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Title: The Dis-honorable
       A Mystery of the Brisbane Flood
Author: John David Hennessey
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1100521.txt
Language: English
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The Dis-honorable
       A Mystery of the Brisbane Flood
Author: John David Hennessey

*

Published in the Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, N.S.W.),
in serial form commencing Saturday 18 January, 1896.

*



CHAPTER I.--THE LOOK-OUT TREE.



UPON the shores of Moreton Bay, on the east coast of Australia, is a
point of land stretching seaward in the direction of a Government penal
settlement, on an island known as St. Helena. Other islands are
clustered in close proximity, and with the long hills on Stradbrook and
Moreton islands in the distance the scene is one of striking beauty. In
the summer months this part of the bay forms a favorite rendezvous for
yachting parties from the Queensland capital.

The point of land referred to rises high above the water, with the bay
on one side and the estuary of a small river on the other. The
shore--half mud, half sand--which stretches for a long distance at low
water, is, on the seaward side, thickly fringed with mangroves; while
overlooking them, upon the utmost headland, one tall tree--pushing out
from among its fellows--stands sentinel over the miniature peninsula.

This forest giant, with black, massive trunk, and branches, is an
Australian blood-wood, and presents a singular appearance to the
observant onlooker. Its huge limbs, but sightly clothed with foliage,
are gnarled and crooked into ungainly and fantastic shapes by centuries
of battling with the southeast gales that not unfrequently sweep
fiercely across the bay from the Pacific Ocean. The tree possesses none
of the symmetry common to trees of European or Asiatic growth, except
that in some remarkable way its huge, ungainly trunk has maintained the
perpendicular. Turnings and twistings and contortions notwithstanding,
it preserves its general erectness to the very topmost branch, over a
hundred feet from the ground, where by a strange freak of nature a huge
bole has been developed, out of which a branch, thicker than a man's
body, grows for several feet at a right angle in the direction of the
Bay.

On a Friday afternoon in February, 1893, there might have been discerned
the figure of a man on that dizzy, natural platform, as, grasping a
smaller branch above him for support, he gazed intently across the water
in the direction of the entrance to the River Brisbane.

Since the commencement of the year the weather had been unusually wet,
but that week had beaten all previous records. With brief intervals of a
few hours' duration, in the early part of the week, it had rained
steadily both night and day. Not in warm, genial showers, such as the
poet remembered when he wrote of:

"The useful trouble of the rain,"

but in a fierce, pitiless, persistent downpour, with gales of wind from
the south-east, which had drenched and drenched again the sodden earth,
until every sloping piece of roadway was a river, and every gully was
filled with roaring torrents, and every creek, swollen far beyond its
natural limits, was transformed into a red, rushing, devastating flood.

What the River Brisbane was like this Friday afternoon may be imagined.
Floating wreckage and other debris that had been brought down by its
swirling, angry current had just made its appearance in the bay. It was
reported that houses had already been destroyed and that lives had been
lost; but the worst had yet to come. For days neither sun nor sky had
been seen through the thick canopy of clouds. Night was closing in upon
the landscape earlier than usual when the solitary watcher might have
been seen descending from his conning tower. He came down carefully, but
sailor-like and quickly, as though assisted by some foothold and a rope,
and, without pausing or looking around, hurried off in the direction of
the point.

He there descended a grassy, sloping bank, some 15ft. or 20ft. to the
shore, where he was completely hidden from the homestead which might
have been seen a quarter of a mile or more in the distance. Here he took
off his boots and socks and placed them in the hollow end of a log,
where they were protected from the rain, which had now commenced again
in good earnest.

George Jackson stood up after depositing his foot-gear in the log. He
was a manly-looking fellow of about 30, and stood 5ft. 11in. without his
boots. It was getting too dark to note his features well; but, despite
his rough dress, there was no mistaking the well-bred bearing of the
man, or the determination of the mouth, which, overhung by a brown, wavy
moustache, was closely shut. He looked the sort of man one would expect
to ride pretty well anything in the shape of horseflesh, pull a strong,
steady oar, and show plenty of cool courage in a time of danger.

As he rolled up his trousers over a pair of muscular legs, in
preparation for a wade through the shallow water, mud, sand, and
mangrove roots, he appeared to be equal to any emergency and quite at
home with his surroundings. Who he was, and how he came to be in the
strange circumstances in which we find him, will have to be explained
later on.

Like most of the foreshore of Moreton Bay, the land shelved very
gradually toward deep water, and Jackson had to wade some distance
before he reached the thick fringe of mangrove trees lining the eastern
shore. Even at this distance the water had not risen to his knees.

"Tide is rising fast," he said to himself, as he worked his way
carefully through the mangroves towards a black object which had become
entangled with the sweeping branches of one of these singular trees.

It proved to be a good-sized punt such as is often used by fishing
parties, tarred outside and inside, with two sliding seats. The punt
contained a few inches of water, and half submerged on the floor lay the
dead body of a man, his eyes staring skyward. One hand, on which was a
diamond ring, lay clenched beside him, the other was buried deep in the
breast of a large waterproof overcoat which was tightly buttoned around
the corpse. It was a gruesome sight, and the solitary beholder's stout
limbs trembled under him as, just for a moment, he started back and
clung with one hand to the branch of a mangrove tree for support. It was
raining steadily, darkness was approaching, the tide rising, and yet the
man stood there, now over his knees in the water, gazing, as though he
were under some mesmeric spell, into the death-white face of the corpse.

He took in every feature of the weird and ghastly spectacle. The punt
was without oars or side rowlocks, but in the stern was a new pivot
rowlock to hold an oar for sculling or steering. A hole had been
recently bored through the flat board fastened on the fore part of the
punt, and a strong rope dragged from it in the water. One of the
stanchion plates was torn off, and the fretted sides of the punt seemed
to indicate rough contact with passing objects. There was no sign of
luggage of any description. The unfortunate occupant had seemingly made
no preparation for the strange journey on which death had so ruthlessly
and mysteriously overtaken him.

The corpse was that of a man well advanced in years, medium height and
fairly stout, black greyish hair and beard, white face and
hands--bleached whiter still by exposure to the rain, and death--large
nose, and thin hard mouth. The head, with hair falling back from the
forehead into the water, was without covering, but showed no mark of
violence. The strange turn in one of the eyes was evidently a natural
defect, probably more noticeable now than when living. The dress was not
disarranged, and the collar and black silk necktie, fastened with a gold
pin set with a single diamond, had seemingly only been wetted by the
rain. A strong dark tweed overcoat, with cape of military cut, and
fashionable trousers and boots completed as much of the dress as was
visible.

"Good God!" Jackson exclaimed at last, "how horrible! I never expected
this. Surely he has not been murdered?"

As though seized by some sudden impulse, he moved nearer to the punt,
and hurriedly drew the right hand from the folds of the overcoat. It
seemed at first to stick or cling, as though held by something, and on
being withdrawn left a bulky leather pocket-book half protruding from
the breast. Jackson reached to take it, but a swell on the water moved
the punt at the moment, and in his haste and effort to steady himself it
fell into the water at the bottom of the punt. He soon, however,
recovered it, and, shaking off the water, safely deposited it in the
side pocket of his coat. He then drew the cape of the overcoat over the
dead man's face, fastened the painter of the punt to the trunk of a
mangrove, and commenced to wade back to the shore.

As though struck by a sudden thought he turned quickly back again, and
steadying the punt with both hands placed his ear on the breast of the
corpse and remained in that attitude for half a minute. He listened for
the ticking of the dead man's watch--and distinctly heard it. It must
have been wound up the previous night. Death, however it came about,
would have taken place within the past 24 hours.

Reaching the shore the man recovered his boots and socks, and without
waiting to put them on walked with rapid strides through the long wet
grass and fallen timber toward the house.




CHAPTER II.--A RUSSIAN LEATHER POCKET BOOK.


Both homestead and peninsula are known as Darton's Point. The farm,
comprising the usual 640 acres, was only used for grazing and dairying
purposes. It had been the property of the Darton family before
Separation from New South Wales, and was now occupied by its present
owner, largely through the pressure of the times. John Darton found when
he came into the property, on the death of his father, that the place
would not let at anything like a satisfactory rental. Although now well
grassed, it was mostly cold and wet on account of a clay subsoil; so,
feeling it necessary to retrench somewhat himself, he took the bull by
the horns, moved his household down from the city, where he averred
there was not enough business doing to keep a cat, and took to dairy
farming.

The house was a fair-sized, comfortable-looking wooden dwelling of about
a dozen rooms, built on the highest part of the peninsula, and commanded
a fine view of both the river and the bay. It had wide verandahs on the
two sides overlooking the bay. Of course it was lonely. The nearest
neighbor lived a mile and a quarter distant in the direction of a small
semi-fashionable marine township, part of which could be seen on another
headland from Darton's Point; but, as John Darton told people, and his
wife occasionally, notwithstanding its loneliness the place had its
advantages.

Like most Queensland country dwellings, the house had been added to from
time to time, as occasion required, and a three-roomed weatherboard
cottage, with verandah in front, which might have been, and probably
was, the original dwelling, stood a few yards from the main building on
the lower and western side.

George Jackson made his way to this cottage, and hurriedly entered by a
middle door from the verandah, quietly closing and carefully locking it
after him. He felt certain that no one had noticed him. The servant man
and woman had not come up from the milking yards, and John Darton had
been up in Brisbane since the previous day. Edna and Mrs. Darton and
Nora were pretty sure to be busy preparing tea. It was raining heavily.
There was no covered way from the house to the cottage. The married
couple occupied the room with the separate door, nearest to the house,
and the others were appropriated by him as bedroom and private sitting
room. When once the rooms were done up by Nora for the day he was seldom
disturbed; He looked at his watch; it was a quarter to 7. Tea would not
be served until a quarter past. There was plenty of time to dress, and,
what he wanted just now very badly, time for thought.

After having lit a lamp and drawn the blinds, for there were two windows
to the room (before even removing his damp clothes), he took out the wet
pocket-book, and, holding it to the lamp, examined it carefully. It was
of Russian leather, expensively got up, with solid silver mountings, and
had evidently belonged to a well-to-do man. It was full of papers,
slightly wetted by their temporary immersion in the water of the punt.
He unfolded one after another and glanced over their contents with
evident interest, spreading them out upon the table afterwards, so that
their damp edges might be dried.

Having in this way emptied the outer compartments, he came to a centre
one, locked by one of the patent fasteners, which usually give some
trouble before the uninitiated can get them undone. It was crammed full,
and must have been squeezed hard before the snap had closed, and it was
some minutes before Jackson got it open.

"Notes!" he exclaimed, as he drew out a lump of crisp paper. "Fifty or a
hundred pounds perhaps, for travelling expenses or something."

He undid the bundle, but on scanning them turned ashy pale. His hand
trembled with excitement as he looked them over. He had expected to find
them ones, and fives, and possibly tens. He saw instead fifties,
hundreds, and, last of all, no less than twenty single notes, each for
five hundred pounds. They were all of them dated some years back and
were on different banks.

"Good Heavens!" he exclaimed, "there's thirty thousand pounds sterling."

With the bank notes heaped before him on the table, Jackson drew up a
chair, and, sitting down, he stared at them for several minutes as
though absorbed in thought. How new and crisp they were! They could not
have been handled much. Thirty thousand pounds! He put his elbows on the
table and hid his face in his hands. At last he might have been heard to
ejaculate, "God help me!" "God pity me!" There was anguish in his voice.
It was between a sob and a groan. The man's stalwart frame shook as he
uttered it.

Was it a prayer, wrung from the struggling soul in the unutterable
travail of a great crisis? Or was it an ejaculation of the shuddering
conscience as the man felt himself to be tottering upon the precipice of
a great crime, and caught a momentary glimpse of the black abyss
beneath?

It was a close night, notwithstanding the rain; but it was something
more than that which caused great drops of sweat to stand thick upon
George Jackson's brow as he lifted his head from his hands, and, with a
determined look upon his face, put the notes and papers back into the
pocket-book and locked it in the drawer.

All this had taken time, and he now hurriedly put off his damp clothes
and repeatedly bathed his face, and eyes and head, in water. It was to
restore something harder to get back than cleanliness. When the tea bell
rang a few minutes afterwards, it was a well-dressed gentlemanly man
that stepped out upon the verandah of the cottage. Opening an umbrella
to protect himself against the pouring rain, he leaped across the stream
of water that was coursing down the pathway, and in a few strides
reached the friendly shelter of the main building.

It was dark by this time, and a wild tempestuous night. Nora, the Irish
maid servant, met him at the entrance. "Sure, sir, it's an awful night,
and I'm afraid it's wet you are. Pity now there is not a covered way
down to the cottage." Jackson made some pleasant answer--for Nora was an
obliging, and, moreover, agreeable and not bad-looking girl--and passed
into a room where the bright lamps and well-spread, well-appointed table
formed a pleasant contrast to the outside darkness and raging storm.

Was it the lamplight that cast a momentary shadow across Jackson's face
as he turned round to where there stood near the table a fair young girl
in the fresh bloom and beauty of early womanhood, or was it the
transient vision of that ghastly thing that lay there in the mangroves
waiting for him, with its dead face turned upwards from the flooded
waters to the wrathful sky?

It was gone, however, in a moment, and there was no shadow of guilt on
the face that was turned with a smile towards Edna Forrest. He had
carefully closed the door as he entered, and going up to the girl, put
both arms around her in a close embrace and kissed her. There was
passion in the kiss, passion, that was returned too, for she placed her
fair arms around his neck and kissed him back.

"Now, let me go," she said, "someone will be coming."

Another kiss was placed upon her ripe, red lips by way of answer, and
then, stopping for a moment as he let her go, he said, "Edna, will you
always, always love me?"

"I suppose so," said the girl demurely, a playful twinkle in her eye.
"If you always, always make me love you, as you do now."

They were seated at their own places at the table, composed and
self-possessed, talking about the rain and floods, when a minute after
the room door was opened by Mrs. Darton, followed by her husband, and by
Nora bringing in the tea.

Mrs. Darton was in many respects a clever, capable woman, who dressed
well and looked well, and sometimes spoke well. She knew a good deal and
thought she knew more. As with many another capable woman, however, the
atmosphere of her own home was thick with passion and tragedy, of which
she was profoundly ignorant.




CHAPTER III.--EDNA FORREST.


There was an air of comfort and even elegance, about the apartment in
which the family had gathered for tea. It was never used for other
meals, and not always for this, but on rough unpleasant nights
especially, it was Mr. Darton's pleasure to have tea laid in the drawing
room. There were flowers and choice pot plants on the table, and the
whole surroundings indicated taste and refinement which:

"The hand of gentle woman, sedulous to please, creates for him she
loves."

Mrs. Darton was of a good family, a McDermott, had brought her husband
some money, and knew what it was to have a much finer home than that at
Darton's Point. But it was since the advent of Edna Forrest, John
Darton's niece, into family circle that the home life had received much
of the grace and refinement that adorned it.

Edna was the only daughter of a sister of John Darton's, who had married
when very young into a wealthy English family. Both parents had
unhappily died when she was quite a child, and John Darton became her
guardian, with the Hon. Constant McWatt as co-trustee. Her fortune of
about 10,000 had been, on the advice of the last-named trustee,
withdrawn from England and invested in Queensland. She had been sent to
England and the Continent to finish her education, and Mrs. Darton
predicted for her a brilliant match.

It was Edna who had painted the life-like glimpse's of English landscape
scenery which hung over her 'Paling Victor' piano at the end of the
drawing room. She it was who gathered the ferns and orchids out of the
'run,' and draped the red pots in which she planted them with
picturesque art muslin and dainty silks. She was a born musician, and
had a voice of rare sweetness and compass, which had been carefully
trained. To hear her sing to her own accompaniment was, as John Darton
said, a revelation to most people. They had heard the song fifty times
before, but on Edna's lips it became something which, although sweetly
familiar, was strangely new. She inherited from her father, who was no
mean musician, this gift of song. Edna could ride well, and row, and
manage a boat if necessary, and was a good swimmer, and graceful dancer,
yet she seemed one of the quietest of girls, and evidently was quite
content with her temporary country residence at Darton's Point. She was
a great reader, and even quaint in some of her fancies and pursuits. The
young clergyman of the district, after one of his rare visits,
pronounced her a charming creature, but a veritable blue stocking, who,
if she were only a good church-woman, would have made a perfect treasure
of a parson's wife.

"Why," said he to an intimate friend, "they were all out, and I put in
quite an hour's conversation with her. I started the usual small talk
about the weather, and the neighbors, &c., but she wouldn't have it, and
I had to keep all my wits about me. She even quoted Eusebius and Dr.
Channing, and thought Pearson on the Creed obsolete. Then to hear her
talk about the labor question, and the present state of the colony. She
actually advised me to read a new German work by Pastor Von
Bodelschwingh on Farm Labor Colonies, and said she feared that ministers
of religion generally were too much waiters upon Providence, and hadn't
the courage of their convictions. She admired Dr. Broad, of Melbourne,
and told me to my face that if she lived in a city she thought she would
have to attend an Unitarian Church. And yet, upon my word, she had such
a sweet face with her, even when her observations and opinions were most
uncomplimentary and obnoxious, that to have her talk to you was like
taking medicine mixed with some elixir of paradise, which over-powered
its unpalatableness. I believe that I could almost have turned Unitarian
at the time to have got a smile from her such as she gave a fellow
living with the Dartons they call George Jackson. It is said that he is
an Oxford man; came out about three years ago, and got his colonial
experience by losing a lot of money in land and mining speculations, and
is now studying for the Bar. I suppose that he is after the girl, or he
surely would not bury himself down at Darton's Point."

Edna was quieter to-night than usual, as also was Jackson, and Mr. and
Mrs. Darton had the conversation largely to themselves.

"Well, John dear," commenced Mrs. Darton, as they sat down to tea, "you
must have had a roughish time of it in Brisbane the last two days. It
has rained here awfully. Edna and I haven't been outside the house. I
suppose they will have a flood in Brisbane if the rain continues?"

"Yes, it's been wretched weather in town," replied John. "Slush and
water everywhere. When I left the railway station this afternoon, the
river water was running over the lower part of Stanley-street, and was
rising fast. I heard, too, that some parts of Melbourne-street and the
Montague-road were so much flooded that the people were moving out of
their shops and dwelling-houses. Flagge's away north, but the weather
forecast published by his assistant at the Observatory this morning is
far from reassuring. It's my opinion that if this rain continues, and we
have a big flood, it will put the finishing touch to Brisbane. It's just
like our luck in this wretched, mis-governed, god-forsaken colony."

"Here's the Government," he continued, after helping himself to another
cutlet, "practically without money, for just now they daren't interfere
to any large extent with the Government deposits held by the banks.
We've had one trouble after another, and yet all our legislators seem to
think of, after seeing that their own salaries are paid, is to gad about
the country at the public expense and make fat billets for themselves
and their friends. And, by George! the astonishing thing is that public
opinion seems to be defunct."

He paused for a moment to go on with his tea, but no one spoke, and Edna
especially seemed to be giving him her smiling attention. Although that
was nothing--for no one ever knew by Edna's smile what she really
thought. It was a playful, bewitching, 'Will-o'-the-wisp' sort of smile,
which, alas! often led luckless men and women into unexpected pitfalls.
It was too bad of Edna, although she would never plead guilty to having
beguiled them; but when her smiling attention had actually enticed them
into a full disclosure, how she would sometimes come down upon them! Not
to really hurt them or their feelings overmuch, but like the big ocean
wave that dallies playfully for a moment, and then makes you run for
safety, as it rises up to overwhelm you with its volume, brightly capped
with sunshine, spray, and foam.

But we had remarked that no one spoke, and Edna smiled attention, so
John Darton continued: "There's Sir Anthony Short and Sir Wilmot Strong,
both away from the colony and we have an irresponsible Acting Chief
Secretary, who, to my mind, is just now a sort of acting-catspaw to pull
hot chestnuts out of the fire for other members of the Ministry. They
subsidise all sorts of speculations out of the public funds, and pocket
monstrous retaining fees and refreshers for their eminent services. But
if the farmers or the working classes or some genuine new industry wants
assistance, it's the old cry, 'Government has no funds.' And the people
are that disheartened by their losses, and cowed by the unparalleled
eminence and exaltation and audacity of their rulers, that they daren't
say a word. Gad! I'd like to see the whole lot of them swept clean out
of power at the general election, and have the country governed by men
of less legal and educational eminence and fewer Imperialistic fancies.
What the colony wants is a Government of ordinary commonsense, honesty,
and sobriety. The newspapers talk about legislative genius and
administrative capacity, and the knowledge of Parliamentary procedure,
and a lot of other things as being necessary for public positions! I'd
like to know what these precious acquisitions have done for us in
Queensland during the past seven years. Goodness knows, we've had genius
and scholarship and capacity and culture to the full. We've had
statesmen whose names have been spoken in European Courts as belonging
to men of rare ability, and whose legislative enactments have been
thought good enough to be imitated in older lands, and what have they
done for us? Landed the colony in a very slough of despond by their
extravagance and financial juggling and utter incompetency when dealing
with the every-day wants of the people of the colony."

They had all been smiling at John Darton's vehement tirade against the
powers that be; but when at its climax the orator stopped, quite out of
breath, to take a draught from his fragrant cup of tea, they broke into
a hearty laugh.

"John," said Mrs. Darton, "they ought to put you into Parliament at the
next election as Labor member for the district; but if they did you'd
have to get another wife, or go without one. I'll never be connected
with the unwashed mob. But do get on with your tea, dear, that cutlet of
yours will be quite cold. It's my opinion," the lady continued without
giving her husband the chance to get in a word, "that the colony will
always be ruled much as it is now; and I don't blame men when they have
the chance for making good billets for themselves and their friends. The
only people that are doing any good for themselves just now are the men
in political power and those in the Civil service and the big financial
institutions. What's the good of men getting hold of the reins if they
don't drive the coach so as to give their own friends a bit of a lift by
the way?"

"You know very well, John," she said waxing considerably warmer, as her
husband tried here to interpose a word or two, "you'd have been a good
bit better off if you had stuck a little closer to your friends in power
and thought a little less about what you call the good of the country."

"But, aunt," put in Edna, "uncle does not mean that Sir Anthony is not a
good man and a gentleman, and all that, whatever he may think of some of
the others. You know Sir Anthony is a special favorite of mine, and, if
necessary, I must defend him. What uncle means is that he is almost too
clever and theoretic and comprehensive and far reaching in his views of
political life to attend to the common details of local government.

"Yes, that's all right as far as it goes, Edna," said John Darton, "but
there's something more than that. To my mind he has frequently shown
himself to be lacking in sound judgment, and at times in common
political honesty. He has formed opinions and experimented upon them at
the cost of the country, and then revised them. I tell you what," he
said excitedly, looking good humoredly but half defiantly across at
Jackson, who, as yet, had taken no part in the conversation, "Sir
Anthony Short has thought himself the great 'I am' of Queensland, whose
connection with the Government has put honor upon the colony. He has
thought it a small thing that in return for the added lustre and
distinction of his name Queensland should give him autocratic power and
the opportunity of acquiring ample wealth. And yet, between ourselves,
his autocratic temper has robbed the colony of the services of some of
its ablest men."

"Now, uncle, that's too bad," cried Edna; "I am sure Mr. Jackson does
not think that our public men and the affairs of the colony are as bad
as you try to make them appear."

Jackson smiled at Edna, and after a moment's pause said, in a grave tone
of voice: "Of course you all know my views. In all conscience things are
just now very serious. I know from reliable sources that some of our
leading firms are tottering upon the very verge of bankruptcy, and
others can only save themselves by trenchant reductions in both staff
and general expenditure. There are no public works going on and not
likely to be, and trade generally is almost at a standstill. The colony
is mortgaged up to its ears, and the banks and big financial
institutions and English public creditors are draining money out of the
colony in payment of interest, which is just now the life blood of the
people. Add to this a drought in the west and the prospect of floods in
the east, and the outlook is certainly not reassuring. As to Sir Anthony
Short, I believe I only express the views of thousands when I say that
his administration of public affairs has, on the whole, done more harm
than good to the colony, whatever benefit Australia and the Empire may
have derived. Of course, my opinion has always been, and still is, that
he has honestly acted up to his light and conviction in political
matters. But what do you really think," he said, addressing John Darton,
"about the weather? Is it going to take up? It lulled for an hour this
afternoon, and, I thought, looked more promising."

"It's nearly impossible to surmise anything," replied Mr. Darton. "The
wind veered a little to the north, but I noticed as I came in that the
gale had settled down in the old quarter again, in the south east. They
are getting ready for a flood in Brisbane. The blacks have come into
town from all round the district, and I hear they are camping at One
Tree Hill. King Billy told a newspaper reporter that 'one big fellow
flood is coming 'long to wash away Brisbane. Fish all gone 'long out of
bay, and the ants going up trees and houses out of the way of big fellow
water.'"

After tea Jackson followed John Darton to a private snuggery of his,
where he kept his account books, and which he called his office. When
they were comfortably seated he handed his cigar case to Jackson, and
the two men smoked for a short time in silence. It was evident that each
had something on his mind, and was waiting for the other to begin.

"Well," asked Jackson at last, "how did you get on?"

"Badly."

"You don't mean to say that he would not help to meet it to-morrow?"
said Jackson.

"I do," said John Darton; "and, what's more, he told me that he could
not acknowledge any liability. He said that no matter what the property
is worth now, you had value for it at the time, and must find the money,
and that if you cannot do it alone I had better assist you."

"When was it you saw him--not to-day?" Jackson leaned forward in his
chair, eagerly waiting the answer.

"No; it was between 7 and 8 o'clock last evening. Found him alone at
Drybrook House. The family are up the mountains, Toowoomba way, and the
servants happened to be out. At any rate, after I had knocked and rung
for some time, he opened the door to me himself. I tackled him
afterwards about another matter. You know," he said, lowering his voice
a little, "he is co-trustee with me in the matter of Edna's fortune. He
has always arranged the investments, and the interest has been paid
regularly, so I have not troubled much to interfere. The fact is, when I
have called on him lately, either at his office or at Drybrook House,
there were always half a-dozen people waiting to see him. He seemed to
have so much to do, what with his private business and public affairs,
that he always managed to put me off. But last night he downright
exasperated me, the scoundrel," continued Darton, more excitedly. "We
had a great row, and I told him what my suspicions were, and threatened
that unless he gave me a full statement by next Monday, and showed me
clearly that all was right, I would serve him with a writ. He just
laughed at me, and told me it was more than I dared to do. Then he
taunted me about something which he knows to be an accursed lie. You
know I'm hot tempered, George," he said, as he drew his handkerchief
across his forehead to remove the perspiration. "Well, I struck
him--struck him twice. He tried to strike me back, and did just hit me,
I believe, and then ordered me out of the house. I picked up my hat and
went."

"You know I was sorry that I struck him, but, with all his airs and fine
house and carriage and pair and haughty wife and daughters, I believe
he's a confounded villain. That's what I do! When a man gets the
'honorable' tacked on to his name in these colonies he has wonderful
facilities for swindling; but I'll bring an action against him for this
money of Edna's as sure as my name is John Darton. It will make a stir,
won't it? One trustee against another, and the defendant the Hon.
Constant McWatt."

An almost irresistible impulse came upon Jackson. It was upon his very
lips to say, "John Darton, the man you quarrelled with and struck last
night is dead, and lies in a punt out there, tied to one of your own
mangroves," but by an effort he restrained himself.

"Where did you hit him?" he asked.

"Oh, somewhere about the breast and shoulder; but I don't think I could
have hurt him much. He staggered, but rushed at me almost immediately,
and in a great passion ordered me out of the house. If what I fear
proves true, I'll give him more than that before I've done with him."

"But, there, it can't be helped now," he continued, after a pause; "I
shan't say anything about it at present to Mrs. Darton or Edna. I see
your cigar's out, so I think we had better go to bed. I expect Mrs.
Darton and Edna have retired by this time."

"By the way," he said, "I must post up an item or two in the ledger
before I forget them; and, here," (handing him a letter), "I found this
lying at the post-office for you when I came back from town. I see it's
from the bank. I hope they are not worrying you just now."

George Jackson took the letter, merely saying, "Thank you; good night."

He passed through the entrance hall, where he often, by happy chance,
shall we say, said 'good night' to Edna with a kiss. But she was nowhere
to be seen; and he lingered a moment or two scanning the address upon
the the envelope. It was written in a clear, clerkly hand, "George
Jackson, Esq., Darton's Point, via Brisbane." He turned the envelope and
read on the other side the black circular printing on the flap, which
the last few weeks he had somehow dreaded to see, "The El Dorado Bank,
Brisbane."

But, though he had waited, no Edna appeared; and, with a feeling of
unusual depression and disappointment, he took his hat, picked up his
umbrella from the hall stand, and went out again into the storm and
darkness, and with a few hasty strides landed on the cottage verandah
and entered his room.




CHAPTER IV.--A NIGHT OF ADVENTURE.


IT was no doubt strange that, after what he had just learnt from Darton,
with an unopened letter of importance in his hand, and the momentous
programme of that black night before him--for he had somehow to get rid
of the corpse and punt--George Jackson should sit down in his room, as
soon as he had locked the door and lit the lamp, and commence thinking
about that girl and the good-night kiss she hadn't given him.

Men are queer compounds. The great and small often blend grotesquely in
their thoughts--often are with difficulty distinguished by them, and
sometimes are actually taken the one for the other. Francis Drake must
finish his game of bowls, with the Spanish Armada coming up the English
Channel, and George Jackson must spend the first precious half hour of
that fateful night thinking about a girl and a caress.

Presently, however, a change came over the man. He opened the letter
from the Bank and read it with a frown; then he unlocked the drawer and
took out the pocket-book again, and, looking over its contents, placed
the banknotes upon one side of him on the table; then he reached down an
account book from the shelf and began to make extracts upon a piece of
waste paper, and was soon engrossed in what appeared to be a complicated
calculation.

"Now, add interest," he said to himself, "at 6 per cent., and that makes
25,050, say 25,000, which leaves exactly 5000 over for any claims
that John Darton may possibly have. But what shall I do with the
corpse?" he suddenly ejaculated. "Something must be done with that, and
the punt, too, and done tonight. Like a fool, I have tied the cursed
thing to a tree, and these fellows from the other side of the river will
be round in boats to-morrow, wrecking and looting, and they will find
it. And the punt tied up, too! Of course it will be asked who tied it
there. Curse him," he continued, with great bitterness, "I can't help
hating him; he well nigh ruined both of us, and would have damned me if
he could when living, and now he must come across my path again, dead
and ghastly, to tempt me to what the world would call a crime. I don't
care much about John Darton; for aught I know he might have killed him,
though not intentionally. But Edna knows nothing about it, and she never
shall if I can help it--not a word! I'll have it out of this to-night
somehow. By Heaven! I will," he cried in his excitement, "if all the
devils of the pit sit grinning round the punt to guard the corpse."

But how? That was the question. It was a question which Jackson found
evidently difficult to answer, for he paced his room with feverish step
and knitted brow. For nearly half an hour this continued. Then he
stopped, and stood still in the middle of the floor, as though some
feasible scheme had at last suggested itself.

"Yes, perhaps it would be the best," he muttered, a far-away look in his
eyes. "It will be a long, hard pull, and likely enough I shall get the
boat swamped such a night as this. It will be an awful thing to be alone
out there, with that punt towing behind; but for all our sakes I must do
it, and I will too. The tide must have fallen a good bit by this," he
continued, looking at his watch, "that is unless the flood waters have
backed up to an unusual height."

He changed his dress in preparation for his night's work, putting on
some strong woollen clothes, took off his boots, looked at his watch,
and put out the light. He then opened the window facing in the direction
of the river, and noiselessly drew himself out and dropped upon the
grass beneath.

"It's now half-past 11," he said; "if I have anything like luck I ought
to be back again before daylight."

The moon was up and gave a little light, although thickly obscured with
clouds of rain, as Jackson opened the big gate and took the path leading
to the river. He had many a time strolled down that grassy pathway,
beneath the trees, with Edna and the Dartons. It faced the west, and he
recalled the crimson sunsets that had mantled with their splendid hues
the foliage of the tall old trees growing around the large lagoon close
by the river.

One magnificent blue gum he specially remembered; there was an eagle's
nest in the fork of a gigantic limb, high overhead, which he had taken
Edna once to see. How different that walk to this. The air was warm that
evening, balmy, fragrant with the scent of ti-tree blossom, and
melodious with the murmuring of bees and the hum of insect life. It was
under the spreading branches of that old tree, in the glowing twilight
of a summer evening, not long before, that he had told the old sweet
story of love in Edna's willing ears. How surprised he was that she
returned his love, and accepted him; that in her sweet, modest, girlish
way, and yet withall so frank and womanly, she had given him all her
heart. He remembered how those great lustrous eyes of hers, brimming
over with love and sympathy, were turned to him in trustful confidence,
as she said, "George, I believe you are good and true, and will never
deceive me, and I will love and trust you till I die." As they had
walked back up that very pathway to the house how exhilarated were his
feelings, how sweet his hopes, and that night how rosy were his dreams.

But to-night it was dark; the old pathway was swimming with water, ankle
deep. There was a sense of dread, mystery, and fearsomeness, quite
foreign to his nature, upon him. He looked around several times when a
limb or branch fell from a tree. He might be followed or watched. The
dark mood was upon him--had got possession of his very soul, and he
could not shake it off. It was the counterpart within of the dismay and
terror of the outside world around him. He passed in a hollow a small
mob of milking cows; they stood huddled together, nearly knee deep in
water, their heads turned from the storm. One of them lowed piteously,
as though making a hopeless appeal for help.

Fortunately he found everything ready to his hand. The boat, a light,
but strongly-built 16 footer, of cedar, had been drawn up close to the
bank on account of the flood. He got an extra pair of stout ash oars
from the boathouse, in addition to a powerful pair of light racing
sculls, and, launching her without difficulty, was soon in the current,
which carried him swiftly down stream. There was no need to do more than
paddle easily along, as at present the current was doing the work.
Keeping well in-shore, in 10 minutes or less he had reached the
mangroves. Here the stream was much less swift, and one powerful stroke
of the right hand scull put the boat's nose into the mangroves, where
she grounded. Jackson was not surprised at this, for the tide had been
running down for fully two hours, and the boat drew considerably more
water than the punt. Getting out on to the hard sandy bottom, the boat
immediately floated again, so drawing it nearer to the clump of
trees--which, detached from the mass of mangroves growing nearer to the
shore, stood as a sort of outpost in the broad but shallow estuary--he
tied it securely to a branch.

It is a difficult thing sometimes to identify a particular spot when it
is approached in a new direction, especially when wading nearly
knee-deep in water and almost in darkness. One clump of mangroves seemed
very much like another, and Jackson found himself in a difficulty which
he had not in the least foreseen. He carefully took the bearings of the
detached clump of trees to which he had fastened his boat, and moved
cautiously through the shallow water in search of the punt. He noticed
with surprise and some relief that the storm of wind and rain had
suddenly moderated its violence. This he afterwards discovered was
mainly due to the protection afforded by the dense growth of large
mangrove trees to the south-east of the point, although nearer to the
shore. Just in front of him loomed the dark outline of a thick clump of
mangroves, towards which he very cautiously advanced, hoping to find
fastened to one of their numerous branches the object of which he was in
search. He felt about in the deep gloom caused by their thick foliage,
with the eerie consciousness that at any moment he might place his hand
upon the side of the punt, when, drawing aside a large branch and
peering anxiously through he suddenly beheld that which, aided by his
excited imagination, appeared to him to be one of the most remarkable
and awful visions that human eyes had ever looked upon.

He stood perfectly still, breathless and spell-bound. Before him was
what seemed to be a large natural amphitheatre floored with a pavement
of translucent silver, across which there seemed to pass endless
processions of dark shadowy objects. Rising up from this mysteriously
illuminated area was a dark, massive screen or sloping wall, which in
turn seemed thronged with living ghostly things, and in the very centre
of the spirit haunted arena, its black sides rising up from the
strangely glittering pavement was the dead man's punt.

Jackson strained his eyes and gazed with feelings of intense horror, for
on the sides of it he distinctly saw several large white moving objects,
which seemed now and again to assume still larger proportions, as though
the white draperies of ghostly arms were stretched out towards him,
either to beckon him to draw nearer, or to threateningly warn him from
the spot.

George Jackson had not a shred of superstition about him, but the whole
scene was so unnatural and ghostly and horrible that he felt his pulse
beating furiously, as the blood coursed cold and chillingly through his
veins.

With a supreme effort he recovered himself, and said aloud--for the
sound of his voice even was reassuring in that awful place--"Good God!
surely there must be some natural explanation for all this?" Stooping,
he moved his hand quickly through the water. It was phosphorescent.

"Ah! that's it," he said, with something between a sigh of relief and a
hollow laugh. "There must be hundreds of black swans in there sheltering
from the bad weather, and no doubt the ghostly objects on the side of
the punt are some of the huge white pelicans which I have frequently
noticed of late in the bay."

The supposition proved to be correct. The punt, unnoticed by Jackson in
his excitement on its first discovery, had drifted into an open space,
around which the mangroves had formed a sort of natural amphitheatre,
and here hundreds of black swans had taken refuge. It was their rapid
movements on the water that had given to the large space its mysterious
phosphorescent light. Notwithstanding this explanation, Jackson felt his
nerves to be thoroughly unstrung, and, strong man as he was, be started
again like a scared child, as, on his near approach, the birds rose, the
flapping of hundreds of wings upon the water as they did so sounding in
the sheltered disclosure like a long discharge of musketry.

The man took a small flask of brandy from his pocket and drank eagerly,
and then, unfastening the rope, towed the punt after him through the
water in the direction of his boat.

"I am a great fool," he said to himself, "to allow myself to be upset in
this way. I suppose if I had not turned up those pelicans would soon
have mutilated the corpse past all recognition. And yet I never thought
before that they would prey upon dead carcases. I wish the thing were
done with. I almost feel as though I had done a murder myself, and, like
Tom Hood's 'Eugene Aram,' was trying to get rid of the thing and could
not."

"Murder! murder!" he repeated over to himself. "It's an awful word!
Surely he must have died a natural death, heart disease, or apoplexy, or
something similar. If I knew that there had been foul play, I believe
that even now I'd tow the punt back and fasten it to the jetty, and go
and give information to the police. But then, how about Darton and Edna,
and that thirty thousand pounds? No! I have taken it in hand, and I must
go through with it! There's no help for it now."

It was a pull of five miles that he had before him. The tide, it is
true, was somewhat in his favor, but the wind was not, and it was still
raining, although not quite so heavily, and the punt he had to tow was
heavy and clumsy--square fore and aft. He took a deep grip of the water
and settled down to his work, pulling a long powerful stroke, for he was
an accomplished oarsman; and yet the weight of the punt, the contrary
wind and chopping sea, greatly retarded his progress. He took his
bearings from a light on St. Helena and one in some private house on the
shore. The latter, however, after a time, was extinguished.

During the long hours of that terrible night he was tempted a dozen
times to cut the punt adrift, and let it take its chance of drifting
inshore again. Sometimes he thought that the wind and rain and sea were
actually preventing his making any progress, and then he would pull for
half-an-hour at a stretch, quite mechanically, as though rowing in a
dream. Twice he had to stop and bail out the water from both boat and
punt. In doing this, his hand once came in contact with the cold
lifeless hand of the corpse. Only once, he took care of that; but he
drew back his hand and shuddered. How he longed to get the dead thing
buried out of his sight. Swallowed up in a watery grave, never to
return.

It seemed to him sometimes as though the light on St. Helena would never
be reached, and that the morning would find him still toiling at his
oars, towing that hateful punt. At last, however, he began to catch
glimpses of the light over his shoulder, and, settling down again, he
put all his strength into the strokes. The light was soon on the beam.
He felt now relieved and thankful; the light shining dimly across the
tossing waters seemed homelike, and comforted him. He would shortly be
able to turn his boat back again; his thankless task was well nigh done.

Suddenly, however, a new and unexpected danger confronted him. He heard
something strike with great force against the punt, causing it to swerve
round and strain heavily upon the tow rope. It then grated along the
boat, and a moment afterwards an oar was snatched out of his hand, and
dragged from the rowlock. He was surrounded with a new and appalling
peril.

A swarm of sharks had scented the corpse, and were swimming in all
directions round the punt and boat. He could make out the black dorsal
fins of several standing high out of the water, quite close to the boat;
so, hurriedly drawing in the other oar, he grasped the boat hook as the
only weapon of defence at hand. The fierce monsters were evidently
hungry; they seemed to have no fear whatever, as they swam close around,
turning their white bellies up, with huge open mouths, as though eager
to attack him. He realised then why convicts never attempt to escape
from St. Helena by swimming to another island or the mainland. He had
seen sharks before, but, never such fearful brutes as these. One crunch
of those ghastly jaws, or lash of tremendous tail, and his light boat
must be smashed in pieces, and with that pack of hungry wolves around
him, once in the water, his life would not be worth a moment's purchase.
He was strongly inclined to shout for assistance, but it would have been
useless. At that distance, and in such a storm, his voice could not
possible have been heard. He remembered having the pair of spare oars,
which we mentioned, but at this juncture it would have been madness to
have put them into the water. The sharks would have snapped at them in a
moment; and without oars, even if he could keep the boat from swamping,
it would be impossible to get back to Darton's Point. All that he could
do was to sit quietly, and watch with painful and horrid fascination the
movements of the sharks when they approached the punt, which had now
drifted right on to the stern of the boat, and was grinding against it
with the heave of every wave.

This puzzled Jackson somewhat. Why should the punt bear down in this way
upon the boat? Looking again at the leading light on St. Helena, which
had now got well upon the boat's quarter, he learnt the reason. They had
at last reached the main current, and boat and punt were being swept out
to sea.

Without a moment's delay Jackson drew a large clasp knife from his
pocket, and commenced to cut the punt adrift. He found the rope greatly
hardened by the wet and the strain of towing, and the knife was not very
sharp. In his eagerness, as he severed the last strand, he somehow
allowed the knife to slip from his grasp. It must have fallen into the
bay, he thought, or into the punt. But there was no time to look. The
punt immediately drifted clear of the boat, and as, for the next few
minutes, Jackson saw nothing more of the sharks he concluded that they
had followed the punt, and putting his oars into the rowlocks he turned
the boat round in the direction of the shore.

It was a long and wearisome pull back, and the dawn was struggling in
the east, the pitiless rain still pouring down in torrents, when George
Jackson, wet through, and thoroughly exhausted with the toil and peril
of the night, reached his room unobserved. His haggard face startled him
for the moment as he caught a glimpse of it in the toilet-glass, but he
was not really surprised. So fearful had been the experiences of that
awful night that no change in his appearance could have astonished him.

He thanked God that he was back again in safety, and, casting off his
wet clothes, threw himself upon his bed where, as soon as his head
touched the pillow, tired nature asserted itself and he fell fast
asleep.




CHAPTER V.--"IT WAS REALLY CLEVERLY DONE."


WHEN John Darton and Jackson met at the breakfast table neither of them
looked very fresh or rested. A couple of hours' sleep had done wonders
for George, but the toil and peril of the night had left traces which at
once caught the attention of both Edna and Mrs. Darton; the latter
especially seemed dissatisfied with his excuses, and said more than
once, "I'm sure you must be ill." It transpired, too, that Darton had a
restless, wakeful night, which in turn set Jackson thinking.

The latter announced during breakfast that important business would
necessitate his going to town by the afternoon train; that he might
return by the late down train if not stopped by the flood, and would be
busy in his room writing all the morning, and wished, if possible, not
to be disturbed.

Edna attempted to brighten things up, and talked of the rain, which
still came down in torrents, but somehow conversation flagged, and
everyone seemed relieved when breakfast was over. Jackson went straight
to his room, but feeling too tired to write lay down upon the bed again
and went to sleep. He was not sure when the opportunity for sleep would
come again to him. As far as the coming night was concerned, it might
and it might not. He had sketched out a programme which he was far from
being sure he would be able to carry, out; but the rain had poured all
night unceasingly and still continued, and Jackson counted upon this
assisting him. If Brisbane was flooded, as he felt sure it must be, he
had a good prospect of achieving his purpose. If not, he was hedged in
by a network of difficulties through which he at present saw no way of
escape. His one hope was that he would find the Brisbane River in high
flood.

On starting for town he managed, fortunately as he thought, to get into
a first-class carriage by himself. It was a saloon carriage, and the
entrance door, protected by a canvas sheet from the smoke and sparks and
weather faced the engine. Had its position been at the end of the train
it would have been an inspection car, but as it was, sitting with the
door open, he had an extensive view of the country both in front and on
each side.

It was not until he reached the small township of Junction Creek that be
in any way realised the extent of the disaster which had overwhelmed.
Brisbane. The train here passed through a sea of water, from which on
every side arose the walls and roofs of houses. Just before the train
moved out of the station a man leaped upon the platform of the carriage,
and entering, accosted him.

"Fearful weather, isn't it, Mr. Jackson," remarked the new arrival, as
he shook himself like a water spaniel, and divested himself of hat and
overcoat.

"Never met with anything like it. I came down to make a revaluation for
one of the banks, and hoped to find the land high and dry, but the fact
is I could not get on to it, except by boat. You would scarcely believe
it; the whole of the population of that place are squatting on a sand
ridge, and the food and drink supply is that short that I determined to
clear out at once and get back to Brisbane--that is if I can reach
there. See here," he said, pointing out of the open door on to the line,
"the water is within a foot of the rails on this embankment. I question
much if the train will be able to make another trip to-night. It's fast
rising now--about six inches an hour."

When a man has a very important and all-absorbing matter of business on
hand, and over thirty thousand pounds about his person, he naturally
feels a little shy of strangers, and while Jackson felt somewhat annoyed
at having his privacy intruded upon, he was glad to see that the
newcomer was fairly well known to him. He was an auctioneer and valuator
named Fielding--a dark, plump, dressy, red-faced little man who had
succeeded to one of the best businesses of its kind in the city, but
through the changed times, after having reduced his staff of clerks to
one and an office boy, he found it difficult, even at that, too pay his
way.

"Yes; it's it's a very bad prospect for the low-lying parts of the city
and suburbs," said Jackson.

"Bad prospects, my dear sir," said Fielding, excitedly; "why, it's an
accomplished fact--Brisbane is ruined. The flood is the climax of our
disasters. The depreciation of property, is beyond calculation, and it
is raining still. The flood is already without parallel, and I fear we
have not seen the worst of it. You can insure against fire, and fight it
when it comes; but this flood business beats everything. It's
disgusting! If it had only held off for another week, I would not have
minded so much; but it's ruining business."

"Just imagine now, I had three acres of land as good as sold to a party
for the best figure I have arranged for these two years. He was to give
twelve hundred for it, and between ourselves, I was to have all over
nine hundred for commission. Well, he had to run over to Sydney for a
few days on some business, and came back this week. He sent down to the
office saying he would go out with me to have another look at the land,
and give me a cheque for one hundred as a deposit, and as soon as the
deed and transfer came to hand would pay over the balance. I took him
out yesterday morning, but, bless you, the only way you could get on to
the land was by a boat. The transaction was knocked on the head, of
course, and I have lost my commission. The best thing I have had on hand
for six months. It's most discouraging. You see, if he had only paid the
deposit we would have held him to his bargain."

"But," said Jackson, "the land you refer to was never worth that money."

"Oh, that's nonsense; land is worth whatever a purchaser will give for
it. Of course, it's a different matter when you come to value it for a
bank or a mortgagee. But I have been deuced unlucky. Just took the
business from old Robert Catchall when the tide turned. Why, when I was
cashier for the old firm things were lively. If a man could only keep
his head for a couple of years in those days he could make a fortune.
The Government was floating loans to such an extent that the place was
swimming in money; of course they were all of them in the swim, in one
way or the other, so it suited them."

"You were not here at the time, Mr. Jackson, but I can tell you it was
prime in those days. Immigrants were coming in by the new line of mail
steamers almost weekly, and the land sales every Saturday afternoon, all
over the suburbs, went as merrily as marriage bells. You see, it was
this way: Our Parliament sanctioned the raising of a loan of ten
millions to be placed on the London market in instalments, as the money
was required for the public service. In a few years they borrowed every
penny of it, paid it out in railway contracts, and in erecting great
public buildings, and loans to municipalities and divisional boards, and
goodness knows what. The bulk of it, of course, got into the hands of
the general population, and they mostly bought land with it, belonging
to the upper crust, at extravagant prices. So you see that it was men
who sanctioned the loans and got the colony up to its ears in debt that
feathered their nests with the proceeds. Of course, few of us saw the
reaction that was coming then. The leading journal certainly pointed out
that it could not last, and spoke of the consequences. But everybody
wanted to make hay while the sun shone, and to-morrow was left to take
care of itself. We had land sales at our mart once, and often twice a
week, besides what we did in city properties. It was astonishing how the
oracle was worked, and how the innocent public responded. It was a poor
week in those days that our firm did not net a couple of hundred
pounds--to say nothing of what might be made sub rosa."

"What do you mean by that?" inquired Jackson.

"Oh, the way in which you bought, &c. Now, take that Westmead Estate as
an illustration," continued Fielding, "and, by the way, as I came down I
noticed that every house on the estate was under water, gardens spoiled,
furniture destroyed, and owners, I suppose, half ruined. But that's
nothing to us now. More fools they, for buying in such a place. But
there must have been over twelve thousand netted by that little
transaction. The Hon. Constant McWatt was the first purchaser, and got
the biggest part of the money. It was really cleverly done."

Jackson had started slightly when the Hon. Constant McWatt's name was
mentioned; but they had yet some distance to travel before reaching the
flooded suburb referred to, so he could not well do other than listen to
the loquacious auctioneer.

"You know," continued Fielding, "there were about 25 acres in that
Westmead Estate, and I believe that on the old Government maps the
greater portion of it was marked as swamp and marshy land. It had been
bought at one of the Government land sales in Sydney, when Brisbane was
known as Moreton Bay only, by a man named Brown. He gave fifteen
shillings an acre for it--eighty pounds fifteen--thought afterwards that
he had been a fool to buy a swamp, but got his deed and lost his money,
as he said, and there the matter ended. Well, Brown made a bit of money
for himself in Sydney, in drapery or something, and went back to
England.

