It Is Never Too Late to Mend
Part 9 out of 17
WHENEVER Mr. Meadows could do Mr. Levi an ill turn he did; and vice
versa. They hated one another like men who differ about baptism. Susan
sprinkled dewdrops of charity on each in turn.
Levi listened to her with infinite pleasure. "Your voice," said he,
"is low and melodious like the voice of my own people in the East."
And then she secretly quoted the New Testament to him, having first
ascertained that he had never read it; and he wondered where on earth
this simple girl had picked up so deep a wisdom and so lofty and
self-denying a morality.
Meadows listened to her with respect from another cause; but the ill
offices that kept passing between the two men counteracted her
transitory influence and fed fat the ancient grudge.
"WILL FIELDING is in the town; I'm to arrest him as agreed last
"Why I have got the judgment in my pocket and the constable at the
public hard by."
"Never mind! he was saucy to me in the market yesterday--I was angry
and--but anger is a snare. What shall I gain by locking him up just
now? let him go."
"Well, sir, your will is law," said Crawley obsequiously but sadly.
"Now to business of more importance."
"At your service, sir."
But the business of more importance was interrupted by a sudden knock
at the outside door of Mr. Meadows' study.
A young lady to see you.
"A young lady?" inquired Meadows with no very amiable air, "I am
engaged--do you know who it is?"
"It is Farmer Merton's daughter, David says."
"Miss Merton!" cried Meadows, with a marvelous change of manner. "Show
her up directly. Crawley, run into the passage, quick, man--and wait
for signals." He bundled Crawley out, shut the secret door, threw open
both the others, and welcomed Susan warmly at the threshold. "Well,
this is good of you, Miss Merton, to come and shine in upon me in my
"I have brought your book back!" replied Susan, coloring a little;
"that was my errand, that is," said she, "that was partly my errand."
She hesitated a moment--"I am going to Mr. Levi." Meadows'
countenance fell. "And I wouldn't go to him without coming to you;
because what I have to say to him I must say to you as well. Mr.
Meadows, do let me persuade you out of this bitter feeling against the
poor old man. Oh! I know you will say he is worse than you are; so he
is, a little; but then consider he has more excuse than you; he has
never been taught how wicked it is not to forgive. You know it--but
don't practice it."
Meadows looked at the simple-minded enthusiast, and his cold eye
deepened in color as it dwelt on her, and his voice dropped into the
low and modulated tone which no other human creature but this ever
heard from him. "Human nature is very revengeful. Few of us are like
you. It is my misfortune that I have not oftener a lesson from you;
perhaps you might charm away this unchristian spirit that makes me
unworthy to be your--your friend."
"Oh no! no!" cried Susan, "if I thought so should I be here?"
"Your voice and your face do make me at peace with all the world,
Susan--I beg your pardon--Miss Merton."
"And why not Susan?" said the young lady kindly.
"Well! Susan is a very inviting name."
"La! Mr. Meadows," cried Susan, arching her brows, "why, it is a
frightful name--it is so old-fashioned; nobody is christened Susan
"It is a name for everything that is good and gentle and lovely--"A
moment more and passion would have melted all the icy barriers
prudence and craft had reared round this deep heart. His voice was
trembling, his cheek flushing; but he was saved by--an enemy. "Susan!"
cried a threatening voice at the door, and there stood William
Fielding with a look to match.
Rage burned in Meadows' heart. He said bruskly, "Come in," and seizing
a slip of paper he wrote five words on it, and taking out a book flung
it into the passage to Crawley. He then turned toward W. Fielding, who
by this time had walked up to Susan. Was on the other side of the
"Was told you had gone in here," said William quietly, "so I came
"Now that was very attentive of you," replied Susan ironically. "It is
so nice to have a sensible young man like you following forever at
one's heels--like a dog."
A world of quiet scorn embellished this little remark.
William's reply was happier than usual. "The sheep find the dog often
in their way, but they are all the safer for him."
"Well, I'm sure," cried Susan, her scorn giving way to anger.
Mr. Meadows put in: "I must trouble you to treat Miss Merton with
proper respect when you speak to her in my house."
"Who respects her more than I?" retorted William; "but you see, Mr.
