Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership


Title: A Romance of Kangaroo Point
Author: Dramingo (Ernest Favenc)
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1000831.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: December 2010
Date most recently updated: December 2010

This eBook was produced by: Maurie Mulcahy

Project Gutenberg Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

To contact Project Gutenberg Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: A Romance of Kangaroo Point
Author: Dramingo (Ernest Favenc)

IN THREE PARTS.

Published in The Brisbane Courier, Saturday, 15 July, 1876.

*

PART I.--O my prophetic soul! my uncle!


MY name is Mervington Smythers. I was born in London, but have not had
the inestimable advantage of in any way profiting by my short residence
in that centre of civilisation, being only some four years old when my
parents landed in Sydney.

My father was a gentleman, living upon his income, as the term goes. I
did not then know whence this income was derived: I do now. All I knew
then was: that as far as my mother and I were concerned it seemed a very
inadequate sort of income, although adapted to keep my father in good
clothes, hansom cabs, the best cigars, and private delicacies for his
own eating, when not dining out anywhere, which, however, was generally
the case; for being a man endowed with great social talents he was in
request at other people's tables--and he always preferred them to his
own.

My mother was pale, quiet, and had evidently been very pretty. She never
went out anywhere, was devoted to my father and me: the only two
objects, in fact, that she lived for; and we bullied her. She educated
me herself, and as I was a sharp boy, and she had received a more
liberal education than most women get, I think I did as well, or better,
than I would have done at school.

As I grew up and turned out a gentlemanly looking lad, with good taste
in dress and not so much gawkishness about me as a boy between fourteen
and fifteen usually possesses, my father began to take more notice of
me, and gradually I became his companion and pupil, and my mother was
left entirely to herself. Finding, I suppose, that her influence was
gone, and that she was of no further use in this world, the gentle
little soul died; and I must confess that as far as regarded my personal
comfort I missed her very much.

My father was a man essentially formed for society. Out of it, in the
solitude of his own home, he was--truth compels me to write it an
unmitigated brute. He was always talking about his family: how he had
offended them by his marriage--allying the blood of a Mervington
Smythers with that of an Amberly, my mother's maiden name. We had a coat
of arms which I studied assiduously, and believed in implicitly, as I
did in a legend my father used to relate of it having been granted to an
ancestor of his for prowess displayed at Chevy Chase. I used to quote as
peculiarly appropriate,----

These are the arms that once did turn

The tide of fight at Otterbourne.

My father used always to speak of my mother's relations in the most
contemptuous manner; and from all I could gather I came to the
conclusion that they were low people engaged in trade, and utterly below
the notice of a Mervington Smythers, unless perhaps it might be honoring
them by accepting their money. Against a brother of my mother's he was
particularly fierce in inveighing, accusing him of rolling in wealth (an
action I have often heard of but never seen performed), and leaving his
relatives to starve.

My mother's death having removed what little check there was on my
father, he took to drinking so constantly that in about three years'
time he followed my mother to the grave, leaving me as a sole legacy his
mantle of good looks and suave manner.

A gentleman of the name of Vaughan, whom I had seen visit my mother once
or twice, came to see me, and attended my father's funeral. He then
informed me that he had it in charge, on behalf of my mother's brother,
to allow me the sum of 100 pounds yearly until I was in a position to
dispense with such assistance. He also told me that through the
influence of some friends in Brisbane he could obtain for me an
appointment in the Civil Service in that colony, and by steadiness and
application I might in time rise. I had an idea that Brisbane was a
half-civilised sort of place where Mervington Smythers would shine a
star of the first magnitude; so accepted the offer and expressed my
readiness to depart at once. My temporary guardian asked me if I had no
enquiries to make concerning my mother's people, who were now my only
relations. But my father's son replied in the negative, loftily and
decidedly.

"You have no objection to the hundred a year Amberly will allow you?" he
then asked.

Of course I had not.

I asked about my father's family, but he professed total ignorance
concerning that point, in a tone almost as lofty as my own, and we
parted rather coolly.

I had been in Brisbane about four years when the incident I am about to
relate took place.

I had remained, and had risen, in the same department that I had first
entered, and considered that my position in Brisbane society was a
tolerably good one; not quite what my merits deserved, but still
improving. I need not say that my companions in the office were all men
of family, at least they all said that they were, and we made it a point
of pretending to believe each other. At my instigation we had early
formed a coalition to keep out cads, and any who did find their way into
the office were glad to get removed again as soon as possible.

My principal friends were Snobleigh Johnstone, my rival in dress,
deportment, and ladykilling; Tarquin Staggers, our wit, who gave the
nicknames and did the sarcastic; De Joinville Peenopes, the poet, great
(in his own opinion) at album verses and elegant epigrams; and Vermont
Brussels, who studied family history and heraldry.

We all resided in a boarding-house situated on Kangaroo Point, and
considered--or rather regarded--ourselves as the only worthy bearers of
Civil appointments out of London. We studied Trollope, and modelled
ourselves upon some of his characters, assuming an air of lofty hauteur
towards the general public that we fancied rather good style.

Now if there was one person to whom I was partly indebted for my
position in the upper strata of Brisbane society it was Mrs. Memphis.
She had known my father in his best Sydney days--he was great at
fascinating middle-aged women, and she was middle-aged in his time and
always spoke of him as that delightful man.

Mrs. Memphis took me up when I first came to Brisbane, and excepting
that she seemed to regard me as private property, to be entirely at her
commands, I had no objection to being patronised by a lady of her
standing.

The worst of it was, though, that Aurelia Sphinx, her niece, who resided
with her, also seemed to consider me in the light of private property,
and this I decidedly objected to.

We used to have very pleasant little parties on the Point in those days,
there being some very nice girls in our set.

There was Bessie de Boys, called Bessie Doughboy amongst ourselves.
Vermont Brussels, who was born in Brisbane, and knows everything about
everybody, says that the paternal Patrick Doughboy kept a small
public-house in the outskirts of the town, and having made a fortune by
some lucky speculations, changed his name to Dubois, and came out, or
rather the younger branches did. The old couple were not presentable as
one of the 'first families.' However, in the course of her
boarding-school education in Melbourne, Bessie discovered that Dubois
was not considered a very aristocratic name in sunny France. Therefore,
in a most ingenious manner, and with an utter disregard of the science
of nomenclature, 'Dubois' became 'De Boys,' and as de Boys they shone in
our select circle. Bessie was given to dog French. Tarquin Staggers used
to compare her to a page of one of Ouida's novels.

Aurelia Sphinx, I have already mentioned; her forte was the intensely
respectable, in which she resembled her aunt, who was the incarnation of
gentility.

Sophy Montcalm, who essayed the fast line, and indulged in slang, and
Georgey Widrington, who gushed, make up the sum of all I need mention
for the purpose of illustrating my story. Of the many friends of my
father who had invited him to their tables for the sake of his convivial
talents, none had shown the slightest interest in my fate or fortunes.
My father had been proud of my good looks and appearance during the last
years of his life, had been in the habit of introducing me to his
friends, and saying, apropos of myself, "A chip of the old stem, blood
must tell--as old a pedigree as anybody in the kingdom that boy can
boast of." And I did boast of it, but am not aware that I derived any
benefit beyond self-gratification by so doing. Consequently I now looked
upon Brisbane as my settled home, and had lost all connection with my
past life in Sydney, save the business one of receiving 25 pounds
quarterly from Vaughan.

I was beginning to think seriously of taking unto myself a wife, and
thereby adding to my worldly importance and respectability, but was
waiting for another step in promotion, and had not quite decided where
to throw my handkerchief.

Aurelia Sphinx, I knew, looked upon me as booked, but so did not I, for
she was ten years my senior if she was a day. Bessie de Boys was
good-looking, good-tempered, and often sat out a dance with me. But
truth to tell there was another 'faire ladye' whose gray eyes had cast a
spell over me. I did not mention her amongst the bevy of demoselles
already cited, for in fact she was not altogether one of our set. Even
Tarquin Staggers had not dared to invest her with a sobriquet.

Mrs. Vane was by some called everything that was charming, and by others
voted 'stuck-up' and exclusive, and her daughter Clara shared both
verdicts. I was never quite sure myself as to my own opinion.

