Cabinet on the morrow. Was this the creature for whom
he was about to imperil his political reputation?

Then he pictured the drunken husband's return, his probable ill--
treatment of the beautiful, injured wife. Longleat bethought him of
her words: 'If only there were some place, ever so far north, to which
he could be sent.'

Gundaroo presented obvious advantages.

The Premier loitered about the Point for half-an-hour or more, not
daring to approach the Vallancys' cottage too closely, but keeping a
keen watch upon the light which flickered in the windows of the
drawing-room. A friend met him, and cried:

'Hullo, Longleat! what brings you over here?'

Longleat stammered an incoherent remark upon the heat of the night
and the pleasant breeze that always blew upon this side of the water,
then, with a guilty feeling weighing upon him, retraced his steps.



Chapter XIV. - The Coup D'État.

UPON the 3rd of March the Parliament of Leichardt's Land was formally
reopened. The day was cloudless, and the city wore its most gala aspect.
Flags waved everywhere; they floated from the gates leading to
Government House, from the steamers at anchor in the river, from the
shops in King Street, and the roof of the Assembly Chambers. By eleven
o'clock a great crowd had collected before the entrance to the
Legislative Buildings, and groaned or cheered as the various ministers,
the Oppositionists, and officials walked in.

Upon each side of the steps the Volunteers were drawn up in line, the
band played, and one by one, carriages drove up and deposited their
occupants, mostly ladies in bright apparel, carrying gay parasols.
There was a press forward as Lady Georgina Augmering, the Governor's
wife, descended from her barouche, and was ushered with becoming
formality to a seat upon the daïs.

She was a handsome, dark-haired old lady, with an artificial smile
and gracious address, who always wore fine black lace and heavy silks
and brilliant diamond rings, and who had a firm belief in her sacred
mission as the feminine regenerator of colonial manners.

Shortly after her arrival the band struck up 'God save the Queen,'
the cannons by the river-side boomed a salute, the cheering redoubled,
and Governor Augmering, a short, rubicund individual, who liked his
joke, was a bon vivant, and inspired no particular awe, and who upon
this occasion was dressed in a tight-buttoned blue uniform and a
plumed hat, was met by the President, the officials, and the members,
and duly conducted to his throne.

There ensued a little buzz, during which the ladies arranged their
dresses and the Governor surveyed the scene below him. The chamber was
long and lofty, with a gallery extending along its sides, and was
furnished with carved, morocco-covered benches, and a massive table.
Upon a raised crimson-carpeted daïs, at one end, sat his Excellency in
state, flanked by the representatives of the naval and military
elements in Leichardt's Land. A few steps below him was Lady Georgina,
smiling blandly around; and on a level with her the Chief Justice and
the President of the Council in their robes. Dyson Maddox, in his
capacity of Minister of the Upper House, occupied a seat at the head
of the peeresses' benches, filled with well-dressed ladies, among whom
Miss Longleat and Mrs. Vallancy were notably conspicuous.

The Premier's daughter was all in white, and wore a bouquet of rare
lilies at her bosom. Mrs. Vallancy, in black, with artistic touches of
yellow here and there, and a Maréchal Niel rose pinned into the lace
at her neck, cast rapid glances in the direction of the bar, where the
members of the Lower House would presently appear.

The message was sent; the speech read; the Railway and Loan Bill
commented upon; the policy of the Government expounded. Then the
flutter recommenced; the Governor left the House; the ladies smiled
and nodded; and the opening scene of the political drama was over. It
was a farcical performance, but it involved important issues for the
Premier and his party.

The four missing members, who represented the Government majority,
had not arrived.

Miss Longleat was pale, and appeared agitated. A golden serpent which
she wore coiled round her neck rose and fell with the undulations of
her breath. She resolutely looked away from Dyson, who sat almost
opposite her. Lady Georgina Augmering addressed her kindly, and held
her band in token of affectionate welcome. The Premier's daughter was
a favourite with the viceregal party, but Mrs. Vallancy's timid bow
met with a chill reception.

Mr. Middleton, the leader of the Opposition, a lean, wiry man, with a
bleared eye and saturnine countenance, came up and shook hands with
her. He looked disagreeably triumphant. Longleat appeared dogged and
flushed; Mrs. Vallancy met his eye, and gave him a smile of
understanding.

'He will accept,' she whispered breathlessly, when chance threw them
for a moment together. 'Oh, how can I thank you?'

'There is no need to thank me,' he returned in a low tone. 'I have
done it for you.'

An interesting debate was expected. That afternoon Honoria took her
place in the Ladies' Gallery of the Assembly Chamber. Mrs. Vallancy
was there also, but the women did not speak to each other. Honoria was
haughty and white from repressed excitement; Mrs. Vallancy looked
nervous and elated.

Certain formal routine business was gone through, and an address of
congratulation upon a recent felicitous Royal event was moved by a
member of the Government, and after some sparring, which sufficiently
betrayed the belligerent tendencies of the Opposition, finally
carried. The answering address to the Governor's speech was brought
forward by a bearded squatter, whose powers of oratory had been
hitherto exercised in haranguing his shearers, and who, wandering in a
circle round the central point of his discourse, viz., that the late
tin discoveries had been highly conducive to the prosperity of the
colony, and that the time for railway extension had now arrived, and
taking a generally optimist view of the position, announced that the
proposals of the Government were in all respects satisfactory to the
Legislative Assembly--(cries of 'No--no!' from the Opposition
benches)--adding, that he had not the least doubt of the benefit which
would accrue to the colony from the formation of a railway between
Leichardt's Town and Kooya, and the opening up of easy communication--

'With the Premier's station,' sarcastically interrupted a member of
the Opposition. Whereupon there was a call to order, upon which
another member got upon his legs, and there ensued a wordy and
irregular combat, in the course of which the member for East Warra
Warra denounced the member for North Carramburra as an obstructive
monomaniac, who had so bullied and browbeaten the Chairman of the
Commission which had been called to inquire into the expediency of a
railway, that the result of the Commission had been most
unsatisfactory. In fact, the honourable member for North Carramburra
had shown a dishonourable desire to burke the whole proceedings of the
Commission.

The honourable member for North Carramburra, hotly:

'Mr. Speaker, is the term burke Parliamentary?'

'It is the name of a man--a murderer,' rejoined an occupant of the
cross-benches.

The member for North Carramburra:

'Mr. Speaker, I must state emphatically that what the honourable
member for East Warra Warra alleges against me is a base fabrication.'

Further cries of 'Order.'

The Speaker expressed his opinion that it would be wise if honourable
members would avoid personal allusions, and that it might also be well
to allow the honourable member to proceed, and to answer him
afterwards.

Here was raised the question of privilege, and there ensued a
somewhat disorderly expression of opinion on the part of the brow--
beaten member, which was sufficiently uninteresting to the gallery,
but which was followed by a vigorous onslaught on the part of the
leader of the Opposition, who moved as an amendment, 'That the
proposals of the Government in connection with public works are
eminently unsatisfactory to this House'--a motion tantamount to
withdrawal of confidence.

The Government tactics consisted in talking against time: the young
recruits skirmishing lightly, the great-guns reserving themselves for
heavier work--in the hope that the laggard reinforcements might
shortly appear, while the Opposition was eager to hurry matters to a
crisis, and provoke a division that must result in Ministerial defeat.

In the gallery, the wives of the Anti-Railwayist Faction were
decorously triumphant: the ladies on the Government side looked
crestfallen and mutually sympathetic--yet each hugged the comforting
reflection that her lord might assist in a coalition Ministry. To Miss
Longleat alone the defeat would be absolutely crushing.

She was sitting apart at the lower end of the gallery, while two
Government clerks, upon the other side of the partition, were
discussing the situation, unaware that their remarks reached her ears.
Said one:

'It is likely that there will be an appeal to the country.'

'Very improbable,' returned the other. 'Longleat must put on
considerable pressure to induce the Governor to sanction it. Old
Augmering's time is nearly up, and he is in mortal terror of doing
anything unconstitutional.'

'Longleat has the pluck of the devil,' was the reply. 'Whatever comes
of the debate, I'll back him to win in the long-run. I can tell by the
very expression of his face that he has a charge in reserve. Depend
upon it, Parliament will be dissolved. Have you seen the evening's
Gazette? This Gundaroo appointment will go against him. It looks like
a bribe--yet the fellow is not worth buying. What can have induced him
to give it to Vallancy?'

The other shrugged his shoulders.

'There's a woman at the bottom of it. It is convenient sometimes to
get a husband out of the way.'

Presently Dyson Maddox, whose operations in the Council had been
short, came in to hear the debate, and gained admittance to the
Ladies' Gallery. He had watched Honoria's face with its expression of
pained perplexity till he could not resist coming to her. It seemed to
him that she had cast upon him a look of dumb appeal, and he obeyed
the summons and took his seat beside her.

'I hear,' she said, hoarsely, 'that the police magistracy of
Gundaroo has been given to Mr. Vallancy. Is it true?'

'It is in the evening's Gazette,' replied Dyson.

'Why have you allowed this?' cried Honoria, passionately. 'You are
in the Ministry; surely you had a voice in the matter?'

'I am truly sorry,' replied Dyson. 'You must know that it was done
in opposition to my wishes. Your father made it a personal question.
But I ought not to discuss Cabinet matters even with you.'

'The appointment will tell fearfully against you,' exclaimed
Honoria.

'Undoubtedly. Middleton will handle it presently. We are prepared
for unpleasant language.'

'Oh, I am sick of this!' cried Honoria. 'They say that he has done
it for her sake. It is hateful--degrading...I will go back to
Kooralbyn,' she added suddenly. 'We shall be beaten; why should I
stay? Papa said the other day that I was a fair-weather child; I will
justify his opinion. He has forsaken me. Let him stay with Mrs.
Vallancy. I will return to Janie...And now I am going home.'

Dyson was touched with deep pity for her evident despondency. His
very compassion forced him to place a restraint upon his speech, and
made him appear cold. He escorted her to the Bunyas, but refused her
timidly-given invitation to enter. She ate her dinner alone; then
returned to the House, and sat listening to the speeches till
midnight.

The galleries were now fuller than ever. Opposite her the mob
jostled each other; and the Speaker's anteroom was crowded with
gentlemen, who watched her eagerly as she took her place behind the
railings, not so high but that her face could be plainly seen. Beneath
her, at the head of the Ministerial bench, her father sat, his arms
folded, his eyes downcast, his face sullen. Dyson was now sitting
below the bar. The interest had become intense. There were no loungers
strolling in from the smoking and refreshment rooms. The Sergeant-at-
Arms looked more alert than usual. The Speaker leaned forward over his
desk and listened excitedly. Yet the subject-matter of the debate was
of no State importance.

The leader of the Opposition was still speaking. The Gundaroo
appointment was commented upon in terms far from complimentary to the
Premier. An undercurrent of disgraceful insinuation ran through the
discussion. Honoria's cheeks burned, and Mrs. Vallancy was rigid,
braving shame to avoid suspense. Longleat sat still, with a look of
dogged obstinacy upon his face, and did not raise his head till a
direct charge was levelled against his honour, when he got up and
fiercely denied the allegation against him.

There followed a copious interchange of personalities, and Honoria
blushed deeper. Why did her father descend to such scurrility? This
petty warfare was degrading him. There was about the Premier to--night
none of that rugged eloquence and manly determination which had
compelled her approval, even when she had winced at the misapplication
of an aspirate.

Mr. Middleton stood with outstretched finger pointed towards the
object of his attack, pouring forth a torrent of invective, which was
enhanced in disagreeable reference by the gestures with which it was
accompanied. He could descend to any vituperation which did not exceed
the limits of Parliamentary language. There were cries of 'Order,
order,' but still the rush of eloquence suffered no check. He knew his
adversary's weak point, and would not let his advantage slip. 'What
had been the honourable member's meaning when he had declared upon the
boards of that House that he had never given away a billet from
personal or interested motives? How could he justify to his colleagues
and his antagonists this perversion of his oft-vaunted political
morality?' etc., etc.

At last Honoria felt that she could bear no more. She went home and
dreamed miserably of defeat; but the debate continued all night, and
grey morning crept in upon the combatants as they nodded upon their
benches, or took it by turns to retire for rest and refreshment,
always careful to preserve a quorum.

Except from her point of observation in the Ladies' Gallery, Honoria
saw nothing of her father for the next three days. He fought bravely
when his turn came, shaking himself like a lion, and speaking till
exhaustion compelled him to cease, even drawing one convert to the
Government side by the rough oratory that seldom entirely failed its
mark. But the Ministry was doomed.

Upon the third night the debate was brought to a conclusion. The
House divided, sixteen to thirteen, and the Opposition carried the
amendment by a majority of three.

It was confidently expected that the Gazette extraordinary would
announce the resignation of the Ministry.

There were public meetings of both factions. A violent demonstration
took place in the Premier's favour, and a counter--procession of Anti-
Railwayists solemnly burned his effigy before his own windows. There
were conferences of the Cabinet, and rushings to and fro between the
public offices and Government House. A few days later the Gazette
announced 'That his Excellency the Governor, with the advice of his
Executive Council, would be pleased to prorogue the Parliament of
Leichardt's Land, now assembled prior to its dissolution.'

A sudden blankness fell upon the capital. The late members rushed
back to their constituencies to canvass for the new election; and
Honoria, oppressed by a strange weariness and indifference, returned
to Kooralbyn.



Chapter XV. The Dryad of the Ti-Tree.

DOWN by the creek, deep in the umbrageous shadow of fern and cedar,
Barrington first saw Honoria.

He was driving over from Dyraaba alone, and was skirting the river-
bank in the half-admitted hope of meeting Angela. He was not aware
that Miss Longleat had returned from Leichardt's Town, and it was with
joyful surprise that he recognised in a secluded bend of the creek, a
little below the crossing, the original of Angela's sketch.

Honoria was sitting upon the horizontal branch of a ti-tree, her back
resting against the trunk, her feet almost touching the water, as it
glided over a bed of stones, its melodious murmuring deafening the
sound of voice or footfall, into a deep pool hemmed in by ferny banks.
A book lay upon her lap, a cluster of the crimson bottle-brush flowers
of the ti-tree swayed above her head, a sunbeam striking upon the
coils of her hair made them look like ropes of reddish-gold the
quivering leaves cast delicate shadows upon her white-clad shoulders
and round, white throat, and the water gurgled against one smooth arm,
which, with its muslin sleeve rolled carelessly above the elbow,
drooped lightly into the stream, and made a resistance to the shallow
current. A kangaroo-hound, lying on the ground beside her, barked
loudly at the sight of a stranger.

'Quiet, Durra,' exclaimed Honoria, as she lifted her full eyes from
her book--a yellow-backed tome from the select library of fiction--and
turned them aimlessly upon the opposite bank. But an intervening log,
with fresh sprouts forming a natural hedge above its naked trunk, hid
Barrington from her view. She resumed her reading for a few moments,
then threw down the volume and said aloud:

'Starch, sentiment, and twaddle. It is like a seidlitz powder
flavoured with sugar. Oh, how tired I am of these novels! Conic,
Durra, we had better go home. What is the matter with you now?'

Honoria rose, and looking straight across the creek, met
Barrington's gaze of critical admiration.

She coloured slightly, and bowed, not at all puzzled as to his
identity. She had heard him described by the Ferrises: Aunt Penelope
in especial had been eloquent in her raptures, and, making allowance
for slight hyperbole, Honoria was obliged to confess that she had
painted him with tolerable accuracy. Here was a promising opening for
a drama, in which the hero would undoubtedly possess the outward
essential attributes of his position, and might readily be classed
above that social and intellectual standard implied by the term
'interesting.'

Barrington crossed the little strip of water which separated them,
and, hat in hand, dismounted and approached Miss Longleat. Honoria
looked at him with her wide-open eyes, their expression combining the
innocence of a child with the fearlessness of an animal. The dog still
barked loudly.

'Be quiet, Durra!' said she again, laying her shapely fingers upon
its neck.

Barrington was keenly sensible to harmony of circumstance and
surroundings. This divine creature appeared to advantage against a
background of foliage and plain. Her beauty, viewed under present
conditions, excited a far more warm emotion than it could have aroused
had he made her acquaintance in a European or Australian ball-room. He
was a worshipper of female loveliness, but clearly this Dryad of the
ti-tree represented no type with which he had as yet come into
contact. The region might be classical, and he a new Arcas.

'I beg your pardon for disturbing you,' he said. 'I believe that the
regular crossing-place is higher up the river, but I am not yet
bushman enough to be able to make landmarks of ridges and gullies.
Lady Dolph Bassett advised me to follow the water-course. I think that
I have the honour of speaking to Miss Longleat?'

Honoria signified assent.

'I had the pleasure of staying for a fortnight at Kooralbyn some
little time ago,' continued Barrington. 'I regretted much that both
you and your father were in Leichardt's Town. I felt a wish to make
myself known to Mr. Longleat, and my friend Lord Dolph Bassett, who is
better acquainted with Australian customs than I, who am a stranger,
assured me that I should be welcome a second time. May I introduce
myself? My name is Barrington.'

Honoria bowed and smiled. Barrington's impression of her manner was
that it blended in a curious degree dignity and seductiveness.

'Lord Dolph's friends are always welcome,' she said, 'and we are
glad to see you for your own sake. Mrs. Ferris has told me of you. I
have not been long at Kooralbyn. My father is unfortunately still in
town, but Aunt Penelope will be charmed. I am just going to walk home.
The house is no distance from here, and if you like I will show you
the way. Come, Durra.'

'You have dropped your book,' said Barrington, picking up the
yellow-backed volume she had been reading. 'I am not surprised that
you choose the river-bed for your study. I am in love with the beauty
of Australian creeks. When I last came over from Dyraaba, I met Miss
Ferris at the crossing, and she too was carrying a book.'

'Oh, Angela sits dreaming over poetry for hours. I only read because
it is less tedious than contemplating the gum-trees. As for that
stupid story, pray do not trouble yourself about it; it is of very
little consequence what becomes of it. A stockman might have found it,
and it would certainly have amused him more than it has amused me.
Novels are all alike; they are false and unnatural. I like plays
better. They, at any rate, are real as far as they go.'

'I am surprised that you, a colonial, should complain of the
artificiality of existence,' said Barrington, after a short pause,
during which they had clambered up the bank and gained the plain.
'Australian life strikes me as being so very realistic. I should not
have imagined that you would be blasée.'

'Do not call me a colonial,' said Honoria, with pretty petulance.
'When you have lived longer in Australia you will know that you could
not pay a young lady a worse compliment.'

'I accept the rebuke,' said Barrington, laughing, 'though I don't in
the least know how I have deserved it.'

'To be colonial is to talk Australian slang; to be badly dressed,
vulgar, everything that is abominable,' replied Honoria with grave
simplicity; 'at least that is the general opinion. I have seen
Englishwomen who talked slang, only in a different way; nevertheless
we all tried to imitate them, just as we copy Paris models for our
gowns. You will see that it is the fashion out here to be as British
as possible. Our loyalty ought to flatter your national vanity. You
have lately come from England, have you not?'

'Yes,' replied Barrington. 'In technical language I am a new chum.'

'And do you relish what you call the realism of Australia?'

'It is hardly fair to catechise me, when as yet I have seen no part
of the colony but the Koorong district.'

'Do you like it so far? Do you find the people better or worse than
you expected? You have been staying at Dyraaba. How do you like Lady
Dolph Bassett? She is a fair specimen, I suppose, of an Australian, as
she has never been out of Leichardt's Land in her life.'

'I imagine that one likes or dislikes a woman in proportion to the
amount of interest she excites in one's mind,' answered Barrington.
'Lady Dolph does not affect me in the least.'

Honoria uttered a little laugh. 'It seems to me,' she said, 'that
everybody and everything might be classed under two headings, that
which interests and that which bores. The fault which I have to find
with persons in general is that they don't stimulate my curiosity. I
am perpetually trying to make believe that I am amused and cannot
succeed.'

'You are easily bored, then?'

Honoria approved of his air of repressed inquiry, which conveyed a
veiled complimentary reference to her own particular disposition.

'I am afraid that I don't know enough of the world to define boredom.
I am always fancying that we Australians are like children playing at
being grown-up. It is in Europe that people live--' She paused
abruptly. Barrington smiled.

'I thought so when I first left it; I do not now.'

'Australia is less odious, then, than you imagined?'

'Australia is delightful. There is a thoroughness about it which
pleases me immensely. A few refining touches, and there would be
nothing to desire. All that is lacking are traditional influences, and
they will come in time.'

'But, do you not see?--everything with us is borrowed. We cannot be
original--we cannot even set up an independent government. We must
copy old-world forms, and we have nothing of what makes the charm of
the old world. Our range of view is so limited. We are so ignorant of
life, and ignorant people cannot put out feelers, either deeply or
widely.'

'I think that you do yourself injustice as a representative of young
Australia,' said Barrington. 'The very longing for experience implies
a large capacity for sensation. I feel sure that is your case.'

Honoria looked at him eagerly. She was longing to hear further
analysis of herself, but was too proud to put a leading question or
remark to one so nearly a stranger. Barrington saw that he had made an
impression, and wisely left it to deepen. They had reached the slip-
rails; he let them down, and they walked towards the house almost
without speaking.

Upon the fence the purple passion fruit were still hanging. Mrs.
Ferris poked her becapped head from the window of her cottage, and
bestowed a warm welcome upon her guest. She could not speak too highly
of Mr. Barrington. Janie ran out and clung to Honoria's skirts, and
Angela, who had been sitting in one of the squatter's chairs in the
verandah, gazing dreamily towards the mountain, approached and, with a
joyful smile, gave him her hand.

Who can tell in what subtle harmonies the inner chords of maidenly
consciousness first vibrate at the touch of love?

Since Barrington's departure from Kooralbyn, waking or sleeping, the
thought of him had been ever present in Angela's mind. A dreamy sense
of happiness seemed like an odour to pervade life. Nature and Art
spoke to her in new tones. Poetry was no longer mere passionless
elevation of the soul. Music appealed to a deep-seated longing. The
clouds kissing the mountains, the breeze stirring the leaves, the
flowers bending towards each other on the plain, awakened thrills of
sweet comprehension. The world contained a new element--that of love.
Yet though she felt the influence of this dreamy languor, half
pleasurable, half painful, she did not attribute it to its rightful
source, and greeted the Englishman with all the frankness of innocent
maidenhood.

Mr. Ferris was seated in the parlour, in absorbed contemplation of a
rural scene in water-colours, which he had propped upon a table before
him.

'This is my little hour of recreation, after a day devoted to
unlovely detail,' he said, shaking hands with Mr. Barrington. 'I am
glad that you have arrived at this moment, to see my little gem in so
perfect a light. There is atmosphere for you; you breathe it--it
encompasses you. A hay-field--but what a hay-field! You sniff the dry
grass--the breeze bears the scent to your nostrils. It is English--it
is rural--it is idyllic--it has such a nice feeling.'

Barrington, looking over the old man's shoulder, was more interested
in observing the effect of a sunbeam that shone through the grape-
leaves with which the verandah was tapestried, and cast a reddish glow
upon Miss Longleat's head and face, deepening the shadows of brow and
eyelash, and blending her colouring into a richness of tint that
reminded him of one of Raffaelle's Madonnas. Even Mr. Ferris, glancing
up suddenly, regarded her with a purely artistic admiration, which
changed into snarling depreciation as she passed disdainfully into the
garden.

'You see how she despises me,' he whispered angrily; 'she does not
even fling at me as many words as she bestows upon her dog. What am I
in her estimation? Nothing but the fawning dependent of her rich
father. Well, the time may come...We shall see--we shall, see--'

Mr. Ferris continued for a few moments to mutter wrathful but
inaudible words as he stooped over his picture, then relapsed into a
fit of morose silence, and Barrington walked out into the garden,
attracted by the flutter of muslin drapery beneath the orange-trees
where the two girls, with Janie, were sitting.



Chapter XVI. Barrington and Honoria.

HONORIA was mutely wondering when an opportunity would occur for
approaching the subject of her idiosyncrasies, upon which Barrington had
so lightly touched. The Englishman had impressed her fancy. After all,
had Dyson Maddox but known the fact, it needed nothing so very heroic in
quality to enchain her interest--only a refined address, the prestige of
aristocratic connections, a dexterous knack of handling commonplace, and
a persistent gaze which should be far removed from impertinent
admiration. As Barrington stepped from the verandah towards her, she was
ready to acknowledge that he was the most distinguished-looking person
she had ever met.

Janie was entreating Angela to tell her a story. The child despised
her sister's nursery tales, which invariably dealt with Cockamaroo,
Mother Bunch, and such-like commonplace bogies; but Angela had a
delicious repertoire of fairy lore. There was a dim region beyond the
Koorong Crag, mysterious now in the gathering twilight, which was the
Paradise of water-witches and flower-elves, where dwelt the praying-
mantis, the high-priest of the plain; the souls of black piccaninies,
which had attained the dignity of storm-spirits, and such--like mythic
creatures which furnished food for Angela's vivid imagination.

While the child listened wonder-eyed, Honoria moved a few paces
apart, and Barrington, joining her, asked her the names of two peaks
which rose on the horizon.

They conversed smoothly upon generalities for a little while,
discussed the scenery, the climate, the social characteristics of the
Koorong, the habits of the Aborigines, the signification of native
words. Whilst he talked Honoria abstractedly twisted round her fingers
a serpent bracelet that she wore upon her wrist; it suddenly snapped
and fell to the ground.

Barrington gathered up the links and placed them in her hand.

'Talking of the blacks' language,' he said, looking at the ruby--
scaled head with its diamond eyes, 'are your ornaments emblematic? I
am told that Kooralbyn means, "the abode of serpents."'

'Kooralbong is literally, I believe, "dead serpents,"' answered
Honoria, carelessly. 'I rather like the connection of ideas; there is
something weird and uncanny in it.'

Barrington looked at her fixedly, and repeated--

'Upon her crest she wore a wannish fire.

Sprinkled with stars, like Ariadne's tiar.'

She coloured slightly.

'Oh, everyone who reads, or pretends to read Keats, quotes "Lamia"
to me. But I had rather you did not add to the number. I am sure that
you cannot wish to be commonplace.'

'There is a certain hackneyed phase of admiration which when applied
to a particular object ceases to be commonplace,' replied Barrington,
gallantly.

Honoria laughed consciously, but she hesitated to meet his eyes;
they affected her strangely. Suddenly she looked boldly up and began:

'You said something about me this afternoon--about my character--
which made me think that perhaps you understood me.'

'You see,' said Barrington, 'that to be interesting involves the
penalty of being sometimes the subject of speculation.'

'I should not dislike being studied if--'

Honoria left her sentence unfinished.

'If you could be shown the cause of your vague dissatisfaction. Your
life is faintly inharmonious, and you are conscious of a want which
you can hardly express.'

'Do you know why I am discontented?' said Honoria, dreamily. 'It is
strange, I--' she lifted her head, and said with an effort at gaiety,
'When I know you better I shall ask you to tell me the reason. It
would be hardly fair to put you to the test so soon.'

'I am ready to answer it,' replied Barrington.

Honoria turned and rejoined Angela.

'But what for did the storm-spirits drownd the poor butterfly?'
cried little Janie, the tears running down her cheeks. 'I'll never be
sorry no more for the black piccaninies that die. Little mother, I
think your stories are best after all.'

'Tell me, Janie,' said Barrington, 'why do you call your sister
Little Mother.'

'My mamma is in heaven,' announced Janie, gravely. 'She is big now
that she has got wings--ever so much bigger than she used to be. You
shouldn't talk--you should attend. Angela tells nice stories when they
end well--and some things is true, ain't they?' added Janie,
reflectively.

At that moment a bell ringing within summoned them to dress for
dinner. Barrington stood watching Honoria as she led Janie to the
house, then turned to Angela, who had lingered to gather a flower.

'My little friend,' he said affectionately, 'you look paler than when
I was here before. Are you quite well? Will you row me on the lagoon
this evening?'

Angela shook her head.

'I must go on the water no more at night--it has made me ill. Mrs.
Ferris says that I must stay within. I should not have minded her, but
my father has forbidden me also.'

'I'll!' he repeated. 'Indeed! I am sorry for that. What is the
matter?'

'Oh, it is nothing. I am tired, that is all. I have a cough, and my
appetite is gone, and I sleep badly. But,' she added, 'what difference
does it make whether one is waking or sleeping if one has pleasant
dreams, and those the fairies always send me. Tell me,' she said,
taking his hand, and looking earnestly into his face, 'shall you love
me less now that Honoria has come?'

'Jealous little puss!' he replied, pressing her hand. 'I shall always
love you. Have we not made a compact that you are to be my little
sister?'

She did not answer, but regarded him wistfully for a moment, then
gave him a little bouquet that she had arranged, and went into the
house.

During the evening Barrington observed that Angela was certainly
paler, and much more silent and dreamy than during his last visit. The
presence of Miss Longleat seemed to exercise a withering effect upon
her bursts of innocent gaiety. She resembled a flower which expands
only in certain favoured spots. Sympathy of a subtle kind was
necessary to her happiness, and from her father alone did she appear
to receive it. Mrs. Ferris's affections were principally engrossed by
Honoria, and she had no deeper feeling than generally diffusive
benevolence to bestow upon her step-daughter. The old man watched his
darling anxiously.

'She caught a chill upon the lagoon, and has been ailing ever since
you left,' he remarked to Barrington. 'She is a delicate flower, and
needs the tenderest care.'

It was not thought prudent that Angela should expose herself to the
night breeze, and, after dinner, instead of joining his guest with a
cigar, Mr. Ferris remained within doors, and devoted himself to his
daughter's amusement. Honoria, as was her wont, passed out to the
garden, where, upon the pretext of smoking, Barrington presently
joined her.

'Do you object to my cigar?' he asked.

'No,' she returned, 'it has a nicer scent than those to which I am
accustomed. I am fortunate in not being required to tolerate the store
tobacco. Is it true that English ladies smoke cigarettes?'

'Certainly; would you like to try one now?'

'No, thank you; we have not yet learned to imitate them in that
respect, and I do not know how far I may safely take you as my guide.
I don't think that Mr. Trollope's heroines smoke, and I am always told
that they are patterns of English young ladies. You see we Australians
are under a great disadvantage, and it is rather difficult for us to
decide between the morals of Mr. Trollope and Ouida.'

Barrington laughed. He began to think that Miss Longleat had not much
to learn.

They strolled down beneath the vine trellises, Honoria pausing every
now and then to brush a rose with her lips, or to pluck a blossom from
above her head. He was bewitched by the beauty of her figure as she
lifted her arms. She plucked some strawberry guavas, and handed him a
few of the red berries upon a leaf.

'Come,' she said, 'let us eat our dessert by the lagoon.'

'With all my heart,' said Barrington; 'it would be a sin to spend
such an evening as this within doors.'

They walked to the lake and sat down beneath a mulberry-tree that
grew upon the bank.

'If there were only a moon one could see the distant mountains
distinctly,' said Honoria. 'How still and solemn it is!' she waved her
hand towards the wide plain with its bosky border and dim background.
'You can have nothing like this in Europe.'

Barrington relit his cigar, and puffed for a few moments in silence.
The night-sounds deepened his sense of novelty. Every now and then
there was a whinnying call from one horse to another; the melancholy
cries of the curlew and morepork, alternated with the gurgling note of
the swamp-pheasant. Save their own voices, there was no human
utterance--the shadowy solitude seemed infinite.

The surface of the lagoon brokenly reflected the stars overhead.
Sirius shone resplendent; and the Southern Cross dipped majestically
behind the Koorong Crag.

'You must be very fond of this place,' said Barrington.

'I have not lived here much. I was educated in Sydney. Since I left
school, I have only passed a few months of each year at Kooralbyn. I
should not be here now had not the session ended so suddenly.'

'You take a great interest in politics?'

'I play at taking an interest in politics, because there is nothing
else to make my life exciting. And then, as you know, my father is the
Premier. Naturally, I am a part of his success or failure. But
sometimes I am ashamed of my eagerness...I thought the whole thing
farcical the other day when Parliament was opened. It never struck me
in quite the same light before. I was horrified to think that I knew
no better...You must feel as I do. You must look upon our statesmen as
marionette figures dancing to a set tune--isn't it so?'

Barrington laughed softly.

'You despise what is familiar. To me, life here has all the charm of
novelty.'

'Yes, that is true; but it does not give me any comfort. Most people
with cramped experience have no wish to enlarge their sphere of
thought and action. I try to believe that I am unlike the rest of the
world--our world. I dream that I shall be this or that in the future.
I plan even for the morrow. I picture an existence in which I shall
feel exquisite bliss, or keen pain--I do not much care which--anything
but vegetation.'

She threw her head back, and clasping her hands behind it, looked at
him with bright, excited eyes.

'The poetic temperament has always an infusion of dissatisfaction,'
said Barrington. 'You are tormented by an inward craving, which will
give you no rest till it is appeased.'

'What must I do? I do not care much about the things I know, or the
people with whom I am thrown. I want something altogether new--I
cannot endure to go continually over the same ground. Tell me how I
can make myself contented.'

'You must love,' said Barrington, deliberately.

Honoria's eyes sank before his steady gaze, levelled from underneath
his straight brows, and charged with communicable fire. She was half
repelled, half fascinated, and shrank back against the tree.

'Don't,' she cried, 'don't look at me so. It--it makes me afraid.'
Then she shook herself together and laughed, as though ashamed of her
involuntary confession of weakness. 'You must not think that I mean
everything that I say. I am a person of impulses. Sometimes I have an
impulse to like; sometimes to detest. You recommend me to fall in
love--to marry. Do you not think that you may be condemning me to a
lifelong imprisonment within a narrow circle of domestic interests.'

'Why must married life be necessarily vapid, and domesticity
commonplace? Why not rather an effective background for drama, in
which the performers need not be limited to two? I am convinced that
to make the most of life one must cultivate many-sidedness--feel with
the emotive--see with the spiritual--analyse with the critical--glide
rapidly from one sensation to the other--dipping, as it were, into
every nature with which one is brought into contact, and extracting a
grain of enjoyment from each. To gain this end one must have no strong
individual aspirations, no special idiosyncrasy except a keen
susceptibility. One's own destiny must be decided...and yours is still
doubtful. Every woman is restless till she has probed the mysteries of
womanhood.'

'Perhaps you are right,' said Honoria. 'I will think over your
advice. You must have seen a great deal of the world; and of the
pleasant things in it. I am surprised that you should have wished to
come out to Australia. Perhaps you don't intend to remain here.'

'On the contrary, I have every intention of going through my course
of colonial experience. There is one crime that is never pardoned in
England, Miss Longleat.'

'What is that?'

'Poverty.'

'But I have heard...your brother is--is rich, is he not?' asked
Honoria, naïvely.

'He would tell you that for his position he is a pauper. That has
nothing to do with me. I suppose I ought to confess that I have run
through a younger son's fortune. But a man must float with the tide in
England. To catch far-off glimpses of my old life would have been to
suffer the tortures of Dives. So I have brought my modest competency
to Australia, in the flattering hope that I may double it.'

'Wealth is not of much account out here. Everyone works. A great many
people are poor. I see there are advantages in a free country.'

'So my mother thought,' said Barrington. There was a tinge of
bitterness in his tone, which Honoria perceived.

'Your mother is in England,' she said softly. 'I like hearing of
other women--of English women especially. Do you mind talking of her?
Will you tell me what she is like?'

'She is très grande dame of a type you do not know, for it does not
exist in Australia. Her fetish is the family glory--her hero the
eldest son. She is a rigid conventionalist, but you would never find
it out, for she is soft as velvet. She dresses beautifully, her face
is like that of a Greek statue. She is passive in manner, yet her
influence has the most extraordinary power upon everyone with whom she
comes into contact.'

'And is there anyone else? Have you any more ladies belonging to
you?'

'There is my sister-in-law, Lady Barrington. She is a London beauty,
but piques herself upon being a devoted wife and mother. She talks the
shibboleth of the great world: hunts after royalty, and might be
sympathetic if she were not so brainless. Then there are half a score
of cousins, none of whom would be the least interesting to you.' He
glided on to commonplace topics; talked of Paris and London, of Scotch
scenery, and trips to Norway; described Castle Barrington, as it lay
among the Yorkshire moors, and, in a well-bred unostentatious manner,
made apparent his claims to social distinction.

Honoria's egoistic temperament rarely permitted her to feel deeply
interested in any conversation of which she was not directly or
indirectly the subject, but to-night she forgot to speculate upon the
impression she was making, so powerfully was her own fancy aroused.
Yet there was something faintly uncomfortable in the effect which his
long looks produced upon her nerves. She felt tremulously excited and
uncertain of herself. At last she rose discomposedly and proposed that
they should return within doors and persuade Angela to sing to them.

Barrington slept in a little white-curtained chamber in the Ferris's
cottage. A white lily in a vase upon the dressing-table conjured up
visions of the lagoon. He guessed that Angela had placed it there. The
night seemed long. His slumber was broken, and he had vivid dreams. In
the morning he awoke with an excited sense of pleasure at the thought
of prosecuting a new experience. Although he was well aware of his
extreme susceptibility to feminine attractions, he was yet surprised
to find what a strong impression Honoria had made upon his
imagination. 'She belongs to a new type,' he said to himself, as he
dressed. 'I must study her.'

He had ample opportunity for so doing during the next few days, spent
in lounging about the garden, in picturesque walks by the river--
banks, in tête-à-tête rides and long desultory conversations. Under
such conditions attraction might be expected to ripen rapidly into
intimacy.

Honoria appeared to him to be a mass of contradictions. One half of
her nature was poetic, the other material. She was frank to boldness,
and ignorant without giving the impression of innocence, so that he
could not satisfy himself where her knowledge of the world began and
where it ended. Often he thought her ardent--occasionally cold. All
that he felt certain of was that she had an intense curiosity in all
matters of sensation, and he was determined to see how far it would
lead her.

Underlying his speculations there was the distinct understanding that
she was a prize, which, could he but win it, would enable him to
remodel his career to his complete satisfaction. As Honoria Longleat's
husband, life would be no longer barren. But she was just the sort of
woman upon whom it was impossible to calculate with any degree of
certainty. The spontaneity of her nature gave her continually new
starting-points. The very interest which he was confident of having
inspired might by a momentary caprice turn to aversion. He had dabbled
a little in science, as he had dipped into the philosophy of art and
love, and had bestowed considerable thought upon the reproduction of
hereditary traits.

'It is inconceivable to me,' he said one day to Mr. Ferris, 'that a
woman of rough parentage should show so many outward traces of
refinement.'

The old man chuckled malignly.

'Ah! I see of what you are thinking. It would ruffle your family
prejudices if you were to impale the arms of a bullock-driver upon the
Barrington shield. Make your mind easy. Where there is wealth, no one
asks questions. Money gilds deeper stains than that of labour. But the
blood runs thick. We shall see.'

'You misunderstand me,' replied Barrington. 'I looked at the subject
merely from an abstract point of view. I think,' he added
thoughtfully, 'that there must be a strain of genius in Miss
Longleat's nature, which partly explains its manifold
inconsistencies.'

'Genius!' said Mr. Ferris, derisively. 'You degrade the sacred
title.'

'I said the "strain of genius." My dear sir, there may be a strain of
insanity, which need not imply the necessity for confinement in a
lunatic asylum. I should more properly have termed it passionate
intelligence.'

'Dear heart!' said Mrs. Ferris innocently, mystified by the above
dialogue, which had taken place in her hearing, 'I never noticed
anything particularly clever about Honoria. I have always been
thankful, for my part, that she was not born a genius. They are poor
creatures at the best of times, and she is a fine strapping girl that
it is a pleasure to see. I am sure the way she has devoted herself to
Janie is just wonderful. There is something noble about her that folks
in general don't heed.'

In spite of his eager attendance upon Honoria, Barrington contrived
to devote some time and thought to Angela. She was at this period much
occupied with her painting, and it was in her studio that her sweetest
hours were passed. Thither he often followed her. Her love had given a
fresh impetus to the prosecution of her art, and her feverish
excitement, arising from a cause which she knew not how to define,
found relief in work. She appeared more silent and self--engrossed
than ever, at the present time, preferring solitude and musing to the
buzz of companionship. Her fluctuations of innocent gaiety were less
frequent than of old, and the shadow which had always encompassed her
seemed to have deepened into a mournful tenderness, which even
Barrington's light caresses, bestowed lavishly as upon a lovely child,
hardly dissipated. He accepted her guileless affection as though it
were a breath of that tender perfume of womanhood which was so
necessary to his existence; and if her wistful eyes, mutely demanding
something which he had not to give, aroused a faint feeling of self-
reproach in his mind, it was speedily allayed by her unconscious
acceptance of his fraternal attitude, and her own childishness which
seemed to place her beyond the pale of ceremonious restrictions.

It became a custom with Barrington and Honoria to spend every evening
an hour or more by the banks of the lagoon. The nights, warm and
still, starlit and laden with the dewy scent of flowers, were
provocative of suggestive conversation, in which thoughts and words
flowed in unconventional channels, and dangerous allusions were
tentatively uttered and softened by that mingling of daring and
tenderness which, in the case of such men as Barrington, was
calculated to exercise a powerful influence upon a woman of Honoria's
temperament.

Yet she had sometimes a helpless sense of being dominated by an
influence of which she had not rightly estimated the strength, and
felt a terrified longing for guidance, in which her thoughts turned
instinctively towards Dyson Maddox. In her efforts at self-analysis
she vainly asked herself why she, who had hitherto accepted the
adoration of her lovers with regal self-complacency, should suddenly
have become a prey to vague tremors and alternate fits of excitability
and silent depression, when either her spirits were at boiling-pitch,
or a heavy load seemed laid upon her heart and her tears flowed
readily. Whence had arisen these strange thrills, which could not be
exactly defined as either painful or pleasurable--that sensuous
intoxication succeeded by moments of horrible revulsion, during which
she hated both herself and him?

One evening, when their talk had drifted from generalities to
personal subjects, Barrington stooped suddenly, and gathered one of
the half-closed buds that floated upon the lagoon.

'These lotus-lilies,' he said, 'remind me of a type of womanhood
which I know--passionate, yet pure--combining the frankness of
innocence with the strongest susceptibility to the influence of love.'

Honoria took the lily from his hand, and held it against her flushed
face.

Barrington went on:

'You know whom I mean. Such a creature could only have had birth in
a wild free atmosphere. She belongs to woods and streams; she is the
classic nymph--the essence of womanliness. You are the ideal
Australia. Could I pay you a higher compliment?'

'I dislike flattery; in some moods it irritates me. And you always
speak so strangely. I never know how far I may place confidence in
you.'

'To women who have trusted me I have always been loyal,' said
Barrington, deliberately. 'But I might turn the tables upon you. How
far are you sincere with me? What do I know for certain of your
position? It is said upon the Koorong that you are to marry your
father's colleague, Mr. Maddox.'

'That is not true,' replied Honoria, gravely.

'I am told also that you are a dangerous coquette--that you lead men
on to love you, and then coldly reject them.'

'It is no crime in a man to be attractive. Why should a woman be
denied, the use of her only weapon?'

'You plead guilty, then? You are a coquette?'

'I confess to being fond of power,' said Honoria.

'You seem to tire easily of most things,' said Barrington. 'There
must be a sameness in receiving perpetual adoration. Would it not be a
change if you were to stoop a little, and to love--'

'It would be a change certainly,' said Honoria, trying to speak
without consciousness. 'I do not think that it would be an agreeable
one.'

After this, they were both silent. She knew that his eyes were fixed
upon her; and though she would have given much for the power to lift
her head and resolutely return his gaze, she dared not do so. She had
a longing to rise and shake herself free from the fascination which
was creeping over her and numbing her powers of resistance. She
trembled, and was ashamed that he should see how she was moved. Her
only safety seemed to lie in flight, and she made confession of her
weakness by leaving him.



Chapter XVII. 'You'll Get the Crooked Stick at Last.'

ONE morning, while they were all lingering over the breakfast-table,
there was a barking of dogs without, a vigorous cracking of
stock--whips, and presently Lord and Lady Dolph Bassett, accompanied by
Cornelius Cathcart, dismounted at the gate.

'How do you do, Honoria?' cried Lady Dolph in her good--humoured
drawl--'how do you do, Mrs. Ferris? Oh, no fear that we are not
hungry--why, we started at six o'clock this morning. I said to Dolph
that we should have to hit off pretty sharp if we wanted to be in time
for breakfast. We have come to see after our new chum--oh, there you
are, Mr. Barrington! And Dolph has got some green notion in his head
about a gully that is down by Dyraaba Creek, and that he wants to turn
into a kind of rockery like the Springs over here.'

'I say, Miss Longleat, it is no end of a stunner!' said Lord Dolph,
excitedly. 'I always said that I should never be contented with
Dyraaba till I had found as jolly a spot as the Springs within half a
mile of the head station. But there's a gully behind Jaff's Peak that
only wants some of that hoya and creeping stuff that grows over the
rocks to make it perfect. And I have brought over a pack-horse on
purpose to take back roots. You will let us ride out to the Springs
this afternoon?'

'I am very glad that you have come,' said Honoria. 'We have been
planning an expedition to the Koorong Waterfalls to-morrow. You will
be able to get some plants there. I was thinking of writing to ask you
to come over. I did send a note to Mr. Maddox. Is he at Barramunda?'
she added, turning to Cathcart.

'He was electioneering for Sandy Stewart at Canoona yesterday,'
replied the manager. 'I dare say that he will get your note this
evening, and will ride over before breakfast to-morrow.'

'You have had a narrow escape from a parson,' continued Mr. Cathcart,
as they all sat down to a relay of hot scones and boiling coffee,
which Mrs. Ferris had promptly provided. 'One of the army of the
faithful turned up at Barramunda a few days ago, and held a service in
the dining-room. Lord! how he pitched into us for our ungodliness; but
when I explained to him that we had not had a black coat on the place
for ten years, he was forced to own that it was by God's mercy we were
not greater sinners. As our black-boy remarked, "That fellow cawbawn
woollah woollah."[1] It was quite the case. He told us that there was a
mighty field for his labours on the Koorong district. Anyhow, he was
well paid, for each of the men had to fork up ten bob for his ghostly
counsel. How I detest that unctuous self-sufficient tribe which is so
plentiful out here! He started off to come to this station; but Bully
Dick, who owed him a grudge, led him into a bog, and left him to his
fate. He was last seen splicing up his buggy wheels, and vowing that
the accident was a divine indication that there were no souls to be
saved "over there." Rather rough upon Kooralbyn--eh, Mrs. Ferris?'

'Indeed,' said Aunt Penelope, 'I'd be glad to see a decent clergyman
if the bishop would only send us one. I'm not too clever to mind my
religion, as is the way with some people,' glancing maliciously at Mr.
Ferris, who stroked his beard; 'but what is the use of a little black
shrimp that has not got an h in his head, and can only tell us that we
are all nigh to 'ell? It's an insult to a body's understanding.'

At luncheon, the whole party, with the exception of Angela, appeared
prepared for the ride to the Springs--a picturesque ravine in the
mountains.

Later, Barrington sought the girl in her studio, and found her with
her palette untouched, seated at the window, wistful and unoccupied.

'Are you not coming with us, Angela?' he asked.

'No,' she replied; 'I am not going either to-day or tomorrow. I do
not care for these foolish chattering people. I will stay and occupy
myself with my art and try to be happy. Do I not know what they call
me? I have heard Lady Dolph say that I have "a shingle loose." Her
laughter gives me a pain here,' touching her head; 'and besides, I
want to be alone.'

'You shut yourself up too closely,' said Barrington, pressing her
hand. 'Are you well, dear child? Your flesh is hot and feverish, and
your voice weak.'

'Oh yes, I am well,' replied Angela; 'I only want to be alone. I
shall go down to the river and listen to the water murmuring, and
perhaps the spirits will come and talk to me and still my pain. You
must go--they are calling you.'

He lifted her hand to his lips, and left her. The rest of the party
were mounted.

'Angela is working,' said Mr. Ferris, as he passed. 'She is out of
her element here. It is better that she should be left to herself.'

For the first few miles Barrington rode beside Lady Dolph; her
husband with Honoria. Mrs. Ferris, who was always aggrieved if
debarred from these expeditions, wearing a voluminous grey habit, and
a mushroom hat tied beneath her chin, was escorted by Corny Cathcart;
and the old man, wrapped in poetic musings, brought up the rear.

'I am glad that you like Barrington,' said Lord Dolph,
diplomatically, to Honoria. 'I think myself that it is a pity he left
England. He has not been used to roughing it. I am certain that
Australia will not suit him. Now I rather like the fun of blacking my
own boots upon occasions.'

'What made Mr. Barrington leave England?' asked Honoria directly,
somewhat doubtful of Hardress's plea of poverty.

Lord Dolph looked confused, and evaded the question.

'Oh, he had his reasons, I suppose! Some fellows like change. He was
in the Life Guards--no end of a swell in London. But a man needs a lot
of money to keep up in these crack regiments, and Barrington is a
younger son, and has not got a brother like Headington to fall back
upon. Sir Lionel is a beastly screw. I say, Miss Longleat, Barrington
is better suited for office-work than for the bush. Your father does
not want a private secretary, or a treasury clerk, does he?'

'My father would not give a Government post to anyone who had not
good claims upon the country. He hates the suspicion of favouritism--
at least--'

And Honoria stammered and coloured.

'You are thinking of Vallancy's appointment. What a deuce of a row
the papers kicked up! I never could see the reason of it myself, I
dare say that he is a very good fellow, but it is a pity that he has
the reputation of being such a brute. Do we stop here?'

Miss Longleat had reined in her horse before a log-hut situated in
the bend of the creek.

'Only for a moment. I want to say good-bye to Grannie Deans before I
go to Leichardt's Town. I shall not have another opportunity. Sam
Deans will be out of prison next week.'

'I hear that he swears vengeance against the Premier for getting him
put into the lock-up. Shall I help you down, Mrs. Ferris?'

'No, thank you,' replied the old lady. 'I am not so fond of
encouraging Sammy Deans as some folks are'--with a side-glance at her
husband--'and if I once got off my horse, I should never get up again.
Good-day to you, Mrs. Deans,' she added kindly, addressing a hard-
featured woman, who, with her gown tucked up, and a calico sun-bonnet
on her head, was feeding a small family of chickens at the door. 'And
how are your poultry getting on?'

Whereupon there ensued a discussion anent the laying capabilities of
Spanish and Dorking hens, in which Lord and Lady Dolph joined with
deep interest.

Miss Longleat passed into the hut, where, in an inner chamber, an old
woman lay bedridden.

She was stretched upon a poorly-furnished wooden settle, her
attenuated frame covered with a patchwork quilt. Myriads of flies
buzzed among the limp mosquito curtains, and a tin billy containing
some cold tea stood on a small table by the bed-side. In an old
kerosine tin by the open window bloomed a fine geranium, and the wall
was papered with leaves from the Illustrated News.

'I have come to bid you good-bye, mother,' said Honoria.

The old woman raised a yellow, wrinkled face, and extended a lean
hand.

'You are going to Leichardt's Town, then. Well, I am sorry, for it is
dull here sin' Sam was sent to quod, and her'--indicating by a glance
the woman without--'has to look arter the stock. No fear of her
a'stealin' any of your cattle. But I don't bear no malice--happen Sam
'ull do that when he comes out...So you are agoin' among the fine
folk. Now's your time to enjoy life. You'll never be no younger.
You'll be dancing, I suppose?'

'I dare say, Mrs. Deans.'

'I warn't brought up to dance,' said the old woman. 'I wur one of
ten, and a religious family; and I wur a good age when I come out to
this country. There's folks outside, ain't there? Is't Mr. Maddox?'

'No,' replied Honoria; and she enumerated the party by name.

'Corny Cathcart is sweet on you, they say. I don't think much of him,
but his snarl is waur than his bite. T'other's a new one. Happen a
whipper-snapper from England. You'd be too good for he. Mind what I
say'--and she laid her hand impressively upon Honoria's arm--'don't
you try to pick and choose. If you do, you'll get the crooked stick at
last. Do ye mind now?'

'Yes, mother; but how is a girl to know?'

'Ay! how is a girl to know?' repeated Grannie Deans, reflectively.
'There's some as takes you unawares like, and some as grows upon you.
Choose him as has knowed you the longest, and has loved you the
truest. I've heard that you are one to give men a heartache. Maybe
your own 'ull ache some day.'

'Good-bye, mother,' said Honoria, hurriedly. 'I mustn't keep them
waiting outside. If Sam will be civil to me I'll come and see you
again when I am back from Leichardt's Town.'

'He meant no harm,' said the old woman, sullenly. 'If Longleat had
ha' left him alone he'd a done no worse than brand a calf or two, and
what's that to you that have got thousands? But I can't answer for him
now. He has been in quod, and the boy has died since they took him.
It'll drive him nigh wild to see little Joey's grave...Happen it were
old Ferris and his grog and his Shakespeare that's done the mischief.
Take my advice, and look sharp arter that old man. He has led my Sam
astray and he has no love for you or for your father either.'

The rest of the party had ridden slowly on, but young Mrs. Deans,
still feeding her poultry, was conversing with Barrington in a north--
English accent, curiously blended with the Australian drawl.

'Hur arn't half a bad un, arter all's said and done,' she was
saying, as Honoria emerged from the hut. 'Hur have got some feeling.
Since Longleat put Sam into gaol, and the little un died, hur have
come to see us, and have brought mother flowers and wine, and such
like. I used to think hur one of the stuck-up sort as hadn't a thought
but for beaus; but I hain't got nought to say agen hur.'

The riders resumed their way, following the fringe of swamp oaks
which marked the bed of the creek. Hanging branches of scented jasmine
brushed their shoulders. Sometimes the river-banks closed in steep and
rocky; sometimes broadened into a level pocket overgrown with bracken
fern and blady grass. Sometimes the stream flowed in murmuring
accompaniment to their talk; sometimes the water-course was shallow,
dry, and stony. Now they were in a valley where sleek kine stood knee-
deep in the rich pasturage, and the she-oaks dropped their cones, and
the hills on each side, crowned by a dark-green belt of scrub, rose
higher and steeper, so that though it was early in the afternoon of a
March day, they were in deep shade. The country looked as lonely as
though no human foot had ever trodden it. Every now and then, the dogs
would startle a covey of wild-duck, or a herd of unbroken horses would
dart away into the fastnesses of the mountains.

'Pr'r!' exclaimed Lord Dolph, taking imaginary aim with the butt of
his stock-whip, an implement which he always carried, whether it was
likely to be necessary or superfluous. 'Don't this put you in mind of
the capital day's sport we had last year by Jaff's Peak?' he added,
turning to Cathcart. 'I say, Barrington, you should have seen me shoot
two wild horses at one go! I saw 'em start, and I pulled up my gun--
one barrel after another--it seemed like nothin' at all--and down they
fell--two of 'em!'

'I hate the idea of shooting horses,' said Honoria. 'I'd as soon kill
Durra.'

