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Title: The Hillyars and the Burtons
Author: Henry Kingsley
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0607471.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: September 2006
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The Hillyars and the Burtons
Henry Kingsley



Chapter I. Mr. Secretary Oxton Thinks Gerty Neville Little Better than a Fool.



THE Houses were "up" and the Colonial Secretary was in the bosom of
his family.

It had been one of the quietest and pleasantest little sessions on
record. All the Government bills had slid easily through. There had
been a little hitch on the new Scab Bill; several members with
infected runs opposing it lustily; threatening to murder it by inches
in committee, and so on: but, on the Secretary saying that he should
not feel it his duty to advise his Excellency to prorogue until it was
passed, other members put it to the opposing members whether they were
to sit there till Christmas, with the thermometer at 120°, and the
opposing members gave way with a groan; so a very few days afterwards
his Excellency put on his best uniform, cocked hat, sword and all, and
came down, and prorogued them. And then, taking their boys from
school, and mounting their horses, they all rode away, east, north,
and west, through forest and swamp, over plain and mountain, to their
sunny homes, by the pleasant river-sides of the interior.

So the Colonial Secretary was in the bosom of his family. He was
sitting in his veranda in a rocking-chair, dressed in white from head
to foot, with the exception of his boots, which were shining black,
and his necktie, which was bright blue. He was a tall man, and of
noble presence,--a man of two-and-forty, or thereabouts,--with a fine
fearless eye, as of one who had confronted the dangers of an infant
colony, looking altogether like the highly intellectual, educated man
he was; and on every button of his clean white coat, on every fold of
his spotless linen, in every dimple of his close--shaved, red-brown
face, was written in large letters the word, Gentleman.

He had come down to one of his many stations, the favorite one, lying
about sixty miles along the coast from Palmerston, the capital of
Cooksland; and, having arrived only the night before, was dreaming
away the morning in his veranda, leaving the piles of papers, domestic
and parliamentary, which he had accumulated on a small table beside
him, totally neglected.

For it was impossible to work. The contrast between the burning
streets of Palmerston and this cool veranda was so exquisite, that it
became an absolute necessity to think about that and nothing else.
Just outside, in the sun, a garden, a wilderness of blazing flowers,
sloped rapidly down to the forest, whose topmost boughs were level
with your feet. Through the forest rushed the river, and beyond the
forest was the broad, yellow plain, and beyond the plain the heath,
and beyond the heath the gleaming sea, with two fantastic purple
islands on the horizon.

The Colonial Secretary had no boys to bring home from school, for
only six months before this he had married the beauty of the colony,
Miss Neville, who was at that moment in the garden with her youngest
sister gathering flowers.

The Secretary by degrees allowed his eyes to wander from the
beautiful prospect before him, to the two white figures among the
flowers. By degrees his attention became concentrated on them, and
after a time a shade of dissatisfaction stole over his handsome face,
and a wrinkle or two formed on his broad forehead.

Why was this? The reason was a very simple one: he saw that Mrs.
Oxton was only half intent upon her flowers, and was keeping one eye
upon her lord and master. He said, "Botheration."

She saw that he spoke, though she little thought what he said; and so
she came floating easily towards him through the flowers, looking by
no means unlike a great white and crimson Amaryllis herself. She may
have been a thought too fragile, a thought too hectic,--all real
Australian beauties are so; she looked, indeed, as though, if you blew
at her, her hair would come off like the down of a dandelion, but
nevertheless she was so wonderfully beautiful, that you could barely
restrain an exclamation of delighted surprise when you first saw her.
This being came softly up to the Secretary, put her arm round his
neck, and kissed him; and yet the Secretary gave no outward signs of
satisfaction whatever. Still the Secretary was not a "brute"; far from
it.

"My love," said Mrs. Oxton.

"Well, my dear," said the Secretary.

"I want to ask you a favor, my love."

"My sweetest Agnes, it is quite impossible. I will send Edward as
sub--overseer to Tullabaloora; but into a Government place he does not
go."

"My dear James--"

"It is no use, Agnes; it is really no use. I have been accused in the
public papers of placing too many of my own and my wife's family. I
have been taunted with it in the House. There is great foundation of
truth in it. It is really no use, if you talk till doomsday. What are
you going to give me for lunch?"

Mrs. Oxton was perfectly unmoved; she merely seated herself
comfortably on her husband's knee.

"Suppose, now," she said, "that you had been putting yourself in a
wicked passion for nothing. Suppose I had changed my mind about
Edward. Suppose I thought you quite right in not placing any more of
our own people. And suppose I only wanted a little information about
somebody's antecedents. What then?"

"Why then I have been a brute. Say on."

"My dearest James. Do you know anything against Lieutenant Hillyar?"

"H'm," said the Secretary. "Nothing new. He came over here under a
cloud; but so many young men do that. I am chary of asking too many
questions. He was very fast at home, I believe, and went rambling
through Europe for ten years; yet I do not think I should be justified
in saying I knew anything very bad against him."

"He will be Sir George Hillyar," said Mrs. Oxton, pensively.

"He will indeed," said the Secretary, "and have ten thousand a year.
He will be a catch for some one."

"My dear, I am afraid he is caught."

"No! Who is it?"

"No other than our poor Gerty. She has been staying at the Barkers',
in the same house with him; and the long and the short of it is, that
they are engaged."

The Secretary rose and walked up and down the veranda. He was very
much disturbed.

"My dear," he said at last, "I would give a thousand pounds if this
were not true."

"Why? do you know anything against him?"

"Well, just now I carelessly said I did not; but now when the
gentleman coolly proposes himself for my brother-in-law! It is
perfectly intolerable!"

"Do you know anything special, James?"

"No. But look at the man, my love. Look at his insolent,
contradictory manner. Look at that nasty drop he has in his eyes. Look
at his character for profligacy. Look at his unpopularity in the
force; and then think of our beautiful little Gerty being handed over
to such a man. Oh! Lord, you know it really is--"

"I hate the man as much as you do," said Mrs. Oxton. "I can't bear to
be in the room with him. But Gerty loves him."

"Poor little bird."

"And he is handsome."

"Confound him, yes. And charming too, of course, with his long pale
face and his dolce far-niente, insolent manner, and his great eyes
like blank windows, out of which the Devil looks once a day, for fear
you might forget he was there. Oh! a charming man!"

"Then he will be a baronet, with an immense fortune; and Gerty will
be Lady Hillyar."

"And the most unfortunate little flower in the wide world," said the
Secretary.

"I think you are right," said Mrs. Oxton, with a sigh. "See, here she
comes; don't let her know I have told you."

Gertrude Neville came towards them at this moment. She was very like
her sister, but still more fragile in form; a kind of caricature of
her sister. The white in her face was whiter, and the red redder; her
hair was of a shade more brilliant brown; and she looked altogether
like some wonderful hectic ghost. If you were delighted with her
sister's beauty you were awed with hers; not awed because there was
anything commanding or determined in the expression of her face, but
because she was so very fragile and gentle. The first glance of her
great hazel eyes put her under your protection to the death. You had a
feeling of awe, while you wondered why it had pleased God to create
anything so helpless, so beautiful, and so good, and to leave her to
the chances and troubles of this rough world. You could no more have
willingly caused a shade of anxiety to pass over that face, than you
could have taken the beautiful little shell parrakeet, which sat on
her shoulder, and killed it before her eyes.

The Secretary set his jaw, and swore, to himself, that it should
never be; but what was the good of his swearing?

"See, James," she said to him, speaking with a voice like that of a
stock--dove among the deep black shadows of an English wood in June,
"I am going to fill all your vases with flowers. Idle Agnes has run
away to you, and has left me all the work. See here; I am going to set
these great fern boughs round the china vase on the centre-table, and
bend them so that they droop, you see. And then I shall lay in these
long wreaths of scarlet Kennedia to hang over the fern, and then I
shall tangle in these scarlet passion-flowers, and then I shall have a
circle of these belladonna ilies, and in the centre of all I shall put
this moss-rosebud,--"For the bride she chose, the red, red, rose, And
by its thorn died she."

"James, don't break my heart, for I love him. My own brother, I have
never had a brother but you; try to make the best of him for my sake.
You will now, won't you? I know you don't like him,--your characters
are dissimilar,--but I am sure you will get to. I did not like him at
first; but it came upon me in time. You don't know how really good he
is, and how bitterly he has been ill-used. Come, James, say you will
try to like him."

What could the poor Secretary do but soothe her, and defer any
decided opinion on the matter. If it had been Mr. Cornelius Murphy
making a modest request, the Secretary would have been stern enough,
would have done what he should have done here,--put his veto on it
once and forever; but he could not stand his favorite little sister-
in-law, with her tears, her beauty, and her caresses. He temporized.

But his holiday, to which he had looked forward so long, was quite
spoilt. Little Gerty Neville had wound herself so thoroughly round his
heart; she had been such a sweet little confidant to him in his
courtship; had brought so many precious letters, had planned so many
meetings; had been, in short, such a dear little go-between, that when
he thought of her being taken away from him by a man of somewhat queer
character, whom he heartily despised and disliked, it made him utterly
miserable. As Gerty had been connected closely with the brightest part
of a somewhat stormy life, so also neither he nor his wife had ever
laid down a plan for the brighter future which did not include her;
and now!--it was intolerable.

He brooded for three days, and then, having seen to the more
necessary part of his station-work, he determined to go and make
fuller inquiries. So the big bay horse was saddled, and he rode
thoughtfully away; across the paddocks, through the forest, over the
plain, down to the long yellow sands fringed with snarling surf, and
so northward towards the faint blue promontory of Cape Wilberforce.



Chapter II. James Burton's Story: shows the Disgraceful Lowness of his Origin



I AM of the same trade as my father,--a blacksmith,--although I have
not had hammer or pincers in my hand this ten years. And although I am
not in the most remote degree connected with any aristocratic family,
yet I hold the title of Honorable. The Honorable James Burton being a
member of the Supreme Council of the Colony of Cooksland.

As early as I can remember, my father carried on his trade in Brown's
Row, Chelsea. His business was a very good one,--what we call a good
shoeing trade, principally with the omnibus horses. It paid very well,
for my father had four men in his shop; though, if he had had his
choice, he would have preferred some higher branch of smith's work,
for he had considerable mechanical genius, and no small ambition, of a
sort.

I think that my father was the ideal of all the blacksmiths who ever
lived. He was the blacksmith. A man with a calm, square, honest face;
very strong, very good-humored, with plenty of kindly interest in his
neighbors' affairs, and a most accurate memory for them. He was not
only a most excellent tradesman, but he possessed those social
qualities which are so necessary in a blacksmith, to a very high
degree; for in our rank in life the blacksmith is a very important
person indeed. He is owner of the very best gossip-station, after the
bar of the public-house: and, consequently, if he be a good fellow (as
he is pretty certain to be, though this may be partiality on my part),
he is a man more often referred to, and consulted with, than the
publican; for this reason: that the married women are jealous of the
publican, and not so of the blacksmith. As for my father, he was
umpire of the buildings,--the stopper of fights, and, sometimes, even
the healer of matrimonial differences.

More than once I have known a couple come and "have it out" in my
father's shop. Sometimes, during my apprenticeship, my father would
send me out of the way on these occasions; would say to me, for
instance, "Hallo, old man, here's Bob Chittle and his missis a-coming;
cut away and help mother a bit." But at other times he would not
consider it necessary for me to go, and so I used to stay, and hear it
all. The woman invariably began; the man confined himself mostly to
sulky contradictions. My father, and I, and the men, went on with our
work; my father would throw in a soothing word wherever he could,
until the woman began to cry; upon which my father, in a low,
confidential growl, addressing the man as "old chap," would persuade
him to go and make it up with her. And he and she, having come there
for no other purpose, would do so.

My mother never assisted at this sort of scenes, whether serious or
trifling. She utterly ignored the shop at such times, and was
preternaturally busy in the house among her pots, and pans, and
children, ostentatiously singing. When it was all over she used
accidentally to catch sight of the couple, and be for one moment
stricken dumb with amazement, and then burst into voluble welcome. She
was supposed to know nothing at all about what had passed. Sweet
mother! thy arts were simple enough.

She was a very tall woman, with square, large features, who had
never, I think, been handsome. When I begin my story my mother was
already the mother of nine children, and I, the eldest, was fifteen;
so, if she had at any time had any beauty, it must have vanished long
before; but she was handsome enough for us. When she was dressed for
church, in all the colors of the rainbow, in a style which would have
driven Jane Clarke out of her mind, she was always inspected by the
whole family before she started, and pronounced satisfactory. And at
dinner my sister Emma would perhaps say, "Law! mother did look so
beautiful in church this morning; you never!"

She had a hard time of it with us. The family specialities were
health, good humor, and vivacity; somewhat too much of the last among
the junior members. I, Joe, and Emma, might be trusted, but all the
rest were terrible pickles; the most unluckly children I ever saw.
Whenever I was at work with father, and we saw a crowd coming round
the corner, he would say, "Cut away, old chap, and see who it is"; for
we knew it must either be one of our own little ones, or a young
Chittle. If it was one of the young Chittles, I used to hold up my
hand and whistle, and father used to go on with his work. But if I was
silent, and in that way let father know that it was one of our own
little ones, he would begin to roar out, and want to know which it
was, and what he'd been up to. To which I would have to roar in return
(I give you an instance only, out of many such) that it was Fred. That
he had fallen off a barge under Battersea Bridge. Had been picked out
by young Tom Cole. Said he liked it. Or that it was Eliza. Had wedged
her head into a gas-pipe. Been took out black in the face. Said Billy
Chittle had told her she wasn't game to it. These were the sort of
things I had to roar out to my father, while I had the delinquent in
my arms, and was carrying him or her indoors to mother; the delinquent
being in a triumphant frame of mind, evidently under the impression
that he had distinguished himself, and added another flower to the
chaplet of the family honor.

I never saw my mother out of temper. On these, and other occasions,
she would say that, Lord 'a mercy! no woman ever was teased and
plagued with her children as she was (and there was a degree of truth
in that). That she didn't know what would become of them (which was to
a certain extent true also); that she hoped none of them would come to
a bad end (in which hope I sincerely joined); and that finally, she
thought that if some of them were well shook, and put to bed, it would
do 'em a deal of good, and that their Emma would never love them any
more. But they never cared for this sort of thing. They were not a bit
afraid of mother. They were never shook; their Emma continued to love
them; and, as for being put to bed, they never thought of such a thing
happening to them, until they heard the rattle of brother Joe's crutch
on the floor, when he came home from the night--school.

Brother Joe's crutch. Yes; our Joe was a cripple. With poor Joe, that
restless vivacity to which I have called your attention above, had
ended very sadly. He was one of the finest children ever seen; but,
when only three years old, poor Joe stole away, and climbed up a
ladder,--he slipped, when some seven or eight feet from the ground,
and fell on his back, doubling one of his legs under him. The little
soul fluttered between earth and heaven for some time, but at last
determined to stay with us. All that science, skill, and devotion
could do, was done for him at St. George's Hospital; but poor Joe was
a hunchback, with one leg longer than the other, but with the limbs of
a giant, and the face of a Byron.

It is a great cause of thankfulness to me, when I think that Joe
inherited the gentle, patient temper of his father and mother. Even
when a mere boy, I began dimly to understand that it was fortunate
that Joe was good--tempered. When I and the other boys would be at
rounders, and he would be looking intently and eagerly on, with his
fingers twitching with nervous anxiety to get hold of the stick,
shouting now to one, and now to another, by name, and now making short
runs, in his excitement, on his crutch; at such times, I say, it used
to come into my boy's head, that it was as well that Joe was a good-
tempered fellow; and this conviction grew on me year by year, as I
watched with pride and awe the great intellect unfolding, and the
mighty restless ambition soaring higher and higher. Yes, it was well
that Joe had learned to love in his childhood.

Joe's unfailing good humor, combined with his affliction, had a
wonderful influence on us for good. His misfortune being so fearfully
greater than any of our petty vexations, and his good temper being so
much more unfailing than ours, he was there continually among us as an
example,--an example which it was impossible not to follow to some
extent; even if one had not had an angel to point to it for us.

For, in the sense of being a messenger of good, certainly my sister
Emma was an angel. She was a year younger than me. She was very
handsome, not very pretty, made on a large model like my mother, but
with fewer angles. Perhaps the most noticeable thing about her was her
voice. Whether the tone of it was natural, or whether it had acquired
that tone from being used almost exclusively in cooing to, and
soothing, children, I cannot say; but there was no shrillness in it:
it was perfectly, nay singularly clear; but there was not a sharp note
in the whole of sweet Emma's gamut.

She was very much devoted to all of us; but towards Joe her devotion
was intensified. I do not assert--because I do not believe--that she
loved him better than the rest of us, but from an early age she simply
devoted herself to him. I did not see it at first. The first hint of
it which I got was in the first year of my apprenticeship. I had come
in to tea, and father had relieved me in the shop, and all our little
ones had done tea and were talking nonsense, at which I began to
assist. We were talking about who each of us was to marry, and what we
would have for dinner on the auspicious occasion. It was arranged that
I was to marry Miss de Bracy, from the Victoria Theatre, and we were
to have sprats and gin-and-water; and that such a one was to marry
such a one; but on one thing the little ones were agreed, that Emma
was to marry Joe. When they cried out this, she raised her eyes to
mine for an instant, and dropped them again with a smile. I wondered
why then, but I know now.

On my fifteenth birthday I was bound to my father. I think that was
nearly the happiest day of my life. The whole family was in a state of
rampant pride about it. I am sure I don't know what there was to be
proud of, but proud we were. Joe sat staring at me with his bright
eyes, every now and then giving a sniff of profound satisfaction, or
pegging out in a restless manner for a short expedition into the
court. Emma remarked several times, "Lawk, only just to think about
Jim!" And my younger brothers and sisters kept on saying to all their
acquaintances in the street, "Our Jim is bound to father," with such a
very triumphant air, that the other children resented it, and Sally
Agar said something so disparaging of the blacksmith-trade in general,
that our Eliza gave her a good shove; upon which Jane Agar, the elder
sister, shook our Eliza, and, when Emma came out to the rescue, put
her tongue out at her; which had such an effect on Emma's gentle
spirit that she gave up the contest at once, and went in--doors in
tears, and for the rest of the day told every friend she met, "Lawk,
there, if that Jane Agar did n't take and put her tongue out at me,
because their Sally shoved our Eliza, and I took and told her she had
n't ought to do it": and they retailed it to other girls again; and at
last it was known all over the buildings that Jane had gone and put
her tongue out at Emma Burton; and it was unanimously voted that she
ought to be ashamed of herself.

We were simple folk, easily made happy, even by seeing that the other
girls were fond of our sister. But there was another source of
happiness to us on that auspicious fifteenth birthday of mine. That
day week we were to move into the great house.

Our present home was a very poor place, only a six-roomed house; and
that, with nine children and another apprentice besides myself, was
intolerable. Any time this year past we had seen that it was necessary
to move: but there had been one hitch to our doing so,--there was no
house to move into, except into a very large house which stood by
itself, as it were fronting the buildings opposite our forge; which
contained twenty--five rooms, some of them very large, and which was
called by us, indifferently, Church Place, or Queen Elizabeth's
Palace.

It had been in reality the palace of the young Earl of Essex, a very
large three-storied house of old brick, with stone-mullioned windows
and door--ways. Many of the windows were blind, bricked up at
different times as the house descended in the social scale. The roof
was singularly high, hanging somewhat far over a rich cornice, and in
that roof there was a single large dormer-window at the north end.

The house had now been empty for some time, and it had always had a
great attraction for us children. In the first place it was empty; in
the second place, it had been inhabited by real princesses; and in the
third, there was a ghost, who used to show a light in the
aforementioned dormer--window the first Friday in every month.

On the summer's evenings we had been used to see it towering aloft
between us and the setting sun, which filled the great room on the
first floor with light, some rays of which came through into our
narrow street. Mother had actually once been up in that room, and had
looked out of the window westward, and seen the trees of Chelsea farm
(now Cremorne Gardens). What a room that would be to play in! Joe
pegged down the back-yard and back again with excitement, when he
thought of it. We were going to live there, and father was going to
let all the upper part in lodgings, and Cousin Reuben--



Chapter III. James Burton's Story: Cousin Reuben



AND Cousin Reuben had applied for lodgings from the very moment he
heard of our move, and was actually coming to live with us. Was this
as satisfactory as all the rest of it? Why, no. And that is why I made
that pause at the end of the last chapter. We had noticed that a shade
had passed over our father's face; and, we being simple and
affectionate people, that shade had been reflected on ours, though we
hardly knew why.

For our Cousin Reuben was a great favorite with all of us. He had
been apprenticed to a waterman, but had won his coat and freedom a few
months before this. He was a merry, slangy, dapper fellow, about
seventeen, always to be found at street-corners, with his hands in his
pockets, talking loud. We had been very proud of his victory; it was
the talk of all the water-side; he rowed in such perfect form, and
with such wonderful rapidity. The sporting papers took him up. He was
matched at some public-house to row against somebody else for some
money. He won it, but there was a dispute about it, and the sporting
papers had leading articles thereon. But the more famous Reuben
became, the more my father's face clouded when he spoke of him.

That birthday-night I was sleepily going up to bed, when my father
stopped me by saying, "Old man, you and me must have a talk,"
whereupon my mother departed. "Jim," said he, as soon as she was gone,
"did you ever hear anything about your cousin Reuben's father?"

I said quickly, "No; but I had often thought it curious that we had
never heard anything of him."

"The time is come, my boy, when you must know as much as I do. It is
a bitter thing to have to tell you; but you are old enough to share
the family troubles." And I heard the following story:--

Samuel Burton had been a distant cousin of my father's. When about
twelve years old, he had expressed a wish to go into service, and his
friends had got for him a place as page or steward-room boy, in the
family of an opulent gentleman.

At the time of his going there the heir of the house was a mere
infant. As time went on, his father, anxious for him to escape the
contaminations of a public school, sent him to a highly expensive
private tutor; and the boy selected Samuel Burton, his favorite, to
accompany him as his valet.

The father had been anxious that his boy should escape the
contamination of a public school,--the more so, because, at the age of
thirteen, he was a very difficult and somewhat vicious boy. The father
took the greatest care, and made every possible inquiry. The Rev. Mr.
Easy was a man of high classical attainments, and unblemished
character. There were only two other pupils, both of the most
respectable rank in life,--one, the son and heir of Sir James
Mottesfont; the other, son of the great city man, Mr. Peters. Nothing
could be more satisfactory. Alas! the poor father in avoiding
Charybdis had run against Scylla. In avoiding the diluted vice of a
public school, he had sent his son into a perfectly undiluted
atmosphere of it. Young Mottesfont was an irreclaimable vicious idiot,
and Peters had been sent away from a public school for drunkenness. In
four years' time our young gentleman "was finished," and was sent to
travel with a tutor, keeping his old servant, Samuel Burton (who had
learned something also), and began a career of reckless debauchery of
all kinds. After two years he was angrily recalled by his father. Not
very long after his return Samuel Burton married (here my father's
face grew darker still). Hitherto his character, through all his
master's excesses, had been most blameless. The young gentleman's
father had conceived a great respect for the young man, and was glad
that his wild son should have so staid and respectable a servant
willing to stay with him.

A year after Samuel was married a grand crash came. The young
gentleman, still a minor, was found to be awfully in debt, to have
been raising money most recklessly, to have been buying jewellery and
selling it again. His creditors, banding themselves together, refused
to accept the plea of minority; two of their number threatened to
prosecute for swindling if their claims were not settled in full. An
arrangement was come to for six thousand pounds, and the young
gentleman was allowanced with two hundred a year and sent abroad.

Samuel Burton, seeing that an end was come to a system of plunder
which he had carried on at his young master's expense, came out in his
true colors. He robbed the house of money and valuables to the amount
of thirteen hundred pounds, and disappeared,--utterly and entirely
disappeared,--leaving his wife and child to the mercy of my father.

This was my father's account of his disappearance. He concealed from
me the fact that Samuel Burton had been arrested and transported for
fourteen years.

The poor mother exerted herself as well as she was able; but she had
been brought up soft-handed, and could do but little. When Reuben was
about ten she died; my father took the boy home, and ultimately
apprenticed him to a waterman.

"And now, my boy, you see why I am anxious about Reuben's coming to
live with us. He comes of bad blood on both sides; and his father is,
for aught I know, still alive. Reuben ain't going on as I could wish.
I don't say anything against those as row races, or run races, or ride
races; I only know it ain't my way, and I don't want it to be. There's
too much pot'us about it for our sort, my boy; so you see I don't want
him and his lot here on that account. And then he is a dapper little
chap; and our Emma is very pretty and sweet, and there may be mischief
there again. Still, I can't refuse him. I thought I was doing a kind
thing to a fatherless lad in calling him cousin, but I almost wish I
had n't now. So I say to you, keep him at a distance. Don't let him
get too intimate in our part of the house. Good night, old man."

"Where are you going to put him, father?"

"As far off as I can," said my father. "In the big room at the top
of the house."

"In the ghost's room?" said I. And I went to bed, and dreamt of
Reuben being woke in the night by a little old lady in gray-shot silk
and black mittens, who came and sat on his bed and knitted at him.
For, when my mother was confined with Fred, Mrs. Quickly was in
attendance, and told us of such an old lady in the attic aloft there,
and had confirmed her story by an appeal to Miss Tearsheet, then in
seclusion, in consequence of a man having been beaten to death by Mr.
Pistol and others. We were very few doors from Alsatia in those times!



Chapter IV. The Colonial Secretary Sees Snakes and Other Vermin



IT was a hard hit in a tender place for the Colonial Secretary. He
had started in life as the younger son of a Worcestershire squire, and
had fought his way, inch by inch, up to fame, honor, and wealth. He
was shrewd, careful enough of the main chance, and very ambitious;
but, besides this, he was a good-hearted, affectionate fellow; and one
of his objects of ambition had been to have a quiet and refined home,
wherein he might end his days in honor, presided over by a wife who
was in every way worthy of him. Perhaps he had been too much engaged
in money-making, perhaps he had plunged too fiercely into politics,
perhaps he had never found a woman who exactly suited him; but so it
was,--he had postponed his domestic scheme to his other schemes, until
he was two-and-forty, and might have postponed it longer, had he not
met Agnes Neville, at a geological pic-nic, in the crater of
Necnicabarla. Here was everything to be wished for: beauty, high
breeding, sweet temper, and the highest connection. Four of her
beautiful sisters had married before her, every one of them to one of
the best-bred and richest squatters in that wealthy colony. Mrs.
Morton of Jip Jip; Mrs. Hill of Macandemdah; the Honorable Mrs.
Packenham of Langi Cal Cal; and lastly, the beautiful and witty Mrs.
Somerton of Lal Lal and Pywheitjork.* He fell in love with Miss
Neville at once; their marriage was delayed, principally on account of
troublesome political reasons, for six months, and in that time he had
got to love, like a brother, her little sister, Gerty Neville, and the
last and most beautiful of the six beautiful sisters. Even before he
was married, he and Agnes had laid out all sorts of plans for her
future settlement. He had even a scheme for taking her to Paris,
getting her properly dressed there, and pitching her into the London
season, under the auspices of his mother, as a gauntlet to English
beauty.

It was a hard hit for him. He had always been so especially hard on a
certain kind of young English gentleman, who has sailed too close to
the wind at home, and who comes to the colony to be whitewashed. He
had fulminated against that sort of thing so strongly. From his place
in the House he had denounced it time after time. That his colony, his
own colony, which he had helped to make, was to become a sewer or sink
for all the rubbish of the Old Country! How he had protested against
and denounced that principle, whether applied to male or female
emigrants; and now Gerty was proposing to marry a man, whom he was
very much inclined to quote as one of the most offensive examples of
it.

And another provoking part of the business was, that he would have
little or no sympathy. The colony would say that the youngest Miss
Neville had made a great catch, and married better than any of her
sisters. The fellow would be a baronet with £10,000 a year. There was
a certain consolation in that,--a considerable deal of consolation; if
it had not been that the Secretary loved her, that might have made him
tolerably contented with her lot. But he loved her; and the man, were
he fifty baronets, was a low fellow of loose character; and it was
very hot; and so the Secretary was discontented.

Very hot. The tide out, leaving a band of burning sand, a quarter of
a mile broad, between sea and shore. Where he had struck the sea
first, at Wooriallock Point, the current, pouring seaward off the spit
of sand, had knocked up a trifling surf, which chafed and leaped in
tiny waves, and looked crisp, and cool, and aerated. But, now he was
in the lone bight of the bay, the sea was perfectly smooth and oily,
deadly silent and calm, under the blazing sun. The water did not break
upon the sand, but only now and then sneaked up a few feet with a lazy
whisper. Before him, for twelve miles or more, were the long, level
yellow sands, without one single break as far as the eye could reach;
on his right the glassy sea, gleaming under the background of a heavy,
slow-sailing thunder-cloud; and on his left the low wall of dark
evergreen shrubs, which grew densely to the looser and drier sands
that lay piled in wind-heaps beyond the reach of the surf.

Once his horse shied; it was at a black snake, which had crept down
to bathe, and which raised its horrible wicked head from out its coils
and hissed at him as he went by. Another time he heard a strange
rippling noise, coming from the glassy, surfless sea on his right. It
was made by a shark, which, coming swiftly, to all appearance, from
under the dark thunder-cloud, headed shoreward, making the spray fly
in a tiny fountain from his back-fin, which was visible above the
surface. As he came on, the smaller fish, snappers and such like,
hurled themselves out of water in hundreds, making the sea alive for
one instant; but after that the shark, and the invisible fish he was
in pursuit of, sped seaward again; the ripple they had made died out
on the face of the water, and the water in the bay was calm, still,
and desolate once more.

Intolerably lonely. He pushed his horse into a canter, to make a
breeze for himself which the heavens denied him. Still only the long
weary stretch of sand, the sea on the right, and the low evergreens on
the left.

But now far, far ahead, a solitary dot upon the edge of the gleaming
water, which, as the good horse threw the ground behind him, grew
larger and larger. Yes, it was a man who toiled steadily on in the
same direction the Secretary was going,--a man who had his trousers
off, and was walking bare-legged on the edge of the sea to cool his
fect; a man who looked round from time to time, as if to see who was
the horseman behind him.

The Secretary reined up beside him with a cheery "Good day," and the
man respectfully returned the salutation. The Secretary recognized his
man in an instant, but held his tongue.

He was a tall, narrow-shouldered man, who might have been forty or
might have been sixty; as with most other convicts, his age was a
profound mystery. You could see that he had been originally what some
people, hasty observers, would call a good-looking young man, and was
even now what those same hasty observers would call a good-looking
middle-aged man. His hair was gray, and he had that wonderfully clear
dark-brown complexion which one sees so continually among old convicts
who have been much in the bush. His forehead was high and bald, and
his nose was very long, delicate, and aquiline,--so much was in his
favor; but then,--why, all the lower part of his face, upper lip,
mouth, lower lip and all, were pinched up in a heap under the long
nose. When I read "Little Dorrit," I was pleased to find that Mr.
Dickens was describing in the person of M. Rigaud one of our commonest
types of convict face, but Frenchified and wearing a mustache, and was
pleased also to see that, with his wonderfully close observation, he
had not committed the mistake of making his man a brave and violent
villain, but merely a cunning one.

The Secretary looked down on the bald head and the Satanic eyebrows,
which ran down from high above the level of the man's ears and nearly
met above his great transparent hook-nose, and said to himself, "Well,
you are a more ill-looking scoundrel than I thought you the other day,
though you did look a tolerable rogue then."

The man saw that the Secretary had recognized him, and the Secretary
saw that he saw it; but they both ignored the fact. It was so lonely
on these long sands, that the Secretary looked on this particular
scoundrel as if he were a rather interesting book which he had picked
up, and which would beguile the way.

"Hot day, my man."

"Very hot, your honor; but if that thunder-cloud will work up to us
from the west, we shall have the south wind up in the tail of it, as
cold as ice. Your honor will excuse my walking like this. I looked
round and saw you had no ladies with you."

Not at all an unpleasant or coarse voice. A rather pleasing voice,
belonging to a person who had mixed with well-bred people at some time
or another.

"By Jove," said the Secretary, "don't apologize my man. I rather envy
you. But look out for the snakes. I have seen two on the edge of the
salt water; you must be careful with your bare feet."

"I saw the two you speak of, sir, a hundred yards off. I have a
singularly quick eye. It is possible, your honor, that if I had been
transported a dozen years earlier I might have made a good bushman. I
was too effeminately bred also, Mr. Secretary. I was spoilt too young
by your class, Mr. Secretary, or I might have developed into a bolder
and more terrible rogue than I am."

"What a clever dog it is!" thought the Secretary. "Knowing that he
can't take me in, and yet trying to do it through a mere instinct of
deceit, which has become part of his nature. And his instinct shows
him that this careless frankness was the most likely dodge to me, who
know everything, and more. By gad, it is a wonderful rogue!"

He thought this, but he said: "Fiddlededee about terrible rogues. You
are clear now; why don't you mend your ways, man? Confound it, why
don't you mend your ways?"

"I am going to," said the other. "Not, Mr. Colonial Secretary,
because I am a bit a less rogue than before, but because it will pay.
Catch me tripping again, Mr. Oxton, and hang me."

"I say," said the Secretary; "you mus'n't commit yourself, you know."

"Commit myself!" said the man, with a sneer; "commit myself to you!
Haven't I been confidential with you? Don't I know that every word I
have said to you in confidence is sacred? Don't I know that what you
choose to call your honor will prevent your using one word of any
private conversation against me? Haven't I been brought up among such
as you? Haven't I been debauched and ruined by such as you? Commit
myself! I know and despise your class too well to commit myself. You
daren't use one word I have said against me. Such as I have the pull
of you there. You daren't, for your honor's sake."

And, as he turned his angry face upon the Secretary, he looked so
much more fiendish than the snake, and so much more savage than the
shark, that the Secretary rode on, saying, "Well, my man, I am sorry I
said anything to offend you"; and, as he rode on, leaving the solitary
figure toiling on behind him, he thought somewhat like this:

"Curious cattle, these convicts! Even the most refined of them get at
times defiant and insolent, in their way. What a terrible rogue this
fellow is! He saw I recognized him from the first. I hate a convict
who turns Queen's evidence. I wonder where he is going. I wish I could
turn him over the border. I hate having convicts loose in my little
colony. It is an infernal nuisance being so close to a penal
settlement; but there is no help for it. I wonder where that rogue is
making for; I wish he would make for Sydney. Where can he be going?"

One cannot help wondering what the Secretary would have said had he
known, as we do, that this desperate rogue was bound on exactly the
same errand as himself. That is to say, to foregather with Mr. George
Hillyar, the man who was to bé a baronet, and have £10,000 a year, and
who, God help us, was to marry Gerty Neville.

"Let me see," said the Secretary. "That fellow's real name came out
on his trial. What was it? Those things are worth remembering. Samuel
Barker,--no; it wasn't Barker, because that's the name of the Cape
Wilberforce people. Rippon, that was the name; no, it wasn't. What is
his name? Ah! Rippon and--Rippon and Burton. Ah! for the man's name
was Samuel Burton." * One would not dare to invent these names. They
are all real.



Chapter V. James Burtons Story: The Ghosts Room is Invaded, and James
           puts his Foot Through the Floor.



In due time,--that is to say, a fortnight after my fifteenth
birthday,--we moved into the new house. It was eight o'clock on a
bright summer's morning when my father got the key from Mr. Long,
unlocked the gate in the broken palings which surrounded the house,
and passed into the yard, surrounded by his whole awe-stricken family.

There was no discovery made in the yard. It was commonplace. A square
flagged space, with a broken water-buit in one corner under an old--
fashioned leaden gargoyle. There was also a grindstone, and some odd
bits of timber which lay about near the pump, which was nearly grown
up with nettles and ryegrass. In front of me, as I stood in the yard,
the great house rose, flushed with the red blaze of the morning sun;
behind were the family,--Joe leaning on his crutch, with his great
eyes staring out of his head in eager curiosity; after him the group
of children, clustered round Emma, who carried in her arms my brother
Fred, a large-headed stolid child of two, who was chronically black
and blue in every available part of his person with accidents, and who
was, even now, evidently waiting for an opportunity to distinguish
himself in that line.

Joe had not long before made acquaintance with kind old Mr. Faulkner,
who had coached him up in antiquities of the house; and Joe had told
me everything. We boys fully expected to find Lord Essex's helmet
lying on the stairs, or Queen Elizabeth's glove in the passage. So
when father opened the great panelled door, and went into the dark
entry, we pushed in after him, staring in all directions, expecting to
see something or another strange; in which we were disappointed. There
was nothing more strange than a large entrance-hall, a broad
staircase, with large balustrades, somewhat rickety and out of the
perpendicular, winding up one side of it to the floor above, and a
large mullioned window half-way up. Our first difficulty arose from
Frank, my youngest brother but one, declining to enter the house, on
the grounds that Shadrach was hiding in the cellar. This difficulty
being overcome, we children, leaving father and mother to inspect the
ground-floor, pushed up stairs in a body to examine the delectable
regions above, where you could look out of window, over Shepherd's
nursery-ground, and see the real trees waving in the west.

On reaching the first floor, my youngest brother, Fred, so to speak,
inaugurated, or opened for public traffic, the staircase, by falling
down it from the top to bottom, and being picked up black in the face,
with all the skin off his elbows and knees. Our next hitch was with
Frank, who refused to go any further because Abednego was in the
cupboard. Emma had to sit down on the landing, and explain to him that
the three holy children were not, as Frank had erroneously gathered
from their names, ghosts who caught hold of your legs through the
banisters as you went up stairs, or burst suddenly upon you out of
closets; but respectable men, who had been dead, lawk-a-mercy, ever so
long. Joe and I left her, combating, somewhat unsuccessfully, a theory
that Meshech was at that present speaking up the chimney, and would
immediately appear, in a cloud of soot, and frighten us all to death;
and went on to examine the house.

And really we went on with something like awe upon us. There was no
doubt that we were treading on the very same boards which had been
trodden, often enough, by the statesmen and dandies of Queen
Elizabeth's Court, and most certainly by the mighty woman herself.
Joe, devourer of books, had, with Mr. Faulkner's assistance, made out
the history of the house; and he had communicated his enthusiasm even
to me, the poor simple blacksmith's boy. So when we, too, went into
the great room on the first floor, even I, stupid lad, cast my eyes
eagerly around to see whether anything remained of the splendor of the
grand old court, of which I had heard from Joe.

Nothing. Not a bit of furniture. Three broad windows, which looked
westward. A broad extent of shaky floor, an immense fire-place, and
over it a yellow dingy old sampler, under a broken glass, hanging all
on one side on a rusty nail.

Joe pounced upon this at once, and devoured it. "Oh, Jim! Jim!" he
said to me, "just look at this. I wonder who she was"?

"There's her name to it, old man," I answered. "I expect that name's
hern, ain't it? For," I said hesitatingly, seeing that Joe was excited
about it, and feeling that I ought to be so myself, though not knowing
why,--"for, old man, if they'd forged her name, maybe they'd have done
it in another colored worsted."

This bringing forth no response, I felt that I was not up to the
occasion; I proceeded to say that worsteds were uncommon hard to
match, which ask our Emma, when Joe interrupted me.

"I don't mean that, Jim. I mean, what was her history. Did she write
it herself, or who wrote it for her? What a strange voice from the
grave it is. Age eighteen; date 1686; her name Alice Hillyar. And then
underneath, in black, one of her beautiful sisters has worked, 'She
dyed 3d December, that yeare.' She is dead, Jim, many a weary year
agone, and she did this when she was eighteen years old. If one could
only know her history, eh? She was a lady. Ladies made these common
samplers in those times. See, here is Emma. Emma, dear, see what I
have found. Take and read it out to Jim."

Emma, standing in the middle of the deserted room, with the morning
sunlight on her face, and with the rosy children clustering round her,
read it out to us. She, so young, so beautiful, so tender and devoted,
stood there, and read out to us the words of a girl, perhaps as good
and as devoted as she was, who had died a hundred and fifty years
before. Even I, dull boy as I was, felt there was something strange
and out-of-the-way in hearing the living girl reading aloud the words
of the girl who had died so long ago. I thought of it then; I thought
of it years after, when Joe and I sat watching a dim blue promontory
for two white sails which should have come plunging round before the
full south wind.

It was but poor doggrel that Emma read out to us. First came the
letters of the alphabet; then the numbers; then a house and some fir-
trees; then:--"Weep not, sweet friends, my early doom. Lay not fresh
flowers upon my tomb; But elder sour and briony, And yew bough broken
from the tree My sisters kind and beautiful! My brothers brave and
dutiful! My mother denre, beat not thy breast, Thy hunchbacked
daughter is at rest. See, friends, I am not loath to go; My Lord will
take me, that I know."

Poor as it was, it pleased Joe; and as I had a profound belief in
Joe's good taste, I was pleased also. I thought it somewhat in the
tombstone line myself, and fell into the mistake of supposing that one
was to admire it on critical, rather than on sentimental grounds. Joe
hung it up over his bed, and used to sit up in the night and tell me
stories about the young lady, whom he made a clothes-peg on which he
hung every fancy of his brain.

He took his yellow sampler to kind old Mr. Faulkner, who told him
that our new house, Church Place, had been the family place of the
Hillyars at the close of the seventeenth century. And then the old man
put on his hat, took his stick, called his big dog, and, taking Joe by
the hand, led him to that part of the old church burial-ground which
lies next the river; and there he showed him her grave. She lay in
that fresh breezy corner which overlooks the flashing busy river, all
alone. "Alice Hillyar; born 1668, died 1686." Her beautiful sisters
lay elsewhere, and the brave brothers also; though, by a beautiful
fiction, they were all represented on the family tomb in the chancel,
kneeling one behind the other. It grew to be a favorite place with
Joe, this grave of the hunchbacked girl, which overlooked the tide;
and Emma would sit with him there sometimes. And then came one and
joined them, and talked soft and low to Emma, whose foot would often
dally with the letters of his own surname on the worn old stone.

The big room quite came up to our expectations. We examined all the
other rooms on the same floor; then we examined the floor above; and,
lastly, Joe said:

"Jim, are you afraid to go up into the ghost's room?"

"N--no," I said; "I don't mind in the day time."

"When Rube comes," said Joe, "we sha'n't be let to it; so now or
never."

We went up very silently. The door was ajar, and we peeped in. It was
nearly bare and empty, with only a little nameless lumber lying in one
corner. It was high for an attic, in consequence of the high pitch of
the roof, and not dark, though there was but one window to it; this
window being a very large dormer, taking up nearly half the narrow end
of the room. The ceiling was, of course, lean-to, but at a slighter
angle to the floor than is usual.

But what struck us immediately was, that this room, long as it was,
did not take up the whole of the attic story. And, looking towards the
darker end of the room, we thought we could make out a door. We were
afraid to go near it, for it would not have been very pleasant to have
it opened suddenly, and for a little old lady, in gray-shot silk and
black mittens, to come popping out on you. We, however, treated the
door with great suspicion, and I kept watch on it while Joe looked out
of window.

When it came to my turn to look out of window, Joe kept watch. I
looked right down on the top of the trees in the Rectory garden;
beyond the Rectory I could see the new tavern, the Cadogan Arms, and
away to the northeast St. Luke's Church. It was a pleasant thing to
look, as it were, down the chimneys of the Black Lion, and over them
into the Rectory garden. The long walk of pollard limes, the giant
acacias, and the little glimpse of the lawn between the boughs, was
quite a new sight to me. I was enjoying the view, when Joe said:--

"Can you see the Cadogan Arms?"

"Yes."

"I wonder what the Earl of Essex would have thought if--"

At this moment there was a rustling of silk in the dark end of the
room, and we both, as the Yankees say, "up stick" and bolted. Even in
my terror I am glad to remember that I let Joe go first, though he
could get along with his crutch pretty nearly as fast as I could. We
got down stairs as quick as possible, and burst in on the family, with
the somewhat premature intelligence, that we had turned out the ghost,
and that she was, at that present moment, coming down stairs in gray-
shot silk and black mittens.

There was an immediate rush of the younger ones towards my mother and
Emma, about whom they clustered like bees. Meanwhile my father stepped
across to the shop for a trifle of a striking-hammer, weight eighteen
pounds, and, telling me to follow him, went up stairs. I obeyed, in
the first place, because his word was law to me, and, in the second,
because in his company I should not have cared one halfpenny for a
whole regiment of old ladies in gray silk. We went up stairs rapidly,
and I followed him into the dark part of the room.

We were right in supposing that we had seen a door. There it was,
hasped--or, as my father said, hapsed--up and covered with cobwebs.
After two or three blows from the hammer, it came open, and we went
in.

The room we entered was nearly as large as the other, but dark, save
for a hole in the roof. In one corner was an old tressel bed, and at
its head a tattered curtain, which rustled in the wind, and accounted
for our late panic. I was just beginning to laugh at this, when I gave
a cry of terror, for my right foot had gone clean through the boards.

My father pulled me out laughing; but I had hurt my knee, and had to
sit down. My father knelt down to look at it; when he had done so, he
looked at the hole I had made.

"An ugly hole in the boards, old man; we must tell Rube about it, or
he'll break his leg, may be. What a depth there is between the floor
and the ceiling below!" he said, feeling with his hammer; "I never
did, surely."

After which he carried me down stairs, for I had hurt my knee
somewhat severely, and did not get to work for a week or more.

When father made his appearance among the family, carrying me in his
arms, there was a wild cry from the assembled children. My mother
requested Emma to put the door-key down her back; and then, seeing
that I was really hurt, said that she felt rather better, and that
Emma needn't.

Some one took me from my father, and said, in a pleasant, cheery
voice,--

"Hallo! here's our Jim been a-trotting on the loose stones without
his knee-caps. Hold up, old chap, and don't cry; I'll run round to the
infant--school for a pitch-plaster, and call at the doctor's shop as I
go for the fire--engine. That's about our little game, unless you
think it necessary for me to order a marvel tomb at the greengrocer's.
Not a-going to die this bout? I thought as much."

I laughed. We always laughed at Reuben,--a sort of small master in
the art of cockney chaff; which chaff consisted in putting together a
long string of incongruities in a smart, jerky tone of voice. This,
combined with consummate impudence; a code of honor which, though
somewhat peculiar, is rarely violated; a reckless, though persistent,
courage; and, generally speaking, a fine physique, are those better
qualities of the Londoner ("cockney," as those call him who don't care
for two black eyes, et cetera), which make him, in rough company, more
respected and "let alone" than any other class of man with whom I am
acquainted. The worst point in his character, the point which spoils
him, is his distrust for high motives. His horizon is too narrow. You
cannot get him on any terms to allow the existence of high motives in
others. And, where he himself does noble and generous things (as he
does often enough, to my knowledge), he hates being taxed with them,
and invariably tries to palliate them by imputing low motives to
himself. If one wanted to be fanciful, one would say that the
descendant of the old London 'prentice had inherited his grandsires'
distrust for the clergy and the aristocracy, who were to the city
folk, not so intimate with them as the country folk, the
representatives of lofty profession and imperfect practice. However
this may be, your Londoner's chief fault, in the present day, is his
distrust of pretensions to religion and chivalrous feeling. He can be
chivalrous and religious at times; but you must hold your tongue about
it.

Reuben was an average specimen of a town-bred lad; he had all their
virtues and vices in petto. He was a gentle, good-humored little
fellow, very clever, very brave, very kind-hearted, very handsome in a
way, with a flat-sided head and regular features. The fault as
regarded his physical beauty, was, that he was always "making
faces,"--"shaving," as my father used to call it. He never could keep
his mouth still. He was always biting his upper-lip or his under-lip,
or chewing a straw, or spitting in an unnecessary manner. If he could
have set that mouth into a good round No, on one or two occasions, and
kept it so, it would have been better for all of us.



Chapter VI. James Burton's Story: The Preliminaries to the Momentous
            Expedition to Stanlake.



THAT same year also, Joe and I made a new acquaintance, in this
manner:--

It had become evident to me, who had watched Joe so long, that his
lameness was to some slight extent on the mend. I began to notice
that, in the case of our getting into a fight in the street (no
uncommon case among the Chelsea street-children, even in this improved
age, as I am given to understand), and being driven to retreat, he
began to make much better weather of it. I was pleased to find this,
for nothing on earth could have prevented his following me at a
certain distance to see how I was getting on. The first time I noticed
a decided improvement was this. We (Church Street--Burtons, Chittles,
Holmeses, Agers, &c.) were at hot feud with Danvers Street on the west
side of us, and Lawrence Street on the east. Lawrence Street formed a
junction with Danvers Street by Lombard Street; and so, when we went
across the end of the space now called Panlton Square, we came
suddenly on the enemy, three to one. The affair was short, but
decisive. Everything that skill and valor could do was done, but it
was useless. We fled silent and swift, and the enemy followed,
howling. When round the first corner, to my astonishment, there was
Joe, in the thick and press of the disordered ranks, with his crutch
over his shoulder, getting along in a strange waddling way, but at a
most respectable pace. The next moment my fellow-apprentice and I had
him by his arms and hurried him along between us, until the pursuit
ceased, the retreat stopped, and we were in safety.

I thought a great deal about this all the rest of the day. I began
to see that, if it were possible to strengthen the poor lad's leg by
gradual abandonment of the crutch, a much brighter future was before
him. I determined to try.

"Joe, old fellow," I said, as soon as we were in bed, "have you got
a story for us?"

"No," he said, "I have n't. I am thinking of something else, Jim."

"What about?"

"About the country. The country is here within three miles of us. I
been asking Rube about it. He says he goes miles up the river into it
in his lighter. Real country, you knows,--stiles, and foot-paths, and
cows, and all of it. You and me has never seen it. Lets we go."

"But," I said, "what's the good? That there crutch of yourn (that's
the way I used to talk in those old times) would prevent you getting
there; and when you get there, old chap, you couldn't get about. And,
if the cows was to run after you, you couldn't hook it over the gates
and stiles, and such as you talks on. Therefore I ask you, What's the
good?"

"But the cows," urged Joe, "don't allus come rampaging at you, end
on, do 'em?" (That is the way our orator used to speak at twelve years
old.)

"Most times they does, I reckon," I replied, and turned myself over
to sleep, almost afraid that I had already said too much "about that
there crutch of hisn." I had become aware of the fact that crutches
grew, ready made, in Shepherd's nursery-ground, in rows, like
gooseberry-trees, and was on the eve of some fresh discoveries in the
same line, when Joe awoke me.

"Jim," he said, "Rube's barge goes up on the tide to-morrow morning;
let us see whether or no we can get a holiday and go?"

I assented, though I thought it doubtful that my father would give us
leave. A month or so before he would have refused our request point--
blank. Indeed, I should not have taken the trouble to ask him, but I
had noticed that he had softened considerably towards Reuben. Reuben
was so gentle and affectionate, and so respectful to my father and
mother, that it was impossible not to yield in some way; and so Reuben
was more and more often asked into our great kitchen on the ground-
floor, when he was heard passing at night up to his solitary chamber
in the roof.

At this time I began first to notice his singular devotion to my
sister Emma,--a devotion which surprised me, as coming from such a
feather--headed being as Reuben, who was by no means addicted to the
softer emotions. I saw my father look rather uneasily at them
sometimes, but his face soon brightened up again. It was only the
admiring devotion of a man to a beautiful child. Reuben used to
consult her on every possible occasion, and implicitly follow her
advice. He told me once that, if you came to that, Emma had more head-
piece than the whole lot of us put together.

My father gave us his leave; and at seven o'clock, on the sweet May
morning, we started on our first fairy voyage up the river, in a barge
full of gravel, navigated by the drunken one-eyed old man who had been
Rube's master. It was on the whole the most perfectly delightful
voyage I ever took. There is no craft in the world so comfortable as a
coal barge. It has absolutely no motion whatever about it; you glide
on so imperceptibly that the banks seem moving, and you seem still.
Objects grow slowly on the eye, and then slowly fade again; and they
say, "We have passed so and so," when all the time it would seem more
natural to say, "So and so has passed us."

This was the first voyage Joe and I ever took together. We have made
many voyages and journeys since, and have never found the way long
while we were together; we shall have to make the last journey of all
separate, but we shall meet again at the end of it.

O, glorious and memorable May-day! New wonders and pleasures at every
turn. The river swept on smoothly without a ripple, past the trim
villa lawns, all ablaze with flowers; and sometimes under tall dark
trees, which bent down into the water, and left no shore. Joe was in a
frantic state of anxiety to know all the different kinds of trees by
sight, as he did by name. Reuben, the good-natured, was nearly as
pleased as ourselves, and at last "finished" Joe by pointing out to
him a tulip-tree in full bloom. Joe was silent after this. He kept
recurring to this tulip-tree all the rest of the day at intervals; and
the last words I heard that night, on dropping to sleep, were, "But
after all there was nothing like the tulip-tree."

In one long reach, I remember, we heard something coming towards us
on the water, with a measured rushing noise, very swiftly; and before
we could say, What was it? it was by us, and gone far away. We had a
glimpse of a brown thin-faced man, seated in a tiny outrigger, which
creaked beneath the pressure of each mighty stroke, skimming over the
water like a swallow, with easy undulations, so fast that the few
swift runners on the bank were running their hardest. "Robert Coombes
training," said Reuben, with bated breath; and we looked after the
flying figure with awe and admiration, long after it was gone round
the bend, and the gleaming ripples which he had made upon the oily
river had died into stillness once more.

I hardly remember, to tell the truth, how far we went up with that
tide; I think, as far as Kew. When the kedge was dropped, we all got
into a boat, and went ashore to a public house. I remember perfectly
well that I modestly asked the one-eyed old man, lately Rube's master,
whether he would be pleased to take anything. He was pleased to put a
name to gin and cloves, which he drank in our presence, to Joe's
intense interest, who leant on his crutch, and stared at him intently
with his great prominent eyes. Joe had heard of the old man's
extraordinary performances when in liquor, and he evidently expected
this particular dram to produce immediate and visible effects. He was
disappointed. The old man assaulted nobody (he probably missed his
wife), ordered another dram, wiped his mouth on the back of his hand,
swore an ingenious oath perfectly new to the whole of his audience,
lit his pipe, and sat down on a bench fronting the river.

Then, after a most affectionate farewell with Reuben, we turned to
walk homewards,--Joe walking stoutly and bravely with his crutch over
his shoulder. We enjoyed ourselves more on shore than on the river,
for Joe said that there were wild tulips on Kew Green, and wanted to
find some.* So we hunted for them, but without success. The tulip-tree
at Fulham had given me incorrect ideas, and I steadily looked up into
the limes and horse--chestnuts for them. Then we pushed on again, and
at the turnpike on Barnes Common we took our first refreshment that
day. We had some bread and treacle in a cotton pocket-handkerchief,
and we bought two bottles of ginger-beer; and, for the first time in
our lives, we "pic-nic'd." We sat on the short turf together, and ate
our bread and treacle, and drank our ginger-beer.

Last year, when Joe and I came over to the Exhibition as
Commissioners, we, as part of our duty, were invited to dine with one
of the very greatest men in England. I sat between Mrs. Oxton and a
Marchioness. And during dinner, in a low tone of voice, I told Mrs.
Oxton this story about the bread and treacle, and the ginger-beer.
And, to my surprise, and rather to my horror, as I must confess, Mrs.
Oxton, speaking across me, told the whole story over again to the
Marchioness, of whom I was in mortal terror. But, after this, nothing
could be more genial and kind to me than was that terrible
Marchioness; and in the drawing-room, I saw her, with my own eyes, go
and tell the whole horrid truth to her husband, the Marquis. Whereupon
he came over at once, and made much of me, in a corner. Their names,
as I got them from Mrs. Oxton, were Lord and Lady Hainault.

Then we (on Putney Common twenty years ago) lay back and looked at
the floating clouds, and Joe said, "Reuben is going to marry our Emma,
and I am glad of it."

"But he mus'n't," I said; "it won't do."

"Why not"?

"Father won't hear on it, I tell you. Rube ain't going on well."

"Yes, he is now," said Joe, "since he's been seeing so much of Emma.
Don't you notice, Jim? He hasn't sworn a oath to-day. He has cut all
that Cheyne Walk gang. I tell you she will make a man of him."

"I tell you," I said, "father won't hear tell on it. Besides, she's
only fourteen. And, also, who is fit to marry Emma? Go along with
you."

And so we went along with us. And our first happy holiday came to an
end by my falling asleep dog-tired at supper, with my head in my
father's lap; while Joe, broad-awake, and highly excited, was telling
them all about the tulip-tree. I was awakened by the screams incident
to Fred having fallen triumphantly into the fire, off his chair, and
having to be put out,--which being done, we went to bed.

After this first effort of ours, you might as well have tried to keep
two stormy petrels at home in a gale of wind, as to keep Joe and me
from rambling. My father "declined"--I can hardly use such a strong
word as "refuse" about him--any more holidays; but he compromised the
matter by allowing us to go an expedition into the country on Sunday
afternoon,--providing always that we went to church in the morning
with the rest of the family,--to which we submitted, though it cost us
a deal in omnibuses.

And now I find that, before I can tell you the story of our new
acquaintance in an artistic manner, I shall have to tell you what
became of that old acquaintance of ours,--Joe's crutch; because, if we
had not got rid of the one, we never should have made acquaintance
with the other.

On every expedition we made into the country, Joe used his crutch
less and less. I mean, used it less in a legitimate manner; though,
indeed, we missed it in the end, as one does miss things one has got
used to. He used it certainly to the last. I have known him dig out a
mole with it; I have known him successfully defend himself against a
dog with it in a farmyard at Roehampton; I have seen it flying up,
time after time, into a horse--chestnut-tree, (we tried them roasted
and boiled, with salt and without, but it would n't do,) until it
lodged, and we wasted the whole Sabbath afternoon in pelting it down
again. Latterly, I saw Joe do every sort and kind of thing with that
crutch, except one. He never used it to walk with. Once he broke it
short in two getting over a stile; and my father sent it to the
umbrella-mender's and had it put together at a vast expense with a
ferrule, and kept Joe from school till it was done. I saw that the
thing was useless long before the rest of the family. But, at last,
the end of it came, and the old familiar sound of it was heard no
more.

One Sunday afternoon we got away as far as Penge Wood, where the
Crystal Palace now stands; and in a field, between that and Norwood,
we found mushrooms, and filled a handkerchief with them. When we were
coming home through Battersea, we sat down on a bank to see if any of
them were broken; after which we got up and walked home again. And
then and there Joe forgot his crutch, and left it behind him on the
bank, and we never saw it any more, but walked home very fast for fear
we should be late for supper. That was the last of the crutch, unless
the one Joe saw in the marine storekeeper's in Battersea was the same
one, which you may believe or not as you like. All I know is, that he
never got a new one, and has not done so to this day.

We burst in with our mushrooms. Father and mother had waited for us,
and were gone to bed; Emma was sitting up for us, with Harry (of whom
you will know more) on her knee; and, as Joe came towards her, she
turned her sweet face on me, and said, "Why, where is Joe's crutch?"

"It's two miles off, sweetheart," I said. "He has come home without
it. He'll never want to crutch this side of the grave."

I saw her great soul rush into her eyes as she turned them on me; and
then, with that strange way she had, when anything happened, of
looking out for some one to praise, instead of, as many women do,
looking out for some one to blame and fall foul of, she said to me,--

"This is your doing, my own brother. May God bless you for it."

She came up to bed with Harry, after us. As soon as she had put him
to bed in the next room, I heard him awake Frank, his bedfellow, and
tell him that Jesus had cured our Joe of his lameness.

Now, having got rid of Joe's crutch, we began to go further afield.
Our country rambles were a great and acknowledged success. Joe, though
terribly deformed in the body, was growing handsome and strong. What
is more, Joe developed a quality, which even I should hardly have
expected him to possess. Joe was got into a corner one day by a
Danvers Street bully, and he there and then thrashed that bully.
Reuben saw it, and would have interfered, had he not seen that Joe,
with his gigantically long arms, had it all his own way; and so he
left well alone.

We began to further afield,--sometimes going out on an omnibus, and
walking home; sometimes walking all the way; Joe bringing his book--
learning on natural objects to bear, and recognizing things which he
had never seen before. Something new was discovered in this manner
every day; and one day, in a lonely pond beyond Clapham, we saw three
or four white flowers floating on the surface.

"Those," said Joe, "must be white water-lilies. I would give
anything for one of them."

In those days, before the river had got into its present filthy
condition,--in the times when you could catch a punt full of roach at
Battersea Bridge, in the turn of a tide,--nearly every Chelsea boy
could swim.

I very soon had my clothes off, and the lilies were carried home in
triumph.

"Ah, mother!" said my father, "do you remember the lilies at
Stanlake?"

"Ah, father!" said my mother.

"Acres on 'em," said my father, looking round radiantly; "hundreds
on 'em. Yallah ones as well. Waterfalls, and chaney boys being poorly
into cockle-shells, and marvel figures dancing as naked as they was
born, and blowing tunes on whilk-shells, and winkles, and such like.
Eh, mother!"

Mother began to cry.

"There, God bless me!" said my father; "I am a stupid brute if ever
there were one. Mother, old girl, it were so many years agone. Come,
now; it's all past and gone, dear."

Fred, at this moment, seeing his mother in tears, broke out in a
stentorian, but perfectly tearless, roar, and cast his bread and
butter to the four winds. Emma had to take him and walk up and down
with him, patting him on the back, and singing to him in her soft
cooing voice.

There was a knock at the room-door just when she was opposite it,--
she opened it, and there was Reuben; and I saw my father and mother
look suddenly at one another.

"May I come in, cousin?" he said to my mother, in his pleasant
voice. "Come, let's have a game with the kids before I go up and sleep
with the ghost."

"You're welcome, Rube, my boy," said my father; "and you're welcomer
every day. We miss you, Rube, when you don't come; consequently,
you're welcome when you do, which is in reason. Therefore," said my
father, pursuing his argument, "There's the place by the fire, and
there's your backer, and there's the kids. So, if mother's eyes is
red, it's with naught you've done, old boy. Leave alone," I heard my
father growl to himself (for I, as usual, was sitting next him); "is
the sins of the fathers to be visited on the tables of kindred and
affinity? No. In consequence, leave alone, I tell you. He didn't, any
how. And there was worse than his father,--now then."

In a very short time we were all comfortable and merry, Reuben
making the most atrocious riot with the "kids," my younger brothers.
But I saw that Joe was distraught; and, with that profound sagacity
which has raised me to my present eminence, I guessed that he was
planning to go to Stanlake the very next Sunday.

The moment we were in bed, I saw how profoundly wise I was. Joe
broke out. He must see the "yallah" water-lilies; the chaney boys and
the marvel figures were nothing; it was the yallah lilies. I, who had
noticed more closely than he my mother's behavior when the place was
mentioned, and the look she gave my father when Rube came in, had a
sort of fear of going there, but Joe pleaded and pleaded until I was
beaten; at last, I happily remembered that we did not know in which of
the fifty-two counties of England Stanlake was sitnated. I mentioned
this little fact to Joe. He suggested that I should ask my father. I
declined doing anything of the sort; and so the matter ended for the
night.

But Joe was not to be beaten. He came home later than usual from
afternoon school next day. The moment we were alone together, he told
me that he had been to see Mr. Fanlkner. That he had asked him where
Stanlake was; and that the old gentleman,--who knew every house and
its history, within twenty miles of London,--had told him that it was
three miles from Croydon, and was the seat of Sir George Hillyar. *
Joe was, to a certain extent, right. The common Fritillaria did grow
there--fifty years before Joe was born. He had seen the locality
quoted in some old botany-book.



Chapter VII. The Battle of Barker's Gap.



THE Secretary rode steadily on across the broad sands by the silent
sea, thinking of Gerty Neville, of how hot it was, of George Hillyar,
of the convict he had left behind, of all sorts of things, until Cape
Wilberforce was so near that it changed from a dull blue to a light
brown, with gleams of green; and was no more a thing of air, but a
real promontory, with broad hanging lawns of heath, and deep shadowed
recesses among the cliffs. Then he knew that the forty-mile beach was
nearly past, and that he was within ten miles of his journey's end and
dinner. He whistled a tune, and began looking at the low wall of
evergreen shrubs to his right.

At last, dray-tracks in the sand, and a road leading up from the
shore through the tea-scrub, into which he passed inland. Hotter than
ever here. Piles of drifted sand, scored over in every direction with
the tracks of lizards of every sort and size; some of which slid away,
with a muscular kind of waddle, into dark places; while others,
refusing to move, opened their mouths at him, or let down bags under
their chins, to frighten him. A weird sort of a place this, very snaky
in appearance; not by any means the sort of place to lie down and go
to sleep in on a hot night in March or September, when the wicked
devils are abroad at night. Did any one of my readers ever lie down,
dog-tired, on Kanonook Island, and hear the wretches sliding through
the sand all night, with every now and then a subdued "Hish, hish,
hish?" As the American gentleman says in "Martin Chuzzlewit," "Darn
all manner of vermin!"

At nightfall, he came to a little cattle-station, where he slept. It
was owned by a little gray-headed Irish gentleman, who played the
bassoon, and who had not one grievance, but fifty; who had been an
ill-used man ever since he was born,--nay, even like Tristram Shandy,
before. He had been unfortunate, had this Irish gentleman, in love, in
literature, in commerce, and in politics; in his domestic relations,
in his digestion; in Ireland, in India, in the Cape, and in New
Zealand; still more unfortunate, according to his own showing, in
Cooksland. He told all his grievances to the Secretary, proving
clearly, as unsuccessful Irish gentlemen always can do, that it was
not his own fault, but that things in general had combined against
him. Then he asked for a place in the Customs for his second son.
Lastly, he essayed to give him a tune on his bassoon; but the mason-
flies had built their nests in it, and he had to clean them out with
the worm-end of a ramrod; and so there was another grievance, as bad
as any of the others. The Secretary had to go to bed without his
music, and, indeed, had been above an hour asleep before the Irish
gentleman succeeded in clearing the instrument. Then, after several
trials, he managed to get a good bray out of it, got out his music-
books, and set to work in good earnest, within four feet of the
Secretary's head, and nothing but a thin board between them.

The country mended as he passed inland. He crossed a broad half-salt
creek, within a hundred yards of the shore, where the great bream
basked in dozens; and then he was among stunted gum-trees, looking not
so very much unlike oaks, and deep braken fern. After this he came to
a broad plain of yellow grass, which rolled up and up before him into
a down; and, when he came, after a dozen miles, to the top of this, he
looked into a broad bare valley, through which wound a large creek,
fringed by a few tall white-stemmed trees, of great girth.

Beneath him were three long, low gray buildings of wood, placed so as
to form three sides of a square, fronting the creek; and behind,
stretching up the other side of the valley, was a large paddock,
containing seven or eight fine horses. This was the police-station, at
which Lieutenant Hillyar had been quartered for some time,--partly, it
was said, in punishment for some escapade, and partly because two
desperate escaped convicts from Van Diemen's Land were suspected to be
in the neighborhood. Here George Hillyar had been thrown into the
society of the Barkers, at whose house he had met Gerty Neville.

The Secretary reined his horse up in the centre of the little
quadrangle, and roared out, Hallo! Whereupon a horse neighed in the
paddock but no other effect was produced.

He then tried a loud Cooe! This time the cat jumped up from where she
lay in the sun, and ran indoors, and the horses in the paddock began
galloping.

"Hallo! Hi! Here! Stable guard! Where the deuse have you all got to?
Hallo!"

It was evident that there was not a soul about the place. The
Secretary was very angry. "I'll report him; as sure as he's born, I'll
report him. It is too bad. It is beyond anything I ever heard of,--to
leave his station without a single man."

The Secretary got off his horse, and entered the principal room. He
looked round in astonishment, and gave a long whistle. His bushman's
eye told him, in one instant, that there had been an alarm or
emergency of some kind, immediately after daybreak, while the men were
still in bed. The mattresses and clothes were not rolled neatly up as
usual, but the blankets were lying in confusion, just as the men had
left them, when they had jumped out to dress. The carbines and swords
were gone from the rack. He ran hurriedly out, and swung himself on to
his horse, exclaiming, just as he would have done four-and-twenty
years before at Harrow.

"Well! Here is a jolly row."

It was a bare mile to the Barkers' Station. In a few minutes he came
thundering into their courtyard, and saw a pretty little woman,
dressed in white, standing in front of the door, with a pink parasol
over her head, holding by the hand a child, with nothing on but its
night-shirt.

"My dear creature," cried the Secretary, "what the dickens is the
matter?"

"Five bushrangers," cried Mrs. Barker. "They appeared suddenly last
night, and stuck up the O'Malleys' station. There is nobody killed.
There was no one in the house but Lesbia Burke,--who is inside now,--
old Miles O'Malley, and the housekeeper. They got safe away when they
saw them coming. They spared the men's huts, but have burnt the house
down."

"Bad cess to them," said a harsh, though not unpleasant voice, behind
her; and out came a tall, rather gray-headed woman, in age about
fifty, but with remains of what must have been remarkable beauty. "Bad
cess to them, I say, Mr. Oxton dear. Tis the third home I have been
burnt out of in twenty years. Is there sorra a statesman among ye all
can give a poor old Phoenix beauty a house where she may die in peace?
Is this your model colony, Secretary? Was it for this that I keened
over the cold hearthstone at Garoopna, when we sold it to the
Brentwoods, before brave Sam Buckley came a-wooing there, to win the
beauty of the world? Take me back to Gippsland some of ye, and let me
hear old Snowy growling through his boulders again, through the quiet
summer's night; or take me back to Old Ireland, and let me sit sewing
by the Castle window again, watching the islands floating on Corrib,
or the mist driving up from the Atlantic before the west wind. Is this
your model colony? Is there to be no pillow secure for the head of the
jaded, despised old Dublin flirt, who has dressed, and dizened, and
painted, and offered herself, till she became a scorn and a by--word?
A curse on all your colonies! Old Ireland is worth more than all of
them. A curse on them!"

"My dear Miss Burke! My dear Lesbia!" pleaded the Secretary.

"Don't talk to me. Hav'n't I been burnt out three times, by blacks
and by whites? Hav'n't I had to fight for my life like a man? Don't I
bear the marks of it? There is no rest for me. I know the noise of it
too well; I heard it last night. Darkness, silence, sleep, and dreams
of rest. Then the hoofs on the gravel, and the beating at the door.
Then the awakening, and the terror, and the shots, stabs, blows, and
curses. Then murder in the drawing-room, worse in the hall. Blood on
the hearthstone, and fire on the roof-tree. Don't I know it all, James
Oxton?"

"Dear Lesbia," said the good-natured Secretary, "old friend, do be
more calm."

"Calm, James Oxton, and another home gone? Tell me, have you ever had
your house burnt down? Do Agnes or Gerty know what it is to have their
homes destroyed, and all their little luxuries broken and dispersed,
their flowers trampled, and their birds killed? Do they know this?"

"Why, no," said the Secretary.

"And, if it were to happen to them, how would you feel?"

"Well, pretty much as you do, I suppose. Yes, I don't know but what I
should get cross."

"Then, vengeance, good Secretary, vengeance! Honor and high rewards
to the vermin-hunters; halters and death for the vermin."

And so Miss Burke went in, her magnificently-shaped head seeming to
float in the air as she went, and her glorious figure showing some new
curve of the infinitely variable curves of female beauty at every
step. And it was high time she should go in; for the kind, good,
honest soul was getting too much excited, and was talking more than
was good for her. She had her faults, and was, as you see above, very
much given to a Celtie--Danish-Milesian-Norman way of expressing
herself, which is apt to be classified, on this side of St. George's
Channel, as Irish rant. But her rant had a good deal of reason in
it,--which some Irish rant has not,--and, moreover, was delivered with
such magnificent accessories of voice and person, that James Oxton
himself had been heard to declare that he would at any time walk
twenty miles to see Lesbia Burke in a tantrum. Even, also, if you are
heathen enough to believe that the whole art of rhetoric merely
consists in plausibly overstating your case, with more or less
dishonesty, as the occasion demands, or your conscience will allow,
yet still you must admit that her rhetoric was successful,--for this
reason: it produced on the Colonial Secretary exactly the effect she
wished: it made him horribly angry. Those taunts of hers about his
model colony were terribly hard hitting. Had not his Excellency's
speech at the opening of the Houses contained--nay, mainly consisted
of--a somewhat offensive comparison between Cooksland and the other
five colonies of the Australian group; in which the perfect security
of life and property at home was contrasted with the fearful bush-
ranger-outrages in New South Wales. And now their turn had come,--
Cooksland's turn,--the turn of James Oxton, who had made Cooksland,
and who was Cooksland. And to meet the storm there were only four
troopers and cadets in command of Lieutenant Hillyar, the greatest
fool in the service.

"Oh, if that fellow will only bear himself like a man this one day!"
said the Secretary, as he rode swiftly along. "Oh for Wyatt, or
Malone, or Maclean, or Dixon, for one short hour! Oh, to get the thing
snuffed out suddenly and sharply, and be able to say, 'That is the way
we manage matters.'"

One, two, three--four--five--six, seven, eight shots in the distance,
sounding dully through the dense forest. Then silence, then two more
shots; and muttering, half as a prayer, half as an exclamation, "God
save us!" he dashed through the crowded timber as fast as his noble
horse would carry him.

He was cutting off an angle in the road, and, soon after he joined it
again, he came on the place where the shots had been fired. There were
two men--neither of them police--wounded on the grass, and at first he
hoped they were two of the bush-rangers; but, unluckily, they turned
out to be two of Barker's stockmen. Two lads, who attended to them,
told him that the bush-rangers had turned on the party here, and shown
fight; that no one had been wounded but these two; that in retreating
they had separated, three having gone to the right, and two to the
left; that Lieutenant Hillyar had ordered Mr. Barker's men, and three
troopers, to go to the right; while he, attended only by Cadet
Simpson, had followed the two who were gone to the left, with the
expressed intention of riding them down, as they were the best mounted
of the five robbers.

"I hope," thought the Secretary, "that he will not make a fool of
himself. The fellow is showing pluck and resolution, though,--a deal
of pluck and resolution. He means to make a spoon or spoil a horn to-
day."

So, armed only with a hunting-whip, he put his horse at a canter, and
hurried on to overtake Hillyar. Soon after he heard several shots
ahead, and began to think he might as well have had something better
in his hand than a hunting-whip. Then he met a riderless horse, going
large and wild, neighing and turning his head from side to side, and
carrying, alas! a government saddle. Then he came on poor Simpson,
lying by the side of the road, looking very ghastly and wild,
evidently severely wounded.

Mr. Oxton jumped off, and cried, "Give me your carbine, my poor lad.
Where's Hillyar?"

"Gone after the other two," said Simpson, feebly.

"Two to one now, eh?" said Mr. Oxton. "This gets exciting."

So he rode away, with the carbine on his knee; but he never had
occasion to use it. Before he had ridden far he came on the body of
one of the convicts, lying in a heap by the road-side; and, a very
short time afterwards, he met a young gentleman, in an undress light-
dragoon uniform, who was riding slowly towards him, leading,
handcuffed to his saddle, one of the most fiendish-looking ruffians
that eye ever beheld.

"Well done, Hillyar! Bravely done, sir!" cried Mr. Oxton. "I am under
personal obligations to you. The colony is under personal obligations
to you, sir. You are a fine fellow, sir!"

"Recommend me to these new American revolvers, Mr. Secretary,"
replied the young man. "These fellows had comparatively no chance at
me with their old pistols, though this fellow has unluckily hit poor
Simpson. When we came to close quarters I shot one fellow, but this
one, preferring hanging (queer taste), surrendered, and here he is."

This Lieutenant Hillyar, of whom we have heard so much and seen so
little, was certainly a very handsome young fellow. Mr. Oxton was
obliged to confess that. He was tall and well-made, and his features
were not rendered less attractive by the extreme paleness of his
complexion, though one who knew the world as well as the Secretary
could see that the deep lines in his face told of desperate hard
living; and yet now (whether it was that the Secretary was anxious to
make the best of him, or that George Hillyar was anxious to make the
best of himself), his appearance was certainly not that of a
dissipated person. He looked high-bred and handsome, and lolled on his
horse with an air of easy langor, not actually unbecoming in a man who
had just done an act of such unequivocal valor.

"Revolvers or not, sir," said Mr. Oxton, "there is no doubt about
your courage and determination. I wonder if the other party will have
fared as well as you."

"Undoubtedly," said Hillyar; "the other three fellows were utterly
outnumbered. I assure you I took great pains about this business. I
was determined it should succeed. You see, I have, unfortunately, a
rather biting tongue, and have made myself many enemies; and I have
been an objectless man hitherto, and perhaps have lived a little too
hard. Now, however, that I have something to live for, I shall change
all that. I wish the colony to hear a different sort of report about
me; and more than that, I wish to rise in the esteem of the Honorable
James Oxton, Chief Secretary for the Colony of Cooksland, and I have
begun already."

"You have, sir," said the Secretary, frankly. "Much remains;
however, we will talk more of this another time. See, here lies poor
Simpson; let us attend to him. Poor fellow!"



Chapter VIII. James Burton's Story: The Immediate Results of the
              Expedition to Stanlake.



I HAD a presentiment that our proposed Sunday expedition to Stanlake
would lead to something; and I was anxious. I noticed that my mother
had cried at the mention of the place. I saw the look that my father
and mother interchanged when Reuben came in; and I had overheard my
father's confidential growl about the sins of the fathers being
visited on the children, and so on. Therefore I felt very much as if I
was doing wrong in yielding to Joe's desire to go there, without
telling my father. But I simply acquiesced, and never mentioned my
scruples (after my first feeble protest in bed) even to Joe. And I
will confess why. I had a great curiosity to see the place. I was only
a poor stupid blacksmith-lad; but my crippled brother had given me a
taste for beautiful things, and, from my father's description, this
was the most beautiful place in the world. Then there was the charm of
secrecy and romance about this expedition,--but why analyze the
motives of a boy? To put it shortly, we deceived our good father and
mother for the first time when we went there; and we reaped the
consequences.

The consequences! But had the consequences been shown to me in a
glass, on that bright Sunday morn when we started to Stanlake, should
I have paused? I have asked myself that question more than once, and I
have answered it thus. If I had seen all the consequences which were
to follow on that expedition then, I would have thrown myself off
Battersea Bridge sooner than have gone. But I was only a blind,
ignorant boy at that time. Now, as a man, I begin, dimly and afar off,
to understand why we were let go. I don't see it all yet, but I begin
to see it.

I think that, if I had been the same man that morning as I am now, I
would have said a prayer--and gone.

Now, what seems almost like accident, were there such a thing,
favored us that Sunday morning. An affair which had been growing to a
head for some time came to its crisis that morning. Mr. and Mrs.
William Avery had taken our first floor, and Bill himself was not
going on at all well. Mrs. Bill had a nasty tongue, and he was much
too "handy with his hands." So it came about that Bill was more and
more at the "Black Lion," and that my father, who had contrived to
sawder up every man-and-wife quarrel in the buildings, was fairly
puzzled here. This very Saturday evening the crash came. We had heard
him and his wife "at it" all the evening; and heavy things, such as
chairs, had been falling overhead, whereat my mother had said, "There!
Did you ever?" But at eight o'clock, Emma, taking Fred up the broad
old stairs to bed, in his night-gown, leading him with one hand,
holding a lighted candle in the other, and slowly crooning out "The
Babes in the Wood" in her own sweet way, was alarmed by the Averys'
door being burst open, and by the awful spectacle of Mr. and Mrs.
Avery fighting on the landing. Instantly after, whether on purpose or
by accident I cannot say, the poor woman was thrown headlong down
stairs, on to the top of Emma and Fred. The candle behaved like a
magnificent French firework; but Mrs. Bill, Emma, and Fred, came down
in a heap on the mat, the dear child, with his usual luck, underneath.

After this, William Avery, holding the landing, and audibly, nay,
loudly, expressing his desire to see the master-blacksmith who would
come up stairs and offer to interfere between a man and his wife, it
became necessary for Mrs. Avery to be accommodated below for the
night. The next morning, after the liquor had died out of him, William
Avery was brought to task by my father; and during the imbroglio of
recriminations which ensued, which ended in an appeal to the
magistrate, we boys dared to do what we had never dared to do
before,--to escape church, take the steamer to London Bridge, and get
on to Croydon by the atmospheric railway, reaching that place at half-
past twelve.

It was September, but it was summer still. Those who live in the
country, they tell me, can see the difference between a summer-day in
September and a summer-day in June; but we town-folks cannot. The
country-folks have got tired of their flowers, and have begun to think
of early fires, and shortening days, and turnips, and deep cover, and
hollies standing brave and green under showering oak-leaves, which
fall on the swift wings of flitting woodcocks; but to town-folks
September is even as June. The same deep shadows on the grass, the
same tossing plumage on the elms, the same dull silver on the willows.
More silence in the brooks perhaps, and more stillness in the woods;
but the town-bred eye does not recognize the happy doze before the
winter's sleep. The country is the country to them, and September is
as June.

On a bright September day, Joe and I came, well directed, to some
park--palings, and after a short consultation we--in for a penny in
for a pound, demoralized by the domestic differences of Mr. and Mrs.
Bill Avery--climbed over them, and stood, trespassing flagrantly in
the park which they enclosed. We had no business there. We knew we
were doing wrong. We knew that we ought to have gone to church that
morning. We were guilty beings for, I really think, the first time in
our lives. William Avery's having thrown his wife down stairs on to
the top of Emma and Fred had been such a wonderful disturbance of old
order and law, that we were in a revolutionary frame of mind. We knew
that order would be once more restored, some time or another, but,
meanwhile, the barricades were up, and the jails were burning; so we
were determined to taste the full pleasure derivable from a violent
disturbance of the political balance.

First of all we came on a bright broad stream, in which we could see
brown spotted fish, scudding about on the shallows, which Joe said
must be trout. And, after an unsuccessful attempt to increase the
measure of our sins by adding poaching to trespass, we passed on
towards a dark wood, from which the stream issued.

It was a deep dark wood of lofty elms, and, as we passed on into it,
the gloom grew deeper. Far aloft the sun gleamed on the highest
boughs; but, beneath, the stream swept on through the shadows, with
scarcely a gleam of light upon the surface. At last we came on a
waterfall, and, on our climbing the high bank on one side of it, the
lake opened on our view. It was about a quarter of a mile long, hemmed
in by wood on all sides, with a boat-house, built like a Swiss chalet,
half-way along it.

The silence and solitude were profound; nothing seemed moving but
the great dragon-flies; it was the most beautiful place we had ever
seen; nothing would have stopped us now short of a policeman.

We determined to wait, and go further before we gathered the water--
lilies; then, suddenly, up rose a great red-and-black butterfly, and
Joe cried out to me for heaven's sake to get it for him. Away went the
butterfly, and I after it, headlong, not seeing where I went, only
intent on the chase. At one time I clambered over a sunk fence, and
found myself out of the wood; then I vaulted over an iron hurdle, then
barely saved myself from falling into a basin of crystal water, with a
fountain in the middle; then I was on a gravel walk, and at last got
my prize under my cap, in the middle of a bed of scarlet geranium and
blue lobelia.

"Hang it, I thought, I must be out of this pretty quick. This won't
do. We shan't get through this Sunday without a blessed row, I know."

A voice behind me said, with every kind of sarcastic emphasis:--

"Upon my veracity, young gentleman. Upon my word and honor. Now do
let me beg and pray of you, my dear creature, to make yourself
entirely at home. Trample, and crush, and utterly destroy, three or
four more of my flower-beds, and then come in and have some lunch.
Upon my word and honor!"

I turned, and saw behind me a very handsome gentleman, of about
fifty--five or so, in a blue coat, a white waistcoat, and drab
trousers, exquisitely neat, who stood and looked at me, with his hands
spread abroad interrogatively, and his delicate eyebrows arched into
an expression of sarcastic inquiry. "He won't hit me," was my first
thought; and so I brought my elbows down from above my ears, rolled up
my cap with the butterfly inside it, and began to think about flight.

I could n't take my eyes off him. He was a strange figure to me. So
very much like a perfect piece of waxwork. His coat was so blue, his
waistcoat so white, his buttons so golden, his face so smoothly
shaven, and his close--cropped gray hair so wonderfully sleek. His
hands too, such a delicate mixture of brown and white, with one
blazing diamond on the right one. I saw a grand gentleman for the
first time, and this, combined with a slightly guilty conscience, took
the edge off my London prentice audacity, and made me just the least
bit in the world afraid.

I had refinement enough (thanks to my association with Joe, a
gentleman born,) not to be impudent. I said,--"I am very, very sorry,
sir. The truth is, sir. I wanted this butterfly, and I followed it
into your grounds. I meant no harm, indeed, sir. (As I said it, in
those old times, it ran something like this,--"I wanted that ere
butterfly, sir, and I follered of it into your little place, which I
did n't mean no harm, I do assure you".)

"Well! well! well!" said Sir George Hillyar, "I don't say you did.
When I was at Eton, I have bee-hunted into all sorts of strange
places. To the very feet of royalty, on one occasion. Indeed, you are
forgiven. See here, Erne: here is a contrast to your lazy style of
life; here is a--"

"Blacksmith," I said.

"Blacksmith," said Sir George, "I beg your pardon; who will--will--do
all kinds of things (he said this with steady severity) in pursuit of
a butterfly. An example, my child."

Taking my eyes from Sir George Hillyar, for the first time, I saw
that a boy, about my own age apparently, (I was nearly sixteen,) had
come up and was standing beside him, looking at me, with his arm
passed through his father's, and his head leaning against his
shoulder.

Such a glorious lad. As graceful as a deer. Dark brown hair, that
wandered about his forehead like the wild boughs of a neglected vine;
features regular and beautiful; a complexion well-toned, but glazed
over with rich sun-brown; a most beautiful youth, yet whose beauty was
extinguished and lost in the blaze of two great blue-black eyes, which
forced you to look at them, and which made you smile as you looked.

So I saw him first. How well I remember his first words, "Who is
this?"

I answered promptly for myself. I wanted Joe to see him, for we had
never seen anything like him before, and Joe was now visible in the
dim distance, uncertain what to do. I said, "I hunted this butterfly,
sir, from the corner of the lake into this garden; and, if you will
come to my brother Joe, he will confirm me. May I go, sir?"

"You may go, my boy," said Sir George; "and, Erne, you may show him
off the place, if you please. This seems an honest lad, Erne. You may
walk with him if you will."

So he turned and went towards the house, which I now had time to look
at. A bald, bare, white place, after all; with a great expanse of
shadeless flower-garden round it. What you would call a very great
place, but a very melancholy one, which looked as though it must be
very damp in winter. The lake in the wood was the part of that estate
which pleased me best.

Erne and I walked away together, towards the dark, inscrutable
future, and never said a word till we joined Joe. Then we three walked
on through the wood, Joe very much puzzled by what had happened; and
at last Erne said to me,--

"What is your name?"

"Jim."

"I say, Jim, what did you come here for, old fellow?"

"We came after the water-lilies," I said. "We were told there were
yellow ones here."

"So there were," he said; "but we have rooted them all up. If you
will come here next Sunday, I will get you some."

"I am afraid we can't, sir," I said. "If it had n't been for Bill
Avery hitting his missis down stairs, we could n't have come here to-
day. And we shall catch it now."

"Do you go to school?" said Erne.

"No, sir; I am apprenticed to father. Joe here does."

"Do the fellows like you, Joe? Have you got any friends?"

Joe stopped, and looked at him. He said,--

"Yes, sir. Many dear friends, God be praised! though I am only a poor
hunchback. Have you many, sir?"

"Not one single one, God help me, Joe. Not one single one."

It came on to rain, but he would not leave us. We walked to the
station together; and, as we walked, Joe, the poet, told us tales, so
that the way seemed short. Tales of sudden friendships made in summer
gardens, which outlive death. Of long-sought love; of lands far off;
lands of peace and wealth, where there was no sorrow, no care; only an
eternal, dull, aching regret for home, never satisfied; and of the
great heaving ocean, which thundered and burst everlastingly on the
pitiless coast, and sent its echoes booming up the long-drawn
corridors of the dark, storm-shaken forest capes.

Did Joe tell us all these stories, or has my memory become confused?
I forget, good reader, I forget; it is so long ago.

We had to wait, and Erne would sit and wait with us in the crowded
waiting-room, and he sat between Joe and me. He asked me where I
lived, and I told him, "Church Place, Church Street, Chelsea." Somehow
we were so crowded that his arm got upon my shoulder, just as if he
were a school--fellow and an equal. The last words he said were,--

"Come back and see me, Jim. I have not got a friend in the world."

Joe, in the crush before the train started, heard the station-master
say to a friend,--"It's a queer thing: it runs in families. There's
young Erne Hillyar is going the same way as his brother. I seen him,
with my own eyes, sitting in the second-class waiting-room, with his
arm on the shoulder of a common young cad. He has took to low company,
you see; and he will go to the devil, like his brother."

If the station-master had known what I thought of him after I heard
this, he would not have slept the better, I fancy. Low company,
forsooth. Could the Honorable James Burton, of the Supreme Council of
Cooksland, Colonial Commissioner for the Exhibition of 1862, ever have
been justly described as "low company?" Certainly not. I was very
angry then. I am furious now. Intolerable!

This Sunday's expedition, so important as it was, was never inquired
into by my father. When we got home we found that our guilty looks
were not noticed. The affair between William Avery and his wife had
complicated itself, and got to be very serious, and sad indeed. When
we got home we found my father sitting and smoking opposite my mother;
and, on inquiry, we heard that Emma had been sent up to bed with the
children at seven o'clock.

I thought at first that we were going to "catch it." I, who knew
every attitude of theirs so well, could see that they were sitting in
judgment; and I thought it was on us. This was the first time we had
ever done any great wrong to them; and I felt that, if we could have
it out, there and then, we should be happier. And so I went to my
father's side, put my arm on his shoulder, and said,--

"Father, I will tell you all about it."

"My old Jim," he answered, "what can you tell, any more than we have
heard this miserable day? We know all as you may have heard, my boy.
Little Polly Martin, too. Who would have thought it?"

My mother began to cry bitterly. I began to guess that William Avery
had quarrelled with his wife on the grounds of jealousy, and, also,
that my father and mother had sifted the evidence and pronounced her
guilty. I knew all about it at once from those few words, though I was
but a lad of sixteen.

I knew now, and I had suspected before, that young Mrs. Avery was no
longer such a one as my father and mother would allow to sit down in
the same room with Emma.

She had been, before her marriage, a dark-eyed, pretty little body,
apparently quite blameless in every way, and a great favorite of my
mother's. But she married William Avery, a smart young waterman,
rather to much given to "potting," and she learnt the accursed trick
of drinking from him. And then everything went wrong. She could sing,
worse luck; and one Saturday night she went marketing, and did not
come home. And he went after her, and found her singing in front of
the Six Bells in the King's Road, having spent all his money. And then
he beat her for the first time; and then things went on from bad to
worse, till the last and worst crash came, on the very week when Joe
and I ran away to Stanlake.

William was fined by Mr. Paynter for beating his wife; and soon after
his end came. He took seriously to drinking. One dark night he and his
mate were bringing the barge down on the tide,--his mate, Sam Agar,
with the sweeps, and poor Avery steering,--and she (the barge)
wouldn't behave. Sam knew that poor Avery was drunk, and rectified his
bad steering with the sweeps as well as he was able. But, approaching
Battersea Bridge, good Sam saw that she was broadside to the tide, and
cried out,--"Starboard, Bill! Starboard, old boy, for God's sake!" but
there was no answer. She struck the Middlesex pier of the main arch
heavily, and nearly heaved over and went down, but righted and swung
through. When Sam Agar found himself in clear water, he ran aft to see
after Bill Avery. But the poor fellow had tumbled over long before,
and the barge had been steering herself for a mile. His body came
ashore opposite Smith's distillery, and Mr. Wakley delivered himself
of a philippic against drunkenness to the jury who sat upon him.

And his wife went utterly to the bad. I thought we had heard the last
of her, but it was not so. My mother's face, when she turned up again,
after so many years, ought to have been photographed and published.
"Well, now, you know, this really is," was what she said. It was the
expression of her face, the look of blank, staring wonder that amused
Joe and me so much.



Chapter IX. Sir George Hillyar.



ONE morning in September, Sir George Hillyar sat in his study, before
his escritoire, very busy with his papers; and beside him was his
lawyer, Mr. Compton.

Sir George was a singularly handsome, middle-aged gentleman, with a
square ruddy face, very sleek close-cropped gray hair, looking very
high--bred and amiable, save in two points. He had a short thick neck,
like a bulldog, and a very obstinate-looking and rather large jaw. To
give you his character in a few words, he was a just, kind man, of not
very high intellect, in spite of his high cultivation; of intensely
strong affections, and (whether it was the fault of his thick neck, or
his broad jaw, I cannot say), as obstinate as a mule.

"Are you really going to renew, this lease, Sir George?" said Mr.
Compton.

"Why, yes, I think so. I promised Erne I would."

"Will you excuse me, Sir George, if I ask, as your confidential
friend of many years' standing, what the deuse my young friend Erne
has to do with the matter?"

"Nothing in the world," said Sir George; "but they got hold of him
when we were down there, and he got me to promise. Therefore I must,
don't you see."

"No, I don't. This widow and her sons are ruining the farm; you
propose to give them seven years longer to complete their work. How
often have you laid it down as a rule, never to renew a lease to a
widow; and here you are doing it, because that young gaby, Erne, has
been practised on, and asks you."

"I know all that," said Sir George, "but I am quite determined."

"Very well, then," said Mr. Compton, rather nettled, "let's say no
more. I know what that means."

"You see, Compton, I will not disappoint that boy in anything of this
kind. I have kept him here alone with me, and allowed him to see
scarce any one. You know why. And the boy has not seen enough of the
outside world, and has no sympathies with his fellow-men whatever. And
I will not baulk him in this. These are the first people he has shown
an interest in, Compton, and he shan't be baulked."

"He would have shown an interest in plenty of people, if you would
have let him," said the lawyer. "You have kept him mewed up here till
he is fifteen, with no companion but his tutor, and your gray-headed
household. The boy has scarcely spoken with a human being under fifty
in his lifetime. Why don't you let him see young folks of his own
age?"

"Why!" said Sir George angrily. "Have I two hearts to break that you
ask me this? You know why, Compton. You know how that woman and her
child broke my heart once. Do you want it broken again by this, the
child of my old age, I may say,--the child of my angel Mary?"

"You will have your heart broken if you don't mind, Hillyar," said
the lawyer. "I will speak out once and for all. If you keep that boy
tied up here in this unnatural way, he will play the deuse some day or
another. Upon my word, Hillyar, this fantigue of yours approaches
lunacy. To keep a noble high-mettled boy like Erne cooped up among
gray-headed grooms and foot-men, and never to allow him to see a round
young face except in church. It is rank madness."

"I have had enough of young servants," said Sir George. "I will have
no more Samuel Burtons, if you please."

"Who the deuse wants you to? Send the boy among lads in his own rank
in life."

"I have done it once. They bore him. He don't like 'em."

"Because you don't let him choose them for himself."

"Let him have the chance of choosing, in his ignorance, such
ruffians as young Mottesfont and young Peters, for instance," said Sir
George, scornfully. "No more of that, thank you, either. You are a
sage counsellor, upon my word, Compton. Let us change the subject."

"Upon my honor we had better," said the lawyer, "if I am to keep my
temper. You are, without exception, the most wrong-headed man I ever
saw. This I will say, that, as soon as Erne is released from this
unnatural restraint, as he must be soon, he will make friends with the
first young man, and fall in love with the first pretty face, he sees.
You have given him no selection; and, by Jove, you have given him a
better chance of going to the deuse than ever you did his half-
brother."

Obstinate men are not always ill-tempered; Sir George Hillyar was
not an ill-tempered man. His obstinacy arose as much perhaps from
self-esteem, caused by his having been from his boyhood master of ten
thousand a year, as from his bull-neck and broad jaw. He was perfectly
good-tempered over this scolding of his kind old friend; he only
said,--

"Now, Compton, you know me. I have thought over the matter more than
you have. I am determined. Let us get on to business."

"Very well!" said the lawyer; "these papers you have signed; I had
better take them to the office."

"Yes; put'em in your old japanned box, and put it on the third shelf
from the top, between Viscount Saltire and the Earl of Ascot; not much
in his box, is there, hey!"

"A deal there should n't be," said the lawyer. "Is there nothing
else for me to put in the tin box of Sir George Hillyar, Bart. on the
third shelf from the top?"

"No! hang it, no, Compton. I'll keep it here. I might alter it.
Things might happen; and, when death looks in between the curtains, a
man is apt to change his mind. I'll keep it here."

He pointed to the tall fantastically-carved escritoire at which he
was sitting, and, tapping it, said once again, "I'll keep it here,
Compton; I'll keep it here, old friend."

Sir George Hillyar's history is told in a very few words. His first
marriage was a singularly unfortunate one. Lady Hillyar sold herself
to him for his wealth, and afterwards revenged herself on him by
leading him the life of a dog. She was an eviltempered woman, and her
ill-temper improved by practice. They had one son, the Lieutenant
Hillyar we have already seen in Australia, and whose history we have
heard; whose only recollections of a mother must have been those of a
restless dark woman who wrangled and wept perpetually. Sir George
Hillyar's constitutional obstinacy did him but little good here; his
calm inflexibility was more maddening to his fierce wild wife than the
loudest objurgation would have been. One night, when little George was
lying in his cradle, she kissed him and left the house; left it for
utter ruin and disgrace; unfaithful more from temper than from
passion.

In two years she died. She wore her fierce heart out at last in
ceaseless reproaches on the man with whom she had fled, the man whom
she had jilted that she might marry Sir George Hillyar. A dark wild
story all through; which left its traces on the obstinate face of Sir
George Hillyar, and on the character and life of his poor boy.

Dark suspicions arose in his mind about this boy. He never loved
him, but he was inexorably just to him. His suspicions about him were
utterly groundless; his common sense told him that, but he could not
love him, for he had nearly learnt to hate his mother. He was more
than ordinarily careful over his education, and his extra care led to
the disasters we know of.

But there was a brief glimpse of sunshine in store for Sir George
Hillyar. He was still a young, and, in spite of all appearances, a
warm-hearted man. And he fell in love again.

He went down into Wiltshire to shoot over an outlying estate of his,
which he seldom visited save for sporting purposes, keeping no
establishment there, but lodging with his bailiff. And it so happened
that the gamekeeper's daughter came down the long grass ride, between
the fallowing hazel copse, under the October sun, to bring them lunch.
And she was so divinely beautiful that he shot badly all the
afternoon, and in the evening went to the keeper's lodge to ask
questions about the pheasants, and saw her again. And she was so
graceful, so good, and so modest, that in four days he asked her to
marry him; and, if ever there was a happy marriage it was this; for
truth is stranger than fiction, as many folks know.

They had one boy, whom they christened Erne, after an Irish family;
and, when he was two years old, poor Lady Hillyar stayed out too late
one evening on the lake, too soon after her second confinement. She
caught cold, and died, leaving an infant who quickly followed her. And
then Sir George transferred all the love of his heart to the boy Erne,
who, as he grew, showed that he had inherited not only his mother's
beauty, but all the yielding gentleness of her disposition.



Chapter X. Erne Makes his Escape from the Brazen Tower.


AFTER his wife's death, Sir George Hillyar transferred all the love
of his heart from the dead mother to the living child. He was just to
his eldest son; but George Hillyar could not but see that he was as
naught compared to his younger half-brother,--nay, more, could not but
see that there was something more than mere indifference in his
father's feeling towards him; there was dislike. Carefully as Sir
George concealed it, as he thought, the child discovered it, and the
boy resented it. And so it fell out that George Hillyar never knew
what it was to be loved until he met Gertrude Neville. By his father's
mistaken policy, with regard to his education, he was thrown among
vicious people, and became terribly vicious himself. He went utterly
to the dogs. He grew quite abandoned at one time; and was within reach
of the law. But, perhaps, the only wise thing his father ever did for
him, was to stop his rambles on the Coutinent, and, partly by
persuasion, partly by threats, induce him to go to Australia. He got a
cadetship in the police, partly for the pay, partly for the uniform,
partly for the sake of the entrée,--the recognized position it would
give him in certain quarters. So he raised himself somewhat. He found,
at first, that it paid to be respectable. Then he found that it was
pleasant to be in society; and his old life appeared, at times, to be
horrible to him. And, at last, he fell in love with Gerty Neville;
and, what is stranger still, she fell in love with him. At this time
there is a chance for him. As we leave him with good Mr. Oxton,
looking after his wounded comrade, his fate hangs in the balance.

After his terrible fiasco, Sir George would have no more of schools
or young servants. He had been careful enough with his firstborn (as
he thought then); he would lock Erne up in a brazen tower. He filled
his house with grey-headed servants; he got for the boy, at a vast
expense, a gentle, kind old college don as tutor,--a man who had never
taken orders, with a taste for natural history, who wished to live
peaceably, and mix with good society. The boy Erne was splendidly
educated and cared for. He was made a little prince, but they never
spoiled him. He must have friends of his own age, of course: Lord
Edward Bellamy and the little Marquis of Tullygoram were selected, and
induced to come and stay with him, after close inquiries, and some
dexterous manoeuvring on the part of Sir George. But Erne did not take
to them. They were nice, clever lads, but neither of them had been to
school, Erne objected. He wanted to know fellows who had been to
school; nay, rebelliously wanted to go to school himself,--which was
not to be thought of. In short, at fifteen, Erne was a very noble,
sensitive, well--educated and clever lad, without a single friend of
his own age; and, becoming rebellious, he began to cast about to find
friends for himself. It was through Providence, and not Sir George's
good management, that he did not do worse in that way, than he did,
poor lad.

Sir George Hillyar and Mr. Compton met in the dining-room at the
second gong. Sir George rang the bell and asked if Mr. Erne was come
in. He was not.

"We will have dinner, though. If the boy likes his soup cold, let
him have it so." And so they went to dinner.

But no Erne. Claret and abuse of Lord John; then coffee and abuse of
Sir Robert; but no Erne. They began to get uneasy.

"He has never gone out like this before," said Sir George. "I must
really make inquiries."

But no one could answer them. Erne was not in his bedroom. His horse
was in the stable. Even Mr. Compton got anxious.

Obstinate men are pretty sure to adopt the counsels they have
scornfully declined, as soon as they can do so without being observed.
Old Compton knew obstinate men well; and knew, therefore, that what he
had said about Erne's being kept in solitude, would, after a decent
lapse of time, lead to Erne's being treated in a more rational way. He
knew well that no people are more easily managed than obstinate people
(by those whom they thoroughly respect), if a sharp attack is made on
them, and then silence preserved on the subject ever after. He knew
that the slightest renewal of the subject would postpone the adoption
of his advice indefinitely, for he knew that obstinacy was only
generated by conceit and want of determination. Therefore he was very
anxious.

"Erne has bolted," he thought, "and ruined all. There is no chance
of knocking sense into his father's head this next ten years."

But Sir George walked uneasily up and down, thinking of far other
things. His terror took a material form. Something must have happened
to Erne. He had gone out alone, and something had befallen him; what,
he could not conceive, but he vowed that, if he ever got him back
again, he should choose what companion he would, but should never go
out alone any more. By daylight he was half crazy with anxiety, and
just afterwards frantic. The head-keeper came in, and reported that
one of the boats was loose on the lake.

They dragged it madly, from end to end. The country people heard
that young Erne Hillyar was drowned in Stanlake Pool, and were kind
enough to come in by hundreds. It was the best thing since the fair.
The gypsies moved up in a body, and told fortunes. The country-folks
came and sat in rows on the wire fences, like woodpigeons on ash-trees
in autumn. The young men and boys "chivied" one another through the
flower-garden, turned on the fountains, and pushed one another into
the marble basins; and the draggers dragged in the lake, and produced
nothing but water-lily roots; which, being mistaken for rare esculents
by the half-cockney population, were stolen by the thousand, and,
after abortive attempts to eat them, were (politically speaking)
thrown in the teeth of Sir George Hillyar, at the next election, by a
radical cobbler who compared him to Foulon.

At five o'clock, the body not having been found, Sir George Hillyar,
having pre-determined that his son was drowned, gave orders for the
cutting of the big dam, not without slight misgivings that he was
making a fool of himself. Then the fun grew fast and furious. This was
better than the fair by a great deal. They brought up beer in large
stone-bottles from the public-house, and enjoyed themselves
thoroughly. By a quarter to six the lake was nearly dry, and nearly
everybody was drunk. At this time the first fish was caught; a young
man ducked into the mud, and brought out a ten-pound carp by his
gills, exclaiming, "Here's the body, Bill!" which expression passed
into the joke of the evening. Every time a fresh carp, tench, or pike,
was thrown out kicking into the gravel, the young men would roar out,
"Here's the body, Bill," once more. At last the whole affair
approached very nearly to a riot. Women, who had come after their
husbands, were heard here and there scolding or shrieking. There were
two or three fights. There had been more beer ordered than was paid
for. A policeman had been pushed into the mud. But no body.

The butler, coming into the library at ten o'clock to see the windows
shut against the loose characters who were hanging about, discovered
the body of Erne Hillyar, Esquire, in an easychair, reading
Blackwood's Magazine by a bedroom candlestick. And the body said, "I
say, Simpson, what the deuse is all that row about down by the lake?"

"They have cut the dam, and let off the water to find your body,
sir," replied Simpson, who prided himself on not being taken by
surprise.

"What fools," said Erne. "Is the Governor in a great wax?"

"I fancy not sir, at present," replied Simpson.

"Tell him I wish to speak to him, will you," said Erne, turning over
a page. "Say I should be glad of a word with him, if he will be good
enough to step this way." And so he went on unconcernedly reading; and
Simpson, who had a profound belief in Erne, went to Sir George, and
delivered the message exactly as Erne had given it.

Sir George came raging into the room in a very few minutes. Erne
half--closed his book, keeping his finger in the place, and, quietly
looking up at his father, said.

"I am afraid you expected me home last night, my dear father."

Sir George was too much astounded by Erne's coolness, to do more than
gasp.