Sometimes when freely ventilating my opinions in her presence as to the
absurd pretensions of some people to be considered anything else but
cads, I could detect a smile of amused contempt flicker over her regular
features, and a cool look come into the great gray eyes that made me
feel that she understood and appreciated me thoroughly. Then I thought
her odious. But again, when in her own house, her perfect manner so
entirely set you at ease, her soft voice seemed so modulated to nothing
but tones of courtesy and kindness, that then she appeared to me the
most witching piece of womanhood I had ever seen. But she was an only
child; her mother had a secure little fortune which Clara would inherit,
and that anchored my drifting fancy.

This, then, was my position when I received a letter that rather
frightened me. It ran thus:

"My dear nephew,--I hear from Vaughan that you are getting on steadily
and well in the profession you have chosen to adopt. I am about starting
to India on important business, and as I shall have some leisure time at
my disposal when it is settled, I intend returning to England by way of
Australia and America. I shall call at Brisbane en route, and will then
see you.

"By the way, there is a graceless young friend of mine on a cattle
station somewhere in Queensland: his name is Fred. Conway; try and find
him out and make his acquaintance. I have written to him and expect he
will come to Brisbane to see me. I should like you to be friends.

"I hope to arrive in Brisbane by the mail boat leaving Singapore in
October next, and trust that I shall find in you something to remind me
of my sister.

"I am

"Your affectionate uncle,

"RALPH AMBERLY."

The reader may think that there was nothing in this proposed visit of a
wealthy uncle to cause a clerk in the----department, with 100 pounds a
year besides his screw to feel frightened, but so it was.

As I have said before, I always imagined that my mother was the daughter
of some wealthy tradesman whom (my mother, not the tradesman) my father
had married for her pretty face. I had shunned asking Vaughan if it were
so, for fear of his confirming it; and it was now as fixed an article of
my belief as was the greatness of my father's family--though both were
equally vague and misty deductions. Another belief was strong within me:
namely, that Ralph Amberly, my maternal uncle, and R. Amberly, maker of
"Amberly's celebrated Suffolk sauce," vide advertisements, were one and
the same person.

Now I had so bored my friends with histories of the Mervington Smythers'
family, so blown my own heraldic trumpet, that should my uncle turn out
a mere maker of Suffolk sauce, whose name in glaring colors was in any
grocer's window, I was lost beyond redemption. My rising sun of borrowed
gentility would set in clouds of ridicule.

I was troubled in mind, the more so as I found that, in consequence of
the mail having been delayed a fortnight, another fortnight would land
my uncle on the shores of Queensland: brief breathing time in which to
decide on a course of action. I re-read the letter, and then thought
about looking up this Conway. Perhaps he was already in Brisbane. If so
where should I find him? Where did bush fellows generally stay when in
town? There were two or three places where I would enquire on the
morrow.

Chance favored me the next day. At the first hotel where I enquired the
waiter told me that a Mr. Conway was staying there. Was he at home? The
waiter took my card and went to see; presently he returned and ushered
me upstairs to a private sitting-room.

A young fellow about my own age, sunburnt, and bearded, was lying on a
sofa, reading. His heels were higher than his head, his coat was off, he
was smoking a short clay pipe, and on the floor, within reach of his
hand, were a large tumbler of iced claret and water and a palm leaf fan.

He sprang up as I entered, and greeted me in an open cordial manner, if
somewhat eccentric.

"It's frightful weather for the time of year, is it not? You look hot;
sit down and take your coat off, and have some iced claret. Here, take a
couple of chairs in front of the window--you'll get a little draft
there. The men who built such houses for a climate like this want
crucifying, don't they?"

I accepted one chair and some claret, but declined to take my coat off.
In fact I felt hurt at being told that I looked hot--I, Mervington
Smythers, who prided myself on never looking hot.

"I'm glad to make your acquaintance," went on my new friend; "your uncle
has been a second father to me. You don't know him personally, I
believe."

I said "No," and we drifted on to the common topics of the day, and I
found Conway not half so bucolic as I had anticipated. For I always had
fought shy of bush fellows, imagined they were always talking about
riding buckjumpers, and insisting on 'shouting' for you.

I did not draw him out about my uncle at first, for I thought that I
could find out what I wanted to know better when I knew more of my new
acquaintance. Presently Conway looked at his watch as I rose to go. "You
live at Kangaroo Point, and as you say you can't stop to dine with me
to-day," (the dinner invitation should have come from me, but I wasn't
quite sure about him at first), "I'll go over the river with you, and
give a call I have to make over there."

"Perhaps I know your friends," I said. "I know most of the people over
there."

"O very likely. Mrs. Vane; she was an old friend of my mother's."

"I know them well," I replied, "and will go with you. I owe a call
there."

"I saw them once when I first came to the colony, three years ago, but
have never been in Brisbane since. Excuse me half a minute."

My companion returned almost within the half minute, not having changed
the light gray coat he wore, or donned anything more imposing than a
common straw hat.

I suppose I was guilty of looking rather critically at his dress, and
then at my own faultless and accurate get-up, for he glanced enquiringly
at me but said nothing. At any rate, I thought he is calling on his own
responsibility; I am not introducing him. But I had to admit that
although his dress did not accord with my strict notions of the proper
thing, he looked well in it. As we walked down the street we talked
about my uncle.

"Is he much given to talking shop?" I asked, nervously approaching the
dreadful subject.

"To tell the truth he is a little given to it, but not so much as most
men who have made their mark."

"This sort of thing," I said, with a sickly smile, indicating a flaming
placard in a window, setting forth the merits of "Amberly's Suffolk
Sauce."

My companion looked me in the face with a puzzled expression of
countenance. Suddenly a light seemed to dawn upon his mind, and he burst
into a fit of ungovernable laughter.

"Don't!" I said; "pray remember that we are in the main street," and I
glanced apprehonsively around.

"'Pon my soul it's too rich," he said amid renewed merriment

"What is? what is?" I asked.

"I will tell you directly," he replied.

"I was thinking," he went on when he had attained command of his facial
muscles, "how happily you had hit your uncle's character. That sort of
thing is his hobby. Once get him started on the merits of his
incomparable sauce and he will hold forth for any length of time."

"But," I asked, "does he mention it amongst his friends apart from
business?"

"Decidedly! His motto is, advertise everywhere. At a dinner party, for
instance, he will say: 'I see you use my sauce; now if you want to save,
order it directly from the manufactory. Come! give me an order now, and
I'll book it and make you the usual trade allowance.'"

This was awful; my worst fears had never pictured anything so bad as
this.

"He carries little handbills," my companion went on, "and distributes
them to everyone he is introduced to. He has often given me a lot to
take to a ball or party."

"And did you take them?"

"Well you see he is such a fine-hearted old fellow in the main, and has
been such a good friend to me that I couldn't refuse. He will make you
laugh in spite of yourself. He thinks nothing of going up to a young
lady, thrusting a handbill into her hand, and saying, 'There, my dear,
when you get married--and that's sure to be soon, with a pretty face
like yours--you buy plenty of my sauce, and you'll find your husband
come home to his dinner as regular as clockwork.'"

Whatever should I do? Ask for leave of absence, and fly the country for
a time? Impossible! I had just had a holiday.

My companion did not see, or did not heed, my disquietude, for he harped
on the subject still.

"But his grandest point of all is telling how he first got the recipe
for the ingredients of which the sauce is composed. He always commences
in the same words; I have heard him tell it a score of times, and know
directly it's coming. He begins: 'Now I'll tell you how I once got the
better of a Jew.'"

Conway, doubtless, guessed why I was so silent and subdued, for after a
short pause he said----

"But you must not imagine that he is always like this. Sometimes he can
be most correct in his behaviour, but never for long, it's only acting a
part."

This was a feeble ray of hope. Perhaps I could induce him to act a part
all the time he stayed in Brisbane. An idea, a glimmer of salvation
began to form in the troubled chaos of my mind. We reached the house
where Mrs. Vane lived, and I was rather surprised to see that my
companion's neglige costume brought no censuring look into Clara's face.

Mrs. Vane was delighted to see Conway, and I felt vexed at noting the
interest Clara displayed in his conversation. Had it been possible for a
visitor at their house to feel himself out in the cold, I should have
felt so that afternoon despite the warmth of the weather.

But my annoyance was capped when Mrs. Vane asked Conway if he did not
think Clara altered since they last met. Actually asking him--for it
amounted to nothing else, I thought, in my vexation--to look at and
admire her daughter's blooming beauty.

I was supposed just then to be engaged looking over some music,
searching for a song I had asked permission to borrow, but could not
resist stealing a glance at Miss Vane to see how she took it.

To my disgusmt she laughed merrily.