'"A steed came pricking o'er the plain,"'

softly quoted Mr. Ferris, lost in an undertoned rhapsody.

'And indeed, Anthony,' said Mrs. Ferris, 'that's just nonsense. I
don't understand what ye mean by pricking. If ye said trotting,
cantering, or even ambling, there would be some sense in your remark.'

Now the mountains rose high in front, and they entered a trough,
evidently of volcanic origin, cleft between two hills, in the centre
of which ran a clear winding rivulet. Here they dismounted, and gave
their horses into the charge of a black-boy and of Mrs. Ferris, who,
calculating upon being able to reascend by means of one of the huge
boulders scattered about, alighted, and, professing herself unequal to
the exertion of climbing, seated herself contentedly upon a rock and
produced her knitting.

Mr. Ferris wandered off with his sketch-book to hold silent commune
with nature.

'Oh!' exclaimed Cornelius Cathcart, in a jerky aside to Honoria, 'I
like this. It's what philosophers call altruism. It's so wholesome to
ride behind the person with whom you are dying to talk, and watch her
flirting with some one else. It is still more salutary and elevating
to one's morals to sit on a stump holding the bridles of three horses
and being bored by an old lady's twaddle. I wonder why I came to
Kooralbyn?'

'I wonder why, indeed!' laughed Miss Longleat. 'Aren't you coming up
to the Springs?'

'No, thanks; I'll stay here. I prefer being bored by the old lady to
boring the young one. And after all,' he added, meditatively, 'if I am
bored, it is all in the day's work.'

He subsided into a heap upon a fallen tree. Honoria gathered up her
skirt, and poising her feet firmly upon the slippery stones, crossed
the limpid stream which flowed down the cleft. On each side, beneath
the overhanging rocks, ferns and moss grew in dank luxuriance.
Mountain lilies bloomed in feathery white tufts in the crannies, and
the wild hoya, sweet as honey, spread its dark green leaves and waxen
blossoms over the grey, lichen-covered stones.

The natural passage terminated in a high wall of rock, surmounted by
a fringe of scrub foliage. At its base was a deep, mysterious pool,
surrounded by jagged boulders, into which descended with a monotonous
plash a small volume of water, flowing down a narrow ravine that cut
laterally into the side of the hill.

Lord Dolph, in an ecstasy of delight, armed with a dillybag and a
trowel, clambered up the precipice to search for roots. Lady Dolph,
who was not greatly affected by the beauties of nature, seated herself
upon a jutting rock, and pulled out of her pocket a cookery-book that
Mrs. Ferris had lent her. Honoria moved apart, and stood gazing
contemplatively into the water. Barrington joined her.

'I like to look into this pool. Cobra Ball declares that it has no
bottom. This is a lonely, eerie place, but for me it has an
extraordinary fascination. Mr. Barrington,' she added, turning
impulsively towards him, 'I have half a mind to tell you of a strange
dream that I had last night.'

'Don't hesitate, but let me hear it.'

'This place reminds me of it. I thought that you and I were
struggling together in just such a tarn as this, only that there was
no outlet on any side. The rocks which closed in round it were black
and slimy, and when I tried to clutch them, my hands slipped away
helplessly, and I was becoming exhausted. I grasped your coat, but you
pushed me off. It seemed to me that you were in no danger, and that
you looked on at my gasping efforts with a horrible smile. The inky
water was just closing over my head. I screamed, and awoke with a
ghastly sensation of drowning.'

'An unpleasant nightmare,' said Barrington, 'but easily accounted
for. Every evening lately, before going to bed, we have sat at the
edge of the lagoon. It was natural that the idea of water should
suggest itself in your dreams.'

'We will stay indoors for the future then. There are not many nights
remaining. I am going to Leichardt's Town immediately. But I have more
to tell you...I lay awake for a long time, alert and trembling. Do you
know the nervous terror that creeps over one in the dead of night--a
sense of infinite loneliness and helplessness and of contact with the
spirits of darkness?...I fell asleep again, and this time I dreamed
that we--you and I still--were standing side by side in our drawing-
room at the Bunyas. You had your eyes fixed upon my face, and I felt
instinctively that you were magnetising me. I know nothing about the
subject except what I have read in novels. It has always seemed to me
a terrible notion that one human being might gain a moral ascendency
over another. I remember you told me the other day that you were
interested in the subject of mesmerism.'

'There again,' said Barrington, 'is the clue to your nightmare.'

'I beseech you, if you possess the power, do not ever attempt to
exercise it upon me. The feeling in my dream of vital collapse was
insupportable. I seemed to struggle against a nameless horror, with
the certainty of being conquered. It was worse than drowning.'

'I am afraid that you blame me for having caused you a restless
night,' said Barrington. 'But we are fellow-sufferers; there must be
some sort of an affinity between us. I slept badly also, and had vivid
dreams, in which you played a prominent part.'

At that moment Lord Dolph's head appeared above the rocks. He was
laden with ferns, creepers, and parasites--vegetable spoils of all
kinds.

'I have got what I wanted!' he cried. 'And now, Miss Longleat, if you
don't mind, I think that we'll push home. I must put my roots into
moist earth, and keep 'em as fresh as possible.'

[1. [cawbawn woollah woollah] 'Talks a great deal.']



Chapter XVIII. Music in the Verandah.

BARRINGTON gave Miss Longleat his hand, and guided her over the
stepping-stones. Lord Dolph and his wife divided their botanical
treasures; and they walked down the ravine to where Cathcart and the
black-boy were holding the horses.

'Have you heard much about the elections?' asked Honoria of the
superintendent, as they stood waiting for Mr. Ferris to reappear.

'No; I believe the Ministry will have a majority; but I don't take
much interest in politics.'

'Fie! when you know that I dislike a lukewarm supporter almost as
much as I detest a Radical.'

'I thought your father called himself a Radical?'

'Only in his hatred of the hereditary privileges of rank. An English
Radical is an Australian Conservative.'

'I don't dislike the extreme brood: they generally have ideas. Now,
Sammy Deans is a fair specimen. At any rate he is amusing; and if he
does steal a calf now and, then, I know several squatters who are
given to "nuggeting." He is mischievous, because he has just enough of
education to convince him that all men should be equal, and that
Australia ought to be a regenerated Great Britain--the Paradise of
fools and working men; but he is a less objectionable member of
society than the illiterate shearer who occasionally touches his cap
to his overseer and knocks down his cheque in a spree. Come--there is
the old man! Perhaps you will reward my silent heroism by allowing me
to ride part of the way home with you? Mrs. Ferris has been improving
the occasion by impressing upon me how happy she is. I don't object to
people feeling happy; but I do complain loudly of having the fact
dinned into my ears; it irritates me when I am feeling particularly
out of sorts myself.'

Near the crossing they met Tom Dungie, who, with his mail-bags
strapped before him, was riding leisurely along the bridle-track. He
regarded Barrington with an air of amusement.

'Well, I thought as I'd find you 'ere,' he squeaked, 'Gents ain't
much different to native dogs--they always run on a trail. I have
brought your bag, my lady. The house at Dyraaba was as empty as a
sucked egg and that there female at the huts didn't so much as offer
me a cup of tea. I have got a note from Barramunda station, Miss
Longleat. 'Twur Mr. Maddox himself as guv it me.'

Honoria coloured as she took it from his hand.

'Since you have been done out of your tea at Dyraaba, Dungie, you may
have a glass of rum at the house.'

'Well, I don't know that I shouldn't relish a nobbler,' squeaked
Dungie, winking slyly at Barrington. 'Not but what it is poor soil
that is always needing to be watered, and too much grog ain't good for
the palate, let alone for the stom-jack.'

'You do not read your note,' said Barrington, as they passed through
the slip-rails.

'I will wait till I reach home,' said Honoria, not unpleased to make
use of the opportunity of teasing, at the same time dreading to show
any sign of the mortification which a refusal upon Dyson's part would
certainly entail upon her.

She had despatched her invitation during one of those moments of
repulsion from Barrington, when her longings had turned in a rushing
tide towards the suitor she had rejected. Ever since the sending of
the letter she had been anxious as to its reception.

When she had gained her room, she eagerly tore open Maddox's note. It
was a brief acceptance, and intimated that the writer would arrive at
Kooralbyn early upon the following morning.

In truth, a chance remark uttered by Lord Dolph Bassett, and certain
rumours of a flirtation between Honoria and the Englishman, which were
current upon the Koorong, had affected Dyson deeply, and had actuated
his reply. From what he had heard, he imagined that Barrington might
be a man calculated to captivate the girl's fancy. The tones of her
note appealed to him. Half dreading, half hoping for the confirmation
of his suspicions, he resolved to ride over to Kooralbyn and judge for
himself.

Through a gap in her window-curtain Honoria caught sight of
Barrington, as he leaned against the fence talking lightly to Janie.
Was it the glimpse of his soldier-like figure and high-bred features,
or the perusal of Maddox's curt letter, which shed a glow over her
face, and caused her heart to throb with excitement? She leaned back
in her chair with her arms twined above her head, while her bosom
heaved gently, her lips became moist and trembling, and her eyes
melted into womanly tenderness, as though at some passionate thought.
Then she darted from her seat, plunged her face into a basin of cold
water, and hastily proceeded to dress for dinner.

Towards the end of the meal the conversation turned upon the fate of
an overseer in the neighbourhood, who had died in a fit of delirium
tremens, due to disappointment in a love affair with his master's
daughter. Lady Dolph animadverted severely upon the conduct of the
girl in question.

'Is a woman heartless,' asked Barrington, with his eyes fixed upon
Honoria's face, 'because she refuses to gratify the passion of one man
at the expense of the happiness of another?'

'I object to the theory that women are to blame for the folly of
men!' exclaimed Cornelius Cathcart. 'Why should the weaker sex be
raised to such an important position in the scale of creation? One
would really imagine, to hear sentimentalists talk, that the male
mission in life is to gratify the vanity and caprice of women. Society
would be a little less boring if there were no question of love.'

'I think that we women always get the worst of it,' said Honoria,
rising abruptly from the table. 'Come, let us eat our dessert in the
verandah.'

Her suggestion was adopted; only Barrington and Angela lingered in
the dining-room. Honoria wandered to some little distance from the
party, and Cathcart, following her, seated himself at her feet.

'Why do you speak so bitterly of women?' she asked.

'I detest shams. It is degrading to hear man quoted as the superior
animal, and yet to know that he is at the mercy of inconsistent
selection.'

'Do you think,' said Honoria, looking at him with troubled eyes,
'that a woman is wrong to experimentalise till she finds the best that
life can give her?'

'Why cry out so against vivisection? The cruelty which serves
science is surely less blamable than that which morally mutilates for
the benefit of the individual. Tell me,' he added abruptly, 'what has
come over you since I was last at Kooralbyn? You have altered; you
seem to have lost self-confidence. Did you see Maddox on his way down
to Leichardt's Town?'

'Yes; for a short time.'

'I knew his mission. Will you tell me its result?'

'There is nothing to tell.'

'Nor ever will be--in that quarter?'

'No ....'

'So he is the victim of an experiment. If I had not studied you
closely, I should have expected to find you today wearing the simper
appropriate to congratulations. I see further experiments are in
progress. Some chemicals are dangerous to handle, and there are
passions that don't bear tampering with. Take my advice, and be
careful. Well,' he added in an altered tone, 'I am glad at any rate
that you have spared me the painful necessity of leaving Barramunda.
There would not be room on the station for the superintendent and the
master's wife.'

'I say, Miss Longleat,' cried Lord Dolph, 'won't you play us
something?'

'Yes, do,' said Cathcart. 'It is one of the signs of the advance of
civilisation that men are no longer compelled to turn over leaves. I
have got no more conversation. Sing, and, let me be quiet. May I move
this chair into the garden? Thanks. Now I can enjoy two of the most
delightful things in the world--music and tobacco.'

He subsided in a heap into one of the canvas chairs, lit his pipe,
and spoke no more.

Honoria entered the drawing-room and sat down to the piano.
Barrington, to whom music was exquisite bliss or keen pain, trembled
as she approached the instrument. He feared disenchantment. Strangely
enough, during his stay at Kooralbyn, it had never occurred to him to
ask her to play, and she had never done so voluntarily. About her
music, as about other things, she was capricious. When the opening
prelude told him that, in this respect at least, their natures were in
unison, his joy found vent in a long sigh.

He was accustomed to say that melody is one of the strongest
determinants of the passions. From his childhood its influence over
him had been remarkable. The first time that he had heard an opera, he
had retreated to the back of the box and wept silently. There was
something almost womanish in his intense susceptibility.

Honoria played airs from 'Lohengrin'. The lamp had not yet been
brought in, and the room was in half darkness. Outside, a red moon was
slowly rising behind the Koorong Crag, and was reflected in the dim
expanse of the lagoon; the sombre disk of forest and plain seemed
infinite; the gentlemen were smoking on the verandah, and Angela, pale
and shadowy, was pacing the gravel walk with Mr. Ferris; who was
pointing out an effect of moonlight upon the rocks. Barrington sat in
a vine-screened corner whence he could watch the player. Honoria
appeared lost in her music...Now she passed on to some quaint
devotional airs by Bach...Passion succeeded reverie; a great yearning
predominated over both. There the true artistic life found expression:
the subtle perfume of emotion was breathed, and, as it were,
enchained: the two minds, dissonant and mutually incomprehensive, were
brought for the moment into complete harmony. 'Yes, yes,' the music
seemed to say, 'I understand your needs, your inconsistencies, your
fleeting impressionability--the mingling of the sensuous with the
spiritual in the natures of both of you. I comprehend and I satisfy.'

'Ah!' said Mrs. Ferris in a plaintive tone to Lord Dolph, I wish she
would play something of Verdi's. I like music that sends a cold
current down my spine, that makes my legs tingle and my nerves quiver.
Italian melodies are like the flowers of an English summer. They have
the breath of roses and the perfume of mignonette. But your grand
classical harmonies are no better than these gorgeous tropical
blossoms, that only make me long the more for something homely and
sweet, like lavender and cherry-pie.'

Lady Dolph giggled, as she always did when anything was said that she
did not quite understand. The spell was broken. Honoria ceased
playing. Lady Dolph's voice had been the jarring note which mars all
earthly harmony.

She sank into a chair a little distance from Barrington.

'I think that the lives of some of us are a long quest after
aesthetic perfection, which is most nearly realised in music,' he said
in an undertone, drawing closer to her. 'I do not thank you; I only
say that you have not disappointed me.'

'Barrington,' said Lord Dolph, 'you are first-rate without an
accompaniment. Sing us something--it is so jolly sitting here.'

'I never sit in a verandah in summer,' said Lady Dolph, 'without
thinking of snakes, especially when anyone is playing. They are so
fond of music. They creep along the boards, and get under one's gown,
and perhaps wind themselves round one's ankles. Do you remember,
Dolph?' etc., etc.

'Dear heart!' cried Mrs. Ferris, feeling her stout legs in alarm: 'I
never thought of that. Angela, my child, it is too late for you to be
sitting out in the dew. Let us both go indoors.'

'I will sing to you,' whispered Barrington to Honoria.

Silence fell upon the group as soon as his voice was raised in that
exquisitely passionate serenade, to which Shelley's words are set:

'I arise from dreams of thee. In the first sweet sleep of night.

When the winds are breathing low, and the stars ire shining bright.

I arise from dreams of thee. And a spirit in my feet

Has led me--who knows how?--to thy chamber-window, sweet.'

Honoria leaned back in her chair, half shading her face with her
hands. The light was too dim for either to see quite plainly the
features of the other; but she knew that each thrilling note was
addressed to her, and her frame quivered in response to the passionate
appeal.



Chapter XIX. A Picnic in the Mountains.

UPON the following morning, when, after a disturbed night, Honoria
entered the breakfast-room, she found that Dyson Maddox had already
arrived.

His manly aspect, the mingled sweetness and firmness of his
expression, struck her with a sudden force, which revealed too clearly
how far her thoughts had wandered in another direction.

'You must have started very early,' she said.

'I left Barramunda at daybreak. The early morning is the most
pleasant time for riding. I met Cathcart at the Crossing.'

'He has gone, then?'

'Yes; he thought that one of us ought to be on the station. There
were butchers expected.'

'I--I am glad that you have come,' said Honoria, hurriedly.

He looked at her gravely without replying, and she resumed in an
embarrassed manner:

'I heard that you were canvassing yesterday. What news of the
election?'

'It is going well for us,' replied Dyson. 'Your father is more
popular than ever. The squatters will have a walk over.'

At that moment Barrington entered, and Honoria introduced the two
men, who had not met before. Maddox was stiff and ungenial. Barrington
courteous and indifferent. Honoria was ill at ease; her self-
possession had vanished, and her complexion alternated between
paleness and flushing. Dyson could not help observing that there
seemed a covert understanding between her and the Englishman. The
latter frequently addressed her in a low tone, as though there were
some veiled meaning in his remark; when their hands touched, her eyes
drooped; when she spoke to him, her voice had a faltering intonation;
when she looked at him, there was a timid consciousness on her face.
All these signs Maddox noted and interpreted. And the more he watched,
the colder and sterner his manner became.

Soon after breakfast the horses were brought round, and the party
mounted. Only Angela and Mrs. Ferris, both unequal to the long
excursion, remained at home. Cobra Ball, leading a pack-horse, rode in
front; and a tribe of kangaroo-dogs brought up the rear. The air felt
clear and fresh, with the foretaste of winter, though the sun was
powerful enough to scorch Lady Dolph's freckled complexion. The
atmosphere was perfumed by wild flowers and scented gum, and the lush
grass upon the plain was studded with orchids and violets. As they
left the slip-rails behind, a flock of white cockatoos rose chattering
and screeching from the cultivation paddock, where the yellow squashes
and green preserving melons were lying bare of leaves, and a black
gin, with her head bound in a crimson kerchief, stood, a picturesque
object, among the late corn.

They crossed the river and skirted the scrub, dim with the dense
luxuriance of its dark green foliage, enlivened here and there by
patches of brilliant bloom, of yellow begonia, and feathery muntein,
while clusters of wild plums and black and crimson berries announced
the close of summer.

All round them was the hum of forest life; bright-hued butterflies
and whirring locusts flitted among the tangled brushwood. Every now
and then a rustle in the grass betrayed the whereabouts of an iguana
or a snake. Sometimes they were startled by the strange cry of the
tree-frog, or the hissing sound with which the frilled lizard
accompanies the erection of its ruff. Now, they started a herd of
kangaroo. The graceful brown creatures with their fawn-like eyes and
drooping paws, still for a moment, then bounding in long fleet strides
over the brow of the ridge, the dogs following in full cry; and even
Cobra Ball, in spite of the encumbrance of his pack, unable to resist
the infection of sport, spurred his horse, and uttered vigorous
halloos.

'I must have a gallop,' cried Honoria, casting a rapid glance at
Barrington, and lightly touching her spirited chestnut.

Accustomed to its mistress's vagaries, the animal, which was indeed
the pride of Thomas Longleat's stables, shook the reins upon its neck,
cleared a fallen tree, and darted at breakneck pace through the thick
timber with which the hill was clothed. Dyson, with the zest of a keen
sportsman, and a seat that defied accidents, pushed past Honoria in a
race to the fore. It was dangerous riding. The slope was stony,
encumbered with logs and brushwood, and heavily timbered. At its foot
was a gully, and then a wide plain covered with the waving purple
grass peculiar to that district, which conceals many a treacherous
pitfall. Beyond, again, were ridges and never-ending vistas of trees.

The Englishman, with a vivid recollection of Leicestershire runs,
felt his blood rising to the sport. The kangaroos had divided, and
were being pursued in different directions by the excited dogs; but
one 'old man,' bounding in a straight line across the plain, showed
easiest chase, and looked as though he meant staying. The hounds,
every vein in their sleek brown hides swelling with eagerness and
effort, were in hot course. Honoria was poised like an Amazon upon her
saddle, her skirts brushing the grass as she rode neck and neck with
Dyson. Her cheeks glowed with a brilliant carmine--a long trail of her
hair, loosened by the wind, floated behind. Every now and then she
darted a glance at her companion in the rear.

At the foot of the opposite ridge, the kangaroo turned and faced his
assailants, holding himself erect and striking with his paws at the
dogs which closed round him. His tongue protruded, and the blood
flowed from a wound in his side. Dyson advanced to put an end to the
struggle. Honoria turned, and, joining Barrington, whose horse had
slackened speed, rode more slowly across the plain towards the others
on her right.

'Now you have seen a kangaroo-hunt,' said she. 'It is short enough;
but I could gallop like that for hours. That brisk stirring of one's
blood is perfect enjoyment. No danger is too great to face when one is
on horseback. I sometimes go out on purpose when there is a
thunderstorm rising, in order to have the pleasure of racing it
home...But there is one drawback to excitement--some one, or
something, is sure to suffer. I cannot bear kangaroos to be killed. I
should detest fox-hunting if it were really done in cold blood. In
this sort of thing one has no time to think, and as often as not the
kangaroo escapes.'

Presently Cobra Ball rode on ahead with the kangaroo's tail swinging
at his saddle, and the poor 'old man' was food for carrion crows.

They rode on through tall gum-trees and yellow wattles, with here and
there a clump of grass-trees, their bare stems, tufted tops, and
spear-like spikes contrasting with the lank eucalypti, and breaking
the monotony of foliage.

As they advanced, level pastures and undulating ridges ceased. Before
them towered the rock-bound sides of the Koorong Crag. The track grew
more and more indistinct, and the country became stony and arid,
intersected by deep gullies and ferny ravines, that afforded scant
foothold for the horses, and were sufficiently alarming to make the
most practised bushman careful.

'Now then!' cried Lady Dolph to Barrington, as they dipped into a
gully, and were confronted by a stony pinch almost as steep as the
crag above them, 'spur up that crawler, or he'll jib before he gets to
the top. Sit forward, and lay on like old gooseberry to his mane.'

At last they had reached the highest spur below the Koorong
precipice. It was flat as a bowling-green, and quite untimbered. Below
it, for miles, stretched a sea of blue-green foliage, with waves of
wooded ridges. To the left lay a range of distant mountains, their
rocky outlines bathed in the golden glow of Australian sunlight, and
flecked with the shadows that chased each other across the blue.
Directly upon the right rose a forest of pines hoary with moss, their
interlacing branches describing vistas of impenetrable gloom. A rocky
rampart, five hundred feet in height, reared itself in front of the
riders. Ferns and mountain-parasites clung to its rugged sides. At its
base, a little stream of clear water trickled over a bed of stones and
lost itself in the scrub. The buzz of woodland life had ceased, and
the stillness and solitude were almost oppressive.

'That fellow Debbil-Debbil like it there,' said Cobra Ball,
confidentially.[1] 'Cawbawn big water-hole, lie along a scrub. My word,
plenty fellow bunya bunya. Other fellow black men come, eat; but ba'al
sit down here. That ole woman mother along a Cobra Ball go bong like
it this place. Black fellow say, "Ba'al, me wantem that ole woman.
Suppose me dig em hole, and bury close along a camp, she get up again.
Me carry that ole woman budgery way, and put in ground close up
scrub." Mine think it Cobra Ball stop here and look after yarraman.
Ba'al, that fellow go along a scrub.'

'Get the billy, Cobra Ball, and set the fire alight,' cried Dyson,
energetically.

The explorer was at his ease in such scenes as this. He chose a shady
spot for the encampment, and cut some grass-tree-tops to make a couch
for the ladies.

'We had better eat our luncheon,' he said, 'before we attempt the
waterfall.'

Cobra Ball filled the black quart at the spring, made a fire with
twigs, and set the water to boil. Lady Dolph superintended the pint--
pot tea, and Barrington and Miss Longleat unpacked the luncheon--bags.

When the meal was over, the ladies girded themselves for the
mountaineering, and, leaving their horses under the black-boy's
charge, the little party made their way for half a mile through the
scrub.

Progress was here a matter of difficulty. Dense brushwood and
closely-packed saplings presented an almost impenetrable hedge, and
luxuriant, large-leaved creepers hung in long withes from the branches
of the tall trees. In the centre, as it were, of this wilderness, they
came upon a small clear plain, which skirted the edge of a deep
ravine. Honoria approached lightly to the side, and holding with one
hand to a tree that grew near, peered over into a chasm cleft in the
mountain of rock some hundreds of feet in depth. Flowing down a
subterranean water-course, of which at a considerable height the
progress was abruptly checked, a large volume of water dashed over the
precipice into the pool below.

'My word!' said Lady Dolph, after having contemplated the scene for
several minutes. 'It's awful grand, isn't it? but I am close-up done
with the walking. I think that I'll take it easy for a bit,' and she
sat down calmly and began to munch some wild plums which they had
gathered in the scrub.

'I am in the mood to explore,' said Honoria; 'who will come with me?'

Two of the gentlemen answered to her call. Mr. Ferris produced a
pocket Shakespeare, and deliberately seated himself upon a log.

'Well, I am glad that some one is going to stop,' said Lady Dolph.
'Mr. Ferris can read poetry if he likes. I think I'll go to sleep.
You'll find me here when you come back, and give a coo-ee to let us
know where you are.'

'You'll come,' said Honoria to Dyson, her tone implying command.
Barrington and Lord Dolph had already moved on. Soon the four figures
had disappeared in the mazes of the scrub.

Lady Dolph, after several attempts to draw Mr. Ferris into
conversation, quietly composed herself into slumber.

When she awoke the air felt chill and damp, and it seemed as though
she had been asleep for a long while. A strange sense of unreality
overpowered her. She had forgotten where she was. The booming of the
waterfall, mingled with the tones of Mr. Ferris's voice, as he
fervidly ranted Othello's address to his dead mistress.

Lady Dolph rubbed her eyes, and looked round. Her companions had not
yet returned. She began to feel a little frightened, for she had heard
Mr. Ferris described in colonial parlance as 'cracked.' She knew
nothing of Shakespeare, and distrusted the sound of Othello's eloquent
self-upbraidings.

'I--I wish that you would stop,' she said nervously. 'I don't
understand all that bosh. I'd like to know the time; it seems getting
late. Don't you think they ought to be coming back?'

'It is nearly five o'clock,' said Mr. Ferris, looking at his watch.

'My word!' exclaimed Lady Dolph in consternation, 'if this doesn't
bang everything. They must have got bushed. Dolph is such a greenhorn.
If I had a stockwhip, I'd crack it, smart. Let us give a shout--'

The old voice and the young were raised in prolonged coo-ees.
Presently an answering call resounded through the forest.

'It's all right,' cried Maggie; 'that is Dolph's voice. They are
coming.'

But only Lord Dolph's round face and stripling figure emerged from
the scrub.

'Where are the others?' cried Maggie and Mr. Ferris.

'Hullo! aren't they here? I stopped to cut down this staghorn fern.
Ain't he a beauty, Mags? We'll put him on to our verandah post. By
jove, it is odd they haven't turned up! I have been loitering for ever
so long in the scrub. I thought that I should have found them here.
Miss Longleat was wild after quantongs,[2] and they said that they would
come back by the gully. Let us coo-ee again.'

And once more long musical notes hovered in the air, but produced no
reply.

[1. [That fellow Debbil Debbil...] 'The devil is there. There is a big
water-hole in the scrub, and many bunyas ' (a species of fir, bearing an
edible cone). 'Other blacks come and eat, but do not remain. Cobra Ball's
mother died near here. The blacks said, "We do not want that old woman. If
we bury her near the camp, she will haunt us: we will carry her a long way
and bury her in the scrub." Cobra Ball will stop here and look after the
horses; he will not go to the scrub.' (The blacks have a superstition
that the spirits of their dead haunt the spot where they die for a year.)]

[2. [quantongs] A berry growing in the scrub, the kernels of which are
strung into necklaces.]



Chapter XX. In the Scrub.

THE stillness of the scrub was almost oppressive as Honoria and her
companions wandered on. Trees of giant stature, and of almost primeval
growth, closed thickly over their heads, and shut out all the glare of
sunlight. As the brushwood became less dense the bottle--trees reared
themselves aloft like great white pillars, and on every side there
stretched dim vistas of trunk and foliage, resembling cathedral aisles
roofed with pendent moss. The glossy bunyas, laden with their ripening
cones, promised an aboriginal feast. Strange creepers and brilliant-hued
flowers tapestried the grey irregularly--shaped stones, which seemed
scattered promiscuously upon the ground; and at every moment fallen
logs, moss-grown and worm--eaten, impeded their steps.

Avoiding Honoria, Dyson walked on in front with Lord Dolph, only
turning to say sharply:

'Do not forget that we are skirting the ravine, and may chance
unawares upon a precipice.'

The ground was rough, and once or twice Miss Longleat stumbled.

'Won't you take my hand?' said Barrington.

The words were commonplace enough, nevertheless her cheeks flushed
and her eyes brightened with inward excitement as they met his. She
was torn between two impulses--the one to overtake Maddox and beseech
his protection from a peril she dared not name--the other to yield
blindly to the fascination which Barrington's voice and touch were
weaving round her.

'No,' she replied brusquely, 'I don't want help!'

'We are coming to a stony place,' continued Barrington, steadily. 'It
is rough walking. You had better accept my arm.'

'Why do you force me to do what I dislike?' cried Honoria, at the
same time stretching forth her hand, which was immediately enclosed in
his. 'I am accustomed to being independent--I hate to be helped over
rough ways...But all day long I seem to be fighting against your
influence--it is stronger than I. It makes me feel--do--what is
abhorrent to me in every way--little and great...I don't know how it
is,' she added, with an uncertain kind of laugh; 'I have changed
lately.'

'That is what I wish,' said Barrington, and his grasp upon her
fingers involuntarily tightened.

'Fie!' exclaimed Honoria, recovering herself, and trying to appear
saucy. 'You pay me a poor compliment. Most people like me best as I
am.'

'I do not wish to be classed among "the many" by you,' said
Barrington. 'It is my longing that you should think of me as apart
from others--otherwise I should have no influence over you--and I am
ambitious...New possibilities are dawning upon me and upon you,' he
continued; in eager, tremulous tones. 'If you would listen to the
faint stirring of your emotions--if you would obey the impulse of your
heart, we might both know the keenest joy possible...What is better
than to love? Oh, stoop and be sweet to me. There is nothing
commonplace about you--you cannot do things by halves. It is not in
your nature to be contented with stale sensation. You will take out of
life what is best worth having. That is what I wish to give you--the
best that I know of.'

'And if I do not think it worth accepting?' she said in a low tone.

'You must do so if you allow yourself to feel. Do not steel yourself
against the promptings of your womanhood. I implore you do not hold
yourself aloof from me. At least,' he cried insistently, 'let me meet
your eyes...You are not afraid to look at me? Honoria--'

He drew closer to her, and she felt herself compelled to turn her
face towards his. Reluctance and fascination were blended in her
glance. His lips and eyes were eloquent with passion, which
communicated itself to her frame. It was unwholesome intoxication, but
potent while it lasted. Her lips trembled and moved
inarticulately...With a violent effort she wrenched herself from his
grasp.

It was at this moment that Lord Dolph paused to cut down his
staghorn fern, and announced his intention of rejoining Maggie.

'A fellow cannot lug this about, you know,' he said, 'and I dare say
Maddox and Barrington will manage to gather your quantongs for you,
Miss Longleat.'

Dyson turned to Honoria, and caught the swift glance of appeal which
she directed towards him.

'Should you like to return?' he asked.

'Oh, not yet. This is delightful. There is nothing so fascinating as
exploring; you know that, Mr. Maddox. I have set my heart upon getting
some quantongs for a neck lace. The blacks say that there are plenty
in this scrub. Lord Dolph may carry back his fern--we will go on.'

She spoke with feverish gaiety. Inwardly she was reflecting that
there was greater safety in a trio than in a quartette.

After walking a little way, and conversing constrainedly about the
scenery and the vegetation, they came upon a quantong-tree, and
pausing beneath it, began to pick up the fallen fruit. Mutual
embarrassment made the occupation engrossing, and before long they had
filled pockets and pouches. Against a narrow line of brushwood a few
paces off there lay a fallen tree, which offered an inviting resting-
place. They sat down and began to sort their spoils. There were so
many berries, each containing a shapely nut, that Honoria might string
a dozen necklaces.

'We are a long way from the camp,' said Dyson, 'and it is nearly four
o'clock; we ought to be turning our steps.' He spoke wearily, as
though the excursion had no zest for him. Honoria leaned forward and
looked questioningly into his face, but he avoided meeting her eyes.
It needed all his self-control to enable him to stifle any active
expression of his hatred and jealousy of the Englishman.

'It is very pleasant here,' said Barrington, 'and there is a bright
moon. Surely we have no need to hasten home.'

As he spoke, an unlucky movement of his arm broke off a rotten limb
of the log upon which they were seated, and sent it crashing to the
ground. Like lightning, a flat brown head protruded itself from
beneath a piece of the loosened bark, and a whip-snake, whose shelter
had been rudely disturbed, reared itself upon its lithe body, and made
a dart at Barrington's arm that hung carelessly over the broken
branch; then glided swiftly past Honoria's feet into the underwood.

The girl started forward, and Barrington, uttering an exclamation of
horror, made a step backward into the thicket--and disappeared.

There was a rustling among the leaves and grass, a rumbling as of
falling stones--and then silence.

'Good God!' exclaimed Dyson, 'we have been sitting upon the very edge
of the chasm.'

Honoria pushed her way through the thick brushwood, and parting the
branches that screened the ravine, stood on its border, and looked
down.

They had been walking down hill through the scrub, and the precipice
at its foot was of no very alarming depth. Immediately below her,
Barrington, perfectly sensible, was trying to lift himself from the
stones upon which he had fallen.

'Do not be frightened,' he said with complete sang froid. 'The thing
has bitten me, and I am afraid that my other arm is hurt a little--
that is all.'

He made another more vigorous effort to rise, which drew from his
lips a sharp cry of pain, and his eyes closed as though he were
fainting.

Forgetting Dyson, who was already half-way down the descent, Honoria
flung herself from tree to tree, and dropped at Barrington's side.

Dyson pushed her away, and lifting the Englishnaan's left wrist,
already visibly swollen, he drew his bowie-knife from his belt, and
made several cross incisions on the two purple spots which marked
where the snake's fangs had entered; then he bound his handkerchief
tightly as a ligature above the elbow.

'I have got some brandy in my flask; it is under the quantong-tree.
Try to rouse yourself, and suck the poison from your arm while I go
and fetch it.'

'Yes,' said Barrington, faintly. 'It is this other arm that is so
confoundedly helpless.'

Suddenly Honoria bent forward, and before either of the men could say
her nay, she had placed her young fresh lips to the bleeding wrist,
and was drawing the poison from the wound. There was small danger in
the act, yet it was one at which most young ladies would have
hesitated. Neither then or afterwards could she account for the
impulse which had prompted it. She went on sucking steadily till Dyson
had returned with his flask, the contents of which he made the
Englishman swallow.

'That will do,' he said gravely to Honoria, and fetched her a
pannikin of clean water from the rivulet beside them. 'Rinse your
mouth well out with this, and leave him to me. It was not for you to
do such a thing. You are certain that there is no scratch upon your
lips into which the poison could enter?'

She shook her head and did as he bade her, glad of the opportunity to
turn away her head. She had caught a long passionate look from
Barrington which, with her mind still full of the agitating
remembrance of his words, dyed her face with blushes. These signs of
embarrassment Dyson noted, though he appeared engrossed with the
sufferer. He had continued to draw the poison from the snake's bite,
and was now examining the other arm, which was clearly injured.

'I am afraid that it is broken,' he said; 'but that is of comparative
unimportance, compared with the bite. You must have more brandy. I
will run on towards the camp as quickly as possible, and you must
follow with Miss Longleat. On no account give way to any feeling of
stupor. I will coo-ee every now and then; but try to keep me in sight.
Come--moments are valuable.'

The pain in both arms was acute. Barrington turned ghastly pale as he
rose to his feet, and, with Dyson's assistance climbed the hill. Only
iron resolution kept him from fainting outright. Dyson ran on ahead,
and Honoria and her companion followed as speedily as they were able.
The way was uneven, and Honoria's habit, that had become disarranged
in her exertions, caught upon the rocks and twigs and impeded her
steps. Several times she stumbled.

'I cannot offer you a hand now,' said Barrington. 'I reproach myself
horribly upon your account. You will be worn out before we reach the
camp. How can I thank you for being so brave--so devoted?'

'It was nothing!' she exclaimed harshly. 'I would have done the same
for anyone.'

'No, you would not!' he cried fiercely. 'You know that you would not.
Why do you say that now?'

He turned livid, and the drops of sweat gathered upon his forehead.

'You are in pain,' said Honoria.

'What does it matter about that? You could make my pain heaven if you
chose. Say that you did it for me.'

She was silent.

'Say it,' he repeated insistently. 'Tell the truth.'

'If you are certain that it is the truth,' she replied, with a short
laugh, 'where's the use of my repeating it?'

'You did it because you love me!' he cried passionately. 'You love
me--I know it. Now I am so full of joy that I do not care what happens
to me.'

'You make a great mistake,' she said coldly, yet faltering. 'I--I
almost hate you sometimes.'

'Don't say that. It is not true. Why did Eleanor suck her husband's
wound? Because she loved him better than her life. And you--you love
me.'

'You are delirious. I ran no danger. Go on,' she added cruelly. 'You
must not lag, or it will be too late for the brandy to do you any
good.'

And they spoke no more till they had joined the Bassetts.

When they reached the camp, she left Barrington to the tender
offices of the rest of the party, and stole away behind a rock, where
she sat, with beating heart and heaving bosom, till she heard Dyson's
voice calling for her.

By this time it was growing dusk.

'We have pulled the bone together as well as we were able,' said
Dyson, cheerfully. 'Mr. Ferris is something of a surgeon. As regards
the snake-bite, we have dosed him well with brandy. All danger is
past. He will take no hurt. The virus is not so deadly at this time of
year. You need not be anxious.'

'You fancy that I care specially because I sucked the poison!' cried
Honoria, hysterically. 'Ah well! think what you please, what does it
matter? I would have done the same for anyone...I am tired--I feel
unnerved--I wish that you would put me on my horse, and don't let
anyone talk to me. I will never come out on an expedition like this
again.'

He mounted her, and they joined the others, who were clustering round
Barrington. The Englishman was pale, and had his arm in a sling, but
he bravely professed perfect ability to guide himself. Where the
narrow track permitted, Lord Dolph rode beside him, and led his horse.
The evening was closing in, and they were obliged to make as brisk
progress as Barrington's helpless condition would allow, in order that
they might get out of the broken country before nightfall.

There was a glory of sunset upon the mountains. Every peak stood out
distinctly against the yellow sky. At first the sharp crags were of
the colour of gold, then they became magenta and crimson, and finally
purple. Gradually the light faded out of the west, the moon rose, and
one by one the stars came forth; Aldebaran and Orion shining high in
the blue vault overhead, and the Southern Cross rising clear above the
horizon.

Cobra Ball rode before them, his light Crimean shirt looking ghostly
through the trees. The night-birds sent forth their cries, and the
native dogs howled in the scrub which they were skirting. The hum of
busy life that had surrounded them during the day had ceased, all that
remained were inarticulate murmurings in the bushes and the grass.

They were all very silent. Even Lady Dolph was weary and disinclined
for conversation. Dyson only spoke to utter the merest commonplaces;
and there was a choking sound in Honoria's throat when she answered,
which warned him that she was on the verge of hysterical weeping.

Angela stood like a pale wraith in the verandah, watching for the
return of the riders. She flew to Barrington's side, when, more dead
than alive, he was lifted from his horse and conveyed to his bedroom.

She was left alone with him for a moment, while Mrs. Ferris went out
to search for linen to bandage his arm.

Now, for the first time in their intercourse, a sense of shame and
concealment overpowered her. Never before had she hesitated to meet
his eyes frankly or to clasp his hand. Now she glanced at first
guiltily towards the door, and then longingly at his unconscious face.
She would have sunk to the earth could he have seen, or felt, the
kisses which she reined upon his nerveless fingers.

'Oh my love, my love!' she murmured--'my life! I know--I know.'

She went out into the night, and lifted her flower-like face to the
stars. It seemed to her that they only--so pure and so far--might
witness her maiden ecstasy.

'Oh my life!' she murmured in passionate tones. 'I longed for
something to worship. I was lonely--and now I have you. You are my
sun. I must look towards you, or die.'



Chapter XXI. The Lips That Were The Nearest.

HONORIA passed a restless night. She had vivid dreams, during which she
wandered in a mysterious forest that was infested by dread shapes, whose
pursuit she tried in vain to flee. She awoke panting and oppressed by a
terrible midnight dread. Barrington's eyes seemed to haunt the darkness.
They were like evil things before which she cowered. Her limbs tingled:
her head sickened and throbbed. In the distance a storm was brooding.
The lightning flashed intermittently, and low growls of thunder sounded
like supernatural warnings. The electrical condition of the atmosphere
intensified her nervous excitement.

Sometimes she fancied that she heard Barrington groaning in his
chamber, not far from her own. She felt almost impelled to rise and
ask if he were in pain. The night seemed never-ending. All through the
darkness she lay with her nerves in a state of tension, till morning
broke and the towing of the milkers, the stampede of horses to the
yards, the cracking of stock-whips, and other sounds of station
activity, seemed to mock at her nocturnal fears.

When she took her place at the breakfast-table, she was told by Lord
Dolph, who, with Mr. Ferris, had paid occasional visits to
Barrington's room, that the invalid had passed a feverish night, and
that the broken limb still caused him considerable pain.

'I am sorry to say that we are obliged to leave him,' said Lord
Dolph. 'We must start home this afternoon. It is no end of a bore, but
Maggie and I are due in Leichardt's Town to-morrow, and cannot put off
our journey. However,' he added, 'I am certain that Barrington could
not be in better hands, and that we need not concern ourselves upon
his account.'

'I want to go to Leichardt's Town,' said Honoria, suddenly. 'Will you
take me?'

'Delighted, I am sure,' replied Lord Dolph, looking dismayed, for he
and Maggie had congratulated themselves upon the turn events were
taking. 'But, I say, isn't it rather hard upon poor Barrington?'

'I shall be ready whenever you please, and am much obliged for your
escort,' said Honoria, haughtily waving the innuendo. 'Mr. Ferris,
will you give orders about my horse?'

Maddox appeared at breakfast in riding-gear, and announced his
intention of starting for Barramunda immediately after breakfast. His
eyes sought those of Honoria, but she looked defiantly before her.
When the meal was over, the party separated, Lady Dolph accompanying
her husband and Mr. Ferris to inspect a certain prize bull, and Mrs.
Ferris departing to make jelly for the invalid. Honoria and Maddox
were left alone on the verandah.

'Janie,' said he to the child, who came hanging on to her sister's
skirts, 'go and find Aunt Penelope.'

'You must not order me,' said Janie, with dignity. 'Little mother,
I'll be a good girl if you will let me stay with you. This is how
little girls behave when they are good;' and she put on a demure
expression, and seating herself upon a stool, twiddled her thumbs.
'I'll get "Robinson Crusoe," and stay very quiet.'

'I must say good-bye in a moment,' said Dyson. 'Have you really
determined to go with the Bassetts to Leichardt's Town?'

'Yes; I shall not come back to Kooralbyn till the session is over.'

'I think that I understand the reason of your sudden resolution,' he
began, awkwardly. 'I admire the womanly delicacy which shrinks--'

'There is no need to mince the matter,' interrupted Honoria,
switching off a hornet that buzzed about her head. 'Don't credit me
with what I have not. I want to avoid Mr. Barrington--that is the
truth. He is a strange man. He has a peculiar way of looking at me; I
am afraid of his eyes. I do not know myself when he is near me. I
dread his gaining a mastery over me...I have a thousand contradictory
sensations. I half like, half detest him. I am a weak fool...If I had
a mother, I would go to her and ask her advice. But she could not
guard me against myself. And I have no one--no one who has any
sympathy with me. There is not a creature in the world who understands
me unless, indeed, it is Mr. Barrington himself.'

'Your father loves you deeply,' said Dyson, uttering one of those
platitudes which occur to a good man when he is embarrassed. 'If you
are in doubt, can you not confide in him?'

'Certainly not. He would beat with hammer and tongs at my destiny.
He has only one idea, one hope for my future, and it will be
disappointed...And we have both a shrinking from gush. I feel myself
becoming icy cold when it is borne in upon me that I ought to show
some emotion. I can understand how much easier it is for a woman to
bare her soul in the confessional than to make her pitiful confidences
to the domestic tyrant with whom she must presently dine.'

Honoria laughed sarcastically, and Dyson marvelled at the change in
her manner, from troubled appeal to cynical banter.

He began: 'Miss Longleat, I have heard upon good authority a report
about Mr. Barrington, which I think you ought to know.'

'Well!' she said, folding her hands; 'tell on.'

'It is said that he was expelled from the Guards on account of some
dishonourable action of which I do not know the details; and probably
if I did, could not insult you by naming.'

'There is no insult in truth,' replied she, looking at him grandly;
'it is when accusations are false that the "details" cannot be
mentioned.'

'He has the reputation of being a roué, a spendthrift, a fortune--
hunter.'

'Well!' cried she, flaring round upon him at the last words; 'and
what of that? I know your authority. It is General Compton, who was
worse than all this himself, and who has gone away from Leichardt's
Town, so that he cannot be called to account. I don't care twopence
for your authority. Do you think that I do not know when a man is in
love with myself? Am I so old or so ugly that people should only wish
to marry me for my money? I hate those cold, self-contained persons
who are always attributing the worst of motives. As for that report
about the Guards, I don't believe a word of it.'

'At least,' said Maddox, 'I have done my duty in warning you.'

'You had better have been silent,' she said sullenly. 'I do not know
you when you cry a man down behind his back: it is not like you;' and
she walked away.

'Mr. Dyson,' said Janie, looking up suddenly from her book, 'was
Robinson Crusoe a good man?'

'Good enough, I dare say, Janie,' said Dyson, shortly.

'Then I shall see him in heaven,' rejoined Janie, reflectively; 'and
I'm very glad of that, for I have got such a. lot of questions to ask
him. I wonder if Friday will be there too?'

'Come, Janie,' said Honoria, returning to where the child sat.
'Little mother is going away to-day, and there are a great many things
to be done. Good-bye, Mr. Maddox.'

She bowed loftily to Maddox, and taking the child's hand, left him.

Barrington recovered rapidly. The night after Honoria's departure
with the Bassetts, he composed a careful message, which he begged Mrs.
Ferris to deliver to her, and was surprised and mortified to find that
she had gone.

'Surely it was a sudden move,' he ejaculated. 'She had made no
immediate plans?'

'Bless us!' exclaimed Mrs. Ferris, 'you cannot count upon what Miss
Longleat will do. She has been up and down like the wind these last
three months. Now she will be in Leichardt's Town for the winter, and
I am to follow before long with Janie. She is a kind--hearted girl is
Honoria, and likes to give me a little pleasure. I am sure that she is
fond of having me with her, and she knows that I enjoy a change from
this dull place. So I leave Angela with her father, and they moon
about together, and don't miss me. It cuts me to the heart, but it's a
fact. They are happier without me.'

Though disappointed at first, Barrington was, upon consideration, not
ill-pleased at Honoria's flight. It was a confession of weakness which
made him feel almost certain of ultimate conquest. He determined to
follow her as soon as his arm would allow him to travel. In the
meantime his quarters were far from unpleasant.

Soon he was able to sit out in the garden, and before many days to
resume his rambles with Angela. It was now that he began to observe a
womanly consciousness in the young girl's face and manner which had
never before been called into being. It flattered his vanity, and
imparted a more piquant flavouring to her society. Averted glances,
blushes, and soft tremblings of the lips might be considered a just
tribute to his influence, and more undoubtedly provocative of
caresses; and a kiss more or less, granted that it involved no
unpleasant consequences of detection and explanation, seemed to
Barrington but the natural result of their undivided companionship,
their daily roamings in solitary places, and evening dalliance in the
moonlit garden.

Sometimes Barrington fancied that Honoria's presence had acted as a
blight upon the play of Angela's capricious spirits. With its
withdrawal she bloomed into fuller life, and no longer appeared
languid and ungenial. Her tendency to lonely musings was less marked;
her laughter sounded more frequently; her eyes grew brighter, and her
step more buoyant.

The days were becoming cooler, and the crisp autumnal weather
infected Barrington, always peculiarly sensitive to atmospheric
influences, with a feeling of exhilaration and dreamy enjoyment, in
which all nature harmonised with his longings, and Angela's poetic
grace supplied the feminine charm without which his life was
incomplete.


'"Down in umbrageous retreats, chosen haunts by the shadow-flecked river.
Drinking delights from the murmur of streams and the flutter of wings;
Streams as they murmur, bright wings as they flutter, green leaves as they
   quiver:
All have strange music for her and a tale of invisible things;"'


quoted Barrington, from a poem that he had been reading aloud to
Angela.

She was sitting in a careless attitude upon the bank of the creek,
the windings of which they had followed a considerable distance above
the station; while Barrington lay upon the grass at her feet, his head
resting upon his hand, and his eyes from between their half-closed
lids upturned to hers in a gaze of indifferent admiration.

'Ah, Angela!' he said, 'they are fools who tell us there is no poetry
in an Australian forest. But a native singer must arise and coin new
phrases in which to paint its beauties. Tinkling streams and verdant
meadows and rustling leaves--all the hackneyed similes of the old--
world poetasters--do not harmonise with the booming of the waterfalls,
the moaning of the she-oaks, the hum of life in these wild glades. My
dear, if time could be always summer, and life a long to--day, you and
I might dwell happily enough among these mountains; but a man's
destiny lies in his wayward passions and hungering desires--he must
follow where they lead him.'

'You are not going away,' murmured Angela. 'Oh, stay!' she added
brokenly, extending her arms with innocent passion. 'I will do
anything you wish...I--I must be near you. I want nothing except to be
near you--to serve you--to hear you speak.'

Barrington raised himself and drew the girl gently towards him till
her head rested upon his shoulder, and her slight form palpitated in
his embrace.

'My love!' he whispered, 'we are brother and sister, you and I. This
is not parting, and wherever destiny may lead me, my heart will repose
on you. Yet, dear child, do not dwell over-much on the thought of me.
Your genius has glorious capabilities in which I may have no part--
your life and mine must travel on separate lines--near, yet asunder.
Compared with you I am old, world-worn and disappointed. Love me, my
sweet one, as a sister, and I will be your loyal brother, holding none
nearer or dearer than you.'

As he held her against his breast, he felt that she drew a deep long
sigh, but she did not speak, nor did she withdraw herself from his
arms.

They sat thus for several moments--blissful to Angela. She had not
comprehended the full significance of his words. That she might love
him unrebuked seemed to her the fulness of joy. Marriage was too
material a consummation of her dream to have entered into her childish
imaginings. She asked nothing for the future. Love to her was but
guileless ecstasy, in which, if there were no rebuff, there could be
no shame.

To Barrington there was a very sensible delight in the pressure of
her slight, yielding form; but it was counterbalanced by a sudden
dread, due to a rustling among the bushes on the opposite bank, lest
an unseen eye should be watching and condemning.

He looked up and perceived a white face leering at him from between
the branches of a ti-tree that overhung the stream. It was a
disagreeable countenance, mean and cruel, though not destitute of a
certain intelligence of expression. Its owner had evidently occupied
his post of observation for some considerable time, for now that
concealment was unnecessary, he parted the foliage and revealed
himself, comfortably ensconced in the angle of a forked limb, with a
tattered volume in one hand and a hunch of salt junk and damper in the
other.

The eavesdropper uttered a loud, insulting laugh.

Barrington released Angela, bade her go homewards, and said that he
would follow.

'You mean hound!' he cried, advancing to the edge of the creek; 'how
dare you spy upon me in this way!'

'I have as good a right to the river-bank as you,' retorted the
other. 'For that matter, I was here before you. Come, I have done a
bit of sweethearting in my time. I like to see a man making the most
of his opportunities. They don't present themselves too often. "When
Love is liberty and Nature law," you know. You are fond of poetry. Is
it not Byron who says:

'And there were sighs, the deeper for suppression;
And stolen glances, sweeter for the theft;
And burning blushes...?'

'D-- your impudence!' exclaimed Barrington, leaping the narrow strip
of water that separated him from his adversary. 'Take that, and
that'--and he seized the student by the scruff of the neck, and being
of powerful build, fairly lifted him from the ti-tree and kicked him
into the bush. He then recrossed the creek and joined Angela, who,
pale and frightened, was leaning against a tree, having witnessed the
encounter, though she was too far off to have heard the rapid
colloquy.

'I am afraid that you have been startled,' said Barrington, as he led
her away. 'The man was impudent, and I chastised him. He had been
spying upon us from the tree, and deserved his kicking. I don't think
that he will eavesdrop again in a hurry. Did you catch sight of his
face? Do you know who the creature is?'

'It was Sammy Deans,' replied Angela. 'He has just come out of
prison. I don't like him; but he is very fond of Shakespeare, and
reads sometimes with father. This is such a lonely place, father says,
that one ought to encourage a love of art in the few who show any
taste for it. Think of the joy it gives in solitude! And I was sorry
for poor Sammy when his little boy died--he loved him very much.'



Chapter XXII. The Worship of Shakespeare.

THAT evening Barrington said to Mrs. Ferris: 'I had a disagreeable
encounter this morning with a man called Deans. He made some insulting
remarks when I was sitting by the creek with Angela, and I gave him a
severe kicking for his impudence. Do you know anything about the
fellow?'

'Don't I, then!' cried Mrs. Ferris grimly, folding her arms. 'He is
just the ruin of my old man; and I am sorry indeed to hear that he is
about again. He sneaks up at night, and reads Shakespeare with my
husband, and encourages him to drink toddy till I am well-nigh
inclined to kick him off the premises myself. I have no patience with
Anthony; but as you may have discovered by this time, Mr. Barrington,
Mr. Ferris is not a man that will be dictated to by his wife.'

'I am surprised that Mr. Ferris should countenance the visits of a
cattle-stealer,' said Barrington.

'Oh, as to that, when Anthony takes a notion into his head, there's
no getting rid of it, especially if it has anything to do with art. Ye
might as well try to pick out with your fingers a tick that has been
burrowing in your flesh for a week. When Sammy was convicted, my old
man and Mr. Longleat had words about the matter, and I never could
rightly make out why Longleat caved in. That he did, is certain.
There's things we women don't understand, and the friendship between
my husband and Sammy Deans is one of them...I'll bet you what you
like, Mr. Barrington, that they are bawling out Macbeth or Ophelia in
the office at this very moment. I'd Ophelia him if I had the chance,
old sinner that he is!'

Mrs. Ferris was shrewd in her conjectures. Surely there is no
freemasonry so potent as that which binds the joint worshippers of
Shakespeare and Bacchus. Anthony Ferris and Sammy Deans, seated in the
office with a bottle of whisky between them and a volume of the
immortal bard lying open on the table before them, were waxing both
enthusiastic and confidential.