"But I was going to say that ten years ago--that was after the best lots
of land in and around Brisbane were subdivided and sold--some of the
knowing ones kept clerks pretty well employed in searching at the Land
and Real Property Offices for eligible blocks and absentee owners. A
clerk of McWatt's named Tomkins dropped on to this twenty-five acre
block, and told the boss about it. They found out that it was purchased
in Sydney at a Government land sale, by a man named Brown; but could get
no further clue. So the Honorable took steamer down to Sydney, found out
as much as he could about Brown, and returned within a fortnight. He
must have seen that there were several thousands sticking out of that
little transaction, for in a week after his return it was announced that
urgent private business necessitated the Hon. McWatt taking a trip to
England. He lost no time, you see, because he was afraid of some of the
others getting wind of it, which might have cost him an extra thousand
or two, while, if he got in first, the whole transaction might be
completed--transfer and all--for a hundred pounds."

"Well, there were the usual eulogistic notices in the papers about the
esteem in which this prominent citizen was held by a large circle of
friends and admirers, and how greatly the colony was indebted to the
enterprise of such men, who, while building up their own fortunes, were
so conspicuous for their benevolence, probity, and the remaining
virtues. Such men were the strength and ornament of the colony, and they
heartily wished for him a safe, pleasant, and successful voyage, and a
speedy return. I was chums, then, with Tomkins, McWatt's clerk; and I
tell you we laughed over it; he knew very well the racket on which the
old man was going home, and how he strengthened and ornamented the
colony by charging small farmers and tradesmen twelve and a half,
fifteen, and sometimes twenty per cent., for temporary accommodation.
Well, I heard all about the trip; for when he came back McWatt let it
out one night when he was half drunk. It was after the sale of the first
section, and the prices it realised were enough to turn any man's head.
He made Tomkins a present of a gold watch and chain that cost more than
he gave for the land altogether."

"But I am anticipating. When McWatt reached England, accompanied by two
of his daughters, he traced the old chap to a large village in
Yorkshire; I think it was Bradbury. He was living there in a comfortable
cottage, sort of retired. Just himself, a granddaughter, and an old
servant woman. So far so good; but the trouble was to get at him without
his smelling a rat. You see, it would never have done for McWatt to have
approached him straight and said, 'I'm the Honorable So-and-so, and have
come all the way from Australia to purchase that 25-acre block of yours
adjoining Victoria-street, South Brisbane.' Ah! ah!" and the auctioneer
laughed heartily at the absurdity of such a thing. "McWatt wasn't such a
fool. He got one of his girls to make the acquaintance somehow of the
granddaughter, and found out that Brown was a steward at the little
Methodist Church. So McWatt and his girls attended there the next
Sabbath, and when old Brown came round with the plate, McWatt put an
Australian sovereign into it. Brown noticed it of course; felt sure that
McWatt must have come from the colonies, and thought he might get a
subscription out of him for the church debt. McWatt gave him 5 towards
the debt, and was actually invited to take the chair a few days
afterwards at their anniversary tea meeting. And the upshot of it was he
bought the Westmead Estate for 35. Took it off Brown's hands, as a sort
of favor as Brown was so far away, you know, and could not see into
things. I have heard say, however, that the Yorkshire methodist got to
know afterwards how neatly he had been taken in, and anathematised
McWatt considerably; but you see he had sold the land and could do
nothing."

"McWatt came back in high feather, lodged the deed and transfer in the
Real Property Office, and the very week of his return sold the land to a
syndicate (which he formed himself, as he boasted, in less than two
hours in Queen-street) for 6500. He kept one-third of the shares and
sold the rest to the two Boulderlands and a few others, who paid a small
deposit and gave him their promissory notes at even dates for the
balance. But I must tell you about that auction sale."

"Yes, go on, Mr. Auctioneer," said a thin, squeaky voice from the far
corner of the carriage. "I would like to hear how you worked that
oracle. I was one of the purchasers."

Both men turned round at this, in evident astonishment, for they never
dreamt but that they were quite alone. They had faced the carriage door
as they sat talking, and had not noticed the entrance of a tall, thin,
care-worn individual, who, finding the middle door of the saloon
slightly ajar, had pushed it back and taken a seat in the far corner.

Fielding knew almost everybody in Brisbane, and recognised the speaker
as a somewhat prominent man among the working class.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Wright," he said, for he made it a rule to be
polite to everyone ("you never lose anything by politeness, and you
often gain"); "I did not know that we had the honor of your company in
the carriage."

"I suppose not," retorted Wright, "or you would not have been quite so
free in your conversation. I came in through the door there, and sat
down. I suppose your being so engrossed in your talk and the rattle of
the carriage prevented you hearing me. But now we are talking, let me
ask you a fair, straight question. It won't be long for I am getting out
at the next station."

"Fire away," said the auctioneer, evidently somewhat taken aback and
annoyed at having his conversation with Jackson interrupted.

"Well, it's this. Do you honestly believe that the Hon. Constant McWatt,
and other wealthy land speculators like him, who have gulled the working
classes of Brisbane into buying 16-perch allotments, which are now, in
many cases, not worth a tenth of what was originally given for them,
have come honestly by their wealth?

"Why," said the man, lifting his hand as though he were addressing a
much larger audience, "the accursed white allotment pegs of Brisbane
land sharks are stuck in every barren ridge and reeking mangrove swamp
for 30 miles around the city. Land that was bought on the
representations of auctioneers and their agents, and which the miserable
purchasers, who even now are, some of them, paying up their instalments
with seven per cent. interest, have never seen, except upon the map."

"Well," said the auctioneer, sulkily, "if a man buys a pig in a poke,
it's his own fault. You sell a piece of land to a man and he pays for
it, and you get the money. Is not that money yours, and don't you come
honestly by it?"

"All right," said the labor leader, "you're a Government man, I know;
but let me ask you this: Do you think that the 10,000,000 loan men, who,
to a very large extent are responsible for the present depression, and
who have, in many instances, grown rich out of the misfortunes of their
fellows. Do you think--I ask--that these men are the individuals to
restore prudence, economy, and the righteous administration of public
affairs, to the colony of Queensland?"

By this time the train had pulled up at the station, and without waiting
for an answer, the man said "Good-day," and left Fielding and Jackson to
their reflections.




CHAPTER VI.--THE WESTMEAD LAND SALE.


"CONFOUND those labor fellows!" exclaimed Fielding, testily, as the
train moved on again, "with their fads and fancies, and revolutionary
selfishness, I am blest if an auctioneer can make an honest living these
times. Hanged if they don't think they could govern the country and
manage public affairs as well as Sir Anthony Short, or Sir Wilmot
Strong, and the Hon. Constant McWatt, and the like."

Jackson laughed but said nothing; he might very well have said
something, but at present he did not feel inclined to talk.

However, as the auctioneer had suddenly grown more reserved and silent,
and Jackson wanted to hear about the famous Westmead land sale, he
said:--

"You must not be too hard on men like Wright; work is very scarce, and
they have their own troubles just now. Besides, you know he said he was
a purchaser in the Westmead Estate, so if he built there his place is
now very likely under water. Goodness, how it still rains!" he
exclaimed, looking out of the carriage window. "But look here, Fielding,
you were going to tell me about that land sale."

"Well, perhaps I might as well finish it now I have commenced," said
Fielding, "but I can't bear to be interrupted when I am telling
anything, as that fellow did just now."

"I think I told you that the Hon. Constant McWatt formed a syndicate
immediately on his return from England. Of course they did not know what
he had given for the land. That came out afterwards. They were all big
men that he had with him. So at a meeting of the syndicate they
determined to sell the land at once, and leave the whole arrangement of
things in McWatt's hands. He did the thing to rights, I can tell you,"
and the auctioneer quite brightened up and became himself again at the
mere recollection of that memorable sale.

"Our firm was to have the selling of the estate, and it was old Catchall
who suggested that it should be called Westmead. Remarkable man he was
and still is," said Fielding, reflectively. "Never met with a man his
equal at drawing up an advertisement for the sale of land."

"Where is he now?" asked Jackson.

"Oh, living retired, down in New South Wales or Tasmania somewhere.
After those confounded labor troubles he withdraw every cent of his
investments from Queensland. Something like a hundred and twenty
thousand pounds. I thought it was hardly fair, you know, for he made
every penny of it in this colony. But he was always a very cautious and
far-sighted man."

"Well, the Honorable went down with me and the boss to look over the
land. It was pretty rough in places, but McWatt was very cheerful; he
said it would look quite different when it was cleared and the
undergrowth burnt off, and said that as far as possible the streets and
principle roads must run along the swamps and gullies. 'We shan't be at
the expense of making them into good roads,' he said, 'and such things
never show on the plans.'"

"Our firm then called for tenders for the clearing--paid a good price
for it, and had it done to rights. There was a lot of ti-tree on it, but
everything was cleared level with the surface, and carted to one corner
of the ground, where it was burnt off. Then he actually had the grass
eaten off by a mob of horses. It had been very dry weather, but there
was a shower or two of rain a fortnight before the sale, and to see the
place pegged out when the surveyors had done with it was a picture. Some
clumps of coarse grass and beds of reeds, which the horses would not
eat, were cut down with scythes. The allotments were rather small, I
thought, for an estate so far distant from town, but McWatt said it was
quite right. Said he, 'People will usually give as much for a small
allotment as a large one, and if a man wants a fair sized piece of land
all he has to do is to buy several.' Of course, everybody knows now that
small allotments spoil a neighborhood; people don't build villa
residences with humpies on sixteen perch allotments next door. But,
bless you, everything was cut up into sixteen perches in those
days--even estates miles away from Brisbane--and the general public
(mostly fools) bought them. Twenty-eight perches was the largest-sized
allotment on the plans, and the bulk of them were sixteen, and some only
twelve. The lithographs were really works of art, printed in colors, by
a leading Sydney firm, regardless of expense."

"There was a fancy picture of the estate, with several nice-looking
houses near at hand. The artist must have drawn a little upon his
imagination, for one place that certainly looked like a villa residence
in the picture proved on inspection to be an old cow-shed attached to an
adjoining dairy farm. There was a distant glimpse, too, of the river
meandering placidly through sylvan glades. I nearly forgot to mention
the railway line and station, by the way, which the artist inserted by
express order of the Hon. Constant McWatt. He said, 'the Minister had
pledged himself to put it on the estimates.'"

"The wording of the advertisement was a literary achievement quite equal
to the picture described. It was addressed to capitalists, squatters,
members of Parliament, Government officials, speculators, bankers,
merchants, bootmakers, builders, milliners, butchers, bakers, and the
noble-minded, honest Queensland working-man. Terms: Quarter cash;
balance at 4, 8, and 12 months, with interest at 8 per cent. The
advertisement went on to say that Robert Catchall had been favored with
instructions to sell, by public auction, on the ground, on Saturday, May
1st, commencing at 2 o'clock, that grand property in East Bunnoboonoo,
named by the proprietors, on account of its beautiful characteristics
and rich alluvial soil, the Westmead Estate. This was the first section
of the estate, and consisted of 184 splendid villa sites, having
frontages to Brunswick-street, Victoria-street, and several chain-wide
avenues and roads intersecting the estate, at right angles from the
above-named streets. The advantages of the proposed railway station and
the proposed tramway terminus were then enlarged upon; its admirable
central position and charming surroundings; its wonderfully fertile
soil, and undulating hills and slopes, with the distant peeps of the
ubiquitous Brisbane River forcing its serpentine course past the busy
wharves of commerce and the great city spires, making--said the
announcement--one of the most lovely rural pictures to be seen in all
Australia, whose cool breezes would breathe new life into the lips of
age, and mark the blushing cheeks of maidens coy with ruddier health and
rosier hue. Here the old chap," said Fielding, somewhat flippantly,
"could restrain his pent-up feelings no longer, and burst into song--

     'Here the fair villa residence shall rise,
          Like sparkling gem amid the rural scene;
     And train and omnibus and tramway noise
          Be heard but faintly 'neath umbrageous trees.'"

"Well, we had matchless weather, and Catchall was in splendid fettle.
There was a string of two-horse waggonettes, omnibusses, and cabs,
placarded with announcements of the sale and invitations to ride to the
ground free of charge, which reached half-way down Queen-street. At
12.15 a four-horse drag, with brass band and big placard, went round the
city to remind the people of the great event. The syndicate worked well,
too; most of them were present themselves, and came, bringing friends
with them, in spanking turnouts and high stepping pairs. McWatt worked
like a Trojan. He actually got the Bishop to come down, on the promise
of a handsome donation, if he purchased, to secure a site for a church
and school; and of course his lordship was followed by half a dozen of
the clergy, who came to speculate a little on their own account--to say
nothing of nonconformist ministers who were induced by McWatt, on one
pretext and another, to roll up in great force. This made the sale
highly respectable and popular--although a champagne luncheon was
advertised--and by half past 1 o'clock we had a great crowd on the
ground, with a big sprinkling of genuine buyers among them. There had
been a large tent rigged up at one corner, with flag flying, and a
spread laid out on long tables, such as many of them had never clapped
eyes on before--fowls and turkeys and hams and great rounds of beef and
tongues, bottles of beer and wine, spirits with fancy gilt labels,
unlimited fizz, and soft drinks for the teetotallers in any quantity.
Well, Catchall, in his free-and-easy gentlemanly way, invites the whole
crowd into lunch, and even pressed the Bishop to go and have a glass of
wine and biscuit after his ride. How they did crowd the long tables and
swallow down the eatables and drink. There were some members of
Parliament, and, if I remember rightly, a couple of Cabinet
Ministers--to say nothing of members of the Upper House--these were
drafted off to a small separate table where McWatt was busy seeing that
the waiters uncorked plenty of champagne. The whole crowd ate and drank
and talked until some of them--well, never mind about that."

"After a while old Catchall, who had a good tuck-in himself, looked at
his watch and announced that it was time for starting, and that the
luncheon booth would now be closed. His partner had the sales book, and
myself and another clerk stood on the corner pegs to show the size of
the allotments. After reading the terms of sale, which scarcely anyone
could follow or understand, the auctioneer led the crowd to a 28-perch
corner allotment on rising ground. It was, of course, the pick of the
whole estate; and there he made, 'pon my word, quite an eloquent little
speech. He compared Australia to the United States, and spoke of the
rapid rise and growth of some of the great American cities. He, in
imagination, pictured the Brisbane of that day side by side with the
Brisbane of the future, and told how land which they could then buy by
the perch would in a few years be sold by the foot. Then he complimented
them on their evident shrewdness and farsightedness in having attended
this highly important sale. He predicted that the allotments they would
buy that day for a few pounds on most advantageous terms, would in a few
years realise tremendous prices. 'Why,' he said, nodding across to a
well-known Brisbane merchant who I happened to know sub rosa, was one of
the syndicate of proprietors, 'I am permitted to state that Mr. Gregory
bought three of the lots in last Saturday's sale at Bunting's paddock
and sold them afterwards at the handsome profit of 120. Another
gentleman whom you all know and rightly esteem, the Hon. Constant
McWatt, bought the corner lot, (which brought the highest price realised
at the sale), paying over 200 for it. This was thought by some
wiseacres to be a fabulous and foolish figure and yet the Hon. Constant
McWatt was offered in cash 50 profit on the following Monday morning.
Not so bad when you consider there was only one day between the purchase
and offer, and that only a small deposit had been paid. But tempting as
the offer seemed what did the Hon. Constant McWatt do? Why, like the
far-sighted and sensible gentleman that he is, he declined it, for the
simple reason that the property is worth much more. I see these and
other leading men of Brisbane around me to-day, ladies and gentlemen.
They know what they come for and would not be here only that there are
good building sites to be secured, and that there is money to be made.'"

"He then, in a few words, pointed out any local advantages which the
place possessed and put up the first lot. It hung fire for a few minutes
as though the people felt the situation new to them and were afraid of
each other. Then a working man's voice called out 'Ten pounds.' 'Really,
gentlemen,' said old Robert, putting on his blandest smile, 'I have come
here to-day to sell this property, and mark you, I am convinced that
every allotment will find a bona fide purchaser between this and 4
o'clock. The gentleman who has just made a bid must, of course, have his
little joke; but I may tell you that rather than see this most valuable
lot sold for one shilling under 100, I shall request the proprietors to
present it to my Lord Bishop as a site for a church and school in this
salubrious suburb, which in a few years will undoubtedly be the Toorak
of Brisbane. Will some gentleman give me a start?'"

"'Fifty,' called out an unknown member of the syndicate. 'Thank you, and
five,' said Catchall, getting a bid in another direction. 'Sixty pounds
in three places,' and he nodded his head like a Chinese mandarin.
'Sixty-five, thank you. Seventy--and five. It's against you, sir.' It
now seemed to be between two of them (one, by the way, a member of the
syndicate,) and was steadily run up until it reached 115. The bid lay
with the syndicator, and I am sure he trembled in his boots lest it
should be knocked down to him, when all at once a big-faced man called
out, 'I'll make it 20 then. Knock it down, sir.' 'Any advance; any
advance, ladies and gentlemen, on 120? Going! going! gone!' And down
came the ivory hammer on the lithograph he held in his hand. The man
gave in his name, and a deposit in greasy notes, and I knew jolly well
that it was not the Bishop who bought it, but someone who thought it
would make a good site for a public-house."

"Well, a good bit of grumbling went on quietly for a few minutes. The
tradesmen and workmen, and people who had come intending to buy two or
three allotments to build upon, or speculate with, thought it an
extravagant price to give for land so far out from the city; but they
bought for all that, and in some cases, after buying an allotment in a
fairly good position were persuaded by the auctioneer to take two or
three, less valuable adjoining ones, at the same price. In some cases
where it was seen that a man wanted an allotment to complete a block,
members of the syndicate, or their friends, ran him."

"The sale never once flagged, and, what with excitement and drink,
there's no doubt lots of purchasers gave double what they would have
done for the same allotments if they had been sold privately. I
remember, by the way, that Wright bought two allotments at the sale, and
I believe they were in the worst part. But then, who thought anything
about floods in those days. It's true, one chap living in the
neighborhood did suggest it at the sale. But Catchall sat on him in a
moment; said he had evidently been drinking too much of the vendor's
beer, for he would never have thought of such a thing. I must confess,
though, I had my own misgivings, and so, I believe, had Catchall. But it
was a splendid sale, and everybody, except the purchasers, made a pot of
money out of it. The syndicate received back their deposits and
pro-notes immediately, and got considerable dividends afterwards into
the bargain. The Hon. Constant McWatt became a bigger swell than ever,
and set up a pair of grays."

As Fielding concluded his story the train swept round a curve and then
ran down a rather steep decline, and in a moment, before them and all
around, was a great sea of surging water, upon which several boats were
busy rescuing the half drowned and, in many cases, wholly ruined
residents.

"Good heavens!" ejaculated Fielding. "It's awful, isn't it! Thank God,
none of that money went into my pocket. Look there! I believe that child
yonder is drowning. It may be Wright's child! It is near to the house--I
remember it now. Ah! that boat has saved it. Is it possible!" and he
groaned as he said it. "Under that water lies the land of the Westmead
Estate."




CHAPTER VII.--JOE STUNNER APPEARS ON THE SCENE.


THE excitement among the passengers was intense as the train, which had
slackened speed on reaching the water, moved cautiously along.

The railway line had been carried over a low viaduct across one corner
of the estate, and the water had already, in some places, reached to
within a few inches of the rails.

Long before daylight that morning the work of removing goods and
furniture had commenced. In the hurry and excitement pianos and costly
articles of furniture had been piled indiscriminately upon carts and
waggons, to be soaked through by the pouring rain before they could be
deposited in some temporary shelter on higher ground. Scores and
hundreds of people, despite warnings and entreaties, had put off their
retreat to the last moment, hoping that the flood had reached its
highest level.

Hoping against hope, furniture and household goods had been piled on
tables and boxes and lifted higher and higher before the encroaching
waters; until it at last became evident that if they would save their
lives the little home and its familiar surroundings, purchased perhaps
with the laborious savings of half a lifetime, must be left to perish.
Then how impatiently they cried for help, and importuned their rescuers
to let them take some of their household stuff with them in the boat.

Jackson and Fielding gazed with amazed horror on this drama of real life
that was being acted before their eyes, and as they did so, now and
again there smote faintly upon their ears, above the noise of rolling
wheels and wind and rain and swirling waters, the wailings of women and
the cries of children as, wet through and hungry, they were dragged into
the boats from miserable, ruined homes, which but yesterday many of them
had looked upon with honest pride.

These heartrending scenes seemed specially to move Jackson, for he flung
himself back into the corner of the carriage, and tears came to his
eyes.

The auctioneer turned round to him from the window.

"I cannot look at it, Fielding," said Jackson, "pent up in this
carriage, unable to help them. It would be different if we could."

The auctioneer turned to the window again, his attention enchained by
the thrilling scenes which during the next few minutes he saw
transpiring on every side; but Jackson kept his eyes on the floor of the
carriage, engrossed with his own thoughts.

All that day, for the furtherance of his own purpose, he had been
wishing for this flood; but now that it had come and his eyes beheld it,
he was stunned and appalled by the magnitude of the disaster.

He knew the city and its suburbs well, and imagination vividly pictured
to him the heartrending scenes which must at that very moment be passing
before the eyes of multitudes. The breaking up of houses, the
destruction of hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of property, and
worse still, the shrieks of drowning men, women, and children, as they
lifted their hands wildly above the waters and screamed for help,
that--alas!--would never come.

He seemed to hear their cries grow fainter and fainter, until the
gargling waters silenced them at last.

He saw them stretched out afterwards, cold and stiff and lifeless, with
matted hair and wildly-staring eyes that had looked terror-stricken into
the face of death and eternity. And around stood white-haired men,
weeping; and men in manhood's prime, who would have wept but could not,
but who, in the anguish of their hearts, cursed bitterly the day on
which they first saw light. He saw all this, and more; and yet, as the
pouring rain fell heavily upon the carriage roof, he still felt glad.

Then he wondered whether in all the city there breathed a monster equal
to himself. How could he thus feel glad and thankful, while others wept!

But the chain dragged tightly now; link by link it had wound itself
around him. He could not retrace his steps--he could not bring back the
past. It was irrevocable. And yet his whole nature rebelled against the
fate which made the loss and ruin of his fellow men his opportunity. But
so it was. He must shut his eyes and steel his heart against the misery,
for as the rain still rattled on the carriage roof and windows, buttoned
closely to Jackson's heart was the dead man's pocketbook containing over
thirty thousand pounds.

The train had now passed several stations, and at an exclamation from
Fielding, Jackson looked out. They had reached the South Brisbane
railway embankment, which runs from Vulture-street, parallel with Grey
street, to the Melbourne-street railway terminus. The embankment was
transformed into a pier, running through an unbroken stretch of water.

"Well," exclaimed Fielding, "I've seen floods before, but this beggars
all description."

The principal streets of South Brisbane were, in the early days, laid
out parallel with the river. Stanley-street, Grey-street, Hope-street,
intersecting Melbourne-street, which is a continuation of Queen-street;
the river from North to South Brisbane being then spanned by a massive
iron structure known as the Victoria Bridge.

As the train passed along the embankment it seemed as though the whole
of this extensive and populous portion of the city had been blotted
out--the roofs and upper portions of the shops and houses being the only
indication that underneath this great lake or inland sea lay, in
ordinary times, the homes and haunts of men.

Bridges are carried over the roadway of the streets, reaching from
Stanley-street to the West End, and under each of these rushed great
streams of water, level with the archways.

"If it were not for this railway embankment," said Jackson, who by this
time had somewhat recovered himself, "pretty nearly the whole of the
houses in the streets to our right, including Stanley-street, would have
been swept into the river."

"Yes," replied Fielding, "come over to this side and look out. Just see
the wreckage!"

It was perfectly true. The embankment had acted as a breakwater that
impeded the course of the current, which swept round from the river side
of the West End and the Montague road, and had piled up against it the
remains of scores of houses and thousands of pounds' worth of furniture
and other goods.

The train pulled up at the Melbourne-street terminus, which is wisely
built on a level with the embankment. The water lapped the topmost step
of the two flights of broad stairs leading down to the street. The
terminus had been transformed into a pier head, surrounded on every side
by over 20ft of water. Cabs usually were waiting in abundance on the
stand just below, in Grey-street, trams and omnibusses usually plied
continuously on the other side of the station, in Melbourne-street; but
that afternoon the only means of leaving the Melbourne-street terminus
was by boat.

Several watermen were waiting with their boats on the Grey-street side
of the station, but Jackson allowed the rush of passengers to embark
without doing so himself.

It was a little after 5 o'clock, and would be light for another couple
of hours. He was in no hurry; indeed, had not yet fully matured his
plans. So he walked up and down amongst the crowd that thronged the long
station platform, with a curious yet not unpitying eye.

All the numerous rooms in the basement of the station were under water,
but the suites of offices and waiting rooms on the level of the
platforms had been thrown open by the railway authorities for the
shelter of homeless flooded-out individuals. Many of them were but half
clad, and most of them were wet through. Blankets were being served out
and hurriedly-prepared provisions, for many had been surprised by the
floodwater and had not eaten anything since the previous day.

All was excitement, confusion, and consternation, and the rain still
fell in torrents on the rising-waters.

"How many of them have you got here?" asked Jackson of the
stationmaster.

"I believe several hundred," was the reply, "and we have just sent 60
families to sleep to-night in spare carriages down at Park Road
station."

"Will you be able to send this train back to Breezeland again to-night?"

"Yes; it should start at 5.30, but we shall keep it back for
half-an-hour if possible, so as to give everyone a chance. I have just
had a wire to say that the flood-water is now over the rails at
Kingston, and is rising fast; but it's a good road, and the rails are
well ballasted, so as long as daylight lasts the train can get through a
few inches of water. But there will be no late train down to-night; in
fact this will be the last train out of the station perhaps for days, by
the present look of things. Our other lines are completely blocked, for
at some places we already have 10ft. of water over the line."

Walking along the platform to the far end, in the direction of the
engine tank, Jackson noticed a porter stationed with a big yard broom,
with which he occasionally swept the platform vigorously.

Wondering what the man could be at, sweeping away there in the rain, he
drew nearer, and to his surprise, observed the railway embankment
swarming with cockroaches, centipedes, mice, beetle, and other and,
occasionally, more dangerous vermin and reptiles, which were seeking
refuge out of the wreckage of the flood. The porter had been put there
to keep these pests at bay.

Jackson could hardly refrain from smiling at this as he turned to where
the watermen's boats were lying. A small steam launch was pushing its
way swiftly, but cautiously down Grey-street, flying the Government
ensign, and guessing that it might have come for the mails, he stood
watching it, when suddenly he was accosted.

"Mr. Jackson, sur!"

Turning on his heel, Jackson caught the eye of a waterman, who had just
landed several intended passengers for the train on to the station
platform.

"Why, Joe, is that you?" said Jackson.

"It is, sur," the man replied; "leastways, as much of me as isn't soaked
off with this 'ere blessed rain and flood."

"S'pose you want to get over the bridge, sur. I'm just goin' across
Stanley-street for the last time to-night to bring over a few more of
these unfortunate pedestrians, so you'd better step into the boat, sur.
I promised the old woman to be back for tea, and tie the boat up in the
yard to-night; lestways I should have to shift the pirano and mangle for
her out of the way of the flood."

"It's all very well, sur," he continued, as he pushed off, "to show yer
'nevolence and good nature by pullin' yer fellow critters over to the
other side of the street at a shillin' a head and sixpence for children
and babies in arms, but my old skipper used to say 'charity 'gins at
home,' and I'se got to look arter the ole woman, you know, or nobody
else will."

"And how is Mrs. Stunner?" asked Jackson; "in good health, I hope, and
well out of the flood. Why, I believe the last time I saw her was at
Deal, and that must be years ago."

"Thank yer kindly, sur, for inquirin'. Her's wery well, 'cept for a
little roomatism; and hasn't forgot the jintleman that saved her
gran'child from drownin', that her hasn't. Yes, we're conweniently out
of the flood. Jest handy 'nough, yer see, sur, fer me to go home by
water and pull in at the backyard gate down in the hollow, and tie up
the 'Mary Jane' to the fowlhouse."

They had now reached the foot of Victoria Bridge, which, although washed
by the flood water, was still accessible to foot passengers, when,
instead of getting out, Jackson said, "Joe, I think I'll go back with
you, and you shall pull me down to the West End. I don't want to go over
to the North side now."

They took a good boat load over to the station, and landed them at a
shilling a head, and then turned the bows of the 'Mary Jane' into
Melbourne-street.

It was a bronzed weather-beaten face, with bright little eyes, thin
nose, and good-humored mouth, that looked out from under the oilskin
sou'wester.

An oilskin coat drawn over a blue woollen guernsey, with overalls and
strong watertight boots, completed the dress of a man who might have
been anywhere between 50 and 60 years of age. He was of medium height,
but his muscular arms pushed the wherry through the water as easily as
though she had only been a double-seated skiff.

"I suppose you have had a long day, Joe," said Jackson, "and made a
trifle, too, over your usual takings."

"Yer right, sur, about the length of the day," replied Joe. "I commenced
this morning with a pirano; and by the same token, sur, it's the last
pirano I hiver intend shall come aboard the 'Mary Jane.'"

"As for the amount of the takin's, I guess it'll make the Misses' eyes
brighten up; for we've had pretty bad times lately, and yer see, sur,
unfortunately this 'ere flood can't last wery long. Not but what I'm
sorry for the loss to poor people. But, bless yer, sur, the times 'er
been wery bad."

"But what was that about the piano, Joe?"

"Well, yer see, an old doctor lives not far frum our place. Not a bad
old sort--in fact, sur, he's a wery nice gintleman, when there a'int no
flood. Well, there's a hollow all round 'is 'ouse, and the water filled
it up early yesterday."

"The 'ouse was high and dry, but his friends thought it warn't safe. The
old gintleman, though, sort of differed from them, and although they
brought a carriage and werry quiet horse in for him through the water he
wouldn't leave."

"His missus and darters left, but he said that if the 'ouse was left,
't'd be robbed--like enough, too, for he had a power of plate and books
and picters and old chiner, and a most waluable pirano. Besides, he has
a cork leg, so you see he couldn't possibly drown; but that wery nice
old gintleman was mistaken arter all about that 'ere cork leg of his for
it played up old Humphery with us all, and nearly drowned me and his boy
as well as hisself.

"Well, I was saying he wouldn't leave, so he 'nd two of his boys sat up
all night watchin' the water."

"Jest about daylight, who should come along but one of his sons on an
old gray pony. You see the water had come up a good bit in the night,
and the old chap began to get a bit skeered."

"Says the young chap, 'Mister Stunner.' 'That's me,' says I. 'Pa wants
yer boat round to move him and a few things out of our house, Browning
Villa.'"

"Right yer are,' says I, 'I'll be round in a jiffey.'"

"You see I had the 'Mary Jane' tied up in a neighbor's yard, 'cos the
water hadn't reached to our yard the night before."

"Well, I waded round to the boat and pulled across to Browning Villa;
but when I got there, hanged if I could open the gate to float the 'Mary
Jane' through into the garden, and there warn't water enough anywhere to
take her over the fence. The old chap was standing on a chair on the
werandah to keep his feet dry, and he called out:"

"'Never mind, ferryman'--which, to be sure, is a name as never belonged
to me--'it won't do to wait,' says he. 'Tie yer boat up and come in
'long the fence and help carry out a few wallerbles. It's a three-rail
fence, and you can walk 'long the middle one without gittin' very wet,
and it joins 'nother one that'll bring yer right ont'r the werandah.'"

"Well, it warn't a bad idea of the old gent's, but I didn't want to git
wet agin without some'at extra, so I sings out:"

"'Mister Doctor, yer'll make it an extra shillin' or two for the
wettin'?'"

"'Come 'long, old man,' says he; 'I'll give yer half a sovereign if
yer'll git this 'ere trunk and two bags, and myself and son, out to a
safe place.'"

"Well, I got round the fence and carried out the trunk and two bags all
right, and it's perty heavy they were, with the gintleman's gold and
silver plate and ornaments and other things. Then I went back along the
fence for himself."

"When I got in agin to the drawring-room the water was just comin' over
the door sill on to the carpet, and I felt kinder sorry to see that 'ere
beautiful room and furnitur and mirrors and picters, and books, and silk
hangin's and things jist about to be destroyed by the devourin' inimy,
and I s'pose he saw it in me eye."

"'Stunner,' says he. "'Yes, sur,' says I."

"'I'm afeared I've left it too late, Stunner,' says he."

"'It looks wery like it, sur,' says I."

"'Stunner,' says he, 'yer see that there pirano.'"

"'I have it in my eye, sur,' says I."

"'Stunner,' says he, 'that's a most waluable hinsterment; the water'll
ruin it. 'Twas picked for me by an himinent musicer, and cost one
'undred guineas.'"

"He came close to me in his beautiful drawring-room and said, 'Git that
there pirano into yer boat and save it fer me, and, Stunner, I'll give
yer twenty shillin's, and visit yer when yer sick until yer die.'"

"Well, yer see, sur, 'twas an extr'ordinary offer, so says I, 'Stunner's
yer man.'"

"I didn't trouble ner more with the fence, but waded in up to my
shoulders with an axe, and wrenched open the big gates and brought the
'Mary Jane' right up to the werandah."

"I was a bit afeard, yer know, when I looked at the 'Mary Jane,' for a
boat's summat like a woman, wants kerful handlin', and I was a bit
curious like as to how she'd take to that 'ere pirano."

"However, I've had forteen pussons in the 'Mary Jane'--although she's
only licensed to carry ten--so I thought I orter manage the business."

"Well, the old gintleman was very perticler; brought a blanket to lay
across the boat and pulled two worsted stockings over the pirano's front
legs. Then I worked her out sideways, and got her on to the werandah on
a sort of wharf we made with some heavy shutters, raised up on a lot of
old books. Then we lashed another blanket firmly round the waluable
hinsterment and backed it round opposite the boat."

"'Now,' says I to the old chap, 'me and this 'ere young gintleman'
(meaning his son) 'll lower her down on her back if you'll steady the
'Mary Jane.' Yer see, I'd got the boat stern on to the werandah, and I
was afeared that she wouldn't be held steady 'cept by someone standin'
in the water."

"Arter a good bit of persuadin' like I got the old gintleman, dressed in
his beautiful black cloth suit and silk bell-topper, to stand in the
water and hold the boat."

"Yer see, he wouldn't have risked it, but it was a werry waluable
pirano, and he trusted greatly to that 'ere cork leg."

"Says I, 'Is all ready?' 'Aye, aye,' says both of them."

"'Lower away then, boys,' says I, and down came the pirano, fair and
square on the stern of the 'Mary Jane.'"

"'Steady! Steady there!' bawled out the old doctor, and I saw his fat
hands hold on like death to the side of the boat."

"And jist then, all at once, I saw the gentleman's hidd bob down and go
under the water; up came the cork leg, and away slipped the 'Mary
Jane.'"

"I stuck to that 'ere waluable pirano for a second like death, but the
young chap couldn't hold his side, so we all lost our balance, pirano
and all, and pitched hidd first into the water."

"When I got up agin, the gintleman's son was wiping the dirty water out
of his eyes, and the doctor was drifting out of his own front garden
gate with his cork leg bobbing above the water, followed by the 'Mary
Jane.'"

"Only fer the gintleman's havin' promised to wisit me, I'm blest if I
think I should have ever got him saved. It warn't so werry deep, for his
black silk hat scraped 'long the ground and brought him to an anchor. I
caught him immejiately."

"He came up spluttering and swearing, and blest if the furst thing he
said to me war't:"

"'Stunner, you willain! Yer've ruined my waluable pirano, and I won't
pay you a penny of that there thirty shillin's.'"

"All right, sur,' says I, 'then the job's finished with'--and I let him
go agin."

"Well, the shameful way in which that gintleman's cork leg bobbed up to
the surface during the next minute or two was awful to witness. He got
up and struggled and tumbled down agin, and we had actually to hold 'is
leg down under the water to git 'im into the boat. And when I afterwards
landed 'im near the schoolhouse, sur, to hear 'im curse 'umanity
generally, and cork legs and floods and piranos and ferrymen in
perticler was something to be remembered."

They had now reached their destination, and after a little conversation,
which included the making of an agreement to meet later in the evening,
they separated.




CHAPTER VIII.--THE FLOODED MANSION.


ON Saturday night, the 4th February, the moon rose over the city shortly
after 10 o'clock. The rain was still falling, but not so heavily, and by
midnight had almost ceased. The moon, which by this time had attained a
fair altitude, shone brightly save when obscured by the scudding clouds
which, driven by the south-east wind, still swept wildly across the sky.

In hundreds of houses in Brisbane that night no one slept, and, as the
gas still held out on the south side of the river, lights, even at
midnight, were still pretty generally visible. Boats were rowing to and
fro through the flooded streets; for the work of rescue, sustained by
fresh relays of helpers, went on all through the night.

One part, however, the boats carefully avoided. It was from the far west
boundary of the Montague Road to the Gasworks, where a fearful current
swept across from the bend of the river opposite Toowong.

This great body of water had carried everything before it. House after
house, in many cases fully furnished, had been lifted clear of the
foundations and swept along its stream into the main current of the
river.

Towards this dangerous locality a boat might have been seen making its
way about midnight.

Keeping as much as possible out of the current they steered towards the
farthest point of land opposite Toowong, where a large clump of bamboos,
growing on higher ground near the bank of the river, seemed to bid
defiance to the violent current which surged around its base.

None but daring men, bent upon some desperate or heroic mission, would
have braved the fury of the elements at such an hour on such a night as
this.

"Keep her steady now, Joe," said Jackson, who was pulling the stroke
oar, "and have the boat-hook handy; everything is clear in front of us.
We shall be in the current in a few seconds."

"All we have to do is to keep her head down stream on her present
course," he continued, "and we shall make the north bank a little below
a clump of fir trees and bamboos that I took the bearings of this
afternoon; it will land us almost opposite Drybrook House."

"Ah! she's in it," said Joe, as the strong current caught the boat and
danced it like a cork upon its bosom, "we must give way now to keep her
bows across the stream."

Both men were powerful and practised oarsmen, and although the torrent
carried them down at racing speed the boat's head was kept steadily
slanting towards the other side.

"How about these 'ere 'ouses and things, Master Jackson?" queried Joe,
as they swept over the branches of a tree which Jackson knew was one of
several growing on the river bank.

"They won't interfere with us, Joe," Jackson replied, cheerfully, "we
are going down stream just as fast as they are, and a little faster, and
if we keep moving on and steer clear of obstacles in front of us we
shall be perfectly safe, and can run into still water on the other
side."

Notwithstanding Jackson's brave words and confident tone of voice, both
men knew that the crossing of the river was fraught with fearful and
appalling danger; indeed, that the chances were they would never reach
the other side alive, but it was too late now to attempt to return.
Their one chance was to keep the boat going downstream and gradually
work their way across.

During the evening the river had been rising with alarming rapidity, and
in many places it was now rushing from twenty to thirty feet above its
usual banks. It was also twice or three times its ordinary width.

The moon broke out clear of the clouds as the boat entered the main
channel of the river and shone brightly on the scene. Its light told an
unmistakable tale to the spectators of the havoc and destruction which
the flood had wrought in the higher reaches of the river.

Sweeping along on the bosom of the flood were to be seen houses,
stables, trees, household furniture, snags of all sizes, and now and
then a haystack, or some cattle or domestic animals clinging in terror
to a floating mass of debris.

"What's that noise, Joe?" asked Jackson, as crash after crash smote upon
their ears with sickening regularity from lower down the river.

"It's 'ouses and big wreckage smashin' up against Victoria Bridge."

The two men had no time, however, to think of the losses or peril of
others; they had enough to do just now to look after their own safety.

At times their destruction seemed certain. They cleared snags and trees
and houses, as it were, only by a hair's breadth. One danger past, their
nerves were strained to the utmost to escape another. But both men kept
wonderfully cool; Jackson actually reached out his hand on one occasion,
as they shaved past a small weatherboard cottage, and snatched a half
drowned cat from the corner of the roof. The very animals seemed to be
imbued for the time with extraordinary instincts, for as the boat swung
past the cat had crept to the very edge of its floating prison and mewed
piteously.

Joe had been brought up at Deal, had owned a share in a lugger, and had
helped to rescue many a sailor off the Goodwin Sands. Once fairly in it,
the danger and excitement became even pleasureable. It was like going
back to the days of his fearless, reckless youth.

"Steady, sir," said Joe, "there's a fence and still water just in front
of us. Yer a bit out of yer recknin', but not so much. We've been swept
half a mile down stream."

They pulled back for a short distance past several half-submerged
deserted houses. Quite nine feet beneath the surface of the water on
which they rowed were gates and fences and gardens. Presently they had
to steer the boat more carefully. They found themselves in the midst of
firs and other ornamental trees; and the tops of flowering shrubs
occasionally scraped the bottom of the boat as they passed over them.
They had entered the spacious grounds of a gentleman's mansion, now
completely inundated by the flood waters.

It was a large two-storied house which they approached, built in a
semi-Elizabethan style of architecture with large square windows and
long corridors and verandahs, and numerous spires and tall Gothic
chimneys. It was rich and gorgeous, rather than elegant and comfortable,
and had been built by the Hon. Constant McWatt, almost regardless of
expense, in the height of the land boom. He had named it Drybrook House.

They rowed up to the front entrance, and noticed with some surprise that
the large hall door was wide open, and that the water was eighteen or
twenty inches deep all over the ground floor. They shipped their oars,
and waited for a few minutes in perfect silence.

It was clear that Jackson had imparted to Joe Stunner some reason for
this mysterious midnight visit, that had been fraught with so much peril
to them both.

Nothing was to be heard save the lapping of the water against the sides
of the house, and an occasional dripping, or a splash from small falling
objects. Within the house all was in perfect darkness.

"I think, Joe," said Jackson, "that we might as well take the boat into
the hall. There'll be just about water enough to float her, and the
flood is still rising. You can make fast to the staircase bannister and
smoke a pipe until I return."

"Aye, aye, sur," said Joe.

There was no difficulty about this, and the boat was soon pushed by the
two men through the entrance doorway into the spacious hall, and made
fast to the polished mahogany staircase. Jackson struck a wax vesta and
held it above his head, and the two men looked round the hall.

The light had revealed a curious scene.

The large apartment had been furnished with luxurious taste, and, except
for the entrance of the water, was undisturbed. The ceiling was wrought
into compartments, picked out in gilt and subdued colors, and from the
centre hung a large hall lamp, lacquered and burnished and glazed with
colored glass. Heavy cornices supported the ceiling, and on the walls
hung expensive oil paintings in massive gilt frames.

On the black marble table of a large mahogany hall stand rested a hat
and pair of gloves and silver-mounted silk umbrella. All was in perfect
order; the water had not even reached high enough to upset the chairs or
float the huge majolica vases.

The handsome wide staircase was richly carpeted, and just above, on the
first landing under a costly stained glass window, was a life sized
statue of the Hon. Constant McWatt exquisitely sculptured in white
Carrara marble. The statue was supported on a large black marble
pedestal. The legislator was represented by the sculptor as standing
erect in the act of addressing a public assembly; a scroll of paper was
held in the left hand, and the right arm was extended forward with the
fore finger pointing downward--at present, alas! to the flood water and
the boat.

"Well, I'm blest if this ain't the rummiest go I ever heard on," said
Joe, as he struck another match to light his pipe. "To think of the
'Mary Jane' floating into this 'ere luxurious residence, and being
hitched up to a waluable polished staircase. Well, it is a rummy go,"
and, quite overcome by his feelings, Joe Stunner sat down in the boat
and smoked his pipe in silence and stroked the cat which Jackson had
rescued from the flood.

Jackson was in no humor for conversation, and had by this time stepped
out of the boat on to the rich velvet pile carpet of the staircase.
There were a number of polished doors leading out of the entrance hall,
but Jackson took no notice of them, and mounted the staircase without
hesitation, as though perfectly familiar with the house.

On reaching the head of the stairs he paused a moment and struck another
match. Before him was a long, handsome corridor, simply furnished, but
adorned with taste and the evidence of abundant wealth. Passing a number
of doors, Jackson walked quickly to the end of the corridor. Here a
damask curtain was hung with rings upon a brass rod. Drawing this aside,
he opened a door and entered a large apartment.

It was the library and private sanctum of the Hon. Constant McWatt.

Striking another match, Jackson found, as he had expected, candles, in
addition to the movable opal gas jet upon the large writing-table in the
centre of the room. Lighting a candle, he looked around him.

"Yes," he said, "this is the room."

It was a long and richly-furnished apartment, divided about the centre
by a heavy curtain, making it into two rooms. The one in which Jackson
stood had a large library of books arranged around the walls. A Gothic
overmantel of some dark wood, with polished mirrors, was fixed above the
fireplace, and in a recess at the side of it, built into the brickwork
of the outer wall and fireplace, was the door of a large steel
fire-proof safe.

Jackson stepped hurriedly across the room, drew aside the curtain, and
looked into the enclosed space. It was similarly furnished to the other
part of the room, and, seemingly satisfied with his scrutiny, he came
back again and placed the light on the table.

He then sat down and took from the breast pocket of his overcoat the
pocket-book. Unfastening it, he took out two small, flat keys, with one
of which he went across and unlocked the iron safe.

It was a medium-size safe, with an open tray at the top, a space for
books below, and underneath two iron drawers (each half the width of the
safe) with patent locks. It was one of these drawers that the other key
unlocked.

He happened upon the right drawer at once, and, turning the key in the
lock, the bolt shot back. He opened it with an effort and found it
nearly full of sovereigns.

He stood looking at them for a moment, and, stooping, lifted a handful
and poured them back through his fingers. They shone under the
candlelight as though they were fresh and unhandled from the Mint. The
gold was heavy, and he had to exert himself to pull out the drawer.
Having done so, he pushed the pocket-book to the back of the safe and
then inserted the drawer and forcibly closed it. He shut and locked it.
The bolt shot up and down freely.

There was sufficient room for the pocket-book in the space behind the
drawer of the safe.

As though satisfied Jackson was about to re-lock the safe when an
envelope--possibly caught by his coat sleeve--fluttered from the top of
a parcel of deeds tied with red tape and fell upon the floor. He stooped
to pick it up, and was about to replace it when his eye caught an
address upon the envelope.

He held the candle nearer. The ink had a fresh appearance, and the
envelope was addressed as follows:--"The executors of my will, my
solicitors, or any person into whose hands this letter may come is
hereby authorised by me, Constant McWatt, of Drybrook House, Brisbane,
at any time after my decease, to open, peruse, and make known to all
parties concerned, and also to some magistrate of the territory, the
contents of the enclosed document."

Jackson stood for several minutes staring at the envelope. He then
placed it on the table, and going across to the safe, closed and locked
the door.

He then took the two keys, and tying them together with a small piece of
red tape which lay on the table, placed them at the back of the drawer
half filled with papers, and closing it sat down again and took the
envelope in his hand.

He was clearly, he thought, authorised by its inscription to break the
seal, but he hesitated.

As he looked at it by candle light a dismal foreboding of coming evil
seemed to oppress both heart and brain, but at last with an effort he
tore it open. It was painful to see the man's distorted features as he
read it. He read it a second time with glaring eyes.

"It can't be true!" at last he ejaculated.

"It's an accursed lie, written in fiendish hate and revenge, intended to
ruin Darton, and blight Edna's life, and drive me mad!"

"Good Heavens! the very thought of it, a fratricide, and he her father.
No, there are no proofs, it's a hellish lie, and he has gone where he
will have to answer for it!"

Placing the envelope with its contents in his pocket, with a troubled
countenance he took up the candle and left the room. He had only taken a
few steps along the long corridor, when he heard a voice calling in an
adjoining room.

"George! George!"

No words can adequately describe Jackson's surprise and consternation.
He stopped immediately, and listened breathlessly. Joe Stunner was down
stairs in the boat. This voice came from a room opposite to him, the
door of which stood ajar.

"George," said the voice again, "arn't you ashamed of yourself."

Jackson waited no longer but immediately flung open the door of the
room.

There was really no cause for alarm, but conscience makes cowards of us
all. He saw before him, chained to a perch and stand, a large white
cockatoo. "Merely some scolding word he has picked up from a servant,"
said Jackson to himself.

"Poor Polly, poor Polly," said the bird. "Polly all alone. No one cares
for Polly. Polly wants a bone."

"I see you've plenty of water," said Jackson examining the perch and
stand, "and here is some corn for you on this shelf."

He gave it some, saying, "There, that will last you till the servants
come back."

He turned to leave the room when the bird called out "Come back George.
Poor Polly. Polly all alone."

A sudden thought seemed to strike Jackson. He had been trying to solve a
difficulty, and here was possibly its elucidation. At any rate he would
try. Going up to the bird, he said: "Polly, it's at the back of the iron
drawer."

The bird wagged its head knowingly, and repeated the words: "It's at the
the back of the iron drawer."

"Polly," he repeated once more, "Its at the back of the iron drawer."
The bird look solemnly at him, and nodding its head said: "It's at the
back of the iron drawer."

Jackson closed the door softly, and as he walked down the corridor heard
the bird slowly repeating to itself: "It's at the back of the iron
drawer."

"Let's get out of this now, Joe, as quickly as we can," said Jackson, as
he re-entered the boat.

"All right sur; glad to get out of it. I'd a been werry lonesome but for
my pipe and the cat. Queer noises going in these 'ere rooms all round
this 'ere 'all. Makes one feel sort of shivery, as though the place was
'aunted."

"Oh," said Jackson, "that is only the furniture and things being tumbled
over by the water. I see that since I have been upstairs the river has
risen quite another foot."




CHAPTER IX.--OLD PINCHPENNY'S DONATION.


The whole of the road between Toowong and the North Quay was under
water, with a strong current running over it, so the men kept the boat
in the still water which flooded a large and fairly populous district to
their left. They had no intention of attempting to recross the river,
and were making their way up the unflooded portion of North Brisbane,
intending to get refreshments and, if possible, a sleep. Soon, however,
their attention was attracted by piteous appeals for help, and for the
next few hours they were busily engaged in rescue work.

"May we bring you another family?" said Jackson to a little round-faced
man, one of the oldest residents of the neighborhood, whose large house,
although surrounded by water, being on rising ground was not yet
flooded.

"Yes, bring them along, we will manage somehow; we have 12 families
already--60 souls besides my own people. God grant that it may not reach
us!"