"If I am much altered, Mr. Conway is altered too, since we used to romp
together."

"Don't remind me how old I am getting," said Mrs. Vane, and as I came
forward with the sought-for song the conversation at once changed, and
we shortly afterwards left.

"I suppose you saw a good deal of the Vanes when you first came out?" I
said carelessly, as we strolled away.

"No, very little," he replied, "I only stayed a few days in Brisbane,
and went straight up the bush where I have been ever since."

This was worse and worse; putting Clara down at nineteen, and deducting
the three years my companion had been out in the colony, she would have
been sixteen when they used to romp together. The idea was
terrible--worse than my uncle's visit. The calm Clara Vane, the type of
maidenly reserve and womanly propriety, romping at the age of sixteen
with a young man she scarcely knew. After this the deluge!

"I knew them long ago in England," said my companion at this point of my
meditations.

"Oh! that is where you used to romp together," I exclaimed, unguardedly
showing what my thoughts had been.

"Yes," he replied, with the slightest elevation of his eyebrows. "Did
you imagine it was out here? When I was a boy at school I used to spend
half my holidays at their house."

I felt relieved, and Clara was back on her old pedestal again.

I saw my new friend down to the ferry, and promised to dine with him on
the next day.

As I walked back to my lodgings I mused deeply upon the best way of
combining two apparently antagonistic courses of action--namely, the
best mode of presenting my uncle to my friends without endangering my
presumed reputation for good family, and yet keeping carefully in his
favor, so as not to forfeit my chance of obtaining a monetary
acknowledgement of the tie of relationship existing between us. Had he
been poor and vulgar of course I would have at once ignored the
relationship; but rich and vulgar--that was a horse of another color.

I could not quite understand how it came about that Conway and my uncle
were so intimate. Conway was evidently well-bred, and a gentleman, if
somewhat careless of appearance, and yet he seemed to have been on a
perfectly familiar footing with my uncle.

Still what he said was explicit enough, and reliable, and upon his
utterances I built my plan of action.

My uncle intended coming out by way of India, where doubtless his
business was establishing an agency for the sauce. He could act the part
of a gentleman when he liked, so Conway said. I would introduce him as a
distinguished Indian officer, and persuade him to carry out the
deception. In all probability he had picked up enough Indian slang to
carry it off, and would feel flattered at the notion.

The more I turned the idea over in my mind the better I liked it, and
determining to strike while the notion was hot I mentioned it to my
friends that evening.

"By-the-bye, I expect my uncle out by the next E. and A. mail," I said.

"Who is he--Lord Helpus?" said Staggers, who could be very low in his
jokes when he liked.

"No," I replied loftily, "Colonel Amberly, of whom you would have heard
before if you knew anything about India."

"Why, what did he do?" asked Snobleigh.

"Distinguished himself greatly at the Pass of Juggernhaut," I answered
confidently. It was the first word I could think of, but it did for
Snobleigh.

"What happened there?" he grunted.

"My uncle and a handful of his men captured a khitmugar full of wild
elephants."

"What!" said Staggers, in a tone of surprise.

"A khitmugar full of wild elephants," I repeated undauntedly, "and let
them loose upon the infuriated rebels. Yes! let them all loose upon the
exasperated rebels."

My audience were deeply impressed.

"I remember the affair now," said Snobleigh, slowly, "a relation of mine
was present at the engagement."

Now this was so evidently fiction, invented on the spot, that I
determined to put it down at once.

"What was his name?" I asked.

"Oh--Johnstone," he replied.

"I heard my uncle speak of him," I said.

"Very likely; he distinguished himself greatly there."

"He did," I said, "he ran away."

This turned the laugh against Johnstone, and so far I was triumphant.

The next day I dined tete a tete with Conway, and confided to him my
Indian-officer-plan. He seemed delighted at the idea, said it would be
the greatest joke out, and promised to use all his influence to induce
my uncle to consent.

"But he'll breakout sometimes you know," he remarked, "but we must
manage so that it only occurs when we are alone."

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

"I hear you expect your uncle shortly," said Miss de Boys to me a few
days after this.

"Yes, in a week or so," I replied.

"An old Indian officer, is he not?--a vieux moustache. I know I shall
like him. Is he decore?"

I was slightly at fault for an answer; her questions were so warm.

"The interest you display is most flattering, Miss de Boys," I said
evasively.

"Really now; but it is a selfish interest, for I find I can get on so
much better with people who have lived in society at home."

"I wish I had lived in society at home then," I said pathetically.

"You have quite the air of it," returned Bessie, graciously; "quite the
bel air."

Now was not this too bad, to be approved and passed by a girl who had
worn shoes and stockings only since she was ten years old, and the
family greatness dawned. Bessie might have known that I knew what the
amount of her experience had been. But that was the worst of our little
set: we all tried to impose upon one another so. Could I look into my
own heart and say that I was guiltless.

"I trust he will resemble your poor father," said Mrs. Memphis. "I
never," she went on, turning to Aurelia Sphinx, "knew anybody who
combined graceful wit with an easy polished manner, so delightfully."

"Yes, aunt, I think I have heard you say that before."

"If you have, my dear Aurelia, it is because such talents are not so
noticeable amongst the people of the present day. I trust we shall,
however, find the same happy combination in your uncle, Mr. Smythers."

I could only bow, and hope so too, most fervently.

"We shall be glad to know your uncle," said Mrs. Vane.

"And from Mr. Conway's description I am quite prepared to fall in love
with him," added Clara.

"Most Indian men dance well," said the Montcalm; "I hope he goes fast."

I politely reminded her that my uncle's dancing days were probably over.

"Never mind, I'll flirt with him; I like flirting with old men better
than young ones--they are not so conceited."

"That is a very cruel remark, considering to whom it is addressed, Miss
Montcalm."

Now this was all very encouraging; but how would it be if this decoree,
this man who was to combine polished wit with an easy manner; with whom
quiet Clara Vane was ready to fall in love; and Sophy Montcalm to get up
a flirtation--if he should thrust handbills upon them setting forth the
superlative merits of his Suffolk sauce.

I used to have terrible nightmares, in which I was about to be married
to Mrs. Memphis, and when about to produce the ring would find a bottle
of sauce in my hand; whereupon she would change into a wild elephant and
chase me round the church.

However there was nothing for it but to await the fulness of time. I had
set my all upon a cast, and had to stand the hazard of the die.




PART II.--MY UNCLE ARRIVES.



THE day big with my fate arrived, and found Conway and I on board of the
Kate, steaming down to the Bay to meet the E. and A. steamer Singapore.
Conway pointed out my uncle amongst the passengers, watching our
approach, and I felt one weight off my mind: in appearance he was quite
presentable. We went on board, and Conway introduced us.

My uncle perused my face earnestly, but seemed disappointed in what he
found there.

"Too like his father," I overheard him say to Conway.

I could quite understand that he bore my father no good will, and did
not feel hurt at his tracing a resemblance I was rather proud of. On our
way up the river my uncle seemed anxious to draw me out, and, nothing
loath, I dilated to him in glowing terms upon the good standing I had
achieved in the best Brisbane circles--I who had come there a lonely
stranger; and although he several times asked me most earnestly about my
mother, I always managed to get back to my own affairs again. It did not
strike me that even a manufacturer of Suffolk sauce may have loved his
sister, and have been anxious to hear one word at least of affectionate
remembrance from the lips of her only son. If that was his wish, it was
not gratified. He seemed pained, and I thought Conway, who was sitting
near, but not joining in the conversation, looked a trifle disgusted.

What astonished me, and also pleased me, was that my uncle, in manners
and appearance, was such a contrast to what I had expected. Irongray
moustache and whiskers, short cut hair, and a manly, bronzed face, with
a noticeable scar on the cheek,--why he was, in effect, the very
character I had selected for him. There was a slight twinkle in the eye
that betokened a keen appreciation of humor, and a very set expression
about the mouth that made me think that he would not be so easily led as
I had fondly imagined. Still I hoped for the best; perhaps he would
remain on his good behaviour of his own accord, he might have altered
since Conway knew him.

As we neared Brisbane, my uncle took Conway's arm,--for whom he seemed
to have a great affection,--and they commenced to walk the deck together
After a few turns, I saw my uncle's face change, and a look of deep
wrath cross it; I could see before that he could look black when he
liked; something that Conway said, however, immediately altered the
expression into one of mirth, and for the rest of their walk he seemed
scarcely able to suppress his merriment. Conway had taken a room for my
uncle in the same hotel where he was stopping, and we sat down to dinner
in the private room where I had first met Conway.