"I hope I have not caused you any anxiety. But the fact is this; I
went into town by the five o'clock train, to see the Parkers at
Brompton; and they offered me a bed (it being late), which I accepted.
I went for a ramble this morning, which ended in my walking all the
way home here; and that is what makes me so late."

"You seem to have a good notion of disposing of your own time,
without notice, sir," said Sir George, who had been so astounded by
his reception, that he had not yet had time to lay his hand upon his
wrath-bottle.

"Yes, I like having an impromptu ramble of this kind. It is quite a
new experience do you know, dad," said Erne, speaking with a little
more animation, and laying aside his book for the first time. "I would
have given a hundred pounds for you to have been with me to-day. New
scenes and new people all the way home. As new to me--nay, newer and
fresher--than the Sandwich Islands would be. I wish you had been
there."

"Does n't it strike you, sir, that you are taking this matter
somewhat coolly?" said Sir George, aghast.

"No! am I?" said Erne. "That is a compliment, coming from you, dad.
How often have you told me, that you hated a man without self-
possession. See how I have profited by your teaching?"

"Hold your tongue, sir," said Sir George, finding his wrath-bottle,
and drawing the cork. "Are you aware that the dam has been cut to find
your body? Are you aware of that, sir? Do you know, sir, that the
populace have, in the excitement consequent on your supposed death,
overrun my pleasure-grounds, trampled on my flower-beds, broken my
statues, and made faces at my lawyer through my drawing-room window?"

If ever you try a torrent of invective, for heaven's sake steer clear
of details, lest in the heat of your speech you come suddenly across a
ridiculous or homely image, and, rhetorically speaking, ruin yourself
at once, as did Sir George Hillyar on this occasion. As he thundered
out this last terrible consequence of Erne's absence, Erne burst out
laughing, and Sir George, intensely delighted at getting him back
again on any terms, and also dying for a reconciliation, burst out
laughing too, and held out his arms. After which the conversation took
another tone; as thus,--

"Why did you go away, and never give me notice, my boy?"

"I won't do it again. I will tell you next time." And all that sort
of thing.

******

"What on earth has come over the boy?" said Sir George Hillyar to
himself as soon as he was in bed, lying on his back, with his knees
up, which is the best attitude for thinking in bed. "He will make a
debater, that boy, sir, mark my words. I tell you, sir," continued he,
angrily, and somewhat rudely contradicting himself, "that you have
been a fool about that boy. The cool way in which he turned on you to-
day, sir, and, partly by calculating on your affection for him, and
partly by native tact and self-possession, silenced you, sir--got his
own way, established a precedent for going out when he chose, and left
you strongly disinclined to risk another battle--was, I say, sir,
masterly."

After a time, having sufficiently contradicted and bullied himself,
he turned over on his side, and said, as he was falling to sleep,--

"The boy is wonderfully changed in one day. He shall go again if he
chooses. I never saw such a change in my life. He never showed fight
like this before. What can be the matter with him?"

The old complaint, Sir George. The boy has fallen in love. Nothing
else.



Chapter XI. The Secretary Sees Nothing for it But to Submit



THE talk of the colony, for a week or so, turned upon nothing else
but the gallant exploit of Lieutenant Hillyar with the bush-rangers.
He became the hero of the day. His orderly persuaded him to have his
hair cut; and the locks went off like smoke at half-a-crown apiece; so
fast, indeed, that the supply fell short of the demand, and had to be
supplied from the head of a young Danish trooper, who, after this,
happening to get drunk in Palmerston, while in plain clothes, and not
being recognized, was found to be so closely cropped that it was
necessary to remand him for inquiries, as it was obvious to the
meanest capacity that he had n't been out of jail more than a couple
of days.

The papers had leading articles upon it. The Palmerston Sentinel
(squatter* interest, conservative, aristocratic,) said that this was
your old English blood, and that there was nothing like it. The Mohawk
(progress of the species and small farm interest,) said, on the other
hand, that this Lieutenant Hillyar was one of those men who had been
unjustly hunted out of his native land by the jealousy of an accursed
and corrupt aristocracy, in consequence of his liberal tendencies, and
his fellow-feeling for the (so--called) lower orders. And this
abominable Mohawk, evidently possessed of special knowledge, in trying
to prove the habitual condescension of George Hillyar towards his
inferiors, did so rake up all his old blackguardisms that Mr.
Secretary Oxton was as near mad as need be.

It is hardly necessary to say that, when poor little Gerty Neville
heard the news, George Hillyar was, to her, transformed from a
persecuted, ill-used, misunderstood man, into a triumphant hero. She
threw herself, sobbing, into her sister's arms, and said,--

"Now, Aggy! Now, who was right? Was not I wiser than you, my sister?
My noble hero! Two to one, Agnes, and he is so calm and modest about
it. Why, James and you were blind. Did not I see what he was; am I a
fool?"

Mrs. Oxton was very much inclined to think she was. She was puzzled
by this undoubted act of valor on George Hillyar's part. She had very
good sense of her own, and the most profound belief in one of the
cleverest men in the world,--her husband. Her husband's distrust of
the man had reacted on her; so, in the midst of Gerty's wild
enthusiasm, she could only hope that things would go right, though she
tried to be enthusiastic for Gerty's sake.

Things were very near going right just now. The Secretary and his
wife knew too little of their man. The man's antecedents were terribly
bad, but the man had fallen in love, and become a hero within a very
few months. The Secretary knew men well enough, and knew how seldom
they reformed after they had gone as far as (he feared) Lieutenant
Hillyar had gone. Both Mr. and Mrs. Oxton were inclined to distrust
and oppose him still, in spite of his act of heroism.

But the man himself meant well. There was just enough goodness and
manhood left in him to fall in love with Gerty Neville: and a kind of
reckless, careless pluck which had been a characteristic of him in his
boyhood, had still remained to him. It had been latent, exhibiting
itself only in causeless quarrels and headlong gaming, until it had
been turned into a proper channel by his new passion, the only serious
one of his life. The one cause combined with the other; golden
opportunity came in his way: and suddenly he, who had been a
distrusted and despised man all his life, found himself a hero,
beloved by the beauty of the community, with every cloud cleared away
from the future; a man whose name was mentioned by every mouth with
enthusiastic praise. It was a glimpse of heaven. His eye grew
brighter, his bearing more majestic, his heart softer towards his
fellow--creatures. He was happy for the first time in his life. As the
poor godless fellow put it to himself, his luck had turned at last.

But we must go a little way back in our story. While he and Mr. Oxton
were still trying to make the wounded cadet comfortable, assistance
arrived, and it was announced that the other bush-rangers were
captured. (The cadet recovered, my dear madam, and is now the worthy
and highly respected chief commissioner of police for Cooksland.) So
the Secretary and the Lieutenant rode away together.

"I'll tell you what I would do, Hillyar," said the Secretary; "I
should ride down to Palmerston as quick as I could, and report this
matter at head--quarters; you will probably get your Inspectorship,--I
shall certainly see that you do. And I tell you what, I shall go with
you myself. I must talk over this with the Governor at once. We can
get on to my house to-night, and I shall be pleased to see you as my
guest."

"That is very kind of you," said Hillyar.

"I cannot conceal from you," said the Secretary, with emphasis, "that
I am aware of your having proposed yourself for my brother-in-law."

"I supposed you would know it by this time. I have laid my fortune
and my title at Miss Neville's feet, and have been accepted."

"O Lord!" said the Secretary, as if he had a sudden twinge of
toothache, "I know all about it. It is not your fortune nor your title
I want to talk about. What sort of a name can you give her? Can you
give her an unsullied name? I ask you as a man of the world, can you
do that?"

"As a man of the world, bey?" said the Lieutenant; "then, as a man of
the world, I should say that Miss Gertrude Neville had made a far
better catch than any of her sisters; even a better catch, saving your
presence, than her sister Agnes. Such is the idiotic state of English
society, that a baronet of old creation with ten thousand a year, and
a handsome lady-like wife, will be more répandu in London than a mere
colonial official, whose rank is so little known in that benighted
city, that on his last visit, the Mayor of Palmerston was sent down to
dinner before him at Lady Noahsark's. If you choose to put it as a man
of the world, there you are."

"The fellow don't want for wit," thought the Secretary. "I have got
the dor this time." But he answered promptly,--

"That is all very fine, Hillyar; but you are under a cloud, you
know."

"I must request you, once and forever, sir, not to repeat that
assertion. I am under no cloud. I was fast and reckless in England,
and I have been fast and reckless here. I shall be so no longer. I
have neglected my police duties somewhat, though not so far as to
receive anything more than an admonition. What man, finding himself an
heir-expectant to a baronetcy and a fortune, would not neglect this
miserable drudgery. What young fellow, receiving an allowance of three
hundred a year, would have submitted to the drudgery of a cadetship
for fourteen months? Answer me that, sir?"

The Secretary could n't answer that, but he thought,--"I wonder why
he did it? I never thought of that before." He said aloud, "Your case
certainly looks better than it did, Hillyar."

"Now hear me out," said George Hillyar. "My history is soon told.
When I was seven years old my mother--Well, sir, look the other way,--
she bolted."

"O, dear, dear me," said the Secretary. "O, pray don't go on, sir. I
am so very sorry, Hillyar."

"Bolted, sir," repeated George, with an angry snarl, "and left me to
be hated worse than poison by my father in consequence. How do you
like that?"

There was a mist in the good Secretary's eyes; and in that mist he
saw the dear, happy old manor-house in Worcestershire; a dark,
mysterious, solemn house, beneath the shadowing elms; the abode of
gentle, graceful, domestic love for centuries. And he saw a bent
figure with a widow's cap upon her gray hair, which wandered still
among the old flower-beds, and thought for many an hour in the autumn
day, whether her brave son would return from his honor and wealth, in
far off Australia, and give her one sweet kiss, before she lay down to
sleep beside his father, in the quiet churchyard in the park.

"No more, sir!" said the Secretary. "Not another word. I ask your
pardon. Be silent."

George would not.

"That is my history. The reason I stayed in the police at all, was
that I might stand well with my father; that he might not think I had
gone so utterly to the devil as he wished: for he married again,--
married a milkmaid, or worse,--to spite me. And the son he had by her
is, according to all accounts, idolized, while I am left here to fight
my way alone. I hate that boy, and I will make him feel it."

His case would have stood better without this last outbreak of
temper which jarred sharply on the Secretary's sentimental mood. But
he had made his case good. The fight was over. That night he was
received at the Secretary's station as an accepted suitor. The next he
dined at Government House, and sat all the evening in a corner with
Lady Rumbolt (the Governor's wife), and talked of great people in
England, about whom he knew just enough to give her ladyship an excuse
for talking about them, which she liked better than anything in the
world, after gardening and driving. So nothing could be more charming;
and the Secretary, seeing that it was no use to struggle, gave it up,
and determined to offer no opposition to the marriage of his sister-
in-law to a man who would be a wealthy baronet in England.

And this is what made him so excessively mad about those abominable,
indiscreet leaders in the Mohawk, in praise of the gallant Lieutenant.
He had used strong language about the Mohawk continually, ever since
the first number appeared, in the early days of the colony, printed on
whitey--brown sugar-paper, with a gross libel upon himself in the
first six lines of its leader. But it was nothing to the language he
used now. Mr. Edward Fitzgerald Emmet, the editor of the Mohawk, found
out that he was annoying the Secretary, and continued his allusions in
a more offensive form. Until, so says report, Miss Lesbia Burke let
him know that, if he continued to annoy James Oxton, she would
horsewhip him. Whereupon the Mohawk was dumb. * The "squatters" of
Australia are the great pastoral aristocrats, who lease immense tracts
from government for pasturage. Some of them are immensely wealthy. I
speak from recollection, when I say that one of Dr. Kerr's stations,
on the Darling downs, when sold in 1864, contained 102.000 sheep,
whose value at that time was about 25s. a piece. An improvement on
Saville Row, decidedly.



Chapter XII. Disposes of Samuel Burton for a Time



The evening after the fight with the bush-rangers, the affair was
getting noisily discussed in the principal men's hut at the Barker's.
The large room, earth-floored, with walls and roof of wood, colored by
the smoke to a deep mahogany, was lit up by the mighty blaze of a
wood-fire in the great chimney at one end, for the south wind had come
up, and the night was chilly. Five or six men were seated on logs and
stools round the chimney, eating their supper, and one, who had
finished his, had got into bed, and was comfortably smoking and
joining in the conversation. They were an honest, good-looking set of
fellows enough, for in Cooksland and South Australia, the convict
element is very small; and the appearance of rude plenty and honest
comfort which was over the whole scene, was pleasant enough to witness
by a belated and wearied traveller.

Such a one came to the door that evening, and brought his evil face
among them. It was the convict that the Secretary had passed on the
sands; it was Samuel Burton.

The cattle and sheep dogs, which lay about in the yard, bayed him
furiously, but he passed through them unheeding, and, opening the
door, stood in the entry, saying:

"Can I stay here to-night, mates?"

"Surely," said the old hut-keeper, shading his face with his hand.
"You must be a stranger to Barker's, to ask such a question. Come in,
lad."

The young man who was setting in the best place by the fire, got up
to give it to him. Each one of the men murmured a welcome to him as he
came towards the fire; and then, as the firelight fell upon his face,
they saw that he was a convict.

Now and then you will find a jail-bird who will, in appearance, pass
muster among honest men; but in this case the word "Old hand" was too
plainly written on the face to be mistaken. They insensibly altered
their demeanor towards him at once. To their kind hospitality, which
had been offered to him before they saw what he was, was now added
respectful deference, and a scarcely concealed desire to propitiate.
Seven honest good fellows, were respectfully afraid of one rogue; and
the rogue was perfectly aware of the fact, and treated them
accordingly; much as a hawk would treat a cote-full of pigeons, if he
found it convenient to pass the night among them. The penniless,
tattered felon was a sort of lord among them.

Attribute it to what you will, it is so. A better set of fellows
than the honest emigrants, generally, don't exist; but their
superstitious respect for an old convict is almost pitiable. I fancy,
if the Devil were to take it into his head to make thirteenth at a
dinner-party, that we should be studiously polite to him, till we had
got rid of him; and be careful not to wound his feelings by any
allusion to the past.

They put food and tea before him, and he ate and drank voraciously.
The hut-keeper did not wait to ask him if he had tobacco: to extort
from him what is the last, most humiliating confession of destitution,
in the bush; but, seeing him look round, put a fig and a pipe in his
hand. After he had lit it, he began to talk for the first time.

"I suppose," he said, "none of you chaps know the names of the
fellows who got bailed up by young Hillyar this morning?"

The hut-keeper answered,--a quiet, gentle old man, whom the others
called Daddy,--

"I knew two on 'em. There was Mike Tiernay. He was assigned to
Carstairs on the North Esk one time, I mind."

"Hallo!" said Burton. "Are you, Stringy Bark?"

"I am from Van Diemen's Land," said the old man, quietly. "But an
emigrant."

The convict gave a grunt of disappointment.

"The other one I knew," continued the old man, "was Wallaby
Thompson."

It is curious that the old man had, before the arrival of Burton,
been entertaining the young men with the lives and crimes of these
abominable blackguards. Now, before the representative of their class,
he spoke as though it were a liberty to mention the gentlemen's names.

"Wallaby Thompson, eh?" said the convict. "He was an honest, good
fellow, and I am sorry for him. I never knew that fellow do a bad
action in my life. He was as true as steel. Old Carboys sent his mate
for trial, and old Carboys was found in the bush with his throat cut.
That's what I call a man."

Burton was showing off before these emigrants for purposes of his
own. Cutting throats was not his special temptation; and he, probably,
never saw Wallaby Thompson, Esq., in his life; in fact, his claiming
acquaintance with that gentleman was strong evidence that he knew
nothing about him; he being a mere liar and rogue, not dangerous
unless desperate. But he took these simple emigrants in by a clever
imitation of a bush-ranger's ferocity, and they believed in him.

"Is young Hillyar at the station here, or at the barracks, tonight?"
he asked.

"The Lieutenant is gone down to Palmerston, this morning, with the
Secretary," was the answer.

Burton was evidently staggered by this intelligence. He kept his
conntenance, however, and asked, as coolly as he could, when he was
expected back.

"Back!" said the old man; "Lord love you, he'll never come back here
no more. At any rate, he'll be made Inspector for this job; and so you
won't see him here again."

"How far is it to Palmerston?" asked Burton.

"Two hundred and thirty miles."

He said nothing in answer to this. He sat and thought as he smoked.
Two hundred and thirty miles! He penniless and shoeless, not in the
best of health, having the dread of a return of dysentery! It could
not be done,--it could not be done. He must take service, and then it
could not be done for six months; he could not sign for less time than
that. He could have cursed his ill luck, but he was not given to
cursing on occasions where thought was required. He made his
determination at once, and acted on it; in spite of that curious
pinched-up lower jaw of his; with quite as much decision as would his
old master and enemy, Sir George Hillyar, with his broad, bull--dog
jowl.

"Are there any of--my sort--here about?" he asked, with an
affectedly surly growl.

There is no euphemism invented yet for the word "convict," which is
available among the laboring class of Australia, when a convict is
present. Those who think they know something of them, might fancy that
"Old hand," "Vandemonian," or even "Sydney Sider," were not
particularly offensive. Those who know them better know that the use
of either three expressions, in the presence of one of these sensitive
gentlemen, means instant assault and battery. None of the hands in the
hut would have ventured on anything of the kind for worlds, but now
Burton had put it in his own form, and must be answered.

It appeared that there was a hoary old miscreant of a shepherd, who
was, if the expression might be allowed, "Stringy Bark," and who had
quarrelled with his hut-keeper. Burton said he would see about it, and
did so, the next day. Barker père, a fine old fellow, was of opinion
that if you were unfortunate enough to have one convict on the place,
it was better that you should catch another to bear him company. He
therefore was not sorry to avail himself of Samuel Burton's services,
in the capacity of hut-keeper to the old convict-shepherd he had on
the run already.

"Confound 'em," said old Barker; "shut 'em up together, and let 'em
corrupt one another. I am glad this scoundrel has come to ask for
work. I should have had to send old Tom about his business if he had
n't, and old Tom is the best shepherd I've got; but I never could have
asked an honest man to cook for old Tom. No. The appearance of this
fellow is a special providence. I should have had to send old Tom to
the right-about."

So Samuel Burton, by reason of the badness of his shoes, and a
general seediness of character, had to take service with Mr. Barker.
He had met with a disappointment in not meeting with George Hillyar,
but on the whole he was not sorry to get a chance of lying by for a
little. The fact was that he had, six weeks before this, lost his
character, and travelling was not safe for a time. He had been
transported and reconvicted in the colony, but his character had been
good until, as I say, six weeks before this, when he turned Queen's
evidence on the great bank forgery case. That act not only ruined his
character, (among the convicts I mean, of course,) but rendered
travelling in lonely places, for a time, before men had had time to
forget, a dangerous business. Therefore he accepted Mr. Barker's
service with alacrity, and so George Hillyar heard nothing of him for
six peaceful months.



Chapter XIII. James Burton's Story: The Golden Thread Begins to Run off the Reel



COULD one ever have been happy in such a squalid unromantic place?
Among such sounds, such smells, such absence of fresh air and
sunshine, with poverty and vulgarity in its grossest forms on every
side of one,--shrill Doll Tearsheet, distinctly and painfully audible
round the corner, telling the nuthook that he had lied, and that sort
of thing, all day long; and Pistol, the cutpurse, ruffling and
bullying it under the gas-lamp by the corner, from cockshoot to
curfew, at which latter time we used to be rid of him for an hour or
so? Could any one have had a happy home amidst all this squalor and
blackguardism? And could any one, having gained wealth and honor, ever
feel a longing kindness for the old, for the cramped horizon, and the
close atmosphere, of the place one once called home?

Yes. I often feel it now. The other day the summer wind was still,
and the summer clouds slept far aloft, above the highest boughs of the
silent forest; and peace and silence were over everything as I rode
slowly on among the clustering flowers. And then and there the old
Chelsea life came back into my soul and pervaded it completely, and
the past drove out the present so utterly and entirely that, although
my mortal body--which, when no longer useful, must perish and rot,
like one of the fallen logs around me--was passing through the
glorious Australian forest, yet the immortal part of me had travelled
back into the squalid old street, and I was there once again.

Dear old place! I can love it still. I were but an ingrate if I
could not love it better than all other places. After we had been out
here ten years, Joe went back on business, and went to see it. A
certain change, which we shall hear of, had taken place; the old
neighbors were gone, and Chelsea, so far as we cared about it, was
desolate. But, as Joe leant lonely against the railings in the new
Paulton Square, he heard a cry coming from towards the river, which
thrilled to his heart as he came nearer and nearer. What was it, think
you. It was old Alsop, the fishmonger, bawling out, as of old, the
audacious falsehood that his soles were alive. It was nothing more
than that, but it was the last of the old familiar Chelsea sounds
which was left. When Joe told us this story we were all (simple souls)
very much moved. My father said, huskily, that "there were worse chaps
than Bill Alsop, mind you, though he did not uphold him in all
things," which I was glad to hear. As for my mother, she dissolved
into such a flood of tears that the recently--invented pocket-
handkerchief was abandoned as useless, and the old familiar apron was
adopted instead. Such is the force of habit, that my mother cannot cry
comfortably without an apron. The day I was married, Emma had a deal
of trouble with her on this account. It was evident that she wanted to
wipe her eyes on her horribly expensive mauve satin gown, and at last
compromised the matter by crying into her black lace shawl, which was
of about as much use as a fishing net, God bless her.

I have, as I have said, an affection for the old place still; and,
when I think of it at its brightest, when I love it best of all, it
comes back to me on a fine September evening, on the evening after Joe
and I met with our wonderful adventures at Stanlake.

I think I have mentioned before that my father used to relieve me in
the shop when he had done his tea; and so I used to have my tea after
all the others had done,--at which times my sister and I used to have
a pleasant talk, while she waited on me.

Latterly I had always had a companion. It was an unfortunate
business, but my brother Harry had acquired a sort of habit of getting
kept in at school, nearly every day. My mother contrived a meeting
with the school--master, and asked him why. The answer was, that he
was a good little fellow, but that he would draw on his slate. The
evening next after she had gained this intelligence, we, all sitting
round the fire and expecting to hear the story of how my father came
home tipsy the night the Reform Bill was passed, were astonished to
find that my mother had composed, and was prepared with, an entirely
new story, in the awful-example style of fiction, which she there and
then told us. It appeared that she knew a little girl (mark how she
wrapped it up) as drew on her slate, and was took with the chalkstone
gout in the jints of her fingers. And, while that child was a droring,
the chalkstones kep' dropping from her knuckles, and the children kep'
picking on 'em up and drawing devils on the desks. Harry was at the
time both alarmed and distressed at this story. But it had no effect.
The next day he drew a devil so offensive that he was not only kept
in, but caned.

So Harry, being late from school, was my companion at tea, and sat
beside me. Frank, who adored Harry because Harry used to morphise
Frank's dreams for him on slates and bits of paper, stayed with him.
Fred, the big-headed, who was brought into the world apparently to
tumble down stairs, and to love and cuddle everybody he met, sat on my
knee and pulled my hair in a contemplative way; while Emma sat beside
me sewing, and softly murmured out the news of the day, carefully
avoiding any mention of the Avery catastrophe.

Mr. Pistol and Mr. Bardolph had been took by the police for a robbery
in the Fulham Road, and Mrs. Quickly was ready to swear on her Bible
oath, that they were both in bed and asleep at the time. Polly Ager
had been kept in at school for pinching Sally Holmes. Tom Cole was
going to row for Dogget's coat and badge, &c., &c.

Frank told us, that the evening before last he had walked on to
Battersea Bridge with Jerry Chittle, and to the westward he had seen
in the sky, just at sunset, an army of giants, dressed in purple and
gold, pursuing another army of giants dressed in gray, who, as the sun
went down, seemed to turn on their pursuers. He said that the thunder-
storm which happened that night was no thunder-storm at all, but the
battle of these two armies of giants over our heads. He requested
Harry to draw this scene for him on his slate, which Harry found a
difficulty in doing.

I was thinking whether or no I could think of anything to say
concerning this giant story, and was coming to the conclusion that I
could n't, when I looked up and saw Erne Hillyar and Joe in the
doorway.

I saw Erne's noble face light up as he saw me. "Here he is" was all
he said; but, from the way he said it, I knew that he had come after
me.

I stood up, I remember, and touched my forehead, but he came quickly
towards me and took my hand. "I want to be friends with you, Jim," he
said; "I know you and I shall suit one another. Let me come and see
you sometimes."

I did not know what to say, at least not in words; but as he took my
hand, my eyes must have bid him welcome, for he laughed and said,
"That is right. I knew you would like me, I saw it yesterday."

And then he turned on Emma, who was standing, respectful and still,
beside me, with her hands closed before her, holding her work. And
their eyes met; and Erne loved her, and has never loved any other
woman since.

"This must be your sister," said Erne. "There is no doubt about that.
Jim's sister, will you shake hands with me?"

She shook hands with him, and smiled her gentlest, kindest smile in
his face.

"I am so glad," she said, "that you want to make friends with Jim.
You cannot have a better friend than he, sir."

Here Joe came back, and whispered to me that he had been to father,
and told him that a young gentleman had come to see me, and that
father had said I was to stay where I was. So there we children sat
all together; Erne on one side of me, and Emma on the other, talking
about such things as children (for we were but little more) will talk
about,--Erne sometimes leaning over me to speak to Emma, and waiting
eagerly for her answer. Fred got on his knee, and twined his little
fingers into his curling hair, and laid his big head upon Erne's
shoulder. Frank and Harry drew their stools to his feet, and listened.
We were a happy group. Since the wild, petulant Earl had built that
great house, nigh three hundred years before, and had paced, and
fumed, and fretted up and down that self-same floor, there never had
been gathered, I dare swear, a happier group of children under the
time-stained rafters of that room, than were we that night in the
deepening twilight.

Joe and Erne talked most. Joe spoke of the wonderful old church hard
by, a city of the mighty dead, and their monuments, where there were
innumerable dark, dim recesses, crowded by tombs and effigies. Here
lay the headless trunk of Sir Thomas More,--not under the noble
monument erected by himself in the chancel before his death, but
"neare the middle of the south wall,"--indebted to a stranger for a
simple slab over his remains. In this chapel, too, knelt the Duchess
of Northumberland, with her five daughters, all with clasped hands,
praying for the soul of their unhappy father. One of them, Joe could
not tell which, must have married Arthur Pole. Here lay Lord and Lady
Dacre, with their dogs watching at their feet, under their many-
colored canopy; and last, not least, here knelt John Hillyar, Esq.,
father of the first baronet, with his three simple-looking sons in
ruffs, opposite his wife Eleanor, with her six daughters, and her two
dead babies on the cushion before her.

"Four hundred years of memory," continued Joe, "are crowded into that
dark old church, and the great flood of change beats round the walls,
and shakes the door in vain, but never enters. The dead stand thick
together there, as if to make a brave resistance to the moving world
outside, which jars upon their slumber. It is a church of the dead. I
cannot fancy any one being married in that church,--its air would
chill the boldest bride that ever walked to the altar. No; it is a
place for old people to creep into, and pray, until their prayer is
answered, and they sleep with the rest."

"Hallo!" I said to myself, "Hal-lo! this is the same young gentleman
who said of Jerry Chittle yesterday, 'That it worn't no business of
his'n,' and would probably do so again to-morrow if necessary." Both
Emma and I had noticed lately that Joe had two distinct ways of
speaking; this last was the best example of his later style that we
had yet heard. The young eagle was beginning to try his wings.

Then Erne began to talk. "Did you know, Jim and Joe, that this Church
Place belonged to us before the Sloane Stanleys bought it?"

Joe had been told so by Mr. Faulkner.

"It seems so very strange to find you living here, Jim. So very
strange. Do you know that my father never will mention the name of the
house."

"Why not, sir!" I asked wondering.

"Why, my gentle Hammersmith, it has been such a singularly unlucky
house to all who have lived in it. Do you know why?"

I could not guess.

"Church property, my boy. Built on the site of a cell of Westminster,
granted by Henry to Essex in 1535. Tom Cromwell got it first and lost
it; and then Walter Devereux bought it back for name's sake, because
it had belonged to an Essex once before, I suppose; and then Robert
built the house in one of his fantastic moods. Pretty luck they had
with it,--Devereux the younger will tell you about that. Then we got
it, and a nice mess we made of it,--there was never a generation
without a tragedy. It is a cursed place to the Hillyars. My father
would be out of his mind if he knew I were here. The last tragedy was
the most fearful."

Frank immediately got up on Emma's lap. Erne did not want to be asked
to tell us all about it.

"In 1686," he said, "it was the dower house of Jane, Dowager Lady
Hillyar. Her son, Sir Cheyne Hillyar, was a bigoted papist, and,
thinking over the misfortunes which had happened to the family lately,
attributed them to the possession of this Church property, and
determined that it should be restored forthwith to the Church, even
though it were to that pestilent heretic Adam Littleton, D. D., the
then rector of Chelsea; hoping, however, says my father, to see the
same reverend Doctor shortly replaced, by an orthodox gentleman from
the new Jesuit school in Savoy. But there was a hitch in the
proceedings, my dear Jim. There was a party in the bargain who had not
been sufficiently considered or consulted. Jane, Lady Hillyar, was,
though a strong Catholic, a very obstinate old lady indeed. She
refused, in spite of all the spiritual artillery that her son could
bring to bear upon her, to have the transfer made during her lifetime;
and, while the dispute was hot between them, her son, Sir Cheyne died.

"Then the old lady's conscience began to torment her. She believed
that the house ought to be restored to the Church; but her avarice was
opposed to this step, and between her avarice and superstition she
went mad.

"All her children had deserted her, save one, a hunchbacked grand--
daughter, who came here and lived with her for three months, and who
died here. After this poor girl's death, the old woman kept no
servants in the house at night, but used to sleep in a room at the top
of the house, with her money under her bed. Is there such a room?"

"Yes," I said, "and her ghost walks there now."

"It should," said Erne, "by all reasons, for she was murdered there.
They found her dead in the morning, on the threshold between two
rooms. She had not been to bed, for she was dressed,--dressed in her
old gray silk gown, and even had her black mittens on."

Nothing could shake my faith in the ghost after this. The fact of
Erne and ourselves having both heard the same silly story, from
apparently different, but really from the same sources, confirmed it
beyond suspicion in my mind. The dread I had always had of that room
at the top of the house, in which Reuben lived, now deepened into
horror,--into a horror which was only intensified by what happened
there afterwards. Even now, though the room has ceased to exist, the
horror most certainly has not.

"But come," said Erne, "let me see this house, which has been so
fatal to my family. The weird cannot extend to me, for we own it no
longer. What do you say, Emma; has the luck turned?"

"I fear I must keep you ten years, or perhaps fifty, waiting for an
answer," she said. "But, even then, I could only tell you what I can
now, that your fate is to a very great extent in your own hands."

"You don't believe in destiny, or anything of that sort, then?" said
Erne.

"Not the least in the world," she said.

"Then you are no true Mussulwoman," said Erne. "Let us come up
stairs, and see the haunted mansion. Come on, Emma."

So we went into the empty room up stairs, and Emma showed him the
view westward. While they stood together at the window, the sun smote
upon their faces with his last ray of glory, and then went down behind
the trees; so that, when Erne, Joe, and I started together up stairs
to see Reuben's room, it grew darker and darker each step we went.

"A weird, dull place," said Erne, looking around. "There is another
room inside this, and the old lady was murdered on the threshold. Does
your cousin live here all alone?"

"All alone."

"He must be rather dull."

"The merriest fellow alive."

When we came down stairs, we found my father and mother awaiting us.
My mother seemed very much delighted at my having picked up such a
fine acquaintance; and my father said,--

"Sir, you are welcome. I am glad to see, sir, that my boy Jim is
appreciated by gentlemen as well able to judge as yourself." And then
my father proceeded to define the principal excellences of my
character. I am sure I hope he was right. My crowning virtue, it
appeared,--the one that contained the others, and surpassed them,--
was, that I was "all there." My father assured Erne that he would find
that to be the case. That no one had ever ventured to say that it was
not the case. That if any one did say so, and was in anyways prepared
to maintain his opinion, he would be glad to hear his reasons, and so
on; turning the original proposition, about my being "all there," over
and over, and inside out, a dozen times. Erne had no idea what he
meant, but he knew it was something highly complimentary to me, and so
he said he perfectly agreed with my father, and, that he had taken
notice of that particular point in my character the very moment he saw
me, which was carrying a polite fiction somewhat dangerously far. At
last he said he must go, and, turning to my father, asked if he might
come again. My father begged he would honor him whenever he pleased,
and then he went away, and I walked with him.

"I've run away, Jim," he said, as soon as we were in the street. "I
ran away to see you."

I ventured to express a wish that, at some future time, he might be
induced to go back again.

"Yes," he said, "I shall go back to-morrow. I sleep at a friend's
house here in Chelsea, and I shall go back to-morrow, but I shall come
again. Often, I hope."

When I got home my father was sitting up alone smoking. I sat down
opposite to him, and in a few minutes he said,--

"A fine young chap that, old man!"

"Very, indeed," I said, slightly anxious about the results of the
interview.

"Yes! A fine, handsome, manly lad," continued he. "What's his name,
by-the-by?"

I saw the truth must come out.

"His name is Hillyar," I said.

"Christian name?"

"Erne."

"Then you went to Stanlake yesterday?"

"Yes," I said. "We wanted to see it after what you said, and so we
went."

My father looked very serious, and sat smoking a long time; at last
he said,--

"Jim, you mind the night you was bound?"

"Yes."

"And what I told you about Samuel Burton and his young master, that
carried on so hard?"

I remembered every word.

"This young Erne Hillyar is his brother. That's why your mother cried
when Stanlake was spoke of; and all this has come out of those dratted
water-lilies."

And so we went to bed; but I could not sleep at first. I lay awake,
thinking of my disobedience, and wondering what complication of
results would follow from it. But at last I fell asleep, saying to
myself, "Will he come again to-morrow? when will he come again?"



Chapter XIV. The Gleam of the Autumn Sunset



"ON the 27th, at the Cathedral, by the Right Reverend the Bishop of
Palmerston, assisted by the Very Reverend Dean Maberly, of N. S. W.,
and the Rev. Minimus Smallchange of St. Micros, Little Creek, George
Hillyar, Esq., Inspector of Police for the Bumblcoora District, eldest
son of Sir George Hillyar, of Stanlake, England, to Gertrude, sixth
and last remaining daughter of the late James Neville, Esq. of
Neville's Gap."

That was the way the Sentinel announced it,--"last remaining
daughter." In England, one would have thought that all the other
daughters were dead! Australians understood the sentence better. It
merely meant that all the other sisters were married; that the Miss
Nevilles were exhausted; that there weren't any more of them left;
that, if you wanted to marry one of these ever so much now, you
couldn't do it; and that the market was free to the most eligible
young ladies next in succession. That was all the Sentinel meant.
Dead! Quotha!

Some of the young ladies said: Their word,--they were surprised.
That, if you had gone down on your knees now, and told them that Gerty
was ambitious and heartless, they would not have believed it. That, if
you had told them that she was a poor little thing with no manners;
that she never could dress herself in colors, and so stuck to white;
that she was the color of a cockatoo when she sat still, and got to be
the color of a king-parrot the moment she began to dance; that she was
a forward little thing, and a shy little thing, and a bold little
thing, and an artful little thing, and that her spraining her ankle at
the ball at Government-House was all an excuse to get on the sofa
beside Lord Edward Staunton,--they would have believed all this. But
they never, never could have believed that she would have sold herself
to that disreputable, smooth-faced creature of a Hillyar, for the sake
of his prospective title.

But other young ladies said that Gerty was the sweetest, kindest,
best little soul that ever was born. That, if Inspector Hillyar did
anything to make her unhappy, he ought to be torn to pieces by wild
horses. But that there must be something good in him, or Gerty could
never have loved him as she did.

The Secretary, who was cross and uneasy over the whole matter, on
being told by his wife about this young-lady tattle, said that the
detractors were all of them the daughters of the tradesmen and small
farmers,--the female part of the Opposition. But this was not true,
for Gerty had many friends even among the Opposition. Miss Hurtle,
daughter of the radical member for North Palmerston, (also an
ironmonger in Banks Street,) behaved much like Miss Swartz in Vanity
Fair. She was so overcome at the wedding that she incautiously began
to sob; her sobs soon developed themselves into a long discordant
bellow, complicated with a spasmodic tattoo of her toes against the
front of the pew. The exhibition of smelling--salts only rendering her
black in the face; they had to resort to stimulants. And, as the
procession went out, they were met by the sexton, with brandy--and-
water. The Secretary laughed aloud, and his wife was glad to hear him
laugh, for he had been, as she expressed, "as black as thunder" all
the morning.

Yes, for good or for evil, it was all over and done; and one might
as well laugh as cry. Gerty Neville was Mrs. Hillyar, and the best
must be made of it.

The best did not seem so very bad. The Hillyars came and stayed with
the Oxtons at the Secretary's house near town, after spending their
honeymoon in Sydney, and every day they stayed there the Secretary's
brow grew smoother, and he appeared more reconciled to what had
happened.

Gerty seemed as bright as the morning-star. A most devoted and proud
little wife, proud of herself, proud of her foresight and discretion
in making such a choice, and, above all, proud of her cool, calm,
gentlemanly husband. Her kind little heart was overflowing with
happiness, which took the form of loving-kindness for all her fellow-
creatures, from the Governor down to the meanest native who lay by the
creekside.

"She afraid of her terrible father-in-law," she would say, laughing;
"let him meet her face to face, and she would bring him on his knees
in no time." She was so very lovely, that Mr. and Mrs. Oxton really
thought that she might assist to bring about a reconciliation between
father and son, though George, who knew more than they, professed to
have but little hopes of any change taking place in his father's
feelings towards him.

A great and steady change for the better was taking place in George
himself. There could be no doubt that he was most deeply and sincerely
in love with his wife; and also that, with her, this new life did not,
as the Secretary had feared, bore and weary him. It was wonderfully
pleasant and peaceful. He had never had repose before in his life; and
now he began to feel the full beauty of it.

The Secretary saw all this; but his dread was that this new state of
being, had come to him too late in life to become habitual. There was
the danger.

Still the improvement was marked. He lost the old impatient insolent
fall in the eyes when addressed; he lost his old contradictory manner
altogether; his voice grew more gentle, and his whole air more
cheerful; and, lastly, for the first time in his life, he began to pay
little attentions to women. He began to squire Mrs. Oxton about, and
to buy flowers for her, and all that sort of thing, and to show her,
in a mute sort of way, that he approved of her; and he made himself so
agrecable to all his wife's friends that they began to think that she
had not done so very badly after all.

He very seldom laughed heartily. Indeed, what little humor he had was
dry and caustic, and he never unbent himself to, or was easy and
confidential with, any human being,--unless it were his wife, when
they were alone. His treatment of the Secretary was respectful, nay,
even for him, affectionate; but he was never free with him. He would
talk over his affairs with him, would discuss the chances of a
reconciliation with his father, and so on; yet there was no warmth of
confidence between them. Neither ever called the other "old fellow,"
or made the most trifling joke at the other's expense. If you had told
the Secretary that he still distrusted George Hillyar, he would have
denied it. But, generous and freehearted as the Secretary was, there
was a grain of distrust of his brother-in-law in his heart still.

Thus, even at his best, but one human being loved the poor fellow,
and that one being was his wife, who, for some reason, adored him. It
is quite easy to see that in the times before his marriage he may have
been a most unpopular person. Here he is before us now, for the six
months succeeding his marriage, a tall, handsome man, of about thirty-
one, with a rather pale, hairless face, somewhat silent, somewhat
reserved, but extremely self--possessed; very polite and attentive in
small things, but yet unable to prevent your seeing that his
politeness cost him an effort,--a man striving to forget the learning
of a lifetime.

Shortly after his marriage, he wrote to his father:--

"MY DEAR SIR,--We have been so long and so hopelessly estranged that
I have considerable difficulty in knowing in what terms I ought to
address you.

"Since I left Wiesbaden, and requested you in future to pay the
annual sum of money, you are kind enough to allow me, into the bank at
Sydney, none but the most formal communications have passed between
us. The present one shall be as formal as possible, but I fear will
trench somewhat on family matters.

"I have been four years in the police service of this colony, and
have at last, by a piece of service of which I decline to speak,
raised myself to the highest rank obtainable in it.

"In addition to this piece of intelligence, I have to inform you that
I have made a most excellent marriage. Any inquiries you may make
about the future Lady Hillyar can only be answered in one way.

"Hoping that your health is good. I beg to remain.

"Your obedient son.

"GEORGE HILLYAR."

The answer came in time, as follows:--

"MY DEAR GEORGE,--I had heard of your brilliant gallantry, and also
of your marriage, from another source, before your letter arrived. I
highly approve of your conduct in both cases.

"In the place of the £300 which you have been receiving hitherto from
me, you will in future receive £1000 annually. I hope the end has come
at last to the career of vice and selfish dissipation in which you
have persisted so long.

"I confess that I am very much pleased at what I hear of you this
last six months (I am well-informed about every movement you make): I
had utterly given you up. The way to good fame seems to be plainly
before you. I wish I could believe that none of this enormous crop of
wild oats, which you have so diligently sown for the last eighteen
years, would come up and bear terrible fruit. I wish I could believe
that.

"Meanwhile, if your duties call you to England, I will receive you
and your wife. But take this piece of advice seriously to heart. Make
friends and a career where you are. Mind that.

"Your affectionate father.

"GEORGE HILLYAR."

A cold, cruel, heartless letter. Not one word of tender forgiveness;
not one word of self-blame for the miserable mistakes that he had made
with his son in times gone by: the hatred which he felt for him
showing out in the prophecies of unknown horrors in what seemed a
brighter future. The devil, which had not looked out of George
Hillyar's eyes for six months past, looked out now, and he swore
aloud.

"'Make friends and a career where you are.' So he is going to
disinherit me in favor of that cursed young toad Erne."



Chapter XV. In Which the Snake Creeps out of the Grass



THE place in which he had received this letter was the post-office at
Palmerston, one of the principal public buildings of that thriving
capital,--a majestic and imposing pile of galvanized iron, roofed with
tin, twenty feet long, surmounted by a pediment, the apex of which
rose fifteen feet from the level of Banks Street, and carried a
weathercock.

The mail was just in, and the place was crowded. Roaring for his
orderly was of very little use; it only raised a few eager eyes
impatiently from their letters, or made a few disappointed idlers
wonder what the Inspector was hollering after. His orderly had
probably got a letter, and was reading it in some secret corner. He
would wait for him.

The devil had been in him a few minutes ago; but as he stood and
waited there, in the sweltering little den called the post-office,
with all the eager readers of letters around him, the devil began to
be beat out again. There was an atmosphere in that miserable little
hot tin-kettle of a post-office which the devil can't stand at all,--
the atmosphere of home. Old loves, old hopes, old friends, old scenes,
old scents, old sounds, are threads which, though you draw them finer
than the finest silk, are still stronger than iron. Did you ever hear
the streams talk to you in May, when you went a--fishing? Did you ever
hear what the first rustle of the summer-leaves said to you in June,
when you went a-courting? Did you ever hear, as a living voice, the
southwest wind among the bare ash-boughs in November, when you were
out a-shooting? If you have imagination enough to put a voice into
these senseless sounds of nature, I should like to stand with you in
the Melbourne post-office on a mail day, and see what sort of voice
would speak to you out of the rustling of a thousand fluttering
letters, held by trembling fingers, and gazed on by faces which,
however coarse and ugly, let the news be good or bad, grow more soft
and gentle as the news is read.

Poor George Hillyar. His letter had no hope or comfort in it; and
yet, by watching the readers of the other letters, and seeing face
after face light up, he got more quiet, less inclined to be violent
and rash, less inclined to roar for his orderly, and make a fool of
himself before Gerty. He leant against an iron pillar, and fixed his
attention on a good-natured-looking young man before him, who was
devouring an ill-written, blotted letter with an eagerness and a
delight which made his whole face wreathe itself into one very large
smile.

He was pleased to look at him, and looked at him more earnestly. But,
while he looked at him, he found that he could not concentrate his
attention on him. He tried to do so, for this young fellow, by reason
of a deficient education, was enjoying his letter amazingly; he was
reaping all the pleasures of anticipation and fruition at one and the
same time. When he began a sentence, following the words with a grimy
forefinger, he grinned, because he felt certain that something good
was coming; when he had spelt through it he grinned wider still,
because it surpassed his expectations. Once, after finishing one of
these hard-spelt sentences, he looked round radiantly on the crowd,
and said, confidentially: "I told you so. I know'd she'd have him!"

At this gushing piece of confidence to an unsympathizing crowd, poor
George Hillyar felt as if he would have liked to meet this young man's
eyes and smile at him. But he could not. Somehow, another pair of eyes
came between him and everything else,--eyes which he could not
identify among the crowd, yet which he could feel, and which produced
a sensation of sleepy petulance with which he was very familiar. He
had read some account of the fascination of snakes, and because it
seemed a bizarre, and rather wicked sort of amusement, he had tried it
for himself. He used to go out from the barracks on Sunday afternoon,
find a black snake among the stony ridges, engage its attention, and
stare at it. The snake would lie motionless, with its beady eyes fixed
on him. The fearful stillness of the horrible brute, which carried
instant death in its mouth, would engage him deeply; and the wearying
attention of his eye, expecting some sudden motion of the reptile,
would begin to tell upon the brain, and make the watcher, as I have
said before, petulant and dull. At length the snake, gathering
confidence from his stillness, would gleam and rustle in every coil,
stretch out its quivering neck, and attempt flight. Then his
suppressed anger would break forth, and he would arise and smite it,
almost careless, for the moment, whether he died himself or no.*

He passed out of the crowd, and came into the portico; the people
were standing about, still reading their letters, and his own orderly
was sitting with his feet loose in his stirrups, nearly doubled up in
his saddle, reading his letter too, while he held the rein of George
Hillyar's horse loosely over his arm. The flies were troublesome, and
sometimes the led horse would give such a jerk with his head as would
nearly pull the letter out of the orderly's hand; but he did not
notice it. He sat doubled up on his saddle, with a radiant eager smile
on his face, and read.

Time was when poor Hillyar would have sworn at him, would have said
that the force was going to the devil, because a cadet dared to read a
letter on duty. But those times were gone by for the present. George
Hillyar had been a bully, but was a bully no longer. He waited till
his orderly should have finished his letter, and waited the more
readily because he felt that those two strange eyes, of which he had
been clearly conscious, were plaguing him no more.

So he waited until his orderly had done his letter before he
approached him. The orderly, a gentle-looking English lad, with a
kind, quiet face, looked on his advance with dismay. He had committed
a slight breach of discipline in reading his sister's letter while on
duty in the public streets; and Bully Hillyar, the man who never
spared or forgave, had caught him. It was a week's arrest.

Nevertheless, he looked bright, pushed the letter into his breast,
and wheeled the led horse round ready for the Inspector to mount. He
knew, this sagacious creature, that he was going to catch it, and, so
to speak, put up a moral umbrella against the storm of profane oaths
which he knew would follow.

Will you conceive his astonishment when the Inspector, instead of
blaspheming at him, took his curb down a link, and said over the
saddle, preparing to mount, "What sort of news, Dickenson? Good news,
hey?"

Judging by former specimens of George Hillyar's tender mercies, the
orderly conceived this to be a kind of diabolical chaff or irony,
preparatory to utter verbal demolition and ruin. He feebly said that
he was very sorry.

"Pish, man! I am not chaffing. Have you got good news in your letter,
hey?"

The astonished and still-distrusting orderly said, "Very good news,
sir, thank you."

"Hah!" said George Hillyar. "I have n't. What's your news? Come, tell
us."

"My mother is coming out, sir."

"I suppose you are very fond of your mother, ar'n't you? And she is
fond of you, hey?"

"Yes, sir."

"She don't play Tom-fool's tricks, does she? She would n't cut away
with a man, and leave you, would she?"

"No, sir."

"If she were to, should you like her all the same, eh?"

"I cannot tell, sir. You will be pleased to close the conversation
here, sir. My mother is a lady, and I don't allow any discussion
whatever about her possible proceedings."

"I did n't mean to make you angry," said Bully Hillyar, the
inspector, to quiet Dickenson, the cadet; "I am very sorry. I am
afraid my manner must be unfortunate; for just now, on my honor, I was
trying to make a friend of you, and I have only succeeded in making
you angry."

Young Dickenson, not a wise being by any means, remembered this
conversation all his life. He used to say afterwards that Bully
Hillyar had had good points in him, and that he knew it. When George
Hillyar was condemned, he used to say, "Well, well! this was bad, and
that was bad, but he was a good fellow at bottom." The fact is, that
George unbent, and was his better self before this young man. He had
been slowly raising himself to a higher level, and was getting
hopeful. When he felt those eyes fixed upon him, as he read his
letter,--which eyes gave him a deadly chill, though he had not
recognized them,--the vague anxiety which possessed him had caused him
to be confidential with the first man he met.

So he rode slowly home to the barracks and sat down in his quarters
to business, for he had taken the business off the hands of the
Palmerston Inspector, and had so given him a holiday. The office was a
very pleasant place, opening on the paddock,--at this time of year a
sheet of golden green turf, shaded by low gum-trees, which let
sunbeams through their boughs in all directions, to make a yellow
pattern on the green ground. The paddock sloped down to the river,
which gleamed a quarter of a mile off among the tree-stems.

It was a perfectly peaceful day in the very early spring. The hum of
the distant town was scarcely perceptible, and there was hardly a
sound in the barracks. Sometimes a few parrots would come whistling
through the trees; sometimes a horse would neigh in the paddock;
sometimes a lazily-moved oar would sound from the river; but quiet
content and peace were over everything.

Even the two prisoners in the yard had ceased to talk, and sat silent
in the sun. A trooper going into the stable, and two or three horses
neighing, to him was an event. George Hillyar sat and thought in the
stillness, and his thoughts were pleasant and held him long.

At length he was aroused by voices in the yard,--one that of a
trooper.

"I tell you he's busy.

"But I really must see him," said the other voice. "I bring important
information."

George listened intently.

"I tell you," said the trooper, "he is busy Why can't you wait till
he comes out?"

"If you don't do my message, mate, you'll repent it."

"You 're a queer card to venture within a mile of a police-station at
all; leave alone being cheeky when you are in the lion's jaws."

"Never you mind about that," said the other. "You mind your business
half as well as I mind mine, and you 'll be a man before your mother
now. What a pretty old lady she must be, if she's like you. More
mustache though, ain't she? How's pussy? I was sorry for the old gal
getting nabbed, but--"

As it was perfectly evident that there would, in one instant more, be
a furious combat of two, and that George would have to give one of his
best troopers a week's arrest, he roared out to know what the noise
was about.

"A Sydney sider, sir, very saucy, insists upon seeing you."

"Show him in then. Perhaps he brings information."

The man laid George's revolver on the table, put the newspaper
carelessly over it, saluted, and withdrew. Directly afterward the evil
face of Samuel Burton was smiling in the doorway, and George Hillyar's
heart grew cold within him. * This is my theory about snake-
fascination. The above are the only results I ever arrived at (except
a creeping in the calves of my legs, and an intense desiro to run
away). Dr. Holmes don't quite agree. But I will publicly retract all I
have said, if he will promise not to try any further experiments with
his dreadful crotuli. The author of "Elsie Venner" is far too precious
a person for that sort of thing.



Chapter XVI. James Burton's Story: Erne and Emma.


MY dear father's religious convictions were, and are, eminently
orthodox. He had been born and bred under the shadow of a great
Kentish family, and had in his earlier years,--until the age of
manhood, indeed,--contemplated the act of going to church anywhere but
at the family church in the park as something little less than
treason. So when, moved by ambition, he broke through old routine so
far as to come to London and establish himself, he grew fiercer than
ever in his orthodoxy; and, having made such a desperate step as that,
he felt that he must draw a line somewhere. He must have some holdfast
to his old life; so his devotion to the Establishment was intense and
jealous. The habit he had of attending church in all weathers on
Sunday morning, and carefully spelling through the service, got to be
so much a part of himself that, when our necessities compelled us to
render ourselves to a place where you could n't go to church if you
wished it, the craving after the old habit made my father most uneasy
and anxious, as far on in the week as Tuesday afternoon; about which
time the regret for the churchless Sunday just gone by would have worn
itself out. But then the cloud of the equally churchless Sunday
approaching would begin to lower down about Thursday afternoon, and
grow darker as the day approached; so that for the first six months of
our residence in our new home, our Saturday evenings were by no means
what they used to be. And yet I can hardly say that my father was at
this time a devout man. I think it was more a matter of custom.

Of political convictions, my father had none of any sort or kind
whatever. He sternly refused to qualify himself, or to express any
opinion on politics, even among his intimates at the Black Lion on
Saturday evening. The reason he gave was, that he had a large family,
and that custom was custom. Before you condemn him you must remember
that he had never had a chance in his life of informing himself on
public affairs, and that he showed a certain sort of dogged wisdom in
refusing to be led by the nose by the idle and ignorant chatterboxes
against whom he was thrown in the parlor of the public-house.

I wish he had shown half as much wisdom with regard to another
matter, and I wish I and Joe had been a few years older before he went
so far into it. Joe and I believed in him, and egged him on, as two
simple, affectionate boys might be expected to do. The fact is, as I
have hinted before, that my father had considerable mechanical genius,
and was very fond of inventing; but then he was an utterly ignorant
man, could scarcely read and write, and knew nothing of what attempts,
and of what failures, had been made before his time.

As ill luck would have it, his first attempt in this line was a great
success. He invented a centrifugal screw-plate, for cutting very long
and large male screws almost instantaneously. He produced the handles
of an ordinary screw-plate (carrying a nut two inches diameter), two
feet each way, and weighted them heavily at the ends. This, being put
on a lathe, was made to revolve rapidly, and by means of an endless
screw, approached the bar of iron to be operated on when it was
spinning at its extreme velocity. It caught the bar and ran up it as
though it were wood, cutting a splendid screw. A large building firm,
who needed these great screws for shores, and centres of arches, and
so on, bought the patent from my father for seventy pounds.

This was really a pretty and useful invention. My mother went blazing
down the street to church in a blue-silk gown and a red bonnet, and
the gold and marqueterie in Lord Dacres's great monument paled before
her glory. It was all very well, and would have been better had my
father been content to leave well alone.

But he wasn't. I never knew a man worth much who was. The very next
week he was hard at work on his new treadleboat. We were saved from
that. The evil day was staved off by Erne Hillyar.

Joe, among other benefits he was receiving as head boy at the
parochial school, was getting a fair knowledge of mechanical drawing;
so he had undertaken to make the drawings for this new invention. I
had undertaken to sit next him and watch, keeping Fred quiet; my
father sat on the other side; Frank lay on his back before the fire,
singing softly; and the rest were grouped round Harry. Emma went
silently hither and thither about housework, only coming now and then
to look over Joe's shoulder; while my mother sat still beside the
fire, with her arms folded, buried in thought. She had been uneasy in
her mind all the evening; the green-grocer had told her that potatoes
would be dear that autumn, and that "Now is your time, Mrs. Burton,
and I can't say no fairer than that." She had argued the matter, in a
rambling, desultory way, with any one who would let her, the whole
evening, and was now arguing it with herself. But all of a sudden she
cried out, "Lord a mercy!" and rose up.

It was not any new phase in the potato-question which caused her
exclamation; it was Erne Hillyar. "I knocked, Mrs. Burton," he said,
"and you did not hear me. May I come in?"

We all rose up to welcome him, but he said he would go away again if
we did not sit exactly as we were; so we resumed our positions, and he
came and sat down beside me, and leant over me, apparently to look at
Joe's drawing.

"I say, Jim," he whispered, "I have run away again."

I whispered, "Wouldn't his pa be terrible anxious?"

"Not this time he won't. He will get into a wax this time. I don't
want him to know where I come. If I go to the Parker's, they will tell
him I don't spend all the time with them. I shall leave it a mystery."

I was so glad to see him, that I was determined to make him say
something which I liked to hear. I said, "Why do you come here, sir?"

"To see you, gaby," he said; and I laughed. "And to see Emma also: so
don't be conceited. What are you doing?"

My father and Joe explained the matter to him, and his countenance
grew grave, but he said nothing. Very soon afterwards, Emma and he and
I had managed to get into a corner together by the fire, and were
talking together confidentially.

Erne told Emma of his having run away, and she was very angry with
him. She said that, if he came so again, she would not speak one word
to him. Erne pleaded with her, and defended himself. He said I was the
only friend he had ever made, and that it was hard if he was never to
see me. She said that was true, but that he should not do it in an
underhand way. He said he must do it so, or not do it at all. She said
that her brother was not one that need be run away to, or sought in
holes and corners. He said that she knew nothing of the world and its
prejudices, and that he should take his own way. She said it was time
for Fred to go to bed, and she must wish him goodnight; so they
quarrelled, until Fred's artificial shell--pinafore, frock, and all
the rest of it--was unbuttoned and unhooked, and nothing remained but
to slip him out of it all, and stand him down, with nothing on but his
shoes and stockings, to warm his stomach by the fire. When this was
done, Erne came round and hoped she wasn't angry with him. He said he
would always try to do as she told him, but that he must and would
come and see us. And she smiled at him again, and said she was sure
that we three would always love one another, as long as we lived; and
then, having put on Fred's night-gown, she carried him up to bed,
singing as she went.

When Erne had done looking after her, he turned to me, and said:--

"Jim, she is right. I must not come sneaking here. I must have it out
with the governor. I have told old Compton about it, and sworn him to
secrecy. Now for some good news. Do you remember what you told me
about the Thames?"

"Do you mean how it was getting to stink?"

"No, you great Hammersmith. I mean about sailing up it in a boat, as
Joe and you and your cousin did; and all the tuliptrees and churches
and tea--gardens." I dimly perceived that Erne wished me to take the
aesthetical and picturesque view of the river, rather than the
sanitary and practical. By way of showing him I understood him, I
threw in:--

"Ah! and the skittle-alleys and flag-staffs."

"Exactly," he said. "It's a remarkable fact, that in my argument with
my father I dwelt on that very point,--that identical point, I assure
you. There's your skittles again, I said; there's a manly game for
you. He didn't see it in that light at first, I allow; because he told
me not to be an ass. But I have very little doubt I made an impression
on him. At all events, I have gained the main point: you will allow
that I triumphed."

I said "Yes"; I am sure I don't know why. I liked to have him there
talking to me, and would have said "Yes" to anything. We two might
have rambled on for a long while, if Joe, who had come up, and was
standing beside me, had not said,--

"How, sir, may I ask?"

"Why, by getting him to take a house at Kew. I am to go to school at
Dr. Mayby's, and we are going to keep boats, and punts, and things.
And I am going to see whether that pleasant cousin of yours, of whom
you have told me, can be induced to come up and be our waterman, and
teach me to row. Where is your cousin, by the by?"

He was out to-night, we said. He might be in any moment. Erne said,
"No matter. Now, Mr. Burton, I want to speak to you, and to Joe."

My father was all attention. Erne took the drawings of the treadle-
boat from my father, and told him that the thing had been tried fifty
times, and had failed utterly as compared with the oar; that, with
direct action, you could not gain sufficient velocity of revolution;
and that, if you resorted to multiplying gear, the loss of power
sustained by friction was so enormous as to destroy the whole utility
of the invention. He proved his case clearly. Joe acquiesced, and so
did my father. The scheme was abandoned there and then; and I was left
wondering at the strange mixture of sound common sense, knowledge of
the subject, and simplicity of language, which Erne had shown. I soon
began to see that he had great talents and very great reading, but
that, from his hermit-like life, his knowledge of his fellow-creatures
was lower than Harry's.

He had got a bed, it appeared, at the Cadogan Hotel in Sloane Street,
and I walked home with him. I was surprised, I remember, to find him,
the young gentleman who had just put us so clearly right on what was
an important question to us, and of which we were in the deepest
ignorance, asking the most simple questions about the things in the
shop-windows and the people in the streets,--what the things (such
common things as bladders of lard and barrels of size) were used for,
and what they cost? The costermongers were a great source of
attraction to him, for the King's Road that night was nearly as full
of them as the New Cut. "See here, Jim," he said, "here is a man with
a barrow full of the common murex; do they eat them?" I replied that
we ate them with vinegar, and called them whelks. Periwinkles he knew,
and recognized as old friends, but tripe was a sealed book to him. I
felt such an ox-like content and complacency in hearing his voice and
having him near me, that we might have gone on examining this world,
so wonderfully new to him, until it was too late to get into his
hotel; but he luckily thought of it in time. I, remembering the
remarks of a ribald station-master on a former occasion, did not go
within reach of the hotel--lights. We parted affectionately, and so
ended his second visit.



Chapter XVII. Erne and Reuben



THE next morning my father and I were informed that Mr. Compton would
be glad to speak to us; and, on going indoors, there he was, as
comforable and as neat as ever.

"Well, Burton," he said, cheerily, "how does the world use you? As
you deserve, apparently, for you haven't grown older this fifteen
years."

My father laughed, and said, "Better, he was afeared. His deservings
weren't much. And how was Mr. Compton?"

"Well, thankee. Anything in my way? Any breach of patent, eh?
Remember me when your fortune's made. What a hulking great fellow Jim
is getting! What do you give him to eat, hey, to make him grow so?"

My father was delighted to give any information to his old friend. He
began to say that sometimes I had one thing and sometimes another,--
may be, one day beef and another mutton. "Jints, you understand," said
my father; "none of your kag-mag and skewer bits--"

"And a pretty good lot of both, I'll be bound. Was Erne here last
night, Jim?"

You might have knocked me down with a feather. I had not the wildest
notion that Mr. Compton, a very old acquaintance of my father, knew
anything about the Hillyars. I said "Yes."

"I am very glad to hear it," he said. "There's a devil of a row about
him at home. I hope he has gone back."

I said that he was gone back.

My father said, "Look here, Mr. Compton. I cannot say how glad I am
you came to-day, of all men. I and my wife are in great trouble about
Master Erne and his visits, and we don't rightly know what to do."

"I am in trouble also about the boy," said Mr. Compton; "but I do
know what to do."

"So sure am I of that, sir," said my father, "that I was going to
look you up, and ask your advice."

"And I came down to consult with you; and so here we are. How much
does Jim know about all this?"

"A good deal," said my father; "and, if you please, I should wish him
to know everything."

"Very well, then," continued Mr. Compton, "I will speak before him as
if he was not here. You know this young gentleman has not been brought
up in an ordinary way,--that he knows nothing of the world;
consequently I was terribly frightened as to where he might have run
away to. When he told me where he had been, I was easy in my mind, but
determined to come and speak to you, whom I have known from a child.
What I ask of you is. Encourage him here, Burton and Jim, but don't
let any one else get hold of him. He can get nothing but good in your
house. I know. By what strange fatality he selected your family to
visit, I cannot conceive. It was a merciful accident."

I told him about the yellow water-lilies.

"Hah," he said, "that removes the wonder of it. Now about his
father."

"I should think," said my father, "that Sir George would hardly let
him come here, after hearing our name?"

"He does not know that you are any connexion with our old friend
Samuel. I don't see why we should tell him,--I don't indeed. It is
much better to let bygones be bygones."

"Do you know that his son lives with us now?"

"Yes. You mean Reuben. How is he going on?"

"Capital,--as steady and as respectable as possible."

"Well, then," said Mr. Compton, "for his sake we should not be too
communicative. Sir George knows nothing of you. He only knows your
name from my father's having unfortunately recommended Samuel to him.
I think, if you will take my advice, we will keep our counsel. Good-
bye, old friend."

Mr. Compton and my father were playfellows. The two families came
from the same village in Kent, and Mr. Compton had, unfortunately,
recommended Samuel Burton to Sir George Hillyar.

Three days afterwards Erne came in, radiant. "It was all right," he
said; "he was to come whenever he could get away."

"We had an awful row though," he continued; "I got old Compton to
come home with me. 'Where have you been, sir?' my father said in an
awful voice, and I said I had been seeing my friends, the Burtons, who
were blacksmiths,--at least all of them except the women and
children,--in Church Place, Chelsea. He stormed out that, if I must go
and herd with blackguards, I might choose some of a less unlucky name,
and frequent a less unlucky house. I said I did n't name them, and
that therefore that part of the argument was disposed of; and that, as
for being blackguards, they were far superior in every point to any
family I had ever seen; and that their rank in life was as high as
that of my mother, and therefore high enough for me. He stood aghast
at my audacity, and old Compton came to my assistance. He told me
afterwards that I had showed magnificent powers of debate, but that I
must be careful not to get a habit of hard-hitting,--Lord knows what
he meant. He told my father that these Burtons were really everything
that was desirable, and went on no end about you. Then I told him that
I had his own sanction for my proceedings, for that he himself had
given me leave to make your acquaintance. He did not know that it was
you I had been to see, and was mollified somewhat. I was ordered to
leave the room. When I came back again, I just got the tail of the
storm, which was followed by sunshine. To tell you the truth, he came
to much easier than I liked. But here we are, at all events."

We sat and talked together for a short time; and, while we were
talking, Reuben came in. Erne was sitting with his back towards the
door; Reuben advanced towards the fire from behind him, and seeing a
young gentleman present, took off his cap and smoothed his hair. How
well I can remember those two faces together. The contrast between
them impressed me in a vague sort of way even then; I could not have
told you why at that time, though I might now. Men who only get
educated somewhat late in life, like myself, receive impressions and
recognize facts, for which they find no reason till long after: so
those two faces, so close together, puzzled me even then for an
instant, for there was a certain similarity of expression, though
probably none in feature. There was a look of reckless audacity in
both faces,--highly refined in that of Erne, and degenerating into
mere devil-may-care, cockney impudence in that of Reuben. Joe, who was
with me, remarked that night in bed, that either of them, if tied up
too tight, would break bounds and become lawless. That was true
enough, but I saw more than that. Among other things, I saw that there
was far more determination in Erne's beautiful set mouth than in the
ever-shifting lips of my Cousin Reuben, I also saw another something,
to which, at that time, I could give no name.

Reuben came and leant against the fireplace, and I introduced him.
Erne immediately shook hands and made friends. We had not settled to
talk when Emma came in, and, after a kind greeting between Erne and
her, sat down and began her work.

"You're a waterman, are you not, Reuben?" said Erne.

Reuben was proud to say he was a full waterman.

"It is too good luck to contemplate," said Erne; "but we want a
waterman, in our new place at Kew, to look after boats and attend me
when I bathe, to see I don't drown myself. I suppose you wouldn't--
eh?"

Reuben seemed to think he would rather like it. He looked at Emma.

"Just what I mean," said Erne. "What do you say, Emma?" Emma looked
steadily at Reuben, and said quietly:

"If it suits Reuben, sir, I can answer for him. Answer for him in
every way. Tell me, Reuben. Can I answer for you?"

Reuben set his mouth almost as steadily as Erne's, and said she might
answer for him.

"Then will you come?" said Erne. "That will be capital. Don't you
think it will be glorious, Emma?"

"I think it will be very nice, sir. It will be another link between
you and my brother."

"And between myself and you."

"That is true also," said Emma. "And I cannot tell you how glad I am
of that, because I like you so very, very much. Next to Jim, and Joe,
and Reuben, I think I like you better than any boy I know."



Chapter XVIII. James Burton's Story: Reuben and Sir George Hillyar



GOLDEN hours, which can never come back any more. Hours as peaceful
and happy as the close of a summer Sabbath, among dark whispering elm-
woods, or on quiet downs, aloft above the murmuring village. Was it on
that evening only, or was it on many similar evenings, that we all sat
together, in a twilight which seemed to last for hours, before the
fire, talking quietly together? Why, when at this distance of time I
recall those gatherings before the fire, in the quaint draughty old
room, do I always think of such things as these?--of dim, vast
cathedrals, when the service is over, and the last echoes of the organ
seem still rambling in the roof, trying to break away after their
fellows towards heaven,--of quiet bays between lofty chalk headlands,
where one lies and basks the long summer day before the gently
murmuring surf,--of very quiet old churches, where the monuments of
the dead are crowded thick together, and the afternoon sun slopes in
on the kneeling and lying effigies of men who have done their part in
the great English work, and are waiting, without care, without
anxiety, for their wages? Why does my rambling fancy, on these
occasions, ever come back again to the long series of peaceful and
quiet images,--to crimson sunsets during a calm in mid ocean,--to high
green capes, seen from the sea, the sides of whose long--drawn valleys
are ribbed with gray rocks,--to curtains of purple dolomite, seen from
miles away across the yellow plain, cut in the centre by a silver
waterfall,--to great icebergs floating on the calm blue sea,--to
everything, in short, which I have seen in my life which speaks of
peace? And why, again, do I always come at last to the wild dim blue
promontory, whose wrinkled downs are half obscured by clouds of wind-
driven spray?

How many of these evenings were there? There must have been a great
many, because I remember that Reuben came home for the winter one dead
drear November night, and Erne accompanied him and stayed for an hour.
I cannot say how long they lasted. A year or two, first and last.

What arose out of them that is noticeable is soon told. In the first
place, this period constituted a new era in Joe's life. Erne's books
and Erne's knowledge and assistance were at his service, and he soon,
as Erne told me, began to bid fair to be a distinguished scholar. "He
not only had perseverance and memory, but genius also," said Erne. "He
sees the meaning of a thing quicker than I do. Joe is far cleverer
than I."

At first I had been a little anxious about one thing, though I have
never named my anxiety to any one. I was afraid lest Reuben should
become jealous of Erne, and stay away from us. It was not so. Reuben
grew devoted to Erne, and seemed pleased with his admiration of Emma.
I began to see that Emma's influence over Reuben, great as it was,
arose more from a sincere respect and esteem on his part than anything
else. I was therefore glad to find that nothing was likely to
interfere with it. As for Erne, he had fallen most deeply in love with
her, and I had seen it from the beginning.

I, for my part, in my simplicity, could see no harm in that. In fact,
it seemed to me an absolutely perfect arrangement that these two
should pass their lives in a fool's paradise together. As for my
father and mother, they looked on us all as a parcel of children, and
nothing more; and, besides, they both had the blindest confidence in
Emma, child as she was. At all events, I will go bail that no two
people ever lived less capable of any design on Erne's rank or
property. I insult them by mentioning such a subject.

Whether it was that I had represented Sir George Hillyar to Reuben as
a very terrible person, or whether it was that Reuben's London
assurance would not stand the test of the chilling atmosphere of the
upper classes, I cannot say; but Reuben was cowed. When the time came
for him to fulfil his engagement to go to Kew and take care of Sir
George Hillyar's boats, he grew anxious and fidgetty, and showed a
strong tendency to back out of the whole business.

"I say, Emma, old woman," he said, the night before I was to go with
him and introduce him, "I wish I was well out of this here."

"Well out of what, Reuben dear?" said Emma.--"And no body but the
child and the two angels knew as the crossing sweeper boy was gone to
heaven; but, when they got up there, he was awaiting for 'em, just as
the angel in blue had told the angel in pink silk and spangles he
would be." (This last was only the tail of some silly story which she
had been telling the little ones; it has nothing to do with the plot).

"Why, well out of going up to Kew, to look after these boats. The old
co--gentleman, I should say, is a horrid old painted Mussulman. When
he do go on the war-train, which is twenty-four hours a day,--no
allowance for meals,--he is everlastingly a-digging up of his
tommyawk. All the servants is prematurely gray; and, if the flowers
don't blow on the very day set down in the gardening column of Bell's
Life, he's down on the gardeners, till earthquakes and equinoctials is
a fool to him."

"Ain't you talking nonsense, Reuben dear?" said Emma.

"May be," said Reuben, quietly. "But, by all accounts, he is the most
exasperating bart as ever was since barts was, which was four years
afore the first whycount married the heiress of the great cod-liver-
oil manufacturer at Battersea. It flew to his lower extremities,"
continued Reuben, looking in a comically defiant manner at Emma, and
carefully putting the fire together; "and he drank hisself to death
with it. He died like a bus-horse, in consequence of the grease
getting into his heels. Now!"

"Have you quite done, Reuben?" asked Emma.

Reuben said he had finished for the present.

"Then," said Emma, "let me tell you that you are very foolish in
prejudicing yourself against this gentleman from what you have heard
at the waterside, since he came to Kew. However, I am not altogether
sorry, for you will find him quite different,--quite different, I
assure you."

It was bedtime, and we all moved up stairs together in a compact
body, on account of Frank. That tiresome young monkey, Harry, in an
idle hour--when, as Dr. Watts tells us, Satan is ready to find
employment--had told Frank that the Guy Fawkeses lived under the
stairs, and had produced the most tiresome complications. The first we
heard of it was one day when Frank was helping Fred down stairs. Fred
was coming carefully down one step at a time, sucking his thumb the
while, and holding on by Frank, when Frank suddenly gave a sharp
squeal, and down the two came, fifteen stairs, on to the mat at the
bottom. To show the extraordinary tricks which our imaginations play
with us at times,--to show, indeed, that Mind does sometimes triumph
over Matter,--I may mention that Frank (the soul of truth and honesty)
declared positively that he had seen an arm clothed in blue cloth,
with brass buttons at the wrist, thrust itself through the banisters,
and try to catch hold of his leg. On observing looks of incredulity,
he added that the Hand of the Arm was full of brimstone matches, and
that he saw the straw coming out at its elbows. After this, a strong
escort was necessary every night, when he went to bed. He generally
preferred going up pick-a-back on Reuben's broad shoulders, feeling
probably safer about the legs.

How well I remember a little trait of character that night. Fred
conceived it more manly to walk up to bed without the assistance even
of Emma. When we were half-way up the great staircase, Reuben,
carrying Frank, raised an alarm of Guy Fawkeses. We all rushed,
screaming and laughing, up the stairs, and when we gained the landing,
and looked back, we saw that we had left Fred behind, in the midst of
all the dreadful peril which we had escaped. But the child toiled
steadily and slowly on after us, with a broad smile on his face,
refusing to hurry himself for all the Guy Fawkeses in the world. When
he got his Victoria Cross at Delhi for staying behind, that he might
bring poor Lieutenant Tacks back on his shoulders, to die among
English faces, I thought of this night on the stairs at Chelsea. He
hurried no faster out of that terrible musketry fire in the narrow
street than he did from the Guy Fawkeses on the stairs. Among all
Peel's heroes, there was no greater hero than our big-headed Fred. The
post-captain who has got Frederick Burton for his boatswain is an
envied and lucky man to this day.

Reuben, who had to toil up stairs to his lonely haunted room at the
top of the house, asked me to come with him. Of course I went, though,
great lubberly lad as I was, I remember having an indistinct dread of
coming down again by myself.

There was a dull fire burning, and the great attic looked horribly
ghostly; and, as I sat before the fire, strange unearthly draughts
seemed to come from the deserted and still more ghostly room beyond,
which struck, now on this shoulder and now on that, with a chill, as
if something was laying its hand on me. Reuben had lit a candle, but
that did not make matters better, but a great deal worse; for, when I
looked at his face by the light of it, I saw that he looked wild and
wan, and was ashy pale.

He took a letter from the pocket of his pea-jacket, and burnt it.
Before it was quite consumed, he turned to me, and said:--

"Jim, Jim, dear old chap, you won't desert me, will you, when it
comes, and I can't see or speak to Emma or the kids any more? You will
go between us sometimes, and tell her and them that I am only stupid
old Reuben, as loves 'em well, by G--; and that I ain't changed in
spite of all?"

I was infinitely distressed. The fact is, that I loved my cousin
Reuben,--in a selfish way, of course. I had a certain quantity of
rough, latent humor, but no power of expression. Reuben, on a mere
hint from me of some gross incongruity, would spin out yard after yard
of verbose, fantastic nonsense to the text which I had given him. He
was necessary to me, and I was fond of him in consequence.

"Reuben, old boy," I said, "I'll go to death with you. I'll never,
never desert you, I tell you. If you have been led away, Reuben, why,
you may be led back again." I took his hand, and felt that I was as
pale as he. "Is it--is it--anything that will take you for long, Rube?
Shall you go abroad, Rube?" And here, like a young fool, I burst out
crying.

"Lord bless his faithful heart!" said Reuben, in his old manner, "I
have n't been doing of nothink. But, Jim, what was it you said just
now?"

I said, "What did he mean? 'that I could follow him to death?"'

He said, "Yes; that is what I meant. And, Jim, old chap, it runs to
that. Not for me, but for others. In my belief, Jim, it runs to that.
Joe could tell us, but we musn't ask Joe. Joe's a chap as is rising
fast, and musn't be pulled down by other folk's troubles. Lawyers
could tell us,--but, Lord love you, we musn't ask no lawyers. We'd
best know nothing about it than ask they. And you musn't know nothing
either; only don't desert me, old Jim."

I said again that I would not. And, if ever I kept my word, I kept
that promise.

"I know you won't," he said, with that strange mixture of
shrewdness, rough honor, and recklessness which one finds among
Londoners; "but then, Jim, if you are true to me, you will have, may
be, to know and not to know at one and the same time, to go with a
guilty breast among the little ones, and before Emma. Better leave me,
Jim; better leave me while you can."

I declared I would not; but that I would stick by him and give him a
good word when he wanted it. And then, at his solicitation, I stayed
with him all night. Once he woke, and cried out that the barge had got
too far down the river, and was drifting out to sea. Then that the
corpses of all the people who had committed suicide on the bridges
were rising up and looking at us. I slept but little after this, and
was glad when morning dawned.

But the next morning Reuben was as bright, as brisk, and as
nonsensical as ever. He defied Emma. She ventured to hope that he
would be steady, and not attend to everything he heard about people
without inquiry. He said he was obliged to her, and would n't; that he
had left three or four pair of old boots up stairs, and, if she'd be
good enough to send 'em to the beadle and get 'em darned, he 'd thank
her. The passion and earnestness of last night was all gone
apparently. Nothing was to be got from him, even by Emma, but chaff
and nonsense. The true London soul revolted from, and was ashamed of,
the passion of last night. Even with me he seemed half ashamed and
half captious.

We were not very long in getting to Kew. Early as we were, the
servants had to inform us that Sir George and Mr. Erne had gone out
riding. We waited in the servants' hall, in and out of which gray-
headed servants came now and then to look, it would seem, at the
strange sight of two round young faces like ours. About nine o'clock,
the butler came and asked us to come to prayers, and we went up into a
great room, where breakfast was laid, and made the end of a long row
of servants, sitting with our backs against a great sideboard, while a
gray-headed old gentleman read a very long prayer. The moment we were
alone together, Reuben, who was in a singularly nervous and insolent
mood, objected to this prayer in language of his own, which I shall
not repeat. He objected that three-quarters of it was consumed in
conveying information to the Deity, concerning our own unworthiness
and his manifold greatness and goodness; and that altogether it was as
utterly unlike the Lord's Prayer or any of the Church prayers as need
be.

I was very anxious about him. I dreaded the meeting between him and
the terrible old baronet. I was glad when things came to a crisis. We
saw Sir George come riding across the park on a beautiful swift-
stepping gray cob, accompanied by Erne on a great, nearly thorough-
bred chestnut. They were talking merrily together and laughing. They
were certainly a splendid couple, though Erne would have looked to
better advantage on a smaller horse. They rode into the stable-yard,
where we were instructed to wait for them, and dismounted.

"That," said Sir George Hillyar, advancing and pointing sternly at me
with his riding-whip, "is the boy Burton. I have seen him before."

This previous conviction was too damning to be resisted. I pleaded
guilty.

"And that?" said he, turning almost fiercely upon Reuben.

Erne stood amused, leaving us to fight our own battle. I said it was
Rube.

"Who?" said Sir George.

"Reuben, my cousin," I said, "that was come to take care of his
honor's boats."

Sir George looked at Reuben for full a minute without speaking, and
then he said, "Come here, you young monkey."

As Reuben approached, utterly puzzled by this style of reception, I
noticed a look of curiosity on Sir George's face. When Reuben stood
before him, quick as light Sir George turned and looked at Erne for
one second, and then looked at Reuben again. Steadily gazing at him,
he pointed the handle of his riding-whip towards him, and said, "Look
here, sirrah, do you hear? You are to have fifteen shillings a week,
and are to put three half--crowns in the savings'-bank. You are to get
up at seven, to say your prayers, to clean the boats, and offer to
help the gardener. If he is fool enough to accept your offer, you may
tell him that you were n't hired to work in the garden. If Mr. Erne
bathes, you are to row round and round him in a boat, and try to
prevent his drowning himself. If he does, you are to send a servant to
me, informing me of the fact, and go for the drags. If such a casualty
should occur, you are to consider your engagement as terminated that
day week. I object to skittles, to potting at public-houses, and to
running along the towing-path like a lunatic, bellowing at the idiots
who row boat-races. Any conversation with my son Erne on the subjects
of pigeon-shooting, pedestrianism, bagatelle, all-fours, toy-terriers,
or Non--conformist doctrines, will lead to your immediate dismissal.
Do you understand!"

I did not; but Erne and Reuben did. They understood that the old man
had taken a fancy to Reuben, and was making fun. They both told me
this, and of course I saw they were right at once. Still, I was
puzzled at one thing more. Why, after he had turned away, did the old
gentleman come back after a few steps, and lay his hands on Reuben's
shoulders, looking eagerly into his face? Could he see any likeness to
his father,--to the man who had used him so cruelly,--to Samuel
Burton? I could not think so. It must have been merely an old man's
fancy for Reuben's handsome, merry countenance; for Sir George pushed
him away with a smile, and bade him go about his business.



Chapter XIX. Samuel Burton goes into the Licensed Victualling Line



As Samuel Burton came, hat in hand, with bent and cringing body,
into George Hillyar's office in the barracks at Palmerston, George
Hillyar turned his chair round towards him; and when the door was shut
behind him, and the trooper's footfall had died away, he still sat
looking firmly at him, without speaking.

He could not turn pale, for he was always pale; he could not look
anxious, for he had always a worn look about his eyes. He merely sat
and stared steadily at the bowing convict, with a look of inquiry in
his face. The convict spoke first,--

"I have not seen your honor for many years."

"Not for many years," said George Hillyar.

"I have been in trouble since I had the pleasure of seeing your
honor."

"So I understand, Samuel," said George.

"Thank you, Master George, for that kind expression. You have not
forgot me. Thank you, sir."

"You and I are not likely to forget one another, are we?" said
George Hillyar.

"I have noticed," said the convict, "in a somewhat chequered career,
that the memories of gentlefolks were weak, and wanted jogging at
times--"

"Look here," said George Hillyar, rising coolly, and walking towards
the man. "Let me see you try to jog mine. Let me see you only once
attempt it. Do you hear? Just try. Are you going to threaten, hey? D--
n you; just try it, will you. Do you hear?"

He not only heard, but he minded. As George Hillyar advanced towards
him, he retreated, until at last, being able to go no farther, he
stood upright against the weather-boards of the wall, and George stood
before him, pointing at him with his finger.

"Bah!" said George Hillyar, after a few seconds, going back to his
chair. "Why do you irritate me? You should know my temper by this
time, Samuel. I don't want to quarrel with you?"

"I am sure you don't, sir," said Burton.

"Why are you sure I don't?" snarled George, looking at him angrily.
"Why, eh? Why are you sure that I don't want to quarrel with you, and
be rid of you forever? Hey?"

"Oh dear! I am sure I don't know, sir. I meant no offence. I am very
humble and submissive. I do assure you, Mr. George, that I am very
submissive. I didn't expect such a reception, sir. I had no reason to.
I have been faithful and true to you, Mr. George, through everything.
I am a poor, miserable, used-up-man, all alone in the world. Were I
ever such a traitor, Mr. George, I am too old and broken by trouble,
though not by years, to be dangerous."

The cat-like vitality which showed itself in every movement of his
body told another story though. George Hillyar saw it, and he saw
also, now that he had nad an instant for reflection, that he had made
a sad mistake in his way of receiving the man. The consciousness of
his terrible blunder came upon him with a sudden jar. He had shown the
man, in his sudden irritation, that he distrusted and hated him; and
he had sense to see that no cajolery or flattery would ever undo the
mischief which he had made by his loss of temper, and by a few wild
words. He saw by the man's last speech that the miserable convict had
some sparks of love left for his old master, until he had wilfully
trampled them out in his folly. He saw, now it was too late, that he
might have negotiated successfully on the basis of their old
association; and at the same time that he, by a few cruel words, had
rendered it impossible. The poor wretch had come to him in humility,
believing him to be the last person left in the world who cared for
him. George had rudely broken his fancy by his causeless suspicion,
and put the matter on a totally different footing.

He clumsily tried to patch the matter up. He said, "There, I beg your
pardon; I was irritated and nervous. You must forget all I have said."

"And a good deal else with it, sir, I am afraid," said Burton. "Never
mind, sir; I'll forget it all. I am worse than I was."

"Now don't you get irritated," said George, "because that would be
very ridiculous, and do no good to any one. If you can't stand my
temper after so many years, we shall never get on."

"I am not irritated, sir. I came to you to ask for your assistance,
and you seem to have taken it into your head that I was going to
threaten you with old matters. I had no intention of anything of the
sort. I merely thought you might have a warm place left in your heart
for one who served you so well, for evil or for good. I am very
humble, sir. If I were ungrateful enough to do so, I should never dare
to try a game of bowls with an Inspector of Police in this country,
sir. I only humbly ask for your assistance."

"Samuel," said George Hillyar, "we have been mistaking one another."

"I think we have, sir," said Burton.

And, although George looked up quickly enough, the sly scornful
expression was smoothed out of Burton's face, and he saw nothing of
it.

"I am sure we have," continued George. "Just be reasonable. Suppose I
did think at first that you were going to try to extort money from me:
why, then, it all comes to this, that I was mistaken. Surely that is
enough of an apology."

"I need no apologies, Mr. George. As I told you before, I am only
submissive. I am your servant still, sir. Only your servant."

"What am I to do for you, Samuel? Anything?"

"I came here to-day, sir, to ask a favor. The fact is, sir, I came to
ask for some money. After what has passed, I suppose I may go away
again. Nevertheless, sir, you needn't be afraid of refusing. I
haven't--haven't--Well, never mind; all these fears to turn Turk at
last, with such odds against me, too."

"How much do you want, Samuel?" said George Hillyar.

"I'll tell you, sir, all about it. A man who owes me money, an old
mate of mine, is doing well in a public house at Perth, in West
Australia. He has written to me to say that, if I will come, I shall
come into partnership for the debt. It is a great opening for me; I
shall never have to trouble you again. Thirty pounds would make a
gentleman of me just now. I say nothing of your getting rid of me for
good--"

"You need say nothing more, Samuel," said George. "I will give you
the money. What ship shall you go by?"

"The Windsor sails next week, sir, and calls at King George's Sound.
That would do for me."

"Very well, then," said George; "here is the money; go by her. It is
better that we separate. You see that these confidences, these long
tête-à-têtes, between us are not reputable. I mean no unkindness; you
must see it."

"You are right, sir, It shall not happen again. I humbly thank you,
sir. And I bid you good day."

He was moving towards the door, when George Hillyar turned his chair
away from him, as though he was going to look out of window into the
paddock, and said, "Stop a moment, Samuel."

The convict faced round at once. He could see nothing but the back of
George's head, and George seemed to be sitting in profound repose,
staring at the green trees, and the parrots which were whistling and
chattering among the boughs. Burton's snake-like eyes gleamed with
curiosity.

"You watched me to-day in the Post-office," said George.

"Yes, sir; but I did not think you saw me."

"No more I did. I felt you," answered George. "By the by, you got
fourteen years for the Stanlake business, did you not?"

"Yes, sir; fourteen weary years," said Burton, looking inquiringly at
the back of George's head, and madly wishing that he could see his
face.

"Only just out now, is it?" said George.

"I was free in eight, sir. Then I got two. I should have got life
over this last bank robbery, but that I turned Queen's evidence."

"I hope you will mend your ways," said George, repeating,
unconsciously, Mr. Oxton's words to the same man on a former occasion.
"By George, Samuel, why don't you?"

"I am going to, sir," replied Burton, hurriedly; and still he stood,
without moving a muscle, staring at the back of George Hillyar's head
so eagerly that he never drew his breath, and his red-brown face lost
its redness in his anxiety.

At last George spoke, and he smiled as though he knew what was
coming.

"Samuel," he said, "I believe your wife died; did she not?"

"Yes, sir, she died."

"How did she die?"

"Consumption."

"I don't mean that. I mean, what was her frame of mind,--there, go
away, for God's sake; there will be some infernal scandal or another
if we stay much longer. Here! Guard. See this man out. I tell you I
won't act on such information. Go along with you. Unless you can put
your information together better than that, you may tell your story to
the marines on board the Pelorus. Go away."

Samuel Burton put on the expression of face of a man who was humbly
assured that his conclusions were right, and only required time to
prove it. It was an easy matter for those facile, practised features
to twist themselves into any expression in one instant. There is no
actor like an old convict. He sneaked across the yard with this
expression on his face, until he came to the gate, at which stood five
troopers, watching him as he passed.

He couldn't stand it. The devil was too strong in him. Here were
five of these accursed bloodbounds, all in blue and silver lace,
standing looking at him contemptuously, and twisting their mustaches;
five policemen,--men who had never had the pluck to do a dishonest
action in their lives,--standing and sneering at him, who knew the
whole great art and business of crime at his fingers' ends. It was
intolerable. He drew himself up, and began on them. It was as if a
little Yankee Monitor, steaming past our fleet of great iron-clad
frigates, should suddenly, spitefully, and hopelessly open fire on it.

I can see the group now. The five big, burly, honest, young men,
standing silently and contemptuously looking at Samuel in the bright
sunlight; and the convict sidling past them, rubbing his hands, with a
look of burlesqued politeness in his face.

"And good day, my noble captains," he began, with a sidelong bow,
his head on one side like a cockatoo's, and his eye turned up looking
nowhere. "Good day, my veterans, my champions. My bonny, pad-
clinking,* out--after-eight-o'clock-parade, George Street bucks, good
day. Does any one of you know aught of one trooper Evans, lately
quartered at Cape Wilberforce?"

"Ah!" said the youngest of the men, a mere lad; "why, he's my
brother."

"No," said Samuel, who was perfectly aware of the fact. "Well, well!
It seems as if I was always to be the bearer of bad news somehow."

"What d' ye mean, old man?" said the young fellow, turning pale.
"There's nothing the matter with Bill, is there?"

Samuel merely shook his head slowly. His enjoyment of that look of
concern, which he had brought upon the five honest faces, was more
intense than anything we can understand.

"Come, cheer up, Tom," said the oldest of the troopers to the
youngest. "Speak out, old man; don't you see our comrade's in
distress?"

"I should like to have broke it to him by degrees," said Samuel; "but
it must all come out. Bear up, I tell you. Take it like a man. Your
brother's been took; and bail's refused."

"That's a lie," said Tom, who was no other than George Hillyar's
orderly. "If you tell me that Bill has been up to anything, I tell you
it's a lie."

"He was caught," said Samuel, steadily, "boning of his lieutenant's
pomatum to ile his mustachers. Two Blacks and a Chinee seen him a-
doing on it, and when he was took his 'ands was greasy. Bail was
refused in consequence of a previous conviction again him, for robbing
a blind widder woman of a Bible and a old possum rug while she was
attending her husband's funeral. The clerk of the Bench has got him a-
digging in his potato-garden now at this present moment, waiting for
the sessions. Good--bye, my beauties. Keep out of the sun, and don't
spile your complexions. Good-bye." * Alluding to the clinking of their
spurs.



Chapter XX. James Burton's Story: Reuben Entertains Mysterious and
            Unsatisfactory Company



I AM doubtful, to this very day, whether or no Sir George Hillyar
knew or guessed that we were relations of Samuel Burton, the man who
had robbed him. I think that he did not know; if he did, it was
evident that he generously meant to ignore it. Mr. Compton, who had
recommended Samuel, told us to say nothing about it; and we said
nothing. Emma surprised Joe and me one night, when we were alone
together, by firing up on the subject, and saying distinctly and
decidedly that she thought we were all wrong in not telling him. I was
rather inclined to agree with her; but what was to be done? It was not
for us to decide.

The relations between the two families were becoming very intimate
indeed. Sir George Hillyar had taken a most extraordinary fancy for
Reuben, which he showed by bullying him in a petulant way the whole
day long, and by continually giving him boots and clothes as peace-
offerings. Reuben would take everything said to him with the most
unfailing good humor, and would stand quietly and patiently, hat in
hand, before Sir George, and rub his cheek, or scratch his head, or
chew a piece of stick, while the "jobation" was going on. He took to
Sir George Hillyar amazingly. He would follow him about like a dog,
and try to anticipate his wishes in every way. He did not seem to be
in the least afraid of him, but would even grin in the middle of one
of Sir George's most furious tirades. They were a strange couple, so
utterly different in character; Sir George so ferociously obstinate,
and Reuben so singularly weak and yielding; and yet they had a
singular attraction for one another.

"Erne," Sir George would roar out of window, "where the devil is
that tiresome monkey of a waterman?"

"I haven't seen him to-day," Erne would reply. "He has been missing
since last night. The servants think he has drowned himself, after the
rowing you gave him last night. I think that he has merely run away.
If you like, I will order the drags."

"Don't you be a jackanapes. Find him."

Rueben would be produced before the window.

"May I take the liberty of asking how you have been employing your
time, sir? The boats are not cleaned."

"Cleaned 'em by nine this morning, sir."

"You have not fetched home that punt-pole, sir, as you were
expressly ordered."

"Fetched it home last night, sir."

"And why was it not fetched home before, sir?"

"The old cove as had the mending on it," Reuben would answer, going
off at score in his old way, "has fell out with his missis, and she
hid his shoes in the timber-yard, and went off to Hampton fair in a
van, along with Mrs. Scuttle, the master-sweep's lady, and he had to
lie in bed till she came back, which wasn't soon, for she is fond of
society and calculated to adorn it; and, when she come, she couldn't
remember where the shoes was put to, and so--"

"What do you mean, sir?" Sir George would interrupt, "by raking up
all this wretched blackguardism before my son Erne?"

Reuben would say, that he had been asked, and supposed that he did
right in answering; and by degrees the storm would blow over, and
Reuben would in some way find himself the better for it. When Erne
told me that he had seen his father sit on a bench and watch Reuben at
his work for an hour together, I began to think that Sir George had a
shrewd guess as to who Reuben was; and also to have a fancy that there
might be two sides to Samuel Burton's story; and that it was dimly
possible that Sir George might wish to atone for some wrong which he
had done to our cousin. But I said nothing to any one, and you will
see whether or no I was right by and by.

However, Reuben's success with Sir George was quite notorious in our
little circle. My mother said that it was as clear as mud that Sir
George intended to underswear his personalities in Reuben's favor. I
might have wondered what she meant, but I had given up wondering what
my mother meant, years ago, as a bad job.

I saw Reuben very often during his stay at Stanlake, and he was
always the very Reuben of old times,--reckless, merry, saucy, and
independent,--ready to do the first thing proposed, without any
question or hesitation. The dark cloud which had come over him the
night I went up and slept with him in the ghost-room had apparently
passed away. Twice I alluded to it, but was only answered by a mad
string of Cockney balderdash, like his answers to Sir George Hillyar,
one of which I have given above as a specimen. The third time I
alluded to the subject, he was beginning to laugh again, but I stopped
him.

"Rube," I said, looking into his face, "I don't want you to talk
about that night. I want you to remember what I said that night. I
said, Rube, that, come what would, I would stick by you. Remember
that."

"I'll remember, old Jim," he said, trying to laugh it off. But I saw
that I had brought the cloud into his face again, and I bided my time.

When the boating season was over, the Hillyars went back into the
great house at Stanlake, and Reuben came home and took up his quarters
once more in the ghost's-room, at the top of the house; and then I saw
that the cloud was on his face again, and that it grew darker day by
day.

I noticed the expression of poor Reuben's face the more, perhaps,
because there was something so pitiable in it,--a look of abject,
expectant terror. I felt humiliated whenever I looked at Reuben. I
wondered to myself whether, under any circumstances, my face could
assume that expression. I hoped not. His weak, handsome face got an
expression of eager, terrified listening, most painful to witness. Mr.
Faulkner had lent Joe "Tom and Jerry," and among other pictures in it
was one of an effeminate, middle--aged forger, just preparing for the
gallows, by George Cruikshank; and, when I saw that most terrible
picture, I was obliged to confess that Reuben might have sat for it.

A very few nights after his return, just when I had satisfied myself
of all the above-mentioned facts about Reuben, it so happened that
Fred, being started for a run in his night-shirt, the last thing
before going to bed, had incontinently run into the back-kitchen,
climbed on to the sink to see his brothers, Harry and Frank, pumping
the kettle full for the next morning, slipped upon the soap, come down
on one end, and wetted himself. My mother was in favor of airing a
fresh night-gown, but Emma undertook to dry him in less time; so they
all went to bed, leaving Fred standing patiently at Emma's knees, with
his back towards the fire, in a cloud of ascending steam.

I had caught her eye for one instant, and I saw that it said: "Stay
with me." So I came and sat down beside her.

"Jim, dear," she said eagerly, "you have noticed Reuben: I have seen
you watching him."

"What is it, sweetheart?" I answered. "Can you make anything of it?"

"Nothing, Jim," she said. "I am fairly puzzled. Has he confided to
you?"

I told her faithfully what had passed between us the night I stayed
in his room.

"He has done nothing wrong; that is evident," she said. "I am glad of
that. I love Reuben, Jim, dear. I wouldn't have anything happen to
Reuben for anything in the world. Let us watch him and save him, Jim;
let us watch him and save him."

I promised that I would do so, and I did. I had not long to watch. In
three days from that conversation, the look of frightened expectation
in Reuben's face was gone, and in its place there was one of surly
defiance. I saw that what he had expected had come to pass. But what
was that? I could not conceive. I could only remember my promise to
him, to stick by him, and wait till he chose to tell me. For there was
that in his eyes which told me that I must wait his time; that I must
do anything but ask.

He left off coming in to see us of an evening, but would only look in
to say "Good night," and then we would hear him toiling up the big
stairs all alone. Two or three times Emma would waylay him and try to
tempt him to talk, but he would turn away. Once she told me he laid
his head down on the banisters and covered his face; she thought he
was going to speak, but he raised it again almost directly, and went
away hurriedly.

The house was very nearly empty just now. The lodgers, who had, so
to speak, flocked to my father's standard at first, had found the
house dull, and had one by one left us, to go back into the old
houses, as buildings which were not so commodious, but not so
intolerably melancholy. The house was not so bad in summer; but, when
the November winds began to stalk about the empty rooms, like ghosts,
and bang the shutters, in the dead of night,--or when the house was
filled from top to bottom with the November fog, so that, when you
stood in the middle of the great room at night with a candle, the
walls were invisible, and you found yourself, as it were, out of sight
of land,--then it became a severe trial to any one's nerves to live
above stairs. They dropped off one by one; even the Agars and the
Holmeses, our oldest friends. They plainly told us why; we could not
blame them, and we told them so.

It used to appear to me so dreadfully desolate for Reuben, sleeping
alone up there at the very top of the house, separated from everything
human and lifelike by four melancholy stories of empty ghost-haunted
rooms. I thought of it in bed, and it prevented my sleeping. I knew
that some trouble was hanging over his head, and I thought that there
was something infinitely sad and pathetic in the fact of that one
weak, affectionate soul lying aloft there, so far away from all of us,
brooding in solitude. Alone in the desolate darkness, with trouble,--
nay, perhaps with guilt.

One night I lay awake so long thinking of this, that I felt that my
judgment was getting slightly unhinged,--that, in short, I was
wandering on the subject. I awoke Joe. He had never been taken into
full confidence about Reuben and his troubles. Reuben was a little
afraid of him, and had asked me not to speak to him on the subject,
but I had long thought that we were foolish, in not having the advice
of the soundest head in the house; so, finding my own judgment going,
I awoke him and told him everything.

"I have been watching too," said Joe, "and I saw that he had asked
you and Emma to say nothing to me. Mind you never let him know you
have. I'll tell you what to do, old man. What time is it?"

It was half-past eleven, by my watch.

"Get up and put on some clothes; go up stairs and offer to deep with
him."

"So late," I said. "Won't he be angry?"

"Never mind that. He ought n't to be left alone brooding there.
He'll--he'll--take to drink or something. Go up now, old man, and see
if he will let you sleep with him."

It was the cold that made my teeth chatter. I feel quite sure that it
was not the terror of facing those endless broad stairs in the middle
of a November night, but chatter they did. I had made my
determination, however; I was determined that I would go up to poor
Reuben, and so I partly dressed myself. Joe partly dressed himself
too, saying that he would wait for me.

Oh, that horrible journey aloft, past the long corridors, and the
miserable bare empty rooms, up the vast empty staircases, out of which
things looked at me, and walked away again with audible footsteps!
Bah! it makes me shudder to think of it now.

But, at last, after innumerable terrors, I reached Reuben's room-
door, and knocked. He was snoring very loud indeed,--a new trick of
his. After I had knocked twice, he suddenly half-opened the door, and
looked out before I had heard him approach it. It was dark, and we
could not see one another. Reuben whispered, "Who's there?" and I
answered.

"It's only me, Rube. I thought you were so lonely, and I came up to
sleep with you."

He said, "That's like you. Don't come in, old fellow; the floor's
damp: let me come down and sleep with you instead. Wait."

I waited while Reuben found his trousers, and all the while he kept
snoring with a vigor and regularity highly creditable. At last, after
a few moments indeed, I made the singularly shrewd guess that there
was some one else sleeping in Reuben's room,--some one who lay on his
back, and the passages of whose nose were very much contracted.

Reuben came down stairs with me in the dark. He said it was so kind
of me to think of him. He confided to me that he had a "cove" up
stairs, a great pigeon-fancier, to whom he, Reuben, owed money; but
which pigeon-fancier was in hiding, in consequence of a mistake about
some turbits, into which it would be tedious to go. I thought it was
something of that kind, and was delighted to find that I was right. I
took occasion to give Rube about three-halfpennyworth of good advice
about low company, but he cut it short; for he rolled sleepily into
our room, where a light was burning, and tumbled into my bed with one
of his old laughs, and seemed to go to sleep instantly.

I was glad of this, for I was in mortal fear lest he should notice
one fact: Joe was not in the room, and Joe's bed was empty. Joe had
been following me to see me through my adventure, as he always did;
but, if Reuben had seen that Joe had been watching us, I know he would
never have forgiven him, and so it was just as well as it was. I put
the light out, and in a few minutes I heard Joe come into the room and
get into bed. Although I was very tired after a hard day's work, I
determined to think out the problem of Reuben's visitor. I had
scarcely made this determination, when it became clear to me that he
was no other than Robinson Crusoe, who had come to insist that all
Childs's and Chancellor's omnibus-horses were to be roughed in three
minutes, in consequence of the frost. I then proceeded down the Thames
in a barge, by the Croydon atmospheric railway; and then I gave it up
as a bad job, and went on the excursion which we all, I hope, go at
night. May yours be a pleasant one to-night, my dear reader--
pleasanter than any which Reuben's friend, the pigeonfancier, is at
all likely to make.



Chapter XXI. Gerty Goes on the War-Trail



BELOW the city of Palmerston, which was situated just at the head of
the tideway, the river Street found its way to the sea in long
reaches, which were walled in, to the very water's edge, by what is
called in the colony teascrub--a shrub not very unlike the tamarisk,
growing dense and thick, about fifteen feet high, on the muddy bank,
eaten out by the wash of many steamboats. But, above the tideway, the
river was very different. If you went up, you had scarcely passed the
wharves of the city before you found yourself in a piece of real
primeval forest, of nearly two thousand acres, left by James Oxton
from the very first; which comprised a public park, a botanic garden,
and the paddock of the police-station. This domain sloped gently down
to the river on either side, and the river was no sooner relieved from
the flat tideway than it began to run in swift long shallows of
crystal water, under hanging woodlands,--in short, to become useless,
romantic, and extremely beautiful.

Passing upward beyond the Government Reserve, as this beautiful tract
was called, you came into the magnificent grounds of the Government
House. The house itself, a long, white, castellated building, hung
aloft on the side of a hill overhead, and was backed by vast sheets of
dark green woodland. From the windows the lawn stooped suddenly down,
a steep slope into the river, here running in a broad deep reach,
hugging the rather lofty hills, on the lower range of which the house
was situated.

Immediately beyond the Government House, and on the other side of the
river, was a house of a very different character. The river, keeping,
as I said, close to the hills, left on the other side a great level
meadow, which, in consequence of the windings of the stream, was a
mere low peninsula, some five hundred acres in extent, round which it
swept in a great still, deep, circle. At the isthmus of the peninsula,
on a rib of the higher land behind, a ridge of land ran down, and,
forming the isthmus itself, was lost at once in the broad river-flat
below. There stood the residence of our friend the Hon. James Oxton.

It was a typical house,--the house of a wealthy man who had not
always been wealthy, but who had never been vulgar and pretentious. It
was a perfectly honest house; it meant something. It meant this: that
James Oxton required a bigger house now that he was worth a quarter of
a million than he did when he was merely the cadet of an English
family, sent here to sink or swim with the only two thousand pounds he
was ever likely to see without work. And yet that house showed you at
a glance that the owner did not consider himself to have risen in the
social world one single step. He had always been a gentleman, said the
house, and he never can be more or less. Ironmongers from Bar Street
might build magnificent Italian villas, as an outward and visible
proof that they had made their fortunes, and had become gentlemen
beyond denial or question. James Oxton still lived comfortably between
weather-board, and under shingle, just as in the old times when
ninety-nine hundredths of the Colony was a howling wilderness; he
could not rise or fall.

Yet his house, in its peculiar way, was a very fine one indeed.
Strangers in the Colony used to mistake it for a great barracks, or a
great tan-yard, or something of that sort. Fifteen years before he had
erected a simple wooden-house of weather-board, with a high-pitched
shingle roof. As he had grown, so had his house grown. As he had more
visitors, he required more bedrooms; as he kept more horses, he
required more stables, consequently more shingle and weather-boards:
and so now his house consisted of three large gravelled quadrangles,
surrounded by one-storied buildings, with high-pitched roofs and very
deep verandas. There was hardly a window in the whole building;
nothing but glass doors opening to the ground, which were open for
five or six months in the year.