Meadows, sheep are no match for wolves when the dog is away--so the
dog is here."
"I see the dog is here and by his own invitation; all I say is that if
the dog is to stay here he must behave like a man."
William gasped at this hit; he didn't trust himself to answer Meadows;
in fact, a blow of his fist seemed to him the only sufficient
answer--he turned to Susan. "Susan, do you remember poor George's last
words to me? with a tear in his eye and his hand in mine. Well, I keep
my promise to him--I keep my eye upon such as I think capable of
undermining my brother. This man is a schemer, Susan, and you are too
simple to fathom him."
The look of surprise crafty Meadows put on here, and William
Fielding's implied compliment to his own superior sagacity struck
Susan as infinitely ludicrous, and she looked at Meadows and laughed
like a peal of bells. Of course he looked at her and laughed with her.
At this all young Fielding's self-restraint went to the winds, and he
went on--"But sooner than that, I'll twist as good a man's neck as
ever schemed in Jack Meadows' shoes!"
At this defiance Meadows wheeled round on William Fielding and
confronted him with his stalwart person and eyes glowing with gloomy
wrath. Susan screamed with terror at William's insulting words and at
the attitude of the two men, and she made a step to throw herself
between them if necessary; but before words could end in blows a tap
at the study door caused a diversion, and a cringing sort of voice
said "May I come in?"
"Of course you may," shouted Meadows; "the place is public. Anybody
walks into my room to-day, friend or foe. Don't ask my leave--come in,
man, whoever you are--Mr. Crawley; well, I didn't expect a call from
you any more than from this one."
"Now don't you be angry, sir. I had a good reason for intruding on you
this once. Jackson!" Jackson stepped forward and touched William
Fielding on the shoulder.
"You must come along with me," said he.
"What for?" inquired Fielding.
"You are arrested on this judgment," explained Crawley, letting the
document peep a moment from his waistcoat pocket. William threw
himself into an attitude of defense. His first impulse was to knock
the officer down and run into another county, but the next moment he
saw the folly and injustice of this and another sentiment overpowered
the honest simple fellow--shame. He covered his face with both his
hands and groaned aloud with the sense of humiliation.
"Oh! my poor William!" cried Susan. "Oh! Mr. Meadows, can nothing be
"Why, Miss Merton," said Meadows, looking down, "you can't expect me
to do anything for him. If it was his brother now, Lawyer Crawley
shouldn't ever take him out of my house."
Susan flushed all over. "That I am sure you would, Mr. Meadows," cried
she (for feeling obscured grammar). "Now see, dear William, how your
temper and unworthy suspicions alienate our friends; but father shan't
let you lie in prison. Mr. Meadows, will you lend me a sheet of
She sat down, pen in hand, in generous excitement. While she wrote Mr.
Meadows addressed Crawley. "And now a word with you, Mr. Crawley. You
and I meet on business now and then, but we are not on visiting terms
that I know of. How come you to walk into my house with a constable at
"Well, sir, I did it for the best," said Crawley apologetically. "Our
man came in here, and the street door was open, and I said, 'He is a
friend of Mr. Meadows, perhaps it would be more delicate to all
parties to take him indoors than in the open street.'"
"Oh, yes!" cried William, "it is bitter enough as it is, but that
would have been worse--thank you for arresting me here--and now take
me away and let me hide from all the world."
"Fools!" said a firm voice behind the screen.
"Fools!" At this word and a new voice Susan started up from the table
and William turned his face from the wall. Meadows did more.
"Another!" cried he in utter amazement; "why my house is an inn. Ah!"
While speaking he had run round the screen and come plump upon Isaac
Levi seated in a chair and looking up in his face with stern
composure. His exclamation brought the others round after him and a
group of excited faces encircled this old man seated sternly composed.
"Fools!" repeated he, "these tricks were stale before England was a
nation. Which of you two has the judgment?"
"I, sir," said Crawley, at a look from Meadows.
"A hundred and six thirteen four."
"Here is the money. Give me the document."
"Here, sir." Levi read it. "This action was taken on a bill of
exchange. I must have that too."