The moment we were seated I noticed a change in my uncle's manner--even
in his face.

Conway had whispered to me: "I never saw him keep straight so long
before," therefore I was partly prepared for it.

The first thing my uncle did was to throw off his coat and waistcoat,
and, sinking down in a chair, to wipe his perspiring forehead with a
table napkin "Pheugh!" he said, "why don't you have punkahs here?"

I admitted that it would be an improvement. Conway sat down opposite to
me, having thrown off his coat, and nodded to me to do the same.
However, I would not. I thought that I could impress my uncle more by
strictly adhering to the rules of society, than by meekly imitating his
whims. Conway, I now saw, was a mere toady.

"Well, boys," said my uncle, "it's nice to get together, where a man can
enjoy himself, free and easy like, same as I've always been accustomed
to."

"Have you any Suffolk sauce?" he demanded of the waiter, before
commencing to eat his soup.

"Yes, sir," said the man, handing him the cruet-stand. This was the
first time that I had heard the dreaded word from his lips, and it made
me shudder.

My uncle selected the bottle indicated, removed the stopper, and smelt
it suspiciously. He put it back without using any, and sternly told the
waiter to bring him the real Suffolk sauce.

"That's Suffolk sauce, sir," said the waiter.

"It's not!" said my uncle, so savagely, that the poor man jumped again.
"Send out directly, and buy a bottle. None genuine unless signed 'R.
Amberly.' That's my name, d'ye see; and if a man isn't to know his own
sauce, I'm a Dutchman. Now look sharp."

The man left the room, and in a much shorter time than I had expected,
returned with a newly purchased bottle in a paper wrapper. I had gone on
steadily eating my soup. Conway leaned back in his chair, silent, and
staring at the gas. My uncle unbuttoned his shirt collar, and fanned
himself with a napkin. He signified his approval of the fresh bottle; he
and Conway put some in their soup, and they commenced their dinner.

As the waiter was removing the plate, my uncle carefully unfolded the
printed wrapper around the bottle of sauce, and handed it to Conway.

"Read it out to me, Fred," he said, drawing another chair up to rest one
leg on; "seems long since I've heard it."

Conway commenced; and fancy what I had to suffer, knowing the waiter was
grinning behind me, as he told how it was patronised by the nobility and
gentry of England, sought after by foreign cooks, and used by
missionaries to propitiate the heathen, and teach them to appreciate
civilisation.

My uncle would grunt approval, and repeat what were evidently his pet
passages after the reader. "Imparting a truly delicate and delicious
flavor to everything," he said, as Conway ceased; and with a satisfied
sigh he returned to his dinner.

"He's rather worse than usual," Conway whispered to me after dinner,
"he's been cramped on board the mail steamer, and now he's giving full
fling. But don't look so disgusted. He says you're stuck up; don't let
him think that."

"Have you said anything about the Indian officer scheme?" I asked.

"I just mentioned it, and he seemed to like the idea. I'll sound him
again to-night."

I left about ten o'clock, although my uncle wanted me to take a room at
the hotel during his stay in Brisbane; but for several reasons I
declined this arrangement. As I emerged into the street I heard their
voices in conversation on the balcony above, where they were smoking,
and heard Conway say, "Yes, but don't overdo it." I therefore concluded
that he was explaining to my uncle our proposed line of conduct.

I had promised to dine with my uncle every day during his stay in
Brisbane; and used to go to the hotel immediately after office hours,
for I was determined that if I had to put up with his vulgar ways, I
would at least endeavor to get a substantial recognition of our
relationship from him in return, and not leave it altogether to Conway
to entertain him. One day, as I entered the sitting room (in, I confess,
a rather unceremonious manner), I found a gentleman there whom I knew by
sight, and whose acquaintance I had often coveted,--Major Milton.

He was just taking his leave of Conway as I entered; my uncle was not
there. As I apologised to Conway, Major Milton said, in his off-hand
manner, "This is Amberly's nephew, I suppose?" and shook hands with me.
"Of course he's a dancing man; and Mrs. Milton will want to get up a
dance after dinner; so I hope you are not engaged for to-morrow," he
went on addressing me, and nodding to both of us, he left the room.

"You know Major Milton?" I said to Conway, carelessly.

"Never saw him before," said Conway; "but he and my father were brother
officers."

"We must try and keep my uncle within bounds then," I said; "for Major
Milton was a long time in India, so a mistake would be fatal, besides,
they are the best people on the Point."

"Yes," said Conway, indifferently, "but here comes your uncle."

I told my uncle, as he entered, of the invitation to dinner at Major
Milton's, and how necessary caution would be; for his assumption of the
part of an Indian officer had now become openly recognised amongst us.

"All right, Neddy," (I hated this name), he said, "I'm fly. We'll put
our company manners on, Fred."

The next day I was very nervous. Staggers and Johnstone told me that
they were invited to a carpet dance in the evening, and I crowed over
them at having a dinner invitation. This was a slight source of
satisfaction.

When we arrived at the Major's we found only Mrs. Vane and her daughter
there, and Bessie de Boys, who had come under Mrs. Vane's chaperonage.
Conway, to my disgust, took Clara in to dinner; I followed with Bessie,
and I could scarcely help looking nervously behind me to see if my uncle
was thrusting hand-bills into Mrs. Milton's hand as they brought up the
rear. But his manner was simply perfection, and I could scarcely believe
him to be the same man. What with watching him, and casting furtive
glances at Clara Vane and Conway, I am afraid Bessie found me a not very
brilliant dinner-companion. So long as the ladies remained at table,
India was not mentioned, but as soon as they left I could see that Major
Milton was eager for the fray.

"You know Dick Featherstone--hard-riding Dick?" he asked of my uncle.
"Did you hear what had become of him as you came out this time?"

"Yes; he's married."

"Married, is he? Whom did he marry?"

"You knew Bowker?" said my uncle; and I stared at him, lost in amazement
at his cool audacity. How I longed to repeat Conway's caution--"Don't
overdo it."

"Know Bowker? Of course I did. Why, didn't Mrs. Bowker get out a
daughter regularly every year? and Dick christened them 'the annuals.'
You don't mean to say he married an 'annual?'" and he went off into a
fit of laughter, in which my uncle joined.

"That's the best thing I've heard for a long time," said Major Milton.
"Why, when the supply of daughters ran out, she used to get out nieces!
Dick married a niece, I suppose?"

"Yes," said my uncle

"Fancy hard-riding Dick married to an 'annual!' He used to get up
sweeps, write down 'Julia,' 'Maude,' 'Alice,' &c., on slips of paper,
and when the expected one arrived, whoever had drawn her name took the
rupees. Dick doesn't ride steeple-chases now, I'll be bound," said Major
Milton. "But," he went on, turning to Conway and me, "I expect there's
metal more attractive for you youngsters in the drawing room, so don't
let us keep you here, listening to our old Indian yarns; we've got a lot
of old battles to fight over yet."

Conway nodded, and, laughing pleasantly, rose and left the room. I kept
my seat, anxious to see how far my uncle's assurance would carry him.

"Did you hear what had become of Tom Frost? What a hand he had for a
devil's sauce!'

"Yes," returned my uncle; "and speaking of sauce, I will tell you how I
once got the better of a Jew."

Here was a collapse. I could not see it out. Hastily swallowing my wine,
I rose and followed Conway.

In the drawing room, Mesdames Milton and Vane were deep in some matron's
talk. Clara Vane and Conway were inspecting a photographic album
together, and Bessie de Boys, looking very lonely, by herself, with a
book in her lap.

Bessie seemed unfeignedly glad to see me, and made room for me beside
her on the ottoman with alacrity.

"What a delightful man your uncle is!" she said. "Just what I expected,
quite one of the old regime."

What Bessie knew of the old 'regeem,' as she called it, I don't know,
but as I thought of the disclosures being made at that moment in the
dining room by a member of that body I groaned in spirit.

"How triste you are," said she, giving me a playful tap with her fan;
"quite distrait. What is the matter with you?"

I borrowed the fan--for I was in that nervous state when it is a relief
for a man to have something to trifle with--and tried to rouse myself.

"It is excusable in me, Miss de Boys; for you know what Shakespeare says
about lovers."

"No, what does he say? Oh! I know; something about being 'sans eyes,
sans ears, sans everything;' and certainly it would apply to you very
well just now."

