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Title: Bengala
Author: Mary Theresa Vidal
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0607641.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: September 2006
Date most recently updated: September 2006

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Bengala
Mary Theresa Vidal




Volume I.



CHAPTER I. THE DISTRICT



The sun had reached the horizon, and the fringe of gum-trees on the
edge of the hill was thrown out in strong relief by the bright,
intense light behind, while the rest of the wooded country lay in
shade.

The evening breeze was faintly rising, and stirred the leaves of
bignonias and cedar-trees in front of a low, steep-roofed cottage, in
the verandah of which a lady sat, alternately patting a huge kangaroo
dog and speaking to a man who stood without the gate which separated
the verandah from the yard.

'Really, my good man, it is no use for you to stay! I have told you
that my brother--that Mr. Herbert is not at home. He has been up the
country.'

'They say he'll be back to-night,' the man answered, in a somewhat
dogged and surly tone.

'Probably so, very probably; but of course he cannot be expected to
attend to you. Can't you say what you want? You are one of Mr. Lang's
men, I think.'

'I am, my lady,' and a half-smile of no very pleasant meaning changed
his countenance for an instant. 'Well, as it seems I can't get a
hearing to--night, maybe you'll be pleased to tell the gentleman that
Lynch wants a word with him badly. He'll attend to me to-morrow, I'll
warrant.'

Touching his hat, he turned away. The lady rose, too, and did her
best to watch him off the premises, for she had lived long enough
among convicts, she said, not to trust them.

At the men's huts, a short way from the house, the man Lynch lingered
to light his pipe.

'Got your ticket, Lynch?' asked one man.

Lynch smiled bitterly. 'Ask Lang,' he said.

'O, Lynch is going to marry; don't you know that?' another said,
stretching himself on the ground as he spoke.

'Ay, ay! Is that it? What, to pretty singing Nell, I suppose? And is
she to work on the farm and draw double rations, or how?'

'How?' said Lynch, 'how? Why, when I've got my ticket, I'll need no
double ration from any man. But there's the pinch. Lang don't fancy
tickets!'

'I've heard he's a hard man,' remarked the first speaker. 'For me,
I've a wife and four children over sea, and I want no more of that
gear. As to a ticket, if I had one this minute, I'd get it made out
for this district. You may go further and fare worse than Herbert for
a master, I think. He's a fair man.'

'He is,' returned Lynch, 'and I want to have a word with him now. I
suppose 'tis by Bengala Creek he'll be coming?'

'Ay, ay, no need to go round now, there aint a thimblefull of water
there.'

'Good evening,' said Lynch; 'I'll go round that way.'

Lynch crossed the paddock, climbed some slip-rails at the further
end, and was soon in the thick bush, followed by a little white
terrier with cut and disfigured ears, who snuffed at the hollow trees,
and barked many threats at the opossums that were coming forth for
their nightly revels. Lynch soon emerged into clearer ground where
there were wheel-tracks, and the remains of a wooden bridge, which had
once spanned a tolerably full stream of water. But the water was now
dried up, and nothing remained but a few broken planks to speak of the
once existing bridge. Horse and foot passengers could easily cross at
the side in dry weather; but after any rain there was a bog which
forced them to take a much longer round to reach the little settlement
of Bengala.

At this spot Lynch stopped; he seated himself on an old stump of a
tree, and crushing some gum leaves in his fingers, which caused them
to emit a strong aromatic scent, he watched the path with a stern,
dark expression. There was that in the countenance of the man which
would have made most persons turn away; yet his features were good,
his figure powerful and well made, though the air with which his small
cabbage-tree hat was pushed on one side, and his whole bearing, was
almost reckless. The sun was getting low, and already the white fungi
were beginning to glow on the fallen trees like gigantic glow-worms,
casting a pale white light around them, when a sound of horse's feet
echoed round the bush, and Lynch started up. A gentleman on horseback
soon appeared, going a fast trot. The horse shied at Lynch, which
caused the rider to pull up.

'Beg pardon, sir,' said Lynch, uncovering his head, and stepping
nearer to him. 'No harm, sir.'

'O, Lynch, is it? why, I thought it was one of those troublesome
bushrangers. I hear they are out in this direction. Rascals! I wish
they may be taken!'

'Many a good fellow has been driven to that trade,' replied the man.
'I took the liberty of calling to beg you, Mr. Herbert, to speak for
me, sir.'

'In trouble again, Lynch?' said Mr. Herbert, putting his horse into a
walk, and leaving room in the path for the man to keep alongside.

'The old story, sir, and something more. The fact is, Mr. Herbert--
I've a fancy--I want to get married--and the girl's willing. It would
make another man of me, sir; but he wont allow it, he'll not answer
for me, nor apply for leave; he don't want women and children, he
says.'

'When will your ticket be due, Lynch?'

'In three months if I go without punishment.'

'Why, you might have had it a year ago?'

'Nearly two; but I'd no character--no recommendation--only stripes;
but three months would do it.'

'Wait then. Get your ticket, and then marry.'

'That will be never, sir.'

'It depends on yourself.'

'It does not,' said Lynch, with sudden energy. 'I'm a good workman;
Lang don't want to lose me, but I'll work no more! I'll disable myself
before I'll be so used again!'

'Well, I'm sorry for you, my good fellow; but what I am to do in the
business I don't know. I spoke in your behalf once.'

'And I got forty down, of which I bear the marks this blessed minute!
Yes! he was savage then; but it isn't to be got off anything now; only
to be married. It is hard I consider, after seven years' hard work;
four-and-thirty years of age... .'

'Come, come, my good fellow, you can hardly expect to be able to do
all you please here, in the land of punishment. You were sent here for
committing a crime.'

'And I paid the penalty! I left a comfortable home, a farm as good as
any in this colony. I left my mother and my sweetheart, who died of a
decline for sorrow. I have worked--and after all, sir,' he added, in a
softened tone, 'I wouldn't be so eager after it, but you see, sir, the
girl ran away to my hut, three or four weeks ago, on account of hard
usage at home. I took her in and kept her there, and treated her as if
she had been a queen, sir; but it's got about, and they talk lightly
of her, and even the old father says the best thing she can do is to
get married. She is a good girl, sir, as Miss Issy Lang knows, and
fond of me, which aint p'r'aps altogether in her favour, as you may
think.'

'Well, I will see Mr. Lang, and do what I can. In the meantime keep
out of scrapes, and be civil and patient in your manner, my friend, as
I have often advised you. Now, good evening!'

Mr. Herbert trotted on, and was soon out of sight. The convict
retraced his steps for a few yards, and then took another turning
which led to his master's property, on which he was an assigned
servant.

A loud barking of many dogs, from a deep-toned hound to the
stockman's yelping cur, greeted Mr. Herbert, the master of Warratah
Brush, on his return to the farm, after a six months' absence at his
station in New England, where the sanguinary attacks of the aborigines
on men and cattle kept every man as much as possible at his post.
Telling the man to give his horse a good feed, and patting the dogs
which pressed up to him, Mr. Herbert entered the verandah before
mentioned, where his sister still sat, enjoying the cool evening.
After the first greeting, she said, 'You are late, John!'

'Yes; I was detained by one of Lang's men, or I should have been
here before.'

'Ah! he was here, an ill-looking fellow! Pray, John, don't encourage
him; our men are well disposed, but a bad example is very catching,
and...'

'Well, Mary, and what is the news?' interrupted the brother rather
abruptly, as he sat down to the meal his sister had prepared for him.

'Hem! you don't expect news, do you? But by-the-bye, I think there
is a little news, for a wonder; a great deal has happened since you
left us. There is a very nice person here, John! She is governess at
Langville--of course not in the least appreciated there; they are
worse than ever;--poor thing, she is quite glad to come here, and have
a little talk now and then. She is a ladylike person, and I am sure
that she is shocked at Issy, and tired to death of Kate and her
mother.'

'How does Mr. Farrant make way?' interrupted the brother.

'Oh, pretty well! Of course he is a great favourite now, just at
first; and then he allows no faults in any one. But he will live to
find them out. I told you in one of my letters that Issy was evidently
setting her cap at him... .'

'And the new people?' said Mr. Herbert.

'The Veseys! O, I know little of them. I have not seen them except
at church. Rather smart people, I believe. Mr. Budd, who of course
knows all the news, says they have brought plenty of money.'

'They could not have come at a better time for investing it, then,'
said the gentleman, leaning back, and looking very grave. 'The best
sheep in the colony may be had at four shillings a-piece.'

Mr. Herbert presently said that he should go and take a turn about
the place. Accordingly, first lighting his cigar, he sauntered out,
the dogs rousing themselves from their drowsy attitudes to creep
lazily behind him.

Crossing part of a bush-paddock--that is, a piece of the bush or
forest ground enclosed, but not cleared--Mr. Herbert looked towards a
stock--yard, then, apparently changing his mind, he turned towards a
low fence, partly hedged by quince and lemon, and went into the
garden.

Not a leaf or a twig was stirring, yet it was anything but 'still,'
such a medley of sounds filled the air. Grasshoppers and frogs,
mosquitos and curlews, mingled their chirping, buzzing, and wailing
with the more distant howl of the dingos, or native dogs, while sharp-
nosed opossums leapt from branch to branch. There was a feeling of
intense heat and drought; a universal cry for moisture, if not rain,
seemed to rise from each crackling leaf and blade.

Leaving the 'Master' to note the condition of his garden, about which
he and his sister were more careful than was customary at that time in
the colony (we are speaking of some twenty years ago), we will, to
prevent confusion, give a short sketch of the district and those
families with whom principally the story has to do.

A new colony grows apace, and civilization, when once fairly set in,
progresses so rapidly, that the very face of the country is altered.
But about twenty years ago, more or less, the district of which we
speak retained very much of its natural grandeur and beauty, while
slowly a few poor bark huts, used respectively for a forge, a
wheelwright's hut, and a store, had clustered round a recently built
church. These, with the school-house, formed the 'township' of
Bengala. Warratah Brush, Mr. Herbert's farm, was adjoining, and, with
its well-cleared paddocks, and rather tasteful and neat out-buildings,
formed a great ornament to the place.

Nine miles away was Langville, the 'great' house belonging to the
'great' man of the district.

Mr. Lang was a descendant of some Nottingham tradesman, who, failing
at home, had carried the remains of his fortune to New South Wales,
and, with a shrewd head and 'good times,' had gathered riches. The
present Mr. Lang possessed flocks and herds, and many a goodly acre.
He had built himself a stone mansion, and had been for some years the
ruling spirit of the country for many miles round. He had a large
family of girls and boys--the two elder girls just grown up.

Before the present church had been built, service was performed at
Langville by a clergyman who lived as a settler on his own estate at
least eighteen miles off. Mr. Lang felt somewhat aggrieved when the
church was erected. It was so much pleasanter to have the service
under his own roof, instead of driving nine miles of rough road.
Sufficient names having been collected by a very active spirit, a
rising man, called Budd, a clergyman was appointed to the district. A
parsonage-house was also erected, principally owing to the said Mr.
Budd's unwearied energy in raising funds, for which he got heartily
abused, but pleased himself by bringing the subject into notice when
or wherever it was possible to do so. Mr. Herbert was descended from
an old north country family, of late years impoverished, and
transplanted to Bath; where his father, the General, had died, leaving
one son and one daughter, who having no other tie save a strong love
for Bath and Bath society, determined to accompany her brother when he
resolved to emigrate. As an army officer he was entitled to a grant of
land, which, together with the remains of the Herbert fortune, enabled
him to make a good beginning in the colony. But he was too speculative
and too liberal for growing rich fast. He had theories, too, which did
not exactly suit colonial politics. He was, perhaps, more respected
and admired than liked; and between him and Mr. Lang there was at once
a cordial intercourse and constant misunderstanding.

Mr. Lang's wealth did not influence the Herberts as much as he
thought it should; while, on the other hand, all the higher points of
the Herberts were utterly valueless in the eyes of the Langs. Between
the gentlemen there were other sources of discord. Mr. Lang was, of
course, a magistrate, and of course he had a great number of convicts
as servants.

There were no police magistrates in those days. If a prisoner
offended he was summoned before a board of magistrates, composed of
the neighbouring settlers. Therefore, if a master desired that forty
lashes should be given, who was there to object? 'Masters must support
one another.'

Justice to the convict--the possibility of a master's being in fault
or being mistaken--was not much thought of.

When the life was too hard, punishment too frequent, the convict
generally contrived to run away, and became a bushranger. This was
their only means of escape. But Mr. Herbert considered that his duty
as a magistrate, calling upon him to hear a cause and judge upon it,
was separate from his position as a master of assigned servants. He
was sometimes considered perverse and unneighbourly because he would
insist on evidence and conviction before punishment. More than once
had he 'got off' a prisoner, and was looked upon, in consequence, with
suspicion and distrust, by Mr. Lang particularly.

The ladies of the two families, also, had their own separate and
peculiar causes of mutual complaint. Miss Herbert thought Mrs. Lang
dressed showily and vulgarly, and, with her old country notions, was
annoyed at the pride of wealth and the many inconsistencies in the
Langville establishment; while Mrs. Lang patronisingly deplored 'poor
dear Miss Herbert's old-fashioned appearance, and wondered what she
and her brother found to be proud of, living in such a mean little
place, and in such bad style!'

Yet with all this drawback, the intercourse between the two families
was brisk, and a superficial observer might have taken them for even
intimate friends.

Miss Herbert was many years older than her brother, and although she
had begun to find the Bath society a very different thing as years
crept on, and the place she had once occupied as a comely, fashionable
young lady, was taken by others, and herself passed by--still at this
distance she was wont to look back upon it with a halo of fond regret.
By constantly contrasting the past and the present, she really began
to believe that she never had an annoyance or met with a stupid or
undesirable person till she came to Australia. In the flattering haze
of distance, each passing acquaintance was magnified into a friend.
Those morning visits and evening parties, the shopping and bazaars,
and all the busy bustle with which idle people contrive to surround
themselves, once considered a 'bore,' were now keenly missed, and the
defects and inconveniences of her present life, including her
neighbour's faults, were magnified in proportion. She had come out
full of theories that a primitive and free life was the best. Yet now
she often felt keenly provoked that she had it not in her power to
show the Langs what she called 'the proper thing.' Her brother was
determined and consistent in his opposition to any attempt at fashion
or show. He laughed at 'folly and humbug,' as he called it, and
thoroughly enjoyed the freedom from restraint, and the sociability
without show, which was the general custom of the country; though here
and there a rich man might pretend to a little more 'style.'

They both despised the attempts and failures at Langville; and yet
whenever an invitation came for them to go there, it was gladly
accepted. Miss Herbert enjoyed the easy, softly cushioned chairs, the
thick carpets lately arrived from England, the only ones in the
district,--and all the luxuries which wealth afforded. She liked, too,
to criticise the mistakes, and tried to set Mrs. Lang right in many
ways. Mrs. Lang, on her side, while pretending to scorn or pity the
Herberts' poverty, had a secret, restless desire for the approval of
'the Herberts.' She sought their advice in many indirect ways, and
dreaded their criticism above all things. Were the real truth known,
Miss Herbert's pride in her own good old family, and the value she set
on birth, which was more apparent in her than in her brother, though
perhaps not more deep, was the roc's egg to Langville, and caused a
certain soreness and jealousy which would have been far worse but for
one circumstance. Mr. Herbert professed himself one of those men who,
seeing virtues and beauties in every young animal, from pigs and
puppies to colts and calves, consider the young of their own race a
mistake. Children of all ages were bores and pests, particularly in
Australia, where they lived more among the family, and were not
condemned, as a general rule, to imprisonment in the nursery. Yet,
curiously enough, the very first visit he paid to Langville, he, then
quite a young man, took a liking to the second girl of the family,
which, while it surprised himself more than any one else, never
lessened. He had been ushered into the drawing-room to await the
coming of the lady of the house, and to his intense disgust, a whole
set of children were drawn from their play in the verandah to watch
him. They were not shy, and from taking observations at the window,
they proceeded to approach nearer and stare; the eldest girl even
ventured on speech, and asked him how many horses he kept?

This was a signal, and immediately one took up his whip, and another
his hat, and three of the party, it must be allowed, behaved in a
somewhat rude and noisy fashion. He let them alone, not daring to
interfere, but, as he paced to and fro the room, to pass off his
disgust, he observed that one who had hitherto kept aloof at the
window, came forward and made strenuous efforts to bring her sister
and brothers to order. Something in her face struck him, and he
listened to what she said in that earnest, loud whisper which children
fancy is inaudible.

'No! but, Kate, it is different! Come away, I tell you. This
gentleman doesn't like it a bit. Can't you see? He doesn't like us to
be here--so come away!' By dint of reiterating this to her sister--a
girl much taller than herself--and applying a little compulsion to the
younger boys, she cleared the room; then in a demure, half-womanly
way, and yet with a look of amusement, she proceeded to close the
window, saying, 'If I shut this, they will not come in again to
disturb you; you see, in general, people who come here always speak to
us, but--'

'Stop!' he interrupted, 'don't close that! What are you doing?--Do
come in and let me speak to you,' he added, highly amused, and also
struck by a certain likeness in her clear, frank eyes to some one he
had known at home.

She came straight up to him, without any shyness, just looking back
to see if the others followed, and was apparently relieved to find
they had run down the lawn.

'So, you think I ought to have spoken to you? You are right! Now
then, how do you do, Miss Lang? I suppose you are called Lang?'

'I am Issy Lang, papa's second daughter; Kate is Miss Lang--.' Then
after a short pause, during which she seemed to be studying his face,
'Are you the new gentleman come to live at Bengala?'

'I am just come to the neighbourhood. My name is Herbert--John
Herbert.'

'I am glad of it. I like the name of John; but, I suppose I am not to
call you so.'

'Certainly, if you like, you may,' he said, laughing.

'I don't know,' she said, consideringly; 'I shall see what papa
does.' Another pause. 'You don't like children, do you?'

'I like you. But perhaps you do not call yourself a child; perhaps
you are a young lady?'

'I am twelve years old; I don't wish to be a young lady, because...'

'Because...?'

'I don't like being kept up in so much ceremony, and having to take
care of my dress, and fiddle-faddle! Papa says I needn't be a young
lady for a long time. Kate is already, and she likes it; but I don't.
Do you?'

'Do I what?'

'I mean do you like young ladies better than children?'

'Well, I have always thought so; but if you are a child, I shall
change my mind. I should like to be friends with you. What do you
say?'

'I don't know...I am afraid--' and she hesitated and blushed, while
she still looked full and fearlessly at him. He felt much attracted by
her ingenuous and simple manner. It was new to him, and that likeness
also struck a chord which gave pleasure as well as pain.

'Why are you afraid?' he said, stroking back her hair, even gently.

'They say you are so proud,' she half whispered; 'are you?'

'They do, do they? Well, perhaps I may be. Every one is something;
but that need not hinder us from being good friends, need it?'

'No,' she said, firmly, putting her hand in his. From that hour a
close friendship sprang up between them. And this notice of his
favourite child--so flattering to Mr. Lang's paternal love and
preference--caused him to overlook much which would otherwise have
been less easily endured.

Mr. Herbert taught Isabel Lang to ride and to draw, and provoked his
sister by his constant preference of her to her far prettier sister,
Kate. Years passed with very little change in the district perceptible
to the people themselves. But meanwhile the children were growing into
young women and men, and Miss Herbert felt very uneasy, and wished her
brother would remember the difference, and not 'get himself talked
of.'

It became necessary at last for Mr. Herbert to go and stay for some
time at his distant station, owing to the rising among the natives
mentioned before.

He found it desirable to be there for many months. During his absence
the new clergyman arrived, and there were also other changes. A long--
deserted house, about equally distant from Langville and Warratah
Brush, called Vine Lodge, had been bought, and repaired by some 'new
comers,' reported to be of a more fashionable and wealthy class than
common among emigrants. They were now living there, together with the
lady's brother, who, however, only came for a time, it was said.
Besides this, the Langs had been to Sydney, and the two girls had been
regularly 'introduced' at the Sheriff's ball. They returned in such
fashionable trim as to cause conversation in the district, and they
were accompanied by a Miss Terry, a governess for the younger
children. Hitherto the society had been for years confined to the
Langs, the Herberts, the Budds, and the Jollys, with the doctor and
the officer commanding the company of mounted police stationed in the
neighbourhood. These additions to the circle caused therefore no small
stir and talk. It may as well be said here, that Mr. Herbert's return
home had been somewhat hastened by a summons to attend a meeting, at
which it was proposed to take into consideration the site for a new
bridge and road, a subject on which the great men in the district
differed, and which bid fair to be a bone of discord.



CHAPTER II. NEIGHBOURS.



'The church will be pretty full to-day, any how,' said a curly-
headed boy to his companion; 'we'll soon want another if the district
improves at this rate. Come, Dick, you take the bell, for I'm fairly
tired;' and accordingly the two school-boys relieved guard at the
bell, which was hung outside a small slab building, and jingled in an
unharmonious way.

The graves scattered around proclaimed that this was the church or
place of worship for the district. The public road passed in front,
and all round was thick bush or forest, save a few flat paddocks
belonging to a neighbouring farm. Had it been more cleared, and the
unvarying outline of gum-trees a little broken, it might have been
pronounced a pretty spot. Here and there was a single graceful shrub,
many a delicate blossom, and that peculiar depth of blue sky which
inspires the eye with a sense of space. It would have been a pleasant
scene, but for the brown and sun-dried grass, and that dull bluish
hue, a peculiar feature in Australian foliage, which lessens the
beauty to English eyes.

Mr. Herbert stood leaning against the fence, beating the
grasshoppers down with his cane, as they swarmed round him, then
shifting his straw hat, he turned and looked absently down the road,
at the people coming to church. There were working men in white
trousers and blue shirts, some distinguished by the addition of a
jacket or smart neckerchief, and all with cabbage-tree hats. There
were but few women in proportion; either the distance was too great,
or the heat too oppressive, or they could not leave their young
families. Then came a gig, driven by a remarkably thin, lanky man, and
by him was seated a plump, showily-dressed little woman, his wife.
Their boys, three in number, galloped before on their ponies.

'How are ye, Herbert? I was afraid we were late,' said Mr. Budd, as
he guided his horse through the gate; 'but I see the Langs are not
here yet.' Mr. Herbert gave a distant bow to this address, which was
spoken in a nasal, shrill tone of voice, but answered not a word.

'Oh, here they are, Mr. B.!' said the lady, disentangling her dress
from the gig-step. 'Here they are, the phaeton, the gig, and all the
horses! My! what a number! and there's the new comers, I declare, in a
spring cart. Well! I thought they were a cut above that, I must say!'

Mrs. Budd smoothed her dress, and exchanged her gloves for a newer
pair.

'Come on, come on,' said her husband, 'before the row begins. What a
stiff fellow that Herbert is, to be sure! Considering what I am, I
should think he might vouchsafe a word; he, with his small farm, and
never doing anything for the good of the district! And here am I
taking upon myself all the responsibility and trouble, and am ready to
put down my 50l. or 100l. in a minute!' Mr. Budd's voice was stopped
by his wife.

'My! do look now, Mr. B., look at Mrs. Lang, and the Miss Langs! How
smart, I declare! and then there's that Mrs. Vesey, in sleeves just
like a man's coat--new fashion, I suppose--and who's that tall
fellow?'

'Oh, that's Fitz, Mrs. Vesey's brother--has some capital dogs, I
hear. Perhaps we might come to a bargain. I'll have out our old gig,
and do it up. I'll put a low enough price upon it. A little cash, and
a couple of those hounds...'

'Dogs again! Mr. B., don't, pray, be getting any more dogs! There
are fifty on the farm already, if there's one!'

Here the husband and wife entered the church, and took their seats,
while the parties just arrived were greeting each other at the gate.

'Here we are,' said Mr. Lang, with a laugh, 'safe and sound at last;
but 'pon my honour, Herbert, you should get a couple of your men to
mend that bridge; we were over as near as could be!'

'The bridge? Why! it doesn't belong to me,' returned Mr. Herbert,
drily. 'Though near our paddock, we seldom or never use it; we always
cut across the flat, and avoid it. You and Mr. Budd must see to it.'

'Budd! Oh yes, to be sure, very true, it will give him an excuse to
be busy. He certainly ought to do it; very true, his wool-drays always
pass that way. Yes, to be sure, I'll give him a hint.'

'Better send one of your own men, papa; it would be done in a day,'
said Isabel Lang, who now joined them. Mr. Herbert smiled and bowed,
but she put out her hand, and said, 'How d'ye do?' in so hearty and
frank a manner, that the gravity and distance vanished, and they were
soon chatting freely, while the rest of the Lang party collected.

'And how is Miss Herbert?'

'Quite well; she is as usual busy in the school.'

'Very good and indefatigable, I am sure, sir,' remarked Mrs. Lang,
after a curtsey to Mr. Herbert. 'Single ladies have the advantage over
us, that they have so much spare time,' she added, in a patronising
tone.

The gentleman again bowed coldly, and drew back a little for the
party to pass. On they went,--Mr. Lang and his second daughter Isabel,
then Mrs. Lang, all flounces and feathers, her satin dress brushing
the ground, and Miss Lang, a pretty, fashionable-looking girl. Near
her walked the stranger, about whom Mrs. Budd had asked--a gentleman-
like figure, and, if not regularly handsome, with an attractive face.
Then came two little girls and their governess, the latter chiefly
remarkable for her quiet, plain dress; Mr. and Mrs. Vesey, and Captain
Smith, the officer in charge of the mounted police stationed in the
neighbourhood followed; and the last, though certainly not least in
stature, walked Mr. Herbert, his lip half curling, though it gradually
relaxed as he walked up the little building, and seated himself in a
corner of one of the wooden benches. As the service proceeded, another
party was added to the congregation. A dozen or more blacks might be
seen looking through the open door; some staring curiously round, and
others listening to the preacher open-mouthed. The sermon was one to
create interest in all, from different reasons. Its object was to call
on them to build a church more fitted for Divine worship than the
present building. It was curious to see Mr. Budd's deportment, now
bending his sharp grey eyes on the clergyman with a self-satisfied
expression, and now looking at one, and then another of the
congregation, as much as to say, 'That's for you?' Mr. Lang raised his
eyebrows every now and then, as if in wonder, and then fell to blowing
his nose. Mr. Herbert, neither moving head nor foot, leant back in his
seat, listening with grave attention. Mr. Farrant had not long been
their clergyman, and the style of his sermon, as well as many other
things about him, were very new to the district.

When the service was over, and they were once more in the churchyard,
waiting for their carriages, Mr. Herbert was stopped by Mr. Budd, who,
drawing him aside, began a long story about what he had done with
regard to building the new parsonage, and how he was ready now with
time and money to commence another church. Mr. Herbert looked
impatient, and at last abruptly broke from him, following the others,
who were apparently bending their steps across the paddock, instead of
getting into their carriages. The Lang's house, Langville, being so
far from church, they often stayed and had lunch at Warratah Brush
before they returned home.

'Well, Mr. Herbert, do you see what a party we are, and going to
besiege you as usual?' said Isabel, as he overtook her.

'Well,' said he, 'but it wont last long! When the other church is
built, we shall see you no more, I suppose.'

'No more of those odious Langs, then, for you and Miss Herbert!' said
she, laughing, and half mimicking Miss Herbert's manner. 'Papa can't
forgive Mr. Budd at all. He would not have come here to-day had it not
been for Mr. Farrant.'

Mr. Herbert made no answer, but swung his cane round and round;
perhaps he wondered if Isabel had really ever overheard his sister's
comments on the Langville Sunday visits.

'What do you think of our new neighbours, Mr. Herbert?' said Isabel.

'I have hardly seen them yet. I always look at old friends first, and
I find two young ladies of my acquaintance so--so--what shall I call
it?--so come out, that I've had no eyes for anything else.'

'It is only because you have been so long in the bush that civilized
society seems strange to you, I dare say. I don't think I can return
the compliment, however. Some people of my acquaintance have drawn in
instead of coming out! A whole week returned, and not the good manners
to call!'

Here Mr. Lang looked back, and called out, 'Issy, my darling, where
did you put the letters?'

'Tom has them, papa.'

'No, he hasn't; he told me you had them.'

'I only know I told him they were in the driving-box, papa. Run,
Willie, do, and see if they are not there.'

But Willie did not hear; on the contrary, he quickened his pace in
the other direction, and was soon out of sight.

'I'll run back,' said Mr. Herbert.

'Oh no, pray!' said Isabel. But he was off.

'Ah, let him go, 'twill take the starch out of him on such a day as
this.' Mr. Lang, shifting his hat, and putting his hand on his
daughter Isabel's shoulder. Then laughing, and saying that she made a
capital walking-stick, he turned round and asked Mrs. Vesey if she did
not think it must be a hard matter to find such a tribe in shoe
leather in these pinching times?

Miss Herbert produced biscuits and grapes, bread and butter, colonial
wine, and lemon syrup for her guests. Mrs. Vesey was loud in her
praises of everything, and swept about the little room with an easy
confidence, which contrasted curiously enough with Mrs. Lang's stiff
attempts at dignity. Mrs. Vesey patted the dogs, whistled to the
parrots, examined all the little contrivances, and between times
joined Mrs. Lang in quizzing Mr. and Mrs. Budd.

'They are deliciously absurd,' said she; 'his musical voice would
make his fortune in the puppet-show of Punch and Judy. I shall
cultivate their acquaintance assiduously.'

'Well, I confess I don't see anything to like in them,' said Mrs.
Lang, understanding the lively Mrs. Vesey literally. 'Mrs. Budd is
thought to dress well, I know, but it is not after my taste, I
confess.'

'Voice, madam!' exclaimed Mr. Lang, 'if anything could set my teeth
on edge in the world it would be that detestable fellow's voice! Could
you but hear him at a public meeting--heart and senses!--you'd never
care to listen to his burr-r again!'

'What is that building with a long chimney?' asked Mrs. Vesey,
looking through her glass.

'That is a mill,' said Mr. Herbert.

'How many bushels did ye grind last week, Herbert?' asked Mr. Lang,
with a half laugh, and winking hard at Mrs. Lang.

'It was out of repair,' was the answer.

'Ay, ay, so I thought. Give me old brown Ben instead of your long
chimneys and smoke,' said Mr. Lang, taking up a book.

'And does 'brown Ben' never get lame?' drily remarked Mr. Herbert.

'And what if he does? Put in another--no want of horse-flesh here.'

'Great waste of it, and great waste of labour, in my opinion,' said
Mr. Herbert. 'Why, I can show you on my books what the steam-mill
does.' And he rose and went out of the room.

'Books! books!' said Mr. Lang, 'send them to Jericho. I never go by
books; I go by old experience, and I know what a horse-mill is, and I
know that--'

'Are they talking of the mill?' asked Miss Herbert, who was a little
deaf, of Mrs. Lang. 'It is such a convenience!--but John has laid out
a great deal on it.'

'Indeed,' said Mrs. Lang; 'I should have thought Mr. Herbert knew
better, in these times!'

When Mr. Herbert reappeared with his books, which contained a farm
journal, Isabel remarked that it was quite time to go.

'I must just prove the fact,' said Mr. Herbert, and he read out a
statement of the mill work.

'I don't care a farthing, sir, for all the statements in the world!--
they are not worth this,' said Mr. Lang, snapping his fingers. 'They
don't convince me, Mr. Herbert.'

'It would be a hard matter to do that, I own,' said Mr. Herbert, with
a look of contempt.

Mrs. Lang laughed affectedly, and, rising from her chair, said the
carriage was come, and so they had better leave the discussions of
mills for another day.

The party took their respective places in the phaeton, gig, spring
cart, or saddle-horses, and left Warratah Brush and Miss Herbert to
'peace and quietness,' as that lady observed when they drove off.

Warratah Brush was a pretty specimen of the generality of colonial
cottages, such as they were before people began to build those
comfortable stone houses which are now becoming so numerous. It
consisted of four rooms on the ground floor, leading into each other
without any passage. At the end of the deep verandah there were two
small closets boarded in, which went by the name of 'verandah rooms;'
one was used as a spare bedroom for travellers, the other for a kind
of pantry or store. The beautiful Moreton Bay bignonia, with its
clusters of pink blossom, and the passion--flower completely covered
the roof and verandah, and was trained into arches, though here and
there a long wreath escaped from its confinement, and waved to and fro
in the evening breeze, which had now set in. In front was a small
garden, consisting of a few beds, with narrow paths between, gay with
roses and geraniums. A slight shade was afforded by a group of white
cedar trees, already full of their yellow berries. The garden was
surrounded by a low fence, which divided it from the farm-yard.
Opposite rose a goodly barn, which towered far above the low and
steep-roofed cottage, and a little to the left was a stock-yard and a
fowl-house, all in good repair and in sight of the house. Behind stood
the kitchen and wash--house.

Two large kangaroo dogs lay outside the gate which opened into the
verandah, and within stood a row of cages containing different
parrots.

'Well,' said Miss Herbert, as she sat in the verandah, and fanned
herself with a newspaper, 'it is over till next week, at any rate! I
am sure I wish our house was ten miles off from the church, and then
we should not have our rooms so filled, and my temper ruffled, every
Sunday by those Langs!'

'So that was the Mrs. Vesey?' said her brother.

'Yes; I don't know what to make of them; they are stylish-looking
people--evidently gentlefolks. But I don't like their being so very
intimate at Langville already. Mrs. Vesey and Isabel seemed to have a
great many jokes together, which no one else could hear and you know I
hate jokes!'

'My dear, I assure you everybody could hear but yourself.'

'You are quite mistaken, John; I saw it all; indeed, I believe they
were quizzing me--or the room.'

'Nonsense; it was Mr. Budd. However, I agree with you about the heat
of the room. Really it is too small! I saw such a good site for a
house the other day, Mary, behind the Creek. I should like to build
there.'

'Surely you will not be so absurd as to build a Herbertville, just
because there is a Langville, John? Pray lay out no more money here!
Try and save enough to go home.' She sighed as she pronounced the last
word.

'Home!' said her brother. 'This must be our home. There is not a
chance of our ever returning. I don't know even that I wish it. Ten
years make a fearful gap, and we should neither of us like the climate
of England now, or the habits.'

'O John, John! as if the very sight of a face fresh from the old
country does not set one longing for England! I hate this place; we
are buried in the bush, losing money, and having no one to associate
with. It is all very well for you; a man finds occupation--but for a
lady... .'

'Why, what do you call all those people who were here just now? Ours
is quite a gay district! By-the-bye, Mary, I thought the girls, the
Langs I mean, a good deal got on; what has smartened them up so?'

'O, they are 'come out' now, and they have been staying in Sydney,
as I told you, and I dare say paid the milliner a few visits. Kate is
certainly a pretty girl--very pretty--and with the fortune she will
have, will be sought after, no doubt. I suspect she was much admired
in Sydney. They say she was the belle of the room at the Sheriff's
ball, and Mr. Fitz paid her great attention. Poor Tom Jolly, I feel
for him very much!'

'Isabel looks well, too,' said Mr. Herbert; 'she is quite come out
since I went away. One forgets how time passes; she is fast growing
into womanhood.'

'Ah, you know,' said Miss Herbert, drawing in her breath in a way
peculiar to herself when not quite pleased, 'we never agree about her;
I can't admire her at all, she is so freckled!'

'So fair, you mean,' put in Mr. Herbert.

'Handsome eyes, certainly,' Miss Herbert continued, with an air of
consideration and concession.

'Beaming,' interrupted her brother.

'But such a nose! A regular 'turn up.' '

'Nez retroussé. Elle est piquante et spirituelle.'

'And her mouth is too wide, or is it that she is always laughing?'

' 'Tis a sweet smile, so full of human love, as some poet says.'

'In fact,'--Miss Herbert went on, not noticing her brother's
interruptions, 'it is lucky that she is, if anything, rather under-
sized, for if she were as tall as her sister, she would be masculine
indeed.'

'As it is, she rejoices in a well-knit, compact figure, active and
lithe, and frolicsome as a kitten.'

'Pooh, John,' remarked his sister, who had only heard his last words,
'you will tip your chair over in a moment! What a trick you have of
balancing it so, and looking up into the sky, uttering paradoxes.'

'Prove that! Prove that I have uttered one paradox.'

'You have uttered an absurdity. In the first place, she is not at
all like a kitten, and in the second, if she is, it is no merit, as
you seem to assume. Young ladies should not mimic kittens. Your
encouragement of Isabel Lang's faults is very wrong in you, John! You
ought to know better.'

'My dear Miss Herbert! I!--I encourage her faults!--when I am for
ever criticising and finding fault! Any other girl but herself would
hate me.'

'You do encourage her by making a joke of it. She is too confident,
too self-sufficient as it is;--too fond of quizzing and joking, and
too forward. I am sure she and Mrs. Vesey were laughing at my old-
fashioned dress.'

'My dear, indeed... .'

'My dear John, don't contradict me! I can't hear, perhaps, as well
as others, but I can see. Believe me, my eyes are particularly good,
and I did see; so don't make the matter worse by smoothing it over. Of
course I don't care a farthing--I can't be expected to dress so well,
or to know the fashions exactly as the Miss Langs or Mrs. Vesey, but
still...'

Here the servant came to ask if they were ready for dinner.

'Yes, make some tea, Jane; here, take the key and fill the canister
from the chest. Come, John, before the beef grows cold.'

Mr. Herbert, however, remained to read a letter. Its contents seemed
not very pleasing. He frowned, and gave a low whistle, at which one of
the dogs jumped over the gate.

'Pshaw, Forrester, I don't want you; go back, sir!'

The animal drooped his head and wagging his tail in token of
submission mingled with disappointment, lay down on the mat within the
gate, looking up every now and then at his master, who, after again
reading the letter, joined his sister at dinner.

'Have you anything to give Mr. Farrant, Mary?' said her brother. 'I
think he will call on his way back; he half promised to do so.'

'Dear me, then, I must contrive something. He will be so tired and
weary, poor man, after such a hot ride.'

Miss Herbert hurried over her dinner in order to prepare some little
favourite delicacy for the clergyman. There was much searching in
cupboards and consulting with the maid, though Mr. Herbert often said
'Pshaw,' and assured her that an egg and some cold meat would be quite
enough.

But visitors had been scarce of late at Warratah, and Miss Herbert
liked the pleasure of preparation on a small scale; and, moreover, as
it was the first meal the clergyman had taken in her house, she
determined to have it properly arranged, and some handsome old silver,
with the Herbert crest on it, was somewhat proudly taken out. She did
not generally use it, being too much afraid of bushrangers, but she
thought she should like to show Mr. Farrant that some of his
parishioners had this very important certificate of belonging to an
old family!

'Ah, it looks like home!' sighed she, as she placed the massive
spoons and forks on the table. 'Well! how things are changed, to be
sure!'

'Female vanity!' muttered Mr. Herbert, with a slight toss of his
head, while a little of the said vanity might have been seen lurking
about the regions of his own mouth, had it not been more than half
hidden by his moustachios.

'I shall leave you to your hospitable cares, and try and meet
Farrant,' and lighting his cigar he went out, followed by the dogs.

The bush was in an uproar from the noisy birds called familiarly 'old
soldiers,' as they fluttered about in busy restlessness before going
to roost. Then a wild shrieking laugh rang through the forest, and the
large-headed bird, the laughing jackass, flew heavily from one white
gum to another. Gay parrots chattered their 'good nights,' while
magpies interchanged plaintive adieus.

A tempting seat on a fallen tree induced Mr. Herbert to rest and give
himself up to the listless, dreamy influences of the evening,
unfreshened as it was by any breeze, and only cooler than it had been
all day from the absence of the burning sun.

The return of the clergyman, however, soon interrupted his dreams.
Mr. Herbert had met Mr. Farrant before he went to his station, but had
not seen much of him. He had not felt quite sure whether he should
like him or not. Mr. Farrant was essentially fitted to be a popular
man, and likely to be so. Every one praised him, and this caused Mr.
Herbert to look with something like distrust on him. At first he had
met him with cold hauteur, fully determined not to be in a hurry in
forming an intimacy. Mr. Farrant's manner, charming as it was to
others, did not quite please Mr. Herbert; but having heard of a very
disinterested action done by Mr. Farrant, and the sermon of that
morning having proved that he could speak stern truth in a grave
manner, as well as win ladies' hearts by talking of poultry and bees,
and having a pleasant word for every one, high, low, rich, or poor,--
Mr. Herbert was now bent on showing his readiness to come forward to
him. Perhaps there was a little complacency in the thought that Mr.
Farrant might find him a more congenial companion than any other
person in the district--a slight feeling of pride and satisfaction in
the idea that though longer, perhaps, in granting his friendship and
regard, it would be found as well worth having as others!

In fact, the sister with her cookery, old family plate, and such
things, was not more anxious to please than the brother. He 'unbent'
this evening, and gave himself up to conversation in a way in which
few could excel him when he chose. Mr. Farrant was pleased; the
weariness he had felt from hard duty in the fervent heat of the day
passed away. They adjourned to the verandah, Miss Herbert's
'withdrawing-room,' as she called it, and there was much to say and
much to hear. Mr. Farrant could talk of the old country, and found
interested listeners. Improvements, new books, and music were
canvassed, and then Mr. Farrant touched on his desire to have
something like good singing in the church. Miss Herbert shook her head
at his idea of some of the ladies undertaking it; she thought no one
had any taste for music or anything like a voice in the district. Her
brother thought her hypercritical; he was sure the Langs had good
natural ears, though uncultivated, and Mr. Farrant smiled as he asked
if they had heard Mr. Lang's governess sing?

'No,' Miss Herbert said. 'But she was much prepossessed with her
appearance; such a contrast as it was to the Miss Langs!'

Mr. Herbert remarked, with the slightest possible tone of
depreciation, that she was a very little person, and he had not
noticed her face. Then came a pause, which Mr. Farrant broke by
speaking of his enjoyment of the rides--the beautiful 'flats,' which
seemed made for a gallop! He seemed pleased with everything. The
climate was delightful, the independence of the life charming.

'And the people?' asked Miss Herbert.

'Full of kindness and hospitality; thoroughly well meaning,' said Mr.
Farrant.

This led to a long discussion. Miss Herbert spoke of individuals, and
compared them with old acquaintance in Bath. Mr. Herbert spoke of the
colony in general, and dwelt on the evil the convict system had been
to society. He alluded impatiently to the faults and grievances, and
in the tone of a somewhat disappointed theorist. Prizing the freedom
of life, and dwelling with eloquence on its many picturesque points,
yet evidently deeming a man of education like himself thrown away;
wondering how any person could be foolish enough to break through old
associations and home ties, and exile himself to such a barren land,
yet--owning that habit had reconciled him to the evils; and though for
the first five years, finding his money-tree did not bear the promised
fruit, he had over and over again resolved to return to England--he
now felt that this was his home. The climate alone was an inducement,
and late accounts from England did not tend to make him desire to be
there.

Mr. Farrant listened, but did not agree. He, too, had felt the
transplanting. He confessed it was a sad wrench; but instead of being
disappointed, he had found everything better than he expected. He had
excuses for all, and dwelt with evident pleasure on the kindness with
which he had been received.

'You go very often to Langville, I believe?' said Miss Herbert.

'Yes, I do. Really they are so kind. They are delightful girls.'

'Kate is very pretty, certainly,' remarked Mr. Herbert, stooping as
he spoke to stroke a cockatoo.

'Very pretty; but not to be compared to her sister, I think. Miss
Isabel Lang is--'

'O dear! O dear! Surely you cannot call her pretty!' said Miss
Herbert, with an almost ludicrous expression of concern.

'I do. What do you say, Mr. Herbert?'

'That you have chosen quite a wrong word. But here comes old
Forrester to claim his share of attention. Come, Mr. Farrant, if you
are anything of a dog-fancier, you must confess this to be a noble
fellow;' and Mr. Herbert expatiated on his merits and points as men
are apt to do of a favoured animal.

It was time to break up the party, and Mr. Farrant with reluctance
mounted his horse, promising to repeat the visit very soon.

'A very agreeable young man,' remarked Miss Herbert, as their guest
trotted off.

'Yes, a pleasant, gentlemanly man--an acquisition--certainly an
acquisition,' returned her brother.

'Well, I do hope he wont be falling in love with Issy; I fancied he
looked rather conscious when speaking of her.'

'A true woman's fancy. Now that the girls have appeared at the balls
in Sydney, I suppose every one who speaks to them must be a lover. I
thought one might expect a freedom from such folly in the Bush. Depend
upon it, Mary, Mr. Farrant has no such thought at present.'

'Ah, well! we shall see,' said Miss Herbert, with a very positive nod
of the head.

'I shall ride to Langville for breakfast to-morrow; I have some
business to talk over with Lang, and I will make my observations and
report them for your benefit,' remarked Mr. Herbert, carelessly, as he
moved away from the verandah into the yard, in a somewhat lounging
fashion.



CHAPTER III. LANGVILLE.



Langville was a new stone house, with a handsome suite of sitting
rooms, and every other convenience, including a wide verandah round
three sides of the building. The original dwelling was still left
standing, half buried in creepers, and was now used for a school-room
and spare bedrooms. From the drawing-room windows were seen the farm
buildings, forming quite a little village of huts, with a horse-mill,
a forge, and a wheelwright's shed, the overseer's cottage, extensive
fowl-houses, a good water-hole and stock--yard, all of which Mr. Lang
was justly proud of. The road leading up to the house was worse than
even the usual average of colonial roads, full of holes and stumps,
and Mr. Herbert never failed to remark on this inconsistency every
time he went there.

'Your road is not improved,' said he to the Miss Langs, as he gave
his horse to the servant.

'Quite good enough,' said Isabel; 'a friend is not worth having who
fears to encounter a rough road: you must confess there is a beautiful
view. I don't believe you have seen anything so pretty in your journey
as those hills.'

She pointed to where the morning mist was clearing away from the
distant country, and range beyond range looked deeply blue. Then
laughing, she said it was all envy that made Mr. Herbert find fault.

'That view is very fine, certainly,' said Mr. Herbert; 'but look
there;' he pointed to the bush at the side of the house, a forest of
dead trees, looking like grim ghosts--tall, straight, and white. They
had been 'barked'--that is, killed by cutting away lines of bark, and
when dry and dead enough, they were to be set fire to, a short way of
clearing ground when labour is scarce.

'That is enough to spoil any view,' said Mr. Herbert; 'but have you
been industrious at sketching since I left? Come, where are your views
of Darling harbour, and the north shore?' said he to Isabel.

'I have none. I have been busy reading lately. I really have not
touched a pencil since you left--'

'What have you been reading? have you subscribed to the library in
Sydney?'

'No; but I have been reading, and reading grave books, too. What do
you say to this, and this,' said she, as they entered the sitting-
room, and she pointed to some books on the table.

Mr. Herbert opened them, turned over the leaves, and then looked at
the title-page, but said nothing.

'Ah, Mr. Herbert! very kind of you, I am sure, to come so soon. Wont
you step into the other room,' said Mrs. Lang, who now came in.
'Looking at the books? you always are fond of books, and so is Issy, I
assure you. Mr. Farrant is kind enough to supply her. A very nice
young man that is. Issy, my dear, you should cover those books, they
are so well bound.'

'Yes, mamma,' Isabel answered, while it was evident from the sparkle
of fun which rippled all over her face as she glanced at Mr. Herbert,
that some joke was coming.

'Well? What is it? Speak out Issy,' he said, coming to her side,
though there was a little suppressed irritation or annoyance in his
manner.

'Oh, nothing! Only what did that elongation of the lip mean, just
now? Are not the books good and desirable?'

'Good, and desirable, so far as I know. I don't profess to have read
all. But of course, of course--' his words rolled out more rapidly,
and the head went up with great effect.

'Of course, the clergyman of the parish is, or should be, the best
judge of that,' she put in promptly, and looking again very demure and
as amiable as possible.

'Oh!' said Kate. 'Mr. Herbert, you have yet to learn what an
authority this is come to be. Issy swears by Mr. Farrant in
everything.'

To his quick and keen look of question at these words, Isabel
answered, without raising her eyes, 'It is my character. I must obey
some one, and I have been so strictly drilled into following advice,
that--that, while one adviser was so busy counting fleeces, I was
forced to hang myself on to another. At all events, a legitimate one,
isn't he, Mr. Herbert?'

'Legitimate! Of course you are free to do as you like. Reading is,
as I have often told you, very desirable. I should say indispensable
for a gentlewoman. But, if my memory holds right, you never cared much
for it.'

'I am learning now! I feel a very keen desire for knowledge. You
see, an introduction to the great world, meeting all the élite in
Sydney, shamed my ignorance. I longed to hide myself. Directly I came
home I set myself to learn, and remembered your own words.'

There was something indescribable in the manner and look, as she
said this. The comic affectation of a primness, not naturally hers,
and yet under all the joke and fun, a touch of heart in her eyes, as
she glanced at him, as if to say, 'don't be angry with me.'

He never could resist her when in this mood, and coming quite close
to her now, and looking her straight in the face, he said--

'You remembered my words? Well, Issy, for that--in that you did think
of an old friend in his forced absence, and were not wholly taken up
with new admirers, I shall strive to forget certain reports I have
heard. Give me your hand, child. Is it as it was? I mean, no one has
come between and cast me into outer darkness?'

'Indeed, no! No!' she said heartily, and giving him her hand, which
he clasped between both his own, and finally, not letting it go, he
drew it on his arm; when they were summoned to breakfast.

'But these reports?' he began, as they went in after the others.

'About failures, bankruptcies, and so on?' she asked saucily.

'No; I speak of reports nearer home, about you, and this district.
Did you like your gaiety in Sydney?'

'Pretty well. It was pleasant to see Kate so admired, though, to be
sure, I did get sleepy and tired of sitting out, and being so silent.'

'Why silent?'

'Because I had no one to speak to! Kate was sought by every one, but
I, poor I, had to look on, and behave 'pretty'.'

'Ah! you don't mean that you were overlooked, that you received no
attention?'

'Very little. But it didn't break my heart, as you see.'

'It is not what I heard. My information was quite different. I
expected to find you 'set up,' and too proud to speak to me. I was so
impatient at being detained up yonder! Really I was uneasy as to what
change was coming to the wild little girl I left here.'

'Afraid lest your office should be taken from you?'

'What office?'

'I mean of critic, fault-finder, advice-giver.'

'To whom?'

'Oh, as if you didn't know! As if I didn't feel very like a fish out
of water, when I had not you to give me weighty and grave advice!'

'Can I do nothing but advise and find fault? If so, you can't be very
rejoiced at my return!'

'And who said I was?'

'You are not, then?'

'Now, don't be disagreeable, Mr. Herbert! Don't begin quarrelling
just yet. I am hungry, and here is breakfast ready.'

Mr. Lang, followed by his two boys, joined them presently. 'Sorry to
be late, but I was detained. We've put Venn into the store, and I had
to give him a few instructions.'

'Venn! what is he promoted for?' said Mr. Herbert.

'Why, he's a clever chap, sharp as a needle, and if I make it his
interest to serve me, I shall reap the benefit. There's not a cleverer
fellow among my men.'

'Nor one with a worse character,' observed Mr. Herbert, gravely.

'I can't say much for his morality, certainly,' said Mr. Lang; 'but
that's nothing to me. He is assigned to me, and I must make the best
of him. He has been very sharp about my stray cattle, so I wish to
reward him. He knows he can't cheat me in the store.'

'But will every one else,' Mr. Herbert said, somewhat sotto voce;
then louder, he added--'You don't mean to say you have put such a man
over the others? Why, it is offering a premium to vice. Such a person
ought to be discouraged in every way, instead of being rewarded.'

'Oh, I leave that to Mr. Farrant, it is not my business, and I should
like to see if any man here would do otherwise. If I choose to
patronize a clever man, although he is a convict, I should like to
know who is to prevent me.'

Mr. Herbert made no answer, but eat his breakfast in silence. Mr.
Lang was ruffled, and found fault with the coffee and the toast.

'Where are the little ones, and where's Miss Terry?' he asked.

'They are in the school-room, Mr. Lang,' said his wife. 'It is more
convenient for them to breakfast there, and they can begin their
studies so much sooner.'

'Studies indeed! let them learn to boil coffee! I take it that is a
far more creditable and more useful thing to know than 'studies!'
Isn't it so, Mr. Herbert? A man wants a wife who can give him a
comfortable meal, and I assure you, when I first married, and when we
lived in that little cottage, Mrs. Lang made better coffee than I ever
get now-a-days; the kitchen was close by, and she boiled it herself.'

'Well, papa, I can assure you mamma made this herself, and it is your
fault for staying so long that it is cold,' said Isabel. 'But I will
get some hot for you.'

'I beg pardon, Mrs. Lang. No offence, I hope?' said Mr. Lang,
recovering his good humour. 'I am sure I didn't know you had been so
notable of late.'

Before the breakfast party was dispersed, Mr. Farrant was announced.
He came to beg Mr. Lang to ride with him, and settle the site for a
school--house, and the three gentlemen went off together. In the mean
time the ladies were discussing a proposed pic-nic.

'We must ask the Budds, because they asked us, you know,' said Mrs.
Lang, counting the number of heads on her fingers. 'And they will
bring some of their children, they always do--so say four there.'

'And the Jollys of course,' said Isabel.

'And three from Vine Lodge,' said Kate.

'Yes, my dear, and Captain Smith, and Mr. Farrant, and Dr. Marsh, and
that's all, I believe,' said the mother.

'You've forgotten the Herberts,' said Isabel.

'Mr. Herbert is so grave, he is worse than ever; I can't bear him,'
said Kate.

'Nor I either,' said Mr. Lang, who came in at the window. 'And what's
more, I won't pay any civility to a man who sets up for a model. He
had better be appointed governor here; he is full of new-fangled
notions.'

'He rides a good horse, at any rate,' remarked Willie, a boy of
fifteen.

'I don't see that it is so very good, for my part, considering he
keeps a man always rubbing him. Don't judge horses by a shining coat,
my boy!'

Mr. Lang went away, and his wife ran after him to ask a question.

'This wont do,' said Isabel to her sister; 'it will never do to leave
out the Herberts; I must go after papa.'

'O, why trouble yourself about it? That is the way with you, Issy,
and you never leave papa alone about Venn. Why not let people take
their own way? it is nothing to you.'

'Nothing to me! it is a great deal to me what my father does, and he
is only irritated just for the moment. He will, I know, see that it is
right to invite the Herberts, and as to Venn, don't talk of it! To
think of that man being our store-keeper, an upper servant, when we
know what he is!'

In the course of the day Isabel joined her father in a walk to one of
his fields, and contrived to introduce the subject of the pic-nic, and
urged the necessity of asking their old friends at Warratah Brush. She
found, however, that it was a task of more difficulty than she had
anticipated. The subject of the new bridge had been started during the
morning, and Mr. Herbert had entirely disagreed with Mr. Lang about
it. Mr. Lang was particularly sore at being opposed in anything he had
in view, and was very angry with both Mr. Herbert and Mr. Farrant.

But Isabel was a favourite, and as she leant on his arm and talked,
his angry mood passed away. He pointed to his crop of green barley
with pleasure, and showed her where he meant to clear away the bush
and make a vineyard. They mounted the hill, which commanded a view of
the greatest part of the cultivated land, and on all sides almost as
far as they could see it was Langville property. The new and pretty
house just showed its white chimney-tops, the blacksmith's hammer was
heard in the distance, and nearer at hand a sheep-bell told them that
one of the numerous flocks was not far off.

'Yes,' said Mr. Lang, ' 'tis a nice spot, and it is a little improved
since we came here. 'Twas thick forest then, and we lived in a slab
cottage. Ah! there goes a wanga wanga pigeon, your mother would like
some of those for dinner. I must send out the boys with the gun.'

The pleasant walk had its full effect on Mr. Lang, and his daughter
gained her point.

'Well, then, we may ask the Herberts, papa?' said she, as she
separated from him at the door.

'Aye, aye, Issy, you women are all alike,' and whistling a favourite
tune he climbed the fence and proceeded to his farmyard.

Isabel reported her success to her mother and sister.

The former said, 'Well, I think, my dears, it is best really to ask
them. You know Mr. Herbert is quite the gentleman and very clever, and
Mrs. Vesey thinks a great deal of this. I think the Herberts would be
hurt, and justly so, if we overlooked them. I am sure I have always
encouraged Mr. Herbert to come here; it is so good for young men to
see society.'

'Well, then, Kate,' said her sister, rather impatiently, 'we'll go
to-morrow and ask them.'

'We? I don't see why you say we, Issy, it is all your own doing.'

'O, you are Miss Lang, you know; it will come better from you.
However, if you don't like the ride, I'll go with Willie.'

'O, do go, my dear Kate,' said her mother.

And Kate, who liked being asked more than once, at last consented to
accompany her brother and sister.

Mr. Herbert and his sister were at breakfast the next morning when
they heard merry voices and horses' feet pass the window.

'It is the Langs, Kate and Issy and William; what can they be come
for, I wonder?' said Miss Herbert.

Mr. Herbert rose, and on seeing Isabel jump from her horse and knock
at the little verandah gate, he walked out. Willie rode round to the
stock-yard to see the foals branded, and Kate began with--'Mr.
Herbert, papa and mamma hope you will, you and your sister, I mean,
join us in a pic-nic to the Sugar Loaf next week, and...' here her
horse fidgeted at the flies, and Isabel took up the speech--'and come
the evening before, if you please; we can give you beds. The Veseys
will be there, and perhaps the Jollys; we want you particularly to
show us the way by the flats. And don't you think the gig can go? We
want Miss Terry to come so much, and she won't ride, you know.'

'Yes, a gig can go, or you can have our spring-cart; they must get
out at the bridge, it would not be safe to go over that, I think.'

'Well, then, you will come? Thursday week is the day. But you must
come on Wednesday.'

'I see my sister is settling it all with Kate,' said Mr. Herbert, 'so
come and let me show you my favourite little filly, she is worth
seeing!'

Isabel followed him to the stock-yard, where all the foals were
collected.

'I suppose that is Pearl,' said she, pointing to a milk-white
creature with slender legs.

'Yes, there is Pearl, she is quite tame and gentle, she will make a
beautiful lady's horse!'

'How I should like to ride her,' said Isabel.

'Will you try? she is broken in. Let me put the side-saddle on.'

'Yes do, Issy,' said Willie. 'I saw Jack riding her the other day,
and he said she was quite gentle.'

Willie ran off for the saddle, and in a few minutes Pearl was caught,
and Isabel seated on her back. She arched her neck and took a bound or
two, but Mr. Herbert had hold of her, and Isabel was too good a
horsewoman to feel the slightest fear.

'Try her paces, Issy, round the paddock,' said Willie.

He took down the slip-rail as he spoke, and Isabel put the beautiful
creature into a canter, and was half round the paddock before Mr.
Herbert and Willie had proceeded more than a few steps.

'Doesn't she ride well, that's all,' cried he, in boyish delight.
'And that's a beauty, Mr. Herbert; how much would you take for her?'

Mr. Herbert did not answer--his sister called him, and he had to go
back, and give a quick assent to the plan she was proposing for the
pic-nic. Before he returned to the rail Isabel had stopped and was
patting Pearl's neck and praising her.

'Now try her walk,' said Mr. Herbert, and he kept by her side. 'Just
come this way, and I will show you the site I have fixed on for a
house,' and he took down another slip-rail, and calling to Willie to
put it up again, he led the way through the bush at the back of the
house.

Willie did not care about the site, he went back to the stock-yard
and talked to the stockman.

Kate seeing that her sister had gone off, accepted Miss Herbert's
offer to look at her bees. The bee-house was at the bottom of a vine-
walk in the garden. A low fence divided it from a crop of green
barley, and this fence was one mass of passion-flower and the
multiflora rose intermixed. Miss Herbert was fond of her garden and
bees, and was proud to show them.

'Look at this native fig-tree,' said she, 'isn't it a magnificent
shrub? You don't know what pains and trouble I had to save it last
summer in the drought! But now it repays me. It is such a rich dark
green to rest one's eyes on after the blue gum-trees!'

'How nice it must be to have so tidy a garden!' said Kate. 'We never
can make anything grow, and papa will not have a proper garden made
because of the expense and trouble.'

Miss Herbert laughed, and said it was absurd for Mr. Lang to talk of
expense.

'Now he had built such a fine house he ought to have a good garden,
and also a good road up to his house.'

'Very true, Miss Herbert. But times are very bad, and I assure you,
papa is very uneasy. He almost thought we could not go to the
Government Ball on the Queen's birthday. But, however, mamma has
managed it, so it is settled, luckily for us, for it would be so odd
not to go, and Issy is to 'come out' regularly then. And we are to
have new dresses. Only think of the Whites! They are so curious to
know what we shall wear, and they have spread a report that papa has
sent to England for pink satins! They only did that out of spite, they
know it is not true. Mamma says simple dresses are the best, and Mrs.
Vesey, who is going, and knows all about such things, is only going to
wear white muslin.'

'Well, you are preparing in time, at any rate,' said Miss Herbert,
gathering flowers as she slowly walked on, and listened to Kate's
chatter. 'There are three months yet to the ball.'

'Why, we do think of it, of course, there has been so much talk as to
whether we go or not, and we lead such dull lives!'

'How very intimate you seem to be with Mrs. Vesey already,' remarked
Miss Herbert.

'Yes, haven't we got on? And what a charming person she is! So clever
and stylish and fashionable! By the way, I am so glad your brother is
gone. I never dare talk before him!'

'Indeed! you surprise me! Your sister does not appear to mind it.'

'No, not at all. But they have always been such allies, you see. Issy
rattles on a good deal with every one. Mamma says that it is a high
time for her to remember she is a young lady, and grown up, and so on.
Mr. Herbert is so accustomed to treat her as a child. That is the
worst of going on for ever with the same people. There is poor Tom
Jolly! I am sure I don't mean to be unkind; but really, if he expects
that I can go on, being such particular friends now, he is wrong. It
can't be! I tell Issy the same about your brother. You can't think,'
she went on, not waiting for any comment or answer, but changing the
affected tone to one of more open self-content, 'how much Issy was
admired at Sydney! She was well dressed, and really looked very well.
Here, you know, she has never been much thought of; but there she made
quite an impression, I can tell you.'

'In Sydney! I dare say. But if she doesn't learn a quieter manner she
will find it will end there, with an impression, as you call it.
Gentlemen may like to laugh and joke, but they would not like that
manner in a wife.'

'No; I often tell Issy so, and so does mamma. But papa never sees a
fault in her. And Miss Terry makes so much of her. Somehow people
don't seem to mind her way so much. Do you know--please don't tell any
one, though--that Mr. Farrant admires Issy very much indeed. He is so
very often at our house, and lends her books and all that. By the way,
what will Mr. Herbert say to it, I wonder? But where are they gone? We
ought to be on our way home.'

'What can it be to my brother whether or no Mr. Farrant admires your
sister?' exclaimed Miss Herbert, with some indignation. 'He has always
looked upon her as a little girl--nothing more. He has been very kind,
but I assure you, Kate, that--'

'No, I know! Of course! I didn't mean anything. Why, he is quite like
an uncle to Issy! But, dear Miss Herbert, let us go after them,
please.'

Meanwhile, Mr. Herbert had been leading Pearl up the ascent, clearing
a way through the scrub, or underwood, till he came to a small cleared
piece of ground overlooking the cottage and settlement of huts.

'This would be the place for a house,' he said.

'The Parsonage is the prettiest place here,' Isabel answered.

'Not prettier than this might be, I am sure. I hear you have made a
sketch of the Parsonage.' And Mr. Herbert patted Pearl's neck.

'Yes, for Mr. Farrant to send home. It is very nice having him--and
then the Veseys. Weren't you surprised at all these changes?'

'Yes. By the way, Isabel, I hope you are on our side about this
bridge?' Mr. Herbert presently said.

'Indeed, I am on papa's side.'

'What, if I prove to you that the other is the right line for the
public? Come, listen to reason.'

'I never could. My reasoning goes to make me follow papa.'

'Absurd! Where would that take you if carried out? Women are all
alike, I do believe!'

'Yes--always right,' she said, demurely.

'Are you and I to quarrel, then, over this vexed question?'

'You know best. I am full of peace, I assure you.'

'Own that you think our view the right one, and I will excuse your
perhaps natural wish to please your father.'

'I can't own what I don't know.'

'You ought to know--you ought to influence your father. What is your
sense given you for? Isabel, I hoped great things--'

'Hope told a flattering tale! But, come, I will use my influence and
use my sense. Mr. Herbert, do give up this once--just for the sake of
peace.'

She put on her most loving manner, and touched his arm lightly with
her whip.

'Foolish girl!' he laughed. 'Seriously, though, I dread all this
business. Why, no one with any reason can deny that Bengala Creek is
the place for the bridge. The other road makes the way at least four
miles longer.'

'O dear! how I do wish there were no such things as bridges and all
those dull things. I am so tired of the subject!'

'Then let us change it. But some day I must try to convert you yet. I
must not forget to show you a book of sketches I bought for you.'

'For me?'

'Yes--I filled it with studies of trees, and even huts. I thought you
might like it. And I have some queer tales to tell about some of the
scenes.'

'It was very civil of you,' she said, evidently pleased. 'But don't
expect a speech, for I am a bad hand at thanking.'

'Never mind! But I shall claim my guerdon some day, remember. Let us
take a turn this way. You are in no hurry, I hope, for I have a great
deal to say.'

'What is it?'

'Ah--well! I hardly remember at this moment. Do you like Mrs. Vesey?'

'Do I like her? Well--hem--can't say. She is immensely amusing and
sharp. You have no idea how she cuts us all up, one after another--
even you--your peculiarities don't escape her.'

'Pleasant, certainly! but what are my peculiarities, as you are
pleased to call them?'

'O! I suppose you don't think yourself the least peculiar! O, no! Mr.
Herbert is just like every one else. He never stands for ten minutes
together staring into the air over his chin, or never sits silent
during the whole of dinner, only vouchsafing a 'Pshaw' to express his
utter contempt for all the party--he never--'

'Come, come, Isabel--nonsense! besides, remember I have been many
years in the Bush.'

'Indeed! Are you so very sure you were better behaved before? Poor
Bush! you have to bear the faults of a great many. What a wreck is
here!--the once accomplished gentleman.....Oh dear me! who would come
to the Bush?'

'You are the most absurd girl I ever met with.'

'No wonder! I was born and reared in the Bush!'

Mr. Herbert made no answer to this. Isabel was accustomed to his
'silent fits,' as she called them, and she wished to see how long it
would last now. So she said nothing. When they reached the paddock,
they saw Kate and Willie evidently looking for them.

'Pleasant dreams to you, Mr. Herbert,' said Isabel, laughing, and at
the same time touching Pearl with her whip smartly, at which the
spirited animal bounded forward, and before Mr. Herbert recovered from
his surprise, Isabel had crossed the paddock, and was dismounted and
laughing at her own feat, while Willie led Pearl back and called for
his sister's pony. Before it was all settled, and while Kate was
reminding Miss Herbert of the hour and the day fixed upon for their
coming, Mr. Herbert came up, trying to look very grave and dignified,
though somewhat out of breath.

'Wait for the sketch-book. I will not be one moment.--I suppose
Willie is to be trusted to carry it?' said Mr. Herbert, producing a
neatly folded parcel.

'I will not trust him--give it to me, Mr. Herbert,' said Isabel.
'Thank you,' she added; 'you are an excellent man, notwithstanding all
I said just now, and, if you are inclined to be sociable, you may as
well ride to Langville this evening. You have not heard Miss Terry
sing; and--and--it is very likely--not impossible--that Mr. Farrant
will be there, and, if so, there will be duets. I think that even your
fastidious taste would be pleased--Good bye!' and she kissed her hand
and cantered after her sister.

'Issy, how could you ask him for this evening? I'm sure papa wont be
over pleased,' said Kate.

'Never mind, Kate; papa will say nothing if there is music. I don't
suppose he will really come, but I want to see him and Miss Terry
together; and he is in such a very good humour--you need not be at all
afraid of him to-day.'

There were visitors at Langville. Amelia Jolly and her brother were
standing in the verandah when the Langs rode up to the house.

Amelia was rather older than either Kate or Isabel, a thoroughly
good--humoured though plain girl, who thought Langville House and its
inhabitants quite perfection. Her brother, a fine, well-grown young
man, had been a devoted admirer of Kate's ever since he was a boy at
the King's School, Paramatta. It had been coquettishly encouraged by
Kate, even though her head was turned at a 'finishing' school in
Sydney, where she had been taught, among other accomplishments, to
look upon herself as a beauty and a fortune, and with far higher
pretensions than to be worshipped by Tom. Mrs. Lang had
condescendingly allowed the 'poor young man' to come whenever he liked
to Langville, because it was such an advantage to him to see a little
society, and the Jollys were very worthy, good kind of people, and
Amelia always properly sensible of Mrs. and the Miss Langs' kind
notice. Mr. Lang liked the young man, and thought it all right that
the young ones should enjoy themselves as they liked, though he said
he wondered at Tom's taste; 'Issy would make ten times as good a
wife!'

But Kate had lately received a great deal of attention from others,
and Tom's blunt, honest manners failed to please her this morning. She
gave him short answers, and retired to a sofa, where she whispered to
the admiring Amelia an account of her visit to Sydney, and all the
gaieties she had entered into. Isabel happened to be busy in the
store-room, and poor Tom was driven to look over some of Mr. Farrant's
books which lay on the table. At last, Willie came to his relief, and
proposed a visit to the stock--yard. The guests were invited to remain
the rest of the day, as a matter of course, and according to Isabel's
prediction, Mr. Farrant made his appearance about tea-time.

He was a very constant visitor, always having a book to show, or a
chant he wanted the young ladies to try, or some business on which to
consult Mr. Lang.

'Will you sing 'Lilla's a Lady,' Miss Lang?' asked Tom.

Isabel laughed.

'Miss Lang! do you hear, Kate? It isn't natural Tom, it wont do.'

Tom coloured up as he said something about 'old friends, and Sydney,
and taking a liberty,' which no one heard so as to understand.

'May I open the piano?' he asked.

'O yes, if you like, and Miss Terry will sing,' said Kate.

'Ah, but she is not ready--just that one song, Kate--I haven't heard
it so long,' he said, coming close to the back of her chair.

'O, don't tease, Tom! I'm not going to sing to-night; and as to that
song, I positively hate it. It is as old as the hills.'

Tom sighed but pressed no more.

'Girls!' said Mr. Lang, rousing up from a nap in his easy chair;
'girls! what are you doing? What's the good of my buying a grand
pianoforte, and paying such a long bill for teaching you to sing,
Kate, if I am never to hear it? Come, Kate, bestir yourself!'

'Papa!' exclaimed Kate, 'how you do talk! I am out of practice.'

'Miss Terry will sing, papa,' said Isabel, standing behind him and
stroking his hair in a coaxing way.

'Ah, she is very good-natured and never wants pressing, Issy. You may
both take a leaf out of her book--' but Isabel playfully put her hand
before his mouth and said hush as the first chords were struck.

Presently Mr. Farrant's voice was heard, full, deep, and mellow, in
'Comfort ye my people.'

The talking and whispering was hushed, the little girls standing
quite still, watching every turn in the singer's face with open-
mouthed attention and wonder. The boys looked as if they thought it a
bad substitute for their sisters' songs, but they sat very quiet for
some time and then crept out of the room unobserved, to amuse
themselves elsewhere. Song followed song. Miss Terry's voice was clear
and sweet. Daylight had faded, and Mrs. Lang, in the middle of her
assiduous beating time with her foot, had dropped into a sly nap, very
comfortable and unseen. Kate was lounging back on the sofa by her
friend Amelia, Tom taking quiet observations and looking a little
unhappy. Mr. Lang, who really loved music, was listening with all his
soul, while Isabel had ensconced herself behind his chair, and sitting
on a low stool, had buried her face in her hands.

'That is a great treat! Thank you, ma'am!' said Mr. Lang, drawing a
long breath, as candles were brought in. 'Eh, Kate? What mamma--
asleep? Aye, as sound as a top.--O no!--of course--I understand, only
shutting her eyes as usual! Mrs. Lang never is guilty of a nap, eh,
Issy? Issy!--where's the girl gone?'

'Here, papa,' she said, coming round.

'Go and play a tune. You must not leave all the work to Miss Terry.'

'O no, please! Nothing more after that. I can't, indeed, daddy!'

Mr. Lang left the room presently to give some forgotten orders, and
Mr. Farrant pressed Isabel to take some part in a trio, which she
declined. He spoke of his love for music, hoping he should not 'bore'
them, and she answered, but in so low a voice that Kate said--

'Why, I do believe you have been asleep, Issy! Have you?'

'No. Yet I believe I have been half dreaming too. It is very odd, but
that last song made me think of our walk on the north shore that
night, by moonlight. Do you remember, Kate? Well, and it also reminded
me of that priest--what was his name?'

'What, Father Mornay?' said Kate; 'what an idea! What connexion can
Miss Terry's song possibly have with a moonlight night and a Roman
Catholic priest?' And Kate laughed.

'My dear Isabel,' put in her mother, 'that is just one of your
fastidious notions' (Mrs. Lang always used the word fastidious for
anything she was not able to express clearly), 'which you and Mr.
Herbert encourage each other in. It is foolish, my love, very.
Besides, it is hardly right or safe to be in the habit of alluding to
a Catholic priest so lightly. The less you have to do with them the
better.'

'O, dear mamma, I have nothing to do with them!' cried Isabel,
amused. 'This Dr. Mornay we met one day at the Kearneys, at North
Shore; and certainly it is very odd, I don't know that I have thought
of him from that day to this, but Miss Terry's song brought him quite
before me, his voice and his look and all.'

'Is he handsome?' half whispered Amelia Jolly, who had risen, saying
she must prepare for her ride home. 'Eh, Issy, is he handsome? because
once I saw--'

What Miss Jolly saw did not transpire, for her brother interrupted
her by urging expedition, and Kate offered to help her to dress,
rather in a fit of perversity, and because poor Tom had come up in the
last vain hope of having a few words.

Soon the sound of the horses' feet were heard clattering down the
road. The rest of the party stood in the verandah looking at the
brilliant, unspeakably calm light from the stars. Bats were whirling
heavily in rapid flight around their heads. The clustering passion-
flower waved gently to and fro. Mr. Farrant, Miss Terry, and Kate,
went out to take a turn; Isabel remained where she was. It was very
quiet. But the song echoed still in her ear. It was the first really
good music she had ever heard. Something within was stirred--something
she could not express weighed upon her, partly pain, partly pleasure.
She strove to rally herself, feeling half ashamed at the new emotion;
and, when presently her father came into the room, and finding no one
there, stepped out to where she was, she put her arm into his, and
stooping, kissed his hand.

'What is it, child? What ails ye?' he asked, struck with something
unusual about his child.

'Nothing! nothing at all, daddy! I have been thinking; that's all.'

'Thinking, truly! Don't do it, Issy dear. Take my advice, and never
be what you call 'thinking.' Action is the thing. Thinking is the ruin
of half the men and three parts of the women.'

'Is it? Well, but how can one help it, after hearing music?'

'What has music to do with thinking, eh, girl? Bless you, music is
the best of all things to set one off, lead one to battle or
anything--just the contrary of 'thinking.' By the way--there has been
a terrible row again about that girl, Nelly. It seems Venn is sweet
upon her.'

'Venn! O papa, don't let him have her!'

'Why not? A capital good thing for her.'

'I can't bear him. Besides, she is promised already.'

'Gammon! Promised! She hasn't two ideas in her head, and yet for the
sake of a pair of innocent blue eyes and a sweet voice, all the men in
the place are making themselves fools about her! They say she ran away
from her step-mother, and was found in Lynch's hut. The Macleans are
furious.'

'That woman does treat her miserably. I wish you would let Lynch
marry her. He is very fond of her, papa.'

'I'll grant no such a favour to him. He deserves a flogging at this
moment, for an insolent, sulky brute as he is. Now, Issy, don't be
encouraging such a notion, for I am poz--send for the girl, and tell
her to be steady and marry Venn. It is the best thing she can do.'

So saying, they overtook the others, and Isabel was startled by one
of her brothers jumping out upon her from a bush. Passing an arm round
her waist, he, considering that he had been silent enough, began a
whole string of stories of alarms about bushrangers and ghosts. Mr.
Farrant entered pleasantly into the strain, and told his wonders too;
till he laughingly declared, he must go at once, or he should be
afraid to face his ride home. Offers to remain the night were pressed
upon him, but he persisted in being obliged to go. Willie, charmed by
his stories, was so polite as to fetch his horse, and then go a little
way to open the gate for him. He returned rubbing his hands in glee.

'A jolly fellow, isn't he?'

'O Willie!' exclaimed his sisters, in horror at the epithet.

'I wonder, does he come here courting?' the boy said, which set Kate
off; and brought upon himself a scolding from Isabel, and a gentle
reprimand from Miss Terry. The prayer-bell ringing, they all went in
by the window.



CHAPTER IV. VINE LODGE.



'Really, my dear John,' said Miss Herbert, a morning or two after
the visit from the Langville party, 'I think you ought to call on Mr.
Vesey, eh?'

'Hem,' said Mr. Herbert, twisting his moustaches, and then
stretching himself after a diligent perusal of the Sydney Herald.

'I never pay morning visits,' he added, presently.

'Ah, but you should. You ought to come forward here and take your
proper place; besides, these are strangers and gentlefolks, and as we
are, it seems, to meet them at the Langs, it would be but civil, I do
think, eh?'

'They are not much in our style, I fancy; but, however, I have
nothing very particular to do to-day, so shall we both ride there?'

Miss Herbert readily consented to accompany him, and they were soon
on their way to Vine Lodge.

'Mrs. Vesey was staying at Langville, was she?' asked Mr. Herbert,
as he rode lazily along, just in front of his sister, for the path was
narrow; they having preferred a short bush cut to the usual road.

'Yes, Mrs. Vesey came with them when they returned from Sydney. She
and Mr. Fitz were guests at Langville, while Mr. Vesey prepared his
new house for them.'

'It was in a wretched state of ruin, as I recollect,' said Mr.
Herbert. 'I heard of Vesey up the country--he has money, it is said.'

'Very likely; so Mr. Budd says--and he is sure to know. I understand
from our friend, Miss Warner, in Sydney, that Kate was very much
talked of for that Mr. Fitz.'

'You have told me that so often!' said Mr. Herbert, impatiently.
'Hallo,' added he, as they came to a fence which commanded a view of
the house, 'grand alterations, I declare; ha! that's an improvement.'

A few minutes' riding brought them to the door, at which Mr. Herbert
rapped with his whip handle; knockers and bells being very rare, or
quite unknown in the district.

Mrs. Vesey's slight, well-dressed figure appeared at the open
window, and with her glass at her eye, she reconnoitred her visitors.
On seeing who it was, she stepped quickly into the verandah, holding
out both hands, and expressing the greatest possible delight at seeing
both the lady and gentleman; 'it was so kind, so very neighbourly--
gentlemen generally were such wretched hands at visiting.' Miss
Herbert was carefully dismounting during this warm welcome, and her
brother only frowned, while he led off the horses to the stable,
answering to Mrs. Vesey's apologies at there being no man--'that he
was quite accustomed to the work, and never trusted his horses to any
colonial servant.'

The parlour was scantily furnished, the floor bare, and the walls
only whitewashed; but the lady had contrived to make it look very
habitable. A few flowers tastily arranged in tumblers stood on the
table--a handsome work-box lay open; spirited sketches and a few
finished drawings were 'littered' about with studied negligence; and
last, but not least, a harp and music-stand gave a certain air to the
room, which at once struck Miss Herbert.

Mr. Herbert soon came back accompanied by Mr. Vesey, who was good
looking, with a very fresh, clear complexion. He had not much manner,
and he made a great deal of sound when he talked, filling up gaps with
pompous hems and haws, and he also had rather a trick of leaving his
sentences unfinished for his wife to conclude for him, or if she were
otherwise engaged, Mr. Vesey drew in his breath with his teeth shut,
which had a very significant effect. He had a very high opinion of his
wife, though to hear him sometimes, people might run away with an idea
that he was a perfectly tyrannical husband, and 'Laura' a mere cipher.
'Certainly,' as Mrs. Lang remarked to her husband,' Mr. Fitz had much
more to say, and ten times more manners, but then Mr. Vesey was very
good-natured, and had a very handsome fortune.'

'Do you begin to feel settled?' asked Miss Herbert, by way of saying
something.

'Why--hem--aw--settled? why, hardly...' 'O, we're in a horrid
rummage!' said Mrs. Vesey, interrupting her husband. 'It is indeed
nothing short of one of Hercules' labours to make this place
habitable.'

'It is thought a good farm,' remarked Mr. Herbert.

'Ah! well, of course, that is the point--aw--hem; ladies...'

'Make great sacrifices when in an unlucky moment they consent to
emigrate, don't you think so, Miss Herbert. It is very much like being
buried alive! Just imagine, with so many families in the district--
that's the term, I believe?--and not even a book-club! How can one
exist? How do you manage, Miss Herbert?'

Miss Herbert thus appealed to, in a grave manner, began to explain
how she occupied herself, how very different her life now was to that
she had been accustomed to. And Mrs. Vesey nodded and shook her head,
and seemed to listen with the greatest sympathy and attention, drawing
out the old and well-loved history of Bath, and Bath friends.

'Laura!' said Mr. Vesey; 'what was the name of hem--that--that
fellow, you know; a neighbour, you know--aw--of your father's; kept
hounds, you know...'

'Sir Charles Herbert, do you mean?'

'Yes, exactly... gentlemanly man--hem--any relation of yours, hey?'

'My uncle,' Mr. Herbert answered, drily; and then rising and going to
the window he reminded his sister that he had a long round to take
before they went home.

'O, positively!' exclaimed Mrs. Vesey, jumping up; 'you shan't go in
such a hurry. Have pity on me, Mr. Herbert, I pray, and remember how
long it is since I have met a rational creature. I can't--Mr. Vesey
wont allow you to cut your visit short in this way. My harp is strung
and tuned, and I want you to hear a new waltz.'

'By Jove!' exclaimed Mr. Vesey, striding to the window, and peeping
under Mr. Herbert's arm, 'who on earth--hem!--who are these? why, it
is what's-her-name, I declare!'

'Miss Lang!' said his wife, running to the other window; while Miss
Herbert, not having heard what was said, followed as soon as she could
gather up her habit.

'Kate and Jem Lang,' she said; 'and who are they in the gig?'

'That's little Miss what's-her-name, and--hem--Laura--they will stay,
you know, aw--for...'

'Lunch, certainly. Call Arthur, Mr. Vesey, will you; it is utterly
out of the question that I can entertain all single handed--pray, I
beseech you, not to go...' she turned as she spoke to where Mr.
Herbert had stood, but he was gone; he and Mr. Vesey had stepped out
of the window, and were assisting the ladies to dismount. Mrs. Vesey
repeated her request to Miss Herbert, who answered, it must rest with
her brother, she had no objection to remain.

The dining-room was small; a narrow, ill-shaped room, but, with a
little clever contrivance, it held all the party.

'Well--hem'--said Mr. Vesey, as he handed Miss Herbert to a chair.
'This is what I call, a what's-is-name, pleasant kind of thing. I
hate, you know, ceremony, and--aw--what shall I help you to? Laura,
what's that?' and as he surveyed the prettily laid out dishes, he
devoutly hoped none of the guests were very hungry, and heartily
wished 'Laura' would undertake to carve for the party she had pressed
into her service.

Mr. Herbert expressed his dislike to anything in the shape of lunch,
and as there was but little room, he stood by the window, behind Mrs.
Vesey's chair.

'Well, we shall muster all the district soon!' exclaimed Mr. Herbert;
'here is Tom Jolly!'

'Ho, Jolly Tom, bid him come in; he is my especial delight,' said
Mr. Fitz, with much gravity, and he contrived to put Jolly Tom a
little out of countenance as he rose and bowed very low, and said he
supposed he was hungry, and smelt the cold beef; but the more the
merrier, and so on, looking hard at the somewhat shy young man all the
time; while Mr. Vesey muttered to himself about a 'confounded shabby
affair for so many mouths,' and Mrs. Vesey's terrible eye-glass was
up, while she thanked Mr. T. Jolly over and over again for being so
very kind as to take the trouble of paying them a visit.

'Well, ma'am, to say the truth, I met Willie Lang, and he told me I
should find the Miss Langs here, and as I had a message for them, you
see, I thought I couldn't do better than follow. How do, Kate,' he
said, stretching out his arm behind Mr. Fitz to reach her, and then
colouring all over at the polite bow he received, instead of the
hearty shake he intended to give.

Isabel came to his relief. 'I am so glad you came Tom! will you come
here? There is plenty of room.'

But Tom was no lunch eater either, and rather awkwardly, though with
the most good-humoured face possible, he retreated to where Mr.
Herbert had taken his station, and they were soon in full talk. When
lunch was over, Mrs. Vesey proposed going to look at the garden; Mr.
Fitz led the way with Kate; Tom watched them, but did not appear
disposed to follow, till Isabel laughed, and blushing as she spoke,
beckoned him to her side, and then taking his arm, she led him away.

'Did you see that?' exclaimed Miss Herbert, looking at Miss Terry,
at the same time making a movement with her hands to express
astonishment and pity.

'I assure you it is all from high spirits,' said Miss Terry,
smiling. 'I assure you, Miss Herbert, she is a very simple-minded,
true-hearted girl.'

'Ah, you are so kind in judging others,' answered Miss Herbert,
laying her hand on Miss Terry's arm; 'and now will you allow me to
introduce my brother to you? John!' and she turned back to him,
refusing to listen to Miss Terry's assurance that she had been already
introduced, and as she formally led him up to Miss Terry with an air
of pride, as much as to say, 'Look at him, how different from every
one else!' there was the peculiar inquiring expression of eye, so
often seen in deaf people, as she watched the movement of his lips.
After this, Miss Herbert stepped back to join Mrs. Vesey, who had gone
to fetch her parasol.

In the midst of Mrs. Vesey's explanations of plans for improving the
garden, Miss Herbert found time and opportunity to observe that her
brother was making himself agreeable to the very pretty little
governess whom she patronised. He was evidently pleased and pleasing,
and this put his sister into very good humour. Soon, however, a sound
of merry ringing laughter made them all look up. It was Isabel: she
had made a bet with Mr. Vesey that she would mount a ladder which
stood against part of the house where they were repairing the roof.
Mr. Vesey was sure no lady had nerve for it, and Isabel, thus dared,
mounted it and sat herself on the roof, holding by a chimney. Mr.
Vesey clapped his hands, and declared she was a spirited girl, and
then in his excitement he proceeded to take away the ladder, leaving
her in a somewhat giddy position. Isabel, however, would own no fear.
She sat still, and only laughed, while Tom stood by looking as if he
thought Mr. Vesey was going rather too far. When Miss Herbert saw it,
she turned sharp round and said it gave her vertigo even to look at
her. Mrs. Vesey spied at her and laughed. Miss Terry looked alarmed,
and earnestly begged Mr. Vesey to put back the ladder.

'No, that I wont; ha! why, she isn't giddy, you know, at all! She
has been badgering me, hem! and faith, you know it's all fair play. If
she'll own she's giddy... .'

But Isabel shook her head.

'Give me this, if you please,' said Mr. Herbert, in an authoritative
manner, at the same time taking the ladder from Mr. Vesey, and placing
it against the house. He planted it firm, and then said--'Come down,
Isabel, and come backwards.'

She coloured up, but obeyed in silence. When she reached the ground
she laughed again, and threatened revenge on Mr. Vesey.

'How could you be so silly?' said Mr. Herbert.

'Silly! I think I was very brave.'

'You might have broken a limb--your spirits run away with you;' and
Mr. Herbert looked grave.

'I know what runs away with some one else,' she answered, still
laughing; 'but however, as I don't mean to acknowledge myself silly,
or to say I am sorry, and am not in a humour for lecturing, I wish you
good-bye! Come, Tom, let us go into the garden.'

She ran on, followed by Tom and Mr. Herbert. Presently she stopped,
and leaning against the fence, said--

'Why don't you go to Miss Terry, Mr. Herbert?'

'Because I had rather stay here--I mean to see that you play no more
pranks.'

'But we don't want you, do we, Tom? Come, now, I am sure you like
Miss Terry--don't you?'

'I don't know her much as yet,' said he, looking half-amused.

'I want you to cultivate her acquaintance, and I know so well what
you will say to her--'Such a dreadful girl is that Isabel! so vulgar!
so boisterous! Do teach her a little of your own gentleness'.'

Mr. Herbert and Tom both laughed as she imitated the former.

'You flatter yourself too much, Isabel. How do you know we have not
better subjects to talk of than yourself?'

'Why, I saw such grim displeasure on your brow just now, it is so
natural you should give vent to it, since you know you dare not now
take me to task.'

'I have something else to say to you,' said Mr. Herbert, 'but I see
you are in no mood to hear me.'

'What is it about?'

'I'll tell you if you will leave off joking and listen. Ah,' seeing
Tom walk away, 'I am glad he is gone. Now listen. I want to have some
serious conversation with you. I must ask you something.'

'How solemn! Are you sure that I shall answer, Mr. Herbert?'

'Pshaw, Isabel,' he said, somewhat impatiently, 'I am tired of
joking.'

'Thank you, sir, you are very complimentary!' said she, curtseying
low. 'Good morning;' and she climbed the fence before he knew what she
was about, and in another minute was begging Kate to ask for their gig
and horses. Mr. Fitz protested against this, but Isabel was firm; Jem
was despatched to the stable, and the ladies were soon putting on
bonnets and riding skirts. Mr. Fitz politely walked by Kate and her
brother to the slip rails, and Miss Terry was begging Isabel not to
flourish about her whip, and 'to please to look at the horse, and not
at Tom Jolly!' but Isabel had many last words for him and messages to
his mother, and as she gave him a hearty shake by the hand, tears
stood in his eyes. Isabel talked to the horse, who was eager to get
on, but once more, to Miss Terry's alarm, she pulled up the reins, and
turning round, nodded to Mr. Herbert.

'Good-bye!' she said. He took off his hat and bowed.

'Just as you please,' she said to herself, though loud enough for
Miss Terry to hear. Then touching the horse with her whip, they dashed
over the rough new-made road in a way which made Mr. Vesey stare and
shrug his shoulders.



CHAPTER V. THE PETITION.



It was some little time before either of the ladies spoke; but when
the horse pulled up at a hill, Miss Terry, with a sigh of relief,
said--'Well, my dear Isabel, I was wondering if the horse was running
away!'

Isabel laughed. 'Were you really afraid! I beg your pardon; but do
you know what a relief it is sometimes to drive or ride or run fast,
as it happens? It is such a cure for vexations! There! I am all right
again now, as cool as possible!'

'What had happened to put you out, may I ask?' said Miss Terry,
smiling.

'Ah! thereby hangs a tale! I'll tell you all about it one day. Miss
Terry, what do you think of our society? you have seen all now. Mr.
Herbert is our last lion.'

'I shall answer by asking your opinion. I know but little of any of
them, and am not quick at becoming acquainted.'

'How cautious you are! Well, no wonder, poor little timid soul as
you are, suddenly brought into these wild parts, among such a rough
set! What do I think of them? Well, let me see, first our friends the
Herberts; the lady is a mixture, she holds us very cheap, and yet
can't do without us, she is an affectionate sister, though rather
exigeante, as we were taught in our vocabularies. She is not bad-
hearted, and not good-tempered. She does not like being Miss to the
end of her days, and yet finds no one worthy of alliance with the
Herberts--The Herberts! I will own to you in confidence, it sounds
better than the Langs, but names are fiddlesticks...'

'My dear Isabel again! Now that is one of the expressions I protest
against. What can you mean by it?'

'Oh, it stands for nonsense, humbug, and all sorts of things; I
think it is an innocent kind of word after all, it comes out so plump
too, 'fiddlesticks.' But to please you, I'll eschew it, indeed I will.
You don't say, 'how vulgar; Issy!' like Kate, or order me to be more
careful, like Mr. Herbert. By the bye, I always enjoy horrifying him
of all things in the world.'

'Well, so I guessed from what I saw to-day; but I suppose he takes
it as you mean it?'

'Oh, not always; besides, there is such a thing as being in earnest
in joke. Do you understand? I don't see any use in being afraid of
flesh and blood, even when ornamented with moustachios. I always defy
Mr. Herbert, and we give each other rap for rap, I always coming round
to sweet temper the soonest. But how do you like him?'

'He is very much what you led me to expect, only perhaps more
agreeable.'

'I saw he was on his good behaviour to you. Well! I am glad you like
him, and I am sure he will like you. But did you remark his way of
helping his sister to wine?'

'Yes, I did certainly, and I thought of what you said the other day.'

'Yes, that's it. It isn't that one objects to his being attentive to
her, it is all very right, but it is done in such a way. My sister,
Miss Herbert! as if she was the only person worth thinking of. It
offends my good father and mother.'

'It is a pity that he has that brusque way, but nevertheless, Isabel,
I like his face. It is an expressive countenance, and his whole
bearing is quite that of a gentleman; nay more, almost aristocratic.
But go on with your idea of the people.'

'Well, then, next to the Herberts comes Dr. Marsh, as a matter of
course; a kind of note of admiration to be affixed to their names, for
the little Doctor grows eloquent in praise of that 'superior fellow
Herbert, and that extremely agreeable woman, his sister.' But I will
pass him over and Captain Smith, who, in his regimentals, serves to
dress up a room, booby as he is.'

'Pray do not use such a term, Isabel.'

'Well, you must confess him very silly, and that is tantamount to
being a--; but I'll be a good girl, and spare you.'

'Mr. Tom Jolly, Isabel, what is he?'

'What! why an honest man, every inch of him! worth a dozen Fitzs,
with studs and chains and rings to boot; worth, Miss Terry--more worth
loving a vast deal than all the fine gentlemen in the world, and his
father and his mother too, I love them all.'--Isabel's eyes glistened
as she spoke, then smiling, and returning to her former tone, she
added, 'It was a mistake; depend on it, Tom should have fancied me,
and not Kate.'

'You had better tell him so, then.'

'To be sure! so I have a dozen times over. And now we will trot on,
if you please; I have fulfilled your wishes to perfection, I am sure.'

'Not quite; there is one missed out--Mr. Farrant.'

'O no, no! I am not going to meddle with him--he is one of your
perfect characters--no, thank you.'

'But I particularly wish to know your opinion of him--I have a
particular reason,' said Miss Terry, looking out for the stumps as she
spoke.

Isabel too seemed to look attentively at the road, as she answered.

'Have you, though? What reason can you have?'

'O pray mind the stumps, Isabel, and don't upset us in this awful-
looking place!' exclaimed Miss Terry.

By the time they had surmounted the difficulty they were overtaken by
Kate and Jem, who had dawdled behind them, and then all Isabel's
attention was devoted to picking out the best track. At last, when
they got into the high road, she said, speaking quickly, and as if
with restrained emotion, 'Are you very unhappy up here, Miss Terry?'

'Unhappy! what can you mean, Isabel?'

'I mean that you must, in your heart, think us strange folks, and I
often fancy you look astonished and disgusted.'. . She sighed, and
then went on. 'You and Mr. Farrant--of course I see and feel all the
difference--you think me a great Tomboy--with something good at
bottom, perhaps--but sadly wrongheaded. Just, in fact, what I think
myself, and yet not like, for,--would you believe it, I could find it
in my heart to cry when I think of you and then of myself. O! don't be
afraid!--I am not really going to shed a tear,' said she, laughing, as
Miss Terry laid her hand on hers. 'The downright truth is, I think you
the best little thing I ever saw, and the prettiest and the dearest;
but I am not going to be swearing eternal friendship and all that
stuff, only I wish I was a child again, and under you... You see I did
not go to school with Kate, so I never learned to be prettily behaved
and so forth, for the truth is, I would not go to school--and I was
always my dear daddy's darling, you know--and go I didn't. I ran wild
in sun-bonnet and holland pinafore, except when Mr. Herbert tried to
teach me drawing, and he tried to get me to read too. He meant to be
very kind, and I liked laughing and quarrelling with him, and thought
him vastly superior; but oh dear! I am very silly. Do you think me
very dreadful, Miss Terry?'

'If I told you all I think, you would consider me a flatterer and
insincere, Isabel. I will not say that I don't see your faults, but I
am very sure that you will conquer them, and they are very much on the
surface.'

'Well! no one knows what I may become with you. Your eyes tell me how
I shock you; but, now, don't you think, Miss Terry, people do make too
much of little things, and that there is a little insincerity, after
all, veiled under a polite, or as Mr. Herbert says, 'refined'--that's
his favourite word, by the bye--a 'refined' manner?'

'Are you very sure that your own manner is always a true index to
your mind, Isabel?'

'I laugh when I could cry often enough, and I will confess--but no, I
wont confess anything now--for here we are at home, and that lazy boy,
Jem, has left down the rails--I think he might have stayed to let us
through. Now, you must hold the reins while I get out. If Mr. Herbert
were here, his chin would nearly reach the sky in his indignant
censures on the utter want of manner in the colonial youth, 'to leave
a lady to put up a slip rail.' Now guide him through steadily. Famous!
why, you'll be a whip in time. By the bye, Mr. Farrant, I suspect, is
astonished at Kate and me for driving; but you see I have brought you
back safe and sound.'

Isabel was proceeding to put up the rails again herself, when a man
drew near. He shifted his hat slightly, as if he intended to be
respectful, but didn't know how exactly.

'I'll put it to rights, miss.'

'Good evening, Lynch,' said Isabel, as soon as she recognised one of
her father's men. At this the hat was taken fairly off; and, looking
at her in a peculiar way, he said--

'I made so bold as to try to see you this evening, Miss Isabel.'

'Why, have you anything to say?' and Isabel drew back her foot from
the gig step as she spoke.

'I've a strange request to make,' said the man, holding the horse,
who seemed inclined to fidget at the delay. 'I have no right, as you
may think, to say it, but they say as how you are a kindly-natured
young lady, and there's one you were good to long ago, who is ashamed
to cross your path now. Maybe you've heard'--here he hesitated and
patted the horse absently--'you've heard, no doubt, of the girl Ellen
Maclean, and how she ran away from her hard stepmother?'

Isabel nodded assent.

'Well, then, she is as innocent as yourself in respect to that
affair, but never an hour's peace has the poor girl got since. That
vixen, Mrs. Maclean, uses her shocking bad; and the girl's fairly
pining. She would go down on her knees to you if you and the Missus
would give her some work in the house. 'Tis her heart's desire to
serve you, miss, but she dare not ask the favour herself. Maybe you
could shelter her, miss? 'Twill be doing her a great kindness.'

'I don't see how I am to do it,' said Isabel. 'There are servants
enough already, and my mother, I fear, doesn't think too well of
Ellen, and there are strange reports--'

'For the love of Heaven, miss, don't blast the character of the most
ill--used girl that ever trod this earth!' exclaimed he, with great
agitation. 'She has had a kind word for Jack Lynch, and he has
promised to marry her. What crime in that? She is as innocent as an
angel, and has not the wit that some have to stand scorn and cruelty.
Miss Isabel, I give you my word and honour, she'll die or go crazed if
she isn't taken out of all this. If she got into service it would save
her, but she breaks her heart to leave this place.'

'I will speak to my mother, Lynch, and see what can be done, but
don't expect too much.'

'Expect! I expect nothing! I beg your pardon, miss,' added he, in
softened tones. 'You'll never repent doing a kind action for her, I'll
warrant, and if she's happy I don't care what happens.'

Lynch again took off his hat as Isabel wished him good evening.

'Is that the man who wants to be married that I heard Mr. Lang speak
of?' asked Miss Terry as they drove on.

'Yes. He doesn't seem much like a man to break one's heart for, does
he? What the girl can see in his grim, convict-like appearance I can't
think; but she is in love with him. She is a strange being; there is
something wildish about her altogether. I used to be very fond of her,
and she of me, till she took up this Lynch. I wish they could marry;
but papa wont hear of it.'

Lynch remained standing by the slip rails, and as soon as the gig was
out of sight, a slight figure timidly and cautiously crept out of the
bushes near, and came up to him.

'You saw her then?'

'I did, Nell;' and his whole manner and expression changed into
softness as he looked on her.

'I have watched her often and often as she passes out on foot or on
horseback, but it is long since I spoke to her. Is there any hope?'
she added after a pause.

'She will see what she can do.' Lynch turned and leant on the fence
as he spoke. 'And now, Ellen,' he continued, 'if you do get into the
house, or if they get you another place--take my advice and think no
more of me. You'll see what I say is true. I can't marry--I can't get
my ticket--no! I am sure, do all I can, something will happen. I try
to keep out of his way, for his very voice stirs up my blood... You
know 'tis reckoned a disgrace to you to have anything to say to me.'

'I don't care,' sobbed the girl; 'ever since my mother died you were
my best friend; you, and then Miss Isabel. Folks call you a bad man,
and dangerous; but don't I know better? you bear a heavy, lone heart.
Wasp and I know it,--the creature! poor dog!' she added, turning to
pat a little rough terrier which had kept close to the man all the
time.

'And don't, Jack,--don't just say a word in answer to the master--but
bite your lips and think of the ticket, and keep down your anger. And
as to me,' she added, raising her head and looking up at him
affectionately, 'as to me--I don't care--I'll bear everything. I've
been used to hardship since that woman crossed our doorstone; and if
you could only set yourself to take sharp words or blows--as I do.
Why, this is what I do! I think,--never mind, they can't touch your
heart within you; and that's where happiness lies. I thought it was
gone when my mother died. Ah! that was the sorrowful day, and my
father was so stern! I feared him always; and do you mind you came
Lynch, and made me the beautiful nosegay, and sang the pleasant songs,
and called me Golden Nelly, because of my yellow hair?--and I cried so
bitterly that time when you got punished.'

'Ay, ay, Nell, I remember; but you are running on, and you forget you
shouldn't be here. 'Tisn't much I can do, but by heaven they'll drive
me to mischief if they harm you! Now go home, my dear,' he added,
soothingly; 'go home by the Bush. I must go to my hut this way.'