"Here it is, sir. Would you like an acknowledgment, Mr. Levi," said
"No! foolish man. Are not these sufficient vouchers? You are free,
sir," said Crawley to William with an air of cheerful congratulation.
"Am I? Then I advise you to get out of my way, for my fingers do itch
to fling you headforemost down the stairs."
On this hint out wriggled Mr. Crawley with a semicircle of bows to the
company. Constable touched his frontlock and went straight away as if
he was going through the opposite wall of the house. Meadows pointed
after him with his finger and said to Levi, "You see the road--get out
of my house."
The old man never moved from his chair, to which he had returned after
paying William's debts. "It is not your house," said he coolly.
The other stared. "No matter," replied Meadows sharply, "it is mine
till my mortgage is paid off."
"I am here to pay it."
"Principal and interest calculated up to twelve o'clock this eleventh
day of March. It wants five minutes to twelve. I offer you principal
and interest--eight hundred and twenty-two pounds fourteen shillings
and fivepence three farthings before these witnesses--and demand the
Meadows hung his head, but he was not a man to waste words in mere
scolding. He took the blow with forced calmness as who should say,
"This is your turn--the next is mine."
"Miss Merton," said he, almost in a whisper, "I never had the honor to
receive you here before and I never shall again. How long do you give
me to move my things?"
"Can you not guess?" inquired the other with a shade of curiosity.
"Why, of course you will put me to all the inconvenience you can.
Come, now, am I to move all my furniture and effects out of this great
house in twenty-four hours?"
"I give you more than that."
"How kind! What, you give me a week perhaps?" asked Meadows
"More than that, you fool! Don't you see that it is on next Lady-day
you will be turned into the street. Aha! woman-worshiper, on Lady-day!
A tooth for a tooth!" And the old man ground his teeth, which were
white as ivory, and his fist clinched itself, while his eye glittered,
and he swelled out from the chair, and literally bristled with hate--
"A tooth for a tooth!"
"Oh, Mr. Levi," said Susan sorrowfully, "how soon you have forgotten
my last lesson!"
Meadows for a moment felt a chill of fear at the punctiliousness of
revenge in this Oriental whom he had made his enemy. To this succeeded
the old hate multiplied by ten; but he made a monstrous effort and
drove it from his face down into the recesses of his heart. "Well,"
said he, "may you enjoy this house as I have done this last
"That does you credit, good Mr. Meadows," cried simple Susan, missing
his meaning. Meadows continued in the same tone, "And I must make
shift with the one you vacate on Lady-day."
"Solomon teach me to outwit this dog."
"Come, Mr. Levi, I have visited Mr. Meadows and now I am going to your
"You shall be welcome, kindly welcome," said the old man with large
and flowing courtesy.
"And will you show me," said Susan very tenderly, "where Leah used to
"And where Rachel and Sarah loved to play?"
"Ah me! Ah me! Ah me! Yes! I could not show another these holy places,
but I will show you."
"And will you forget awhile this unhappy quarrel and listen to my
"Surely I shall listen to you; for even now your voice is to my ear
like the wind sighing among the cedars of Lebanon, and the wave that
plays at night upon the sands of Galilee."
"'Tis but the frail voice of a foolish woman, who loves and respects
you, and yet," said Susan, her color mantling with enthusiasm, "with
it I can speak you words more beautiful than Lebanon's cedars or
Galilee's shore. Ay, old man, words that make the stars brighter and
the sons of the morning rejoice. I will not tell you whence I had
them, but you shall say surely they never came from earth, selfish,
cruel, revengeful earth, these words that drop on our hot passions
like the dew, and speak of trespasses forgiven, and peace and goodwill
Oh! magic of a lovely voice speaking the truths of Heaven! How still
the room was as these goodly words rang in it from a pure heart. Three
men there had all been raging with anger and hate; now a calming music
fell like oil upon these human waves, and stilled them.
The men drooped their heads, and held their breath to make sure the
balmy sounds had ceased. Then Levi answered in a tone gentle, firm,
and low (very different from his last), "Susanna, bitterness fades
from my heart as you speak; but experience remains." He turned to
Meadows, "When I wander forth at Lady-day she shall still be watched
over though I be far away. My eye shall be here, and my hand shall
still be so over you all," and raising his thin hand, he held it high
up, the nails pointing downward. It looked just like a hawk hovering
over its prey. "I will say no bitterer word than that to-day;" and in
fact he delivered this without apparent heat or malice.