An English lady might have objected to this arrangement. She might
have said that it was not convenient to come in and find a tame
kangaroo, as big as a small donkey, lying on his side on the hearth-
rug, pensively tickling his stomach with his forepaws; or for six or
eight dogs, large and small, to come in from an expedition, and,
finding the kangaroo in possession of the best place, dispose
themselves, as comfortably as circumstances would allow, on ottomans
and sofas, until they rose up with one accord and burst furiously out,
barking madly, on the most trivial alarm, or even on none at all. An
English lady, I say, might have objected to this sort of thing, but
Aggy Oxton never dreamt of it. Mrs. Quickly objected to it, both on
the mother's account and on that of the blessed child, not to mention
her own; but Mrs. Oxton never did. It was James's house, and they were
James's dogs. It must be right.

I mentioned Mrs. Quickly just this moment. I was forced to do so. The
fact of the matter is, that at this time--that is to say, on the very
day on which George Hillyar had his interview with Samuel Burton in
his office--the whole of these vast premises, with their inhabitants,
were under her absolute dominion, with the exception of the dogs, who
smelt her contemptuously, wondering what she wanted there, and the
cockatoo, who had delivered himself over as a prey to seven screaming
devils, and, having bit Mrs. Quickly, had been removed to the stables,
rebellious and defiant.

For there was a baby now. James Oxton had an heir for his honors and
his wealth. The shrewd Secretary, the hard-bitten man of the world,
the man who rather prided himself at being thoroughly conversant with
all the springs of men's actions, had had a new lesson these last few
days. There was a sensation under his broad white waistcoat now, so
very, very different from anything he had ever felt before, and so
strangely pleasant. He tried to think what it was most like. It was
nearest akin to anxiety, he thought. He told his wife that he felt it
in the same place, but that it was very different. After all, he did
not know, on second thoughts, that it was so very like anxiety. He
thought, perhaps, that the yearning regret for some old friend who had
died in England without bidding him good-bye, was most like this
wonderful new sensation of child-love.

But, whatever it was most like, there it was. All the interlacing
circles of politics, ambition, business, and family anxiety, had
joined their lines into one; and here, the centre of it all, lay his
boy, his first-born, heir to 150,000 acres, on his pale wife's knee.

He was an anxious man that day. The party which was afterwards to
rise and sweep him away for a time, the party of the farmers and
shopkeepers, recruited by a few radical merchants and some squatters,
smarting under the provisions of James Oxton's Seal Bill, and
officered, as the ultra-party in a colony always is, by Irishmen,--the
party represented in the House by Mr. Phelim O'Ryan, and in the press
by the Mohawk,--had shown their strength for the first time that day;
and, as a proof of their patriotism, had thrown out, on the third
reading (not having been able to whip in before), the Government
District-Building-Surveyor's-Bill, the object of which was to provide
that the town should be built with some pretensions to regularity, and
that every man should get his fair money's worth out of the brick-
layer. It was thrown out, wholesome and honest as it was, as a first
taste of the tender mercies and good sense of a party growing stronger
day by day. James Oxton had cause to be anxious; he saw nothing before
him but factious opposition, ever growing stronger to every measure he
proposed; no business to be comfortably done until they, the Mohawks,
were strong enough to take office, which would be a long while. And,
when they were--Oh heavens! Phelim O'Ryan, Brian O'Donoghue! It would
n't do to think of.

And George Hillyar? About this proposition of his of going to
England? The Secretary was strongly of opinion that he ought to go,
and to make it up with his father, and to set things right, and to
give Gerty her proper position in the world; but George would n't go.
He was obstinate about it. He said that his father hated him, and that
it was no use. "He is a short--necked man," argued James Oxton to
himself, "and is past sixty. He may go off any moment; and there is
nothing to prevent his leaving three--quarters of his property to this
cub Erne,--the which thing I have a strong suspicion he had done
already. In which case George and Gerty will be left out in the cold,
as the Yankees say. Which will be the deuse and all: for George has
strong capabilities of going to the bad left in him still. I wish
George would take his pretty little wife over to England, and make his
court with the old man while there is time. But he won't, confound
him!"

The poor Secretary, you see, had cause enough for anxiety. And when
he was in one of what his wife chose to call his Saddocee humors, he
would have told you that anxiety was merely a gnawing sensation behind
the third button of your waistcoat, counting from the bottom. When,
however, he came into the drawing-room, and saw his boy on his wife's
lap, and Gerty kneeling before her, the sensation, though still behind
the same button, was not that of anxiety, but the other something
spoken of above.

The baby had been doing prodigies. He was informed of it in a burst
of female volubility. It had wimmicked. Not once or twice, but three
times had that child wimmicked at its aunt as she knelt there on that
identical floor under your feet. Mrs. Oxton was confirmed in this
statement by Gerty, and Gerty by Mrs. Quickly. There was no doubt
about it. If the child went on at this pace, it would be taking notice
in less than a month!

This was better than politics,--far better. Confound O'Ryan and all
the rest of them. He said, there and then, that he had a good mind to
throw politics overboard and manage his property. "Will you have the
goodness to tell me, Gerty," he said, "what prevents my doing so? Am I
not poorer in office? Is it not unendurable that I, for merely
patriotically giving up my time and talents to the colony, am to be
abused by an Irish adventurer; have my name coupled with Lord
Castlereagh's (the fool meant to be offensive, little dreaming that I
admire Lord Castlereagh profoundly); and be unfavorably compared to
Judas Iscariot? I'll pitch the whole thing overboard, and take old
George into partnership, and let them ruin the colony their own way.
Why should n't I?"

Gerty did n't know. She never knew anything. She thought it would be
rather nice. Mrs. Oxton remarked, quietly, that three days before he
had been furiously abusing the upper classes in America, as cowardly
and unprincipled, for their desertion of politics, and their
retirement into private life.

"There, you are at it now," said the Secretary. "How often I have
told you not to remember my opinions in that way, and bring them up
unexpectedly. You are a disagreeable woman, and I am very sorry I ever
married you."

"You should have married Lesbia Burke, my love," said Mrs. Oxton.
"We always thought you would. Did n't we, Gerty?"

"No, dear, I think not," said simple Gerty; "I think you forget.
Don't you remember that poor mamma always used to insist so positively
that Mary was to marry Willy Morton; that you were to marry James; and
that I was to marry either Dean Maberly, or Lord George Staunton,
unless some one else turned up? I am sure I am right, because I
remember how cross she was at your walking with Willy Morton at the
Nicnicabarler pic-nic. She said, if you remember, that you were both
wicked and foolish,--wicked, to spoil your elder sister's game, and
more foolish than words could say if you attempted to play fast and
loose with James. I remember how frightened I was at her."

"'If you think James Oxton is to be played the fool with, you little
stupid,' she said--"

"The girl is mad," said Mrs. Oxton, blushing and laughing at the same
time. "She has gone out of her mind. Her memory is completely gone."

"Dear me!" said Gerty, looking foolishly round; "I suppose I oughtn't
to have told all that before James. I am terribly silly sometimes.
But, Lord bless you, it won't make any difference to him."

Not much, judging from the radiant smile on his face. He was
intensely delighted. He snapped his fingers in his wife's face. "So
Willy Morton was the other string to her bow, hey? Oh Lord!" he said,
and then burst out into a shout of merry laughter. Mrs. Oxton would
not be put down. She said that it was every word of it true, and that,
idiot as Willy Morton was, he would never have snapped his fingers in
his wife's face. Gerty couldn't understand the fun. She thought they
were in earnest, and that she was the cause of it all. Mrs. Oxton saw
this, and pointed it out to the Secretary. He would have laughed at
her anxiety, but he saw she was really distressed; so he told her in
his kind, quiet way, that there was such love and confidence between
him and her sister as even the last day of all, when the secrets of
all hearts should be known, could not disturb for one instant.

She was, possibly, a little frightened by the solemnity with which he
said this, for she stood a little without answering; and Mr. Oxton and
his wife, comparing notes that evening, agreed that her beauty grew
more wonderful day by day.

For a moment, she stood, with every curve in her body seeming to
droop the one below the other, and her face vacant and puzzled; but
suddenly, with hardly any outward motion, the curves seemed to shift
upwards, her figure grew slightly more rigid, her head was turned
slightly aside, her lips parted, and her face flushed and became
animated.

"I hear him," she said; "I hear his horse's feet brushing through the
fern. He is coming, James and Aggy. I know what a pity it is I am so
silly--"

"My darling,--" broke out Mr. Oxton.

"I know what I mean, sister dear. He should have had a cleverer wife
than me. Do you think I am so silly as not to see that? Here he is."

She ran out to meet him. "By George, Aggy," said the Secretary,
kissing his wife, "if that fellow does turn Turk to her--"

He had no time to say more, for George and Gerty were in the room,
and the Secretary saw that George's face was haggard and anxious, and
began to grow anxious too.

"I am glad we are all here together alone," said George. "I want an
important family talk. Mrs. Quickly would you mind going?"

Mrs. Quickly had, unnoticed, heard all that had passed before, and
seemed inclined to hear more. She winced, and ambled, and bridled, and
said something about the blessed child, whereupon Mrs. Oxton, like a
shrewd body, gave her the baby to take away with her, reflecting that
if she tried to listen at the keyhole, the baby would probably make
them aware of the fact.

"I look pale and anxious, I know," said George. "I am going to tell
you why. Has Gerty told you what she told me last week!"

Yes, she had.

"I have been thinking over the matter all day, all day," said George,
wearily, "and I have come to the conclusion that that circumstance
makes an immense difference. Don't you see how, Oxton?"

"I think I do," said the Secretary.

George looked wearily and composedly at him, and said, "I mean this,
my dear Oxton; I steadily refused to pay court to my father before,
partly because I thought it useless, and partly because my pride
forbade me. This news of Gerty's alters everything. For the sake of my
child, I must eat my pride, and try to resume my place as the head of
the house. Therefore, I think I will accede to your proposal, and go
to England."

"My good George," said Mrs. Oxton, taking him by both hands, "my
wise, kind George, we are so sure it will be for the best?"

"My boy," said the Secretary, "you are right. I cannot tell you how
delighted I am at your decision. I wish I was going. Oh heavens! if I
could only go. And I will go, and actually see old Leecroft, and Gerty
shall take a kiss to my mother. Hey, Gerty? She would know you if she
met you in the street, from my description. Shall you be in time to
get off by the Windsor?"

"Oh Lord, no," said George, losing color for an instant; "we couldn't
possibly go by that ship. No; we could not be ready by then."

"I suppose you couldn't," said the Secretary. "I was thinking for a
moment, George, that you were as impatient as I should be."

"Hardly that," said George. "My errand home is a different sort of
one from yours."

So George got leave of absence, and went home; partly to see whether
or no he could, now a family was in prospect, get on some better terms
with his father, and partly because, since he had the interview with
Samuel Burton, everything seemed to have grown duller and blanker to
him. His first idea was to put sixteen thousand miles of salt water
between him and this man, and his purpose grew stronger every time he
remembered the disgraceful tie that bound them together.

So they went. As the ship began to move through the green water of
the bay, Gerty stood weeping on the quarter-deck, clinging to George's
arm. The shore began to fade rapidly; the happy, happy shore, on which
she had spent her sunny, silly life. The last thing she saw through
her tears was the Secretary, standing at the end of the pier, waving
his hat, and Aggy beside him. When she looked up again, some time
after, the old familiar shore was but a dim blue cloud, and, with a
sudden chill of terror, she found herself separated from all who knew
her and loved her, save one,--alone, on the vast, heaving, pitiless
ocean, with George Hillyar.

For one instant, she forgot herself. She clutched his arm, and cried
out, "George, George! let us go back. I am frightened, George. I want
to go back to Aggy and James. Take me back to James! Oh, for God's
sake, take me back!"

"It is too late now, Gerty," said George, coldly, "You and I are
launched in the world together alone, to sink or swim. The evening
gets chill. Go to your cabin."

The Secretary stamped his foot on the pier, and said, "God deal with
him as he deals with her!" But his wife caught his hands in hers, and
said, "James, James! don't say that. Who are we that we should make
imprecations? Say, God help them both."



Chapter XXII. James Burton's Story: Very Low Company



REUBEN'S friend, the pigeon-fancier, never showed in public. I asked
Rube, after a day or two, whether he was there still, and Rube
answered that he was there still, off and on. I was very sorry to hear
it, though I could hardly have told any one why.

Reuben never came in of a night now; at least never came to sit with
us. Sometimes he would come in for a few minutes, with his pockets
always full of bulls'-eyes and rock and such things, and would give
them to the children, looking steadily at Emma all the while, and then
go away again. He would not let me come up to his room. He seemed not
at all anxious to conceal the fact, that there was some one who came
there who was, to put it elegantly, an ineligible acquaintance. My
father became acquainted with the fact, and was seriously angry about
it. But Reuben had correctly calculated on my father's good nature and
disinclination to act. Reuben knew that my father would only growl; he
knew he would never turn him out.

Very early in my story I hinted that Alsatia was just round the
corner from Brown's Row. Such was the fact. In Danvers Street and
Lawrence Street, west and east of us, might be found some very queer
people indeed; and, as I have an objection to give their names, I
shall give them fictitious ones. I have nothing whatever to say
against Mrs. Quickly, or of the reasons which led to her emigration.
She hardly comes into question just now, for she emigrated to
Cooksland not long after Fred was born. I repeat that I personally
have nothing to say against Mrs. Quickly; she was always singularly
civil to me. That she was a foolish and weak woman, I always thought,
but I was surprised at the singular repugnance which Emma showed
towards her. And Mrs. C--in again. What could have made her fly out at
the poor woman in that way, and fairly hunt her out of Sidney? And
will you tell me why, in the end, not only Emma and Mrs. C--m, but
also my mother, had far more tenderness and compassion for that
terrible unsexed termagant Mrs. Bardolph (née Tearsheet), than for the
gentle, civil, soft-spoken Mrs. Quickly? I asked my wife why it was
the other day, and she told me that nothing was more difficult to
answer than a thoroughly stupid question.

At the time of which I am speaking now, Mrs. Quickly had gone to
Australia, and the house she had kept in Lawrence Street was kept by
Mrs Bardolph and Miss Ophelia Flanagan. Miss Flanagan was a tall raw-
boned Irish woman, married to a Mr. Malone. Mrs. Bardolph was a great
red--faced coarse Kentish woman, with an upper lip longer than her
nose, and a chin as big as both, as strong as a man, and as fierce as
a tiger.

This winter she had returned from a short incarceration. There had
been a fatal accident in her establishment. Nobody--neither the dozen
or fourteen gentlewomen, nor Nym, nor Bardolph, nor Pistol--had any
thing to do with it. The man had fallen down stairs and broken his
neck accidentally, but neither the Middlesex Magistrates nor the
Assistant-Judge could conceal from themselves the fact, that Mrs.
Bardolph kept a disorderly house, and so she had to go to Holloway.
She had now returned, louder, redder, and angrier than before.

Not many days after the night on which I had gone up into Reuben's
room, I had some business in Cheyne Row, and when it was done I came
whistling and sauntering homewards. As I came into Lawrence Street, I
was thinking how pleasant and fresh the air came up from the river,
when I was attracted by the sound of people talking loudly before me,
and, looking up, I saw at the corner of the passage which leads by the
Dissenting chapel into Church Street, this group--

Miss Flanagan and Mrs. Bardolph, leaning against the railings with
their arms folded; Mr. Nym, Mr. Bardolph, and Mr. Pistol (I know who I
mean well enough); a dozen or fourteen gentlewomen, Bill Sykes, Mrs.
Gamp, Moll Flanders, and my cousin Reuben. There was a man also, who
leant against a post with his back towards me, whose face I could not
see.

As I came near them, they stopped talking, every one of them, and
looked at me. To any lad of nearly eighteen, not born in London, or
one of the chief towns in Australia, this would have been confusing;
to me it was a matter of profound indifference. I was passing them
with a calm stare, by no means expressive of curiosity, when Mrs.
Bardolph spoke:

"Hallo, young Bellus-and-tongs! What's up?"

I replied to her, not in many words. There was a roar of laughter
from the whole gang; she looked a little angry for a moment, but
laughed good--naturedly directly afterwards. Then I was sorry for what
I had said. But you had to keep your tongue handy in those times, I
assure you.

"Never you mind the stirabout, you monkey," she said; "my
constitution wanted reducing; I was making a deal too much flesh. Take
your cousin home and mind him, you cheeky gonoff; don't you see that
the devil has come for him?"

There was another laugh at this, and I turned and looked at the
gentleman who was leaning against the corner-post, and who was
laughing as loud as any one. I was not impressed in this gentleman's
favor; but I was strongly impressed with the idea that this was the
gentleman who had snored so loud one night he had slept in Reuben's
room. But I only laughed too. I said to Mrs. Bardolph, that Rube knew
his home and his friends a good deal better than she could tell him,
and so I went on my way, and, as I went, heard Miss Flanagan remark
that I was a tonguey young divole, but had something the look of my
sisther about the eyee.

I was glad that Erne came to see me that night, for I was terribly
vexed and ill at ease at finding Reuben in such company: in company so
utterly depraved that I have chosen, as you see, to designate them by
Shakespearian names. It was not because I wished to confide in him
that I was glad to see him. I had no intention of doing that. If I
had, in the first place I should have been betraying Reuben; in the
second, I should have been ashamed; and in the third, I should have
been telling the difficulty to a person as little likely to understand
it and assist one out of it as any one I know. Erne's childish
simplicity in all worldly matters was a strange thing to see.

No. It was for this reason I was glad to see Erne. I was vexed, and
the fact of his sitting beside me soothed me and made me forget my
voxation. Why? you ask. Well, there you have me. I have not the very
least idea in the world why. I only know that when Erne was sitting
with me I had a feeling of contentment which I never had at other
times. We never spoke much to one another; hardly ever, unless we were
alone, and then only a few words; nothing in themselves, but showing
that we understood one another thoroughly. Erne's powers of
conversation were entirely reserved for Emma and Joe. But they told me
that, if I was out when he came, he was quite distraught and absent;
that he would never talk his best unless I was present,--though he
would, perhaps, only notice my coming by taking my hand and saying,
"How do, old fellow?" A curious fact these boy--friendships! A wise
schoolmaster told me the other day that he should not know what to do
without them, and that he had to utilize them. They are, I think, all
very well until Ferdinand meets Miranda. After that, they must take
their chance. At this time, it was only child Erne who was in love
with child Emma. As yet, I was the centre round which Erne's world
revolved. I had not gone to the wall as yet.

"Hallo!" said Erne, when he burst in. "I say, is Jim here? I say, old
fellow, I want to talk to you most particularly. Where's Emma, old
fellow? Fetch Emma for me; I want to have a talk about something very
particular indeed. A regular council of war, Joe. You Hammersmith, you
needn't say anything; you listen, and reserve your opinion. Do you
hear?"

I remember that he shook hands with me, and I remember smiling to see
his white delicate fingers clasped in my own black hand. Then Emma
came sweeping in, and her broad noble face shaped itself into one
great smile to welcome him; and he asked her to give him a kiss, and
she gave him one, and you must make the best of it you can, or the
worst that you dare. And then she passed on to her place by the fire
with Frank and Harry, and Fred hanging to her skirts, and sat down to
listen.

The court was opened by Erne. He said, "My elder brother is come
home." There were expressions of surprise from Joe and Emma.

"Yes," said Erne. "He is come home. Emma, I want to ask you this: If
you had a brother you had never seen, do you think you could love
him?"

Emma said, "Yes. That she should certainly love him, merely from
being her brother."

"But suppose," said Erne, "that you had never heard anything but evil
about him. Should you love him then?"

"Yes," said Emma; "I wouldn't believe the evil. And so I should be
able to love him."

"But," said Erne, "that is silly nonsense. Suppose that you were
forced to believe everything bad against him?"

"I wouldn't without proof," said resolute Emma.

"But suppose you had proof, you very obstinate and wrong-headed girl.
Supposing the proofs of his ill behavior were perfectly conclusive.
Suppose that."

"Supposing that," said the undaunted Emma, "is supposing a good deal.
Suppose that I was to suppose, that you had taken the whole character
of your brother from second-hand, and had never taken the trouble or
had the opportunity to find out the truth. Suppose that."

"Well," said Erne, after a pause, "that is the case, after all. But
you need n't be so aggravating and determined; I only asked your
opinion. I wanted you to--"

"To hound you on till you formed the faction against your brother,
eh?" said Emma. "Now, you may be offended or not; you may get up and
leave this room to-night; but you shall hear the truth. Joe and I have
talked over this ever since you told us that your brother was expected
a fortnight ago, and I am expressing Joe's opinion and my own. Every
prejudice you take towards that man lowers you in the estimation of
those who love you best. You sit there, I see, like a true gentleman,
without anger or malice; you encourage me to go on to the end and risk
the loss of your acquaintance by doing so (it is Joe who is speaking,
not I); but I tell you boldly, that your duty, as a gentleman, is to
labor night and day to bring your brother once more into your father's
favor. It will ruin you, in a pecuniary point of view, to do so; but,
if you wish to be a man of honor and a gentleman, if you wish to be
with us all the same Erne Hillyar that we have learnt to love so
dearly, you must do so."

"I have two things more to say," continued Emma, whose color,
heightened during her speech, was now fading again. "Jim, your dear
Hammersmith, knew nothing whatever of this speech I have made you. It
was composed by Joe, and I agree with every word, every letter of it;
and that is all I have to say, Erne Hillyar."



Chapter XXIII. James Burton's Story: The Hillyars and the Burtons Among the Tombs



My brother Joe had at one time made a distinct request to my father
that he should learn the trade, in which he was backed up by my
mother, for the rather inscrutable reason that any trade was better
than coopering. It was a perfectly undeniable proposition, but was
somewhat uncalled for, because the question with Joe was not between
smith-work and cooper-work, but between hand-work and head-work,--
whether he should become an artisan or a scholar.

It was that busybody Emma that persuaded him in the end, of course,
by quietly depreciating me, and by flattering Joe's intellect. During
the time that the matter was in debate, she assumed a pensive air, and
used to heave little sighs when she looked at Joe, and was so
misguided once as to dust a chair I had been sitting in. After this I
was taken with a sudden affection for her, and, having made my face
seven times dirtier than usual, had embraced her tenderly. I also put
a cinder in her tea, which brought matters to a crisis, for we both
burst out laughing; and I called her a stuck-up humbug, which thing
she acknowledged with graceful humility, and before I had time to turn
round had made me promise to add my persuasion to hers, and persuade
Joe to become a scholar.

I did so, and turned the scale. Joe continued at school, first as
pupil, and secondly as an underteacher, until he was sixteen, at which
time it became apparent to Mr. Faulkner that Joe was giving promise of
becoming a very first-rate man indeed.

He expressed this opinion to Mr. Compton, who called upon him one
day for the purpose of asking him his opinion of Joe. A very few days
after he came to my father, and said that Sir George Hillyar begged to
take the liberty of advising that Mr. Joseph Burton should remain
where he was a short time longer; after which Sir George "would have
great pleasure in undertaking to provide employment for those
extraordinary talents which he appeared to be developing."

"Well," said Joe, with a radiant face; "if this ain't--I mean is
not--the most ex-tra-awdinary, I ever."

I said that I never did n't, neither.

My father whistled, and looked seriously and inquiringly at Mr.
Compton.

"I don't know why," answered Mr. Compton, just as if my father had
spoken. "Erne's--, I mean," continued he, with a stammer, at which
Miss Emma got as red as fire, "I mean Erne's friend's brother there,
Reuben's cousin--Law bless you! fifty ways of accounting for it. But,
as for knowing anything, I don't, and, what is more, old Morton the
keeper don't know, and, when he don't know, why, you know, who is to?"

"Certainly, sir," said my father. "So old Morton he don't know
nothink, don't he. Well! Well!"

However, this was very good news indeed. We should have Joe with us
for some time longer, and the expectation of the first loss to the
family circle was lying somewhat heavy on our hearts. And then, when
he did leave us, it would be with such splendid prospects. My mother
said it would not in the least surprise her to see Joe in a draper's
shop of his own,--which idea was scornfully scouted by the rest of us,
who had already made him Prime Minister. In the mean time I was very
anxious to see Erne and thank him, and to know why Miss Emma should
have blushed in that way.

Erne evidently wanted to see me for some purpose also, for he wrote
to me to ask me to meet him at the old place the next Sunday
afternoon.

The "old place" was a bench which stood in front of Sir Thomas More's
monument, close to the altar-rails of the old church. We promised that
we would all come and meet him there.

It is so long ago since we began to go to the old church, on Sunday
afternoon in winter, and in the evening in summer, that I cannot
attempt to fix the date. It had grown to be a habit when I was very,
very young, for I remember that church with me used at one time to
mean the old church, and that I used to consider the attendance on the
new St. Luke's, in Robert Street, more as a dissipation, than an act
of devotion.

My mother tells me that she used first to take me there about so and
so,--meaning a period when I was only about fourteen months old. My
mother is a little too particular in her dates, and her chronology is
mainly based on a system of rapidly recurring eras: a system which, I
notice, is apt to spread confusion and dismay among the ladies of the
highly-genteel rank to which we have elevated ourselves. However, to
leave mere fractions of time, of no real importance, to take care of
themselves, she must have taken me to the old church almost as soon as
my retina began to carry images to my brain, for I can remember Lord
and Lady Dacre, with their dogs at their feet, before I can remember
being told by Mrs. Quickly, that the doctor had been for a walk round
the parsley-bed, and had brought me a little brother from among the
gooseberry-bushes: which was her metaphorical way of announcing the
fact of my brother Joe's birth.

At first, I remember, I used to think that all the statues were of
the nature of Guy Fawkes, and were set up there to atone for sins
committed in the flesh. From this heretical and pagan frame of mind I
was rescued by learning to read; and then I found that these images
and monuments were not set up for warning, but for example. I began to
discover that these people who had died, and had their monuments set
up here, were, by very long odds, the best people who ever lived. I
was, for a time, puzzled about those who had their epitaphs written in
Latin, I confess. Starting on the basis, that every word in every
epitaph was strictly true, I soon argued myself into the conclusion
that the Latin epitaphs were written in that language for the sake of
sparing the feelings of the survivors; and that they were the epitaphs
of people about whom there was something queer, or, at all events,
something better reserved for the decision of the scholastic few who
understood Latin. At a very early age I became possessed with the idea
that when Mrs. Quickly died it would become necessary, for the sake of
public morality, to write her epitaph in Latin. I can't tell you how I
came to think so. I never for a moment doubted that such an excellent
and amiable woman would have a very large tomb erected to her by a
grateful country; but I never for a moment doubted that it would
become necessary to have a Latin inscription on it.

But conceive how I was astonished by finding, when I was a great
fellow, that the Latin inscriptions were quite as complimentary as the
English. Joe translated a lot of them for me. It was quite evident
that such people as the Chelsea people never lived. So far from Latin
being used with a view of hiding any little faux pas of the eminent
deceased from the knowledge of the ten-pound householders, it appeared
that the older language had been used merely because the miserable
bastard patois, which Shakespeare was forced to use, but which Johnson
very properly rejected with decision, was utterly unfit to express the
various virtues of these wonderful Chelsea people, of whom, with few
exceptions, no one ever heard. It used to strike me, however, that,
among the known or the unknown, Sir Thomas More was the most
obstinately determined that posterity should hear his own account of
himself.

My opinion always was, that the monuments which were in the best
state were those of the Hillyars and of the Duchess of Northumberland.
There are no inscriptions on these, with the exception of the family
names. The members of the family are merely represented kneeling one
behind the other with their names--in the one case above their heads,
in the other, on a brass beneath. The Dacres, with their dogs at their
feet, are grand; but, on the whole, give me the Hillyars, kneeling
humbly, with nothing to say for themselves. Let the Dacres carry their
pride and their dogs to the grave with them if they see fit; let them
take their braches, and lie down to wait for judgment. Honest John
Hillyar will have no dogs, having troubles enough beside. He and his
family prefer to kneel, with folded hands, until the last trump sound
from the East, or until Chelsea Church crumble into dust.

I always loved that monument better than any in Chelsea Old Church.
'T is a good example of a mural monument of that time, they say, but
they have never seen it on a wild autumn afternoon, when the sun
streams in on it from the southwest, lights it up for an instant, and
then sends one long ray quivering up the wall to the roof, and dies.
What do they know about the monument at such a time as that? Still
less do they know of the fancies that a shock-headed, stupid
blacksmith's boy--two of whose brothers were poets, and whose rant he
used to hear--used to build up in his dull brain about it, as he sat
year after year before it, until the kneeling figures became friends
to him.

For I made friends of them in a way. They were friends of another
world. I found out enough to know that they were the images of a
gentleman and his family who had lived in our big house in Church
Street three hundred years ago; and, sitting by habit in the same
place, Sunday after Sunday, they became to me real and actual persons,
who were as familiar to me as our neighbors, and yet who were dead and
gone to heaven or hell three hundred years before,--people who had
twenty years' experience of the next world to show, where I had one to
show of this present life; people who had solved the great difficulty,
and who could tell me all about it, if they would only turn their
heads and speak. Yes, these Hillyars became real people to me, and I,
in a sort of way, loved them.

I gave them names in my own head. I loved two of them. On the female
side I loved the little wee child, for whom there was very small room,
and who was crowded against the pillar, kneeling on the skirts of the
last of her big sisters. And I loved the big lad who knelt directly
behind his father, between the knight himself, and the two little
brothers, dressed so very like blue-coat boys, such quaint little
fellows as they were.

I do not think that either Joe or Emma ever cared much about this
tomb or its effigies. Though we three sat there together so very often
for several winters, I do not think it ever took their attention very
much; and I, being a silent lad, never gave loose to my fancies about
that family monument even to them. I used to find, in the burst of
conversation which always follows the release of young folks from
church, that we all three, like most young people, had not attended to
the sermon at all; but that our idle fancies, on those wild winter
afternoons, had rambled away in strangely different directions. I
always used to sit between the two others, upright, with my head
nearly against the little shield which carries the date, "Anno, 1539."
Soon after the sermon had begun I used to find that Joe's great head
was heavy on one shoulder, while Emma had laid her cheek quietly
against the other, and had stolen her hand into mine. And so we three
would sit, in a pyramidal group, of which I was the centre, dreaming.

I used to find that Joe would be building fancies of the dead who lay
around us, of what they had done, and of what they might have done,
had God allowed them to foresee the consequences of their actions; but
that Emma had been listening to the rush of the winter-wind among the
tombs outside, and the lapping of the winter-tide upon the shore,--
thinking of those who were tossed far away upon stormy seas, only less
pitiless than the iron coast on which they burst in their cruel fury.

I cannot tell how often, or how long, we three sat there. But I know
that the monument had a new interest to me after I made Erne Hillyar's
acquaintance, and began to realize that the kneeling figures there
were his ancestors. I tried then to make Erne the living take his
place, in my fancy, among the images of his dead forefathers and
uncles; but it was a failure. He would not come in it all. So then I
began trying to make out which of them he was most like; but he wasn't
a bit like any one of them. They none of them would look round at you
with their heads a little on one side, and their great blue-black eyes
wide open, and their lips half-parted as though to wait for what you
were going to say. These ancestors of his were but brass after all,
and knelt one behind the other looking at the backs of one another's
heads. Erne would not fit in among them by any means.

But one day, one autumn afternoon, as I sat with Emma on one side,
and Joe on the other, with my back to Sir Thomas More's tomb and my
face to Sir John Hillyar's, thinking of these things, I got a chance
of comparing the living with the dead. For, when the sermon was half-
way through, I heard the little door, which opens straight from the
windy wharf into the quiet chancel, opened stealthily; and, looking
round, I saw that Erne had come in, and was sending those big eyes of
his ranging all over the church to look for something which was close
by all the time. I saw him stand close to me, for a minute, moving his
noble head from side to side as he peered about him, like an emu who
has wandered into a stockyard; but as soon as he had swept the
horizon, and had brought his eyes to range nearer home, he saw me. And
then he smiled, and I knew that he had come to find us.

And after service we walked out together. And the sexton let us into
that quiet piece of the church-yard which overlooks the river, and we
stood there long into the twilight, talking together as we leant
against the low wall. Erne stood upon the grave of the poor Hillyar
girl who had died in our house, as his habit was, talking to me and
looking at Emma. The time went so quick that it was dark before we got
home; but we all discovered that it was a very capital way of having a
talk together, and so, without any arrangement at all, we found
ourselves there again very often. Once Emma and I went along with
Frank; but Frank, having eaten a dinner for six, went to sleep, and
not only went to sleep, but had the nightmare, in a manner
scandalously audible to the whole congregation, in the first lesson.
Emma had to take him out, and when I came out at the end of the
service, I found that Erne and Emma were together by the river-wall,
and no one else but Frank. He had seen her coming out, and had stayed
with her for company. It was very kind of him, and I told him so. He
called me an old fool.

The Sunday afternoon on which we were to meet Erne was a wild and
gusty one, the wind sweeping drearily along the shore, and booming and
rushing among the railings around the tombs. My sister and I went
alone, and sat on the old bench: but no Erne made his appearance, and
soon I had ceased to think much of him.

For there came in and sat opposite to me,--directly under the
Hillyar monument,--the most beautiful lady I had ever seen. She was
very young, with a wonderfully delicate complexion, and looked so very
fragile, that I found myself wondering what she did abroad in such
wild weather. She was dressed in light gray silk, which gave her a
somewhat ghostly air; and she looked slightly worn and anxious, though
not enough to interfere with her almost preternatural beauty. When I
say that I had never seen such a beautiful woman as she was, I at once
find that I can go farther, and say, that I have never since seen any
one as beautiful as she by a long interval. My wife was singulary
handsome at one time.* Mrs. Oxton, when I first saw her, was certainly
beautiful. Lady Hainault, my namesake, as I reminded her once, was,
and is, glorious; but they none of them could ever have compared, for
an instant, with that young lady in gray silk, who came and sat on the
bench, under the Hillyar monument, opposite my sister and me, on that
wild autumn afternoon.

She came in by the little side door which opens from the chancel on
to the river. She sat down on the bench opposite me, beside a poor
cracked old sempstress, whose devotions were disturbed every five
minutes by her having to put down her prayer-book and hunt spiders,
and old Smith the blind man, who used to say his responses in a surly,
defiant tone of voice, as if every response was another item in a bill
against heaven, which had already run too long, and ought to have been
paid long ago.

But she sat down in this fantastic company, and seemed glad to rest.
Mrs. Smith, the pew-opener, the blind man's wife, caught sight of a
strange sail in the offing, bore down, and would have brought her into
a pew. But the strange lady said that she was tired, and would sit
where she was.

There was a gentleman with her, by the by. A tall gentleman, very
pale, rather anxious-looking, without any hair on his face. He asked
her, was n't she afraid of the draught? And she said, "No. Please,
please dear, let me sit here. I want rest, dear. Do let me sit here."
And when she said this two ideas came into my head. The first was that
the beautiful lady was, for some reason, afraid of the pale, anxious
gentleman; and the second was that they were Americans, because,--
although they both spoke perfectly good English, yet they seemed to
have no hesitation about speaking out loud in church; which they most
decidedly did, and which, as I am informed now, the Americans, as a
general rule, do not.

No Erne made his appearance. Emma and I sat on our accustomed bench,
with the beautiful, weary lady opposite. The wind rattled at the old
casements, and when the sermon began a storm of sleet came driving
along from the westward, and made the atmosphere freezing cold. The
strange beautiful lady seemed to cower under it, to draw herself
together and to draw her shawl closer and closer around her, with a
look almost of terror on her face. The poor lunatic woman, who sat
beside her, put up her umbrella. The pew-opener saw her, and came up
and fought her for it, with a view to making her put it down again.
The cracked woman was very resolute, and Mrs. Smith was (as I think)
unnecessarily violent, and between them they drove one of the points
of the umbrella into Smith's eye; which, as Smith was blind already
didn't matter much, but which caused him a deal of pain, and ended in
shovings and recriminations between Mrs. Smith and the cracked woman.
And the beautiful lady, in the middle of it all, finding no rest
anywhere, came across wearily and feebly and sat beside Emma. She did
not faint or make any scene; but when I looked round soon after I saw
her head on Emma's shoulder, and Emma's arm round her waist. She was
very poorly, but the pale gentleman did not see it.

After service she took his arm, and while the people were crowding
out of church I kept near them. I heard her say,--

"I cannot stay to look at the monument to-day, dear; I am very
tired."

"Well," said the gentleman, "the carriage won't be long. I told them
to meet us here."

She stood actually cowering in the cold blast which swept off the
river round the corner of the church. She crouched shuddering close to
the pale man and said,--

"What a dreadful country, love. Is it always like this in England? I
shall die here I am afraid, and never see Aggy any more, and poor
James will be so sorry. But I am quite brave and resolute, George. I
would not change my lot with any woman," she continued rather more
hastily; "only there is no sun here, and it is so very dark and ugly."

I was glad to hear him speak kindly to her and soothe her, for I
could not help fancying that she would have been glad of a gentler
companion. But I had little time to think of this, for Erne, coming
quickly out the open gate of the church-yard, came up to them and
said,--

"Mr. George Hillyar?" I think.

George Hillyar bowed politely, and said, "Yes."

"We ought to know one another," said Erne, laughing; "in fact, I am
your brother Erne."

I did not like the look of George Hillyar's face at all; he had an
ugly scowl handy for any one who might require it, I could see. But
Erne was attracted suddenly by his sister-in-law's beauty, and so he
never saw it; by the time he looked into his brother's face again the
scowl had passed away, and there was a look of pleased admiration
instead. Poor Mrs. Hillyar seemed to brighten up at the sight of Erne.
They stood talking together affectionately for a few minutes, and then
the George Hillyars drove away, and left Erne and me standing together
in the church-yard.

"What a handsome distingué-looking fellow," said Erne. "I know I
shall like him."

I hoped their liking might be mutual, but had strong doubts on the
point. * The Hon. Mrs. Burton presents her compliments to the Editor,
and begs to inform him that this is the first she ever heard of it.



Chapter XXIV. Homeward Bound



SECRETARY OXTON was a wise and clever fellow, but he was liable to
err, like the rest of us. Secretary Oxton was an affectionate, good--
hearted, honorable man, a gentleman at all points, save one. He was
clever and ambitious, and in the grand fight he had fought against the
world, in the steady pluckily-fought battle, the object of which was
to place him, a younger son, in a position equal to that of his elder
brother, to found a new and wealthy branch of the Oxton family, he had
contracted a certain fault, from which his elder brother, probably
from the absence of temptation, was free.

He had seen that wealth was the key to the position. He had seen,
early in the struggle, that a fool with wealth was often of more
influence than a wise man without it. And so he had won wealth as a
means to the end of power. But the gold had left a little of its dross
upon him, and now he was apt to overvalue it.

Acting on this error, he had put before him, as a great end, with
regard to George and Gerty Hillyar, that George should go to England
and win back his father's favor. His wife, good and clever as she was,
was only, after all, a mirror to reflect her husband's stronger will;
consequently there was no one to warn him of the folly he was
committing, when he urged George so strongly to go to England,--no one
to tell him of the danger of allowing such a wild fierce hawk as
George to get out of the range of his own influence; of the terrible
peril he incurred on behalf of his beloved Gerty, by sending him far
away from the gentle home atmosphere, which had begun to do its work
upon him so very well, and throwing him headlong among his old
temptations, with no better guide than a silly little fairy of a wife.

He could not see all this in his blindness. He did not calculate on
the amount of good which had been wrought in George's character by his
wife's gentle influence and his own manly counsel. He was blinded by
the money question. He did not see that it would be better for Gerty's
sake, and for all their sakes, to keep Sir George Hillyer near him
with two thousand a year, a busy, happy man, than to have him living
in England without control, amongst all his old temptations. He could
not bear the idea of that odd eight or nine thousand a year going out
of the family. He had worked at money-getting so long that that
consideration outweighed, nay, obscured every other.

And so he encouraged George to go to England. And, when the last
grand forest cape was passed, and they were rushing on towards Cape
Horn before the west win I, and the dear peaceful old land had died
away on the horizon, and was as something which had never been; and
when Gerty got penitent, and sea-sick, and tearful, and frightened,
and yellow in the face, and everything but cross,--then all the good
influences of James and Agnes Oxton were needed, but were not at hand;
and such mischief was done as would have made the Secretary curse his
own folly if he could have seen it. And there was no one to stay the
course of this mischief, but tearful silly sea-sick Gerty.

Poor little child of the sun! Poor little bush princess! brought up
without a thought or a care on the warm hillside at Neville's Gap, in
the quiet house which stood half-way up the mountain, with a thousand
feet of feathering woodland behind, and fifty miles of forest and
plain before and below. Brought up in a quiet luxurious home, among
birds and flowers and pet dogs; a poor little body, the cares in whose
life were the arrivals of the pianoforte-tuner on his broken-kneed
gray, supposed to be five hundred years old; who had never met with
but two adventures in her life before marriage, the first of which she
could barely remember, and the second when James and Aggy carried her
off in a steamer to Sydney, and Aggy chaperoned her to the great ball
at Government House, and she had wondered why the people stared at her
so when she walked up the room following in Aggy's wake, as she sailed
stately on before towards the presence, until she was told next
morning that James had won £500 on her beauty, for that Lady Gipps had
pronounced her to be more beautiful than young Mrs. Buckley née
Brentwood, of Garoopna, in Gippsland.

But here was a change. This low sweeping gray sky, and the wild
heaving cold gray sea, and then the horrible cliffs of bitter floating
ice, at whose base the hungry sea leaped and slid up, gnawing caverns
and crannies, yet pitifully smoothing away, with their ceaseless wash,
a glacis, to which the finger of no drowning man might hope to clutch
that he might prolong his misery. The sun seemed gone forever, and as
they made each degree of southing, Gerty got more shivering and more
tearful, and seemed to shrink more and more into her wrappers and
cloaks.

But all this had a very different effect on Mrs. Nalder. On that
magnificent American woman it had a bracing effect; it put new roses
into her face, and made her stand firmer on her marine
continuations,--had I been speaking about an English duchess I should
have said her sea-legs. She was n't sick, not she; but Nalder was, and
so it fell to George's lot to squire Mrs. Nalder, an employment he
found to be so charming that he devoted himself to it. Mrs. Nalder got
very fond of George, and told her husband so; whereupon Mr. Nalder
replied that he was uncommon glad she had found some one to gallivant
her round, for that he was darned if he rose out of that under forty
south. And, when forty south came, and Gerty made her appearance on
deck with Mrs. Nalder, she found that dreadful Yankee woman calling
George about here and there, as if he belonged to her. Gerty got
instantly jealous, although Mrs. Nalder was kind and gentle to her,
and would have been a sister to her. Gerty repulsed her. Mrs. Nalder
wondered why. The idea of anybody being sufficiently insane to be
jealous of her never entered into her honest head. She asked her
husband, who did n't know, but said that Ostrellyan gells were, as a
jennle rule, whimsical young cusses.

No. Gerty would have nothing to do with the kind-hearted American
woman, for she was bitterly jealous of her. And Mr. Nalder frightened
her, that honest tradesman, with his way of prefacing half his remarks
by saying "Je-hoshaphat," which frightened her out of her wits for
what was coming. His way of thwacking down his right or left bower at
eucre, his calling the trump-card the deck-head, his way of eating
with his knife, and his reckless noisy bonhommie, were all alike, I am
sorry to say, disgusting to her; nothing he could do was right; and,
after all, Nalder was a good fellow. George got angry with her about
her treatment of these people, and scolded her; and he could not scold
by halves; he terrified her so that he saw he must never do it again.
He put a strong restraint on himself; to do the man justice, he did
that; and was as tender and gentle with her as he could be for a time.
But his features had been too much accustomed to reflect violent
passion to make it possible for him to act his part at all times. Her
dull, fearful submission irritated him, and there came times when that
irritation, unexpressed in words and actions, would show itself too
faithfully in his face; and so that look of pitiable terror which had
come into Gerty's great eyes the first time he had sworn at her, that
restless shifting of the pupil from side to side, accompanied by a
spasmodic quivering of the eyelids, never, never wholly passed away
any more. "That he could have cursed her, that he could have snarled
at her, and cursed her. It was too horrible. Could James have been
right? And Neville's Gap so many thousand miles away, and getting
further with every bound of the ship!"

George saw all this, and it made him mad. He found out now that he
had got a great deal fonder of beautiful Mrs. Nalder than he had any
right to be, and after a week's penitential attention to Gerty he went
over to Mrs. Nalder, and begun the petits soins business with her once
more. But, unluckily for him, Mrs Nalder had found him out. George,
poor fool, thought that the American woman's coolness towards him
arose from jealousy at his having returned to his wife. He found his
mistake. The brave Illinois woman met him with a storm of indignation,
and rated him about his treatment of his wife. She had no tact, or she
would not have done so, for she only made matters worse.

Of all the foolish things which James Oxton ever did, this was the
worst: sending these two out of the range of his own and his wife's
influence.

Gerty revived a little in the tropics. The sun warmed her into
something like her old self. But all Mrs. Nalder's kindness failed to
win her over. She suspected her and was jealous of her; and, besides,
the great handsome woman of the Western prairies was offensive to the
poor little robin of a creature. She was coarse and loud, and her
hands were large, and she was so strong. She couldn't even make Gerty
comfortable on a bench without hurting her. And, besides, Gerty could
see through all this affected attention which she showed her. Gerty,
like most silly women, thought herself vastly clever. Mrs. Nalder was
a most artful and dangerous woman. All this assumed affection might
blind her poor husband, but could never blind her.

But the good ship rolled and blundered on, until it grew to be forty
north, instead of forty south, and the sunny belt was passed once
more, and Gerty began to pine and droop again. George would land at
Dover; and he landed in a steamer which came alongside. And the last
of the old ship was this,--that all the crew and the passengers stood
round looking at her. And Mrs. Nalder came up and kissed her, and
said, very quietly, "My dear, we may never meet again, but when we do,
you will know me better than you do now. Then Gerty broke into tears,
and asked Mrs. Nalder to forgive her, and Mrs. Nalder, that coarse and
vulgar person, called her a darling little sunbeam, and wept too,
after the Chicago style (and when they do things at Chicago, mind you,
they do'em with a will). Then Gerty was on the deck of the little
steamer, and, while she was wondering through her tears why the sides
of the ship looked so very high, there came from the deck a sound like
a number of glass bells ringing together and ceasing at once; then the
sound came again, louder and clearer; and as it came the third time,
George raised her arm, and said--'Wave your handkerchief, Gerty;
quick, don't you hear them cheering you?'"

And, directly afterwards, they stood on the slippery, slimy boards of
the pier at Dover, on the dull English winter day; and she looked
round at the chalk cliffs, whose crests were shrouded in mist, and at
the muddy street, and the dark colored houses, and she said, "Oh,
dear, dear me. Is this, this England, George? What a nasty, cold,
ugly, dirty place it is."



Chapter XXV. Gerty's First Innings



A VERY few days before Sir George Hillyar received the note which
told him of his son's arrival in England, he happened to be out
shooting alone, and his keeper saw that he was very anxious and
absent, and shot very badly indeed. He conceived that it was Sir
George's anxiety about his son's arrival, and thought little about it;
but, as the day went on, it became evident that Sir George wanted to
broach some subject, and had a hesitation in doing so.

At last he said,--"What state are the boats in, Morton?"

"They are in very good repair, Sir George."

"I think I shall have them painted."

"They were painted last week, Sir George."

"I shall get new oars for them, I fancy."

"The new oars, which you ordered while staying at Kew, came home last
Thursday, Sir George."

"H'm. Hey. Then there is no work for a waterman about the lake, is
there?"

"None whatever, Sir George."

"Morton, you are a fool. If I had not more tact than you I would hang
myself before I went to bed."

"Yes, Sir George."

"Send for the young waterman that we had at Kew, and find him some
work about the boats for a few days."

"Yes, Sir George."

"You know whom I mean?"

"No, Sir George."

"Then why the devil did you say you did?"

"I did not, Sir George."

"Then you contradict me?"

"I hope I know my place better, Sir George. But I never did say I
knew who you mean, for I don't; in consequence I couldn't have said I
did. Maark! caawk! Awd drat this jawing in cover, Sir George! Do hold
your tongue till we're out on the heth agin. How often am I to tell
you on it?"

So he did. At the next pause in the sport old Morton said, "Now, Sir
George, what do you want done?"

"I want that young man, Reuben Burton, whom we had at Kew, fetched
over. I want you to make an excuse for his coming to mend the boats.
That's what I want."

"Then why could n't you have said so at once?" said old Morton to his
face.

"Because I did n't choose. If you get so impudent, Morton, I shall be
seriously angry with you."

"Ah! I'll chance all that," said Morton to himself; "you're easy
enough managed by those as knows you. I wonder why he has taken such a
fancy to this young scamp. I wonder if he knows he is Sam Burton's
son. I suspect he do."

But old Morton said nothing more, and Reuben was sent for to
Stanlake.

Sir George was going out shooting again when Reuben came. The old
butler told him that the young waterman was come, and Sir George told
him that he must wait; but, when Sir George came out, he had got a
smile on his face ready to meet the merry young rascal who had amused
him so much.

"Hallo! you fellow," he began, laughing; but he stopped suddenly, for
the moment he looked at Reuben Burton he saw that there was a great
change in him. Reuben had lost all his old vivacity, and had a
painfully worn, eager look on his face.

"Why, how the lad is changed!" said Sir George. "You have been
falling in love, you young monkey. Go and see to those boats, and put
them in order."

Reuben went wearily to work; there was really nothing to do. Sir
George merely had him over to gratify a fancy for seeing him again. It
may have been that he was disappointed in finding the merry slangy lad
he had got to like looking so old and anxious, or it may have been
that his nervous anxiety for the approaching interview with his son
put Reuben out of his head; but, however it was, Sir George never went
near Reuben after the first time he had looked at him, and had seen
the change in him. No one will ever know now what was working in Sir
George's heart towards Reuben Burton. The absence of all inquiries on
his part as to who Reuben was decidedly favors James Burton the
elder's notion, that Sir George guessed he was the son of Samuel
Burton, and that he did not, having conceived a strange affection for
the lad, wish to push his inquiries too far. It may have been this, or
it may have been merely an old man's fancy; but even now, when he
seemed to have passed the lad by himself, he made Erne go and see him
every morning.

"Erne," he said, "that boy is in trouble. In secret trouble. Find his
secret out, my child, and let us help him."

But kind and gentle Erne could n't do that. Reuben went as far as
telling him that he was in trouble; but also told him that he could
say nothing more, for the sake of others.

"I say, old Rube," said Erne, as he sat lolling against the side of a
boat which Reuben was mending, "I have found out the whole of the
business from beginning to end."

"Have you, sir?" said Reuben, with a ghost of a smile. "I am glad of
it."

"You have been getting into bad company," said Erne.

"Very bad," said Reuben.

"And you are innocent yourself?"

"Yes," said Reuben. "Come. I could n't say as much to every one,
Master Erne; but I know, when I say a thing to you, that it won't go
any further. Therefore I confide this to your honor, for if you betray
me I am lost. I am innocent."

Erne laughed. "That is something like your old familiar nonsense,
Reuben. Tell me all about it."

"It would be awkward for you if I did, sir."

"Well! well!" said Erne. "I believe in you, anyway. I say, does Emma
know about it?"

"God bless you, no," said Reuben. "Don't tell her nothing, for God's
sake, Master Erne."

"You haven't told me anything, Reuben; so how could I tell her?"

"I mean, don't let her know that Sir George noticed how I was
altered. I should like her to think the best of me to the last. If
trouble comes, the bitterest part of it will be the being disgraced
before her. Don't say anything to her."

"Why should I be likely to?" said Erne.

"Why," said Reuben, "I mean, when you and she was sitting together
all alone, courting, that you might say this and that, and not put me
in the best light. Lord love you, master, I know all about that
courting business. When the arm is round the waist the tongue won't
keep between the teeth."

"But I am not courting Emma," said Erne. "At least--"

"At least or at most, master, you love the ground she walks on. Never
mind what your opinion about your own state of mind is. Only be
honorable to her. And, when the great smash comes, keep them in mind
of me."

"Keep who in mind?" said Erne.

"Jim and Emma. Help 'em to remember me. I should be glad to think
that you three thought of me while I was there."

"While you are where?" said Erne, in a very low voice.

"In Coldbath Fields, master," said Reuben. "NOW YOU'VE got it."

One need not say that Erne was distressed by the way in which Reuben
spoke of himself. He was very sorry for Reuben, and was prepared to
die for him; but--

He was seventeen, and Reuben had accused him of his first love. Poor
Reuben, by a few wild words, had let a flood of light in on to his
boy's heart. Reuben was the first who had told him that he was in
love. One has, in chemistry, seen a glass-jar full of crystal clear
liquid, clear as water, yet so saturated with some salt that the touch
of any clumsy hand will send the spiculae quivering through it in
every direction, and prove to the sense of sight that the salt, but
half-believed in before, is there in overpowering quantities. So
Reuben's words crystallized Erne's love; and he denied it to himself
no longer. And in this great gush of unutterable happiness poor
Reuben's trouble and disgrace were only a mere incident,--a tragical
incident, which would be a new bond in their love.

So Erne, leaving poor Reuben tinkering at the boats, walked on air.
He had determined, as he walked through the wood, that the first thing
he would do would be to go off to Chelsea,--to get Jim Burton, the
blacksmith's eldest son (with whom you have already some
acquaintance), and to tell him all about it; when, walking through the
wood, he met his father.

"Have you been to see that young waterman, Erne?" said his father.

"I have," said Erne. "We ought to be kind to that fellow, dad. He is
in trouble, and is innocent."

"I think he is," said Sir George. "I have a great fancy for that
fellow. I know what is the matter with him."

"Do you?" said Erne. "I don't."

"Why, it's about this Eliza Burton," said Sir George, looking
straight at him; "that's what is the matter."

"You don't happen to mean Emma Burton, do you?" said Erne.

"Emma or Eliza, or something of that sort," said Sir George.

"He is in love with her, and she is playing the fool with some one
else."

"He is not in love with her, and she has been playing the fool with
nobody," said Erne.

"So you think," said Sir George; "I, however, happen to know the
world, and from the familiarities which you have confessed to me as
passing between this girl and yourself, I am of a different opinion. I
have allowed you to choose what company you wished for above a year; I
have been rewarded by your full confidence, and, from what you told me
about this girl, I believe her to be an artful and dangerous young
minx."

"Don't talk in that light way about your future daughter-in-law; I am
going to marry that girl. I am seventeen, and in three years I shall
marry her."

"How dare you talk such nonsense? Suppose, sir, that I was to
alter---I mean, to stop your allowance, sir, hey?"

"Then the most gentlemanly plan would be to give me notice. Her
father will teach me his trade."

"You are impertinent, undutiful, and, what is worse, a fool--"

"And all that sort of thing," said Erne. "Having fired your broadside
of five-and-forty sixty-eight pounders, perhaps you will let off your
big swivel-gun on deck. I tell you I am going to marry Emma Burton."

"You know, you undutiful and wicked boy, all the consequences of a
mésalliance--"

"That's the big gun, hey?" said Erne. "Why, yes; your mésalliance
with my mother having been dinned into my ears ever since I was five,
as the happiest match ever made, I do know; you have put your foot in
it there. A blacksmith's daughter is as good as a gamekeeper's, any
day."

"Her relations, sir! Her relations!"

"My Uncle Bob, sir! My Uncle Bob!"

Old Compton the lawyer had warned Erne, on one previous occasion,
against what he called "hard hitting." But Erne, as Reuben would have
said, could never keep his tongue between his teeth. His Uncle Bob was
a very sore subject. His Uncle Bob had not borne the rise in
circumstances consequent on his sister becoming Lady Hillyar with that
equanimity which is the characteristic of great minds. The instant he
heard of the honor in store for him, he got drunk, and had remained
so, with slight lucid intervals ever since,--a period of eighteen
years. Having the constitution of a horse, and the temper of his
sister, he had survived hitherto, and was quoted from one doctor to
another as the most remarkable instance ever known of the habitual use
of stimulants. They used to give clinical lectures on him, and at last
made him uncommonly proud of his performances. Such, combined with a
facility for incurring personal liabilities, which was by no means
impaired by his intemperate habits, were some of the characteristics
of Uncle Bob, now triumphantly thrown in Sir George's face by Erne.

He was very angry. He said that such an allusion as that, on Erne's
part, revealed to him such an abyss of moral squalor beneath the
surface as he was not prepared for in the case of one so young.

"Now, mark me, sir. Once for all. I do not oppose your fancy for this
girl. I encourage it. You distinctly understand that once for all.
Your brother dines here to-day."

"So I hear," said Erne, seeing it would not do to go on with any more
nonsense.

"I hope sincerely that you and your brother will remain friends. I do
not purpose your seeing much of him. His wife has, I hear, some claims
to beauty."

"She is the sweetest little rosebud you ever saw in your life."

"Where have you seen her? I know you did n't go to seek them, because
you promised me you would not."

"I did not, indeed. I guessed who they were from a few words they
said in church, and, as I came out, I introduced myself."

"Where were you? At what church?"

"At the old church, Chelsea."

"What a singular thing. Is Compton come?"

It was with intense eagerness that Mr. Compton, knowing what he knew,
watched the face of father and son, when they met after so many years
estrangement. He knew perfectly how much, how very much, each of them
had to forgive the other; and he knew, moreover, that neither of them
had the least intention of forgiveness. He guessed that George had
come over to try to win back his father's good graces with the
assistance of his wife; but he knew far too much to hope much from her
assistance. One thing he knew, which others only guessed, that Sir
George Hillyar had made a will, leaving Erne eight thousand a year.
This was the paper, which (if your memory will carry you back so many
months) he had exhibited such an anxiety to take to his office, but
which Sir George insisted on keeping in his old escritoire.

He was in the library, and Sir George was out when he heard them
drive up. He knew that there was no one to receive them, and saw from
that that their reception was to be formal. He did not hurry at his
dressing, for he was in some small hopes that George and his wife
might have a short time, were it only a minute, together alone with
Sir George, and that either of them might show some gleam of affection
towards the other, which might bring on a better state of things than
the cold, cruel course of formality which Sir George had evidently
planned.

"It will be a bad job for Erne, possibly," said the old man. "But my
young friend must take his chance. I won't stand between father and
son, even for him."

When he came into the drawing-room he found Erne and his father
dressed and waiting. They were standing together at the very end of
the third drawing-room, before the fire, and Sir George was talking to
Erne about one of the horses. When he joined them, a question was put
to him on the subject; and they went on discussing it. There was not
the smallest sign of anxiety or haste about Sir George's manner.

He had not been talking with Erne many minutes, when the door by
which he had entered, which was at the very farthest end of the three
rooms, was opened again; and Mr. and Mrs. George Hillyar came in, and
began making their way through the vast archipelago of grand furniture
which lay between the opposing parties. Sir George took out his watch,
clicked it open, and told Erne to ring the bell and order dinner.

The three rooms were well lighted up, and, great as the distance was,
old Compton saw in one instant that Mrs. George was very beautiful.
And, as she came steadily and quietly towards them, dressed in a cloud
of white, he saw at every step she took that she was more beautiful
still,--the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

Sir George trod three steps forward, and said, "How d' ye do, George?
I am glad to see you. And how do you do, my dear daughter-in-law? I am
afraid you must find this country very cold after Australia."

Old Compton watched the father and the son as their eyes met. Neither
of them moved a muscle. George was very distingué-looking; there was
no doubt about that. Nay, more, he was in a way very handsome. His
features had not lost their regularity, in spite of all his
dissipation. "He is wonderfully true-bred," thought old Compton. "Half
wild-cat like his mother, and half bull-terrier like his father. His
chance ain't worth twopence. The will in the escritoire is the will.
No new job for me."

The old man was right. There was no mistake about George's paternity
to any such close observer as old Compton, though a stranger might
have thought that there was no resemblance between them,--no
resemblance whatever between the thick-set figure, the sleek, bullet,
stupid gray head, the square gladiator features, and the clear brown-
red complexion of Sir George; and the slender lithe frame, the more
refined features, and the pale complexion of his son. In these
respects there was no resemblance. George's physique was that of his
wild, fierce, gipsy-looking mother. But he had, in common with his
father, a queer, contemptuous trick of eye and mouth, which showed a
close observer whose son he was in a moment. Old Compton saw it in
both their faces, when their eyes met. If you had told him that those
eager, fierce women, through the very force of their nature, as a rule
reproduced some eighty per cent. of their own characteristics in their
sons, but that a quiet and gentle wife would sometimes produce an
almost actual fac-simile of the father, in this case the old man would
have rather pooh-poohed you. But, once begin to talk to the old lawyer
about the breeding of race-horses, a matter he was well up in, and he
would soon have showed you that trainers and stud-grooms now and then
made fortunes by following, among horses, rules of breeding
practically treated as being ridiculous among human beings.

Mrs. George Hillyar, in reply to her father-in-law, said that she did
find it cold. That she liked getting near the fire best, for it warmed
her. And then she asked Sir George whether he had n't got a glass-
house full of flowers in full bloom, and whether he would show them to
her to-morrow.

Her powers of conversation were not large, evidently. George was very
angry at what he was pleased to call to himself her hopeless
silliness. Yet the highest tact could not have done more, for Sir
George, as he took her into dinner, said,--

"I am afraid you are an innocent little babe in the wood, Gertrude."

"Yes," she said, "and I am so terribly afraid of you. Don't scold
me. I am not near so silly when I am not scolded."

"My poor little redbreast," said Sir George. "Who do you think would
be likely to scold you? You may depend on it that I will not. You must
trust me and get fond of me, my child. George, will you take the end
of the table, if you don't mind sitting with your back to the fire.
Get Mr. Hillyar a screen, Simpson. You'll be hotter than you were in
Australia, George. You are sure you don't mind."

George, who did n't want for a certain unregulated sort of humor,
looked at his father, and said quietly, "that he had not found himself
in so comfortable a position for many a year"; which made the old man
laugh not ill-humoredly.

Old Compton talked loudly to Erne and George, and raised a wall of
sound before Gerty and Sir George. He was anxious for her to see what
she could do; he was all for fair play. Erne saw what he wanted, and
nobly assisted him, so that the other two were perfectly isolated.
Gerty had some dim idea that she was to make herself agreeable to her
father-in-law, and she began her little game. As thus,--

"I don't think you at all odious now. I am sure, if they all of them
saw more of you, they would not call you an odious tyrant."

"I am sure they would n't," said Sir George, who, though he might be
cruel and unjust to his son, was so much of a gentleman that he was in
a state of chivalrous terror lest he should lead the beautiful little
idiot into committing any one. He said,--

"Do you think you shall like England, my love?"

"I don't like it now," said Gerty. "I always want to be near the
fire. When I get cold I cry, and that makes George cross."

"You will like it better in the summer, my love."

"I don't know whether we shall be here in the summer or not. Aggy
said it would be no use for George to stay dawdling here, away from
his work, if you were n't going to do something for him, or, at all
events, to define his prospects. Therefore, I suppose, as soon as I am
confined, and well enough to move, we shall go back again, unless you
do something decided for us. George says you will see him hanged
first; but I don't think that. I don't think so badly of you as I did.
Are these pink cups ice-cream? I wonder whether I dare eat some. I
have never seen iced cream before in my life. Perhaps I had better
not; it might make me cry."

And so she went on, twittering like one of her own zebra parrakeets.
But, in spite of her utter simplicity, Sir George did what everyone
else, young or old, rich or poor, did, who came near her; that is to
say, he fell in love with her.

The other three got on amazingly well. Erne was as difficult to
resist in his way as Gerty in hers. They were to go shooting on the
morrow, and George, with the assistance of the other two, was
refreshing his memory on the localities. They got on very well indeed,
and George became quite affectionate with Erne. They had been talking
about a certain larch belt, as containing game, and old Compton had
said,--

"Confound the game. If you will take my advice, Mr. Hillyar, you will
have it down, and let the sun in."

"Then I am to have Stanlake, at all events," thought George,
flushing. "There is two thousand a year any way."

So the George Hillyars stayed at Stanlake, and Erne and George shot
and hunted, and played billiards together, and Gerty sat crouched over
the fire, and saw the sunny woods and crags of Neville's Gap among the
burning coals. And day by day George saw Erne petted, caressed, and
consulted, while he himself was treated with a calm politeness which
was infinitely exasperating. Each day he began to see more clearly
that a very large portion of the property was lost to him, and every
day, alas! his dislike and jealousy towards Erne grew stronger and
stronger.



Chapter XXVI. James Burton's Story: James and his Sister Fall Out



SIR GEORGE HILLYAR sent for Reuben to go to Stanlake and see after
some waterman's work. And I was very glad of it; for anything, I
argued, which took Reuben away from the bad company with which he
seemed to be so suddenly and mysteriously involved, must be for the
better.

He came down, as he went, to leave the key of his room with my
father. Erne had come over to see us: to see Emma, indeed. I began to
see that much, and was talking with her in the window. They turned and
came towards us again when Reuben came in, and so we four were
together once more, for the last time for a long while.

Reuben came whistling in, nodded a good-bye to all of us, and said to
Erne, "I shall see you to-morrow, sir, I dare say," and sauntered out.

"Say a kind word to him for us," said Emma; "go to him sometimes at
Stanlake, and cheer him up a little. He can't reward you for any
kindness, but I will answer for him that he is grateful."

Erne promised, and very shortly after Joe came clumping in, all
radiant.

"Jim," he said, "Jim! Here, such a jolly lark on. I mean," he said,
getting rather red, and looking at Erne, laughing, "that I anticipate
considerable entertainment."

"What's up?" I asked, simply; for it was no use trying to get fine
words out of me at that time without considerable preparation.

"Why," he said, "they are going to have the Harvest Home at the
Victoria to-night, with Wright and O. Smith from the Adelphi. Come on,
let's go."

"Of course," I said; for we should no more have thought of missing
such a dainty treat as that in those times than of losing our dinner.
"But we had better go early. We had a terrible fight for a place last
time, remember, and you lost all your oranges, and a cotton
handkerchief worth three half--pence, and that sort of thing makes the
amusement come dear."

"I say," said Erne, suddenly; "I'll tell you what; I'll go. I've
never been to the play in my life."

Joe and I were delighted at the idea.

"But," I said, "you can't come dressed like that; you'd have to fight
in a minute."

"Lend me some of your clothes and a cap," said Erne. "This is the
greatest lark I ever knew. What do you think, Emma; hey?"

"I was wondering what Sir George would say if he knew where you were
going, and how!"

"There is no need he should," said Erne.

"I should have thought there was," she replied, quietly. "Pray don't
do anything so insane."

"There can't be any harm in it," said Erne.

"I should have said," replied Emma, "that there was the very greatest
harm in a young gentleman dre-sing himself like a blacksmith, and
going to the gallery of the Victoria Theatre. I confess I should think
so. More particularly when that young gentleman has been so generously
trusted by his father to associate with people so far below him in
rank. I don't know why that young gentleman's father has shown such
blind trust in him. It may be because he has such full and perfect
confidence in him, or it may be that his great love for him has made
him foolish. Whichever way it is, for that young gentleman to abuse
his father's confidence so utterly as to go masquerading in a dress
which he has no right to wear, in the lowest parts of the town, with
two common lads, is a degree of meanness which I don't expect at all."

As she said this I saw Joe's magnificent, Byron-like head turned in
anger upon her, and I saw a wild, indignant flush rise upon his face,
and go reddening up to the roots of his close, curlling hair; I saw it
rise, and then I saw it die away, as Joe limped towards her, and
kissed her. Whether she had seen it, or not, it was hard to say, but
she had guessed it would be there: she put her arm round his neck, and
then drew his face against hers, saying.

"Ask my brother Joe, here, what he thinks."

"He thinks as you do, and so do I," said Erne, quietly. "If you were
always by me I should never do wrong."

"Ask Jim what he thinks about it," said Emma, laughing. "Ask that
great stupid, dear old Jim, how he would like to see his noble hero,
with a greasy old cap on, sucking oranges in the gallery of the
theatre in the New Cut. Look how he stands there, like a stupid old
ox. But I know who is the best of us four, nevertheless."

The "stupid old ox--" that is to say, the Honorable James Burton, who
is now addressing you,--had thrown his leather apron over his left
shoulder, and was scratching his head. I am afraid that I did look
very like a stupid ox. But think that, if you had taken the cobwebs
out of my brain, and wound them off on a card, you would have found
that I was making a feeble effort to try to think that my brother and
sister were two rather heroic and noble persons. After all, I only
fancy that I remember that I was trying to think that I thought so. I
am no fool, but that fierce flush on Joe's face had confused and
frightened me. I saw very great danger. I had not seen that look there
for a long time.

Erne gave up his project, and soon went away in the best of humors;
Joe went to his school; and I was left alone with Emma.

Though I still had my apron over my shoulder, and might, for all I
can remember, have still been scratching my head, yet still all the
cobwebs in my brain were drawn out into one strong thread, stronger
than silk, and I knew what to say and what to do. I turned on Emma.

"You were perfectly right," I said, "in stopping him going. You were
right in every word you said to him; but you had no right to speak of
Joe and myself as you did."

She folded her hands, sweet saint, as if in prayer, and took it all
so quietly.

"It was not good to speak of your brother so," I went on, with
heightened voice and an angry face. "You may speak as you please of me
but, if you speak in that way of Joe, before his face, you will raise
the devil in him, and there will be mischief. You should measure your
words. Let me never hear that sort of thing again."

I was right in every word I said to her. And yet I would give all my
great wealth, my title, everything I have, except my wife and
children, to unsay those words again. O, you who use hard words,
however true they may be, when will you be persuaded that every hard,
cold word you use is one stone on a great pyramid of useless remorse?

How did she answer me? She ran to me and nestled her noble head
against my bosom, and called me her own sweet brother, and begged me
not to scold her, for that she loved him, loved him, loved him. That
Erne's name was written on her heart; but that he should never, never
know it on this side of the grave; for she would devote herself to
Joe, and be his sister and friend to death; and that she was so sorry
for what she had said.

What could I do? What I did, I suppose. Soothe her, quiet her, and
tell her I had been in the wrong (which was not altogether true). That
is what I did, however; and so I had said the first and last harsh
word to her. It cannot be recalled, but there is some comfort in
thinking that it was the first and the last.



Chapter XXVII. James Burton's Story: The Ghost Shows a Light for the First Time



THE night we went to the play, it was arranged that Joe, because of
his lameness, should start first; and I was to stay behind, to finish
some work. It therefore happened that I found myself hurrying through
the small streets beyond Westminster Bridge, alone.

I am going to relate a distressing accident, very shortly, for the
simple reason that, if I had not witnessed it, I should have missed
making a singular discovery and meeting with a few singular
adventures.

I noticed a young man, of my own rank and age, riding a carthorse
just in front of me, and took but little notice of him; not dreaming
how very important his every look would be, in a very few minutes. I
remembered after, that he seemed a merry, goodhumored fellow, and was
whistling. The night was frosty, and the road was slippery; his horse
blundered and stumbled, and threw him, whistling as he was, under the
wheels of a passing wagon. The next moment I was carrying him on to a
door-step, quite dead; shattered beyond recognition.

I cannot tell you what a lamentable affair it was. I did what I
could,--I helped others, and was beginning to congratulate myself upon
my self--possession, when I found that a very singular effect was
produced on myself. I was giving my name and address to a policeman,
when I felt something coming too quickly to be stopped, and burst into
a wild tempest of tears,--such a tempest that I could not stay the
course of it for a time, but had to give it way, gust after gust,
until they grew fainter, and died away into an occasional stormy sob.
Then I went on to the theatre, thinking, poor fool as I was, that I
might forget the real terrible tragedy I had just witnessed by
throwing myself headlong into a sea of fantastic balderdash.

I found Joe, and, when the door was opened, we fought our way into a
good place. The instant we got settled, Joe asked me what was the
matter, and I told him that I had seen a fellow run over. He said,
"Poor chap!" but, not having seen it happen, thought no more about it,
but settled himself down to enjoy his evening.

I suppose there are some play-goers still alive who remember the
"Harvest Home." It belongs to the Eocene, or at latest to the early
Miocene, formation of plays,--probably, to be correct, it is half-way
between the "Stranger" and the "Colleen Bawn." There was a dawning of
the "sensation" style in it, but nothing very tremendous. O. Smith
shot the first comedy gentleman stone-dead (as you were supposed to
suppose, if you had n't known better all the time) from behind a stone
wall, with an air-gun; and the first lady threw herself on the corpse,
and was dragged off screaming, in a snow-storm, by Mr. O. Smith, her
putative papa. Whereupon, Mr. Wright came on, as a Cockney sportsman
dressed like a Highlander, having lost his way, and, as far as I can
remember, found the body. In the end, Mr. O Smith was hung, or, on the
principle, says Joe, of "Nee coram populo," was led off cursing and
kicking; and Mr. Wright was married (or was going to be) to the second
lady.

That was the sort of stuff that Joe and I used to laugh and cry over
in those days. We had seen the play acted at the Adelphi, and were
most anxious to compare the magnificent Milesian Irish pronunciation
of our own Miss Brady, with the broken English of Madame Celeste. It
all fell dead on me that night. Even poor old Wright, with his bare
legs and his impudent chatter, could not make me laugh. The image of
what I had carried up and set on the door-step, an hour before, would
not leave me. That a merry, harmless lad like that should be struck
down in an instant, seemed to me so lamentable and cruel. I could
think of nothing else. The details would come before me so
persistently,--the head that would hang; the two low, fallen women,
who kept saying, "Poor dear! poor dear lad!" and all the rest of it.
The play seemed such a hideous silly mockery after what had happened
that I could bear no more of it. I made some excuse to Joe, and I went
out.

The squalor and noise of the street suited my mood better than the
gaudy brightness of the play-house; and the bustling reality of the
crowd soothed me for a time, and made me forget the tragedy of the
evening. This crowd of noisy, swarming, ill-fed, ill-taught, ill-
housed poor folks was, after all, composed of my own people,--of men,
women, and lads of my own rank in life; of people whose language was
my own, whose every want and care I was acquainted with; of the people
among whom I had been bred up, and whom I had learnt to love. I was at
home among them.

The other day, after spending years in a higher and purer atmosphere,
I went among them again, just to see whether they were the same to me
as in old times. I found that I was quite unchanged. They did not
disgust me in the least. I felt, when I got among them again, that I
was at home once more. I was pleased to find that I had not developed
into a snob; but I was sorry to find that they distrusted me, in my
good clothes, and would have none of me. Knowing them as I did, and
knowing how they talked among themselves, I could see that they talked
in a different language in the presence of my fine clothes and watch-
chain. It is very hard for a gentleman to know them; very nearly
impossible. They never speak to him quite naturally.

I went into a public-house, where I heard music, and got myself some
porter, and sat down on a bench among some young men, who made room
for me. The musicians played some dance-music,--a waltz, which I now
know to be one of Strauss's; but it sounded to me like the lapping of
the tide upon the mud-banks, and the moaning of the wind from the
river among the gravestones in the old church-yard.

So, thought-driven, with a despondency on me for which it was
difficult to account, I was compelled homewards. From street to
street, all low and dull, to the bridge, where the chill, frosty wind
rustled among the scaffolding of the new Houses of Parliament with
ghostly sighs. And so I passed westward, through another labyrinth of
squalid streets; some bright with flaming gas and swarming with noisy
crowds; some dark and dull, with only a few figures here and there,
some of which lurked away before the heavy tramp of the policeman.

As I passed the vast dark façade of Chelsea Hospital the clock struck
ten, and a few minutes afterwards I came on the broad desolate river,
at the east end of Cheyne Walk. The frosty wind was moaning among the
trees, and the desolate wild river was lapping and swirling against
the heads of the barges and among the guardpiles, which stood like
sentries far out, stemming the ebbing tide. Of all scenes of
desolation which I ever witnessed, give me the Thames at night. I
hurried on again, with the strange terrified humor on me stronger than
ever.

There was a ball at a large how-windowed house, close to Don
Saltero's, and I stopped to listen to the music. There were some
fiddles and a piano, played evidently by skilled professional hands.
Good heavens! could they play nothing but that wild waltz of
Strauss's, which I had heard the Germans playing in the public-house?
Why should handsome young gentlemen and beautiful girls dance to a
tune which sweeps in such strange, melancholy eddies of sound, that
even now it sets me thinking of the winds which wander over solitary
moonless seas, which break with a far-heard moan, against distant
capes, in an unknown land at midnight?

A couple came from the rest and stood in the window together, behind
the half-drawn curtains: and I could see them, for their heads were
against the light. He was a gallant youth, with a square head; and she
seemed beautiful too. He spoke eagerly to her, but she never looked
towards him; he seemed to speak more eagerly yet, and tried to take
her hand; but she withdrew it, and he slowly left her and went back
into the room; but she remained and I saw her pulling the flowers from
her nosegay and petulantly throwing them on the carpet, while she
looked out steadily across the wild sweeping river, hurrying to the
sea.

So on I went again, passing swiftly through the church-yard. In a few
moments after, I had turned out of Church Street into our own row. It
was quite quiet. Our great house rose like a black wall in front of
me; I cast my eye up it until it rested on the great dormer-window of
Reuben's room,--the ghost's room,--and, good heavens! there was a
light there.

It was gone while I looked at it; but there was no doubt about it.
Either Reuben had come home, or else it was the ghost. I went in at
once. My father was sitting alone in the kitchen, with his head in his
hands; I looked up at a certain hook over the dresser. The key of
Reuben's room was hanging there still.

My father looked up. "Jim, my old chap," he said, "I'm so glad you're
come. Get my pipe, and come and sit alongside. How did you like the
theayter, old man?"

As I looked at my father, I saw something was the matter. I had never
seen the dear, noble face in sorrow before; but my love told me at
once that sorrow had come. I waited for him to tell me what it was, I
had perfect confidence in him. I said (in the old style, for though I
had been trying hard to talk like Joe and Erne, I had hitherto made a
mess of it, and always resorted to the vernacular in emergencies, or
for business purposes), "I didn't care about the play to-night. I saw
a young chap run over, and that upset me for the evening. I wasn't
going to spoil Joe's fun; so I came home" ("took and hooked it" in the
original). "Reuben is not come back, is he?"

"No," said my father; "he ain't come back. What should he be come
back for? There's his key a-hanging over the dresser. I say, old man,
Mr. Compton's been here?"

"Has anything gone wrong about the patent?" I asked, aghast.

"Not gone, old man, but very likely to go, I'm afeard."

"How is that?" I asked.

"The invention was anticipated, Mr. Compton is afraid. There was a
patent taken out for it before, and Mr. Compton is afraid that Marks
and Cohen have bought the patentee's interest in it; in which case, my
chance ain't worth a brass farden."

"And what then?" I asked.

"Why, I'm ruined, old boy, body and bones. The savings of twenty
happy years gone in a day. And worse than that,--nigh a couple of
hundred more, as far as I can make out. I wouldn't have cared--I
wouldn't have cared," said my father, hurling his pipe fiercely into
the fireplace; "I tell you, Jim, I wouldn't have cared--" he said,
once more, with a heave of his great chest and a sob. That was all he
said, but I understood him.

I rose to the situation. One of the proudest recollections of my most
prosperous and lucky career is the way I rose to the situation that
unhappy night. I put my arm on his shoulder, and drew his grizzled
head to me, and said:--

"Wouldn't have cared--if it hadn't been for what, father?"

"I wouldn't have cared," said my father, "if the disgrace had fallen
on me alone."

"Has any one been a-talking about disgrace?" I asked.

"Not yet," said my father.

"They'd better not," I answered. "Let 'em come to me and talk about
disgrace. I'll disgrace 'em. And ruin,--who talks of ruin? How can the
best smith in England be ruined; they can't take his trade from him,
can they? Let's up with everything, and go to Australey."

"What?" said my father, looking up.

"Go to Australey," I said, as bold as brass; "the country as Master
Erne's brother came from. Why, a smith is a gentleman there. He's--"

"Go to bed, old chap," said my father.

"Bed or no bed," I said, "is neither the one thing nor the other.
According as a chap thinks, so will he speak; that is, if he acts
according, which is reason. My sentiments being asked, I gives 'em
free; and there you are, and welcome, with many more, and thank you
kindly; and may the Lord forgive us all our transgressions." (All this
was said with defiant assertion; for I saw that, by the mere mention
of the word Australia, I had brought a light in my father's face which
was not there before. In my nervous eagerness to drive the nail home,
I made the above little speech, which might have been intended to mean
something then, but the key to which is missing now.)

"Take and go to bed, I tell you," said my father again; "you and your
Australeys! I'm ashamed on you."

"Shame took and whispered in his ear," I answered, seeing I was
somehow doing the right thing, "and Old Adam and Little Faith tried to
stop his going on, too, whereas I speaks out, and ain't for stopping
nobody."

My father, possibly concluding that the more I spoke the more I
should involve myself, reiterated:--

"Go to bed. I tell you, old chap; who knows but what you're talking
sense? I don't say neither the one thing nor the other; all I say is,
go to bed."

And so I went: to bed, and to sleep. And, after some unknown time of
unconsciousness, I awoke with a ghastly horror upon me.

Joe was by my side, but I did not wake him. I was very careful not to
do that, and there were one or two reasons for it.

First of all, I saw the poor lad run over again--that pale face,
those teeth, and those spasmodically winking eyelids; and, while he
was still in my arms, I came round the corner once more, into the
buildings, and saw the ghost's light gleam out of Reuben's window. And
then Reuben was come home, and in trouble up there. And then it was
Reuben who had been ran over, and then Reuben had to sit up there all
alone, poor lad, watching the body; but, however the phantasmagories
shifted themselves, the crowning horror of all was in the room up
stairs, where I had seen the light. And in the sheer desperation of
terror I rose to go there, refusing to awaken Joe, because I even
then, light-headed as I was, remembered that Reuben would not have him
know anything.

And so, in a state of cowardly horror at I knew not what--a state of
mind which was nearly allied to the most desperate courage--I arose
silently, and, in my trousers and shirt only, passed out of our room
on to the great empty staircase, determined to go up all through the
desolate empty house, until I found out the mystery which I knew was
hid aloft in the ghostly attic. I would penetrate into the mystery of
that strange light, even though I died of terror.

The old staircase creaked under my weight, and the webwinged things
which flutter about the ceilings of these sort of places dashed round
aloft in silent wheeling flight. The ghosts all passed on before me in
a body; and I was glad of it, for I was afraid that some of them might
stand politely aside in a corner to let me pass, and I don't think I
could have stood that. Yet all the ghosts passed on, except a solitary
one, who followed stealthily.

This following ghost was the most terrible ghost of all, for I
couldn't see what it was going to be at. I thought at one time that I
would stop and see whether it would stop too; but then again, I
reflected, what a terrible thing it would be if it didn't, but came
right on.

Once in my terror I thought of crying for help, and raising the
neighborhood, but while I was thinking of it I passed a staircase-
window, and saw that I was already high above the neighbors' highest
chimneys, and that I might shout long enough. There was no retreat now
without passing by the ghost, which was following; and every step I
took I felt a growing dislike to do that--without the kitchen poker.

For it was a clumsy ghost, and knew its business but imperfectly. No
properly educated ghost would knock a hard metallic substance against
the banisters and then use a most low and vulgar expletive immediately
afterwards. I was getting wonderfully uneasy about this ghost. The
poker was such a handy little poker; but here was I, and there was the
poker, and so there was nothing to do but to go on.

At last I reached Reuben's room-door, and got hold of the handle.
The door was unlocked; and I threw it open, to see nothing but blank
darkness.

I held my breath, and felt that some one was there. Dreading the man
who was behind me, I desperately sprang forward towards the well-known
fireplace to get hold of Reuben's poker, if I should have the luck.
Then a lanthorn was turned full blaze on my face. I sprang towards it,
with the intention of getting hold of the man who held it, putting it
out, getting possession of it, and pounding everything human I met
with black and blue, on the old cockney rule that "a solitary man is
worth a dozen in the dark, because he can hit everybody, and everybody
else is afraid of hitting one another"; but, before I could reach him,
I had a cloth thrown over my head, an arm round my throat, tightening
every moment, and in less than a minute was completely overpowered,
with my arms tied behind me, blindfolded, with a handkerchief passed
through my mouth, and tied behind, having seen no one.

I felt that I was in the light, and that people were looking at me;
at last some one spoke, in a very gentlemanly, refined voice I
thought, and said, "Who the deuse is it?"

"It's the young smith; it's that gallows young Burton," said another
voice I knew too terribly well. It was the voice of the man I have
called Bill Sykes.

Another voice said, "Let us beat the dog's brains out, and cut his
body into small pieces and burn it. Curse him; prying into three
gentlemen's private affairs like this. Let me have his blood, Bill.
Let me have hold of him."

I knew this voice well enough. It was Mr. Pistol's. I wasn't much
afraid of him. It was Sykes I was afraid of, the man who had me by the
collar; the more so, because I saw, by poor Pistol's asking to get
hold of me, that he wanted to get me out of Sykes's hands; and the
more so still, because I knew that Pistol, in his terror of Sykes,
would let anything happen. Therefore, when Sykes said to Pistol,
"Stand back and lock the door," and when I felt his hand tighten on my
collar, I began to say the Lord's Prayer as fast as ever I could.

Pistol only said, "Bill, hold hard"; but his feeble protest was
drowned in the strangest sound I ever heard. The unknown man with the
gentlemanly voice broke out with a fierce, snapping, snarling
objurgation, which took myself and another listener utterly by
surprise.

"Sykes, you blood-thirsty, clumsy hound, drop that life-preserver or
you are a dead man. It is only by the cowardly idiocy of that fellow
Pistol there that you are in this thing at all, you low brute,--the
best thing you were ever in in your life, worth five hundred of your
stupid burglaries. Leave that boy alone, you worthless dog."

I felt Sykes's hand relax, but the bully did not yield.

"You showing fight, you sneaking, long-nosed cur! Shut up, or I'll
pound you into a jelly."

"Will you?" said the gentlemanly man, almost in a scream of rage.
"Me! you dog. Me! with this knife in my hand. You ignorant idiot, with
your clumsy cudgels. Learn the use of this, and then you'll be my
equal; just as sure as I'm your master. You'd better go and tickle a
black snake on the nose in December than come near me with this in my
hand. Leave that lad alone. I won't have a hair of his head touched."

The bully knew the fearful advantage which the use of the knife
gives, too well; he came down a little. He said only:

"What for?"

"Because I choose it. How could such as you understand if I told you
why?" said the gentlemanly man, with a fiercer snarl than ever. "I am
a rogue of long standing, but I have seen better things, you Sykes. I
hate you and your class. Hell has begun with me in this world, with
all its torment and its loathing; and the most terrible part of my
torment is, that those I loved faithfully have cast me off, and that I
have to herd with such hounds as you. But I will be revenged on one,
until I bring him to reason; and while I carry a knife, I will express
my loathing and scorn for such curs as you. Come hither, lad. Do you
care for your cousin Reuben?"

As he said this he moved the handkerchief from my mouth, and I
answered, "Yes, I cared very much for my cousin."

"We are a parcel of thieves and worse, my lad, who have got
possession of the room he rents. He knows us, my boy, and has been
seen in our company. If you say one word about to-night's work, your
cousin Reuben will be transported as an accomplice of ours. So you see
how fatal the consequences of your speaking would be. We shall be gone
to-morrow, may be. You'd best say nothing, for your cousin's sake."

I said that I would not say one word.

"If you do," said Pistol, "I'll have your bingy; strike me as blind
as a morepork if I don't have your bingy!" (by which speech I know,
through the light of later experience, that Mr. Pistol had been
transported).

"Shut up, fool," said the gentlemanly man. "Sykes, I am going to let
this young 'un go."

"I'll cut his throat if he blows," said blustering Bill. "He knows
me. He knows he'll never be safe if he does. Swear him. Do you wish
you may die if you peach, you cursed young toad?"

"You clumsy fool," said the gentlemanly man; "put him on his honor,
I tell you. You'll have his monkey up directly. You're not going to
say a word, for your cousin's sake; are you, Jim?"

I repeated that I would not say one single word.

"Then come outside here," said the gentlemanly man. And so he led me
to the door, pulled the cloth from my eyes, shut me out on the
landing, and locked the door after. When I found myself free on the
landing, I am pleased to remember that the first thing I did was to
offer up a short thanksgiving: that it was only the grace after meat
which I repeated in my haste is no matter,--the intention was the
same.

Now the steed was stolen I shut the stable-door, and went down stairs
with the most elaborate caution, in anticipation of another ambuscade.
I was a long time in reaching my bedroom. At last I reached it. One of
the pleasantest moments in my life was when I slipped into bed, and
heard my father and mother snoring in the next room, producing between
them such a perfect imitation of a rusty mine-pump, as would have made
their fortunes on the "boards."

One comfort was that Joe had not missed me. He was lying just as I
left him. He had evidently been fast asleep all the time.

Had he? The moment I was comfortably settled he spoke. He said, "It
was touch and go for that devil Sykes, old Jim."

"What do you mean, Joe?" I asked, in my astonishment.

"Mean!" said Joe, laughing; "why, that I was standing in the dark
behind him with our bedroom poker, and if he had raised his hand six
inches higher, I'd have had him down like a dead dog, and Pistol after
him. He'd have gone down at once, if I hadn't seen the knife in the
other one's hand. When he turned up trumps, I let things be."

"Then it was you who followed me up stairs?"

"So it was, Jim. I've had my suspicions about that room; and, when
you began to cry out in your sleep about Reuben watching corpses up
there, and when you got out and went up, I followed you. I thought you
were sleep-walking, and so didn't dare to wake you. I've followed you
into many fights, my old boy, and I wasn't going to let you go up
there alone."

"I think you would follow me to death, Joe."

"I think I would," he said. "They had nothing but one dark-lanthorn,
or I should have had to play the dickens. I wonder what they are doing
there? I think they are only hiding. We must speak to Rube, poor lad.
It is very hard on him. Poor, faithful, affectionate fellow! I wish he
had more determination; I wish he could say No. But what can he do?"

"I'll tell you what," I said. "I have a suspicion. I believe that the
man who came to my assistance with his knife was the same man I saw in
Lawrence Street, that I told you of, when Rube was among the whole
gang."

Joe rose up in bed, and said, in accents of profound astonishment,
"Why, do you mean to say you don't see how things stand!"

I said, "No; but that long-nosed fellow seemed to have some kind of
influence with Rube."

"Do you mean to say," said Joe, "that you haven't made out this much:
That hook-nosed man is Reuben's father, our cousin, Samuel Burton,
come home from his transportation, having followed, as I strongly
suspect, Mr. George Hillyar? Didn't you make that out?"

I was too much dumb-foundered to speak.

"You old stupid, you old hammersmith. I thought you had made it all
out, and would speak even to me, Reuben having distrusted me. I have
watched the man days and days, till I made it out. Don't you see how
doubly it tongue-ties you and me, the only two who know it?"

I did see that, certainly. But at this moment my father dreamt of the
devil, and had to be punched awake by my mother, lest he should pass
into that fourth and dangerous state of mesmeric coma, as did the
young lady spoken of by that acute scientific reasoner, Dr. G--. In
which case, as every one ought to know, it would have become necessary
to mesmerise some one else, nineteen to the dozen, to fetch him back
again, before he got into the fifth state, which is the deuse and all.
At all events, my father awoke, and accused my mother on the spot of
having had the nightmare, in consequence of having taken too much
vinegar with her trotters at supper: which was all she got for her
pains. But, he being awake, Joe and I talked no more.



Chapter XXVIII. Affairs at Stanlake.



GERTY didn't like England; she couldn't possibly conceive why the
people in England didn't all go and live in Australia. James wanted to
get as many of them as would come, over to Cooksland free of expense,
and when they came they always liked it,--in the end, you would
understand her to mean; for at first they felt strange, and were, Lord
bless you, more particular over their rations than any corn-stalk
cockatoo who might have treed his section on the burst, and come back
to the shed: or than any real stringy back hand ever thought of being.
She didn't see why they should not all move over together. It wouldn't
do to leave the Queen behind; but she might get to think better of it
as soon as she saw how much superior Australia was to England. And so
she used to twitter on to old Sir George Hillyar, never allowing for
the fact that, when most confidential and affectionate with him, she
was apt (as above) to ramble off into fields of utterly
incomprehensible slang, and to leave his close-cropped gray hair
standing on end with amazement.

Gerty didn't like Stanlake. "Not very much, papa," she would say to
Sir George, taking his hand in hers; "you ain't offended, are you?
because I mustn't offend you, or else James will be angry with me when
I go back home, and say it is all my fault. I love you, but I don't
like Stanlake. George knows you are going to leave it to him, because
Mr. Compton advised him to cut down the east belt. But I don't like
it. It's so cold to your bones."

"What do you like, my dear little white rosebud?" Sir George said one
day, laughing.

"Why," she answered, "let me see. I like you (very much indeed,--you
don't know how much); and I like George more than you; and I like Erne
more than you, but not so much as George. And I like Reuben the
waterman, and his cousin the blacksmith, Jim,--I mean, you know,
Erne's friend,--the tall lad with the large brown eyes, who sat under
the tomb that first Sunday when the pew-opener poked the umbrella into
her husband's eye, because the mad woman caught spiders in her prayers
(you didn't hear of that, though). I like him, and I like his great
big sister; for, although her hands are very red, she has a gentle
face, and her voice is like James's when he is playing with baby. I
like all these; so I can't be so hard to please as you want to make
out, you cruel tyrant."

"I don't mean what people do you like," said Sir George, gently, "for
I believe you love every one you come near, just as every one loves
you. I mean, what do you like to do best? What can I do to amuse you,
to make the time go less slowly?"

"I like the fire best," said Gerty. "I like to sit before the fire,
and look at the coals."

"Why?"

"It warms my poor bones," said Gerty. "And I see things there."

"Tell me what Gerty,--tell me what. Do you ever see a a little white
sea-swallow that has winged its way, such a weary way, over the
heaving sea to sing to an old man and soften his heart?"

"No," said Gerty, simply, "I don't ever remember to have seen that.
I see black fellows, and ships, and balls, and things of that kind. I
saw the quartz range beyond Neville's-Gap once yesterday, where we go
to get flowers. My word, what a rage poor mamma was in!"

"About what?" asked Sir George, much amused. "About the ships, or
the black fellows?"

"About my book-muslin frock, you foolish thing, and my complexion;
there wasn't a bit of it as big as your hand that wasn't torn. And
there were black fellows in this story, too,--for, when I found I was
bushed, I had to go and look after them to take me home; and I
followed the cattle-tracks till I came to the great Billebong where
they were fishing, and I made them up stick and take me home. Lord!
you should have seen me coming in state over the paddock with my hair
down, and five-and-forty black fellows, lobros, picanninies and all,
at my heels. You would have laughed."

"I think I should," said Sir George.

"Mamma did'nt," said Gerty. "I was as brown as you; and that book--
muslin cost a deal of money. She made such a fuss about it before the
black fellows, that they went back and tracked me to the Grevillea
Scrub, to get the shreds of it which were left on the thorns, thinking
they were some priceless tissue. They kept bringing pieces of it as
long as your little finger, or smaller, to my mother ever so long, and
wanting her to give them brandy and tobacco for them. She was angry."

"She must have had good cause, with six daughters like you to take
care of."

"Yes. You see she had staked her reputation that we should marry
better than the seven Brown girls. And what with poor papa going off
at the Prince of Wales, with the gout getting into his stomach, and
tallow down to three-pence, and all the hands on the burst at once, it
was enough to make her anxious, wasn't it?"

"I should think so," Sir George would reply. And then she would go
chirrupping on again; and George would sit watching them from behind
his book.

There was no doubt whatever that silly Gerty was making
extraordinary way with the old man. Her amazing beauty, her
gentleness, and her simplicity won the old man completely; while her
piquant conversation as above (it was piquant enough from her mouth,
though it may be dull from this pen), amused him immensely. Whenever
she was utterly, unintelligibly, colonial in her language, Sir George
would make her explain herself, and this would cause her to use other
colonialisms worse than the first, to his intense delight. She was
winning on the old man day by day, and George saw it with hope.

The old man would sit hours with her now. They neither bored the
other. Gerty loved talking, and he loved listening to her strange
prattle. Sir George grew sensibly more free with and kind to his son;
and the odd eight thousand a year,--which Secretary Oxton had
encouraged him to go to London and seek,--seemed nearer to realization
day by day. Old Compton, the lawyer, used to come often, as his wont
was; and, as he saw Sir George and Gerty together so much, he took the
trouble to watch them, and as he watched them he said, "A new will!--a
new will! My young friend Erne will not be so rich as I thought."

George watched them too, with hope,--hope sometimes alternated with
despair. Sir George would be sitting beside Gerty absorbed in a kind
of pitying admiration of her for an hour or more, when in would come
Erne, who loved his sister-in-law, and loved to hear her talk in her
strange naïve way, and would stand against his father's chair on the
other side. And then George would see the old man's right hand
withdrawn from the arm of Gerty's chair, and his left go wandering up
to smooth down the clustering brown curls, which hung on Erne's head
like a garland.

Then George would set his teeth and curse Erne silently in his heart,
for his hatred of him grew stronger day by day. He knew that Erne was
utterly simple and undesigning; that he loved Gerty,--nay, that he
loved him, George himself; but he would not know it. He fed his heart
in secret denunciations of his brother. He let the devil in; and, to
himself and in private, he cursed his brother for a designing young
villain, knowing that he was lying all the time. The story of Cain and
Abel is a very old one. Where were James and Aggy now?

People called on Gerty. The Nalders called; but Gerty was looking out
of window, and saw them as they drove up, and wasn't at home. She
would die sooner than be at home when that artful bold Yankee woman
had the audacity to call and hunt up her husband,--much sooner die,
for then they would be sorry for her, and would not despise her. She
had some spirit left, she thanked Heaven, though the cold had got into
her bones. Nevertheless, she looked from behind the curtain as they
drove away, and saw that Mrs. Nalder had been dressed by a French-
woman, and looked horridly handsome and amiable; and that Nalder had
mounted a tall white hat on to his honest head, and wore what he would
have called a white vest and black pants, although it was only half-
past two in the afternoon.

Then, another time, some other horrid people called. She couldn't see
who they were, but was sure they were horrid and she wasn't at home.
But she heard a loud voice in the hall say, "Sure, then, Phayley,
we'll wait in the parlor till she come"; and then, with a little cry
of joy, she ran out of the drawing-room, and the next moment had
buried her lovely head in the capacious bosom of Miss Lesbia Burke.

The good Irishwoman half laughed and half cried over her; at one time
holding her at arm's length to get a good look at her, and the next
hugging her again, like a dear old lunatic as she was; while Mr.
Phelim O'Brien (the leader of the Opposition, James Oxton's deadly
enemy) stood looking on, with a smile of infinite contentment on his
handsome face. It appeared that he and his cousin, Miss Burke, were to
be in London for some time on "bhisnuss," and they could meet again
often. Lesbia brought all kinds of tender loves from half the colony;
and, more, it was this battered old Irishwoman who had gone out of her
way to Neville's Gap, that she might visit the quartz ranges, and
bring Gerty a great nosegay of wild flowers; and here they were in a
handbox, triumphantly. They were all withered and dead,--no more like
their former selves, than was Lesbia Burke to the beauty of thirty
years before: but some of the aromatic ones kept their scent still,--
the dear old bush scent,--speaking of peaceful sunny summer days among
the hot silent forests: and Lesbia's heart was as true and as loving
now as it was when she learnt her first prayer at her mother's knee.

Gerty did not chirrup much to Sir George that night, but sat back in
her easy-chair, with the faded flowers on her lap, tying them up into
various bunches like a child, and sometimes untying them and altering
them. Once she looked up and asked him whether he did not wonder why
she was doing this, and he said "Yes."

"I am calling up the different holidays I have had, and am making up
a boquet for each one, of the flowers I remember best on those days,
in order that you and George may put them in my coffin. I should like
this bunch of silver wattle to lie on my heart, because they grow
thick in the paddocks at Barker's Station, where George came and made
love to me."

"You must not talk about coffins, my love," said Sir George. "Try
cradles, hey? that is more to the purpose."

"It may be either," said Gerty, rising wearily. "I think I will go to
bed. I think you had better send for Aggy; she is at the Bend. She
will be here in an hour. I wish you could send for her."

Then the poor little woman looked wildly round the room and saw where
she was; and, as she realized the fact that her sister was sixteen
thousand miles away, she gave a weary little moan, which went to Sir
George's heart.

"She is too far to send for, my love," he said, kindly. "I wish she
were here."

"Stay," said Gerty. "Tell me, dear old papa, was Lesbia Burke here
to--day, or am I dreaming again? I know she was. These are the flowers
she brought me. George! George! send for old Lesbia!"

Lesbia Burke was sent for, and we need not insult your judgment by
telling you that she came raging off instantly to the assistance of
the sweet little bush flower. She was naturally a loud woman, and was
rather louder than usual on her journey in consequence of her
impatience. But the moment she entered Stanlake doors, she, with the
wonderful adaptive power of her nation, became transformed into a
calm, dexterous, matronly lady, with a commanding power expressed in
every word and attitude. She took possession of the house and ruled
it. Sir George Hillyar had an eye for female beauty, but he told
George that he had never seen anything like Lesbia Burke's poses
before. When she swept into the library, at two o'clock in the
morning, with the lighted candle close against her stern--marked face,
and announced the event to them, both of them started. "The Siddons,
as Lady Macbeth, would have hidden her head," said Sir George. She
certainly was a terribly beautiful woman.

It was she who put the baby into bed with Gerty when the doctor gave
leave, and who, when she heard Gerty's strange little croon of
delighted wonder, fell on the astonished doctor and baronet's neck,
and called him an "ould darlin'."

"Good heavens!" said the precise old gentleman; "I hope no one saw
her. What would Lady Savine say? You never know what these Irish
people will be at next."



Chapter XXIX. James Burton's Story: The Beginning of the Bad Times



"THE Simultaneity of certain Crises in Human Thought, more especially
relating to the Results of Investigation into Mechanical Agents,"
would form a capital title for a book, as yet to be written. As good a
title as could be found (if you don't mind a little American, and
follow Sir Walter Scott's doctrine about the title of books), because
no one could by any possibility gather from it what the deuse the book
was about, until they had read it.

The writer of this book would have to take notice that, for the last
hundred years (say), intelligence has been so rapidly circulated, that
the foremost thinkers in all civilized countries are at work for the
same end at one and the same time. He would have to point out as
examples (I merely sketch his work out for him) the simultaneous
invention of steamboats on the Clyde and in New York; the nearly
simultaneous invention of the Electric Telegraph in England and in
America (though Cook and Wheatstone were clicking messages to Camden
Town three months before the Yankees got to work). Again, for
instance, the discovery of the planet Neptune, by Adams and Leverrier;
and last, not least, the synchronic invention of the centrifugal
bucket-lifter for emptying cesspools,--claims for which were sent in
at the same time by Ebenezer Armstrong, of Salford, and by James
Burton, of Church Place, Chelsea.

What actually ruined us was, that none of us would go near the
machine after it was made, and that it had to be worked by third
parties. In his enthusiasm for science, I believe that my father would
have gone and superintended, but his proposition was met by flat
rebellion of the whole family. My father demanded whether or no he was
master in his own house; whereto Emma, who had a vast deal of spirit
at times, replied promptly, "No, don't let him think so. Nothing of
the kind." Emma's having turned Turk, startled my father, and caused
him to reconsider the matter of his being master in his own house in
another, and, let us hope, a better spirit; for he only sat down and
troubled me for his pipe. When he had nearly smoked it, he caught my
eye, and said, "There was three or four keys wanted driving home, old
chap; and a washer or two on the upper spindle would have broke no
one's bones. Nevertheless, let be; she is right in general. It'll all
be the same one day."

That night in the dark, Joe, who was at home, turned towards me and
said,--

"Jim, Erne Hillyar is making fine gentlemen and ladies of us. We
oughtn't to have stopped his going to see the machine at work. I ought
to have gone, and you ought to have gone also. We are getting too
fine, Jim; it won't do."

I quite agreed, now I had time to think, and we determined to go the
very next night.

But the very next day came Erne, looking so wonderfully handsome and
so exquisitely clean, that going to Augusta Court to superintend the
emptying of a cesspool became absolutely impossible. Certainly, what
Joe said was true; Erne was making fine gentlemen of us.

That night the gentlemen who had charge of the machine came home and
reported it broken. It had to be repaired. To satisfy curiosity, it
was what gold-miners call a California pump (which is an old Chinese
invention), but with hollow paddles, nearly like buckets. We had not
repaired it for three weeks, and, by the time we had got it to work
again, Armstrong had sent in his claim, and we had the satisfaction of
knowing that the delay was entirely our own fault.

Strange to say, the invention had been registered some years,
though, from want of practical knowledge, the machine had never been
used. The former patentee instituted legal proceedings against my
father and Armstrong. Cohen and Marks, the solicitors, bought up
Armstrong, and we were nearly ruined.

So ends the history of my father's inventions. The other day my
mother asked him whether he couldn't contrive a spring to prevent the
front door slamming. He declined pointedly, saying that he had had
enough of that in his life, and that she ought to be ashamed of
herself for talking about such things.

Nearly ruined. All my father's savings, all Joe's little earnings,
and most of the furniture, just saved us. We could keep the house over
our heads, for we had taken it by the year, and my father and I had
our trade and our strength between us and ruin still. And, as is very
often the case, troubles did not come singly. There was another forge
established at the bottom of Church Street, and our business grew a
little slack (for new brooms sweep clean). We knew that a reaction in
our favor would set in soon; but, meanwhile, our capital was gone, and
we had to depend on our ready--money receipts for the men's wages.