The last woman and child were placed in the good man's house in safety,
and they rowed on towards George-street, where Joe met some
acquaintances, and lent his boat for work in the city.

They found an hotel open and doing a roaring trade, as most of them were
during that eventful night. Refreshments were brought, but they were
informed that they could not get beds; the house was full. There was a
spare sofa and lounge in the dining room which they could have.

"Joe," said Jackson, as they sat down to a substantial meal, which they
badly needed, "what have you done with the cat?"

"Left it with that 'nevolent old party in Squib-street," said Joe.

"Now, that was imposing on good nature," said Jackson, laughing, "but
did you tell anyone!"

"Oh yes, told the darter. She said it was all right--that made fifteen
cats, nine dorgs, and seventy-two pussons."

"But, bless yer sur," said Joe, reflectively, "he's a werry kind old
gintleman, he is, and so is his missus, and the young gintleman. The'r
known of it all roun' the district; he's clean grit, altho' they do say
he's an elder at old McDuffin's church."

"But this 'ere is a werry bad flood. Ninety was bad 'nough, but this
beats it by several feet, and for the presint the toughest has got
tinder like, and soft 'earted."

"I had old Pinchpenny in the 'Mary Jane' yesterday. Yer know him, don't
yer? Tall, spare, thin-faced man, dresses in dark shabby clothes, like a
superanerated parson, and works the topsail halliards a bit from 'low
deck as 'lection times. Wanted me to take a battered old thrippenny as
payment fer a shillin' ride, and called me a swindlin' impositer that
robbed the widder and farderless, 'cause I threatened to 'and 'im over
to the perlice. Well, I 'ere he's promised to give 25 to the Relief
Fund when he gits his next rints from those Norman-street properties of
his, that he swindled old Bailee Jones out of for sixteen hundred
pounds."

"Yer see; sur, he were standin' by the bridge watchin' the 'ouses and
furniter, and things comin' down the river, with one of the
Boulderlands, when an alderman comes up 'an asks 'im fer a 'nation to
help feed the starvin' critters who'd lost everythin' in the flood.
Boulderland raps out his purse and gives him three ten-pun notes without
a word. But Pinchpenny said he'd 'ad 'is own losses and would think
about it."

"Well, jist thin a big square two-storied nine-roomed 'ouse came sailin'
down the river. The crowds of people shouted as she came down, and then
held their breaths to see her strike the bridge. She came broadside on
to a sand barge that 'ad got stuck in the bridge and wreckage earlier in
the day, and smashed up with a report like a cannon. Somehow it took the
'ull roof off her, before she broke up an' went down, and you could see
into the 'ull of the up-stairs rooms. Drawing-room and bed-rooms and
all, each of 'em beautifully furnished complete, an' as clean an'
straight and neat as though the 'ouse had been tidied up for the missus'
birthday party. There were a nice young chap standin' next to Pinchpenny
as 'ad lent him half his umbrella, cause yer know old Pinchpenny never
takes out his in the rain lest it should git wet."

"They'd been talkin' 'bout the flood and so on, and watchin' the 'ouses,
and neither of 'em 'ad spoke as this un come down. All at once the young
chap calls out--"

"'Good God! Pinchpenny, that's my 'ouse and furniter,' and he dropped
down in a dead faint on the ground. Old Pinchpenny turned straight round
to the alderman who was standin' jist behind 'im, and a bit 'uskie like
says: 'Put me down fer five and twenty punds.'"

"Most extraordinary thing that," said Jackson.

"Yer right sur," said Joe, "it was an extr'ordinary thing, for the young
chap 'ad moved 'is missus and family into the city, and locked up his
'ouse and furniter, thinking them quite safe from the flood."

"But there 'ave been queerer things than that 'appened in this 'ere
flood, sur. Would yer believe it, my missus' cousin's sister-in-law told
her fer a fact, jist afore we 'ad our tea yesterday, that a gintleman
down Doveridge way, and a werry great swell, too, sur, 'ad on one of 'is
'ousekeeper's stockin's the night before, when they moved out of their
big 'ouse on account of the flood. Yer see, sur, people were that
excited as they were dressin' themselves, with the water comin' up about
the 'ouse, they did not 'alf of them know what they were doin'. It was
the gintleman's wife found out the mistake he 'ad made, and there was a
pretty row they said, 'cause yer see he could not give a satisfactory
'splanation. Awk'ard, wasn't it, sur? And yer see there 'ad been some
bother 'bout that 'ere 'ousekeeper afore, and they 'ad it up at the
church at some meetin'. But thin, yer see, he was wery well off sur, and
'ad influence, and 'splained things like, so he, was 'onorably
acquitted, and the parson 'pologised and said he left the meetin'
without a stain on his character. But that 'ere stockin' were a puzzler.
The gintleman couldn't 'count for it nohow. But thin, yer see, there's
no 'countin' fer anythin' what happens in sich floods as these."

"Joe," said Jackson, when the boatman had finished this long rigmarole,
"I expect you'd like to go outside and have another pipe, and then we'll
turn in for a few hours. It will soon be daylight."




CHAPTER X.--A HALF RUINED CITY.


There were thousands of people in Brisbane that first Sunday morning in
February who had watched and waited impatiently for the day. Sad,
indeed, had been their vigils during the long hours of darkness, and
when the morning at last dawned it was upon a scene of widespread
desolation. There was no concealing the fact--east and west and north
and south--Brisbane presented the spectacle of a half ruined city. The
havoc made by the devastating water was appalling, and the wildest
rumors were current.

It was asserted that hundreds of houses had been washed away during the
night, and the leading merchants and large retail houses had lost almost
the whole of their stocks; that the principal streets in the city were
submerged up to the first floors of the shops and warehouses; and, worse
still, it was believed that very many lives had been lost. It was a
morning of terror and amazement, never to be forgotten by those who
witnessed it.

At a quarter to six o'clock, just as the dawn was breaking, the great
iron railway bridge, which spanned the river at Indooroopilly, gave way
with a crash and roar like thunder, that was distinctly heard a mile
distant from the scene. As the hours passed by horsemen were seen
approaching by the higher roads, and by paths along the hilly ridges
from all directions, with bad tidings of death and ruin caused by the
flood. They came appealing to the authorities for assistance. The
telegraph wires were down on all sides, and that Sunday neither train
nor steamer departed or approached. Brisbane was completely cut off from
all communication with the outside world. The city sat desolate, like
one with none to comfort her, and the lamentation of the old Hebrew
prophet might have been literally applied. For the waters were come up
upon Brisbane, she was covered with the multitude of the waves thereof,
her pleasant places lay desolate, and fear was upon every side.

But the spirit of the people rose to the occasion. As soon as the
magnitude of their disaster could be known, sympathy and help would pour
in upon them from the sister colonies, from England, and from all the
world. Someone had blundered, or the city would never have been placed
where so fearful a calamity could have overtaken it. But that could not
be helped now, and they set themselves nobly and bravely to do their
best.

It may be explained here that the river winds through the city and
suburbs somewhat in the form of the capital letter S, twice repeated,
with an additional half-circle joining the two letters. From Oxley, at
the top of the first S, to the Hamilton, at the bottom of the second S,
is a distance by water of something like a dozen miles.

Beginning at the top of the first letter, Oxley, Corinda, and Sherwood
lie southward, and on that Sunday morning the most sensational reports
were circulated as to the fate of the inhabitants. On the previous
Saturday the river had broken clean over the Indooroopilly pocket on the
opposite side. Following the letter down we come on to Toowong and
Milton, on the next bend; with Hill End, West End, and the Montague Road
on the south side. This is the portion of the river over which Jackson
and Stunner made their perilous passage on the previous Saturday night,
and needs no further description.

It may be said that the lower half of this letter was entirely flooded,
and comprised the business part of South Brisbane on the left, from
Victoria Bridge to the Dry Dock. To the right of this lay the business
part of North Brisbane, covering ten or a dozen streets entirely
occupied with shops or warehouses, almost the whole of which were
submerged. The banks of the river are here lined with wharves, the sheds
of which were either completely covered or had their roofs only visible
above the water. In the half circle uniting the two letters are the
Botanical Gardens. On the Sunday referred to, a gun boat, several
barges, and one of the A.U.S.N. Co.'s steamers were floating above the
ruined flower beds and shrubberies. The destruction wrought may be
imagined. The opposite bank to the gardens stands high, and is partly
formed of rocky cliffs; but Kangaroo point, where the second S
commences, experienced the full force of the destroying element, and the
scene witnessed here was one never to be forgotten.

Following down the bend of our second capital letter, we have New Farm
and Fortitude Valley in the first half circle, with East Brisbane on the
other side, backing on to Norman's Creek, Coopooroo and other large
areas, the whole of which were flooded. The river sweeps round again
here through Bulimba, Breakfast Creek, and the Hamilton--districts which
are studded over in all directions with the houses of the wealthy, and
the dwellings of the poor--the latter, it need scarcely be said, being
mostly on the lower ground. It should be mentioned too that there are
large and populous neighborhoods far back from the banks on the north
side of the river, of which we have made no mention, that were entirely
submerged. The leading journal might well say when reviewing the
situation: "It were idle to ignore or minimise the magnitude of the
disaster which has befallen the city and the colony. A war or an
earthquake might cause more deaths but it seems hard to believe that
either the one or the other could entail more suffering and privation
and destruction of property."

The rain had ceased, and the sun was shining through the clouds when
Jackson and Joe Stunner left the hotel on Sunday morning and went off in
search of the 'Mary Jane.' They walked to Queen-street, but before
reaching the Opera House were stopped by the water. A large steam launch
came puffing round the corner of Edward-street, and stopped between the
great buildings of the Courier office and a large retail draper's shop
on the other side. The water was within a few feet of the ceilings of
shops and warehouses, and to see through the glass windows valuable
goods floating about in it was truly pitiful.

"What do you think of this, Jackson?" said a club acquaintance in the
crowd, touching his arm. "Just driven in from our place, on the heights
overlooking Rosalie and Bayswater. 'Pon my word the scene's
indescribable. I drove a reporter in who had been writing it up for his
paper. He says 'its general appearance is as though a mighty hand had
played chess on the flats, with houses for pieces, and had, in a moment
of anger, brushed them carelessly into a confused heap'; and, by George,
he's about right."

The two men entered into conversation, and Joe Stunner, who seemed to
have something on his mind, went off in search of his boat. He had heard
that she had been seen somewhere in Adelaide-street.

An hour or two later Jackson was in Roma-street, on the look-out for
Joe, when he saw one of the corporation drays coming up the street with
a large boat carefully poised across it. A minute after he was accosted
by Stunner.

"I've been lookin' for yer this 'alf-hour, Master Jackson."

"Well, what's in the wind now, Joe?"

"Yer see, I've got the 'Mary Jane' at last, sur, although she does not
look in her element on that 'ere cart, jolting over these 'ere stones,
but it's the only way to get her over. We can't pull her up stream
against this flood; the chap has promised to be very keerful with her.
Yer see," he continued, "there's a son of an old friend of my missus's
alone in a 'ouse t'other side of the river, and he's 'ad a candle in the
window all night to show as the 'ouse is there and he's alive.
Golliker's his name, nice young chap, and his mother has been carrying
on all night through, crying and sobbing as though 'er 'art would break.
When I saw her this morning I couldn't stand it, and so I came away agin
to have another look for yer, sur, and the 'Mary Jane.'"

"Yer know, sur," and the eyes of the honest old chap shone with
excitement, "if you'd take an oar with me, I'd just show some of these
'ere Brisbane people how we used to save life on the Goodwins. I 'member
an East Indi'man being on them sands one a'ternoon; the wind was blowin'
'ard on to her, with great seas breakin' clean over the fok'sel 'ead. We
were in a lugger, a fine handy craft, and the skipper saw that the only
chance to save them was fer them to throw us a rope, to hang on to. We
daren't go up to them, to lay 'longside, fer we should have been stove
in at once, but we sailed past as close as we dared, and the skipper
sang out to them as we went by the first time, 'Throw us a rope.' We
shot past, up went the helm, 'bout ship, and then rattled down on ter
them agin. But the crew hung over the side, jist looking at us half
daft, as though we were out fer a blow with our gals on a Sunday
arternoon. 'Throw us a rope,' called out the skipper, and we flew past
the second time. 'For God's sake throw us a rope,' called out the
skipper, the third time, and he put us in that close to her that some of
us 'eld our breaths. Well, the skipper swore a bucketful, and said he'd
only give the thick-eds one more chance. He stood at the tiller, and I
fixed myself in the bows to catch the rope. And they flung it that time.
I made fast; the lug was dropped in a jiffy; and we swung round under
her stern like a sea-gull. One by one 14 men scrambled down that rope,
and we landed every soul of them safely that arternoon in Deal. They'd
lost everythin', and the ship's owners, who took the insurance money,
never paid us a sixpence for our trouble, or for risking our lives to
save the crew. Not that it mattered much, for a sailor would risk his
life at any time rather than see a feller critter perish in a watery
grave."

"Master Jackson," said Joe, with great earnestness, "the only possible
way to save this 'ere young man is with a rope."

They had now reached the North Quay ferry, and found an excited crowd
gathered around a woman, who wept and moaned in momentary expectation of
being an eye-witness of the death of her only son. He was in a house on
the opposite bank, situated on the bend of the river, where the fierce
current seemed to spend its wildest force. Part of the verandah had
already been washed away, and the house seemed to tremble as though at
any moment the whole structure might be destroyed. Stunner went down to
the frantic woman on the ferry steps, and whispered something, for which
she seemed to thank him, after which he commenced to perform one of the
strangest pantomimes ever witnessed.

He had the boat and cart drawn as closely as possible to the ferry
steps, then he climbed on to one of the seats of the boat and beckoned,
and seemed to make the young man understand that the boat was shortly
coming to rescue him. The gravity of the situation caused the crowd to
keep silence during the rest of Stunner's performance. He had a long
coil of stout rope neatly arranged in the bows of the boat, and getting
Jackson to stand on a dray near at hand, again beckoned to the young man
in the endangered house to watch him. He leaned as far forward as he
dared over the boiling flood, and Joe seemed satisfied.

"Draw yer 'orse along a few fathoms, captain," he called out to the
drayman. Then, as the dray and boat went slowly past the place where
Jackson stood, Stunner threw the rope with unerring aim on to Jackson's
outstretched arm, and pulled on the rope, which Jackson now held fast,
as though bent on stopping both boat and dray. Golliker held up both
hands to signify that he had seen and understood the pantomime.

A quarter of an hour after, watched by hundreds of breathless
spectators, the 'Mary Jane' came swiftly down from where she had been
launched, higher up the river. Jackson was again pulling stroke oar.
They had lost a little through having to avoid a large snag, and had to
lay back upon their oars to regain ground. How the men pulled. It seemed
as though the stout ash oars must break.

"Steady, sur,"

"Steady it is," said Jackson.

Stunner had shipped his oar, and stood with a coil of rope in his hand,
ready to throw at the right moment. The boat was shooting down with
arrowy swiftness toward the house, where the young man clung to the
remains of a verandah. The crowd on the farther bank held its breath in
mute excitement. The only sound audible was the roar of the mighty
torrent.

"Put her head in jist a little more, Master Jackson," said Stunner, as
cooly as though he were asking for change of sixpence at the Garden
ferry.

A moment afterwards the rope went whizzing through the air, hurled with
such force that part of the large coil flattened itself against the wall
of the building close by the young man's head. He could not help but
catch it, and in a second or two had fastened it round the remaining two
verandah posts at the corner.

Jackson now pulled the boat more inshore, as the strength of the current
swept from this point over to the north side. This checked the boat's
speed somewhat, and turned her bows. For half a minute Stunner let the
rope run out, which it did as smoothly as if out of the tub of a whale
boat. Her head was half round as the rope tightened, and she was in much
calmer water, and swung round as the strain came upon her without
shipping more than a cupful. It was a daring and clever manouvre, and
the crowd cheered frantically as they saw its success. Joe now hauled
the boat back with the rope. The 'Mary Jane,' however, swayed about as
she was caught again by the violence of the current, and it became clear
to Stunner that it would be dangerous to go nearer, and that Golliker
would have to scramble somehow down the rope, in imitation of the
wrecked seamen on the Goodwin Sands. The youngster was not deficient in
pluck, and soon swung himself on to the rope over the boiling tide. The
rope, however, failed to bear the additional strain (either it broke or
had not been strongly enough fastened), and in a moment the boat was
swept adrift, and Golliker was sinking in the flood. A heart-rending,
blood-curdling scream was heard on the shore.

It was the young man's mother. Jackson's boots, coat, and hat were off
in a moment, and he sprang into the current in the direction of the
drowning man.

Jackson saved him--how, he could never explain; like many other daring
and heroic deeds, it baffled description. Stunner took in the situation
at a glance, and catching hold of the oars pulled with a will toward
where the two men were visible. Jackson had managed to catch hold of
Golliker's hair, and was keeping his head above water. Within three
minutes, by some means or other, Joe had helped the two men into the
boat. As he did so, however, it was caught in an eddy and whirled round
like a straw.

To his dismay, as Jackson wiped the water out of his eyes, he saw the
oars slip from the rowlocks into the river. The crowd saw it too, and a
groan involuntarily escaped from scores of lips.

Like a bubble on the mighty torrent, the boat now swept toward Victoria
Bridge, and for a moment the three men sat in the boat--oarless,
helpless, and hopeless--seemingly on their way up to certain death.

The water was level with the flooring of the bridge, and a great mass of
wreckage stretched like a barrier on the north side--in some places high
in the air--against which the river foamed, and ever and anon flung up
great showers of spray. The people followed the boat, running along the
North Quay, mingling with horsemen, all hurrying to see the end. Escape
seemed impossible. The hearts of the beholders sank within
them--paralysed! The boat would be crushed like an egg-shell against the
iron sides and girders of the bridge!

Jackson recovered himself in a few moments. He measured with his eye the
distance between them and the bridge, pulled his hat on to his dripping
head, put on his boots, picked up his coat, shook it, and put it on. He
had a large sum of money in notes in the breast pocket, and he put his
hand to feel that it was right. He had formed a plan of escape.

"Cut off a long end of the rope Joe, and lash it round your waist."

"Aye, aye, sur."

Allowing a yard or two over Jackson wrapped and tied it under Golliker's
arms, who sat in the middle of the boat half insensible, then he
fastened it firmly round his own waist. The boat was hurrying along with
the current broadside on, toward a part of of the bridge less blocked
with wreckage. In another half-minute it would strike and their fate
would be decided.

"Now, Golliker, old fellow," said Jackson, kindly, "stir yourself up and
we'll save you yet."

"Be ready to jump, Joe," he said in the same breath.

"Aye, aye,"--but Stunner never finished it. A crack like a pistol-shot
was heard above the hoarse roar of the flood--the 'Mary Jane' was
smashed into fragments, and two men, bruised and battered, were clinging
with bleeding fingers to the iron lattice-work of the bridge, and
between them was suspended the inanimate body of a seemingly dead man.
For several minutes they clung there, the flood waters spouting and
foaming over them. Then it flashed upon the spectators that for some
cause the men were powerless to move.

Heroism begets heroes, and in a moment twenty men began to rush along
the bridge to their assistance.

"Three will be enough," called out a commissioner of police who had
stood watching the whole scene. "The bridge is dangerous; and may part
at any moment!"

Three stout fellows stooped under the rope that barred access to the
doomed structure, and made their way through the water which rushed
foaming across the flooring of the bridge. They climbed on to the side
parapet, and lifted up Golliker by the rope, and one of them gave
Jackson a hand to get on to the parapet.

"Come along old chap," said another of them to Stunner, but he still
clung to the lattice-work.

"Master Jackson," said the old man looking up in his face, "pears to me
as though my fingers had got glued to this 'ere bridge. I can't undo
them." The men had to bend back the old hero's bleeding fingers one by
one before they could rescue him from his dangerous position. The strain
and convulsive effort with which he had clung for life had caused his
muscles to contract into the ironwork.

He was greatly shaken, and while the men carried Golliker over the
quaking bridge to Queen-street, Jackson put his arm around Stunner to
help him along. The old man was very quiet as they waded through the
rushing water, but on getting nearer to the end of the bridge Jackson
looked down on his weather-beaten honest face to see what was the
matter. His eyes were brimming with tears.

"What's the matter, Joe, old fellow, are you suffering much pain?"
Jackson's voice as he said this was as tender and compassionate as a
woman's.

"No, it isn't the pain Master Jackson, it's to think that we've seen the
last of the poor old 'Mary Jane.'"

"Stunner," said George, "I've money enough in my breast coat pocket to
buy you fifty boats as good as the 'Mary Jane,' and I'll make you a
present of a spanking new boat, with everything complete, as soon as
this flood's over."

"Aye, Master Jackson, you're a werry kind gintleman, you always was, but
I'm afeared I shall never gits 'tached like to 'nother boat as I was to
the 'Mary Jane.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

The following morning at four o'clock the massive bridge, which for days
had gallantly resisted the enormous weight of flood water and
accumulated wreckage, at last gave way. The rain had ceased, and bright
moonlight gleamed upon the seething waters, which still roared and
foamed as though eager to devour their prey. The middle span of the
great thoroughfare, built at a cost of one hundred and fifty thousand
pounds, gave way first, with a crash that shook the earth and made the
buildings on the banks tremble to their foundations. Another crash
followed, and another, and another, as span after span collapsed, while
the waters heaved convulsively, and spouted upward in great floods of
moonlit, foam capped water. On the north side not a single vestige of
the bridge remained.

Having completed its work of destruction the remorseless river swept on
again, unstemmed by barrier, as with the irresistible march of a
triumphant army bearing upon its bosom destruction, woe, and death. And
yet, let it be said as we close this chapter, not without a blessing
scattered upon its awful and desolating pathway. For it is but of the
fires of trial and disappointment that there comes the gold of a
nation's purity; and out of the flood and earthquake the still small
voice of a nation's strength.




CHAPTER XI.--A REJECTED OFFER OF MARRIAGE.


In order to sustain the continuity of our story it will be necessary to
return for a chapter or two to Darton's Point. There was, of course, no
reliable information obtainable from Brisbane on Sunday morning. John
Darton mounted his iron grey saddle hack, and rode down to the township
to see if he could pick up any news; but the flood waters had cut off
all communication with city or suburbs, and he rode back again, bringing
only terrible rumors that Brisbane was almost ruined, and whole
neighborhoods destroyed; that Victoria Bridge had been swept away, and
over one hundred lives lost.

Tears came to Edna's eyes as she listened to these fearful reports. She
had a woman's generous sympathy for the distressed and suffering. Her
kind heart never heard a cry of distress but it had compassion; never
saw a tear without a wish to wipe it away.

But she had no anxiety for Jackson. He was her ideal, her hero, and her
mind could scarcely conceive of a situation in which he would not
possess the mastery. There was a flood; but who such a swimmer as he,
and her fancy pictured him in the midst of dangerous scenes, bravely
rescuing men and women and children from watery graves. She saw him, in
her excited imagination, bearing them in his strong arms in safety to
the shore, and heard the plaudits of the crowd as her dripping hero
stepped upon the land. She was glad that he was there, and even wished
that she might have had the good fortune to be with him. She could swim,
and row, and by George Jackson's side she would have been the Grace
Darling of the flood; and, as she imagined deeds of prowess and heroism
and chivalry which he might at that very moment be engaged in, her eyes
sparkled and her form assumed a bearing of intrepid resolution.

"Whatever is the matter with you, Edna?" asked Mrs. Darton, looking at
her in astonishment, for she seemed for the moment to be transfigured,
as she stood there--erect, stately, and radiant.

"Well, Aunty! I was just thinking of that address of the Spartan women
to their husbands and sons; did you never read it?" and without waiting
her aunt's reply, she repeated the following lines, her cheeks flushed
with excitement:--

     "We are brave men's mothers, and brave men's wives,
          We are ready to do and dare;
     We are ready to man your walls with our lives,
          And string your bows with our hair.
     Let the young and brave lie down to-night,
          And dream the brave old dead--
     Their broad shields bright, for to-morrow's fight,
          And their spears beneath their heads.

"You're the queerest girl I ever met with," was the only reply that Mrs.
Darton vouchsafed to her.

Sunday was always a quiet day at Darton's Point. Occasionally the family
drove to church, and sometimes a visitor or two from Brisbane or the
neighborhood came in; but John Darton and Edna liked quiet Sundays, and
mostly had their way. That afternoon the sun shone out a little, and its
unwonted brightness drew them out of doors; they were reading on the
verandah overlooking the bay.

Edna and Mrs. Darton were both on lounges. The latter had been glancing
through a religions newspaper which some friend posted to John Darton
regularly from England, and the former had a volume of poems on her
knee. She was not reading; her thoughts were with her lover.

Surely a sweeter picture than Edna Forrest that afternoon was never
seen. The passion of a first great love, to which she had surrended her
whole being, had glorified with a new, almost saintly beauty, a face
that was rare and beautiful before. In a few weeks' time Edna would
attain her majority, and be mistress of her fortune. It pleased her that
it would be so, for all she had, she whispered to herself, was his. Her
nut-brown, wavy hair--a white fragrant flower its sole adornment--was
coiled in heavy masses around her graceful head, which lay half buried
in a velvet cushion. Large brown winning eyes looked out from between
long sweeping lashes, and it was hard to guess whether she merely looked
at the black silk bows of her dainty shoes, that reached just far enough
to give a glimpse of black open-worked stockings and shapely ankles, or
at something else. Two rings shone on the fingers of one hand, which lay
carelessly across the other upon the Wordsworth lying on her knee. Upon
her rising bosom lay another flower, which, nestling in the folds of her
dress, seemed to press close and fondly to its lovely resting place. But
it was Edna's mouth that seemed her chief attraction. Such calm full
lips and small white teeth and fragrant breath; and then her smile and
mirth-provoking laugh. But this we have already referred to. It is no
wonder that such a girl, with ten thousand pounds and accumulated
interest, should have been thought by Mrs. Darton worthy of a brilliant
match. She wondered how it was Darton kept George Jackson so long with
him. She liked Jackson, of course--could not well help it; he was a
gentleman, and all that, and the son of one of their oldest friends; but
Edna ought to look much higher. She was good enough, she said one day
when alone with John, for the best and richest man in Queensland.

"Edna, my dear, jump up; I do believe there's a carriage coming through
the station paddock!"

Mrs. Darton rose up herself, and smoothing the folds of her dress passed
into the hall to see if the household was ready for visitors, and her
husband anywhere at hand. A few minutes after, a stylish turn-out, drawn
by a pair of bays, came rattling up the drive.

It was George Charles De Ville, Esq., J P., of Oaklands Park, Brisbane,
and Clara De Ville, his sister. They had a handsome marine residence in
the neighborhood called Bay View Lodge, and, as Mr. De Ville said, had
just dropped in to talk over the flood and hear if Mr. and Mrs. Darton
had any news from Brisbane.

De Ville's father had recently died, and, what with station holdings and
city properties, &c., he took rank with the wealthiest men of the
colony.

The Dartons really owed the visit to several causes, one of which, and
perhaps two, John was not ignorant of. De Ville was the holder of a
promissory note for 275 13s. made by George Jackson in favor of Henry
Stuart, and endorsed by John Darton. Both Jackson and Darton were
puzzled as to how it had got into his hands, and only a few weeks before
had incidentally been made aware of the fact.

De Ville was a man who never missed the opportunity of killing two birds
with one stone, or three if possible, when he had the chance. He had
come over, for one thing, to find out, if possible, whether the pro-note
had been met on the previous Saturday, which, it will be remembered, was
the fourth of the month. Also to show off his new pair of bays, that had
cost a hundred guineas, to his sister and the Dartons; but principally
to see Edna Forrest.

De Ville, or "Devill," as his father had been called when he was a
bullock driver on old Sandy McGovan's run, early in the forties, was a
man of about five and thirty, medium height, and fair complexion. He had
a round fat head and face covered thinly with fair hair, and small grey
eyes. It was a disputed point with those who knew him as to whether he
shaved. At any rate, only a few straggling hairs showed on his fat
cheeks, and chin and upper lip. He was dressed fashionably and in
perfect taste, and had the easy self-assurance which comes of conscious
wealth. He was known amongst his intimate acquaintances as
Mephistophiles, but the sobriquet had probably never reached his ears.

Keen and unscrupulous in business, he invested his money at the highest
rate of interest attainable, and on the best security, and never missed
a chance. He had a smooth, silky voice, always wore a flower in his
buttonhole, never forgot an injury, and unless it served his own purpose
was never known to help a friend.

His sister was a simpering, overgrown, large-featured girl of about five
and twenty. She had, of course, left school, having learnt as little as
possible. She simpered assent when spoken to, as though she knew
everything when she really knew nothing. Thumped the piano in the
morning, and read French novels and painted impossible landscapes in the
afternoons; had neither the instincts nor the breeding of a lady, stared
vacantly at people who bowed to her, even after formal introduction,
unless they were reputed to be wealthy; had a vile temper, no heart, a
soul about big enough for a mosquito, and a fortune of 35,000. They
were, of course, great people in the country surrounding Darton's Point,
and looked coldly down upon the neighborhood from their eminence of
wealth. They visited only two or three families in the district--one of
them being the Darton's.

The fact was, De Ville had made up his mind to bestow upon Edna Forrest
the honor of his heart and hand. She was, he considered, the handsomest
and most accomplished girl he had met, and as he proposed entering
Parliament shortly, and would in time, of course, become Chief
Secretary, he wished to have a beautiful and fascinating woman for his
wife. He was not altogether unmindful of her fortune, but that was a
mere bagatelle, and he would let her keep it for pin money; he hated to
see a woman ill-dressed. And what was 10,000! He had made nearly as
much as that by a little corner in shares, a few weeks before, almost
unknown to anyone. He had told his sister as they drove out that he had
made up his mind to marry Edna Forrest, and might propose to her that
very afternoon, so she might as well become better acquainted with her.

On their arrival De Ville at once inquired after Miss Forrest, who was
nowhere to be seen, so Mrs. Darton, who, by the way, was in quite a
little flutter of excitement, went to look for her.

"Really, aunt," said Edna, when Mrs. Darton found her in her own pretty
room, "if it won't seem discourteous, I wish you would kindly make some
excuse for me, they won't stop long, and I would sooner not go in."

"What nonsense, child," said her aunt with some asperity. "It will be
rude, and they will very likely take it as a slight on your part. I
cannot understand you. You must have noticed the attention which Mr. De
Ville paid you at the last Government House ball, and he told your uncle
the next day, when he met him at the club, that he considered you the
most beautiful and accomplished girl in Brisbane, and complimented him
on having such a handsome young lady for his niece. Now, let me smooth
your hair, and come out and make yourself agreeable. He must be
enormously wealthy, and see how well he always dresses, and what fine
horses he drives. My advice to you in all seriousness Edna is to
encourage his attentions, and if he proposes to you think yourself a
lucky girl and accept him at once. There is nothing would please me
better than to see you married to him."

"But aunt, I don't like him! With all his money he's not a gentleman,
and there's something under that smooth silky speech of his that does
not please me. It's my belief that beneath all his smooth exterior, he
is a hard, cruel, treacherous, and unprincipled man. I heard one thing
about him, which I quite believe to be true, that would settle the
question of my marrying him."

Mrs. Darton looked at her niece in astonishment, as she saw her castles
in the air being so ruthlessly tumbled to the ground.

In half-laughing defiance Edna continued, "why you can't even make a
good word out of his name. Take off the first letter, and it's evil,
transpose it and it's vile, spell it backwards and it becomes a lie, and
turn it into plain English and it's devil! Apart from other things I
really couldn't marry any man with such a name as that."

"Edna, you are incorrigible; I don't believe a word of the foolish story
you have heard about him. I never knew of such an insane thing as to
refuse a man of wealth and refinement, and who, likely enough, will go
into Parliament, and become a Minister of the Crown, and perhaps get a
title, because you don't like his name. It's my opinion that Lady De
Ville would sound very aristocratic and in perfect good taste."

"Now you are talking nonsense, Aunt Sarah; we should just be Mr. and
Mrs. Devil to the end of the chapter, and if we had a family it would be
pa and ma and the four little devils. No, thank you, aunty dear; you
know I'm not very particular, but one must consider appearance just a
little bit, you know. However, to please you, I'll come into the
drawing-room and make myself agreeable to his Satanic majesty for a
little while."

Mr. De Ville and his sister met Edna with great cordiality; the latter
actually put up her thin vinegar lips to kiss her intended
sister-in-law, and simpered, "So pleased to see you, Miss Edna, my
dear," at which the J.P. smiled a gracious approval, and for the moment
wished he'd been a girl.

De Ville and Darton had been talking business, but the conversation now
became general. Afternoon tea was brought in, and the talk turned again
upon the all-absorbing topic of the flood.

"Any losses at Oaklands, Mr. De Ville?" asked Mr. Darton.

"Oh no, nor anywhere else; every bit of property I own, or have advanced
money upon, is high above flood mark. You cannot make me believe that
there were not plenty like my old father, who knew all about these
floods, and who knew Brisbane was being laid in a wrong situation
altogether. For instance, how do you account for it that every site and
building belonging to the Government is high and dry, and entirely clear
of the flood waters? There's the Parliament and Government Houses, the
Treasury Buildings, Supreme Court, General Post Office, Lands Office,
Government Printing Office, Custom House, Immigration Office, &c.,
although they are scattered all over the city, every one is above the
highest flood mark. You don't think it came about by chance! Of course
they knew that the city would be liable to floods, and some of them
ought to have been hung for allowing such a thing. The best men of the
day, my father among the number, urged that Cleveland should have been
made the capital, and had they done so millions of money would have been
saved to the colony, and a city equal to Sydney would in course of time
have sprung up upon the shores of Moreton Bay."

"May I ask you, Miss Forrest," he said blandly, turning to Edna, who sat
listening without joining in the conversation; "to kindly show me the
new orchid which Mrs. Darton tells me you have found. I have a fine
collection at Oaklands, and would like to see if it is new to me." Edna
bowed, and said, "With pleasure, Mr. De Ville," and led the way to a
large bush house, filled with choice ferns and flowers and orchids,
which adjoined the house.

It appeared to be something new even to De Ville, and he bent over it in
long examination. The fact was, he was considering how he should best
arrange the terms of his proposal.

"This is a beautiful bush house, Miss Edna," he said, after a minute, as
he looked into her face with his little cold gray eyes, "and you have
some lovely ferns and flowers here."

She smiled assent, for she really had no idea of what was coming,
although she thought it strange that he should call her Edna.

"And are you fond of flowers, Miss Edna?"

"Of course I am, Mr. De Ville," she answered, "all girls are, I think,
or ought to be."

"It's only natural," he said, "that you should love them, for you are
one of them yourself--the fairest flower in all the country side, and my
admiration of you knows no bounds. See," he said to the breathless and
astounded girl, "I have brought a diamond ring to place on that lily
hand; and here, surrounded by your own sweet flowers, allow me to offer
you my heart and hand, and fortune."

"Miss Forrest, pardon me for asking you so important a question with
what may seem so little preparation, but I have already consulted my
friend, Mr. Darton, your guardian, and have obtained his consent to pay
you my addresses, and you know that time presses heavily on the hands of
business men like myself."

"Miss Forrest, or may I call you Edna?" he said, trying to seize her
hand, "will you be my wife?"

Edna evaded his outstretched hand, in which glittered the diamond ring,
and drawing herself up like a queen, gazed into his face with her big
brown eyes in scornful astonishment.

"Pardon me, Mr. De Ville, I do not understand you. You cannot surely
expect me to accept an engagement ring, and promise to be the wife of a
man who, until this singular interview, has never said one word that
would lead me to expect such an offer. Of course I know that it is a
compliment for Mr. De Ville to offer such a high position to a simple
country maiden like myself," she said with a slight tinge of sarcasm in
her voice, "but it is an offer that I cannot accept. I hope, Sir, that
you will never address me on the subject again. The man that marries me,
be he rich or poor, will be one who has fairly won my love, and shown
himself to some extent worthy of it. But see," she said, "it is
commencing to rain again, and your sister and my uncle and aunt will be
waiting for us."

"Miss Forrest, is that your final answer?"

"It is."

"Then I shall not take it. You have not considered the matter. I have
been too hasty. You will consult your aunt and uncle, and then
communicate with me again."

"I shall consult no one, Mr. De Ville, and you certainly need not expect
to receive any communication from me," said Edna indignantly.

"But, Miss Forrest, you cannot understand the nature of my offer, the
position I can place you in. As my wife I could make you the proudest
lady in the land."

"Exactly what I never wish to be," said Edna, leading the way from the
bush house to the hall.

"I certainly shall not think of taking this for an answer," said De
Ville, following her.

It was a blow to the man's pride that he was altogether unprepared for.
Money had been his father's God, and he had grown up with the idea
instilled into him from earliest childhood that everything had its price
in current coin. He had seen what gold had done in the material world.
With this all-powerful weapon in his hand he had walked in his own
little world like a second creator--obedient crowds had done his
bidding, gold had brought him all ever he wished for until now, men had
lifted their hats to him as he passed, and smiled approval at his often
stupid utterances, simply because he was rich, and he knew it, and
despised them, And well he knew of scores who sold their bodies and
souls to him for gold. But this simple girl, with her paltry ten
thousand pounds, had actually refused him. Whatever would he say to his
sister! He would not tell her! Edna Forrest could not have meant it. A
woman's 'No' meant 'Yes.' Everything came to the man who waited. He
would wait, and circumstances would alter, and he would add this girl to
his other possessions. He would take no denial. He wanted Edna Forrest;
and somehow, fair or foul, he would get her for his wife.

The horses had been ordered by Miss De Ville when the rain first
threatened, and were now waiting somewhat impatiently. Just as they
drove off De Ville pointed across the bay to a large black punt, that
seemed to be drifting in toward the shore.

"Look there, Darton," he said, "there's a boat or punt broken away from
somewhere, it will be on the beach in front of your house by the
morning. There seems to be considerable floating wreckage along the
coast. Looks bad for Brisbane."

Bowing politely as they drove off, Mr. and Mrs. Darton and Edna stood at
the hall steps and watched them.

"Fine stepping horses he drives," said John Darton. "Very rich man, but
he's a hard nail. Constant McWatt told me some months ago that he had
made him one of the executors of his will. Queer thing, too, the other
is Caleb Angel the barrister. McWatt laughed when he told me; said it
would be a good joke; his executors would be a 'devil and an angel.'"




CHAPTER XII.--EDNA'S DREAM.


That Sunday night it rained harder than ever. As Edna sat brushing her
long hair before her dressing glass her thoughts were busy with many
things. De Ville's proposal aroused her contempt and indignation. She
had an independent spirit, and, withal, a touch of wholesome pride, and
her mind rebelled at the very thought of this man wishing to be engaged
to her without the wooing. What a contrast was George, she thought, to
him. She had known Jackson in England, had spent her summer holidays
often with his sisters at their father's house. George was a good son
and a good brother. He had been unfortunate since coming to Australia,
but that, she felt sure, was owing to his having been led away by John
Darton's sanguine hopes and by Constant McWatt's knavery. Jackson had
said practically nothing to her about his losses, except that he had let
her know that for the considerable fortune he had brought out with him
he now had little more than several hundred acres of unproductive land,
and a block of unsaleable city property--that, indeed, he was
comparatively a poor man.

But he was not one of the whining curs who, in their greed for fortune,
grab at every chance, and invest their money on the advice of any
sanguine man, and if the speculation proves a failure, over-looking any
personal loss of their too hopeful adviser, brand him as a swindling
villain, and pour into the ears of every willing listener a pitiful
story of how they had been misled and duped and victimised.

Edna pretty well knew that it was for her sake Jackson came out to
Australia, although he had never actually said so. How good and
thoughtful he had been on board the steamer! The clergyman's family, in
whose charge she returned, was not the most agreeable, but George had
been like an elder brother to her all through the voyage. Thus her
thoughts went on.

It is true George Jackson was not exactly what Edna Forrest pictured
him. A young girl's love is like our memories of the past--eclectic. In
our pleasure we forget the pain there may have been in the days of long
ago, and memory makes for all of us enchanted spots, somewhere adown the
years, bright visions we love to think about; and so a woman's love, to
some extent, always glorifies and ennobles the hero of her heart. This
is perhaps the only explanation why men of De Ville's stamp get wives at
all--that is, wives who really love and reverence and believe in them.
Happy they if never disillusionised! So far as Edna Forrest knew George
Jackson he, with all his faults, was not unworthy of her love.

Edna slept at last, lulled by the sighing winds and monotonous beat of
the rain, and as she slept she dreamed.

She stood barefooted on the shore, and on the distant horizon saw a
small black cloud, at first no larger than a man's hand. The sun shone
brightly on the waters of the bay, and on the white sails of pleasure
yachts--that sped like sea-gulls on the crested billows--and on the
green cool foliage of the islands, lying like gems of beauty, with blue
sea around and blue sky above.

But as she stood and watched the lovely scene she saw the black cloud
growing larger and larger, until its shadow came sweeping like a huge
black veil over the landscape, blotting out the sunlight, and the summer
isles, and ships and sea. For a time she stood in darkness, when a
lightning flash suddenly rent the clouds asunder. Then there seemed to
rise above and around her the long drawn aisles and cold stone pillars
of a great cathedral. She saw the delicate tracery of the fretted roof
above her head, and the moulded cornices and fluted pillars. In deep
recesses were the monuments of heroes and statesmen and poets.

But now a haunting human face mixed with the phantasy of her dream. It
was a familiar face, but dead. She saw it above the altar, at the end of
the great chancel. It was looking at her through the painted windows of
the transcrept, and she shuddered--it was a dead, cold face, but its
eyes were open. She now felt oppressed by fear and dread, and tried to
cry out, but could not. Presently, in soft tremulous tones she heard the
first vibration of the organ; 'twas like the sobbing of the autumn wind
at its commencement, but rose gradually, until its full-voiced notes
pealed in solemn and stately measure through the building. It fell and
swelled and rose and died away again, 'in low deep cadence wonderfully
sad.' She shrank into a corner--the cathedral aisles were filling, all
the people dressed in mourning, and the organ notes wailed out in grief.
A procession entered by the open door; at its head, in sacerdotal robes,
a priest, book in hand, muttering a prayer, and behind a great black
velvet pall, with plumes and flowers; and following were many mourners.
The music died away in soft tremulous tones again vibrating through the
building, and as it did so the congregation slowly vanished--priest,
pall, procession, people, melted as into air.

Then the face came again, but it had changed into another face, more
pleasing than the last, but still she could recall no person and no
name; it wore a dark, sad, troubled look. And then she felt the spacious
cathedral walls to be slowly contracting around her and around the face.
Smaller and smaller they grew until transcrept and chancel and
long-drawn aisles had disappeared. It was now a dungeon or a cave, or
some dark place of death, and a cold, damp air struck chillingly upon
her cheek; she heard the dripping of water, and it was as though a great
hand was coming down upon her out of the darkness, and down upon the
face--down, down, to press out happiness and hope and life. She would
have closed her eyes, but could not; and the darkness grew more dense,
and the oppressing hand more crushing and unendurable. Again she would
have cried out, but could not. The face had gone now, for all was total
darkness, but she still looked to where the face had been--and waited.

It seemed a century of years while she looked and waited, gazing
patiently upon the spot where the face had disappeared, until at last it
was as though a gray streak spread itself far away upon the very verge
of the darkness; it grew and ebbed and died away, and then came back
again, until at last a thin line of tremulous light lay sparkling on the
distant horizon. Then thin rays of fire shot upwards, and the gray lines
of clouds blushed into crimson and burned into amber and gold, and the
sweetlight poured its healthful rays on land and sea and sky. As she
stood barefooted on the sand, her bosom heaved with pleasure. Now she
would have wept for joy, but could not--it was the morning!

Never, she thought, had such a morning dawned upon that dear familiar
scene. It was a divine moment in her own and nature's life. The universe
had put off its workday dress and, rising above its usual majesty, had
robed itself in splendor, as for the reception of its king. The towering
mountains on distant Stradbrook smoked with incense. The waters became
an ocean of fire, and she seemed to stand, like the bush in Horeb,
encompassed by a living, radiant, exhilarating flame, but unconsumed.
She had no sense of fear, no other thought than of gladness. The awful
night had passed away at last, and it was now morning.

The excess of glory now died away, and a sound like distant music fell
upon her ears; the birds chirped and carolled, and the waves lapped the
sands softly at her feet, and the sweet breath of the morning fanned her
cheek and cooled her brow. She awoke. It was a dream. A wonderful dream!

       *       *       *       *       *

Edna jumped out of bed and threw up the window. The rain had cleared and
the wind blew softly from the sea.

It was early morning, and she lay down again thinking and wondering
about her dream.

Presently she heard voices near the window. It was John Darton speaking
to his wife. His voice was hoarse--almost choked with suppressed
excitement.

"For God's sake, Sarah, don't go near the beach, nor let Edna go! That
punt De Ville pointed out last night has come ashore, and there's a
murdered corpse in it; and it's someone we all know. I have sent for a
constable and told him to tell De Ville about it as he passed. I expect
that De Ville will ride up at once; will very likely stop to breakfast."

The two faces of her dream came back to Edna. "Surely," she moaned to
herself, "surely it cannot be George!"

She went straight to the window. "Uncle! Uncle!" she almost screamed, "I
had an awful dream last night, heard just now what you said to aunt; I
must know who the murdered man in the punt is. Tell me, uncle! Tell me."

Her uncle groaned as he answered her. He was strangely overcome and
agitated, even making all allowance for the startling and terrible
discovery.

He said: "It's the body of Constant McWatt!"




CHAPTER XIII.--CUTTS THE BANKER.


As far as business went in Brisbane, Monday, the 6th of February, was
dies non. The flood had brought everything to a standstill, and blotted
out all other considerations. It was nearly midnight before the water
had disappeared from Queen-street. Just before eleven o'clock on Tuesday
George Jackson called in at the El Dorado Bank of Australia to see the
manager. He was not quite sure that he would find the Bank open, for all
along Queen-street shops and offices were being cleansed of ruined
stocks and filthy deposits of mud. The Bank, he thought, might be
similarly occupied--proof that Jackson had something to learn as to the
ways of banks. He found, to his surprise, the large vestibule and
splendid banking chamber in perfect order and repose. Behind the
substantial, carved polished counters were busy clerks and tellers; and
bills and drafts and cheques passed through their hands as though they
lived where floods were never heard of.

There was very little business doing. Business people had no Saturday's
takings to pay in, and having had losses by the flood did not dare
attempt to draw anything out until they had interviewed the manager. Mr.
Pinchpenny was there of course, as usual, with a little bag and book and
blue deposit slip, to place another substantial amount to his credit. It
was a portion of his weekly rents. The crafty old fellow had anticipated
that there might be some trouble over getting the rent from some of his
tenants that flood week, so he had taken the precaution to call round on
the previous Friday to ask each of them to make a special effort to pay
their rents on the following Monday, as he had an amount to meet and was
rather short. "You know," he said, "you will have no excuse now when I
call next week." The cunning old fox had got most of the rents
collected--"some of them in a blessed boat," Joe Stunner said--and he
purred benevolently over his deposit as he paid it in.

"Ah, just alter that total, I see I've got another couple of shillings
in my overcoat pocket," he said to the teller; "no church yesterday, you
know, so I saved that, and may as well put it in with the rest," and as
he handed across the coins he purred again.

The manager was engaged, so Jackson drew a chair up to a table, and as
he wanted some change filled up a cheque for 5. He waited until
Pinchpenny had departed, and then presented it across the counter.

"How, will you take it, Mr. Jackson?" asked the teller.

"Three ones and the rest in silver, please."

The clerk was just marking this in blue pencil on the back of the
cheque, as usual, when the cashier stepped into his compartment and
whispered something to him.

"I beg your pardon, sir," said the clerk, in some confusion, "but will
you step into the manager's room before I pay the cheque."

Jackson stared at the young man in astonishment.

"You don't say that you have instructions to dishonor my cheque for 5?"

"I can only obey orders, sir; you had better see the manager."

"Do you know that a remittance from England for 365 was paid into my
credit last week?"

"I do, sir, but the account is still overdrawn."

"For which the bank has several thousand pound's worth of securities,
and yet you have instructions to dishonor a cheque of mine for 5. Of
course I know that you have nothing to do with it, but I think it's
about time I saw the manager."

"Mr. Cutts is disengaged," said the cashier to him, as he passed across
the handsome tessalated floor to the manager's room.

Mr. Cutts was a tall, well-conditioned and rather prepossessing man. He
had mild blue eyes, and the smooth, serene oily voice peculiar to
bankers and managers of financial institutions. Few could surpass him in
fussy politeness to a wealthy depositor, or in harsh insolence to an
unfortunate debtor. He had been sent up by the directors when the worst
of the depression had set in, with general instructions to use his best
discretion in dealing with the bank's customers; but to see that the
bank made no losses--which, translated, meant 'put the screw on.' He had
done this with a vengeance, and many a score of men, whom unforeseen
disaster had put into the golden clutches of the bank, had felt the
grinding of that screw. Men stepped into that banking parlor, thinking
themselves, notwithstanding misfortune, fairly honest truthful men. But
they had borne from Cutts what no man would bear from another--unless a
bank manager--without a blow. Between hope and fear, they had given
hesitating assent to proposals which were at once written down by the
manager in his conversation book as promises. At the next interview they
had been accused of falsehood and semi-scoundrelism, until bullied and
brow-beaten they well nigh stood aghast at their own unscrupulous
characters as revealed to them by the astute bank manager.

There had been considerable depredation in the value of the bank's
securities through the flood, and Cutts was in no friendly humor when
Jackson confronted him.

"Take a chair, Mr. Jackson; I wished to see you about your account. You
know, I suppose, that a promissory note of yours fell due last Saturday
that you had not provided for. We dishonored it, of course. I will see
what the amount is if you wish." He pressed a button as he spoke; an
electric bell rang outside, and a clerk immediately entered.

"Bring me a statement of Mr. Jackson's overdraft account, and also the
amount of the promissory note presented on Saturday, which we endorsed
'Referred to maker,'" and Mr. Cutts turned to an account book as though
absorbed in a more important matter.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Cutts," said Jackson, "but I want an
explanation. A payment was made into my account last week of 365. My
account was, with that addition, if I am rightly informed, nearly 400
under my cash credit limit, and yet you have dishonored this bill of
Stuart's, and this morning actually dishonored my cheque for a paltry
5. Do you call that banking business? It seems to me more upon the
lines on which a man would ran a pawnshop."