'Let me not live
'"After my flame lacks oil to be the snuff
Of younger spirits, whose apprehensive senses
All but new things disdain..."'

quoted Mr. Ferris, his eye rolling in fine frenzy, his shrivelled
form expanding with an intellectual enjoyment that was figuratively
and materially allied to intoxication. 'That's a fine passage! Lord,
Lord!--what it is to be getting old! There's a strange hebetude
creeping over me. My nerves are dull; my faculties less firmly strung;
nothing fires me as it used. That timor mortis, how terrible it is! A
little more toddy, Sam. Here's to your liberty once more. We have had
a rare treat this evening. I have always said that there was not a man
in Australia who knew or loved his Shakespeare better than you. Come,
we won't begin another play. Let us have a canto or two of "Don
Juan"--something to heat the old blood and stir the flabby pulses.
There's no poet like Byron for making an old man feel the passions of
youth.'

He rose, and selected a worn volume from the shelf above his head,
where Rabelais and Sterne, Paul de Kock and Boccaccio, rested side by
side with classic authors, and tomes upon ancient and modern art--the
companions of his solitary hours. They read on for some time longer,
till Mr. Ferris had induced that condition which can only be compared
to the paradise of the opium-eater. Sammy Deans, as fervent an admirer
of impassioned verse as his more cultivated patron, read and smoked by
turns, a leer of enjoyment animating his pallid face. When the book
was thrown aside there was a further recourse to the whisky-bottle.
Deans drank sparingly, though he sedulously plied the old man's glass
till Mr. Ferris evinced a remarkable anxiety to express himself
clearly, and a tendency to conviviality. Then Sammy Deans led him
gradually on to discuss the Koorong gossip--Miss Longleat's love
affairs, the chances of the Ministry, and thence drawing forth
venomous allusions to the Premier...Presently he made a feint of
departure.

'Sit down, sit down,' cried Mr. Ferris; 'the night is young yet.'

'It has been a pleasant evening, Mr. Ferris,' said Sam, reseating
himself, as it were, under protest. 'I appreciate it all the more,
because I hain't been in over-fine company of late. God! I owe some
one a long score for all those nights and days in Kooya Gaol. I am
thinking, Mr. Ferris, that we had best say good-bye, and let
Shakespeare go to the devil, for when Longleat comes to know of me
hanging about the station o' nights, there'll be the--of a wigging for
you.'

'Pooh! pooh!' said Mr. Ferris, 'you need not be under any
apprehension, my Sammy; Longleat knows the length of his tether.'

'The length of his tether,' repeated Sam. 'You have said the same
sort of thing before, Mr. Ferris; but I've always thought that you
must be joking. It's the Premier that is boss, not you, and I
shouldn't have thought that Longleat was the man to stand any humbug
from his storekeeper.'

'Yah!' snarled Ferris. 'I'm his storekeeper--his servant--a creature
fit only to be browbeaten and sneered at--I'm the dirt under his
daughter's feet--I'm a poor devil without any spirit--that is true
enough; but for all that, I am Longleat's master, and he knows it.'

'One 'ud think,' said Deans in an insinuating tone, 'that you'd got a
secret about the Premier, that he was afraid of your telling--and that
he gives you a good salary to keep your tongue quiet. That's the
ticket--eh, Mr. Ferris?'

Mr. Ferris leaned back in his chair and chuckled, but did not reply.
Sam cautiously replenished his patron's glass.

'All the same,' continued Sam, 'whatever your hold may be--if you've
got one at all, which I have my reasons perhaps for doubting--I ain't
agoin' on spending my evenings here unless I know for certain that I
needn't be afraid of a blow-up.'

'Look here!' said Mr. Ferris, laying his lean hand upon Dean's arm.
'Do you see that iron safe yonder? There's no one got the key to that
safe but me; and what do you think are piled up inside it, Sammy
Deans? Why, manuscripts, my boy--poems--plays--the Lord knows
what!...A hundred years hence, this old withered body will be a pinch
of dust; but this,' touching his head, 'will be immortal--a second
Shakespeare, Sammy Deans.'

'I dare say. Happen it may be so, Mr. Ferris,' said Sammy. 'I always
thought you were a remarkable man, sir. It's genius that tells in the
long-run. But this is not all you have got in the safe. Is it, Mr.
Ferris?'

'There is something else in the safe--you are right, Sammy. There's a
heap of old newspapers, and they tell a tale. By the Lord, if
Middleton had got hold of those papers, Longleat would not be many
days Premier of Leichardt's Land...But you needn't think that I'm
going to let you have a sight of them. I can see your delicate aim,
Mr. Deans, but I'm not such an ass as to take the bread-and-butter out
of my mouth for the sake of gratifying your revenge.'

'It seems to me, Mr. Ferris,' said Sammy, 'that if you had got such
a hold as this over Longleat, you might have hindered him from
prosecuting me, without its costing you much.'

'Sam, have you ever read that if a fool knows a secret he tells it
because he is a fool; if a knave knows one, he tells it whenever it is
his interest to do so. It wasn't my interest to tell my secret for
you.'

'Happen it weren't, Mester Ferris,' said Sam doggedly, and
relapsing, as was his wont in moments of inward excitement, into the
northern vernacular of his youth--'happen it wun. You're a feyther,
Mr. Ferris, and Longleat is a feyther, and I wur one too afore I wur
sent to that d--d gaol. Lord! I knows the raw spot that touches up man
or woman to the quick. 'Twere only yesterday that I wur standing by my
little joey's grave, and I says to myself, "Who has murdered the
little chap, but them as sent his feyther to gaol?"...And happen he'd
ha' died just the same, I'll never forgive them as held me back from
kissing the little chap's face afore he went for his long journey--and
he wur a-cryin' for me--Margaret said so. But that has nowt to do with
you, Mr. Ferris. I've only said that happen it might ha' been for your
interest to have kept Longleat from prosecuting me.'

'Well, well!' said Mr. Ferris, soothingly, 'I'm very sorry for your
trouble, Deans, but the little boy's death could not have been helped,
you know. I had my own daughter to think of--I've got to take her to
Italy--to make her genius shine before the world. It is all for her
sake that I am eating humble pie, and pocketing Longleat's money. It
is not for my own.'

'Ay, ay,' said Sam, after a pause, during which he had put a curb
upon his emotion, 'you love your daughter, Mr. Ferris. You'd be wild
if there happened any harm to her. And Longleat--he's fond of his
eldest one. A proud minx she is. Happen her father's heart 'ull ache
for her some day. It's a queer thing is hating,' pursued Sam,
reflectively. 'It takes you unawares like--just as does a pretty
woman's face, only different. There's a chap here now--a tall,
soldier-sort of fellow--that was dangling after your daughter at the
creek to-day--'

Here Sam paused, and looked cunningly at his companion.

'Ah, yes!' replied Mr. Ferris. 'An Englishman doing "colonial
experience" at Lord Dolph Bassett's. Much he will learn there! An ex-
guardsman; not the stuff to make a stockrider. He has some idea of
art, has Barrington, and the worst that I know of him is, that he is
madly in love with Miss Longleat.'

'I'd as lief punch his head as not,' said Sam. 'And you let your
daughter go wandering with him by the creek, eh? And he has ideas upon
art! In love with Miss Longleat, is he? I think I'll say good--night,
Mr. Ferris. I'm much obliged to you for an entertaining evening. We'll
see about repeating it by-and-by. I'm thinking of going down to
Leichardt's Town for a day or two, but I'll see you again before
long.'



Chapter XXIII. Miss Longleat at the Bunyas.

UPON her return to Leichardt's Town, Miss Longleat plunged into a world
of gaiety, and tried, as many others have done, to stifle melancholy by
dissipation.

There were races upon the flats near Leichardt's Town, impromptu
dances, tableaux vivants, and all the mild entertainments which
heralded the session. The great balls would take place later. Honoria
had tact and powers of organisation. Her beauty, her fascination, and
social position combined to place her at the head of a little salon,
and Miss Longleat's drawing-room became the centre of fashion and
meeting-point for Ministerialists, and Anti-Railwayists whom there was
some hope of conciliating. She seldom saw Dyson; but there were
interesting strangers at that time in Leichardt's Town--a shrimpish
sprig of nobility, and a certain General Compton, who oscillated
between New South Wales and Leichardt's Land, on pretence of
inspecting the colonial defences. These were both worth the trouble of
captivation. On the whole, she was tolerably well amused; and if,
underlying her outward vivacity, there was fierce jealousy of Mrs.
Vallancy, repulsion from her father, doubt of herself, and bitter
regret, only defined to herself as dissatisfaction with life and with
lovers in general, she was too proud to allow her sentiments to become
public property.

During the period which had elapsed since the sudden dissolution of
Parliament our little drama of love and politics had proceeded in the
order of episodic development.

The flirtation between the Premier and Mrs. Vallancy had now become a
favourite subject of covert gossip, though the Leichardtstonians, who
were in the main a simple and easygoing clique, and not addicted to
backbiting their neighbours, had not absolutely declined to accept the
filial attitude which Mrs. Vallancy had assumed towards Mr. Longleat.
She made capital of her delicate health, which had prevented her from
accompanying her husband to Gundaroo, of her lonely position, and of
the fatherly kindness of Mr. Longleat, whom she represented as an
unappreciated Paladin, actuated by motives of the purest magnanimity.

But even the most gullible and charitably-disposed of communities has
a little hesitation in regarding gifts of dresses and trinkets,
perpetual attendance in public, and private visits late in the
evening, combined with politic removal of an obnoxious husband, as
nothing but the outcome of paternal affection; and Mrs. Ferris, who
arrived in Leichardt's Town shortly after Barrington's departure from
Kooralbyn, was not the first to stigmatise Mrs. Vallancy as a 'brazen
hussy,' and to recommend the infusion 'of a little starch and blue
into morals and manners.'

Upon her return to town painful rumours reached Miss Longleat's ear,
which galled her pride and wounded her sense of mastery. She had acted
with small discretion, had spoken openly to her father, and,
unchallenged, had volunteered her refusal to recognise Mrs. Vallancy
or receive her at The Bunyas. The Premier, indeed, had no wish that
there should be any intimacy between the two women. Passion had
conquered his purer instincts, but he still felt that his daughter was
a creature sacred and apart, and must not be contaminated by any
doubtful society. Nevertheless her defiant attitude roused his worst
anger, and there ensued a stormy scene which resulted in cold division
and scornful indifference. Longleat was guilty and heartsore, Honoria
distant and uncomprehending. Their mutual relations were painfully
discordant.

Honoria had acted with the hot-headed indiscretion of youth when she
had set herself in tactless opposition to her father. She had not
calculated upon his bull-dog obstinacy that could never in a personal
matter brook defeat. Had she realised the strong determining influence
that, in spite of imperfect assimilation of temperament, she had
hitherto exercised over his actions, she might perhaps have masked her
suspicions under a compliant demeanour, and might, by the employment
of a little feminine strategy, have won him from his enslaver. But she
had not learned sufficient worldly wisdom to guide her through the
emergency; and it was, under the circumstances, hardly surprising that
Longleat should turn in disgust from a cheerless home and a frigid
self-absorbed companion to the flattering atmosphere of Mrs.
Vallancy's drawing-room.

In the old days when Honoria's will had, upon some comparatively
insignificant matter, run counter to his own, he had merely smiled at
the display of her 'spirit,' and had yielded under protest to that
'spice of the Tartar' which it pleased him to think she had inherited
from himself. But now the case had reference to a direct conflict for
supremacy, and day by day the icy barrier that had risen between them
made concession on either side impossible.

Upon one occasion, when he found her sitting alone in the drawing--
room, looking softened and melancholy, he came up behind her, and with
awkward demonstrativeness kissed her forehead, saying, in a voice
choked by the struggle between pride and affection:

'My gell! what is the use of going agen me like this? You cannot help
being my flesh and my blood, and you cannot tear yourself asunder from
me without pain to us both. Let's make the best of each other; let's
open our hearts to one another, and pull together as far as we are
able. There is something troubling you, apart from the cloud between
us--that's neither here nor there. I had never set my heart upon your
cottoning with Constance Vallancy, though at one time I should have
liked you to be friends. On the whole, I think I'm best pleased that
you should keep apart...I have taught you to set your head up high,
and I am not blaming you for it. There's things in which a man cannot
expect his womenkind to sympathise--it is human nature, and there
should be allowances made. I'm not angry that you hold yourself above
me and her; but I'll have no interference with my doings mind that.
I'll not have you and that d--d old Penelope Ferris sitting in
judgment upon me and my friends.' He took a rapid stride across the
room, during which she mentally revolted against his language; then he
returned, and renewed his rough attempt at a caress. 'Tell me what
ails you,' he said; 'I know that something has been troubling you.
Speak out to your old father. Is it sweethearts or what? Only let me
know, and I'll smooth it if I can.'

But Honoria's sensibilities had been unpleasantly ruffled, and her
cold reticence with her father would have allowed her to suffer any
pain rather than betray her heart's perplexities. How could she
entrust such delicate and complex machinery into the conduct of hands
so elephantine? She withdrew herself from the contact of his touch,
and replied in those well-bred neutral tones which acted like a cold-
water douche upon Longleat's effusiveness:

'There is nothing the matter with me, thank you.'

'Then we'll go apart,' said Longleat, turning abruptly away. 'That is
what it comes to...I have never asked much of you, Honoria, except
that after I had worked hard for you and made a lady of you, you'd not
hold yourself aloof from me and despise me...I have been that proud of
you, that I have feared to let you into the workings of my mind lest
they should defile you. But there comes a day when a man's softer side
gets the upper hand of him. He grows past the excitement of striving
to distance his betters, and of making himself famous and respected;
and then there falls upon him a longing for love and sympathy and
confidence; and if they are not shown to him in his home, who is to
blame him for seeking them elsewhere?'

Honoria's lip trembled, but she did not reply; and after casting
upon her a long troubled look, her father left the room.

After this scene with his daughter, Longleat placed no further
restraint upon his impulses. He was at this time living like a man in
a dream. His passion for Mrs. Vallancy had completely taken possession
of the coarse side of his nature, as the craving for intoxicants
seizes upon an intermittent drunkard, till the future becomes bounded
by the gratification of his dominant desires.

On Sunday evening he went to church with Honoria, and found his
wandering attention enchained by an exposition of the parable of
Nathan, which, dealing in euphemistic language with the passionate
proclivities of the Psalmist, had the two-fold effect of rousing
Longleat's interest and contempt. Was there not between David and
himself the common bond of craving humanity?

When he reached home, he went straight to his study, and took from
its shelf the great family Bible, wherein was recorded his second
marriage and the birth of Janie. He deliberately turned over the
leaves till his eyes fell upon the passages for which he sought...The
drops stood upon his red-veined forehead, and he clenched his hands as
he read.

'After all,' he murmured, 'I am no worse than David. A man must be a
man. It is human nature, and what is the use of fighting against it?'

After that he had no hesitation in clearly shaping his vague
longings into conscious resolves, and chafed more and more at the
ingenious simplicity with which Constance Vallancy met his advances.
Yet, he felt certain that she understood him, and waited, in a state
of feverish excitement, till the General Election should have decided
his political fate, before he finally matured his designs.

Mrs. Vallancy showed considerable skill in parrying his addresses.
Once confident of his subjugation, she contrived to steer clear of
dangerous admissions and compromising demonstrations, accepting his
presents under filial protest, and treating him with such an
affectation of childlike candour, that he was by turns piqued and
perplexed.

Upon the whole, it seemed as though the Premier's star was
approaching what he would regard as its zenith, and that in the coming
crisis ambition and love were both to be gratified.

Every day telegrams pouring in from different parts of the colony
announced the success of the Ministerial faction. Middleton had had a
hard fight for his seat, and though the Opposition was still paramount
in the north, the eastern and western electorates had mostly returned
advocates for the railway.

His election for the constituency of Kooya was at this time assured
to him. He was the hero of the hour, and notes of triumph trumpeted
forth his every step. The only disagreeable sensation which he had
suffered in the course of his much-applauded harangues was occasioned
by the sight of Sammy Deans's malignant scowl, levelled at him from
among the audience below the hustings. He shuddered, he knew not why,
and his discomposure seemed to his excited fancy like a portent of
evil.

The free selector had quitted Kooralbyn the day after his nocturnal
interview with Mr. Ferris, and was prowling about the suburbs of
Leichardt's Town.

After his lengthened visit to Kooralbyn, Barrington remained a week
at Dyraaba, and then rode straight to the capital in pursuit of Miss
Longleat. He put up at the Australasian, where Lord and Lady Dolph
Bassett, who were down, as the latter expressed it, for a 'town lark,'
also occupied rooms.

The day after his arrival he called at The Bunyas, and was received
by Mrs. Ferris, who had taken up her temporary abode there. The old
lady regretted Miss Longleat's absence, and upon her own
responsibility invited him to dinner the next day. Early in the
morning, however, he received a dainty note from Honoria, informing
him that she was going to a concert, and begging him to postpone the
engagement till the following evening.

A longing to see her possessed him. He went to the entertainment in
attendance upon Lady Dolph, and had the satisfaction of watching Miss
Longleat enter in state to the tune of 'God save the Queen,' in the
wake of the Government House party; but as he had not been presented
to Lady Georgina Augmering, etiquette forbade him to approach. Honoria
looked very lovely, and seemed encompassed by a certain pomp which was
becoming to her style of beauty. Poor and petty as was the ceremonial,
he could not but be struck by the grace with which she performed her
part, and took pleasure in the somewhat premature reflection that
there would be no need for him to shrink from introducing her as his
wife to the noblest of his English acquaintances.

Before long she descried him, and bowed, whispering shortly
afterwards to Lady Georgina Augmering beside whom she sat. Had he but
known it, some subtle magnetism had, the moment she entered the
building, assured her of his presence; and then all the slumbering
forces fear, repulsion, fascination--began to work again.

Towards the close of the performance Lord Dolph Bassett went to pay
his respects to the viceregal party, and was requested to introduce
his friend. It was found that the Governor's wife and Barrington had
mutual connections in England--that his mother and she had been
friends. To his chagrin she engrossed him completely till the concert
was over, and only then was he able to exchange a word with Honoria.
He offered her his arm, and they stood together for a moment behind
the rest of the party waiting for the carriage to draw up. Suddenly he
felt her arm quiver, and she wrenched it violently from within his.

'I wish that you would not look at me so,' she said in a low, forced
voice. 'I am certain that you are trying to mesmerise me--and I will
not have it--I will not.'

'You credit me with a power which I am quite unconscious of
possessing,' said Barrington.

She laughed in an unsteady manner, and looked at him with an
uncomfortable, half-averted glance.

'I was only joking; I have not forgotten my dream at Kooralbyn.
Well,' with a coquettish accent, 'I hope that Mrs. Ferris nursed you
carefully.'

'You were very cruel to leave me the day after my accident.'

'I like to be cruel sometimes,' replied Honoria.

'You must be kind to me now,' said Barrington, with a slight emphasis
on the 'must.' 'I have come to Leichardt's Town on purpose to be near
you...'

The carriage drew up. Honoria got in; both the ladies smiled and
nodded adieu, and Barrington made his escape from the crowd round the
theatre door.

The dinner-party at The Bunyas was a small affair, consisting only of
the family circle, one of the Ministers and his wife and daughter, and
a heavy young squatter who stuck to Miss Longleat like a limpet.
Maddox was conspicuous by his absence. Miss Little, the Attorney--
General's daughter, a pretty, porcelain-like figure, with irregular
features, a golden fringe, and the self-complacent case of a colonial
belle, was apportioned to the Englishman. She had a great deal to say
about herself and others, talked in a giggling monotone, and was
evidently very much ashamed of her mother, who sat opposite--a stout,
red-faced lady, with shiny black hair, and a reproachful expression,
who, report stated, had once been a cook, and who consoled herself
under the burden of her present greatness by a deep and abiding sense
of injury.

Honoria sat at the foot of the table, supported by Mr. Little and
her bucolic admirer. Thus, during the meal at least, Barrington found
any but general conversation impracticable. The Premier was gruff and
abstracted, furtively watching his daughter across the table, and
scowling unpleasantly whenever Barrington addressed him. It was not
his practice to conceal his antipathies under a mask of politeness;
and in this instance he had no hesitation in making it apparent to the
Englishman that his presence was not highly welcome.

But Mrs. Ferris's cackle was an effectual cover to any want of
cordiality on the part of the host, and Barrington felt comforted by
the old lady's reassuring whisper:

'Don't mind his looking cross. It is only because he hates your
breed.'

The talk during dinner was principally political, and bore reference
to the elections, and to the conduct of Middleton and his 'venal and
unpatriotic crew.' The Attorney-General delighted in high-sounding
phrases. Honoria joined in the discussion with an affected air of
interest, while Miss Little stifled sundry yawns, and remarked in a
confidential gabble to her neighbour that she wished they'd look sharp
about the railway and get it done, for she was close-up sick of
hearing about it; 'though to be sure,' she added naïvely, 'if it
wasn't for the members Leichardt's Town would collapse altogether, for
there's never anything going on except when Parliament is sitting. I
do so love dancing, and parties, and dressing up,' she continued
enthusiastically, after a brief pause, during which the Premier had
sonorously aired his views upon the 'Dead-lock' system. 'We are going
to give a dance next Friday. I'm sure I hope you'll come to it. I'll
introduce you to ma by-and-by, and tell her to ask you, all proper--,
but if she forgets, mind you come just the same...Ma doesn't do much
at our parties, except look after the lights and the supper. I hope
you're fond of fun; there will be lots soon, directly after the May
ball--and it is always so, much pleasanter when there are plenty of
beaux. You have been staying at Kooralbyn, haven't you? Do you know
that they call Honoria the "Enchantress of Kooralbyn?" It is because
she always makes people fall in love with her--it must be nice to have
everyone in love with one...Can you guess what I have been doing this
afternoon? I've been christening a steam launch: I called it the
Little Nell after myself, you know, turned upside down. Nell is my
name; and the idea just suits, for I always like to have somebody in
tow. Do you think it is wicked for girls to flirt? Honoria is a
terrible flirt. There was actually one man who shot himself because
she led him on, pretending she liked him, and then refused him. Is it
true that Australian girls have ever so much better complexions than
English ones? and do you think them pretty--really?' and so on during
dinner, ad nauseam.

Later on, other guests dropped in. It was one of Miss Longleat's
'evenings,' which had become so deservedly popular. The Bassetts were
there, and all the Ministers, except Maddox, with their wives--
politicians young and old, some uncouth, newly fledged in the wilds,
and trembling at their first entrance into their chiefs drawing-room;
others (and these were mostly townsmen) complacent, self-assertive,
and voluble. There were ladies, fresh and youthful; young gentlemen,
distinguished by their regulation evening-costume, who were employed
by day in the Government offices, and a sprinkling of more hirsute and
less carefully attired bushmen.

Barrington observed that though there was in the assemblage a
considerable diversity of dress and manners, there was a delightful
unanimity in the homage that was tendered to the fair hostess. Honoria
moved about, animated and chattering. She talked politics to the
senators, and flirted with the young gentlemen--she was universally
charming. Only Maddox, who had studied her carefully, might, had he
been there, have detected an artificial ring in her voice.

The party was delightfully informal. There were cards for the
elders, and there were music and conversation for those who were so
inclined; but it seemed to Barrington that everyone talked and no one
listened. Some of the young ladies walked out in the garden among the
roses and the budding azaleas, but, in spite of his urgent request,
Honoria refused to stir.

'I will not go,' she said curtly; 'do not try to make me.'

He bowed silently, and left her.

But afterwards her eyes seemed to meet his and to say: 'See, this is
the petty society over which I am queen. Do not make my discontent
deeper by contrasting it and me with the great world that you know.'

Only just before he left her did she grant him an opportunity of
speaking to her.

'I am told,' he said, 'that your father hates Englishmen.'

'Well,' she said, with the slightest movement of her shoulders, 'what
then?'

'It is rather rough upon me, seeing that I am most anxious to
cultivate his good opinion, that I should be handicapped so heavily. I
can see that he has not taken to me.'

She was sitting at the piano, and went on playing for a few moments;
then she said quietly:

'I don't suppose you care much. What is his opinion to you?'

'Have you not been on the defensive long enough for one evening?'
asked Barrington, with an appealing look. 'I have a great deal that I
long to say to you.'

Her fingers wandered among dreamy chords, and their eyes met; her own
drooped, and became divinely soft.

'I won't be on the defensive, as you call it, any longer,' she
murmured. 'You may judge of my inconsistency,' she added coquettishly,
'if you choose to take your chance of finding me at home some morning
soon. I am usually alone before luncheon, and then you may talk to me
as confidentially as you please.'



Chapter XXIV. Fascination.

IT was one of the deepest of Longleat's sources of sorrow, that he could
under no circumstances penetrate the barrier of reserve which held him
apart from his daughter. This had always been the case; and the older
she grew, the more apparent became the want of unity between them. He
had wished, and in his rough way had often tried, to ascertain the inner
workings of her mind, but had always been rebuffed by her refined and
distant superiority. Her grace and beauty, and a certain impalpable
element of contempt which flavoured her intercourse with him, inspired
him with a feeling of awe. He was constrained in her society, and in
constant dread of committing solecisms. He was conscious that his
antecedents were unworthy of her, and carefully avoided any allusion to
his life prior to the bullock--driving period, of which necessity
compelled him to make in some sort a virtue. There were certain
particulars of his youthful career which he earnestly desired to shroud
in oblivion: he would have endured any penalty rather than that they
should come to Honoria's knowledge. Public disgrace would have been
nothing to him in comparison with the smart of being humiliated in her
eyes.

She was the core of his life. When he saw her unhappy he was pained,
while he yet lacked the means of fathoming the source of her grief.
Never had he felt so acutely the division between their souls as now
that it was borne in upon him that she was miserable from some outside
cause which he knew not.

He was the last person to whom she would have attributed any degree
of mental intuition; but his sympathies, when they had reference to
her, were keener than she supposed. If Barrington and Maddox--the
former with triumph, the latter with melancholy chagrin--both observed
the dawn of a new consciousness upon her face, as though some late
experience had roused in her nature passionate sensibilities hitherto
latent, her father was no less quick in remarking the change in her
demeanour from scornful indifference to restless excitement or
maidenly embarrassment.

He could only ascribe it to Barrington's influence; and his dislike
to the Englishman, as the representative of a race which he abhorred,
was intensified by jealous resentment of his power of affecting
Honoria's supremacy, which he, her father, had hitherto considered
unassailable. At the same time, a shy dread of his daughter's
displeasure, pride on her account, and a curious indefinable
satisfaction in the attentions of a man whom all the ladies of
Leichardt's Town were anxious to attract, prevented him from placing a
veto upon Barrington's visits. It must also be stated that he had no
idea of their frequency--a point upon which neither Mrs. Ferris nor
Honoria was careful to enlighten him.

Honoria herself was perfectly conscious of the change which
Barrington's influence had wrought in her, and, with a bewildered
sense of danger, fought vainly against the spell under which she had
fallen. Her moods became variable, and her manner alternated between
fits of almost unnatural gaiety and silent depression.

Often she felt a gasping need to cry, though tears were an unfrequent
outcome of her proud, susceptible disposition. For the first time in
her life she experienced a craving for womanly sympathy; but, wrapped
up in herself, she had always held aloof from feminine companionship,
despising alike the gushing confidences of her girlish associates and
the cackling advice which had been eagerly proffered by matrons, and
so often rejected that it was now no longer tendered; so that, with
the exception of Mrs. Ferris, who was quite incapable of comprehending
the nature of her needs, she had absolutely no woman friend to whom
she could turn. She yearned for some deeper source of happiness than
gratified vanity, and though she attributed the sadness which had
fallen upon her to reaction after mental excitement, she knew well
that it dated from the commencement of her acquaintance with
Barrington.

It was he who had infused the melodramatic element into her life, and
who had stimulated sensation so powerfully that there was no further
cause for complaint of stagnation. Yet if he supplied all that her
heart needed, why should the haunting strength of his eyes fill her
with the dread of some undefined peril? Why, instead of the pure
ecstasy of maidenhood of which she had dreamed, should this new love--
if indeed it were love--be accompanied by thrills of excitement from
which her better instincts recoiled?

Coincident with the extraordinary fascination that Barrington
exercised over her, her relation with Dyson Maddox had assumed a new
phase. His continued avoidance of her society afflicted her with sharp
pain; yet whereas formerly she would have brought all her coquettish
wiles to bear upon his recapture, she was now timid and embarrassed in
his presence, and shrank, with the maidenly reticence that is never
found in a coquette, from allowing him to see how deeply she missed
him.

She often told herself that he had ceased to care for her. He seldom
visited at The Bunyas now, and when, at balls, he asked her to dance,
addressed her with cold formality, which would have convinced her of
his indifference did she not constantly find his eyes fixed upon her
as she waltzed or talked with Barrington. She sometimes made a
desperate resolve to clear away the misconception between them by an
impassioned appeal to his friendship; but the intoxication produced by
Barrington's voice and touch would again lull painful regret, and
would plunge her into a state of ecstasy with which the thought of
Dyson was wholly inconsistent.

*    *   *   *   *

The winter season in Leichardt's Town does not usually begin till
May, when the victims of tropical heat are sufficiently energised by
westerly breezes and bracing weather to enter upon the labours of
active enjoyment. This year, however, the rainfall had concentrated
itself into the severe floods which, as has been seen, were mainly
instrumental in the Premier's defeat. April set in fair and cool, and
the abrupt dissolution of Parliament brought down many country
gentlemen who would otherwise have remained on their stations, and
who, in the intervals of electioneering, rushed eagerly into social
dissipation as a counter-irritant to the political fever. In the
middle of April Lady Georgina Augmering issued invitations for a ball,
which it was supposed would open the winter's gaieties.

The night upon which it took place was clear and moonlit, and the
ornamental lamps and Chinese lanterns with which the terraces and
flower-beds were outlined seemed hardly necessary for purposes of
illumination. The air was soft and balmy, and though not too warm for
waltzing, it was yet sufficiently mild to allow delicate young ladies
to wander, thinly shod and lightly cloaked, among the shaded walks
which led towards the river.

Government House, a two-storied building, with stone piazzas and
deep colonnades, seemed the haunt of ghost-like figures in white and
black, which moved aimlessly among the arcades. Through the open
doorways light streamed forth upon the gravel sweep, and within, a
whirling kaleidoscope of dancers flitted across the polished floor of
the ball-room. Flags draped the centre archway and glossy palm--leaves
festooned the musicians' gallery, from whence issued the dream-like
strains of a valse by Labitsky. At one time, early in the evening,
Honoria stood against a crimson curtain, framed in feathery fern
fronds and silver pampas grass, idly watching the pretty scene before
her and apparently taking no heed of the attentions of her cavalier,
who was indeed the heavy young squatter whom Barrington had met at The
Bunyas.

The Enchantress of Kooralbyn had the knack of assuming picturesque
attitudes, and her sweeping bust and fine profile in relief against
their brilliant background attracted many a glance of admiration. She
was dressed in white, with a cluster of camellias at her bosom, and
without ornaments, save for a golden serpent encrusted with diamonds
that clasped her neck. Her glance, directed uneasily towards the
doorway--she was expecting the arrival of Barrington--fell upon Dyson
Maddox, who was watching her attentively.

The music ceased, and he made his way towards her, and asked her if
she could spare him a quadrille.

'I have one left,' she said; 'it is the next, but I do not wish to
dance it.'

'We will not do so,' said Maddox. 'I will find you a seat.'

She took his arm, and he led her out of the ball-room and into a
fern-screened corner, where he placed her in an armchair.

There was a great gentleness in his manner, though he hardly spoke.
Each seemed conscious and embarrassed. Dyson abstractedly fingered the
leaves of a scented verbena, and she sat still, her eyes fixed upon
the garden, silent while yet her heart yearned towards him. Suddenly
she half-stretched forth her hand to him, but he turned to address
her, and she drew it back.

'Miss Longleat,' he said, speaking with forced calm, 'I should like
to say a word to you about what passed between us when I was last at
Kooralbyn. I am almost sorry that I mentioned to you the reports that
I had heard about Mr. Barrington. It is only right to tell you that I
have tried to substantiate them, and that I cannot at this distance do
so definitely. You may think that I had a selfish motive for speaking.
I had none. I am glad that you should make your happiness in your own
way--apart from mine.'

'What do you know about my happiness?' said Honoria, in a low tone.

'I watched you at Kooralbyn. I saw the maidenly struggle in your
mind--it convinced me more strongly than words could have done. I
believe that he is in earnest, that it is not your fortune which he
seeks. He is passionately attached to you. I do not know why I should
have doubted it. A man has instincts--like a woman; and mine made me
dislike what I saw of Mr. Barrington. I distrusted him. It is possible
that I may have wronged him...And now I feel that by warning you I
have made you unhappy. A woman who loves and doubts must be miserable
indeed.'

'You think that I--that I love,' said Honoria, uttering the words
with difficulty. 'You despise me!'

'How could a man despise a woman for being womanly? It is selfishness
and coldness which breeds wretchedness and contempt. The love which
would only gratify itself is false and narrowing...I am disciplining
my heart. Obedience to a higher law teaches distrust of motive. I, of
all men, should have hesitated to condemn Mr. Barrington. Honoria, you
are frank and innocent, and your best safeguard against wrong lies in
yourself. The woman who loves and trusts is nobler than she who has a
lukewarm faith and a selfish prudence. Let your heart expand. Love is
what you need. Tell him what you have heard, and ask an explanation.
Rely upon your intuitive power of discerning truth to assure you how
far you may receive it.'

'You mistake,' said Honoria in hurried tones, as though she had been
laid under a stress to speak. 'You think me better than I am. I am not
womanly. I shrink from myself If I had a mother I should not dare to
tell her how I feel--I should be ashamed...Oh, if this is love, there
is nothing noble in it--it is like witchcraft. It is as though
something evil from which I cannot escape held me against myself. And
when I am away from him, my heart aches with a longing which I cannot
define; while when he is near me, I shrink from him and am afraid. I
know not of what. Is this love?--help me--tell me what my feelings
mean.'

'What they mean,' repeated Maddox, bitterly; 'can you doubt that you
love him passionately? He has revealed to you your woman's nature. You
never blushed so for me...Oh, let us have no more of this!' he
exclaimed, almost roughly; 'it is the refinement of cruelty to ask me
to analyse your feelings. Forgive me, Honoria, if I leave you
abruptly. I see Cathcart coming to claim you.'

He turned sharply away, brushing against Cathcart, who was advancing
from the ball-room.

'You'll find Miss Longleat behind the screen of ferns yonder,' he
said collectedly. 'I have had enough of this. There is work for me to
do, and I am going back to the office.'

Cornelius wriggled into the vacant chair by Miss Longleat's side.

Presently he asked, fixing his melancholy little eyes upon her face:

'Should you like to dance?'

'What?' asked Honoria, wakened out of a dream.

'I dare say you have forgotten that you are engaged to me for this
waltz. I was trying to make up my mind whether I should remind you of
your promise.'

'I would rather not dance,' said Honoria.

'Then we'll sit here,' rejoined Corny, placidly. 'I have been telling
myself the whole evening that a man verging on forty should be
thinking of better things than capering about on French chalk.'

Honoria gave her shoulders a little shake, and recklessly began to
flirt.

'You have not been to see me since you came to town,' she said with
her irresistible smile.

'The wisest people in the world are the fools who know themselves to
be fools,' replied Corny, oracularly. 'I might become an unconscious
fool in your society, so I avoid you. Tell me,' he added suddenly,
'have you forgotten my warning? Are you only experimentalising still,
or have you gone further than you intended and raised the devil? I
see, your face betrays you. You are in love at last. Well, I am sorry
for old Dy--'

'You think this of me, too?' she murmured.

'You fancy that I am only an indifferent observer; but I have had my
reasons for studying you. I know you well. Often I have watched you
out of the corners of my eyes when you have seen me huddled up over a
book. I did not think you capable of a grand passion. I do now. I
respect you for it. Here comes Mr. Barrington. I must resign you.'

Barrington approached.

'Miss Longleat, this is our dance. I have arrived just in time to
claim it.'

Honoria took his arm, and they entered the ball-room together.

Pre-eminence is the surest road to a woman's heart.

Honoria rather piqued herself upon the profession of communistic
principles, and did not hesitate to own herself the daughter of a man
who had 'worked his way up;' but she retained the right of
exclusiveness in the selection of her lovers. She was, in fact,
remarkably susceptible to the current of refinement which she believed
to be the attribute of the higher orders, and her vanity was agreeably
flattered by the marked attentions of a man whose high birth and air
of distinction made him the object of general comment.

As they waltzed together she felt a dreamy delight in yielding
herself to his embrace. Her feet seemed winged, and the lights and
figures appeared to float before her bewildered gaze. She was giddy
and breathless when they paused near the doorway.

'There are a great many people walking in the garden,' said
Barrington. 'Will you come out with me?'

They went on to the terrace. A stream of dancers followed them. He
paraded the gravel with her impatiently for a few minutes, then led
her into an unfrequented walk which wound through the shrubbery
towards the river.

They passed a little summer-house which was dimly lighted with
Chinese lanterns; he paused for a moment before it, and Honoria saw
that it was occupied by a lady and gentleman. Her quick eyes
recognised in a moment the Premier and Mrs. Vallancy. Her father's
puffy red face was in close proximity with that of his companion, and
his large hand clasped Mrs. Vallancy's small gloved fingers.

Honoria's soul swelled with indignation and disgust.

'Take me away!' she cried, and walked hurriedly on, turning presently
into a side-path.

'I am sorry that accident should have turned our steps hither,' said
Barrington. 'I am not surprised that you are angry and wounded. Your
father's intimacy with Mrs. Vallancy is an insult to you.'

'Don't talk to me of it,' cried she, passionately. 'Everything that I
see and hear sickens me. No one seems to care what I feel.'

'You are in a strange, lonely position,' Barrington said, in a tone
of deep tenderness. 'Your father's house is no home for you. You must
marry and leave it. You were not meant to lead a cramped existence in
Australia,' he went on. 'Your gifts are wasted here--your beauty--your
rich capacity for enjoyment. You should live in England. All that
society and art can furnish should be placed within your reach...And
there is more. I can give you the key to fulness of life. Honoria, you
are ready for love, and it is waiting at your feet. Yield yourself to
me--your unrest will become tranquillity--your dissatisfaction
exquisite joy. One instant--only look into my eyes--only let me touch
your lips, and you can have no doubts.'

He stooped to embrace her, but she moved a step or two away from him.

'You ought not to speak to me in this way,' she said excitedly. 'I
don't know what to think. I cannot trust my feelings. I do not know
whether I love you or not. All I am certain of is that since I have
known you I have been miserable. I feel sometimes as though I hated
you.'

'Darling,' murmured Barrington, 'your conventional instinct rebels
against the affinity which from the first has linked us together. You
are startled by the discovery of a force which you do not understand.
No other man can influence you as I can and do. Hitherto, all your
life, your feelings, your interests, have been commonplace. You have
never known passion. This is passion, and it alarms you.'

'Stop!' cried Honoria, in a bewildered manner; 'I cannot think. I
must think. Let me go back. Don't come near me any more this evening.
Do you hear? Don't say anything more. Don't look at me!'

Barrington kissed her hand.

'I obey,' he whispered: then silently led her back to the house. 'I
will come to you to-morrow,' was all he said, as he placed her in a
chair beside Mrs. Ferris.



Chapter XXV. 'You Shall Be My Faith.'

HONORIA felt, when she laid her head upon her pillow that night, or
rather the next morning, that she had irrevocably committed herself. It
was true that she had not in so many words consented to become
Barrington's wife, but she knew that when he should come to her upon the
morrow she would have no power to withstand him.

Did she wish to do so? She could hardly tell. Like her father, she
had a vague belief in the power of Destiny. It was her fate to be
controlled by this man; and after all, she argued, what could there be
more in accordance with her yearnings for melodramatic emotion than
this complete surrender of her will to an influence which was half
fascination, half repulsion?

Allied to considerable strength, there was in Honoria's nature a
flaccid liability to domination. As long as she had remained in the
shallows, she had been strong and self-confident; now that she had
dived into deep waters, she was helpless as a child. Barrington had
made her his slave. It struck her excited fancy again, as it had done
several times before, that she might be the victim of a mesmeric
experiment.

Was it possible that he could, unconsciously to herself, have
magnetised her into this condition of trembling dependency upon his
words and looks? Was this the explanation of these fits of heat and
cold--this state of dreamy unreality and frightened expectancy? Could
this magic spell, that seemed to deepen every day, be due to an occult
influence which, when it faded with familiarity, would leave but
repugnance or limp subservience? Thought of in the darkness, her
loneliness seemed unbearable. There was no one who understood her.
Mrs. Ferris was incapable of comprehending her state of mind, and was,
moreover, devoted to Barrington. She could not take her father into
her confidence. In spite of her ardent impressionability, there was in
her nature a strong maidenly instinct which made her recoil from the
breath of impurity; and the sight of Longleat and Mrs. Vallancy in the
arbour, the hints and rumours which she had heard, had filled her soul
with disgust at the moral atmosphere which encompassed her.

In her longing for sympathy she clung to the thought of Maddox. His
opinion was like a subtle vapour, permeating every method of analysis
which she brought to bear upon her relations with Barrington; his
evident conviction of her love acting as an argument in the
Englishman's favour.

'It is impossible that a woman can love two men at the same time,'
she said aloud, while she tossed restlessly upon her pillow. Her eyes
piercing the darkness saw only the face of her enslaver, like a
magic--lantern illumination on the wall opposite--wherever she looked
his gaze followed her. Then she fell into a fit of weeping, and at
last dropped into a troubled slumber which lasted till long after the
house was astir, and the Premier gone to the Treasury.

When Honoria entered the drawing-room, Mrs. Ferris was reading a
letter which the morning post had brought her, while little Janie
played at her feet.

'Dear heart!' said the old lady, looking up with a wrinkled, brow and
expression of perplexity, 'I wish that I could get a finished feeling.
Just as I have bought a new black silk dress, and am beginning to
enjoy myself, that old man of mine writes to tell me that Angela is
ailing--I wish I knew whether I ought to go back. Now, do you think,
Honoria, that the child is really ill, or that it is only one of
Anthony's whimsies? Not but what I'd be glad to go if they really
wanted me, but it is ten to one that Angela will not even eat a bit of
jelly of my making. Never was there such a faddish creature! Honoria,
my child, I'd have been a happy woman if I had had a son, and I am
sure it is a credit to myself, with all the reproaches that have been
thrown at me, that I have kept as straight as I have done. Now, did
you notice Mrs. Vallancy last night--and did you remark the locket she
was wearing round her neck? I'll swear upon my oath that I saw it in
Salomons' shop-window last week, and we all guess who bought it of
him.'

'Hush!' said Honoria. 'You forget the child!'

'Little mother,' cried Janie. 'Here is Mr. Maddox.'

Honoria rose confusedly as Dyson entered. He shook hands with her
first, then with Mrs. Ferris, who began volubly to recount her
difficulties.

'I came to ask if I could do anything for you up Koorong way,' he
said. 'I will ride over to Kooralbyn if you wish it, and bring you
back news of Angela that will set your mind at rest.'

'Are you going away?' asked Honoria, with a feeling of despair.

'For a few days only,' he replied. 'I cannot be spared for longer
from the office.'

Honoria took up a strip of embroidery from the table, and put in a
few rapid stitches. Janie's unchildlike eyes regarded her attentively.

'I am so dull,' said the little creature, after a reflective pause.
'I like Kooralbyn best--father is always away here, and little mother
never takes me on her back, or plays with me as she used.'

'Bless us!' cried Mrs. Ferris; 'when you are as old as Honoria, you
will know that girls have something better to think of than amusing
little children. Are you dull? Come, and I will build you a house.'

All this time Honoria's lips were trembling. Suddenly she put down
her work, and looked at Dyson. Mrs. Ferris was searching with Janie
for a box of bricks, and Honoria spoke under cover of the confusion.

'When you come back again everything may be different with me.'

'You will have got your wish,' said Dyson. 'You are in love at last,
like the women in novels. You are taken out of your petty world...I am
glad of that.'

'You are certain that I am in love, then?' she asked.

A red flush passed over Dyson's face.

'You persist in torturing me...Have I not told you that I believe
so?'

Honoria folded her hands with a gesture of final acceptance.

'Do you think that I am happy?'

'I don't understand that passionate kind of love which makes a
person miserable and joyful by turns. I suppose that in some people it
is natural. A woman like you cannot do things by halves.'

'You are right,' she answered. 'You have learned to understand me at
last. It is my misfortune that I cannot be content with tame
sensations. I want what I have not got, and when it is within my
reach, I hate it. It is as Mr. Cathcart said--I have raised the devil.
I wish now that I could make myself dull--and commonplace, but it is
of no use wishing. Can you not see? I am like two creatures. I am
being pulled in opposite directions...'

As Honoria spoke, the drawing-room door opened softly, and
Barrington was admitted. He went up to Miss Longleat, and took her
hand with an air of proprietary interest that was not lost upon Dyson,
asked Mrs. Ferris whether she had recovered from the fatigues of the
ball, kissed Janie, and, turning to Dyson, suavely commented upon his
early departure from Government House the evening before. His entrance
seemed to bring another atmosphere into the room, and produced a
marked effect upon Honoria. Her pale cheeks flushed, and she talked
rapidly and with feverish vivacity.

Dyson took up his hat and bade her good-bye.

'Have you any commission that I can execute at Kooralbyn?' he asked.

'None--unless you can bring me a whiff of mountain air. Oh! I feel
stifled here. You must come back in time for the Frazers' party. It is
the "Nunc Dimittis" of the Opposition.'

'I suppose that you have heard this morning's news,' said Barrington
to Honoria. 'You were anxious about the Wogong election. Mr. Griesbach
has been returned.'

'Another of our side!' cried Miss Longleat, with an assumed air of
triumphant interest. 'But I am too confident of victory to be keenly
excited. Leichardt's Land must see the advantages of the railway.'

'We have rather a personal than a political majority. The general
feeling is more with your father as a conquering and powerful leader
than with his policy,' said Dyson, soberly. 'Good-bye, Mrs. Ferris. I
will ride over to Kooralbyn, and I hope that I may bring you back good
news.'

Honoria nodded as he departed, meeting his eyes with a bright, wide-
open gaze that implied utter recklessness. When he was gone, Mrs.
Ferris, not without intent, discovered that she had some shopping to
do, and led Janie away with her, and Honoria and Barrington were left
alone.

The windows leading to the garden were thrown open. The day was
bright and cloudless, the horizon crisp and sharp; the sun shone upon
the beds of azaleas and camellias, and the scent of mignonette filled
the room. The air was balmy. Nevertheless there was a wood fire
burning upon the hearth, and Honoria, whose luxuriant nature basked in
warmth, moved towards it, and stood with one arm resting upon the
mantelpiece and her eyes downcast upon the carpet.

Her attitude called attention to the rounded outlines of her figure
and the long curves of her shoulders and bust. She wore a tightly--
fitting dress of black, chosen with a vague reference to Barrington's
visit. Her fair hair was negligently coiled after the fashion which
becomes a Greek contour, and she had twisted a black lace scarf around
her throat, above which her creamy complexion arose in mellow
contrast. Her vigils had cast soft shadows beneath her eyes, and there
were lines of tremulous sensibility about her lips. Her whole pose was
unconsciously expectant and inviting. Barrington's heart beat quickly,
and advancing before she was aware of his intention, he threw his arm
around her and drew her close to him, pressing his lips passionately
to her own.

A dream-like sense of intoxication overpowered Honoria. The air and
the room became billowy, and a hot, fierce hand seemed to grip her
throat. Her form swayed and her bosom palpitated in gentle
undulations. Whatever the spell might be, whether spiritual or
otherwise, she had completely succumbed to it.

It was abruptly broken by a brief searching glance which a gentleman
crossing the lawn directed towards the pair in the drawing--room.
Honoria recognised Dyson. He had forgotten an important official
document which he had brought that morning for the Premier's
consideration, and had returned by the side-entrance to place it upon
the table in Mr. Longleat's study. Honoria wrenched herself from the
embrace of her lover, and darted to the window, whence she could see
Dyson emerge from the wing appropriated to her father's use, pass over
the lawn, and make his exit by a wicket--gate which communicated with
the public gardens.

She returned to the fireplace, where Barrington stood attentively
studying a photograph of herself that lay upon the mantelshelf.

'Did anything alarm you?' he asked.

'I--no--yes,' stammered Honoria; then flamed out in indignant
rebuke, 'Why did you do that? I gave you no right to treat me so.'

'I was brusque, darling,' pleaded Barrington. 'This,' he added,
pointing to her reflection in the pier-glass, 'must be my
justification.'

'You make me hate myself,' she went on in an agitated manner. 'A
horrible feeling has come over me...All the time I am struggling
against you...You do me nothing but harm...I used to think that no one
would ever dare to...Oh!' she cried, covering her blushing face with
her hands, 'when I am with you I have no pride, I am made to feel sunk
in humiliation.'

'Do you not think that there is glory in self-surrender? Darling!'
said Barrington, in eager tones. 'Be true to yourself. Why should you
rebel against what is a woman's sweetest destiny? Do you not believe
that I honour you? that I love you with every pulse of my being? How
can I convince you that you would be happy as my wife?...Marriage, in
which there would be no ruffling of your delicate sensibilities, no
jarring against your prejudices, in which your whole nature would
expand under the influence of love, would perfect your being, and make
your joy...This is what I offer you...It is I who have lifted you out
of your tame, colourless existence into life...You are dazzled. You
dare not trust your senses, which would be your surest guide to
happiness.'

'You say that you understand me,' said Honoria, speaking almost in a
whisper, and looking earnestly into his face. 'I must believe you, for
I do not understand myself. At one time I thought that I should like
best to rule, and that other people should reflect my moods. I wanted
everyone to think and feel as I wished...And then that seemed cold,
and I longed for a fuller life--for sympathy and emotion. And you
came...I wanted to have great passions, like the people in books--to
live instead of to stagnate; and yet all the time I meant to be
supreme. That is what I am not. I am a slave. It is as though I were
being drawn by a bad spirit whither I do not wish to go. If I loved
you should I be afraid of you?...And I struggle, and it is of no use;
nothing is of any use...At night, I awaken all quivering and
frightened. I awaken fancying that you have touched me in the
darkness. When I am with you I am excited in a dreamy, horrible way,
and afterwards I shudder. It is as though I had been standing on the
edge of a precipice and had turned giddy. If you understand me, tell
me why all this is?'

'In two words,' replied Barrington--'you love.'

'Do I love?' cried Honoria, almost wildly. 'I sometimes wonder whom.'

'You love me,' said Barrington, drawing her again to him, and holding
her face almost on a level with his own, so that she was compelled to
meet his look. 'It is my happiness to believe that it is so. I read
your confession in your eyes, on your lips, in the tones of your
voice, in the beating of your heart. You love me...'

Honoria's bosom heaved and her form became pliant as a reed in his
grasp. The dread passed from her face, her eyes swam with tenderness,
and her lips parted in a smile, half dreamy, half coquettish.

'If love is surrender,' she murmured, 'then I love. I will have no
will. You shall be my will. You shall be my faith.'



Chapter XXVI. Barrington a Rejected Suitor.

DURING the interview which followed, and which was fraught with the
witchery of repulsion and intoxication, Barrington promised that he
would at once inform Mr. Longleat of what had taken place. Later in the
day he called at the Treasury, and asked if the Premier would favour him
with a private interview.

He was admitted. Mr. Longleat, absorbed in calculations, was seated
before a large table, which was strewn with official documents, and
flanked by pigeon-holes stuffed with papers. He looked up as
Barrington entered, curtly shook hands, and motioned him to a seat. In
a few well-chosen words he told the result of his proposal to Honoria,
and formally asked Mr. Longleat's consent to their engagement.

The Premier rose, and stood with his back to the fireplace, and his
thumbs thrust into the armholes of his waistcoat, as was his custom
when he was obstinate or annoyed.

'Mr. Barrington,' said he, 'it is just as well that you and I should
understand each other without any more to do.'

'Certainly,' replied Barrington, in those well-bred neutral tones
which were specially irritative to Mr. Longleat's temper. 'Your
daughter has consented to become my wife. Of course I am anxious that
you should approve of her choice.'

Longleat regarded him with a critical look of dislike, and,
restraining by an effort any violent expression of his feelings, said
:

'You are an Englishman--a man of good family--a younger son with
wealthy relations. I have some little knowledge of your class, and I
tell you frankly that I detest it.'

'I am sorry for that, Mr. Longleat,' replied Barrington; 'but it is
hardly fair that a man should be held responsible for the position of
his parents.'

'You think no small beer of yourself,' continued Longleat,
'especially where women are concerned. Now, will you be good enough to
tell me what your income is?'

Barrington explained that his brother made him an allowance of £150
per annum, the capital equivalent to which he would receive when he
had decided to invest in Australia.

'A matter of £4000, putting it roughly at four per cent.,' said Mr.
Longleat. 'Have you expectations of further property?'

'None that I am aware of,' answered Barrington. 'I may mention that
after my brother and his two sons, I am heir to the family title and
estate; but my succession is a very remote contingency.'

'Pshaw!' exclaimed Longleat. 'You are doubtless aware that when my
daughter is twenty-one she will, independently of me, be a rich woman.
This fact has probably entered into your calculation. Now, setting
aside everything else, is it likely that I shall consent to her
marriage with a needy sprig of nobility? Perhaps you imagine you are
doing her an honour?'

'On the contrary, I am honoured by Miss Longleat's preference. I hope
that you acquit me of mercenary motives?'

'Damn it!' cried Mr. Longleat, furiously, 'I am not going to pay my
daughter the ill compliment of supposing that you are only seeking her
for her money. Don't I know that she is fit to be a duchess, if there
is any glory in that? You are a conceited cuss, and you have contrived
to establish an abominable influence over her. She has never been the
same since you gained her ear. She has looked queer and out of sorts,
and has held herself aloof from me. Who is to blame for that if it is
not you? Am I likely to regard you with any more favour for coming
between my daughter and me?'

'Are you certain that it is I who have come between you and your
daughter?' asked Barrington, in a meaning tone.

'Do you want to insult me?' cried Longleat, growing very red. 'I say
that it is you who have poisoned her mind. I know all about you. You
were kicked out of the Guards. You have got into rows about women; you
have squandered your fortune, and have come out to Australia to be
whitewashed. You brag about your relations in England, and trade upon
your good looks. If you think for a moment that you are going to marry
my daughter you are very much mistaken.'

'Mr. Longleat,' said Barrington, 'if any man but you had insulted me
he would have had to answer for it. I suppose that Miss Longleat will
have a voice in the matter. What you say is perfectly untrue. I will
put you in the way of obtaining any information that you may desire as
to my former life and my objects in coming out to Australia. Any
reasonable objection that you may urge I will answer frankly.'

'There is nothing more to be said,' returned Longleat, doggedly; 'I
have other views for my daughter.'