She put her hand on his arm and said, 'And you saw Miss Isabel, and
she said yes?'

'Miss Isabel said she would try,' said Lynch. She waved her hand, and
was soon out of sight among the bushes. He whistled to his dog and
walked towards the farm in another direction.



CHAPTER VI. EXCITEMENT AMONG THE CONVICTS.



'A penny for your thoughts, Isabel,' said Miss Terry, looking up from
her book.

'They are not worth it, and yet I believe they are to myself. I have
done a foolish thing, Miss Terry. Did you observe how cool Mr. Herbert
was to--day? I assure you I thought of it in church!'

'His manner is generally rather distant at first greeting, but I did
not notice anything particular to-day.'

'It was so, though, and papa was worse. Stupid girl! it was all my
own fault. That day at Vine Lodge I was in a wilful mood altogether. I
can't resist it sometimes, I feel so contradictory; particularly if
people look grave, like Mr. Herbert. He said he wanted to talk to me,
and I began joking and left him. Now I find he wanted to talk about
Lynch. O, you can't understand how vexed I am! I could have told him
so much about it, and of all things I would have entreated him not to
interfere with papa. Now, he has talked to papa about it, urged the
marriage, and, just like him, entirely defeated his own purpose. Papa
is very angry and annoyed at Mr. Herbert's interference, as usual, and
ten times more determined than ever to oppose Lynch. Isn't it
provoking?'

'You think you could have prevented it?'

'To be sure! Mr. Herbert is just the last person in the world to whom
papa would listen about his men, and Mr. Herbert's is the very worst
manner for advocating their cause; I don't know how it is. However, I
will leave no stone unturned to get Ellen into the house. She shall
come, and I hope she will give up Lynch in time. She shall do so!'

Miss Terry smiled.

'Ah, you smile. Well, I have had my tell, and I am in better humour
now. But why did you smile; because I said shall? Do you know when I
do really set my mind on a thing I generally have it. I believe every
one may, only half the world are too indolent to try, and then they
call that being amiable; I call it inanity, folly, indolence,
anything--I despise it! There is a pleasure in having a good fight for
one's own way, even if one is conquered! Nothing irritates me so much
as Do as you like, my dear--it is all the same to me--I don't care how
it is!'

Miss Terry laughed at Isabel's comic manner and affected tone of
voice.

'Well, Isabel, I know now then that to please you I must always
strive for my own way; so, here I am going out this bright lovely
evening in spite of your having begged me to stay at home.'

Miss Terry went into the verandah, and presently Isabel followed.

'Which way did they go, I wonder?'

'To the Diamond Creek, I believe; the boys promised me some fringed
violets, and Kate said they were sure to be found thereabouts.'

'This way; come and see the sun set, Miss Terry,' said Isabel,
turning to some rising ground at the side of the house.

'How plainly we hear the boys' voices.'

'Yes, and the hum from the farm--hark! what a noise--what can it be?'

They both turned to listen and to look, while peals of laughter were
succeeded by loud hissing, and a sharp clapping of hands which echoed
again and again, and caused two or three dogs to run from their mats
in the verandah, and listen with ears and tails erect.

'A curious noise for Sunday evening,' said Isabel; 'and look--look at
the men, running and throwing, yes, throwing stones at some one! I
hope it is no riot, but I live in dread of those men, and I know that
Venn sets them up! Hark again!' She ran down the ascent, while the
noise increased, and there was mingled with the clapping and hissing,
a low angry sound like groans.

The man servant stood in the verandah, grinning wide.

'What is it, Patrick?' inquired Isabel.

'Only the men hissing Dan, miss;' and he grinned again as he pointed.
'Look, he is skulking off like a fox. Ha! that was a hit, however.
Now, miss, he's jumped the rails, the villain! And for what does he
dare to show his brutal face here among the lads?'

'Who is he?' said Isabel, at the same time watching the tall man
running as fast as his legs could carry him, while occasional stones
or sticks hit him or just missed doing so, and the men continued
clapping and setting on the dogs.

'Who is he, miss? why Dan, just. But look--see, he'll have a throw
yet--see the crater!'

Isabel and Miss Terry looked as Patrick pointed. The man had reached
a tree; he turned and faced his enemies, and from his gestures seemed
to be threatening vengeance; then, as one of the dogs came up to him,
he seized a large stone, and hurled it at the animal, who set up a
loud and piercing howl. The furious clapping and hissing was renewed,
but Dan was now among trees, and making the best of his way out of the
farm.

'You see that's the flogger, miss. He is under a mistake to come here
entirely. There's many would kill him dead just could they get their
fingers on him. They'd settle him--that's Dan Cats Tail, as they call
him, and sure he's an ugly cratur, enough to frighten the very birds
of the air. How did he come here, miss? Why sent on a message, I'm
thinking, by the Captain Smith. But here's the master.'

Patrick hurried away, and Miss Terry and Isabel went to meet the
party, who were returning from their usual Sunday's walk. Kate was
leaning on her father's arm; Mrs. Lang was a little behind with the
children. As Isabel came up, he pushed Kate away; 'There, Katie, you
lean as heavy as your mother; you haven't a light tread. Ha! Issy, my
darling, where hast been--a deserter, a deserter--and the little woman
there; moping, I see. Burn the books, say I, and come out for air and
exercise.' He put his arm on Isabel's shoulder as he spoke, and so,
talking and laughing, they all turned into the garden, where they
strolled about it in a leisurely way; now plucking a grape or a bud--
now stopping to watch the regiment of ants, which in spite of
gunpowder and tobacco and all the various war waged against them,
persisted in destroying the gravel paths. Bees clustered round the
oleanders--rose-breasted sparrows twittered like their browner sisters
of the antipodes, while a few stray mosquitos, roused by the fresh
evening breeze, made it very desirable to have a head-covering. Groups
of young bush trees which, defying the woodman's tomahawk had again
sprung into life, encroached on the palisade fence which bounded the
garden, while a hedge of quince and lemon inside the fence, gave the
whole place a green and unformal appearance. The ground sloped from
the house towards the bed of a creek which once or twice a year had
water in it, and at the lowest part grew a magnificent willow, its
pensile branches bowing in the slight rising breeze which had not
power to stir its neighbour, a massy dark Norfolk Island pine. Above,
that deep sky, awful in its grand, unclouded space,--below, all
beautiful things, from the stately tree to the graceful vine wreath,
casting a lengthened shadow.--The hum and murmur of life mingling with
the low sighing in the leaves. The father leaning on his favourite
daughter while half turning round to have a quiet joke with his wife,
or playfully holding up Kate's rich dress with his walking-stick as
she let it trail on the path,--the boys' chatter, the children's clear
laugh,--for a time, all care and trouble seemed lost under the
influences of that lovely sabbath evening.

Separated from this family group by one or two paddocks, stood the
farm buildings, the mill, the forge, and a number of slab huts, and
the overseer's cottage, with its glazed windows now flashing in the
golden light. The uproar among the men which had startled Isabel had
ceased, though a few voices sounded husky, and some faces were still
flushed with excitement or anger, as they laughed and joked about it.

'That was well hit, Barney,' said one; 'your blood was up, my boy!'

'Aye, Barney's blood is hot,' said another, as he seated himself by
his dog on a bank. 'One would think 'twas for O'Connell he was
hallooing.'

Barney, a tall, overgrown Irishman with a slit and disfigured nose,
answered by shaking his fists in the air. 'That's where ye are again,
is it? By all the saints he's the true friend of the poor, and I shall
always maintain that same, though it was for the love of himself I got
sent to this same country at all, ill luck to ye!' and panting and hot
from his chase after the hated flogger, Barney threw himself at full
length on the ground.

'Dan had a warmish reception,' said one of the men, grinning and
crossing his arms, while he looked round at the others. 'Wouldn't I
have liked to tie him up to that tree!' muttered another, with
clenched teeth.

This was hailed by a loud burst of laughter.

'What are ye sore yet, Philip? And, I say, look yonder at Lynch,
hey?' said a slight man, who now advanced from behind. He was dressed
carefully, a sprig of geranium stuck in his small flat hat, and he had
silver rings in his ears and on his fingers, which were fine and
taper. There was something stealthy in his tread, and unpleasant in
his look, his head seemed to hide itself as it were, in his shoulders;
his eyes were bent on the ground as he spoke, but he seemed to see
everything notwithstanding. 'Ask Lynch why he didn't join in Dan's
welcome, hey?' he said to a dark, large man, who had just lit his
pipe, and whose countenance still glowed with anger.

'I saw you grinning behind the door, Gentleman Bill, and I thought it
bad manners of ye! Ha! your turn may come yet, and then ye'll laugh at
the other side of your mouth. By Jove, I'd just like to see you at the
triangle, and see if it would cure your horrid grin.'

'Wait till you catch me, Andrew; but did it come to pass, mayhap I'd
stand game as well as any of ye!'

'To see the fellow here!'...Andrew took up a stone as he spoke, and
threw it with desperate force into the pond which lay at a few yards
distance, uttering terrible oaths as he did so, while strong excited
anger flashed from his eyes.

There was a flutter and hurry among the geese and the ducks as the
stone plashed in, while Barney started up to see where it came from.

'That would have done something for Dan, had ye thrown it the right
minute,' said Gentleman Bill, with a low, chuckling laugh. 'But I say,
do but look at Lynch--Bob, look at him!' and he pulled the sleeve of a
handsome young fellow, who was playing with a cockatoo.

'Bob' said something in reply, and then spoke to the bird. 'Forty
down!' repeated the cockatoo; 'Forty down!'

A loud hoarse laugh burst from all at this speech, and all eyes were
directed towards Lynch, who stood leaning against a dead tree.

'D'ye hear, Lynch, d'ye hear that?' said one. 'Cocky speaks!'

'I hear!' without turning his eye.

'And how did you receive Dan?' asked another.

'With true love like a Christian to be sure!' sneered Bill. 'Lynch
is setting up in life; he's in search of a ticket and a wife, you
know!'

'Cease your venom, you crawling serpent,' growled Andrew, as he
removed his pipe from his mouth, and looking as if he longed to crush
the little man with one blow of his huge fist. 'Can't you let a man
alone when his feelings is overpowering him?'

'Forty down, borne like a stone!' again screamed the cockatoo, which
was followed by another loud peal of laughter.

'I'll wring thy vile neck if ye say them words again,' said Andrew,
reaching towards the bird.

'Hands off, if you please,' said Bob, to whom Cocky belonged, while
the bird erected his yellow plume, and stretched out its neck in
warlike attitude.

'Talking of tickets,' added Bob, who perhaps thought it was time to
change the conversation; 'how did you contrive, Bill, to get a ticket
in such quick time?'

A sly, sidelong glance, and a silent prolonged chuckle, was the
answer.

'Picked it out of some one's pocket,' said a dogged-looking man, the
most shabbily dressed and uncared for, in appearance, of the whole
set.

Bill shrugged his shoulders, as he said, 'No, no, it was got through
good manners. Dear old lady, she'd believe and swallow everything I
said, and would blub away when I touched upon home and friends, and
innocence and misfortune. Bless her old soul! she believed it a rare
piece of injustice that a civil, respectful fellow like William Smith,
ever got shipped off for this place, ha! ha! Think of her fright;' he
laughed so much here as to prevent his speaking for a moment, 'to
think of her horrid alarm if she had known the best pickpocket in
London was standing beside her! However, green as she was, she
conducted herself like a gentlewoman to me, and so I behaved like a
gentleman to her, and she recommended me as one deserving of every
encouragement. So I got my ticket you see, and when the old girl
departed this life, I left; for young madam wouldn't do for me, and
besides I had a fancy for change of air and scene.'

'By my soul, Bill, and you've nothing at all of a gentleman in ye,
to be after speaking agin the lady, and she not above ground!' said
Barney. 'And wasn't it yourself just that cheated her under her very
eyes, barnacles and all, and she looking at ye all the time and never
seeing it, the cratur!'

'Oh, there wasn't much skill required for that,' answered Bill, with
an air of mock humility. 'But I say, Lynch,' he added, seeing that man
had moved forwards a little; 'I say, Lynch, come now, tell us why you
kept your arms folded, and didn't give Dan a hit to help him on his
way back to Merrima?'

A dark bitter smile passed over Lynch's face. 'If!--' and his voice
was hollow and tremulous; 'if I had touched a stone, it would have
struck true!'

'Well said, Lynch! I see you've some proper spirit in you yet, my
lad.'

A buzz of approbation passed round. Lynch heard it. Another smile
just touched his stern, rigid features--like a gleam from the
lightning's flash over a stormy sea; and he walked away with the
applause of his companions sounding in his ears--the applause of his
world!

Lynch went towards the Bush, followed by his terrier, stopping to
look absently at an opossum over head, or breaking down the young
saplings that stood in his way. He was not long alone. Ellen joined
him.

'Why, Jack, I thought the gloaming was going to pass away without my
seeing you. Are you ill?' said she, suddenly.

'Pshaw! who ever heard of a convict being ill? They are not flesh and
blood like others, girl.'

She drew a long sigh as she gazed at him with sorrowful surprise.
Presently, she said--

'What was the row about a while ago? Any one might know the overseer
was out of the way. Why, the hissing and clapping could be heard at
our place, and the woman was for going to see what it was all about,
but father wouldn't let her, and while they were quarrelling I slipped
away.'

'The stone lay at my feet--it would have crushed his big head to
atoms,' Lynch muttered, apparently forgetful of Ellen's presence.

'Whose head, Jack?--what are you talking about? What ails you,
Lynch?' and she laid her hand on his arm.

'The matter, Nell!' said he, suddenly checking himself in an angry
gesture. 'The matter! Nothing--only Dan of Merrima has been here.'

'And they pelted him, Jack?'

'Aye, Nell.'

'Poor fellow! And yet what can Dan help of it? It is his trade, you
see; 'tis not on him it should be visited, any way.'

'I'd like to see the man that would not if he could, take his life
blood after tearing the flesh off your back for ye. I tell you, Nell,
there's not one has been under his cat but would kill him if they knew
they were to be hanged for it the next minute. 'Tis nature!--nature is
strong in us, Nell!'

The girl did not answer, but looked down at her own arms, which bore
evidence of the marks of a stick. They walked on a little way in
silence. At last she said--

'I have been thinking of mother, Jack. I wonder if she knows what
treatment I get--I wonder if she is ever about anywhere! Somehow I
don't think she can lie aisey and have her Nell used like a slave.
Sometimes I could fancy I hear her when the wind goes moaning like in
the trees. Do you ever cast a thought on your mother, Jack?' she
added, abruptly.

'No; first when I got into trouble it came into my mind, but I
wouldn't think of her. Some thoughts wont do, Nell. But once I did
dream of her--God help her! 'Twas after forty lashes, and though I
took them like a stone, I fainted, and they gave me a something which
made me stupid like, and, as I lay a dozing in horrid suffering, I
thought in my dream I was looking at some pictures out of her old
Bible, and, Nell, I saw one of a man being scourged, and my mother
seemed to say, as she pointed to it--See how the Lord bore for you. I
can't say,' added he, and his voice trembled, 'but it was like enough
to have happened years ago--she did try to teach me once--but--'

'Keep that thought, Jack--keep it in your heart,' said Ellen, looking
earnestly at him, as he turned and leant against an iron bark tree.

He smiled--still bitterly--and then he stooped and gathered one of
the delicate harebells, all folded up as it was for night.

'Take that blossom, Nell, and put it on the fire, and see what comes
of it.'

'Why, it will whither, of course--and shrivel up to nothing, Jack. It
couldn't live there.'

'And there is a fire here, Nell!' said he, fiercely, smiting his
breast as he spoke with clenched hands. 'Aye, a fire will kill and
burn that kind of thought! But go home, girl--go home,' he added, in a
harsh voice. 'Don't be bringing punishment on yourself again, or idle
talk. Mind, I never asked this meeting--go home, Nell.'

Tears rolled down her face. She moved on slowly.

'Go home, my pretty Nelly,' he again said, in a softened tone, and
throwing his arm round her, ' 'Taint fit for you to be here now. I
shall be at the clearing to-morrow, maybe you'll look out about there,
and now I must be off, for I hear the overseer's voice.'

He was soon gone, striding along over the brushwood, unconscious that
she still watched him. When he was no longer visible from the thick
scrub falling back on his path, she cut across to the fence, and
hidden herself by a friendly native cherry tree, she could see him as
he crossed the open ground leading to the huts. She watched him gather
up a few sticks and enter his hut. Soon there was a glimmer of light
and a stream of smoke, and she knew that he had kindled his fire.
Ellen had forgotten much that her own mother had taught her, she had
long ceased to pray, except in a very desultory way,--for herself--but
those words 'Our Father,' &c., she did remember, and, leaning on the
fence, with streaming eyes, she repeated them now for him.



CHAPTER VII. FROM A LADY'S BOUDOIR TO A CONVICT'S HUT.



There was a very pleasant room at Langville, called the 'work-room',
or 'morning-room'. It was well screened by dark venetian shutters. A
fine specimen of the Lyre-bird's tail ornamented the cedar
chimneypiece, and some of Kate's school flower and fruit paintings, in
richly-gilt frames, relieved the white-washed walls. There was but
little furniture, save some comfortable American rocking-chairs and a
large table covered with work and work-baskets, at which Mrs. Lang and
her daughter Kate sat busily employed.

A smaller table stood near the window, where Isabel was stationed,
apparently drawing; though from the blackened scraps of paper which
lay about, it seemed as if she was more intent on wasting her pencils.

'It does not signify,' said she, snapping the point she had so
carefully cut, in her energy. 'I do think it a shame, Kate!'

'I cannot help it,' exclaimed Kate, pettishly. 'I wish they would
leave me alone. I am sure I don't ask them to do so. It is all very
well for you, Issy; you are not so tormented as I am!'

'My dear,' remarked Mrs. Lang, soothingly; 'my dear, you are Miss
Lang, you know, and of course you will receive a great deal of
attention; and now you are both getting of an age that really it is
very desirable to be careful as to whom you encourage. I always stand
up for poor young Jolly; and I shall always say he is a worthy, nice
young man. But my love, Issy, your sister certainly has every right to
look higher for an establishment.'

'O mamma!' laughed Isabel; 'I am not thinking of any
'establishement.' I only contend that good old friends are not to be
pouted at for the new brooms. As to matrimony, and that sort of thing,
I think it is all fiddlesticks. (How lucky Miss Terry is not here!)
Dear me, what a horrid pass we are come to, if we are not to speak, or
laugh, or move, without reference to such a grave concern as
matrimony, or an establishment!'

'You are very childish, Isabel,' said her mother. 'What a sad
disadvantage it was, to be sure, your father's being so over-
indulgent, and keeping you at home! You never will learn Kate's
manners.'

'O, well! I am content to leave them all to Kate--so that I am not
put into a strait-waistcoat, and obliged to look here and look there,
and smile on one and pout on another. However, it is hard to have to
do all the agreeable to the miserable neglected ones, while pretty
Kate breaks their hearts.'

'Ah!' said Mrs. Lang, half laughing; 'you may keep your own manners,
Issy; for if you are not so handsome as your sister, still I think
there is something which seems to make you a favourite.'

'Certainly, no other house is so beset as ours!' said Kate,
affectedly.

'Of course not, my dear love. Besides the attraction you are, ours
is naturally the house to which everybody would desire an
introduction; and I am sure I am always particularly happy to see
friends. Issy, my dear, I hope you will put away your drawing and run
your flounces. I am sure the dress will be nothing without them.
Kate's looks lovely. You will look so plain by her side; and you know,
my dear, your face and figure wont bear it.....'

'As to that, mamma,' interrupted Kate, 'Issy is not so very plain,
except her freckles.'

'Certainly not! Who ever said so? Issy is a very fine young woman,
to be sure!' said Mrs. Lang.

'A bouncing lassie am I,' said Isabel, with a very bright smile.
'But really, mother, you have some malicious intent. You will make
Kate and me dreadfully vain if you go on so. As to the flounces--I
really cannot undertake such a labour.' Here she yawned as if very
tired. 'But let me have Ellen's help, and I will come out frilled to
my waist. Do, my dear mammy!'

'I have said, my dear, that I think it very imprudent to have in the
girl. She is only half saved or very wicked; but however, do as you
will, only don't let her annoy the other servants.'

Mrs. Lang here left the room, and presently Kate began to try on her
skirt; and while looking before and behind, and taking a few steps to
see the effect, she remarked, 'I never saw any one like you, Issy, for
getting your own way. If you set your heart on anything, you are sure
to get it!'

Isabel smiled, but said nothing.

'What can it be to you about this poor girl? It is sure to end in
mischief, and you will have a precious deal of trouble to guide her.
Every one says she is crazed!' Presently she added--'Are you finishing
the drawing of the church, or what? O! Issy, by the bye, do you know I
think a certain person finds Langville very attractive.'

'A great many do, according to mamma's account,' Isabel answered.

'Ah, yes! but really and truly, I do believe that one among them is
very attentive to you. Come now, don't pretend, for I am sure you know
what I mean.'

'Do you mean Dr. Marsh?'

'Of course I don't.'

'Perhaps Mr. Herbert, then?' said Isabel.

'No, not Mr. Herbert. Some one else, much better than Mr. Herbert.'

'Who can it be?' said Isabel, with mock gravity.

'Mr. Farrant. He is always coming here.'

'Yes, as a clergyman. It is very natural he should visit his
parishioners,' said Isabel, stooping to pick up her pencil.

'Nonsense; he doesn't go to any other house as he does here.'

'You forget this is Langville!' said Isabel, laughing.

'Ah, laugh away, Issy; but I am positive about it. You can't deny
it. See how you are blushing.'

'I don't know what I am to deny, Kate; and of course you could make
any one colour up by making such absurd faces. Pray don't fall into
the White's abominable fashion of always talking of beaux and so
forth. I do so detest it.'

'It is hard I mayn't have a joke, however,' said Kate, tossing her
head, and pouting. 'Every one laughs at me! Besides, I am sure it is
true. Mrs. Vesey said so.' And then saying she must go and remind the
laundress to iron a collar for her, Kate left the room.

Isabel soon put up her drawing things, and taking up a parasol,
stepped out of window. She crossed the lawn, or rather what stood for
a lawn, and skirting along by the garden, took the path which led to a
paddock. Crossing this, she passed through some partially cleared
bush, and came to a hut inhabited by Maclean, who had rented some land
of Mr. Lang, and also worked for him. A stout hard-featured woman was
employed in scouring a tub in front of the hut. On seeing Isabel, she
stopped, pushed back her hair, and made what was intended for a
curtsey.

'Good day, Mrs. Maclean. Where is Ellen?'

The woman laughed.

'Ye needn't come to me for that information. She may be where she
likes, and I'll never say another word to her,--a good-for-nothing
young miss! It is hard, I consider, to get the ill-will and words I
have just for trying to keep her up. She is the very plague of my life
and her father's too!'

'It would be well if she could be employed,' said Isabel.

'Well, and aint there plenty for her to do if she would! She is a
bad girl, miss--a bad girl.'

'I have a little needlework which I want done. My mother says Ellen
may come to the house and do it if--if--'

'Mrs. Lang had best give it to myself. Ellen can't nor wont work. I
said to her father this morning, I would see to get her out in service
in some farm where there's hard work. She needs a tight hand.'

'I should like to try her once more,' remarked Isabel. 'She needs
kindness, Mrs. Maclean.'

The woman's face darkened, as she muttered, 'She needs a good stick:
but, however, miss, if you wish to be trying her, all I can say is
she'll not be found here. Our hut is the last place my lady fancies,'
and Mrs. Maclean, without further ceremony, turned away and occupied
herself with making up the fire.

Isabel went on. A little way at the side a slip rail led to a bush
paddock. She climbed the fence, and called 'Ellen' several times, but
no answer came. Then Isabel turned further among the trees. A slight
crackling noise in the bushes attracted her--she again called 'Ellen,'
and a creeping, timid figure peeped round from a thick mass of wild
currant plants, and seeing who it was presently curtsied.

'Ellen, idling here!' said Isabel, reproachfully.

'I have nothing to do.'

'Why not go home and work?'

'Home--I've no home!' Large tears stood in her eyes, as she added,
quickly, 'Look here, Miss Isabel--look at my arm and my neck--see
those black marks--look at this cut,' raising her yellow hair from her
temple; 'that's what I get at home!'

'What is it all for, Ellen; is it that you really will not work and
behave well? or--'

'No! I wont work for her. I have worked--but no more. It is all
because I wont give up--'

'Give up what, Ellen--Lynch?'

'Yes; but that is not all. They pretend to care for that, and dear
me, miss, it isn't for my character they care; only you see Venn, he
is in power now; and--'

'What has Venn to do with you?'

'Nothing! and never shall! Lynch would kill him first.'

'I don't understand you, Ellen.'

'Why then, miss, Venn is always after me, and they--that is she--
wants me to have him; and that's why I got these blows.'

'And what is your objection; there is not much difference between
him and Lynch, is there, as to character?' Isabel was suddenly stopped
by the girl's vehement exclamation--

'My objection! I hate him;--his character! he is a reptile--a base,
low, creeping reptile! Miss Isabel,' added she, coming closer, and
looking into her face earnestly, 'did ever you know what it was to
love--to love one who loves you, and is scorned by all besides? No,
you never did! You are good and kind--yes, a kind young lady--but it
isn't the fate of such as you. When you marry you will wear fine
clothes, and go to church, and all will smile. You can't understand
what I say--that I would die--I would kill myself--rather than have
any one but Jack Lynch. I am the only living thing except Wasp, the
creature, he cares for, or that can win a smile out of his heart.
He'll never give me up--I'll never give him up; and he says if
master--if your father, Miss Isabel, would give the leave, he'd be
able to bring me to his hut for his wife, and then no power in law
could keep me from him. Think of that! O, you'll get the leave for us,
wont you? you'll beg it, wont you? and then I'll work, indeed I will!'

'Ellen, I can do nothing for you in this matter; but Lynch asked if
I would try and get you work in our house.'

'Did he? O yes, he wished it, I remember. He said 'twould make me
hold up my head again; he made me promise to behave well. And you
will--you are going to take me, and I shan't be sent away up the
country to her aunt, as she threatened? O, Miss Isabel, I will work
for you, indeed I will.'

'Very well, Ellen. Come to me in an hour; you know my room; come
there. But you must be tidy, and you must obey orders; no going out,
Ellen, remember.'

'Well, just let me say the good-bye to him; just tell him what I'm
going to do, and I'll obey you. Bless you, dear Miss Isabel!'

Isabel returned to the house, pondering over Ellen's strange
character, and wondering why her father would not let them marry at
once. Ellen gathered up some flowers which she had been arranging
according to her fancy, and singing in a clear voice, she sauntered on
through the bush, keeping in a line with the fence, though not
directly by it; now looking at the birds, now crushing a gum leaf and
smelling it, and sometimes stopping to kick at an ugly red ant, and
talking to it as a child might, 'Ah! wouldn't you like to have a bite
at me? Ah, but you see I have on a shoe to-day, good luck to you. Ah!
you ugly, ill-tempered looking thing!' At last the sound of a bell
roused her to greater speed. She bound her long hair round and round
her head, and fixed the velvet band tighter on her forehead; then ran
lightly till she came to that part of the bush which was close to the
'farm' and the men's huts.

The dinner bell still clanged shrilly through the place, and there
was the sound of laughter and voices. The horse who had been turning
the mill was set at liberty, while a boy pushed a load of coarse hay
towards him for his refreshment. Stately, heavy oxen came from the
fields, looking patient and sober, while the whips cracked over their
heads, and the men hallooed and swore. The blacksmith stayed his
bellows and laid aside his apron, while a few were already cutting up
beef and damper.

Ellen replied not to their greetings, though a kind word and a nod
was given by many; while others winked or sneered, and then laughed
loud as she hurried by. But on she went to the last hut. A white
terrier jumped upon her, and she hugged and stroked him.

'Lynch, are you there?'

He was there--not eating or preparing his dinner, however; but
sitting on a log, with a black shade of suppressed anger on his face.

'What, Nell! here again! Well, if you wont take no advice, you must
take your own way, I suppose. 'Twas a dark day you first saw me,
Nell!'

'And why are you not at dinner, Jack?' said she, coming close to him.
'And what ails you? Good God! Jack,' added she, looking frightened,
'what is it? You haven't had words again, have you?'

'I'm sick of words--I'm sick of life! Whatever such a wretch as I was
created for puzzles me. There's something wrong. One man is not made
to be so put upon by another.'

She sat on the floor by him, looking at him--the dog beside her.

'Look, Nell, at the meat Venn favoured me with for a week's rations!
look at it--tainted, and half bone!--last week the same; but that I
don't mind--it is his silly spite. Ah, Nelly! he'll have you yet.'

She shuddered, and drew her arm through his, but said nothing.

'He had the impudence to speak light of you this very day. He knew I
would not stand that, so I come off short commons, you see. He in the
store!--he a head servant!--the veriest, lowest knave and pilfering,
lying rogue in this country! But never mind... And then, Nell, no
more coming down of evenings, my girl. I'm to move--I'm to leave this
here hut, and move up with Gentleman Bill.'

'Why, Jack?--what can that be for?'

'Why,--Nell, do you ask? Just because they know I like this place,
and I have set a peach-tree and a few cabbages here, and knocked up a
shelf, and made it somehow my own--that's 'why.' But I'm proof--I am
not a going to let out. The ticket, Nelly--the ticket!--just let me
get the blessed ticket!'

He looked at her as he spoke, and the bitterness seemed to pass away.
His eyes were dim as he drew his hand from his head, and passed it
over hers, stroking her hair. But it was soon gone, that kindly dew-
drop falling on a withered plant. It was shaken off, and the lips were
again tightened, and the eyes hardened.

'Lynch?' and her voice trembled; 'Lynch, I have good news--all owing
to you, Jack. What do you think?--Miss Isabel is to have me to work
for her.'

'A good thing, too. Why, now, Nell, you will hold up your head again.
And mind me,' added he, 'Nell, give me up; try to serve Miss Isabel,
and you'll get on, mayhap; and don't be after thinking of me, Nell.
Bad as I am, I don't wish you to be dragged to misery through me.'

'Would you give me up, Jack?'

'No, and that I wouldn't, save for your good. I have known you since
you were a child, and I never knew you bad--never unkind--only put
upon; and sorely used... You've the softest, the kindliest eye was
ever made, I believe.....'

'And you have for me, Lynch,' sobbed Ellen. 'Never say that again. I
will never give you up. You've been father and mother and friend to
me. I'll work; and Miss Isabel will get the ticket, and then I'll come
to you and live here with you, and then you'll never have the dark
look.'

Her voice was drowned at last by sobs and tears--her head fell on his
knee.

The rough, hard man would have blessed her, would have prayed for
her, but he didn't know how. Evil passions were even then at work
within him; yet, bad as he was, there was one soft spot, one point in
his heart which could be touched. Harshness irritated and goaded him,
but kindness and forbearance--even pity--had power.

Insulting words had passed from Venn a few hours before--words of
scorn against Ellen--mixed with triumphant mockery--that if he chose
he could marry the girl directly, in spite of Lynch. Lynch answered.
Venn had power, and he used it. He could pick out the worst meat, the
worst tea, and give short measure. He was, in truth, jealous of Lynch
with regard to Ellen. Venn was, as Mr. Herbert had said, 'a great
villain;' but his wickedness lay in cunning and swindling, and for
self-interest he could smooth his brow and smile, and speak fair words
to any one. He was clever. Though he had cheated his master over and
over again, he had kept out of punishment; and partly through a wish
to turn the cunning for instead of against himself, and partly because
Venn was so very good an accountant, and had a respectful manner, Mr.
Lang had promoted him. He did not trust him, but he made it worth his
while to save his pocket, though sometimes it might be at the expense
of the other men.

Venn knew how to hint at the triangle and forty lashes--a disgrace he
had escaped--a disgrace which acted like bitter poison on Lynch, and
turned even his better feelings to gall. Venn joked about it as he
weighed out rations, and asked when the ticket was to come; and he
followed Ellen, found out her favourite haunts, flattered her, and
even threatened her. All this made dark work in Lynch's bosom. It
seemed as if it was only Ellen's love which kept the bitter thoughts
of revenge and despair from finding a vent. But the ticket!--a few
months or weeks more, and it must be his--and he could marry, and work
where he liked; and Ellen--she would be taken from an unhappy home--
she would be cherished--ah! as much as if she were the first lady in
the land. He was strong and able--what more could they need? food and
firing, and all that was necessary for clothing would be theirs. What
a tidy, convenient hut he would build for her, with flowers about it!
no matter where--the more lone the better for them both: she would
sing like a bird! People should see that a convict's wife could be
happy and cared for!

These were his dreams by night and his thoughts by day, in his
brighter moments. They beckoned him on, and sustained him. He bid her
often leave him, and give him up, and implored her to go away home,
and not 'bring scandal and talk on herself.' Yet if she failed to
come, he would wander about the Bush, after work, to see what was
become of her, and watch for hours outside her father's hut, and
listen, to know if she were there.

It was a great relief to him to think of her having work at
Langville; and with this one comfort he turned more easily from his
own grievances.



CHAPTER VIII. 'THE QUEEN WAS IN THE PANTRY.'





Mrs. Lang was in her store-room on the morning when the party was
expected, dispensing flour and sugar, butter and eggs, and other
necessaries, and giving directions to her servant. She told Isabel to
make haste and come to her; and 'Kate, you go to the drawing-room to
receive the Veseys, and tell Miss Terry to have the children dressed
and the school-room tidy.'

Isabel was now actively employed in making pastry, and Kate having
exchanged her riding-dress for a white gown, took out her worsted work
and awaited the arrival of the Veseys.

Presently Mr. Lang came into the store.

'Well, then, what now? I tell you, my dear, if you have custards, get
Miss Terry to make 'em; she's more successful than you are, a great
deal.'

'You had better get Miss Terry to be housekeeper then, Mr. Lang, or
your wife, perhaps; for really you seem to prefer her to everybody!'

'She's a good little soul, anyhow, Mrs. Lang, so don't be jealous, my
dear; but she wont ride, and how are we to get her to Sugarloaf to--
morrow?'

'Why, if she wont ride (such nonsense and folly!) she can stay at
home; indeed, I think she is wanted to mind the little ones.'

'She shall do no such thing, if I drive her myself, Mrs. Lang! She
shall go. Why, who is to sing, I should like to know, if she don't
go?'

'O, very well, Mr. Lang, certainly,' said his wife, bridling up. 'You
may drive her instead of me; no doubt you prefer it; I will stay at
home.'

'Nonsense,' muttered Mr. Lang, looking angry.

'There is no sort of occasion for any one to stay at home,' said
Isabel; 'we have asked the Herberts to bring their spring-cart; Miss
Terry can go in that, and either Mr. Herbert can drive, or I'll drive
her myself, and you and mamma can go in the old gig with quiet Peggy,
who will pull you out of all the bogs.'

'That'll do, Issy; you've a head for managing these things, I see,'
said her father. 'So, then, the Herberts are coming--well, well--
provide plenty of prog, d'ye hear? and put up some of the cherry
brandy, and we'll make hay while the sun shines, for how long we shall
be above water I don't know. Ruin! ruin! Such times!' and muttering
these last words he left the room.

'What can he mean?' said his wife. 'Dear! how he delights to terrify
me! we are not going to ruin, I hope. Has there been any news of the
bank to--day, Issy, my dear?'

Issy did not know; but she had heard the overseer say that only ten
out of fifty fat bullocks had been sold, and unless they were sent to
be boiled down, they might stay and eat away all the grass for many a
long month.

Mrs. Lang shook her head and said--

'To be sure, the times are dreadful! but the bank--the bank is the
worst of all! Nobody knows whether everything belonging to them may
not be seized. I have been persuading your father to take the boys
from school and get a tutor for them; one can be had for 30l. or 40l.
a year, or less than that, and it would save a good deal; and, after
all, what's the use of so much Latin and Greek? If they learn to keep
accounts and write a good hand, they will be better off than poring
over dead languages that no one speaks or understands except
disagreeable people, like Mr. Herbert.'

'And Mr. Farrant,' Isabel remarked.

'Yes, my dear, Mr. Farrant; but he'd be all the better, to my
thinking, if he was less peculiar; Latin and Greek have given him odd
notions; he'll never be a man to do well for himself; he can't live
upon poetry or Latin, though really I believe he expects us to live on
precious little, he talks so much about giving money for this and
that, as if four walls wasn't every way as good for worship as useless
pillars and all that carving of ugly faces about them. Aye, aye,
depend upon it, Issy, my dear, Latin don't make a good farmer nor a
good husband, my dear.'

Isabel did not answer; she was intent on ornamenting the rim of a
tart, and her mother soon left her.

The Veseys had arrived. The gentlemen went to look at the horses, and
Mrs. Vesey remained in the drawing-room with Kate.

Mrs. Vesey had come with her husband to New South Wales to make a
fortune, laugh at everything, to be admired, as a lady of fashion, and
do as she liked.

Clever caricatures were drawn of scenes at Langville, and humorous
verses were scribbled cutting up every one, of course. Selections of
these had been shown to Miss Lang, who thought them very charming and
clever. Kate had already remodelled her dresses and collars after Mrs.
Vesey's fashion, and had begun a chair-cover like the one at Vine
Lodge.

Mrs. Vesey paid great attention to Kate, admired her eyes and hair,
and whispered in confidence what she thought of the people in the
district.

And now, tired with the heat, Mrs. Vesey threw herself on the sofa,
saying--

'There now, Miss Lang, my dear creature, sit in front of me, and I
shall see you; it is really a treat in this part of the world to see a
pretty face! I beg pardon, but really this is not a becoming climate.
I must try and recover myself before your worthy mother comes. Pray
say nothing of my being here; let us enjoy each other for an hour;
where is your sister? O! making pastry; well, a very creditable,
respectable occupation; and does Mrs. Lang cook the dinner? O! I beg
pardon, but I thought it was a colonial fashion, and very primitive;
our great grandmothers must have been dear creatures with their keys
and receipt-books. I mean to be quite Mrs. Notable myself; I assure
you I have serious thoughts of milking the cows! O, it is killingly
hot, but this is a palace of a room--only pardon me, a fright of a
carpet--Sydney, I suppose--I must tell your father where to send for
one in London.'

'Does your head ache?' asked Kate, seeing her hold her temples.

'O, my dear, I am subject to dreadful headaches. I am quite a martyr
to them! Perhaps you will be so delightfully goodnatured as to fan me
a little, for the flies are very annoying.'

Kate was but too happy to be so employed; she took a screen, and
whilst fanning her friend, they talked of to-morrow's excursion.

'The Herberts, you say. Well, I am glad of that; the old spinster is
such fun, and he, too, with his long chin; and who else is to be
here?'

'The Budds and the Jollys...'

'Ah! the Jollys, and Mr. Tom, of course. Don't blush; though, by the
bye, it is remarkably becoming. I did hear, how I wont say--perhaps my
cockatoo told me, for he is very chatty--I did hear it whispered that
this young Mr. Jolly blushed, not like you, Kate, but as red as a
peony when a certain young lady's name was mentioned; but I hate a man
who blushes. He is all very well, I dare say--a capital stock-man, but
...'

The gentlemen coming in put a stop to the conversation. Mr. Fitz
insisted on relieving Miss Lang--he would fan both ladies. 'By the
bye, Miss Lang, who is that uncommonly pretty girl on your farm?' he
said.

'I don't know who you mean, unless you call Ellen pretty. I never
knew she was a beauty,' said Kate.

'The girl I mean has hair like gold and eyes like--I hardly know what
they are like. She is small, and neat, without a cap, we saw her down
at those huts by the mill.'

'It must be Ellen. She is the daughter of one of our men. Her father
is very angry with her because she wants to marry a convict.'

'O here is Mrs. Lang!' said Mrs. Vesey, jumping up and nearly
upsetting a small table which stood near. 'So very glad to see you, my
dear Mrs. Lang. Hope you haven't hurried away from your household
business, I am sure. I am afraid you have been getting all sorts of
nice things for us. Now, I don't care a straw what I eat!'

To all this Mrs. Lang replied by a stiff and constrained curtsey, and
trying at the same time to fall into Mrs. Vesey's 'easy way.' She was
soon followed by Isabel, in her white dress, and her hair smoothly
braided, smiling, yet receiving her visitors with a certain air of
dignity which silenced Mrs. Vesey for a moment.

Presently, however, she whispered to Kate, 'My dear Miss Lang, do
prevail on your sister to try milk of roses, or something, to get rid
of those dreadful freckles. She is so awfully burnt and disfigured.'

Kate blushed as she said, 'Issy did not mind; she always ran out in
the sun without a bonnet.'

Dinner was announced, and Mrs. Vesey praised the mutton, and Mr. Lang
talked of his numerous flocks and herds, and what wages shepherds
ought to get. Then Mrs. Vesey fell in love with a pumpkin pudding,
which she declared she must take a lesson how to make from the cook,
if Mrs. Lang would allow her. Mrs. Lang coloured and fidgeted, and
said she should be most happy to show Mrs. Vesey anything; but Isabel
laughed, and said she doubted if the cook knew much about it.

'Issy always makes the puddings,' said Mr. Lang. 'Issy and Miss Terry
are capital hands at that sort of thing. Miss Terry's custards, Mrs.
Vesey, are the very best--'

'Pray, Mr. Lang, don't talk about custards; I dare say Mrs. Vesey is
not very much interested in custards,' said Mrs. Lang.

But Mr Lang had got upon his favourite theme, and one which irritated
his better-half, to his great amusement; and Mrs. Vesey protested that
custard was the very thing she liked best in the world. Delicious
custards! Would Miss Terry be so very obliging as to make some, and
let her see the process?

Mr. Fitz, too, said be should certainly come and be initiated in the
art of custard-making; it would be capital fun to beat eggs.

'Don't you think, Miss Lang (turning to Kate), it is a beautiful
sight to see the froth rising and rising? Besides, I have always
understood there is quite an art in doing it--a stiff elbow, isn't
it?'

Kate laughed at his eagerness, and more still when he took up a fork
and began to imitate the action. But Mrs. Lang was uneasy, and had a
sort of suspicion that they were laughing at her; so she hurried over
the dessert, proposing a turn in the verandah.

'Did you ever see a burning off?' said Isabel to Mrs. Vesey.

'O, dear, no!--never--I should like it of all things!'

'We can easily go, then; for about a quarter of a mile away they are
burning off a large paddock.'

The gentlemen heard the proposition, and seconded the resolution,
though Mrs. Lang could not think why Issy had proposed such a thing;
'as if it was not pleasanter to walk round the cultivation!'

'What is that?' said Mrs. Vesey.

'O, don't you know that we Bush folks are prouder of a bit of
cultivation--cultivated, cleared land--than of all the forest and wild
country in the world,' said Isabel.

'It is not an unnatural feeling,' said Mr. Farrant. 'What has cost
us trouble generally possesses an interest in our eyes.'

'And yet I think I never could cut down a fine tree without a pang,'
said Miss Terry.

'O, yes, you would, in the wholesale way in which the Bush is
cleared, Miss Terry; it is not like the magnificent single trees you
talk of in England. Come to-night, and see if you wont lend your aid
with hearty good-will to burn the fallen wood,' said Isabel. 'But do,
Kate, let us wait for the Herberts; Mr. Herbert is such a famous hand
at making a bonfire, and when it is darker it looks so much better.'

'No, Issy, don't wait for them. I'm sure we are more at ease without
Mr Herbert,' said Kate.

'Why, surely you are not afraid of the grand signor Herbert, are
you?' said Mrs. Vesey. 'He is the greatest fun possible. It excites
one's wits when he is present; for you either get such a dark frown or
such a smile.'

'Or such a contemptuous look,' interrupted Kate.

'To be sure, that is just it. There is nothing common about him; he
is just the man to bring to your feet, my dear.'

'Not very easily, I should think,' said Kate.

'Come; you shall see how I make him talk. You are not half up to
fun, Kate; but do come here, and pick me that rose for my brooch, and
I've something to whisper to you, fairest of the fair.' So saying she
sprang off the verandah, which was raised by a green bank, and Kate
followed her to a part of the house which had a creeping rose trained
on it.

Mr. Farrant said he was going to visit a sick person on the farm,
but would join them at the fire. The other gentlemen were still in the
dining--room. Mrs. Lang and Isabel sat in the verandah, while Miss
Terry went to see her pupils--the two youngest girls of the family.



CHAPTER IX. THE BURNING OFF.



Just as the party left the house for their walk, Mr. and Miss Herbert
rode up to the front door, followed by a servant driving the spring-
cart Isabel had asked for. Miss Herbert went in to take off her habit,
but her brother joined the others to see the 'burning off.'

Mrs. Vesey placed herself near Mr. Herbert, looking as if she
expected him to offer her an arm. This, however, he did not do, and
his face gradually gathered into a sarcastic expression, as the lady
ran on in a light, clever strain about new operas, books, and
improvements in England.

'Really it is a pleasure to meet with some creature here who is not
wholly crammed with bullocks and sheep; some one who can talk and take
an interest in literary matters.'

'I am sorry to say, madam, you have fixed on a very wrong person. I
have been many years a settler, my principal study is how to cure the
scab in sheep; if you can enlighten me, I shall be grateful.'

'Dear me, how horrible! I wonder we don't all get wool growing on us
here; we shall certainly be turned into legs of mutton; the burden of
the song is sheep! sheep! sheep!'

'Well, take care, Mrs. Vesey,' said Isabel, 'that you are not
kidnapped for boiling down.'

Mrs. Vesey laughed, 'Ha, I am hardly fat enough for that purpose; but
really, Mr. Herbert, seriously now, don't you, as an unprejudiced
man--now don't you think a Bush life dreadful; so lowering, all the
little elegances of life gone, and one's manners growing rusty and
colonial. I am sure I shall soon find myself covered in wool, and
making butter, and scolding convicts, a regular bush-woman--and wont
it be dreadful?'

'My opinion is,' said Mr. Herbert, drily, 'that a vulgar person will
be equally so, whether in the gay world or in the Bush. It is not
making butter or playing waltzes that makes the difference. I am proud
to say I have met with as graceful, gracious women in this country as
in any other--women who, not being slaves to the many absurd
conventional customs of English society, are not ashamed of their
household duties, and exercise hospitality and goodness without
fashion or show.'

Mrs. Vesey made no answer, but lifted her glass to her eye and
glanced round slyly at the party. There was a smile playing round her
mouth, as her eyes finally rested on Mrs. Lang, who was toiling along
by the side of Mr. Vesey, in her flounces. Isabel's eyes also rested
there, and met Mrs. Vesey's, and then came a deep blush, which only
increased when Mrs. Vesey laughed and said, 'Come, Miss Isabel Lang,
why don't you return thanks for the eloquent defence Mr. Herbert has
made. I am sure if I were a Bush lady I--'

'Come along--come along,' now shouted Willie and Jem, as they rushed
by, and the cry was repeated by the gentlemen. They quickened their
pace, and soon reached the spot. There lay the tall trees with leaves
yet green on them--cut down in their prime or their early youth--the
old dry trunk and the tender sapling alike laid low; and there were
the heaps which the men had built up and were already setting fire to.
The moon was up, and the sun looked red through the thick mass of dark
iron-bark trees in the distance. There was the music of the evening
breeze as it played on the spiral leaves of the swamp oak, and there
was the crackling of the fire louder and louder, and the shouts of men
as they called to each other.

It was an animated scene, and every one entered into it with spirit.
Every one--even Mrs. Lang took up sticks or dry grass to throw on the
piles--every one, but Mr. Herbert, who, leaning against a tree, seemed
to enjoy looking on. Isabel, with her father and brothers, was the
most active in piling up faggots. She ran to a burning heap and seized
a fire stick to apply to the pile they had raised. As she ran through
the air the stick blazed up. The boys clapped their hands and cried,
'Run, Issy! run!' and swift as the wind she flew and threw it
triumphantly on the heap just in time to save her hand from being
burnt.

'More sticks, Willie! run for more,' cried Isabel, 'and this pile
will beat all the others.'

Mr. Herbert darted forward, and threw sticks and dry leaves; and Mr.
Lang dragged a large branch, which they threw on it. Then, indeed, it
burst forth in grand style--curling and crackling, and waving its long
tongues of flame, throwing a strong glare on the eager and excited
faces which stood around.

Several acres were now burning. It was a striking and a peculiar
sight--the fires, the pale moon, with the tall, gaunt, white gum-trees
and dingy iron barks in the distance, standing out in strong relief
against the sky; and the group of young people, jumping to and fro;
Isabel--still the busiest of all--here, there, and everywhere.

'That'll do!' said Mr. Lang, rubbing his hands.

'I say, Herbert, this will yield me many a good crop, I hope--but,
'pon my honour, this heat is no joke;' and he walked away.

Mr. Vesey was talking to one of the men, and learning the best way of
clearing land. Mr. Fitz was talking to Kate, who had found a seat on a
stump, and said she was tired of the fires. Presently they were all
startled by a loud report, which was echoed round and round the bush,
and caused a fluttering among those birds which had taken their places
for roosting.

'Ah!--it's down!--capital!' said Willie. 'Lynch has been at that big
tree all day; and he made a bet he'd have it down to-night. He's a
first-rate hand at felling wood, Lynch is.'

Mr. Herbert, followed by the boys, went up to the spot where the
tree had fallen. The man smiled as they praised his work, and touched
his hat respectfully to Mr. Herbert.

Mr. Herbert gave the man something by way of encouragement for his
manly feat.

'Thank your honour--good evening, sir.'

Mr. Herbert saw some of the party preparing to go: it was Mr. Fitz,
who offered his arm to Kate, and Mr. Vesey and Mrs. Lang. The others
still lingered.

'O, don't go, Issy,' said her brothers; 'stay till the moon is
bright, and till that large heap is burnt.'

Isabel was quite willing, and Mrs. Vesey said she should like to
stay too, it was such a beautiful evening, and such a pity to be shut
up in a room.

'Who is that?' said Isabel. 'O, Miss Terry, I am glad you are come.'

'And here's Mr. Farrant,' said Mrs. Vesey.

'Yes,' said he, coming up to them; 'I found this lady in the Vine
Walk, and persuaded her to come and meet you. Dear me, this is really
grand--look!' said he, turning to Miss Terry, 'look at that hollow
tree, red hot to the very top, every branch, every leaf made of fire.
How strikingly beautiful it is, seen against that mass of dark bush.'

'What is it?' said Mrs. Vesey.

'One of the men have fired a hollow tree,' said Isabel; 'we have had
such dry weather that it burns like tinder--see, it will fall
presently; it totters now.' And in a few moments was heard the crash
of the fallen giant echoing round the bush.

The men were now resting from their work and lighting their pipes.
Some returned home, others remained to watch lest the fire should
catch the fence.

'There is no illumination that I ever saw like this,' said Mr.
Farrant.

They stood looking at it for some little time longer, and then
Isabel said--

'Really we must go home; tea will be waiting.'

'Will you take my arm after all your labours?' said Mr. Farrant.

They proceeded at a brisk pace, the others following.

'Come, Mr. Herbert,' said Willie, 'we are going.'

But Mr. Herbert did not move.

'Who is that behind those bushes?' said Mrs. Vesey, when they had
walked on about ten minutes. 'Suppose it should be a bushranger.'

'Bushrangers don't go about at night,' said Miss Terry.

'O, it is only Pat, going to shoot opossums,' cried Willie; 'he
always goes out on a moonlight night. He feeds his dogs on them, and
he dries the skins to make himself a rug. He kills a dozen or more of
a night sometimes; look! there goes one, hush!'

They looked up and saw an opossum with its sharp nose jumping from
branch to branch on a tall tree close to the path. The dog that was
following set up a loud baying, and in vain tried to climb the tree.
Willie and Jem pelted the poor little thing with stones and sticks,
though they were entreated not to do so by Mrs. Vesey, and after they
had walked on they heard him hallooing, 'I've got him down! now Rover
for your supper, my boy!'

It turned out, however, to be a flying squirrel, so Rover was forced
to have patience and lick his large jaws, for Willie, thinking Mrs.
Vesey had never seen one, carried it by its hind legs for her
inspection. The beautiful soft fur, and the peculiar formation of the
animal, from which it derives its name of 'flying,' was duly admired.

A cloud now overshadowed the moon, and it was rather dark. Mrs. Vesey
and Miss Terry hurried on and found Mr. Farrant and Isabel standing on
the verandah. He was repeating some lines from the Ancient Mariner,
Isabel listening. The rest of the party passed in, impatient for tea,
Mrs. Vesey saying, as she took the chair Mr. Lang placed for her,
'There is Mr. Farrant spouting poetry for the young ladies, and we
left Mr. Herbert composing a sonnet to the moon, or to himself, I
don't know which.'

Miss Herbert stepped out into the verandah, and she had not been
there a minute before her brother also came.

'John, why are you so late? Come, I want to know how we are to go
to--morrow; are you going to drive Miss Terry, or how?'

'I am quite indifferent, I am sure; just as you please,' was the
answer.

'Well, then, I hope you will ride and keep by me, for there will be a
deal of scampering and racing I know, as there always is with the
Langs; it doesn't suit me at all. You must keep by me, John.'

'Yes, I'll be your saddle beau, Mary. Mr. Farrant and Mr. Fitz will
be more acceptable companions to the young ladies.'

Miss Herbert looked at him and said, 'Why, what's the matter? You are
very grumpy to-night, John.' And they both went into the drawing-room.

Kate was sitting on a low stool by Mrs. Vesey, and behind them was
Mr. Fitz, talking gaily. Mrs. Lang was growing hot in pouring out tea
and complaining of her servants to Mr. Vesey, who, like many other new
comers, in his heart attributed all the fault to want of good
management, and explained the system he and Mrs. Vesey intended to act
upon; to all of which Mrs. Lang replied--

'Ah! sir, you don't know what they are!'

Mr. Lang was cutting up cake for his boys, and Miss Herbert was
trying to hear what Captain Smith, who had joined the party, was
saying about a notorious bushranger he had been hunting without
success. Mr. Herbert stood leaning against the chimney-piece, with his
hands behind him.

When tea was finished, music was proposed. Kate declined playing,
pleading fatigue, so Isabel sat down at the instrument, and playing an
old air, nodded to Mr. Herbert, and said: 'Your favourite!' Mr.
Herbert did not speak, and after playing it two or three times, she
asked Mrs. Vesey if she would take her place; but Mrs. Vesey said she
must make her brother sing a certain comic song, which, accordingly,
after the proper degree of hesitation, he did, and every one laughed,
Mr. Lang loudest of all; he rubbed his hands and cried Capital,
capital! beautiful, and encore, and the ladies begged hard for
another. Isabel half moved a chair towards Mr. Herbert, and said, 'You
are tired.'

'Not at all, I am obliged to you,' with a stiff bow; but on glancing
at her, and seeing that flushed cheeks and a look of uneasiness, he
moved a little, and stood leaning over the back of the proffered
chair, instead of the chimney-piece, but he did not speak. Then Mr.
Farrant came up and asked Mr. Herbert's opinion of some letters which
had appeared in the Sydney Herald suggesting a new way of fattening
pigs, and by degrees Mr. Herbert was led into an animated
conversation. The pigs led to a place in South America, where the
people kill these animals merely for their fat, and find it a
profitable trade. South America led to a voyage Mr. Herbert once made
when a lad, in which his ship had chased some pirates, and before long
every voice in the room was hushed, and the two boys had crept up
behind Isabel's chair, listening with breathless attention to his
vivid and forcible description of the chase.

When the story was ended, there was a general move for bed. Mrs.
Vesey expressed her wonder how room could be found for so many. She
had not been long enough in the country to know what indian-rubber
houses the hospitable settlers have, how they stretch them out, and
turn drawing-room sofas, and even dining-tables into beds!

'Call me, my dear girl,' said she to Kate; 'call me early, or I shall
never wake to-morrow!'

'O, don't be afraid of that. No one ever gets any sleep in this house
after four. Papa wears creaking shoes, and goes up and down the
passage knocking and hallooing till every one is up.'

'Another of the Bush fashions! Well, I hope you'll teach my brother
Arthur to rise early; he seldom gets up till ten, he is a lazy
fellow.'

Kate blushed as she said good night. Mr. Herbert held the door open
for the ladies to pass out; Miss Herbert and Isabel were the last. He
kissed his sister according to their usual custom, and instead of
letting Isabel pass with the bow which had been bestowed on the
others, he held out his hand; 'Isabel... good night!' he said. But
she read the meaning of the pause in his face. She knew he was aware
of, and sorry for, his want of temper, and somehow she never liked her
friend better than when he stooped to confess himself wrong. She
cordially returned his handshake, and forthwith paid great and minute
attention to Miss Herbert's comforts in her room.



CHAPTER X. HOW THEY RIDE IN AUSTRALIA.



Mr. and Mrs. Lang and their daughter Isabel, were up almost as soon
as the sun, packing away chicken pies, tongue, cold beef, and other
good things for the pic-nic. Kate made the breakfast, assisted by Mr.
Fitz, who contrived that morning to be down three hours before his
usual time. Before they all assembled at the table, Mr. Herbert walked
into the stockyard and stables to see that his horses were taken care
of. Mr. Herbert was particular about this; his and his sister's riding
horses, contrary to the general custom of the colony, were well
groomed and well fed. Willie Lang was admiring them, and wishing that
his father would allow him to do the same. The stockman now drove in a
mob of horses, and selecting those which were wanted, turned the rest
out again.

'Which horse is your sister going to ride?' said Mr. Herbert to
Willie.

'Kate rides Bessie; and Isabel--I don't know which Issy will ride--
she talked of driving Miss Terry.'

'Put the side-saddle on my filly, and let me have one of the ponies,'
said Mr. Herbert to the man.

'That'll be a poor exchange, sir,' said he, with a grin. 'Miss
Isabel's horse has a queer trick of his own in pulling hard, besides
now and then liking a buckjump; but Miss Isabel's used to him, and
knows how to manage him better than any one else.'

Willie ran in to tell his sister what a treat was in store for her,
to ride Pearl all the way! 'And she's a beauty to jump! Wont we have
leaping in fine style over the middle paddock, where the fallen trees
are, that's all!'

The difficulty now was as to who should drive Miss Terry. Mr. Lang
said he would, which made his wife very angry, and declare she would
not go at all; and Isabel said he really must drive Peggy in the gig,
for no one else knew how to take her through the bogs. Mr. Farrant
said he always liked driving better than riding, he should be most
happy to do it. Mrs. Lang said 'It was too bad to make such a fuss,
why couldn't Miss Terry ride. Some people liked to be important; at
all events Willie or Jem could drive her by turns.'

Mr. Farrant however persisted in preferring it, and it was settled
accordingly, and some one remarked that no doubt old Mr. Jolly would
be glad to change with him when he was tired.

Fortunately, Miss Terry was not present to hear all the difficulties,
and when the children called her she found Mr. Farrant already seated
in the cart with his whip in his hand. Isabel handed her in. She was
surprised, for she had expected Willie or Jem would take it by turns,
but the order to start from Mr. Lang prevented any further
explanations. The gig and cart started first, and then followed the
equestrians. Isabel on Pearl, who was prancing and curvetting and
tossing her head, looking like the queen of the party. Kate and Mrs.
Vesey set off at once in a canter, which made Miss Herbert withdraw
her foot from the stirrup just as she was in the act of mounting, and
say--

'If this is the way they are going to begin, I wont go. We shall all
break our necks.'

Mr. Herbert had to lead her horse to the slip rail, and afterwards
kept by her side.

'I think I shall propose an exchange with Mr. Farrant, by and bye,'
he said.

Miss Herbert looked pleased, but said nothing.

'I wish to have a little talk with Miss Terry. I admired her quiet
way of managing the children and taking her seat in the cart without
fuss or nonsense.'

'Quite the gentlewoman indeed, John. I should like to invite her to
spend a day with us, only what should we do with the children?'

'By all means, invite her and all the young ones. The two Miss Langs
and myself can go out and make the long talked-of sketch of my mill.'

'Pray don't ask so many; I wanted a quiet, cosy talk with poor little
Miss Terry. I am sure she needs a little sympathy. I wonder what
induced her to take such a situation. I heard some one say that she
did not like her brother--in-law; but evidently it is pain and misery
to her to be with--'

'Mr. Herbert--Mr. Herbert! we are going to try this fence,' called
out the boys. 'Issy's pony is sure to clear it--only put her well at
it, give a loose rein, and don't touch her with the spur, or she'll
buckjump.'

'Don't be afraid, Miss Herbert,' said Isabel, riding back to her as
Mr. Herbert cantered on.

'Afraid! Who can help it with such--such extraordinary people as you
all are? Really it is the very last expedition of the kind I will ever
be tempted to join. Really, my brother should know better than to be
such a boy.'

The two lower rails of the colonial gate--usually called a 'slip
rail'--being cleared by all the gentlemen, Willie shouted out for his
sisters to try. Kate declined, although pressed by Mr. Fitz. Isabel
looked at her horse. 'Don't try,' called out Mr. Herbert; 'she is not
a pleasant jumper yet.' 'Yes, do, Issy,' shouted the boys.

'It is not ladylike or feminine,' remarked Miss Herbert. 'You should
not ask your sister to do such a colonial thing.'

'Colonial!' said Isabel. 'Oh! if it is colonial I certainly will do
it. I am not ashamed to acknowledge myself colonial; so now, Pearl,
gently!'

'Well done! well cleared, Issy--capital,' shouted Willie and Jem and
Mr. Fitz, while Kate seriously thought of following her sister's
example, but before she had time to do so, Mr. Herbert had dismounted
and was taking out the long heavy rails to allow the sober riders to
go through.

'Pearl is not a bad jumper, Mr. Herbert,' remarked Isabel, as she
patted her steed's neck.

'If you were my daughter--my sister,' Mr. Herbert said, sharply,
while putting up the rails again, 'you should not do that a second
time.'

'But I am not--I am not! and never shall be, luckily,' she answered,
laughing, and putting Pearl into a canter.

Mr. Herbert followed in a slow walk, and did not overtake them till
all the party assembled before Mr. Jolly's farm. Old Mr. Jolly was, as
he said, in his 'dishabil,' superintending the salting a bullock which
had been cut up that morning. Three or four men with rough gloves were
rubbing the pieces of beef, another was packing it tight into a cask,
and Mr. Jolly himself occasionally waved a branch of gumtree to keep
off the large yellow bottle flies which swarmed around.

'Hallo!' he hallooed. 'Didn't expect ye yet--and there is my wife and
myself as busy as bees. Must be done, you know, younkers--business
must be minded. Will ye wait in the parlour or go on, and we'll
overtake you? Where is Mrs. Jolly, d'ye ask? Bless you, she's in the
kitchen, I suppose--never was such a careful woman as she is--not a
scrap goes to waste. Such soup from the shins--'twould surprise you!'

Here Mrs. Jolly peeped out of the kitchen window, smiling in the most
good-humoured way, and holding up a piece of beefsteak.

'Have you all breakfasted? O, then, Mr. Jolly, we must make haste and
not keep them waiting; or suppose, my dear,' added she, coming out
into the yard, and touching her husband's sleeve with her arm,
'suppose they go on and we can follow. Tom is so busy to-day,' said
she, turning to Isabel; 'so disappointed, my dear; but a man has just
arrived about the bullocks, so he must stay. He is so sorry and vexed;
for he says he has seen nothing of you for such a time; and Amelia has
gone to visit her uncle. However, my dear, we have a beau for you--a
great acquisition--young Mr. Henley, from England--looking about him,
you know; and my husband, having once known his father, invited him up
here, just you know to see what a settler's life is. Ah! how d'ye do,
Mrs. Vesey, ma'am? I'm glad to see you. Excuse me, for this is a busy
day;' and she laughed again as she pointed to her curl-papers.

Mrs. Vesey looked through her glass and let her horse take a bite of
some green barley which a man had just been cutting, and which stood
in a wheel-barrow near.

'How very pretty!' said she, 'quite rural; I admire the colonial
taste so much, Mrs. Jolly, in always having the entrance to their
houses at the back. No show off, but so primitive and simple-minded of
them.'

Mrs. Jolly smiled, and said 'Indeed!' not understanding or hearing it
all; while her husband went close up to Isabel, and holding Pearl's
silky mane, said in a confidential, important voice--'Issy, Henley is
the son of an old friend of mine--an old schoolfellow--beat me always
at dead languages. A fine young man--just arrived with a snug little
purse. Wants advice. Told him to have patience and look about with
both eyes wide open; but he is of an impatient age you see. Wants to
be settled all of a hurry. Can't ride a bit, my dear--all new to him.
Don't be too hard upon him, hey? I have had in old Music, you know,
the quietest creature ever was, but there are nasty bogs about. Fine-
grown young man--see, here he is, bowing to Mrs. Vesey. On my word, he
beats our Tom in his bow, whatever he may do at a leap.' Pearl did not
approve of Mr. Jolly's grasp, which tightened in his eagerness to fix
Isabel's attention--she pranced and fidgeted; Isabel promised to be
very attentive to the young stranger, and Mr. Jolly waddled off to
equip for his drive.

Meanwhile Mr. Herbert had persuaded Mr. Farrant to allow him to drive
the spring-cart for the rest of the way. At first he was abrupt and
grave, and made short answers to little Miss Terry's attempts at
conversation; but it seemed at last that the ice was broken. They were
in eager, animated talk, and Miss Herbert remarked to her companion,
Mr. Farrant, that she was glad to see her brother agreed with herself
in finding that nice little creature agreeable.

'Where is Miss Isabel Lang?' said Mr. Farrant, looking back.

'Oh, with that strange gentleman, depend on it. The Langs always
court strangers. Ah, you have not lived here long enough to know
them!'

Miss Herbert was right. Isabel was waiting for Mr. Henley to mount.
'Music,' a long-backed, narrow-faced horse, was led out. Mr. Henley
said he knew nothing whatever of riding, but made a spring which
startled Music.

'Stick fast, I suppose,' said he, gaily.

'My dear fellow, don't lay into her with that stick,' exclaimed Mr.
Jolly, as he came out tying on a black handkerchief. 'She has plenty
of spirit, and will want a curb more than a stick. Ah, there's Dr.
Marsh, I declare! Well, sir, glad to see ye. My wife and I are coming
directly; go on, sir, pray.'

'Upon my word, Mr. Jolly,' said the Doctor, a stout little roundabout
man, 'I think I shall do better to keep with your gig. An old navy
surgeon like myself cannot ride like those young Bush men and women.
Just look at them, already,' he added, lifting himself in his
stirrups, and pointing with his whip. 'There they are, jumping and
scampering; really, upon my word, Miss Isabel, yours is a spirited
nag. Ha--well--gently, gently, if you please; gently...'

The Doctor's horse was eager to go, whatever he might be, and he was
obliged to follow Isabel; and very soon the three overtook the others
in the long flat paddock which almost surrounded the farm. On they
went--the very numbers adding excitement and speed--Kate and Mr. Fitz,
Isabel and her brothers, Mr. Henley and the Doctor, on they went--till
another slip rail checked them.

'Jump it,' hallooed out Willie Lang. 'Come, Kate, show what you can
do; loosen your rein. Tippoo will do it, and no fear!--that's right!'

'I think you and I, my good sir, had better wait till those
adventurous people get a-head a little. Gently, gently, Sultan, my
good fellow; on my word I don't admire this. Slip rails, Mr. Henley,
are one of the pests of the colony; don't attempt it, my good sir!
that horse can't do it!' said the Doctor, nervously, and applying his
pocket-handkerchief to his forehead, while he endeavoured to soothe
his horse's eagerness. Mrs. Vesey was over--then her husband.

'Now for it!' said Mr. Henley, and he recklessly applied the stick,
and notwithstanding a considerable swerve in the saddle, got safely
over. The prudent doctor, after coaxing and patting Sultan into
something like a state of resignation to his hard fate, dismounted,
and proceeded carefully to take out the rails.

'You are very gallant, doctor,' said Mr. Farrant, as he and Miss
Herbert passed through. The Doctor bowed and shifted his spectacles as
he saw Miss Herbert--remarking that it was a hot day for riding hard.
The spring--cart now came up, and the Doctor having remounted, trotted
alongside, telling Miss Terry how the Miss Langs had ridden, and that
they were very 'fine young women; but too adventurous.' Miss Terry
smiled, but Mr. Herbert made no reply but an impatient look and a
smart crack of the whip over the horse's head.

'And how do you like this country, ma'am,' pursued the Doctor,
looking benevolently at Miss Terry.

'Pretty well. It takes time, you know, to recover after being
transplanted.'

'Good! ah! very good; that is exactly it. But I may venture to
whisper in your ear, but don't let your neighbour hear,' the Doctor
looked sly, 'that no one would stay here unless obliged.'

'Indeed! is Mr. Herbert such a staunch defender of this country? I
was hardly aware of that,' said Miss Terry.

'I admire the country as nature has made it; but not--Ah! what are
they doing? what can this be about, I wonder? O, Mr. Herbert, you are
called,' said the Doctor. A party of the foremost equestrians were
seemingly at a stand-still. Soon Willie Lang galloped towards the
cart.

'Mr. Herbert, is that bog passable? It looks ugly, but Issy will have
it we can go on; she is mad, I believe, she and that young
Englishman.'

'Let him try the bog, if there is any doubt about it,' said Mr.
Herbert, rather sarcastically. 'He seems to be a bold rider.'

'Go on!' roared Willie.

'Do not go on!' called out Mr. Herbert; 'you are all mad, I believe.'
At the same time urging his horse to such a trot that poor Miss Terry
was obliged to hold fast, so rough were the jerks from the hard, stiff
tufts of coarse grass, which being rejected by the cattle, grew wild
and strong in patches among the more eatable kind.

'Now, then,' said Mr. Herbert to the expectant group who stood round
the margin of the bog. 'Now, then, Mr. Farrant, may I trouble you for
the horse, since I am to judge of this formidable danger.'

Mr. Farrant quickly dismounted, and took his seat by Miss Terry with
every appearance of satisfaction at the move. Mr. Herbert gravely and
cautiously guided the pony to a part of the bog which had no traces of
steps. 'Follow!' he called out, in a military tone of command, 'one by
one. Let your horses have their heads; and hold on!'

'Come, Doctor, we want you to go first,' said Isabel. 'We know you to
be a safe person.'

'Excuse me, my dear young lady, but I would far prefer following the
others,' he answered, while reining Sultan back.

'But it is always better, Dr. Marsh, to be first, before it is much
trodden down,' said Kate.

'Is it? Then here we go!' cried Mr. Henley, giving his horse a
determined lash. 'Music' floundered. Mr. Henley laughed, and urged her
on with stick and heels. She gave a sudden spring and slide. Down came
the rider flat on his back. He was up again in a moment and waded
through the stiff mud. Isabel caught the bridle as 'Music' reared her
big head and stumbled up the bank. Mr. Henley's coat was thickly
plastered with mud, and there was of course a general laugh as soon as
the party were safely over, in which the gay young man joined as
heartily as any one. The Doctor had resigned himself to his fate, and
with a few muttered exclamations against all colonial customs, that of
having bogs after rain in particular, he reached the other side. The
spring-cart, too, wonderful to say, survived the danger, and Miss
Terry nearly bit her lips to prevent a scream. Mr. Herbert watched
her, and immediately rode up to congratulate her on her courage, and
offered himself to drive again, but Mr. Farrant would not give up his
seat. Miss Terry blushed and smiled as she entered into the badinage
which followed, and Miss Herbert remarked to the Doctor that a blush
was very becoming. But again everyone's attention was directed towards
Mr. Henley, who was being 'scraped clean' by Mr. Fitz.

'You are dubbed a Bushman for ever, my young friend,' said Dr. Marsh,
patting him on the shoulder patronisingly with his whip.

'Henley's bog shall be the name of this place henceforth!' said
Isabel. 'But, come, who will follow me? Let the cart and the timid
keep in the track, let the brave and admirers of a fine view follow
me!' She waved her whip, and led the way up a steepish bank of rough
iron stones, interspersed with weeping native cherry-trees.

'Pretty safe, hey?' said the Doctor, who wavered between his dislike
of rough-riding and sustaining his character of a 'great admirer of
nature, particularly in her wildest freaks,' a favourite phrase of the
Doctor's, by the bye. 'Pretty safe, hey?' cautiously guiding Sultan
between the bushes and stones. 'Ha, a rolling-stone, very dangerous,--
careful, Sultan; bad for ladies' habits, my dear Miss Isabel; a
steepish pinch here, Henley--take care of yourself. Ah! indeed, Miss
Isabel, you say right--worth the attempt--really a magnificent view!'
and as he pulled up his horse, and shifted his spectacles, he breathed
a long sigh of admiration, or relief, whichever it might be.

'Well! Mr. Herbert,' said Isabel.

Mr. Herbert bowed.

'Well, we wait for your remarks. Come, describe the scene--point out
its beauties--its points--to Mrs. Vesey and Mr. Henley. Nature
requires a showman occasionally,' said Isabel. 'You used to be
eloquent when we reached this spot, I remember.'

'That was many years ago,' Mr. Herbert replied.

'Perhaps--if--Miss Terry were here, it might--probably it would,
inspire the gentleman,' softly whispered the Doctor to Miss Herbert.
'Didn't you think he talked a good deal during the drive?'

Miss Herbert did not catch what he said--she answered--

'Certainly--I quite agree with you--far too forward--quite bold.'

And Miss Herbert and the Doctor, who looked 'posed,' went on,
following Mr. Herbert in a track which led back to the road to Sugar-
loaf.

There was a great deal of laughing and talking amongst the rest of
nature's admirers on the hill. Mrs. Vesey mimicking Mr. Herbert's air
and manner inimitably well.

'What is that you are singing, Mr. Henley--an ourang-outang and the
bush? What is it? let us hear,' said Mrs. Vesey, riding on.

'A song? O, then reserve it for after dinner, pray,' said Isabel. 'I
shall be so thankful for anything of that kind,' added she, looking
suddenly grave.

'I could not venture on such a song in such a company. They would
call me out,' said Mr. Henley.

'O, then! by all means let us have it!' exclaimed Mrs. Vesey. 'It
would be quite a divertissement to see Mr. Budd, or Mr. Jolly, or even
Mr. Herbert--'

The front riders were now in a canter, so the conversation was broken
off. They had emerged from the thick scrub of gnarled tea shrubs and
native currant bushes, and were now in an open clear space, called in
the colony a 'flat,' where the trees grew naturally in park-like
groups. The conical hill, named Sugar-loaf, from its peculiar shape,
appeared in front, rising almost abruptly from the plain. It was a
tempting place for a gallop. Isabel was passing them all on Pearl, and
Mr. Fitz complimenting her on her horsemanship. Then she reined in
Pearl a little and kept by Kate, talking and laughing, the quick pace
at which they were cantering through the air raising the spirits of
each. Turning round presently she saw Mr. Herbert riding alone, and
apparently in one of his unsociable fits. Pearl was a little pulled
in, and she dropped behind her sister and Mr. Fitz. Still the hint was
not taken. Mr. Herbert kept his distance. At last she turned on her
saddle and said--

'We had better exchange steeds in returning, Mr. Herbert. I fear my
pony has given you trouble. He understands me.'

'The pony goes very well, thank you.'

Nothing could be more matter-of-fact than these words; yet the tone
in which they were spoken struck Isabel. Some voices have so much
power of expression!

She looked at him for a moment, and then, being one to speak as her
heart prompted, she said--

'Then--what ails you?'

A sudden, and perhaps involuntary, prick from his spur caused Mr.
Herbert's steed to give a buck jump, gathering up all four legs, and
heaving the back in an indescribable, and nearly impossible-to-sit
way. Mr. Herbert, however, was a good rider, and perhaps his success
in sitting firm, and his skilful management of the pony, pleased him,
for he threw off his silence and talked cheerfully to Isabel as they
cantered on; and in a few minutes they reached the spot where they
were to dine. Mr. and Mrs. Budd were already there, and by the time
the horses were comfortably fastened to trees, and shawls and gig
cushions spread in the most shady spots they could find, Mr. and Mrs.
Jolly made their appearance.

'You asked me just now what was the matter,' said Mr. Herbert, coming
up to Isabel, who was for a moment resting against a tree without a
smile on her face. 'Suppose I turn questioner and ask what calls forth
so grave a look?'

But while he spoke it was gone, and in its stead the peculiar bright,
half saucy, half coaxing expression, which she generally wore,
returned.

'I was trying to follow the example of my betters, that's all,' said
she, pushing back her hair and gathering up her habit, which had
before been allowed to fall on the ground. 'However, I have done
considering--now for acting,' and she moved on a step.

'Can I assist you?' asked Mr. Herbert, following.

'You can do so, if you will,' said she, looking at him.

'I am willing, if it be to unpack pies and bottles, but if it be to
talk--you know as well as I do how incapable I am, and I have talked
enough to-day to last a silent man, like myself, a week.'

'I pity your poor sister, then, if half an hour's brisk conversation
with a lady in a spring cart dooms her to silence for seven days. But,
however, your assistance would be very acceptable beyond the laying
out dinner. Parties--certain parties you know, Mr. Herbert--must be
divided. Who will you take? Let me see; there is Mrs. Vesey?'

'Any one but her!--I can't stand her--pray do not get intimate with
her!' he added, in that dictatorial tone he sometimes assumed.

'And pray why not?' said Isabel, quickly; 'pray what do you know of
her?'

'Quite enough to see that she is not an improving acquaintance,' said
he, casting a glance towards Mr. Fitz, who was flirting with Kate.

'I have known you since you were children in sun bonnets and
pinafores,' he added, half apologetically; 'and I can't help feeling
sorry and disappointed if--if I see you led away from good taste.'

'Thank you,' said Isabel, curtseying low; 'but now to our task, if
you wont help me, I will find some one else,' and she tripped on
towards Mr. Farrant, who had seated himself by Miss Terry. 'Mr.
Farrant, do be so kind as to assist my mother, will you? Miss Terry, I
am sorry to disturb you, but will you sit by my father; he always
likes your company, and you can slice the cucumber to please him--will
you be so very kind.'

Miss Terry, whose good nature never failed, and who besides saw that
Isabel had a reason for her request, immediately complied. Mr. Lang
was busy unpacking the basket, and she offered to help him.

Isabel then managed to divide the thoroughly good-tempered Mr. and
Mrs. Jolly among those who were more irascible and easily offended.
Mrs. Vesey was seated among an undue share of cushions, heaped up by
Mr. Jolly, who implicitly believed all she said as to her delicate
health and extreme fatigue, and actually robbed his wife of her only
shawl to spread under the lady's feet, saying, in reply to Mrs.
Vesey's not very eager exclamations against the monopoly, 'O dear, my
wife don't mind such things, she has been used to roughing it. She is
the best natured creature I ever met with.'

So Mrs. Vesey resigned herself to the cushions, and shawls, and her
companion's good nature, and looked through her glass at the
preparations, casting many a sly side look at her brother or husband,
which made Isabel's colour mount high. Kate, too, was a 'drone,' as
her father said, and Mr. Fitz tied a shawl fantastically over head on
the lower branch of a tree, to form a canopy between her and the now
powerful sun. Mrs. Jolly laughed as she said, 'What a sweet pretty
picture it made. She only wished poor Tom was here to see it,' and
then Mrs. Vesey looked through the never--failing glass and nodded at
Kate in a meaning way, which made Kate blush. When all was arranged,
Mr. Henley contrived a seat for Isabel, declaring she had well earned
her dinner and a comfortable seat, and now she must depute him to be
her messenger. She cast a quick, and a close observer might have said
an anxious, look around, before she suffered herself to be seated. All
seemed, however, to go on smoothly. Mr. Budd droned out his long
stories to Mrs. Jolly, who had a laugh, or a 'really,' or 'very true,'
ready between the pauses. Once, indeed, Mr. Lang began scolding Kate
because she did not eat a good dinner, but Miss Terry did her part
well, and smoothed things over with great tact. Then came the
champagne, and healths were proposed; and then, to Isabel's dismay,
Mr. Budd rose, shifted from one long leg to another, and in his nasal
tone of voice said--

'And now, ladies and gentlemen, I have--that is, I beg to propose a
toast--agreeable I hope to all parties who have any public spirit, and
have the good of the district at heart--I say agreeable to all public
spirited men--hem--I mean the proposed scheme of a new bridge and
church at Bengala. I hope through my own, and the exertions of all
this worthy company, especially our excellent minister (bowing to Mr.
Farrant), to have the satisfaction of seeing a handsome brick church,
which will, I am sure, raise the value of the land around it, and soon
attract settlers. Besides--hem--besides the--the poetical, if I may be
allowed the expression, the poetical effect of a spire rising from the
forest. So--not detaining you any longer,' added Mr. Budd, with
energy, 'Here's to the Bridge of Bengala,' and he swung his glass
round his head and waved himself to and fro in delight.

No one knew exactly what to do. Mr. Jolly said 'ah' several times,
uncomfortably, and looked towards Mr. Lang, who muttered and frowned
as he drew the cork from another bottle.

Isabel begged for Mr. Henley's song, but Mr. Fitz said they must
drink the toast first, and he begged to propose the health of Mr.
Lang, with three time three. This was done, and then Mr. Lang rose,
and in a thundering voice stammered out something about his opposing
that scheme with all his might. He considered, without boasting, that
he had a right to a voice in the matter--that he always had, he always
would oppose such a mad scheme. It should not be. He would eat his own
head first. Mr. Budd might try--'

Here Mr. Farrant said he hoped that they would waive the subject for
to--day, so unfitted to the occasion. It was hardly fair to the
ladies. Mr. Herbert uttered many a 'pshaw' from under his moustachios,
and fed his dog from the scraps. Mrs. Vesey with her glass seemed to
be enjoying the whole scene, and in reply to Mrs. Jolly's remark, 'how
unpleasant such little jars were among friends,' she answered, 'O, not
at all; it gives quite a piquante zest to the whole thing, it makes a
variety; I enjoy it beyond measure!'

Great was the relief to many of the party when Mr. Henley said--
'Well, if you will all promise not to be offended at my song, you
shall have it. I am not responsible for its merits or its faults.
Mind, all must join in the chorus. Now then--

Off I set with cash in hands.
And on the map I chose my lands.
But found 'twas nothing but barren sands.
When I got to the bush of Australia!

CHORUS(which after the first was very heartily joined in by the party).

Illawarra, Woolongong.
Parramatta, Mittagong.
Famous subject for a song.
Thy charms, O bush of Australia!

Of sheep I bought a precious lot.
Some died of scab and some of rot.
For the deuce a drop of rain we got.
In the beautiful bush of Australia!

Illawarra, &c.

My convict rogues were always drunk.
And kept me in a constant funk.
When every night to bed I slunk.
I wished myself out of Australia!

Illawarra, &c.

That these woes are enough I'm sure you'll own.
But there's one thing more the whole to crown.
My little bark hut did tumble down.
And all in Australia!

Illawarra, &c.

Of house and land and all bereft.
My woolly farm I gladly left.
Making o'er by deed of gift.
To the savages of Australia!

Illawarra, &c.

I gladly worked my passage home.
And back to England I am come.
Determined never more to roam.
At least in the bush of Australia!

Illawarra, &c.

Stones upon the road I'd break.
And earn my 'seven bob' a-week.
Which must be owned is a better freak.
Than settling in Australia!

Illawarra, Woolongong.
Parramatta, Mittagong!
I like thee when no more among
Thy charms, O bush of Australia!

This song was applauded by all parties. Another was asked for, and
after some pressure, Mr. Fitz gave one. But it fell flat, and Isabel
casting a quick glance round, saw ominous symptoms of fatigue and
weariness. She did not half like the keen looks through her glass,
followed by the hearty, though suppressed laughter, which came from
Mrs. Vesey. Isabel did not mind an honest joke, but she grew redder
and hotter, under this 'fun' of Mrs. Vesey's, which, whatever it might
be about, was confined to the ears of her brother Mr. Fitz and Kate.
Soon a pencil was evidently brought into play. Isabel resolved to try
her best to destroy the picture, and rising quickly proposed their
going to explore the top of old Sugar-loaf. 'Let us have two parties
under leaders, and each take a different route; we shall then settle
the old dispute as to the easiest and quickest way of ascent.'

'Here am I ready to lead one set, then,' said Mr. Budd. And he began
a long-winded repetition of his reasons for preferring one track,
while Mr. Herbert took the other side, and maintained there was a
shorter and better path.

'Well, let us range ourselves under these two great captains,' said
Isabel.

Mr. Budd immediately turned to beg Mrs. Vesey to favour him, and she
taking his arm, Kate, as a matter of course, followed, accompanied by
Mr. Fitz.

'You come with me,' said Mr. Herbert to Isabel; which she agreed to
do, after settling the elders comfortably, who preferred remaining
still, to toiling up a steep hill.

Miss Herbert, Miss Terry, Mr. Henley, and the Doctor followed Mr.
Herbert. The boys ran after the others. But it happened that Mr.
Herbert, with Isabel, very soon outstripped their own party.

'It was a good move of yours, Isabel. That woman's ill-bred quizzing
is intolerable!' Mr. Herbert spoke with strong annoyance.

'How hypercritical you are. You never like any one!' she said, not
disposed to own that she in her heart agreed with him.

'Yes; I like some persons. I like that nice little creature, Miss
Terry.'

'Indeed! Well, that is wonderful! She is highly honoured--'

'Do you think there is no one else I like?' he said, seeking her eyes
as he spoke.

'Do you mean by that, that you like me?'

'Do I mean it?--'

He put out his hand, 'Isabel! shake hands. I have been behaving
abominably! Will you forgive me?'

'I don't know what about,' she said, yielding her hand, but looking
shy. 'What do you mean?'

'Ah! you know. You asked what ailed me just now. Last evening, too,
sulky and miserable as I was, you did not resent it as I deserved. But
you see, Isabel, the fact is, I must learn to consider myself as on
the shelf, and--'

'On the shelf? To be read or eaten; what sort of shelf?'

'Yes!' he went on, gravely and sadly. 'It is a difficult lesson, and
we all find it so in our turn. To stand aside and let our juniors have
their turn, to remember that time is in the natural course of things
dividing us--that, in fact, you are growing into bloom, and I am
approaching decay.'

Isabel laughed merrily at this, and rallied him for his dismal
fancies. But he would not quite throw them off it seemed.

'I may be--I know I am, or must seem to you, a cross, fussy old
fellow. But the fact is, I cannot see you so taken and led by persons
of such utterly bad taste, (oh, Isabel! so very different from those I
should wish to see as your friends!) without a certain annoyance. I
have no right, I know, to speak, or perhaps to judge, but there is
something so thoroughly odious--'

'Come, come, don't be too severe,' she interrupted. 'You have tried
to sugar the pill, but I can't allow our 'particular friends' to be
abused.'

'Particular friends do you call them?' he said with emphasis.

'You should remember how sorely we do want a little variety and
amusement,' she went on demurely. 'So long as we have been confined to
one set--yourself, Tom Jolly, Dr. Marsh, and Captain Smith! really it
is not surprising if we enjoy a little change and fun when it comes?'

'Hem... . Tom Jolly, Dr. Marsh, and myself! Thank you! I see what
estimation I am held in,' he exclaimed, working himself out of his
late penitent, into an offended mood; 'we three are classed as alike,
are we?'

'Dear Mr. Herbert, no! Not the least alike! I don't mean to compare
you. You are not half so good as Tom! Surely you don't imagine that
you are?'

'Oh, he is a very good fellow; an excellent young man, moral and
amiable. I don't at all dispute his excellence, or even claim to equal
it. But in what way do you compare us?'

'In nothing, save that you are both such very old and particular
friends, that you cease to be amusing. You are not more alike than
that great iron bark tree is like a cherry tree. There you are--hard,
and tall, and grim. The most unpliant man I ever saw; it takes a storm
at least to bend you. And there is Tom,' pointing to a native cherry
tree, 'a pliant, gentle, honest, clinging, and loving soul.'

'Yet, even this superior, 'loving,' pliable, elastic youth fails to
please, it seems, when any new, noisy and vulgar person comes in the
way.'

'Don't let the Veseys disturb your peace of mind.'

'They do not. But, Isabel--once I had experience of a disposition, in
some ways, as far as I can see, like Mrs. Vesey. If you knew all, you
would not wonder at my warning you against that sort of ill-nature,
though it is called clever quizzing. Some do say,' he hesitated a
little, 'that you are inclined to it yourself,' and again his
penetrating eye was bent on her. 'But I beg your pardon, I see--I have
no right now--I forget that you are a 'young lady.'... While Isabel
played with her parasol, uncertain how to answer him, being rather
touched by the earnestness of his manner, and also piqued at his
sudden drawing in,--voices proclaimed the others at hand. Mr. Herbert
and Isabel had reached the desired point, but, busy in their
conversation, had taken no further notice than to stand still.

'Here they are! How long have you been here? Did you look at your
watch?' was vociferated.

Mr. Herbert had proved his point, but had overlooked the exact
instant.

Mr. Budd did not like giving in. He asked minute questions as to the
route they had taken, and when it was seen that of all Mr. Herbert's
followers only one was there, and that the others were anywhere, he
maintained that it was not a fair victory. 'He could show all his
staff.'

But where were the laggers? The boys set off to search, and after
much shouting and coo-ee-ing, the ladies appeared, out of breath, wet-
footed, and with damaged dresses. Such a path never was seen!

They came quite into a deep bog, and if it had not been for Mr.
Henley and Mr. Fitz, they would all have stuck there now! Mr. Budd
triumphed. It was this very bog he had known of and expected they
would come across. Mr. Herbert knew a track which avoided it, but in
his pre-occupation with his companion, he had wholly forgotten the
necessity of cautioning the rest of the party. There was of course
much rallying, and Isabel cleverly turned all joke from herself by
fixing it on her companion, and saying 'that it was just like him to
be so absorbed with his argument as to forget everything else.'

Mr. Henley now claimed Isabel's attention, and described with spirit
and humour their adventures.

'We ought to be returning, I think,' she said, and they led the way.

Mr. Herbert, who had been gradually growing graver and graver as the
balls flew past his devoted head, now turned to Miss Terry and offered
his escort and help down the rough path, hoping she would forgive his
seeming neglect of her during their journey up. Very soon these two
were in deep conversation. Isabel looking back, saw them, and nodded
her head in a very pleased and triumphant way. The rest fell into
couples, as they liked. As they gained the level land, they heard a
great coo-ee-ing.

'That is papa! He is tired and wants to go home,' said Isabel. 'Or
something is wrong.'

This proved to be the case.

Isabel found her father vexed and irritated. Mr. Budd's horse had
slipped his halter, and had caused disturbance among the others.
Kate's pony, Tippoo, had made off in consequence, and Mr. Lang and the
man who was in attendance had no little trouble to catch him again.

'It was hot--the flies were unbearable--the locusts would not be
satisfied till they gave every one a splitting headache. What was the
use of staying in such a place? Pic-nics were the vilest inventions
under the sun.'

Mr. Budd laughed loud as he disagreed. He thought they were the most
charming parties possible. It was a lovely--a perfect day. Did not Mr.
Herbert think so?

Mr. Herbert had not thought about it, he said, as he swung his cane,
and walked off to see how Pearl had fared in the skirmish.

The Vine Lodge party and Kate retired to a shady spot, and had just
made themselves comfortable when Mr. Lang insisted on starting
homewards.

There were many voices raised against this. It was such a pity to
start before the cool of the evening--the best part, the homeward
ride, would be entirely spoilt if they had to go while it was so hot.
But Mr. Lang said he should go--any one who liked to stay longer might
do so, only they must beware of the bogs. Isabel said she should go
too, and the Jollys thought it quite time to 'think about it.'

So it ended in the whole party following Mr. Lang. Mr. Herbert drove
the spring cart the whole way. He nearly got into a scrape once, he
was talking so intently. Isabel did not fail to remark this to Mr.
Farrant, who was a little behind her, both trying to keep up with old
Peggy's jog-trot. It was, on the whole, a tame and silent ride, a
cloud seemed to have settled on the spirits of every one. The boys
whistled and laughed a little, and jumped over a few logs; but in
spite of all their entreaties and hallooing, no one followed their
example, not even Isabel, and their father called out for them not to
make fools of themselves, he would have no scampering or leaping.

'Well, to be sure!' sighed Mrs. Lang, 'I must say, Mr. Lang, you and
Mr. Budd might have kept quiet for to-day. I can't think why you say
anything to him, he's beneath your notice, in my opinion.'

'A scoundrel! an impertinent, officious scoundrel!' muttered Mr. Lang
as he applied his whip over Peggy's head with so much vehemence as to
astonish her, so dutifully was she rolling along in her best trot.

'Well, never mind, Mr. Lang, don't call names--think no more of it!
It has, of course, spoilt the party, and shocked poor Mrs. Vesey.'

'Spoilt the party! and who spoilt the party, eh? Mrs. Lang, but that
...'

'Pull up, pull up, papa,' called out Isabel, 'you don't see that
awkward stump. How well Peggy goes to-day, I can hardly keep up with
you,' added she, as she cantered alongside of the gig.

'Come, Issy, after all, that pony has a prettier action than that
trumpery concern Mr. Herbert mounted you on to-day. Some people are
uncommonly conceited, and think all their geese swans.'

As the daughter, riding so well, and smiling and talking so
goodhumouredly kept beside him, Mr. Lang's mood changed. He laughed in
delight as he kept the rest of the party behind. He went at such a
pace, that Mrs. Lang declared he must be mad, and they should
certainly be upset, and she desired Isabel to keep behind or before,
and said that neither she nor her father had any mercy on her nerves.

She grew annoyed as Mr. Lang grew merry, till at last, as they came
to the more open road, Isabel galloped on and left them to follow more
at their leisure.



CHAPTER XI. CURTAIN LECTURES.



There was a long evening before them, and Mrs. Lang was quite tired,
and said that her daughters must amuse the party. Kate agreed as far
as playing chess with Mr. Fitz went, and Mrs. Vesey contrived to keep
several of them round her, including Dr. Marsh and the boys, while she
drew comic figures with astonishing rapidity. Miss Terry was almost
entirely at the pianoforte, while Mr. Herbert, always fond of music,
sat near her, his arms crossed and his pointed chin turned upwards,
utterly unconscious how well Mrs. Vesey's pencil had represented him,
and how much of the tittering and whispering which came from that
table was occasioned by his own attitude. Isabel, meantime, passed
from one party to another, encoring Miss Terry, and bringing out all
the few books and curiosities in the house for Miss Herbert; while a
pile of old newspapers was fetched for Mr. Vesey, who had expressed a
wish to see the market prices of two years since.

The early hours and active habits of the family did not generally
allow of any of those fascinating talks at 'brushing hair' time to
which young ladies are said to be prone. To-night, however, proved an
exception, and the two sisters, for once in a way remained to talk
over the day.

'It has been such a delightful day, hasn't it?' said Kate.

'I was thinking,' said her sister, 'I can't make up my mind quite.
It is pleasant to see some new faces, but on the whole, I do believe I
have had more trouble than pleasure.'

'I enjoyed it all, all but that very stupid speechifying. But Mrs.
Vesey is enough to make everything pleasant. She turns all into fun.'

'You and she are inseparable, and that brother of hers--do you
really like him, Kate?'

'Why, don't you?'

'I know nothing about him. But, somehow, they are complete strangers
after all, and I think we should be careful; we do not know them at
all.'

'Nonsense! What is there to know? They are of good family, and have
some fortune, and are the most agreeable people we have in the whole
district. Take it altogether there were really a respectable set of
gentlemen,' continued Kate, 'Mr. Henley and Mr. Farrant, but Mr. Fitz
is the best, out and out.'

'Umph. You forget Mr. Herbert, and really, I think not one of them
cuts him out, when he likes to be sociable. Kate! an idea has got into
my head, and it wont go out again. Guess what it is.'

'How can I--is it about me?'

'No, but it savours of matrimony.'

'I am sure I can't guess then.'

'The very thing. Just exactly the right thing! Unique, charming; O,
Kate!'

'I am sure I can't guess, unless it is of yourself; who is there but
you and me?'

'No one else? What not in this very house? O, Kate! how can you so
overlook Miss Terry? Come, now you can guess, I am sure.'

'Miss Terry! a governess!'

'Yes, a governess, but what a delicate, gentle, sensible little thing
it is; what a meek, yet spirited wife she will make for--for--come,
Kate, do you give up?'

'Yes! I thought you hated matchmaking, Issy.'

'Matchmaking! Why, girl, I make no matches, I only imagine what a
wife there is ready made for Mr. Herbert. I am passive, quite, but I
see and I wish. I didn't bring them together; I didn't give her that
matchless voice, the very thing he most affects; I didn't tell her to
sing his favourite songs better than all the others; I didn't give her
eyes with that soft downward turn, or eyebrows so delicately arched,
or her figure, that quiet, ladylike grace, which is his very
exemplification of what should be--the realization of his ideal, in
fact. I have heard him describe her exactly when he wishes to give one
a model, and here, in this out-of-the-way place, she comes, just as he
returns home; quite like a novel! Kate, it is already a fact arranged.
Decide on your bridesmaid costume. I, for my part, mean to study the
concoction of bridecake.'

'You are absurd, Issy! You can't be sure. He may not like to marry a
governess; though, I am sure I don't care whom he marries! And as to
her, I wish her joy, for they say he has a temper of his own.'

'To be sure! a fine, blazing, warm, kind, domineering temper, too!
And she will be oil and sunshine. Hurrah! I say, Kate, we must be very
careful not to betray our idea. That would spoil all, only it will be
fun to watch the process of a real courtship, and slily help it on,
you know.'

'Our idea? It is quite all your own. Take care of yourself. I am sure
you will go and tell Mr. Herbert, or allow him to read it in your
face, as he often does. Besides, I suspect, Issy, there will be other
things to divert your attention soon. Some people say a certain
gentleman rather likes you.'

'O, yes, a great many do. I should be sorry to think it was only
one.'

'Well, people talk about me,' returned Kate, rather affectedly. 'But
really I think, Issy, you are the greater flirt or coquette now. I am
sure I am quite content with one...'

'How moderate! I am not; I require a variety. That would be the worst
of being engaged, and all that nonsense. It would spoil all the fun to
be tied down to one. I couldn't stand it,' said Isabel, laughing.

'Well, I shall laugh when you are fairly caught. And caught you will
be soon, or, to borrow papa's expression, my name is not Kate. But I
am sleepy, so good night.'

'Good night!' Isabel returned.

Meanwhile another colloquy was going on in the 'state-room,' as it
was called.

Mr. Vesey, in his dressing-gown, was looking out of the window.

'What a aw--confounded noise these wild cattle are--aw--making. And
by Jove if it isn't as black as ink out there, and looking like aw--
rain. Pretty job to be aw--kept here to-morrow--eh!'

'I shouldn't care; as we have no cook, it will be convenient.
Besides, I want to ascertain for myself in what state these folks'
affairs really are. That creature Budd insinuates that Kate's beauty
will be her portion. Yet they said in Sydney that both the girls would
have something handsome on their wedding-day, to say nothing of what
the father may leave.'

'Well, Arthur, is--aw--not losing time, any way. He is rather
particular, I should say; don't you?'

'Nothing but mere flirtation. As to that, if we find Mr. Budd right,
Arthur can easily back out of it. I shall send him off at once; though
I believe Arthur is not one to forget the one thing, even for the sake
of Kate's bright eyes. What a fool the girl makes of herself about
him, swallowing all the nonsense he talks.'

'Every man to his taste--aw--of course, but give me the other girl--
aw--upon my soul, she's--aw a deuced nice little thing, aw--plenty of
spirit you know--and--to my thinking, very handsome, too.'

'She is my particular aversion,' returned his wife, with asperity.
'That girl presumes to--to--'

'I thought she cut you up sharp, aw--my dear!' laughed the husband.

'Cut me up! Her cool way is unbearable. The only redeeming point in
these people is their having a little money, and possessing the sense
to see they are ages and ages behind civilization. The notion of
presuming to set me right,--to set up, as she does, for a character;
and to order about her elder sister, too! But she will learn who has
most influence over Kate yet. I will pay back Miss Isabel Lang, sooner
or later.'

'Ay, ay! I didn't know it had reached--aw--to this point! Well, if
there is war between you--it will--aw, be great fun, aw--for you are
both great spirits, and clever, aw--and all that, you know. How has
'Issy,' as they call her, managed to--aw, offend you, my love?'

'In every way. But I will show her I am her match yet. Do you hear,
Mr. Vesey; don't go and make a fool of yourself, and flatter up that
young lady, because I don't approve of her at all. As to Arthur, it
will be a bore, now we have taken this place and all, if our
information turns out incorrect. Kate without money is not of course
to be thought of. If she had a few thousands, I should be glad to have
Arthur settled down as a married man. It may steady him.'

'Good luck to the poor girl who has that brother of yours, my dear.
Upon my soul I pity her. I say, I affirm, Arthur Fitz may have--aw--a
long head, and all that, but I say, I don't mind betting anything, he
hasn't aw--a heart as big as a kitten's.'

'Never mind hearts--Dear me, there comes the rain, I do believe!'
and Mrs. Vesey put out the light, and ceased talking.