Cutts turned a bit white, but made no answer; he knew very well Jackson
had opened his account with the bank a few years ago by paying in nearly
twelve thousand pounds, and that he had for a long time kept a thousand
or two lying in open account to his credit. But he regarded him now as
pretty well done for; and his city property was unlet and had been badly
flooded. He had made up his mind that there was nothing more to be got
out of Jackson; the half-yearly balance was coming on, and he had been
requested by his board to get rid of the account.

"There's the amount you owe the bank," he said, pushing a slip of paper
containing a memorandum over to him. "You have not reduced it according
to your promise, and the bank is dissatisfied with the securities--under
water I hear, in this flood, which you were no doubt well acquainted;
with when you lodged the deeds against the overdraft. I was warned when
I came up here to be careful how I made advances to you, that you were
unreliable, and----"

"Go on," said Jackson.

"Oh, I don't want to hurt your feelings. If you had kept your word with
the bank I should not have mentioned it."

"When did I break my word?"

"I haven't time to enter into details now. There is the amount of your
indebtedness to us; all you have to do is to pay it and the thing's
settled."

"Well, supposing I cannot pay it?"

"Then get some other bank to take up the account; we don't care about
it."

"I am afraid that just now, with this flood, it will be no easy matter
either to get money or to remove an overdraft account from one bank to
another."

"That means, I suppose," said Cutts, fiercely, getting ready for an
onslaught on the unfortunate debtor, such as has caused so many banking
parlours to be known as sweating establishments, "that means that you
don't intend to make any effort, does it? But we'll see about that. I
will give you to the end of this week, and if the amount, with interest
to date, is not paid in full we shall serve you with a writ and
foreclose upon the property. I don't want you for anything further. Good
morning."

"Mr. Cutts," said Jackson, "I am short of change; will you mark this
cheque for 5 to be paid, so that I may have money to take me back to
Darton's Point?"

"No, certainly not," said the banker, "could not think of such a thing.
It's really like your insolence, owing the bank, as you do, nearly a
thousand pounds, to ask me to do it."

"No; only 824 17s. 2d.," said Jackson coolly. "Well, as you won't pay
my cheque for 5 will you kindly give me gold in exchange for the notes
of yours," he said, laying down four separate notes, each for 500, and
five each for 100. "I think I'll just square off that overdraft and get
the balance in gold, and open an account at another bank. I can take the
cash over in a cab."

"Now look sharp, Mr. Cutts. I want gold for these precious notes of
yours, and I hope that it may be the last transaction that I shall ever
have either with you or your bank; and, by the way, you'll oblige me by
letting one of your clerks get out my deeds and just cancel that
mortgage, or perhaps you had better tear off the signature and hand it
to me."

To say that Cutts was thunderstruck at the turn things had taken would
but mildly express his astonishment. He did not know at first how to
act, or what to say. He had evidently been mistaken about Jackson; the
man had resources he had never expected, and, apart from other things,
as a professional man he felt chagrined at his mistake; but how to
recover himself without loss of dignity he could not for the moment
tell.

"Pray be seated again, Mr. Jackson," he said at last with an effort; "I
will ring for a clerk. You have really taken me by surprise. If you had
paid this amount into your account in the ordinary way there need have
been no unpleasantness whatever."

"I was really sorry to have to press you," he continued, "for I felt
sure that your account was perfectly safe, but when bank managers get
instructions from their head office, what can they do? Now, what would
you have done, Jackson?" he said, with suave familiarity, his face
relaxing into a smile. "You really had better let this money go to your
credit in the usual way and draw upon it as you need; and if you want a
few hundreds at any time you know that you can have them. There's an old
saying among business men: 'Never fall out with a bank.' Just think it
over."

"How about those letters you have been annoying me with the last three
weeks?" said Jackson, determined not to be conciliated. "No, I have made
up my mind. I gave you a fair chance this morning to show yourself a
gentleman, and one would have expected, with this terrible disaster upon
the city, that even a bank manager would have relaxed a little. Of
course it's easy enough to put it on the directors. As a board they
have, as the saying is, 'neither a body to be kicked nor a soul to be
damned,' or they might act differently."

"I hear that the Bank has lost a number of good customers since you came
to Brisbane," he said, picking up his hat, "and if my recommendation
will be of any service you'll lose some more."

Cutts looked at him in contemptuous indignation, but made no reply.

"I prefer to transact my business in the outer office," continued
Jackson, "so if you'll have one of the clerks get out the securities, I
will call in for them in the course of the morning, and the affair will
be settled."

He reached forward to take up the notes which were still lying on the
banker's table, when Cutts, who kept his temper remarkably well, said,
"Pardon me a moment. I noticed that all these notes bear the same date,
and seem never to have been handled much; it's an unusual thing for
anyone to have kept so large a sum as 2,500 by him for four years
without its bearing interest. All the better for the Bank, of course,
but at 6 per cent, a loss to the holder of 600. I don't suppose you
have had them all that time in your possession," he said, looking
straight into Jackson's face.

Jackson started, but looked back at the manager and replied, "No, I am
not quite such a fool as to throw away money in that fashion."

Taking the notes in his hand, Jackson passed into the public banking
chamber, and going to the cashier, surprised him by asking that his
account might have interest added to date, and he would pay it. This was
done, and he handed in the notes saying he would take the balance of
over 1,600 in gold.

It was an unwise thing to have done, for several reasons. Had he paid
the notes into another bank he would have had no trouble with the money,
and it would have amounted in the end to the same thing. He had good
cause afterwards, for many reasons, to regret his foolishness.

The cashier carefully examined the notes, and even took them in again to
the manager. He came back and said, "The notes are all right, of course,
but do you mind endorsing them, Mr. Jackson, as they are for large
amounts."

"Certainly," said George, thinking it merely a matter of banking
routine.

"You've been in the flood, sir," said the teller a minute after, as with
the notes in front of him he weighed out the sovereigns in hundreds and
put them into small canvas bags.

"How do you know that?" asked Jackson.

"Oh, the notes have been wet on the edges lately; had them in a
pocketbook perhaps when you were wet through."

Had anyone watched Jackson closely they might have seen him give a
perceptible start.

"Very likely," he said, "I was wet through several times last week," and
at the words he shivered as though seized with sudden pain.

The manager came out about 10 minutes after Jackson had departed with
his bags of sovereigns. He said to the cashier, "It's rather singular
about those notes, I see they were all issued on the same date; some of
them were signed by the manager, and some for the manager by the
cashier. I am just a bit curious about them. See if you can trace them
in the books."

An hour or so afterwards the cashier came into Cutts, who was leaning
back in his chair looking over the newspaper. "Well?"

"Fenwick has traced them at last. There was a cheque drawn that day by
the Hon. Constant McWatt on a trust account for 5000, and the whole of
it was paid in notes. Nine for 500 each and five notes for 100 each. I
expect the manager and cashier signed them while McWatt's clerk waited,
as the cheque was presented and endorsed by a young fellow who was then
clerk with him, named Fred. Tomkins. I believe the rest of the notes are
still out."

"Thank you," said Cutts, and he turned again to the pages of the
newspaper.

There was no ferry established yet between the north and south
municipalities, as the flood waters still swept with eddying violence
between the river banks. A few adventurous spirits had crossed that
Tuesday in boats, but at great risk, and although Jackson had now
completed his business, he determined to wait until next day before
returning to Darton's Point. He was not the man to risk either life or
limb without good reason.




CHAPTER XIV.--WHAT THE NEWSPAPERS SAID.


THE following report is extracted from the Brisbane Chronicle of
Wednesday the 8th February:--

"To the many sorrows that surround us in these mournful times, it is our
painful duty this morning to announce another. One of the most prominent
and esteemed of our citizens has been found dead, under circumstances
which unmistakably point to deliberate and wilful murder. The corpse, we
regret to say, is that of the Hon. Constant McWatt. The blow will be
felt the more severely by the public mind on account of the calamities
which have just overwhelmed us. Men of position and experience and
wealth and largehearted generosity can ill be spared from the community
in such an hour as this. But when, at such a time, they are torn from us
by violence and murder, the demand for justice upon the head of the
criminal will be the more sternly enacted. So far the crime is
surrounded by inscrutable mystery. The body was found in a punt last
Monday morning upon the shores of Moreton Bay, with the face disfigured
by a blow across the forehead, which evidently caused instantaneous
unconsciousness and then death. So far there seems to be not the
slightest clue to the assassin. A rusted knife was found in the punt,
but as there are no marks of wounds it could not have been used in
committal of the murder. With all our lines of communication cut off, it
is unfortunately possible that the murderer may have already escaped
from the scene of his crime, and possibly from the colony. The public
may, however, rest assured that every effort will be made by the police
department to unravel the mystery. The detective that brings to justice
the murderer of the Hon. Constant McWatt will deserve well of the
colony. The following are the facts of the case:--

"Last Sunday, the 5th day of February, at about 4 o'clock in the
afternoon, Mr. De Ville, of Oaklands Park, Brisbane, and Bay View Lodge,
Redland Point, was returning from a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Darton, of
Darton's Point, and had just taken the reins to leave when, looking
across the Bay, he noticed a large punt which seemed to be drifting
towards the shore. Pointing across the bay he called Mr. Darton's
attention to it, and remarking that it must have broken away during the
flood said 'You'll have it on the beach in the front of your house by
the morning.' Mr. De Ville, who is one of the executors of the deceased
gentleman's will, little dreamt as he drove off that the punt contained
the murdered body of his friend. Mr. Darton thought no more about the
matter until the next morning, when one of the first things he noticed
was the punt lying high and dry far up the beach at a short distance
from the garden fence. The tide had been unusually high on account of
the flood which had floated the punt clear of all obstacles to the
shore. Mr. Darton imagined that he could see something in the bottom, so
he went across to make a closer inspection, when, to his intense horror,
he discovered the body. He at once sent a servant man on horseback to
Redland Point for the constable stationed there, and also sent news of
the startling discovery to Mr. De Ville, and allowed no one to go near
the punt until their arrival.

"It was then found that the corpse was in an advanced stage of
decomposition, so it was thought advisable to send a telegram to
Breezeland for Sergeant Bevan to come over at once, and another to
Sunnyside to Dr. Black, who had recently taken up his residence in that
suburb. Fortunately, although there was no communication with Brisbane,
the train was able to run on Monday as far as Sunnyside as a ballast
train, and on its return it brought back the doctor. Sergeant Bevan rode
over with great promptitude, and was at Darton's Point within an hour
after receiving the wire. In the interval the constable took charge of
the punt, never leaving it until the arrival of his senior officer. The
examination of the remains were made in the presence of William Henry
Black., M.D., F.R.C.S., George Charles De Ville, Esq., J.P., John
Darton, Esq., and the two police officers. The body was lying on its
back in the punt, dressed in a dark tweed suit, and except for the one
fearful blow across the forehead showed no marks of violence. A valuable
diamond ring which the deceased usually wore on the little finger of the
left hand was missing, and the skin of the finger seemed to be abraded,
as though the ring had been violently wrenched off. It may, however,
have been taken off by the deceased himself previous to the murder, and
the skin of the finger injured by some other cause, as further
investigation showed that the body had not been robbed. In the waistcoat
pocket was a valuable gold repeating hunting watch with the hands
pointing to 10 minutes to 4 o'clock, gold guard and Masonic seals and
gold pencil case. A purse containing money was in the right hand
trousers pocket, and several letters and two valuable documents in the
inside pocket of the coat. A rusted knife of somewhat peculiar shape was
found in the water which nearly half filled the punt. The latter was
freshly tarred both within and without, but a very careful scrutiny on
the part of the police officers revealed no name or mark by which it
might be identified. The punt measures 10ft. by 3ft. 6in., has two
movable seats, holes bored for six rowlocks, and in the stern a new
rowlock for sculling or steering with. A hole which seemed to be newly
bored had a painter dragging from it, the end of which had the
appearance of having been recently cut with a blunt knife. After Dr.
Black had completed his post-mortem examination, the results of which
will be made public at the inquest, the body was enclosed in a coffin
which had been hurriedly prepared, and yesterday afternoon brought up to
town by the quarter past 12 train, which, we may say, was the first that
entered Melbourne street since the subsidence of the flood waters. Dr.
Black had no hesitation in saying that death was caused by the blow upon
the forehead, which, he believes, was inflicted by some smooth round
heavy weapon, such as a bar of iron or heavy ebony office ruler. He
expresses his surprise that the body should show no sign of rough
handling when placed in the punt after the murder. The fearful deed, he
thinks, cannot have been committed in the punt, or in the fall after the
blow the body would have been bruised. He thinks that the murderer must
have had an accomplice, and that after the murder the corpse was lifted
by two men into the punt, which was then set afloat in the river, and by
a singular chance carried without capsizing to the bay, and eventually
landed on the shore opposite St. Helena. The fact that the valuable
jewellery and large amount of money found upon the person of the
deceased was untouched proves that robbery was not the motive for the
ghastly crime, and surrounds the whole affair with the more impenetrable
mystery. We await anxiously any farther evidence calculated to solve the
painful problem which may be forthcoming at the inquest, which is to be
held on the body of the deceased this morning."

The afternoon paper contained, in addition to the above, the following
further information, and also an editorial note upon the subject. After
copying the extract as above and stating they were indebted to their
able and esteemed morning contemporary for the information, they said:
"A careful examination of Drybrook House was made last night by a
prominent official of the detective department in company with one of
our reporters. It was found that the flood waters had reached to a
height of 2ft. 10in. over the whole of the ground floor. The butler,
Mr. William Linton, was met by a singular chance just at the entrance to
the mansion, as owing to the near vicinity of a creek and the hollow
which surrounds the outer portions of the grounds he had only just been
able to make his way back across the receding waters. He made the
following statement to the detective in presence of our reporter:--

"On the afternoon of Thursday, the 2nd of February, the Hon. Constant
McWatt dined alone at Drybrook House. The family were staying for a few
weeks change up the Range, on account of the muggy and oppressive heat.
They had taken two of the house servants with them, and those left were
myself, the cook, one housemaid, Smith (the gardener), the coachman and
groom; also a boy (buttons) named George. The coachman, groom, and
gardener live in cottages in the grounds, and do not board or sleep in
the house. The Honorable drove down to town as usual in the morning, but
spent the afternoon in his private study. The steady advance in the
height of the river, the increased force of its current, and the
persistency with which the rain fell had caused both myself and fellow
servants some alarm. I spoke to the master, but he ridiculed the idea of
the flood reaching the house. About 4 o'clock I sent the boy to town to
post some important Sydney letters at the General Post-office, and soon
after gave the cook and housemaid leave to go and see the mother of the
latter, who lives at Toowong, as she was anxious as to how her house
would be situated in the event of a flood. At half-past five, as the boy
had not returned and the flood waters were rising fast, I began to be
anxious and asked the honorable, who had dined early, if he minded being
left alone for an hour as the two servants were out and I was concerned
about the boy George. He said, 'all right, Linton, I don't suppose
anyone will call in this pouring rain.'

"I lit the gas in the hall and in one or two other rooms before I went,
for fear I might be later than I intended. Well, I could not see nor
hear anything of the boy, and happened to meet a friend I hadn't seen
for years, and we went into the Auriel for a glass to keep out the wet
and to have a bit of a chat. I thought, of course, that the cook and
housemaid would be back, and stayed just a little later than I intended.
When I got near to Drybrook House on my return I found to my surprise
the flood waters completely covering the low ground all round the place.
It was dark, and I did not know what depth the water might be, so I went
back to town and slept at the Auriel. There has been no chance of
getting back until now, and it's only an hour since that I heard of the
murder of my poor master.

"Linton, we should say, was very much overcome and horrified at the
terrible tragedy enacted during his absence. On reaching the mansion the
entrance door was found wide open, and the hall covered thick with mud,
the furniture was tumbled down and disarranged, as chairs and other
articles had been floated about by the flood. The doors of the
apartments leading into the hall were all closed. Approaching the wide
staircase the butler called the detective's attention to some marks on
the carpet near to the bannisters on the fifth stair from the bottom.
The carpet was trodden down as though some heavy man with strong boots
had stood there for some time, the next step showed unusual signs of
pressure, as though he had afterwards sat down. Close by the railing was
a little heap of tobacco ash, as though knocked from a pipe, and on the
carpet were a quantity of black hairs, which the detective said must
have belonged to a cat. The butler, Mr. Linton, affirms that none of
these marks were there when he left Drybrook House. He says it is
impossible that they could have been. No one with nails in their boots
ever ascended that staircase, no one would dare to smoke a pipe under
the statue of the deceased gentleman which occupies a prominent position
on the landing above, and he does not believe there was a black cat
about the premises. The detective thought that he could see the marks of
wet boots upon the carpet, but our reporter failed to discern them. The
private study of the deceased was then carefully examined, but showed no
signs of any struggle. On a side-table in a large adjoining recess,
separated from the main room by a heavy damask curtain, were two wine
glasses, biscuits, and a half empty decanter of port. There were biscuit
crumbs on a large velvet drumhead lounge near a window, and a little
wine remained in the bottom of each of the glasses. On the large writing
table at the end of the main apartment were the ends of two wax vestas,
which the butler said he could not account for, as only patent safety
matches were used in the house. None of the other servants had returned,
and the only living thing about the place was a large white cockatoo,
which the butler said was usually out in the outer hall or servants'
quarters. He could not account for its being upstairs, where it was
found in a room adjoining the study of deceased. He said it had been
taught to talk, and was the source of considerable amusement to the
household. It had a little maize left and some water, but seemed
disinclined to show its powers of speech to the detective and our
reporter. It is a pity that it cannot be called as a witness at the
inquest, which will be sitting as we go to press."

The editorial note, after expressing the editor's profound regret at the
loss sustained by the community, and colony at large, by the death of so
distinguished a citizen, and his abhorrence of the cowardly crime, went
on to say that possibly while the murderer interviewed McWatt upstairs,
and gave in some unexpected manner the fatal blow which deprived him of
his life, his accomplice sat below upon the stairs ready to prevent any
interference on the part of the servants, or to assist his confederate
in case of need. Murder would out, and insignificant as seemed the clue,
even the tobacco ashes knocked out of the ruffian's pipe upon the
staircase, might lead up to a more important link in a chain of evidence
which would yet, he felt assured, bring the murderer to the gallows.

The motive of the crime was the chief secret to be found out. It was not
in order to rob him that he was killed. It would have to be known
whether he had quarrelled with anyone who might have murdered him in
revenge. However, in the next day's issue they would give a full report
of the inquest, a picture of Drybrook House, and a diagram pointing out
the position of the room in which it was supposed that the murder was
committed.




CHAPTER XV.--THE INQUEST.


THE body was not brought over the river to North Brisbane until
Wednesday morning on account of the difficulty which still existed
through the violence of the current. The inquest commenced at 11
o'clock. Gilbert Brooks, of the detective department, who had the
previous evening visited Drybrook House, was also present, and also Mr.
Dyson Foggitt, of Foley and Foggitt, solicitors to the deceased. The
following articles found on the corpse and in the punt were exhibited by
Sergeant Bevan:--

1. Purse containing twelve pounds thirteen shillings and sixpence in
gold, silver, and notes.

2. Gold keyless watch and chain.

3. Gold pencil case.

4. Silver toothpick.

5. Bunch of small keys.

6. Sundry papers and other documents.

7. A knife.

8. A rowlock.

9. Fragment of rope.

The sergeant explained that the punt was expected to arrive by the next
train, and could be viewed by the jury later in the day. The first
witness called was John Darton, who gave his evidence without
hesitation, but betrayed much emotion. This was explained during the
proceedings as resulting from close intimacy of the witness with the
deceased--they being co-trustees, &c. He repeated the narrative of the
finding of the body which the reader has already perused from the
columns of the newspaper.

"There was considerable wreckage in the bay last Sunday afternoon the
5th instant?" said the coroner.

"Yes."

"Have you any means of estimating how long the punt would take to drift
from Brisbane to Darton's Point?"

"I noticed some wreckage in the bay on the previous Saturday, and as I
believe the first houses were carried away on the afternoon of Friday, a
very few hours might have sufficed."

"Was the body or punt approached by anyone except yourself prior to the
arrival of the police constable?"

"Not to my knowledge."

"Does anything suggest itself to you which might assist the jury in
coming to a conclusion as to the cause of the death of deceased?"

"No." The witness took a moment or two to think, and seemed to hesitate
as he gave his answer.

The detective (Brooks) watched him keenly when this question was put by
the coroner, and made a note in his pocket-book.

George Charles De Ville gave evidence as to having seen the punt on the
Sunday, and made one of the examiners of the corpse the following day.
He identified the body as that of the Hon. Constant McWatt. He was one
of the executors to the will of deceased.

Henry Black was called. He deposed: "I am a duly qualified medical
practitioner, residing at Sunnyside, Brisbane. In response to a telegram
I went to Darton's Point last Monday and saw the body of deceased, which
I recognised as that of the Hon. Constant McWatt. It was in a somewhat
advanced stage of decomposition. I made a post-mortem examination on
Monday afternoon. The body was extremely well nourished, and of a
healthy appearance. A contused fracture extended across the frontal bone
of the skull, which had caused concussion of the brain. This was the
only mark of violence. The lungs were healthy, but slightly congested.
The stomach contained about half a pint of completely digested food. The
heart was rigid, the organ showed a tendency to fatty degeneration."

"I am of opinion that deceased died from the effects of a blow upon the
forehead from some hard, smooth heavy weapon."

William Linton was then called, and gave evidence that was substantially
the same as that reported in the newspapers.

In cross-examination it was elicited that the deceased was in his usual
health when last seen by witness, and that he had not intimated any
expectation of visitors calling that night.

He was about to stand down when the coroner asked, "How long were you in
the employment of deceased?"

"Over 11 years."

"You were treated by deceased as a confidential servant?"

"Yes."

"Was deceased in the habit of keeping large sums of money in his library
at Drybrook House?"

"I believe so."

"Did he occasionally transact business there?"

"Yes."

"Paid away money?"

"Yes."

"Where was the money usually kept?"

"In a steel fire-proof safe built into the wall."

"Have you any reason to suppose that on the night of the murder deceased
had any large sum of money upon his person?"

"No."

"Did you meet anyone coming from the direction of Drybrook House on your
attempted return on the night of Thursday, the 2nd of February?"

"I met several persons, but none that I could have recognised. There are
other houses in the neighborhood."

"What time was it when you started to return?"

"Ten o'clock."

"How long were you in reaching Drybrook House grounds?"

"About half-an-hour."

"Were the lights still visible in the house?"

"Yes."

"In the deceased's study?"

"I could not see that part of the house."

"Did any of your fellow-servants return to Drybrook House that night?"

"I believe not, but have no personal knowledge."

The coachman, gardener, and groom were then called, but their evidence
threw no further light upon the case, and the coroner proceeded to sum
up. He said there could be no doubt but that deceased had met with a
violent death. The evidence showed that, when last seen on the night of
the 2nd of February, he was in good health.

Three days afterwards his corpse was floating in a punt in Moreton Bay
with a contused wound upon the forehead, which the medical evidence
showed to be sufficient to cause death. The position of the body in the
punt and the absence of bruises upon other parts of the body led to the
supposition that more than one person was involved in the crime.
Deceased had evidently been murdered, and afterwards placed in the punt
and set adrift on the flooded waters of the river. The only point the
jury had to consider was whether the circumstantial evidence submitted
was sufficient to prove to their satisfaction, beyond all reasonable
doubt, that deceased's death had been caused by the blow upon the
forehead.

If so they must frame their verdict in accordance with that evidence.

The jury returned after an absence of twenty minutes, and gave the
following verdict:--"That the deceased, Constant McWatt, died on or
about the 3rd day of February from the effects of a blow, administered
by some person or persons unknown; and the jury on their oaths say that
the said unknown person or persons did wilfully and maliciously murder
the said deceased."




CHAPTER XVI.--MRS. STUNNER'S ADVICE.


Men reveal in their surroundings more readily than women their
characters, turn of thought, early habits and associations. Concealment
is more natural to women. Fairway Cottage boasted a flagstaff, so dear
to the heart of the retired seaman, with gaff complete. The wooden
palings were painted a bright green, and on a neat blackboard in white
letters was inscribed: "Joseph Stunner, Licensed Waterman." A shingle
pathway, edged with London Pride, led through a bit of well-kept garden
(evidence of Mrs. Stunner's taste and industry) to the cottage. The room
upon which the door opened showed unmistakably the character and
profession of its owner. A collection of polished shells filled the
fireplace above which was the model of a full rigged ship, and on each
side nicknacks from foreign lands. A large engraving on the opposite
wall depicted the death of Nelson, under which was hung a large sea
telescope; the flags of all nations had at one time been painted on it
in bright colors, but they were now almost obliterated. On a bracket was
a weather indicator in which a man came out of the house when it was
wet, and a woman when it promised to be fine. Spitoons half filled with
clean yellow sand were on each side of the fender, and the hair-cloth
furniture was covered everywhere with large snow-white crochet-work
antimacassars.

The air of tidy primness about the room suggested that it was rarely
used, and that the hands that kept it so clean and orderly belonged to a
lass (or one who was once a lass) that loved a sailor.

It was Wednesday evening. Joe specially enjoyed his tea. He had pretty
well recovered the effect of the accident, and George Jackson had called
that morning and given the old man fifty pounds in five-pound notes, and
had advised him to get another boat built to order--a fac simile of the
'Mary Jane.' His hands were still sore, and he had determined, on
Jackson's advice, to take a few weeks holiday and just look after the
building of the boat. Seated in a large wooden armchair, with his feet
on the big home-made hearth rug, his pipe alight, and a glass of warm
rum toddy at his elbow he was in a very amiable mood.

Mrs. Stunner's thin gray hair was pushed under a white cap and with the
evening newspaper in hand, she was looking with calm gray eyes through
her spectacles at her husband.

"I don't see anything in the paper, Joe, about your having saved young
Golliker," she said, "but here is an account of an awful murder."

"Aye, an' so they's said nothin' about the loss of the 'Mary Jane.'
Well, like enough; they have plenty just now to fill up their papers
with, but I'd a liked 'em to give Master Jackson a good word; he's a
werry kind-hearted gentleman he is, and as brave as a lion. No conceit
about him either. Aye, I wish there were more like him!"

"It's the Hon. Constant McWatt as has been killed," said Mrs. Stunner.

"Yer don't say so," said Joe, "and it's only last Saturday night that
Mr. Jackson called there to leave some things for him. When did it
'appen, 'Liza? He was alive on Saturday night, for I 'eard 'im talkin'
to Master Jackson as I sat waitin' on the stairs. Leastways, I thought
it was 'im."

"They believe that he was killed on Friday or Saturday night. Body was
picked up on Monday morning at Darton's Point. It had floated down in a
punt."

Joe Stunner's face assumed a thoughtful and serious aspect. "Read it out
to me 'Liza."

Mrs. Stunner wiped the glasses of her spectacles upon her snow-white
apron, and readjusting them, commenced reading the description which
appeared in the evening newspaper already referred to.

"They're on the wrong tack there," he said, when Mrs. Stunner read of
the tobacco ash being found on the staircase.

"I knocked that 'ere ash out of my pipe myself, and blest if the 'air
did not come off the cat Master Jackson rescued from the flood."

The editorial note upon the clue furnished by the "ashes knocked out of
the ruffian's pipe," moved him greatly. He flashed scarlet, and said,
"Liza, I'll have to set 'em right on that 'ere."

"Joseph," said Mrs. Stunner, looking at her husband over the rim of her
glasses, "how long did Master Jackson stay with Honorable McWatt?"

"Nigh on an hour," said Joe.

"Do you think they quarrelled?"

"I'm sure Master Jackson did not kill him no more than me."

"What did he want at Drybrook House at all that night?" asked Mrs.
Stunner.

"Blest if I know; 'ad some business with him I s'pose."

"Joe," said Mrs. Stunner, "take your wife's advice; don't mention to any
person that you and Master Jackson went to Drybrook House last Saturday
night. I hope they'll soon catch the murderer, and get him hung."

"Aye, aye, you're right wife, I believe you are; but I should like to
have a word about it with Master Jackson."

Joe Stunner sat for nearly an hour after that, and smoked his pipe
absorbed in thought. In his mind, he went over again every incident of
that night and morning. He was a bit confused, but to have suspected
Jackson of the murder it was impossible to his simple mind.

A neighbor called in shortly after to talk over the murder, which had
become the common topic of conversation throughout the city. He informed
Joe that bills were being put up, offering a reward of 200 for such
information as would lead to the conviction of the murderer. 100 was
offered by the Government, and 100 by the executors of the deceased.

A verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown had
been brought in by the jury at the inquest.

The owner of the punt had been discovered. It had been tied up in about
a foot of water near a fence adjoining the river. The owner was a well
known citizen, quite above suspicion. He had no knowledge of its
removal, nor had he or any member of his family, authorised any person
to take it away. The crime, said Stunner's informant, was involved in
the greatest mystery, and the general opinion was that unless one of the
accomplices confessed, or gave information, the murderer would never be
discovered. It was supposed by some that political motives had prompted
the crime; in fact all sorts of rumors were current, and it was believed
that some arrests would shortly be made. Something would have to be done
or no public man would feel his life to be secure.

Joe Stunner seemed to have lost his usual fluency, and was not sorry
when his visitor said "good-night."

That night Caleb Angel, barrister at law, received an urgent telegram in
Adelaide, giving him a brief statement of what had happened and urging
him to at once return to Brisbane. It was signed, "George Charles De
Ville."




CHAPTER XVII.--CONSTANT McWATT'S WILL.


From information received, Detective Brooks was closeted with the
manager of the El Dorado Bank on the morning after the inquest.

"I sent for you," said Mr. Cutts, "on account of an incident which
occurred this week in connection with the account of a late customer of
the bank. There may be nothing in it, and you must thoroughly understand
that should there be something, I do not want the bank to be in any way
implicated or necessitated to give evidence. We do not mind assisting in
bringing criminals to justice when occasion arises, but a bank never
likes to be brought into court if matters can be satisfactorily arranged
outside."

"Do I understand you," said Brooks, "that should a criminal be
discovered in this case you refer to, the bank wishes not to prosecute."

"You evidently don't understand me," said Cutts. "My sending for you is
to give information which may have something to do with the death of the
Hon. Constant McWatt."

"I beg your pardon; I thought you were referring to some fresh case,"
said Brooks, and he at once manifested increased interest.

"The facts are these," said Cutts, "and, by the way, I may say that it
was at a suggestion of the bank that certain questions regarding money
matters were put by the Coroner to Linton (the butler) at the inquest."

The detective nodded but said nothing. He looked like a man who hoped
that he had got a clue.

"Last Tuesday morning," said the manager, "a customer of the bank, who
has since closed his account, paid in a sum of 2500 in notes. The notes
are known to have been drawn out four years previously as part of a
cheque for 5000 cashed by a clerk of the late Hon. Constant McWatt. The
customer referred to owed the bank over--800, for payment of which we
were pressing him."

"Singular," said the detective after a few minutes pause, "but then it
is generally understood that McWatt's financial operations were on a
very extensive scale; the notes may have passed through several hands
before reaching those of your customer."

"Not likely," said Cutts, "there were nine different notes, and they
scarcely appear to have been handled, except that the edges had been
wetted and dried again."

"Can I see them?"

"Certainly; I have them here." Cutts took the notes from a drawer and
handed them to the detective. The latter drew up a chair close to the
table and examined the face of the first note carefully, and put down
its number and amount in his pocket-book. It was for 500. He did this
with each one, and then turned the last face down to scrutinise the
back.

"Been endorsed, I see."

"Yes we had each of them endorsed by the customer."

"George Jackson," read the detective. The signature was written in a
bold, firm hand.

"He did not refuse or hesitate to sign his name?"

"I believe not."

"Do you know much of him?"

"A little; he was once very friendly with McWatt, who, I believe,
introduced him to the bank. They were in here several times together on
business. Opened his account with a deposit of several thousands, but
lost a good deal through land and mining speculations. His address is
Darton's Point, Breezeland."

"That's where the body was discovered," said Brooks.

"Yes."

"What sort of a man do you consider this George Jackson to be?"

"Well," said the manager, flushing slightly, "he's a man I never liked,
and in fact," he said bitterly, "for my own part I would not mind seeing
him hanged. Of course, I'm only joking," he continued hurriedly, "but I
don't trust him."

"The detective looked at Cutts for a moment, and scanned his face
closely and keenly, but said nothing. The banker shrank, however, from
his penetrating glance.

"Is Jackson married?"

"I believe not?"

"He has closed his account with your bank. Do you mind giving his reason
for doing so?"

"Certainly not; we wrote him some pressing letters, and indeed,
threatened to writ him. We were dissatisfied with his securities so he
paid off his indebtedness and closed the account."

"Pardon me, but had you any personal quarrel with him?" said Brooks.

"Well, not exactly."

Brooks waited a moment, and then suddenly rose and said, "I expect that
you are busy, sir, so I must not detain you longer. I must thank you for
having tendered me this information, although I cannot at present attach
any importance to it; a criminal would scarcely endorse notes in that
open way, stolen from a man he had murdered. I expect that your customer
could account for his possessing them all right. Still, I am very much
obliged to you all the same for the information. Good morning, sir."

Mr. Cutts walked up and down his comfortable parlor for five minutes
after the detective had gone. "Curse the fellow's impudence," he said,
"to cross-examine me like that. I am almost sorry that I gave him any
information at all."

Brooks walked quietly up Queen-street--he was a short stoutish man with
light hair and keen gray eyes. He thought to himself, "Cutts has had a
row with Jackson, that's evident. He was sorry he let that out about
liking to see him hanged. For some reason or other he hates him.
However, I won't lose sight of what he has told me. Those notes have
been wet on the edges; dried afterwards. Been in a pocket-book and got
wet. He may have brought the money up to bank it from Darton's Point,
and it's been such terrible weather; here's the rain pelting down again
to-day. No harm to see, however, if any large sum of money was paid away
by McWatt last week. I wonder at which bank be kept his private account.
Not at the El Dorado evidently. I think that I will make a call on Mr.
De Ville; he is one of his executors."

He found on calling at De Ville's office that he was up at Foley and
Foggitt's, so he bent his steps in that direction.

The body of the Hon. Constant McWatt had been interred that morning. On
account of the painful circumstances of his death the funeral had been
made as quiet and private as possible, and left for the cemetery at an
unusually early hour. It had, however, been largely attended. Drybrook
House had not yet been cleaned or renovated, and was closed up and
placed in temporary charge of the coachman and groom. Mrs. McWatt
averred that they could never occupy the place again, and wished De
Ville to take charge of everything, pending the arrival of his executor,
Mr. Angel. It had been arranged that the will should be read at Foley
and Foggit's offices, after which Mrs. McWatt would return at once to
their summer residence near Toowoomba. Brooks reached the entrance to
the solicitors' offices just as the funeral party had gone up the
staircase. De Ville was, of course, with them, so the detective slowly
followed.

The offices of Foley and Foggitt were centrally situated, and their very
appearance betokened the character of the extensive business in the
hands of the firm. The staircase, with its massive cedar polished
bannisters and thick velvety linoleum, seemed to say, "You are now
approaching the office of a highly respectable and well-to-do firm of
solicitors, and you must expect their bill of costs to be proportional
to the costly fittings you see around you." At the top of the staircase
was a landing, where a swinging moulded door, with ground glass panel,
upon which was written in gold letters "Foley and Foggitt," led to a
handsomely-fitted vestibule. We may say that there was no need for the
handsome door referred to, to add one word to the bare announcement,
"Foley and Foggitt." All the city knew that the elder partner was a
notary public, and one time Cabinet Minister, and that every class of
legal practice came within the range of their business. They had a large
staff of clerks in the suite of offices upstairs, and Mr. Grind and Mr.
Graball were quite able to put through any business matter that might be
considered beneath the dignity of the partners.

Brooks pushed back the swinging glass door and entered the vestibule,
which was carpeted and well furnished, with massive counter adorned and
surrounded by ornamental woodwork.

In answer to his inquiries he was informed that the Hon. Spencer Foley
was out, and not likely to return; and that Mr. Dyson Foggitt was
engaged and would be occupied for some time, after which he had an
appointment at the Supreme Court.

Yes, Mr. De Ville was in with Mr. Dyson Foggitt, but of course could not
be disturbed. Would he call again?

Brooks said he would sooner wait; and seeing that he was not recognised
by the clerk, said, "You have a number of people coming in and out here,
I don't wish to be seen, can you put me in some unoccupied room until
Mr. De Ville or Mr. Foggitt is disengaged?"

The clerk looked at him. Brooks was well, although quietly dressed--had
a gentlemanly, almost distinguished air.

After looking at him for a moment--and probably taking him for a new and
apparently fat client, to be shorn in due course for the benefit of the
firm--the clerk said, "You can wait in Mr. Foley's room, he is out of
town." It should be explained that several doors led out of the
vestibule in addition to that already referred to. The large room to the
left was for meetings of trustees, creditors, etc., the door on the
other side opened upon the clerks' staircase and two others to the
private offices of the heads of the firm. On one was written Hon.
Spencer Foley and on the other Mr. Dyson Foggitt. There was a door
connecting the two rooms.

Brooks glanced round the room into which he was now ushered by the
clerk, who pointed to a seat and closed the door behind him.

Everything in the room was massive and calculated to impress a visitor
with the substantial resources of the firm. Two large iron safes stood
in one corner, doubtless full of deeds and other valuable documents. An
extensive legal library, on shelves enclosed in a mahogany glazed
bookcase, filled a recess. The floor was stained and polished, and
partly covered with a large heavy Turkey carpet. Attached to the centre
writing table were speaking tubes with ivory mouth pieces, communicating
with the upper suites of offices. The whole surroundings inspired
confidence. It was the very room in which a client would unhesitatingly
hand over his newly received legacy for investment; or pour into the
listening ear of his solicitor the delicate revelations of a domestic
scandal, or the complicated particulars of a lawsuit involving tens of
thousands of pounds. Nothing succeeds like success, and although the
junior partner of the firm really managed the business, and considerably
managed his other colleague at the head of the firm, they were probably
making several thousands a year more than any other professional
partnership in the city.

Brooks had a purpose in view; he had been in the rooms before, and found
to his intense satisfaction that the dividing door, leading into Mr.
Dyson Foggitt's room, stood slightly ajar. He noiselessly placed himself
in a chair near the door, kept his hat in his hand, put on the
appearance of a man who was a bit tired and bored by having to wait so
long, and listened intently to what was passing in the adjoining
apartment.

He could hear the sound of several voices that were strange to him,
speaking in the subdued tone common to people when attending funerals,
especially when in the presence of relatives of the deceased. Then he
heard Dyson Foggitt's voice giving some instructions to a clerk.

A dead silence followed. Foggitt was probably looking over the will.
Then his voice was heard, addressing De Ville, who intimated that they
were all quite ready.

"I regret," he said, in calm, thin, measured legal tones, "the absence
of one of the executors to this will which I hold in my hand--Caleb
Angel, Esq., barrister at law, who is unfortunately away in an adjoining
colony. An urgent telegram has been sent to him by his co-executor, who
I am pleased to see present, and who has taken at this trying time the
estate into his able management--I refer to Mr. George Charles De Ville.
There is no doubt, however, but that the said Caleb Angel will return
immediately on receipt of the mournful tidings to take his share of the
sad duties now devolving upon the executors."

Here Dyson Foggitt refreshed himself with a sip from a glass of water,
to the despair of certain poor relations who waited on the tip-toe of
hope and expectation to hear the content's of McWatt's will.

"The will I hold in my hand," continued Foggitt, wiping his lips with a
white cambric handkerchief, which cast a faint colour of 'Jockey Club'
perfume round the room, "is dated the first day of April, 1889, and is
as follows":--

Brooks almost unconsciously leant over nearer to the door, and held a
big colored handkerchief to his mouth to smother, if possible, a bit of
a tickling cough which seemed inclined to force its way up his
throat--the water came to his eyes as he struggled and at last choked
and swallowed it back again. It might have upset the whole of his little
plan.

"Excuse me," he heard De Ville say, "do you feel a draught from that
door, Mrs. McWatt?"

"No," said a faint voice, "I prefer it to be open, the room feels a
little close."

"Give it a push Mr. De Ville," said Foggitt, "there's no one in the
room."

The door opened a little wider, and Brooks, making sure that he would
not now be discovered, slipped hurriedly into a chair further from the
door. His apprehension was, however, needless, for in the same dry
professional tone Foggitt commenced to read the will. Brooke moved back
into his former seat; there was no need to lean forward, the door was
open wide enough for him to hear distinctly.

"This is the last will and testament (made in revocation of all former
and other wills) of me, Constant McWatt, of Drybrook House, North
Brisbane, Gentleman." The document went on in stiff legal phraseology,
after directing the payment of debts, funeral, and testamentary
expenses, &c., to give devise and bequeath the whole of his freehold
hereditaments, which were particularised at length with tiresome
minuteness to his trustees, upon trust, who were to permit his wife
(Ellen McWatt) to hold, occupy, and enjoy the said Drybrook House, and
all the contents thereof, during the term of her natural life. They were
further directed to pay her a sum of 1000 per annum. The executors were
directed to pay to his three daughters 10,000 each at such time as the
youngest shall attain the age of 21 years. The sum of 30,000, which the
will stated the executors would find in bank notes in a pocket-book in
an iron safe in his private library at Drybrook House, was to be paid,
without any deduction, to the trustees of the Bethel Calvanistic Church,
Brisbane, and they were further directed to disburse a sum of 1,500,
which would be found in sovereigns in a drawer of the said iron
fire-proof safe, according to the terms of an enclosed document
deposited in the said safe, at the said Drybrook House. A few small and
unimportant legacies to servants, and the balance of the estate after
its realisation and the payment of legacies was to be invested in the
names of the trusties until the death of Mrs. McWatt, when the whole
residuary estate was to be sold and the proceeds equally divided between
the two executors, George Charles De Ville and Caleb Angel.

It was a long and involved legal document, engrossed on six sheets of
parchment, which occupied an unnecessary long time in reading, and was
most difficult to understand. It was an unjust will, likely to please no
one except the trustees of the Bethel Calvanistic Church, and the
mysterious recipient of the 1,500. McWatt's numerous poor relations
were entirely overlooked.

"So," said Brooks to himself, "there was a matter of at least 31,500 at
the time of the murder in notes and gold in that safe at Drybrook House.
I wonder whether that money will be found just as McWatt left it."

Brooks had now heard all that he wanted to, so he stepped noiselessly
out of the room, saying to the clerk in the vestibule (who had by this
time forgotten all about him) that as they were having such a terrible
time he wouldn't wait, but would look in again bye and bye, and went
down into the street. Here he waited a few yards from the door way for
the funeral party to leave.

There were about nine people, including De Ville; the latter in company
with Mrs. McWatt--who was closely veiled and in deep mourning--who
entered a private carriage.

"I would like to see him if possible to-night," thought Brooks, and
hailing a hansom cab he told the man to follow the carriage. It stopped,
however, at De Ville's offices near by. De Ville stepped out, and after
having shaken hands with Mrs. McWatt left her, so Brooks dismissed his
cab and followed De Ville up the staircase.

"I want to have a word with you, Mr. De Ville."

"It will have to be very brief then."

De Ville had not recognised him, so Brooks handed him his card.

"Oh yes," said De Ville, in a more compliant tone of voice.

"Has there been robbery as well as murder at Drybrook House?" asked
Brooks almost in a whisper.

"Not that I know of," De Ville answered with a start, "but why do you
ask me such a question?" he continued, looking at Brooks. The detective
looked back at him, but made no reply, so after a moment's pause De
Ville said, "I'll tell you what, I am just going up to the house to get
some things for Mrs. McWatt, who leaves by the afternoon train, and
there will be time for us to examine the safe together."

"Do you know whether there was any money in it?" asked De Ville, looking
at him carelessly.

"Yes, 31,500," said Brooks slowly.

"The deuce! How do you know that? No one knew it until the will was
read," and he looked at him in amazement. "Look here," he said, "you may
as well come with me in my cab and we will see. No doubt the money is
there and you can see it for yourself, and you will be satisfied."

A few minutes after the two men were seated in a hansom, dashing along
the North Quay in the direction of Drybrook House.

"Do you think that you have any clue to the murderer?" asked De Ville.

"Not exactly," said the detective, "only a faint suspicion. If the money
is there all right it will be dissipated."

"Can you not tell me anything further?"

"Well, I may tell you this," said the detective. "A customer of one of
the banks paid 2500 in bank notes into his account last Tuesday, and it
has been discovered that the notes were received in exchange for a
cheque cashed by McWatt four years ago, just about the time when that
will was made."

"By George! Brooks, you seem to know all about that will," said De
Ville.

"May I ask the customer's name?"

"George Jackson, of Darton's Point," said Brooks.

"Strange," said De Ville, "but then he had business transactions with
McWatt, and probably received the notes in that way, but I thought that
their business relations had ceased some time ago; Jackson is hardly
worth a cent."

"You see I don't intend to interfere with anything," said De Ville as
they entered Drybrook House, "until Mr. Angel gets back from Adelaide;
but come upstairs, and we'll see that this money is safe. It would
really be best to remove it and lodge it in a bank."

He took a bunch of keys from his pocket and unlocked the safe. The
detective noticed De Ville's hand trembling with excitement. Nothing
seemed to escape Brooks! The top tray contained only papers, neatly
arranged and fastened in separate bundles with elastic bands or red
tape. The right-hand bottom drawer contained a few old letters, a
quantity of jewellery, and some uncut diamonds and other precious
stones. The left-hand drawer was then opened, it was quite empty. A
careful and minute search was then made by the two men, through deeds,
private account books, and papers.

There was no trace whatever of the gold or pocket-book, or bank notes,
or enclosed documents mentioned in the will.

De Ville and Brooks looked into each other's faces in blank
astonishment.

"Well," said Brooks at last, "we have one thing plain at any rate. If
McWatt put the money and documents into the safe, and they have been
stolen, we are furnished with a motive for the crime. I must find out
more about this George Jackson."

Had the detective happened to have been passing Drybrook House that
night after dark he would have seen a light burning in the library of
the Hon. Constant McWatt. It was De Ville, searching every inch of the
apartment for the pocket-book containing 30,000. But his search was in
vain.

Strange! he did not seem to trouble himself about the 1500 in gold
mentioned in the will.




CHAPTER XVIII.--A STRANGE FUNERAL SERMON.


The Bethel Calvanistic Church was one of the relics of the olden time.
It possessed a little city property, purchased by far-sighted trustees
or donated to the Church many years before, the rents of which slightly
augmented the minister's stipend. The congregation was fairly large and
decidedly ambitions; but lack of funds had prevented them from emulating
the architectural exploits of other denominations, who had sold their
church sights during the land-boom; and with the spoils thereof studded
Brisbane with costly and elegant ecclesiastical structures. When it
became known that the great sum of 30,000 had been left the trustees
without being hampered by any restrictions the excitement of the Church
members rose to fever heat.

Mrs. Deacon De Lain, a young and energetic woman, who exercised great
influence over her husband, who was the senior and most prominent deacon
of the Rev. Daniel Dare's Church, at once called upon Mrs. Deacon
Goodchild for conference and congratulations, and to arrange as to the
best way in which the legacy should be disbursed.

"We shall have to erect a new church," said Mrs. De Lain, "that's
certain. How glad I shall be to get out of that old barn. I believe then
that there will be no difficulty about getting Harold and Marjorie to
attend instead of going off to the English Church, and except for,"--and
the good lady sighed, and left the sentence incomplete.

"Sister De Lain," said Mrs. Goodchild, "it is true that we need a new
sanctuary, but there is something more than that we need. We shall also
have to import a new minister."

Mrs. De Lain smiled sweetly at her friend and said, "I am afraid dear
sister that will not be so readily done. What minister would give up a
church without a struggle that had just received a legacy of 30,000."

It was arranged by the ladies before separating that Mrs. De Lain should
suggest to her husband the appropriateness of a thanksgiving prayer
meeting taking the place of the usual week-evening service.

This was suggested by Deacon De Lain in due course to the pastor, but,
to everyone's surprise, the Rev. Daniel Dare put difficulties in the
way. It looked like Mammon worship, he said, to make it a special
function. The brethren might refer to it in their thanksgivings, but
there were circumstances which, in his judgement, made it not advisable
to give prominence to the matter. They had not yet received the
money--the deceased was only just buried; he had not been by any means a
regular attendant at their services, and many poor relations had been
entirely overlooked.

He had no wish to lord it over God's heritage, but he humbly submitted
to his brethren the deacons that a thanksgiving service would at present
neither be profitable to the people nor in good taste--so the subject
was allowed to drop.

"There is one matter, however," said Deacon Fusby, "that I wish to
submit to the consideration of our pastor and the brethren. It would be
appropriate, I think, on next Sabbath morning for the Rev. Daniel Dare
to improve the solemn occasion by preaching a funeral sermon on the
death of our late lamented brother, the Hon. Constant McWatt."

A deep silence followed, although several of the deacons nodded their
heads in approval.

"Will some other brother express his views upon the matter," said the
minister.

De Lain looked across the room with an encouraging smile, as much as to
say "Now, please don't wait for me to give my opinion."

The fact was he knew a good bit about McWatt's business methods and
sharp practices, &c., and had inadvertently said one or two things about
McWatt quite recently, to the pastor.

The pause was at last broken by one of the younger deacons, a talkative,
round-faced, serene-looking man of about eight and thirty, who had left
one of the banks to commence business on his own account, which had
resulted in more profit to the bank than advantage to himself. However,
he was well connected, and principally on that account had been made a
deacon. He spoke quickly and with an unconscious, snappish
self-assertion, which contrasted strangely with the studied humility of
his address.