Those men's wages were a terrible trouble. I have had a peaceful,
prosperous life, and have been far better used than I deserve; for the
trouble about these men's wages is the worst trouble, save the great
disaster of my life, which I have ever known. I had always been a
great favorite with them, and used to skylark and chaff with them; but
that soon was altered when the curse of poverty came upon us. I was so
terribly afraid of offending them. Their wages must be paid on
Saturday, or they would go to the other forge. We had often to give
trust, but we could never take trust from them. They had each eighteen
shillings a week--two pounds fourteen; and one week we only took took
three pounds seven in cash. There was not a stick of furniture, or a
watch, or a spoon left which could go.

Then began the time of short meals. There were no more "jints" now.
The "kag-mag and skewer-pieces," &c., contemptuously mentioned by my
father to Mr. Compton, were now luxuries,--luxuries which were not
indulged in every day by any means. The first necessity was bread and
butter for the "kids," as our merry Reuben, absent through all of it,
used to call them; the supply of that article and of milk-and-water
was kept up to the last.

If the contemplation of a family who triumphantly come out strong, in
the middle of a complication of troubles and difficulties, is pleasing
to any of my readers, I should like him to have seen the Burton family
in their troubles. It would have done his honest heart good to have
seen the way in which we came out, when we hadn't really, for three
weeks, enough, or near enough, to eat.

My mother took to singing about her work. She couldn't sing a bit.
She never could and never will; but she took to it for all that. Some
people take to playing the flute who can't play it at all, and
therefore there is no reason why my mother shouldn't take to singing.
At all events, she did, with an ostentatious light-heartedness which
we could all see through. It would have been better if she had known
any tune; but she didn't, and so we had to do without. Her singing,
however, was better than some very fine singing indeed, for it
produced the effect intended; it showed us all that she was determined
to act as pitch-pipe in the family choir.

And we took up the harmony with a will, I warrant you. We had always
been an easy-going, gentle sort of family; but now our benevolence
began to take an active form to one another, which was painful then,
and is painful now when I look back on it. Our love for one another
had before this run on in a gentle, even stream; now it had got on the
rapids and become passionate; for the same unwhispered terror was in
all our hearts,--the terror lest, in the troubles and evils which were
coming thick upon us, we might break up the old family bond and learn
to care for one another less,--the ghastly doubt as to whether or no
our love would stand the test of poverty.

Would it have outlived a year's disgraceful weary want, or would it
not? That is a terrible question. Our troubles came so hard and fast,
that that test was never applied to us. The only effect our troubles
had on us was to knit us the closer together; to turn what had been
mere ox-like contentment in one another's society into a heroic
devotion,--a devotion which would have defied death. And the one
person who led us through our troubles,--the one person who gave the
key-note to our family symphony, and prevented one jarring note from
being heard,--the person who turned out to be most cheerful, most
patient, most gentle, most shifty, and most wise of all us,--was no
other than my awkward, tall, hard-featured, square--headed, stupid old
mother.

Fools would have called her a fool. I think that, in the times of
our prosperity, we older children had got a dim notion into our heads
that mother was not quite so wise as we were. Three weeks of
misfortune cured us of that opinion, for ever and ever. That she was
the most affectionate and big-hearted of women we had always known,
but we never knew what a wonderful head she had till this time. When
that great and somewhat sluggish brain got roused into activity by
misfortune, we were almost awed by her calm, gentle wisdom. When
better times came again, that brain grew sluggish once more; my
mother's eyes assumed their old calm, dreamy look, and she again
became capable of rambling in her line of argument, and of being
puzzled on such subjects as potatoes. But we never forgot, as a
revelation, the shrewd, calm woman who had appeared to us in our time
of trouble, had advised, and managed, and suggested, and softened
affairs, till one was ashamed of being discontented. We never forgot
what my mother could be, when she was wanted.

Yesterday I was sitting at her feet, watching the sun blaze himself
to death behind the crags of Nicnicabarlah. My youngest boy had played
himself to sleep upon her knee, and the light of the dying day smote
upon her magnificent face as I turned and looked up into it. And then
I saw the old,-old look there,--the look of perfect, peaceful, happy
goodness,--and I blessed God that there were such people in the world;
and then in my memory I carried that dear calm face back through all
the turbulent old times at Chelsea, and pondered there at her knee,
until the darkness of the summer night had settled down on the
peaceful Australian forest.

I have often spoken of my gentle sister Emma hitherto. I have
represented her to you as a kind, sensible, handsome girl, with an
opinion of her own, which opinion was generally correct, and which
also was pretty sure to be given,--in short, an intensely loving and
loveable, but rather uninteresting person,--a girl, I should have
said, with every good quality except energy. I should have said, up to
this time, that it would have been difficult to make Emma take a
sudden resolution, and act on it with persistency and courage. She
was, as I should have said, too yielding, and too easily persuaded,
ever to have made a heroine, in spite of her energetically-given
opinions on all subjects.

Whether I was right or not, I cannot say; for she may have lacked
energy hitherto, but she did not now. When my mother showed that
remarkable temporary development of character which followed on her
being thoroughly aroused to the change in our position, Emma looked on
her once or twice with affectionate awe, and then took up the burden
of my mother's song and sung it busily and clearly through the live-
long day. She sang the same old song as my mother did, though in
clearer tones,--a song of ten thousand words set to a hundred tunes.
She sang of cheerful devoted love, the notes of which, though
vibrating in a Chelsea fog, make the air clearer than the sky of
Naples.

I saw the change in her quickly. There was no abrupt statement of
opinions now. She set herself to follow my mother's example quietly
and humbly. Once, after looking at my mother, she came and kissed me,
and said, "Who would have thought her so noble?" From that time she
became my heroine.

Erne came to see us just as usual, and until long after it was all
over, he never found out that anything was wrong. Our intense pride
made us cunning. We were always exactly as we were in old times,
whenever he called. My mother and Emma never sang in that ostentatious
way when he was there, and all violent demonstrations of affection
towards one another were dropped. He was perfectly unacquainted with
our terrible strait all through. We knew that one word to him would
have ended our troubles at once. We knew that fifty pounds would have
tided us over the evil time, and that fifty pounds was to be had by
asking; but we couldn't ask from him. More, we must not let him guess
that we were in difficulties, lest he should offer, and we should have
peremptorily, and without the help of ordinary tact (for we were low-
bred people), to refuse his offer.

If you ask, Were there any further motives which caused us to be so
cautious in keeping our difficulties from Erne? I answer, They were
simply these:--My father and mother, who did not know of Erne's love
for Emma, were too proud and high-minded to take advantage of him. Joe
and I, who had become aware of that attachment, would have thought
that we were selling our sister; and as for Emma--why, I should not
have liked to be the man who would have proposed such a thing to her.
I would sooner have gone alone into Augusta Court or Danvers Street
after dark, fifty times over, than have faced the tornado of
passionate scorn which would have broken over any one's head who
proposed to her to trade on Erne's love for her. And, moreover,
although I had never seen Emma in a moment of terrible emergency, yet
I knew, by a kind of instinct, that Emma's dove-like head, which we
had only seen as yet turned from side to side in gentle complacency,
or at most raised calmly in remonstrance, was, nevertheless, capable
of towering up into an attitude of scornful defiance; and that that
gentle loving voice, in which we had heard no shrill note as yet, was
capable of other tones,--of tones as clear, as fierce, and as decided,
as those of any scolding Peregrine.

This bitter trial of ours--(for three weeks, we elders were more than
half starved, if you will excuse my mentioning it; and we pawned, to
use my mother's forcible English, every stick of furniture and every
rag of clothes that could be spared)--had a great effect on Emma. She
never was dictatorial after this. Before this, she was as perfect as
need be, but unluckily she thought so, and required sometimes what I,
in my low vulgar way, would have called "shutting up." But, after my
mother utterly astounded us all, by behaving as she did--taking the
helm, playing first fiddle in the family choir, and drawing the family
coach clear off the lee shore of despair (Harry says that there is a
confusion of metaphor here, but Harry is a fool),--after those times,
she was not only humbler in her suggestions, but developed a busy
energy quite unlike the steady, peaceful diligence of the old easy-
going times. When, shortly after this, in an emergency, she displayed
courage and determination of the highest order, I was not in the least
surprised.

How my father and I worked all this time! Real work was, alas! very
slack, but we made work,--made things on speculation,--things which
never were asked for, and which never were worth the coals they cost.
My father, a perfect Quentin Matsys, set to work on a small wrought-
iron gate, from designs furnished by Joe, which, if completed, was to
make his fortune. It was never finished; but I have it now, and a
beautiful piece of work it is.

Erne brought us news from Reuben. He was going on just the same, and
seemed as great a favorite as ever with Sir George, and, what seemed
still stranger, with young Mr. George. Erne always lowered his voice
now when he spoke of his brother. There was no doubt, he said, that
George regarded him with deep jealousy and dislike. "He is afraid,"
said Erne, "of my coming between my father and him. I never do that.
When he and my father are together I am seldom there, and when present
silent. The only time I get with my father is when he and my brother's
wife are together. I always join these two, and we three are very
happy together."

And during all this time, in the midst of short commons, anxiety, and
hard work, I had on my mind the terrible guilty secret of that
dreadful room up stairs, and of what I had seen there. I was as silent
as death on the subject. I had had no opportunity of communicating
with Reuben since the night of my adventure; and the one small piece
of comfort in the whole matter was, that Reuben was still away at
Stanlake, and would, in all probability, follow the family in the
summer. Therefore, whatever happened, he must be held to be innocent.

Meanwhile, I had not even Joe to consult with; for, a few days after
our adventure in Reuben's room, he met with a singular piece of good
fortune, which seemed likely to affect materially his prospects in
life.



Chapter XXX. James Burton's Story: In Which Two Great Pieces of Good
             Fortune Befall us,--one Visible, The Other Invisible



SIR GEORGE HILLYAR, I found out afterwards, had sat in Parliament
twice in his life, on the Tory interest. If there had been any
interest more re-actionary than the Tory interest, he would have
connected himself with it instantly. He had utterly outnewcastled
Newcastle ever since he married his keeper's daughter: since he had
brought a plebeian Lady Hillyar into the house, it became necessary
for the family respectability to assert itself in some other
direction, and it asserted itself in the direction of Toryism. Sir
George, with the assistance of a few others, got up a little Tory
revival; and they had so edified and improved one another,--so
encouraged one another to tread in newer and higher fields of
Toryism,--as to be looked on with respectful admiration by the rest of
the party. And among this small knot of men who claimed, as it were, a
superior sanctity, Sir George Hillyar had the first place conceded to
him, as the most shining light of them all.

At this time,--at the time of our troubles,--a general election was
approaching, and Sir George Hillyar, at the solicitation of a powerful
body of men, determined to enter public life for the third time, and
contest, when the time should come, the borough of Malton.

We heard this news from Mr. Compton, and were wondering why he had
come to tell us about it, when he struck us all of a heap by
announcing a most remarkable piece of good fortune. Sir George had
offered Joe the post of private secretary, with a salary of two
hundred a-year.

"And what do you think of that?" said Mr. Compton, triumphantly, to
Joe.

Joe was trying to express his astonishment and delight, when he
fairly burst into tears; and I don't think any of us were very far
behind him. We had always known that Sir George meant to provide for
Joe, but we never expected such an offer as this to come at such a
time.

"And what do you think of that? Is the salary enough?"

"Lord bless you, sir," said Joe; "never mind the salary. I'd go
barefoot in such a place as that. There is no telling how I may end."

"Indeed, you are right," said Mr. Compton; "and you thoroughly
deserve your good fortune. Sir George has employed me for a long time
to make inquiries about your capacity and steadiness, and you have
enabled me to make such a report of you as has secured you this offer.
I wish you every success."

So Joe departed, dressed like a gentleman, "burning high with hope."
The family troubles were to come to an end in no time now. All the
morning before he went, he was restlessly and eagerly, with flushed
face, laying out his plans for our future benefit; and Emma either
was, or pretended to be, as enthusiastic and hopeful as he was, and
encouraged, nay, even surpassed, his boldest flights of fancy, until,
by her arts, she had got Joe to believe that all which had to be done,
was already done, and to forget, for a time at least, that he was
leaving us behind in poverty and wearing anxiety.

Delighted as we were with his good fortune, we sadly felt the loss of
one familiar face at such a time as that. But soon we had other things
to think of, for our troubles came faster and faster.

On the Saturday night after Joe had gone, I noticed that our three
men were unusually boisterous. George Martin, the head man, struck me
as meaning mischief of some kind, and I watched him carefully. He
hurried his work in a somewhat offensive manner, struck with
unnecessary vigor, upset the tools and swore at them,--did everything
in fact that he ought not to do, except lame any of the horses; with
them he was still the splendid workman that my father had made him.
But in whatever he did, all the fore part of the afternoon, the other
two followed suit, though with smaller cards. They did not speak to my
father or me, but they told one another stories, which were received
with ostentatious laughter; and Martin seemed inclined to bully my
fellow-apprentice, Tom Williams. My father and I knew what they were
going to do; they were going to strike, and make it easier by
quarrelling with us.

They had not much chance of doing that. I was very angry, but I
imitated my father as well as I could; and he, that afternoon, was
more courteous, more patient, and more gentle than ever. About three
o'clock my father was called out on business, and they, to my great
delight, began quarrelling among themselves. How little I thought what
that quarrel would lead to!

The moment my father's back was turned Jack Martin began on Tom
Williams, the apprentice, again. At first he confined himself to
impertinences, and kept addressing him as Werk'us (he was a parish
boy, which made my father very jealous about having him ill-used or
insulted, as Jack Martin well knew); but after a time, finding that
Tom was as gentle and as patient as ever, he began to take further
liberties, and dropped two or three things on his toes, and once threw
a shoe at him. Meanwhile I would have died sooner than interfere on
behalf of Tom, though I could have stopped Jack Martin at once.

Now the third and youngest of our men, who had been with us about a
year, was a young Cornishman, Trevittick by name, a very taciturn,
almost sulky fellow, who had resisted all our efforts to be intimate
with him, but who had in his silent, sulky way conceived a great
regard, certainly never exhibited in public, for Tom Williams, the
apprentice. After he had been with us about a month he had obtained my
father's consent to Tom's sharing his lodgings, at his, Trevittick's,
expense. Shortly afterwards I made the surprising discovery that he
and Tom used to sit up half the night reading mechanics and geology,
and that Tom was bound to the very strictest secrecy on the subject.
To this man Trevittick, therefore, whose personal appearance was that
of a very strong Jew prize-fighter, with frizzly purple hair, I, on
this occasion, left the defence of Tom Williams, with the most perfect
confidence.

Trevittick was the most absolutely silent man I ever met in my life.
Consequently, when Jack Martin had, for a pretended fault, taken Tom
Williams by the hair of his head and shaken him, and Trevittick had
said, in a short, sharp growl, "Leave that boy alone, you coward,"
Jack Martin stood aghast, and asked him what he said.

"You heerd what I said well enough. Do it."

Martin was very much surprised, and made no answer for an instant:
but the word "yield" (or more correctly the expression "shut up") and
Jack Martin were utter strangers; so he walked up to Tom Williams,
collered him, and shook him again.

"Drop that boy now, Jack, or I'll make'ee," growled Trevittick once
more, in a rather deeper tone.

After this, according to the laws of London honor, there remained
nothing but for Jack Martin to call on Trevittick to come outside;
which corresponds to the "after school" or "the old place" of your
early days, my dear sir. But Jack had not time to say the words, when
my father--who had been waiting outside, talking to a man on
business--thought fit to come in, and to say in a very gentle, polite
voice.

"Mates! mates! if you'll be so good as to work in my time, and to
quarrel afterwards in your own, I shall be obliged."

So they set to work again, I all the time, like a low-lifed boy as I
was, thinking what a splendid fight there would be in Battersea fields
the next morning; for there were certainly not a dozen men in the
prize-ring who could have stood long, before either Jack Martin or
Trevittick.

But at six o'clock, although there was still work enough to keep my
father and Tom Williams and me hard at it till two o'clock on Sunday
morning, my father said it was time to knock off, and took out the
men's money. Jack Martin was paid first, and he, I knew, would be
spokesman. When he got his money he spit on it, and then jingled it in
his closed hands.

"Come, Mr. Burton," he said, in a tone of injured innocence. "Why
they're a-giving of a pound down at Jumston's. That's what Jumston's
a--doing on. A-giving of a pound."

"And I think, Jack, as Mr. Jumston's giving two shillings too much.
Why, that six shillings as you men are asking for, is six shillings
off the kids' victuals. Six bob's worth of bread and butter, as I'm a
true man."

Jack Martin began to talk himself into a passion, while my father
raised himself on to the forge, and sat comfortably on the edge of the
cinders.

"Well, then, I'll tell you where it is," said Jack Martin, "me and my
mates must look to ourselves. White men, leave alone Druids and
Foresters, is not slaves nor negro bones. Nor are they going to be,
Mr. Burton; thank you for your kind intentions all the same. Come,
sack us, will you? Take and give the sack to the whole three on us.
Come."

"I don't want to give you the sack, Jack Martin," said my father.
"I'm a ruined man, as you know. But I won't rob the kids."

"Then this is where it is," said the other, who had now got himself
into as towering a passion as he could have wished; "the master as
won't give the pound when asked, nor the sack when challenged, is no
master for me or my mates."

"Well, you needn't get in a wax over it, old chap," said my father.
"If you like to stay for eighteen bob, stay. I don't want you to go."

"Not if we know it, thank you," said Jack, louder than ever. "We must
look to ourselves. If you won't give us the sack, why, then we take
it. Now!"

"I've been a good and kind master to you, Jack. I've teached you your
trade. And now, when things look a little black, you want to leave me.
And you're not contented with leaving, but you are so ashamed of your
meanness that you puts yourself into a passion, and irritates and
insults me. Now it runs to this, Jack. You're a younger man than me:
but if you hollers like that, in this here shop, I'll be blowed if I
don't see whether I can't put you out of it. You'd better go."

Jack was so astonished at such a speech as this coming from the
pacific James Burton, that he departed wondering and rather ashamed.
My father paid the other man, and he went, and then he turned to
Trevittick, who was sitting on the anvil, and offered him his money.

"Never mind me, master," growled Trevittick, speaking now for the
first time; "I ain't a-going to leave you. I was going this morning,
but I've thought better of it. Never mind thikky money neither. I've
a-got to fight to Jack Martin to-morrow morning, and I should be
knocking that down, and a deal more too. You'm best owe me my wages a
few weeks. I've saved lots, ain't I, Tom?"

But Tom had disappeared. And looking at my father I saw that he had
colored scarlet up to the roots of his hair, but was quite silent.
After a time he managed to say to Trevittick, "Thank ye, lad,--thank
'ee, kindly." That was all he said, and all that Trevittick wanted him
to say.

Trevittick went out without another word; but in about half an hour
he came back with Tom Williams, and silently set to work. When my
father got behind him he began telegraphing to Tom Williams, and Tom
replied by nodding his head nearly off, and smiling. Then the next
time my father got near Tom he patted him on the back; by which things
I knew that Tom had contrived to stop the fight, and that we should
never know whether the Cornishman or the Londoner was the best man.
Was I a little disappointed? Well, I am afraid I was a little
disappointed. It was so very long ago, you must remember, and I did
not write "Honorable" before my name at that time. But strict truth
compels me to state that I was a little disappointed; I was indeed.

Meanwhile we three set to work, and worked far into the night: none
of us any more conscious of the astounding piece of good fortune which
had befallen us than was Fred, asleep on Emma's shoulder, with his
balmy breath upon her cheek.



Chapter XXXI. George Begins to Take A New Interest in Beuben



THERE was no doubt at all that what Erne had said was true. So
anxious was he not to come between his brother and his father, that he
never interrupted them in a tête-à-tête; nay more, seldom saw much of
his father except in the presence of George's wife, Gerty. These
three, however, were very much together, and enjoyed one another's
company immensely.

George was furious at this arrangement; he had set Gerty on his
father expressly to see what she could do. She was making immense
progress with the old man, when Erne stepped in, as it seemed to him,
and interfered. He attributed Erne's eager pleasure in the society of
his sister-in--law to the very deepest finesse. In his generous
conduct he chose to see nothing but the lowest and meanest cunning.

"Look at him," he would growl to himself behind his book; "look at
the artful cub, with his great eyes, and his gentle voice. Who would
think he was such a young sneak? practising off his arts against those
of my--Oh! my trebly-dyed fool of a wife. If she had had an ounce of
brains, we might have had that will altered long ago. If I could only
get her to quarrel with Erne! But she won't, and I dare n't scold her,
for fear she should show signs of it before him. Oh! if she only knew
what I was saying to her under my breath sometimes!--if she only knew
that!"

George could hate pretty well, and now he got to hate Erne most
decidedly. Poor fellow! he still loved his wife, but she made him
terribly mad with her silliness sometimes. It was well for Gerty that
she was under the protection of Sir George Hillyar. James Oxton would
have trembled had he seen the expression of George's face now at
times. The long--continued anxiety about his succession in his
father's will was wearing him into a state of nervous excitement. He,
at this time, took up with one of his old habits again. He used to go
to London and play heavily.

Reuben had stayed about Stanlake so long that it was just as well,
said Sir George, that he should stay on until they went to the Thames
in the summer. Although he was only hired by the month, yet every one
about the place would have been universally surprised if anything had
occurred to terminate his engagement. He was considered now to be a
sort of servant to Erne, who seemed much attached to him; but every
one knew that it was by the wish of Sir George himself that Reuben was
retained there. Also it is singular; but the well trained servants
found out that Reuben was to be called Reuben, and that the name of
Burton was not to be used at all; and when Joe made his appearance as
secretary, they were instructed to address him as Mr. Joseph. Some of
the older servants, who remembered Samuel, knew well enough why; and
wondered to themselves whether or no he knew who Reuben was.

It was not very long after the arrival of the George Hillyars, that
George, walking through the grounds, by the edge of the lake, near the
boat-house, came across Reuben; who, with his boat-mending instinct,
acting under the impression that he must do something, was scraping a
fir sapling with a spoke-shave, trying to make a punt-pole of it;
which is what no one, who cares for a ducking, ever did yet. He was
also singing to himself a song very popular at that time among the
London youth, which may be advantageously sung to the tune of "Sitch a
getting up stairs": if you can only get the words, which I fear are
lost forever. Reuben had his back to George, and George heard him
sing, with the most determined cockney accent,--"The very next morning
he was seen, In a jacket and breeches of velveteen. To Bagnigge Wells
then in a bran New gownd she went with this 'ere dog's-meat man. She
had shrimps and ale with the dog's-meat man, And she walked arm in arm
with the dog's-meat man, And the coves all said, what around did
stan', That he were a werry nobby dog's-meat man. Oh he were such a
handsome dog's-meat man, Such a sinivating titivating dog's-meat man."

George Hillyar called out, "Hallo, you fellow!"

And Reuben, not seeing who it was, replied, "Hallo, you fellow! it
is." And then he turned round, and, seeing who it was, was shent, and
thought he was going to catch it.

"I ask your pardon, sir," he said; "I thought you was the turncock
come for the income-tax. There," he added, with one of his
irresistible laughs, "don't be angry, your honor. I can't help talking
nonsense at times, if I was hung for it."

"Are you the young waterman that my father has taken such a fancy
to?"

Reuben sheepishly said he supposed he was.

"I shouldn't advise you to treat him to many such songs as you were
singing just now. You should try to drop all this blackguardism if you
mean to get on with him."

"Lord bless you, sir," said Reuben, "you'd never make nothink of me.
I've been among the coal barges too long, I have."

"I've seen many a swell made out of rougher stuff than you; you might
make rather a fine bird in other feathers. How old are you?"

"Twenty, sir.
"
"Has he given you any education?"

"Has who, sir?"

"Sir George, of course."

"No, sir," said Reuben, in wonder.

"What a shame," thought George to himself. "I wonder what he is going
to do for him. There is one thing," he went on thinking, and looking
at Reuben with a smile; "there is no mistake about the likeness: I
shall make friends with the son of the bond-woman. I wonder who the
dickens she was. I like this fellow's looks, much."

"Who is your friend?" he asked aloud, pointing to a young man who had
just come up, and was waiting respectfully a little way off.

"That is my cousin James, sir."

James Burton, who has told some three quarters of the story hitherto,
here approached. He was a tall, good-looking lad of about eighteen,
with a very amiable face, and yet one which gave you the idea that he
was deficient neither in brains nor determination. He approached
George with confidence, though with great respect, and waited for him
to speak.

"So you are Erne's friend, the blacksmith, hey?" said George.

James said "Yes."

"And how does your pretty sister do, eh, lad? I am very anxious to
see this pretty flame of Erne's. If she is as pretty as Erne says she
is, the young rogue must have an eye for beauty."

Jim blushed very much, and looked very awkward, at this free and easy
way of implying an engagement between Erne and Emma. He said nothing,
however, and immediately George turned away from him and began talking
once more to Reuben.

This was their first interview, and very soon Reuben had won over
George Hillyar as he had won his father. Another noticeable fact is
that the old man perceived George's growing liking for Reuben, and
seemed pleased at it. George had nothing to complain of in his
father's treatment of him. So George was very kind indeed.

If Erne could have been got out of the way, George thought,
everything must go right.

He had been home about six months, when one morning he would go
rabbit-shooting, and so he sent for old Morton, the head-keeper, and
they went out alone together.

It was a glorious May day, a day on which existence was a pleasure,
and they left the moist valley and the thick dark woods far behind
them, and climbed up the steep slope of the chalk down, to shoot among
the flowering broom, which feathered the very loftiest summit. They
stood up there, with the county at their feet like a map, and the
happy May wind singing among the grass and the jumpers around them.

Poor George felt quieter up here with his old friend. He had been to
London the night before, playing, and losing heavily, and he had been
more than usually irritated with Erne that morning. Instead of setting
to work shooting, he sat down beside old Morton on the grass, and,
taking off his hat, let the fresh wind blow his hair about.

"Morton, old fellow," he began, "I wish I hadn't got such a cursed
temper. You mayn't think it, but I very often wish I was a better
fellow."

"You are good enough for me, Master George," said the old man. "You
were always my favorite."

"I know it," said George. "That is very queer. Did you think of me
all the time I was away?"

"I always thought of my own plucky lad that I taught to shoot. I
thought of you constant through all that weary time. But it's come to
an end now. You sowed your wild oats, it's true."

"But I haven't reaped them," said George, with his head on his hands.

The old man took no notice of this; he went on: "And here you are
home again, with the most beautiful of all the Lady Hillyars, since
there were a Lady Hillyar. And Sir George coming round so beautiful,
and all--"

"But I am disinherited," said George; "disinherited in favor of
Erne."

"Not disinherited, sir. I know more than that."

"Next thing to it," said poor George. "I know as much as that."

"There's time enough to alter all that; and, mark my word, Master
George, I know Sir George better than any man living, and I can take
liberties with him that you durstn't--bah! that Master Erne durstn't.
And I tell you that sweet little lady of yourn has wound herself round
his heart, in a way you little think. I held you on my knee when you
were a little one, and I dare say anything to you. I hearn you cursing
on her to yourself for a fool the other day. Now you leave her alone.
Fool she may be, but she will do the work if it is to be done. I hearn
'em together, Sir George and her, the other day, and I says to myself,
'Either you are the silliest little hare of a thing as ever ran, or
else you are the artfullest little--.' There, I forget. You let her
alone. If it is to be done, she'll do it."

"No, she won't, old fellow," said George. "There's Erne in the way.
There's Erne, I tell you, man. He never leaves them alone together. He
is always thrusting his cursed beautiful head in between them, and
ruining everything. (Here he gave way, and used language about Erne
which I decline to write, though there was not a single oath, or a
single improper expression in it). Why, I tell you, Morton, that
fellow's beauty, and amiability, and affectionate gentleness, and all
that sort of thing, as nearly won me as possible. At one time I was
saying to myself, 'If my father denies me justice, I shall be able to
get it from him'; and so I thought, until I saw that all this
amiability and gentleness was merely the art of a beautiful devil.
When I saw him declining to do battle with me, like a man, and saw him
sneak in between my wife and my father, then I said to myself,--then I
said to myself,--Oh, stop me, old Morton, and don't let me talk myself
mad. I want to be better. I swear to God I want to be better. But I am
sinking into hell, and there is no one to save me. Where's James
Oxton? Why was he fool enough to let me leave him? And Aggy; how these
shallow-brained women delude us, with their mincing airs of wisdom!
See what they have brought me to now."

Perhaps, if the poor fellow had chosen to make friends in his own
rank in life, he might have found one honest, educated man, who would
have set everything right for him; at all events have shown him that
his suspicions of Erne were incorrect, and have made the ordinary
routine of life, in his own rank, more pleasant to him. But he had,
through vanity and idleness, early in life acquired the taste for
being the greatest man in the company; and the only company where he
was king was the company of his inferiors, and the passion stuck to
him, and so there he was, at the turning point of his life, telling
his troubles to a foolish old gamekeeper.

The old man said nothing to turn away George's wrath from Erne. Why
should he? George had always been his favorite, and he believed what
he said about Erne. No; he only tried to soothe the poor fellow with
commonplaces, and let him sit with his head in his hands until the
wild fit had passed over. Then old Morton was glad to hear him change
the conversation.

"What do you think of that young Reuben?" asked George.

"Reuben," said the old man, laughing; "why, every one is fond of
Reuben. A merry, cheeky young dog."

"I have taken a great fancy to the fellow myself. I have a very
great mind to take him for my servant."

"I dare say he would make a good one, master," said Morton. "But I
should have thought you had had one too many of that name. His father
was n't so satisfactory an investment as might be, and--"

"His father," said George, looking quickly round. "Are you mad?"

"Do you mean to say," said the other eagerly, "that you don't know
that this Reuben's name is Burton, and that he is the son of your old
servant Samuel, by,--you know who?"

George started up, and stood looking at Morton, silent and deadly
pale, with his hands clasped wildly in his hair, for nearly a
minute,--a ghastly sight to see. Then with a hollow groan he sank on
his knees, and his look of blank horror was changed into one of
pitiful entreaty.

"Morton! Morton! don't kill me. The dog has deceived me. Don't tell
me that she is alive too. Don't kill me by telling me that."

"Get up from the grass, Master George. You frighten me. She died ten
year ago, or more."

The look of terror left George's face by degrees. It was evident
that he had had a fearful shock.

"How long ago did she die, did you say?"

"She died when Reuben was about ten years old. Jim Burton, the
Chelsea blacksmith, asked me to come over to her funeral, as having
known her once. And I went. Reuben was the second child, Master
George. There was one that died."

"Are you certain of that?"

"Positive and certain sure. I took care to be. I see its little
coffin carried to the grave. And the poor thing, she told me herself
that it was the eldest."

"He wrote and told me," said George, "when he was transported, that
she was dead, and--. There, we have talked enough about that. Do you
know that he and I have quarrelled?"

It was Morton's turn to look astonished now. "You and who?" he said,
with a blank stare.

"I and Samuel Burton have quarrelled."

"Do you mean to tell me he is not dead yet?"

"Curse him, no. He has far more life left in him than you have, my
faithful old friend. He came to my office in Palmerston the other day,
and I quarrelled with him."

"That was unwise."

"It was; but, at all events, he is safe for the present. He is at
Perth, in Western Australia, 14,000 miles away."

"I am glad of that," said old Morton. "I suppose he daren't come
home, eh!"

"Oh, dear, no," said George. "He daren't come to England. He would
get life for it. Come, let us begin."

They began shooting. Morton, with the license of a keeper, combined
with that of a confidential friend, said, "Mind the dogs, sir. In your
present state of nerve, mind the dogs."

But George shot beautifully. The old trick had come back to him
again after a few months' practice; and his hand and eye were as true
as ever. He shot recklessly, but wonderfully well, appearing all the
time to be so utterly absent and distraught, that old Morton kept on
saying, "Mind the dogs, sir; for Gawd's sake, mind the dogs. It's old
Beauty, the governor's pet; and if anything happens to that there
spaniel,--Lord a mercy, look at that. I say, Master George, hold hard,
sir. You ain't in the humor to shoot rabbits before Clumber spannels
worth twenty guineas a-piece. Hold hard, sir. Now, do hold hard."

"I'm shooting better than ever I shot in my life," said George.

"Too beautiful by half. But leave off a minute. That last shot was
too risky; it were indeed."

"All right," said George, going on with his loading. "Have you seen
this girl Emma that Erne raffoles about?"

"Yes, sir. She is daughter of Jim Burton, the Chelsea blacksmith.
Here, Beauty; here, Frolic. There, put down your gun a bit, Master
George. There."

"Is her name Burton, too?" said George. "Why, the air seems darkened
with Burtons. I thought somehow that she was cousin to Joseph, the
Secretary. Or did I dream it?"

"Why, his name is Burton, too, and she is his own favorite sister,"
said the old man. "He is Reuben's cousin. But you mus'n't say the name
of Burton in that house. It's a word mus'n't be said at Stanlake."

"Why not?"

"I don't know, and nobody don't know; and very probably, with an
obstinate man like the governor, there ain't very much to know. We
were children together, and I know him better than any man alive, and
may be like him better than any man alive, except one. But I tell you
that, in the matter of obstinacy, Balaam's ass is a black-and-tan-
terrier to him. For instance, I don't know to this day whether or no
he knows that Reuben is Sam, the steward-room boy's son. Mr. Compton
don't know either. Mr. Compton says he has never forgiven Sam. We soon
found out that we were to call Reuben by his Christian name. And he
makes Joe Burton call hisself Joseph."

"But this Emma"; asked George, "is there any chance of Erne's putting
his foot in it with her?"

"He swears he will marry her," said Morton. "The governor did the
same thing himself, and so, may be, won't find much fault."

"Do you know anything about the girl? What is she like?"

"She is a fine-made, handsome girl. But she is better than that. I
want to tell you a story about her. I have known her father, Jim
Burton, Lord love you, Master George, why as long as I've known Mr.
Compton; and they was two boys together, was Mr. Compton and him. You
ain't got a cigar to give away, sir?

"I have known James Burton, sir," continued the old man, "ever since
I was a boy, and I have always kept up an occasional acquaintance with
him: and one day, just before you came home, I was over there, and he
said to me, laughing, 'What a game it is to hear they young folks a-
talking, good Lord!' I asked him what he meant, and he said, 'Why, my
girl Emma has been pitching it into Master Erne like one o'clock. Such
airs with it, too,--pointing her finger at him, and raising her voice
quite loud, calling him by his Christian name, and he answering of her
as fierce--' And I asked what he and the girl fell out about, and he
said that Master Erne had been going on against you,--that you weren't
no good; and that she'd up, and given it to him to his face."

"She must be rather a noble person; I'll remember him for this," said
George. "Come, Morton, let us go home."

So he walked rapidly homeward in deep thought, and Morton guessed
what he was thinking about,--Reuben. Reuben, George saw, was his own
son. There was a slight confusion about the date of his birth, and the
poor woman had lied to Morton; but there was no doubt about his
features. That square honest face could belong to no son of the thin-
faced, hook-nosed Burton. No, there was the real Hillyar face there.
That unset mouth was not Hillyar either, certainly, but he knew where
that came from. Yes; now he knew what it was that attracted him so
strangely to Reuben from the first. Reuben had looked on him with the
gentle eyes of his dead mother.

The old keeper once, and once only, ventured to look into his face.
He hardly knew him, he was so changed since they had gone that road
two hours before. His face was raised, and his eyes seemed set on
something afar off. His mouth was fixed as though he had a purpose
before him, and his whole expression was softened and intensely
mournful. The old man had seen him look so when he was a boy; but that
was very, very long ago.



Chapter XXXII. Gerty's Hybernation Terminates



THE sun was so warm on the south side of the house, that Gerty had
come out on the terrace, and was drinking in the floods of warmth and
light into her being. The first thing she had done, her very first
instinct after a few minutes of what was dreadfully like sun-worship,
was to dash at the flowers with a childish cry of delight,--anemones,
ranunculuses, tulips, narcissuses, all new to her. George found her
with her hands full of them, and held out his arms. She gave a laugh
of joy and sprang into them, covering his head with her flowers.

Her George had come back to her arms with the warm weather. The ugly
cold winter had passed. It was that which had made George cross to
her; every one was splenetic during an English winter. The French
laughed at us about it. If they could only get back to the land of
sunshine and flowers, he would never be unkind to her. If she and he
and baby could only get back again to the dear old majestic forests,
among the orchises and lobelias and Grevilleas, with the delicious
aromatic scent of the bush to fill their nostrils, they would be happy
for evermore. How faint and sickly these narcissuses smelt after all,
beautiful as they were. One little purple vanilla flower was worth
them all. Bah! these flowers smelt like hair-oil, after the dear
little yellow oxalis of the plains. She covered his face with kisses,
and said only,--

"Take me back, dear,--take me back to the old forest again. We shall
never be happy here, dear. The flowers all smell like pomatum; there
is no real warmth in the sun. And it is all so close and confined:
there is no room to ride; I should like to ride again now, but there
is no place to ride in. Take me back. We were happier even at
Palmerston than here. But I want to go back to the bush, and feel the
sun in my bones. This sun will never get into your bones. Take me back
to the Gap, dear."

"And leave my father here?" said George, laughing. "For shame."

"Why shouldn't he come too?" said Gerty.

"You had better propose it to him," said George, kissing her again.

"I will this very night," said the silly little woman. And, what is
more, she did. And, what is still more than that, Sir George, after
sitting silent a few minutes, said, "I'll be hanged if I don't." And
after Gerty had twittered on for ten minutes more in praise of the
country of the Eucalypti, he looked up and said to the ambient air,
"Why the duese shouldn't I have a spree?" And when she had gone on
another quarter of an hour on the same subject, he looked up again,
and then and there wished he might be wicked-worded if he didn't. I
believe he would have run over, if circumstances which have made the
history of these two families worth writing had never occurred. But,--
to save the reader any unnecessary anxiety,--he never did.

Poor little Gerty! How she revelled in this newly-restored love of
her husband's. How she got drunk upon it. How the deep well-springs of
her love overflowed, and not only drowned George and the baby, but
floated every object it came near: horses, butlers, dogs, tulips,
ladies-maids, ranunculuses, and grooms. It was well she was a fool.
She was so glad to see George take such notice of the young waterman.
What a kind heart he had! Poor little thing; who would have dared to
tell her the truth about him and Reuben? If she could have been made
to understand it, which I doubt, I think it would have gone far to
kill her.

Sir George Hillyar marked George's increased attention to Reuben with
evident satisfaction. One day, overtaking George in the shrubbery, he
took George's arm with a greater show of affection than he had ever
done before, and walked up and down, talking very kindly to him. They
spoke about no family matters, but it was easy to see that George was
gaining in his father's favor. As they were talking earnestly together
thus, Mr. Compton and Erne came round the corner on them. Mr. Compton
was very much surprised, but noticed that the arm which Sir George
took from his elder son's, to shake hands with his old friend, was
transferred to Erne, and that George was left to walk alone.



Chapter XXXIII. J. Burton's Story: the Ghost Shows A Light for the
                Second Time



IT was about three days after our men had struck and left us, that
something took place which altered the whole course of our lives in
the most singular manner.

It was a dark and very wet night. The King's Road, as I turned out
of it into Church Street, at about half past eleven, was very nearly
deserted; and Church Street itself was as silent as the grave.

I had reached as far as the end of the Rectory wall, when, from the
narrow passage at the end of the lime-trees, there suddenly came upon
me a policeman, our own night-policeman, a man I knew as well as my
own fellow-apprentice. At this I, being in a humorous mood, made a
feint of being overcome with fear, and staggered back, leaning against
the wall for support.

"Stow larks, Jimmy," said the constable, in a low, eager voice.
"Something's going wrong at home. I have orders to stop you, and take
you to the Inspector."

"So it had come then," I thought to myself, with a sickening feeling
at my heart. I could'nt find words to say anything for a moment.

"I had no orders to take you into custody, Jimmy," the constable
whispered; "only to tell you to come to the Inspector. There's nothing
again your hooking on it, if you're so minded."

I answered, returning as I did--and, heaven help me! sometimes do
still--on occasions of emergency--to my vernacular, "I ain't got no
call for hooking on it, old chap. Come on." ("Cub awd," is more like
the way I said it than anything else).

And so we came on: my old friend the constable continuing to force
home the moral that I weren't in custody, and that there weren't
nothink again hooking on it, until, at the corner of the place I have
chosen, for fear of an action for libel, to call Brown's Row, we came
against the man whom, also for fear of an action for libel, I call
Detective Joyce.

He was alone, under the lamp of the Black Lion. When he saw us, he
took us over to the other side of the street, and said, quite in a low
voice, "Is this the young man Burton!"

I, with that self-assertion, with that instinct of anticipating
adverse criticism,--that strange, half cowardly feeling, that there is
some unknown advantage in having an innings before the other eleven
get in,--which is a characteristic of the true Londoner,--replied that
it was, and that any cove who said that I had been up to anythink, was
a speaker of falsehoods.

"Well, we all guess that," said the Inspector. "What we want to find
out is; how much do you know about your precious flash cousin Reuben's
goings on? I don't suppose you'll tell us till you are under cross--
examination, as you will be pretty soon. You're in custody, lad. And
silence, mind. There; I've seen a deal that's bad, and that's wrong,
but I never saw anything that shook my faith in folks like this. Why,
if any man had told me, six weeks ago, that old Jim Burton, the
blacksmith, would have harbored Bardolph's gang and Sydney Sam, I'd
have knocked him down, I think."

"He never knew nothing of it, sir," I said eagerly. "Me and Joe--"

At this point my old friend, the night-policeman, garotted me with
singular dexterity. As he held his hand over my mouth, and I
struggled, he said to the Detective Inspector,--

"Come, sir. Fair play is a jewel. Jimmy,--I should say, the boy,--is
in custody. Take and caution him, sir. I asks you in fairness, take
and caution on him."

The Inspector laughed. "Everything you say will be put in evidence
against you. I mean, you d--d young fool, hold your tongue."

This took place against the railings of a milk-shop, on the left-hand
side as you go down towards the river, opposite a short street which
leads into Paulton Square (which, at the time I speak of, was
"Shepherd's Nursery," or, to old Chelsea folk, "Dove-house Close").
This narrow street, which is now widened, was in my time Brown's Row,
a mere court of six-roomed houses, from among which rose majestically
the vast old palace which was in the occupation of my father.

As I stood there, with the horror and disgrace on me of being in
custody for the first time in my life, with the terror of I know not
what upon me; I could make out, in spite of the darkness and the rain,
the vast dark mass of our house towering into the sky to the west. I
could make out the tall, overhanging, high-pitched roof, and the great
dormer-window, which projected from it, towards us, to the east; the
windows of the Ghost's room,--of Reuben's room,--of the room where I
had stood helpless, waiting for my death. I knew that the present
complication was connected with that room: and with a sick heart I
watched the window of it. I was right.

How long did we stand in the rain,--the Inspector, constable, and I?
A hundred years, say. Yet I looked more at that window than anywhere
else; and at last I saw it illuminated,--dimly at first, then more
brightly; then the light moved: and in a moment the window was dark
again. And, while I saw all this, with throbbing eyes, the Inspector's
hand closed on my arm with such a grip as made me glad I was a
blacksmith, and he whispered in my ear:--

"You young rascal! You see that light? Take me to the room where
that light is, or you'd better never have been born! And tell me this,
you young scoundrel: Are there two staircases, or only one?"

Now that I saw clearly and entirely, for the first time, what was
the matter, I wished to gain a moment or two for thought. And with
that end, I (as we used to say in those times) "cheeked" the
detective.

"Tell you! Not if I know it! And everything to be took down in
evidence! Find out for yourself. I'm in custody, am I? Then take me to
the station and lock me up. I ain't going to be kept out in the rain
here any longer. Who the deuse are you, cross-questioning and Paul-
Pry-ing? What's your charge against me?"

"You'll know that soon enough, you young fool," said the Inspector.

"But I'll hear it now. I want to be took to Milman's Row and the
charge made; that's what I want. And I'll have it done, too, and not
be kep' busnacking here in the rain. I'll make work for fifty of you
in two minutes, if you don't do one thing or the other."

And, so saying, I put my two forefingers in my mouth. What I meant
to do, or what I pretended I meant do, is no business of any one now;
all that concerns us now is that I never did it and never meant to. I
have mentioned before that Alsatia was only just round the corner.

Our policeman caught my hands, and said, pathetically, "Jimmy,
Jimmy, you wouldn't do such a thing as that!" And the Inspector said,
"You young devil, I'll remember you!"

"Am I in custody, sir?" I asked.

"No, you ain't," said the Inspector. "You may go to the devil if you
like."

"Thank you," I said. "Common sense and courtesy are not bad things
in their way, don't you think? I shall (now I have bullied you into
time for thinking) be delighted to inform you that there is only one
staircase; that I shall be glad to guide you to that room; that I
sincerely hope you may be successful; and that I only hope you will do
the thing as quietly as possible."

My thoughts were these. Reuben, thank heaven, was safely away: and
really, when I came to think of the annoyance and disgrace that Mr.
Samuel Burton had caused us, I looked forward to his capture and re--
transportation with considerable indifference,--not to say
complacency. Consequently I went willingly with them.

As we came to our door we came upon four other constables, and one
by one we passed silently into the old hall. As I passed our sitting-
room door, I could see that my mother and Emma were sitting up and
waiting for me, and immediately went on, considering what effect the
disturbance, so soon to begin, would have on them. And then, going as
silently as was possible up the broad staircase, we stood all together
in the dark, outside Reuben's room. What should we find there?

At first, it appeared nothing; for the door being opened, the room
seemed empty. But in another moment that magnificent ruffian I have
called Bill Sykes, had sprung into sight from somewhere, and cast
himself headlong at the constables, who were blocking up the door. For
one instant I thought he would have got through and escaped; but only
for one. I saw him locked in the deadly grip of a young Irish
constable, by name Murphy, and then I saw them hurling one another
about the room for a few seconds till they fell together, crashing
over a table. They were down and up, and down again, so very quickly,
that no one had time to interfere. Sykes had his life--preserver
hanging at his wrist, but could not get it shifted into his hand to
use it, and the constable had dropped his staff, so that the two men
were struggling with no more assistance than Nature had given them.
Before or since I have never seen a contest so terrible as between
this Englishman and this Irishman.

And after the first few seconds no one saw it but me. The sound of
the table falling was the signal for a rush of four men from the inner
room, who had, to use a vulgar expression, "funked" following the
valiant scoundrel Sykes, but who now tried to make their escape, and
found themselves hand to hand with the policemen. So that Sykes and
the noble young Irishman had it all to themselves for I should think
nearly a minute.

For in their deadly grip, these two did so whirl, and tumble down,
and roll over, and get up, and fall again, that I could not, for full
that time, do what I wanted. It was clearly a breach of the Queen's
peace, and I had a right to interfere on those grounds even; and,
moreover, this dog Sykes, in this very room, had coolly proposed the
murder of my own humble self. It was for these reasons that I wished,
if possible, to assist this young Irishman; but I could get no
opportunity for what seemed to me a long while. At last they were both
on their feet again, locked together, and I saw that the Irishman's
right hand was clear, and heard it come crashing in with a sickening
rattle among Sykes's teeth. Then I got my arm round Sykes's neck, and
in spite of his furious efforts managed to hold him fast all the while
that Murphy--bah!--it is too terrible--until, while I was crying out
shame, and threatening to let him go, the burglar and I fell together
to the ground, and Murphy came down on Sykes heavily, breaking three
of his ribs. Yet, in spite of his terrible injuries, in spite of his
broken jaw, and such internal injuries as prevented his being tried
with the rest, this dog, whom I would not save from hanging to-morrow,
never, in spite of his agony, gave one whine of pain from first to
last. When we thought we had secured him, and a constable was
preparing his handcuffs, he raised his horribly battered face, and
burst out again, striking Murphy a blow behind the ear, which made the
poor fellow totter and reel, and come headlong down with his nose
bleeding, snoring heavily, quite insensible. It took the whole force
of us even then to secure this man, though he was so desperately
injured.

But at last there came a time when Sykes lay on his stomach on the
floor, conquered and silent, but unyielding; when Murphy, the young
Irish constable, had left off snoring so loud, and had made three or
four feeble efforts to spit; when Bardolph and Pistol, with three
other scoundrels,--for whom I have not time to find imaginary names,
and whose real names, after a long series of convictions and aliases,
were unknown to the police, and possibly forgotten by themselves (for
there are limits to the human memory),--were walked off ironed down
the stairs; when the constables had lit candles and the room was
light; when there was no one left in it after the struggle, but the
Inspector, and Sykes, with the one man who watched him, and Murphy,
with the one man who raised his head and wiped his mouth, and myself,
who cast furtive glances at the door of the inner room, and my father,
who stood in the door-way in his shirt and trousers, pale and fierce,
and who said:--

"This is some more of Samuel Burton's work. This has come from
harboring his boy,--his bastard boy,--that I treated like one of my
own. I knew that I was utterly ruined three days ago. But I thought I
might have been left to die without disgrace. May God's curse light on
Samuel Burton night and day till his death! Have you got him?"

"We haven't got him, Burton," said the Inspector. "But I am afraid
that, in spite of your rather clever denunciation of the man you have
shielded so long under the wing of your respectability, we must have
you. You are in custody, please."

This was the last and worst blow for my father. He spoke nothing for
an instant, and then said hoarsely, pointing to me, "Are you going to
take him!"

The Inspector said no; that he did not want me, but told me to be
very cautious, and mind what I was about, which I fully intended to do
without his caution. In fact, I was doing so now.

Where was my cousin Samuel? When would the Inspector notice the door
into the other room? And would my father ask me to get his coat? I was
very anxious about this last matter. Either I must have gone for it,
or have excited the Inspector's suspicions; and I wanted to stay where
I was.

In a few moments he saw the door. My father and I followed him
towards it, intending to give him our assistance should there be any
one there. He flung open the door, and, to my surprise, the room was
empty. The bed, the old box, the lumber, were all gone. And, moreover,
the hole that I had made in the floor three years before was there no
longer. I saw at once that the scoundrels had by means of that hole
discovered the vast depth between the floor and the ceiling below, and
had utilized it. They had cunningly used old wood too, in their work;
and so, walking over the place where the hole had been, I felt no less
than four boards loose under my feet; and then I came to the
conclusion that no less a person than Samuel Burton was stowed away
below.

I ought to have given him up. And I should like to have given him
up; but when it came to the push I would not. My heart failed me. I
stood there until the Inspector turned to go; and the secret of the
loose boards was left undiscovered.

If I had known that no one was under there, except poor trembling
Nym, I might have given him up, perhaps. But Samuel Burton was not
there at all. Samuel Burton had found that William Sykes was rather
too clumsy and incautious a gentleman to have anything to do with, and
had, in his usual manner, pitched the whole gang overboard. That is to
say, that, seeing Reuben safe out of the way, he had dropped a line to
Scotland Yard, which resulted as we have seen. Samuel himself was
somewhere else, at far different work.

I was furiously indignant at my father's being arrested. Looking at
it from my point of view, it seemed to me to be a perfectly
unnecessary insult. I suppose it could not be helped. One thing was
certain, however, that it would be the last ounce on the camel's back
to him, and that in future my father would never raise his head again
in England.

Two things remained to be done,--the one, to fetch my father's coat
and waistcoat from his bedroom, which was not difficult; and the
other, to break the fact of his arrest to my mother, which was easy
enough, but not a pleasant task by any means,--at all events in
anticipation.

But when I knocked at their bedroom, I found her up and dressed,
with his things ready; and not only her, but Emma. And my mother only
said cheerily, "Dear, dear. What a shame. Going and taking of father.
There, Jim, my dear, take him his coat and waistcoat; and here's the
old horse-rug. And we'd best sit up to go for Mr. Child and Mr.
Chancellor in the morning to bail him. There, cut away, old man. They
ain't took you, I know; for I listened to 'em. On the stairs I did.
God bless us, father will be in a taking. We must have him home by
breakfast, or they sausages will spile. Cut away, or he'll catch his
death."

And so she chattered on, and packed me out of the room. But when I
was gone, Emma tells me, she broke out into wild hysterical wrath, and
denounced fiercely and wildly,--denounced Bill Joyce (as she
irreverently called the Inspector), and said that marrying eaves-
droppers and earwigs might be some folks' line, but that it was not
hers, and never had been. She said how true her instinct was, to have
refused to say anything to the man twenty years before; though she
thought that even an earwig might have forgotten in that time, and not
disgraced her husband like that; and so she went on until she got
quieter. And at last she said, as she herself tells me, and not Emma.

"May God forgive me, as I forgive them all. May God forgive Samuel
Burton, whom I met on the stairs last week, and fainted away stone-
dead on account on. He has been an unlucky man to us. It's on his
account that I hate the name of Hillyar. It was through his going to
them, child, that all our troubles came about. He was not so bad till
he got corrupted by that devil George Hillyar. I hate the name. I am
glad of one thing in this break--up, my Emma; and that is this: we
shall see no more of this Master Erne. You are a child, and don't
know. But I tell you, that the time is come for you to part with him.
Better too soon than too late. Red eyes are better than a broken
heart."

My mother tells me that, as she said this, she looked at Emma, and
saw,--why, many things; among others, that it was too late. Emma was
sitting opposite her, deadly pale, with a worn, wearied look on her
face, but perfectly quiet and self-possessed. She said.

"What you say is very true, dear. He and I must part for ever.
Perhaps, mother, if this had not happened, I might have begged to have
a little, only a very little more of him; for--. But now, I thank God,
that has become impossible. This business will separate us forever;
and it is best so. I might have fallen in love with him, for aught we
know, and what a sad business that would have been; would it not? May
I see him only once,--just to wish him good-bye? Only once, mother? O,
mother! mother! only once."

"No," said my mother, promptly, "that is all fiddlededee, and stuff,
and nonsense. It's all over and done, and dead and buried, and I won't
have it took and dug up again. Take and go along with you, I tell
you."

And so my mother scolded her, and then went to her solitary bed,--
solitary the first time for twenty years,--and lay down and wept
wildly. "I am a wicked, stupid, useless woman, oh, Lord," she said.
"But, Lord! I did not see it. And it is to be visited on her head. The
father's upon the children; my folly on her. But, Lord! it will break
her heart,--my own Emma's heart. I seen it to-night, and I know it.
Oh, Lord! wicked woman that I am, let the judgment fall on me, Lord!
Let me suffer, but take her to thy bosom and comfort her."

*****

We shall see how my mother's prayer was answered.



Chapter XXXIV. Sir George's Escritoire



POOR Reuben Burton, whose only crime had been faithfulness to the
scoundrel he called father, received a message that some one wished to
speak to him at a certain public-house, and was then and there quietly
arrested and taken to London; so that during the events which followed
he was in prison, be it remembered. That he was very wrong in
receiving his father into the Burtons' house at Chelsea we cannot say.
But a little more resolution would have saved the Burtons an infinity
of trouble.

The Hillyars wondered where he was. Erne had the impudence to propose
cutting the dam to search for his body; and Sir George said, loftily,
that it was, in his opinion, rather contemptible taste in Erne, to
refer, to allude, however faintly, to an idiotic and highly expensive
escapade, which ought to be consigned to oblivion. Erne proposed to
send for Joseph, the secretary, to take his father's words down; and
so they had one of their numerous pleasant squabbles,--the one among
them all which Erne remembered best,--while Gerty sat and laughed at
them.

She had taken the baby, and a pile of flowers, and had sat herself
down under the south wall, opposite the sun-dial, just outside the
drawing-room window, in a blazing heat, fit to roast a peacock; and
there she was now, with the baby and the flowers, doing something or
another with them, though whether she was nursing the flowers, or
tying up the baby, it was hard to say. There she was, as happy as ever
a little mother was, baking herself, and cooing in her infinite
contentment.

Her suggestion about Reuben Burton, which she made in perfect faith,
was that he had gone into the township, and got on the burst. This
brought the heartiest roar of laughter from George that we have ever
heard him indulge in. Gerty was very much delighted. She determined
that she had said something very good, and must try it again.

The old butler never went to bed before Sir George, but always sat up
in one of the easy-chairs, in the third or smallest drawing-room, with
the door open. For exactly opposite this door was the door of Sir
George's study, and so, if Sir George went to sleep in his chair, as
he very often did, the butler could, after a reasonable time, go in
and wake him up, and take him to bed, generally in a very stupid
state.

But very often the butler would go to sleep, and his candle would go
out, and he would wake in the dark, wondering where he was, and would
go in to rouse Sir George, and would find that Sir George had gone to
bed hours ago, and that the sparrows outside, after a sleepy night's
debate of it (that honorable member the nightingale having been on his
legs for nearly four hours, and having concluded his answer to the
Opposition about day--break), had woke up and divided, and had all got
into the wrong lobbies, and were pitching into the tellers: in other
words, that it was broad daylight. And this very night he went to
sleep in this way, and let his candle burn down.

Sir George that evening had complained of its being cold, which it
most certainly was not, and had ordered the fire to be lit in his
study. The butler in the little drawing-room, snoozing in the chair,
did not feel cold. But Sir George sat close before the blaze, musing,
and looking into the coals, thinking intensely.

It may have been this, to some extent, which caused certain things
to happen this very evening, of which you will hear immediately. We
cannot say. We cannot see the inside of a man's head, unless we open
it. But I don't think it was a good thing for Sir George, with his
apoplectic habit, to sit close before a hot fire, thinking intensely.

While we are writing we have looked into the fire, and all that we
have seen there was Glen Roy and Glen Spean, filled with gleaming ice,
and the little double summit of Mealderry, like an island in the midst
of it; in fact, Lyell has been answerable for our coal formations; in
the which thing, there is a certain sort of fitness. To-morrow it will
be some one else who is answerable for the vagaries. To-morrow in the
fire, one may see Messieurs Assolant and Renan receiving, at the
International Exhibition of 1873, at Chicago or Charleston, as the
case may be, the Aluminium medal for having achieved, and entirely and
utterly mastered, the subjects of the English nation and the Christian
religion. Or, possibly even, M. Thiers in the act of being presented
with a new pair of brass spectacles by the Emperor, for his accounts
of the battle of Waterloo, and other battles; which, doubtless, as
specimens of military history, stood alone until Cousin Tom and Cousin
Jerry fell out in America.

The fact is that, if you are a real fire-worshipper, you can't
control the fantastic images which present themselves to your retina,
when you have your brain rather full of blood, and are comfortably
looking into a good coal fire. As in the beautiful old optical
experiment of the glass globe in the dark (which some wiseacres, one
of whom, at least, ought to have known better, have invested with
supernatural properties, and called the Magic Crystal), you see what
you are thinking about, as you do in dreaming, though in an inferior
degree.

Sir George Hillyar sat and looked into the fire. From the first
moment he looked there he saw four figures. They had been with him
nearly all day, and now they stared at him out of the coal chasms.
They were the figures of his two wives, with their two sons; and, as
he looked at them, he thought deeply and intensely over the results of
his life.

How well he remembered his first courtship. What a noble, square-
faced, bold-eyed young fellow he was, when he first met Kate Bertram
at the Lymington ball. How well he could remember her that first
night. How beautiful she was; and he the madman, seeing, as he did,
the wild devil in her eyes, admired it, and was attracted by it. "She
has a spice of the devil in her," he had said to a friend. She had
indeed.

And then by degrees he had found out the truth. At first he had
laughed at the horrid idea; then he had grown moody over it; then he
had entertained it sometimes, and at last he had taken it to his bosom
and nursed it. She had never loved him. She had always loved that
rattling, merry sailor, Lieutenant Somes. Then he was slowly growing
to hate her; until, at last, she justified his hatred by dishonoring
him.

And then her son. Had he been just to George? Had George's
wickedness justified all the neglect he had received? Did he, the
father, never feel something like satisfaction at the boy's career, as
furnishing him with an excuse for the dislike he had always felt for
him? And how much of that reckless despair had been caused by this
very same neglect? These were terrible questions. A few months ago he
would have answered them by an overwhelming flood of self-
justification; but death was drawing nearer, and after death the
judgment. He left them unanswered.

Was he doing right in disinheriting George? Was he not cutting off
George's last hope of reform by impoverishing him in this way? He went
to the escritoire, let down the desk of it, and, sitting down before
it, took out his will and began reading it.

Eight thousand a year to Erne, and George left nearly a beggar, with
the title and establishment to keep up. It was not just. He said
aloud, "I fear I am not doing justice to George. But my Erne--" He
laid down the will again, and went once more and sat before the fire.

Then the old man lived some more of his life over again. His brain
was very active, and his memory most wonderfully good to-night. He
felt again the indignation, the shame, and the horror, which had torn
him, as it were, to pieces, when he discovered that his wife had fled.
The dislike which he had allowed to grow up in his mind towards her
had been no preparation for that. Could he ever have dreamt that she
would have dared? Could he ever have supposed that his calm,
gentlemanly obstinacy would have driven her to commit such a nameless,
horrible crime (for so it was to him) as to leave the husband she
hated for the man she loved? The agony of recollecting the shame of
that dreadful time brought the blood humming into his ears; but it
went back again, and throbbed itself into stillness once more.

For, passing through, in his fancy, in his memory, lightly enough,
and yet correctly, the period which followed on this, the great,
horrible shame of his life; he went through a time of dull despair;
then a longer one of godless cynicism; and then a longer one yet, of
dull acquiescence in things as they were; the time when he believed
that God had got tired of him, and had put him aside to be dealt with
only after death. And, when his imagination had taken him through
these sad, sad old times, and he had felt, let us hope in a less
degree, all his old agonies once more, then the old gentleman's face
began to brighten, and his stern set mouth to relax into a happy
smile.

For, wandering on through the wood of his life,--a wood, as he humbly
acknowledged, full of strange paths (of which paths he had generally
taken the wrong one), tangled with brambles which he had never broken
through,--going on, I say, through this wood of his life, which he now
began to see was not an honest English copse, but a labyrinth, in
which he had never turned the right way, and which he was now going
through all again,--he came to this:--

He began to remember the dear old scent,--far dearer to him, and some
others, than the whiff one gets opposite Piesse or Rimmel's shop,--of
his newly-loaded gun. Then he thought of fresh trodden turnips in
September. Then a pheasant whirred above his head; and then he was
breast-high among the golden fern under the browning hazels; and then,
rustling ankledeep in the fallen leaves, came Mary Hawkins, the game-
keeper's daughter, the beautiful and the good, and her arm was round
his neck and her breath was on his cheek, and she said to him, "It is
not too late, yet, George. God has sent me to save you, my love."

And when she had done her work God took her; and left in her place
Erne, to keep him from despair. Erne, the delight of his life, the
gentle, handsome lad, who had wound himself so round his heart. He
could not take this money from Erne. It might be unjust, but it was so
pleasant to think of Erne's having it.

Yet death was near, and might come at any time. And afterwards,--some
justice must be done to George. Half, say. There was the will, and
there was the fire,--and Erne,--and George--

*****

The butler was awakened by a light, a sudden light, on his face, and
a sound which seemed to him to be one of those terrible, inexplicable,
horrible noises, which never occur in life, but which are sometimes
heard towards the end of a very bad dream,--of one of those dreams
from which the sleeper awakes himself by an effort, simply from terror
of going on with it any further. Sir George was standing in the
corridor before him, with a candle held close to his face, and a drawn
sword in his hand, looking down the passage. The poor old gentleman's
face was horribly distorted, and red; and, before the old butler had
time to stagger to his feet, the noise which had awakened him came
again. It was Sir George Hillyar's voice, for the butler saw him open
his mouth; but the tone of it was more nearly like the ghastly screech
of an epileptic than anything the old man had ever heard. He saw Sir
George stand for an instant, pointing down the corridor with his
sword, and crying out, "Reuben! Reuben! Help! Help! Come at once, and
I will do justice to all. Reuben! Reuben!" And then he saw the poor
old gentleman go staggering down the passage, with his drawn sword in
his hand; and he followed him, very truly sorry for his kind old
master, but reflecting, nevertheless, that all folks, high or low,
must go off somehow, and hoping, even in the few minutes following,
that his summons might come in a more peaceful manner. He saw clearly
that Sir George had got his first stroke, and that he would never be
the man he was any more.

"I hope he ain't altered his will," said the sleepy butler, a red-hot
Erneist, to himself, as he followed poor reeling Sir George down the
passage. "Poor, dear old master, I wonder if he really is ill or no.
May be there ain't much the matter with him. I wish I dared collar
him. Where is he going?"

Sir George, meanwhile, with his sword in his right hand, feeling the
wall with his left, which held the candlestick, staggering fearfully
from time to time, had passed from passage to passage, until he had
come to the kitchen. Once or twice at first he had cried out, in that
terrible tone we have noticed before, for Reuben, but latterly had
been silent.

The terrified butler saw him enter the kitchen. The next instant
there was a heavy fall, and, following his master in, he found
darkness and silence. He cried out for help, but none came for a few
moments; only a cat in the butler's pantry hard by knocked down some
glasses, and tried to break out of the window in her terror. The
silence was terrible. He shouted again, and this time roused the
household. When lights were brought, they found Sir George lying on
his face quite dead, with his sword and his candle thrown far from him
in his fall.

When they had carried him up, the first thing the butler did was to
send for old Morton, the keeper, who came at once.

"Dead!" he said; "he ain't dead, I tell you. Here, Sir George, sir,
rouse up. I've seen him this way twenty times." He quite refused to
believe it. He kept on at intervals speaking to the dead man.
Sometimes he would give him his title; at others he would merely call
him George. At one time he would be angry with him; at another he
would almost whisper to him, and remind him of his dogs and his guns,
and scenes which the closed eyes should never look on any more; but at
last he did nothing but sit and moan wearily. No one dared interfere,
until the new Sir George Hillyar came, and quietly and kindly led him
away.



Chapter XXXV. James Burton's Story: Miss Brown's Troubles Come to an
              End, While Mr. Erne Hillyar's Fairly Commence



WELLINGTON ROW, Kentish Town, is a row of semi-respectable houses, in
the most dreary and commonplace of all the dreary and commonplace
suburbs which lie in the north of London. I should suppose that the
people who inhabit them may generally be suspected of having about a
hundred a year, and may certainly be convicted, on the most
overwhelming evidence, of only keeping one servant.

At least Mrs. Jackson, at No. 7, only kept one, and she wasn't half
strong enough for the place. Mrs. Jackson didn't mean to say that she
wasn't a willing girl enough, but she was a forgetful slut, who was
always posturing, and running after the men, "and so at times it was
'ard to keep your temper with her; indeed it were, I do assure you."

Now the history of the matter is simply this. Martha Brown, the
servant of-all-work ("slavey," as a snob would so suggestively have
called her), was a delicate and thoughtful girl, which things, of
course, are serious delinquencies in a pot-scourer and door-step
cleaner; but, beside and above these crimes, she had committed the
crowning one of being most remarkably pretty,--which, of course, was
not to be tolerated.

So she had rather a hard life of it, poor thing. Mrs. Jackson was
not, on the whole, very kind to her; and, being a she-dragon, not
well-favored herself, she kept such watch and ward over her pretty
servant; accused her so often of flirtations which were entirely
imaginary, and altogether did so wrangle, scold, and nag at her; that
sometimes, in the cold winter's morning, wearily scrubbing the empty
grate, or blowing with her lips the smouldering fire, the poor thing
has bent down her head and wished that she was dead, and calmly asleep
beside her mother in the country church--yard.

She was a country-bred girl, an orphan, who had come up to London to
"better" herself (Lord help her!), had taken service in this dull,
mean neighborhood, and was now fearful of moving from sheer terror of
seeing new faces. And so here she had been, in this dreadful brick-
and-mortar prison, for more than three years, rising each morning only
to another day of dull drudgery of the lowest kind. Perhaps,
sometimes, there might be a moment or two for a day-dream of the old
place she loved. But day-dreams are dangerous for a slave with a
scolding mistress. The cat may get at the milk, the meat may burn; and
then wrangle and nag for an hour or so, and, ah, me! it is all over--
"She looks, and her heart is in heaven: but they fade,--The mist and
the river, the hill and the shade; The stream will not flow, and the
hill will not rise, And the colors have all passed away from her
eyes."

What kept her up, you wonder! Only hope. And,--well! well! "People in
that rank of life don't fall in love in the same way as we do," said a
thoroughly good fellow to me the other day. I beg solemnly to assure
him that he is quite mistaken.

Every time when anything went wrong with this poor little Cinderella,
as soon as the first scalding tears were wiped, she had a way, learnt
by long and bitter experience, of calling up a ghost of a smile on her
poor face. She would say to herself, "Well, never mind. My holiday
comes next Sunday three weeks."

I beg to apologize for telling one of the most beautiful stories ever
written (that of Cinderella) over again in my elumsy language. But
there are many thousand Cinderellas in London, and elsewhere in
England, and you must ask Dr. Elliotson or Dr. Bucknill how many of
them go mad every year.

And, as the monthly holiday approached, there would be such a
fluttering of the poor little heart about the weather,--for it is
quite impossible to look one's best if it rains, and one likes to look
one's best, under certain circumstances, you know,--and such a
stitching together of little bits of finery, that the kettle used to
boil over sadly often, and unnoticed coals to fall into the dripping-
pan, and wrap the meat in the wild splendors of a great conflagration;
and there would be more scolding and more tears. However, all the
scolding and all the tears in the world can't prevent Sunday morning
from coming; and so it came. And this was a rather special Sunday
morning,--for there was a new bonnet with blue ribbons, a rather neat
thing; and so she was rather anxious for a fine day.

But it rained steadily and heavily. It was very provoking. The people
were going into church, by the time she reached Clerkenwell Prison,
and it still rained on: but what was worse than that, there was nobody
there!

Up and down the poor child walked, under the gloomy prison wall, in
the driving rain. It is not an inspirating place at any time, that
Clerkenwell Prison-wall, as you will agree if you notice it the next
time you go by. But, if you walk for an hour or more there, under a
heavy disappointment, in a steady rain, waiting for some one who don't
come, you will find more melancholy still.

The people came out of church, and the street was empty once more.
Then there were tears, but they were soon followed by sunshine. The
spoilt bonnet was nothing now; the wet feet were forgotten; the
wretched cheap boots, made of brown paper sewn together with rotten
thread, the dreary squalor of the landscape, the impertinencies of
passing snobs, were nothing now;--everything was as it should be. For
there was the ring of an iron heel on the pavement, and the next
minute a young fellow came hurling round the corner, and then--

Well! Nobody saw us do it but the policeman, and he was most
discreet. He looked the other way. He had probably done the same thing
himself often enough.

I had run all the way from Chelsea, and had almost given up all hopes
of finding her; so, in the first flutter of our meeting, what between
want of breath, and--say, pleasurable excitement--I did not find time
to tell her that my news was bad: nay, more than bad--terrible. I
hadn't the heart to tell her at first, and when I had found the heart,
I couldn't find the courage. And so I put it off till after dinner.
She and I dined at the same shop the last time we were in England, and
oh! the profound amazement of the spirited proprietor at seeing a lady
in thick silks and heavy bracelets come in to eat beef! We had to tell
him all about it; we had, indeed.

At last it all came out, and she was sitting before me with a scared,
wild face. My cousin Reuben and my father had been arrested, but my
father immediately released. Sir George Hillyar was dead, and Joe's
heart was broken.

"The grand old gentleman dead!"

"Yes. Got up in the night out of his chair, wandered as far as the
kitchen, and fell dead!"

"How very dreadful, dear."

There was something more dreadful coming, however. I had to break it
to her as well as I could. So I took her hand and held it, and said,--

"And now we are utterly ruined, and the forge fire is out."

"But it will be lit up again, dear. You and your father have your
skill and strength left. You will light the forge fire again."

"Yes," I answered, "but it will be sixteen thousand miles away. In
Australia, dear."

Now I had done it. She gave a low piteous moan, and then she nestled
up close to me, and I heard her say, "Oh, I shall die! I know I shall
die! I can't bear it without you, dear. I couldn't have borne it so
long if I hadn't thought of you night and day. Oh, I hope I shall die.
Ask your sister Emma to pray God to take me, dear."

"Why, you don't think I am going without you, do you?" I hurriedly
asked.

"You must go," she answered, crying.

"I know I must; and you must come too. Are you afraid?"

"How could I be afraid with you, darling. But you must go, and I must
stay behind and die."

"Never mind about that, love. Are you afraid?"

"Not with you."

"Very well, then. You'll have the goodness to get a recommendation
from the parson, as an assisted emigrant, at once. If you can't, you
must pay your passage, and that'll be a twister. Now go home and give
warning."

"I couldn't do it, dear," she said, with her sweet, honest eyes
beginning to sparkle through her tears, and her mouth beginning to
form a smile.

"Couldn't do what?"

"Give warning. I should fall down in a dead faint at her feet."

"Nonsense," I said. "Have it out the minute she opens the door."

"She won't open it. I go in the airy way, and as soon as she hears me
come in she comes down and has a blow up at me."

"Can't you get in a wax, old girl?" I asked with an air of thoughtful
sagacity, for I saw the difficulty at once.

Old girl thought this perfectly hopeless; and, indeed, I thought so
too.

"Then I tell you what. Don't give her time to begin. Get between her
and the door, and says you, 'If you please, ma'am,--if you please,
ma'am,--I wish to give you a month's warning.'"

"Month's warning," repeated she.

"And then you take and hook it up stairs."

"Hook it up stairs," repeated she.

"You haven't got to say that to her. That's what you've got to do.
When you come to the word 'warning,' say it out clear, and cut off."

At last, after many trials and repetitions, I got her to give me
warning in a reasonably audible tone of voice; after which I saw her
home. She made a mess of it after all, as I thought she would all
along. She let the woman get between her and the door; and so had to
stay and be scolded. But it "eventuated" rather well; for she did get
into a "wax" for the first time in her life, and gave the woman as
good as she brought. Astonished at her own suddenly acquired audacity,
and perfectly unused to fighting, she committed the mistake, so common
among young fighters, (who have never been thrashed, and therefore
don't know the necessity of quarter,) of hitting too hard. The end of
which was that she was turned out the next day for a nasty, impudent,
careless, sleepy, aggravating, and ungrateful little audacious hussey;
which was a grand success,--a piece of luck, which even I, with my
highly sanguine temperament, had never dared to hope for.

While I was yet standing in the street, and making the remarkable
discovery that I was wet through, and rather thinking that it must
have been raining cats and dogs ever since I had been out, some one
came and laid his hand upon my shoulder, and, looking up, I saw Erne
Hillyar. He told me that he had come to find me, and then he told me
something else,--something which made me sit down on a muddy door-step
in the rain, and stare at him with blank amazement and horror.

Erne Hillyar was a homeless beggar.



Chapter XXXVI. Le Roi Est Mort,--vive Le Roi



"I CANNOT conceal from you the fact, my dear Sir George Hillyar,"
said Mr. Compton, the morning after the funeral, "that your father's
death at this moment is a very serious catastrophe, indeed."

"Very serious to me, I suppose?" said George.

"Very much so indeed. It is my belief that, if your father had lived
another week, he would have altered his will in your favor."

"You are quite sure that he has not done so?"

"Quite sure. He would never have done it without my assistance."

"Do you hear that, you--you--Lady Hillyar?" said George, with a
savage snarl, turning to Gerty, who was sitting nursing the baby.

She looked so very scared that old Compton interposed. "My dear Sir
George,--now really,--her ladyship is not strong,--

"Silence, sir," replied George; "I am master here, and allow no one
to interfere between me and my wife. Leave the room, Lady Hillyar, and
ask your fellow-conspirator against your husband,--the gamekeeper's
grandson, my worthy half-brother,--if he will be so condescending as
to be so obliging as to come and hear this precious will, which he and
the lawyer seem to have concocted between them, read out."

"Sir George, I will not be insulted; you will remove your papers to
some other office."

"Delighted, I am sure," said George, with an insolent sneer; for the
old devil of temper was raging full career within him, and there was
no help by. "It won't be worth much to any one. I shall insure this
house over its value, and then burn the God-forgotten old place down.
I don't care what I do."

"Sir George, for God's sake!" said Compton, shocked to see that the
devil had broken loose once more after such a long sleep. "Suppose any
one heard you, and there was a fire afterwards!"

"I don't care," said George, throwing himself into the chair in front
of the escritoire, in which his father had sat the night before he
died. "Oh, here is the noble Erne, who plots and conspires to rob his
brother of his inheritance, and then sneaks night and day after my
wife to prevent her getting the ear of my father."

"George, George, you are irritated; you don't mean what you say."

"Not mean it!"

"You can't, you know; you are a gentleman, and you can't accuse me of
such a thing as that."

"I will! I do!" said George.

"Then I say that it is false. That is all. I do not wish to continue
this discussion now; but it is false."

"False!" shouted George, rising and advancing towards Erne. "Is it
false that I have sat watching you so many months, always interfering?
Is it false that I have sat and cursed you from the bottom of my
heart? Perhaps you will say it is false that I curse you now,--curse
the day you were born,--curse the day that my father ever caught sight
of your low-bred drab of a mother."

George had come too close, or had raised his hand, or something
else,--no man knows how it began; but he had hardly uttered these last
words when he and his brother were at one another's throats like
tigers, and the two unhappy young men, locked together in their wicked
struggle, were trying to bear one another down, and uttering those
inarticulate sounds of fury which one hears at such times only, and
which are so strangely brutelike.

Before Compton had time to cry "Murder" more than once, George was
down, with his upper-lip cut open by a blow from Erne's great signet-
ring. He rose up, pale with deadly hatred, and spoke. His wrath was so
deep that cursing availed him nothing. He only said in a low voice, "I
will never, never forgive that blow as long as I live. If I ever get a
chance of returning it, remember it and tremble, Master Erne."

Erne had not had time to cool and get ashamed of himself yet. He
merely returned his brother a look of fierce scorn.

"Now," said George, "let us have this precious will read, and let me
turn him out of the house; I shall have that satisfaction. Have you
the will?"

"It is in here," said Mr. Compton. "This is the key of the
escritoire. Sir George always kept it here, because he had a fancy
that in some desperate extremity he might wish to put in a codicil in
a hurry. We shall find it in this morocco box. God above us! What is
this? Let me sit down: I am a very old man and can't stand these
shocks. There is no will at all here!"

"No will?" said both of the brothers together.

"Not a vestige of one," replied Compton, looking suddenly up at
George.

George laughed. "I haven't stolen it, old fox. If I had known where
it was, I would have. In an instant. In a minute."

"I don't think you have taken it, Sir George," said Compton. "Your
behavior would have been different, I think. But the will was here the
day before Sir George died, I know, and it is not here now."

"Look! Search! Hunt everywhere, confound you!"

"I will do so. But I have a terrible fancy that your father
destroyed this will, and was struck down before he had time to make
another. I have a strong suspicion of it. This will has been here for
ten years, and never moved. My opinion is that there is no will."

He made some sort of a search,--a search he knew to be hopeless,--
while George stood and looked on with ghastly terror in his face. Erne
had grown deadly pale, and was trembling. At last the search was over,
and Compton, sitting down, burst into a violent fit of sobbing.

George spoke first. "Then," said he, in a voice which rattled in his
throat, "everything is entirely and unreservedly mine?"

"I fear so."

"Every stick of timber, every head of game, every acre of land, every
farthing of money,--all mine without dispute?"

"If we can find no will. And that we shall never do."

"You have heard what he has said," said George to Erne, wiping his
mangled lips, "and you heard what I said just now. This house is mine.
Go. I will never forget and never forgive. Go."

Erne turned on his heel, and went without a word. The last he
remembers was seeing his brother stand looking at him with his face
all bloody, scowling. And then he was out of the house into the
sunshine, and all the past was a cloud to him.

God had punished him suddenly and swiftly. He very often does so with
those He loves best.



Chapter XXXVII. James Burton's Story: Erne's Nurse



"WILL God ever forgive me, Jim? I wish my right hand had been
withered before I did it. I shall never forget that bleeding face any
more. Oh, my brother! my brother! I would have loved you; and it has
come to this!"

And so he stood moaning in the rain before me, in the blank, squalid
street; and I sat on the step before him, stunned and stupid.

"I shall never be forgiven. Cain went out from the presence of the
Lord. Look, his blood is on my right hand now! How could I? How could
I?"

What could I say? I do not know even now what I ought to have said. I
certainly did not then. I was very sorry at his having struck his
brother, certainly; but seeing him stand homeless and wet in the rain
was more terrible to me. I did not for one instant doubt that what he
said was perfectly true, as indeed it was; and even then I began to
ask of myself, What will become of him?

"Oh, father! father! I wish I was with you! I shall never join you
now. He used to say that he would teach me to love my mother when we
met her in heaven; but we can never meet now,--never--never!"

This last reflection seemed to my boy-mind so very terrible that I
saw it was time to do or say something; and so I took his arm and
said,--

"Come home, master, and sleep."

"Home! my old Jim? I have no home."

"As long as I have one you have one, Master Erne," I answered, and he
let me take him away with me.

It was a weary walk. I had to tell him of our misfortunes, of our
ruin, of Reuben's ruin, of Joe's terrible disappointment, and of the
sad state of mind into which he had fallen,--of the cold forge, of the
failing food. I had to tell him that the home I was asking him to
share with me had nothing left to adorn it now but love; but that we
could give him that still. It eased his heart to hear of this. Once or
twice he said, "If I had only known!" or "Poor Reuben!" And, when I
saw that he was quieter, I told him about our plans; and as I did so,
I saw that he listened with a startled interest.

I told him that Mr. Compton had advanced money to take us all to
Cooksland, and that we went in a month, or less; and so I went on,
thinking that I had interested him into forgetting his brother for a
time. But, just as we turned into Church Street, he said:--

"She must never know it. I shall die if she knows it. I shall go mad
if she knows it."

"What?"

"Emma must never know that I struck my brother; remember that."

I most willingly agreed, and we went in.

The dear comfortable old place was nearly dismantled, but there was
the same old hearth, still warm. Our extreme poverty was, so to speak,
over, but it had left its traces behind still. My father looked sadly
grave; and as for my mother, though sitting still,--as her wont was on
Sunday,--I saw her eye rambling round the room sometimes, in sad
speculation over lost furniture. As I came in I detected her in
missing the walnut secretary, at which my father used to sit and make
up his accounts. She apologized to me also silently, with only her
eyes, and I went and kissed her. A great deal may pass between two
people, who understand one another, without speaking.

Emma was sitting in the centre of the children, telling them a
story; and she came smiling towards Erne, holding out her hand. And
when he saw her he loved so truly, he forgot us all; and, keeping his
head away from her, he said: "No! no! not that hand. That one is--I
have hurt it. You must never take that hand again, Emma. It's bloody."

I, foreseeing that he would say too much, came up, took his hand,
and put it into hers. But when she saw his face,--saw his pale scared
look,--she grew pale herself, and dropped his hand suddenly. And then,
putting together his wild appearance, and the words he had just used,
she grew frightened, and went back with a terrified look in her face,
without one word, and gathered all the children around her as if for
protection.

"You see even she flies from me. Let me go out and hide my shame
elsewhere. I am not fit for the company of these innocent children. I
had better go."

This was said in a low tone apart to me. My affection for him showed
me that the events of the morning had been too heavy a blow for him,
and that, to all intents and purposes, poor Erne was mad. There was an
ugly resolute stare in the great steel-blue eyes which I had never
seen before, and which I hope never to see again. I was terrified at
the idea of his going out in his present state. He would only madden
himself further; he was wet and shivering now, and the rain still came
down steadily. I could see no end to it.

"Come up to sleep, Master Erne."

"Sleep! and dream of George's bloody face? Not I. Let me go, old
boy."

"Please don't go out, sir," said I louder, casting a hurried look of
entreaty to Emma, who could hear nothing, but was wondering what was
the matter, "It will be your death."

"Yes, that is what I want. Let me go."

"Won't Freddy go and kiss his pretty Master Erne?" said Emma's soft
voice, suddenly and hurriedly. "Won't Freddy go and look at his pretty
watch? Run then, Fred, and kiss him."

Thus enjoined, Fred launched himself upon Erne, and clasped his
knee. It was with an anxious heart that I raised him up, and put him
into Erne's arms. It was an experiment.

But it was successful. The child got his arm round his neck, and his
little fingers twined in his hair; and, as I watched Erne, I saw the
stare go out of his eyes, and his face grow quieter and quieter until
the tears began to fall; and then, thinking very properly that I could
not mend matters, I left Erne alone with the child and with God.

I went and thanked Emma for her timely tact, and put her in
possession of the whole case; and then, finding Erne quiet, I made
Fred lead him up to bed. It was high time, for he was very ill, and
before night was delirious.

My mother gave herself up to a kind of calm despair when she saw
what had happened, and that Erne would be an inmate of the house for
some time, and that of necessity Emma must help to nurse him. She
spoke to me about it, and said that she supposed God knew best, and
that was the only comfort she had in the matter.

In his delirium he was never quiet unless either she or I were at
his side. For five days he was thus. The cold he had caught, and the
shock of excitement he had sustained, had gone near to kill him; but
it was his first illness, and he fought through it, and began to mend.

My mother never said one word of caution to Emma. She knew it would
be useless. The constant proximity to Erne must have been too much for
any efforts which Emma might have made against her passion. I was glad
of it. My father merely went gravely about his work; was as respectful
and attentive to Erne as ever; while my mother had, as I said before,
resigned herself to despair, and left the whole matter in the hands of
God.

Poor Joe! His was a bitter disappointment. Secretary to a member of
Parliament: and now,--Joe Burton, the humpbacked son of the Chelsea
blacksmith; all his fine ambition scattered to the winds. He sat
silently brooding now for hours; for a week I think he scarcely spoke.
Sometimes he would rouse himself, and help at what there was to do, as
a matter of duty; but as soon as he could he sat down again, and began
eating his heart once more.

I need not say that we were all very gentle and careful with him. We
had somehow got the notion that all our sufferings were as nothing to
poor Joe's. I wonder who put that notion afloat. I wonder whether Joe
unconsciously did so himself, by his tacit assumption that such was
the case. I think it very likely. But Joe was never for an instant
selfish or morose; unless his want of cheerfulness was selfish. He
certainly might have assisted at that family harmony I spoke of; but
then he was at Stanlake while we were learning the tune at home.



Chapter XXXVIII. Sir George Hillyar Is Witness for Character



AND dark over head all the while hung the approaching cloud. Reuben,
Sykes, and the rest of them had been remanded, and the day drew nigh
when Reuben would be committed for trial.

The question was, How far was he really complicated with Sykes and
the gang? That he took his father in, and lodged him, and hid him,
could not go very far against him: nay, would even stand in his favor.
Then his character was undeniably good until quite lately. And,
thirdly and lastly, he had been absent at Stanlake for a long while.
These were the strong points in his favor. Nevertheless, since his
father had made his most unfortunate appearance, there was very little
doubt that Reuben had been seen very often in the most lamentably bad
company. It was hard to say how it would go.

At last the day came on. I was the only one of the family who went,
and I left laughing, promising to bring Reuben home to dinner; but
still I was very anxious, and had tried to make up my mind for the
very worst. There was a considerable crowd in the police-court; and,
as I was trying to elbow my way as far forward as I could, to hear
what case was on, I felt a hand on my shoulder, and looking round, saw
Sir George Hillyar.

"Come out of court with me," he said; "I wish to speak with you. The
case will not be on this half-hour."

I wondered why he should care so much about it; but I obeyed, and we
went out together, and walked to a quiet spot.

"What is your opinion about this matter? What do his associates
say,--these thieves and prostitutes among whom he has been brought up?
What do they say about his chance?"

He said this with such fierce eagerness that I swallowed the implied
insult and answered,--

"Six and half-a-dozen, sir. I know him to be innocent, but who is to
prove him so?"

"Why did not your father prevent this?" he went on, in a milder tone.
"Why did not you prevent it? Your father is a man of high character.
Why did he not take care of this poor deserted orphan? Christian
charity should have made him do so."

"Nobody could have gone on better than Reuben, sir," I answered,
"until his father came back three months ago."

I was looking at him as I said this, and I saw that he grew from his
natural pallor to a ghastly white.

"Say that again."

"Until his father came back some three months ago,--his father,
Samuel Burton, who, I have heard say, was valet to your honor."

"Treacherous dog!" I heard him say to himself. And then aloud, "I
suppose you do not know where this man Burton is, do you?"

"That is not very likely, sir, seeing that he was the leader in that
very business for which poor Reuben has been took."

"Come," he said; "let us go back. Bring Reuben to me after it is all
over."

When we got in again the case was on. It seemed so very sad and
strange to me, I remember, to see poor Reuben in the dock; the moment
I saw him there, I gave him up for lost. It appeared that a grand
system of robbery had been going on for some time by a gang of men,
some of whom were in the dock at present,--that their head-quarters
had been at a house in Lawrence Street, kept by an Irish woman,
Flanagan, now in custody, and a woman Bardolph, alias Tearsheet, alias
Hobart Town Sall, still at large, and in a garret at the top of the
house known as Church Place, which was occupied by the prisoner
Burton. The leader of the gang had been one Samuel Burton, alias
Sydney Sam, not in custody; the father of the prisoner Burton. The
principal depot for the stolen goods appeared to have been in Lawrence
Street (I thought of the loose boards, and trembled), for none had
been found at Church Place, which seemed more to have been used as a
lurking-place,--the character of James Burton, the blacksmith, the
occupier of the house, standing high enough to disarm suspicion. The
prisoner Sykes, a desperate and notorious burglar and ruffian, had
been convicted x times; the prisoners Nym, Bardolph, and Pistol y
times. There was no previous conviction against the prisoner Burton.

The other prisoners reserved their defence; but Mr. Compton had
procured for Reuben a small Jew gentleman, who now politely requested
that Reuben might be immediately discharged from custody.

On what grounds the worthy magistrate would be glad to know.

"On the grounds," burst out the little Jew gentleman, with blazing
eyes and writhing lips, "that his sole and only indiscretion was to
give shelter, and house-room, and food, and hiding, to his own father;
when that father came back, at the risk of his life, sixteen thousand
miles, to set eyes on his handsome lad again once more before he
died,--came back to him a miserable, broken, ruined, desperate old
convict. He ought not to have received him, you say. I allow it. It
was grossly indiscreet for him to have shared his bed and his board
with his poor old father. But it was not criminal. I defy you to twist
the law of the land to such an extent as to make it criminal. I defy
you to keep my client in that dock another ten minutes."

The people in the court tried a cheer, but I was afraid of irritating
the magistrate, and turned round saying, "Hush! Hush!" and then I saw
that Sir George Hillyar was gone from beside me.

"The old fault, Mr. Marks," said the quiet, good-natured magistrate
to Reuben's frantic little Jew gentleman. "Starting well and then
going too far. If I had any temper left after twenty years on this
bench, I should have answered your defence by sending your client for
trial. However, I have no temper; and, therefore, if you can call a
respectable witness to character, I think that your client may be
discharged."

The little Jew gentleman was evidently puzzled here. His witnesses--I
was one--were all to prove that Reuben had not been at home for the
last two months. As for witnesses to character, I imagine that he
thought the less that was said about that the better. However, a Jew
is never nonplussed (unless one Jew bowls down another's wicket, as in
the case of Jacob and Esau); and so the little Jew lawyer erected
himself on his tip-toes, and, to my immense admiration, and to the
magistrate's infinite amusement, called out promptly, with a degree of
impudence I never saw equalled, one of the greatest names in Chelsea.

There was subdued laughter all through the court. "The gravity of the
bench was visibly disturbed," said the gentlemen of the flying
pencils. But, before the rustle of laughter was subdued, our brave
little Jew was on tip--toe again, with a scrap of paper in his hand,
shouting out another name.

"Sir George Hillyar."

Sir George Hillyar, at the invitation of the worthy magistrate,
walked quietly up and took his scat on the bench. He was understood to
say, "I am a magistrate in the colony of Cooksland, and still hold my
appointment as Inspector of Police for the Bumbleoora district. The
wretched man, Samuel Burton, whose name has been mentioned as leader
of this gang of thieves, was once my valet. He robbed my late father,
and was transported. The young man, Burton, the prisoner, his son, is
a most blameless and excellent young man, whose character is, in my
opinion, beyond all suspicion. He was a great favorite with my late
father; and I am much interested in his welfare myself. Beyond the
criminal indiscretion of saving the man he calls his father from
starvation, I doubt if there is anything which can be brought against
him."

This clenched the business. Reuben was discharged, while the others
were sent for trial. I was mad with joy, and fought my way out through
the crowd to the little door by which I thought Reuben would come. I
waited some time. First came out the little Jew gentleman, in a state
of complacency, working his eyebrows up and down, and sucking his
teeth. After him, by a long interval, Sir George Hillyar; whom I took
the liberty to thank. But no Reuben.

Sir George stayed with me, and said he would wait till the young man
came out. We waited some time, and during that time we talked.

"I suppose," said Sir George, "that Mr. Erne Hillyar has been to see
you."

I told him that Erne had come to us on the evening next after the
funeral,--that he had been seized with a fever, had been at death's
door, and was now getting slowly better.

"I suppose you know," he said, "that he is a penniless beggar?"

"We know that he has no money, Sir George; and we know that he will
never ask you for any," said I, like a fool, in my pride for Erne.

"Well, then, I don't know that we need talk much about him. If you
are nursing him and taking care of him on the speculation of my ever
relenting towards him, you are doing a very silly thing. If you are,
as I suspect, doing it for love, I admire you for it; but I swear to
God, that, as far as I am concerned, you shall have no reward, further
than the consciousness of doing a good action. He is quite unworthy of
you. Is he going to die?"

"No."

"Then he will marry your sister. And a devilish bad bargain she will
make of it. I wonder where Reuben is."

"He must come soon, sir."

"I suppose so. I wish he would make haste. Mind you, you young
blacksmith, I am not a good person myself, but I know there are such
things; and Compton says that you Burtons are good. I have no
objection. But I warn you not to be taken in by Mr. Erne Hillyar, for
of all the specious, handsome young dogs who ever walked the earth he
is the worst. I wonder where Reuben can be."

It was time to see. I was getting anxious to fight Erne's battle with
his brother; but what can a blacksmith do with a baronet, without
preparation? I gave it up on this occasion, and went in to ask about
Reuben.

I soon got my answer; Reuben had gone, twenty minutes before, by
another door; we had missed him.

"He has gone home, sir, to our place," I said to Sir George; and so I
parted from him. And, if you were to put me on the rack, I could not
tell you whether I loved him or hated him. You will hate him, because
I have only been able to give his words. But his manner very nearly
counterbalanced his words. Every sentence was spoken with a weary,
worn effort; sometimes his voice would grow into a wrathful snarl, and
it would then subside once more into the low, dreamy, distinct tone,
in which he almost always spoke. I began to understand how he won his
beautiful wife. A little attentive animation thrown into that
cynically quiet manner of his--coming, too, from a man who, by his
calm, contemptuous bearing, gave one, in spite of one's common sense,
the notion that he was socially and intellectually miles above one--
would be one of the highest compliments that any woman could receive.

But when I got home, no Reuben was there. He did not come home that
night, nor next day, nor for many days. Sir George Hillyar sent for
me, and I had to tell him the fact. "He is ashamed to see my father
after what has happened," I said. And Sir George said it was very
vexing, but he supposed it must be so. Still, days went on, and we
heard nothing of him whatever.



Chapter XXXIX. Uncle Bob Surprises Erne



THERE is very little doubt that Emma would have done her duty better
had she kept away from Erne altogether. It would have been fairer to
him. She had prayed hard to my mother to be allowed a little, only a
little more, of him, and my mother had, very wisely, refused it. Now
Providence had given him back to her,--had put the cup to her lips, as
it were; and she, knowing her own strength,--knowing by instinct that
she had power to stop when she pleased, and knowing also that, even if
her own strength failed, the cup would be taken from her in a very few
days,--had drunk deeply. She had utterly given herself up to the
pleasure of his presence, to the delight of to-day, refusing to see
that the morrow of her own making must dawn sooner or later.

My mother and I thought that it was all over and done, and that there
was no good in trying to stop matters in any way; and we were so far
right. My mother would gladly have stopped it; but what could she
do?--circumstances were so much against her. Busy as she was, morning
and night, she must either have left Erne, during his recovery, to
take care of himself, or leave him and Emma alone a great deal
together. She, as I said before, abandoned the whole business in
despair. I was intensely anxious for the whole thing to go on; I saw
no trouble in the way. I thought that Emma's often-expressed
determination of devoting her whole life to poor Joe was merely a
hastily-formed resolution, a rather absurd resolution, which a week in
Erne's company would send to the winds. I encouraged their being
together in every way. I knew they loved one another: therefore, I
argued, they ought to make a match of it. That is all I had to say on
the subject.

"God send us well out of it," said my mother to me one night.

"Why?" I answered. "It's all right."

"All right?" she retorted. "Sitting in the window together all the
afternoon, with their hair touching;--all right! Lord forgive you for
a booby, Jim!"

"Well!" I said, "what of that?--Martha and me sat so an hour
yesterday, and you sat and see us. Now, then!"

"You and Martha ain't Erne and Emma," said my mother oracularly.

"You don't look me in the face, mother, and say that you distrust
Erne?"

"Bless his handsome face,--no!" said my mother, with sudden
animation. "He is as true as steel,--a sunbeam in the house. But,
nevertheless, what I say is, Lord send us well out of it!"

I acquiesced in that prayer, though possibly in a different sense.

"You have power over her," resumed my mother. "You are the only one
that has any power over her. Why don't you get her away from him?"

This I most positively refused to do.

"You'd better," said my mother, "unless you want her heart broke."
And so she left me.

"Hammersmith, I want you," called out Erne, now almost convalescent,
a short time afterwards; "I want you to come out with me. I want you
to give me your arm, and help me as far as Kensington."

I agreed after a time, for he was hardly well enough yet. But he
insisted that the business was important and urgent, and so we went.
And, as we walked, he talked to me about his future prospects.

"You see, old boy, I haven't got a brass farthing in the world. I
have nothing but the clothes and books you brought from Stanlake.
And,--I am not wicked: I forgive anything there may be to forgive, as
I hope to be forgiven,--but I couldn't take money from him."

I thought it my duty, now he was so much stronger, honestly to repeat
the conversation Sir George had held with me, on the day when Reuben
was discharged from custody.

"That is his temper, is it?" said Erne. "Well, God forgive him! To
resume: do you see, I am hopelessly penniless."

I was forced to see that. I had my own plan, though I could not
broach it.

"In the middle of which," said Erne, "comes this letter. Read it."

"MY DEAR NEPHEW, MR. ERNE:--From a generous communication received
from the new and highly-respected bart., in which my present
munificent allowance is continued, I gather that differences, to which
I will not further allude, have arisen between yourself and a worthy
bart. whom it is unnecessary to mention by name. Unless I am
misinformed this temporary estrangement is combined with, if not in a
great degree the cause of, pecuniary embarrassments. Under these
circumstances, I beg to call your attention to the fact that I have
now been living for many years on the bounty of your late father, and
have saved a considerable sum of money. In case £500 would be of any
use to you, I should rejoice in your acceptance thereof. I owe your
late father more than that, as a mere matter of business. If agreeable
to the feelings of all parties, a personal interview is requested.

"Your affectionate uncle.

"ROBERT HAWKINS."

"Well, what do you think of that?"

"I think very well of your uncle, and I should take the money."

"I must. But think of my disreputable old uncle turning up at such a
time as this. Do you know my father was always fond of him? I wonder
what he is like! I have never seen him."

"Didn't you tell me he drank, sir?" I asked.

"Drink!" said Erne. "He has been drunk nineteen years."

I was lost in the contemplation of such a gigantic spree, and was
mentally comparing the case of Erne's Uncle Bob with that of a young
lady in Cambridgeshire, who had at that time, according to the Sunday
papers, an ugly trick of sleeping for six or seven months at a
stretch, and thinking what a pity it was that two such remarkable
characters didn't make a match of it and live in a caravan; moreover,
supposing them to have any family, what the propensities of that
family would be,--whether they would take to the drinking or to the
sleeping, or to both,--concluding, that whichever they did, they would
be most valuable properties; in short, rambling on like my mother's
own son: when we came to the house in Kensington, and were immediately
admitted into the presence.

This mysterious Uncle Bob was a vast, square-shouldered, deep-chested
giant of a man, who was even now, sodden with liquor as he was, really
handsome. Erne had often told me that his mother had been very
beautiful. Looking at this poor, lost, deboshed dog of a fellow, I
could readily understand it. Erne said he had been drunk nineteen
years; if he hadn't told me that, I should have guessed five-and-
twenty.

Never having had any wits, he had not destroyed them by drinking; and
having, I suppose, wound himself up for the interview by brandy or
something else, he certainly acted as sensibly as could have been
expected of him twenty years before. Besides, God had given this poor
drunkard a kind heart; and certainly, with all his libations, he had
not managed to wash that away. In our Father's house there are many
mansions; I wonder if there is one for him!

At the time of his sister's marriage, he had just been raised to the
dignity of underkeeper. Life had ceased with the poor fellow then. He
was of an old family, and the old rule, that the women of a family
last two generations longer than the men, was proved true here. He had
shown signs of the family decadence while his sister showed none. She
was vigorous, beautiful, and vivacious. He was also handsome, but
unenergetic, with a tendency to bad legs, and a dislike for female
society and public worship. Drink had come as a sort of revelation to
him. He had got drunk, so to speak, on the spot, and had stayed so.
His life had ceased just as he was raised to the dignity of cleaning
Sir George Hillyar's first season guns, nineteen years before; and we
found him sitting before the fire, rubbing one of those very guns with
a leather on this very afternoon.

He rose when we went in, and made a low bow to Erne, and then stood
looking at him a few seconds. "You are very like your mother, sir," he
said gently; "very like."

"My dear Uncle Bob," said Erne, "I am come according to appointment
to speak to you about the noble and generous offer of yours."

"Do you accept it, sir?"

"I do most thankfully, my dear uncle. I would speak of it as a loan,
but how can I dare do so? I have been brought up in useless luxury. I
know nothing."

"You'll get on, sir. You'll get on fast enough," said the poor
fellow, cheerfully. "Please come and see me sometimes, sir. You're
like my sister, sir. It does me good to hear your voice. Hers was a
very pleasant one. We had a happy home of it in the old lodge, sir,
before Sir George came and took her away. I saw what had happened the
night he came into our lodge, after eight o'clock, and stood there
asking questions, and staring at her with his lip a-trembling. I saw.
I didn't think,--let's see: I was talking about--. Ah! Sam Burton
knowing what he knew and not trading on it,--no, not that,--I mean I
hope you'll come and see me sometimes. If my head was to get clear, as
it does at times, I could tell you all sorts of things."

"My dear uncle, there is but small chance of our meeting for years. I
am going to Australia."

"To Australia!" I bounced out, speaking for the first time.

"Certainly," said Erne; "I can do nothing here. And, besides," he
added, turning his radiant face on mine, "I found something out last
night."

Poor Uncle Bob gave Erne a pocket-book, and, after many affectionate
farewells, we departed. I was very thoughtful all the way home. "Found
something out last night!" Could it be all as I wished?



Chapter XL. The Last of the Church-Yard



"AND so it is really true that the ship sails this day week, Emma?"
said Erne Hillyar to Emma Burton, laughing. "Matters are coming to a
crisis now, hey?"

"Yes, they are coming to a crisis," said Emma, quietly. "Only one
week more."

"Only one week more of old England," said Erne, "and then four months
of wandering waves."

"It will soon be over," said Emma.

"Oh, very soon," said Erne. "They tell me that the voyage passes like
a peaceful dream. There are some who sail and sail on the sea for very
sailing's sake, and would sail on forever. The old Greeks feared and
wearied of the sea. We English love it as our mother. Yes, I think
there are some of us who would love to live at sea."

"They leave their cares on shore," said Emma.

"They are like you and me, Emma. They have no cares."

"Have we none?"

"I have none. I leave everything humbly in the hands of God. I have
been a great sinner, but He has forgiven me. He has been very
merciful, Emma."

"I hope He will have mercy. I hope He will lay no burden on any of us
greater than we can bear. But, at all events, they say that duty and
diligence will carry one through all."

"You are disturbed and anxious, Emma, at this breaking up of old
associations. Come with me. Let us walk together down to the old
church--yard: it will be the last time for many years,--possibly
forever."

"Yes, I will come with you. It will be for the last time forever. Let
us come."

So they two went down together to the old church-yard, and stood in
the old place together, looking over the low wall on to the river. The
summer evening was gathering glory before it slept and became night.
And beyond the bridge, westward, the water and the air above were one
indistinguishable blaze of crimson splendor. At their feet the tide
was rushing and swirling down to the sea.

They were quite alone,--in perfect solitude among the tombs. Erne was
standing, as of old, on the grave of the Hillyar girl, so often
mentioned before; and Emma was beside him, touching him, but looking
away across the sweeping river.

And so they stood silent for a long while. How long? Who measures
lovers' time? Who can say? But the sun was dead, and only a few golden
spangles of cloud were blazing high aloft in the west, when Emma felt
that Erne had turned, and was looking at her. And then her heart beat
fast, and she wished she was dead, and it was all over. And she heard
him say, with his breath on her cheek,--

"What beautiful hair you have!"

"Yes."

"Here is a long tress fallen down over your shoulder. May I loop it
up?"

"Yes."

"May I kiss you?"

"Yes; it will soon be over."

"My darling,--my own beautiful bird!"

There was no answer to this, but a short sob, which was followed by
silence. Then Erne drew her closer to him, and spoke in that low,
murmuring whisper which Adam invented one morning in Eden.

"Why have we deferred this happy hour so long, Emma? How long have we
loved one another? From the very beginning?"

"Yes, I think it was from the very beginning."

"Are you happy?"

"Quite happy. Are you happy, dear?"

"Surely, my own," said Erne. "Why should I not be?"

"Then let us be happy this one week, Erne. It is not long. God surely
will not begrudge us one week; life is very long."

So they stood and talked till dusk grew into darkness upon the poor
cripple-girl's grave. And she lay peacefully asleep, nor turned upon
her bed, nor rose up in her grave-clothes, to scare her kinsman from
his danger.

The next day was dark and wild, and he was up and away early, to take
the last headlong step. His friend, James Burton, went with him, and
Erne took passage in the same ship by which the Burtons were going.