"Pardon me, but I don't think you exactly remembered the quotation I
meant."

"No! But never mind; tell me who you are in love with," she said,
confidentially.

"Well--with myself, I think," I replied evasively. Bessie was such a
girl for home questions.

"I certainly think you are," she said, rather pettishly.

At this moment a servant entered, and spoke to Mrs. Milton, who then
left the room. What had happened? Was my uncle to be forcibly ejected as
an impostor? and was I to follow? I looked towards Conway, but he seemed
quite engrossed with Miss Vane, and had no eyes for me.

"There you are--looking at Miss Vane and Mr. Conway again! I declare you
have been watching her ever since you came in," said Bessie.

Just then, Mrs. Memphis, Aurelia, and the Montcalm made their
appearance, and a diversion was caused. Immediately following them, Mrs.
Milton re-entered, and came directly towards me.

Without stopping to consider the wild absurdity of her mentioning the
fact, then and there, even if my uncle had "served by indenture to the
common hangman," I awaited her approach with trepidation. What a relief
it was when she said:

"Your uncle and Major Milton are so deep in old Indian recollections
that they are going to have their coffee on the verandah, and we need
not expect to see them here. Now will you and Mr. Conway help to move
the tables back, to make room to dance, and I'll play for you."

"All hands clear decks!" said Miss Montcalm, who had been to a dance on
board of a man-of-war once, and Conway and I set about our appointed
task, assisted by Staggers and Johnstone, who came in. I spent a very
pleasant evening. Miss Vane danced twice with me for the first time in
our acquaintance; and in other quarters I did what England is popularly
supposed to expect every man to do.

As my uncle did not come into the drawing-room, I had not an opportunity
of presenting him to Mrs. Memphis. Major Milton walked down with him and
Conway to the ferry before the last dance; and I had the inexpressible
pleasure of being sole escort to Mrs. Vane and her daughter for the
short distance that separated their home from the Miltons' residence.

It was a day or two after the dinner at Major Milton's that I was
strolling up from the ferry, on my way home, when I saw three ladies
walking ahead of me. There was no mistaking the graceful figure of the
one who was my then object of adoration--Clara Vane. Equally
recognisable to my acute eyes were the other two--Mrs. Memphis and
Aurelia Sphinx. They had doubtless been shopping on the north side, and
were on their way home. Carefully avoiding all appearance of haste, I
yet managed to quicken my steps so as to overtake them. I was well
received, and graciously allowed to accompany them. As we turned the
corner two figures appeared approaching us, coming down the main street;
my uncle and Conway. The first-named had his hat in one hand and his
handkerchief in the other, and ever and anon fanned himself with the
first-named article of attire. He had broken out again, I could see at a
glance, an affecation of feeling the heat very much being a sure sign. I
trembled. The meeting could not be avoided; it was inevitable. On they
came.

"Is not that Mr. Conway?" said Mrs. Memphis. "Who can that be with him?"

She would know too soon. They met us directly, in front. I thought I saw
a look of suppressed fun on Clara's face as she acknowledged Conway's
salutation, but certainly did not feel very happy myself.

My uncle stopped short, managing somehow to check us as well, and, with
a smile of bland benevolence beaming all over his face, said:

"Well, Neddy, boy; enjoying yourself! Trotting some swell girls out for
a walk?"

Mrs. Memphis looked--but words adequate to express herself fail me--a
petrified personification of outraged gentility. Aurelia regarded my
uncle with a stare as stony as her namesake's; and Miss Vane fairly
laughed out. My uncle turned to her.

"I think I know you, Missey," he said, taking her extended hand, and
shaking it as if it were election time, and she a candidate.

"Well, Fred," he went on, "as we've nothing better to do, suppose we see
Neddy through."

What could I do? I--who prided myself on always introducing the right
people at the right time--had now to present my uncle to Mrs. Memphis,
in the middle of the street. There was no help for it.

My uncle insinuated himself between Mrs. Memphis and Aurelia Sphinx.
Conway and I followed, as supporters to Miss Vane; and in this order we
resumed our interrupted way.

I could hear every word of the conversation going on in front, for in
our trio reigned a deathly silence.

"You see, marm," said my uncle, addressing Mrs. Memphis, "when people
arrive at our time of life," (I could fancy the Memphian visage at this
remark, although I could not see it) "it's only right and proper we
should indulge the young ones a little. Don't you think so, Miss?"
turning to Aurelia.

"I do not understand you," she replied, in a voice like a file.

"No! Now what I mean is this: A man like me, who has had to work his own
way,--why it does me good to see young folks enjoying themselves in a
way I never got the chance of."

"Indeed!" said Mrs. Memphis.

"Yes, marm; you wouldn't think it, to see me now, selling my sauce in
every part of the world, by the ton, I may say; but I began life with
nothing but my pay."

Mrs. Memphis snorted; I can use no other expression for the sound she
emitted.

"Yes; I've made a tidy little fortune, and Neddy's my only nephew; so I
like to see him kicking up his heels amongst the nobs a bit."

The voice of Mrs. Memphis seemed to take a softer intonation as she
said:

"I presume that your's is a lucrative profession, Mr. Amberly?"

"Yes, ma'm, a money making business, and I always push it; that's my
motto. Now, a lady like you ain't above saving a few shillings; and why
should you be? say I. Then why don't you buy your sauce direct?--that's
what I say. Give me an order direct, and I'll make a reduction."

"Really, Mr. Amberly, I do not use it in sufficient quantities to
warrant me in doing so."

"Never mind the quantity; say a dozen only. I'm not above booking an
order for a dozen."

"What a fortunate thing it is," said Mrs. Memphis, evading the order
question, "for Mr. Smythers to have an uncle of your wealth; not all
young men enjoy that advantage."

"Yes, it's lucky for Neddy, and he'll do me credit; he's had the
advantage of good society;" and my uncle bowed so as to point the
compliment.

"Indeed, Mr. Amberly," she returned, with quite an agreeable smile, "I
have always taken a great interest in your nephew. I knew his father."

"And so did I," and my uncle's voice seemed to alter as he said it.

"A delightful man," went on Mrs. Memphis, who, to my wonder and complete
amazement seemed emerging from a frigid into almost a torrid zone; "and
Mr. Smythers inherits many of his qualities."

"He does," said my uncle in the same altered voice.

"And will, I suppose, have the additional advantage of inheriting
something more from other quarters," she said in a gushing manner, put
on doubtless to cover the left-sidedness of her remark, for my
inheritance would necessarily be contingent on my uncle's decease.

"Yes, ma'm," returned my uncle in his former manner, "money made from
sauce is as good as any other money, and every penny that I've made from
the sale of sauce Neddy shall get, take my word for it."

"But your essay in trade is only an affair of late years. I understood
that you had served----"

"So I did, for many a long year, and got but very little wages."

"Served her Magesty, I mean, Mr. Amberly."

"O yes--I was special constable at the time of the Chartist riots."

At this moment we arrived at the Memphian abode, and my uncle's unlucky
reminiscences were fortunately cut short. Both Mrs. Memphis and Aurelia
bade him farewell in a most effusive manner; and I was fairly puzzled.
My uncle walked off with Miss Vane, and Conway and I strolled leisurely
back to the ferry, my uncle saying he would overtake us as soon as he
had seen his fair charge safely home.

Conway and I said but little as we walked along. I was wondering what
had caused Mrs. Memphis to thaw in so remarkable a manner. Could it be
the worship of the golden calf, and if so, what did it matter to her
whether my uncle were rich or poor?

       *       *       *       *       *

"Quite original, but charming for that very originality," said Mrs.
Memphis the next day, for I found a pretext for calling in order to hear
her opinion of my relative.

"Yes," said Aurelia, regarding me with dangerous fondness; "there is
something fresh and striking about these self-made men that, although
perhaps not so agreeable at first sight as a more polished manner, has
still its fascination.

"Be sure you do not allow him or Mr. Conway to engage themselves
anywhere to-morrow night," said Mrs. Memphis.

There was to be a small dance at the Memphian establishment. "My limited
income," Mrs. Memphis would say, "does not allow me to give
entertainments on the scale I once did;" so her dances were small, but
select, O very select.

My uncle came, and was on his best behavior. The sauce affair had
somehow leaked out, and Staggers and Johnstone had already commenced
some sly chaff; but as yet they were not sure of their ground, and my
uncle's appearance at Mrs. Memphis' rather awed them.