"Come, then, with me, Susanna--a goodly name, it comes to you from the
despised people. Come like peace to my dwelling, Susanna--you know not
this world's wiles as I do, but you can teach me the higher wisdom
that controls the folly of passion and purifies the soul."
The pair were gone, and William and Meadows were left alone. The
latter looked sadly and gloomily at the door by which Susan had gone
out. He was in a sort of torpor. He was not conscious of William's
Now the said William had a misgiving; in the country a man's roof is
sacred; he had affronted Meadows under his own roof, and then Mr. Levi
had come and affronted him there, too. William began to doubt whether
this was not a little hard, moreover he thought he had seen Meadows
brush his eye hastily with the back of his hand as Susan retired. He
came toward Meadows with his old sulky, honest, hang-the-head manner,
and said, "Mr. Meadows, seems to me we have been a little hard upon
you in your own house, and I am not quite easy about my share on't."
Meadows shrugged his shoulders imperceptibly.
"Well, sir--I am not the Almighty to read folk's hearts--least of all
such a one as yours--but if I have done you wrong I ask your pardon.
Come, sir, if you don't mean to undermine my brother with the girl you
can give me your hand, and I can give you mine--and there 'tis."
Meadows wished this young man away, and seeing that the best way to
get rid of him was to give him his hand, he turned round, and,
scarcely looking toward him, gave him his hand. William shook it and
went away with something that sounded like a sigh. Meadows saw him
out, and locked the door impatiently; then he flung himself into a
chair and laid his beating temples on the cold table; then he started
up and walked wildly to and fro the room. The man was torn this way
and that with rage, love and remorse.
"What shall I do?" thus ran his thoughts. "That angel is my only
refuge, and yet to win her I shall have to walk through dirt and shame
and every sin that is. I see crimes ahead; such a heap of crimes, my
flesh creeps at the number of them. Why not be like her, why not be
the greatest saint that ever lived, instead of one more villain added
to so many? Let me tear this terrible love out of my heart and die.
Oh! if some one would but take me by the scurf of the neck and drag me
to some other country a million miles away, where I might never see my
tempter again till this madness is out of me. Susan, you are an angel,
but you will plunge me to hell."
Now it happened while he was thus raving and suffering the preliminary
pangs of wrong-doing that his old servant knocked at the outside of
the door and thrust a letter through the trap; the letter was from a
country gentleman, one Mr. Chester, for whom be had done business. Mr.
Chester wrote from Lancashire. He informed Meadows he had succeeded to
a very large property in that county--it had been shockingly
mismanaged by his predecessor; he wanted a capable man's advice, and
moreover all the estates thereabouts were compelled to be surveyed and
valued this year, which he deplored, but since so it was he would be
surveyed and valued by none but John Meadows.
"Come by return of post," added this hasty squire, "and I'll introduce
you to half the landed proprietors in this county."
Meadows read this and seizing a pen wrote thus:
"DEAR SIR--Yours received this day at 1 p.m., and will start for your
house at 6 P.M."
He threw himself on his horse and rode to his mother's house. "Mother,
I am turned out of my house."
"Why, John, you don't say so?"
"I must go into the new house I have built outside the town."
"What, the one you thought to let to Mr. James?"
"The same. I have got only a fortnight to move all my things. Will you
do me a kindness now, will you see them put into the new house?"
"Me, John! why I should be afraid something would go wrong."
"Well, it isn't fair of me to put this trouble on you at your age; but
read this letter--there is fifteen hundred pounds waiting for me in
The old woman put on her spectacles and read the letter slowly. "Go,
John! go by all means! I will see all your things moved into the new
house--don't let them be a hindrance; you go. Your old mother will
take care your things are not hurt moving, nor you wronged in the way
"Thank you, mother! thank you! they say there is no friend like a
mother, and I dare say they are not far wrong."
"No such friend but God--none such but God!" said the old woman with
great emphasis and looking Meadows in the face with a searching eye.
"Well, then, here are the keys of the new house, and here are my keys.