Beneath her gay and girlish manner, this lady had a very calculating
and shrewd mind. Mr. Vesey possessed a very tolerable fortune, but
there had been troubles in the family, and there were several poor
relations. It was partly to avoid them, and partly in hopes of
realizing a large fortune very speedily, that they came to the colony.
Her only brother accompanied them, having come to the end of the
little he inherited, after a few years' gay living. He too was shrewd
and selfish; he liked money, but was too fond of pleasure to work for
it if it could be had without. For some time he had lived upon his
brother-in-law, and while they were in Sydney Mrs. Vesey determined
that he must marry some one with money. They met the Langs at some
parties, and were struck with the evidence of wealth displayed, as
well as by Kate's beauty, which was great. An acquaintance was
directly brought about, and through Mr. Lang they heard of the Vine
Lodge estate, which might be had a great bargain, he said. The Langs'
fortune was exaggerated in Sydney, and it served to turn the scale,
and decide the Veseys on going to Vine Lodge. Wealthy neighbours whom
she might flatter, and turn to use as well as fun, just pleased Mrs.
Vesey, and to secure so desirable a prize as Kate for her brother, she
would have taken much trouble. Her husband, though very liberal, and
entirely led by her, was beginning to be tired of supplying Arthur
Fitz with funds, and in fact his marriage was an event much desired by
his sister, for more reasons than she cared to say. Hitherto all had
prospered. Mrs. Lang, completely charmed by the notice of so
'fashionable' a person as Mrs. Vesey, cultivated the acquaintance, and
fulfilled all that lady's hopes and calculations with respect to being
a 'good neighbour,' i.e., supplying Vine Lodge with fruit and
vegetables, and lending this and that, while the place was yet rough
and disordered.

Langville was entirely at their service while their own place was
being furnished, and Langville horses and carriages at their disposal.
There was but one hitch, which had a little startled Mrs. Vesey from
the very first, and which gave her more uneasiness as she saw more of
her. Isabel, though readily entering into the fun and the spirit of
their new neighbours, had a keener observation than her mother and
sister. She saw sometimes more than Mrs. Vesey intended, and did not
scruple to show that she saw. In fact, Mrs. Vesey could neither
completely win and fascinate, or awe Isabel. She felt she had found
her match, and that her worldly schemes might be frustrated through
the influence and good sense of Isabel. There was something also of
truth in her husband's remark. Of Kate's beauty, Mrs. Vesey never
dreamt of being jealous; it was so very different from her own style.
But there was in Isabel enough of similarity to provoke the spirit of
rivalry. Now Mrs. Vesey never could endure to divide her reign. She
must be acknowledged the sole and undisputed queen of her own peculiar
territory. She prided herself on her wit and her power of repartee, on
her always speaking home truths; and while she was eminently
fashionable, she professed to hold herself free from all restraint,--
to wear, and to say, and to do, just what pleased herself.

All this dazzled Kate, and Mrs. Vesey's word was law to her in all
matters of taste. But Isabel, looking on, had detected that Mrs. Vesey
was in reality playing her sister and mother a trick, and, according
to schoolboy phrase, was 'chaffing' them.

Mrs. Vesey also found that she did not entirely carry away the
adoration of the district, as she had expected. Some persons preferred
Isabel's merry ways and fun. So this, with several other small things,
made Mrs. Vesey look on Isabel with increasing dislike and suspicion.



CHAPTER XII. A RAINY FOREGROUND AND RUIN IN PERSPECTIVE.



'It is quite impossible for any one to go out to-day,' said Mr. Lang,
in true hospitable fashion, regarding the rain as a Godsend.

They were waiting breakfast for Mrs. Vesey.

'I don't believe I'll get my letters,' he continued, with that utter
confusion of 'shall' and 'will' which is a great characteristic of
'Currency' talk, 'unless I ride for them myself. The boy will never
stand this rain.'

It might truly be said that it 'poured.' Streams of water ran over
the road; and the low land was like one large pond or lake. The rain
was so hard that even the covered way, leading from the house to the
kitchen, did not protect the servants from getting wet as they passed,
the wind drifting in at the open sides.

The covers of the various dishes were wet when placed on the table. A
regular Australian breakfast it was! Langville was famous for good
cheer. Beefsteaks, bacon, kidneys, cold meat, plenty of fresh eggs,
peach jam, marmalade of various kinds, honey and fruit, with West
Indian yams, potatoes, and a large dish of boiled rice and curry
brought up the rear.

Mr. Herbert was teaching the boys to tie some particular knot, and
there was a grand consultation as to what was to be the order for the
day. Mr. Lang insisted on every one, 'every soul,' remaining at
Langville. But Mr. Herbert demurred. He had business.

'Of course ye have. I could have taken my oath ye had business! Steam
mill, eh?' said Mr. Lang, in that way, half-joke half-earnest, he used
often to Mr. Herbert.

Then Mr. Farrant ventured to say that two idle days running would not
do for him. He must go home.

Mr. Vesey, while observing the dishes, and settling which he would
try first, laughed at the notion of minding a wetting. He had heard of
being 'snowed' up, but never of being 'rained' up, since the time of
Noah, ha! ha! ha!...

'Haven't ye? Well, keep your eyes open, and I'll lay a wager ye'll
know the meaning of being rained up. Soon, too!' said Mr. Lang.

'You'll have to be quick, sir,' put in Willie, 'or you'll have to
swim Petty's Creek.'

Miss Herbert at last consented to remain, as well as Mrs. Vesey, till
the roads should be in a better state. Mr. Herbert promised to return
for her, as soon as it was possible.

'Three days' quarantine, at least, Miss Herbert,' said Isabel. 'I
watched the moon set last night, and I knew how it would be. And pray
why must you go?' she added, turning round suddenly on Mr. Herbert.
'Is your presence at home so positively indispensable?'

'Of course, Issy! Why you forget the mill, the steam mill!' said Mr.
Lang, laughing.

'I should like to stay,' Mr. Herbert said, speaking low, so as only
to be heard by Isabel.

'Then do! You owe me some politeness, you know. Stay, and I'll be so
much obliged. Miss Terry! wont you second me?'

That lady looked up, but evidently had not heard what it was she was
required to do, and Mrs. Vesey rallied her on being absent and
'dreamy.'

'Don't you think Mr. Herbert ought to stay here to-day?' asked
Isabel.

'Certainly, certainly,' answered Miss Terry; colouring a very little,
but not showing any further awkwardness.

'If Miss Terry thinks so, I really think I must. No, I forgot! I
can't stay this morning. But I will make a point of returning this
evening,' Mr. Herbert said, looking pleased.

Here Mrs. Lang called Isabel aside. Then she was occupied with
putting up some books belonging to Mr. Farrant.

'Are you ready, Mr. Herbert?' said the clergyman, coming in. 'I must
ask to keep with you, not knowing the ford which Willie makes out so
formidable.'

The two gentlemen bowed, and were soon trotting off, as fast as the
slippery road would allow.

There was some little difficulty in finding 'in-door' amusement for
so large a party at Langville. Neither of the ladies had brought work,
but Mrs. Vesey proposed their going to the store, to learn to make
custards. Miss Herbert begged for writing materials, saying she had a
letter to get ready for the post. While Mrs. Lang was preparing to
teach her friends the mystery of a good custard, Mrs. Vesey's untiring
pencil was busy. She was drawing caricatures. First there was her
brother and his dog, an ugly terrier, with the proverb, 'Love me, love
my dog.' He laughingly protested against his having such a hooked
nose, but his sister declared it was exactly like, and appealed to
Kate for her opinion. Kate said it was 'horrid,' at which the
gentleman confessed he felt consoled; but Mrs. Vesey rather drove poor
Kate into a corner by pretending to be hurt at her drawing being so
condemned and criticised. Then came a rough but very clever sketch of
their party at the pic-nic. Mr. Budd was admirable; Isabel said she
could hear his 'twanging' voice, talking of his zeal for public good,
and coming down with fifty pounds, winking all the time. 'How can you
do them so well? so very like?' she asked Mrs. Vesey.

'Try. You will find it very easy with practice. Try on fat Mr.
Jolly.'

Isabel did try, and as she had a natural turn for the sort of thing,
and a free, true touch, it was no bad attempt.

'Capital!' said Mr. Fitz. 'Why you are a genius, Miss Isabel.'

'Famous!' exclaimed Mrs. Vesey. 'Now, try Mr. Herbert! Oh, pray do!'
added she, as Isabel shook her head, and pushed away the paper.

'It is hardly fair,' said Isabel. 'If they were present--perhaps--but
to laugh at the absent--'

'Who on earth would dare to laugh at Mr. Herbert, to his face?' said
Kate, in an alarmed voice.

'Come, try! Positively I want your idea of Mr. Herbert's physiognomy,
Miss Isabel Lang. It is a study.'

Miss Herbert, who was sitting at another table, and was deaf, had not
heard all that was said, but the name of Herbert struck her. She
looked up, and catching Mrs. Vesey's eye, that lady quickly gave her
Isabel's profile of Mr. Jolly. 'A portrait by Miss Isabel Lang. Good,
isn't it, Miss Herbert?'

'Indeed I am no judge. It doesn't strike me as being like. I cannot
approve of caricatures,' she added, rising and going out of the room.

'Now, then, we have offended the respectable spinster!' said Mrs.
Vesey. 'She has retreated in anger--true tragedy style! I will have my
revenge too, in a full-length portrait--toss of the chin and all! By
the way, she is like her brother, the grand signior. Are they supposed
to be much attached, and all that sort of thing? I conclude neither
party will ever marry. Is there any fraternal bond or promise of
perpetual union?'

'Oh, no! Why Miss Herbert would give a good deal to be married,' said
Kate.

'My dear creature! What! Do you mean it? Hasn't she turned the
awkward corner yet? Bless me! I thought she had passed that formidable
turn in life. I considered her quite as one of the extremely
respectable, delightful, charming sisterhood of single ladies.'

'So she has. So she is,' said Isabel. 'I am sure there is nothing
whatever to justify Kate's idle remark.'

'Well, Issy, all I can say is,' Kate answered, peevishly, 'if she
doesn't think of it, some one else does. Miss Herbert is not averse to
the attentions of--But what are you laughing at?' she suddenly said,
blushing.

'Only at your shrewd sagacity and your charming simplicity, my dear
girl! So I find all my little romances about primitive life in the
Bush melt away, on near inspection. These two excellent beings are not
bound together as brother and sister, as I conceived. They are just
like other mortals, and would marry--if they could. Perhaps that is
what makes him so 'crusty' at times. I might say 'low,' but I prefer
plain English, and have a leaning to culinary similes. He is 'crusty'
sometimes, and puts a 'damper' on one's gaiety. But I find no fault.
He is an original. I adore originality. He is too proud to be bonâ
fide a settler and make money, too high in his notions to do without
money, and too conscious of his powers to consent to being a mere
nobody in England.'

'That is it, exactly. How clever you are, dear Mrs. Vesey!' said
Kate, looking admiringly and lovingly at her new friend.

The discussion was stopped by a summons from Mrs. Lang for all the
ladies who wished to help in the custards. Mr. Fitz insisted that he
should be very useful in beating up eggs, and made them laugh by tying
on one of the little girls' pinafores and tucking up his sleeves. All
went to the store but Isabel. She put on her bonnet and paced up and
down the verandah, on that side of the house where the rain did not
beat in.

The coolness of the air was acceptable, and with every big drop that
fell, there were pleasing associations of good crops and of green
verdure, instead of dry, sere grass, or the soil gaping in ugly cracks
for the moisture it so often lacked.

She stood leaning against a pillar at the further end of the
verandah for a moment, looking at the strange scene before her. The
lowlands were a sheet of water, out of which thin, spare trees with
attenuated foliage raised themselves; their fantastic ribbons of
hanging bark now wet and dank. Streams coursed down the road which led
to the house; streams of water which, if they had been wisely saved in
tanks, would have been a provision in time of need in that land where
so often 'no water is.' Cattle and sheep and horses gathered together
beneath such miserable shelter as the narrow and scanty foliage of the
bush afforded. Yet was it a cheering prospect for them. Two days'
sunshine would raise, as if by magic, many a banquet of juicy grass,
particularly wherever a black gin had chanced to kindle a fire. These
emerald spots, few and rare, are indeed the jewels of the bush.

But some one was to be seen riding through the wet, braving the
falling torrents, and guiding the slipping horse over the now hidden
ruts and stumps. He came nearer, into the entrance road. The only gate
of which Langville could boast, was heard to bang heavily through the
pattering of the rain as it fell on the pavement round the verandah.
For one moment the horseman was lost to Isabel's view--as he descended
the dip--then again he appeared. 'It must be Mr. Herbert,' thought
she. 'I am glad he is come. No--why it is my father; where can he have
been--for the letters perhaps. He must have expected an important one,
to go on such a day!' It was Mr. Lang, and in five minutes more he
rode up to the house; 'hallooed' for the man to take his horse, and
swore at him for not being quick enough. Then muttering beneath his
slouched and dripping hat something about 'Rascals and vagabonds and
cursed times,' he came on to the verandah--stopped short at seeing
Isabel, and asked what she did there; whether she wanted to grow like
the green barley?

'I was tired of the house; but where have you been, sir? how wet you
are. Why did you go out to-day?'

'Go out! why, because I expected a letter. The rascal has written; I
have it; precious document! Grinding a poor man to dust, ruin,
starvation, beggary. No more pic-nics or government balls, which your
mother is mad about. Issy, I am a ruined man! We are beggars. You must
turn to and work, my girl! I pay 800l. a year in mortgages already,
and now I applied to Barr, and the good-for-nothing, usurious rascal
has the impudence to offer me 500l. for a bill of three months for
700l.! I asked him if he really had the conscience to do so, and he
writes word--'Conscience and I have taken leave of each other for some
time. This is my offer. Take it or not, as you like'.'

'But why go to him, sir--why not sell stock?'

'Sell! just show me how! show me who will buy. Sixpence a head for
my best merinos, I suppose. Yes, 'sell!' Easy to say 'sell!' I must
either answer this demand for 00l. or become insolvent. I know not
where to raise it! The colony is ruined. They've taken away our
convict labour; that was the beginning. However, Westbrooke, thank
goodness, is settled on your mother--it may be a retreat for us yet.'

'I did not know how seriously bad your affairs were,' said Isabel.

'Not worse than my neighbours, that's one comfort. Budd is hard up,
they say; and Herbert even says he shall have to let Warratah and go
to his station. The sooner the better. 'Pon my soul that fellow is
abominable! But for him and his confounded 'public good' items, I
could get that bridge at once. It would raise my land directly; but
he's as obstinate as a mule. Why, I even put it to him in a way most
men are open to. I convinced him it would be best for his pocket
hereafter. I even went so far as to offer him a consideration, if he
would withdraw his opposition, and, if you believe me--'

'O papa! Did you do that! How could you?' exclaimed his daughter,
really distressed.

'What harm? But, as I was going to say, he drew up like an emperor
and declined, and, by Jove, looked so haughty and so confounded sulky,
that I out with it, and gave him a little bit of my mind. I told him a
few things, and if he shows himself here again very soon--why, he is a
bolder man than I thought.'

Isabel was silent for some time. At last she said--

'O, papa! you have made me downright wretched.'

'How so?' he returned quickly, looking at her.

'I hope you don't mean that--'

'I meant such a good scheme! It was all so very comfortable and pat,
and now you have gone and destroyed it all! Yet you profess to like
Miss Terry, too.'

'Miss Terry? Is the girl gone mad? How have I injured her, for
goodness sake?'

'Don't you see, daddy, that she, being a very taking little woman,
has managed to please even that difficult to be pleased man, Mr.
Herbert? Fact--I assure you. They are made for each other. And I had
set my heart on it; and now you see you have driven him away, and
destroyed the hope.'

'By Jupiter! how these women do go on! As if I could possibly have
suspected such a plot. Besides, she's too good for him--much too good.
Let it alone, Issy, and don't interfere with his concerns.'

'But Miss Terry. She is a governess, and it would be such a good
thing for her to have a home of her own, and then we should have her
near us. Confess, now, it is not such a bad idea.'

'I am sure--if she wishes it. I should be very sorry to injure her.
Well, well--I have given him a flea in the ear, 'tis true; but I leave
you women to make it up. If he likes her, it isn't my words that will
keep him away.'

'And, now, what can be done, papa, about our affairs. How can we
retrench?'

'Don't know. I did say to your mother we must not indulge in a
governess now, but she was 'up' about it in a minute, and I confess I
should be loth to part with the little woman, especially if you are
right in your conjectures.'

'Yes; we must not send her away, whatever we do, papa, yet awhile.
Who, then, can go?'

'Well, we must cut down the list of people about the place. Such a
number of rations really hampers one now-a-days. That girl--that do--
nothing lass--why should she be on us? She might go for one, and two
or three of the men I shall send off. Your mother is always in rows
with that girl, too, Issy, and if you take my advice you will let her
go home.'

'Such a home as it is, though!'

'She could do well enough if she would. There is Venn wanting to
marry her. And if she wont have him, let her go home and keep steady,
and she could hear of a place in time. I assure you her being here
leads to mischief. It sets all the men up, for somehow she is a great
favourite, and it makes jealousy with the other servants.'

'Well, then, she shall go. She will not keep rules, I know, and is
always running out, which mamma is angry about. Poor girl, I fear she
will get into some mischief before long.'

When Isabel and her father joined the others, they found that Dr.
Marsh had come in Mr. Herbert's gig to fetch Miss Herbert--much to her
surprise, as her brother had promised to come. Isabel looked at her
father, and he smiled.

'He's sulky with me--that's it, ma'am. He and I had some argument;
and I'll lay a wager, when you return, he'll call me a few pretty
names.'

Miss Herbert tried to get up a laugh, and said something about
disputes and arguments, and then said she would go at once to prepare
for her drive. Isabel followed, and helped her to gather her things
together.

'Didn't your brother send any message to say why he didn't come
himself?' she asked, uneasily.

'No, none. Perhaps he is engaged; and Dr. Marsh is very kind
always.'

'Yes--very. Do you think your brother,--Mr. Herbert, is really much
interested in the bridge question?'

'Yes--very much,' Miss Herbert said, drily.

'How tiresome it is. You don't think that he is angry, I hope? Papa
is unguarded, you see, but at bottom he means kindly.'

'I dare say. But my brother, being a military man, has been accus
tomed to great respect and regard for the sensitiveness of a
gentleman's feelings--a thing little understood here.'

'I hope politeness is understood,' Isabel answered, bridling up a
little. 'But, however,' she added, with heightened colour, 'please
Miss Herbert try and persuade your brother not to be angry, to forgive
us, and not to desert us!'

'Your father and he will judge about that,' Miss Herbert answered,
with cold reserve. She did not like Isabel's evident wish to bring her
brother there. 'Besides, my brother has plenty to do,' she added, 'and
these are not times to allow of pleasure-taking and idling. He has
been too fond of throwing away his time. I can't conscientiously urge
him to visit here so often.' 'We don't wish to hinder his work, of
course,' said Isabel, trying to be cold and calm too; 'and, after all,
he must take his own way; only I don't like misunderstandings.'

'You seem very earnest in the matter! Shall I take any message from
you to my brother, telling him of the flattering interest you have in
his concerns, and the regret you show at any fear of his staying away
rather more than he has done?'

This was said in an ironical tone, which Isabel resented.

'Thank you! I wont trouble you with any message, since as far as
regards myself it is a matter of no consequence at all. Luckily we
have now such an agreeable addition to our neighbourhood, what with
the Vine Lodge people and the Parsonage, that we can spare--'

'Old friends!' put in Miss Herbert, shortly, as she turned to leave
the room, all equipped for her drive.

'Those who are too busy to come,' Isabel quietly added, and here
their talk ended.

The Doctor was ready, and very soon after watching this pair drive
down the road, Mrs. Vesey was summoned by her husband to depart. They
left under protest, and with a promise to come again very soon.



CHAPTER XIII. LYNCH'S SKYLARK.



For a few days Langville subsided into great quiet. The only visitor
was Mr. Farrant, and, as many of his flock lived on the Langville
estate, there seemed to be always a reason for his coming. Mrs. Lang
pitied his bachelorhood, too, and always persuaded him to remain for
some meal and a little society. This he never seemed disinclined to
do. He was certainly sociable, and he managed to please and fit in
with every one in the house. He assisted Miss Terry by correcting an
exercise now and then, or recommending a book, or setting a sum. He
brought new music and new drawings, as well as books for the young
ladies, and for Mrs. Lang he had always some request, some tale fitted
for her motherly compassion, of his scattered and wild parishioners.
The accounts he sometimes gave of a solitary hut or 'gunjo' which he
came upon unexpectedly in his rides, pitched in some deep secluded
gully, where, perhaps, two men lived for a time, cutting bark or
sawing planks of the red cedar used for furniture and building, would
have made many a stirring tale. Often he was made to understand by
innuendoes or broader hints that one of these hut mates had suddenly
disappeared, and although a plausible story was told of his
destination by the other, it was too plain that grave suspicions of
foul play existed. But there was no evidence, no one to witness, no
one to be interested in the missing man's fate, sufficiently to hunt
up and ascertain the truth of the reports. He might certainly be gone
away to a remote place, to 'Five Islands' or 'New Zealand' as his
companion asserted, or he might even then be lying in the gully, under
some gum-tree. Mrs. Lang warned Mr. Farrant not to ride too much alone
among such people, and she had many anecdotes to relate in return,
proving the wildness of life, and the consequences to which evil
passions led, without the restraint of society and law.

Isabel enjoyed these quiet visits. Mr. Farrant's refined and gentle
cast of mind was new to her. She liked to make him talk of England, of
its customs, its buildings, and associations.

True, he never showed the power and force with which Mr. Herbert
sometimes spoke; but he was far more equable, and his tastes took a
wider field. There was no subject on which Mr. Farrant could not make
a pleasant observation in a gentlemanly way, imbuing everything with a
little of his own sentiment. Whereas, Mr. Herbert often refused to
enter on a subject at all, saying abruptly that he knew 'nothing about
it.' When in the mood, he would turn, and in a few words crush all the
clergyman's plausible remarks, begging pardon afterwards, and
confessing that Mr. Farrant's was a more popular and pleasing theory.
He could make himself disagreeable, even Isabel owned; but when it
pleased him to throw off this coat of mail, when he contrived to get
her apart from others, and with Miss Terry or one other genial
listener, then--who could talk as he did? The pity was, that rare
indeed were the times!

Now it was convenient and pleasant to have some one not given to
'moods,' but provided with plenty of current small change ready to
pass round to whoever wished for it. Little did it matter apparently
to Mr. Farrant whether his companions really appreciated the poetry he
quoted, or understood his favourite arguments; he persevered; and
consequently impressed many people with the idea that he was a very
'intellectual man,' quite a 'poet' in fact! No sharp remark or far-
fetched allusion made his hearers feel thoroughly ashamed of their
ignorance; but he seemed to utter their own thoughts, so that each one
was felt raised in his own esteem when with him, surprised at his own
taste, astonished, and almost persuaded, that he was, after all,
rather literary, and not so very ignorant! With Mr. Herbert, it need
hardly be said, the effect was quite contrary.

Besides this, the true amiability of the clergyman, so ready with
friendly sympathy, won all hearts; and Isabel was pleased to find that
her father was often amused by him, and seemed to look forward to his
visits. Mr. Farrant took interest in the erection of a 'boiling-down
shed,' which Mr. Lang, following the prevailing fashion, hoped would
succeed--One of those resources, suggested by the exigency of the
times, as a means of turning their large herds of cattle into some
profit; and while occupied with the work, and calculating the probable
results, Mr. Lang forgot his panic, and fell back to very much his
former life and spirits.

The Bridge question was for the present in abeyance, the Government
authorities having taken it up; so that Isabel guessed that her
father's ire had subsided, and that if Mr. Herbert would overlook the
past, he might soon find his old welcome. But this he did not seem
inclined to try. On the first Sunday following their dispute Mr. Lang
had angrily refused to allow any of the household to go to church. It
was vain to tell him that this desertion of worship would not affect
Mr. Herbert. Mr. Lang swore he wouldn't put himself in the way of
meeting him; besides, though he declared that he was not angry, and
was very glad to see the minister there as often as he liked to come,
he wished to show Mr. Farrant that his taking the Herbert side of the
question did not please him. The abstaining from 'supporting' him by
going to church was one means, he thought, of showing this feeling.

When another Sunday came the girls looked at each other, as Mr. Lang
muttered something to the effect that the carriage and horses could
not be used.

'Surely, papa, you are not going to keep us all away again to-day,'
said Isabel. 'It shows how much Mr. Farrant understood your hint, too,
for he expressed sorrow at our being kept at home by the weather!'

'O! we must go to-day, Mr. Lang,' put in his wife.

'Go, if you will. But my carriage and horses don't stir, I can tell
ye. I am not going to be taxed with driving nine miles and back every
week, not I! I will have my own church in my own place, I say, and
I'll let them see I will, too!'

It ended in the young people's riding. Mrs. Lang, Miss Terry, and the
children had the service at home.

While Isabel waited after church for her brother to lengthen her
stirrup, Mr. Herbert left Mrs. Vesey, to whom he had been speaking,
causing Isabel to doubt if he meant to notice her or Kate at all, and
approached her. Now, he had a trick of smothering what would have been
a sunny smile, but the very effort to restrain it curled his lips, and
it was still a smile ready to break through the clouds and be very
brilliant. Isabel, regarding him keenly, knew this expression; she
took courage, and offered her hand.

'Do you know I thought you were not going to speak to any one of us,'
said she.

Then he laughed, but the light had vanished--the laugh expressed
annoyance rather than pleasure.

'So, then, you are angry--you wont shake hands?' she said, rather
uneasy, but striving not to show it.

'Yes, I will,' taking her offered hand, first in one and then in both
his. 'I can't afford to be sulky just now, if I were inclined--I must
pocket my pride. Isabel! I must soon go back to the station. I have
serious thoughts of shutting up shop here, and taking my sister there.
How do you think it would suit her?'

Isabel here pulled away her hand, and without assistance mounted her
horse, and as she did so, said--

'Not at all. You may go--perhaps we shall all be more peaceable
without you. Mr. Budd will never resist our party without yourself to
support him. Leave your sister, and go to your flocks! Leave the roads
and bridges to your betters. I don't believe really that you
understand anything about it, or care. What can it signify to you,
personally?'

'Nothing. It will make no difference to me as an individual. If
anything, your father's plan might accommodate me more. But the other
is clearly, indisputably, the right side for the public. You don't
think me wrong in this?'

Isabel's steed pricked up his ears as Willie and Jem led their rough
ponies out. She curbed him for a moment, and said quickly, in her
winning way, as her friend Mrs. Jolly called it.

'If I don't think you wrong, I wont say that you are right.'

Then she touched the horse's neck with her whip, and went on a few
steps in a fidgety canter, which bid fair soon to be a fast gallop.
But Mr. Herbert was soon at her side, and caught hold of the pommel.

'Don't be in such a hurry--I want to speak to you; I never get a
sight of you now. Seriously, I do think of going to the station. I see
not how we are to exist at all, if we don't.'

'What! are you turned croaker? You are the last man to give in to the
dismal cry which the very parrots seem of late to have learnt. For my
part, I believe it will do us all a great deal of good,--these bad
times; we have all been speculating and extravagant. Depend on it, Mr.
Herbert, it is only one of your English clouds; when it clears off, it
will show us the real brightness of our skies.'

'Ha! very pretty--all very well. I am glad, however, that you take it
so, and keep up your spirits.'

'O, I always do that. I can't grow miserable just because wool is
down, and bullocks wont sell.'

'If neither wool nor bullocks sell, what is to become of us all--you
and Kate included?'

'Never mind! we shall do very well.'

'Hem!--Well, it is not fair to infect you with my gloominess.'

'No; but I will willingly give you some of my cheerfulness... . I
wonder,' she added, quickly changing her tone, and shaking her head,
while the colour mounted to her forehead, 'I wonder how you can stand
such ridiculous, rattling nonsense as mine. Times are seriously bad,
but--'

The boys now looked back, and called their sister.

'Isabel!' said Mr. Herbert, 'one word on another subject; Lynch has
asked me to beg for him. Why does not your father let him marry? I
really believe it would secure him a good servant in the fellow, and
save that poor girl.'

Isabel shook her head. 'It is no use; it cannot be. She must go out
to service; papa can't afford to keep her on the farm, and the more
people interfere, the worse for Lynch. Now, good-bye; will you come
to-morrow?'

'No.' Mr. Herbert removed his hand from the saddle, and drew up his
head. 'No,' he repeated.

'Yes, do.'

He half smiled.

'Mr. Farrant is coming; join him!'

'No,' in his most decided manner. 'It is impossible!'

'Good-bye, then. A pleasant journey to the station,' and she kissed
her hand, and cantered on.

Isabel had delayed giving Ellen Maclean notice to go, from a dislike
to tell her so, and from some undefined hope, that better conduct and
more steady industry on the girl's part, might render her stay
possible. A vain hope. She only grew odder and wilder. Mrs. Lang was
extremely angry, and insisted on her being sent home. Isabel felt
herself that, under present circumstances, it would be desirable for
both, if Ellen were sent out of Lynch's way. It kept him in constant
hot water, if he thought her ill-used, or if he suspected that Venn
had any chance of success with her. It would be very desirable if the
girl could go into service somewhere. But the only place Isabel heard
of, where a girl was wanted to nurse a baby, was not such as made it
desirable for Ellen to be in. However, she must leave Langville; and
Isabel on this Sunday evening, gave up joining the family walk, in
order to have a quiet and uninterrupted talk with her. The girl cried
bitterly when told that she must go, and after letting Isabel talk
some time without any answer, she said, 'Very well, she would go home
now. But she wasn't going to stay there.'

'Why, Ellen? Why not try and please your stepmother, and work for
her?'

'Miss Isabel! wont you please ask the master for the ticket, only the
ticket--the blessed ticket, and all would be straight? Don't you see,
Jack and me, we're fond one of another, and if life is hard, we could
bear up together. What harm would it do to any one, for him to marry
me?'

'It can't be, Ellen. You must wait till Lynch has fairly earned his
ticket. His conduct is not such that his master will go out of the way
to recommend him, and he does not choose to have any more married
couples here.'

'He allows Venn to marry if he likes,' the girl said.

'Yes; if you will marry him, you may.'

'I'll die sooner! It's all a plot, I know. Every one turns against
Jack, I know; most of all, that villain. Let them take care, though.
Even the wild dogs will turn and bite in the death-throe. A time would
come--'

Then suddenly throwing herself on the floor by Isabel, and catching
hold of her dress, the girl looked imploringly into her face.

'Oh, Miss Isabel, get me a place anywhere, and I'll work, indeed I
will; only let us have the ticket afterwards. Well--' she added, after
looking earnestly at Isabel. 'Well, I'll go home, I'll do anything;
I'll go home this very night.' And she rose and turned away, but
returning, held up her hand.

'Mind what I said! don't be after driving a man desperate. Keep Jack
out of punishment, and I don't care what comes of me. Poor girl! poor
Nell, the world is hard, but you'll be happy yet, you will.' And so
saying, she persisted in going at once, and no argument or persuasion
from Isabella could restrain her. There was a curious vein of
something like insanity, or lack of sense, which ran through the
girl's mind; and when the fit came upon her, reasoning was vain. All
that Isabel could do, was to set one of the servants to watch at a
distance, and it was a kind of bare comfort, to hear that she had been
traced to her father's hut. Isabel hoped she might keep her promise
and work, but even that might not ensure kind treatment from her
violent stepmother, who had an antipathy to the girl. This woman did
not bear a good character.

Curious stories were whispered about as to her former life. She had
been a prisoner, and lived as servant with the canny Scotchman,
Maclean, who in his first wife's lifetime was overseer at Langville,
and what was called a respectable and well-to-do man. But when the
mistress died, leaving this little child Ellen, about whom she had
always been anxious, discerning something not quite right in her mind,
everything went wrong. Ellen's grief was excessive, and seemed to
increase the disorder. The father sank into despondency, and his
affairs went badly, till he was induced by evil counsel to marry his
servant. From that hour, misery and dissension took possession of his
hut. Maclean was a changed man. He and his master had quarrelled, and
he no longer acted as overseer, but took some land on a clearing
lease, and removed his goods to the settlement where he erected a hut.
It was to this home the girl went on leaving Langville.



CHAPTER XIV. BREAKING THE ICE.



That same Sunday evening, the master of Warratah Brush had been
sitting for a very long time, as if communing with his own thoughts,
and from his look they were grave ones. Miss Herbert, having long
since finished the sermon which she made a point of reading every
Sunday, had watched him anxiously. She had arrived at the conclusion,
growing on her for some little time, that her brother, to whom she was
sincerely attached, was not quite happy. Some change which she could
not describe, or attribute to any one thing in particular, had crept
over him. It might certainly be the general panic which now came home
to him, yet it was not quite like him to sit down in dejection under a
monetary trouble. Rather she would have expected him to rise with
twofold energy to meet and grapple with the difficulty.

At last she could bear it no longer, and at the risk of a short
answer, she broke the lengthened silence by saying, 'So Mr. Lang is
still in anger, and keeps away from church to punish us! I suppose he
thinks he makes us very unhappy!'

No answer, only a darkening of the face.

'Do you mean to keep it up? Though, why do I ask? Of course you can't
do otherwise. It is for him to come round with apology. Of course it
would not be possible for us to think of going there, or making the
smallest advance. I observed that you gave the girls a cut to-day. I
was amused at your being driven to play the agreeable to Mrs. Vesey,
though.'

'Had you waited five minutes more, you might have observed that I did
not give any cut.'

'Oh!--and I dare say received none, from that quarter! So you spoke
after all, and Issy's eyes did not wander and seek you for nothing.
She is anxious enough to be friendly, it seems, and made all kinds of
excuses to me for her papa.'

'Did she?'

'Yes; but I received them very coldly. Of course, I am sorry for this
misunderstanding; in our small set, it is very unpleasant. Yet, I must
own, John, I am not sorry that something should intervene to stop your
intercourse with that girl. It will not do now; she is grown up.'

'It did not need this row to bring about that, I assure you, Mary;
you need not trouble yourself on that score,' he said, half-bitterly
and half-sadly.

'Why, she's very fond of you--very,' returned the sister, uneasily;
for she never could bear her brother to be hurt in his own esteem.

'Fond! I don't doubt it. Fond of an old uncle or grandfather. To be
sure she is!'

'Well, and that is but natural, John! I mean, it is just as well,
for it would have been awkward if she... I heartily wish,' she
interrupted herself angrily, 'I do wish that Mr. Farrant would be
quick and bring things to a point. Not that I can ever think it tells
well for his taste or judgment. A pretty rattling clergyman's wife she
will be.'

'I have heard you hint all this before,' Mr. Herbert said, rising
and walking about, looking down on the ground. 'But, Mary, do you from
your heart mean it? Do you apprehend that Mr. Farrant is paying
attention to her?'

'John, judge for yourself! I only ask you to look with your own
clear eye and good sense, and tell me what is taking him there every
day in the week? What induces him to be so interested in her
improvement? Why, his very sermons seem to me to be meant for that
family; and I know, I heard it from Kate--who is, by the way, a
perfect sieve--that Issy takes notes of these sermons, and that she is
much affected by them, and, as Kate says, gets full of new notions in
consequence. I only wish I could think better of it; but I see so many
points in her character which I do not like, that...'

'My dear, I don't think you know Isabel. You know nothing of her,
and are prejudiced by her manner, which may be unformed, but...'

'My dear John, I assure you I have taken pains to try and know her,
not only by talking of her to Kate and to Miss Terry, but you might
have seen, had you observed, that she and I happened to be pretty much
together lately.'

'I saw it with pleasure...'

'Yet, I must say--it is my duty to tell you, John--of course you can
act as you like,--but I must say that I find in her a great deal of
that very spirit, that identical disposition which you most dislike
and dread; and Mrs. Vesey's coming here only increases and encourages
it tenfold.'

His steps became quicker, he threw back his head, biting his lips,
and showing symptoms of great annoyance, but he said nothing.

A sound of horses' feet in the yard reached them.

'Well,' he said, quickly, 'you need not be troubled, there is no
chance of any greater intimacy between us, and rest assured I am not a
man to be taken in. I have had my lesson, one never, never to be
forgotten. Here is Farrant. Now, Mary, order some tea at once.' And he
walked out, apparently relieved, to greet their guest, who had fallen
into the habit of taking their house in his long round, having every
second Sunday a service twenty miles off.

Mr. Herbert threw off all gloom, and made himself particularly
agreeable. Each time he caught his sister's eye fixed on him he
redoubled his efforts to be gay, and to show how much he liked their
visitor. When Mr. Farrant rose to go, Mr. Herbert accompanied him to
the stable, and even walked on by his side, 'to put up the 'slip-rail'
firmly,' as he said.

At parting he patted the clergyman's horse, and, after a little
clearing of his voice, he said--

'Farrant, I am about to ask a question. If you don't wish to answer
it, say so. Have you--any motive--any reason in particular, I would
say, for your frequent visits to a certain house? I have a strong
reason for asking, being, as you know, an old friend, a kind of
hanger-on or uncle--and--owing to things I have heard, I wish to
know--if you have any decided reason for going there, or if it is
merely chance.'

Mr. Farrant's face flushed up, but after a moment's pause, he said,
'I did not suppose I had done anything to awaken suspicion. The fact
is--I am awkwardly situated--yet, I may say so much in strict
confidence to you. Yes, there is a reason--a motive.'

'Enough! I thank you heartily for your confession,' and Mr. Herbert
seemed about to turn away; but Mr. Farrant said, 'I had before thought
of asking your advice, knowing you to be an intimate friend of the
family--but all--everything is so very uncertain yet--that--in fact--
you understand when I say that I have a reason, it only implies--my
own wishes, nothing more.'

'I understand! But you will succeed. Good evening! Thank you.'

'Mary!' said Mr. Herbert, as he took his candle to retire to his room
for the night. 'Am I grown a very old-looking fellow? Am I so very
much older than our parson?'

'I suppose you are a few years, perhaps four or five years older than
he is. But as to calling yourself old-looking, it is folly. You never
looked better in your life, John. Mr. Farrant is very well indeed, but
look at him by you. You are far taller and more manly, and handsomer
too--though that way he has seems very attractive to people. You don't
choose to try to make yourself pleasant; if you did, you could
succeed.'

'One is apt to forget how time goes on. But now I awake suddenly to
the fact that I have been here between five and six years. However,
there is some hard work before me, I can see,' he presently added,
with forced animation, 'These are not times to add to one's expenses
and cares. We must be very careful, or I don't see how we shall
weather the storm. I hear that Lang's affairs are in an ugly state.
Budd, too, is very hard up, and that last crash in Sydney has
destroyed all confidence. The fact is, we have been going ahead in the
most reckless, thoughtless way as a colony, and now comes the crash.
We shall live to see many changes, if we can manage to sit it out
ourselves; and, luckily, as I have always kept within bounds, and left
that sum safe in England, we are likely to be better off than our
neighbours.'

It was about this time that the Bank of Australia failed, and its
fearful consequences to the numerous shareholders added considerably
to the universal distress and want of confidence.

A phantom seemed to hover over the land. Old-established houses were
failing everywhere. There was no sale for anything, no money and no
credit. People who had begun to build fine houses had to withhold
their hand. Everywhere unfinished buildings proclaimed the dismal
truth. Throughout the length and breadth of the land arose a low
prophetic cry of coming distress.

A change came, entering the very heart of society. The independent
and haughty egotism which the untroubled prosperity of years had
engendered gave way. People began now to tremble, and to feel there
was a God. In times of distress we all remember this, and while
churches were necessarily left unfinished from lack of means, the
services and ordinances of religion appeared to be more appreciated
and sought. The clergy felt that a path was thus opened to their
ministrations. Hearts were softened, new ideas and principles were
received. But though, in speaking of this season, it is hardly
possible to pass this phase in the life of the colony in silence, it
does not belong to this story further to enter into particulars.
Suffice it to say, that the prospect of actual ruin stared many a
hitherto wealthy family in the face. And this dread was felt in the
district of Bengala. It was playing a desperate game; to give up was
to hasten the dreaded hour of doom. So each one tried to deceive his
neighbour and himself. The ball must be kept up by whatever means.
They dared hardly diminish their households, or put down an extra
horse, for fear a neighbour's attention should be drawn to them and
their weakness suspected.

So Mr. Lang, aided by a naturally sanguine temper, shut his eyes to
danger, and busied himself to make the best bargains he could, and to
gather enough to pay off the immense mortgages with which he had
burdened his property. Mrs. Lang's whole energy was devoted to save on
the one hand and to spend on the other--to make a show with small
outlay. Above all, she desired to marry her daughters before the hour
of ruin struck, and besought her husband at whatever cost to keep up
his establishment yet a little longer, and furnish her with cheques
for the milliners. If once Kate was Mrs. Fitz, and Isabel Mrs.
Farrant, she should be comparatively relieved and content. She might
have wished for something better a short time ago, especially with
regard to Isabel. Yet, she reasoned that this was better than nothing,
and Isabel had not the beauty of her sister. Mr. Herbert would have
been a better match, but he was not liked by herself or her husband,
and besides, she began to give him up altogether, for had he thought
of it at all, he would have come forward before. Anything was better
than to sit down and think; so constant parties and meetings were
encouraged between the neighbours. Yet time went on, and still the
Herberts came not; and except a hurried meeting in the churchyard,--
for there was no more going to Warratah Brush, since Mr. Lang
persisted in forbidding the carriage being used on a Sunday,--they had
no intercourse whatever.

Mr. Farrant gained golden opinions by proposing a service to be held
for the benefit of Mr. Lang's people, in a rough and unfinished
building, originally intended for a store. Certainly the distance to
Bengala was great, and prevented many of the labourers from going to
church, especially the women. Mr. Lang, though deprived of his bridge
and road by the final decision of government, resolved to have 'his'
church, in which laudable undertaking Mr. Farrant encouraged him,
though he tried to put it on other grounds than to 'spite' Mr.
Herbert. He said that Mr. Herbert would rejoice in the building, and
would, he was sure, be ready to give his share of help. It was quite a
different thing from the bridge. But Mr. Lang could not, or would not,
see this. 'Herbert and Budd wished to concentrate all the advantages
to Bengala, but he would show them that he had his own views, and
there should yet be a church and a township, too, at Galoola.' The
worst of it was, it was so hard to raise the money just then, and
building a church was so expensive.

Mr. Farrant thought that a temporary building might be erected at
very small cost, of wood, which might be far more churchlike in form
than the usual smooth, shapeless brick buildings. He drew plans, aided
by the ladies, and it became a favourite scheme. There was a clever
workman and carpenter among Mr. Lang's men. To him was entrusted the
execution of this work, under Mr. Farrant's orders.

Mr. Lang forbade any assistance being accepted from Mr. Herbert or
Mr. Budd. He asked the Veseys, as they had appeared to approve and
would benefit considerably. But the answer was a loud laugh at the
absurdity of the idea 'in these bad times.' So they were forced to let
it creep on very slowly, and meanwhile Mr. Farrant assembled a
congregation, as before said, every other Sunday, on the Langville
estate.

It was a great comfort, but Isabel was unhappy at this further
estrangement from their old friends. As she said, she always liked to
carry out her ideas; in plain English, she liked to have her own way.
And she had settled it would be such a good thing for Mr. Herbert to
marry Miss Terry, that this hindrance to her plans was deeply
annoying. Some way must be found to restore peace; but musing long and
often did not bring any light on the subject.



CHAPTER XV. "COME BACK."



One morning, on crossing the hall Isabel saw Mr. Fitz at the front
door, holding his own and another horse. He said that his sister was
gone into the drawing-room; he would lead her mare to the stables
himself--he had to pass that way.

'Would he not dismount?' Isabel asked. 'The man would be there in a
moment.'

Mr. Fitz said he had a commission for his brother-in-law further on,
he would execute that and then call for his sister. He bowed and rode
off; and Isabel, hearing by the voices that Kate was in the drawing-
room, was meditating whether she might not escape and leave Mrs. Vesey
to Kate, when the door opened and both ladies appeared. Retreat was
now impossible. Mrs. Vesey put up her glass to look at her brother as
he rode slowly down the road.

'Ah, poor Arthur, he is so sulky--so wretched--at being sent on
instead of coming in. Now, do you know, I came on purpose to ask you
all to Vine Lodge? Ah! here is Mrs. Lang herself. Only think, Mrs.
Lang, of our being so atrocious as never to have asked you to our cot.
But now I am resolved to have the whole party--every one, including
the piccaninies and Miss Terry, boys and all. Room! never mind that.
There is the verandah. The more the merrier always. I shall have every
one in Bengala--Jollys and Herberts, and the noble Captain, and
Budds--and who else is there?'

Mrs. Lang began to try and excuse herself. She hardly understood the
manner of the invitation. She thought that, as Mrs. Lang of
Langville's first invitation to Vine Lodge, a proper note on satin
paper was due; at all events, if not written, it should have been
couched in different terms. But, for Katie's sake little objections
must be waived. 'Mrs. Vesey was very fashionable,' &c. All this passed
slowly through Mrs. Lang's mind. Mrs. Vesey saw her hesitation.

'I will take no refusal--you are all to come. The fact is, you and
the Herberts are not to keep up this quarrel. It cannot be. I must be
the mediator; I have set my heart on his coming.'

Mrs. Lang bridled up a little, and began a sentence two or three
times while she played with her cap strings, but the vivacious lady
allowed no pause. By fluency of speech she overcame, so far as to
exact a promise that as many of the party as possible should go. Mr.
Lang might be induced, as Mrs. Vesey made such a point of it. Mrs.
Lang did not quite like all this, she was naturally punctilious and
sensitive about proper respect, but she consoled herself by the idea
that certainly Mrs. Vesey courted them very much--and Mrs. Vesey was
somebody. Though she did not dress extravagantly or live in any style
whatever, and was always obtruding her 'poverty,' yet Mrs. Lang was
sure that she was somehow or other a person of consequence, simply
because Mrs. Vesey assumed to be so; she sat pondering over this,
observing Kate's flush of pleasure, and comparing her height with that
of Mrs. Vesey, and thinking that certainly Kate was the prettier of
the two, only she could not talk as fast; then, casting a glance at
Isabel's grave face, she could not decide whether she was annoyed or
not. Mrs. Lang's observations and conclusions were put an end to by
her being very suddenly asked in a persuasive, coaxing tone, if she
could not oblige Mrs. Vesey by letting her have half a sheep?--some of
that incomparable, delicious mutton that only was seen on Langville
table. It would be such a kind, neighbourly act--such a charity! and
Mr. Vesey would have some wethers in less than a month to repay Mrs.
Lang with.

Mrs. Lang's words and ideas flowed more easily when brought to a
given practical point. Mrs. Vesey was welcome to some mutton. Mrs.
Lang suggested that, as they had no sheep at present, they might very
easily send to Langville and get a constant supply of fresh meat. Mr.
Lang had before done this for a neighbour. It would be cheaper to a
small family like the Veseys to have it in this way--so much better
than having to live on salt mutton till another sheep was wanted.
Nothing, however, was further from Mrs. Vesey's intentions than
running up a butcher's bill with Langville.

'O dear no!' she answered, quickly; 'no odious dealings and bills and
that sort of thing between friends. Fancy--Vesey, debtor to J. Lang,
Esq.--Horrible! I have a notion that fellow--that Venn of yours--is
much too sharp for poor ignorant creatures like us; a friendly
interchange and accommodation now and then is delightful...but--so you
will oblige me, dear Mrs. Lang, with a little of your excellent
mutton? and, by the bye, the receipt for that very particular pudding
which the grand signor deigns to approve. It should be called Herbert
pudding, you know (nodding her head at Isabel). If you want to please
a man, give him a good dinner.'

Isabel was going towards the door, but her mother passed and signed
to her to remain in the drawing-room. She would fetch her receipt
book, she said; in the meantime, would not Mrs. Vesey take off her
hat?

Isabel obeyed as to remaining in the room, but she left her sister to
carry on the chat. She sat, grave and silent, resting her head on one
hand, while with the other she twirled a pencil.

'What do you say to it, Miss Isabel Lang?' asked Mrs. Vesey, after a
time. Kate was much amused at Isabel's stare, and owning herself
ignorant as to the subject of their conversation.

'O, I can hardly believe that--your sister acts well. I think the
conversation had too much interest for her not to hear. Am I not
right, Kate?'

'I am not sure--I don't know--' Kate began; but was interrupted by
Mrs. Vesey's exclaiming, 'And who is this? Can it be Arthur already?
No. What a gay place this is! One is sure to see all the world here.'

Kate smiled in assent, and looking round at her sister, said--'It is
only the clergyman. He comes daily to see his parishioners
hereabouts.'

'Indeed!' and Mrs. Vesey, following the direction of Kate's eyes, saw
Isabel's rising colour, and a rather quick opening and shutting of a
book.

'Indeed!' repeated Mrs. Vesey.

The gentleman was soon in the room--cheerful, gentle, and courteous,
as usual, with that quiet anxiety to please and give no offence which
almost invariably insured his being liked. Isabel was nearest to the
door, but he passed her to greet the elder sister first; asked for
Mrs. Lang while he shook Mrs. Vesey's hand; and lastly, had a long
reason to give Isabel, why he came at all;--some difficulty about the
girls' school sewing, which he thought his kind friends at Langville
could help him in--he remembered Miss Isabel Lang talking about it one
day.

'No, it was Miss Terry,' Isabel remarked; 'she was telling us of a
specimen book and certain work-bag, which was given at a school she
knew--but Miss Terry was engaged just then.'

Mr. Farrant did not seem, however, to be in a particular hurry to
leave--he could wait till school hours were over, and he took a seat
near the table at which Isabel was sitting.

'Is that sprig of bushflower invariably good for--for--nervous
headache or low spirits, or whatever that numb, creepy, dull sensation
may be termed?' Mrs. Vesey asked presently.

'That flower in your button-hole, I mean, Mr. Farrant,' in answer to
his look of inquiry, and she put up her glass as if to see it more
clearly. 'It must be invigorating and refreshing, indeed!' she
continued--'Directly it appeared in the doorway, Miss Isabel Lang's
drooping head was raised, and the pale face...'

Isabel half rose in evident annoyance and distress, while Mr. Farrant
smiled, and began saying he was much flattered and pleased; but
glancing at Isabel and seeing plainly that she was not, he took out
the little flower and approached Mrs. Vesey.

'Can you tell me the name of this flower? it is a new acquaintance of
mine,' he said; 'and, by-the-bye, have you any roses to bestow on my
garden?'

A long discussion soon arose about shrubs and plants, which
continued till they were summoned to luncheon. Mrs. Lang had her
receipt book ready, and Mrs. Vesey's attention was devoted to her
directions about sauces and puddings. Isabel carved, laughingly
refusing Mr. Farrant's help, because 'he certainly did not know a leg
from a shoulder;' he confessed his ignorance, and turned to Miss Terry
about his girls' sewing specimens, while Kate whispered, grumblingly,
at the children for being so impatient and hungry, shrugged her
shoulders at Isabel's large slices, and looked ever and anon at the
window 'to see if the boys and papa were coming,' she said.

The meal was over, however, and no further addition was made to the
party; Mrs. Vesey began to wonder where her brother could be, but
amused herself by looking over Miss Terry's specimen book and admiring
the beautiful sewing, while all sorts of rules and prizes were
canvassed by the ladies and the clergyman, and Isabel only checked her
eager talk, after a long hour, with a sudden exclamation--

'Kate! lend me your guinea-fowl seal, will you?' Then learning where
to find it, she went away to the work-room, opened a desk, which, to
say the truth, was but seldom used, and after scribbling over and then
destroying several pieces of paper, she finished a short note, folded
it, and finally was careful to make a very neat and clear impression
with the particular seal she had chosen.

The note was as follows--

DEAR MR. HERBERT,--When the mountain would not go to Mahomet, why,
Mahomet went to the mountain. Can't you exercise a little greatness of
mind? Is there no fountain like the one you told me of once, where
forgetfulness of the past might be secured by a draught? Do not forget
us quite; though I leave you to solve these contradictory requests,
and to read my true meaning in my seal, for the safe keeping of which,
I enclose this in a double cover.

From your friend and teaser.

I. L.

This note was given to a boy who was sent to Bengala on an errand to
the forge, with special directions to deliver it safely, and Isabel,
with a heightened colour, sat down to consider her bold stroke. The
voices from the parlour reached her, for doors at Langville were not
made to be shut. Isabel was no great thinker in general; at least, she
did not much practise self-introspection. But she had naturally a
clear, straightforward mind, which was intolerant of mystery and
doubt. The habit of the family did not encourage reserve either.
Everything was discussed and brought to light in a matter-of-fact way,
leaving little or no room for unconsciousness of what was passing. Mr.
Farrant's and Mr. Fitz's visits were openly talked of, and ascribed to
the several attractions of Kate and Isabel. For some time Isabel,
being in no ways predisposed to the subject, only treated these
remarks as a joke; but lately it had struck her that perhaps there was
truth in the assertion. Certainly Mr. Farrant did come very often,
certainly he was very agreeable and very attentive, and several times
he had gone out of his way to seek her, when she was sewing and
enjoying a chat with Miss Terry, or taking a quiet stroll with her. He
had urged her to practise her voice, and had succeeded in making her
sing with himself and Miss Terry. That very morning, when Miss Terry
had retired with her pupils, some jokes had passed on the subject;
somehow they did not do so before her, seeing she disliked it, and Mr.
Lang had fired up at the notion of any one's taking his darling from
him. He had asked Isabel if she liked Mr. Farrant. Isabel, after
considering a little, said, 'I hardly know; I suppose not quite, for I
have never had any quarrel with him.'

At which speech there was a general laugh. 'Well! I mean it. Whenever
I really and heartily like any one, we always come to some hot words;
it is my way. I don't feel as if I quite knew Mr. Farrant as yet, but
of course I see he is very nice, and very pleasant, and so on.'

The notion of 'Issy's quarrelsome temper' tickled her father much. He
said he wished all quarrels were like hers, and then kissing her, told
her she was much too good for them all, and that he did not believe in
all this gallivanting; but still, if mamma was right, it behoved
Isabel to look out and see what she did like, and so on.

And now, sitting apart in the quiet work-room, she tried to get at
her own feelings. Fond of active pursuits, and her perfect health of
body saving her from any shadow of morbid discontent, and the habit of
taking refuge in the erection of airy castles, where happiness is one
day to triumph,--Isabel had enjoyed the present, without thought for
the future. She had looked forward to marriage at some future time as
a needful step in life, because she found that others did so,
practically, as well as theoretically; and besides, her mother always
spoke of single life at a certain age as something oppressively dreary
and unfortunate. As to the notion of falling in love, Isabel had
treated it as a great joke; and whenever Kate had indulged in her
small way in this fancy, Isabel had rallied her well out of it, as
something weakly and absurd. Lately, however, the question had in
several shapes come before her. First, she had been much struck with
the girl Ellen Maclean's decided and strong attachment to Jack Lynch.
Then, seeing poor Tom Jolly's sorrowful face when Kate showed him
coldness, made her think there was 'something in it.'

Now, here was Mr. Fitz, said by all the authorities to be 'in love'
with Kate, and Isabel watched and observed the symptoms of the feeling
with keen curiosity, and came to a conclusion that, 'if that was love,
it differed very considerably from the feeling which Ellen had or Tom
either.' It might be fashionable, well-bred, polite love. If so, and
if Kate liked it, she hoped all would go smooth. But she had begun a
little to suspect the perfect disinterested sincerity of Mrs. Vesey's
friendship, and when she remembered the chance of poverty hanging over
their heads, she felt uneasy about Mr. Fitz, and once or twice tried
to give Kate a hint, but it would not do. Kate responded with so much
warmth, and with so much more reserve, too, than was usual to her in
such affairs, that Isabel feared her sister's happiness was more
involved than she had thought. Then, Mr. Farrant! could it be true
that his visits were on her account? There was an uncomfortable twinge
at the very notion, immediately followed by a flush of very natural
pleasure and gratification, for Mr. Farrant was one she liked and
admired, and from whom she had learnt some new things. In two ways he
had a new source of power over Isabel. It was the first time she had
ever heard any impressive preaching; also his and Miss Terry's was the
first music that had touched her. His singing especially attracted
her. She was not quite sure that in other ways she found him so
agreeable as others seemed to do. 'There can be no need for hurry,'
she mentally ejaculated. 'If it is really needful to have to do with
marriage and all the odious preliminaries, there is no use in
bothering myself beforehand about it.' And, accordingly, she gladly
allowed her mind to escape from the perplexity and wander into regions
better suited to her taste. It was far pleasanter to dwell on the
scheme she had drawn up for others, to manage for Mr. Herbert and Miss
Terry, in bringing them together, and helping each to appreciate those
qualities in the other which she only fully knew. There would be
difficulty and opposition from her father's wrath against the
gentleman, and, as she expected, disapproval from Miss Herbert. For
although that lady had come forward very much to Miss Terry, Isabel
could not suppose she would entertain the idea for a moment of her
brother--a Herbert!--marrying a governess.

Here then was a field for all her energy and determination of
character; and what a happy thing it would be for poor Miss Terry! How
delightful hereafter to talk it all over, and receive the grateful
thanks of both these friends! It would be such a triumph over a
certain Mr. Pelham, the gentleman who had married Miss Terry's sister,
and whose bad temper and jealousy had been the cause of forcing her to
gain her own livelihood. Isabel's warm heart had been deeply stirred
against the origin of her friend's many trials. But when the day
should come for sending a piece of bridecake and cards with 'Mrs.
Herbert' on them, all these wrongs would be avenged! Already her busy
fancy had settled that the principal part of Miss Terry's trousseau
should be made at Langville. Much as Isabel hated sewing in general,
she should sit at this for hours with pleasure. Fascinating daydreams!
The first step, she had just taken in sending that note. She dreaded
the result more than she chose to confess even to herself. But there
was no more time now for thinking. She was summoned back to the
drawing-room. Mr. Fitz was returned, and very merry and gay they all
were, till it was time for the Vine Lodge people to go. Mrs. Vesey
reminded Mrs. Lang that they were all 'due' on the day after the
morrow, at which Mrs. Lang tried to laugh and feel complimented. But a
troublesome doubt if these really were fashionable manners, if it were
compromising the dignity of 'Mrs. Lang of Langville,' gave an awkward
stiffness to her manner, and caused her husband to say with one of his
merriest laughs--'Mamma don't fancy being 'due' to any one, like a
parcel of goods. Don't trouble yourself with so many curtsies, Mrs.
Lang, like a Muscovy duck out of water! By Jove, that Mrs. Vesey is a
jolly lass; free and hearty, and up to a joke. Eh, Issy? what do you
say?'

Then, on Mrs. Lang saying something not very distinct about
'invitation' and 'everything changed!' he put his arm round her waist,
'Come, old girl, leave out the starch and you'll do! And if I were
you, I wouldn't go to Vine Lodge. You and I will stay at home; and I
say, Mrs. Lang, perhaps Miss Terry will make us custards, eh?'



CHAPTER XVI. A BUSH NYMPH.



It was during the very time that Isabel had retired to write her
note, and indulge in a little thought, that a horseman passed through
that part of the bush which led by a short cut from Langville to
Bengala. Here the trees stretched their branches wider than usual,
from their being more cleared. There were fine specimens of those
giants of the eucalyptus tribe, gaudy with their flaunting streamers
of coloured bark. Here and there a dark, grim iron bark reared its
head, while close beside it was a low clump of sober myrtles and tea
shrubs. The graceful growth of the exocarpus, or native cherry, gave a
touch of relief to the unvarying height and straightness of the forest
trees. Then there were the plants, sought by children, bearing a
pleasant berry called 'five corners,' with blossoms like a fuchsia;
while a rich vetch-like creeper, covered whole masses of underwood
with its bloom of amethyst. By this was a banksia, or bottle-brush,
and other plants too numerous to name. Add the flight of brilliant
coloured parrots which were ever crossing the sight, and the intense
depth of blue sky, and it will give some notion of the scene. Though
all these things were less noticed by the rider than the distant
groups of half shy horses, or some of the wild cattle which roamed, it
was said, through this extensive forest at will, and only found a
boundary in the sea-shore. The gentleman in his loose and light
shooting dress, sitting his horse easily, if not carelessly, whistling
at times some pretty waltz, was somewhat a pleasing object. If not
strictly handsome, there was an 'air' about him, and an expression of
good humour, which at a first sight would be apt to attract, though a
narrower inspection might discover indications of something not quite
so agreeable.

It was no other than Mr. Fitz, who rode on upon an errand of Mr.
Vesey's; and as he idly whipped the branches, or pushed aside his
small Manilla hat, his eyes wandered quickly here and there, showing
more habit of observation than reflection. Not a lizard, or an ant-
hill escaped him. Suddenly his horse shyed on one side, and he uttered
an exclamation which soon changed to words to this effect:

'By Jove! Here's a Bush nymph, by all the powers. Aye, aye, I've seen
that face and head before, or I'm not the man I think.'

Then after stroking and quieting the startled horse, he leant over
the saddle, and said in an off-hand, easy, somewhat flippant tone.

'Good day! It is so rare to meet any one hereabouts, that I was
nearly as much taken aback as--as my horse! Hem... Is there anything
the matter, Miss...I forget your name, though I know I have had the
pleasure of seeing you before. Not ill, I hope?'

This was addressed to a girl who was seated on a stump, rather
withdrawn from the track, and sheltered by a tree. She was bent
together, and seemed to be crying bitterly. She did not answer him,
but raising her head, gazed on him with mournful surprise, mixed with
fear. As he suddenly dismounted and approached her, this look of fear
increased, and she made a movement as if to run away, but the soft
tone of his voice apparently stopped her.

'Although I do not know your name, I am sure I have seen you. Don't
be afraid of me, my poor girl! Ah! no one who has once seen that face,
and that hair, could forget it! You are one of Mr. Lang's people, eh?'

'That I am not!' she answered quickly, and again burst into tears, to
hide which she stooped her head, and her long yellow hair fell like a
veil over her.

'Indeed! Dismissed, I suppose. Too pretty, perhaps! Come now, suppose
you confide in me. Look up; am I anything very grim and formidable?
Tell me if I can help you.' And he seated himself by her, giving his
horse a long rein, to allow of his cropping the grass.

She stopped crying presently, and stole a look at him. Apparently
this begat confidence, for she pushed back her hair, and looked
demurely down on the ground.

'Have you far to go?' he asked.

'No further than where I am;' and again the tears sprang forth.

'Come, tell me all. Do you know your way home? Have you lost
yourself? Perhaps you can't find your way home?'

'No, that I can't.'

'Where about is it?'

'Where? Nowhere on earth, I'm thinking!' she said wildly. 'But ride
on, sir; ride on your way. It is ill keeping you here on a bootless
errand. Ride on!'

Then she caught up her hair, and began quickly to weave it into a
rich plait, winding it round and round her head. He watched her, and
talked to her in a quiet and soothing way, trying, indirectly, to ask
her history. She cast shy and stolen glances at him from time to time,
which gradually became more confiding and less frightened. It did not
require much art to win poor Nelly's confidence; and as he now
diverted his eyes from her, and was apparently looking on the ground,
and playing with his whip, she ventured to observe him more at ease. A
few kind words, slightly touched with a little flattery, opened her
heart, and her tale was soon told. Her dead mother, the stern father,
the cruel step-mother, her best and first friend, Jack Lynch, and Miss
Isabel, Lynch's troubles, and desire to get the ticket, even Venn's
hated advances,--by degrees he heard, and understood all.

Then he began to speak, and he talked of hope. He had some interest
with Mr. Lang. He had very little doubt but that, somehow, they could
get the ticket or leave for the marriage. He was intimate with the
'great folks' in Sydney, who had power to grant such leave, and to
make the prisoners free. This case should be stated. As for herself,
he bade her take heart and hope. Numbers of people would be only too
glad to get her as a servant. In fact, now he thought of it, he
himself would very soon want some one to wash, and bake, and mend his
clothes, sweep his hut, and keep it tidy. He was going to live at a
station, somewhere up the Hunter. Would she like to come and do all
this? No one should interfere with her, or serve her ill.

She looked up delighted, but then her eyes grew dim. 'She couldn't
leave Jack to go so far as all that. She was the only comfort poor
Jack had; she would not desert him.'

'But when once you are there, I shall do my best to get 'Jack' there
also. I shall propose an exchange with Lang, and as you say he is not
favourite, no doubt, for a consideration, I can get him assigned to
me. Do you understand? And then--there will be no difficulty. I can
grant leave to marry, or get the ticket.'

She grasped his arm as she looked eagerly at him, till tears rolled
down her face. She was breathless with excitement.

'Will you consent?' he said, smiling.

'Will I--? O, 'tis my dead mother will watch over you, and bless you.
'Tis herself will bring the blessing, and the good word of the blessed
Virgin and all the saints! And you'll see, and they'll see, that I can
work; and Jack will be a clever man, as he is, sir. He can fell trees
agin anybody, and he can plough, and do a many things about a place.
He's a clever chap is Jack Lynch, and he's the man will know how to
get things neat and handy about him--that is, when his heart is aisy
like. Bless you, sir, for a kind-hearted gentleman!' And rising, she
folded her arms across her bosom, and with a touching grace, dropped a
low curtsey.

He was pleased, and he would not let her go yet. He talked of their
future plans, till her whole face was bright and beautiful with joy.
Meanwhile he advised her to go home and do whatever her parents
desired, anything, except to marry Venn. That she must resist. He
advised her to take the offer of being child's maid to a woman near
the settlement, which she said her father had thought of; and he
promised to keep his eye on her. If any one dared to ill-treat her, he
should come down upon him, and he would send her word when she could
journey to his station with the drays. After some more assurances of
protection on his part, and repeated blessings on hers, they parted.
She went home, and he proceeded to deliver his message. Her voice,
clear and sweet, was raised into snatches of song, and reached him for
some time. One thing gave him rather a turn, for just as she dropped
her last curtsey and left, and as he rose from the hollow tree on
which they had found a seat, a long snake crawled out and glided
swiftly across his very path. He vaulted into the saddle with a
shudder and rode on fast. On the whole, his ride had added to his
already good spirits, and when he returned to Langville, he was even
more than usual, the 'life of the party.'

The little settlement or township of Bengala consisted, as said
before, of a few straggling slab huts which had one after the other
risen round the temporary church. One or two large and well-grown
trees which, favoured by the clearing around them, spread their
branches out wider than the usual run of the eucalyptus tribe, gave a
picturesque appearance to the place. The broad, ill-made road swept
round outside Mr. Herbert's paddock, and his house and other buildings
were all in view, the undulating cleared land about the farm being
bounded by shelving hills, wooded of course with the everlasting blue
and white gums. There was a store kept by the schoolmaster's wife, and
a blacksmith's shop; the remaining huts were occupied by persons who
had come for the chance of work, one being a shoemaker, another a
currier. The Macleans had just taken up their residence in one of the
poorest of these habitations. The roughness of the building was now,
however, much hidden by the abundant growth of a water-melon, which
had thrown its long but short--lived branches quite over the roof.

It was early morning, the dew still lying refeshingly on the melon
leaves and on the little patches of grass beneath the trees.
Everything was fresh as yet, and feathered musicians came to relieve
the chirping night choir. Cockatoos in heavy flight were already on
the wing. 'Lories' and bright 'green leeks' fluttered about the
gardens; while the peculiar crack of the stockman's whip gave warning
to the scattered bullocks that their rest was at an end. There was an
animated meeting between mother cows and their calves, after their
night-long separation; while Mr. Herbert's swineherd, or 'pig boy,'
might be seen driving his squeaking, grubbing herd to the 'flats,'
where they were to pick up a repast for themselves.

Mrs. Maclean was putting aside the remains of their breakfast while
her husband was sharpening a knife, casting stern looks, meanwhile, on
Ellen, who was seated on a low stool, her head buried in her hands,
and crying bitterly. She had returned, as advised by her new friend,
Mr. Fitz.

'And sure ye're a disgrace to the woman who bore ye--a wild,
headstrong young colt--that needs a stiffer bit and bridle nor ye get.
And I'd be ashamed if I was your own father there, that wouldn't give
you a rare good beating this minute, and see who would be master!'
said Mrs. Maclean, in a harsh, high-pitched voice, every now and then
clenching her fists at the girl, as she came at all near her in the
course of her domestic occupations.

'Will you obey your lawful father's commands, I say?' demanded
Maclean himself, in a severe manner. 'Will you give a fair answer to
the man--or will you not?'

'Not if I am torn by dogs or beaten to death!' said the girl, raising
her face, and speaking in a low, determined voice.

'Say that again!' said he, rising quickly, and seizing a whip which
stood in the corner.

'You may take my life! I don't care! and it ain't the first blood has
been spilt by one that owns your name!' answered she, quickly.

'What do you mean?' shouted Mrs. Maclean, giving her a severe cuff,
and looking frightfully angry, and then pouring out a torrent of abuse
and wicked words.

'You leave her to me this time, missus,' said the father, hardly less
excited than his wife.

'I shall give her one chance more, and then if she don't conform, she
may... .'

'Father, let me be! let me stay here--starve me, if you will, work me
like a slave, I'll do it,' the unhappy girl said, 'but don't ask me to
have him.'

Something in the man's face, as she looked up at him pleading for
mercy, turned back the tide of her full heart, and the earnest,
imploring expression, which had for a moment succeeded the taunting,
excited look was instantly changed into one of dogged sullenness. One
low, half-suppressed scream, and her hands tightly pressed on her head
as if to shield herself while the whip whizzed over her.

'None of your gammon or promises about work; you'll take the man at
his word, or...'

'I never will! never! never!...'

The words were repeated in agony again and again, while the
infuriated man beat her cruelly, goaded on by the shrill croakings of
the woman, who, if report said true, would not have been sorry were
the whip to give a fatal blow.



CHAPTER XVII. THE LONDON THIEF SEEKS AMUSEMENT.



The sun rose higher and higher, and in the hottest parts of the
roadside the locusts made their sharp saw, heard by all and seen by
none. A guana lay on the top rail of the fence, with its crocodile-
like mouth wide open, basking in the fervent heat; then at a noise of
some one coming, it ran quickly up a tree, its long tail looking like
a snake as it curled round and round. A stockman, with his short-
handled and long-lashed whip, dismounted, and removing the upper bars
of the fence, made his horse jump the rest. After replacing the bars,
he vaulted nimbly into the saddle, and with a sharp but furtive look,
scanned the bush on either side, then rested his whip-handle on his
knee, and appeared to think, while his horse shook his head at the
troublesome grasshoppers that hopped and chirped so incessantly,
bounding even to the face of horse and rider, and causing both to feel
the sharp and stinging blow. The man rode on leisurely till he came to
thick scrub, and then he seemed to look warily around, and listen. He
pulled up at last, and gave a long whistle, in imitation of a curlew's
cry; again and again this was repeated, and then a slight movement was
seen in the bushes, and a girl half raised herself from her screen.

'Jack, I'm too stiff to move towards ye!'

The man quickly dismounted, and leading his horse, stepped towards
her; but the horse was restive, and would not advance, which caused
delay. In the meantime, Ellen raised herself quite, and on seeing who
it was, said in a vexed weak voice, expressing more than mere
disappointment--

'Bill! why I thought you were Jack Lynch himself, and sure I heard
his whistle.'

'His whistle, Nelly! why, it's any man's and every man's whistle, for
all I see; but sure I thought you were some lame foal or wild beast
among the bushes here. Whatever are you hiding here for? Lucky I
didn't ride over ye!'

'Maybe 'twas no luck at all! But ride on, ride on. I am just sitting
here because I choose it,' said she, leaning back again on the stone
she had chosen for a back cushion.

'That wretch of a woman has been playing off on you again, I see! Why
do you submit to it, Nelly? Were I you, I would cut and run!'

'And where would ye run to?'

'Where to? why to a hundred places! Bless me, there's plenty of
places for you to go to if you will seek them. I heard say you were
going to Allen's--and a better thing you couldn't do now; and then, I
say, Nelly, I saw a friend of yours last evening. Says he to me, 'Do
you know one called 'Nelly?' ' 'Aye, and so I do,' says I, and then he
tells me he has engaged you to be his servant, only not being ready
just yet, he wants you to bide quiet here for a bit. You can't do
better than wait at Allen's.'

'I shan't go there, so hold your tongue, Bill! I know who wants me to
go there, and who is thick with Mrs. Allen, so I do.'

'Well! I speak for your good, I am sure! Come, Nell,' he added,
seating himself beside her, and leaving his horse to bite a little
grass; 'come, now, keep up your spirits. You might make your choice of
all the men on the farm.'

'And that same is just what I have done, Bill.'

'Well, I know you have, and I'm willing to help you to it. But you
see all depends on that ticket, Nelly. That ticket must be had, and
then all is trotting ground.'

'Ay! the ticket, the ticket!' she repeated absently.

'Well--and the way to get it is for Jack to keep out of punishment,
and you know, everybody knows he's a chap of hot blood, and not apt to
take things quietly, and when he sees you moping about and knows how
bad you're served and how they speak of you, it aggravates him. Ho,
there! keep quiet, Peter, I say!' The horse, however, was worried with
flies, and not inclined to obey till after a good deal of patting and
coaxing, when he again betook himself to cropping any tender bud
within reach. 'Well, you see, Nelly my dear, as I was saying, there's
the ticket must be had, and to gain that--peace and quiet work; and
now we are hut mates I have means of knowing something of his mind,--
the burden of his song is, That girl! that girl! if she would get a
place and keep it.'

'He didn't say the like o' that, Bill; don't think to blarney me.'

'He did, though--a hundred times over he said it. Now just keep your
pretty face out of his way for a while--go to Mrs. Allen's; and let
him go straight to his work with only his own burden to bear.'

She did not see his side look--so keen, so subtle, so quick in its
scrutiny of her whole bearing--not a sigh, not an impatient gesture,
not a shudder of pain, slight and suppressed as it was, escaped him.
He saw the weals, the swollen face, the acute agony it was to move at
all, and he had also seen her in her beauty, with her hair plaited and
braided, and her slight but rounded figure set off by a neat dress; he
had heard her songs--she was called by the men Lynch's skylark, and he
knew the love of that man for her, and he knew how she was desired and
sought by another. His whole nature prompted him, not to love her, not
to win her for his own pleasure, but to thwart and circumvent others,
to plot, to triumph in secret at the success of his own cunning, and
at the same time to receive the bribes which Venn and now another had
offered for his help. It was quite an exciting event, and he resolved
that the highest bidder should win the prize.

'Poor girl!' he said, 'poor child! you are ill; but just--can't you
walk, d'ye think? Do try--I'll help you. Come to Allen's--you know
'tis not far off this. I'll warrant she'll give you something to do
you good now; and you'll cheat the old sinners yonder, and do Jack's
heart good this night when I tell him where you are. 'Tis his first
wish you were settled to some work, and could hold up your head
against the world. And the ticket'll come, Nell, see if it don't.'

She drew back as he attempted to put his arm round her.

'Let me alone!' she said, bluntly; then, after a pause--' 'Tisn't
much faith I put in you or your words, Gentleman Bill; you've boasted
too much of your own sly doings. But I don't know but what your words
are true now. Are you sure Jack would be easier if I was to go there?'

She looked at him as if to read his answer in his eyes, but he did
not raise them.

'Not a doubt of it,' he answered; 'and I must go, so if you want my
help, girl, make haste.'

'I have seen others at the place!' she said, musing; ' 'tis a plot,
'tis a plot,' she exclaimed, presently. 'But oh, dear me, oh, dear!
and I am an unfortunate girl!' and she began crying like a child.

'Easy, my dear heart, easy;' and this time he did put his arm round
her, and held her fast. 'Come along, my sweetheart! You must, or
you'll die outright here.'

He forced her to rise; she did not resist, but the moving caused her
to groan--'O, Jack, could I see thee, I'd die the next minute with
pleasure! Leave me here! leave me, I say!'

'No, no, you shall be put to bed, dear, and see what a kind woman she
is, and to-morrow you'll be as blithe as a bird again...' And so
coaxing, and soothing, and helping her, with one arm supporting her
round the waist, and the bridle slipped over the other, he led her on;
now bending down the intruding boughs which bounded back again so as
to lash poor Peter's face not a little, now looking from under his
eyelids at her, or marking his way in the thick and tangled forest.

Faint and weary, and sobbing still as if her heart would break, she
reached Allen's hut, too miserable and ill to note the nod of secret
intelligence that passed between her conductor and the woman who was
sitting outside the door at work.

They laid her on a bed and gave her something to drink, and soon the
heavy long-drawn breath of the sleeping girl reached Mrs. Allen and
Bill, as they talked in the outer room.

'All right,' said he, chuckling. 'As for him, this to him,' and he
put his fingers to his nose in that fashion which signifies utter
contempt for some one.

The woman nodded, and said, 'Ay! Ay! but don't blab, you know.'

In another moment he was galloping fast through the bush, to make up
for lost time. Having ascertained that all the horses were right, he
returned home just in time to find his hut-mate Lynch finishing his
dinner.

'Here's baccy for ye,' said he, turning out two or three figs of
tobacco; 'a smoke will do ye good, man, and I'll treat you. How long
since you got a bit up yonder?'

'Never since that hound got into the store; 'baccy I don't look for,
not I; but for fair rations I do, and I declare that the road-gangs
can't fare much worse than I do. For what I get is no good to me, it
aint fit for a slave!'

'Why don't you complain to Lang himself, eh?' asked Bill, with one of
his side looks, and low inward laughs. 'If it were only to keep up
your strength for the clearing work, he would wish you to get good
meat, I should say. However, here, this is meat and drink;' and he put
some tobacco in his hand. Lynch eagerly took it, and soon the hut was
full of its fumes, while Bill eat his beef and damper, and set his
hyson on the fire.

'Good, eh? None of your colonial weed, that! true Virginny 'baccy;
and if'--he stopped to indulge himself in a long glance--'and if you
only knew where it came from, it would be all the sweeter. I got it
from a particular friend of yours.'

Lynch did not vouchsafe an answer.

'By the way, Jack, that girl is fairly crazy about you. Bless me, if
I was in your shoes, would I do as you do, that's all? I had the
perticular pleasure of seeing her pretty face to-day at Allen's hut.
She's settled as child's maid there. Look out for the new ribbons and
such like, for Mrs. Allen loves a bit of finery. And a good thing for
the girl it is to be in a place; but, as I said before, why don't you
take her?'

'Why, indeed!' said Lynch, scornfully, and treading his heavy shoe on
the hundreds of unfortunate ants who were swarming out of a log Bill
had just thrown on the fire. 'You know why as well as I do!'

'Well, I'd see if I wouldn't out-do the tyrant. Gad, and if he wont
let ye marry, a man of spirit has a way before him. Rather than be
crossed in my will in such a matter, I would give the slip to any
master, and once in the arms of the forest, why, man, you and Nell can
snap your fingers at parsons and banns! There's Rob-heavy, a chum of
mine, we came out in the same ship; he's not blest with my easy
disposition, and he got discontented, and had the pleasure of being
sent to the road-gang; he got tired of salt beef and hominy and hard
work in the broiling sun and his leg ornaments, and what did he and
another do but manage to slide off quiet into a thick scrub, where the
soldiers couldn't find 'em, and then 'twasn't difficult to get their
irons knocked off; for depend on it the feelings of the country is in
favour of brave fellows like them. And now where are they? Why,
scouring the country, dressed as well as a gentleman, helping
themselves to the best horseflesh in the colony, and--'

'Hunted like wild beasts, to come to the gallows at last!' said
Lynch, gloomily, though he had evidently listened with interest.

'Well, and if so, a short life and a merry one! Die game, and you are
a hero! or live on, and be beat, and starved, and worn down like an
old dog! But different men have different tastes. For my part, you
see, I had enough in that line at home; I rather took up the steady
walk here; I bowed and scraped to an old lady and got my ticket. I
shan't be long here, though; I am getting tired of the place; I shall
soon see and get my ticket made out for somewhere down the country.'

Lynch smiled, as he said in a sarcastic way, 'Change of air, I
suppose, for your health!' Then taking up his woodman's axe, and
followed by his dog, he went to his work, which was felling trees, in
which he excelled.

Bill laughed, and laughed again, and stroked his chin as he watched
him.

'It will take! it will work! Ah! your big bumptious spirits are the
ones to deal with. I care not which of 'em gets the girl, but if I
hadn't this little bit of business on hand I should get melancholy, I
know. Venn thinks he's sure of her now, and Jack is sure to break his
head, and then--'



CHAPTER XVIII. MYSTERIOUS NEIGHBOURS.



When Mr. Lang found from his half-offended wife that the Herberts
were to be at Vine Lodge, he swore he wouldn't go. He had plenty to do
and to look after at home.

'How long is this feud to go on, papa?' Isabel asked.

'For ever, as far as I care! I bear no ill-will, not a bit of it!
But that confounded Herbert's stiffness and pride shall come down. If
he chooses to come here, or make an apology, or show any desire to
make it up, well and good. I'll give him my hand and say, Come, my
boy, that's something like it. But I'll eat my head if I go one step
out of my way to meet him.'

Mrs. Lang also found that her presence at home was indispensable,
and no persuasion, even from Kate, would move her.

'Is Miss Terry going?' asked Isabel.

'Indeed I think not, my love. Miss Terry ought to superintend the
little girls' studies.'

'Studies be hanged! The little woman shall go, if she likes. Kate,
bid her get ready. She shall go in the gig with you. Willy will drive,
and Jem and Issy can ride,' said the father.

But Kate returned with Miss Terry's thanks, but she could not leave
home to-day.

'Eh! what! But she shall! D'ye hear, Kate? Say she must go!' said
Mr. Lang, from behind his newspaper.

'It is no use, papa, she wont do what she settles not to do, for any
one,' Kate said, rather languidly. 'Besides, did Mrs. Vesey ask her?
Are you quite sure? It is not every one who expects the governess, and
all that!'

'Confound it! Then stay at home every one of ye. If--if a
gentlewoman--a lady--whom I choose--'

'Hush, daddy!' Isabel here put in; 'don't excite yourself. Miss
Terry really cannot go, she says.'

'You are sure she doesn't wish it, Issy?'

'Quite sure,' Isabel said, rather sorrowfully. 'It is very provoking
of her, as I particularly wanted her to come.'

'Then, Mrs. Lang, my dear, she shall remain with us. Her wishes
shall be obeyed in my house. I shall be delighted with her company.
Let's have a good dinner, Mrs. L.'

Mrs. Lang left the room, saying that it was sickening to make such a
fuss about governesses, and that she believed the world was turning
head over heels.

Isabel asked her brother Jem to ride with her round by the Jollys. It
would not make much difference, and she wanted to see Mrs. Jolly and
carry some seeds.

Kate and Willie were to go in the gig.

Mrs. Jolly was looking at her bees. She was delighted to see Isabel.
Amelia and Tom were going to Vine Lodge, and they could all ride on
together. She and her husband were not going. 'We are too old, my
dear; we like to stay at home best. Very nice people, very gay, and so
on; but we are old-fashioned and simple, and we don't quite understand
them.'

When the neat garden was admired, and a pretty bouquet gathered, Mrs.
Jolly insisted on Isabel's coming in to rest while Amelia dressed. She
divided the flowers, binding their stalks up in ribbon. 'Now, these
are for Kate, my dear, with my love. Poor dear Kate! Ah, Issy! what is
good for one is bad for another, in this life. No doubt you are all
rejoicing, and enjoying this new society; and indeed, I hope it is all
as good as it seems, and that dear Kate will be very, very happy. But
you must excuse me, my dear, if I, as a mother, don't seem quite so
cheerful about it as I should, being an old friend and neighbour. But
when I see my poor child's face--poor Tom! Of course, Issy dear, we
know that Kate has a right to look high, but--'

Tears dimmed the mother's bright eyes, and Isabel's colour flushed up
as she exclaimed, 'I wish she may find that looking high, as you call
it, will be as good as--as--Tom! How Kate can prefer that dandy, that
cold, quizzing--'

'Hush, my dear! Of course, I think a great deal of Tom, for I know
his heart and his temper. But I believe that other young man is very
clever and very good-looking; and after all, it is a matter of fancy;
and Kate is not to blame--not at all. Don't let her fancy I or any
one, even Tom, ever blames her. I believe he would do a great deal to
make her happy, and now he is of course very unhappy. His father and I
mean to send him away to visit some relations in Van Dieman's land,
for a change. Ah! we can't help these troubles. To say the truth, we
old folks would have preferred yourself, Issy. You always were a great
favourite of husband's and mine--but Tom always adored your sister,
never had a thought for any one else, and I really believe never will.
I don't offend you by saying this, do I, dear?'

'No; you never could offend me.'

'Well, my dear, and I hope papa and mamma like Kate's prospects?'

Isabel did not answer directly; she smiled merrily to herself.
Presently she said, 'Do you know, I wish from my heart I was Queen
Elizabeth, or as despotic!'

'Bless me, my dear! what makes you wish such a thing! Why, she cut
off every one's head, and threw people into prison, didn't she?'

'I should like to be able to give my orders very much, just now. I
should like to say to this one 'do this,' and another 'do that;' and I
am very sure it would be for the good and happiness of all parties if
some one could set all straight.'

'My dear! How can you suppose you know what is best? In these
matters, every one is the best judge for him or herself, and one can't
be controlled.'

'No; but there is so much absurd ceremony and reserve, that people
don't understand each other or themselves. I should like to say, under
penalty of death, You Tom Jolly take Kate Lang for your wedded wife.
And then, You Mr. Herbert take Miss Terry.'

'You don't say so!' interrupted Mrs. Jolly, almost starting up with
surprise. 'Well! well! I am astonished! that is a thing I never dreamt
of.'

'Pray don't repeat it, dear Mrs. Jolly, not even to Amelia or to Mr.
Jolly. It is quite my own idea and secret.'

'It can never be--never! My dear, just consider,' Mrs. Jolly said,
gravely.

'But I have considered; I am always considering it; and I am sure it
is a most delightful and a most probable thing, and it is quite sure
to be, some time or other!'

'You don't say so! And does your mamma know it? Dear me, how very
differently we and almost every one have judged, to be sure! Well,
well!'

'Dear Mrs. Jolly, do tell me, why need there be always so much fuss
and mystery and misunderstanding in these affairs? Is it needful? Why
couldn't Tom, for instance, say long ago--Kate, do you like me well
enough to marry me? And then, at all events, he would have known his
fate before he got so deep into it. But so much manouvring and sighing
and talking and stuff seems to me so absurd. Kate says, when a man
proposes he is sure to go down on his knees! Conceive the horrors of
it; I should burst out laughing! Did Mr. Jolly do so to you?'

'No, indeed, my dear,' returned Mrs. Jolly, laughing. 'He was a
plain man, much as he is now. It was in church. He was going away to
sea the next day. We had known and liked each other a long time. He
opened his prayer-book at the words in the marriage service, and
laying it on my knee, pointed out--'Wilt thou have this man,' &c.? I
looked up in his face, and seeing there what he meant, I just put my
finger on the answer, 'I will.' And that was all! When he returned
from that voyage we married. That was our courting!'

'That suits me exactly; plain and straightforward. After all, what
is the use of a man going down on his knees to entreat a person just
to obey him? for that is the real meaning of all the nonsense--'Will
you be my wife?' There's sense in that. One can look out the meaning
of the word 'wife' somewhere,--in the man's eyes and mouth--I should--
and there see if it is written 'slave,' or 'plaything,' or 'helpmeet,'
and answer 'yes' or 'no' accordingly. A plain answer to a plain
question. Ah, you may laugh, but I mean it. And here comes Amelia, and
I see Tom and Jem with the horses. So, good-bye. Good-bye!'

'It is really atrocious!' exclaimed Mrs. Vesey, after examining her
guests through her glass. 'I had ordered so much meat and pudding, and
expected such a host, at least double the number; and here the Langs
can't come, the Budds can't come, Captain Smith, Dr. Marsh, Miss
Herbert--I am not quite sure even of the Signor himself! Well, come
in, come in; I am in a very cross mood; but come in, pray, and we can
twirl our thumbs, at all events. Mr. Tom Jolly, the success of this
party rests on you. Here are you, verily our only beau, except Arthur,
who will be back for dinner. Very sorry, but he was called away on
business this morning. So, you see, you are our forlorn-hope, our
pièce de resistance--in fact, our all!'

Tom grew redder and redder under this stream of words. He was
meditating in his mind whether he might venture to shake hands with
Kate, or if he was only to bow.

'Ah! here is the hero. Here is Mr. Herbert!' called out Mrs. Vesey,
and in a moment she had run out to receive him in the verandah. She
led him in, and then waving her hand towards the couch on which Kate
and Isabel were, she said, 'It is not my fault that Mr. and Mrs. Lang
are not here. The fact is, I am a peaceable Christian, and it irks me
to have quarrelling among friends and neighbours. Our little district
ought to be a perfect dove-cot. Now, let me beg of you, Mr. Herbert,
to lay down your arms and your arguments; let me have the supreme
pleasure of seeing peace established! Your hand, Mr. Herbert; Kate, my
love, Miss Isabel Lang, I know you will both support me.'

Kate looked extremely uncertain in what way to take all this; but as
it was Mrs. Vesey, it must be right. She half put her hand out, and
then with a deep blush drew it back again when she found that Mr.
Herbert was making a very low bow. In another moment, he had turned to
Tom Jolly, and after a few words with him, they went out of the room
together. They met Mr. Vesey just outside, and all went off to the
stock-yard, the usual point of interest to the gentlemen. Isabel had
turned away and buried her face in a book during Mrs. Vesey's annoying
speech. She was very angry indeed. She was sure it had completely
undone all the good her note was intended to work. If Mr. Herbert
thought that all this was a plan concocted between them, and arranged
before his arrival, nothing would make him more angry. To be so turned
into ridicule, and to find them so led away by Mrs. Vesey's jokes
after his warnings, would hurt him exceedingly.

She sat long ruminating over this, but apparently reading. At last
dinner was announced, and she found herself led out by Mr. Fitz, who
was full of regret at the tiresome business which had delayed him; but
as he contrived to place himself adroitly next to Kate, who had been
taken out first by Mr. Vesey, Isabel was soon at liberty to look about
and see what other people were doing. She saw Mr. Herbert, all the
gravity and annoyance gone, doing his best to be very agreeable to
Amelia Jolly; while poor Tom listened to the lively Mrs. Vesey, and
stole wistful glances towards Kate. A vacant place was left for Mr.
Farrant, but he did not come till long after they had risen from the
table. Amelia drew her arm very affectionately through her friend
Isabel's, and led her away to a pleasant and secluded seat in a shady
corner of the verandah. Here they chatted as young girls do.

'And do you like Mr. Fitz very much, dear Isabel?'

'Don't ask me, if you please, Amelia.'

'I beg your pardon; I meant nothing, I am sure. By the way, I
suppose you are very glad that poor Ellen Maclean has got a place,
aint you?'

' 'Tisn't very much of a one,' Isabel said.

'O, I hoped it was! You see, I heard you say how much you wished she
was in some steady family, and I told mamma, and she said she would
try her as a kitchen-maid. So I rode with Tom to the settlement to see
about it, and found she had left her father's. O, what a dreadful
woman that Mrs. Maclean is!'

'Yes--well?'

'Well, she said, very gruffly, that the girl was gone to Allen's
place, and directed us there. But we could not go till the next day;
and then Mrs. Allen said that 'Nelly' was engaged to be servant to
some gentleman far up the country, and was to start this very day, I
think she said, with some drays.'

'Are you sure? It is very odd I never heard of this.'

'I am quite sure; and I was sorry too, for I had taken an interest
in the poor girl's fate and sad story; and I think mamma would have
been kind to her.'

'To be sure! The very thing of all others! Gone up the country?
Where, and to whom? I must inquire, Amelia; for somehow I dread what
will come to poor Nelly. She has not the sense to guide herself, and
is so pretty that every one notices her. It is very odd,' Isabel
continued, musingly. 'Ah, there is Mr. Farrant! I am glad he is come
at last,' said Amelia. 'Isn't it very nice to have a clergyman, and
such a one--so good, and so kind, and so agreeable?'

'Well done, Amelia! String on a few more epithets. Go on--dignified,
manly, clever!'

'No, no; I leave that for Mr. Herbert,' said Amelia, with a little
more spirit than she usually showed. 'I don't give him up for any one,
after all. Then, I believe I always prefer familiar faces and old
friends.'

'Don't you like a variety? Confess that it is pleasanter to have
these additions to our circle.'

'I don't know--perhaps so; yet I was very well content before. I
think we were quite as happy without them, only perhaps I ought not to
say so. Then I believe I am stupid, for I confess I don't quite
understand all the cleverness, wit, or whatever you call it, that Mrs.
Vesey and her brother have. It is true,' she added, after a pause,
'that our society was small; but, as papa and mamma always said, Mr.
and Miss Herbert were hosts in themselves. Papa says, much as he has
been about the world, he scarcely ever saw a man he liked more. I
don't think these new people half appreciate him, either.'

'Agreed. But, Amelia, I did not know you were such a staunch admirer
of his. It is a pity he doesn't know it.'

'Not for worlds! Goodness! O, Isabel!'

Both girls gave a start, and looked for a moment rather silly, as
they heard a voice they recognised but too surely, very near, say,
'What are you two gossiping about?' and then, from behind the
sheltering cedar, Mr. Herbert, newspaper in hand, appeared.

'If you heard yourself well abused, it served you just right, you
base deceiver! Do you know, it is very dishonourable to listen?' said
Isabel, rallying herself, though covered with blushes. But poor Amelia
could not recover so soon. In frightened amazement, she shrank behind
her bolder friend as far as she could, and tried to remember what she
had said.

'O, were you talking of me?' Mr. Herbert said, coolly, trying to
hide a little look of consciousness meanwhile.

'As if you didn't hear! and you are chuckling over it at this
moment, forgetting that Amelia's praise--and of course you observed
that I did not second her at all--is worth this,' flipping her
fingers. 'Why, she praises every one, and, over and above all, Mr.
Farrant. She is no judge, so you need not be vain.'

'She judges people by her own heart,' Mr. Herbert said, and at the
same time trying to bring forward a garden stool.

'Now don't come here, please. After all that praise, you will be
unbearable. I see by your face how it is. We don't want him, do we,
Amelia?'

'I want you, however,' he said, seating himself by her side. 'Now,
how d'ye do? We may as well shake hands, since it is--how long? since
we met.' He took her hand as it lay on her lap.

'Ah, you didn't choose to do that just now!'

'No; not to gratify a vulgar joke,' he said.

'You were very angry, I saw,' she went on, all the more boldly,
because in reality she was ill at ease, and wondering if he had
received her note.

'Not with you. I admired your presence of mind and dignity, and
thought it a pity poor Kate couldn't do the like.'

'There now,' she said, pulling away her hand from his grasp. 'You
can't be civil without a little bit of rudeness too!'

'I was not rude to you, at all events.'

'As if it wasn't the same thing! You always think because your high
and mighty benevolence chooses to pick me out, you may say what you
like of my people! Now, I wont have it.'

'Well--come--I beg your pardon for that little slip. Practise what
you preach, Isabel. I came here on purpose to see you. Mahomet will go
to the mountain, as you desire.'

'Will he?' she said, trying to turn away from his inspection, and
feeling very shy, and inclined to run away.

Mr. Vesey here came up to beg them all to join the others; they were
to walk and see a certain view, he said. He offered his arm to Amelia,
leaving Mr. Herbert and Isabel to follow.

'Stay a moment, Isabel,' Mr. Herbert said as she rose. He even
pulled her gently back to her seat. 'It was like you to write that
note.'

'Yes,' she returned, quickly; 'I dare say you abused me well for a
meddling, forward girl, unfeminine and all that.'

'I shall keep it always,' he returned, quietly and gravely. 'It is
now some five or six years since you and I first made acquaintance,
and vowed friendship at first sight. You were a child then; and I was
foolishly dreaming, and forgetting that a time must come--' he
stopped, and cleared his voice, then went on: 'I assure you, Isabel, I
do not desire to have any arguments with your father. But I must have
my own opinions, my principles, and act up to them too. You tell me to
come to Langville, and I shall do so, solely because you bid me, and
to see you.'

'Yes, yes; I know all about it! Come and see me; and no one else, I
suppose?'

He was looking at her, not understanding her tone, still less the
lurking fun in her face, when Mr. Farrant came up to them.

It was the first time he had greeted Isabel; she blushed a good
deal, and more still when she saw Mr. Herbert draw back with cold
gravity. 'I am desired to fetch you both,' Mr. Farrant said. They all
walked on in silence, till Mr. Farrant began some ordinary remarks,
which Isabel answered.

The party were standing about the stock-yard and talking of the
horses. Tom Jolly was praising his little mare 'Jenny Jones' to Mr.
Fitz, and for the moment warmed in his subject, had completely thrown
off his usual bashful manner. 'She's out and out the best stock horse
in the country, sir! Why, she seems to know the very beast I want to
cut out. How she'll fly after them! You see, the bullocks will
generally make for falling ground--down they go such precipices! that
many a horse can't follow. Bless you, 'Jenny Jones' will follow any
herd in the colony. And then to see her when a devil of a beast shies
round;--she wheels in a minute, though at full gallop, two and three
times over; 'tis no such easy matter to sit such a sudden turn--then
crack goes the whip, and the beast is cut out as clean as butter.
She's the sweetest stock mare, sir, in the district. I wouldn't sell
her for any price!'

Every one had now some anecdote to tell of some wonderful chase
after wild cattle, or some wonderful horse. Mr. Farrant remarked to
Isabel that it was a natural feeling, that strong attachment which
grew up between a man and his horse. As they proceeded on their walk,
he kept by Isabel's side. They somehow got round from horses to Miss
Terry, and it came out in the course of conversation that Mr. Farrant
knew her brother-in-law, and could satisfy Isabel's curiosity in many
ways about him, and the conduct which led to Miss Terry's going out as
a governess. He stopped himself short at last, apologizing for boring
her. 'No,' she said, eagerly; 'it was a subject full of interest for
her. She did so pity Miss Terry's having to teach,' and so on. Then
she added, with a significant smile, 'that she hoped, after all, the
evil would be turned to good. It might end in something not so very
bad, after all!' On which Mr. Farrant gave a look of keen inquiry at
her. They had loitered on the road, and now found themselves left
behind and alone. Isabel was the first to observe this, and she felt
rather conscious and uneasy. They walked on in silence for a little
while, each apparently busy with some thought. 'I fancy,' the
gentleman began, in a low and hesitating voice, 'I fancy that you have
some suspicion of--of what I intended to keep a secret for some little
time.' She said nothing, not knowing what to say, but feeling very hot
and uncomfortable, and angry with herself for not keeping with the
others. He presently went on again, but hesitating and nervously. 'I
am peculiarly circumstanced. I can't explain--yet--may I ask?--may I
trust? Is it too much to--?'

'Don't! not now, please!' she interrupted, earnestly; but hardly
knowing what she said: 'we are so far behind!'

'We can soon overtake them,' he said gently. Then as if seeing her
distress, he changed his tone. 'I beg your pardon! I fear I have bored
you! It was a wrong time. I leave myself in your hands; some day--some
time--soon--I hope I shall be able to explain and speak plainly.'

'O, there they are!' she said, with a long breath of intense relief.
Then she checked her hurrying steps, feeling it was not fair or kind
towards him! She had stolen a glance, and her quick eye had detected
symptoms of agitation or disappointment. She did not wish exactly to
hurt him; only if he would but wait till she knew her own mind
better--and only would use few words, and not make speeches, how
thankful she would be!

'Yes, here they are,' he echoed, rather sadly, she thought. 'Thank
you for your kind--but no! your own generous warm heart needs no
formal words of thanks: it will best plead for me, I know.' He offered
his hand as he spoke, and she yielded hers to its gentle but warm
pressure.

'Come here, Issy,' called Willie; 'here's the bell bird.'

They stood on the edge of a deep, dark gully, descending some hundred
feet with but little slope. At the bottom was a narrow and shallow
stream, which in some parts formed a chain of small ponds in hollow
basins of rock. Gigantic lilies, with their rich coronals, reared
their stately heads amid the feathery foliage which abounded, and the
sweet monotonous note of the water-loving bell bird alone broke the
deep silence.

'A frightful place to come upon without warning, when chasing
bullocks!' remarked Mr. Fitz.

'It is the same gully in which the waterfall empties itself some
fifteen miles north,' said Mr. Herbert. 'We came upon it four years
ago, quite suddenly, when hunting the kangaroo. No one seemed to know
the existence of the fall, and it is a very considerable one too.'

'A lonely place to set up one's tent, isn't it?' said Mrs. Vesey.
'But if we go on a few steps we shall come upon a human habitation.
Parishioners of yours, Mr. Farrant, which I dare say you know nothing
about. Charles and I were walking here last week and found it out.
Rather rough neighbours I suspect they are.'

'Yes. I see no good, aw--Laura, of putting one's self into aw--that
sort of--of trap--at all. By Jove! the old lady is aw--something
awful--Miss Lang; I assure you she is.'

Some of the party wished to turn back, among whom was Mr. Herbert.
For, he said, 'Many of these gunyos were the resort of bushrangers, or
sly grog-shops. Unless on business, or an errand of duty, he never
cared going too near them.'

But some thought it an exciting adventure, and said it would be
cowardly to return. It was proposed for Mr. Farrant to be spokesman,
and to introduce himself as their clergyman. 'What do you say?' he
asked Isabel; and she, conscious and shy, hardly knowing what she did,
turned round to Mr. Herbert and asked him to come. He looked pleased,
and was about to draw her hand on his arm, when Mr. Farrant looked
back. 'Miss Isabel Lang comes with me, I believe?' They were all
forming into pairs, it seemed, that each lady might have a protector.
Mr. Herbert immediately withdrew, motioning for her to go to Mr.
Farrant, and remarking, with an indifferent, dry voice, 'I shall stay
here. If there is any danger, cooee-ee, and I'll come.'

So saying, he caught hold of a branch and swung himself down for a
few feet on the giddy precipice, to a little level platform, from
whence he had a beautiful view, range after range, of the deeply blue
mountains, and where he could trace the source of the stream, here and
there tolerably deep and full, and then again broken by rocks so as to
form pools.

The rest of the party, headed by Mrs. Vesey, Willie, and Jem,
followed the track, which presently led them away from the edge of the
gully into dense scrub, where the native currant bushes and five
corner plants abounded. Soon a few blackened stumps were seen, telling
of man's work, but already the quick-growing creepers had fastened
their tendrils and gay blossoms over them, half hiding their ruins.