"Fine-looking old boy," I heard Johnstone say. The night was wearing on.
I had just handed Miss Vane to a seat when Conway appeared.

"I believe I am to have the pleasure of your hand for the next dance,
Miss Vane?"

"Not so fast, Fred," said my uncle's voice behind me; "I am going to
induce Miss Vane to dance with me instead of you."

"I did not know you danced, Mr. Amberly," said she.

"I have not danced for--really I don't know how long; and upon my word I
think the last time was with you, when you were about as high as the
back of the chair upon which you are sitting. But to-night, for once, I
am going to break through my resolution in your favor; and if you don't
consent I shall do something desperate."

"Well, Mr. Amberly, to avert such a catastrophe I will break my word as
you have broken yours, and Mr. Conway will excuse me."

"I excuse you, Miss Vane. I shall follow the example of the individual
who hung his harp off a willow tree."

"And what did he do?" asked Clara, as she handed him her bouquet and
fan.

"He said, or sung--

I will hide in my heart every selfish care;

I will flush my pale cheek with wine:--

"Let me finish the quotation," said my uncle.

"No, Mr. Amberly, I will excuse you," said Clara, hastily.

But he was not to be baulked--

"And when smiles await on the bridal pair,

I will hasten to give them mine.

And Miss Vane went off with a very pretty bloom upon her round cheek.

Did I really catch a hesitating, timid glance in my direction as she
tried to stop my uncle, or was it only fancy? No, not fancy, I felt sure
of it, and was proportionately elated; so much so that I condescendingly
offered to relieve Conway of Miss Vane's bouquet, but he said--"Never
mind, my dear fellow, I don't want to dance; and there's Miss de Boys
looking at you as though she expected you to ask her."

Poor Bessie, I really had flirted with her a good deal, and perhaps the
little girl thought I meant something; so in the kindly disposition I
was then in, I went and asked her to dance--a favor she kindly granted.

As I composed myself to sleep that morning, I could not help thinking
what a clever fellow I was. I felt sure that Miss Vane had what Bessie
would call a penchant for me. I had heard my uncle say that every penny
of the sauce money should be mine. Nobody seems to have remembered that
I had announced my uncle as an Indian officer who had served with
distinction, and he had announced himself as a sauce-maker.

Doubtless my agreeable company was too highly valued for people to risk
losing it by touching on the subject. My last thought was that
Mervington Smythers was as talented an individual as one could find in
Queensland, and, so thinking, I slept.




PART III.--MY UNCLE DEPARTS.



MY elation had not cooled when I awoke. My course ahead seemed fair and
clear. At the office I experienced some slight annoyance. Staggers and
Johnstone conversed over my head on the merits of the celebrated Suffolk
sauce; Staggers had procured an advertisement of it, and read it aloud
at intervals during the day, Johnstone and the others making critical
remarks during the process. I stood the chaff pretty well, but found it
very annoying. I mentioned it to Conway that evening, and he gave me a
piece of advice; he said:--

"If they try it on again, just state that the first man who says
anything about Suffolk sauce in your hearing, intentionally to annoy
you, had better accompany you into the handiest back-yard and there
repeat it."

I tried it the next morning; Johnstone had bought a bottle of sauce, and
produced it in an ostentatious manner on arrival. I immediately invited
him to try the ordeal by battle, as proposed by Conway, and to my great
relief he declined. We shook hands all round, and concluded to drop the
subject.

"You know I would have fought you in a minute, old fellow," said
Johnstone, "but I'm engaged for a picnic next week, and I was afraid of
getting a black eye."

"Suppose you have it out afterwards," said Staggers. "I don't mind
picking one of you up."

But we said "No;" the matter was done with, it was absurd to start it
again.

I went with my uncle to call on Mrs. Memphis a day or two after this.
Aurelia in her sportive manner told me to come and help her to get some
flowers, and with no great delight I obeyed her. While engaged in the
floral occupation, Aurelia had some mysterious message brought to her by
a servant--something about a dressmaker I thought I heard.

"I know I can dispense with ceremony with you, Mervington, we are such
old friends," she said; "so make up the flowers nicely, and I will be
back directly." She skipped away in an airy manner, and fervently
wishing that her return might be delayed till the crack of doom, I
bundled the flowers together and went back to the house.

My uncle and Mrs. Memphis were sitting at the open window, talking. I
could hear their voices although I could not see them, and hearing my
own name, instinctively halted. I suppose I ought not to confess what I
did, but the story would be incomplete without it, so, in fact, I
stopped and listened. "Quite an affair of the heart," said Mrs. Memphis;
"Mervington will be so much steadier, and in Aurelia, he will find
everything he could hope for in a wife."

"She seems a most amiable girl," said my uncle.

"She is amiability itself; during the years she has grown up under my
eye, such sweet unselfishness as she displays has been my wonder and
admiration!"

"It will be a trial to part with her."

"Indeed it will; no shadow of a quarrel has ever marred our
intercourse." (they used to fight like two cats before me sometimes).

"And you think Mervington will propose to her soon?"

"He worships her; but the timidity of true love is so great that he
hesitates to speak. Now, if you hinted to him that such a union would be
most agreeable to you it would give him courage; he would gain
sufficient courage to test his fate."

"He has my best wishes, and if a word of encouragement is needed he
shall have that too."

"Then my dear Mr. Amberly we can look upon it as a settled thing, for a
dutiful nephew like Mervington will be only too eager to hasten to
please a generous uncle."

"I think it a suitable match in every respect provided that the young
people," (Aurelia young!) "come to an understanding before I leave the
colony."

"O, Mr. Amberly, although not given to match-making, in fact holding it
in contempt, still standing as I do in a mother's place towards Aurelia,
I can take upon myself to say that an opportunity shall be afforded for
the needful explanations between them. Perhaps it is even now taking
place," and she laughed girlishly, or as girlishly as a woman of sixty
could.

I had heard enough; too much. I stole a few paces away, and then came
back humming a tune. As we took our leave Mrs. Memphis gave my uncle a
meaning glance that made me turn cold, and rendered me moody and silent
until I was alone.

Now, what shall I do, I mused. Marry Aurelia, and take my uncle's money?
Yes, as a last resource; but if I can avoid it--no. Could I give up the
idea of Miss Vane so readily? Ah! a bright idea! My uncle had evidently
a great liking for Clara; quite a paternal fondness. Would he not be as
much, or more, pleased if I married her than if I married Aurelia? Of
course he would. What did he mean by saying that his smiles would await
on the bridal pair, unless he meant me to, what is popularly known as,
"go in and win." But I would consult Conway; he knew my uncle well, and
could tell me what would be my best course: only the more I thought of
Aurelia's faded fascinations, and compared them with Miss Vane's
blooming freshness, the more did I feel averse to sacrificing myself,
unless for a good consideration.

I invited Conway to a stroll and a cigar after dinner; we sauntered
along a lonely street, and I explained what had passed, and asked his
advice.

"My advice is that you tell your uncle that you have no more idea of
marrying Miss Sphinx than you have of flying."

"But my uncle seemed to like the idea of the match; and he told Mrs.
Memphis that every penny he had made by the sale of sauce should be
mine. He might change his mind if I refused to marry Miss Sphinx."

"Everybody asks advice, but nobody takes it. I have given you mine, and
I know your uncle well. Go straight to him, and tell him that there is
nothing between you and Miss Sphinx. Don't listen to conversations not
intended for you again; and take my word for it, every penny of the
sauce money will still be yours."

Perhaps Conway was right, but I could not make up my mind to follow his
counsel. I preferred acting with more caution. I would sound my uncle on
the subject. I fancied myself rather skilful at diplomacy, and never
doubted but what I could find out what I wanted without committing
myself. I did not reckon on the wiles of women.

Next morning a dainty note from Aurelia Sphinx informed me that her aunt
had told her to write to me, and tell me that she (her aunt) had
something important to say to me, if I would call that afternoon.
Knowing what I knew, I looked upon the letter as an invitation from the
spider to the fly; but mentally feeling that they had a very knowing fly
to deal with, I went.

Mrs. Memphis was alone. Aurelia was not visible. My esteemed friend was
made up for the part of an invalid. She was carefully arranged on the
sofa, with shawls, smelling salts, and all other paraphernalia. She told
me to bring my chair close, as she could not speak loud.

"My dear Mervington, as an old friend of your father's I can speak to
you as freely as I would to my own son. Do not excite me by expressing
emotion at what I am going to tell you, but for my sake be calm. You
know the wretched state of health I have been in for the last few years.
My troubles will soon be over. Last night Dr. Killall informed me that a
crisis was approaching that would almost certainly prove fatal."