'I think that before dismissing me in this summary fashion, you owe
me the courtesy of an explanation.'

'I have other views for my daughter,' repeated Longleat. 'It is not
my intention that she shall marry an Englishman. I have no objection
to her seeing all that is to be seen in Europe. She shall have
everything that money can give her--that's what I've worked for; but
she shall marry as I have marked out. She is an Australian, and her
money belongs to Australia. I have educated her to hold her head among
the highest in the colonies, and here she shall stop, and her money
too. I am not going to have her play second-fiddle, and be looked down
upon because her father was a bullock-driver. Out here, I am Longleat
of Kooralbyn, Premier of Leichardt's Land, and she is my daughter;
that is the top of the tree to us. Her husband shall be an Australian,
who will take my name and carry on my work; so that when I am dead and
gone, Longleat's policy shall still be known the length and breadth of
the land. The Premier's daughter--the Premier's wife--that's what I
mean her to be, and nothing else.'

'You must be aware, Mr. Longleat,' said Barrington, 'that your
objections are mere prejudices. Your strong affection for your
daughter will surely never suffer them to override her happiness. I am
willing to agree to any stipulation that you may make as to her
residence in Australia.'

'Ay, ay! I have no doubt,' replied the Premier, sarcastically; 'but
that has nothing to do with the matter. I object to you personally. I
have never cottoned to you from the moment I set eyes upon you. If I
had not been a besotted fool, I should have forbidden you my house
long ago. I caution you now not to set foot within my doors, or you'll
be kicked out of them. I don't understand your fine English manners,
but it seems to me that a man has a right to behave as he pleases
inside his own walls, and I beg you'll keep out of mine. I distinctly
decline to entertain your proposal.'

'I regret your determination,' said Barrington, with difficulty
keeping his temper; 'but till Miss Longleat herself dismisses me I
shall consider myself engaged to her. Of course I shall not enter your
house against your wishes.'

'You may consider yourself what you please,' said Longleat. 'It is
my business to prevent my daughter from making a fool of herself. Keep
your mind easy, Mr. Barrington; she will never go agen me.'

'We shall see,' said Barrington.

'Very well! and as we have both made our intentions clear, and I have
a good deal of public business on hand, you'll excuse me if I say good
afternoon.'

The Premier seated himself again at his table, and touched the gong
to summon his clerk.

Barrington took up his hat and withdrew, speculating as he left the
Treasury what would be the immediate result of the interview.

Honoria had told him the family plans for the day. He knew that she
was to drive with Lady Georgina Augmering in the afternoon; that there
was a meeting of the Executive; that the Premier was to attend a
political banquet; and that she had asked some gentlemen to dine at
The Bunyas. He himself had been one of those invited, but it was now
of course impossible for him to be present. Upon the whole, he did not
think it probable that Mr. Longleat would have an opportunity of
speaking to his daughter that day, and resolved to write to her in
such terms that her promise would be clinched before there was any
chance of its being broken.

But Barrington hardly estimated the extent of his power, or the
obstinacy of Honoria's disposition. Susceptible as she was to
emotional influences, she had a strong contempt for legitimate
authority, and was as iron when bidden to yield a jot of her
supremacy. Thus it needed but the breath of opposition to fan her
fascination for Barrington into a violent flame.

Longleat felt ill at ease after his dismissal of Barrington. At
half--past three the Executive Council met, and even the Governor
rallied him upon his air of heavy abstraction. When it was over,
instead of retiring to his office, or crossing the river to see Mrs.
Vallancy, as was his wont, he betook himself to his own home, where he
found Mrs. Ferris and his daughter in close conversation.

In truth, they had been talking about Barrington's visit and its
consequences. The old lady was a fervent admirer of the Englishman,
and her warm praise stimulated the confidence which in her woman--like
longing for sympathy it was impossible for Honoria to withhold.

They both started when the Premier entered. He looked flushed but
resolute.

'Honoria,' he said, 'can you come with me into the study? I want to
speak to you.'

'Lady Georgina will call for me in a quarter of an hour,' replied
Honoria, coldly.

'Come!' he said imperiously, and she followed him to the back room
looking out upon the lawn, filled with Hansard's Parliamentary papers
and standard tomes, where the Premier spent long hours in studying
political precedents, and the principles of representative government;
in battling, too, with the difficulties of grammar and classic
authors; in lonely brooding and painful excitement.

He went up to the fireplace, where a log was burning, and stood with
his back to the flame. His daughter faced him.

'Honie,' he said with great gentleness, taking her hands, 'my gell,
you must gev it up!'

She looked at him full with her clear eyes, while her lips tightened
ever so slightly, but she made no answer.

'You must gev it up,' repeated Longleat. 'He is not the kind for you.
A needy swell, who has shaved too close to the wind at home, and who
is caught by your pretty face and the chink of your money. A man
who'll think that he is doing you an honour maybe by marrying you;
who'll love you for a year, then turn from you, and perhaps ill-use
you. Oh, I know his breed.'

'He is a gentleman!' said Honoria, proudly.

'What has that to do with it? Is not--'

He paused, and grew redder. It had been on his lips to say, 'Is not
Connie Vallancy's husband a gentleman?' And perhaps Honoria guessed at
the unfinished sentence, for she stiffened herself, and stood erect.

He went on hurriedly blurting out his sentences.

'Take my word for it. I know the meanness, the cruelty of the race--
how they look upon all innocent creatures, not noble like themselves,
as born only for the gratification of their cowardly pleasures. You
are not the woman to be despised, perhaps affronted. I had rather know
you were dead outright than see you suffer the lingering torture that
a marriage with that man would be to you. Have I not seen something of
these d--d aristocrats? They think that God created the world, and all
the live things on it, for their profit and pleasure. They believe in
their sacred prerogative to make laws and crush the people. They've
got a kind of hard supercilious pride that holds them together and
gives them the notion that outside their own order all mankind is so
much dirt. Arrogance and cruelty are bred in their bones and flesh.
They are the curse of England. It is only in a new country like this,
where the forest is free, and God is for each and all, that there is
any liberty for man or beast. Do you imagine that you, who have been
worshipped like a queen, could endure to eat humble-pie before a set
of simpering ladies who would merely tolerate you for your riches, or
more likely flout you because your father had been a bullock-driver?
You are an Australian--your money is Australian. Never forget that it
came from old Jem Bagot, a ticket-of-leave man, and your father's pal
in the old days when he drove his team to Kooya, and grudged himself a
pipe or a nobbler that he might lay by to make a lady of you...'

'Papa!' said Honoria, her face fearlessly turned towards him, 'I
understand your feelings, but I cannot sympathise with them. My money
may be Australian, but I am not. I have not an ounce of genuine
Australian blood in my veins...I cannot get up an enthusiasm about
wool, and tallow, frozen meat, intercolonial jealousy, and all that
cant which people talk about this glorious country of the future,
which seems to me like the boasting of a silly child who fancies that
the great world is interested in its capers. I care only for my native
land because it is the scene of my life--I would change it if I could.
I care only for politics because they are your triumph or defeat. All
my yearnings are after England, and English people. Like must to
like--'

Longleat dropped her hands helplessly.

'Like must to like,' he repeated. 'You are wanting me to understand
that the bond of flesh is all that binds us together. Our minds don't
march to the same tune. You are ready to pick a quarrel with Fate for
making you the daughter of an Australian bullock-driver, instead of
the child of an English nobleman--as well one as the other! You are
not content to take your life as God gave it you, and be thankful.
What have my love and my work done for you, except to drive you from
me? There's nothing to hold us to each other except the fact that it
is I who begot you, and not another. When your own fortune comes to
you--Jem Bagot's money--you'll be independent of your father.'

'Father,' said Honoria, 'how hard you are! How cruel!' The words
were passionate, but the tone was merely incisive. 'What have I done
that you should speak to me so? I have never cared about the money
that was left me. I have never wanted it, or thought of being
independent of you. I have wished to be a dutiful daughter, but there
are some matters which a girl must decide for herself...I have never
known exactly what you wanted me to be--you seemed always pleased with
me--it is only lately that you have been dissatisfied. Is it my fault
that I have feelings and longings and thoughts of life different from
yours?'

'No, it is not your fault, Honie,' said Longleat, quietly. 'You have
soared above me, and you are not to be blamed for using your wings. I
shouldn't have let them grow--I should have kept them down--that is
what I ought to have done, and then you would not have despised me.'

'Papa,' Honoria went on, speaking very gently, and not realising how
every word that she uttered stabbed him, 'I do not wish you to
interpret my words in such a manner that you can suspect me of meaning
any disrespect to you. What I want to convey to you is this, that you
are not able to understand Mr. Barrington. You have been differently
reared--you have prejudices against the class to which he belongs. All
people cannot be alike.'

'No; there are camels and race-horses; there are barndoor fowls and
larks,' said Longleat, with unconscious irony.

'You and Mr. Barrington look at life from opposite points of view.
You do not understand his way of thinking, his world, his education,
and you have taken a dislike to him. You are unjust to him in your
heart. As for me, I know that he loves me. It is not my money that he
wants--and if it were, I would give it to him freely. I must be
generous. I must bestow all or nothing. I have allowed him to become
my master, and I will glory in being his slave. I will shut my mind to
any doubts--I have promised, and I will never be untrue to my
word...You have not understood me. I have not understood myself. I am
stronger and weaker than I thought. I was miserable. You might have
seen it. You might have saved--I mean you might have prevented my
becoming engaged to him. Now that I have given myself up I am
miserable no longer.'

As Honoria stood, with her head thrown back, her eyes dilated, and
determination expressed in every line of her face, Longleat felt an
intense admiration for her beauty--nay, even for her resolution. Pride
and love stirred his heart. She was his own. Rough and unrefined
though he might be, it was his privilege to call this superb creature
his child. She was bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. Even though a
duke might wed her, she would be none the less his daughter--the crown
of his Australian career.

'Honoria,' he said, with a kind of wistful tenderness, 'I had meant
that you should be the queen of Leichardt's Land--first lady in the
country that has bred you, and that has made a great man of your
father. I thought that you would have married Dyson Maddox. It was for
that I got him into the Ministry--more than because he has a smart
head upon his shoulders. I was waiting--waiting. I had a notion of
carrying my railway. Longleat's Railway it should ha' been, all
Australia over--and Longleat's Loan. Then I'd have gone to England,
and they'd have knighted me; and I'd have worked things gradually so
that Dyson should have taken my place. There's pluck and go in him.
He'd make a good Premier. That was my notion. And now I'm not going to
let it lie, and see you throw yourself away upon that cursed
Englishman...My gell! it's the first time that I've ever asked you to
gev up anything your heart was set on...It's the first time in all
your life that I have ever wanted to go agen you...My gell! for the
sake of the love I've got for you, and the pride, and for being my
only one that I've worked to make a lady of--for Janie, she doesn't
count; she'll never be the same as you--for my sake, gev it up,
Honie--I beg you to gev it up!'

Honoria was deeply moved.

'Father!' she said, suddenly and sharply, 'you have asked me to give
up something that I care for. Will you give up something in your turn?
That is fair. Will you promise not to go and see Mrs. Vallancy any
more, or let people have occasion to couple your name with hers
disgracefully?'

'Hush!' said Longleat; 'it is not for you to speak about this to
me.'

'It is for me to speak!' cried Honoria. 'Do I not hear the remarks
that are made? Do I not know the sort of woman she is?' (Here Longleat
started guiltily.) 'Am I not your daughter? Is not your honour mine?
Father, will you give her up--for my sake and for your own?'

'No,' said Longleat, doggedly. 'Things are come to a pretty pass if
a daughter is to order her father's likings. You have got nought to do
with the matter. I love you as my life, but you're apart. I have never
wished you to be mixed up with Connie Vallancy. I'm a man, and being a
man I've a right to choose my own way of going. It is your place to
obey. I have let you have too free a rein; it is time you felt a touch
of the bit. Mrs. Vallancy is my friend, rid I will not desert her at
your bidding.'

'Then, father,' replied Honoria, loftily, 'you cannot blame me if I
refuse to desert the man I love at yours. You had better allow me to
marry Mr. Barrington. There can be no use in opposing me, and it is
time that I made a home for myself.'

'You want to leave me--to leave your home,' he said, in a bewildered
manner, as though her words were a painful revelation.

'All women marry in the course of time, and have homes of their
own,' said Honoria, more gently. 'And I am not understood. It is
natural that I should long for sympathy and love.'

'Ay!' said Longleat, heavily, 'that's what we all of us, young and
old, come to longing after--sympathy and love.'

The clock on the mantelshelf chimed the hour. Honoria moved towards
the door.

'I must go. Lady Georgina will be here in a moment I am sorry, papa,
but I am resolved: I will not give up Mr. Barrington!'

'Stay!' said Longleat; 'I have forbidden him the house--I have told
him that if he ever shows his face within my doors I'll have him
turned out!'

'You said that?' said Honoria, her eyes darkening and dilating with
anger.

'I did--and by heaven I meant my words! Now give me your promise that
you will neither see nor speak to him.'

'I promise that I will do neither--within these walls,' said Honoria,
deliberately, 'but I will promise no more. Yes--I will give you my
word that I will not marry him without your permission till I am
twenty-one. Further than that I will not be bound.'

The two stood looking at each other for several moments before she
turned the handle of the door and left the room. The same spirit of
defiance gleamed from the eyes of both, only that with Honoria emotion
was strained to its utmost, and having yielded her faith into
Barrington's keeping, the dominant thought was determination to cleave
to him at all hazards; while in Longleat's breast dull fury against
Barrington, revulsion after his excited outbreak of supplication,
wounded love, disappointed pride, and passion for Mrs. Vallancy,
bubbling up the stronger for having been momentarily stemmed--all
contended for the mastery.

His eyes were the first to droop. When the door had closed upon his
daughter, he flung himself into a chair, and with a despairing gesture
folded his arms upon the table before him, and buried his burly head
upon them.

'God help me!' he muttered; 'what is a man to do when his own child
turns agen him?'

Presently there was the sound of carriage-wheels without. Half--
ashamed of his weakness, Longleat stole to the window, and from behind
the venetian-shutter watched his daughter go forth and take her place
beside the Governor's wife.

How beautiful she looked in her well-fitting dress and little black
hat with its drooping feather; but oh! how cold--how unresponsive to
his keen yearning! He had fancied for a moment that she might return
and say some tender word which should give him the comfort of feeling
that they were not quite estranged...But no; she did not even look
towards the study. Nevertheless, the thought may have found an echo in
Honoria's breast; for as they were driving down Ferry Street, after
having dawdled for some fifteen minutes at the library, she started up
in the carriage and exclaimed:

'Oh, I must go home for a moment; I must see my father!'

'My dear!' said Lady Georgina Augmering, in cold condemnatory tones,
dropping the eye-glass through which she had been attentively scanning
the river, 'I don't think that you need trouble yourself about your
father. Look at him yonder in that ferry-boat, crossing to Emu Point.'



Chapter XXVII. The Tryst by the Bamboos.

MEANWHILE Barrington had written the following letter:

'The Club, Leichardt's Town.

'29th April.

'My DEAREST HONORIA.

'After seeing you this morning I had an interview with your father, and
am sorry to tell you that he entirely refuses to sanction our
engagement.

He objects to me on the grounds that I am a well-born Englishman;
that I am poor; and that injurious reports have been circulated in
connection with my retirement from the Guards. It is unnecessary for me to
tell you that these rumours, which are I believe rife in Leichardt's Town,
have the most vague foundation. I do not pretend to be a saint, but I can
truly assure you that there is nothing in my past career which reflects a
shadow upon my honour or renders me unworthy of your love.

'Your father declares that he has other views for your future--that
it is his wish you should marry an Australian who will assume his name and
perpetuate his political reputation. He has forbidden me to enter his
house under penalty of being kicked out of it. I have, therefore, no
resource but to implore that you will meet me at least once again.

'Need I say that, till with your own lips you reject me, I will
accept no dismissal? This I have told your father. I claim as my right that
you grant me an interview.

'Be at the wicket-gate, which leads from your grounds into the
Botanical Gardens, this evening as near nine o'clock as possible. I will add
neither entreaties nor protestations. The most passionate expressions are
bathos when coldly written. You must be convinced by this time of the depth
of my love. All your impulses draw you towards me. Obey them, dearest,
and you will be happy.

'Ever your own.

'HARDRESS BARRINGTON.'

When Barrington had written the letter, he was puzzled to contrive
for its safe and private conveyance to Miss Longleat's hands, in time
for her to keep the appointment he had named. He carried it in his
pocket as he wandered up and down King Street: and fortune favoured
him so far that, upon turning round by the principal draper's shop, he
came suddenly face to face with Honoria, who was sitting alone in Lady
Georgina Augmering's carriage, while the latter executed some
purchases within.

Though she trembled with excitement as he approached, she would not
lean forward or betray any sign of eagerness.

He hurriedly placed the letter he had written in her hand.

'I have seen your father,' he whispered, 'and have been forbidden
your house.'

'I know it,' she murmured; 'I have seen him also.'

'And what is it to be?' he asked, with his eyes fixed anxiously upon
her face. 'Are you going to give me up?'

She raised her head with a defiant gesture:

'I am not so fickle a woman.'

'To love is to trust,' whispered Barrington, passionately; 'and you
will do what I beg of you in this letter? I have asked you to meet me
this evening--trust me. You said that I should be your faith.'

'Hush!' said Honoria. 'Lady Georgina is coming; I will do what you
wish.'

Lady Georgina emerged from the shop. She said a few gracious words to
Barrington, and gave the order to drive on.

Her verbal promise spared Honoria any agonies of indecision. When at
sunset she was dropped by Lady Georgina at The Bunyas, and was able to
read her letter in quiet, she never even questioned whether she should
comply with her lover's demand. Of course she would go. Her direct
defiance of her father's wishes removed any scruples upon the score of
disobedience; and her newly-born selfreliance--or rather, reliance
upon another--and her scorn of conventionality, made her blind to the
shame of a clandestine meeting.

She found, upon entering the drawing-room, that her father had gone
to his political dinner, and that her own guests, Cornelius Cathcart
and Mr. Power, had already arrived. Honoria was unusually silent
during the meal, and announced that she had a headache. It was half-
past eight when they left the dining-room.

'My dear Aunt Pen,' said Honoria, pausing at the drawing-roorn door,
and entirely disregarding the kind old lady's eagerness to hear
particulars of the interview with the Premier. 'I stayed in there as
long as I could, for it's all they are going to have of my company
this evening. Goodnight, dear, and don't come to my room and disturb
me; I am not in the mood for talking. You shall hear all tomorrow.'

'My love,' said Mrs. Ferris, gulping down her disappointment, 'you
are hot and feverish. I am afraid that talk with your father has upset
you. Never mind--all will come right. If ever a man worshipped you,
it's Mr. Barrington. Now, go and lay yourself down between the cool
sheets, and read a chapter in the Bible, and ask God to bless you. I
doubt, my love, that you are as prayerful as you might be.'

Honoria smiled a little grimly; then entered her pretty bedroom which
opened on to the garden, and locked the inner door that communicated
with the rest of the house.

The French windows she must leave open; they had venetian shutters
that bolted on the inside. But she rang for the maid and told her that
she was going to bed and did not wish to be disturbed; then she
wrapped herself in a long cloak, and put on a little black hat that
left her face all uncovered, too careless and too proud to attempt any
further disguise.

There was the chance that one or both of the gentlemen who were
dining there that evening might be smoking in the verandah; and when
nine o'clock struck, she stole cautiously across the lawn, and into a
belt of shrubbery which she skirted till she reached the bamboos that
sheltered the wicket.

She paused for a moment. The night was clear and moonless. Upon the
Emu Point ridge the lights twinkled like an irregular row of stars,
while below the cliff lay the broad dark belt of the river. It was so
still that she could hear plainly the ding-dong of the steamers'
bells, and the cries of the boatmen. Before her stretched the dim
expanse of garden, with its long vistas of bunya-trees, and mimosae,
and beds of azaleas and camellias, and heavy odorous magnolias. On the
other side of the bamboo hedge that bounded the Premier's dwelling was
an unfrequented walk, merging in a thicket of Moreton Bay fig-trees,
pines, and tall, shivering bamboos. Here Honoria knew that they would
probably be safe from interruption.

She opened the gate--passed through; then relocked it, and put the
key into her pocket. Hardly had she emerged from the shadow of the
hedge than a tall figure advanced, and Barrington, taking her hand,
led her into the concealment of the grove. Now, alone with her lover,
Honoria felt no fear, yet she drew back shrinkingly from his caresses,
and, with a certain defiant pride, placed herself against the trunk of
a fig-tree which faced the path.

'Come a little further away,' said Barrington. 'You may be seen by
some one lurking about the gardens.'

'I am not ashamed to be recognised,' exclaimed Honoria. 'I would have
all Leichardt's Town know that I have defied my father's injustice and
cruelty, and that I am here to meet my lover. And what greater
impropriety is there in talking to you in this garden than there was
in our sitting by the lagoon at Kooralbyn?'

'My love,' said Barrington, 'at Kooralbyn there were no ill-natured
tongues to gossip...I admire your bravery, but I must shield you from
the slightest breath of slander.'

Even in the dimness, he could see that she flushed deeply.

'There,' said she, pettishly, 'you spoil my illusion. Do you not see
that I am trying to make myself believe that I am not your slave--that
I am doing the most simple and natural thing in the world?'

'Mutinous still,' said Barrington tenderly, as he led her into the
deepest obscurity of the thicket, and seated her upon a bench. Then he
encircled her waist with his arm, and drew her close to him.

'These nights are not like those summer evenings by the lake at
Kooralbyn--oh that we were there now, away from prying eyes and
meddling tongues! Are you cold, darling?'

'No, feel my hands; they are burning; and my head is aching, and I
should like to lie down and cry. My whole mind and body are in a state
of feverish excitement.'

'My love, your nerves are overstrained. Remember your declaration.
You should be calm and at rest now.'

'That I never shall be--never--as long as you are my master, and I am
your slave--unless, indeed, we grow absolutely indifferent to each
other, and that is what I fancy it will come to in time. Such violent
delights have violent ends. Perhaps you will tire of me, or I of you,
before the year is out which I have promised my father to wait.'

'What year?' asked Barrington, startled.

'My fortune does not become my own till I am twentyone, and I have
given my word to my father that I will not marry you before that time.
Who knows what may happen? I shall be twenty on the 7th of next month.
Thus, there is a year and a week to wait.'

'I cannot remain in suspense for so long,' exclaimed Barrington. 'I
cannot live without you. Your father's objections to me are
unreasonable. Time will not soften them. Honoria, we must be married
at once.'

'No,' said Honoria, firmly. 'I must submit to you in most things, but
I will not be ruled in this. I will keep a shred of liberty. Do you
think that I am a monster, to go against my father without feeling a
pang? I love him, in my own way. I should feel myself a traitor if it
were not that he is a traitor too...I would have sacrificed even you
if only he had consented to break with Mrs. Vallancy--but he refused--
and so we go different ways, perhaps both to destruction. You know
that I have been warned against you, but I ask no questions. I do not
insult you by doubting your motives. I do not even wish to know why
you left the Guards.'

'You are a noble woman,' said Barrington, with his eyes upon the
ground. 'But,' he went on, in a hurried self-exculpatory manner, 'you
need not hesitate to ask--you should hear the story, what there is to
tell, if you wished. But you would not understand the world--my life.
You must know that London men are not anchorites. I was no better than
anyone else of my set--and no worse. I gambled--I got into debt--I was
entangled with a woman whom I did not love ...'

'That will do,' said Honoria. 'Let the past lie. I'll believe that
you are neither saint nor sinner. What does it matter? Now talk to me
about England--about your mother. Will she like me, or will she
despise me for being a bullock-driver's daughter? Tell me where we
shall go when we are married? We shall travel, of course. What is the
most beautiful thing that you will take me to see?'

She listened in silence while he described the scenes they should
visit, the life they would lead, painting the future in the most
attractive colouring that his imagination could furnish--lover's talk,
fragmentary and eloquent, broken by hand-clasping and caressings--but
wearisome in repetition.

'I dare say that I should tire of it all,' said Honoria, at length.
'I should pine after the mountains, the wild forests, the old free
life. I have read that wherever one's lot may be cast away from home,
the longing for one's motherland intensifies with the years, till it
becomes pain. I should be unsatisfied. It is always so with me. First,
there is the keen wishing to make some one love me or to feel some new
sensation; then revulsion and distaste. What if even you were to
become hackneyed! Oh, you need not smile. I am less afraid of you now.
I find that I can play upon your feelings. Look at me. Can you see my
features in this dim light?'

Barrington half turned, loosening his arm, though it still supported
her, as she reared herself back, facing him. The two pairs of eyes
gazed into each other--hers dreamy and seductive, his bright and
longing. At last Barrington exclaimed passionately:

'Honoria, don't--don't look at me in that way!'

'Why?' she asked, laughing softly, and still gazing.

'Do you not understand? I love you--and ...'

She rose suddenly, and folded her cloak round her.

'The moon is coming out,' she said. 'I ought to go within. Oh! this
hateful concealment; but time will pass and our love will be as bright
as day, and then there will be no dimness, no mystery. I will kiss
you--once--while it is dark...No, no! I did not mean it. There!--you
frighten me! No, I will not come again--I will never come again. Let
me go!'

But before he released her she had promised him another meeting.

And not one, but many took place, always at the same spot under the
bamboos, at such hours as were convenient to Honoria to steal away
from her father's guests.

Her frank abandon bewildered Barrington's judgment, while it
intoxicated his senses. He could not determine whether the absence of
that maidenly reserve which he had been accustomed to associate with
young ladies of the higher classes was the result of boldness or
ignorance. And here was a flaw in his logic. No wonder that he
generalised accordingly. There was in her manner no symptom of coyness
to indicate how far she realised the danger of her position. Though
she made no protests against the clandestine meetings for which he
pleaded, and seemed completely mastered by the extraordinary
fascination he exercised over her, it was impossible for him to
calculate upon her moods. Upon one occasion she would be tender and
cooing as a dove; upon another, abrupt, cold, and almost savage in her
repulse of his caresses.

One night he waited vainly under the bamboos till nearly morning, in
anxious expectation of her coming, venturing even, when all the house
was in darkness, to climb the wicket and tap gently at the venetian
shutters of her room, but without obtaining any response. He wrote her
an impassioned letter, and upon the following day she came forth,
white and cold, to hear his upbraidings.

'I wanted to see if I could resist you,' she said, when he
reproached her. 'I knew that you were out there waiting and listening
and probably cursing me...All the time that I was playing within-
doors, I felt that your will was drawing me towards you, and I set
myself in opposition to it. I said that I would see whether you could
compel me. I shut my lips and defied you. I don't think that I could
do it again. I could not have done it then if there had not been
another influence at work...Oh! what a despicable creature I am! What
is my love worth? Nothing--nothing. To be torn in two ways--it is
shameful--it is degrading I...I don't know whether I hate or love you
most...You have been mesmerising me; that's what it is. You have got
the evil eye. You are like Margrave in the "Strange Story."...But you
are stronger than I, and I could not have kept away from you to-
night--no, not if papa had held me!'

'Tell me who was with you last night?' asked Barrington, hoarsely.

'It was Dyson Maddox,' replied Honoria, quite meekly. 'He has come
back from Kooralbyn, and Mrs. Ferris is going up soon. I think that I
shall go with her. Angela is ill.'

'Angela ill! What ails her!' exclaimed Barrington, blankly. 'Angela
ill!' he repeated.

An uneasy sense of guilt took hold of him, and all night he was
haunted by Angela's pale, reproachful face.

Dyson had been for a fortnight upon the Koorong. It was a longer
absence than he had intended; but there were several reasons which
made him just now prefer the obscurity of Barramunda to the bustling
life of Leichardt's Town. Though he had manned himself to the
sacrifice of his dearest hopes, he could not face it unflinchingly.

Rumours of Miss Longleat's engagement, and of the Premier's
opposition to the match, were rife upon the Koorong. Lord and Lady
Dolph heard them, and, though they regretted untoward circumstances,
were jubilant for the sake of their friend. Granny Deans heard them,
and mumbled something about the 'crooked stick.' Tom Dungie heard
them, and upon the strength of example, began seriously to consider
his matrimonial intentions towards Miss McCutchan. And Angela heard
them, and drooped and withered, till her father's heart, not knowing
any cause of evil, ached sorely for his darling.

The evening of his return Dyson spent at The Bunyas, in the company
of Honoria and Mrs. Ferris. The meeting was an ordeal which he
dreaded, and which he faced with something of the old courage that, in
one of his exploring expeditions, when he had been wounded by a native
spear, believed firmly to be poisoned, had made him pluck out the
weapon, and, without a word, pursue his course to the northern goal
which, in his heart, he did not expect to reach.

'I told you,' said Honoria, looking at him with her great star-like
eyes, 'that when you came back again everything might be different
with me. Everything is different.'

During the evening she was restless and excited; sometimes silently
attentive to some outward cause of distraction, sometimes talking
feverishly and hurriedly as though to escape thought. At last she sat
down to the piano, and played a queer, wild waltz by Rubenstein.

Suddenly she started up, and laid her hand upon Maddox's arm. He was
sitting a little behind her.

'Don't let me go out,' she said in a low, frightened voice; 'keep me
from going out!'

'What do you mean?' he asked in astonished tones. 'Why, surely you
are not thinking of going out at this hour?'

'No--yes! I don't know what I was thinking of--all kinds of strange
things. Let us play at cards--bézique, whist! Aunt Pen will take the
dummy.'



Chapter XXVIII. Tom Dungie Gossips.

ANGELA and Mr. Ferris were alone at Kooralbyn. Even Sammy Deans had
betaken himself to Leichardt's Town; and but for the occasional visits
of the new chums and 'hands,' who were employed principally upon the
outside cattle-stations, and did not interfere with the domestic
arrangements, the father and daughter enjoyed an almost uninterrupted
tête-à-tête.

This time was a period of happiness to the old man. He was in his
softest, most genial mood. All jarring influences were removed; and he
forgot his hatred of Longleat and jealousy of Honoria in the sweet
companionship of his daughter, the intellectual dissipation of
prolonged readings from his favourite poets, and the artistic babbling
which his soul loved.

He did not at first observe that Angela was more silent than had
been her wont when alone with him; that her painting had no longer the
old absorbing charm, or her books their fascination. But he noticed
that she watched anxiously for the arrival of Dungie, and the opening
of the mail-bag, and that she eagerly devoured her stepmother's
gossiping epistles descriptive of balls, picnics and Miss Longleat's
conquests, heretofore merely provocative of listless scorn, but now
rendered fatally pungent by the frequent allusions to Barrington which
they contained. He was dimly awake also to a change in the girl's
face. The old dreamy rapture, which had made it appear that of a being
set apart from the commonplace interests of life, had softened and
vivified into an exalted passion, that may be best described by
comparing it with the expression which animates the features of a nun
who realises all the yearnings of her human nature, in fervid
communion with her spiritual spouse.

So Hardress Barrington was the lord of Angela's innermost sanctuary,
the sun towards which, Clytie-like, she must look or die.

And while at first her heart glowed and expanded with this sense of
glorious ecstasy, after a time, as hope of his return waned, her
physical strength faded, and she was no longer equal to the long
rambles beneath the silver wattles and moaning she-oaks, among bracken
fern and tall grass, in which she had formerly found her deepest
inspiration. Her father remarked that her step failed, and unwilling
to admit that she was too weak to walk, made a pretext of wishing to
explore the surrounding country more closely, and mounting her upon a
quiet pony, made her accompany him in his excursions among the hills
and glens. Upon these occasions it was always he who talked most.

'Look, Angela,' he would say, as they drove dreamily over the flat,
where the quiet kine lifted their round eyes and gazed meditatively
upon them as they passed. 'Look at yonder crag which stands out
sinister and lurid against the copper-coloured sky. There's a storm
rising in the Ubi Ubi district, but that has nothing to do with us. It
is old Nilparoo, the spirit of the mountains, who broods vengefully
over the desolation of civilisation that is creeping on through the
forests. Can you not mark his shadowy arms stretched forth in menace
and rebuke above the tempest?...My love, this is nature dramatised.
For the artist every landscape contains the elements of a poem. Yonder
bed of murky vapour, streaked with foamy plashes, and shading off at
the edges to rose, would be a grand subject for a painter ...' Or
later, he would exclaim, 'Angela, will there never be an Australian
Ossian to strike a wild note in tune to the cry of the curlews, the
moan of swamp oaks, the rushing of streams, the hum of butterflies,
and sighing of leaves! Is Nature to be always eloquent here, and Art
mute?'

And so they would ride on and on through the many vistaed forest,
among the aromatic gum-trees with their thickening stems and
whispering foliage, till the air and the woods seemed to Angela full
of forms and voices, and she knew not which was living, she or they.

And sometimes, in the very heart of the bush, she would hear
Barrington's voice addressing her, and her own replying in words that
seemed the outcome of her soul. And often she fancied that they had
passed out of this strange, inconsistent life, which was alternately a
dream of bliss and of vague dissatisfaction, to the true dream-world
that to her was so much more real, and where there was no aching pain
of neglect.

'Father,' she said suddenly, one day when they were riding musingly
together through the trees, 'what does it feel like to die?'

'To die!' repeated Mr. Ferris. 'Ay! there's the mystery that mortal
minds cannot unravel. Who ever passes the border-land, and returns to
tell his tale? All Nature dies, and we know not how or wherefore. But
what puts such notions into your head, Fairy?'

'I was only wondering, father, whether death is pain, or if it is no
more than floating--floating away into a lighter world--just as I feel
when I am tired, and lie down in the grass beneath the cedar--trees--
and the air seems full of perfume, and the wind sighs gently through
the branches, till I can almost believe that it is an angel sobbing,
while the water sings like a chorus of distant voices, and I fancy
that I am Angela no longer, but a spirit going--I know not whither. Is
this like death?'

'Angel,' said the old man, regarding her with an expression of
pained perplexity. 'Do not dream any more such dreams. Do not allow
your soul to go floating up too high to the sound of Nature's music.
The fairies would be glad to keep you, child, if they had the chance.'

'Then there are fairies, father! You would never allow that before.'

'Every poet has a myriad elves at his beck and call, my love. But
here is the glen that you are so fond of, and the hoya is all in
bloom. Let us fasten up our horses, and take a ramble among the
rocks.'

He lifted the fragile creature from her saddle, and they crossed the
slippery stepping-stones, and followed up the windings of the stream,
till they had passed the rocky heads covered with grey lichen which
guarded the entrance to the ravine.

It was the cleft in the mountains which Honoria, with Barrington and
the Bassetts, had visited some little while before. Several times
during the Englishman's convalescence had he and Angela ridden there
together, and every rock and shrub seemed sanctified in the girl's
heart by the association of his words and looks. As the sides of the
ravine closed in, affording only a slender foothold upon a natural
ledge of stone, Angela clung to the hoya creepers, which at this point
tapestried the rugged walls. Here, once Barrington's arm had encircled
her. She could almost feel now the rapturous joy of the pressure which
his touch communicated to her frame. The air was heavy with the scent
of hoya; the rocks seemed to shut out the outer world. What a spot in
which to float away--away from the embrace of a lover into the keeping
of the mountain spirits, when weakness and weariness would cease, and
the aching void in her heart would be stilled for ever.

She turned very pale; her slight figure swayed, and she would have
fallen had not her father caught her.

'My darling, my darling!' he cried, 'what is the matter?'

But she had fainted. Mr. Ferris carried her to the side of the pool,
and bathed her forehead, and chafed her limbs, till the blood flowed
slowly back to her cheeks.

'I thought--I thought he was calling me,' murmured Angela
incoherently, as she opened her eyes; 'and then everything grew dark.'

'He!' repeated Mr. Ferris, with angry bewilderment; 'who is he? You
have overtired yourself, my love. I have kept you too long at
Kooralbyn without change--that is it. Would you like to go away,
Angela? Would you like to go to Leichardt's Town?'

'To Leichardt's Town,' she said vaguely, and then a light broke over
her face; 'yes, yes, we will go there, father.'

'I will arrange about it,' said Mr. Ferris. 'In a short time we will
take a week's holiday. You must remember that you are to be a great
artist, my love. When you are a year older we will go together to
Italy. Think of that, and you will become strong.'

'If I were a spirit,' murmured Angela, dreamily, 'I might go whither
I chose. I could always be with those I loved; they could not see me,
but it would be best so...Come, father, I am quite well now. Let us
gather some hoya, and then go home.'

This fainting fit of Angela's, though he sought to convince himself
that it was due to over-fatigue, and an abnormal, mugginess of the
atmosphere, troubled Mr. Ferris deeply. Why had she struck the key--
note of death in so strange and suggestive a manner? What had she
meant by that incoherent allusion to an absent he? Had his artistic
education, his endeavour to cultivate the ideal at the expense of the
material, had the effect of loosening the frail cord which bound
Angela to the physical world?

When they reached home, they found Dungie unsaddling his horse by the
stockyard fence.

'Good-day, Mr. Ferris,' squeaked the mailman. 'Very quiet on the
Koorong now, Mr. Ferris. The little piebald don't seem to know the lay
of the country. Kooralbyn don't appear like the same station, with all
the women-kind, excepting Miss Angela there, off of it; and I'm
thinking, Mr. Ferris, that we ain't likely to see Miss Longleat up
this 'ere way in a 'urry.'

'How is that?' asked Mr. Ferris, in a preoccupied manner.

'You remember that 'ere long chap from England as wur a-stopping
here! Lord! if I were Mr. Dyson Maddox I'd never let it be said that a
black hat had cut me out sweetheartin'. I seed in a twinkling which
way the wind was ablowin', when I met them all ridin' agen the creek
one day last March. It is not all folks that understand women; and
it's always those as ain't afeard of 'em that takes their fancy.'

'That is true enough,' said Mr. Ferris, waking up to some degree of
interest. 'And so Mr. Barrington is to marry the heiress. Is that the
talk in Leichardt's Town?'

'There's more talked of nor that,' replied Dungie, confidentially.
'Folks say as the Premier 'ud go to the devil for that black-eyed
young woman as he took charge on agoin' down in Cobb's coach from
Kooya. You'll remember the evening, Mr. Ferris. 'Twur uncommon dodgy
to get her husband out of the way by giving him a billet at Gundaroo.
Maybe he is in the swindle too. But what has Sammy Deans got to say to
it, Mr. Ferris?'

'Sammy Deans,' repeated Mr. Ferris, 'I heard he had taken a droving
job. What is he doing at Leichardt's Town?'

'That's more nor I know. 'Twur at Kooya I seed him--agen Braysher's.
"Hallo, Sammy!" I ses to him, chaffing, "so Longleat has let you out
of quod at last! Lord! I never seed a man get so black in the face
with rage. I wouldn't be in the Premier's shoes if Sam ever gets the
chance of pitching into him. 'Twur he as told me that Mr. Barrington
wur going to marry Miss Longleat. They said he were wild with love of
her, that he followed her down, and never gev her no peace till she
agreed to have him; and it's the notion that he'll marry her off-hand,
and take her to England. The Premier, he is dead agen it; so they goes
out at night, and does their spooning agen the bamboos inside the
Botanical Gardens...I'd ha' thought she wur too proud for that sort of
servant-maid's trick--but there's no accounting for women when they've
got a lover. I ses to Sam, "'Twur a good dodge of Longleat's making
Mr. Vallancy police magistrate at Gundaroo;" and ses he, "Vallancy
will be down in Leichardt's Town before long, and there'll be the
devil of a row." But what the dickens is Sam to know about it?'

'That will do,' said Mr. Ferris, gruffly. 'I don't like such talk
before my daughter. There! give me the mail-bag, and, after you have
turned your horse into the paddock, you may come down to the house for
a glass of grog. Come, Angel. Are you feeling ill again, my love?' he
asked anxiously, for the girl was standing motionless against the
stockyard fence, her eyes dilated, and her face unnaturally pale.

She moved mechanically when she was addressed, and followed her
father to the house. As soon as they had reached the verandah, Mr.
Ferris opened the mail-bag, which contained the weekly instalment of
newspapers, a letter of instructions from Mr. Longleat, and a short
epistle from Mrs. Ferris, full of fussy anxiety about Angela's health,
and only mentioning Barrington as having accompanied them to a picnic
to the Bay a few days before--the miseries of which she graphically
described--and as having spoken vaguely of visiting Kooralbyn shortly.

'Father!' said Angela suddenly, in the midst of reading her
stepmother's letter, 'do not tell Mrs. Ferris that I am ailing--
indeed, I am quite well--only always tired. And we will not leave
Kooralbyn just yet, father--I would rather stay at home.'

'The Premier has written to me to examine Ross's fencing,' said Mr.
Ferris, savagely lifting up his head from Longleat's note. 'A curt,
peremptory command to take a ride of forty miles on business that a
stockman could well do. That is what it is to be at the beck and call
of a master...Angela, my darling, next year we will free ourselves
from the yoke of this degrading bondage. Let the old lady stay in
Australia with her best beloved, and you and I will depart together.
In Italy we will breathe an atmosphere of art and liberty. This is
what I have been dreaming of for so long. In January next all my
savings will come due in cash. My mortgages will close. Fifteen
hundred pounds, my love, the fruit of ten years' slavery. That will
keep us finely till my Angela has made herself known. My old
aspirations will revive in you. I shall be a man once more, instead of
a fawning spaniel...But I should like to crush him,' he added, between
his teeth--'to crush the brood before I go!'

'Father!' said Angela, with a bewildered look, 'of whom are you
speaking? What is the matter?'

'It is nothing, my darling. I am apt to become excited over trivial
occurrences--small slights--pinpricking insults. It's a sign that I'm
getting old, my love...What was it that Dungie said about Barrington
and Miss Longleat, and their midnight strolls beneath the bamboos?
There's the old blood coming out--the mother's blood--and the
father's. She will come to harm. So, for her beauty he loves her, and
for the money's sake he will marry her. Pish! it makes me mad to think
of the power of wealth ...'

He went on mumbling for a few minutes; then, being suddenly called
away to the store, he turned before leaving the room and passionately
kissed his daughter.

Trembling and faint with the pangs of a new-born anguish, Angela ran
into the garden, and threw herself on the ground beside the lagoon.

The dull aching of an undefined desire had turned to the fierce pain
of disappointment, all the keener for the reason that her previous
exaltation had been entirely spiritual. She had worshipped Barrington
as a mystic might worship a star, believing it to represent the
particular divinity to whom he owed his being. The more terrestrial
communion of marriage had never been actually present to her thoughts.
In her childish imagination the future had been all dim. That she
might be near him, watch his face, hear him speak, know that he held
her in tender affection, had seemed bliss beyond expectation.

Now a fierce jealousy of Honoria burnt into her very soul. Though she
had not dreamed that she could be to him best and dearest, the
certainty that another owned all his love was agony, and transformed
her from an abstract ethereal being--a child of nature, knowing
nothing of human longings--into a passionate woman.

Had he not pressed her in his arms, stroked her hair, and bidden her
love him? To the heart of an innocent maiden what covenant could be
more binding. And now it was Honoria whom he caressed.

But the postman's story might not be true. Dungie was a gossip, and
had probably listened to idle rumour, which had always made free with
Miss Longleat's name...Mrs. Ferris had said that he had spoken of
visiting Kooralbyn. Oh, he must come soon! She would beg him to
hasten...and then she would tell him of the dull pain with which his
absence had wearied her--of how her heart had yearned after him; and
she would pray him to let her serve him--to be his sister, his slave--
she could not dare say 'wife.'...And if she died of shame in speaking,
the spirits of nature would bear her upwards, and would tell the good
God that she was but a harmless creature of the forest like
themselves, and had meant no wrong...It might be that he would grieve
for her love and for her fate, and that when he walked by the river
where they had strolled together, would think of her with tender
pity...It might be--who could tell?--that God would suffer her to
hover still above her old haunts, and she might touch his hand and
whisper in his ear, 'Angela is beside you. She could not live without
your love.' And he would fancy that it was the wind or the stream that
spoke, and would remember all that she had told him of Nature's many
voices.

That night when the moon shone upon her white chamber, she rose and
wrote a little letter:

'Angela's heart is aching, and the days are long. Oh, come back, or
take

her to you! She cannot live without your love.'

She sealed her letter, and with her own hands placed it in the mail--
bag.

Barrington received it one night upon his return from a long tryst
with Honoria. The passionate childish sentences touched him keenly.

'Innocent Angel!' he murmured. 'Poor little white bushflower!'

He held her tiny missive tenderly before him, smiling sadly as he
pictured the trembling hands that had penned it. His eyes were dim as
he tore poor Angela's confession into small shreds, and watched it
burning till it lay a little pinch of dust.

'I must write to her,' he said to himself. 'Poor child! What am I
that I should have won her guileless heart? Love is a dream of heaven
to her--my pure Angel! She has steeped her soul in poetry. This comes
of reading "Laon and Cythna" by the creek...I wish I had never gone to
Kooralbyn. I wish I had never kissed her. And yet I'd as soon have
fondled a pretty child. Who would have dreamed that she had any
thoughts of love?'

During the following week Angela waited in trembling excitement for
the mail-day, but before Dungie's arrival, the news which he had borne
received a vague confirmation from the lips of Dyson Maddox, who,
having been a week or more at Barramunda, rode over in fulfilment of
his promise to Mrs. Ferris, before his return to Leichardt's Town.

The old man had gone, according to Mr. Longleat's orders, to examine
Ross's fencing, and Angela received Dyson alone.

He had always been fond of Angela, though he, like many others,
compassionated in her the visionary nature of her childlike intellect.
To-day a subtle sense of sympathy seemed to draw them towards each
other.

'Are you quite well, Angela?' he asked kindly. 'I promised Mrs.
Ferris that I would ride over and judge with my own eyes whether it
would please you if she came back.'

'No,' replied Angela, almost pettishly. 'Let her stay in Leichardt's
Town. She cares for Honoria more than for me. It would not please me
at all if she came back; and, indeed, it is quite unnecessary.'

'Still I am sure that you are ill, or unhappy,' urged Dyson. 'Tell
your old friend what is amiss.'

She looked at him for a moment, while tears gathered in her eyes:
then turned away silently weeping.

'Something vexes you,' continued Dyson. 'You are grieved, perhaps,
because your stepmother does not understand you.'

'Grieved for that!' she repeated, with a half-scornful, half-amused
inflection in her voice. 'Ah! it is always so,' she added sadly. 'Not
even those who know us best can read the language of our souls. If we
have yearnings, they must forsooth be for something commonplace--not
for a good which is as high above us as the stars.'

'You are an artist, Angela,' said Dyson, gently; 'and to you the
ideal, always possible, is always present. Is it then only vague
dissatisfaction with what seems to you mean and prosaic that makes you
sad?'

She shook her head. It was impossible for her to reply, 'It is the
woman's heart, not the artist's soul, that bleeds.'

'I think that I am always sad,' she answered; 'not more so now than
usual. It is because you yourself are unhappy that you imagine me to
be so. I am quick at reading faces. I read trouble in yours.'

'You are right, child,' replied Dyson. 'It is a relief to confess to
you that I have a trouble, though I do not know that it weighs more
heavily upon me now than it did a little while ago. I suppose that
while there remains a hope of winning what one longs for, it is
impossible to resign one's self to absolute failure. But one's own
misery is nothing; the real wretchedness lies in the doubt whether--
whether those we love have chosen wisely for their own happiness.'

'Is it true,' asked Angela, turning very pale, 'that Mr. Barrington
loves Miss Longleat?'

'There is no doubt of that.'

'And is there any doubt,' cried Angela, sharply, 'that she loves
him?'

'I wish I could say so, but I cannot. It is more than love--it is
unwholesome fascination.'

'He will marry her,' said Angela, quietly, 'and then he will take her
away to England. She will have all his love--and she must love him. I
am very sorry for you--oh! I am--I am indeed!'

Then she suddenly left the room, and he saw her no more till a few
moments before his departure, when she brought in the mail-bag.

'Why, Angela!' he exclaimed, as he watched her undoing the straps
which held it, 'how your hand trembles! Do you expect ill news?'

She shook out the letters and papers in a white fluttering heap, and
was taking away two directed to herself, when he detained her.

'Stay! I am going away presently, and I do not feel happy about you.
What shall I say to your stepmother?'

'Tell her not to mind about me. I am well--quite well!'

And she flew out of the house, away into the plain, where she buried
herself among the long grass and began to read. She opened her
stepmother's letter first. It contained affectionate injunctions to be
in betimes, not to 'moon' about by the river, and to bid Keziah
prepare beef-tea and jelly for her nourishment. All this Angela
scanned impatiently, till she came to the concluding paragraph:

'Our gaieties do not flag. Honoria appears in full spirits and
beauty, though somewhat worn, as is natural, by her dissipation. She
is followed by an ever-increasing train of admirers, whose hopes--alas
for them, poor souls!--are doomed to disappointment. Last week, my
dear, Honoria informed me that she had pledged her heart to Mr.
Barrington. He is a fine fellow, and I love him dearly; but I fear
that parental opposition will darken their otherwise bright prospects
of happiness. Mr. Longleat has set his face against the match.
However, I have no doubt in my mind that time will soften his
objections. The news is not, of course, made public; but I confide it
to my dearest Angela, whose heart will, I know, deal full measure of
sympathy to her friend Mr. Barrington.'

Poor Angela uttered a low moan, as though a cruel hand had struck
her; then she lifted Barrington's letter, and kissed the bold clear
characters of the envelope, and laid it down again, not daring to read
her own death-warrant. At last she broke open the seal.

It was written in warm courteous language--a letter that might have
been read upon the housetops--meant to be kind, but worse than cruel--
informing her of his engagement, appealing for sympathy to her
sisterly affection, ignoring the possibility of any deeper attachment,
and playfully alluding to 'future happy days' which they--he, she and
his bride--would spend together in Italy.'

She flung herself upon the ground, and deep-drawn sobs broke the
stillness which reigned over the plain. The wild birds hovered above
the poor child's prostrate form...The sun sank behind the hills,
turning the mountains to purple, and casting golden gleams upon the
lagoon, and long shadows upon the sward; the chill of night crept over
the flat, and the dew began to fall--but still the stricken girl lay
crushed to the earth with her misery.



Chapter XXIX. The Diamonds.

MRS. VALLANCY was alone in her pretty drawing-room at Emu Point. The
windows were closed, and a fire burning upon the hearth cast cheerful
gleams upon the Japanese screens and cabinet, and expensive
ornaments--considerably augmented of late--that were scattered about the
room. The scent of flowers pervaded the atmosphere, and upon a small
table near the fire there was placed a tray with tea and coffee. Mrs.
Vallancy herself was richly dressed, and her dark hair carefully
arranged. The worn look about her mouth had disappeared now that she had
gained ease and freedom from petty care, and a casual observer would
hardly have taken her for three-and-twenty.

She walked several times to the window and peered out. She was
expecting Mr. Longleat. After each fruitless expedition, she would
return to the fireplace, and leaning her elbows upon the velvet--
covered mantel-shelf, would rest her chin upon her hands, and stare
absently at herself in the glass. Had her thoughts been uttered, they
might have framed themselves somewhat in the following fashion:

'Longleat is late to-night. I wonder if he'll come, and if he will
bring me the diamonds. I've always wanted to have a set of diamonds--
they go so well with dark hair...Brian used to say--Oh, my love!...If
he could see me now, would he hate me? Would be despise me
utterly?...No--no. He must know that my heart--my life--are his. He
has but to claim them...Am I not degraded?' she said in an excited
whisper. 'What wonder that my marriage should have killed self-
respect? Let the world call me wicked--let women shun me--let men
despise me! Do I not hate and scorn my own soul for the baseness with
which it has been poisoned? It is nothing--nothing to him or me! If to
be faithful is falsity--then, O Brian, I am false indeed...And he is
so rich--so old--so rough!' She laughed in a low, jarring way. 'What
harm is there in taking his presents? Is it worse than cheating people
out of their money at play, and telling lies, and--Everyone has a
right to do the best they can for themselves. And I tried, when I
chose Edward; but what a miserable mistake!...It is not so very long
ago since Brian and I were going to marry, and it was all love and
kisses; and I was half inclined to runaway with him, not caring
whether we starved or feasted. But that was when I was young; and--who
can tell?--it mightn't have lasted.'

She went again to the window, and looked out--no sign of anyone
coming. She heaved a sigh as though a reprieve had been granted her;
and returning to the mirror, gazed at herself once more, straightening
her long neck, and smiling with a woman's kittenlike delight in her
own prettiness.

'I am growing handsomer every day. All my colour, and softness, and
roundness have come back since Edward went to Gundaroo. If it wasn't
for the nights, the long, lonely, terrible nights, when I lie awake,
frightened at the shadows, and the creakings. I wonder why there has
been no letter from Gundaroo this mail...He has always written; he is
more affectionate; he makes me feel guilty; he is fonder of me now
that we are separated. Who knows? Perhaps we might have been fairly
happy together if it had not been for debt and drink...It is strange
that he has not written. It looks as if something were not right--he
cannot have heard anything about Longleat up there. Heavens! if he
should come down!'

She blanched at the idea, and to banish the unpleasant thought, took
a letter from her bosom, and read it lovingly, pressing it once or
twice to her lips.

'Brian, Brian!' she murmured, 'we shall be together. You'll come
back--I knew you would. I knew that you would never be happy in
Melbourne if I wasn't there.'

There was a step upon the verandah, and then a ring at the little
bell which hung without. Mrs. Vallancy hastily concealed the letter
she had been reading, and waited for a few moments irresolute. Her
bosom heaved, and her face blanched. The ring was repeated, and she
went to the door.

A man stood in the verandah. He held a parcel and a letter in his
hand. Recognising the lady who stood framed against the light, he
touched his hat.

'I've got something from Mr. Longleat,' he said, 'which I was bidden
to give to Mrs. Vallancy herself.'

'I am Mrs. Vallancy,' replied Constance. 'Give it to me?'

The man obeyed, and having accomplished his mission, departed.
Holding the letter and packet in her hand, she returned into the glow
of the firelight.

'He is not coming,' she murmured in a tone of deep relief--'and he
has sent me the diamonds.'

The packet was oblong, substantial, sealed with the arms of
Leichardt's Land, and directed in the Premier's precise, studied
handwriting. With a strange, half-cynical smile upon her lips, Mrs.
Vallancy contemplated it for a moment.

Presently, she broke the cord which bound the parcel. A morocco--
covered case appeared from under its enveloping folds of paper. She
touched a spring, and a magnificent necklace of diamonds lay
glittering beneath the lamp. As she lifted the ornament from its
velvet bed, each gem scintillated in the light, and seemed to emit
sparks of fire. She could not repress a cry of satisfaction.

Standing in front of the mirror, she clasped the necklace round her
smooth white throat. The rays of the diamonds matched the sparkle of
her eyes, and enhanced the brilliancy of her complexion. Certain words
which, in his rough way, the Premier had uttered not many days before,
came into her memory.