Then the place became clearer; several large trees had been cut down,
a stack of bark was piled up, and a rude attempt at a shed, in which
lay a broken cart, and a tethered bullock standing near, bespoke the
neighbourhood of human beings.

In another moment, as they turned a sharp corner, they met with a
welcome more lively than pleasant. About half-a-dozen dogs of all
kinds, but chiefly a mongrel breed, half dingo and half cur, filled
the lone place with their snaps and growls, and the gentlemen had
enough to do to keep them from their heels and the ladies' skirts.

A hut, or rather a gunyo, was seen, its high-pitched gable, formed of
two very large sheets of bark, placed together like a card house, and
a rough attempt at a chimney at the side, of loose stones unmortared.
Standing by its side, a magnificent red cedar rose lofty and proud,
affording strength, and shade, and shelter. Such as the dwelling was,
there were evident signs that it had been inhabited for at least a
season. A large pumpkin ran along the ground, and catching a broken
post, which seemed to have served as a tethering post, it climbed from
thence to the cedar, and from that again threw out its clinging arms
to the back roof, on which lay three or four very large pumpkins.
There was also a few feet of ground which had been cleared and
drilled, and where a dozen or so of Indian corn-stalks raised their
green leaves and hung their tasselled blossoms. Some ugly Cochin
fowls, tailless, and with abundant legs, pecked about, while a tame
cockatoo reared his crest, and joined his shrill cry to the yelping
dogs.

'I wonder if any one is here!' Mrs. Vesey said.

As she spoke, a woman with her hands shading her eyes appeared from
behind the hut. She had on a man's cabbage-tree hat, on the top of a
mass of rough and disordered red hair. She wore a short bedgown and
stuff petticoat, and in her mouth was stuck a short black pipe, from
which came the fumes of inferior tobacco.

'Good day!' said Mrs. Vesey. 'What a charming place you have here!'
While the boys beckoned to Mr. Farrant to come forward, and whispered
sagely that there was a man 'behind there; they had caught sight of
him peeping at them.'

'Down, ye noisy devils!' called out the woman, at the same time
throwing some pieces of wood at the dogs, which proceeding procured a
cessation of noise. But at the same time a much more formidable
guardian appeared and took up his place by the woman;--a fierce bull-
terrier, with flaming but half-closed eyes, and a wide, open mouth,
displaying a row of formidable teeth, over which the lips never
closed. A low growl rather alarmed Mrs. Vesey, who quickly retreated,
saying--

'Pray, my good woman, keep in that dreadful, beautiful, awful,
charming creature! I adore dogs, but I should be afraid of that pet of
yours. How do you do, Mrs.--. You see, in taking a walk, we have come
on your house. It is a curious place.'

'Get in, ye varmin,' the woman said, kicking the formidable brute
till he skulked behind her, though still keeping up the low, ominous
growl.

'Pray, ma'am,' said Mrs. Vesey, suddenly hitting on what she thought
a very happy idea, 'have you any fowls for sale?'

'Depends on what I'd get for 'em. Don't care to sell; but, seeing
we're short of tea, wouldn't care to swop with 'ee. A quarter chest--
and, I don't care, ye may take the lot of 'em.'

'A thousand thanks! But it will be needful for me to put it on
paper, and do a sum, before I can agree to such a liberal offer.'

'Please yerself--'taint none of my seeking;' and the woman turned as
if to go.

Just then a shrill, wild scream rose, as it seemed, from the hut. It
was a signal for all the dogs to begin again; but the effect of that
cry was apparent on every one of the party--most of all, Isabel was
startled.

'Good gracious! what is it? I know that voice!'

There was a sound of scuffling; a dull, heavy noise, and then a
gruff voice uttered a whole volley of oaths, and a man, whose hairy
face wore a most sinister expression, put his head out of the door.

'Send they quality folks away, ye Judy, or I'll have Bluebeard at
their throats! Go on your ways, or it will be the worse for ye.'

'My good woman,' here Mr. Farrant interposed, 'I am the clergyman of
this district. I have ridden about in many a corner, but I did not
know of your hut. Can I be of any use? I am ready to be a friend to
all my flock. What may be your name?'

The woman scowled, and then after an intent survey of the speaker,
her face relaxed into a sort of grin, which as soon gave way to an
unhappy expression, mingled with distrust, fear and defiance.

'My name is Judy Brown, gin that's any good to 'ee. As for a
clargyman, us don't want none of that trade. We are Catholics, my man
and me. We don't ask no one to help us; and I warn ye, if ye come on
that kind o' errand, ye'd best turn home again. 'Tis no place for ye
at all, at all!' She lowered her voice to one of warning at the last,
and half pointed backwards with her thumb.

Here Mr. Vesey began to bluster a little, saying that as a
magistrate he could not help having an unpleasant suspicion of
neighbours who only received a friendly call in such a fashion. He
hoped all was right; but he thought it right to say, that now Vine
Lodge was inhabited again, it would not be so well for people to
imagine that they could do just as they liked--break the laws, &c.

Then the woman began to whimper, rubbing her eyes with her ragged
apron. They were only very poor folks, she said. Her husband cut bark,
and had been 'squatting' there about a year. They hurt no one, and
wished no one to interfere with them. They were hard-working people.

'Have you any children?' said Mr. Farrant, taking out his pocket-
book to note down the facts.

'Three, please your honour. Two lies there at the foot of yon white
gum, and one is up the country keeping of sheep for a gentleman.'

Isabel observed a turn in her lips, very much like a suppressed
smile, in spite of the whining voice she had so suddenly assumed.

With a quick impulse, and under pressure of a fleeting suspicion she
could not quite realize, she said--

'Does any one live here besides you and your husband?'

The woman gave a searching glance at her, and then hesitating, first
said 'No one,' then corrected herself and said, 'Forbye a girl, just
to help me 'bout the work, and so on--a flighty, do-nothing lass, she
is, too--and...'

But again that cry rose, and now it sounded like 'Help!' The woman
looked round uneasily, and said 'it was a neighbour took ill with a
sun--stroke.'

A small, mutilated white terrier just then burst out of the hut, and
made its way snuffling, and whining, to where Isabel stood. She,
naturally fond of dogs, stooped to notice it, remarking that it seemed
to know her, when again there was a suppressed noise, and the dog
listening, bounded back and disappeared within the hut.

The man who had been half hiding all this time, now showed himself,
and in a very daring and insolent way, asked what they wanted. For as
to selling fowls, they didn't profess to sell poultry, and as to the
minister calling, once for all he begged to say, no such a man was
wanted there; and if folks didn't know better than to go where they
was not wanted, they would some day find they'd best have minded their
own affairs. He had a carbine on his shoulder and a couple of wanga
wangas and an opossum in his hand. No one felt disposed to dispute
with him or seek a further acquaintance with the mysterious gunyo.

So wishing him and the woman good day, they all turned back. Some
faint and confused noise of speaking, and as it seemed even hot
argument, reached them, and once again they were all startled, as the
wail of a dog echoed far and wide. It was evident that the poor animal
had received punishment for something.

'I wish we had some of the police here,' said Isabel. 'I have a
strong impression that something is going wrong there. Kate!' she
said, turning round and waiting for her sister, who with Mr. Fitz was
a few steps behind, 'Kate, did you notice that dreadful scream? Didn't
it remind you of Ellen Maclean, as we have heard her cry out, when
ill-treated by her wretched mother?'

'It was only a child, I think,' remarked Mr. Fitz, quickly; 'or,
didn't she say some one was ill or delirious? What did you suppose,
Miss Isabel Lang? How could this Ellen somebody get here, and why?'

'It is a sly grog-shop, and something worse,' Mr. Farrant remarked.
'It will be well to give a hint to Captain Smith of the existence of
such a nest. Rather too near to be pleasant I should think, Mrs.
Vesey?'

When they told Mr. Herbert all that had happened, he said he could
have told them the sort of thing they would find; he had seen many of
them. They were generally the very scum and outcasts of the people;
their hut is the rendezvous for all the bushrangers or runaways. They
made their living ostensibly by cutting bark or sawing wood; but
generally there was a deep excavation under their beds, where the grog
was kept. The police were afraid of them, if not actually bound by
bribery.

As he walked on by Isabel and Mr. Farrant, still talking of these
wild characters, Isabel said, 'I can't get it out of my head that it
was poor Nelly's voice!'

'That was fancy,' Mr. Farrant answered; 'for I know the girl is gone
with some drays to a station very far up the Hunter. I couldn't make
out who it was she was to live with; but I hope it is a good
arrangement.'

'Under present circumstances it is not bad for her to be out of this
neighbourhood,' Mr. Herbert returned. 'She is a singular being,' he
went on; 'there is something very attractive about her.'

As he talked on of the girl, Isabel, always carried away by the
impulse of the moment, and under the influence of his old familiar
kindness and protection, suddenly put her hand in and took hold of his
arm.

He smiled, looked quickly at Mr. Farrant, and then said, as if
apologetically, 'She thinks my arm must be at her service; I am a sort
of lay uncle, you see. Take care and not be entrapped by little girls
in sun bonnets, Mr. Farrant; you don't know the consequences!'

'Is there anything extraordinary in my taking your arm unasked?' she
said, trying to withdraw her hand and struck by his manner. But he
held it fast, laughing.

Mr. Farrant said something as to its being a very pleasant
'consequence;' and he also ventured on a significant smile, while he
said, 'he perfectly understood about it.'

'Understand what?' she asked, with flushing cheeks; and she clung to
Mr. Herbert the rest of the way in her shy avoidance of Mr. Farrant.

It might have been this feeling, so new to her, which made Isabel
quieter and more silent all the rest of the evening. It was a real
pleasure to her to meet her old friend after their late estrangement;
and as he was in one of his most agreeable moods, and talked in his
pleasantest way of foreign lands and travels, keeping the conversation
thereby off the small and personal topics of the neighbourhood, Isabel
felt proud of him, and off ran her speculations on her favourite
scheme, so much so that she was rather absent, and, a thing very
unusual for her, gave one or two dreamy answers, betraying her pre-
occupation.

When the party broke up, and by the doubtful light of a young moon,
they set off to find the tracks through the Bush to their respective
homes, Mr. Herbert was not sorry that the clergyman found his duties
made it advisable for him to return by a somewhat longer round. He
wanted to leave a message at a hut which lay more on the road to
Langville; so that he turned off with the Lang party, and left Mr.
Herbert to go on alone.

Mr. Herbert left his good horse to find his own way, and gave himself
up to a good fit of thinking. He was strictly and peculiarly a man
with sensitive appreciation of the honour due from one man to another;
besides his military training, his own disposition pointed this way.
Not for the world would he now, having, as he thought, been made aware
of Mr. Farrant's intentions, intrude or interfere between him and
Isabel. Sometimes he bewailed his own blindness in not anticipating
him, and trying to secure the prize so long his own in one sense, that
he had forgotten a change must ever come. As it was, he was
forestalled; yet, as an old friend, he had still his own place, which
he would cede to no one. Sweet as was her confiding trust in him, it
was mingled with pain, for he thought it showed so very plainly the
light in which she viewed him,--the impossibility of any nearer tie
existing between them. Then he turned to the parents, and thought that
perhaps it was a fortunate thing all hope was crushed.

It would not be a pleasant connexion. Mr. Lang would probably never
consent, or if he did, there would be perpetual disagreement. His
marriage at all would be highly imprudent just now, and a great blow
to his sister. He had considered himself a determined bachelor; all
his habits and his ideas had tended to this. Why should he suddenly
desire to change? After all, he might be mistaken. His feelings for
the girl were probably what they ever had been. Never, till he had
heard her talked of for some one else, had he suspected anything more.
He might continue to be her friend, and meet her nearly every day; but
if she really did marry Mr. Farrant, how would it be then?

He winced at the thought. He could bear to have her as she was--
Isabel Lang; he believed he could bear to think of her as nothing
nearer to him; but to see her belong to another--to know that his
intercourse with her must depend on that other's will--Pshaw! he
whipped up his horse suddenly at the thought. Then, cooling down
again, he took a cool survey of the case, and before he reached home
he had settled his plan. It was by no means certain that Isabella
would marry Mr. Farrant. Indeed, he had seen her avoid him and even
prefer himself. But, ah! that very avoidance--would he not be glad to
see something of the sort towards himself. The very open and frank
affection she showed him was against him. However, he would see as
much of her as he could. He would observe and watch, and scrupulously
abstain from standing in Mr. Farrant's light; though he half wished he
had not committed himself by asking any question. If he found that it
was dangerous to himself--there being no question of danger to any
other--if the present wild dream did not give way to his foregone
habits, he could but leave it all and betake himself to the far-off
station. There, it would go hard indeed but he should bring himself to
sober sense again.

But the probability was he might indulge himself in the pleasure of
seeing and hearing her without harm to himself or any one else; and
that there was no one pleasure he cared so much for, he had pretty
well convinced himself during all the days he did not meet her, and
dreaded Mr. Lang's anger might even make any further intercourse
impossible. So Mr. Herbert returned in a particularly amiable mood--
disposed to be very kind to his sister and sociably tell her about the
day. He even remarked how pleasant it was to find her there to welcome
him, instead of a bare and comfortless bachelor's room. Miss Herbert
was surprised and relieved. She had been unhappy at his depression,
and now finding him disposed to see all things hopefully, and to talk
as he used to do of always remaining a bachelor, she rallied all her
cheerfulness, and to hear and see them that hour before they parted
for the night, one would have supposed no care or trouble entered into
their quiet and uneventful life.



CHAPTER XIX. A BREEZE BEFORE BREAKFAST.



Isabel did not forget that strange and piercing cry they had heard
from the Bark Hut. The she remembered Amelia's news of Ellen Maclean's
being engaged as a servant to some one at a distance.

She rose very early and went out towards the men's huts, hoping to
learn from Jack Lynch, or some one, what was the truth about this
report. Lynch was not to be seen, but 'civil' William Smith, alias
Gentleman Bill, who always seemed to be at hand when anything was
wanted, and had an answer ready for every one, now came up a little
behind, according to his custom, his hat off, and his head bent
forward between his shoulders, and eyes apparently on the ground.

'Was the young lady seeking Lynch? Sorry he was gone for the cattle
and would not return till night. Could he do anything, or give any
message?'

'No, thank you. I don't suppose you can help. I want to find out
where the girl, Ellen Maclean, is at this moment.'

She did not see the quick, scrutinizing glance which seemed to scan
her through and through, but she heard him say presently, as if trying
to recollect, 'She was at Allen's at the township--that is, it is a
little out of the road down by the creek. Allen works for Budd, and I
saw Nelly Maclean minding Allen's children.'

'When was that?'

'Some days ago, Miss, let me see--it--'

'Are you sure she is there now?'

'Well--not exactly. For I did hear she had met with a situation
somewhere a long ways off. They said that she was going along with
some drays.'

'Where?'

'I am sure I can't say, Miss. 'Twas no place anear this.'

'Did her father know of it?'

'That I don't know neither, Miss. But I think not. I think he was all
for keeping her about here; and I knows that Jack Lynch hadn't heard
nothing about it; for, says he to me last evening--he and me live in
one hut now, Miss--Bill, he says, I shall just give a look in at
Allen's as I pass homewards. It is long since I saw the girl. And I
says, 'Well, and so do,' says I; 'but mind yourself, Jack, and don't
be after time now, and be a aggravating the master again.' '

'Thank you;' and Isabel was just going on, when she heard her
father's voice, apparently in great anger, and looking around she saw
that many of the men, having come in for breakfast, were hanging about
and staring with surprise and curiosity. Anxious and troubled, for
these rows were but too frequent, she hurried on to where Mr. Lang was
standing, and was much surprised to see a man who for some time had
lived at their other place, Westbrooke, one whose somewhat dogged,
surly honesty had been admitted by his master, by the very fact of
leaving him in sole charge of the place, with the cattle and horses.
About horses he was particularly clever, and was generally entrusted
with the rearing all the colts. Charley Brand, called 'Bran Charley,'
or 'Big Charley,' was a 'character,' and in some way a good deal
looked up to by his fellow prisoners. A man of few words and uncommon
physical strength, he went on his way with the most unfailing
punctuality, interfering with no man, scarcely even volunteering a
remark.

In old days, when the family had lived at Westbrooke, that being the
home-farm and Langville a mere out-station, Charley Brand had, in his
own fashion, noticed the children, and had become a favourite of
theirs. It was Isabel he especially picked out; but he was kind to
all, and had given them many a ride on his sorrel mare. She was
therefore about to greet him cordially as usual, but the words did not
pass her lips. The man did not even see her; there he stood, hat in
hand, his long, thick hair moved by the hot wind which was rising, his
stock-whip dropped, and lying on the ground beside him.

He looked his master full in the face--a look not pleasant, and it
grew darker and darker, till Isabel could see how angry the man was
getting at every gesture and word of her father's.

Mr. Lang, also a stout man, but of lighter build than Brand, in his
suit of white linen and small Manilla hat, paced to and fro before the
stable-door, now smacking a whip sharply, now bending it double, now
shaking it in threat, as in his stammering, excited way, he poured out
his wrath, supplying all hiatus with oaths and abuse. It is a
miserable liberty for any one to be able to speak as his temper
prompts him unrestrained. With Mr. Lang there was no one to call him
to account for words. His servants were prisoners, with no power to
give warning, and only too happy if the anger vented itself in that
manner, and stopped short of actual punishment, which it sometimes
did. But though this was the case with the majority, there were a few
exceptions, which unhappily Mr. Lang did not note--a few to whom these
hot words were as poison. He never paused to read the countenance of
the man he was abusing.

He did not intend to punish Brand; his services were too valuable,
and indeed there was something in the man which forbade the idea; but
in his keen disappointment in finding a colt, which he had expected to
prove valuable, seriously lame, he eased his mind, according to habit,
and was now in the middle of his scolding harangue, or what he called
a 'good blowing up.'

Charley's arrival had been unexpected. He was rather a noted
character, and it being also breakfast-time, there was quite an
audience. Even the household servants and the boys were there. The
blood rushed into Isabel's face. She could not bear her father to
expose himself so--to give way so completely to passion, and to use
such words. She felt lowered, sorry, and, as she looked at Charley,
even afraid.

'You big, greedy, beef-eating rascal! You are as fat as a prize ox.
You sit in and gorge, and neglect your duty. Hang you!--you've ruined
the colt, and you'll smart, I promise you. You're a knave, an
impostor, sirrah--a smoothfaced, lying rascal! What could be expected
from a swindling, thieving, confounded jockey boy! I'll do for you, as
sure as my name's Lang! You'll see--you'll feel! I'll make an example
of you! You don't suppose I'm going to stand it, do you?......And how
long--if your confounded tongue can speak truth--how long has the
beast gone lame? Speak out, can't ye?'

'Yes I can speak out, and I mean so to do, Mr. Lang, when for lack of
breath you have stayed your oaths and language misbecoming a
gentleman. I let ye have the bit--I just gived ye the reins--for to
see what you would please for to say. And now, sir, seeing as how I
can't write, except just my name, I comed up here myself, that ye
might get the quickest intelligence of this here haccident, which I
was all so sorry for as--as--but that's neither here nor there now.
The day afore yesterday 'Prince' was so well on his fore legs as e'er
a colt among 'em all. Yesterday evening I zeed him limp. I drove them
all into the stock-yard right away, and examined this 'ere consarn,
and I believe it may be some poisonous bite, for 'twas all of a
inflammation, and seeing all foments and so on did no good, what did I
do? I cast about, and remembered as how David Wheler was reputed as
clever about them kind of things, and anyhow your honour would know
and judge. So I left William in charge, and off I set, and never
stopped for sup nor bite till I rides in here; and this here is the
wages I gets, as all can bear me witness--a welcome I'll not be likely
to forget too soon, either.'

'What! you threaten, do you? you insolent old methodist; for you've
treated us to quite a sermon this fine morning.'

Here a laugh was raised and passed round, faintly, by the audience,
but a look from Charlie Brand stopped it. Isabel's hand was pressed on
her father's arm.

'Don't, papa; pray don't provoke him! He is tired--perhaps hungry.
Wait till you are both cooler, please!'

'Go in, child, go in,' Mr. Lang said, impatiently; then, with
affected hilarity, 'Well, sir, don't think to alarm me with your
scowls! You just deserve a good twenty-five, but it is ill flogging a
fasting man, so turn in and fill your stomach, and then we'll see--'

'You'll see that no good comes of insulting and blackguarding an
honest man! No, sir; you may chance to live to repent this here
morning's work--you may, you may! You're the best man here, perhaps;
but--' and he raised his hand, as was afterwards remembered, and shook
it, 'but you and I, Mr. Lang, may chance to meet again in another
place, when perhaps you may not be the master!'

The man was white with suppressed anger: his step tottered a little
as he turned away, still muttering something to himself. Again he
turned round and looked at Mr. Lang, and seemed about to speak; but
after a moment's pause he put his hat on his head and went into the
hut nearest to him. Mr. Lang suffered himself to be led in by his
daughter, who longed, though she dared not, to say something to
Charles Brand.

She heard the murmur of men's voices, the laughter and the rude
jest, which, directly the master's back was turned, burst forth.
Before they reached the breakfast parlour Mr. Lang's anger had
vanished.

'The surly rascal! By Jove, he's a stout fellow, too! Has a quiet
berth down there; all his own way, and can't bear a word to be said to
him.'

'He is not a man to provoke so, papa! I wish you would be more
careful. Indeed, it is dangerous to make enemies of these men. Bad
policy, to say the very least. He looked so deeply angry--so hurt.'

'Did he, though? As if a man could hear of a valuable beast like
Prince being lame, and not blaze up a bit! But stop his mouth--give
him some prime ' 'baccy.' Here, money is scarce, but as Charlie was an
old friend of yours, I don't mind once in a way--here, give him this
crown piece. That will smooth all over, I'll engage. Eh, pet, are you
satisfied?' and he pinched her ear.

'Bless me, Issy, what makes you look so cold and pale?' exclaimed
her mother, as they sat down to breakfast.

'Pale, is she? Confound the goose-chick! Hang that villain! Is it
his black visage which has turned thee sick, child, eh?' said her
father, turning to look well at her.

When the matter was explained a little, both Mrs. Lang and Kate were
surprised at Isabel's 'sensitive nerves,' and joked her a good deal.
But she said low, so that only Miss Terry, her neighbour, heard it,--

'That man's look was frightful! If I didn't know he was faithful and
attached, I should be indeed uneasy. As it is--well--it is a pity!'

They went out very soon to seek the man, Mrs. Lang intending to make
it up to him by a few condescending inquiries and a glass of wine, and
Isabel really anxious for a chat with her old favourite; but they
found he was gone--gone without any food!

He had brought out his horse, rubbed him down carefully, and let him
drink; and then, without a word to any one, rode away--homewards, it
was supposed.

'He didn't wait for orders?'

'No,' one man answered. 'He said any orders could be sent.'

Mr. Lang was of course extremely angry again. He had quite got over
his passion, a good breakfast helping not a little towards it. That
this fellow should brood over and resent it, proved him more than
deserving of everything Mr. Lang had said of him. At first, he
threatened to ride after him and bring him back for punishment; his
horse must be tired, and could be easily overtaken. This Isabel would
have found hard work to prevent, but for the fact that Mr. Lang and
his boys were very much wanted to ride in quite an opposite direction,
to help in bringing in some cattle--rather a wild set, and therefore
exciting.



CHAPTER XX. MYSTIFICATION.



In the course of the morning, when Isabel was in the school-room,
just as the morning's lessons were winding up, and wondering at the
gentle patience with which Miss Terry heard a page of French
vocabulary mispronounced by Fanny, a high-spirited child, said to be
like herself and rather a dunce, the difficult French was quickly
broken off by an exclamation, 'There are visitors! O! it is Mr.
Farrant and somebody. Now we shall go. I am glad!'

Isabel looked out, and saw Mr. Herbert and Mr. Farrant. The latter
had dismounted, and was about to inquire if the family were at home,
while Mr. Herbert showed his uncertainty of being welcome by retaining
his seat on horseback till there was an order for admittance. She
turned to look at Miss Terry, and to say, 'Send away the children, and
come with me;' and she could not help seeing the deep blush which
covered face and neck as the teacher bent over the book, and strove to
recal her pupil's wandering attention. Isabel smiled involuntarily as
she said again, 'Do come!' and then she herself hastened out, with
pleasure and fear rather strongly contending; for she knew it was her
note which had done the deed, and she did not know how her mother and
father would receive him; while satisfaction at bringing 'the two'
together again, quickened by the sight of the blush, was almost so
great as to make her forget to be awkward about Mr. Farrant. Were the
truth told, his visit on this particular occasion could have been
dispensed with, however.

'How lucky that you are come!' was her greeting as she stepped out by
the verandah; 'we were in the most deplorable state of dulness. A man
is coming for the horses; you need not go yourself, Mr. Herbert. Well,
if you will--if you wont trust any one but yourself. Is it 'Pearl'?'

'Yes; therefore worthy of all care, and she wont bear rough handling,
you see; and to say truth, I do always prefer looking after my own
horse in this country. No offence, I hope?' he said, patting the silky
mane.

'No; it is not worth while.' Then catching up a parasol which usually
lay within reach, she turned to accompany him to the stables, while
Mr. Farrant, less experienced in the careless ways prevalent, or
perhaps caring less, gave up his steed to the boy who appeared, and
after greeting Isabel, proceeded to pay his respects in the drawing-
room.

'I have obeyed you, Isabel,' Mr. Herbert said as they went on.

'Yes; so I perceive. You are very good,' she said, but rather
doubtfully, for she was at the moment wondering--should her father
return and find him, how would he behave? So much, she well knew,
depended on the circumstances of the hour.

'I hope it is all right,' Mr. Herbert went on. 'I hold you
responsible. I fancied, after what passed, I should not be justified
in coming without express invitation from your father. But I have
taken yours as the second best thing.'

'Papa will forget it all! I know he is sorry for it now; only being
the elder, and so on, he couldn't quite make up his mind to be the
first to come round. Papa's anger is hot, but soon over; he wonders
that people mind it, he so completely forgets it himself.'

'Well, I am ready to overlook much, knowing his temper, and making
excuses for him on many accounts; but there is a point beyond which no
man can be expected to go, or justified in bearing.'

'Ah! if you mean to talk and to look like that, I shall wish I had
never interfered,' Isabel said.

'Like what? How am I looking to displease you, eh, Isabel?'

'Never mind! Only, please we wont talk about it;' and she drew a
very long breath.

He looked at her, half amused and half kindly. 'Are you very
doubtful as to the issue of your efforts? Do you wish me now to give
it up? I can leave you here at once, if you like.'

'O no! the fact is, papa and the boys are away after cattle. I don't
expect them yet. He will be pleased to hear of your visit, I know.
There was a great fuss this morning about the colt, which is terribly
lame--some snake--bite, or perhaps a centipede, they say; and Charlie
Brand came here about it.'

'Yes, so I understand,' Mr. Herbert said, drily; 'indeed, I saw
him--hem. He is a capital servant, Isabel, and has served you all
well.'

'I know. So he went to you. O, he looked so dreadfully angry, and
used such threats;' she shuddered a little.

'You are certainly nervous, my dear Isabel. There is nothing, I
hope, to fear from him; he is too good a man. But--'

'I know, I know!--don't let us begin about that. Now, is 'Pearl'
right?'

'Yes; but how is it I can't hit on a subject pleasing to you this
morning?' Something in her face made him draw her hand on his arm as
they returned to the house. At first neither spoke; then he said, 'I
took Mr. Farrant to a new part of his straggling parish to-day. He is
going about his work in a very orderly manner, and I really believe he
will make his way here, and be appreciated.'

He consulted her face again with a quick glance, as if to see if
this subject was more fortunate. But something was the matter with the
parasol, and she was intent on rectifying it, so that her face was
hidden. By the time it was put right they had reached the verandah. As
he stepped back for her to precede him, she turned quickly round--

'Please not to tell papa or mamma, or Kate, that it was my doing.'

'You foolish little thing; I know that you must really be
frightened, to be so beseeching. Trust me; for your sake I will take
care that there shall be nothing unpleasant; I mean, of course, as far
as I can manage it.'

'For 'my sake'?' and she gave a saucy and incredulous smile.

'Yes; for whose sake but yours? For the sake,' he added in another
tone, 'of the little maiden who stood at this very window, and first
judged me as a crusty fellow for not liking children; then thought me
not so bad, after all, and took my part. From that time till now she
has been my chief object in this house. Eh, Isabel?'

'And soon she will have to cede that honour,' she added, laughing,
and turning to go in. He had no opportunity of asking what she meant,
for she led him at once into the drawing-room, where all the party
were.

Mr. Farrant had probably, Isabel thought, prepared the way, for Mrs.
Lang's reception of Mr. Herbert was kind enough. She regretted her
husband's absence, and inquired much for his sister. He remained
talking to her for an unusual time, till, in fact, Mr. Farrant
proposed going over their songs: then Mr. Herbert indulged himself in
a newspaper and easy-chair, from which he might drink in the sweet
sounds and also make a few quiet observations.

He had not heard them for some time, and he praised the improvement
in Isabel's part warmly, and said it was a good work bringing out her
voice. Mr. Farrant was animated in his encouragement, proving that
practice and teaching would do so much. He was sure, from the tone of
Mr. Herbert's own voice in speaking and reading, that he could sing if
he tried.

This Mr. Herbert denied, saying he had tried very hard when a lad,
emulous of being musical. Miss Terry urged him to make a trial now,
and drilled him a little through the 'Do, re.' He succeeded better
than he expected, and was pleased,--tried again, and again, and
finally sang an easy song or two with Miss Terry, who offered to give
him lessons, but at the same time urged his acquiring a little
knowledge of the notes, &c. She went to the school-room for books, and
he accompanied her, and when there, they remained deep in talk for
some little time.

Isabel's delight was extreme. She could scarcely keep it to herself,
and her gleeful eyes chanced suddenly to meet Mr. Farrant's. He was
looking amused too, and even conscious. Leaving his seat near Mrs.
Lang, he came close to her and was bending towards her, when she
caught a look from Kate which brought all the blood to her face and
gave a very sudden, if not unwelcome, turn to her thoughts. When,
however, the sense of his words, spoken in a low tone, did reach her
mind, she as speedily recovered her ease, her interest in what he said
absorbing other feelings.

'Ellen Maclean has left the district, and is, I hear, gone far away,'
he was saying.

'It is true, then! And do you know where she is gone?'

'Her father does not,' he answered, after a moment's pause. 'I am
sorry to say the step was taken entirely without his knowledge, far
less consent. I fear very much it will end ill.'

'How so? Where is it? and who managed it? I did not know she had a
friend who could procure her a situation.'

'It was no true friend, I fear; though perhaps she thought so. Her
peculiar mind forbids her being judged by common rules, or I should be
seriously afraid that she had acted in this most improperly.'

'What do you mean? Do tell me, Mr. Farrant, please! Ellen is much to
me--very much. I can't help feeling her as a sort of charge. Her own
mother--such a sweet woman, every one says--was my foster-mother, and
Nelly was born here.'

'Yes; so I heard. I cannot tell you where she is gone till I am more
certain of facts than I am now. It is a bad business, and there has
been much mystery and concealment. This alone would arouse my
suspicion.'

'But is any one looking after her? Is she actually gone?'

'Yes; her father is gone after her--at least, he is gone to find out
what he can. It is since he left this morning that I discovered what I
have as--as--to the party concerned.'

He stopped in grave thought. 'You have a man called Smith, or Bill,
here, haven't you?' he asked, presently.

'Yes; 'Gentleman Bill.' A sneaking, smooth, but very clever man--a
ticket-of-leave man.'

'Just so. I suspect he has been in the business, but I don't know.
Wasn't there an idea of her marrying your storekeeper?'

'He wished it, and asked papa's leave; but Nelly wouldn't have him.'

'He is very angry now, and in his rage has let out a few hints of
shameful conduct of his own and others. There has been some curious
and deep play. I can't quite understand it. But I fear for the poor
girl very much.'

So did Isabel, though her fears took no certain shape. Affairs were
not by any means in a comfortable state among their numerous
government men and women, she knew. Venn was strongly suspected to be
at the bottom of much incipient rebellion, but Mr. Lang would not hear
a word from any one against him. He had promoted the man with a full
knowledge of his character, and in a fit of worry and fear had
resolved to rid himself of the evil by making it the man's interest to
serve his master.

Unfortunately, this step had been opposed, and Mr. Lang having once
made a personal party matter of it, was determined to 'carry his point
over every one's head,' a motive which had become a very ruling one in
his life. Isabel had left Mr. Farrant to continue the subject to her
mother, and was ruminating on his information, while absently plucking
the leaves from the creeper which trailed over the verandah. Voices
reached her from the school-room window, which opened also on the
verandah, at an angle from the drawing-room.

'I am so very glad,' Mr. Herbert was saying, 'to have this
opportunity of speaking; circumstances were against me before.'

What Miss Terry's answer was, did not transpire--something,
doubtless, favourable and sweet, Isabel thought. Presently his voice
again reached her, a little subdued, but by no means a whisper.

'Yes; mystery is always undesirable, but in this case it is right--
for a time. And if you write within three days, it will do, though the
sooner the better. Can't you send a note by the post-boy?'

A few words were lost--he was gone further from the window. Now he
returns, and Isabel can so well understand the content, the composed,
and controlled, but deep satisfaction of the tone; she can even see,
in her own fancy, the answering look in his face, so familiar are his
habits and expressions to her.

'Be hopeful! The worst, the difficult part, is over. Now that
intercourse is renewed, opportunity will not be lacking. I can venture
to answer for Mr. Lang; with all his faults, he is truly kind-hearted,
and I can see that you are a special favourite. He will be delighted
to secure your society near.'--Again, 'Mr. Farrant is impatient, yet,
pray, beg him to be guarded, cautious--to think it well over before
...'

Isabel's downright honesty here caused conscience to prick sharply.
With a tell-tale face, she put her head round the corner. 'What are
you two talking secrets at the open window for? I heard you--at least,
I heard some--and I understand all about it!'

They came out--Miss Terry's cheeks quite as red as Isabel's while the
gentleman looked very provoking and rather triumphant. 'You
understand, do you? Well, we know you can keep a secret, and your
forbearance wont be taxed long either. As you have thrust yourself on
our secret council, you must e'en take the consequence and act the
discreet friend. As you have heard 'all about it,' your own excellent
judgment will point out the necessity of silence as yet. What have you
done with Farrant? Where is he, Issy?'

'Talking to mamma,' she answered, again stealing a look at Mr.
Herbert's lighted-up face, and then noting Miss Terry's very evident
embarrassment.

The two gentlemen were just speaking of taking leave when Mr. Lang's
voice was heard, and very soon he and his boys came in sight, and also
the bullocks.

Isabel looked quickly from the returning party to Mr. Herbert. Was
the moment propitious? But the affair was taken out of her hands. She
heard her mother begging both the gentlemen to remain and see Mr.
Lang.

She felt Mr. Herbert's glance, as it rested for a moment on herself,
and she looked up in time to see him exchange a look of meaning with
Miss Terry. At the same instant, he expressed his intention of waiting
to pay his respects to Mr. Lang; but Mr. Farrant, having spoken a few
quiet words to Miss Terry, turned to her and said, he hoped she would
kindly say everything proper to Mr. Lang for him, but he must return
home at once, he had important business to attend to.

Mr. Herbert watched the clergyman ride down the hill with a grave,
yet amused air.

'What should you say, Isabel--judging solely by the cut, the air, the
tout ensemble, as the minister rides yonder--should you guess him a
happy, a successful man, or not--eh?' He looked at her with a
mischievous twinkle in his eye.

'Indeed, I don't know--very doubtful, I should say,' was her answer,
with a little annoyance in it. 'But,' she went on, determined to
return his joke on himself, 'were I asked as much about some gentleman
near me, I should not hesitate so much.'

'Ah, indeed?'

'No--in fact, a little less broad display of content would be more
interesting,' she said, with a stress on the word.

He raised his eyebrows with a smile of interrogation and surprise;
then lowering both his look and his voice, he said quietly and with
some earnestness, 'I am content, Isabel,' as you say. Here he paused
and looked at her; then smiled at something in her face.

'Mahomet found the mountain full of promise--but--come into the
garden,' he added, and trying to take her hand.

'No,' she said, withdrawing a step from him, and surprised at his
manner, so suddenly in the last sentence telling of deeper feeling
than he often showed; and while she liked it, shrinking from it too--
wondering at herself why, now it came to the point, she did not more
eagerly meet his advances towards making her a confidante.

'No, I don't like you so--so--triumphant--so dreadfully happy; I can
imagine all you have to say; and I don't care to hear any rhapsody
second--hand. Besides, here comes papa full of the wild beasts--and
that is a subject I do like.'

'Umph,' and he bit his lip. ' 'Rhapsody' indeed! You're as slippery
as--as... You are the most eccentric of human beings! But, Isabel,
you are not in earnest. May I not trust to--to--the gleam of light, I...'

'What gleam of light?--ah, I understand! 'Metaphor,' I suppose, eh?
Very proper, I dare say; but I am too plain to catch it all at once. A
'gleam of light;' poetical perhaps? Is that the way you gained your
'gleam of light'--by talking poetry instead of plain English?--ah, you
are all alike--can't use common sense or plain prose. Old Mr. Jolly's
is the only way--and I wonder how Tom would talk?'

'Tom! what on earth has Tom to do with it? He seems to interest you
very deeply! But I own, I can't exactly see what possible connexion he
has with any expression I may have been unfortunate enough to use--
rousing your spirit of sarcasm thereby.'

'There now--off you go--phiz!--phiz--iz--pop! Well, well! I suppose
it must be excused! I implore your pardon for knocking over your
romantic and poetical ideas. Only, don't you see--what can I do? I am
so downright and so matter-of-fact, that I can't understand fine
words. You should go to Kate, she would lend a willing and a
sympathising ear.'

'I wont trouble her, thank you! But if you are in one of your wild,
impossible moods, I can, in fact, I must, wait. I wonder if any one of
the wild cattle they chased to-day was more difficult to get hold of
and win--manage, I mean, than...' 'Good morning, sir,' said Mr. Lang,
who coming up, heated and eager about his successful run, turned the
attention of every one to himself at once. There was no allusion made
by him or by Mr. Herbert to the past. A very slight increase of rapid
utterance--a little stammer on Mr. Lang's part, and the slightest
possible touch of hauteur in Mr. Herbert's bow--alone marked the
consciousness which both sought to hide. Mr. Lang broke off in the
midst of his description of the desperate leap a bullock had been
about to take, but was prevented by Willie, of whom his father was
greatly proud, to take it for granted Mr. Herbert would remain and
dine with them. 'It was very lucky, for he had picked up another
guest--some one Mrs. Lang wouldn't guess in a hurry, or Kate either;
indeed, she was quite on a wrong scent, he saw from the becoming
colour rising in her cheeks.' A very fine gentleman, indeed; a
scholar, very polite, very handsome, and so on, but yet not a man to
bring up a lady's blushes. Wait and see--you'll see!' Mr. Lang cried
out, as he went away, laughing and enjoying the mystification of his
wife. 'Only I say, Mrs. Lang, we must have something good for dinner.
Isn't there time now for some of those very nice custards Miss Terry
makes so well?'

'Nonsense, Mr. Lang; I wish you would forget that stupid joke! But
who is it? Girls! can you guess who is coming in this mysterious
fashion? Where can your papa have met any one out in the Bush?'

'Papa is so fond of jokes!' said Kate. 'It is one of our neighbours,
of course. Mr. Jolly or his son, I dare say.'

'I fear nothing so refreshing,' said Isabel; 'I rather suppose it
must be the Roman Catholic priest; I met him this morning among our
men's huts. And I don't know what it is, but there is something in
that man that I can't get over. They say he is here trying to get
names for a church.'

'Yes, he was in the settlement yesterday,' Mr. Herbert remarked.

'To be sure Mr. Lang must be crazy to invite him here to dinner! It
can't be! Really it is very wrong, very dangerous!' exclaimed Mrs.
Lang as she went out to give orders, much annoyed evidently.

'It is Dr. Mornay, the person the Kearneys were fond of. We met him
at the North Shore, don't you remember, Kate?' said Isabel.

'O, yes! The Kearneys swear by him. For my part, I thought him very
disagreeable.'

'Did you? I can't say that! returned her sister. 'But I am afraid of
him.'

'You afraid of any one, Issy? Well, I must make a note of that!' said
Mr. Herbert, smiling at her. 'Come into the garden,' he continued, in
a lower key. 'There is time enough--I have something to say to you.'

'Yes, of course! But I don't want to hear it; I know all about it.'

'You do?' and he tried to catch her eye.

'Yes. There is Miss Terry going out with the children. Well?' she
added, seeing him turn back to herself, indifferently. 'Now go! I have
really some work which must be done before dinner! Now, don't pretend
to be bashful! Go, and have a talk. It will do you good;' and she
moved on.

'You are a very provoking girl! You might borrow a leaf from that
lady's book. Isabel, don't go. Consider how long it is since I was
here!' But she only laughed from the window, and pointed mockingly to
the path where Miss Terry might be seen with the two little girls and
their favourite dog. Then she ran off to her own room, and Mr.
Herbert, finding Kate had also disappeared, after a few low growls,
actually did as he was bidden, and overtook the governess.  'She is
really very trying,' he could not help saying. 'Who--Isabel? Has she
been teasing you again?' asked Miss Terry. 'I wonder what she will be
after all!' he said, musingly. 'Something very good. There is an
excellent foundation, sterling good.' He sighed, and then tried to
turn the subject to Kate, but Miss Terry continued. 'Isabel has never
yet known sorrow or trial. I believe that is wanting to perfect her.
It is a theory of mine,' she went on, earnestly, 'that without this,
scarcely any character is complete, especially strongly marked ones
such as Isabel's.'

'I wonder where trouble or trial is to come from? I should be sorry
to see her gaiety--her look of perfect health--touched. No! I can't
fancy her in sorrow!' Mr. Herbert answered.

'From what I gather, I fancy trial of a certain kind cannot be very
far off. Poor Mr. Lang is often troubled and anxious about money
matters, and these young people have never yet known what poverty is.'

'Ah, true! His affairs are darkish, I believe. Well Isabel has a
brave, strong heart.'

'Indeed she has! You will see how she will come out then. They will
all depend on her.' Miss Terry spoke with animation, and Mr. Herbert
was well pleased to continue the subject.

They turned into the vine-walk. Isabel saw them from her window. She
observed the bent heads and their gestures, and she smiled. By
degrees, however, her face clouded and her work fell neglected.

She thought how long Mr. Herbert had been her own especial friend,
her own property as it were, would he, as a married man, be the same
to her? Then she reckoned up his good points, and thought Miss Terry a
very fortunate woman, and fell to wondering what they talked of, and
if Miss Terry ever saw that particular look in his eye, which only
came very seldom indeed, but so lighted up and changed his whole face,
and which had lately, even that very morning, made her drop her own
eye and caused an emotion which she could not account for, and found
hard to hide entirely.

She had now and then seen a look a little like it in her father--
never in Mr. Farrant. This made her compare the two men, and she found
herself wishing that Mr. Farrant was in some points more like her old
friend. She ended by deciding that all such affairs as love-making and
marriage, were very disagreeable, and she heartily wished people would
remain as they were. Why not? They were all very comfortable.



CHAPTER XXI. MR. LANG'S GUEST.



While Isabel was still deep in thought, the dinner-bell roused her,
and her dress was still unready. She half regretted giving up her walk
with Mr. Herbert for the sake of finishing it, and decided that if he
made another attempt towards opening his heart to her, she would be a
good and patient listener. For she should not like to lose him
altogether; and if she showed no sympathy now, perhaps it might come
to that. So she trained herself into a grand plan of sedate and proper
behaviour, and really entered the drawing-room with a face so grave as
to make Mr. Herbert look several times at her in surprise, while Mr.
Lang grew fidgety and missed something, he did not know exactly what.

Presently he left the room. 'I do hope that Mr. Farrant will not hear
of this,' remarked Mrs. Lang, who by her increased perpetual
restlessness had been betraying her uneasiness.

'Do you mean about inviting the priest, mamma?' said Isabel.

'Yes, my dear, I cannot but think it is very ill-judged. I can't
imagine what Mr. Lang is thinking of!'

'He is turning Liberal after all,' suggested Mr. Herbert, evidently
amused.

'Now,' said Isabel, firing up, 'no inuendo if you please, Mr.
Herbert! I don't like that smile at all--I know your ways. That smile
is...'

'No harm, I hope?' he said.

'If my papa meets a man tired and hungry, and kindly, out of genuine
hospitality and good nature, bids the weary man turn in and eat and
drink and refresh himself, is that a reason for all the unutterable
things which are stirring in your heart, mamma! Mrs. Lang! Do you
grudge a meal to a good and devoted man, who has been doing his duty,
under a burning sun and among your own people?'

'Hear her! She will turn poet yet,' cried out Jem, laughing.

'O, what a fuss, Isabel!' sighed Kate.

'You seem warm in his cause,' Miss Terry said.

'She doesn't mean it!' put in Mrs. Lang, in high perplexity. 'But
Issy is too fond of fun; indeed, my dear, you are. I always say
practical jokes are very reprehensible. Isabel is only joking, Mr.
Herbert.'

'Indeed, no! Mamma, I assure you I am in sober earnest when I repeat
that I commend papa for this attention to an excellent man. Besides,
it is so pleasant to see a new face, and not by any means a common one
either. Father Mornay is worth seeing.'

She had raised her voice partly in fun, and partly from a little
natural love of opposition, when behold! the door, partly open before,
was pushed quite back, and Patrick announced, 'His Reverence, Father
Mornay,' and amid the very evident confusion and embarrassment of Mrs.
Lang and her daughters, the person in question stood before them,
bowing as coolly and as gravely as if he had not heard Isabel's
speech. She was fain to hide herself, thoroughly ashamed, bending
under the friendly shelter of a large folio, to allow her cheeks to
cool. But in the midst of the rush in her ears, and the tingle in her
nerves, she very soon was led out of herself, and charmed into
forgetfulness of her flippancy, as the polished gentlemanly tones of
the two gentlemen's voices reached her. Mr. Herbert, unlike his
conduct on some occasions, had gallantly come to the rescue. He
covered the flutter and confusion, too visible among the ladies, by
his own ease, and very soon they were in full flow of eager talk,
which completely interested Isabel. Presently she ventured even to
raise her eyes, and then turned them towards the speakers, in her own
mind comparing them as their opposite characteristics struck her. Each
was a good specimen of a man. Perhaps Mr. Herbert had never showed
himself to better advantage in her eyes. They were speaking of the
Holy Land, where both had travelled. Mr. Herbert was animated and
eager on his favourite topic, and unconsciously he suddenly turned his
eyes to Isabel. There was much in the look, hasty as it was; she felt
it to be full of sympathy and interest, even tender. Perhaps it was
for her sake, to spare her pain, that he had thus come forward and
broken through his habitual reserve; she could not help watching to
see if such another glance was haply bestowed elsewhere. If so, she
could not detect any. Miss Terry was evidently listening too, and had
suffered her favourite knitting to lie idle. She looked the picture of
serene content, but Isabel wanted something more. She thought there
ought to be more stir, more play in the countenance, for surely she
must be feeling very proud and gratified! With a slight sensation of
disappointment, and being provoked, she again turned her eyes on the
gentlemen. This time it was the priest she looked at. Immediately his
eyes moved and met hers. His next sentence was doubly animated; he
went on to describe a sunset he had seen when on the banks of the
Jordan. There was both humour and taste in the graphic account of
their encampment. His choice of words was singularly good, his voice
musical and measured. She was wondering how he preached, and what
manner of man he really was; for the word 'Priest' conveyed no meaning
but the popular and generally received notion characteristic of his
profession. The individual character hidden beneath his garb, was what
she wanted to know. Again she raised her eyes to his face, pursuing
her own train of thought, and for the moment oblivious of sun setting,
or Jordan's beauties; but this time her own quickly drooped, and she
was vexed with herself for a blush which would rise, on finding him
looking at her--looking into her, she felt; and with an expression she
could not understand. From that moment an odd fancy beset her, which
set reason at defiance, and made her very uncomfortable. There was
something strange in Dr. Mornay's look, something she had seen before
somewhere, and was associated with some memory or thought she could
not realise. She dared not boldly scrutinise his features, for each
time she ventured to look at him, she found his eye was always on her.
It might be nothing--he might have a trick of absently fixing his eye,
or he might be trying to understand her; struck by that speech he had
so inopportunely overheard. Yet it was disagreeable, and she lost her
self-composure and all pleasure in listening.

'I think you must have observed it,' Dr. Mornay was saying presently
to Isabel herself. She looked up quickly and inquiringly.

'Did you not see the very peculiar light and appearance in the sky
yesterday evening?' he went on. 'I fancied I saw you looking at it. I
was at the time near your men's huts; I saw you come in from a gate.'

'Yes, to be sure! Certainly she had observed the sky, but she had
quite forgotten it,' she said, with hesitation, and not able to hide
her surprise, for she had not seen him at that time.

'You did not see me?' he went on, lowering his voice, and as if
answering her expressive countenance. 'No, I did not think you did--
therefore--I--will you forgive me if I presume?--but something in you
brought back my life long ago--so long ago--so divided from the
present that it is like a dream, and I question if I really am the
same creature that I then knew as myself. This has not displeased you,
I hope--I trust?' he went on with a grave, still earnestness, more
forcible than vehemence or the flush of ardour, perhaps. It seemed so
uncalled for that it half frightened her.

She was about to return one of her own merry, half-saucy answers,
and lifted her face to his for the purpose, but her words were
checked. Again that look--What was it? What did it mean? It was gone,
almost as it came. Nothing remained but a look of suffering--a
contraction of the brow which almost spoke of some physical pain.
Perhaps it was that, and only that. This idea relieved her and gave a
turn to her answer.

'Why should it displease me? it did me no harm,' she said.

'Harm!' he repeated, but in so faint a whisper she was not sure he
had said it at all, and at that moment Mr. Lang hurried in, full of
hospitable welcome and excuse for some unforeseen delay; hoped his
guest had introduced himself--made himself quite at home. 'That was
Langville fashion! Every one do as he liked.' And in the plenitude of
his good humour, soothed by practical assurance that his wine for once
in a way had been well cooled, he appealed to Mr. Herbert if the
fullest liberty was not granted in this house for every one to follow
his own taste and inclinations?

'My door, sir, is always open, always stands wide open, to signify
welcome to all friends! I hate your knockers and ring-bells, your
forms and your ceremonies! Want a dinner? Want a bed? Come in, and in
God's name be welcome to the best I have. Can't have a spread every
day, you see! 'Tisn't every day I can produce certain custards, which,
by the way,--my dear Mrs. Lang, this gentleman will honour us to-
morrow, and let me beg there may be some of that incomparable--O, I
beg pardon! To be sure! It is that lady to whom I must make my
request. Dr. Mornay, sir, I know not if you have been duly presented,
but allow me to name to you one--one of my most particular friends.
Miss Terry!--Dr. Mornay! Ah, sir! you must positively taste Miss
Terry's custards! Eh, Issy!'

This rambling speech, which at all events was exquisitely
entertaining to himself, was ended even while Patrick announced that
dinner was served.

With a quick gesture and pleasant smile Mr. Lang turned again to Miss
Terry and offered his arm, hurrying her away, while he laughingly
declared she was one of the 'wee folk' of whom his old nurse used to
speak; good beings, invisible except to their friends, always at hand
when wanted, &c.

'Hallo! I say, where are they all?' Mr. Lang exclaimed, as on
reaching the dining-room he found he had in his rapid way outstripped
the others. 'What is all this? Mrs. Lang! Mamma! Missis! Girls--what's
wrong?'

'You were in such a hurry, Mr. Lang!' his wife murmured
reproachfully, as with a flushed face she sailed in, holding up her
'o'er long' satin drapery with one hand, while the other, duly clothed
in (forbid it fashion!) a mitten--lay ill at ease on Dr. Mornay's arm.

Following close behind was Mr. Herbert, returning Isabel's saucy
smile, as he forcibly detained her hand, and would not allow her to
fall back to be last, while at the same time he gaily deprecated some
remarks of Kate's, as she, somewhat unwillingly too, as it seemed,
hung on the other side.

'These young people wished to cut me in two, sir,' he said, in answer
to Mr. Lang's questioning glance.

'Cut you altogether, rather,' Isabel returned; 'you men suppose we
must be unhappy at having to walk from one room to another alone. Kate
and I could have done quite well without you.'

'You will forgive me, I hope,' Mr. Herbert said to Kate, who still
looked rather annoyed.

'O, I am sure I don't wish to interfere with any of Issy's vested
rights and privileges,' she answered.

'And do you reckon my support, my arm, as one?' he replied, with so
pleasant a smile, she could no longer keep up her offence.

'She does, I believe! You know you have taught her to expect it, and
...'

'Expect it as a right, Kate, but not as in any way necessary to my
comfort,' Isabel here put in. 'I never so keenly regretted the
melancholy fact of being 'grown up' before.'

'Indeed! How so?'

'Because I should like to exercise a privilege once mine, of
punishing you. You are just too bad! What can he think of it?' Isabel
said to Mr. Herbert, lowering her voice.

'The truth, if he likes. As if I was going to give you up to him!
to, to--Isabel, I don't like the man's look.'

'That is your bad taste, for I think him the handsomest man I ever
saw. But, hush!'

And as the clatter of removing covers, and Mr. Lang's praise of his
mutton, hushed for a moment, it was, indeed, hardly safe to carry on
such remarks.

'And what do you think of him, dear?' asked Isabel of Miss Terry, as
winding her arm round her waist, she drew her out on the verandah
after dinner.

'Of Dr. Mornay? He is determined, strong-willed, I should think.'

'Yes. Is he one to fear or to love the most?'

'Fancy loving that man!' exclaimed Kate.

'Not easily, I imagine,' Miss Terry said.

'I can fancy it, though!' Isabel remarked, after a short pause. 'At
least, if he chose it. I wonder, was he ever loved? I suppose he had a
mother, and sisters, too, perhaps. I should like to know his history,'
she continued, musingly. 'There is a look which puzzles me. Not a very
legible book, I fancy.'

'Probably not,' Miss Terry returned; 'at all events it is not a
quality one is led to expect; such careful, jealous self-control, even
of feature is exacted, that the real nature may easily be hidden. He
looks ill, I think.'

'Yes, and sad. Worn and saddened. I wonder if he is happy! I should
like to know all about him!'

'Issy, you will be falling in love directly,' said Kate.

'My dears! my dears! What are you saying?' said Mrs. Lang. 'Take
care! He is a priest, and you shouldn't say such a thing. Pray be
careful, for they say they are so sharp, and hear and know
everything.'

'But it is quite correct, isn't it, Miss Terry, to fall in love with
some dark, mysterious creature,' said Isabel, in a pompous tone.

'This one is too old,' interrupted Kate. 'I think,' she went on,
'that he took a fancy to Issy. I really do! and this is why I think
so. I saw him turn and look at her once or twice when she spoke, just
as if he was trying to see if her face agreed with her words, and once
he smiled at some thought of his own.'

'No doubt he was pleased, and he kindly wished to encourage Isabel,
my love,' said Mrs. Lang. 'Of course he was struck with your beauty in
the first instance, and then, being a priest, and therefore thinking
of such things, he was unwilling to make Issy jealous or uneasy; so he
smiled in a fatherly, encouraging way at her!'

'O, you will destroy me!' Isabel exclaimed, as soon as she could
check her laughter. 'My dear, dear mammy's far-fetched solicitude,
first for my amiability, her fear of jealousy, and dread of vanity!
'Tis too much! And, O! if only he and Mr. Herbert could know, or
guess, what utter nonsense we four females have been guilty of--
conceive what they would say, and how look! But let us go to the
garden and gather a rose. Come, Kate!' and as Miss Terry said she must
go in to settle to-morrow's lessons, the sisters ran off, leaving Mrs.
Lang to settle herself comfortably among her cushions. As she reclined
her head she faintly murmured, 'Poor Issy's spirits do run away with
her at times.'

'They will never take her far wrong,' Miss Terry turned round to
answer, before leaving the room.



CHAPTER XXII. THE PRIEST AND HIS PEOPLE.



It was long after working hours, and the men on Mr. Lang's farm
seemed to be in their huts, though one or two might be seen chopping
wood into logs fit for their fires. Each man cooked his own meat, and
baked his own damper. The long evenings were generally so spent. But
now it appeared that something beyond the common routine of cooking,
mending, and smoking, was going forward. One or two men sauntered
towards a certain hut, looking curiously at it meanwhile. From within
was heard a buzz of voices; and looking through the tolerably wide
chink left in the bark shutter of the unglazed window, one might see a
group of eager faces standing in every kind of attitude, each eye,
however, bent in one direction. A fire blazed cheerily, and the tin
'pannikins' were set, filled with tea beside it. In the shadow,
withdrawn as far into a corner as possible, with the rude table before
him, sat a man writing, and alternately making some remark, or asking
a question. He had on a wide and long dark cape, which quite hid his
figure, and wore a cap drawn far over his brow. The voice was
peculiar. It was low and flexible, and although he spoke in a
monotonous tone for the most part, there was every now and then, as if
despite habitual control, a ring, a thrill in it, which spoke of some
inner vibration.

'What may Barney say?' he uttered, without looking up, or ceasing to
write.

'Plase yer riverence, Barney here is afther saying that when he got
the blow which, saving your presence, knocked him clane dead on these
shores to live a convict ever after, he says, the cratur do--there was
a whisper, and a promise--'

'An oath, Mick. By all the saints I swear 'twas an oath, a Bible
oath; and 'twas myself heard it too,' put in Barney.

'Well, an oath,' continued the first speaker, 'that his prospecks
should be attended to, your honour. And so--'

'Proceed! How does that affect his still contributing his mite to his
country's deliverer and best friend?'

'Why this way, your reverence...'

'Good luck to ye!' said Barney, pushing himself forward to tell his
own story, now that the ice was broken by his friend. 'The gentlemen
in my own blessed country, yer riverence, said they would make it up
to me, seeing the life was knocked clane out of me, owing to me
fighting that day for O'Connell, (the blessing of the Virgin on him!)
and niver a brass farthing has come into my pockets, your honour, at
all at all. So if my pence isn't to the fore, I hope you'll not be
hard on me for that same, but just make a 'randum of it, and give the
gintlemen at home a hint of the promise, that is the oath, I'm
maning.'

'They will be both more willing, and more able to fulfil that
promise, or oath, Barney, if they receive the proper rent from hence--
you have wages?'

'Your riverence, no! I gets nothing, saving my bit and sup, forby the
wee duds o' clothes just, and it may be a shilling now and then; but
the devil a penny I ever gets of wages.'

'Well--not even one penny? So Barney's name is to appear with not
even one penny after it, when this roll of names--' and he held up the
formidable roll of parchment for all to see. 'When, I say, all these
names shall be read aloud, in the presence of hundreds--ay, thousands
of your countrymen--will your name be the only one with a blank, when
every boy in the Green Isle would sooner go without his meal, than not
contribute to send his champion to fight for his rights, for his
liberty, and his church!'

There was a hum and a shuffling of feet at this appeal. Barney's eyes
rolled about uneasily, and he fumbled in his pockets.

Other names were called, and a chink of coppers followed. Barney
remained irresolute.

'Well?' said the priest, looking at him again. 'Well, Barney, you
would let Dan O'Connell be beaten, would you? You who once proved
yourself so brave a champion, and so brave a boy. Ah! Barney, you've
given up your country, have you? You're not an Irish boy, I see.
Perhaps you are a Protestant, eh?--an Orangeman?'

A burst of laughter greeted this, and many a joke went the round,
while poor Barney shifted from one foot to the other, his face
gathering a deeper hue, and the words finding increasing difficulty in
coming out.

'The saints! But ye're wrong there, your riverence. 'Tis a true Irish
boy I am; and by my sowl and St. Patrick, here's just the last of the
wee savings I was making jist to send a trifle to show the folks at
home I was aboveground. But here's for O'Connell the frind of the
poor, and Repale--Hurrah!'

'The Repale for ever!' and 'O'Connell for ever,' now resounded, while
hats whirled madly overhead.

'Hush, boys! hush! It does me good to hear you; but we must be
prudent--we are in danger of being heard here. Mr. Lang is a
Protestant, and it will only upset my work if there is any row. Now, I
expect every man present here to-night to return each to his own hut,
as if nothing had occurred. Do you hear me, Barney?'

'Ay, your honour--your riverence I'm maning! A quieter boy doesn't
live than myself. I'm as meek as a lamb, as all know, except when my
blood's up jist. The saints above know that except that fight at the
fair, and the row at the election, and the bit of row the boys were
after when--'

'Well, well; we have not time to go through the list of your combats,
friend Barney. Now here's a glass of the old stuff, and drink each man
silently to the health of those he likes, adding also that of
'Ireland's friend.' No noise, I beg--I desire.'

'Now, good-night, good-night,' he said, as, after each had drained
his glass with great gusto, they bowed low, and went out of the hut.

'Andrew Connor, remain; I have a word to say to you.' And accordingly
a worn, unhappy-looking man, gave a furious tug to his forelock, and
came back, closing the door, in obedience to a sign from the priest.

'Come in and take a seat. Another glass will do you no harm;' and he
poured out some more of the Irish whisky which he had provided to
reward the punctual payers of O'Connell's rent, which was for some
time collected among Irish emigrants, and even prisoners, and sent
home.

'Andrew--can you tell me anything about a girl called Nelly or Ellen
Maclean? The father was a good Catholic, and also the first wife; the
present I can make nothing of; and now, on inquiring for this girl,
about whom I was much interested at my last visit, I hear very strange
rumours. Can you help me to the rights of the case?'

'I don't consarn myself much with the talk of the place, your
reverence. But I did hear she wont resave Venn's--that's our
storekeeper's--advances at all. She jist held her head high for him,
the cratur. 'Tis said she likes one Lynch.'

'Where is she now?'

'And that's more than I can say, your honour. 'Twas said she was
living with one Allen; but I heard afterward she'd heard of a good
situation somewhere far from this, and that her father and Lynch are
mad jist; but I can't say.'

'Is there a man here called William Smith, or Gentleman Bill?'

'Yes, your reverence, there is. That is, he was here till yesterday
morning, and then he got his wages paid up, seeing he is 'ticket-of-
leave' man, and they do say the master added a few oaths over and
above, for the ready cash is scarce now. He didn't say where he was
after going--the boy.'

'Was it supposed he had anything to do with the girl--ever liked
her?'

'Not that I know, your honour. Gentleman Bill kept his own counsel,
anyway. But I did hear he had been employed by Venn to use his soft
tongue--and he keeps the article well oiled--to persuade the girl; and
he was chums with Allen's folks.'

'Well, Andrew, if I can prevent it, that girl shall never marry Venn
or Lynch. She is a daughter of the Church, and should not seek to mate
with a heretic. If you can either give me certain information as to
where she is now, or can bring her to my house, I will give you
this'--showing a sovereign.

'And where may your reverence's house be, your honour, if not down in
Sydney?'

'For the present I have taken that small place in the valley, known
by name of Swampoak Gully. There my servant will always be, if I
should be absent. He can receive you, the message, or the girl. It is
there, in course of time, under God's blessing, we hope to plant a
church, and a resident priest will then be sent to this district. We
have nearly enough names as it is, to entitle us to Government help.
Meanwhile I shall be backwards and forwards to keep the flock
together.'

As Andrew went away, a servant brought a horse to the hut door, on
which Father Mornay vaulted with practised agility. The horse was
remarkable for its beauty and good grooming. Very soon he was riding
fast down the rough road, displaying a seat which a Leicestershire
huntsman might have envied, and followed by his servant, a man of
colour, on another carefully-selected animal.

The next morning Father Mornay was again at Langville to pay his
respects, as he politely said, after enjoying Mr. Lang's hospitality;
and, as it seemed, from the turn his conversation soon took, he wished
to introduce the subject of Ellen Maclean's sudden disappearance, now
become the general talk on the farm. Dr. Mornay won Isabel's hearty
good-will and gratitude by the warm interest he took in the poor girl,
and his earnest assertions that he would leave no stone unturned to
find her, at least, to know where and with whom she went.

They were in the garden, when, breaking short in the midst of an
interesting conversation, Dr. Mornay said--

'It is strange how little I consider you as--almost--a stranger! I
could--do you think the notion very fanciful?--that of having seen,
heard, or known a person some time before, though when and how is
impossible to discover?--I could believe as, pardon me, I do wish, you
were one of my own flock, and my friend--'

'It is odd,' she answered, in her ready and bright way. 'It is odd,
too, that I constantly am forgetting that you are a--a Roman Catholic
priest, and as such, I suppose, looking upon us all as just so many
heretics--albeit, perhaps, softened with a sort of contemptuous pity.'

'Would you like to hear how--in what way--I think of you?' There was
a short pause, and the priest had turned and fixed his keen but
mournful eyes on her. 'Ah! I could indeed wish--wish... .' He stopped
suddenly, and turned even pale, she thought, while something like a
spasm seemed to cross his features. He took a few hasty steps onwards,
and then spoke again in his usual modulated, quiet tone, 'Forgive me!'

'Were you suffering?' she asked, with wonder and sympathy, though she
hardly knew why she felt it, for she had not really liked him till to-
day.

'Yes--suffering! But, no matter, we must all suffer at one time or
other--all--even you, Miss Isabel Lang. You who, it is plain, have
never been near enough to sorrow, even to scan her features, or to
recognise her, but in a very vague way. Will you judge me cruel in
saying that your hour will come?'

He spoke earnestly, and Isabel was touched, though she did her best
to subdue the feeling.

'And how do you know I have never seen sorrow?' she asked.

'Because I am accustomed to read and to learn faces and features; and
I know well that your first phase of youth is not yet ended. Life has
passed unconsciously with you as yet. You are free from self-study.
You live--exist. You are, as it were--you know not how or why. Happy
time--soon, soon to vanish--with some never to be at all! A time will
come when all common things around you will take another aspect; you
will be troubled, perhaps perplexed, as is natural to one of your
frank and straightforward temperament, but--'

'Trouble, trouble! Every one prophesies trouble and sorrow! I wonder
why? I have been happy, certainly; but,--I can fancy being even still
happier.'

'Exactly, with the trouble will come the joy--a new joy.'

'But when and how?'

'That is what I cannot answer--dare not try to answer. It is strange,
it is passing strange. I am much, much older than you; I have had some
experience of life. Yet now, for the first time, I could wish some
steps of that life retraced. Were we living in an earlier age,--were I
credulous as some few I have known, I might fancy myself under some
spell, so completely do I find my appreciation of certain things
changed--my cherished habits of thought and aspiration altered. You
think I pity you in scorn? No, no; not I! True, I believe, and am
bound to believe the holy church the safe fold, the most completely
organised and energetic of all church governments: I suppose you think
I ought to be seeking converts? Know, young lady--young friend, for so
I may surely call you, that I am not one of these. Far from pitying
you, I--' He had turned; they were now standing at the end of the
trellised vine-walk, and he took her hand and gazed a moment at her,
as if searching to the very depths of her surprised and wondering
eyes.

'Would that you could pity me! But I must go; I leave the district
to--morrow. We may not meet again; yet--will you--will you try not to
look on me with dislike, or fear, or distrust? World-tossed, weary
traveller as you see me, stiffened in iron armour, which yet is not I,
and never will be! even I have once had my fresh springtime of youth.
I had a home--mother--sister! The sight of you has moved waters which
I deemed dried up. Well!--'

As he paused, his look gradually became more touched with sadness--
sadness, blended still with something she did not understand, but
which made her feel shy, never having seen so much deep fervour of
heart appear in a cold and composed exterior. She said, 'I don't
dislike, or distrust you.'

'Thank you!--thanks!' he presently said, taking her hand. 'Now,
farewell!--I shall make it my business to search for Ellen Maclean.
Good morning.'

The last words were quite in his ordinary manner, and with a bow
which would have done credit to any courtly circle, this new and, to
Isabel, perplexing acquaintance left her.

It was some time before she saw him again; and though his manner,
look, and words, left a strong impression at the time, other
circumstances soon put it out of sight, for Isabel was one to throw
herself heartily into the spirit of the hour, whatever that might be,
and not toitowoll



CHAPTER XXIII. THE WOLF AT THE DOOR.



'Well, Issy, and how goes on the matchmaking, eh?' asked Mr. Lang,
giving his daughter a loving pinch on her ear as he spoke.

'Which?' Isabel asked.

'What, which?--how many are there, then? and pray are you in the
fashion too, Issy? Mean'st thou to desert the old nest, young bird?'

She did not answer, but a blush mounted even to her brow.

He went on--'Is it prospering? Ought we to ask the Grand Signor to
dinner? because you see, if it is right, and any good to the little
woman, Issy, let it be done. Since he has thought fit to pocket his
pride and come here, so making me an apology, in point of fact, d'ye
see?--I have no objection to doing what I can to help on this little
affair; but between ourselves, Issy, it must be quick; for how long we
shall call this our own is more than I know.'

'Mr. Herbert has only been here once, you know daddy; I thought then
he made good use of his time, and I don't doubt he will very soon be
here again. It is great fun.'

'Ah, well!--don't get fond of that occupation, girl. Leave folks to
manage their own affairs; it is not safe to meddle with matrimony.
Does Kate's admirer continue to play the devoted? I fancy I have heard
less of his being here.'

'He is absent; looking out about his own home, they say.'

'Ah, indeed! Making his house ready?--Is that it, Issy?'

'I don't know, sir; Kate thinks or hopes so. I have my doubts,
rather. I don't like a hard twinkle in Mrs. Vesey's eye.'

'Your mother would fret, wouldn't she, Issy?'

'She would feel hurt, I am sure; she likes Mr. Fitz.'

'Ah, then, mind if he comes in my way I shall assuredly break his
head; that is, if he serves my child in a shabby fashion. But here
they come. Mamma has been brewing the coffee; and here is bonnie Kate,
as fine as a scraped carrot. By Jove, Kate, that's a very pretty
dress!'

The letter-bag was brought in with coffee and the more substantial
parts of the meal; and Mr. Lang, after passing on a letter or two to
his wife and daughters, proceeded to read one of his own.

Long was the silence. The 'broil' was growing cold; Isabel took on
herself to help it, and putting some on her father's plate, she said--
'Now, papa.' But this and many other attempts to recal him to the fact
that breakfast was waiting for him, failed to rouse Mr. Lang from his
intent perusal of this absorbing letter.

Mrs. Lang grew nervous and troubled; glanced at her husband, and at
the fast spoiling viands which she had taken pains to cook herself for
his pleasure and benefit.

'News of the wool, Mr. Lang?' she asked. 'Have the last drays from
the station reached Sydney? What ship is it to go by? No more
failures, I hope!'

Still not a word; but as Isabel thought a very ominous neglect of his
coffee and egg.

'Hang the rascals!' he exclaimed presently in a loud voice, and with
a sudden jerk of his legs which considerably splashed the table-cloth,
and made them all start.

'Am I made of money? Can I force people to buy? Can I coin money? A
pretty kind of an offer! Pack up, girls! pack up!--we must leave
this.'

'Pray, Mr. Lang!--I beseech you not to be so abrupt, if you have any
mercy on my nerves!' murmured poor Mrs. Lang, plaintively.

'Nerves!--fiddlesticks! That's a nice fellow!' drawing his mouth on
one side, and then giving a long whistle. ' 'Pon my word and say so,
Kate.'

'Do eat your egg, papa!' said Isabel.

'Eat? I can't afford to eat! Hang that vile Jew! Eat indeed!--'

The letter was then read again, examined, turned upside down, grinned
at, twisted, then folded carefully and deposited in his waistcoat
pocket, the cold coffee hastily swallowed, a piece of dry toast caught
up, and Mr. Lang marched off.

Mrs. Lang burst out crying, and Isabel looked grave as she said, 'I
am sure it is bad news!'

'O dear! I wish it would come at once, if it is to come!' said Kate.
'One so often hears the cry of Wolf, that one really ceases to believe
in it.'

'It is something serious, I am sure,' again said Isabel, as she
played with her teaspoon.

Soon Mrs. Lang dried her eyes before proceeding to her store, and
Kate shook her flounced apron, and very philosophically resolved not
to believe there was such a thing as ruin or poverty. All gentlemen
talked so! So she went to the drawing-room and placed the furniture as
much as she could in Vine Lodge fashion, and hummed the air of a
certain comic song, and then she went to finish her new dress in the
work-room, meditating a ride with the boys to the Settlement, as she
wished to try if she could get a few hooks-and-eyes at the store
there.

Isabel sat on in the dining-room, doing nothing till she heard her
father's step in the hall, as he left his room. He went out at the
front door, and she followed with her parasol. After walking a little
way, he turned almost as if he expected to see her behind him, and
waited till she came up.

'How very dry the ground is again,' she said.

'Very; but there's plenty of grass, that's one good thing.'

After a pause, she said, 'Do you think that the boiling down will
really pay?'

'Pay? nothing will pay. The country is ruined--ruined!' Presently he
added, 'Confound me if I know what to do! I'm at a dead halt, Issy. If
I could only raise this paltry sum I could perhaps manage to swim on
till things came round.'

'Can't you borrow it?'

'Of whom?'

'Of any friend.'

'Pooh! you talk nonsense, girl. I've had enough of borrowing of
'friends,' as you call it. That's why my friend of the mustaches rides
the high horse over me, because I borrowed that unlucky 500l. off
him--no, I can't stand that.'

'Whom do you mean, sir?'

'Herbert, to be sure. Didn't you know I was debtor to him for 500l.?
ha, ha! Let him come down on me if he likes; but I will pay him off as
soon as ever I can sell stock to cover principal and interest. But I
believe he likes the honour of lending me cash rather than not; hey,
Issy?'

'I should think he would be very glad of it himself, sir. But you
don't mean that he duns you?'

'O, no! he never mentioned it; but I see it in his face pretty
often. But, there--go in, girl, go in; the men are waiting for me.
Keep up mamma's spirits, and don't all of ye go into the die-aways, or
I shall take to the Bush, I believe. Keep the ball up, Issy!'

She smiled, as she saw him smile; and yet her heart beat as she
marked the dimness in his eye and felt the fond pressure of his heavy
hand on her shoulder.

'O that I were a man,' she thought, as she returned to the house;
'how much I could do to help him!'

Isabel went to the school-room when she returned, and waited
patiently till the little girls were dismissed.

'Now, then, that tiresome work is over, and I hope you are going to
sit idle for a little, and let us have a snug cosy chat, my dear
little woman,' said Isabel, drawing a stool close to Miss Terry.

'You will not object to my netting my purse, will you? I can always
talk better when my fingers are employed.'

'O dear! oh dear!' yawned Isabel, 'I am weary--I am tired, Miss
Terry!'

'What hard work have you been doing, Isabel?'

'None! it is from lack of work. I am tired of having nothing to do.'

'Then pray rouse up, for I can find you plenty of sewing. There are
the children's aprons to be braided--'

'Rummage and--O, I forgot! But no, I wont do that. The aprons are
just as good minus the braid; besides, I call sewing doing nothing.
Now you may laugh, but I am sure I am made for real work. I have a
craving for it. I envy every man who has a farm or station to manage;
every person, in fact, who has a certain work which must be done. Why,
Miss Terry, just look at Kate and me! What is there to occupy us?
Mamma will not give up any management to us; though of course we may
make puddings and pastry, and stick on flounces, and make up bows, and
trim aprons, and change our bonnet trimmings when we are at a
standstill. Yes, and we may ride; that is the only pleasurable part--
to ride through the air fast. Ah, how much you miss by not riding! And
then we must play a few tunes of an evening and be good girls and go
to bed. Dear, dear! is this life? Is this all I am to look forward to,
I wonder? And now, too, when I want so much to work! Don't you think I
could work--gain money?'

'Yes; no doubt, if necessary.'

'What work?'

'What will be, what is in store for you, of course I know not; but it
seems to me, Isabel, there is work at your feet even now.'

'Point it out, you good little Mentor.'

'The work of daily obedience and forbearance, the work of quiet,
practical influence which a child may be permitted to exercise even
over parents, the work of self-control--even better than the making
money.'

'Yes, yes! but, unfortunately, there is no opportunity for me. I am
not ordered to do anything very trying, and so cannot show my powers
of obedience; unless, indeed, you mean those little hourly frets--
those wretched little rubs and pinches which seem quite beneath
notice. 'Tisn't that. I want something more; something on a larger
scale. O dear! I could, if I might, work for my daddy, and now he is
in difficulty, too. Do you know,' she added suddenly, 'I almost wish
the worst would come. A great misfortune there would be satisfaction
in meeting and bearing. It is, after all, better to bear--I am sure it
must be--than little daily vexations!'

'But a great misfortune is generally accompanied by little ones,
though we do not see them at a distance--it takes many threads to make
a cable, Isabel. When trial comes, I do not doubt you will bear it
nobly; but I should like--I wish you would not suppose that the
present brings you no work.'

After a pause, Isabel said, 'Well, set me some work, and I'll try to
do it.'

'There is so much time necessarily your own, and there seems here so
little field for you to employ yourself for others as you might at
home in England, for instance, that my advice to you is, to force
yourself into certain work. Read and study, and that not idly and at
the spur of the moment, but regularly, as a duty, if there is nothing
else to be done. For it is the habit, and not the thing done that is
important.'

'If you knew how I hate books, or sewing, or any of those feminine
occupations! How irksome it is to sit still so long--except, indeed,
good tough work, such as mending stockings and so on--But see, here
are the Veseys and Mr. Fitz. Ah, then he is come back. Well, I was
beginning to wonder--and Kate looked palish. Pshaw!' she broke off
sharply. 'Do you like scent, and studs, and rings for a man, Miss
Terry? I wish they would stay away--hospitable now, ain't I? but I am
sick of every one. However, perhaps it will cheer up papa, but it will
only drive mamma further into the idea that is fixed in her mind about
Kate and Mr. Fitz.'

'Don't you yourself expect something there, Isabel?'

'Me? I dont know' (going to the window). 'O, I suppose so. I can't
make him out. Deary me, but he will be a funny brother. I shall never
like him as I do Tom, incomparable Tom!'

Here Kate came in to tell the news that Mr. and Mrs. Vesey and their
brother were come, and mamma was asking them to stay till evening, and
that Issy must be sure and change her dress before she made her
appearance.

'Nonsense!' and she looked at the soiled hem of her gown. 'Dressing
once a day is enough, isn't it, Miss Terry?'

'Not if your mother wishes you to do so twice.'

'Ah, Not of my work, I see. Well, I asked for it. Obedience, and so
forth, in trifles--that is to say, 'Change your gown, Isabel; smooth
your hair, Isabel; avoid rough words, Isabel.' Very well, Miss Terry,
I have learnt my lesson; so, good-bye.'

She appeared in the drawing-room in a quarter of an hour in her best
dress, and readily took her share in the duty of entertaining their
guests.

'What did you come for to-day?' she asked of Mr. Vesey.

'Well done, Isabel; you are polite!' said Kate, sotto voce.

'Aw--ha, ha!--come for?--aw, of course, to the pleasure and all
that, you know, of seeing you, aw--'

'Thank you.'

'To tell the truth,' said Mrs. Vesey, laughing, 'it was washing-day,
and it is the old song of 'Scrub, scrub,' and so on. We were all glad
to bestow ourselves on you and fly from soap-suds, steam, and
grumbling women.'

'I guessed as much,' said Isabel. 'Well, and though it is not
washing-day with us, it is a kind of black day; we were all in the
dumps, I assure you. Kate looked as melancholy as possible, and I have
been very nearly going to do all sorts of things. So you see you were
glad to come to us, and we are glad of you; and that's a more sensible
way of putting it than pleasure, and happiness, and so forth, Mr.
Vesey, isn't it? It is being neighbourly.'

'Aw, exactly--new idea that--'pon my word you are very sincere and
all that, you know.'

Mr. Lang soon popped in his head. 'Ah, ah! well, glad to see you.' In
another half hour he returned dressed for dinner in a clean white
jacket and white trousers. He was excessively 'put out' about
something, Isabel saw, though as hospitable as usual to his visitors,
and evidently amused at Mrs. Vesey's jokes. As soon as the cloth was
removed, the cause of his present annoyance burst forth. Mr. Vesey had
been speaking of the difficulty he had in managing a certain assigned
man of his.

'The thing is, sir,' said Mr. Lang, thumping the table, ' 'tisn't
possible to manage them without power to punish. Sir, the colony is
ruined in every way. Why, a man can't get his men punished now. There
must be a regular formal trial, and so on. Well, so far, good; but get
a few hare-brained reformers on the bench, like a certain friend of
ours who shall be nameless, and hang it if the matter isn't turned
this way and that way, and after all the fellow dismissed in your very
teeth as undeserving of punishment! I should like to know who is the
best judge of that. I should like to know if he would not be the
better for a flogging. And now here's the rascal sent back to make a
fool of me! 'Twont do, 'twont do, Mr. Vesey! However, let--hem--a
certain gentleman take his own course. I'm sure I don't care, not I.
But he'll smart yet under his new-fangled creeds.'

Mrs. Lang inquired who had been tried, but received no answer; so she
turned to Mr. Vesey, and told him how sensitive Mr. Lang was, and
naturally enough, at being opposed by so much younger a man than
himself, and one not owning half or a quarter his property, &c.

Mr. Vesey wanted to know a great deal about 'boiling down,' and a
walk to the farm was proposed, which Kate begged might be extended to
Diamond Creek. This was agreed to, and they dispersed for parasols,
bonnets, and hats.



CHAPTER XXIV. STORMS WITHOUT AND WITHIN.



The walk to Diamond Creek was on of the prettiest about Langville.
The trees grew more gracefully in groups, leaving open glades, as it
were, between. Then, again, the path led through more tangled scrub--
here a banksia, popularly called bottle-brush shrub, with its crimson
blossoms; there a low yellow-flowered bush, almost covered with a rich
purple creeper; while the ground was studded with bright blue
harebells, assuming a more star-like shape and appearance than their
drooping sisters in the northern hemisphere. By the creek itself,
which was scarcely ever known to be quite dry--whence, perhaps, its
appellation of Diamond--grew numberless pale green shrubs, drooping
over its banks, with clumps of swamp oaks intermixed.

There was much laughing and chatting among the young people, though
Mr. Lang perpetually recurred to the sore subject, and tried to make
Mr. Fitz agree with him that convicts were not like other people, and
that nothing but the lash had any effect on them.

Mr. Fitz rather took the other side of the question, which irritated
Mr. Lang still more; and then both his wife's and eldest daughter's
dresses swept the ground--a thing, he said, he never could abide. 'In
the name of common sense, what was the good of wasting so much good
cloth? was it to sweep the roads with?' and so on.

Mrs. Vesey ran off to get a nearer view of the conical ant-hills
which abounded in this part of the Bush. She was wishing one of the
boys had a tomahawk to cut one in two, that she might see it inside.
Willie said it was very hard to cut, and persisted that he had heard
of a man turning one into an oven. Kate laughed and said it could not
be; and then the boys ran to appeal to Isabel if Mr. Herbert had not
said so. Isabel confirmed their tale--an ant's nest, one of this
peculiar kind, had been converted into an oven by some enterprising
squatter.

'There's a very threatening cloud,' said Willie; 'we shall have some
thunder before long.'

'Well, truly, it feels ominous; there really seems not a breath of
air!' said Mrs. Vesey, seating herself on a fallen tree. 'I shouldn't
like being overtaken in a thunderstorm in the Bush. By-the-bye,' said
she, suddenly rising, 'if there is a chance of it, we ought to be
going at once.'

'No; stay the night, pray do!' was repeated on all sides, while Mr.
Lang looked around, and 'didn't think it would break yet awhile.'

'I am a shocking coward in a storm,' said Mrs. Vesey.

'O, so am I!' exclaimed Kate. 'But Issy doesn't mind it at all; I
think she enjoys it, and she stands romancing at the window and
saying, 'How beautiful!' 'How sublime!' quite in Herbert style.'

'Kate, how can you say so?'

But Kate was in unusually high spirits, and she persisted in turning
the joke against her sister, repeating many ancedotes at which Mr.
Vesey was especially delighted. He laughed, and clapped his hands, and
declared that he had always said Miss Isabel Lang was a 'what's-its-
name, character, and all that; and it was good fun, and on his word
and honour, he never met with such a girl--never!'

But a distant roll, and a sudden slight shivering among the boughs,
broke off the merry talk. It was coming indeed. Willie was right, and
with every clap or flash he looked triumphant, and repeated, 'I said
so!' while Kate lost her fears in her pleasure at the unavoidable
detention of the Vine Lodge party; and Mrs. Vesey screamed more than
once as the lightning flashed. Then it appeared to be going off; the
claps were fainter, the intervals between the flash and the noise
longer, and the wind seemed about to make wild work; already it could
be heard rushing up the valley, and then all at once the tall trees
swayed about in their topmost branches, leaving the underwood as yet
untouched, while the birds uttered a warning shrill cry. Then the wind
seemed to stoop and rush with a sweep nearer the ground, taking
everything in its way by surprise, and dying off in a low whisper
among the wiry swamp oaks.

On reaching the more cleared parts, several head of cattle were seen.

'Hallo, how is this?' shouted Mr. Lang. 'Run, boys; see if the rail
is down;' and when Mr. Lang came up to see them he heard that it was
down. Nothing could be more annoying. There were at least twenty or
thirty bullocks let in where he particularly wished they should not
be. 'Who left the rails down?'

The boys denied having been there, and they said it was very likely
that 'Magpie,' a certain knowing bullock, had raised the rail with his
horns. It would not be the first time he had done such a thing, and of
course all the others would follow.

Mr. Lang was very angry, and declared it couldn't be, for he had
ordered pegs to be made for the rail; he knew very well it was one of
the two--legged brutes who took a pleasure in doing all the mischief
they could.

Isabel, who with Miss Terry had outwalked the others, here waited. 'I
am almost sorry to go home. I never saw such an awful sky, I think,'
said Miss Terry. 'Look, Isabel, at that dense blackness, and yet
before it there seems to hang a sort of lurid veil of light. The
lightning is playing behind it. Isn't it wonderful! Then look there
opposite; how far off--far removed from this battle--that deep blue
sky looks! and those great rolling masses of clouds! The storm is on
both sides, and it will meet. It will be terrific.'

Isabel looked, but gave no answer. Miss Terry cast a quick glance at
her, at which Isabel coloured up. 'Isn't it vexing?' she said. 'Some
fresh disagreement, evidently! Just as I thought I had contrived so
wonderfully well to establish peace and bring him back. I fully
expected to see him to--day! Miss Terry, you must really beg him to
humour my father a little--he might a little!'

'To whom are you alluding, Isabel?'

'Now, don't pretend, when you see how hurt, how vexed I am! I can't
be so philosophic as you are. You don't deceive me though by your
elaborate admiration of the storm.'

'Isabel! I don't understand.' But any further conversation was
stopped for the present.

The rest of the party coming up, they all passed through this rail,
instead of going the longer and prettier way by which they had come.
At the end of the next paddock there was another slip-rail, leading to
the farm buildings. A man had just climbed it, and was going away;
then, seeing the ladies, Isabel being still foremost, he turned, laid
aside his tomahawk, and proceeded to take down the rails.

'A pretty fellow you are!' exclaimed Mr. Lang, setting his teeth
fast together, and making an inclination with his head in the
direction of the other slip rails. 'And so you couldn't put the rails
up again, eh? but you must let all those wretched beasts into this
reserve paddock. Just like you, for a lazy, good-for-nothing vagabond,
not worth your salt.'

'I didn't either take down or put up the rails! I didn't come by
that way!' said Lynch, sullenly.

' 'Tis false!--you did. You always come that way. I'll--I'll stop
your tea and sugar, sir! You are an ill-conditioned, insolent fellow!
Go and drive the bullocks out,' adding an oath; and he raised a
walking cane and flourished it over the man's head in a threatening
way.

One dark look, and in another second the man had picked up his
tomahawk, grasping it fiercely.

'What d'ye mean by that look, sir? Come, come! that wont do,' said
Mr. Lang, hardly able to utter his words from passion, and irritated
all the more by Lynch's now unrestrained insolence.

Again he swung his cane within an inch of the man's shoulders. One
dreadful oath, and the tomahawk was raised.

'Two can play at that game, and if you will have it, you shall. 'Tis
a long bill I owe ye, man!'

But Mr. Fitz, who had come up to them, sprang forward and caught the
man's arm just in time. Mr. Vesey also came to his assistance; while
Isabel clung to her father, trying to drag him away. Lynch was white
with rage, but he did not resist, and after the first half-uttered
vows of revenge, he made no further reply to the gentlemen's advice
that he would go quietly back to his hut and make an apology by-and-
bye; and they would try and persuade Mr. Lang to overlook the whole
affair.

The father pushed his child away, telling her to mind her own
affairs, and muttering his determination to 'get that man on the road-
gang.' Then he suddenly turned and offered Mrs. Vesey his arm, still
speaking in an excited manner. She excused herself from accepting his
help, and dropped behind with Kate; and the party silently returned to
the house.

By this time Mr. Lang had recovered himself, and he joked his wife at
looking frightened, saying, she ought to be more accustomed to these
little skirmishes, having lived all her life among such people. Then
he talked of the weather, and said it would be a stormy night, shouted
and coo-ee-ed to Miss Terry and the children, who had lingered behind,
and had only now reached the lawn, having escaped the scene at the
slip-rails. They ran, and they had hardly gained the verandah when a
vivid flash, all forked and jagged, was instantly followed by a loud
clap of thunder. The whole sky seemed full of the electric fluid,--the
deep rattling roll of the thunder was incessant. The servants dared
not cross from the kitchen to the house; the timid hid themselves
behind doors, and the stoutest heart felt it to be awful!

*   *   *   *   *

There was wild work among the elements that night; many a tree was
smitten and scathed; at last the lurid flashes became less vivid, and
the thunder rolled more deeply, as if further off. But as the dark
heavy clouds broke up, the wind came. How it howled, and boomed down
the chimneys; how the dead trees which had been barked for cleaving,
crackled and crashed as it swept through them, while above the rushing
sound might be heard the sharp fall of some giant more brittle and
more exposed than the rest. It was, in truth, a wild night, as Mr.
Lang often remarked to his wife, and it was not till just before dawn
that he could sleep. Very troubled and anxious were his thoughts; his
anger had long passed away, it had had its vent, and was now
forgotten; but he lay scheming and planning in hopeless perplexity how
to clear himself from pressing difficulties; how to provide for his
family, and keep them still in the situation to which his industry and
fortunate investments had brought them; to preserve all those numerous
comforts and luxuries with which he had surrounded them, the fruit of
years of labour and toil, yet to be honourable and just in meeting his
liabilities. Were it only himself it would be nothing; he could begin
life again; but his wife and his children, his daughters especially,
anything, everything must be done to save them! It was cruel to think
of taking them from Langville. He began to consider his wife's oft-
repeated assertion that Kate was sure to marry well, and he wished she
would make haste about it. If she were settled, it would materially
soften the blow to his wife; and as for Issy,--he paused at the
thought of her name, and with a long-drawn sigh, bid God bless her.

*   *   *   *   *

At the time when the storm raged highest might have been seen, by
the lightning's flash, a man at the door of a hut heedless of the
danger, almost unconscious of the thunder. He stood motionless for
some time--motionless save a quivering which every now and then seemed
to seize his limbs. He did not once look up, not once did the
lightning stir him, but amid the din of the tempest he heard a low
voice which spoke to him from within the hut. At first he appeared not
to heed it; then there was a sudden tightening of the lips, or a
darker frown, a heaving of the bosom, a stamp of the foot; now his
face was turned away, then again inclined towards the speaker, as if
listening; and all this--every movement and every gesture--was seen
plainly by 'Gentleman Bill,' as he sat in the shade of the wall,
himself unseen; while the pale, almost livid features of his companion
were distinctly marked and brought out with every flash.

'No, no; 'tisn't in human nature to stand it! I declare I'm sorry
for ye, Jack. To think of you being under Dan so soon again, and he'll
be all the harder, after the welcome he got here that day... Ah,
well! what must be endured... No,--what is it! What can't be cured
must be endured! and your back's hard as horn by this time, I suppose.
Two roads, however, still lie before ye; the triangle, or the Bush.
You see, I came back here to see yourself. 'Pon my soul, I did! and
for no one thing besides; believe me or not, as you like! I wanted to
tell you; to give you...'

'If you've aught to say of 'her,' just have it out, will ye? If--
if--I thought--Bill, you'd played me false, and meddled to take her
off me, I'd... I needn't say it, though!' said Lynch, turning round
and taking a step nearer to Bill. At the last threat his eyes seemed
made of fire, and there was something so fearful in his suppressed
concentrated passion, and his stalwart frame stood out so big and
strong against the stormy sky, for he was just between the open door
and Bill's sight--that the little cunning man felt somewhat troubled,
and wished himself safe out of that hut.

'Bless us, what a fuss! Be quiet there!' he said, quietly, and
making an effort to stifle his chuckling laugh, as much excited by
nervousness just then as by his usual enjoyment in working up a frenzy
in others. 'I certainly did coax the little maid down to Allen's; and
what if I did? She'd have been killed outright at home. I found her
black and blue; not able to walk;--and in the Bush. Didn't I tell you
she was at Allen's?'

'You did so. But when I went there after work, she was gone. Couldn't
get no account of her at all; and Bill, folks do say that--'

'Folks! let 'em say! What do they say? or what don't they say, for
that matter? But be more civil, or I'll take no more trouble to bring
you news.'

'Speak out, unless you wish me to do you some harm, man!'

'You are put out, Jack! Well 'tain't pleasant I should think to be
con--templating that pleasant little accident--so, I'll be patient. If
you'd take a smoke, 'twould ease your mind uncommon. Fine thing 'baccy
is for the temper; Quakers smoke on the sly always. Well, well, don't
hitch about your shoulders that way. I'm coming to it--easy, easy;
after all, I've not much to say. Surely, Jack, you don't go for to say
you really pin your faith to any slip of a female, now, do ye? Why
man, they're every one of them alike. You think Nelly prefers you. Ay,
ay, so she did. You're right there. But put her in the way of
something better; what then? Nelly likes smartery--all girls do! A
pretty ribbon, or a gown; and Jack Lynch was a poor sweetheart that
way.'

'Will you hold your cursed nonsense?' Lynch growled.

'Bless the fellow! Mustn't I use any figuring speech! I'm just a
polishing off and ornamenting the facts; for seeing how you are in a
devil's humour, perhaps you'll go ramping mad, if I speak too sudden.
But keep quiet there, Jack! and I'm coming. Well, last time I saw
Nelly, she had a fine new gown quite the go, and a blue ribbon, as
blue as her eyes. My! she looked dainty jolly! Ay, ay, thinks I, and
where did that smartery come from? So says I, 'Nelly, my darling, got
any message for any of your beaux, down away; because,' says I, 'I'm
going back soon.' 'Beaux, indeed!' she said, so scornful; 'No, Bill,
I've no message, and no beaux;' and off she walked, as fine as my
lady. 'But for Jack,' says I, 'poor Jack;' following her, you see.
'I've something very particular indeed, I want to tell Jack,' she
says; 'but it mustn't be yet, not yet. Only Bill, you may say, I'm got
into a very good place indeed, and am like to do well, and I hope
he'll do well,' says she, quite proud like. 'Pon that, somebody spoke
to me, and when I turned away again, she was gone. I searched
everywhere, I asked of every one, I couldn't see no more of her. Only
they said as for certain she was in company with some up country
drays, going to live at some place.'

'And where was this, where you saw her?'

'Where? Ah! Jack, you're the sharp 'un! Well, 'twas just near that
public, stands back a little from the road, called the Camp House. But
where she was going is just what I don't know, you see.'

'That's false--you do know; you are too sharp not to find out that
for your own curiosity.'

'All I made out from the people of the inn--and you may go and ask
for yourself--was, that one of the draymen was a pretty, likely youth,
and seemingly uncommon sweet on the girl, and she was all as friendly
with him. Now, don't go and shake your big fists at me, or any one
else. 'Twont do no good, man! Whistle her down! Not worth a thought--
an idle jade! I turned right away, at the risk of my own business, to
come back here and give you scent! That's what I call acting
honourable, and like a gentleman! Now do as you like--only--now 'tis
come to this here point with you, if I were you, I'd let no
consideration for her keep me from just following my own way... If'--
he presently continued, finding Lynch made no remark, 'you had a mind
to go through they infernal lashes, just on account of keeping
straight for her--well--I couldn't advise you no ways to it--after
what I've seen.'

Lynch left his post at the door, and took his seat on a low stool,
burying his head in his hands with his elbows on his knees. There was
a long silence. Bill grew tired of it, and the darkness prevented him
from watching Lynch. He moved towards the door, and looked out.
'Stormy night, I guess!' Then still standing there as Lynch had done,
still smoking his pipe, and leaning against the side-post, as if too
weak or lazy to stand unsupported,--he spoke of a friend of his, who
had taken to the Bush. He had come across him quite by accident, he
said, and was almost persuaded into joining him. It might be a short
life, but at all events, it was free, and had plenty of stir and fun.
Full of adventure! 'Fancy my chum sending a message to some old crony
of a rich settler who had offended them, that he was a marked man!
meaning they meant to shoot him; so deuced cool, the sending him fair
notice!' and he chuckled. 'That's the way, Lynch, depend on it. Clear
off all old scores; enjoy liberty, instead of such slavery and
crawling life. Pah! and if the end should be unpleasant; but 'tis easy
to avoid that by fighting desperate at the last. But, take it at the
worst, man, one death's as good as another. Die game! eh, Jack! Why
before that comes, you'd ride free and like a conqueror, terrifying
every one; and make a name, 'Lynch, the celebrated bushranger!' eh,
Jack. But I say, there's no end to this firing up yonder; some
mischief will come somewhere. I'm tired, and by your leave, I'll just
turn in; I'm going to sleep in Andrew's hut. So good-night, old
fellow! Cheer up, and be hearty.'

Bill stepped out lightly, but turned to look once again at that
bowed, still figure. Then a vivid flash dazzled him, and he quickened
his steps to the other hut, where soon, wrapped in a rug, he was fast
asleep. Lynch was alone; bitter thoughts and suspicions crowded on
him, while those memories he had before rejected, returned not now, in
this his dark hour of need. After the first rush of opposing and
confusing feelings, only one idea, one purpose remained. It grew, and
strengthened rapidly. When at last he raised his head, all was over,
all resolved. He got up, and looked out. It was quiet, as far as human
life was concerned. Every one was gone to his rest. He marked that the
thunderstorm had passed, but that the wind was in all its fury; and he
said to himself that it would be dangerous work among the trees. He
picked up his hat, over which he had nearly stumbled, as it lay on the
floor, then felt for his clasp knife, and fastened a small tomahawk
into his leathern belt. He took out from his bed a red handkerchief,
which he knotted round his throat with a bitter scowl; felt on the
shelf for a box of matches, and a small piece of tobacco; and then he
went to the door, but paused there for a moment--looked back, as if
listening, and pressing his hand to his forehead, he passed out. He
shut the door carefully, placing a stone before it to keep it close.
Once he waited, and even uttered a low whistle, but checked it almost
directly, and with a look as if some bitter recollection had crossed
him, setting his mouth in a way which gave a very forbidding character
to his face, and breasting the wind with strong, firm steps, he very
soon passed out of the cleared part of the Langville estate, and
plunged into the Bush.



CHAPTER XXV. SOMETHING IN THE WIND.



A few days after the storm, Kate, Isabel, and Miss Terry were sitting
together, each apparently occupied in sewing. But a grave silence had
been so long unbroken that one of the little girls coming suddenly to
the window, startled them.

'Two gentlemen riding up the road!' she said.

On which Kate coloured a little, and shook out her flounces, and
twisted her bracelet.

'Mr. Herbert and Mr. Farrant,' again said Sophy.

Isabel glanced from Kate to Miss Terry, and caught a deep flush on
the face of the latter, though she was bending very quietly over her
work as before, and did not indulge in any of those little manouvres
Kate had begun.

Kate rose and went to the window.

'Was ever a house so pestered with callers?' she said, pettishly; 'I
thought for once what a nice quiet morning we were having; and what is
the use of Mr. Herbert's coming now? Papa is sure to speak about Lynch
and that other affair. Really, I do wish he would stay away!'

'Kate!' remonstrated Isabel, with her finger raised, but so that Miss
Terry did not see it.

Kate stepped quickly into the verandah, saying something about going
to mamma.

'Poor Kate! It doesn't look very well, do you think so, now he is
here not to call for so many days,' remarked Isabel.

'I fancied his manner very disagreeable the last time he came. I
wondered how Kate could bear it. But isn't she invited to stay there?'

'Yes, at some indefinite time. Well--well!'

Here the two visitors entered. Both shook hands first with Isabel;
she was nearest to the door.

Mr. Farrant put down a parcel. 'Some new music,' he said. He should
beg for a trial of it, by-and-bye. He had to visit the sick man living
in the Bush behind Langville, but if he might do so, he would call in
as he returned.

'Are you in such a hurry to go now,' Isabel said, somewhat awkwardly,
and stepping towards the window, wanting to bring Mr. Farrant out that
the other two might remain together; hearing footsteps she concluded
that he did so. She began picking some flower, saying, as carelessly
as she could, 'What music is it; sacred?'

'What music do you mean? Don't waste the flowers so, and don't throw
them away. Give me that bud.'

It was not Mr. Farrant's voice, and Isabel cast a hurried look
through the window, in time to see that gentleman in the act of
leaving the room. Mr. Herbert smiled as her eye came back to his.

'He means to spend the evening here. But I can only spare a short
time,' he said, placing his bud in his button-hole with care.

'Didn't know you were up to all that,' she laughed. 'We are coming
on quickly! How long will it last, I wonder? But come, this wont do.
We mustn't leave her.'