I am off tonight, so good-by, mother. God bless you!"
He had just turned to go, when by an unusual impulse he turned, took
the old woman in his hands, almost lifted her off the ground, for she
weighed light, and gave her a hasty kiss on the cheek; then he set her
down and strode out of the house about his business.
When curious Hannah ran in the next moment she found the old lady in
silent agitation. "Oh, dear! What is the matter, Dame Meadows?"
"Nothing at all, silly girl."
"Nothing! And look at you all of a tremble."
"He took me up all in a moment and kissed me. I dare say it is
five-and-twenty years since he kissed me last. He was a curly-headed
So this had set the poor old thing trembling. She soon recovered her
firmness and that very evening Hannah and she slept in John's house,
and the next day set to and began to move his furniture and prepare
his new house for him.
PETER CRAWLEY received a regular allowance during his chief's absence
and remained in constant communication with him, and was as heretofore
his money-bag, his tool, his invisible hand. But if anybody had had a
microscope and lots of time they might have discovered a gloomy hue
spreading itself over Crawley's soul. A pleasant illusion had been
All men have something they admire.
Crawley admired cunning. It is not a sublime quality, but Crawley
thought it was, and revered it with pious, affectionate awe. He had
always thought Mr. Meadows No. 1 in cunning, but now came a doleful
suspicion that he was No. 2.
Losing a portion of his veneration for the chief he had seen
outmaneuvered, he took the liberty of getting drunk contrary to his
severe command, and being drunk and maudlin he unbosomed himself on
this head to a low woman who was his confidante whenever drink
loosened his tongue.
"I'm out spirits, Sal. I'm tebbly out spirits. Where shall we all go
to? I dinn't think there was great a man on earth z Mizza Meadows. But
the worlz wide. Mizza Levi z greada man--a mudge greada man (hic). He
was down upon us like a amma (hic). His Jew's eye went through our
lill sgeme like a gimlet. 'Fools!' says he--that's me and Meadows,
'these dodges were used up in our family before Lunnun was built.
Fools!' Mizza Levi despises me and Meadows; and I respect him
accordingly. I'm tebbly out spirits (hic)."
FARMER MERTON received a line from Meadows telling him he had gone
into Lancashire on important business, and did not expect to be back
for three months, except perhaps for a day at a time. Merton handed
the letter to Susan.
"We shall miss him," was her remark.
"That we shall. He is capital company."
"And a worthy man into the bargain," said Susan warmly, "spite of what
little-minded folk say and think. What do you think that Will Fielding
did only yesterday?"
"I don't know."
"Well, he followed me into--there, it is not worth while having an
open quarrel, but I shall hate the sight of his very face. I can't
think how such a fool can be George's brother. No wonder George and he
could not agree. Poor Mr. Meadows--to be affronted in his own house,
just for treating me with respect and civility. So that is a crime
"What are you saying, girl? That young pauper affront my friend
Meadows, the warmest man for fifty miles round. If he has, he shall
never come on my premises again. You may take your oath of that."
Susan looked aghast. This was more than she had bargained for. She was
the last in the world to set two people by the ears.
"Now don't you be so peppery, father," said she. "There is nothing to
make a quarrel about."
"Yes there is, though, if that ignorant beggar insulted my friend."
"No! no! no!"
"Why, what did you say?"
"I say--that here is Mr. Clinton coming to the door."
"Let him in, girl, let him in. And you needn't stay. We are going to
MRS. MEADOWS, preparing her son's new home and defeating the little
cheating tradesmen and workmen that fasten like leeches on such as
carry their furniture to a new house; Hannah, working round and round
her in a state of glorious excitement; Crawley, smelling of Betts'
British brandy, and slightly regretting he was not No. 1's tool
(Levi's) instead of No. 2's, as he now bitterly called him, and
writing obsequious letters to, and doing the dirty work of, the said
No. 2; old Merton speculating, sometimes losing, sometimes winning;
Meadows gone to Lancashire with a fixed idea that Susan would be his
ruin if he could not cure himself of his love for her; Susan rather
regretting his absence, and wishing for his return, that she might
show him how little she sympathized with Will Fielding's suspicions,
injustice and brutality.