'A man doesn't need to be a fine scholar or a poet to lead the people
and to show a woman what he can do for her. She that I love should
have the best of everything--no jewels would be too fine for her. She
should have handsome dresses--carriages--servants--her bidding should
be done as though she were a queen...

She opened Longleat's letter which had been penned hastily, and in an
impulsive manner that betrayed the inward excitement of the writer.

The Premier excused his failure in keeping the appointment which he
had made with Mrs. Vallancy for that evening.  'I have been detained
by political business,' he wrote. 'Those fools out west have been
sending me a deputation about the railway, and I am obliged to see
some of the envoys to-night. It is gratifying to be assured that the
confidence of the public is reposed in me, though I feel that the
people at large have no consideration for political morality. It's for
me they care, not for my policy; and if I was to go dead against the
Kooya Railway to-morrow, they would support my side just the same. But
I am not the man I was, Constance. I don't feel as though I had the
pluck to fight my battles as I used in the old days when I started in
Leichardt's Land. I can own this to you, for my future lies in your
hand, and you have the power to crush me to the earth or to lift me to
the skies. You know that I am half a fatalist. Ever since we travelled
down from Kooya that evening together, I have had a feeling that my
career was approaching its crisis. There is a presentiment strong upon
me now that the climax is near.

'These jewels are in themselves nothing to me--they can be nothing to
you. Yet they may be to me the sign of joy or misery. We shall meet at
the Frazers' Ball to-morrow night; if the diamonds sparkle upon your
neck I can defy Fate.'

Again, as Constance raised her head, the reflection of her face
stared at her from the glass, and with cruel eyes and cold lips seemed
to mock like an evil spirit at the wavering womanly impulses which
rose in her heart, reminding her that she was a wife--that she had
been a mother.

Like a blinding rain, her tears came and obscured the answering eyes.
Her frame shook with sobs that seemed to draw up her very life in
their gasps, and in a loud whisper, her voice sounded between the
moans: 'Oh! my baby...my baby ...'

But in a little while the waves of remorse passed over her, leaving
her bruised but unconscious of pain.

'Oh! what is the use?' she cried, in a passionate undertone. 'Can I
be better or worse than I am? If a camellia is plucked and tarnished,
what matter how soon it is trodden under foot?...When the bloom is
gone, what is left? And am I not tarnished? To sell for money--to give
nobly for love--who sees the distinction? Has not the world cried me
down?...Have not women held aloof from me? Has not even he shrank at
the sound of his daughter's name upon my lips? Better sink--sink.
There may be peace in degradation.'

*   *   *   *   *

Upon the day but one following, Dyson Maddox called at Mr. Longleat's
office to discuss with his chief a matter connected with the
Department of Lands.

The Premier had already received several visitors that morning. Two
or three of the newly-elected members, at this time in Leichardt's
Town for the opening of Parliament, which was to take place a few days
later, had come to assure him of their support and esteem. The Premier
was inwardly jubilant at the thought of the overwhelming majority
which his appeal to the country had secured for him. Where were his
presentiments now? Success seemed to smile upon him from every
quarter; and a pile of letters which he had that morning received--
letters of congratulation, of inquiry, nay, even of threatening--
assured him of coming triumph.

'The Opposition is pretty well done for this time,' he said, as
Dyson sat down on the other side of his table. 'I have had Lester with
me for the last half-hour. He tells me that Middleton is absolutely
raging, and that he declares he will unseat me for bribery. Let him
try it if he can. He would pray to the devil to see me ousted. Lester
will move the address, and we'll get the Loan Bill through as soon as
possible. First come first served...I see that you have brought me the
papers upon Hedley's application for compensation;' and there ensued a
deeply interesting consultation, at the close of which Longleat
remarked, awkwardly fingering a bundle of official documents that lay
before him:

'I say, the Gundaroo Report was telegraphed this morning--more
complications with those d--d Chinamen: it was signed "F. Painswick."
What is the meaning of that? and where is Vallancy?'

'Vallancy applied some little while ago for a month's leave of
absence upon urgent private business. You were electioneering at the
time. The matter came up for discussion in the Cabinet, and permission
was granted.'

'The devil it was!' cried Longleat furiously, rising and walking
rapidly across the office.

'And why was I not informed of this?'

'The question did not come immediately under your jurisdiction,'
replied Dyson, calmly. 'I suppose that it was dealt with in the usual
way.'

Longleat smothered an oath in his throat. Both the men were well
aware that each knew what was passing through the mind of the other,
and both were determined not to make any sign of consciousness.

Dyson got up and collected his papers.

'I think that is all,' he said. 'We shall meet at the Executive this
afternoon. As regards Vallancy's leave, I should think that he would
report himself very shortly; he will probably have taken the Torres
Straits boat, which is due in the bay now.'

'It was infernal cheek to apply for leave when he had only been up
there for three months,' said Longleat, gruffly; 'I cannot understand
why you granted it. It is the greatest mistake not to keep these
fellows under your thumb. The further north they are, the less reason
for their coming down.'

'Vallancy threatened to resign if his leave were not granted. I
don't suppose that would have been of much consequence; but Little
appeared to think it desirable that he should be at hand to give
evidence about these northern pearl-fisheries. If the question is to
be brought up in the House, it is as well that we should be primed
with information.'

The Premier growled a sulky assent, and Dyson withdrew.

Mr. Longleat wrote at once to Mrs. Vallancy, informing her of what
he had heard. He scaled the letter with his big signet-ring, and gave
it to his private messenger, enjoining him to deliver it into the
lady's own hands.

Almost directly afterwards he was seized with a strange giddiness
and cold sweat, and was forced to untie his cravat and go forth into
the air.

'I don't know what has come to me,' he muttered. 'I am not the man I
was. I feel like the classical chap, that old Ferris primed me about
for one of my speeches, who had the sword over his head ready to fall
every moment...O Lord! O Lord! the ripest peach has a maggot inside.
The world is all for me, and those that are nearest me go agen
me...All but her. She is mine--mine--I am certain of her now...It
shall be made up to her for what she has suffered. She shall know what
it feels like to be worshipped--to have money flowing like water
through her hands...And the bill is certain to pass. There's something
in having lived for that. It is a joke; it's...Sir Thomas Longleat--
Longleat the bullock-driver--the--the great Australian legislator. A
man like me to project a railway--to negotiate a loan of two millions.
By the Lord Harry! if it was put into a book no one 'ud believe it.'

As he walked to Government House, he saw that the Torres Straits
mail-boat was already signalled. In a few hours Vallancy, if he were
indeed on board, would be with his wife. He was at liberty to swear at
her--to taunt her--to strike her; while he, Longleat, who worshipped
the very hairs of her head, was powerless to protect her from injury.
Was this British law? He swore that if there came a time in the far
future when he should be the Liberator of Australia he would make
divorce an easy matter. The law here should be as in America. Grand
free lands required free legislature. That cursed British yoke!

Longleat began to think that after all there might be a mistake, and
Vallancy might not be on board. Urgent private business, and his wife
knew nothing of it! Could it be that he had heard rumours?--that--
Well--what then? Vallancy had disdained the treasure which had been
his. He had suffered his jewel to lie trampled in the very dust. If to
lift tenderly and enshrine the gem were robbery--was it not robbery
justified?

Perhaps, also, it might be well that he should not have many
opportunities for seeing Mrs. Vallancy while the Loan Bill was passing
through the House. This supreme crisis in his political career would
demand his undivided attention.

But afterwards...Nay, then he would right matters so that the sin
should be condoned, and society compelled to recognise the justice of
Nature's laws. It was well known what manner of man Mr. Vallancy was.
The world must pity Constance rather than condemn her. With the
triumphant all goes well. When he returned from England--Sir Thomas
Longleat, the projector of the great loan--this nine days' wonder
would have subsided; Constance, as his wife, would be received, and
her past would not be remembered against her. Did he not know that it
was easy to blot out what Society called disgrace?

But there was one bitter drop in the cup of his joy. Honoria, cold,
defiant, but oh how dearly loved, could have no part in it. Could he
form any scheme of happiness to connect her with which was like the
desecration of a sacred shrine? He told himself in his bitterness that
had she but broken down the barrier of reserve which held them
asunder, he would have desired no dearer companionship. Had she not
been so sweetly disdainful; had she identified herself more completely
with his interests, and chosen such a husband as he would have
approved--an Australian of the purest type, who would participate in
his closest sympathies, and perpetuate his labours--would not her
pride be his pride? her love his love? her ambition his ambition? Oh,
if she would but marry Dyson, whose warmest aspirations were bounded
by the shores of his native land, whose children might well be the
federators and liberators of their great and glorious country, would
not Honoria be in very deed the choicest jewel in his crown of
success!

All the time that the Council was proceeding, and whilst his brain
was ostensibly occupied with civil and political matters, Longleat's
inner thoughts harped upon these themes. When the meeting was over,
and the Ministers were about to take their departure, the Governor
said to him:

'We shall meet at the farewell dinner to General Compton, Mr.
Longleat, I suppose?'

He answered with absent-minded dignity:

'No, your Excellency. I have business in Kooya that evening. I am
more than half an advocate for Independence and Federation, as your
Excellency is aware. It is bound to come sooner or later, though the
time is not ripe yet. I cannot say that I am one with the principle of
foreign occupation. I'm all for breeding from true Australian stock:
our own soldiers--our legislators--our rulers.'

'Come, come, Mr. Longleat,' answered the Governor, with good--
humoured banter; 'we have always had a suspicion that you were a sort
of Australian Fenian, but that is going too far, you know. Home
Rulers! It's striking at the root of authority--it's defying her
Majesty's supremacy.'

'You'll find that Federation will come in our children's time, if
not in our own, your Excellency,' said Longleat. 'Why should not the
Australian States be as powerful as the United States of America? Why
should we not have our Washingtons, our Lincolns, our Grants?'

Mr. Little, the Attorney-General, joined in with a great guffaw.

'Egad, your Excellency, if Longleat were to set up the cry of
Australian independence I would not give twopence for British
supremacy in Leichardt's Land.'

'What is the meaning of Longleat's great popularity?' asked the
Secretary for Public Works, a quiet, well-educated Englishman--a
squatter on the Ubi Ubi district--of one of his colleagues, as they
walked behind the Premier towards the Parliamentary Buildings. I see
nothing remarkable in him--and yet there is no doubt that no one could
fill his place in Leichardt's Land.'

'He is the representative of two classes,' replied the other.
'Therein lies the secret of his influence. He is a self-educated man,
who has raised himself by pluck and energy from the lowest social
stratum to the highest; therefore he exhibits the possibilities of an
Australian career. He is lavish of his money, and is not ashamed to
own whence it came. He is a Radical at heart, and can appeal to the
mob. And his appearance is in his favour. There is about him a kind of
rugged honesty and rough nobility which tells. His prestige is purely
personal, and that, after all, for the time being, is a surer basis
than one of policy.'



Chapter XXX. 'At the Centre of Peace'.

ANGELA was very ill. From the date of Dyson's visit to Kooralbyn she had
drooped visibly, though she did not complain, and strenuously resisted
any suggestion of her father's that Mrs. Ferris should be summoned from
Leichardt's Town.

The old man tortured himself with forebodings, which gave place to
rallyings of hope when she assured him that nothing was really amiss
with her, and that she was only 'so tired.' He found comfort in the
reflection that Angela, the child of warmth and sunlight, had always
faded in the winter. She could not endure the breath of cold; her
whole being seemed to expand with the life of nature, the song of
birds, and the luxuriance of growth. He told himself, with a vain
effort at conviction, that her strength and energy--little enough at
best--would revive with the spring.

It came into Angela's mind at this time that she would paint a
portrait of herself for Barrington, who had often expressed a desire
to possess her likeness. She felt feverishly excited at the thought of
gratifying his wish, and had all the sentimental pleasure of a poetic
nature in thus providing an ever-present remembrance of herself for
the man she loved.

She fancied that thus there might ever be two Angelas near him: the
earthly one, whose wistful gaze would always awaken regret for the
little bush-flower whom he had loved so lightly--the other, that
invisible spirit of the air, who would fan his brow and carry sweet
thoughts to his soul and whisper tender words in his dreams.

One day her father entered the studio unawares, and found her
weeping bitterly over her easel.

'Angela, my darling' he cried, 'why are you doing this? If you
really wish to paint your own portrait, my love, wait till you are
well and bright again. Do not perpetuate this pale face. In the
springtime you will be yourself once more, rosy and gay. Be patient
till then, and do not sadden both yourself and me.'

'Father,' said Angela, tremulously, 'I want to paint my face as it
looks now. It is a whim, a freak. Your little girl was always very
wilful, and indeed you used to say that she must not be crossed in
anything she took to heart--and so I must have my way. When I have
finished the picture I will put it by, and it shall vex you no more.
Father,' she added presently, 'will you gather me a cluster of the ti-
flowers that grow by the creek, and some of the lotus-lilies and the
blossoms of the gum-tree. See, I have a bunch here, but they are
withering--only the scent remains.' She lifted the drooping flowers
from her lap and held them to her lips. 'Do you know why I love
flowers so dearly? The fairies have told me that they are living
things--just as you and I are living, and the perfume of a blossom is
its soul. The petals fade and droop, but the soul becomes a flower--
angel...Is the picture like me, father?'

'It has your eyes, my darling, but they see a vision which I know
not. Angel, put it away; I cannot bear to look at that pale face; it
vexes me. Whom have I in the world but you?'

'Take me to the lagoon, father,' said Angela, restlessly, 'and let me
gather the lilies for myself.'

'It is getting late, my love, and the dew is falling.'

'There is no dew yet; and if there were, O father, nothing hurts
those the fairies love--it will not harm me. The sun is high yet. I
want to watch the changing lights upon the mountains. I must finish my
study of sunset-colouring soon; the sunsets are so much more beautiful
in the winter. Leave me by the water's edge for a little while. Let me
gather the lilies and watch the plain and the sky, and dream a
picture. Come, father.'

He took her to the lagoon and left her alone as she desired,
returning to the studio, where he remained for a long time gazing at
her incompleted portrait. When the shadows began to lengthen he went
back to seek her, but she was not in the spot where he had placed her;
and after calling her once or twice and receiving no reply, he
imagined that she had gone within.

But she had wilfully stolen from his sight to a spot a little higher
up the banks, where the hills dipped down into the lagoon. She had
seated herself upon a knoll among the sedgy reeds and grass. The
setting sun was mirrored in the lake, deep, deep below the lily-
leaves, and it seemed to her to resemble her own sun, which was going
down too.

Suddenly as she sat, some lines in the poem which Barrington had read
to her by the river entered her mind:

'And the great world shall go round to renewing of days; but to-
morrow

I shall be deep in the heart of the hills, at the centre of peace.'

And she saw him as in her dream-world, and she herself rising higher
and higher in light air, mid shadowy forms and sweet sounds, where,
mingling her voice with the breath of the wind, she might murmur
softly:

'Love, my love! no harm shall come nigh thee when Angel is near.'

A mist rose from the lagoon and shrouded the valley in its deadly
exhalations. Chill and sore, Angela crept homewards.

Upon the next morning she did not appear as usual, and when her
father went to her bed he found her lying with bright eyes and scarlet
lips, while her hair was tossed all about the pillow, and her thin
hands moved uncertainly over the bedclothes.

'I'm so thirsty,' she said, in a helpless, wandering way. 'Old
Nilparoo has stretched his arms out over the plain and has dried up
the springs and the rivers, and there is no water anywhere, and the
lilies are all gone. There are knives cutting into my chest, and I'm
so hot. Oh, let us go away--away to the sea. Let us get into a ship
and float.

'"Swift as a cloud between the sea and sky.

Beneath the burning moon seen far away.

Mountains of ice like sapphire piled on high."

And then there's the serpent gleaming in the water...and oh, I'm so
thirsty! I wish mother were here.'

'She shall come; she shall come at once, my love,' cried Mr. Ferris.
Angela did not usually call her stepmother by the dearer title, and
the old man cursed his own folly in not having recalled his wife
sooner.

He rushed out to the kitchen and consulted with Keziah, who laid a
poultice upon Angela's chest, and prepared an unwholesome decoction of
stale bread, which she called toastwater, and which the sick girl
drank greedily.

'She has been and caught a chill,' said Keziah, later, 'all along of
her wandering ways; and I don't know, no more than a baby, what ought
to be done. She has been light in her head, but she is getting quiet
now, and stupid like. There's all the bread in the oven, and not a man
upon the place but islanders. If I was you, Mr. Ferris, I'd ride over
the creek and bring Mrs. Deans across. She has had a child of her own,
and ought to know something about sickness, and till she comes, I'll
stop with the poor thing and do what I can.'

After her wandering talk, during which she mingled in strange
confusion the myths and realities of her fancy, Angela seemed to fall
into a state of semi-stupor, and lay still with anxious breathing, and
flushed face turned sideways upon her pillow. Clearly Keziah was
totally inefficient as a nurse, and was moreover continually upon the
point of dissolving into tears; while Mr. Ferris, like many womanish,
self-absorbed men, had no knowledge of how to deal practically with
illness. Something must be done at once, and the doctor--there was
none nearer than Kooya--must be summoned. Keziah's suggestion of
fetching Margaret Deans was a good one, and Mr. Ferris saddled his
horse and rode across the creek to the free selector's hut.

Margaret was ironing in the front room, and Sammy, who had arrived
the previous evening from Leichardt's Town, was curled up in an arm-
chair, with his pipe in his mouth, and a newspaper before him. Mr.
Ferris was too deeply agitated to take any notice of his friend's
return.

'Mrs. Deans!' he said imploringly, 'I want you to come straight over
to the station. Angela, my daughter, is ill. I don't know what is the
matter with her, but I think that it is some sort of inflammation of
her chest. I must send for Mrs. Ferris at once. There is no one but
Keziah. Will you look after the child till my wife comes? I know that
you are a good nurse. Put on your bonnet, like a kind soul, now--
directly.'

Margaret Deans was a good-natured creature, and put down her iron
with an expression of deep concern.

'Happen she have caught a chill, Mr. Ferris. She were a poor weak
thing at her best. Yes, I'll come, and welcome. Sam and Black
Charlotte, can look after Granny while I'm away; can't you, Sam?'

'Mister Ferris don't seem to think nowt of me,' growled Sam,
sullenly.

'My daughter is ill!' cried Mr. Ferris, wildly. 'How can I give a
thought to anything else? Sam, you know how a man feels when his only
child is ailing.'

'Ay!' said Sam, with bitterness; 'I tow'd you there were one thing
as cut all men alike to the quick. Hain't I known what it were to know
your only one was dyin', and to be pent up between iron bars, so that
for all the fierce fire that were ragin' in your heart, you could not
get to the little one that you loved better nor your life...And what
would you say, Mr. Ferris, if I were to tell you what had set your
gell frettin' and ailin'?'

'What do you mean?' cried the old man. 'Speak, and don't keep me in
suspense. What should have made her ill? She has caught a cold; she
was always delicate. She has not been fretting. What should she have
fretted for? Oh! be quick, my good woman. Get on your bonnet, for the
love of God. Don't be longer than you can help.'

'It's always them as are nearest that are blindest,' returned Sammy.
'I never tow'd you how I had seen Angela, your daughter, daundering
beside the creek with that long Englishman, Barrington--the fellow
that folks say is mad with love for Miss Longleat. I never tow'd you
that he wur holding your Angela in his arms, and kissing her face, and
that she wur looking up at him and telling him that she wanted nowt
but to be near him.'

'You are mad!' cried Mr. Ferris. 'My Angela, who had no thought but
of her art; that child love! It is impossible!'

'You had a notion that she wur nowt but a child, and all the time he
wur turning her into a woman. Ay; he kissed her, and fondled her, and
made believe that he loved her. It's the way of some men with women. I
am speaking as true as Shakespeare, Mr. Ferris. If you doubt me, go
and ask her who held her in his arms by the creek agen the selection,
and who kicked Sammy Deans out of the tree where he had the ill-luck
to be sitting, hearing all that was said? Hasn't it been since
Barrington took up with Miss Longleat that she has drooped and
dwindled?'

'If I thought that this was true!' moaned Mr. Ferris. 'Oh, my Angela!
if I thought that this was true!'

'Ask her,' repeated Sam. 'Bid her tell you whether Barrington did not
fool her into loving him; and if it is not Miss Longleat who has
bewitched him from her?'

A heavy curse upon Honoria fell from the old man's lips. It seemed as
though his pent-up hatred of Longleat's daughter found vent in the
imprecation; for, with the inconsistency of his warped nature, his
fury seized more fiercely upon her than upon Barrington.

It had ever been so. The joys which had fallen to her lot had
appeared to him the outpourings of the cup of his daughter's
happiness. Riches, beauty, health, and now love--all were hers, while
to Angela there remained but the endowment of genius--the richest of
gifts in one sense, in another the poorest.

Angela was dying! A prophetic instinct carried this conviction to his
heart, and filled it with a sense of unbearable misery. The blow which
felled him now, seemed more dire than any he had yet received,
depriving him of the very motive of existence--and it had been dealt
him by Honoria Longleat, whom he hated with the unreasoning hatred
that is born of jealousy.

'Sam!' he exclaimed hoarsely, clutching the free selector's arm as he
spoke, 'if what you have told me is true, if wrong has been done to my
darling, I'll crush them, father and daughter--crush them both!
Neither his wealth nor her beauty shall avail them anything; his world
shall know him for what he is...If my Angela is taken from me, it is
no matter whether I live or die. Death has no terrors, life no motive,
no joy. I'll go away from this place, and wander about the earth a
vagabond again. It has all come to me since this morning. I did not
know before that she was in danger, and I'm mad, man; I tell you that
I'm mad! Is my only one to be laid low, while his daughter flourishes
on the fat of the land, and takes all for which my Angela yearned? Is
he predestined to triumph, while I am foredoomed to failure? If there
were a God in heaven, happiness and misery would be held more evenly
in the balance...And I could brand him as a felon--he, the Premier of
Leichardt's Land. I could tread him down like a worm in the dust!'

'Do you mean what you say, Mr. Ferris?' cried Sam, starting from his
chair, his white, leering face wearing an expression of intensified
eagerness. 'Will you let me have a sight of those papers in the safe?'

'Bah!' cried Mr. Ferris, shaking him off. 'It is your own paltry
revenge that you are seeking. My sufferings are nothing to you. Come,
Mrs. Deans'--for Margaret, equipped, and with a small bundle in her
hand, had entered--'do not let us waste another moment. Sam, I have a
favour to ask of you. Will you take the buggy down, post-haste, to
Kooya, telegraph there to Mrs. Ferris to meet you, and bring back both
her and the doctor? For God's sake don't refuse me! There's not a man
about the place, except the islanders. All the hands are mustering at
Binbilla. Will you go, Sam--at once? I cannot leave my daughter.'

'Yes, I'll go,' replied Sam, slowly; 'though you did not give a
thought to me when I were in quod, and couldn't get nigh the little
chap. But though my revenge is paltry, I am still thinking of it, Mr.
Ferris. I'll go, if you will promise me that should the worst you fear
happen, you'll let me have a sight of those papers in the safe.'

'Man!' cried Mr. Ferris, passionately, 'do you expect that I will
make bargains about my daughter's life? Come, all this time I am away
from her; will you go, or not? Since you must make conditions--I
accept them. If the worst happens--if Angela dies--I shall become a
devil; and then nothing will be left but a devil's revenge on fate.'

He mounted his horse, and rode back across the creek. Sammy Deans and
his wife waited to place Granny in the charge of a domesticated black
gin, then followed, walking as fast as they could to Kooralbyn, which
was about a mile and a half distant.

Keziah was still watching Angela, who, during her father's absence,
had remained in the same state of stupor. Sammy Deans put the horse in
the buggy and drove towards Kooya, while Margaret took possession of
the sick-room, making, with the aid of 'Buchan' and her own practical
experience, a mental diagnosis of Angela's case, and applying such
remedies as appeared patent to her understanding.

Oh, those long weary days, during which the poor girl lay still and
heavy, or tossed restlessly upon her hot couch, with a sharp cough
rending her frame, and pain racking her chest and limbs; and those
dragging nights, when the old man sat open-eyed and tearless by his
child's bedside, watching her slightest movement, and listening with
heart-rending anxiety to the delirious babblings which too clearly
revealed her secret. She murmured of caresses and of wooing words; of
love, the sport of a summer's day; and of love high and undying as the
stars; vague, poetic fancies mingled with expressions of passionate
tenderness and angry jealousy, which made her father, writhing in the
bitterness of his wrath, marvel that so human an emotion could exist
in so pure a shrine.

And through the night-watches he prayed, as never had he prayed
before, that his darling's life might be spared, yet knowing all the
time that his petitions were futile, and that the priestess whom he
had dedicated to the service of Art might never be consecrated in the
goddess's temple.

A wild and unreasoning craving for vengeance took possession of
Ferris's soul. Passing by the real despoiler of Angela's peace, it
clamoured like an evil spirit against the man from whom he had
received benefits, which his distorted imagination construed into
insults. All his life long since they had been boys in England
together, he had hated Longleat. They had started upon the race of
life with the seeds of enmity in their hearts. Ferris had been puny
and insignificant, Longleat healthy and well-favoured. Then disgrace
had fallen upon the young Hercules, and Ferris's star had risen. As
quickly again it had waned. Poverty and inappreciation had been his
portion, and when years later he had come out to Australia, in the
position of a beggar, his old rival had met him in that of a patron.
Longleat was mighty now, and he was poor, soured and obscure; Longleat
was the master--he was the servant and Longleat's daughter, in the
insolence of her beauty and wealth, presumed to triumph over his
shrinking lamb, and to steal away her lover.

One night, or rather early morning, just as the dawn was breaking,
Angela awakened, with eyes bright and sensible, and smiled in her
father's face.

'You are better, my darling!' he exclaimed rapturously. 'Oh, you
will soon get well now, and we shall be happy together 'in Italy!'

Angela lifted her wasted hand and softly stroked his while she gazed
with wistful tenderness into his eyes.'

'Father,' she said, and her voice was so faint that he was forced to
stoop low before he could catch her words, 'you look so gaunt and
white--you have not slept. All this time you have been watching me...I
have had strange dreams, but they're past now, and the pain is past
too, and I feel no weight or aching--only so tired...Have you sent for
Mrs. Ferris? I don't want her now. Tell her not to come--she will be
sorry to leave Honoria. She always loved Honoria best; she has not
understood me. Ah! I've seen my own mother, standing there, beyond the
mountains, all in the golden light. She is waiting--waiting to carry
me away. And she smiled at me, and bade me go with her. You see,
father, death is not pain--only floating upwards into a higher,
clearer light ...'

A strange awe crept over him as he listened to her babbling. The
world beyond, so manifest to her--so visionary to him--was it indeed a
reality, and did his girl-wife, with all her artistic sympathies, her
tender grace, and never-waning belief in his ultimate achievement of
greatness, wait now in the golden light to welcome her child?

'Angel!' he whispered, 'give her a message from me. Tell her that
I've done nothing--nothing; that I am lonely and miserable and
disappointed--that there is hope for me neither in life nor in death.
Tell her--if, indeed, there is a world beyond the grave--to visit me
sometimes in my dreams, and teach me to believe in heaven.'

'The angels may always speak in dreams to those they love,' said
Angela, solemnly. Then she closed her eyes, and he sat watching her,
believing that she was sleeping.

But after a little while she opened them again and whispered:

'Father, give the picture that I have painted of myself to Mr.
Barrington--the picture that I have never finished. But he will
understand...And when I'm dead bury me by the creek, under the cedar-
tree, where we used to sit and talk...Put some of the lotus lilies on
my grave, and the ti-tree flowers. Let the birds and butterflies fly
over my head, and when the cedar-blossoms fall, let them lie--I am
only a little bush-flower too...And the river will rush by me; but I
shall have learned all that it could ever tell me. And he will go
sometimes, perhaps, and lay a flower on my grave--but never her--never
tell her that I loved him...'

Suddenly she caught his hand, and with, an effort raised herself:

'Promise,' she whispered earnestly, 'that you will send him the
picture without a word--that you will not be angry with him. I was
only his little sister Angel. He loves me still--so. Promise, father,
prornise--'

She entreated till he bowed his head in assent to her wish. Then she
closed her eyes again, and continued to murmur disjointed sentences,
but so low that even to his strained ears her words were inaudible. At
last, lifting her head, with bright gaze fixed upward, she said in
louder tones:

'Mother! I am coming. It is sunrise, and I see you in the red light.
Hold out your arms again. I am coming, mother!'

And when the day had burst, Angela was with her mother.



Chapter XXXI. Mr Vallancy's Return.

THE Torres Straits mail-boat was steaming at mild speed up the Leichardt
river; she had passed the islands which studded the wider channel, and
was winding between glossy plantations of bananas and fields of
pine-apples. Further on, the low mangrove-covered banks were almost
flush with the water; here and there, a beacon stretched out its long
white arms, or a red buoy marked the whereabouts of a sandbank.

Now the hills rose more abruptly, and were covered with bungalow-like
houses, overshadowed by trees, and far-back gardens which seemed to
stretch into the shadow of the interminable forest. Every outline was
sharply defined against a clear horizon; the westerly wind rippled the
water, and the air bore that sense of exhilaration peculiar to an
Australian winter's day.

The passengers on board the Boomerang were a motley collection. Fresh
arrivals from England or the East, who discussed the doubtful charms
of the landscape, bearded squatters from the coast districts, bushmen
and their wives 'going South' for a trip, dingy commercial travellers
and nondescript northern residents, clustered in groups upon the deck;
while rising from the saloon might be heard the cackle of voices,
mingled with rough laughter and imperative calls to the steward for
the spirituous refreshment which is a necessity of life on board an
Antipodean steam-boat.

Mr. Vallancy had just come up from the saloon, where he had been
drinking a glass of brandy at the expense of a fellow-passenger. He
was flushed and excited, but, nevertheless, more sturdy and
respectable in appearance than when he was last upon the scene in
Leichardt's Town. The three months which he had passed in the northern
wilds, away from the (to him) baleful influences of civilisation, had
improved him both morally and physically. The roughness of his life,
the frequent exposure to danger, the absence of temptation to nights
of gambling and intemperance, and to promiscuous indulgence in spirits
and tobacco, had already imparted a more manly, self-reliant
expression to his face, and had stirred in his heart a softer longing
for domestic happiness than he had known for years.

He had never since their marriage been so long separated from his
wife; and, as is often the case with irritable, self-indulgent
natures, he missed her in a manner surprising to himself. Without her
presence existence seemed flat, and lacked the daily stimulus of her
scorn or languid approval, her anger or indifference. A hundred times
in the day, her face, with its charm of varying expression, rose
before his imagination's eye. He resolved strenuously upon an amended
mode of life; her companionship would, he reflected, make this God--
forsaken abode tolerable, and he assured himself that, dependent upon
her for society, and relieved from the pressure of monetary
difficulties, his conduct as a husband would be everything that was
exemplary.

He was on the point of writing to Mrs. Vallancy, promising altered
behaviour; he had determined upon appealing to her wifely duty, and on
begging her to make the earliest arrangements possible for joining him
at Gundaroo, when an anonymous letter, received one morning by the
southern mail, disturbed the current of his self-communings and
partially dissipated his vision of conjugal contentment.

The epistle, written in a studied, copper-plate hand, with occasional
faults of diction that betrayed an uneducated source, ran as follows:

'SIR.

'I hope you will pardon the liberty I take in addressing you, which
is done entirely for your good and for the sake of fair dealing and
honour, as I believe you are not aware of the position you are in, and it
goes agen my moral principles to see a gentleman who I knows to be a
gentleman fooled by them as sets themselves up to make laws for poor folk,
and ain't no better than they should be.

'It is no secret that the Premier had a fight with his colleagues to
get you that appointment at Gundaroo, which I make no doubt you had your
own reasons for accepting. If I may make so bold I will say that it would
have been wiser if you had declined to put yourself under obligations to
one who was meditating a wrong against you, and if you had stayed at home
to look sharp after your handsome wife--or, better still, if you had
hoaxed the Premier by taking her with you.

'Now you know what everyone in Leichardt's Town is well aware on.

The whole thing was planned between Longleat and Mrs. V. before the
post was offered you. They wanted to get you away to a place where
you would not be likely to hear what was going on behind your back.

'You'd best know what money you left in her possession, and whether
it were enough to buy the smart gowns and the new jewellery that she
wears, and to pay the debts that bothered her, and which I have reason
for saying are discharged. And I can swear as Gospel truth that when
L--is in Leichardt's Town, not a day passes without his crossing the
water and spending hours on Emu Point. I have got no motive to serve
in giving you this information except, as I said before, that I am a
man of moral principles, and know your family, so that it riles me to
see you gulled.

And so, sir, you can take what notice you please of this letter.

'Your humble

'WELL-WISHER.'

A gentlemanly instinct, faint, still inherent in Vallancy, was
sufficiently powerful to prompt him at first to throw the letter in
the fire, and to treat its contents with the scorn that an anonymous
imputation deserved. But something held him back from destroying it.
He read it again, and then many times, till he knew each word by
heart, and drank brandy-and-water while he read and pondered, till he
almost convinced himself that the accusation had been made in good
faith, and that he had in truth been befooled--a position not to be
endured by a gentleman of spirit.

It was of course no secret to him that Connie's influence had
procured him the appointment at Gundaroo; and he had seen no more
shame in accepting the place than he had done in borrowing money from
Brian Fielding. But then, in spite of her vanity and love of
admiration and her openly shown indifference to himself, he had always
believed that their interests were identical, and that in her heart
she entertained for him a lurking regard. Genuine doubt of his wife's
fidelity had never entered his mind. A conceited man is always
tenacious of his own supremacy.

Now that he had conceived the idea of mistrust, it grew with amazing
rapidity. He recalled certain passionate words uttered by his wife in
a moment of irritation, which confirmed the suspicion that he had been
bribed to go away, and that Connie had never really intended to join
him at Gundaroo. A thousand inculpatory circumstances rose to his
recollection and deepened the sense of injury.

This brooding over imaginary wrong inflamed his wrath and jealousy.
As days went on, he became more and more furious under the feeling of
impotency. When, a fortnight later, a chance mail brought a second
epistle from his anonymous correspondent, he hesitated no longer, but
rode to the nearest point from which telegraphic communication with
head-quarters was possible, and wired to the chief of his department
for leave of absence, a request which, as we have seen, was granted.

As he neared Leichardt's Town, Vallancy's impatience intensified
till it became almost past control. He eagerly inquired at the
different ports for information concerning the Premier's movements,
with difficulty restraining his anxiety in order to avoid implicating
his wife, then putting himself to unnecessary torture by imagining
veiled innuendoes in the replies to his somewhat wild questioning.

His imagination worked wildly in conjectures concerning the
relations of Longleat and Constance, and he mentally mapped out
various plans of action. Should he walk boldly to the house, as though
no suspicion were in his mind, or should he lie in wait and surprise a
rendezvous? Then he told himself that of course the Premier was aware
of his application for leave of absence; nay, the very fact of its
having been granted, went a little way towards quelling his
apprehensions.

He cursed his folly in not having surprised the position unawares.
Doubtless all precautions had been taken, and he should find Connie
armed at every point. Finally he determined to be guided by her manner
as to the course he would pursue. He almost resolved that he would bid
her prepare to accompany him to Gundaroo by the next boat, and if she
refused, he would show her the anonymous letters and tax her boldly
with her guilt. He would crush her with fierce reproaches, and would
then cast her off in her shame. With all a coward's hesitation he
shrank from personal encounter with Longleat; it would be easier to
confront the woman who had wronged him, and who was more or less in
his power.

The steamer carried the English mail, and a greater crowd than usual
had assembled to greet her arrival. Friendly handkerchiefs were waved
from the various dwellings which sloped to the water's edge, as she
steamed slowly round Emu Point, and prepared to moor at the wharf
which was situated close to the ferry. Taking advantage of a momentary
stoppage of the screw, and of the confusion on deck, Vallancy threw
his portmanteau into one of the small skiffs which crowded round the
steamer, and bade the boatman row him to the ferry-steps, calculating
that he would thus gain a few minutes and avoid recognition on the
wharf. It was just possible that his wife might not have been warned
of his arrival.

He threw the boatman a shilling, and, leaving his portmanteau at the
ferry-house, walked with beating heart up the hill and along the white
road, past the row of neat venetianed houses, with their trim gardens
and sheltering foliage of pine and bamboo, till he reached the wicket-
gate which admitted him to his wife's abode.

The verandah was empty, and the windows of the drawing-room were
closed. Like all Australian dwellings, the cottage might easily have
been entered unperceived. Skirting the verandah, he caught a glimpse
of the light drapery of Mrs. Vallancy's handmaiden as she stooped to
spread some fine laces upon the grass at the rear of the house; but of
his, wife's presence there was no sign.

He softly pushed open one of the venetian shutters, and peered into
the drawing-room. The strong scent of gardenias--a perfume which
irresistibly recalled Connie--floated towards him; but she was not
there.

The piano was unclosed, and a library novel lay with a page turned
down upon the sofa. With the quick instinct of jealousy, Vallancy
noticed some unfamiliar expensive trifles scattered about the tables.
On the mantelshelf were two pink tickets for a performance by some
operatic artists, lately arrived from Sydney, which he divined that
the Premier, had given her.

'Constance,' he called almost below his breath, half-hoping, half--
dreading that she would reply; but there was no answer.

He looked into the dining-room, and then into her bedroom, which was
empty like the rest; but here there were signs of recent occupation.
Her handkerchief lay upon the floor, her garden-hat hung upon the
wall. In a tray upon the toilet-table there were several costly rings,
and a large locket of plain gold with a cross of pearls upon the oval,
which he did not remember to have seen before.

He lingered for some minutes in the chamber, turning over her various
properties with a strange mingling of tenderness and fury. Then he
returned to the drawing-room, and proceeded to inspect it more
particularly, seizing upon the loose notes in Mrs. Vallancy's work-
basket, in the hope of discovering a clue to her whereabouts. They
were merely trivial, social and business communications, and told him
nothing. There was a large coloured photograph of Thomas Longleat in a
velvet frame upon her writing-table. In a fit of fury Vallancy seized
it and tore the print to atoms. Presently his attention was attracted
by a blue official-looking envelope, resting face downwards upon the
table; it was scaled with the arms of Leichardt's Land. He turned it
over, and saw that it was addressed in the Premier's handwriting to
Mrs. Vallancy, and marked 'Immediate.'

He tore open the letter and read it eagerly. His face changed; a
muttered curse escaped his lips, and he fell heavily upon a chair as
though he had been struck by a blow.

The letter contained the confirmation of his wife's guilt.



Chapter XXXII. 'If I Have Been Bad to You, It is Ended Now'.

MRS. VALLANCY did not often leave home for the day. The invitations she
received generally issued from the borderland of Leichardtstonian
society, and were only accepted when she was safe from observation. In
spite of her defiance of conventionality, she had been clever enough to
retain an insecure footing upon the upper social stratum, and was
careful not to exhibit herself in second-rate company.

Among her own sex, the only intimate associates she possessed were
ladies of Bohemian proclivities of whom she was ashamed; it was safer
to receive the visits of gentlemen, but of these Longleat's constant
attendance deprived her. She had sickened of her empire over this one
heart, and just now was very lonely. It was a relief and pleasure
when, upon the very morning of the day her husband returned, she had
received a warm-hearted note from an old school friend--the wife of a
newly-elected member, who had lately arrived from the Far West, and
had taken a house in Leichardt's Town for the session--inviting her to
spend a long day, that they might talk over old times.

Mrs. Vallancy could not afford to throw away an opportunity of
rehabilitating her position, and the renewal of this friendship seemed
to present desirable possibilities. Apart from prudential
considerations, her heart warmed to the associations of her youth.
Ease, freedom from debt, and the possession of ready money, were
conditions of life pleasant indeed to her, but the penalty she paid
filled her soul at intervals with feelings approaching to loathing and
horror.

Oh to breathe for a day in a comparatively moral atmosphere!

She did not demur at accepting the hasty invitation, saw her
friend's children, babbled of womanly domestic interests, was condoled
with upon her husband's absence, and from the cool verandah watched
the big Torres Straits boat steam up the river, and waved her
handkerchief to a friend of her friend's, presumably on board, little
dreaming who else stood upon the deck.

It will be seen that she had not received Longleat's letter with the
intimation of her husband's probable return.

She was driven by her friend into Leichardt's Town, where she
invested in various articles of millinery, and was then dropped at the
ferry-steps, whence she took the boat to Emu Point, and walked
leisurely to her own home, congratulating herself upon the prospect of
a quiet evening, with a new novel and immunity from Mr. Longleat's
company for he had told her the night before that a ministerial
engagement would detain him upon the north side.

'I wonder whether there will be a letter from Edward this mail,' she
murmured, as she walked up the gravel-path, and then began to hum
lightly to herself the refrain of a nursery ditty which she had been
singing to her friend's children.

She looked very handsome: the shadow of her girlhood softened her
face; the haggard lines had gone from about her mouth, her cheeks were
flushed and dimpled, and her eyes were bright with exercise. She
stepped springily on to the verandah, and, pushing open the drawing-
room door, entered.

It was nearly six o'clock, and the winter's day was on the wane. A
golden gleam shone in through the half-closed shutters and fell upon
the figure of a man crouched upon the sofa, with a crumpled letter in
his hand.

The room swam before Constance's eyes. Her heart seemed to leap up in
agonised excitement, and then fell with a heavy despair.

'Edward,' she cried, staggering back, and indeed at the moment half
in doubt whether it was her husband or his wraith.

'It is I,' he answered, divining her thought, and regarding her with
a helpless gaze in which wrath, consternation, and reproach were
strangely blended. 'I have come down from the North. You need not be
afraid. I am not going to hurt you. I shall not throttle or stab you,
like a husband in a book.'

'I--you--you startled me horribly,' she faltered. 'I thought you were
at Gundaroo.'

'Safe out of sight and hearing,' he returned, with a ghastly attempt
at irony. 'It must be awkward, under some circumstances, to find a
husband unexpectedly arrived when he is believed to be two thousand
miles away. Let me advise you. It is not prudent to leave home even
for a day without taking precautions to lock up your trinkets, and to
provide against letters being opened in your absence.'

'I--I don't know what you mean,' she said, blanching visibly, as she
recognised the handwriting upon the paper which he held in his hand.
'You have been reading a letter of mine. What right had you to open
it? Give it to me at once.'

'By--!' said Vallancy, starting up. 'There are no bounds to your
effrontery. You know that this letter is from your lover. You know
that you are a guilty woman!'

She made a snatch at the paper which he held above his head.

'Let me see it,' she cried. 'How dare you touch what is mine!'

He placed it close to the fire upon pretence of burning it, then
quietly withdrew the missive, folded and conveyed it to his breast--
pocket.

'I will not destroy this,' he said. 'It is the proof of your guilt.
Well for me that I have learned the truth--that you can fool me no
longer...You did not know that I was coming down. I am glad of that. I
have taken you unawares. If it hadn't been so, you would have been
ready for me, and I might have been fooled into believing that you
were an honest woman.'

As he spoke in sharp incisive tones, so unlike his usual manner,
Constance uttered a little cry, and cowered back against the wall. She
made no denial, but gazed at him for a moment with the look of a wild
animal at bay; then, though she trembled in every limb, reared her
head aloft with a gesture of defiance, and stood erect with her eyes
upon the ground.

As a bride, her husband's violence had cowed her. Later she had
learned to despise it. Now it seemed to her that the melodramatic
situation had given birth to a certain spurious dignity in his voice
and manner. At the moment, his insignificant personality appeared
merged in the abstract right which his moral attitude represented. She
was awed into belief in his sincerity. There was still something manly
in his nature. For the first time she realised the sharp barrier which
divides wrong of intent and of action.

'You know that you are a guilty woman,' he said again.

'No, no!' she exclaimed faintly; 'not guilty--not as you think. Oh,
Edward! spare me.'

'Spare you!' he cried... 'you!...'

He came near her, and stood before her, his eyes--'it seemed to her,
when for a second she raised her own to his face--scorching into her
very soul ...

She turned very white and grew faint as she listened to the words
which followed. A low cry broke from her lips; then the mental agony
which she endured reacted upon her frame and braced it to the rigidity
of a stone.

Vallancy ceased. He moved away from her, and there was silence in
the room, while he, leaning against the mantelshelf, watched her as
she stood with bowed head and lowered eyes. Presently he spoke again,
but in accents more of reproach than of anger.

'And I put faith in you, Connie--in spite of all your faults, your
selfishness, and vanity. I never believed that you were wholly I
thought that whatever misfortunes happened to us we would hold
together, and be true each other, and share and share alike. I have
meant lately to be a different sort of husband to you. While I living
alone at Gundaroo I have thought over the past and have regretted much
that has happened between us...but you might have made allowances.
What is a man to do when all the world is against him? I may have
nagged at you sometimes, but, on the whole, you had not much to
complain of. I never growled at you when you amused yourself; and
though you took no pains to make me happy, I was always willing that
you should have your pleasures. I thought that it was to be "give and
take" between us, and I never suspected you...That night you came down
with Longleat in the coach I'd as soon have believed evil of an
innocent babe. And to think that you two were plotting together that I
was to be shunted off to Gundaroo while you carried on your damnable
intrigue!...You have appealed to me--like a woman--to spare you. What
do you expect? What do you hope for from me? You have calculated and
sinned deliberately, and you must know what are the wages of your sin.
I have no mercy for you.'

'Are you so stainless? Am I so wicked?' said Constance, 'Think what
you please. I will make no further protestation. Our paths divide now,
and we must go our different ways. You and I are parted for ever--at
least, that is well...Oh, what might not my life have been but for
you!' she cried, more passionately. 'Is it not you who have made me
what I am? You believe me utterly vile. I am not viler than during all
the years of my married life. You taught me first to deceive, and that
right and wrong are only what seems, not what is. The good that there
was in me has died slowly. You have starved it. You hardened me to
shame...When a woman has once endured loathing disgust beyond words--
the rest is as nothing...I never knew before that your standard of
virtue was so high, and mine so low. You did not object to take money
from men who wished to be my lovers. You held me very cheap. I have
not to thank you if I have kept myself--believe me or not, as you
choose--so far blameless. You knew that it was for my sake Longleat
gave you the Gundaroo appointment, and you made no scruple about
accepting it. You never loved me. What consequence is it to you that I
am miserable or reckless? We understand each other. Let matters remain
as they are, and do you go back to Gundaroo.'

'You are shameless indeed,' cried Vallancy, 'if you imagine that I
will allow you to live the life you lead under the shelter of my
name!'

Constance was silent for a moment. She gave her shoulders a defiant
shrug, and smiled a queer sort of smile. She was thinking of her
diamonds and other trinkets, of cheques which had been cashed, of
which the money was in her possession; and then she remembered how she
had that morning received a passionate letter from Brian Fielding,
imploring her to fly to him in Melbourne.

'You shall reap the full harvest of your sin,' continued Vallancy.
'Every finger in Leichardt's Town shall be pointed in scorn at you.'

'What is that to me now?' she cried. 'Has not society scorned me
already without due cause? At least I can defy it. There are no more
hollow appearances to keep up--no need to mask what I feel. Who knows
how I have suffered--struggled? Who would have stirred a finger to
guard me? Let me go. This is your house. I will leave it to--night.
Will you bid me good-bye?'

Vallancy looked at her in a bewildered way.

'It is getting late,' he said; 'I don't want to turn you out of
doors. You had better stay here to-night. I will let you remain in
peace. I am going to the other side.'

He got up and took his hat. The room was almost dark; the sun had
sunk, and the hearth was cheerless, and the air cold. Mrs. Vallancy
moved across the room, and the two stood facing each other. She
shivered.

'I will leave your house to-night,' she repeated. 'I can find shelter
somewhere. Bah!' she added, with a jarring laugh; 'how tragic it all
should be, and yet how utterly flat it is! We have been husband and
wife for ten years, and we part now with as little show of regret as
though we were to meet again at dinner. You cannot keep up the farce
of outraged honour; it is beyond you. Well; it is better that we
should not be sentimental--but, haven't you a word to say to me,
Edward, before I go?'

She stretched out her hand to the writing-table, and lighted the
tapers upon it.

'There,' she said; 'now we can look at each other--for the last time,
perhaps.'

The candles shed a faint illumination upon her figure, and upon a
collection of photographs and miniatures that were arranged upon the
wall. Among them was a portrait in crayons, roughly executed by
Vallancy himself of their child, which had died when it was a year
old. The baby eyes gazing at her with all the unconscious appeal of
infancy touched the deepest chord in Connie's heart, if, indeed, she
may be said to have possessed such an article. A film gathered before
her own eyes, and her frame shook with a suppressed sob, while she
dropped her hands with a gesture of quiet despair.

'We have been husband and wife,' she said, and all the recklessness
had gone from her voice. 'I am baby's mother; nothing can alter that.
When you have hard thoughts of me, think that I might have been
different if the child had lived or if you had been kinder. Oh, it is
because we women have no independent life--because we are the mere
chattels of human brutes, fawning upon our masters when they smile,
and slinking away from them when they are angry, that we become false
and bad. I might have been a true wife and a happy mother if I had
married the man I loved...I thought of that to-day when I was sitting
with Agnes Stewart, watching her with her children at play--and I used
to despise her when we were girls because she was commonplace and
plain. Fate has been kind to her and cruel to me. Why should I have
been singled out for rough usage? I, who in my girlhood was always
petted and flattered?...If you had been gentle with me--if you had not
frightened me at first and then made me have a contempt for you--. Do
you recollect the first time you swore at me and struck me?...And I
grew to hate you. The more familiar I became with you, the worse it
was. I knew that you cheated people, and all the time that I was
helping you I loathed the thing--and I--And when baby died there
seemed nothing left. If I had not flirted I should always have been
thinking, thinking--and that was terrible...But you could never
understand; I might go on talking till doomsday and it would be of no
use--and why should I wish to excuse myself? That is the misery--to go
on for ever and ever with a blank wall of hopelessness before you...If
I have been bad to you, it is ended now. I don't ask your forgiveness;
I don't offer to forgive you for any wrong you may have done me...Let
us each take up life again, apart from each other, and try to make the
best of what is left.'

'You wish me to apply for a divorce,' said Vallancy, 'so that you
may be free to marry Longleat.'

'Oh, I don't know what I wish,' said Constance, dreamily, then
shuddered violently. 'No, no,' she murmured. 'If I could have my
heart's desire for one hour and then die, that would be best for me.'

'I will never give you your freedom,' said Vallancy, slowly and
deliberately, misunderstanding the drift of her last words. 'I'll lay
my yoke upon you till I die. A man is not made of wood any more than a
woman. But what is the use of talking? I never set up for a saint; I
did not expect to find you one; I was ever ready to excuse you if you
were a little worse than others. I knew that I had disappointed you.
But I loved you: I was always true to you. It was your selfishness and
indifference that drove me to drink...Now I don't care what becomes of
me. Let me have my revenge upon Longleat, and then the sooner I go to
the devil the better.'

She looked at him keenly from under her lashes, as though to satisfy
herself how much of his language was empty bombast; then turned from
him and passed through an inner door.

'Good-bye, Edward,' she said, pausing for a moment upon the
threshold. 'Good-bye.'



Chapter XXXIII. An Interview with Sammy Deans.

VALLANCY did not attempt to follow his wife, but staggered out of the
 room and walked blindly down
the garden-path, like a man in a dream.

He passed through the little gate and gazed helplessly up and down
the road, uncertain how to proceed. As the latch clicked behind him, a
slouching figure emerged from the shadow of a tree, and a white
leering face, totally unfamiliar to him, confronted him in the dusky
light.'

D--n you,' cried Vallancy. 'What are you doing here? Why don't you
get out of my way?'

Sammy Deans, for it was he, looked in nowise disconcerted by this
rough address.

'Mr. Vallancy,' he replied coolly, 'you look as though something had
gone agen the grain with you. I have been waiting here to have a word
with you in private, ever since I see'd your good lady go in. I have
got summat particular to tell you.'

'Well,' said Vallancy, his attention arrested by a certain sinister
significance conveyed by Deans's look and manner, 'tell me your
business, and be quick about it, for I am in a hurry. What is your
name? I do not remember ever having seen you before.'

'Happen my name will keep,' said Sam, imperturbably. 'It were not
about myself that I had a mind to talk. You have come down all on a
sudden from the north, sir. It ain't but a short time since they made
you police magistrate at Gundaroo. Maybe you don't like the place, or
happen you have got family business, or you've had letters that have
called you down.'

'Yes,' said Vallancy, looking cautiously at the man; 'I have had
letters that have obliged me to come to Leichardt's Town. Letters upon
family business. Perhaps you can tell me who wrote them.'

'That must be best known to yourself, sir,' said Sam, with equal
caution.

'Come,' said Vallancy, roughly, 'I can see by your face that you know
more about these letters than you choose to say at present. They were
written anonymously, but I have not the least doubt that you are
perfectly aware of their authorship. Well, whoever my correspondent
may be, I am at least indebted to him for correct information. What
will loosen your tongue? You need not hesitate to acknowledge your
work. I cannot indict you for libel, however much I might wish to do
so.'

'It's a queer thing,' said Sam, reflectively, 'but I've seen it afore
now; no matter what a woman is, so long as a man has got her to wife,
he is wild with rage if she throws him over. I should have thought it
wur a good riddance to bad rubbish; and summat of a satisfaction to
have the world open again to choose from.'

'Stop that!' cried Vallancy, whose temper was not in a state to bear
irritation. 'What the devil do I care what you think? I suppose you
want to be paid for your information, and if so I had better tell you
at once that I will not give you a farthing.'

"Twur a friend of mine who wrote those letters,' answered Sam, taking
no notice of Vallancy's remark. 'He is a clever chap, and pretty smart
at putting two and two together. There are many things kep' dark that
he knows. I dare say he could tell you now that there would be a
change of Ministry before long. You would be surprised to hear that it
rests with him whether Longleat carries his Loan Bill and goes sailing
off to England to be knighted by her Majesty, or is kicked out of the
Treasury for a scoundrel. No one 'ud believe it if he was told, but it
is true for all that.'

'What!' exclaimed Valiancy, startled into interest. 'I am informed by
everyone that Longleat has an overwhelming majority.'

'That may be. He has strutted, and ranted, and bribed, and made a
shout of progress, honesty, impartiality, till he has got all
Leichardt's Land to believe in him as though he were a god. But
suppose that my friend had private information concerning the
Premier's past life, that would damn this hero as a rascal, a thief,
say--a murderer--an old hand--where would his popularity be then? Gone
like a whiff of smoke.'

'That would depend upon whether your friend's information was
reliable, and whether he could bring forward evidence to support it,'
said Valiancy.