It was a busy, happy day. There were many things for Erne to buy, of
which he knew nothing, and his humble friend had to assist him in
fifty ways. At intervals of business Erne found time to tell Jim
everything, and that worthy lad was made thoroughly happy by the news.
They were together all day in the driving rain, scarcely noticing that
it blew hard till they got on board ship, and then they heard it
moaning melancholy aloft among the spars and cordage, telling of wild
weather on the distant sea.

At evening it held up; and Erne, coming home, missed Emma, and
followed her down to the church-yard. It was a very different evening
from the last: low clouds were hurrying swiftly along overhead, and
far in the westward a golden bar, scarcely above the horizon, showed
where the sun was setting; and, as they looked at it, grew dark once
more.

"Emma, my love, it is done."

"What is done?"

"I have taken passage in the same ship with you."

Was it a moan or a cry that she gave? Did it mean joy, or sorrow, or
terror? He soon knew, although it was too dark to see her face.

"Don't kill me, Erne, by saying that! Don't tell me that you've been
such a madman!"

"My darling, what do you mean?"

"Keep your hand from me, Erne. Do not kiss me. Do not come near me."

"Emma, what is the matter?"

"It is not too late, Erne," she said, kneeling down on the wet
tombstone. "If you ever loved me,--if you have any mercy on me, or on
yourself,--don't carry out this intention."

"In Heaven's name why, my love?"

"If I had not thought that we were to part for ever and ever,
inexorably, at the end of this week, I could have stopped you in a
thousand ways. But I thought that surely I might have one single week
of happiness with you, before we parted never to meet again."

"Why are we to part?"

"I have devoted my whole life to one single object, and nothing must
ever interfere with it. I have made a solemn vow before heaven that
nothing ever shall. I allowed myself to love you before I knew the
full importance of that object. Even in the old times I saw that I
must give you up for duty; and lately that duty has become ten times
more imperative than ever. Judge what hope there is for us."

Erne stood silent a moment.

"Speak to me! Curse me! Don't stand silent! I know well how wicked I
have been, but think of my punishment--"

"Hush! my darling. You are only dearer to me than ever. Hush! and
come here, once more--for the last time if you will, but come."

"Only for one moment. Will you do as I ask you? You will not come
with us?"

"I will see. I want to ask you something. Did you think that I was
going to part from you at the week's end as if nothing had passed?
Could you think so of me? Were you mad, my own?"

"Yes, I was mad,--wicked and mad. I did not know, I did not think. I
would not think."

"And do you think I can give you up so lightly now? I will not. I
swear it,--will not."

He felt her tremble on his arm, but she said quietly, "You must let
me go. We must never talk to one another like this again. It is all my
fault, I know, I have no one to blame but my wicked self. Good-bye,
Erne."

"If you choose to carry out your resolution, you shall do so; but I
will be by your side. I will never leave you. I will follow you
everywhere. I will wait as long as you will, but I will never give you
up."

"God's will be done," she said. "If you will make my trial harder, I
can only say that I have deserved it. We must come home, Mr. Hillyar."

"Emma!"

"I have called you Erne for the last time," she said, and walked on.

That night the poor girl lay sobbing wildly in bed, hour after
hour,--not the less wildly because she tried to subdue her sobs for
fear of awakening her sleeping little bedfellow, Fred. Shame at the
license she had allowed Erne, meaning as she did to part with him;
remorse for the pain she had inflicted on him; blind terror for the
future; and, above all, an obstinate adherence to her resolution,
which her own heart told her nothing could ever shake,--these four
passions--sometimes separately, sometimes combined--tore her poor
little heart so terribly, that she hoped it was going to burst, and
leave her at rest.

In the middle of the night, in one of the lulls between her gusts of
passion,--lulls which, by God's mercy, were becoming more and more
frequent; when the wild wind outside had died into stillness, and the
whole house was quiet; when there was no sound except the gentle
breathing of the child by her side, and no movement except its breath
upon her cheek,--at such time the door was opened, and some one came
in with a light. She looked round and said,--

"Mother!"

The big, hard-featured blacksmith's wife came to the bedside, and sat
upon it, drawing her daughter to her bosom. She said, "Emma dear, tell
mother all about it."

"Kiss me then, mother, and tell me I am forgiven."

"You know you are forgiven, my daughter."

"I never meant to have him, mother. I always loved him; you know
that; but I had vowed my life to poor Joe, before ever I saw him. You
know you told me to give him up, and I did. I only asked for one more
day of him; you remember that."

"And I forbade it."

"You were right and wise, dear. But then he came here in his trouble:
and then, dear," she continued, turning her innocent, beautiful face
up to her mother's, "I loved him dearer than ever."

"I know that, of course. I don't know what I could have done. Go on,
and tell me what has happened now."

"Why, knowing that we were to part forever at the end of the week"--
here her voice sank to a whisper--"I let him tell me he loved me; and
I told him I loved him. Oh, my God! I only wanted one week of him,--
one week out of all the weary, long cternity. Was that so very
wicked?"

"You have been wrong, my darling; you have been very, very wrong. You
must go on to the end; you must tell me what happened to-night."

"To-night? To-night? In the church-yard? Yes, I can tell you what
happened there well enough. I am not likely to forget that. He told me
that, so far from our being separated forever, he had taken passage in
the same ship with us, and was going to follow me to the world's end."

"And what did you do?"

"I knelt and asked his forgiveness, and then cast him off forever."

Poor Mrs. Burton sank on her knees on the floor, and looked up into
her daughter's face.

"Emma! Emma! Can you forgive your wicked old mother?"

"Forgive you! I, who have dragged our good name through the dust! I,
who have let a man I never meant to marry kiss my cheek! I forgive
you?"

"Yes, my poor innocent angel,--for so you are,--your poor old mother
asks your forgiveness on her knees. I might have prevented all this. I
broke it off once, as you remember; but when he came back, I let it
all go on, just as if I wasn't responsible. I thought it was
Providence had sent him back. I thought I saw God's hand in it."

"God's hand is in it," said Emma.

"And Jim was so fierce about it; and I am so afraid of Jim. He wants
you to marry Erne; and I thought it might be for the best; but I see
other things now. Are you afraid of Jim?"

"Yes; what will he say about this?" said Emma.

"He will be very angry. He must never know."

"Erne will tell him."

"Is there no chance of your relenting about Erne Hillyar?' said Mrs.
Burton, in a whisper.

"You know me, mother, and you know there is none; I should drag him
down."

"Then you must go on with your duty, my child. If you die, dear,--if
God takes you to his bosom, and lets you rest there,--you must go on
with your duty. Emma, I will give you strength. He would never be
happy with you for long, unless he lowered himself to our level; and
would you wish him to do that? He is one to rise in the world, and we,
with our coarse manners and our poverty, would only be a clog round
his neck. I love him for loving you; but remember what he is, and
think what a partner he should have. You see your duty to him and to
Joe. If the waves of the great, cruel sea we are going to cross rise
up and whelm us, let your last thought before your death be that you
had been true to duty."



Chapter XLI. Emma's Work Begins to be Cut out for Her



IT was the next night after her parting with Erne in the church-yard
that poor Emma's ministrations began.

It had been a weary day for her. She had tried hard to lose thought
in work, but she had succeeded but poorly even in the midst of the
bustle of preparation; and now, when she was sitting alone in the
silent room, with Joe moping and brooding, with his head on his hands,
before her,--refusing to speak, refusing to go to bed,--her trouble
came on her stronger than ever; and, with a feeling nearly like
despair, she recalled the happy happy hour she had passed with Erne in
the church-yard only two days ago, and saw before her, in the person
of poor Joe, brooding sullenly over the dying fire, her life's work,--
the hideous fate to which she had condemned herself in her fanaticism.

Erne and Jim had come in twice that day. They both looked very sad,
and only spoke commonplaces to her. She saw that Erne had told Jim
everything, and she trembled. But, Jim and she being left alone for
one moment, Jim had come solemnly up and kissed her; and then she had
suddenly cast her arms round his neck, and blessed him, in God's name,
for not being angry with her. He had kissed her again sadly, and left
her.

And now the work was all done, and the children were in bed; and she
would gladly have been in bed too, with Fred's balmy child's breath
fanning her to sleep. But there was poor Joe brooding with his head in
his hands.

At last he looked up. "Emma, my love," he said gently, "go to bed,
dear. You are tired."

"To bed," she said, "my old Joe; why, it's only half past nine.
Here's ever so much to do to these old shirts of Jim's; burnt all into
holes in the arms with the forge sparks, just like father's. And
Martha, she's put the children to bed. I don't think I shall go to bed
for another hour, bless you. Let's sit and talk."

"I wish I was in my grave," said Joe. "I wish I had killed myself
when I fell off that ladder."

"Why, dear?" said Emma, looking at him earnestly.

"Because I am shipwrecked and lost. God has only allowed me to exist
hitherto because I developed the beautiful unselfish love of my
brothers and sisters. Why, you all love me as well as if I was not the
loathsome object I am."

"Joe, how dare you! I will not have it! You know you are not
loathsome; and who knows better than yourself that your abilities are
first-rate?"

"Ay! ay!" said Joe. "But a man with my hideous affliction don't get
two such chances. I know. People like looking on handsome and
beautiful things, if they can. No man would have such an unhappy
monster as I am near him, if he could have something in the shape of a
human being. I don't blame them. I don't rebel against God. I only
know that my career is over."

"Joe! Joe! what are you talking of? Why, Joe, you have a head like
Lord Byron's. Who knows better than Erne Hillyar? You are the
handsomest of the family, in spite of your poor dear back."

"I love you and Jim the better for flattering me; but my eyes are
opened."

"Have you fallen in love with any one? Come, tell your own sister.
Let her share your trouble, Joe."

"No, it's not that I was thinking of. I don't care for any woman but
you. That Mrs. George Hillyar, Lady Hillyar, I should say--"

"Have you fallen in love with her, dear?" said Emma eagerly.

"Curse her! I hate her, the frivolous idiot. She gave me the
bitterest insult I have ever had. When I first went there, I came
suddenly on her in the library, and she ran away screaming, and locked
herself in the nursery with the baby."

"I should like to knock her silly little head off her impudent little
shoulders," said Emma with a bounce, stitching away at Jim's shirt, as
if each click of the needle was a dig into poor Gerty's eyes. "But
come, Joe, that ain't what's the matter. What's the matter is this.
You thought you were going to be a great public man, and so on; and
you've had a temporary disappointment. Only don't go and look me in
the face, and tell me that your personal appearance is going to begin
to trouble you at this time of day; because, if you do, I shan't
believe you. And, as for Lady Hillyar, she may be a very good judge of
blacks (among whom she has been brought up, and has apparently copied
her manners); but she is none of white, or she wouldn't have married
that most ill-looking gentleman, Sir George. I say, Joe, dear."

"Well, Em," said Joe, with something like a laugh.

"Is there any parliament in Cooksland now," said Emma.

"Yes," said Joe, getting interested at once. "Yes, two Houses.
Council, sixteen members, nominated by the Crown for life; Lower House
or Assembly, thirty members, elected by universal suffrage of tax-
payers. Property qualification, 300 acres under cultivation, or
£2,000."

"Then there you are. What is to hinder you from a career? Lord bless
me! why, it seems to me that you have made a change for the better.
Career indeed!" And so she went on for half an hour, getting from him
the political statistics of the colony, and shaping out his political
conduct, until she suddenly turned on him, and insisted on his talking
no more, but going to bed; and she had her reward, for he kissed her,
and went up stairs with a brighter look on his handsome face than had
been there for weeks.

She had hardly seen him out of the room, and had come back with the
intention of folding up Jim's shirt and going to bed, when she
started, for there was a low knock at the door.

She listened. She heard Joe lumbering up to bed, and, while she held
her breath, the knocking came again a little louder.

It was at the house door. She crossed the wide dark hall which lay
between the sitting-room and that door, and laid her ear against it.
As she did so the knocking was repeated more impatiently. She said in
a low voice, very eagerly, "Reuben?"

A shrill whisper from the other side said, "Blow Reuben. I wish
Reuben had six months in a cook's shop with a muzzle on, for this here
night's work. Keeping a cove hanging about a crib as has been blow'd
on, with the traps a lurking about in all directions. Is that Emma?"

"Yes," she said.

"I knowed it were," said the other party, in a triumphant tone.

"Young woman, young woman, open that there door. I won't hurt you. I
won't even so much as kiss you, without consent freely given, and all
parties agreeable."

Emma, who had a pretty good notion of taking care of herself, and was
as well able to do it as any lady of our editorial acquaintance,
opened the door and looked out. Looking out was no good; but, hearing
something make a click with its tongue about the level of her knees,
she looked down, and saw below her a very small boy of the Jewish
persuasion, with a curly head, apparently about nine years old, and
certainly under four feet high.

Her first idea was that he was the son and heir of the little Jew
gentleman described to her by Jim as having defended Reuben, who had
been sent with the bill. She was quite mistaken; there was no
connexion between the two, save a common relationship with Abraham.
Considering it necessary to say something, and feeling it safer to
confine herself to polite commonplaces, she said that she was very
sorry indeed to say that her father was gone to bed; but that, if he
would be so good as to look round in the morning, she would feel
obliged to him.

The little Jew, who, if it had not been for his beautiful eyes, hair,
and complexion, would have reminded you most forcibly of a baby pike,
about two ounces in weight, turned his handsome little head on one
side, and smiled on Emma amorously. Then he winked; then he took a
letter from behind his back, and held it before his mouth while he
coughed mysteriously; then he put the letter behind him once more, and
waltzed, with amazing grace and activity, for full ten bars.

"You're a funny boy," said Emma. "If that letter is for me, you'd
better take and hand it over. If it ain't, you'd best take and hook
it; and so I don't deceive you; because I ain't going to be kept here
all night with your acting. If I want to see monkeys I go to the
Zellogical. There is some pretty ones there."

The small Israelite was not in the least offended. "I'm an admirer of
yourn," he said. "I've gone and fallen in love with you at first
sight; that's about what I've took and done. I am enamored of your
person, I tell you. You're a fine-built girl. You're crumby; I don't
go to deny that; but there's not, too much on it yet. Confine yourself
to a vegetable diet, and take horse exercise regular, and you'll never
be what any man of taste would call fat. Come, it's no use beating
about the bush; I want a kiss for this'ere letter."

"You little ape," said Emma. "Who do you think is going to kiss you?"

"Why, you are, unless I mistake," replied the boy. "Just one. Come
on; you can't help yourself. I always were partial to your style of
beauty ever since I growed up. Come, give it to us, unless I'm to come
and take it."

At this point of the conference, Emma, with a rapid dexterity, which
not only took the Jew child utterly by surprise, but which ever after
was a source of astonishment and admiration to Emma herself and all
her friends, made a dive at him, knocked his cap off, got her fingers
in his hair, and took the letter from him before he had time to get
his breath. She turned on the threshold flushed with victory, and
said, "I'll kiss you, you little Judas! With pepper-my-Barney! Oh yes,
with capsicums!"

She slammed the door in the pretty little rogue's face, and tore the
letter open. She had guessed, as has possibly the reader, that it was
from Reuben. It was this which made her so eager to get it. It was
this which made her lose her temper at his nonsensical delay, and use
for a minute or two language which, though most familiar to her ear,
was utterly unfamiliar to her mouth.

The letter, given below, took about two minutes to read. In about two
more she had caught down her bonnet and shawl, had blown out the
candle, had silently opened the front door, had looked around, had
slipped out and shut it after her, and then, keeping on the south side
of Brown's Row, had crossed Church Street, and set herself to watch
the Black Lion.

Meanwhile there is just time to read the letter.

"DEAREST EMMA,--Although I have gone to the dogs utterly, and without
any hope at all of getting away from them any more, I should like to
tell you, and for you to tell Jim, and for him to tell Master Erne and
the kids, as they were all the same to me as ever, although I must
never see nor speak to any of them never any more.

"I'm lost, old girl. Tell your father that I humbly pray his
forgiveness for the sorrow I have brought on him. I know how wild he
must be with me. He was a kind and good friend to me, and I wish I had
been struck dead before I brought this trouble upon him.

"I've gone regularly to the devil now, old girl. Nothing can't save
me now. I haint done nothing yet;--that's coming, tonight may be,--or
I shouldn't have the cheek to write to you. Kiss the kids all round
for me, and tell 'em as poor Reuben's dead and gone, and will never
see 'em any more. You'd better say, old girl, that he was drownded
last Tuesday, opposite the Vice-Chancellor's, a-training, and lies
buried in Putney Church-yard. Something of that sort will look ship-
shape.

"Good-bye, old girl, forever. Don't forget that there were such a
chap; and that he was very fond of you all, though he was a nuisance.

"REUBEN."



Chapter XLII. Emma Astonishes A Good Many People: The Members of Her
              Family in Particular



EMMA saw the Jew-boy go into the public house, and saw what went on
there. He had no business in there; he did not call for anything; he
merely went in as a polite attention to the company. There was a
water-filter on the bar, the tap of which he set running on to the
floor, and then stood and laughed at it. Upon this the bar-maid ran
out of the bar to box his ears, and he dodged her and ran into the
bar, shutting the gate behind him, and contrived to finish a pint of
ale before she could get at him; and, when she did, he lay down in a
corner and refused to move, or to do anything but to use language
calculated to provoke a breach of the peace. She slapped him and she
kicked him; but there he lay, all the company laughing at her, till at
last the policeman made his appearance, and all he could do was to get
hold of him by one leg, and drag him out on his back, with all his
curls trailing in the sawdust, showing about as much care or life as a
dead dog. There was nothing to do but to drag him outside, and let him
lie on the pavement. When the policeman let go his leg, he managed to
drop the heel of his boot with amazing force on to the policeman's
toe; after which he lay for dead again.

"Whatever shall I do?" thought poor Emma. "If they lock him up,
whatever shall I do?"

The landlord and the policeman stood looking at him. "Did you ever
see such a little devil?" said the landlord.

"Never such a one as he. Shall I lock him up?"

"Lord bless you, no," said the landlord; "let the poor little monkey
be. Good-night." And so the policeman departed round the corner.

Emma was very much relieved by this. They left the boy alone; and
then, like a fox who has been shamming dead, he moved his head
slightly. Then he raised it cautiously, and, seeing he was really
alone, suddenly started up, gave a wild yell, and darted off like
lightning up Church Street, at one minute in the road, in another on
the pavement; and away started poor Emma after him, with as much
chance of catching him as she would have had with a hare.

Fortunately for her quest, as she came into the King's Road she ran
straight against the policeman, who said, with alarm and astonishment,
"Miss Burton!"

"Yes. Don't delay me, for God's sake. Have you seen a little Jew boy
running?"

"Lord, yes, miss," he answered laughing. "He came flying round here
like a mad dog; and, when he see me, he gave a screech that went right
through your head, and cut in behind they Oakley Square railings; and
there he is now."

"Is he mad?" said Emma.

"No," said the policeman. "He's skylarking; that's what he's up to,
after the manner of his nation."

"It's a very extraordinary and lunatic way of skylarking," said Emma.
"I have got to follow him. Go home and wake Jim, and tell him where
and how you saw me."

"Take care, miss, for God's sake."

"Yes, yes; see, there he comes creeping out. Go and tell Jim. I hope
he won't run. Good-night."

The little Jew did not run. He began thinking what he would do next.
He came to the conclusion that he would waltz, and he put his
resolution into immediate execution, and waltzed up the King's Parade.
But he did even this like some one possessed with evil spirits, who
took every opportunity of getting the upper hand. Faster and more
furious grew the boy's dancing each moment, more like the spin of a
whirling Dervish, or the horrible dance in Vathek. The wildest
Carmagnole dancer on the second of September would have confessed
himself outdone in barbaric fury; and the few belated passengers
turned and looked on with something like awe; and Emma began to fancy
that she was being lured to her destruction by some fantastic devil.
The poor little man had been mewed up for weeks, and all the intense
vivacity of his race was breaking out, and taking the form of these
strange weird tricks,--tricks which in, say a Teutonic child, would
have been clear evidence of madness, but which were simply natural in
a child of that wondrous, indestructible, unalterable race to which he
belonged. A French girl would have been merely amused with them; but
Emma, a thorough English girl, with the peculiarly English habit of
judging all things in heaven and earth by the English standard, was
frightened; and her fright took the thoroughly English form of
obstinate anger, and nerved her to her task. "The little wretch; I
will be even with him."

So she went on, eager and determined, with her eyes and her mind so
concentrated on the strange little figure, that she never exactly knew
where she went. The child lurked, and dodged, and ran, and dawdled,
and shouted, and sang, till nothing which he could have done would
have surprised her; and she found herself getting into a chronic state
of expectation as to what he would do next.

Once again everything was nearly going wrong. The boy set off on one
of his runs, and ran swiftly round a corner, and she ran round too,
for fear of losing sight of him; and at the corner she met him coming
back again, walking slowly, with his hands in his pockets, whistling.
But he did not recognize her. He asked her how her uncle Benjamin was
to-night, and told her that Bill had waited there for her till ten,
but had gone off in the sulks, and was going to take her sister Sally
to Hampton Court in a van, to feed the gold fish with peppermint
lozenges; but he did not recognize her, and she was thankful for it.

At last, when and where she cannot tell, they came into more crowded
streets; and here the young gentleman displayed a new form of
vivacity, and began to play at a new game, infinitely more
disconcerting than any of his other escapades. This game was trying to
get run over. He would suddenly dart out into the street under the
very hoofs of the fastest going cab-horse that he could see. If he
could get the cabman to pull up, he would stand in the street and
enter into a personal altercation with him, in which,--he being a Jew,
and the cabman, nominally at least, being a Christian,--he always got
the best of it. If the cab did not pull up, he dodged out of the way
and tried another. This being an amusement which consumed a great deal
of time, and the collection of no less than two crowds, from the
second and largest of which he was walked out by a policeman in strict
custody, poor Emma's heart failed her, and she began to weep bitterly.

But her "pluck" (a good word, though a vulgar one) never gave way.
She determined to follow him to the station, see him in safe custody,
and then confide the whole truth to the Inspector, be the consequences
what they might. It was lucky that there was no necessity for such a
ruinous course of proceeding.

She was following close on the heels of the boy and the policeman,
when she heard this dialogue:--

"I'm very sorry, sir. I was running after a young man as has owed me
a joey ever since the last blessed Greenwich fair as ever dawned on
this wicked world."

"Don't tell me: didn't I see you playing your antics all up the Cut,
bobbing in and out among the horses, you young lunatic? I'll shake
you." And he did; and the boy wept the wild, heart-rending tears of
remorse, rather more naturally than nature.

"Look here. If I let you go, will you go home?"

"Strike me blind if I don't, sir. Come, I really will, you know.
Honor. I've had my spree, and I want to get home. Do let me go. I
shall catch it so owdacious if I ain't home soon. Come."

"There you are, then. Stow your games now. There, cut away, you
monkey."

The boy played no more antics after this; he seemed to have been
sobered by his last escape. He held so steadily homewards, that Emma,
without any notion where she was, or where she was going, found
herself opposite a low public-house, before which the boy paused.

He did not go in, but went to a door adjoining, and knocked with his
knuckles. After a few minutes, the door was opened as far as the chain
would allow it, and some one inside said, "Now then?"

"Nicnicabarlah," was what the boy answered.

Emma, listening eagerly, caught the word correctly, and repeated it
two or three times to herself, after the boy had slipped in, and the
door was shut behind him. What a strange, wicked-sounding word! Could
there be any unknown, nameless sin in repeating it? There were strange
tales about these Jews, and this particular one was undoubtedly
possessed by one devil at least, if not a dozen. A weird word, indeed!

So she thought about it now. But afterwards, in the Sabbath of her
life, the word became very familiar and very dear to her, and
represented a far different train of ideas. Now it was the name, the
formula, of some unknown iniquity: hereafter, when she understood
everything, she smiled to know that the wicked word was only the
native name for a soaring, solitary, flame-worn crag,--the last left
turret in the ruin of a great volcano,--in the far-off land of hope to
which they were bound. One of the first and greatest wonders in the
new land was to see Nicnicabarlah catch the sun, and blaze like a new
and more beautiful star in the bosom of the morning.

That strange word, had she known all she did afterwards, would have
told her that Somebody was in those parts; but now she knocked at the
door in ignorance, and it being demanded of her "what the office was,"
she pronounced the horrid word in her desperation, at imminent risk,
as she half believed, of raising the devil. The only present effect of
it was that she was admitted into a pitch-dark passage, by something
which Emma, using the only sense then available, concluded to be a
young woman of untidy habits; as, indeed, it was.

"I want Reuben Burton, if you please," said Emma, in the dark, with
the coolest self-possession.

"You're his young woman, ain't you?" said the untidy one.

Emma said, "Yes."

"Who give you the office?", said the untidy one.

"Who could it have been but one?"

"Of course, it was Ben," said the untidy one. "But don't tell on him,
young woman. He'll be torn to pieces, if you do. And he ain't a bad
'un, ain't Ben."

Emma promised she wouldn't, and once more asked to see Reuben.

The untidy one led her through a very, very long passage, in pitch
darkness, at the end of which she by no means reassured Emma by
telling her that there were nine steps to go down, and that she had
better mind her head! However, she went down in safety, and was shown
into a rather comfortable, cellar-like room, with a brick floor, in
which there were lights and a good fire, before which sat Master Ben,
the insane young Jew child possessed of the seven devils, warming
himself.

He turned and recognized her at once. For one instant there was a
sudden flash,--I mean an instantaneous expression (I can explain
myself no better),--of angry astonishment on his handsome little face.
Though it was gone directly, it was wonderfully visible, as passion is
apt to be on Jewish faces. The moment after it had passed, he looked
at her lazily, winked, and said:--

"Don't make love to me before her,"--jerking his thumb at the untidy
one, who in the light was more untidy than Emma had even anticipated
from what she gathered in the dark,--"she's enamored of me, she is. It
ain't reciprocal though it may be flattering. I never give her no
encouragement; so you can't blame me. It's one of those sort of things
that a man of my personal appearance must put up with. I regret it,
for the young woman's sake, but wash my hands of the consequences."

The "young woman," who was old enough to be his mother, and looked
old enough to be his grandmother, laughed and departed, and Emma heard
her bawling to some one, to know if Chelsea Bob was in the way.

The moment she was gone, the child Ben jumped on his feet, and
looking eagerly at Emma, said, "In God's name, how did you get here?"

"I followed you all the way," said Emma, with calm composure. "I
heard the word you gave, and, Lord forgive me! said it myself at the
door. And here I am."

"Young woman, you're mad! You don't know where you are. I can't tell
you. Quick! they'll be here in a moment. I will let you out. Quick!--
it will be too late in one minute."

"I'll never leave this house alive, without Reuben," was Emma's quiet
answer. And as she gave it, she was conscious that the bawling after
"Chelsea Bob" had ceased almost as soon as it had begun, and there was
a dead silence.

"Lord of Moses!" said little Ben, clutching wildly at his hair,--
"she'll drive me mad! Emma!--girl!--young woman!--will you be sane?
I'll let you out, if you'll go. If you don't go this instant, you'll
never go alive, I tell you. I like you. I like your face and your way,
and I like Reuben, and came down all the way to Chelsea to-night for
good-will towards him. I'll get him out of this for you. I'll do
anything for you, if you'll only clear. I shall be half-murdered for
it, but I'll do it. You're among Levison's lot, I tell you. Coiners;
you understand that. No one leaves here alive. You understand that. It
will be too late directly."

It was too late already, it appeared. Two men were in the room, and
three women, including the untidy one, who might now, in comparison
with the two others, have made good her claim to a rather exceptional
neatness of attire and cleanliness of person. The battle began by one
of the men striking poor little Ben with his whole strength on the
side of his head, and sending him against the bars of the fireplace,
from which he fell stunned and motionless. The girl who had let Emma
in, went and picked him up, and kissed him, and held him in her arms
like a child, scowling all the time savagely at Emma.

"You cowardly brute," cried Emma, in full defiance, drawing herself
up until she looked as big as her mother,--"striking a child like
that! I want my cousin Reuben. Reuben! Reuben!"

She said this so loud, that the man who had struck the child said
quickly, "Collar her!" But she was on one side of the table and they
on the other; and before they had time to get round, she stopped them
by saying, "I'll put a knife in the heart of any one that comes near
me. Mind that! Reuben,--Reuben! Help!"

The pause was only instantaneous. They saw that she had no knife, and
rushed on her. But her cries had not been in vain. One of the men had
just seized her, and was holding his hand over her mouth, when he
received a staggering blow on his ear, which he remembered for a long
while, about ten times harder than the one he had given to poor plucky
little Ben; and a hoarse voice, belonging to the person who had given
the blow, said, with perfect equanimity:--

"What's up here? what's up? what's up? Hands off is manners. I won't
have no girls fisted in this house."

One of the untidy young ladies was beginning to remark that she liked
that, and that it was pleasing to find that they was to be overrode in
their own crib by Chelsea roughs as was kept dark out of charity, when
she was interrupted by Emma casting herself at the feet of the woman
who had struck the blow, and crying out,--

"Mrs. Bardolph!--help me! Dear Mrs. Bardolph, when I read the good
words to you in your fever, you said you would never forget me. Help
me now!"

And then that terrible woman, so hideous, so fierce, so reckless,--
the woman who had been steeped in infamy from her girlhood; the woman
whose past was a catalogue of crimes, whose future seemed a hopeless
hell; the woman who had never forgotten God, because she had never
known Him; who had never repented, because evil had been her good from
childhood; this savage, unsexed termagant now bent down over poor
Emma, and said, in a voice of terror,--"My God! it's Miss Burton! Emma
Burton, I would sooner have been dead than see you here. Oh, I would
sooner have been dead than seen this. Oh, Miss Burton! Miss Burton!
what has brought you to this evil den?"

"I have come after my cousin Reuben. I have come to save him. He is
innocent, for he told me so, and he never deceived me. Mrs. Bardolph,
you must die some day; don't die with this sin on your mind. Don't
lend your help to ruin an innocent young man, who never harmed you.
Let me see him, and I will persuade him to come away with me, and we
will bless your name as long as we live."

Mrs. Bardolph, née Tearsheet, turned to one who stood beside her, and
said, "Come, you know what I told you. Decide. Let him go." And Emma
turned, too, and for the first time saw her cousin Samuel.

She did not know him. She did not even guess who this strange, long--
nosed man, with the Satanic eyebrows, and his mouth close up under his
nose, could be. She only saw that he was the most remarkable-looking
person present, and, though he looked like a great scoundrel, yet
still there was a certain air of refinement about him; so she turned
to him:--

"Come, sir. You are an old man. Your account will soon be rendered.
You have power here; you will not use it against this poor young man's
soul. I see you are yielding, by your eyes," she went on, taking his
hand. "Dear sir, you must have had a son of your own once; for his
sake help me to save my cousin."

"If you take away your cousin, Emma, you take away my son, and leave
me all alone."

She knew who he was now.

"Cousin! Cousin Samuel, come with him. It is never too late. Cousin,
there is time yet to lead a good life in a new country, with Reuben by
your side. Let us three leave here to-night together, cousin, and set
our backs forever to all this evil and this forgetfulness of God.
Come, cousin."

"I can never go, my poor child," said the convict. "And, even if I
let Reuben go, (for he'd stay by me through everything,) I lose my
only son forever."

"Not forever. Why forever? Raise yourself to his level, and don't
seek to drag him down to yours. There is good in your heart yet,
cousin; for your hand trembles as I speak. Hah! I have conquered. Oh,
thank God! I have conquered!"

So she had. Samuel Burton drew her arm through his, and led her away,
while the others stood silent. Emma saw she had been right in
appealing to him. He was evidently a man of authority. There was
little doubt, from the deference which was shown him by the others,
that he was by far the greatest rogue in the house.

He led her up stairs, through a different way from that by which she
had come in, and she found herself in a parlor, one side of which was
of glass, beyond which was evidently the bar, for she heard the
drinkers talking; and in this parlor there was no one but Reuben, fast
asleep on a settle.

"Go up and speak to him," said Samuel, in a whisper.

Emma went up and shook him by the shoulder. "Reuben, dear," she said,
"get up and come home. Jim and Joe's a sitting up waiting for you; and
father, he wants to see you before he goes to bed. Look sharp."

Reuben rose up, and looked at her sleepily. "Why, Emma, old girl," he
said, "I thought I was at the Cross Keys! So I am, by gad! How did you
come here?"

"I came after you. Look sharp."

Reuben looked again in wonder, and saw Samuel Burton. "Father," he
said, "am I to go back there?"

"Yes, Reuben. Go back with her,--go back, and don't come here any
more."

"Are you coming?" said Reuben.

"Not I, my boy. We must part for the present. Go with her. Say good-
bye to me, and go."

"Why? I don't want to desert you, father. Emma ain't the girl to
advise a man to pitch his own father overboard; more particularly, as
in the present case, on the top of a strong ebb tide, with the wind
west, and a deal more land-water coming down after the late rains, or
else I'm no waterman. Emma ain't here to-night to tell me to cut the
only rope that holds my own father to the hope of better things: not
if she's the young woman I take her for, she ain't."

And so well did poor Reuben put his case, that Emma, for a moment,
thought she was n't. But Samuel Burton came in on the right side, with
one of those facile lies which had grown from long practice to be far
more easy to him than the truth.

"I tell you, boy, that you must go with her. Your presence here
endangers both of us. She has tracked you here to-night, and the traps
are not far off, as your sense will tell you. There are not two safe
minutes left to say good--bye--"

Here Emma, with an instinct of good-breeding which would have done
honor to any lady in the land, went outside the door, and left them
alone together. And outside the door, she found the Bardolph, née
Tearsheet, who said, "Well, Miss Burton, I have served you well to-
night."

And Emma said, "God bless you for it,--nobly."

"I suppose you wouldn't make no amends for it? I suppose you
wouldn't do nothing in return as I asked you?"

"I will do anything. God, who has saved one who is very dear to me,
from ruin, to-night, is my witness, Mrs. Bardolph."

"Well, when you're a saying of your prayers, which you says them
constant, as you give me to understand when I had the fever, and
wanted me to do it also,--when you says 'em, take and say one for me.
'Lord!' says you, 'I don't uphold her in nothink as she's done, but it
was n't all her fault,'--There, there's your sweetheart. You'd best
go. Let me send out that little devil, Ben, to see if the traps is
clear. Ben! Ben!"

Ben, although he had been, a very short time before, brutally
knocked on to the top of the kitchen fire, and had lain stunned for
some time, was up to the mark, and appeared, with the indomitable
pluck of his nation, ready for action. He was very pale and ill, but
he winked at Emma, and hoped, in a weak voice, that her young man
wasn't jealous, for the girls was always a running after him. Having
done his patrol, he came back and reported an entire absence of the
executive arm, whether in the uniform of their country, or disguised
in the habiliments of private citizens. And then, Emma having caught
him up and kissed him a dozen times, the two cousins departed.



Chapter XLIII. Emma Gives the Key to the Landlord



"MY dear Gerty," said Sir George, looking up from his dinner at his
wife, "I expect an old acquaintance of yours here this evening."

"And who is that, my dear?--an Australian?"

"No; it is only young Burton, the waterman. I think you used to like
him."

"Indeed, I like him very much."

"I am very glad to hear that, Gerty, my love; for I was thinking of
providing for him, as an under-keeper at Stanlake, if you did n't
object."

"I object, George! I am very fond of him, indeed. He puts me in mind
of a merry young man (a hand, I regret to say) that my father had,--.
Billy Dargan."

"Do you mean Dargan who was hung for piracy?"

"The very same. How clever of you to know that, for he was hung
before your time!"

"Good heavens, Gerty! Do you mean to say that poor Reuben puts you
in mind of that fellow?"

"To a most extraordinary degree," said Gerty, looking up; and then,
seeing she was somehow making a terrible mistake, adding, "I mean in
his way of tying his handkerchief. And there is also an indescribable
style about his legs, a kind of horn-pipy expression about them, which
forcibly recalls poor Dargan's legs to my mind at this moment."

"I was afraid you meant that they were alike in expression of face."

"Oh, good gracious, how ridiculous!" said Gerty, who had meant it,
nevertheless. "The idea! Fancy poor Reuben cutting a skipper's throat,
and throwing the crew overboard, and practising at them with a rifle!
What can make you think of such wicked things, you ridiculous old
stupid?"

"You'll be kind to him then, Gerty, old girl?"

"Indeed, I will, Georgy. I'll be kind to anything or anybody that
you like. I'll be most affectionate to him, I assure you. Lor! My
word! I wonder what Aggy is at now?"

"Fast asleep in bed, dear. Nine hours difference in time, you know."

"Yes; that's very curious. It quite reminds me of Joshua putting
back the dial of Ahaz,--I mean Ahasuerus. What a goose I must be!
though I don't believe you know the difference, you dear old heathen.
I say, George.
"
"Yes, Gerty."

"When are we going back to Cooksland, dear?"

"To Cooksland?"

"Yes, dear. Lesbia and Phelim O'Ryan are going back next month. It
would be rather nice to go with them, would n't it?"

George, the baronet, with ten thousand a year, had not much notion of
going back there at all, as you may suppose. But he did not wish to
break the fact to Gerty suddenly. Gerty, in good humor, was a very
pleasant companion; but a lachrymose and low-spirited Gerty was, as he
knew by experience, enough to drive far less irritable men than he out
of their senses. Her infinite silliness sat most prettily on her when
she was cheerful and happy; but her silliness, when superadded to
chronic, whimpering, low spirits, was unendurable. And, moreover, he
had acquired a certain sort of respect for Gerty. Silly as she was,
she had played her cards well enough to make his father destroy the
obnoxious will. He could not deny, he thought, that all their present
prosperity was owing to her. Luck had prevented his father making a
new will, but Gerty's beauty and childishness had most undoubtedly
been the cause of his destroying the old one. He gave that sort of
respect to Gerty which is generally accorded to fortunate legatees,--
the respect and admiration, in short, which we are most of us prepared
to pay to luck. So he temporized.

"My love," he said, "you know that the colony is not healthy for very
young children. You must know that."

She was obliged to confess that it was very notorious.

"We must wait until baby is stronger,--we must, indeed. Just think of
poor Professor Brown's children,--not one left in two years."

She acquiesced with a sigh. "You know best, dear. But, oh! George,
this dreadful winter! Think of the cold!"

"We will go to Italy, dear. You will never regret Australia there.
Halloa, here comes Reuben. Let us have him in."

And so poor Reuben was had in. He looked a good deal older and more
sobered than when we first knew him at Stanlake, but not in other
respects altered,--changed in degree, but not in quality,--a little
low-spirited under recent events, but not at all disinclined to be as
slangy and merry as ever as soon as the sun should shine.

"Jim told me you wanted to speak to me, sir."

"Quite right. I want to know what you are thinking of doing. I wish
to help you."

"I'm a-going to Australia, sir, with my cousins. They have been very
kind, sir. Whether it was their natural kindness, or whether it was my
cousin Emma who influenced them, or partly both, I don't know; but
after all the sorrow, and trouble, and disgrace I have caused them,
they took me back again, as if nothing had happened. Any one would
have thought that I had always been an honor to them, and that I had
just done 'em some great kindness. The old man, he says--'Reuben, my
boy, I'm glad to see you home again. It's a poor place and will be a
poorer, my old chap,' he says; 'but, such as it is, you're welcome to
it.' And so I am going to Australia with them."

"But have you got any money to go with?"

"No, sir," said Reuben. "They are going to take me, and I am to make
it good afterwards."

"But you would not go if you were offered a good situation in
England?"

"I'd rather not go," said Reuben. "But I am doubtful how they would
take it."

"George," said Gerty, suddenly and eagerly, "order the carriage for
me, and let me go to these people and represent the matter to them. I
will make it all right for you. Let me go."

George felt sincerely obliged to his wife for her readiness to
anticipate his wishes; but it was not that which made Gerty so eager
about the matter. No; these people, these Burtons, had suddenly become
sacred and important people in her eyes. For were they not going to
that sunny happy land where she was born; would they not soon see,
with the actual eyes of the flesh, and not in dreams, as she did, that
dear old home of hers, which, she began to feel, she herself would
never, never, see again?

She drove hurriedly to Chelsea, and the coachman soon found the
place for her. She was nearly too late. The great house was empty and
the rooms all desolate: but the door was not yet shut, the neighbors
told her, and there was some one in the house still; so Gerty, not a
bit frightened, after knocking once or twice at the door, went in, and
entered the great room on the lower floor, where the family were
accustomed to live.

All deserted, melancholy, cold, and dead, the room was no more a
room now than is the corpse you put into the coffin your friend. Life,
motion, and sound were gone from it, and there was no expression in
it, save the blank stare of death. The old walls which, when partly
covered with furniture, used to laugh and wink from fifty projections
in the firelight, now stared down, four cold, bare, white expanses, on
little Gerty standing in the middle of the room, all in black. She had
never happened to see a dismantled home before, and her gentle little
soul was saddened by it; and she yearned to be with those that were
gone, in the happy land far away.

She noticed the empty open cupboards; nails upon the wall; the marks
where a few pictures had hung; and the few things which were left
lying about. They were very few, only such things as were deemed
unworthy of removal,--a scrap of carpet with holes in it, or more
correctly, some holes, with a little carpet round them; a hearth-
broom, which reminded her, she said afterwards, of Lieutenant Tomkins
of the Black Police, for it had shaved off its beard and whiskers, and
only wore a slight mustache; a bandbox, which had been fighting, and
got its head broken; and a dog of Fred's with his bellows broken off.
The foolish little woman felt sorry for these things. She thought they
must feel very lonely at being left behind, and went so far as to take
pity on Fred's dog, and hire it for the service of Baby. And when she
had done this, knowing that there were people in the house somewhere,
she, as adventurous a little body, in warm weather, as you would
easily find, determined to go up stairs,--and up she went; and in
course of time she came to the vast room on the first floor, so often
described by the young blacksmith in these pages, and peeped in.

It was all bare, empty, and dismantled. There was nothing in it. But
two people stood together in one of the many windows which looked
westward; and they stood so still and silent, and looked so strange
and small in the midst of the majestic desolation, that Gerty stood
still too, and was afraid to speak.

They were a young man and a young woman, and the young woman said,
"You hardly did right in coming back this afternoon, when you knew I
was all alone. Did you now?"

"I don't know, and I don't care, Emma. I knew that yours was to be
the last footstep which crossed the threshold and left the dear old
house to darkness and solitude, and I determined to be with you.
Loving you so madly as I do, every board in these rooms which you have
walked on is sacred to me by the mere tread of your footstep. So I
determined to see the last of the house with you, who are the cause of
my loving it, and who get dearer to me day by day and hour by hour."

"Erne! Erne! don't drive me mad. You have no right to talk to me like
this."

"I have. You gave it once. Do you think you can recall it? Never! I
have the right to talk to you like this until you can look me in the
face and tell me that you do not love me. And when will that be, hey?"

"Never," she answered, "as you well know. Are you determined,
cruelly, to make me undergo my full punishment for two days'
indiscretion?"

"Yes; there is no escape but one. I am determined."

"And so am I," said Emma, wearily. "It is time to go, is it not? Are
you going to persist in your mad refusal of your share of the
property?"

"Let him give it me then. I will never ask him for it," replied Erne.

"What insanity!" she repeated. "When Mr. Compton tells you that your
share of the personal property would be nearly enough to keep you in
England."

"I will never ask for it."

"You mean that you will follow me, and bring yourself to my level."

By this time Gerty had fully satisfied herself that she was
eavesdropping, and, hearing her husband's name mentioned, felt it high
time to say, "Ahem!" Whereupon the couple in the window turned; and
Erne and she recognized one another, and, Erne running to her, she
fairly threw her arms round his neck, and hugged him.

"My dear Erne, to find you here! You never did, you know. And your
pretty sweetheart, too; you must give me a kiss, dear Emma! do you
remember the day I nearly fainted in church, and you put your arm
round me? My dear, you are the very person I wanted. Sir George sent
me here to say that he is willing to provide handsomely for Reuben, if
you won't be offended at his staying behind. Reuben wants your father
to have it explained to him that he is not ungrateful, but the
contrary. You'll undertake to square matters, won't you? What were you
and Erne quarrelling about just now? I want you to tell me; because,
in return for your making the peace between Reuben and your father, I
will set matters all right between Erne and you. Come, now, tell me?"

Erne said that it was only an outbreak of violence on Emma's part.

"Oh! that is nothing. George is like that sometimes. Are you two
married?"

Erne said "No. Not yet."

"If I was in your place, I should send down to the township for the
parson, and get tied up right away. That will be the real peppermint,
you'll find; because, you see, dear, now that your father and all your
brothers and sisters are gone, you'll find it lonely."

"I am going with them, ma'am," said poor Emma.

"Oh dear! I hope you have not broken with Erne. My sweetest girl, he
loves the ground you walk on. Oh my good gracious goodness me! why, he
never used to talk to one about anything else. I never was so sorry;
I'd sooner that the garden was a-fire; I'd sooner that all the sheep
were adrift in the Mallee; I'd sooner that the Honeysuckle dam was
mopped up as dry as Sturt Street; I'd sooner--"

"Gerty, dear," said Erne, arresting her in her Homeric catalogue of
the evils which come on those who have fallen under the anger of the
gods (in Australia), and taking her aside, "Nothing is broken off. I
am going to Cooksland too."

Gerty, having been suddenly shunted off one line of rails, while at
full speed, and being very much astonished, put on all her breaks and
stopped; which gave Erne time to go on.

"My dearest sister, you can be of most inestimable service to us. I
could not get at you (you know why, dear), and it seems a special
Providence, my having met you here. What I want done is this: go home
and write letters to your sister and brother-in-law, introducing me
and the Burtons. Say all that you can about us. Do the best you can,
and send these letters to this address. Above all, dear Gerty, do
this. Now, I am very much in earnest, dear, and I am sure you will do
as I ask you. Tell George every particular about this interview, and
what I have asked you to do, before you put pen to paper. Will you
promise me this?"

Yes, she would promise it, if need were; but, didn't Erne think, that
under the circumstances, eh? And James could do so much for them, too.
And if George were to forbid her to write?

Erne said, "He will give you leave, Gerty. I'll bet you a pair of
gloves he does. George is justly and righteously angry with me just
now, but he'll forgive me some day: when I am worthy of his
forgiveness. When I have made my fortune, Gerty, I will come and kneel
at his feet. He would suspect me now I am poor. Now, good-bye."

Those three came out of the old house into the summer sunshine, and
Emma came last, and then turned and locked the door. Thomas Cromwell,
Earl of Essex, son of the blacksmith at Putney, first opened that
hospitable old door, and now Emma Burton, daughter of the blacksmith
at Chelsea, locked it up forever.

When mighty America was only a small irregular line on the chart of
the world, that pile of brick and stone was built up; and we, poor
worms of a day, have seen it stand there, and have weaved a child's
fancies about it. I, who write, remember well that, on my return home,
after a long residence in the most fire-new of all sucking empires,
constructed with the highest improvements,--gas, universal suffrage,
telegraphs, religious toleration, and all,--it was a great wonder to
me, living in a house which had actually been built nearly sixty
years. I remember that, at first, the date of every building I saw,
and the reflections as to what had happened since that building was
put up, had an intense interest for me. A Londoner passes Westminster
Abbey every day in the week, and it is Westminster Abbey to him, and
there is a cab-stand at the corner: but, if you want to know what
veneration for antiquity means, you must go to an American or to an
Australian to find out: you must follow Mr. and Mrs. Nalder, through
Westminster Abbey,--taking care they don't see you, or they will
immediately vilipend the whole affair, for the honor of old Chicago.

So Emma, preparing for her flight from the country of impertinent
sparrows, to the country of still more impertinent parrakeets, locked
the door, and ended the history of Church Place as a home. Hereafter,
during the short space that the old house stood, no lover lingered
about the door in the summer twilight, for the chance of one more
sweet whisper; no children played about the door-step, or sent the
echoes of their voices ringing through the lofty rooms; no blushing,
fluttering bride passed in to her happiness; and no coffin was ever
carried forth, save one.



Chapter XLIV. James Burton's Story: Our Voyage, with a Long
              Description of Some Queer Fish that we Saw



I KNOW that my love for Erne Hillyar was, at first, only one of those
boy-friendships which I suppose all boys have had; which after a time
fade away, and then flow strong again for another object; or, if there
be no new object, simply wear out into a kind of half-jealous regret.
"He don't care for me as he used," you say mournfully; no, but how
much do you care for him, my good friend? Would you go into the next
street to meet him, if it would prevent your going ten miles to get
ten minutes with Mary? I think not. These boy passions die out to a
certain limit, and to a certain limit only; for there is always a
tenderness left for the old boy after all. Tom must always have
reserved for him the inestimable and delicious privilege of being
bored to death with the catalogue of Mary's perfections, until he
mentally howls at the mention of that dear creature's name; and Tom
must be your best man at the wedding, if procurable, because the
renewal of the old tendresse on that particular occasion is something
sentimentally good and graceful, even if it is the finish and end of
the whole business,--for which result there is no possible reason.

But my friendship for Erne was not of this kind altogether, for it
grew and developed. Martha never came between him and me for a moment.
I fell in love with Martha,--well, principally, I believe, because I
fell in love with her. Come, sir, what made you fall in love with your
wife? Don't know. No more do I know why I fell in love with my wife,
unless it was her spraining her ankle on the slide by Clerkenwell
Prison, and having no one to take her home. But, having once fallen in
love with her, I began to find out, by degrees, what a noble,
excellent little body she was; and so my love for her grew and grew,
and I would not like to swear (though I should not like her to know
it) that it has reached its full development yet. And yet, the more I
loved Martha, the more my friendship for Erne became part of myself.
For, having inherited from my mother the trick of living, save on
special emergencies, in the future, or in the past, or anywhere but in
the present, I had gradually built up for myself a palace of fancy,
quite as beautiful as you could expect from a mere blacksmith's lad,
in which palace Martha and I were to live forever in comfort by the
products of my trade, and in which also Erne and Emma were to take up
their abode with us, and live on,--say manna or quails: details are
contemptible. I fancy, if my recollection serves me, that part of the
scheme was that Martha and I were to have four children, two boys and
two girls, exceedingly beautiful and good; and that, when we had
arrived at this point, we were to stop,--which we have n't. I think
also, at one time, after having seen a certain picture, that I
intended to have another and a fifth child, who was to die beautifully
in infancy, and to do something absolutely tremendous, in a
sentimental point of view, on its death-bed. I don't know how long
this last fancy,--thank God, only a fancy,--endured; but I do know
that this dear martyr was the only one of my five children for whom I
sketched out any future whatever. The other four were to remain
children, ranging in age from two years to seven, until Martha and I,
gray-headed in the character of Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, were borne
together (having died the same day,--a matter of detail easily
arranged on a future opportunity) into the church-yard of the late
ingenious Mr. Gray's "Elegy," followed by a sorrowing population.

Erne and Emma had become so necessary a part of this day-dream, and
this day-dream moreover had become such a very necessary part of
myself, that I was more distressed than you can well conceive at the
estrangement between them. The more so, because I did not for one
moment share Erne's hope of any alteration taking place in Emma's
resolution. Whether I judged on this matter from reason or from
instinct I hardly know; whichever it was, my conclusion was the same.
I had a profound faith in a certain quiet determination which I saw
now in Emma's face, and which in my moments of irritation,--an
irritation, however, which I never outwardly showed,--I called
obstinacy.

I had my sanguine moods, however. There was a gentle, tender, and yet
unobtrusive assiduity about Erne's attentions to her, which gave me
great hopes. No woman, I thought, could resist that sort of thing
long, particularly a woman who loved him as she loved him. Alas!
though I knew it not, it was her very love for him which gave her the
strength to resist him. When my mother told me what she had said, "He
must rise, and I should only drag him down," I lost hope again. That
motive, superadded to her devotion to poor Joe, made my day-dream fade
away once more.

Now, being in a certain line of business myself, I made the
remarkable discovery, which has been confirmed by later experience on
my own part, and by comparison of notes with eminent travellers from
all quarters of the globe, that there is no such a place for courting
as aboard ship. Even suppose that the ship completed her voyage on a
perfectly even keel, without any motion whatever,--even in that
extreme case you would have the great advantage of constant
intercourse. But then she don't; but, on the contrary, rolls, dives,
and leaps like a mad thing, three quarters of her time, and by this
means actually, as well as metaphorically, so throws young people
together,--gives rise to such a necessity for small attentions,--that
it's wonder to me sometimes,--when in one of my mother's moods, why,
on the arrival of the ship into port, all the unmarried couples on
board don't pair off, and go straight off to church to get married.*

One day of one long voyage comes before me particularly clearly. And
yet, as I write, I cannot say that all the little circumstances which
I tell took place on that day or on several; for at sea Time is
naught, but his mechanical and earthly eidola, latitude and longitude,
take his place. I can't tell you in what month this day (or these
days, it may be) fell; but it was in the trades, though whether N. E.
or S. E. I cannot at this period undertake to remember. Yes, it was in
the trades.

For all space was filled with a divine gray-blue effulgence, which
has, to my wandering fancy, always seemed to be the trade-wind
itself,--the only visible wind I know of. It was not too hot nor too
cold, nor too bright nor too dull; and the ship was going fast, and
heeling over enough to make everything you leant against more pleasant
than a rocking-chair,--going with a gentle heaving motion, for which
it would be absurd to hunt up a simile, because there is nothing so
wonderfully delightful wherewith to compare it. There were clouds,
slow sailing clouds, but they were of frosted silver; and there was
open sky, but of the very faintest blue, save immediately overhead,
where the delicate needle of a top-gallant mast swept across it in a
shortened are, and where it was a faint purple. There were sounds,--
one a gentle universal rush, that of the wind itself, filling space;
and others, supplementary voices, the low gentle lapping of the waves
upon the ship's side, and the sleepy gurgling and hissing of many
eddies around her. All things seemed going one way with some settled
kindly purpose. The clouds seemed to be leading the wind, and the wind
to be steadily following the clouds, while the purple waves, a joyous
busy crowd, seemed to be hurrying on after both of them, to some
unknown trysting-place. Yes, I know we were in the trades.*

Martha was sitting on the top of some spare spars under the lee
bulwark, and I was sitting beside her, but on a lower level, and a
little more forward, so that I had to lean backwards whenever I wanted
to look in her face. And this was a very nice arrangement, because I
generally found that she was looking at me, and I caught the soft,
quiet gaze of her deep calm love, before it broke into the gentle
smile that,--Hallo here, hallo! this will never do. I mean that it was
a very good place to sit in, because it was in the shade under one of
the boats, and we could quietly watch every one else, and make our
comments upon them. No one ever took the trouble to watch us. Every
one knew that we were keeping company. We were rather favorites in the
ship from being a quiet pair of bodies, but were otherwise
uninteresting.

By the mainmast was my father, in close confabulation with "Damper."
Now, although "Damper" is only a nickname, and a rather low one, yet
you are not to suppose that the gentleman who owns it is at all a low
person. He, as he stands there against the mainmast, with his square
brown face and grizzled hair, against my father's square brown face
and grizzled hair, is a most resplendent and magnificent gentleman.
His clothes are the richest and best-made that London can give him;
the watch and chain he wears in and over his white waistcoat cost more
than a hundred guineas; he has been five-and-twenty years in
Australia, and is worth very nearly half a million of money; his style
and titles before the world are the Honorable Elijah Dawson, M. L. C.,
of no less than seven places, colonial estates of his, with names
apparently made up by a committee of all the lunatics in Bedlam at
full moon. Yet this man is disrespectfully called "Damper," (which is
a low colonialism, a common name for a working bullock,) behind his
back, by the whole ship's company; and I,--I, the blacksmith's lad,--
have that man under my thumb and in my power to that extent that,
whenever I take the liberty of being in company with him, he addresses
the principal part of the conversation deferentially to me. I don't
know that I ever should have the heart to denounce the low-lived
villain; but it is pleasant to hold a man who wears a hundred-guinea
watch, as it were, in the hollow of your hand.

The truth is that I found this low fellow out quite accidentally. One
day, going on board the ship when she was in the docks, I, who had
already heard what a great man he was, was struck not only with his
magnificent appearance, but also with the practical knowledge he
showed, connected with some rather delicate machinery, a small case of
which had been broken open by careless men. I was surprised to hear
him tell his servant carefully to lubricate the articles with Rangoon
oil before they were repacked, to keep the salt air from them; and
there was something grand and strange in finding that so splendid a
person could be up in such details as these, or should take the
trouble to attend to them. But, half an hour after, I found the low-
lived impostor out. Going into a blacksmith's forge in the Commercial
Road, there I found him. His coat and waistcoat were off; his hundred-
guinea watch was laid on the bench among the tools; his head was bare;
his shirt-sleeves were turned up to his elbows; and he was engaged in
welding two pieces of iron together, one of the smiths assisting him,
with a rapidity and dexterity in the use of his hammer which proved at
once the disgraceful fact. This legislator, this responsible adviser
of his sovereign's representative, this millionnaire aristocrat, this
fellow who only the week before had disported himself in the presence
of royalty at St. James's with breeches and silk stockings on his
impostor's legs and silver buckles in his low-lived shoes,--this man
was not only a blacksmith, but an uncommon good one.

I don't think I ever felt so proud of the old British empire before.
I wished the Queen could have seen him, and I dare say she would have
been as pleased as I was. But the Honorable Elijah Dawson did not see
it in this light at all. Every one who had ever heard his name, from
her Majesty downwards, knew that this great Australian millionnaire
had been a blacksmith, and he knew they knew it; it was the crowning
point of his honor; and yet the honest fellow was most amusingly
ashamed of it. When I found him in the shop, he put on his coat and
waistcoat, and took me by the arm, pushing me before him into a
neighboring public-house. He then made me swallow a glass of strong
waters before he said anything.

"I see you aboard the ship to-day."

"Yes, sir."

"You're a smith yourself, ar'n't you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Don't say nothing about what you see me doing on. I'm a friend of
yours. Don't say nothing of it aboard ship. There's Pollifex and
Morton aboard, and I should never hear the last on it. It was that
Morton as christened me 'Damper'; and see how that's stuck. Hold your
tongue, my boy, and I'm a friend of yours, remember."

And so he was, a most generous and kind one. We had hardly got to sea
before he found my father out. The two men, so much of an age, and so
much alike, conceived a strong liking for one another, which, as you
may guess, was of immense benefit to us.

Whom else do Martha and I see, from our lair under the boat? Why,
Pollifex and Morton, of whom our friend, Elijah Dawson, stands so much
in dread. They have come down into the waist to smoke their cigars,
and are leaning against the capstan. Let us, with the assistance of my
brothers Joe and Henry, have a look at these two typical men; it is
really worth the time.

The Honorable Abiram Pollifex,--"Accommodation Pollifex," "Footrot
Pollifex," "Chimpansee Pollifex," as he is indifferently called by his
friends and enemies,--is only a new comer in Cooksland, having
migrated thither from the older and better-known Australian colony of
Endractsland, where, for a considerable number of years, he filled the
post (Harry says that is not good English, but I am head of the
family, and will use what English I choose) of Colonial Secretary. His
great political object, consistently, and somewhat skilfully pursued
through sixteen years, precisely corresponded with that of Sir Robert
Walpole, as described by Mr. Carlyle, "To keep things going, and to
keep himself, Robert Walpole, on the top of them."

I am not sure that the historical parallel between these two great
statesmen need stop at the mere statement of their political motives.
There is a certain similarity in the means they used to attain their
end. They both bribed as hard as they could, and both did as little as
possible in the way of legislation. With regard to bribery, Walpole
was decidedly the greatest man, save in intention; but, with regard to
"laissez aller," Pollifex beat him hollow.

Pollifex,--a long, lean, lanthorn-jawed Devonshire squireen, known
through all the old West country for his bonhommie, his amazing powers
of dry humor, and wonderfully remarkable personal appearance,--assumed
the place of prime minister in Endractsland, somewhere in the dark and
prehistoric ages (say as long ago as 1820), because there didn't
happen to be any one else. He was one of the best secretaries they
ever had. To say that he governed the colony wisely and well would be
to talk nonsense, because he never governed it at all, but showed his
great shrewdness in letting it develop itself. When he took the reins,
the landscape was still lit up with the lurid glare of the convict
hell, from the dark night of which the little community had barely
emerged. When he dropped them, the tide of free emigration had set
strongly in; and he himself saw that the dawn had begun, and that the
time of free institutions was at hand,--that, with some restrictions,
a rather liberal suffrage could be conceded to the new non--convict
emigrants who had poured in in such numbers, and to such of the
convicts as had so far practically shown their reformation as to have
homesteads of 180 acres. Then the old Tory took himself quietly out of
the gap, and let the waters run in. He had no objection to looking on,
and seeing it done, but he would have no hand in it. He, at all events
was no Tory who would bid for power by bringing in a measure of
Reform.

I have said that he did nothing; and in a legislative point of view
he had done nothing; and yet he had done that same nothing in such a
wonderfully shrewd and dexterous way that in the end it amounted to a
very great something. No less than five governors,--all of them good
gentlemen, but each and all of them absolutely ignorant of the temper
of the colonists and the wants of the colony,--had been sent over to
him; and he, by his tact, had prevented every one of these new brooms
from sweeping too clean, until they saw where to sweep: nay, very
often succeeded in persuading them not to sweep at all, but to let the
dust be blown away by the free winds of heaven; and this was
something. Again, his own wealth had grown enormously, as wealth will
grow in Australia; his sheep and cattle multiplied under his
superintendents; and so his interests got identified with the
squatters. Thus he had the power, as one of the greatest of them, to
stand between them and the doctrinaires and retired military officers
who were in those times sent out as governors. He bribed shamefully in
the creation of places for the sons of turbulent colonists; but he
always kept a clear balance-sheet; and, as for as his own hands, they
were as clean as snow; he was a poorer man by many thousands from his
long retention of office. A man of higher aspirations, and less
practical shrewdness, would not have done the work half so well. On
the emergence of the colony from the Sodom-and-Gomorrah state of
things incidental on a convict community, into such a noble kingdom as
Endractsland now is, there is a certain amount of dirty work which
some one must do. James Oxton found a virgin soil, and brought over a
free population. His work was as clean as his own shirt-front, and he
did it well. Abiram Pollifex found Bedlam and Newgate boiling up
together, and had to watch the pot. All honor to him that he did the
dirty work as cleanly as he did.

Now let us take a glance at the handsome brown-faced, gentlemanly
looking dandy, with a carefully trimmed mustache, who stands beside
him. He is a very different sort of person; infinitely more of a
"representative" man than Chimpansee Pollifex, from the simple fact
that he is by no means an uncommon article,--nay, more, is one of the
commonest articles going,--though developed, as far as he is capable
of development, by exceptional circumstances; a young English
gentleman of good family, with a public-school education. When we were
over in England for the Exhibition of 1862, we hired a carriage and
went for a drive in the park; and there, if we saw one Charles Morton,
we saw five hundred. Charles Mortons were standing against the rails
in long rows like penguins,--each one most wonderfully like the other;
all cast nearly in the same mould by Nature, and, if not, every
trifling peculiarity of outward look polished away by inexorable
custom; all dressed alike, with their beards and mustaches so exactly
in the same pattern that it became ludicrous; men whom those who don't
know them sneer at as mere flaneurs, but whose suppressed volcanic
energy shows itself, to those who care to observe, in that singularly
insane and dangerous amusement, fox-hunting,--all men with whom
falsehood, cowardice and dishonor, are simply nameless
impossibilities. We know them better than we did, since the darkening
hours of Sebastopol and Delhi, and it was only their own faults that
such as I did not know them better before. The halo of glory which was
thrown round the heads of these dandies, by their magnificent valor
from 1854 to 1859, has done the body of them an infinite deal of harm.
We can trust you, and will follow you in war, gentlemen; but in peace,
cannot you manage to amalgamate a little more with the middle and
lower classes? Are the old class-distinctions to go on forever, and
leave you dandies, the very men we are ready to take by the hand and
make friends of, in a minority, as regards the whole nation, of 99 to
1? Can't we see a little more of you, gentlemen, just at this time,
when there is no great political difficulty between your class and
ours; if it were only for the reason that no one out of Bedlam
supposes that things are always to go on with the same oily smoothness
as they are doing just now. I think we understand you, gentlemen. I
wish you would take your gloves off sometimes. You have been more
courteous to us since the Reform Bill; but certain ill-conditioned
blackguards among us say that it is only the courtesy which is
engendered of fear, and but ill replaces the old condescending
bonhommie which we shared with your pointers and your grooms. Douglas
Jerrold is dead, and buried at Kensal Green; and there happens to be
no one alive at present who is able or cares to overstate the case of
the poor against the rich with quite so much cleverness as he. But at
any dark hour another man of similar abilities might come forth and
make terrible mischief between us again. You can be earnest and hearty
enough about anything of which you see the necessity. Can no one
persuade you that the most necessary thing just now is an amalgamation
of classes? You could never get together a Jeunesse Dorée without our
assistance, and yet you treat us like sans-culottes.

Charles Morton was at Eton, and, while there, I do not doubt
displayed the qualities hereditary in his family,--truth, honor, and
manliness. Another quality, also hereditary in his family, he got but
scant opportunity of displaying at Eton,--I allude to the
accomplishment of horsemanship; but, when he got to St. Paul's
College, Oxford, he made up for lost time. From this time forward he
seemed to forget that he had any legs. Boating, cricket, football,
everything was neglected utterly. He got on horseback and stayed
there; and henceforth the history of the man's life is the history of
his horses.

Hunting at Oxford, as I gather from the highest attainable authority,
costs just five pounds a day if you send on; and you can hunt five
days a week. By a rough calculation, then, Charley must have spent
near five hundred pounds in the hunting season. Besides this, he liked
to be dressed like a gentleman. Besides this, again, he was fond of
seeing his friends, and his friends were rather a fast and noisy lot,
as Greatbatch's bill clearly proved. "Why, Charley, my boy," said his
father, "you seem not only to have drunk the punch, but to have
swallowed the bowls afterwards." All of which would certainly cost
four hundred a year more. Thus we have brought Charley up to nine
hundred a year, without mentioning any other items of extravagance;
whereas his allowance was strictly limited to 350l. It became
necessary for Master Charley to leave the University.

The governor had just had in a few little bills from Charley's elder
brother Jim, in the 140th Dragoons; and so he had heard enough of the
army just then. Law and physic were denied to Charley from incapacity
and idleness; and, as there did not seem to be any reasonable hope of
fitting Charley, with his habits, for a cure of souls at a less
expense than some five thousand pounds, it was considered that, taking
risks into consideration, the Church would barely pay the interest on
the money. Therefore there was nothing to do but for him to go to
Australia.

The discovery of that vast continent which we call Australia is an
important era in the history of the world. For it opened, in the first
place, a career for young gentlemen possessed of every virtue, save
those of continence, sobriety, and industry, who didn't choose to walk
and couldn't afford to ride; and, viewed from this point, its
discovery ranks next in importance after the invention of soda-
water,--a sort of way of escaping cheaply from the consequences of
debauchery for a time. But not only did the new country turn out to be
the most wonderfully seentless cesspool for a vast quantity of
nameless rubbish, convicted and unconvicted; but it gave an opening
also for really honest, upright fellows like Charles Morton, with no
more faults than the best of us, except the very great one of being
educated in such a way that no possible career is open to them. What
is a fellow to do if his father chooses to play his game of whist with
fourteen cards, and if he happens to be the fourteenth?

The very qualities which made Charles a most expensive and useless,
though highly ornamental, piece of furniture at home, caused him to be
a most useful and valuable commercial partner among the Bucolic,
almost in those times Nomadic, aristocracy of the new land. The same
spirit that took Charley's Norman ancestors to Jerusalem took Charley
to the Conamine. Charles Morton is our very greatest pioneer. Neither
Gil Maclean (brother of Colonel Maclean,--"Red" Maclean, as he is
generally called) nor Corny Kelly, the most popular man in the colony
with men and women, can compare with Charley as a pioneer. The two
Celts are as brave as he, but they both fail in the point of temper.
Both the Highlander and the Irishman are too hot with the blacks, and
embroil themselves with them. Charles Morton has Charles Sturt's
beautiful patient temper. Like him, he can walk quietly among the
wretched savages, and, with fifty spears aimed quivering at his heart,
and ready to fly at any moment, can sit quietly down and begin to
laugh, and laugh on until they begin to laugh too. His two noble
friends, Maclean and Kelly, can't do this. Their Celt blood is too
pure: in convivial moments they chaff Charley with having a cross of
Saxon in him; and, if they knew the truth, they would hug themselves
on their sagacity.

These qualities of Charles Morton have been so highly appreciated
that he is at this moment the most important partner in the "Northwest
Company"; of which company, consisting of eight wealthy men, James
Oxton is the most active manager. Charles Morton, married, as we know
from former passages of this book, Lady Hillyar's elder sister, and so
is James Oxton's brother-in-law. I suppose that, as this thriftless
horse-riding dandy stands there on the deck, talking to Abiram
Pollifex, he is worth from fifty to sixty thousand pounds.

There sits my mother on the deck, too, with the children lying about
on her skirts, or propping themselves up against her, as if she were a
piece of furniture. My mother's mind has returned to its old peaceful
lethargic state once more. On the occasion of Fred's casting himself
down the skylight on to the top of the second-cabin dinner-table, she
remarked that it was cheering to know that all the houses in Australia
were of one story, and that the great trouble of her life would soon
be over. And, taking care of poor Joe, who is very ailing and weak,
low in mind and body, and needs all her care (and will need more of it
yet, I see, with a falling countenance), there sits Emma in the
sunshine working, and Erne has just come and leant over her, and is
speaking to her. I wonder what he is saying. Some commonplace; for she
only smiles, and then goes wearily on with her work.

Such were the new acquaintances with whom we began our new life in
the new land. How long we have gossiped about them, these odd people
and their histories! so long, that we have been four months on the
restless sea, and now there is a different scent in the air. Ha! here
is the first messenger from the shore. A fly,--a blue-bottle fly; for
he buzzes, and is difficult to catch, and bangs his idiotic head
against the glass; in all respects a blue-bottle, save, oh wonderful
fact! that he is brown. Yes, he is the first instance of those
parallel types, reproduced in different colors, and with trifling
differences,--so small as to barely constitute a fresh species,--and
the origin of which is such a deep deep wonder and mystery to me to
this day. Tell me, O Darwin, shall we know on this side of the grave
why or how the Adiantum Nigrum and Asplenium capillis Veneris, have
reproduced themselves, or, to be more correct, have produced ghosts
and fetches of themselves at the antipodes? I have seen icebergs and
cyclones, and many things; but I never was so lost in puzzled wonder
as I was that afternoon when I found Asplenium viride growing in
abundance on the volcanic boulders, at the foot of Mirngish. It was
Sunday afternoon, and I went home and thought about it, and I am
thinking about it still.*

But see; a new morn arises, and flushes a crimson and purple light,
in long streamers, aloft to the zenith; and we are sailing slowly
along under high-piled forest capes, more strange, more majestic, and
more infinitely melancholy than anything we have seen in our strangest
dreams. What is this awful, dim, mysterious land, so solemn and so
desolate? This is Australia. * I beg to call the Hon. J. Burton's
attention to the fact that they almost always do.  * Mr. Henry Burton
begs to state that the whole of the above paragraph is copied verbatim
from his log-book. The passage as it stands may be found at p-58 of
his "Miscellanies in Verse and Prose." Bleet. Palmerston: 1858.  *
Australian Asplenium Viride cannot be distinguished; no more can
Australian Woodsia Hyperborea.



Chapter XLV. Gerty in Society



THOSE whom one has asked say that it is easy enough for any one with
either brains, or money, or manners, to see a great deal of society in
London,--to be, in fact, in the room with the very greatest people in
the land, to be presented to them, and speak to them,--and yet not to
be in society at all, in one sense of the word. If this is so, as
there is no disputing, we should say that, if ever people were in this
predicament, those two people were George and Gerty. The season after
his father's death, George went to London, refurnished the house in
Grosvenor Square, filled the balconies with flowers, had new
carriages, horses, and servants, made every preparation for spending
double his income, and then sat down to wait for society to come and
be hospitably entertained with the best of everything which money
could buy.

Society had quite enough to eat and drink elsewhere. It wanted to
know first who this Sir George Hillyar was,--which was easily found
out from the Tory whip, and from Burke. Next it wanted to know who his
wife was; and it discovered that she was a mulatto woman (alas, poor
Gerty!), or something of that kind. And, lastly, there was a most
general and persistent inquiry whether you did not remember some very
queer story about this Sir George Hillyar; and the answer to this was,
among the oldsters, that there was something deused queer, and that no
one seemed to remember the fact.

But, of course, they were by no means without acquaintances. Old Sir
George had been too highly respected for that, though he had utterly
withdrawn himself from the world. So by degrees they began to creep
into society. The world found that George was a gentleman, with a
scornful, silent, proud, and somewhat pirate-like air about him, which
was decidedly attractive. As for Gerty, the world stood and gazed on
her with speechless wonder. After Easter, to hear this wonderful Lady
Hillyar talk was one of the things one must do. Her wonderful
incomprehensible babble was so utterly puzzling that the very boldest
wits were afraid to draw her out for the amusement of any company,
however select. No one knew whether she was in earnest or not, and her
slang was such a very strange one. Besides, what she would say next
was a thing which no one dared to predict, and was too great a risk to
be rashly ventured on, even by the very boldest. A few women made her
out and began to like her; and her wonderful beauty could not have
failed to win many in the long-run; still, during their first and last
season in London, this was the sort of thing which used to be heard in
doorways, and on the landings of stairs:--

"That's a devilish pretty little woman in white."

"What, Lady Georgina Rumbold?"

"Lord, no. The little woman in white calico, next but one to her. The
woman who is all over Cape jessamine. Is she going to dance with the
sweeps? Who is she?"

"That? That is Lady Hillyar," says No. 2.

"What, the little woman who swears?"

"She don't swear," says No. 2. "I wish she would; there would be some
chance of finding out what she was talking about."

"I heard that she was a mulatto woman," says No. 1, "and swore like a
trooper."

"She is not a mulatto woman," says No. 3. "She is a French creole
heiress from New Orleans. Her husband is the original of Roland
Cashel, in Lever's last novel. He married her out there, while he was
in the slave--trade; and now his governor's dead, and he has come into
twenty thousand a year."

"You are not quite right, any of you," says No. 4, who has just come
up. "In the first place, Sir George Hillyar's income is not, to my
certain knowledge, more than three thousand,--the bulk of the property
having been left to his brother Erne, who is living at Susa with Polly
Burton, the rope-dancer from Vauxhall. And, in the next place, when he
had to fly the country, he went to Botany Bay, and there married the
pretty little doll of a thing sitting there at this moment, the
daughter of a convict, who had been transported for--

"For ratting before his master, I suppose, my lord," said Sir George
Hillyar, just looking over his shoulder at the unhappy Peelite, and
then passing quietly on into the crowd.

But, in spite of George's almost insolent insouciance, and Gerty's
amazing volubility in describing her equally amazing experiences, this
couple, queer though they were pronounced, were getting on. Kind old
Lady Ascot fell in love with Gerty, and asked her and her husband to
Ranford. The Dowager Lady Hainault, seeing that her old enemy had
taken up this little idiot, came across to see if she could get a
"rise" out of Gerty. Gerty rewarded Lady Ascot's kindness by telling
old Lady Hainault, before a select audience, that she did n't care a
hang for a hand's going on the burst for a spell, provided he war n't
saucy in his drink. Her hopeless silliness, now that she was removed
from the influence of those two thoroughbred ladies, Mrs. Oxton and
Mrs. Morton, was certainly very aggravating. It was foolish in Mrs.
Oxton to trust her out of her sight.

Things went on thus for no less than two years. Gerty, having no idea
but that she was as much songht after as any one else, and that she
was so on account of her social qualities actively, was perfectly
contented and happy. She found out, of course, that certain houses
were more difficult to get into than others; so, if she was asked to a
party at Cheshire House, she would be ravished, and write a long
account of it to James and Aggy, and would read this, with the
greatest delight, in the Palmerston Sentinel, six months after it was
sent to her by her sister:--"We understand that our late reigning
beauty, Lady Hillyar, who, as Miss Gertrude Neville, astonished our
colony by showing us that there was one being in the world more
beautiful than Mrs. Buckley of Garoopna, has fluttered the dovecotes
of the British aristocracy most considerably, by her début at Cheshire
House. It is possible that, if anything can bring the present
Government to its senses about their hellish design of continuing
transportation to these unhappy islands, that purpose may be
accomplished by the contemplation of, &c., &c., &c." On the other
hand, if she was not asked, she would console herself by telling Baby
that the Duchess was a nasty odious old thing, and that her wig was
the color of tussac grass in January. Sometimes she would have a
yearning for her old Australian home, which would hold her for a day
or two,--during which time she would be very low and tearful, and
would keep out of George's way. But, after having poured all her
sorrows and vain regrets into Baby's ear, she would become cheerful
once more, and the fit would pass off. What she would have done
without this precious baby to talk to I dread to think. Her mind would
have gone, I suspect. She is not the first woman who has been saved
from madness by a baby.

By the time that Baby, just now called Kittlekins, short for its
real name, George (George,--Georgy-porgy,--Porgy,--Poggy,--Pug,--
Pussy; Kitty Kittles,--Kittlekins; by what process of derivation his
later and more permanent name of Bumbles was evolved, I confess myself
at a loss to explain), just when Bumbles was getting old enough to
join in the conversation, and to advise and assist his mother from his
large experience, something occurred which altered their mode of life
entirely, and quite shipwrecked poor little Gerty's chance of
happiness for a very long while.

Mr. Nalder accepted a rather important diplomatic appointment in the
American Embassy in London. As the revenues of this office, with
economy, would very nearly pay for Mrs. Nalder's bonnets,* Nalder
determined to devote a considerable proportion of his handsome private
income to what he called "hanging out," and took a house in Grosvenor
Place, two doors from the George Hillyars. They were, of course,
received everywhere in virtue of their diplomatic rank, and people
began to get very fond of them, as such worthy people deserved.
Meanwhile their intimacy with the George Hillyars was renewed with
tenfold warmth. Mrs. Nalder thought, from their parting two years or
more ago, that all was forgotten and forgiven between them, and so
treated them both with affectionate empressement. Gerty, the silly
little thing, began to get jealous of Mrs. Nalder once more, and to
watch and spy about.

Of course, she would not believe that George had anything to do with
it. He behaved nobly, according to Gerty; it was that dreadful and
most dangerous woman who would not leave him alone. And so she made up
the old old jealous woman's story over again, in a way which,
considering it had not the slighest foundation in fact, did her
infinite credit.

In the midst of it all, when her suspicions were at their highest,
they went down for a few days to Stanlake, and the Nalders came with
them. Gerty, to throw Mrs. Nalder off her guard, was excessively gay
and cheerful; so the visit went off capitally. But, the morning that
the Nalders were to leave, George, having opened one of his letters at
the breakfast-table, asked to be excused, and hurriedly left the room.
He just reappeared to see the Nalders into their carriage, and then he
looked so wan, and so wild, and so horribly guilty, that Gerty saw it
all. That woman had proposed to him in that letter to go off with her!

Her silliness would have been hardly worth dwelling on, if it had
not led to a certain course of action. She said to herself, "I will
save him. I will get that letter from him and read it, and then tell
him I know all, and throw myself on his breast." We shall see how she
succeeded.

George was very often very late up to bed; to-night he was later
than usual. "Could he be gone?" thought Gerty. She hastily rose, and,
wrapping herself in her dressing-gown, she went swiftly and silently
down stairs. Though her beautiful little ivory feet were bare upon the
cold polished oak staircase, she heeded not, but, passing on from
patch to patch of bright moonlight, paused breathless at the library
door, and listened.

The little woman wanted neither for cunning of a sort, nor for
courage of a sort. A girl, whose first lesson was that her life and
honor were in her own keeping, and that on occasions it might become
necessary for her to shoot a man down with no more hesitation than
would be felt in killing a beetle, might be supposed to have imbibed
some small portion of these faculties. She therefore calculated her
chances quite coolly.

George was there, talking to himself. If his back were towards her,
the noise he made might enable her to open the door without being
heard. If he saw her, why then she had merely come to coax him up
stairs. She opened the door stealthily and passed in, quite unnoticed.
George was sitting before the escritoire,--the same one in which his
father's will had been kept. He had a revolver beside him, and was
reading a letter,--a very long letter of many sheets,--the letter of
that morning,--and every now and then uttering a fierce oath or
exclamation.

She slid behind a curtain and watched. She wanted to know where he
would put the letter. She was undetermined how to act, and was
beginning to think whether it would not be better to open the door
suddenly and come laughing in, as if by accident, when, as she stood
barefooted and breathless behind her curtain watching her husband
reading the letter which she believed to be from Mrs. Nalder, her
cunning little eye made a discovery. There was one drawer of the
secretary open,--one of the secret drawers, which she had seen open
frequently, and knew the trick of perfectly, as did probably every one
who had once looked at it for an instant. It seemed so evident to her
that George had taken Mrs. Nalder's letter from that drawer, and so
certain that he would put it back there again, that she was quite
satisfied to wait no longer, and so stole silently and successfully
out of the room once more; and, when George came up to bed soon after,
she appeared to awake with a sweet smile. "Good heavens!" she said to
herself, "he looks like death."

And he locked like death in the morning. He was so absolutely silent
that he seemed to be possessed of a dumb devil, and he looked utterly
scared and terrified. She heard him give orders to the pad groom,
which showed that he was going out, but would be home to lunch. She
asked him where he was going, and he simply answered, "To Croydon."

His horse's feet were barely silent in the yard, when she was at the
old secretary. The drawer was opened, and the letter was in her hand
before George was out of the park. At the first glance at it, she saw
that it was not from Mrs. Nalder, or from any woman, but was written
in a man's hand. When she saw this, her conscience pricked her for one
moment. It was not a secret in her department. She had a right to open
a woman's letter to her husband, but she had no right here. Curiosity
prevailed, and she sat down and read the letter we give in the next
chapter. It is hard to say how much she understood of it, but quite
enough to make her hastily replace it in the drawer; to stand for an
instant stupefied with horror, and then to rush wildly up stairs,
seize baby to her bosom, and turn round, her eyes gleaming with the
ferocity of sheer terror, at bay against the enemy. * I wish the
Americans would teach us the secret of getting the men they do for the
money they give.



Chapter XLVI. The letter, Which was not From Mrs. Nalder



"SIR,--I am about to write to you the longest letter which I have
ever written in my life, and, I make bold to say, one of the strangest
letters ever written by one man to another.

"Sir George, you will find me, in this letter, assuming an indignant
and injured tone; and at first you will laugh at such an idea,--at the
idea of a man so deeply steeped in crime as I am having any right to
feel injury or injustice; but you will not laugh at the end, Sir
George. If your better feelings don't prevent you doing that, what I
have to tell you will put you into no laughing mood.

"Who ruined me, sir? Who brought me, a silly and impressible young
man, into that hell of infamy, which was called a private tutor's? Was
I ever a greater scoundrel than Mottesfont, who forged his own
father's name; was I ever so great a blackguard as Parkins? No. I
should have been cobbed in the bulks if I had been. Why, the only
honest man in that miserable house when we first went there (save our
two selves) was the poor old idiot of a tutor, who knew no more of the
antecedents of his two pupils than your father did.

"And then did not I see you, the handsome merry young gentleman whom
I followed for good-will and admiration, laughing at them, seeming to
admire them, and thinking them fast fellows, and teaching me to do the
same? Was not I made minister of your vice? And, lastly, Sir George
Hillyar,--I am going to speak out,--when I saw you, the young
gentleman I admired and looked up to, when I saw you,--I can say it
to-day after what I know now,--Forge, can you be the man to cast a
robbery in my teeth? Am I worse than you?"

(Sir George had lit a cigar when he had read so far. "Is that the
little game?" he said. "The man's brain is softening. Why, old Morton,
the keeper, knows all about that. But there is a lot more in reserve;
three or four pages. Now I do wonder how he is going to try and raise
the wind out of me. He is a fool for mentioning that old business,
because it will only make me angry, and he can't appear without being
packed off to the colony in irons for life. Oh, here is more
sentimentality, hey?")

"Knowing all I have known, Sir George, have I ever attempted to trade
on it? Never. Haven't I, rogue, wretch, and dog, as I am, with hell
begun in this world for me,--have n't I been faithful and true to you?
What did I ever have from you before that thirty pounds you gave me in
Palmerston last year? You surely owed me as much as that; you surely
owed Julia's husband as much as that. You received me then like a
villain and a thief. I came to you humbly, and was glad to see your
face again, for your face was dear to me till last night, Sir George.
And you broke out on me, and bullied me, assuming that I was going to
swindle you.

"If it hadn't been for the reception you gave me then I would never
have deceived you, and come to England. I would have stopped at Perth;
for the tale I told you was true; but the wind was fair, and I was
angry with you, and old England was before me, and so I did not go on
shore. What have I done which warrants you in doing what you have done
to me? Sir George Hillyar, sir, a master scoundrel like me knows as
much or more than a leading detective. You know that. Last night, Sir
George, it came to my knowledge that you had offered two hundred
guineas for my apprehension."

("Confound the fellow, I wonder how he found that out," said Sir
George. "How very singular it is his trying to take me in with these
protestations of affection. I thought him shrewder. I must have him
though. I am sorry to a certain extent for the poor devil, but he must
stand in the dock. All that he chooses to say about the past there
will go for nothing; he will be only rebuked by the court. But if he
goes at large he may take to anonymous letter-writing, or something of
that kind. And he really does know too much. That's what Morton, the
keeper, so sensibly said, when he advised me to do it. Yes, let him
say what he has got to say in the dock, in the character of a returned
convict.")

"That is to say, Sir George, in sheer unthinking cowardice, or else
because you wished to stamp all I had to say as the insane charges of
a desperate man, you deliberately condemned me, who had never harmed
you, to a fate infinitely more horrible than death,--to the iron gang
for life; calculating, as I have very little doubt,--for you as a
police inspector know the convict world somewhat--on my suicide. Now
Sir George, who is the greatest villain of us two? Now, have I not got
a case against you?"

(Sir George's face darkened, and he looked uneasy. "This fellow is
getting dangerous. But I shall have him to-night?")

"Now, Sir George, please attend to me, and I will tell you a story,--
a story which will interest you very deeply. I wish first of all, my
dear sir,--in order to quicken your curiosity,--to allude to the set
of sapphires valued at some eight hundred pounds, and the set of
cameos valued at nearly two thousand pounds, which, to Mr. Compton's
great surprise, were NOT found among your late father's effects at his
most lamented demise. Do you remember discovering, while Mr. Compton
and you were arranging papers, in the very front of the old black
secretary, a bundle of pink and highly-scented love-letters, written
in an elegant lady's hand, addressed to your father, and signed
'Mary?' The one, unless I forget, which contained the tress of auburn
hair, was the one in which Mary thanked her dearest old Georgy Poggy
for the beautiful, beautiful set of blue stones; and the one in which
was the sprig of Cape jessamine was full of warm expressions of
gratitude for the noble, the princely present of the cameos. I admire
the respect which you and Mr. Compton showed for the memory of your
late father, in saying nothing about the love-letters, and in letting
the sapphires and cameos go quietly to the devil. A scandalous liaison
in a man of your late father's age is best kept quiet. It is not
respectable."

("How the deuse did he find this out?" said George.)

"Now, my dear sir, I beg to inform you that your dear father was
utterly innocent of this 'affair.' He always was a very clean liver,
was Sir George. I'll speak up for him, because he seems bitterly to
have felt that he hadn't done his duty by me, and was in some sort
answerable for my misdemeanors, in sending me to that den of iniquity
in your company. But about these love-letters; they were written,
under my direction, by a young female of good education, but who,
unhappily, knows pretty near as much of the inside of Newgate as she
does of the outside; they were put in that escritoire by my own hand,
ready for you to find them. And, as for the sapphires and cameos, why
I stole them, sold them, have got the money, and am going into
business with it in Palmerston."

("The deuse you are," said George. "Is he mad? or is there something
coming? I must have some brandy. I am frightened." He drank half a
tumbler of brandy, and then went on with the letter.)

"If you ask me how, I will tell you. Lay down this letter a moment,
take a table-knife, go outside of the pantry window (a latticed one,
as you will remember), and raise the latch with the knife; that will
explain a great deal to you. I resume.

"I came on to England, as you know, and we had to beat up for Rio,
leaky. From thence I wrote by the Tay steamer to my son Reuben,
telling him to look out for me. That noble lad, sir, was as true as
steel. He was living at the top of my cousin's house at Chelsea, and
he took me in at every risk, and was most faithful and dutiful. Use
that boy well, Sir George, and it shall be well with you.

"You know what I got involved in there. I began to see that there
were some in that business far too clumsy for me, and I tried to get
out of it. I thought of Stanlake. I had robbed the house once, and I
meant to do it again. I knew what a terrible lot of property there was
loose in that house. I began getting into that house through the
pantry window; I got in, first and last, eight times.

"I knew enough to know that the black escritoire was my mark, and I
worked at that. I found out your father's trick of sitting up, and
dozing off uneasily, and it was the cause of much danger to me. I have
been in the room with him several times when he was snoring and dozing
in his chair, before I could get a chance at the lock, and then I
failed the first time. The next night I came with other skeleton keys
and got it open. That night I got the sapphires and the cameos, which
I have seen your mother wear often, Sir George; and the next morning,
Reuben being safe at Stanlake, I wrote to the police, and laid them on
to the crib at Church Place, Chelsea."

("Are there two devils," said George, aghast, "or is this the true
and only one.")

"Sir, you may have thought that near three thousand pounds was enough
to content me, but it was not. I wanted the diamonds; the whole affair
(I will not use thieves' Latin to you, sir) was so safe, and there was
such an absolute certainty of impunity about it, that I felt a kind of
triumph, not unmixed with amusement. I came back after the diamonds;
and the night I came back after the diamonds was the very night your
poor dear pa died."

(George was so sick and faint now that the brandy had but little
effect on him, but after a time he went on.)

"That night, sir, I got in as usual with my boots in my pocket. Old
Simpson was fast asleep in a chair in the little drawingroom as usual.
I waited a long while outside the library door, longer than usual,
until I heard Sir George snore; and then, at the very first sound of
it, I passed quickly and safely in.

"He was sleeping very uneasily that night, sometimes snoring, and
sometimes talking. I heard him mention Mr. Erne's name very often, and
once or twice Mr. Erne's mother's name. Then he mentioned your name,
sir, and he said more than once, 'Poor George! Poor dear George!' to
my great surprise, as you may suppose.

"Then I looked at the secretary, and it was open; and on the desk of
it was lying a deed. I stepped up, and saw it was his will. I opened
it, and read it, for it was very short. Eight thousand a year to Mr.
Erne, and Stanlake to you. I had just heard him say, 'Poor dear
George!' in his sleep; and I thought of you sir,--before God I did,
unkind as you had been to me. I said, If I put this in my pocket, he
must make a new one, and then it may be better for 'Poor dear George.'
And, as I thought that, I heard a noise and looked up, and saw that he
had silently awaked, had caught up a sword from the rack over the
fire-place, and was close on me.

"He was very unsteady, and looked very ghastly, but he recognized me
in an instant, and called me by my name. I easily eluded him, and made
swiftly for the door,--he catching up the candle and following me down
the passage, calling out in the most awful voice for Reuben to come
and help him.

"I made for the kitchen, and he after me, quicker than I reckoned on.
The kitchen was so dark that I got confused among the furniture, and
began to get frightened, and think that I had gone too far in my
rashness. Before I could clear out of it, he came reeling in, and saw
me again. He threw his sword at me, and fell heavily down, putting out
the light.

"I was in the pantry, and at the window in one moment. As I got it
open, I knocked down some glasses, and at the same moment heard
Simpson in the kitchen shouting for help.

"I was deeply grieved on hearing next day that your poor pa was found
dead. It is very dreadful to be took off like that in a moment of
anger; called to your last account suddenly in an uncharitable frame
of mind, without one moment given for repentance or prayer. I thank
Heaven that I can lay my hand on my heart at this moment, and say that
I am in peace and charity with all men, and can await my summons hence
calmly, and without anxiety. My spiritual affairs are in perfect
order, Sir George. Oh, that you too would take warning before it is
too late!

"And now, with regard to my worldly affairs, Sir George. I am sorry
to trouble you, but I must have those traps took off my trail
immediate, if you please. You will, of course, lose no time about
that, seeing that, should anything happen to me, of course Mr. Erne
would immediately come into four-fifths of your income, with a claim
for a year's rents. In short, Sir George, I have it in my power to
ruin you utterly and irretrievably; and, when it came to my knowledge
last night that you, having heard of my return from France, had set
the traps upon me, I got in such a fury that I was half-way to
Compton's office with it before I could think what I was about. If it
had been half-a-mile nearer, you would have been lost. You know what
my temper is at times, and you must be very careful.

"This is all I have to trouble you with at present. I am not in want
of any pecuniary assistance. My affairs are, on the whole, prosperous.
I shall, by retaining possession of your father's will, render our
interests identical. Meanwhile, sir, I thank you for your kindness to
my son Reuben. You will never have a hard bargain to drive with me as
long as you are kind to him."



Chapter XLVII. Sir George Hillyar Starts on his Adventure



ONE scarcely likes to look too closely into the volcano of terror and
fury which began to heave and gleam in Sir George Hillyar's mind when
he read this. The biscuit-like walls of old craters stand up for
centuries, heaving beautiful, scornful pinnacles aloft into the blue
of heaven; and the grass grows on the old flame-eaten, vitrified
rocks, in the holes of which the native cats and copper lizards live
and squabble, and say things behind one another's backs; and people
have pic-nics there; and lost sheep feed there, and waken strange
startling echoes in the dead silence of the summer noon by their
solitary bleat; and the eagle comes sometimes and throws his swift
passing shadow across the short grass; and all goes on peacefully,
until folks notice that a white, round-topped cloud hangs high aloft
over the hill, and stays there; and then some one says that the cloud
is red at night on the lower edge; and then some fine morning down
slides the lip of the old crater, crash, in unutterable ruin, and away
comes the great lava stream hissing through the vineyards, and hell is
broken loose once more.

So now the bank of loose scorioe,--now, alas! a thing of the past,--
which had been built up by time, by want of temptation, by his love of
his wife, by the company of such people as the Oxtons, by desire for
the applause of society, round the seething fire which existed in
George Hillyar, and which some say--and who is he bold enough to deny
it?--is in all of us, had broken down utterly.

Suddenly, when at the height of prosperity, a prosperous gentleman,
just winning his way into thorough recognition from the world, after
all he had gone through; at this very moment he found his fortune and
reputation in the hands of a thrice-convicted, self-accused,
hypocritical villain. He knew that he was not safe for a moment; and
he knew that, should this man use his power, he had only one remedy--
suicide.

For, in the first place, he had thoroughly persuaded himself of the
utter lowness of Erne's character,--that he had no mercy to expect
from him; and, should his father's will be produced, he would be
awfully in Erne's debt even now. And next, he would sooner, far
sooner, after what had passed, put a pistol to his head and draw the
trigger than ask for it. Sir George Hillyar was a great scoundrel, but
physically he was not a coward. Barker's Gap showed that to the
astonished Secretary Oxton. He would still prefer death to what he
chose to consider disgrace.

He had been using the wealth which he considered his very freely,
with a view to reinstate himself into society, and had to a certain
extent succeeded. Tasteful extravagance, which he had taken to as a
means to that end, had now become a necessity to him; and, moreover,
here, as in Australia, he had made many enemies by his manner. He
could not and would not endure disgrace and ruin before these men. He
placed the alternative of suicide most plainly before him.

The alternative! Then there was another? Yes, but one best not spoken
about. A bird of the air would carry some matters.

At first he broke into most ungovernable, frantic rage, and broke his
hand against the mantel-piece; but by degrees his passion grew more
still and more intense, and his resolution, whatever it was, became
fixed.

George Hillyar had not one friend in the world, unless you could call
the old gamekeeper one. His love for his silly wife had long been on
the wane, and was now utterly swept away and lost in this terrible
deluge. Nay, Gerty had reason enough for jealousy, had she looked in
the right direction. He would have been utterly alone, on a terrible
Stylites column of selfishness, built up, stone by stone, through a
misspent life, had it not been for one single person. His heart was
closed entirely towards every member of his species save one,--his
illegitimate son Reuben.

And so strangely had matters arranged themselves, that this affection
was shared by his bitterest enemy, the partner of his crimes. The one
link between these two men, which did not seem of the devil's forging,
was their kindly feeling towards this young man Reuben, whom each
believed to be his son. And George's first resolution was to claim
paternity in Reuben himself, lest Reuben, believing Samuel Burton to
be his father, should interfere in any way with his plans.

For George was right, as I dare say you have already guessed. Reuben
was George's son. The poor woman, Samuel's wife, utterly deserted and
alone in the world, lost her youngest child, and was left with Reuben
only. And, when she saw Morton the keeper, she suspected that the
family wanted to get him from her; and so she lied about it, and said
it was the eldest who was dead. For this child was all she had left in
the world; name, health, character, all were gone. Nothing was left
but this pretty one; and, if she parted from that, there was nothing
left but the river. She easily put simple old Morton off his quest,
and was left in peace. A selfish woman,--to stand wilfully between her
child and worldly advancement! And yet her conduct seems to shine out
of the dreadful darkness of the whole transaction, on which I have so
slightly touched, as a gleam from a higher and purer region.

Old Sir George Hillyar had seen the likeness in an instant, and had
determined to know nothing whatever, but to do what he considered his
duty by Reuben,--which seems fully to account for his conduct to
Reuben, and to George also; for when the kind old man (he was in his
way very kind) saw, or thought he saw, that George had recognized his
unfortunate offspring, and that his heart was moved towards him, then
the old man's heart was softened, towards both father and son. He
probably felt the same repugnance as I do to handle or examine a very
ugly business.

Reuben, as soon as he had accepted Sir George Hillyar's protection,
had been made under-keeper at Stanlake, and had been put under old
Morton to learn his duties. Old Morton saw nothing strange in the
attention that Sir George paid to this young man. Reuben was the
favorite of the day, as he had been once. He admired Reuben, and
rather flattered him. The old dog, if he is of a good breed, is quite
contented with half the hearth-rug in his old age; particularly when
the young dog is so affectionately deferential as was the young dog
Reuben. Reuben would sometimes call him "old cock,"--which was low;
but then he submitted so gently to the old man's courtly reproofs;
and, besides, his reckless and desperate gallantry in the matter of
poachers more than outbalanced any slight lowness and slanginess of
language of which Morton might have to complain. Morton took to
Reuben, and Reuben took most heartily to his trade.

At this time also Reuben began to exhibit that fondness for
decorating his person which afterwards caused him to develope into--
but we anticipate. So that the Reuben who stood before Sir George
Hillyar in the library an hour or two after the arrival of that
dreadful letter, was, so to speak, the very pink, tulip, or abstract
ideal of all dandy game-keepers, without being a bit overdressed or
theatrical. A clean, dapper, good-humored, innocent young fellow, with
a pleasant open face which won your good will at once. He was
strangely in contrast with his dark-browed father, and seemed an odd
figure to find in that sink of guilt into which be was getting drawn.

"Reuben," said Sir George, quietly, "come here."

Reuben came up, and Sir George took his hand. "Look at me." he said.
"Do I look as if I was mad?"

He certainly did not. Those steady, resolute eyes shone out of no
madman's head. Reuben, wondering, said emphatically, "No."

"Have I ever appeared mad in your eyes? Have I ever seemed to you to
act on suddenly-formed resolutions,--to pursue a very important course
of action without due reason?"

Reuben, getting more puzzled yet, answered, "Certainly not, sir."

"Then should you think me a madman if I told you that I was your
father?"

Reuben started and turned pale. He was utterly unprepared for this.
His facile face assumed a look of painful anxiety, and he stood with
half--opened mouth, waiting for Sir George to go on, evidently only
half understanding what he had said already.

"Such is the case," he went on. "Do not ask me for the proofs, my
poor boy, but believe me. Does not nature, does not your heart, tell
you that I am right, as they both do me?"

Reuben looked at him one moment, and then said, wondering, "Father!
My father!"

Sir George mistook the tone in which Reuben spoke. He thought that
Reuben spoke in affectionate recognition of his claims, whereas it was
simply an ejaculation of wonder. It was the first time that any one
had ever called him by the sacred old name, and he felt a strange
pleasure in it. Gerty's boy used to call him papa; how sickly and
artificial it sounded after "father!" He paused an instant, and then
went on,--

"Yes; I am your father, Reuben. Remember that. Impress that on your
mind. There is no possibility of a doubt of it. Keep that steadily
before you through everything. I have been a bad father to you, but
you must forgive and forget all that."

"I have never had anything but kindness from you, sir," said Reuben.

"You have had very little of it, my poor boy. Never mind; there is
time enough to mend all that. Now I have had, as you may suppose, a
very distinct object in making this startling announcement to you this
day above all others, for my conduct to you must show you that I have
known the secret a long time."

Reuben assented, and began to look on his new-found father with more
interest as his mind took in the facts of the case.

"Now," continued Sir George, "that treble-dyed, unmitigated villain,
who used to pretend that you were his son,--that Samuel Burton and I
are at deadly variance, and I have made this announcement to you, in
order that you may know which side you ought to take, should you
unhappily be called on to choose, which God forbid. I have nothing
more to say to you. Come to me here at twelve o'clock to-morrow
morning, for I am going a long and weary journey, and I want to say
good-bye to you before I go."

"May not I go with you, sir?" said Reuben, in a low and husky voice.
"I would be very faithful--"

"No, no!" said Sir George, somewhat wildly. "On any other journey but
this, my boy. Stay at home, and keep watch over Lady Hillyar. I will
write secretly to you, and you must do the same to me. Now go."

So the next day at noon, on George's return from Croydon, he found
Reuben waiting for him; and he gave him a few instructions in the
library, and bade him wait in the courtyard to see the last of him.

Meanwhile Gerty had sat still in her dressing-room, with the child on
her bosom, in the same state of stupid horror into which she had
fallen on reading the terrible letter,--utterly unable to realize her
position, or decide on any line of action. But now she rose up, for
she heard George's foot on the stair, and heard his voice, his kindest
voice, crying, "Gerty! Gerty!" But she did not answer; and George,
opening the door of the room, was surprised to see her standing there,
pale and wan, with the terror which yesterday had been on his face
reflected on hers.

"Gerty, are you ill?"

"Yes, George; I think I am ill. No, I am not ill. I am nervous.
Nothing more."

"Gerty," said George, "I am going away."

"Yes, George."

"For a long time,--a very long time."

"Yes, George. Am I to come?"

"No; you must stay where you are."

"Very well. Are you going to Australia?"

"No; to Paris first, and God only knows where afterwards."

"If you go to Vienna, I wish you would get me a set of buttons like
Lady Bricbracks. They are not very dear; but no one else has got them,
and I should like to annoy her."

"Very well," said George. "Good-bye."

She kissed him,--a cold little kiss,--and he was gone. "And she can
part from me like that," said poor George, bitterly, little dreaming
how much she knew.

But she went to the window, for she knew that she could see him ride
across a certain piece of glade in the park a long distance off. She
had often watched for him here. It reminded her of the first time she
had ever seen him, at the Barkers'. They had made him out a long
distance off by his careless, graceful seat, and had said, "That is
Hillyar." So she had seen him the first time four years before, when
he had come riding to woo; so she saw him now for the last time
forever.

She saw the familiar old figure ride slowly across the open space in
the distance-and disappear; and she felt that she loved him still, and
burst out wildly weeping, and cried out vainly, "George! George! come
back to me, darling! and I will love you all the same!" A vain, vain
cry. He passed out of her sight and was gone forever.



Chapter XLVIII. James Burton's Story: The Forge is Lit up Once More


I HAVE no doubt that I should have been very much astonished by
everything I saw, when I first found solid ground under my feet, and
looked round to take my first view of Australia. I was prepared for
any amount of astonishment: I will go further, I was determined to be
astonished. But it was no good. The very first thing I saw, on the
wharf, was Mrs. Bill Avery, in a blue cloth habit, with a low-crowned
hat and feather, riding a three-quarters bred horse, and accompanied
by a new, but devoted husband, in breeches, butcher's boots, a white
coat, and a cabbage--tree hat!

That cured me of wondering. I pointed her out to my mother, and she
gave utterance to the remarkable expressions which I have described
her as using, when I mentioned this wonderful rencontre almost at the
beginning of my narrative: in addition to which, as I now remember,
she said that you might knock her down with a feather,--which must be
considered as a trope, or figure of speech, because I never saw a
woman of any size of age stronger on her legs than my mother.

Yes, the sight of Mrs. Bill Avery, that was "a cockhorse," as Fred
expressed it in his vigorous English, took all the wondering faculty
out of me for a long time, or I should have wondered at many things;
such as, why I should have begun thinking of a liberal and elegant
caricature I had in my possession, of the Pope of Rome being fried in
a frying-pan, and the Devil peppering him out of a pepper-box; but
this was not very wonderful, considering that the thermometer stood
120° in the shade, that it was blowing half a gale from the northward,
and that the flying dust was as big as peas.

I might have wondered why Mr. Secretary Oxton, that great and awful
personage, sat upon the shafts of an empty dray, just as you or I
might have done; and why, since he was so very glad to see Messrs.
Dawson, Pollifex, and Morton, he didn't get up and come forward to
shake hands with them, but contented himself by bellowing out welcomes
to them from a distance from under his white umbrella; and why those
three gentlemen, the moment they had shaken hands with him, and with
Erne the moment they were introduced to him, sat down instantly, as
though it were a breach of etiquette to stand on your feet. Why, once
more, I felt exactly as though I had been doing a hard day's work on a
hot day in August, whereas I had only stepped out of a boat, and given
a hand, among ten more, to moving our things into a pile on the wharf.
Why did I feel contented and stupid and idle, although the sand was
filling my eyes and ears?