Leaving all this to work, our story follows an honest fellow to the
other side of the globe.
GEORGE FIELDING found Farmer Dodd waiting to drive him to the town
where he was to meet Mr. Winchester. The farmer's wife would press a
glass of wine upon George. She was an old playmate of his, and the
tear was in her eye as she shook his hand and bade Heaven bless him,
and send him safe back to "The Grove."
"A taking of his hand and him going across sea!! Can't ye do no better
nor that?" cried the stout farmer; "I'm not a-looking, dame."
So then Mrs. Dodd put her hands on George's shoulders and kissed him
rustic-wise on both cheeks--and he felt a tear on his cheek, and
stammered "Good-by, Jane--you and I were always good neighbors, but
now we shan't be neighbors for a while. Ned, drive me away, please,
and let me shut my eyes and forget that ever I was born."
The farmer made a signal of intelligence to his wife and drove him
They went along in silence for about two miles. Then the farmer
suddenly stopped. George looked up, the other looked down.
"Allen's Corner, George. You know 'The Grove' is in sight from here,
and after this we shan't see it again on account of this here wood,
"Thank ye, Ned! Yes--one more look--the afternoon sun lies upon it.
Oh, how different it do seem to my eyes now, by what it used when I
rode by from market; but then I was going to it, now I'm going far,
far from it--never heed me, Ned--I shall be better in a moment. Heaven
forgive me for thinking so little of the village folk as I have done."
Then he suddenly threw up his hands. "God bless the place and bless
the folk," he cried very loud; "God bless them all, from the oldest
man in it, and that is grandfather, down to Isaac King's little girl
that was born yester-night! and may none of them ever come to this
corner, and their faces turned toward the sea."
"Doant ye, George! doant ye! doant ye! doant ye!" cried Edward Dodd in
"Let the mare go on, Ned; she is fretting through her skin."
"I'll fret her," roared the farmer, lifting his whip exactly as if it
was a sword, and a cut to be made at a dragoon's helmet. "I'll cut her
"No, ye shan't," said George. "Poor thing, she is thinking of her corn
at the Queen's Head in Newborough. She isn't going across the sea--let
her go, I've taken my last look and said my last word;" and he covered
up his face.
Farmer Dodd drove on in silence, except that every now and then he
gave an audible snivel, and whenever this occurred he always
accommodated the mare with a smart cut--reasonable!
At Newborough they found Mr. Winchester. He drove George to the rail,
and that night they slept on board the _Phoenix_ emigrant ship.
Here they found three hundred men and women in a ship where there was
room for two hundred and fifty, accommodation for eighty.
Next morning, "Farmer," said Mr. Winchester gayly, "we have four hours
before we sail--some of these poor people will suffer great hardships
between this and Sydney; suppose you and I go and buy a lot of
blankets, brawn, needles, canvas, greatcoats, felt, American beef,
solidified milk, Macintoshes, high-lows and thimbles. That will rouse
us up a little."
"Thank you, sir, kindly."
Out they went into the Ratcliffe Highway, and chaffered with some of
the greatest rascals in trade. The difference between what they asked
and what they took made George stare. Their little cabin was crowded
with goods, only just room left for the aristocrat, the farmer and
Carlo. And now the hour came. Poor George was roused from his lethargy
by the noise and bustle; and oh, the creaking of cables sickened his
heart. Then the steamer came up and took them in tow, and these our
countrymen and women were pulled away from their native land too
little and too full to hold us all. It was a sad sight, saddest to
those whose own flesh and blood was on the shore and saw the steamer
pull them away; bitterest to those who had no friend to watch them go.
How they clung to England! they stretched out their hands to her, and
when they could hold to her no other way they waved their hats and
their handkerchiefs to their countrymen, who waved to them from
shore--and so they spun out a little longer the slender chain that
visibly bound them to her. And at this moment even the iron-hearted
and the reckless were soft and sad. Our hearts' roots lie in the soil
we have grown on.
No wonder then George Fielding leaned over the ship-side benumbed with
sorrow, and counted each foot of water as it glided by, and thought
"Now I am so much farther from Susan."