'Suppose it were newspaper evidence,' whispered Sam. 'The report of a
trial and conviction, eh? Suppose that, with a few inquiries, Thomas
Longleat, Premier, could be identified with a man bearing another
name, who was sent out to Western Australia twenty-two years ago? What
should you think of that? A charge brought up in the House--Lord, what
a stir it would make! If anyone had a grudge against him, and wanted
the opportunity for revenge. As my friend said to me--'

'Oh, drop all that humbug about your friend,' exclaimed Valiancy.
'Look here; let us understand each other. Of course I know that you
wrote those anonymous letters. You had better own up to it. I don't
suppose that you sent them out of goodwill to me, unless, indeed, as
you say, you really did it for the sake of my family. If that is the
case, my family never did me a better service, and my worst enemy
could not have hit me a harder blow. Tell me your name, my good man. I
don't want to be ungracious to you. Let me know who you are, and I may
perhaps be able to understand you.'

Sammy Deans somewhat reluctantly owned to his personality.

'Are you not the man who was sentenced to four months' imprisonment
for stealing Mr. Longleat's cattle?'

Sammy Deans acknowledged the indictment.

'Then I am beginning to see through you. Your hatred for Longleat is
as deep as mine. You would do him an evil turn if you could. You would
make a tool of me to work out some malicious scheme that you have
plotted against him.'

'Sir,' said Deans, 'you have had a conversation with your wife; she
has acknowledged that what I have told you is true. You speak very
short. I have given you information about your wife's goings-on that
should ha' been received gratefully. You are a gentleman; your honour
has been trampled upon. You have a better reason for wishing to crush
Longleat than I have. You cannot slink away up north again. Folks
would call you a coward. You cannot try horsewhipping, for you would
get the worst of it. He is thick-skinned and powerful. Money is no
odds to him, but reputation is everything. You can hurt him worse than
death if you choose, or if you do not choose I will hit him instead of
you. I've my grudge against him, but it ain't no concern of mine which
of us punishes him, except that I am a dramatic sort of chap; I like a
dénoomong, as the Mossoos say. I could take my evidence straight to
Middleton, who would not be scrupulous in using it, and would pay me
for it better than you will.'

'I am surprised that you have not been to Middleton already,' said
Vallancy, suspiciously.

'I'm a dramatic chap,' repeated Sam. 'As I said afore, Shakespeare,
the immortal bard, and the footlights. All the world's a stage. Each
man owes it to art, to play his part decently, as old Ferris would
say. Melodrama--that is what they call it in fine language. The plot
is thickening. There's a villain in it, and an artful woman, and an
injured husband. The low chap: he that is the instrument of the rest,
and finds the papers, and plays second fiddle, that's me. I hain't
been eddicated up to play the hero. He ought to be a gentleman. That
is your part, Mr. Vallancy. You'll cut a better figure before the
audience than Sammy Deans, the gaol-bird.'

'That's all d--d humbug!' said Vallancy.' Look here; if you have got
any evidence against the Premier that is worth having I'll pay you for
it--do you understand? We'll settle the price when I know what your
information is. You have got some reason for not going straight to
Middleton. He knows you in the police-court, I'll be bound, and you
are afraid of being shown up. Let me see your papers, and I'll name my
figure.'

'Not so fast, Mr. Vallancy,' said Sam. 'My evidence is right enough,
and far too valuable to be let out of my hands easily. And happen it
were summat of that sort that kept me from going straight to
Middleton, who has got a grudge against me on account of a little
business up in the Ubi district; he'd be friendly enough when he
knowed what I had got to tell him. I ain't afraid of being shown up,
but I have my own reasons for keeping quiet just now.'

At that moment a passer-by--one of the Treasury clerks: on his way
home-brushed against Mr. Vallancy and his companion. He eyed the
police magistrate of Gundaroo, uncertain in the half light as to his
identity.

'Hullo, Vallancy!' he cried at last. 'It is you. I heard something
about your leave. Upon my word, you were lucky to get it so soon; but
I suppose the Government is on its p's and q's just now; and then we
all know what a friend your wife is of the Premier's. You have come to
take Mrs. Vallancy up north, I suppose.'

'No,' growled Vallancy. 'Don't you insult me by talking about my wife
and the Premier. I am not going to take her to Gundaroo. We are best
apart...I am sorry I can't talk to you just now. I have some business
to attend to. I'll come and see you to-morrow or the next day. Good-
night.'

The gentleman looked a little mystified for a moment; then a flash of
intelligence crossed his face, and he passed on, the first to spread
abroad the news of Mrs. Vallancy's actual disgrace.

Vallancy turned to Deans.

'I cannot stand here with you in the road to discuss this matter.
Isn't there any place you know, where we could be quiet for an hour?
You need not look at my house. I am not going there any more to-night,
and I don't care about being seen with you across the water. Is there
any pot-house over here, where there is a private room, and where the
people will not recognise me?'

'There's the Banana,' said Sam, thoughtfully; 'if you don't mind the
tramp. Come, sir, it's South Leichardt's Town way.'

The two men walked for a little distance up the dusty white hill,
then turned into a rugged road which wound round the edge of the
cliff. Upon one side, scattered villas alternated with paddocks
overgrown by young gum-trees and prickly-pear; on the other, the rocks
sloped in natural terraces to the river--a dark blue semicircular
riband; while beyond lay the town, with its twinkling lights coming
out one by one as the darkness deepened.

They walked on for a mile or more, till, at the junction of the
Kooya coach-road with that leading to Emu Point, they came upon a
rough bush-inn, standing apart upon an isolated green, and surrounded
by a deep verandah, above which was a sign-board illumined by a
kerosene lantern, representing in vivid colouring of green, yellow,
and magenta, a banana-tree in fruit.

The bar, occupied at present by a black-fellow and two bullock--
drivers, was at one side of the building. At the other, there was a
little parlour quite deserted, into which Sammy Deans conducted Mr.
Vallancy. It was evident that business was not brisk at the Banana.

'This is where I hangs out,' said Sam, drawing a chair to the log
fire which illuminated the dingy place, and proceeding to fill a short
black pipe. 'You'll have summat to drink, sir, won't you? We shall
come to better terms over a nobbler apiece, and they won't doctor the
grog if you order it in the bottle.'

Vallancy nodded, and a bottle of cognac was called for. Vallancy
poured out a glass which he drank almost neat, while Sammy Deans mixed
a milder decoction, and settled himself comfortably at a corner of the
fireplace with the air of a narrator. Vallancy took a cigar from a
case in his pocket, and began to smoke also, every now and then
drinking another sip of brandy. The haggard lines of anxiety and wrath
which had furrowed his face dispersed slowly under the influence of
warmth and stimulant.

As Sammy Deans proceeded with the story which in the madness of
grief and rage Mr. Ferris had disclosed, his whole countenance became
animated by curiosity and eagerness, and he forgot his wife's falsity
and the faint stirrings of manly remorse which her reproaches had
aroused in his breast, in the exciting interest of the tale.



Chapter XXXIV. News By the Mail.

'THE English mail is in! The English mail is in!' was the cry which
sounded in Barrington's ears about five o'clock on that same afternoon,
as he lounged down King Street behind the excited crowd that was
hurrying down towards the Post-Office.

Both within and without, the building seemed a scene of animation.

Ruddy emigrants, noticeable by reason of their eager faces and
uncolonial garments; bushmen in cabbage-tree hats and breeches; women
with children in their arms or toddling at their skirts; lost
creatures, in tawdry finery, whose coarse, hard countenances were
softened by a ray of sentiment at the thought of 'home;' stalwart
Englishmen, browned by the tropical sun, who, though prosperous, yet
eagerly yearned for tidings of distant friends; old hands, who had
inquired oft and anxiously at the same window--all these eagerly
demanded if there were any letters from England for them; while apart,
little groups, or isolated men and women, devoured with their eyes the
thin sheets of foreign paper which fluttered in a light breeze--some
smiling, others weeping, as the news might be good or ill.

Each face, young or old, dejected or jubilant, seemed in part to
reveal its own history. With the impartial interest of a social
philosopher, Barrington stood for a moment at the outskirts of the
crowd, and watched the scene.

A middle-aged woman accompanied by a young girl had just returned
from the window holding a letter, which she had already opened, in her
hand, and as she walked slowly past Barrington, running her eyes down
the closely-written pages, she exclaimed to her companion:

'It's from Annie! Now there'll be news of our Jem!' then a moment
later uttered a faint shriek, and, clutching the girl's arm, directed
her attention to the opening paragragh of the letter.

There was a rush of ejaculations and sobs close to Barrington's ear.
What had happened? Only a railway accident to the 'Flying Scotchman,'
thirty lives lost--and Jem was stoker of the train.

There seemed an intense grimness in the sight of this desolation,
which the news, many weeks after date, carried to these two poor
hearts, so many thousand miles distant from the scene of the disaster.
For the first time Barrington realised fully the bridge of human
interests and emotions which connects the mother-land with her far--
off daughter colony. He began to speculate with a certain troubled
curiosity upon the probable tidings of his own friends and relations,
which the mail had brought for him. His heart stirred at the thought
of his mother's letter--would she write coldly, or with affection? Did
she miss him? Did she regret having bidden him leave her? But it was
vain to wonder. There was no spontaneity in Lady Alice Barrington's
moods.

He inquired of a bystander if there would be any town delivery that
evening.

No, only the Governor, the Ministers, and such like big-wigs would
get their letters sent to them that night. He would have to ask here
if he wanted his.

Barrington took his place near the window, and, waiting his turn,
made his demand. Two packets were handed out to him. One addressed in
a clerkly hand to 'Hardress Barrington, Esq.,' and marked 'immediate;'
the other inclosed in a thin envelope deeply bordered with black.

He started and blanched at the sign of mourning, then reassured
himself as he recognised his mother's handwriting. One of his nephews,
or perhaps a cousin, was dead. Thank God, nothing had happened to the
old lady. Barrington's heart grew tender at the thought of his mother.

He put the letters in his pocket, and, hailing a hansom, dashed down
to an hotel, where in the solitude of a private apartment he opened
first that from his mother.

It was written in the pointed characters so fashionable a quarter of
a century ago, and formally expressed in studied phrases, which seemed
to indicate that epistolary correspondence was no light matter to Lady
Alice Barrington.

This was the letter:

'Castle Barrington.
'20th April.
'MY DEAREST HARDRESS.

'Never till now have I realised the immense distance by which we are
separated. It is hardly conceivable that when this letter reaches you,
the mournful intelligence which it bears will be ranked in England
among events of the past, and that we shall have so far recovered from
the state of bewildered misery into which we have been plunged, as to
be able to form definite plans for the future.

'But to state as briefly as possible the terrible calamity which has
befallen us. Last week we received an intimation that scarlet fever
had broken out in Mr. Hawkins's preparatory school for Eton, where, as
you know, Lionel's two sons were placed. Lionel, who was always
anxious and perhaps a trifle over-fussy, where the health of his
children were concerned, went down himself to bring them home. They
travelled back by that ill-fated Flying Scotchman, which came into
collision with a goods train near Grandchester. Thirty persons were
killed, and among them my beloved son and my two grandchildren, their
bodies mangled in a manner upon which my harrowed feelings will not
permit me to dwell. As regards the catastrophe, the papers will,
furnish you with full particulars.

'Eleanor, who was at that time expecting her confinement, was so
overwhelmed by grief and horror at the news abruptly communicated to
her, that shortly afterwards she gave premature birth to a son, who,
perhaps happily, survived his father's death but a few hours. Eleanor
is now in a most critical condition, and every moment which I devote
to this letter is robbed from my melancholy watch by her bedside.
Indeed I feel that Divine grace alone enables my weak frame to support
the burden of anguish which has fallen upon me. Alas! I fear a
terrible reaction; but it is my prayer that the same grace may sustain
me till you return to enter worthily into the high and responsible
position to which it has pleased God to elect you--truly His ways are
inscrutable--and that I may be inspired with words of counsel and
encouragement, which you will not disdain, to accept from your mother.
I care not then how soon I am permitted to join the beloved ones to
whom my earthly happiness has been mainly due.

My son, you are now in a direct line the last male representative of
your race. Upon you devolves the old title which your brother and
father, and their ancestors for generations, have borne so nobly.

'I remember that when, after that wretched episode which resulted in
your retirement from the Guards, I urged so strenuously your departure
for Australia, you accused me somewhat bitterly of having sacrificed
the tenderness of motherhood upon the altar of family pride. Recollect
that, the Barrington motto, 'Death rather than dishonour,' has been
the religion of my youth and of my old age; and that from my earliest
childhood I was taught to reverence the name of Barrington as the type
of truth and nobility.[1] From the hour of my marriage it became my
holiest mission to preserve that name unsullied. Think then, what
could have been my feelings when your extravagance and dissipated
habits--I will use no harsher terms--threatened to disgrace it?

Your English career was practically closed; there was no prospect but
ruin before you; an unpleasant notoriety was attached to your name.
I had faith in the latent manliness and energy in your character,
which I felt might be developed by the impetus of a fresh opening in
a distant land; and I believed that, once separated from the baleful
influences that beset you in London, you might retrieve the past and
carve out a new and honourable career.

'Now, by the death of your brother and of his two sons, all the
circumstances of your life are changed. To Sir Hardress Barrington
society will readily pardon what it would have been slow to condone
in the case of a penniless younger son. Come home at once. New interests
and responsibilities await you. Meet them nobly. Should our dear
Eleanor be taken from us, you will become the natural guardian of Lionel's
daughter. Mr. Burnley tells me that your presence is urgently
desirable.

Lose not a day in taking your passage to England. Mr. Burnley is
writing to you on matters of business. I will add no more except to assure
you that you will be received with open arms, and that my prayers are with
you.

'Your loving mother.

'Alice BARRINGTON.'


Barrington smiled grimly as he refolded the letter.

'Le roi est mort, vive le roi,' he muttered. 'Poor mother! it is a
bitter pill for her to swallow, but she takes it at a gulp. I was
right; the family honour is her fetish. Lionel dead! I cannot realise
it. I have always thought him a prig, but he was a downright good
fellow when you pierced the crust, and we were fond of each other
after a fashion. I think he would have liked me better if I had been a
parson, and had settled down in the family living; and next to that he
preferred me in Australia...He was better fitted for the English
county magnate business than I shall ever be...My mother bows to the
decrees of Providence, but she admits that they are inscrutable. What
possible reason could the Almighty have had for mangling those poor
children? It will be a hard nut for her faith to crack; but the title,
such as it is, she fancies a sort of Apostolic unction. The head of
the house of Barrington can do no wrong...It is a queer world! I was a
beggar yesterday, skulking about the Premier's back gate. I am a
baronet to--day. Not that it will make any difference in Longleat's
sentiments...Poor little chaps!' he added, with a regretful pang at
the thought of his nephews' bonnie faces--the urchins he had dandled
on his knees at Castle Barrington and tipped at school. 'It is hard
lines upon them that they should not have their innings. I don't think
that I'd have grudged little Li the handle to his name. How will
Honoria receive this news? No need to marry her now for the sake of
the Tarrangella tin-mine. What will my mother say to the introduction
of alien blood into the pure Barrington stream? Honoria is a Radical
at heart. She will never worship at the ancestral shrine...There's
something in that girl that wakes the devil in me. Old Ferris was
right, perhaps; the taint of the mother--'

He broke the thread of his thoughts by tearing open the lawyer's
letter. Mr. Burnley briefly explained the circumstances of Sir
Lionel's death, the disposition of his property, and concluded by
strongly urging the necessity for Hardress's return to England,
expressing a doubt as to the ultimate effect of the shock she had
sustained upon the fragile constitution of Lady Alice Barrington.

'Her thoughts seem now entirely centred on you,' wrote the lawyer.

'Ever since your departure she has been consumed with feverish
anxiety for news of you. Her grief for Sir Lionel is silent and
repressed. You represent her earthly source of consolation. She said
to me yesterday, "If I could only see my son Hardress happily married
and taking his place worthily here, I should die in peace." You know
your mother's reticence and unwillingness to own to any weakness; but
I shrewdly suspect that remorse has weighed upon her ever since she
advised your banishment to Australia.'

Barrington was deeply affected by these allusions to his mother. From
his childhood this beautiful, undemonstrative woman had exercised a
powerful though passive influence over his emotions. He had loved her
even when he had been bitter against her; and now a yearning came over
him to see her, to gratify the proud expectations that she had once
cherished of him. The grey walls of his old home rose in his mind, and
awakened in it a keen longing to return. He breathed again the
atmosphere in which he had been born and reared, and marvelled that he
could have existed elsewhere. His thoughts went drifting back amid old
scenes and companions--the men of his regiment, the women who had
smiled upon him--would they be gracious to him once more?

And then his mind turned towards Honoria. He grew hot and cold: his
breath rose and fell rapidly: his heart throbbed. It became borne in
upon him that they two no longer stood upon the same footing. The
shock of his sudden social elevation, and the influence of his
mother's affectionate exhortation, and of the prayers and blessings
breathed forth from her letter, seemed to have changed entirely his
moral attitude towards the girl whom he at once loved and despised.

Yesterday, he had deemed it no sacrifice to make Honoria his wife.
To-night, with the vision of his mother's sorrowful face fresh in his
imagination--as he thought of her revived hopes for his future career;
of the duties and responsibilties that now devolved upon him; of the
broad Barrington acres; the refined society which had contributed to
the pleasure of his old life; of the new existence opening before him,
with its possibilities of great achievement and its certainty of
social rehabilitation, in which marriage represented such an important
feature--he trembled and wavered.

Was not the price to be paid for the joy of calling Honoria his own,
heavier than, under the circumstances, could reasonably be demanded
from him? The revenues of the great Tarrangella tin-mine were nothing
to him now, and the advantages of a union with Miss Longleat were no
longer patent.

Could he ask Lady Alice Barrington to open her arms to the daughter
of a Radical bullock-driver? Was Honoria's mother such an ancestress
as future Barringtons might acknowledge without shame?

A thousand times, No.

Then he reflected upon the manifold inconsistencies in Honoria's
nature--her frankness and boldness pushed to the very verge of
indiscretion; her scorn of conventionalities; her impatience of the
dictates of her petty world; her thirst for experience; her
susceptibility to argument and entreaty; her self-reliance and yet her
proneness to be dominated by the passionate impulses of the moment;
her freedom of speech, and a certain abandon of action and manner to
be attributed to the influences which from her birth had surrounded
her, but which, in the course of Barrington's experience, had never
been combined with the traditional reserve of a carefully--trained
young lady who may only be approached in the conventional manner
sanctioned by polite society.

It had been arranged that they were to meet that evening at the
usual trysting-place.

Could he venture to broach to her a plan of immediate flight? How
far would it be possible to overcome her scruples--to gloss over
dishonour by honeyed phrases and specious arguments--the imperative
necessity for his return; the difficulty of triumphing over her
father's opposition to his suit; the desirability of deferring the
ceremony of marriage till they reached Sydney--England--the break from
all old ties which would leave her untrammelled by the past...Could he
dare whisper in her ear promises of devotion, of lifelong fidelity--of
marriage in the sight of God--the hackneyed jargon which rises so
glibly to the lips of a fashionable profligate?

Barrington dined alone. He was in a queer, excited mood; yet 'mid
all his excitement there ran the regretful thought of his mother's
grief, of the sorrowing widow, of the dead boys.

He had been engaged in a vague way for that evening, but remained at
the hotel, having a notion that it would be indecorous to show himself
in general society. Below in the coffee-room there was a meeting of
rowdies. He could hear rough voices raised in shouts and oaths and
doggrel songs, in which the Premier's name resounded frequently. In
two days the new Parliament was to be opened, and Leichardt's Town was
rife with political agitation.

Without, in the street there was the roar of traffic; the cabs and
jingles were flying to and fro, and the lights twinkled in the shop--
windows, while the news-boys cried a late edition of the Leichardt's
Town Chronicle in which was the English intelligence.

Barrington bought a paper, and read a detailed account of the
accident to the Scotch express.

It was as though he had been in a dream. He drank deep draughts of
champagne, and every now and then would give himself a shake as if to
convince himself that the tidings he had received were real.

The hours passed slowly, and the craving for Honoria's companionship
became intense; it was more passionate than mere lover's longing to
see and speak to the object beloved.

At last he took up his hat and went forth, shunning the thoroughfare,
but passing through lonely streets, and loitering in an unfrequented
quarter by the river till the hour for his love-meeting drew near.

[1. [..reverence the name of Barrington as the type of truth and
nobility...] Lady Alice Clarence was, upon the female side, a cousin
of her husband, Sir Lionel Barrington.]



Chapter XXXV. In Peril.

BARRINGTON was in the Gardens by ten. The night was clear and moonlit, a
trifle chill, as evenings in June are apt to be. He lit a cigar and
strolled up and down beneath the bunya-trees, cursing below his breath
Honoria's laggard steps, and watching the lights in the Premier's house
which flickered in several windows, and at last became stationary only
in those of Mr. Longleat's study.

He knew then that all but the master himself had retired. Surely she
was free now. Would she never come?

He threw away the butt-end of his cigar as the clock in the
Parliamentary Buildings struck the half-hour after eleven. Then he saw
Honoria, her tall figure enveloped in a long dark cloak which did not
conceal the graceful sweep of her shoulders, emerge cautiously, and in
apparent uncertainty, from one of the venetianed windows, and steal
round by the shrubbery, passing at length through the wicket-gate into
the public-grounds.

He saw in the first glimpse of her face that she had undergone some
agitating experience. It was very pale, and her dark eyes looked
bright and feverish, while her lips seemed to tremble with
sensibility. She uttered a deep sigh. The night was very still. Above
their heads, the bamboos rustled ever so slightly: they might have
heard a leaf fall.

'I thought that you were never coming,' whispered Barrington.
'Sweetest, what detained you? Did you know that I was here, waiting
and counting the minutes till you appeared?'

'Yes, I knew that you were here. There was a gentleman dining with
us, and I could not get away sooner...Listen!' she went on, in a
hurried discomposed manner, 'I do not feel like myself tonight. I have
something to tell you. No, do not speak; let me have my say first. I
think that we had better part--for a time at least--if not for always.
I am so miserable. I feel so ill--so restless. It has come over me
strongly that I am wrong to be with you here--that you make me wicked.
I want to go back to my old life. I am under a spell. If we were
parted, I could decide calmly whether I love you or not. I cannot do
so now...I have had a heavy dread upon me for days. As I was stepping
out, a voice seemed to whisper to me, "Stay!" All through dinner I
seemed in a dream. I felt that something terrible was going to happen.
Do you believe in spirits? Ever since Angela's death, I have fancied
that she was in the air close to me, like a chill current freezing my
blood when I thought of you...And then I have imagined, and have heard
other things. Hardress!' she exclaimed sharply, drawing herself away
from him, 'did you--did you make Angela love you too?'

Barrington shrank as Honoria spoke. Since he heard that Angela was
dead, he had tried deliberately to thrust the remembrance of her from
his mind. After a moment's pause, he replied:

'My dearest, what has put that notion into your head?'

'An anonymous letter was sent me yesterday. I threw it in the fire,
but its words rankled in my mind. At first I thought that I would not
tell you--and then--You know that I must trust you. Is it true?'

'Honoria!' said Barrington, in a constrained tone; 'even if I had
never known you, I could not have connected the idea of love as
between man and woman with that pure poetic child. The feeling I had
for Angela--and it was deep in its way--was that tender affection
which one so innocent and imaginative might well inspire. She was like
a forest flower which blooms and fades, and which one could not pass
without a delicate pleasure in its beauty and perfume. I have mourned
for her. Do not sully her memory by such thoughts as these.'

'Forgive me!' murmured Honoria. 'I have been sorry too,' she added.
'I have reproached myself because I did not understand her. It is
thinking of her--of her father's grief--Aunt Pen says that he is as a
man gone mad: he will not speak, but sits all day long by her grave--
which has turned my heart towards my father--away from you. Forgive me
if I wronged you. I wished to think evil of you. I wanted to have a
reason for hating you.'

'What has your father been saying to you?' asked Barrington. 'Why
have you changed?'

'He has said nothing,' answered Honoria. 'For weeks we have been
estranged; we have never mentioned your name. But to-night there was
something odd and sad in his manner. He kept eyeing me with a kind of
wistful tenderness; and my heart yearned to him. It was as though our
souls were trying to speak, and could not. Only when he bade me good-
night he said, "Honie, don't let anything come between us." And I
could have fallen upon his neck, and told him that I was bad, and that
I hated myself, and begged him to keep me beside him and not let me go
out to-night. And then I would have implored him to take me away to
some strange place, where we might forget, and learn to love each
other. I felt that I had seemed proud and indifferent. Men are not
like women. I ought not to have judged him. Perhaps if I had not been
cold he would not have gone away to that other woman. But I could not
speak, and it was too late. Oh, Hardress, release me; give me time.
Hardress, let me go; don't make me come out any more like this. I
cannot--I cannot!'

It was a new Honoria who gasped out the broken sentences, clinging to
him with hot, nervous fingers, that when they touched his neck
thrilled him with passionate excitement. As she made her wild appeal
she gazed at him with wide-open eyes, half-terrified, half--imploring,
and wound her head back as though she were struggling against the
spell which bound her.

'Why do you fight so hard against what is your fate?' he said, in a
tone at once imploring and caressing. 'You came out to-night because
you love me. Is love so terrible a crime? Is it not a joy rather than
a torment? Your scruples, dearest one, are natural to a daughter, but,
believe me, they are unreasonable; and knowing your heart as I do, how
could I yield to them?'

'You will misunderstand me,' exclaimed Honoria. 'It is not only for
my father's sake that I wish to be free, but because I distrust my own
feelings. I want to go away, to Sydney, Tasmania--anywhere so that you
do not follow me, and so that I can think calmly...This thought was in
my mind to-night, and many others; and when my father looked at me so,
I had almost determined to tell him everything, to implore him to take
me away...And then a clerk from the Treasury came to see him, and they
both went into his study...I waited and waited, and all the time I
knew that you were outside, and my heart was beating, and I felt sick
and faint. I wanted to stay indoors, and yet something stronger than
myself seemed to draw me to you...And I grew frightened. At last I
could not bear it. I put on my cloak, and said to myself that I would
tell you everything, and implore you to release me. I will marry you
by-and--by, perhaps, but not now--not for a long time...And I think
that I am going mad. I do not sleep at night; and everywhere I see
your eyes, like those of a fiend, haunting me. I do not know whether I
love or hate or dread you most...Oh! don't look at me like that.
Don't, don't! you frighten me. Let me go.'

He unloosed his arms and stood silently facing her. There was an evil
expression in his eyes, from which, without knowing the cause, she
instinctively shrank.

'I tell you that I am afraid of you,' she said; 'I want to go back.
There is something strange about you to-night. Oh, I wish that I had
stayed at home!'

'Honoria,' said Barrington, gravely, 'do you wish to take back your
promise? Do you mean to throw me over?'

'No, no; I only ask you to be generous. You have made me your slave;
I do not know how--but I am afraid of you. Give me back my liberty. If
I love you, let me love of my free-will. Go away from me. At least go
back to Dymaba.'

'You can have little faith in my love,' said Barrington, 'if you
think that I can give you up so calmly. You have led me too far, and
now I cannot let you draw back. I will have you for my own, not in an
indefinite future, but now. I am going away indeed, but not to
Dyraaba. I shall never go back to Dyraaba again. I have had news from
home to-day, and I am half miserable and half joyful. I am a wretch
for feeling so. All my people are in great grief. My brother and his
two sons are dead. I am a rich man. My mother writes beseeching me to
return at once. I want to read you what she says. I want to show you
the lawyer's letter; you will then see that there is no choice left
us. It is necessary that I should leave Leichardt's Land--that you
should become mine at once. Your father's consent is nothing. What
sane man could consider his objection to me reasonable? You must come
to England with me.'

'Your brother dead,' said Honoria, vaguely. 'You are going to
England.'

She was silent for a moment, looking at him as though she barely
followed the drift of his words; yet comprehending that their
relations towards each other had changed.

'Hush!' she whispered, suddenly clutching his arm. 'Do you not hear a
noise? There is a man listening behind the bamboos. I am certain of
it; I heard a footstep. Oh, let us go away from here!'

And indeed there was a sound of retreating feet crushing the dry
bamboo-leaves that strewed the ground.

'My love,' said Barrington, 'this is the most retired part of the
Gardens, but we cannot guard against intrusion. It would be fatal if
you were recognised; and you are unveiled.'

Honoria trembled violently, nevertheless spoke with some of her old
imperious air.

'It is not because I am ashamed,' she said, 'but that I am afraid--
and afraid of what? I don't know--of you. Go on. I don't understand
what you were saying. Tell me again. Your brother is dead, and you are
going away. What do you wish me to do?'

'How can I talk to you here?' asked Barrington. 'Would you have our
confidences reported all over Leichardt's Town to-morrow? You must
come with me to my rooms. I have lodgings in a quiet part of
Leichardt's Town. You will go and return unperceived; and there we can
speak of our future. We can decide our plans without fear of being
seen or overheard. Everything is changed with me. You must read
Burnley's letter. You must hear what my mother says to me. You see
that it is a most important matter. Your future and mine depend upon
your decision. Honoria, you must do as I bid you. When you have heard
everything, you may weigh all the considerations calmly, but you owe
me obedience now.'

'Go with you to your rooms? I could not. What would people think or
say? No, no. Can you not write to me? Oh, I am certain that I heard
footsteps again. Let me go back. I shall be able to think to--morrow.
To-night I am frightened, unnerved.'

'To-morrow will be too late,' said Barrington. 'Come! I only ask you
for an hour. I will bring you back to this spot. It is not like you to
be deterred from doing what is desirable--nay, necessary--by a mere
conventional scruple. There would be no impropriety in your going to
my lodgings if Mrs. Ferris were with you. Can you not trust me to take
care of you?'

'Yes, but I am alone. How can I go with you to a strange place? at
this hour--it is impossible!'

'You did not hesitate to meet me here,' he urged, 'why should you
object to spending an hour with me in my temporary home, where you
will be as safe as in your own? Honoria, you are above these petty
considerations. There is a cab waiting at the south gate. I tell you
that I must speak to you alone. Do you not see that this news has
changed my whole life--that you must decide at once whether you will
be my wife or not?'

He drew her on for a few steps, while she weakly resisted his
entreaties.

His longing impelled him almost beyond the bounds of self-control. He
was conscious only of the overmastering desire to have her to himself.
Those soft shadows which the moon threw upon her cheek and brow mocked
and bewitched his excited fancy...And she, too, seemed borne along
upon the tide of his passion.

'I am obliged to do what you bid me,' said Honoria, submissively.
'You are my master, and I cannot resist--I must obey you. I know that
my better nature shrinks from you, and yet I cling to you. Hardress,
why should I not trust you--why should I fear you?'

The appeal in her tone stifled for a moment the vague impulses in
Barrington's breast, which had as yet hardly shaped themselves into a
definite design.

'Come!' he said; 'have I not said that I have ever been loyal to the
women who trusted me?'

He folded her mantle more closely round her, playfully chided her for
inattention to her disguise, and placed her hand upon his arm in a
calm protecting manner, which, contrasted with his former excitement,
gave her new confidence and soothed her agitation.

Thus they walked down beneath the bunya-trees to the south gate of
the Gardens, where a closed carriage was awaiting them.

Honoria shrank back again with involuntary repugnance to the thought
that she was the victim of a deliberate scheme of coercion.

'You had planned that I should come,' she exclaimed.

'A lover who would win his cause must be prepared at all points,'
said Barrington, lightly. 'I trusted in your good sense and in my
persuasions to overcome your scruples. I knew that our conversation
was too important to bear the risk of interruption. The nights are
very cold, dearest; and I have some regard for your health and
comfort.'

She allowed him to help her into the carriage, and shivered as she
cowered into the farthest corner. Barrington gave an order to the
driver, and they were whirled along past King Street, with its many
lights and buzz of traffic, into a darker region, where the carriage
paused before one of a row of houses facing the river.

Barrington descended, spoke to the coachman, then with a latch--key
opened the door to admit Honoria, who hurriedly alighted, and,
fancying that she perceived two dark figures standing in the shadow of
a neighbouring building, clung to Hardress for protection and
concealment.

She found herself in a dim passage, lighted by a lamp suspended from
the ceiling, and with closed doors upon one side. Once within, she
breathed more freely. Barrington led Honoria upstairs into a sitting-
room comfortably furnished, and with a bright fire burning upon the
hearth.

'You see that you are perfectly safe and infinitely warmer here than
beneath the bamboos,' he said lightly. 'My landlady is sleeping the
slumber of the just below stairs, and you will depart as quietly as
you have entered. Let me draw your chair closer to the fire, and
relieve you of your cloak. Your fingers are numbed with cold.'

His air of commonplace solicitude, the warmth and absence of
melodramatic effect in his language or in their surroundings,
dispelled Honoria's vague fears, and made her almost ashamed of her
former weakness. There was, too, certain piquancy in the situation
which appealed to her love of adventure, and she looked about her with
interest and animation.

'Forgive the disorder of my bachelor apartments,' said Barrington,
removing a pipe from the table at her elbow. 'That is a view of Castle
Barrington, and this is a likeness of my mother,' he added, seeing
that her eyes wandered towards the photographs upon the mantelshelf.

Honoria examined the portrait attentively.

'How beautiful she is! how noble!...Your mother--and I--oh, if I
could have had such a mother as this! Hardress, it is best indeed that
we should part. Your people are not as my people, and my life has not
fitted me for yours.'

He was silent. At that moment he dared not reply. She gazed
thoughtfully into the fire, her face bent forward, her hand supporting
her chin. He stood opposite, watching her. Presently she turned and
met his eyes.

'You look strange--troubled. It is thoughtless of me to forget that
you have had bad news to-day. You are sorry for your brother's death.
You said that you had a great deal to tell me. Say it now. I am not as
nervous as I was. I will try to think calmly, and then I will decide.
Tell me all that has happened--what you wish me to do.'

With forced composure Barrington began his tale, and related at
length the tidings he had received that afternoon. He did not affect
any great grief at the death of his brother, between whom and himself
there had never been much sympathy; but the tone of genuine regret in
which he spoke of his nephews and of his widowed sister-in-law touched
Honoria's feelings, and convinced her of his sincerity. He talked of
his mother and of her longing for his return; he read her the lawyer's
letter, and a part of that from Lady Alice Barrington. Then his voice
faltered, and in eager tones he painted the life they would lead in
England, Italy--wherever it should please her to dwell. He poured
forth assurances of his unfailing love, and vague protestations, the
drift of which she did not at once comprehend...He passionately
besought her to leave Leichardt's Land with him upon the morrow.



Chapter XXXVI. Saved.

HALF-PAST one.

As the bell in the Parliamentary Buildings boomed the single stroke,
a shrill sharp cry echoed through the deserted thoroughfare in which
Barrington's rooms were situated. The policeman watching at the corner
of King Street had been attracted from his post by a row in a
neighbouring public-house; and the street being quiet and eminently
respectable, was not a likely resort for night loiterers. Thus, either
the sound was not heard, or none cared to inquire into its origin.

Presently the door of Barrington's house was hurriedly opened, and
Honoria Longleat herself, bareheaded, uncloaked, with wide-open
terrified eyes and panic-stricken features, rushed forth into the
street, and gazed helplessly around, not knowing where to turn for
protection against some terrible and hitherto unimagined peril.

Before her at the distance of several hundred yards lay the river,
with the long shadows and dimly-reflected lights upon its glassy
surface, its banks bordered by low sheds that promised no effectual
security. Honoria fled across the road, and cowered for a minute under
the roof of one of these, unaware that Barrington, who had followed
her from the house, was close beside her.

He approached, holding out his hand with a gesture of remonstrance.
She uttered a faint cry, and flung herself away from him.

'Let me go home! Do not speak to me! How dare you come near me!'

'Honoria!' he said, 'for God's sake command yourself! Put on your
cloak and be silent. I entreat you have some regard for your
reputation. You are labouring under an extraordinary delusion. You
have misunderstood my proposal. You need not fear me. Come back, and
listen to me calmly, or at least let me take you home.'

'Don't come near me!' she said again in a fierce whisper. 'I am not
wholly your slave. I can defy you! You spoke too plainly for me to
misunderstand your meaning. Every word that you utter is an insult.
Stop that cab, and let me get into it.'

A hansom was being driven unsteadily along the road. Barrington
stepped forward and hailed it. He placed Honoria's cloak, which he had
carried, upon her shoulders. She wrapped it round her, covering her
head and half concealing her face, which was rigid with scorn, horror,
and wrath.

Disdaining his arm, she got into the cab without a word. Barrington
bade the man drive to the south gate of the Gardens, and was about to
enter after her, but she leaned forward and said in that low unnatural
voice, of which every word seemed to stab him like a knife:

'You shall not come with me. I will never see or speak to you again.
I think that I could kill you at this moment for what you have dared
to say to me. All my love is hate. Go!'

'Honoria,' said Barrington, 'I repeat that you have misunderstood me.
This is not a time to enter into explanations. I implore you, for your
own sake, be silent now. If you are recognised you are lost. I am
bound to protect you against yourself. I must take you to the Gardens.
I will neither look at you nor speak to you, since my presence is so
distasteful, but go with you I will.'

Too weak to struggle further, she allowed him to place himself beside
her, and each drew apart from the other: she with her profile turned
away from him, shuddering irrepressibly; and he, all his passion
sobered, cursing himself for his madness, not daring to address her.

The driver, who was in a state of semi-intoxication, had not
thoroughly comprehended his orders, and instead of taking a straight
course on by the river, turned up King Street, and drove at a break--
neck pace through the lighted crowded thoroughfare, where, as the cab
swayed unsteadily from side to side, the danger of a collision seemed
imminent.

'Slower,' shouted Barrington. 'You are going wrong. Drive down
Charles Street, and along to the Emu Point Ferry. There will be an
accident if you are not careful.'

But the adjuration proved of no avail. The cabman gave a drunken nod,
and did not abate his reckless pace. Fearful of attracting observation
to his companion, Barrington drew back into the cab, and submitted to
the inevitable. They turned abruptly into another street, and taking
the wrong side of the road, came into violent contact with a vehicle
going in another direction. There was a confused sound of ejaculations
and oaths, of grating wheels and plunging horses.

Barrington's hansom received most injury; it overturned; the driver
was hurled on to the footpath, and the other two occupants flung
together into the street.

Honoria had fallen upon her companion. The shock was great, and,
though actually unhurt, she lay for a moment dizzy and half--
unconscious. Then a hand grasped her arm and helped her to rise, and a
voice she knew, uttered in low dismayed tones:

'Honoria!'

She tottered to her feet. Dyson Maddox and Corny Cathcart stood
facing her. Both looked amazed--horror-stricken. There was no
possibility of concealing her identity had she had presence of mind to
attempt doing so. Her cloak had dropped from her head, and the light
of a neighbouring lamp shone full upon her face, still wearing that
indefinable expression of terror which had fallen upon it when she
fled from the place where she had had her interview with Barrington.

In her bewilderment she had almost forgotten what had happened, to
her, and hardly realised the shame of her position, or the fact that
Dyson and Cathcart had jumped from the cab with which her own had come
into collision. Then her eyes fell upon Barrington's prostrate figure
as he lay stunned beside her. The horror and loathing returned with
fresh force. She darted towards Dyson and clutched his hand.

'Take me away!' she cried. 'Save me! Take me away!'

A little crowd had begun to assemble round the scene of the accident.
Honoria had recovered sufficient self-possession to shroud herself
anew in her cloak.

'Oh, don't let these people see me!' she whispered imploringly,
clinging to Dyson as though he had been an angelic protector.

He led her on almost roughly, away from the light and clear of the
throng, and stopping a cab which was driving slowly up, placed her in
it.

She covered her face, and with a deep quivering sigh drew back as
well as she could into the obscurity of the carriage. Dyson bade the
driver wait, and returned to the spot where Cathcart and one of the
bystanders were lifting Barrington from the ground. The latter had
struck his head against the wheel, and blood flowed from a gash upon
his forehead; his eyes were closed, and he was still unconscious.

'Corny,' said Dyson, aside, to his manager, 'I am going to take her
home; whatever happens I can trust you to shield her name. God knows
what it all means! You had better take that villain to an hotel, and
send for a doctor.'

He returned to Honoria.

'I will take you home,' he said gently. 'Do not be frightened! You
are safe with me.'

'No one must see me,' she cried wildly. 'I cannot--I cannot bear it.
Tell him to drive to the south entrance of the Gardens, and you will
take me to the little gate. That was how I came out. Then I shall be
safe.'

Dyson gave the necessary directions, and they were driven through
quiet streets, past the Emu Point Ferry, till they reached the large
iron gates, a little way below the Premier's house.

He then dismissed the cab and offered Honoria his arm. She was
shaking with suppressed sobs that were in danger of becoming
hysterical. When they were in the Gardens and had reached the shelter
of the bamboos, she fairly gave way, and, leaning against a tree,
covered her face and wept bitterly.

Dyson stood by, listening in deep distress to the incoherent words
which broke from her lips, and which seemed to tell of insult and
disgrace. All his manhood stirred in furious wrath against Barrington,
who had dared to place her in a position so compromising. That she had
been imprudent--that she had laid herself open to insult he feared;
but his faith in her never wavered.

'Honoria,' he said, in tones of the deepest tenderness, 'oh, don't
cry so. I cannot bear to hear your sobs. No one, nothing shall hurt
you now. I am your brother; remember that, dear. You are safe with me.
Tell me what you please. Trust me unreservedly. I want nothing in the
world except to serve you, to comfort you, to avenge you. Oh, my
darling, don't cry! Be brave and speak, and tell me the truth.'

Honoria caught his hand and looked into his face with eyes as
searching and faithful as those of a dog. Her need was so great that
all other scruples fell before it.

'I don't want to be avenged,' she said very low. 'I only want to
sink into the earth so that my face shall be never seen any more. I
have been--insulted. I--I would speak, but it shames me--only it is
right that you should know. He thought I was a wicked woman--he--
said--. Oh, I would die rather than that my father should know...'

'Great God!' said Dyson. 'Don't torture me, Honoria. I can believe
no evil of you--and yet your words, your looks, convey horrible
suspicions. Oh, tell me everything. Speak to me as though I were your
mother--your brother.'

A shudder passed through Honoria's frame, but her words had failed
her. She stared beyond him, as it were, with her great wild eyes,
still clinging convulsively to his hand.

'Honoria!' said Dyson. 'I implore you to tell me. There's no one can
help you as I can. Speak--never mind; don't be afraid, Honoria.'

'I will tell you,' she said, almost in a whisper. 'I have no one--no
one but you...I will try to trust you...it seems as if I could have no
more faith in anyone--as if all the world must be bad...I did not know
that there were things so terrible. I did not think that wrong could
ever come near me...I was angry when you said, long ago, that I played
with fire. And then a veil seemed taken off my soul, and I saw
myself--I, who had been so proud--and I saw that he was
infamous...That was what I believed to be love. I did not know why I
shrank--I struggled, and then I yielded; I wished to be true...And all
the time he had wicked thoughts. He would have married me for my
money...but now his brother is dead and he is rich, money is nothing
to him. And to-night the mask fell; it was like a hideous revelation--
of him, of myself. He said that circumstances were changed with him--
that it would break his mother's heart if he married me...He said that
I must go away with him and begin a new life. At first I did not
understand and then I knew...He said I should be his wife before
God...I...oh, now you know...And while he spoke I became cold, and the
horror grew upon me, and I ran from the room, away--I did not care
where...But he would go with me in the cab--and then the accident
happened, and you came ...'

She paused for a moment, her bosom heaving; and Dyson said nothing,
only hanging in breathless anxiety upon her broken words.

'It was as though I had awakened from a dream--awakened to find
myself upon the brink of a precipice. From the first he made me do
things that I did not wish. I thought that he was different to other
people; I was playing with fire; I was bold and unmaidenly. I thought
no harm could come to me. My life seemed so flat--and I wanted
something new. I was craving after excitement of some sort...But it
was not that I was wicked altogether. I only knew dimly; I did not
think of wrong. I trusted him to be loyal as you--as Australian men
are loyal--it is the English who are false, who have bad thoughts...I
did not think that there was any more harm in meeting him in the
Gardens at night, than in walking with him by the lagoon at Kooralbyn.
I was obliged to do what he wished; he made me obey him... I fancied
that I loved him; I was fascinated; I had no will. It was the evil
eye--it was infatuation. You cannot understand, for you do not believe
in such things...I came out here almost every evening when the rest
were in bed. And to-night he made me go with him to his lodgings.'

Dyson uttered a hoarse exclamation of horror.

'Honoria! you were mad.'

'He made me,' she said, with almost childlike simplicity. 'I did not
want to go at first--I struggled--but he was stronger than I. His
brother is dead; he said that he must go to England. He said that he
had important things to tell me...And I went; and then--'

She fell again into a fit of shuddering.

Dyson pressed her hand without speaking. After a few moments she
went on, taking up her story brokenly, following the sequence of her
thoughts.

'Often I have not known whether I was miserable or happy. It was
like a dream in which there was a kind of wicked joy and then hatred
and disgust...If you had tried at first--if anyone had told me what it
really meant--if I had known--I would have resisted--I would not have
allowed him to master me; but I thought that at last I was going to
have feelings like the women in books--who lead tumultuous lives, who
have great passions--with whom existence is not mere stagnation; and I
liked my blood to be stirred. I had no mother; no one to warn me. And
I revolted against my father--I despised him, and was bitter--I
thought that there could be nothing in common between us--that he less
than anyone could understand what was in my heart.'

'God help you, poor child!' uttered Dyson. And in the midst of his
intense pity, of his anger and sorrow, a deep joy took possession of
his soul. The way in which she clung to him, her manner of looking and
speaking, made him feel that she had set him apart from other men. Her
weakness and broken confession seemed to bring her nearer to him.

He took her hand and led her along the dim road beneath the shadowy
bamboos. They were joined and yet asunder. In his manner there was a
chivalrous, silent sympathy, which encouraged her to speak on, with an
imploring dependence in her tone.

'It seems so long ago,' she murmured; 'and I have changed, as it
were, all in a moment. And yet if he were near me, I should be afraid.
Oh!' she cried, 'you will keep him from me; you won't forsake me! Say
that you will not let people think ill of me!'

'I wish for nothing except to serve you,' repeated Dyson again. 'You
must never see or speak to him any more...It has been a bitter ordeal
for you, but you will pass through it, and you will be nobler and
wiser. You may know real happiness. You may know the love which
reverences its object.' He paused, fearful lest the tremor in his
voice should betray him. 'You will forget all this,' he added. 'It is
as you say, a bad dream. The morning light will drive it away. Our
lives have some meaning deeper than the mere longing for passionate
experience, and you will learn it in time.'

His words seemed to soothe and elevate her troubled soul. She grew
calmer, and, as they walked hand-in-hand, a feeling of peace and
security crept over her, as though, after passing through stormy
waters, she had reached a haven.

They paused at the little gate.

'I came out this way,' she said. 'You must not come further. Do not
ever speak of this again. Do not remind me, by look or word, that I
have been humiliated so. I cannot bear it. I must bury it, all the
thought of it, in my own heart, and never lay it bare, except when I
want to remind myself how good you have been to-night.' She glanced up
at him with a sudden grateful look. 'And he is going away,' she went
on; 'his brother is dead. He will not remain in Australia. That is the
only comfort--that he will not stay; that he cannot make me remember
always that I have been disgraced...If I ever loved him, I will fight
against my love; I will think only of the horror and the loathing; I
will pray to be delivered from the infatuation...I will try to be
better in all ways...You will not say,' she went on in a questioning
undertone, 'that I ought to tell my father? I could not do it. I could
not bear that he should know.'

'No, no,' said Dyson; 'what end would the telling him serve? Try and
think of this humiliation as a trial which was needed to make you
strong.'

She looked at him as she stood with her hand upon the gate, and the
tears gathered in her eyes.

'You do not altogether despise me?'

'Oh, do not ask that,' exclaimed Dyson, impetuously, 'when my life
is yours; when you know that I have no impulse but to honour you.' He
lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it with chivalrous respect.
'Remember,' he said, 'that I am your brother. You may trust me
unreservedly. You must go home,' he added. 'Do not linger. I will
watch here till you are safe within. God keep you, my dear!'

She obeyed him without further word. Her tall, dark figure
disappeared for a minute among the trees, then became distinct again
upon the verandah, and finally passed in through the French window of
her bedroom.



Chapter XXXVII. Sinister Omens.

UPON the morning after Honoria's midnight adventure, the Premier received
the following letter:


'Adams's Hotel.
'South Leichardt's Town.

MY FRIEND.

'It is surely impossible that you could have been aware, yesterday,
that my husband was on his way down from the north. This afternoon I
returned home suspecting nothing, and found him with a letter you had
sent me in his hand. Were you mad to write what has compromised me so
utterly? Yet I am almost glad that the farce has ended, and that now
I may fling off my legalised degradation and face the world defiantly.

To-night I have left my husband's house for ever. I have told no one where
I have gone. I wish for a little while, at least, to be at peace. I have
private rooms in this quiet inn where the landlady was formerly a servant of my
father's, so that I am not likely to be annoyed by impertinent observation.

'Do not come to me to-morrow or the next day. On the third day I
will see you.

'Adieu.

'C. V.'

Longleat eagerly read the letter, to receive which was indeed a
relief, after the tortures of anxiety he had been enduring, then
passionately pressed the flimsy paper to his lips. He had passed a
wakeful night, spent in alternately pacing the floor of his study, in
vain efforts at composition and in brooding over the wood fire, which,
as he bent forward now cast fitful gleams upon his massive face,
haggard with watching and suspense.

He had exercised sufficient self-control to refrain from crossing the
water and reconnoitring the cottage at Emu Point; but imagination
picturing Mrs. Vallancy the victim to her husband's jealous fury,
goaded his longing and compassion into a fierce rage difficult to
support in this state of forced inaction.

It is impossible to credit Longleat with the possession of many moral
and religious scruples, nevertheless his hidden sin had haunted him
for months like a condemning spirit. At first his compunction had
chiefly arisen from a sense of contamination in the connection between
Mrs. Vallancy and his daughter; but as gradually his passion gained
the mastery over his purer instincts, his consciousness of wrong
intent lessened, and his love for Honoria became slowly numbed by the
misconception between them, and the influence of his miserable
infatuation. Now that the crisis had arrived, there rose in his mind a
fierce exultation in the tearing away of secrecy and restraint, while
more strongly than ever the feeling of personal predominance and
revolt against the established order of things, made him glory in
defying the dictates of society.

He was not troubled by qualms as to Vallancy's proceedings. The
latter was a cur and a bully, and deserved neither fear nor
consideration. The abstract equity of the question did not weigh with
him. A prize which one man misuses, another has clearly a right to
appropriate, providing the final intention be righteous; and in the
moral justice of his determination to marry Mrs. Vallancy, Longleat
had the fullest confidence.

The messenger who had brought the letter had received orders to wait.
Longleat dashed off an incoherent reply, promising to respect Connie's
wish for solitude, for that day at least; but imploring permission to
call at Adams's after the opening of the House on the morrow.

As he was folding up the letter a thought struck him, and he hastily
filled in a cheque for a hundred pounds, enclosed it, and sealed the
envelope with his signet-ring.

Upon that morning Parliament was to assemble, preliminary to the
formal opening upon the morrow for the choice of the Speaker, and
afterwards the Premier had a political engagement at Kooya which would
detain him till late that evening. When his letter to Mrs. Vallancy
was despatched, he washed, shaved, and changed his clothes,
presenting, when he emerged from his dressing-room, more of his old,
prosperous, self-assertive look than he had worn for weeks. The
consciousness of power was strong within him that day; suspense was
lulled; and he felt confident that political triumph would smile upon
him on the morrow.

He breakfasted alone, making an inquiry from the servant after his
daughter, who was reported to be still sleeping; he then hurried off
to keep an appointment with one of his colleagues.

All the morning Honoria lay in a darkened room, crushed so low with
humiliation that it seemed impossible for her ever again to face the
light of day. Her agony was all the keener because, in spite of her
outraged pride and fierce indignation, she could not repress an
intense longing to know whether Barrington had suffered any injury
from the accident which had befallen them the night before.

She got up and dressed at last, but would not quit her chamber, and
gave orders that she was to be denied to any visitors who might ask
for her.

When, about mid-day, Maddox called at The Bunyas, he was told that
Miss Longleat could see no one.

During the day she was tormented by a restless dread that Barrington
would seek her presence. The fear was groundless; he did not come.
Then terror gave place to vague disappointment, and disappointment to
alarm.

A terrible dreariness crept over her. She longed for the sight of
Aunt Penelope's placid countenance, and the sound of her gurgling
platitudes. Even Mr. Ferris's society would not at that moment have
been unwelcome. Oh to take up the old turbid current of her existence,
when, if boredom was unpleasant, it meant at least safety! She had
been launched upon an unknown sea, and her own surging desires and
impetuous impulses were the waves in which she had been engulphed.

She covered her face with her hands.

'Oh, Dyson, Dyson!' she murmured, 'I wish we were together again
quietly at Kooralbyn. I think we could be happy now, if he would let
me be; but it is too late, and I cannot--I don't know what to do. Oh,
I don't know what to do!'

Suddenly she remembered what 'mid her inward excitement had been
quite forgotten--that upon the morrow the new Parliament of
Leichardt's Land would be opened, and the Premier's triumph or defeat
assured.

'I cannot be there!' she exclaimed, with passionate horror. 'Oh, I
cannot--I cannot!'

There seemed that afternoon an unnatural stillness in the atmosphere
which surrounded The Bunyas. No visitor rang at the door-bell, or
entered by the garden-gate, as was the custom of intimate friends. The
distant sounds which floated down from the Parliamentary Buildings,
telling of preparations for the ceremony of the morrow, seemed to
Honoria's excited imagination like presages of doom.

Nor was she alone in her forebodings. Though the appointment of the
Speaker had gone in favour of the Government, even with the outside
world auguries of evil were rife. The Leader of the Opposition had
spent part of the morning in earnest conclave with the chiefs of his
party. There were in his manner signs of exultation which could not be
mistaken. Mysterious telegrams had been sent to Western Australia, and
still more mysterious replies received. Early in the day a despatch in
cipher had been wired by the ex-Attorney--General to a certain lawyer
in England.

In the afternoon Middleton and Vallancy were seen walking arm--in-arm
down King Street. It was whispered that Mrs. Vallancy had fled from
her husband's roof, and that a terrible revelation of former misdeeds
was hanging over the head of the Premier.

But of all those most directly interested in the impending disaster
Dyson Maddox was perhaps least conscious of its imminence or of its
real nature. His mind was completely occupied with thoughts of
Honoria--of how he could best screen her from the results of her
imprudence, and prevent the true facts of the case from transpiring.
He went through his usual routine of work, and transacted his official
business as though he had been in a dream. He was ostensibly occupied
with the viceregal speech, but in reality exercising his brain upon
the problem of Honoria's infatuation for Barrington, when Cornelius
Cathcart entered the office.

'Have you seen or heard anything of Miss Longleat today?' he asked
eagerly.

Dyson shook his head.