"Mr. Chairman, if I, as one of the younger members of this diaconite,
may be allowed to give expression to my opinion, which I do with all
deference to you, sir (bowing to the minister), and to my brother
deacons, I should say that the present is a very favorable opportunity
to attract the outside public to our services and considerably augment
the ordinary Sabbath collections, which I regret to notice--owing, no
doubt, to the wet weather and general depression, and not to any failure
in the weekly ministrations of our pastor--have had a downward tendency
of late. In fact, it's my opinion--which I hold, of course, subject to
any further information or the wiser counsels that may be submitted to
this meeting--I say, sir and brethren, that in my opinion we need more
variety in our Sunday services. The service of praise should, I think,
have greater prominence. In fact, the able discourses of our pastor
might be shortened occasionally with advantage in order to give
opportunity to the choir, of which I may say that as a church we have
reason to be proud, to give an occasional anthem or display its powers
of rendition in short selections from some of our great composers. We
shall, of course, have the church draped in mourning next Sunday and
appropriately decorated with white flowers, and have the services well
advertised. One week's interest only of the large sum which the late
Hon. Constant McWatt has so nobly and, I may say, thoughtfully and
generously donated to this church will well nigh defray the whole
expense. As being specially interested in the musical portion of the
service, I would suggest that the 'Dead March in Saul' should be played
as a voluntary, and that Miss Marjorie De Lain should be requested to
render as a solo during the offertory, after the appropriate and
pathetic sermon which our esteemed pastor is so well able to preach,
either 'O Rest in the Lord' or 'I Know that My Redeemer Liveth.'"

"I may say, in closing, Mr. Chairman and brethren, that I regard the
present as a time for congratulation. Through the generosity of our dear
deceased brother a vista of possibility is opening up before the church
such as, I confess, never suggested itself to me in my most sanguine
moments. To my mind, we have already entered upon a new chapter in our
church history. Opportunities of usefulness and influence will now
multiply themselves around us. In this time of depression we may
purchase a magnificent site for a new church, in one of the main
thoroughfares of the city, at a merely nominal price. We may erect an
ornate and commodious building that shall be adapted to our growing
influence and position in this city. A new pipe organ may be imported,
and after all this has been accomplished we may still have left over a
handsome surplus, which, invested at 7 per cent., on good city
property, may enable us to offer a stipend which (of course, after the
retirement of our present beloved pastor) will enable us to command the
services of one of the most eloquent and representative ministers of the
old land. I congratulate you, brethren, upon your changed prospects, and
I assure you that next Sabbath I shall appear dressed in deep mourning,
to add to the general effect, as far as possible, of the solemn memorial
service in which we shall be engaged."

One of the younger deacons said "Hear, hear," at the close of this
eloquent and comprehensive speech; but the fact was it had taken away
the breath of the majority. They were prepared for something striking
and original whenever Mr. Bright's humility allowed him to address them,
but this had surpassed all expectation. The reference to Mr. Dare's
possible retirement was the climax.

There was a long and painful silence which Mr. Bright--whose ardent
nature had anticipated as the effect of his address a general
hand-shaking on the part of pastor and deacons--took as a personal
slight if not an insult, and he had commenced to consider the terms in
which he might best word his resignation of office, when honest old
Sandy McBain, who held that the mission of the church was to save souls,
and who, through thick and thin, stood by the pastor, said:

"Very likely our brother, Mr. Dare, will by this time be prepared to
assist the meeting by his counsels. For my own part I hardly know what
to think about this enormous legacy. It seems to me that at no time has
the responsibility of this diaconate been so great. We need to advise
and influence the church with the most prayerful caution, or there is a
serious danger that like other churches we may lose our spirituality and
usefulness in the desire to be prominent in the city and outdo our
neighbors. It appears to me that the matter of this funeral discourse
may be safely left in the hands of the minister."

The Rev. Daniel Dare rose as he addressed them.

"Dear brethren," he said, "I must thank you all for the free expression
of your views upon this subject. We are a self-governing body, and all
shades of opinion are worthy of our respectful and serious
consideration."

At this Mr. Bright felt considerably mollified, and at once decided to
think no more about resignation.

"I approach the subject before us," continued the pastor, "with some
delicacy. I could, of course, in a funeral discourse only give
expression to my honest convictions in regard to the deceased gentleman,
and it is a subject upon which I fear that I should have very little to
say in approval in the house of God. I could not honestly, brethren,
hold up his life before our young men as worthy of imitation. He has
rarely attended our services, and there are depreciatory rumors current
about him, which are generally known in the community. I have no
personal knowledge of the facts myself, and God forbid, brethren, that I
should sit in judgment upon any man, or give credence to idle rumors
concerning any man's character. But what is our motive in holding this
service? Who will be likely to be benefited by a pulpit eulogy of any
excellencies which I may be able to discover in the character of the
deceased? The Press has already done this with, to my mind, sickening
superfluity. If he had not left our church this enormous sum of money
(which, God grant, may not prove a curse to us) we should never have
dreamed of holding a memoriam service at all; but," said the
minister--remembering his wife and young children at home, and wondering
how, if he got his dismissal from the church, he would obtain a call to
any other--"I leave the matter to the decision of this meeting. It will
still be in my province to decide the subject matter of discourse. The
selection of music may, if you wish, be left to Mr. Bright, and I shall
be pleased to shorten my sermon to give ample time for its rendition."

Mr. Dare closed thus, because he could see in the faces of the deacons
that the service had been pre-arranged for by a majority before the
meeting, and that it was useless for him to offer further opposition.

There was a good bit of whispered conversation amongst some of the
deacons after this, during which the minister turned over the leaves of
his hymn book. Presently the senior deacon arose, and, without any word
of comment, moved:--"That, in the opinion of this meeting, a funeral
service should be held next Sabbath morning in memory of the late Hon.
Constant McWatt; that the Church should be appropriately draped and
special hymns rendered, and that the service should be advertised in the
daily and weekly papers."

Mr. Bright jumped up eagerly to second it, and it was carried with only
one dissenting vote--Sandy McBain's.

Going home afterwards, Mr. Bright said to a brother deacon, "Mr. Dare
seems to be failing of late; is losing his influence over the young
people; and with so many popular preachers, with their new methods of
attracting large congregations, it's evident that we are losing ground."

"Yes," said his companion, "he has been a long time with us, and his
usefulness seems almost past. It would be a good thing if he would
voluntarily retire."

"What are we paying him?" asked Bright; "I really don't trouble about
such matters generally."

"250 and a manse."

"Why," said Bright, "with this legacy we shall be able to give him a
small pension and get a new man out who would stir the whole city at a
salary of one thousand a year."

The service was duly advertised, and the following Sunday morning a
large congregation assembled, necessitating the placing of forms and
chairs along the aisles to accommodate them. "What did I tell you?" said
Deacon Bright to Deacon De Lain, "see how it has drawn the crowd."

Among the large number of strangers, mostly of the more wealthy class,
who had come partly out of curiosity to see the church that had come in
for such a windfall, and partly to show deference to McWatt's position
and wealth--and who mostly looked round the unpretentious building, and
at their neighbors, with a curious supercilious stare which was intended
to show that the surroundings were entirely new and unaccustomed to
them, and that when they worshipped it was in a very different building
to that--were the servants and some of the humbler dependents of
McWatt's household.

One of them was a white-haired old man named Sanderson, still hale and
hearty, but far down the hill of life. He was a first cousin of
McWatt's, and the only relative of the late Honorable in the edifice. He
had been employed by McWatt to do odd jobs about the office at a small
weekly wage, and it was generally supposed that McWatt would see to it
that after his death the old man was reasonably provided for.

No provision, however, was made for old Sanderson in McWatt's will, and
it is idle to imagine that he felt no disappointment. "Martha," he had
been in the habit of saying to his wife, "Constant will not forget us.
He and I were like brothers in the old days at home."

Sanderson lived not far from Joe Stunner, and had persuaded Joe to come
across with him to attend the service. Joe had said, "Yer see it's not
much in my way, this 'ere goin' to church, but I'll come and 'ear about
yer cousin."

They sat together, two as clean and wholesome old men as any in the
building. Sanderson had quite forgiven McWatt for having overlooked him
in his will, and as his eyes roamed around the heavily-draped building
and pulpit and congregation (mostly dressed in mourning), he began to
wander in his thoughts back to the days of boyhood. There was a bunch of
fragrant white flowers upon the pulpit stand. They reminded him of the
gowans he and Constant McWatt had pulled when they were herding cows
together on the old moor farm. He was older than Constant and much
stronger, too; and often had he taken him upon his back for sport in
crossing the burns and rills of their native moorlands. He had saved his
life, too, once. And now he was dead!

And as he thought about it the present faded and it was not the great
Queensland Honorable that had died, but bright-eyed Con (his cousin),
the friend and companion of his boyhood, and tears came to the old man's
eyes. And yet no provision whatever was made for this man in McWatt's
will. He who had saved McWatt's life in boyhood, and after he had come
to wealth and power had served him for years--a faithful, simple-minded,
humble dependent--was wilfully and wickedly passed by; and yet--as the
reader will find later on--under cover of a secret document he had left
1500 to an abandoned woman of the town. To some of us one small deed of
charity to this white-headed aged man, with a wife and invalided
daughter dependent upon him, would have covered a multitude of sins. But
McWatt had lost his opportunity for ever, and instead--hoping thereby,
perhaps, to pave his path to heaven--had left to the Bethel Calvinists
30,000, or as Fielding, the auctioneer, put it, "at 6 per cent. only,
1800 a year for ever."

But now the solemn strains of the organ voluntary announced the time for
the commencement of the service, and with the music the Rev. Daniel Dare
entered robed in a plain Geneva gown. He was fairly tall, and had a face
that stamped him as one of heaven's own ministers. There was nothing
bald or meagre about the opening exercises, as is so often the case with
Nonconformist services. The extemporary prayer offered was comprehensive
and tender, and no one seemed to be forgotten; the flood disasters were,
of course, prominent, and every sufferer seemed to be remembered.
McWatt's bereaved relatives were prayed for and the poor ones specially
mentioned--and old Sanderson felt comforted. Forgiveness was even
invoked for the murderer, and that he might be brought to repentence;
but not a word was uttered about the dear departed brother (the Hon.
Constant McWatt) or the 30,000. After the hymn the organ died away
again in tremulous melody, and the Rev. Daniel Dare arose to preach the
Hon. Constant McWatt's funeral sermon. The text announced, referred to
the murder of John the Baptist by Herod, and seemed singularly
appropriate. It was: "And they took up the body and buried it."

By way of introduction, reference was made to the mystery and tyranny of
death. How its loathsome hand mars the beauty of the fairest and best
beloved, and makes us say with the sorrowing Abraham: "Let me bury my
dead out of my sight." The speaker then reviewed the circumstances of
Herod's birthday party, and how, to reward the dancing of a shameless
girl, he gave her, at the instigation of her revengeful mother, the
bloody head of John the Baptist. Then followed a life-like description
of Herod the Great; his great wealth and great palaces and great retinue
of servants and great extent of landed property--fawned upon by the rich
and hated by the poor. He spoke of his luxurious life, and his gluttony
and greed and licentiousness. Truly he was a great man, said the
preacher, and a religious man too, for he spent untold wealth to rebuild
the Jewish Temple for the administrations of religious worship; but
alas! it was a religion he scoffed at, and a service which he despised.
The very wealth, too, which he thus lavished upon the rebuilding and
adornment of the magnificent structure known as Herod's Temple was wrung
by the grinding extortions of his tax collectors out of the wages of the
poor.

"At last he died," said the preacher, "died on a set day; died by the
judgment of God--eaten of worms. But he was known as Herod the Great
notwithstanding, and doubtless had a great funeral and long and
complimentary obituary notices in the newspapers of his day. But," said
the preacher, "that was not Heaven's estimate of Herod or of Herod's
splendid son. God never called him great. When the great man's name was
used on one occasion threateningly to the Lord Christ, he sent to him a
divine message. What was it? Go ye and tell the great Herod? No. 'Go ye
and tell that fox.'" Then followed an excellent peroration, which set up
the memory of Herod as a lighthouse whose warning cry to them was: Keep
off the rocks--the rocks of self-destruction, of sin, of pride of place,
and power and wealth. In closing, the preacher's voice melted into
plaintive tenderness as he spoke of earthly bereavement and divine
consolations and forgiveness and Heaven.

"Wonderful preacher that," said some city men as they left the church.
"Did not think we had such a man in Brisbane!"

"Most singular sermon," said Bright to De Lain, "cannot make head or
tail of it. Not at all suited to the occasion. Not adapted, I fear, to
the advanced thought and culture of modern society either. By the way,
what a number of prominent citizens were present, and what a
collection!"

"Blest if he didn't pitch into them avaricious swells that 'cumulate
bags of money and live licentious lives and make long prayers and grind
the faces of the poor and rebuild temples," said Joe Stunner to
Sanderson.

"Did you ever hear such a sermon," said Mrs. Deacon De Lain to Mrs.
Deacon Goodchild. "Such shocking bad taste. I could have sunk down in
the pew with vexation. Why, he held our generous benefactor up to the
scorn and contempt of the whole congregation. Ah, well! one comfort is,
he won't be with us much longer."

"Thank God, he has dared to be a Daniel," said old Sandy McBain,
unconsciously punning on the minister's name, "and dared to stand alone.
But I'll stick to him; and they shan't send him away either, if I can
help it."




CHAPTER XIX.--IN CONFERENCE.


It was Sunday night, the 12th of February. The rain was still descending
and the river rising. Brisbane was threatened with another flood. In the
comfortable sanctum of one of the Commissioners of Police two men sat
smoking. It was Brooks and his superior officer. They had been smoking
in perfect silence for fully a quarter of an hour. It was evidently a
pre-arranged, confidential meeting, and they were not likely to be
disturbed; this was proved by one fact alone: both of them were smoking
pipes--except before intimates, and in strict privacy, the superior
officer only smoked cigars.

The solace of the fragrant weed was drawn slowly and meditatively from
the smouldering bowls in long inhalations. Between each emission of
blue, wreathing smoke there seemed to be a long period, during which the
smoker's eye dreamily followed the curling cloud, as though his thoughts
were engaged with some perplexing problem that defied solution.

"Hang it all, Brooks," exclaimed the superior officer at last, "you'll
have to arrest somebody. Here it's a week since the body was discovered,
and it seems to me that you have practically done nothing."

"I'm having the life pestered out of me by the heads of departments, and
yesterday old Clankside actually got me into the Under-Secretary's
office and damned me and the whole force for a lot of blockheads and
imbeciles, and said that if he had been Colonial Secretary he would have
had the murderer arrested within four and twenty hours or he'd have
known the reason why. He's an irascible old nigger-driver, no doubt, and
certainly made things pretty lively when he was in office, but he's
right in one thing: it's high time something was done. Why, there's
getting to be a regular panic amongst some of them; they have taken it
into their heads to attribute the murder of McWatt to political revenge,
and regard it as an act of intimidation on the part of some of the Labor
men to influence things at the general election. I don't believe a word
of it; some hot-headed fools among them may send threatening letters,
but it's all smoke. They play their cards better than that. Why, if it
could be shown that this murder was the work of the Labor party, or any
section of it, it would ruin their prospects for the election. Anyhow,
there are two more who have sent to ask for police protection, and one
of them is a member of the Upper House."

"It's no use talking, Brooks; unless you can make an arrest in a few
days, I shall have to put the matter into the hands of Dingle. You know
that I have every confidence in you, but there are one or two things
that have been muddled lately, and we are getting into discredit with
the Government."

"How would it be to arrest the butler?" said Brooks after a pause.

"Well, not so bad," said the chief after a few minutes reflection; "it
would turn the scene away from the Labor men. But no," he continued,
laughing, "I'm not to be had like that, Brooks; you know very well that
it could not be done, he slept that night at the Auriel. You'll have to
arrest someone who, at any rate, cannot prove an alibi."

"That's just it," said Brooks, "it's this flood that has so completely
destroyed any traces, and thus thrown us off our ordinary modes of
procedure. There is not an end to be got hold of anywhere. It's my
belief that the murder was not committed on Thursday night at all.
McWatt was probably prevented from getting away on Thursday, and may
have been murdered by a party of burglars, or wreckers, on Friday or
Saturday night. There were numbers of them about in boats, pretending to
rescue, but really on the look out for plunder. I believe that some of
them did actually assist to save life, and in one case it was proved
that after saving the occupants they went back and robbed the house. But
what with the rain and darkness and flood you know very well not one of
them has been arrested."

"What was that you told me about Mr. Jackson, of Darton's Point?--but
it's impossible he should be implicated; why last Sunday afternoon I saw
him and a waterman named Stunner do one of the most plucky things I have
seen all through the flood. But just let me know exactly what you have
done so far."

"Well, I have questioned each of the servants and find their statements
similar and self-confirmatory," said Brooks.

"I have examined the house and grounds minutely--alone, and in company
with one of the executors--but I can find no trace of any intruders
except the tobacco ash upon the stairs, marks of feet, and the black
hairs of a cat. Upstairs in McWatt's room were the remains of two wax
vestas."

"But you see all this might easily be accounted for. My supposition is
that McWatt remained over Thursday, and probably over Friday night, at
Drybrook House; there would be plenty to eat, and no doubt when he saw
himself cut off by the flood he preferred to stay, feeling perfectly
secure. When the water first came into the house he may have sat upon
the stairs himself, under his own statue, and watched the water. I have
found that he often smoked when alone--why should he not have smoked a
pipe as he sat there and, for the matter of that, have stroked a cat for
company? He must have carried that cockatoo upstairs, and why should he
not have had a cat with him?"

"Did his bed show any signs of having been slept in?"

"It did not occur to me to inquire until Friday, and then I found that
one of the servants had straightened up the rooms, and I could not find
out," replied Brooks.

"Ah! make a note of that and just make sure."

"What about the money that was lost out of the safe?"

"Well, I have my doubts about it. The will made, it must be remembered,
four years ago, stated that there would be found in the safe a private
document, and also a pocketbook containing 30,000 and gold to the
amount of 1500. But its very likely that McWatt, like others, has had
his losses lately, and may have paid away the money, or for some cause
have removed it."

The Chief smoked away vigorously for a moment or two and then said:

"Find out from the executors how his affairs stood, and whether he had a
large cash balance at his bankers, and, by the way, you say that he
withdrew 5000 in notes on the 20th day of March, 1889, from the El
Dorado Bank; now that may be one-sixth of the 30,000. Make inquiries
and see if any large or similar amounts were drawn on or about the same
date from other banks. Do you know where he kept his private bank
account? Well you had better find out. You saw the owner of the punt?"

"Yes, there is nothing to be learnt there--they are thoroughly
respectable people, and, besides, no person having anything to do with a
murder would have the body put into his own punt."

"There was a knife found in the punt," said the Chief.

"I have taken it round to every ironmonger's and pawnbroker's shop in
Brisbane, but none of them recognised it. One of the chief cutlers says
that there are no knives sold now similar to it, and that it is of
foreign workmanship--probably Maltese."

"By George! bought by somebody on the way out from Home; came by
steamer; called at Malta, or perhaps bought it at Port Said. What's the
knife like?"

"Here it is," said Brooks, "I have not returned it yet."

It was a fairly large clasp knife, with a single blade of plain but
finished workmanship. There was a broad silver name plate, but with
nothing engraved upon it. There were a few scratches upon the handle,
but seemingly nothing by which it might be specially identified.

"It might be sworn to," said the Chief, slowly, "if its ownership could
be discovered. I don't think it belonged to a laboring, or working man.
There is no need to ask you whether all the principal police stations in
this and the other colonies have been wired to."

"That was done as soon as communication was restored after the flood,"
said Brooks.

"Well, attend carefully to the suggestions I have made, and meet me here
at the same hour to-morrow night."




CHAPTER XX.--JACKSON ARRESTED.


"You're sharp to time, Brooks," said the Chief, as he greeted him on the
following night, "I hope that matters are shaping a bit better."

In reply Brooks handed his superior officer a letter. The latter read it
over; placed it upon the table, and the two men commenced to smoke.

"Supposing that there is nothing in this letter?" queried the Chief.

"But there is," replied Brooks, "the letter came to the office by the
first delivery this morning."

The Chief picked it up and read it through again with a smile which,
however, soon passed, and left a shade of sadness and regret upon his
face. The letter, except that we have corrected the spelling, was as
follows:--

                         Pentland Cottage,

                         South Brisbane.

Mr. Police Officer,

At the Roma-street Barracks.

I write this to let you know that I overheard my old man tell a friend
of his that a mate of his, a waterman named Joe Stunner, rowed somebody
over the river late last Saturday night to Drybrook House. Likely it was
the same as murdered the gentleman all the fuss has been about. Please
send me the 200 reward by the same postman as brings us the letters,
and be sure and say nothing about it to my old man. Anxiously awaiting
the money,

                         Your humble servant,

                              MARGARET ADAMS.

"I went over," continued Brooks, "at once, found out the waterman's
place, and saw his wife. She did not, of course, recognise me as
belonging to the force. I had a good deal of trouble to get anything out
of the old lady. She seemed on her guard a bit, which confirmed my
suspicions. Anyhow, I found out that her husband had been away from home
on Saturday night, and that he must have crossed the river in his boat,
for the simple old soul allowed that he had tea with her at home and
that he was over on the north side on Sunday morning, and that the boat
was wrecked on Sunday afternoon against the Victoria bridge. I got out
of her that Stunner was having another boat built, and that some
benevolent gentleman gave him 50 to replace the lost boat. I believe
that she called it the 'Mary Jane.'"

"Who do you think it was that he rowed over?"

"George Jackson."

"I don't care what evidence there is," said the Chief, impulsively,
"I'll never believe that Jackson is a murderer."

"They may have quarrelled," said Brooks.

"Even then, I cannot think that Jackson would have struck him. McWatt
was a regular coward; would bluster a bit at times, but he never would
have the pluck to lift his hand to a brawny fellow like Jackson. As to
Jackson, he's one of the coolest cards I ever met; and, besides, McWatt
was killed with some weapon. Look here, Brooks, you're on the wrong
track. Constant McWatt was never murdered by George Jackson."

"Well, hear the rest of the evidence.

1. Although the housemaid could not be sure that McWatt's bed had been
slept in she is prepared to swear that it was tumbled, and that someone
had lain on it.

2. There was a credit balance at the Colonial Bank where McWatt kept his
private account when he died of no less than 37,600.

3. On the 20th March, 1889, a cheque was cashed for 25,000 at the
Colonial Bank, the whole of which was drawn in notes.

"I have found out Tomkins, who is at Warwick; wired there, and got one
of the sergeants to interview him. He distinctly remembers the
transaction, and also, that at McWatt's request he afterwards exchanged
20,000 worth of the notes for those of other banks; 5000 of each, and
all for large amounts. He remembers it distinctly, as he had some
trouble to get them. He believes that McWatt took the notes with him to
Drybrook House the same afternoon, as he seemed a bit nervous, and made
him go home with him for company in the waggonette. McWatt was not in
very good health at the time."

"Well!" said the Chief.

"I think that is all plain enough," said Brooks. "Stunner rowed Jackson
over to Drybrook House on Saturday night."

"A thing to me which seems impossible!" interjected the Chief; "why,
Brooks, I was out that night myself in one of the boats, and I assure
you that no one but a madman would have attempted to cross the river in
a boat that night. Scores of houses were coming down, and the river was
a perfect Niagara, half choked with wreckage, and to cross it in the
dark too! But go on."

"Men will take big risks with 30,000 in question," said Brooks dryly.

"Well, as I was saying, they crossed the river and found nearly two feet
of water covering the ground floor of Drybook House. Jackson left
Stunner with the boat, went up and found McWatt asleep, struck him with
a heavy ebony ruler taken from the library table, and afterwards robbed
the safe; he and Stunner then lifted the body into the punt and set it
adrift. I have found that Jackson and Stunner came into a George-street
hotel about half-past 2 on Sunday morning and asked for refreshments.
They seemed very tired, and explained that they had been working in the
flood. They asked for beds, but as they were all full, slept afterwards
on lounges in the dining-room. The following morning Jackson paid 2500
in notes--that were drawn out by Tomkins for McWatt on the 20th March,
1889--into his account at the El Dorado bank."

"Looks bad for Jackson, and I suppose you are getting a warrant out for
his arrest," said the Chief. "But, 'pon my word Brooks, even now I
cannot believe it of Jackson."

"Why, man," he said almost angrily.

"I know him well. I'd as soon believe that I did the murder myself!"

"Well, suppose that I can prove that the knife found in the punt was
Jackson's property?"

"Ah!" said the Chief, starting, "if you can prove that there will be
evidence complete enough to hang any man."

*    *    *    *    *    *

By an early train next morning two men travelled second class to Redland
station. They had a bit of a horsey appearance; one of them wore spurs
and carried a stock-whip. The constable at the Melbourne-street station
noticed them and thought they were a couple of stockmen going down for a
mob of cattle or horses. If he could have seen under their coats he
would have found fastened at the back, in the belts of each, a pair of
handcuffs. They were going down to arrest George Jackson, of Darton's
Point, for the murder of the Hon. Constant McWatt.

That morning, Frank, John Darton's man of all work, was cutting firewood
in a paddock a short distance from the house when he noticed two horsey
looking men coming in at the gate; one of them stooped down and seemed
to pick something out of the grass, they then stopped for a minute and
looked at it. Coming over, the elder of the two said to him:--

"Good morning; is the boss about?"

"He's up at the house, I think, in his office," was the reply.

"Has he got any horses to be broken in?" asked the man.

"I don't think so," replied Frank. "You had better go up and ask him.
There are some in the Big Swamp paddock that he might have handled, but
you'll have to do it cheap."

The two men turned to go up to the house, when one of them stepped back
and said, "Look here, mate, we picked up this knife in the grass over
against the gate. I suppose it belongs to someone about the place."

Frank took the knife and looked at it, and, without any hesitation said,
"Belongs to Mr. Jackson; he lent it to me one day to cut a bit of
greenhide. I'll show you how I know it," and he pulled out two spring
guards, one on each side of the blade. "Mr. Jackson told me that he
bought it somewhere coming out on the steamer. The knife is his all
right; I could swear to it."

"Is Mr. Jackson up at the house?"

"Yes, you'll find him most likely with the boss."

"Ah! then I can give it to him myself," said the man.

John Darton had just received a letter which had given him some
uneasiness, and Mrs. Darton, Edna, and Jackson were sitting in the
breakfast room engaged in what was evidently a serious discussion. The
letter was from De Ville, in reply to an inquiry of Darton's in
reference to the way in which McWatt had left Edna Forrest's trust
account. In it he regretted that McWatt's business affairs had been left
in very considerable confusion, no doubt partly owing to his very sudden
death. He had examined McWatt's account books and private ledger, but
could find no trust account in Miss Forrest's name. He had not been able
to discover any deed of trust or other document referring to the matter.
It looked as though the 10,000 had gone direct through the private
account of the deceased without any specification as to the source from
which it had come or the purpose for which it had been received. If
McWatt had ever received the money, continued the letter, it was a most
unbusinesslike way of dealing with the transaction. The cheques for
interest could be traced, but they were entered in the cash book simply
as payments to John Darton on account of Edna Forrest. He would have the
matter carefully looked into on the arrival of Mr. Caleb Angel, his
co-trustee, but unless they possessed documents fully substantiating the
claim, he did not see how the 10,000 could be made a charge upon the
estate.

"We have no documents," said John Darton, "not even a receipt. The money
came by bank draft from England, and I handed it over to McWatt. He was
my co-trustee, and it never occurred to me to ask for a receipt."

The whole party looked at each other in consternation and amazement.
Edna spoke first. Her voice quivered somewhat; for several days past the
shadow of her dream had swept darkly across her life. Somehow George was
not quite the same; she felt sure that he had something upon his mind.
He started when spoken to sometimes, and he looked ill, and shuddered
when she had told him of her dream. Then he had laughed and said it was
nothing.

"Never mind, Uncle," she said, "it will all come right somehow; we can
trust Caleb Angel to do fairly, and he will be back within a week's
time."

"Look, John," said Mrs. Darton, "there are two men, stockmen I think,
coming up the drive. I suppose they want you. It's like their impudence
to come up to the front of the house. I do wish that you would give
orders to Frank always to tell people of that class to come to the back
entrance."

John Darton went out by the hall door on to the verandah.

"Morning sir," said the short, stoutish man; "is Mr. Jackson anywhere
about?'

"Yes, he's inside," and going to the hall door he called, "Jackson,
here's a couple of men want you."

Jackson came out, a frown upon his face, but cool and self-possessed.

"Well, what is it?'

"The man down in the paddock says that this is your knife?"

"It is," said Jackson, looking at it, and then lifting his eyes to his
interrogator, he looked him straight in the face.

"Well, what then?" he said.

"George Jackson, I arrest you in the Queen's name," said Brooks,
stepping forward.

"What for, fellow?" ejaculated Darton, not realising for the moment that
the stockman was a detective in disguise.

"For the murder of the Hon. Constant McWatt."

Jackson stood looking at him like a man in a dream. He was thinking not
of himself but of Edna. She must have heard it.

"My good man," said Darton "you're making a terrible mistake. Tell him
so, George!"

"It's of no use, John," said Jackson. "I shall have to go with them, but
as I stand before my God this moment, I am innocent."

There was the flutter of a dress and the arms of a sobbing girl were
round George Jackson's neck, and burning kisses were pressed upon his
lips before them all.

"George! George dear, we all of us believe you!"

"Edna," said Mrs. Darton, "I am astonished at you; of course we believe
Mr. Jackson to be innocent, but you are allowing your excited feeling to
carry you beyond all bounds of decorum. Before two strange men, too!"

Cried Edna in a broken voice: "At such a time as this, I'd kiss him
before all the world!" and then she dropped down upon a seat and burst
into a passionate flood of tears.

The two men went back by the afternoon train, George Jackson with them.
As he walked down the Melbourne-street station steps, a member of the
Upper House was ascending.

"Halloo, Jackson! I just wanted to see you," and he reached out his
hand.

"I beg your pardon," replied Jackson, without accepting the proffered
hand, a tremor shaking his voice, "I cannot speak to you now; you will
know why presently."

His friend looked back in amazement as Jackson and the two men passed.

"Good Heavens!" he exclaimed, "why, he's handcuffed by the right wrist
to the other man's left; no wonder that he could not shake hands with
me. Detectives, I suppose. What on earth can he have done?" and he went
back to the Club to tell the astonishing news.

"I was going out to Ipswich, but 'pon my word I feel that knocked over I
can do nothing to-day. Here, Barnes, go out and see if you can get me an
evening paper."

For the first time in his life George Jackson passed a night in gaol. We
say he passed the night, for the shock, although half-expected, had been
so severe that he could not sleep.




CHAPTER XXL.--CALEB ANGEL.


To the chagrin of the editors of the evening papers, the news of the
arrest of Jackson arrived too late for publication in the special
editions. The train did not get into Melbourne-street station until five
o'clock, and that evening the news was only known by a few.

Poor old Stunner was arrested the same night in bed. He had retired
early with an untroubled mind--for the present of the 50 had done
wonders for him--and was just falling asleep, when two police constables
came to the front door. Brooks knew that there would be no trouble about
arresting the old man; he felt a bit tired himself, and wanted to see
his superior officer, so he sent two subordinates. They rapped at the
front door and, without waiting, turned the handle and looked into Mrs.
Stunner's best parlor. Her good man, as she called him, was in bed in
the next room, the only door of entrance to which was from the room into
which the police officers had partly obtained entrance.

As soon as Mrs. Stunner saw that it was a police constable that had
opened the door and that another tall officer in uniform was peering
over his shoulder, all her marital instincts were aroused, and with
flashing eyes she demanded their business.

"We want your husband, my good woman; I suppose your name is Eliza
Stunner?"

"Yes, my name is Eliza Stunner," said the dame, blocking up the doorway,
"and a good honest name it is, too, and not one as is known to the
perlice. My good man is in bed, and you can't see him. You can come agin
in the morning if yer business is pressing. I s'pose, being a licensed
waterman, yer think yer can disturb his folks at any hour of the night,
coming into decent bodies' houses without asking by yer leave or
anything. Now, take yer foot away from the door or I'll report yer for
forcing yer way into the house."

"Go and stand round by the window, South," said the sergeant to his
companion, without speaking to the indignant wife, "he may try to escape
that way; he's in the adjoining room. Keep your handcuffs ready."

"It's coming to 'rest my Joe ye are, is it?" said Mrs. Stunner, raising
her voice. "I tell yer he's in bed, and can't be 'rested or anything
else tonight."

"My good woman," commenced the sergeant.

"W'at's matter, Liza?" sang out a voice from the bedroom, "summat wants
a boat; tell 'em 'Mary Jane' was wrecked on Sunday 'ginst Victoria
Bridge, all hands saved, and skipper's takin' 'is watch below till
to-morrow mornin'."

"Joe," said Mrs. Stunner, with an indignant sob in her throat, "it's two
perlicemen, and one of the wagabonds has gone round to the window, and
here's another with his foot 'gainst the door, and they's come to 'rest
you."

"Surely they's made a mistake," said Joe cheerfully. "I say, Mister," he
shouted out, "wait till I get me duds on, an' I'll come out an' speak to
yer. Yer's come to the wrong vessel, that's what yer 'as. We don't do
any piratical smuggling business in this yer harbor."

The sergeant could not help smiling, and wondered to himself what
Stunner was like. The voice certainly hadn't the sound of one who had
been an accomplice in a murder.

"Look here," he said to Mrs. Stunner, who still faced him like a lioness
about to be robbed of her whelps; "I'll take a chair and wait till your
husband dresses himself."

"All right, me 'earty," sang out Joe from the dormitory, "take a cheer
and I'll be with thee in a jiffy."

The sergeant rose from his chair as Stunner entered the parlor, and,
looking into the kindly eyes of the old man, was for a moment quite
thrown off his guard, and forgot his uniform and buttons.

"I'm sorry to have to do it, old man. I have no doubt there's some
mistake about it. You don't look like one that would help to do a
murder, but I must arrest you, you know, for I have to take you back
with me to the office. Joseph Stunner," he said, slightly raising his
voice, "I arrest you in the Queen's name for the murder of Constant
McWatt."

"Why," said Joe, "yer boss must be a blessed idiot. D'yer think I could
murder a man and then go and 'ear 'is parson preach 'is funeral sarmon!"

As they marched Joe off to the police station, his wife walked beside
him clasping his hand. Tears were in her eyes--a small crowd
followed--but she kept up a brave heart, as befitted a sailor's wife.

"Ah, Joe! I was afeared there'd be trouble out of it, but mayhap they'll
lock me up wid thee," she whispered to him, "and then I wouldn't so much
mind."

There was a great sensation next morning in Brisbane. 'The Recent
Floods,' 'The Home Rule Bill,' 'The Federal Bank Failure'--all in
largetype headings--were passed over, for in equally large type appeared
the announcement--'Capture of the Alleged Murderers of the Hon. Constant
McWatt.'

The police are supposed to keep departmental matters perfectly secret,
and how it got out no one knew; not even Detective Brooks, who was
highly commended for the 'clever capture.' But the whole story of the
arrest was there, colored by the fancy of the reporter to suit the
public taste, with a full and detailed account of Brooks' supposition as
to the way in which the murder was committed. How they raked it up was a
mystery, but an enterprising reporter had actually found out that a
black cat had been left on Sunday morning, about half-past 1 o'clock, in
Squib-street, by the supposed murderers, who, it was alleged, had taken
a great sum in gold and notes, and had also stolen all the costly plate
and family jewellery which were kept in a fire proof safe at Drybrook
House. That one of the supposed criminals should belong to the upper
class, and be an intimate of Drybrook House and a friend of the
deceased, made it the more sensational.

The public-house in George-street made a small fortune by supplying
drink to the crowds who flocked to see the two lounges on which the
alleged murderers had slept, after the fearful deed of that awful
Saturday night.

So much for the newspapers. However, it served their purpose. The
afternoon journals sold out no less than three late editions, and put on
special reporters to hunt up fresh sensational particulars for the
following day.

We must, however, now introduce to our readers another actor in this
strange story of colonial life.

On the morning of the 17th instant, at half-past 5, a steamer was seen
to be rounding Cape Moreton. She had made rather a long passage, and was
detained two hours by thick weather when crossing the bay. The Brisbane
River was still heavily flooded. For several days the rain had again
poured down in torrents. Probably there were several impatient
passengers on board the Wodonga, but none more so than Caleb Angel,
barrister-at-law, co-executor with De Ville to Constant McWatt's will,
and the special friend and comrade of George Jackson, inmate of the
Wagga Road Gaol, Brisbane.

The steamer dropped anchor below Breakfast Creek soon after 12 the same
day, and as this was the nearest point they could get to the city, as
soon as possible Angel got himself and his belongings placed on shore.
He was in bachelor lodgings at New Farm, and, although comparatively
young, was a rising member of the Queensland bar.

Having reached home, changed his wet clothes and refreshed himself, his
first thought was to go over and see Jackson. He had read a telegraphic
account of his arrest in a Sydney paper before leaving, and he was eager
to hear from Jackson's own mouth how it had all come about. He never for
a moment believed him guilty. He looked at his watch--it was after 3
o'clock. How the time had slipped away. He went to the window and drew
aside the lace curtain. The rain fell in torrents; the street was all
a-wash, and although the house was high above any possible flood, Caleb
realised the fact that umbrella and macintosh could afford no protection
before that driving rain, and that to go out meant to be soaked through
before he could get to a cab stand. He would look at the papers for the
past few days--but were there no letters?

He rang the bell.

"Susie," he said, as a neatly-dressed servant promptly answered, "were
there no letters for me?"

"I beg your pardon, sir; they are here. I thought that you would see
them."

She handed him five letters from a shelf, and then placed a heap of the
daily papers beside him on the table.

"The papers are here, too, sir."

"Thank you, Susie; that will do nicely. By the way, I won't go out in
this pouring rain. Just make me a nice cup of afternoon tea and bring it
to me."

He looked at each of the letters before opening the envelopes, and
seemingly recognised the handwriting of each. He opened the two last
important ones first and glanced over their contents. Then he tore up
the envelopes and threw them into a waste paper basket, straightened out
the letters, and placed them under a paper weight.

"Now, which shall I read first," he said, looking at the three letters;
"De Ville's, John Darton's, or Edna Forrest's. Ah, well," he said with a
half sigh, "I'd perhaps better keep the best wine until the last." He
took De Ville's letter. It was as follows:--

                         Oaklands Park,

                         Brisbane, February 15, 93.

My dear Angel,

You will have received my telegram in Adelaide telling you of McWatt's
death, and I suppose that we may expect you by the end of the present
week. I write thus early in order that you may be advised of the state
of affairs re our executorship before I see you. You will have seen full
particulars of the murder in the papers. It has been a great shock to
everyone. Mrs. McWatt and the girls are up the range. They don't seem
greatly cut up; have not been left quite as well off as they expected to
be. I shall send with this letter a copy of the will under separate
cover, as it will save time for you to peruse it and become familiar
with its contents before I see you. I may say that McWatt has left
plenty of cash in the bank, and property worth considerably over
100,000, but his affairs generally are in a great muddle. I have had a
letter from Darton about 10,000 of trust money belonging to Miss
Forrest which, he says, McWatt had, but there is no trace of it, and
Darton has no confirmatory documents, so I don't see how we can pay it
out of the estate. However, we can talk it over when I see you. You will
see a reference in the will to a pocket-book containing 30,000 in
notes, and a statement that a drawer in the safe contained 1500 in
gold. I intended to leave things untouched at Drybrook House awaiting
your return. But after the reading of the will a detective on the scent
for the murderer followed me up to my office and wanted to know if the
money was safe. I told him to come up with me, so we ran up at once in a
cab. We made a most careful search, but could find neither bank notes
nor gold, nor yet the enclosed document which the will refers to.
Evidence has since been forthcoming that McWatt drew the 30,000 from
the bank accounts, and full particulars of the matter have been
furnished by the clerk who drew the money. Now comes the strange part of
it. It is proved that on the Tuesday after the murder, George Jackson (I
am sorry to hear that he is an intimate friend of yours, but I presume
that you are done with him now), paid into his private bank account two
thousand five hundred pounds of the very notes proved to have been put
by McWatt into his safe. You will have read in the papers that Jackson
was at Drybrook House on Saturday night, the 4th instant, and that a
knife of his was found in the punt by the side of McWatt's body when it
was picked up at Darton's Point. Queer that the murdered body should
have floated into the murderer's very door. But murder will out, and the
general opinion in Brisbane is that Jackson stole both gold and notes
after committing the murder, and that he will be hung for it.

By the way, I hear that Miss Forrest has openly avowed her attachment
for the fellow; but she will think better of this before the trial is
over. I cannot imagine what she ever saw in him. Of course you will
hardly agree with me, but I confess I never liked the man, and others I
speak to have felt the same. Cutts, of the El Dorado Bank, told me
to-day that he always distrusted him. I hope matters have been
successful with you in Adelaide, and that you will find things all right
here on your return.

                         Believe me, dear Angel,

                         Yours very truly,

                              GEORGE C. DE VILLE.

P.S.--I have made application for an order of the court to impound the
balance of moneys to the credit of George Jackson at the Colonial Bank,
as they are proved to have been stolen from the estate of which we are
co-executors. You will, of course, endorse my action in this.

                                   G. C. De V.

"I am not so sure about that," said Caleb Angel to himself; "but let us
see what John Darton has to say."

The letter from the latter ran as follows:

                         Darton's Point, via Brisbane,

                         February 16th, 1893.

Dear Sir,--Knowing of your friendship for Mr. Jackson, who is now
unhappily in prison upon the charge of having murdered the late Hon.
Constant McWatt, I send you this letter in the hope that it may find you
upon your first arrival. I need give you no particulars as to what has
transpired regarding McWatt's death. I should say, though, that the
newspaper accounts are much exaggerated. I, of course, am convinced of
Jackson's innocence, and I hope that you will be when you hear the
facts. I have asked Smithers, Ralf, and McLeod to take charge of the
case, and I have advised them to retain you as leading counsel for the
defence.

There is another matter I shall have to speak to you about. I refer to a
sum of 10,000 belonging to my ward, Miss Forrest, which was entrusted
to McWatt for investment. Your co-trustee, Mr. De Ville, advises me that
there is no trace of it to be found, except that the payment of interest
is noted in the cash book.

However, as Miss Forrest says, everything must stand on one side until
we get the trial over, and George Jackson honorably acquitted. The
solicitors will, of course, communicate with you professionally as to
Jackson's defence. We should, however, like you to see him as soon as
possible. You will have freer access to him than I can obtain. I need
not say do your best for him; you will do that, I am sure, and more if
it were possible.

                         Yours very faithfully,

                              JOHN DARTON.

"You are quite right there, John Darton; if any effort of mine can clear
George Jackson of this charge it will be made."

"Hang it all! This rain is abominable. I would go over at once, but I
hear that the ferries have stopped running, and if I risk my neck in
trying to cross the river in a boat and get drowned so much the worse
for poor old George. I must wait until tomorrow, that's certain."

"But why has Edna Forrest written? What a quaint, characteristic hand it
is she writes," he said, taking up her letter. Then he leaned back in
his chair, the letter still unread. He had been dreaming for several
minutes, with Edna Forrest as the central figure, when Susie knocked at
the door with the afternoon tea.

Edna Forrest had two other suitors for her hand and heart besides George
Jackson. The reader already knows of De Ville's proposal; the other
suitor, and a more worthy one, was Caleb Angel. McWatt's joke applied to
Edna as well as to his will. She had three lovers. The one she had
accepted was, alas! likely to be hanged. The other two were a Devil and
an Angel. Edna's letter was as follows:--

                         Darton's Point,

                         February 16th, 1893.

Dear Mr. Angel,

My uncle tells me that you will be retained as counsel to defend Mr.
Jackson. I am very glad. There is no one in the world I would sooner
have defend him, other than yourself. Before Mr. Jackson left here for
Brisbane he said that he feared that a man named Joseph Stunner would be
arrested, who is just as innocent as himself, but Mr. Jackson seemed
very anxious about him; felt that it was through him that he had got
into this trouble, and I know that he will be anxious that he shall at
once have proper legal advice and defence. I have been able to save a
little out of my private income, and enclose you with this a cheque for
200. Please get some respectable firm of solicitors to undertake his
defence, and do not spare expense in employing able counsel. I will send
any further funds that may be required.

                         Believe me to remain,

                         Yours very sincerely,

                              EDNA FORREST.

Angel read the letter over, especially the first part, more than once,
or twice. It had cost him many a heart pang to to give up Edna to George
Jackson, but he knew that he had been fairly beaten, and bore no malice
against his successful rival. And now he was called upon to defend the
life of the accepted lover of the woman he loved. He drank his tea, and
then paced up and down the room.

"It's the sort of thing," he said to himself, "that would be put up in a
novel. Edna does not doubt but that I will take up Jackson's case; says
that she is very glad; would sooner that I defended him than anyone else
in the world. Well, I'll endeavor not to disappoint her, and I'll see
that Stunner is well defended too. I think that I will put it into the
hands of Harkness. He is an able man, and will give his best attention
to the case; and I'll advise him to retain Browning as counsel. Now,
let's see what was done at the police court yesterday. Committed for
trial, I suppose, and bail refused."

"Ah! that's it," he said, glancing over the paper. "Court crowded;
prisoners pleaded 'not guilty;' reserved their defence; committed for
trial; bail refused."

"Evidence seems very strong against them," he continued, "but one side
is all right until you hear the the other. It places me in a strange
position, though. One of the executors of the murdered man's will, and
leading counsel for the defence of the supposed murderer and supposed
thief, too, and also the accepted suitor of the girl I love most dearly.
It surpasses all romance. But"--and his face became suffused with manly
resolution, and the nobleness of the man's character seemed to shine out
from his whole person--"by God's help, I'll undertake the case, and as
John Darton puts it, I'll endeavor to do better than my best."




CHAPTER XXII.--"AT THE BACK OF THE IRON DRAWER."


By the following morning it was evident that Brisbane was doomed to bear
the brunt of another great flood. The rise of the waters throughout the
night had been steady, if not rapid, and by the forenoon of Saturday,
the 18th instant, the flood had obtained a level nearly 3ft. higher than
the highest point reached in 1890.

Caleb Angel started for his chambers in Adelaide-street a little before
10 o'clock. The sky was still overcast, and when between occasional
showers the sun's rays broke out they were excessively hot, and the
atmosphere was intolerably close and muggy. He took the tram into town,
but found to his surprise that the water at that hour was rising over
the lower parts of the city. Little or no business was doing, except by
tradesmen who were selling bargains in flooded goods. The shopkeepers
and professional men who had their businesses and offices on the ground
floor were in the greatest consternation, for by half-past 10 the river
was 17ft. above high-water mark, and was rising at the rate of nearly
6in, an hour. After transacting some business at his chambers Caleb
called round to De Ville's office. He was not there, however; had not
been there on the previous day, and was not expected back until Monday.
There was no business doing, so after answering a few letters which he
did not trouble to post, for Brisbane was again cut off from all outside
communication, he called a cab. He had determined to run up and see his
widowed mother and brothers and sisters who lived in a pleasant home
about three miles out of the city, at Lutwyche. He was in temporary
lodgings for the sake of quiet study and nearness to his chambers. Just
as he was about to enter the cab a somewhat smartly dressed young girl,
closely veiled, placed a letter in his hand and was gone again before he
had time to stop her. He looked at the address upon the envelope: "Caleb
Angel, Esq., Barrister, Tribunal Chambers, Brisbane," and was jumping
into the cab intending to follow the girl, when he found that she had
completely disappeared. He opened the letter. It was written in a
scrawling feminine hand, and was as follows:--

                         Brisbane, February 18.

Sir,--I noticed your name in the Wodonga's passenger list in this
morning's paper, so as I suppose you will be at your chambers I will
send this to be delivered into your hand by a friend. The late Constant
McWatt has left 1,500 in sovereigns in a drawer in the iron safe at
Drybrook House, and has left a private memo, in the same place to say
that the money is to be paid to me. He told me that I need give no
receipt, and that you and Mr. De Ville would ask no questions. I do not
see why you should not pay this money at once, as I know that it's there
in the drawer. I saw it there myself shortly before he was murdered, and
wanted him to give it to me then, but he wouldn't; said that he would
take care of me while he lived, and that that was there for me when he
died. Now, I would like to have the money as soon as possible, as I have
made up my mind to leave Brisbane--and indeed, Queensland--and I dare
say you'll all be glad to know that I am gone. No one can talk then! I
need not give you my address or name as the document which I saw McWatt
write and lock up in the safe tells you all about that and how you are
to pay me the money. I rely upon you to see to this at once or I may
make a disturbance that won't be pleasant. I know a little about De
Ville and, would not trust him; but from all I hear of you I believe you
will do the straight thing, and carry out McWatt's wishes without any
further trouble, so please give the matter your early attention and
oblige.

                         Yours respectfully,

                              ----------,

Caleb frowned as he put the letter in his pocket; "I am afraid there
will be more trouble," he said. "This letter bears no signature, but it
has evidently been written by a woman. The thing looks shady; says she
saw the money there herself; some of the money, that De Ville says is
stolen. I expect if the other side can get hold of her they will put her
in the box, and then I anticipate that there will be some highly
sensational revelations. Shocking scandal in high life, and the rest of
it. It is right enough to 'speak only good of the dead,' but I cannot
help thinking that McWatt was a regular bad old fellow after all. It's
the old story--a bad will, a bad woman, and a great sum of money left to
a church. However, De Ville is certainly not friendly to Jackson, and
there is no reason why I should disclose the contents of this letter to
him at once."

He drove around the Brisbane heights with his sister that afternoon,
along Wickham-terrace and round Red Hill. The sight was one never to be
forgotten--it staggered and appalled him. "Why," he said to his sister,
"I could not have believed it possible." As they drove back they had a
full view of Toowong and Milton.

"Look, Annie," he said to his sister, "there's Drybrook House surrounded
by water again." He little thought that his co-executor (George Charles
De Ville) was in the house at that very time, and was practically a
prisoner.

It had come about in this way. De Ville felt quite hopeful,
notwithstanding the payment of the 2500 into Jackson's bank account,
that the pocket-book with the 30,000 was still somewhere in the library
at Drybrook House. He knew that the gold had not been touched, for the
fact was that on the afternoon before the Will was read he was at
Drybrook House and found the sovereigns. He had thought it over, and
decided in his own mind that they had been kept there by McWatt for
business purposes only; for, like others, De Ville knew how often, if
the actual gold could be placed in hundreds before the seller's eyes and
within reach of his hands, marvellous bargains could be obtained.