For a wonder he was not sea-sick, but his appetite was gone from a
nobler cause; he could hardly be persuaded to eat at all for many
The steamer cast off at Gravesend, and the captain made sail and beat
down the Channel. Off the Scilly Isles a northeasterly breeze, and the
_Phoenix_ crowded all her canvas; when topsails, royals,
skyscrapers and all were drawing the men rigged out booms alow and
aloft, and by means of them set studding sails out several yards clear
of the hull on either side; so on she plowed, her canvas spread out
like an enormous fan or a huge albatross all wings. A goodly, gallant
show; but under all this vast and swelling plumage an exile's heart.
Of all that smarted, ached and throbbed beneath that swelling plumage
few suffered more than poor George. It was his first great sorrow; and
all so new and strange.
The ship touched at Madeira, and then flew southward with the favoring
gale. Many leagues she sailed, and still George hung over the bulwarks
and sadly watched the waves. This simple-minded, honest fellow was not
a girl. If they had offered to put the ship about and take him back he
would not have consented, but yet to go on almost broke his heart. He
was steel and butter. His friend, the honorable Frank Winchester, was
or seemed all steel. He was one of those sanguine spirits that don't
admit into their minds the notion of ultimate failure. He was
supported, too, by a natural and indomitable gayety. Whatever most men
grumble or whine at he took as practical jokes played by Fortune
partly to try his good humor, but more to amuse him.
The poorer passengers suffered much discomfort, and the blankets,
etc., stored in Winchester's cabin often warmed these two honest
hearts, as with pitying hands they wrapped them round some shivering
Off Cape Verd a heavy gale came on. It lasted thirty-six hours, and
the distress and sufferings of the over-crowded passengers were
terrible. An unpaternal government had allowed a ship to undertake a
voyage of twelve thousand miles, with a short crew, short provisions,
and just twice as many passengers as could be protected from the
Driven from the deck by the piercing wind and the deluges of water
that came on board, and crowded into the narrowest compass, many of
these unfortunates almost died of sickness and polluted air; and when
in despair they rushed back upon deck, horrors and suffering met them
in another shape; in vain they huddled together for a little warmth
and tried to shield themselves with blankets stretched to windward.
The bitter blast cut like a razor through their threadbare defenses,
and the water rushed in torrents along the deck and crept cold as ice
up their bodies as they sat huddled, or lay sick and despairing on the
hard and tossing wood; and whenever a heavier sea than usual struck
the ship a despairing scream burst from the women, and the good ship
groaned and shivered and seemed to share their fears, and the blast
yelled into their souls, "I am mighty as fate--as fate. And pitiless!
pitiless! pitiless! pitiless! pitiless!"
Oh! then, how they longed for a mud cabin, or a hole picked with a
pickax in some ancient city wall, or a cow-house, or a cart-shed in
their native land.
But it is an ill wind that blows nobody good. This storm raised George
Fielding's better part of man. Integer vitae scelerisque purus was not
very much afraid to die. Once when the _Phoenix_ gave a weather
roll that wetted the foresail to the yard-arm, he said, "My poor
Susan!" with a pitying accent, not a quavering one. But most of the
time he was busy crawling on all-fours from one sufferer to another
with a drop of brandy in a phial. The wind emptied a glass of the very
moisture let alone the liquid in a moment. So George would put his
bottle to some poor creature's lips, and if it was a man he would tell
him in his simple way Who was stronger than the wind or the sea, and
that the ship could not go down without His will. To the women he
whispered that he had just had a word with the captain, and he said it
was only a gale not a tempest, as the passengers fancied, and there
was no danger, none whatever.
The gale blew itself out, and then for an hour or two the ship rolled
frightfully; but at last the angry sea went down, the decks were
mopped, the _Phoenix_ shook her wet feathers and spread her wings
again and glided on her way.
George felt a little better; the storm shook him and roused him and
did him good. And it was a coincidence in the history of these two
lovers that just as Susan under Mr. Eden's advice was applying the
healing ointment of charitable employment to her wound, George, too,
was finding a little comfort and life from the little bit of good he
and his friend did to the poor population in his wooden hamlet.
After a voyage of four months one evening the captain shortened sail,
though the breeze was fair and the night clear. Upon being asked the
reason of this strange order he said knowingly, "If you get up with
the sun perhaps you will see the reason."