'Miss Terry is going to try the song,' Mr. Herbert said, drawing
Isabel's hand on his arm as he spoke. 'Have you a parasol? for I want
you to come in the garden, Isabel.'

'I'll fetch one;' and she ran in at the window quickly. 'Why is
this? Why don't you come?' she said to Miss Terry.

'I want to look over this; mayn't I?' and again Miss Terry blushed.

'Unkind thing! Well--I don't understand your tactics at all. But you
will come presently, come to the garden--do!'

'I will if you so much wish it.'

'I wish it? Nonsense! You make me cross! Absurd!'

She took a parasol from the hall and went out at the door, coming
round to Mr. Herbert, who still waited for her on the verandah.

'Hush--wait!' he said; and both stood for a moment to hear Miss
Terry's voice.

'Isn't it magnificent?' Isabel said.

'I have only once before heard a voice I liked better,' he answered.

'Liked better! You are impartial. You actually allow that there may
be better? Well, of course, my experience is none. I never heard any
at all like it, nor could I have fancied anything so beautiful.'

'Not more so than Farrant's?'

'Perhaps not. No--but different,' and Isabel stooped her face aside,
so that it was hidden from him.

After a little silence she said--'Well, Mr. Herbert?'

'Well, Isabel. But what does that 'well' signify?'

'Only--what about going to live at the Station, and giving up
Warratah Lodge, and so on?'

'I meant to tell you. Letters from home--from England--have arrived,
considerably relieving my mind. I hope to weather these difficulties
and to struggle on, and then--it can't last for ever--better days will
come. We shall begin with a new system altogether.'

'Yes; those who can weather it, as you say. Many will be swamped,
though.'

'Come! you are turned sad-hearted now, Isabel. Is your father very
uneasy? I fancied he was worried and careworn?'

'Very likely. Every one is anxious; he not more so than others.'
There was a shade of annoyance, even resentment, in her tone, which he
did not understand.

'I dare say not! I meant nothing!' he said, kindly. 'By the way,
Jack Lynch, Isabel! I was so grieved to hear of it! grieved and
surprised, for I knew he meant to...'

'He was most insolent! Why, he would have killed papa! Even you
cannot defend his conduct!' she said quickly.

'I do not. I know the man is capable of any excess, if--if--
provoked. But I grieve; for I also know, or believe, that he might
have done well. A very singular character! And the girl--have you
heard of her?'

'Nothing beyond rumours. That is shocking!' she said; 'some one has
taken advantage of her want of wit, I am very sure. Poor Nelly; I hope
almost she is dead! I hope we shall hear; we still inquire; and Dr.
Mornay promises to leave no stone unturned.'

'Better not! Let it alone. There is nothing to hear, nothing to be
done,' said Mr. Herbert.

'I don't see that at all! and I could not rest till I had tried
every means to find out,' Isabel returned with warmth.

'Again, I say, I advise you not! Ah, there are the children!' and he
greeted them very kindly.

'Well, Isabel, and how does the wooing go on? I mean Mr. Fitz!--Ah!
is it a sore subject? I beg your pardon. Do you mean...'

'I mean nothing, and I know nothing. Kate has an invitation to go
there soon.'

'Poor Kate! You wont believe me, but the less you have to do there
the better. But I can't afford to quarrel, nor will I have any frowns,
for I must soon pay a visit to that station, and I came for a nice
talk. Isabel, I have something to--something I wish to say to you--'

'No, don't! I know! Please don't make a preface a yard long and look
so grave! I can't bear any weighty secrets just now. I assure you I am
a creature of many moods, and to-day my mood does not incline to bear
or to hear.'

'You always put me off so!' and Mr. Herbert sighed. 'Well--O! here's
some one already!' he spoke impatiently, hearing footsteps coming
along the gravel-path, and as he stood behind a vine-covered trellis,
he could not see who it was.

'Why, it is Miss Terry!' Isabel said, with a saucy look at him. 'What
of the song?' she added, as Miss Terry came up.

'Beautiful! you must hear it. It is for two voices;' and turning,
they all paced slowly up and down the vine-walk, the conversation
being principally kept up by Mr. Herbert and Miss Terry, so much so,
that at last, with a sly smile, Isabel lingered a step behind, and
then turning round the corner, she was at the top of the garden by the
arbour with the young ones before they missed her.

When, after some time, Isabel, believing she had managed beautifully
to secure a quiet tête-è-tête for the two, reappeared in the drawing-
room, she was rather surprised to find them all there, and Mr. Herbert
actually employed in holding a skein of silk for Kate to wind. This
was a wonderful stretch of politeness, Isabel thought; and she smiled,
amused to see Kate's evident gratification, and the pretty becoming
pink which mantled on her cheeks as he paid her compliments on her
skilful fingers.

'Well! what will not love do!' Isabel thought. 'Why, he's becoming
that domestic, tame animal, a lady's man!'

She looked at Miss Terry, who was sewing, again the picture of serene
content.

Mrs. Lang was talking in a plaintive tone of the bad times, and of
Lynch's dark threats, and the great increase of annoyance by
bushrangers, when Mr. Farrant entered the room. He was tired, he said,
and had nearly lost his way, which made him nervous.

'What is it, my dear mother?' Isabel said, after receiving sundry
hints by gesture and look, and observing Mrs. Lang glance uneasily
from Mr. Farrant to herself.

Mrs. Lang gave her daughter's work a little pull, while she turned
with a great effort to be quite at ease, and asked Mr. Farrant if he
would like a glass of wine or some lemon sirrup and water.

'What! does my dearly beloved sock annoy you, Mrs. Lang?' exclaimed
Isabel, rather perversely, regardless of all the hints to hide it up.
But Isabel was a little 'put out.' She did not know herself why
exactly, but felt much disposed to contradict and 'be cross,' as
children say.

'Hardly drawing-room work--lady's work,' suggested Mrs. Lang, in a
low and fluttered voice; for though a very slave to the opinions of
others on such subjects, and having a great notion of these two
gentlemen's super--particularity, she still was rather vain of
Isabel's open rebellion. She fancied that it sometimes pleased, and
had grown at last to be more easy under it, as 'Issy's way, and quite
original!'

'Well, I appeal to the judgment of the company! Votes, true and
honest! Is the knitting this sock, destined for William Lang, Esq.,
when he goes out after cattle or fishing, &c., an offence to the taste
and the associations of the present company and to this room--the
drawing-room? for I understand mamma that in the morning-room it would
not have been so shocking.'

'How absurd you are, Issy!' said Kate.

'Look at this wool!' Isabel went on; 'it is pretty and soft, grey and
white; and these pins, surely what can be prettier, being of ivory,
alias bone, neat and ladylike; and if the leg and foot be not of fairy
dimensions; we English--no, Anglo-Australian, that's it--are proud of
such a stout leg. Come! no fighting off! Miss Terry, your opinion,
please!'

'I confess to a predilection in favour of knitting and netting,' said
Mr. Farrant, stooping to examine the sock. 'And how wondrously
comfortable! Anti-rheumatic, I am sure. I envy Mr. Lang the--'

'The socks or the leg?' put in Isabel, while at the same moment Mrs.
Lang said, 'I am sure, Mr. Farrant, Issy would be most happy, quite
gratified to make you such a pair; that is, to fit you, if--if--'

'Hold, mamma, if you please! I have been about three months already,
and this is the first sock. You know I am no worker. I hate all
twiddle-dee and twiddle-dum over crochet and canvas, and all that sort
of work; I make and I mend needful garments as a strict, stringent
duty; and knitting such as this, I keep for odd, idle moments, when I
am too dull to enjoy talking, and yet have to sit up, company
fashion.'

'As now?' said Mr. Herbert, with a curl of his lip.

'Come, no sneers at me! As for you, it is Hercules, and I don't know
who. I shall see you working in the ground of some immense chair-
chair-back soon. But the question is not decided! Is this admissible;
or, shall I take my sock and myself away? no great punishment to
either party, perhaps!'

'No, since Mr. Farrant is so kind as to--' Mrs. Lang began.

'On no account,' said Mr. Farrant. 'Stay, Miss Isabel Lang, and knit
on.'

'And you?' Isabel looked at Miss Terry.

'Certainly,' was the answer.

'Yes, stay, or you will be exalting yourself into a martyr, suffering
persecution, and ready to sacrifice yourself in behalf of ugly work,
because no one else likes it,' said Mr. Herbert.

'Thank you!' said Isabel, rising and making a low curtsey. But the
colour flushed up and then faded, and there was a little tremor of the
lips too, which told of something not far from pain at Mr. Herbert's
home thrust.

Isabel was soon very earnest over her knitting, saying she had made a
fault somewhere and must find it out.

Meanwhile Kate's skein being done, Mr. Herbert called for another,
and overcame her scruples by protesting that he quite enjoyed it.

'Ah, and this soft lamb's-wool is still prettier than silk,' he said,
as she produced some delicately shaded skeins. 'I always think a heap
of these wools--German, are they not?--a singularly happy ornament on
a table. I don't care much for such work when done; I think it is
thrown away, nine cases out of ten; but all the accompaniments, the
etcetera, I like. The frame I see some ladies use, is quite a piece of
furniture!'

This led to Kate's alluding to some great wool embroiderers, some
ladies, known to Mr. Herbert and the Langs, in Sydney.

Isabel looked up now and then in great surprise, to find him talking
in that tone, evidently desiring to please--and to Kate, too! To Kate,
with whom he rarely exchanged a dozen words. And she, losing the
slight shade of trouble which had been on her face before, was looking
quite her best, very pretty!

Mr. Farrant had led off Miss Terry to the pianoforte, and there they
were intently discussing something--the new song, she supposed. But
Isabel had a feeling very new to her, of being somewhat overlooked. As
she sat brooding over the little shadow which had in some strange way
crept into her heart, she chafed and felt angry. 'What are they all
about, I wonder? What fun if I could but really read each heart now at
this moment! Evidently Mr. Herbert and Miss Terry understand one
another. What is he doing with Kate? and have I frightened away my
admirer, said to be? No one would guess it from to-day, I am sure!...
I doubt if I should sit quite so content as Miss Terry does; actually
she seems flattered and pleased. Pooh, there should be some little
difference in the eye or something! A good thing not to be jealous!
Perhaps it is. But one may go too far! Well, I shouldn't like it; no,
I shouldn't!'

As this last idea rose very emphatically, even to her very lips, and
caused her to shake her head a little, though very unconsciously, it
attracted Mr. Herbert's notice, and Kate's also, as she followed the
direction of his glance.

'Issy, what are you saying to yourself?' said Kate. 'I guess, though,
what it was; not very difficult with your face, is it? By-the-bye, Mr.
Herbert, speaking of the Moretons, did it ever strike you that our
Isabel is like Ada?'

'No, indeed! I take Ada Moreton to be as perfect a specimen of her
peculiar kind or type as can be seen.' Mr. Herbert spoke in his old
somewhat dogmatizing tone, which Kate never understood; but he did not
heed her blank look.

'It is a very common hackneyed phrase to call a pretty woman a
butterfly, or a humming-bird. But I never see Ada Moreton without the
aptness of the simile striking me; touching, skimming over every-
thing, scarce alighting on anything; pretty, graceful, and bright;
tempting youths to follow, and, if they can, make her a prisoner; yet
if caught--'

'Well! if caught; what then?' Isabel put in, rather sharply.

'Ah! I didn't think you were listening,' Mr. Herbert said. 'I know of
old how you swear by Ada Moreton.'

'My first notion of prettiness. But you... .'

'Never admired her,' he concluded, decidedly, and with rather more
emphasis than the words or the subject seemed to merit.

'I confess I don't see in what way Ada and Issy are alike,' said Mrs.
Lang, as if comparing them in her mind, and looking at Isabel.

Mr. Herbert uttered a short, dry, rather contemptuous laugh, and
nearly broke Kate's skein, which had diminished to only a few threads.
'Ada is all prettiness, no rough point, not a corner anywhere. She
speaks and sings like a musical-box; never was cross or blunt in her
life;--at all events, in company.'

'Enough!--quite enough to prove your assertion. Thank you!' said
Isabel.

Kate laughed. Mrs. Lang was puzzled.

'What a very sincere person Anna Moreton is. Don't you think so?'
Kate ventured to remark to Mr. Herbert.

'Sincerity is a quality which covers a multitude of faults,' said Mr.
Farrant, coming up to them.

'True,' said Mr. Herbert, who had finished his task, and was now
leaning back in his chair so far, that it threatened to lose its
balance every moment. 'True,' he said, looking up at the ceiling; 'yet
there is a something which passes for sincerity, which is really
nothing more than a total want of self--restraint; a forgetfulness of
any consideration but its own headlong impulse. This outpouring of
temper and opinion, without reference to subject, person, or time,
passes current for sincerity, but it is a mistake--'

'Thank you again, Mr. Herbert!' said Isabel, with a heightened
colour.

'I assure you,' and down came the chair with a sudden thump--'I
assure you I meant nothing at all. However... there is a proverb
about a cap fitting--and--'

'Fitting so wonderfully well, that I take it, you see; and I'll wear
it, and carry it off at once, in order to ruminate soberly on your
able definition of sincerity.'

She was in the verandah in another moment, and passing quickly to the
work-room, from whence she intended escaping to her own bed-room. But
she was caught. Just as she reached the work-room door opening on the
passage, which led from the front hall, Mr. Herbert appeared coming
out of the drawing-room, a much shorter way than hers.

'Isabel, stay. Indeed, you must not run away. I want you, seriously.
I don't know when I may be able to come again--and--I must speak to
you; tell you something.'

They were at the furthest end of the passage, where, when all the
doors were shut as now, it was rather dark. Isabel saw that he was a
little nervous, and she had no wish for him to read her countenance,
feeling thoroughly unsteady and upset. She tried to laugh, and said
she could not stay--she was busy--and so on.

'I have not really hurt or annoyed you, Isabel? surely not?' he said,
taking her hand.

'Dear me, no! Annoyed or hurt because you were rude! That would be
odd!'

'Rude! I wasn't; I could not be rude. Come, you shall tell me what
ails you. What is it, Isabel? And do come back to the work-room, I
really must say something to you.'

'I know all about it; and I don't wish to hear you--not now, at
least.'

'You know!--you know!'

'Yes, indeed! Whatever my sincerity may be, I can't affect ignorance
of this. It may sound odd, I dare say; but the truth is, I do know.
And what is more, I am glad; and as you must know, with all your
discrimination, I give hearty consent.'

Her manner was flurried and she pressed his hand a little. He was
holding hers tightly, and now it became a warm grasp, while he tried
to see her face in the doubtful light, and strange varying emotions
passed over his features. But she kept it turned away, and presently
covered it with her handkerchief, and something very like a suppressed
catching sob came.

'O dear, how silly!' she exclaimed, trying to pull away her hand; 'do
let me go! please--please! There, it is Mr. Farrant coming, I hear
him. Let me go. Please do, Mr. Herbert!' she went on more and more
urgently.

'You shall;--well, you shall. But some other time--I wont tease you
now. Farrant told me that he meant to see your father to-night. How
nervous you are, child. Not afraid of me, surely? I may come to-
morrow, Isabel?'

'Of course; only I thought you couldn't. But I see--I understand!
Yes, come; come, by all means! But O dear, how funny it all is; and
then there is this evening. I must go, or I shall be crazy.'

He let go her hand and she turned away; then came back again, laid
her hand on his arm, and tried to speak, but burst into agitated
tears, and ran off as fast as she could.

Mr. Herbert was soon seen riding away. Isabel watched him, as in the
quiet of her own room she stilled her tears, feeling heartily ashamed
of herself, and very guilty at leaving the drawing-room.

'But they are singing again. Miss Terry will talk for me. So to-
morrow papa is to be told and consulted. I shall triumph! My pet
scheme! Poor Kate, it is very sad for her, though! I could fight that
puppy! Flattering and wooing her, and now turning the cold shoulder,
at the first scent of poverty. The others are of different metal, it
seems. But I can't like it! I can't take it in! I don't like him as
much as I thought I did. Well! I am not bound. I can say 'No.'--To-
night! Horrid prospect! Will it be 'No' or 'Yes?' I will not be
listening to the singing! None of those old songs! I wont have it! It
is not fair. It blinds me. I'll sit here and think! Such a serious
step requires serious thought. And how very kind Mr. Herbert was to
me! He guesses it all, I am sure!'

So Isabel went on, trying hard but in vain to reduce her thoughts to
shape and order, and to decide on the pros and cons, whether it should
be 'Yes' or 'No' to the proposal which Mr. Farrant was to make this
evening. But her ideas perpetually wandered from this to the other
affair, her own darling scheme. She must behave better to Mr. Herbert
next time. He meant to be kind and friendly, and she had all but
repulsed him and all the confidence he tried to give her. Why was it
that she felt so shy in hearing his story? It was odd! Again she
passed in review the two gentlemen, and again she liked Mr. Herbert as
a 'friend' over and over again the best; and again she decided that
'friends' were far pleasanter than 'lovers.' She only hoped Miss Terry
appreciated him properly. Isabel somewhat doubted this. Now she was
inclined to resent Miss Terry's measured expressions, and her very
unruffled though conscious manner.

'Well--the dinner bell will soon ring! They don't seem to have missed
me, anyhow,' she said, as, some time having elapsed, she felt rather
weary of sitting still and 'thinking.' 'Thinking is dreadfully
tiresome, wearying work, I am sure.'

Here she heard the boys stamping along the passage. Her door was
touched and opened.

'Issy!' said Willie, peeping in. 'O, here you are! Where in the world
are all the rest? Not a soul in the drawing-room! Farrant,--is he
here? Going to stay, do you say? Eh, Issy, blush away!--that's it, is
it? What fun! Is it settled?'

'No, no, Willie; pray don't talk so! Besides, what do you mean? What
is there to settle?'

'Fiddle-dum!--as if you didn't know? But I say, Issy, what will the
governor say, eh?'




Volume II.



CHAPTER I. Confession and Confusion.



It was quite late, wonderfully so for Langville, but Isabel,
thoroughly wide-awake, kept watch in her room, which commanded a view
of one of the drawing-room windows, three of which formed a sort of
wide bow, and stood out from the rest of the house.

The windows were open, and the muslin curtains were gently swaying in
the evening breeze. She saw that some one was there. Every now and
then Mr. Farrant's figure came in sight. He seemed to be walking up
and down.

Mrs. Lang and Kate were in bed. Miss Terry had come up stairs with
Isabel, and had given her a hurried nervous good-night at parting, and
an extra squeeze of the hand as if to mark her sympathy.

'What is he saying? I wonder,' thought Isabel; 'Will it vex papa if I
say no? It will mamma, poor mamma! I thought, of course, he would
speak to me first! But I suppose this is the correct thing. Not the
nicest, though! Yet, perhaps, it is good, and will make it easier for
me. I don't want to hurt or mortify him. Have I done wrong not to draw
back more, I wonder? Hallo! Who is that?'

'Isabel! May I come in?'

'You, Miss Terry! Yes, come in. Have you no light? I can find some
matches.'

'No, don't. I don't wish for light. I could not be easy without
seeking you, Isabel, for I feel that you guess, know, in fact! I saw
your kind sympathy, to-night! Dear Isabel! let me talk to you a
little.'

'Ah, well--so do! To be sure! I remember now; and to-morrow all this
is to be gone through for you, only if Willie is right, he has
blundered; excuse me, Miss Terry, but you must cure him of that same
blundering propensity!' Isabel went on rapidly and not very
coherently. Miss Terry, with her hand on Isabel's arm, looked at her
in surprise.

'I want you to wish me joy--that is, if you can--if you believe it
will be joy for me, Isabel! Do you know I feel lonely to-night--
strange, isn't it?'

'It is all strange to me! I wish I could understand and feel it. I
suppose I am one who can't, who never am meant to be in love and all
that. Does it really seem so long to you to wait for to-morrow to see
him? You must, indeed, be very fond of him!'

'Well, that I am; though when I spoke of loneliness it was that I
missed the congratulations of friends and relations.'

'I see! But indeed you will have plenty! I am so glad, so very glad,
though I can't show it. I have always been wishing and planning this
very thing! I assure you I have really planned and worked hard to get
you quiet chats and so on.'

'You have been most kind. I thought it so very generous not to be
curious or angry at the evident mystery you perceived. Isabel, it has
been painful to us both to keep it secret; but circumstances made it
needful. I always felt it so wrong, so guilty, to be deceiving you
all.'

'For how long?--we could see for ourselves, don't flatter yourself!'

'Yes; no doubt you could and you did see something, though we were
careful, too. But you could not know how far it went--that in fact we
were engaged before I came here!'

Isabel started.

'Miss Terry! Come--What do you mean?'

'Yes, indeed, so it was; and I felt it very wrong. But till my
friends came round and consented, we dared not mention it. We agreed
to do as well as we could, and patiently await our hour. It was a mere
accident our coming to this district. I accepted this situation, while
he, unknown to me, made his own arrangements with the bishop. I
doubted, and was nearly giving up coming, and then we thought better
of it, and agreed to receive it as a good omen, and be thankful. And--
'

'Stop, please! I am giddy! I don't hear quite well!' and Isabel sat
down as she spoke, with her hands raised to her head.

'Do explain clearly, will you? You were--you are--engaged to--to--'

'Mr. Farrant,' interrupted Miss Terry. 'There he is, telling your
father all our story, at this moment. Do you see?' and she pointed to
the drawing--room window.

'Yes, I see!' Isabel said, in a low voice.

'Are you ill, Isabel? Am I keeping you up selfishly?'

'No; only I feel confused--giddy. Just say it again, will you?'

'What, that Edward Farrant and I are promised to each other, and that
he wants to have his wife soon, and is now consulting your kind father
about his plans? But you don't congratulate me.'

'Haven't I? But I do. Yes, I believe I do very much; only you see you
have startled me--surprised me. And now--I can't help thinking of--
remembering another, who will be also surprised and, perhaps, hurt.'

'Who can that be? And I was so sure you had guessed our secret!
Edward was sure of it too. He said he began to tell you one day at the
Veseys, and you stopped him in your warm, hasty, but fervent way, and
he was convinced you understood it all. And he even fancied you were
kind enough to try and cultivate his acquaintance for my sake--'

'Well, well!' Isabel murmured, as if only half awake. 'And Mr.
Herbert; I suppose he also understood all?--so you imagine at least.
And what are you all dreaming about? I am certain he came to confide
the secret to me to-day, and before to-day! Why, I wished him joy, and
he said, to-morrow you were to consult or tell my father!'

'Impossible! You must have misunderstood him, Isabel. Mr. Herbert
has known the truth for some little time, and has been very kind;
interesting himself in getting at my brother-in-law and helping us
much. It is you who have been dreaming, Isabel! Are you awake now,
think you?'

'I don't know! I hardly think so!' she said in an uncertain way, and
gazing about her.

'Well, I will leave you to sleep and real dreams. To-morrow it will
all seem clear to you, and I shall claim a heartier shake-hands; it is
not like what I expected from Isabel at all. Good night!'

'No! you must not go,' said Isabel, springing after her with some of
her own energy. 'I am waking up--I shall be all right presently. But--
no,' she said, withdrawing her before extended hand, 'I won't
congratulate you yet, till I have picked my bone clean. Pray do you
consider it proper, and right, and fair, for him--for any man--to come
to a neighbourhood professedly a single and a free man--free to woo
and win young ladies, and so on? Suppose Amelia, or Kate, or I had
chosen to fall deeply in love. What then? I call it abominable!'

'But I saw there was no such inclination. I was on my guard of
course; and he was very guarded in his manner to others, even though
he was imprudently regardless of remarks with respect to myself. If
there had been the smallest fear, of course we should have confessed
all, at whatever risk to ourselves.'

'You think yourselves very wise--wonderfully sharp, I see! But I
don't at all agree with you. No; I maintain you did ill. If no
mischief has come it is not your faults. It proves us a very stony,
unimpressible set here. I think' (she went on just a little bitterly)
'that with all Mr. Farrant's charms and 'wishing-to-please-you'
manner, no one's heart was touched. As it is, say what you will, I
believe that the men have fared the worse. I am certain Mr. Herbert
has gone on a wrong track. I am sure he likes you, and thought he had
won you, too!'

'My dear Isabel, excuse me--that is going too far! Every one
understands better than that. Why, I could show you notes of his--of
Mr. Herbert's--to me and to Edward, about this very thing. Surely,
don't you remember that day in the verandah, when you said you had
overheard our secret?--his and mine! And Mr. Herbert said, since you
had forced our confidence, you must keep it. Surely--O, Isabel! you do
know better; you must be conscious. Come, if a fear of Mr. Herbert's
being unhappy is what stands between me and my expected hoped-for good
wishes, I must get them!'

'Do you really care for them so much?--now, too, that you are so rich
in that way! I should have fancied that swallowed up all other
feelings, and there was no room for either regret or for more joy.'

'But it is so long that I have been wishing and longing to tell you--
to speak openly! I thought you liked Edward, and I was so glad. I have
watched you admire his singing. It drew me closer to you, Isabel. It
hurts me for you to be so cold and so harsh now! Can't you forgive
us?--we have had much to bear.'

Isabel's answer was to throw her arms round Miss Terry's neck, and to
kiss her vehemently. All the native generosity of her heart seemed to
flash from her eyes, half dimmed as they were with hushed tears. 'May
you be happy! And you will be happy. Are you very fond of him? Tell
me--what is it you feel? I want to know. Do you like all he does, and
says, and is? Do you feel to want him when he is away, and yet wish to
run away from him when he is here? O, it must be so very very strange!
I should not like it. No; I don't really think it is in me to love in
that way. If I ever did--'

'What then, Isabel?'

'I was going to say I should be unbearable. If I were alone, like
you, I might perhaps throw myself wholly on one--only it would be so
difficult to find the very right one--one to suit! But now I have
papa, and mamma, and Kate, and the chicks, and the troublesome boys,
and Mr. Herbert, in a fashion--to say nothing of you or the dear old
Jollys, and Tom, and, most of all, daddy! He is my love.'

'So you think now.' And Miss Terry smiled. 'There! the conference is
over. See, the light is out, and your poor papa must be half dead with
fatigue. He wont forget this evening in a hurry! I'll wait till they
are in their rooms. There, both doors are fast. Now good night, dear
Isabel! good night!'

'Good night. Don't be surprised if I am clean gone--vanished to-
morrow morning! I feel like it--as if I was whirling off somewhere--as
if the whole world was turned over. To-morrow will not, cannot come
like any other day, I am sure. We shall see! I feel like something
will happen. You may laugh; but I mean it. I never was like this
before.'

'Shall I return to you? Are you afraid to be left? Over-excitement,
perhaps. Take a little sal volatile.'

'No, but a glass of water. On no account come back. Precisely what I
want is to be alone. When I don't hear your voice I shall feel myself
all right. Good night, Mrs. Farrant--arch-deceiver! actress! cunning
woman!'

And again Isabel tried to think. But her efforts were worse than
ever now. She had a confused notion that it was a relief--that she was
glad, and sorry, and surprised all together--that there would be a
great deal of 'fuss' to-morrow, and something would happen. She felt
as if a part of her life had gone suddenly. There was to be a new act
and a new scene. She felt as if she was shifted onwards by some
invisible power, and had left old things behind. A few hours seemed to
her like months or years ago. Sleep, sound and deep, put an end to
these sensations.



CHAPTER II. Further Explanation.



It was curious, but a weight seemed gone from her. There was a
feeling as if it was incumbent on her to look bright and well, and she
took unusual trouble to pick out a nice dress, turning over and
rejecting several before she was pleased. At last a blue and white
muslin was chosen; it was very simple, and not at all costly, but it
was fresh and clean, and hung in nice ample folds from the throat to
the feet, only confined at the waist by a belt which matched exactly.
With her bright wavy hair and sunny smile, in spite of the freckles
which so moved Mrs. Vesey's pity, Isabel was as pleasant and fresh an
object for the eye to meet on coming down to breakfast as could be
imagined; and so her father evidently thought, as he kept his hand
under her chin and gazed again and again into her truth--telling eyes.

'Hast heard, Issy? Ay indeed! and don't care? That's my own heart's
darling!--I could have sworn it!--I said so! Sure--quite sure? Another
look!--Ah! 'tis my own bright lassie! Now, then, marry away, parson
and little woman, as fast they like. But, I say, Issy, wasn't it a
sell, eh? Come, I judged her best after all; I never believed she
cared for our friend of the mustaches. Ah, here's mamma! Well, Mrs.
Lang, here's our poor girl, hardly able to speak or look up, as you
may see.'

'Indeed, I am not surprised;--nothing will ever surprise me again,'
Mrs. Lang remarked while preparing the proper quantity of tea with the
air of a martyr. 'He is gone, I believe, isn't he?'

'If you mean that culprit Mr. Farrant, my love, yes, he is gone,
ashamed to face us, no doubt, eh, Issy?'

'Issy!' said Mrs. Lang, with an elevation of her head; 'I don't
think it very good taste of you to be pretending jokes with your
father on this subject. It ought to be met with becoming dignity. I
call it downright shameful! Talk of deceiving!--talk of breach of
promise!'

'Come, now, my dear Kitty, pray, pray be careful; after all no harm
is done. Look here at Isabel,--is this a broken-hearted lassie? No,
no; we wont hurt the poor things with black looks and rebukes. Forget
and forgive; of course I shall miss the custards, Mrs. Lang; and the
singing, Mrs. Lang; but I'll try to get over it. Here's Kate! Come
Kate,--do you scent bridecake, or wedding gloves, my dear? Here we are
full of it!'

'Yes, I heard; Miss Terry told me just now,' Kate said with a
careless, proud toss of the head. 'Strange affair, I think;--not very
fair to some parties, I should say! Luckily for myself it doesn't
affect me in the remotest manner, but it is rather queer!'

'I should think so; the very idea of a governess behaving in such a
scandalous way! Taking the precedence of the two young ladies of the
house, pushing herself forward! How you can be so strange, so
unnatural, Mr. Lang, I can't think!'

'Come now, mamma,' said Isabel, coming up and coaxing her; 'you
don't wish Mr. Farrant or any one else to see that you meant him for
one of your daughters, do you?'

'Indeed, no!--my daughters, the Miss Langs of Langville, may look
higher, I should hope!'

'Spoken like a wise woman, Kitty--beg pardon--Mrs. Lang. Bless me,
if he had asked me for her I believe I should have said something he
wouldn't like.'

'Who is the 'her,' daddy?'

'Why you--you sauce-box! Mamma wanted to persuade me you fancied
him, eh, Issy? as if I didn't know better. Wouldn't have had him,
would you, lassie?'

'Grapes are sour when out of reach,' said Isabel, as she buttered
her father's toast and gave it to him. 'I have got you to look after,
daddy; quite enough I am sure,' she added, laughing.

'Ay, and so it is! Issy and I suit, and we don't mean to cut yet.
Now, Mrs. Lang, my dear, let me recommend this egg, it will do you
good and clear your heart. Now you find us all whole and happy, you
wont fret? You will forgive the young people. And I say, about that
bridecake,--can't we make it here?'

'Impossible, Mr. Lang; and I don't feel disposed to make any great
effort,--for--for--'

'A note for Miss Lang, and messenger to wait for an answer,' said
the serving lad, giving Kate a highly-scented pink note.

'They hope to see me there the day after to-morrow,' said Kate,
flushing with pleasure. 'No objection is there?' and, receiving her
mother's hearty consent, and not observing her father's doubtful
'umph!' she flew off to answer the note.

Isabel clenched her fingers tightly together, and in her mind waged
deadly war with any one cruel enough to disappoint Kate. She snatched
up the note, when Kate returned and examined it. Apparently it
afforded no particular satisfaction.

An hour or two later, when the little post messenger came back,
Isabel sought her father. She found him at last near the foal shed
still poring over a letter. Isabel was startled at the face he lifted
on hearing her steps.

'Papa! what is it? No, don't try to laugh! I knew--I knew something
was coming wrong; I felt so last night, I did indeed. Tell me, what is
it?'

'What I have long looked for, child,--Ruin! ruin! Good God!--not a
house, not a man stands! Lucky he who has funds in England, as it
seems our friend and creditor Herbert has. He seems all right again,
and so takes upon himself a little lecturing. Read it yourself, he
does not want to press the trifle I owe him, as he has found relief
from present pressure. Well, beggars can't choose; but it irks me,
girl, to be obliged to him.'

'Yet, he is a very old and a very true friend. I would sooner trust
him than--than the Vine Lodge people or Mr. Budd.'

'Well--this fixes me! To Sydney I must go. I must consult with Smith,
the lawyer. He'll advise whitewashing, and then there's Westbrooke to
go to. But I shall try yet;--your mother! I dread her leaving this,
you see.'

'Don't!--you mustn't dread anything--but disgrace. She will get over
it. Westbrooke is a pleasant place. Don't go deeper into it--don't,
daddy! Stop at once; it is best for all!'

'There's truth in that! Well, don't go and croak to mother. Kate is
going on a visit; I fear she is deceived, poor girl.'

'When shall you go, papa?'

'As soon as I can. First I must ride down to the new wheat plot, and
leave directions. I shall send for, or swear in, a couple of
constables. I am not easy about those rascally Bushrangers; there is a
report that they are in this district. If so, we shall feel them, on
account of Lynch, you see. Well, go in--keep up mamma's spirits. I
sha'n't be back till late, for I have far to ride. The boys come with
me and take orders. Perhaps I may start for Sydney to-morrow. Kiss me,
and now go, my sunbeam! Ah, Issy--we've cheated the parson!'

'Pardon me, sir; it seems rather more like the parson's cheating us.'

'What, didst think of him, then?'

'Couldn't help it, when every one repeated it every day. But as I
fretted much at the possibility of their being right, you may suppose
I am not at all unhappy at finding they were all wrong. I should have
said 'No' at last, I am sure.'

'Ay, ay! No, Issy, you mustn't desert the nest. The old birds are
getting heavy on wing. I couldn't part with you were a king to come
and ask me for your hand!'

She left him, looking round on the evidences of comfort and wealth;
the place redeemed from the wilderness by her father. And to think
they must leave it all! It was hard--hard for them! For herself one
place was as good as another. She always liked Westbrooke.

These thoughts were dispersed by seeing Mr. Farrant riding briskly up
the entrance road. Not feeling quite in a humour to respond to his
demonstrations of happiness and calls on her sympathy, she turned away
towards the stables and fed her favourite little foal. The boys were
there too, and they had a long inspection of all the horses, till they
mounted and rode off, leading their father's mare to meet him at a
certain field. Isabel was turning to go in, when Mr. Herbert appeared,
leading Pearl, according to his custom.

She was vexed at feeling herself shy and blushing; but somehow, in
spite of Miss Terry's assurances, Isabel dreaded making known that
lady's engagement to him. She waited gravely engrossed with her own
thoughts, while he put Pearl up in comfort.

'You expected me?--Yes, I have you now at last!--and we will have a
turn in the vinewalk,' he said. Isabel wondered a little at his
manner; then put it down to his being unhappy.

'No, not there. Look!--do you see?' and Isabel nervously pointed to
where Mr. Farrant and Miss Terry were crossing the green, evidently
bound for the same place. Searching and keen was the glance she threw
at him; she felt shy too, and more awkward than she ever did, on his
account.

'They have done abominably. What right had he--had she to--to--' but
she could not finish.

'To suit each other, and to find it out and engage to marry?' And he
in his turn tried to read her face.

'Well! what do you see, or fancy you see? Willow, willow? feeling it
yourself, you see it in me! I pity you. It is a sad downfall to my
first, as it shall be my last, putting a finger into the thing called
matrimony. Ah! I thought you two so suited! But, of course, whatever
you felt or feel, you will not confess it--of course not! You are too
proud. And I like you quite as well for it--only it is not in me. And
I can't pretend that I am not regularly taken in and deceived.'

'My dear Isabel! You speak so fast, so rapidly; you are so agitated--
'

'That indeed I am not!--never was cooler in my life! But, come, I
will not meet them just now! Come this way;' and she put her hand on
his arm, and hurriedly drew him in an opposite direction from the
garden towards the men's huts, and the bush which skirted them.

'I don't understand you,' he said, presently. 'What am I too proud to
show? What is it you are deceived by? I suppose--I conclude that
Farrant spoke out last evening. Such I understood was his intention,
and so I warned you, if you remember.'

'As if I understood one single word you said! Never was so taken by
surprise in my life! And surely you knew it! I thought you yourself
admired Miss Terry, and had proposed, and--and--Well!' she said, in a
half-defiant, half-tremulous way, as if ashamed of her shyness, 'why
not speak out? What harm in it? O! if one might but be allowed to
speak plain truth, just as we think it! Every one gave me to
understand,' she went on with determination, 'that he, that consummate
actor, that arch deceiver, that he--' but still it wouldn't do, she
could not say it. 'It is a mortification, isn't it? I ought to be very
miserable--heart-broken and deceived--oughtn't I?' and her voice, in
spite of all her efforts, sounded tremulous and thick.

'O, Isabel! I didn't think this! No, indeed I was mistaken!' Mr.
Herbert said, dropping her hand, and walking on before her in a
brusque, disturbed manner. She followed, however, and both were
silent, till they came to the fence, and they stood against it. 'I
see, I see! That hurried manner, I understand! Poor child. It was very
wrong! Nothing can justify their deceiving us all so! Their secret
would have been safe, but we should have known it--you and your family
I mean--all along. And did you really not guess it?--not see something
going on?'

'On the contrary; my guesses were all wrong. I did not profess to
know or understand such affairs; and when every one came to the same
conclusion (why, I even fancied you did) I believed at once! Last
night, up to the very last moment, I saw everything wrong. I suppose
the correct thing would be to be dreadfully proud and haughty; but
somehow I can't reach it. I feel as if I had been 'made a fool of,' in
plain English, and there's an end of it! It serves me right, I dare
say, and will be a lesson. And now let us talk of something else! Papa
has had very unpleasant news, and must go to Sydney to-morrow.' Her
deep though smothered sigh was heard by him.

'Your father wont--I can't get him to trust me, or to believe I have
a great regard for him. I could, perhaps, help him now, Isabel. I have
had unexpected relief myself. You know, surely, how glad I should be
to be of use--don't you? We are friends, you and I, although--'

'Yes! O yes! But it wont do. I feel something is going to fall on us.
I am sure I have had a 'presentiment' lately. When do you go to the
station?' she added, abruptly.

'Immediately. There is nothing now to wait for. When I return, then--
. Is there anything I can do?' he added, as if catching himself up.
'Isabel, you can't fancy what a disappointment it is to find you so--
so--. I came hoping to open my heart to you; but I see it is a wrong
time. My dear little Isabel!' he said, fondly, and again drawing her
hand in his arm. 'You and I have long been friends; my love for you is
great, perhaps peculiar. I don't like to see you suffer. You wont
long, will you? You will overcome any feeling that his attentions
(confound the man!) had roused. Abominable! Men ought to be careful.
But your own pride will come in to aid you.'

'O yes; if only poor dear mamma will not make me ridiculous through
her own annoyance.'

'Is she then much disappointed? Did she really believe it, and wish
it?'

'I think she did. And then poor Kate's affair; I fear it will not end
well.'

'The only good end to that will be to have nothing to do with him.
Isabel, I could tell you things of that fellow that would startle and
horrify you. He is an ingrained rascal, worldly and evil. No; Kate
deserves some better fate than to be his soon-neglected, ill-used
wife. I hear she is going to Vine Lodge.'

'Yes; on a long-promised visit. I hope it will decide things one way
or the other! I know she has been uneasy at his long absence and
coldness.'

'And if she knew what he had been about. Good heavens! how young
girls are taken in! Better fret for ever than marry him. But he wont
have her now he finds she is not an heiress. You are aware of the
reputation you both had in Sydney? Ah! what's that? Is that the
dinner-bell?'



CHAPTER III. Unwelcome Visitors, and Farewell.



Shrill, sharp, and hurried, as if pulled by no steady hand, and for
no household purpose, the big bell at the top of Langville House swang
to and fro, and sent its call far and wide over the premises.

'That is the alarm bell,' said Isabel; 'it is scarcely ever rung.
Papa had it put up in case we needed any of the servants or men at
night, or for fire, or Bushrangers. Surely--can it be the children for
fun?'

No child's hand pulled the string. Fire! No symptoms appeared of such
a thing. All the men were dispersed at their work; it wanted half-an-
hour to dinner. 'Ah! there it goes again;' and Mr. Herbert ran back to
the house as fast as he could. Mr. Farrant joined him at the back-
door, while a few miserably frightened female servants peeped out from
kitchen and laundry; but no man was to be seen.

'What is it? What can it be?' exclaimed at the same time Isabel and
Miss Terry, meeting about the middle of the yard.

'Where is Mr. Lang?'

'Gone away to the new wheat-paddock, quite out of hearing.'

'Edward is beckoning for us, Isabel,' said Miss Terry, pointing to
the back-door of the house, where Mr. Farrant appeared for a moment,
and then seeing he was observed, retreated again.

When they came in, a scene at once ludicrous and alarming made Isabel
at least understand in a moment what it was all about.

Kate was extended on the couch in the work-room, pale and faint, just
recovering herself, in fact, from a swoon. Mrs. Lang was disordered
and flushed, her cap all on one side, as she divided her grief between
her daughter's state and the state of her desk and secretary, which
bore evident marks of being turned topsy turvy.

The little girls were also there and their nurse. Sophy was crying
bitterly, the other hiding her face in her nurse's apron; and the said
nurse, with uplifted hands, was repeating, in a flurried and
incoherent way, what she meant to be an explanation of the event.

'The villain! If he hasn't been after terrifying every soul of us,
the wee darlints and all. And Miss Kate there, in a dark swound,
enough to turn the heart of any Christian. But, holy Virgin! they be
no Christians at all, at all--only a set of rampaging, ill-minded
rogues, that desarves hanging this minute, and a good fifty
afterwards--the saints save them! The poor missis! to see all her bits
of money forbye the jewels, made free with before her very eyes; and
she lawful missis of the place, and a power of servants at her
command; and he stuck there, ye may believe me! with a grate ugly gun
at her poor head!--One giving her her death-stroke, jist wi' looking
at the nasty gun, and the other as glib and quick, and so polite! Save
us! if he didn't turn out every drawer and every box, and made off
with Miss Kate's lovely golden watch and all. Och hon, Och hon!' and
then followed a succession of Irish howls and exclamations in a hybrid
tongue, made up between her Irish descent and the currency speech she
had learnt in the colony. For 'nurse' was a currency woman, her
parents being 'real' Irish emigrants, one of the very first that ever
came to Sydney. She was not a bad specimen of her class, and,
according to her own notions, she served Mrs. Lang very faithfully,
being fond of the children; and having been twice 'crossed in love,'
she had fully made up her mind to remain in service, till she could
save enough to keep a lodging in Sydney, having forsworn the married
state, and occasionally uttering her maxims, gained, as she said, by
'hard experience,' to her two young ladies, Miss Kate and Miss Isabel.

'Well!' said Mr. Herbert, coming back to the room, and lowering his
voice as he caught sight of Kate's open eyes, and pale, frightened
aspect (Isabel was bathing her forehead with eau de Cologne). 'Well!
no traces but those of a spoiled city. The rascals! They are off! When
did you ring that bell?'

'As soon as I was free. But I was 'baled up' with a gun at my head,'
said Mrs. Lang, roused out of all small affectations. 'Kate and I were
working. I had just finished my accounts, intending to ask Mr. Lang
for money before he left, as he talks of doing.--Yes; just locked my
desk and left the keys in it. I said to Kate, 'The little girls are
spoiling their frocks out there; go, love, and see what they are
about.' Dear Kate complied, as she always does. She is so very
amiable! But she turned in a moment in dreadful horror--'Mamma! a
man!' And before I understood her, those dreadful, horrid fellows were
at the open window, bowing and grinning! O! I knew! I have had it all
before! But Kate, poor dear, delicate, Kate!--'

'So the bell was not pulled till the deed was done. Is that it?' and
Mr. Herbert's lip curved a little.

'I don't know what you mean! My nerves are quite unstrung, and I
can't bear that abrupt, terrifying manner. How could I ring with a gun
levelled at my head? How could Kate ring when she was fainting, and
that villain lifted her up and put her down there before my very eyes!
As to the others, the men, the servants, friends, boys,--we were
entirely deserted! entirely! when they went away, that is, allowing
them five minutes, though they said twenty, and I knew they would kill
me and Kate too, if we provoked them--then I pulled the bell indeed!
But considering we had two gentlemen on the place, besides our
numerous staff of men, some of them constables too, I consider that we
were shamefully neglected! Not one of you came in time to do any good.
No! Kate and I fought our own battle, and no thanks to any one!' Mrs.
Lang used her handkerchief in more ways than one, and looked aggrieved
as well as much upset. 'Come and lie down, mamma!' said Isabel, in a
soothing but firm voice. 'Poor mamma! you are quite ill. Such a
fright! And Kate so bad! And are they really gone--escaped? Did you
recognise the faces, mamma?'

'No, indeed. Though I dare say it must be that dreadful Lynch. I am
nearly certain it was his voice. He might have been disguised, you
see!'

'No, madam,' said nurse. 'It was not Jack Lynch, I assure you. Bless
you, I saw the faces quite plain--and I'd know them again anywhere.
One was dark, and short and square. The other taller and thinner, and
had red--yes, either red or quite light hair, and he smiled and showed
his teeth; a rare cage too. And did your honour just inquire among the
men? For they will have made off some road for certain, and one or
other of them would likely come right against them returning for
dinner.'

'I asked, of course. They were one and all utterly astonished and
ignorant. Every one had been at work, and knew and heard nothing!
Nothing more probable than a coalition, eh, Farrant?' said Mr.
Herbert.

'You know best, of course; meanwhile, shall you not send a constable
or two after them, and search the huts--not only here, but every one
in the neighbourhood? Though too late to prevent this mischief, we may
arrest the evil, and make this district too hot for them. The rascals!
The breakers of all home peace and home ties. Lucky, indeed, it is no
worse. Fortunate, I do believe, that none but women were here, and
consequently there was no dream of resistance, no blood shed. I can't
help shrewdly suspecting, at least some connexion between this and
Lynch's running off. It is surprising how they cling one to another.
The cause of one is the cause of all! Ah, well, poor fellows, their
hour is at hand. The mounted police are already bidden to ride after
them, and bring them dead or alive! And at the same time, this same
police staff is being swept out, and suspected characters dismissed or
sent elsewhere.'

'Do you mean that this very place, this district, is infested
particularly?' inquired Mrs. Lang.

'Just now it is,' Mr. Herbert said. 'Lynch's absconding made some
noise, and it so chanced that Bird and Beast, the so-called pair of
notorious outlaws, were before rumoured as about here. A fellow came
across one in the Bush and recognised him directly. His silence was
purchased for a given time by a famous pouch of ' 'baccy.' But the
social qualities of the weed brought out the news that same evening.
And this fact was capped by another fellow saying, that a strange man
answering to the description of 'Beast,' with a perfect forest of hair
on his head and face, was seen skulking behind a barn somewhere. Old
Wright was stopped, and his pockets turned out. They carried off his
toothpick case and a picture of his mother, so he says, which he
always carried about him, but no cash. In fact, various petty rumours
prove, like the jackals, that the lion is somewhere at hand. To-day is
further proof. Thank God! you escaped so well. Justice will soon fall
on them; and, meanwhile, this panic will do no good; shall I disperse
these gathering, gaping idlers, Mrs. Lang?'

On her assenting, he went out to the yard, and in a brief,
authoritative manner told the men they were too late, and that, as
usual, the women had done all the work. Little harm was done. All must
now return to order and to work.

'Constables--Brady! Toole! come here in a quarter of an hour. I shall
have orders and a warrant ready for you. Now friends--now good
people--good women--off with you! The show is over. They came
suddenly, as your own final end and doom will. There is nothing to be
said, nothing to be done.'

Murmuring and exchanging looks, they all turned away, and, as far as
outward signs lay, there was no more undue distraction or excitement.

In the house they looked over the disordered drawers, amused to see
the experience and skill with which they had directly pounced on the
valuable and portable articles.

Unfortunately there was some money--more than usual, for the payment
of wages, and also a private hoard of poor Mrs. Lang's, for the
providing some dainty luxury for her pet child, which had been carried
off, and also some rings and brooches, some rich embroidery work,--
which amused Isabel, she wondering how they could know its value--and
a silver snuff--box and pencil-case. The rest of the plate was safe.
They had only ventured on the one room, it seemed.

Mr. Herbert observed, that as these wretched men were from all
possible trades, among them might be found a judge even of articles of
a lady's toilet; and he brought forward an example of a friend of his,
who was robbed one evening when every one was busy in the harvest
fields, and she and a girl-servant had returned to undress and put to
bed the tired-out children. Three men came; one entering the bedroom
where the lady was, through the window. He told her that two others
were close outside, and that any attempt at giving alarm or escape
would cause mischief. They did not wish to do harm, but must help
themselves in order to live, having eaten nothing since yesterday
morning. She said she had no money, only the few shillings in her
purse, which she threw towards him. He called to his comrade, who
entered and set to work to open and examine every box and drawer, with
the quickest and most expert fingers. He chose all that was valuable
and rejected all the common and imitation stuff. They tied up all
these feminine articles in some silk handkerchiefs of her husband's,
and were just about to make off, when to her horror 'clang, clang!'
went the gathering bell. There was a rush and a scuffle--shots fired
outside--oaths and threats were heard--and one old white-haired man, a
very old servant, burst in and fell at her feet. 'Save me, madam!
Save--' but as he spoke his brains were dashed out.

'It was ascertained that this old fellow, the only one left in the
house, resolved to make an effort to secure these audacious robbers,
so he rang the bell which summoned the other men. The robbers had
barely time to escape. One in revenge returned to kill the poor
mistaken old fellow; but even he got off through the window, hiding
for a moment behind a water--cask, and then, when they were searching
through the house, he rejoined his fellows in the Bush. Two of the
party are to this day uncaught; one was hanged.--No! resistance,
unless well managed and adequate, is worse than useless--positively
wrong for women alone.'

This event, of course, upset all the usual regulations of Langville.
The cook could not help being one hour late with dinner. Even the dogs
and the cats were roaming about in forbidden corners. The children
recov ered from their alarm, were acting bushrangers in the nursery,
with great unction. Kate remained rather faint and plaintive, till
reminded by her mother to make her preparations for an early drive to-
morrow to Vine Lodge. Mrs. Lang subsided into a very sleepy and
resigned state, only wondering what kept Mr. Lang and the boys so
late. Then Isabel proposed their all going to meet them, and Miss
Terry agreed to come and bring the children. The two gentlemen said
they would go part of the way, but Mr. Farrant had business in the
settlement, and Mr. Herbert thought his sister might chance to hear of
these unwelcome visitants, and that he must go back to comfort her.

'I thought you wished to see papa?' Isabel observed.

'Yes; so I did! But it seems as if an age had passed since I came
this morning. No! I must yet defer my talk. It would be no time now. I
wish I could be more easy about you, Isabel! I am sure you will suffer
from this, sooner or later. I don't mean the bushrangers,' he added,
in answer to her look of question.' I allude to the surprise--the--
the--I trust I may term it the annoyance--'

'O, you are thinking of that! Is it only to-day we heard of it? How
very strange. Yes; you have hit it exactly. It is a surprise, and a
somewhat annoying one.'

'Isabel, if you can, keep Kate from Vine Lodge. She is really a
sweet girl--much more interesting than I ever thought her before, I
confess. For Heaven's sake, keep her easily-led mind from close
contact with that woman! Some day you will agree with me in this, if
you don't now. She showed me her friend's sketches and rhymes.
Anything more utterly in bad taste I can't fancy. And you, Isabel, do
not, I entreat, if only for my sake, do not cultivate the
accomplishment! You mean no harm, you say? I know it. If I didn't, I
should not speak so to you! Isabel, look at me for a moment. I think
you understand me, for you come to me as to a friend you may trust--I
shan't forget that. Since I knew of their secret,' nodding slightly
towards Miss Terry and her lover in front of them, 'I have been
happy--yes--happy! But--no, don't hurry away!--When I return--that is,
if forced to go at all to the station, which I devoutly hope to avoid,
I shall come to you. Isabel, we have been good friends, eh? Yes!--
well--but we must be somewhat more than that now.'

'What; enemies?'

'No! but--Isabel--'

'They are calling--come! I feel more like an enemy than anything
else now, with every one. I should like to mount a swift horse and
pursue and take them! A hundred pounds! when we are so very hard up!
Poor daddy, he was troubled enough without this! and our drays are on
the road.--Shouldn't wonder if it really has something to do with
Lynch.'

She rattled on, with a burning colour in her face, while his eyes
were fixed on her all the time with a serious scrutiny which made her
heart flutter, though she tried to resent it and to pull away her
hands which he held fast in his.

'Well, good-bye, good-bye, Isabel!' he said, still lingering. 'When
I come again, you must--I must say a few words--I mean, I want to tell
you something--you will listen then, will you? Promise, promise me--
for lately you have always evaded me. Well, take care of yourself--God
bless you!'

Then, in the act of turning back, he said, coming and whispering
close to her ear, 'Should--should anything happen--I mean, if you
leave this--go to Westbrooke,--or if you think I can help in any way,
and supposing I should be detained in some now unforeseen way, you
will write to me? Do you trust me, Isabel?'

'Yes, of course I do!--all but in one thing,' she could not resist
adding, with a saucy smile--'you wont understand a joke,' she said,
with mock earnest in her voice and look. 'It is a pity; a little fun
is very amusing, and I don't see why it always makes you so grave and
angry; but never mind, there's no joke now. Give my love to your
sister, will you? Of course, I don't mean you should really do so.
Why, what would she say or think? No, but give my--something--whatever
is correct, and so on--and I hope she has not been worried by robbers.
Ah, there's Willie, I see--papa is near, then. Will you stay?'

'No, I can't. Again, good-bye--au revoir!'

'Good-bye,' she repeated, and she kissed her hand at him once again,
as he turned round by the stable.

She felt sorry he was gone, he had been so kind! That was his best
and nicest smile, without a bit of sarcasm or irony. There was no one
like him, after all! Yet Miss Terry liked another better. How very
strange and incomprehensible taste is! 'But there they are, all
telling and telling, and they wont leave me a scrap of news for poor
daddy.'



CHAPTER IV. Fraternal Confidences.



Leaving the family at Langville to relate their adventure with all
the natural alarm, annoyance, and wonder attending such a case, we
will follow Mr. Herbert in his return to Warratah Brush.

'Ah, John, I didn't expect you quite so soon! It is very good of you,
and lucky perhaps, too, for here is a letter left by some person
travelling to Sydney, I understand.'

'Indeed! Have you had any visitors, Mary?'

'Not a soul. I did rather expect Mrs. Vesey, after what she said on
Sunday; but fine words cost nothing. How are the Langs?'

'Rather so so. They had visitors, and of that kind, that I felt
somewhat anxious to be here and know how you fared. I believe
Forrester & Co. on the verandah are our best friends and keep our
place safe from such calls.'

'What, bushrangers? Well, I assure you, the dogs have been very
uneasy to-day--growling at nothing. I shouldn't wonder if they were
within scent, and seeing so many men working as there chanced to be in
the yard, and these formidable dogs, they thought better of it. To say
truly, John, thanking you all the same for your kind thought, I had
just as soon be here alone as have you with your fire-arms. You could
do nothing, taken by surprise, as you are sure to be; and imperfect
resistance is sure to end in bloodshed. I should let them help
themselves.'

'Not very pleasant to watch the rascals turning out one's things
before one's face. But where women are concerned, you are right.'

Mr. Herbert here read his letter.

'That has made you grave again! I was observing how very bright you
looked, John, when you first came in--just as if you had heard good
news. But what is this?'

'Nothing new. Confirmation of my doubts of that humbug of an
overseer, with his plausible Scotch dialect. I must be off at once.
Trust me to take a canny Scotchman again. An Irishman, you may have
your honest and open doubts about, and so act on your guard, and if
you do chance to win his heart, he will not like to ruin you. But the
Scotch preach you a sermon and cheat you at the same time. Can you
have my kit ready--let me see--to--morrow or the day after? I must see
Blackett first, and that will take a day. I shall go there and start
straight from his place, you see. But it is intolerably provoking just
now, when I so much wanted to settle--to see--'

'What did you want to settle, John? To go at once is the great
object. I should hope you need not stay there at all. You are wanted
so much here.'

'If I could get to Langville and back before breakfast--' he was
murmuring to himself.

'What, to Langville again! O, John, what does it mean?'

'It means that a secret has come out which it might have been better
for all had we known it before. Like other mysteries, it has led to a
few errors. Mary, Farrant has declared himself--he--'

'Has he, indeed? What, after all, it is to be Isabel, then, though I
began to hope--'

'Thank God! no, no, no!'

'No? you can't mean it! What, has she refused him?'

'He has, it seems, been engaged to Miss Terry, even before they
either of them came here. Family circumstances forced them to secrecy.
It might have done mischief. Happily, I think,--I hope, it has done
none.'

'You astonish me! Well, then, he has good taste, after all! A much
more suitable person indeed. Only--only--O John! I did so like her--
Mr. Farrant is a man of taste!'

'Which John Herbert is not? Mary, can't you, wont you try to like
Isabel a little better?' and he sat down by his sister on the couch,
and slid his hand round her waist. So seldom was there any attempt at
demonstration of their quiet but strong attachment, that Miss Herbert
was taken by surprise, and rather moved. His smile pleased her. It was
earnest, wistful, happy, and unconstrained.

'Do, Mary, try! It is, I assure you, only a little prejudice on your
part. I should grieve to marry one you could not like. I believed I
never should again wish to unite my fate with another's. But I feel
this is no slight fancy, no youthful fascination. I love her, love
her,' and his voice rose, 'in the way a man of my age loves, having
once been disappointed, and therefore having kept aloof from all play
at loose and bind with the feelings,--as a man capable of weighing
facts and sounding the depths of his own heart, can love once--and--
but once.'

'Tell me, John, are you engaged? Is it done?--lest I do mischief,'
she added, in a tremulous, almost apologetic voice.

'No--that's it. The suspense--you can hardly guess how anxious and
nervous I am till--'

'As if you could doubt--doubt for an instant!'

'You are mistaken, Mary,' he said, shaking his head. 'I doubt much,
and altogether; I am wholly uncertain if I shall not injure my cause
by speaking now. Yet after such a narrow escape, how can I leave her--
leave it uncertain? I know she likes me,--too well, I sometimes fear!
I don't expect her love could be like my own. It could not be! Mary,
one moment I hope--the next, I despair!'

'John, is it possible you forget all the pain, the stinging torture
you suffered once?'

'And why remind me of it now?'

'Because I must! I remember thinking the effect of that trial
anything but softening. It made you bitter and harsh, John. Where you
love, any great fault would be to poison you, and any fault of the
kind showing that peculiar tone of mind, would, I know, be unbearable.
Now, John, you think me unkind and prejudiced. I don't wish to be so!
True, I did not take that fancy to her you did. But I had no cause to
be prejudiced, seeing you like her so well--I watched her, and I
solemnly declare to you, John, that I have seen, not once, not twice,
but over and over again, indications of that selfsame disposition, a
disposition to prefer fun to kindness. She would wound her dearest
friend rather than sacrifice a joke or a bit of so-called wit and fun!
Then, Mrs. Vesey, hasn't she seen this in Isabel? Ay, and worked it--
used if for her own amusement? More than you know have they given way
to the low habit of caricaturing their neighbours. While waiting for
Mrs. Vesey to put her bonnet on a week ago, when I went there, I
turned over a book on the side-table. It was full of pictures,
likenesses of every individual in the district, and Sydney people,
too! Odd and comical enough. Clever, I suppose, they are called. Not a
thing, not a gesture, escapes their sharp eyes.'

'Their!--it was Mrs. Vesey's book, her drawings, wasn't it? What has
it to do with Isabel?' He spoke hurriedly and anxiously, all the
sweetness gone from his face. Swinging his foot up and down, with his
fingers in his waistcoat pockets, he watched his sister's countenance.

'I used the plural advisedly, John. Several of the pictures had I.
L. in the corner, and besides that, when Mrs. Vesey came in, she said,
'Ain't they clever, Isabel Lang's I mean? she is so ridiculously
sensitive, and afraid lest any one should see his own likeness, as if
any one could possibly mind a little harmless fun!' I begged to
disagree from her, and said I thought it a very hazardous experiment,
which no friendship would stand. She looked very meaningly at me, and
asked if you were not peculiarly sensitive. I said, not more so than
others. 'O!' she laughed, 'I heard a very droll story about it at
Bath. I know! But you need not fear my saying anything. I shall not
tell a soul.' '

'What could the woman mean, Mary?'

'Of course she has in some way heard some gossip, John. She knew
some of our Bath acquaintance, and it is very possible, people are so
fond of ill-natured stories, that...we know we have nothing to expect
from her forbearance, John. Naturally, her friends would lay all the
blame on you, and exaggerate it too.'

'Good heavens! that it should follow even here, here to the Bush!
That a would-be fine lady of fashion should have hit on that miserable
story, and now to have been actually probing, and cross-examining me
and my countenance to find out how far it fitted. She has even the
audacity to play her experiments on me, and to drag her--to drag my
own little girl into it too! Something told me that woman could and
would work me evil, I took such an antipathy to her!'

He rose and moved up and down, walked to the open door, came back and
leant against the chimney-piece. He was very much disturbed. His
sister was sorry, but she was too much taken up with her fear and her
grief to refrain from giving him temporary pain, if it would but open
his eyes!

'Now, with regard to Isabel--for we have been led far away from her,'
she began--

'Yes, far indeed,' he answered with a sudden turn of relief. 'Isabel
may allow her high, girlish spirits to run off with her. I allow,
Mary, she is unguarded, frank to a fault, and even giddy; but a more
tenderly kind and loving heart never beat. Guided, as she would be, by
one she loved and respected, her natural good taste would soon cast
off all the little faults she has contracted from the tone of this
small, confined society. Frank, ingenuous, generous, true as sunshine,
clear as a drop of clear water--why, her faults are but what the
French call 'Les défauts de ses qualités.' When once she is mine, when
she knows how my very life is bound up in her, she will give up
drawing caricatures or Mrs. Vesey's society, which, after all, she
only upholds in a little perversity of spirit and for her sister's
sake. If I could but be sure--if only that untoward occurrence had not
come between me and my words--all would now have been certain! Yet--
perhaps--I don't know--it may be well to wait a little, too. They all
believed in Mr. Farrant, and perhaps she did--perhaps she suffers--but
no, her eye was too bright and clear for that.'

His words became a mere soliloquy at last.

'O, John! every one, even her own mother, says she is obstinate and
self--willed. Miss Terry, who is really attached to her, told me she
was anxious about that spirit of opposition that showed at times so
strongly. She needed self-control, Miss Terry said. She called her a
grand character, but all rough, like a fine piece of marble awaiting
the chisel. It is a fearful chance--a serious experiment for a man to
be that sculptor as well as husband. Particularly as in this case
(blind yourself to it as you may), when in her are the very seeds,
which, if encouraged, may shoot up into that poison you have such
cause to dread, and from which all your nature rebels and shrinks. I
entreat you to pause and reflect,' she added, gravely and kindly.

'What have I been doing all this time?' he said, quickly. 'Is it a
new, sudden fancy of mine--is she a mere chance acquaintance?'

'I deny that inference, John. You have hitherto known and loved her
as a child, and a child only. You were as blind as any doting father
or uncle. Only of late has she risen in a new light to you. Stimulated
by example, I believe you first chose to feel jealous and sensitive;
and then, Heaven help me! I believed you had given it up and returned
to common sense. The fact is, you have quarrelled and argued yourself
into love--a most mistaken, ill--founded love. God grant you may see
clearly, at least before you are utterly lost! I do entreat a further
delay! You are going to the station. Well, go. Leave things as they
are. Ponder, and consider, and pray, John, to be guided. See what a
month may bring forth. Wait. If all is right, it is but little time
lost. It may prove infinite gain.'

'Four weeks--a month--preposterous!'

'Four weeks set against a life,' she repeated, gravely.

'And how much wiser will four weeks make me up there with lazy
shepherds? Or, do you intend to act for me, Mary, and spy, and watch,
and note down all her unwary, careless words? Poor child! Mary, it is
not kind--it is not like you.'

'Never mind me, so that you are saved from another shock, John--a
shock which would, I fear, make you neither a wiser nor a better man.'

'You are older than I am,' he said, after a long pause and several
turns to and fro the room. 'You have been a good sister, Mary; I can't
refuse to follow your advice. I wait--I will wait till after my return
from the station, to please you. Then I must be at liberty to follow
my own judgment.'

'God send it be a right one, then!'



CHAPTER V. 'Free Again!'



It was quite late before Jack Lynch left Langville, after Gentleman
Bill's side thrusts, on that night of the storm. Often had this
alternative presented itself, but as often had it been forcibly
repressed. For what would become of Nelly then? Lynch's secretly
cherished hope was to make of that poor, helpless, but very lovely
girl a respectable wife. For her, he desired all that his own mother
had been. For her, he wished to wipe out the stain of his crime; to
begin afresh, with a ticket, and a hope of perfect freedom in the end.
But when once that hope was undermined and destroyed, he was reckless.
For himself, it was far pleasanter to brave Lang, and perhaps revenge
his wrongs, than to live on in hopes of quiet respectability, but
enduring provocation and severity meanwhile. 'Bill' knew what he was
about. Each word, each insinuation, every pause, told, as he intended
it should tell, on Lynch's sore and goaded spirit. He, Bill, awoke
with the early dawn, and stealthily stole out of his resting-place. He
passed by Lynch's hut, and noted the closed door,--closed by a stone
from without. He laughed--his low inward chuckle, looking quickly but
keenly around. His work was accomplished, and giving a shove to the
small bundle he carried over his shoulder, he went away briskly. His
abrupt disappearance as well as his sudden visit there at all, was
lost sight of, as he expected, in the greater stir which Lynch's
desertion caused. Meanwhile, hardly heeding the rough night, Jack
Lynch pressed onwards with as much speed as he could command. The
trees bent to and fro under the heavy gusts, and branches were
continually falling. Dark clouds drifted across the sky, making it
anything but a desirable night for those who chanced to be out. Lynch
with his hat drawn a good deal over his eyes, avoided the roads or
even the most beaten tracks, and kept in the scrub. Sometimes he
paused for a moment and rested against a tree; then again hurried
along; and wonderful to say, scarcely ever appeared to hesitate as to
his course, dark and wild as the scene was. After several hours' walk,
he came to a fence, which he climbed over, and then keeping by it for
a few yards, he reached a creek. 'All right!' he exclaimed; 'I've not
forgotten the way, then, though 'tis two or three years since I drove
the bullocks off this ground; and now, is it safe to go to Charlie, or
what? In troth, the walk has made me tired and hungry. I'll trust him
for to-night.'

He swiftly crossed an open paddock which stood high, and overlooked
the surrounding country. A few head of cattle and horses were lying
down, and some of them were aroused by the man's steps. It was just
light enough for him to see a hut which stood almost in the centre of
this paddock; but when he approached within a few yards of the place,
the deep growling and angry barking of several dogs made him stand,
and call out, 'Hallo!' in a loud voice. 'Charlie Brand! Hallo, there!
keep in your dogs.'

A man now appeared at the door of the hut, cracking a stock-whip.

'What's all this? and who are you, I'd like to know, that wants
Charlie Brand, this time of night? Growler will not suffer any
liberties, so you'd better not try.'

'I want a night's lodging, Charlie; don't go to say you don't know
me, dark as the night is. You aint the man of sharp sight I took you
for, if you can't tell your chum from your foe.'

'Is that you, Lynch?' returned the other, advancing a step.

'Ay, Jack Lynch, as large as life.'

'Well! what's in the wind now? Come, I said to Growler a while ago,
says I, 'tisn't a night for man nor beast to get his rest. Don't mind
the dogs; come on, will ye. Down, Growler; lie down, sir, will ye.'

The two men now entered the hut together. Lynch took the only seat,
and Charlie applied himself to rekindling the dying embers. When the
wood caught fire, and the flame lighted up the hut, he turned round,
and with a sarcastic, dry smile, surveyed his companion. 'So you've
had a long walk,--ha! ha! ha!--and what's going to be the end? Have
you got your ticket? and are you come with any orders?'

'I have neither ticket nor orders,' answered Lynch, throwing off his
hat and passing his hand through his bushy hair.

'Well, so I guessed! What you couldn't keep quiet, after all, I
suppose. And what's your course now? Why, it aint many months before
you get your ticket. Martin said the other day you couldn't be refused
again, for you'd been uncommon steady.'

'And much use it is to be steady, to be sure!' returned Lynch,
bitterly. 'He abused me before everybody; called me all the names in
the world; threatened me with forty lashes again--and all for nothing!
and I so near my ticket! But I've escaped him; I'm a free man; and
what's more, I'll be revenged!'

'Take my advice, and eat a bit of supper and go to bed, and you'll
think better of it before morning. 'Tis no joke in these times to take
to that most gentlemanly profession of the Bush. The police are
sharper than they used to be. You have no other than Norfolk Island to
look to. But, perhaps, you've heard of the gay doings there under the
new governor, the theatre, and all that--ha! ha! Perhaps, Lynch, you
look for promotion in that little select corner of the world? Tush,
man, you'll give yourself up, and if...'

'And be flogged! I'll tell you what, Charlie Brand,' added he,
rising and looking fearfully agitated, 'I've sworn to be revenged; I
don't care what comes of me afterwards; but I'll be revenged! He has
used me worse than a dog, worse than a born slave! What was I sent out
here for? Wasn't it for taking revenge when I was insulted? Ay, ay,
'twas brought in manslaughter. I didn't mean to kill the chap, then; I
was sorry--yes--I would most have died myself to bring back his
breath. But my nature is high--Lang knew it; he knows I'm a good
servant; he knows I'm a prisoner. He has never tried the kind word;
and my mind has been growing harder and harder, and now I'm resolved.'

'And what does little Nelly say to this,' said Charlie, drily.

'Don't name her! Any way, that's over! I'll tell ye what, Charlie
Brand, I'd have made her a good husband, though I am a government man;
and when I had my ticket, I could have offered her a respectable home;
but that's over, as I said before; and that cold-hearted tyrant that
has done it and trampled on me, shall feel my hand on him. And I say,
Charlie, there's no time to waste. Have ye got a drop of brandy here?
If you have, give it me quick. I must be off!'

Charlie rose and locked the door of the hut, putting the key in his
pocket.

'Come on! sober now!' said he, as if speaking to a refractory colt.
'This is no night for the Bush, and I've no brandy, not I. But I'll
give you some as good tea as ever crossed your lips. Why, the old hut
can hardly stand this blustering wind! Hark now! there goes a tree!
Come, Lynch, don't look so black and sulky, and don't take to stewing
your grievances, man! To be sure, Lang is hasty and peppery, and not
over-considerate of his assigned men, as I can show. But there, 'tis
only to bear it; and we can't help ourselves, you see!'

'Yes we can, and I will! There's many a good fellow driven to the
Bush, and his sin lies at the door of them who gave him such
treatment. 'Tis a fine life when you're used to it; plenty of fun and
good cheer,' said Lynch.

'Your and my taste differ, that's all; I like a roof over my head,
and prefers riding quiet to being hunted like a native dog,' said
Charlie, putting in a large allowance of tea into a quart pot, and
setting it on the fire.

'I don't see much differ,' returns the other, gloomily, again
sitting down and drawing nearer the fire, which gave a sense of
comfort and insensibly soothed his excited mind. ' 'Tis a choice of
evils anyway, as they say; it all depends on what sort of master you
get, and I'm sure no slaves can be worse used than Lang's men are.'

'Why, I suppose, when you were shipped off, and had 'Convict'
written on your back, or 'Hyde Park Barracks' as large as life on your
slop, you didn't go to delude yourself with thinking you were to lead
the life of a man of pleasure? 'Tain't no good to stiffen oneself up,
Lynch. We're under punishment, as Herbert used to say, and so we must
bear it; and, for my part, I've got to make myself tol de rol easy
under the yoke.'

'Ah! you've got your ticket! and so should I, and I should have had
Ellen, but for that cursed hard man. Now don't stop me, Charlie! for
revenge I must have, so give me a sup of tea and let me out!'

'A sup of tea and welcome. But I'm not so unhospitable I hope, as to
turn you out of doors to-night; and pray what kind of revenge is it
you're hatching? I'll tell you what, Lynch,' and he fixed his eyes
steadily and determinedly on him; 'if you mean anything like blood,
you're come to the wrong man. You don't suppose I'd let you go off,
after what you've said. No! I'd just take you to the lock-up, my
friend, if I had a moment's thought of your passion not passing away.
I wont say I love my master, for that I don't; but there's one in that
family I'd lay down my life for, pretty like it--the second girl! Ay,
my life! She's like my own child; like what 'she' is now, I'll be
bound, if I could see her!' (and he wiped his face as he spoke). 'I've
helped her on her pony scores of times; I've shot birds for her and
climbed the trees like a native for young parrots. Many's the time her
voice seemed to come into me like, when she'd come running out of the
school--room with 'Now, Charlie, I may play!' I say, I'd lay down my
worthless life for her. So don't think I'll let you go on any evil
errand to any belonging to her. You know me, Lynch!' said he, again
looking sternly at him.

'Know you! Yes, I know you; but I don't fear you. But, Charlie,
wouldn't you take revenge if you'd been insulted and unjustly
accused--and what harm? Aint I a marked man already? 'Tis better than
twenty-four hours I've been out now, and...'

'Well, then, Lynch, I'll make free to tell you that you have another
world as well as this present to look for. God says, 'Do no murder;'
and if you aint afraid of me, you are of Him, I suppose.'

' 'Tisn't much I've heard of Him since I went to the Sunday-school,
many a long year back. And did ever you find any to talk to you about
that here, Charlie?'

'I have--thanks be; I have, Jack. Mr. Herbert has. And now, thanks
be, there's a church and minister close by, and there I go. But here's
some tea, and though I can't say much for the meat, seeing 'tis a
little tainted, owing to the flies getting into the cask,--the damper
is right good; and now eat and drink, and make yourself comfortable.'

Lynch, who had eaten nothing since the morning, did full justice to
Charlie's hospitality, and meanwhile his companion asked questions.

'And how goes it up yonder? Any signs of the times? Ah! that's bad!
No sale, you say? That pinches Lang like a tight shoe, I'll warrant.
And the horses? I was looking for a few here soon. The feed keeps up
here uncommon fine. And how do the new chums get on--the new minister
and the others?'

'What should I know of them?' said Lynch, after a long pull at his
quart pot. 'They're seemingly a gay enough set. Makes the place alive!
They do say as how the parson is a rare good master, an easy man every
way. He'll get plucked among them all if he don't look out.'

'Ay, ay, Jack. 'Tain't a country where a man can afford to shut his
eyes for a moment.'

'Your favourite, Miss Issy, as they calls her, is to be married to
the parson, as they say. You might see and get your ticket made out
for that district, and get a place there.'

'I'm not given to roving. If they leave me tol de rol quiet I haven't
no inclination to change. But how's this? I always made it sure as
gospel that Miss Issy would have Mr. Herbert! I'll always stand up for
him. Many a good word has he given to me, and if all the masters were
like him, assigned servants would have justice, leastways. Well, well!
I used to think to myself that he was sweet upon her, and if once she
was grown up, that would be a match. But I mind 'twasn't always peace
among them. The master had his bone of a time to pick with Herbert,
and this one could stand up for his rights and respect too.'

When Lynch had finished his meal, he seemed to be quieted down, for,
as Charlie shrewdly observed, 'Fasting don't sweeten the temper.' The
bed (a sheet of bark and an opossum rug) was given up with true
hospitality, which might have graced grander places, to the guest,
while Charlie wrapped himself in a rough coat, and made himself
comfortable by the fire, with some sacks rolled up for a pillow. Very
soon both men slept soundly. But Lynch awoke and jumped up at the
first gleam of morning light, saying 'They would track him thus far,
and he must be off now and double the scent.'

'So then you determine to go on? You wont go and give yourself up,
and settle down again?'

'No, be hanged if I do! If now there was a chance--if they'd be easy
and pass it over like, and let it be any ways just--I would, just for
Nelly's sake, try once more. But they've been at her with their base
tricks. I'll lay a wager now, Charlie, she'd be after sorrowing for
me, if anything happened. The only creature who would any way. But no!
I'm not a going to be fooled by such ways. They think they have me
tight with her name. She should have kept steady to me. Now there's
but one way for a fellow of pluck. Good morning. You saw me turn
towards Sydney road, eh? Thanks for the lodging! Good-bye!'

Charlie watched him in the dim early light, not without a certain
sarcastic grin, while he shook his head too, and said--'There goes
another fine fellow, straight on for Norfolk Isle, or the gallows!--
there's no saying! He has had dog's fare, and worse. Never nothing but
abuse and stripes! Man's spirit can't stand it. Providence keep him
from meeting the master, or I wouldn't answer for the end, not I!'



CHAPTER VI. The Bushranger's Progress.



After a circuitous route, and resting two nights by a fire he
kindled in the Bush,--on the third day after his visit to Charlie
Brand, Lynch found himself in more familiar ground. It was rather
surprising how he had contrived to keep right and not lose himself in
the interminable monotony of the Bush, and he had not done so without
much careful scrutiny of the sun by day and the stars by night, also
often referring to a soiled, crumpled piece of paper, on which was
roughly dotted down a map of directions for his guidance. Once again
he leant against a tree, with his tomahawk carefully within reach of
his hand, and consulted his map. Then looking above he recognised with
a smile of triumph that the very next tree to that against which he
leant, was a blue gum, which had been fired, and one side of which was
dead, while on the other its forklike branches had still both green
leaves and blossom.

It was a peculiar tree in its decided shape and its half-and-half
condition. Moving a little, so as to bring the said tree quite in
front; he noted another a little to the side, bearing marks of the
notches made by the natives in climbing those tall and straight trunks
in search of wild honey.

'All right,' he said, and suddenly turning away from the direction
he had previously followed, he plunged down among thick undergrowth
and loose iron stones. It was a steep hill. At the bottom was an empty
water-hole. On the bushes around it hung, as if torn off in
scrambling, a piece of cloth, intended to pass for white. Again
Lynch's face showed satisfaction. He sat down and whistled in a low
peculiar fashion, which soon broke into a capital imitation of the
curlew's cry. After repeating this three times it was answered, and
then a boy, only half-clothed in such rags that it was hard to say
what garment they ever represented, came in a stealthy but rapid step
straight to where Lynch sat.

'All right,' he said.

Lynch arose and followed him, saying, 'Moved, haven't ye?'

'Yes; 'twasn't safe, on account of the gentry. Made a flitting; and
they think we are gone a long way, instead of a few yards further
down. More trouble to get at, especially for horses, you see.'

'And the police?'

'They've been, and gone like mad, clatter and crash, and thirsty;
always wanting drink. Found tracks of they fellows up country! All
quiet here now, and people's eyes looking away, you see.'

'You are a sharp lad,' remarked Lynch; and no more was said.

They soon came in sight of a rude hut, formed of two sheets of bark,
fastened together by poles. The fowls and other household appendages,
were scattered about in a rough and disorderly fashion, and a woman
with rough, untidy hair came out and hailed Lynch. It was the same
person to whose wild dwelling Mrs. Vesey had once dared to conduct her
guests. Taking fright at the visit, and also at the presence, near at
hand, of the police, these people had shifted quarters. Their hut was
now down in the gully, and out of sight, but not really at all further
from Vine Lodge than before. And here Jack Lynch, according to his
scheme of doubling the scent, ventured to come back to his old
district as an outlaw--at war with authority! It was quite in
accordance with their code of honour, that a man should be skilful and
brave enough to make his first essay in the new line, close to the
very spot of his former bondage; and where people were still talking
over his escape with keen interest and open-mouthed wonder.

After greeting the new comer, and swearing at the yelping dogs, Judy
returned to the dark hut, and tried to rouse a man who was sleeping
there; not in the gentlest way.

'Come, rouse up, will ye! Up with the stone jar there, 'tis right
beneath that big carcase of yourn. We'll drink this night to the 'free
man,' let to--morrow bring what it will!'

After enforcing her words with some pushes and blows, the man turned
over, and peered through his shaggy hair, till he caught sight of
Lynch standing without, and feeling at the edge of his tomahawk. One
spring brought him close to Jack.

'Somewhat forbye that will be wanting, Jack; and I've got a right
good 'un.--Have it, on condition of fair share, the first good chance
ye get.'

'Where is it?' said Lynch, looking eager.

The man retreated again to the hut, and returned in a moment with a
carbine, and shot, and powder-flask, as well as a belt.

'I've got a belt,' Lynch said, pushing that away, and examining the
gun narrowly.

'I'll warrant 'un as true and good,' said the man. After a little
talking the bargain was made, and Lynch felt himself master of the
weapon.

The woman had spread some food meanwhile, a couple of empty tea--
chests turned up, forming the table. Cold salt beef, rather hard;
freshly baked damper, and a bottle of pickled anchovies, with tea of
course, sweetened with plenty of coarse sugar, but no milk, was the
fare. And a stone jar was very soon lifted up, and one wineglass,
pushed round to each in turn. The boy and two or three children having
shown their heads, were sent off quickly, with a good allowance of
damper and beef, and told to keep off till bed-time.

'You are born to luck, Jack,' remarked the man; at which Lynch only
curled his mouth.

'Lang journeys to Sydney to-morrow, taking the short cut.'

'Well, and what of that? He never carries no cash, as you know.'

'No; but the scrub is so thick, and there's but one track fit for a
horse. Keep yourself close, dodging behind a thickish stem, and pop
with 'lively' there, and your revenge is done, eh!--don't that set the
blood a tingling now, Jack? Didn't you just think of such a chance,
when Dan was at your back, last time?'

'Hold your peace, Robert, and don't be after copying the very devil
himself! I'm not going back that way, just now, seeing I have but now
travelled that road. Sydney way isn't safe nor profitable. I shall cut
away and join a fellow I know, who keeps snug, and gets no name, but
watches the up-country drays, and so makes a very pretty business. I'm
told he cleared several pounds by the last venture on tea and sugar,
and a wine cask which reached its owner, a leetle the weaker for the
journey, and wouldn't shock a teetotaller even, on account of its
strength!'

Judy laughed, and refilled the glass. Lynch refused it, and said he
preferred the tea: at which she seemed much astonished, and then
professed herself 'up to him;' adding that in another month he
wouldn't be after fearing a glass of the raal genuine Irish milk would
make his hand or his eye less steady for business.

'The priest was after inquiring for you, Jack, some days agone.'

'Ay, indeed! And for why? It is to him I owe a long bill for coming
between me and the girl. I'm up to him, and know him; he said she
shouldn't marry a Protestant; as if poor Nell knew Protestant from
Catholic, or Catholic from Christian!'

'Seems he is very sharp after his 'sheep' as he calls 'em. He's got a
sort of a house downaway there, and does a smart bit of business there
for O'Connell. He screws them up tight for pence, they say, and has a
power of boys at his back, ready for a fight and a row any hour. Don't
see the good of it, not I! What's Repale to us, out here? Brings down
the law folks about us, and disturbs the liberty of this here free
country.'

' 'Tis wonderful how you Catholics do hold together. But I don't
concern myself with it,' said Lynch.

'I'd nigh forgot I was a Catholic, by the powers!' said the man;
'Judy there, she keeps it up of a time for the credit of us both,
but--'

'Didn't I pay up our pence to the priest, and didn't he praise me for
a good Catholic, eh?' Judy laughed.

'So my Nelly was here,' Lynch presently said, having finished eating,
and leaning back so that he commanded the countenances of both his
companions.

'What next?' Judy said with an oath, after a very evident pause of
doubt.

'Well; she was here! I know all about it. You needn't think to hide
it either. Come, you were hired I know on one side. Now you see things
are shifted. You know me. If I'm to be any way concerned with you, it
will be for your advantage to speak up. What's past is past, I know
that. But what is to be, depends you see.'

Judith exchanged inquiring and somewhat frightened glances with the
man, who after a short pause, said gruffly.

'He's right, Judy; Jack's our man. What of the other? The crawling
fellow, he uses us all like a pack of dumb beasts, and then just
laughs at us.'

'Gentleman Bill brought Nelly here. That I know,' said Lynch. 'I want
to know for whom he acted? I did think 'twas the curse of the place
there, that scamp Venn. But I saw he was mad, and beaten like myself.
No, no, that Bill slides and slips anywhere, and somebody has made it
worth his while to lead us on blindfold, and then leave us in a ditch.
Who was it? and where is she gone?'

'As to the first,--Judy, do'ee know the name?' said the man. 'It
beats me--outlandish thing. But he's a up-and-up chap, lives handy by,
or did. Met my lady in the Bush, when she was a crying over her
stepmother's blows, and tells her a lot of gammon, and throws dust in
her eyes. Well! he gets Bill in to the fore, and she's carried off.'

'There ye're wrong, man!' interposed Judy; 'she went free like, to
one Allen, as child's-maid, or anything else you like--Allen's woman
knows what she's about. There this young spark used to go, and talk up
to her. He was thought to be making great love up at the big house,
all the same. But he's an out-and-outer, and no mistake; he's got a
fine place up and away somewhere, and it seems his drays with stores
was going up there (fine chance for a pretty fellow like you, Jack!);
and so Nelly was to join them, and 'twas here they brought her for the
start. Bless you, no money's enough for the bother and the fuss we had
along of it. She was downright crazy, and so haughty like. Her
wouldn't do this, and wouldn't go here! and so on! I had to bring her
to reason, and Robert here showed her the length of his stick, I warn
you, or ever we kept her from running right away, and losing us all
our wages.'

'Go on,' said Lynch, with his teeth set close, and looking at the
woman in a way which, had she seen it, she would scarcely have liked.

'One time the gentry took it in their heads to come gallivanting down
there, where we camped then. Bad manners of them, and good luck for
them they never came back again. Well, if you believe me, the girl
took on one of her frantic fits, and cried out so that they thought a
pig was killing--and that brute of a dog, too, nearly spoilt all sport
by whimpering over one of 'em, too sharp for her own good, she was.
But they went off again, scared by Robert's handsome face there, and
his black mane--off they fluttered like a flock of geese, whispering
and glancing, and holding in their petticoats, for fear they'd come to
some disgrace in 'sich a hole,' as I heard one of 'em say, while she
squinted at us all through a brass ring like, or gold, perhaps, it
would be. Didn't I laugh when they was off? our young spark and all!
'Twas a audacious trick of his to show his nose here, in company with
them all. But he's a prime cock, and will die game, I'll wager.'

'His name?--surely you must remember it!' said Lynch.

'No, I don't. 'Twan't Herbert, was it, Robert?'

'Tush, no! Why he's owner of the farm at the settlement. A magistrate
too. He wasn't here at all. I don't mind the name;--like child's play,
no sound in it to catch hold on.'

'Where's Jem? The boy can tell! Sich a memory he's got! As sharp as a
needle!' Judy said.

'Well! go on. Did she--did Nelly seem to like his visits? Was it of
her own wish and will? Now, Judy, speak true! I'll find out some way,
and if you deceive me, 'twill be the worse for you!'

Judy did not like the red light which now glowed in his eyes, or his
low determined voice.

'Nonsense! Why should I go for to gammon you?' she said, nerv ously.
'As to liking it, she did. She was all smiles and manners when he was
here. La, bless us!--didn't he flatter and give her finery enough; but
when he was off, she'd turn perverse and sit and moan, with all her
hair let down about her like...'

'I know!' he interrupted, impatiently. 'Get on, missis! Quick, and
out with it.'

'The grass wont grow under your steps neither, Jack, if this is your
way!' she replied; a little resenting his short way of speaking.

'But, Judy, why don't 'ee tell the chap why she leant so kindly an
ear to his words? Seems now, were I her follower, as I see plain
enough Jack is, that's what I'd like to reach.'

'Right, Robert. Tell me that, Judy.'

'Well, I believe 'twas on account of his stories about what he was
going to do for her right away; such gammon! But Lord love you, she'd
sit and look at him and drink it all down, same as if 'twas true
gospel. Summut about a ticket; I never could get no sense of it, not
I. And he persuaded her she was to be a married missis, and wear a
gold ring, and keep house, and what not. And she was to be his maid,
to clean up, and wash and mend! Much notion she had of such work! And
she were to have a honest man for a husband, brought up from
somewhere. For you see, there never was no talk of hisself, just to
humour her like, baby as she was!'

Here the man put aside his pipe, and broke out with a gruff, but
hearty fit of laughing.

'Well, Judy woman, didn't I think ye were sharper? La sakes, now!
Where's your wit been wandering? You, who in general jump at anything,
like a shark to the bait. Don't 'ee see now, 'twas just this very chap
the girl were wild after? Don't you see 'twas about Jack the young
fellow gammoned her, telling about getting his ticket of leave, and
getting him up there for his servant, and marrying them right away?'

'As if he would have paid all he did just for that purpose, Robert?
Dullard!' she retorted, contemptuously.

'But can't ye see, now it lies open afore ye? The girl cared for
Jack, and wouldn't leave him, no how. So they just used his name, and
got her in their toils. Once they'd got her there, she might whistle
for her man and her golden ring! He was mad about it, taken with her
silly little baby face; but that's the way of the fine gentleman. Eh,
Jack--am I far wrong now?'

But Jack did not speak. His face was buried in his hands. He raised
it at last to ask, 'And where is she now?'

'O that's more than I can tell or guess. They got her off, though she
fairly cut and run once, misdoubting something at the last. There was
a deal of squealing, I can promise you, and Bill had to just bind her
hands if he wished to keep eyes in his head, and then they up with her
to a horse, and a stouter man nor Bill held her fast. I heard her
squealing for long after they were out of sight; and only that the
young spark had been very firm about no violence, they'd have stopped
her mouth. As to where she is now--perhaps come to her right senses to
know what's what, and not to throw away a good chance up there. Or,
there was a report, which I didn't heed at all, at all, that she left
them, spite of their watching her, and took to the Bush. One man swore
he saw her up in a tree, sitting with her hair all round her and
singing; and he was so scared he took to his heels, and just signed
the cross and called upon the saints, for he'd heard tell of nasty
things, in the shape of women living in wild places, in trees, or in
the sea. But I didn't take no account of this till this very minute,
and now seems like as if it might be Nelly herself. What do you say?'

'O, Jem! here, you're wanted!' called Judy. 'What was the name of
that young gentle chap who comed here after the girl?'

'What, he down to the house? Mr. Fitz. I knows 'un well.'

'Ay, ay, that's the go!' and Lynch's eyes betrayed his also knowing
the owner of that name.

'He's left this. He's got a place up the country. 'Goorundoo' they
call it, or Fair Dale; some one, some t'other, up Yass way, and I
heard tell he'd lots of drays travelling upwards, and a fine stock of
horses he got cheap at a sale.'

'Clever chap!' Judy said, pleased at her boy's knowledge.

'Come here, boy,' said Lynch. 'Here's the last coppers I have,
three--four of them, and if I had more I'd give it to you, and
willing. You've done a good deed. Keep your memory, my lad, and make
it serve you as it will me this day.'

Long afterwards, when the children were asleep, and Judith and Robert
busy in making things secure for the night, feeding the dogs and so
on, Lynch sat still on a stone, a little retired from the glow of the
fire, seemingly lost in thought. Some of the hard bitterness passed
from his face, and his lips trembled as if with deep feeling
struggling for mastery. Once when left quite alone for a moment, the
man and woman being out of sight in search of a missing fowl, he
lifted his head from his hands and said aloud, 'O Nell, Nelly girl!--
have they murdered ye? And you will be seeking the old place, and the
old hut, and no Jack there! Jack's gone, Nelly,--bound for the
gallows! But, please God, he'll seek you yet, and hear of you, dead or
living. And the vile knave, the worse than thief and outlaw, the base
deceiver, the craven coward, I'll find him, too, and demand full
payment for all he owes you and me!'

'What's that you are saying there, Jack?' said Judy, coming back.

'Come, turn in, man,' said Robert. 'Now's the time for sleep. To-
morrow you'll have to put yourself to the fore and begin work. Which
way will ye be going? Best settle the signals, you see. The white rag
there and further down by the falls, means 'all's safe and right
here.' If you sees nothing, don't venture. Down at Sampson's I'll
always get your letters or messages, and he's a tight chap. To-
morrow--well--shan't you be for having a look after Lang?'

'No! I'm bound for the tracks about the road to Goorundoo.'

'You're late for the drays.'

'I know. But 'tisn't the drays I'm after. Robert, if she--if Nelly
should ever come back here, take her in and take good care of her, if
you mean to be chums with me. I tell you she's one of heaven's angels
got down here by mistake--changed at birth, perhaps! Anyway that man
will be bold who dares lay a rough finger on her!'

'What be you after her? That's a bit of cursed nonsense, Jack, and
nothing else.'

'I am after her till I find her alive or--and I am after him, too. I
know him. I'll bide my time--Lang! What is Lang to this one!'

'Well, you do look like something! I wouldn't care to meet you so
everywhere! But 'tis folly to waste so much pluck on a slip of a girl
without her wits. One female is as good as another! Let her go, man,
and just you put that spirit into your dealings with others, and
you'll have plenty of everything, and to spare. And I hope you'll
remember your old friends.'

'Ay,' put in Judy; 'ask her, poor silly maid. She'll tell you I was
kind to her, and gave her a bit of good advice. Don't forget all you
owes us, Jack! In case you start early to-morrow, and I feel so tired
I'm like to sleep late, I know; don't forget us, and you'll find it
handy to have a friend's place for a hide,--a snug, secure little hide
as it is, too.'

Judith would have talked on in her sleepy and now rather fretful
tone, had not the man roughly ordered her off to bed. He then brought
out a sheet of dry bark and a blanket for Lynch; put fresh fuel on the
fire, which was made on some stones outside the hut, and then he left
him. But Jack Lynch slept very little that night. Wild thoughts
coursed up and down his excited mind. Now he was a boy at home, with
his mother; then he remembered, as if it was yesterday, Nelly
Maclean's mother's death, and the girl's bitter grief, and all his
soothing efforts to console her. Then he was again in the lock-up,
being primed by a sympathising friend to meet the cruel scourge with
some intoxicating dram, and he writhed and loathed with agony and
hatred. Above all, Nelly's sweet and artless voice, his 'sky--lark,'
as they called her, her constant love, her trust, and her beauty, with
all her own troubles and ill-treatment, came before him with unnatural
distinctness. He could not keep still. He rose and walked about; then
took off his hat and brushed back his hair, to feel the night air on
his heated brow. His pulses beat quick and full, his limbs trembled.
He looked at and handled his carbine, and felt a throb of joy in its
possession. He fancied how he would waylay and watch for a sure
opportunity when he could face that man, and coolly tell him his sin
was found out, and should be punished. He thought he could see the
dainty young fellow's face turn white, and hear him plead for mercy.
But no mercy should he meet! He grasped the gun so tight as to give a
pang of pain to his own hand, which recalled him to himself, and he
wondered for a moment at finding himself alone in the still, clear,
calm night, the red embers making the wild loneliness of the spot only
the more discernible, and those wonderful lights shining overhead. He
was free--free in a certain sense--with a deadly weapon at command;
but alone,--quite alone, and at war with all. For who was there he
could trust? Who was there that would hesitate to betray him to a
cruel death for a reward?--who, save poor Nelly, if she yet lived.
Then thoughts of her love came and softened him; all that might have
been, and now never, never could be! All he and she had talked of and
hoped, and which in course of time might have been, but now never
could be. He had destroyed their small and distant hope by his own
rash deed. For him to live was henceforth to flee from pursuers--from
death! He would be followed, and watched, and dogged. He must never
rest, never forget; always fight, and take even his needful food by
force. And Nelly! If he ever found her, would she care to share such a
fate? Overcome at last, the reaction followed, and he sank down
exhausted and trembling, cold dew trickling from his face, after the
burning fever. Jack Lynch laid his head on the bark and cried very
bitterly. From his very heart he called on 'Nelly', as if she were
some guardian angel. At last he dropped off into a disturbed sleep,
calling still on her and on his mother. And the sun was above the
hill-top before he woke and understood all that had passed and all
that lay before him.

He wished to go before the hut people came out. But they just caught
him, and sent wishes, and warnings, and prophecies of 'good luck'
after him as he scrambled down the hill and disappeared out of their
sight in the dense and pathless forest.



CHAPTER VII. The Wedding Head-Dress.



Isabel was surprised to find how comparatively little Lynch's escape
irritated her father. Perhaps he was glad at heart to be relieved from
seeing a man he so much disliked, and knew he had not always treated
justly. Or perhaps more pressing troubles occupied him; altogether he
was much calmer and quieter, though grave. Little things did not vex
him, and his voice took a lower tone. He visited all the outlying huts
and the land in process of clearing, leaving orders and noting
progress. He made his boys drive in all the horses, and looked them
over carefully. He also spent some time in arranging his papers, some
of which he was to take to Sydney. Some letters were missing likely to
be of consequence, and he allowed Isabel and even Miss Terry to help
him in the search. Mrs. Lang was energetically busy in looking out his
shirts and darning imaginary thin places in his socks. She also baked
a very large stock of ginger-nuts, which used to be a favourite
indulgence of his, and no one reminded her that it was too hot weather
for such a compound, for every one felt it best that she should be
occupied. One day--it was the day before that on which Mr. Herbert
started for his station--Mr. Lang noticed that his darling Issy was
paler than she ought to be. He spoke of it, and asked if she had been
over--working herself. When she denied it, laughingly, he whispered--
'No fretting, is it?' And she was provoked with herself for being
silly enough to blush so deeply that he could not help observing it.

'What!--after all, Issy? O, fie, fie!'

'No, daddy, indeed, indeed you are wrong! Do you know, I can't
understand why I am so very glad as I am? It only shows me what a
blessing it is things were so ordained.'

'But you can't tell me you are not fretting, child, about something?'

'Yes; but there are many things rather 'fretty' just now, you see.
What is the matter with the Jollys? Not one of them has been here for
such a time--I don't like it! They mustn't cut us! Then about--Kate. I
am rather fidgety about that; and I don't like my daddy's going to
Sydney alone on this errand--and then...But I am not ill--a ride will
make me all right.'

'Then take a ride; Willy and Jem can go.'

'I will,' she answered, readily; 'I want to go and see how Kate goes
on; and I'll be back again for dinner.'

So Isabel and her brothers went to Vine Lodge, and found Kate looking
quite at home and very happy with her friend. Isabel was further
relieved by hearing there that Tom Jolly was away at Mr. Henley's new
station, and Amelia staying in Sydney.

'Do you know anything of the Herberts?' she asked, in a careless
tone, presently.

'No. Don't you? Do you mean he has not been every day to Langville?'
said Mrs. Vesey, with an emphasis Isabel did not like. She wondered if
Kate had told her friend the news of Miss Terry--she didn't like to
take if for granted.

'I have a book here which I must return. I have a great mind to ride
round by the Settlement with it,' said Isabel, speaking to Kate.

'If it is for Mr. Herbert, we are sending a man there this very
afternoon. He will be happy to convey your parcel.'

And Mrs. Vesey, raising her glass, gave a meaning glance and smile at
Kate. Isabel saw it too, and drew up a little.

'Thank you, but--'

'You had rather take it yourself? Well, it is a satisfaction to put a
thing into the owner's hands, I grant, and not having seen him for so
very long--for two days, I think you said?--I dare say you are anxious
to--'

'No--not that! And I shall be very glad if you will let your man take
it. But, Kate, can you give me some paper?'

Isabel spoke haughtily--she meant to be cold--and was offended.

'Here!' said Mrs. Vesey, presently, while Isabel looked over Kate's
shoulder, searching her blotting-book for a sheet large enough. 'See,
Miss Isabel Lang! I have tied it up--I flatter myself on having
parcel-tying fingers! Quite a gift! It 'comes'--no practice or study
will do it. I abhor a clumsy home-tied parcel. It is like a sloven of
a woman, down at heels, and out at elbows. But please direct it
yourself. That will explain matters. A nice little corner for your
love, you see. You look shocked! Is it possible! Now, I should have
said it was quite right and natural to put 'with I. Lang's love,' or
even 'kind love.' I declare I should say so myself. No--'regards'
would be the right term for me. But you must put love, or he will come
cantering up your road in a grand taking, to know the meaning of it.'

'There!' said Isabel, having hastily scribbled the direction in her
worst writing, and not deigning to notice Mrs. Vesey's jokes. 'Dont
forget it, Kate.'

J. HERBERT, Esq..

Warratah Brush.

From I. L., with thanks.

Mrs. Vesey shrugged her shoulders as she read it aloud, saying--
'Cold, freezing! Ah, you are so very proper--quite prudish--though
people do call you...Tell Henry to put this into the basket he is to
carry to Mr. Herbert,' she said, giving the parcel to a servant who
answered her summons, made by striking a glass with her thimble.

'What do people say I am, Mrs. Vesey?' said Isabel, having told
Willie to fetch her horse.

'O, best not repeat these things! It gives a different, and often a
wrong impression.'

'But I want to know. Please to tell me.'

'Well--it is nothing! Only I have heard people say you were a 'fast'
girl--and inclined to rebel against all rules of decorum, and so on.'

'Who are the people, Mrs. Vesey?'

'I can't pretend to specify; several!'

'Our society is so small, it is easy to distinguish. Was it your
husband, or was it Mr. Farrant?'

'I was not thinking of either of them. Certainly I have heard Mr.
Herbert say something of the kind and regret it too, quite in a kind
and friendly, almost fatherly way; Dr. Marsh, too!'

'Thank you! Now, here are the boys! Any message home, Kate? Good--
bye!' and she was soon off, and riding so fast that her brothers
exclaimed, and, for a wonder, begged for a little breathing time.

Isabel was generally chatty and cheerful with the boys, and
consequently a great favourite. To-day she was silent all the way. She
did not like Mrs. Vesey's looks or tone of voice when speaking of Mr.
Herbert. She resented it as impertinent.