'I called at The Bunyas, but was told that Miss Longleat was not well
enough to see anyone,' he replied.

'That blackguard is in a bad way,' continued Cathcart. 'The doctors
say it is concussion of the brain. I hope he may never recover. Have
you looked at the English papers yet? There is in the "Home News" an
account of the death of Sir Lionel Barrington and of his two sons.
This fellow has succeeded to the baronetcy. Now all Leichardt's Town
is ringing with the news, and with the story of the accident of last
night, though as yet her name has not been mentioned in the affair.
Good God, Dyson! it is a worse business than I thought. Do you know
that they had been together at his lodgings--that she was driving away
from there with him at two o'clock this morning?'

Dyson's lips were grimly set; he nodded silently. After a pause he
said:

'I know it. Last night, in her misery and shame at the insult which
had been offered her, she told me everything. He had acquired an
influence over her which to me seems incomprehensible; he persuaded
her to meet him clandestinely in the Gardens; he decoyed her to his
rooms under pretence of having something important to tell her.
Cathcart, remember that she is motherless, and that there was no one
to teach her the meaning of evil. And that d--d villain played upon
her innocence. In his poverty he would have married her gladly, but in
his prosperity he did not deem her worthy to be his wife. He dared to
propose to her that she should accompany him to England...God! I could
have killed him...She is pure as an angel. Her anguish, her outraged
pride were terrible to witness. Do not allude to this again. I could
have spoken to no one but you--not to you if you had not been with me
last night. You know what she was to me--what I must feel. I wonder
that I have kept my hands from his throat.'

'You will avoid making a scandal,' said Cathcart; 'that would be
fatal. The only safety for her is in hushing the matter up. Yet,' he
added, 'sooner or later the affair will be known; these things always
leak out. It is more than likely that some one recognised her, and
there are many evil tongues in Leichardt's Town. Think if anyone but
ourselves had been in that cab! I am not sure that it would not be
wisest to go straight to the Premier, and make a clean breast of the
whole thing. He is powerful enough to protect his daughter.'

'No,' said Dyson, firmly. 'She wishes that her father should be kept
in ignorance. Can you not understand how she would shrink from any
disclosure to him? At any cost the affair must be hushed, denied,
disproved. To-morrow she must show herself at the Opening as though
nothing had happened; and after this week it would be well that she
should go away for a time, to Melbourne or Tasmania. I have thought
the matter out. This is the only course. You and I, Corny, must
protect her.'

Cathcart wriggled out of his chair, and made a furious onslaught upon
the fire.

'I cannot stand it,' he said presently. 'I shall start for Barramunda
the first thing to-morrow. I have been skulking about King Street all
the morning, expecting at each corner to hear her name spoken. There
is something in the air. I see men nudging each other and whispering
mysteriously in the hotel verandahs. I am told that there is a plot
brewing amongst the Oppositionists--a charge to be brought against the
Premier when the House meets.'

Dyson smiled disdainfully.

'They will try to make capital out of Vallancy's appointment to
Gundaroo. We have run the gauntlet of that already. If ever there were
a man certain of success, it is Longleat; but my brain is in a whirl
to-day--I cannot think of political matters. I have to see Little at
three; it is that time now.'

'You will be at the dinner to-night?' said Cathcart.

'Yes; we must both be there, ready to give the lie if Honoria is
mentioned in connection with last night's occurrence.'

'There is a rumour afloat that Mrs. Vallancy has run away with the
Premier.'

'Pshaw!' replied Dyson. 'At this moment Longleat is addressing a
meeting of navvies at Kooya.'

'You don't believe in that scandal, then?'

'It is too obvious to be doubted,' replied Dyson, shortly.

'That is Little's knock. I will say good-bye for the present. We
shall meet this evening.'

Cathcart withdrew, and the Attorney-General entered.



Chapter XXXVIII. The Dinner to General Compton.

THE dinner which the Governor had mentioned to Mr. Longleat, and which
was given to General Compton, a certain military officer who had come
out from England upon a tour of inspection of the Australian defences,
took place that evening.

It was an entirely informal banquet. The hosts were half a dozen of
the 'best' men in Leichardt's Land, who had in their youth been
acquainted with General Compton, and wished to do him honour before
his departure from Australia. These gentlemen might have been pointed
out as representing an especial type of colonist. They were cadets of
noble families, who having emigrated early in life, combined the
hereditary instincts of race with the practical wisdom of the colonial
squatter, and embodied the truest Conservatism to be found in
Australia.

The position which they held was neutral, and entirely independent of
monetary or political prestige. They rather disdained the strife of
parties, and had they entered the arena would probably have withdrawn
from it, disgusted by the petty contention of conflicting personal
interests; yet their influence, though passive, was powerful, and it
may be said went far towards preserving the balance of power in an
undisciplined community.

The dinner had been carefully composed, and was well served in the
principal dining-room of the club. Colonel Augmering in a strictly
social capacity, presided. He was delighted to escape from the
shackles of viceregal etiquette, and by no means regretted that the
Premier's absence precluded the introduction of any political element
into the convivial gathering. The company was entirely to his taste,
and Lady Georgina's eagle eye did not rule the repast.

General Compton was placed upon the Governor's right. He was erect
and distinguished-looking, with fine eyes, regular features, and a
high-bred utterance. He had divided with Barrington the honours of the
season; had not been remiss in his attentions to Miss Longleat; and
though report proclaimed him a married man, he contrived to keep his
wife in the background and to retain the prestige of a bachelor. He
was a bon vivant, a good story-teller, an admirer of the fair sex; and
when, as upon occasions like the present, he was enabled to relax the
rigid conventionality necessary to the maintenance of his military
dignity, he displayed a tendency to double entendre.

The other guests, with one or two exceptions, notably in the cases of
Dyson Maddox and Cornelius Cathcart, were men of European
proclivities, bearing the stamp of cities curiously blended with the
rude traces of bush life. The only discordant element in the party
presented itself in the shape of Mr. Vallancy, who, in virtue of a
quasi-cousinship, had been invited at the last moment out of
compliment to General Compton, and who was manifestly unwelcome to
several of the gentlemen present.

He had come, fancying that Longleat might be there, with the vaguely-
formed intention of making a scene. He looked excited and unsteady.
His face was pale and his eyes wild, while his mood seemed to
alternate between fits of forced hilarity and sullen depression.

At his entrance an uneasy consciousness fell upon the group. No one
dared to question him upon his abrupt return from Gundaroo. The names
of the Premier and Mrs. Vallancy, upon the lips of everyone present,
were forcibly arrested there. There was an awkward silence, but the
General's fine tact bridged over the gulf. Commonplace topics were
introduced, and as the dinner proceeded restraint wore off.
Conversation flowed smoothly after a time, and jarring notes were
drowned in the sound of mirth and repartee.

The champagne-glasses were frequently plied. Colonel Augmering's face
reddened, and his mood became expansive. He forgot that he was the
Governor of an important colony, and suffered his heart to rejoice in
the recollection of past jovial experiences. General Compton's
anecdotes began to touch upon women, in a manner more and more
significant. When the attendants had left the room, the laughter had
reached as high a pitch of uproariousness as is possible in refined
male society.

There is a gentlemanly coarseness to be observed in postprandial
conversation, which in the ears of an abstemious listener is apt to
sound obnoxiously. Dyson sat silent; his soul rising in a disgust
which, under any other circumstances, he might not have felt, his
tongue refusing to take part in the piquant discourse that flowed down
each side of the table.

The tide of discussion turned towards the relative merits of English
and Australian beauties. As was natural, Honoria Longleat's name was
mentioned in terms of praise. General Compton was loud in his
admiration. Such a figure, such eyes, such hair, must needs place
their possessor upon a par with any European belle. Free comments were
bestowed upon her smile, her dress, her gait. Was not her physique of
the same type as that of the celebrated Mrs.--, whom Colonel Augmering
must recollect? and so on. It was impossible to take open exception to
the remarks, yet Dyson's anger rose to the pitch of fury. That his
goddess should be profaned by such vulgar criticism! He made one or
two attempts to turn the conversation, but to no avail. Presently
Colonel Augmering exclaimed, as though apropos of the subject:

'What a thousand pities that Barrington could not be here this
evening! Never was so sorry for a man in my life. Curious that he
should have been knocked under, just after hearing of his good luck in
having stepped into his brother's shoes. Seems unkind to say so, don't
it? I used to know poor old Lionel Barrington, and liked him, though
he was not one of your jovial sort; always a bit of a screw. Many is
the capital day's sport I have had in his coverts. By jove! what a
fine woman his mother was! Do you remember her, Compton?'

'A splendid wornan,' replied General Compton. 'I know her well. It
was I who advised her to send Hardress out here--poor devil! But there
was nothing else to be done after that affair in the Guards.'

'You know the truth of that story?' asked Maddox, suddenly.

'Of course. It was talked about in every club in London; but people
will have forgotten it long before Hardress's return to England. At
any rate, it is not fair to repeat it now. Men will be men, and women,
women.'

'And women, women,' repeated Vallancy, with diabolical emphasis. 'You
are right, General. It is they who drive men to the deuce.'

'The more fools men for being driven,' laughed the General.

'Let us drink confusion to the sex,' continued Vallancy. 'This is
uncommonly fine claret. I don't know that I ever tasted better at
Brockley--eh, General? Perdition to women!'

'You would not persuade my friend Barrington to join you in that
toast,' laughed General Compton. 'He was always a noted admirer of the
fair sex; is still, I believe. I hope to congratulate him before long
upon his conquest of the Australian beauty, and of her fortune.'

'The Premier will have nothing to say to him,' remarked one of the
guests. I know it for a fact. Our ci-devant bullock-driver has some
queer republican notions, and among them is a hatred of the English
aristocracy. But Miss Longleat is a young lady of spirit, and
determined to marry whom she pleases. It is a case of genuine love.
She and her father have not spoken since the affair came out.'

'The Enchantress of Kooralbyn in love!' cried another. 'I thought
that she was la belle dame sans merci.'

'Sir,' said Dyson slowly, addressing the Governor, his fury at white
heat, 'you will allow me to protest against this public mention of a
lady's name.'

'Oh, my dear fellow!' said the Governor, in a bantering tone, 'we are
all friends here, and all devoted and respectful admirers of the young
lady--no one more so than myself. She is national property, and her
matrimonial projects are as interesting to the colony as the formation
of the Kooya Railway or her father's possible knighthood. But since
you are so punctilious, we will drop the subject and confine ourselves
to talking about Mr. Barrington. I never was so shocked in my life as
when I was told this morning of his accident. By the way, I am not at
all clear about the affair. No one seems to know exactly how it
happened. Has anyone heard how he was this evening?'

'I sent to inquire late this afternoon, your Excellency,' replied the
aide-de-camp. 'They thought that Barrington was better--he was no
longer insensible.'

'How did it take place?' asked a gentleman who had only arrived from
the Bush that afternoon.

Barrington was driving down Silver Street in a hansom, about two
o'clock this morning. The cabman was tipsy, and ran into something.
There was a clean smash, and poor Barrington was knocked against the
kerbstone.'

'I was talking to old Chittenden in the smoking-room this afternoon,'
said a gentleman seated next Dyson. 'No one has a keener relish for a
bit of gossip, as you and I know. He was full of a mysterious lady in
black. He said that she was in the cab with Barrington when the
accident happened, and was bustled off by some kind friend before
anyone could catch a glimpse of her face.'

'I am afraid,' said the General, 'that my friend Hardress has not
been as prudent as one might have hoped. It was surely unwise to trust
himself, in the company of Incognita, to the tender mercies of a tipsy
cabman. These escapades won't help him in making a good marriage. Not
that that is of much consequence now. I am not certain that, under
present circumstances, Lady Alice Barrington, would welcome an
Australian daughter-in-law.'

'And did no one see the lady?' asked the Governor, curiously.

'Clark, of the Lands, watched Barrington, and a tall woman in black,
with fair hair, get out of a close carriage at River Terrace, where
Barrington lodges, about midnight,' said the aide-de-camp, who knew
his patron's weakness, and had come primed with the latest gossip. 'No
doubt this was the same lady with whom he was driving later. Clark
swears to the hair and the height, but she was holding her hand to her
face, so that he could not see her features.'

'By jove!' exclaimed Colonel Augmering, 'I shall have a nice chaff
against Barrington when he gets round. A mysterious female--tall, with
golden hair. Can no one tell me the colour of her eyes?'

'They are brown, your Excellency,' said Vallancy, suddenly joining in
the discussion, with the air of one well informed upon the subject.

'What! you are acquainted with the fair Anonyma, Mr. Vallancy?' said
Colonel Augmering.

Cathcart and Dyson exchanged quick glances across the table.

'In common justice,' exclaimed the latter, with a ghastly attempt at
unconcern, 'I think the subject ought to be dropped, at least till Mr.
Barrington is able to speak for himself. If there was a lady in the
case, there are obvious reasons why her name should not be mentioned.'

'My dear Maddox,' said the Governor, jokingly, 'you are most heroic
in your championship this evening; but don't you think that in this
instance it is somewhat misplaced? An unveiled lady, who is seen
driving with a gentleman at two o'clock in the morning, is surely
public property.'

Dyson's blood ran cold, but clearly there was no more to be said. To
pursue his remonstrance would but make matters worse. The men had all
drunk too much to be over-nice in their distinctions, and a point of
honour is not easily discerned through the fumes of wine and cigar
smoke.

The remark was followed by a coarse innuendo, greeted with a burst of
ribald laughter.

Vallancy was assailed with eager, half joking questions, which he
parried, stimulating curiosity till the importunities redoubled. For a
moment the gentlemanly instinct made him hesitate; then a cur-like
longing for revenge against Longleat got the better of him. It was in
his power to damn the reputation of his enemy's daughter, as that
enemy had damned that of his wife.

'You all know the lady,' he exclaimed, in loud, clear tones. 'I see
no reason why she should disgrace herself, and get off scot-free--'

'For God's sake, think what you are saying, man!' whispered Cathcart
convulsively in his ear.

'It was Honoria Longleat, the Premier's daughter,' said Vallancy,
looking defiantly around, 'who was seen with Barrington at his
lodgings last night, and who was driving with him when the accident
happened in Silver Street.'

A sudden, alarming silence fell upon the party. Vallancy was half--
terrified by the effect his words had produced, half-cowed by the
indignant eyes that were turned upon him.

'I can prove the facts,' he asserted doggedly. 'I have witnesses who
can swear to the truth of what I have said. There is not a man in
Leichardt's Town able to give me the lie.'

'You are either mad or drunk!' said Dyson, rising like an indignant
bear, with a little shake of his broad shoulders. His voice rang clear
through the room. He was perfectly calm, and, as he stood erect under
the light, looked rigid as iron; but there was a gleam in his eye
which pierced into Vallancy's soul, and extinguished the small spark
of courage by which it had been animated. 'If you are neither, then
you are a cowardly liar! You have foully aspersed a lady whom you
believed would be undefended, because her father is not present to
protect her from insult. The introduction of her name into such an
assemblage as this, was at best a breach of good taste. Had the
Premier been here, it could not have been committed. I am glad that
the calumny has been uttered in my hearing. I may at least guard from
profanation a name which is dearer to me than my own honour.'

Colonel Augmering drew himself up in his chair, and said, with an air
of stern dignity that contrasted strangely with his former joviality:

'Mr. Maddox, your severe words reflect somewhat on me as the person
presiding at this table. I will not admit that the rebuke has been
deserved. Most of us had reason to believe that we were in the company
of gentlemen. I am shocked and grieved at the turn which a mere
bantering conversation has taken. Mr. Vallancy must be labouring under
an extraordinary delusion, and, after a moment's reflection, will
acknowledge his mistake. As far as we are concerned, this ridiculous
accusation shall be as absolutely void as though it had never been
uttered.'

'I will not retract what I know to be true,' said Vallancy, doggedly.
'If Mr. Barrington were to swear on his oath that Miss Longleat did
not go to his rooms with him at midnight last night, I could prove him
guilty of perjury.'

'I repeat that Mr. Vallancy has lied,' said Maddox, deliberately. 'I
am ready to argue the point with him when and where he pleases.
Gentlemen, I appeal to your chivalry to help me in vindicating a pure
and innocent lady from slander. That lady is engaged to be my wife.
Surely this is sufficient answer to Mr. Vallancy's accusation.'

Several of the gentlemen cried, 'Shame not to have told us sooner;'
some laughed; some looked disconcerted, and others shouted 'Brava!'

'I congratulate you, Mr. Maddox,' said the Governor. 'It would have
spared some unpleasantness if you had made this announcement earlier
in the evening. It is, as you say, disproof sufficient of Mr.
Vallancy's statement. But why this secrecy?'

'The engagement has been lately arranged,' replied Maddox,
imperturbably. 'There were private reasons for not making it public;
now, for Miss Longleat's sake, the more widely it is known the better.
And it must be understood that any disparaging allusion to my future
wife is the deepest insult to me. I thank your Excellency for your
good wishes.'

'My dear sir,' said the Governor, testily, 'there is no one here who
would for a moment credit Mr. Vallancy's statement. The whole thing is
a ridiculous misconception, and must not be allowed to go beyond these
walls. Mr. Vallancy, you must see the absurdity of what you have said.
Your eyes have deceived you; you should be careful in accepting their
evidence too readily. I am thankful, at least, that your accusation
was made in this company. As a personal favour, I beg that you will
withdraw it without further question. Gentlemen, I put it to you as
men of honour: this scandalous report must not pass our lips. I am
sorry, General, that the hilarity of the evening should have been
marred by this unfortunate mistake.'

'No,' said General Compton, courteously; 'one must regret the
position of my poor friend Barrington. Mr. Maddox, I congratulate you
heartily, though I cannot but deplore the fact that so fair a star
must in future shine only upon Australian shores.'

'Mr. Vallancy has not yet withdrawn his statement,' said Cathcart,
coolly.

Vallancy looked down the table. Every gaze was fixed upon him
disapprovingly, while Dyson Maddox, as he stood erect, with flashing
eyes and sinewy frame, looked no mean antagonist. The natural
cowardice of the man triumphed.

'Mr. Maddox's announcement has startled me,' he said in a tone of
sullen dissatisfaction. I do not withdraw my statement, but I admit
the possibility of having been deceived; I may have mistaken another
lady for Miss Longleat. I will respect his Excellency's wishes, and
will not again mention the subject. I wish Mr. Maddox joy,' he added
malignantly, 'in his intended marriage with the Premier's daughter.'

'Fill your glasses, gentlemen. Long life and happiness to Mr. Dyson
Maddox and his bride-elect!'

The toast was drunk with some enthusiasm. Maddox made a brief reply,
and shortly afterwards the company dispersed.



Chapter XXXIX. Before the Opening of Parliament.

CATHCART and Dyson walked together to the lodgings of the latter. Hardly
a word was spoken till they entered the sitting-room. Here a fire was
burning, and a tray, upon which were glasses and a decanter of spirits,
was laid upon the table.

Cathcart poured himself out some brandy, with the remark:

'One needs a pick-me-up after an experience of this sort. What
unselfish fools we men are!' he added cynically. 'Why do we expend so
much valuable emotion upon a woman who allows herself to become
infatuated with a scoundrel, and only exacts interest from outsiders
as a tribute to her beauty? What does Honoria Longleat care for me?
and yet I have been weak enough to make myself utterly wretched upon
her account. Shall I mix for you, fellow?'

Dyson, shook his head and sank wearily into a chair, lifting his
hand, with an action that was habitual to him, to brush away the heavy
locks that drooped over his forehead. Presently he looked up, and said
in a questioning tone:

'I could have done nothing else? There was no other way of saving
her,' he resumed, seeing that Cathcart did not reply. 'If her father
had been there she would have been less defenceless; but I am glad
that he was absent.'

'This chivalrous sentiment is all moonshine!' said Cathcart,
brusquely. 'Do you expect me to believe in your pure
disinterestedness?'

'Believe what you choose. It can make no difference to me or to her.
Yes, you do believe, for you know me...At one moment I feel a mean
cur, at another a fine fellow. I suppose in the abstract it is
virtuous to tell lies for a woman's sake. As far as I am concerned,
nothing can come of it but personal humiliation. Do you not see? I
must tell her what I have done; she may charge me with the worst
motives. She must show herself at the Opening tomorrow. She will be
congratulated upon all sides. Heavens! what a sickening farce! How
will she play her part? Oh, my poor Honoria!'

'Miss Longleat is very dramatic,' said Cathcart. 'She will enjoy a
scene. I don't think you need pity her so much. As for you, I am not
disposed to be very sorry for you either. She will not suspect you of
sinister designs. There is a spark of nobility in her nature; it will
rise to a flame now.'

'If you had seen her last night,' said Dyson, 'you would have felt as
I feel--that there is a gulf between us which must always hold us
apart. My love for her--my pity is deeper than I can express. Her
instinct may divine what is in my heart, but she is too proud to
endure compassion, and she will turn from me as though I were her
enemy.'

'Perhaps so,' said Cathcart. 'I would not venture to predict the
disposition of any woman. If I had any influence with her, I should
advise her to go away with Mrs. Ferris for a time. Let her return when
the Longleat and Vallancy scandal has died out. This would be best for
you too. And now good-night! I shall stick to my determination of
going home to-morrow. I suppose you have nothing to say to me about
station business?'

'Nothing,' replied Dyson. 'Good-night! Thank you.'

Cathcart had made a mental resolution to acquaint Miss Longleat with
the facts of the case; and before ten o'clock the following morning he
was at The Bunyas, and had sent up a message begging Honoria to grant
him a few moments' interview. He was shown into the drawing-room, and
asked to wait.

Presently Honoria entered, tall and stately, in her trailing black
gown, her face white and set, her hands nervously clasped before her.
She moved very slowly; her lips twitched, and her eyes gazed straight
before her with a kind of mournful defiance. She looked as though she
had nerved herself to encounter an ordeal.

Cathcart began with awkward abruptness:

'I have called early because I wished particularly to see you before
Maddox could be here. I know that he means to come; he has something
to tell you. You--you are going to the Opening, I suppose?'

Her lips tightened, and a blush overspread her face. Her look seemed
to say, 'You are cruel;' but she answered steadily:

'No, I am not going.'

'You ought to go--you must go,' said Cathcart, insistently. 'After
what has happened--for your own sake.'

'I do not wish to discuss the matter,' replied Honoria, haughtily.

'You are angry with me for daring to speak to you. Of course you know
that I saw you the night before last. I have tried to shield you from
the results of your--your imprudence...But I am a fool to trouble
myself about other people's business. I had better have held my
tongue, and allowed Maddox to tell his own tale: it is my weakness to
be officious and Quixotic.'

'I am grateful to you,' said Honoria, gently. 'You mean kindly to me,
but do you not understand how painful this is to me?'

'You and Maddox are in a disagreeable position--it is fair to him
that you should hear the facts of the case from an independent
witness. There might be danger of misconception, and he is too noble
to be allowed to run the risk of that. Last night, at the dinner to
General Compton, your relations with Barrington were freely discussed.
You were identified as the lady who accompanied him to his lodgings.
Your fair fame was at the mercy of these men's tongues. Maddox rose
and gave your accuser the lie. There was only one way in which he
could effectually protect you from slander. He said that you were his
promised wife--that your honour was his to defend. Do you not see? you
may save yourself through him. That is what he wishes--only to bear
the brunt for you--till all is past and forgotten. Then you may fling
him off, if you please, like a glove that is worn out. You will do
well to lean upon him...And you must go to the Opening--you have your
part to play. You are a brave woman, and you must not fail...Honoria!
you are ill--you are faint! Can I call anyone?--what can I do?'

Honoria had laid her head upon the back of a high chair, and was
shaking with convulsive sobs.

'No--go!' she murmured. 'I have had a bad night; I do not feel very
well. There was no danger of my misconstruing him. I have learned what
he is at last. That is true nobility--to bear the burden for one who
is despised--humiliated. It was kind of you to come and tell me; but
go now, please, and leave me alone.'

She held out her hand to Cathcart without lifting her head. He
pressed it silently, and departed.

For a long while she stood where he had left her, her tears falling
like rain, and her bosom heaving with an emotion that was half
exultation.

Could she regret her humiliation if it opened before her a vista of
purer love--if it taught her to comprehend herself and him?

By-and-by the door opened, and Dyson entered. He started when Honoria
turned and faced him; he had not expected that she would be in waiting
for him, and had prepared himself for some minutes of miserable
suspense. His brow was moody, and his lips locked: his eyes looked
almost fierce, so deep were the lines between them. He was carelessly
dressed, and had the appearance rather of the explorer than of the
suitor.

He saw that she was painfully agitated, and attributed her
embarrassment to the remembrance of their last meeting. She was
standing when he entered, and gave him her hand without bidding him be
seated.

Thus they faced each other.

'Honoria!' he began abruptly, 'I have come to beg that you will be
present at the Opening to-day. There is a painful ordeal before you. I
would spare you if I could; but for your own sake it is necessary.
Will you go?'

'The least way in which I can prove my gratitude is to trust you and
obey you,' she said, very low. 'I will do as you bid me. And who can I
trust but you?'

'You will trust me?' said Dyson. 'Thank you. I have greater need for
your confidence than you know of. I have something to tell you which
will pain you deeply. You may think that I have taken an unwarrantable
liberty--indeed, I do not know how to explain. I can but beg you to
believe that I acted in the only way possible--for your safety... You
must know,' he went on, after a moment's pause, seeing that she waited
with downcast eyes, 'that such a thing as happened to you the other
night is--was--might blast for ever a woman's reputation. I must speak
bluntly in order that you may understand. The world is evil-minded,
and has no respect for innocency. Last night, at the dinner to General
Compton, it was said that you had been seen in company with
Barrington. You had been recognised, and a mean cur who was present
thought himself at liberty to vilify you. There was only one way in
which I could shield you--in which I could silence malicious tongues.
I said that you were to be my wife. It is but playing a part for a
little while, and then you are free as air. The position will be
sorely distasteful to you. Forgive me for placing you in it. It is
only less humiliating than that from which you have escaped.'

Honoria looked suddenly up into his face.

'You make nothing of the sacrifice. This is humiliation, but it has
no pain. I know--I had been told before you came of what you had done
for me...Do not think that I could misconstrue your generosity. I am
deeply grateful. As you say, we have each a part to act. It is more
difficult for you than for me.'

'My mind has changed,' said Dyson, placing a different
interpretation upon her words to that which she intended to convey. 'A
short time ago I could not have borne this, but I have schooled myself
during these months. Look upon me as a puppet, from whom nothing is
expected, to whom nothing need be given. It is only for two or three
months--nay weeks--for you must go away, and then all this will be
past. Can you endure for a few days to be congratulated, to be asked
questions, to appear with me occasionally in public? I will spare you
in all ways that I can. And you must understand that you commit
yourself to nothing, that whatever I might have wished once is over
now--that you need have no fears, no scruples.'

'I understand,' she said very coldly, and almost involuntarily drew
herself away from him.

Each was fearful of wounding the delicate susceptibilities of the
other; and though the hearts of both were full of yearning, they were
held apart by the chill current of misconception that swept between
them.

There was silence for several moments. Dyson looked wistfully at
Honoria. She, with still face but heaving bosom, held her gaze
averted.

'You will go, then?' he said at length.

'Yes,' she replied. 'I will go. It is time that I got ready.'

The clock on the mantelshelf struck eleven as she spoke. It was
imperative also that Dyson should prepare for the ceremonial. Honoria
turned to leave the room, but as she passed him, arrested her steps,
and murmured falteringly:

'He--he is better?'

'He has recovered consciousness,' replied Dyson, coldly. 'His
symptoms this morning are more favourable. There is no danger. I
thought you would wish to know.'

She still paused irresolutely; then suddenly caught his hand, and
lifted to his face her eyes, swimming with unshed tears.

'You are very good,' she almost whispered. 'Oh! I am grateful. Don't
think hardly of me; I am very miserable,' then swiftly left him.

A dose of sal volatile, a toilette, and the necessity for composure,
are, in the case of ladies, effectual antidotes to emotion. Honoria
stamped down her tremors with an iron foot, and prepared to show a
dauntless front to the critical eyes of her little world. She dressed
herself in a black gown artistically draped with lace, and placed a
bunch of snowy camellias at her throat. A little black lace bonnet
surmounted her fair hair. Her eyes were bright, and had that smarting
look which proceeds from over-excitement, and her face was very pale;
but except for a slight quivering of her lips, she was perfectly calm.

In the drawing-room she found her father, who was also ready to go to
the House. He too had the appearance of having undergone some
agitating experience, and of having braced himself to meet Fate. His
face was white, but there was a deep red flush upon his brow, and his
hands twitched nervously. He advanced to meet his daughter, gazing at
he admiringly and triumphantly.

'Honie,' he said, 'Dyson has told me that you have consented to be
engaged to him, and that it is all off with that cursed Englishman.
Oh, my dear, my dear! you are safe now; whatever happens, you are in
good keeping. Things are going straight at last. The wish closest my
heart will be fulfilled. Tell me, is it really true?'

'It is true that I have consented to be--engaged to Dyson Maddox, and
I will never, of my free will, see Mr. Barrington again,' replied
Honoria, mechanically.

Her only safeguard against entire collapse lay in self-repression,
and in the avoidance of explanations.

Longleat wistfully regarded his daughter.

'Kiss me, Honie, before we start. Kiss me that I may know all is
straight between us. No matter whether our ways lie apart or not. So
long as all is well with you, I'm happy.'

She laid her hands upon his arm and drew close to him, looking up
into his face with a dumb appeal.

'Honie!' he cried, 'my dear, is anything the matter?'

She rested her head for a moment against his shoulder and clung to
him, and he kissed her, fondling with his great rough hands her neck
and hair.

'Father!' she said only, but her voice was full of yearning.

'We haven't understood each other,' he murmured brokenly, and the
tears were in his eyes. 'Men and women are different. There's things
men can't overcome--and--and--you're above me. I'm not fit; it's best
we should be apart. He'll take my place--and it'll be well with you--
that's all--all I care for.'

She understood him. It was a crisis--a farewell.

They clung to each other a moment longer, then went hand in hand to
the carriage, and drove together to the Houses of Parliament, where
the Premier's daughter, preceded by the Usher of the Black Rod, took
her place under the full gaze of many eyes.



Chapter XL. The Ordeal.

THOUGH Honoria's guilty self-consciousness had exaggerated the
fearfulness of the ordeal, it was still so terrible to her that only the
most determined exercise of self-command enabled her to maintain an air
of composure, and to support without flinching the many curious glances
which were levelled at her.

The report of her engagement had spread as widely as Dyson had
intended, and to many of those present at the ceremonial the demeanour
of the Premier's daughter afforded greater food for interest than the
exposition of the Ministerial policy, which Colonel Augmering
delivered in his mildly pompous manner.

General Compton, who in full uniform was standing at the left of the
Governor, directed his eyes towards Miss Longleat in a glance of half-
admiring, half-impertinent curiosity, which Dyson noting, resented
with indignation, and of which she herself, though she dared not meet
it, was painfully conscious. Uncertain as to who had been present at
the dinner-party, Honoria believed that each gentleman who looked at
her was mentally charging her with the shame of that midnight
esclandre, and saw in the meaning smiles and nods which, upon her
entrance, were liberally bestowed upon her, only veiled insolence or
contemptuous wonder.

With her humiliating foreknowledge, it seemed to her impossible that
the secret of her true relations with Dyson should not be at once
divined. Did not his grave look and the deep lines of anxiety between
his brows belie all suggestions of triumphant love? And what affinity
could her own pale, rigid face and mournful, defiant eyes have with
the blushing demureness of the conventional bride-expectant?

Had she been less unhappy the mockery of the situation would have
appealed to her sense of the ludicrous; but the old Honoria, who had
stood aloof in impatient superiority from the pettiness and vulgarity
of the circle in which she lived, and who in the keenest excitement of
her thirst after experience had never been able to divest herself of
the cynical sense of individuality, had vanished in a night, and there
had taken her place a shame-stricken creature, no longer pre-eminent
and innocently confident, but unnerved after confronting peril of the
kind which to a pure woman more terrible than death, sick with
revulsion, and sensible of deep personal humiliation, and of an
intense need for protection and support.

The actual performance lasted but a few minutes. There had been the
usual clatter of guns and braying of instruments, with all the
farcical pomposity of the viceregal entrance; then the formal delivery
of the speech, and the buzz succeeding its conclusion.

These moments were the crucial test of Honoria's self-possession. As
Lady Georgina Augmering passed out of the chamber she paused, and with
a curious expression of sympathetic inquiry and admiring protest upon
her handsome face whispered hurriedly:

'You must come and see me to-morrow and explain matters. I really do
not know whether to congratulate you or to condole with you. In fact,
I am quite mystified about the whole affair...And then Colonel
Augmering has told me--. My dear, I always said that you were in a
most unfortunate position, and I am sure that in every way my wish has
been to countenance you. And Mr. Barrington's mother having been a
friend of mine--I have had a particular interest in you both. But you
will confide in me. To-morrow, then, at eleven.'

Lady Georgina's rapid exit spared Honoria from replying. Then the
wife of one of the Ministers, who was sitting next her, bent forward
to offer her congratulations and express her pleasurable surprise; and
Miss Nell Little, looking charming in a coquettish bonnet covered with
pink rosebuds, exclaimed loud enough to be heard by the President, who
smiled and nodded:

'What a duck you are, Honoria, to give us the fun of a Parliamentary
wedding! It must be an evening affair now that it is not necessary out
in Australia to be married in those stupid canonical hours. I think
that the least compliment the members could pay the Premier's daughter
would be to club together and give a ball in this building to
celebrate the event. I shall suggest it immediately. We have got such
a majority that I am certain there would not be the smallest
difficulty in passing a vote. It would bang the greatest lark out; and
oh, I am dying to waltz with the new Speaker. My dear, is it true that
you have driven Mr. Barrington to desperation, and that he tried to
commit suicide in a hansom-cab? I am told that he has turned into a
baronet. Well, if he is not quite dead there is a chance for some of
us yet.'

The whole House, basement and galleries, was in a flutter. The hum of
laughter and conversation filled the air. Brightly-clad figures filed
in and out among the benches and trooped into the corridors; while the
wives and daughters of the new members examined the decorations of the
Chamber, and stooped curiously over the books and documents upon the
table.

Honoria stood near the dais surrounded by smiling groups, who were
offering congratulations and asking eager questions. When had the
engagement been arranged? how soon would the marriage take place? etc.
Some banteringly commented upon Miss Longleat's silence and
preoccupation, while others, bolder or more intimate, rallied her upon
her recent flirtation with Barrington. Dyson, watching her from the
distance of a few paces, saw her wince beneath the elephantine jokes
of some privileged members of the House, and longing to save her from
further torture, pressed through the ring which surrounded her,
parried several awkward thrusts, and calmly appropriated his fiancée,
inventing upon the spur of the moment a message from the Premier to
the effect that the carriage was waiting.

She clutched his arm convulsively, but did not speak.

'You have behaved bravely,' he whispered, as he placed her in the
carriage. 'There is peace before you for the rest of the day. Even if
you wished it, I should not advise you to come and listen to the
debates this afternoon. I heard rumours of a violent personal attack
upon the Premier, and am afraid that the Gundaroo appointment may be
mooted again, and that unpleasant insinuations may be made.'

Honoria nodded apathetically.

'But you are certain of support,' she said.

'I don't know what to think. There is an ominous air of mystery about
the other side. However, they are pretty certain to bring all their
artillery to bear upon us at once, and we shall soon see what sort of
fighting they mean. By the way, your father bade me tell you not to
wait for him. You will probably not see him till after the House has
risen this evening.'

He gave the order to the coachman, and Honoria drove home alone.
Gradually the buzz died out in the streets, and at two o'clock all was
still. By three the excitement would be renewed, and the struggle
would have commenced; but now the world political and non--political
must eat, and while its appetite was being satisfied there would be
quiet in the camps.

To Honoria, whose inward vision was so intensely quickened, these
outside interests seemed but as specks upon the horizon of her
emotions. She ate mechanically, attended to Janie's wants, and
listened to the child's prattle, all the time with the sense that
there were two distinct personalities imprisoned within her frame: the
one palpitating and quivering in response to Barrington's influence,
the nervous symptoms of which had never been so acutely felt as now;
the other terrified and stricken, clinging to the thought of Maddox as
to an anchor which might secure her against the rushing tide of her
own passionate impulses. She was afraid of being alone, and had a
dread lest she might yield to the desire to communicate with
Barrington which was creeping over her. Her only safety seemed to lie
in action. She took off the dress she had worn at the Opening, and
clad herself in a quiet-coloured gown, wrapping a thick veil round her
head; then, taking little Janie by the hand, she set out for a long
ramble beside the bank of the river.

Meanwhile the Premier, with an excitement raging in his breast no
less keen than that which devoured his daughter, quitted the
Parliamentary Buildings immediately the ceremonial of the Opening was
over, and after rapidly traversing a side-street which led towards the
river, crossed in the ferry-boat to the south side, and bent his steps
in the direction of Adams's Hotel.

With a view to escaping observation, Mrs. Vallancy had wisely chosen
her temporary retreat. It was a two-storied wooden building surrounded
by trees, and situated close to the bridge, low down upon the banks of
the Leichardt. From its position and ready accessibility to the river,
it was considerably frequented by commercial travellers and the
captains of small vessels which crowded by the wharves or were
anchored midway in the stream, and was little known among the upper
circles of Leichardt's Town society.

The place appeared quiet and respectable enough. There was a side--
entrance, which gave easy approach to a private suite of rooms upon
the upper story, which Mr. Longleat imagined to be occupied by Mrs.
Vallancy. Anxious to avoid any curious glances of recognition which
might be bestowed upon him by the revellers at the bar, he cautiously
sheltered himself beneath a row of pines which screened one side of
the hotel, and presented himself at the modest private door.

His knock was answered by a comely but untidily-dressed woman, who
led a child by the hand. She was, as the Premier supposed, the
landlady of the inn. She also at a glance assured herself of the
identity of the visitor.

Mr. Longleat, suddenly reflecting that it might be indiscreet to
inquire for Mrs. Vallancy under that name, and not knowing whether she
had adopted another, stammered, hesitated, and finally asked if there
were not a lady staying at the hotel.

'Mrs. Vallancy has been here for three or four days, if you are
meaning her,' replied the landlady, boldly. 'She left two hours ago in
the Hydaspes for Sydney.'

'Left--for Sydney!' repeated Mr. Longleat in dismay, a sudden
giddiness seizing him and causing him to stagger up against the door--
post. 'You must be mistaken. It cannot be true. Surely--surely you are
thinking of some other lady--not of Mrs. Vallancy.'

'I mean Mrs. Vallancy who was living at Emu Point. There is only one
of that name in Leichardt's Town that I know of. I was her father's
housemaid long ago, before I married Adams and came to this house. I
ought to know her well. She had her reasons for keeping quiet for a
few days. I was sorry for her, poor thing, though I don't want to make
out that she was an angel; it is not the men's fault if women are
that. I was fond of her for the sake of old times, and I went down
with her to the steamer this morning and helped her to get off.'

'I--am a friend of Mrs. Vallancy's,' faltered the Premier. 'My name
is Longleat. I see that you know me. You may have heard her speak of
me. Did she leave no message--no letter? I had an appointment with her
here to-day.'

'There is a letter for you, sir: but it is not here,' replied the
woman, civilly. 'Mrs. Vallancy bade me tell you, in case you should
call, that she had written to you to explain why she had left
Leichardt's Land.'

'And there was nothing more?'

'Nothing more, sir,' repeated Mrs. Adams.

Mr. Longleat stooped to pat the little boy's head, as much with the
object of concealing his agitation as from his invariable impulse of
tenderness towards children. He placed five shillings in the chubby
hand and would have gone to devour his disappointment as best he
might; but as he lifted his head and met the landlady's eyes, a look
which he saw in them, at once curious, contemptuous, and
compassionate, arrested him.

'Do you know why she went away?' he asked pointedly. 'Had her husband
found her out? Had she received letters? What induced her to make up
her mind so suddenly? My good woman, tell me all that you can. There,
there is something for the child;' and Mrs. Adams's fingers closed
over two bright pieces of gold.

Clearly, here was a source of benefit not to be lightly disdained.
And there was no obligation upon her to be silent upon Mrs. Vallancy's
business; on the contrary, her woman's heart yearned for a gossip.
Mrs. Adams looked at the Premier, hesitated, smiled, and retreated
further into the passage.

'You can tell me something?' exclaimed Longleat, whose anxiety was
intensified by an undefined fear. 'You are in Mrs. Vallancy's
confidence. Come, speak out your mind; tell me all that you know. I
will make it worth your while.'

There was a door upon the right-hand side of the passage. Mrs. Adams
opened it, and led the way into a small parlour.

'You had best come in here, sir,' she said; 'I don't want my husband
to know anything about the matter. I wasn't, as you may say, in Mrs.
Vallancy's confidence, but I think that I know why she has gone to
Sydney--more's the pity!'

'Go on,' said Mr. Longleat impatiently, standing with his hands
clasped upon the table, and his face flushed and eager.

'I knew Mrs. Vallancy when she was a girl, sir. As I said, I was
three years housemaid at her father's, before I left to marry Adams. I
was there at the time of Miss Constance's engagement to Mr. Fielding.
Did you know of that, sir?'

Yes, Mr. Longleat had known of it. There had been much gossip upon
the subject during the period of Fielding's late sojourn in
Leichardt's Town. The Premier remembered his jealousy of Fielding in
the days of his budding passion for Constance, and her calm admission
of the old engagement when he had taxed her with too strong an
interest in the handsome squatter. He nodded, and Mrs. Adams went on:

'Miss Constance was vain and flighty, but I am certain that Mr.
Fielding was the only man she ever really loved. There's more behind
than I know. She has quarrelled with her husband--that much she told
me; and now she has gone to her ruin. Last night a telegram came to
her from Mr. Fielding--'

'What was the wording of that telegram?' cried Longleat, hoarsely.
'You saw it. Tell me. I'll give you five pounds to tell me.'

'I saw it,' assented Mrs. Adams. 'There was nothing to prevent me
from reading it. It was lying open on the dressing-table. Miss
Constance was always careless about her letters and things. As well as
I remember, it went like this: "I leave here to-morrow; will meet you
in Sydney. Telegraph at once by what steamer you will arrive. I will
make all arrangements." It was dated from Melbourne. I took her answer
and sent it myself. It was to say that she was going by the Hydaspes
to-day, and that he was to meet her at an hotel. I forget the name. I
knew what that meant well enough; and, before I took the message, I
begged and prayed her to think what she was doing. I told her it would
be better for her to go back and live with her husband, even if he
were to beat her and starve her, than to throw away her chance of
keeping an honest woman. But it was no use. She was determined. All
she would say was: "It's too late now, Bessie." So at last I gave up
trying to persuade her, and helped her to settle things as best I
could. I went with her to the steamer, and took her passage under a
false name, so that folks shouldn't know where she had gone. She had a
lot of money with her. I can't tell you how much, or where she got it;
but all I know is, that Fielding couldn't have sent it; and
jewellery--rings, and lockets, and bracelets--I never saw the like.
There was a cheque for a hundred pounds, she said you had lent her;
that I got cashed at the bank. No fear of her coming to want.
Underneath her dress she was wearing a necklace of diamonds that
looked good enough for a queen. I caught a sight of it when she opened
her bodice, where she had sewed up her money, to get me a note for
paying her passage. I told her she'd be getting herself murdered on
board by some of those rascally Chinese, if she let them see what was
round her neck; but she only laughed, and said the diamonds were
paste, and they made a great show for next to nothing. There might be
truth in that. I don't want to think too hardly of Miss Constance, but
there were things said about her and other people that I'd be loth to
believe. I am glad that she has gone, and that my hands are clear of
the business. I haven't dared tell my husband what has come to her--he
that prided himself upon keeping his house respectable--and the only
comfort I've got is, that she was so bent upon her own way, it was no
good trying to hold her back. My belief is that she was right, and
that it was too late. There! be quiet, Tommy. Don't you see that
mother is talking? Drat the boy! What's he after now?'

It was, perhaps, fortunate that Mrs. Adams's garrulous propensities
spared Longleat the necessity for making any commentary upon her tale,
and that her attention was at its close diverted from observation of
her hearer to the vagaries of Tommy, who, having possessed himself of
a knife that had been lying upon the table, darted from the room and
led his mother a scamper down the passage and into the bar, where a
brief colloquy with her husband delayed Mrs. Adams still further, and
enabled Longleat to overcome, unwitnessed, the first outbreak of his
wrath and agitation. He staggered like a drunken man, striking vainly
with his clenched fist in the air, as he muttered between his teeth:

'By--, I have been fooled!'

His heart palpitated wildly, and the room seemed to reel before him.
The blood forsook his head. For a moment he knew not what had
happened, and half-fancied, when he came to himself, that the fit
which for months he had inwardly dreaded had seized him at last. But
with the sound of the woman's returning footsteps the animal courage
of the man reasserted itself. He shook his burly frame, and though the
moisture stood in great drops upon his brow, and his knees shook so
that he was obliged to steady himself by grasping the table for
support, he lifted his head and met her inquisitive glance bravely,
saying, with a pitiful effort to resume his usual manner:

'I am very sorry for what you have told me, if it is true but, being
a friend of Mrs. Vallancy's, I can hardly believe that it is so. Mrs.
Vallancy, doubtless, had private reasons for wishing to leave
Leichardt's Town. I can guess what they were; and it is natural that
she should have asked Mr. Fielding to meet her in Sydney. You might do
a great deal of harm by gossiping about the matter...And that cheque
which you cashed. I do not wish it known that I lent Mrs. Vallancy
money. She had calls upon her--in--in discharging which I offered to
assist her; but it would annoy me greatly were my name to transpire in
connection with her. My good woman, you are well-meaning I am sure. I
shall be glad if you will accept this little present from me as the--
as a recognition of your silence and discretion.'

He fumbled in his pocket-book, and produced a banknote, which he
placed on the table before her.

Mrs. Adams, needing no further confirmation of her suspicions,
quietly folded it up and put it in her pocket. She felt certain that
the donor of the diamonds, and the supplier of the mysterious cash
which had been secreted upon Mrs. Vallancy's person, stood before her.
She was not compassionate of the Premier's discomfiture. A man old
enough to be a grandfather, she argued, deserved to be fleeced and
then flouted by a designing young woman, with whom he had been weak
enough to become infatuated. Of the trio, Mrs. Adams's sympathies
flowed far more freely towards Brian Fielding, whom memory designated
as a 'real gentleman,' and worthy of a better fate than to be saddled
with such an encumbrance as Constance Vallancy.

'I understand, sir,' she replied stiffly. 'I am not given to
gossiping, and if I were, I have too much self-respect to mix myself
up with such a matter. Of course I knew that you took a particular
interest in Mrs. Vallancy, or I should not have spoken as I have done.
You look upset, sir. Perhaps I can bring you a glass of something. I
can easily fetch it, if you wish.'

'No-no,' said Longleat. 'Good-morning.'

'You may depend upon me, sir,' said Mrs. Adarns, as she attended him
to the door.

He passed out, and she closed it after him, the richer for the visit
by several sovereigns, not counting Tommy's odd five shillings.

Instead of re-crossing by the ferry-boat, as he had come, the Premier
turned to his right and walked on over the bridge. The ground still
seemed unsteady beneath his feet, and the noise of the traffic buzzed
in his cars. He knocked up against a pedestrian and mechanically
apologised, afterwards picking his steps more carefully.

The only feeling of which he was strongly conscious was a necessity
for movement. It seemed to him that if he stood still for a moment
dizziness would get the better of him, and he must fall to the ground.

He strode on, like a man in a dream, till he reached the Treasury. He
entered his office, and looked at the letters which had accumulated
upon his table since the morning, but among them there was none from
Constance. Touching a gong, he summoned a clerk from an outer office,
and desired that all letters which arrived for him that day should be
sent by special messenger to the House, and delivered to him there.

He observed that the man eyed him curiously, and when he was alone
looked at himself in the glass above the mantelshelf, straightened his
collar, smoothed his hair, and endeavoured to shape his features into
their normal expression; then a terrible, sickening sense of revolt
overcame him. He flung his arms heavily upon the marble shelf, and
struck his head against them.

'My God!' he cried, 'I cannot bear it--I cannot bear it!'

He remained so for several moments, clenching his hands, and beating
his forehead in passionate rebellion against the fate which had worked
the ruin of all his hopes. Yet it was characteristic of the man that
he uttered no execration against the woman who had made him her dupe.
Constance Vallancy seemed to him less the being who had wronged him
than the instrument of a remorseless destiny.

If he had sinned, retribution had followed his crime.

He had a feverish anxiety to know how Constance excused her falsity.
Her letter had been probably directed to The Bunyas; it had been
foolish of him not to go there at once. He put on his hat and walked
forth, choosing the least-frequented side of the road, and shunning
the recognition of passers-by who brushed up against him.

In Alfred Street, leading to the Houses of Parliament, excited groups
discussed the viceregal speech, and the probable result of the
afternoon session. Strange to say, the political crisis which but a
short time ago had been the dominant interest in Longleat's mind,
seemed now to have sunk into insignificance, and in spite of the many
portentous signs around him, the Premier was absolutely unsuspicious
of the grave nature of the Oppositionist attack.

It was now nearly three o'clock, and members were on their way back
to the House. To most of them Longleat as he strode past was an object
of interest, and several hailed him by his name; but he took no
notice, steadily pursuing his way with his eyes upon the ground, until
he reached his own dwelling.

He entered by the side-gate and betook himself to the study, where by
his orders all letters that arrived during his absence were placed in
readiness for his perusal. A miscellaneous collection strewed the
table, but still there was none from Mrs. Vallancy. He summoned a
servant and delivered the same order that he had given to the clerk of
the Treasury.

He asked whether anyone had been at The Bunyas since the morning, and
was informed that Dyson Maddox had called twice, and that the
Attorney-General had also inquired for him, and had appeared anxious
to see him before the House reopened.

The Premier wondered vaguely what fresh political agitation was
afloat but the sensation of giddiness and of vital collapse seemed
still to numb his reasoning faculties. It would hardly have cost him a
pang had he then been informed of the crushing blow in store for him;
indeed, it may be doubted whether at the moment his mental powers were
equal to taking a review of his position.

He felt the need of a stimulant to sustain his energies, and opening
a private cellaret, poured out a glass of brandy, and drank it at a
gulp. Fortified by the draught, he went out again. It was barely ten
minutes' walk from The Bunyas to the Parliamentary Buildings, and the
clock struck the half-hour as he ascended the great stone steps, and
then entered the Assembly Chamber.



Chapter XLI. The Impeachment of the Premier.

THE House was filling rapidly when Longleat took his place at the head
of the Ministerial bench to the right of the Speaker's chair. There was
a pregnant silence in the atmosphere which betokened expectancy of
something unusual and interesting. A bystander, ignorant of the personal
current which underlay the strife of political parties, would certainly
have noted and marvelled at the shadow of troubled gravity which clouded
the faces of the members as they filed into their seats. There was no
buzz of conversation--no cheery interchange of jokes. The Ministers
looked thoughtful, and whispered together with an uneasy air of
assurance. The Leader of the Opposition, after calmly surveying the
House in the manner of a general who calculates the chances of victory
and defeat, smiled sardonically and buried his head over a pile of
notes. It was remarked that whereas the cross-benches were fuller than
usual, the two sides of the House were more fairly balanced than could
have been anticipated from the result of the recent elections. There was
a significant solemnity in the attitudes of all present. The
Sergeant-at--Arms sat like a picture of Time with his hourglass. The new
Speaker, nervous under the consciousness of his lately-donned trappings,
had yet stiffened with a certain artificial dignity beseeming the
gravity of the occasion, so that the brief prayers which inaugurated the
proceedings seemed less a solemn farce than the prelude to deliberations
of deep and agitating interest.

Certain formal business was transacted. A petition, which censured a
particular Government measure during the recess, was read and laid
upon the table. The Speaker made his short report; and then one of the
new members rose to move the appointment of a committee to prepare,
and afterwards, the adoption of the Address in reply to the Speech.
The Ministerial programme was commented upon more critically than
approvingly. The orator was an old colonist who prided himself upon
being a free-lance, and who cherished mildly emphatic views, which for
years he had been longing to air in the Assembly, and which, from
their varied nature, imparted a savour of irrelevancy to his remarks.

But all this was child's play. The Premier sat, his head bowed,
unhearing, unheeding. The hours were growing, and surely it was time
that he should receive Constance's letter. His mind was crowded with
images and conjectures which obscured his outer vision, and it was
with difficulty that he brought himself to the point of replying
lucidly to a question put to him by one of his colleagues, and roused
himself by a vigorous effort to comment upon a point of order which
had been raised by a truculent member upon the Opposition side.

The mover's speech was prosy, and there were increasing signs of
impatience visible among the occupants of the benches and the
galleries. Still the leader of the Opposition sat brooding over his
notes, quietly biding his time when, as several there predicted, he
would spring forth like a lion from his lair.

The Address was duly seconded by a more strictly Ministerial
adherent. Then, just as the dusk was falling, Mr. Middleton slowly
rose, and with his hands in his waistcoat-pockets, balanced himself
upon the very edge of the step upon which he stood, and with a bland
smile and studied air of repression addressed himself to the chair.

No lamb could at the onset have bleated more mildly. He complimented
the honourable member for Nerang upon the admirable manner in which
the Adoption of the Address in reply had been moved...He was sure that
the honourable member, from his long labours as a colonist and varied
experience, would be a most valuable addition to the House, etc...He
believed that it had been usual upon various occasions, before dealing
with the proposals of the Government, to comment upon the proceedings
of the Ministry during the recess...The recently published list of
appointments and dismissals in the departments of the Minister for
Works and the Postmaster-General called for attention. The frequent
use by members of the Government of special trains, and the abuse of
telegraphic privileges, were matters to which he thought it necessary
to make allusion. The ratification of certain contracts without the
authority of the House invited censure; and so on, in a soft strain of
animadversion, till the leading features of the Ministerial policy--
the Kooya railway and the great Loan Bill--were trenchantly assailed.
Then smooth generalisations became pointed personalities. The
speaker's voice waxed louder, and his gesticulations more impressive.
Fire darted from his eyes, and venom gathered upon his tongue. Each
word bore a carefully primed and cutting reference to the Premier. It
was evident that he had risen to attack, not the policy, but the man.

During the last session, he cried at the close of this preliminary
peroration, the Premier had announced that it was his determination to
stand or fall upon the question of Southern Railway Extension. Upon
that ostensible point of division between Government and Opposition,
honourable members now seated in the House were supposed to have taken
sides...How many had deeply considered the true interests of the
colony, and had seriously represented to their constituents the real
bearings of the question, was a matter of private opinion...The
Premier had trafficked upon his personal prestige, and, by dint of
affected magnanimity and overwhelming braggadocio, had contrived to
worm himself into the confidence of the country; but it was his--Mr.
Middleton's--opinion that only a sharp revulsion which the disclosure
of certain hidden facts, impeaching the character of the Premier as a
citizen and a statesman, must inevitably produce--was needed to turn
the tide of popular feeling against the lavish expenditure of borrowed
money upon public works, and to condemn the Government policy as
strenuously as it now appeared to be advocated ...