Moreover, although I am now accustomed to the effects of a northerly
wind, I wonder to this day why I wasn't surprised at this.

There approached us rapidly along the wharf a very tall and very
handsome lady, dressed most beautifully, who bore down on us, followed
by two laboring men, whom I knew, in an instant, by their faces, to be
Irishmen. This lady pointed out us and our baggage to the Irishmen,
who immediately began taking it away piece by piece on a truck,
without one single word, while the lady stood and looked at us
complacently. We did not interfere. It was probably all right. It
might be, or might not be; but, after Mrs. Bill Avery in a hat and
feathers, on a high-stepping horse, the laws of right and wrong,
hitherto supposed to be fixed and immutable principles, had become of
more than questionable validity. Here, in this country, with this hot
wind, it might be the duty of these Irishmen to steal our luggage, and
we might be culpably neglecting ours by not aiding and abetting them.
If you think I am talking nonsense, try the utter bodily and moral
prostration which is induced by a heat of 125° in the shade, and the
spectacle of a convict driving by in a carriage and pair.

The lady stood and looked at Emma, my mother, and myself, sole
guardians of the luggage, except the children and Martha, with
infinite contentment. Once she turned to one of the Irishmen, and
said, "Tim, ye'd best tell Mrs. Dempsey that she'd better hurry and
get their tay ready for um," but then she resumed her gaze, and I
noticed that Emma seemed to meet her views amazingly. At last she
spoke.

"Your brother Joe would like to see the prorogun, may be, my dear.
I'll get um an order from James Oxton or some of 'em, if he's on shore
in time. It's lucky I got Gerty's letter overland, or I'd not have
expected you, and ye'd have had to go to the barx."

I soon understood the state of affairs. Lady Hillyar had written to
the lady before us, "Miss Burke"; and she had taken a house for us,
and had taken as much pains to make everything comfortable for our
reception as if we were her own relations. When Joe's abilities were
appreciated, and the battle royal was fought, our intimate relations
with the Irish party, to most of whom we were bound by ties of
gratitude for many kindnesses,--kindnesses we should never have
received but for the affectionate devotion of this good woman towards
the friends of all those whom she had ever loved,--enabled both Joe
and myself to take a political position which would otherwise have
been impossible.

But we are still on the wharf. I waited until every chattel had been
carried off by the Irishmen, and saw my mother, Emma, and the children
carried off in triumph by Miss Burke, who insisted on leading Fred and
carrying his horse (or rather what remained of it, for the head and
neck, tail, and one leg had been lost overboard at various times, and
the stand and wheels were now used for a cart); and I prepared to wait
in the dust and sun until my father, Joe, Trevethick, and Tom Williams
should come ashore in the next boat. But, the moment I was alone, Erne
came and led me up to the empty wool-dray, in which the leading
Conservative talent of the colony had seated itself under umbrellas.

"Don't tell me," the Honorable Mr. Dawson was saying energetically,
"I tell you, Oxton, that this is the stuff we want. I don't hold with
assisted emigration. Look at that lad before you, and talk to me of
labor. I say, breed it. Take and breed your labor for yourself. That's
his sweetheart going along the wharf now with old Lesbia Burke,
carrying a bundle of shawls and an umbrella. Take and breed your labor
for yourself."

This was reassuring and pleasant for a modest youth of nineteen
standing alone before four grand gentlemen. I was relieved to find
that the discussion was so warm that I was only noticed by a kindly
nod. Mr. Oxton said, in a voice I now heard for the first time,--a
clear sharp voice, yet not wanting in what the singers call, I
believe, "timbre" by any means:

"I tell you, Dawson, that I will not yield to this factious Irish
cry. Every farthing of the land money which I can spare from public
works shall go to the development of the resources of the colony by an
artificial importation of labor. Dixi."

"Very good," said Dawson, "I did hope to find you more reasonable.
Hang the resources of the colony! Wool is the proper resource of the
colony. I want skilled labor kep up and unskilled labor kep down. A
nice thing for the squatters if mines were found here,--and mines
there are, as sure as you're born. Why, I tell you,--for we're all
squatters here together,--that I've got a piece of copper under my
bed--down south--I won't mention names--as big as a quart bottle. If
that was to get wind among any Cornish roughs, you'd have shepherd's
wages up to fifty pounds in a year. I don't want development; I want--
"

"What suits your pocket, old fellow," said Mr. Oxton, laughing. "Man,
I made this colony, and I'll stick by it. These clever Irishmen are
merely raising this cry for high-priced labor and cheap land to get me
out, and themselves and their friends in. I will not interfere in the
price of labor by legislation--"

"Right toorul loorul," sang the light-hearted Mr. Morton, speaking
for the first time; "and so my sweet brother-in-law spends the capital
of the colony by flooding the labor market with all the uncriminal
offscourings of Old England. I thank heaven I never laid claims to
consistency."

"Jack, you're a fool," said Mr. Oxton. "Capital invested in importing
labor pays a higher interest than that invested in any other way, even
if one leaves out the question of human happiness--"

"Oh!" said the Honorable Mr. Dawson, "if you're drove to human
happiness, you'd best make a coalition of it with Phelim O'Ryan, and
have done. I'm not a-going to rat. I'll stick by you faithful, James
Oxton. But I did not expect to have my stomach turned with that."

"Well," said the Secretary, "there's one more session ended, and I am
not out yet. Come, it is full time to get towards the house. Is this
the young man that Lady Hillyar speaks of, Mr. Hillyar?"

"Oh dear no," said Erne; "this is my friend Jim. It is his brother
Joe she means."

"Then perhaps you will take charge of this for your brother, Burton.
If you are in by half-past four it will do. Good morning."

And so the four statesmen rose by degrees, and walked away very
slowly, under their umbrellas, along the wharf; never one of them
venturing to make a remark without stopping and leaning against the
wall for support. If it became necessary to reply, the other three
would also at once support themselves against the wall until the
argument was finished. After which they would go slowly forward again.

I found that the paper I held in my hand was an order for two persons
to be admitted into the Gallery of the House of Assembly, to witness
the ceremony which Miss Burke had called the "prorogun." It appeared,
as Erne afterwards told me, that that most good-natured little lady,
Lady Hillyar, had written to Mr. Oxton about Joe especially, telling
him of his fancy for political life, and his disappointment owing to
Sir George Hillyar's sudden death. She begged her dear James to make
them elect him into the Assembly immediately, as he was as much fit to
be there as that dear, kind old stupid Dawson (by whom she meant my
friend, the Hon. Mr. D.) was to be in the Council. Mr. Oxton could not
quite do all she asked; but, for his dear Gerty's sake, he did all he
could at present,--gave Joe and myself a ticket for the prorogation of
the Houses.

The instant that the rest of our party got on shore with the
remainder of our things, I pounced on Joe, and showed him the order.
The weary, patient look which had been in his face ever since his
disappointment,--and which, I had seen with regret, had only deepened
through the confinement and inertness of the voyage,--gave way at once
to a brighter and more eager look, as I explained to him what kind Mr.
Oxton had done for him.

"Jim, dear," he said, taking my arm, "I like this as well as if any
one had given me ten pounds. I want to see these colonial parliaments
at work. I would sooner it had been a debate; but I can see the class
of men they have got, at all events. Let us come on at once, and get a
good place."

So we packed off together along the wharf; and I, not being so
profoundly impressed with anticipation of the majestic spectacle of
representative government which we were about to witness as was Joe,
had time to look about me and observe. And I could observe the better,
because the fierce hot north wind, which all the morning had made the
town like a dusty brickfield, had given place to an icy blast from the
south, off the sea, which made one shiver again, but which was not
strong enough to move the heaps of dust which lay piled, like yellow
snow-wreaths at each street corner, ready for another devil's dance,
to begin punctually at nine the next morning.

The town was of magnificent proportions, as any one who has been at
Palmerston within the last six years will readily allow; but, at the
time I am speaking of, the houses did not happen (with trifling
exceptions) to be built. Nevertheless, the streets were wide and
commodious, calculated for an immense amount of traffic had the stumps
of the old gum-trees been moved, which they wern't.

There was a row of fine warehouses, built solidly with freestone,
along the wharf; but, after one had got back from the wharf, up the
gentle-rise on which the town stands, Palmerston might at that time be
pronounced a patchy metropolis. At every street-corner there was a
handsome building; but there were long gaps between each one and the
next, occupied by halfacre lots, on which stood tenements of wood,
galvanized iron, and tin, at all possible distances and at all
possible angles from the main thoroughfare. As an instance, on the
half-acre lot next to the branch of the Bank of New South Wales, a
handsome Dorie building, the proprietor had erected a slab hut,
barkroofed, lying at an angle of say 35° to the street. At the further
end of this, and connected with it, was a dirty old tent, standing at
an angle of 35° to the slab hut. In the corner formed by these two
buildings was a big dog, who lived in a tin packing case, and
mortified himself by bringing blood against the sharp edges of it
every time he went in and out; and who now, after the manner of the
Easterns, had gone up on to the flat roof of his house in the cool of
the evening, and was surveying the world. All the place was strewed
with sheepskins; and in front of all, close to the road, was an
umbrella-tent, lined with green baize, in which sat the proprietor's
wife, with her shoes off, casting up accounts in an old vellum book.
From the general look of the place, I concluded that its owner was a
fellmonger, and habitually addieted to the use of strong waters. Being
thrown against him in the way of business a short time after, I was
delighted to find that I was right in both particulars.

I don't know that this was the queerest establishment which I noticed
that day. I think not; but I give it as a specimen, because the Bank
of New South Wales stands near the top of the hill; and, when you top
that hill, you are among the noble group of Government buildings, and
from among them you look down over the police paddock on to the Sturt
river again, which has made a sudden bend and come round to your feet.
You see Government House, nobly situated on the opposite hill, and
below you observe "The Bend," Hon. J. Oxton's place, and many other
buildings. But, more than all, looking westward, you see Australia,--
Australia as it is, strange to say, from Cape Otway to Port Essington,
more or less,--endless rolling wolds of yellow grass, alternated with
long, dark, melancholy bands of colorless forest.

"Joe!" I said, catching his arm, "Joe! look at that."

"At what?"

"Why, at that. That's it."

"That's what? old man," said Joe.

"Why, it. The country. Australey. Lord A'mighty, ain't it awful to
look at?"

"Only plains and woods, Jim," said Joe, wondering. "It is not
beautiful, and I don't see anything awful in it."

"But it's so lonely," I urged. "Does any one ever go out yonder, over
those plains? Does any one live over there?"

"Yes, I suppose so," said Joe, carelessly. "Oh yes, and miles beyond
that. Come, let us get our places."

The House of Assembly,--the Commons of the Colony,--was the prettiest
among all the pretty group of Government buildings, and most
commodiously arranged inside also, with an excellent gallery. As soon
as we were seated, having about half an hour to wait, I began thinking
of that desolate, wild-looking landscape I had just seen,--thinking by
what wonderful accident it came about that all the crime of the old
country should have been sent for so many years to run riot in such a
country as that. I could understand now, how any mind, brooding too
long in solitude, miles away from company, among dark forests or still
more dreary plains, like those, might madden itself; and also began to
understand how the convict mind under those circumstances sometimes
burst forth with sudden volcanic fury, and devoured everything. "Fancy
a man," I said to myself, "taking the knowledge of some intolerable
wrong into those woods with him, to nurse it until--" And I began to
see what had led my thoughts this way almost unconsciously, for beside
me was sitting the man I had seen with Mrs. Avery.

I confess that I felt a most eager curiosity to know something about
this man. He was a good-looking fellow, about thirty or thereabout,
with a very brown complexion, very bold eyes, and a somewhat reckless
look about him. Now and afterwards I found out that he was a native of
the colony, a very great stockrider, and was principal overseer to Mr.
Charles Morton.

He was easily accessible, for he began the conversation. He talked
for a considerable time, and of course he began to talk about horses.
This was what I wanted. I said, I thought I saw him riding that
morning on the wharf. He fell into my trap, and said Yes, he had been
riding there with his wife.

I was very much shocked indeed; but I had not much time to think
about it, for two ushers, coming in, announced his Excellency and the
members of the Council. And enter his Excellency at the upper end of
the room, resplendent in full uniform, accompanied by the commandant
of the forces, and Mr. Midshipman Jacks,--which latter young gentleman
had, I regret to say, mischievously lent himself to an intrigue of the
Opposition, and smuggled himself in at his Excellency's coat-tails, to
spoil the effect. Close behind the Governor, however, came no less
than sixteen of the members of the Council, headed by Mr. Secretary
Oxton. And a nobler-looking set of fellows I have seldom seen
together. My friend, the Hon. Mr. Dawson, was not quite so much at his
ease as I could have wished him to be. He turned round whenever he
coughed, and did it humbly behind his hand. He also opened the
ceremony by dropping his hat,--a tall, white, hairy one, like a
Frenchman's,--which made a hollow sound when it dropped, and rolled
off the dais into the body of the hall, and was politely restored to
him by the leader of the Opposition.

The members of the Assembly rose as the Governor and the Council
came in. The Government members were below me; so I could not see
them; but I had a good look at the Opposition, who were directly in
front of me. The man who sat nearest the Speaker's chair was evidently
the leader,--the terrible Mr. Phelim O'Ryan, James Oxton's bitter
enemy, of whom we had heard so much on the voyage. I was prepared to
hate this unprincipled demagogue, and probably should have done so, if
I had n't looked at him. No man could look at Phely O'Ryan, that
noble, handsome, Galway giant, and not begin to like him; and, if he
got ten minutes' talk with you,--there. That is what makes the villain
so dangerous.

Phelim O'Ryan is talented, well read, brave, witty, eloquent, and
also one of the kindest and most generous of men. But,--well, I wish
sometimes he would tell you what he was going to do beforehand. It
might be convenient. Lad as I was, when I looked at him that day, I
still had some dim consciousness that that handsome gentleman was
capable of saying a little more than be meant. But I did not look at
him long; for my eyes were suddenly riveted on the man who stood next,
partly behind him, and, as I looked, whispered in his ear. A pale man,
with a vastly tall, narrow forehead, great, eager eyes, and a gentle
sweet face,--a face which would have won one at once, had it not been
for a turn or twitch at the corner of his mouth, suggestive of vanity.
A most singular-looking man, though you could hardly say why; for the
simple reason that his singularity was caused by a combination of
circumstances, possibly assisted by slight affectation in dress. I had
just concentrated my attention on him, when Joe, who had been talking
to his neighbor, caught my arm, and said,--

"Jim, do you see the man who is whispering to O'Ryan?"

I said, "I'm looking at him."

"Do you know who he is?"

"I want to, most extra particular," I answered, "for a queerer card I
never saw turned."

"Man!" said Joe, squeezing my arm, "that's Dempsey. Dempsey, the
great Irish rebel."

I said, "O, ho!" and had no eyes for any one else after this, but sat
staring at the rebel with eager curiosity, or I might have wasted a
glance on the man who stood next him,--Dr. Too-good, a big man of
portly presence, about sixty, with a large red face, carefully shaved,
and an immense powerful jaw; whose long white hair fell back over his
coat collar. A man with a broad-brimmed hat, worn at the back of his
head, loose black Quaker-like clothes, a wisp of a white tie round his
neck with no collar, a Gampine umbrella, and big shoes. He is clever,
honest, and wonderfully well-informed; but, what with always having a
dozen irons in the fire at once, and being totally unable to keep a
civil tongue in his head towards his scientific and political
opponents, the dear Doctor has hitherto only succeeded in making a
more or less considerable mess of it.

His Excellency congratulated both branches of the Legislature on the
material and moral progress of the colony, which, if not so great as
in some years, yet was still considerably in advance of others.
Exports had slightly fallen off; but then, on the other hand, imports
had slightly increased, principally in articles of luxury; and he need
not remind them that a demand for such articles was a sure sign of
general prosperity (to which Joe said, "O Lord!"). In consequence of
the even balance of parties, the present Government had only carried
through seven bills out of eleven, and although he would be the last
man in the world to accuse the present Opposition of anything
approaching to faction, yet still he saw with deep regret the
rejection of such an exceedingly useful public measure as the
Slaughter-house Act. However, the present Government had not chosen to
make it a party question, and so he had nothing more to say. Crime had
diminished, but, on the other hand, the public health had slightly
deteriorated. He thanked them for their patient attention to their
duties; and then he put on his cocked hat, and there was peace in
Israel for six months.

I thought the speech rather too trivial for her Majesty's
representative to deliver to what was really a most noble and
impressive assembly, charged with the destinies of an infant nation.
But Sir Richard Bostock knew what he was about, and so did the colony.
Government had suffered several defeats in questions of public
utility, which showed that the Opposition were factious and
determined; and so they were nervous. But, on the other hand,
Ministers had carried their seven best measures through, and so the
Opposition were anxious also. The rejection of one more Government
bill would probably have forced James Oxton to appeal to the country;
in which case the Opposition, officered almost entirely by Irishmen,
and working the elections with a vigor and unanimity which the other
two nations never equal, would most likely have gained seats enough to
bring in their great measure from the Ministerial benches, with some
hopes of its being carried. Both parties were therefore watching one
another like two fierce dogs, eager to be at one another's throats.
Hence the ridiculously cautious speech of the Governor.

And what was this wonderful measure which the Radicals had determined
to bring in at the first moment that there was the very slenderest
hope of a majority? It was simply revolutionary, and involved
interests absolutely gigantic. I will explain it very shortly. The
area of the colony was 460,000 square miles, of which area 124,000
square miles were occupied by that singular aristocracy called
squatters, men who rent vast tracts of land from Government for the
depasturing of their flocks, at an almost nominal sum, subject to a
tax of so much a head on their sheep and cattle. The Radicals proposed
to throw the whole of the land open for selection on the American
principle, at, if possible, five shillings an acre. Should they
succeed in this, they would instantly follow by a Forty-acre
Qualification Bill; and, were one single House to be elected on those
principles, every one knew that manhood suffrage would follow in a
year. It was really a great and noble question; and no one who looked
and saw such giants as Oxton and Pollifex on the one side, and as
O'Ryan, Dempsey, and Toogood on the other, could for a moment doubt
that it would be a splendid and heroic quarrel right bravely fought
out.

So thought I, as Joe and I walked along the street together,--he
dragging his vast misshapen bulk along with sudden impatient jerks,
gesticulating with his long arms and tossing his beautiful head up now
and then as though he himself were in the forefront of the battle, as
indeed he was in his imagination. And, when he turned round on me, and
I saw that his face was flushed, and that his eyes were gleaming, and
his close-set, Castlereagh mouth twitching with excitement, I said to
myself, "There is a man fit to fight among the foremost of them, if
they only knew."

Such were the people among whom, and the atmosphere in which, we
strangely found ourselves. Though strange at first, it soon became
quite familiar; and it is now without the slightest astonishment that
I find our humble story, like the story of the life of every one in a
very small community with liberal institutions, getting to some extent
mixed up with the course of colonial politics.



Chapter XLIX. In which Two bad Pennies Come Back



WE stayed in the lodging which Miss Burke had so kindly found for us,
in the Irish quarter of Palmerston, for a considerable time. We might
have had quieter neighbors, I will allow; but it is impossible that we
could have had kinder. We were free of the quarter,--nay more, under
the protection of the quarter. No one ever offered to fight us; and,
as for the noise, why I have heard noise enough in Lawrence-street.
Chelsea, at times. We were quite used to that sort of thing, and got
on most comfortably.

In some mysterious way our affairs seemed prospering, for I noticed
that my father's calm, square face, so dear to me, so closely watched
by me, grew brighter every day. The frequent interviews with the Hon.
Mr. Dawson, seemed to afford him great satisfaction. At last he came
home one night, and said that we should have to prepare ourselves to
go over yonder in a few months. On its being clamorously demanded of
him where that was, he merely replied, "Why, over yonder," and pointed
to the right of the fire-place, in the direction, as I afterwards
ascertained, of the South Pole.

My father was a great deal with Mr. Dawson now, and I and the rest of
us guessed that Mr. Dawson was putting him in the way of some
business. Tom Williams had got leave from my father to go to work with
Trevittick at a forge in the town. I could have gone too, for I was
fearful of getting behind in my work, and, though I was very very fond
of Tom Williams, yet I should hardly have liked to have him pass me;
but Mr. Dawson would not allow me to go to work. He negatived the
proposition flatly, and got my father to back him, by some gross
misrepresentation or another.

I have said that my father was a great deal with the Hon. Mr. Dawson,
but I think I ought to say that I was a great deal more with him.
Every night, or nearly every night, as soon as it was dark, Mr. Dawson
would come to our house and ask for me, and then he and I would go out
alone together, up and down the most secluded outskirts of the city,
hour after hour. And, after a few of these walks in the dark, under
the Southern Cross, among the whispering trees in the domain, by the
still silent reaches of the river, or beside the rushing surf of the
moonlit bay, I began to see a very great and noble soul, trying,
through the fetters of ignorance and diffidence, to unfold itself
before me. In these midnight walks, I heard, bit by bit, clumsily
told, yet faithfully, the history of a man who had done good when he
had had every temptation to do evil; who had consistently and
pertinaciously followed the right,--more, it somehow seemed to me, by
some blind instinct, than by any intellectual conviction.

He had recognized my father's great worth at once, and had treated
him as an equal and a friend. But with my father he never made any
allusion to his origin. He was nearly as jealous of his position with
him as he was with Pollifex or Morton. In me the good man seemed to
see his own youth reproduced, and he opened his heart to me. I was at
that time just what he had been thirty years before,--a young
blacksmith apprentice. His confidences with me were little more than
soliloquies at first. He had lived in and for himself all his life,
and in me he saw the old self of his youth revived. And his great
heart, unspoilt after so many fierce struggles with a world which had
never had a chance of understanding him, began to unfold itself before
the light of my youth and my love.

"Old chap," he said to me one night, among the silent, aromatic
trees, "I've been fighting your battle for you."

"Yes, sir?" I answered.

"Ay. But I have n't altogether won it. I was trying to persuade your
father to let you marry at once, whereas I have only beat him down to
six months, or, to be correct, to five months and eight days. At the
end of that time old fellow, you're to have your indentures give you,
and to marry Martha; which is so far satisfactory, as Pollifex said
when he had shot three of the bush-rangers and the kangaroo-hounds had
baited the fourth one up in the verandy."

I was in such a flutter of happiness at this most unexpected news,--
for we had hoped for three years,--that, in trying to say something
pretty to him, I found that I was nearly reduced to the old formula of
"thank you." I think I decorated it a little; for my kind, good
friend, who deserved the title of Honorable if ever a man did, laid
his hand on my shoulder, and changed the subject for a time.

"Now, old fellow, it being dark, and Pollifex and Morton not looking
out for us (and that is the reason I don't walk with you in the
daylight), I'll just speak to you as one smith may to another. What am
I to do about Trevittick?"

"About Trevittick, sir?"

"Ah! about Trevittick. I've put your father in the way of making his
fortune in the trade. He is grateful enough about the matter; for your
father is a true gentleman, Jim, mind that, but he is firm on that
point."

I had to explain that I knew nothing.

"Why, I have laid your father on to this job. The township at Port
Romilly is just surveyed, and your father is going to set up his forge
there. Port Romilly, which lies just under Cape Wilberforce, will be a
great place, and your father will make his fortune. Lord bless you,
I'll give six hundred a year for your father in six months. And your
father says to me, as firm as a rock, 'If I ever get the chance, Mr.
Dawson, I'll repay your kindness sevenfold; but, with regard to
Trevittick, sir, that man stuck to me most noble when the whole world
pretty nigh had left me, and I have took Trevittick into partnership;
and in partnership he stays, sir, unless by his own act.'"

"But," I said, "my dear sir, I think Trevittick is very honest."

"Confound him, yes; that's the very worst of it. That's the very
mischief, don't you see. That's just what makes one long to bang his
curly head against that there wall. Two days ago, I laid that man on
to a capital thing in the North; but no. Says he to me, as bold as
brass, 'Sir, I thank you kindly; but the company of those Burtons has
become necessary to me.' That's just the words he said to me, as cool
as you like."

"He'll make a good partner to my father, sir," I ventured to urge.

"Maybe," said my honorable friend; "but I don't want him down South.
Who is that Tom Williams? He seems very thick with him. If I could get
that lad away, I expect Trevittick would follow."

"I dare say he would," I said; "but Tom, bless you! would be lost
away from us. He won't go. My father took him from the parish."

"Eh!" said Mr. Dawson, with new interest.

"From the parish workhouse. Tooting, you know. Had n't got any
father and mother, as far as could be ascertained. At least, not worth
speaking of. After father got hold of him, he grew six inches and
increased one stone six in weight in the first year. Father used to
have him put opposite to him, to see him eat his victuals. That boy
never had a kind word before he came to us; and since he has come to
us, he has never had a cross one. He won't go, sir."

"Ought to be hung if he did," said Mr. Dawson. "A parish boy, eh? I
say, old fellow, can you keep a secret?"

"I hope so."

"Why, then, I'm a parish boy," he said. "I who stand here, by God's
mercy, a rich and honorable gentleman, was brought up in the workhouse
of St. Nicholas Without, and, if that ain't the strangest thing ever
you heard on, I should be glad to know it."

After a pause he went on: "We were n't farmed out like you was,--I
mean like Tom Williams was,--and they were kind to us in the main.
Yes, I think they were kind to me in the main. After forty years, Jim,
I don't bear any malice to any one in that workhouse. When I left that
house to be bound, I left it with a glad heart; and I turned round and
shook my fist at the walls, and was going to curse it, and all the
officers in it, save one; but I could n't do it. All of a sudden the
thought came over me that it had been my home for fourteen years,
hideous and wretched as it was, and I burst out crying. After a year
or so, my heart was softened, Jim, and I felt as if I must go back and
see the officers, more particularly one I thought had always used me
cruel. 'For' I said, 'it's no doubt owing to his beating on me
morning, noon, and night, with whatever came handy, that makes me so
steady and industrious now.' He used to say there was Scripture for
it. And I went back to shake hands with him. And he was dead. And I
could n't ask his pardon. And that's been a caution to me about
bearing malice ever since."

When I thought of the tender mercies of Tooting, I guessed how much
this good man had to forgive, and was silent.

"But the master," he continued, in a brisker tone. "There was a kind
man for you. That man never gave me one hard word in fourteen year."

"Could n't he have stopped old Hopkins from beating you, sir?"

"Lord bless you, he never know'd nothing of that. I never was a
sneak. I'd have had my flesh cut to pieces before I'd have sneaked.
And, when I was bound, the master he shook hands with me, and he says,
'You've been a good steady lad, Dawson.' And he gave me a shilling;
and I bought a handkercher with it, which I've got now. And, when I
die, Jim Burton, you take and put that handkercher into my coffin; or
the money will do you no good."

We parted here, and I went homeward, thinking how it was that this
man had not been thrashed into a savage and a criminal, and wondering
whether some people were born so good that you could n't spoil them;
wondering also whether that calm gentle eye, that quiet face, and that
complacent expression of strength in the whole figure, were cause or
effect; and while thinking about it I got home, and found that there
was company to supper.

Only one. A lady. Mrs. Quickly.

There she was, sitting opposite my mother, exactly the same as ever.
As faultlessly clean and neat, with the same exquisite waxen-pale
complexion, the same beautifully-parted chestnut hair, scarce
sprinkled with gray; the same dark silk gown, fitting so perfectly to
her neat slim figure; the same beautiful thin hands folded in her lap
before her; the same snow-white kandkerchief, neatly folded over her
bosom; altogether the same ideal of spotless cleanliness and purity;
slightly overdone, perhaps, but still beautiful to look on, as of
yore; with the very same prurient little devil sitting in the corner
of her eye. Mrs. Quickly was there, not changed one bit.

Not even in her cap, which you will notice that I have not as yet
mentioned. The fact is that, although Mrs. Quickly was the very pink
of prudish neatness in every point, yet still the good woman could not
restrain herself in the matter of caps. I have no doubt she would have
done it if she could, but the old Adam was too strong in her. She had
on a cap like a prize-fighting publican's barmaid, which gave her very
much the appearance of having broken out into blossom like an
amaryllis,--a plant of more than nun-like quietness of stalk and
foliage, surmounted by a gaudy crimson-and-white blossom.

When Mrs. Quickly applied for the post of under-matron to Mrs.
Broodhen, at Sydney, that experienced matron gave one look at her cap,
and another at her eye, and ordered her out of the room. She forbade
her to come near the place, and at last made Sydney too hot to hold
her. Mrs. Quickly threatened to go to her lawyer, but did n't. There
is no doubt that Mrs. Quickly, as she can prove to you any day, was
shamefully used; but then Mrs. Broodhen was a woman of great sagacity
and experience, and, as a general rule, knew immensely well what she
was about, as many a poor friendless girl will testify with blessings.
I traced the calumny of Mrs. Quickly's having been a nobleman's
mistress, and of her having been so outrageously extravagant in dress
as to half ruin Lord Holloway and oblige him to live abroad, to Tom
Williams, and through him to that excellent, though indiscreet,
busybody, his present wife, formerly Miss Polly Ager, of this story.
Really, even now, I do not know what to say about Mrs. Quickly. I am
in a minority, but I can only say that when all was over and done, she
made her story good to me. My wife says that she would do so to any
man who was fool enough to listen to her.

But still, when I saw that woman sitting there, I felt a cold chill.
When I thought of Mrs. Clayton (whilom Mrs. Bill Avery), and Mrs.
Quickly living in the same town, I saw that at any moment an explosion
might take place, which might bring infinite misery on the head of the
innocent Clayton, and others. But then I said to myself that they
could not involve us in it, further than as spectators. The Hillyars
and the Burtons lived in an atmosphere of their own, an atmosphere of
innocent purity, and could not be involved in the troubles of such
people as these. Alas!

"No," I repeated to myself next morning, "the innocent won't suffer
for the guilty. My father kept the peace between her and her husband
in Brown's Row sometimes, and, if anything leaks out, I hope he'll be
handy to do it again. But we are safe; our course lies smooth and
clear before us."

But, when I came round the corner sharp, the very next minute, on our
worthy cousin Samuel Burton, sitting on a flour-barrel, under a large
umbrella, smoking a Manilla cheroot, in the real Australian way, with
the big end in his mouth; then I was not quite so sure that it did.



Chapter L. Trevittick's Latent Madness Begins to Appear



THE fierce summer was blazing over head; the forests were parched
and crisp; the plains were yellow and dry, and the rivers at their
lowest: some barely whispering, others absolutely silent; as we passed
away to the southward, towards our new home, and our strange new
fortunes.

To the west and north of the town, the dun gray wolds rolled off in
melancholy waves towards the great interior; but to the south, on our
track, the vast wood-clad mountains, dimly visible in the southwest,
had thrown out a spur, which carried the dark forest with it down to
the sea, and ended not ten miles from the town in the two noble
promontories, Cape Horner and Cape Huskisson; so that we had barely
got clear of the enclosures when we found ourselves out of sight of
the melancholy plains, travelling along a dusty winding track, fringed
on each side with bracken fern, through a majestic open forest of
lofty trees.

"I like this better than the plains," said Erne to me. "And yet I
believe that I am going to live in the most dreary part of all the
plains. The Secretary says that they have to send five miles for
firewood."

"Then you have decided what to do, sir?"

"Yes, I was going to tell you as we started, but your natural
anxiety about getting on horseback for the first time rendered you
rather a bad listener. How do you feel now?"

"Comfortable enough for you to go on; time is getting short."

"Well, I am going to one of the stations belonging to Mr. Charles
Morton, for three years, to learn the squatting trade. The Secretary
wanted me very much; but I took Morton's offer, because this
particular station of his lies more in a particular direction than any
one of the brother-in-law's; and the Secretary said one station was as
good as another, though he was a little offended."

"I suppose it is nearer to us."

"It is only sixty miles; but it is nearer than any other."

"What did she say this morning?"

"The old word 'never,' Jim. She used the old argument about Joe's
deformity, the impossibility of his marrying, and the necessity of
some one devoting herself to him. And I said, 'Suppose that obstacle
could be removed,' and she said there was a greater one still. She
would never consent to drag me down to her level,--that I was made for
another sphere of life; and, when I impatiently interrupted her, she
said: 'Mr. Hillyar, would Mr. Oxton or Mrs. Morton receive me? And
don't you know that you would be cut off from the best society here by
marrying me, and have nothing left but the billiard-rooms?' And I
hesitated one instant, and she broke out into a little laugh at me.
And she let me kiss her hand, and then we separated; and that is the
end of all, my old Jim."

"Not forever," I said. "If time or chance could remove those two
obstacles--."

"I am faithful forever," said Erne, in a low voice, "but I am losing
hope. If I did not know she loved me, I could bear it better--."

I knew what was coming, from experience,--a furious tirade against
ranks and proprieties; but he was interrupted, for a horse came
brushing rapidly along through the short fern, and rattling amongst
the fallen bark, which lay about like vast sticks of cinnamon, and up
came the Hon. Charles Morton at a slinging trot, on a big chestnut,
with a blazed face, and four white stockings, a "Romeo." His shining
butcher's boots fitted like a glove, or like Custance's; his spurs
were fresh from the plate-brush; his fawn-colored breeches fitted to
perfection; his shirt was as white as the Secretary's, and his light
drab riding coat (he wore no waistcoat) was met by a bright blue
scarf, with a diamond pin, and his Indian pith helmet was wound round
with a white veil; his whiskers and mustache were carefully trimmed;
and altogether he was one of the most perfect dandies ever seen. This
was Charles Morton of the towns; Charles Morton of the bush--the
pioneer--was a very different object.

"Hallo, Hillyar, my boy. Well, blacksmith, how are you today?
Confoundedly hot in these forests, is it not? Hillyar and I shall be
out on the breezy plains in an hour; you will have forest for sixty
miles or thereabouts."

I touched my hat for the information.

"You'll soon leave off doing that," he said, looking at me,
laughing. And I thought if I never touched my hat to a less gallant-
looking gentleman I shouldn't care.

"I am sorry to advise you to come up country so soon," said Mr.
Morton to Erne. "But as my principal overseer in those parts is going
back, it will be a great opportunity for you. He will introduce you to
station after station on the road. He is not a gentleman by birth, but
he is always received as one. I wish I could introduce you in those
parts myself; but, considering your close connexion with the
Secretary, he will do as well. Clayton will prove your identity."

When I heard the name "Clayton," I gave a violent start, and cried
out, "Good gracious," which made my horse move forward a little
faster, and which, consequently, nearly laid me on my back in the
road. I lost both my stirrups, and hauled myself upright again by the
reins. But my horse did n't care a bit. He only thought I was drunk.
He was an aged stockhorse, which I had bought very cheap, as being a
secure animal to begin with. He had been many years on the road, and
had carried many stock-riders out of Palmerston, but never, hitherto,
a sober one. He had been very much surprised at my not setting off
full gallop for the first mile or two, yelling like a Bedlamite; and
had shown that he expected that to happen on two or three occasions,
to my infinite horror. He had long since come to the conclusion that I
was too far gone in liquor to gallop; and, after my last reel, he
concluded that I should soon fall off, and go to sleep in the road for
an hour or two, after the manner of stockmen returning from town; in
which case he would have a quiet graze until I got sober. He was so
fully persuaded of this that I had (with infinite caution, as though I
was letting off a large and dangerous firework) to give him, now and
then, a gentle reminder with the spur to make him keep up with the
others.

"Hallo! blacksmith!" said Mr. Morton. "We must teach you to ride
better than that before we have done with you. But, Hillyar, you will
find Clayton a very good, honest fellow. His wife is a woman of low
origin, but well--behaved, who sings ballads, if you care about that;
there are no children, which, perhaps, you will be glad of. You will,
however, find some books there. I am sorry to put you in a house where
there is no society of your own rank; but it was your choice,
remember. As soon as you feel able to undertake the thing, I will put
you in charge of one of the other stations thereabout, and then you
will have a table and cellar of your own. It is time to say good-bye
to your friend now; here is Wattle Creek, and we take the road to the
right; I will ride on; you will soon pick me up. Good-bye, blacksmith.
God speed you heartily, my boy."

So, in his delicacy, he rode on, and left Erne and me alone together.
There were many last words; and then the last of all--

"Good-bye."

"Good-bye, my dear old Jim. Keep her in mind of me. Good-bye."

And so he rode slowly away, and I saw him through a mist. When my
eyes cleared again, I saw him passing on from sunlight to shade, from
shade to sunlight again, through an aisle in the dim forest cathedral,
whose pillars were trunks of the box-trees, and whose roof was their
whispering foliage. Further and further yet, until he was lost among
the thickening stems and denser boskage of some rising ground beyond.
And then I sat upon my grazing horse, alone in this strange forest,
foolishly wondering if I should see him, or any one I had ever known,
again; for all the past seemed more like reality than the present.

But I have noticed as a curious fact that town-bred blacksmith boys,
however affectionate, are not given to sentiment; and, the moment Erne
was out of sight, and I had dried.--blown my nose,--I began to make
such a series of remarkable discoveries that Erne, and the awful fact
of his going to live in the house with Mrs. Clayton, sometime Avery,
née Martin, went clean out of my mind. I gave myself up to the wild
delight of being for the first time in a new and strange land.

Conceive my awe and delight at finding that the whole place was
swarming with parrots. Hundreds of little green ones, with short
tails, who were amazingly industrious and busy, and who talked
cheerily to one another all the time; others still more beautiful,
with long tails (shell parrots, we call them, but now so popular in
London as Zebra parakeets), who, crowded in long rows, kissed one
another, and wheetled idiotically; larger and more glorious ones
yet,--green, orange, scarlet, and blue (mountain blues),--who came
driving swiftly through the forest in flocks, whistling and screaming;
and, lastly, gentle lories, more beautiful in color than any, who sat
on the Banksias like a crop of crimson and purple flowers.

Then I made another discovery. I crossed the creek, and, blundering
up the other bank, struck my spurs deep into the old horse's sides,
and away he went full gallop, and I did not fall off. As soon as I
recovered my presence of mind, by using certain directions given me by
Erne and others, I made the wonderful discovery that I could stick on,
and that I rather liked it. I was in a colonial-made saddle, with
great pads in front of the knee, and I found that by keeping my toes
slightly in, and raising my heels, I could sit as easily as in a
rocking-chair. I assisted myself with the pom--our space is limited--
but I was most perfectly at home after a mile, and found it the most
delightful thing I had ever experienced, to go charging on ten miles
an hour through a primeval forest towards unknown surprises and
unknown dangers.

Whether the old horse thought that my intoxication had, like some
recorded cases of hydrophobia, broken out after a long period of
incubation, or whether he thought that I was the victim of an acute
attack of skyblues (as he would have called the malady known to the
faculty as delirium tremens, could he have spoken), I am unable to
say; but he went like the wind.

The road turned and wound about very much among the tree stems, but
the old horse took care of me. I was prepared for any adventure or
surprise, from a lion downwards, when I was startled by the shrill cry
of familiar voices, and, pulling up, found myself in the bosom of my
family.

There were the dear old Chelsea group, a little older, sitting by
themselves in this strange forest, just as they used to sit in old
times in the great old room at home,--my father and mother on a box,
side by side, Emma and Martha on the ground, with the children grouped
round them, and Joe leaning against a tree, musing, just as he used to
lean against the mantel-piece in old times.

"And poor Reuben," I thought, "where was he?" But I said nothing. I
asked my father how he found himself, and my father replied, "Bustin'
"; and really the dear old fellow did look most remarkably radiant, as
did the others, save Joe and Emma.

"We've been a having such a game a coming along, old man," said my
father. "We seen a alligator as hooked it up a tree; did n't us,
Fred?"

"And Harry, he's a drawed it in his book beautiful," said my mother
complacently. "And now he's a drawing his own Jim a horseback, full
gallop, as we see you a coming along just now. And Frank has been
talking beautiful, and--"

I had dismounted, and Tom Williams had kindly taken my horse for me,
and I was looking over my mother's shoulder at Harry's drawing of the
great Monitor lizard and my humble self, rather uncertain, I confess,
which was the lizard and which was me; but my mother had succeeded in
getting my head against hers, and I asked in a whisper, "How are
they?"

"Joe's terrible low," said my mother; "lower than ever I saw him. But
Emma's keeping up noble. Did he send her any message?"

"No. How could he? He has got his final answer."

"I wish he had sent some message or other to her," said my mother;
"for her heart's a breaking for him, and a few words would have been
so precious. Could n't you, eh, Jim,--did n't he say anything?"

I did not wait for my dear mother to propose point blank that we
should coin a message together, but I went over and sat beside Emma,
and took Fred on my lap.

"He is gone," I said in a low voice.

There was only a catch in her breath. She made no answer.

"Shall I tell you his last words?"

The poor girl only nodded her head.

"He said, 'Good-bye, Jim. Don't let her forget me.' And no more I
will."

There was the slightest possible suspicion of scorn in the look she
gave me as she said, "Is that very likely?"

Perhaps I was nettled; perhaps it was only owing to my clumsy
eagerness about the matter which lay nearest to my heart. I cannot
decide which it was, but I said,--

"Would you not recall him now if you could?"

She did not answer in words, but she turned and looked at me; and,
when she had caught my eye, she carried it with hers, until they
rested on the figure of poor Joe, who had sat down on a log, with his
great head buried in his hands. I understood her, and said no more,
but quietly drew her to me and kissed her.

"If those two obstacles could be removed," I found myself saying a
dozen times that day, and for many days.

We were travelling with a caravan of bullock drays, seven in number,
each drawn by eight bullocks, all the property of our friend the Hon.
Mr. Dawson, which were returning empty to one of his many stations,
Karra Karra, after taking to Palmerston a trifle of fourteen tons of
fine merino wool, to swell his gigantic wealth. It was a very
pleasant, lazy way of travelling, and I think that, when the long 270
miles of it came to an end, there was not one of us who did not wish
that we could have gone a few miles further.

If the road was smooth, you could sit on the dray. If it was rough,
you could walk, and walk faster than the dray went; so much faster
that some of us would walk forward along the track, which still
wandered through dense and magnificent forest, as much as a mile or
two, into the unknown land before us; and, forewarned of snakes,
gather such flowers as we could find, which at this time of year were
not many. We had very few adventures. Sometimes we would meet a
solitary horseman; sometimes a flock of two or three thousand sheep
going to market, whose three shepherds rode on horseback, and whose
dogs, beautiful Scotch sheep-dogs, alert and watchful, but gasping
with thirst, would find a moment to come to Fred or Harry and rub
themselves against them complacently, and tell them how hot, hot, hot,
it was. Sometimes again would come a great drove of fat cattle, guided
by three or four wild-looking stockmen, in breeches and boots, which
in this hot weather were the principal part of their clothing, for
they had nothing else but shirts without any buttons, and hats
generally without any ribbons. These men were accompanied by horrid
great dogs, who cut Fred and Harry dead; but in spite of their
incivility, their masters were very good-humored and kind, keeping
their cattle away from us with their terrible great stockwhips. The
head stockman would always stay behind and talk to us,--sometimes for
a long while,--generally asking us questions about England,--questions
which seemed almost trivial to us. I remember that one wild handsome
fellow, who told Emma in pure chivalrous admiration, that looking at
her was as good as gathering cowslips; was very anxious, when he heard
we were from Chelsea, to find out if we had ever met his mother, whose
name was Brown, and who lived at Putney. He was afraid something was
wrong with the old lady, he said, for he had n't heard from her this
ten years, and then she was seventy-five. He would go home some of
these days, he added, and knock the old girl up.

After a few of these expeditions, ahead of the drays, we began to
take Trevittick the sulky with us. For Trevittick, thirsting madly
after knowledge, in the manner of his blue-haired fellow-Phoenicians,
had spent more than he could very well afford in buying a book on the
colonial flora. He now began to identify the flowers as fast as we got
them; and, as the whole of us went at the novel amusement with a will,
and talked immensely about it afterwards, we attracted poor Joe's
attention, and, to my great delight, he began to join us, and to enter
somewhat into the pleasure with us.

The forest continued nearly level; the only irregularities were the
banks of the creeks which we crossed at intervals of about ten
miles,--chains of still ponds walled by dark shrubs, shut in on all
sides by the hot forest, so that no breath of air troubled their
gleaming surface. But, when a hundred miles were gone, the land began
to rise and roll into sharp ascents and descents; and one forenoon we
came to a steep and dangerous hill. And, while we were going
cautiously down through the thick hanging trees, we heard the voice of
a great river rushing through the wood below us. As we struggled
through it, with the cattle belly-deep in the turbid green water, we
had a glimpse right and left of a glorious glen, high piled with gray
rocks, with trees hanging in every cranny and crag, and solemn pines
which shot their slender shafts aloft, in confused interlacing groups,
beautiful beyond expression. Only for a minute did we see this divine
glen; instantly after, we were struggling up the opposite cliff, in
the darksome forest once more.

"Why," I asked one of the bullock drivers, who volunteered that
evening to show me a place to bathe, "why is the water so ghastly
cold? I can scarcely swim."

"Snow, mate, snow. This water was brought down from Mount Poniatowski
by yesterday's sun."

The next morning the scene changed strangely, and Trevittick walked
like one in a dream. As we went up a hill we saw the light between the
tree stems at the top, and the wind began to come more freshly to our
cheeks. When we reached the summit the forest had come to an end, and
we were looking over into Flinders Land.

A glorious country indeed; sheets of high rolling down, and vast
stretches of table-land, bounded by belts of forest, and cut into by
deep glens everywhere,--channels for the snow-water from the
mountains. Two great lakes gleamed among dark woodlands at different
elevations, and far to the left was a glimpse of distant sea. A fair,
beautiful, smiling land, and yet one of the most awful the eye ever
rested on: for there was one feature in it which absorbed all the
others, and made waving wood, gleaming lake, and flashing torrent but
secondary objects for the eye to rest on,--just as the ribbed cliffs
of stone which form the nave of Winchester, make the chantries of
Wykeham and Edyngton appear like children's toys.

Far to the right, towering horrible and dark, rose, thousands of feet
in the air, high above everything, a scarped rampart of dolomite, as
level as a wall; of a lurid gray color with deep brown shadows. It
dominated the lower country so entirely that the snow mountains beyond
were invisible for it, and nothing gave notice of their presence but a
lighter gleam in the air above the dark wall. It stretched away, this
wall, into the furthest distance the eye could penetrate. It had bays
in it, and sometimes horrid rents, which seemed to lead up into the
heart of the mountains,--rents steep and abrupt, ending soon and
suddenly,--glens bounded with steep lawns of gleaming green. Sometimes
it bent its level outline down, and then from the lowest point of the
dip streamed eternally a silver waterfall, which, snow-fed, waxed and
waned as the sun rose or fell. But there hung the great rock wall,
frowning over the lovely country below; like Pitt's face at the last;
reflecting in some sort of way smiles of sunshine and frowns of cloud,
yet bearing the ghastly look of Austerlitz through it all.

So for twelve days this dark rampart haunted us, and led our eyes to
it at all times, never allowing us to forget its presence. In the
still cool night it was black, in the morning it was purple, at noon
it was heavy pearly gray, and at sunset gleaming copper-color.
Sometimes, when we were down in a deep glen, or crossing some rushing
river, we could only catch a glimpse of the level wall cutting the
bright blue sky; sometimes, again, when we were aloft on a breezy
down, the whole of the great rampart would be in sight at once,
stretching north and south as far as the eye could reach; but for
twelve days it bent its ghastly frown upon us, until we grew tired of
it, and wished it would end.

At last it ended. Gradually, for three days, a peaked mountain grew
upon our sight, until we reached it, and began passing over the smooth
short turf which formed its glacis; a mountain which rose out of the
lower land in advance of, and separate from, the great wall which I
have been describing; a mountain which heaved a smooth sharp cone
aloft out of the beautiful slate country through which we had been
travelling, and whose apex pierced the heavens with one solitary
needle-like crag. It was the last remnant of the walls of the old lava
crater, of a volcano which had been in action long after the great
cliff, which we had watched so long, had been scorched and ruined into
its present form. The men called the peak Nicnicabarlah; and, when we
had rounded the shoulder of it, we saw that our journey's end was
near; for a beautiful fantastic mountain range hurled itself abruptly
into the sea across our path, and barred our further progress, and as
soon as we sighted it the men called out at once, "There you are,
mates; there is Cape Wilberforce!"

"Cape Trap," growled Trevittick. "I'm blowed if I ever see such a
game as this here. There should be something or another hereabout.--
Tom Williams, don't be a fool, showing off with that horse. He ain't
your 'n, and you can't ride him; so don't rattle his legs to bits."

Trevittick was always surly when he was excited, and, to lead away
his temper from Tom, I began asking questions of the men.

"Where is the town of Romilly?"

"Down to the left, between the timber and the plain, alongside of the
Erskine river; the little river Brougham joins it just above the town.
The Brougham rises in the mountains, and comes down through Barker's
Gap. This is Barker's Gap we are passing now, the valley between
Nicnicabarlah and the Cape Wilberforce mountain. There was a great
fight with bush--rangers hereabouts a year or two back, when young
Inspector Hillyar finished three on 'em single-handed. He was a sulky,
ill-conditioned beast, but a good-plucked 'un. He married Miss
Neville; he used to come courting after her to Barker's. That's
Barker's down yonder."

He pointed to a cluster of gray roofs in a break in the forest down
below, and very soon after our whole caravan began to descend one of
the steep, rocky gullies which led from the shoulder of the volcano
towards the sea, and very shortly came into beautiful open forest-
country, with a light sandy soil, the grass thin, but not wanting in
abundance, and the ground intersected by innumerable dry watercourses.

There was a new mountain just in this place which attracted our
notice,--a little mountain, but wonderfully abrupt and picturesque,
with high castellated crags. It was such a very lovely little mountain
that Trevittick, Tom Williams, Joe, and I, started off to go a little
way up it.

A beautiful little mountain; tumbled boulders round the base, and
steep escarpments of gray stone above, feathered with those trees
which the colonists call cherries, but which we will in future call
cypresses, for the sake of English readers.* Trevittick got on the
hill first, and, having taken up a bit of rock, said, "Well, I'm
blowed," and seemed inclined to hurl it at Tom Williams, who was
helping Joe to hunt a grasshopper about four inches long. To save an
explosion I went up to him, and he unburdened his heart to me.

"Why," he said, "it's granite."

I said I was very glad to hear it, but he turned on me so sharply
that I was almost afraid I had made a mistake, and that I ought to
have said that I had dreaded as much from the first. But after a
somewhat contemptuous glance at me, he went on,--

"Yes, it's granite, or the substitute for it used in these 'ere
parts. But it ain't felspathic-looking enough to suit my stomach, so I
don't deceive you nor no other man. Tom Williams, why be you hunting
locusts instead of noticing how the granite has boiled up over the
clay slates? Perhaps you'd like to see a plague of 'em; though, for
that matter, nine out of the ten plagues all at once would n't
astonish the cheek out of a Cockney, and the effect of the plague of
darkness would be only temporary, and even that would n't only make
them talk the faster."

Trevittick's ill-humor showed me that he was excited, although I did
not in the least know why, or really care. I am afraid that at times I
thought Trevittick, with all his knowledge, little better than a
queer-tempered oddity. Perhaps what confirmed me in this belief, just
at this time, was his way of expounding the Scriptures, which he did
every Sunday morning, as I honestly confess, to my extreme annoyance.
The moment that man got on the subject of religion, all his shrewdness
and his cleverness seemed to desert him, and he would pour forth, for
a whole hour, in a sing-song voice, a mass of ill-considered
platitudes on the most solemn subjects; in the which every sentence,
almost every word, was twisted round to meet the half-dozen dogmas
which formed his creed. After his exposition of the fifty-second
chapter of Isaiah, Joe and I declined further attendance.

A pleasant road, winding for miles among gently inclined forest
gullies, led us to our new home, and, while the sun was still alive in
the topmost branches of the majestic trees, we came upon the inn where
we were to stay for the present. There were this one inn and a few
other huts and inclosed paddocks scattered in the half-cleared forest
around, but the sounds of nature, gentle and subdued as they were upon
this quiet evening, far overpowered the faint noises of human
occupancy. When the drays had gone on and left us, and the cracking of
the last whip had died away in the wood, and the last dog had done
barking from some little shanty far among the trees; then the air was
filled with the whistling of birds, and the gentle rush of the evening
breeze among the topmost boughs; for the little river Brougham, which
falls into the larger Erskine here, had ceased to babble in the
drought,--was sleeping till the summer should end. * Exocarpus
cupressiformis.



Chapter LI. Changes in the Romilly Home



VERY quiet was Romilly in those old days,--so old, yet in reality so
recent. Ah me, what a turn my world has taken since I stood in the
dusty road that evening, with Emma leaning on my arm and saying,--

"What a happy place, Jim. What a peaceful place. See there, there is
the burial-ground through the trees. I would sooner be buried there
than at Chelsea,--but--it don't much matter where, does it? What was
it Joe was reading to us out of the new book? Something,--and there
came 'And hands so often clasped with mine Should toss with tangle and
with shells.'"

"I cannot remember any more, but it was about hearing the feet of
those who loved you pass over your grave."

My father and mother were two people who carried home about with
them. Those two people, sitting together, would have made it home,
even on an iceberg. Their inner life was so perfectly, placidly good;
the flame of their lives burnt so clearly and so steadily that its
soft light was reflected on the faces of all those who came within its
influence; and such virtues as there were among those who were
familiar with them were brought into strong relief, while their vices
retired into deep shadow. In a few words, they were good people, and,
like all good people, to some extent made others good. Not only did we
of the family fall into our quiet grooves at once, but this township
of Romilly began to rally round my father and mother before we had
been established a week. Began to call at all hours and waste our
time, to borrow and lend pots and kettles; to give, to ask, but seldom
or never to follow advice; to go on, in fact, much the same as the
Chelsea people had done, on the other side of the water. After the
first week of the establishment of our new shop, the men came and
leant in at the window, and sat on the anvil, and toyed with the
hammers, just in the old style; and, before my mother had been a week
in the hastily-erected slab-house, the women began to come in, to
flump down into a seat, and to tell her all about it. People in some
ranks of life would be surprised at the facility with which the lower
classes recognize thoroughly trustworthy and good people. My father
and mother not only submitted to these levees, but felt flattered by
them. Every woman in the township had declined to know much of Mrs.
Podder,--who was known to have travelled for her sins,--until they
"met" her at Mrs. Burton's, standing against the fire-place, with her
bare arms folded on her bosom, smoking a short black pipe. Mrs. Burton
had "took her up," and that was enough. Mrs. Burton was so big, so
gentle, and so good, that even the little weasel-faced Mrs. Rance,
with the vinegar temper, had nothing more to say. Again, my father
made no difference between Jim Reilly and the best of them. Jim Reilly
was free to come and go, and get a kind word at the forge; and the
forge was neutral ground, and Jim was undeniably good company; and so
Jim was spoken to at the forge, and if you spoke to him at the forge
you could not cut him elsewhere. And so it came about that Jim found
himself in respectable company again, and mended his ways (which
wanted mending sadly), for very shame's sake. And in time the stories
about Jim's "horse-planting" propensities got forgotten, and Jim rode
his own horses only, and grew respectable.

So time began to run smoothly on once more, and a month began to
slip by more rapidly than a week had used to do in more unquiet
seasons. The week was spent in those happy alternations of labor and
rest which are only known to the prosperous mechanic,--alternate
periods of labor, in which the intellect is half-deadened, because
instinctive manual dexterity has, through long practice, rendered
thought unnecessary, and of rest, when that intellect begins to unfold
itself like some polypus, or sea anemone, and cast its greedy arms
abroad in all directions to seize and tuck headlong into its
unsatisfied stomach everything not actually inorganic. "Oh dura
messorum ilia!" Oh delicious unsatisfied hunger! Oh blessed
intellectual digestion! Did you ever read "Zimmerman on Solitude" and
somebody's (goodness knows who's now) "History of the United States"
through in one week? I did. And Jim Williams lay in the bed opposite,
maddened and sulky with the few scraps I threw him about Saratoga and
the Macedonian, Bunker's Hill and the Shannon and Chesapeake.

Joe got horribly angry with Tom Williams and me on the subject of
discursive reading. He (in the heat of the moment, I hope,) said one
day that he should like to see me wrecked on a desert island, with a
year's provisions, and nothing to read but Gibbon and Mosheim. That,
he said, was the only thing which could happen to me that would make a
man of me. After dexterously recalling a few compliments he had paid
to Mosheim a week past that very day, in answer, I begged to be
allowed his favorite copy of Rabelais. But he said that Rabelais would
rise from his grave if he attempted any such profane act.

"Jim," he went on, "I am only chafling; you are a better scholar
than I am. You know men, and I only know works. Now see how much in
earnest I am; I am come to you to ask you to decide a most important
affair for me, and I bind myself in honor to abide by your decision.
Tom Williams, old fellow, would you mind leaving Jim and me alone a
little? I know you won't be offended, Tom."

Tom departed, smiling, and then I said, "Martha, my love, perhaps you
had better go and help Emma"; but Joe rose in his stately way, and,
having taken her hand, kissed it, and led her to her seat again. The
blacksmith's hunchbacked son had gradually refined and developed
himself into a very good imitation of a high-bred gentleman; and his
courtesy somehow reflected itself on the pretty ex-maid-of-all-work,
for she merely smiled a pleasant natural smile on him, and sat down
again. What could a duchess have done more? But then courtesy comes so
naturally to a woman.

"I cannot go on with the business in hand, my sweet sister,"
continued Joe, "unless you stay here to protect me. You know my
brother's temper; unless I had your sweet face between me and his
anger, I should not dare to announce a resolution I have taken."

"Pray," I said, "keep alive the great family fiction,--that, because
I splutter and make a little noise when I am vexed, therefore I have a
worse temper than others; pray, don't let that fiction die. I should
be sorry if it did, for I reap great advantage from it; I always get
my own way,--if, indeed, that is any advantage. However, go on, Joe;
if your resolution was not an infinitely foolish one, we should not
have had all these words of preparation."

"Why," said Joe, "that is hardly the state of the case. In the first
place, you are not going to have your own way this time, because I am
going to have mine; and, my will being stronger than yours, you will
have the goodness to go to the wall with as little noise as possible.
In the next place, my resolution is not an infinitely foolish one, but
an infinitely wise one. The only question about it is, Shall I be able
to argue your fool's head into a sufficient state of clearness to see
the wisdom of it?"

Whenever Joe and I came to what I vulgarly called "hammer and tongs,"
I always yielded. I yielded now with perfect good humor, I think, and
laughed; though Joe was really ruffled for a minute.

"The fact of the matter is," he said, "that I have an offer of a
place as second-master in the Government School in Palmerston; and I
have accepted it. In three years I shall be inspector."

I was really delighted at the news. I had seen a long time that Joe
had been getting very discontented and impatient in consequence of the
commonplace life which we were forced to lead. He was "chafing under
inaction" (a phrase which expresses nothing save in its second
intention, but is good enough, nevertheless). I was pleased with his
news, but I was very much puzzled at the hesitation with which he
communicated it.

I said, "Joe, I am sincerely glad to hear what you tell me. We shall
miss you, my dear old fellow, but you will never be happy here. There
is no doubt that if you once get the thin edge of the wedge in you
will make a career for yourself. And, as far as I can see, you will
have a good chance of getting the thin edge of the wedge in now. I
don't like to tell you how glad I am, for fear you should think that I
shall bear our separation too lightly; but I am very glad, and so I
don't deceive you."

"So you should be, my faithful old brother. I should soon become a
plague to you here. But have you no other remark to make about this
resolution?"

"No. In particular, no. In a general way of speaking, I am glad of
it. With regard to details,--now, have you broke it to father?"

"No," said Joe, plumply; "you must do that."

I didn't see any great difficulty about that. I was beginning to say
that he would require a regular fit-out of new clothes, and that we
could manage that nicely now, when who, of all people in the world,
should put in her oar but Martha.

"I suppose you have told Emma," she said.

"There!" said Joe. "A woman against the world. That is the very point
I have been driving at, and have been afraid to broach."

"Do you want me to break it to her?" I asked.

"Break it to her! Why, my dear brother, it is all her doing from
beginning to end. She gave me the first intimation that the offer
would be made me, and then quietly told that she had been in
communication with Miss Burke about it for some months. She began on
Miss Burke. I honestly confess that I should never have thought of
debauching the leader of the Opposition before I put in my claim to
Ministers, but she did. She began on Miss Burke for the mere sake of
inducing her to keep the Irish party quiet about my appointment; in
the which phase of her proceedings Miss Burke's love for Lady Hillyar
was her trump card, with which card she seems to have taken several
tricks. Meanwhile, only three weeks ago, finding that Miss Burke was
staying down here at the Barkers, she contrived an interview with her;
and not only did she completely stop any opposition on the part of Mr.
O'Ryan, but she actually persuaded, induced, bamboozled,--I know not
what word to use,--Miss Burke into making the matter in some sort a
party question. As I stand here, Miss Burke has made Mr. O'Ryan go to
Mr. Oxton and say that, in case of my appointment to the
inspectorship, not a word, on their sacred word of honor, either next
session or any future session, should pass the lips of any son of Erin
on the subject of the appointment of Billy Morton to the harbor-
mastership. And that's your Emma!"

I thought it was my Lesbia Burke, too, but I didn't say so. And,
indeed, I was too much engaged in wondering at what Joe told me about
Emma to think much about Lesbia Burke just now. I confess that I was a
little amazed at this last exhibition of cunning and courage in Emma.
If I had not repelled her by a little coarseness of speech and a
little roughness of temper, she would have confided in me more, and I
should have noticed the sudden development of character which took
place in her after our troubles,--that sudden passage from girlhood
into womanhood. But, indeed, it was only fault of manner on my part.
And she loved me; she loved me better than all of them put together.
Indeed she did.

"How do you want me to act in the matter, then?" I said.

"I want you to undertake father and mother. I want you not only to
tell them of my appointment, but also to tell them this,--that Emma
has determined, under their approval, of course, to come to
Palmerston, and keep house for me."

I started as he said this. I was unprepared for it; and, as I did so,
I felt a hand on my shoulder, and, turning round, I saw that Emma was
standing behind me.

"Emma," I said, "are you really going to leave us?"

She motioned me to come out with her, and we went out together and
walked among the trees.

"You are not going to dissuade me from going, are you, my brother?"
she said.

I was quite silent. She clasped her two hands together over my arm,
and hurriedly asked me if I was angry.

"There is never any confidence given to me until all the world knows
the matter," I said; "then, when it is impossible to alter matters,
the affair is broken to me. Can you wonder that I am ruffled
sometimes? I will not be angry now, but I will not allow that I have
no reason."

"Only because I did not confide in you; not because you disapprove of
our resolution?"

"Well, yes. I approve on the whole of your resolution; it is natural
that you should be by his side for the present; though the time will
soon come when he will not want you. You will be hardly ornamental
enough to sit at a statesman's table, my poor, fat old thing."

Poor Emma was so glad to hear me speak in my natural tone that she
threw her arms round my neck. I laughed and said,--

"There is some one who don't think you a fat old thing, ain't there?
When will you go?"

"Next week."

"So soon? Does Joe say it is necessary?"

"No," she answered with some decision; "he does not say it is
necessary. But I urged him to go, and pointed out the reason, and he
quite approves of my resolution."

"Erne will think it very unkind. It will be so marked, to go only a
day or two before his first visit."

"Let him think it unkind. I know which is the kindest line of action.
I shall go, Jim. This is a matter in which I must decide for myself.
Why did you start? Have you seen anything?"

We had wandered away along a track in the forest till we had nearly
come to a dense clump of the low tree called lightwood (sufficiently
like an English bay tree), through which the road passed. The night
was gathering fast, and, when we were within fifty yards of the dark
place, my cousin Samuel emerged from the gloom and came towards us.

I walked straight on, with Emma on my arm, intending to pass him
without speaking. I had never spoken to him in Palmerston, and she had
never seen him there; so this was her first meeting with him since
that dreadful night when she had rescued Reuben from that den of
thieves into which he had drawn him. I was made anxious and angry by
his sudden appearance here in Romilly, and I very much wished to avoid
having anything to do with him.

Emma, however, would not pass him without a kind word, and so she
stopped as he stood aside to let us pass him, and said,--

"It is a long while since we met, cousin. I hope you have been well
since I saw you."

"I have been very well," he answered, with a false smile wreathing on
his thin lips. "I am very much obliged to you for speaking to me, for
I was anxious to see you, and ask you a question."

"I shall be glad to answer it," she replied. "I am your debtor, you
know."

"You are pleased to say so. I will go on, with your leave. I am
exceedingly anxious and unhappy about my boy Reuben."

"On what grounds?" said Emma. "He is well, and is doing very well. I
heard from him last mail."

"He preserves a dead silence towards me. I never hear a word from
him. I have no answer to my letters. What is the meaning of this?"

By this time his voice had risen to a shrill treble, and he was
waving his arm up and down threateningly; his pinched features, his
long nose, and his high sloping eyebrows began to form an ensemble
which looked uncommonly vicious. He went on,--

"He has been tampered with, his affections have been alienated from
me, and his mind has been poisoned against me, by that scoundrel. How
dares he? Is he mad?"

I said that none of us had ever been so wicked as to stand between
Reuben and his father.

"I am not talking of you, my lad," he said in a quieter voice. "You
and yours have always been what is kind and good. I am speaking of a
scoundrel, a wretch, without decency, without gratitude,--a monstrous
mass of utter selfishness. But let him take care! Let him take care!"

And so he walked swiftly away under the darkening shadows, with his
hand raised menacing over his head, muttering, "Let him take care."
And it came into my head that if I were the gentleman referred to I
most certainly would take uncommon good care.

"It's Morton, the keeper, he is so wild against," I remarked. "I am
glad that there is fourteen or fifteen thousand miles between them."

"It must be Morton," said Emma; "otherwise I might think it was Sir
George. What a strange thing this is, his never coming near Stanlake!
I wonder why?"

"I cannot think," I said, as we turned homewards, "that Reuben is
right in not writing to his father. I cannot understand it; it is
unlike Reuben."

"I do not understand it either," said Emma. "I will certainly mention
it to him the next time I write. Poor old Reuben! how I should like to
see him again! How time goes on, don't it, eh? Jim, I want to walk
farther with you in the dark, just one more turn."

"Come," I said, cheerfully. "I could walk forever in this delicious
owl's--light, with you beside me."

"I went on with her gently, whistling and waiting for her to begin. I
was very anxious.

"I am going to ask a half a dozen questions about Mr. Erne Hillyar.
Is he ever likely to be rich?"

"I cannot see how. He gets some nominal salary where he is,--two
hundred a-year, I think; and, when he is out of his apprenticeship, I
do not see how he is to start on his own account without capital. His
share of the property would certainly be enough to make him rich here.
But, as I tell you, he will die sooner than claim it."

"A strange crotchet. But look here. He would take it in an instant if
a reconciliation were brought about between him and his brother. Why
could not that be done? Think of it."

"What is the good? Erne here in Australia, and Sir George at
Timbuctoo by this time, for aught we know! Nonsense. There are only
two obstacles to prevent your accepting Erne, as you well know,--the
care of Joe, and your dread of lowering Erne. About the first obstacle
I shall say nothing, but I certainly don't want Erne to be raised away
above our level once more, and so I tell you plainly."

We said no more, but went silently in. I kissed her when we came to
the door. Those sweet sister-kisses were becoming precious now, for
was she not going to Palmerston to keep house for Joe? and one might
not see her again for so long,--certainly not till after I was
married. There was between us one deep source of disagreement. I had
set my heart on her marrying Erne, and she would have none of it. But
still she was very, very dear to me,--dearer perhaps and more valued
since that cause of disagreement had arisen between us than she had
ever been before. * The educational arrangements in Cooksland are
different from those in any of the other colonies.



Chapter LII. Feeds the Boar at the Old Frank?



THE pleasant summer passed away, and Gerty found to her terror that
the days when she dared creep out into the sun with Baby, and warm
herself under the south wall, were become fewer; that the cruel
English winter was settling down once more, and that she and her
little one would have to pass it together in the great house alone.

At first, after George's departure, people continued to call; but
Gerty never returned their visits, and before the later nights of
September began to grow warningly chill, it was understood that Sir
George was abroad; and very soon afterwards Lady Tattle found out that
Lady Hillyar was mad, my dear, and that Sir George had refused to let
her go into an asylum, but had generously given up Stanlake to her and
her keeper. That florid gray--headed man whom we saw driving with her
in Croydon was the keeper. Such stories did they make about poor Gerty
and Mr. Compton; which stories, combined with Gerty's shyness, ended
in her being left entirely alone before autumn was well begun.

Soon after Sir George's departure Mr. Compton heard from him on
business, and a very quiet business-like letter he wrote. He might be
a very long time absent, he said, and therefore wished these
arrangements to be made. The most valuable of the bricabrac was to be
moved from Grosvenor-place to Stanlake; Lady Hillyar would select what
was to be brought away, and then the house was to be let furnished.
The shooting on the Wiltshire and Somersetshire estates was to be let
if possible. The shooting at Stanlake was not to be let, but Morton
was to sell all the game which was not required for the house by Lady
Hillyar. Mr. Compton would also take what game he liked. He wished the
rabbits killed down: Farmer Stubble, at White-spring, had been
complaining. The repairs requested by Farmer Stubble were to be done
at once, to the full extent demanded; and so on in other instances,--
yielding quietly, and to the full, points he had been fighting for for
months. At last he came to Stanlake. Stanlake was to be kept up
exactly in the usual style. Not a servant discharged. Such horses as
Lady Hillyar did not require were to be turned out, but none sold, and
none bought, except under her ladyship's directions. He had written to
Drummonds, and Lady Hillyar's cheques could be honored. There was a
revolution here, (Paris,) but how the dickens it came about, he,
although on the spot, could n't make out. There were no buttons here
such as Lady Hillyar wished for; but, when he got to Vienna, he might
get some, and would write to her from that place, and put her in
possession of facts. She might, however, rely that, if money could get
them, she should have them.

He did not write one word to Gerty. His old habits were coming back
fast,--among others, that of laziness. Boswell, enlarging on a hastily
expressed opinion of Johnson's, tries to make out the ghastly doctrine
that all men's evil habits return to them in later life. What Boswell
says is, possibly, no matter,--although he was not half such a fool as
it has pleased my Lord Macaulay to make him out; yet there is a
horrible spice of truth in this theory of his, which makes it
noticeable. Whether Boswell was right or not in general, he would have
been right in particular if he had spoken of Sir George Hillyar; for,
from the moment he cut the last little rope which bound him to his
higher life, his old habits began flocking back to him like a crowd of
black pigeons.

The buttons came from Vienna, and a letter. The letter was such a
kind one that she went singing about the house for several days, and
Mr. Compton, coming down to see her, was delighted and surprised at
the change in her. After Sir George's departure, the poor little woman
had one of her periodical attacks of tears, which lasted so long that
she got quite silly, and Mr. Compton and the housekeeper had been
afraid of her going mad. But she had no return of tearfulness after
the letter from Vienna, but set cheerfully to work to garrison her
fortress against the winter.

She would have had a few trees cut down for firewood in the
Australian manner, had not the steward pointed out to her ladyship the
inntility and extravagance of such a proceeding. She therefore went
into coals to an extent which paralyzed the resources of the coal
merchant, who waited on her, and with tears in his eyes begged her not
to withdraw her order, but to give him time; that was all he asked
for,--time. The next thing she did was, by Baby's advice, to lay in a
large stock of toys, and then, by her own, an immense number of cheap
novels. And, when all this was done, she felt that she could face the
winter pretty comfortably.

Stanlake was a great, solemn, gray-white modern house, with a broad
flagged space all round, standing in the centre of the park, but apart
from any trees: the nearest elm being a good hundred yards away,
though the trees closed in at a little distance from the house, and
hid the landscape. It was a very dreary place even in summer; in
winter, still more solemn and desolate. When it had been filled with
company there had been noise and bustle enough perhaps, but, now that
Gerty was left in solitary state, silence seemed to settle down and
brood on it the whole day long. In the morning, when the men were
washing the horses, there would be some pleasant sounds from the
stable-yard; but, when they had done,--except when a dog barked in the
distant kennel, or the rooks made a faint sound in the distant
rookery,--perfect stillness seemed to reign over everything.

Within, all was endless gallery opening into library, library into
dinning--room, dining-room into drawing-room, till the astonished
visitor found that he had gone round the house and came back to the
hall again. The drawing--rooms were pleasant and light, the library
was dark and comfortable, the dining-room was staidly convivial: it
was merely a common-place, well--furnished, grand house; but now,
since Sir George's departure, since silence had settled down in it, it
began to have such a ghastly air about it that the servants generally
came into the rooms in pairs, and showed a great tendency to sit
together over the fire in the steward's room and servants' hall at
night, and not move for trifles.

And the ghost which frightened them all was no other than poor little
Gerty. They never knew where they were going to find her. These old
staid, gray-headed servants had always thought her ladyship very
queer, but now she began to be to them what the Scotch call uncanny.
There were, as the house-keeper would have told you with pride, (as if
she had built the house,) no less than three hundred feet of suite in
the great rooms which ran round the house, and in this suite there
were no less than sixteen fireplaces. When the first frost sent the
leaves fluttering off the elms, and rattling off the horse-chestnuts,
Gerty had every one of these fires lit and carefully attended to all
day. It was now that the servants, who had always been slightly afraid
of her, began to steal about the rooms: for, among all the sixteen
fireplaces, it was impossible to say at which a nervous middle--aged
footman would find her ladyship lying on her back on the hearth-rug,
and talking unutterable nonsense, either to Baby, or, what was worse,
in his unavoidable absence, to herself. The servants, being mostly
old, got so many frights by trusting themselves in the great
wilderness of furniture, and coming on Lady Hillyar in the very place
where they would have betted all they had she was n't, that it became
the custom to plead indisposition in order to avoid going, and in some
cases to resort to stimulants before going, into the strange ghostly
region alone.

Sometimes they would hear her romping with Baby. Sometimes her voice
would come from afar off, as she sat and sang at the piano. As far as
they could gather, she was never low-spirited or dull. She read a
great deal, and used to dress herself very carefully; but, as time
went on, the old housekeeper began to fancy that she got a little
vacant in her answers, and longed for spring to come again, and for
her ladyship to get out on the downs.

She had only one visitor, Mr. Compton; and he would come down
sometimes for a night on business, at which time she would entertain
him at dinner. She would talk about George and his whereabouts, and
calculate on the period of his return, strange to say, with less
eagerness as the time went on. Her present life, whatever its
objections might be, was at all events peaceful; and that was much,
after that dreadful letter, the recollection of which came on her
sometimes yet with a chill of horror. But she was gradually forgetting
that; nay, was going a very good way to work to forget a good deal
more.

Baby was not condemned to entire seclusion with his mother. He had
been ill once, and a doctor being brought in, ordered the child two
hours' exercise every day. And so, every day, he was consigned to
Reuben, who led him away on a little pony through all the secluded
converts where his duty lay, and, in his pleasant way, introduced him
to all the wild wonders of the gamekeeper's world.

The child got very much attached to Reuben, as did most people; and
Gerty had such full confidence in him, and the boy grew so rosy and
hale under his care, and it was so pleasant to hear the boy's stories
of his day's adventures at their little tea, that she gave Reuben
every liberty about hours, and Reuben himself, being fond of the
company of children, would very often keep the child out late.

The winter dragged on, and Gerty began to anticipate her release,
when, on a wild March evening with a lurid sunset, the boy came home
and told his mother that they had met the devil walking in a wood.
That the devil had been glad to see Reuben, and wished (as Baby
believed) for Reuben to give him (Baby) to him (the devil). That
Reuben had been very much frightened at first, but after a time had
coaxed the devil away, and talked to him in a dark place among the
trees; during which time he (Baby) had sat on the pony all alone, and
let it eat grass. Upon this Gerty sat on him like a commissioner. To
Question, 250, "My gracious goodness child, how near were you to him?"
the Answer was "Ever so far. Reuben ran forward when he saw him, to
prevent his catching hold of me." Question 251, "Did you see his
face?" Answer, "No. But I know it was the devil." Question 252, "Why?"
Answer, "Because he went on going to and fro, like he did in Job."
Question 253, "Had you no other reason for thinking it was the devil?"
Answer, "Yes." Question 254, "What?" Answer, "Reuben said it was."
Question 255, "What did Reuben say besides, in the name of goodness?"
Answer, "He said that, if I told you a word about it, the beadle would
come down the chimney at twelve o'clock at night, and carry me off to
apprentice me into the wooden-leg and glass-eye business." Question
256, "How do you come to remember Reuben's nonsense so well, you
little silly thing?" Answer, "Because he kept on saying it all the way
home." Question 257, "Why did you tell me if Reuben told you not?"
Answer, "I don't know." Question 258, "Do you want any more
marmalade?" Answer, "Yes."

Lady Hillyar rang the bell, and asked if Reuben was gone. It seemed
he was not, and it seemed, moreover, that he had distrusted his little
friend's discretion, for, on being shown up, he was in a most perfect
state of London assurance, ready for Gerty at all points. Before the
conversation could begin, it was necessary that Baby should go to the
nursery, and, as it appeared (after a somewhat lively debate, in which
Gerty adduced the fate of the children who had called after--or, as
she expressed it, "joed"--the prophet Elisha, without the slightest
effect) that he would not go there unless Reuben took him, Reuben had
to take him accordingly. After a long absence he reappeared, and the
conversation began.

"Well! if this don't bang wattle gum," * began Gerty, who was wild
with curiosity, and forgot her manners accordingly, "I wish I may be
buried in the bush in a sheet of bark. Why I feel all over centipedes
and copper lizards. For you to go and see the devil with that dear
child, and teach him not to let his mother know, and in Whitley Copse
too, of all places, and you old enough to be his father. You ought to
be---You ought to get----Why, you ought to have your grog stopped--"

"My lady, indeed--"

"No, I don't mean that. You must n't be angry with me; I was n't
really in a pelter. You ain't going to be cross with me, are you,
Reuben? You did see the devil now, did n't you? That dear child would
never deceive his own mother. Come, I am sure you did."

"I only told him it was the devil, my lady."

"Then who was it? It could n't have been Black Joe, because we heard
of his being hung, soon after we went into Cooksland, for putting a
chest of drawers on an old woman to get her money out of her, though
why he could n't have taken it out of her pocket---He was very like
the devil, my father used to say, though I don't believe he ever saw
him,--the devil I mean: he saw Black Joe often enough, for he was
assigned to him; and I remember his getting fifty for sauce one
shearing time--"

"It was n't him, my lady," said Reuben, arresting the torrent. "It
was a young man of the name of Ned, that keeps a beer 'us in Old Gal
Street. Caledonia Road. That's about who it was, my lady. A terrible
chap to swear and carry on in his drink, my lady, and I smelt him as I
was a-coming through the copse, that he'd been at it; and I says, I
says, Dash it all, I says, there'll be high life below stairs with him
in about two twists of a lamb's tail; and I says to the kid,--I ask
pardon, the young 'un; I ask pardon again, the young master,--Stay
here, I says, while I go and has it out with him, for the ears of the
young, I says, should never be defiled, nor their morality
contaminated, with none of your Greenwich Fair, New Cut, Romany
patter. And so I goes to him, my lady." Reuben, whose bark was now
laboring heavily in the trough of a great sea of fiction, continued,
"I goes to him, and--"

"I think you were perfectly right, my dear Reuben," said Gerty. "I
thank you for your discretion. My father had the greatest horror of
the same thing. None of my sisters ever interchanged words with a hand
in their lives. And, indeed, I never should have done so; only I was
let run wild in consequence of mamma's being so busy getting my
sisters off, and papa being always in town after that dreadful drop in
tallow, which ultimately flew to his stomach at the Prince of Wales,
and took him off like the snuff of a candle. For my part--"

Here Reuben, who, having got breathing-time, had rapidly carried on
his fiction in his head, took it up again: not at the point where he
had dropped it last, but at the point at which he had arrived when he
found himself capable of going in for another innings. So he began.
Which left Gerty in the position of the reader of the third volume of
a novel, who has had no opportunity of reading the second.

"And so, my lady, his aunt said that, with regard to the five pound
note, what could n't be cured must be endured; and with regard to the
black-and--tan terrier bitch, what was done could n't be helped,
though she hoped it would n't happen again. And they had in the
gallon, my lady, and then they tossed for a go of turps and a
hayband,--I ask your ladyship's pardon, that means a glass of gin and
a cigar; and that is all I know of the matter, I do assure you."

How the conversation would have come to an end, save by the sheer
exhaustion of both parties, had not Baby reappeared in his night-shirt
to look after Reuben, we cannot say. It concluded, however; and,
however much nonsense Reuben may have talked, he certainly gained his
object, that of mystifying Gerty, and making her forget the subject in
hand. He wished her good-night with a brazen front, and, having
received a kind farewell, departed.

Now what had happened was shortly this. That evening, as he had been
leading the child's pony through a dense copse, Sir George Hillyar had
stepped out from behind a holly, and beckoned to him.

Reuben was very much astonished, for he supposed Sir George to be at
Florence, but he let go the pony and came forward at once. Sir George
looked wild, and, as Reuben thought, dissipated; he caught Reuben's
hand, and said,--

"Ha! One single face left in all the world, and all the rest
chattering ape--heads. How are you, my boy?"

Reuben was well, and very glad to see Sir George. "Lady Hillyar would
have a pleasant surprise," he said, but, looking at Sir George's
appearance, very much doubted it.

"She must know nothing. Not a soul must know anything but yourself.
What child is that?"

"Your own, sir?"

"Poor little thing. Has he recognized me?"

"It would be impossible at that distance."

"Meet me to-morrow night, after dark, at this address. I have
prowled all the afternoon to catch you, and I must be gone. Mind! not
one word."

And so he had gone, leaving Reuben lost in wonder. However, his
self--possession had prevented his betraying himself to Lady Hillyar.
And, when he left her presence, he began to think of the address Sir
George had given him; thinking probably that it would be at some West-
end hotel. What was his astonishment to find that it was Lawrence
Street, Chelsea,--a strange place, indeed, in which to find a baronet.

He got there a little after dark. He found the house at once, of
course, having known every house there from his boyhood. It was a
largish old house, with bow windows, which might have been respectable
once, but which was now let out in floors and single rooms to poor
people. Passing up the common staircase, into the close smell which
there is in all that kind of houses,--a smell which had been familiar
to him all his youth, and yet which seemed so repugnant after a year
in the sweet fresh airs of Stanlake,--he went on to the second floor;
and, before he had time to knock at the door of the front room, the
door opened, and Sir George beckoned him in.

"You stare to find me here, boy, hey?"

"I thought you at Florence, sir. But I am heartily glad to see you."

"Why do you hesitate to call me 'father,' Reuben?"

"Indeed,--well then, 'father,'--I hardly know. In spite of all the
proofs you have given me of it from time to time,--in spite of all
your kindness,--it seems strange. Hang it all, sir," continued he,
with an air of petulance; "a man can't get used to everything all of a
heap. And I ain't got used to this yet. And, what is more, I must have
my time for getting used to it. Now."

His true Londoner's hatred for anything approaching sentiment made
him positively angry for a moment. But his good humor came back
directly, and he asked Sir George if he had given offence.

"Offence! not the least. I could have expected no more. I will make
you like me."

"I do so already," said Reuben. "More than you think for, perhaps;
but I don't like talking about that sort of thing. I never knew a chap
worth three halfpence who was."

"Well," said Sir George, "I don't know but what you are right. Old
boy, I'll prove I care for you, by deeds, and we will talk no more on
the subject. I have very little to ask you. You have kept me pretty
well au fait with matters at Stanlake. Do you know what I have been
doing abroad?"

"I do not, sir. Travelling?"

"And you might add gaming considerably, and you might add winning
considerably. But I have been hard at work too. I have been hunting a
wolf, Reuben."

"What wolf, sir?"

"Yes. An old gray wolf. I could never come up to him. He travelled
fast, faster than I, who had to make inquiries, could follow him. But
I tracked. Yes, by George, like an old inspector."

Sir George Hillyar had risen, and was standing with his back to the
fire, biting his nails impatiently. Reuben sat in the gloom and
watched him anxiously. His face was worn into deep lines, and his old
scowl, which was so familiar to those who had known him in his worst
times, was strong upon his face to-night.

"I tracked him," said he, speaking half-absently to Reuben, "from
here to Paris,--to Geneva,--to Turin,--to Ajaccio. What did he want
there, in the name of his master the Devil? And then to Naples, and
Malta, and at Malta I lost him, and he must have come back to England.
Have you seen him?"

He said this suddenly and sharply. Reuben asked whom he meant?

"Why, Samuel Burton. Did I not tell you? Have you seen him?"

Reuben said, "No," but cunningly waited to hear more. "What might
make Sir George so anxious to find him?" he asked.

"Nought! A little conversation. A few words in private. Nothing
more."

He said this so strangely that Reuben would not say what was on the
tip of his tongue. To wit, that Samuel Burton was at that present
moment in Australia, and that he had in his pocket, at that moment, a
letter announcing his arrival there. Reuben thought that it might be
wise to keep these two good people apart. He was confirmed in his
resolution by all that he saw and heard that night.

Sir George kept him there talking for a long time. The conversation
was all on Sir George's part, and consisted almost entirely of a long
diatribe against Samuel Burton: his ingratitude, his falseness, his
villanous, abominable ingratitude over again, until Reuben was
prompted to ask suddenly, "whether he had been up to anything fresh."
Sir George said no, and talked more cautiously.

He asked about Stanlake; about the home farm; about the game; about
Lady Hillyar. Had she been alarmed at night? Had there been any
attempts at burglary?--there was a deal of property in the house. He
knew for certain that the house had been robbed once, and that the
thief had got in through the pantry window. Morton should be told of
this; Reuben had better tell him. Reuben had better say that he had
received a letter from Florence, and that Morton was to sleep in the
house, and shoot any man who attempted to break in stone-dead. It was
only justifiable homicide; the law would acquit him. Reuben had better
say nothing about it; he did not wish any one shot. He was a miserable
and most unhappy beggar, and wished he was dead, and that Erne was
dead, and that they were all dead, and quietly asleep in their graves.
He was not afraid of death, he said, and wondered that he was fool
enough to live on. If he could bring himself to believe in a future
state, of any sort or kind, he would blow out his brains that night.
But he could n't, and annihilation was so horrible. He had not been
used justly. He had had no chance. He appealed to Reuben. Reuben would
not stand there and say that he had ever had a fair chance,--not such
a chance as one gentleman would give another. The whole state of this
world was horrible and abominable; a man was predoomed to ruin from
his cradle. The Ultra-Predestinarians were right. He would publicly
declare for them, and declare himself reprobate. He would not do it
for nothing though; if his doom had been sealed from the first he
would not go quietly to his punishment. No. That dog might be assured
of his salvation, but he should feel the horror of sudden death. He
would get face to face with that dog, and inflict on him a few moments
of ghastly terror.

And so on. If any man cares, let him follow out poor Sir George
Hillyar's frantic, illogical line of thought. It would be very easy,
but is it worth while?

Sir George had worked himself into a state nearly frantic, and Reuben
was sincerely distressed. At last he ventured up to him, and, laying
his hand on his arm, besought him earnestly to be quieter. It had a
sudden effect; Sir George grew calmer, and his rage died away into low
mutterings.

Presently he told Reuben that he must go. He cautioned him not to
mention his having seen him to any living soul, and so dismissed him.

"I will go and look at the outside of the old place," said Reuben to
himself as soon as he was in the street. "I am fond of it for their
sakes. What a kind lot they were! I wonder what they are doing now. So
it's all broke off between Emma and Mr. Erne; more the pity."

Thinking in this way, Reuben passed through the narrow passage by the
dissenting chapel, and soon stood before the old deserted house.
Brown's Row was mainly gone to bed. Only Mr. Pistol, who had got off
with a twelvemonth, was standing with three or four others under a
lamp, and expressing his intention of slitting a certain worthy
magistrate's throat from ear to ear. But, hearing a base groveller of
a policeman coming round the corner, he swaggered off with a dignified
silence in the direction of Church Street; and the Row was left in
peace.

Reuben was glad of it, for he was (for him) in a sentimental mood,
and felt very much inclined to stand and watch the old house, bathed
in the light of the early spring moon. He leant in the shadow under
the pent-house of the Burton's forge, and watched the dear old place
with something very like emotion,--when all at once Sir George Hillyar
came up, without seeing him, and disappeared round the back of the
house.

Prompted both by curiosity and by reckless love of adventure, Reuben
immediately followed him. When he got round the house, no one was
there, and it was evident that Sir George had got into the yard by a
broken place in the palings; and Reuben, looking in, saw him enter the
old house by a back window which was left unclosed.

"Now, what is the meaning of this? and what on earth is he doing
here?" thought Reuben, and immediately crouched down under the window.
He heard Sir George on the stairs; and quickly, and with the silence
of a cat, he followed him in and slipped off his shoes.

He found himself in the old familiar kitchen, and crouched down for
fear of Sir George lighting a candle. He did not, however, but passed
out, and began ascending the great staircase.

What made Reuben feel sure that he was going up to his old room,--to
the room which had been the scene of so much before? Reuben was
puzzled to find a reason for such a strange proceeding; and yet he was
absolutely certain that he was going there. So certain that he
followed more rapidly than was quite prudent.

The moon flooded the house, through every available cranny, with a
dull weird light; and Sir George was easily kept in sight. It was the
more easy to do it, as there was a brisk wind abroad, which filled the
house with rustling sound, and hushed the footsteps of the follower.
He passed on, higher and higher, till he passed into Reuben's room,
and disappeared. Reuben, waiting a few minutes, cautiously peeped in
at the half-opened door. His old bed stood there still; it was barely
worth removing; but there were other evidences of Sir George having
been there before. The bed was roughly covered with a blanket,--bed
enough for an old Australian; and there were other signs of
habitation, in the midst of which sat Sir George at a broken old
table, with his revolver lying before him. Reuben gave one look at
him, and then stole silently away, his retreat being covered by the
innumerable mysterious noises of the deserted place. * This is a very
low expression. If Mrs. Oxton had been there she never would have
dared to use it. In the bush, when a chemist's shop is not handy, the
gum of the acacia is used instead of chalk mixture.



Chapter LIII. James Burton's Story: The Clayton Ménage



"AT last," I cried out, as I saw Erne come slinging on through the
forest towards me. "Why, I thought I had lost you forever."

"Old boy, I am so glad to see you. I was determined to make you wait
for letting Emma go away before my appointed visit. You see I have
avenged myself on you by keeping you waiting some six months for a
sight of my handsome mug. It was only your wedding which brought me
over at last. And how are you all?"

"We were all very well."

"You have seen Joe's Report," said Erne, "of course. Is it not
masterly? I am so rejoiced; but no one ever doubted his abilities but
himself. The conclusion pleased me; I heard the old fellow's voice as
I read it, and saw him emphatically rolling his head at every period;
it is so exactly like Joe. 'Our tender mercies to these people will be
found to be but cruel, if we do but raise them out of a sea of
physical misery which was over-whelming them in the Old World, to
plunge them into a moral and intellectual one in this. In examining
the condition of the class of boys on which you ordered me to report,
I found an insolent ignorance, a sullen impatience of control, which
gave me the deepest concern, and which has settled forever in my own
mind the question of compulsory education. Unarmed with such powers as
I should derive from the prestige which is naturally the right of an
officer appointed by Government, and by a law rendering education
compulsory, I for one, speaking as a school-master, would refuse to
undertake the task of training these sullen and ignorant young
barbarians, who in a few years' time will be exercising the full
privileges of citizens.'--I pause for a reply."

"That last sentence ain't in it, is it?" I asked.

"No," said Erne, laughing, "but it should be, in the fitness of
things. The fault of the Report is that it is all through too much in
the 'Romans, countrymen, and lovers' style. Joe is uncertain of
himself, afraid of some old lurking bit of slang or vernacular turning
up and undoing him when he don't expect it; and so he wraps up all his
excellent common sense in fine words. Never mind; the set he is in now
will soon cure him of that. Well, and how is she?"

"Emma? She is very well; she seems not to like Palmerston. Joe is
never at home, and, when he is, is utterly pre-occupied. Since his
evidence before that commission, and the order for him to make a
special Report, he has been utterly unfit to attend to the slightest
domestic arrangement. She says he would never get fed if it wasn't for
her."

"He will be Secretary before he dies. What a capacity for work there
is in him, as well as genius. My father used to remark it. Noble old
Joe!"

"And how have you been, my dear friend?" I asked.

"I have been well enough, Jim. But I am not comfortable."

"No?"

"Why, no. The people I am with don't suit me."

"The Claytons."

"Yes. I like him very well. He is an honest, reckless fellow, a
master of his business. He has a great horror of a man who drinks, or
a man who reads.--'I never knew any good come of reading,' he
continually says; 'my dear sir, you will never succeed unless you give
it up. It's worse than drinking, in my opinion.'--And he is quite in
earnest. Ha! ha!"

"But about her?" I asked.

"Well, I don't know. There's something odd about her. A Je ne sais
quoi, a sort of Haymarket air altogether. But she was not so bad till
Mrs. Quickly came."

"Mrs. Quickly!" I cried out.

"Yes. Oh, by the bye, she says she knows all of you. I forgot. Yes,
Mrs. Quickly has come and taken up her quarters there, altogether."

"What does Clayton say to that?"

"Oh, he approved of it at first, there being no family. 'You see,
sir,' he said to me, 'It's as well to have some company for her. It is
very dull for a woman in the bush without children.'"

"Take care of Mrs. Quickly, Erne."

"Oh, you need n't caution me," said Erne, laughing. "I know the cut
of her ladyship's cap. Unluckily, Mrs. Quickly is troubled with a
sinking in her stomach, and requires stimulants, which has resulted in
this, that neither Mrs. Quickly nor Mrs. Clayton are ever exactly
sober. Mrs. Quickly, being, I suppose, the more seasoned vessel,
carries her drink in a more workman-like manner than Mrs. Clayton.
When Mrs. Quickly is sufficiently intoxicated to throw herself into my
arms and kiss me, you generally find that Mrs. Clayton has been forced
to go and lie down. As for old Parkins, he never gets drunk. Drink
what he will it makes no difference to him."

"Does Clayton know of this?"

"Yes, but he has n't strength of mind to stop it entirely. He is
exceedingly attached and devoted to his wife. He says that, as soon as
he can get rid of Mrs. Quickly, it will be all right again. She never
did it till that woman came. But Mrs. Quickly won't go. Parkins says
she has got the whip hand of Mrs. Clayton, and knows when she is well
off."

"I dare say. But who is Parkins?"

"Parkins? Oh, why he is Parkins. He is a queer-looking card; but very
agreeable, remakably well-bred. He came there after Mrs. Quickly at
first, I believe, but took such a fancy to me that he has been there a
good dcal. Clayton says he will leave me his fortune. He is very well
off, looking for an investment."

"I hope you may be his heir."

"I have very little hope, Hammersmith; for, however excellent his
testamentary intentions may be, I doubt whether he will have an
opportunity of carrying them into execution for the next forty years.
He looks like a liver."

"Cannot he stop this miserable drinking?"

"He does all he can, to do him justice; but somehow he seems afraid
of Mrs. Quickly. The whole lot of them, with the exception of Clayton,
have just the air of people who had made their fortunes by robbing
poor-boxes. Nice sort of company for a young gentleman of my bringing-
up: I don't much care about it so long as they don't kick up a row,
but I am getting very tired of it. I shall make a bolt one of these
days."

That evening Erne and I took a walk together up the Brougham river.
It is an exception to the majority of rivers in Australia, for, being
snow-fed, and coming to a great extent through limestone, it keeps up
a full crystal current through the hottest summer. It is the favorite
resort of the lovers of Romilly to this day, for it is so deeply
embowered in fern-tree and lightwood that one may sit in the shade and
dream of cool English woods in August: dream only like her who "Woke,
and the bubble of the stream Fell, and without the steady glare."

But, however, fern-trees and lightwood must do, where oak and elm
are unprocurable.

The Brougham is popular, too, as a resort for anglers; those pretty
little salmonidae, which are so singularly like grayling, leaving the
larger river, the Erskine, prefer the more aerated waters of the
Brougham and swarm up it in thousands. As we passed along the bank
which wound up the valley near the river, we saw many of our neighbors
bathing and fishing; but, getting farther from the town we seemed to
leave life behind us, and began to think we were alone in the forest:
when, coming to a deep pool, in a turn of the river, walled in with
dark shrubs and feathering tree-ferns, we came on a solitary man, who
sat on a log fishing by himself: on seeing whom, Erne exclaimed,
"Hallo! why here's Parkins," and, going up to him, and having
affectionately shaken hands, sat down and began a conversation.

Mr. Parkins was affectionately glad to see Erne, but the principal
expression of his face was that of intense amusement,--amusement at my
expense, for I was standing looking at him and at Erne with staring
eyes and open mouth. This Mr. Parkins, this new friend of Erne's, was
no less a person than my cousin Samuel.



Chapter LIV. Emma's Visit



"THIS is my friend Mr. Burton," said Erne.

"I formerly had the acquaintance of Mr. James Burton," said Samuel
sarcastically; "nay, on one occasion I took the liberty of saving his
life."

I blushed, and stammered out some commonplace. I was not quite sure
that I had not done a rather ill-conditioned act in passing him before
on many occasions without speaking to him. I hoped he was well.

He was quite satisfied at once, and began to talk kindly. He
congratulated me on my approaching marriage; and, although he must
have been considerably disconcerted and annoyed at the impending
discovery, by Erne, of the fact that his refined friend, Mr. Parkins,
was identical with the transported valet of his brother, yet he never
showed the slightest annoyance or vexation, but talked indifferently
about his sport and about the weather, until we rose to walk homeward.

Erne was immensely astonished when I eagerly announced the fact to
him; but he was quite as much amused as surprised.

"This completes the Clayton ménage," he said. "What an exceedingly
funny lot of people we are! I am charmed at this discovery. I will
pick Master Samuel's brains no end about his convict experiences. It
will determine me to stay on with Clayton. Fancy being on intimate
terms with a convict. But does it not strike you as curious that he
and I should be accidentally thrown together?"

"I see nothing curious in it whatever," I said. "It is plain to me
that he has found out where you are, and, taking advantage of this
careless bush hospitality, has introduced himself into the house with
you, for his own purposes. He has intentions with regard to you, but
he is far too unfathomably cunning to let you know what they are. He
is going to bid for a farm here."

"No; is he?"

"So they say. He is waiting here for the land sale."

"And when is that?"

"Next week. My father is going to buy heavily."

"I thought Dawson bought up everything hereabout."

"He is not going to bid against my father."

"That is a singular concession on his part. He is mad about Port
Romilly. I know this for a fact: before the last great land sale a man
had squatted on one of the lots, and had made money in some way or
another. Dawson went to him and said, 'My man, I understand you are
going to bid for this lot.' The man said yes, he was going to run it
up. 'You can run it up if you like,' said Dawson, 'but, if you do, you
'll run yourself off it; for I'll have it if it costs 30.000l. You
stay at home the day of the land-sale, and you may keep this house
over your head; but go anigh that court that day, and out of this you
go the week after.' The man wisely stayed at home, I believe."

I said, "Yes, the story is true. But on my father's mentioning his
wish to own land here, Mr. Dawson immediately said that he would
withdraw from competing for the lots which my father fancied. And so
there is a fair chance for him, though he is desperately anxious about
it."

"What sort of land is he going to buy?"

"A patch of 500 acres on the north slope of the Cape Wilberforce
Mountain, about three miles from the sea. You passed it on the road
coming here. A mile back. There's a burnt hut on it."

"It is poor land."

"No, capital vine land, with that aspect."

"I wish him joy with it. I cannot sufficiently admire the generous
liberality of our honorable friend Dawson. Why, my dear boy, that land
would starve a bandicoot."

"How do you know?"

"Why, innocent! if you will get any bushman to tell you that land
covered with Eucalyptus dumosus, vulgarly called Mallee, and
exceedingly stunted specimens of that, will grow anything, I will tell
him he knows nothing. Your father is, in my opinion, ill-advised."

And so the conversation dropped. About ten days after it was held I
was married. Only the very night before, a steamer came in from
Palmerston and brought Emma. She could not help coming, she said, and
had altered her mind the very last thing. The steamers between
Melbourne and Palmerston would call regularly at Port Romilly now.
That was so very nice to think of, was n't it? It made her feel the
separation less. Only three days would bring her among us at any time,
in case of illness or anything. And such a beautiful voyage, she said.
The sky was so bright, and the great ocean-roll so long and so gentle.
She had sat on the deck all day and all night, watching the coast.
There had been long stretches of low sand-beach in some places, and
then a majestic cape. Sometimes the land piled itself up into awful
tiers of dark forest, one rising behind the other; and sometimes these
would break away, and show low rolling plains stretching into the
interior, with faint blue mountains beyond. There were islands, too,
which one sailed through, on which the foot of man had never rested
since the world began; some low, some high and fantastically-shaped,
but all covered with clouds of changing sea-birds, and ringed with the
leaping silver surf which never slept. "Sometimes, darling," she
continued,--for we were alone together, and the house was all asleep
save us two, and her head was on my shoulder,--"Sometimes I thought
that I would pray that after death my soul might take the form of one
of those wild sea-doves, and hover and float in the wind and the
sunshine free of care. I will come and sit on your shoulder, dear, and
you will know that it is me, won't you?"

"I would sooner have you as you are, my sister."

"Jim, sometimes I am weary of my life. My task is too much for me; I
wish I was at rest. I miss all the home faces. I miss you, dear. I
miss our mother, and I am utterly alone in Palmerston. And oh,
brother, I love him so dearly! This sight of him to-day has been so
precious! Oh! what shall I do, what shall I do?"

I did not dare to ask her to forget her resolution now. This was not
the time to urge Erne's suit. Her mood was far too serious and sacred
a one to be interfered with by any personal whim of my own. Not only
did I feel this, but she knew that I felt it, and opened her heart to
me in perfect confidence. I only told her that I loved her better than
any other woman in the world, save one. I only begged her forgiveness
for any clumsiness of expression, by which I might have hidden my love
for her. I only comforted her with hopes such as I could give. Things
might alter in many ways; and there might be a brighter future. After
a time she grew calm again, and she sat with her head on my shoulder
through the short summer night, until the crystal dawn flashed upon
the tree tops, and told me that the morning of my marriage was come.

And in the morning she and Erne parted. When will they meet again?
Ah! when? * A northerly aspect at the Antipodes is of course the same
as a southern one here.



Chapter LV. The Land Sale



MY marriage was a most unnoticeable one. The sort of thing that is
just worth mentioning, nothing more. It has nothing to do with the
story whatever.

I do not think that I should have taken the trouble to mention it at
all, had it not been for this. There was a little cloud over it, and
that cloud hung in the very last place where I liked to see a cloud.
It was in my father's face.

He approved of the business in every way. We were getting rich and
prosperous. He loved my pretty little sweetheart with all the
chivalrous devotion of his great gentleman's soul; but there was a
cloud on his face, which reflected itself on mine. I thought I had
penetration enough to find out the cause which threw its shadow there.

Trevittick had been a good and faithful partner to us, and, in spite
of his moroseness and his fanaticism, we had got to be very fond of
him. Morose he was at times, but he was never unkind: his devotion to
my mother was that of a true gentleman; and his kindness to the
younger ones, children no longer now, was most fatherly and genial.
Fred, in fact, put him as A I in his affections since the loss of
Erne. But now it was painfully evident to me that poor Trevittick had
stepped a little beyond the limits of fanaticism, and was rapidly
becoming lunatic. I also perceived that my father was perfectly aware
of the fact, but would not open his lips, even to me, in hopes of a
favorable change in the poor fellow's malady.

This was the reason of the shadow on my father's face at the time of
my wedding; and I was sorry to be obliged to confess to myself, after
close watching of Trevittick's behavior, that there was only too good
reason for it.

I cannot remember the exact time when I first noticed decided
symptoms of his aberration; but it was long before my marriage. It was
a Sunday, though, for he had been in the bush all day alone: which was
a habit he acquired soon after our arrival at Port Romilly. He had
gained so much influence over my father that my father used to allow
him to expound a chapter and give an extempore prayer the first thing
every Sunday morning. After this he used to depart into the bush, and
only come home late at night, leaving my father to blunder through the
Litany, and an orthodox sermon in the forenoon, before his family, as
best he might; which was not very well, for my father's education had
been limited, and the slowest of Bible clerks might have given him
half the distance, and said amen before him, easily. On this
particular Sunday Trevittick was later home than usual. There was no
one up but myself, and, when he came in, having taken a long draught
of cold tea (he was a strict teetotaller) he sat down opposite me, lit
his pipe, and told me that on that very morning he had arrived at the
unalterable conviction that he was condemned to everlasting
reprobation.

I asked him why.

He said that hitherto he had always believed himself convinced of
sin, and regenerate; that he had believed himself possessed of a
lively faith. But that only proof of a lively faith was works: that he
believed with the rest of the Brianites that the elect could not sin,
whereas he, ever since he had come to Port Romilly, had been a
habitual Sabbath-breaker; that his faith, not having resulted in
works, was not lively; that therefore he was condemned everlastingly.
And not only that; he had had a revelation. It had come to him as he
was sitting that very day by the burnt hut. There came a shiver of
wind through the shrubs, and a voice spoke in his heart as it went by
and told him this:--the unmentionable sin was to believe yourself
elect when you were not so, and he had committed this sin.

I tried to combat all this midsummer madness as best I might. I spoke
such platitudes to him as I could lay hold of at the time, and my
arrows were very few, and drawn from all sorts of quivers. To flatter
his humor, I told him that there was little doubt but that he had
fallen away from original righteousness, as we all had done. I
recommended him to read "Winslow on Personal Declension and Revival,"
a book which I confessed I had found tough myself, but which would
suit his case exactly. And so I went on, trying to argue against a
dull, settled, obstinate fanaticism, until I lost my temper, and told
him that, if there were an unforgivable sin, he would find that it
consisted in doubting the sufficiency of the great Sacrifice; which
was probably the only piece of good sense which I uttered during the
argument.