Why, was not old Cartridge got at in that very way over some
Elizabeth-street property. "Sell it for 700," he had said, "I am not
such a fool," But he afterwards sold it for 650, although it was worth
five times that sum. When the bags of gold were emptied of their
contents upon a table, under the eyes of the avaricious old man, the
temptation was too much for him. A cheque for twice that amount would
not have moved him. But gold! gold!! gold!!!

"Pour out another bagful," said the old miser, dazzled with the heap of
glittering coins, "and you shall have it."

It was a dodge that De Ville was up to. And was there any dodge beneath
the sun or moon that McWatt was not acquainted with? Not one!

That these sovereigns would be specified in the will never occurred to
De Ville, or he would not have touched them. As soon as he had heard the
contents of the will he had determined to replace them, but Brooks was
too quick for him and he had not time then to put them back. Besides, he
had removed them from the house. And then again, it would help to hang
George Jackson, who had the cursed impudence to stand between him and
the woman he had picked out for his wife. But that pocket-book was still
to be found, and he meant to find it before Caleb Angel's return.

"He'd see the Bethel Calvanists burned before he would let them get that
30,000. Only ruin their usefulness," he grinned to himself, "they will
be rich and wrap themselves in Laodicean ease. It's a real mercy I am
here to save them from such dire ruin. If old McWatt now had left them
say 300, it would have helped them perhaps, and done them good, but
30,000--I'll see them burned first."

When a man is absorbed in an exciting search, time flies very quickly,
and De Ville found himself hemmed in by the waters on that Friday
afternoon before he was aware. He continued his search unsuccessfully
far into the night, and slept for a few hours on a lounge. With the
morning he found himself a prisoner, hopelessly; but, on ransacking
round the storeroom, he discovered tinned meats and preserves and
biscuits and other eatables on shelves above flood mark, so there was no
danger of starvation. The cockatoo had been removed to the servants'
quarters again, but as the waters were still rising, De Ville said:

"Look here, Cocky, why don't you talk? You have not said a word since I
have been in the house. Here, I'll carry you upstairs out of this
beastly flood. Hanged if I'm not about sick of it. What do you think of
it, aye Cooky!"

"George," said the bird, "you ought to be ashamed of yourself." De Ville
let the stand go, and staggered back in amazement. "Why, you're the
devil; how do you know my name?"

"George," repeated the bird more solemnly, "you ought to be ashamed of
yourself."

De Ville laughed at this, but, like many of his class who, while they
profess to have no religious beliefs, are often full of foolish
superstitions, he regarded the bird somewhat askance. However, he would
not leave it there in the flood, and it would be company, so he carried
it into the library. He had been a whole day by himself, and he felt
nervous. He cursed the flood roundly, and the pocket-book which he could
not find.

"George, don't swear," said the bird abruptly. "George you ought to be
ashamed of yourself."

"Look here, old-boy," said De Ville, "as you're so clever, perhaps you
can tell me where this pocket-book is that I've been looking for?"

"It's at the back of the iron drawer," replied the bird.

"Well, I believe you are the devil or one of his imps," said the
startled man, "but I'll look. Strange that with all my searching I
should never have thought to pull out the safe drawers and look at the
back of them, but then there's no room at the back. However, here goes."
The bird watched him as though greatly interested. He pulled out the
drawer that had contained the gold.

Pushing his arm far back he touched something.

"Good Heavens!" he exclaimed, "it's it! It's the pocket-book!" He tore
it open, and there were the notes, "30,000," he said; "but it's
strange," he said, "here are three cheques totalling 2507," and then it
flashed upon him about Jackson having paid just 2500 into his account
in McWatt's bank notes. He sat down and looked at them for some time,
and then suddenly turned round and stared at the bird.

"Look here," said he, "I'm going to kill you, you know too much."

The bird ruffled its feathers, spread its wings, raised its crest, and
opening it's beak screamed defiance at him.

De Ville moved towards it in a threatening attitude, lifting a heavy
ebony ruler from the writing table--the one that it was supposed McWatt
had been murdered with. The bird screamed again in evident terror, and
sprang up as though to escape and flew away--the chain that had fastened
it's claw to the stand had broken. The bird perched itself on the
cornice of the window curtain, and staring defiantly at its opponent,
rolled its tongue in its beak, and said:

"George, you ought to be ashamed of yourself." With this parting
admonition the bird flew across the room and escaped by an open window.

The perspiration stood thick on De Ville's face. "I wonder," he said,
"whether that thing is bird or devil. I was a fool to let it escape me!"




CHAPTER XXIII.--DE VILLE, J.P., REVEALS HIMSELF.


After the escape of the cockatoo De Ville looked more leisurely over the
contents of the pocket-book. There was a letter acknowledging the
receipt of a sum of money, and some valuable mining scrip, which he
thought it would be a pity to have lost to the estate, so he placed them
with other papers in a drawer. There was also a short memorandum in
regard to an important land transaction in which George Jackson was
interested, the production of which would have enabled Jackson to have
recovered a large sum, which he always believed McWatt had obtained by
sharp practice, if not fraudulent means.

"I think I will burn this," he said, placing it on one side. "If Angel
saw it he would be for paying Jackson something like 7000 on that
little transaction. By George! McWatt was pretty smart."

"Ah!" he said, "what's this? Memo. of remittance of 10,000, paid on
account on January 3rd, 1885. That must be Edna Forrest's money, let's
see if it shows in the bank pass book on that date. No," he said, after
examining a thick red bank book, "here's an amount of 16,000 paid in on
that date, so it could scarcely be traced without this memorandum. I'll
keep this. If I should marry Edna after Jackson's hung, I can place it
amongst some of the papers of the estate--there are piles of them down
at the office--and happen on it at a convenient time. Edna Forrest may
make up her mind to this, however. She'll never get one sixpence of that
10,000 unless she marries George Charles De Ville, and she will too,
yet, I know. Wait until I get Jackson out of the way. I don't know that
I will destroy any of these papers, they will be safe enough with the
pocket-book inside my own private safe. By the way, who was it said that
a wise man would never write a letter, and never burn one? It's not
often that I do the latter. It's wonderful how old letters turn up
trumps sometimes. A man writes a foolish one in some thoughtless hour
and sends it to a friend, who he thinks will burn it. Years after they
quarrel and become enemies, and the old foolish letter turns up again--a
whip to castigate with. No, I don't often burn documents which I have
not written, and I won't burn these. They may prove useful some day, who
knows."

"Now, about these notes and cheques. The former are all right, and after
this affair has blown over, I can, by degrees, pass them through some
bank and get them cashed. I can afford to wait for a year or two for the
matter of that, but these cheques puzzle me. I suppose McWatt must have
cashed them for Jackson out of the 30,000 worth of notes. Why, here is
one payable yesterday, and one is post dated still. The cheques are as
good as gold. Two Sydney ones, and one of Sir Henry Moore's for 507
14s. 6d, due next week; that's good enough. I see, too, that there are a
few pounds over the 2,500. McWatt deducted that for exchange, I
suppose. I wonder what he charged him for cashing them? But is it
possible that Jackson took out the notes and put in these cheques? I
don't think so; they are not payable to him, nor has he endorsed them.
And yet, why should he come over here that Saturday night in a boat--if
he really came? But suppose Jackson did not do it, how did McWatt meet
with his death? Well, it's the biggest puzzle and mystery I have had
anything to do with; beats all the detective stories I ever read. How
about Jackson's knife being found in the boat, though? The fellow must
have had a hand in it. 'Pon my soul, I hope he did; it's a pity for a
man to be hung for nothing."

"That newspaper report, by the way," continued De Ville to himself,
"supposed that he was murdered in this room, and was struck by the
murderer with a heavy round weapon as he lay sleeping on a lounge. If
so, it may have been done with this very ebony ruler, and McWatt may
have been sleeping on the lounge behind that curtain. Perhaps he was a
bit gone. The decanter of port was found half empty. Curse this flood,
to keep me penned up alone in this place again to-night. Somehow, last
night I did not feel so lonesome. I wonder if I could find some more
brandy downstairs. I must get some candles, too; it will soon be dark
again. Not a pleasant prospect to have to spend another night in this
dreary place. That wretched cockatoo has quite upset my nerves. How
could it have got hold of my name, I wonder, and have known where that
pocket-book was. It must be an emissary of the evil one. I wonder
whether it's true that a man can sell himself to the devil? Bah! old
women's tales! There's no such thing as a personal devil at all. The
bird picked it up somewhere. But if it's anywhere about after the flood
I'll have it shot as sure as my name is De Ville. I wish that I had
killed it."

The water was now about ten inches over the ground floor, so he took off
his boots and waded out to the store-room. The water was deeper here. He
could find no brandy, but he got a bottle of whisky out of the butler's
pantry. "Ah! this will drive away low spirits," he said; "now for some
sugar and candles. I've plenty of eatables upstairs."

He took these things into a small room near the top of the staircase,
used as a sort of private reading and sewing room by the ladies of the
house. It was comfortably furnished, and had a good view of the river
from the front window.

De Ville made himself a stiff glass of whisky and water.

"Ah!" he said, smacking his fat lips, "that's the right sort of stuff;
better than all your port or sherry. Nothing like spirits to drive away
spirits," he said, laughing at his own conceit. "I don't like the
prospect of stopping here to-night. I suppose the water will be down by
to-morrow. Sun's been shining these two or three hours; shouldn't be
surprised if it's at a standstill now. I'll go down and watch it for a
while, and smoke a cigar."

He looked at his gold repeater--it was just six o'clock. Going down the
staircase he put a pin in the carpet, level with the water. He smoked
away in silence for a few minutes. "Still rising," he said, after a
while, "the pin is covered."

"Quarter past six," he said, presently, after having eyed his watch for
some time. He then examined the pin again.

"Hang it all," he ejaculated, "it's risen over an inch in a quarter of
an hour. I've a jolly good mind to go upstairs and get drunk on old
McWatt's whisky, and sleep it off until morning; I shall surely be able
to get away then. No, that won't do either; I am fat, and for aught I
know may be subject to heart disease, fatty degeneration, &c. Then, too,
how do I know but what some of these burglars that are going around in
boats may give the house a call and knock me on the head. Good
thought--I must keep candles burning all night to keep them off. Old
McWatt's room is the best for that, faces the main thoroughfare. I did
not intend to go in there again to-night. Suppose the old chap was
murdered there, and that the room is haunted. I wish I were out of the
place. I think I'll go in and light a candle before it gets quite dark,
and then if I light another in this room at the same time, I shall know
how long that in McWatt's room will remain burning."

"Here, let's have another drop of whisky; I feel all of a shake.
Confound that cockatoo; but I'll shoot it--shoot it the very first
chance, as sure as my name is George Charles De Ville."

He poured out the whisky, and took the lighted candle into McWatt's
study and placed it upon the writing table. He found that he had left
the iron safe open so he locked it, and put the keys carefully back into
a drawer of the massive table. Then he looked carefully round the room,
closed the window--which he had left open at the top--looked into the
recess behind the damask curtain, closed the door after him, and drew
the curtain over it.

There was another smaller staircase at the end of the corridor used by
the servants and occasionally by the family, as it was a short way from
this end of the house down to the breakfast room. De Ville looked down
and saw the water glistening at the foot of the staircase. Darkness was
now coming on and he went back again to the reading room, where he had
for the present established his quarters. "I'll have another glass of
this whisky," he said, "and then I'll lie down for an hour."

The whisky was strong and he had been drinking it from a tumbler, and
had poured it out with a shaky as well as a liberal hand, and he was
soon in a heavy drunken sleep. How ugly and repulsive he looked, this
man of wealth and position. The breath came thickly from his bloated
cheeks and lips as he lay there on the sofa, and the candle, burning
near the half empty whisky bottle, flickered in the draught from the
partly opened door. Yet this was the man who thought he honored Edna
Forrest by asking her to become his wife.

Imagine the humiliation to her fine nature to have been wedded to this
coarse, sordid lump of unprincipled clay; this wealthy magistrate of the
territory, who that week had stolen over 30,000, but who aspired to be
a member of the Legislative Assembly and, in time, Chief Secretary, with
a title. Yet even all this might come true, for this drunken knave had
wealth, and queerer things have come to pass than that. There is not
much that money cannot purchase for ambitious, and even unprincipled,
men in Australia.

We have neither time nor patience to tell how De Ville eventually made
his escape on Sunday afternoon from Drybrook House. When he was
questioned afterward by his sister as to where he had been he explained
that he had been at a friend's house, stuck up by the flood.




CHAPTER XXIV.--AN INTERVIEW WITH THE PRISONER.


IF this were a romance, instead of a sober relation of facts, the writer
would deem it extravagant and unpardonable nonsense to depict a large
city like Brisbane on two Sundays, within one fortnight, with rowing
boats, steam launches, and even sailing vessels, passing to and fro
between the houses of its principal streets. But truth is often stranger
than fiction, and we are only chronicling a fact within the memory of
thousands when we so describe the scene of our story on the second
memorable Sunday of the great floods of February, 1893.

The sun shone out brightly, however, upon the flooded city on that
second Sunday morning, and it was felt that the worst must now be past.

The losses had again been very great, and many who could have pulled
through the effects of the first flood were hopelessly ruined by the
second. The water, which had reached it highest level in the early hours
of the morning, when it stood 22ft. 8in. above high-water mark and only
10in. below the flood of the previous Sunday week, was now receding, and
the unfortunate population of the city turned more cheerfully to the
work of salvage, and cleansing and renovation.

When Caleb Angel crossed over the river to see George Jackson at the
gaol on the following day he could scarcely believe his eyes.
Stanley-street, usually bustling with trams and omnibuses, farmers'
carts and waggons, presented the appearance of a ruined street in
Pompeii, or some other city of the dead.

He felt thankful for the hopeful words with which the Chronicle, in a
sub-leader, had endeavored that morning to inspire the community. In the
course of a short, cheery article it had said:--

"Scores, perhaps even hundreds, of our people will have been ruined and
compelled to begin the world afresh, yet the sun will continue to shine,
people will be born, will marry, and will die, just as though there had
been no convulsion of Nature a few months previously. Hopes will have
been blighted, capital destroyed, and some men will have gone under, and
been replaced by others endowed with greater energy, elasticity, or
youthfulness. But the growth of Brisbane will not have been sensibly
checked, nor the general prosperity of her citizens seriously injured,
nor the confidence of capitalists in her securities permanently shaken
by the events of February, 1893."

Although Brisbane society had been stirred and scandalised by the arrest
of George Jackson, who was well known in the best circles--and had been
especially prominent and considered a catch by many mothers with
marriageable daughters when he came from England with influential
introductions and a considerable fortune--the second flood had to a
large extent, caused the affair to sink into forgetfulness. For the
nonce the flood persecuted inhabitants of Brisbane had ceased to be
interested in anything except their losses by the turgid inundations of
the past fortnight.

Angel was shocked and pained when he entered the cell in which Jackson
was confined to see the change wrought upon him in so short a time. His
face was pale and haggard, and lines of care marked his brow.

There was a great contrast between the two men as they stood together,
their hands united in a close, fervent clasp. Caleb Angel was several
inches shorter than George Jackson, and fair, while the latter was dark.
The former slight, with the delicate and finely formed limbs of a woman,
the latter robust and brawny. But both men had good faces, large eyes,
finely-formed mouths, and high foreheads. They had become friends since
Jackson's arrival in Queensland; but it was one of the few friendships
formed by men in mature life which are deep and lasting.

"I am glad that you have come, Caleb," said Jackson in a voice husky
with emotion. "Whatever others thought of me, I knew that you would not
forsake me."

"My dear fellow," said his friend, "I cannot express my sorrow. I came
as soon as I could get across, with this disastrous flood; landed on
Friday afternoon; but since then they have had about five feet of water
in Queen-street again."

"What! another big flood?" exclaimed George, his astonishment getting
the better of his dismal condition and surroundings.

"Yes," said Caleb, "but it's all over now and the water will soon be
down to its normal level."

"But you must tell me all about your trouble, George, for Darton has
asked me to undertake your defence and we must get you out of this hole
as soon as possible. I see Smithers, Ralf, and McLeod are acting for
you, but for the sake of old friendship and a bit of professional pride,
perhaps (for I intend to have you triumphantly acquitted), I prefer to
get up the case as far as possible myself. You'll have to explain
everything fully to me."

George shook his head sadly and said: "I am afraid, Caleb, the evidence
will be too strong for me. My chief anxiety now is to see old Stunner
acquitted. I have never forgiven myself for getting the old chap into
this trouble, but all he did was in complete ignorance of what was
happening. I ought to have managed somehow to have gone over by myself."

Caleb looked at Jackson in astonishment, for there was more significance
in the way he had said this, even than in the words themselves. It
sounded like the remorseful confession of a guilty man.

"But," said Caleb, "you did not kill McWatt?"

"No, thank God, I did not kill him, and I have no positive knowledge as
who did, although I know that the theory of the murder as given by the
doctor and the newspapers is altogether wrong. It was not any blow upon
the forehead that killed him, I am sure of that."

"My dear friend, you are speaking in riddles. Have you any personal
knowledge or suspicion as to how he may have met his death?"

"I have."

"Then, of course, you will tell me."

"No, Caleb, I cannot tell anyone. It would implicate one I believe to be
innocent, at any rate, of causing McWatt's death; but it is not that
merely, it would necessitate the revelation of statements which I
believe to be false, and which I would sooner die than have blazoned
abroad before the jeering populace."

"But, my dear fellow, how am I to defend you unless you supply me with
the information? I have read all the the newspapers have to say, and the
facts look black enough, no doubt. If you are determined not to assist
me how can I possibly prepare your defence?"

"I have thought of all that, Caleb, and have, after long and painful
consideration, decided to reveal, to whoever undertook my defence, all
the facts of the case as they relate to myself. I shall do this the more
freely as I have you for my counsel and Smithers, Ralf, and McLeod for
my solicitors. I always liked Smithers--he is one of the few honest
lawyers I have met. Let me say, too, that whatever you may think of my
course of procedure, I shall still consider that under the circumstances
I acted for the best, and am perfectly justified in the action I took."

"Look here, George, you are yourself training for the bar, and should be
competent to form a sound judgment. Have you evidence that will clear
you of the murder, apart from that which you have determined not to
reveal? You were at Drybrook House on the Saturday?"

"I have ample evidence for myself and for you, and for those of my
friends who will believe my statements; but unless we can get hold of
independent witnesses, I fear it will not prove sufficient to convince a
jury."

"Well, out with it George; you cannot conceive of my impatience."

"McWatt was not murdered on Saturday night at all. He was murdered some
time on Thursday night or very early on Friday morning."

"And you were at Darton's Point then, and can prove an alibi," said his
friend, with a face beaming with pleasure.

"I am not so sure about that."

"George, I see it's of no use my asking you questions while I am in the
dark. You must have been educated for the law when at school or college,
and will get your silk gown in no time after you are called to the bar.
Now," said he, taking out his pocket-book and pencil, "I am all
attention."

Slowly, and with the minutest detail, Jackson disclosed to his friend
the facts, which are already familiar to our readers. Once or twice
Caleb Angel shuddered at the ghastly recital. He took copious notes
occasionally in shorthand, but never once spoke until Jackson had
finished. He was a good listener.

"Now, will you answer any questions that I may put to you?"

"Yes, provided they do not refer to McWatt's letter which I found in the
safe."

"But, my dear fellow, that belongs to the executors. It was addressed to
them, and is mentioned in the will."

"Caleb," said Jackson, putting his hand on his friend's arm, "I am not
sure of that; but supposing it does, believe me, it is a wicked, false,
damnable document, which concerns people whose good name is very dear to
me; and if ever there was a case in which it was lawful to do evil that
good might come, this is that one, and to take it and destroy it, is
neither theft nor sin."

"Well, we will leave that for further argument; I think that I shall be
able to bring you round to let me know the contents. But how came you to
climb that tree?"

"I was concerned about things in Brisbane. We had very little
information that day, and I went up to see whether much wreckage was
coming down the river. There was an extensive view from the top; it used
to be a look-out tree for the blacks, from which one of the tribe would
watch for shoals of fish in the bay. It has niches for foothold, and I
one day put a strong line from top to bottom. It is now almost as easy
to climb as the rigging of a ship."

"From there you saw the punt coming ashore, and went down to examine
it?"

"Yes, my first impulse was to give an alarm. But then I did not want to
frighten Mrs. Darton and Miss Forrest. It was getting late, too, and I
knew Darton would soon be back from Brisbane. I saw something bulky in
the overcoat pocket and partly out of curiousity drew it out. I was, of
course, greatly excited; for you know, Caleb, my relations with McWatt
had latterly not been of the pleasantest, and I was suspicious that
there was something wrong about Miss Forrest's trust money, as Darton
had hinted as much to me. And then to come upon his dead body in that
way was fearful, and upset me more than I could have believed."

"When I opened the pocket-book, I read the papers as I took them out.
The very first one I opened referred to a transaction in land which I
had with McWatt, and which conclusively proved to my mind that I had
been defrauded of over 7000. There was also a memo. referring to
10,000, which I believe will give the clue to trace Miss Forrest's
trust money. When I opened the inside pocket I was staggered at seeing
the notes. I then remembered that you were away in Adelaide. I do not,
and never did, trust De Ville, and in your absence he might have
destroyed the documents in the pocket-book. I was greatly perplexed, and
at one time determined to tell John Darton, but I learnt something later
in the evening which settled my mind in regard to the matter."

"May I ask what that was?"

"Caleb, you must trust me over that; it is one of the things I have
determined not to reveal. It can do no good now, and might do
incalculable harm."

"Well, George, you are a queer fellow," said Caleb, with a dissatisfied
air. "Here is your life hanging in the balance, and for some fancy or
other you refuse to give me what is, on the face of things, most
important information. Go on."

"After a lot of anxious consideration, I decided to tow the corpse out
into the bay again."

"In doing which you made a terrible mistake," ejaculated Angel.

"Well, that is a matter of opinion. It was only by doing this that I
could accomplish the plan I had formed to protect Miss Forrest's and my
own interests, which was to put the pocket-book in the safe at Drybrook
House, or in some hiding place where it was unlikely to be discovered
until after your return."

"You told me that you returned the pocket-book, but you did not tell me
where you put it. De Ville writes me that he has searched everywhere for
it, but without success. Where is it?"

"It's at the back of one of the iron drawers of the fire-proof safe."

"Oh!" exclaimed Angel. "But," he said after a moment's pause, "there was
1,500 in sovereigns in one of those drawers. They are not there now. If
they were there you would have seen them." Caleb listened breathlessly
for his answer, for he was thinking of the anonymous letter which he had
received.

"The drawer was nearly full of gold on Saturday night, for I drew it out
to place the pocketbook at the back of it. It was heavy enough for that
sum."

"Well, where has it gone?"

"I cannot tell. I suppose there is no need for me to tell you, Caleb,
that I did not touch a single coin of it."

"The whole thing is fearfully complicated," said Angel, "but we shall
have to unravel it somehow."

"How about the 2500 which they say you paid into your account at the El
Dorado Bank."

"Ah! I confess that was a mad thing to do and I regretted it immediately
afterwards, but it was then too late. It came into my head to do it at
Darton's Point, but, of course, it never occurred to me that the corpse
would come back again, and actually, by a strange fatality, strand on
the same place again. I bought some property in Sydney when I came
through on arrival from Home, and my agents there sold it a few weeks
ago. The buyers did not want to give promissory notes so I took two
post-dated cheques, each for 1000. I also had a post-dated cheque of
Sir Henry Moore's for 500 odd, on account of purchase of mining scrip.
I knew they were all as good as gold at due date so it occurred to me to
cash them out of the 30,000 in notes. I left sufficient margin to cover
exchange. I did not want to ask any further favor of Cutts, the bank
manager, as he had written me several unpleasant letters about my
account. That I had no suspicion of their getting me into trouble is
proved by the fact that I unhesitatingly endorsed each of the notes at
the bank when asked by the cashier to do so."

"We can, of course, prove payment of the cheque to you and even put Sir
Henry Moore into the witness-box if necessary. But that pocket-book with
the 30,000 must be secured at once. I don't like the loss of this 1500
in gold; it will tend to throw doubt upon the whole of your statement."

"I wonder," he said after several minutes' silence, "whether any person
saw the punt and body in the bay between Friday night and Sunday."

"That's it," said Jackson, "of course they did. The corpse had a diamond
ring on the little finger of the left hand when I found it in the punt.
I can swear to that; and there was then no mark of a blow upon the
forehead."

"Well, who took the ring?"

"A party of wreckers in a boat of course," said Jackson, "there were
half-a-dozen of them about the bay that week. Why, we watched some of
them from Darton's Point."

"But how about the blow across the forehead which the doctor says caused
death."

"Ah, that's a mystery to me. I've racked my brains until I'm weary of
thinking about it. Of one thing, however, I am positive--the injury was
inflicted after McWatt was dead."

"So far so good," said Caleb Angel, glancing over his notes. "What we
have to do is, first, to get the pocket-book and money from the back of
the safe drawer; second, to hunt the pawnshops and jewellers for the
diamond ring, and if we cannot get it that way to offer a reward for the
discovery of the wreckers--or perhaps what will be better, to set a
detective on their track. They may surely be discovered."

"When I get these matters attended to I must have another talk with you
about that enclosed secret document. I know more about it than you
suppose, and you will have to tell me where it is to be found."

"I am completely puzzled," said Angel to himself as he recrossed the
river in happy oblivion of the muddle which still continued with the
ferry traffic between the two municipalities. "He did not commit the
murder, nor take the money, that's certain; but he has some personal
knowledge as to how McWatt may have met with his death. It cannot
possibly be anything in that secret document referred to by the will. He
either knows who killed McWatt or he thinks that he does. It is someone
he wishes to protect if possible from discovery, and even at the peril
of his own neck. It is most extraordinary! I suppose, however, he will
reveal it rather than be hanged."




CHAPTER XXV.--THE DEFENCE FINALLY ARRANGED.


De Ville met Angel with cordiality.

They had not been very intimate or friendly previously, but it suited De
Ville's purpose. They conferred long and seriously over the position of
McWatt's estate, and the contents of the will. De Ville said that he had
searched everywhere for the pocket-book; but when he heard of the 2500
in notes being paid into Jackson's account he saved himself further
trouble. Jackson evidently stole it, and no doubt had the rest of the
notes hidden away somewhere with the gold.

"You looked everywhere about the safe?" asked Angel.

"Yes."

"Did you take the drawers out and look behind them?"

"No, never thought of doing that."

"It might be there," said Angel cautiously.

"I don't think there would be room," answered De Ville.

"Let us get a cab and run up and see."

"Well, to tell the truth, I have an important matter to attend to; a
person is waiting now outside. Here are the keys, you go up, and come
back and let me know. I don't think that it can possibly be there, there
is not room for it. But run up and see for yourself. I hope you may find
it."

A few minutes afterwards Angel was on his way to Drybrook House, with
every confidence that he would return within half an hour the possessor
of the pocket-book.

He ran straight up the staircase to McWatt's study, on arrival, and at
once unlocked the safe and palled out both drawers--but there was no
pocket-book! He sat down in a chair trembling, and with a feeling of
exhaustion, so great was his surprise and consternation. He looked
again, searched everywhere, but all trace of it had disappeared.

With a feeling of unspeakable dejection and sinking of heart he went
back to De Villa's luxurious office.

"Well, I see by your face that you have not found it."

"No. It's a most mysterious affair."

"I do not see where the mystery comes in," said De Ville. "Jackson is
proved to have been there on Saturday night, and of course he took the
money. Actually paid some of the notes into his bank account. There's no
mystery about it."

"De Ville," said Angel warmly, "I may as well tell you at once, I am
persuaded that whoever has taken this money, George Jackson did not. Nor
do I believe that he is the murderer of McWatt. Indeed, I may say
further that I have accepted a retainer to defend him at the trial."

"Well, I am sorry to hear it," said De Ville coldly. "It will put you in
a very awkward position as one of the executors of the murdered man's
will."

"But it's not yet proved that McWatt was murdered."

"My dear fellow," said De Ville, "the jury will decide that quick
enough. How about the knife, and the 2,500 in notes? However, if you
have undertaken to defend Jackson we had better not say anything more
upon the subject; you will think differently before the trial is over."

"By the way, I've had a letter from the Bethel Calvanistic Church
expressing their pleasure at hearing of the legacy, and asking when the
money will be available. They are in a precious hurry, seeing that we
have not yet taken probate of the will."

"I think," said Angel, "we had better write to them at once and tell
them there is no prospect of their getting this money. The notes
actually referred to by the will are not found among the personality,
and we have no authority to pay it out of the general estate. There is
no knowing what mad thing they may do in prospect of getting this
legacy. I hear that they went to no end of expense in draping their
church for a funeral service."

"Yes," said De Ville, "they'll bite their fingers a bit when they learn
that they are not to get the money. I looked in the papers for an
account of the sermon to send up to Mrs. McWatt, but couldn't find a
word about it. I was wondering what their parson would have to say of
him."

Caleb Angel returned to his chambers in no enviable state of mind.
Everything was in a confused tangle. The loss of the pocket-book
appalled him. There was absolutely nothing to substantiate Jackson's
statement, unless that could be found, and the trial was coming on in a
fortnight. He had to reply to John Darton's and Edna Forrest's letters,
but what could he now say to them. He dreaded his next interview with
Jackson.

The result of the letters that he wrote to Darton's Point was that a few
days later Mr. and Mrs. Darton and Edna had taken up their residence at
the Circular Hotel until after the trial. The day after Angel's
conversation with De Ville, he and Smithers were in close conference
with Jackson in the latter's cell. Thoughtful anxiety was written upon
their faces, for Angel had told them of the unsuccessful search for the
pocket-book.

"The unfortunate thing is," said Smithers, "that we can get no evidence.
Dingle is doing his best to discover the ring, but without success. If
we could just lay our hands on the man who took that off the finger of
the corpse we could no doubt win the case, but as it is, we can prove
nothing, and any statement you may make," he said, turning to Jackson,
"will be valueless, unless we can produce the pocket-book as
confirmatory evidence."

There was a long pause after this which was at last broken by Jackson.

"There is only one thing for it," he said, "I shall have, with your
assistance, to conduct my own defence."

"That will never do, my dear fellow," exclaimed Smithers. "Just remember
what the charge is. We, of course, know you to be innocent; but it is of
no use disguising the fact, things are black against you, and the jury
will go into the box strongly biassed. There is no help for it, they
will regard you as a murderer. Now consider, what chance will you have
to remove that impression and get a fair hearing? Besides, you are not a
professional man; you are not used to the usages of the court; you will
of necessity let slip opportunities that a barrister would seize. Of
course we will stand by you through the case, anyhow, and do our best,
but I do entreat you not to think of conducting the case yourself. You
will lose it as sure as we are here. A prisoner tried upon a capital
charge can never defend himself to advantage, or with a reasonable hope
of gaining a verdict."

"I know that you give this advice with the best intention," replied
Jackson, "but listen to me for a moment. My friend Angel here is
encompassed with difficulties which absolutely debar him from taking any
leading part in the defence. I am persuaded that De Ville has found the
pocket-book, and has also stolen the 1,500 in gold. You," he said,
turning to Angel, "won't hear of it; of course I cannot blame you for
refusing to believe evil of your co-executor, because I confess that I
have no proof, except that the money is missing, and he is the only man
that had access to it; and I believe," said Jackson, bitterly, "that he
would stand at nothing to get me out of the way. Then, too, I should
wish to see you called as a witness," he said, turning to Angel. "You
say that both De Ville and Cutts will be put in the witness box by the
prosecution; then we must have someone to prove animus--they will, both
of them, do their best to get me hung. I can only hope and pray that
those wreckers may be discovered."

Angel now interposed. "Jackson," he said, "why do you not confide to
Smithers and myself the contents, of that document you told me you took
from the safe in Drybrook House. It is my belief that it contains enough
in some way or other to clear you of this charge, for you said almost as
much. You know where it is, and can produce it. If it will not clear
you, at any rate it will strengthen our hands for the defence. Besides,
as I have said before, you had no right to take the document. I do not
wish to say bad things, but you know what such action amounts to in the
eye of the law."

"Yes, it's felony," said Jackson, looking with a calm, almost stony,
gaze at his friend. "Caleb," he continued, with an effort, "I have that
paper, and I believe it to be perfectly safe from discovery; but I will
tell you and Smithers something about it, and you shall judge of my
conduct in the matter. You shall judge," he said excitedly, "whether it
would not be better for me to sacrifice my life than live a wretched
outcast and a traitor to the woman that I love."

At these words Angel started and shuddered, and sat with his eyes shaded
by his hand.

"Yes, I will tell you enough," said Jackson, "and you shall tell me
whether, by revealing its contents, I should not make myself the basest
villain in the world."

"McWatt and Darton quarrelled shortly before the death--or, if you like,
murder--of McWatt. Darton, you know, was McWatt's half-brother, and
their lives were closely associated up to manhood. They got mixed up in
business transactions here in Queensland, but were never great friends.
They had some secret between them. The quarrel was over Edna Forrest's
fortune. I question much whether the document I have is the one referred
to in the will. You may yet find the other. The document I have is
addressed to 'The Executors of my will, my solicitors, or any person
into whose hands this letter may come.' It was written on the night of
the 2nd February last, and bears that date."

"How do you know it was written at night?" asked Angel.

"I do know," said Jackson, "but that is one of the things I must ask you
not to urge me to explain; it would involve another."

"The letter," continued Jackson, "contains a charge of murder, which I
have reason to believe is utterly false, and which McWatt knew at the
time of writing to be false. It further contains a statement which, if
true, or which, if made public, would blast Miss Forrest's happiness and
prospects for ever. It is a statement which I believe to be a hateful,
malicious, and accursed lie. The whole document emanated from cruel,
hellish spite; it could only have been written by a man possessed of the
devil, for it was written when he feared that he himself was on the
point of death, and it was deliberately aimed at, and intended to
destroy Miss Forrest, myself, and another. I put it to you--with the
conviction that the whole is a wicked fabrication, the outcome of a
revengeful spirit--should I be a man to carry out the diabolical intent
of McWatt by making it public? No; he is dead, and I would sooner die
upon the scaffold for a crime of which I swear before God that I am
innocent than save myself by making such a document public--if, indeed,
it would save me, which I doubt. In fact, it might be actually used
against me by the prosecution as an evidence of guilt. Should God spare
my life," he added reverently, "it is my settled purpose to dedicate it
to the task of proving those allegations false."

"I put it to you, can any possible good result from my production of
this letter. Caleb Angel, you are an honest man, a gentleman, and a
Christian. What would you do if in my place?"

Caleb reached his hand across and grasped that of Jackson, and said, "I
think that we had better let the matter remain as it is. You may trust
to Smithers and myself to keep it secret." Smithers was not a man of
many words. He simply bowed his head in silent assent.

"Now," said Jackson, "let me give you my plans. In this hateful cell, I
think and think about it, and I suppose that I shall continue to until
the trial makes me a free man or seals my doom. This is my plan:"

"Stunner must be persuaded to turn Queen's evidence. I am afraid that
you will have some difficulty, but let him understand that it is my
positive wish, and that it will be to my advantage. Retain Browning on
the case to assist Angel and myself. Browning and myself will arrange as
to cross-examinations, and I will make the address to the jury myself.
It is the only chance. I could not now trust anyone else to defend me
except Angel, and he is debarred by circumstances from addressing the
court. Whoever does that must know all that I know or he will be at a
disadvantage. I agree, to a very large extent with what you say,
Smithers, but it is a choice between two evils, and for me to conduct my
own case, with legal assistance, is the lesser of the two."

So the matter was decided. Smithers went back to his office to use every
effort for the obtaining of further evidence, and Angel to his chambers
to meet John Darton and let him know the result of the interview with
Jackson. He met Darton, however, with a sense of constraint; he tried
hard to cast it off but could not. His share of George Jackson's secret
weighed heavily upon his heart. It was constantly in his thoughts; it
haunted him sleeping and waking. But he no longer blamed Jackson, for
Caleb Angel loved Edna Forrest better than he loved his life.




CHAPTER XXVI.--THE TRIAL COMMENCES.


There was an unusual stir in the precincts of the Supreme Court, on
Tuesday, the 14th day of March. The trial of the supposed murderer of
the late Hon. Constant McWatt was about to be conducted on unprecedented
lines. It was understood that at the last moment Barrister Angel had
given up the case, and that Jackson, the supposed murderer, would
conduct his own defence, assisted by his solicitors and two leading
barristers. There were private reasons, it was alleged, why Mr. Angel
had retired, and there promised to be some sensational revelations made
at the trial. Expectation was on tiptoe, and the court was crowded. It
was stated in the morning paper that Stunner had confessed to having
been an accessory to the crime, and had offered to give evidence, and
make full confession. Notwithstanding this exaggeration, however, the
tide of public sympathy had turned strongly in favor of the prisoner.

An advertisement, offering a large reward to any person who had seen the
body of the late Hon. Constant McWatt floating in the punt on the waters
of Moreton Bay, prior to Sunday, the 5th day of February, had appeared
constantly in the newspapers, and had excited great curiosity. It
appeared in the paper on the morning of the trial, and it was rumored
there was much to come out which was not at present known.

"You know," whispered an M.L.C. to a friend who sat near him in the
crowded court, "there's a lot in this case entirely unknown to the
public; Jackson will be triumphantly acquitted."

Some of the knowing ones, however, took five to one that Jackson could
not get out of it. "You see," said a fussy, thick-set man, "his
accomplice in the crime has turned Queen's evidence; he evidently had
nothing to do with the actual murder; that alone will seal Jackson's
fate."

Those of our readers who have been present in a court of justice when a
fellow creature has been on trial for his life, will recall the sense of
solemn responsibility with which the proceedings of the court open. The
feeling, it is true, wears off to a large extent during the trial, until
the time comes for the jury to deliver their verdict, when it returns
with accumulated force. But generally, it may be said, that a trial upon
a capital charge is distinguished from all others.

There was a hush as the judge entered, the court rising to receive him,
and immediately afterwards Jackson was brought in. He was led first into
the dock, but after a little whispered consultation among he court
officials, he was removed to a table, and sat down near his counsel and
solicitor. Two police constables placed themselves within easy distance
behind him. It was noticed that Smithers shook him cordially by the
hand, and whispered something to him. He was also greeted by the two
barristers. He leaned back in his chair with closed eyes.

He felt his position most keenly. Naturally a proud, straightforward,
and fearless man, he shrank from the curious and half-pitying gaze of
the crowded court. There were men there whom he, in his heart, despised.
How they glared at him, he thought. There was Pinchpenny and
Boulderland, Fielding, the auctioneer, and a crowd of club and city and
legal acquaintances, who, it was easy for a man who had been
incarcerated in a prison cell as a murderer for several weeks to think,
looked upon him with pitying contempt.

His sensitive nature--for he was a man of keen susceptibilities, as well
as of a generous and courageous heart--shrank, too, from the compassion
of the crowd. His proud spirit recoiled from the humiliation and shame
of his surroundings.

It had come upon him like a flood tide, and he bowed his head in his
hands for a moment and wept. It was, however, but a momentary weakness,
and he nerved himself for the ordeal through which he had now to pass.
He believed that there were those in the court who hated him. There
should be no breakdown on his part in their presence, no tremor in his
voice, no shrinking of any truant nerve. His heart might bleed secretly,
but his face should yield no sign that would give occasion to any of
these, his enemies, to rejoice over his discomfiture. If he lost the
case he would accept his sentence with composure, and look his enemies
in the face and tell them that they lied, and step upon the scaffold
with calmness and die affirming his innocence.

His hand was pressed eagerly by Angel. He turned his eyes round and met
Edna's, who had removed her veil for a moment. Her lustrous eyes were
swimming with tears of love and pity. John Darton sat near. Jackson was
soon himself again. He glanced for a moment quietly and composedly round
the court, and then let his eyes fall upon a document which he took from
the table in front of him. It was a brief of the case. Not that he
needed to peruse it. In the solitude of his cell his defence had
marshalled itself before him. He was familiar with every line of it. He
needed no notes to refresh his memory.

Dyson Foggitt was present to watch the case on behalf of the McWatt
executors, and at the opening of the court De Ville sat near to him. The
Crown solicitors and prosecutor occupied positions on the same side. As
the jury were being empanelled three were objected to by barrister
Browning on behalf of the prisoner, one of them was Pinchpenny. He
frowned as he stepped down. He had determined to hear the case, and had
congratulated himself on the prospect of having, in addition, the usual
juror's fee.

They were at last sworn in, and the Crown prosecutor rose to deliver his
opening address.

Amid deep silence he gave a brief account of the finding of the body at
Darton's Point on Sunday the 6th day of February, and then told the
story of Jackson meeting Stunner at the Melbourne-street railway
station, and how the latter had left him for about four and a half hours
at Hill End. He then explained how Jackson awoke Stunner shortly after
eleven, and described the two men starting upon their perilous journey
across the river. "Alas!" said the learned counsel, "it was a pity that
the errand was not a worthier one. It was a deed of reckless daring,
such as could only have been performed by desperate men. Whether the
prisoner then meditated the fearful crime which he afterwards committed,
was known only to himself and his Maker. The crossing of the river was,
however, achieved in safety and on account of the height of the flood,
it was found possible to tie the boat to the staircase bannisters." He
should place the waterman in the box to prove on oath that here Jackson
left him. The prisoner had told Stunner that his business there was to
return some documents that he had had from McWatt. The house was a large
one, and the library and private study of the deceased was situated
twenty-six yards from the landing at the top of the staircase, to which
the boat was tied. It had been measured for the purpose of the trial.
About five minutes after the prisoner had left Stunner, the latter heard
a noise at the end of the house as though a blow had been administered,
or some heavy object had fallen upon the floor. It never occurred to
Stunner to go upstairs to Jackson. If he had been wanted the prisoner
would have called him. He got tired of sitting in the boat, where he had
been smoking, and stepped upon the staircase, which, as the night had
cleared somewhat, he could see by the moonlight that shone through the
open doorway.

He here knocked out the ashes of his pipe, and lifted a black cat, which
they had saved from the flood, and which was trying to follow him out of
the boat, on to his knee, and stroked it. After some time had passed he
heard the prisoner's step in the corridor above. Then he stopped and
spoke to someone. The witness was prepared to swear that two voices were
distinctly audible. Very shortly afterwards the prisoner returned, and
seemed agitated, and hastened their departure, saying, "Let's get out of
this now, Joe, as quickly as we can."

On examining the room afterwards in which the murder was committed, two
soiled wine glasses were found which had been recently used. Upon the
private staircase there were found traces of tar upon three steps.
Doubtless from the feet of the criminal who had assisted the prisoner to
remove the body and place it in the punt. The prisoner slept that night,
or rather the following morning, in a hotel in George-street, and on the
Tuesday after paid a sum of 2500 in notes (which it could be proved had
been stolen from Drybrook House) into his bank account. When the body of
the murdered gentleman (who had, alas, held an honorable and
distinguished position in the community) was picked up at Darton's
Point, a knife, which he could prove belonged to the prisoner, and was
actually in his possession the previous week, was found in the punt by
the side of the murdered man. Not that it was used in the committal of
the murder, but by the singular avenging providence which seems to dog
the footsteps of a criminal, this startling evidence had been added to
the rest. Never was there a case submitted to a jury in which
circumstantial, and direct evidence, combine so completely to prove a
prisoner's guilt. If it was asked what motive induced the prisoner and
his accomplices to commit the crime, he replied that the great sum of
31,500 was stolen that night from the murdered man, a large portion of
which had been traced to the possession of the prisoner, who, he should
prove, was at that time in financial straits, and had recently violently
quarrelled with the murdered man over some monetary transaction in which
he thought himself aggrieved.

In fact, that very afternoon a promissory note for a large amount had
been dishonored at the prisoner's bank, which the prisoner had wanted
the murdered man to pay. There was not a single link missing in the
chain of evidence which would bring this educated and accomplished
villain to the scaffold.

The whole case was so clear that they could actually see it before their
eyes. The butler would swear that he left the deceased alone in the
house. The flood water which prevented his return would also deter the
murdered man from leaving. The hour was fixed for midnight--the punt
from the still black waters bore down upon Drybrook House and waited.
The prisoner brought the boat with the simple-minded waterman to the
front of the house. With stealthy steps he passed up the stairs and
stole along the corridor; opening the door, he entered the room where
the murdered man lay sleeping on the lounge. A heavy ebony ruler lay
upon the writing table. Joseph Stunner heard the blow through the still
house where he sat upon the staircase. The murderer's accomplice came up
the private staircase near the library, leaving some of the tar from the
punt upon the carpet. Stunner heard them talking together as they
carried the body of the murdered man and the plunder down the stairs.
The corpse was taken away in the punt and afterwards set adrift upon the
flooded river. "These, gentlemen of the jury," said the learned counsel,
"are the facts that I shall incontestably prove by reliable witnesses;
and let me say before I proceed to do so that, while I regret that a man
of the reputation and position and education of the prisoner should have
been tempted by lust for gold to commit this terrible crime, I cannot
but express my astonishment that under the circumstances he should have
the effrontery to conduct his own case in person, instead of leaving it
in the hands of some of my brother barristers, who are well able to say
all that can be said in his defence. I will now call the first witness,
William Linton."

The speech had been listened to with strained attention, for it was the
first time that the whole of this theory of the murder had been made
public, and it was different from that which had appeared in the
newspapers.

Dark looks of abhorrence were turned upon the prisoner, and there were
very few in the crowded court but felt that his guilt would be proved
beyond a doubt.

On being sworn, Linton deposed to the fact that McWatt was at Drybrook
House on the evening of February 2, and that when at half past 10 he was
prevented from getting back by the flood waters in the grounds around
the house, there were still lights there. He remembered the afternoon of
the 25th day of November, 1892; he had heard prisoner then quarrel with
deceased, and call him unjust and dishonorable. Deceased had rung for
him to show prisoner to the door. It was over a land transaction that
the quarrel took place.

There was only one question asked this witness in cross-examination by
Browning.

"Might not the deceased have left Drybrook House before he was hemmed in
by the flood waters on that Thursday?"

The answer was in the affirmative.

John Darton deposed to having seen the punt on Sunday afternoon, the
5th, and to the finding of the body on Monday in the punt. He identified
it as that of the late Hon. Constant McWatt. There was a knife in the
punt which he identified as similar to one belonging to the prisoner.
The punt might have drifted down to Darton's Point in eight or ten
hours. Several hundred sacks of flour were washed away from one of the
city wharves on the Saturday of the second great flood, some of which
were stranded on the shores of the bay near Darton's Point on Sunday
morning.

"That proves then," interposed the judge, "that if the punt was set
adrift on Saturday, the 4th, it might have been seen from Darton's Point
on the following afternoon?"

"Yes," replied the witness.

This witness was not cross-examined.

The next witness was Dr. Black, who swore that in his opinion the
deceased died from the effects of a blow upon the frontal bone of the
skull, administered by some hard, blunt body or instrument. An ebony
ruler would have produced such a fracture. Mechanical violence might be
sufficient to take away life without laceration of the skin.

For the first time during the day George Jackson arose; he intended to
cross-examine this witness himself.

Every eye in the building was immediately turned upon him, and his first
word was awaited with breathless silence. He spoke calmly and quietly
and his auditors remarked how full and sonorous was his voice. It was
heard clearly and distinctly in every part of the building.

"When did you make the post-mortem examination?"

"On Monday afternoon, February 6th."

"In what state did you find the body?"

"In an advanced stage of decomposition."

"You said in your evidence at the inquest that the deceased must have
been dead several days. How many days?"

"I could not say for certain."

"Do you think that life had been extinct for two days?"

"Yes."

"For more than two days?"

"It is possible, but the weather was so close and muggy that
decomposition would be rapid, as the body was exposed."

"Could you swear that deceased had not been dead three days?"

"I could not."

A hum went round the court, and the jurymen made a note. It was the
first point that had been made by the defence.

"In the decomposed state in which you say you found the body can you
positively swear that the blow on the forehead was not delivered after
the death of deceased?"

It was a question which the doctor was evidently unprepared for; he
hesitated, and then said:

"I could not."

"What would be the effect of such a blow to a living person?"

"Compression of the brain."

"What symptoms would follow?"

"Insensibility, small or imperceptible pulse, stertorous breathing,
dilated pupils, and, if death followed, violent contraction of the
heart."

"Were the lungs in a healthy state?"

"Yes, as far as I could judge in the then state of the body. There were
signs of a slight ecchymosis on the surface of the left lung."

"No contraction or indication of difficult breathing?"

"No."

"Would the blow upon the forehead, if given to a living person, have
deranged or greatly obstructed the respiratory movements of the lungs?"

"Yes."

"Then, if death was caused by the blow upon the forehead, ought the
lungs to have given evidence of this derangement?"

"Not necessarily."

"Ought the cavities of the heart to have been contracted?"

"Yes."

"Were they contracted?"

"I do not remember."

"Was there extravasated blood under the skin of the scalp at the site of
the injury?"

"The whole of the skin of the forehead and face were discolored by
decomposition, accelerated by the sun's action."

"Then you cannot positively swear that death resulted from the blow upon
the forehead on account of the state of decomposition in which you found
the corpse?"

"No, I cannot, although the skull was fractured; but I am morally
certain that death was caused by the blow."

"Sir," said Jackson, with dignity, as though he were counsel for the
prisoner merely instead of the prisoner himself, "this court can only
accept as evidence that which you are prepared to affirm upon your
oath."

"I will ask you one more question," said Jackson after a moment's pause.

"Were you quite sober when you made the post-mortem examination?"

"Certainly," said the witness with great indignation.

"Had you taken any stimulants that morning?"

"Yes," with hesitation; "I usually take a little."

"On your oath, how many drinks had you, and what were they?"

The witness hesitated, and the Judge said sharply:

"Answer the question, sir."

"As near as I can remember, I had three glasses of brandy before leaving
Sunnyside."

"And at Darton's Point?"

"One on arrival with Mr. De Ville before viewing the body, one before
conducting the post-mortem, and one after."

"Then you had six glasses of brandy before you wrote out the result of
your post-mortem examination. Thank you, that will do."

Jackson sat down. The result of the cross-examination had been
distinctly in his favor. Some over sanguine friends thought it ought to
be enough to clear him.

The prosecution evidently considered that this witness was best left
alone, for he was asked no further questions.

Tomkins then deposed to having drawn out the 30,000 for McWatt in notes
from different banks, on the 20th March, 1889, and clerks from the two
principal banks were put in the witness-box to corroborate on oath
Tomkin's statement.