After a tirade upon the purely unselfish and patriotic motives by
which he himself was actuated, the leader of the Opposition continued:

It had yet to be ascertained what was the result of the late General
Election (excited cries of 'Hear, hear' from the Government benches);
and the true value of the Premier's personal and political prestige
required to be tested by the light of an extraordinary and unexpected
revelation, which in the course of the last few days--he might almost
say hours--had horrified and undeceived him. These disclosures had,
contrary to his own inclination, been forced upon him. Subsequent
inquiries which he had made, and which, he might add, were now in
further progress, had confirmed them, and he felt it his duty, in the
present condition of political affairs, and in the face of a critical
measure affecting the most vital interests of the colony, to place
before the House the facts which had been brought under his notice.

With the instinct of defence, Dyson Maddox rose to ask whether the
charges to which the honourable member alluded bore directly upon the
political career of the Premier.

Mr. Middleton asserted that they had a strong if indirect bearing
upon the honourable gentleman's connection with the politics of
Leichardt's Land.

A point of order was mooted and hotly discussed. It was declared that
the leader of the Opposition was not justified in bringing forward
charges against any honourable member which did not come under the
jurisdiction of the House. Several members spoke, and it was finally
weakly ruled by the Speaker that Mr. Middleton should be allowed to
proceed.

During the opening of Mr. Middleton's speech, Longleat had sat
indifferent and motionless, with that dazed expression upon his face
which upon his entrance had attracted universal attention, and had
caused the whisper to go round that the Premier looked as though he
had had a fit. It was expected at the onset that he would rise in hot
wrath and indignantly repudiate his enemy's accusations, and the
gallery eagerly anticipated the culmination of an already sufficiently
thrilling debate in a stormy scene, which should be unparalleled in
the annals of the House.

But Longleat allowed the question of order--clearly his opportunity
for protest--to pass by, and indeed seemed too deeply absorbed in the
examination of a packet of letters which had been brought in and
handed to him, to take any heed of the altercation. Before him was
Constance Vallancy's cold confession of her infatuation for Fielding;
of her calm determination, seeing that shame must inevitably be her
portion, to combine the reward of such love as hers with the penalty
of social degradation; her expression of thanks for his kindness; her
formal regret that henceforth their paths must lie apart; her hope
that in the not very distant future he might meet with a woman who
could honourably bear his name, and be a second mother to his
children.

It was a sorry consummation to the sinful projects which had
dominated alike his affection for his daughter and his political
ambition, and had heated him to a fiercer fever-pitch than the most
burning impulses of youth.

A passion rushing with all the impetuosity of middle age, and
suddenly checked, is more overwhelming in its disastrous effect than
the most terrible outside calamity. Longleat's head dropped upon his
breast. The room became all blackness. The voices of the disputants
sounded in his ears like the roaring of threatening waves. It seemed
to him, later on, that he had been seized with unconsciousness, though
he knew not for how long.

When he awoke to light and hearing his brain surged, and he had a
confused sense of impending ruin which it was useless to try and
avert; and it was some minutes before he was able to grasp the meaning
of Mr. Middleton's denunciatory harangue.

It was about this point that he took up the thread of his adversary's
oration.

The career of the honourable gentleman now sitting at the head of the
Government had for the last twenty years been brought too prominently
before the public to require comment in that place...

Mr. Longleat had not sought to hide the fact that he had commenced
life in the colony as a bullock-driver upon the Kooya road; he had
openly gloried in his elevation, by means of his single--handed
exertions, to the high position he now held. He had started in
Leichardt's Land from almost the first rung of the ladder, and though
in the minds of some, suspicion had lain latent, no one had taken the
trouble to inquire from what lower level he had sprung.

Cries of 'Shame!' 'Order!' Hear, hear!' sounded through the
Chamber...It was to a period antecedent to that which embraced the
Leichardt's Land stage of the Premier's history that he, Mr.
Middleton, wished to call the attention of honourable members of that
House.

The Leader of the Opposition paused pointedly. All eyes were bent
towards the Ministerial bench, and fixed themselves upon Longleat. The
Premier lifted his head; his mouth twitched; he turned irresolutely to
his colleagues, and half rose from his seat. Then an expression of
dogged desperation settled upon his features; his head drooped again,
and his eyes were lowered upon the carpet.

To the gallery his silence seemed to imply disdain; but among the
members who were in ignorance of Middleton's drift, there was a
movement of mistrust and alarm. This was not the line of attack which
had been anticipated. It had been supposed that Government measures
during the recess would be called into question, and upon various
points the Ministers were armed with retaliating arguments, though the
volley of aimless abuse which they had expected had not, to their
minds, appeared to demand any special strategic defence.

But the cutting gravity and evident conviction with which Mr.
Middleton spoke suggested more serious possibilities. Could it be that
a mystery lay hidden in the past life of the Premier which would
dishonour him in the sight of men--that a crime, the heinousness of
which warranted its being brought forward under present
circumstances--was to be laid to his charge? It occurred to several to
demur at the informality of the proceedings; and one or two black
sheep reflected inwardly upon the unpleasant consequences to be
apprehended from an indiscriminate investigation into the obscurity of
private history. A further protest was made against the irrelevancy of
the discussion, and Mr. Middleton hotly defended his line of conduct.
The past of great men, he urged--and he was far from denying that the
Premier had achieved greatness of no ordinary kind in the annals of a
young nation--was the property of the State; how much more so when in
a momentous crisis, such as was made evident by the present juncture
of political affairs, the faith of the colony was pinned upon its
principal legislator! The charge he had to make did not touch upon the
Premier's position as a private member of the House, in which case it
would be obviously unnecessary and ill--judged to drag out of the mire
past incidents in his former life which might be buried in oblivion;
but upon his position as the political leader of an important colony,
who had identified himself so completely with the interests of
Leichardt's Land that her very credit and reputation might be said to
have become embodied in the person of her representative. It was but
just that the country should be made aware what manner of man had
sneaked into the good graces of the public, and assumed the reins of
power...He would make his statement. Let the Premier deny it if he was
able...When the matter had been placed before the House, he, Mr.
Middleton, would leave it to the judgment of the Speaker and of
honourable members to determine, whether the extraordinary
circumstances of the case admitted of any other line of action on his
part.

Suddenly Longleat rose. He folded his arms, and, with a look of
defiant desperation, surveyed the House, while he thundered forth:
'Well, then, let the honourable member for North Leichardt's Land say
what he has got to say agen me.'

The groans and hisses, which proceeded from upstairs, drowned Mr.
Middleton's accusing voice, and a bushman, leaning over the railings,
shouted:

'Speak up and let's have done with it. It ain't the Premier that's a
sneak and a liar.'

A commotion ensued. It was ruled that the galleries should be
cleared, and the excited and disappointed crowd was forcibly ejected.
The substance of Middleton's lengthy prelude and accusation may be
briefly summarised:

That in the year 18--Thomas Prancard, a youth employed upon the
estate of Sir Henry Calders, Bart., of Calderwoods, in Suffolk,
England, had upon the occasion of a poaching affray, during which he,
with others, had gone to the assistance of the keepers, shot Captain
Harry Calders, the eldest son of his master, through the heart. The
two young men having quarrelled some days previously, it was supposed
that Prancard had made use of this opportunity to commit a deliberate
murder, and had endeavoured to disarm suspicion by a semblance of
accident; but at the trial, which took place some months later, the
supposed seduction of Prancard's sister by the deceased had thrown an
extenuating light upon the motive of the murder. A verdict of guilty
had been coupled with a recommendation to mercy, and a sentence of
penal servitude for the term of twenty-one years had been passed upon
the prisoner.

That Thomas Prancard had been transported to Western Australia, but
that, on account of certain services rendered upon the occasion of a
convict outbreak against the authorities, his term of punishment had
been curtailed, and at the expiration of fourteen years he had
received his discharge and had quitted the colony.

That he had been known at Ballarat Diggings and at other places under
the alias of Thomas Longleat, and had, under that name, entered into
partnership as a bullock-driver with one Jem Bagot, a ticket-of-leave
man.

That papers containing a full account of the trial and conviction,
and proofs of the identity of Thomas Prancard with the honourable
gentleman who represented Kooya, should be laid before the House.

Mr. Middleton, with a brief justification of his part in the
discharge of this painful duty, and a finely-turned, somewhat
sarcastic appeal to the judgment of that honourable House to decide
whether it was conducive to the reputation of the colony that, at this
most important crisis in its history, a convicted murderer should hold
the reins of government, and appear before the Imperial authorities as
the chosen representative of Leichardt's Land ...

An old member rose, and, after carefully asserting his independence
of personal bias, proceeded to take a temperate view of the
allegations which had been hurled at the Premier. Never, during the
whole course of his Parliamentary experience, had he assisted at a
more painful debate...In the annals of colonial legislature there was
no precedent for such a scene as had taken place...He thought that, as
the matter had gone so far, it ought to be thoroughly investigated and
cleared up. But this should be done outside the walls of that House.
These charges ought not to go forth to the world unless they were
disproved or substantiated. He, for his part, did not attach any
importance to the accusations which had been brought against the
Premier. He was convinced that Mr. Middleton had been the dupe of
evil-disposed persons whose object it was to ruin the credit of the
Government, and that the leader of the Opposition would find it a
difficult matter to supply the evidence which was wanting to
corroborate his statements...The whole story carried absurdity upon
its face. Was it probable that, had the tale been true, it would not
have leaked out ere now? It was his opinion that nothing more than an
emphatic denial on the part of the Premier was needed to set doubts at
rest upon both sides of the House. He deplored that at the onset of
the session the attention of the House should be devoted to a merely
sensational subject, to the exclusion of important business, etc.,
etc.

There was a brief whispered consultation among the Ministers. Dyson
Maddox bent forward and spoke to the Premier:

'You will answer this cowardly attack?'

Longleat's head was still bent; he lifted it, and exhibited a ghastly
face to his colleague.

'Good God!' exclaimed Dyson, startled by his appearance. 'What has
happened to you? Are you ill?'

'I--I am ill,' repeated Longleat, speaking in a hollow tone, with a
hesitating emphasis upon his words. 'There's something the matter--
with my head. For God's sake, get the House adjourned...I am--not
equal to making a speech...Of course it is all a d--d lie; you don't
want me to swear that, I suppose? I tell you that I am ill. I think
that I have had a sort of fit. The whole thing may go to the devil,
for what I care!'

'You must deny the charge,' urged Dyson. 'Make an effort. Don't you
see that everyone's eyes are upon you? Collect yourself, and get up
and give Middleton the lie.'

The confused buzz which had spread down each side of the Chamber, and
was rapidly deepening into a roar, drowned the brief colloquy between
the Ministers.

Cries of 'Order!' 'Shame!' 'Speak up like a man!' sounded above the
tumult. The excitement had become so personal and intense that all
other considerations were swept before it as straws in the face of a
wind. To restore order was beyond the power of any brand-new Speaker;
and indeed that functionary, forgetting the burden of his lately
acquired dignity, and absorbed by the interest of the scene, leaned
forward over his desk, and, fixing upon Longleat a gaze of eager
curiosity, joined in the general murmur of expectation.

The death-like pallor of the Premier's face, his downcast attitude
and evident hesitation to meet the charge, had caused a thrill of
doubt to rush through the Assembly, and, by the wonder-loving and
malevolent, were construed into a half admission of guilt.

But distrust was soon succeeded by a revulsion. Longleat rose. He
stepped forward with his burly form erect, his chest heaving, and his
under-lip protruding, in ghastly mockery of his usual attitude while
haranguing the people. His gaze, half-wrathful, half-desperate, swept
the House from the Speaker's chair to below the bar, and a profound
silence fell upon the noisy occupants of the benches. Upon every face,
save that of the leader of the Opposition, which was sneering and
impassive, there was depicted the most breathless anxiety.

With the consciousness of personal influence there came once more to
Longleat the strong sense of predominance. He spoke. Never had his
voice rung out more sonorously. Never had his rough, powerful oratory
made its mark more surely. He thundered forth defiance of his enemies.
He inveighed against the conversion of an honourable debate into a
vehicle for falsehood and calumny. He appealed to the confidence of
his friends--to the country which he had faithfully served--to the
Parliament of Leichardt's Land, towards which he had never failed in
respect.

He denied, upon his honour as a member of that House, that he had
ever committed a crime punishable by the laws of England, that he had
ever been in Western Australia in his life, or had heard the name of
Prancard before that afternoon. The sweat stood in great drops upon
his brow; he staggered and fell heavily to his seat; he knew that he
had struck his last blow.

Dyson Maddox rose to make a brief explanation on the part of his
colleague. The Premier, he stated, had since the meeting of the House
been attacked by sudden illness. Only the urgency of the occasion had
induced him to remain through the debate, and had enabled him to
deliver the powerful speech to which they had listened. He was
physically unequal to further argument or contradiction. The monstrous
nature of the charge must be evident to all, and called for no comment
upon the part of the Government beyond the Premier's vigorous denial.
It remained now for the leader of the Opposition to make good his
case...He, Maddox, desired to call again the Speaker's attention to
the irrelevancy of the discussion to the subject at issue, and moved
formally the adjournment of the House, for the resumption of the
debate upon the Address in reply, under more seemly conditions.

Mr. Middleton stepped forward mid groans and hisses and for some time
was not allowed to proceed. At last, with difficulty, he obtained a
hearing for his statement. That he would not oppose the motion of the
Minister for Lands for the adjournment of the debate; that upon the
day but one following he would be in a position to present further and
conclusive evidence in support of the charge he had brought against
the Premier, and that he was ready to lay all papers connected with it
upon the table of the House.

There was a slight altercation as to whether the House should or
should not be adjourned. An independent member deplored the personal
attack upon the Premier, but vindicated the right of the House to pass
judgment upon the charge. Honourable members, he averred, might abuse
each other with impunity during the heat of debate, but such an
accusation, directed against the political leader of the colony, would
go forth to the world and cover the Chamber with disgrace, unless
disproved and repudiated...He had of course heard rumours that the
Government was to be attacked, but he had little thought that a charge
of this kind would be brought forward, or that the leader of the
Opposition would make himself responsible for it.

'I accept the responsibility,' gravely affirmed Mr. Middleton.

A member upon the Government side spoke next in hot defence of his
chief, concluding with a vigorous denunciation of the tactics of his
opponents...This, then, was the grand Opposition attack--this their
noble policy...They did not care for a policy to be advocated for the
colony so long as they could impeach the Premier...The business of the
country might go to the dogs provided their leader got on the Treasury
bench...Finally, the motion was put and passed in the affirmative, and
the House broke up.

The members gathered in excited groups below the bar, some lingering,
others passing eagerly to the smoking-room or crowding in the lobby.
Middleton was among the first to disappear; it was evident that he was
not desirous of an encounter with the Premier. Dyson Maddox stood
beside his chief, the centre of a knot of Ministers, who talked
excitedly, more among themselves than to their leader. Several of the
Ministerial supporters approached and expressed their horror and
indignation at Middleton's attack, and their sympathy with the Premier
in his indisposition. But their overtures were awkwardly offered and
apathetically received. Longleat hardly replied. Of what consequence
would it be on the morrow whether his comrades believed him to be a
murderer to-day? Of what use to continue struggling against fate,
which had evidently doomed him to destruction?

A reactionary wave of doubt had succeeded the enthusiasm with which
his denial had been greeted. In the minds or all, there lurked an
uneasy consciousness that something was amiss. The word 'murder' has
an ugly sound, and the shock of the accusation had been so startling
that the members had been unable to collect their thoughts
sufflciently to reason calmly upon the charge. The whole proceeding
had been unconstitutional, unprecedented. The impeachment had shaken
even well-seasoned nerves. Though the convict taint is not unknown in
the Chambers of Australian legislature, perhaps nowhere is it more
severely reprobated. Had the Premier been convicted of a political
error, a moral peccadillo, or even of malpractices in his
administration, there were many to whom the misdemeanour would have
appeared comparatively trivial.

Bureaucratic morality in Australia admits of wide generalisations,
and though the liaison with Mrs. Vallancy and bestowal of the Gundaroo
appointment upon her husband had gone far towards weakening Longleat's
social reputation, his political prestige had not been impaired; but
this stroke at the very root of the Premier's character, this bold
assertion of duplicity and crime in a career which for twenty years
had appeared open and honourable, was too grave a matter to be lightly
dismissed. The deepest convictions were undermined, and those who but
a few hours before had only dreamed of applauding, were now startled
into something like condemnation.

After the first natural recoil many reasoned among themselves that a
man so astute as Mr. Middleton would have hesitated to bring forward a
charge which he was unable to substantiate; others maintained that the
whole proceeding was a last coup on the part of a revengeful minority,
and that the story had been trumped up with a view to awaken distrust
and cripple the forces of the Government; while others, granting that
the leader of the Opposition had been misled by false information,
defended his conduct in bringing the matter before Parliament instead
of attacking the Premier through the medium of the newspapers or
allowing the information to leak out through private channels.
Longleat spoke in constrained tones, with his eyes again upon the
ground.

'I am ready,' he said, in answer to the eager inquiries with which he
was beset, 'to meet this calumny--to prove how monstrous it is. I can
say no more...Little, you will hear from me the first thing to--
morrow. I--I am not myself to-night, as you see. An attack of the
heart. I am subject to them occasionally. It--it seized me immediately
after the Opening this morning. I had doubts about being present at
the debate, but I--as you know--I have never neglected my duty to the
public. Good-night! Dyson, perhaps you will walk with me to the
corner. I must go home.'

'It was a fit,' said one of the members, who was a doctor, to the
Minister for Works. 'If anything happens to-night I shall not be in
the least surprised. I have seen it coming on for weeks. These bull--
necked men are never safe. Only his temperate habits have, till the
last few months, kept him in health; and you may depend upon it, the
strain of the elections, and excitement from other causes--you know
what I mean--have conduced to this sort of thing.' The speaker made a
significant gesture with his hand to his mouth, which was a calumny
indeed as far as Longleat was concerned, but which was the source of a
malignant report circulated later.

'A queer story that of Middleton's,' continued the doctor. 'Now I
begin to understand the rumours that have been flying about during the
last two days. They say that Vallancy, who is mad about his wife, has
had something to do with it. By the way, there's a story afloat that
she went off in the Hydaspes to-day, to join Fielding in Sydney--can
that have had anything to do with the Premier's sudden attack?--and
that old Ferris, the cracked storekeeper at Kooralbyn, supplied the
information. There was something deucedly odd about his connection
with Longleat. Well, after all, it is not so very unlikely. They call
it murder, but hang me if I don't think that a man is half--justified
in killing another man for seducing his sister! Women are always at
the bottom of mischief. And Vallancy gets his revenge, though I should
think it is rather a good thing for him to have got quit of his
wife...Things come pretty square in this world...It is not
particularly creditable to the colony to have an old hand at the head
of affairs, but I don't see that it makes much odds to his policy.'

This latitudinarian view of the case admitted of free argument.
Meanwhile the Premier, accompanied by Dyson, had left the Chamber.



Chapter XLII. Last Words.

LEANING Upon Dyson's arm, Longleat walked down the corridor and
descended the stone steps by which the great door of the Parliamentary
Buildings was approached.

The night was dark and murky. It was about eight o'clock; the moon
had not yet risen, and only the great lamps above the gateway and the
starlike lights of the town illuminated the blackness. Against one of
the pillars at the entrance crouched an elf-like human form, which,
suddenly raising itself, stepped forward and confronted the Premier.

A ray from the lantern above shone upon the leering lips and
malicious eyes of Sammy Deans; but Longleat, walking uncertainly with
his gaze fixed upon vacancy, and unconscious of all save his own
miserable personality, would have passed the free-selector by, had not
Sam's strident voice, lifted in tones of devilish triumph, arrested
his attention.

'Mr. Longleat, or Mr. Prancard--it ain't no odds by which name I
call you--there be nothing more to settle between you and me. I've
taken my revenge for the months in gaol you gev me, and fur the little
chap that cried to kiss his feyther afore he died...I said that I'd
bring disgrace upon you and your proud miss, who, for all heir pride,
is no better than her mother before her. I've done what I meant to do.
'Twur me as gev Vallancy the papers, and put him on the scent, and
showed him how to prime Middleton. Happen, that for all your money and
your brag and your popularity, you'll never hold up your head in that
House again. Leichardt's Land has done with you. Go home and tell your
girl, that looks down enough on you a'ready, that her father's been
nigh to having the rope round his neck, and that she is no more than a
convict's daughter.'

'By God!' cried Longleat, furiously. 'So it is you, is it, Sammy
Deans, and you have been getting hold of Anthony Ferris when he was
drunk, and sucking in his lies. But I'll be even with you yet!'

He made a spring at the free-selector and clutched Sam by the throat,
shaking him as though he had been a dog.

Dyson interposed, and succeeded in drawing the Premier backwards;
while Sammy, whose wits were keen enough to enable him to realise the
danger of a struggle with a desperate man, took advantage of loosening
his assailant's grasp, and wriggled away, losing himself in the shadow
of the building.

Longleat uttered a deep imprecation, and leaned panting against the
pillar; then half-conscious that he had betrayed himself, he said:

'The brute maddened me with his lies. It is well that you stopped me,
or I might have shaken the breath out of his body. He is a mean,
revengeful cur. I got him put into prison for branding my cattle, and
he has a spite against me. He sneaks up to the head station at
Kooralbyn, and sits drinking with old Ferris, who would invent any
cock-and-bull story while in his cups, and who is crazy enough to be
jealous of me.'

He took Dyson's arm again, and the two walked on for several moments
in silence. The young man's heart was beating violently, and his soul
was shaken with horror and revolt. During the encounter with Deans, it
had been borne in upon him that Longleat was guilty. He burned to
speak out his suspicions, yet dared not, hardly knowing whether he
dreaded most that they should be confirmed or meet with a lie.

The thought of disgrace was intolerable to him. Lowly birth and
honest toil conveyed no shame to his frank Australian mind; but the
suggestion of criminal taint in connection with Honoria was
insupportable.

Presently Longleat spoke in a voice that sounded like a groan.

'It's true--when she knows of this she'll hate me for being her
father. She couldn't help turning a little agen me for my rough ways
and for not having been born a gentleman--I'm not blaming her. I
brought her up to be proud--but I'd give my life, lad, that she should
never hear the charge they've made against me to-night.'

'If the charge were false, Mr. Longleat, as you stated in the House,
there would be no need that you should dread its coming to your
daughter's knowledge.'

Dyson spoke with a meaning emphasis. Longleat relinquished his arm,
and suddenly pausing, faced him.

'And if it were true!' he cried fiercely. 'You heard the story. A
heartless scoundrel, one of the cursed breed of aristocrats, had
wronged a young man's only sister, and the young man, who was a
labourer and a Radical, and who acknowledged no law but that of
natural justice, which decrees that an eye shall be given for an eye,
a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life, had planned and compassed the
death of the seducer. Was this deep-dyed guilt? But the law called it
murder, hounded him down, tortured him for fourteen years, then set
him free, branded with the stigma of crime--and not only him, but the
children whom in later years he begot--daughters, maybe--perhaps one
daughter whom he loved better than his life, whom he had slaved and
toiled for, whom he had brought up like a lady--fit to be a queen--was
not this reason sufficient that he should shun the publicity of an act
which for nearly forty years had sat lightly enough on his soul?'

'It was an unfortunate case,' said Dyson, while Longleat paused for
a moment in his incoherent speech; 'but it would have been more
honest, it would have been happier for himself and for his daughter,
if when the penalty had been paid he had faced his position fairly.'

'There's something in the prison taint,' answered Longleat, speaking
in a spasmodic, passionate manner, and still, speaking as it were,
making reference to a third person that, 'something that, no matter
what stuff a man is made of, numbs energies, and sickens him with
shame and loathing, whole soul is filled with a burning desire to
escape his own flesh, to transform himself into a new creature, to
face the world once more, unshackled by past associations and
prejudices which he abhors--in a young land where forest is free to
all, and the rich and the poor are equal in the sight of God and
man...And it was so with this man. He flung away his former
personality with his convict dress. He took another name that had
struck him haphazard in a newspaper as unlike any he had ever known.
He was eager for work. He had broken stones upon the road, and sweat
and labour were no hardships to him...And little by little money came
to him, and power, and honour; and he had a dream of founding a new
order of things, of being the ancestor of great men--patriots--
soldiers--legislators.'

He paused again. They had reached The Bunyas, where from the fir-
trees and the datura flowers, and the blossoming gardenias in the
borders, there exhaled a strong night fragrance.

'I am talking at random!' he exclaimed. 'I am excited--I am
suffering--I don't know what I am saying. No one shall ever lay it
agen the Premier,' he muttered, 'that he did not die game. Come in. I
have just a word more to say, and then I must be alone. Step gently,
Dyson; I don't want Honoria to know that I have come back from the
House. There mustn't be any rumour of what has happened reach her ears
yet. Time enough for that.'

He opened the wicket-gate and motioned to his companion to enter. As
they silently crossed the lawn, Dyson, looking towards the lighted
windows of the drawing-room, saw Honoria's beautiful profile outlined
upon the blind. Longleat watched it too for a moment, and heaved a
painful sigh.

They entered the study, which, but for a decaying fire upon the
hearth, was in darkness. Longleat lighted the candles upon the
mantelshelf, and they shed a faint glow upon his haggard face,
deadening its flabby whiteness, and deepening the wrinkles about the
eyes and mouth.

Dyson was strangely touched.

'Mr. Longleat,' he said impulsively, holding out his hand, 'I am
deeply sorry for you.'

The old man grasped it for a moment, then wiped his brow with his
silk pocket-handkerchief.

'That has nought to do with it,' he said, almost gruffly; 'but I
thank you, lad...I've had a blow to-day that's knocked me over--a stab
that has cut deeper than anything Middleton has said...The woman that
I loved--that was as good as my wife--has played me false, and has
gone off with another man. I learned it before I went into the House
this afternoon; I got her letter there. The world's black to me, and
I'd be glad to be out of it.'

'You mean,' said Dyson, hardly knowing what to answer, and feeling a
strong repugnance to enter upon the subject, 'that Mrs. Vallancy has--
has deceived you.'

'I gev her money and jewels,' continued Longleat; 'I'd almost settled
a thousand a year on her for her life; I gev her all my heart and
soul. More than that, everything was as nothing in comparison with
her...And she has gone to Fielding. O Lord! O Lord! how I loved her! I
fought agen it, but it was no use. I wasn't one to steal what was
another man's; I'd lived clean and honest. But there are passions in a
man that are stronger than his will--it's human nature; they've been
since the world began, and they can't be kept under. If her husband
had been kind to her, and had treated her as she'd a right to be
treated, I'd have kept away from her. But I meant to make her happy; I
meant to marry her if I could. It was all fair and above-board in my
mind. And now it's over, and my career is over. Fate has come upon me,
and where's the use of struggling?...The things that I'd set my heart
on are gone agen me. Those that I loved best have despised me. The
country that I served is ready to turn round upon me...There's been
bitterness in the cup, but it's well-nigh drunk now...Dyson, I've got
one thing to ask you. Answer me as man to man--before God above us. If
all this were true Middleton has laid against me in the House, would
it turn you from marrying Honoria?'

'Nothing would turn me from marrying Honoria,' replied Dyson, with
equal impressiveness, 'if--if she would take me to be her husband. Mr.
Longleat, I don't wish to mislead you. As regards Middleton's charge,
that would make no difference. All my life is hers and yours--if I can
serve her through serving you. Do you understand me? But I cannot
marry her unless she comes to me of her free will; and she does not
love me now.'

Longleat heaved a deep sigh of relief.

'She'll be safe with you,' he said. 'It's what I've hoped all along.
I had a firm faith that it 'ud come about. It's part of the fulfilment
of my dream--and, who knows?--the rest may come true as well. You are
a fine fellow. Don't hold back. Women are coy and proud, and Honoria
is hard to understand; but if she hadn't loved you, she would never
have given her word. I was afraid once of that cursed Englishman; but
that's over, and I'm at rest about her. It's all I've ever wanted--
that she should be happy.'

Dyson was silent; he could not undeceive him.

'Good-night,' said Longleat. 'Go out quietly, so that she shall not
know that you have been here. To-morrow you shall come and talk to
her; I want her to myself now. Come again in the morning.'

'Good-night,' replied Maddox. 'I will come early--the first thing to-
morrow. You--you will not do anything before you see me again?'

He would fain have said more, but the expression of Longleat's face
forbade him.

'You shall know what action I mean to take,' replied Longleat,
evasively. 'Nothing can be done before tomorrow.'

The two men silently shook hands, and Dyson went away by the garden-
gate as quietly as he had entered.

Longleat was alone.

Mechanically he threw a log upon the fire, and watched it splutter
and blaze, then placed the candles upon the table, and, leaning back
in his great arm-chair, gazed moodily at the fantastic jets of flame
which curled upwards from the glowing log.

Presently the inner door leading into the house opened noiselessly,
and Honoria entered and stood opposite him.

'Papa,' she said softly, 'I came here to see whether you were back
from the House. I knew that it must be over, for none of the windows
are lighted. I grew so nervous sitting alone; I don't think that I am
very well to-night. I kept Janie awake as long as I could; it was a
promise that she should sit up the first night of the session. She had
a notion that something very important would happen. Now she has
fallen asleep upon the sofa in the drawing-room and I wanted to talk
to some one.'

There was an affectionate tone in Honoria's trembling voice, that
sounded strangely in her father's ears, and was inexpressibly grateful
to his heart. Her eyes were humid, and her face was almost beseeching
in its tenderness. For a moment a choking lump in his throat would not
let him speak, but he held out his arms to her, and she sank down upon
the hearthrug at his feet.

'Papa,' she said, looking earnestly into his face, while she laid her
hand timidly upon his knee, 'the House is over early to-night, isn't
it? Has anything gone wrong? You look as though something were the
matter.'

'N-no, Honie,' he faltered; 'nothing is the matter.'

'You are troubled,' she persisted; 'you are unhappy; I see it in your
face. There's only you and me; let us help, each other if we can...I--
oh! I have been a bad daughter; I have not tried as I ought to
sympathise with you...Papa, I would comfort you if I could.'

'Honie,' he said huskily, taking her soft white hand into his horny
palm, 'there need nought come between us two now. What there was is
over and done with; it was a madness--a bad dream--that's past, and--
and, my dear, all my heart is yours, and my life is yours; and I--I am
your father, Honie.'

For a moment the feeling of repulsion which had always overcome her
at the suggestion of her father's infatuation for Mrs. Vallancy held
Honoria motionless and silent. Longleat heaved a deep sigh; it found
its echo in her heart. She drooped her head, laying her forehead
against his knees. He could not see her face, but he felt the pressure
of her fingers tighten round his own.

'Honie!' he went on, in the same choked, whispering voice, 'don't let
it ever trouble you, my dear, by-and-by, that you and I were
different-like, and that we didn't some how come together as we ought
to have done...There's things in life that are hard to understand.
Maybe God 'ull make more allowance up there for human nature than
folks down below...A rough man like me, with rude passions and coarse
ways, was bound to grate upon the notions of a delicate-minded
creature like you. It could not have been expected that things would
be otherwise--that's human nature too. I had brought you up different
to what I was myself, I had reared you softly and kept you apart; that
was my pride for you. It was in my mind from the time that you were a
pretty little baby to educate you to be a lady. I didn't want you to
be of the same kind as your mother and me. Remember that, Honie, if
ever--if ever it should happen that you think hardly of me for being
your father.'

'Father, father!' cried Honoria, abashed and shame-stricken; oh,
don't talk like that. You break my heart.'

'Don't cry, Honie!' he said, with deep tenderness, though sobs shook
his own frame. 'Oh, my dear, if I could make you a lady born--a
gentleman's daughter--I'd sacrifice my life to do it. What's my life
to your happiness? What am I that I should own such an one as you for
my child? It's when I've been with you that I've felt most ashamed of
my roughness. I don't mind confessing to it now. I've loved you better
than you've ever dreamed of. Even when there were passions in my heart
that I didn't dare to speak of, my love for you was deepest and
surest. I kept the two separate...But there was always the thought
that you looked down upon me and held aloof from me; and I had come to
believe it best that you should go your way and I mine. All that I
wished was that you should be happy, and in spite of all I had a firm
trust that you'd marry Dyson. It's that which reconciles me to
everything now.'

'Papa,' cried Honoria, passionately, 'you think that I cannot
realise what you have felt; but it is not so...I know what it is to be
carried away beyond oneself--beyond what one knows to be right and
pure; and then to be ashamed, to hate oneself. Oh, I understand...And
it is that which has changed me--which has made me sorry, and has
taught me to distrust myself and others...I haven't been a good
daughter to you. I want to make amends. If that is all over--oh, come
away with me and Janie. Let me show you that I can love you. Let me
try to make your life happy. Oh, papa! let us hold together. Let us
help one another.'

He bent forward and clasped her in his arms, fondling her and
murmuring inarticulate words of love, while he mingled his tears with
hers, though, indeed, her weeping was rather the reaction after
intense excitement than the outcome of deep emotion such as now
agitated him. And he, divining this, by the aid of that subtle
sympathy which gives the parent's heart insight into that of the
child, knowing that their souls did not now, and never could fairly
meet, put her ever so slightly from him, and whispered gently:

'My gell, it is not your father that you must mind now, and I am
best content that it should be so. Open your heart to your husband,
and show him all your love; Dyson is worthy of confidence. Don't
bottle up your feelings from him. Soft words and kisses are the food
of married love...He'll take my place by-and-by, and little Janie will
live with you. She'll have the northern stations; Kooralbyn and this
place will be your portion. With Jem Bagot's money you'll he a rich
woman. Life will go smooth with you. It's what I've prayed and hoped
for, that you'd be a great lady in the new country, and that your
children should be rulers in the land...When you have got little ones
of your own you'll know, Honie, you'll know.'

Honoria's face crimsoned, but she did not speak. How could she
confide in him now? How could she shape into words those complex
impulses which made her heart a problem to her understanding?

They sat thus silently for some time longer, he gently caressing her,
she with her head bent against his knee, sorrowful and wondering; each
yearning towards the other, each mournfully conscious of the barrier
of mutual incomprehension which divided them.

At last Longleat said:

'I think that I'd like to kiss the little lass before she is carried
up to bed.'

Honoria rose, and they went together to the drawingroom, where Janie,
her quaint, unchildlike face turned upwards, her elfin locks strewing
the pillow, lay all in the glow of the dying fire.

Longleat bent down and kissed solemnly the child's lips, her brow,
her hands.

'Poor little wench!' he murmured. 'God keep the little lass!'

Janie opened her large, sleepy eyes.

'Papa,' she said incoherently, 'have you done fighting with Mr.
Middleton yet? I wish that you would make haste and beat him, and take
us back to the Bush. I don't like stopping here. I want to go back to
Kooralbyn.'

Longleat kissed her once more, then lifted her from the sofa and
placed her in Honoria's arms. A stifled sob shook his body.

'Take her to bed,' he said huskily. 'It's getting late. And you go
too, Honie; you go too.'

Honoria looked at him wistfully.

'It is eleven o'clock,' she replied. 'I will go, papa. And you are
tired as well,' she added. 'Do not sit up for long.'

'No; I will not. I--have a little work to do--and then--then I shall
go to rest,' said Longleat, turning away so that she should not see
his face.

She kissed him gently, and bade him good-night; then left the room,
bearing Janie in her arms.

Longleat watched her till she had disappeared. When she had gone, he
knelt down and laid his head for a moment upon the sofa cushion where
Janie had rested. His lip moved, but he spoke below his breath. A
camellia which had dropped from Honoria's breast lay upon the floor.
He picked it up and carried it with him to the study, where he seated
himself again in the large arm-chair beside the fire.

*   *   *   *   *

By Mr. Longleat's express orders, no servant ever entered his private
sanctum in the morning till he had himself given permission. It was
his habit to study or write till a late hour, and his papers were
usually left in confusion upon the table, so that it was dangerous to
allow them to be disturbed. Thus, when at nine o'clock the next
morning Dyson Maddox presented himself at the side-door which
communicated with the garden, the Premier had not been aroused. All
night the young man had tossed upon an uneasy pillow, wakeful with the
sense of an undefined dread, which, indeed, the events of the previous
evening sufficiently warranted.

He determined that before any line of action could be adopted, he
would see the Premier, would beseech his full confidence, and would
then take counsel with him as to the proper course to pursue. He felt
certain that, under the circumstances, it would be best for Longleat
to retract the denial he had uttered in the House, resign the
leadership of the Government, and again face his constituents.

As soon as it was practicable, Dyson rose, dressed, and walked to The
Bunyas, choosing the side-entrance as that least likely to excite
comment, and intending to make his way into the house by means of the
French windows of the drawing-room, which were always unclosed.

But instinct led him to the study-door. He knocked, and, receiving no
answer, pulled back the venetian shutters; their light bolts yielded
readily to the assault; he pushed open the glass door and entered.

The morning light streamed into the quiet room across the office
table, where the papers were all in order, the Hansards piled neatly
together, and upon which stood the Premier's despatch-box with the key
in the lock. In the large morocco-covered chair which was placed at
one side of the empty fireplace, Longleat himself was sitting. There
was a strange inertness and an unnatural stillness in his attitude
which caused a shudder to run through Dyson's frame, and imparted the
first suspicion of what had happened. The head was bent forward upon
the chest; the hands were tightly clenched; the legs extended with a
peculiar rigidity.

Dyson spoke to him by his name, but he neither moved nor answered.
The young man approached the inanimate body and tried to raise the
heavy head, but it was tense and cold.'

'Good God!' exclaimed Dyson, in a tone of horror. 'He is dead!'

It was even so. The Premier had effectually escaped from the ruin
with which he had been threatened.

Tightly enclosed in his stiffened fingers was a small empty phial--
the instrument of his death. It was marked 'Poison,' and contained a
solution of prussic acid, one drop of which as a dose had, Dyson knew,
acted as a speedy calmant in the attacks of palpitation of the heart
to which the Premier had been subject.

Upon the desk Dyson saw a sealed envelope addressed to himself Within
it was a sheet of paper, upon which, without either formal beginning
or ending, these words were written in Longleat's hand:

'Use every endeavour to obtain the papers and to quash the inquiry.'



Chapter XLIII. The Knotting of the Threads.

EVENTS succeeded each other thickly after the death of the Premier. The
public excitement and curiosity was intense, and it was entirely owing
to Dyson's exertions that only comparative publicity was given to the
circumstances which attended Longleat's death, and that the true state
of the case never came to Honoria's knowledge. The inquest was conducted
as privately as possible, and a verdict was delivered to the effect that
death had resulted from an overdose of a solution of prussic acid,
administered medicinally to himself by the deceased, which had operated
fatally upon an already diseased and excited condition of the arterial
organs.

It may be questioned how far the faculty and those more enlightened
upon the subject coincided with the coroner's verdict, but, to the
general public, it appeared satisfactory enough. The people mourned
their leader as though he had been a hero. Letters were written in the
newspapers advocating the erection of a monument at the public
expense, in commemoration of his patriotism and his virtues.

His funeral cortége was followed by great and simple in the land. The
public offices and shops were closed. The ships and steamers in the
river wore their flags half-mast high. Obituary notices appeared in
the journals of Leichardt's Land, edged with deep printer's black, and
every sign of public mourning was rigorously observed.

The excitement of Longleat's sudden death almost swept away that
which had been produced by the extraordinary scene in the House on the
evening preceding it.

The debate was hushed up, and was never fully reported. Those who had
believed in the Premier's guilt endeavoured for the sake of Dyson and
Honoria to bury their convictions in their own breasts, while those
whose faith in their chief had never wavered, reverted triumphantly
among themselves to his strenuous denial of Middleton's charge as
conclusive evidence in his favour.

Dyson Maddox had a long interview with the leader of the Opposition,
and succeeded in obtaining the papers relating to Prancard's trial,
and a promise that the subject should be dropped without further
inquiry. Later on, when the House met again, it was briefly alluded to
and dismissed in a personal explanation by Mr. Middleton; but now the
business of forming the new Ministry occupied both sides to the
exclusion of other considerations. The great Loan Bill was not passed
that session. An amalgamation Government was formed, upon which the
views of both parties were modified in an extraordinary manner, and
the Railway question was waived till the following year. Dyson Maddox
still retained his post, and Mr. Middleton accepted that of Attorney-
General.

Upon the night after her father's funeral, Honoria sat alone in the
drawing-room at The Bunyas. Mrs. Ferris had been written to, and was
expected to arrive from Kooralbyn upon the morrow. It had been by
Honoria's wish that she had been sent for, and the old lady's feelings
would have been deeply gratified could she have realised how ardently
her advent was desired by her favourite charge.

Honoria, broken down by the shock of her father's sudden death, by
grief, remorse, and the more complex emotions of her own heart, was no
longer the brilliant creature who had despised the old lady's babble,
and had gloried in her independence of the common solaces of vexed
humanity. At present she had an intense and womanly desire to sob out
her late grief and agitation upon that sympathising if uncomprehending
bosom. Yet she was at this time calmer than she had been for months.

The horror of sudden bereavement had counteracted the baleful effects
of Barrington's influence, and the substitution of Dyson's soothing
ministrations for the feverish and unhealthy fascination which the
Englishman had exercised upon her, had restored her nervous system to
a more equable balance. Dyson had been very near to her during the
days which had followed her father's death. He had thought and acted
for her, and had spared her from distressing contact with the outer
world. So carefully did he guard her that not a breath of vulgar
insinuation had as yet reached her ears. His tact and delicate
consideration had saved her from much that would have been painful and
annoying; and though he had never again spoken of his love, it seemed
to encompass her like the air she breathed.

She was thinking, with some satisfaction, that this was the last
evening which she should spend by her solitary hearth, when suddenly a
loud ring sounded at the entrance-door; and a minute later, without
warning or announcement, a gentleman was ushered into her presence.

Honoria started to her feet, and found herself confronted by
Barrington.

He was very pale, and had the tall, gaunt look of a man who had just
risen from a sick-bed. He advanced slowly, with deep respect expressed
in his gesture and bearing, while his hollow-set eyes mournfully
sought her gaze.

During her wakeful nights, Honoria had often of late trembled at the
thought of this meeting. She had feared that, were she again to
encounter Barrington's eyes, all power of self-control would desert
her, and that she should once more become a prey to the nervous terror
which in his presence had overpowered her.

Yet, strange as it seemed to her then and later, after the momentary
shock occasioned by his sudden appearance, she felt herself sustained
by a moral and physical strength of which in their former intercourse
she had been absolutely bereft. How, or when, she knew not, but it was
certain that the enchantment had been broken.

She stood up very tall and stately in her clinging black gown. A deep
blush dyed her face and neck, but in a moment vanished and left an
ashy paleness.

'I beg your pardon,' began Barrington; 'I am afraid that I have
startled you. Forgive me; I would not let the servant announce me. I
thought that if you heard my name you might perhaps refuse to see me.
I have come to you as soon as it was possible. I am very weak--this is
the first day that I have left my bed, but I could not rest longer
without speaking to you.'

He spoke very quietly; and she, with the strange feeling of listening
to her own voice as to the voice of another person, replied in a low,
constrained manner:

'You were right. Had I known that you were here, I should have
refused to see you. It is an insult to me to force yourself upon me in
this way. You can have nothing to say to me--now! Will you go away at
once? If not, I must leave the room.'

'Honoria!' he exclaimed in a passionate tone, as he approached and
looked down upon her.

She shrank involuntarily. He had placed himself so that she could not
readily gain the door. A wave of scorn and indignation passed over her
soul. She moved a step backwards, and then faced him without
flinching.

'Let me pass,' she said.

'No. Will you not wait one moment, and hear what I have to say? Are
you afraid of me? Are you angry with me? What have I done, that you
should treat me so disdainfully? Is all my love to go for nothing
because of a fancy--a misconception?...I swear that you were sacred to
me. Could you have thought that I would insult you who had consented
to bear my name? I have come tonight to ask you again to be my
wife...I love you as I can love no other woman. What I offer you is
not unworthy of your acceptance. I can place you in the station to
which you are suited--amid the refined surroundings for which your
nature has craved...I come to you in the deepest humility. I confess
that I was greatly to blame for placing you in a position which might
compromise you. I have endured agonies since that night. My madness--
my passion for you led me beyond the bounds of prudence. I wish to
atone. How can I prove my loyalty more effectually than by offering to
make you my wife? ...'

'You offer to make me your wife,' she said, in low, distinct tones.
'You are very loyal.'

Honoria, you will misunderstand me. I am ready now to sacrifice my
prospects, to disregard my mother's prayers, if it is your desire that
I should remain longer in Australia...Only tell me your wishes, and I
will obey them at any cost. Darling, you were not so hard to move a
little while ago. You know that your heart is all mine. It is I who
have taught you to love. Oh, Honoria, come to me!'

'Let me pass,' she said again, with an imperious gesture.

He fell back a few paces, and she went on, speaking with withering
scorn:

'Every word that you utter is an insult. Your love is an insult...I
thought a little while ago that the shame of looking in your face
would be too intolerable. I am glad that I have been able to bear it--
that I might tell you with my own lips that the spell you cast over me
is broken. I can have no feeling for you but pity...I wish never to
hear your voice again. Good-bye.'

She walked steadily past him and left the room, without bestowing
upon him another word or glance. When she had reached her own chamber
she bolted the door and threw herself, all quivering and unnerved,
upon the bed.

Barrington, left alone in the drawing-room, lingered for a little
while in the hope that Honoria might return. He put forth all the
strength of his will to recall her, but it was in vain. As she herself
had said, the spell was broken.

He stood, looking round the room, and noting all those little traces
of the being beloved which are so patent to the eye of a lover--her
work, her books, the flowers she had touched, the mirror which had
reflected her beauty; and there was a maddening pain in the conviction
which was borne in upon his heart, that Honoria had passed out of his
life for ever, and that he must fill up the blank as best he could.

There was a photograph of her standing in a little velvet frame upon
the mantelshelf. He took it up and carried it away with him.

*   *   *   *   *

Upon the following day Mrs. Ferris arrived from Kooralbyn. The old
lady kissed Honoria and blessed her and wept over her, at one moment
bemoaning the rupture of her engagement with Barrington, who still
retained a tender place in Aunt Pen's regard, at another
congratulating her upon her impending marriage with Dyson.

Mrs. Ferris shed many tears over the Premier's fate, and could find
no terms of reprobation sufficiently strong to stigmatise the conduct
of Mrs. Vallancy, who, she was convinced, had been at the bottom of
all the mischief.

'Aunt Penelope,' said Honoria, when they had been talking for a
little while together, 'I am thinking of going away for a time, and of
taking Janie with me. I want a change of scene. Will you come with us
to Tasmania? We shall spend the summer there, perhaps take a trip to
New Zealand, and then winter in Sydney or Melbourne.'

'But what is to become of my old man?' cried Mrs. Ferris, with the
tears streaming down her cheeks. 'My love, it went to my heart to
leave him yesterday. I couldn't have done it if I hadn't felt it my
duty to come to you. Anthony was always a little crazy, but since
Angela died there isn't a grain of sense left in him. And he is such a
poor weak creature and has so fallen to nothing that a rough wind
might easily blow him away. Now is my turn, my love. There's always
work in the world for geniuses. It's we dull women who must be the
soothers and sympathisers. But, do what I will, I can't interest
Anthony. If he would only look at his pictures or take down his
Shakespeare I should feel happier; but there he sits all day long,
with his hands folded before him and his eyes fixed in a vacant stare
upon the mountains or the sky, till a poor body's heart aches with the
longing to comfort him. He takes no heed of anything. Even when I told
him of your father's death he just looked up and nodded his head, and
it's my belief that when night came he had forgotten what I said to
him.'

Honoria finally decided, and to her credit be it recorded, to invite
the old man to bear them company in their travels; but this he curtly
refused to do. He would not leave Kooralbyn; nor ever afterwards could
he be persuaded to quit the vicinity of his daughter's grave. It was
his harmless fancy that the spirit of Angela still hovered round her
old haunts, and that in the dim twilight of a summer's evening he
might again behold in some secluded nook by the river the shadowy,
white-robed form of his lost darling.

He lived on at Kooralbyn, a decrepit old man of disconnected speech
and wandering steps, whose closest earthly interests seemed centred
upon the quiet spot beneath the cedar-trees where Angela lay buried.

Soon after the death of the Premier, Honoria, accompanied by Mrs.
Ferris and Janie, set off on a visit to Tasmania.

Dyson Maddox made all the necessary arrangements for their departure
and absence from Leichardt's Land, taking upon himself the burden of
providing for the management of the various stations, and of all
business transactions from which it was possible that Honoria could be
relieved; with great tact and delicacy he warded from her all
distasteful companionship or malevolent gossip, and guarded against
any jarring of her sensibilities by a careful avoidance of allusion to
their mutual relations.

It was only by the strongest effort of self-control that he
maintained the fraternal demeanour that characterised his intercourse
with her, while she, in her turn, was nervously fearful lest he should
suspect her of in any way misconstruing his motives.

Though neither dared approach the subject, it had at first been
tacitly understood between them, that during Honoria's lengthy absence
the rupture of the false engagement should be announced; but of late,
as day by day her dependence upon him became greater, and her insight
into his character deeper, frank understanding between them seemed to
grow more and more impossible.

A great sadness had settled upon Honoria; she was often silent, and
indulged in fits of melancholy retrospection, brooding over the
estrangement which had divided her from her father, upon their last
mournful interview, and upon his wish, so forcibly expressed then,
that she should become Dyson's wife.

During the time that she remained at The Bunyas after the Premier's
death, she shunned society, refused all sympathy and condolence, and,
with a mingling of dread and impatience, waited for the moment of her
departure and of her farewell to Dyson, when she fancied that the
barrier of reserve between them might at last be broken down.

He accompanied them as far as the Bay, whence he had arranged to
return to Leichardt's Town in the Government steamtug.

He, too, looked worn and harassed; his eyes rested frequently upon
Honoria, and he busied himself in preparations for her comfort; but he
held aloof from her side, and seemed anxious to avoid taking advantage
of any opportunity that occurred for private conversation between
them.

Honoria sat still upon the deck, her eyes, humid with unshed tears,
fixed vacantly upon the opposite shores; a pain, which she had never
known before, gnawing at her heart, as she realised that each landmark
passed represented so many moments the less to be spent with Dyson.

At last the freshening breeze, laden with salt whiffs from the
ocean, the widening river, the line of beacons which marked the bar,
the slackening of the steamer's speed--told her that the time had
come.

In a choked voice she called him to her. He was at her side in a
moment. She rose from her seat, and they moved apart and stood against
the bulwarks together.

Honoria raised her veil, and he saw how pale she was, and how her
lips trembled, and her eyes were dim with tears.

'Honoria!' he said only, but there was deep meaning in his tone.

'I am sorry,' she faltered,--'sorry to say good-bye...And I wish to
thank you--to tell you--I cannot bear that we should part without a
word...You think that I have been blind to your goodness--I have not--
indeed--indeed...'

'I understand,' he said, very low, bending over her and tightly
clasping her hand. 'I did not mean to speak now; I wished that you
should go away--that you should be untrammelled by any thought that I
had the remotest claim upon your life. All my desire has been to
trample down my own feelings, if it were best for you that I should be
a cipher...You know what has been in my heart--and I have tried to
root it out, but it was of no use. I thought that when you had gone
away it would be less difficult, perhaps, to give you up...If you
cannot love me, Honoria--as you have never yet loved--it will be
happiest for us both that we should never meet again--and so it should
be. I would leave Leichardt's Land--if otherwise--then you have but to
write me one word, and I will come to you...God keep you!--Good-bye
...'

With one last pressure of her hand he left her side ere she could
utter a word in reply...Presently he went on board the steam--launch,
which turned her prow towards Leichardt's Town, while Honoria was
borne across the bar, oceanwards.

*   *   *   *   *

Honoria took a cottage in Hobart Town, where by the banks of the
Derwent she and Janie passed several quiet months. Mrs. Ferris, having
installed her young charges in the care of an unobtrusive elderly
friend, returned to her husband at Kooralbyn.

Later on, Dyson Maddox found his way to Tasmania, and he and Honoria
were married.

Dyson is now Premier of Leichardt's Land. To him has been entrusted
the floating of the Loan and the carrying out of Longleat's Railway. A
little while ago he and his wife made the grand tour by way of
America, and spent a season in London, where Honoria had ample
opportunities for studying English life. Mrs. Maddox was presented at
Court; she was fortunate in having good introductions, and her beauty
and fascinating manners were the theme of comment in general and even
fashionable society. Her reputation for enormous wealth added largely
to her popularity, and there was some talk of the formation of a
company for the more effectual working of the Tarangella tin-mine.

At a dinner-party in the house of a great London lady Honoria met
Barrington. He was with his wife, the daughter of a peer, a lady of
statuesque appearance and cold manners, who in a moment identified the
Australian beauty as the original of a certain photograph in a velvet-
covered frame which reposed in a secret drawer of her husband's
despatch-box, and was connected with that brief sojourn in the
Antipodes, of which she could never persuade him to speak frankly.

Barrington and Honoria bowed stiffly at first, but afterwards Lord
and Lady Dolph Basset furnished a text for conversation. Lord Dolph
was still living at Dyraaba, neither less enthusiastic nor more
practical than heretofore, and Maggie still rode buck-jumpers and
helped to brand the calves. There was no talk of their coming to
England, nor did Lord Headington show any particular anxiety to greet
his Australian sister-in-law.

It would have been contrary to human nature had Barrington abstained
from satisfying himself as to whether Honoria had found the true road
to happiness. Probably he put a leading question, for Dyson, hovering
about his wife, caught the words, delivered with a stronger emphasis
than the languid interest of an after-dinner conversation appeared to
warrant:

'I have never regretted having married an Australian; and I wish for
no better fate than to cast in my lot with that of Leichardt's Land.'

Lady Edith Barrington joined with her husband in a courteous
invitation to the Maddoxes to visit Castle Barrington, but it was
declined, and Honoria never saw the home which might have been her
own.

Sammy Deans is still accused of branding his neighbour's cattle, and
Tom Dungie has given up running the mail, and has installed Miss
MacCutchan as the mistress of the Selection and of the little
'piebald.'

Corny Cathcart has never been to Barramunda since Honoria went there
shortly after her marriage. He is managing the station 'up north,'
which in the Premier's will was left to little Janie.

Brian Fielding is married, and those interested in Constance
Vallancy's fate may witness her nightly performances as an actress at
the Regalia Theatre.

Honoria's boys are stalwart young Australians, who have already
announced their intention of distinguishing themselves upon the boards
of the House, and who promise fair fulfilment of their grandfather's
ambition.



THE END



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