Yet, why--what was it? If it had not been for her disagreeable
remarks, she would have added something to the bare direction; at all
events, it would have been, as always before, with her 'love.' She
wished she had not sent the book by their man at all.

And what had kept him from coming again, as he had so distinctly
said he should do? And what made her so peculiarly anxious about this
one visit? Was it his hints and allusions about wanting to speak
quietly to her? What was there to say, now Miss Terry's affair had
been duly discussed? Above all, what was the meaning of his look when
he held her hand and so earnestly bade her good-bye? It could be no
bad news, no subject for his sympathy and needing preparation to bear
it. Whatever it was, it looked like joy to him.

She had hardly ever,--perhaps never, seen him so moved. Again and
again she thought of it, and recalled each expression, every word and
tone, and, contrary to her usual habit, weighed and measured and mused
over it. She had looked with such great, such almost bounding joy, to
seeing him again, mixed with a shy feeling too, which brought the
colour to her face even in thinking of it. Then, as the first day came
and went and he did not appear, she found herself pausing at night
before going to bed, to think of it again, to see if she had invented,
or made something out of nothing. No; she could see it again--that
look! She could feel the pressure of his hand. It was something close
to his heart, something precious which he would not risk exposing to
her perverse moods, but kept back and withheld, in a grave, wistful
impatience, till he felt the right moment was come. 'It was nice of
him,' she thought. It pleased and excited her in an extraordinary way,
considering how much there was to think of about her father's affairs.
This was a little secret hoard which she kept hidden, but peeped at
every now and then, and grew strangely eager to come face to face
with. 'Surely to-day he will be here!' But the to-day passed into
yesterday, and Mr. Herbert came not, and so it was with another day.
And then Isabel grew troubled, and her face showed it. The ride had
not worked its promised cure either; but, luckily, Mr. Lang took it
for granted that all was right and made no remark. They had a quiet
and silent dinner. Mr. Lang drinking wine with his wife and his
daughter, one after the other, and expressing regret that Kate was
away. It took them all by surprise when just before tea Kate herself
rushed into the room, rather excited and out of breath. After kissing
all round, she explained that Mrs. Vesey was obliged to go to the
Budds, and she had proposed dropping Kate at the bottom of the hill by
the gates, and picking her up again in the same spot to-morrow
morning. 'I was glad to come back and say good-bye to papa. Isn't it
fun?'

'It does you credit, Katie girl! Come here and kiss me! I was wishing
to see your pretty face too. Can't help believing I am on some long
journey, though I haven't been accustomed to make much of a ride to
Sydney either. But the errand, I suppose, stretches the distance--and
somehow--I wish I was home again, girl!'

Mrs. Lang expressed great pleasure in Kate's 'pretty attention' to
her father, and her kind, affectionate feelings. Kate's coming
inspired a little more spirit and her reception gratified her. It was
no bad specimen of a family group, bound together by affection, and
drawn all the closer under pressure of a threatened calamity.

'Any commands for Sydney?' inquired Mr. Lang, smiling. 'Come, I am
sure some things are wanted. Lots of white ribbon, white gloves, and
so on--and who is to make the cake? Wont trust me to choose the
finery--eh, Miss Terry?'

'No, indeed, papa!' said Kate; 'who would?'

'Ay, ay!' he said, his eyes growing dim and soft, as, resting back in
his chair, some recollection came over him, causing him to look at his
wife, and then at Isabel.

'Issy, my dear, what do you think was the prettiest and most becoming
dress I ever saw for a bride?--ah! you wont guess--eh, Kitty?--Mrs.
Lang, will she?'

'A veil, of course,' said Kate. 'But what makes you think of this
now?'

'No! veil, no! nothing like it. Shall I tell, mamma?' he said.

'Yes, do! Kate, come and hear what mamma wore when she was married!
We never heard--I never thought of asking, for my part.'

'Ah! we are growing so learned now in these matters--eh, Miss Terry?'

'I should like to be informed, sir; my experience is small.'

'Would you fancy your mother, girls, going out of the beaten track
entirely? By Jove, she was pretty enough to go her own way, too. A
singular costume it was, pretty and simple. Kate, would you wear it? I
bet ten pounds,--though, heaven knows, money is scarce--that neither
one of you here would wear the like! Yet it was very pretty, and would
look well in a picture.'

'Yes, I would, if it was really simple and pretty,' said Isabel.

'And singular! That would settle it for you, Issy,' Kate said, and
got a pinch for her pains.

'What was it, papa? I am curious.'

'A straw bonnet--a broad hat?' guessed Miss Terry and Kate.

Mrs. Lang smiled a little, and then held her handkerchief to her
face.

'What is the use of raking all that up, Mr. Lang?'

'Now, mamma,--we must hear!'

'Well,' said Mr. Lang, 'your mother was married in a--a--hang it! I
never can remember that French name! In plain English--a night-cap!'

'Papa!'

'Impossible!'

'Some play on the word,' suggested Miss Terry.

'Not a bit of it. A night-cap!' he repeated.

'No! Mr. Lang! You always will persist in that mistake. It was not a
cap at all, for I had none. It was a fine cambric pocket-handkerchief
tied over my ears, gipsy fashion,' said Mrs. Lang.

They all laughed and wondered. Mr. Lang laughed too, but in a subdued
way. And again there was that rare, tender light in his eye, as if he
was looking a long way back, and he sighed as he went on.

'Night-cap or not, it was a substitute for one, and I say again, it
was a becoming dress, too. Ay, girls, have ye never heard of the
marriage bells we had,--the feast, the excursion or tour? There was
the parson, and the Captain, the second mate, and, I think, three men
besides, eh!--well, two and a boy--you're right, my dear. Said I,
'Parson, have you a Common Prayer-Book or not?' 'Yes,' he said; 'but
why, Willy?' You see he was a friend of mine. 'Well, find out the
marriage service and join us. I can better take care of her as my
wife; and if the worst comes, it will do no harm.' So I fetched her
out--we had got up a sort of rude shelter, with sails and so on, for
her--all trembling was she, a poor, delicate, slight darling! So young
and so pretty! Ah--well! And there was, as I said, our marriage peal--
the dismal break of the waves on that wild shore; and as for rejoicing
and feast--even as we sat we could hear the devilish infernal yells of
those savages, and we knew the feast they were holding. So I held her
up, and the parson married us then and there; and then we wrapped her
in a large rough coat of one of the drowned men, and I carried her
down to the boat, which all this time the men had got as ready as they
could. We shoved off--seven souls, on a wild, stormy sea, with no
compass, and only biscuit and rum for a few days, and the shouts of
that crew reached us as we pulled on. By heaven! for many a night
afterwards I awoke hearing that noise!--So that was your mother's and
my wife's bridal dress, girls. A prettier one--one more to my mind--I
never shall see. We reached shore, and we got married again, all in
form, just to please your mother...'

'It is no good to repeat and keep up that tale. I can't think why you
told them,' said Mrs. Lang. 'Why should you wish to risk its getting
about?'

'She thinks it a sort of infra dig.--a blot on the escutcheon, you
see,' whispered the husband. 'Now, I don't. I see nothing to be
ashamed of.'

'Certainly not! But why did you never tell us before, my dear
father?' said Isabel. 'And how did it happen? You must tell the whole
story now.'

'Nay, now, my dear--Mrs. Lang, now, don't go! I wont say another
word!' expostulated her husband, and catching hold of her, he gave her
some hearty kisses and pulled her down by him, for she had risen with
apparently the intention of going away. 'I only wish these lasses here
may have, in some respects, as true a sweetheart as I was then,
whatever I've been since--eh, Kitty--Mrs. Lang? Come--I see you
smile--come, 'tis hardly the second or third time maybe, I have talked
of these days; seeing for some reason you didn't fancy it, and indeed
I have avoided it like an ugly picture myself. But sometimes memory is
strong--old thoughts will come. I venture to say, young and
thoughtless as we were to be husband and wife, no truer pair ever came
together. We have seen ups and downs, rough and smooth. We began our
voyage on rough seas, sure enough. Then we put into port, and after
some toil and labour--nothing to young folks--we mounted the ladder,
and I thought I had you in a snug corner for life. On my soul, I did!
But Providence ordains, and we must submit; and if bad times come
again--any way here we are together yet. Cheer up, missis! we'll
weather it; and, after all, Westbrooke is good enough for happiness.'

'But how did it happen?' persisted Isabel. 'I am dying to hear all
about it.'

'Well, then, so it happened. Katharine Keeley and I had plighted our
troth, as they say, young as we were. I had not a hundred pounds in
coin, and she had nothing. But my uncle gave me a hundred bullocks,
and three hundred sheep, and dealing me a round oath, bade me take it,
and prosper as I could, or I should never deserve another farthing
from him. Well! land was to be had for almost nothing then in New
Zealand, and some of your mother's family were settled there and doing
well; so it came about that I was sent there on a message, for which I
was to receive payment if I succeeded in striking a good bargain with
the native chief. Your mother, Katharine Keeley, had been in Sydney
for education, when I first saw her, and now she was to go back to her
kindred. So we both took our passages in the same ship, the brig Emu,
Captain Nuttall commanding. Mr. Rowe, the clergyman, a friend of mine,
and several other passengers were there. We set off with fair winds
and smooth sea. Bless your soul! I thought it was paradise. I was a
good sailor, and there was pretty little Kitty always sitting under
the awning. Famous opportunity, Kate, is a voyage for making love! But
a change came; a gale of wind and many disasters. To be brief--the Emu
split to bits on a rocky shore. That was a smash!--there were two
boats. They took the longboat and provisioned her; and then
ascertained how many could safely go in her. Lo and behold! nine must
be left out. We drew lots; Kitty here was to go; I was left, and so
was the parson. Well! she cried, and vowed she wouldn't go without me,
and no one cared to give up his chance of life for me. So off they
went; and we had the small boat, and our share of provisions too.
Three days we were out in that storm, not knowing where we were, and
two of the men died. But the Captain, who was with us, you see,
guessed that we were near some desperate savage islands, where they
eat one another. Sure enough, at last we sighted land, and made for
it. Water we must have! It cleared up a little, and we saw where we
were. The Captain, and one at least of the men, knew at a glance, and
he knew, if we were seen, we should all be killed. But water we must
get; and there was a little repair to be done to the boat. So we
rigged up a rough shelter from the wind and rain for your mother, and
some of us guarded her, while some mended the boat, and some searched
for water. This they found, at risk of their lives; and they also
found--what assured us of the fate of our poor comrades in the
longboat. My God! I can never forget that hour. Soon we heard those
dreadful cries, yells I may say, in the distance; and one of our men,
who had served in a whaler, and knew about these parts, said it was a
song of rejoicing over some prisoners, and the natives were about to
hold feast, and... good Lord! it was but too true! We heard
afterwards from one, who being but a bit of a cabin boy, managed to
escape, that every soul of them perished; ay,--like so many sheep in
the shambles! So, girls, it was then and there, with a grisly death
staring us in the face, that I got the parson to marry us two; and in
the dress she had on when startled up in the storm your mother became
a bride! The good Lord saved us! We made off unseen. The fiends were
too busy to keep any look-out. The sky cleared and soon the waves went
down. The Captain used all his skill to steer us for New Zealand, and
before we got there, we were seen and taken up by a whaler.

'Now isn't that a romantic and wonderful history, eh? Talk to me of
fiction! Girls! I have seen true, actual life stranger than all the
fairy tales that ever were invented.'

'It is so very strange to have buried it so completely! You should
rather have celebrated your escape every year,' said Isabel.

'Yes. Well, in some fashion we did; for to say truth, we always kept
that wedding-day, and not the day, a month later, when we went to
church, or rather school-house, where the service was then performed.
Only, as I say, mamma here, would never let me notice it any further
than a private kiss, for the shivering, pale, little bride of a Kitty,
who had turned into such a fashionable, matronly lady, as 'Mrs.
Lang!'--eh, mamma? Why! she would never let me call her 'Kitty,' or
even 'Kate,' after we came to my paternal fortune. As to 'Katharine,'
it was too much of it, too big a mouthful for common use; so it
dropped into 'Mrs. Lang,'--dropped into oblivion, like many another
thing which I was very loth to part with. You don't know what a
notable, thrifty little wife my 'Kitty' was. Well! I must say she
deserved her honours. She was a good wife to me in my days of toil,
and deserved to have all she liked when prosperity came. Now, then,
Kate! Issy! if the money for French lace veils and wreaths, and all
such costly 'frizmagigerry' is not 'to the fore,' when it should be;--
what say you? shall it be a--a--what d'ye call it, a 'bony newy,' or a
handkerchief, tied gipsy fashion? which I remember now, it was, and
not a genuine night--cap--which, by the way, I never think a very
pretty thing. But I never see either of you tie a handkerchief so--
over your ears--without a sort of prick taking me back to that
seashore, the cloudy sky, the distant shrieks, and the pretty Kitty
Keeley.'

'Well, now, mamma,' he went on presently, with a genial smile, which
Isabel dearly loved, and still a look as if his eyes were seeing far
back in life--'well; no harm is done, is there? These girls think the
story worth hearing, you see; and by Issy's face, I should guess, she
is thinking that such an adventure is rather an honour than otherwise.
Any how, it has done me good! I think we have too much buried our
past, and forgotten to set up a tombstone either! And now for a wind-
up--a secret in your ear, my dear. No! Issy, Kate, you are not to
hear, on any account.--Whisper! In my secretary drawer--the inner one,
wrapped up carefully, is that very identical 'bony'--what d'ye call
it--'handkerchief,' in fact;--you will find in it as much as will buy
such another at least--in case, some fine morning, either of our girls
should want such head-gear, d'ye hear? Don't tell! for golden shiners
are dreadfully scarce, and what's more, those infernal Bushrangers
have keen scent. Ah! you jade! you must listen, must you?' catching
Isabel, and bestowing a hearty kiss. 'Kate didn't hear a syllable! she
is too demure, my pretty Kate; so I'll reward her too;' and he kissed
her.

' 'Tisn't safe, Mr. Lang, as I have often told you, to have money in
the house. It was a miracle they didn't scent it out that day,'
remarked his wife even while he was still speaking.

'Ah! they'd never find that corner! I'd eat my head if they did!
Well, what shall be done with it? All I know is 'tisn't safe in the
banks! However, whatever it is, and I have almost forgotten, there
lies a little saving which I make over to you. It may come in some day
yet.'

'Give me your key and I will make it safe at once,' Mrs. Lang said,
roused and looking cheerful again.

'I'll be hanged if you shall touch it,' he said, withdrawing the key
from her; 'or at least till you give me due thanks! There! another for
Kitty,' he said, between his kisses. 'And now make it safe and tell no
one. Trust a woman to invent a scheme, and a man to blunder.'

Kate followed her mother. Isabel remained, leaning over the back of
her father's chair, playing with his hair. Miss Terry had slipped out
quietly before, feeling that they ought to be alone.

'Come here, child,' and he placed her on his knee. 'Issy, you know
now that your mother has had some trials in her life. My dear, that
was an awful peril, and she was, I do assure you, as brave as any one
among us; and we were none of us cowards! Her weak little body did
give way. Many times I held her fainting in my arms from cold, and
hunger, and fright, but her spirit was always up. Never a scream or a
sigh. The Captain, who always came to see us as long as he lived, used
to speak with wonder of her. He was very fond of her. I say, Issy,
d'ye think 'twill break her heart to leave this?'

'She will feel it, of course. But no; she will rally when danger
really comes, daddy, just as she was brave then.'

'Bless your heart. Well, God grant it! I own to you, if I saw your
mother grieve and fret too much, I couldn't stand it--I could not. I
vex her often. We have words; but she knows I am sorry afterwards, and
we understand one another. But I declare my chief thought is to make
her happy, and all this bother would be nothing but for the ruin to
her--poor Kitty! poor Mrs. Lang!'

'But you may arrange matters now,' Isabel managed to say through her
blinding tears, for the seeing one or two roll down her father's cheek
was more than she could stand quietly.

'Not much chance of it! But there will be Westbrooke. It will keep
you all alive and going.'

' 'Us' all, daddy, unless you mean to desert us and take your
passage.'

Mr. Lang did not answer. He was lost in thought; a painful, anxious
look shadowed his face.

'Well,' he said presently, as if recovering himself from some maze;
'I shall be right glad when it is over and settled in one way or
other. I shan't stay one moment more than I can help. Issy! look well
after everything. I don't mind telling you, I am uneasy about those
wretched sinners, the Bush fellows. They may do me an ill turn and
come here again. For no consideration resist them. Mind! let them eat
and drink, and spoil, if they will, but keep a good look-out about the
huts, and after the dogs. Have Towser here every night. The Jollys
will come and do anything for you; and the Parson, as far as he can,
he will; 'tother one, Herbert, wont be likely to come! Now don't look
grave, for it can't be helped. Our blood was up, and we had hard
words. I can't put up with his pride, and his cold ways, and his
setting up so! I don't wish to have him here again in a hurry; he
don't suit me. But for all that, angry as I was, I don't bear him
malice. Perhaps,' he added, uneasy at the look in his child's face,
which she vainly strove to conceal, too--'perhaps we shall come round
again in time, that is, if he keeps out of my way just now, while I am
smarting about these miserable money concerns. Anyway, to please you,
I'd swear the peace with any one, even Herbert. But, I say, Issy,
come, tell your old father the truth, my pet. Is this--this man
anything to you? I mean, in all the late love-making, has it so
chanced that you and he...'

'Why, papa! haven't we all been thinking that Mr. Herbert was making
up to Miss Terry till just now?' she said, laughing, but blushing too.

'Well, so we have, or you tried to make me believe it. But that was a
mistake, and--and--Perhaps he knew his own mind all along, you see,
and had the taste to like my darling best. Eh, well now, supposing--
imagining this to be so, what should you say to it?'

'I can't imagine or suppose anything about it. I don't think I have
much imagination.'

'Can't you? Then you aint in love, that's clear!'

'I never wish to be either, if it would make you less happy, and,
what is more, I don't fancy it is in my line at all! I assure you,
daddy, it is quite funny how often I stop with a feeling of joy and
relief, when it strikes me that Mr. Farrant and Miss Terry are
engaged, and that it is no longer expected for me to be entertaining
him, and so on! Yes; I could clap my hands and dance for joy, in spite
of feeling as if they had made us rather foolish.'

'God love you, my pet, and I hope it is not greedy or selfish, but I
don't want to give you away yet, and that's the truth. But, as I have
said before, don't fret! Leave us alone, and Herbert and I shall get
all right again. You'll see! Bless your bright loving eyes, I would be
civil to any one, just to please you! So cheer up, my heart's pet!
Give your old dad a sweet sunny smile now, and go to bed. I have one
or two letters to sort out, and shall follow soon. Mamma and Kate are
counting the hoard, I'll be bound! I wonder where they'll hide it!
Now, Isabel, I leave you to keep up your poor mother, and Kate, and
all. 'Tis your spirit and courage I look to now, while I am away--
and--always. God in heaven bless you, my heart's darling, and a dear
child you have always been to me! Now, again,--and again--good night.
Keep alive and cheerful, and tell Kate to get her bony newy...'

'Not for that Fitz, though!' Isabel said, as she went out, looking
back with a smile.

'No!' her father laughed back. 'As you say, Issy, not for Fitz.
Heaven send her a better one, or, any way, make her happy--all happy!'

Isabel saw her father off just after dawn the next day. His old
accustomed cheery way had come back, and the tender melancholy of the
preceding evening seemed to have vanished, now that it came to action.
She watched him out of sight, and vowed in her heart that come what
might of change or trouble, she would do her best to smooth things for
him, and Westbrooke should yet prove a very happy home for all. Later
Mrs. Vesey called for Kate, claiming the remainder of the visit,
although Mrs. Lang was wishing to keep her now that she was at home.
When they were gone, Isabel felt herself to be on the 'look-out,' in
spite of efforts to the contrary. Nothing but a very sudden summons to
the station would have kept him away! And not even that--'for he could
have found time just to ride here and say good-bye!' No; she
remembered that Mr. Lang had spoken of hard words. Perhaps it was
something fresh. And yet Isabel was not aware that they had met
lately. Mr. Farrant came, and stayed to carve for them at dinner. He
knew nothing of the Herberts, believed they were all right, Mr.
Herbert certainly intending to go to his station, but when, he did not
know. Isabel, in riding with her brothers, passed quite in front of
Warratah Farm. But though any time before, she would naturally have
stopped at the gate and inquired for Miss Herbert, now, some shy,
conscious feeling rendered this an impossible thing; and they even
rode the faster while within sight of the place. For which afterwards
Isabel soundly rated her own folly, and wrathfully attacked Miss Terry
in this way. 'What is come to us all? There is some spirit of stiff
gravity brooding over us. I wont bear it! I will be myself, my
ownself! Why doesn't Mr. Herbert come here as he said he should? It is
your fault. Your hiding up that secret has done more harm than you
think. He is afraid to come, or, perhaps, he is unhappy!'

'No, no, Isabel. He may be busy. These are days for men to be very
anxious and eager about their concerns. But Mr. Herbert will come here
as soon as he possibly can. He is not unhappy now, nor do I expect he
need be so!'

'Oracular! and that nod and smile, full of meaning--if one could
discover what! Well, I wont dispute and run the risk of snapping off
your nose, for I feel savagely disposed. It is dull, dreadfully dull.
Kate must come home. When will daddy be here, I wonder? O, dear me! to
think of my wishing time to fly. A very serious symptom, and it all
comes of having nothing to do!'



CHAPTER VIII. The Hurricane.



Another storm of wind! Not common windy weather which sweeps up
clouds of dust or leaves, and rattles at windows and doors, and which
some persons really enjoy, but a fearful hurricane, destroying
everything weakly which lay in its path, scaring the animals, and
leaving its mark wherever it passed. Just before sunset there was
every symptom of a thunderstorm. Then, when the sun was gone, those
black clouds seemed riven asunder, and dispersed, covering the sky
with light and rapidly moving vapour, and a dull but deep sound came
up the valleys, setting all the trees swaying and shaking, till the
noise increased to a sound which might have been mistaken for the
loudest thunder. It was not a night on which one would choose to pass
through a Bush road where the slight, brittle trees were sure to snap
and fall in all directions. At any pause in the deafening roar might
be heard sharp, loud reports from their fall.

Mr. Jolly paused and turned his horse's head back again.

'No,' he said to his wife, who greeted him eagerly at the stable
door. 'I will not go there to-day. It would be a clear tempting of
Providence. Such a wind is not often felt.'

'And only so lately we had such another storm,' she put in.

Before they reached the house, lingering to ascertain the safety and
well--being of many a fowl or animal, or to mourn over fallen shingles
and the debris from any tenement the least out of repair, they were
turned back by hearing the steps of a horse clatter over the paved
yard.

'Tom!'

'Ay, the lad himself!'

'Why back so soon, boy?'

'Why--why--? Haven't you heard? Don't you know? Mr. Budd said all the
district was up about it!'

'About what? Why, the lad looks scared! What ails you, Tom?'

'Yes--no--that is--Then you haven't heard?'

'We hear the storm, and think you a rash fellow to come on such a
day. Did you take the short road?'

'I did.'

'Good heavens! Tom; do you know how great the peril is?'

'Yes. But I didn't consider--O, father--mother--something so
terrible--I don't know how to say it! Yet father and I ought to be
busy searching, too--'

'Tom! speak out--suspense is worse than any certainty!' and Mr.
Jolly's rubicund face turned pale.

'Mr. Lang is...'

'Dead? Good God!'

'You don't say so!' cried Mrs. Jolly.

'Not dead--at least, no one knows. He is missing. Left Sydney day
before yesterday--'

'Pooh! He has visited some one. He's snug somewhere. Lang is an old
hand, and would know this wind was not good travelling,' returned Mr.
Jolly, with evident determination not to allow any danger, and with
sudden relief shown in every feature.

'But, sir, he left Sydney the day before yesterday,' Tom put in very
gravely. 'It was fine weather. He generally does it in a day. And then
his horse is come home, saddle turned round and torn to bits, and
bridle, of course, in pieces. The creature was found by a man who knew
him and his master, who lives at Bango Bridge Inn. The landlord sent
him on to Langville. I hear they are distracted!'

'Upset--taken to some hut or house near--will turn up. Nonsense, Tom;
nonsense!' again asserted Mr. Jolly, but with a fallen countenance.

'They had heard,' Tom went on, but speaking now to his mother, 'that
his affairs were very bad; in fact, he had settled to go through the
insolvent court. He told them to expect him as the day before
yesterday. Men are out in every direction searching. Nothing has been
discovered; but great suspicion is entertained on account of that
wretched convict who ran away with threats of vengeance. They say he
swore to have Lang's life. The mounted police are out.'

'The mounted monkeys! Cowardly dogs!' ejaculated Mr. Jolly, glad of
something on which to vent his excitement; 'what do they do? Make a
row, and give warning, and let the rogues get off! You and I and half-
a-dozen free British hearts will do more than half-a-hundred mounted
police! John! saddle my stock mare!' called out Mr. Jolly. 'And Prince
for Mr. Tom,' he added.

The wife cast a rueful look at the terrible tempest still raging, but
said no word of discouragement. She hurried in to prepare food and
start them as comfortably as she could.

'Would it be any good my going to the house? Could I comfort any of
them?' she said.

'I called there,' Tom returned, humbly and in a mournful tone. 'I saw
Issy. She looks like--like a stone image. Mrs. Lang was very ill, and
Kate--Miss Lang--had only then come back from--a visit. Miss Terry was
kind enough to speak to me, and even ask our help in the search. From
what she said, misfortunes have not come singly, for the officers were
there to put an execution in the house, the doing of that insolent
fellow, Swartz and Co., who tried to oppose his being whitewashed. She
and Issy told them that Mr. Lang had set off with a full purpose of
throwing up all he had. But they were insolent, the brutes, and there
they remain, till Mr. Lang's lawyer or some one comes to settle
matters. Mr. Vesey was there, making a precious row in the yard. But I
don't fancy he knows much, or that Isabel depends on him. She said she
wished so much for an 'old' friend! Father! I know she will like you
to go!'

'Pooh, pooh! A very foolish affair! Lang robbed and murdered, indeed!
The very last man! That strong active fellow--an old stager, too!
Pooh! Old friends? Of course! Where's Herbert? He is sure to be
there?'

'No, sir,' and again Tom looked distressed; 'Mr. Herbert had set out
for his station; but--so the report goes--he was stopped on the road
by an express messenger from his sister, bearing a letter of wonderful
news from England. That he is heir to a title, and immense estates,
and that he must go there immediately. They say at Bango Bridge Inn
that he is already on board the China, which is advertised to sail to-
morrow. And--and--there are many reports!'

'A budget of gossip!--news, I mean--not half of it is true, I'll
wager,' said Mr. Jolly, considerably disturbed, but not willing to
allow it.

Towards evening the mighty wind went down. It was gone, no one knew
where or how! People were occupied in estimating the ravages, and
breathed more freely, finding their dwellings not swept bodily away,
though requiring considerable repairs.

In the little morning-room, as in former days, sat Kate, Isabel, and
Miss Terry. The Jollys had been there, and had taken back the little
girls, while the boys were with Mr. Farrant. Mrs. Lang was stunned and
stupified; she shed no tears, but remained still all day, refusing
food, and only shaking her head, when anything was said of failure
after a fresh search.

'They were all wrong,' she said. 'All stupid! Mr. Lang knew the
country so well. He would soon come home, she knew!'

Parties of twos and threes went out in all directions, all, hitherto,
in vain! Mr. Jolly showed himself indefatigable and wise, a true
friend in need, as Isabel often repeated and with marked emphasis. It
was a pity to see her so pale and stricken, all the free, bright look
gone. In its stead an expression of startled terror. The very efforts
she made to rouse herself were spasmodic, her tone of voice altered.
Whenever she could, she sat resting her head on her hands, and gazing
with dry eyes, that seemed to burn for want of a tear. Kate, too, was
deeply dejected, and wept all day. She was glad if she could find any
one to listen, to talk. Miss Terry was a great support, being calm and
self-possessed, and Mr. Farrant was constantly there, acting as much
like a son as he could.

'What was the report to-day?' Kate inquired, languidly.

'It is supposed,' returned Miss Terry, 'that another servant is
involved--Lynch! He is known to have been at Charlie Brand's hut. They
are searching for him in another direction. Mr. Fitz, they say, is out
with a party of mounted police. The poor wretched man has been seen in
that district, and they think he is hiding not far off.'

Kate's face brightened a little.

'So, you see, he has not so entirely forgotten us!' she remarked,
triumphantly.

Isabel, on the contrary, looked only more sad. She said--'Lynch,
too! Poor fellow!'

But the real pressure was in the thought that among all who came
forward to show sympathy and offer help, the one she most anxiously
looked for, kept away. Why was it? Could it be that the wretched
misunderstanding with her father had engendered so deep an anger? The
entire absence of the Herberts from any participation in this trouble
gave great offence to Mrs. Lang and was sharply commented on by Kate.
Even were he still at his station, there was time to have heard (for
such news flies fast), and to have written. Miss Herbert, too! where
was she, that no message or line even, came to remind them of her
being an acquaintance? There was a great struggle in Isabel's mind
whether she should volunteer a note to Miss Herbert or not. It would
end suspense. But it was too like begging for notice, and her pride
refused such a step. When a subject is shut up in one's own mind and
dwelt upon unduly, it is apt to become magnified and distorted. It was
so, perhaps, here. Isabel was suffering a double portion of grief in
imagining the reasons for this painful and unaccountable silence. At
last she broke silence, and remarked to Kate, 'What can have come to
Miss Herbert not to call, or send to inquire?'

'Why, Issy! is it possible? Have you been asleep or deaf? Don't you
know that Miss Herbert is gone away--they say, sailed for England.
Certainly her brother took his passage in the China; Mr. Jolly says
they have succeeded to some property.'

This was news! Isabel, engrossed at first in the terror of her
father's disappearance, had failed to hear any other remarks. Since
then her own silence and reserve had kept her ignorant. Without
another syllable, she now withdrew; whether this was a relief or not,
she did not know. It was so strange, so unexpected, that it needed
consideration, and her mind was so tired, so utterly weary of
supposing and concluding, that even while she mused, she dropped into
an uncomfortable nap, the result of over-taxed strength. When she
roused herself from this fit of drowsiness and rejoined the others,
she found them eagerly gathered round a letter just received from Mr.
Jolly, who had despatched a messenger with it.



CHAPTER IX. The Stockman's Rounds.



On the morning after the storm, Charlie Brand, the stockman at
Westbrooke farm, saddled his sorrel mare, and, with his grim, sardonic
smile, surveyed the premises, keenly noting what had suffered and what
escaped. He was uneasy as to the fate of some wild young horses in the
bush paddock--that is, a large portion of the bush or forest fenced
off--and directed his mare that way. He was far too experienced a
bushman to be surprised at finding the usual beaten track blocked up
by fallen trees, so that it required some skill and patience to get on
at all. At last, after a long circuit, he spied his charges grouped
together in a small cleared space, raising their heads and snorting
with shy yet friendly greeting as the old sorrel and her rider came in
sight. At a peculiar noise he made, they put down their noses and
smelt, and then advanced a few paces;--then a little closer, and so on
till one had his shaggy yet well formed head resting in familiar
confidence on Charlie's arm; while another made advances to the
sorrel, who only responded by twitching her odd tail about and
imperturbably nibbling the grass which grew within her reach. After a
few moments passed in this way, Charlie mounted again, and when he
moved on he was followed by his friends. He turned off into a
different direction from that he came, meaning to try to fall into
another track or bush-path, sometimes used by travellers as a short
cut to Sydney. Jogging along and whistling as he went, he was suddenly
thrown quite on his mare's neck, and a few words, more pithy than
polite, came from his lips in his surprise at the skittish nonsense of
the usually staid animal. But to-day she was moved and lost her wonted
balance; with ears pricked up and eyes starting, the sorrel backed and
turned and jumped, and not all Charlie's efforts could induce her to
keep from swaying violently from one side of the road to the other.
'The devil! what is it, then? Be hanged if I can see anything, you
vile old humbug--capering about in this mad fashion now, in your
advancing years. Ay, and there's the young ones following your bad
example--in course! Snort away! Some dead wild dog or native cat or
bullock, maybe--' and he dismounted.

It required considerable remonstrating and patting before the sorrel
mare could even then be induced to stand still and not suddenly rush
off, breaking the bridle. On the farther side of a grim, rough, iron
bark tree, among the clustering currant bushes, lay what Charlie soon
saw to be a man. He was lying with his face turned round towards the
ground, his hat was off, and not to be seen directly. Cautiously, and
with that awe which the roughest and bravest spirit feels face to face
with a violent death, Charlie crept nearer, and was about to examine
into it more narrowly, when, from a young tree near at hand, with
heavy flight, soared away one of those large carrion birds, ever found
near death. Two or three large magpies followed, uttering the
plaintive note peculiar to them in Australia. Charlie shivered and
looked stern for a moment, then again his curiosity overcame his
dread, and he turned round the head delicately and tenderly. But he
let it go again, staggering back, pale and fixed with horror.

'My God! That wretched fellow! Then he has gone and done it! The
scamp! The black heart! The poor miserable sinner has not been content
with dishing himself here, but he must get himself ruined for the next
life too! I oughtn't to have let him off so easy, but somehow--I
didn't... I've been angry myself, and had bitter thoughts...but--it
wouldn't have come to this. And so I believe I didn't think it would
with him.' He now fastened the mare to a sapling, and proceeded to
find out if indeed it was hopeless death, and how it had chanced.

There was blood on the shirt front and on the ground which he found
came from a cut on the temple and from the nose and mouth. Mr. Lang
was quite dead--had been dead for many hours.

It was far from any help--no one was the least likely to pass that
way. Charlie stood considering what to do and also how this had
happened. Mr. Lang had no arms upon him. His purse was still in his
pocket. Then Charlie went back, searching about on the ground for any
indications of a struggle or as to which way Mr. Lang might have been
going. There was a slight appearance of pressure among the currant
bushes near, some of which were half broken and bent. Some few yards
off he also found one or two marks of a horse's shoes, pointed towards
the up country road, but these were speedily lost entirely. Searching
with keen and observant eyes, he at last saw, on a prickly banksia, a
small scrap, apparently from a woman's dress. Then, further on, a
piece of faded, dirty blue ribbon and some dead wild flowers, which
had evidently been bound together with grass, and when withered, cast
aside. Nothing more did he see, till, returning to where the corpse
lay, on a branch growing low down on a gum tree, a man's hat caught
his eye--Mr. Lang's, probably. It had been evidently hung there
purposely by some hand. Charlie looked and shook his head--'Foul play,
I'll swear,' he said, and removing the hat he saw 'J. Lang, Esq.,'
written within.

Then after a few more moments' deep thought he lifted the body, and
managed to place it on his mare; securing it as best he could with his
necktie, pocket-handkerchief, and a piece of green hide. He rolled up
his old blanket, which as a habit he always took on his saddle, and
made a cushion which supported the head; and then leading the mare, he
retraced his steps, walking with bowed head and downcast face. He
placed it on his own stretcher, and even gently stroked aside the
hair, which soiled with dust and blood lay heavy on the brow.

The last time they had met--master and man--harsh and bitter words
had passed. Mr. Lang was a sharp master; but Charlie had served him
well, and had found contentment at least in his service. He was a man
strongly influenced by old habits, and possessing a certain dry,
rough, but very earnest affectionateness, which was showed by his
fondling every animal within his reach, and never passing a child
without a smile and a joke. He was moved to the heart now! His
conscience smote him for all the intemperate words he had uttered to
Mr. Lang. Here was the husband--the father smote dead, left to be the
prey of wild things--or, to the chance discovery of his own servant!

It was very awful! Mr. Lang was known to have been very hard on
Lynch. Lynch had been liked by Charlie; and he was sorry to think of
this deed and its consequences. Yet he did not hesitate. He determined
at once to go to the nearest settlement, and get a constable, and
speak to the Squire Morrison--no time was to be lost. All the
consequences of this step rose clearly to his view. He would be
questioned about his having seen Lynch, and, perhaps, would be called
as a witness against him! He stayed to light his pipe, 'to put a
little comfort and spirit into him,' as he said, and then covering the
body decently, he left his hut, making the door as secure as he could.
Accompanied by his dogs, he walked on, looking neither to the right
nor to the left. As he climbed over the fence which led into the road,
he fancied he caught sight of a man near the small bridge which
spanned the road; whoever it was, he seemed to cross the opposite
fence and was hidden behind a clump of wattles. Charlie went on, still
buried in his thoughts. The grief of Mrs. Lang and her children was
now dawning on his mind, slow to take an impression, and only now
thinking of the calamity in that light. 'Miss Isabel, his favourite,
her papa's darling--how her bright eyes would sadden!'

'Hallo! Who's there? O, Thompson; well, I was going to find you!' he
said, finding himself suddenly touched on the shoulder by a man he
knew to be a constable.

'Indeed! was you?'

'Yes, I was, and to Mr. Morrison too--something has happened--'

But his words were suddenly checked by the sight of another man who
came from the fence, and was exchanging looks with Thompson.

'The fact is, Brand, I--we--'

'Cut short,' said the other in a gruff voice. 'We were after you.
Lucky meeting! By your leave--' and while he produced a pair of
handcuffs, which he rapidly proceeded to place on the astonished
Charlie, he nodded grimly at a paper which meanwhile the more
hesitating Thompson took from his pocket, and held out for Charlie to
see.

It was a warrant for his seizure, on suspicion of having murdered J.
Lang, Esq.

'How can you say that? when I've just found the body--brought it home
to my own place and set off as fast as my legs would carry me, to tell
of it! Come, no nonsense, Thompson.'

'Certainly not, Brand! I'm sure I'm uncommonly sorry--'tis awkward
and disagreeable; only take care, Brand, what you say, for it might
bring you to trouble. Serious affair, you see!'

'Look at this,' growled the other, and pointing to some marks of
blood on Charlie's hand and shirtsleeve--jacket he had none on.

'Ah, yes! suspicious, awkward, very!' said Thompson, pompously, in a
very evident fright all the time.

'Nonsense! Don't I tell ye I found him, lifted him and brought him
home? 'Tis his blood--'tis.'

'Exactly, his blood.'

'His face had blood on it--running from mouth and nostrils on to the
ground--lying along in the wild currant plants, he was. Now he is on
my stretcher. Come and see him, if you don't believe me.'

'Perfectly. I quite believe you, my dear fellow--only--duty--warrant!
You see, to obey orders is my creed. Mr. Morrison and Captain Lambert
signed the warrant, sent me on and Bent here--and here we are, ready
to do our duty, and sacrifice our feelings to the hard altar of duty.
Please don't talk, Brand; it might do you harm; swallow down your
words, don't let 'em out. Keep your own counsel, and it is their
business to prove it.'

'Well, they can't prove what isn't, any way; though many an innocent
man is punished for the guilty, as I know--and if I am ordained to be
the man--well, no use making a jaw. But there's my poor beasts must be
fed, and there's the body up there, you see.'

'That will be attended to.'

'O well, lead on, then! Where am I to go to? a man don't know in the
morning where he'll be lying the night, eh?'

'To the North Creek lock-up. Don't take it to heart, my fine fellow.
Comfortable accommodations, and if you've the cash, good brandy to be
had dirt cheap; made not so very far off as to make the carriage
heavy. In that very place, I and Toms, he's dead now shot through the
lungs poor cove, what we all risk in the cause of duty! Well, as I was
about to observe--hem--in the North Creek lock-up, Toms and I had the
honour of putting a very great fellow in his day--no other than the
celebrated Riley--he as shot an officer commanding the mounted police,
and killed two men up country, besides divers other deeds. He lay a
night in this lock-up, and bless your soul! he called for the best to
eat and drink, and made himself very comfortable, and the next day
marched on before us, with the police armed to their chins, riding in
file. 'Twas a hot, dusty day! One time I thought all was up, sure
enough, when we stopped to rest, and Toms he went to see and get us
something to drink from a hut we spied not far off. So we sat down
under the starved, miserable little sticks, what passes for trees
thereabouts; all at once, says I, where's Riley? Nowhere was he to be
found! Such a sputter; such a swearing and cursing; such a hallooing
and calling, and the police talking big about going here and there and
everywhere! And after all, there was my friend coolly grinning at us
behind a bush, just making himself 'snug and comfortable,' as he said.
'No, no; now he was nabbed, he'd take it quietly, and make no more
fuss,' he said. And so he did. For not a month after he was hanging,
and I saw him myself.'

Beguiling the way with such talk, they marched poor Charlie Brand to
the nearest settlement; and here as soon as possible was the body
removed, and an inquest held.



CHAPTER X. The New Schoolyard.



A piece of ground had been fenced and cleared round the new church
which Mr. Lang had taken such interest in building. It was not ill-
chosen and being rather elevated, it commanded a view of the
surrounding country. Mr. Farrant had left a few native apple trees; a
picturesque, gnarled tree and some evergreen shrubs prevented the
bare, desolate aspect which too many newly cleared spots have. It was
a solitary place, though it was not likely long to remain so. Around
the new church there would soon spring up some huts tempted by the
richness of the adjacent soil and the luxury of a full and good sized
creek, which, making a sudden turn in its course, seemed, as Mr. Lang
had pointed out, to have come that way on purpose.

Here, two men were digging, and now and then they paused and looked
down the road.

'Well; Lang didn't think who'd be the first to try the feel of this
here ground, eh, Bob?'

'Not he,' returned the other, also leaning on his spade and shifting
his head for a moment. ' 'Twere a particular fancy of his, this here
place, and they say as how it led to words 'twixt him and Herbert and
Budd. To my thinking 'tis a pretty place, and if the land is let in
lots like for the clearing and building, I'd not mind just to take
one. Look, d'ye see?' and he touched the earth which stuck to his
spade. 'This is rightdown good soil; and that creek, too--and then
'tis right upon the high road to Sydney upwards--Lang knew what he was
about.'

'Ay, ay--and so he did, Bob! Well, poor fellow--'pon my soul, I'm
sorry for him this minute, I be; though he did get me twenty infernal
lashes. Well, well; I wonder where he be gone to. 'Tis a queer
thought, aint it, Bob?'

'They parsons tell a deal about it. Perhaps 'tis true--perhaps
'tisn't. But learning is a great thing to help a man on, Andrew. I
have heard say it brings a man to know about the lights up yonder, and
showed him where this here great big country was. If so, I don't see
why it shouldn't give me a hint or two about the world we are all
bound to, I suppose.'

'The poor will come to the top, mayhap, then. My old father used to
talk wonderful--his tongue got him into scrapes; for he was always
speaking and telling of the troubles of the poor and how they get
oppressed. Well, and he said, that next life, the poor would have
their own way, and they'd...'

'Lynch couldn't wait for that, poor chap; he's been and done for
himself. Must be caught in the end.'

'What!--don't 'ee think 'twas Charlie, then--eh, Bob?'

'Not I. Bless 'ee--Charlie's not the chap for it.'

'Ay, ay? Well, Lynch was aggravated, as I will say; and 'tween
ourselves, Bob, Bill Smith didn't do him no good. He got his sharp
fingers in, and I'd lay a wager he know a thing or two this minute
about this here affair.'

'Folks talk as how that Herbert had no goodwill for Lang. They met
at the inn down away, and had hard and warm words--so they say--and
Lang muttered something as he rode off; and Herbert got merry like--as
a man does trying to keep off thoughts and deceive people. He talked a
great deal and looked strange, they say, and didn't eat nothing, but
seemed all put about and astray like. Then he rode away after t'other,
you see.'

'Bless my soul! you don't say so? Ay, ay? Well, that's a choker. And
so they are saying as how that--'

'Well, they talk--talk, that's all! 'Twas strange, you see. There
was a quarrel; and the house servants were speaking about it, and that
Miss Issy was very much hurt at it. But, mind me, see if they don't
look it all over, and just prove black and white against the
Government man. Either Charlie or Lynch or both will swing for this
here deed whether 'twas another did it or no.'

'I wonder will it be a large following?' remarked the other, after a
pause.

'No great things, I dare say,' returned Bob. 'He was not much liked;
but, I say, what's that? Here they are, then, at last. Come on, we
must dig away, or we'll be behindhand.'

Yet both lingered near the fence watching the approach of the hearse
as it slowly mounted the hill.

They brought him home, past the church he had built, to his own
place, there to rest for a short space only, for on the next morning
early he was borne to his grave--the first in the churchyard. Mr.
Jolly and his son and Mr. Budd accompanied the body home. And now, in
spite of his man Bob's prophecy, a long train followed the funeral.
Besides his own family and servants, several people came from a
distance, and once again, and for the last time, every possible
contrivance was made at Langville to accommodate those who had come
far, with beds--the Parsonage also lending help. The additional
trouble which this brought to Mrs. Lang was joyfully borne in
consideration of the honour and respect shown to her husband.

'So many friends!' she remarked.

'Yes,' answered Isabel. 'A great many people. But as to friends--we
shall have to begin afresh in that respect as in every other.'

There were many she had never expected or even thought of--she felt
the compliment--but it seemed to mark it only as still stranger that
any one should be absent. Then she turned to listen to Mr. Jolly, who
was speaking in a hushed, solemn tone.

'There are grave suspicions, I grieve to say. He is committed for
trial, and they are vigorously prosecuting a search for Lynch.'

'Who is committed?' asked Isabel.

'Charlie Brand.'

'Charlie--Charlie Brand?--committed for--for--what is he suspected
of, Mr. Jolly?'

'Of--you know, my dear, he was seen to be in a great passion here--
and--'

'I know--I saw and heard him!'

'Well; and he was heard to utter some foolish threats, and then--in
fact--I need not enter into details which must be painful; but there
is grave cause for suspecting him. Poor misguided man!'

'It is not true--it can't be true! Mr. Jolly, I am so sure Charlie
didn't--didn't--couldn't. He kill my father! No--no!--if all the
world, and all the courts of justice say yes--I will say no! And can
nothing be done--can no one speak for him--see him? Don't you feel it
to be an impossibility yourself, mamma?'

'My love, remember, when people are in a passion they don't know
anything, and he was heard to say strange and very wrong things. And
that dreadful Lynch! I always did dread him! That girl, too! she set
him up and did mischief.'

'Poor Charlie! If I could but see him and tell him, I believe him
innocent! Poor fellow! where is he, Mr. Jolly? I must and will see
him!'

'O, Issy! how strange you are! See or care for a man who has murdered
poor papa? I am sure I hope he will be hanged!'

'Kate, don't say such things. It is not proved yet. Doesn't he deny
it himself?'

'O, yes! His story is that he found him lying dead in the Bush, and
brought him back to his hut. Well, time will show. He will have a fair
trial and a clever lawyer to plead his cause.'

'If Mr. Herbert was here, this would be prevented!' cried Isabel. 'He
knows Charlie so well. He would say at once that...'

'A fair trial!' again repeated Mr. Jolly. 'I say, I wish the poor
fellow no harm; but I wish to find out and punish the perpetrator of
such a foul and wicked deed. My poor friend, your father, must not be
allowed to perish without our stirring heaven and earth to discover
how it was. There are strong suspicions against Brand and against
Lynch. Both had been heard to utter violent words, both had been
reprimanded, and had therefore a spite against the master. It can be
proved, so I am told, that on the morning that Charlie Brand came and
went in that strange way, he saw Jack Lynch as he went through the
bush. Lynch spoke of the girl Nellie, and Charlie's words are reported
to have been--'I wouldn't stand it.' Then Lynch runs away, after being
insolent and threatened with punishment. He goes straight to
Westbrooke Farm, straight to Charlie's hut. They were seen together
the day following the storm. But I need not say all this...'

'No; but if there was twice as much to say, I still declare that
Charlie is not the man. You might as well say, Mr. Jolly, that you
yourself or any other friend did it in a fit of anger,' Isabel said,
warmly.

Mr. Jolly's countenance at this assumed a strangely troubled aspect.
Casting his eyes for an instant on his son, who blushed deep crimson,
he bent them on the ground and muttered some incoherent words.

'Take care, my dear love,' he added, patting Isabel's shoulder.
'Many a word uttered in chance and in sheer carelessness, may be
caught up and turned to evil, in such a miserable and mysterious
affair as this is. Don't play with edge tools.'

'Edge tools! Careless words!' she repeated. 'Mr. Jolly, did you hear
me rightly? I only said that it would be easy to patch up a string of
evidence if one chose, and say a friend did it.'

'I know. What makes you say this? Have you any--any--fear? Have you
heard? Good God above, Issy!' the old man went on, apparently
gathering fright from her scared face. 'Say you spoke carelessly, not
with meaning. Child! do you know what is said? what people are saying
now--yes, now?'

'O father!' cried Tom, almost reproachfully.

But the old man's words, and yet more his manner, had by this time
riveted the attention of every one, and they urged him to speak out
and not hide anything. Mrs. Lang said she ought to know all that was
said or thought.

'Yes,' joined in Isabel, 'tell us. There is no more harm in
suspecting one more than another. Convicts are not the only wicked
people.'

'Surely not! Yet--this trouble is dark enough, Heaven knows, without
idle tongues wagging. Folly! Nonsense! No--no--no! May as well put it
to myself, or to Tom there! I say, were circumstances, was evidence
ten times more damning,'--the old man grew more and more vehement,--'I
say, I would punish such slander. An angry man, a proud man, he could
be at times, but to turn his hand and slay his neighbour, his friend,
his enemy, if you will,--I affirm, John Herbert is not that man!' and
he struck his stick loudly on the floor to emphasize his words.

'John Herbert! Mr. Herbert!' was breathed out in solemn, startled,
and fearful whispers, and each face changed in a moment. Isabel's
colour flew to her very temples. She gasped for breath and pressed her
hand on her throat.

'O what a wicked, wicked lie! And he, where is he?'

'Yes, where is he?' echoed Mrs. Lang. 'And what makes them say so,
Mr. Jolly?' and she burst into a fit of weeping, in which Kate joined.

'People will say anything--anything!' said Tom, eagerly. 'They love
mystery and horror! I wish there was a punishment for chatterboxes!
Slander,--it is slander, libel.'

'It is an ugly fact, that they had warm words at the inn; that they
were known to have disagreed before. And now Herbert's very absence,
his quick going away is brought up against him. They say it is all a
story about a fortune.'

'But is Miss Herbert gone, too?' asked Isabel.

'No, I think not,' said Tom.

'Then ask her! Go or write and ask her if he is gone to England on
business, or...'

'She wouldn't say, if...' remarked Mrs. Lang.

'Yes, she would! Go, Mr. Jolly. Go at once, as a piece of righteous
justice to an absent man, a fellow-creature, a friend! Go at once to
her, and ask her these plain questions.'

Mr. Jolly looked puzzled, and again patted Isabel's arm kindly,
murmuring, 'Poor little soul! Poor child! You ought not to have heard
about it, but God will bring out the truth! He will not let the
innocent suffer!'

'Yes, father, Isabel is right. Let us,--I will, if you like, and if
you think me fit for it. (You see, Issy, father is tired.) Let me go!
I am ready to start at once. I will see the poor lady and ask her to
tell me why her brother went, and all about it.'

After a little further conversation, they all agreed that it was a
shocking report, and the sooner it was stopped the better; unanimously
voting it to be right to learn what they could from Miss Herbert, and
for the time forgetting little grievances against her, in anxiety to
prevent her hearing the rumour, 'poor lady!' It was settled for Tom to
rest that night, and to start early in the morning on his mission,
meanwhile they were to send to Warratah Brush, and inquire there what
the overseer knew of his master's and mistress's movements.

'Doesn't it seem a horrible addition to the grief, all this wretched
suspecting others?' Isabel remarked to Miss Terry, as they slowly
paced up and down the verandah waiting for Mr. Jolly's return; for he
would go himself to Warratah Brush.

'After all, why are we to be so sure it was a murder? Papa may have
been thrown.'

'Yes; very true. But I suppose this was thought impossible on the
inquest. Yet how careful they ought to be in such a hidden case.'

Isabel was very pale now, and she shivered.

'Are you cold?' Miss Terry inquired.

'Yes--no; that is, not in the body; but I feel cold in my heart! Only
a few weeks, a few days almost, ago--to think of us all then, and now!
I used to think life so quiet and dull! and now--Can I be myself,
Isabel? who laughed, and believed care was far away in spite of
poverty. O, poor dear daddy!' She stopped, quite overcome. Then
rallying, she spoke fast and eagerly, not waiting for an answer. 'Why
need there be a trial? Why didn't they say, 'accidental death?' This
is making it three deaths! It was bad enough before. Papa dead, gone
for ever! No one to know what he felt; and friends forsaking us--being
offended! So forlorn I thought the world was this morning, so dreary
and hopeless! and now, this is worse again. Of course it is all wicked
nonsense; yet to have such a thought breathed--O! isn't it too much?
And if he ever hears it, as he will and must--O dear!'

Miss Terry felt anxious for the poor girl; she looked as if years
older; for Isabel was one on whom sorrow and anxiety told deeply and
rapidly. As Miss Terry remarked to Mr. Farrant, there was cause for
fear about her, unless some little change or relief came soon. She had
grown visibly thinner, and never had the relief of quiet weeping which
her mother and Kate had. She either slept not at all for the whole
night, or she fell into a dead heavy sleep, which seemed thoroughly
unrefreshing. She took to being much alone, even avoiding, after just
the first, Miss Terry. For hours she would sit at her own window,
doing nothing. And these long times of thinking, so new to Isabel,
seemed at last to bring calm to her.

'What do you sit so much alone for, my love?' her mother would ask.
'It is so dull, so bad for you. For my part, I don't like to be alone
a moment now. It is better to employ oneself, and prevent dwelling on
it at all.'

'Yes, for you, mamma. But I am very busy at those times--busy in
sifting and understanding things. I have found out a great deal, I
assure you. At least, I have learnt my own foolish ignorance, and
perhaps it will guide me for the future.' Isabel tried to speak
cheerfully.

'How odd you are, Issy!' cried poor Kate. 'What can you mean? How
will it guide you? How were you ignorant? For my part, I can't bear
thinking at all now. There is nothing to think about!' and tears
directly came.

On the fourth day, Miss Terry came outside to Isabel's window, at
which as usual she was sitting, and she was startled at the infinite
sadness of the girl's unconscious gaze. Forgetting why she came, for
the instant, she was moved to stoop, and press a kiss on her head, and
say, 'Isabel, he will come back; all will be cleared!'

'What! have you heard? What do you mean?' Isabel exclaimed, her whole
expression changing at once, and her pale face flushing up.

'Of that, how could I hear? but I prophesy it. No, don't shake your
head so hopelessly, dear Isabel. Let me say just this once, that I
understand your feelings, and all, all...'

'My wretched, bungling, ignorant mistakes,' Isabel interrupted,
abruptly. 'It is half my own doing, and not the easier to bear for
that. Never mind! I am not going to give way. Have patience with me.
Say not a syllable to mamma and Kate. You will see I shall come out of
it in time.'

After a moment's pause, Miss Terry said, 'But I interrupted you to
tell you that Mr. Jolly is here. Yes, he went himself, after all, and
saw her! From his own account, good old man, he managed very well, not
to shock her; and she had heard nothing at all, luckily. A fortune, a
large landed property, has come to Mr. Herbert. The news was sent
express after him, and overtook him two stages on his way to the
station. He turned back at once, and was just in time to secure a
half-cabin in the China. It was of consequence for him to lose no
opportunity. Miss Herbert was left to wind up affairs and to follow.'

'What alone, poor lady?'

'No, not alone. Mr. Jolly's was the first smile I have seen on any
face for many a day. Fancy, she asked Mr. Jolly for congratulations;
next week she is to be married!'

'You don't say so!'

'Yes. Dr. Marsh came in while Mr. Jolly was there. Well, isn't it
funny?'

'Very! I suppose he--Mr. Herbert--knew it; or has she done it since?'

'I conclude he knew it, for Dr. Marsh has authority to manage
business matters. Warratah Brush is to be sold...'

'Of course!' and Isabel sighed heavily. 'But not unless a fancy price
be offered,' continued Miss Terry, 'which is quite improbable. It is
to be left to the overseer, and the station is to be kept on, too.
That looks like...'

'Good management!' put in Isabel, quickly. 'Waiting for better times
and a better sale--that's all.'

'Well, at all events, one's mind is relieved. For Mr. Jolly looks
quite bright again. Miss Herbert's quiet and simple answers and
information cleared away the ugly mist from his mind; for, as he said,
though he didn't believe a syllable, still he wished to feel terra
firma under him.'

'O, I never felt any doubt. It is absurd!' Isabel answered, sadly,
and again sighing. 'That didn't weigh on me, at least beyond the first
dreadful idea. Does he say any more of the others, Charlie and Lynch?'

'No. But come and see him; you have sat here long enough.'



CHAPTER XI. Bush-ranging.



After leaving the hut where we last brought him, Lynch made the best
of his way, avoiding all roads, yet keeping on his course wonderfully.
He was a powerful, stout man, but rough walking and much fasting began
to tell on him. He was now beyond his own range. He only guessed his
way, and had no longer any friendly hut to seek, where he was sure of
shelter and food.

It was a wild country, and he was forced to look about him, and not
lose sight of fences or other marks of civilization. Once after a
weary spell of many miles, in which his shoes had worn quite off, and
his clothes were much torn by the bushes, he came almost suddenly upon
a 'clearing.' Heaps of trees lay piled and ready for the firing, a lot
of ironbark palings were lying on the ground too, ready to begin a
fence. Warily he climbed a tree, and saw in the distance some smoke
and some sheep. He also heard a sheep-bell.

It was evidently some newly formed sheep station; now the question
was, how should he proceed? Food he must have; clothing too,
especially shoes, would be very acceptable. He examined his gun and
his powder-flask; all was right; so was his knife and his small
tomahawk, which he wore suspended in his leather belt--yet he paused,
and looked grimly doubtful. Was there no other way of satisfying his
hunger? He bitterly cursed the life, and all who had led him into it,
but his doubts were suddenly stopped short by the approach of a dog of
the terrier breed. Up went the gun in a second, and stepping back
behind a large tree, he was again a man prepared to resist or attack a
fellow-man--an outlaw!

The dog stopped short, and uttered a bark, then came nearer,
sniffing and pricking up his ears. But Lynch's threatening eye told,
and after another stare, and a few more barks, he turned, and was out
of sight. Lynch receded further into the forest, and waited awhile to
listen, but except the distant sheep-bell, he heard nothing. For a
long time, till the sun got alarmingly low in fact, he skulked about,
not liking to go nearer to the station without ascertaining the number
he should have to deal with, and yet knowing that here he must feed.
Again he climbed a tree, and looked around him, but not a man was to
be seen, though still the smoke went up, and still every now and then
the bell tinkled. From the look of the clearing, and all the timber
which had been felled, he was sure there must be more than one man.
Perhaps two, a shepherd and his mate, who felled the trees. Well, he
could manage two, unless they had a savage watch-dog, as was
frequently the custom. Again he gave a look, and this time he saw a
man engaged in gathering up sticks for his fire. It was evidently an
old man, Lynch believed somewhat of a cripple, too. Looking further
and intently (and blessing his wonderfully keen and clear far-sight),
he took notice that from the dress, this man was still a government
servant; he might therefore turn out a friend. Greatly relieved, Lynch
came down from his post of observation, resolved to try what fair
words would do, and glad to be yet once more excused from making his
first essay as a robber. He walked on fast, and again the terrier
appeared in the path, and again accosted him with a bark
interrogatory, to which Lynch this time responded amicably, and
whistled for him to approach. He took the dog's obeying him as a good
omen, and was even patting the creature, forgetting that he was a
bushranger, and thinking of years ago, when he was startled by a
familiar voice pronouncing his own name.

'Jack Lynch, as large as life! Surprises will never go out of
fashion! And where's your shoemaker, chum?' was said in a glib, rapid,
low-pitched voice. 'Come, no guns or nonsense here, man! Though,
honour alive, but you make a good highwayman; would do to set up a
private theatre, such hattitudes and rolling heyes! But good evening,
friend! and welcome.'

'Welcome where, and to what? Be you the old gentleman himself,
Gentleman Bill, that I pop on you here this way?' said Lynch, with
gruff contempt he could not hide, and fingers clutching at his gun, as
if he longed to raise it.

Bill--for Bill Smith it was--saw this; he threw a keen, sidelong
glance, and noted Lynch's angry eye, sunken cheek, and weary gait, as
well as his arms and his tattered clothes.

'Well!' and he laughed one of his loudest and most chuckling laughs.
'You are born under a lucky star, my eyes!'

'Get out with your cursed nonsense!' Lynch growled. 'Ye know 'tis a
lie.'

'Civil--polite! I repeat, a lucky star. Law, don't think to growl
over me, man. Don't I see with half an eye, that you've been hiding
and looking like a hungry fox, waiting your opportunity, and all
prepared to present and fire; and don't I see your very heart's a
taking a nap like, and going smooth and easy, because there's no
question of powder or shot, and only coming across an old chum, who's
got a sup, and a bite, and a smoke, over and above, for his friends?
Down, big spirit, down. Aisy now,' and he stroked Lynch's sleeve, as
if patting a dog.

'Get out, will ye? Keep off, or the big spirit may give ye what you
don't like, yet! True, I'm a fasting man, and my feet all sores and
blisters; but afore I'm agoing to break bread with you in peace, Bill,
you'll just answer me, what have you been and done with Nellie? eh,
Gentleman Bill?'

A long whistle, expressing the utmost surprise, was Bill's answer;
but just as Lynch was about to speak again, he put in.

'There's not another hut nor gunyio within a score of miles. You
must be more than man if so be you set off with a fasting stomach, and
leave Pat and me to our supper.'

'Never mind, I'll take care of myself, never you fear. But answer
me.'

'O! ah, I see! So you mean to try your hand like, 'pon Pat and me.
Lynch's first appearance in character! True, Pat's old, Pat's crippled
and got only half an eye; and our pet darling bulldog, what would
strangle a lion, he's gone a little tour for change of air, with Tony,
who is gone down along to a store for fresh tomahawks. Couldn't be a
more convenient little opportunity, Jack! Well, let us see how you
begin. 'Twill be as good as a play; only, you see--I suppose now,
Jack, you think you could finger me in a moment? Bale me up in a
trice, eh? Bill don't wear ugly knives, do he? nor shoulder naughty
carbines, do he? No; but to tell ye a secret, Jack, he do wear
something very pretty too, and as convenient as pretty.'

Saying which, with one of his slyest glances, and shaking his
shoulders with his suppressed laugh, he pulled out two pistols, and
showed them to be loaded.

'Nothing! nothing at all, chum! Don't be alarmed. It needn't prevent
your little practice at all; all the better, you see, for I can
pretend to oppose you--all play, you know, Jack! O, yes; pleasant
sport, only as I am sure your stomach is uttering dismal groans,
suppose we put off our play till we've tried Pat's damper and Pat's
cold pork, to say nothing of a half a jar of best mixed pickles, with
London shop-mark on it! Ah, glad to see you a Christian. I'd lay a
wager now there's Quaker blood somewhere, on one side or the other, in
your family--eh, Jack?'

'As much as there's Quaker's blood in you!' growled out Lynch,
trying to walk on as if unconscious of his companion's meaning.

'Ah, if you'd said Jew's, that would have been something like it. My
great grandmother's great grandmother was a Jewess, and my respected
grandfather, of the same generation, was king of the gipsies. A great
man he was, and left inheritance to his children, I can tell ye.'

They were now close to a bark hut, and the old man Lynch had before
seen, and whom Bill hailed as Pat, was stooping over the fire, while
something in the shape of a table was spread with damper, cold pork,
and tea--a welcome sight to poor Lynch, who laid aside his gun, and
stretched himself out as old Pat bade him, while he muttered to Bill,
'And who is he, and where did ye get him? Didn't want any more mouths
at the barrel of pork; however, please yourself, please yourself! only
fill it again when 'tis empty, that's all.'

'Hold your cursed nonsense!' retorted Bill, angrily. 'He's my chum
and dearly beloved friend. Come, old crooked bones, you know but for
me you'd have been in his shoes, and that's none at all, at present.
He's on the bush, you old dotard, with half an eye which can't see
nothing.'

'On the bush? Ay, ay--and how's that about?' and Pat turned with
eager curiosity to Lynch, but he was too hungry to waste his breath on
words. After a few mouthfuls he answered him shortly, and then turned
on Bill.

'Now, tell me, Smith, as you'd wish to be answered the day you have
got a like trouble--tell me--what of that girl?'

'O dear me! what it is to be in love! Fancy a strapping, likely chap
like you always a ranting and a raving and a sighing and a dying,
quarrelling with man and beast, fasting and looking wretched, all for
a slip of a female gender! My gracious! they're not worth it!--not
worth this, Jack;' and suiting the action to the word, he filliped a
bit of damper away.

'Don't put me off, Bill, if you mean me well, as perhaps you do.
You've fed me when I was fainting I can't deny and wont forget
neither, for with all his faults Jack Lynch is no turncoat or masker.
What I say I mean--what I mean I says right down.'

'I know--but 'scuse me, you right down chaps are very unpleasant
chaps, too.'

'Is Nelly living?--tell me that!'

'I believe so--I hope so. Pity for her pretty face to feed worms, or
her sweet voice to be dumb. I hope Nelly is alive and kicking--happy,
too, as I believe she is; and don't you go to grudge it to her.'

'I grudge it! The Lord knows what I would do for the girl's good!'

'That's right. Well--but don't let them big black eyes of yours blaze
up at me so. Faith, it makes my eyes water! Don't be opening your nose
and your mouth to receive my information, for I've none to give ye.
Sorry for it, Jack--but as true as my name is William Bridges and not
Smith at all--I knows not where Miss Maclean is at this present. I
wish I did, my hearty! I've lost much for my ignorance.'

'Bill! she left with you! I have heard--Judy--'

'Told you a pack of lies, of course--dear old lady! Calm yourself,
and drink another pint of tea. Now, here's the length and the breadth
of the matter. She was with me, or, more properly, I was with her. We
were journeying pleasant as possible--she seated like a queen on her
throne, 'pon top of the dray, and all the fellows a crowding round her
for to hear her sing just like a little bird. She was in tip-top
spirits, and had her joke and her word with every one. One spark got
quite foolish upon her, and dash me, but I believe he began making his
court rather too free--that is, ahem--if others had seen--ahem! Why
d'ye look up so? I am not meaning anything. Did ye think I did?'

'Never mind--go on.'

' 'Twasn't going on, unfortunately. 'Twas going off, nobody knows
how; but one morning when we all woke up and was about starting, my
bird was a missing. Ay--flown right away, I believe you. We coo-ee-
eed, we screamed, shouted, waited, cursed, swore, and called upon
saints (for two of us was Catholics). But nothing came of it; whether
she flew right up, or ran away upon a kangaroo, or what, I don't know.
Never more we heard or saw of her, and, what's more, don't believe
ever shall. That's my tale, believe it or no, as you like. It lost me
a good five-pound note, as I'm a man. Gad, if I did come across her,
I'd feel much disposed to try what I could do in the line of bringing
refractory females to order.'

'Well, Bill, God in heaven knows whether you speak truth or false. As
I said, I've eaten with you and touched your hand, so--you're safe
now. But, by heavens, I scent some nasty dirty plot you have hatched
that wont bear daylight, I fancy. What you intended I can't say, but
'twas no good for her, I guess, and perhaps 'tis better for her she's
lying dead under a bush, as I suppose she is this minute, than...'

But he could not go on. Covering his face with his large brown hand,
he crouched down, out of the fierce blaze, and soon his frame shook,
while gurgling, suffocating sobs seemed to tear him, and tears rained
down over his slice of damper. In a few moments he succeeded in
stopping himself.

'It do you credit,' muttered old Pat. 'I cried myself when I buried
my gal--thirty years and more agone. I don't give in to hearts as hard
as stones. No, not I!'

'Nell was a sweet bird--worth a few tears, if any gal ever is,' said
Bill. 'But I don't take to them. They are not in my line.'

Then he told Lynch which road he ought to take if he still persisted
in going on Nelly's track. Lynch said one road was as well as another,
so he could get victuals as he went on. And then Bill told him where
one or two solitary habitations, in reality, sly grog-shops, were
situated, as well as where a few well-stocked farms lay, one of which
he might visit with great chance of success if he was wary and chose a
good moment. Listening to these directions, Lynch soon followed old
Pat's example, and fell into a sound sleep, even where he lay.

He awoke early, and before his companions. But not caring to move, he
lay on, considering Bill's tale, and looking forwards with a heavy,
oppressed heart, for what was life to him? Hardly worth fighting for
food to support it! Nelly was dead! Then he thought it all over again,
recalling former suspicions and hints, and Judy's account of Nelly's
screams, till he was certain that some foul play had been used, that
she had been decoyed or forced to go away. Then suddenly came back the
name the boy had mentioned, and he saw how it was. Sitting there in
the dim dawn alone, his face kindled and his hands were clenched, as
one thought brought another, till once more a purpose filled him. He
had something to do--something worth living for! He drew in his breath
so loudly that he disturbed both sleepers.

'Cautious! I must be wary! Ay, ay, deep Gentleman Bill! I must beat
you if I can. Revenge--revenge. Ay, Jack Lynch, go-a-head, and be
revenged!'

Quietly and noiselessly he managed to rise and leave the small hut.
The dog looked up drowsily, but on a gesture from Lynch laid down
again. Taking a good-sized piece of the damper, which had been left on
the box that reversed acted as table, he got away, and, looking back
once to see if all was still quiet, he plunged into the thick scrub,
having carefully ascertained his bearings from the first rays of the
sun as they lighted the topmost leaves of the tall trees.



CHAPTER XII. The Chase.



We can only briefly follow Lynch in his several adventures, losing
his way at one time, and being driven to eat grubs, as the natives do,
from hunger; then chancing to stumble upon a convict shepherd watching
his sheep, who bade him roughly but heartily God speed, and shared his
last drop of whisky in drinking 'Death to masters and liberty to
government--men!' Not once did he take his food by force, though two
or three times it was a narrow escape. At last he approached
Goorundoo, and coming to a sly grog-shop to which he had been
directed, he learnt that the mounted police were out in search of him;
a strong body, and headed by the new comer, who had brought such a
fine lot of cattle, and got such a fine place at Fair Dale. 'Yes,' the
man said, 'he was a smart, up-and-up chap; powers of money and some
sense. Fond of his pleasure, too, if all was true. He had been in a
mad passion a while back at the miscarriage of a plan of his. It
seemed he had set his mind on a slip of a girl, who by all reports was
out of the way comely and well-favoured.'

'Ah! her name, did you hear that?' exclaimed Lynch.

'Was Nellie; that's all ever I heard. Well, and so they got her 'pon
top of a dray, and had orders to treat her like a queen, and they say
as how she fairly turned all their heads, and sang more like a bird
than anything else. But whether one of the party made too free, or
what, or whether she came with her own free will, no one knows. Any
way, she gave them the slip, and was missing one morning. They
searched up and down, and sent out here and there, but never saw nor
heard no more of her. No! there I'm wrong, for the curious part of all
is, they did hear! God bless your soul! not a man hereabouts would go
out to that spot where last they camped out, alone! Fact, I assure
you. I heard Phil Blunt with my own ears declare as how, when they
were searching and calling out 'Nellie! Nellie!' that they heard her
voice answer on the top of the highest tree there, but they saw only a
yellow bird, and it spread its wings out, which shone like gold, and
sang, just as she did and in her voice, and it flew right away up, out
of sight; and when they fetched the other men to that place, there was
she herself, in white, sitting upon a branch, crying bitterly, and
when they spoke to her she gave a scream, and there was a rustle in
the branches over head, and they never see no more of her! Ay! and now
of nights they say there's singing often heard, and sometimes crying
and wailing. Our young master, the owner of Fair Dale, took horse they
say and went himself, being greatly set on her, like one 'witched'
they say, and he came back as pale as ashes, and wouldn't speak a
word, good or bad, only swearing under his breath against some one who
had deceived him.'

'What is his name?'

'A queer one, not just handy to my lips; Fig, or something like it.'

'Fitz?'

'Ay, you're on it! Just one of your rough-riders, what don't stick at
man nor beast, so he feathers his own nest and hatches his own eggs.
He's as good as two at a bargain any day. Well, he's out now with this
party of cursed police, and take my advice, and just make off
westwards, and hide up for a bit. You could easy borrow a horse from
the young master's paddock. I knows one would carry ye safe and fast,
a stocking hind off leg. Come at a whistle, tame as a kitten. Saddle?
Well, I've an old one would patch up; here, I'll chop it for your
knife there, eh? No, bless'ee, a knife's no great use; besides, after
a bit, ye can help yourself from Downley's big store, some twenty
miles to westward. Find out Tim Stone and his mate, cutting bark near
the Jerry river, well known. They'll join you, I guess; watch for a
branding-day; all hands in stock-yard with cattle; walk in bold and
straight; maidens squeak, bale 'em up; go into the store, fill your
pockets and ride off; keep stocking for the purpose.'

Lynch gave up his knife, and took the wretched, rotten old saddle,
which by dint of tying with cord, he managed to use. He found and
caught the horse with his friend's help, and set off, not as he was
advised, to hide exactly, but to reconnoitre, to come up with his
pursuers. If he, if Mr. Fitz should be with them--then it would be
hard if he didn't get one fair shot at him. For the rest he cared not!
The sun struck powerfully on Lynch's head, causing a kind of half-
drowsy sensation, and his thoughts seemed to go strangely back, and
recall old scenes long since put aside, if not quite forgotten. His
mother showing him some pictures from a large family Bible; her very
voice seemed to sound in his ears, as she spoke of that other life
which his father had already entered into. If it were so, if Nellie
was there, should he meet her? and what would his stern old mother say
to the poor girl's wild ways? Then he remembered the man's account of
her singing, and wondered, if really dead, whether she might not
possibly return and sing, and in some way point out who had injured
her. The plaintive note of some magpies overhead seemed to chime in
with his thoughts, and looking upwards through the spare attenuated
foliage of the eucalyptus trees, to the intense blue sky, he wished he
could hear her voice, or see her. The country being altogether new and
strange to him, he let his horse take his own way a little, and after
a couple of hours' quiet riding, he came up with a shepherd, attended
by two dogs, and plaiting the cabbage--tree leaf into lissums for
hats. The shepherd was the first to greet, after a keen, prolonged
stare at Lynch.

'Well met; stranger, I guess?'

'Ay, and seeking information 'bout one Fitz; got a station
hereabouts, lately.'

'Ay, ay! You know him, do you? Queer stories abroad of that 'ere
spark. I'm soon after going home to yonder hut. Ye'll be welcome to a
can of tea, and a smoke.'

Lynch accepted the invitation, and meanwhile offered his new
acquaintance some tobacco, which he eagerly accepted, and placed in
his cheek with great gusto. Under its influence he began to talk, and
at last hit on something which caused his hearer to pause in his
attention to his horse, and hearken with all his might.

'So you see, folks do say that this very slip of a girl, what scared
folks so hereabouts, is the culprit. The report says she murdered Lang
of Langville, and has confessed to it too!'

'What! Nelly, Nelly Maclean, murdered Lang--my master--Mr. Lang! Were
you saying that?' exclaimed Lynch, with emphasis.

'So they are saying.'

' 'Tis just a lie! a black, wicked lie! Why, 'tis an impossibility!
That slip of a child! My poor singing bird, who hasn't heart to tread
on a worm. Go on; tell me all you know. Hell and murder! I begin to
feel astray, like as if everything was clean turned topsy-turvy.'

He ended with a deep sigh, almost a groan, and sank his head between
his hands, heedless of the horse's attempts to pull his head away from
any hold. But as the shepherd went on speaking of the report which had
reached this distant place by some drays passing onwards, Lynch again
seized the halter, and seemed to arouse himself, and to take good care
of the horse. After waiting an hour, he said he should push on without
accepting the shepherd's offer of shelter and food. He must get on as
fast as he could, he said, and having asked and received some minute
directions as to the road, he mounted his stolen horse, and set off
through the bush, avoiding public roads--often astray--but sustained
by some exciting impulse, which caused him to forget hunger and
danger.



CHAPTER XIII. The Lark's Last Song.



One evening, when Isabel, according to her custom, had sought her
own room to throw herself into the past, to indulge in regret, and
gather up what comfort she could for the future, but more than all,
perhaps, to be free from the remarks and surmises which fell from
others, and often sadly jarred on her,--while sitting at her table,
and idly and absently turning over a few stray volumes of Mr.
Herbert's, left behind, a slight rustling at the window made her look
round. It was dark, and she saw nothing, but she fancied that a branch
of the rosebush which grew there, moved, as if touched by something
different from wind. The window was near the ground, and very much
covered by roses, according to a fancy of Isabel's.

Her thoughts rested not one moment on it, but, unconsciously, her
eyes remained turned towards it. In a few moments, the branch was
again moved, slowly--carefully--some one certainly was there, looking
in! This was not pleasant, but Isabel was not frightened, believing it
to be one of the maids. Presently she was aware of a face being
pressed close and flat to the glass--a white, strange face. As there
was no light within the room, it was of course almost impossible for
any one without to see in. In another moment a hand tried the window.
It so happened that it was not fastened, Isabel had shut, but not
latched it, on coming in; and now a thin and white arm passed in, with
an uncertain, slow movement, and pushing the window back, a head and
face appeared. Such a face, discoloured, with wild, distended eyes,
and long, disordered hair! Isabel almost imagined it to be a spectre,
and being considerably upset and unnerved, she felt positively glued
to her seat, frozen, or rather stiffened with horror. Then the figure
leaped straight into the room, and uttered a strange laugh, half
pleased, half wild and mischievous.

'Ellen! Ellen! is that you?' was all Isabel could manage to say.

Directly she spoke, the girl was aware of her presence, and sprang
towards her. Her breathing was short and quick, like one upset with
running. She pressed one hand on her bosom.

'Ah! Miss Isabel! Well--you see--and here I am! Goodness knows I'm
tired! They have starved me, miss! Not a bird in the bush would give
me a crumb! But,' and she laughed again, a laugh which made Isabel
shudder. 'I said I'd be up to them all. Give me a piece of meat and
bread, do--do--miss! Didn't I beg of your papa as he lay yonder, but
sorrow a word he'd answer me! and why? Shall I tell you? Because he
couldn't--he was dead--dead! Ain't you glad? I am! I sorry about it?
Why, now he's dead, we'll get the ticket, Jack and me. He was bad and
wicked, so cross to poor Jack! 'Twas for that I killed him! Ay, with
these hands--ay, d'ye see? I believe there's red on them now, for all
I tried to get it out. I don't like it--I never could abide blood! For
all that I killed him! Shall I tell you how?'

'For God's sake be still, and don't say such dreadful things, Ellen!'
said Isabel, recoiling from her in fear and terror. 'Poor girl!' she
said, changing her tone with effort, 'you don't know what you say.
Come, stay quite still here, and I'll fetch you some food. Will you
promise?'

'I can't stay, lady,' shaking her head gravely; 'I must go to Jack.
He's waiting--waiting! I must tell him how I gave them all the go-bye.
Such fun! And then how I went on, and on, and on, till I came up to
where Lang lay, so bad and so weak. And then, you see, I killed him! I
say it was myself did it, and not Jack. Who dare say it was him? Just
like their spite! Bless you, Jack was away--I'm sure I don't know
where--miles and miles away! Why, if he'd been there, would I have had
to starve--eh? Give me some food, Miss Isabel, do--do!'

'Keep still here till I get it, then;' and Isabel hurried out and
called to Miss Terry, telling her briefly to keep watch on the girl's
movements. Isabel went to the kitchen, and brought back some warm milk
and bread, which Nelly seized and swallowed voraciously.

'Is Mr. Farrant here, or coming here?' Isabel asked eagerly.

'He can hardly have left the place yet; he was to speak to Venn for
your mother. Shall I fetch him?'

'If you please, do; he must advise. This is terrible. She is
evidently a raving lunatic; but what makes her say that--that--? In
fact she declares she killed him! Good God, how dreadful!'

'Hardly possible, when one considers her size and strength. But she
may know something--out of her ravings one may gather some clue. But
I'll go at once,' said Miss Terry.

Ellen was sitting back in her chair, having eaten her food, braiding
up her disordered hair and crooning a low, dismal ditty to herself. On
seeing Isabel by her she looked up with a vague and dim expression;
and Isabel saw how worn and haggard she was, and took in the torn and
soiled state of her garments.

'Poor Nelly--poor unfortunate girl,' she murmured, softly.

'Yes, wasn't I? But now good luck is come; wasn't I a nice clever
lassie, now? 'Twasn't hard at all--so easy! I only just knelt down
beside him and looked at him, and he groaned and half opened his eyes,
and I touched his hand, and then--and then--La! Miss Isabel, only
think, if we'd done the like before, how much trouble it would have
spared. Pah!--I didn't like blood! When they beat and shot poor
'Wasp,' Jack's little dog, I screamed and I cried till they threatened
to serve me the same. Yes, it was very clever of me, wasn't it now?
For, you see, I killed him. He was dead as a stone when I left him.
Don't you believe me? You look funny. I don't like that dismal dress.
See! now I've tied up my hair, if I can but find some shoes, I must be
off on my travels again. Couldn't stop here, thank'ee. No, the ticket,
the ticket!--Jack must have it by this time. He's a free man, and he's
waiting for me!'

'A free man, as you say. And for all I know waiting for you, too,'
Isabel repeated, in grave sorrow.

'Wont you come, too, Miss Isabel?--you may; you and me will go on our
weary, weary journey--all through thick trees, and trees, and trees--
where they can't find us at all at all! 'Tis better than those dismal
jolting drays and the bad rogues of men with their cunning eyes, and
long whips going 'smack, smack!' I like the trees; only when the wind
comes it is terrifying, because they all begin to talk and sing and
shriek; but that was on account of the wake--the way our folk do for
the dead. Mother was there, and lots--some very ugly--ah! shocking!--
dead, dead--yes, quite dead and cold. There he lies! He can't be cross
to Jack no more. Wasn't I a clever girl? And the wind! how it moaned
and whistled and got stark mad, and that big bough just tumbled down--
a pity for the poor tree, too.'

Then she broke out into a song, or rather scraps of several songs;
the one she most often repeated, with a strange wild thrill and
vigorous emphasis, was some odd doggerel rhymes--

A turning, and turning, and turning.
My mammy she's ever churning.
'Good day, my lady,' says she!
And turning, and turning, and turning.
My daddy's always learning.
'I'm weary of all,' says he!

Before Miss Terry had returned, Ellen's head had sunk back on the
chair, and she was asleep.

'She is a mere shadow! She has been starved; and see--here are
bruises and cuts!' said Mr. Farrant when he came in, after having
looked at the poor exhausted girl.

'Her talk is so very wild--she hints at such terrible things--where
can she have been?' said Isabel.

'I suspect she ran away from the drays which were to have taken her
to the place talked of. She, poor girl, suspected wrong and deceit,
and, with her usual cunning, she fairly slipped away from them. This
much I have gathered from various rumours. Perhaps she has been lost
in the mazes of the bush since, or afraid of showing herself to any
one. She is very ill indeed, now. Here is every symptom of high fever.
Can you get her into bed?' Mr. Farrant said. And as he left the room,
the two ladies tried quietly to remove her to a couch they had hastily
made up as a bed. But she awoke, and had quite an access of delirium,
screaming and talking, knowing no one, but always insisting that she
was going on some weary journey, among trees, with nothing to eat, and
a very high wind; and that Jack was free, and was expecting her. Then
she looked at her stained arms and hands and shuddered, exclaiming at
her horror of blood.

With the help of a stout maid-servant, they at last succeeded in
getting her on the bed, and then, after another struggle and great
difficulty, she swallowed a soothing draught, and Isabel, by her own
request, was left to watch by her. Mr. Farrant said he should make his
bed on the drawing--room sofa, in order to be at hand in case she
should say anything worth noting down, or should Isabel need any help.

All night the poor girl was delirious, with brief snatches of
disturbed sleep. She talked incessantly, and sometimes sang. Sometimes
she was again a child, and spoke of childish pains and joys, and
appealed to her mother. Then she was speaking to Jack Lynch, or
moaning with sad, broken words at some one's cruelty to his little
dog. There was a great confusion in her mind about wicked, bad people,
meaning harm to herself, and others to Jack. Once she raised herself
quite up and entreated Isabel to send and liberate Jack Lynch from
prison, in such a quiet and composed manner, that Isabel believed her
to be in her right mind for an instant. 'Miss! Jack didn't do that
thing! I heard the men say that while Lang lived he could never get
married or the ticket. Gentleman Bill said so when he took me away; so
when I heard the voice up in the tree tell me, 'Now was the time,'
why, then I went up to him where he lay, and...'

'O, Nellie! Poor Nellie, don't talk so, or I cannot sit here with
you, alone. It horrifies me! you never did it either. You could not.
But it shows me that Lynch did, and that he played on your fancies,
till you believed you were the one.'

But already Ellen's mind had gone from that to other things;--all
night till dawn it was the same, till apparently worn out, her talking
subsided into groaning. It was again night, when softly and anxiously
Mr. Farrant and Miss Terry appeared at the door, and made signs for
Isabel to come away, and let one of them take her place. But she
whispered that she could not stir for a moment, that Ellen slept--a
sweet and quiet sleep. Perhaps, if she ever did awake, she might be
conscious and clear. She had heard of such cases; and the eager,
wistful, questioning of her eye on either countenance, bespoke how
deep was her anxiety that this might come to pass.

'Be ready, be near, to write down--you understand?' she said, with
that deadly calmness which is the very height of passionate
excitement. It was impossible not to comply, and she saw that both of
them took their seats in the adjoining room, prepared to watch and
wait, according to her desire.

But time went on, and there was little sign of any awaking--if at
all--to any purpose. The pulse of the poor girl was sinking, and
already a grey hue, and a sharpened look, had spread on her weary and
emaciated face. Isabel listened for her faint breathing intently, for
she began to believe she would die in this sleep. The contrast between
the two faces was striking. The one so utterly abandoned to rest--
still, and scarcely alive--so pale and wan! The other growing each
moment more and more excited and flushed, with her lips set, and her
eyes bright with eagerness. A curlew came near, and began his
melancholy cry. So eerie, so mournfully it rose amid the intense
silence of that dying bed! Again and again it repeated the sad note,
till once, when it sounded nearer, Ellen started up, and looking round
half wildly, half in pleasure, said:--'Ah, there's Jack himself!
Coming, lad, coming! Bless us, I'm stiff; can't jump up. Miss Isabel,
is it yourself sitting anent me? Ah, that's very kind, and 'tis my
dead mother will thank you, miss, for this and all other favours. Help
me--hark again! Jack's impatient. Jack's free, and I must go to him,
and we'll get the ticket.'

'Stay, Nellie, don't; lie still, my dear! You are very ill, and you
must stay here with me till you are well. Jack is not waiting now.
That is not his whistle, but a real curlew. Can you understand?'

'Yes, yes; I'm ill, am I? Well, and so I am. That's odd. It's all of
wandering in that great, wide bush. So lonely, Miss Isabel, and the
wind was really terrifying. I was scared of it! And Miss Isabel,
stoop, close--I'm faint like--faint--very--'

Here Miss Terry gave her some nourishing drink which stood ready;
she and Mr. Farrant had come in softly, and stood behind the curtain
at the head of the couch. They answered a look from Isabel, and she
saw that Mr. Farrant was listening to the girl.

'That's good, good! So I'm ill, very ill? I know it. Don't put me
off the notion. I like to go to my mother; and Jack will come soon, I
know. Wont you come soon, dear Miss Isabel, where all is peaceful and
resting, as you used to tell me? But stop! I had something I wanted to
say to you--to you only. What was it, I wonder?'

'Was it--anything about--what you saw--in the bush? Did you run
away, Nellie? and did you see my father, Mr. Lang?'

'Ah, that's it! Miss Isabel--don't fret, dear, but--I must tell you,
for I feel like as if I could tell you right and true. I saw him lying
all along the ground--so pitiful! all bad, and eyes shut. They say
Jack had given him a blow. That's lies! Jack was not near the place.
If he had been, I'd have seen him; and I never could see him, nowhere
at all, at all! though I went on and on, all day, and most all night,
among the trees. My! that was lonely!'

'But my father--Mr. Lang--'

'Yes; he was lying all along, and his horse was looking at him, so
saucy like, and I was just hiding behind a clump of bushes, afeared if
your father should set eyes on me, he'd scold! But I watched; and the
horse took a bite just, and another bite, and then off he went--the
cratur! his reins all draggling, and the saddle all on a twist; and so
Mr. Lang looks round a bit, and sees the cratur desert him, and then
he lies back again and gives a moan, up out of his heart, and I saw
him put his hand up to his head, and it was red with blood. Then he
shuts his eyes, and I thought, may be...' Here she seemed too
exhausted to go on; but a little pause, and some more arrowroot,
revived her. In fainter and more catching accents she went on. 'I
thought he might be sleeping, so I came very softly up to him, and I
saw the red blood flowing--flowing--all down--shirt and ground. I puts
my two hands together, so! and I says, soft like, but as if I was
praying to the Blessed Virgin, 'Please, sir, please, Mr. Lang, wont ye
give me the ticket? and I'll fetch you water and wine, and do all I
can for you. Please, sir, for the love of Heaven and the Holy Virgin,
wont you?' He just opened one eye a bit like, as if he fancied it was
some spirit up in the air, and he fetches a big sigh, and his hand
drops down heavy. Then I took notice of a big branch of a tree, broken
clean off by the wind, and which had seemingly struck him, for it had
broken in his hat like, and I saw the bits of twigs on the hat, and
bits of bark and twigs on his breast; and I noticed that the branch
was anigh his head, just where the blow and the blood was. So, don't
you see, I think, as how--perhaps--the great wind killed him, eh, Miss
Isabel? because he ever denied the ticket to Jack, who'd done him no
bad turn, but only good. O dear! I think so, I think that is how it
was; and I don't like blood, and he looked so white, and so still! I
got frighted; so I picks up his hat, seeing 'twas not altogether
spoilt, and hangs it on a branch near, and then I went on to find
Jack, and tell him, and tell you, and I got tired and hungry--and
now--I am ill, you see. But no, I'm ready--quite, quite ready, to go
to Jack. Where's Jack? Hark! his whistle again! I must go--good-bye,
good-bye!'

In another moment, the curlew still making his moan, though further
off, the girl again slowly opened her eyes, and held out her hands as
if in ecstasy. 'O, I'm after coming as quick as I can, Jack. Jack!
Jack! the ticket--the blessed ticket.'

'Let us pray!' said Mr. Farrant; and kneeling, they followed him in
an earnest and solemn petition for this departing soul. Her eyes were
fixed on the ceiling, her features were fast becoming rigid, though a
smile was on her face. 'Jack, Jack! My dead mother!' were the last
murmured, faint syllables, and with the last her spirit was breathed
away.



CHAPTER XIV. Last Words.



It was on the evening of the next day, that Isabel, tired and
wearytempted her, and sitting there, her fancy wandered beyond the
limits of the small clear space before her. The mystery was solved
now. To her mind all was clear. She could connect the girl's words and
knew how her father met his death. A great horror was spared her and
all, for surely in time even her mother and Kate would accept this
history in their inner hearts, as they now languidly, and as if with
constraint, agreed to it with their lips. But Mrs. Lang could not
easily divest herself of the strong impression she had, that her
husband had been murdered, either by one of the two convict servants,
or horrible, dreadful to think of, in a fit of passionate anger by the
man he had insulted. Carried away with these thoughts, striving to
realise the relief this new version was to her, Isabel was unusually
lost to things present, and neither heard nor saw what went on not far
from her. Behind--not many yards, where he could scan her attitude and
side face, stood Jack Lynch, the very ghost or shadow of what he had
been when last Isabel saw him. Pale as the shadow of death, worn,
unshaven, his hair rough and wild, his deep and dark eyes blazing with
a concentrated smouldering fire of intense heat; the other features
more clearly cut and defined than ever, and alive with some powerful
passion; there he was, ragged, and torn, a sight which would scare
most persons. Finding her so lost to everything, he advanced a step
and rustled the branches of underwood purposely. At last she raised
her head, but did not glance round, and he was forced to come to her
side.

'Good heavens! who is it?' she cried, starting up. Then suddenly
recalling her presence of mind, 'Do you want anything? Are you--are
you in want? Who are you?' she repeated, as a dim recognition floated
over her mind.

'I am one Lynch--Jack Lynch,' he answered, hoarsely. 'I come--Is she
alive and safe? Safe, I say.' He went on, not pausing for an answer,
'You haven't--you daren't have let them take her away for that! How
dared any one believe such a lie? She did it?' and he broke into a
wild laugh which caused Isabel to shudder. 'She! No--no! Bless you!
'twas another hand, not her innocent fingers. No--no! I'd sworn
vengeance, so I had! Many's the time I had it in me to kill him! and
now he's dead, got his reward. But don't go for to kill the most
innocentest and sweet little soul that ever lived. Hang the right man.
He stands before you, Miss Issy, and he don't mean to shirk; only--
only--for the love of God, for the hope ye have for mercy for
yourself, let me only see Nellie once more! Will ye, now?'

'What are you saying? What do you--what can you mean? Did you--did
you, after all--do--kill him--my father? O Lynch! O Jack Lynch, how
could you? How dared you?'

'O, I dared and I could! Why not? Tell me why, Miss Issy? Did he ever
spare me? Did I ever get a kind word or aught but curses? Did he pity
the poor ill-used orphan, poor Nellie? Would he let her come to me,
who would have died or lived so I could best shelter her? No, he--he--
Well, that's past now! He's gone! I am ready--yes, ready. But let me
see her first, and then bind me and lead me off to your prison. The
gallows is welcome!'

'I don't understand you at all!' said Isabel, bewildered and
frightened at his vehemence.

'Don't you? Isn't Nellie--Ellen Maclean here? Tell me!'

'Yes--yes, she...'

'Then for God's sake let me see her. And, Miss Isabel, you'll never
live to repent it, if you use every bit of power you can to get her
set free. Don't I say I am the guilty man? Take me and let her go.
Now, do you understand?'

'But, Lynch,' and she laid her hand on his arm, which trembled with
his eagerness. 'Thank God, we have heard, we know now that my poor
father was not murdered at all. At least, so Nellie said. And now you
come and confess you did it! O, Lynch! is it, can it be true? Have you
done this dreadful, this cruel deed?'

The man gazed at her tearful eyes for a moment; he even rubbed his
own hand across his brow, as if to wipe away something.

'What's hanging to me? What do I care? only--O miss--let me see her
first of all! It is the last favour I'll ever beg of man or woman,' he
added, pleadingly.

'You shall see her, of course. But I must make you understand first,
Lynch. Be patient and listen to me. Poor Nellie, you know, has been
missing for a long time. No one could find her out, though there were
rumours about--well, I see you have heard of this;--then came this
horrid thing, and then only two days ago Nellie came to my window. She
was cold and half-starved. She must have been lost in the bush, and
she was more strange and excited than I ever knew her. She said some
dreadful things, that is, she declared she had done it, killed my poor
father, and all to get your ticket of leave! How awful it is to say
anything to one only half-witted like her! Who knows what words led
her even to imagine doing such a thing? By nature such a kind-hearted
and gentle girl.'

'She didn't do it!' Lynch thundered out. 'She--a weak slip of a
girl! Don't I say I am guilty? Surely I had cause enough to hate him!'

'Don't say that now! Don't bring up such fearful feelings. Death
should teach us better. Ellen now would tell you, could she speak,
that a ticket is little, hard words but little, and wont last for
ever, but to be wicked and take revenge and to hate, will bring us to
hell! She and my father have perhaps met now, up there...'

'Met! Do you mean--what do you mean, miss?'

'I mean that Nellie is dead, Lynch--lying dead now in my own room--
dead and cold--that is her body. But she is, I hope, safe and happy.
Come and see her, if you wish it.'

And rising she went on, while he followed, neither speaking again;
nor did they meet any one. She opened the door and signed for him to
go in. He stopped and pulled off his torn shoes. Then softly he went
in, and close to the bed stood for one moment quite still, then gently
lifted the delicate white covering which shrouded her face. So young
and childish she looked, and so thin, sharp, and pale! Nellie was
dead, indeed. He uttered one long, low, but heart-piercing cry, and
fell on his knees beside her, hiding his face; convulsive sobs shook
him.

'O, Nellie! Nellie! It's me--your own Jack, darling, that loves you
always and forgives you all, if you've ever forgotten him! Speak,
darling,--speak again--just one word! No--never she'll speak again;--
never more! But they wronged you. Yes--they've broken your poor heart
with fright and craft--the wicked vermin! Nellie! Why did you leave me
so? Why didn't you wait just to look at me and say--'Jack, come! Don't
mind the rope--we're bound for the same shore!' They said you did it!
If you did--I would have died for you! But you would not wait. You are
gone and I am left alone--alone--all and quite alone for evermore!'
Then nothing was heard but deep sobs. The poor upturned dead face,
such a contrast to his! 'But it wont be long,' he began again; 'I'm a
coming after you, my heart's pet! They'll put you in the earth, and
don't be afeard, for Jack will come and lie beside ye. He's spent and
worn, darling, and his days are reckoned up, pretty nigh. They
deceived you! Yes--I know about it,' and he took her hand and kissed
it, almost frantically, begging her not to fret--he knew all now, and
loved her more than ever. Then rising, and with a sudden self-control
stopping his tears and sobs, he turned to Isabel and spoke gravely and
sternly.

'I'll swear I'll find the rascal that strove to ruin her, and do my
best to punish him. That done, I'll be glad and thankful to follow her
so soon as they choose and any way they please. A hunted animal can't
live long, and it's come to that now with me--and worse too. For the
wild dogs have got their homes, but Jack Lynch has not a stone to lay
his head on.'

Isabel here left the room, meaning to come back again and offer rest
and refreshment on her own responsibility to Lynch. When she returned
he was not there. It was easy to go out by the window, and so she
concluded he had done so, thinking better, perhaps, of giving himself
up as guilty, and resolved to fight a little longer for life.



CHAPTER XV. Lynch Sleeps--Isabel Acts.



They buried Nellie in the new churchyard.

Two graves now caught the eye of travellers on the high road, and for
some time after it was still only two, none other being added.

On the very day that they bore her to this last home, Lynch, having
used his strength to the utmost, was obliged to pause from sheer
fatigue. He was now many a long mile from Bengala, and approaching the
neighbourhood where he had before been--near Mr. Fitz's place, in
fact. He had stopped and robbed one traveller; driven to the
desperation of a famished man, and set as he was on meeting his enemy
face to face, he was anxious to prolong his miserable life for that
purpose. Overcome and utterly weary he found a tolerably sheltered
spot and laid down for a noontide nap. Strange dreams came to him
there, in which his mother and early days, as well as Nellie, were
mingled and confused. It might be the oppression of nightmare, or was
it the sense of something abhorrent and antagonistic which caused him
to turn and mutter, and finally to wake with a start?

Quick as thought his hand had sought and found his gun, for there, in
front of him, standing only a few feet from him, was one he little
expected to see.

'Gentleman Bill! What's in the wind now?'

The individual addressed turned with a significant gesture, and in a
moment the words, 'Give yourself up!' were uttered; while a mounted
policeman advanced, and Lynch saw himself surrounded by at least half-
a--dozen men. He was against an iron-bark tree. Hardly more grim and
dark was it than the man who stood thus at bay. He seemed not to heed
the man nearest him. His dark, hollow eyes were searching for some
object, which, to judge from the sudden flash of light which suddenly
gleamed, he found.

There was a sound of footsteps--a voice--a few sharp clicks--and then
the reports of at least three guns--all in a moment. 'Gentleman Bill'
leapt like a cat on Lynch and caught his arms, but it was too late.
Too late did he cry, 'Don't fire! remember the reward!'

The policeman, naturally timid and nervous, seeing Lynch's determined
attitude of resistance, and hearing his gun's report, took aim, and by
chance (for his hands shook so that it was a matter of mere chance)
the ball struck Lynch. He fell instantly.

Then there was a medley of voices.

'What the deuce did you fire for, Tim? Save the fool! Wasn't six
agin one, enough to take the chap in a whole skin?'

'He was desperate--I knows what that is! A desperate man will kill
or maim a round dozen afore he gives in. I fired when I see him aim at
the Squire there,' answered the accused, as he stooped over his victim
to ascertain the extent of the mischief.

'By Jove, a pretty shot that! Ay, and say so, right through the
chest! Poor chap! Well, its best; better nor a halter, to my mind.'

Lynch opened his eyes, and tried to speak, but only a gurgling sound
came. 'Give him a drop of something! Here, Mr. Kinder, have ye your
flask handy?'

The man so addressed turned from his occupation of assisting the
other wounded man, (which was Mr. Fitz, who had joined the chase con
amore,) and handed his flask for Lynch.

The brandy revived him, and he glared wildly to where Mr. Fitz now
sat, having recovered from his swoon.

'Didn't I do for him, after all? Well! and well, 'twas so ordained!
'tis all over now. Ay, Nellie I told ye I'd not be long,' with a gasp
between each word.

'Wont you confess now?' urged the constable. 'Here's one as can put
it down and take 'Affy David' 'twas your dying speech and confession.
'Twould come handsome and be interesting, and for the public good, for
there's a deal of stir 'bout how 'twas brought about, you see. Charlie
Brand lies in jail at this present on suspicion, and the gent over the
sea, what had hard words, he's not altogether whitewashed. Now, if you
done it, now is your time; confess the murder! And do it handsome,
like a plucky chap as you be.'

'What murder?' Lynch muttered, and opening his dim eyes again for a
moment.

'Lang's! Didn't you give him his finish, or who was it?' This
question was repeated more than once, and at last, making a great
effort, Lynch said.

'I know nought about it! I didn't so much as see the man. No! no!
Providence kept him out of my reach. Let me alone! a drop of water,--
and let me alone!' The water refreshed him, and again he spoke--'Bill!
ah--but 'tis a mean, dirty trick of yours! You can't be friend or foe.
So it's you that have coyed her away, and now betrayed me, and all
for--for money--dirty--rascal--Jew.'