Dyson Foggitt was sworn and deposed that the sums of 30,000 in notes
and 1500 in gold were distinctly specified in the will of deceased as
being deposited in a steel fire-proof safe in Drybrook House. An
attested copy of the will was put in as evidence.

"Call Joseph Stunner," said the counsel for the prosecution.

Joe stepped into the witness-box and looked across at Jackson with a
shame-faced expression. He could not get over having turned Queen's
evidence, although he had been told by Angel that it would be for
Jackson's good. "He who as good as saved my life that Sunday and
afterwards gave me 50. Master Jackson's no murderer no more than I am!"

He was sworn upon the Bible in due form and gave his evidence without
hesitation, and in a simple fashion that soon gained for him the
confidence of the assemblage. He was skilfully led through the story of
that Saturday night's work by the Crown Prosecutor. He swore distinctly
to having heard another voice besides Jackson's in the corridor above
him. He had received 50 in notes from the prisoner on the following
week. This was now mentioned for the first time and made some sensation.
The payment of so large a sum to him by the prisoner told distinctly
against Jackson.

Browning rose to cross-examine on behalf of the defence.

"Was that gift of 50 payment in any way for hire of your boat to take
the prisoner over to Drybrook House?"

"No."

"How do you prove that?"

"Because Master Jackson paid me 10s. for the boat's hire before we
started on the Saturday for Drybrook House and I gave it to the missus."

"Tell the jury, Stunner, why the prisoner gave you the 50."

The whole story of the heroic rescue of Golliker and the loss of the
'Mary Jane' was then given with a warm meed of praise to Jackson, which
evidently pleased Browning well.

"Did the prisoner give you any reason to think by his manner on the way
to Drybrook House that he meditated the committal of a crime?"

"No, sur; certainly not."

"You say that after the prisoner had gone upstairs you heard some heavy
object fall?"

"Yes, sur."

"Did you hear any cry, or scream or groan?"

"No, certainly not."

"Did it occur to you that any act of violence was being committed?"

"No."

"What was the sound like?"

"As though some heavy thing was lifted on to the floor."

"Would a heavy iron box dropped upon the floor make such a noise?"

"I believe it would, sur."

"Did you see any light in the house?"

"No, sur."

"Did you strike any wax matches?"

"Yes, sur; and I heard Master Jackson strike some more after he had gone
upstairs."

"Now, Mr. Stunner, you heard the prisoner talking to someone upstairs,
you say. Was the voice that of a man or a woman?"

"I cannot say."

"Did you hear anything that was said?"

"No. I was startled to hear him talking to someone, but I did not try to
listen."

"Did you not hear any one word that was spoken?"

"Well I believe that whoever it was speaking called Mr. Jackson by his
Christian name, but I could not swear to it."

"Well," asked Browning, "what is his Christian name?"

"George."

"Now, do you think that it might have been a bird--a cockatoo--that you
heard call the prisoner 'George?'"

"Surely it might have been; and now you come to mention it, sur, I think
the voice I heard did sound like a cockatoo's."

This closed the evidence of this witness, and as there seemed no
prospect of completing the case for the prosecution that day, and it was
getting late, the court adjourned. Jackson was escorted back to prison
in charge of two police officers. The evidence of the last witness had
done little for the prosecution beyond proving the midnight visit of
Jackson to Drybrook House. That, however, in itself was serious enough
in view of the knife and missing notes and gold, and the general opinion
was that the prisoner was a clever and an accomplished villain, who
would brazen out his guilty hypocrisy and falsehood to the last.

Dr. Black was greatly commiserated.




CHAPTER XXVII.--A SENSATIONAL SCENE IN COURT.


The court on the following morning was, if possible, fuller than on the
previous day, many being unable to gain admission. The non-legal friends
of the prisoner were decidedly more hopeful, but the solicitors and
counsel for the defence still felt that they were fighting a losing
battle, unless further evidence was forthcoming.

The advertisement for information about the punt prior to Sunday, the
5th day of February, appeared again in the newspapers.

After the court was opened the judge said that he held in his hand a
letter addressed to the foreman of the jury. As he believed it to be one
of those idle letters sent by some persons on such occasions, he should
adopt the more prudent course of abstaining from opening it until the
case was over.

The Crown Prosecutor called Sergeant Bevan, who deposed to the finding
of the knife in the punt.

It had already been acknowledged to belong to the prisoner.

George Charles De Ville deposed to notes and gold having been
unsuccessfully searched for in the safe at Drybrook House. De Ville was
dressed with scrupulous taste. He wore gloves, and a buttonhole of white
flowers with a spray of maiden-hair fern. He beamed around the court
with a half smile toward his acquaintances, and a patronising jaunty air
to everyone else, as though judge, jury, and court officials were his
employees, and the public generally his obsequious admirers.

Jackson arose to cross-examine this witness. It was noticed that his
face was, if possible, paler and more anxious than on the previous day,
"Were you alone when you searched for the money?"

"No, I was accompanied by a detective."

"You say that this visit was made to Drybrook House on Wednesday
afternoon after the reading of the will. Did you not visit the house on
the previous day?"

"Yes, but I made no search for money. I locked the study door after the
place had been viewed by the detective and others."

"You found no money on that afternoon or evening?"

"No."

"Did you open the safe door?"

"No."

"Where did you get the keys of the safe from?"

"Duplicate keys were kept in another safe at McWatt's office, they were
handed to me by his clerk."

"The other keys have not been found?"

"No."

"You were an intimate friend of the deceased?"

"I was."

"Did deceased habitually wear a diamond ring upon the little finger of
the left hand?"

"Yes, I never saw him without it until the morning on which the corpse
was found at Darton's Point."

"Did that finger look as though the ring had been violently withdrawn?"

"I thought so. Indeed I mentioned the matter to Mr. Darton as being
singular, in view of the fact that otherwise the body was not robbed."

The Crown Prosecutor smiled and made a note. He had omitted to bring out
the fact that the body, except for the loss of the ring, had not been
robbed, as would have been the case if the murder had been committed by
a common thief.

Jackson, continuing his cross-examination, said:

"There was a large white cockatoo at Drybrook House. Did you see the
bird there?"

De Ville's smooth face flushed up; he was evidently taken by surprise by
this question, which was really almost put at random by Jackson. But the
latter noticed De Ville's surprise and confusion, and thought it wise to
follow up the clue.

"Yes, I did; but I do not see what the bird can have to do with the
case, your Honor," he said, addressing the judge.

The Crown Prosecutor immediately arose and begged his Honor not to allow
the time of the court to be wasted by irrelevant questions.

Browning had been reading a memorandum in pencil just scrawled, and
passed on to him by Angel. He handed it to Jackson, and at once took the
floor as he sat down.

"Your Honor, we are defending a man's life, and I respectfully submit
that no evidence that can in any way lead to the establishment of his
innocence should be regarded as irrelevant."

Angel's memorandum, just handed to Jackson, read as follows:--"Press him
on this point. I have the bird. He ordered it to be destroyed and
believes it dead."

"Let the cross-examination continue," said the judge; "I allow the
question."

"You know that the bird was a great favorite with the deceased, and
talked remarkably well?"

"Yes."

"You have heard it talk?"

"I have."

"Did it ever call you by your Christian name?"

"No."

"I mean by your first name?"

"Certainly not."

"Is the bird now dead?"

"I have no personal knowledge of the fact, but I believe so," said the
witness, with a smile.

"Why did you order the coachman to destroy it."

De Ville had expected this, after the question which had preceded it,
and answered calmly, although he was still flushed in the face, and
evidenced some confusion.

"I had it destroyed because it was noisy and a nuisance."

"Had it in any way specially annoyed you?"

"Oh, no!"

"You never attempted to kill it yourself?"

"Certainly not."

"The bird was always friendly towards you?"

"It was neither friendly nor unfriendly. I never had anything to do with
the thing."

"And yet you ordered it to be destroyed?"

"Yes, I did," said the witness, looking at his questioner with
contemptuous defiance.

"I fear," interposed the Judge, "that the time of the court is being
wasted, and that the prosecution has just grounds for complaint."

"I will only ask the witness one more question, your Honor," said
Jackson, calmly.

"When you found the pocket-book at the back of the iron drawer of the
fireproof safe did it contain, in addition to the notes, three
post-dated cheques, two each for 1,000, and one for 507 16s. 4d.----?"

The Crown Prosecutor jumped up in wrathful indignation. "Don't answer
the question," he called out to De Ville. "Your Honor, may I ask you to
protect my witness from insult and degradation at the hands of the
prisoner. It's what might be expected," he said, sotto voce to his
junior, "when criminals are allowed to conduct their own defence."

De Ville grasped the witness-box with his two fat hands, and his little
eyes stared horribly out of his flushed fat cheeks; whether it was
anger, or indignation or fear, a spectator could hardly have decided.

Browning at once arose. "Your Honor, I claim your indulgence one moment.
I most respectfully submit that the case has been conducted by the
defence, thus far, with the greatest decorum. The indignation of my
learned friend for the prosecution is, I allow, quite natural and
excusable. The question is a most extraordinary one--unparalleled, I
admit, in the whole of my professional experience--but I can assure you,
your Honor, and the jury, and my learned friend the Crown Prosecutor,
that we have substantial reasons for putting this question to the
witness, which will, we believe, be amply shown later on in these
proceedings."

The sensation caused by all this amongst the spectators, and especially
Browning's latter statement, was immense. There was a hum of voices,
disregarded for a moment by the Judge.

The Crown Prosecutor rose again. "The witness cannot be allowed to
answer the question in any way, not even to deny it. It's too
outrageous; it's a mean, underhand dodge!"

The Judge had scrutinised De Ville's face keenly and curiously for a
moment, and could not help noticing his confusion and, he thought,
alarm.

"I must protect the witness," he said. "The question ought not to have
been put--and certainly not in that form."

It had been put, however, and although the Judge directed the jury that
it had no bearing upon the evidence as to the murder, it had made an
impression not readily removed. Jackson's remarkably able management of
his case and singular composure and self-control weighed with the jury,
although they were each and all still persuaded of his guilt.

It did not tend to restore De Ville's composure when it was intimated to
him, as he was about to leave the court, that he would probably be
wanted again in the afternoon.

"Call Sturgis Cutts," said the Crown Prosecutor.

The manager of the El Dorado Bank of Australia was the last witness but
one for the prosecution, and he stepped into the witness-box and took
the oath with an air of reluctance, but also of self-conscious
importance. He had wanted the cashier or a clerk to have been served
with the subpoena, but the Crown solicitors were inexorable.

"It's of no use, my dear sir," the chief clerk had said; "you have
kindly given us information, and will have to appear yourself."

"It's bad for the bank," Cutts had replied; "who knows what questions
may be put to me in cross-examination?"

"Very sorry, sir, but we cannot help it; very important case, sir; you
must take your chance."

He stated, in answer to questions, that the prisoner had an account at
his bank--since closed. They had been reluctantly compelled to press him
for a long-standing overdraft. Had written to him on or about the 1st of
February; had looked over the account after the monthly balance; saw
that a promissory note for a large amount, held by Mr. De Ville, and
made by prisoner in favor of Henry Stuart, was falling due. On Tuesday,
the 7th day of February, prisoner paid 2500 in notes into the bank,
closed the account, and drew the balance in gold. The notes were traced
as having been some of those paid to the deceased four years previously.

Browning cross-examined this witness, and to the latter's great
annoyance elicited a number of facts by no means to his credit as a bank
manager. A large sum, he allowed, had been paid into the prisoner's
account the previous week. Had he paid the promissory note the account
would still have been somewhere about 100 below the limit of cash
credit agreed to by the bank. Before the flood he considered the
properties held by them to be ample security. De Ville had expressed a
wish that the promissory note might be dishonored. De Ville and he were
friends. John Darton had his account at his bank. Had, on the advice of
De Ville, attempted to put difficulties in the way of money being
obtained to defend this case. Had supplied information to the coroner,
and also to Detective Brooks, who first put the police on the track of
Jackson. The bank had lost considerable business through their pressure
of creditors.

There were some angry recriminations between counsel during the
cross-examination. The mortification of Cutts on stepping out of the
witness-box was extreme, and he mentally decided that the game was not
worth the candle, even if it resulted in Jackson being hanged.

Mr. Brooks followed, and proved the fact of tar having been found on the
steps of the private staircase, which closed the case for the Crown.

Immediately on the closing of the case for the prosecution, the
prisoner, to the surprise of the court generally, was placed in the
witness-box. Browning arose and said:--

"Your Honor and gentlemen of the jury, the line of defence which we
intend to take is a somewhat unusual one. With your permission I will
now ask the prisoner to make a statement. This the jury will understand
the prisoner cannot make on oath, although he would be glad enough to do
so, were such a proceeding permissible. We shall afterwards call but few
witnesses. Most unfortunately the witnesses whose evidence would at once
prove the innocence of the prisoner, we have not been yet able to
discover. With your permission, your Honor, the prisoner will now make a
brief statement."

The Judge bowed his head in sign of assent, and the whole assembly
settled down to listen with closest attention.

Jackson told of the finding of the punt on February 3, and of his
discovery of the pocket book containing 30,000, and also containing the
documents affecting both himself and a lady, whose fortune of 10,000
had been entrusted to McWatt for investment. He distrusted De Ville, and
Mr. Angel, the other executor, being away, he determined to take the
body out into the Bay again, so as to secure time to visit Drybrook
House and put the pocket-book in some hiding place where it would not be
discovered until Mr. Angel's return. It was daylight when he first saw
the corpse, and there was no fracture on the forehead, and no mark of
violence to be seen upon the person. He believed then that death had
resulted from a fit or heart disease. When towing the punt out into Bay
he encountered a shoal of sharks, and in the excitement, when cutting
the punt adrift the knife had slipped from his hand and fallen into the
punt. He had thought at first that it had fallen into the Bay. He went
up to Brisbane on Saturday afternoon. Met Stunner, accidentally, at the
Melbourne-street station, and arranged with him to go across to Drybrook
House. He knew, of course, that it was unlikely anyone would be there,
as the Hon. Constant McWatt was dead, and the house was flooded. He left
Stunner in the boat as had been stated, struck wax vestas, and lit a
candle which he found there. The keys were in the pocket book. He
unlocked the safe and also the left-hand drawer, and placed the
pocketbook at the back of the drawer. He should say that before doing
this he took out 2500 in notes, and put in their place two post-dated
cheques, each for 1000, and one for 507 16s. 4d.; they were perfectly
good cheques, drawn by the parties already mentioned. The odd money he
left for exchange. The drawer was heavy and he dropped one end of it
upon the ground, causing the noise heard by Stunner. On his way along
the corridor he was startled by a voice from one of the rooms calling
"George." It was a large white cockatoo that could talk remarkably well.
He stopped and gave it some food to eat until the return of the
servants. It's fluent speech suggested to him the thought that he might
teach it something that might lead, in course of time, to the discovery
of the pocket-book, without any outside interposition, so he said twice
to it:--"It's at the back of the iron drawer." This the bird repeated.
He left with Stunner, and they spent about two hours in rescue work,
saving the lives of five families. On the following Tuesday he paid
2500 in notes into his account at the El Dorado Bank. The edges of the
notes had been wet, which had been remarked by the teller.

It had been caused by his having accidentally dropped the pocket-book
into the water when he first discovered the body of the deceased. He
called upon Stunner and gave him 50 to buy a new boat. It was wrecked
when they were endeavoring to save life, against Victoria Bridge.

"What are the words you say the bird used to you?" said the judge, when
Jackson had completed his statement.

Jackson repeated the bird's doggerel rhyme to the amusement of the
court.

"I will now call the witnesses," said Browning, rising.

Sarah Darton, a well-dressed lady of about 45, deposed to the prisoner
having looked ill on the morning of Saturday, the 4th February. She
asked him if anything was the matter with him. He put her off, but he
looked as though he had been out all night.

Frank Brewer deposed that he was Mr. Darton's man; he had found an end
of rope in the stern of the boat; he produced that and the piece taken
from the punt. He had examined them and believed them to be of the same
material, and that they had been cut with a knife.

The rope was passed round to the jury for their inspection.

Joseph Stunner was recalled. He swore that he had not met the prisoner
on Saturday, the 4th February, by appointment. It was purely accidental.
They spent fully two hours in rescue work after the visit to Drybrook
House.

Evidence was also tendered proving the payment of the cheques to Jackson
for the sum of 2507 16s 4d., the butts of the cheques being also
produced.

Caleb Angel deposed to a difficulty existing as to tracing an investment
of 10,000 said to have been entrusted to the deceased by Mr. Darton on
account of his niece. No document had been discovered as yet which would
authorise the trustees to pay the money. Mr. De Ville had certainly
shown great antipathy to the prisoner. He knew personally that both Mr.
De Ville and the prisoner were suitors for the hand of Mr. Darton's
niece.

William Thornton, medical practitioner, deposed that the post-mortem
examination should certainly have plainly revealed whether the death of
deceased had resulted from the blow on the frontal bone of the skull.
The state of the heart, lungs, &c., in death by violence, always
afforded ample evidence for the examiner to declare on oath whether that
was or was not the cause of death. To his mind the medical evidence
tendered by the prosecution was highly unsatisfactory.

It was noticeable that the prosecution made no attempt at
cross-examination. It was as counsel supposed, they had determined to
ignore the defence as it had principally emanated from a statement of
the prisoner's, and rely upon the evidence of their own witnesses.

"There is one witness I should like to call, your Honor and gentlemen of
the jury, but I fear that it is of no use. He is erratic and might
refuse to speak."

"By all means call him, Mr. Browning," said the judge. "We will see that
he speaks."

"I refer, your Honor, to the cockatoo."

There was some laughter at this, but it was instantly repressed.

"You may try," said the judge, "if the bird is in the precincts of the
court. If it spoke in the manner described, it might be held as
favorable to the defence."

"I fear, your Honor, that it is useless; when the bird sees the crowded
court it will be afraid."

"Let some folding screens be brought in," said the judge to one of the
officers, "and entirely close in the dock."

This was done in a few minutes.

"Let there be perfect silence in the court," said his Honor. "Are you
ready with the bird?"

"In a moment, your Honor," answered Browning. At that instant Angel
entered with a man carrying the bird in a large covered cage.

The interest in the proceedings had now risen to fever height. A chair
had been placed in the dock for Jackson, and a table for the bird. The
cloth was removed from the cage by the attendant, and the prisoner and
the cockatoo were left alone face to face.

The screen had been so arranged that the judge and jury could watch
Jackson without being seen by the bird. The silence was after a few
minutes painful. Nothing was to be heard save the steady tick-tack,
tick-tack of the court-house clock. The bird could be heard moving
occasionally upon its perch. Jackson had been instructed that he must
not speak or make any overture to it. Several minutes more passed, when
a lead pencil memo. from the judge and a small parcel were handed to the
prisoner over the top of the screen. It read as follows: "Offer the bird
some of the maize."

Jackson at once got up, still in full view of the judge, and poured some
of the maize into the bird's cage. The cockatoo was then heard
sharpening its beak against the side of the cage. A moment after it
spoke.

"George, you're a good fellow. George, don't go away. Poor Polly. Polly
all alone. No one cares for Polly. Polly wants a bone. George don't go
away. It's at the back of the iron drawer."

"Let the officers who have the prisoner in charge," said the judge,
"take him out of the dock. Leave the bird there, and call George Charles
De Ville."

"Mr. De Ville," said the judge, as he stepped towards the witness-box,
"you stated in your evidence this morning that you were neither friendly
nor unfriendly with the cockatoo at Drybrook House. Will you kindly step
into the enclosure in the dock for a moment. It will give additional
weight to your evidence, should the bird not recognise you. Of course,
whatever may be the result, a large margin must be left for the possible
idiosyncrasies of the cockatoo."

A moment's silence followed, during which the cockatoo was heard
cracking some of the corn. The Crown Prosecutor was whispering hurriedly
to De Ville, who appeared wholly confounded by the request of the judge.

"I beg your Lordship's pardon," (at the sound of De Ville's smooth,
silky voice, those near the dock heard the bird at once leave off
eating), "but I cannot accede to----"

"George, you villain, you villain," was literally screamed out of the
enclosure, and the judge leaning round saw the bird, with crest erect
and wings extended, showing every indication of extreme fear and anger.

"George, you villain, why, you're the devil. It's at the back of the
iron drawer. George, you ought to be ashamed of yourself."

The bird then gave a succession of defiant screams, and the judge
ordered it to be covered and taken out of court.

De Ville's face was the picture of anger and despair.

"I find that I have one more witness to call, your Honor," said
Browning.

Thomas Carpenter deposed that he had been ordered by Mr. De Ville to
destroy the cockatoo, which he identified as the one in court that
morning. He had caught it in the grounds at Drybrook House, with a piece
of broken chain fastened to one claw. It seemed mopish and afraid, and
screamed once when Mr. De Ville approached it. Mr. Angel sent him word
that the bird was on no account to be destroyed. He had not taught it
any words, and since it had been under his care had not heard it speak,
except on one occasion when it had said: "It's at the back of the iron
drawer." He did not know what the bird meant. There was a servant boy at
Drybrook House who fed and cleaned the bird named George. This closed
the evidence for the defence.




CHAPTER XXVIII.--SPEECH OF THE CROWN PROSECUTOR.


The Crown Prosecutor arose, and on the plea of the extraordinary nature
of the defence asked for an adjournment until the following day. To
this, however, the judge would not consent, so the case proceeded, and
the counsel for the prosecution arose to address the jury.

He had asked for an adjournment, he said, as he wished the jury to enter
upon the closing stages of this very important trial with their minds
perfectly composed and unprejudiced by the singular incidents which had
transpired before them in that court. The case which they had to decide
that day, upon their oaths, was for several reasons one of the most
remarkable criminal cases that had come within the range of his
knowledge or experience. Stress had been laid upon the fact that the
prisoner was on trial for his life. He feared that side issues had been
so cleverly made prominent that day, that there was some danger of the
jury forgetting that already the sanctity of human life had been
assailed by violent hands. They were there to do justice to a murdered
man, and to affirm the inviolate majesty of their country's laws, and
not to consider what might be the effect of their decision upon the
person of the prisoner being tried at their bar. What he demanded was
simple justice from them as between the murdered man and the prisoner.
To obtain this he felt that he must warn them against a danger which
might even be hidden by its own great pre-eminence. Never in the course
of his professional experience had a criminal with so poor a defence had
it set forth and handled with such masterly skill. With the assistance
of his solicitors and two able barristers the prisoner had conducted his
own defence. There was positively nothing in that defence, and they must
remember that only evidence affirmed on oath could be regarded as of
value in enabling them to arrive at their decision. He said there was
nothing in the defence set up by the other side, for it was merely the
clever fabrication of a remarkably accomplished man. He could imagine
how black was the heart and seared the conscience of the murderer of
Constant McWatt, but he bowed in astonished homage before the ability of
the prisoner. In this lay the danger, and against this he warned them.
He supposed that a spirit of darkness might defend himself with
matchless skill and even deceive the very elect. And such, he felt
convinced, was the state of the case before them. Let them see to it
that the skilful audacity of the prisoner's defence did not cause them
to pervert judgment. They must make no mistake. A man of position and
influence amongst them had been ruthlessly murdered, and it was for them
to see that justice was done upon the person of the criminal. What did
the defence amount to? Just to this. A chain of the clearest evidence,
that contained not one missing link, proved a man of more than ordinary
ability to be a murderer. The criminal has no defence. Facts are too
clear against him. He takes the bull by the horns. Admits all that he
knows he cannot disprove, and fabricates an explanation that shall fit
with the nicest accuracy into the evidence which he knows he is unable
to controvert.

"I have told you, gentlemen of the jury," said the learned counsel,
growing warmer with his argument, "that the prisoner is one of the
ablest and most accomplished of criminals. His life is at stake, so he
calls into play the whole of his fine resources and the remarkable
statement and exhibition which, by favor of the court, he has presented
to you to-day. Let me say, however, that his house of cards falls to the
ground before the first breath of just criticism. The structure, that he
has attempted to rear is without foundation, and, even explains itself
away. He tells us that he made his journey across the river not to steal
a pocket-book, but to replace one. Well, gentlemen of the jury, where is
that pocket-book? With consummate cleverness and audacity he has
attempted to suggest that it has been stolen--stolen by one of our
wealthiest and most prominent citizens, and with an ingenuity worthy of
the father of lies, he has managed somehow to teach a cockatoo to repeat
half a dozen words by rote, and has actually got the bird into the court
to trick you into the belief that its doggerel nonsense is evidence.
Good heavens! gentlemen! evidence!! evidence!!! I can only say that if
you allow this exhibition to weigh with you one iota, then farewell to
justice. That the prisoner taught the bird these words, either at the
time of the murder or since, I will not attempt to dispute. I pay a
willing tribute to the farsighted sagacity and cunning of the man. He
had great things at stake, so his masterly rascality; forecasts every
contingency, and as he dared not call in a human witness to cover his
retreat he craftily invokes the aid of this cockatoo. Would, gentlemen,
that instead of repeating these ingenious phrases, it might have the
power to describe that which actually transpired."

"I must now briefly review the evidence which is tendered on oath--the
only evidence, let me solemnly remind you, upon which the issue of the
case must be decided."

"The body of the murdered man was in a punt in Moreton Bay on Sunday,
February 5. On Monday morning it was drawn to shore partly decomposed.
Let me remind you that everything was favorable to rapid putrefaction;
it was exposed to the sun's action. Death occurring under these
conditions on Saturday night, it is no wonder the medical attendant
found the body in an advanced stage of decomposition by the following
Monday at mid-day. While I regret that the evidence of Dr. Black was
unsupported by that of another medical man, I must remind you that the
flood put difficulties in the way of all investigation, and under the
stress of weather and exceptional floods, thousands of men in Brisbane
took more largely of stimulants than was their custom. The prisoner has
tried to show that death was not caused by the blow upon the forehead,
but here even his clever imagination fails him for he does not attempt
to suggest how otherwise the deceased was murdered. I take the simple
facts as they stand upon the surface, and appeal to the common sense of
ordinary thoughtful men, and fearlessly affirm that from these facts
there is only one conclusion--Constant McWatt was struck upon the
forehead with some heavy weapon. That fact the defence, with all their
ingenuity, cannot, and do not, attempt to disprove. Constant McWatt is
dead. And the only conclusion to be arrived at is that which is given as
the result of the post-mortem examination, and that which the jury gave
as their decision at the inquest. He died from the effects of a blow
administered by some person or persons unknown."

"Now, to return to Drybrook House. On that fatal Saturday night the
evidence proves that the prisoner was there; he does not dispute the
fact, for the testimony of Stunner, the waterman, is too strong for him.
He was there, he says, to restore a pocket-book which he had taken from
the person of the deceased. But, alas! for his story, there is no
pocket-book to be found, but instead there is a ghastly murder
committed, and 31,500 missing from Drybrook House safe. And on the
following Tuesday, 2500 of the very notes proved to have been taken
from the 30,000 in the pocket-book are paid by the prisoner into his
account at the El Dorado Bank, a fact which my learned friends who are
assisting the prisoner in his defence do not even attempt to disprove.
Again the prisoner accepts the inevitable fact, and tries artfully to
explain it away. He received cheques, he says, for 2500 and calls
witnesses to prove the fact, but that does not assist to clear him of
the theft of the 31,500. Where is this money? Lost, stolen,
untraceable; except 2500 of it, and that we find in the possession of
the prisoner. The fact is so patent that he cannot deny it, and so once
more he undertakes to explain away a piece of awkward--yes, for the
prisoner, damning--evidence."

"His connection with the murdered man crops up at every turn. His knife
is found with the dead body, but he has a week to supply an explanation,
and his cleverness does not fail him. He cuts off a piece of the same or
similar rope, and presents it to us as his reason for using the knife,
and its having been found by the side of his victim. Gentlemen of the
jury; I pray you make no mistake in this matter; the lives of your
fellow-men are in your hands to-day. If one murderer escapes, others are
encouraged and licensed to similar deeds. The prisoner's clever trick
has been tried before and failed, as it will fail again to-day. And let
me impress this upon you: The very skill and cleverness and masterly
audacity of the prisoner makes his escape from the hands of justice
fraught with greater peril to the cause of justice and the lives and
security of your fellows. If the murderer of Constant McWatt escapes,
with the crime proved to the very hilt, and taken with the money in his
possession, red-handed in his guilt, then who shall be convicted? Again,
I say, gentlemen, see that you are not led away by false issues and
statements which are not evidence, and sentiment which is totally
misleading. You have to do only with facts, and they, unhappily for the
prisoner, in spite of all his cleverness, have proved him guilty of the
most abhorrent of crimes--murder, murder for the sake of robbery. I
leave it to your consciences, gentleman. I am assured that you can only
record one verdict. On the evidence you have no alternative but to find
the prisoner at the bar, guilty."

The effect of this speech upon the jury and crowded court was, to the
friends of the prisoner, appalling. It seemed as though every shred of
the defence had been swept away. The counsel had had a hard task before
him to remove the favorable effect which the prisoner's frank defence
had created. But the sweeping torrent of argument and eloquence had
carried all before it, and a conviction of George Jackson's guilt seemed
stamped on every face. Edna had listened to it all; every bitter
accusation had been a knife stabbing to her very heart. She wept
noiselessly, but bitterly, behind her veil. Was there no one in all that
crowded court to say one word for the darling of her heart? The darkness
of her dream came back to her; it grew more dense, and the great hand
was coming down upon her out of the heavens, to press out happiness and
hope and life. Down! down! down! It was total darkness--night.




CHAPTER XXIX.--THE DEFENCE: A THRILLING APPEAL.


It was now the turn of Browning the counsel for the defence, to ask for
an adjournment; but the judge was inexorable. He would sit until the
case was finished.

The general feeling towards the prisoner had become one of pity and
abhorrence, as when a raging wild beast is felled with a stunning blow
and lies at our feet powerless to do further injury. The argument of the
Crown Prosecutor had caused the belief in Jackson's guilt to become
general, and to the dismay of his friends he sat there in his
chair--where he had been brought from the dock to make the closing
speech for the defence--like a man in a dream. The police constables had
almost unconsciously edged up near to him. They felt that the last act
but one was nearly ended, and they would soon have to conduct him to the
condemned cell.

Angel came up to him; and catching him by the hand, whispered:

"Are you well enough to answer him, old fellow, or shall Browning do
it?"

The grasp of the hand, and the 'old fellow' supplied just the tonic
Jackson needed. He took a sip from a tumbler of water, and said: "Thank
you, Caleb, I had better finish it."

Once more he stood up, now to make the one last struggle for his life.

"Gentlemen of the jury "--his voice was at first thick and husky. But he
seemed cool and collected, although the waiting silence was almost
painful. He was regarded as a doomed man.

How ever could he attempt to answer such a speech? He would fail! He
would break down! It was impossible!

"Gentlemen of the jury,--It is my duty to address to you the last words
which may be said in defence, and on behalf of, the prisoner, who is on
trial for his life at the bar of this court to-day. The solemnity of the
occasion has already been impressed upon you; you have to do justice
between the dead and the living, and justice is all that I claim at your
hands. Yet it will be hard for you to listen unbiased to me, and render
even justice to the prisoner, after the address you have just listened
to. The learned counsel's evidence has, I fear, thrown judgement from
her balance; and yet, as Australians and men, you will, I am sure, hear
me before you finally decide this question, which, for one of us, is
life or death. The learned counsel for the prosecution assigns to the
prisoner a pre-eminence in criminal sagacity and ability. It might then
be expected that something could be discovered in the prisoner's early
surroundings and past career suggestive of this. Coming events cast
their shadows before them, and if the prisoner is the monster of
criminal ability and ingenuity which he is represented to be, there
should be some trace of it in his early history. He certainly does not
come of criminal stock, for his father to this day, as is known to a
dozen persons in this court, is a magistrate of his county in England,
whose white head is a crown of glory to him, because it is found in the
way of righteousness."

"The prisoner, unfortunately, came to this country less than four years
ago possessed of modest but ample means. On his way through Sydney he
invested about 2000 in house property, and on his arrival here
deposited nearly 12,000 in the El Dorado Bank. He had met with the
deceased in England, and acting on his advice, speedily found himself
despoiled of the greater part of his capital. He did not, however, brood
over his losses; but having had the advantage of a liberal education set
himself to read for the Colonial Bar. Thus was he occupied when the, to
him, fatal 3rd of February dawned."

"I am not here, gentlemen of the jury, to defend the conduct of the
prisoner in all particulars on that occasion. He has stated that on that
Friday evening he saw the punt with the corpse on shore. He should have
called some witness to that fact. Yea, I am prepared to affirm that he
was blameworthy in that he did not at once make his knowledge public and
leave an overriding Providence to avert the consequences which he
feared. Bit I am reminded that any statement of the prisoner's may be
classed as fabrication and cannot rank as evidence, so I will now review
the sworn evidence upon which you have to decide the case."

"The charge of the prosecution rests, first, upon the supposed fact that
the deceased was in Drybrook House on the night of Saturday, the 4th of
February. This, every person in the court will allow, lies at the very
foundation of the argument for the prosecution. The butler left deceased
there on Thursday evening, and at half-past 10 that same night was
unable, on account of the flood waters on the low ground surrounding the
house, to return; but what may not have occurred during the four hours
of the butler's absence, during at least three of which it was possible
for ingress and egress to have been effected? What visitors may not have
called; occasion may even have arisen during that long period of time
for the deceased to have left Drybrook House altogether. But to
substantiate the supposition of the prosecution--for, gentlemen, there
is positively no evidence--it has not even been attempted to prove that
deceased remained in Drybrook House even throughout Thursday night--he
must have remained there throughout Friday and Saturday. You will note
that if it can be shown that deceased was murdered at any time before
midnight on Saturday, the 4th of February, the prisoner must be
acquitted, for every hour of the previous time to that moment can be
accounted for."

"For two whole days, then, the deceased, according to the theory of the
prosecution, must have resided alone in Drybrook House, and yet there
was no trace found of such residence. With the exception of two used
wine glasses and the biscuit crumbs, there is no evidence that during
all this time he partook of food. In the butler's pantry there was
abundance of food above reach of flood mark; but the detective on the
following Tuesday evening found no sign of food having been partaken--no
dirty dishes. It is impossible that deceased would have subsisted for
two whole days on Port wine and biscuits, when there was abundance of
more substantial food easily accessible. But, further, during this time
the deceased must have slept. Is it likely that with ample sleeping
accommodation at hand he would for three nights have remained there
without availing himself of it? If he feared that the house might be
visited by flood burglars in boats, he could have locked and barred his
door and have kept lights burning to warn them from the house. But the
prosecution have been unable to prove that any bed was slept in, and
they represent the deceased as having been murdered when, wrapped in an
overcoat, he lay sleeping on a lounge."

"Another point deserves mention. Through the rising of the flood waters
there was no gas available in the lower part of the suburbs after
Thursday night, but it was not proved that any candles were burned by
deceased. Is it credible, gentlemen, that for three nights the deceased
remained in Drybrook House without sleeping in a bed, and that the
murderer found him on Saturday, fully attired, with watch and purse and
adornments and dress in perfect order, enveloped in an overcoat,
sleeping on a lounge? That from Friday morning to midnight on Saturday
he had gone without food, save a little wine and biscuits, and that for
two long nights he had continued in the house in darkness? If lights had
been visible on Friday or Saturday, they could have been seen from
houses in the neighborhood, or on the opposite side of the river, and
you may be assured that the keen scrutiny of detectives, and counsel for
the prosecution, would not have allowed so valuable a piece of evidence
to have been overlooked. It was incumbent upon the prosecution to have
proved beyond reasonable doubt that the deceased was actually resident
in Drybrook House from the time that he was left there by the butler
until the time they supposed him to have been murdered, two days after,
by the prisoner. This, the very first link in their chain of evidence,
is wanting."

"But take the fact of the two wine glasses having been used. Does it not
point to the supposition that on Thursday evening, after the departure
of the butler, the deceased had a visitor? Whoever took wine with him,
called before the flood waters had surrounded the house. Is it not most
probable--especially in view of the fact that there is positively no
evidence that deceased resided during the flood at Drybrook House, for
had he done so, he must have eaten and slept--that deceased left in
company with this visitor?"

"Take now the evidence resulting from the post-mortem examination. The
state of the body was such that the doctor could not swear that, when
examined, it had not been dead for three days. I pass over the
unsatisfactory nature of the evidence as to whether deceased died from
the effects of the blow, although the evidence of the medical man on
that point alone, is sufficient to impair the value of his evidence on
the whole case. The diagnosis should have furnished him with proof upon
which he could unhesitatingly have sworn as to the cause of death. But
he stated on oath that the body was so far decomposed that he could not.
Then I put it to you, on the sworn evidence of the doctor, deceased must
have died prior to midnight of the 4th of February. On the theory of the
prosecution, only one day and six or seven hours elapsed from the time
of the murder to the finding of the body. When about five hours
afterwards the doctor saw it, he asserts on oath that it was in an
advanced stage of decomposition. If evidence has any value, there is
only one deduction. The deceased must have been dead one or two days
before the prisoner visited Drybrook House on the night of Saturday, the
4th of February. If this is proved, no other evidence need be
considered; you are bound, on your consciences and on your oaths, to
return a verdict of not guilty."

"It is proved, gentlemen; proved to the very hilt. There is no competent
medical practitioner in Brisbane but will tell you the deceased must
have been dead more than thirty-six hours."

"But let me take you a stage further. The prisoner reached Brisbane from
Darton's Point on Saturday afternoon. The theory of the prosecution is
that a plan to murder McWatt at midnight had been agreed upon by the
prisoner with some unknown accomplice, who brought the punt to the back
staircase of Drybrook House. But is there any evidence whatever to
support this supposition? Absolutely none! The witness Stunner swears
that the meeting was purely accidental, so that with all his supposed
cleverness the prisoner had made no prior arrangement for crossing the
river to Drybrook House. For the plan of the murder to have been
prearranged there must have been foreknowledge of the most unlikely
circumstance: that the deceased would be found alone upon the flooded
premises. It is a wonder that in the endeavor to give plausibility to
this the prosecution has not impeached the fidelity of the servants, and
made them accessories to the murder. If all this was pre-arranged, as
supposed by the learned counsel on the other side, then the absence of
the whole of the servants must have also been pre-arranged. But what is
the sworn evidence? Why, that when the prisoner and the waterman reached
Drybrook House the front door stood wide open; there were no lights,
there was no sound, and the flood covered the whole of the ground
floor."

"You can see the house, gentlemen of the jury, in your mind's eye. I ask
you, does it look like a place inhabited? After the boat was made fast
the waterman swears that lights were struck in the hall. He received no
caution from the prisoner to keep quiet. The prisoner went up the
staircase, straight to the private study of the deceased, and the
witness Stunner again swears that he heard him strike two wax vestas. Is
it at all likely that he would have done this under the circumstances
suggested by the prosecution? How could he possibly have known where
McWatt was sleeping? Would he not have feared to wake his intended
victim? The waterman heard no sound for some time, except the fall of
something heavy upon the floor. There was no voice, no cry, no scream
for help, no groan, no sound of struggle. The stillness of midnight
reigned throughout the mansion. Even the striking of a match was audible
to the waterman, and yet you are asked to believe that it was possible
to commit a violent and sudden murder in silence."

"Gentlemen, the case for the Crown breaks down on the evidence of their
own witnesses. The waterman swears that he heard no cry, no groan, no
sound of struggle. Is it possible, I ask again, upon your oaths,
gentlemen, could a man of the statue and strength and vigorous health of
the deceased so have died? It is impossible!"

"There is another missing link, gentlemen, in the prosecution's 'chain
of clearest evidence.' It follows that the body of the murdered man must
have been carried down the back stairs in perfect silence; that the
prisoner and his supposed accomplice carried down the heavy body of the
deceased without any sound of shuffling feet, or opening or closing
doors, or whispered consultation. Again does common sense exclaim,
impossible! But now comes in the strangest part of this absurd
supposition. The murderers, having accomplished their fell design in
silence, now talk audibly together in the corridor in the hearing of the
waterman. Is it not most improbable? The prisoner says that he was
called by a favourite cockatoo kept in the house. The waterman, on his
oath, declared, 'I think the voice I heard did sound like a cockatoo's.'
You are yourselves witnesses of the existence of the bird. It is
indisputable; in this court you have seen it, and you have heard it
speak the words attributed to it."

"Let me remind you that the prisoner, since that night, had had no
access to it; but in your own hearing it has witnessed to the
correctness of the prisoner's explanation. I shall say nothing further
about the pocket-book. It is unfortunately, missing, as also is the
gold. You have had ample evidence, however, on oath to-day, that in a
certain quarter there is animus against the prisoner. It has been proved
that attempts have been made to deprive him of the means of conducting
his defence. You know what his explanation of the loss of the money is,
and where his suspicions lie. I say no more as to the prisoner's
possession of the notes; you have his explanation, supported on oath by
the witnesses who paid the cheques for 2507 16s. 4d. These cheques
cannot unfortunately be produced, but the butts of the cheque books and
the oaths of the witnesses are proof of their having been paid, to the
prisoner. Nor was the prisoner in the financial straits represented. A
man in these days, holding city and suburban property unencumbered, and
with several hundred pounds to his credit in a bank, can scarcely be
regarded as in financial difficulties."

"Further, there was no attempt at concealment. The prisoner went to a
bank, and to a man who has proved himself to be one of his bitterest
enemies, and openly paid in the money, and with a firm hand
unhesitatingly endorsed the notes. Gentlemen, it was not the act of a
murderer!"

"But to close this address--the length of which you will pardon, as the
last utterances of one who defends a prisoner on trial for his life--let
me recall to your remembrance that first disastrous Sunday, when this
city lay submerged beneath the destroying waters of a mighty and
irresistible flood. In the easily hours of that sad morning, piteous
cries for help came from many a half-broken heart and ruined home.
Responding to such cries as these, for nearly two hours two men wrought
amid the swirling, seething waters--not to destroy, but to save men's
lives; until by their unaided exertions, five families were placed in
safety beyond reach of the devouring element. As the last boat load was
being removed from the roof of a house situated in the very midst of a
dangerous current, that threatened at every moment to carry the
structure bodily away, a baby slipped from his mother's numbed and weary
arms into the swirling tide. 'Poor little darling,' was the cry, 'alas!
no one can save it.' But a man leaped into the midnight sea, and at the
peril of his own life, snatched the drowning child out of the jaws of
death, and restored him to his mother."

"He who to-day is arraigned at your tribunal, as having just before
murdered Constant McWatt, is the man who flung his own life into the
balance, to save a little child. Gentlemen of the jury, men of
Brisbane," he cried, looking for the first time around the breathless
court, and tossing back his handsome head, "Was that the action of a
red-handed murderer?"

"That afternoon, in the face of the day, and before the eyes of
hundreds, a boat swept down the flooded river with two men in it, in all
human probability on their last pathway to eternity. They were
Englishmen, and may I not say it, in such an hour as this, they were
brave men who believed in an all-wise and an all good Providence. They
went to the rescue of a young man, the only son and stay of his mother,
and she was a widow. By an old waterman's skilful daring strategy, they
were on the point of saving him, when the rope broke, and the young man,
unable to swim, swept drowning past the boat."

"But a man, a strong swimmer, before the eyes of that great crowd of
witnesses on the North Quay, sprang from the boat, and--God only knows
how--saved him. Five minutes after, that boat was crushed like an
egg-shell against the iron pier of Victoria Bridge, and lashed between
two men, who clung with bleeding fingers to the iron trellis work of the
bridge, was the unconcious form of the young man Golliker. He stands
there amongst you, in this very court to-day, and he will tell you that
he owes his life to George Jackson, the prisoner at your bar--the
alleged murderer of Constant McWatt. Gentlemen of the jury, men of
Brisbane, I ask you on your oaths, was that the deed of a murderer?"

By this time the emotion of the audience was over-powering; many were
there who had seen the deed, so graphically described. Tears stood in
almost every eye, and sobs were heard from several parts of the
building. The reaction in the prisoner's favor was complete and
overwhelming. Men could scarcely restrain themselves from cheering him
as he stood there with uplifted hands and flashing eyes, suffused with
tears. He closed his address more calmly.

"Gentlemen of the jury; men with the spoils of robbery in their hands,
and the guilt of murder freshly on their souls, shrink from death and
judgment. They fear to die. They take no risk to save that which their
cruel hands have so ruthlessly destroyed. Murderers are haunted men,
haunted of an evil conscience, which makes cowards of us all."

"Gentlemen of the jury; I leave the verdict, as the counsel for the
other side has done, to your consciences. I appeal to the sworn evidence
that is before you. It proves step by step irresistibly, and
incontestably, that the prisoner is innocent; that whatever may be his
faults, George Jackson is not the murderer of Constant McWatt."

At this the prisoner sank back into his chair.

It is impossible to describe the effect made by this speech; the
applause was with difficulty suppressed. Men looked into each other's
eyes in mute amazement. It was as though they said to each other: What
do you think of it? The prisoner sat with his face covered by his hands.

The learned Judge then proceeded to sum up the case. It was a masterly
summing up. The legal issues were divested of all extraneous matter, and
presented simply and plainly to the jury. It was a summing up so terse,
and so devoid of coloring that it would be well nigh impossible to
compress it without losing some important point. It was distinctly in
favor of the prisoner.

The jury then went out to consider their verdict, but no one moved
except the judge, who retired, and the prisoner, who was conducted by
police constables out of the court. Caleb Angel had shook hands and
whispered something to him as he left, he then went to where Mrs. Darton
and Edna sat with Mr. Darton. Both of them were weeping behind their
veils. He pressed their hands for a moment, and, with deep emotion, said
to Mr. Darton: "It was a magnificent address, we must get a verdict."

It was growing dark and one of the court ushers came in to light the
gas. He was watched by the crowd in silence. A life was in the scales of
judgment--a brave and eloquent man's life. The speech had carried them
away captive from themselves. Those thrilling appeals and climaxes still
rang in their memories; they could not shake off the spell of the
enchantment.

The clock hands dragged wearily round three quarters of an hour. Would
the jury never come back?

A sound of whispered conversation now murmurs through the building,
which quiets suddenly. The jury are returning. They enter the box, and
all eyes look at them, as though they would read the verdict in their
faces.

The scream of a fainting woman, who can bear the suspense no longer, is
heard. It is old Eliza Stunner who drops insensible upon the floor. But
Edna keeps up. Her eyes are glaring wildly from beneath her long lashes;
her lips are parched; her heart beats madly. Caleb stands near her. She
whispers thickly: "Will this suspense never end?"

Jackson is now placed in the dock; two constables keeping beside him. He
stands like a cold stone statue, almost as white as marble, to hear his
doom.

Now the judge has come in at last. Ah! the black cap is in his pocket.
He takes his seat. This is indeed the moment of the case. How long it
seems!

"Have you agreed, gentlemen, upon your verdict?" said the judge in a
grave but anxious voice.

The foreman of the jury stood up. "We have, your Honor. Our verdict is
NOT GUILTY."

Was there ever such a scene in court before! The crowded benches all
round the dock burst out in one prolonged shout of congratulation. Hats
and umbrellas were waved aloft, and one sporting man, who had booked
heavily on the prisoner's innocence, yelled out: "Good man; bravo
Jackson!" The crier of the court calls to order, and the threats of the
judge at last calm the enthusiasm.

The judge, in a grave voice, delivered his judgement, and discharged the
prisoner in accordance with the verdict.

For a moment the prisoner bowed his head as though unable to realise
that he was liberated, and then George Jackson stepped out of the
dock--a free man. Crowds of enthusiastic friends pushed forward to
congratulate him, but old Stunner's hand was one of the first he took.

"Aye! Master Jackson," said the old man, the tears running down his
face, "it's been a worser time than that 'ere last trip in the 'Mary
Jane.' But thank God ye'r on shore agen!"

George pushed his way through the kindly crowd to one of the
antechambers of the court. There were only four people there waiting for
him. He met Mrs. Darton near the doorway. She said not a word, but just
kissed him. Edna's arms were round his neck a moment afterwards.

"George," she said, "my own love. I could never have lived through this;
but I knew that God would save you. Why else did I have that dream; but
the darkness has passed now, and it is morning. Morning!"

And in the new born morning light of restored peace and happiness the
little party returned, taking Jackson with them to their temporary home.

As Cutts and De Ville went down the courthouse stairs together hisses
were audibly heard all round them. It was the first time that De Ville
had been publicly hissed. He trembled, and looked around as though he
feared someone would strike him.

"Surely," said one man to another, as they watched them through the
gates, "that De Ville will never dare to hold his head up again in
Brisbane."




CHAPTER XXX.--THE WRECKER'S STORY.


BEFORE the judge left the court the letter to the foreman of the jury
was opened. On hearing its contents the judge's a face became grave.

"I saw Sergeant Dingle in the court," he said to an attendant. "See if
you can find him, and bring him to me at once."

They were in close conference for a few minutes. "Be sure," said the
judge, as the Sergeant left him, "that you get them secured to-night. It
can then be made public at the same time as the verdict."

The last train had left for Breezeland fully an hour, when four horsemen
passed out of Brisbane in the direction of Darton's Point; three of them
led spare horses, and all were armed. They were well mounted, and the
horses appeared fresh and fit for anything. They crossed Grovernor Creek
bridge at a swinging trot, and then broke into a canter. The night was
dark, but the roads were good, being finished off with white blinding,
which makes them the very best for travelling upon at night. Up hill and
down the troopers, for such they were, never drew rein until an hour and
ten minutes afterwards they palled up at an open space where two main
roads met.

"Now my men," said the leader, "follow on slowly, and I will ride to the
public-house to get information, and then come back and meet you at a
ruined shanty you will find to the right hand about half a mile along
the road. Stop anyone that passes, and ask their names. They're a queer
lot living about here, and someone may warn them, and we shall find the
birds flown."

Twenty minutes afterwards they met again at the ruined shanty, near the
banks of a large navigable creek which ran into Moreton Bay.

"Hitch the three spare horses to the fence yonder," said the Sergeant;
"Davey, you stay and watch them, and South and Williams come with me."

"If you hear my whistle, bring one horse on, but if two whistles, leave
the horses and come to us at once."

Followed by the two troopers the speaker made his way along the bridle
track into the bush.

"They are a rough lot here," said Dingle, for he was the officer in
charge, "so keep on the alert, we may have a rough and tumble before we
are done with this job."

At twelve o'clock that night a newspaper reporter, from information
received, called at the police office and passed in through a small mob
of sweating troopers' horses waiting outside. Inside, the names of three
prisoners were being entered on the charge sheet for robbery in Moreton
Bay. One was a short, light-complexioned man, with sandy hair; another,
tall and dark; and the third little more than a lad. They gave their
names as Juchan, O'Keefe, and Winton. The first and last were willing to
tell everything.

They came across the punt, and dead body in the Bay on Saturday morning
about 10 o'clock.

"My word, it's a lucky thing for Jackson," said a Chronicle reporter to
the sub-editor as they rushed up the 'copy' to the foreman of the
compositors. "He will have the whole affair complete in to-morrow's
paper. Speech, verdict, and the account of the arrest of the wreckers
who stole the ring from the corpse on Saturday morning in Moreton Bay.
It would have saved some trouble if the judge had opened the letter at
first. Were you in the court, Balfour?"

"No."

"Then you missed one of the biggest sensations that ever was. I'm not so
well in, as you know, or I should have paid you that 10s. I owe you
before this; but, 'pon my honor, I wouldn't have missed the thing for a
5 note. The Crown Prosecutor made a rattling good speech, too; but, by
George, I wonder what he'll think, when he sees to-morrow's papers."

The vindication of Jackson was complete, for at the police court the
following morning not only was the ring produced, but new light was
thrown upon the injury to the forehead of the corpse. Two of the
prisoners gave voluntary evidence to the effect that they were out in
Moreton Bay picking up timber and other valuables swept down from the
city by the flood. About 10 o'clock on Saturday morning they saw the
punt and rowed up to it. Seeing that it contained a dead body, Juchan
and Winton wanted to have nothing to do with it, but O'Keefe swore that
it was the best find they had had, and he would see what was in its
pockets. Then he caught sight of the ring and wrenched it off. A quarrel
began, as the two men feared to be implicated in the robbery and perhaps
be charged with murder, but O'Keefe got into a violent passion, and
seizing a boat hook which had an unusually heavy handle, he aimed a
violent blow at Winton, who was leaning over to push away the punt. The
blow was aimed at Winton's head, and had it struck him it must certainly
have stunned, if not killed, him; but he moved in time, and the blow
came crashing down straight across the dead man's forehead, fracturing
the skull. The accident so startled O'Keefe that he consented to return
to shore. They wanted him to throw the ring back into the punt, but he
refused to do so. They picked up some timber and pulled back and landed.

It may be said that O'Keefe was tried and found guilty of the robbery.
He was sentenced to three years' imprisonment, on which occasion the
bench made some very pertinent remarks upon the effects of laboring men
engaged in wrecking.

Said the judge: "Men who under ordinary circumstances would not steal a
farthing in times of fire or flood occasionally become transformed into
desperate criminals. Instead of lamenting for the loss of others, they
rejoice over the havoc and destruction on account of the opportunity for
wreckage. Every new disaster is to them a new harvest to be reaped; the
sensibilities and conscience become hardened, until the transformation
is complete, and a man who all his life before was engaged in honest
industry, or peaceful agriculture, will tear a jewel from a dead man's
finger and run the risk of murdering his fellow who attempts to thwart
his intention of pillaging the pockets of a corpse."

"He hoped that Brisbane might never see another such flood, not only on
account of the great losses to the community, but on account of its
ethical effects in the opportunities for looting and wrecking put in the
way of numbers of people. The honest gain which came by the labor of the
hands and the sweat of the brow was better than any personal acquisition
or advantage which resulted from the disaster or loss of another."

The papers were, of course, full of the trial and verdict, and the
discovery of the ring. Jackson was complimented on the completeness of
his vindication, and it was predicted for him that on being called to
the bar, he would have a brilliant career.

But, continued the article, we are unfortunately still confronted with
the mysterious problem of the Hon. Constant McWatt's death, and the loss
of the great sum of 31,500. It is proved now that the deceased was not
killed by a blow; and the question arises: Was he murdered at all; and
if so, how? It is the opinion of some medical men, that the body ought
to be at once exhumed and another post-mortem examination made, so that
it may be known with some certainty how the deceased met his death. The
detectives are still searching for further evidence, and it is sincerely
hoped that their efforts will be successful. If there is an unknown
murderer amongst us, the sooner he is arrested and brought to justice,
the better for the community. It is a mystery that would have been
impossible, but for the late floods. But who was the mysterious visitor
that took wine with the deceased after the departure of the butler on
the evening of the 2nd of February? This is the clue that ought to be
followed up.

"George," said John Darton to Jackson a few nights afterwards, as the
two men sat smoking in Jackson's room, "it was uncommonly good and
generous of you to keep secret what I told you about my visit to McWatt
on the night of the 2nd of February."

"I have not mentioned it to anyone," said Jackson quietly, "and I don't
intend to."

"Well, I can only say that I can never repay your generous kindness. Had
you told what you knew, I might have been tried for murder."

Had John Darton known all the facts he would have said manslaughter, for
there was that in the sealed document, which, at the back of his own
statement of what had happened during his interview with McWatt, would
have made it well nigh impossible for him to have cleared himself from
that charge.




CHAPTER XXXI.--EDNA'S PERPLEXITY: THE DREAM SONG.


Probate of McWatt's will had been obtained, and the two executors were
together in De Ville's office. They were not very cordial, but things
had been patched up between them, and somewhat to Angel's surprise De
Ville was compliant and agreeable.

Angel had determined that the 10,000 should be paid out of the estate
to Edna Forrest, for he held that the regular payment of interest, added
to John Darton's statement, proved McWatt's indebtedness.

He was surprised to find that De Ville placed no obstacle in the way. He
did not imagine that De Ville entertained hopes of winning Edna Forrest
for himself. But De Ville in matters of this sort did not know when he
was defeated, and he believed that he held in his hand a trump card,
which might win the game for him if all else failed.

Soon after the trial, to the surprise of his friends and especially to
Edna, to whom George was now formally engaged, the latter announced his
intention of paying a visit to England at a very early date.

Mrs. Darton had hinted to him in her outspoken way that if he must go
off in that fashion he had better be married first and take his wife
with him for a wedding trip.

But it was evident that he had no intention of suggesting such a thing.
Edna was perplexed and almost annoyed with him. He might be away, he
said, for four or five months. It was important business that
necessitated his going, and that was all that anyone could get out of
him. He was not in any way less affectionate or attentive to Edna; but,
with a woman's intuition she felt that there was something, which in
some measure divided their confidence, and she thought about it more
than was good for her.

One morning, to everyone's surprise, George said he should have to run
up north for a few days to transact some business which required his
personal attention, and within a fortnight after the trial he was gone.

"Edna," said Mrs. Darton a day or so afterwards as they sat alone
together, "George Jackson, like all the rest of the men, will go through
fire and water to get anything he sets his heart upon, but when, he gets
it----"

"Now, Aunt dear, I won't have George pulled to pieces. He has not got me
yet, so what you say cannot apply. He has something upon his mind, and
while I confess I should like to know what it is, he has, I believe,
good reasons for not disclosing it, and I have made up my mind to try
and wait patiently and not worry him."

"I know this much, Edna, if I were you he would have to tell me, or I
would marry Mr. De Ville or Mr. Angel while he was away in England. You
could have either of them by holding up your little finger."

"Not the latter, Aunty, while I was betrothed to his friend. I mean,"
continued Edna, "that Caleb is a man of honor, who could not betray his
friend even to marry a woman that he loved. But what nonsense, I do not
intend to marry anyone except George."

Edna meant all that she said, and more, and yet her aunt's words rankled
in her mind. Surely George might have told her. Could he not trust her
to keep a secret, if it was of such importance as to take him away to
England just now. Well, she would not stop at Darton's Point. She would
persuade her aunt and uncle to take a trip to Sydney and Melbourne and
New Zealand while he was away.

But her love for him never wavered. He was still her hero. The one true
man who had won her supreme affection. She sat down at the piano, and
running her fingers over the keys, sang a simple melody of her own
composition, the words of which were:--

     The winds blow from the sea,
          And the dark clouds raise on high;
     But they bring no harm to him or me,
          Those storm clouds of the sky.

     He is my true love brave,
          And I a sailor's bride,
     And though white wings skim the rolling waves,
          Where sea-flowers bloom o'er sailors' graves,
     His barque to the haven will glide.

     My dream is no more a dream,
          For the cloud is cleft in twain,
     And through its darkness the sunrays stream,
          To woo from the heart its pain.
     The ship draws near the shore,

     And the morn light rises higher;
          But trem'lous sheen of the wavelets glow,
     And sweet, fresh breath of the winds that blow,
          Cannot picture my hearths desire.


     Come, morning on sea and shore!
          Come, love of my heart so brave!
     My soul shall rejoice the more,
          For the storm-tossed troubled wave.

     The days of pain are passed,
          Press thy sweet lips close to mine,
     And wholly confide in me, sweetheart,
          For nothing but death shall ever part,
     Two lives, love--mine and thine.

"Wherever did you pick that song up, Edna?" asked Mrs. Darton.

"Well, Aunty dear, I'll tell you a secret. It's one of my own composing,
and I'm going to sing it to George some day when he's extra sweet, after
we're married."




CHAPTER XXXII.--DE VILLE'S EXPLANATION: A LAWYER'S LETTER.


The loss of the pocket-book was almost relegated to past history, when
one afternoon the De Ville carriage was to be seen coming up the gravel
drive to Darton's Point House. It had been arranged that a cheque for
10,000 with interest, signed by George Charles De Ville and Caleb
Angel, should be paid that day to John Darton on account of Miss
Forrest; and Mr. De Ville wrote that instead of putting Miss Forrest and
Mr. Darton to the trouble of coming up to town, he would run over that
afternoon and in person discharge the indebtedness.

De Ville had again brought his sister with him, who, since he had been
left so much money by McWatt's will, had shown a decided preference for
Caleb Angel.

De Ville and Darton were transacting the legal part of the business, and
preparing certain documents for signature, in another room, so the three
ladies were alone. It may interest our readers to know something of
their conversation.

"How wet the weather has continued to be," said Mrs. Darton.

"Very," replied Miss De Ville.

"It seems as though it would never break up again," continued the
hostess.

"Yes," responded Miss De Ville.

"Do you find it very dull down here?" asked Edna.

"Yes, there are so few gentlemen that one cares to meet residing in the
district; but my brother has invited Mr. Angel to stay with us at Bay
View Lodge for a few weeks. I am not sure that he will come, though.
What a very nice gentleman he is."

"Thank goodness!" thought Edna; "she has got something to talk about at
last."

Mrs. Darton encouraged her to proceed by remarking that he was one of
the most accomplished men in Brisbane.

"Yes," simpered Miss De Ville, "I hear that he writes poetry. If he
comes down, I am going to ask him to write me some."

Just then Mr. Darton came in, and asked Edna to go into the breakfast
parlor. The several documents were then signed in due form, after which,
to Edna's surprise, Mr. Darton asked her and Mr. De Ville to excuse him
for a moment, and closing the door behind him, they were left alone.

De Ville commenced at once.

"Miss Forrest, I asked Mr. Darton to do me the kindness to allow me the
opportunity of making a certain explanation to you alone."

Edna bowed her head; she could scarcely do other than give a hearing to
the man who, much as she detested him, had just paid to her guardian, on
her account, the large sum of 10,000.

"You will naturally have been prejudiced against me, Miss Forrest, by
recent events and by the interpretation that has doubtless been tendered
to you by Mr. Jackson, but as it is the highest ambition of my life to
stand well in your estimation, I am glad of this opportunity to say
something privately to you in self-defence. The business matter which we
have just completed will, to some extent, prove my desire for fair play
and justice in my business relations. There was no legal necessity laid
upon us, as trustees, to pay this money. The insinuations that have been
made against my honor in certain quarters are, I assure you, Miss
Forrest, as entirely without foundation as they are beneath my notice.
For a man in my position," said the J.P., drawing himself up to his full
height, "to be charged with theft is, on the face of it, absurd. A man
worth a quarter of a million of money is not likely to be tempted to run
risks for the sake of a few thousand pounds."

Edna bowed her head again and said, "It certainly appears improbable,
Mr. De Ville."

"I thank you, Miss Forrest, for your good opinion of me," said Mr. De
Ville, taking a good deal more for granted than Edna's words warranted;
"and I am encouraged to again address you on a subject very near to my
heart. It is rumored in Brisbane that you are likely to be engaged and
married to Mr. Jackson."

Edna blushed a little, but bowed her head gravely and decidedly.

"What I wish to say," he continued, "is with the consent of your uncle,
and I trust you will not think it out of place as coming from one who,
to some extent, has taken the position held by the late Constant McWatt.
You are still young, Miss Forrest, and with comfortable means at your
disposal, and gifts of mind and graces of person which would fit you for
any position in society, should certainly hesitate before committing
yourself to a marriage which can scarcely secure for you the rank of
which your are so worthy."

"I am informed that Mr. Jackson is about to take a journey to England
upon business, the nature of which he has not imparted, either to Mr.
Darton, yourself, or his most intimate friends in Brisbane. After all
that has transpired, Mr. Darton tells me that he does not care to
interfere, or urge you to any course. But he agrees with me that as Mr.
Jackson is going away in this singular fashion he ought in fairness to
leave you free. Mr. Jackson will probably find that his business will
detain him longer than he expects. Months will elapse, and in that time
you may see reasons for altering your mind."

"I need say nothing now of my own feelings towards you. If I can be of
any service to you in the future, you have but to command me. I do not
ask for any response to my advice, but as it is not merely my counsel,
but also your aunt's and uncle's, I beg respectfully to leave it with
you, trusting that it may have your best consideration.

"Allow me, Miss Forrest, to open the door and be your escort to the
drawing-room."

The whole interview lasted but a very short time, and Edna was in the
drawing-room almost before she knew what had happened, and immediately
after the De Villes took their departure.

"Charles," (De Ville was generally known by his second Christian name at
home), "how are you progressing with your proposal to Miss Forrest,
you'll have to be quick, or she will marry Mr. Jackson."

"Oh, it does not do to be in too big a hurry, Clara, over such matters,"
said De Ville. "Edna Forrest is a different breed of girl to you."

"Thank you, Charles, for the compliment, but you seem to forget that we
are brother and sister."

De Ville felt uncommonly well satisfied with himself that afternoon.

"She was gracious, at any rate," he said to himself. "Who knows, she may
come round yet without any threat."

When De Ville went up to his office next morning, he found among his
letters one from the lawyer of the trustees of the Bethel Calvanistic
Church. It contained a formal demand for the sum of 30,000, payable to
the trustees under the last will and testament of the Hon. Constant
McWatt, of Drybrook House, Brisbane.

"Hang them," said De Ville impatiently. "I suppose that they think a
lawyer's letter will frighten us. I'll just send it up for Dyson Foggitt
to answer, he will put them straight." The lawyer promptly replied, and
the result was a special meeting of the church to consider what should
be the next course adopted.

"It is my duty, brethren," said the Rev. Daniel Dare, who occupied the
chair ex officio, "to point out to you the legal difficulties of the
case. A special sum, to be found in a particular pocket-book, was
donated to this church. That pocket-book is, however, with the money,
lost."

"Then," interposed one of the members, "the executors are responsible
for its production, and in my opinion we ought to appeal to a jury."

"I would urge you, brethren, to hesitate before you institute any legal
proceedings. The uncertainties of law are proverbial, and there is a
very important matter confronting you at the very outset. Some persons
will have to make themselves liable for the legal expenses, and a
considerable amount of ready money will have to be provided at the very
start. Moreover, you must bear in mind that a short time back a large
legacy was lost to a church association in this colony because the will
contained the signatures of only two witnesses instead of three."

"I have taken the advice of my solicitor on that point," said Deacon
Fusby, "and he assures me that our position is altogether different, and
that we have a good case."

"Brethren, be not beguiled by lawyers," said the pastor, "they are
always confident of success when there is the prospect of protracted
litigation."

"The commencement of strife," says the old book, "is as the letting out
of water. The letting out of water makes a flood, and a flood, as we
have had painful experience, sweeps the accumulation of years of
industry before it. Legal proceedings have been a flood of destroying
waters to thousands."

"But why should the church be robbed of its rights?" said Deacon Fusby,
who was specially sore and restive upon the subject, for he had been the
chief promoter of the draping of the church, and the funeral sermon.

"Mr. Chairman and brethren,"--it was Deacon Sandy McBain who addressed
the meeting--"I wish, as one of the trustees of the church property, to
call your attention to an important matter. The trust deed of our
property debars us from diverting any of the moneys of the church to
other than the purposes therein stated, and no mortgage can be given
over any portion thereof for any purpose except to enlarge or re-build
the church premises."

Old Sandy had been led to make this statement through having heard some
of the hot-headed younger members suggesting among themselves that if
there was no other way, they could mortgage the church property to
obtain the money to carry on the lawsuit.

The outcome of the meeting was a resolution empowering the pastor and
deacons to take such action as their united wisdom suggested in the
matter of the late Hon. Constant McWatt's legacy.

At a deacons' meeting held a few nights afterwards, to the surprise of
everyone, Deacon De Lain announced that he and Deacon Bright had
arranged to become responsible for the expenses of the legal
proceedings. How this arrangement was come to will be explained in the
next chapter, but in the meantime, we may say that proceedings were at
once instituted by the executors of the late Hon. Constant McWatt being
served with a writ.




CHAPTER XXXIII.--DE VILLE IS DISCOMFITED.


Notwithstanding De Ville's bluster about the Bethel Calvanists and their
legacy, he received an unpleasant shock when the writ was served upon
him one morning at his office. The service of a writ is never a pleasant
proceeding for the recipient, no matter how strong may be his position
and defence.

What De Ville dreaded most was to be again placed in the witness-box,
and subjected to cross-examination about the pocket-book and the
31,500.

Then, too, they would be certain to subpoena Caleb Angel and George
Jackson. He positively shivered when he thought of what the latter might
say about him in the witness box. Angel, too, he felt sure, was
suspicious of his guilt, and his conscience just then interposed, "so
are a number of other people."

Why, the lawsuit would be like a trial during which he, personally,
would be on his defence. If the Bethel Calvanists placed the matter in
the hands of a strong lawyer, he would put detectives on the scent for
the pocket-book and gold.

De Ville had a bad time that day--and a number of days afterwards--and
he cursed the gold, and pocket-book, and bank notes, and Bethel
Calvanists, bitterly in his heart.

Foley and Foggitt were instructed by him to defend the case, and to put
all the difficulties and obstructions possible in the way. Accordingly,
they, first of all, did not put in an appearance in response to the writ
until the very last day.

This meant a bad time for De Lain and Bright. Day after day the latter
called on their solicitor to be met by the cheerful words: "They have
not yet entered an appearance in the suit," and to be charged 10s. 6d.
for a consultation fee. Mr. Gammon, however, knew very well that they
intended to defend the case; it was only a common custom of the other
side to keep their opponents in the dark as long as possible. When on
the last day but one, Bright rushed into De Lain's warehouse saying,
excitedly, "No appearance entered yet; they must intend to let the case
go by default."

De Lain shook his head.

"No such luck, Bright; wait until to-morrow."

In good time on the following day, a clerk walked up to the court from
Foley and Foggitt's, and Bright's delusive hopes were dissipated. They
had to go on with the case.

Somewhat to Bright's astonishment, De Lain, after this, seemed to
hesitate, and wished for counsel's opinion to be obtained on the case
before they proceeded further. The fact was De Lain's financial position
was steadily growing more and more precarious. He had known before the
floods that it was well nigh impossible for him to pull through, and but
for that knowledge, it is probable that he would never have undertaken
to become jointly and severely responsible with Bright for the legal
costs, but his bankers had just decided to take his account in hand, and
that morning he had received a note from the manager requesting him to
call round during the day.

The result of the interview had been that he had consented to give the
bank a bill of sale over the whole of the stock in his warehouse. He
knew very well that the registration of the bill of sale by the bank
would be, for him, the beginning of the end, and he did not want the
costs of this lawsuit to appear in his statement of liabilities.

He knew, too, that Bright was shaky, and he did not wish to involve him
unnecessarily if there was any danger of their losing the case.

De Lain had weakly consented to give this bill of sale to the bank,
which was really an injustice to the other creditors, in order to obtain
a short respite. A few weeks' grace at such a time is worth something to
a man of De Lain's stamp.

In the meantime affairs were going still more badly over this lawsuit
with De Ville. In getting up the preliminaries for the defence, Foggitt
had already submitted him to a considerable amount of questioning which,
to De Ville, was decidedly unusual and objectionable. George Jackson had
returned from his northern trip, and the plaintiffs had at once served
him with a subpoena, so he would have to put off his trip to England
until after the trial; and, said Dyson Foggitt to De Ville: "He will be
a very awkward witness to deal with in the box."

De Ville, perhaps for the first time in his life, began to realise that
the way of the transgressors is hard. The gold and pocket-book were both
locked up in the private safe at his office, of which he alone kept the
keys, but the whole thing was a source of continual worry, annoyance,
and apprehension.

For him, however, the worst had yet to come.

One afternoon he received a note from Foley and Foggitt asking him to
call in before he left for home, as Mr. Dyson Foggitt wished to see him
upon a matter of importance.

There was something about the note which gave De Ville considerable
uneasiness. It was less deferential than usual. Generally Dyson Foggitt
called upon him if he wished to have a private conversation.

De Ville put on his hat and went up to Foley and Foggitt's offices with
a disturbed mind and in a state of trepidation very different to his
customary repose.

Dyson Foggitt was in, and seemed to be expecting him. De Ville thought
that he received him more coldly than usual. The very first question he
put to him made his heart sink with strange misgiving as to what would
be the outcome of the interview.

"You have in your office, Mr. De Ville, a son of Mr. Goodchild's, one of
the deacons of the Rev. Daniel Dare's church?"

"I have; what of that?"

"Have you ever, to your knowledge, left the keys of a private safe at
your office within reach of that gentleman?" asked Foggitt, taking no
notice of De Ville's question.

"Not to my recollection."

"Well, you must have done so with out remembering it," said Dyson
Foggitt dryly.

"Why?" said De Ville. There was an ominous shake about his voice as he
put the interrogation.

"Because the young gentleman says that you have 1500 in gold there and
a pocket-book containing 30,000."

"It's a lie!" exclaimed De Ville.

"Well, the youth says that he called in the office boy and showed him
the fifteen bags of gold, containing 100 each, and also the pocket-book
containing the notes."

For a moment De Ville made no reply, so Dyson Foggitt continued: "To
shut their mouths effectually the best plan will be for you to let me
come down with you to your office at once, call your clerks in, and open
the safe in my presence, show that it's a falsehood, and then discharge
young Goodchild and the office boy on the spot. I can go with you at
once," he said, reaching down his hat.

De Ville got up like a man in a dream, and then sat down again. Dyson
Foggitt sat down also, without giving way to any expression or gesture
of surprise. He was used to startling incidents; it was part of his
profession never to be surprised.

"Foggitt, I have that money in the safe," said De Ville with an effort;
"of course I hold it there in trust for the estate, but it seemed to me
a confounded shame to hand such a sun over to a church."

"Does Mr. Angel know that you have it?" asked Foggitt.

"No," replied De Ville.

"You swore in your evidence at Jackson's trial that you had not been
able to find it."

"Yes," said De Ville, his discomfiture complete. Dyson Foggitt did not
spare him; he looked straight in his face and said:

"Well, what do you propose to do?"

De Ville hid his face in his hands but made no reply.

"Look here, De Ville," said Dyson Foggitt brusquely, "don't make a fool
of yourself. I cannot think how a man in your position and with your
wealth came to get into such a mess. If Jackson gets to know of it, I
expect he'll have you arrested and tried for perjury, to say nothing of
the felony. You had better look in again to-morrow morning, and in the
meantime I will think over some plan of dealing with the matter; but
it's so fearfully complicated there's no knowing where the thing ends,
or who is involved in it. You will have to be prepared to lose a good
bit of money, and I expect the estate will have to pay the 30,000 to
those church people. It's lucky for you that Jackson was not hanged."

"Do your best for me," said De Ville, hoarsely; "I will pay anything you
like to charge."

Dyson Foggitt did not offer to shake hands with him; he had him under
his thumb, and there was no necessity!

"It's as well," he said to himself afterward, as he leaned back in his
office chair, "to make him feel his position a bit just now. I am afraid
that I cannot pull him out of this scrape without involving myself a
little; but, by George, he's a scoundrel with all his wealth, and I'll
make him bleed for it."




CHAPTER XXXIV.--THE BETHEL CALVINISTS FOREGO THE LAWSUIT.


Events sometimes crowd upon each other with startling propinquity; and
such was the case at this period of our story.

A few days after the conversation between De Ville and Dyson Foggitt,
Bright was gazetted an insolvent. It was a surprise to everyone, and
especially to De Lain and Mr. Gammon, the solicitor. It was already
rumored that De Lain could not hold out much longer, so Mr. Gammon
insisted upon being paid his costs up to date, including the fee of 10
for counsel's opinion, before proceeding further with the case.

He also required a fresh guarantee as to the costs, to be entered into
by some persons of undoubted financial resources.

De Lain paid for the counsel's opinion, and found it to be distinctly
against them, so a meeting of the diaconate was at once called.

De Lain laid before his brother deacons the whole position of affairs.
Counsel's opinion, he regretted to state, was distinctly against them.
He could not hide from his brethren the fact that he was no longer able
to find the necessary funds to carry on the case, even if it was likely
to prove successful; and they would all have heard how their brother
Bright had been compelled, on account of his losses by the flood and
other adverse circumstances, to call a meeting of his creditors. He saw
no alternative but for them to stop the proceedings.

"But," said Deacon Goodchild, "I have a most important statement to make
to this meeting, and it seems to me wrong to stay proceedings at this
juncture."

"Before Brother Goodchild makes his statement," interposed Deacon Fusby,
"let me put a question to the meeting as a whole. We have opposed to us
men of almost unlimited wealth. They have already retained the best
counsel in the city for the defence, and will spare neither money nor
talent to get a verdict. If the case goes on, who will make themselves
responsible for the costs? Remember, brethren, it will probably mean
several hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of pounds. I must state for
myself that I will not go security for one shilling."

Deacon Fusby sat down. His remarks had fallen like a wet blanket upon
any enthusiasm left in the meeting.

Deacon Goodchild was about to say something without rising, when old
Sandy McBain, who was hard of hearing, called out:

"I suppose the brethren have pretty well decided that the matter will
have to drop. But I want to know who is responsible for payment of costs
to date. I daresay, including both sides, it has reached a hundred or
two already."

All eyes were instantly turned to Deacon De Lain.

"Yes, brethren," he said, "the expense of this ill-advised action must
now, unfortunately, fall upon my shoulders. The church has taken no
liability, so there is no need for any resolution. I think that the
chairman had better close the meeting."

The benediction was pronounced by the chairman in due form, and, as a
whole, it must be said that both ministers, deacons, and church members
were glad to be done with the matter.

It had already brought more heart-burnings into the church than months
of quietness would cure. The principal opponents of the Rev. Daniel Dare
had, to a large extent, become discredited, and lost their influence.
The draping of the church was a large and bitter item in the treasurer's
quarterly statement.

Sandy McBain actually rejoiced that the church had lost the money. The
Rev. Daniel Dare was still 'Vicar of Bray'; and some averred that there
was a knowing twinkle in the old Scotch deacon's eye the next Sunday
morning in church, as though he knew a secret worth the telling. He
carried the Bible and hymn book up into the pulpit before his pastor,
and looked round upon the waiting congregation, as much as to say,
"You'll get it this morning."

The Rev. Daniel Dare preached a powerful discourse from a text not often
expounded in these days of cushioned pews and golden offerings. It was:
"For the love of money is a root of all evil."

De Ville made no confession to his co-executor. His humiliation was
complete enough without that. The lawyer had met him more cordially on
the following morning, and, whatever his advice was, De Ville had to
write a cheque for several thousand pounds before he left.

That afternoon a clerk from Foley and Foggitt's paid 12,500 in bank
notes and gold into the bank account of the McWatt estate executors.

An hour afterwards young Goodchild and the office boy were discharged
without characters or explanation. Young Goodchild made some muttered
threat to the senior clerk as he was collecting his belongings together,
but the only reply he got was:

"You'll be a fool if you do. You cannot prove anything, and no one will
believe you. What can you or your father do with George Charles De
Ville, Esq., J.P.?"

The same week other large sums were paid into the McWatt executors'
account, including three cheques totalling 2507 16s. 4d. They were
presented in due course and paid.

The cashier of the El Dorado Bank bustled into the parlor of Mr. Cutts
one morning in a state of mild excitement.

"What is the matter?" asked Cutts.

"The rest of these notes of McWatt's have come in."

The banker started. "Well, I suppose you have paid them?"

"Yes," said the cashier, "but----"

"We don't want to have any more fooling over that affair," said Cutts.
"It's only a further proof of Jackson's innocence."

"But----" commenced the cashier.

"Through what bank have they been presented?' asked Cutts, interrupting
him.

"The Colonial."

"Ah! that's where the McWatt trust account is kept. You need not say
anything more about it. You don't think that I am such a fool as to send
further information to the detective department?"

The makers of the three cheques at once notified Jackson of their having
been presented and paid. The latter at once made it his business to see
Angel.

"I don't think, George," said Caleb, "that it is advisable to say
anything more about the matter. They were paid in with other money
through Foley and Foggitt. Dyson Foggitt knows something, of course, but
he refuses to disclose anything, and says that the money came into his
hands professionally, and that he is not permitted to give any more
information. De Ville expressed great astonishment and pleasure, and
says that the recovery of the money of course entirely clears you."

"You have heard, I suppose, that the Bethel Calvinists have thought
better of it, and have given formal notice that they throw up the case.
There is some bother now about their payment of costs; Gammon and De
Lain have to find the money for the whole of them."

"If I had not decided to leave next week for England," said Jackson, "I
would find some means to sheet home the theft of that money to De Ville.
I suppose through this impending trial he has had to disclose his
dishonesty to Dyson Foggitt. The latter would make him refund the money
to the estate; but what has become of the papers and pocket-book?"

"You may be sure of one thing," said Angel, "the pocket-book is
destroyed."

"Yes, that would be done to block the Calvinists, of course. Pretty
sharp trick that," said Jackson.

"Well, I have secured one good thing for you, George," said Caleb.
"Dyson Foggitt and De Ville have both agreed to your being paid that
7000."

"I am glad to hear that," said George.

"There's only one thing," he continued. "If I could only prove that
hateful document of McWatt's which I found in the safe, to be false.
Good heavens! Caleb, you cannot imagine the anguish and grief of heart
that accursed thing gives me. Sleeping and waking, it's ever in my
thoughts. But it's a foul fiendish lie, I know it is!"

"Why don't you tell Darton?" said Caleb.

"No, I won't do that. You don't know, Caleb, what happened between him
and McWatt on that awful night, the 2nd February."

"Did Darton see him after the butler left?" asked Caleb in astonishment.

Jackson bent his head. "Now don't ask me any more, Caleb," he said.

"Good heavens! and you knew that at the trial and never mentioned it."

"May God bless you, George. You're a noble fellow. There's not one man
in a thousand would have kept it a secret at such a time."

George opened the evening paper that afternoon in the train, and bit his
lip a moment as his eye caught a paragraph. It announced that Mr De
Ville, of Oaklands Park, was about to take a trip to China, partly on
pleasure and partly on business. Then followed a short complimentary
notice of De Ville's distinguished position and career, and a
recommendation to the Chinese authorities to receive him with befitting
attention.

"Money, money," said Jackson to himself; "knave as he is, he'll be a
Cabinet minister yet!"

The next few days were not cheerful ones at Darton's Point.

John Darton was several times closeted with George, and gave him sundry
particulars of his early life and connections with his half-brother,
Constant McWatt. Jackson told him nothing, but to some extent Darton
guessed the purport of his sudden journey home.

The goodbye between Edna and George was a long and sad one. They would
correspond regularly, of course, and, said George, "It's about the only
chance I shall have of writing love letters to you; and courtship, you
know, dearest, is not compete without that."

So George Jackson started, and Mrs. Darton and Edna commenced to make
preparations for a long visit to the southern colonies and New Zealand.




CHAPTER XXXV.--THE MYSTERY SOLVED.


It was about half-past nine one evening, nearly a week after Jackson had
gone South, that a cab drove up to The Palms Cottage at New Farm, and a
young girl, cloaked and veiled, knocked and rang as though in extreme
haste.

Susie ran to the door.

"Is Mr. Caleb Angel in?" asked a girlish voice.

"No miss," replied Susie.

"Can you please tell me how long he will be?"

"He said that he would return about 10, but he may be later."

"Do you know where I can find him?" asked the girl eagerly.

"No," replied Susie, "but I will ask Mrs. Lewis. Will you come in?"

"No thank you," said the girl.

Susie's mistress knew no more than she did herself, so the girl at last
said that she would wait.

"The business was urgent; indeed, it was to see someone who was dying."
She would not go in but would wait in the cab.

Susie immediately bestirred herself to prepare coffee and a tray of
something tempting for Mr. Angel to eat before going. Everyone liked
Caleb Angel; frank and courteous, he was also generous and thoughtful.
The men respected him, and the women perhaps we had better not say--but
Susie adored him.

"Ah, Susie," he said as he came in and tore the letter open given to him
by the girl, "that's kind and thoughtful of you; this coffee is
delicious. I fear that I shall be late, but I shall not want anything
more to-night. I am asked to go and see someone who is dying."

The letter was from the anonymous female corespondent to whom Constant
McWatt had left 1500. It was signed Millie Matson, and dated from a
residence within half a mile of Drybrook House.

Angel got into the cab in which sat the young lady. A thought flashed
across his mind as he did so; but he did not give it a second
consideration. His character was above suspicion, and he was always
chivalrous to women.

The cab stopped at a two-storied comfortable-looking house, surrounded
by thickly-foliaged trees and a fair sized garden.

"You had better wait," said the girl to the cabman.

"All right, miss," he answered.

"No, my man," said Angel; "go and get yourself something to eat, and
come back in about half an hour's time. I have to see a dying woman
here. What is your number?"

The number was given and made a note of, and Caleb followed the girl up
the shaded walk.

"I suppose that you had the flood up here?" said Caleb.

"Yes, sir," she replied, "it was over the front fence of the garden, and
all through the lower part of the house."

The girl rapped her hand on the door, which was at once opened by a
middle-aged woman.

"How is she, Kate?" inquired the girl.

"Only just alive," was the reply, "we have been keeping her up with
champagne for the last two hours. She wants to die to get out of her
pain and trouble, but cannot, she says, until she has seen this
gentleman."

"I think I had better go in and tell them. Will you wait in here a
moment, please, sir."

The entrance hall was well furnished and carpeted; pictures, mirrors,
and candelabra were arranged around the walls; but the room which Caleb
now entered was still more elaborately and richly decorated. Chandeliers
and mirrors and gilding added to the brilliancy of bright lights and
luxuriously upholstered furniture.

Caleb, had been seated but a few minutes, when one of the large central
folding doors was opened and a richly dressed woman entered.

"She will see you here in a few minutes," was all that she said, at the
same time placing wine and biscuits on the table.

Caleb looked after her in astonishment, and muttered to himself, "She
will see me here! A dying woman! It's very strange."

He was not kept waiting long. Suddenly two of the folding doors were
noiselessly opened, and four girls, handsomely dressed, entered, bearing
between them a large couch on which reclined, supported by pillows, a
woman who had once been fair to look upon, if not actually beautiful,
but whose emaciated, haggard face and sunken eyes showed that she was
not far from death.

"You can all go," she hoarsely whispered to one of the girls, "while I
speak to this gentleman; one of you wait in the next room within sound
of the bell. Give me another glass of champagne first," she whispered.
"It may keep me up for sufficient time. Put the little silver bell on
the table."

While this was being done Caleb looked up at the wreck of a woman before
him. She could not, he thought, be much more than 40 years of age.
Dressed in a costly robe, with flashing jewels glistening on her
fingers, she had refused to die in bed, and insisted on being dressed,
although she groaned with pain as they had done her bidding.

"Turn down the gas, Mr. Angel," she whispered, "it hurts my eyes. Now
sit near to me, I can only whisper. This afternoon the doctor only gave
me three hours to live, but I felt that I could not die until I had seen
you, and told you all--at least all that I know."

"I don't want that 1500; give it to the poor. Use it if you can to help
those that may be forced either to sin or starve. They will have plenty
here to bury me with, and something to divide among themselves when I am
done with."

"But that is nothing to you. I sent for you to tell you about the death
of McWatt. Ah! you start. You wonder why I did not send you word during
the trial of Jackson. Well, you see, I had no expectation of dying then,
and I did not want to be hung."

"Yes, he died in this house, and, would you think it, on this couch in
this very room. You need not shudder. He died pretty quietly at last.
You need not look like that, we did not murder him! I took the pillows
from beneath his head, it's true; but it only hurried him off a trifle
more quickly. The punt had floated to the garden fence, and I did not
wish to have him found here; we wanted to be done with him before
daylight. I think he was dead at any rate."

"I was up at Drybrook House that night. I occasionally called; he used
to see plenty of people in the evening, after dinner, on business."

"Just pour me out another glass of wine," she whispered. "Thank you, I
expect that will be the last."

"Well, we had a glass or two of wine and some biscuits; he was very much
excited when I went in. He said a cursed half-brother of his had struck
him, and it had brought on a bad attack of something. He had the safe
open, and a pocket-book lay on the table when I went in; I suppose it
contained the 30,000. I don't know what possessed him, but he showed me
the drawer of gold, and told me what I mentioned in the letter. Then he
complained again of feeling ill, and swore, and said he would be even
with that Darton and all his crew, and told me to sit down while he
wrote something. It took him a long time, and I complained at being kept
waiting; but he said:"

"'Don't grumble, Millie, I'm writing something here for you.'"

"He went down to see if the servants had returned, but none of them had
come back, so I persuaded him to come here with me."

"The flood waters were just rushing down the channels at the gateway as
we passed. We could not get into my house by the front, so we went round
the back. He was taken ill soon after. I could not send for a doctor,
and I don't know that I should have done so, if I could. It was to my
interest for him to die. He was a bad man. He even cheated me; but he
was a fool too, or he would never have told me about that 1500 I was to
have after he was dead. It was little enough for him to give me! He went
off in a kind of swoon after an hour or so, and when he came to, called
for brandy and sat up. 'Millie,' he said, 'give me some paper and an
envelope.'"

"He was moaning, and seemed terribly frightened. I gave it to him, and
he wrote for about five minutes, and sealed the envelope. It's addressed
to you. I've got it here. You had better take it now. I promised to
place it in your hands in case he died. Of course I opened it and read
it; he knew very well I should do that, so he put something in it to
ensure its delivery."

"Don't read it now, it does not matter until I am dead. I have something
more to tell you. He had some more brandy after he had written it, and
moaned a good deal, and I made sure that he was dying. I was in a
fearful fright. Then I thought of the punt; one of the girls had told me
of its being caught against our fence."

"It had broken adrift from somewhere. I was desperate, so I waded out
myself to the knees and brought it to the gate. I supposed that he was
dead, and frightened the two girls into helping me; we pulled his
overcoat on to him and buttoned it up. I remember now there was a book
in the breast pocket. He had forgotten to put it into the safe, and
slipped it in as he left the room. I did not know what was in it, or I
should have run that little risk!"

"However, I did not want anything belonging to him left in the place. He
was heavy, and it took three of us to lift him into the punt. I pushed a
felt cap he wore on to his head, but it dropped off again in the garden.
I was afraid there would not be current enough to carry the punt away,
and I waded out to my waist to get it as far from the house as
possible."

"I believe that's what has been the death of me. When I came in again I
was shivering from head to foot."

"And look! I'm glad to die, although I suppose I shall go to the bad
place, but it cannot be worse than this. Do you know," she said, staring
wildly round, "every night I dream about him. That's one reason why I
wanted to get away from this place. I haven't been in bed for weeks. I
keep one of the girls near me and she wakes me if I scream. But I don't
always scream! I'm here with the corpse in this room, but it's all
draped in black, and I lift up his head and take away the pillow and
then he groans, and I try to lift him by myself and can't; and then
there's a knock at the door, and I can hear a fearful noise, saying,
'Have you killed him yet? We're ready with the punt!'"

She reached out her thin jewelled hand and put it on Angel's, and he
felt its touch cold and clammy with the sweat of death.

"Caleb Angel," she hissed, "I dream that every night, and sometimes in
the day if I fall asleep. It's a hell upon earth for me to live, you
cannot wonder that I want to die.

"I'd have come up and told it all out at Jackson's trial, but I was
afraid; and yet I haven't told you that we killed him. But," she
continued excitedly, "I haven't told you one thing. In this room I
sometimes see it in the day--awake. Ah! ah!" and she pointed towards the
mirror and then swooned. Angel shuddered with horror and immediately
rang the bell.

"I fear she's dead, sir," said the girl, as she looked at her. "We've
had an awful time with her."

"No, she cannot possibly be dead," said Angel, "she spoke not a minute
ago."

Every ordinary remedy was tried, but there was no sign of returning
consciousness, and ten minutes afterward Angel left a house that in more
senses than one was an abode of death.

The cabman had been back again over an hour, waiting, and it was
midnight when Caleb reached his lodgings. He at once opened the
envelope. The letter read as follows:

                         Brisbane, February 2, 1893.

Caleb Angel,--As I write this I am fearfully ill and suffering acute
agony from an internal complaint which I have been subject to for years.
Before I left Drybrook House to-night I wrote a document, but bad as I
am I dare not go into eternity with that upon my conscience, for it's a
lie. Burn it, burn it without reading it. It's on the top of some deeds
in the safe. I wrote it in bitterness and spite. For years I have hated
Darton, and to-night he struck me, but I've sins enough to answer for
without bringing Darton unjustly to the scaffold; to have him perhaps
renewing acquaintance with me in hell. When you get this letter go up
and burn that document at once--it's all a lie. And see to it that
Millie Matson is paid the 1500 which I have left her in the will. I
have put it in the safe in gold so that there may be no dispute about
it.

                         CONSTANT McWATT.

"Thank God!" exclaimed Angel, "the truth is out at last. George Jackson
may save himself his journey to England. I'll wire to Adelaide to stop
him in the morning. What a fearful night this has been. Poor, miserable,
haunted wretch. Made what she was, to a large extent, by McWatt and
others like him."

A telegram was sent to Adelaide the following morning addressed to
Jackson. The day afterwards the papers contained a notice of a woman's
death.

"Who was Milly Matson?" asked more than one fashionably-attired woman.

"Yes, who?"

"Who was her father? Who was her mother? Had she a sister? Or had she a
brother?"

George found the telegram waiting for him at Adelaide, and at once
returned by rail to Brisbane. A heavy weight was lifted from his heart
when Caleb showed him McWatt's last letter. It made his journey to
England no longer necessary. They agreed that the document found by
Jackson in the safe should be burned in accordance with the dead man's
wish. Its contents remained a secret, known only to the man who refused
to take advantage of them when it appeared to him that one statement
alone contained there might have saved his life.




CHAPTER XXXVI.--CLEAR SHINING AFTER RAIN.


We are glad to turn from the horrors of the preceding chapter to a
happier one.

It was a Sunday morning. Rain had fallen heavily for several days up to
the previous Saturday, People had been asking themselves well nigh in
despair, "Is this sunny Queensland? Is this the land to which we turned
with longing eyes from the gloom and cloudy days of England--the land of
summer radiance and placid crystal seas and cloudless skies?" This
morning, however, more than redeemed its character.

It was Edna's last Sunday at, to quote her own expression, "Dear old
Darton's Point." George and she occupied the old rustic seat which John
Darton had fixed up under the lookout tree upon the promontory.

They sat for a time absorbed in happy thought, as they contemplated the
lovely scene before and around them. The knowledge of the fact that it
was probably the last time they would look upon it for years, perhaps
for ever, no doubt enhanced to their eyes its loveliness.

It was, indeed, no common day, and no ordinary landscape.

The sun looked down with burning eye from a great over-hanging vault of
pale sapphire blue. The warring tempest had spent its force.

The clouds, no longer mustering in ponderous columns to the trumpet call
of the storm king, were straying, fancy free, in long lines of soft,
white fleecy vapor, "their snowy hands clasped each in each, the
beautiful idlers of the sky."

Peace sat enthroned as in a palace of beauty, and communed with Nature
in her sacramental hour. The tide was at the full, and covering over the
mud and sand with its bright waters, flung its tiny wavelets right upon
the grass.

The quiet lapping of the water and the occasional twittering of birds
were the only sounds audible. It was as though the summer sky bent
breathless and enamored, over the blue calm sea, and wide extended
landscape.

It seemed to Edna as though the mangrove trees had never robed
themselves before in such beautiful green foliage, and that the islands
of the bay and distant line of mountains had never stood out so clearly
and distinctly in the serene atmosphere. Half a dozen white sails dotted
Moreton Bay, and ever and anon the booming of the breakers on the
Pacific beach of Moreton Island was faintly heard.

Poised high in the air above the peaceful scene was an eagle-hawk. With
broad extended wing it whirled round and round in sweeping graceful
gyrations. A very much smaller bird followed it everywhere, keeping just
above it as it circled around and around. The smaller bird occasionally
uttered what seemed to be a shrill warning cry.

George drew Edna's attention to the hawk. "You see," he said, "even the
sweetest earthly paradise has its bird of prey."

"Yes," replied Edna, "but watch that little bird above it. Surely it
means that every callow fledgling has its guardian angel."

They were to be married quietly on the morrow in Brisbane. They would
then leave by train for Melbourne and Adelaide, and from thence for
Egypt, Italy, and England.

"Oh, how glad I shall be, George," said Edna, "to get away from the
petty littleness of colonial life; and the purse-proud arrogance of men
with with little minds."

"Are you quite fair, Edna?" said George. "Queensland is a great country,
and will in time become the home of a great people."

"Then I would like to sleep a hundred years, and wake again when the new
time of nobler men and deeds had dawned. George, it frets me to see the
selfishness and greediness and ingratitude of so many men out here. I
suppose that things are too young and new and unfamiliar, or men would
never cheat in business and badger each other in public councils as they
do; but in spite of it all, the nation works on, and grows, and somehow
pays its way."

"It's as well, Edna, that you are going back to England. They say that
English trained men and women look at things out here through coloured
glasses, and there's truth in it. Upon my word, I believe that I am more
of a colonial than you are!"

"What if I should say, then, that it has not improved you?" said Edna.

"Ah, but it has. There is nothing like travel and experience to develop
the mind. But to refer again to your criticism of men out here. You must
not expect to have all the virtues and excellencies in one place. You
haven't them in England. And putting all things together, I am not sure
that the old land has so much of the advantage. Give them time here, and
wonders will be done. For instance, the flood disasters that now figure
so largely in the public eye will, in a few months be well nigh
forgotten. With all the unseemly bickerings between North and South
Brisbane they will build new bridges and develop natural resources, and
grow and thrive. Fast disappointments and failures will be made the
stepping stones to future success and permanent prosperity."

"George," said Edna, "I hope when we get tired of travel you won't
settle down into an English country gentleman. To my mind that means to
be nothing and nobody. You must enter for the English bar."

"Edna, do you see yonder stump?" asked George.

"Yes," she replied, smiling, "but what of that?"

"Now," he said, picking up a handful of pebbles, "it's strange, but one
often makes a hit the first time."

"There," he said, as the stone struck the dead stump a ringing blow
right in the centre.

"Now, see!" He threw several pebbles before he hit it again. "It's so
with many things in life. The first time, under exceptional
circumstances, a man makes a hit. He writes a book, makes a speech,
designs a building and it's successful. You must not think me a born
barrister because on one occasion I made a successful effort to save my
own life. If I am ever successful at the bar I shall have, like others,
to work for it. But I will not settle down into a prosy English country
squire if I can help it."

"Don't talk about that trial any more George," was all that Edna said.

"But I must add one thing, sweetheart," said George tenderly, "If a man
possessed any natural ability, or any nobleness of character, you are
just the woman to bring it out. I don't think there is another such a
woman in the world."

"George, don't talk nonsense." But Edna stopped there, for her lover
sealed her lips with kisses.

They were married quietly, but with many congratulations on the
following day. Joe Stunner and his 'missis' were present with the little
company that witnessed the ceremony in the church.

"Master Jackson," said Joe, "don't yer be fer goin' over in that 'ere
steam ferry this afternoon to meet the train. I've got the 'Mary Jane'
cushioned and carpeted for the 'casion, and I'd like to take yer and yer
bonny lady across for the last time praps." And so it was arranged, to
the waterman's intense satisfaction.

"But what," it may be asked, "of Caleb Angel! Did he console himself for
the loss of Edna Forrest by marrying Clara De Ville?"

Not he! Men of the Caleb Angel stamp do not wittingly marry Clara De
Villes. When last heard of, he was just the same; nor had he grown in
any sense morose and crabbed, because through an evil destiny a stronger
force had come between him and the object of his love. He bore his
disappointment patiently and nobly, as befitted his character and his
past career. Would that there were more like him among us, to teach to
the peevish petulence of these disappointed years, by their patient
heroism and quiet lives, that it is possible, even under most untoward
circumstances, to continue faithful to the ideals and aspirations which
make some few we meet with different to the common crowd; that it is
possible to suffer and to smile; not, let it be said, through helpless
weakness, but by the strength of grandest manhood; for, as the quiet
forces of nature are the mightiest, so the silent, dauntless men who can
meet with loss and humiliation, and even pain and ignominy, and pass
through it all without a whimper, are the strongest and best. Such a one
we have found Caleb Angel, and so we leave him.

The particulars of the actual cause of the death of the Hon. Constant
McWatt, as given in this narrative, are, we confess, not as full and
clear as might be wished. Our readers may draw their own conclusions
from the confession of Millie Matson. But the problem, to our mind, is
only partially solved.

Questions suggest themselves which yet remain unanswered. What was the
complaint that McWatt referred to? What were the effects of John
Darton's blows? How came that right hand to hold with a death grasp the
pocket-book containing the notes?

We must affirm that the dying woman's confession is to us but partially
satisfactory.

Whether it was death from natural causes, or unintentional manslaughter,
or heartless murder, remains yet undecided. The death of the Hon.
Constant McWatt must still continue--A mystery of the Brisbane floods.



THE END



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