I expressed the tendered sympathy, in a way compatible with not exciting
an invalid in such a dangerous state.

"But it is not for myself I feel sad," she resumed, in a tone of
plaintive melancholy; "I hail with joy the prospect of release from
mundane sorrows. It is for others that I grieve; for one other, I might
say," (here her voice was broken by sobs), "who, unfitted to buffet with
the world--with the cold, unfeeling world--will, on my death, find
herself once more an orphan."

I tried to assure Mrs. Memphis that there was still room for much hope;
it was, no good anticipating death; she might--I trusted would--live
many years yet. But she shook her head sadly.

"No, Mervington, the inward voice that never lies tells me otherwise.
You and Aurelia are the only two beings left for me to love; and you, I
thank Heaven, have now no cause to dread the future. Secure in your
uncle's favor, you can anticipate at no distant date becoming a very
wealthy man: but my poor Aurelia! Promise me, Mervington," she cried,
raising herself on one arm, as though inspired with new strength for the
occasion, "promise me that you will not let me die in such painful
uncertainty; that you will," [hysterical gasps and sobs] "watch over
her," [sob] "shield her," [gasp], "and protect her--as--as--," (I made
sure she was going to say sister, and in my eagerness to recognise such
a safe relationship, and end the scene, cried out, "I understand--I
will!")--"your wife!" shrieked Mrs. Memphis, sinking back, exhausted and
fainting.

"Wife!" echoed Aurelia, appearing with the suddenness of a harlequin,
and falling on my neck with a shock that staggered me.

"O Mervington," she murmured, "you have saved aunt's life, and made your
poor Aurelia so happy."

"Leave me now, dear children," said Mrs. Memphis, faintly. "Put my bible
near me, and after I have read a little, perhaps I may be able to
sleep."

We left her. I left the house in the most awful state of semi-lunacy I
have ever experienced. I locked myself in my room, and pondered on my
future course. Mrs. Memphis would tell my uncle that all was happily
settled; he would express satisfaction, and I would have to go up a
willing victim. If I showed any repugnance to the match, my uncle would
be justly offended at my want of stability of purpose. He would never
learn how I had been fooled. And Clara Vane was lost to me for ever! As
this fact became patent to me, I for the first time felt that I loved
her for herself. Had I but followed Conway's advice, all would have been
well; and as I thought that, a glimmer of hope came to me that he might
still be able to show me a way out of my difficulty. I would seek him
and see. I had eaten no dinner, having been lying sulkily on my bed,
thinking of all that had passed, but my appetite was gone, and without
stopping to take anything, I hurried down to the ferry to go over to
North Brisbane to look up Conway. As I stepped on the landing stage,
Conway himself appeared leaving the boat.

"Where are you going to?" I asked.

He looked a little surprised at my abrupt question, but answered that he
was going to spend the evening at Mrs. Vane's.

"Can you spare me half-an-hour?" I asked.

"Yes, if it is very important," he replied.

I hurried him away, and told him what had happened since last I
consulted him.

"And have you not yet seen," said my companion, "that your uncle is no
more a manufacturer of Suffolk sauce than I am?"

"Not the sole proprietor of the celebrated Suffolk sauce!" I exclaimed,
in my astonishment, quoting from the too-familiar advertisement. "Who,
then, is he?"

"You gave him brevet rank when you announced him to your friends as
Colonel Amberly, for he was only Captain Amberly when he left the army;
but at present he is a simple country gentleman, and owner by
inheritance of a fine estate in the south of England."

Although my strong sense of family pride was agreeably tickled by this
announcement, still the blow to my discriminating talents was great.

"Then," I said, rather stiffly, "what is the meaning of the farce that
has been carried out in order to deceive me?"

"You deceived yourself. If you remember, you were the originator of the
idea. It so amused me--the imaginary picture you had conjured up of your
relative--that I could not resist drawing a fancy portrait on your
foundation. I persuaded your uncle to continue the deception, and he, in
his strong love of a joke (his only failing, if it be one), consented. I
owe you an apology for my share in it, which I now make. As for your
uncle, when you remember the way in which you were prepared to
condescendingly patronise a man whose purse has supported you since your
birth, you must admit that the revenge he took was slight."

"He could well promise me all the money he had made by the sale of
sauce," I said bitterly.

My companion turned on me quite fiercely. "A characteristic remark from
your father's son," he said. "Shall I tell you why your uncle and I are
so intimate?"

"Yes, if you like," I answered, ungraciously.

"It will teach you to appreciate him better, perhaps."

We had reached the side of the river, and Conway stopped, and, leaning
against a post of an abandoned landing stage, spoke as follows:--

"My father and your uncle were friends at school--fast friends. Your
grandfather was a country rector; his only children your uncle and
mother. My father and your uncle entered the army together. Both had
scarcely anything but their pay. Their friendship was close and
constant, until an event happened which happens to most men--they fell
in love. Unhappily, they were rivals. My father was the successful one,
and your uncle went to India. As you may guess, the old tie of
friendship was broken, although they never quarrelled. It was whilst
your uncle was in India that your father and mother were married. While
he was still out there your grandfather and his elder brother died
within a short time of each other, and your uncle became possessor of
the estate he still enjoys. On receipt of the news he started for
England, intending to leave the army. He hardly reached Calcutta when
the mutiny blazed out; and of course he turned back. My father was on
his way out at the time, and at Delhi they met again. I will tell you
how.

"It was one of the unsuccessful attacks made during the siege, and a
small party of our men had been nearly cut to pieces. Your uncle came up
with a handful of fresh men to cover the retreat, which was a very
leisurely one, in spite of their loss.

"'By Jove! there's one of our fellows out off!' said one of the officers
to your uncle, directing his attention to a figure hemmed in by a swarm
of Sepoys.

"'Who is it?' he asked, as they stopped.

"The other glanced around. 'It must be Conway,' he said.

"Your uncle was off back, the officer who had spoken and two or three
others following.

"They would have all been sacrificed, but a lucky panic got amongst the
rebels, and they ran for their guns again. As it was, the English got
out sound, bringing my father with them. They carried him back to the
lines, but it was hopeless; he was bleeding to death from a frightful
tulwar wound, in addition to a shot through the lungs. They laid him on
the ground, and your uncle knelt beside him. 'I saw you coming, old
fellow,' he said, as he gazed at your uncle, with the old look of
friendship. Then he motioned him to bend down a little. 'Take care of
Annie and little Fred,' he managed to say; and so, with his head resting
on your uncle's arm, and their hands clasped once more, he died."

       *       *       *       *       *

I could not help being impressed by the story, told in the still, calm
night, with the silent river flowing past, and the lights gleaming on
its surface here and there; only the quiet voice of my companion,
telling of his father's death, breaking the stillness. For a few moments
I forgot my own troubles.

"How well he has carried out the trust reposed in him that day I can
testify," said Conway, after a pause.

"And why were my uncle and my father at variance always?" I asked.

"He will tell you himself; I prefer that he should," returned Conway,
and turned to walk back.

The spell was broken, and I got back to my own affairs again.

"But what is the best thing for me to do now?" I asked.

"Hang yourself," I thought my companion muttered, but was not sure.

"You see," I said, "it's worse than ever. I am my uncle's heir, I
presume, so they'll never let me off."

"Your uncle has the disposal of his estate by will; so don't reckon on
that."

"I didn't mean that; I mean this marriage with Miss Sphinx. They'll
reckon on it--the estate, I mean."

"Tell them it's not so."

"They won't believe me."

"Then marry somebody else."

"A glorious idea! Somebody my uncle approves of!"

"Don't forget that main chance."

"No; I'll ask Miss Vane."

"You'll do what!" said my companion, in a savage tone that almost made
me jump.

"Propose to Miss Vane," I repeated.

"Do you suppose she'll accept you, then?"

"I presume I have a perfect right to ask the question?" I said,
haughtily.

"Of course you have," he said, sulkily.

"And if she accepts me," I went on working out the idea, "my uncle likes
her very much, so I am safe."

"If!--remember the if," said Conway.

"And if she refuses me?"

"Va victis! or try somebody else," and Conway hurried on and left me.

I knew he had a weakness for Miss Vane, so was not surprised at the
temper he had displayed. I had too good an opinion of myself to fear his
rivalry very much.

