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Title: Sally: The Tale of a Currency Lass Author: J H M Abbott * A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1306031h.html Language: English Date first posted: November 2013 Date most recently updated: November 2013 Produced by: Maurie Mulcahy Project Gutenberg Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg Australia Licence which may be viewed online.
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While this story was running serially in The World's News, of Sydney, it became apparent to the author that the meaning of the old term which serves as its title was not altogether clear to the present generation of readers. Some remembered it as the name of an old song, and some as that of a vanished public-house which once held a license in Sydney. The explanation of the term is this: In the early days, when coin as a medium of exchange was scarce in Australia, a paper money currency for large and small amounts was issued by many merchants and traders. People who had been born in Britain took to referring to themselves as Sterling, whilst, a little contemptuously, they dubbed the Native Born Currency. But there were never—and are not to-day, any Currency Lads or Lasses who had, or who have, any reason to be ashamed of being "Currency."
The author's thanks are due to the Editor and the Proprietors of The World's News for permission to re-publish the tale in its present form.
Sydney, 1918. J. H. M. A.
From "The World's News"
9 March, 1918.
Readers of "The World's News" will have noticed, in the announcements of this story during the last two issues of the paper, some extraordinary discrepancies as to its title. The explanation is this: The author wrote the story with the intention of calling it "The Currency Lass." At the last moment, when the opening chapters were already in type, it was brought to his notice that a serial story by "Alex. Wethered"—the nom-de-plume of a well-known and gifted Sydney journalist—had appeared last year, in the "Watchman," under the same title. A new name, of course, became necessary, and, with little time for consideration, owing to the exigencies of the composing-room the author altered his title to "Captain Crossthwaite: A Tale of a Currency Lass." Further consideration decided him to adopt the present one, as being more suitable to the story. But the first alternative, in the course of a few hours, had by that time already been printed in last week's issue. The author sincerely trusts that no one has ever written a novel named "Sally," for these coincidences, though singular and diverting to anyone who is not personally concerned with them, are unmitigated nuisances to those who are. The present one is all the more extraordinary, for the reason that the author has to confess, regretfully and apologetically, that he has never opened the pages of the "Watchman," and only knows that excellent journal from its contents bills.—J.H.M.A.
CHAPTER I.—THE GREAT FLOOD.
CHAPTER II.—THE CURRENCY LASS.
CHAPTER III.—THE FIVE OF HEARTS.
CHAPTER IV.—THE SECRET.
CHAPTER V.—CAPTAIN CROSSTHWAITE.
CHAPTER VI.—THE BUSHRANGERS.
CHATTER VII.—GOVERNOR MACQUARIE.
CHAPTER VIII.—THE ATTACK.
CHAPTER IX.—HELD BY THE BUSHRANGERS.
CHAPTER X.—THE BATTLE OF PROSPECT HILL.
CHAPTER XI.—FATHER AND DAUGHTER.
CHAPTER XII.—THE "MOON CALF" TAVERN.
CHAPTER XIII.—MR. MAINWARING.
CHAPTER XIV.—NEW DARTMOOR.
CHAPTER XV.—THE LITTLE SALLY.
CHAPTER XVI.—CAPTAIN CROSSTHWAITE'S CLAIM.
CHAPTER XVIII.—PISTOLS FOR TWO.
CHAPTER XIX.—EXIT CROSSTHWAITE.
CHAPTER XX.—THE DUEL.
CHAPTER XXI.—OFF HUNTER'S RIVER.
THE rain came pelting down in drenching sheets, and a cold, bleak wind scurried the grey waves of driving clouds across the great wall of the Blue Mountains, until, from the high ground at the Green Hills—where the old town of Windsor, in New South Wales, has stood since Governor Macquarie's day—it sometimes became impossible to tell whether they existed, or were merely the water-laden shapes of blacker and wetter clouds that were bursting down from the moisture swollen Heavens in overwhelming destructiveness upon the settlement at the Hawkesbury.
It was the time of the Great Flood of March, 1806, which devastated the granary of New South Wales, and brought ruin and disaster to so many of the settlers upon the rich flats and fertile meadows that lie between Emu Plains and the Lower Hawkesbury. There are people in sleepy old Windsor to-day who remember hearing of it first-hand from their grandparents, and to whose childhood the possibilities of a Big Flood, like THE Big Flood, were curiously blended with the story of Noah's Ark, and the problematical future destruction of the world. They have not forgotten the inundations they themselves have seen, but nothing that has happened since has ever been worthy of mention in the same breath with the flood of 1806, which the old people told them all about when they were little. The fine faculty of memory which is peculiar to any ancient Australian—the faculty of remembering things that did not happen—has done much to enhance the value of the reminiscences which those old Hawkesbury pioneers handed down to the Hawkesbury natives of the second generation. Many things that never took place will never be forgotten in the traditions of 1806—in Windsor and Richmond, and down by Sackville Reach.
It had rained at the beginning of the month, and on the 1st of March Surgeon Thomas Arndell begged leave to inform His Excellency, Captain Philip Gidley King, that "the river has risen as high as at any time since I have been at the Hawkesbury River." And on the next day he wrote, "I have the pleasure to inform your Excellency that the waters are abating. Though not a general deluge, much corn is lost on all the low lands." On the 9th, Mr. Arndell informed the Governor that he was engaged in estimating the damage done by the late floods. But on the 23rd he has to inform His Excellency of the "dreadful damage" inflicted on the district by such a flood as was never before known, even by the black men.
It was on that flood that the heroine of this story came floating into historical record. It was because March, 1806, was such a wet month that this story comes to be told. Because of that, and one or two other circumstances.
It was on Thursday when the wet weather recommenced. There were several heavy showers during the day, and by nightfall the rain seemed to have set in. All day Friday the downpour was incessant. The whole watershed of the Hawkesbury collected the deluge, and poured it into the river. Every little gully and every dark gorge in the mountains sent its stream of muddy water down towards the sea. All the creeks running into the eastern side of the river were "bankers" on Friday night. When the grey daylight came on Saturday, the Big Flood was in full being.
The "Sydney Gazette" of March 30—four pages of foolscap size—devoted three columns to the letter of its Hawkesbury correspondent, and here follows some of it. A contemporary account is worth quoting, for that quaint little parent of the Australian press is not easily accessible to every reader of this veracious narrative.
"In the course of this dreadful day upwards of 200 wheat stacks were swept into the stream, and carried down the river with incredible velocity; stock of all descriptions were seen floating about, and on the tops of the stacks, but could not be saved for want of boats, those of Messrs. Thompson, Biggers and others being constantly employed taking the settlers' families from the roofs and ridges of the houses, where many had for whole hours clung despairing of assistance, and expecting to be shortly washed into the watery waste. Towards Richmond Hill it seemed to abate on Saturday evening; down the River it still rose—the distress and horror of that evening can neither be described or imagined. The day heavy and gloomy, the night fast approaching, torrents of rain pouring with unabating fury; and not a house except at the Green Hills to be seen, the roofs of one or two on the opposite side of the water being then only visible. Muskets were discharged by the settlers from trees and roofs all day, and great numbers had been taken up and left in safety on the higher grounds; but many were compelled to undergo a night of horror the most inexpressible; in the evening the dismal cries from distant quarters, the report of firearms dangerously charged in order to increase the noise of the explosion; the howling of dogs that had by swimming got into trees, all concurred to shock the feelings of the few that were out of the reach, but were sorrowful spectators of the calamity they could not relieve. On Sunday morning the rigor of the weather abated; and in the course of the day the water on the high lands showed a disposition to run off. Nearly 300 persons, saved from the deluge by the humane perseverance and incredible exertion of their rescuers were released from a state of actual famine by a supply sent from the Green Hills in consequence of His Excellency's request to Mr. Arndell to afford the sufferers every assistance and relief."
Our story opens on the Saturday afternoon, and its opening scene is set on the top of the hill upon which, a year or two subsequently, Governor Macquarie built the cottage, still standing in ruinous condition, which did duty as Government House for so many years, whenever the Vice-Regal court betook itself to Windsor.
Old Isaiah Tillotson stood near the top of the little island in the rain, and gazed across the wide yellow sea that stretched towards the mountains. Below him huddled a damp and unhappy flock of sheep, with their backs to the pelting rain, and in their patient, foolish faces a look of dull, uncomprehending pessimism that was startlingly similar to the expression of melancholy manifested by the countenance of Isaiah himself. They looked as if they knew that nothing worse could happen to them. Isaiah looked like that, too, with an additional air of being fully prepared for any further miracle of disaster that might accentuate the miseries of that disastrous day. Near by stood a man and a woman, who were deeply interested in the welfare of two calves, five pigs of assorted sizes, and some fowls. With them was an abnormally wet sheep-dog, whose drooping appearance indicated a state of dejection that was altogether in keeping with the involuntarily dejected bearing of his human associates. The day and the deluge were sufficiently depressing to make any dog dull.
"It be a proper flood, bean't it?" observed the old man, squeezing his dripping beard in a gnarled fist. "So like th' flood in th' Good Book, as ever was, I'll go bail."
"Happen the Ark'd coom a-sailin' by," laughed the woman softly, "with all them pairs of animals in it, an' Father Noah a-steerin' like a old Dawlish skipper."
Her wet garments clung to her strong, rounded form, and her black hair blew out in the wind. She had a rosy, comely face, and might have been thirty years old, and that was about what she was.
The younger man—a great, red, deep-chested fellow—turned and looked at her admiringly. The inflection of her brave humour touched him. He grunted a deep kind of laugh that echoed her own.
"Doan't 'ee be fulish, 'Lizbeth. How can Father Noah coom a-sailin' by when he be a-standin' here on the hill with me? If Uncle Issy bain't Father Noah, I be a black feller."
He pointed up at the old man, who indeed might well have stood for the patriarchal navigator of the Deluge, after a wet night on the upper deck of his strange ship.
"You uns oughter be thankfuller than what ye be," grumbled old Tillotson; "'stead of jestin' an' makin' merry over th' Good Book, an' thishyer visitation, and all. Happen it hadn't been for my little place, y'd had no shelter this night, no roof for to keep th' rain often ye. Ain't ye best coom up along now, my dears, outen this a'mighty down pourin' of Heaven's wrath?"
"'Tes all raight, Uncle Issy," said the woman. "We be main thankful to ye, an' all th' marcy of God. We'm lost our whoam, 'tes true, an' 'tes true that ye've give us shelter an' fire, an' 'tes true ye be a good old man, an' main comfortin' to such castaways as we uns. Iss, I'm thinkin' we'd be better inside your hut than out here in th' cold an' wet. Joe, laad, do'ee see th' boat's safe, an' coom indoors. We can do no more for these poor creatures that what we have. 'Tes not much, but it might be less. We've saved zummat, howsomever. Our two lives, an' these dumb beasts. Come, Roarer," she patted the dog's wet head, and he wagged his dripping tail, and licked her hand. "We'll do as Uncle Issy says."
They followed the old man up to the crest of the hill, and over it, and came to a little hut, made of wattle and daub, and roofed with sheets of bark, kept in place by heavy saplings. Down below it, one aide of a brush sheep fold stood just above the yellow flood water, whilst the other two sides ran down a few yards and disappeared in the almost motionless tide of devastation that covered the fourth.
They came to the door, and the old man had his hand upon the fastenings, when suddenly the woman uttered a quick cry. The two men turned, to see her, with outstretched arm, pointing down to the little fold.
"See there, Joe! Uncle Issy! Down in the sheep-fold—see it floating there! 'Tes a woman—a woman in th' water. God ha' mercy—how did she coom there?"
She ran down to the waterside, her hair streaming behind her, and the men followed. Gathering up her skirts, and displaying a pair of substantial, shapely, and stockingless legs, she took the low fence in a flying leap, and, as her companions reached it, was stooping over a prostrate female form that lay half in and half out of the water.
"What now! 'Lizbeth?" said the red man, as he came beside her. "Be she alive?"
"No life there, lad," murmured old Tillotson, shaking his grey head. "But pick her up, an' carry her into my place—then we'll see for sartain. But what be this here?" He pointed a horny forefinger at a black box, something like a small sea-chest, that was grounded a foot or so from the water's edge, and close beside the woman's body.
"Pick her up, Joe, and carry her in—th' poor creature. Oh, but she be a beautiful one—th' poor dead dear," said the woman.
Stooping, the man took the limp form—so light and so water sodden—in his strong arms, and lifted her up as if she had been a child.
"Come ye an' tend to her," said he. "She may have some life in her yet."
"Glory be!" exclaimed Isaiah, "look what's here! Glory be, glory be! Look i' th' box! Dang my buttons—look-ee here!"
He had unfastened the simple catch, and opened the lid. Inside, almost quite dry, and warmly wrapped up in a blanket, lay a fat and healthy baby, fast asleep. It woke, as the cold rain beat down upon it when the lid was opened, and set up a lusty crying that sounded strangely cheerful in that desolate, drenched place.
"Give it to me!" cried the woman, snatching the baby out of the box, blanket and all, and pressing it to her sheltering bosom. "Bring th' chest, Uncle Issy. Come, Joe, quickly—in out of the wet."
She ran up the hill, and was already seated by the fireside, when the red man laid his burden down upon the hearth, and old Isaiah came bumping in through the door with the square box in his arms.
"Shet th' door. An' make the fire blaze, Joe, lad," she cried, as she took the wrappings from the child. "We must see if there is life in th' poor woman. Strip her, strip her, Joe. 'Tes no shame where life's consarned. An' make ready your bed, Uncle Issy. Move yourselves. Oh, you men! Set th' fire blazing first."
Clumsily, the red man tore off the dripping garments from the inanimate body, and held her, white and naked, before the fire. The old man busied himself with the bed, and they laid her between his blankets. He lit a tallow candle and held it to her face. He sighed and shook his head.
"No use, Joe Garledge, no use. See, her eyes are half-open, an' her lips are blue. She be dead, 'Lizbeth. She be as dead as ever she'll be."
Pressing the baby to her breast, the woman came to look. "Ah me!" she murmured softly. "Iss, Uncle Issy—she be gone. An' her so pretty an' sweet. 'Tes cruel, cruel. Cover her up. But stay a moment. Here, Joe, hold ye th' babby."
The red man awkwardly received the child in his great arms, whilst 'Lizbeth closed the eyes of the dead woman, folded her limp hands across her breast, and drew the blanket up over the white and lovely face.
"God rest th' poor soul of her," she murmured softly, turning to nurse the baby before the fire. Tears ran down her rosy cheeks—and big red Joe blubbered in a corner.
Outside, the rain pelted and hissed, the grey evening faded, and the terrible black night came down over the black Blue Mountains, and over the sea of muddy waters that stretched across the rich Hawkesbury flats below them. It was a fearful, memorable night for many of the river settlers—but before daylight came the flood was abating. The ebbing of the destroying tide was almost imperceptible—but about three in the morning it did begin to ebb, and the worst was over.
THE splendid beauty of the morning charmed and soothed the rugged soul of that rugged apostle, Samuel Marsden, as he rode from Parramatta to the Hawkesbury. It was a March morning, towards the end of the month, when the fierce blaze of summer gives place to the gentle freshness and crisp exhilaration of the Australian autumn. And the country looked its best—which is saying a great deal, when it is said about the country along the Old River.
As he came out of the forest on to the lands above the rich and fertile flats, the Senior Chaplain of His Majesty's Territory of New South Wales felt that his lot was cast in a goodly land, a land flowing with milk and honey, a land that was strangely unlike his own stern Yorkshire wolds—and yet always brought his thoughts back to them, and to the rugged childhood that had made of him the rugged, indomitable, stern and kindly man that he was, and the valiant Christian he knew himself to be. Involuntarily he drew rein, and worshipped the God of the wondrous land that stretched before his eyes.
The wall of purple mountains, stretching north and south, limited his view to the westward. High and forbidding, never yet crossed in all the quarter century of the Colony's existence as British territory, always repulsing and baffling, as he well knew, the efforts of those who had essayed the task of seeking out the mysterious problematical region that might lie towards the setting sun—this morning they only looked like softly-shaded glowing hills, clad densely in verdure, and inviting enough to any man who might seek to ride up their spurs, and over their even skyline, to enjoy a glimpse of what might lie beyond. They slumbered so peacefully in the sunshine, were so warm and soft and gentle-seeming, that no man might realise from their look the stern denial that they had always given to those who sought to solve their secrets and their mysteries. Over them, and over him, and over all the visible world was stretched a blue canopy of sky that seemed fixed and changeless, and never more to be clouded or darkened.
But the Reverend Samuel Marsden smiled grimly when he remembered how, almost seven years ago to a day, he had forced a determined way to the rain swept coast of a wide area of flood-waters that lay between where he now sat upon his horse and those same glorious, smiling mountains that looked so alluring, and inviting, and welcoming. He remembered the miles of yellow water, with the roofs of the houses but just showing here and there above their surface, and the hayricks floating down towards the sea, and half drowned people in trees, and pouring torrents of rain, and roaring cataracts that rushed out of gullies and gorges in those same gracious hillsides across the river. He remembered March, 1806, very distinctly and vividly, and he shook his round head, and touched his horse's flank gently with his whip, and moved forward upon his way, muttering to the morning:
"Ah, yes—ye look very fine and lovely to-day, but I've seen ye when ye were not so!"
And presently he came upon a white farm house, a neat, well ordered place, with a garden in front of it, and a young orchard behind it, and a bare legged little girl seated upon the doorstep, and white linen garments and bed-sheets gleaming in the sunlight behind the buildings, as they dried upon a clothes line. And he roared out to the little girl in his great voice:
"Good morning to ye, Sally Garledge, and is your mother at home? And have ye any breakfast for me—for I'm main hungry?"
As he dismounted outside the neat picket fence, the little girl came running to the gate. Mr. Marsden opened it, and stood in the pathway, and she dropped a curtsey to him. They were a strange contrast—the burly, bull-necked, red-faced parson, and the lovely, laughing child—all health, and smiles, and pretty dimples, and bright eyes, and red-gold hair.
"Good morning, Mr. Marsden," she laughed up at him, a little shyly, putting out her hand. There was no fear of him in those bright eyes, he noticed; and it was not everyone in the districts of Parramatta and the Hawkesbury who did not fear the Chaplain-Magistrate. Many a grateful heart prayed for his welfare in the first capacity. Not a few lacerated backs had filled their owners with hatred of him in the second. He stooped and patted her head.
"Well, my pretty maid," he said kindly, "have ye ought else for your old friend than this little hand?"
She held up her rosy, sun-browned face.
"A kiss, Mr. Marsden," she laughed. He kissed her gently, and taking the child's hand in his great red one, walked up to the white house.
Like so many of the old colonial dwellings, it was verandahless. There was a narrow porch of lattice work before the front door, however, on which roses climbed. As they came up to it, Mrs. Joe Garledge—a little plumper, a little more matronly, but still as comely and strong looking as when we met her last, seven years ago—came and stood in the doorway.
"Welcome to ye, Mr. Marsden," she smiled. "An' who'd ha' thought o' seein' y'r Honor so early in the day! 'Tes a timely start ye'll have been makin' from Parramatta?"
"A good start, Mrs. Joe—an' early one, I'll promise ye," said the Chaplain, shaking her warmly by the hand. "And if ye've a bite to eat and a cup of tea, I'm the man to do them justice. 'Twas not yet sunrise when I rode away this morning. I've a rare empty space below my waistband, I'll promise ye."
"Do'ee coom in then, an' sit ye down and rest, whiles I get ye something for it. We've broken fast these two hours gone. My Joe, he's off up-along to South Creek to Mr. Blaxland's. Uncle Issy!" she called. "Uncle Issy! Do 'ee take Passon's horse an' give un a drink, an' a feed of hay. Where be to, Uncle Issy?"
"Comin', 'Lizbeth—comin'," came a voice from the kitchen, and the old man appeared, hat in hand, in the living room of the house. He raised a bony forefinger to his bald head in salute to Mr. Marsden. He was a trifle thinner, and a shade more patriarchal, than on the day when Joe Garledge had likened him to Father Noah at the Green Hills, when he tended the salved remnant of Joe Garledge's flock.
"How d'ye do, Prophet, how d'ye do?" roared the parson. It was always his humour to compare the old man's personal appearance with that of his ancient Hebrew namesake. "And how's the rheumatics?"
"Fairish, Parson, fairish. But 'tis th' cold weather will start 'em into life again—so bad they be in th' winters!"
He went out to attend to the horse, and Mrs. Garledge betook herself to the kitchen in order to see to the horse's master's needs. The latter sat himself down on a chair, and proceeded to beguile the time in conversation with the child.
"And how old are ye now, Sally?"
"Seven and a half, if you please, Mr. Marsden," answered the child, coming close beside his knee.
"And ye're a good girl—always?"
She looked up, and laughed in his face roguishly.
"Oh, no, Mr. Marsden, if you please—not always."
"What! If I please, ye're not good always. But I'm not pleased, Sally, to hear such a thing. Why the devil aren't ye always good? Don't ye know ye should be so?"
Sally hesitated, and looked at the great man for a moment or two in a sort of wistful perplexity, her head on one side. Then she answered him.
"If you please, Mr. Marsden—if I was good always, I'd never be bad."
"Well, child—well? Isn't it a good thing never to be bad?"
"Please—if I was never bad I couldn't be good—sometimes."
The Chaplain roared with laughter. To Mrs. Garledge, bearing a dish of eggs and bacon, he waved a stubby forefinger.
"Oh, ho, ho—a casuist! Damme, a casuist, Mrs. Joe. A little she-philosopher, by gad! 'Tis as good as I've heard this long time. So you've got to be a little bad, Sally, to show, how good you can be—what!"
"If you please, yes, Mr. Marsden."
"Good! The child's good as gold, y'r honor!" laughed Mrs. Garledge, setting down her dishes. "'Bain't no better girlie all along the river. Now Sally, you run out an' feed th' chickens, an' I'll talk to Passon. I've summat to say to 'ee, zur, as maybe she oughtn't to hear it said. Run along, Sally girl."
"Come and give me another kiss first, little maiden. Sure, that pretty face was made for kissing." The Chaplain put his strong arm about her, and drew her to his side. He looked long into her clear, fearless eyes, as she smiled up at him. Then he kissed her gravely.
"God bless you, little maid," he said gently, "and keep that pretty face from ever doing you any harm." He released her, and she ran out laughing. The Chaplain turned his attention to breakfast, making vigorous onslaught upon the eggs and bacon. Mrs. Garledge seated herself and poured out his tea.
"Mr. Marsden, zur," she said, as she handed him his cup, "I be main glad ye've coom to-day, as my Joe's away. 'Tes summat as I must ask someone about, an' I know none I'd better like to ask than yourself. 'Tes raight an' proper th' clergy should be asked such things."
"That's so, Mistress Joe," said the Chaplain with his mouth full. "And pray what is it that's troubling ye? Let me hear it. Has Joe taken to evil courses?"
The woman laughed at the idea of such a thing.
"My Joe do evil! 'Tes not in him, Passon. No—'tes of the child I wish to speak with ye. Of the little maid. I am troubled about her."
"Go on, Mrs. Garledge. Go on. I can eat and listen. 'Tis the best breakfast I've eaten this many a day. Because I've earned it, I suppose."
She leaned across the table and looked intently at her guest.
"Mr. Marsden," she said, a little anxiously. "Can I trust ye?"
"Well, damme, my good woman, that's a question to ask me!"
"Oh, I know I can trust your word, zur—what I mean is, can I trust ye as between me and Joe?"
"Between you and your husband! Why should I come between you and Joe Garledge? How should I?"
"No, no—I don't mean that. What I mean, y'r honor, there's summat I've not told Joe that I want to tell you. Zummat I can't tell him now—'twould be better not to—and yet what I must tell to someone."
He looked at her a little doubtfully. Was it some confession of sordid unfaithfulness that she wished to pour into his ears? He had heard many such—but he did not look for one in this household. He spoke a little sternly, laying down his knife and fork and looking at her intently.
"Mistress Garledge—listen to me. If what you have to say related to any wrong you've done to the good man ye've wedded to, maybe I'd best not hear it. Tell it to him, woman—and trust him. He's a good man. He's a just man."
"Oh, no, no, Passon—you are mistaken. There's naught like that, thank th' good God, betwixt my Joe and me. 'Tisn't possible there'd be! We'm a happy couple, I do glory to say. But 'tes zummat about th' lil maid that I do fear for to tell him—because it might upset his peaceful mind, it might make him so mad as he might do zummat rash like—might make trouble for himself, and for Sally, and for all of us. He'd not see it like I do. He'm a slow one to anger, is my Joe, but I know his breed—them red Garledges—an' they're devils when they'm roused. 'Twere better not to tell him—for a few years, at any rate. But I'd like to tell you, and for you to tell me, zur, what ye may think of it. Ye'll promise me to say naught to Joe, until I give the word. Ye'll promise, y'r Honor?"
"Well, well—yes, I'll promise. But tell me what it is. If it is anything that affects the welfare of that little maid—that little English maid, whom God sent into your kind hands—I'll promise. She is English born, isn't she?"
"Nay, nay—how could she be? But six months old when she came to us on the flood waters over yonder at the Green Hills, as you know, with her dead mother. Sally be a proper Currency Lass. She was born in the country.
"I found something in her mother's clothes, and something on her little body that I've shown no one—not even Joe. But the secret's too big for me. Will ye please to have some more tea, and I'll go get the paper and the ring. There's a story to tell ye, Passon."
"Thank you, Mrs. Joe—half a cup. Well, I will hear it. Get these things. I must be riding on before long. But I want to hear. I may be able to help the little maid."
Mrs. Garledge rose from the table and went into an adjoining room. When she came hack she carried a small black wooden box in her hands. She laid it on the table, unlocked it with a key, and took out a folded paper, stained, and yellow, and water-marked.
Mr. Marsden leaned back in his chair, prepared to listen.
"'TES a queer thing I'm a-goin' to show ye, Mr. Marsden," said Mrs. Garledge thoughtfully, as she unfolded the paper. "'Tes like a faery tale. 'Tes so queer it makes me to think about it."
She paused for a few moments, while she scanned the faded, weather-marked document. Then she spread it out upon the table, holding it down with the outspread fingers of one work-roughened hand. Mr. Marsden had pushed back his chair from the table, and, with crossed knees, regarded his hostess attentively.
"Ye'll remember, zur, how we came by th' lil maid—Sally? The big flood, ye remember, and the woman's body, and th' box wi' th' babby in it?"
"Yes, yes—of course. I shall not soon forget that disastrous time, Mrs. Garledge, or any of the strange things that happened. And the endurance of the people! And the great, courage of all the settlers, both bond and free. Do ye recall the Leesons? There was Will Leeson, his wife, his mother, his two children, and three men who went to sea on the flood water, with a barley-mow for a ship. Consider it—those eight souls adrift upon a haystack! And they sailed in the dark. Never was there such a deed. Never! And do ye remember——"
But she interrupted his flood of recollections. With a hand raised to check them, she broke in, a little impatiently:
"Yes, yes, Passon—but I want to speak of our lil maid, and the message her mother left. You remember how we found them, come ashore in the sheep-fold—the woman dead, and the babby so strong and hearty?"
"Yes, yes—I was told of it a day or so after, by you and Joe."
"Well, when I came to look at the clothes we had I taken off the poor woman, I found this paper stitched in her bodice. It was folded up in a wrapping of oiled silk, and not so much of the water had got at it as to make it impossible to read the writing. It was damaged, as you can see, but I dried it carefully—and when I had read it, I took an' hid it."
"Hid it! Why?"
"I could see at once that I must not show it to my Joe. You will see yourself why, when you have read it. And I believe, Mr. Marsden, you will agree I acted rightly. When I came to undress the babby, I found this tied about its lil neck by a leather thong. Look!"
She took from the box a massive gold ring, of the solidity and weight of a signet ring, and stepped forward to hand it to the Chaplain. He stretched out his hand, and took it from her, bending over it to examine it, and holding it to the light that came through the open doorway.
It was a band of solid gold—a man's ring, obviously—and one side was flattened out, as though to make space for the signet part of it. But instead of some heraldic device, a white oblong of enamel was let into the gold matrix, and in this were set, as in mosaic work, five small hearts, in the fashion of a playing card.
"The Five of Hearts!"
"Yes. 'Tes th' five o' hearts, sure enough. What it means, I dunno—but 'tes mentioned in th' paper, Passon. Will ye not read it for yourself?"
She handed him the yellow document, with its stain of muddy water. It was a little blurred in places, as though the ink had run, but it was plain enough to decipher.
Mr. Marsden took it, turned it over wonderingly two or three times, and then read it slowly aloud, whilst Mrs. Garledge stood and looked at him, nodding her head now and again, as if to confirm some part of it, or as if in sad sympathy with its unhappy author:
"I write this more for the protection of my innocent child, in case anything should happen to me—and I have a premonition that before long I shall be somehow separated from her—than in any spirit of justification of myself. While I live I know that we will not be parted, but in this country it is likely enough that anything may happen to a lonely woman, even things that are worse than death itself. I know that, for I have seen it, and have only narrowly been saved from it. If such things are inevitable as I see them, I shall prefer death itself. And then my dear baby will be left with nothing but my imploring prayer, to whomsoever may find her, to care for her out of charity and humanity, for the blessed Christ's sake."
"Indeed, her prayer was answered," said Mr. Marsden, interrupting his reading. "God delivered ye the child, Elizabeth Garledge, in a marvellous fashion. And well, indeed, have ye listened to the poor woman's appeal!"
He resumed his reading:
"If she should fall into the hands of people of this country, they will have an Australian to care for, for she was born in Sydney in 1805, on the 20th day of October, at a house on the Rocks. Should she come into the keeping of those who may have hope of returning to England, I would beg them to take her there, away from this land of sin, and sorrow, and the prison taint."
"It is not that altogether. It has a good future," Mr. Marsden again interrupted his reading of the document to observe. He went on:
"I shall set down here only the bare facts relating to the series of misfortunes which have brought me to this country and have left me an abandoned, unhappy, and despairing woman. I have no comment to make upon them, save this—-that my troubles are due to none but myself. What I mean is that I blame none of my own people for them. To the man to whom they are most due will, in time, come God's own judgment, which, it is not for me to invoke or anticipate, and which, indeed, I still cannot but pray may be averted from him. That I should still love him, and still pray for his welfare, after the manner in which he has used me, cannot but seem to those who may read this other than senseless infatuation, but so it is, and I cannot help myself.
"My name is Selina Crossthwaite, and I am a married woman. My maiden name was Garledge——"
"What! How's this?" cried the Chaplain. "A relative of your husband's, Mrs. Joe?"
Mrs. Garledge nodded. "Read on, Passon. 'Twill explain itself. Read on."
"My maiden name was Garledge, and I am the only daughter of John Garledge, who kept 'The Moon Calf' Tavern in Longacre, in London, and, if he still lives, is no doubt still its landlord. My father came from Devonshire in his youth, and I believe that his relations are in that county still, though I do not know where, and I have never seen, or been in communication, with any of them. My father seldom spoke of his own people, and I think that some quarrel or family trouble, over which he gave hints of some bitterness of feeling, was the original cause of his leaving his home and enlisting in the Foot Guards. He was many years in the army, and when he retired from it with the rank of Sergeant-Major, he was enabled by the generosity of some of his officers to start in business as a licensed victualler in 'The Moon Calf,' which was an old-established house, fallen upon evil days, and which my father brought again to a prosperous condition, mainly by reason of his army connection. He made it a place of popular resort for officers of the Household troops. Besides, he was a keen man of business.
"My father did not marry until he had left the army, and had succeeded in establishing his business upon a sound footing. I never knew my mother, for she died in giving me birth, and my childhood was spent with nurses and governesses. My mother, of whom I know absolutely nothing, had been, my father said, a lady, and he constantly asserted that he meant to make one of me. I am afraid that in some respects he spoiled me. However, I had as a child the best of everything—except a mother's loving care—and, when I was twelve years old, he sent me to a boarding-school for young ladies, at the village of Hammersmith, near London, a where I remained until I was eighteen, only coming home twice a year for my holidays. When I left school he sent me to an establishment at Brighton, where I was instructed for six months in those accomplishments with which young ladies moving in good society are expected to be conversant.
"When I came home, it was with an expectation that I would take up housekeeping duties at 'The Moon Calf,' and have some hand in the domestic side of the business—but my father would allow nothing of the sort. He had furnished a suite of apartments for me, and expressed it to be his desire that I should live in them as though I had nothing whatever to do with the tavern. His own rooms were on the ground floor behind the bar and coffee-room, and when he came to mine he used to say that 'The Moon Calf' was tied up outside, and must never be permitted to enter them. None of the patrons of the place ever came into my drawing-room, unless they were expressly invited to do so by himself.
"He made no secret of the fact that he intended by every possible means to bring it about that I should marry one or other of the young officers who frequented his house—preferably one from his own regiment, providing that his means were suitable to provide me with a rich establishment. He continually impressed it upon me that, though he was not a poor man, it was my face that was my fortune, and that, since I was very beautiful, and well educated, and was not a fool, any station in life might be mine through a suitable marriage. I knew myself that it was quite true as to my beauty——"
"So it was—the poor dead woman!" murmured Mrs. Garledge, her soft eyes filling with tears. "So it was. She was the most beautiful woman I've ever seen."
"Indeed! And was she?" observed Mr. Marsden, a little impatient of the interruption, for the story was claiming his interest.
"quite true as to my beauty, and I think his plans and ideas turned my head a little. He began by introducing a couple of gentlemen at a time, and I must say that they all treated me with great deference and respect. Much of this was due to the way in which my father was regarded by the officers of his old regiment. He had been a notable character in it—its champion boxer, its swiftest runner, its most generally accomplished soldier. But I never encouraged any familiarity on the part of any of them, or never held myself cheap, or permitted any one lightly to make love to me. In a little time it became a privilege eagerly sought after—an invitation from John Garledge to take a dish of tea in his daughter's apartments. I became, I heard, a popular toast—'the beautiful Miss Garledge'—in the coffee-houses, and at the regimental messes. There was even a duel fought over me—one of my visitors resenting the sneer of an acquaintance who had not the entree to the private part of 'The Moon Calf,' to the extent of putting a pistol ball through his shoulder. And it was that duel that sealed my fate.
"My father was particularly pleased when he succeeded in introducing to my circle of admirers—as I suppose I must term these young men, any one of whom would have gladly made me his mistress, and hardly one of whom would have married me, as I know now—Lord Arthur Wilberley, the heir to the Earldom of Breakness. He never ceased to sound his praises to me, or to declare how infatuated the young nobleman was with me. And of all the ungainly fools whom I have ever met, I think Lord Arthur was the worst. My duellist was Ensign William Crossthwaite, and him my father looked upon with little favour. He said that he was poor, was a gambler, was a rake, and was a liar—all of which I know now to be true, but nevertheless I was in love with him, and am still, in love with him—God help me!"
"The poor dear!" murmured Mrs. Joe.
"And so, one day, because I could not bear with Lord Arthur, and because I worshipped him, I eloped with Mr. Crossthwaite. We were married at the little Church of St. Agnes, at Hawley, in Surrey, and in the register of that church is our wedding recorded. All my papers are gone from me, but the record is there, and perhaps same day the fact of its being there will be of advantage to my child."
Mr. Marsden laid the paper on his knee, and looked up frowning at Mrs. Garledge. "William Crossthwaite!" he muttered. "By heavens, ma'am, I know a William Crossthwaite! But can it be? Surely 'tis impossible!"
Mrs. Joe nodded gravely.
"Yes, you know him, Mr. Marsden. I know him. Joe knows him. But lil Sally doesn't know him. Will you read on—and maybe ye'll know him better."
Shaking his head, and with knitted brows, the Chaplain finished the reading of the paper:
"I think my husband cared for me in his own way, but his nature is a callous and selfish one. He was heavily in debt, and it seems that he had expected my father, once we were married, to reconcile himself to the situation and to provide for his needs. But my father was furious, and being of an obstinate and determined nature, and professing himself hurt and disappointed with me, would have nothing to do with us. My husband was compelled to leave the country, so he exchanged into the New South Wales Corps from his own regiment, raised a sum of money in some fashion that was, I fear, somewhat questionable, and, two months after our marriage we sailed for Sydney in the brig 'Caledon,' with a draft for the regiment, of which he was in command, and female convicts. All the ship's officers, and many of the soldiers, chose mistresses for the voyage from amongst these vile females and, to my horror and distress, and quite by accident, I discovered, at the Cape, of Good Hope, that my husband had formed a connection with one of them. My tears and protests were in vain. So infatuated was he with this woman that when we reached Sydney, he abandoned me, and took her to live with him."
"The infernal villain!" swore the Rev. Samuel Marsden. Mrs. Garledge's lips tightened, but she said nothing.
"I had a little money of my own, and was enabled to secure fairly decent lodgings on the Rocks, at the house of Nicholas Thirsk, the boat-builder. There my child was born, and I named her after myself. I wrote to my husband, but he made no answer to my letter, and I have never seen him since. He took all my papers, marriage lines and all, and I have heard that he gave it out that I was not his wife, but only a mistress whom he had picked up in London. It seems that this was even his tale on board the 'Caledon,' tho' I heard it not until after. Some few trifling belongings of his remained in my possession, amongst them the strange ring that I have fastened about my child's neck. He has told me that it signified something, of which he did not know the meaning, that would perhaps some day be of great advantage to the possessor of it. So I leave it, as the only thing of value I have, to my daughter. Three days ago, I left Sydney, and came to the Hawkesbury, where I had learned that my husband was in command of a detachment of troops at the Green Hills. With the last of my money I have obtained a lodging at the house of Thomas Barker, on the western side of the river to Richmond Hill. It is my intention to seek my husband out, and make another appeal to him. Surely the sight of the darling child will soften his heart. I pray God that it may. This I have written at Thomas Barker's house, in case my premonition of death may come true. The date of the writing is the 17th of March, 1806. O, be good to my girlie!"
Mr. Marsden laid the paper on the table when he had finished reading it, and stood up. For a moment or two he said nothing. Then he banged his great fist on the table, so that the dishes and mugs jumped and rattled, and roared out in a bellow of rage:
"The d——d scoundrel!"
He began to walk heavily up and down the little room, Mrs. Garledge crying softly, and regarding his black anger with not a little awe. In a few moments he sat down, composing himself with difficulty.
"Listen to me, Mrs. Joe," he said. "Sit ye down and listen to me."
"I KNOW this Mr. William Crossthwaite," said the Chaplain. "I have known him ever since he has been in the Colony, and though he has prospered, 'tis little enough of good that I have ever known of him—either as to the kind of man he is, or as to what he has done. He is Captain Crossthwaite of——"
"Of Prospect Hill," said Mrs. Garledge, nodding her head.
"Exactly. Of Prospect Hill, near Parramatta—land owner, and Magistrate of the Territory. I know him, Oh, I know him. A d——d bad man, ma'am, a d——d bad man, Mrs. Joe." Mr. Marsden shook his head vigorously, and pursed up his lips, "And so he—so this sinner—is little Sally's father. Well, well—'tis a strange world."
"Aye—so it is, passon, so it is," Mrs. Garledge agreed with him. "To think that th' lil maid's own father—and an' unnat'ral one though he be—lives scarce a dozen miles away from her! And I'll make bold to say, zur, that he's never so much as troubled his head about what became of his poor wife—that he knows not, and doesn't care, whether she be alive or dead this blessed minute."
"Yes, that would be William Crossthwaite's way, Mrs. Joe. He is a selfish, hard-hearted man. A libertine, a man of sin. I could name you half a dozen poor girls who have passed through the Factory at Parramatta, who might lay their ruin at his door. To-day, he lives in flaunting sin with a wanton creature who was transported hither for murder—murder, no less. One who was little better than a London prostitute. She poisoned her father to inherit some small competence he had, but was found out, and only escaped the felon's death by reason, so 'tis said, that the Prince Regent had had some traffic with her. A fine creature! A daughter of the Devil, ma'am, a daughter of the devil." He paused for a moment, and, with knitted brows, stared at the floor while he considered the strange affair. Then he banged his fist again upon the table and roared out:
"By Heaven, though, I'll see to it that he acknowledges his own child. I'll see there's justice done—even if I have to take the tale to Governor Macquarie himself. I do not like His Excellency, and I know he doesn't like me; but he's a just man, and he'll see that the little maiden has her rights. He has dealt with other men who were no better than Captain Crossthwaite, and has put them in their places. Damme, he can do no less by this monster, and I'll engage he will, or my name's not Sam Marsden."
Mrs. Garledge raised her open hand in a gesture of negation, and shook her head.
"No, no, Mr. Marsden, zur," she cried. "No, no. Ye must do nothing of the sort. I beg of you. Nothing of the kind."
The Chaplain stared at her in amazement. He was not used to having his plans disputed. As a law-giver, Mr. Marsden looked upon himself as being endowed with a certain measure of infallibility. That Mrs. Garledge should so far presume as to question his judgment was an extraordinary thing—a thing not to be believed, far less tolerated.
"Tut, tut, my good woman. You are beside yourself. But, why, Mrs. Joe," he asked her indulgently, "why do you speak such nonsense?"
"'Tes not nonsense, y'r honor—'tes th' solemn truth. Think of it this way. My Joe do be main wrapped up in th' lil maid—-be so fond of her as though she were his own darter. 'Tes God's will," she sighed, "that him an' me be childless. A sore affliction 'tes to both of we. But he do love th' girlie so dearly as I don't know how to say. If 'twas to come to Joe's knowledge, th' cruel injury that Mr. Crossthwaite done to his child, and to her mother, there's naught could hold him back. You don't know my man's sperrit—th' bitter temper of him. Him so quiet, an' so kind an' gentle, ye'd not believe it. But do him or his a wrong, an' unjust thing, a wicked thing—an' Joe do be nothing else but a ragin' mad bull. Why," she half whispered, "if so be as he was to learn this thing that's known but to you an' me, I'd not answer for Mr. Crossthwaite's life!"
"Hush, hush, my good Mrs. Joe—you must not say such things. Bad as the man is, and evil as he has done, and does—if your good man were to do him an injury he would suffer for it. He might hang for it. Do not think of such things."
"An' that's just what I be sayin', passon. We must not think of letting Joe know anything of this matter. Leastways, not yet awhile. Maybe, someday 't might be safe to tell him. When Sally's a grown woman, p'raps, an' Joe's an older man, an' not so fiery in his sperrits. Maybe then he might be told. But not now, Mr. Marsden—not now! 'Tes too dangerous."
"But for the child's sake?" said the Chaplain, doubtfully.
"Aye—an' for th' lil maid's sake, 'tes best let things be. Me an' Joe, we be simple folk, but we be honest. I ask ye, Mr. Marsden, where d'ye think she has th' best chance of growin' up into a good woman—here with us, or at Prospect Hill, with that bad man and his trulls? He's rich, is Mr. Crossthwaite—or so 'tes said—an' like to be richer. But what would it be to Sally if she 'herited all he has an' lost herself, body an' soul, in that devil's kitchen he keeps over yonder? Would me an' Joe forgive ourselves, if we let it come about? Would you forgive yourself, I ask ye, passon? No—we must keep close mouths, zur, you an' me, for th' time, 't any rate. But I'm main glad I've got ye to share my secret, zur. I be main glad o' that. 'Tes a weight from my mind."
For a long time Mr. Marsden said nothing, but sat frowning at the floor, tapping his right boot on the boards, and seeming to puzzle mightily over the question. Mrs. Garledge sat and looked at him—an anxious pucker in her smooth forehead, and her mouth firmly closed, as though with a strong determination not to yield her point of the necessity of secrecy. The sun made a broad band of light across the table, shining in through the open door. Suddenly the Chaplain seemed to notice it, and to be reminded of the lapse of time, and of his business in Windsor. He rose to his feet, and picked up his riding whip from the table.
"Well, well, Mrs. Joe," he said, "we must think about it—you and I. Mayhap 'tis as you say—better to keep the affair to ourselves for a while, at any rate. One thing I can do, though, that will do no one harm. I can write to the Rector of that Parish church in Surrey—Saint What's-its-name?"
"St. Agnes, at Hawley, passon," murmured Mrs. Joe.
"Yes, yes—St. Agnes. Write to him and ask for a copy of the register. That will do no harm, and 'twill remove any possible doubt as to the poor woman's having been deceived as to the validity of her marriage with this scoundrel Crossthwaite. I'll do that. I'll do it at once, when I return to Parramatta. The Lord Clive sails for England next week, and we ought to have the answer from Hawley in the twelve months. I'll write—yes. But Lord, Lord—Mrs. Joe—I must be pressing on. I've become so interested in little Sally's business, I've forgotten my own. I must spin along, if I am to take my seat on the bench at 11 o'clock! Will you ask the Prophet for my horse, Mrs. Joe? I must be moving and thank you kindly for your good breakfast. I'm a new man."
"'Tes nothing, y'r Honor. Will you not call in to supper as you return to-night? Joe will be back by then, an' he'd dearly like to see ye, an' have a talk. 'Tes a moonlight night for the rest of your ride home. Maybe ye'd stay th' night with us?" added the hospitable creature, as an after thought.
"Thankye, thankye, Mrs. Joe. I'll call for supper, and obliged to ye. About seven, eh? 'Twill be a heavy day at the Court House, and I doubt whether we'll finish before six o'clock. I'll be glad to spend an hour or so with you and your good man. We'll see about the night then. Good-bye for the present. Yes—we must keep our secret. I can see the force of your argument now. Good-bye."
The Chaplain rode away through the sunny forenoon to attend to his magisterial duties in Windsor. When he dismounted again at the Garledge's door, he had seen to the flogging of fifteen delinquents, had committed two men for trial on capital charges, had ordered the return of five disorderly female prisoners to the Factory at Parramatta, and was a weary and tired man when Joe Garledge took his bridle reins from his hand at the front gate and gave him hearty welcome.
"'Tes raight glad I be to see 'ee, zur. Come along in. Th' missus has supper waitin' ye this half an hour. A long day at th' Court, passon, ye'll have been having, eh?"
"Yes, Joe—a heavy day. Fifteen floggings, no less—an' one of 'em, if I'd made th' laws, should have been a hanging. I'm tired and hungry, and since your good wife invited me this morning, I think I'll stay the night with you. I'm too weary to ride back to Parramatta to-night. An early start in the morning will do as well."
"To be sure, passon. We'm raight glad to have ye wi' us. Do ye go along in, whiles I stable th' horse, and give 'un a bite of corn an' hay. I'll be with 'ee soon."
Garledge—a fine figure of a man, tall, and broad shouldered, and muscular, with red hair and blue eyes, and a handsome stead fast-looking, clean-shaven face—led the horse round to the stable, whilst Mr. Marsden opened the garden gate, and walked up the path.
Little Sally met him in the doorway, and held up her face for a kiss.
"Ah, 'tis good to see ye, Sally, my dear," said the Chaplain, stooping to kiss her. "'Tis good reward after a day of sorrow. Well, Mrs. Joe, I've come back to ye, and I'll rest here to-night, as you were so good as to invite me. I'm a weary, tired man."
"Ye're very welcome, passon." She dropped her voice to a whisper. "Remember—Joe must not know. Ah, me," she spoke aloud again—"Sech a thing he's up to, ye'd not believe, Mr. Marsden—sech temptin' of Providence I never did hear tell of! 'Twill 'maze ye, when ye hear of it. 'Tes unbelievable. An' Mr. Blaxland, who's said to have a level head, too! I never did—I never did!"
Joe entered with a laugh, having overheard his wife's lament.
"Fall to, Mr. Marsden, zur—fall to. No doubt ye're peckish." They seated themselves at table, and the Chaplain said grace. Mrs. Joe had excelled herself in the preparation of a tasty supper, in which a fat roast turkey was the principal item.
When he had blunted the edge of his appetite—after his second helping—Mr. Marsden turned to Joe Garledge, inquiring—"And what's this I hear from your good wife, Joe? She seems to be under an impression that you've taken leave of your senses, and that you and Mr. Blaxland are contemplating going mad together. Let us hear what it is."
Mrs. Garledge took the answer out of Joe's mouth.
"'Tes th' maddest thing was ever thought of," she broke in. "Th' craziest thing! Why, passon, they've put their heads together, an' have made up their minds for to try to cross over th' Blue Mountains, for to see what lies beyond. The idea of it! They're fair crazy, say I."
"What, Joe? What's this! Cross the Blue Mountains! Why, man, 'tis impossible. It has been tried half a score of times since the Colony was founded—to say nothing of the many attempts that runaway prisoners have made, in their wild notion of finding a road to China. Those ranges across the river are insurmountable. Mr. Bass—a man not easily daunted—he was turned back. M. Barralier, the Frenchman—they were too much for him. And Mr. Cayley. Surely ye're not in earnest over it. Who's plan is it? Who means to make this mad attempt?"
Mr. Marsden spoke as though it had been proposed to go to the moon. Joe Garledge laughed good humouredly, before he answered.
"Not so mad, zur—not so mad as it may seem. Mr. Blaxland thinks it can be done, and so do I. It can never be impossible for to cross over dry land—however hard th' road may be. I believe we'll do it. I do indeed, zur," he said earnestly.
"And who are to form the party?"
"Mr. Blaxland, young Mr. William Wentworth, and Mr. William Lawson—him that was Commandant at the Coal River. They've made up their minds to it, and Mr. Blaxland sent for me yesterday to come over to South Creek, where he did ask me to go with them. A great honor, I call it, passon—an' one I'd not think of passin' by. I've given my promise to go, and I mean to. Th' good wife here, says we'm crazy, but 'tes not so, and in a few days she'll think about it as I think. We'll do it afoot, leadin' pack horses. Mr. Blaxland have got Mr. Macquarie's leave to make a trial, an' we're to start in six or seven week's time. Never fear—we'll cross alright, an' be safe back in a month or two."
"And why do you want to go, Joe Garledge? Are ye not content with this fine farm ye've got here, and the prosperity that's come to ye? Why risk losing your life in those wild hills, and leaving Mrs. Joe and little Sally here to wonder all their lives what may have happened to ye."
"'Tes a duty, zur, a plain duty. So Mr. Blaxland says, an' so I agree wi' 'un. What lies beyond must be proved some day. The Colony will grow too small bye-an-bye, and to them that's got th' health an' strength, an' courage for to make the attempt—why they should make it. And think of th' good lands we may discover! If we are successful 'tes certain sure th' Governor will make us good grants. 'Tes to make my future that I wish to go, as much as for aught else. Never fear—it is to be done, and we'll do it. At any rate I'm goin'."
"Well, well," grunted the Chaplain, regarding him wonderingly. "Mayhap ye will, Joe. Your mind is made up?"
"Iss—oh, sure his mind is made up, Mr. Marsden," smiled Mrs. Joe. "We can be sartain sure Joe's mind is made up when his mouth sets that-a-way. Naught I can say, or naught that you can say, will stop him. He'll go—he'll go, if Hell itself was across th' hills, an' old Nick waitin' for him wi' his pitchfork!"
CROSSTHWAITE HALL stood on the high land that lies to the west of where the great lake-like sheet of water of the Prospect Reservoir stretches to-day, a few miles out of Parramatta. You will find no trace of the house now—unless it may be that it is just possible to make out some indication of the line of its foundations in the grass—and the fine garden and orchard that surrounded it in 1813 are vanished and gone likewise. A dairy farmer depastures his cows over the rounded slope of Crossthwaite's Hill, and all that is left of the place as it stood a century ago, is one very old, very gnarled, and very distorted English oak, that is obviously rotting away, and will be gone for ever before another decade has passed by. It is, to-day, as if all trace and recollection of Captain William Crossthwaite, of the Corps of Veterans, and late of His Majesty's Foot Guards, and of the 102nd Regiment, had been purposely wiped out, and obliterated from the face of the earth. It is as if the earth had wished to be free of all memory of the man.
It is strange how similar the designs, and how similar the fruition of the designs, of many of the officers of the early garrison of New South Wales should have been. With some very honorable exceptions, the gentlemen who officered that singular regiment, the New South Wales Corps, were not gentlemen at all. Some, it is true, might claim to be such by virtue of a descent which they had done much to tarnish. But, for the most part, they were men who had made other regimental messes too hot to hold them, or who had scandalised not easily scandalised garrison towns, or had come into the hands of master-financiers with Hebrew cognomens. The further side of the Globe was a location that suited them admirably, was, indeed, little else than a necessary condition of continued existence. If Sydney was seven months away from the gates of the Fleet Prison, why, all the greater recommendation for Sydney. Sydney was just the place for them. And they did their best to make it into, socially and morally, the sort of place that suited their charming tastes.
They saw at once that their regimental pay was not going to be their sole recompense for their exile. Here was a vast new territory that was No Man's Land—rich, unlimited in its resources, and to be had in large quantities almost for the mere asking. And it speedily showed itself to be a place admirably adapted to that species of trading which has been well named "huckstering." The distance of the new Colony from the centres of manufacturing was frequently the cause of shortages in one or other of those commodities which were necessaries of life. Here were noble opportunities for the creation of "corners" in such much needed commodities. A man might do well, for instance, in buying up a shipment of saucepans, or shirtings, or hats, and retailing them at any fancy figure he pleased, being well assured that such things could not be manufactured locally, and that it would be many months before any more of them arrived in Port Jackson. With some amount of good fortune, and dependent upon the position of the individual, even Government stores might be utilised to turn a questionable penny. There was a variety of ways by which a poor but dishonest officer might better his position. And not the least of these were those which had to do with ministering to the inherent viciousness of the prison population.
With the prospect of prosperity always before them, it was usual for the more far seeing of these gentlemen to dream dreams. And the dreams almost invariably had to do with the foundation of Families. They might be outcast from their own in the Old World. What matter—they would be themselves the creators of fresh ones in the New. So they built houses, and laid out gardens, and established studs, and imagined themselves to be very much in the way of becoming something analagous to county magnates at home. You may find the remains of a hundred of these country seats in the districts of Parramatta, Windsor, Emu Plains, and the Lower Hunter, but you will find many of them roofless and ruinous, and, in hardly any will the name of the present tenant be the name of the tenant of a hundred years ago.
Captain William Crossthwaite, of Crossthwaite Hall, near Prospect Hill, was a very typical example of these gentlemen—and the present condition of his manor is very similar to the condition of many another of the same ill-begotten sort. But in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirteen, this was not a contingency that gave any exercise to the mental processes of Captain William Crossthwaite.
It is unfortunate that our introduction to him should take place upon an occasion when he does not appear in a light that is either creditable to himself, or to the undoubtedly very handsome lady who presided over his establishment, and whom his convict servants—with their tongues in their cheeks—were always careful to address as "Mrs. Crossthwaite."
In front of the house—a stoutly built one of stone, with an upper storey, and a wide verandah running round three sides of it—a well kept garden extended down the slope. In it was walking this sunny morning a very elegant lady, very becomingly dressed, of a good figure and graceful carriage, and undeniable beauty of feature. It is no exaggeration to say that Fanny Martin, at the age of thirty, was one of the handsomest women in all Australia. Indeed, you might have searched Pall Mall, for an hour or more, before you would find a handsomer.
Not too busily engaged in rooting weeds out of a pathway, as he squatted on his hams, was a very hideous old man, clad in old and tattered convict clothing. The lady, holding a silk sunshade over her shoulders, sauntered down towards him. As she approached, the old man looked up, and scowled at her, spat on the ground in a contemptuous fashion, and went on with his work, taking not the slightest notice of the lady or her elegance. He muttered a filthy curse to himself as she drew nigh to him—but she did not hear this—and the absence of any form of salute on the prisoner's part caused a look that was a combination of sneer and malevolence to harden her beautiful face. She stopped a yard or two from him, and looked down at his back, which he had swung towards her as she approached.
"O'Neill!" she said sharply. "O'Neill!"
No answer. The old man went on tearing up his weeds with a rusty dinner knife. The lady prepared for action by closing her sunshade. She took a step towards the convict, and prodded him, not very gently, in the back.
Instantly, he spun round on his heels, and crouched, glaring up at her from under the frayed brim of his hat, all the hate and contempt that it was possible to convey in the black scowl that distorted his wrinkled features. He was strangely like a baboon.
"Well?" he grunted, "what is it now?"
"Stand up, you old devil!" imperiously commanded the lady.
The old man shuffled to his full height, which was only some five and a half feet, and stood sulkily facing her. She was tall, for a woman, and still looked down on him. Smiling sneeringly, she said to him:
"Don't you know what to do when a lady addresses you, O'Neill. I had thought that the flogger had taught you better manners. Don't you know?"
"Sure, thin, I do," he answered hoarsely, "whin a lady does be addressin' me."
"Well, why don't you do it, then, my good man? Must you be sent into Parramatta, to the magistrates, to learn your lesson again! Why do you not remove your hat?"
With the quick wit of his race, the old man's answer came, sharp and terse:
"I ain't bin addressed by a lady!"
"Aw—rt' hell wid ye, ye trollope! Ye're no better thin what I am—ye're but a lag y'silf, th' same as me. T' hell wid ye!"
The lady went white with rage, and lifted her sunshade as if to strike him with it. With a quick grab, he snatched it from her, broke it across his knee, and threw the silken ruin on to a flower bed. And that was the end of his mutiny.
Captain William Crossthwaite had come on to the verandah, unobserved by either of them, just in time to witness the old man's outburst. He sprang into the garden, ran quickly down the few yards of pathway that lay between, and drove his fist with a curse into his face. The convict crumpled up, and lay in a heap in the path. Captain Crossthwaite kicked him savagely in the body, and turned to the lady.
"Damme—'tis that old carrion again, Fanny. We'll have him skinned alive for this."
"Thank you, Will, dear," she simpered, smiling at him. "La—I declare you are always at hand to protect me! So opportune. The baseness of these creatures passes all belief."
She held out her hand to him, and Captain Crossthwaite very gallantly took the shapely member by the finger tips, delicately, and kissed it.
"Such cattle!" she murmured, smiling. "Positively—such cattle."
"I shall send him in to the Bench this afternoon. Damme, he shall have five-hundred for this!" He glared at the inert, heap of rags and bones.
Giving his arm ceremoniously to the beautiful lady, Captain Crossthwaite escorted her to the verandah. The old man lay unconscious in the garden, with a broken jaw and a broken rib. At the door of the house the lady turned to look at him, and was convulsed with merriment.
"La—Will," she laughed in a silvery tone, "you are so quick! And so strong—so very strong, I declare! Just look at the fellow! 'Tis very amusing. You may kiss me, William. My brave deliverer!"
It was breakfast time, and they seated themselves at table in a room that opened into the verandah. Captain Crossthwaite's butler—a real butler, from a ducal establishment, who had come to New South Wales because of horse racing, silver spoons, and a pawn shop in Covent Garden—waited on them, with that tacit skill of anticipation which is the distinguishing accomplishment of the good butler. A silent, swift, and dexterous man was Thomas Hardy, and nearly as great a scoundrel as his present master.
"Hardy," said Captain Crossthwaite, "after breakfast, send two men down into the garden, and have them carry indoors that old blackguard O'Neill. Lock him up. I am sending him into Parramatta to the Magistrates this afternoon. I was obliged to knock him down, and he is unconscious. He attempted to assault Mrs. Crossthwaite."
"Yessir," answered the butler, uninterestedly and decorously, and went on handing dishes.
"My love," said the master of the house, "I am going to Sydney to-morrow. Business. Is there anything——"
She interrupted him eagerly.
"Oh—take me with you, Will. I do so want to go. You will take me, won't you?"
He paused, and shook his head. A handsome man was Captain Crossthwaite—in his own unpleasing way. Tall, well-built, athletic, not more than thirty-five, he was one who would have attracted attention anywhere. But his frown seemed to darken his somewhat swarthy countenance, and, in an indescribable way, to write up a sign that indicated the kind of man that dwelt behind the regular features with the dark eyes on which it was written.
"No—I cannot do that. Not this time, at any rate. I have to call upon His Excellency—over a certain matter—and I shall only remain a day, and ride back here on the following one. Perhaps another time."
Fanny threw herself back in her chair, and looked at him petulantly. Something of the same hardness came into her beautiful face that had come into it when the old convict had insulted her in the garden. He saw it, and his face hardened also. She said nothing for the moment. With her fork, she scored little patterns of curved lines in the snowy tablecloth.
"I do not want to go particularly," he went on. "But there is an appointment going begging that I rather fancy would suit me very well—that might turn out to be a rather profitable one. It would fit in very well with the accomplishment of one or two designs of mine, if the Governor were to nominate me for it."
"What is it?" she asked.
"Naval Officer of the port. I would have the supervision of the shipping—and such supervision would prove vastly useful to me, with respect to cargoes of certain—well, forbidden things that would be immensely profitable if they could only be brought into the colony."
"But you would need to live in Sydney to carry out your duties?"
"Yes. But it would be twelve months before the appointment would be filled."
"And to live with me in Sydney—it would be necessary to marry me, wouldn't it?"
She leaned forward, and looked across the table eagerly into his frowning eyes.
And then the man's brutality—never very much below the surface—showed itself unmistakably. He smiled as he spoke.
"Listen!" he said. "You forget. You are a prisoner of the Crown—and my assigned servant. You have not even a conditional pardon. You are here as my—housekeeper. A man does not marry his housekeeper. It is not done. It is not good form. More especially when she is his assigned servant—and," he added cruelly, "when she is his mistress. No, Fanny, my love, we will do very well as we are. We will not discuss marriage."
"You devil!" she hissed at him, as she rose, and swept from the room with crimson cheeks.
He laughed as she went, and turned to his butler, who had come in in his noiseless fashion by another door, and evidently wished to speak to him.
"If you please, y'r honor, O'Neill's gone. The cowboy saw him making into the bush."
"Gone, is he! Well, d——n you, have him brought back. He can't have gone far. Send after him."
"Yes, y'r honor."
As he left the room, he murmured gently to himself, so that his master could not hear.
"He'll come back—and for you, ye swine! Ye drove a nail into your coffin with your fist, my boy. He'll come back—but 'twill be a bad moment for you. Captain Crossthwaite."
And Mr. Hardy set himself, painstakingly, not to capture the absconder, Daniel O'Neill, per ship Hereford.
THE butler Hardy had seen the whole affair between Fanny Martin and the old convict O'Neill in the garden before breakfast. He had seen, too, the smashing blow with which Captain Crossthwaite had laid the old man out. Mainly because he hated his master, rather than from any feeling of sympathy and pity for old Danny, he had whispered to his pantryman:
"Take this flask of brandy, and sneak down into the garden and give it to old Dan. The cove give 'im a dinnyaiser on th' jaw just now, an' spread 'im out. Tell 'im for Gawd's sake to clear into th' bush. Crossthwaite's goin' to' send 'im into Par'matta to be skinned alive. Tell 'im we'll send 'im some grub later on, if 'e says w'ere 'e'll be. 'Urry now, an' don't let 'em see you from the dinin'-room. Old Dan'd do best to take to th' bush altogether. We'll not trouble to find 'im."
"Wots 'e done?" asked the man.
"Oh, on'y sauced that——baggage in there, d——n 'er. She 'ad 'im flogged last week—a 'undred—for not touchin' 'is 'at w'en she went by. 'E'll do th' both of 'em in for this—an' a good job, too."
And so the old man, recovering consciousness after a couple of mouthfuls of Captain Crossthwaite's best French brandy—specially selected by Mr. Hardy for his own consumption—had crawled out of the garden and into the scrub with his broken jaw and his broken ribs, and, after tying the former up with his grimy neckcloth, and refreshing himself with several copious pulls at the flask, had started a career as a bushranger, which was destined to attain to some amount of notoriety.
Although he was old—he was a "first fleeter"—and had endured twenty-five years of toil, hardship, and suffering, Danny O'Neill was still a strong man, with muscles that were like whipcord, a heart of iron, and nerves of steel. Nor was he really altogether deserving of the title of "old Danny." He was only fifty. But the unsparing brutality under which half his life had been lived had silvered his hair, bent his back, and furrowed his countenance, so that any casual acquaintance would readily have guessed that he would never again celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday.
Creeping out of the garden on hands and knees, he quickly gained the cover of a field of maize, whose tall, dried stalks afforded him ample shelter and concealment from the house. Beyond the cornfield lay the virgin bush, which stretched away to the Hawkesbury to the west and north, and to Port Phillip to the south—only broken here and there by the infrequent clearings of pioneer settlement. Danny had all Australia for his city of refuge—and a poor and hard enough refuge it was for such as he.
His head ached, and his broken jaw throbbed and hurt, whilst every now and then the rib which Captain Crossthwaite's cruel kick had fractured caused him a spasm of sharp pain. His back was still unhealed from the flogging which he had endured the week before. But so scarred and toughened had his hide become, by reason of the constant flagellation it had undergone, that the scars were neither so deep nor so numerous as they would have been on one who had suffered the torture of the lash for the first time. He thought nothing of his back. It was the stabbing pain in his side, and the pulsing ache of his head, that drew occasional outbursts of filthy blasphemy from him.
What a life! What a hell of existence to be atoned for, so the Chaplain told him, by a fiercer hell in the world to come! Dublin guttersnipe—a foundling, a bastard—pickpocket, sneak thief, gaolbird, highway robber, and transported at the age of twenty-four for being supposed to know more about the death of a watchman than he would admit, or could be proved against him—he had come to New South Wales with the only fortune his unknown parents had bestowed upon him—vigorous, healthy manhood. And, for a quarter of a century, his gaolers had striven to beat the manhood out of him. In part they had succeeded. The "System" had made him into something only a little better, and sometimes a little lower, than a beast. But the foundations of his manhood remained—his fierce, indomitable spirit, his obstinate refusal to admit decrepitude and servility into the list of his characteristics. They had bent him and bled him, but they had not broken him.
He was doing to day what he had done before, half a dozen times. From Castle Hill he had run away, from Sydney, from the Green Hills, from the Coal River, from the Derwent settlement in Van Diemen's Land—even in tiny Norfolk Island he had snatched a few weeks, or a few days, of dearly-to-be-paid-for liberty, that were but interludes of miserable starvation, and cruelly hunted, incessantly harried freedom from the gaol gang, the goads of the overseers, and the terror of the triangles. Of late years, a sort of sullen acquiescence in things had earned, partly on account of his appearance of senility, the privilege of assignment of his labour, instead of its employment in gaol-gangs, road-gangs, and iron-gangs. He was cunning enough to trade upon his appearance, and at Crossthwaite Hall—not from pity, but because he did not appear to be physically capable of harder toil—he had been set to work in the comparatively easy office of gardener's assistant. But there he had been twice flogged for insolence—on both occasions offered—or supposed to have been offered to "Mrs." Crossthwaite. For this last offence he knew well that he would not only have been almost, if not altogether, lashed to the point of death, but also, failing his demise under the cat-o'-nine-tails, would have been returned to the gaol-gang for the rest of his days. To escape that, and with a vaguely bitter desire for some hideous revenge, he dragged his aching body through the bush to-day, determined on death rather than recapture.
Through the hot noon, and during the afternoon he pushed on through the thickly-timbered country, faint from hunger, but a little sustained by the flask which Hardy had sent out to him. He dragged his weary body along the tall arcades of blue gums, resting sometimes for half-an-hour or so by the banks of little forest streams. Carefully avoiding occasional clearings round settlers' huts, he made his way steadily towards the north-west, guiding himself by the declining sun, and by the time it was close to the crest of the ranges in the west, he had put a good ten miles between himself and Crossthwaite Hall. Just at sunset, he came suddenly upon a little camp of blacks, squatting round their tiny fire, beside a scanty shelter of boughs that were only a break-wind. There was a man and two gins—one an old woman, and the other young, and not so ill-looking. Two piccaninnies played with a couple of mongrel dogs. They were broiling a scrub wallaby, hair and all, as the convict came upon them.
The man jumped to his feet at the growl of the dogs, and picking up a spear from the ground, threatened the white man with it. The old woman set up a shrill screaming, but the young one only crouched by the fire and watched.
Danny held up both hands to the big blackfellow to show that he was unarmed, pointed to his bandaged face, rubbed his lean belly, and groaned—in a pantomimic effort to convey to them the fact that he was helpless, hungry and hurt. It was not without its effect. The black lowered his lance, and stared at the newcomer.
"Where you belong?" he asked him, in good enough English.
"Belong Misser Crossthwaite—bin run away 'longa bush," explained Danny.
"Huh—baal budgeree that pfeller Cross'waite," grunted the native. "D——n bad pfeller that one. Him be do dat?" pointing to Danny's face.
Danny nodded, and squatted down. The blackfellow dropped his spear in the grass, and also squatted. He tore with his fingers some half raw meat from the smoking wallaby, and offered it to Danny. The latter took it, rent it into as small fragments as he could, and swallowed them whole. He could not chew the meat, but knew that his iron digestive apparatus would assimilate it well enough.
When he had stuffed a pound or so into himself—while the blacks gorged themselves greedily—he asked the native a question.
"You bin know Barky Jack?"
The blackfellow nodded.
"Where Barky Jack belong now?"
His host waved his arm towards the crimson west.
"Close up this place?"
The black nodded vigorously.
"S'pose you show me—Jack bin give 'em plenty flour, sugar, baccy. You bin show this pfeller?"
"Yes—me bin show 'em. Plenty big pfeller feed—plour, tsugar—plenty baccy?"
"My word—big feller feed—rum."
The native jumped up, and, without picking up his spear, signed to Danny to follow him. The convict hobbled after, and in ten minutes or so they came to the bank of a steep creek, densely wooded over, and almost hidden in vines and creepers that climbed amongst the roofing branches. There was a smell of smoke, and the gleam of a fire shone up from the creek-bed.
"Jacky!" cried the black.
"Hello!" roared a great voice. "That you Boolong?"
"Pfeller lookin' for you, Jacky. All same convic'—run away, Cross'waite."
"D——n his soul! Come down, then. Any one's welcome to me that's run off from that swine. Come down."
The black led the way, and presently they were in the creek-bed. It was a tiny rivulet, and on the other side, in a wide, open cave, formed by a projecting ledge of rock, two men were seated beside a bright fire. Leaning against its walls were two muskets, and a plentiful supply of stores littered the floor of the cave.
One of these men was a huge creature, a black-bearded giant with a shaggy mane of hair, who reclined, smoking, against the back of the cave. The other—a weedy, wizen-faced, sharp-featured little man who looked, and was, the typical Cockney pickpocket, was attending to a bubbling pot which stood on stones in the midst of the fire, and diffused a savoury steam of stewing meats.
"By thunder," cried the big man, "'tis old Danny! What brings you here, Danny, and how'd ye come across Boolong? Have ye tired of y'r new mistress—or did th' Captain send ye out to ask us in to supper? An' who's been trying to kill ye? Look at him, Peter—he's a sight for sore eyes, ain't he?"
The man at the fire stood up and peered into Danny's muffled face.
"Vell," he said, "the old covey do look a bit chipped! Wot hails ye, me bold Daniel? Ye ain't no better lookin' than ye was in th' hisland. Sit down, cully, sit ye down."
Danny stretched himself on the rocky floor beside the fire. Boolong crouched near him. The Irishman mumbled his story.
"And thin he gits this trollope, Fanny Martin. 'Missus Crossthwaite' she's called—but she's no more his missus than me. Twice she's had me flogged f'r ins'lence f'r not touchin' me hat to her ladyship when she do be comin' prinkin' t'rough th' garden. Th' first time 'twas fifty. Last, week 'twas a hundred. An' this mornin' she comes after me again. She goes for to strike me wid her umbrelly, whin I tells her she ain't a lady, an' some more besides, an' I pulls it out of her hand and smashes it, and Black Billy comes tearin' down, an' hits me in th' jaw. Th' swine must have kicked me—for me rib's broke. W'en I comes to, young Jimmy Carmody is stoopin' over me wid a flask of brandy. He's bin sent down be Hardy, th' butler, to tell me to clear out. Crossthwaite's goin' to' sind me in to Par'matta for more flogging. I knew ye was hereabouts somewhere, Barky—so I was a-lookin' fer ye. Be charnce I meets wid Boolong here. An' here I am? Will ye not give him some flour, an' sugar an' baccy. Mebbe a drop of rum. For I'll be useful to ye, Barky. Ye know that. And betune us we will do for Crossthwaite, an' his——missus. I know ye're lovin' him no better nor what I do. By G——, we'll make him pay!"
"Amen to that," grunted the big man. "Ye're right welcome, Danny. We're lying low for a while. 'Twill give ye a chance to mend. Is y'r face hurt bad?"
"'Tis bruk—th' jaw of me. Bad luck t' th' —— that done it."
"Give the nigger a drink, Peter, and some flour, and sugar, and baccy. Boolong, you keep 'em good look out, ye black scum."
"My oat', Barky—me look out alright. You no be prightened. Me look out well."
Peter Collier, the Cockney, served out a liberal supply of the luxuries mentioned, and the black disappeared in the darkness, as silently as a shadow melting into deeper shades.
The big man filled a pannikin with rum from a little keg, took a deep swig, and passed it on to O'Neill.
"T' Hell," he roared, "t' Hell with all th' world—except ourselves. An' deep Hell to Billy Crossthwaite! Drink hearty, Danny."
AT ten o'clock in the morning Captain Crossthwaite, dressed in his uniform as an officer of the Corps of Veterans—that independable reserve which had been formed out of those officers and men of the Rum Corps who wished to remain in the colony when it had been relieved by the 73rd, after the readjustment of the Bligh rebellion—walked across the bridge over the Tank Stream, and up the hill to Government House. He had driven in from Prospect the day before, and had sent a note to Mr. Campbell, the Secretary, requesting an interview with His Excellency for the following morning. An answer had been received by him as he breakfasted at his lodging in Sydney, announcing, through Mr. Secretary Campbell, the Governor's gracious willingness to give audience to Captain Crossthwaite at ten-thirty. So, knowing punctuality to be one of Major-General Macquarie's firmest principles, he presented himself at the big cottage on the hillside with an ample margin of time to spare.
Sydney, in 1813, was a quaint village, but just blossoming into the status of a town—as it had budded from a camp into a village. Its crooked streets were beginning to take on the shape that they have to-day. Macquarie had found the place in a condition of disarray that did not accord with his orderly ideas of neatness and system, and had thrown himself with great enthusiasm into the task of setting it in order. He had divided it up into police districts, and had set himself to straightening out, as far as possible, the tortuous tracks which had done but indifferent duty as streets during the Governments of his four predecessors—Phillip, Hunter, King, and Bligh. At the cost of some hardship to individuals who had "squatted" as they thought fit along the valley of the Tank Stream, and whom he found it necessary to evict from their holdings in many instances, he had arranged the highways on as rectangular a plan as possible. Those who could show some title to the sites where their dwellings or business places stood were compensated by grants elsewhere, and, as a rule, made very good bargains for themselves. Even some who had no earthly right to their positions found themselves better off by the rearrangement. A few, who displayed contumacious resentment of the tidying up, were very speedily ejected, and given to understand, in no unmistakable fashion, that to incur the Governor's displeasure was not a trifling matter by any means, either in the present or in the hereafter.
The thoroughfares of Sydney are crooked, and narrow, and irregular enough even now—but had it not been for Macquarie, that part of it, at least, which constitutes its main business centre, would have been as curious a network of diagonal lanes, and crooked alley ways and passages, as are to be found in London within a half-mile radius of the Bank of England. Had he had the services at his disposal of Mr. Surveyor Hoddle, who laid out Melbourne—and, incidentally, on a similar plan, Grafton in New South Wales—there is no doubt that present day Sydney would have been, with its unrivalled situation, a perfect model for the City Beautiful.
In those days Sydney Cove extended far into the town. Government House, standing on the south-western corner of Phillip and Bridge Streets, or thereabouts, looked down on the blue waters of the little bay which sheltered the scanty shipping of the new settlement. On the western side they ran well up to where Bridge and Pitt Streets intersect to-day. Along the valley, white and yellow in the sunlight, and with dark-brown, shingled roofs, the little dwellings of the citizens of the twenty-five year old metropolis of Australia clustered and straggled. Up on the 'Rocks' were some more pretentious dwellings—for the most part occupied by military and civil officials, and a few of the merchant class, who were beginning to find a footing in Sydney.
The 'Rocks' was the fashionable quarter of the town in '13. Woolloomooloo was a farming and dairying district. Brickfield Hill was an arid expanse of clay pits. Darling Harbour was Cockle Ray, and an excellent fishing ground, along whose shores grew geebungs and five-corners. The Island of Mattewai in the main stream, where Fort Denison was built in the 'Fifties—the Pinchgut of the convicts—was a little wooded islet, standing perhaps a little higher than the top of the martello tower of the old fort. Not so long before, it had been ornamented by a gibbet. The North Shore was a range of forest clad hills, such as you may see in Broken Bay to-day.
This was Sydney, as Captain Crossthwaite saw it, pausing a moment on the gravel drive before Government House, ere he made his presence known to the Governor's Secretary.
An orderly met him at the door, and took his card into Mr. Campbell. Presently he returned with that gentleman's compliments, and would Captain Crossthwaite be so good as to step into the Secretary's office?
Mr. John Thomas Campbell, Secretary to His Excellency Major-General Lachlan Macquarie, C.B., Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief in and over His Majesty's Territory of New South Wales, was a dry, precise, and extremely canny Scot, who was not wanting in a sense of somewhat saturnine humour. He rose to his feet and bowed, as Captain Crossthwaite entered the room.
"Good morning to ye, Captain Crossthwaite," he said. "Pray be seated. I hope I see you well. His Excellency will no be many minutes."
"Very well, thank you, Mr. Campbell," replied Captain Crossthwaite returning the other's polite salute, and seating himself upon the chair to which the Secretary had pointed. He was a little nervous—a state of feeling which was not unknown to many who had been of the anti-Bligh faction in the rebellion of 1808, when they were due to meet Bligh's successor. He was not alone, by any means, in his sense of being under observation, and tolerance-on-good-behaviour.
"And might I make so bold as to enquire the nature of your business with His Excellency, Captain Crossthwaite?" insinuatingly ventured the Secretary, rubbing the palms of his hands together, as he leaned his elbows upon the writing table at which he had reseated himself. "It may save time, ye ken, if ye will explain it to me."
Captain Crossthwaite stiffened.
"I beg that you will excuse me, Mr. Campbell," he said coldly—"The affair which brings me here this morning is one for His Excellency's ears alone. I hope you will pardon me."
"Oh, sairtainly—sairtainly," smiled Mr. Campbell, with bland affability. "The Governor's no' in a very good humour the morn—I fear ye may find him a little bit deeficult to-day. A little short, perhaps. I just thocht I might give ye a word in season. A little bit deeficult, I think. Yes—a little short, ye ken. However——"
A handbell tinkled in the next room, and the Secretary rose hurriedly, and went to a door behind him.
"Yes, your Excellency," Captain Crossthwaite heard him answer, as he held the door ajar. "He's here now. Will ye step in, Captain Crossthwaite," he turned to the visitor, as he threw the door wide open, "His Excellency will see ye th' noo."
Captain Crossthwaite rose, and marched stiffly across the room——obviously ill at ease.
Macquarie sat behind a table that was covered with neatly arranged papers. He acknowledged his visitor's deferential bow, by a slight inclination of his head, but did not rise to greet him.
"Will you please be seated, Captain Crossthwaite?" The Governor indicated a chair, and his visitor sat himself upon it, a little uneasily. Macquarie 's fine brown eyes gazed at him steadily—gravely, and a little sternly. His rugged, quaint face was set in lines that did not seem to Captain Crossthwaite to be either compliant, or with much possibility in them of a deference to his wishes. It was a face that could be hard as steel, or kindly and benevolent. There was little indication in it of a capacity for humour. But there was an insistence upon the dignity of its owner that was very impressive, and never left it. Perhaps, had you or I looked into the room that morning, we would have come to a conclusion that a good man and a bad man faced one another. We would have had little difficulty in deciding which of the two was the good man.
"And to what, sir, may I ask, do I owe the honor of this visit?" the Governor opened the interview.
Captain Crossthwaite cleared his throat nervously. He felt that he had entered upon a task which was not altogether an easy one to carry out—the convincing of His Excellency that he was an eminently fit and proper person to undertake the administration of an important office under the Government.
"I have learned, your Excellency," he began, "that there is likely to be a vacancy before long in the position of Naval Officer?" he spoke in a manner that indicated deferential curiosity.
Macquarie nodded, and waited for him to continue. Captain Crossthwaite did not find his silence stimulating. He paused for a moment or two, as if seeking some suitable words in which to phrase his request. The unwavering brown eyes steadily contemplated his dark countenance.
"Yes?" said Macquarie. "And if so, sir—if so?"
"Well, your Excellency—er—it has occurred to me that I should like to offer my services to your Excellency, with a view to filling the position. I—er—thought that perhaps your Excellency might be disposed to consider my request with—er—with some amount of favour, in consideration—er—of my previous service in the Guards, and in the New South Wales Corps—and—er—because of the fact that my efforts as a colonist in the Territory have not been without some success. May I venture to hope that your Excellency will be pleased to consider my suitability to the appointment? I have a very full knowledge of the business affairs of the Colony, sir."
"Yes, Captain Crossthwaite—quite so. No doubt you have a very full knowledge of the commercial side of this community. Pray proceed, sir."
"I—er—do not think your Excellency, that I have more to say than that which has made my request known to you. May I hope for your favourable consideration?"
Macquarie drummed with his fingers upon the table, and seemed to think a little before he made his reply. All the time he continued to search Captain Crossthwaite's countenance with his eyes. His mood seemed to be reflective, as though he sought to recall some circumstances concerning his visitor. At length he spoke, harshly, the visitor thought:
"You were in the Guards, Mr. Crossthwaite?"
"Yes, sir. The Coldstreams."
"And you exchanged from the Coldstreams into the New South Wales Corps?"
"Yes, your Excellency."
"Why, Sir—why did you leave the Guards for the 102nd?"
"Well, your Excellency, I was desirous of coming to this new world. I wished to assist in the development of New South Wales."
"A worthy ambition, Captain Crossthwaite. You left, also, I am told, because you were heavily in debt. Also, my information goes, because you had eloped with the daughter of a worthy man—who was formerly a non-commissioned officer in one of the Household Regiments—who would have nothing to do with you." The brown eyes had hardened curiously, and the Governor leaned forward across the table, picked up a quill pen and pointed the feathered end of it at the somewhat disturbed gentleman opposite to him.
He went on mercilessly.
"And where is your wife, Captain Crossthwaite?"
"I—I do not know, your Excellency. She abandoned me, soon after landing in this country."
A look of contempt came into Macquarie's face. He shook the pen at Captain Crossthwaite.
"No!" he thundered. "You abandoned her, sir—heartlessly, cruelly. No one knows what has become of her. You made no effort to find her. She may be alive. Or she may be dead. The fact remains, sir, that you are living with another woman—a notorious woman—a prisoner of the Crown. And that you know not, and make no effort to discover the fate of the woman you have treated so badly. You offer me—as a ground for preferment in my choice of a gentleman to fill the highly responsible position of Naval Officer—your record of service in the 102nd. I am not deceived in that record, sir. You took a leading part in the deposition by the Corps of my predecessor, Captain Bligh—and that, notwithstanding the fact that Captain Bligh had very generously—too generously, I think—given you the grant of land which forms your estate at Prospect Hill, the basis of your present undeserved prosperity, sir. You were one of the foremost of the rebels who invaded this house, and forcibly seized the person of the Governor—the representative of His Majesty. You have traded and trafficked, sir, in ways that do you no credit, and which were, and I regret to say still are, peculiar to many of your brother officers of that most unworthy regiment to which you were—translated—from the Guards. Your private life is immoral, sir. You live in open sin with a woman whose record is only worse than your own, in that she has placed herself within the clutches of the law. And for what! For murder, sir—murder! Truly, Mr. Crossthwaite, you have an excellent record to back your application with! Ah—you are going? Very well, sir. It would have been more decent in you not to have come. But let me tell you this, sir—that I have my eye upon you. I have my eye upon you. I am not blind to your mode of life, sir. Be very careful, Captain Crossthwaite—be very careful. That is all I have to say, sir. I wish you good morning."
Speechless, Captain Crossthwaite stood upon his feet, and glared at the Governor. His Excellency glared back at him. There was no kindness or benevolence in the clear eyes now. They were hostile and angry. He tinkled his little table bell, and Mr. Campbell appeared at the door.
"Show Captain Crossthwaite out, if you please Mr. Campbell," said His Excellency.
Captain Crossthwaite was white with passion. His hands trembled, as he picked up his cap. The paleness of his face seemed to add to its blackness. Only with an effort did he restrain himself. But those hard eyes were compelling eyes. He bowed stiffly, said nothing, turned on his heel, and marched through the door which Mr. Campbell held open for him.
Mr. Campbell did not speak, as he preceded the visitor down the hall. But there was something about his face that might have suggested a smirk. He bowed to Captain Crossthwaite at the door.
"A fine morning, sir," he said mildly, "a lovely morning."
"D——n the morning, sir!" Captain Crossthwaite exploded, hastening from the house.
Mr. Campbell shook with silent laughter, as he walked back to his office.
STILL raging with impotent fury, Captain Crossthwaite shook the dust of Sydney from his feet after the mid-day meal, and began his journey back to Crossthwaite Hall. He vented his wrath with the Governor upon everyone who was a safe mark for his ill-humor. The landlord of the inn where he had put up, the waiter, and the groom all had a share of his evil temper, and some of the roughness of his tongue. Even old Denis Mulcahy, a one-legged veteran of Aboukir Bay, the keeper of the toll-bar on the Parramatta Road—a genial character, reputed to be something of a wit—came in for a volley of abuse for his slowness in answering the ruffled gentleman's imperious summons to open the way for him.
"A pretty boy ye are, captain," muttered the old man, as he stooped to pick up the coin which the scowling traveller had flung at him with a curse. "A swate chicken! 'Tis in me mind y'r pride'll have a fall one of these days, me lad. If 'twas mesilf was twinty years of age, an' me two legs under me, ye'd have come off y'r horse for that."
He supped at James Larra's inn at Parramatta, and continued his journey to Prospect Hill when the moon rose, about eight o'clock.
The road lay through tall timber, a mere bush track, as indeed most of the colony's roads were at that time. They were few and incredibly bad. With the moon behind them, the shadows of horse and rider danced along in front upon the dusty surface of the dried cart ruts that made the highway. Even now, hours after the first bitterness of his rebuff at the Governor's hands, Captain Crossthwaite fumed, and cursed, and muttered maledictions to himself.
"The d——d pompous old Jack-in-office," he growled to his horse's ears; "He's evidently been spying out all he can about me—and he seems to have found a good deal for his trouble. Someone has been talking to him. Someone who owes me a trifle. Well, I daresay there are a few—I've never worried myself about making enemies. But I'd like to know who this one is, confound him! And he knew about Sergeant Garledge's wench, too. I wonder what became of her. Heavens—that was a mistake! I was sure the father would come down handsomely. If he had done so things would have been very different. But for Macquarie to cast up Fanny Martin at me! I thought that had been kept fairly discreet. You never can tell, though—convict servants talk. Well, well—she won't last long. I'll have to send her away, I suppose, and settle down to real respectability. If I don't make a semblance of it, I'll have that prying old Scot poking his nose still further into my affairs. He's got me marked over the Bligh business. Hullo! What's that?"
A bright glare had come into the sky, seemingly from some large conflagration that raged two or three miles off in the direction he was going. The feathery tops of the tall gum trees showed out darkly against it, and now and again the leaves on their topmost branches sparkled in the light. He drew in his rein and paused to watch it, wonderingly.
Suddenly a thought alarmed him.
"Heavens!" he cried, "it might be Crossthwaite Hall. That's about the position of the place. Great God! What if that infernal Fanny has set fire to the house, and decamped? She has the temper for it."
He set spurs to his horse and urged him into a sharp canter. The glare grew brighter as the minutes went by, and presently he could see, against the glowing belly of a huge column of smoke high in the sky, sparks and incandescent flotsam of burning fragments that blotted out the stars. He urged his horse into a gallop.
Within about a mile of the scene of the fire—of whose location he had now little doubt—a man ran out into a patch of moonlight, and waved his arms, and shouted to the rider to stop. The latter drew a horse pistol from his holster as he reined in his mount, and aimed it at the white face of the bareheaded man, who danced about in front of him.
"Out of the way, you villain—or I'll put a bullet through your head!" cried the captain.
"Stop, stop—for God's sake, stop, Captain Crossthwaite!" cried the man, ducking his head, and shielding his face with his bent arm. "They're after ye—they mean to have your life."
"Who's after me—and what's that fire!" Crossthwaite pressed his frightened horse forward, still covering the man with the pistol. As he came close to him the fellow's features showed up plainly in the moonlight—a fat, sensual, unprepossessing face, and the face of one who was obviously badly scared.
"Why, I know ye, don't I? You used to work for me at one time, didn't you?"
"'Tis Casey McGirr, y'r honor, who worked in the saw-pit. For th' love of heaven, y'r honor, don't go on. They're out to murder you. 'Tis y'r honor's house they've set afire to—after robbin' it—an' they're waitin' for ye to come home, as ye left word ye'd do this night. They've planned for to flog ye to death—I heard 'em do it."
"You heard them! How came you to hear them—and who are they?"
"'Tis Barky Jack—John Williamson, and his gang, y'r honor—an' Danny O'Neill's with them. There's a dozen or more of them, an' they're mad, fightin' drunk with y'r honor's wines. 'Tis small mercy they'll be showing you if they catches y'r honor. Better be makin' back to Parramatta and gettin' th' sojers out. They won't go far this night. They're too drunk to go far, an', besides, they 're dead set on catchin' y'r honor. 'Tis you they want, more than th' loot out of y'r honor's house."
"How come you to know all this, McGirr? You absconded from my service, didn't you?"
The man fell to whining and trembling.
"Yes, if y'r honor pleases—I didn't know when I was well off. I was with Barky Jack in th' bush, y'r honor. I was forced to do it for want of food—forced to join in with him and his men. If they knew I'd saved y'r honor, 'tis a dead man I'd be. Fur y'r honor will allow I've but just saved y'r honor's life."
"Yes, I quite see that, McGirr. You were always a —— informer when your own skin was in danger. I believe you saved your own life in Ireland, didn't you, by turning King's evidence, and helping to hang your mates? 'Tis your style, isn't it? Well, I don't trust you much, but there may be truth in what you say this time. Jump up behind me, and I'll take you back to Parramatta. I'll get the soldiers."
"If you please, y'r honor!"
"Well, what is it? Hurry, man—hurry; we've no time to waste."
"May I wait here for y'r honor an' th' sojers, sir? I'm an absconder—there's a warrant out for me. If y'r honor will but ask for me pardon for what I've done for ye this night, I'll serve y'r honor faithful th' rest of me days."
Captain Crossthwaite laughed contemptuously. Cowering in the moonlight, McGirr looked the abject creature he was—one who would sell his brother for his own cowardly ends.
"All right. I owe you the pardon. But you're a poor thing."
He wheeled his horse and spurred furiously back to Parramatta.
"That ought, to serve me a good turn," muttered the renegade, as he slunk to the roadside, and sat down on a fallen tree-trunk.
Captain Crossthwaite lost no time in getting back to Parramatta. He stretched his horse to a hand gallop, and raced into the quiet little town with a rush and a clatter that brought many of its startled citizen to their open doors, shading guttering candles with their hands, whilst they stared after the wild rider. At the barrack gates he flung himself from the saddle, threw the reins to the sentry with an oath, and ran inside to the officers' quarters.
A company of the 73rd was stationed in the town, and he knew that its commander was a man prompt in emergency, and well to be depended upon in such a crisis as this. Captain Mackarness was a dour and godly Presbyterian—a very typical officer of the old Highland Light Infantry—but he was a man who was competent and quick in action, and Crossthwaite was confident that his speedy assistance would be at once forthcoming.
"D——n lucky it's not the Corps," he muttered. "Its officers would all be drunk by this time."
He found Mackarness preparing for bed, but his wild knocking on the door of his cottage brought him, candle in hand, to the verandah. He did not seem effusively overjoyed when he saw who his visitor was.
"Eh, mon—'tis Captain Crossthwaite, isn't it? What's in the wind now?"
"Bushrangers!" gasped Crossthwaite. "Bushrangers, d——n their souls. They've attacked my place at Prospect Hill, have pillaged it, and set fire to it. They are mad drunk, and carousing there, waiting for me to return. I've been in Sydney all day, and was nearly home, when a man warned me of what was taking place."
"Tut, tut, Mr. Crossthwaite. The Lord will provide for their souls in His good time. You want my assistance, and that of my men?"
"Yes, yes, Mackarness. Quickly; we may catch the dogs unexpectedly if we hurry."
"I'll be with you in a moment—when I've dressed myself. Do ye go inside. There's whisky on the sideboard; help yourself." He stepped out on to the verandah. "Ser-r-geant McNab!" he bellowed, and repeated the call. Presently it was replied to from across the little parade ground.
"Aye, sir, coming," called an answering shout, and presently the sergeant came running into the candle-light, buttoning his jacket as he ran. He stood to attention and saluted.
"Sergeant, turn out twenty-five men, in light marching order and fully armed. Serve out twenty-five rounds of ball cartridge, and a ration of biscuits to each man. Tell Peterson, my groom, to harness the horses in the forage cart at once. Be as quick as you can. I want you to come yourself, and detail two corporals and a drummer. Bring all the sets of irons we have in the barracks; there may be prisoners. Now, hurry, sergeant, hurry—'tis ur-r-gent!"
The sergeant saluted and hastened away, whilst his Commanding officer turned inside, plucking his tasselled night-cap from his head as he entered the cottage.
"A few minutes, Mr. Crossthwaite, and we're at your service. I'm taking twenty-five men. Ten of them will proceed to the scene of hostilities in a light forage cart, and the rest will march to Prospect. We should soon settle the fellows. I will ride with you. We'll lose no time. In a few minutes we'll be ready to start. Make yourself comfortable—have you found the whisky? There it is. Sit ye down—I'll not be long."
Within a quarter of an hour the energetic Scot had inspected his little contingent, stiffly drawn up on the parade ground, the red jackets, white cross-belts, and high shakos faintly lit up by a couple of lanterns. A light, four-wheeled cart, with two horses harnessed to it, stood close by. Mackarness gave his orders.
"Fall out, ten men on the right, and into the cart wi' ye. Corporal Clay, you take charge, and take the drummer with you. Sergeant McNab, I want you to march—at your very best pace short of the double—along the road to Prospect Hill. 'Tis a good five miles—but ye can do it in the hour. You'll have Corporal Harness with you. Clay, you will accompany Captain Crossthwaite and myself—and make the horses keep up to us. We shall ride at a fast trot. When we have reconnoitred the ground, sergeant, I will send the drummer back to tell you how to bring your men up to the scene. Now, we're all ready. Start at once, McNab. Come along, Crossthwaite—we'll soon give you your revenge upon the rascals. 'Tis a fine night for our little engagement."
They mounted their horses, and the drummer, provided with an old nag of which he seemed to stand in considerable awe, rode awkwardly after them through the gateway.
The glare in the sky had died down somewhat, but was still sufficiently bright to indicate the objective of the little force.
"No doubt the villains will have burned ye out, Captain Crossthwaite!" observed Mackarness, as they crossed the high ground to the westward of Parramatta, "I fear ye'll find little of your place spared to ye. There's one thing, though, they can't destroy your land."
"D——n them, no. 'Tis one small satisfaction. But there was a good deal of valuable property in Crossthwaite Hall—not easily to be replaced on this side of the world. D——n them, I say, d——n them!"
"Captain Crossthwaite, ye'd oblige me greatly by not making use of bad language. 'Tis of no use, and is offensive to my men—who, I rejoice exceedingly to say, are mostly earnest men, and pillars of the kirk."
Crossthwaite repressed a contemptuous laugh. If these Highland Light Infantrymen were such as their commander claimed them to be, they were, indeed, a new sort of soldier to him. But he remembered that he had heard some laughing reference or other to Captain Mackarness's company, which had been nicknamed the Saints. Before the night was over, he was to learn that the Saints were none the worse soldiers for the holiness which their leader claimed for them. They could both march and fight.
They proceeded at a fast trot, and the cart kept up with them well. For the most part, he and his companion rode in silence. They were not men who were congenial company for one another, in any sense. The reputation of Captain Crossthwaite was not unknown to Captain Mackarness, and the latter, though he could find no fault with him on the score of his promptitude this evening, Crossthwaite mentally classified as "a Bible-thumping Nonconformist." He, of course, was an orthodox ornament of the Established Church.
"And is there anyone in your house whom the bushrangers would be likely to harm, Mr. Crossthwaite?" inquired his companion.
For the first time, in his selfish callousness, Crossthwaite gave a thought to his mistress.
"By heavens, yes," he exclaimed. "My—my housekeeper, Fanny—Mrs. Martin. But she is a prisoner. They'll not be likely to hurt her."
"No woman is safe with those ruffians," said Mackarness. "Even the men might tremble at the thought of falling into the clutches of such wild beasts. God help her! I hope we will be able to rescue her from them. But did I hear you speak of Fanny Martin?"
"Yes—she is my housekeeper."
"Oh!"—and Captain Mackarness preserved a discreet silence. He knew all about the notorious Fanny Martin.
IT was a great day for the Currency Lass, as Mr. Marsden insisted upon calling her, for, with Joe and her foster mother, she made glorious holiday in Parramatta. This was her birthday treat, a splendid episode eagerly looked forward to for weeks, and almost as joyously anticipated by Mrs. Joe and her husband as by the child herself. Her birthday was always celebrated upon that day of the year that was the anniversary of her floating with her dead mother into the lives of the two honest West Country folk—that fearful day when they had been surrounded on Uncle Issy's hill-top at the Green Hills by the yellow waters of the Big Flood. It had fallen on the 22nd of the previous month of March.
They made an early start from Dartmoor Farm—as Joe had named his property—and the sun was not very high above the tree-tops when they were riding through the fragrant bush, all wet and fresh with dew, in the early morning. They were on horseback—little Sally riding on a cushion in front of Garledge, her happy laughter echoing down the long aisles of the blue gums. Everything made Sally laugh. She laughed in her joys, and laughed at her childish sorrows. She laughed when she woke in the morning, and smiled herself to sleep at night. She had eyes that were made for laughter, so Parson Marsden said, and little flitting dimples about her pretty chin that needed laughter for their preservation.
It was the day on which Sally's father was making his futile application to Governor Macquarie—a day that was disastrous in his annals—but he was still asleep at his inn in Sydney when his unknown daughter was setting out on her travels through a day that she, too, was never likely to forget. It was a long day before it was done—the longest day of her young life. Years afterwards she remembered it as a day of months, rather than of hours. It seemed to her that from that day she almost ceased to be a child.
Everything was smiling and lovely when they rode by the convict stockade on Castle Hill, and came into sight of Parramatta. It is one of the loveliest of views now that you may find anywhere, when you look down from the heights to the north of the old town across that smiling valley with the white houses that are the furthest limit of Sydney's western suburbs. It was no suburban dwelling place in 1813. It was the second town in all Australia and in all the South Seas, the alternative seat of government with Sydney, and a place of much importance. A garrison town, a farming centre, a port for shipping, that came up on the tides, and drifted back with them, from and to Port Jackson. It had the finest church in the colony, with its quaint twin steeples that still are standing—though the body of the building is a few years more modern than they are—and there were good inns in it, as good as Sydney's best. It was the greatest place that little Sally had ever seen. She had never been to Sydney, and had not seen the sea yet.
"Oh, big Joe," she cried, "isn't it lovely! Look at all the houses"—she clapped her hands with delight—"'tis the biggest town in all the world, isn't it, mummy?"
Mrs. Joe's comely face lit up with laughter as she looked at the happy little maiden. Joe roared with pleasure.
"Why, lil Sally," he shouted, "'tes but a little place, is Par'matta, a lil, tiny place. Wait till ye see Sydney, wait till ye see Plymouth, lookin' up from th' Hoe—wait till ye see Lunnon Town!"
"Are they bigger than Par'matta, daddy?" the child asked wonderingly.
'"A thousand times, lil maid—ten thousand times."
"My goodness," she sighed, with wide open eyes, "I'd like to see them, big Joe."
"An' so ye shall, my sweetheart, so ye shall—when you're a big maid, an' we've made our fortins. We'll go sailin' across them salt seas, an' you'll see the Cape, an' you'll see Rio, an' you'll sail right into Plymouth Sound. An' by-and-by you'll see Lunnon Town, an' th' King goin' about with his gold crown on his head, an' th' Lord Mayor, an' I dunno what else. You'll surely see 'em, Sally!"
"Oo, Joe—oh!" she laughed, and fell silent as they rode down into the little village, wondering and dreaming of all these mighty places and "ever so far" things and people. She was not quite sure whether the Lord Mayor was a person or a thing. But Parramatta was here, and Parramatta was very vast and wonderful.
They went to Mr. Marsden's house, and were heartily received by the parson-magistrate in his bluff Yorkshire fashion.
"Welcome to ye, Joe Garledge, and to you, Mrs. Joe—and, I declare, my little sweetheart! Come and give me a kiss Sally. So 'tis your birthday, is it? Well, well—we don't count ours now, do we, Mrs. Joe?"
Mrs. Joe turned her head and laughed.
"Oh, doan't I, passon! Speak for yourself, if ye please, Mr. Marsden. 'Twas but yest'day Joe here was tellin' how I looked so young as when he first came a-courtin' me, to home in Devon."
"Tut, tut! What's this I hear, Joe Garledge? Have ye been encouraging the woman in her sinful vanities?"
Joe laughed and winked.
"A man's got to say such things, y'r Honor, for the sake of a quiet life and gettin' his meals reg'lar."
"All right, Joe," laughed his wife; "you wait, my man. But, Mr. Marsden, zur, after I've paid my respects to Mrs. Marsden and the young ladies, I must down into the town, an' do my shopping. Joe's got some business to do at Prospect Hill, and we'll need to make an early start back in the afternoon."
"Good, Mrs. Joe, very good; do as you will. But ye must dine with us here before ye set out. At Prospect Hill, eh? Not at Crossthwaite Hall, is it?"
"'Tis there, indeed, zur," answered Joe Garledge. "Cap'n Cross'waite's got a couple of rare good pack-horses, an' Mr. Blaxland, over to South Creek, he's sent me for to look 'em over, an' maybe buy 'em for him. He needs them for th' journey over the Blue Mountains."
"What! D'ye mean to say you madmen still persist in that wild plan? I thought 'twas but a crack-brained dream—a sort of midsummer's madness that wiser counsels would cause ye to abandon."
"No," said Joe seriously. "'Tes no madness, y'r honor. We set out next month, and we'll conquer they black ranges before another month be past. See ye, now, if my words doan't come true! A year from now, Australia will be a bigger place than what it is to-day. Bain't no knowing what good lands we'll find over yonder."
"Well, well, I hope for your success. But I fear ye'll but add your own bones to those that already whiten in those black gullies. So you're going to Crossthwaite Hall! And are you taking Mrs. Joe and Sally?"
Mrs. Garledge looked at the chaplain meaningly, and put her fingers to her lips to remind him of the secret thing that must be kept from her good man's knowledge. He gave her a little nod, unobserved by Joe, and went on.
"Then ye'll be the guest of Captain Crossthwaite and of Mrs. Martin, his housekeeper." He stressed the last word a little.
"Indeed, no—not I, passon. I'm for having no doings with that hussy—handsome though she may be. I'm an honest woman, and have no dealing with such as Fanny Martin." Mrs. Joe spoke a little heatedly. "Joe will do his business with the Captain, and Sally and me, we'll boil th' billy in th' woods, an' eat our supper, while Joe does his deal. I'm not going to be mixed up wi' such a one as her."
"You're right, Mrs. Joe," said the chaplain. "You 're quite right. 'Evil communications,' eh? But I must get down to the courthouse. Will ye come with me, Joe, while your good wife goes within, and then attends to her shopping? Ye can sit on the bench with me, for I'm alone to-day, and if ye've naught to do, it may pass an hour or so for ye."
Joe eagerly assented to this proposition. It was no slight honor to be invited to his court, and given a place of dignity—where perhaps he might hope himself one day to sit in magisterial office, if the Blue Mountains expedition should bring fame, and wealth, and the gratitude of an enriched community—by that famous law-giver, the Rev. Samuel Marsden.
By the time they sat at dinner in the Parsonage, Joe Garledge had gathered an instructive amount of knowledge concerning the peculiar procedure followed in early Australian courts of petty session. Mr. Marsden's methods were original enough. The rough justice he dispensed was certainly very rough, but it was mainly justice. Many of the sentences that he imposed would not lie to-day within the province of a Supreme Court judge, and his decisions in civil cases and disputes would often have proved a joy and a godsend to the modern police-court reporter—but in the main the chaplain discharged his magisterial functions with a sort of hearty fairness that the people of those rough times did not find very much in to complain of.
There were seventeen floggings ordered, and three men and one woman were committed for trial on capital charges. Some others had short terms of imprisonment allotted them, and others were fined for trifling offences. Several women, whose employers complained of their idleness and their dissolute habits, were sent back to the Factory, as the depot for female prisoners was called, which was located in Parramatta. Idleness was an unforgivable offence in Mr. Marsden's eyes. Not infrequently he would punish it with the lash. And in the adjustment of matrimonial disputes and differences the chaplain esteemed himself to be a Solomon.
A man had attended the court this morning to complain of the conduct of his wife, whom he had selected from the Factory, after the custom of many of the lonely settlers in the neighbourhood and from further afield. She would not bake, she would not sew, she drank too much rum, and she nagged her better half without cessation, so he said.
"Hark ye, now, Priscilla Perkins, to what I'm saying to ye—and bear it in mind. Here's John Perkins taken ye from the Factory, and makes ye his wife—and ye're not so wonderfully handsome, either, let me make so bold as to inform ye. Government gives ye a conditional pardon when Perkins makes ye an honest woman—which ye are far from being, or ever were before. Ye've a better home at Toongabbee than ever ye knew of in England. Now go back to it, my lass, and be a better wife. If ye're not so, when I call there in a few weeks' time, I'll know how to deal with you. And mind, I do know how to deal with such as you. Be off with ye to your home, and make your good man happy. But, remember, I've my eye on ye, my woman, I've my eye on ye."
Joe heard the tale afterwards of how the chaplain, passing by Perkin's farm, had alighted from his horse to inquire into the reformation, or otherwise, of Mrs. Perkins. Finding it otherwise, he had then and there administered a sound thrashing to the lady with his riding crop. A few months later Perkins had called at the Parsonage with a present of a pair of fowls, and an enthusiastic account of the highly improved demeanour of his good lady, who had become all that a wife should be. He was profuse in his thanks, which Mr. Marsden had waved aside, saying, without boastfulness:
"'Tis naught, my good Jack Perkins. I but gently corrected her error, which she was not slow to acknowledge. There is much virtue, Jack, in gentle correction. But see that it is effective, even if 'tis gentle."
The Garledges rode away after the mid-day meal—both horses laden heavily with the parcels and packages which were the result of Mrs. Joe's morning shopping. The Currency Lass rejoiced in a black doll with bead eyes, and a new shilling presented to her by Mrs. Marsden.
It was late in the afternoon before they rode away from the hospitable Parsonage, and close up to when they came in sight of Captain Crossthwaite's mansion.
"Surely 'tes a grand house he has built," said Mr. Garledge to her husband. "And look at the outbuildings, and the fields of corn! How do the wicked prosper," she sighed, "an' that poor, dead woman ——" She checked herself hastily, and looked up to see if Joe had noticed her. But he was engaged in pointing out the beauties of the place to little Sally, and was not paying much attention to his wife. "To think of it, Joe," she went on, "all this for a worthless baggage's enjoyment that no decent woman would be seen talking to."
"She'm a fine woman, 'Lizbeth, though, for to look at—a very handsome one, whatever else she be."
"'Tes all you brutes of men do think of—the looks of a woman. What's good looks?"
"Nay, nay, Bessie girl—thou'rt not so bad to look upon thyself."
"Oh, tish!" Mrs. Joe shook her head, and smiled, not ill-pleased with the compliment. Then, suddenly: "Oh, la!" she screamed. "Lord ha' mercy on us!"
Out of the scrub by the roadside a huge man with a great black beard had stepped, and he presented a musket at Joe's head. Others came after him—some half dozen or so—who seized their bridle reins, and threatened them with pistols and axes. Old Danny O'Neill was one of them.
Quick as light Joe Garledge threw his great bulk from the saddle, dropped little Sally on the ground, where she stood, wide-eyed and frightened, and rushed at the black-bearded giant with clenched fists.
Barky Jack fired his musket, and missed, and the next instant the two powerful men were rolling in the dust of the roadway in a deadly grapple.
Mrs. Joe slipped down from her horse's back, with a white face, and clasped up the child in her arms, just as she was roughly seized by a couple of the men.
"Steady, mistress!" cried one of them. "We mean ye no harm." With a mighty heave of his great back Joe gained the upper hand of the bushranger, and was kneeling across him, his huge hands squeezing the breath from his labouring body, as he clutched him by the throat, when, with a wild yell, Danny O'Neill clubbed his musket and, running in close to the struggling men, brought it down with a crash upon the back of Joe Garledge's skull.
Joe's hold slackened, and he rolled over beside his prostrate antagonist, unconscious.
WHEN Captain Mackarness and the advance guard of his little force had approached to within about half a mile of Crossthwaite Hall, he called a halt, and, leaving the ten men who had come up in the waggon in charge of Corporal Clay, stole forward on foot with the owner of the pillaged desmesne to reconnoitre the situation. He took the drummer with him.
They left the road, and made a detour through the bush, coming out of the timber on the edge of the cleared lands, somewhat towards the rear of the establishment. And then they saw the full extent of the irreparable damage the convict-bushrangers had wrought.
Only the stone walls of the fine building stood, doors and windows framing glowing oblongs of incandescent fieriness. The roof had fallen in, and the interior woodwork was still burning fiercely, and sending up showers of sparks into the darkness of the night, although the fire was evidently some hours old. The cornfields had been burnt out, and all the wooden farm buildings were gone. Captain Crossthwaite groaned, as he contemplated the scene of devastation, and then broke out into a volley of oaths and a hurricane of cursing that caused Captain Mackarness to shudder.
"By ———, I'll get even with the devils for this!" he raved. "I'll bring that fellow Williamson to the gallows for this—if I have to spend the rest of my life in pursuit of the villain."
"Mr. Crossthwaite," said Captain Mackarness, icily, "I've already intimated to you how distasteful such language is to myself personally, and how it outrages the decent feelings of my men. I beg, again, that you will desist from it."
"Oh, hell!" Captain Crossthwaite began, when Mackarness, with uplifted hand, checked him sternly.
"That will do, sir. You are a civilian accompanying these troops in the execution of their duty—which is the capture or destruction of these bandits—upon sufferance, and solely by favour of my permission as officer commanding the force. Should I hear another blasphemous, profane, or indecent word from you, sir, I will send you to the rear. I trust that you will not render such a course necessary on my part, Captain Crossthwaite. But should you do so, sir,—I'll not hesitate to take it."
Captain Crossthwaite swallowed hard, and sulkily apologised, excusing himself by the natural exasperation of his feelings at beholding the wanton ruin of his property. They set to work to consider their plan of campaign.
Here and there, about the wide space illuminated by the fitful glow from the burning house that lit up, in an unnatural fashion, the tall trees of the forest face beyond it—making them stand out flatly, like painted scenery in a theatre, against the darkness of the starry, moonlit sky—they could see groups of men, and idly strolling figures, on all sides of the clearing. There were considerably more than the dozen of which Casey McGirr had spoken. But they would be the servants and labourers of the establishment, who had, no doubt, Crossthwaite reflected bitterly, made common cause with the bushrangers, and given them passive if not active assistance in the sacking of his estate. There were horses fastened at the edge of the forest which were packed with goods, and which came, doubtless, from his stables. Round a wine barrel, a noisy group sang, and danced, and shouted curses upon the owner of the plundered property, and fragments of triumphant obscenity that set Captain Mackarness's teeth on edge and his hair bristling.
"We must put a stop to this," he said. "What do you suggest, Mr. Crossthwaite? You are familiar with the terrain—it is proper that we should consider any ideas that may present themselves to you."
"I am for attacking at once, sir—for taking the ruffians by surprise, and seeing that none escape. I should attack them immediately with the men we have with us—and not wait until the rest of your force comes up. The dozen of us, armed as we are, should be more than a match for this rabble."
Mackarness shook his head.
"The latter part of what you say is no doubt true. Such a riff-raff—and drunken at that—as we have before us could make no stand against disciplined troops. But they could get away, unless we are in sufficient force to throw a cordon round them. The remaining fifteen men who are coming up with Sergeant McNab would just about give us enough of strength for such a manoeuvre as that. We do not want merely to kill a few of them, and scatter the rest in the bush—we want to take as many of them alive as possible. By doing that we will break up the band, of which this man Williamson—Barky Jack as they call him—is the leader, and the trial and execution of those whom we make prisoners will have a wholesome effect in discouraging this business of bushranging amongst runaway convicts."
"Perhaps you're right, Mr. Mackarness," assented Captain Crossthwaite. "Indeed, I think you are."
"I think so. Hilder," he addressed the drummer, "get back to your horse, and ride as hard as you can along the Parramatta Road, until you meet with Sergeant McNab's party. Take him my orders to come on at the double. Give him the horse when you reach him, and tell him to join me at once. Corporal Harness can bring his men on. Now, be off with you—and hurry. There is not time to lose."
The drummer ran back through the trees, whilst the two officers made a cautious and careful reconnaissance of the whole position. Keeping wide of the clearing, they walked rapidly right round the burning house, noting carefully the lay of the country and the best positions in which the attacking force might be disposed, with a view of cutting off the escape of as many of the enemy as might be possible.
This detour occupied some little time, and when they returned to the point whence the drummer had been despatched to hasten the coming of the main body, they found Sergeant McNab already awaiting them.
A final council-of-war was held.
"This is my idea," began Captain Mackarness—when he was interrupted by Crossthwaite.
"Pardon me a moment, Captain Mackarness. Before you speak, I beg of you to permit me to make a suggestion which I am sure you would not have thought of, if you'll forgive me for saying it."
He spoke eagerly, and the other was forced to give him his attention.
"Well, sir?" demanded Mackarness, a little impatiently. "What is it? I imagine that our only course is to draw our cordon round them, call on them to surrender unconditionally, and shoot down those who disobey."
"Listen. Suppose that we send Sergeant McNab with the main body so spread out as to encircle three sides of the position, whilst you and I remain here with half a dozen men—in ambush. When everything is ready, I will ride out from the timber near the road, as if I had but just returned from Sydney. It is me they are waiting for. I will attract their attention, and I have no doubt they will make a rush towards me. When they come within easy range, your party may open fire, and in the confusion the sergeant can close in on their rear. They will be caught like rats in a trap."
Mackarness listened to him with interest, but a frown of distaste wrinkled his features. It was a bold scheme, but, to the honest Scot, it seasoned a little of treachery. He would far rather have called upon them to lay down their arms, and so give them the alternative of being butchered between two fires, or facing the judges and the hangman—than to take them unawares and without a chance. Crossthwaite saw the nature of his doubt, and urged his point.
"Captain Mackarness, I know these men. They are desperate and abandoned ruffians, and undeserving of any consideration. See what they have done here! They would lay the whole country waste just as readily as they have devastated my place. Women and children would be at the mercy of men who are more savage and ruthless than wild beasts—if we permitted them to escape us. It is our duty, sir, to disable them as severely as lies in our power. We must not shrink from it. Remember, they outnumber us—the bushrangers and my servants, who, I dare swear, are with them to a man—they outnumber us by more than two to one. Let me urge you to adopt this method of attack. We must adopt it, if we mean to win. They will not surrender if called upon, and it will be no hard task for them to break through our thin cordon and escape in the forest. Remember, we cannot pursue them."
Captain Mackarness thought for a few moments, sighed gently, and made a sign of assent.
"Yes, I think you are right, though I hate such bloodshed. However, so be it. McNab, take all but six men, and spread yourselves round through the timber, as close to the edge of it as you can get without being seen. They are keeping no sort of a watch—you should have little difficulty. When my party opens fire, close in. Try to prevent any escaping, and drive them towards the firelight. Take your men, now, and get into position. I will give you half an hour."
They moved back together to the waiting soldiers, to whom their commander outlined the plan of the operations. He made sure that they were all prepared for the business in hand, and told them to fix bayonets as soon as the first shots were fired—but on no account before then, lest the gleam of the naked steel might disclose them to the bushrangers.
It seemed a long half-hour to the little party waiting in the timber, not far from where the road from Parramatta ran into Captain Crossthwaite's clearing. The minutes passed slowly enough, but at last Mackarness snapped his watch-case, and waved his hand to Crossthwaite, who sat upon his horse close beside the marching men, a drawn pistol in his right hand, and a look of eager expectancy upon his face. It came into Mackarness's mind that, whatever else the man might be, Captain Crossthwaite was no coward. This riding into the midst of bitter enemies, who were waiting to make an end of him, was not the act of a poltroon.
"Good luck to you, Crossthwaite," he whispered. "You may go now—we are all ready."
The fiery furnace in the gutted house had burned low by this time, but there was still a good deal of light from its glowing embers. And the moon was full, and high overhead in a cloudless sky, so that the clearing was lit up almost as brightly as if it had been daylight.
Out of the timber rode Captain Crossthwaite, sitting bolt upright in the saddle. Almost immediately the solitary horseman was seen by the group round the barrel. For a few moments there was silence, whilst the bushrangers were yet uncertain as to whom it might be. Then one of there yelled, with a curse:
"'Tis Black Bill! After him, boys! Catch th' ——— alive!"
There was a chorus of yells, shouts, and curses, and two or three shots were fired. Captain Crossthwaite reined in his horse, and sat erect and motionless, as though he awaited a genial welcome from the men who had begun to run towards him. Almost at once they were all in motion, some scrambling and lurching forward, and some stumbling drunkenly over the ploughed ground of the cornfield. One or two measured their length on the earth, and were too drunk to rise.
Slowly, as the leaders of the mob approached him, Captain Crossthwaite raised his right arm, and held his pistol levelled at their ranks. A man dropped on one knee and discharged his musket at him. He never moved, but sat there, like an equestrian statue, in the moonlight—cool, calm, and collected—biding his time. Captain Mackarness, in the shadows, muttered to himself his admiration.
"Jove! He's a cool hand!"
They were within a few yards of him when his pistol spoke, and with the spit of flame from its barrel he spurred his horse round, and rode slowly towards where the soldiers lay hidden, but out of their line of fire. One of the convicts had dropped on his hands and knees, and a torrent of blood gushed from his mouth, ere he collapsed, writhing, on the soft soil of the hilled cornfield. The rest checked for a moment, and then—with savage yells and hideous, obscene threats—came on after the bitter enemy for whose blood they thirsted so ferociously.
They rushed on in a bunch, utterly unsuspecting—perhaps too drunken to reason about it—of the ambush which had been prepared. Closer and closer they came to where the kneeling soldiers, with levelled muskets, awaited their commander's signal. He held their fire until there was no chance to miss.
A sheet of flame leapt from the bushes at the edge of the field—and the mob recoiled in horror. Five of them lay still, or struggled feebly on the ground. The rest turned to run.
"Fix bayonets!" yelled Mackarness.
From the timber all round the burning house soldiers came running—shooting and stabbing. Many more of the convicts bit the dust. They huddled together like sheep. Only one man—their huge, black-bearded leader—broke through the steel ring of bayonets, and, running magnificently, with a dozen soldiers shooting at him, gained the shelter of the bush. The rest howled and screamed for mercy, as they saw the inexorable ring of bayonets tightening about them. Some cast themselves on their knees, and shrieked to Captain Crossthwaite to spare them—crying that they had been forced into the business. At last, cornered and beaten, they permitted the soldiers to urge them towards the light of the burning house. Some of them wept maudlin tears, and others muttered bitter curses. They knew, many of them, that they were already dead men.
The battle of Crossthwaite's Hill was ended. Nothing remained now but the "Vae Victis"—woe to the vanquished.
EIGHT of the convicts had been killed outright, and ten lay wounded upon the ground. The dour "Saints," angered by the scene of destruction—wanton, useless, savage vandalism, that had destroyed a house that was one of the show places of the young colony—had struck hard and spared not. More than one of the victims of their wrath had been caught with the bayonet. Sergeant McNab's hard face was set in a grim smile, as he surveyed the battlefield.
"This will teach yon wastrels no to tak' th' name o' th' Lor-rd in vain. 'Tis but a veesitation of God's wrath upon them for their awfu' language. Ha—whom have we here, Kennedy?" Mackarness and Crossthwaite turned at the sergeant's exclamation, and the latter recognised in the abject, slinking creature being driven towards them at the point of an angry young soldier's bayonet, Casey McGirr, the man who had warned him of the attack upon his house.
"'Tis a fellie was peekin' through th' booshes over yon, sergeant. He cracks he's no one of th' bushranger laddies—says he is one of us. 'Tis likely! Shall I no finish th' ugly deevil off?"
"No," interposed Crossthwaite. "The fellow speaks the truth. He did warn me, and perhaps I owe my life to him. Let him go, my man—I don't think he often tells the truth, but he's doing so now. Where have you been, McGirr? I thought you were to wait my return in the road."
McGirr's personal appearance was such as to inspire a feeling of disgust in any honest man. Shiftiness and treachery seemed to ooze from his flabby face, and though he was a stoutly-built fellow, there was a look of cringing weakness of soul about him that suggested bodily infirmity. Perhaps in prosperity—as a stout and well-fed being—he might have carried off some air of coarse good-fellowship, but there was that in his shifty, close-set, pig's eyes that would inevitably incline a reader of character to sum him up as a liar and a sneak, with the inclination, but not the courage, to be a bully.
"If you please, y'r honor—I fell asleep a-waitin' ye, an' did not wake until I heard the firing. I was looking to see what was going on when this gentleman seized me. But y'r honor'll not be forgetting what I done for him to-night—an' y'r honor's promise of a pardon from Gov'ment."
"Oh, I'll not forget you, McGirr—though I suspect you of lying when you say you fell asleep. Far more likely your cowardly nature prompted you to hide in the trees until the danger was over, and you were certain which side had won. I know this miserable fellow, Mackarness. I'd trust him no further than I could kick him. But I suppose he has earned some recommendation to His Excellency. Perhaps you might make it? Mr. Macquarie and myself are hardly upon the best of terms."
"I'll mention the man in my report to headquarters, if you like. But very likely he can give us some information about these fellows and their lair. 'Tis a pity we have lost Williamson. The fellow had a charmed life. I fired a pistol at him myself, and he must have ran the gauntlet of at least a dozen muskets."
"What has become of all the people, McGirr? Where is Mrs.—my housekeeper, Mrs. Martin? I know where Hardy, my butler is. He's in hell." He laughed grimly. "His body's over there—I shot him myself."
"A good thing, y'r honor—he was a bad man," assented virtuous Casey McGirr. "He's better dead. Well, then, y'r honor, Barky Jack took Mrs. Martin out of the house—she screamin', an' scratchin', an' bitin'—an' tied her up to a tree. He said she'd be his woman now, an' he'd make a she-bushranger out of her, an' how he'd tamed wild cats before—them was his words, y'r honor."
"By heavens, Crossthwaite," said Mackarness hastily. "We must pursue the villain at once. Whatever the woman may be, she deserves no such fate as that!"
"Oh let her go," scoffed her late proprietor. "I'll lose her without much sorrow. She's found her true mate at last, 'Twould take a man like Williamson to control that she-devil. I'd leave her to him!"
"For shame, sir—for shame. She shall not be left to him. Sergeant McNab," he called to his second-in-command—when McGirr broke in.
"There's others, too, y'r honor. A man an' his wife, an' a child—a little girl. Joe Garledge, from Dartmoor, nigh to the Green Hills. They came here at sun-down."
Captain Crossthwaite wheeled towards him.
"Garledge!" he whispered, and then, aloud. "What Garledge—what man of the name of Garledge can there be in the colony?"
"It matters not, Captain Crossthwaite," said Mackarness impatiently. "It does not matter. We must go in pursuit of them at once. At once! Come McNab—get half a dozen men. These people must be rescued. See that the prisoners are well guarded, sergeant. And look to the wounded. What casualties have we?"
"Private Landry's dead, sir, an' four wounded—none of them badly."
"Poor Landry!" sighed Mackarness. "A godly man—we'll miss his voice greatly at our Sunday service. He was strong in the Psalms. But come, tell me off six men, McNab. I'll leave you in charge of the place, and the prisoners. See that none escape. Are you coming, Captain Crossthwaite?"
"Oh, I suppose so, Mackarness. These people are a nuisance, but we cannot well leave them to their fate." He had been manifestly uneasy since McGirr's mention of Joe Garledge's name.
Presently the party plunged into the forest, on the trail of the escaped bushranger. It was a little darker in the timber, but the full moon, sailing high overhead, turned midnight into the half light of dawn, and they could see their way well enough.
They had not far to go.
Hardly had they penetrated a quarter of a mile into the forest, when Mackarness uttered an exclamation, as he stooped to pick up something white from the ground. It was a child's hood. Almost as he took it into his hand, there came a roar from somewhere close by, that was half human, half the wild, inarticulate bellow of a mad bull. There was a musket shot, the sound of a crash, and then a medley of snarls and yells and curses broke out that betokened some gripping contest between two strong men.
The two officers broke into a run, and forced their way through the undergrowth into a little open clearing, into which the moon shone down, illuminating a strange scene. As they burst into it, a spear whizzed past Captain Crossthwaite's head, and transfixed a soldier's leg, through the calf, as it came to ground. Crossthwaite raised his pistol, and fired at a tall, nearly naked blackfellow, who, uttering a yell, leaped into the timber and was gone.
To two trees, close together, and huddled on the ground, Mrs. Joe Garledge and little Sally—the latter fast asleep—were tightly bound. They were gagged with dirty rags tied about their mouths. To another tree some lashings of ropes, that had evidently been escaped from, hung loosely. And in the open, panting, and grunting, and snarling, two splendid specimens of manhood heaved and struggled, closely locked together in fierce embrace, in a battle of giants. The one was a mighty red man, and the other a dark-complexioned, blank-bearded, wild-looking creature, who slavered at the mouth, and snarled curses perpetually.
Joe Garledge and Barky Jack, the bushranger, were matched in a struggle to the death. Mackarness, Crossthwaite, and the soldiers paused, instinctively, to watch the fierce contest.
They were both immense and powerful men, in the full vigor of lusty manhood. Their shirts were torn and ripped from their backs, and the play of their great muscles and sinews was magnificent, as they wrestled and strove, swaying this way and that. The West Countryman's skin, smooth and white as a woman's, gleamed in the moonlight, and the bushranger's was covered, on back and chest, with hair that was like fur, curly and dark. Their faces were distorted with rage, and Joe Garledge's was streaming with blood from a cut in the scalp—which, they afterwards learned, had been caused by the graze of a bullet from Barky Jack's musket, fired at Garledge, as, by a superhuman effort, he had burst his bonds asunder and leapt at the outlaw.
The two were evenly matched. Garledge perhaps was the heavier, and he was slower in movement than the other, whose build was more wiry, and less inclined to fleshiness. They were both endowed with a bodily strength that was far above the average of mankind's.
"'Tis the ——— bushranger! 'Tis the villain who has destroyed my house. Kill the ruffian! Let me shoot him!" Crossthwaite drew a pistol, and ran towards the struggling men, but Mackarness was after him in a moment.
"Hold!" he cried, grasping the other's arm. "Don't fire! You might shoot the other, as likely is not. I believe the red man will beat him. Wait a moment, and see."
Unconsciously, the spectators formed a ring, intent on the battle, and neglectful, in the tense interest of the contest, of the woman and child. All except Captain Mackarness—ever a gentleman of his own dour school. He ran to Mrs. Joe, released her from her bonds, and took the gag from her mouth, and then untied the child. Sally woke up as he tugged at the lashings, and stared about with her wide-open eyes, in which there was no trace of fear, but only startled surprise and astonishment.
"Oh, thank you," she whispered to Mackarness, and held up her face to kiss him. And that austere soldier, perhaps a little dazzled by the beauty of the child, kissed her red lips, and blushed like a boy. Sally ran to Mrs. Joe, and clung to her skirts, whilst the two of them, wide-eyed and speechless, gazed mutely at the fearful struggle in which their man fought for his life with a kind of berserk madness. And he fought with a raging determination to wreak vengeance on the fellow who had dared to lay rough hands on his two most precious possessions. The bushranger had sealed his fate when he had done that.
It was as strange a sight as any of the many strange ones upon which the Man in the Moon has looked down in all his long life. The tall trees, rustling their graceful tops in the hardly perceptible breeze that was too faint to be felt on the ground, walled the little clearing like a high fence—their blue-white trunks, with the long, hanging strips of last year's bark mottling them in a streaky fashion, standing out against the dark shades of the forest depths behind. About their butts stood the gaping soldiers, grasping their grounded muskets, the bayonets gleaming coldly in the moonlight. The two officers stood, fixed and motionless, staring at the combat. And the woman and child, appalled into silence by the fierceness and hate of it, watched fearfully for the fate of their battling champion. There was no sound save the heavy breathing, the deep grunts, and the panting gurgles of the men who fought. Now and again the dark man would shriek out a half-strangled oath, but the red one was grimly silent always.
Once they came crashing down. Joe Garledge was underneath, and the bushranger strove mightily to free a hand for his throat or his eyes. Then, with a mighty heave, the red giant rolled his man over, and they fell apart. In a second, both were on their feet again, and again they were swaying and lurching about the arena in each other's clutch.
For five, ten, fifteen minutes they wrestled and strove, and neither seemed to have the advantage, when—with startling swiftness—the end came.
Garledge, somehow, freed his right hand. Then, his left arm gripping the other below the shoulder with the hug of a bear, while one mighty leg was twined about those of the bushranger, he got the palm of his hand below the bearded chin. Slowly—slowly the wild head, with starting eyeballs, was pressed back and back. Convulsively, Williamson sought to release himself from that terrible grip and that inexorable upward push. He bent at the knees, writhing his great trunk, whilst Joe pressed over him, his mouth open, and horribly distorted, and the dark blood splotching the whiteness of his face.
Suddenly, to the awed spectators, it seemed as though they heard a crack—very sharp and faint and quick. And then the two great men came crashing to earth again, lay there a moment, motionless—and, slowly, weakly, Joe Garledge struggled to one knee, gained his feet, swayed uncertainly for a second or two towards his wife, and then crumpled up, and lay huddled, unconscious, at her feet. With a cry, his 'Lizbeth stooped to his assistance, whilst the others rushed in upon the inert body of the bushranger. His head was strangely, impossibly, twisted under his right shoulder. They seized him to bind him—released their hold, and stood up, gaping at the corpse.
"Th' Lor-rd hath smitten him!" cried a soldier. "The neck of him's broke!"
And so it was. Joe Garledge had done with his mighty arm and huge hand what the hangman would have done with his rope. The black-bearded bushranger was dead, with a dislocated spine, and his great body, so full of vigorous life but a few moments ago, was lying limp, and unfeeling as the earth upon which it was stretched.
Captain Mackarness turned away from the dead man, and gave his attention to the living. He stepped softly over to where Mrs. Joe knelt, with her man's head in her lap, rubbing his hand gently, and crying over him in a pitiful, and yet triumphant and joyous, fashion. He felt the pulse of the unconscious giant, nodded his head assuringly to Mrs. Joe and said, with relief to his own feelings:
"He will do well enough—he has but fainted after that fierce struggle. Madam, you should be proud of him! He is truly a man, in body and soul."
Captain Crossthwaite drew near, and stood frowning down upon the group. He put out his hand to draw little Sally to him, but the child, with that aversion which most innocent little ones uncompromisingly display towards a bad man, shrank away from him with an air of distrust.
"Who are ye, ma'am, and where do ye live?" he asked roughly.
Elizabeth looked up, and then acted in a way for which she was never able to account to herself.
All her careful guarding of the secret of the dead woman—of which she had been so urgent in impressing upon Mr. Marsden the necessity of keeping to themselves—was forgotten. She did not care now whether her husband heard or not what she had to say to the man who had wronged his cousin so bitterly and so irrevocably. She had no thought for what devils of vengeance she might conjure up out of the temper of the red Garledges. She only knew that she was face to face with the man who had done the cruel wrong to mother and child. She only felt the hatred and anger which his presence inspired. She spoke bitterly and fiercely, and the man heard her and recoiled, as though she had lashed him with a whip.
"This is Joe Garledge," she said, "cousin to the woman you treated so cruel bad, Cap'n Cross'waite. Do 'ee thank God that he'm not in's proper senses, or maybe he'd serve 'ee as he've served yon dead carpse. An' I'm his wife. An' this"—she drew the child to her—"this lil maid be your own darter, you bad an' wicked man, an' cruel, cruel murderer of that poor dear as coom to us in th' Big Flood. This be your own lawful child, an' the child of Selina Cross'waite, your wedded wife—who was Selina Garledge before you stole her from her father, and wickedly left her to die, alone and friendless, in this far country. But, by the God in heaven, you shall not have her! You shall not have her while my man and I have the breath of life to save her from you—you worse than a devil!"
She crushed Sally to her full bosom with both her arms, and glared defiance at Crossthwaite. He stared at her for a few moments, livid and speechless. Then, turning upon his heel, he strode away through the trees, and was lost in the night, just as Joe Garledge found his way back to consciousness.
And none of them had spared a thought for the fate of Fanny Martin.
IT was the year, and the month, and the week of Waterloo, and all London was ringing with the tidings of victory, that soon were to spread as fast as the incredibly swift mail-coaches, starting out from St. Martin's-le-Grand, in the City, could speed them, to all the corners of the Kingdom. The church bells of the metropolis were pealing out this evening the ecstasy of joy and relief, which throbbed in its great heart, and which were soon to be echoed in all the towns and boroughs north, south, east, and west of Britain's mighty capital. Soon every market square and every village green in the three kingdoms would be lit with its bonfires, and the high beacon hills with their blazing tar-barrels, flaring out to the changeless stars England's gasping thankfulness for this release from the terror of a Man that, day by day, and night by night, for twenty years, had oppressed her like a long nightmare. Bonaparte was defeated! Never had there been such news since the days, two and a quarter centuries before—"the spacious days of Great Elizabeth"—when word of the Devonshire sailor's harrying of the Great Armada had spread like wildfire from hill to hill across fell and dale, and moor, from the Lizard to John o' Groats.
And, seven months later, the little village clustered along the banks of the Tank Stream above Sydney Cove was to echo this tremendous joyfulness at the salvation of the world.
Captain William Crossthwaite, sitting at supper in the coffee-room of the Golden Cross Hotel, at Charing Cross—the famous inn whence a certain Mr. Pickwick is reputed to have set forth one morning for Rochester, and where you may still refresh yourself after alighting at the great railway terminus across the street—had but just renewed his acquaintance with London after an absence of ten years, spent in His Majesty's Territory of New South Wales. He had left his ship in the Downs, and had landed at Deal the afternoon before, where he had rested for the night, posting up to London and the Golden Cross through this pleasant summer's day, and the lovely garden of Kent.
The long twilight, so strange and so delightful to any exile from England upon his return, was just merging into darkness, when Captain Crossthwaite put on his hat and walked out into the Strand. He had not yet had time to become used to the atmosphere of the vast city. If you go from Bourke, in New South Wales, to Sydney or to Melbourne, to-day, after a term of years spent upon the banks of the Darling River, you may realise something of the change of scene, and of the conditions of existence, as they might present themselves to a traveller arriving in London from Sydney in the year of our Lord 1815. But you would only faintly realise it. There would be wanting in you the receptiveness induced by five months of monotonous ocean voyaging, when any town, however poor or mean, would seem to be the very limit of civilisation, of security, of luxury, and of all desirableness. The Strand, on that evening at the end of June, when the dim illumination of oil lamps and candles was beginning to twinkle in the windows of shop, and tavern, and dwelling house, was a very fairyland of enchantment to the not very sentimental gentleman who stepped into its busy thoroughfare from the portals of the Golden Cross.
The peculiar smell of London—that strange odour, the like of which exists in no other place—was pleasant in his nostrils. London cries that he had long forgotten sounded agreeably in his ears. The familiar aspect of the seething highway that runs from West to East refreshed eyes that, all unconsciously, had ached for such a sight for years. Hard, and callous, and selfish as he was, William Crossthwaite experienced an emotion of whose nature he was ignorant, and whose beauty he neither understood nor appreciated, as he walked down to the intersection of streets which is now Trafalgar Square. It was the sense of home-coming—that subconscious happiness that is common to man, or bird, or beast on returning to familiar places after long absence from them. He lit a cigar, and felt agreeably satisfied with his situation. He did not know why he experienced this feeling of blessedness, nor did he ask himself why—but he set out upon the very evil, the very deceptive, and the very fraudulent, business which he had come half-way round the world to transact, with a pleasant feeling that it was to be successful, and that his long voyaging, and his intricate scheming, and his selfish contriving would not be wholly without profit and reward.
As he turned the corner and walked up past the Grecian columns of the grey church of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, he wondered how he would find the place whose doors he had for so long never expected to darken again, and what his reception might be likely to be from the man whom he had been so bitterly cursed by a decade before. Altered, perhaps, but not much—those old London taverns did not change very greatly from generation to generation of proprietors. And the old man? Certainly older. He was fifty-five, if he was a day, ten years ago, and it would be strange if the stalwart Guardsman's back was not a little bent now that he was in the middle sixties, and his close-cropped hair a little greyer or a little thinner. He wondered idly if Sergeant Garledge ever put on the gloves with any of his customers in these days, or indulged in a bout with foils or broad-sword. And thus communing with himself, he turned into Longacre, and, in little more than fifty yards from the corner of that historic thoroughfare, found himself standing before the high gables of the "Moon Calf" Tavern. He paused for a moment to survey the building, before he entered its wide and low-set doorway.
It was little changed. The black beams that crossed its plaster front had been recently painted, and there was a new leaden horse-trough before the bar-room, in place of the ancient stone one that had been there for centuries when he had known the place before. But the great signboard still swung out over the street on its gibbet of twisted wrought-iron, the light still shone cheerfully through warm red blinds, and there was the same coming and going from its doors as in the old times when he himself had come and gone so often.
He stooped his head, and entered the familiar place, by the way with which he was formerly familiar—the entrance for favoured customers who used the place as a club—which led by a short passage, past the taproom and the bar, and opened into a long chamber with a saw-dusted floor, dark old oak wainscoting, and a huge fireplace at its further end that was framed in a richly-carved mantel, and in which, summer or winter, a fire always burned as it was burning now.
The room was empty, but at its further end, on the right hand side of the fireplace as he faced it, a light shone, as it always used to shine, through the little square window in the wall that looked out from John Garledge's private office. He hesitated for a moment, and then, walking the length of the room, knocked lightly with his silver-topped malacca upon the door that gave entrance to the landlord's sanctum. In a moment or two the light shifted from the little window, the door was opened, and a tall, old man, clean-shaven, and with silver hair that was cut short, in opposition to the fashion of the day, stepped into the larger room, holding the candlestick aloft to see whom his visitor might be.
There was no infirmity in that straight figure, nor did the bright eyes with which he critically surveyed him give any indication of rheumy and watery old age. Save that his head was grey, and his handsome face a trifle more lined, Crossthwaite could find little of change in the Guardsman.
"Well, John," he said, after a moment's hesitation, "here I am at last."
He put out his hand, but the other did not seem to see it. He set the candle down upon a table, and looked at Crossthwaite, whilst the Adam's apple in his strong throat moved up and down as though he had swallowed something.
"Good evening to you, sir," he said coldly, in his deep voice. "I have been looking for ye this month past, having reckoned the time up from the date when your last letter told me you were to leave Sydney."
"We were delayed in the Channel by contrary winds," explained Crossthwaite. "A weary voyage—four and a half months—with no port of call save Rio. I was glad when it ended yesterday."
"You landed yesterday?"
"Yes—at Deal. I posted up to-day and have hardly been in London two hours. 'Tis little changed. Like yourself—you have not altered."
"I am older—and I have had my sorrows. Will ye take anything?"
"No, thank you. I have just supped," said Crossthwaite. He was not very much impressed with a sense of warmth in his father-in-law's demeanour towards him.
"Well, then, if it pleases you, sir, we may get to business," said John Garledge. "Will ye not step inside?"
He held the door open, and Captain Crossthwaite passed into the little room.
It was a tiny den, filled with a miscellaneous collection of articles having to do with the business or the sporting tastes of its owner. A bookshelf held a few works of reference and some account books. In the corners were guns and fishing rods and shooting bags—on the walls some prints of racehorses and famous ornaments of the prize-ring, crossed foils and broad-swords, and a framed portrait of His Royal and Disreputable Highness, the Prince Regent. Garledge pointed to a chair.
"Sit ye down, Captain Crossthwaite, and let's to business. 'Tis business brings you here, and 'tis business makes me wish to see you. Nothing else," he added, bluntly, "but the business connected with my grand-daughter."
Crossthwaite sat himself down upon a rush-bottomed chair—the only one that the room boasted—and the old man leant upon his high desk, and looked at his visitor with hard eyes, in which there was no attempt to veil a light of curiosity.
"I have the letters you have sent me, and those my Sally—those that she dictated to you before she died, in your house at Sydney—praying for my forgiveness," he paused for a moment, sighed softly, and went on. "Well, she has that—she's had it these years past. 'Tis for you I have none—no, not if I lay a-dying. But let that pass. I wish to know all ye can tell me of Sally's child. How old will she be now?"
Captain Crossthwaite had to think a moment or two.
"She was born," he said, after some hesitation, "in 1805—so that would give her ten years. She is well developed for her age—they grow quickly in that climate. Five or six years, and she'll be fit to wed. 'Tis a famous place for developing the young."
"Pray to God that she may wed better than her mother did," said John Garledge, in a low tone, as if thinking aloud. Crossthwaite affected not to hear.
"Is she good looking—has she the appearance of her mother?"
"She is the most beautiful child you could possibly imagine—all her mother's prettiness and some of her own."
"And her disposition? Does she promise well? But how should you judge that!"
His visitor winced. John Garledge made no secret, he saw, of the dislike and distrust he entertained for himself.
"She is a model," he said. "And I am not alone in that. The Senior Chaplain of the Colony—the Reverend Samuel Marsden—has taken much interest in her, and he tells me that the child's character is of such a sort, as must give promise in her of becoming a good woman in every sense. He is ceaseless in his praises of the child."
"Ah,"—the old man sighed. "I would that I could see her. Will ye not send her home to me? I beg it of you. She will be at my charge for everything. Can ye not spare her to me?"
It was almost affecting—the paternal feeling evinced by that kindest and best of fathers—Captain William Crossthwaite. He shook his head slowly, and tried—ineffectually, it must be confessed—to bring a tear into his eye.
"I cannot, sir. She is all I have—since her sainted mother, my companion and my joy in good and evil years, was taken from me by—by an inscrutable Providence. She is my only object in life, her happiness my sole aim, her welfare and her destiny all that I live for. You ask too much of me. I cannot separate myself from my beloved child."
"Ye thought little enough of separating me from mine!" said the old man with bitterness.
"I know it, John Garledge. I know it and have mourned it these many years. The wrong I did you is the curse of my existence. I cannot forget it. 'Twas mainly to tell you so and to implore your forgiveness that I have made this voyage. I trust that before I set my face south-ward again I may take with me your forgiveness—your forgiveness and your blessing?"
"No!" thundered the old man, with such energy that Crossthwaite started in his chair. "No—by God! Not you—not you! 'Tis not for you—my forgiveness."
He clenched his great fists and glared at his visitor savagely. Then, restraining himself with an effort, he went on.
"Listen to me. This shall be the last time that you and I hold any other communication save in writing or through our lawyers. I will tell you now what I have done. But be sure it is in no sense done with any feeling for you, or in any trust of you." He opened his desk, and took out some papers. "Here is my will. It leaves all I have—and I am a rich man. I have been lucky in my speculations—it leaves everything to my grand-daughter. And here I have a copy of an instruction to my bankers to pay to my grand-daughter's credit the sum of two thousand pounds per annum until she marries. Then there are settlements upon her, also, to be paid over on her marriage. I have named you as a trustee for the child until she comes of age—will ye undertake the trust?"
Captain Crossthwaite nodded. He did not speak, for fear that he might not be able to control a note of gladness in his voice. His long voyage had been well worth while.
"You will be well watched, Captain Crossthwaite. My lawyers have agents in the Colony to whom you will render an account—and woe betide you if it fails. And for the rest, we will conduct our business through our lawyers. I do not wish to see your face again." He opened the door, and pointed to the street. "Go!" he said, "and my undying curse goes with you. Never enter my door again—and may eternal damnation be your portion in the world to come!"
With this good wish echoing in his ears, Captain Crossthwaite took his departure. But he was not down-hearted.
"That is what I hoped," he muttered to himself, as he walked back to the Golden Cross. "It has come out well—just as well as I had hoped." He laughed pleasantly, at a thought that tickled him.
"The old fool does not know New South Wales!" he murmured aloud in his enjoyment of the evenings business.
LIEUTENANT JOHN CATESBY MAINWARING, of His Majesty's 3rd Regiment, the famous Buffs, at present on detachment duty at Hunter's River—the noble stream that enters the Sea at Newcastle, in New South Wales, was still spoken of, in 1823, as being some sort of a personal possession of the good Governor of the territory who had succeeded Captain Arthur Phillip—came riding, towards evening, to the homestead of Mr. Joseph Garledge at the Green Hills. He was not, however, confronted by the long wall of the Blue Mountains, cleft by the dark gorge of the Grose River, nor did his gaze wander across the rich flats of the fertile Hawkesbury. He was not anywhere in the neighbourhood of Windsor, the little settlement which, until Governor Macquarie's time, had been known by the pleasant name of Green Hills. As the crow flies, he was almost a hundred miles from that delectable countryside. He had ridden all day from the seaport and settlement at the mouth of the Hunter—round great wide-spreading marshes, and through tall forests, and across open plains—to the newer Green Hills that lay some seventeen or eighteen miles—nearly forty by the river—inland from Newcastle. The gently swelling ridges across which he urged his tired horse were those higher lands on the Lower Hunter where the old, decayed township of Morpeth, and the slightly less decayed town of East Maitland, stand to-day. They, too, were Green Hills long ago, and were still so designated officially on this summer evening in the third decade of the nineteenth century, when Mr. Mainwaring felt that his arrival at them was the best thing that had befallen him all through the hot hours that he had spent upon his journey.
He was a pleasant person to look upon, this Jack Mainwaring, strong, and healthy, and active, and not wanting in good looks. No more than a quarter of a century had passed over his head, and from his appearance his twenty-five years might have been a few less. He would just make six feet with thick-soled boots on, and he was slim and lithe, with a good carriage. He sat his horse with that easy grace that is only seen in those who have been bred to the saddle since babyhood. A couple of hounds of the new cross that had been evolved in New South Wales—typical kangaroo dogs—followed him. They were a little weary, for more than once during the day they had made long runs after their fleet quarry—a couple of times with some success, as the big kangaroo tails tied to Mainwaring's saddle testified.
New Dartmoor stood a little way back from the river, upon some high ground that rendered the roomy homestead quite immune from floods. Joe Garledge had not forgotten his experience on the Hawkesbury in 1806, and his first care in selecting a site for his dwelling place, had been to see that it was well out of reach of the waters of the Hunter when they overflowed their banks. That they could even outdo the Hawkesbury in this respect was a fact that was already well known to the settlers on the river. Some of them, who came from the old colony under the Blue Mountains, untaught by experience, had again found safety from the waters in tall trees, whilst they watched their houses submerged, and their hayricks making voyages to the Pacific. The spread of the waters of the Hunter, when, assisted by the Williams and the Paterson, it sets itself out to turn the landscape into a seascape, is very much wider than that, of the Hawkesbury. And yet more than one settler had made his home close to the riverside, or on low-lying country at a distance from it, but by no means out of reach of the invading flood waters. The existence of the town of West Maitland on Wallis's Plains, to-day, is good evidence of this—standing as it does on the flood-stricken area between two ranges of higher ground, about East Maitland on the one side, and Farley on the other. Macquarie and Brisbane chose East Maitland as the site of the settlement, but they could not prevent the principal town of the district from growing up on the low lands, where, periodically, it, has suffered through the century of its existence from such watery visitations as afflicted Noah. The municipality of West Maitland might well design its coat of arms to include an ark floating upon a yellow ocean.
But Joe Garledge was wiser in his generation, and New Dartmoor still stands upon the hill-top where he traced its foundations in 1817. And as it is ten years since we last saw the big, red, West Countryman with his head pillowed upon his wife's knee, whilst he lay unconscious after his tremendous battle with the bushranger, "Barky" Jack Williamson, near Crossthwaite Hall in 1813, it will be necessary for the proper elucidation of this narrative to recount, briefly, the principal facts of his prosperous career during that period.
Joe had accompanied Messrs. Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson over the Blue Mountains in the month of May, 1813. Mrs. Joe had taken leave of him in the full expectation of never beholding him again, and Parson Marsden, whilst invoking God's blessing upon the enterprise of the daring explorers, had heartily condemned Joe's personal foolhardiness. However, as all the world knows, the party succeeded in reaching the open country to the west of the ranges, and were back at South Creek in twenty-one days after commencing their hazardous march. It was the greatest and most far-reaching event in the history of Australia, and to Joe and Mrs. Joe, during the remainder of their long lives, everything dated B.M. or A.M.—Before the Mountains or After the Mountains.
Joe kept a journal, which still exists, although it has never been published. It is a quaint record of the trials and adventures of the explorers, and we will take a look into it in the succeeding chapter. If it is not altogether as lucid or as informative as the journals of Captain Cook, of Sir Joseph Banks, or Captain Matthew Flinders, or, as concerns particularly the Blue Mountains, of Ensign Barralier, it is indeed eloquent of the kind of good, honest, brave, and daring man that the late Mr. Joseph Garledge, J.P., of New Dartmoor, near Morpeth, in New South Wales, was. It breathes of Joe in every entry of his crabbed and laborious writing. Mrs. Joe, next to the Bible, esteemed it the most valuable volume in all the world. Nobody ever came to visit New Dartmoor who went away without hearing the story of the journey from her lips, or who did not inspect and read some portion at least of the remarkable chronicle.
It is strange that in the journal kept by Mr. Blaxland there is no mention whatever of Joe Garledge, who was the only free man—with the exception of its leader, Mr. William Wentworth, and Mr. Lawson—who took part in the expedition. Stranger still, when it is remembered that Mr. Blaxland thought fit to petition Governor Macquarie that he should make to Joseph Garledge some extra grant of good land in recognition of his very valuable and vital services—I quote Mr. Blaxland—which he might choose where he would. What these services were are modestly and scantily indicated in the old notebook that is still preserved by the Mainwaring family at New Dartmoor. But Mr. Blaxland is silent regarding them. It may possibly have been that the three gentlemen who were the principals in the undertaking were a little jealous of the privilege of handing their names down to posterity as the pioneers of the interior of Australia, and that no mention of the sturdy yeoman who was the main prop of the party in danger and difficulty is recorded. However, Joe got his land, and the questions as to why he did not get his due share of the fame of the business is one that would not be unworthy of the critical investigation of that erudite body, the Royal Historical Society of N.S. Wales.
Joe had chosen his grant on the banks of the Hunter River, and what a wise choice he made is evidenced by the condition of steadily increasing prosperity that was his until the end of his life. He died, in 1860, a very wealthy man indeed, and one of the best known and most respected of the inhabitants of the Lower Hunter valley.
Mr. Mainwaring's first sight of his destination was obtained as he emerged from a belt of timber that ended at the foot of the hill upon which the New Dartmoor homestead stood. The road which had brought him thither—little more than an infrequently used dray track—came to an end at the rough log fence, which surrounded the home paddock, and he alighted from his horse to open the double gate that gave entrance to the enclosure. As he did so, some dogs on the other side of the house set up a noisy barking, and presently three or four of assorted breeds came racing down the slope, with the air of hostility which recognises, in the canine world, an enemy in every stranger.
The house faced the river, and the approach to it by land led the traveller up to its back door. It was not the square stone structure that stands on the same site to-day—that was not built until about 1830—but a roomy cottage, constructed of roughly hewn-slabs, and surrounded by a wide verandah, on which was trained a luxuriant growth of creepers. The sun was just setting as the young officer led his horse up the hill.
As he approached the verandah the attention of the dogs redoubled itself, and there seemed to be every prospect of a scrimmage between his own coursers and the local pack. He had just called his dogs to heel, and was advancing through the yelping deputation that had come to meet him, with propitiatory word and gesture, when a girl came running on to the verandah, and busied herself with calling them off.
"Come here, Bluey—come here, sir. Towser, Towser!" she cried. "Come here at once, you bad dogs. Come up here, Billy! I'll have to take the whip to you, sir, if you don't behave yourself better."
Mr. Mainwaring halted, and stood staring at her in astonishment and appreciation for a good ten seconds, before he remembered his manners sufficiently to remove his hat and bow. He had certainly not expected such a vision of beauty as this in what were then what we would call now the Australian back-blocks. As a matter of fact, he had not supposed that he would be likely to find it anywhere in Australia.
Sally Garledge—as she still was called—was just eighteen, and in the first flush of her lovely womanhood. To the sunburnt youth who stood gazing at her, she looked, in this raw and new land of primal forests, and the rough beginnings of civilisation, some visitor from another world. Her glorious red-gold hair was piled in a mass above her white brow, and her splendid eyes danced with laughter, as she noted his embarrassment. Her eyes were darker now than they had been as a child, when we were last acquainted with her, and had rather a tinge of violet in their clear depths than the deep blue that had captivated Parson Marsden. And the lovely face of the child had formed itself into the face of a most beautiful woman—full of laughter and full of tenderness. But the dimples still played about the corners of the red lips parting over white and even teeth that looked like two rows of little pearls.
She came down to meet him, with outstretched hand. He took it in his, and bowed low over it.
"You must be Mr. Mainwaring," she said, smiling at him. She pronounced his name as it is spelt—and Jack Mainwaring was instantly of opinion that this usually disgusting version of his patronymic sounded infinitely better than the proper 'Mannering.' "We have been looking for you all the afternoon. Won't you come in? Father is down at the river on the schooner, but he'll be up soon. Come in and have some refreshment—you must be tired after your journey. If you'll hang your horse up to that post I'll send one of the men to take it to the stables. Do come in. We are all delighted that you were able to come."
Her frank welcome put the young man at his ease at once, and he followed her into the house, mumbling some remark about an honor that was his.
SHE led the way into a long, dark room, that ran the whole length of the house—evidently the living apartment of the establishment. Two windows—of real glass, and the only ones at that time in the neighborhood of the Green Hills—looked out on to a magnificent view, that was better revealed through the wide-open door. Down below the hill the Hunter flowed, broad and placid, through its verdant flats, and far away stretched the level lands that were of the richest in the colony. In the distance blue mountains rose above the tree-tops.
They passed through the room and out on to the front of the house.
"'Tis Mr. Mainwaring, Mummy," cried Sally, as they came on to the verandah. "Those dogs! One would think they had never seen a stranger before!"
Mrs. Joe rose from her chair, putting down her sewing, and came forward to greet her guest.
"Welcome to New Dartmoor, Mr. Mainwaring," she cried, with her old heartiness and her pleasant laugh. "We'm main glad to see you, Sally, lass, do 'ee bring some wine and some cake for Mr. Mainwaring. I be certain sure he'll be glad of it, after his hot ride from King's Town. Sit ye down, sir, do. 'Tes a pleasant evening, but it has been a warm day. Make yourself to home. Joe—Mr. Garledge—will be in soon."
Mrs. Joe was a little plumper—indeed she might almost be described inelegantly as "stout"—than when we saw her last, but the ten years had dealt kindly with her comely face, and the smile of welcome that she gave him caused Jack Mainwaring to feel that he had known her for years, and that he was indeed at home. He sat down, and his eyes followed Sally as she went indoors to see to his refreshment. He had not yet recovered himself from the effect of the first sight of her sweet loveliness.
You must not suppose that Jack Mainwaring was an extraordinarily sentimental young man, or given to losing his heart whenever he came across a pretty girl. He had had his "affairs"—respectable and otherwise—like most young men, but he was far from being an impressionable and callow youth of the sort who is ever ready to go into raptures over a muslin garment wrapped around any attractive piece of femininity. The truth was, he was so unaccustomed to seeing other females than convict women, soldiers' wives, or the wives of those of his brother officers who were benedicts, that a young, and good-looking and charming girl was altogether a novelty to him. In Sydney, it is true, there were ladies, and some not altogether unpleasing young ones, but he had spent little of his time at headquarters since the regiment had come to Australia. He had been on detachment duty at Port Dalrymple—as Launceston, in Tasmania, was then called—and at Norfolk Island; and now, after but two months in Sydney, he had been sent to the Coal River in charge of the half company of the 46th, that was in garrison at that not altogether delightful penal settlement. So our Currency Lass was a rare delicacy to his rather epicurean taste in womankind.
He found himself replying a little absently to Mrs. Joe's inquiries for news of the outer world, and made an effort to rouse himself.
"Oh, yes, Mrs. Garledge," he was saying, "King's Town is much as usual. Last month the packet brought a new chaplain—a Roman Catholic—Father Reaney, and he seems a very good fellow. A distinct acquisition."
"You'm a Carth'lic yourself, Mr. Mainwaring?"
"Oh, no," he laughed, "my good father would take a fit if he heard you ask me that. He's a Bishop, you know. Church of England. Bishop of Sodor and Man. I don't think he'd approve of my knowing good Father Reaney—I'm sure he wouldn't. But I like him immensely—he's one of the best men I've ever come across."
"You'm quite raight, Mr. Mainwaring. There's good in every Church. Strictly speakin', Joe—my husband—an' I, we be Plymouth Brethren, but we've had so much to do with Passon Marsden, of Par'matta, that I think we be real Church folk now."
Sally arrived with a tray, on which were a bottle of sherry, a glass, and some cake. She put it down on a little table beside the guest, and immediately excused herself on the ground of household duties and the preparation of the evening meal. The sun was going down in a glory of crimson and orange, over behind the distant mountains to the westward. Mr. Mainwaring helped himself to the wine and cake, of which, indeed, he was very glad, having fasted during his ride.
Whilst he was still engaged with the refreshments, and in replying, as well as he could, to Mrs. Joe's thirst for news, the dogs outside set up a frenzied yelping of greeting to the master of the house, who was coming up from the wharf, where lay the schooner he had bought to enable him to carry on a direct trade with Sydney. He stepped on to the verandah, and greeted his guest with unassuming heartiness. Mainwaring winced a little under the grip of his great hand.
"Welcome, welcome, Mr. Mainwaring," he cried delightedly. "'Tes raight glad I be to see 'ee, zur. You'm surely very welcome. Ye found your way all right, eh—didn't get bushed? 'Tes not so good a road, nor so plain a one, as we'll have some day. But we'm far away from Easy Town up to New Dartymoor. Bain't many folk so far out in th' wilds as us be. I dare say ye'll not have been so far out into the country before, Mr. Mainwaring—unless 'twas to the Oxberry. But that's old, settled country. We be all up in the bush proper, here."
"Thank you, Mr. Garledge. Oh, yes, I've been across the Blue Mountains to the new settlement at Bathurst. But I was not alone then. 'Tis a fine country over there—and the colony has to thank yourself, and the others with whom you sought it out, for giving it to her."
"Oh, 'twas a joy to me to make that journey. 'Twas fine to prove 'em all wrong who said we'd never come back. The good wife, here, was one of the worst of 'em—she and Passon Marsden. I'll say this for her, though—'tes the on'y time I've ever been able to prove her in the wrong since we were wed."
He laughed heartily, and the younger man felt himself greatly drawn to this splendid specimen of a human being. Joe was as straight and muscular as when he had crossed the ranges, and looked fit and ready to undertake a similar expedition to-day. He was a tremendous worker, and clean living and honest dealing had kept him strong, and fresh, and active as a man of twenty-five. He was in his shirtsleeves, and his great neck stood out of his open collar like a tower. There was not a grey hair in his red head, his face was as jolly and as unlined as a boy's, and the blue eyes looked out from beneath their shaggy brows as clearly and pleasantly as a young girl's.
After supper—to which Mainwaring did full justice, and appreciated the better since he knew it was the outcome of Sally's culinary skill—they sat out on the verandah, and watched the pale radiance from the rising moon stealing across the flats, whilst the two men smoked and talked, and the women listened, joining occasionally in the conversation. Mainwaring had prevailed upon his host to give him a first-hand account of his journey over the Mountains, and big Joe was nothing loth to recount the great event of his life to so appreciative a listener.
"'Tes no very great thing, after all, though," he concluded modestly. "Someone was bound to do it some day. Ye may say we had luck in striking the main ridge and sticking to it, right along to Mount York. But, Lord, how often did we try to get off it! An' we would have, too, if it hadn't been for them gert gullies an' prec'pices, that always turned us back. 'Twas like walkin' along the top of a wall. Our only way of goin' was to go forrard. Our only chance to miss our way was to fall down into them deep places. But there was something ter'ble lonely in them dark forests, an' something that frightened a man in the look o' them gert gullies—all deep, an' blue, an' dark, with th' lil creeks pourin' along their bottoms, away out o' sight below the tops o' th' trees, thousands o' feet down. 'Twas easy to understand why all them poor prisoners who had started out to walk to Chiny seldom came back to the settled lands, and when they did were so starved and famished that they welcomed flogging for the crust o' bread an' the bite o' meat that went with it. 'Tes a starved, empty country on th' tops—on'y fit to look at an' to wonder at. But the promised land—'twas worth it all to see them rich plains, stretchin' out o' sight towards th' sunset!"
"Ye must read his book, Mr. Mainwaring," interposed Mrs. Joe. "Go, get the book, Sally. Mr. Mainwaring can read it by candle-light when he goes to bed, if so be he'm not too tired, for to do so."
And this is an extract from the single literary lapse of Joe's life. Mainwaring read the book through when bed-time came, with difficulty and deep interest, for, like all who came to know him, he had fallen under the spell of esteem and liking which the big Devon man cast over all good men with whom he came in contact—and, more often than not, over the bad ones, too. To this latter fact may be credited, perhaps, the success with which the system of the assignment of convict labour worked at New Dartmoor. It was a very bad man, a very hopeless man, who would not deal as fairly as in him lay with the hearty, lovable, and simple manliness of good Joe Garledge. Thus it went:—
"Ye Fift Day we was up betimes an made up ye fire to boyle ye pot an broke our fast with thankfulness. A very cold night an frost upon ye trees an ye grass. Ye pack horses looked miserable an ye Forest was very Thicke an Wet, an hard for to foorce our way. Mr. Wentworth and I did goe Forward of the rest for to find ye easy Way, but 'twas hard to find where was None, an wee had much Labor an made but poor Prograss up to middaye. As it was on ye first Days of ye Journey, ye Dewy grasse and shrubbes drinched us to ye Skin, an we were sopping wet ontil ye cloathes dryed upon us. At noon we halted for to rest an to bait ye Horses. Here is but little Natural erbage for ye fower-footed Cretures, an that very poor an a gorse wiry grass having littel sustnince. Wee continued on slowly thru ye Afternoon, passing under great Trees an in very thicke undergrowth. One of ye men straying away was nearly lost to us an to find him when we cooeyed was not so Easy. But I found him and boxed his Ears for his trubble. This night it rained miserably, but we found Shelter for all in a wide Cave, but ye horses had to endure ye Wether without any shelter. Five miles do be ye Estimit of Mr. Blaxland for ye dayes journey. Mr. Lawson a litel footsore. Myself wel an Strong, an doe hartily thank God for His mercie in giding us thus far. Raining hard as I rite an but litel dri Wood for ye Fire."
When Mrs. Garledge and Sally had said goodnight, about eight o'clock, Joe and his guest continued a little longer on the verandah, smoking, and Joe recounted his experiences in settling upon his present location.
"A man from Devizes told me of this country on Hunter's River, at the time I was casting about where I would go for to select the two thousand acres Mr. Macquarie had granted to me, an' so I awaited my chance to come an' see it for myself. Mr. Macquarie was very kind. He gave me a letter to Captain Wallis, the commandant at King's Town, an' ordered me a free passage to the Coal River in the Lady Nelson. When I came there, I was able to obtain the use of a boat, an' the assistance of two men, an' we rowed up the river. All the land is good along both banks, but I was frightened of floods. I'd seen them on th' Oxberry in eighteen-six, in eighteen-nine, an' in 'sixteen, and unless I could find some high land to make my station on, I rackoned 'twas little use a-settling down on them flats. Ye may have years of prosperity, an' all things be raight an' fine,' an' them coomes a flood, an' 'tes all labor in vain. But on the third day I came to this place, an' 'twas goon enough for me. So I went back an' sold my farm near Windsor, and bought breeding stock with the money, an' hired one of Andrew Thompson's lil ships, an' sailed raight round from the old Green Hills to the new, an' we took a day over the fortnight on the v'yage. 'Twas slow work comin' down th' Oxberry, and we met with contra-airy winds outside Broken Bay, so that we were five days beating up to th' Coal River, an' beating in round th' Coal Island. An' 'twas a slow business drifting up the river on the tides, an' we had to warp the little ship off th' mud banks half a score of times. But we got here at a good last, an' here we be, doing so well. I've no cause to regret having gone across the Mountains with Mr. Blaxland. But 'tes ter'ble late—'tes nine o'clock, no less—an' we be early folk. To-morrow I'll show ye my land. I think New Dartymoor be worth a glance or two—though 'tes me that sez it!"
EARLY in the morning Mainwaring was awakened by the clucking and squawking of fowls and ducks, and, jumping out of bed, put his head through the open window for a breath of the fresh air and a glimpse of the newly-risen sun. The house was built on piles, and his bedroom window-sill was some twelve feet above the ground. He was startled by a merry laugh below him.
"Good morning, Mr. Mainwaring," Sally smiled up at him from the recesses of a pink hood. "You don't keep very early hours, I can see. Aren't you ever going to get up? Come and help me with my chickens."
"In half of thirty seconds, Miss Garledge," he laughed back. "Chickens are my weakness."
"Broiled, I expect," she flung up at him as he withdrew his towsled head.
In the half of thirty minutes he stood beside her—freshly shaven, clean-looking, and neatly attired. He was in mufti, and the fawn-colored riding garments he had arrived in fitted him like a glove and showed off his fine figure to perfection. Sally decided that there was little that was wanting in this young man's appearance, at any rate, even if he was one of those roystering blades of subaltern officers, of whose wicked ways she had read in novels. She gave him her hand with a smile, and he raised it gallantly to his lips, rather to the confusion and the heightening of the color of our Currency Lass, who was little used to such Continental politeness.
"Oh!" she said; "do you always do that when people bid you good morning?"
"Well—er—not exactly always," he replied, coloring a little, too. And then they both laughed, and she led him off, with an expressed intention of making use of him, and a dish of chicken food in his hands, towards an enclosure where her turkeys lived and had their nurseries.
Breakfast was at seven, and Sally, Mrs. Garledge, and Mainwaring awaited the coming of the master of the house, who had betaken himself early to the schooner. The big bell in the yard, that summoned the convict servants to their morning meal, had been silent a good five minutes before he made his appearance.
At once, from the subdued manner of his greetings to the three of them, it was apparent that something was wrong. Something had occurred that had clouded Joe's genial countenance, and made his step a little heavier and slower than was customary. He carried some papers in his hand, and he placed them on the table beside his plate with a preoccupied air, as he bent his head and said grace.
"What's th' matter, Joe, my man?" asked his wife softly, as they sat down. "You're bothered, seeming. Is aught wrong with th' lil ship?"
Joe shook his head.
"Nay—th' Lil Sally's alraight—an' 'tes well she be so, for ye must both pack y'r boxes after breakfast, and make ready for th' voyage to Sydney Town. We must sail upon th' turn of th' tide at one o'clock."
"Lud ha' mercy!" exclaimed Mrs. Joe in tragic tones, astounded at this sudden announcement by her good man. "Hark to th' man, Sally girl, what does he mean?"
"What is it, father?" asked Sally, wonderingly.
"Ye'll excuse me, Mr. Mainwaring, if we discuss our affairs afore ye, won't ye now?" said Joe, turning to their guest.
"Oh, yes, yes—Mr. Garledge. But would it not be better if I left the room. I'll sit in the verandah——"
"No, no—not at all, zur, 'tes no harm you hearin'. Well, Sally, 'tes that good father of yours again. He'm surely persistent—he'm not to be set aside."
"Why, what now, father—you are the only man I will ever call that—what has he done now?"
Mrs. Joe stared anxiously at her husband, consternation written plainly all over her plump features.
Joe took up his papers, and opened one of them, which he spread out on the table.
"A man came up the river in a boat last night from King's Town—he was stuck on a sunken tree five miles below here, and only reached th' place at sunrise—who brought me a mail from Sydney. There be a letter for each of you, but keep 'em until I tell ye. This be a letter from lawyer Sims. He has to tell of Cap'n Cross'waite's latest movement—an' it be a main serious one." He shook his head, and looked up at Sally, who paled a little.
"What is it, father?" she faltered. "Has he made some fresh move?"
"Yes. Mr. Sims writes to say that Cap'n Cross'waite be a-goin' to th' Supreme Court—to Mr. Justice Field—fer to get him to make an order for you to be handed over to 'un. Th' hearin' of his argyment is to come off this day week, an' Sam Sims, he does most strongly advise that I do coom to Sydney to oppose it, an' that I bring you an' th' missus wi' me. So that be the strong of it, an' 'tes fair lucky th' schooner be here, an' all trim an' ready for sea. We must start at once. After breakfast, do'ee pack up, an' see to the providin' o' Sunday toggery, 'Lizbeth. I have no love for it, as ye know, but 'twill be necessary, I s'pose—in the court, 'tanyrate."
He turned to his guest.
"Mr. Mainwaring, I do be truly sorrowful—but I must ask ye for to grant me y'r pardon. I had hoped to have ye wi' us for the week, at least, an' for to give ye some kind of spoort after th' kangaroos an' th' wild duck. But it cannot be, I be main sorry to say. We must away to Sydney. 'Tes no help for it. If ye'll come to King's Town in the schooner with us, I'll have your horse sent down to th' settlement. Unless," he added hospitably, "maybe ye'd stay here, an' do some huntin' an' shootin' on y'r own account? My overseer, Jim Biggs, would look after ye well enough."
"Oh, thank you, Mr. Garledge—I think I'll go down the river with you. If you'll have me some other time, perhaps I might come again?"
"Yes, yes—ye'll he always welcome, zur," said Joe heartily. "I be more than sorry that we must fly away in so sudden a fashion. But 'tes a business will brook no delay. 'Tes th' welfare of our lil girl be at stake."
"Some legal business, I presume?"
Joe looked at his wife, and she nodded her head.
"'Tes no harm ye should know it. Sally here's not our child—she be th' darter of Cap'n William Cross'waite, o' Prospect Hill, and he'm main anxious to get our lil girl into his guardianship—all on account of some money that be a-comin' to her. But th' missus here'll tell 'ee. I must gulp some breakfast, and be about a bit. There's a main lot to be seen to before we start. Have your breakfast—an' they'll tell it all to ye. 'Tes an interestin' story, I think ye'll find."
Joe made a hasty meal, and hurried out. Whilst they sat over their cups, Mrs. Joe outlined Sally's story to her interested visitor.
"I have met this Captain Crossthwaite," he said, looking at Sally with something of sympathy in his clear eyes. "If I may ask Miss—Miss Crossthwaite——"
"Oh, don't call me that—please," hastily interrupted Sally. "I have no feeling for him that I suppose I ought to have. He was cruelly wicked and horrid to my poor mother, and sometimes I almost believe I hate him, and wish he was dead. Dear Joe and dear mummy have been the only father and mother I've ever known, and I'd rather be their daughter, and bear their name, than anything." There were tears in her eyes, as she took Mrs. Joe's hand, and squeezed it affectionately.
"Of course," said Mainwaring, "I understand, Miss Garledge. I was going to say that I know this Captain Crossthwaite, and if half the tales one hears of him are true, he is a very bad lot, indeed."
"Indeed—there's naught could be too bad for him," said Mrs. Joe indignantly. "'Twas many years before I dared to tell my man all I knew. Passon Marsden an' me, we kept it to ourselves, for fear of th' wild temper of them Red Garledges. If Joe'd known then, I do believe he'd have sought him out and killed him. But come, Sally, my dear, we must hasten wi' our packing—for we'll have to be aboard th' Lil Sally by half after twelve, for her to catch the turn o' th' tide at one o'clock. Mr. Mainwaring—we must leave you to yourself, if so be ye'd excuse us. We'm greatly pressed for time, as ye can see."
"Oh, I'll be quite alright, Mrs. Garledge. Don't worry about me. I'll take a stroll about the place until 'tis time to start."
The Little Sally was a trim schooner of some seventy tons' burthen, and her skipper was an old Dawlish fisherman, who had been transported many years before for the virtuous and righteous act of smuggling—as it was held to be along the Channel shores. He was a fine old sea-dog, and knew every inch of the coast of New South Wales. Particularly was he a master-pilot of Port Stephens, the Hunter River, the Hawkesbury, and Port Jackson. When, at five minutes after one o'clock, his pretty little craft running out into the stream—being given a shove off with long poles by the servants of New Dartmoor, under the supervision of the irascible Jim Biggs—a shock-headed nugget of a man and once a lightweight boxer—Cap'n Sammy Toop stood proudly at the wheel beside his owner, and swore that he'd have them into Newcastle on a single tide. But it was not to be, for in the reach where the colliers load to-day at Hexham, she fouled a sunken tree, and lost the tide, so that it was noon of the following day before they dropped anchor off the King's Wharf at Newcastle.
Jack Mainwaring found it mighty pleasant drifting down the broad bosom of the Hunter, under light sail, and in the company of the Currency Lass. The nor'-easter was generally favourable to their progress, and sometimes, in the longer reaches of the river, the schooner logged quite a respectable pace. It was just at sunset when they fouled the branches of a big gum tree that had been brought down by the last flood, and, greatly to the chagrin of Captain Toop, they were forced to make up their minds to spending the night there. It was a pleasant enough night—except for the mosquitoes, the famous "Hexham Greys," whose feats are still proverbial on the Lower Hunter—but none were sorry when at daylight the schooner was once more in motion upon her voyage.
There is hardly any prettier or more peaceful scenery anywhere than along that forty miles of the old Hunter. If you travel that way to-day in one of the steamers of the Newcastle and Hunter River Company, you will agree that the three or four hours voyage is well worth making. Long flats stretching back from the low, rich, chocolate banks make a verdant plain of cultivation on either bank, and the distant hills and blue ranges, rising behind the nearer forests of eucalyptus and mangrove, complete a picture, or a series of pictures, altogether charming with a certain fresh loveliness and pastoral peacefulness.
When they anchored, Joe, Captain Toop, and Mr. Mainwaring—the latter taking regretful leave of Mrs. Garledge and Sally, but especially of Sally—went ashore in the schooner's boat. Clearance papers were to be made out, the Commandant's mails respectfully solicited, and maybe a passenger or two to be embarked.
When they came back about four o'clock, Sally was surprised to see Lieutenant Mainwaring, in uniform, seated in the stern sheets—surprised, but not ill pleased. Beside him was a ruddy-faced gentleman in clerical dress, whom Joe introduced as the Rev. Father Reaney, Roman Catholic Chaplain at King's Town, who had begged, and been made welcome to, a passage to Port Jackson.
"It is good of you to have come to say good-bye to us, Mr. Mainwaring," said Sally, smiling her welcome to the young officer.
"Oh, but I haven't, Miss Garledge," he laughingly replied. "The Commandant, Major Morisett, has sent me to Sydney with some particular despatches for Sir Thomas Brisbane, and Mr. Garledge has been good enough to give me a passage in the Little Sally."
"Oh, that's delightful," laughed Sally, "I'm so glad. Indeed I am. We were just beginning to know you."
The elation of the despatch-bearer at this frank declaration almost caused him a sleepless night.
An hour or so before sunset they crossed out over the bar, rounded the high, castle-like rock known then as Coal Island, and now as Nobby's, and headed south-ward. The nor'-easter blew freshly all through a glorious moonlight night, and by sunrise they were abreast of Manly Beach. By ten o'clock the Little Sally was snugly at anchor in Sydney Cove.
JOB GARLEDGE lost no time in going to interview his lawyer about the matter that had brought New Dartmoor so hurriedly to Sydney. After seeing his wife and foster-daughter safely installed in the new King's Hotel in George Street—the most pretentious establishment that Sydney could boast in '23, and a really first-class hostelry of the days of the Regency, either in Australia or the Old Country—he hurried round to the office of Sims & Hayes, which was also the dwelling place of Mr. Samuel Sims, and was established in a neat cottage, with a garden round it, close to the intersection of King and Pitt Streets.
Mr. Sims—a little, dry, scrupulous, exact man, of the sort that has been so traditionally portrayed as the "stage lawyer"—received him with great respect. The wealthy squatter of '23 was a very much more important personage in the community than had been the humble free settler of 1806, whom we first met that year, shivering on the island hill top at the Hawkesbury in the Big Flood. The ceremoniousness of Mr. Sims's bow was a measure of his importance—and it was a very ceremonious bow, indeed.
"Good morning to you, Mr. Garledge," he greeted him with a dignified urbanity that he reserved for his best clients. "Ah—you have lost no time in getting from Hunter's River, I perceive. Excellent, excellent! The matter is one of some—ahem—some urgency, my dear sir. Some urgency. Urgency. Urgency."
He handed Mr. Garledge a chair, and begged him to be seated. Joe sat down, and wiped his brow. He was extremely uncomfortable in the blue broadcloth tail coat with brass buttons, the top boots with yellow tops, and the stove-pipe hat—which were the main features of the shining raiment that his good wife insisted upon when they came to Sydney.
"Well, well, Sammy." Mr. Sims winced, but pretended to enjoy the familiar form of address, which, indeed, was almost universally accorded him, and never resented, save from such as might be supposed to be incapable of paying costs. "Well, well—'tes a serious enough business to make me hurry—anything that does have to do wi' th' welfare of our Sally. Lucky I was to have th' schooner ready for sea, an' just on th' pint o' sailin', when your letter came to New Dartmoor. We'm anxious to know what th' trouble is now—th' missus an' me."
"I trust, my dear sir, that your charming and accomplished lady is in the enjoyment of good health. A great blessing, Mr. Garledge. A blessing. A blessing."
"Oh, yes, 'Lizbeth's sprightly, thank'ee, Sammy. An' Sally, too. But let's come at the business. What's this d—-d fellow up to now? I can see myself screwing the varmint's neck, before 'tes finished wi' un," growled Joe, with a dangerous look in the steadfast blue eyes. "He'm Hell's own son, for sure, is William Crossthwaite."
"Calm yourself, my good sir. Calmness is what we want. Calmness. Calmness. Captain Crossthwaite is, as you observe, a very diabolical character. Diabolical. Diabolical. But he is also a very astute and thoroughly unprincipled person, and we must be very wary in our choice of weapons with which to fight him—and our employment of them, sir. Our employment. Employment."
Joe was growing impatient.
"Sammy," he said, "if ye doan't come to th' point, I'll go straight an' find this fellow Cross'waite myself, an' have it out wi' un in good West Country fashion."
"No, no—my dear Mr. Garledge. No, no." Mr. Sims raised his open hands in protest against this proposal of summary, and, possibly, violent, procedure. "One moment, sir—one moment, and I will make you acquainted with this latest piece of villainy. Villainy. Villainy."
He got up and went to a case of pigeon-holes at the back of the room, returning to his table with some papers, neatly docketed, and fastened together with the red tape out of which had been woven the web of Sammy Sims's existence. He carefully unfolded them, and spread them upon the table.
"I have received a letter, which I have here, Mr. Garledge, from Captain Crossthwaite's attorney, in which, to be short, he informs me that his client intends, unless you see fit within a fortnight—which leaves at this date only a week—to fall in with his demands as to surrendering the guardianship of Miss Crossthwaite."
"Garledge," interrupted Joe, "Garledge, dammit!"
"Yes, yes, my dear sir—but, but we must not forget that your adopted daughter is legally Miss Selina Crossthwaite. Legally, my dear sir. Legally. Legally."
"Aye," said Joe reflectively. "That be true enough. Parson Marsden, he wrote home to th' parish where her mother was wed to this dam' scoundrel, an' got a 'tested copy of th' entry in th' mar'ge register o' th' church—to Hawley in Surrey, I think 'twas. Ye have th' papers here, Sammy?"
"Yes, yes. I recollect perfectly. Perfectly. So she is undoubtedly Selina Crossthwaite, the legitimate offspring of Captain William Crossthwaite and Selina, his wife. Legitimate. Legitimate. He has his claims, sir. He has his claims. Claims. We must be circumspect in the business. Circumspect. Circumspect."
Joe found this reiteration of any phrase that tickled the ear of its inventor extremely irritating.
"Well, well—get on, Sammy, get on," he said impatiently.
"In good time, Mr. Garledge. In good time. We must consider the matter in its entirety, sir. In its entirety. Now, since she is his daughter, and a minor, it is not to be denied that Captain Crossthwaite is quite within his rights in demanding that he shall have the custody of his child until she either comes of age, or marries. There is no denying that, Mr. Garledge. No denying it. He has a just claim, sir. A just claim."
"But 'tes not right an honest girl, an innocent girl, like our Sally, should go to live in th' home of a man who keeps mistresses—common, dirty strumpets, they are—an' who has lived in sin all his life. She'd be better dead than that. An', anyway, short of keeping her behind bolts an' bars, like a prisoner, he'd never get her to stop with him."
"Quite so, Mr. Garledge. Quite so. And it is in Captain Crossthwaite's evil reputation that the strength of our side lies. I am sure that Mr. Justice Field, when he has seen Miss Selina, would regard it as preposterous that such a young lady should be handed over to the care of so notorious an evil-liver as her father. He would look upon it as preposterous. Pre—posterous, sir. Preposterous."
"Then we need have no fear——"
"A moment, Mr. Garledge. A moment, sir," the lawyer interrupted him. "There is this to be considered, and it is of some moment. Some moment. We might demonstrate to his Honour that Captain Crossthwaite was an entirely unworthy person to have charge of the young lady. That would be a task of no difficulty whatever. Whatever. But the fact remains that he is a trustee, appointed by her grandfather to supervise certain settlements of an annual sort that have been made by the latter gentleman. Suppose that Captain Crossthwaite was to admit that his mode of life was not—ahem—sufficiently regular to permit of a reasonable expectation that he should be entrusted with her personal custody? Well then, he might admit, that, and at the same time raise objections to her remaining in the care of two people—such as yourself and your good lady, Mrs. Garledge—who were prejudiced against him to such an extent that their influence might be supposed to inculcate sentiments, in the young lady's mind, of an unfilial nature towards himself. The Judge would be bound to consider this point of view, if he raised it. And then, if his Honour decided to remove the young lady from your care——"
"God forbid!" said Joe, appalled at the mention of such a prospect. "Now, God forbid!"
"Quite so, Mr. Garledge—God forbid. God forbid. But if he so decided, he would naturally invite Captain Crossthwaite to suggest the name of some person who might undertake the charge of the young lady agreeably to his view."
"Why shouldn't he invite me to have a say?"
"Because you do not count, Mr. Garledge—you have no legal status in the matter whatsoever. None whatever. None whatever. I regret it, I assure you—but the fact that you saved the child's life in the great flood of 1806, and have since brought her up and educated her, gives you no sort of legal claim to her. No legal claim. Legal claim. He would not consider you at all. That is a fact, sir—though very lamentable. Lamentable. Lamentable. But it is a fact."
"An' who would this ruffian be likely to say—for to look after our lil Sally?"
"Ah, I was coming to that, Mr. Garledge. Coming to that. I have not the slightest doubt, my good sir, that he would nominate that fraudulent, pettifogging time-serving disgrace to our profession, sir—our profession—a man who ought never to have been admitted to the roll of solicitors of the Supreme Court of the Territory—Timothy Robinson. A scoundrel, sir. A scoundrel. Scoundrel. Captain Crossthwaite's attorney, sir—Mr. Timothy Robinson."
"I've heard of him. Is he so bad as that?"
"Bad, sir. Bad is not the word. The superlative of bad is the word, sir! The superlative. There is none worse. He is the very worst. The very worst. The worst."
"Well—an' then?" asked Joe.
"The young lady's unworthy father would have it all his own way. All his own way. Entirely. Entirely. Her income would be in Robinson's charge. She would live in his house—since she would have to live somewhere. His detestable influence would direct her affairs. Crossthwaite might even, through him, bring about the young lady's marriage with some creature of his own, and thereby obtain control of the ultimate fortune that is to come to her from her grandfather. He might do anything. A young girl, Mr. Garledge, is only a young girl. Inexperienced. Inexperienced. Possibly susceptible to affairs of the heart. Anything might happen. 'Tis a very serious consideration, Mr. Garledge. Very serious. Serious."
The little man of parchment leant back in his chair, and regarded his big client with great solemnity. Joe thought for a little while, staring at the floor between his feet. He looked up at Mr. Sims.
"Well, then, Sammy," he said slowly, "what'd us better be doin'? We can't sit still and see this brought about."
Mr. Sims rubbed his hands together, and regarded Joe with a look that was meant to express great astuteness, great cunning, much knowledge of the world.
"The Americans, my dear Mr. Garledge—our trans-Atlantic kinsmen—have a word to express the course of action I would advise, which is very expressive and effective. Expressive and effective. Effective. I would most strongly urge that we take this course."
"An' what's that?"
"That is the word, sir. It means to overcome with impudence. To induce a belief in the mind of an opponent that one is better and more effectively prepared to overcome him than one really is. To terrify him, sir, by—ahem—false pretences of a sort. But not really. Not really. In the employment of true bluff, sir, the opponent is induced to make his own false pretences—to deceive himself, sir. Deceive himself."
"An' do'ee think, Sammy Sims, as you can do this here 'bluff' wi' Cap'n Cross'waite. He is a wily one—wily an' dang'rous."
"Possibly, sir—possibly with Captain Crossthwaite. Possibly. But very certainly, sir, with his attorney. I know enough of Timothy Robinson, almost, to send him to the care of our estimable friend at the Coal River, Major Morisett."
"Do 'ee, then?" said Joe.
"Yen, Mr. Garledge, I do. And I propose to bluff Mr. Robinson, and through him, indirectly, to bluff Captain Crossthwaite. Indirectly. Indirectly."
"Leave it to me, sir, I beg—and you will see how, in due course. Give me your authority to propose a meeting of the parties concerned, at your hotel. That is to say, on the one side, Mrs. Garledge and yourself, and your adopted daughter, with their trusty—I think I may say—legal adviser. On the other, Captain Crossthwaite, and the miserable and discreditable wretch whom he employs as his business agent. Shall we say, for the day after to-morrow—at the King's Hotel? The King's Hotel?"
"Very well, Sammy," said Joe, a little doubtfully. "But remember this. Supreme Court—Judge Field an' all—or no Supreme Court, that blackguard Cross'waite doesn't get our lil Sally. I'd crack his skull, an' drop him in th' harbour first!"
"My good sir—you really mustn't. Mustn't. Good gracious—'tis almost a felony to think such a thing!"
"Very well—you do your bluff proper, then, Sammy!"
MR.. SAMUEL SIMS lost no time in communicating with his despised brother of the law, Mr. Timothy Robinson, Solicitor and Notary.
"My dear Sir," he wrote, having headed his short epistle "Without Prejudice," "with reference to your letter of the 10th instant, concerning the question of Captain William Crossthwaite's guardianship of Miss Selina Crossthwaite, I beg to inform you that I have this day submitted same to the consideration of my esteemed client, Mr. Joseph Garledge, of New Dartmoor, Hunter's River, who happens to be at present in Sydney. Without admitting that Captain Crossthwaite has any just claim to the society of the lady in question, Mr. Garledge has instructed me to propose a meeting of the parties involved in the matter, at which the business may be discussed in a fashion satisfactory to all. I have, therefore, to suggest that Captain Crossthwaite, with yourself as his attorney, meet with Mr. and Mrs. Garledge, with myself in a similar capacity, and Miss Selina Crossthwaite, as the person most directly interested, at the King's Hotel, in George Street, on Friday, the 12th instant, at 4 o'clock p.m. This should give you time to summon Captain Crossthwaite from his residency at Prospect Hill—if he is not at present in Sydney, as I understand him to be. Trusting that I may be informed of your immediate acceptance of this invitation.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
"Obedient servant be d—-d!" muttered Mr. Sims, as he signed this document. "Polite fiction. Fiction. Fiction. I'll show the low-lived blackguard!"
The low-lived blackguard had duly replied, accepting Mr. Sims's proposal. And so the matter stood, until the day after to-morrow.
On the day following the arrival of the Garledges in Sydney Mr. John Mainwaring, arrayed in his best uniform after a visit, on the business of the Commandant at Newcastle, to His Excellency, Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Brisbane, at Government House, did himself the honour of calling upon Mrs. Garledge at her hotel. It may be added that he also did himself the pleasure—the very great and eagerly sought after pleasure—of calling upon Miss Selina Garledge, as she preferred to be known.
He found them at home, but Mrs. Garledge deputed Sally to be the bearer of her compliments, and her regrets that she was unable to see him this morning, as she was engaged with the dressmaker.
"Oh dear, and do you know why, Mr. Mainwaring?" Sally exclaimed with an air of tragedy. "We had hardly got settled into our room, when an orderly came down from Government House with an invitation to dinner from Sir Thomas Brisbane. It was for Mr. and Mrs. Garledge and Miss Garledge. Do you know, I feel so shy that I think I'll be Miss Crossthwaite for once in a way, and have no knowledge of this Miss Garledge. I suppose I am entitled to do that, aren't I?"
"Of course," he laughed, "you needn't know who Miss Garledge is, Miss Sally. But I don't think I'd be frightened of the Governor. He's one of the kindest and the best of men, and I'm certain you'd be able to number him amongst your conquests in half an hour."
"Oh, dear—I haven't any conquests, as you call them, sir."
"I'm not so sure about that," he said gallantly, with a smile and a bow, and she blushed prettily, for it was hard to mistake his meaning.
"Do let us go out for a walk somewhere," she said hastily. "Do you mind? I'm such a country bumpkin, that the mere sight of the streets excite me. Are you doing anything?"
"Delighted!" he exclaimed, jumping up. "I came here with the intention of begging you to honor me with your company for an hour or two. Let us go at once. It is a glorious morning. We'll look at the shops, and stroll round by the Cove, and admire the shipping and the harbour."
"Just a minute, until I run and tell Mummy," she cried delightedly, and hastened from the drawing-room of the hotel. In ten minutes she was back, with her 'coal-scuttle' bonnet on, out of which hideous head-dress her sweet face looked, Mainwaring thought, more sweetly than ever. She had on a white muslin dress, and a pink sash, high up under the bust, as was the fashion in the "twenties" of the last century, set off the costume wonderfully—so that she looked the fresh, wholesome, happy daughter of the sunny south that she was.
They were a good looking couple, as they walked down the sunlit street towards the harbour, and more than one pair of eyes turned to gaze after the handsome, manly young officer and his beautiful companion. Soldiers of his regiment saluted him with great respect—and Sally didn't know that more than half of it was meant for her. Brother officers went out of their way to greet him, so as to obtain an introduction to Johnny Mainwaring's new beauty, and by the time that they had come to the waterside, she had smiled graciously upon, and conquered the hearts of, half a dozen susceptible members of the Mess of the Buffs. Even old Tom Halliday, the Senior Major, and second-in-command—a notorious woman-hater—had stopped his junior with a word of apology, on the hastily invented pretext of some regimental business, and obtained an introduction to the smiling beauty.
"Huh—like Mainwaring's d——d impudence to be seen about with such a pretty girl," he muttered, as he passed on. "Damme if it isn't!"
Sydney in 1823 was a truly marvellous place, when its age was taken into consideration, and the tremendous distance that parted it from the rest of the world. It was only thirty-five years—a single generation—since Captain Phillip had read his commission to the convicts, under tall gum trees, somewhere about where Macquarie Place is situated to-day. And the place had far outgrown the status of camp and village, and was already become a town of quite respectable dimensions, and not altogether mean architectural pretensions. Some of the shops were quite equal to anything that you might find in the older county seats of England that were not manufacturing towns. Indeed, the place was strangely like a smaller seaport on the south or west coasts of Britain. There was always, it is true, a hideous reminder that the colony was still a penal settlement, in the marching of gangs of yellow jacketed prisoners through the streets, and the working parties that laboured on the roads and about the wharves. But it was also beginning to make itself evident that Sydney was the capital, the administrative and commercial centre, of a vast and rich territory that was just beginning to respond with results to the efforts of the pioneers of civilisation and prosperity. The recently concluded Macquarie regime had been a period of enormous expansion, comparatively. That good man, and wise pro-consul, has left it on record that this province of the Empire, over which he had been called to rule in 1810, had trebled its population in eleven years, had widened its lands a hundredfold and more, and had increased its trade to an extent that had bettered his most sanguine hopes. It was no mean outpost of Empire through which our Currency Lass went her light-hearted way that sunny morning in February, 1823, leaning upon the arm of her gallant and delighted escort.
They crossed the bridge over the Tank Stream—which still flowed into a wide estuary of Sydney Cove, rather on its western side—and walked down towards the water.
A ship, with half furled sails, was lying at anchor at the mouth of the Cove, with many boats coming and going from her, and rows of people leaning over her poop rails, and clambering into the lower rigging to view the town. Obviously, a recent arrival.
"By Jove!" said Mainwaring. "A ship just in. I saw the flags flying at Fort Phillip this morning, as I went across to Government House from the Barracks. Why, I do believe 'tis the Andromache, the ship that I came out in. Mails to-day, Miss Garledge—newspapers, new faces. Hooray!" he exclaimed in boyish delight.
"Is she a convict transport?" asked Sally.
"No—oh, no. The Andromache has never been in the transport service. She always carries free immigrants and cabin passengers. She's an old East Indiaman. But, she must have been in an hour, at least. See how the people are beginning to come ashore, and look how the lodging-house runners and baggage touts are on to them already! They don't get much time to look round before those gentry are after them. But 'tis the same everywhere."
"Let us go and see them," said Sally. "You know, we don't see many new faces up at the Green Hills. I'd love to look at them. I wonder what they think of the place? I do hope they'll come to love it, as I do. But they are far away from home, poor things—and it's home to me. You sterling people, you know," she laughed, "never quite realise how currency lads and lasses love our dear country."
"Well, at any rate, some of us can love it for its lasses," he said softly, and she turned her head away to hide her change of colour from him in the depths of the poke bonnet.
They strolled down to the wharf, where the boats were landing passengers from the ship, with their lighter baggage, and stood on the edge of the crowd gazing curiously at the newcomers, and Sally revelled in the animated scene.
They were a mixed assortment of "Johnny-come-Latelys," who were landing in Sydney with their wives and families. Ruddy faced countrymen and rosy women, with healthy looking children, who shouted their joy at being once more on dry land, and ran about excitedly, in and out amongst the bystanders. Artisans and tradesmen from London and the provincial cities. A few who looked as if they had come to seek renewed health in the genial climate of the south—and one or two who seemed as if they had only come to leave the bones that supported their emaciated frames in graves that were far away from all that they held dear and precious.
Sally took a lively interest in them, and commented softly to her companion upon individuals amongst the strangers.
"Oh, do look at that pretty woman—what a complexion she has! They can beat us there, I must admit. And her baby! Did you ever see such a fat baby! And look—look at that splendid looking old man—so tall, and straight, and handsome!"
Mainwaring turned to look in the direction she indicated, and saw a tall, erect, clean shaven man with silvery, close cropped hair, who appeared to be about seventy years of age. He stood a little apart from the crowd, a small handbag in his grasp, and seemed to be surveying the aspect of the sunlit town over the heads of the people—which he well might do, for he was six feet three, if he stood an inch in height.
Mainwaring started, and uttered an exclamation of surprise.
"By Jove!" he said. "'Tis old—old John What's-his-name, who keeps a tavern in Longacre. I've seen him often, but I can't recall his name for the moment."
As he spoke, the old man looked towards them, and his eyes met Sally's. She saw his lips part, and he started violently. Involuntarily he dropped his bag, and when he had stooped to pick it up, and looked at them again, there was such a look of amazement in his face, such an air of startled and incredulous surprise, that she was startled too.
"Oh—he's coming to speak to us!" she whispered. "He must remember you, too."
Pushing his way through the crowd, the old man forced a passage to where they stood, and halted before them, staring strangely and intensely into Sally's face—not rudely, but with a look of blank astonishment.
He took his hat from his head and bent his tall form closer, so as to look into her eyes.
"My God!" he muttered hoarsely. "My God—'tis my little girl! 'Tis my own darling Sally. Now God be praised—what has happened to the years! Am I going mad! 'Tis nigh a score of years since she left me," he whispered, "and yet here she is. Speak, girl! Who are ye? Merciful heavens—ye cannot be my lass Sally—and yet every look of ye is her's. O, my God!"
Sally trembled under the spell of his emotion. Mainwaring was stricken dumb. The girl lifted her eyes to the old man's, and suddenly, with the quick and miraculous intuition that women have, she whispered, as she put out her hand:
In a moment the old man, utterly unconscious of the crowd, had clasped her to him, his white head bent over hers, and unchecked tears rolling down his handsome face.
"My God!" he whispered huskily. "'Tis my little Sally—my own little girl—after all these years. There is no death—there is no death."
WHEN the first amazing excitement of this strange encounter had a little abated, Sally introduced her companion to her Grandfather. The old man looked at him intently, as if trying to recall his face.
"I think we've met before somewhere, Mr. Mainwaring—haven't we?" he said.
"I was saying as much, sir, just as you came across—and I remember now. Are you not the proprietor of 'The Moon Calf' in Longacre? The celebrated John Garledge, late of the Coldstream Guards?"
The old man smiled.
"Yes," he said, "I'm John Garledge of 'The Moon Calf,' but I don't know about being celebrated. Still, I must be, I suppose if my fame has reached these parts. I recollect ye quite well now, Mr. Mainwaring—your regiment, the good old Buffs, were stationed at Hounslow not so far back, an' ye did me the honor, with some of your brother officers, of patronising my establishment, I think. At one time or other, all the officers in London come my way. Indeed, 'tis them I cater for, principally."
"Of course, Mr. Garledge, 'The 'Moon Calf' is a famous coffee house for soldiers—though we of the Line play second fiddle a little, I think, to our brothers of the Household Brigade."
"Well, well—I am an old Guardsman myself, you know. 'Twould be strange if I didn't make a little more fuss over my own old comrades than over other soldiers. But any man is welcome who wears the King's jacket."
"Of course. And now, Miss Sally, with your permission, I'll leave you to show your Grandfather the way back to the King's. 'Tis straight up George Street, you know. Cross the stream, and the next street after Pitt. You know the way? I've no doubt you are dying to introduce your Grandfather to Mr. and Mrs. Garledge."
"Garledge!" exclaimed the old man with an air of surprise. "What Garledges are these? My faith—I had no notion that I was coming home when I landed this morning."
"'Tis your cousin Joe, Grandfather," said Sally, "and Elizabeth his wife, whose maiden name was Cobley. The dear people who found me in the flood, and brought me up, and who've been so good to me all my life. Yes, yes, you must come and see Big Joe at once. Well, good-bye Mr. Mainwaring. Yes, you are right, I must take him to them at once. They'll be lost in wonder—the dear things!"
Mainwaring bowed to Sally, and saluted John Garledge, as he took leave of them, and hastened off to his quarters in the Barracks.
As they walked over towards Sydney's main thoroughfare, John Garledge asked his grand-daughter about her father.
"And this Crossthwaite, my Sally—who ran away with you—with your poor mother, I mean—what of him? Where is he? Is he in Sydney? He told me ye lived with him. All lies, lies, lies—he was ever a liar and a rogue, was William Crossthwaite," he muttered bitterly.
A shadow fell across her pretty face.
"Oh, Grandfather—maybe you can save me from him. He claims to have your consent that he is to be my guardian, and they are all to meet to-morrow—Big Joe and Mummy, and the lawyers—to argue about it. You'll save me from him, won't you?" she asked plaintively.
The old man exploded with wrath.
"By Heavens, my lass—I'll save ye! I'll put the scoundrel in his place. That I will. Tell me all you know, little girl. Tell me all about this evil man, who's been the curse of my life, and was the ruin of your poor mother's. Tell me of him."
As they walked up busy George Street—it was a market morning—Sally told her Grandfather all she knew of her remaining parent. She did not know all. How should an innocent girl in her 'teens comprehend the sort of life her father had lived for years past? But she told him enough to cause the old man to grind his teeth, and to exclaim angrily:
"By thunder, but I'll settle the villain! Yes, I'll settle him—once and for all. How lucky 'twas I made up my mind to lease 'The Moon Calf,' and to make this long voyage to Australia! I'll deal with him! William Crossthwaite was never an ornament to the King's Uniform. By God! We'll see how he looks in a yellow livery—such as I see so commonly here." He pointed to a gang of convicts who slouched down George Street with their guards and overseers. "He'll be in his right place, with these," he said, bitterly. "I'll have no mercy. I'll put him with his fellows!"
He was silent for the rest of their walk to the King's. When they came to its door he halted, and addressed his grand-daughter.
"Look ye, Sally, my lass—I've a mind not to make myself known here just yet a while." He noticed the disappointment in her face. "Not for long, my lass—not for long. Can ye keep it secret that I'm here? I'll tell ye why, my love. 'Tis because I want to confound this villain utterly, and to save ye from him. We must take him by surprise, and give him no time to scheme and lie his way to his own ends. Do you go in now, and say nothing about me to either of my cousins. I know ye're a woman, my dear, and 'twill be a hard task—but ye must hold your tongue for a few hours. 'Tis best so. When does this meeting take place, and where?"
"Here, Grandfather—at four o'clock to-morrow."
"Well, well—I'll go seek my lodging elsewhere, and do you keep silent. I'll come to the meeting—and we'll see whether Will Crossthwaite has it all his own way! He'll not be glad to see me, I'll promise him. Now run inside, my lass—and remember—silence!"
The old man left her at the door, and turned down the street to seek some other lodging.
It was a guest night in the Mess of the Buffs that evening, and in the ante-room before dinner Mainwaring was a little surprised to see Captain Crossthwaite. He enquired of the Adjutant whose guest the gentleman might be. Captain Carmichael turned to him with a frown.
"By Jove! You are not the first, Mainwaring, who has asked me that! I can't say that I altogether rejoice at seeing him here, myself. Still, I suppose, as an ex-officer of the Guards and the New South Wales Corps, he is entitled to an invitation, should any of our members feel inclined to offer him one. He's Tom Halliday's guest to-night. You know, the old boy's not over particular as to the characters he associates with. So long as they don't cheat openly at cards, and if their wine doesn't make them sick, they're good enough for the Major. One hears queer tales of this fellow, though. By the way, is it a fact that the lady you were with this morning is his daughter, and won't have anything to do with him?"
Mainwaring hesitated. After all, he reflected, it was bound to come out, whether Sally liked it or not, that her name was Crossthwaite.
"Well, yes, Carmichael—it is quite true. But she has never been with him. The blackguard abandoned her mother when she was a few months old, and she was adopted by the Garledges of Hunter's River, who were then living on the Hawkesbury. She has lived with them, as their daughter, all her life. She even uses their surname."
"The blackguard! A charming girl, Jack, my boy. You have a good eye, you villain. Oh, don't blush, Johnny. It makes you too absurdly youthful, you know!"
"I wasn't blushing, you old chatterbox. But come along—the Colonel's making a move to the dining-room."
All through dinner Mainwaring observed Crossthwaite closely. It is eight years since we last met this unworthy character, and in the interval since he called upon John Garledge at 'The Moon Calf', in London he had altered very little. His hard face was still as wickedly handsome as it had been then, and there was but a very thin sprinkling of white hairs in his dark head. A few lines about the mouth, perhaps, had deepened a little—but that was all—and, at the age of forty-eight, William Crossthwaite was still an active, wiry and well conditioned man, who had not run to fat, whatever his dissipations might have been.
He was said to be a prosperous land holder. After the crossing of the Blue Mountains, he had been amongst the first to take up country in the new Western lands, and his cattle station, Crossthwaite Vale, was an extensive and well stocked run. He still lived at Prospect Hill, where he had rebuilt Crossthwaite Hall, after its destruction by the bushrangers in 1813.
Mainwaring was seated next to the Adjutant, and whilst they sat over their wine, after 'The King' had been duly honoured, the latter reverted to the subject of Major Halliday's guest.
"They tell one pretty bad story about our swarthy friend yonder," he said in an undertone to the subaltern. "It seems that ever since he has been in the colony he has maintained a succession of mistresses—mostly selected from the convict women available for employment at the Factory at Parramatta. He would have them assigned to him as housekeepers—you know, the old trick—and before very long, if they pleased him, they would be the head of his household at his country place near Parramatta. There they would queen it until he tired of them—and he has had some pretty remarkable queens to share his throne with, if all they say is true. When he had had enough of them he never had the slightest scruples about turning them adrift, or sending them back to Government, on some real or pretended complaint of insubordination or dishonesty. Utterly heartless, I believe, he is in these matters. Well, he had a woman there about ten years ago—one Fanny Martin, a remarkably good looking woman, whom I daresay you'll remember reading of as a boy, in the newspapers—I remember the case quite well. She poisoned her father, and only escaped hanging through the intercession of our virtuous Prince Regent. Well, she was there when his convicts rose in his absence, assisted by a gang of bushrangers, and sacked and burnt the place. A Party of the 73rd surprised them at it, and there was great work for Jack Ketch over the affair, I understand. Some of the bushrangers carried off Fanny Martin, and she lived with them, in some of the fastnesses of the Blue Mountains, for nearly twelve months, before she escaped, and came back to Crossthwaite Hall. Did our gallant friend kill his fattest calf for the prodigal? Not he! He had a new housekeeper then, and he simply handed her over to the Comptroller of Convicts, and used all the influence he had to have her sent to the Derwent, in Van Dieman's Land. But that isn't all. He actually claimed the reward that was offering for her as an absconder! A pretty business, eh? Oh, he is a charming fellow, this Captain Crossthwaite, full of little decencies of that sort."
When the last of the guests began to depart, Mainwaring and Carmichael, with half a dozen other officers strolled down in the moonlight to the Barracks gates with them. While they stood talking outside the guard-room, one of the guests—Mainwaring did not know at the time that it was Crossthwaite—invited the officers present to walk down George Street to his inn, for a night-cap. As the inn was a good one, and was only a little way down the street, upon the opposite side, they unanimously accepted the invitation.
It was near midnight, and Sydney in '23 was early abed, so that only a sauntering constable, who knew well enough not to question the officers of the garrison too closely as to their nocturnal wanderings, saw the party standing in front of Timothy Naylan's 'Spotted Dog' Inn awaiting an answer to the knocking of their host. When they were inside, Mainwaring recognised with disgust who the latter was, and would have withdrawn, but that the door was fastened, and he was carried along in the little crowd into a side room, where a bowl of cold punch was demanded of the sleepy landlord.
Crossthwaite was a little under the influence of the Buffs' famous old Port—a somewhat 'heady' wine, of which the Regiment had brought a large supply to Sydney. He was talking a little loosely and a little loudly. The punch was brought, glasses filled, and Captain Crossthwaite invited them to drink a toast.
"You know," he said, a little unsteadily, and in a loud tone, "you know Sydney's been honoured by the advent, in the last day or two, of a remarkably beautiful girl. She's stopping at the King's with some old chawbacon from Hunter's River named Garledge—a d——-d old Devonshire poacher named Joe Garledge!"
Mainwaring started forward angrily, a hot flush reddening his face. He was restrained by Captain Carmichael.
"By Heavens, you'll be surprised, my friends," Crossthwaite went on, "you'll be astonished to learn that this beauty is my daughter. Damme, if she's not! Her mother was a worthless wench whom I picked up in London, and who abandoned me when we came to this country. I was fool enough to marry her. Whether this wench, her daughter, is my daughter, or just a casual bastard——"
With a cry, Mainwaring broke away from the Adjutant, and pushed his way through the more or less tipsy subalterns who surrounded their host.
"You d——d cad!" he exclaimed. "You brutal blackguard!" His fist shot out, and Captain Crossthwaite, his glass shivering in fragments on the floor, measured his length amongst them.
There was an instant hubbub. Carmichael and another seized Jack Mainwaring and forced him towards the door. Some of the others picked Crossthwaite up. He was white with rage and with surprise.
"By G——d! 'Tis that young cub Mainwaring!" he said. "By heavens sir, you shall answer to me for this!"
"Yes, I'll answer—you swine, and by the Lord, I'll kill you for those monstrous words!" shouted Mainwaring, as they bore him out of the room, and out of the house.
"By Jove—'tis Cockle Bay and pistols for two, I'm thinking," grunted old Tom Halliday. "But keep it dark, my boys. I've no objection—but ye know the Colonel's views on duelling!"
ON Friday afternoon, a little before four o'clock, that wily stick-of-sealing-wax of a man, Mr. Samuel Sims, assembled his forces in the drawing-room of the King's Hotel, and called them to attention, whilst he addressed them in a short and characteristic exhortation before battle. There were present Mr. and Mrs. Garledge, and Miss Selina Garledge, nee Crossthwaite.
Mr. Sims was arrayed in his most severely legal raiment of black broadcloth—the suit which he wore at the reading of wills, and such like dismal and impressive functions—was highly stocked in black silk, and had an immense gold seal dangling from his fob. Mr. Garledge was supremely uncomfortable in the full dress of his Sydney clothes, his good lady wore the black satin which was soon to be superseded by the new and imposing silk dress ordered for Government House, and Sally looked sweet and fresh in white muslin. Below, in the hall, an outpost consisting of Mr. Sims's diminutive office-boy—a fat youth, with goggling eyes, named Nathaniel—awaited the approach of the enemy. And in a small room off the hall, his presence only known to his grand-daughter, lurked John Garledge, Esq., late of "The Moon Calf" Tavern, Longacre, London.
"I think, Mr. Garledge," Mr. Sims was saying, "that we are all ready and prepared. Prepared. Prepared. In a few minutes we should expect Captain Crossthwaite and his disreputable attorney. All that is required for his discomfiture is courage and steadfastness. Courage and steadfastness. If you will leave it to me, I think we may look for a successful issue to the business. A successful issue. I am quite ready for them. Quite ready. Have no fear, Mrs. Garledge—have no fear, my dear young lady. Rely on me, Mr. Garledge. Rely, on me."
A knock came to the door, it was pushed open, and the fat head of Nathaniel conveyed his goggling eyes into the room.
"They're a-comin' hup stairs, sir," he whispered hoarsely—"Mister Robinson an' t'other gent."
"Very good, Nathaniel—you may return to the hall. Come up if I pull the bell. You understand, if I ring the bell."
"Yessir," and the fat youth withdrew his bulging optics with seeming disappointment at not being included in the conference.
Almost immediately afterwards the landlord announced:
"Cap'n Crossthwaite an' Mister Timothy Robinson!"
Captain Crossthwaite entered the room, followed by his legal adviser—a somewhat gross-bodied and pimply-faced person—and the scowl upon the first-named gentleman's face was intensified by a pronounced black eye. But he carried himself with a confidence that seemed to betoken reliance upon the inevitable satisfaction of his claim as to his daughter. He bowed stiffly to the company, and seated himself at the request of Mr. Sims, who very pointedly refrained from similarly inviting his brother of the law to make himself comfortable. But that gentleman took a chair, and leered at Sally with an expression that might have conveyed his opinion that she was already as good as won for the fireside of his client.
Mr. Sims opened the proceedings. He stood behind a little round table on which were spread out a few papers, and some writing materials.
"Are we to understand, Captain Crossthwaite, that you insist upon the claim that is made in this letter—that you will be satisfied in this business with nothing else but the absolute guardianship of this young lady—your daughter, as we are forced to admit?" asked the little lawyer.
Crossthwaite nodded, glancing carelessly at Sally, who was very white and anxious, and whose eyes were fixed upon the door.
"Yes," he said, "I mean to insist upon my rights. Nothing that you—or these people either—can say, or do, will have any effect upon my decision. I insist—undoubtedly!"
"Quite so, Mr. Sims—we insist," put in Mr. Robinson, importantly. "With my advice, Captain Crossthwaite insists."
Mr. Sims favoured him with a stare of contempt that had a trace of pity in it—sarcastic pity.
"Of course, your insistence carries weight, Mr.—ah, Mr.—-I forget your name for the moment."
"Robinson, sir—Timothy Robinson, Attorney-at-Law—as you know very well," replied that gentleman with a little heat, and a reddening of his unwholesome face.
"Ah, yes—to be sure. To be sure. Captain Crossthwaite's legal adviser. To be sure. And supposing that this young lady and her friends do not see their way of falling in with your plans—to acceding to your demands? May I ask, what then? What then, gentlemen?"
"My letter makes it clear," said Mr. Robinson angrily. "We apply to the Supreme Court for an order, which Mr. Justice Field will find difficulty in refusing. We are within our rights altogether, as you know," replied Mr. Robinson.
"'Tes mortal shame to ye, Cap'n Cross'waite," broke in Joe angrily. "Ye know how ye treated th' maid's mother. I'd sooner see her dead than living in your house. I'd——"
"A moment, Mr. Garledge, a moment, sir," Mr. Sims raised his hand. "Allow me. I beg. Allow me. Allow me."
Joe subsided, wrathfully—muttering. Mr. Sims was about to proceed, when the door of the room opened gently, and Captain Crossthwaite's smile froze on his face, and lapsed into the black scowl that was its most fitting expression.
John Garledge—erect, quiet, and ominously cool—stood in the doorway. He stared at Crossthwaite for a few seconds, before stepping across the threshold, and then walked over to his grand-daughter. She rose to meet him, and he put his arm about her shoulder.
"A moment, sir—a moment, Captain Crossthwaite. You have to reckon with me in this business," said the old man.
Crossthwaite had risen to his feet, and stood staring at John Garledge. His discoloured eye showed out grotesquely against the pallor which had crept into his face. He was amazed, and it was plain that he was afraid. He did not speak, and the old man turned to Joe.
"Cousin," he said, "we have never met, but you will have heard of me, as the unhappy father of this child's mother, whom this villain stole from me and betrayed. Aye, and murdered—if not according to the laws of man, then according to those of God. I would that ye had heard as much good of me as I have heard of you and your wife. I am but just come to the Colony, to see my little lass here—and 'tis well I came when I did, for it looks as if the Almighty had brought me here to confound this evil man, in the very hour when he thought that his wickedness would triumph. And I will confound him—aye, and ruin him without mercy. He shewed none to my poor girl, and I'll show none to him!"
Joe's honest face was a study in amazement, that was only outdone in that respect by Mrs. Joe's. Mr. Sims appeared to be endeavouring to look as if this development were in some measure attributable to him. Mr. Timothy Robinson had edged towards the door, and, taking advantage of the fact that everyone's attention was focussed upon John Garledge, he stole noiselessly through it and disappeared, leaving his client to whatever Fate might have in store for him. It was his unobtrusive fashion of withdrawing from the case. Sally stood, silently, beside her grandfather. It was a strange meeting—of her father and herself—for the second and last occasion in their lives. She had only seen him once before, when, as a little child, she had been present at the attack upon Crossthwaite Hall in 1813.
Captain Crossthwaite made an attempt to face the situation. But it was plain that this unexpected meeting—with the last man on earth whom he had wished to meet—had a little shaken his iron nerve. He spoke huskily, and, try as he would, he could not meet John Garledge's eyes, but kept his gaze everywhere except on the old man's face.
"How dare you—how dare you speak of me in such terms, Garledge. By Heavens, I'll make you sorry for it!"
"Dare!" the old man laughed contemptuously. "Dare's a pretty word to use to me, my fine fellow. Sit ye down, and listen to what I have to say. If ye do not do so, I will have ye arrested within three hours. And well ye know that I can do what I say. Ye'll not be forgetting the Five of Hearts? Show it to him, Sally, my lass."
A little gold chain encircled Sally's white neck, and was attached to something that lay in her bosom. With trembling fingers she pulled it from its hiding place, unfastened the catch of the chain, and laid in her grandfather's broad palm the strange ring which Mrs. Joe had taken from her baby body nearly eighteen years before.
"Ye know this?" John Garledge said, holding it towards Crossthwaite. "'Tis the Five of Hearts, William Crossthwaite. You know it, you d——d traitor!! You know it!"
The effect of the ring upon Captain Crossthwaite was extraordinary. He seemed to shrivel, as he sat upon his chair. His head sank down between his shoulders, and the fingers of each hand, resting upon his knees, tightened convulsively. He made no answer, but all his attitude was that of a beaten man, of a dog that fears the lash. No one who had known him could have believed that this could be the same daring, arrogant, ruthless man who had gone through life with a sneer and a curse for all who opposed him, and a reckless disregard of truth and honour. The sight of the curious trinket had rendered him utterly abject.
I John Garledge spoke to the rest of them.
"This ring," he said, "is the sign and symbol of a society to which this man once belonged. Happily it is extinct now—since the peace after Waterloo—but at least two of its members have been hanged outside Newgate. This one may thank Heaven that he is his daughter's father, or he would hang too—by God he would! The society was an organisation of spies in the pay of Napoleon Bonaparte. Think of it! He wore the King's uniform, and tried to sell his own country. Could there be any blacker disgrace for one who calls himself an Englishman? My poor girl knew not what it was, when she tied it about his child's neck. 'Tis a wonder that so accursed a thing did not bring our dear girl here misfortune all her life—instead of the loving care of you two good people. Look at him! Does not his whole appearance admit his guilt?"
"Lord ha' mercy!" breathed Mrs. Joe.
Her husband, white with rage, rose to his feet, and made as if to attack the cowering wretch upon the chair. John Garledge laid a hand upon his arm.
"No, no, cousin. Compose yourself, I beg. Leave his punishment to God—'tis like enough to be more than we can inflict upon him. Sit down, I beg you. I have more to say."
Joe seated himself again.
"Dear me!" murmured Mr. Sims. "Extraordinary! Extraordinary! Extraordinary!"
"Now, Crossthwaite," went on John Garledge, "before you leave this room you will sign a brief document—which I will ask this legal gentleman here to be so good as to draw up at once—in which you will resign all claim, once and for all, either to the estate or the person of your daughter, Selina Crossthwaite. You will sign it, and it will be duly witnessed. Should you refuse to do so, I will submit the proofs I have—and they are very complete—of your connection with the late Society of the Hearts to His Excellency the Governor-General of this Territory. You know what that will mean! Sign it—and you may go where you will. I will not bring home to you the frauds of which I have proof of your having been guilty as your daughter's trustee—except to compel you to return to me some £4,500 which you have misappropriated. That is all. You have your choice."
There was a tense silence for a few minutes, only broken by the scratching of Mr. Sims's pen, as he hastily drew up the document which John Garledge had spoken of. When it was finished, he beckoned to the old man, who walked over to the table, and spread the paper.
"Yes, that will do," he said. "Now, Crossthwaite—which is it to be?"
In a dazed fashion, Captain Crossthwaite rose to his feet. Without a word he walked to the table, picked up the document, read it, and then, with a trembling hand, wrote his name below it.
"Now, you witness it, Cousin Joe—and you, Mr. Sims," said John Garledge.
They did so.
"Now you may go—coward, and liar, and traitor that you are—and the curse of every honest man goes with you. Go!" cried the old man, pointing to the door.
Without a word, Captain Crossthwaite walked to the door, slowly, and with the faltering gait of a broken man. He turned on the threshold, and glared at John Garledge. His lips parted, as if he was about to say something.
"Go!" thundered the old soldier. "Go—while you are safe!"
Captain Crossthwaite turned, and disappeared.
Mr. Sims was the first to find his tongue after this dramatic happening, which had left the others too astounded to speak. Joe appeared to be bewildered. Sally and Mrs. Joe were locked in one another's arms, and were weeping softly. The old man stood with arm outstretched, like a handsome statue, pointing after Crossthwaite.
"Well, well," said Mr. Sims, "I think I managed that very well. My plan was very effective. Very effective. Effective."
And no one laughed.
Just before dawn on the following morning, Captain Carmichael knocked at the door of Jack Mainwaring's quarters in the Barracks. It was opened immediately, and the Adjutant found the man, for whom he was to act as a second in his affair with Captain Crossthwaite at sunrise, fully dressed and waiting him.
"Well, well Johnny, my boy," he said cheerily, "you're up betimes! Ha! Been setting your affairs in order, eh? Just as well, just as well—one never knows. But I trust it's Mr. Crossthwaite's will that'll have to be proved, and not yours. Now there's a cup of coffee awaiting you in my quarters, together with old Tom Halliday, and the Doctor. Come over and drink it, and then we'll have to be setting out for Cockle Bay. Old Sol doesn't take long in making his appearance, in these latitudes, after the first streak of daylight—and 'twould never do to be late."
"I'm quite ready, Carmichael," said Mainwaring, picking up his cap, and hastily placing some papers in his bosom. "You'll know what to do with these, if I'm winged?" They went out on to the verandah.
"Of course, of course. But how do you feel? Eye sure, hand steady—eh? Slept well, I hope. Nothing like a good sleep the night before. That's why I sent you off from the Mess so early last night. Quite alright, I hope?"
"I haven't slept much, to say the truth. You see, it's d——d awkward to have to risk killing the father of the girl one—well, thinks a good deal of. Carmichael," he said seriously, "I'm going to fire over his head. How can I kill her father—much as he deserves it?"
"Nonsense—nonsense, Jack—you must aim to hit him. He'll have no such chivalry towards you—if I'm any judge of a scamp and a blackguard. Don't think of such a thing. You must fire at him—at him, do you hear?"
Mainwaring said nothing, and they entered the Adjutant's quarters. Here they found Major Halliday, and Dr. Beatty, the Regimental Surgeon. The Major was lovingly handling a pair of duelling pistols, and extolling their merits and their record to the Doctor.
"Well Jack, my son," he cried cheerfully, "aren't they a pair of beauties? They've been out twice with me, and half a score of times with others. There's no choice between them—they're both perfect little darlings, and I've not the slightest doubt that you'll do your business with either Jack or Jill, as I call 'em. 'Tis a fine morning, and we'll have a clear light for the job. Mind you wing him, my boy. He'd the impudence to request me to act for him—but of course, I wouldn't take sides against one of Ours, even if I'd wanted to. D——d impudence!"
They drank the coffee which Carmichael's servant had prepared, and the Major insisted upon putting a little rum in it.
"Keeps the chills down—hey Doctor, don't it?"
He replaced the pistols in their case, as the Doctor said with a yawn, "I hope so, Major—'tis a d——d chilly business to me, this dancing professional attendance upon such fire-eaters as you people, in the middle of the night."
"Oh, come along, come along. You might say so if it wasn't a warm summer's morning in Australia. Why, man—I've been out in a snow storm! This will be a picnic."
They made their way out through a little gate at the back of the Barracks, which stood, in 1823, around the present site of Wynyard Square, fronting on George Street, and running up over the hill behind. It was just growing daylight, as they walked along the crest of the ridge, directing their steps parallel with the arm of Port Jackson which we know as Darling Harbour, but which still went by its original name of Cockle Bay in '23. The top of the bay, above the present Pyrmont Bridge, lost itself in swampy mud flats and a marsh, round which the Parramatta Road made the sweeping detour it follows to-day. Newtown, such as it was, was a little isolated village, well away in the country from Sydney.
It was broad daylight when they came to the place selected for the meeting, and they found that they were ahead of the opposing party. Over to the east, the yellow and orange lights of the rising sun silhouetted the ridges in which Sydney stands, and above them rose Brickfield Hill. There was a little stretch of level turf along the shore, where a fisherman's hut had once stood, and here it was that Mainwaring and Crossthwaite were to settle the business which had arisen out of the fracas at 'The Spotted Dog' two nights before. They sat down on a fallen log to await the arrival of Crossthwaite and his seconds. Just as the first rays of the sun came peeping over the tree tops, he and his party made their appearance.
"By Jove!" whispered Carmichael. "He looks bad—looks as if he'd been drinking hard."
He rose to meet the party, and to settle the preliminaries of the affair with Captain Crossthwaite's seconds. One of these was the lawyer Robinson, and the other the captain of a merchant ship lying in the Harbour.
The business was soon arranged, the pistols loaded by the seconds, and the two principals placed opposite to one another, about twelve paces apart.
"'Tis to be one shot each, gentlemen," said the Major. "I will count one, two, three—so. At 'one,' you will raise your pistols, and at 'three' when I drop my handkerchief, you may fire. Are you ready?"
Mainwaring, fully determined to fire over his head was struck, as he faced him, with the ghastly appearance of the man. His face was white and haggard, and strangely drawn, so that the livid lips parted over his white teeth. He was either in a mortal funk, or very ill.
"One!" cried Major Halliday.
They raised their pistols, and it was obvious to all how Crossthwaite's trembled and wavered in his unsteady grip.
"Two!" Mainwaring aimed a foot above the other's head. He could not shoot to kill the father of the girl he loved, however bad and evil he might be. He wondered if he would ever see her again. The round hole in the barrel of Crossthwaite's pistol faced him like a little unsteady eye. It fascinated him, but he did not think of death. He would——
The Major's handkerchief fluttered to the ground. There was a single report. Only Mainwaring had fired.
Through some seconds, that seemed like minutes to the onlookers, Crossthwaite's weapon covered Mainwaring. The latter had dropped his pistol hand, and stood, pale but resolute, facing the death that he expected. Why did not the man fire? What was he about?
And then, with a hoarse cry, Crossthwaite shifted his aim from the man opposite him, turned the barrel of the pistol to his own temple, and pulled the trigger.
"By G—d!" muttered Carmichael. "'Tis the only decent thing he's done in all his life!"
"Blood and hounds!" exclaimed Major Halliday. "Look what the d——d fool's done to himself!"
Dr. Beatty ran to the body, and went on one knee beside it.
"By Jove!" he said. "He's made a sure job of it. Blown the top of his head off. Here, you," he called to Mr. Timothy Robinson, who stood, white faced and trembling, holding Crossthwaite's cloak. "Give me that."
The surgeon took the cloak from the horrified attorney, and covered the ghastly thing.
"You'd best be off, Mr. Robinson, and see about getting a cart to carry this into town. I suppose there'll be an inquest? He's stopping at Naylan's, isn't he? Better take him there. You are his solicitor, aren't you? Well, 'tis your part to look after him now. He's past any aid from me. I must get back to Barracks—I've a sick parade at six-thirty. You'll know where to find me if they want my evidence."
The doctor hurried away, and after a few minutes talk with Crossthwaite's seconds, of whom the sea-captain was a pleasant contrast to the cringing and thoroughly alarmed solicitor, Mainwaring and his brother officers also made their way back to the Barracks.
"Jack—Jack, my boy," said the Major, carrying his case of pistols under his cloak, "'twas very fine of you to miss him. I know what a dead shot ye are. But 'twas foolish—damme 'twas worse than foolishness. And, begad, if ever ye come nearer to death in action, without being gathered in—why, ye may count yourself immortal and invulnerable! What do you say, Carmichael?"
"Yes, Major, I agree with you," said Captain Carmichael, seriously, "Jack was very near his finish. Do you know, I believe that Crossthwaite meant to kill him, too. I was watching him closely. You saw the state he was in—drunk or ill, I should say. It was a long few seconds to me, and twice I saw him strain every nerve to steady his hand. But he couldn't. The pistol barrel was positively describing circles in the air. 'Tis my belief he shot himself out of sheer chagrin at being unable to hit our friend here. 'Tis a hard thing to say of a dead man, but I don't believe the fellow had it in him to act decently, if it were possible to do the opposite."
Mainwaring said nothing. All the way back he was fervently thanking God for his mercy to him both in sparing his life, and in giving him the strength to refrain from taking that of the unworthy man who was the father of his beloved.
Declining the Major's invitation to partake of a brandy and soda, Mainwaring hurried to his quarters, had a cold bath, shaved, and dressed—and made his way out of Barracks to the King's Hotel. He felt that Joe Garledge ought to be informed at once of the event of the morning.
When he reached the hotel it wanted but some twenty minutes to eight o'clock, the breakfast hour of the establishment. He asked the waiter to take his name up to Mr. Garledge, and to say that he would be glad to speak to him immediately, upon most urgent business.
"Well, then, y'r honor'll have to wait, if your honor pleases—for Mr. Garledge goes out every morning for a walk about half past six, an' I see him go myself this morning. Will y'r honor not take a seat in th' drorin' room upstairs? Mr. Garledge'll be in in a few minutes—he's always the first to breakfast. I'll tell him y'r honor's waitin' for him, so soon's ever he sets foot inside th' hall."
Mainwaring mounted the flight of stairs that led to the drawing room, and went in.
As he opened the door, he was aware of a white, girlish figure at the further end of the room. It was Sally, waiting for breakfast and beguiling the hungry interval by looking through the open window at the street below. She turned as he came into the room. Instantly he perceived that she knew of the duel. She came forward.
"You are not hurt, Jack?" she said softly—"Mr. Mainwaring, I mean," she corrected herself, coloring prettily. "Tell me what happened?"
Briefly he told her. When he had finished she came closer to him, dry eyed, but grave and pale.
"Oh, I want to cry," she whispered. "I want to cry—why can't I cry?"
Mainwaring never understood what inspiration made him act as he did.
He opened his arms, and she came to him, and cried upon his scarlet jacket. And his arms did not remain open.
"Oh, Jack—darling—I'd have died if he'd killed you!"
THE wind had dropped, and the Little Sally, Captain Sammy Toop, rolled lazily on a glistening, shimmering, sunlit ocean a little to the south-ward of the entrance to Hunter's River. Ahead, a couple of points on the port bow, the high pile of the Coal Island reared its rocky crest above the blue waters. The tall steeple of Christ Church stood up above the green-topped cliffs abeam, and, far away northward, the wide blue sweep of the land, curving easterly round the twenty-mile sands of Stockton Beach, stretched to Port Stephens.
It was the end of the week following the events related in the last chapter, and Joe Garledge, with his wife and foster-daughter, and his newly found cousin, John Garledge, was returning to his estate of New Dartmoor, at the Green Hills. The schooner carried also, as a passenger, Lieutenant John Catesby Mainwaring, of H.M. 3rd Regiment of Foot, who was returning to his duties as Officer Commanding the detachment of his corps stationed at Newcastle.
Just for'ard of where Cap'n Sammy grasped the spokes of the wheel Mrs. Joe sat on deck in an easy-chair, with her husband seated, smoking, on the starboard rail close beside her. John Garledge, with his hands in his pockets, swaying his tall body to the gentle roll of the Little Sally, held converse with his kin, whilst, in the waist of the ship, the white muslin dress of our Currency Lass and the red jacket of Mr. Mainwaring caught the sunlight, as they walked up and down the deck amidships together.
"Yes," John Garledge was saying, "the lad's a rare plucked 'un. He acted like a man in every way. Major Halliday—I knew him well in London, some years ago, when he was often at 'The Moon Calf'—told me all about it—about the whole affair. This young fellow heard Crossthwaite insult the memory of my poor girl, and promptly knocked him down. You saw the black eye he had when he came to The King's Hotel that afternoon? That was Mainwaring's doing, the night before. And, on the morning of the duel, it seems he'd made up his mind not to kill the blackguard, because he happened to be Sally's father. So, when the Major gave the signal, he aimed over his head, whilst Crossthwaite held his fire. Then, whilst Crossthwaite covered him, he faced his death like a man—never flinching, or winking an eyelid, says Tom Halliday. They were certain that Crossthwaite meant to kill him, and held their breaths, waiting for the shot. Then, as you know, the fellow did the only good action of his life—he turned his pistol upon himself. I tell you Joseph, the young fellow's a good man, and, by Lord Harry, if he asks for her he may have her, so far as I'm concerned."
"'Tes true enough what ye say, cousin John," said Joe, meditatively, "but I dunno as how we'm altogether right in s'posin he wants our lil maid. He's said nothing to me 'bout it, 'tanyrate."
"Oh, Joe, ye gert blind bat," laughed his wife up at him, "ye can't see a foot beyond y'r nose! Why—'tes plain as th' church steeple yonder, th' lass's head an' ears in love wi' un—an' him wi' our Sally. I'll show ye! Sally—Sal—lee!" she called to the couple in the waist. "Come here, th' both o' ye. We'm zummat to ask ye."
"Oh, for shame, 'Lizbeth," whispered Joe, scandalized. "'Tes a bold creature ye be!"
"Let her have her way, Joe, she's a wise woman," John Garledge murmured, with a grin, as the couple approached.
"Now, my dears," Mrs. Joe said amiably, as Sally and Mainwaring halted before her. "'Tes a fine marnin' for tellin's. Sartain sure 'tes. Bain't ye goin' to tell?"
Mainwaring reddened, stammered, and was silent. Sally blushed. For a moment or two she hesitated. Then she dropped on one knee beside Mrs. Joe, put her white arms about the good woman's neck, and whispered, as he hid her face in that ample bosom:
"Oh, yes, Mummy darling—oh, yes!"
John Garledge turned to Mainwaring, and grasped him by the hand. Joe rose from the rail, and thumped him on the back, his eyes glistening. Mainwaring was a study in confusion.
Cap'n Sammy Toop, grinning broadly, saved the situation.
"Be a breeze a-comin', I'm thinkin'," he said
And so our story ends, as all stories must end in print—at an arbitrary point. Every man's and every woman's story is eternal—if you come to think of it. But there is no infinity in books. And this is the twenty-first chapter of this one.
Sally and her "Man," as dear Mrs. Joe always referred to John Mainwaring—"an' how's th' Man, Sally?" or "Sally's Man says"—were married, one sunny afternoon, in the shadow of the twin steeples of old St. John's at Parramatta, the Rev. Samuel Marsden officiating. His loud whisper of "Damme, Jack, you're a lucky man!" could be heard all over the church, as the wedding party went into the vestry to sign the register. And the good, honest Yorkshireman—ex-blacksmith's striker, and brave servant of his God—christened young John Mainwaring hardly a year afterwards. When the "Buffs" left New South Wales, Captain Mainwaring took his wife to England, and introduced her to his people. And the old Bishop fell in love with her, and came near to ruining her two children—more came afterwards—and it was only the stern principles of Mrs. Bishop—the real ruler of the diocese of Sodor-and-Man—that saved them from the Pit that she told them a good deal about. Young Jack said one day standing at the knees of good Dr. Mainwaring—and one regrets to say that that worthy prelate was convulsed with laughter—
"And do convicts work in your Pit, Granny, like at Newcastle—or is it for very good people?"
Mainwaring sold out of the Buffs in '28, and came back to New South Wales, where he invested his money in New Dartmoor, entering into a partnership with his father-in-law, and with John Garledge, who sold "The Moon Calf" Tavern, vowing that he'd live nowhere but near "his little girl." It was a strange thing, in the old man's declining years—when sometimes, as very old people do, he mixed the present and the past—to hear him speaking to his grand-daughter as though she were really the girl whom Crossthwaite had stolen from him. The fine old boy lived to his ninety-third year, and was strong and active to the last. There are old people in the Maitlands still, who recall the tall, soldierly figure of the old Guardsman.
It was a prosperous firm, that of Garledge & Mainwaring. First of all it extended its operations to the Liverpool Plains, where it formed the famous Hooli River station—who hasn't heard of the Hooli rams in these later years? And then, in the 'Fifties, it pushed out into Queensland. At least, John Mainwaring did. The Hon. Joseph Garledge, M.L.C., was an old man then, and did not go far afield from New Dartmoor, near Morpeth, on the Hunter. He had been elected to the first Parliament under responsible government in New South Wales, and was a great friend, and counsellor, and supporter of Mr. William Charles Wentworth, with whom, in '13, he had crossed the Mountains. He died in 1860, and you will find his grave at Campbell's Hill, near West Maitland.
Mrs. Joe was the dearest old pink-cheeked grand-mother you ever saw. It was not until 1871 that she, too, crossed the Long Bridge, and went to Campbell's Hill.
One day, in 1885, when the writer was a very small boy, he was taken across to Morpeth from "the West," and he has a distinct recollection of an old lady, who was very beautiful, and who sat in a wicker chair on a wide verandah, knitting baby's socks. And she spoke very kindly to him, and kissed him, and gave him some barley-sugar. And, years afterwards, he learned from her grand-daughter, whom he was in love with, but who gave him "the mitten"—that is to say she married a better man—that that old lady, whom he saw in the wide verandah of the old house at New Dartmoor, Mrs. Mainwaring, was the Currency Lass who had floated into notice on the Big Flood in the Hawkesbury in 1806. And if you don't believe him, you needn't. But, as he regrets to say that, at the moment of writing, he is forty-two years and eleven months old, it is at least chronologically possible that he has seen Sally Crossthwaite, and been given barley-sugar by her.
They were fine women, the first Currency Lasses—and they have not deteriorated. See them at Randwick, or at Manly or Coogee, and judge for yourself. They still become the mothers of a virile race. Vide the despatches of Sir Douglas Haig. But if you are in doubt, drop a line to Sir Walter Birdwood.
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