Perhaps something in Lynch's look, or his words, or perhaps an old
feeling of acquaintanceship, touched the small speck of heart which
remained to Bill, for he shuffled and looked uneasy under this speech,
nor could he apparently bear to meet the glare of those strange eyes.

'All in the way of life and business, Jack,' he said, in his low,
smooth voice. 'A poor devil would be a heathen downright to refuse a
matter of twenty pound which was offered to find yourself alive!
They'd have caught you first or last, so look at it bravely, chum, and
save your breath and strength for your last bit of a journey. Any
wishes you may have, I will punctually attend to. Speak your mind,
Jack.'

'I've none! Thank God, I leave none behind me in this bad place!
Good--bye, Bill! All's over atween us, and we'll be meeting no more, I
suspect. It wouldn't be heaven to me to have such creeping blackguards
as you there.'

He was apparently sinking fast; they whispered to each other that it
would soon be over. One man wished to alter his position for the
better; Lynch groaned, but it relieved him, and after a time he began
to murmur to himself, words unintelligible to them, for in this awful
hour he was transported through his failing mind to his boyhood's
home, and he was speaking with his mother. A soft, and almost sweet
expression altered his face, and caused the rough bystanders to say in
a whisper, 'they say 'tis the angels awhispering in the ear, when
dying folks look like that.'

'Call in Nellie, mother! If you're weary, she will sing like a lark
to you. Love her for my sake, mother! Down by the water meadow I went
for Lenten Rosen; you shall have some, and Nellie must have the rest
to wear when she goes to the King's courts, in heaven, you told me
about. You and I will follow her there, mother!'

'Again! Is it you calling, mother? Don'tee look so angry! I didn't
mean it--I was angered!'

'Hark! hark!' and he lifted a finger, and gazed into the space above
with eyes which were fast becoming filmy. 'Aint she singing
beautiful?' Then with a change of voice--'Stripes and hard words--no
ticket! No matter. Coming!' he said louder, 'coming--help! help me,
I'm so--so weary--sleepy--sleep--sleep--!'

And so his voice died away to the faintest whisper; then all was
still and silent, and the rude men standing round listened eagerly.
So, in the wild bush, with the deep intense blue sky above him--the
hunted, miserable convict drew his last breath!

Before any one spoke, a bird began a sweet but monotonous song high
over head, and Gentleman Bill looked quickly up, with a queer
expression. Nor did he join in the conversation which followed on the
doubts, and the pros and cons as to Lynch's guilt, for they had not
yet heard of Nellie's testimony.

They carried Mr. Fitz home, and summoned a medical man to dress his
wound and broken limb, while they bore Lynch's body to the nearest
settlement for an inquest. His memory was spared the brand of murder,
and Charles was released from jail, by the authorities receiving the
girl's statement of the manner of Mr. Lang's death added to other
circumstances.

They buried Jack Lynch in a plot of ground near the 'lock-up,' there
being no consecrated place. The convicts and ticket-of-leave men
about, joined in setting up a stone slab with his name engraved by one
among them, and the date. Long afterwards it was found that some one
had planted a scarlet geranium there, and that a rude, but not ill-
imagined figure of a bird had been carved on the stone; while there
were some who averred that on certain nights a real bird, different
from anything known in Australia, is seen perched on the tomb, which,
after remaining some time there, spreads its wings and mounts upwards
like a lark, singing sweetly, till both sound and sight are lost in
distance. But sweet as the song is said to be, no one will willingly
visit the place to hear it. They take trouble to this day, to make a
long and difficult circuit rather than pass near the spot, and if you
ask about it, there is a look of awe and hesitation, and it is
difficult to get them to say anything. 'Well, of course, there's no
saying!' one, sorely pressed, at last owned--'it may be all nonsense,
but they do say as 'tis haunted by a female in shape of a bird, and
folks do tell, as how there has been heard piteous sobs and moans--
lamenting like, and then comes the bird, and all's quiet; but 'tis
queer and strange, and no one knows the rights of it, you see!' Such,
with a little variation, is the answer given to all inquiries.



CHAPTER XVI. Doing Better Than Thinking.



The statement made by Ellen Maclean, and attested by Mr. Farrant,
agreeing as it did with many small circumstances, together with the
lack of evidence against the two convicts, was received as truth by
the authorities and by society in general. It was a great relief,
which even served to lighten the actual trouble, to believe they had
lost him through an accident, and not from ill-will and revenge. It
lifted Isabel into fresh vigour again, and warmly did she resent any
return to uncomfortable doubts, which from her nature Mrs. Lang was
but apt to do. She was so completely unhinged, that her mind lost
almost all power of settling on a conviction. It was trying to Isabel
to find her return to the old story, and require it all to be proved
over again and again, ending with, 'Well, it is very mysterious, very!
I shall always think it a mystery about Mr. Herbert, and it doesn't
look well, his running away. What did he run away and hide for, if he
was not ashamed?'

Fervently did Isabel wish at these times to have it in her power to
say more than the old oft-repeated and barren story, which reached
them through others and not from the Herberts themselves. One of them
might at least have written or sent a message of condolence; but no
word ever came. Isabel found her best remedy lay in active work, and
it seemed as if, henceforward, she would not have to complain of
having nothing to do; all fell upon her as a matter of course. She,
with an old servant, preceded the general 'flitting,' in order to
prepare their future home. Miss Terry promised to bring the others
when all was ready. The meeting between Isabel and Charlie Brand was
curious. She grasped his rough and big hand, silent from deep feeling.
He understood her. 'Ay, ay,' he said, drawing his sleeve across his
face, and jerking away his favourite little stump of pipe in his pre-
occupation of mind. 'Ay, ay! I knows all so well as if you were bone
of my bone and flesh of my flesh. No offence, I hope, miss! Says I to
myself many's the time, when cooped up down yonder, for the second
time in life, as a felon,--says I, Keep up, old boy! This time you're
in the right, and you knows it, and Lord, miss, when I gave out the
words 'Not Guilty,' didn't I thunder it out like truth, as it was. And
I says to myself, for comfort like, when things comed hard and
pinching, and 'bove all, when the folks looked askance at me as if I
was a murderer,--I says, Missy up there don't consider you to be that
bloody-minded sinner no ways. (You see they'd told me your opinion,
miss.) Miss Issy can't help it; she would, if she could. Law must take
its way; and 'tis contrary that Mr. Herbert's over the sea and can't
say not a word for me. Ay, 'twas sort of comfort that ye didn't
condemn me, miss.'

'No, indeed, you were right there, Charlie; never for one moment.'

'The Lord give you the like justice, if e'ersoever you may be so
misfortunate as to need it. Say no more, if you please. 'Twas just a
sharp pinch, and soon over, and here I am, myself again, and ready to
serve you and the missis, if so be it is agreeable to yourselves. If
not, I can get my ticket made out for some place else, you see. But as
I knows the country, and the ins and outs of the estate, I could,
though I says it that shouldn't say it, give you some good advice of a
time, and would look well after the concern, and do all that's needed,
with a slip of a boy.'

'Of course, Charlie, we must have you. You will be prime minister,
and I am king. You and I must rule our kingdom, and the first thing is
to try and make a little bit of money you see, Charlie, if that is
possible--'

'I consider it is, miss; and by your leave I've a scheme to submit
to your consideration.'

*   *   *   *   *

The drays with the furniture arrived without any serious
misadventure, and everything was in its place, and every corner
scrubbed and scoured out, by Isabel's own hands, aided by the maid.
While without, Charlie proved his zeal by getting in a fine stack of
fire-wood for the approaching cold season, and also putting the garden
in good order, and mending palings and fences, so that Kate and her
mother might not be unnecessarily shocked by dilapidation.

It was now what was called the winter, a little frosty of a morning
and evening, but clear and bright all day; thoroughly enjoyable
weather. It was quite 'fresh' enough to serve as excuse for a cheerful
fire, which Isabel thought would give a look of home and welcome to
their one sitting-room. She had prepared everything; arranged the
snow-white mosquito hangings, and placed her mother's pillows at the
proper inclination; set out her treasured piece of Rattan matting, and
placed all the little nick-nacks, which from affection had been picked
out to bring. A meat tea had been ordered, and she had culled all the
best and freshest flowers, to brighten up the rooms. There seemed
nothing more she could do; and rather tired with work and with
expectation, Isabel sauntered out across the high paddock where
Charlie's hut stood; and reaching the fence which divided it from the
bush, she leaned there, looking at the view which spread out wide and
clear before her. Westbrooke was on a hill, the highest point being
the centre of the horse paddock where Charlie's hut was erected; and
towards the west lay a wide, undulating tract of country--tolerably
clear of forest--and where might be seen as many as two churches, and
their small cluster of attendant huts, forming the settlements of the
district. It gave a sociable and civilized appearance to the place, in
strong contrast with Langville, where nothing of cultivation was seen,
but that which belonged to itself. Here, Mr. Lang had first brought
his young wife 'Kitty.' Here, Kate and Isabel had been born. She
thought of the early days, scarce remembered, when they had left this
for an almost uncleared place, very far out of the way, as it was then
thought. Her mind went on through her life--hitherto so very smooth a
one as to have but few landmarks. The one most vividly remembered, and
bearing most after-consequences, was her acquaintance with Mr.
Herbert. She tried to recall his first visit--his attitude and his
look. She went over her own rather singular part in the affair, and
tried to trace her appreciation and liking of him, while the keen
remembrance of her saucy speeches and battles, made her wonder that he
had not considered her as a very 'odious little girl.' Unconsciously
her lips parted into a smile as she thought how far from this was the
truth. How partial and how constant had his friendship for her ever
been. So kind and so judicious! no silly flattery and nonsense, but
always speaking the plain truth, and desiring her good; only vexed, if
he thought her doing wrong, or led astray. 'I did not behave well to
him,' she thought; 'and papa, poor dear papa!--I wonder why he never
could understand, and get on with him.' This brought a graver train of
ideas, and by degrees it seemed as if some heavy weight had been put
on her, even during that quiet walk; for, carried away by the relief
it had been to find all slander put down by facts, and fully occupied
by present active work, she had not till now fully taken in all the
sadness, and even the strangeness of his conduct, as regarded herself.
It fell on her now like some cold, wet shroud. It weighed on her
spirits; she felt she had lost some great and precious thing. Just,
too, at the very moment when she had begun to wake up to a new sense
of its worth--to rejoice even in the failure of her own pet scheme,
since it left her her friend! Looks and words were now recalled, which
had not been so consciously noticed at the time. Yes! she had looked
to that promised visit in a very peculiar way. Then, it had been so
blended with shyness and dread that its sweetness had been somewhat
lost; but now, at this distance, she could look on it quietly and
coolly, except that it made her heart beat rather quickly ('but that
must be owing to her day's hard work'). Why had he wished so
particularly to see her--to get her away alone and in a quiet
listening mood? That it was not to make a confidante of her as to his
love for another, she had learnt. What then could it be? And how
provoking she had been;--so silly and trifling and vexing! Yet how
full of kindness and affection had been his look at her; sometimes,
once or twice, it had been even more, when she had suddenly met his
eye. Many times before had he and her father had an argument and a
brief quarrel, but it had always ended in being friends again. What
then could have, not only kept him away during a time of affliction,
but have allowed him to leave them--for ever, perhaps--without a word,
a line, spoken or written, or even a message? What if he should really
never return, finding England too pleasant? His sister's going looked
like leaving altogether. What if the ship were lost, or he were to get
some illness--the cholera, for instance? She shivered, and moved away
from the fence. 'Surely it was time for the travellers to arrive. Was
that the carriage, that black speck on the road?'

Isabel turned and walked homewards in a drooping, heavy way, very
different from the quick step she had come out with. Charlie noticed
it from his corner in the wood-yard; staying his vigorous strokes of
the tomahawk to notice it well as she passed.

'Tired, I guess! Lonely too--glad they be coming,' was his remark
thereon.

But this fatigue was not of the body, and did not so easily pass away
as Charlie hoped; though she made great efforts, and never spared
herself. Miss Terry said she had not given herself time to mourn. It
was no use pushing it off. Nature must have its way sooner or later.
Mrs. Lang moaned over the necessity for her daughter's working so
hard; and Kate thought if Issy liked she might easily sit still and
get rest and not look so tired and dismal; at which Isabel laughed,
and was much offended, she said, making from that time greater efforts
to appear happier than she was. She was vexed, too, and took herself
vigorously to task till she succeeded, by scolding and drilling, in
obtaining a more 'Christian state of mind,' as she said. 'Some fine
day I shall, or some one will, get a nice letter from England. It will
be full of explanations, making us feel very foolish for our silly
thoughts. He is not and cannot be changed from good to bad all at
once. He will write in a friendly tone and tell us his plans, and we,
one of us, will answer it and tell him ours. I have no business--no
right whatever to look for more. He is at liberty to go and live in
that land if he likes. So no more fretting, Miss Isabel Lang! Be a
wise and brave woman, and do your work, and don't fall into that bad
habit of 'thinking.' Doing is better than thinking any day.'



CHAPTER XVII. Life At Westbrooke.



Twelve months had come and gone. The country was still in a depressed
and uncertain condition. Public and commercial confidence was still at
a low ebb. Throughout the length and breadth of the colony might be
seen unfinished buildings--houses and churches--waiting for the money,
so difficult to raise, to pay the expense of their completion. Here
and there, a once comfortable and prosperous family dwelling was
deserted, while its inhabitants had been driven to migrate farther
away, to some out station perhaps, devoting all the energy and means
of each member of the family to the keeping together what stock there
was, and ever devising fresh ways of making any profit. Gentlemen's
sons, who were to have been brought up to the learned professions--
perhaps to have returned to the old country for a little polish and
teaching, were now obliged to put the shoulder to the wheel,
literally, and save wages by acting as tillers of the ground or
stockmen. Poverty filled the land, and though there was a little lull,
old houses and firms were still breaking, and money and lands changing
hands.

Among those who profited were the Veseys. They, having some ready
money, bought up stock at very low prices, and had taken a fine and
improved farm on the Hunter for a mere 'song.' Vine Lodge was
consequently again deserted. Warratah Brush was occupied by Mr.
Herbert's agent--at least, he divided his time between it and the
station. He had orders to sell or let, if certain terms could be had.
If not, he was to go on quietly and do the best he could with the
property. His answer to all inquiries was, that Mr. Herbert was in
England engaged in a law-suit, and that he had succeeded to some
fortune, but no title. Miss Herbert had surprised people by marrying
Dr. Marsh, and then, as his wife, going to England. Langville was
occupied by a retired innkeeper from Paramatta, who, it was said, kept
a queer house, and lived a questionable life, very much undisturbed by
any remarks that his very few and distant neighbours might make. A
great change had come to the district--Bengala was a deserted place;
and yet in the little township there were signs of life and stir. More
huts and even weather-boarded cottages had been added, and small
settlers had taken advantage of the times to rent plots of ground
cheaply, which they cultivated on their own account, and kept up a
small trade by supplying distant stations with necessaries at an
enormous price, when it was not convenient to go all the way to
Sydney.

The Parsonage was now covered with creepers, and the garden was a
model for the neighbourhood. Mr. Farrant was married, and he and his
wife lived very comfortably there with their parish, school, glebe
farm, and pupils, having plenty to do, and only regretting the
separation from their old friends.

A bright and scientifically built up wood-fire burnt on the well-
whitened, large fireplace at Westbrooke farm. The two little girls
were busy making doll's clothes in a corner, speaking in hushed
voices, and now and then casting a glance towards Mrs. Lang, who sat
with some needlework on her lap, but for the time not heeding that or
anything. She still wore weeds, and had a clouded, discontented
expression. Isabel was busy over some accounts. Presently she shut her
desk with a sharp snap, and looking up with a bright face, said--
'Mamma, it will do. Clear profit; enough to pay for Jem's expenses,
and get you a new cloak into the bargain, Mrs. Lang. What do you think
of that?'

'I don't want it! What is a new cloak to me? No! if there really is
anything to spend, pray let dear, darling Kate have it. In her last
letter she says that her dress is getting quite shabby, and she makes
that an excuse for not going to the ball. Poor Kate! Ah! well!'

'There is some one out there,' said Fanny, presently.

'Dr. Mornay, probably. I asked him to step down this evening. I
wished to give him a message for Kate. He could take anything, Issy,
for us. My dear--wont you--hadn't you better just go and meet him? I
am sure it is his step in the verandah.'

'No,' returned Isabel, somewhat shortly, and with a slight shade on
her changeful face. 'I don't see that I need go out to him. He will be
here in a minute.'

'As you like, my dear!' with a sigh. 'But he is so very--so
particularly kind and attentive--and has been so real a friend...'

'So funny, that you have completely forgotten to be afraid of him--a
Roman Catholic priest!' said Isabel.

'But he is not at all like one,' returned her mother. 'How he comes
here and talks--so clever,--so agreeable, and so polite! He is just
like a Protestant--all but his long coat.'

Isabel laughed a little; but what she was going to say was checked by
a knock at the door. Fanny opened it, and received a caressing stroke
on the head for her pains. Dr. Mornay came in like an intimate and
constant visitor, drawing the child on to his knee, after greeting
Mrs. Lang and while he spoke to Isabel, whose hands were too full, it
seemed, for shaking hands. She was collecting the bundles of papers
which had strewed the table.

'Busy as ever, I see,' he remarked.

'Yes; I have finished my accounts, and the result is very consoling;
after paying for the new harness and all the expenses, a very
respectable profit remains.'

'All owing to your kind suggestion,' said Mrs. Lang, addressing Dr.
Mornay. 'I am sure, as I tell Issy, we ought to be very much obliged
to you.'

'Issy doesn't need reminding of that', she said, with a blush rising,
as she tied up the last packet, and left the table clear for the tea-
tray. 'It will be great triumph showing it to that perverse Charlie. I
wont spare him; he shall come down and confess his mistake,' she
added.

'He has quite come round to the idea,' Dr. Mornay remarked. 'I
suspect he only keeps up the argument for the sake of a little fun
with his young mistress. In sober earnest he allowed to me that it was
a good 'spec,' and he went on to hope that when you had made some
money by it, his own pet scheme might be carried out, which is to make
your fortunes, you know.'

'Building houses is such a risk,' sighed out Mrs. Lang. 'And then,
times are so bad. When we had spent ever so much on the proposed
street, who would there be to live in it--at least to pay the rent?
No; it wont do to be led too much by that man, though he means well.'

'Certainly he does. But the beauty of Dr. Mornay's plan was, that it
involved so little outlay,' said Isabel.

'I have sometimes been led to regret my officiousness, nevertheless,'
he answered, drawing his chair a little nearer to Isabel's. 'I fear it
has brought a great deal of hard work on you. Even now, though so-so
bright, you are thinner than you should be, than you were when--'

'O, yes, people do get thinner as they grow older. Work is the salt
of life; I adore it! No work hurts me, especially such very successful
work as this has been. No, you were a good adviser, Dr. Mornay, in
that matter.'

'But not in others!--Is that what you mean to imply?'

'I implied nothing. I never have double meanings. I am too dull and
matter-of-fact.'

'Talking of being thin, Dr. Mornay, pray observe my dear Kate, and
tell me if she is really wasting away in that terrible place,' Mrs.
Lang put in.

'O mamma! You used to like us to go to Sydney. Consider how very dull
Kate would be here. Now she is quite gay in the metropolis, and--'

'Issy, I think that is hardly right. It is unfeeling and selfish
towards your poor dear sister. You are comfortable at home, while she
is living with her cousin; such a particular person, too, who worries
poor darling Kate every day and all day long, and then you know how
bad her spirits are, and how devotedly fond she is of home and of me!'

Isabel made no answer. But her cheeks were very red, and while she
turned quickly to get the kettle, her handkerchief was furtively
raised to her eyes. Dr. Mornay rose, in his courteous way, to take it
from her, and she resigned it without a word. Mrs. Lang left the room,
saying she would be back in a moment.

'Do you happen to know of a governess being wanted in any respectable
family?' asked Isabel, lightly, but not looking at Dr. Mornay.

'A governess?'

'Yes. You always seem to know everything. We are so in the habit of
going to you for help now, that I ask even this, you see, though of
course it must be a Protestant family.'

'God forbid you should come to that drudgery,' was his answer,
playing with the knife before him.

'Good gracious me, Dr. Mornay, what is it? I positively must learn to
look on you as--as--dealing in unlawful knowledge at the least. How
could you guess that I meant myself? Can you, indeed, read one's very
thoughts?'

He smiled. It was a very peculiar smile, speaking of self-content and
yet of doubt. It was at once amused and very sad.

'I can read some thoughts, and you are so very transparent!' he said,
gently and earnestly. 'Yet I could wish to read more, and find my
power very limited.'

'Well! all I can say is, it is not endurable; it is awful! You
actually find out what I declare I have never so much as hinted to any
living soul; and only just lately ventured to glance at in my own
private thoughts!'

Mrs. Lang's re-entrance turned the subject to the duties of the meal.
Dr. Mornay talked in a light and agreeable manner of local interests.
There was no one person and no fact unobserved by him. He threw
himself into the spirit of his companions wonderfully, adapting
himself to every taste, not stupidly and weakly agreeing with every
one, but refraining from obtruding his own peculiar opinions,
especially when the subject bore on religion. As to making converts,
he never seemed to have such an idea, and Mrs. Lang had long since
grown to look on him as their pleasantest and most useful friend. His
advice had often been to the point and very judicious, especially when
he had suggested their cutting down the numberless small trees which
in some parts crowded the estate, and sending them as fire-wood, for
sale in Sydney. At first Charlie Brand had sneered at the notion, and
much worried Isabel by what she called his stupid prejudice and
opposition. Charlie was all for building a street in the small
township, as the property extended to one side of the public road. He
thought 'Lang Street' would sound well, and turn out a profitable
speculation. But Isabel liked the wood scheme best, and so heartily
threw herself into the work, standing early and late in the bush,
watching the trees being felled, and looking at the carts being
filled, that Charlie could not resist trying to please her. When
returning from the sale, he saw her looking out so anxiously for his
arrival, and noted the eager, bright inquiry of her eyes, as she
scanned the empty cart and then his face, that it became a real
pleasure to him to be able to say 'Tolerable-good-enough sale,' and so
on. As said above, this scheme, carried on for more than ten months,
had answered entirely, and they were now about to continue it on a
larger scale. Then, Dr. Mornay had helped them very much in getting
Jem into a situation, on a cattle station, and this evening he was
talking very eagerly about what it might lead to. In fact, when Isabel
came to consider it quietly, which she did at last, she felt surprised
at the way in which this man, almost a stranger a year ago, had become
necessary to the house--an advising friend, and implicitly trusted by
Mrs. Lang, whose disposition was completely satisfied by his gentle
flattery and never-failing attention. Not getting the proposed chapel
and school-house in Bengala district, he had subsequently been sent to
Westbrooke, where the Romanists had a church, a school, and a
thoroughly comfortable residence for the priest. This had greatly
facilitated the intimacy, which was added to from his being a great
friend, and at one time confessor, to some distant cousins of Mr.
Lang, who resided at the north shore, near Sydney.

When the tea-things were removed, and Isabel had brought out her
work--basket, Dr. Mornay asked in a lower tone than that he generally
used, 'If the sketch he had begged for, and had been half-promised,
was forthcoming?'

'Half a promise is not a whole. Indeed it was your own imagination,
for I did not enter into any promise; I never do draw now. I haven't
time, and I--I hate it.'

'I should not like to ask you to do anything you really hated. I was
wrong then to persevere in begging. I did crave a sketch like the one
I saw of your old place. I should have sent it home.' There was a
touch of sadness in his tone.

'Indeed! Home! Have you then...'

'You think it strange for a priest to talk of home!' he interrupted.
'You look on us as separate and lonely individuals, cut off from all
household and domestic ties, all human feelings, all affection and
love. Yet I had a home, and a mother and father, and sisters too. All
are gone, save one, I believe. It was to her I thought of sending it.'

There was so much of pathos, so much tender recollection touched with
sadness in his tone, that she looked into his face: it was in harmony
with his voice, though his eyes were bent on the table. She was moved
by the idea of his life of exile and self-denial; the giving up of all
that most men desire and hold precious. Was it out of real self-
devotion? Was this man, who had so far thrown off his attributes as to
be considered by them as any other ordinary friend,--was he so
devoted, so religious a man? In what light must she, must they all
appear to him, and what was his motive for seeking them, and devoting
so much time to their amusement? Had he been zealous to convert them
to his own views, she could understand it. But it would almost seem as
if he came to please and amuse himself. Yet, the very fact of his
being a priest seemed to involve higher and sterner motives. As we
have before said, Isabel was no great thinker. Her feelings were warm
and impulsive, and at this moment there was a re-action in favour of
this singular man. She was angry with herself for some rather
disagreeable doubts concerning him, and some cold and curt speeches
she had made in consequence. She hastened now to assure him that she
would to-morrow seek out her sketching things, and forthwith begin the
drawing. She was out of practice, but she would do her best. Then he
looked up at her, his whole face changed. It was but one brief
instant--a mere flush--but its expression had the effect of throwing
back her previous sympathy and kindly regard. She felt afraid of him,
afraid of something which she did not understand, and which had at
different times struck her much in the same sudden and strange way.
She involuntarily shrank back and drew herself very upright. Before,
she had been bending forwards, toying with her needles and thread, and
wrapped in the interest his words and manner excited.

'It is very kind of you. But I know I must not thank you too much.
Perhaps when I come back it will be ready,' he said.

Nothing could be more polite, and at the same time almost
indifferent, than his tone now, and she rallied herself for losing her
wits. What was there to scare her so?

'You wish to go from home that your sister may return. Isn't that
it?' he presently asked, with kind interest.

'O, of course you know all, everything! Well--yes--some such
thought, I confess, has struck me. Mamma pines for Kate, and perhaps
it is rather trying for her to be there, in not the pleasantest of
positions. I couldn't stand it! No, far rather would I dig the ground.
Yet I thought she preferred it to the rough work here. Poor Kate! she
is not born for work. But now all is in pretty good train here, and it
will do her good, perhaps, to come home.'

'And for you to change from your toil, anxious toil, now that it
begins to grow a little lighter, to something even worse! Have you
ever considered what the duties of a governess consist of?'

'Often! I have imagined myself one. For that I have tried my hand
with my sisters; and if all children are as good, it need not be very
bad. I am serious. And I mean to inquire at once, and not speak of it
here, till something is settled. It would worry mamma. They must be
small children, too, Dr. Mornay. I am not accomplished, as you know.'

'Because you have not cared to be so. You have power, capacity for
anything. No, thank Heaven! you are not an accomplished young lady.
Happy the parents, thrice happy the children who...'

'No compliments,' she put in; 'I always feel myself insulted.
Moreover, it is not truth, for I am not an agreeable, easy-going body.
No doubt I shall vex both the parents and the pupils. But I shall do
my best. Can you conscientiously recommend me?'

'The difficulty is, that of course my interest lies with those of my
own church. I fear my recommendation would scarcely do you much
service; would it not alarm the sheep? A wolf! they would say;
Gunpowder-plots and the Inquisition might be thought to lurk in that
wavy, golden hair, or shine out in your eyes. No, I will make
inquiries and find out who is wanting a governess, but beyond that,
for your own sake, I will not go.'

'Thank you! As usual, you are all wisdom and foresight. But you...'
and she fell into a fit of musing.

'Of what are you thinking, may I ask? You pique my curiosity by
beginning a sentence. After asserting, what you are good enough to
call my wisdom, comes a 'but.' Now what does that alarming 'but' lead
to? Do say!'

'I was thinking that I can't quite understand you. You puzzle me. I
always thought that Catholics were so bigoted, calling us all
'heretics,' and that at least every priest was by duty bound to try
and make converts. But you...'

'Dr. Mornay is so liberal and so kind!' said Mrs. Lang, just coming
into the room. 'Ah! your poor dear father was so good a judge of
people! He first asked Dr. Mornay to our house--I so well remember the
day! And of course I always go by what he thought right and safe.'
Mrs. Lang spoke pathetically, and gave a sigh.

Isabel remembered that day too; and Dr. Mornay, rising, said that he
felt grateful for Mrs. Lang's good opinion, and valued it all the more
from the amiable motive she gave for it. He, too, had not always found
among Protestants such confidence and generous liberality as he always
met here. But the world was growing wiser by slow degrees. People were
learning to understand each other. There was greater freedom of
opinion now. By-and--bye, all would be brothers. Then, with a low
respectful bow, he shook Mrs. Lang's hand, again noticed the children,
and invited them to see his tame kangaroo. Lastly, he came to Isabel,
and seemed to hesitate what would be her wish, for he had found it did
not always lead to hand-taking. To-night she stretched out her hand
cordially, and wished him a pleasant walk home.



CHAPTER XVIII. Moonbeams.



The next day, as Isabel was leaving the garden by a gate which led to
a certain favourite walk through the bush to a creek called there a
river, she was hailed by some one on the bush side, and looking up,
saw Dr. Mornay with his leather pouch slung on his shoulder, evidently
on a botanical expedition, to which science he was much addicted. He
bowed in his most courteous way, throwing a certain dignity into his
greeting, which answered the purpose he intended, by putting her more
at her ease.

'Any new specimens?' she asked, gaily.

Whereupon he opened his pouch, and from the book drew forth his
spoils, at the same time giving a learned yet interesting account of
each.

'I wish I could induce you to enter into this pursuit,' he said. 'You
would find it invaluable as a resource, giving an interest to every
walk.'

'I have already begun to notice and even gather the flowers,' she
answered. Then adding with a smile, 'It was impossible to avoid
catching the infection.'

He looked gratified.

'I wish that I might believe my influence strong enough for that or
for any other thing.'

'But it was from you I learnt the taste.'

'Or rather, being at a loss for an occupation just to fill up time,
you have been led to try it, and I am delighted to find that it is so.
Natural history has been to me a great gain, taking the place of the
recreation others find in channels which are forbidden to me.'

'And you really confess that you need relaxation and unbending from
your calling? Yet I fancied it was all in all to you, leaving no
blank.'

'Well, and it has, I may say, filled me--led me on for years,' he
said, warmly. 'Yes, it is a glorious, a high destiny! When one has
passed the first difficulties, it opens a wide field to a man--power,
influence, authority! In what other situation can a man attain so
much?'

'And I heard it said that Dr. Mornay's ambition was to be fully
realized, that the highest honours awaited him in his profession.
But--is it true,' she added, breaking off abruptly into another tone,
'is it true that you are going away?'

'I am ordered to go to Rome. Yes; I have received flattering letters
bidding me appear there as soon as I can.'

There was a tone of regret which surprised her, and looking up, she
found his eyes bent on the ground.

'Then it is true?' Isabel rejoined.

'What?'

And he searched her face with his powerful eyes. But even while he
looked, his expression changed. Some feeling seemed to rise which
softened while it troubled him. He withdrew his gaze with a sigh.

'And your sister,' Isabel ventured to say with hesitation. 'She will,
of course, hear and rejoice in your success and honour?'

He scarcely seemed to hear her. He was walking faster, and seemed
disturbed.

'Yes,' he said, presently; 'it is true I might attain to distinction
and power; what I have toiled for, I have at least attained. Strange!
that now it is offered--within my very reach--it seems to have lost
its value. Strange state of things!'

And, most unusual for him, he was for a short time lost in thought,
and walked on by her side as if unconscious of her presence, far less
of her words. But Isabel did not mind it; she thought it was quite in
character with his habits of deep and lonely thought, and all the
great subjects which doubtless occupied him. She even hoped he had not
heard her remark about his sister. She gave her attention to the
plants growing near her, and stooped to gather some pretty blossom,
hoping to leave him quite at ease. They were the lovely fringed
violets which she gathered--so delicate in form, so brilliant and soft
in tint. She examined them closely and with pleasure, and then
arranged them with a spray of the correa. On looking up, she found his
eyes again bent on her.

'Does it ever strike you,' he said, in a quiet, and almost mournful
tone, 'the analogy between plants and life? It may be fanciful, but it
is at least a pleasant idea to trace it. This correa, now, with its
stiff stem and prickly hard leaves, bearing so exquisite and delicate
a blossom; so very fragile, it seems to be, among the hard prickles,
yet it...'

'But I am too matter-of-fact to have a scrap of fancy,' Isabel
returned, laughing. 'If I thought anything at all beyond the fact that
these orange bells look well beside the violets, it would be to pity
the poor little weak thing for being among such hard prickles.'

He smiled.

'Yet the very contrast is touching; and perhaps the prickles and the
stiff stem protect the fairy-like flowers better than more pliant, and
softer companions would.'

Again he seemed to sigh; and Isabel fancying him in rather low
spirits, felt afraid to begin on any subject.

'I should like you to see, just to see my sister,' he presently half
whispered.

'Why a stress on 'just to see'?'

'Because I don't know that I should care for you to be much with her.
She is almost a saint--a devoted daughter of the Church.'

'And would of course disdain me as a heretic?'

'Or lead you, through admiration of her saintly character, to think
as she does,' he said, gently.

'Well! and I should have fancied that would be just what you would
wish and desire. In fact, Dr. Mornay, I never do quite understand it,
pleasant and convenient as it is, how you manage to like us
Protestants, and don't even try to convert us. How is it?'

'For one thing, had I commenced in that way, your doors would have
been shut against me. I have lived long enough to know how ill-judged
haste is. Yet, pray don't imagine from this, I am keeping in reserve,
and mean suddenly to show my teeth;' and he smiled rather sadly. 'It
strikes me as strange myself, that in my intercourse with you, the
thought once so prominent and powerful, seems to have faded. I have
not, after the very first, thought of even wishing it were so, far
less of converting you; rather--on the contrary, I mean--'

He stopped short in evident confusion; and she answered, in a joking
way.

'You don't mean that you think of coming round to us?'

'No! no! Yet--I will own--yes, Isabel (mind, I am saying what I would
not hint at to another soul--scarcely allow to myself--except in
confession) my intercourse with you--my great, intense pleasure--has
cost me much severe sorrow and penance. You little think what it needs
to--to--keep oneself in order. And how it is, I don't know, but just
lately, regrets, old feelings and associations, seem to have received
new life. My sister--the old home--my boyhood--all has, as it were,
risen from the grave, and haunted me. Doubtless--for my good! In order
to strengthen the weaker parts ere the day of reward. I mean, when I
may, by God's mercy, be called to a higher post.'

'Do you mean,' she said, in her straightforward way, after looking at
him, 'that because of your friendly visits to us, you have had to do
penance?'

'I do;' and he smiled. 'Yes; severe penance.'

'Then why come? Why do what you think wrong or dangerous? I am sure
we should--mamma, would be sorry enough to bring this on you.'

'Thank you,' he said, rather coldly. 'I dare say you could well and
easily spare me. As to what I foolishly said just now--pray think no
more about it; above all, say nothing to others. It lies between me
and God. Human flesh is weak and faulty to the end. It is a gain and a
relief to know that penance will avail to blot out our infirmities. I
was led on to open my heart to you--as I often am, I know not why or
how. You will not betray me--my weakness--will you?'

'You know I will not! of course not. But how can you suppose that
torturing yourself is of any use? And, really if your visits to us
cause it, I cannot wish that--'

'They will not be for long,' he interrupted. 'Very soon I go from
this--may be for ever! Don't grudge me the last lingering look on
all--all those feelings and ties, from which I may soon be more than
ever cut off. Long fasts and deep penitence will wipe out their memory
afterwards, no fear! Perhaps this strange impulse, this looking back--
this... Perhaps it may be sent to try--to prove me;--a little
indulgence is sometimes graciously permitted. I crave your kindness,
Isabel Lang, for the short time left me here.'

'We shall all be glad, I am sure, to do anything for your comfort,'
she answered readily, and moved to pity and feel for him by his sad
and mournful manner. Even Isabel's simple and single heart was not
proof against the charm--that this much talked-of and highly
considered priest, usually so impenetrable in his bland
courteousness--should bend to open his inner heart to her, and to her
alone.

'You have been a very kind friend, Dr. Mornay--in a time of need,
too--when--when there were but few,' she said with a husky voice.

'You are very good to say so. But--when you say this, do you mean
yourself? For it is your kindness and your sympathy I crave--yours, as
distinct from the others--from all--the world,' he added; the last two
words in so low a whisper that Isabel did not hear it.

They had reached the creek now, and after admiring the graceful
growth of the water-loving shrubs, and listening for the bell-bird's
note, Dr. Mornay said he must cross the river, being bound for a
distant farm. He knew she did not mind the walk back alone. If he
could, he should come in the evening, and bring her a book he had
ready prepared for specimens of dried flowers. He was anxious to make
a botanist of her before he left.

She answered that they should be glad to see him, and with a
friendly nod, responded to by a long and grave look, rather than a
bow, Isabel turned back, and, walking fast, was soon through the bush,
her active nature longing for a little commonplace home talk, after
the strange, rather sad, and, to her, incomprehensible conversation of
Dr. Mornay.

Finding her mother in the garden, they had a discussion as to which
crop would be most profitable; then Isabel adjourned to the stock-
yard, where she refreshed herself by a survey of the calves and a chat
with Charlie Brand. From one thing to another she lingered on till
summoned to tea, surprised to find it quite half-an-hour later than
usual, and her mother doing the honours to Dr. Mornay, having added
several small luxuries to their usual fare, in expectation of his
visit. Isabel peeped in, and with due dismay, at finding how she had
forgotten time, she promised not to be long, and ran away to take off
her walking things. While doing so, the remembrance of Dr. Mornay's
face, unusually pale, and very hollow, struck her.

'I see now, how much thinner he is. Fancy his fasting, and all that!
Well! I suppose he is very earnest and good, poor man. He has great
courage and self-denial, for he is one who evidently values all he has
to renounce. I suspect there is many a battle between spirit and flesh
there. I hope he wont kill himself! But really now I think of it, he
is looking sadly.'

Full of this, she returned prepared to be very cordial and kind, and
to allow the 'poor man' at least a little pleasure, if he thought it
such.

Apparently he had thrown off the gravity which had oppressed her. He
talked pleasantly and chattily of various things, making Mrs. Lang
quite merry, and sorry when he rose, saying he must go. He shook hands
all round, even with Isabel, who generally confined herself to a nod.

They thought him on his way home, and Mrs. Lang was speaking of him
in terms of praise, when he returned, saying that really the moonshine
was so very beautiful, and the air so soft and balmy, it was a pity
not to enjoy it. Wouldn't they put on shawls and come as far as the
gate? It was a pity to shut out such silvery calm radiance; it would
ensure them good dreams and sweet sleep. He spoke to Mrs. Lang, but
his eye sought Isabel.

The idea of rheumatism made Mrs. Lang shrink from going beyond the
door, but she added, 'Issy never catches cold, she can go! She is such
an admirer of moonlight too. Ah! how poor darling Kate used to joke
you, don't you remember? and compare you with Mr. Herbert. Kate never
cared very much for it, I think.'

'O yes, mamma, she did. It is lightning you are thinking of.
Moonlight is too sentimental and uncertain for me. I prefer broad
daylight, much. You see, those mysterious shadows, that undefined
outline, except just under the white light which is so very cold--is
not after my taste. Give me everything open and clear, warm, true, and
decided.'

'Yet keep a little corner for moonlight--such light as this is,' Dr.
Mornay said, turning and gazing upwards, as he stood at the door. 'Not
only the moon, but the planets, the constellations, and those wondrous
nebul' which to-night look like innumerable silver threads. And I want
you to see the effect of the deep shadow and bright light on the hill
where your man's hut stands. The very oxen, as they lie about, chewing
the cud, take a new form; and the clumps of scarlet geranium look
quite singularly lovely. You are not afraid of cold, I know. Let me
beg you to come! You may prefer sunshine after all, if you like it.'

'Go, Issy. Don't keep Dr. Mornay standing! Don't be so perverse,
child,' said her mother.

Isabel caught up a little shawl which lay on a side table, and
hastily throwing it over her head, she passed rather brusquely by Dr.
Mornay, and went out to the far end of the deep verandah. But there
she stopped short.

'Yes, it is very bright. 'The daylight sick;' and what a noise those
frogs are making! Quite melodious you think, I dare say. But to me it
is only croaking, though it is all in honour of the moon, I dare say.
How many sheets of paper have you wasted in trying to adore her
ladyship, and what epithets did you use? I should like to hear some
new way of praising it.'

So she rattled on, without waiting for an answer.

'You don't see it here. A little further on--do come!'

'No, I don't wish to be mad. Moonbeams affect the brain, you know.
But you'll have nice light for walking home. That troublesome dog, old
'Noble,' will be be disturbing mamma all night. Don't you hear him!
Silly fellow, baying at the moon. How the little opossums will be out
to-night; ah! there goes a gun. Poor little things, some one is
slaughtering them. How many bad and cruel deeds has the moon seen,
even more than the sun--perhaps that is what makes her pale.'

'Yes, that idea is expressed very well by some author, though at this
moment I don't recollect who.'

'Indeed! Yet I never read it; so I was not stealing, if it turns out
a clever idea.'

'No one knowing you could suppose such a thing. No wonder that you
like all clear and bright things, and have so little patience for
anything doubtful or hidden. You are almost transparent yourself, and
as clear as--as truth! I don't wish you to be less so by even the
shadow of a shade. May you never be forced into subtle reserves, never
haunted and oppressed by doubts and uncertainty, or by inability to
discern light from darkness. Yet--yet--the very angels are said to
have compassion--to look down from their pure and lofty heights with
pity and compassion on mortals obliged to wear a veil. Thus much I
would ask from you...'

'But I am no angel, and never profess to be one,' she said, quickly.

'An angel! No indeed! What is an angel? Intangible,--a dream--perhaps
a myth. You are living and real. A woman--a woman...Come further
here.'

And he even laid his hand on her arm to draw her out. His voice had
fallen gradually in the more excited, more solemn tone which now and
then came. She was unwilling to go on, and yet did not like to offend
or hurt him by refusing altogether. She stopped again at the fence,
however, and declared she would not go beyond.

'Don't you feel such a scene carry you away far beyond the present--
quite back to old times; and then again to some unknown future we have
perhaps dreamt of in a confused way?' he asked. 'It seems to me so
suggestive of peace and rest--work done. And if, as you say, so many
dark deeds are done at such an hour, how many passages of love, how
many sacred confidences and heroic resolves, have received
inspiration, or rather consecration, from these unobtrusive rays--not
quite dark, yet not quite light--tempting one on to utter thoughts
which the glare of day and the very feeling of work to be done, sends
back like a snail to its shell. One reposes now and feels! Every one,
probably, has some particular moonlight night to look back upon as an
era, when words were said or deeds done, which coloured his life for
ever. Some under its influence have sworn a life's love and devotion,
interchanging vows, and henceforth feeling not one--not alone--but
mated! Others, less happy, choose their career; perhaps turn the long
doubting scales, and in a moment of enthusiasm add the required
weight, which makes them henceforth aliens from their kind--slaves--
martyrs--ay, martyrs...laying down all of self--even to the very
liberty of speech and look. And this total abnegation, this entire
surrender of will, has at first its own stern charm. It points to an
unknown future, and self-sacrifice is dear to an ardent, impassioned
nature. He goes a willing victim--bound--laid on the altar. He works
and toils and suffers. Brain, intellect, affections, temper, passions,
taste, all are brought up and submitted to discipline, drilled, and
ruthlessly cut down, except in as far as they are of use in the
sacrifice...And then, this first elevation of mind passed, then there
steps in ambition! To be first in the train, to be best and first to
do and to suffer, to rule as he has been ruled, even the world; to
mould men's fiercest passions as he chooses. Vast--infinite almost--
seems this path--glorious and inspiring! Happy, happy for that man, if
from such a dream he never awakes, if this phase is the last; except,
indeed, that which in course of nature comes on all who live long
enough to find that all is vanity, yea, 'all;' and that all must die--
be dust, and perish. But for some...'

He paused, his voice thrilling with the deep, constrained passion it
betrayed; and glancing timidly in his face, Isabel saw the deep-set
eyes glitter strangely, while the lips were quivering, and the broad
forehead, whiter even than common in the moonlight, seemed to expand.
She could not but listen and be still. His whole strength of will was
bent on it, and such excess of urgency seldom fails for a time.

'For some,' he went on, 'even this wont do! The highest, the most
coveted and eagerly sought after prizes, all power, all authority, all
praise, turns suddenly into apples of Sodom--dust and ashes--a mere
sham and delusion. A man awakes to find himself burning with thirst,
craving just that one--one drop of living water which has been put
from him--consumed in the fire of the sacrifice--gone--gone! He gave
it up. Like Esau, he bartered it. And now--now--my God!--well--what is
left for him? Hell! What is hell? Tell me, tell me, Isabel, you young,
innocent girl, standing there in open surprise, wondering if I am mad
or the Evil One himself!... No, I am but a man--mortal, miserable! A
man without a hope--without a tie--ay, almost without a faith!'

For a moment he bent his head and crossed his arms on his bosom,
perhaps from long habit. Then lifting his head and looking at her,
with dim eyes and features drawn as if by sudden and great effort to
control agitation, 'But you are thinking that I am a priest, one sworn
to work in the fold of the only true and Catholic Church. A good and
great work it is. Yet suppose--I say suppose--that I hate and
rebel...O, Isabel!'

'Dr. Mornay!' she put in quickly. 'Please don't say that! Do you know
what you are saying, I wonder?'

Her clear, true-sounding voice was in strong contrast with his
hurried, husky whisper. The very heat and strength of his passion made
her doubly calm, as if it extinguished all feeling in her (a not
uncommon occurrence to undemonstrative natures).

'Forgive me!' he said, 'you are right--forgive! Yet--you cannot see--
you cannot understand--a Protestant! what is it? to be free--free!
free to--to--O, if you felt--if you knew!--but you are so cool,
unconscious--Isabel! (with renewed energy) you must feel! Heat
communicates heat!' and he seized her hand, but dropped it almost
immediately, and then in quite a different voice, subdued, courteous,
and restrained, 'You said that moonbeams affected the head or the
brain. There is truth in every fable; certainly they strangely stir
the heart. They always have--always had--a peculiar influence on me.
Atmospheric influences have never been enough studied, I think,' he
added, drily, after a pause. 'I fear,' he said again, as she remained
silent, 'I fear I have been ranting unpardonably! It will not add to
your liking for moonshine. Have I disturbed you?' and now his voice
went, as it were, with his words, and expressed a gentle, troubled
regret. 'Will you forget and forgive? Say you forgive me. Be kind--a
little so! It will harm no one. I am a priest--yet--sometimes I can't
help being only a man, and I go back to old times--to home--to a
sister. Is it so very sinful, that I should feel a pang of loneliness,
and crave for one word of true affection--one kind word!'

'Sinful! Why should you suppose so?' she said quickly, and resenting
the hardness of his lot. 'It is natural and right! O, I do think it is
so wicked to forbid priests from marrying, if they wish it. Of course
many must be wretchedly lonely, for it is not every one who is so very
ambitious, or successful either.' She spoke in her frank, impulsive
way, all her innate Protestantism urging her to pity the man, and
consider him the victim of system.

'Ah! we wont enter on that discussion,' he answered, with a little
start, and even a look of alarm in his face. 'Now I ought not to
detain you against your will, I know. Good night! You do--you will
forgive?' he added, lingering and retaining her hand in both his.

'Yes, quite,--if it is needed, entirely! Good-night! You shall have
the sketch!'

'Thanks.' He murmured something besides which she could not catch,
and then turned away. Soon he had passed out of the gate, which swung
to, with a sharp click, and Isabel saw him go down the cedar avenue
which led from the front of the cottage to the township or settlement;
saying to herself, 'Curious! I wonder if he meant himself all the
time! I suppose so. Horrible, cruel system it is, too! And this is the
great Dr. Mornay Mr. Farrant was speaking of as being so influential
in his own Church, and one likely to arrive at the very highest
distinctions; commanded to repair to Rome by the Pope himself, there
to be fêted and honoured, and they say to receive a Cardinal's Hat,
and to...Well, well! suppose, as Mr. Farrant said, he should be Pope
himself some day, it would be curious to remember this walk and talk.
At all events it assures me that Popes are just like all other men; a
little cleverer, perhaps, instead of the indescribable and impossible
beings my fancy has painted them.'

With these thoughts, half uttered aloud, according to a trick of
hers, Isabel reached the parlour, and blinking and shading her eyes
from the lamp-light, she answered her mother's queries, 'Was Dr.
Mornay gone? What had he talked of? What an agreeable man he was! so
astonishing for a Roman Catholic priest, too!' &c. &c. Mrs. Lang was
somewhat fretful that night, and inclined to be offended at Isabel's
inclination for silence or short answers. She accused her of being
very rude and brusque to Dr. Mornay, at which Isabel laughed, and
owned she was so sometimes; she didn't know why exactly, but a
'feeling' came over her, and she didn't always like his manner or his
look. But she assured her mother they had made it up and parted good
friends, and that she pitied him very much, too much to be annoyed at
him, and then declared her intention of going to bed. Mrs. Lang
answered that it was no use for her to do the like, for the dogs were
making such a noise she could not sleep. She would write to 'poor dear
Kate.'



CHAPTER XIX. 'Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder.'



Adversity had not sweetened Mrs. Lang's temper; nor was it to be
expected that the habit of fretfulness, indulged in for years, should
give way suddenly. Yet she was not really selfish, and mourned far
more for her children's sake than her own, at their change of fortune.

Weak minds are often unjust, from sheer inability to take in the
whole of any subject. Thus, Mrs. Lang threw all her natural
affectionateness into Kate's portion, and made her, as it were, the
scapegoat--or representative of the Langville ruin. For Kate's
sorrows, small and great, the mother sympathised and felt; for her she
would gladly have pinched and denied herself, even necessaries; while
the boys, and in fact all besides, would have sunk in comparison to
the most trifling want of Kate's. But fortunately Isabel was there, to
care for her mother, and to insist on justice being done to the
others. Through her undaunted energy and determination, the boys were
not neglected, but were likely to be helped and launched, each in the
way best suited to his character. The elder, Jem, was already, thanks
to Dr. Mornay, promised a very good situation, and the fortunate wood
selling speculation enable them to give him an outfit without applying
to friends for help--a fact most acceptable to Isabel, though she was
grieved to find her mother preferring to retain the money for Kate's
expenses in Sydney, and leaving Jem to chance, saying 'Boys always
could shift, and get on!' Mrs. Lang's pride had vanished, or taken
another form. The second boy was destined to enter a highly
respectable solicitor's office in Sydney. In the meantime he was being
polished off by Mr. Farrant. Kate, since the first few weeks, had
found a home with a distant cousin--a widow lady residing in Sydney--
well off now--though in early life Mr. Lang had generously maintained
her. Her husband being wealthy, she had every comfort, and saw a great
deal of society. Though what is called a little 'particular' in
temper, she did not forget, nor was she ashamed of owning Mr. Lang's
former kindness. Her invitation to Kate was couched in friendly terms,
and delighted Mrs. Lang, who saw in it a reprieve for her darling, and
a life much more suited to her pretty Kate, than working like a
servant, buried in the bush. Kate, however, was not long in
discovering that it was a different thing to be 'Mrs. Offley's cousin,
poor Miss Lang, you know'...from the well-portioned and well-dressed
daughter of the rich Mr. Lang. This, and a continual depression which
she could not shake off--even in a round of parties--gave her letters
home a tone of disappointment which grieved her mother, who directly
put it down to 'Mrs. Offley's queer temper,' and from a little quiet
boasting of dear Kate's invitation to Sydney, she fell into speaking
of it 'as a cruel separation from home, and grievous trial to poor
darling Kate!' By degrees Kate became the injured one, the martyr and
victim, the self-denying child, who sacrificed herself for others; and
her being in Sydney was an act of heroic self-devotion, often
contrasted with Isabel's happy home life. For some time Isabel bore
these remarks without caring. She knew that Kate could not do her work
or take her place, at least for some time, till things were put into
train. Mrs. Lang did not even know what Isabel did daily; for, she
spared her mother in every possible way, and always, at whatever cost,
provided for her wants. Thus from being a busy and active housekeeper,
and in her younger days especially, as her husband so often said with
joking pride, an energetic and managing woman, Mrs. Lang, knocked down
with the sudden grief and change of prospects, sank into imagining
herself unequal to any work, and passively gave up the reins to
Isabel. At first, her whole occupation was in writing to Mrs. Farrant
or to her cousins in Sydney, and afterwards to Kate. One subject alone
formed the theme, and round it her thoughts paced also, in a dreary
circle, which seemed to grow narrower daily. When the first alarm of
poverty had gone off, and through Isabel's sensible arrangements and
friends' kindness, she enjoyed, without care or thought, all her small
daily comforts, Mrs. Lang began to accept it all as a matter of
course, and even forgot previous facts. Without going into the
business, she settled in her own mind that it had been a false alarm,
and that though no longer at Langville or keeping her carriage, she
was still far from being poor. She sometimes urged this as a reason
why it was so hard on Kate to be forced to live with Mrs. Offley, and
when Isabel tried to explain, she often ended with hinting that some
people liked to rule; but after all, Kate was the eldest, and should
therefore be considered first, etc. Tears sprang to Isabel's eyes at
these speeches; but while it was necessary, she did not allow it to
influence her; well knowing that Kate could not carry on her plans
about the farm, she worked on as well as she could, being ably and
faithfully supported by Charlie Brand. In his rough way, he could not
do enough to show his gratitude, though very seldom did the subject
pass his lips. Once, when Isabel was urging him to rest, for that he
had already done more than a day's work, and might trust the chopping
wood to the boy, he answered, looking up at her, with his tomahawk
sticking into the block.

'When I were down there in the cage, thinking all was up, I thought
to myself, 'If I dies with murder branded on me, it wont keep me out
of the kingdom of Heaven, seeing 'tis not a true bill; and when I gets
there, it will be my first endeavour to keep a sharp look-out for her
who had the kindness to believe I didn't do it. I shall know the road
by that time, and if a helping hand can do aught, she'll have one
that's all! And as far as I could (being no scholar), I put up a
prayer for her. Now I think, Miss Isabel, you know who I mean, and
that's all about it. So when you see Charlie Brand a working pretty
considerable hard, you'll know the why and the wherefore.'

Yet, it must be confessed, much as it pleased and gratified her,
Charlie Brand's devotion would not make up for everything. Isabel
sorely missed her father. She was always his particular darling, as
Kate was her mother's. And during his life she had no room for missing
her mother's caressing affection. Now she felt the difference--felt it
acutely, too! And the allusions and hints about Kate's absence began
to be more than she could well bear. Circumstances were changed now.
Everything had been put into order and good training. Perhaps Kate,
with her mother's help, could and would contrive to keep the wheels a-
going. Isabel could rely on Charlie Brand to carry on the wood-
cutting, which used up all the otherwise useless timber on several
acres of bush land, and fetched a good price as firing sold to retail
dealers, who fetched it from a place near Sydney, to which Isabel had
to convey it.

The time was come for some change to be desirable, Isabel felt. Kate
could return home; but at present their resources would not allow of
more than one besides the little ones, so that Isabel would have to go
elsewhere. Fortunately, she could work and gain money, being able-
bodied, as well as having an energetic and active mind. So the thought
gradually assumed shape, each speech of her mother's bringing it out
in stronger colours. She must be a governess! Yes! after all her toil
and labour to make this home, she must leave it, and live and work
among strangers. Nor would her absence cause any grief; on the
contrary, as it brought Kate home, it would be actually a time of
rejoicing. She was not dear or necessary to any one in the world now.
No one felt any great interest in her, no one regarded her efforts,
except in as far as they ministered to her mother's or Kate's benefit.
No one thought of begging her not to go too far or do too much. No! if
she worked all day and every day--real hard work--it was deemed by her
mother, and by Tom Jolly, their constant visitor, as an honour and
privilege to be allowed such an opportunity of doing anything for
Kate. Dearly as she did love Kate, it must be owned that there were
moments when this feeling brought pain. These thoughts came strongly
before her on this evening, after hearing several more pointed
speeches than usual from her mother. Even causing her to recal with a
sigh the vain though generous devotion of Captain Smith, formerly in
charge of the corps of mounted police in their old district, who, on
the death of Mr. Lang and report of his family's ruin, gallantly swore
that he had always liked and admired Isabel Lang, and if she was now
poor, he should be proud to have her for a wife. Nor did it end in
words, for very soon after the family had come to Westbrooke, a
clattering was heard one day, and a soldier rode up to the back yard
bearing a letter from his chief to Miss I. Lang. A curious letter it
was, and oddly enough expressed. But the meaning was clear and
honourable. He told her he had long admired and loved her, but held
back from feelings of humility. He offered all he had, wishing it was
more. Mrs. Lang urged her to consider it, and not act from impulse and
hurry. 'Under present circumstances,' she began; but Isabel
interrupted by saying her answer would be the same under all
circumstances, and all her consideration was to write as kind and
gentle a 'No' as she could. This little episode was not disagreeable.
It sometimes helped to warm her heart when it shivered or felt lonely
as now. After all, there was much kindness in the world, so often
found, too, where unexpected. And then all the words Dr. Mornay had
used, more especially on this evening, returned. They were full of a
strong and affectionate interest. What had she done to excite it? It
seemed like a friend in need rising up. Certainly she wished he was
not a Catholic priest exactly. And yet this was beginning to be less a
drawback. She was interested and curious about his early history. She
pitied and admired him. He was not by any means an ordinary man. So
agreeable and entertaining at times! But again there were moments when
she drew back afraid of she knew not what. And with all this crept in
a complacent consciousness that he was interested in and drawn towards
herself particularly, either through some likeness to one of his early
friends, or from affinity of taste. When all else is arid and barren,
and one has a feeling of being overlooked, there is scarcely a heart
insensible to the pleasure of finding itself to be genial in any way
to some one. It is natural and human to turn to the light, wherever it
may shine.

It comforted Isabel a little to feel herself an object of interest
and importance to Dr. Mornay. He alone now ever read her countenance,
and saw fatigue or sorrow written there when she did not deign to
speak of either. He alone appreciated her efforts and her self-denying
love for her family. He alone thought her equal (or superior) to Kate,
and not the merely useful working drudge--one of those who,
undertaking all the disagreeable tasks which some one must do and no
one likes, constantly hears it affirmed by those who sit quietly and
benefit by their labours, 'O, she likes it! She is in her element!'

Mrs. Lang was fond of Isabel, and proud of her, too. She descanted
on her useful qualities now, complacently asserting that Issy was in
her glory. It was what she had always wished for. Dr. Mornay judged
more truly. He saw where the yoke pressed, and that only a high sense
of duty sustained her. Busied as she was with domestic occupations, he
deemed her worthy for his friend; her opinion was sought, sometimes
her advice asked, and yet the world spoke of him as a star. To her he
had sometimes thrown off his trappings and shown a human heart--
weaker, yet infinitely more interesting, than the one he was supposed
to possess by people in general.

Yet with all the gratification and soothing power of this reflection,
Isabel knew that it would not do to rest too much on this singular
friendship. In one way her faith had been much weakened, and she
cautioned herself often, never to build upon another man's friendly
regard, it was like building a house on the sands. Also, an
instinctive feeling of reserve and caution came to warn her that
although, to her, Dr. Mornay was a kind and helping friend, apparently
seeking her good only, he was really separated by his religion and
calling as a priest. It was all very well to receive it as passing
interest and amusement, but she must be careful. Now this caution and
reserve was especially distasteful to her nature, and it set her
wishing he was a Protestant. That alone was wanting to make him
perfectly delightful. His faults, as far as she could see, were
incidental to his calling and position, and would fall away in the
clear, broad daylight of the English Church. Then his hurried troubled
words seemed again to sound in her ears. Was it possible that he
really began to find the defects of his own creed, and to recognise
the value of the Reformed Church? It was a pleasant idea, full of
charm and excitement, to be the means of bringing this great and
clever man, this star of Rome, to her own faith. Was it impossible?
Surely such things had happened! The thought had glanced before her
once or twice, but had been dismissed as foolish. Now, however, it
would not vanish, but grew into shape. Forgetting her own troubles she
eagerly threw herself once again into the unprofitable employment of
castle-building. Dr. Mornay's conversion would even be a greater
triumph than making a match between Miss Terry and Mr. Herbert. This
was something worth living for. Nor did her previous failure
discourage or warn her, and yet Isabel was not otherwise than humble.
She had learnt a lesson, and now, instead of putting herself forward
presumptuously, she felt that her share in the work must be passive
and silent. Not for one moment did she reckon on any argument on her
part weighing with him. Rather he would be insensibly led to it
through her. That he had doubts, she felt sure, and that he was uneasy
and unhappy. How doubly careful must she be of her duty, lest her
faults should hinder the work! There was something very fascinating to
one of her temperament in this. It elevated her; she lost herself in
pursuing this idea, and really tired by a busy day, she fell asleep
while thinking, leaning back on a couch with all her clothes still on,
and the cold, clear moon rays falling full upon her. Isabel slept
soundly as if in bed.



CHAPTER XX. The Hour Of Temptation.



As Isabel had predicted, 'Noble' did bay in a very tormenting way at
the moon, and his deep-toned voice was the signal for several sharp
and yelping animals, in all directions, and at great distances, to
send their several answers, which from the rarity of the atmosphere,
resounded clearly, and disagreeably broke on the stillness of the
hour. Mrs. Lang turned and tossed, and wished the dogs--anywhere. It
worried her. She arose and looked out of her window, lest any one
should by chance be lurking about. Not a living thing could be seen,
not a moving object of any kind as it seemed, for the slender leaves
of the white cedar did not move. There was no air, all was still and
bright. 'But there are some clouds there. Perhaps they will gather in
the moon's path and obscure her pitiless rays; then the dogs would
rest, and let others sleep.' As Mrs. Lang fancied, so it happened. The
Queen of the Night passed behind a thick mass of clouds, from which
there seemed no outlet, for they were gathering fast and forming into
battle array, and darkness fell on the land about. 'Noble' retired to
his bed of straw, and one after another, all the distant barks ceased.
Sleep appeared to reign everywhere. Meanwhile the hitherto still
leaves began to tremble, and a low sough was heard, as the rising wind
caught itself among the intricacies of the forest. A change had come
to the night; there was a breeze everywhere, though not a high wind.
The one or two ardent lovers of sport, who had sacrificed their sleep
for a 'bang at the 'possums,' hastened home to get what they could out
of the remainder of the night. Yet, one figure might have been seen
still. He carried no gun, and apparently it had been the charms of the
scene alone which kept him so incessantly pacing about, now up and
down the cedar avenue, then in a paddock which lay in front of the
cottage, and commanded a view of the place. Now he paused, leaning on
the fence, his head buried in his hands. Then again started up, and
with rapid steps crossed over and stood facing the house. After which,
with careful and silent footfall, he passed quite round it, gazing at
each chamber-window as he went, which according to the custom of the
place, were mostly unshaded by anything but the plants which half
buried the whole building. It had been a close night, and one window
had been left partly open. Now in the rising breeze this shook to and
fro with a clatter. Dr. Mornay, for he it was, stopped before it and
seemed to listen. All was still! Again went the casement, and he
stretched out his hand and bent back a pretty stiff rose-branch to
keep it steady. One moment more and he passed on--slowly--and with
arms folded, seemingly without looking what direction he took, he
reached the old dog's kennel and a horse-block. 'Noble' growled, but
two words in a low clear voice, set his tail wagging and restored him
to his slumbers. Dr. Mornay sat down on the block. It was nearly dark
now, and his face must have been hidden, had any been there to see.
But his gestures were remarkable, and after clasping, and almost
wringing his hands, and throwing up his face to the now darkened sky,
with some impulse of despairing entreaty, as it seemed, he uttered
aloud, though his voice was broken, and so changed it could scarcely
have been recognised,--'What is it? presentiment! Yet why? The third
time in my life--What can it be? Have I scoffed, and now am I to be
convinced? Are these spirits?--It is rending, burning, torture!--Once
more--yet once more, let me try.' And he fell on his knees and made
the sign of the cross. With bowed head, he seemed to pray with
passionate urgency. A groan, half-suppressed, at times burst forth and
broken words--'All--all--penances--denial--vigils--labours and toil!--
Will nothing avail now? Not even my promised reward! Pish! what is it?
What is it now I approach it?--Rotten;--dust and ashes! In a few
months I should gain all. All!--honour--power. Is it some device of
the enemy which has blinded my soul--my intellect! I--I--the stern--
the rigid--who laughed at all--I, having battled through more than a
score of years, the envy of all. Strong,--great in my self-possession,
so that I could afford to approach the forbidden things! For me it had
no charms. But now! Scourge--fasting--torture--where are ye? What am
I?'--

Then, as if checking himself, and taking up his hat, which had
fallen, he rose and walked to and fro--to and fro, with eyes bent on
the ground.

Again he stood still. 'Why am I here? What cursed spell chains me to
this place? Presentiment?--humbug! I don't, I wont believe in it. It
is fever! I am ill. I exposed myself to her. Yet--I don't wish it
undone--unsaid, No! it won me... Ah, yes... That was a glimpse of
heaven. For what is heaven, but the height and crown of our happiness!
Each soul must have its own heaven! I now begin to see what mine must
be...Fables. What do we know?'--

Presently his foot struck against something, and a very slight ray
of light served to show him a glitter on the ground. First his hand
mechanically sought his breast, then quickly picked up a locket tied
by a black ribbon, which he had dropped without being aware of it. He
examined it as well as he could, and pressed it passionately to his
lips.

'Ah! is it an omen? To drop--to lose this! Ah, sister! ah, Isabella!
my own Isabella--After our work is done, we are 'to meet.'--She said
so. So she prays in her humble home, in her pain--her love--her
loneliness! I must not desert her. Her cries, would... O my God! what
is heaven? What is hell? O, Isabella! if we two had been but
Protestants--Heretics... Blasphemy! I see her as she raises her thin
hand to stop me. I see her, hear her sigh. She prays--prays for me--
the priest--the...She is a true child of the Church. Am I mad? No, no;
not at all mad. Good Lord--this is a conflict with the devil! 'Tis he
who has taken the form that intoxicates me--the very name which is
itself a spell of fascination to me! Avaunt ye, Evil One! Pooh, I am
doting. It is no spirit--it is myself. Why have I these feelings--
these passions? What has a priest--a sacrificed man--to do with them?
I deemed I had destroyed them, ruthlessly killed them, smothered them;
and yet they live!' Again he changed his tone to tremulous pleading.
'O, Isabella of my soul--sister--is this your blessed warning? Do you
speak to me in this? 'Fly,' I hear you say. 'It is sin, deadly sin. It
will cost you the toil, the work of your whole life--all your reward
here--all your hope--all my hope hereafter.' Isabel, I obey, I go!
Good Lord! Blessed Virgin! O, all ye holy saints! Powers of heaven!
angels of the Almighty! guard me now--thy long-time servant. My
stripes, my fasts and vigils, my hard and lonely lot, let it all plead
for me now. I go!'

He crossed his arms on his chest as he uttered the last words with a
solemn gesture, and his voice rose. With it also rose a rushing
sound--not however heeded by him at the moment, absorbed as he was in
deathly conflict with his foe. Some time passed, and he was still
walking, though with less hurried steps, and his arms still folded on
his chest. Was it the wind making that swift, sharp rush? Clouds were
hurrying here and there, and still the shrubs, trees, and grass swayed
about, but in no very certain direction. It was growing gusty, and
seemed undecided in which quarter it was to blow. All was still--
buried in sleep. Nothing broke the silence but that singular low, ever
increasing sound. The voices of his own heart, and its yet hard
throbbings, prevented him from noting it. But by another sense, he was
made aware of something unusual. He raised his head, and his
delicately cut nostril worked. 'Fire! fire! Some of those bush fires!
But--' again he sniffed and turned in the direction of the barn, which
stood close by some uncleared bush; 'this is coming near,--or is it
the wind set in that way?'

There had been two or more of these bush fires going on in the
neighbourhood for some days, as he knew. But now with all his usual
keen senses awake and clear again, he felt in an instant this was not
from the bush.

'Ha!' he exclaimed, turning to the cottage; 'that's it,' and with a
few bounds as it seemed, he stood by the dwelling, within which Mrs.
Lang, and three children, and two maids were sleeping. The whole
building was of weather-board, and the roof made of shingles--all
inflammable wood. But part of the building was a little detached, for
having found it necessary to add two or three rooms, Mr. Lang had put
up one of the moveable wooden houses then in vogue. It stood on low
wheels or blocks, a little above the ground, and was connected with
the main building by a covered way, only a few feet long. Unless
passing on that side, it was difficult to see that it was a separate
building, both being in the course of years, of one tint, and
overgrown with plants. In this moveable house, familiarly called the
'wooden box,' Isabel had her sleeping-room, and her store. Here also
in a small closet, slept one of the servants; the other remaining with
the little children, whose room adjoined Mrs. Lang's. There were
besides these, two other small sleeping-closets, called 'verandah
rooms,' being enclosed off the deep, double verandah, and they served
for a passing guest, or for the boys when at home.

When Dr. Mornay reached the spot, he saw that it was Isabel's part
that was on fire. As yet it had not touched the cottage. At once he
perceived, by pulling down the tarpauling, which, well painted, served
as cover to the connecting passage, there might be a possibility, if
the wind was at all favourable, of saving the cottage. But it required
hands, and to be done at once. Only Charlie Brand and a boy were
within call. The man who helped and served as drayman lived in the
township. Charlie's hut was some way off, and there was no way of
giving him the alarm, for the bell which had been often talked of as
very desirable, he knew was not yet even ordered. All this flashed
across his mind in an instant. But the flames now seemed to wind and
wrap themselves round that doomed wooden box. The smoke was
suffocating. Yet no one stirred or gave signs of life. 'Good God! they
must be insensible! The smoke--'

Then he remembered his closing Isabel's casement, and he flew round
to it, obliged to make a wide circuit, for red-hot pieces of wood and
shingles were beginning to fall. And just then, with a sigh, low, but
ominous, the wind swept through the cedars, and played in the swamp
oaks, and then gave fresh impetus to the devouring flame, which shot
up in awful beauty, like some savage beast licking its prey.

'Isabel! Isabel!'

But to his wild appeal there was neither answer nor stir--not a sign
of life. And the crackling, hissing flames raged wilder and madder
than ever. Then, for a brief moment, arose one of those struggles when
the light of the soul seems quenched, when right and wrong are
inextricably blended, when reason has fled, and fierce passions rise
up in fearful strength to contend with foregone habit. Habit alone and
not principle taking the helm. Fortunate for the poor torn soul at
such a time if the habit has hitherto been guided by principle!

'She is insensible--she will die--perhaps she is dead. O, God! dead!
Yet isn't this an answer to my wild prayer--to my sister's prayer? I
can go. Who will know I was here? I should be saved from the sin--the
disgrace. Am I cruel? Ah no, for life is but agony! Dead--she can no
longer beguile me from my hardly earned honours. Dead--she will no
longer mix herself up in my dreams with that other Isabel. I shall be
free--free--and she, so pure, so good--she will be at rest!'

For an instant he turned away from the burning house--only for an
instant. The whole instinct of the man revolted and rose up against
such a decree.

'Is it right, or is it wrong?' he exclaimed in frantic agony. 'I had
vowed--resolved to give her up. God knows it! God heard it! Isn't it,
then, sin to save her? Are not these flames sent in answer to my wild
prayer--my former strict devotion--and for hers--my saintly sister's
sake?--to take away and remove from my path this delusion of the
enemy! She must die! Better for many such to perish, than for
discredit to come on the Church--through one of God's chosen ministers
too! I will have masses offered for her. To her I had exposed my
weakness in a bitter moment. And she must therefore...What--die, die
horribly? She--Isabel--to die such a cruel death, and I--a man--a
brave, strong man, here, able to save her!'

In a moment the old force of habit came back in full sway. In
another instant he was plunging through that sea of flame--that
stifling smoke.

'Isabel! Isabel!'

But there was no answer. He saw her and seized her, wrapping her in
a large cloak which was hanging near the couch on which she lay,
dressed. He carried her out. The flame had not yet reached the
interior of her room, though the smoke was so thick as to make it
hardly possible to breathe. He bore her on--fast--faster--never
pausing or looking round. No sooner had he clasped her in his arms
than all else was forgotten--all! He stopped at last at the end of a
sloping paddock which ran round the farm, and was fenced off because
it had been drilled for maize. A fallen tree lay along. On it he sank,
and then, with panting breath, and wildly throbbing pulses, he gazed
at her whom he carried. 'Was she dead, after all?' He laid her down
gently and tenderly, taking off his own coat and covering her with it.
He knew where some water was to be found, and quickly came back with
his handkerchief dripping, which he applied to her forehead and hands.
The quiet, and the clear pure air, soon revived the paralysed senses.
There was a quiver in the eyelids--a slight movement of the hand. Then
all was apparently locked in death again. Kneeling by her, bending
over her, he uttered wild words. Now addressing her as a departed soul
and praying to her as to some saint. Now speaking as to a living
woman, entreating her compassion, urging her to arouse herself that
they might go--fly together!--for that she had been given him this
night as a prey--as his own. He told her there were other lands where
they might go and live, out of reach even of the Church. There they
would make their own heaven. Then, when the first strength and heat of
this had exhausted itself, his voice sank into low, tender murmurs,
and his tears dropped unheeded; while bitter sobs choked his whole
frame. Incoherent as were his words, they had a wondrous pathos in
them; they were so impassioned, yet so sad.

There was too little light to see it, though there were the first
faint indications of a cloudy dawn, but on her face there arose a
flush, even while she lay so motionless. At last, at some pause he
made, she sighed and moved.

'Where am I? Is it a dream?' she said, wildly and trembling very
much; 'I was dreaming of Dr. Mornay,' and she again closed her eyes.

'Were you? You are cold! O, let me wrap you up and carry you on--on--
' and he strove to raise her. 'Isabel! Isabel!'

'Dr. Mornay'--she was now completely conscious. 'Where am I? Take me
back directly.'

'Back! where? No--we must go on--onwards, not back! never back! I
will carry you.'

'Tell me what it means! Do you hear?' and she raised herself into a
sitting position, and spoke with sternness, though her voice was
stifled, and she felt so ill she could hardly pronounce a syllable.

'The fire! Didn't you know? There was fire. God sent it! Jehovah!--
for the sacrifice! But I saved you. The house is burnt down. Nothing
remains by this time. You and I are saved, and we only. How could I
help it? I couldn't let you die--perish! How could I? Now let us go
on--on, far, far onwards. It is cold here.'

Isabel looked keenly round her, noting every bush and tree. She was
one of those whose senses are seldom confused, but are ready and clear
for any emergency.

'O, Dr. Mornay! You wont, you can't deceive me! I trust you. You are
a man of stern principles--a man--. But how ill I feel! For the sake
of God--of your own soul--take me back, or--Is it really burnt? are
they hurt? Leave me here--call some one--call Charlie Brand here!' She
spoke with increasing terror and urgency.

'My soul! my soul! what of it? It is you I ask--of you I demand--what
is to come to my soul? Honour, glory, power--all was mine,--but for
you! You are mine now--wholly mine, given to me this night--a brand
from the burning!'

'Do as I say,' she cried, interrupting him, firmly, for she believed
him to be mad. 'If not, I shall walk home as I can.'

Just then a dog came up with his nose to the ground; he gave a sharp
bark or two, and ran off again, then came back, and on the slope of
the ground which rose suddenly near them, a figure loomed large and
dark against the pale grey sky.

'Thank God!' breathed out Isabel, faintly, and sinking back in the
reaction of joy at this most opportune relief. For it was stout
Charlie himself, who was searching about in a state of mind bordering
on frenzy at finding Miss Isabel missing.

'Carry me home, Charlie--quick! Home!'

'Ay, ay, and here ye be? My--and this gent too! What, then, it's you
has been and pulled her out of that blaze, and a credit to ye it is.
But how you comed to hear it down away there, and not a soul had
glimpse of the truth nigh the very place, passes me.'

'I was taking a stroll, as I am fond of doing on such a bright night.
I saw--happily I saw the fire, and was enabled to--to--'

'Ay, ye've saved her; a good deed, too. Couldn't afford to part with
her, no ways. Good fruit is scarce!' Charlie said, and in a moment he
had lifted Isabel in his arms, winding the cloak round her skilfully.
He pointed with his foot to the coat, half kicking it. 'That's yourn!
Best put it on! A chill will bring the rheumatics after a sweat.' It
was always observed that when most excited in feeling, Charlie
subsided into his roughest dialect. As he was going, he half turned to
say, 'Missis will be going down 'pon her knees, I guess, to ye for
this turn. Mortal bad just now, not knowing where her was,' nodding
towards Isabel. 'Began to think 'most she must be gone up straight in
a chariot of fire! Couldn't see not a morsel of her, not even a heap
of ashes like.' With that he set himself to walk straight on.

A low, stifled moan reached Isabel as she had closed her eyes,
feeling faintish, yet indescribably content to be in Charlie's safe
keeping.

'Stay, Charlie! He saved me from a dreadful fate. Is he hurt? Ask--
wait! Father Mornay!'

He came to her side directly, but his eyes were bent on the ground.

'Thank you, thank you,' she said. 'God will bless you for saving me.'

She held out her hand. She never afterwards forgot the burning touch
of his as he took it and pressed it to his lips. It seemed to her as
if it had left a scorching mark behind, and the sound of his voice was
unnatural. It was more like a hollow rattle as he tried to utter
something and could not,--probably 'Good-bye.'

'Poor man! Don't lose sight of him, Charlie!'

'Ay, ay! Has done a good turn this here night.' Charlie strode on.
'Queer thing, that fire. Only just saved. Moveable house gone, every
atom of it. Flames caught the cottage just a little and blackened it,
but thanks be, the wind went down, and by tearing away the tarpauling,
all was saved.'

'Any one hurt?' Isabel asked.

'Yourself and him yonder. No other. All asleep--had to scream and cry
like mad.'

'But Susan--she slept near me; has anyone thought?'

'She took care of herself, it seems. Susan didn't fancy the baying of
old Noble,' said Charlie, chuckling at the idea; 'and on the sly went
and took up with Bridget; slept like a top all through, till I threw a
pail of water over her to sarve her out.'

'Why?' asked Isabel, amused in spite of herself.

'Because of her not being in the fire, where she ought to have been,
aside o' you.'

There was silence then, for Isabel was shivering and feeling ill.
Besides which, a terrible fear and perplexing doubt lay heavily on
her. It was still all confused--all a dream! To fall asleep with such
a scheme, and to wake feeling so stupified, finding herself there, and
with him alone, and then those words--those words! Could she ever
cease to hear them, to feel them, worse than fire flames? He must have
been mad, insane. Perhaps from over-excitement or excess of fasting or
work; he was subject to attacks of illness; and once had a brain
fever. O that she might never see him again! That he might never,
never guess that, though unable to move or give signs of life, she had
heard, and having heard, wished to swoon really, or even to die,
rather than face him again!

Mrs. Lang, having been long since fully roused, received her daughter
with hysteric weeping; praising the bravery of her deliverer; blessing
and thanking him, and wishing he had come to be cared for; of course
he was hurt, too. But it was evident that Isabel needed real care now,
and by Charlie's advice, he was allowed to send a messenger for a
doctor who lived only ten miles off, and she was meanwhile laid on her
mother's bed and left quiet. What a day it was! The alarm given,
people from all parts, within a circuit of some twenty miles, crowded
to express sympathy and offer help. There was a constant examining of
the wreck of the 'wooden box;' there were reiterated explanations and
questionings as to the probable origin of the fire, and as to its
being discovered. Charlie Brand, it seemed, usually awoke once towards
morning, and sometimes being anxiously inclined, peeped out to take a
survey of his premises. He said, the first thing he saw was a red
light over the house. In another moment he was dressed, and, followed
by his dog, striding across the paddock. He found the place all but
consumed; the last wall fell in with a crash as he came up. He rushed
in to see if any one was among the rubbish, and hallooed as, he said,
he had never done since he was a boy. His screams had the effect of
awaking Mrs. Lang, and then the two maid-servants. But where was
Isabel? The suspense, till 'Noble' scented her out, had been
frightful. Charlie said, 'I didn't feel so bad and all-over like, when
I thought I was to hang.' Then came the question, But how did Dr.
Mornay know of the fire, and knowing it, why had he not raised an
alarm? He was not present to explain, so a variety of solutions of the
mystery of his conduct were brought forward. Isabel's own version was,
that he was so excited and upset, that having rushed in and saved her,
he lost all further presence of mind, and as she had been in a swoon,
perhaps he dared not leave her. She urged the propriety of some one
going to his house to inquire after him. He was certainly very ill,
and most likely was hurt, and he ought to be well cared for. Mrs. Lang
set off towards evening, herself to inquire and to pour out her
thanks. Having sent off the little girls with a kind neighbour, and
leaving Isabel asleep under the influence of a soothing draught, the
doctor ordering perfect repose and silence for her, Mrs. Lang, after
indulging in a fit of weeping and wishing for Kate to talk to,
bethought herself of Dr. Mornay, and gladly undertook the mission. But
her long walk (long for her) was thrown away, except as to filling up
some time. The servant, a stupid half-deaf man, said, 'His Reverence
had not been at home since the previous evening. He had not returned
at night, but that was not out of the common for him, nor had he been
nigh the place for the day.'

'But surely you ought to search, inquire. He was helping at our
fire, and he was probably hurt. Have you taken any steps?'

'Hurt--no! His Reverence was ever very independent. Here to-day,
to--morrow gone! He didn't like to be asked too much for. No doubt he
was about his work somewhere, perhaps in Sydney, perhaps after some
sick and sorrowing soul. He'd turn up, not a doubt. No fear!'

Mrs. Lang was indignant, and failing in stirring this man's fears or
anxiety, she went to the Parsonage and opened her budget of news and
her troubles to Mr. Sands, a stout, round-about, suave little man, yet
'with a little pepper in his composition, too,' as he always asserted,
rubbing his round, fat hands as he spoke, and winding up with a low,
but very hearty laugh.

He turned most things into a joke, till it came to some certain
point, and then at a knot or some unseen hitch in the smooth running
of the thread, he would suddenly ruffle his feathers like a turkey-
cock, his face growing a bright ruby red even to his bald pate, and
his hitherto smooth speech turned into sputtering and stammering. He
was not married, but said to be engaged. He was rather popular, and
preached 'clever' sermons; and had quite a curiously neat garden in
which he dug and watered, and, as he said, 'took all his recreation.'

To him Mrs. Lang imparted her anxiety about Dr. Mornay.

'Certainly! Very handsome of you, my dear madam. I always make a
point of bowing and being on the best of terms with the Catholic
priest and the Presbyterian minister. Beyond that I don't pretend to
go. Ah!--very heroic--quite romantic. And how came he so opportunely
on the spot? Ah!--fond of moonlight; superior man! I understand likely
to receive very high honours--very high indeed--that is, in the Roman
Church. My brains! what a delusion it is. Can you conceive such
benighted ignorance, Mrs. Lang? But unhappily such a man, such an
intellect as Dr. Mornay's does not--can not, in point of fact--receive
it. No! Then what does it end in? Ah, that's it--that's exactly the
very point! My dear madam, I can prove...'

'But if he has fainted in the bush, after saving my child! It is
horrid to think of!' Mrs. Lang said, trying to bring him to the point.

'Very--O, very horrid indeed! Only you see--really I don't wish to
hurt your feelings--but he is a very dangerous man--insidious! Indeed
he is; and as one of my parishioners, one of my fold--allow me to
suggest, it is at least a bad example. I see you are harping on
probable danger of another kind to himself. Now, I don't apprehend
any. He is the most 'whimmy' man ever known. His servant is right. We
shall hear of him in some freaky way soon. But, O! of course, anything
to oblige. Yes, if such be your wish, madam, I'll send men at once.'

And under a doubtful sense of overwhelming politeness, Mrs. Lang
left, still very much at sea as to Mr. Sands' real meaning.

She found Isabel much worse, in high fever, as it seemed, and
delirious. This called out long dormant, but not actually forgotten or
lost powers. Mrs. Lang was once more the active, light-handed 'Kitty'
of whom her husband had been proud to talk. She watched her child, and
forgot her own fatigue in the keen sense of anxiety which came over
her, lest this prop, this dutiful 'helping' child should be taken from
her.

Relief came just as it was very sorely needed; Isabel still seriously
ill, and Mrs. Lang beginning to give way. Mr. Jolly and his son rode
up about the time for the early dinner. Joyfully did Mrs. Lang go out
to meet them.

'What brought you just as I wanted you?' she asked.

'Ill news travels fast,' Mr. Jolly said. 'Now, what can we do? Mrs.
Jolly bade me bring you, every one of you, back. Bless your soul! she
is turning out every room at this moment. Such a contriver as she is!
Room and to spare for all. No denial. Well, well; as soon as darling
Issy can be moved I mean, of course! I'll have every one of ye! Where
are the chicks? Gone! Where's Kate--Miss Lang? The deuce! In Sydney
now, and Issy ill and her mamma tired out? That wont do. No, no! Kate
aint the girl I take her for if she isn't wanting to be here. Can't
she come?'

'Let me--can't I go with a message?' Tom ventured to say, colouring
up. 'O, father, if we had but brought the gig now!'

'As to that, it can be fetched, boy.'

'On no account,' said Mrs. Lang. 'At least for Kate. Couldn't think
of it. No, no. It is necessary now, in our altered position, as I
always say, to be doubly particular. And, excuse me, for a lady to
travel in a gig with a young man is--is--'

'But the old one, madam; any harm in me, now?'

'No, of course,' Mrs. Lang said, with a bow to Mr. Jolly. 'You
really--if you would be so kind as to bring up our dear girl, I know
she will be delighted to come. Her heart is so soft and tender. She
pines away, poor darling! All her spirits gone--her pretty colour
faded.'

Here Tom shuffled his feet very impatiently. Mrs. Lang looked at him
in surprise, and then resumed her speech.

'I am not sure,--but before this sudden and awful disaster (the fire,
I mean) Dr. Mornay had been so good as to promise me to see my Katie.
And he is so remarkably clever, I am sure he would find or invent some
way of bringing her to me at once. That is, supposing his servant is
right, and the Doctor is in Sydney. Very mysterious isn't it, Mr.
Jolly?' she added, with a sudden change of tone.

'What, ma'am--the Doctor going to Sydney?'

'Yes. I mean his part in our adventure altogether. His saving Issy,
and then disappearing. No one can even guess where he is. He appeared
quite suddenly as the fire broke out, and then disappeared. But
priests--Catholic priests--are, I believe, always mysterious.'

'Do you mean that fellow, I beg pardon, that gentleman who was trying
to get up a church and what not, our way?' said Mr. Jolly. 'Ay, ay; a
very clever chap I have heard he is. The Pope's right hand--something
very high and powerful in disguise, they say. Sent out here for some
political purpose, as well as the strengthening their party. Well,
now, you do as you think proper, of course; but for my Amelia, now,
I'd sooner trust her to a young fellow like Tom there, though he
might, whether he meant it or no, make a little love to her, than have
her argued into believing black is white by a man of that stamp.'

'Now I think of it, Mr. Jolly, if I write to Kate, Mr. Merryman is
coming in a day or so to his place near this township. He will be too
happy to oblige us, I know, and will give Kate a seat in his
carriage--a very comfortable one.'

Mrs. Lang had thrown some of her old attempted dignity into her
manner. Again she was Mrs. Lang of Langville. Mr. Jolly fell to using
his great big purple pocket-handkerchief and clearing his throat.

'Then let me,' Tom said, nervously; 'may I take your letter to Miss
Lang? I could go to Mr. Merryman for her, and act as messenger, you
see, and anything in fact--and--and I have some business to do in
Sydney--eh, father?'

So this matter was arranged thus. Tom was to carry the note, and to
give Kate all the help he could, which he took as a high honour, and
on his suggestion being received, he took courage, so as to talk, and
make some very pertinent remarks as to the fire and its consequences.

Mr. Jolly, finding there was really nothing for him to do, said he
should return to his wife, and with many repeated, hearty offers of
help, he took leave. First, however, holding a consultation with
Charlie Brand about the replacing the lost rooms; the result of which
was that, under the said chief's directions, a new building was very
soon being erected. When Mrs. Lang hoped he was not running up bills,
and so on, he nodded and grinned, and assured her 'that there bush,
coupled with good will, had the wherewithal to build houses enough for
a town as big as Sydney itself!'

Before Isabel was recovered, a neat weather-board building was
'looking up,' and to watch the progress of it became a source of
amusement to her, as she reclined near her mother's window.

After some little delay and difficulty, Kate arrived, but with Tom as
her escort after all. Mr. Merryman was not going to leave Sydney for
another fortnight, so Tom, finding that Kate's anxiety to go home was
great, took on himself to hire a gig, his own horse being quiet in
harness; and with more pride and pleasure than he cared to show, he
drove Miss Lang home, without an accident or adventure of any kind.

Isabel was fairly surprised, as a blooming, elegantly dressed person
came rustling into her room. Was this the pining, injured Kate? Sydney
seemed to have done more than Westbrooke; they had no such blooming
specimens here. Mrs. Lang's pride and joy were great, and Isabel had
not the heart to give the prudent warning which rose to her lips, when
she saw the preparations her mother was making to celebrate this
event. Kate's return was to be a fête, and Mrs. Lang's notions were
more consistent with Langville style than Westbrooke. After a little,
she gave up the notion of a large dinner-party, because Issy was not
well enough. But Mr. Sands was invited, Tom pressed to remain, and a
note despatched to Dr. Mornay. But still the deaf man shook his head,
and said 'his Reverence had not returned, but he was about his work
somewhere, no doubt! He was used to go away quietly like this; no
fear, no fear at all!'



CHAPTER XXI. The Newspaper Paragraph.



'Tom! are you grown dumb? Come! I am so dull. Do tell me news, all
the news of the dear old place,' said Isabel, after Tom had remained
silent for some few minutes.

She was still in her mother's room, on a couch. It had been found
that her leg received a burn, from a falling spark, or piece of wood,
probably. The wound, though small, had become troublesome, and now
kept her a very unwilling prisoner.

'I beg your pardon, Issy! I was thinking. But how are you? better?'

'Yes, only this stupid leg! But of what are you thinking, Tom?'

'Well, as to your all coming on a visit to us. You see, father and
mother expect it, and I was considering, that with contrivance, we
could make your sister and Mrs. Lang comfortable. O, I hope you will
come!'

'Mamma may, and the little ones, but indeed, Tom, I cannot! Business,
you see--I am become an important personage now. As to Kate--well--I
don't know, she is better and happier, perhaps it would be a pity to
take her where old things must return to her mind.'

'But if you mean--They are all gone, every one, Issy! We would do all
we could to make her merry. The air is good, and--Issy!' he said,
drawing his seat close to her couch, and speaking in almost a whisper,
while his face grew crimson--

'If that would be any relief--I mean of course it would! But will you
tell her--that--that--I am always so very busy, you see, that I am
never at home. I catch my meals anywhere, don't come in and sit down;
you understand? So, she needn't mind me--or--or if she ever for a
moment desired anything I could do for her, there, I am within call in
a moment. You understand?'

'Yes, quite. O Tom, that isn't the way! You good, blundering soul,
can't you see? No, indeed! I shall not say so, nor will you, I hope,
ever be tempted to act so--to give up your rightful, honoured place as
your father's son, in your own house! Besides, Tom, Kate wouldn't,
couldn't wish it, or like you the better for it.'

'Wouldn't she? I only meant I wouldn't, for all the world, be in her
way or obtrude myself. Though as to not loving and adoring her,--that,
Issy, I can never help doing, so long as I live. But I know so well--
don't you think I know--and feel--and see--that I am not like those
young fellows she meets? We are quiet simple folks--honest and true, I
hope; but, bless you! I see the difference. Yet--sometimes--May I tell
you, Isabel?--you are always so very kind! Well, I have had a pleasant
thought, that is, if--if--your sister--'

'Call her Kate!'

'Kate! Ah! but I don't think she likes me to do so. But, however, to
you, just to you, I will. If Kate should happen not to marry, and her
heart is so good and so pure, that she can't forget that--that--(but
no, I will not abuse him) though he clearly has forgotten her--is she
should live on as she is, and in time, years hence, she should, in the
natural run of things, ever feel a little deserted, when younger
people come and push her out rudely, as it is the way of the world;--
if then her feelings should have changed a little, and if I only can
carry out my resolutions, and have lived as I ought, so as to be not
wholly unworthy, it pleases me, Issy, to think, that then I may,
perhaps, succeed. She may then allow me to--to--love her--to work for
her!'

'When she is grown old and ugly?'

'That she never, never can be! Certainly not in my eyes!' he
answered, with warmth.

'Well, Tom, all I can say is, and always have said, I admire and
respect you, and the wonder is, and always will be, how Kate can be so
blind. Ah! Tom, you would aim at the highest and best! But why didn't
you content yourself with poor me?'

Tom laughed. He thoroughly understood her. 'I know I wouldn't give
up or forfeit your regard--may I say regard?'

'Regard and affection and respect and interest and admiration and
...'

'Stop, Issy, that sounds like mocking me! No, but your regard,
affection, for so it is between us, is my great pleasure. And it is a
wish, pretty nearly as deep in my heart as the other, that some day--
you see we need patience in this life, Issy--things will work round in
time--that one of these days, I may see you joined to the only one
worthy of you, and exactly suited. You know who I mean, I see!'

'Yes, of course I do. But I hope, Tom, your own wish has more
foundation, more possibility about it, than this. Consider, even if
your first premises are right--consider, now--nonsense! Yet, I own, I
do wish we could only hear something satisfactory of him, and...has
mamma said anything to you, Tom, or to your father?'

Tom looked down, grave and sorry. 'Yes, Isabel, I can't deny but she
has; very distressing, and to me utterly unaccountable. But surely she
doesn't really mean it?'

'I don't know. Sometimes I resolve to think it is just one of poor
mamma's whims, when she gets low and into that mood. She was always
rather suspicious, I think, and latterly she was sensitive and
jealous. And no one can blame her for resenting any affront to poor
papa. Nor can affronts, whether intended or not, be denied. Unhappily,
they were always misunderstanding each other. Circumstances added to
it, and their tempers were so opposed. Their views of everything so
different!'

'Yes, yes, all that I grant; and even that Mr. Herbert could be
disdainful and contemptuous, rather imperious too.'

'Yes; but remember, he was provoked, Tom. There was not one near
him, his equal as to education and so on. It was a trial to him, a jar
to his peculiar tastes, and he unfortunately did not make allowance;
and I always shall think his sister's crude, jealous temper irritated
him, and that with an influence less sensitive, less egotistical, in
fact, he would have left off all that...'

'Quite so. O, I do like to hear any one do him justice, Issy! It is
so horrid to hear them running him down; pitiful creatures, who were
afraid to breathe in his presence. But now he is gone, that he is
absent, they throw dirt and take their petty revenge by picking out
and exaggerating all his faults. But all the poorer kind adore him,
and so do we, all of us!'

Isabel had blushed at the beginning of Tom's sentence, but was now
calm and cool again, even a little pale, and she bit her lips as she
said, 'After the trial, after all the evidence and the talking, to
speak or think of that dreadful--excuse me, but so it was, suspicion,
is so very bad. Mamma little knows how she wounds me to pain each time
she alludes to it, or I see the thought is passing through her though
she does not speak.'

'Don't distress yourself, Isabel, Mrs. Lang doesn't really believe
it more than I do. Only you see, she is troubled and sore, poor soul,
and then report says he, Mr. Herbert, is getting quite a rich man in
the old country. If he was poor or in distress, I'd bet, Mrs. Lang
would be the first to come round and help him, and all those shadows
would vanish out of her mind.'

'Yes; you are right there, Tom,' said Isabel, brightening with
pleasure, both at the truth of his remark, and the good clear sense he
showed when not under constraint, and confused with shyness. 'Yes!
that is the root of it, after all,--jealousy. Well, it is harder to
rejoice with those who rejoice, than to weep with those who weep.
Don't you think so?'

'To some. But am I tiring you? They said I must not stay long.'

'O, no! you do me such good. 'Tis such a comfort to be able to say
all this.'

Here Kate came up to the window. She was outside, and leaning her
elbows on the sill, she stood in a frame, as it were, with the rich
scarlet geranium all round her. She had been walking, and held flowers
in her hand, which she handed to her sister.

'I wish you could come out, Issy. It is so nice here. The garden is
so improved. Couldn't you be drawn in a chair somehow?'

'Where is the chair?' said Isabel, smiling, but gazing out wistfully
too, for fresh air and sunshine were meat and drink to her.

'How stupid of me!' exclaimed Tom, rising, and tapping his forehead.
Then, without a word, he was rushing out of the room.

'Tom!' said Isabel, surprised and rather provoked at his not
remaining and talking on pleasantly, now Kate was present.

'O, I beg pardon--only--good-bye! I forgot--that is--some business.
Good-bye. May I come again?'

And without even a glance towards Kate he was gone.

'What a funny animal it is!' she said, smiling, and gathering the
scarlet blossoms.

'I don't know what has suddenly struck him now; but I wish you could
have heard how well he has been talking. Tom is a sensible, good-
hearted fellow as ever lived--improved too.'

'Yes. I thought he had picked up a little polish, though there is
room for more still. Our cousin thought him very handsome,' said Kate,
rather affectedly.

'Well, and so he is.'

'That is a matter of taste. He is too dark and ruddy--too stout. But
mamma is waiting for me, Issy. I brought you the newspaper, sent here
by that polite Mr. Sands. It will pass away the time till I come in
again.'

So she gave her the Sydney Morning Herald, and turned away to meet
her mother, who was examining the vegetable garden and orchard.

'More failures! Good gracious me! I hope poor Mr. Vance is not
actually ruined. His poor little delicate wife and numbers of small
children! Ah--here's something in my way!' and she read among the
advertisements about some good shingles being wanted, and stuck a pin
there to show to Charlie Brand--for he had a lot of 'shingles' to
dispose of.

'And here's something else. O dear! O dear! 'Wanted, a governess, to
teach the rudiments, &c.,--will be treated as one of the family. Good
testimonials required. Apply to X. W., Shorts, stationer, George-
street, Sydney.' I'll answer it forthwith.'

Then she idly skimmed over the paper, with her mind occupied by the
reflections roused by the above advertisement. Conning over her
letter, imagining the interview which might follow, wondering who X.
W. was in reality, and how she should play her new part, &c.

Suddenly the whole expression of her face was changed. Every feature
seemed in a state of tension--the eyes distended with terror, and her
breathing fast and hurried. Eagerly she read on, growing dizzy, for
the words seemed to dance up and down, and were all colours, till
everything at last was flame--bright, burning flame; and, with a
scream, covering her face as if to guard it from something, she fell
back in her cushions--to all appearance fainted.

The paper fell on the ground.

Mrs. Lang came in, hurried as usual, fretting a little, and scolding
the maid for not having the tea ready and prepared. 'Miss Isabel ought
to have had something quite an hour ago. It is very important, the
doctor says, that she have nourishment every two hours or so.'

'There! didn't I say so. Look at that. She has fainted--Kate! Kate!'

Luckily, Kate was at hand, and there in a moment.

They revived her after a time, and she declared she had not fainted--
she had been seized with a panic and a giddiness. She had read--or had
she dreamt it? and she looked half bewildered into Kate's face, who
did not know what to make of it.

'Where is the paper?' Isabel cried with sudden recollection.
'Dream!--no! it is there! Read it yourselves. What does it mean?
Horror! Horrible! O, mamma--O, Kate! Such a terrible, dreadful thing!'

They exchanged glances of wonder and fright--uttered some words meant
to be soothing, but so foreign to the purpose that they were
irritating. At last Kate lifted the newspaper, and observing the pin
at the advertisement, said, 'I don't understand what it is all about.'

'Read it, Kate! not that! but--about the fire here--and--and--O,
mamma! Doctor Mornay is dead!'

At this she burst into a fit of weeping. And Kate, searching the
newspaper, at last came on a paragraph headed--

'Shocking Catastrophe.'

She pointed to it, and whispered to her mother to take it into the
next room and leave her with Isabel to follow as soon as she could.

Mrs. Lang and Tom read an account of some gentleman who had gone out
on a botanizing expedition in the bush around the north shore, that
sandy soil being famous for the abundance and variety of its wild
flowers. While searching about, they had discovered the body of a man
lying in a very sequestered spot. This corpse had been afterwards
identified as the celebrated and respected Father or Doctor Mornay. A
small phial was found tightly clenched in one hand. In his waistcoat
pocket there was a parcel, which contained a locket with a curl of a
woman's hair, and the word 'Bella,' in old English letters worked in
enamel.

There was also this written on the back of a letter in pencil--

' 'A poor sinner closes a life of toil and penance, alone and in
shame, lost in a moment of fiery trial. As you desire to be delivered
from purgatory yourself, entreat for the prayers of the faithful in
behalf of this erring soul!

' 'Ora pro me! once God's faithful servant! Let the locket and
sister's hair lie on his poor broken heart and return with it to dust.
In that he has sinned, he dies. Mother of Heaven, intercede! Father,
have mercy! God, the Judge, Thou knowest all!' '

'The writing was irregular and illegible, and some words had been
carefully blotted over.

'The result of the inquest was a verdict of 'Suicide under temporary
insanity, brought on by an injury supposed to be received in his late
heroic efforts to save the life of a lady from fire.'

'Many of the Roman Catholic priests attended, and there was quite a
crowd on the day of the funeral, which was conducted with great pomp
and solemnity; a sermon being preached in his usual eloquent style,
by,' &c. &c.