I went over to North Brisbane in search of my uncle, determined, now
explanations were the order of the day, to have full and clear ones. I
found him disengaged.

"Conway has told you of the deception practised on you," said my uncle,
in reply to my questions. "It was a poor joke, but perhaps it has done
you good; and if what I have got to tell you now is hard on your pride,
I am sorry, but you had better hear it." He was silent for a few
moments, and then resumed:

"My father was a quiet country rector, thinking of little but parish and
his books; and my sister was a country girl, with as much knowledge of
the world as a baby. I was in India. Your father was a man who, without
the slightest claim to be considered a gentleman--I can't help saying
it--could, when it suited him, assume a cloak of good manners that would
deceive unsuspicious people like my father and sister. He came down to
our neighborhood for the shooting season, and was staying at the house
of an eccentric kind of man who invited anybody who amused him. He met
your father at a racecourse, or some other public place, I presume. Your
father, as you pride yourself on remembering, had good social talents,
especially adapting him for amusing for a time. How my father met him I
never heard, but he invited him to his house, and the result was that my
sister married him. To do your father justice, I believe he did love her
at first; no one could have helped it. I came home after the mutiny, met
your father, and saw the state of affairs at a glance. If I loved
anything on earth it was my sister, and when I saw how she was neglected
by her husband, I hated your father at once. You see I am speaking quite
plainly, as I would to a stranger. Your father was anxious to cultivate
my friendship, for I was rich, and he had squandered everything he had.
I offered him a liberal income if he would leave the country, and
consent to a separation. He agreed at once; but your mother, with all a
woman's fidelity to one who ill-treated her, refused to comply. I
happened to go to see her once, after he had been urging her to consent,
and saw a mark on her face that made me think he had struck her. She
denied it, of course, and unfortunately he came in just then. I am a
passionate man by nature, and you can infer what followed. I never saw
either your father or mother again. The income I regularly allowed her,
your father, I presume, as regularly spent, with the disgrace of the
personal chastisement I had inflicted on him not wiped out. Since his
death I have made you an annual allowance, for my sister's sake; but
since I have been here you have never given me reason to suppose that
you cared for her, or felt grateful to me for it."

There was a dead silence when he had finished. I felt that I hated him
for the way he had spoken to me; but he was my uncle, and rich!

"Who was my father?" I asked at last, in as clear a voice as I could
command.

"The only son of a rich pawnbroker, who spent the fortune his father
left him in striving to gain an entrance into society."

"But," I said, "I could not help it; am I not a Mervington Smythers?"

My uncle laughed loudly; every serious wrinkle vanished from his face.
It was the happiest remark I could have made under the circumstances.

"Mervington Smythers may be the name your godfathers and godmothers gave
you, but if there are ancestral honors bound up in the name I am not
acquainted with them. Your father's name by rights was simply Smith--as
good a one as Smythers, I should have thought."

Then my vaunted arms and long pedigree were all a sham, and my paternal
grandfather advanced shillings and pence on articles of dress, and made
money by the sale of unredeemed pledges! I felt very bitter against my
uncle for acquainting me with these facts, but deemed it prudent to hide
the feeling.

"Now, having wounded your feelings enough, my boy, I must try and heal
them. What is this that your friend Mrs. Memphis tells me about a tender
feeling between you and her niece?"

It would never do to let him know how matters stood there. I must
conceal that business, and keep Mrs. Memphis and my uncle apart, if
possible.

"Mere absurdity, uncle," I said. "Mrs. Memphis, like a good many more
people, sees just what she would like to see. There is no tender feeling
between Miss Sphinx and me."

"Well, I am not sorry to hear it, for I must say neither aunt nor niece
are much to my liking. That Miss de Boys is a pretty, good-natured
little girl, and you seem rather devoted there."

"I like Miss de Boys very well, but to tell you the truth, uncle, there
is somebody I like better; and you like her too."

"Who's the lady who is so highly favored by both of us?"

"Miss Vane."

"Miss Vane! Fred will have to look out with such a formidable rival as
you in the field."

"I know that Mr. Conway has hopes in that quarter; but I do not see that
I should therefore withdraw."

"Certainly not: a fair field and no favor."

"Then, my dear uncle, I have your consent to my soliciting the hand of
Miss Vane?"

"My consent is a trifle; it's Miss Vane's consent you want."

"But it meets with your approbation--my choice?"

"I suppose you have some grounds to go upon; and there's no accounting
for a girl's fancy; but I think you will not steal a march upon Conway."

"With your permission I will try," I said; and soon afterwards said good
night.

My feelings were very bitter that night. If Clara Vane would accept me,
it would solve all difficulties; save me from Miss Sphinx and her aunt,
for they would not say anything for their own sakes; cut out Conway,
whom I cordially disliked; mortify my uncle, who evidently favored
Conway; and show Mervington Smythers, (whom they had made a butt of) to
be the cleverest man of the lot. 'Va victis,' Conway said; but it
remained to see who would be the vanquished. The odds were against me,
truly, but I did not despair.

The next day, thinking it best to lose no time I went to call on Mrs.
Vane, determined to propose then and there, should opportunity offer.
Everything seemed to favor me. Mrs. Vane left the room, and I was alone
with Clara. Now or never.

"Miss Vane," I said, "if you will pardon the apparently abrupt manner in
which I am forced to make my communication, but--but I have something
important to tell you."

"Yes, Mr. Smythers," she said, with a beaming smile that encouraged me
to proceed.

"It is on a topic that has always a charm for the young and fair," I
said, rather poetically, as I fancied.

"I think I can guess what's coming," she replied.

Conway! Conway! Where are you now! I mentally exclaimed.

"That assists me greatly, Miss Vane, for a man may be forgiven for
feeling nervous when his future fate hangs on a word from a woman's
lips."

"But your fate is fortunately settled, Mr. Smythers. You need no longer
be nervous."

Mervington Smythers! Mervington Smythers! You are a successful and a
clever dog, was my mental exclamation this time.

"Yes, Miss Vane," (I was nearly saying Clara, but thought it premature),
"thanks to your kind reception of what I was going to tell you. I see no
more cause for nervousness."

"But when is the marriage to take place, Mr. Smythers? Really I am dying
to know."

This was forcing the pace with a vengeance.

"As soon as possible. Do you think my anxiety is less than yours, dear
Clara?"

Miss Vane laughed a clear, merry laugh. "I always heard that lovers were
the most absent-minded of people, but never expected such an
exemplification of it as that remark shows."

"And when shall I have an opportunity of speaking to Mrs. Vane?" I
asked.

"O, mamma knows all about it."

"Does she? And she is favorably inclined, I trust."

"O yes--thinks it a capital match."

"And when did you first suspect the truth?" I asked tenderly, for Clara
looked most coquettishly pretty, and I thought an accepted lover had a
right to a sentimental scene at least.

"I had an idea of it for some time, but was not sure of it until she
told us this afternoon."

"She told you?" I repeated in dumb horror.

"Yes, Mrs. Memphis; she was here about half-an-hour before you came----"

I heard no more. Such a counter-check had never entered into my
calculations; henceforth I would be the willing slave of Mrs. Memphis. I
respected that woman--to rise from a bed of sickness and call upon her
friends in order to inform them of her niece's approaching marriage!
Such energy was wonderful.

I have a dim notion of hearing Clara say--"Wasn't it fun, her taking Mr.
Amberly for the maker of Amberly's sauce? It was too bad of him;" and
tottered out, after shaking the servant girl's hand in mistake for Miss
Vane's.

"And how did you prosper?" said my uncle when next I saw him. I did what
I ought to have done at first--told him everything without reserve.

"I am to blame," he said; "but for that foolish job of mine they would
never have thought you such a catch; but I think I can mend matters."

What he did I do not exactly know. I believe he told Mrs. Memphis in
confidence that I had mortally offended him; that not only did he mean
to cut me off with a shilling, but also to stop my allowance. The result
was enough for me. Mrs. Memphis and Aurelia cut me dead, and Mrs.
Memphis told everybody that my conduct was just what she might have
expected from me.

My uncle did not go away as soon as he expected. When he did leave he
had acted the part of father twice, and given away two very pretty
brides.

Need I say that one was Clara Vane, who became Mrs. Conway; and the
other was--well, I followed Conway's advice, and asked somebody else;
and somebody else said, "Oui, Monsieur," so you can guess who that was.

It wasn't a bad idea, for my uncle took a great fancy to Bessie, and
came down very handsomely, and she really is a good-natured little girl.



THE END



This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia