It Is Never Too Late to Mend
Part 15 out of 17
gentle, tender trees; and in truth it was a beautiful thought of these
savage men to have given their dead for companions those rare and
drooping acacias, that bowed themselves and loosed their hair so like
fair women abandoned to sorrow over the beloved and dead, and night
and morning swept with their dewy eyelashes the pillows of the brave.
_Requiescant in pace!--resurgant in pacem!_ For I wish them better
than they wished themselves.
After Milmeridien came a thick scrub, through which Kalingalunga
tracked his way; and then a loud hurrah burst from all, for they were
free--the net was broken. There were the mountains before them and the
gaunt wood behind them at last. The native camp was visible two miles
distant, and thither the party ran and found food and fires in
abundance. Black sentinels were set at such distances as to render a
surprise impossible, and the travelers were invited to sleep and
forget all their troubles. Robinson and Jem did sleep, and George
would have been glad to, and tried, but was prevented by an
unfortunate incident--_les enfans terribles_ found out his
infirmity, viz., that nothing they could do would make him hit them.
So half a dozen little rascals, potter bellied than you can conceive,
climbed up and down George, sticking in their twenty claws like
squirrels, and feeling like cold, slippery slugs. Thus was sleep
averted, until a merciful gin, hearing the man's groans, came and
cracked two or three of these little black pots with a waddie or club,
so then George got leave to sleep, and just as he was dozing off,
ting, tong, ti tong, tong, tong, came a fearful drumming of parchment.
A corroboree or native dance was beginning. No more sleep till that
was over--so all hands turned out. A space was cleared in the wood,
women stood on both sides with flaming boughs and threw a bright red
light upon a particular portion of that space; the rest was dark as
pitch. Time, midnight. When the white men came up the dancing had not
begun. Kalingalunga was singing a preliminary war song.
George had picked up some of the native language, and he explained to
the other that Jacky was singing about some great battle, near the
"The Wurra-Gurra! why, that is where we first found gold."
"Why of course it is! and--yes! I thought so."
"It is our battle he is describing."
"Which of 'em?--we live in hot water."
"The one before Jem was our friend. What is he singing? Oh, come! that
is overdoing it, Jacky! Why, Jem! he is telling them he killed you on
"I'll punch his head!"
"No! take it easy," said Robinson; "he is a poet; this is what they
call poetical license."
"Lie without sense, I call it--when here is the man."
"Ting tong! ting tong tong!--
I slew him -- he fell -- by the Wurra-Gurra River.
I slew him! -- ting tong! he fell --ting tong!
By the Wurra-Gurra River--ting ting tong!"
This line Jacky repeated at least forty times; but he evaded monotony
by the following simple contrivance:
"I _slew_ him; he _fell_ by the Wurra-Gurra River--ting tong!
_I_ slew him; _he_ fell, by the Wurra-Gurra River,
I slew him; he fell, by the _Wurra-Gurra River,"_
with similar changes, and then back again.
One of our own savages saved a great poet from monotony by similar
means;* very good of him.
* The elder Sheridan, who used to teach his pupils to tresh dead
Dryden out thus: _None_ but the brave,/None but the
_brave,_/None _but_ the brave, deserve the fair.
And now the gins took up the tune without the words and the dance
began to it. First, two figures ghastly with white paint came bounding
like Jacks-in-the-box out of the gloom into the red light, and danced
gracefully--then one more popped out--then another, at set intervals
of time--then another, all painted differently--and swelled the dance
by degrees; and still, as the dance grew in numbers, the musicians
sang and drummed louder and faster by well-planned gradations, and the
motion rose in intensity, till they all warmed into the terrible
savage corroboree jump, legs striding wide, head turned over one
shoulder, the eyes glaring with fiendish intensity in one direction,
the arms both raised and grasping waddies and boomerangs--till at
last they worked up to such a gallop of fierce, buck-like leaps that
there was a jump for each beat of the music. Now they were in four
lines, and as the figures in the front line jumped to the right, each
keeping his distance to a hair, the second line jumped to the left,
the third to the right, and the fourth to the left.
The twinkle and beauty and symmetry of this was admirable, and,
strange as it may appear, not only were the savages now wrought up to
frenzy at this climax of the dance, but the wonderful magnetic
influence these children of Nature have learned to create and launch
in the corroboree so stirred the white men's blood, that they went
half mad too, and laughed and shouted and danced, and could hardly
help flinging themselves among the mad fiends and jumping and yelling
with them; and when the jump was at its fiercest and quickest, and the
great frenzy boiling over, these cunning artists brought it to a dead
stop sharp upon the climax--and all was still.
In another minute they were all snoring; but George and Robinson often
started in their slumbers, dreaming they saw the horrid figures--the
skeletons, lizards, snakes, tartan shawls, and whitened fiends, the
whole lot blazing at the eyes and mouth like white budelights, come
bounding one after another out of the black night into the red
torchlight, and then go striding and jumping and glaring and raging
and bucking and prancing, and scattering battle and song and joy and
rage and inspiration and stark-staring frenzy all around.
They awoke at daylight rather cold, and found piles of snow upon their
blankets, and the lizards and skeletons and imps and tartan shawls
deteriorated. The snow had melted on their bodies, and the colors had
all run--some of them away. _Quid multa?_ we all know how beauties
look when the sun breaks on them after a ball.
They asked for Jacky. To their great chagrin he was not to be found.
They waited, getting crosser and crosser, till nine o'clock, and then
out comes my lord from the wood, walking toward them with his head
down on his bosom, the picture of woe--the milmeridien movement over
"There! don't let us scold him," said George, "I am sure he has lost a
relation, or maybe a dear friend; anyway I hope it is not his
sweetheart--poor Jacky. Well, Jacky! I am glad you have washed your
face, now I know you again. You can't think how much better you look
in your own face than painted up in that unreasonable way,
"Like something between a devil and a rainbow," suggested Robinson.
"But what is wrong?" asked George, kindly. "I am almost afraid to ask,
Encouraged by the tone of sympathy, the afflicted chief pointed to his
face, sighed, and said:
"Kalingalunga paint war, and now Kalingalunga wash um face and not
kill anybody first. Kalingalunga Jacky again, and show your white
place in um hill a good deal soon."
And the amiable heathen cleared up a little at the prospect of serving
George, whom he loved--aboriginally.
Jem remained with the natives upon some frivolous pretense. His real
hope was to catch the ruffian whom he secretly believed to be still in
the wood. "He is like enough to creep out this way," thought Jem, "and
then--won't I nail him!"
In half an hour they were standing under the spot whose existence
Robinson had so often doubted.
"Well, George, you painted it true. It really is a river of quartz
running between those two black rocks. And that you think is the home
of the gold, eh?"
"Well, I do. Look here, Tom! look at this great large heap of quartz
bowlders, all of different sizes; they have all rolled down here out
of that river of quartz."
"Why, of course they have! who doubts that?"
"Many is the time I have sat on that green mound where Jacky is
sitting now, and eaten my bread and cheese."
"I dare say! but what has that to do with it? what are we to do? Are
we to go up the rock and peck into that mass of quartz?"
"Well, I think it is worth while."
"Why, it would be like biting a piece out of the world! Look here,
Master George, we can put your notion about the home of the gold to
the test without all that trouble."
"You own all these quartz stones rolled out of yon river; if so, they
are samples of it. Ten thousand quartz stones is quite sample enough,
so begin and turn them all over, examine them--break them if you like.
If we find but a speck of gold in one of them I'll believe that quartz
river is gold's home--if not, it is all humbug!"
George pulled a wry face; he found himself pinned to his own theory.
"Well," said he, "I own the sample tells us what is in the barn; so
now I am vexed for bringing you here."
"Now we _are_ here, give it a fair trial; let us set to and break
every bowlder in the thundering heap."
They went to work and picked the quartz bowlders; full two hours they
worked, and by this time they had made a considerable heap of broken
quartz; it glittered in the sun, but it glittered white, not a speck
of yellow came to light.
George was vexed. Robinson grinned; expecting nothing, he was not
disappointed. Besides, he was winning an argument, and we all like to
turn out prophets. Presently a little cackle from Jacky.
"I find um!"
"Find what?" asked Robinson, without looking up.
"A good deal yellow stone," replied Jacky, with at least equal
"Let me see that," said George, with considerable curiosity; and they
both went to Jacky.
Now the fact is that this heap of quartz stones was in reality much
larger than they thought, only the greater part of it had been
overgrown with moss and patches of grass a few centuries of centuries
Jacky, seated on what seemed a grassy mound, was in reality perched
upon a part of the antique heap; his keen eye saw a little bit of
yellow protruding through the moss, and he was amusing himself
clipping it with his tomahawk, cutting away the moss and chipping the
stone, which made the latter glitter more and yellower.
"Hallo!" cried George, "this looks better."
Robinson went on his knees without a word.
"It is all right," said he, in a great flutter, "it is a nugget--and a
good-sized one--a pound weight, I think. Now then, my lad, out you
come;" and he dug his fingers under it to jerk it out.
But the next moment he gave a screech and looked up amazed.
"Why, this is the point of the nugget; it lies the other way, not
flat. George! I can't move it! The pick! Oh, Lord! oh, Lord! The pick!
"Stand clear," shouted George, and he drove the point of the pick down
close by the prize, then he pressed on the handle. "Why, Tom, it is
"No, it is not jammed--it is its own weight. Why, George!"
"Then, Tom! it is a hundred-weight if it is an ounce!"
"Don't be a fool," cried the other, trembling all over; "there is no
such thing in nature."
The nugget now yielded slowly to the pressure and began to come up
into the world again inch by inch after so many thousand years. Of
course, before it could come all out, the soil must open first, and
when Robinson, glaring down, saw a square foot of earth part and gape
as the nugget came majestically up, he gave another cry, and with
trembling hands laid hold of the prize, and pulled and tugged and
rolled it on the clean moss--to lift it was not so easy. They fell
down on their knees by the side of it like men in a dream. Such a
thing had never been seen or heard of--a hundred-weight of quartz and
gold, and beautiful as it was great. It was like honeycomb, the cells
of which had been sliced by a knife; the shining metal brimmed over in
the delicate quartz cells.
They lifted it. Yes, full a hundredweight; half the mass was quartz,
but four-fifths of the weight they knew must be gold. Then they jumped
up and each put a foot on it, and shook hands over it.
"Oh, you beauty!" cried George, and he went on his knees and kissed
it; "that is not because you are gold, but because you take me to
Susan. Now, Tom, let us thank Heaven for its goodness to us, and back
to camp this very day."
"Ay! but stop, we must wrap it in our wipes or we shall never get back
alive. The very honest ones would turn villains at sight of it. It is
the wonder of the world."
"I see my Susan's eyes in it," cried George, in rapture. "Oh, Tom,
good, kind, honest Tom, shake hands over it once more!"
In the midst of all this rapture a horrible thought occurred.
"Why, it's Jacky's," said George, faintly, "he found it."
"Nonsense! nonsense!" cried Tom, uneasily; he added, however, "but I am
afraid one third of it is--pals share, white or black."
All their eyes now turned uneasily to the Aboriginal, who lay yawning
on the grass.
"Jacky give him you, George," said this worthy savage, with superb
indifference. He added with a yawn: "What for you dance corroboree
when um not dark?--den you bite yellow stone," continued this
original, "den you red, den you white, den you red again, all because
we pull up yellow stone-all dis a good deal dam ridiculous."
"So 'tis, Jacky," replied Robinson, hastily; "don't you have anything
to do with yellow stone, it would make you as great a fool as we are.
Now show us the shortest cut back home through the bush."
At the native camp they fell in with Jem. The monstrous nugget was too
heavy to conceal from his shrewd eye, so they showed it him. The sight
of it almost knocked him down. Robinson told him where they found it,
and advised Jem to go and look for another. Alas! the great nugget
already made him wish one friend away. But Jem said:
"No, I will see you safe through the bush first."
ALL this time two persons in the gold mine were upon thorns of
expectation and doubt--brutus and Peter Crawley. George and Robinson
did not return, but no more did Black Will. What had happened? Had the
parties come into collision? and, if so, with what result? If the
friends had escaped, why had they never been heard of since? If, on
the other hand, Will had come off conqueror, why had he never
reappeared? At last brutus arrived at a positive conviction that Black
Will had robbed and probably murdered the men, and was skulking
somewhere with their gold, thereby defrauding him, his pal; however,
he kept this to himself, and told Crawley that he feared Will had come
to grief, so he would go well armed, and see what was the matter, and
whether he could help him. So he started for the bush, well armed. Now
his real object, I blush to say, was to murder Black Will, and rob him
of the spoils of George and Robinson.
Wicked as these men of violence had been six months ago, gold and
Crawley had made them worse, ay, much worse. Crawley, indeed, had
never openly urged any of them to so deep a crime as murder, and it is
worthy of note, as a psychological fact, that this reptile contrived
to deceive itself into thinking that it had stopped short of crime's
utmost limits; to be sure it had tempted and bribed and urged men to
robbery under circumstances that were almost sure to lead to murder,
but still murder might not occur; meantime it had openly
discountenanced that crime, and checked the natural proclivity of
brutus and Black Will toward deeds of blood.
Self-deception will probably cease at the first blast of the
archangel's trumpet. But what human heart will part with it till then?
The circumstances under which a human being could not excuse or delude
or justify himself have never yet occurred in the huge annals of
crime. Prejudice apart, Crawley's moral position behind brutus and
Black Will seems to bear a strong family likeness to that which Holy
Writ assigns to the great enemy of man. That personage knocks out
nobody's brains, cuts nobody's throat, never was guilty of such
brutality since the world was, but he finds some thorough egotist, and
whispers how the egotism of his passions or his interest may be
gratified by the death of a fellow-creature. The egotist listens, and
brutus and Black Will had both suffered for their crimes. brutus had
been nailed by Carlo, twice gibbeted, and the bridge of his nose
broken once. Black Will had been mutilated, and Walker nearly drowned,
but "the close contriver of all harms" had kept out of harm's way.
Violence had never recoiled on him who set it moving. For all that,
Crawley, I must inform the reader, was not entirely prosperous. He had
his little troubles, too, whether warnings that he was on the wrong
path, or punishments of his vices, or both, I can't say.
Thus it was. Mr. Crawley had a natural love of spirits, without a
stomach strong enough to deal with them. When he got away from Mr.
Meadows he indulged more and more, and for some months past he had
been subject to an unpleasant phenomenon that arises now and then out
of the fumes of liquor. At the festive board, even as he raised the
glass to his lips, the face of Crawley would often be seen to writhe
with a sort of horror, and his eyes to become fixed on unseen objects,
and perspiration to gather on his brow. Then such as were not in the
secret would jump up and say, "What on earth is the matter?" and look
fearfully round, expecting to see some horrid sight to justify that
look of horror and anguish; but Crawley, his glassy eyes still fixed,
would whimper out, his teeth chattering, and clipping the words: "Oh,
ne-ne-never mind, it's o-o-only a trifling ap-parition!" He had got to
try and make light of it, because at first he used to cry out and
point, and then the miners ran out and left him alone with his
phantoms, and this was terrible. He dreaded solitude; he schemed
against it, and provided against it, and paid fellows to bear him
company night and day, and at the festive board it was one thing to
drink his phantoms neat and another to dilute them with figures of
flesh and blood. He much preferred the latter.
At first, his supernatural visitors were of a unfavorable but not a
No. 1 was a judge who used to rise through the floor, and sit half in
and half out of the wall, with a tremendous flow of horse-hair, a
furrowed face, a vertical chasm between the temples, and a
strike-me-off-the-rolls eye gleaming with diabolical fire from under a
gray, shaggy eyebrow.
No. 2 was a policeman, who came in through the window, and stood
imperturbable, all in blue, with a pair of handcuffs, and a calm eye,
and a disagreeable absence of effort or emotion--an inevitable-looking
But as Crawley went deeper in crime and brandy, blood-boltered
figures, erect corpses, with the sickening signs of violence in every
conceivable form, used to come and blast his sight and arrest the
glass on its way to his lips, and make his songs and the boisterous
attempts at mirth of his withered heart die in a quaver and a shiver
of fear and despair. And at this period of our tale these horrors had
made room for a phantom more horrible still to such a creature as
Crawley. The air would seem to thicken into sulfurous smoke, and then
to clear, and then would come out clearer and clearer, more and more
awful, a black figure with hoof and horns and tail, eyes like red-hot
carbuncles, teeth a _chevaux-de-frise_ of white-hot iron, and an
* The god Pan colored black by the early Christians.
THE party, consisting of Jacky, Jem, Robinson and George, had
traversed about one half the bush, when a great heavy crow came
wheeling and cackling over their heads, and then joined a number more
who were now seen circling over a gum-tree some hundred yards distant.
"Let us go and see what that is," said Jem.
Jacky grinned, and led the way. They had not gone very far when
another great black bird rose so near their feet as to make them jump,
and peering through the bushes they saw a man lying on his back. His
arm was thrown in an easy, natural way round his gun, but at a second
glance it was plain the man was dead. The crows had ripped his clothes
to ribbons with their tremendous beaks, and lacerated the flesh and
picked out the eyes.
They stepped a few paces from this sight. There was no sign of
violence on the body.
"Poor fellow!" said Jem. "How did he come by his end, I wonder?" And
he stretched forward and peered with pity and curiosity mingled.
"Lost in the bush!" said Robinson, very solemnly. And he and George
exchanged a meaning look.
"What is that for?" said George, angrily, to Jacky--"grinning in sight
of a dead body?"
"White fellow stupid fellow," was all Jacky's reply.
The men now stepped up to the body to examine it; not that they had
much hope of discovering who it was, but still they knew it was their
duty for the sake of his kindred to try and find out.
George, overcoming a natural repugnance, examined the pockets. He
found no papers. He found a knife, but no name was cut in the handle.
In the man's bosom he found a small metal box, but just as he was
taking it out Jem gave a halo!
"I think I know him," cried Jem. "There is no mistaking that crop of
black hair; it is my old captain, Black Will."
"You don't say so! What could he be doing here without his party?"
"Anything in the box, George?" asked Robinson.
"Nothing but a little money. Here is a sovereign--look. And here is a
"A five-pound note?"
"Yes--no; it is more than that a good deal. It is for fifty pounds,
"A fifty-pound note, I tell you."
A most expressive look was exchanged between these two, and by one
impulse they both seized the stock of the gun that was in the dead
man's hand. They lifted it, and yes--two fingers were wanting on the
"Come away from that fellow," cried Robinson to George. "Let him lie."
George looked up in some wonder. Robinson pointed sternly to the dead
hand in silence. George, by the light of the other men's faces, saw it
all, and recoiled with a natural movement of repugnance as from a dead
snake. There was a breathless silence--and every eye bent upon this
terrible enemy lying terrible no longer at their feet.
"How did he die?" asked Robinson, in a whisper.
"In the great snow-storm," replied George, in a whisper.
"No," said Jem, in the same tone, "he was alive yesterday. I saw his
footprint after the snow was melted."
"There was snow again last night, Tom. Perhaps he went to sleep in
that with his belly empty."
"Starvation and fatigue would do it without the snow, George. We
brought a day's provisions out with us, George. He never thought of
that, I will be bound."
"Not he," said Jem. "I'll answer for him he only thought of robbing
and killing--never thought about dying himself."
"I can't believe he is dead so easy as this," said Robinson.
The feeling was natural. This man had come into the wood and had
followed them burning to work them ill, and they to work him ill. Both
were utterly baffled. He had never prevailed to hurt them, nor they
him. He was dead, but by no mortal hand. The immediate cause of his
death was unknown, and will never be known for certain while the world
_L'homme propose, mais Dieu dispose!_
"DON'T keep staring at it so, farmer, it is an ugly sight. You will
see him in your sleep if you do that. Here is something better to look
at--a letter. And there I carried it and never once thought of it till
the sight of his hand made me feel in my pocket, and then my hand ran
against it. 'Tis from Mr. Levi."
"Thank you, Jem. Tom, will you be so kind as read it me while I work?"
"Yes, give it me. Work? Why, what are we going to work at in the
"I should think you might guess," replied George quietly, while
putting down his pickax and taking off his coat. "Well, I am
astonished at both of you. You ought to know what I am going to do.
Humph! Under this tree will be as good a place as any."
"Jem, as I am a sinner, he is going to bury him."
"Bury what? The nugget?"
"No, Jem, the Christian."*
* In Berkshire, among a certain class, this word means "a human
"A pretty Christian," sneered Robinson.
"You know what I mean, Tom?"
"I know it is very kind of you to take all this trouble to bury my
enemy," said Robinson, hurt.
"Don't ye say that," replied George, hurt in his turn. "He was as much
my enemy as yours."
"No such thing. He was here after me, and has been tormenting me this
twelve months. You have no enemy, a great soft spoon like you."
"Keep your temper, Tom," answered George, in a mollifying tone. "Let
each man act according to his lights. I _couldn't_ leave a corpse
to the fowls of the air.
"Gibbet a murderer, I say--don't bury him; especially when he has just
been hunting our very lives."
"Tom," replied George doggedly," death settles all accounts. I liked
the man as little as you could; and it is not to say I am in love with
a man because I sprinkle a little earth over his dead bones. Ugh! This
is the unkindest soil to work. It is full of roots, enough to break a
While George was picking and grubbing out roots, and fighting with the
difficult soil, Robinson opened Levi's letter viciously and read out:
"George Fielding, you have an enemy in the mine--a secret, cowardly,
unscrupulous enemy, who lies in wait for your return. I have seen his
face, and tremble for you. Therefore listen to my words. The old Jew,
whom twice you have saved from harm and insult, is rich, his children
are dead, the wife of his bosom is dead. He loves no creature now but
you and Susannah; therefore run no more risks for gold, since much
gold awaits you without risk. Come home. Respect the words of age and
experience--come home. Delay not an hour. Oh, say not, 'I will sleep
yet one more night in my tent, and then I will depart,' but ride
speedily after me on the very instant. Two horses have I purchased for
you and the young man your friend--two swift horses with their
saddles. The voucher is inclosed. Ride speedily after me this very
hour, lest evil befall you and yet more sorrow fall upon Susannah and
The reading of this letter was followed by a thoughtful silence broken
only by the sound of George's pickax and the bursting roots.
"This is a very extraordinary letter. Mr. Levi knows more than he
tells you, George."
"I am of your opinion."
"Why, captain," said Jem, "to go by that letter, Fielding is the
marked man, and not you after all. So it is his own enemy he is
digging that grave for."
"Do you think you will stop him by saying that?" asked Robinson, with
"He was my enemy, Tom, and yours too; but now he is nobody's enemy; he
is dead. Will you help me lay him in the earth, or shall I do it by
"We will help," said the others, a little sullenly.
They brought the body to its grave under the tall gum-tree.
"Not quite so rough, Tom, if _you_ please."
"I didn't mean to be rough that I know of--there."
They laid the dead villain gently and reverently in his grave. George
took a handful of soil and scattered it over him.
"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," said he, solemnly.
The other two looked down and sprinkled soil, too, and their anger and
bitterness began to soften by the side of George and over the grave.
Then Jem felt in his pocket and produced something wrapped in silver
"This belongs!" said he, with a horrible simplicity. "The farmer is
too good for this world, but it is a good fault. There, farmer," said
he, looking to George for approbation as he dropped the little parcel
into the grave. "After all," continued Jem, good-naturedly, "it would
have been very hard upon a poor fellow to wake up in the next world
and not have what does belong to him to make an honest living with."
The grave was filled in, and a little mound made at the foot of the
tree. Then George took out his knife and began to cut the smooth bark.
"What now? Oh, I see. That is a good idea, George. Read them a lesson.
Say in a few words how he came here to do a deed of violence and died
himself--by the hand of Heaven."
"Tom," replied George, cutting away at the bark, "he is gone where he
is sure to be judged; so we have no call to judge him. God Almighty
can do that, I do suppose, without us putting in our word."
"Well, have it your own way. I never saw the toad so obstinate before,
Jem. What is he cutting, I wonder?"
The inscription, when finished, ran thus:
"PLEASE DON'T CUT DOWN THIS TREE.
"IT IS A TOMBSTONE.
"A WHITE MAN LIES BELOW."
"Now, Tom, for England!"
They set out again with alacrity, and battled with the bush about two
hours more. George and Robinson carried the great nugget on a
handkerchief stretched double across two sticks, Jem carried the
picks. They were all in high spirits, and made light of scratches and
difficulties. At last, somewhat suddenly, they burst out of the thick
part into the mere outskirts frequented by the miners, and there they
came plump upon brutus, with a gun in his hand and pistols peeping out
of his pockets, come to murder Black Will and rob him of his spoils.
They were startled, and brutus astounded, for he was fully persuaded
George and Robinson had ceased to exist. He was so dumfounded that
Robinson walked up to him and took the gun out of his hands without
any resistance on his part. The others came round him, and Robinson
demanded his pistols.
"What for?" said he.
Now at this very moment his eye fell upon that fabulous mass of gold
they carried, and both his eyes opened, and a sort of shiver passed
over him. With ready cunning he looked another way, but it was too
late. Robinson had caught that furtive glance, and a chill came over
him that this villain should have seen the prize, a thing to excite
cupidity to frenzy. Nothing now would have induced Robinson to leave
He replied, sternly: "Because we are four to one, and we will hang you
on the nearest tree if you don't give them up. And, now, what are you
"I was only looking for my pal," said brutus.
"Well, you won't want a gun and pistols to look for your pal. Which
way are you going?"
"Into the bush."
"Then mizzle! That is the road."
brutus moved gloomily away into the bush.
"There," said Robinson, "he has turned bushranger. I've disarmed him,
and saved some poor fellow's life and property. Cover up the nugget,
They went on, but presently Robinson had a thought.
"Jacky," said he, "you saw that man; should you know him again?"
"Jacky, that man is our enemy. Could you track him by his footsteps
without ever letting him see you?"
Jacky smiled superior.
"Then follow him and see where he goes, and whom he joins--and come to
the mine directly and tell me."
Jacky's eyes gleamed at this intelligence. He sat down, and in a few
turns of the hand painted his face war, and glided like a serpent on
The rest cleared the wood, and brought the nugget, safe hidden in
their pocket-handkerchief, to camp. They begged Jem to accept the
fifty pounds, if he did not mind handling the price of blood.
Jem assured them he had no such scruples, and took it with a burst of
Then they made him promise faithfully not to mention to a soul about
the monster nugget. No more he did while he was sober, but, alas! some
hours later, having a drop in his head, he betrayed the secret to one
or two--say forty.
Robinson pitched their tent and mounted guard over the nugget. George
was observed to be in a strange flutter. He ran hither and thither.
Ran to the post-office--ran to the stationer--got paper--drew up a
paper--found McLaughlan--made him sign it--went to Mr. Moore--showed
him Isaac's voucher; on which Moore produced the horses, a large black
horse with both bone and blood, and a good cob.
George was very much pleased with them, and asked what Levi had given
"Two hundred and fifty pounds for the pair."
"Good Heavens," cried George, "what a price! Mr. Levi was in earnest."
Then he ran out and went to the tent and gave Robinson his letters.
"But there were none for me, Tom," sighed George. "Never mind, I shall
Now these letters brought joy and triumph to Robinson; one contained a
free pardon, the other was a polite missive from the Colonial
Government, in answer to the miners' petition he had sent up.
"Secretary had the honor to inform Mr. Robinson that police were on
the road to the mine, and that soldiers would arrive by to-morrow to
form an escort, so that the miners' gold might travel in safety down
"Hurrah! this is good news," cried Robinson, "and what a compliment to
me. Do you hear, George? an escort of soldiers coming to the camp
to-morrow; they will take the nugget safe to Sydney."
"Not if we are robbed of it to-night," replied George.
At this moment in came Jacky with news of brutus. That wily man had
gone but a little way in the bush when he had made a circuit, and had
slipped back into another part of the mine, and Jacky had followed him
first by trail, afterward by sight, and had marked him down into a
certain tent, on which he had straightway put a little red mark.
"Come back after our nugget, George. Fools we were to carry it blazing
in folks' eyes."
"I dare say we can beat him."
"I am game to try. Jacky, I want to put a question to you."
While Jacky and Tom were conferring in animated whispers, George was
fixing an old spur he had picked up into the heel of his boot.
"That is capital, Jacky. Well, George, we have hit upon a plan."
"And so have I."
"Yes! me! but tell me yours first, Tom."
Robinson detailed him his scheme with all its ramifications, and a
very ingenious stratagem it was.
For all that, when George propounded his plan in less than six words,
Robinson stared with surprise and then gave way to ludicrous
"Well," cried he, "simplicity before cunning; look at that now. Where
was my head?--George, this is your day--carried _nem. con."_
"And, Tom, you can do yours all the same."
"Can I? Why, yes, to be sure I can. There, he saw that, too, before.
Why, George, if you don't mind, you will be No. 1 and I No. 2. What
makes you so sharp all of a sudden?"
"I have to think for Susan as well as us," said the poor fellow,
tenderly, "that is why I am sharp--for once in a way. And now,
Jacky--you are a great anxiety to me, and the time is so short--come
sit by me, dear Jacky, and let me try and make you understand what I
have been doing for you, that you may be good and happy, and
comfortable in your old age, when your poor old limbs turn stiff, and
you can hunt no longer. In grateful return for the nugget, and more
than that for all your goodness and kindness to me in times of bitter
Then George showed Jacky how he had given Abner one-third of all his
sheep and cattle, and Jacky two-thirds, and how McLaughlan, a just
man, would see the division made. "And do leave the woods, except for
a hunt now and then, Jacky; you are too good for them."
Above all, George explained with homely earnestness the nature of the
sheep, her time of lambing, etc., and showed Jacky how the sheep and
cattle would always keep him fed and clothed, if he would but use them
reasonably, and not kill the breeders for dinner.
And Jacky listened with glistening eyes, for George's glistened, and
the sweet tones of affection and gratitude pierced through this family
talk, and it is sad that we must drop the curtain on this green spot
in the great camp and go among our villains.
ROBINSON did not overrate the fatal power of the fabulous mass of
gold, a glimpse of which he had incautiously given to greedy eyes. It
drew brutus like a magnet after it. He came all in a flutter to
mephistopheles, and told him he had met the two men carrying a lump of
solid gold between them so heavy that the sticks bent under it. "The
sweat ran down me at the sight of it, but I managed to look another
What with the blows and kicks and bruises and defeats he had received,
and with the gold mass his lawless eye had rested on, brutus was now
in a state of mind terrible to think of.
Lust and hate, terrible twins, stung that dark heart to frenzy. Could
he have had his will he would have dispensed with cunning, would have
gone out and fired bullets from his gun into the tent, and, if his
enemies came out alive, have met them hand to hand to slay or be
slain. But the watchful foe had disarmed him, and he was compelled to
listen to the more reynard-like ferocity of his accomplice.
"Bill," said the assassin of Carlo, "keep cool, and you shall have the
swag; and yet not lose your revenge neither."
"---- you, tell me how."
"Let the bottle alone, then; you are hot enough without that. Come
nearer me. What I have got to say is not the sort of thing for me to
bawl about. We should not be alive half an hour if it was heard to
come from our lips."
The two heads came close together, and Crawley leaned over the other
side of the table and listened with senses keen as a razor.
"Suppose I show you how to make those two run out of their tent like
two frightened women, and never once think about their swag?"
"And fall blinded for life or dead or dying while we walk off with the
"Blind, dead, dying! give me your hand. How? how? how?"
"Hush! don't shout like that; come closer, and you, Smith."
Then a diabolical scheme hissed into the listeners' ears--a scheme at
once cowardly and savage--a scheme of that terrible kind that robs
courage, strength and even skill of their natural advantages, and
reduces their owners to the level of the weak and the timid--a scheme
worthy of the assassin of Carlo, and the name I have given this
wretch, whose brain was so fertile and his heart so fiendish. Its
effect on the hearers was great, but very different. Crawley recoiled,
not violently, but like a serpent on which water had been poured; but
brutus broke into a rapture of admiration, exultation, gratified hate.
"Bless you, bless you!" cried he, with a violence more horrible than
his curses, "you warm my heart, you _are_ a pal. What a head-piece
you have got! ---- you, Smith, have you nothing to say? Isn't this a
dodge out of the common?"
Now for the last minute or two Crawley's eyes had been fixed with a
haggard expression on a distant corner of the room. He did not move
them; he appeared hardly to have the power, but he answered, dropping
the words down on the table anywhere.
"Ye-yes! it is very inge-nious, ah!"
mephisto. "We must buy the turpentine directly; there is only one
store sells it, and that shuts at nine.
brutus. "Do you hear, Smith? hand us out the blunt."
Crawley. "Oh, ugh!" and his eyes seemed fascinated to that spot.
brutus (following Crawley's eye uneasily). "What is the matter?"
Crawley. "Lo-o-o-k th-e-r-e! No! on your right. Oh, his tail is in the
brutus. "Whose tail? don't be a fool!"
Crawley. "And it doesn't burn!! Oh, it burns blacker in the fire!--Ah,
ah! now the eyes have caught fire--diamonds full of hell. They blast!
Ah, now the teeth have caught light--red-hot nails. The mouth is as
big as the table, gaping wider, wider, wider. Ah! ah! ah!"
brutus. "---- him; I won't stay in the room with such a fellow, he
makes my blood run cold. Has he cut his father's throat in a church,
Crawley (shrieking). "Oh, don't go; oh, my dear friends, don't leave
me alone with IT. My dear friends, you sit down right upon it--that
sends it away." And Crawley hid his face, and pointed wildly to
whereabouts they were to sit upon the phantom.
brutus. "Come, it is gone now; was forced nearly to squash it first,
though, haw! haw! haw!"
Crawley. "Yes, it is gone. Thank Heaven--I'll give up drinking."
brutus. "So now fork out the blunt for the turps."
Crawley. "No! I will give no money toward murder--robbery is bad
enough. Where shall we go to?" And he rose and went out, muttering
something about "a little brandy."
brutus. "The sneak--to fail us at the pinch. I'll wring his neck
round. What is this? five pounds."
mephisto. "Don't you see the move? he won't give it us, conscience
forbids; but, if we are such rogues as take it, no questions asked."
"The tarnation hypocrite," roared brutus, with disgust--hypocrisy was
the one vice he was innocent of--out of jail. mephistopheles stole
Crawley's money, left for that purpose, and went and bought a
four-gallon cask of turpentine.
brutus remained and sharpened an old cutlass, the only weapon he had
got left. Crawley and mephistopheles returned almost together. Crawley
produced a bottle of brandy.
"Now," said he to mephistopheles, "I don't dispute your ingenuity, my
friend, but suppose while we have been talking the men have struck
their tent and gone away, nugget and all?"
The pair looked terribly blank--what fools we were not to think of
Crawley kept them in pain a moment or two.
"Well, they have not," said he, "I have been to look."
"Well done," cried mephistopheles.
"Well done," cried brutus, gasping for breath.
"There is their tent all right."
"How near did you go to it?"
"Near enough to hear their voices muttering."
"When does the moon rise, to-night?"
"She is rising now."
"When does she go down?"
"Soon after two o'clock."
"Will you take a share of the work, Smith?"
IT was a gusty night. The moon had gone down. The tents gleamed
indistinct in form, but white as snow. Robinson's tent stood a little
apart, among a number of deserted claims, some of them dry, but most
of them with three or four feet of water in them.
There was, however, one large tent about twenty yards from Robinson's.
A man crept on his stomach up to this tent and listened. He then
joined another man who stood at some distance, and whose form seemed
gigantic in the dim starlight. "All right," said the spy, "they are
all fast as dormice, snoring like hogs; no fear from them."
"Go to work, then," whispered brutus. "Do your part."
mephistopheles laid a deep iron dish upon the ground, and removed the
bung from the turpentine cask, and poured. "Confound the wind, how it
wastes the stuff," cried he.
He now walked on tiptoe past Robinson's tent and scattered the
turpentine with a bold sweep, so that it fell light as rain over a
considerable surface. A moment of anxiety succeeded; would their keen
antagonists hear even that slight noise? No! no one stirred in the
mephistopheles returned to the cask, and, emboldened by success,
brought it nearer the doomed tent. Six times he walked past the
windward side of the tent, and scattered the turpentine over it. It
was at the other side his difficulties began.
The first time he launched the liquid, the wind took it and returned
it nearly all in his face, and over his clothes. Scarce a drop reached
The next time he went up closer with a beating heart, and flung it
sharper. This time full two-thirds went upon the tent, and only a
small quantity came back like spray.
By the time the cask was emptied, the tent was saturated. Then this
wretch passed the tent yet once more, and scattered a small quantity
of oil to make the flame more durable and deadly.
"Now it is my turn," whispered brutus. "I thought it would never
What is that figure crouching and crawling about a hundred yards to
windward? It is the caitiff, Crawley, who, after peremptorily
declining to have anything to do with this hellish act, has crept
furtively after them, partly to play the spy on them, for he suspects
they will lie to him about the gold, partly urged by curiosity. He
could see nothing at that distance but the dark body of mephistopheles
passing at intervals between him and the white tent.
He shivered with cold and terror at the crime about to be done, and
quivered with impatience that it was so long a-doing.
The assassins now divided their force. mephistopheles took his station
to leeward of the tent; brutus to windward.
Crawley saw a sudden spark upon the ground; it was brutus striking a
lucifer match against his heel. With this he lighted a piece of tow,
and running along the tent he left a line of fire behind him, and
awaited the result, his cutlass griped in his hand and his teeth
Crawley saw that line of fire come and then creep and then rise and
then roar, and shoot up into a great column of fire thirty feet high,
roaring and blazing, and turning night into day all round.
Simultaneously with this tremendous burst of fire and light, which
startled Crawley by bringing him in a moment into broad daylight, he
saw rise from the earth a black figure with a fiendish face.
At this awful sight the conscience-stricken wretch fell flat and tried
to work into the soil like a worm. Nor did he recover any portion of
his presence of mind till he heard a shrill whoop, savage and
soul-chilling, but mortal, and, looking up, saw Kalingalunga go
bounding down upon brutus with gigantic leaps, his tomahawk whirling.
Crawley cowered like a hare and watched. brutus, surprised but not
dismayed, wheeled round and faced the savage, cutlass in hand. He
parried a fierce blow of the tomahawk, and with his left fist struck
Kalingalunga on the temple, and knocked him backward half a dozen
yards. The elastic savage recovered himself and danced like a fiend
round brutus in the red light of the blazing tent.
Warned by that strange blow, straight from the armpit, a blow entirely
new to him, he came on with more deadly caution, eyes and teeth
budelights, and brutus felt a chill for a moment, but it speedily
turned to rage. Now as the combatants each prepared to strike again,
screams suddenly issued from the other side the tent, so wild,
despairing, and unnatural as to suspend their arms for a moment. They
heard but saw nothing, only the savage heart of brutus found time to
exult--his enemies were perishing. But Crawley saw as well as heard. A
pillar of flame eight feet high burst out from behind the tent and ran
along the ground. From that conical flame issued those appalling
shrieks--it was a man on fire. The living flame ran but a few steps,
then disappeared from the earth, and the screams ceased. Apparently
the fire had not only killed, but annihilated its prey and so itself.
Crawley sickened with horror, and for a moment with remorse.
But already brutus and Kalingalunga were fighting again by the light
of the burning tent. They closed, and this time blood flowed on both
sides. The savage, by a skillful feint, cut brutus on the flesh of the
left shoulder, but not deep, and brutus once more surprised the savage
by delivering point with his cutlass, and inflicted a severe graze on
At the sight of his enemy's blood, brutus followed up and aimed a
fierce blow at Kalingalunga's head; he could not have made a more
useless attack. The savage bore on his left arm a shield, so called;
it was but three inches broad and two feet long, but skill and
practice had made it an impenetrable defense. He received the cutlass
on this shield as a matter of course, and simultaneously delivered his
tomahawk on brutus's unguarded head. brutus went down under the blow
and rolled over on his face.
The crouching spectator of this terrible combat by the decaying light
of the tent heard the hard blow and saw the white man roll upon the
ground. Then he saw the tomahawk twice lifted and twice descend upon
the man's back as he lay. The next moment the savage came running from
the tent at his utmost speed.
Crawley's first thought was that assistance had come to brutus; his
next was a terrible one. The savage had first risen from the earth at
a spot between the tent and him. Perhaps he had been watching both him
and the tent. A moment of horrible uncertainty, and then Crawley
yielded to his instinct and ran. A terrible whoop behind told him he
was indeed to be the next victim. He ran for the dear life; no one
would have believed he could shamble along at the rate he did. His
tent was half a mile off; he would be a dead man long ere he could
reach it. He turned his yelling head as he ran, to see. The fleet
savage had already diminished the distance between them by half.
Crawley now filled the air with despairing cries for help. A large
tent was before him; he knew not whose, but certain death was behind
him. He made for the tent. If he could but reach it before the
death-stroke was given him! Yes, it is near! No, it is white and looks
closer than it is. A whoop sounded in his ears; it seemed to ring
inside his head it was so near. He flung himself yelling with terror
at the wall of the tent. An aperture gave way. A sharp cut as with a
whip seemed to sting him, and he was on his knees in the middle of the
tent howling for mercy, first to the savage, who he made sure was
standing over him with his tomahawk; then to a man who got him by the
throat and pressed a pistol barrel cold as an icicle to his cheek.
"Mercy! mercy! the savage! he is killing me! murder! murder! help!"
"Who are you?" roared the man, shaking him.
"Oh, stop him! he will kill me! Shoot him! Don't shoot me! I am a
respectable man. It is the savage! kill him! He is at the door--please
kill him! I'll give you a hundred pounds!"
"What is to do? The critter is mad!"
"There! there! you will see a savage! Shoot him! kill him! For pity's
sake kill him, and I'll tell you all! I am respectable. I'll give you
a hundred pounds to kill him!"
"Why, it is Smith, that gives us all a treat at times."
"Don't I! Oh, my dear, good friend, he has killed me! He came after me
with his tomahawk. Have pity on a respectable man--and kill him!"
The man went to the door of the tent and sure enough there was Jacky,
who had retired to some distance. The man fired at him with as little
ceremony as he would at a glass bottle, and, as was to be expected,
missed him; but Jacky, who had a wholesome horror of the
make-thunders, ran off directly, and went to hack the last vestiges of
life out of brutus.
Crawley remained on his knees, howling and whimpering so piteously
that the man took pity on this abject personage.
"Have a drop, Mr. Smith; you have often given me one--there. I'll
strike a light."
The man struck a light and fixed a candle in a socket. He fumbled in a
corner for the bottle, and was about to offer it to Crawley, when he
was arrested by a look of silent horror on his visitor's face.
"Why, what is wrong now?"
"Look! look! look!" cried Crawley, trembling from head to foot. "Here
it comes! there is its tail! Soon its eyes and teeth will catch light!
It knows the work we have been at. Ah! ah! ah!"
The man looked round very uneasily. Crawley's way of pointing and
glaring over one's head at some object behind one was anything but
"There! there! coming through the side of the tent. It can come
through a wall!" and Crawley shook from head to foot.
"Why, that is your own shadow," said the man. "Why, what a
faint-hearted one to shake at your own shadow."
"My shadow!" cried Crawley; "Heaven forbid! Have I got a tail?"
screeched Crawley, reproachfully.
"That you have," said the man, "now I look at you full."
Crawley clapped his hand behind him, and to his horror he had a tail
CRAWLEY, who, what with the habit of cerebral hallucination due to
brandy and the present flutter of his spirits and his conscience, had
for a moment or two lost all the landmarks of probability, no sooner
felt his hand encounter a tail--slight in size, but stiff as a pug's,
and straight as a pointer's--than he uttered a dismal howl, and it is
said that for a single moment he really suspected premature caudation
had been inflicted on him for his crimes. But such delusions are
short-lived. He slewed himself round after this tail in his efforts to
see it, and squinting over his shoulder he did see it; and a warm
liquid which he now felt stealing down his legs and turning cold as it
went, opened his eyes still farther. It was a red spear sticking in
his person--sticking tight. Jacky, who had never got so near him as he
fancied, saw him about to get into a tent, and, unable to tomahawk
him, did the best he could--flung a light javelin with such force and
address that it pierced his coat and trousers and buried half its head
in his flesh.
This spear-head, made of jagged fishbones, had to be cut out by the
simple and agreeable process of making all round it a hole larger than
itself. The operation served to occupy Crawley for the remaining part
of the night, and exercised his vocal powers. This was the first time
he had smarted in his penetrable part--the skin--and it made him very
spiteful. Away went his compunction, and at peep of day he shambled
out very stiff, no longer dreading, but longing to hear which of his
enemies it was he had seen wrapped in flame, shrieking, and
annihilated like the snuff of a candle. He came to the scene of action
just as the sun rose.
But others were there before him. A knot of men stood round a black
patch of scorched soil, round which were scattered little fragments of
canvas burned to tinder, talking over a most mysterious affair of the
It came out that the patrol, some of whom were present, had been
ordered by Captain Robinson not to go their rounds as usual, but to
watch in a tent near his own, since he expected an attack. Accustomed
to keep awake on the move, but not in a recumbent posture, they had
slept the sleep of infancy, till suddenly awakened by the sound of a
pistol. Then they had run out, and had found the captain's tent in
ashes, and a man lying near it sore hacked and insensible, but still
breathing. They had taken him to their tent, but he had never spoken,
and the affair was incomprehensible. While each was giving some wild
opinion or another, a faint voice issued from the bowels of the earth,
Several ran to the spot, and at the bottom of an old claim full thirty
feet deep they discovered on looking intently down the face of a man
rising out of the clayey water. They lowered ropes and hauled him up.
"How did you come there, mate?"
"He had come into the camp in the dark, and, not knowing the ground,
and having (to tell the truth) had a drop, he had fallen into the
He was asked with an air of suspicion how long ago this had happened.
"More than an hour," replied the wily one.
Crawley looked at him, and being, unlike the others, acquainted with
the man's features, saw, spite of the clay-cake he was enveloped in,
that his whiskers were frizzled to nothing and his fiendish eyebrows
gone. Then a sickening suspicion crept over him; he communicated it by
a look to mephistopheles.
Acting on it he asked, with an artful appearance of friendly interest:
"But the men? the poor men that were in the tent?"
"What! the captain and his mate?"
"Why, ye fool! they are half way to Sydney by now."
"Half way to Sydney?" and a ghastly look passed between the speaker
"Ay, lad! they rode off on Moore's two best nags at midnight."
"The captain had a belt round his waist crammed with dust and
bank-notes," cried another, "and the farmer a nugget as big as a
pumpkin on the pommel of his saddle."
Four hours had not elapsed ere Crawley and mephistopheles were on the
road to Sydney, but not on horseback. Crawley had no longer funds to
buy two horses, and, even if he had, he could not have borne the
saddle after the barbarous surgery of last night---the lance-head was
cut out with a cheese-knife. But he and mephistopheles joined a
company of successful diggers going down with their swag. On the road
they constantly passed smaller parties of unfortunate diggers, who had
left the mine in despair when the weather broke and the claims filled
with water; and the farther they went the more wretched was the
condition of those they overtook. Ragged, shoeless, hungry, foot-sore,
heart-sore, poor, broken pilgrims from the shrine of Mammon.
Now it befell that, forty miles on this side Sydney, they fell in with
seven such ragged specters; and, while they were giving these a little
food, up came from the city a large, joyful party--the eagerness of
hope and cupidity on their faces.
"Hallo! are they mad, going up to the diggings in the wet weather!"
They were questioned.
A hundred-weight of gold had been found at the diggings, and all the
town was turning out to find some more such prizes; and, in fact,
every mile after this they met a party, great or small, ardent,
sanguine, on an almost hopeless errand.
Such is the strange and fatal no-logic of speculation. For us the rare
is to turn common, and, when we have got it, be rare as ever.
mephistopheles and Crawley parted at the suburb; the former was to go
to certain haunts and form a gang to seize the rich prize. Meantime
Crawley would enter the town and discover where the men were lodging.
If in an inn, one of the gang must go there as a well-dressed
traveler, and watch his opportunity. If in a lodging, other means.
Crawley found the whole city ringing with the great nugget. Crawley
put eager questions, and received ready answers. He was shown the bank
up to which the men had ridden in broad daylight; the one on the big
horse had the nugget on his saddle; they had taken it, and broken it,
and weighed it, and sold it in the bank parlor for three thousand
eight hundred pounds. Crawley did not like this, he had rather they
had not converted it into paper. His next question was, whether it was
known where the men lodged.
"Known! I believe you; why, they are more thought of than the
governor. Everybody runs to get a word with them, gentle or simple.
You will find them at the 'Ship' inn."
To the "Ship" went Crawley. He dared not be too direct in his queries,
so he put them in form of a statement.
"You have got some lucky ones here, that found the great nugget?"
"Well, we had! But they are gone--been gone this two hours. Do you
"Yes," said Crawley, without fear, as they were gone. "Where are they
gone, do you know?"
"Why, home, I suppose; you chaps make your money out of us, but you
all run home to spend it."
"What, gone to England!" gasped Crawley.
"Ay, look! there is the ship just being towed out of the harbor."
Crawley shambled, and tore, and ran, and was just in time to see the
two friends standing with beaming faces on the vessel's deck as she
glided out on her voyage home.
He sat down half stupid; mephistopheles went on collecting his gang in
The steamer cast off and came wheeling back; the ship spread her huge
white plumage, and went proudly off to sea, the blue waves breaking
white under her bows.
Crawley sat glaring at all this in a state of mental collapse.
THUS have I told in long and tedious strains how George Fielding went
to Australia to make a thousand pounds, and how by industry, sobriety,
and cattle, he did not make a thousand pounds, and how, aided with the
help of a converted thief, this honest fellow did by gold digging,
industry and sobriety, make several thousand pounds, and take them
safe away home, spite of many wicked devices and wicked men.
Thus have I told how Mr. Meadows flung out his left hand into
Australia to keep George from coming back to Susan with a thousand
pounds, and how, spite of one stroke of success, his left hand
eventually failed, and failed completely.
But his right?
Joyous as the first burst of summer were the months Susan passed after
the receipt of George's happy letter. Many warm feelings combined in
one stream of happiness in Susan's heart. Perhaps the keenest of all
was pride at George's success. Nobody could laugh at George now, and
insult her again there where she was most sensitive, by telling her
that George was not good enough for her or any woman; and even those
who set such store upon money-making would have to confess that George
could do even that for love of her, as well as they could do it for
love of themselves. Next to this her joy was greatest at the prospect
of his speedy return.
And now she became joyfully impatient for further news, but not
disappointed at his silence till two months had passed without another
letter. Then, indeed, anxiety mingled now and then with her happiness.
Then it was that Meadows, slowly and hesitatingly to the last, raised
his hand and struck the first direct blow at her heart. He struck in
the dark. He winced for her both before and after. Yet he struck.
One market-day a whisper passed through Farnborough that George
Fielding had met with wonderful luck. That he had made his fortune by
gold, and was going to marry a young lady out in Australia. Farmer
Merton brought the whisper home. Meadows was sure he would.
Meadows did not come to the house for some days. He half feared to
look upon his work; to see Susan's face agonized under his blow. At
last he came. He watched her by stealth. He found he might have spared
his qualms. She chatted as usual in very good spirits, and just before
he went she told him the report with a smile of ineffable scorn.
She was simple, unsuspicious, and every way without a shield against a
Meadows, but the loyal heart by its own virtue had turned the dagger's
A week after this Jefferies brought Meadows a letter; it was from
Susan to George. Meadows read it writhing. It breathed kind affection,
with one or two demi-maternal cautions about his health, and to be
very prudent for her sake. Not a word of doubt; there was, however, a
postscript of which the following is the exact wording:
"P. S. It is all over Farnborough that you are going to be married to
some one in Australia."
Two months more passed, and no letter from George. These two months
told upon Susan; she fretted and became restless and irritable, and
cold misgivings crept over her, and the anguish of suspense!
At last one day she unbosomed herself, though with hesitation, to a
warm and disinterested friend; blushing all over with tearful eyes she
confessed her grief to Mr. Meadows. "Don't tell father, sir; I hide my
trouble from him as well as I can, but what does it mean George not
writing to me these four months and three days? Do pray tell me what
does it mean!" and Susan cried so piteously that Meadows winced at his
"Oh, Mr. Meadows! don't flatter me; tell me the truth." While he was
exulting in her firmness, who demanded the truth, bitter or not, she
continued: "Only don't tell me that I am forgotten!" And she looked so
piteously in the oracle's face that he forgot everything in the desire
to say something she would like him the better for saying; he
muttered, "Perhaps he has sailed for home." He expected her to say,
"And if he has he would have written to me before sailing." But
instead of this Susan gave a little cry of joy.
"Ah! how foolish I have been. Mr. Meadows, you are a friend out of a
thousand; you are as wise as I am foolish. Poor George! you will never
let him know I was so wicked as to doubt him." And Susan brightened
with joy and hope. The heart believes so readily the thing it longs
should be true. She was happy all the rest of the evening.
Meadows went away mad with her for her folly, and with himself for his
feebleness of purpose, and next market-day again the whisper went
round the market that George Fielding was going to marry out there.
This time a detail was sketched in: "It was a lady in the town of
Bathurst." Old Merton brought this home and twitted his daughter. She
answered haughtily that it was a falsehood. She would stake her life
on George's fidelity.
"See, Mr. Meadows, they are all against poor George, all except you.
But what does it mean? if he does not write or come soon I think I
shall go mad."
"Report is a common liar; I would not believe anything till I saw it
in black and white," said Meadows, doggedly.
"No more I will."
Soon after this William Fielding had a talk with Susan.
"Have you heard a report about George?"
"Yes! I have heard a rumor."
"You don't believe it, I hope."
"Why should I believe it?"
"I'm going to trace it up to the liar that forged it, if I can."
Susan suppressed her satisfaction at this resolution of Will
"Is it worth while?" asked she coldly.
"If I didn't think so, I shouldn't take that much trouble, not
expecting any thanks."
"Have I said anything to offend you?" asked Susan, with a still more
The other did not trust himself to answer. But two days after he came
again, and told her he had written a letter to George, telling him
what reports were about, and begging for an answer whether or not
there was any truth in them.
A gleam of satisfaction from Susan's eyes, but not a word. This man,
who had once been George's rival at heart, was the last to whom she
would openly acknowledge her doubts. Then Will went on to tell her
that he had traced the rumor from one to another up to a stranger
whose name nobody knew; "but I dare say Mr. Meadows has a notion."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes! he would have told me if he had."
William gave a snort of incredulity, and hinted that probably Mr.
Meadows himself was at the bottom of the scandal.
Now Meadows' artful conduct had fortified Susan against such a
suspicion, and, being by nature a warm-hearted friend, she fired up
for him, as she would have for Mr. Eden, or even for poor Will in his
absence. She did it, too, in the most womanish way. She did not tell
the young man that she had consulted Mr. Meadows, and that he had
constantly discredited the report, and set her against believing it.
Had she done this, she would have staggered the simple-minded Will;
but no; she said to herself, "He has attacked a good friend of mine, I
won't satisfy him so far as to give him reasons;" so she merely
"Oh, I know you are set against poor Mr. Meadows; he is a good friend
of ours, of my father, and me, and of George, too."
"I wish you may not have to alter your mind," sneered Will.
"I will not without a reason."
"I will give you a reason; do you remember that day--"
"When you insulted him in his own house, and me into the bargain,
"Not you, Susan, leastways I hope not, but him I did, and am just as
like to do it again; well, when you were gone, I took a thought, and I
said, appearances deceive the wisest; I may be mistaken--"
"I don't know what you are laughing at; and then, says I, it is his
own house, after all, so I said, 'If I am wrong, and you don't mean to
undermine my brother, take my hand;' and I gave it him."
"And be refused it?"
"But, Susan," said William, solemnly, "his hand lay in mine like a
"A lump of ice would be as near the mark."
"Well! is that the reason you promised me?" William nodded.
"William, you are a fool."
"Oh I am a fool now?"
"You go and insult a man, your superior in every respect, and the very
next moment he is to give you his hand as warmly as to a friend, and
an equal; you really are too foolish to go without a keeper, and if it
was in any man's power to set me against poor George altogether you
have gone the way to do it this twelve months past;" and Susan closed
the conference abruptly.
It was William's fate to rivet Meadows' influence by every blow he
aimed at it. For all that the prudent Meadows thought it worth his
while to rid himself of this honest and determined foe, and he had
already taken steps. He had discovered that this last month William
Fielding, returning from market, had been seen more than once to stop
and chat at one Mrs. Holiday's, a retired small tradeswoman in
Farnborough. Now Mrs. Holiday was an old acquaintance of Meadows' and
had given him sugar-plums thirty years ago. It suited his purpose to
remember all of a sudden these old sugar-plums, and that Mrs. Holiday
had lately told him she wanted to get out of the town and end her days
There was a cottage, paddock and garden for sale within a hundred
yards of "The Grove." Meadows bought them a good bargain, and offered
them to the widow at a very moderate rent.
The widow was charmed. "Why, we can keep a cow, Mr. Meadows."
"Well, there is grass enough."
The widow took the cottage with enthusiasm.
Mrs. Holiday had a daughter, a handsome--a downright handsome girl,
and a good girl into the bargain.
Meadows had said to himself: "It is not the old woman Will Fielding
goes there for. Well, she will want some one to teach her how to farm
that half acre of grass, and buy the cow and milk her. Friendly
offices--chat coming and going--come in, Mr. Fielding, and taste your
cow's cream!--and, when he has got a lass of his own, his eye won't
be forever on mine."
William's letter to George went to the post-office, and from the
post-office to a little pile of intercepted letters in Meadows' desk.
NEARLY eight months had now elapsed without a letter from George.
Susan could no longer deceive herself with hopes. George was either
false to her or dead. She said as much to her false friend. This
inspired him with an artifice as subtle as unscrupulous. A letter had
been brought to him by Jefferies, which he at once recognized as the
planned letter from Crawley to another tool of his in Farnborough.
This very day he set about a report that George was dead. It did not
reach Susan so soon as he thought it would, for old Merton hesitated
to tell her; but on the Sunday evening, with considerable reluctance
and misgivings, he tried in a very clumsy way to prepare her for sad
But her mind had long been prepared for bitter tidings. Fancy eight
weary months spent in passing every possible calamity before her
imagination, death as often as any.
She fixed her eyes on the old man. "Father, George is dead!"
Old Merton hung his head, and made no reply.
That was enough. Susan crept from the room pale as ashes. She
tottered, but she did not fall. She reached her room and locked
MR. MEADOWS did not visit Grassmere for some days; the cruel one
distrusted his own firmness. When he did come he came with a distinct
purpose. He found Merton alone.
"Susan sees no one. You have heard?"
"Her sweetheart. He is dead."
"Why, how can that be? And who says so?"
"That is the news."
"Well, it is a falsehood!" said Mr. Meadows, coolly.
"I wish to Heaven it might," whispered old Merton, "for she won't live
long after him."
Mr. Meadows then told Merton that he had spoken with a man who had got
news of George Fielding not four months old, and he was in very good
"Will you tell Susan this?"
Susan was called down. Meadows started at the sight of her. She was
pale and hollow-eyed, and in these few days seemed ten years older.
She was dressed all in black. "I am a murderer!" thought he. And
remorse without one grain of honest repentance pierced his heart.
"Speak out, John," said the father, "the girl is not a fool. She has
borne ill news, she can bear good. Can't you, Susan?"
"Yes, dear father, if it is God's will any good news should come to
me." And she never took her eyes off Mr. Meadows, but belied her
assumed firmness by quivering like an aspen leaf.
"Do you know Mr. Griffin?" asked Meadows.
"Yes!" replied Susan, still trembling gently, but all over.
"He has got a letter from Sydney from a little roguish attorney called
Crawley. I heard him say with my own ears that Crawley tells him he
had just seen George Fielding in the streets of Sydney, well and
"You are deceiving me out of kindness." (Her eyes fixed on his.)
"I am not. I wish I may die if the man is not as well as I am!"
Her eyes were never off his face, and at this moment she read for
certain that it was true.
She uttered a cry of joy so keen it was painful to hear, and then she
laughed and cried and sank into a chair laughing and crying in strong
hysterics, that lasted till the poor girl almost fainted from
exhaustion. Her joy was more violent and even terrible than her grief
The female servants were called to assist her, and old Merton and
Meadows left her in their hands, feeble, but calm and thankful. She
even smiled her adieu to Meadows.
The next day Meadows called upon Griffin. "Let me look at that
letter?" said he. "I want to copy a part of it."
"There has been one here before you," said Griffin.
"She did not give her name, but I think it must have been Miss Merton.
She begged me hard to let her see the letter. I told her she might
take it home with her. Poor thing! she gave me a look as if she could
have eaten me."
"What else?" asked Meadows anxiously--his success had run ahead of his
"She put it in her bosom."
"In her bosom?"
"Ay! and pressed her little white hands upon it as if she had got a
treasure. I doubt it will be more like the asp in the Bible story, eh!
"There! I don't want your reflections," said Meadows, fiercely, but
his voice quavered. The myrmidon was silenced.
Susan made her escape into a field called the Kynecroft, belonging to
the citizens, and there she read the letter. It was a long, tiresome
one, all about matters of business which she did not understand; it
was only at the last page that she caught sight of the name she longed
to see. She hurried down to it, and when she got to it with beating
heart it was the fate of this innocent, loving woman to read these
"What luck some have. There is George Fielding, of the 'Grove Farm,'
has made his fortune at the gold, and married yesterday to one of the
prettiest girls in Sydney. I met them walking in the street to-day.
She would not have looked at him but for the gold."
Susan uttered a faint moan, and sank down slowly on her knees, like
some tender tree felled by a rude stroke; her eyes seemed to swim in a
mist, she tried to read the cruel words again but could not; she put
her hands before her eyes.
"He is alive," she said, "thank God, he is alive." And at last tears
forced their way through her fingers. She took her handkerchief and
dried her eyes. "Why do I cry for another woman's husband?" and the
hot color of shame and of wounded pride burst even through her tears.
"I will not cry," said she, proudly, "he is alive--I will not cry--he
has forgotten me; from this moment I will never shed another tear for
one that is alive and unworthy of a tear. I will go home."
She went home, crying all the way. And now a partial success attended
the deep Meadows' policy. It was no common stroke of unscrupulous
cunning to plunge her into the very depths of woe in order to take her
out of them. The effects were manifold, and all tended his way.
First she was less sorrowful than she had been before that deadly
blow, for now the heart had realized a greater woe, and had the
miserable comfort of the comparison; but, above all, new and strong
passions had risen and battled fiercely with grief--anger and wounded
Susan had self-respect and pride, too, perhaps a shade too much though
less small vanity than have most persons of her moderate caliber.
What! had she wept and sighed all these months for a man who did not
care for her?
What! had she defied sneers, and despised affectionate hints, and
gloried openly in her love, to be openly insulted and betrayed!
What! had she shut herself from the world, and put on mourning and
been seen in mourning for one who was not dead, but well and happy and
married to another!
An agony of shame rushed over the wronged, insulted, humiliated
beauty. She longed to fly from the world. She asked her father to
leave Grassmere and go to some other farm a hundred miles away. She
asked him suddenly, nervously, and so impetuously that the old man
looked up in dismay.
"What! leave the farm where your mother lived with me, and where you
were born. I should feel strange, girl; but"--and he gave a strange
sigh--"mayhap I shall have to leave it whether I will or no."
Susan misunderstood him and colored with self-reproach. She said
hastily: "No! no! Father, you shan't leave it for me. Forgive me, I am
a wayward girl!"
And the strung nerves gave way, and tears gushed over the hot cheeks,
as she clung to her father, and tried to turn the current of her
despised love and bestow it all on that selfish old noodle. A great
treasure went a-begging in Grassmere farmhouse.
Mr. Meadows called, but much to his chagrin Susan was never visible.
"Would he excuse her? she was indisposed."
The next evening he came he found her entertaining four or five other
farmers' daughters and a couple of young men. She was playing the
piano to them and talking and laughing louder and faster than ever he
had heard her in his life. He sat moody a little while and watched her
uneasily, but soon took his line, and exerting his excellent social
powers became the life of the party. But as he warmed Susan froze, as
much as to say, "Somebody must play the fool to amuse these
triflers--if you undertake it I need not." For all that the very
attempt at society indicated what was passing in Susan's mind, and the
deep Meadows invited all present to meet at his house in two days'
Meadows was now living in Isaac Levi's old house. He had examined it,
found it a much nicer house for him than his new one--it was like
himself, full of ins and outs, and it was more in the heart of
business and yet quiet; for, though it stood in a row, yet it was as
good as detached, because the houses on each side were unoccupied.
They belonged to Jews, probably dependents on Isaac, for they had left
the town about a twelvemonth after his departure and had never
returned, though a large quantity of goods had been deposited in one
of the houses.
Meadows contrived that this little party should lead to another. His
game was to draw Susan into the world, and moreover have her seen in
his company. She made no resistance, for her wounded pride said,
"Don't let people know you are breaking your heart for one who does
not care for you." She used to come to these parties radiant and
playing her part with consummate resolution and success, and go home
and spend the night in tears.
Meadows did not see the tears that followed these unusual
efforts--perhaps he suspected them. Enough for him that Susan's pride
and shame and indignation were set against her love, and, above all,
against her grief, and that she was forming habits whose tendency at
least was favorable to his views.
Another four months, and Susan, exhausted by conflicting passions, had
settled down into a pensive languor, broken by gusts of bitter grief,
which became rarer and rarer. Her health recovered itself, all but its
elasticity. Her pride would not let her pine away. But her heart
scarcely beat at all, and perhaps it was a good thing for her that a
trouble of another kind came to gently stir it. Her father, who had
for some months been moody and depressed, confessed to her that he had
been speculating and was on the verge of ruin. This dreadful
disclosure gave little more pain to Susan than if he had told her his
head ached; but she put down her work and came and kissed him, and
tried to console him.
"I must work harder, that is all, father. I am often asked to give a
lesson on the piano-forte; I will do that for your sake, and don't you
fret for me. What with the trifle my mother settled on me and my
industry, I am above poverty, and you shall never see me repine."
In short, poor Susan took her father for a woman--adopted a line of
consolation addressed to his affection, instead of his selfishness. It
was not for her he was afflicted, it was for himself.
It was at this conjuncture that Meadows spoke out. There was no longer
anything to be gained by delay. In fact, he could not but observe that
since the fatal letter he appeared to be rather losing ground in his
old character. There was nothing left him but to attack her in a new
one. He removed the barrier from his patient impatience.
He found her alone one evening. He begged her to walk in the garden.
She complied with an unsuspecting smile. Then he told her all he had
suffered for her sake; how he had loved her this three years with all
his soul--how he never thought to tell her this--how hard he had
struggled against it--how he had run away from it, and after that how
he had subdued it, or thought he had subdued it, to esteem--and how he
had been rewarded by seeing that his visits and his talk had done her
some good. "But now," said he, "that you are free, I have no longer
the force to hide my love; now that the man I dared not interfere with
has thrown away the jewel, it is not in nature that I should not beg
to be allowed to take it up and wear it in my heart."
Susan listened; first with surprise, then with confusion and pain,
then with terror at the violence of the man's passion; for, the long
restraint removed, it overwhelmed him like a flood. Her bosom heaved
with modest agitation, and soon the tears streamed down her cheeks at
his picture of what he had gone through for her sake. She made shift
to gasp out, "My poor friend!" But she ended almost fiercely: "Let no
man ever hope for affection from me, for my heart is in the grave. Oh,
that I was there, too!" And she ran sobbing away from him in spite of
Another man and not George had made a confession of love to her. His
voice had trembled, his heart quivered, with love for her, and it was
not George. So then another link was snapped. Others saw they had a
right to love her now, and acted on it.
Meadows was at a loss, but he stayed away a week in silence, and
thought and thought, and then he wrote a line begging permission to
visit her as usual. "I have been so long used to hide my feelings,
because they were unlawful, that I can surely hide them if I see they
make you more unhappy than you would be without."
Susan replied that her advice to him was to avoid her as he would a
pestilence. He came as usual, and told her he would take her commands,
but could not take her advice. He would run all risks to his own
heart. He was cheerful, chatty and never said a word of love; and this
relieved Susan, so that the evening passed pleasantly. Susan, listless
and indifferent to present events, and never accustomed, like Meadows,
to act upon a preconceived plan, did not even observe what Meadows had
gained by this sacrifice of his topic for a single night, viz., that
after declaring himself her lover he was still admitted to the house.
The next visit he was not quite so forbearing, yet still forbearing;
and so on by sly gradations. It was every way an unequal contest. A
great man against an average woman--a man of forty against a woman of
twenty-two--a man all love and selfishness against a woman all
affection and unselfishness. But I think his chief ally was a firm
belief on Susan's part that he was the best of men; that from first to
last of this affair his conduct had been perfection; that while George
was true all his thought had been to console her grief at his absence;
that he never would have spoken but for the unexpected treason of
George, and then seeing her insulted and despised he had taken that
moment to show her she was loved and honored. Oh, what an ungrateful
girl she was that she could not love such a man!
Then her father was on the same side. "John Meadows seems down like,
Susan. Do try and cheer him up a bit, I am sure he has often cheered
"That he has, father."
Susan pitied Meadows. Pitying him, she forced herself at times to be
gracious, and when she did he was so happy that she was alarmed at her
power and drew in.
Old Merton saw now how the land lay, and he clung to a marriage
between these two as his only hope. "John Meadows will pull me
through, if he marries my Susan."
And so the two selfish ones had got the unselfish one between them,
one pulling gently, the other pushing quietly, but both without
intermission. Thus days and days rolled on.
Meadows now came four times a week instead of two, and courted her
openly, and beamed so with happiness that she had not always the heart
to rob him of this satisfaction, and he overwhelmed her with kindness
and attention of every sort, and, if any one else was present, she was
sure to see how much he was respected; and this man whom others
courted was her slave. This soothed the pride another had wounded.
One day he poured out his love to her with such passion that he
terrified her, and the next time he came she avoided him.
Her father remonstrated. "Girl, you will break that man's heart if you
are so unkind to him; he could not say a word because you shunned him
like. Why, your heart must be made of stone." A burst of tears was all
At last two things presented themselves to this poor girl's
understanding; that for her there was no chance of earthly happiness,
do what she would, and that, strangely enough, she the wretched one
had it in her power to make two other beings happy, her father and
good Mr. Meadows.
Now, a true woman lives to make others happy. She rarely takes the
self-contained views of life men are apt to do.
It passed through Susan's mind: "If I refuse to make these happy, why
do I live, what am I on the earth for at all?"
It seemed cruel to her to refuse happiness when she could bestow it
without making herself two shades more miserable than she was.
Despair and unselfishness are evil counselors in a scheming, selfish
world. The life-blood had been drained out of her heart by so many
cruel blows, by the long waiting, the misgivings, the deep woe when
she believed George dead, the bitter grief and mortification and sense
of wrong when she found he was married to another.
Many of us, male and female, treated as Susan imagined herself
treated, have taken another lover out of pique. Susan did not so. She
was bitterly piqued, but she did not make that use of her pique.
Despair of happiness, pity, and pure unselfishness, these stood John
Meadows' friends with this unhappy dupe, and perhaps my male readers
will be incredulous as well as shocked when I relate the manner in
which at last this young creature, lovely as an angel, in the spring
of life, loving another still, and deluding herself to think she hated
and despised him, was one afternoon surprised into giving her hand to
a man for whom she did not really care a button.
It was as if she had said: "Is it really true your happiness depends
on me? then take me--quick--before my courage fails--are you happy
now, my poor soul?" On the other side there were the passionate
pleadings of a lover; the deep, manly voice broken with supplication,
the male eyes glistening, the diabolical mixture of fraud and cunning
At the first symptom of yielding the man seized her as the hawk the
dove. He did not wait for a second hint. He poured out gratitude and
protestations. He thanked her, and blessed her, and in his manly ardor
caught her to his bosom.
She shut her eyes, and submitted to the caress as to an executioner.
"Pray let me go to my father," she whispered.
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