But it had no effect; he knocked the ashes out of his pipe, and left
me with an expression of calm scorn. The next Sunday he rambled away
just the same; and I, sitting up for him after every one else was gone
to bed, had another innings with him, in which I got completely
worsted.

He was equally assured of his own condemnation. Nothing could ever
shake that conviction. Condemnation was to be everlasting; no
reasonable man could doubt that. But he said that he would not
condescend to allow this conviction to make the very least alteration
in his morality. His life had always been blameless (and, indeed, he
was right), and it should continue to be so. He would continue this
sin of Mammon-worship on the Sabbath, because it would benefit others,
and might keep them from temptation. Otherwise, he would watch the
uprightness of his walking more closely than ever.

In my desperation I asked him why should he do so.

He answered scornfully, "Had I any proper pride? Was I only righteous
from fear of punishment? And suppose it came into God's great scheme
that I should be punished everlastingly, either for an example, or for
some deep hidden reason, was I therefore to doubt the goodness and
justice of God?" I had nothing to say, but I felt inclined to say with
Polonius, "If this be madness, there is method in it." But I did n't.

The next phase of his lunacy--one which had not, to my knowledge,
made its appearance before, but which seems to me to be the somewhat
natural result of the state of mind which I have attempted to
describe--was this: He became abjectly superstitious. He began to
revive all the old West country witch-quackeries, which his religion
had taught him to consider not quackeries, but arts of the Devil. For
instance, he got Fred to hold a lot of ink in his hand, under the new
moon, and look into it, to see what he saw. That dear boy instantly
saw Guy Fawkes and the Devil walking arm in arm over Battersea Bridge,
which, however interesting in a scientific point of view, led to no
practical results; and Fred, being naturally seized with a panic, made
himself all over a gore of ink, as my mother expressed it,--she having
stepped in with an absolute veto against the repetition of any such
unorthodox manoeuvres. I expected at this time to find him using the
famous Cornish superstition of the divining rod, but, to my
astonishment, he spoke of it with unutterable scorn, as a mere
delusion of ignorant and unscientific quacks.

He grew worse, as I said, just about the time of my marriage; he
would start up in the night and pray, and make strange
incomprehensible ejaculations. Tom Williams had often considerable
difficulty in getting him quiet again. But the most awful night he had
with him was the night before the land sale: it reacted on my father
so that I was afraid he would scarcely get through the day's business.
Trevittick seemed possessed of a dumb devil, and spent the whole night
in walking silently up and down, with a short, snatching gait, like a
tiger in its cage. Tom said it was worse than any trick he had played
him, and nearly scared him to death. Trevittick looked very ghastly
the morning of the sale too; the dark brown in his complexion
remained, but the red was all gone, and he looked more like an
unhealthy mulatto than a rich-colored Cornishman.

Everybody was up early, with a full determination to make holiday of
it; for land sales were few and far between in those days; and this
one, coming a few days before Christmas, would make a very good
starting point for the Christmas saturnalia. The young men caught
their horses, and rode about; or, if they had no horses of their own,
borrowed some one else's: at the same time was begun a long,
objectless, and incomprehensible game of cricket, in the which a man,
by dexterous manoeuvring, might have sixteen or seventeen innings, and
which lasted from cock-crow till long after curfew. At the same time,
also, everybody began to bathe, and kept on bathing, while they were
not riding about or cricketing, all day. Harry confided to me that he
had been "in" eight times. At about nine o'clock the black fellows
arrived, and the dogs began barking "as though there were bears in the
town," and barked on until the black fellows left, late in the
afternoon.

At about ten the auctioneer arrived, and with him the Hon. Mr.
Dawson. Soon after this all the elders of the township adjourned into
the little court--house to look at the plans, and I, having been
married a week, felt several degrees more dignified than the Governor,
and took my place among the others with becoming gravity. After some
time the court was filled, and the business began. Mr. Dawson sat next
the auctioneer, and, just as he began to speak, my cousin, dressed in
black, came up and thrust himself in among the foremost.

"Here's the Devil come for old Jack Dawson," said some one who was
standing in the crowd, and everybody laughed, for my friend's
popularity was not high in the township. The auctioneer began:
"Silence, gentlemen, pray silence."

"Silence yourself, you old scrubber," was the polite rejoinder; the
gentleman who spoke being slightly in liquor. "What's the good of such
a farce as this here? Why, there sits old Jack Dawson, the blacksmith,
with his pockets full of money, ready to buy up the whole boiling,
scot and lot; while a poor man can't get a bit of land to put his foot
on. He is going to be king at Port Romilly, mates; and we're to be his
humble servants. Blow that, I say."

There was a murmur of discontent through the hall. I saw Mr. Dawson
wince; for he could not bear unpopularity. The first lot was put up,--
a lot of twenty acres, with frontage on the Erskine. After a brisk
competition it was knocked down to my cousin Samuel, for the high sum
of ten pounds an acre. Mr. Dawson did not compete.

Neither did he for the next lot, or the next. It was evident that he
had been affected by the sarcasms of the drunken man, and the evident
applause with which they were received. All the lots with wharfage
along the Erskine went without a sign from him: and next the land
further back towards the Cape Wilberforce mountain, was put up. "Your
father is mad," Erne said to me. "He is letting his fortune slip away
under his eyes; why on earth don't he bid? All the best land is going.
Do pray him to bid for this she-oak lot; it's only 640. Why, it would
grow forty bushels to the acre; I was over it yesterday."

My father's folly did seem to me incomprehensible. I pushed through
to him, and pointed out what Erne had said. He was very pale and
anxious; but all I could get out of him was, "All right, old man,
leave it to me."

As the sale went on there was less and less competition, as the land
grew both poorer in quality from being nearer the mountain, and being
further removed from the river and the bay. Several lots just under
the mountain went for the upset price; and at last the sale was nearly
concluded, and the people began to go out. Three lots remained to be
sold, and these three comprised a large portion of the mountain
itself. As lot 67 was mentioned I saw my father and Mr. Dawson
exchange glances, and everybody began to be funny.

"Lot 67, gentlemen," began the auctioneer; "a most eligible lot,
gentlemen. If you were to ask me my opinion, as between man and man, I
should say the most eligible lot which I have had the honor of
tempting you with to-day. Twelve hundred and eighty acres, or shall we
say, two of 640. The soil, though not fertile, is dry, the situation
is elevated, the air invigorating and salubrious, and the scenery
romantic. On a clear day, as I am informed by our venerable and
respected harbor-master, the light-house on Cape Pitt is distinctly
visible to the naked eye."

Somebody said that with a glass you might see old Jack Dawson sanding
the men's sugar at Myrnong, sixty miles off. This unexpected attack on
my unoffending friend resulted in a violent and acrimonious personal
fracas between Mr. Dawson and the gentleman who had so rudely assailed
him, in which several joined; during which the noble gentleman so far
forgot himself in the heat of debate as to say, that, "if he got any
more cheek from him, or any other carroty-haired, 'possum-headed,
forty-acre, post and rail son of a seacook, he would knock his head
into the shape of a slush-lump in about two minutes." Peace being
restored in about ten minutes, and the Hon. Mr. Dawson being left in a
great heat, the auctioneer went on with the description of the lot,
only once interrupted by the Hon. Mr. Dawson, suddenly, irrelevantly,
and gratuitously informing the company, in a loud and defiant voice,
that he would find a young smith, not twenty-one, who should fight the
best man in that room for a hundred pound a side.

Much as I was flattered by this proof of my friend's confidence, I
was glad no one came forward. The auctioneer concluded.

"Now whom can I tempt with this lot? Can I tempt you, Mr. Dawson?"

"Yes, you can, sir," retorted the still angry Mr. Dawson. "And I'll
have this lot, sir, and my friend Mr. Burton shall have the next, sir,
if it cost fifty thousand pound, sir. Now. And, if any individual
chooses to run this lot up out of spite, sir, whether that individual
has red hair or green hair, sir, I will punch that individual's head
immediately after the termination of these proceedings, sir, and knock
it against the blue stone and mortar which compose the walls of this
court-house. Now, sir."

However, nobody, I suppose, caring to get his head punched for a
whim, the lot was knocked down to him, and immediately afterwards my
father stepped forward, looking as white as a sheet.

"Now we come to lot 68, commonly known by your fellow-townsmen as the
Burnt Hut lot; exactly similar to lot 67, just knocked down to the
Hon. Mr. Dawson, as a site for his new country house. Now who would
like to have our honored legislative councillor for a neighbor? What
gentleman of fortune can I tempt with this lot? The lot is up. At one
pound an acre. Will any one bid one pound an acre?"

"I will," said my father, in a queer, hoarse voice. I saw that he was
moistening his dry lips with his tongue. I began to grow deeply
interested, half frightened.

"Going at a pound. Come, gentlemen, if any one is going to bid, be
quick. It is the last lot."

There were but few left: and no one of them spoke. The hammer came
down, and I saw Mr. Dawson clutch my father's arm.

"The land is yours, Mr. Burton. If you'll be good enough to step up
and sign, I'll be able to get on as far as Stawell tonight. There is a
good deal of snow-water coming down the Eldon this hot weather, and I
don't like that crossing-place after dark."

Thanks to James Oxton's excellent conveyancing bill, lands with a
title direct from the Crown were transferred to the purchaser in about
ten minutes. In that time my father was standing outside the court-
house, with his papers in his hand, with Mr. Dawson beside him.

"Where's Trevittick?" almost whispered Mr. Dawson.

"Go seek him at home, Jim, and fetch him here," said my father in the
same tone.

I went quickly home with a growing awe upon me. Every one was
behaving so queerly. My awe was not dissipated by my finding
Trevittick, with his head buried in the blankets, praying eagerly and
rapidly, and Tom Williams standing by as pale as a ghost.

"This is the way he has been carrying on this last hour," said poor
Tom. "I can't make nothing of him at all."

I went up to him and roused him. "Trevittick," I said, "father has
got the bit of land he wanted."

He jumped up and clutched me by both arms. "Jim," he said, "if you're
lying--If you're lying--If you're lying--"

We walked out and joined the two others, and all walked away towards
the hill in silence. The boys were bathing, the cricketers were
shouting, and the quaint-scattered village bore a holiday look. The
neighbors were all sitting out at their doors, and greeted us as we
went by: but yet everything seemed changed to me since the morning. I
almost dreaded what was to come, and it seems to me now that it all
happened instantancously.

We crossed the low lying lands which had been sold that day, and came
to our own,--a desolate, unpromising tract, stretching up the side of
the mountain which formed Cape Wilberforce, about three miles from the
sea. The land bought by Mr. Dawson was similar to our own, separated
from it by a rib of trap rock; both lots were just as Erne described
them, but ours was rather the rockier of the two.

It was soon over. Trevittick took a hammer and some gads from behind
a rock, and, going up to a low ledge, set them in, and began working
furiously. Once he struck aside and hit the rock, and the rock,
instead of clinking, gave forth a dull thud. In a few minutes
Trevittick had succeeded in detaching a piece about two feet square,
the broken side of which shone strangely in the sun. It was a mass of
solid, gleaming, virgin copper.

The murder was out now. With the exception of one on Lake Superior,
and one in South Australia, my father was the proprietor of the
richest copper mine in the world.



Chapter LVI. The Burnt Hut Company



THE following are some extracts from the leader of the Palmerston
Sentinel a short time after the affair of the sale:--

"Athenaeus, in his 'Deipnosophists,' tells us that the ancient
Carians used, at the annual festivals of Venus, to crown with rosemary
the luckiest man of his year in front of the principal temple. For
public ceremonies of this kind we are not wholly unprovided. Rome had
her Forum, Athens her Areopagus, Corinth her Sisipheum; so Palmerston
has her Government Block. Let Mr. James Burton, the Port Romilly
blacksmith, be carried up there; let him be crowned with a wreath of
Kennedya; for assuredly such fortunes as his, scarce ever befell one
of the Audax Iapeti genus before. A discovery has transpired, in the
fertile and salubrious district of Port Romilly, which promises to
elevate Palmerston into one of the principal commercial emporiums of
the civilized globe. The bullock's-hide of Dido which first traced the
walls of the future Carthage will in future go down to posterity with
the theodolite of Captain Snig, the gallant and intelligent engineer
officer who first traced the streets of Palmerston; and the venerable
and vivacious statesman whose name it bears must be content to share
futurity with the city to which he stood in loco parentis. 'Oh, si
angulus iste!' have we been exclaiming, ever since the foundation of
the colony. We have been blessed with fertile lands, with full-fed
rivers, with boundless forests, with numberless flocks and herds. We
have made a material progress greater than that of any nation in
ancient or modern times. One thing had been denied to us. One thing
made us jealous of South Australia, to which colony we are in all
other respects, physical and moral, so vastly superior. We wanted
mineral wealth,--and we have got it. Yes. It may be attempted to be
denied, but it is true. A Cornish miner, named Trevittick, has
discovered that the whole of the Cape Wilberforce mountain is in an
eminent degree cupriferous. In Burnt Hut Gully, purchased last week
for twelve hundred and eighty pounds by Mr. James Burton, an enormous
outcrop of pure metal itself takes place, similar to those on Lake
Superior. On the next lot, Morepark Gully, bought at the same time,
for the same price, by the Hon. Mr. Dawson, a small quarry, which has
been opened, exhibits a mass of blue and green carbonates, eighteen
feet thick. Negotiations are being attempted to be gone into for the
purchase of Mr. Burton's claims, and his payment in shares, but
without success hitherto. Mr. Trevittick considers that, as soon as he
can get to work, he will raise a matter of four thousand tons of ore,
of one kind and another, the first year."

So said the Sentinel. Mr. O'Callaghan of the Mohawk knew that the
Sentinel would have a lot of classical allusions, and determined to
have a bit of Latin of his own; but his first classical gentleman had
gone to cricket-match, and so he had to do it himself, which was
exceedingly awkward. However, he came of one of the bravest families
of the bravest nation in the world, and, on the Galway fox-hunting
rule of "either over it or through it," went at it manfully, seeing
the hateful Mr. Dawson beyond, and savagely thirsting for his blood.
His style, the intelligent reader will observe, if it is without the
polish of that of Mr. Dickson of the Sentinel, is not wanting in a
certain vigor of its own,--

"'Diabolus aurat propriis,' says the blessed St. Columb, in his
'Hours and Meditations,'--'Sus tranquillus bibit lactem,' our
venerable Malachi used to observe, giving a wicked wink with the eye
of him the while, in sly allusion to Brian the Mighty himself. Old
Jack Dawson, the blacksmith, is in luck again, and, by means of a
rather nastier job than usual, he has doubled, nay quadrupled, his
hitherto enormous wealth.

"It appears that Dawson's time, during his late visit to England, was
passed, while not at Buckingham Palace, or elsewhere, in the smiddy of
a somewhat blockish blacksmith, who has been unfortunate in business,
and with whom Dawson discovered an infinite fund of fellow-feeling.
This man and his family came out in the same ship with him; he was a
great deal in their company at Palmerston, and finally he established
them in business at Port Romilly, a place at which he had bought up
every available acre of land, in anticipation of what has happened.

"He had bought up every piece of land but the right one, it appears.
The smith Burton made the discovery, and determined on his plan for
swindling the colony, and, in gratitude for favors received, offered
Dawson half the plunder. Dawson, with true squatter meanness, accepted
it.

"The short and the long of it is, that this man has discovered in
Port Romilly a mountain, calculated to be sixteen times as big as
Slieve Donad, and fourteen times as ugly as the Protestant cathedral,
of solid copper from top to bottom, and he and old Dawson have bought
the whole thing for an old song. The affair is about as ugly a looking
thing as we have seen for a long time, and, if we mistake not, Dawson
will be called on, in his place in the Upper House, to give certain
personal explanations; but, nevertheless, there are some
considerations of a pleasant nature associated with it. In future, not
only shall we supply the manufacturers of Yorkshire with the fleecy
spoils of the merino of Spain, or even, in time, the yet more
priceless wools sheared from the back of the llama of Thibet, but the
copper-smelting trade of South Wales will receive a new impetus by our
enormous exports of copper, and London may yet see with envy, Swansea,
a mightier metropolis than herself, arise on the shores of the Bristol
Channel,--a metropolis nearer to, and more influenced by, the
irradiating centre of human thought at Dublin."

Mr. O'Ryan was terribly angry at this article. He swore that, if
O'Callaghan ever dared to write another article without having it
looked over by a competent authority, he would start another Radical
paper himself. Words passed between the two gentlemen, and, if it had
not been for Miss Burke, they would have fought what O'Callaghan
called a "jule" about it. The Sentinel got hold of the "llama of
Thibet," and made great fun of it, and the Mohawk was getting the
worst of the fight, when the eagle eye of Mr. O'Ryan caught the
quotation from Athenaeus about the ancient Carians, and the more he
looked at it the less he liked it. There might have been a building at
Corinth recently disinterred, but he thought the quotation from
Athenaeus was the weak place after all. He had the gravest scholastic
suspicion of it. The Sisiphenm at Corinth looked queer, very queer,
although he knew that that gentleman was connected with the town, but
this looked queerer still. The question was, was there such a thing as
an Athenaeus in the colony? The Roman Catholic bishop, on being
appealed to, had not one, but he was good enough to step round to his
Anglican brother, who, to his great delight, had one. O'Ryan carried
it off to the Mohawk office in triumph. By three o'clock in the
morning the first classical gentleman was in a position to report that
there was no such passage whatever in the whole book. The next moment
O'Callaghan hurriedly drained a tumbler of whisky--punch, seized his
pen, and rushed to his desk with a snarl like an angry tiger. By
daybreak he had sent his copy down stairs, and had walked out into the
fresh morning air. The most polite term applied to the quotation from
Athenaeus was "scoundrelly forgery"; and the quarrel between the two
papers continued for a long while, until, in fact, something happened
which gave the colony something else to think of with a vengeance. It
was the discovery of gold in New South Wales. But we shall have
occasion to discourse of this presently.

The real truth about the discovery of the Burnt Hut copper-mine can
be told very shortly. It was Trevittick's doing from beginning to end.
He had been brought up a miner, or rather a mining-blacksmith. His
father had been captain of a mine; and mining details, and mining
speculations, had been familiar to him from his youth. In addition to
this he had acquired, what his father possibly had not, a tolerable
working knowledge of geology; and, having got himself up in that
science and in working mechanics, not to mention a little mathematics,
he, by way of bringing his science to bear, came to London--and shoed
omnibus horses. By the curious accident of the man's getting so far
attached to us as to follow us to Australia, his knowledge was brought
to bear in a most singular way. At the first glimpse of the dolomite
wall, he tells me, he began to get restless, and then (not to be
tedious) he noticed the fact that all the various formations tended
towards one point, Cape Wilberforce, and, when he neared that, he saw
that it was nothing more than a great trap-dyke. After this, he says,
if he had found a mountain of solid gold, he would not have been
surprised.

Trevittick had a poor nose for gold. Those who have been in at the
most glorious sport in the world,--gold-hunting,--may laugh at him.
But he had a nose like a beagle for metals of some sort or another. He
would have died sooner than break into a day's work; and hence came
his Sunday rambles, and the self-accusatory frame of mind which I
described in the last chapter, and which I at the time mistook for
madness. Most people who have any brains, any power of original
thought whatever, get more or less perplexed and illogical when the
necessity comes upon them for breaking through old settled rules,
hitherto considered as necessary to the scheme of the universe. I
remember well the annoyance, vexation, and sulkiness, produced on a
young Oxford gentleman who came to us at Port Romilly, by the loss of
an irreplaceable tooth-brush in the bush. He went so far as to refuse
his breakfast. (He got over it by dinner-time, but he was a man of
singular strength of character.) Now, if a highly-educated Oxford
gentleman finds his balance so far disturbed by the loss of his tooth-
brush, and by the utter impossibility (he not being a Frenchman) of
using anybody else's, how can we wonder at Trevittick, the first
article of whose creed was a strict observance of what he chose to
call the Sunday and Sabbath, being thrown off his balance by his being
forced into a desecration of that sacred day?

He says that he was a long while before he got any indications
whatever of either copper or lead. He was afraid to dig, and used only
to prospect by chipping the rocks with a hammer. He had, however, many
supernatural indications of the place made to him, but was too stupid
to attend to them. Once a magpie had met him, and tried to make him
follow it towards the place. Another time, on going over the place,
his attention was called to it by a large black snake, which was
actually coiled up on it; but, in his blindness and hardness of heart,
he had killed the poor innocent creature, as he called this horribly
venomous reptile, and so the truth was still kept from him. At last,
one day, coming through a wood hard by, he had met a gray doe
kangaroo, with her little one; she had skipped along, about fifty
yards before him, beckoning to him to follow; he followed, and they
led him to the Burnt Hut lot, and stopped when they came to the rock.
Then the little one, the "Joey," had opened its mother's pouch and got
in, and the mother skipped away with it and looked round no more. It
was such a beautiful sight, he said, that he blessed the two pretty
beasts in his heart; and instantly light was vouchsafed him. What he
had hitherto taken to be lichen on the rocks he now perceived to be
green carbonate of copper.

He announced the discovery to my father at once, who had a terrible
time with him. My father got it into his head that his duty forced him
to reveal the secret to Mr. Dawson. This, in Trevittick's mind, was
sheer and absolute ruin. He was firmly assured that Mr. Dawson would
bid over their heads, and that all their bright prospects would vanish
forever. My father knew Mr. Dawson better. He talked over Trevittick,
who sulkily acquiesced. Mr. Dawson was not unprepared for the result;
he himself was aware of the existence of copper on some land of his
own not a mile distant, and at once not only refused to compete with
my father, but offered to advance him money to make the purchase.
After a generous contest between these uneducated gentlemen, it was
decided that they were to share the land between them.

What between Trevittick's distrust of Mr. Dawson and his dread of the
discovery leaking out, he was pretty nearly out of his mind during the
interval which elapsed before the land-sale. The moment it was over,
his mind recovered its usual tone, and, although he used to tell, and
firmly believe, such stories as that about the kangaroo, yet he
confined this midsummer madness of his entirely to ghostly matters,
and, as far as practical matters were concerned, was as shrewd and
clever a manager as one could wish to have.

The Burnt Hut Copper Mining Company, consisted (ideally) of, 2,000
shareholders, at £5 per share. Of these shares, 1,000 were held by my
father, 250 by Trevittick, and 250 by myself. The other 500 shares,
being thrown into the market, produced £ 2,500, which was every
farthing of working capital we started with. Trevittick raised 6,000
tons of ore in nine months, the net value of which was £ 72,000; cost
of working under £ 20,000; and this £ 20,000 was in the main spent in
prospective works; for, as for the copper, it was simply quarried for
the first two years. "We shall do better next year, gentlemen," said
Trevittick to the meeting of the shareholders, when shares had gone up
from £ 5 to £ 150 in the market, and yet most of them held on like
"grim death." "When I get into the ten--fathom level, gentlemen, we
shall double all this, unless I am mistaken."

He did in fact so double it, but the depreciation of the cost of
copper in Europe, and another circumstance,--to which I shall
immediately allude by itself, as it has much to do with the web of the
story,--about counterbalanced the improvement in quantity. Counting
from the commencement to the present time, the income we have enjoyed
from the mine may be put, taking one year with another, at £ 17,000 a
year to my father, and about £ 8,000 a year to Trevittick and myself.
The first thing Trevittick did with his money was to build a brick
chapel in one of the main thoroughfares of Palmerston,--so large, so
red, and so ugly, that, say the wags, the Governor's horses shied at
it, and pitched Lady Bostock into the fishmonger's shop.



Chapter LVII. The Last of the Forge



AND so my father had struck his last stroke at the anvil forever.
One seldom feels joy at times of excitement. Johnson says, and sticks
to it, that no man is ever happy but when he is drunk. Without going
so far as that, one may say that happiness is mainly prospective and
retrospective. How often can one remember to have said, "How happy I
am," since childhood. Then I have been so happy that I could not eat.
I particularly remember one summer Sunday that my father had helped me
to the brown outside of the roast beef,--my favorite piece,--but that
I was so happy in my anticipation of the afternoon's delight that I
could n't eat it, and carried it out with me in a paper. I know that
this first burst of good fortune is not one of the times I look back
on in life as the pleasantest; the disturbance of old habits was too
great. For one thing, all the children had to be sent off to boarding-
school at Pitt, sixty miles away. Our Fred ran away the first month,
and, after incredible adventures, was brought home by the blacks. The
parting was a very sad business indeed; and my mother, in the heat of
her feelings, boldly wished all the money at the deuse. Yes, there was
a still sad house that evening; and I, coming across from my house in
the twilight to see the dear old folks, found that they had wandered
hand in hand into the forge, and were sitting there on a bench, side
by side, silent.

I tried to slip away; but they had seen me, and made me come in and
sit beside them. I felt a great disinclination to speak, and I was
glad that my father spoke first.

"Come in to us, old chap," he said; "we've got you left anyhow. This
won't make no difference in you; you're always the same, that's one
comfort."

"Why, take and drat your money, I say," said my mother, angrily;
"God forgive me if I don't wish the hard times back again; we could
see one another's faces then. Old man, the weariest day I ever had in
my life has been this one. When we have just come into more money than
we know what to do with. It's hard enough, in all conscience, that
Martha and me are to be reduced to keeping servants, and not allowed
to touch so much as a carpet broom; but it's harder to have my
children took away just now when I am getting a bit stiff in the
joints. You'll never make a lady of me,--not if you was to give me a
crown and sceptre, you would n't: and a pretty sort of a gentleman
you'll make, old man. Why, if our boys, as are going to be brought up
gentlemen, were like any other boys, they'd be ashamed on you. They
won't; but that's luck."

"Well, and that's the best luck going, old woman," said my father.
"What's the good of hollering out after it's all happened. You and me
ain't got no call to show. Nobody need know anythink about us; we
shall be able to go on much as usual, I reckon."

"You're never the same man when you ain't at work, old chap," said my
mother; "and, as for me, think what my feelings will be to have to sit
by and see an awkward slut of a girl messing through the work that I
could do so much better myself. And Jim's wife, Martha, too? Look at
that girl's charing; why I never see anything like it, with the
exception of Mrs. Chittle, who chared Park Villa at the end of a
fortnight, nursing two. Take that girl away from her soap and brush,
and she'll peak and pine away, if she's the girl I take her for: which
she is."

"Well, she don't want to do much charing just now, old woman,"
growled my father.

"No, but she'll want to after a bit again," said my mother. "In about
six weeks she'll have the old feeling come on her strong; and, mark my
words, them as thwarts her thwarts her."

"You'd better have a saucepan and a bit of sandpaper took up to her
in bed then," said my father. "Let her polish away at that."

This was undoubtedly a flagrant violation of my mother's rights as a
woman; she wouldn't have stood it from the doctor himself. My father
was making fun about subjects of which he was (officially) supposed to
be utterly and entirely ignorant. His being the father of nine was
nothing. He had shown a tendency to trifle with a subject which no
woman worthy of the name will allow to be trifled with by a man for
one instant. My mother came down on him.

"It would have been as well, perhaps," she said, loftily, "if Mrs.
Jim Holmes had not been thwarted in her wish to go to Wandsworth fair;
at least so Mrs. Quickly, an experienced woman, whom I am far from
upholding in all things, is of opinion. She considers that that was
the cause of her threatening to chuck the twins out of winder. I would
not venture to give my own opinion on any account whatever. Men, you
see, have sources of information which are denied to us."

My mother tried to keep her dignity. It would have helped her
amazingly had she been able, but she couldn't. She burst out laughing,
and my father and I followed suit. My mother, in the feeble attempt to
preserve her dignity, swept out of the forge, and left my father and
me alone.

"Cut a nut through and you'll come to the meat," said my father. "Let
her talk long enough and you'll find out her goodness. Well, here's
the forge fire out for good and all, and you and me as rich as
marquises. This is the last night that you and me will sit together on
the forge, old man. We have got the wealth of gentlefolks. I shall
never get their manners, but you may. Fetch a candle and read me this
here letter. It's from Jack Martin, who is making his fortune on the
Sidney side, with the gold. He seems to have repented of his treatment
of me, but not of his bad writing. Read it out."

I saw that his fancy was to sit in the shop that night for the last
time, and I fetched a candle and read the letter out. I hated Jack
Martin. I thought him a worthless, selfish man; but my father's
goodness had reflected itself on him; and he was conscious of the
injury he had once done my father, and wished to atone for it.

It was dated from Canadian Gully, Ballarat. He had cleared three
thousand pounds there, and earnestly pressed us to come. He entered
into details; and his letter was so far important that it was the
first reliable intelligence which we had had from the Port Philip
gold-fields; and, as a matter of curiosity, the next time I wrote to
Erne Hillyar, I sent it to him.



Chapter LVIII. Erne Goes on his Adventures



ABOUT a fortnight after this the most astonishing accounts from
Bendigo appeared in both the Sentinel and the Mohawk. Three tons of
gold had been taken down to Melbourne by the fortnightly escort, and
two tons remained in camp for want of carriage. But this, according to
the Mohawk, was nothing at all to Lake Omeo, in the Australian Alps.
In an article in which Malachi's collar was duly thrown in the teeth
of the low-browed Saxon, the gold-fields of Lake Omeo were allowed to
surpass the auriferous deposits of the Wicklow mountains, in their
palmy times, before trade was paralyzed, and enterprise was checked,
by the arrival of the beastly Dutchman. And really the most
astonishing reports of this place seemed to have reached Melbourne
from various quarters. The black sand, containing small emeralds and
rubies, would yield sixty per cent of pure tin: it was ten and twelve
feet thick, and at the bottom of it, in the crannies of the rock, a
pound weight of gold had been washed out of a panful. I was still
thinking of these extraordinary accounts when Erne came slinging along
the road and jumped off his horse at my side.

I thought he had come over to see the works, which were now
progressing nobly, but he soon undeceived me.

"Well," he said; "I've done it!"

"Done what?"

"I've cut the bush. I'm sick of it. The place is unbearable since
your cousin Samuel has given up coming there; he was the only person
worth speaking to. I've read all the books. I'm sick of the smell of
sheep; I'm sick of the sight of a saddle; I am, oh! so utterly sick of
those long, gray plains. I am sick of being kissed by old Quickly
behind the door when she's drunk: I should have had that cap of hers
off her head and chucked it on the fire if I had staid much longer.
And now Clayton is getting sulky at the goings on, as well he may; and
so I have come off, and am going to Lake Omeo."

"Think before you do that, my dear Erne."

"I want adventure, excitement, movement of some kind. If I stayed
there, moping about Emma much longer, I should go mad. I shall never
forget her there. Come with me, old fellow. You are rich enough to do
as you like now; come with me."

I don't think I was ever more tempted in my life. It would have been
such a glorious adventure, with him. It would have been the finest
adventure we had ever had together; but I had to set my teeth, and say
"No." There was some one expected, and I couldn't leave my wife.

He was very much disappointed, but did not say another word. He was
perfectly bent on going. I knew his romantic impulsiveness of old, and
was aware that nothing would turn him.

Trevittick had listened to our conversation and had left us. Tom
Williams very soon came up and joined us.

"My eye!" he said, "don't it make your mouth water. Take me with you,
Mr. Erne. You and I were always favorites together. Come, let us go."

"Oh, do come, old fellow," said Erne. "Do let me have one face with
me in this adventure that I know and like as well as yours. Oh, do
come, and we will go through it all together to the end. Next to Jim
here, I would have chosen you among all men to be my friend and
brother in this quest. How glorious the life, the motion, the novelty,
the crowds of strange faces will be! What will be the end of it? Where
shall we find ourselves at last? Hurrah for the cool brisk South; and
good-bye to these hot, melancholy forests. Give me your hand, my boy.
We are vowed to one another henceforward. 'It may be that the gulfs
will wash us down; It may be we shall touch the happy isles, And see
the great Achilles, whom we knew.'"

I cast a look of gratitude at Tom Williams. "But," I said, "what will
Trevittick say?"

"Trevittick," growled that gentleman, behind me, "will say just what
he told Tom Williams just now. That, if he sees that young gentleman
go out alone, without one single friend, into the terrible scenes and
places he will have to encounter, he never needn't trouble himself to
speak to me no more: and so I tell him."

And so these two went together. The Wainoora, the steamer by which
they went, sailed one summer morn at daybreak southward to Palmerston
and Melbourne. His last words to me were, "Tell her that I am the same
to her till death." I went up, on to the highest point of the Cape,
high above the town, and watched the little steamer, steady and true
in her course as a star, traversing the great purple rollers of the
Indian Ocean, which broke on the coast under her lee in far-heard
thunders. Her screw raised a little thread of foam in her wake, and
her funnel left a haze of smoke aloft, which travelled with her, for
the wind was fair. I watched her round Cape Windham, and then she was
gone, and Erne was gone with her. I turned wearily, with a sigh, and
looked northward. Nothing there but the old endless succession of
melancholy forest capes, fringed with silver surf; aloft, lazily-
floating clouds. They would have a fair passage.

"And so your sister has drove him to the diggings at last, has she?"
said a voice behind me. "I guessed she would, all along. She has used
him shameful. I wouldn't have cared if it had been only Bendigo, or
Ballarat, or the Avoca; but he is going to Omeo; and Omeo and the
Buckland are death to such as he. I hoped you kissed him when you said
good-bye, for you'll none of you see him any more. And a nice mess
you've made of it among you."

It was my cousin Samuel, who had crept up behind me. And I turned
sternly on him, and asked him what he meant.

"What I say. That sister of yours, with her high-faluting
balderdash, has driven that young man out of his mind. I am a poor
fallen, wicked old man; but that Erne Hillyar is such a pure, simple,
high-souled gentleman, that at times he has made me waver in my
purpose, and feel inclined to do what I won't do unless that fellow
pushes me too far. He wants brains, may be; so do you; but he is the
first man I have met for twenty years who, knowing everything, has
treated me as an equal. I never met such a fine lad in my life. He has
quietly made me ashamed of my old habits, and is the first man who has
given me hopes for the future. But he ain't good enough for your
sister. And she has sent him south to die."

The sun was bright overhead, and the summer wind was whispering
gently among the heathers and Hakeas around, and yet it seemed to grow
dark, and the wind to get chill, as my cousin left me with these
words. He passed slowly down the hill towards his estate, and,
entering the wood behind his house, disappeared, and left me to my
thoughts.



Chapter LIX. James Oxton Goes Out, and Widow North Comes in



JAMES OXTON splashed and floundered through two more sessions after
Erne's first arrival in the colony. Sometimes he was up to his knees,
sometimes up to his middle; sometimes the enemy said that he was over
his head, and that there was the finish and end of the man, body and
bones, and high time too. But, no. On questions of great public
utility, his personal prestige, combined with the good sense of the
House, and possibly the putting to work of some parliamentary tactics,
was still sufficient to carry him through, and James Oxton managed to
follow each Opposition victory by a greater one of his own; and so,
although sick of the business altogether, he held on manfully. He was
loth to see the work of twenty years, as he thought, ruined.

At last the advanced party brought in a Land Bill of their own, and
lost it by only three votes, including the Speaker. It became
necessary for James Oxton to "go to the country." His Excellency,
being a wise Excellency, and therefore unwilling to do what he had the
power to do, if he chose,--to keep in a favorite minister and dear
friend against the wishes of the colony,--complied with a heavy heart
with James Oxton's request. He dissolved the Assembly, and sent James
Oxton to the country. The country very properly sent him back again
with eight votes less than he came with.

The question is much more easily understandable than the Schleswig--
Holstein one, which has come by a rather queer solution, as, "There
are more dogs than cats, and therefore the cats must all turn dogs at
their peril." The question on which James Oxton came by what the
Mohawk called his "downfall" was by no means of a European complexity.
In fact, colonial politics are not difficult to master, for the simple
reason that there are seldom more than two interests at work at the
same time, and that those two interests do so jam, pound, and pummel
one another, that, although logic, nay, sometimes, as in England at
hot moments, even grammar, may suffer; yet those two interests between
them, generally "ventilate" the question most thoroughly; and, to use
a thoroughly Mohawkian catachresis, look over one another's cards, and
see which way the cat is going to jump.

The great export of the country was wool. The foundation of its
present prosperity was wool. To grow wool with success enormous tracts
must be under the control of one single man. A wool-grower must have
30,000 acres, at least, under his sole command, and then on the best
of country he could not safely venture on more than 9,000 sheep; for
he might have his run swept by a fire any January night, and be forced
to hurry his sheep down to the boiling-house. Now the small farmers,
contemptuously called "cockatoos," were the fathers of fire, the
inventors of scab, the seducers of bush-hands for hay-making and
harvesting, the interlopers on the wool--growers' grass with their
cattle and horses. James Oxton, a "squatter," a wool-grower among
wool-growers, had argued thus, and had unworthily blinded himself so
far as to legislate for his own class.

In order to prevent the acquisition of land by the laboring classes,
he had rigorously resisted every attempt to alter the old land laws.
The upset price was one pound an acre, payable at once. Any one could
demand and get a special survey of not less than 5,000 acres at that
price without competition, by which mischievous regulation large
tracts of the very best land were in the hands of great capitalists.
His own estate, "The Bend," was one of these special surveys, and had
increased in value from £5,000 to £30,000. And lastly, the quantity of
land thrown into the market was exceedingly limited. In this way,
using the money raised by the land sales to assist emigrants, he was
creating a lower class, and depressing the price of labor by denying
them land.

The Radicals had brought in a bill demanding the right of selection
of lots as small as eighty acres, and three years' credit in paying
for it. This was too liberal, and, in spite of the furious war-whoops
of Mr. O'Callaghan, was rejected, Government having a majority of
three.

Had James Oxton, even after the loss of eight votes by the
dissolution, brought in a moderate measure of his own, all would have
gone well. But, he refusing to move in the matter at all, and there
being undoubtedly a strong necessity to attend to the cry of "unlock
the lands," the Radicals brought in their bill, a more moderate one
than the last. The House accepted it by a majority of eleven against
the Government, and James Oxton, the moment after the division,
announced his resignation amidst the most profound silence.

Though the Mohawk said next morning that the brazen head of James
Oxton had been found, like that of Lord Bacon, to have feet of clay,
and that when it had done rolling in the dust the oppression of
seventeen years was revenged at last; yet still, now it was done,
every one was a little bit frightened. The Secretary was so good, and
big, and so calm, and had governed the colony so well. And Mr. O'Ryan
had formerly made no secret of his intentions. People remembered the
programme which he had offered the country five years before, when
power had been beyond his grasp; he had concealed his wicked
principles lately, but that was his artfulness. They remembered
manhood suffrage and separation from the mother-country. Moderate
people began to think they had got into a scrape; but there was Mr.
O'Ryan at Government House, and the list would be out that evening.

And, when the list did come out, things did not look much better.
There was not an English or a Scotch name in it. The Radical party was
officered almost entirely by Irishmen, and the Irishmen had taken care
of themselves to the exclusion of the other two nations. Ministers in
the House:--O'Ryan, Secretary; Murphy, Education; Moriarty, Trade; and
so on. And where was Dempsey? Not in the list at all, but concocting
some malignant conspiracy in the background; which was even more
dreadful to imaginative people than if the destinies of the community
had been handed over altogether to the tender mercies of that red-
handed rebel. And the inferior appointments too! Rory O'More, Barney
Brallagan, and so on! And did anybody ever hear of such a measure as
appointing old Lesbia Burke Postmaster General?

"O'Ryan must suddenly have gone mad, my dear Mr. Burton," said the
pretty and clever little widow, Mrs. North, to our old friend Joe, as
they sat on a sofa, side by side, reading the lists together, with
their heads very nearly touching.

Joe, now the prosperous and wealthy Mr. Burton, had been elected for
North Palmerston at the last election, and the night before had spoken
for the first time. He had spoken so wisely and so well as to command
the greatest attention and respect. He had counselled moderation on
both sides, and the style of his speech pointed him out at once as a
man of the very highest class.

The place where they were sitting was Mrs. Oxton's drawingroom; the
time twilight. Emma and Mrs. Oxton had gone to the opera, and the
Secretary was shouting at play with his boy at the other end of the
garden. They were alone.

"O'Ryan must suddenly have gone mad, my dear Mr. Burton."

"Not the least, my dear madam. He only wanted to avoid the fate of
Actaeon. He would have been torn to pieces by his following, if he
hadn't placed every one possible. You see Dempsey has refused office,
to leave one more place vacant, and satisfy one more claimant; and, as
it is, there must be two or three dozen unsatisfied. He has done the
best he can."

"He is a man of great ability," said the widow.

"A first-rate man, if he had some one to keep him quiet, to let him
talk and prevent his going too far in action; the second man in the
colony."

"I know who promises to be the third," said the widow, very quietly.

Joe blushed and laughed.

"What a really beautiful face he has," said the widow to herself.
"What a pity it is about his poor dear back."

"You spoke so splendidly last night," she went on. "If you could only
have heard what Mr. Oxton said!"

"I would sooner hear what you said."

"It was so noble of you to acknowledge that you had modified your
opinions, and that there were many things on which you differed from
the Secretary, and then to make that résumé of his services to the
colony; such a glorious panegyric! I clasped my hands together with
excitement as you went on."

"I live with one object," said Joe, "and you are worthy to know of
it; you are worthy to share my secret. I dread the effects of faction
on this colony. This colony must be governed by a great coalition
between James Oxton and Phclim O'Ryan, and I am the man to bring that
about."

The widow thought, "Well, you have a tolerable amount of assurance,
if that is any recommendation. Is there anything else you would like?"
But she said rapturously, "What a magnificent and statesmanlike idea.
Oh, the day you bring about that result, I will retire to my boudoir
and weep for joy!"

"Do you wish me success?" exclaimed Joe, seizing her hand in his
absence of mind. "Oh, if--"

"Hullo! you people," exclaimed the Secretary, who came up at this
moment, "Is that the Sentinel? Is the list out? Let us look."

Both the widow and Joe got excessively red, but perhaps the
Secretary didn't notice it. At all events he did not say anything.

"Only three tolerable people among the lot. Old Lesbia Burke is the
best man among them, when all is said and done!"

"But what an absurd thing to do; to appoint a woman," bridled the
widow. "It is so,--so improper."

"It's rather a cool precedent, certainly; but, as for Lesbia, the
dear old girl would command a frigate, or take a regiment into action,
if you gave her a month's training."

"Well, she is a kind body, and I wish her well," said the good-
natured little widow. Every one had a kind word for Miss Burke.

"Shall you think me a brute," said the Secretary, "if I leave you
here with Burton, and step into town to the club and hear the news? I
ought to show to-day, or they will think I am crying."

"Oh, do go, my dear creature. Don't, for heaven's sake, let them
think you feel it. Mr. Burton and I will sit here and play euchre, and
abuse the new Ministers. We are getting very fond of one another." And
so the Secretary went.



Chapter LX. Too Late! Too Late!



THE widow and Joe had some half-hour's flirtation before the
Secretary returned. He had been much less time than they expected, and
looked very grave. "Burton," he said, "I want to speak to you."

Joe went into another room with him. "I have heard grave news, I am
sorry to say," continued he, "which affects a mutual friend of ours,
and, as I have long suspected, a very dear one of your sister's. The
Melbourne papers have just come in; read this."

Joe with dismay read the following:--

"The unfortunate Omeo business is assuming very tragical proportions,
and Government will have to take immediate measures to see if any of
the poor fellows are still, by any possibility, alive. We said, last
week, that provisions were at famine prices, and utterly deficient in
quantity; since then, the miserable diggers have taken the only
measure left open to them. They have fled, most of them, towards the
Ovens, 160 miles, through a nearly unknown and quite uninhabited
country, without provisions. Such troopers as have been sent out to
seek for them have come back with the most terrible stories. Trooper
O'Reilly found no less than eight dead together on the Milta Milta, in
one place. One thing is perfectly certain: two hundred famine-stricken
wretches have left the Omeo, and only nine have reached Beechworth by
Snake Valley; while eleven have turned up at the Nine Mile Creek on
the Sydney Road. In this most hamentable and unhappy business, we can
blame no one. There was gold there, for Trooper O'Reilly took 130
ounces from the bodies of the unfortunates,--which bodies, after
securing such papers as would lead to their identification, he had to
leave to the tender mercies of the eagle-hawks and wild dogs, and all
the other nameless horrors of which it appals us to think. To the
relatives of those men who are known to have left the lake westwardly,
and whose names we give here, we would say, 'If those you love are not
among the twenty men who have come back, give up hope. We are kind,
while we seem cruel. Give up hope. Those you love are at rest by now.'
"

Joe looked up with a scared face, for neither Erne's name nor Tom
Williams's name was in the list. He read them through once more in the
wild hope that they were there, and he had missed them; once more to
feel to the full the realization of the agony he felt at their
absence. We must have a fruition of pain as of pleasure, or we gain no
relief. When your child died, sir, why did you go and look into the
coffin?

"I am guilty of this man's blood," he said. "I stand here before you,
as the murderer of Erne Hillyar, in the sight of God."

"My good fellow," said the Secretary, "don't be rhetorical. Don't use
that inflated style of speech, which may be useful enough in the
House; in common life it's a bad habit. What on earth do you mean?"

"I mean every word I say. I wish your taunt was true, but it is not.
I know now that my sister Emma loved him, and would have married him,
but that she refused to leave me, because my hideous infirmity would
render domestic life,--I mean married domestic life,--an
impossibility. She devoted herself to me, and refused him. And he,
caring nothing for life, has gone to that miserable God-forgotten
desert, and has died there. I saw her doing all this, and in my
wretched selfishness let her do it, and said not one word. Call me
coward, knave, selfish villain, what you will, but don't taunt me with
rhetorical flourishes. I am Erne Hillyar's murderer."

The Secretary looked exceedingly grave. Seventeen years, passed
partly in money-making, and partly in official life, had not deadened
the sentimental part of him one bit; he still hated to inflict pain;
but he had learned to say a hard word, when he thought that word was
deserved, and when it did not interfere with any political
combination. The sentimental third of his soul was enlisted on Emma's
side most entirely since Joe's explanation; he bore very hard on Joe,
and was angry with him.

"You have been much to blame," he said, and would have gone on, but
there was a crackling of wheels on the gravel, and he paused. "Keep it
from her," he said hurriedly. "This may not be true. Keep the papers
from her. They are coming. If it is true, let her hear it from my
wife."

They went quickly into the next room to join Mrs. North, and
immediately after Mrs. Oxton and Emma came in. Both were changed since
we made their acquaintance a few years ago. Mrs. Oxton had faded
rapidly, like most Australian beauties, and there was nothing left of
the once splendid ensemble but the eyes and the teeth; they were as
brilliant as ever; but her complexion was faded into a sickly yellow,
and her beauty had to take its chance without any assistance from
color, which was a hard trial for it, to which it had somewhat
succumbed. Still, she had gained a weary and altogether loveable
expression, which was, perhaps, more charming than her old splendid
beauty. Emma also was very much changed.

She had always been what some call "young of her age." She had been a
long while in developing, but now she had developed into a most
magnificent woman. The old, soft, and childish roundness of her face
was gone, and out of it there had come, as it were, the ideal of the
soul within,--gentle, patient,--of a soul that had suffered, and would
endure. Her look was one of continual and perfect repose; and yet, now
that the face was more defined, those who knew her best could see how
clearly and decisively the mouth and chin were cut; one could see now
how it was that she could not only endure, but act.

She was tall, but not so tall as her mother. Her carriage was very
easy and graceful, though very deliberate.

During her residence in Palmerston she had taken care to watch the
best people, and was quite clever enough to copy their manners without
caricaturing them, which is being very clever indeed. This evening she
was dressed in white crape, with a scarlet opera-cloak; her wreath was
of dark red Kennedya, and she had a considerable number of diamonds on
her bosom, though no other jewels whatever. Altogether she was a most
imperial-looking person, and deserved certainly what she had had that
night,--the attention of the whole theatre.

"I am so sorry you did not go with us, Mrs. North," she said in her
quiet old voice, not altered one bit. "Catherine Hayes has been
singing more divinely than ever. My dear brother, you have lost
something. Will you come home now?"

"I cannot let you go till you have had supper, my love," put in Mrs.
Oxton; and Emma willingly assented, and talked pleasantly about the
opera, until they came into the light of the diningroom. After she had
seen Joe's face she was quite silent.

They drove home, and the instant they were alone in their house she
spoke. "My own brother, I have not spelt at your face for so many
years without being able to read it; but there is a look in it to-
night which I have never seen there before. Something terrible has
happened."

Joe remained silent.

"Is Erne dead?"

Joe tried to speak, but only burst into tears.

"I can bear it, dear, if you tell me quickly,--at least, I think I
can bear it, or I will try, God help me! Only tell me quickly."

"There is no certainty. There is a list published, and his name is
not there. That is all."

"Have you got the paper?"

"Yes."

"I must see it, or I shall die. I must know the worst, or I shall
die. I must see that paper."

Joseph was forced to give it to her, and she read it quickly through.
Then she sat down on a chair, and began rocking her body to and fro.
Once, after a long time, she turned a face on Joseph which frightened
him, and said, "Eagle-hawks and wild dogs," but she resumed her
rocking to and fro once more. At last she said, "Go to bed, dear, and
leave me alone with God." And to bed he went; and, as he saw her last,
she was still sitting there, with her bouquet and her fan in her lap,
and the diamonds on her bosom flashing to and fro before the fire, but
tearless and silent.

She in her white crape and diamonds, and Erne lying solitary in the
bush, with the eagle-hawks and wild dogs riving and tearing at his
corpse. It had come to this, then!

Why had Joe brought away the old sampler he had found in the great
room at Chelsea, the sampler of the poor Hillyar girl, and hung it up
over the fireplace in the drawing-room? What strange, unconscious
cruelty! In her solitary, agonized working to and fro on that
miserable night, never impatient or wild, but ah! so weary; that old
sampler was before her, and her tearless eyes kept fixing themselves
upon it, till the words, at first mere shreds of faded worsted, began
to have a meaning for her which they never had before. That poor
crippled Hillyar girl, she thought, had stitched those words on the
canvas two hundred years agone, that they might hang before her on
this terrible night,--before her who might have borne the dear name of
Hillyar, but who had driven her kinsman to his death by her obstinacy;
hung there by her crippled brother, for whose sake she had refused
this gallant young Hillyar, who had wooed her so faithfully and so
truly.

"Why were the Hillyars and the Burtons ever allowed to meet," she
asked herself, "if nothing but misery is to come of their meeting? He
said once, when we were children, that our house was an unlucky one to
the Hillyars. He spoke truth, dear saint. Let me go to him,--let me go
to him!"

So her diamonds went flashing to and fro before the fire, till the
fire grew dim, till the ashes grew dead and cold, and the centipedes,
coming back from under the fender to seek for the logs which had been
their homes, found them burnt up and gone, and rowed themselves into
crannies in the brick-work, to wait for better times.

Yet as the morn grew chill she sat, with her diamonds, and her fan,
and her bouquet; with the old sampler over the chimney-piece before
her, reading it aloud,--"Weep not, sweet friends, my early doom, Lay
not fresh flowers upon my tomb; But elder sour and briony, And yew-
bough broken from the tree."  "Let me go to him! Dead,--alone in the
bush, with the eagle-hawks and wild dogs! Let me go to him!"



Chapter LXI. Husband and Wife



ALL this time there was a Sir George Hillyar somewhere. But where?
That is a question which will never be answered with any accuracy,
even were it worth answering. What an utterly dissipated and utterly
desperate man does with himself in London I do not know; at least, I
am unacquainted with the details, and, even were I not, I should
hesitate to write them down. No decent house would allow my book to
lie on the drawing-room table if I dared put in a tale what one reads
every day in the police-reports of the newspapers.

One thing Mr. Compton found out very easily: all his letters bore the
London post-mark. Mr. Compton could not make it out. Why did he not
come home? Why did he not show? Was he a defaulter, or had he made
another engagement, and did n't dare to face his wife? The old man
suspected the latter was the case, and there is every reason to
believe that he was right.

Reuben saw him sometimes; but he never told any one. Their
appointments were always made at Chelsea. Reuben found that Sir
George's practice of creeping into the old house had become habitual,
and he taxed him with it; and so by degrees he discovered this,--that
Sir George had discovered that this was one of Samuel Burton's former
haunts, and that he had conceived an idea that he would somehow or
another return there. This notion, originally well founded, seemed to
have grown into a craze with the unhappy man, from certain words which
occasionally escaped him. Reuben came to the conclusion that he waited
there with a view to murdering him, should he appear. He therefore
held his tongue on the fact, so well known to him, that Samuel Burton
was safe in Australia,--the more, as Sir George never permitted him on
any account whatever to share his vigil.

Enough about Sir George Hillyar for the present. I am almost sorry I
ever undertook to tell such a story as the history of his life. I
suppose that, even in a novel, telling the bare and honest truth must
do good somehow; but at times the task felt very loathsome. I had some
faint pleasure in writing about the miserable man as long as there was
some element of hope in his history; but I sicken at the task now.
Knowing the man and his history, I knew what my task would be from the
beginning. I undertook it, and must go on with it. The only liberties
I have taken with fact have been to elevate his rank somewhat, and to
dwell with an eager kindness on such better points as I saw in him.
But writing the life of a thoroughly ill-conditioned man, from first
to last, is weary work.

But his story sets one thinking,--thinking on the old, old subject of
how far a man's character is influenced by education; which is rather
a wide one. Suppose George Hillyar had been sent to Laleham instead of
to Mr. Easy's, would the Doctor have done anything with him?

I declare, à propos des bottes, if you will, that there is a certain
sort of boy with a nature so low, so sensual, so selfish, so
surrounded with a case--hardened shell of impenetrable blockishness,
that if you try to pierce this armor of his, and draw one drop of
noble blood from the body which one supposes must exist within, you
lose your temper and your time, and get frantic in the attempt. I
don't say that these boys all go to the bad, but in an educational
point of view they are very aggravating. If you miss them from the
Sunday-school and want to see anything more of them, you will find
them in Feltham Reformatory: among the upper classes the future of
these boys is sometimes very different. "Now this vice's dagger has
become a squire. Now he hath land and beeves."

I do not say that George Hillyar had been one of the lowest of that
kind of boys; that he was not makes the only interest in his history.
But we have nearly done with him. It will be a somewhat pleasanter
task to follow once more the fortunes of his quaint little wife, and
see what an extraordinary prank she took it into her head to play, and
to what odd consequences that prank led.

As soon as the summer came on, and the gardeners had filled the great
bare parterres all round the house with geraniums, calceolarias,
lobelias, and what not, then Gerty took revenge for her winter's
imprisonment, and was abroad in the garden and the woods, or on the
lake, nearly all day. About this time also she began Baby's education,
and had lessons every morning for about five or six minutes. At this
time also Mrs. Oxton began to notice to her husband that Gerty's
letters were getting uncommonly silly.

"Let me look at one," said the Secretary, from his easy-chair.

When he read it his brow grew clouded. "She never was so silly as
this before, was she, my love?"

"Never. And why this long silence about George? He is neglecting her.
I wish she was here."

"So do I, by Jove! But she seems pretty happy, too. I can't make it
out."

Old Sir George had got the works of that great clock called Stanlake
into such perfect order that, once wind it up, and it would go till
the works wore out. The servants were so old and so perfectly drilled
that really Gerty had but little to do. Her rambles never extended
beyond the estate, but were always made with immense energy, for some
very trivial object. At first it was the cowslips, and then Reuben
taught the boy the art of birds'-nesting, and the boy taught his
mother; and so nothing would suit her but she must string eggs.
However, as the summer went on, she got far less flighty. And the
Secretary and his wife noticed the change in her letters, and were
more easy about her.

The next winter passed in the same total seclusion as the last. Mr.
Compton saw a little change for the worse in her towards the end of
it. He now gathered from her conversation that she had somehow got the
impression that George was gone away with Mrs. Nalder. He elicited
this one day after that affectionate woman had, hearing for the first
time Gerty was alone, come raging over to see her. Gerty told him that
she thought it rather bold on the part of that brazen-faced creature
to come and ring at the door in a brougham, and ask if she was dead,
after taking away her husband from her. She did not seem angry or
jealous in the least. Mr. Compton did not know, as we do, that her
suspicions of Mrs. Nalder were only the product of a weak brain in a
morbid state: if he had, he would have been more disturbed. But,
assuming the accusation to be true, he did not half like the quiet way
in which she took it. "She will become silly, if she don't mind," he
said.

The summer went on, and Gerty went on in the same manner as she had
done in the last. It happened that on the 17th of August Mr. Compton
went and stayed with her at Stanlake, and settled a little business,
to which she seemed singularly inattentive. Nay, she seemed incapable
of attention. She talked to him about a book she had taken a great
fancy to, "White's History of Selborne," which Reuben had introduced
to the boy, and the boy to his mother; indeed, all her new impressions
now came through her boy. She told him about the migration of the
swallows,--how that the swifts all went to a day, were all gone by the
20th of August. Some said they went south; but some said they took
their young and went under water with them, to wait till the cold,
cruel winter was over, and the sun shone out once more.

This conversation made Mr. Compton very anxious. He thought she was
getting very flighty, and wondered how it would end. He thought her
eye was unsettled. On the evening of the 21st of August the Stanlake
butler came to him, called him out from dinner, and told him that her
ladyship and the young gentleman had been missing for twenty-four
hours.



Chapter LXII. Gerty's Anabasis



THE first thing Mr. Compton did, on hearing of Lady Hillyar's
disappearance, was to take a cab and dash off to the Nalders' in
Grosvenor Place, in the wild hope that Mrs. Nalder might know
something about Sir George Hillyar's whereabouts, and that she might
enable him to communicate personally with him. The house was blazing
with lights, and the carriages were flashing rapidly up to the door;
but kind Nalder came down to him. Seeing no one but a gentle and mild-
looking old gentleman before him, he ventured to talk his native
language, which he would not have ventured to do for his life in his
own drawing-room, and explained to Mr. Compton that Mrs. N. had got on
a tarnation tall hop,--a regular Old Tar River breakdown; and, seeing
Mr. Compton was in full dress, he hoped his business would keep, and
that he would jine 'em and shake a toe. Having relieved his heart by
so much of the dear old prairie talk, and seeing Mr. Compton was
anxious and distressed, he began to speak in diplomatic American,--
absolutely perfect English, slightly Frenchified in style, and spoken
a little through the nose; English which, under the present
presidency, seems to be going out of fashion, as Webster's English
gives way to Lincoln's, and M'Clellan's to Grant's.

He was very much distressed at what Mr. Compton told him. Lady
Hillyar's jealousy against Mrs. Nalder, to which he had so delicately
alluded, was an old source of distress to him and his wife. As for
their having any knowledge whatever of Sir George Hillyar's
whereabouts, they had actually none at all; and, if he might speak
without giving offence, had no wish for any.

"As for your suspicion of her having drowned herself, my dear sir,"
Nalder continued, "I would banish that from my mind utterly. What
earthly reason can she have for such a proceeding? Pooh, pooh, my dear
sir,--if you will allow me to speak so to a man so much older than
myself,--you are fanciful. Because a woman talks about swallows going
under water, is she, therefore, necessarily to follow the precedent
herself?"

Mr. Compton stood silent for half a minute; before he had time to
speak, Mr. Nalder rammed both his hands into the bottom of his
breeches' pockot, and said, in that loud, snarling whine which it has
pleased the Americans to adopt in moments of emergency,--

"I'll tell you whawt, lawyer: I'll bet New York against New Orleans,
or Chicago against Kingston, that she has bolted to Australey, back to
her sister."

So she had. But, first of all, Mr. Compton insisted on believing that
she had drowned herself,--in consequence of that unlucky remark of
hors about the swallows. Next, he insisted that she could never have
started for Australia without telling him, which was equally
nonsensical. Thirdly, he advanced the theory that she hadn't got any
money, quite forgetting that George had allowed her a privy purse of
£400, of which she probably had n't spent £100. And lastly, just when
he had determined to make strict inquiries about the London Docks,
Gerty was quietly arranging her cabin on board the Baroda at
Southampton.

She would not face another winter; she had wit left to see that her
wit was going, and that it would be wiser to put herself under the
protection of the Oxtons. She was also uncertain of her position. She
could not tell whether any of them would prevent her, or whether they
had the right; so she determined to have no argument about the matter.
One evening after dark, taking no more with her than she could carry,
she managed, sometimes, carrying Baby and sometimes letting him walk,
to get across country to a station on the main line of the South
Western, where she was not known, in time for the last train, and by
it went on straight to Southampton. The next morning she quietly
bought her luggage, and moved to another hotel to avoid attention. In
a week the good ship went thundering out between the Shingles and the
Needles; and, when the great chalk wall was passed, and Alum Bay was
only a wonderful recollection, Gerty felt that she was free.

She had taken passage only two days before the ship sailed, and had
sense enough to use her own name, considering that fewer liberties
would be taken with Lady Hillyar than with Mrs. Hillyar. She sat next
the captain at dinner, and seldom spoke to any one else. Now she had
got among other people once more, she found how nervous, timid, and
hesitating these two years of seclusion had made her. She was afraid
to speak for fear of saying some unutterable nonsense.

At Alexandria some more Australians joined them, making the whole
number up to nine; but they were lost among the Indians. And such as
did know anything of her, only said that old Neville's daughter was
giving herself airs since she had married a title; and so, after the
Australians got into their own steamer at Point de Galle, and were
alone together, none of them troubled themselves about the little fine
lady of Cooksland.

Gerty had been accustomed to consider Melbourne a low sort of place,
where the bourgeoisie were admitted into society, and you never knew
whom you might meet; but when, between Sandridge and Emerald Hill, she
came on the first clump of gumtrees, with bracken fern growing beneath
them, she loved it, and would love it forever. It might be a low,
upstart place, fifty years younger than Sydney, full of all sorts of
people, nurse of all sorts of dangerous opinions; but it was Australia
still. Wapping is not a nice place,--nay, it is a very nasty place
indeed; but one will love it because it is sometimes the first place
that one puts one's foot on in England. It was not very difficult for
Gerty to fall in love with dear old Melbourne, in spite of her having
been trained by that veritable old squatter, her father, to consider
it the City of Satan.

The passenger-list in the Argus announced the arrival of Lady
Hillyar, and, moreover, that she was at the "Prince of Wales." Lady
H--drove over in a few days from Toorak to call on her, but she was
gone. She had dismissed her maid, and hired an open car as far as
Albury, leaving most of her luggage behind.

Lady H--thought it very strange that Lady Hillyar had not gone by
steamer to Sydney, and from thence, by New Caledonia, New Zealand,
Queensland, (then called Moreton Bay,) New Hungary, New United Italy,
New Poland, New Tartary, New Wapping, and New Beloochistan, on to
Cooksland; but, supposing that Lady Hillyar was tired of the sea, she
was not so much surprised after all at her going overland; for the
distance between Albury and Cooksland was not so very great. Only a
very small strip of New South Wales interposed.

Every school-boy knows, or, according to the latest critical formula,
would be flogged for not knowing, that Albury is on the river Murray,
and is the last town in the republic of Victoria, and that across the
river you come into New South Wales. But every school-boy does not
know, inasmuch as no one but myself is in possession of the fact, that
by holding to a native path through the bush from that place, in a
direction northeastern by south, you reach the frontier of Cooksland,
by stout walking, within three days. Since the two-and-sixpenny duty
on gold, this track has been much used by smugglers; and, if the
Victorian Government will take advice, they will look to the matter.
In the good time coming, when the Australian Federation set up on
their own account, and, sickened with prosperity, feel the necessity
of a little fighting, they need not despair of finding a casus belli
among themselves. The difference of intercolonial tariffs will make as
handsome a cause for a very pretty squabble as the Devil himself could
desire. "General Peter Lalor crossed the Murry yesterday, and attacked
the enemy's earthworks at Three Mile Creek. He was forced to retire
with a loss of 400 men. The Sydney-siders' loss is considered by him
to have been far greater." How pretty that will read! But we have read
some queerer things than that lately from America.

But Gerty? She discharged her car at Albury, paying the man forty-
five pounds. She had made her resolution; she had determined to walk
across into Cooksland.

The Bush had no more terrors for her than Regent Street has for you.
If she met a Bush hand, and her honor was in question, why she had
provided herself with a revolver. It was mentioned months ago that one
of the two great recollections of her life was first being taken to a
ball at Sydney; and another was hinted at only, as we intended to
reserve it for this place. One summer's day, when she was a child,
after she and Aggy had been gathering quantongs by the creek, her
father, old Mr. Morton, Mr. Dawson, and young Clayton, had come
suddenly home, said something which frightened their mother out of her
wits, had barricaded the door, and loaded their guns. Soon after they
began shooting at some men outside, and the men shot at them through
the windows, and broke the claret jug on the side-board. She
remembered that these men, the bush-rangers, had broken in the door,
and that Mr. Dawson had shot down two of them, and killed another by
bending his head back, and that her mother had kissed Mr. Dawson
afterwards,--that she had been sorry for the poor men, as she was for
the inhabitants of Jericho, who had not shot into any one's windows,
or at least it was n't mentioned,--that her mother was very angry with
her, and said that a girl who had n't gumption enough to drive a knife
into a bush-ranger's heart would not have the courage to drive it into
her own, and was unfit to live. Gerty had learnt from her mother how
to defend her honor.

How quaint that old Australian life seems to one! High refinement in
many cases, but the devil always at the door. Not, as in India, a
sudden, furious, unexpected devil, tearing all to pieces; but a
recognized devil, standing always ready. "This is the last of that
seal of Lafitte, sir, and the blacks are crowding round and looking
awkward." "The Illustrated News is come, sir, but no Spectator this
mail, and Mike Howe is out again, sir, and has stuck up Dolloy's, and
burnt one of the children, sir. Do you think he will take us next, or
the Macdonalds?" Those are the sort of little marcs'--tails you get at
the outside edge of that vast cloud of English influence which has now
overshadowed fully one-sixth of the human race. And, until you have
been to the edge, you will find it difficult fully to appreciate the
extreme meteoric disturbance which you will find there. Look at the
case of a certain family the other day in Queensland,--refined,
hospitable people, beloved by every one,--the young squire, sent over
to Rugby, where he turned out champion cricketer. They all got
suddenly, ruthlessly murdered by the blacks one summer's evening.

Were there any blacks on Gerty's track? Plenty. Was she alarmed about
them? Not the least in the world. There were none but tame blacks on
that line of country; there was not a wild black within a hundred
miles,--they had all been tamed ever so long. And the process? Borrow
Chief Justice Therry's book, and read pages 271 to 278, and see if you
can sleep after it.

Gerty did not care for the blacks one halfpenny. She rather looked
forward to meeting some of them, to have a good "patter" with them,
and see if she had that extraordinary comical patois for which she was
once famous,--the Romany of Australia,--the dialect used by the two
races in communicating with one another; nearly all English, but which
is made so wonderfully funny by the absence of all declension and
conjugation in the native language, and which forces the adept to use
only the first person singular (or rather the native substitute for
it, "mine"), and the third; and confines him mostly to the present
tense.* Gerty was anxious to see if she had forgotten her Blackfellow.

Starting from Albury, she came at once into Rabelais county, where
she lay one night at the house of Count Raminagrobis, an aged French
squatter, who told her fortune in four different ways, each of which
came different. She got into Hawthorne county next morning, and spent
the night with Mrs. Prynne and her charming espiègle daughter from New
England. After this she passed through the great Grevillia scrub,
where she left part of her gown and her few remaining wits, and,
crossing the river Roebuck, came into Cooksland, in Jones county, and
passed the night at Blogg's station, on the Flour Bag Creek; delighted
to find herself once more with more familiar and less queer people, in
the land of her birth.

She determined to make for the Barkers' station, that being the
nearest where she was known; and three glorious spring days she spent
in getting there,--three days passed in introducing Baby to the
flowers, the animals, and the birds. The third evening, just at dark,
she stood on the summit of Cape Wilberforce, and could see the lights
of the town below her on the other side of the Erskine. There was a
large light about two miles to the left,--the light, in fact, of the
new copper works; but between her and the river there was only one
solitary light, about a mile below her, towards which she determined
to make, to ask the way across the river; for she knew she must cross
the river and pass right through the township before she could reach
the Barkers, even if that were possible to-night.

So she picked her way down in the dark, carrying Baby pickapack,
until she came to some rails, over which they got, and came into a
thicket of wood, a very dark place undergrown with shrubs. They had
lost the light now, but very soon came suddenly upon it again close to
them; at which moment a large dog came out at them and began barking
furiously.

"Don't be frightened, love," said Gerty to Baby; "it is only a sheep-
dog; he won't hurt us." To the dog,--"You'll catch it, sir. I'll give
it to you, sir, and so I tell you. How dare you? Come here, sir; do
you hear, come here this instant, and don't let me hear another word
out of your head."

The dog came wagging his tail, and Gerty took him by the scroff of
his neck and slapped him. "If you are in earnest with them dear," she
said, with that careful attention to the child's education which she
had always shown, "you should have a teastick, and take them by the
tail, raising their hind legs off the ground, so that they can't bite
you, and lay on like old goose-berry. Now, dear, I will hold him; do
you go into the hut, and say that Lady Hillyar is outside and wishes
to be guided to Mr. Barker's. Come, that's a man."

Baby was very valiant. Gerty saw him advance boldly to the door,
which was ajar, push it open, and pass on into the well-lit room
beyond. * English. "I saw a large number of horses beside the creek."
Blackfellow. "Mine make a light eighty-four (generally, I regret to
say, adjective) horses along a creek." English. "I do not think it was
he." Blackfellow. "Baal mine think it that one."



Chapter LXIII. Samuel Burton Gets A Fright



SAMUEL BURTON was prospering amazingly. In addition to the plunder
which he had netted from his dexterous robberies at Stanlake, he had
made a great hit just latterly. He had bought a lot of twenty acres,
with frontage, on the Erskine, for £200, and now the Burnt Hut Copper
Mining Company had, after a long wrangle, consented to pay him £2,300
for it, that they might build the terminus to their tramway thereon.

Yet he was far from being more easy in his mind than heretofore. Had
any one told the miserable desperate hound, who had sneaked into
George Hillyar's office so few years ago, and borrowed thirty pounds
of him, that he would have risen to such a height of prosperity, he
would have laughed at him. But here he was, not only comfortable for
life, but holding over Sir George Hillyar a power worth thousands a
year to him: and yet he was getting desperate and ferocious.

He was a most awful scoundrel. There could be no doubt of that. It
may be true that there is an average amount of crime to be committed
in a certain number of years, and therefore it don't much matter how
it is done or who does it, as a contemporary wittily put it the other
day; yet still, if you would carry Buckleism to this extreme length,
you will find that the little efforts after good, and the better
instincts of the very worst men, are very well worth careful
examination.

Now this utter scoundrel, Burton, for instance, had his good
instincts. The man was good-natured and fond of children. He was
grateful and generous; and, what is more to the purpose just now, his
devotion to his supposed son Reuben was a passion with him. Sir George
Hillyar had used him and abused him for his own ends, but he had
retained a kind of dog--like faithfulness towards that man, until he
had stepped in between him and Reuben; and, now, moping in solitude,
or worse than solitude, his old love for Sir George was rapidly giving
way to ferocious hatred. He felt sure, and he was right, that no one
but Sir George Hillyar,--who, as he knew, hated and distrusted him,--
could have stepped in between honest, kindly Reuben and himself, and
produced this estrangement.

His most affectionnte appeals to Reuben had been left long
unanswered, and now were only answered by letters shorter and colder
time after time. Reuben had loved him once, and risked all for him;
and the poor wretch, who had tried what he called religion, and had
found that the lowest and wildest form of it enjoined a practice far,
far beyond what was possible to him now, felt more and more every day,
as his wasted life drew towards its close, the want of some one being
who could care for him. Reuben would have cared for him, and tended
him, and seen him kindly to the dark dreadful threshold, which, as he
fully believed, was the threshold of everlasting torment. Hell, since
his last feeble effort at reformation, he considered as certain; but
there had been something left in this world; there had been Reuben's
kind pleasant ministrations to the very end. Sir George, whom he had
served so faithfully for good or evil, had stepped in, and taken this
away.

In his lonely despair, he vowed a terrible vengeance. It was easy
vowing; but how was he to execute it? A few months ago, he might, as
he thought, have struck the blow, by placing the will in Erne's hands,
just at the time when Erne had been so kind to him; but, partly from
some lingering reluctance to ruin his old master, partly from natural
indecision, and partly from a sneaking miser-like love of possessing
unused power, he had hesitated. And now Erne was gone South to die;
nay, rumors had come that he was dead; and what was his precious will
worth then?

And there was another thing which terrified the poor wretch night and
day. He was afraid of Sir George Hillyar, physically afraid. Give him
a knife, and give any other man a cudgel, and he would face it out. In
that case he had the courage of experience. But Sir George Hillyar was
a bold man, the pupils of whose eyes would fix themselves steadily
when he looked at you, and which pupils would suddenly dilate, just
before the snarl and the blow came together, as the thunder snap and
the lightning did, when the storm was directly overhead. And he was an
unscrupulous man too; so, sometimes, Samuel Burton would wake in the
night in a perspiration of fear, and think that he heard George
Hillyar moving towards him in the dark to murder him.

He would not sleep alone. But he had no friend in Romilly. He was
known for a convict, and, although they treated him with civility,
nay, with more than civility, they would have none of him. Tim Reilly
(the, I was going to say, horse-stealer, but won't,) would have
nothing at all to do with him. Tim had, like his great compatriot,
O'Connell, driven a vast number of coaches and four through, at all
events, one Act of Parliament,--that against horse-stealing. Dan
O'Connell had driven, or was prepared to drive, through the whole lot
of them. He beat Tim O'Reilly in this respect, but Tim beat him in
another; Tim always stole the horses before he got on the box. But Tim
had never been convicted, and would not lower himself by consorting
with Samuel Burton.

It was mentioned before in these pages that, when he first invaded
Cooksland, old Barker found an old convict shepherd, with a view to
confining the criminal contamination within one single hut. Samuel
Burton now, for want of another, got this old man to come and live
with him; and I need not say that, the longer he lived there, the more
pleasant the old jail--slang became to him, and the more surely every
spark of good in him got trampled out.

Still there were times, even now, when he would get ashamed of his
life with this ribald old sinner, and think of the life he might lead
with Reuben, as of something higher and purer, getting further and
further from him every day.

One night they were sitting before the fire talking together.--Bah!
let us go to Tennyson,--"Fear not thou to loose thy tongue, Let thy
hoary fancie-free; What is loathsome to the young, Savors well to thee
and me.  "Chant me now some wicked stave, Till thy drooping spirits
rise, And the glow worm of the grave Glimmer in thy rheumy eyes."

Let us leave the conversation of two depraved old men alone. They
were talking on together, each chuckle getting more fiendish than the
last one, when the elder rose up and started back, with a frightful
and savage oath; and Samuel Burton staggered trembling against the
wall, and leant there, with his face worked into an abject expression
of the extremest terror.

For there stood between them a most beautiful child, with light
waving hair like an angel's, dressed all in white. It stood full in
the fire-light, and its little hands were spread towards the blazing
logs, as if in prayer.



Chapter LXIV. Samuel Burton's Resolution



THEN the man who had savagely cursed this beautiful and holy
apparition as something godlike, and therefore utterly abhorrent to
his nature,--this man relapsed into moody, defiant silence; but the
man who had only trembled before it, the man who could still feel
terrified and abashed at the contrast between his own black soul and
the sacred purity of the child before him,--this man gained courage to
advance towards it, and to speak tenderly and kindly to it.

Little George had knelt before the fire, and was eagerly warming his
hands, for the night was chill. Still the fancy held with Samuel
Burton that the child was kneeling before a blazing altar, and praying
for him.

"My dear," he said, "have you lost your way in the wood, and shall I
take you home?"

"Mamma lost her way, and when the dog came out she beat it. Not so
hard as Reuben beats the setters though, for it did not cry out."

"Who is mamma, dear, and where is she?"

"I am cold, and I think I have wet my right foot in the wood. I want
to warm my hands, and then I will remember the message and go back to
her. She won't mind waiting while I warm my hands."

"Who is mamma, dear? And you can remember the message while you warm
your hands," said Samuel, with increasing interest.

"Oh, yes," said Baby, "I can remember. Mamma is Lady Hillyar. She is
outside now, and she wants some one to take her up to Mr. Barker's."

"My dear," said Samuel Burton, eagerly kneeling beside the child, "do
you know Reuben?"

"You silly man," langhed Baby; "of course I do."

"Where is Reuben, dear?"

"At Stanlake, of course. I must go back to mamma."

"One word, dearest. Where is papa?"

"Papa is in Italy."

"Does papa never come to Stanlake? Does papa never see Reuben?"

"No, never. He never comes to Stanlake. I must go to mamma, please;
take me to mamma."

Samuel had heard enough. He seized a candle, and rushed out of the
hut, exclaiming aloud, with suddenly assumed excitement,--

"Good heavens! Her ladyship alone in the bush, and the dew falling.
Madam! My lady! For God's sake, answer! Where is your ladyship? Oh
dear, dear me!"

"Here I am," replied Gerty complacently, coming out of the darkness
with the sheep-dog leaping upon her; "I was wondering what was keeping
the dear child so long."

"Dear! dear! your ladyship will have caught your death of cold. Pray
walk in to the fire. Allow me as an old bushman to caution your
ladyship against these October dews; though indeed, my lady, you
should know the climate as well as I. I suppose Sir George has gone on
to Mr. Barker's."

"Sir George is in Europe," answered Gerty. "But I wish you would
take me up to Mr. Barker's, for I am tired, and they will be gone to
bed. Hallo!" she continued, turning to the older convict, "why there's
old Ben! I thought you were shepherding for Mr. Barker. I ain't going
to have your company up there, you know, and so I don't deceive you."

The old wretch gave a grin and growl, but Gerty turned away from him
with calm contempt.

"I beg your ladyship's pardon," said Samuel, "but it is a good five
miles to the station, and it would be almost too much for you to-
night."

"I ain't going to stop here, you know," said Gerty. "Likely indeed!"

"But could not your ladyship go to the Burtons' for to-night? It is
close by."

"You don't mean to tell me that they are here still. Why I thought
they had found a mine and gone."

"They are living within two hundred yards, my lady. Only across the
water. Will you follow me?"

She went out after him into the night air, and felt it strike deadly
chill upon her. She thought of what Samuel had said about the heavy
October dews, and thought she must have caught cold. She could
scarcely follow Samuel, though he walked close before her. Baby had
hold of her skirts, but she felt about in the darkness till she got
his hand, and said: "It is only two hundred yards, dear, and we shall
be among the Burtons. Thank God, it did not happen sooner."

They crossed a wooden bridge, and came into the street of the town,
the lights of which were dim in Gerty's failing eyes. Somehow,
immediately after, she was in a pretty drawing-room, and a group of
people, who had hurriedly risen, were pressing towards her.

But she only saw Emma Burton, and she cried out to her, "Emma, dear,
I am going to be ill; take care of Baby." Then there came over her in
one moment a terrible recollection of her lone, solitary journey; a
sudden appreciation of the enormous task she had so heedlessly
undertaken; then one happy moment, in which she was conscious that she
was safe; and then the brave, silly little woman, overdone in body and
mind, became comfortably insensible, and was borne in a kind of
triumph to bed by Mrs. Burton and Emma, and, waking up, found that she
had caught a violent rheumatic cold, lost one of her shoes, and all
capacity for thinking consecutively and reasonably.

She had trusted her old friend the Bush a little too far this time.
As she very sensibly said, she was glad it did not happen before.

Samuel Burton went back to his cottage very fast. When he got back he
found old Ben still smoking over the fire, who seemed inclined to
resume the conversation where it was broken off; but Samuel told him
savagely to shut up, and sat over the fire with his head buried in his
hands.

So Reuben was alone at Stanlake. Now or never was his time. He
determined to go to England to see Reuben. Reuben's mind had been
poisoned against him by some one; perhaps by old Morton, the keeper.
He would find Reuben, and make his story good to him, and would induce
Reuben to live with him, and would work to make his fortune. He
thought that he had possibly been unjustly suspicious of Sir George
Hillyar. He was determined that Sir George Hillyar should have fair
play. He would not meddle with Sir George in any way.

Meanwhile, with regard to Samuel Burton. If the child, when
stretching out its hands towards the burning logs, had really been
praying for mercy for his father, he could hardly have done more to
soften the heart of the man who held such terrible power over both of
them. If he could only get Reuben, he would not behave vindictively
towards him. Nay, supposing Erne to be really dead, what power had he?
And this is remarkable. He could not decide whether Erne was dead or
alive; for at one time he thought it impossible that he could have
survived, which was perfectly reasonable, and, at another, his soul
was filled with a superstitious, unreasonable belief that he was
alive, and would return. He had divorced himself by instinct and
practice from truth so long that he was utterly unable to examine
evidence, and decide on probabilities. But he found that, whenever he
believed Erne to be alive, his rancor against Sir George Hillyar
increased, and, when he believed him dead, his feeling towards his old
master grew more tender. As his intellect told him that his power of
treating with his enemy grew less, so his heart grew more tender
towards the enemy with whom he was about to treat. I suppose we should
all feel somewhat in love with the Russians, and feel a deep
admiration for their valor, their,--I don't know what else there is to
admire in them, but we could find that out,--in case of our falling
out with the Americans. When we found ourselves not in a position to
fight them we should begin to feel affectionate towards them, and
remember old Crimean courtesies, nay, contrast them, the Russians,
favorably with our faithful allies the French. Now that Samuel Burton
saw the power over his old master slipping through his hands, he began
to care for him once more.



Chapter LXV. Ex-Secretary Oxton Gets A Lesson



"YOU must do me the credit to say, dear Mr. Oxton," said the widow
North, one evening at the Bend, "that I always hated Mr. O'Ryan most
cordially. But I never believed him to be a fool,--yes, I will say it,
a fool,--till now."

"You are quite sure he is one, then?" said Mr. Oxton.

"Don't you think so yourself?" said the widow.

"No, I don't," said the Secretary. "I always thought him wonderfully
clever and able, but I never thought he would have made a statesman
till now. No, I won't abuse the word 'statesman.' I never suspected
that he had half as much political sagacity as he is now showing."

"I am at a loss to understand you," said the widow.

"And I am not in a position to explain myself," said Mr. Oxton,
rising and laughing.

"You are very unkind and disagreeable," said the good-natured widow.
"Aggy, don't you think that a simple mistake about the direction of a
letter, could have been got over without your husband's having an
hour's tête-à--tête with Miss Burke?"

"My dear Eleanor," said Mrs. Oxton, "you are perfectly right. My
husband's penchant for Miss Burke has caused me the deepest grief and
anxiety for many years. It is a painful subject. Let us change the
conversation."

"Well," said Mrs. North, laughing, "I won't try to sow dissension
between man and wife, particularly as she is coming here tonight. I
hate scenes."

"She will hardly come to-night in the thunder-storm, will she?" said
Joe. "How terrible the rain is!"

"Why, no; she cannot move in such weather as this," Mrs. Oxton
allowed, and they all agreed.

But presently, just after a blinding flash of lightning, her voice
was heard in the hall; and they all crowded out to meet her.

She had got on a macintosh, and had tied a shawl over her bonnet so
as completely to hide her face. She looked much more like a man than a
woman on the whole, as she stood in the hall, with the wet pouring off
her in streams; they only knew it was her by her voice.

"How could you venture out in such weather, my dear Lesbia?" began
Mrs. Oxton.

"Mr. Burton, your sisther's come by the stamer; but she's not gone
home; she's up at my house, and stays there to-night. James Oxton,
I'll trouble ye for an audyence in a hurry, alone wid yourself."

Mr. Oxton took her into another room, and left the others wondering.
The moment they were alone, and she had moved the shawl from her head,
Mr. Oxton saw she looked exceedingly grave.

"James, you may well wonder at my coming out such weather. I have
got news which will make you look as grave as me."

"I know you have been doing something kind for me, old friend; I am
sure of that."

"Nothing more than coming out in a thunder-storm, and I'd do more
than that for ye. It's some one else ye're obliged to this time, my
dear James. That angel, Emma Burton, who is not only ready and willing
to devote her life and her health to any one who may need it, but by
some divine kind of luck seems always in the way to do it,--it's her
you're obliged to this time."

"God bless her beautiful face, and soften her sorrow! I need not
pray that she may have peace, for she has that peace which passes
understanding. Now, old friend?"

"James, that scoundrel, Sir George Hillyar, has been neglecting
Gerty."

"So I supposed, from having none of my letters answered, and from
Gerty saying nothing of him."

"But it is worse than that."

"Has he gone off with another woman?"

"Yes."

"I did all I could to prevent it," said poor Mr. Oxton. "What could
I do more? He was a very good parti for her. How can any one blame me
in this miserable business? No! no! I will not say that. I have been
deeply to blame, and it will break my poor little Gerty's heart."

Miss Burke sat down on the floor and began to moan.

"Don't make me a scene, there's a dear old girl; I am not up to it.
After I let this miserable marriage take place, I should have kept him
here. He might have been saved; who knows? Now, get up, Lesbia; you
are getting too old to go on like this."

"Not till you know who he has gone off with!--not till you know who
he has gone off with!"

"Who is it, then?" said Mr. Oxton, turning sharply on her.

"Mary Nalder! Oh, the weary day, Mary Nalder!"

"Get up directly. How dare you?--In this house!--How dare you repeat
such a wicked falsehood, Lesbia? How dare you believe it? She, indeed:
and that fellow! Get up, instantly, and give me the name of the
scoundrel who dared say such a thing. He shan't wait for Nalder's
tender mercies. Get up, and tell me his name."

Miss Burke got up and went to him. "I wouldn't have believed it,
James, but that the poor child told me herself not half an hour ago."

"What poor child?"

"Gerty. She has run away, and come by Melbourne, walking, and made
her way to the Burtons' at Port Romilly. And that saint of a girl has
brought her on here, tending her like her own sister, and keeping her
quiet."

"Gerty here!"

"Shoeless and worn out. Poor, simple child, she walked three hundred
miles through the Bush; and, James--"

"Let me go to her. The scoundrel!--Aggy! Aggy!"

"Be quiet, James," said Miss Burke, rapidly and decisively.

"Don't be a fool. The poor child is out of her mind, and don't know
any one but Emma Burton. And you must keep Aggy from her, and you must
not go near her yourself. For, James; come and hear a dear old friend
quietly. The poor little thing's last craze is that you and Aggy are
the cause of the whole mischief. Since you have spoken about Mary
Nalder as roundly as you have, you have entirely restored my faith in
her, and I beg her pardon for having been so wicked as to believe
anything against her. But our own Gerty says, in her madness, that it
was you and Aggy who introduced Sir George and Mrs. Nalder at your own
house, and that she will never endure the sight of either of you
again. You must break this to Aggy, and you must leave her to me and
to Emma Burton for the present."

So this was the end of this grand marriage, in which the Secretary
had been led to acquiesce in an evil moment, disapproving of it in his
heart the whole time. Even if he could not have stopped it in the
first instance (as he certainly could) he need not, for the mere sake
of a few odd thousands a--year, have committed the fatal fault of
letting such a wild hawk as George Hillyar go down the wind, out of
call, with such a poor little dove as Gerty for his only companion.
And now here was Gerty come back, deserted, heart-broken, and mad,
cursing him and his wife as the cause of all her misfortunes. And,
although the dear little fool was wrong as to particulars, was she not
right in the main? Mr. Oxton was more humbled and saddened than he had
been for many years. He had always had a most firm faith in the
infallibility of his own sagacity, and this was the first great shock
it had ever received; and the blow hit him the harder because it came
through his heart. From this time forward he was less positive and
dictatorial, less certain of his own conclusions. The careless Indian
who spilt the pot of wourali poison over Humboldt's stocking was
nearly depriving us of the "Kosmos"; and so little Gerty, who was as
nearly cracked as any one of her extremely limited intellects can
manage to be without the aid of hereditary predisposition, did by her
curious Hegira manage to affect the course of affairs to a
considerable extent; and that, too, without any accidental or
improbable coincidence of time. She not only was the cause of Samuel
Burton's going to England after Reuben, but her arrival, in the sad
plight which we have described, had the effect on Mr. Oxton mentioned
above,--made him more distrustful of foregone conclusions, and more
open to negotiation.

But now. Mr. Oxton bent his head down on the table and wept. After a
time he looked up again, and said: "The last time I cried, Lesbia, was
when Charley Morton's father got the Latin verse prize, instead of me,
at Harrow." Miss Burke was standing in her dripping mackintosh, with
her head bare, and her long black hair tangled down over her
shoulders: with her back against the door, sentinel against
intruders,--patient, gentle, nay, almost servile; but with a fierce
untamed power in her splendid physique, in her bold black eyes, and in
her close set mouth; a true representative of a great nation subdued
for three centuries, but never conquered. As Oxton saw that woman in
her fantastic dress, with her wild tangled hair, standing against the
door, a light seemed to break on him. "She is half a savage," he said
to himself. "But is there a nobler woman in the colony? I have never
done these people justice. These Irish must have more in them than I
have ever given them credit for. I will try to think differently of
them; I am not too old to learn."



Chapter LXVI. Something To Do



IT was well for poor Emma that she had the care of Gerty just now,
for she was pretty nearly heart-broken. Night and day there was but
one image before her mind's eye,--Erne lying dead in the bush alone.

But the noble girl suffered in silence, and it was only her red eyes
in the morning which told Joseph that she had been weeping all night
long. They did not allude to the subject after that first dreadful
evening; but, when three days were gone, she said she thought she
would like to go to her brother James, and that the steamer sailed
that day. Joseph was glad she should go, for her presence seemed like
a reproach to him; and so she went her favorite voyage to her favorite
brother.

They met in silence, but his silent embrace told her that he loved
her only the more dearly in her sorrow, and she was contented. She
begged to sleep at James's house, because all her brothers were away
at school, and she thought she could sleep better if she had the baby.
That night, just before she went across to her brother's house, her
mother fell upon her bosom and began weeping wildly; but Emma could
not speak of it yet,--she only kissed her mother in silence.

In the middle of the night she came to James's room in infinite
distress. "James, my dear," she said, "I shall go out of my mind alone
if those native dogs keep howling. There is one of them again. How
very, very dreadful."

There was something so terribly suggestive in her noticing the noise
of these foul animals in this way, that it frightened James, and made
him think too of his poor friend, lying--where? and how?

They found out that she brooded on this in silence all day long; for
the next day, towards evening, she was sitting alone with her mother,
and suddenly said,--

"Mother! I suppose that, even if they were to find his body now, I
should not recognize it."

"You will know him when you meet him in glory, my darling; among all
the ten thousand saints in heaven you'll know him." This was all that
weeping Mrs. Burton could find to say from her bursting heart.

For five days she was like this,--not idle, not morose, only very
silent. No wild dogs were heard after the first night: James confided
to one or two of the leading young men that, under the circumstances,
the native dogs were an annoyance to his sister. They took uncommonly
good care that the girl who had nursed Tim Reilly's child through the
small-pox should not be unnecessarily reminded that her sweetheart was
lying dead in the bush. There was no more music from the dingoes after
that.

So she remained for that time, never weeping before the others,
speaking very little, and only once or twice about Erne. Several times
her brother James begged her to talk to him and ease her heart; but
her answer was always the same,--"Not yet, dear; not yet." Once he got
her to walk out with him; but one of those foul, filthy, cruel,
beautiful eagles came rushing through the forest like a whirlwind,
just over their heads, and she shut her eyes and stopped her cars, and
begged James, for the love of God, to take her home again.

But on the fifth day God sent her relief, and all was well. He sent
her work, and her eye grew clear and calm once more, and the deadly
lethargy of grief was gone, never to return. The grief was there
still; that never could depart any more until death; but God had sent
her the only true remedy for it,--the remedy which, acting on sainted
souls like hers, destroys self, and therefore makes the wildest grief
bearable. He sent her one "whose necessity was greater than her
own,"--like that of the soldier at Zutphen,--and bade her forget
herself, and see to this business for Him, and wait for her reward
hereafter.

Gerty came to her, broken down in health, and mad, with her silly,
crazed little head filled full of groundless suspicions against those
who loved her best. Here was work for her with a vengeance. With a
feeling of shame at what she chose to call her own selfish grief, she
rose and shook it off. When Gerty had been got to bed, she came down
to the assembled family, and at one glance they saw that their old
Emma was come back to them.

"My dears," she said, "the steamer goes in four days. If I can get
her out of that bed I shall take her to Palmerston. As far as her
bodily health is concerned, she has only got a bad rheumatic cold. But
I shall take her to Palmerston, to Miss Burke. She is not in her right
mind exactly, and yet her pulse is quiet, and her eyes are not
dilated. She has got a craze about the Oxtons, and--and--She must go
to Miss Burke. I can't undertake to do anything without Miss Burke. I
shall take her to Palmerston on Thursday."



Chapter LXVII. The Backstairs History of Two Great Coalitions



WHEN it was too late, Joseph Burton began to realize to himself the
fact that he, by quietly and without remonstrance allowing his sister
to devote her life to him, had ruined her life, and had committed a
gross act of selfishness. The invalid of the family, among high-bred
and high-minded people like the Burtons, is generally nursed and
petted into a state of chronic selfishness. Joseph Burton, whose
character we have hitherto taken from his brother, had, in spite of
his really noble instincts, been spoilt in this way, and hitherto had
not thoroughly recovered that spoiling. Now he plunged into politics
more wildly than ever, and made love to Mrs. North (who was by no
means unwilling to have him make love to her: far from it); and tried
to forget Erne's death and Emma's misery.

Mrs. North's question about the folly of Mr. O'Ryan seemed pertinent
enough, but Mr. Oxton's answer puzzled her exceedingly. Mr. O'Ryan had
never concealed his longing for office and power; but, now he had got
it, he seemed to be allowing his party to commit such extreme follies,
as would put him in the Opposition once more within a twelvemonth. And
yet Mr. Oxton said that he had never before given him credit for any
approach to political sagacity. She resolved to get her pretty head as
near to Joseph Burton's handsome one as was proper, in a quiet window,
on the first opportunity, and make him explain this mysterious speech
of Mr. Oxton's.

It wanted explanation, certainly; for, since the foundation of
Donnybrook Fair (by King Malachi, or, as Mr. O'Callagan called him,
Mellekee, "last of prophets, and first of kings and saints in the
Island of Saints"), seldom have the public affairs of any community
been brought into such an extraordinary hurly-burly as that into which
the O'Ryan ministry succeeded in bringing the affairs of Cooksland.
And yet O'Ryan, who might have whipped his dogs in, and gained the
respect of the colony, only laughed, and defended each absurdity by a
quaint airy Palmerstonian speech, and let things take their course
without the slightest concern.

The colony expected a land bill of him (and to tell the honest
truth, a land bill was most imperatively necessary), but none was
offered to the House by Mr. O'Ryan. He left that to his honorable and
gallant friend and colleague, Mr. Rory O'More. And, when the
provisions of that bill were laid before a paralyzed and awe-stricken
House, even Mr. O'Callagan of the Mohawk himself was obliged to
confess that it was "a divvle of a bill, indeed, indeed, but, Faug a
ballagh, we'd get some piece of it any how."

The chief points in the bill were, that all the waste lands were to
be laid open for selection at 5s. an acre; that any person holding
over eighty acres should pay a tax of 5s. per acre per annum; and that
all the men who at present held more than eighty acres, should pay a
tax of 2s. 6d. an acre; which last provision, he remarked, would so
far recruit the resources of the colony (they would have taken nearly
£3,000 a year from Mr. Oxton alone) as to enable them to reduce import
duties, and materially diminish their staff of Custom-house officers.

The House wouldn't have this at all,--more particularly the gentlemen
connected with the Customs (most of them Irish), who happened to sit
in the House. The bill was rejected by a perfectly resignable
majority; but there was not one single hint of resignation from Mr.
O'Ryan. And the quidnuncs of the colony began to remark that neither
Mr. Oxton, nor Mr. Dawson, in the Upper House, nor Mr. Dempsey in the
Lower, were attending to their parliamentary duties, though all three
in town.

Mr. Brallagan's new Constitution bill was of a still more astounding
nature than Mr. Rory O'More's land bill. It was simply revolutionary.
All property qualification was done away with; the Upper House
abolished; and every male in the colony of twenty-one, untainted with
crime, invested with a vote. Mr. O'Ryan spoke in favor of the bill for
about three minutes, with an airy levity which disgusted every one.
"You must come to it some day or another; ye'd better swallow it now.
Whether the country's fit for it or not, it never will be more fit;
besides, I have some sort of curiosity to see the thing at work. If we
do go smash with it, the Home Government can step in; and, if we
don't, why we can give the old lady her congé, cut the painter, and
start for ourselves."

Joseph Burton rose after Mr. O'Ryan, and in a short, stinging speech
denounced the insane folly of virtually putting the government of the
country into the hands of the most unfortunate and most unthrifty of
the old country. "With regard to one half of the emigrants now
entering our ports," continued Joe, "I affirm that their mere presence
in this colony proves them to be unable to manage their own affairs
with any success. The result of conferring full political privileges
on a thriftless, selfish, and idle population would be that the most
worthless class would be legislated for, and that the other and more
respectable classes, overpowered by numbers, would be neglected; that
government would be forced by the demagogues to divert the revenue to
unproductive works to create sham labor, and that there would arise a
lazzaroni more pestilent than that of Naples."

Not a word did Joe utter against Mr. O'Ryan. The bill was lost by a
large majority. One of the younger Conservative members rose and gave
notice of a motion of want of confidence. The day came and the vote
was put; Mr. O'Ryan was victorious by three votes; and so public
business came to a dead standstill. Only, the Governor having politely
remarked that he would be glad of a little money on account, they made
a House and voted him his salary. As for the rest of the budget, not
the slightest effort was made to bring it in; forcing a budget of any
kind through a House, with a majority of three, which might yet, on
any day, in consequence of a hot wind, or the mail steamer coming in,
or a steeple chase, or a missionary meeting, or a prize-fight, or a
thunder-storm, dwindle to a minority of nine, was too much trouble.
Meanwhile affairs were come to a dead lock, and it was notorious that
no funds were in hand for the payment of officials for more than two
months.

When matters were just at this pass, it so happened that Mrs. North's
pretty little carriage was conveying her quickly down Sturt Street,
through the broiling summer noon; when she saw, walking rapidly on the
pavement before her, a large white umbrella, with somebody's legs
under it; at the sight of which she hailed her coachman, and made him
pull up beside the pavement. The radiant face of Joseph Burton looked
out from under the umbrella, and the widow perceived that "ex pede
Herculem,"--she had looked in his face so long and so earnestly, that
now she could recognize him by the shape of his legs.

He looked so unutterably happy that his joy communicated itself to
the kind little widow from the mere force of sympathy, leaving alone
and not considering the fact that she was over head and ears in love
with him. She was going to speak, when he anticipated her.

"Dear Mrs. North, will you drive me somewhere?"

She was going to say, "I will drive you anywhere if you will look at
me like that!" but she didn't. She only said, "Jump in. Where?"

"The Bend."

"The Bend," cried out Mrs. North to the coachman. And away went
"Lothario"--second-best trotter in the colony--like a steam-engine.

"What makes you look like this?" said Mrs. North, laying her hand on
his arm; "have you good news?"

"News which has brought me to life, and made a man of me once more,"
said Joe. "I have carefully concealed it from you, my dear friend; but
I have been in deep distress lately, and the cause of that distress is
suddenly removed, and I could sing for joy."

Now Mrs. North was one of the most excellent and admirable little
women alive. But she had got to love Joe, and she knew that Joe loved
her. She also knew well Joe's ultra-sensitiveness about his deformity,
and was well aware that he, with his intense pride, would never lay
himself open to the chance of a refusal, would never speak until he
knew he was safe; therefore she saw that she would have to do a great
deal of a certain sort of work herself which is generally, by old
custom and tradition, done by the gentleman, and yet do it in a way
which should not in the slightest degree clash with Joe's exceedingly
unpractical and book-gathered notions of womanly modesty.

And, if any one was to ask my opinion, I don't think the little woman
was in the least to blame. One would not care to see it done by a girl
of twenty: but a widow of twenty-six is quite a different matter. I
think she acted wisely and well all through.

She withdrew her hand from Joe's arm. "Were you blind enough, and
foolish enough, to think that you could conceal it from me?" That was
all she said.

Joe began, "My dear Mrs. North--" but she interrupted him.

"Come," she said, "we will talk of something else. Like most other
men, you can be good-natured, even while you are bitterly unkind.
After such a strong instance of the latter, just merely for a change,
give me a specimen of the former, and explain this political
complication which puzzles us all so."

"Dear Mrs. North," said Joe, in distress, "don't embitter the
happiest day in my life by being unkind to me."--The widow's hand
immediately went back on to his wrist, and she said eagerly, "My dear
Mr. Burton--"

"There, I knew you were not seriously angry," said Joe, with a
brightened face. "Come, I will soon explain the state of affairs,
which is so puzzling to the outsiders."

"But are you sure, dear Mr. Burton," said this conscientious and
high--souled widow, "that you are violating no confidence? Oh! if you
were to render yourself for one moment uneasy by having reposed, in a
moment of excitement, confidence in me, the recollection of which
would hereafter render you unhappy, I should never, never--"

"I shall keep no secrets from you in future," said Joe, solemnly.
Which the widow thought was getting on pretty well, considering.

The dead-lock in public affairs, as described by Joe, in a delicious
drive through shade and sunlight, towards the Bend, was simply this.
(It is not hard to understand, and will not take long):--

O'Ryan had been a thorough-going ultra-Republican, a man who believed
that the summit of human happiness, and of political sagacity, would
consist in putting supreme power into the hands of the majority, and
letting them settle their own destinies, without taking into account
whether or no a population so peculiarly formed as that of Cooksland,
were in the least capable of knowing what was best for them, or of
electing the men who could.

His innumerable good qualities, his undoubted talents, his great
powers of debate gave him, most justly, the entire confidence of his
party. He could, most probably, when he first found himself in power,
through the fatal folly of James Oxton, have got through a new
Constitution bill,--so liberal, that all backward steps would have
been impossible, as it would seem they have become in Victoria; and
the carrying out of his extreme theories would have followed shortly
as a matter of course. But, before this happened, two persons had been
acting on his somewhat facile and plastic nature, and had modified his
opinions considerably.

The first of these was Dempsey, the Irish rebel, the greatest anomaly
from the island of bulls,--a man so good, so pure in life, so
unselfish, and so high-minded, that there were times when one was
ashamed that he should bow to one; a man who had shown such great
political ability, when he was once removed from his craze of
independent Irish nationality; and yet a man who, in his frantic
effort in 1848, had shown that he was less able to calculate on the
earnestness of the peasants, and the power of the Government, than
Smith O'Brien or Duffy;--a man who ought to have been respected and
loved by every one for his good qualities, or shot like a mad dog. You
never knew whether the former or the latter fate was the right one for
him.

This man had a restless craving after power; but since '48 he had
learnt what real power was, and saw that it was impossible to enjoy it
with such gentlemen as Mr. O'More, and Mr. Brallagan, or with such an
organ as the Mohawk, and longed to find himself back again among his
peers, to have his share of power with the Oxtons and the O'Reillys,--
to regain the ground he had lost, by what he now thought a wicked and
inconsiderate rebellion against a government which, however misguided,
was generous and kind. Moreover, though he had been a rebel, he had
never been a Republican. This man, both because he was a relation, and
because his eminence was undoubted had a great deal of influence over
O'Ryan, and used it in favor of moderation.

Another person who had great power over him was an old friend, Miss
Burke, the peacemaker. She had the profoundest contempt for men of the
Brallagan school,--men with no qualities worth naming except fierce
and noisy impudence, and a profound belief in their own powers. She
took care that this contempt should never die out of her cousin's
bosom, and certainly few people possessed greater powers of sarcasm
than she. No one was ever more able to make any one else contemptible
and ridiculous.

Acted on by these people, O'Ryan grew more and more tired of his
"tail," and more and more anxious to ally his own talents and those of
the pick of his party to the other talents of the colony, and form a
sound, respectable, moderately liberal government. But what was to be
done with the "tail?" To announce without preparation a coalition from
which they were excluded, would be to whistle "Vinegar Hill" at a
Tipperary fair.

"Hang it," he said, laughing, one day to Dempsey, "I have committed
myself to these men, and I can't back out. I will give them an
innings. Let them exhibit their statesmanship before the country; they
will be easier to deal with afterwards."

He did so. With what result we know. Negotiations had been set on
foot for a coalition; and the negotiators had been Miss Burke and
Joseph Burton.

Everything had gone smoothly until Mr. Dempsey was brought on the
carpet. James Oxton had gracefully met O'Ryan half way, and O'Ryan had
yielded with great good sense. But, when |Mr. Dempsey's name was
mentioned, Mr. Oxton peremptorily told Joseph Burton that he would sit
in no cabinet with a gentleman who had been in arms against her
Majesty's authority; and O'Ryan with equal firmness instructed Miss
Burke to say that he must decline forming part of any Ministry which
did not include his friend Dempsey.

"This was the knot all yesterday, dear friend," said Joseph; "but it
is so nobly untied. Dempsey has deputed me to say to Mr. Oxton that
the matter in hand is far nearer to his heart than any personal
ambition could be,--that he foregoes all his claims, and will
earnestly support the new Ministry from the back benches."

"Noble fellow!" cried Mrs. North. "And is it this which has made you
so happy!"

"Oh, no; something far different."

"Here we are," said eager Mrs. North, as the carriage dashed quickly
into the gravelled court-yard, setting the cockatoos screaming, and
bringing all the dogs out at them by twenty vomitories. "I will wait
and take you back with your answer. Make haste."

Joe was not long gone. "Drive straight to Mr. Dempsey's at the
Stockade," he cried. "My dear creature! at length it is all over and
done."

"What did Mr. Oxton say?"

"He said, 'Go, if you please, and tell Mr. Dempsey that I am not to
be outdone in nobleness by him or any other man. Say that I request
him to sit in the cabinet with us, as a personal favor, and hope to
sit there many years with one who has learnt so well, in whatever
school, to sacrifice his own ambition for the public good."'

"You and Lesbia deserve the thanks of every man and woman in the
colony. I am proud of your acquaintance. You are to have a seat in the
cabinet, of course?"