In another part of the sheet, there was a detailed, but very
incorrect account of the fire, breaking out in the dwelling of the
widow of our late respected fellow-colonist, the well-known Mr. Lang,
of Langville, &c. There was also another paragraph quoted from the
Catholic newspaper, giving a history of Dr. Mornay's birth and life to
this effect. 'That he was the only son of emigrant parents, who had
taken refuge in the south of Ireland, where the father had earned a
poor living by teaching his native language, French, at some schools.
The mother had been Italian, and to her native city, Rome, the son had
been sent as a youth, to be educated according to the tenets of the
members of the Society of Jesus. There had been two sisters, one
became a nun in a monastery in Ireland, the other had been struck
blind by lightning, and was a well-known character in her own place, a
voluntary Sister of Charity, ever ministering to others, after
devoting herself to her parents till their deaths. A romantic
attachment had subsisted between 'Sister Isabella' and her brother,
who at first showed no vocation for the priesthood, and gave some
trouble by his fiery and determined character. But the superiors had
taken the measure of his intellect (not that it was so expressed in
this biographical outline) and foresaw that he would be a worthy
member of their body. It was however owing to his sister's earnest
entreaties and her own exalted piety and devotion, that he finally
became a candidate for orders. His future progress was described, and
in forcible terms, it was told how he had outstripped all his fellows
in devotion and zeal. How he had early displayed a great talent for
the management of intricate affairs, a clearness of head and power of
adaptation to circumstances, wonderful for his age. He had been looked
upon as one of their great props, trusted by all his superiors. Just
at this very time, had been sent from Rome all the necessary papers to
advance him to the highest authority and dignity. The Pope had sent
for him, and great honours were talked of as awaiting this
distinguished servant of the Church, as soon as he arrived in the Holy
City. He had much desired to leave a well-organized school and system
in the Westbrooke district, it was said, where Catholic families
abounded. By his own request, he had been sent to that place as the
resident priest, and the result of his labours showed what he had
accomplished. A fire breaking out in a neighbour's premises and
dwelling-house, Dr. Mornay, in his usual prompt and self-forgetting
way, was on the spot before any one else had received the alarm, and
only in time to rescue an interesting young woman from a shocking
death. He found her senseless from the smoke. At the risk of his own
life he bore her out, through the raging flames and stifling smoke.
But it was supposed that he received a blow in the head by some
falling rafter, as there was a slight discoloration on the brow, and
that this and the shock, falling on a much--tried constitution, had
affected the brain. There was no other way of accounting for the
tragedy which wound up the sad event, and deprived the Holy Church of
one of her stanchest and most able sons.' It went on further to
describe the solemn procession, the crowd of mourners who had gathered
from even very distant parts, to follow this holy man to his last
rest, testifying to the respect and reverence they had for him, &c.
&c. At the end it was hinted 'that what rendered his heroism and brave
self--devotion more touching and interesting, was that this young lady
he had been so earnest to save, had given every promise of becoming a
convert to his teaching. His heart had been intently set on reclaiming
this soul from heresy and error, and he had looked forward to placing
her safe within the true fold. There was even some reason to suppose
that this person had a strong desire, opposed in the most tyrannical
way by her friends, to offer herself and her life to God, by taking
the vows and the veil in the monastery near Paramatta,' &c. &c.

This assertion was followed by a sharp contradiction in this style,
'We have good authority for saying that this is merely a pleasant
flight of the fancy, and wholly unfounded in fact, for there never was
the smallest idea of the said young lady leaning towards Romanism,'
&c. &c.

We must leave it to the imagination to picture the effect these
several announcements had on the several persons with whom our tale is
connected. Suffice it to say, there was little else thought of or
spoken of for some time. And it was not to be wondered at that this,
as much as she heard of it, and luckily much was kept from her, had
the effect of throwing Isabel back in a relapse, during which her life
was in great danger. Nor did she lose the after effects of this
illness for some months. When she again took her place among the
family circle, with her kind and able friend, Mrs. Farrant, at her
side, it was observed that a change had come to Isabel. It might be
the consequence of physical weakness, or it might be the shadow of
some solemn impression, which had sobered her down. And though it
could not be said she was not cheerful, or that she was sad, every one
felt the difference. Mrs. Farrant said to her husband, that it was
what she had always looked for, 'the finishing touch, as it were, to
bring all that was crude into one mellow tone.' The little sisters
said Issy was much 'more gentle and pretty than she was;' and Kate
remarked that she used to be afraid of saying some things to Issy lest
she should be 'snubbed,' but now she could tell her any and
everything.'

The Westbrooke fire and 'that terrible suicide,' as well as the hint
as to Isabel's probable conversion to Rome, occupied the public for
some time. But very soon all traces of the fire disappeared, and that
ceased to be spoken of. And it did not suit Dr. Mornay's friends to
encourage too much investigation into his melancholy and mysterious
end. His place was soon to all appearance supplied. And who was there
to mourn him or shed a tear of pity for his sad fate?

Other events crowded in and had their day. A young colony, like a
young child, is more bent on pushing onward, than prone to look back.
Even with the Langs, being comparatively a new acquaintance, he soon
faded out of their daily life--to all but Isabel. Like a sudden meteor
light, he had crossed their path. 'Kind, courteous and agreeable,'
they said. 'Rather odd, too;' but all was accounted for by the word
Priest. Unknown and unguessed were all his struggles and his agony.
But when the sound of his pleading, despairing voice, echoed in
Isabel's ears, and again in memory she felt that burning touch, she
would in silent awe, mingled with a sad and tender pity, utter in her
own heart a prayer that he might at last rest in peace. Her own severe
illness and the relapse mercifully spared her from the pain and
annoyance of knowing herself to be the subject of talk and wonder. By
the time she returned to daily life and society, the world had
forgotten and passed on to other things.



CHAPTER XXII. Changed Circumstances.



It was the second anniversary of Mr. Lang's funeral; and Isabel had
given her pupils a holiday, leaving them rather puzzled to account for
the favour. A half holiday had been expected because of Mr. and Mrs.
Farrant's coming; but the other half, granted 'because it is a day I
like to mark,' was a great puzzle.

'It can't be a birthday or a wedding-day, because she was crying in
her own room this morning.'

'Ah! but it may be the birthday of some one dead now,' suggested ten
years old to eight years old. Whereupon they ran off to enjoy
themselves.

They were the daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Moreton Scott, of Currajong
Park, a good estate, situated some thirty miles from Westbrooke.

Within, the house was comfortable, roomy, and lofty, though scantily
furnished; but without, it was rough and only half-finished, waiting
for those 'better times' so many looked for, and, as yet, in vain. Yet
Mr. Scott fared better than many others, and although forced to study
economy, there was no poverty, and he could afford to wait and lay by,
as it were, till prices rose. He was a good-tempered, genial man, fond
of showing hospitality, and very proud of his children. He had a
theory that the mistresses of colonial households could not make good
teachers, however good mothers. There was not leisure to devote
sufficient patience and regularity, which he considered the main
requisites in the school-room. His boy was at the King's School, and
he made strict inquiries for a lady to whom he could entrust his
girls. A 'lady' was essential, and to insure this point he would be
content to waive a few accomplishments, if necessary. Through a friend
of Mr. Farrant's Mr. Scott heard of Isabel. He knew Mr. Lang very
slightly, and he was in no haste to consent, but contrived first to
meet Isabel at a friend's house, without her being conscious of his
object.

Her open and intelligent countenance, unaffected manners, together
with the gentle and quiet tone which she had fallen into, charmed him
at once. Matters were speedily settled, and in him she found a
thoroughly kind friend. Mrs. Scott she did not like quite so well.
That lady was considered as a clever woman and excellent manager. Her
judgment was thought almost infallible, and her advice was sought by
many persons. She was in manner cold and unimpressible, holding it
beneath a sensible woman to allow any impulse or ebullition of feeling
to escape. 'A uniform self--possession and complete self-control was,'
she said, 'the mainspring of a woman's character; without it, nothing
could go rightly.'

Once this would have been irksome to Isabel. But now it seldom
troubled her. She was herself a grave and self-controlled woman,
rather than the wild impulsive girl she was. She assured her mother,
on her only visit home, that she was content and happy, though Mrs.
Lang lamented over her gravity, and thought it a pity that Issy should
lose that 'winning and spirited way of her own, which always took
people. If her father could see her, he would not know his pet again!'
At which Isabel only smiled quietly, and glancing at her sister,
thought that Kate was not so changed. She had recovered her spirits
and looks, and was even prettier than ever, succeeding very fairly in
her duties as mistress, though she did not keep the little girls in
much order, and they spent much of their time with Mrs. Farrant, who
was the friend of all the party. Isabel, spending but little on
herself, was proud and pleased to save from her own earnings what
procured many a little indulgence for her mother or advantage for her
brothers. They were doing well, and Isabel supplied Willie with an
allowance for clothes and pocket-money while he remained articled to a
solicitor in Sydney.

There was much to say between the two friends. Mrs. Farrant spoke of
the old district, and said that the overseer at Warratah Brush kept
the place and farm in capital order; but did not seem to know what Mr.
Herbert's plans were about it. Isabel turned her head away and asked
how the Jollys were. The next moment she coloured up, as Mrs. Farrant
reminded her that Isabel had herself seen them last; Mr. Jolly and his
son having come out of their way to see her a week since.

'There is no mistaking their content,' Mrs. Farrant observed. 'You
think it is coming round, do you not?'

'Yes. To say truly, Kate, in to-day's letter, alluded to it very
frankly, and has evidently made up her mind. Dear old Tom! at last!'
Isabel said, with some of her old energy. 'He deserves to be happy.'

'Yes. What a parading, flaring account that was in the paper of the
wedding of A. Fitz, Esq.!'

'Well, he will reap as he sows. Do you remember his mimicking Mr.
Hogg once?--his papa-in-law now.'

'They say that the lady herself is very pretty and has been well
brought up, and she is enormously rich. Indeed, all the party seem to
be flourishing; Mr. Vesey is said to be gathering wealth fast, and I
did hear some rumour of their return to England, for which I should
not grieve.'

'Don't be spiteful, Mrs. Farrant! I don't care now about them a bit.
I am so obliged to him for the wedding. It was Tom's best friend, I
believe.'

'Would Kate have refused him but for that?'

'I think so. She had a sort of feeling which I cannot understand at
all. Not that she cares at all for him, of course. She has long given
that up. Why--she could not do so!'

There followed a pause. Isabel was looking out of window absently,
and Mrs. Farrant, watching her, heard a low sigh. Presently she came
behind her, and laying her hand on Isabel's shoulder, she whispered--
'You must not despair. Take Tom's case as an omen.'

'Of what? Despair of what?' she exclaimed, blushing deeply. 'No, no,'
she added, shaking her head. 'The case is so very different. As to
thinking of it in the way you suppose, I do not--indeed I do not.
Whatever there was of that, I battled with it as unworthy of myself--
incompatible with self-respect. Yet--I own--yes, there are moments
when I remember old days and wonder at the sudden breaking up of a
sincere friendship. I can't make it out. Turn it which way I will,
there is no accounting for the neglect.'

'Only one way--and a sad one,' put in her friend.

'Ah!--Yet even were it that--if he had again quarrelled with my
father and imagined himself as insulted--for he was touchy and proud--
yet he owed it to me, at least to write a line to say so. Yes, after--
after all that passed--all he said--he owed thus much to me. It is not
to be overlooked, I think. No! I cannot quite forgive him! And since--
all this time--having heard, as needs he must, all that has happened,
still not a word, not a message even, for my mother or any one of us.
Even you and Mr. Farrant included. There is but one solution of the
riddle.'

'I don't know. I can't quite give it up yet. My faith is strong in
him--so far that there is, or he fancies there is, some great reason
for the silence. And moreover, with all his fortune and so on, I also
believe that he suffers--yes, Isabel, a man like him cannot be so
wholly changed all at once. He suffers, I repeat.'

'He is angry, if you like!'

'Well--Time will show! Perhaps the very next ship that comes may
bring tidings.'

'Then it will be soon; Mr. Scott heard that a ship was seen beyond
the Heads, waiting for a wind. But I expect nothing. I did for a long
time, but it would not do, it interfered with everything. I used
strong measures and stifled expectation and--hope.'

'I hear various rumours of Miss Isabel Lang's cold and hard heart,'
Mrs. Farrant said presently, and smiling.

'How so? O, don't listen to such nonsense!' Isabel rejoined, with
heightened colour.

'I don't want to see you a governess much longer--and--if... '

' 'Tis a good trade. I am content. But when Katie goes, I shall
return home, which I like better. I consider myself a fortunate
person. I always did wish for something to do, for work and real
interests, and here I have plenty of both. I am sure it is the
happiest lot.'

'O yes! Yet I hope the work and the interests may be changed into
others still deeper and pleasanter.'

'You are meaning marriage. You married folks never think there can
be any real happiness out of matrimony. It is unfair to make it so
much the only object and end of life. I never had any real vocation in
that way, and I mean to keep as I am.'

'All very well! But surely, Isabel, you must grant there is no other
tie in life so strong and binding; it is woman's natural state.'

'It may be; but as all cannot marry, it is lucky if some persons do
not wish it. When mamma has fretted and vexed at my obstinacy, I have
soberly and seriously set about considering the question. After all,
it is a matter for reflection--a grave business. And I never could
endure the very notion! I should be like the kicking mare yesterday,
who teased Mr. Scott so. She would go well enough alone, pull and drag
famously, but yoked with another, not a step would she stir, and a
fine mischief she did. No, I could not take it easily! Some do, and
then it is very well. Now! what are you looking at me in that way for?
What have I said, or implied?'

'Nothing! Yet I may draw my own conclusions, and...'

'If you conclude anything from it you are altogether...' But she
stopped short, looked at Mrs. Farrant, and then twisting her watch-
chain, she added--'No, I can't quite say that. The truth is, I have a
feeling--that is--I can't feel as if all had never been. It does
influence me, I dare say, so far, that--I can't explain it; but I do
assure you, it is not from any idea of hope. No, I am too proud for
that! Besides, I am really very happy, more contented than most of my
acquaintance, I think.'

Mrs. Farrant kissed Isabel.

'Pride had a fall, my dear,' she said, laughing. 'But you are quite
right, and you ought to be happy if living for others is the way to be
so. Nevertheless, I must hope for your sake, and every one's sake, we
shall yet learn something. Half our troubles come from want of
understanding each other, and we shall find out the mistake here some
day, sooner or later.'

This was their only tête-è-tête. The Farrants left on the following
day, having greatly cheered Isabel, she assured them; and as she
smiled at them, standing by the gate, and her rich hair blowing about
in the breeze, they remarked to each other that she looked bright
enough! 'If only he could see her as she is now,--become so entirely
what he always wished and expected!' was Mrs. Farrant's observation.

'If--If!'--returned her husband. 'But he does not deserve anything. I
cannot excuse him; such intolerable pride must work sorrow and woe.
Nothing and no one should have been suffered to come between them. I
am grievously disappointed in him. But thank goodness, she survives
it, and is looking remarkably well and handsomer than ever. I never
saw a person so visibly improve as she does.'



CHAPTER XXIII. Mr. Scott's Guest.



'Have you nearly finished your letter? papa says; for the boy is
ready to go!' said one of the children, a few days after the Farrants'
visit.

'So early?' and Isabel looked at her watch.

'Yes. There is a gentleman come with papa, and papa wants to send
about his luggage, which was to come by the mail cart, and the boy is
to take the letters at the same time.'

'Very well; here is mine.'

Then Isabel sat down to correct an exercise, which being very full of
faults, somewhat tried her patience. Before it was quite done the door
opened.

'Miss Lang!' said Mrs. Moreton Scott, coming in, 'I want to ask you a
favour. Will you be so good as to make and pour out the tea for me? I
have a headache, and Moreton has brought back a visitor, rather a
stiff difficult person to entertain, too, from what I saw.'

Isabel of course acceded to the request. She rather liked Mr. Scott's
way of bringing in a guest uninvited beforehand and unexpected; it
gave a little variety to their party. This evening she felt so happy,
she was quite up to any enjoyment. She was passing on, but heard one
of the little girls say--'What is his name, mamma?'

'Herbert--Mr. Herbert,' was the answer.

It stopped her short in her way down-stairs. She felt the rail of the
banister shake a little under her tight grasp. Her heart, too, beat
very hard, and then, with a flutter, seemed to be dying away.

'Nonsense! There are other Herberts!' was her first thought. The next
was, 'Well, wasn't I wishing--praying--for news! And if this should
be!--only it can't. It is absurd. How odd it was to hear the name!'

Rousing her courage, and by great effort stilling herself, she went
on her way, and came against two gentlemen as they left the drawing-
room. Mr. Scott was talking of his house plan, and leading the way to
his dressing--room, saying that the spare bed-room would be ready
presently, meanwhile this would do.

'Ah, Miss Lang! Good day! Have I startled you? Didn't see you coming
at all! The children well and good, I hope? Let me introduce this
gentleman, Mr. Herbert, to you. Miss Lang--that is, properly and
correctly, Miss Isabel Lang, I believe--Mr. Herbert.'

It was himself! Isabel's hand was ready to meet his, but he merely
bowed, scarcely, as she thought, looking at her. Fortunately she was
aware in time of his intention to ignore any previous acquaintance,
and had sufficient presence of mind to return his bow. They passed on,
and she heard Mr. Scott's voice saying--

'Governess to our girls--but a lady. I would have that;--quite a
lady. You must remember Lang of Bengala? And his sad end--but I
forget, wasn't that after you left us?'

Then the door shut, and she heard no more.

'Well,' continued Mr. Scott, 'his family were reduced to almost
poverty and retired to a small place which luckily had been settled on
the wife. This girl, I am told, did wonders--acted as a son might have
done, and supported the family and cleared off some debts of honour
which could not be legally claimed, all by her active and sensible
management. I believe she supplied pretty nearly all Sydney in
firewood. It was a wonderful speculation, and answered too. Then she
turned governess. Between ourselves, there was a great fuss--a hue and
cry--about that wretched man Mornay--De Mornay--as he ought to be
styled. He had got hold of the poor thing and pretty nearly converted
her, so they say. But--but--I own I attach no importance to such
rumours; and my wife and I were saying the other day, no one can
conduct herself better than she has done, or be a better Protestant
and Churchwoman. In fact, she is quite a favourite here; and it is our
principle, you see, to make the governess, our children's teacher and
companion, one of the family. I say this because you may wonder--some
people object, you know. But unless you are changed, Herbert, I
believe you are no stickler for caste, eh?'

So Mr. Scott rattled on, not noticing the change in his friend's
face, or his attitude of suffering, as, instead of washing or
brushing, he sank into a chair and buried his head in his hands. Only
once he spoke. When Mr. Scott said--

'You knew Lang?'

'Yes,' he answered.

But the tone did not encourage Mr. Scott to prolong the subject. He
asked if Mr. Herbert was ill or tired. Then advised him to make haste,
unless he liked cold tea. And then he hoped he did not dislike
children, because it was one of the customs of the house that they
took their meals with their parents. If Mr. Herbert found their habits
not disagreeable, Mr. Scott hoped heartily he would make real use of
their house. First, to recruit--for the voyage had surely done him no
good--and secondly, as a resting-place till he had settled his plans.
It was nothing with a good horse to ride to Paramatta any day, and
then proceed by steamer, if he had business in Sydney.

Mr. Herbert 'was obliged. Liked children, better than older people
generally, and hoped they would not alter a single custom for him.'

'O, we never do that! That is my notion of hospitality--not turning
your household upside down and putting on company manners, with the
best china, &c. No, we jog on, one day as another, make our friends
welcome, give them our best, and let them feel free to come or to go,
and that they're not hindering anything by remaining just as long as
it is agreeable to them. Now--ready? I cut the bread and butter, I beg
to observe; and I hear voices.'

He led the way, and pointed to a chair by his wife as Mr. Herbert's
seat; Isabel was screened by the urn, and too busy in doing justice to
her task to look up or say a word. Conversation was not very brisk.
Mrs. Scott was always slow, and this evening she was tired. The
children were awed into silence and good behaviour at the look of Mr.
Herbert's face. Mr. Scott talked for all, nor was he content long that
Isabel should remain in the background. He really liked her to be
noticed and appreciated; partly from his genuine kindness and liking
of her, and partly also because he was somewhat proud of his choice,
proud of having so agreeable and undoubted a lady as instructress for
his children. Mr. Scott's wife, children, house, horse, cat and dog,
were one and all 'singularly good and superior.' He was a happy man,
content with and proud of all that bore the mark of M.S. Yet his
egotism was never offensive--only kindly.

The tea seemed such a long affair! Isabel dared scarcely glance
towards the corner on her right hand side, where, next Mrs. Scott, Mr.
Herbert sat. She had a vague impression that he looked ill, and that
he was not so hearty and hungry after his ride as Mr. Scott was. He
talked but little at first, but after a while he shook off his silence
and entered upon English topics, politics, &c., with much of his old
and familiar manner, graver, perhaps, and not so sharp and dogmatic.
Perhaps, Isabel thought, the mixing with good society, finding his
equals among intellectual men, had cured him of his habit of shutting
himself up, or being dictatorial, at feeling himself standing alone
and above his companions. Once it flashed across her, 'Is it possible
he did not catch the name, and that I am too altered to be
recognised?' But, no, that would not hold. And she was forced to
receive the fact that he was entirely estranged; offended beyond power
of reconciliation. For she knew by his whole look and manner that he
was angry. When tea was over, and Isabel retired to the school-room,
making some excuse for not joining them in the drawing-room that
evening, she gave way to a feeling of overwhelming misery. 'Could it
be true? Had she seen him? And what a meeting! It had been very bad to
wait in suspense. But now even that was gone. There was nothing more
to expect or to hope. It was very bitter. Yet she might learn to get
over it in time, and to consider her past life as dead and buried
quite;' so she reasoned.

Mrs. Scott found her in tears, tears such as she had never seen from
Isabel, or perhaps fancied it was possible for her to shed. She looked
surprised and a little reproachful. But the children were not there,
so that the example of weakness and excitability would not injure
them. Isabel reading some of her thoughts, stammered out as well as
she could, 'That she was very sorry to be so weak, so foolish; but old
times would sometimes come back to her mind.'

To which Mrs. Scott answered, 'Yes; no doubt it is very sad, very.
But it is morbid and injurious to indulge in these regrets. It is a
bad plan to keep days, and very bad to hoard up old letters. You must
make exertion and compose yourself. Now, let me beg of you to come
with me to the drawing-room and force yourself to enter into whatever
topic is discussed. It is painful and disagreeable, like bitter
medicine, I know, but not the less needful.'

But Isabel pleaded to be excused for this once. She was tired. She
would go to bed and sleep. Mrs. Scott should see that she would not so
transgress again. But, O, she thought,'that I could fly away--go and
hide myself! How can I suffer his being here? Perhaps, however, he
will go at once. He did not expect to see me here, I think, though he
was so still, so unmoved apparently, on hearing my name. I little
thought how difficult it would be.'



CHAPTER XXIV. The Caricature.



How easy it is to make resolutions! To say overnight, 'To-day I have
been silly, but to-morrow I will be wise and collected. So and so must
be my feelings,' &c. But however diligently we may have conned the
lesson, a very small deviation in any of the circumstances we have
imagined, upsets all the pre-conceived plan. People look and speak and
act otherwise than we expected, and our answer, which we had so
cleverly settled, wont fit at all. Then we are awkward and nervous,
and so gradually or at once, down falls our wonderful construction for
defence.

Isabel determined to be very indifferent and calm. It would not do
to be silent and grave, and so to call forth any remark from Mr. and
Mrs. Scott. She must go on precisely as she had always before done
with their guests. Yet she must guard against the slightest appearance
of meeting him even halfway. She thought she had schooled herself to
be, as well as to seem to be, uninterested and indifferent with regard
to him and his movements. But this was difficult in his presence. Mr.
Herbert probably found no such trouble, for it was at his option to go
or to stay; yet he remained, expressing his enjoyment of the peace and
quiet of the country, after the heat and bustle of Sydney, a few days
of which had made him much disposed to taking his passage back again
as soon as possible, and throwing up all the settlement of business
which he came to conduct.

'What, then you were not ill from the voyage?' asked Mr. Scott.

'No; I am a capital sailor. I don't own to being 'ill' at all, as
you will have it I was. It was pure bother and worry.'

'You must find great changes even in the time of your absence!'
remarked Mrs. Scott.

'Yes, of course! Yes, many, wonderful changes!' It was also clearly
ascertained in conversation that Mr. Herbert had lived in the same
district with the Langs, a fact which Mr. Scott had forgotten, or was
ignorant of; for the acquaintance begun at Bath, had not been much
renewed in the colony. Mr. Herbert merely assented dryly, and turned
the subject directly, which was put down by the Scotts as out of
delicacy to Miss Lang's feelings. Isabel, on her part, also simply
allowed the fact, and that she had not deemed a formal introduction
necessary.

'O!' said Mrs. Scott, 'but of course he didn't know you; young
people change and grow.'

And on the idea that Isabel had been very young, for Mr. Herbert had
once said he knew her as 'a child,' Mrs. Scott did not think it at all
odd that their acquaintance was so slight. But though circumstances
were thus smooth and easy, and by a little management she was never
thrown in his way except when the whole party were assembled, Isabel
actually suffered from the continual strain it was to one of her
impulsive temperament, to keep up the required unmoved exterior. After
a few days, she became restless in his absence, listening and watching
for even the sound of his voice or footstep, though in his presence it
was almost worse. Every turn of his voice, each movement, excited her
to explain to herself its meaning; unconsciously she watched his
incomings and his outgoings, and never lost a word of his conversation
even if not addressed to the party in general, but to Mr. or Mrs.
Scott personally. Isabel felt sure that he was ill and in some
trouble. He could not deceive her by his plausible way of accounting
for it all, or by his affectation of indolence. His pale face made her
sorry, in spite of his stiff way of disclaiming any claim to the title
of invalid. She knew by the inflection of his voice that he was
sometimes dejected, though his funny stories kept Mr. and Mrs. Scott
alive and excited them to laughter. Isabel couldn't laugh. They
rallied her, as having no sense of wit or fun, as failing to
appreciate a good joke, and so on. And she knew not how to answer, but
listened with burning cheeks, and feeling that his eye had been turned
on her, either in wonder or perhaps stern contempt for her
affectation, in setting up another character to her employers. She,
whose fault had been loving a joke but too well! Then, when released
from observation, and relieved from the necessity of any further
acting, she would sit for hour after hour without a light, trying to
calm herself, to get down her beating pulses, to cool her head and
hands in the night breeze. Sometimes, wholly overcome, she would cry
with shame at breaking down so in her efforts, and for her miserable
want of proper pride. Her aching heart was a shame and reproach to
her. For why should she care if he was ill or unhappy? What was it to
her, though he had a cough and put his hand on his side so often as if
in pain? Why should she fidget herself to watch if he got a
comfortable seat, or was out of a draught, a thing which he always had
disliked, and which the Scotts never noticed or felt,--or if the
children's spirits led them to talk too loud or too fast? What was all
this to her?

One day, owing to rain, there was no going out, and Mr. Scott had
brought all his children to the drawing-room by way of amusement to
himself. His wife was away occupied in some household matter. But
after the little girls had shown off their accomplishments by
repeating poetry, and playing a tune, and answering questions in
arithmetic, and the proud and fond father was proceeding to draw out
their cleverness by proposing that they should read aloud by turns,
Isabel, having observed the weary, pre-occupied look on Mr. Herbert's
face, as he watched the rain and stroked his moustaches, made a
whispering proposal to amuse them by telling them a story. This was
received gladly, only Mr. Scott stipulated that the story should go on
where they were. So she drew them to a corner, one at her side, the
other on a stool at her feet, and in a low, clear voice, she gained
their full interest. Once, towards the end, on looking up, she met Mr.
Herbert's eyes bent on her with an expression of mournful inquiry. She
hurried over the conclusion, and not heeding the pathetic requests of
'Tell it again'--'Tell us another,' she went away. At the door she
fancied she heard a voice say--'It is my turn now--I know a wonderful
tale.' And this voice was not the father's.

Did he do it to divert them from following and teasing her? And what
did that look mean? It required a vigorous taking herself to task,
followed by a course of quick pacing to and fro her room, to calm her
at all. Not till she had bathed her face well in cold water, and
forced herself to sing a verse of a song to prove the steadiness and
clearness of her voice, would she return.

No one looked up on her entering the room. The little girls were full
of animated delight at Mr. Herbert's powers as story-teller; and after
tea Mr. Scott persuaded his guest to have a trial of skill at chess,
which led them on and on, being well matched, till it was bedtime.

But after five days had so come and gone, Isabel began to show signs
of ailment. She was thinner and had constant fever about her; no
appetite, and no power of sleeping at night. She felt irritable too,
and was easily upset, tears being provokingly near the surface, which
distressed her very much. She knew she was ill, and spoke of going
home to consult their own doctor, at which Mrs. Scott demurred. It
looked as if she could not be cared for and nursed with them. Why, was
not the medical man who attended them as good as another? And, meaning
kindly, she annoyed Isabel by sending for this Mr. Blackett unknown to
her. He said there was a good deal of excitement and fever in the
system. 'Had she been over-working herself? Did she tax her brain too
much?' Quiet, and as much open air as possible, was advised; this,
with some cooling medicine, would probably stop the feeling. If not,
he should prescribe another remedy on his next visit. And Isabel's
lips quivered into a sickly, sad smile, as she wondered to herself 'if
medicine would cure her.'

Following this advice, Isabel went out earlier than usual the next
day. They walked to the fenced paddock--a favourite place for the
children's games, and while they were engrossed by their play, she
leant against the fence, feeling unequal to much walking. It was no
longer a strange thing for her to 'think.' Fast and free crowded in
many thoughts. They presented themselves generally as questions--
questions which were never answered. She dreaded them, and yet seemed
to have lost all power of bidding them avaunt! Like spectres which
haunt a fever-stricken patient, so did these fancies and doubts haunt
her, and give her no rest. She could not be anywhere but they were
there too.

After remaining lost in these reflections, with eyes fixed on the
ground, seeing nothing, and elbows resting wearily on the topmost
rail, she exclaimed aloud, under sudden impulse--

'I can't understand it! It is a mystery--a wretched mystery!'

'What is such a mystery, Miss Lang?' was spoken in Mr. Scott's voice
close by her.

She started, and on looking up at him her worn face was immediately
covered with a deep, burning flush, for a little behind him was Mr.
Herbert.

'Can't we help you to solve the mystery? I like dispelling darkness
and doubt. What were you thinking of, surely not on that mongrel
growth before you, the barley, maize, and vetch, on the other side of
the fence? Isn't it funny? It will be a nice little bite for the
horses, though; eh, Herbert?'

Mr. Scott made many remarks on his crops and on different modes of
feeding cattle; sometimes turning to watch his children as they raced
about and sent their voices far and clear.

'Little merry rogues. What, Julia too!--and where's baby? Doesn't it
seem odd? Can you fancy that you were ever just as active--just as
eager in catching a ball? Though it is not so very long ago in your
case,' he added, smiling at Isabel.

'No! But it seems--so long! All so far off and dreamy--not real--but
like stories I liked and made my own by poring over them.'

'Ah, it is the happiest time!--No time like childhood, Miss Lang! But
are you suffering? Just now you had a colour, and I hoped you were
better. Now you are--excuse me--you are very pale. Are you right to be
standing here so long?'

'Perhaps I had better go in,' she said, wearily, and feeling
thoroughly sick at heart--unequal to the fresh air and sunshine--and
dreading the solitude of her room as much as the effort it was to be
with others.

She was surprised as in passing by Mr. Herbert, who stood in the
narrow path made through the paddock, he said, in a low, smothered
tone--

'Don't go in. I mean,' he added, correcting himself, 'don't let us
disturb you. I heard Mrs. Scott say that it was thought good for you
to be out as much as possible.'

'No, Miss Lang--I beg--pray don't interpret my speech into a hint for
you to go in,' Mr. Scott here hastened to say. 'Come, let us go and
see my poor sick filly, if you are not tired?'

'Not at all,' she said; and she followed him at once.

Just as they reached the shed in which was the filly, a man came up,
beseeching a word or two with his master in private. Saying he would
return directly, Mr. Scott turned to go, but stopped to beg Mr.
Herbert to look at the creature's knee.

How thankful Isabel was to see the children running and bounding
towards them, having guessed what brought them here. In a moment they
were intent on their remarks and their expressions of pity for the
filly; then ran off to fetch handfuls of green barley, telling
'Snowdrop' to take it from them, while Mr. Herbert proceeded gravely,
and with the eye of a connoisseur, to examine the bad limb, and to
stroke and encourage the poor thing, so as to allow him to touch the
tender place. For one moment Isabel resolved to escape. They would not
miss her. To be here in this way, all but alone with him, was
intolerable; just now, too, when she felt so weak and so foolish, and
so sure she could not exercise any control over herself if at all
hurried.

'There is papa! See, he is gone to the mill,' said the eldest girl.
'How tiresome!'

'Then he will not return--Jones always has such long stories--he
will keep him an hour at least. Hadn't we better go home, my dears?'
Isabel said; and without waiting for their answer she began walking
back by the pathway. But presently, hearing no one follow her, she
turned to look for them. Mr. Herbert was giving them jumps, letting
each by turn stand on the top rail and then giving them a hand, as
down they came in a flying leap. They screamed with laughter at the
fun of it, and shouted, 'Again! Only once more! It is my turn!'

'The first time I have known him notice them,' Isabel thought.
'Anything rather than be with me. Children are convenient sometimes.
Well! I need not remain. If he is so well amused, I'll leave them to
his care;' and on she went more rapidly, feeling half angry, though at
what she did not know, and very sore and hurt, which vexed her, as a
proof of utter weakness. 'I shall break down and expose myself, or
really grow mad or silly, if this is to go on much longer. Mrs. Scott
must listen--must believe me. I will go home! or I'll--yes, better
give up the situation. As long as he is in the colony, he will
probably be coming here--I shall be better out of it; though I didn't
know I was so despicably weak--well, well!'

A loud voice, loud but deep, now reached her. He was counting, 'One,
two, three!' Then came a shout, but she would not turn to look at
them. He had set them to race, she supposed, as he had often done with
her little sisters, ay and with herself and Kate and the boys--often!
often!

As the words hung on her very lips, so intently did they rise, a
light but trembling touch fell on her shoulder. 'Who is that?' And she
turned short round. It was Mr. Herbert, looking thoroughly moved and
agitated, with some entreaty at heart which his lips refused to utter.
'O, is it you?' she exclaimed. Her voice and look expressing surprise
and reproach.

'Don't hurry away!--Isabel!--I can't bear it any longer! For God's
sake, stay--I am not iron--nor stone!'

She could have wept then and there, so much did his appeal, his look,
move her. She longed to bow her head and to hide, but instead, she
raised herself, drawing up with dignity. 'What do you mean?' she said,
coldly. 'I don't know what you are made of. What can you mean by such
words?'

'Mean? Why--all--everything! Mean? Did I mean to come upon you in
this way? Good God! to live in the same house day after day? I tell
you I can't bear it. You are philosophic and calm I see. Your
composure and self--possession is to be envied. It was fate which led
me here--here, of all places--of all places the last I need look to
stumble on you!'

'I am very sorry,' she answered, her voice faltering in spite of her
efforts. 'But it was at your option to stay or go at once, at least so
I understood. But, we will see. If Mrs. Scott will allow me,--she
wouldn't hear of it two days ago, when I begged it, but she may now--
indeed she must!--I will go home. Then you can remain in peace. It was
not my wish or intention to disturb you, I am sure. But though you
have come back, I suppose the colony is wide enough for us both--we
need not meet.'

'Good heavens! don't talk in that way! Do I wish to send you away?
You know I do not. Besides, if it comes to that, I can go, as you
observed. It is for me to leave, not you. But still, however that may
be--now--now--listen. Stay, for I must speak.' He paused, as if for
breath. 'Do you remember our last meeting? Do you?'

After an evident struggle, she said, turning from him towards the
rail, 'Much has happened since to put it out of my head. But, however,
I don't forget; I am not likely ever to forget it,' she added, more
firmly and eagerly.

'Much has happened, as you say. To you and to me--much!' he replied.
'Yet it seems to me as if my life had stood still, as if everything
has been a dream since then, since I left you that day, feeling that
with you rested all my future, and the sweet but torturing conviction
that my hour was come, that time which a man most dreads; when he must
risk all, bring his manhood's strength of love and pride, uncertain if
it will be received or rejected--perhaps with scorn, perhaps
indifference. I knew,' here his voice rose and rang again, vibrating,
as it were, from the heart's pressure. 'I knew then how I loved--how--
how deeply! But I could not tell if--in fact, I feared that you held
me too much in the light of an intimate friend, a cousin or uncle, to
think of me in any other way. I expected you to be frank and kind. I
longed for the time, while I dreaded it to torture. You never can know
what I then felt, how that night passed with me, with what mingled
hope and fear I hailed that dawn, and knew I was to seek you, to tell
all--to hear all. And then--then...' He struck his forehead and, as
if overpowered, took a short turn a few steps on and back. He had hit
the right chord. Had he assumed her feelings with regard to him to be
otherwise than doubtful, she would have shrunk and drawn in with
offended pride. As it was, he did not even know what had been the
nature of her feelings for him. She was touched, and though she
struggled very hard for composure, she could not altogether repress a
choking but half--smothered sob, which shook her whole person visibly,
and she grasped the rail tightly in her efforts to keep down the
rising agitation. He heard that sob. He saw the trembling, when he
turned about and faced her again. With one stride he came close to
her, and again laid his hand on her shoulder.

'Isabel! Had I returned--had I come back to you, what would have been
my reception? Tell me!'

'What possible right have you to ask that?' she said, as soon as she
could speak, raising her head, and withdrawing from his touch. 'It is
enough that you never did come back. And it would be more seemly if
you were to inquire what I thought--that is, if you care to know--of--
of your professing friendship, and then--when trouble and care came--
of your desertion and your unkind, cruel, proud neglect of my mother.
Even as an acquaintance, a neighbour, in whose house you have been--
something was due...'

'You forget, or perhaps you did not fully know, how such
considerations had been cancelled,' he answered, gravely, and she
thought cruelly, coldly. 'Yet, though such was the case, I should not
have yielded; my love for you was so strong, it over-powered all,
everything. I was prepared to overlook insult and wrong for you. I
felt there was truth in what my sister urged, yet--you--you were the
favourite child of your poor father, and I flattered myself that in
our love for you--his and mine, we should drop all differences and
make peace. No, that was not it! I tell you that no amount of
rudeness, of prejudice, of misunderstanding, would have withheld me.
Nothing--but yourself--yourself! It was your own hand, and it was a
cruel blow. I asked you but now, what would my reception have been? I
forgot--surely I had my answer! a most needless question--unless--'
and he fixed his eyes on her, as if reading into her heart. 'Unless I
could still find it a mistake? I want to be assured! If that torture
could but be removed!' While she watched him in the greatest surprise,
curiosity, and fear; for his incoherent words, and the
incomprehensibility of all he said alarmed her; he drew out a pocket-
book, and with trembling fingers, and face pale with excitement, he
proceeded to select from many others, a folded paper. This he opened,
and held it towards her. 'You see?' and he again searched her
countenance with keen scrutiny.

She blushed as she read to herself.

'For Mr. Herbert.

'With I.L.'s thanks and kind regards.'

'Well!' he said, though there was scarcely a sound, only his lips
framed the word.

She looked up at him in amazement, and echoed, 'Well! And what of
it? A direction it seems, an old direction, from me to you. Where is
the treason or the harm? I suppose it was a cover to some of the books
you lent me. Why--I see--I know! Yes, I remember quite well when that
parcel was sent. It went from Vine Lodge; Mrs. Vesey said a messenger
was otherwise going to the township from them, and she would send this
safely. Didn't it come? Were the books safe?'

'It came. The books were there, a man or boy from Vine Lodge did
bring it;' he spoke in a sad tone, almost like despair. Then suddenly
he unfolded the paper quite, and turning the other side upwards,
displayed to her a cleverly drawn picture of himself, or rather a
caricature, ridiculously like, yet utterly disagreeable and even
offensive. 'And you recollect it all too! It was all just as you say!
So--it was your hand that drew this, drew it first, and sent it to me.
Your doing and planning--after all!' There was a touching tone of
lament in his quiet low voice. Hope was fled. There need be no more
agitation, since there was no longer any suspense!

'But what is it? Let me look at it longer. Where did it come from?'
she exclaimed. 'It is an odious thing. So vulgar!--clever too.' She
spoke rapidly. Then pausing, she looked up at him, struck by some
sudden thought. 'Do you mean--did you think I drew that?'

'Did you?' he said, huskily.

'Did I?' She let the paper drop, and turned from him with a haughty
gesture of scorn. 'Mr. Herbert, you know quite well that I did not. I
wish, indeed,' she added, quickly and lightly, even mockingly, 'that I
had half the power displayed there! I beg your pardon for dropping the
precious treasure; you seem to value it so much and keep it so
carefully. But here come the children, just in time, at the finale of
this--this--strange story. We will go in now.'

'She didn't do it after all--Thank God! thank God!' he had murmured,
half to himself, but half aloud. Meanwhile he took the drawing from
her, and tore it into small shreds, throwing them down and treading
them into the soil. She uttered a contemptuous expression and laughed,
something in her old way, only it was more mocking and bitter now,
than saucy and merry. She went on, leaving him still stamping on the
bits of paper. A few steps onwards she was met by the heated and
panting racers. Mr. Herbert had, it seemed, sent them to search for
gum, promising a great reward for the largest lot and the best lumps.
Fanny now claimed the prize. He received their gatherings, in a
somewhat hurried manner, filling his pockets with the gum. 'Now, if
you will all run on a-head, and keep there, so that I can explain a
particular piece of business to Miss Lang, I don't know what I wont
give you. Perhaps a slice of the full moon; certainly something very
wonderful indeed. Do you hear?'

'They are too heated already,' Isabel said, perversely trying to
detain them near her. But the bait was tempting, and they did their
best to deserve the promised reward, and soon outstripped their
elders.

'I don't wish to annoy you,' he said, in a depracatory and gentle
way, studying her face. 'But consider, how anxious...'

'You have borne the suspense with great philosophy hitherto! You have
not hurried for an explanation or ever sought any, I believe, have
you? You assumed the fact, and without proof...'

'Remember how it was,' he interrupted. 'I had, I felt conscious,
betrayed--given you cause to guess, at least, something of my feelings
for you. But a very few hours after, I receive a parcel of my own
books, directed to me in your own writing, and sealed with the
identical seal you had once before used to me, a guinea-fowl, with the
motto, 'Come back.' Within this sealed parcel, nay, on the very sheet
of paper itself, is this drawing. Remember, I had seen you trying to
make caricatures such as Mrs. Vesey did, and that I had displeased you
by expressing my dislike, my strong disapproval, of such things. I had
been shown some of your drawing, at least so I was told and believed
they were. One was of Mr. Jolly. My sister always warned me against
this phase in your character which she had discovered, and which she
knew to be peculiarly distasteful, I may say hateful to me. It was a
strong case. I tried to disbelieve my own powers of sight. I carried
the paper to my sister and asked her whose writing she thought it was?
'Isabel Lang's' she said at once. Then I showed her the picture. She
nodded gravely, and said she was more sorry than surprised. What could
I think? Could I go to you and inquire? No; I took it as your answer,
a check to my advances, which you had seen and desired to stop at
once. Add to all this, my previous misunderstanding with your father.
I left home that very evening, more mad than wise; I rode hard and
rashly, scarcely feeling I was moving, and hardly pulling up for rest
or food, till my horse's strength failed. I went towards my station,
but while resting by the way, I was overtaken by a messenger sent by
my sister with English letters containing important news, and urging
me to sail at once. It suited my mood. I stayed for nothing. I was
only too glad to go, to leave this land, urged back by a somewhat
similar feeling to that which first goaded me to emigrate. My sister
met me in Sydney, bringing my clothes, and also the bad news about
you. I forgot to say that I had curiously enough come to the very same
inn on the same day as your father--we supped together--and--Isabel, I
wish, believe me I truly wish, we had parted in peace. I don't think I
could help it; but that is no matter now. He was angry, and he little
knew how sore and smarting I was, or perhaps he would not have poured
such irritation on the wound. Well, I embarked without loss of time,
immediately in fact. My sister was to follow as soon as she could
arrange affairs for us both. I tried hard to drown grief and to
forget. I assumed my new position and duties as soon as I arrived. I
entered into society and excited myself about the pending lawsuit.
Pooh, how vague, hollow, and rotten it all was! I was wretched. My
thoughts and ideas revolved on a pivot, one only chord vibrated, and
that ever--always. I became ill and restless. Then, at last, I roused
myself by the advice of a good man who was frank and honest enough to
tell me plain truths, and showed me I could not be happy as I lived. I
was appointed steward to a large estate and fortune, and I was bound
to do good. Well, I looked about--but do I bore you? are you tired?'--
for he heard her sigh.

'Go on,' was all she said.

'I looked around, with a dreary feeling you can hardly understand,
and my heart seemed to warm a little to this colony. I settled to
leave my affairs, lawsuit and all, in a trusty friend's hands, and to
return here. Perhaps I might even remain here, and devote my means to
carrying out a few of my theories, and setting an example in
developing the resources of the land. Sydney brought me much misery,
however; I found that I was haunted by the past. The bustle and the
heat--altogether I was nearly knocked up, when I came across Moreton
Scott, formerly a tolerably intimate acquaintance. He pressed me to
come to his home for rest and quiet. That evening, I heard your voice,
only two or three words, speaking to some one on the stairs. It was a
shock! But I had warning to enable me to meet you calmly. It was
surely God's hand which brought me here, of all places the place I
never once thought of as connected with you, much less your dwelling-
place. Now, can't you excuse a little my credulity? Isabel, is
forgiveness on your part impossible?'

'I hope not. I have, I believe, no choice, if I desire to rank as a
Christian,' she said, with an attempt at being light and indifferent,
but a catch in the voice betraying the feeling she would fain hide.
'Yet, first I must observe, that even supposing you were right, in
deeming me to be so clever as to be guilty of that picture--what then?
What is there so very very heinous--so dreadful in it? Can't you take
a joke?'

'Good Heavens! Don't you see--don't you feel--that no woman could so
turn a man to ridicule, if she had the smallest spark of that feeling
which would induce her to take him for her husband? I mean any respect
or esteem. Certainly, I am sensitive; I grant it. Yet I care not,
comparatively at least, for what others do. It was the idea of your
doing it--you--you! It seemed so strange that I should be singled out
for such a cut, that for the second time my love should be so blasted
and mocked, but...'

'Indeed!' she exclaimed quickly, and looking keenly at him. 'The
second time you say?'

'Yes--yes! the second time. What is there in me to provoke it?--
others live to old age and never suffer so. I will tell you; of course
I meant so to do, that when I first came to this colony, it was flight
from a cruel disappointment; it was a cruel insult, I may say, which
drove me, then a very young man, to take a sour and bitter view of all
things. Isabel, when I was first in all the glory of epaulettes and
spurs, a very fine fellow, of course, in a dashing cavalry regiment, I
was rather courted by the gay folks at Bath. There were then pre-
eminent in fascination and charms, two girls--cousins and rival
belles, acknowledged queens of the place. One of them was superb and
magnificent, every feature a model, of a calm but cold style of
beauty. The other less faultless, possessed, in my eyes, infinitely
more attraction. She was the best specimen of high-bred fashion I ever
saw. Her sparkling wit and cleverness, and a certain fearless frank
way of saying everything she chose, caught my fancy. I mistook it for
an ingenuous nature. I was young then. I know now it was the result of
high art. Of course I was to fall in love, and so I did. I believed
myself bound to her for ever. I also believed that she returned the
preference, and there was no obstacle to our union, it was so much
desired by our mutual friends. I was mustering courage to come to the
point, and to know my fate certainly, though I believed that we had
long understood one another. I happened one evening to enter, unheard,
a room in which she was, with a select party, entertaining them by a
little dramatic scene. She was a wonderful actress, and was in the
habit of amusing us with a sort of 'Mathews at Home' entertainment.
The lights were placed so as to fall only on the stage. I stood in the
shadow and heard her voice, thrilling clear as it was, as her words
excited peals of laughter. She was, I believe, so I have been told
since, giving a comic description of a picnic, and taking off some
well-known Bath characters. I had hardly stood there two minutes, when
she hit upon me. It so happened that at this picnic she had a very
narrow escape from being killed by her horse taking fright. I, seeing
her danger, had left my occupation, uncorking bottles, I believe, for
our luncheon, and sprang forward to turn the animal's head. Well, all
this scene was now brought up, travestied and turned into the greatest
ridicule. Nothing could be more disgusting and absurd than the
creature she represented me to be. Yet she so cleverly caught one's
likeness, that the audience was convulsed with laughter. Her courage
increased with applause; at first she had been a little shy at this
point I thought, her voice had faltered a little; but now urged on, by
clapping and cries of 'encore! capital!' she was carried away, and
said more I dare say than she intended. You may suppose I did not wait
long. At best my position would have been awkward. I crept away,
unseen and unheeded, at first feeling more sorry than angry. But I
presently discovered the real measure and depth of my love, for it did
not take long to vanish. When my eyes were opened, and I saw in what
light she looked upon me, I began also to read her character better.
In fact, it never could have been real love, but only its semblance, a
passing, young man's fancy and nothing more, from which I am thankful
I was released, though in so painful a manner.'

'Of course! That is always said,' Isabel remarked, with a certain
emphasis which made him look earnestly at her for a moment.

When he spoke again, his voice had a tenderer and softer tone.

'The worst part of it was, that this, together with other things,
gave me a great distaste for society--for companionship at all. I was
in great danger of becoming misanthropic, or, perhaps, of plunging
into reckless and dangerous pleasures, to drown my rather miserable
thoughts. The upshot was, I displeased my father and uncle by
exchanging into a line regiment then abroad. But it was good for me. I
saw something of a soldier's life and real work; mixed in the world
and got well knocked about. Then my regiment was ordered here; and I
fell in love with a bush life, and retired on half pay, taking a grant
of land. I intended to lead a solitary life, and forswore all society,
and especially all young unmarried ladies. But Providence was kind,
and sent a light across my path which saved me from pitfalls, albeit I
may be far from what I ought to be. Yes, it is a notable fact, that I,
who only noticed children to think them little pests, I, who since my
own twin sister's early death, which event was soon followed by my
mother's, never knew the influence of home affections and charities--I
met a child then--who--who--. Others passed her over to prefer her
sister's beauty; but to me--to me--she seemed to be everything--all--
something my nature had unconsciously needed and blindly sought. Yes,
Isabel; you were for me like a little sister--and more than a sister--
more than any sister could be--distinct from all the world. All that
you did and said pleased me. I tried to account for this singular
fancy in discovering a likeness to that other one. Well, there was a
something, and I do believe my sister noticed it--enough to make me
shudder, when I perceived your natural love of mimicry and love of a
joke. I think that you 'took' to me, as they say, from the first--
others said so. I know that your beaming eyes, which gave so frank and
cordial a welcome, were my attraction to the house, and often tempted
me to be idle. Then I taught you to ride, and helped you to draw--I
felt as if you were mine in some way. You were never shy with me. You
were too young and too frank to have any conventional scuples. They
trusted you to me, and I hope--yes, I have that comfort, I believe
that I never, never abused the trust. I was rough and cross enough at
times, and you could be sharp, too! Sometimes, as you grew older, I
was jealous--intensely so! But, on the whole, our intercourse was
smooth and pleasant--sincere and true. I think that we both liked
being together, and trusted to each other. And then--'

Another of those choking, half-strangled sobs, burst from her. She
longed to run away--to be alone and weep freely. She stopped for a
moment against the paling. He looked concerned, and put out his hand
towards her, as if proffering help and sympathy.

'No,' she said. 'But you walk so fast--and--I'm not strong, I
believe. And then--what is the good of going back--to all--to old
times?'

The words were jerked out with effort, and an hysterical laugh
struggled to overcome her.

'Patience me! There is the bell! Let me go--I must go.'

And she tried to hurry on. But he held her back firmly and gravely.

'There is no hurry. No, Isabel, you shall not hurry off from any
sudden impulse. If you go, it must be deliberately--at such a moment.
Let us walk on quietly.' And he tried to draw her hand on to his arm.
But she would not allow this.

They were silent for some steps, she trying to overcome her
agitation. Presently he said in a very quiet voice--

'What did you think--what did you do, finding I did not come again?
Did you expect me that next day?'

'I did. You said you would come, if you remember.'

'Did I? And what then--what did you do?'

'I waited.'

There was deep meaning in her voice as she said this. Many an
elaborate sentence would fail to convey so much. The weariness of hope
deferred. That 'waiting' which so many women have as their portion.

'What a brute you must have thought me! No wonder that you condemned
me, so that now, when we met again, you almost forgot we were not the
mere acquaintance or strangers we seemed to be. I read your
indifference, and it further confirmed the hint I thought you had
intended to give me in that picture. It surprised me. I looked for
resentment and pique; but such cool indifference I did not think was
in your nature.'

'Didn't you? Did you expect I was to go on boiling or freezing for
ever, and that experience would not teach me the happy medium?'

'What, are you only now returning!' here exclaimed Mr. Scott, coming
out of the garden gate, a few feet in front of them. 'There have I
been all this time 'rowing' with that rascal at the mill, who is
spoiling all the machinery with his obstinate ignorance. Hasn't the
first bell gone?'

'Yes, some time ago,' Isabel said, and she hurried away; while Mr.
Herbert vented his annoyance at the interruption--long as the
interview had been--by switching all the grass and wild flowers within
reach of his cane.



CHAPTER XXV. Worse And Worse.



There was but little time for reflection, or for the quiet luxury of
giving way to the overpowering feelings which had well nigh choked
her; yet Isabel rapidly went over the principal points of her late
conversation and its wonderful revelations, as, according to the house
custom, she changed her dress for tea.

Her wish for an explanation had been granted. She understood now
what had before seemed utterly incomprehensible. But the question was,
how did they stand with regard to one another? 'I am to pardon him,
and he, I suppose, is to pardon me. Then, are we to be as before?
Hardly. My mother will not forgive or forget so easily. Besides, he is
a rich man, a grand personage now, as Mr. Scott explained to me--
'Squires' they call them at home, he says; and as a country gentleman,
he takes his place with the highest. And I am a--governess--a drudge
of a governess. We are come down as he has climbed up. Impossible,
therefore, to fall back into our old places. And I wont stand being
condescended to! I hope he will soon take himself off, or I must. I
can't be acting a part any longer. Dignified distance doesn't suit me.
I can be hot and angry, or I can be amiable and agreeable in an
intimate way. If I could but escape the tea this evening--the ever
meeting him again!'

Tears trickled over her face, warning her, that if she wished to
escape observation, she must eschew the subject at once, and prepare
for proper behaviour. With a desperate effort she stopped the
inclination to cry, smoothed her hair, and arranged her dress, even
adding a ribbon by way of looking 'cared for.' But that description of
the Bath belle--his first love--rang in her ears, and as she looked
into her glass she found herself making comparisons between the figure
and face reflected there and his account of another. Then with a wish,
hovering between a desire to lie down and sleep, never to wake again,
or to be transported back to the days when she had been the child he
had described--with a vague sound in her ears of those happy hours
gone for ever, giddy with weakness, and feeling very tired, she went
down stairs, took up her knitting mechanically, and answered Mrs.
Scott's calm questions till the gentlemen entered.

At table she sat just opposite to Mr. Herbert, and she made sundry
mistakes in passing the wrong things, and helping Fanny to sugar
instead of salt.

'You are tired, Miss Lang. You were out too long,' Mr. Scott said.

'I was getting a little uneasy,' put in Mrs. Scott. 'Were all the
lessons ended?'

'Yes, we began so early,' Isabel said, quickly.

Then the children began to tell their mamma what Mr. Herbert had told
them to do, and of his promised reward. Isabel's cheeks burnt, as
childlike, they spoke out rather inconveniently, dwelling on details.
Then her head began to throb, and glad was she at the first move to
rise and leave the room, feeling, come what would, she must give way
now. She looked so shivered and sick when, some time after, they
sought her, that Mrs. Scott told her to go to bed at once. For hours
she tossed about feverish and suffering. Not till near dawn did she
fall asleep.

Heavy, plashing rain, long foretold and expected, had set in,
greeting Isabel when she woke--puzzled and conscious that something
had happened, but not sure what. Gradually it all returned.

'Here we are, he and I. Neither of us can go in this rain,' was her
first idea. Then followed--'And why should we go? There is room for
both.'

Before she was dressed a great dread came over her. She longed for
some good excuse to remain in her room, to escape the meals. She
almost wished she was really ill, instead of only this stupid ailing.
At last the maid's coming took her by surprise. She brought her
breakfast, by Mrs. Scott's order. It was kind of Mrs. Scott; and she
was glad of the reprieve. Then she began to form a plan for her
conduct; to be at her ease, yet plainly showing that she was aware of
the distinction between 'Mr. Herbert and a governess.' She studied
sundry free and easy, yet distantly polite speeches. But she found no
opportunity for making use of them.

When she hurried down to do what lessons there was still time for,
Isabel found, that the rain having a little ceased, her pupils were
gone to spend the day with their aunt. This she did not know was owing
to a hint from Mr. Herbert, quickly received and adopted by Mr. Scott,
that she herself needed quiet and rest.

The gentlemen went out in spite of rain and the thick clay soil.
Isabel was left to herself the greater part of the day. She was
standing by the window looking out when they returned. Greetings were
exchanged, and Mr. Scott inquired how she felt. Presently a chair was
placed for her, and looking round, she met Mr. Herbert's eye, at which
all her studied ease vanished, and a foolish fit of shy distress came
on, so that she was hardly aware that Mrs. Scott came into the room,
talked, and went out again followed by her husband, leaving Mr.
Herbert and Isabel alone together. She still gazed out at the shrubs
and the distant country. He was sitting behind her, and his eyes were
bent on her as if measuring something.

'I see, now, that you are changed, Isabel,' he said.

She blushed and started a little as she found no one else was in the
room; but, throwing herself into a would-be careless attitude, she
answered, half in joke, half in anger--

'No doubt. How long has it taken to arrive at so important and
interesting a fact? That you are not changed is proved by that remark,
which is scarcely complimentary.'

He smiled and brightened up. There was a sweet and familiar charm in
this return to her old provoking and saucy retorts.

'I meant no harm. Did I insinuate anything derogatory to you, by
saying that you are changed?'

'The interpretation being--'You are changed, having grown older and
uglier;' it is not customary in polite society to say so, whatever we
may think. But your discrimination is admirable! I am changed--I am
altered--I am aged. Moreover, I am not so well as I used to be, and
that adds no charms.'

In spite of the badinage, there was a fall in the voice which came
from some inward heart-throb. He had moved from his previous seat and
stood a little more in front, studying her aspect with grave, but
tender scrutiny.

'Yes, I can trace it. I see that you have suffered.'

'I was a blooming, prosperous, thoughtless lassie,' she said,
quickly, yet with earnest emphasis, turning away her face from him. 'I
am now unprosperous, come down in life, in fact, and forced to be
careful,--that is all. I know I am changed, very well I feel it. But I
am not the only one; other things are changed too. We need not talk
about it. You need not trouble yourself to measure or understand the
exact line of change. Mr. and Mrs. Scott believe us to be little known
to one another. You are not at all obliged to undeceive them, you
know.' She thought she had mastered herself completely, but her voice
was thick and her manner irritable.

He sighed. 'I deserve this! You greatly misunderstand my words,
however. I fear,' he added, presently, 'I fear you find it hard to
forgive?'

She tore the lace of her cuff frills, and her chest heaved under the
enforced restraint she put on herself. But she said, as lightly as she
could--'No. But I want you to see, to understand, that I have had some
trouble, the struggle to live and to provide for others--my family I
mean, of course. But though you see me not altogether well and strong,
just now, you must not judge anything by that. The worst is over--past
long ago, and I get on very well indeed now. So what I want to say is,
that though of course I am glad of the explanation, and that such an
absurd idea--about that picture, I mean--is put out of your head, as
it so distressed you; yet, of course, I know we can't be--that I am
not what I was at all. I can't explain myself; I am stupid and dull
this morning, but surely you understand what I mean?'

'It hardly needed so many words to say that it is your desire I
should not presume on former friendship! You desire me to understand
that my company is not agreeable to you, in homely phrase,' he
answered, deeply hurt, and showing he was so.

'I didn't say so. I left it for you to choose how far Miss Isabel
Lang, governess to Mrs. Scott's children, is an acquaintance for Mr.
Herbert!' she replied with spirit and displeasure.

He said nothing, but returned to his first seat, where he took up a
book. In another moment Mrs. Scott returned and sat down at her work-
table; Isabel swelling and panting, and wishing to jump out of window;
but pride kept her there and still. She knitted industriously, only
speaking when Mrs. Scott spoke to her, during the pauses between her
attempts to draw Mr. Herbert into conversation. But he remained silent
and gloomy. And so it was for the rest of the day and during the
evening. Mr. Scott remarked it to his wife in Isabel's presence.

The next day Isabel took her place as usual in the school-room, and
walked out with the children. Again they met the gentlemen, but this
time they did not join parties. At dinner Isabel could not avoid
seeing Mr. Herbert's face, and she was surprised and somewhat shocked
to find him looking so ill. He was silent, and when forced to speak,
there was a weariness and flatness in his manner quite sad to see.
Once in the evening as he sat, in the old attitude, apart and unhappy,
she remembered when she had understood that mood, and was privileged
to tease or please him out of it. She was conscious that her own words
had hurt him. She recalled looks and tones of that morning's
explanations, and felt she had done her best to alienate him. He felt
things very deeply. He was looking really ill now. Why should she not
try to rouse him, even at the risk of compromising her dignity? Why
should she not try to make some amends for the hurt she had caused?
Yet it was difficult. There was a gulf between them now, partly of her
own making. He had more than once called her 'Miss Lang.' How then
could she come forward? Yet on self-reflection she felt she owed him
some apology for that most blundering, confused, and unfortunate
speech of hers. This then she would make. She would see at once, if a
way opened for more, or not. It was difficult to find an opportunity,
for he avoided her, or at least all tête-è-têtes. Some one was always
present. Two days passed after she resolved on an apology, before she
found herself for one moment alone with Mr. Herbert. But at last she
did so, with only the little girl next to the baby in the room. Not a
minute must be lost. So, hurried and flushed, she looked up at him as
he sat in the shade, with a book on his lap, his hands in his pockets,
and his eyes somewhere upwards. She plunged desperately into it, not
daring to pause, lest her courage should ooze away.

'I have been wishing,' she began, feebly, and stopped by something in
her throat. Then, on again, this time a little louder. He withdrew his
upward gaze, and looked at her as she said--'Mr. Herbert--I feel--I
owe you an apology.'

'Do you? I was not aware of it!'

'Yes, you are. I mean--I beg your pardon, but I was rude, don't you
remember--and seemed to be ungrateful the other day?' Here she stopped
short, and tossed off a tear, smiling, however, though her eyes were
dim. 'But I did not mean or wish it. You misunderstood me!'

'Did I?' he said in a gentle tone, though his voice was sad. Then as
she did not go on, he added, 'How so?'

'I think you did. Yet perhaps I am wrong and mistaken even now. Very
likely nothing I said or did could have that effect, or has anything
to do with it,' she said, with sudden revulsion of feeling. 'But I
felt that I had spoken rudely and ungraciously, when perhaps--
perhaps--you meant to be kind, and then seeing you so grave I
determined to make an apology. That's all!' she added, returning to
the assumed ease of manner.

He was looking at her, still leaning on his elbow, and pushing aside
his hair with his fingers, showing thereby a shaded brow, and a
countenance betraying inward trouble. 'You have a kind heart, I know,
and do not mean to give pain, I believe,' he said.

Then he slowly removed his eyes from her to the ground, slightly
shaking his head, and moving his hands in a way familiar to her, as a
sure sign of his being rather unhappy. Her quick eye had caught this
gesture, and noted the weary, listless sadness brooding on his face.
An impulse seized her. She suddenly rose, though what to do she didn't
know. It ended in her catching up little Julia, the baby girl, and
hugging her tightly, kissing the child's face and neck and hair.

Julia cried out 'Don't!'

'What, mayn't I love you? Let poor Issy love you, Ju,' she half
whispered, pleading earnestly with eye and voice.

'No, no--not now--by and bye;' and the child turned away, going back
to her play. Presently she passed near Mr. Herbert, as she had done
several times before. Now he stopped her.

'Little Ju!' he said, and kissed her, stroking her hair.

His notice was unusual, and struck the child. She stopped in her play
and looked up at him, as if expecting more.

'Don't you like to be loved, Julia?' he said, again stroking her
hair.

'What?'

'Will you kiss me--a pretty kiss?'

She held up her rosy little lips directly--drawing a deep sigh of
surprise and content--and suffered him to draw her on to his knee,
where she was soon quite at her ease, counting his buttons, while he
played with her curls.

Isabel's needle flew in and out at a rapid rate the while.

'I don't think I quite understand, even now,' Mr. Herbert said, as if
there had been no pause or break in the conversation. 'You say I
misunderstood. I thought you inferred a wish that our intercourse
should be within the boundary of mere common acquaintance for the
future--that you wished to check in me all idea of going back and
taking up the threads where they fell.'

He paused almost at each word, as if each carried a separate meaning.

'Perhaps I was too willing to forget all that wretched interim. The
relief was so great, so exquisite, that I was going back again at
once, as if it had been only an evil dream. Then--I understood that
you wished to check this--to remind me I had sinned past forgiveness
in your sight. The hours since then have been spent in realizing that
it is no dream, but a terrible reality; that, though we sit at the
same table, live under the same roof, there is a partition wall
between us! I would have gone--I ought to have gone directly. Yet, I
accepted Scott's invitation to prolong my stay, in order to make
assurance sure--to take it all in, and look my fate in the face. I
flattered myself I had gone on quietly. But from your thinking it
necessary to apologize, I fear my manner has betrayed me and shown
pain--pain which I had no right or intention to obtrude on you;
though--I can't say I wish you had not seen it. That it was worth your
while to observe me so far--that small consideration even--I am glad
of. But it shall be ended! You shall not be annoyed.'

Could this be Mr. Herbert?--the former kind and partial friend, whose
very notice of her had been once a source of pride! Was this the irate
and easily-ruffled man she used to like to tease, even while she
feared him--speaking so quietly and sadly--so almost humbly! Even
little Julia looked up quickly, perceiving pain in his voice. He
kissed her upturned face, and went on twisting and untwisting her
curls.

Isabel had dropped her work. With her hands passionately clasped over
her face, she murmured, low, yet loud enough for him partly to hear--
though she did not mean he should do so--'This is dreadful!--too
dreadful!'

He put the child off his knee quickly, and rose from his seat. One
step he had taken as if going to her, when--the door opened, and Mrs.
Scott came in, followed by the other children. Isabel gathered up her
work, and without a glance at any one, she left the room.

She was sitting in the school-room unoccupied, as she had been for
more than an hour, when the servant came in.

'Is it late, Lucy?'

'The bell will go in a moment, miss. But I came to bring you this'--
laying down a tiny note. 'Mr. Herbert said he was sorry not to bid you
good-bye, miss.'

'Good-bye?--What!--Is he gone?'

'Yes, he has been gone about twenty minutes I should think.'

'Yes,' put in Fanny, coming into the room. 'And papa is so vexed
about it! He declares Mr. Herbert is very, very capricious; for he
promised he would stay longer, and then all at once, he said it was
fine, and he must go directly.'

Isabel opened her note and read as follows:--

'Feeling I have no right to disturb your life by my unwelcome
presence, I have told my kind host--what is truth, that I am not well,
and want to be at home (meaning my chamber at Petty's Hotel, of
course). Let me say this once, that it grieves me to know of your toil
and your trouble. But the peace attending the performance of duty, and
the natural cheerfulness of your own temper, will, I hope, support
you. I know you well enough to feel sure that you will rise above your
trial. Forgive all the pain and annoyance I have ever caused you, and
which I can't endure to witness. You do not need, nor would you
accept, any help I could give. Isabel! no one will ever love you
better than I would, and no one will ever more truly desire your
happiness--than your old and once near friend, J. HERBERT.'

'Are you sure he is gone for good?' Isabel asked.

'Yes,' said Fanny, astonished. 'Why, look! I dare say you may get a
peep of him now going up the hill. Yes; see!--there he is!'

And Isabel, keenly scanning the little bit of road visible from the
window as it wound round a severe hill, descried a black speck, which,
on farther inspection, might be like a man on horseback. When it was
out of sight she turned away and walked slowly to her own room, drank
some water, and then, sitting down, she closed her eyes in spite of
the warning bell for dinner.

She knew now that happiness had been very near her, and that it was
gone--gone for ever! Was it not by her own blundering, too? All was
over! A grey curtain had once more fallen on her life, giving all
things a sombre hue. She tried to think that this was best. She had
been tolerably happy and easy before this late return to old thoughts.
This had brought both acute pain and great pleasure. Now all was over,
and after a little time she should recover herself and return to
former habits, and her hardly earned content and equanimity. It would
be better, for now there was nothing more to know--no further waiting
and looking for tidings--no treacherous whispers from Hope to beguile
her into even a passing moment of gladness! She knew all now. She felt
as if she had come to the end of an exciting story--THE END! All was
over. And yet she must live on, dull and dreary, as she was now. No,
that could not, should not be! She must rouse from this dull stupor,
this utter hopelessness. She reminded herself of one source of comfort
which would soon give her more pleasure. She might now look back on
Mr. Herbert's character as the same, neither better nor worse than she
had always known it. He was faulty, but with all his excess of
sensitiveness he had attractive qualities she had never found in any
one else. His present life had not apparently hurt him or tarnished
his old generosity. His sense of responsibility, if anything, was
increased, she thought; and he seemed more gentle--more humble.

But the second and last bell now clanged shrilly. The dinner loomed
before her as some dreaded monster; but go down she must; and eat, or
pretend to eat, she would; lest they should think she was fretting. So
rallying all her courage and powers of endurance, and feeling very
like a machine, she went into the room where the rest of the people
were.



CHAPTER XXVI. The Dessert.



Mr. Scott was more annoyed than Isabel had ever seen him. He was
sorry to lose his guest, and vexed at the sudden whim which had upset
his arrangements. This affected his temper, and for a time everything
was wrong. Mrs. Scott maintained her usual phlegm; but even more
softly and quietly than was her habit, she commented on the misery and
inconvenience of a person's not knowing his mind, or being decided in
little things.

'Did you hear anything of this extraordinary move, Miss Lang?' she
asked. 'You were some time in Mr. Herbert's company, I think, this
morning.'

'I did not hear a word of it.'

'He is so poorly, too. But I don't care! If he has a brain fever
down there at Petty's, it will serve him right. Such a violent hurry,
too--wouldn't wait a moment! He seemed like one in a dream. 'Pon my
soul, I shouldn't be surprised at... I don't believe he knew what he
was doing or saying,' said Mr. Scott, helping himself much more
frequently and abundantly to wine than he usually did.

At last the dishes were removed, and the clatter ceased. The dessert
was a little better; and Isabel cracked nuts by way of doing
something. She was talking to the children, amused with some droll
speech of little Julia's, when the servant came to the door and
summoned her master.

A whispered dialogue was held in the hall, a few isolated words of
which alone reaching the dining-room. Then Mr. Scott popped in his
head for a moment.

'My dear, don't be alarmed! I'll go and judge for myself. I'll wager
anything it is all palaver and humbug.'

He was rather pale and hurried, notwithstanding his assuring words,
and went away past the window rapidly. Isabel looked at Mrs. Scott
with a vague presentiment of evil. That lady languidly remarked--'Some
horse hurt, perhaps. But I wish he would be less hurried. Self-
control, composure, is so very desirable, under all circumstances.'

The servant came in again, her countenance evidently full of some
important news, which she was longing to impart.

'Master has a umbrella, ma'am,' at last she ventured to remark.
Then, gathering courage, she went on--'They do say as how it is a
gentleman has had a accident about two miles down the road. So the
draymen say. Some drays chanced to be passing, and they told our Harry
of it; and from the description, Harry thought as how it might be Mr.
Herbert, and wished to tell the master. They say he was carried upon a
door to the 'Currency Lass' inn. They thought as how the life was
quite distinct.'

'Come, that is enough,' said Mrs. Scott. 'I believe nothing till I
know more. Everything is exaggerated. It is in all uneducated natures
to magnify these accidents. Miss Lang, don't allow these little people
to be frightening themselves about nothing. They must be taught early
to use their reason, and to control all sudden feelings of alarm, and
so on. We shall hear all in good time. Miss Lang, will you... . But
where is she?--Where is Miss Lang?'

No one knew. She was gone, but no one had seen her leave the room.
They sought her everywhere, but vainly.

'Very thoughtless, indeed! She has, I dare say, gone to the garden,
forgetting the children might need her,' remarked Mrs. Scott, quietly.

Soon a panting and puffing messenger came with a scrap of paper from
Mr. Scott, on which he had scribbled a request for the carriage to be
sent as soon as possible to the above-named public-house; for that Mr.
Herbert had been thrown from his horse. He was stunned, and they
feared he had broken his arm, but nothing very serious, it was hoped.

Mrs. Scott gave the necessary orders, and quietly had everything
prepared for receiving her late guest. Neither did she omit to sow a
few seeds of good advice, impressing on her children the moral of the
event--namely, that hurry and impulse were bad things to lead any one.

In about an hour's time, Mr. Scott returned with Mr. Herbert, the
latter looking very pale, and with his arm disabled. He apologized
warmly, though in a hurried way, for all the trouble he had caused,
and confessed he should have done wiser to follow their advice. 'But a
lesson learnt is a thing gained.'

'Ah, I grumbled preciously at you, and swore you should never catch
me inviting you here again,' said Mr. Scott. 'And, you see, you return
of your own accord, and not by my asking. Of course, now you are ill
and wounded, we must receive you and even nurse you. But I shall give
you a bit of my mind hereafter. Never mind! What is a broken arm? '
'Tis an ill wind blows no good to any one.' So, you see, I gain a
companion for some weeks to come.'

Mr. Herbert was obstinate in persisting that he would await the
doctor's visit on the couch in the drawing-room instead of going at
once to bed. Mrs. Scott warned him of evil and scolded, or rather
'gave advice;' but still he persisted. Then she wished to clear the
room and send away the children.

'Mr. Herbert must be perfectly quiet. Ask Miss Lang to take them.'

'Can't find her no ways, ma'am.'

'What, isn't she in yet?'

'Where is she?' said Mr. Scott.

'That we don't know. Have you looked in the garden?' said his wife
to the servant.

'Yes, ma'am. Couldn't see nothing of her there.'

'She was here, in this room, when I left,' said Mr. Scott. 'For I
remember observing how pale she was.'

'Very likely! Any sudden thing turns her, poor girl. She is rather
shattered. Her father's death and that fire, and all those scenes, I
suppose, did it.'

'Have you looked over the house?' suggested Mr. Herbert.

Upon which the children were despatched to hunt her up. They thought
it good fun. But ere very long, the eldest girl, Fanny, rushed back to
her mother, and when close beside her burst into tears, with her face
hid on her mamma's shoulder.

'What is it, Fan?'

'Good God! what is it?' exclaimed Mr. Herbert, half moving off the
couch, but falling back again directly from sharp pain.

'O, I think she must be dead!' sobbed Fanny.

'Nonsense! You are upset--frightened, child. Where is she?' said
Mrs. Scott, trying to be severe, but, for her, very hurried.

The nurse here came in, with a disturbed face.

'Yes,' she said. 'In a swoon! No one knows for how long--poor dear
soul! She was lying right across the passage. Seemed as if she was
going into the spare room. She was always quick and ready in thought.
Perhaps she was going to see if the bed was gotten ready for the
gentleman.'

Mrs. Scott went out with nurse. And, by dint of coaxing the
frightened Fanny, and sending Mary, the second child, to inquire, the
gentlemen heard at last that Miss Lang had 'awoke,' with a great groan
and looking very wild. Then, 'mamma had explained to her that no one
was dead, or even so very much hurt, and told her to lie quietly.'

'But who was said, or supposed to be dead?' Mr. Herbert wished to
know.

'You, I suppose,' the child said, shyly. 'Harry, the man, said that
life was 'distinct gone;' and Miss Lang heard it. Perhaps that
frightened her and made her ill. I've seen her bad before often, only
she told me not to tell, for it was nothing.'

The child would have gone on, pleased by feeling her words were of
importance, but Mr. Herbert gave a low groan, which made all the young
ones look with wonder and awe on his own pain, which they were fast
forgetting in their excitement about their governess. He was chained
to that couch--stay there he must! but by the time that the doctor
arrived, a very quick pulse and fever had set in.

Meanwhile, Isabel had sunk into a refreshing sleep. She could give no
explanation of her swoon, or her intention in seeking that particular
room. She had felt giddy and sick during dinner and even before. Of
course the sudden news might have upset her. Mrs. Scott pronounced it
to be from over-nervousness--a very bad habit, and she hoped Miss Lang
would try to conquer it for the future.

Mr. Herbert said, when they were speaking of her down-stairs later in
the evening, 'that he had known Isabel faint very suddenly before,
when far stronger than she seemed now.' And then it came out that he
had known more of her than the Scotts had supposed. As he was excited
with pain and fever, he forgot his reserve, and even confided to Mr.
Scott his friendship with the Lang family; spoke of his disagreements
with Mr. Lang, and so on. So much did he say, that when, towards dawn,
Mr. Scott left his friend to snatch a little sleep, he told his wife
that he believed 'there was something in it!' with which sage and
oracular sentence he turned over and went to sleep.

'Something in what? What is Moreton thinking of, I wonder?--O--I
see--I see!' his wife soliloquized. And at breakfast the next morning,
Mrs. Scott bestowed a keener look on her governess. But she said
nothing, and gravely acquiesced in Isabel's assurance, that it was all
past, and she was quite well and able to be in the school-room as
usual. In her fall she had grazed her forehead slightly, and that mark
was there. Beyond this there were no symptoms of the swoon.



CHAPTER XXVII. Reading The News.



Mr. Herbert proved a refractory patient, and the amiable doctor had
to consent to many freaks previously unheard of in the treatment after
a fall and with a broken bone. He excused his forced compliance on the
ground 'that opposition only did more harm where the will was strong.
There was risk of injuring, certainly, but--&c.!' So Mr. Herbert had
his own way, and wrapped in a Turkish pattern dressing-robe, and
looking quite 'interesting and invalidish' as Mrs. Scott said, he took
possession of the couch, on the third evening after the accident.
Isabel not hearing of his intention, and not dreaming of his leaving
his own room, was taken completely by surprise on entering the
drawing-room. She was immediately retreating, supposing that the room
was given up to his use.

'Come in!' said Mrs. Scott. And trying to shake off her shyness, she
came up to where that lady was standing, surrounded by her children,
who stared at Mr. Herbert's dress and his slung arm.

'Good evening!' Isabel said, trying hard to be cool and indifferent.
But he held out his sound hand, without speaking, and she was
constrained to give him hers. Touched by the warmth of his grasp, she
felt excited; then, not daring to trust herself to be silent, she
rattled on, even rallying him, and declaring she heard his screams
from the road, and that it was that which made her faint. 'He only
pretends, Fanny,' she went on, not daring to pause, and catching hold
of the astonished child. 'He likes to be made much of, and fancies
that Turkish robe is very imposing and becoming!' A quiet and amused
smile on Mrs. Scott's face at last made her suddenly stop short.

'You are rather sharp on our invalid, Miss Lang,' said Mr. Scott,
coming in. 'Yet you showed sympathy and compassion enough by swooning
in that tragic way.'

'Supposing it had nothing whatever to do with the accident, after
all?' she said. 'It sounds so romantic and like a novel, it is a pity
to contradict it, isn't it? But facts are stubborn, and this is the
fact--that I managed to turn giddy and fall when I was upstairs, at
least some ten minutes after the news was brought, having, moreover,
been rather queer and 'all-overish' all the day.'

'You are very anxious to prove you were not frightened, I observe,'
said Mr. Scott.

'Not anxious at all,' Isabel said; 'but so it was.'

'Well, Miss Lang is not usually one to lose her presence of mind by
foolish fright and alarm, I will say,' put in Mrs. Scott.

'No, Fanny; no play here. There are too many in the room, my dear,'
said Mr. Scott to his wife.

'Yes; the children must go,' she said. Then in a whisper to Isabel,
she added, 'I will take them away, if you will be so very good as to
stay here and...'

'No,' returned Isabel, very decidedly,--'no, indeed, I can't do that,
Mrs. Scott. There is our history class to come off, and--and...'

'The doctor does not wish him to read to himself,' Mrs. Scott still
whispered. 'He is wishing for the newspaper, and my throat is sore. In
fact, Miss Lang, it would be a real favour,' she pursued. 'Will you?
Is it very disagreeable? Mr. Scott will remain, if you wish it. But
you read aloud so nicely--just the news.'

'Hallo! what is all that whispering about?' cried Mr. Scott.

And Isabel, afraid lest Mr. Herbert should overhear, or guess at her
reluctance, hastily, and not over graciously, said, 'I must, of
course, if you want me to do it.' And taking up the newspaper, she sat
down like a victim, or a school-girl set on a hated task. She did not
ask what she should read, but plunged into the leading article at
once, hesitating, in her nervousness, and then suddenly conscious of
her rapid, hurried style, not very easy to hear, she checked herself,
and forced her words to come out in sober and proper sequence.
Presently Mr. Scott became fidgety, and said he was sure that Herbert
ought to have an air cushion for the broken arm, and he knew where to
find one which was put away in his study. Isabel saw him go, but read
on steadily, though without the smallest notion of the meaning of the
words. This went on, till she found the paper was slipping out of her
hands, and looking up, saw, with a start, that Mr. Herbert was
stretching out his well arm, and at some risk to the lame one, as she
was scarcely within his reach, he was trying to pull away the paper
from before her face.

'I beg your pardon,' he said, falling back on his cushions again, and
somewhat alarmed at the sudden change of colour in her face.

'Shall I go on? or is there any particular part you want to hear?'
she said, stooping to pick it up, and willing to hide her countenance
from his keen eyes if she could.

'No, no--though it is very nice. Just what I have often so dreamt
of.'

'What! your lying there with a broken arm?' she said. 'Very
unpleasant dreams.'

And she laughed a little, nervously, and again seemed to search the
paper for a subject.

'No; but having you to read to me,' Mr. Herbert said.

'It is not by any means the first time, I believe,' she went on, in
a careless tone. 'Wasn't there Sinbad, and a long, dull poem by one
Goldsmith, which...'

'Yes; you read it seated on my knee. Fancy that! O, Isabel--'

And then he stopped. After a little pause he went on quietly, almost
as if speaking to himself.

'There is--there must be some fate in it. Here I am again, having
made up my mind to leave--And then'--here his voice took a tone of
peculiar tenderness--'you did care--you may deny it, if you like, and
I dare say you will; but you were sorry at the idea of my danger,
Isabel.'

And he looked at her reproachfully.

'I don't wish to deny it at all. Why, surely you would expect it!
Wouldn't you feel the same for me--or for any one.'

He did not answer this. His eyes were bent on her. She felt their
meaning to the quick, though she dared not meet them.

'Is there no hope, then?' he said, as if to himself. Then, louder,
'Isabel, tell me just one thing. Is it that you can't forget or
forgive--is it resentment? or is it... Could it never, under any
circumstances, have been possible for you to--to--like me--in the
way--I like--love you? Was it even then impossible for the friend to
be something even dearer and nearer? Had I only come back on that next
day, would you have said 'yes'? Answer me--would you?'

'Said 'yes' to what?' she answered, fighting it off to the last,
though much moved by his earnestness.

'To my question. If I had asked you to be my wife?'

He could not see her face. It was hidden; and she did not speak. The
pause of absolute silence seemed to be long. At last, with a sigh, he
broke it.

'You know me well, all my faults,' he said. 'You know that I love
you. Can you ever, if not now, in time, return it? Do speak!--I shall
never ask again. Perhaps...have you known me too long as a friend to
look on me as a lover, a husband?--or--or--is it possible that your
old regard is gone? Do you even dislike me?--Isabel!'

His words came the faster and more vehemently, that she still
remained silent. Again he tried to put out his hand to touch her. But
he winced visibly at the pain caused by the exertion of stretching out
his arm, and shut his eyes for a moment, looking very white.

'Pray don't do so,' she murmured.

He seemed not to hear her. An expression of sadness and suffering
seemed to stiffen each feature.

'Not a word? At least say 'No,' and end suspense,' he said, faintly.
Then, controlling the impatience of his tone--'Isabel, I shall never
tease you again; but I entreat you to speak now. Tell me--is it
anger--or is it indifference? Ah! anger might yet leave a little
hope.' And he threw up his hand and pressed his head. 'But, I see! I
see! It is indifference--cool, disdainful indifference!--dislike, I
believe. There! she is going, and without one word, after all my
entreaty--my...'

She had risen from her seat as he spoke. He covered his eyes with
his hand.

'Yes,--well--go!--go, if you like it. If you go now, I shall
understand it--I shall know that...'

But he was stopped by feeling something close over him, and the hand
which he was now impatiently drawing through his hair (a trick he had
when much vexed) came suddenly in contact with something soft, while a
kiss, light as dew, fell on his fingers.

Almost springing off his couch, he managed to seize and secure her
hand, and drew it over his face.

'Isabel! God bless you--God love you! You shall never, never repent
this. My darling!' he went on, 'it is not in your nature to be
disdainful or unkind. Yet--what may I think or hope? No--don't go,
Isabel; you must come here now.'

And he drew her round to his side. She did not resist, but sank on
her knees, burying her face behind his cushions. After a moment, he
anxiously tried to raise her head, stroking her hair with his left
hand fondly.

'Don't cry--don't! Is it, then, only for me--because you fear to
injure, to hurt me now? Isabel, unhappy?'

'No--no.'

'But you are--I see you are! How have I hurt or distressed you?
Isabel, what is it?'

Seeing him really distressed, she forced the tears back and looked
up.

'It is nothing. You brought it all on yourself--all. But it is a
great mistake.'

'What is a mistake, Isabel?'

'All--all this!'

'These tears, but not...'

'I tell you it is all wrong,' she said, with her old petulance. 'You
are acting under an impulse, as Mrs. Scott would say,' and she laughed
hysterically.

'Mrs. Scott! Nonsense! Isabel, do you love me?'

'If I do, I ought not to...'

'Don't--don't say that! Indeed, indeed, I will value and cherish it
always.'

'I shall tease you into bad health--to death, perhaps,--who knows?
There, I thought I was changed; but seeing you has brought back all my
old self.'

'Has it? I am glad. Isabel, you are sure you like me?'

'No, indeed!'

'No! you love me, then,--do you?'

'You ask too many questions. It is tiresome, Mr. Herbert.'

'Well--only once, just once tell me so! Do you forgive me quite? If
you wont speak, give me your hand--do, Isabel!'

She looked at him for a moment earnestly, and then with a quick
movement she put her hand in his. He drew her close--very close. 'Let
me go, please,--they are coming!' He let her go, and she went back to
her chair.

'That is so far away. Closer--come nearer!'

'Because you are ill, I suppose I must humour you,' she said, in a
troubled voice, and drawing her chair a little nearer to him. 'And
pray do you consider this a discreet step of yours, Mr. Herbert?' she
asked soon, demurely enough, though it was evident she kept a strong
check on herself, and was still deeply excited.

'About what?' he asked.

'Why,' she said, hesitating, 'what will they say? I mean your sister
and grand English friends. Will they like a governess--a girl without
beauty or fortune for...'

'For what? Explain yourself. This girl without 'beauty or fortune,'
what about her, Isabel? Come, tell me, how is my discretion at fault?
But come yet nearer,' he said; 'sit on this low seat; I want to see
you. No, no; they wont come. Why, they have left us on purpose.'

'On purpose! What do you mean?'

'Only that they guess something, and are obliging,' he said.

'No! Guess--guess what, Mr. Herbert? Did you tell them, then?'

'What had I to tell?' he said, much amused at her alarm. 'Certainly
Scott took it into his head to be joking me this morning, and cross-
questioning me too; and I owned, I believe,--that is, I said I had an
interest--a regard; but never mind about them. Come here!' And she did
come. 'That's right. Now I can see your face; a thinner face than it
was!' he added, gently stroking aside a little of her stray hair. 'Did
you blame me very much?' he said, after a little silence. 'Were you
very angry, Issy, at my not coming to you directly after that last
visit? You must have thought it strange, indeed!'

'I fought your battles while I could;' her voice was not very clear,
and her eyes glistened with unshed tears.

'Did you?'

'Yes, and then--I tried to forget you.'

'And succeeded?'

She glanced at him, and then struggled to say something saucy, but it
ended in her hiding her face with her hands, while a few tears
trickled down, and a short strong sob burst all restraint. It did not
last long. 'I did not sit down and fret,' she said, as soon as she
could command a steady voice. 'I had much to do. I was very happy and
content. Yes, and leading a better and a busier life than you ever
knew me to do.'

He smiled. 'This is so pleasant, as it ought to be. Don't you find it
quite 'natural,' Issy?'

'Yet, only a few days ago, and you treated me as the veriest
stranger,' she answered. 'And that was all natural, I suppose?'

'Don't talk of it! But although I did so, the very instant I found
myself in your presence my heart throbbed to suffocation, and all my
pre-conceived ideas seemed to vanish. I felt all the time that you
were mine. I could scarcely refrain from drawing you to me, and
claiming you as my own, in spite of all and everything.'

'Whether I liked it or not?--you took that for granted, I suspect,
very coolly.'

'No; sometimes just the reverse. Don't alarm yourself--you have not
been won unwooed. Be content; you have perplexed and troubled me quite
enough, and I tortured myself often with the notion that you could
never love me. At other moments I certainly seemed to rest on it as a
fact pre--ordained. You were mine--mine--without reasoning or
accounting for it, that was the feeling.'

Here Isabel jumped up from her low stool and was only just seated in
proper dignity, demurely sheltered by the newspaper, when Mr. and Mrs.
Scott came in.



CHAPTER XXVIII. Telling The News.



'Well, finished the news?' Mr. Scott asked.

'Are you ready to return to your room, Mr. Herbert?' inquired his
wife.

'Not exactly.'

'But you seem flushed. The news has been too exciting, I fear--eh,
Miss Lang?' said Mr. Scott, looking keenly at her.

'Well, wool is down, and there is an article prophesying another
insolvency in some important house in Sydney,' she said, looking at
the paragraphs as she spoke.

'Yes, Gribble and Co. are tottering, so it is said. Where will it
end?' And fairly launched on the fruitful topic of bad times, they all
talked on eagerly, finding it difficult to stop. Under cover of this
discussion Isabel slipped away. Before her return among them, Mr.
Herbert had told his hosts of his being engaged to her, so that the
first expressions of surprise having been freely uttered, Isabel
received a cordial hand-shake from Mr. Scott, and a smile tolerably
approving from the lady. With regard to Mr. Herbert, she was herself
surprised to find how easily she fell into the old easy and familiar
footing, at least, when alone with him. Before others there was a
little shyness, and he found it difficult even to catch her eye, far
less get an answer when he particularly addressed her. Mrs. Scott was
considerate, and contrived that they should be a good deal together
and alone. At such times some of the old battles were fought again. He
soon shook off his indisposition, and save the sling, there was no
further mark of his accident. Isabel lost her careworn look, and the
colour came back to her cheeks, under the quiet repose of her heart.
Her manner to him was pretty and characteristic. It was what it used
to be, with deeper touches. While he was an invalid and on the couch,
she was very docile and gentle; so much so, that he laughed and
wondered, saying he expected to have to quote the old song to her,
'One of two must obey.' But her obedience was so exemplary that . .'

'Don't be too sure of it!' she said. 'When you are yourself again
and acting the master, stalking about as a lord of the creation, I
shall not be the meek, yielding creature you have found me lately. You
are now down and in my power. It would be cowardly and dishonourable
to bully you. But...'

'What will she do? What does Miss Lang mean, Mr. Herbert?' little
Mary had asked, as she sat with her doll, unheeded by them.

'You perhaps can inform me. What does she do with you in the school--
room? Is she very terrible?'

'No--only she will be minded. But you are so big and so tall, she
couldn't make you mind, if you didn't like.'

'Well, that's a comfort for me! Do you know, Mary, if you grow very
restive and troublesome, when Miss Lang goes away, your mamma must let
you come to me. I have a peculiar method for taming horses and
children. Once--very long ago--there was a little girl somewhere about
your age, no, nearer your sister Fanny's. She was offended about
something and out of temper. It was at a sort of gipsy party some
miles from home, and she had ridden on a nice little pony, but rather
spirited and apt to jump about and kick. Well, this girl took it into
her head to punish us all by declaring she would not mount her pony.
She would walk home by herself. They could not frighten her with the
prospect of the darkness which must overtake her. The nurse and a lady
friend there, and her sister and brothers, all were quite upset, and
some of them cried. But the girl was hard and determined, and began to
walk off, just like a little rebel as she was. Then they applied to
me. 'She will be lost. Something must happen. O Mr. Herbert!' All
right, said I; and throwing the pony's rein over my arm, I went on
whistling. Soon I spied the little rebel walking along in front, and
on her hearing the horse's steps, I saw that she quickened her pace;
very soon, before she knew that any one was near her, she found
herself on the pony's back, and the bridle in her hand. 'I'll get
down--you'll see I will!' she said. But as she struggled and insisted
on walking, the pony's legs were tickled by a switch, and he began to
caper and kick so that she had to hold on. Then the rest of the party
came trotting along, all the horses fresh and eager to go home. So the
young lady was obliged to keep her seat. She kept in front of the
cavalcade, and I believe scarcely slackened the pace, which was of the
fastest, till they reached their own gates.'

'Ah, she was conquered. But who was it, Mr. Herbert?'

'That's a secret,' Mr. Herbert said, amused.

'How can you remember such nonsense?' Isabel remarked. 'Ask him,
Mary, how he got punished for his share in that affair.'

'It was you,' said Mary, shyly. 'Tell me some more about Miss Lang--
do, Mr. Herbert.'

'Yes; and while you do so, I shall go and write my letter,' said
Isabel, and not heeding his request that the letter might be put off,
that this was their only quiet time for that day, and so on, she left
him, really wishing to have no further delay in writing to Jem. The
only cloud of this time of peace to Isabel, was that she dared not yet
tell her mother of her having had any explanation with Mr. Herbert.
She had, of course, mentioned his arrival, and since then had only
briefly alluded to him, as one with whom she had no concern. Indeed,
she was conscious that she must have given them an impression of his
extreme coldness, and 'cutting' the acquaintance. Her mother's letters
always contained some wonder at Isabel's consenting to remain in the
same house with one who had acted so 'scandalously;' for her part, she
hoped she should never meet him. It had been settled by Isabel and Mr.
Herbert, that as soon as he could move, he should go himself to
Westbrooke and announce their engagement. Yet as the day drew near,
and she saw him going about, and fit for the ride, her heart failed
her.

'Why are you so grave?' he asked. 'I fear I need not flatter myself
that it is because I am going away.'

'I have a great mind to go with you,' she answered.

'Indeed! Well, do so. Yet I thought you settled it was best for me
to go first on my own account, and try what I can do.'

'Yes; but I dread it so.'

'I hope the dread is needless. Your mother is not so very implacable
a person, and you may really trust me to behave properly, when I am so
anxious to win her pardon.'

She shook her head. 'Yes--O yes, it wont be difficult to win. Too
easy; that's it.'

'I don't understand.'

'Why, don't you see that you are now rich and we are poor, and mamma
seems to think so much more than she did of our 'doing well,' as she
calls it, and so on...'

'Is that all?'

'Quite enough too. I don't like it. On the whole, I should prefer
her holding back and refusing her consent.'

'Isabel!'

'Yes, I should. The other is mortifying; I don't like it.'

'Nonsense, nonsense. I dare say we could have managed to be happy as
poor folks, but surely a comfortable income is a good thing, and your
mother is right to desire it for her children, in reason. Don't fancy
that I shall think less of her for any care or expectation she has for
you. Putting money aside, I know she might very reasonably object to
trusting you to me at all. The more she thinks of you and requires for
you, the better I shall like her.'

'You will be satisfied. Mind, I trust to you. Please don't be sharp
or satirical. I never liked it towards them. Now, I couldn't bear it!
No, I couldn't, I wouldn't...'

'Nonsense, Issy! As if I should be sharp and satirical to your
mother! You ought to know me better. You must trust me, my darling;
and I shall for this once do better without you than with you.'

She did not remind him of the many times he had been satirical, but
smiled, amused at his present goodwill for them all. She saw him drive
away, having sent for a gig from Sydney; and turning back to the
school--room, she felt lonely and anxious, yet very happy too.

Mr. Herbert did well; and his account of his visit and reception
pleased her, on the whole. From her mother she received an elaborate
and rather stiff letter, congratulating her on the 'fine prospects'
which awaited her. Mr. Herbert had acted handsomely, she said, and
made such ample and proper apologies, and was so earnest and so humble
in begging her forgiveness and consent, that she had granted both, and
hoped she had done well. Isabel was old enough to choose for herself,
and so on. Kate's was a less studied affair. She was very glad that
her dear Issy was at last caught, and seemed so happy. But for her
part, not all his fortune or his cleverness could make her get over
the dread she had of him. But of course Issy would never tell him
this; and she confessed he had been very kind, and very pleasant, too,
for him, and Tom thought a great deal of him. Quite a month passed
before Mr. Herbert left Bengala, to which place he had gone from
Westbrooke with Tom Jolly.

Isabel had now left the Scotts and was at home. She had offered to
remain longer with them, but they were too kind to allow it; and
fortunately Mr. Scott had found a substitute, who promised well, ready
to come at once.

Mr. Herbert had urged her giving up the task of teaching as soon as
possible; and Isabel herself could not help longing to be in her home
again, there to examine and realize her new happiness.

Charlie Brand was waiting for her at the end of the Cedar Avenue, and
(what no one had ever seen him do before) his hat was actually lifted
clear off his head, while the queerest smile touched his lips and
shone in his eyes.

'Glad to have ye back, miss! You'll find us pretty flourishing and
looking up, though wanting rain. Fine crop of grapes as ever I saw;
but a poor gathering of Ingin Corn. Ay, they slips of yourn are come
up finely at last, as you see. The willow will be as fine as the
parent tree up at Langville. Patience, you see, miss, and most things
come round, and come straight, too! Didn't I say these slips would
grow in time? also, that 'folks' would find the way back over the wide
sea, and all? For, wide as the ocean is, there's a small chap I've
heard of, what's painted without breeches, will find his way over--eh,
now, miss? Don Cupid don't stick at a difficulty, do he now miss?'

By which Isabel understood him to express his content and triumph at
the fulfilment of his prophecies, that Mr. Herbert would come back
some day. But when she alighted from the carriage, and claimed a
heartier congratulation by slipping her fingers into his great horny
hand, instead of returning her squeeze, he dropped her hand directly,
retreating a step, and again touching his hat.

'Miss--I wish you and the gentleman all joy, I'm sure, and--and--I--'
but his words failed him, and he turned sharp round with bent head and
walked away fast.

Isabel found herself made much of by her mother and Kate, to say
nothing of her young sisters, who were delighted at her return home.
They dragged her here and there and everywhere, anxious to show every
spot.

It was pleasant to be at home again, to draw round the tea-table and
feel so content--so free from anxiety.

'When will our other visitor arrive?' remarked Mrs. Lang.

But hardly had she said it when a gig drove up and Mr. Herbert came
in. That evening he and Isabel had a stroll round the paddocks and to
her old favourite view from the fence. She told him some of her old
thoughts there, but he could not bear her to allude to that time, or
to hear of her suffering through him; so they pushed on, and were at
last at the bottom of the paddock. Mr. Herbert proposed her resting on
a fallen tree; but she glanced around, and, with a look of almost
horror, said--

'Don't let us stay here. That log!--not taken away yet; though I
begged Charlie to have it removed or to burn it. O, it is nothing,'
she added, seeing his surprise, 'only--don't let us stay here. This is
where--he--where poor Dr. Mornay brought me that night of the fire!'

And Isabel shuddered and covered up her eyes for a moment. He knew
how she shrank from even an allusion to this time, and gently drew her
away to higher ground, where the sun still shone. But she could not
immediately throw off the feeling of sadness and awe which the memory
of her brief intercourse with that unhappy man always promoted.
Perhaps the shock it had caused her had been overruled to work well.
It had left an indelible impression that there were deep and awful
phases in life unknown and unguessed by her; that with all her energy
and desire to set things right and straight, she was utterly powerless
even to comprehend half the grief and struggles which her fellow-
mortals endured. To such a temperament as Isabel's such a sense of
powerlessness and humiliation only gave the touch which was needful in
order to soften and subdue what might otherwise be too strong and too
light.

The two sisters were married on the same day. Both agreeing in
preferring a very quiet wedding, the party was limited to Tom's
family, the Farrants, and the Scotts; Isabel's pupils acting as
bridesmaids.

Mr. Herbert talked of returning to England, yet he lingered; and
after some time, finding it vacant, he took Langville. This led to
Kate and Tom setting up a separate establishment for themselves at
Warratah Brush, so that, as Mr. Farrant observed, the Parsonage had
again its old neighbours and friends.

We must now bid them all farewell, though reluctant to leave the old
scenes and associations they have called up.

A great change has come to the land since that time. The young colony
struggled through much disappointment and depression--struggled
manfully; and then came the discovery of gold, bringing renewed life
and prosperity.

Handsome and substantial churches must have multiplied through the
length and breadth of the land, taking the place of the poor little
attempts described in this tale. It is a grand country! And her
children will not forget that added wealth and power is also added
responsibility. In her hour of need, men were sent out from the mother
country and partly maintained, who should preach patience and
consolation to all who suffered; and there was suffering. Now, in
their time of prosperity, surely they will not be slow to feel, but
thankful to show, that they can themselves support and maintain God's
church in fitting dignity. 'To whom much is given, much will be
required.'

Floreat Australia!



THE END



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