"Yes, I am to be Minister of Education."

She was looking at him when he said the last three words, and saw
that, for the first time, he fully appreciated the grandeur of the
position to which he had found himself elevated. As he said the words
"Minister of Education," his face flushed and the pupils of his eyes
expanded. "That is well," thought Mrs. North. "I wonder if he means to
speak."

Apparently he meant to hold his tongue, for he did it. There was a
long silence, during which Joe twice turned towards her, and twice
turned away. "I suppose I must do it myself, then, after all," thought
Mrs. North.

"Ah, me!" she said in a sweet low voice; "I suppose I shall see but
little of the Minister of Education: you will have but little spare
time for my tittle-tattle now. However, the past is our own. You can
never deprive me of the recollection of the pleasant talks we have had
together; and at all events I can watch your career from a distance. I
shall have that pleasure, at all events."

"Mrs. North," began Joe. "If I was not a cripple--" here he stopped
again.

Dead silence on the part of Mrs. North.

"If I was not a cripple, I should ask you if I might dare--"

Mrs. North's little hand was gently laid on Joe's.

"Mary, I love you."

"And I love you, Joseph. And I will prove it to you between this and
the grave, if God spares me."

"Propose to him myself, dear?" said Mrs. North to Mrs. Oxton next
day. "No, my dear, I assure you on my word of honor that I was not
driven so far as that. But I should have done so in ten minutes more,
dear; and so I don't deceive you."



Chapter LXVIII. Samuel Burton Makes His Last Visit to Stanlake



"A CURSED climate," said Samuel Burton, between his set teeth; "a
God-forgotten climate. If I can get my boy away out of this, I'll
never set foot in it again. He may come home here and live like a
gentleman, when I have made his fortune, and am--"

He could not say the word "dead." He could not face it. He cursed
himself for having approached so near the subject., If any one had
been watching his face, he would have seen a look of wild ghastly
terror in it.

The time and place, when and where, we pick him up again, were not
by any means cheerful or inspiriting. He was toiling, in pitch
darkness, through wild November sleet, over one of the high downs near
Croydon, towards Stanlake.

"I wouldn't care for anything," he went on musing, "if it wasn't for
that. If I wasn't afraid of dying, I could be happy. And it ain't what
is to come after that frightens me, neither; there is uncertainty
enough about that. But it is the act of dying which frightens me so.
It must be so very, very horrid. Bah! I have lived a coward, and, oh
Lord, I must die a coward. Why, the distinct dread of the terror I
shall feel in dying nearly maddens me. What will the terror itself be
like, when I feel it coming on?"

Although the bitter sleet was driving in his face, and racking his
sun--warmed muscles with twinges of rheumatism, yet he found that he
was in a sweat,--in the sweat of hopeless terror.

"And yet the main of men ain't afraid of it. There was that young
keeper at Stanlake in old times,--what was his name again?--ah! Bill
Harker, that was the man,--that was shot. He died hard enough, but he
wasn't afraid of it; and I wasn't afraid of seeing a fellow die
neither in those times, as I am now. He wasn't afraid of it for
himself; he kept on, when the very death-agony was on him, 'Oh, my
poor wife! Oh, what will become of my poor little wife!' What the
devil made him think of her, I wonder, at such a time as that, with an
ounce of small shot in his stomach?"

That was very puzzling indeed; but he did not let it puzzle him
long. He came back to the great point at issue: How this terror of the
act of dying,--which was undoubtedly a nuisance so great that at times
it made life not worth having,--was to be abated or abolished.
Nuisances not half so great had been often denounced by the public
press as being inconsistent with progress. And yet here was a great
standing public nuisance, with no remedy suggested. He was obliged to
bring his train of thought to a standstill, and curse the climate
"pour s'amuser."

"I wish I knew where my boy was living," he began thinking again. "I
shall have to make to Morton's lodge; and there are certain risks
about that. He might give me up; and, before Sir George could be
communicated with, I should be tight in for ten years over the
Lawrence Street business. It's a terrible risk my being here. Why, Sir
George couldn't save me, if I was seen by the traps. However, I'll
have my boy out of this if I die for it."

As he walked he got drenched to the skin in the icy shower; and his
courage cooled. "I hardly dare go near him; I think I must be mad; but
he is never the man to give up an old fellow-servant who knows so
much. No."

Scrambling down the steep chalk wall of Whitley Hill, he came to the
long grass ride through Whitley Copse which led to Morton's lodge. The
moon, fighting with the northeasterly seud, shone out sometimes and
showed him his way; so, during a longer gleam than any which had gone
before, he found himself close to the lodge; which was perfectly dark
and silent in the moonlight; though he could see that another great
bank of rack was driving up, and that night would soon be black once
more.

He hesitated, and then whistled. As he had expected, Rory and Tory,
(Irish,) Lad and Ony, (Ladoga and Onega, Russian,) Don and Sancho,
(Spanish,) Lady and Lovely, (Clumber,) not to mention Vic, Jip, Jack,
Nip, Ven, Dick, and Snap, (English terriers,) took up the question all
at once: declared that they had never closed an eye; that they had
heard him a mile off, but had deep political reasons for not barking
before; and generally behaved with that mixture of humbug and
overstrained conscientiousness which dogs assume when they are taken
by surprise.

Samuel had lived so long in a country where hydrophobia is unknown
that he had almost forgotten the existence of that horrible disease,
and would far sooner have faced a dangerous dog than an innocent slow-
worm. He merely scolded them away, right and left, and, going up to
the door, knocked loudly.

A voice, evidently from bed, said, "Father, is that you?"

He said, "Yes, Reuben. Get up, and let me in."

The owner of the voice was heard instantly to get out of bed. In a
few moments a young man had opened the door, and was standing before
Samuel in his shirt and breeches, looking at him with eager curiosity.
But it was not Reuben; it was a taller young man than he, with a very
square face, and keen blue eyes. Though he had nothing on but his
breeches and shirt, he stood there with his bare legs in the cold
night air for more than half a minute, staring at Samuel.

Samuel saw the father's face at once. "You are young Morton," he
said.

"Yes," said the young man; "and, from what you said just now, you
must be Reuben's father, Sam Burton. I have heard a deal of you, but I
never thought to have seen you. Come in."

Young Morton dressed himself, and took another long look at Samuel.
"So you are come after Reuben?"

"No," said Samuel, lying, because it was easiest. "I have come after
your father; but where is Reuben?"

"He is with father."

"Can you tell me where your father is? I want to see him on a matter
of life and death."

The young man turned his face to the fire, and remained silent a
long time. At last he said,--

"I hope I am not doing wrong in telling you, Mr. Burton. I was told
to tell no one. We are in terrible trouble and confusion here, and I
hope I shall not increase it. But I will sleep over it. You must stay
here to-night, and to--morrow morning, unless I alter my mind, I will
tell you."

Young Morton did not alter his mind in the morning; just before they
parted he said,--

"You know the Black Lion, Church Street, Chelsea?"

Samuel rather thought he did. He, however, expressed to young Morton
that he had some vague recollection of a licensed victualler's
establishment, not a hundred miles from that spot, with a somewhat
similar sign.

Young Morton laughed. "Well, my father and Reuben are to be heard of
there," he said.

"But, my dear young man," said Samuel, "I put it to you whether I
dare go near the place. Come."

"I don't know anything about that, Mr. Burton. There they are; and,
if you want to see them, there you must go. Good morning."



Chapter LXIX. Sir George and Samuel Close their



Accounts, and Dissolve Partnership

SNEAKING from pillar to post, sauntering into doorways and waiting
till suspicious persons had passed, sometimes again walking briskly,
as though with a purpose before him, and sometimes turning his back on
the place for which he was bound, Samuel Burton at length reached the
narrow passage which leads into Garden Grove, and set himself to watch
the Black Lion.

It was eight o'clock, and a bitterly bleak night. The keen east
wind, after roaming through the dust heaps in Garden Grove,
concentrated itself, and rushed through this passage, as through a
large organ pipe, of which Samuel formed the reed. His whole body
began to give forth a dull, monotonous wail from every projection,
which increased in violence with the strength of the agonizing wind,
but never altered one single note. When he did get to bed after this
eventful night he instantly dreamt that he was an Æolian harp, and
that Sir George Hillyar the elder came and tuned him.

The dry, searching wind, intensely cold, pinched up his already
pinched--up face, until it looked more like that of a weasel than of a
man; and his long, thin nose, red and blue, peered querulously out
into the darkness, as though he were looking with that, and not with
the beady eyes above it, deep sunk under his heavy eyebrows. There
came two impudent and low--lived boys into the passage, the one of
whom formally introduced him to the other. "This, Ben," said the young
ruffian, "is my uncle, the undertaker's man. He's awaiting for a ride
home in the hearse, and is going inside, as his lungs is delicate."

He really did look like something of that kind; for, when he had
taken to pietism, to see what that would do for him, he had, as being
the first and easiest step in that direction, taken to dress himself
in black clothes with a white necktie; and, although he had given up
religion as a bad job, finding that even the lowest and most
superstitious form of it demanded inexorably a moral practice which to
him seemed a ghastly impossibility, yet he stuck, at all events, to
what he considered one of the outward symbols of godliness, and always
appeared in public in so scrupulously correct a costume that it would
have stricken one of our advanced young parsons dumb with a mingled
feeling of wonder and contempt.

So he stood for a long time, shivering with cold, and thinking
whether he dared show himself in the bar of the Black Lion, and
concluding most unhesitatingly that be dared not. But, if Reuben and
Morton were to be heard of there, there was every chance of his seeing
one or another of them coming in or out; so he waited. I suspect it is
easier for an old convict to wait than for you or me. When one has got
accustomed to wait in the blank horrid darkness of a prison cell for
the warder to bring one one's food, waiting becomes easy, although
patience may be a virtue which has taken wings long ago.

So he waited impatiently, cursing time, for one knows not how long.
But after a while he cursed no more, and was impatient no more. Every
other feeling was absorbed in one,--intense eager curiosity.

The shrill driving casterly wind had brought the London smoke with
it, mixed with fog; it had been barely possible to see across the
street. Samuel had tried, three or four times, to make out the vast
looming mass of Church Place,--the old home of the Burtons,--in the
darkness, and had not succeeded. But by one of those laws which guide
the great river fogs, some side puff of wind, some sudden change in
the weight of the atmosphere, the river fog was lifted, and the whole
of the great house stood out before him. It was all dark below, but
aloft the great dormer window,--the window of Reuben's old room,--was
blazing with light.

He watched now with bated breath. He could see the old palings which
surrounded the house, and saw that the gate in them was open. He had
not long found out this when he saw Reuben and Morton together come
out from that gate, cross the street, and go into the "Black Lion."

Like a cat, like a weasel, like a slinking leopard,--like a young
member, with no faith save the rules of debate, whatever they may be,
who sits with hungry eyes to catch a poor old man, old enough to be
his grandfather, tripping,--Samuel Burton slid across the street, and
passed unobserved and wondering into the old house.

His first idea had been to wait about in the vast rooms, which he
saw were lightless and deserted, until he found out how the land lay;
and with this view he slipped into the great room on the first floor,
and waited there in the dark. But not for long. There were too many
ghosts there; and ghosts, as every one knows, have no manners,--they
have never yet been made to take any hint, however strongly given,
that their company is unacceptable: they will not behave even like the
most tiresome of morning visitors, and go when the lady of the house
sees something remarkable out of window. The behavior of the ghosts in
this empty old room was exceedingly rude toward the miserable,
godless, superstitious old convict. One gentleman, indeed, an
exwarder, whose brains Samuel had seen knocked out with a shovel, in a
stringy-bark forest, some fifteen years before, was so offensively
assiduous in his attentions that he found it necessary to go out on to
the stairs, and, when there, to go up them towards what might be
capture and ruin, sooner than have any further tête-à-tête with the
Sintram companions, whose acquaintance he had made in a life of
selfish rascality.

But he really was not much alarmed; he saw there was some hole-and--
corner work going on, and that gave him confidence. People who took
possession of the garrets of deserted houses must be doing something
secret, something in his way. The risk was certainly great, but he
determined to face it. Sneaking curiosity had become a second nature
to him; and, besides, it was not a much greater danger than he had run
in approaching the place at all.

So he gained the door of Reuben's room, and looked in, and then drew
back amazed. It was comfortably furnished, and full of light, not only
from a blazing fire, but from two or three candles dispersed about it.
Everything was still, except a heavy breathing of some sleepers; and
after a momentary hesitation he looked in again.

On a sofa opposite to him was stretched a large man, sleeping
heavily. In a bed close to the fire lay another man, with his face
turned from him; and both were apparently asleep. The man on the sofa
had his face turned towards him, and he could see every feature
plainly. And, after the first glance at that face, curiosity mastered
every other feeling, and he went softly in and gazed on him.

A big, red-faced, handsome giant, whose chest went gently up and down
in the deep breathing of sleep, and whose innocent, silly mouth was
wreathed into a smile at some foolish dream! Samuel thrust his long
thin nose close to him, and his little eyes dilated with a maddened
curiosity. He knew him, and he didn't know him. Who on earth was it?
As he stood there watching, risk, time, place, everything was
forgotten. Where had he seen this man before? He sent his memory
ranging back to the very beginning of his life, and could not
remember. Had he gone mad?--or had he slept for twenty years, and had
Erne Hillyar grown into this?

And who could that be in bed? A sick man, for the evidences of
sickness were there in plenty. Curiosity and awe had overmastered fear
now; he stole to the bed, sat down in a chair beside it, and watched,
wondering, till the sick man should turn his face towards him, feeling
that when he did so this wonderful riddle would be read.

He did not wait many minutes. Sir George Hillyar turned uneasily
towards him, and recognized him, and Samuel saw the word "death"
written on his face.

We are strange, contradictory creatures!--the highest and the lowest
of us: David,--David, King of Israel, I mean, not the painter,--and
Marat. Call it a truism; it is none the less true. When this wretched
scoundrel saw his old master dying here miserably, before his years
were ripe, a purer and nobler sentiment warmed his rotten old heart,
and showed itself in those darkened little windows of his eyes, than
had place in him since he had knelt at his mother's knee. Deep, deep
pity. It bore no lasting fruit; the man died as he had lived,--for
amendment seems to become an impossibility after a certain point, at
least in this world. But, though the spring got choked up once more,
still it had welled up, and shown that there was water beneath the
soil.

The history of the soul of a thorough-going rascal like Samuel Burton
"remains to be written." We can't do it; we can only describe the
outside of such, and say what we saw them do under such and such
circumstances, as we have done with Samuel Burton. As for what they
think, feel, and believe, they lie so horribly and habitually that the
chances are ten to one that every other word they speak is false.
Samuel Burton's character has been sketched after long and intimate
confidences with many convicts. I used at one time to make after a new
convict as I would after a new butterfly, and try--hopeless task!--to
find out when he was lying and when he was telling the truth. The
result has been Samuel Burton. But I have, at all events, found out
two things. The first is that a man who has just told you with
infinite glee about the share he had in robbing a church, will
invariably deny, with virtuous indignation, that he had any share
whatever in the crime for which he was transported. His brother always
did that; and his wife, in a moment of misplaced confidence, received
the stolen property into the house in a basket of greens, which was
found standing on the sink when the "traps" came. And the second is
that, until we can catch a thorough-bred scoundrel, with high literary
ability, and strict regard to truth, we had better not talk too fast
about the reformation of criminals.

But I can only say that the case of Samuel Burton was just as I have
stated it. Sir George and he recognized one another at once, but Sir
George spoke first.

"Is it you in the flesh, or are you but another dream?"

"It is I, Sir George, and I am deeply grieved to find you here, and
so ill. But cheer up, sir, we will set you right in no time, sir. You
must come over to Stanlake, and get about, sir. You will soon be
well."

"I am dying, Samuel. I have been going too hard, harder than ever;
and you know how hard that is! Whence have you come?"

"From Australia, Sir George."

"So you were there all the time," said Sir George, evincing a feeble
interest. "Well, all that is over; I forgive, and hope to be forgiven.
When you know what I have to tell you, you will use your power
mercifully."

"I have reason to believe that my power is gone, sir."

"How so?"

"Your brother Erne is dead."

"Poor Erne! Tell me how."

"He died gold-hunting, sir."

"Poor fellow! poor fellow! I wonder if he forgave me?"

"He loved you. Sir George."

"I dare say. I can see many things now. I would put much to rights if
I lived. I dare say he is better off where he is. When I see him I
shall tell him the whole business."

"But you are not going to die, Sir George; there are years of life in
you yet. Come, sir, you must get well, and we will put things on
another footing."

Sir George Hillyar actually laughed.

"Why do you go on lying to a dying man, Samuel; you saw death in my
face, or you would never have told me that Erne was dead. Morton and
Reuben are on the stairs now,--I hear them. If Erne is dead, I have
strength left to tell them to hand you over to the next policeman for
the Stanlake robberies,--I holding your circumstantial confession of
them."

"You wouldn't do it, Sir George. Come, I know you won't do it. See,
time is short; they are coming. I wish I may be struck dead if this
ain't the real truth. Mr. Erne is not known to be dead, but he is
missing. He may have got to some station on the Ovens, or Mitta, or
King, hard up, and be staying there. You won't go and beggar your own
child, and ruin me at this time of day. The wrong is done, and can't
be mended now. Die silent, sir, like a fox. Think of your son, sir."

"How can I die silent, you villain," said poor Sir George, raising
himself in bed, "with you here persuading me to leave this miserable
world with an act of rascality? I could have done it, I was going to
do it, for I don't fear death like you, you hound; but the Devil, nay,
it may be God, has sent you here to put the whole villany of the
matter before me once more, and force me either to ruin my heir
Reuben, or to die like a scoundrel, with a crime against poor innocent
Erne on my soul. Is he dead or alive? You will soon be either one or
the other if you tempt me to rise from this bed and fall upon you."

"I don't know rightly, sir," said Samuel, rising as pale as a sheet.
"Strike me blind if I know. I was only begging you to let things go on
as they were, and not say anything about the will in my possession,
partly because I am an old man, a poor feeble old man, sir, and partly
because I should not like to see your beautiful little angel of a
son,--I should not like to see that dear child,--coming into my but
two months ago, when her ladyship lost herself in the bush, and he
came into my poor little place like a praying seraph,--because I
should not like to see him left with only Stanlake, mortgaged over
head and ears--"

Sir George laughed again. "Magnificent bathos," he said. "So you have
seen my wife and child, hey? But, oh, most strangely complicated liar,
I was not thinking of that poor little brat, but of my dear devoted
son and heir, Reuben."

"Reuben?"

"Yes, Reuben. That poor fool deceived us all. Curse you, I am not
going into all that horrible business again on my death-bed. Have some
decency. You did not know that I was married in Scotland."

"I did not accompany you to Scotland, sir."

"No. Even in my wickedness I had grace enough left to leave you
behind. The new atmosphere was at all events purer than the old. But
who did?"

"Young Ben, the keeper's son from the Wiltshire farms, went with you,
sir,--her ladyship's brother."

"And do you know who is lying on that sofa?--Ben, old fellow, get up;
I want some lemonade."

The giant rose up, and Samuel was puzzled no more. He knew him now,
poor drunken Uncle Ben. "I will get you your drink, Sir George, if you
will allow me," he said. And Sir George said, "Never mind, Ben; lie
down again;"--which Uncle Ben did.

"He was so awfully like Mr. Erne when he was asleep that. I was
puzzled," said Samuel. "Now, Sir George, let us have a little quiet
talk about this delusion of yours."

"Delusion! It is shared among others by Compton, who considers the
legal evidence quite sufficient. I married her in Scotland. I never
told you that--Reuben is my legitimate son--She concealed the fact
from Morton--She never believed herself really married, and I hardly
thought that such a farce could be binding in law. But she many times
voluntarily told Ben the whole truth, and left a witnessed statement.
It is no use to fight against facts, you know. You may fight, but in
six hours Reuben will be in possession of Stanlake. And, if Erne is
dead, of the rest."

It seemed so very consistent, and so very like truth, that Samuel
felt it must be true. The best cards were all in his adversary's hand,
and his adversary had shown him his cards, careless whether he won or
lost. Poor Samuel had but three ways of playing,--threatening, lying,
and whining; and now he tried the last, not because he dreamt of its
succeeding,--for, so stony-hearted is the world, that he had never
found it do any good whatever,--but because--because--Well, I do not
know why; they always do it. Detect a liar for yourself; wait till the
impudent defiant fit is over, and he begins to whine, and then ask him
what he expects to gain by it. If he cannot tell you, I am sure I
cannot.

"Are you going to have no mercy on a poor broken old man, Sir
George? Are you going to take my boy from me, and leave me no one to
comfort and console me on the way to my miserable grave?"

"Yes," said Sir George, angrily. "I wish to be at peace."

Samuel rose, for Morton and Reuben were in the room. He went and
talked to them while Sir George Hillyar was sleeping; and after a time
Mr. Compton came in, and the whole miserable business was talked
through between him, Uncle Ben, Mr. Compton, and Morton. He saw that
the proofs were overwhelming, and after a time went and sat by
himself, feeling, poor dog, more unutterably lonely, deserted, and
miserable than he had ever felt in his life.

He sat awake all night. Towards morning, when Mr. Compton had gone,
and the other three were asleep, he heard Sir George move, and
instantly went towards him. Sir George's face was calmer now, and even
kind. He stretched out his hand to Samuel, and said,--

"Let us forgive one another. We have both to receive punishment, but
my mind is not such a shifting quicksand as yours, and I think I see
that I am the most to blame. We have both fallen, I cannot quite see
why or how, into a horrible pit full of moral evil; or, to put it more
truly, I, with the strongest nature, fell, and dragged you with me.
You, my poor Samuel, don't know truth from falsehood, or right from
wrong; I doubt if you ever did. I have always seen the difference, and
in consequence have made such a hell of this world that I have some
idea,--some notion--But I have nothing to go upon, except my own
possibly distorted notions of justice. What matters it my speculating?
I shall soon be in possession of facts. I see--I mean I feel--one
thing: that I wish to forgive and be forgiven; and so I tell you that
I have been seeking your life these two years. Can you forgive that?"

"Yes! yes! But you are not going to die! You could not be dying, and
speak so calm as this!"

"My throat is even now choking. The effort of breathing in my next
sleep will wake me, and you will hear me rattling, and I shall die,--
probably without speaking. Say all you have to say now."

"But are you not afraid, sir? Is it not terrible to die?"

"What on earth can there be to be afraid of? The future is doubtful,
certainly,--the sooner over the better. But it must come sooner or
later."

"Certainly, sir; but the act of dying,--I beg pardon. I have to say
to you, sir, that whatever I have to forgive is freely forgiven. And,"
continued Samuel, in a burst of emotion, really at the moment
heartfelt, though possibly somewhat out of place, "you have much to
forgive also. But, tell me, sir, what I am to do about this will?"

"I don't know," said Sir George Hillyar; "I can't decide a question
between morality and sentiment on my death-bed. It depends on whether
Erne is dead or no. I don't know what it depends on. I thought you
were very fond of Reuben."

"So I was, sir. But what is Reuben to me now?"

"Then you never loved him for his own sake. There is no doubt of his
paternity. I did."

He was silent after this for some time, and Samuel thought he was
asleep. But after a few minutes he roused up, and said again, "Is all
forgiven?" And Samuel said, "All, sir." And then he fell asleep.

Samuel sat watching him till near six, and then he roused the others.
Sir George was right as to the result, though wrong as to the cause.
There was no rattling in his throat. The cold morning air found its
way to his drink--rotted lungs, and they ceased to crepitate. He woke,
sighed, and died.



Chapter LXX. Reuben's Temptation



SIR REUBEN HILLYAR and old Morton made much of Samuel, and explained
to him the circumstance of his being there. After some time Morton and
Uncle Ben left, and Reuben and Samuel were alone together.

"Can we go anywhere and have some conversation together, Sir
Reuben?" said Samuel.

It was the first time he had been called by his title, and he
started. He proposed that they should go to a room over the way, and
so they went.

It was an exceedingly awkward interview. Samuel sat with his head
buried in his hands, and did not speak. Reuben had to begin.

"I am afraid you feel this very keenly. I was shocked at first at
our change of relationship, for you were very kind to me. I thank you
for all your kindness to me, and shall always remain fond of you."

Still no answer. Reuben saw that the old man was crying, and spoke
to him still more gently.

"I am very sorry that we should have to separate, but I fear that it
would not be safe for you to remain in England. Your company was
always pleasant to me, even when it involved danger."

"We never had one word together, Reuben,--had we?" said Samuel, who
had now found his voice.

"Never one," said Reuben. "I fear you must have thought me unkind in
not communicating with you lately, but he had persuaded me of all this
long before Uncle Ben came to Sir George to unbosom himself about what
my mother had told him, and to ask his advice. That was the reason of
my silence. I could not write to you, 'my dear father,' could I?"

"I was right, then, in thinking that it was his doing," said Samuel.
"It is lucky for all of us that he did not provoke me to do something
which I had it in my power to do,--very lucky. If I had been
aggravated into putting Erne on the throne, I should have been sorry
for it now."

Reuben, not understanding what he meant, and hearing Erne's name,
said,--

"And so poor Erne is dead?"

"Don't you be so sure of that, my--Sir Reuben. Don't be too sure of
that. You may find yourself a beggar yet."

"How so?"

"Like this, my dear sir. The late Sir George Hillyar--your
grandfather I am alluding to--made a will, by which he left £8000 a
year to Mr. Erne, and only Stanlake and £2000 to your father. If Mr.
Erne were not dead,--and, if you press me hard, I don't think he is,--
the production of that will would ruin you, would it not?"

"I suppose it would. Well?"

"That will is in my possession," whispered Samuel eagerly. "I stole
it. Ha! ha! What do you think of that? Stole it!"

"I hope you will give it up."

"It ruins you. Do you see? Silence! Was that any one coming? Here it
is. Take it; there is the fire, do you see? blazing high. Be quick; it
will soon be over."

The old man actually drew the will from his breast-pocket, and put
it,--with his long thin fingers trembling while he grudgingly
relinquished the terrible power which he had held so long,--into
Reuben's hand. Reuben took it and looked at it, saying,--

"Well, this beats everything. This is actually the will, is it?
Well, it's a nuisance, but it can't be helped. I must drop my title
and emigrate, I suppose." So saying, he put the will in his breast and
buttoned his coat over it.

"Put it in the fire, you fool," said old Samuel, clutching Reuben's
arm with his long fingers; "put it in the fire, or I'll tear it away
from you again. If you were to meet with an accident and that was
found on you, you'd be transported."

"It shan't be on me long," said Reuben. "It shall be in Mr.
Compton's hands in an hour."

"I'll tear it from you!" said Samuel. "You dare n't,--you won't,--
hit an old man like me. And I'll tear it out of your heart if you
don't give it to me. Damn you, do you think I am going to sit by and
see my game thrown to the four winds like this? I gave it to you from
pure love, and now you are going to do justice with it! Do you think I
perilled my life and my immortal soul to have justice done? Confound
you, I'll have it back again. I'll tear it out of your heart, you
false, ungrateful lad. Give it up!"

The old man threw himself on to Sir Reuben, and plucked at the
breast of his coat. But Reuben laid his strong hand quietly on the old
man's breast, and merely said, "Steady, steady, dad. Remember, for
God's sake what the effect of a row would be here, and now!"

Samuel was quiet in an instant. He sat down and began another line
of action, far more dangerous to Reuben than any amount of violence
would have been.

He waited a little before he began. At last he said,--

"It's a fine thing to be a baronet."

"I suppose so," said Reuben; "but I haven't thought about it yet. I
haven't realized my position."

"I'd sooner," said Samuel, with a thoughtful expression, "for my
part, be a sweep, or what is worse, a cooper,--nay a night-man, than
be a Bart. without property."

Reuben said, "Ah!"

"You have no prestige. Nobody cares for a Bart. If you were a lord,
with a seat in the Upper House, that's another thing. Your order would
take care of you. I believe there's a fund for poor lords. But a
Bart.! Lord! the things I've seen poor Barts. drove to. Some of them
goes on the stage for a time, till the public are sick of 'em. Some of
them billiard-marks; all of them trades on their title, and takes to
drink. There is no place for a broken-down Bart. under heaven; and
that's what you are unless you put that paper in the fire."

No particular effect on Reuben; at least, no answer.

"Ah, how bitterly you'll find that out in a year's time, with
nothing but Stanlake, and Erne's claims upon it! Why, if he presses
his claim, you are a ruined and miserable man: and it is not too late
to alter it, even yet."

Poor Reuben began to look haggard and thoughtful. Who can blame him
that in the first flush of his new fortunes he had looked forward with
delighted anticipation to the splendid future? He had built already a
grand edifice of fancy for himself; and here sat old Samuel, with his
cowering face half turned upwards towards him, inexorably, with
infinite dexterity, pulling it down about his ears; and yet reminding
him that he still held in his hand the power of rebuilding it in one
instant. He began to get very unhappy. Samuel saw that he was
producing an effect, and changed his tune with infinite knowledge of
his man.

"But don't let us talk any more of this. There's a bright future
before you; and, if Mr. Erne is alive, you may make it up to him."

"Is he alive, or is he not?" said Reuben impatiently. "One time you
say one thing, and at another time another."

"He is alive sure enough," said Samuel. "But listen to me. Do you
know all the pleasures of ten thousand a year, lad? Have you ever
thought of them? Have you ever thought of what you are giving up? Why,
your position, in case of your not making a fool of yourself, will be
one of the most enviable in the whole world. Think of what it is to be
a country gentleman, and how well you are suited for it. There's your
horses and dogs now; and what's to prevent your taking the Vine hounds
into your own hands, declining subscriptions, and making a king of
yourself? Or your horses, once more! Is there anything against Sir
Reuben Hillyar owning a Dutchman or a Voltigeur, having his share in
the maddest five minutes of the year,--ay, and coming out the envied
of England? Boy, boy! you have heard them coming over the grass, four
or five of them together, so close that you might lay a table-cloth
over them. You know that maddening music, do you? Why, I am an old
man, but it sends the blood buzzing and tingling into my ears even now
when I think of it. Don't say I haven't hit you there; for I saw your
eye kindle; you are a born sportsman. And Morton says you are shooting
beautifully. Ah, dear! those woodcocks in the hollies: it takes a man
for them."

Reuben said, "Well; have you done?"

"The girls, the lasses, the ladies, hey," continued old Samuel, as
though he hadn't heard him. "The real ladies. The carefully educated
women, ugly or pretty,--the women formed by the traditions of a dozen
generations of refinement. You fool; do you know what you are throwing
away by cutting yourself off from all hopes of coming near them? I do.
I was brought up among them, and used to watch their ways; and the
recollection of them used to make the hulks, and the prison, and the
wretched pot-house life into which I was driven, a hell to me; for I
was born for a gentleman. Haven't I waited on them; and don't I know
how the very plainest of them gets, from the very air in which she
lives, a grace and a refinement,--a power of fascination which no girl
in our rank of life can even understand? I know this; and you--"

Reuben rose. "How many of them are like Emma Burton?" he said. "How
many of them would have followed me to the den to which you led me,
and have saved me at the risk of her life? She is my model of a woman,
and I want none better. She always led me from evil, and showed me
good. If Erne is dead, my life and fortune shall be devoted to taking
his place, so help me God. She may forget him in time; and I may grow
worthy of her in time. It is that glorious girl's influence,"
continued he, snarling in his speech, as his cockney, poco curante
etiquette broke down under stress of circumstances, "that enables me
to tell you that what you wish me to do is impossible, for that, if I
did it, I should never dare to look upon her face again."

They spoke no more together. Before the silence had become awkward,
Mr. Compton's voice was heard outside, inquiring for Sir Reuben
Hillyar. Reuben went out to him, and taking the will from his breast-
pocket, held it out to him, smiling.

"Do you know this paper?" he said.

"Good God!" said Compton. "It is your grandfather's will. I know it
well enough, for I drew it up. It is the will that couldn't be found.
How on earth did you come by it? You must have stronger faith in
Erne's death than I have, from that miserable old liar's account, or
you would have put it in the fire. Where on earth has it been?"

"It has been on its travels," said Sir Reuben, pointing over his
shoulder towards the room where Samuel Burton still sat. "Lady
Hillyar's liver-and--tan spaniel found it on the floor, and seeing it
smelt meaty, being parchment, began gnawing it; when in came her
ladyship's white Persian cat, with her three white kittens, wanting
some of it, considering as a mother of three that the assertion of her
rights was a sacred duty. And the dog, conceiving them, from their
color and from the solemnity of their demeanor, to be avenging angels,
hooked it up the chimney, and shut the register after him, having
forgotten, in his guilty terror, to let go of the will."

"My dear Sir Reuben!" put in Mr. Compton.

"And," continued Reuben, determined to atone for his late exhibition
of earnestness by going into higher flights of nonsense than he had
ever attempted heretofore, and rising to the circumstances, "that dog
remained in that chimney for four days, sometimes trying to get out at
the top, from which he was prevented by the cowl; sometimes
attempting, with a perseverance and an intelligence to which the
attention of writers on the natural history of the friend of man
cannot be called too soon, to raise the register with his fore feet.
During all this time the dog, whether terrified by his position, or
(as seems more probable) beginning to feel a natural remorse at having
abstracted--"

"Now steady, my dear Sir Reuben," put in Mr. Compton. "Never mind
where this will has been. We have got it now. That is all."

"Say no more about it," said Reuben. "I will tell you, when it is
safe to do so, the story about it. Meanwhile, if it is good in law,
let it take effect. If Erne is dead, I will devote half my life to win
Emma Burton."



Chapter LXXI. James Burton's Story



AND so poor Erne was dead! Noble, affectionate Erne Hillyar, who had
lit down among all the commonplace squalor of Chelsea, and had made
friends with me above all other lads, and had taught me to love him
also, he was dead. The fate which seemed to hang over the two houses
whenever they were brought together had stooped down once more. He had
fallen in love with my sister; and she, refusing him through a foolish
over-strained sense of duty, had made him desperate, and he had gone
south, and was dead.

I was not angry with her about it. I thank God now that I never
blamed her; I loved her too well for that, and I felt, I think, in a
less degree, every arrow of grief which went through her heart. When,
after the third day, she fled to me--to me of all others--for comfort,
I took her to my heart, and felt something like a gleam of sunshine.
Though I had persuaded her, almost bullied her to forego her silly
resolution, yet she loved me above all others yet. I knew that she did
not fly to me because I had loved him who was dead best of living men,
and was the more likely to talk of him. I was quite sure of that, and
I think I am so now. No: on consideration I am certain she came to me
because she loved me for my own sake, better than all the world, now
that he was gone.

In the old days when I used to go courting Martha by Clerkenwell
Prison, where we used to get the omnibus and go out to Hampstead Heath
and wander all day, hand-in-hand, among the furze-bushes, until the
time came for her to go back to her hideous drudgery, we two
intensely-happy fools used to talk about this Erne Hillyar, until
Martha believed in him like a god. She believed in me to an immense
extent, and does so still, I think. I think that at this very time she
has a lurking belief that I not only found the copper-mine, but made
the copper and put it there ready to be found, and that consequently
she looks on the copper-works as a triumph of sagacity on her part, in
having selected me to keep company with in the old times when I was
only a blacksmith's apprentice. She believed in Erne, from my account
of him, as some one who moved in a higher sphere than ours, possessed
of qualities to which we could never attain. Her mother had taught
her, either before her Catechism, or else with such remarkable
emphasis, that the Catechism sank into insignificance, that gentlemen
were wolves and scoundrels, and that she was never to say anything
more to a gentleman than yes or no. But she had never considered Erne
to be a gentleman. She went about with me during our courtship on that
very question. "You profess to love him," she said, "and call him
that." I was obliged to keep the fact of Saint Erne being a gentleman
in the background.

When that pretty cracked little Lady Hillyar came wandering to our
house, asking to be taken care of, Emma brightened up a little, and
accepted her work cheerfully; she went south again and left me alone
in my grief. I say comparatively alone, for I think that my wife's
grief was mainly for me; and I tried to hide it from her as much as
possible. I could not bear the anxious look that came in that dear
face when she saw me moping and brooding, or those pitiful offerings
up of the baby, to be kissed, at the shrine of her love. Dear soul,
she did not know what to say to comfort me; but she had found the baby
a sovereign remedy for every small vexation in her own case, and so
she used to administer it to me whenever my head went down upon my
hands, and my face grew vacant as my mind wandered off after what
might have been. Baby was very well for a few minutes; but it was too
young to talk, and was generally given back to its mother, who stood
with anxious eyes watching the father's face. God bless thee, wife!
Summer and winter come and go; the storm rattles over head, and goes
crashing and booming away towards the mountains, and leaves a sky of
cloudless blue behind it from horizon to zenith; but thy love has
never waxed or waned,--neither in gingham and woollen, nor, as we are
now, in brocade and diamonds.

I suspect that, if I hadn't been brought up a blacksmith, I should
have been something else, provided I had brains enough; on which last
point I am not sure, but on which my family seemed to have satisfied
themselves in the negative; though why they always come to me about
all questions, which any brains of a better quality than those of a--
well--could have settled in a moment, I am at a loss to conceive. I
suspect also that there is some of the poetical faculty about me
(hitherto strictly latent), because I am accustomed to walk out of
nights, when anything goes wrong.

I took to doing this now, because I was in really deep distress about
Erne, and because I found that these long night-walks made me sleep
soundly, until the time came for me to get up and go to the mine. Men
at twenty-one can do with wonderfully little sleep, and an amazing
deal of work. You see there is so much more phosphorus in the brain
then, or something of that kind.

And again, although I had intended these night-walks of mine to be
solitary walks in which I might think over the memory of him who was
gone, yet it was, perhaps, fortunate for me that my humor was not
allowed to have its course. I soon had a companion.

Trevittick was a man who scorned to do anything like any one else,
and he kept up his character on this occasion. Knowing what an
affectionate nature he really had beneath his quaint shell, and
knowing how deeply he had attached himself to poor Tom Williams, I
dreaded the burst of grief which would ensue when he heard of his
death, not only on account of his loss here, but because I felt sure
that Trevittick would, like a thorough Heautontimoroumenos, torture
himself with some insane speculation on the probable destiny of poor
Tom's soul. What was my astonishment at his receiving the news with a
burst of thanksgiving, and at his going about his work that day with
an air of pious cheerfulness. I really did not know whether to laugh,
or to be provoked at, this new vagary of his. But, in the evening, my
curiosity to know in what way he would account for his conduct, in
what light he would put the matter before his strangely--distorted
mind, overcame my manners, and I asked him to explain.

He scornfully doubted if a person so dead to higher religious life as
I, was capable of understanding his explanation.

I simply said I would try.

He then said that he had every reason to believe that Tom, though
unawakened, was elect; that the elect who died before their awakening,
entered into glory, into a higher destiny than was possible for us;
for they were awakened in bliss unutterable, whereas we must wait and
wander, and fall and rise, and only afar off--

Here the poor fellow completely broke down. The outward exhibition of
his grief was as wild and fierce as his self-command had been
wonderful. It was a long time before that powerful mouth could set
itself once more, still longer before I ceased to detect a fluttering
of the lip when he spoke.

He was very angry with himself and with me about this outbreak. On
the very next occasion, which occurred immediately, he "gave it to me"
in right good earnest. I, speaking from my heart, and thinking in some
way to comfort him, said,--

"Poor Tom Williams!--poor dear Tom!"

He fired up immediately. He said I was blaspheming, to apply the
epithet "poor" to a saint in glory. He said I was as bad as a
miserable idiot of an old woman at a funeral, who in one breath would
speak of the deceased as being happy in heaven, and in the next would
"poor dear" him and begin howling. I took his rebuke in my usual ox-
like manner, and, moreover, did not laugh,--which I somehow felt
inclined to do,--at the quaint mixture of sentimentality, shame of
that sentimentality, fanaticism, and logical thought which he showed;
and which, combined with extravagance and avarice in about equal
portions, and a "clannishness"--a belief in Cornwall and things
Cornish--before which the Scotticism of Professor Blackie shows like a
feeble, half-developed instinct, make up the character of that strange
race who live beyond the Tamar, and many of whom are about as much
like Englishmen as the Samoeydes.

I only went for one walk alone, and then he found me out. The next
time I started he was waiting for me, and I was glad of his company,
for the weather was deadly still, dull, and sultry, and there was no
movement in the forest; except sometimes the distant crack and crash
of a falling bough; and now and then, while the blood-red moon hung
overhead, the wild wail of a native dog, like the feeble cry of a
dying child; which faded away into silence, and left the hot
oppressiveness of the forest more unbearable than before. It was not
well to walk alone in the forest at midnight that summer.

We never made any arrangement as to where we should walk; but our
feet, by some tacit, unexpressed instinct, always carried us the same
way, almost to the same spot,--southward, to the summit of the Cape
Wilberforce Mountain, where we could look over the sleeping forest,
stretched out beneath the lurid moon, towards Victoria, the land where
our unburied loved ones lay dead.

I used to talk but little. I was unable, either by education or
intellect, to hold my own with Trevittick in argument. He alone
talked. He talked to me a great deal, but I soon found that he was
talking to himself,--was using me as a "Speaker," as a man set there
for him to put his cases to, like the personages in Plato's dialogues,
put up to be demolished; as a man to whom he might, without
personality, vent his strange theories about God's dealings with
man,--theories got principally from the Old Testament, which he had,
as it were, eaten raw, without any salt of scholastic divinity
whatever, and which had consequently disagreed with him terribly, and
sometimes nearly driven him mad. In some of his moods he would claim
that there was a higher law, which we were incapable of
understanding,--a law which set aside our notions of human morality;
in another, that the deepest and most subtle lesson which the Old
Testament taught was that morality was unnecessary to understanding
God, which was the only object of life: nay, more, that it was a
stumbling-block set before our feet by the fiend. This he would
illustrate by such questions as that of the assassination of tyrants;
in such a temper, too, as made me feel certain that, if Cardinal
Wiseman ever did preach in Westminster Abbey, and Trevittick happened
to be among the congregation, his Eminence would meet with an
accident, and one of the best preachers in England would preach no
more. At another time maintaining, and uncommonly well, that the right
of taking human life was taken from man the morning when Christ was
born. Such a mass of rambling, confused thought was never yet put
before a half-educated man as Trevittick put before me during these
midnight walks; and the man was so clever, and so amazingly eloquent
too, that he dragged me triumphantly at the wheels of his chariot, and
fully persuaded me of each of his theories in succession; until,
sometimes, coming home in the morning, as the ghastly red sun had
risen, and left the moon hanging overhead with a sickly, pale face, as
of an obstinate ghost who had refused to depart at cockcrow, I used to
deliberate whether or no Baby himself, lying with his tender fingers
tangled in my wife's hair, was not an invention of the fiend, sent to
lure me to my destruction.

Heaven defend me from having that Weather and that Man sent to me at
the same time again! I should go mad. I could possibly, having the
constitution of an ox, pull through either separately; but both
together. Bah! I can make no more fun for you, reader. If you want any
more of that, shut up the book here, and say good-bye. But these
midnight walks with him had a strange, unhealthy fascination for me in
my present state of mind; and I continued them.

One night we sat together on the summit of the mountain. The
stillness had grown stiller, and the heat had got more intense; the
blessed sea itself, the fresh, restless, changing sea, was now merely
a dull gleaming sheet of copper beneath the blurred and ragged moon;
there was no sound in the long-spread forest, for the rivers were
silent in the horrible unnatural heat, and the native dogs were
crouched in their lair, urged by an instinct of fear more delicate
than our own.

We sat on the grass with our hats off, and our throats bare, for some
time without speaking; at last I said,--

"After all you have said on both sides, Trevittick, you have left me
with a confused idea that there is some injustice in the death of Erne
and Tom Williams. They were so good and so innocent. What had they
done to deserve such a horrible fate?"

We sat without speaking for some time after this. I knew I had
offended Trevittick. For him to find all his high-wrought teaching
traversed by a commonplace remark of this kind would, I knew, make him
angry. But, God forgive me, I felt what I said. It did seem to me so
very, very hard.

I cannot say how long the silence lasted, but suddenly we moved
closer together, and tried to seize one another's hands in the dark.
For down in the south, among the dim, still forest ranges, we heard
the first low muttering of an approaching earthquake.

The sound of it changed from a dull muttering into an angry snarl,
and then into a confused jarring roar; but, before it reached us, it
had passed into silence, and had only left strange humming echoes in
the hot heavy air. The vast mass of trap rock on which we sat,
crossing the crack in the earth at right angles, had stopped it. We
looked hurriedly towards Port Romilly; the ramparts of Cape
Wilberforce had saved the town. The few lights burning burnt as
steadily as ever.

After a time Trevittick spoke. "The heathenish nonsense you were
talking," he said, "before the Lord rebuked you by shaking the solid
earth under your feet, arises from this error,--that the world is the
place of rewards and punishments. That is a lie of the Devil's. If you
believe that, you cannot at the same time believe in the justice of
God. You have seen one instance in proof of it, and have rebelled
against that. Mind lest God send you another and more terrible one."

I remembered his words afterwards.

"The best man ever I knew was burnt to death, and died in horrible
agonies, trying to save a widow's house. You lay that to your heart;
else when the time comes you will most bitterly repent it."



Chapter LXXII. The Omeo Disaster



POOR ERNE! His troubles had very quickly begun. By the time he
reached the lake, he was quite blind with sand blight, and unable to
do anything. It was only by degrees that the light broke in upon him,
and then the blazing of the great sheets of snow which hung in
horizontal lines, or rolled up into gentle curves, round three
quarters of the horizon, made him fain to shut them again.

He found that busy Tom Williams had pitched their tent in the deep
shade of a group of lightwood trees, on a rising ground overlooking
the lake, which began about a hundred and fifty yards from them, and
stretched away for five-and-twenty miles through the beautiful broken
country of intermingled forest and lawn, hill and valley which
surrounded it. Around on all sides were dark forest-clad mountain
ramparts, and above it all the aerial snow downs, traversed
continually with purple shadows of flying summer clouds.

Here they stayed and worked pleasantly enough for a long while.
There was gold about in all directions, very fine, but tolerably
abundant. They put up troughs on a little stream of water and washed
the earth; it was pleasant cool work, by no means laborious.

There were but few incidents. It got to be a habit with them to
watch the snow. To Tom Williams it would have been snow only; nay,
less than snow, only white hills, had he not been with Erne. To the
last, I believe, his London nil admirari mind hardly appreciated the
fact of its really being real cold snow. But there were white hills,
and Erne said they were snow, and showed him the beauty of them. Tom
noticed that at evening, when the glaring white had turned to a
blazing crimson which Mr. Sidney Percy himself could scarcely paint,
the light of it was reflected in Erne's face, as he sat in the door of
the tent, and gave it an artificial flush. And Tom noticed too that,
when some travelling thunder-storm would rise up, like the eruption of
a volcano, violet-black, out of Gippsland, enfold the side of one of
the snow downs, and begin tearing at it with continuous snatching
claws of lightning, then Erne's face would light up once more, his big
eyes would stare, and his handsome mouth would open,--only for a time
though, Tom was sorry to see. When the thunder-storm had gone rattling
away southward, or when the south wind had come rushing up in his
strength, and after a few feeble thunder crackles had dissolved the
whole terrible and dangerous combination into thin air, till only one
pinnacle of the great ruin hung floating in the sky, disappearing
while you looked on it,--then Tom Williams noticed that the old weary
look came back into Erne's face, and the eyelids would half close over
the eyes, and the mouth would shut once more.

Of course Erne was not long before he made a confidant of Tom
Williams. It might be indiscreet; but then Tom Williams knew the whole
business from beginning to end, and had known it a long time before
Erne ever opened his mouth. It is very quaint, the way "the principal
party" comes and solemnly tells you in a whisper, with suspicious
glances at the door, what one heard a moiety of the assembled county
discuss and shelve, at the Pacha's dinner-table, a week agone last
Friday. However, Tom Williams heard the story all over again very many
times with the most extreme complacency. "Toujours perdrix" is no
motto for children or sailors, or the majority of the laboring class.
"Let us have 'Little Red Ridinghood' to-night, Miss Piminy," or "Pitch
us that yarn about the young man as cut the young woman's throat and
buried her in the sawpit," is the sort of demand generally made on the
story-teller of the evening in the nursery, the forecastle, or the
public-house. New stories require frequent repetition to give them the
stamp of authenticity. And the "child-mind" is eminently Tory, and
suspicious of all fiddle-faddle not believed in by their grandmothers,
unless, as in a few instances, it runs into a kind of rampant fiendish
whiggery, and asks questions, in which case it must be slapped and put
to bed, or the very thunders of Convocation themselves will pass
overhead as idle words. Tom Williams was not in the least bored by
hearing what he had heard fifty times before. I remember that, as
children, we used to demand every night for a long period, at Dieppe,
the history of the young lady who used to lose her temper at dominos.

Erne was passionately fond of shooting, and with a view to sport had
brought up a large store of gunpowder. All the week they would work,
and on Sunday would be away in the forest, or round the lake,
shooting,* getting quantities of wild duck, snipe, quail, and plover.
And so the time passed away pleasantly enough, and they got no richer
and no poorer, and they were never much too cold or much too hot; and
the sun rose and set, and northed in the winter, and came south again
in summer, and all things went so smooth and easy that months seemed
like years, and Erne began to feel as though there were no real world
beyond these snow-downs. There had been once, but there was none now.
His reason told him that all his old friends were alive and well; yet
in his memory the image of James Burton was scarcely more distinct
than that of his father. Emma stood by herself still. His intellect
would have gone nearly to sleep had it not been for occasional fierce
fits of furious jealousy against some unknown man or another, who
might be in her company at Palmerston.

Nearly everybody left the place once, to go to Reid's Creek, some 160
miles off, where gold was being found in amazing abundance. There were
hardly a hundred people left, and they had such a queer, quiet time of
it. Mails were few and far between, and newspapers consequently
irregular. The little colony was thrown upon its own resources, and
managed wonderfully well. Every one knew every one else, and all
called one another by their Christian names. The ladies had their
little tiffs. Somes's wife fell out with Homes's wife about Erne's
washing, for instance; for after their dissolution of partnership,
Erne being unable, like St. What's--his-name, to divide his one shirt
a week between them, tossed up a shilling and gave it to Mrs. Somes;
whereupon Mrs. Homes accused her of soda, and even their husbands did
not speak for a fortnight. And sometimes, too, a couple of dogs would
fall out; but the general unanimity was wonderful.

This agreeable state of things was rudely disturbed by Tom Williams
and Erne. They moved a small granite boulder in the channel of the
stream where they were working, and found in a crevice below about
three handfuls of black sand, out of which they washed a pound weight
of gold. The news reached Beechworth, of course, in an exaggerated
form, and the consequence was that diggers came flocking over in
hundreds.

The approaches to Lake Omeo are of fearful difficulty. The men came
on foot or horseback, but the approach with drays in this burning
summer time was exceedingly difficult; the men were there before the
provisions, and the consequence was a disastrous retreat, in which the
loss of life must have been very great. How great it was we shall
never know, but it must have been very great. A man who came into
Beechworth on Christmas eve informed me that he himself had found
eight young men dead by the Mitta Mitta.

Just as the panic began Erne fell ill. They had no immediate cause
for alarm at first, having a considerable quantity of stores by them;
but Erne's illness grew so obstinate that Tom Williams began to get
anxious. He never thought of himself. If any one had spoken to him
about deserting Erne, Tom would have "pitched into him." He was
perfectly willing to stay there and die with Erne, but he was getting
anxious, more for Erne's sake than his own. What strange tales one
reads of the devotion of men towards one another at such times as
these. Read the history of Burke and Wills's expedition. When you read
of Wills (last and not least of Devon's worthies) dismissing Burke and
King, lest they should lose their lives in seeing him die,--when you
find that Wills sent these two men from him, and chose a hideous,
lonely death, sooner than keep them by him till their last hope of
safety was cut off,--they you get into a clear high atmosphere of
tragedy.

Tom Williams stayed by Erne, patient, gentle, and careful to the
last,--believing that in doing so he was cutting off his only hope of
safety. He saw their provisions dwindling day by day; he saw Erne
getting weaker day by day; but he sat on and talked cheerfully about
old times and people, and he talked the more about them because he
began to be fully persuaded that he should never see them again.
Erne's beautiful temper made it easier for him; but to sit all day in
a scorching tent, as the summer settled down over the land like a
furnace, watching starvation stalking on toward you,--this was a hard
fate for one who was only there by an act of unselfish devotion.

One afternoon Tom, who had not left Erne before that day, went out to
talk to one of the few neighbors who were left. Their tents were
mostly standing, and he looked into one after another. There was
nobody in any one of them. The place was quite silent. He began to
feel like a child in a dark room,--he began to feel the awful terror
of solitude, the terror which expresses itself by hurried glances over
the shoulder. He shouted aloud, but the echo of his voice came
rattling back to him from among the tree stems. There was no other
answer, not even the bark of a dog. The last of the men had gone, and
the dogs had followed them; and poor dying Erne and he were left alone
together by the solitary lake, three thousand feet above the sea and
one hundred and sixty miles from the voices of their fellow-men.

Erne had one priceless treasure. He had his "In Memoriam." And,
although he knew most of it by heart, yet he loved to see the glorious
words on the page, for old fellowship's sake; for they were dear to
him. One night he fell asleep while he was reading it, and, when Tom
awoke, he saw that Erne was awake too, and reading again.

"Tom," he said; "I dreamt of my mother last night."

Tom bowed his face in his hands.

"You know what that means?"

Tom knew too well, but said nothing.

"I must die, you see. There is no doubt about it. Now you must make
me one solemn promise."

Tom promised him.

"You must take the gun and powder and shot, and try to make Snake
Valley. You must leave me."

Tom swore a great oath, which he had no business to do; but then he
was a low born, ignorant fellow.

"You promise," said Erne.

"And I'm going to break my promise. Let's hear no more about it. You
are insulting me."

That weary day passed on, and Erne seemed no worse. Just at sunset
there came towards the tent, a very wan, lean, wizened little old man,
all alone.

"Why, daddy," exclaimed Tom Williams, "We thought you was gone! Where
have you been this week?"

"I've been down with the old complaint, and, Lord bless you, I was
all alone, and near dying, for I couldn't find my remedy.* And I lay a
week, and was just giving up yesterday when I be-thought me it might
have dropped behind the bed. And, praise God, there it was, and I am
all right this morning, but dreadful weak. Where's the young
gentleman?"

"The young gentleman's down with the same complaint. And God help
me," said Tom, with the first burst of tears he had hitherto indulged
in, "he's dying!"

"What have you give him?"

"I haven't had anything to give him. Nothing's any good now."

The old man made a gesture of impatience. "Cut away to my tent," he
said, "for your legs are nimbler than mine; and look under the head of
my bed-place, and you will find an old galvanized iron bucket. And at
the top of the bucket you will find a lot of Melbourne Arguses, and a
pair of gold scales; and take them out careful. And below that you
will find a parcel done up in a Sacramento paper; you needn't open
that, there's naught in it but a quartz specimen and a Arrapahoe
scalp, as I give six dollars for to one of the pony express; but take
it out careful. And then you'll come to a old Bible, and leave that
out, young man, for I want it again: I mind of its being uncommon
useful twenty-two year agone. And below the Bible you'll find a cigar-
box; and open that and you'll find a lock of woman's hair done up in a
blue ribbon, and a lock of boy's hair done up in brown ribbon. The
woman's hair is black, and the boy's hair is brown, though that ain't
no odds to you, by the bye. But in that same box you will find a paper
parcel, and bring it here. The reason I put it there was that I
couldn't die without looking into that box, and so the remedy was
better there than elsewhere. Bring it here, but don't go no deeper
into that bucket. There's nothing but a lot of ballads and love-
letters below that."

How quaint that Australian life is,--a life's history in an old iron
bucket! Not always, however, with another life at the bottom of the
bucket, as there was in this case.

The good old man, having ascertained that the worst symptoms had not
made their appearance, "exhibited" his remedy, and the symptoms ceased
in five hours. There were sufficient provisions left to put Erne on
his legs again, and Tom Williams one morning found that an angel,
named Hope, had lit down out of the blazing, brazen sky, and was
standing before him with sheeny wings, beckoning westward.

There was something utterly unspeakable in the joy that this young
workhouse-bred nobleman felt, when he saw Erne take his gun out and
shoot a wood-duck. Hope dawned upon him once more. His self-sacrifice
had not been in vain. Here in this scorching, beautiful paradise was
death. Beyond, lay sweetheart, friends, and life. Only a hundred and
sixty miles between them and Beechworth. Even if he had to carry Erne
on his back they might do it. They had twelve pounds of flour, some
tea, and heaps of powder and shot. Oh for Reuben Burton now! or one of
the Shepherds, or one of the Homeses!

As they crossed the great wooded ridge which divided them from the
watershed of the Mitta Mitta, they turned and had a last look at the
place where they had suffered so much, and which they were never to
see again. The lake lay sleeping in the inexorable heat, sometimes
dreaming in a fantastic mirage, like a nightmare, in which the trees
and mountains were horribly inverted. All around, the great snow hills
folded in vast ridges; and there was but one living thing in sight.
The old man, a mere speck in the vast scenery which seemed rolling in
on all sides in towering white waves to overwhelm him,--he stood
there, poor, weak, feeble, alone; with all the powers of untamed
Nature handed against him, solitary among the dreadful mountains.

That was the last of Lake Omeo. That scene photographed itself upon
their brains indelibly.

At first, while the new effect of effort and freedom was upon them,
they never doubted of the result: they imagined themselves saved. They
shot parrots and cooked them, and fared very well. But the ridges were
steep to climb, and Erne began to flag; and, when they got into the
magnesian limestone country, which lies on the left bank of the Mitta
Mitta, the water, drawn away underground into infinite crannies and
clefts of the rock, begun to fail them; and they were forced, will
they nill they, to struggle down over the cliffs to the river itself,
and fight with the tangled jungle on its brink for very life's sake,
sooner than keep the high open leading ranges where walking was so
much easier, and where the blessed cool south wind from the pole could
fan their foreheads, and tell them that the whole of God's earth was
not like this blazing, beautiful, cruel forest land through which they
fought their way.

Similar causes will produce similar effects; and they, starting with
just the same knowledge or ignorance of the route to Beechworth as
those who had preceded them, found after a little time that they,
driven by the same necessities, had too surely followed on their
track. "The bodies and the bones of those That strove in other days to
pass, Are withered in the thorny close Or scattered blanching on the
grass. He gazes on the silent dead--"

Those who try to prove that Shakespeare was an attorney, had better
try to prove that Mr. Tennyson brought up the rear of the great Omeo
retreat. There is more evidence for Tennyson than for Shakespeare.

One day--who can say which, out of so many weary days?--they came
upon the bodies of two young men, brothers, whom they had known on the
Omeo, lying locked in one another's arms, on a shelf of limestone by
the river. They could not go near them, but they recognized them by
their clothes. Erne spoke very little after this, and soon after went
mad.

He was not morose or troublesome in his madness. He got first
incoherent in his talk, and was apt to astonish Tom Williams by
tacking one sentence on to another without the slightest notion of
cause and effect. But after this his madness began to get really
pretty. He began to be really delirious,--that is to say, he began to
dream without going to sleep, and to tell his dreams as fast as they
came,--a very great advantage; for we sane idiots forget half ours as
soon as we wake. In short, Erne was talking his dreams as quick as
they appeared, and, had there only been a short--hand writer present,
we might have had the most wonderful results.

In spite of his madness, though, he walked stoutly onwards. The
country through which they walked was one of the richest and most
beautiful in the world, but it was not ready for human habitation. It
was still in its cruel, pitiless phase. It was only in the state of
preparation,--a state which it requires generally a great sacrifice of
human life to alter into a state of readiness for what we choose to
call a state of civilization. It was exceedingly rich, and it looked
wonderfully beautiful. Every morning, great inexorable Mother Nature
looked over the eastern hill tops, passing through phases of crimson
glory into orange glory, until she had done her day's work, and laid
all the magnificent landscape to sleep, under a haze of crystalline
blue. And then she would sleep herself; and say, dreamily, "Children!
children! here is room for millions of you. Come." And then in the
evening she would wake up once more, into new glories of crim-on and
purple, and once more fall asleep into dark night, sighing sometimes,
in dry wandering winds, which rustled through the grass upon the
thirsty wolds, "Children! children! you have come too soon, and you
must die."

The owner of a solitary tent, in one of the furthest and loneliest
gullies at Snake Valley, was lying reading in bed, when he was
startled by a shout, to which he answered by another, and an
invitation to enter. In a moment a young man stood in the doorway,
looking so wan and so wild that the man was startled, and cried out,
"Good God, mate, what's the matter?"

"Omeo! water!" was all that Tom Williams could get out. The man was
out of bed in a moment, and instantly was making towards the water--
bucket with a pannikin; but, as Tom's wolfish eyes followed him, and
saw where the water was, he dashed past him, and, with his head in the
bucket, drank with long draughts like a horse.

After a fit of giddiness and sickness, he found his voice. "My mate
is not three hundred yards back on the track, and I am not sure that
he is dead. I carried him the last mile, and laid him down when I saw
your light; come, and--" But the man was gone, and, when Tom came up,
he found him trying to pour water between the lips of the unfortunate
Erne, who lay beneath the tree where Tom had left him,--to all
appearance dead.

Dead he was not, though, thanks to Tom Williams. Some may say that
death is better than life, on the terms on which Erne enjoyed it for a
long time after. But life is life, with all its troubles, and death is
practically considered by all parties, creeds, and ages, to be a
change for the worse; so I suppose that, "humanly speaking," we ought
to congratulate ourselves on the fact that Erne Hillyar wasn't dead,
and is not dead yet. He had only succeeded in utterly destroying his
constitution. * What an extraordinary fiction it is, that there is no
sporting in Australia! The sport there is far better than any which
was obtained by Mr. Grantley Berkeley in America, if you leave out his
buffalo-shooting.  * Probably opium and catechu.



Chapter LXXIII. The Midnight Meeting



THREE nights after the earthquake we were in the same place, at the
same hour. The lurid, still weather was the same as before. The
terrible threatening silence which hung over the country remained the
same. It seemed to me on this night as if that silence would only be
broken by the trump of the resurrection, and I said so to Trevittick.

He took my remark quite au grand sérieux, but considered it
improbable that the day was near: first, because we had seen no
portents,--nothing but the earthquake and the heat; and next, that he
thought it improbable that he would be allowed to reform Tom Williams
so quickly; his earthly heart had not been sufficiently weaned from
him.

We sat a long time, sometimes talking, sometimes in silence, until I
heard a distant sound in the forest, to the south, and called
Trevittick's attention to it. He said: "I have heard it a long time.
There are two men walking, and one is lame."

I had as yet made out nothing more than a rustling in the grass, and
every now and then the snapping of a stick; but soon I distinguished
that two persons were coming through the wood towards us, up hill.

My nerves were unhinged a little by what had happened lately, a
little more so by the time and place, and more yet by the awful
weather. The moon, though of a ghastly red, shed light enough to
distinguish surrounding objects distinctly; and I had a nervous terror
of the time when the men who approached should come into the range of
sight. I had grown afraid of my own shadow. Trevittick might have had
strength of mind to live in the atmosphere of terror which he had
created for himself without going mad. I most certainly had not.

I listened with fear as the footsteps approached; and suddenly,
before those who made them were in sight, the whole forest echoed with
my shout. It was no articulate sound I uttered; it was something like
Hah! or Here! The forest took up the echoes and prolonged them, and
then silence reigned again. The footsteps had ceased.

"What on earth did you do that for?" said Trevittick.

"You heard the footsteps before me, but I knew the voice before you.
Did you hear him?"

"I heard a man speak," said Trevittick.

"As I am to be saved by no merits of my own," I said eagerly, "I
heard Erne Hillyar's voice. What fools we are. We are on the very
bush-track by which Lady Hillyar came from Melbourne. It must be them;
it shall be them!" I cried, raising my voice. "Erne! Erne! it is I."

It was them. There was a feeble shout from below, and we ran down.
Before I knew rightly whether my supposition was true or false, I was
holding a tall, lean, wan, wasted skeleton of a young man in my arms,
and peering into his face. The great blue-black eyes were luminous
even in the light of this horrid Hecate of a moon, and the smile was
there still. Ah me! yes, it was Erne in the flesh.

What Trevittick did to Tom Williams I don't know. Punched his head,
possibly, for upsetting by his return a dozen or fourteen as pretty
theories about the future of the departed, as Mr. Emerson and Copeland
Advocate, with Dick Swiveller to help them, could have made up in a
summer's day. He has never spoken to me on religious subjects since.
He had laid his proud heart too bare before me during our solitary
walks, when we shared a causeless grief, ever to open it again. But
among all that man's wild feelings in the dark, among all his honest
stumblings in the search of truth, one thing he said remains with me
yet, and will remain with me until a light not of this world dawns
upon my eyes:--

"This world is no place of rewards and punishments. You have seen one
instance in proof of it, and have rebelled against that. Mind lest He
send you another and more terrible one."



Chapter LXXIV. The Sky Brightening



WHEN the morn dawned, I went and looked at him as he lay asleep. He
was a terrible ruin. Try to picture to yourself some young round face
as it will be when it is old, and you will find it impossible. Again
imagine that you have skipped forty years, and met that face again.
Would you know it? I should hardly have known Erne.

We had a very clever doctor in Romilly, a man so clever and so
répandu in his profession, that I have known him fetched by steamer to
Melbourne, in what Miss Burke would call "a hurry," to attend
important consultations; his expenses and a hand-ome fee being
promised him, and a total immunity against action in civil process
being guaranteed him on the honor of the faculty. He had a sympathy
with all his patients, inasmuch as he was a prey to a devouring
disease himself: that which has been so oddly named, dipsomania, as if
an addiction to stimulants had anything to do with thirst. This
doctor, when sober (he used to get sober sometimes, as a dissipation,
though it played the deuse with his nerves), was a feeble thing, who
used to try to dig in his garden; and was always going to give a
lecture; but when d--Well, he never was the worse for liquor,
generally rather the better,--a perfect king. He had attained such a
dictatorship in his profession, that his addiction to brandy was
looked on as an amiable weakness by the most respectable people. As
for the midwives, they none of them felt really safe without Dr. C--.
It must not be supposed that the doctor ever got drunk.

Mr. Jeaffreson's charming "Book about Doctors" is incomplete. He
should add a chapter on colonial doctors.

I sent for this gentleman to see me, and waited with intense
impatience till he came out, for the change in Erne was so great that
I had a vague fear that he would not live. The weary lassitude, the
utter absence of all energy, moral or physical, was so great that I
thought it more than probable that he might fail, and die after all.

So I waited for the doctor with great anxiety; and at last he came
out. I could gather nothing from his face, and I knew him too well to
suppose that I should get anything out of him until I had given him
his run. I had to sit and wait as patiently as I could to the latest
instalment of gossip. But I got him some brandy, hoping that would
soften his heart, and persuade him to put me out of my misery. If he
should die after having been restored to us. If Emma, after hearing of
his life, should hear once more of his death, I feared that she would
die too. For many reasons was I anxious.

The doctor began. "Lady and baby quite well, hey? Well done. Now
don't begin chaffing about Diver's horse. Don't."

I said I wouldn't, and I meant it, for I hadn't a notion what he
meant, saving, that Diver's real name was Morecombe; that there had
been a sort of murrain among his uncles and aunts, and that he had
gone home, exceedingly drunk, as heir apparent to an earldom.

But the story about Diver's horse struck the doctor as being too good
not to be told, and it is not a bad story either, though I am not
going to tell it, as did the doctor. The story of Diver's horse led up
to the story of Dickenson's aunt, which I shan't tell either, because
I have forgotten all about it, but I remember it to have been tragic;
and this story led to the story of Dickenson's niece, which was funny;
and to that of Horton's brother, which was highly improper. When he
had done laughing, I put my question to him most earnestly, and he
grew serious at once, and answered me.

"There is great mischief: what we call in our loose language, 'a
shock to the system.' There is a nasty tympanitic state of the
viscera, arising from starvation, giving rise to very distressing
symptoms, which I can mend in a fortnight; but I fear that there is a
nervous disorder too, a want of vital energy, which not all the
doctors--drunken or teetotal--in Australia could mend if they did
their et coeteraest, and which I must leave to you, and to some one
else, I strongly suspect. I hope there will be no fresh shock or
disappointment. If you can, if you love your friend, prevent that. He
won't die, I'll go bail for it, but,--that man Hillyar has scrofula in
his family somewhere."

I eagerly said that such was not the case.

"Pish!" said the doctor. "Don't tell me. Now the muscles of his face
are relaxed he shows his teeth like a hare. I say, Burton, have you
looked at your barometer?"

"Why?"

"Because mine is drunk."

To get rid of him I took him to see mine in the hall. When he looked
at it, he exclaimed,--

"By George, yours is drunk, too! Good-night. Take an old man's
advice, and don't whistle for the next fortnight, not even to call
your dog, unless you want the shingles about your ears."

It was but little I cared for barometers that night. I had firm faith
in the doctor, (indeed I was right in that,) and it seemed to me that
I held Erne's fate in my hand. I sat with him for half an hour, and
then left him with a new light in his eyes; for I had told him, in my
rough language, that Emma loved him as dearly as ever; that Joe was to
be married, and that she considered that another had relieved her of
her watch over him; and that, when she had believed him dead, that she
had bitterly repented of her treatment of him. She had said to me, I
told him, in the silence of the summer's night,--

"My brother, I acted from vanity. Don't raise your hand and say no.
Be honest, brother. At first, as a child, I thought I saw my way to
what all true women love,--a life of self-sacrifice. But when the
necessity for it was gone, as far as regarded our poor deformed
brother, the necessity still remained with me; because in my vanity
and obstinacy I had made it a necessity. I had determined that my life
should be sacrificed as a girl; and when as a woman I found that
sacrifice unnecessary, I felt, God forgive me, disappointed. I did not
sin at first. My sin only began with my obstinacy; when I began to
sacrifice his future to my old dream of staying by poor Joe, and
taking the place of a wife to him. Until I saw that that dream was
nothing but a dream, and that I was unfit for the task I had
undertaken, I had not sinned. But now I know my sin. I have driven the
best man I have ever met to despair, and I am reaping the fruits of it
by Joe's carelessness of me. Oh, if he would come back again, brother!
Oh, if he would only come back again!"

The Wainora was going south the next day, and I sat up and wrote the
following letter:--

"DEAREST SISTER,--Erne is not dead, but has come back to us, broken
in health, but alive.

"I say nothing of a confidence between us two the night before I was
married. I say nothing of that. I only call your attention to this;
your old causes for refusing Erne were these,--that you must sacrifice
your life to Joe; and that you would never drag Erne down to your
level by marrying him.

"Both these causes are removed. Joe is now one of the leading men in
the colony, and is going to marry this beautiful, wealthy Mrs. North.
You are now the great Burton heiress, and Erne, a broken man, is lying
in my veranda, looking south, towards the sacred land in which you
live.

"Surely, dear sister of my heart, your life's work lies here now. I
do not urge on you the fact that I know you love him as well as ever,
and that I know no one has stepped in between you two. I only say that
mere consistency has absolved you from your resolution; that from a
mere sense of duty you ought to hear him plead once more."

I was on board the Wainora early in the morning, with this letter.
The commander, Captain Arkwright, was a great friend of mine, and in
defiance of Post-office regulations, I entrusted it as a private
parcel to his hands. "Give it to her yourself, old fellow," I said,
"and get the answer from her. How soon shall you be back?"

"I'll give it to her," he said, "and I'll get an answer from her.
With regard to being back, why, ten days."

"Ten days, my good sir!" I exclaimed.

"Ah! ten days, my good sir," he answered. "Yes, and eleven with the
barometer; all drunk,--aneroid, as well as mercurial. I want sea room,
I do; I shall run out pretty nigh to New Caledony, to see the French
sogers a--drilling. If I make this port under eastern by south next
trip, with this dratted mercury sulking down, by Reid and Maury, I
hope I may be made harbor-master of Cape Coast Castle."

He was a good sailor. He was one of those sailors one gets to love
by watching them as they, with steadfast faces, hurl their ship
through that mad imbroglio which we on shore call a "gale of wind."
But he was wrong in this instance. He was back under ten days, and
steamed into the bay on a sea so glassy calm, that the ripple of a
shark could be seen a mile off, and little following waves, raised by
his screw, lived nearly half an hour before they died away upon the
face of the waters.

But the melancholy landscape, and the luridly still weather grew
bright, fresh, and pleasant to me as I read her letter. There was no
barrier between the two, whom, after my wife, I loved best on earth.
It was all over now, and a bright, hopeful future in the distance:--

"DEAR BROTHER,--God has been better to me than I deserve. It shall
be as he and you wish. If he holds to his mind, let him wait for me in
your veranda. If he is not there I shall know that I have tried his
patience too long, and shall pray that he will learn to forgive me.

"I will return to you by the Wainora. I would have come this trip,
but there is sad trouble here, and I am wanted. It is not trouble
about Joe, or about any one whom you love, so do not be alarmed. Lady
Hillyar is better, and I thought that I was free; but it has pleased
God to find me more work. If it had been work which I could have
delegated to any one, even to that blessed saint Miss Burke, I would
have done so. But it so happens that no one can do it but myself, and
the salvation of an immortal soul is too important a thing to be
trifled with. So I have not come this trip, but must wait for the
next. I cannot leave my charge until I place her in the hands of my
mother.

"May God shower His choicest blessings on all your heads! I hope
Fred has not run away from school again. If he has, kiss him for me,
and tell him he must not be so naughty. Kiss dear father and mother
for me. And so, good-bye, dear brother of my heart; when we next meet,
my face will be so radiant with unutterable happiness, that you will
scarcely know me. Good--bye."

The Wainora went south over the great glassy sea, and we began to
watch for her return. From my veranda you could see over the forest,
and over the bay as far as Cape Pitt, thirty miles off. We sat down
and watched for the smoke of the steamer, whose advent was to bring
our life's history to an end, at least as far as concerns speaking of
it. The laws of fiction show us clearly and without argument, that a
man's life ceases at marriage.



Chapter LXXV. Emma's Angelic Ministrations



THE "Theatre Royal" at Palmerston was a miserable and effete
squatiocracy (with their wretched aping of the still more miserable
and effete aristocracy of the Old World, as our friend Mr. O'Callaghan
chose to call it); the "Opera House" is arranged on strictly
democratic principles.

What the actors call in their quaint self-satisfied slang, "the
house," as if the normal destination and mission of bricks and mortar
was to form the walls of a theatre, was entirely arranged for the
comfort of the great unwashed. The galleries contained more than one
half of the audience; and, whether the heavy father gave his blessing,
the young lady, driven to despair by the unprincipled conduct of the
British officer, uttered a touching sentiment. (Said British officer
in private life being generally a gentle and kind being, with stores
of knowledge about foreign parts, which he is shy of imparting to you
for fear of boring you. Mostly having a hobby, such as ornithology or
chess. A man who, if he gets to like you, is always preternaturally
anxious to introduce you to his mother.) Whether, to resume the thread
of this most wonderful sentence, the first tragedian made a point and
stopped short and refused to fulfil his engagement, until the audience
had brought their grovelling souls to appreciate the fact;--whether
the villain of the piece, and his more villanous creature, after
discharging accusatory sentences at one another, made like pistol
shot, suddenly stalked across the stage and changed places (and that
is the deepest mystery in theatrical ethics);--whether the first
comedy said "Heigh ho" in her lover's absence exactly as we do in
private life, or her waiting-maid was "Arch," and took up her apron by
the corners, when "rallied" about her penchant for the groom;--in
short, whatsoever of the old time-honored balderbash done on the
stage, was addressed to the galleries.

For the same democratic reasons, the large hall, which formed the
crushroom of the theatre, had been erected in it, both on the ground
floor, and in the galleries which run round overhead; and this
vestibule was not only common to the galleries, which were filled with
the lowest population of the town, which were the dregs of the
offscourings of Great Britain and Ireland, but also were made by
Messrs. Pistol & Co., with the dozen or fourteen gentlewomen from Mrs.
Quickly's old establishment, who, having nothing to pay for entrance,
and as much to drink as they could get the cattle-dealer and diggers
to treat them to, used the hall as a sort of winter--garden, and did
so amble and giggle, and mince and flounce, and say things, that the
Haymarket at one o'clock in the morning after the Derby was not more
hideous and revolting than the hall of the opera house at Palmerston.
There is one thing certainly which we of Great Britain, Ireland, and
our offshoots and dependencies do in a manner with which no other
nation can compete. We exhibit our vice and dissipation with a
loathsome indecency which no other group of nations seem to have
rivalled. It may be for the best, but it is very nasty.

A little bird has told me that Huskisson Street, Palmerston, and
Bourke Street, Melbourne, have been purged with a high hand; though it
is still impossible to walk down the Haymarket,--and that the class
who have been instrumental in doing this were the class who hissed
Lola Montes off the stage at Ballarat,--the respectable mechanics who
wished to take Mrs. and Miss Mechanic to hear Catherine Hayes, without
having their ears polluted by the abominable language of the Haymarket
and New-gate combined. If this be so, which I think highly probable,
it is a fact for a certain party, to which they are welcome. If all
mechanics were like the Burtons, three cheers for the six-pounders.

But this arrangement prevailed in the time I speak of both at
Palmerston and Melbourne. It was difficult for any lady to get to her
carriage without being insulted several times; either by a dozen or
fourteen gentlewomen, or by that strange young cud in knee-breeches
and boots, who carries a whip, but never crossed a horse; who, I
fancy, is generally some twopenny--halfpenny clerk, who gets himself
up like a fancy stork-rider to give himself a brisk flavor.
Consequently, when Mrs. Oxton and Emma Burton had stood for a quarter
of an hour at the bottom of the staircase which leads down from the
dress-boxes, they began to think how they were to get through the
disgraceful, drunken crowd before them, and to wish that Mr. Oxton and
Joseph Burton, who had promised to come for them, had not been
detained so late at the houses; the more particularly as they had
brought poor, silly Lady Hillyar out, for the first time, that night;
and she, feeling tired, was insisting on sitting on the stairs, and
playing draughts on the squares of the oilcloth with the blossoms out
of her boquet.

"What shall we do, dear?" said Mrs. Oxton to Emma.

Said Gerty, who was as eminently practical as Mrs. Micawber, the most
so when most cracked, "Send the box-keeper to tell them that if they
use any more language, we'll have the triangles out, and give them
half a hundred apiece."

Emma did not know what to do just then. She was rather glad of the
pause, for she had been crying, and perhaps was quietly crying still.
Her brother James's letter, telling her that Erne had come back alive,
had not reached her yet. Lady Hillyar was so much better, that she had
forgotten her crazy jealousy against her sister and brother-in-law,
and had received them with affectionate penitence. So Emma's work was
done in that quarter, and her old grief has come on her again,
demanding some diversion. Very soon she found such diversion, and
cried no more; but now she was low and tearful, for the play, and what
followed it, had upset her.

Catherine Hayes had been singing Norma so carefully, so diligently,
and with such exquisite feeling, that one forgot that there were a few
notes of which she was not quite mistress, high up in her glorious
gamut. The ill--behaved, ill-educated audience had encored her until
she was weary, but she had always come back and had done her best for
them, until she was quite weary. When it was all over, they called her
before the curtain; but this was not enough for them. She was going to
Sydney the next day, and from thence to England, and a loud and
universal cry gathered and grew through the theatre, "Last night,
Kate! last night! A song! a song!"

In one of the pauses of the clamor a voice was heard,--"One more song
for the honor of Old England."

Another voice, which few failed to recognize for that of Mr.
O'Callaghan, was heard from pit to gallery,--

"It's little music of that kind that ye'll get out of dirthy Ould
England. One more song, darlin', for the love of Ould Ireland!"

Whether the old music of her native dialect was too much for her, or
whether she was a little tête montée with the long and enthusiastic
applause, we cannot say, but she came before the curtain, and without
the orchestra, in her dress as Norma, amidst a silence that could be
felt, she broke out with the most beautiful, if I may decide, of all
Moore's ballads, "The Last Rose of Summer."

Towards the close of each verse, the godlike voice went sweeping
through the airy fields of sound like a lark upon the wing, till it
paused aloft in a wild melancholy minor, and then came gently down
like the weary bird, dropping, tired, sad with too much joy, to his
nest amidst the corn.

"You might have heard a pin drop," to use an old figure of speech.
Not only did she feel every word of what she was singing, but the hand
of death was upon her, and she not only knew it herself, but made her
audience, wild and uneducated as they were, understand that she was to
be listened to now, not as Norma in Italian, but as Catherine Hayes in
Irish. She was gone before the applause burst out. "The wild swan's
death-note took the soul Of that waste place with joy."

And Emma, overcome by that strange, wild wail, had hardly recovered
herself before she was, with Mrs. Oxton and Lady Hillyar, at the
bottom of the stairs. Lady Hillyar, playing chess with flowers, and
Mrs. Oxton, saying, "My dear, how ever shall we get to our carriage?"

Something to do. For that quietly diligent soul, anything was better
than inaction. Partly from old, old habit, and partly because she had
found lately that the old habit of activity and self-sacrifice were
the best antidote for sorrow, she had got into the way of doing
without hesitation the first thing that presented itself to her hand.
It was only forcing her way through a crowd of drunken blackguards
just now, but it led to fresh work, heavy work, too, as we shall see.

"I'll go, dear Agnes," she said to Mrs. Oxton; "their language is
nothing to me; I was brought up among it. Stay here and watch Gerty,
and I will go and see after the carriage."

She drew her opera cloak about her, drew herself up, set her mouth,
and launched herself on the sea of low dissipation which lay before
her.

The presence of such a proud, imperial figure as this blacksmith's
daughter, protesting against these Cornish revels, with her calm,
high-bred, beautiful face, and with the atmosphere of purity and
goodness, which shone about her head like the glory of a saint,
produced an immediate effect,--an effect so great, that had she
carried the flaming sword of an angel in her hand, she could scarce
have made her way more effectually. The men made room for her, and
pulled those who had not noticed her approach, out of her way. The
prostitutes who were mixed with them stayed their babble and were
silent, as she passed down the lane which had been opened for her.
Some, with evil, lowering faces, scowled on her, as though they would
have said, "You may come to be the same as us, my fine lady, some day,
curse you." Some, flippant and silly, were only silent because the
others were silent, and wanted to resume their silly tattle, till she
had gone by; and some,--ah, the weary day,--felt the blood rush up
over their worn, hectic features, and said, "Time was when we might
have been as she is; but the grave is cold, and hell is beyond it."

But Emma, passing among these women, seemed to create an atmosphere
of silence. She knew the world, she knew how these women lived, and
what they were, and her heart was pitiful towards them, and swelled
until her great eyes grew larger and prepared themselves for tears.
But the tears never came; for before her was a knot of the Devil's
tying, which would not untie itself at her mere presence. An imbroglio
which had raised the passions of the bystanders from mere prurient
frivolity into ferocious attention. There was a crowd which would not
dissolve before her, and from the centre of it came the shrill,
horrible sound of two desperate women quarrelling.

She caught sight of Miss Burke at the other side of the crowd. She
understood in an instant that that most indefatigable of friends had
come back to their assistance, and she waved her hand to her, and
pointed to the staircase where were Aggy and Gerty: the next moment,
by a surge in the crowd, she was thrust near enough to the women who
were quarrelling to see the whole thing. For one moment her heart sunk
within her, and she grew faint, and tried to turn; but in the next her
resolution was taken, and muttering a short prayer to herself, she
began to force her way towards the two unfortunate combatants.

"She may be saved yet. Oh God have mercy on her."

She might well say so. In a ring before her; in a ring of faces,--
stupid, idle, brutish, curious, cunning, silly, lecherous, devilish,
stood Mrs. Clayton, once pretty Polly Martin, once Mrs. Avery; and
Mrs. Quickly, face to face at last. Masks torn off, all concealment
thrown to the winds, baring the hideousness of their previous lives to
the ribald bystander in hot, hissing words, too horrible to be
repeated.

They had assaulted one another it seemed, for poor Mrs. Clayton's
bonnet was off her head, and her still splendid hair was gradually
falling down loop by loop as she shook her head in cursing Mrs.
Quickly. As for Mrs. Quickly, not only was her bonnet gone, but her
decorous, gray, matronly front, an expensive article, manufactured for
her own consumption, also; and she stood with her wicked old head
nearly bare, and her beautiful long white fingers opening and shutting
like a cat's claws.

"Come on," she cried, "you devil. I'm an old woman, but I'm good for
a scrimmage with such as you still. Come on."

"Hush! If you want this sort of thing, go to the Haymarket or
Whitechapel for yourself. We are going a far different road."

Before Mrs. Quickly had half finished her turn of evil words; before
her wicked old tongue had half wearied itself with the out-pourings of
her wicked old heart, Emma had pushed her way into the circle, had
taken Mrs. Clayton round the waist, and had said, "Polly, dear, come
home with me"; and the wretched woman had fallen crying on Emma's
bosom, and let herself be led away. This was the more easily
accomplished, as a singular diversion had been made, and the crowd had
been in serious hopes of another row. Mrs. Quickly had found herself
suddenly confronted with Miss Burke, who stood grand, majestic, and
scornful before her, and who said in a sharp, snarling voice, without
one trace of "brogue,"--

"Not another word, you wicked old wretch. That woman's sins are
known to me and to God; her efforts at repentance are known to me and
to God also. And I and God know also how you came between her and
salvation. How you wound yourself into her house, held the knowledge
of her former life over her head, and drove her once more into her old
habits. I think that if I were to tell this crowd the truth,--how in a
drunken squabble you laid her whole past life bare before her husband,
not because it could do any good, but out of spite,--this crowd,
composed of prostitutes and loafers, would tear you to pieces. Get
home, you miserable old woman, and try to repent."

Mrs. Quickly undid her gown at the throat, and gasped for breath;
then she shook her hands to and fro loosely, as though she was playing
the tambourine; clutched her hair wildly, drummed with her heels, bit
her fingers, took a short run with her arms over her head, stopped and
moaned, took a longer and more frantic run, and hurled herself down in
a gutter outside, and then lay there kicking. An unappreciative world
this! She was fished out of that gutter as a mere drunken woman by an
utterly unsympathetic constabulary, who could not be brought to an
appreciation of her wrongs, but took her as a piece of business,--an
unexpected order, troublesome to execute and unremunerative, but
coming into their weary day's work. A most bitter and hard-hearted
world! By the time she had done all this, so well had the retreat been
covered by Miss Burke, that Emma had got her unresisting charge safe
away, and had very soon landed her in her own house. At first Mrs.
Clayton only cast herself on the ground, with her face hidden,
moaning; but after a time her moans grew articulate, though
monotonous. "Let me go and make away with myself! Let me go and make
away with myself!"

Emma knelt beside her on the floor, but the poor woman only shrunk
from her touch, and went on with the same low wail. At last Emma tried
praying, and that quieted her, till by degrees she let Emma's arm
steal round her waist, and she laid her burning head upon Emma's
bosom, and began in wild starts and with long interruptions to tell
her tale.

"She found me out as soon as I married him. I thought that when I
married, my whole hideous life was a thing of the past. I did not
think how wickedly I was deceiving him. I thought it was all past and
gone forever. I had tried so hard, and had repented so sincerely, that
I thought some mercy would have been shown me; but when she found me
out at the end of the three months, I knew that I was to be punished
for my deceit, and that he, poor innocent,--my poor old Jack; my poor,
kind, loving, innocent, old Jack; oh, my God! I'll tear the hair out
of my head,--that he was to be punished through me. And she tempted me
to the drink; and I was glad of it, for I had a horrible life, never
knowing what she would say or do. And she would sit opposite me half
the day with her arms folded, magging and growling at me,--at me who
was always so kind to her, and never offended her; and she would play
with my terror as a cat plays with a mouse; and oh! she is a devil!
devil! devil!"

"Hush, dear, hush!"

"I used to wish her dead, Emma. I used to wish that I dared murder
her; but I saw that servant-girl hung at Bristol, and that stopped me.
I tried to keep civil to her, but I could not do it. We had many
quarrels, and I knew how dangerous quarrelling was, and vowed each one
should be the last. But when the drink was in me I used to break out.
And last week we had the finishing quarrel. I broke out at her, and
called her such dreadful things that she sat white with savageness,
and then got up and went to the room where he was. I saw that she was
gone to tell him, but I was too wild to stop her; I threw the worst
word of all at her as she went. And then I saw him go riding across
the plain with his head bowed down; and then she came back and told me
that she had told him, and that he had taken down the Testament and
had sworn that he would never, never see me again."

Emma started suddenly, and clenched her hand. It would have been ill
for Mrs. Quickly to have seen the look of withering scorn and anger
which flashed from her beautiful face as the poor woman spoke that
last sentence, but she said not one word.

"And so I got my horse and rode away here. And she followed me, and I
met her again and did not kill her. And she got me to go to where you
found me, because she said he was going to the play with another
woman. And once I caught her eye, and knew by her wicked leer that she
was lying to me about him, and then I fell upon her and tried to tear
her treacherous old heart out."

"Hush, dear," said Emma once more. "That woman got you to go to that
dreadful place in order to compromise your character again"; and the
poor woman grew quieter again.

"And I shall never, never see him any more," she went on moaning;
"and I love him, love him with the whole of my rotten heart. And he
will shudder when he hears my wretched name. And he loved me once. Oh,
my God!"

"He loves you still, my poor Mary," said Emma. "That wicked woman has
utterly deceived you. Both Miss Burke and I heard from him this
morning, begging her, because she is never behind in a good work, and
me, because I have known you ever since I was a child, to search you
out, and tell you that he forgives you, all, everything, and loves you
the same as ever. That he will cherish you through life, and be in the
same grave with you in death."

The poor thing only turned over on the ground again, and fell to
moaning once more. "Oh, I dare n't look upon his face again. I shall
die if he looks at me. Oh, let me go and make away with myself! If you
leave me alone, I will go and make away with myself."

So Emma stayed with her; and on the third day, like a great
illuminating blaze of lightning, came her brother James's letter. Erne
was not dead, and loved her still.

She would have gone to him at once, but the brooding figure before
her appealed to her too strongly. She had asked humbly to be taken to
Mrs. Burton when she was well enough to move, and prayed Emma not to
leave her. She was not safe alone, she said. So that Emma waited for
the next voyage of the Wainora, as we already know from James Burton's
story.



Chapter LXXVI. James Burton's Story: Captain Arkwright Goes Back Once More



SO the Wainora went south again over the calm sea, and Erne and I
sat in the veranda, waiting for her return.

"In any other quarter of the world," said Captain Arkwright to me in
the billiard-room the night before she sailed, "we should have had a
gale of wind after all this brooding weather, and this low mercury. I
made sure of it last trip; but since you have told me of this
earthquake, which you and Trevittick felt beyond the hill, I am
getting less cautious. That is what is the matter; that is what is
lowering the barometer so, and making this God--forsaken weather. It
was just the same at Pernambuco" (he said Pernemooker) "five years
ago, and at Valparaiso" (he said Walloparaiser) "when I was a boy,--
the time when I was cook's mate's master's mate in that--never you
mind," he went on, a little sulkily, though I had not spoken, "that
ain't no odds to you. You was only a smith yourself once, you know.
And we must all on us have a beginning, of some sort or another. Even
dukes and marquises, as I understand, has to serve their time as earls
and barons, and learn their duty, before the Queen will rate them as
A. B. By-the-by, did your night-shift in the mine feel it?"

"They heard it plain enough," I answered, "and stampeded; but when
they came back, the Arndley were all burning, and not so much as a
handful of dust had fallen."

"These Australian earthquakes are very partial," said Captain
Arkwright; "but law! you don't know what may happen. Well, I'll bring
Miss Burton back to you as quick as I can. I like having that woman on
board my ship; it is as good as fifty underwritings. I'd go through
Torres Straits and chance losing my insurance, if I had her aboard."

"She likes the sea, Skipper," I said; "at least she has taken to
like it since she sailed with you."

"Well, now, that's true; though I'm afraid you are learning the bad
habits of the upper orders, gentleman Jim, and mean a compliment."

"So I did, Skipper," I retorted. "And if you are going to be nasty
about it, you shall have it hot and heavy. I'd sooner sail with you
than with any sailor I ever saw. For you are out-and-out the best
company,--leave alone the best sailor,--and one of the best fellows I
ever knew. Now, then, Come. You've got a deal by growling."

"Shut up! shut up! shut up!" said the Skipper. "I told you you were
getting corrupted. But I say, old fellow," he continued, lowering his
voice, "tell us, is there anything between her and Mr. Hillyar?"

"She is going to marry him, that is all," I said in a triumphant
whisper.

"Hoo-ray!" said the Skipper. "I knew there was some one, from her
always staying so late on deck, and watching the coast; and from her
standing alone, an hour together, and looking at the engine; and from
her beautiful talk to me about the sea-birds, and the islands, and
such like; but I never knew who it was. No man is worthy of her,
that's one thing."

"He is," I answered.

"I'm glad to hear it," said the Skipper. "Lord bless you! I see it
all, and so did my wife, the very last trip she came with us, my wife
being abroad with the young uns for air. It was blowing pretty high
guns, sou'-eastern by east off shore; and when we come to the harbor's
mouth there was Tom Wyatt, with his pilot just aboard, beating in with
railway iron, and an assorted lot from London, in that b--h of a W. S.
Lindsay's Troubadour. I don't want to be vulgar. I never am vulgar
before I am three quarters tight, but she was, and is, a canine female
which neither I nor no other pilot in the harbor could ever get about
without swearing at her till the rigging frayed out through the pitch.
I don't want to bear hard on W. S. Lindsay, nor no other man. But for
laying the Troubadour to, in a gale of wind, why, I wish he'd do it
himself. That he is the best shipbuilder in the world, I don't deny;
but why Providence picked me out to take that earliest experiment of
his into harbor the first month of my appointment and risk my
certificate, I shall never know. Well, as I was saying, Tom, he hails
me to take him on board, and give him a cast up the harbor, for God's
sake. And I, knowing what he was so mad about, knowing that he had
left his wife a year ago, three months gone, slacked and sent a boat
for him; for all his'n were gone, in a cyclone off Kerquebus Head, he
having took to sail by Maury, and having made southing. And my lads
(you know the sort I sail with) had the boat in before five minutes
were gone, though I didn't half like it; for the whale--boat that had
put his pilot on board, had been devilish near swamped, and was making
rather bad weather of it to leeward. However, he got into our dingy
somehow, and I was thinking how the dense we should get him on board,
when your sister comes up to me, with the speaking-trumpet in her
hand, and she says,--'Captain Arkwright, put him out of his misery.
Think what it would be to you, if you were uncertain whether those you
loved best on earth were alive or dead.' And I see what she meant,
though I had intended to wait till he got on board. So I takes the
trumpet and I hollers, 'She is all right, and the kid, too.' And we
seen him, my wife and me and your sister, bend down over the thwart
with his face in his hands: and then I knew that your sister was
right. And he came aboard, Lord knows how, and had a wash and a shave,
and tried to eat his breakfast, but couldn't."

I recognized my sister's hand here, most entirely, and I told him so,
but he went on with his narrative.

"And when I went to my cabin, my wife says to me, 'She's got it,' and
I said, 'Who's got it?' 'Emma Burton,' she says. And I said, 'What's
she got,--the rheumatis?' And she said, 'You need n't be a fool, for
you know what I mean well enough. She's got it, and all I hope is that
he is worthy of her, that is all,--nothing more. I hope he may be
worthy of her. No, Jim, we knew there was some one, but we never knew
who it was.'"

And with such discourse we whiled away the night, with that curious
and occasionally pleasant disregard of night and day, which is only to
be found among working sailors and young ladies, who are dancing with
a view to matrimony. I have forgotten so much of the art of navigation
as I once knew, but I have a hazy idea still, in this year 1862, that
the first dog-watch is coincident with supper-time. Don't ask me for
any moral reflection on this point; and as for making fun, why, men
have made fun in strange places. "C'est de froid," said poor old
Bailly, and Sir Thomas More too. Oh, yes, we have precedents.



Chapter LXXVII. The Cyclone



ON the sixth day after the departure of the steamer, the dull, close,
brooding weather came to an end. Arkwright was wrong. It was the dread
pause before the hurricane.

At eleven o'clock in the morning we were standing together at the
fence at the lower end of my garden, looking across the bay, when our
attention was attracted to a vivid green cloud approaching with
horrible rapidity from over the sea; and at the same time became aware
of a dull roar which grew upon the ear each moment. Before we had at
all appreciated the dreadful disaster which had fallen upon the
unfortunate town, I saw the first house struck by the wind fall
crashing over after half a minute's resistance, and an utter ruin, the
shingles and weather-boards, which had composed it, flying before the
blast like chips of cardboard. Instantly, or it seemed to us
instantly, we were thrown headlong down, bruised and terrified; and
the wind seizing the earth, raised an atmosphere of flying stones and
sand to a height of some six feet from the ground, which followed its
course, as it seemed to us, with the rapidity of a projectile, and
lacerated our hands and faces until the blood ran from them.

I raised myself as well as I could, holding on by the post of the
garden gate, and looked towards my house, expecting to see it in
ruins, but close as it was I could not see it for the unnatural
driving fog which was between me and it. A fog of stones, and dust,
and sticks, and boughs; nay, even as we found afterwards, of seaweed,
which must have been carried above a mile, and fierce stinging rain,
which I thought was from above, but which was only the spray blown
from the surface of the ocean, a mile off. Through this I forced my
way to the house, shouting for my wife, expecting to find only a heap
of ruins, in which I must dig to recover the mutilated bodies of my
dear ones. But it was standing safe. Emma's good taste in persuading
me to leave the box-forest standing round it had saved us. The
windward trees were blown in on those inside, which were still
standing, and tangled with those into a screen which even the
hurricane could not penetrate, and which left my house in comparative
calm; so much so, that it became the hospital of the town. I cannot
help remembering now, as a noticeable fact, that the whole thing was
so strange, so beyond experience, that my wife, though deadly pale,
and too frightened to show her fright, had not the least idea of what
had happened. When I explained to her that it was the wind, she did
not understand me.

Erne forced his way into the house, and we three stood staring at one
another. I was the first to look out at the door, and the first thing
I saw was the newly-built wooden church disappearing board by board,
shingle by shingle, as if with an invisible fire. The thought of my
father and mother came over me with a shock, and I dashed out of the
house, and sped away towards their house,--not two hundred yards
away,--down the wind. I was blown over and bruised in an instant. Now
I was up, now I was down again; now trying to stop and see where I was
going, and now falling headlong over some heap of incongruous ruin,
already half-piled over with a heap of fuming sand.

This was the house. These three corner posts, standing still against
the wind, and that heap of rubbish lying to leeward, already burning
fiercely with a lurid white heat, at the edge where it was smitten by
the wind. But, thank God, here they were, safe and sound; my mother
crouched behind a rock, and my father bending over her; the dear old
gentleman with his coat off, trying to shield her sacred head from the
furious tornado.

We had to wait for a lull in the wind. Martha says I was away nearly
two hours,--I should have said ten minutes. How we got back over that
two hundred yards I don't know, more than that my father and I
struggled on first, arm-in-arm, dragging her behind us, with a shawl
passed round her waist: but we got there somehow. Martha, with the
child, the two maids, and my groom, were all standing close together
near the door, silent and terrified. I saw that Erne was standing by
the fireplace, but I knew that his thoughts were the same as mine, so
I dared not look at him, for fear of seeing my own fear look at me out
of his eyes.

The storm raged on, how long I cannot say, nor can I say whether we
were silent all the time, or whether we talked incessantly. But at the
end of some period a figure stalked in through the door and confronted
us.

Trevittick, bareheaded, bloody, in his shirt and trousers only. To my
London mind, so jealous of any departure from my own particular
conventionalism, Trevittick always appeared more than half mad. On the
present occasion, it occurred to my excited brain, that if all the
devils which possessed the Gadarene swine had entered into the most
hopeless lunatic in Tyre or Sidon, that he would have looked
uncommonly like Trevittick, as he came hurling in out of the wild
witch Sabbath of the winds, which was tormenting the terrified earth
without. And, upon my word, I believe I am right; a Jew or a Cornish
Phoenician can look wonderfully mad on the slightest occasion. But I
succumbed to Trevittick after this. I never accused him of being mad
any more.

"What are you doing here?" he said, in a loud angry growl. "Four
able--bodied men here in a place of safety, among the women, on such a
day of wrath as this! Do you know that the town is destroyed and on
fire, and I who have been expecting to hear the last trump sound every
day for I know not how long, come back from my work and find you
hiding here. Cowards, come on!"

We went out at once with him into the gale. Erne and my groom first,
my father and I followed with Trevittick.

"Trevittick," said my father, "you are in one of your moods. Drop it
a bit, old chap, and answer me a question or two. Will this storm
extend very far?"

"My dear Mr. Burton," said Trevittick, in quite another tone, "I
cannot say for another hour or two; if the wind shifts rapidly, we may
hope, according to my theory, that the diameter of the storm is small.
If it holds in the same quarter long we may conclude that the diameter
is greater. But it is impossible to say whether the wind is shifting
yet; I cannot decide for another two hours, but I like the look of
these lulls, and this sudden violence, I confess."

"But, in God's name, what do you think of it Trevittick?"

"I don't like it altogether," said Trevittick; "the preparation was
so long. The same weather, and height of mercury was reported from
Palmerston by Arkwright. I must tell the truth, Mr. Burton, I cannot
lie. It looks to me like a 1783 business."

"Now, Trevittick," said my father, "we are both driving at the same
point. Speak the word for me,--I dare not speak it myself."

"The Wainora?"

"Ah!"

"I hope she is in the lee of the Bird Islands,--I hope so; she may
be."

"Then do you think she has sailed?" said my father.

"She sailed," said Trevittick, taking my father's arm, and speaking
slowly, "on the 11.30 flood on Wednesday. If she didn't, take my
shares and get a new manager. Arkwright was deceived about the weather
and the mercury, for he told you so. I, loving you and yours,
calculated every chance, as you see. I was deceived too, for I got it
into my head that the Lord was coming, in clouds of glory, with all
His angels around Him, angels and archangels, and all the company of
glorified saints, with crowns of gold,--stop me, stop me!--the
Wainora!"

"Ay, the Wainora, old friend," said my father, quietly.

"And the sea gave up her dead," replied Trevittick, wildly throwing
his hands over his head; "and they cast down their golden crowns,--
hush!--I'll be still directly. The town's afire, and that has excited
me; I haven't got your dull Saxon blood, you know. The Wainora?--why
she may have got to the leeward of the Bird Islands. That is our
chance. But don't anticipate. Keep Mr. Hillyar at work, and work
yourself. Don't think of it."

And, indeed, there was little time to think; for the town was a heap
of ruins, which began to blaze up more strongly as the wind partially
lulled. Scarcely any house in the great straggling village had been
without a fire of logs when the wind smote it, and the flimsy wooden
houses,--their materials dried to the extreme pitch of
inflammability,--had been blown down on these fires; and each domestie
hearth had become a further source of horror. When we got to the end
of the main street, we saw little beside gray heaps of ruins, rapidly
igniting; the smoke from which was being carried into the dark storm-
tossed forest beyond, making its long aisles dim with a low-lying,
driving mist of smoke.

Erne rushed headlong into the thick of it, after Trevittick. His
strength came back under his wild excitement, and his eagerness to
forget himself. It was not so with either myself or my father. We
worked, certainly, always keeping close together, but we worked
without much heart, in spite of the horrors around us: what those
horrors were, it is no part of my duty to describe. When the tale was
made up there were forty-six dead, of which number fifteen had been
burnt to death while lying helpless under the ruins. Others who were
saved, and lived, were terribly scorched and maimed. The total number
of killed and wounded was but little under one hundred.

It was thirty-four hours before the centre of this dreadful cyclone
reached us. Within an hour or two of the beginning of it, the forest
had caught fire, and the fire had gone roaring off inland; so that the
first night, in addition to our other terrors, we had the crowning one
of a wall of seething fire to the leeward, barred by the tall black
stems of the box trees; a hill of fire, in which animal life could not
exist. But by the time that the centre had reached us, the fire had
passed away, and left only a ruined, smouldering forest behind it.
When the calm came, the deadly stillness was only broken by the crash
of falling boughs from the still burning trees, or by the thundering
fall of some great monarch of the forest; which having withstood the
wind had at last succumbed to the gnawing flame.

When the calm came, I saw Erne for the first time, for he had been
in the thick of it with Trevittick. He was wild, pale, and wan; burnt
dreadfully across his face, which was blackened with smoke; his
clothes torn and scorched, with one bruised arm slung up across his
breast; nothing left of the handsome old Erne but the two blue black
eyes, blazing brighter than ever. He came to me, just as my father had
finished saying the prayer, "Lord, receive the soul of this Thy
servant," over Jim Reilly, the horse--stealer, who had stolen his last
steed and shut the stable-door.

"So this is the end of it all," said Erne. "Have you been down to
the bay? Every ship is ashore or sunk. I agree with Trevittick: this
is the beginning of the end. Human life is about to become impossible
on the face of the globe. It will not be long now before the more
visible portents will begin to show themselves."

Trevittick had done his work pretty quickly. He had contrived to put
a larger quantity of his own nonsense into Erne's head in four and
thirty hours than I should have conceived possible. And Erne had never
lost that childishness which had been so carefully fostered by his
father, and the soil, for that sort of thing, was in a good state.
Erne, lowered by illness, famine, and hardship; maddened by the scene
around him, and the full certainty that Emma must have perished, took
to Trevittick's nonsense as a child takes to its mother's milk.
Trevittick's theory that the end of the world had come, had the effect
of making all other things look small and insignificant, and I believe
was partly the cause of his not going mad.

If poor Erne looked wild and terrible in the midst of the havoc,
what shall I say of Trevittick himself, as he came up to us during the
lull, asking for water? A zealot, driven from court to court of the
burning temple, pausing for one more wild rush upon the Roman spears,
must have looked very like him. His Jewish face, wearing that l