Curiosity being excited, one or two did rise before the sun. Just as
he emerged from the sea a young seaman called Patterson, who was in
the foretop, hailed the deck.
"What is it?" roared the mate.
"Land on the weather bow," sung out the seaman in reply.
Land! In one moment the word ran like electric fire through all the
veins of the _Phoenix_; the upper deck was crowded in a minute, but
all were disappointed. No one saw land but Mr. Patterson, whose
elevation and keen sight gave him an advantage. But a heavenly smell
as of a region of cowslips came and perfumed the air and rejoiced all
the hearts; at six o'clock a something like a narrow cloud broke the
watery horizon on the weather bow. All sail was made and at noon the
coast of Australia glittered like a diamond under their lee. Then the
three hundred prisoners fell into a wild excitement--some became
irritable, others absurdly affectionate to people they did not care a
button for. The captain himself was not free from the intoxication; he
walked the deck in jerks instead of his usual roll, and clapped on
sail as if he would fly on shore.
At half-past one they glided out of the open sea into the Port Jackson
River. They were now in a harbor fifteen miles long, land-locked on
both sides, and not a shoal or a rock in it. This wonderful haven, in
which all the navies that float or ever will float might maneuver all
day and ride at anchor all night without jostling, was the sea avenue
by which they approached a land of wonders.
It was the second of December. The sky was purple and the sun blazed
in its center. The land glittered like a thousand emeralds beneath his
glowing smile, and the waves seemed to drink his glory and melt it
into their tints, so rich were the flakes of burning gold that shone
in the heart of their transparent, lovely blue.
"Oh! what a heavenly land! and after four months' prison at sea."
Our humble hero's heart beat high with hope. Surely in so glorious a
place as this he could make a thousand pounds, and then dart back with
it to Susan. Long before the ship came to an anchor George got a sheet
of paper and by a natural impulse wrote to Susan a letter, telling her
all the misery the _Phoenix_ and her passengers had come through
between London Bridge and Sydney Cove, and as soon as he had written
it he tore it up and threw it into the water. "It would have vexed her
to hear what I have gone through. Time enough to tell her that when I
am home again sitting by the fire with her hand in mine."
So then he tried again and wrote a cheerful letter, and concealed all
his troubles except his sorrow at being obliged to go so far from her
even for a time. "But it is only for a time, Susan dear. And, Susan
dear, I've got a good friend here, and one that can feel for us; for
he is here on the same errand as I am. I am to bide with him six
months and help him the best I can, and so I shall learn how matters
are managed here; and after that I am to set up on my own account;
and, Susan dear, I do think by all I can see there is money to be made
here. Heaven knows my heart was never much set on gain, but it is now
because it is the road to you. Please tell Will Carlo has been a great
comfort to me and is a general favorite. He pointed a rat on board
ship--but it was excusable, and him cooped up so long and had almost
forgotten the smell of a bird, I daresay; and if anybody comes to make
believe to threaten me he is ready to pull them down in a minute. So
tell Will this, and that I do think his master is as much my friend at
home as the dog is out here.
"Susan dear, I do beg of you as a great favor to keep up your heart,
and not give way to grief or desponding feelings. I don't; leastways I
won't. Poor Mr. Winchester is here on the same errand as I am. But I
often think his heart is stouter than mine, which is much to his
credit and little to mine. Susan dear, I have come to the country that
is farther from Grassmere than any other in the globe--that seems
hard; and my very face is turned the opposite way to yours as I walk,
but nothing can ever turn my heart away from my Susan. I desire my
respects to Mr. Merton and that you would tell him I will make the one
thousand pounds, please God. But I hope you will pray for me, Susan,
that I may have that success; you are so good that I do think the
Almighty will hear you sooner than me or any one. So no more at
present, dear Susan, but remain, with sincere respect, your loving
servant and faithful lover till death, GEORGE FIELDING."
They landed. Mr. Winchester purchased the right of feeding cattle over
a large tract a hundred miles distant from Sydney, and after a few
days spent in that capital started with their wagons into the
interior. There for about five months George was Mr. Winchester's
factotum, and though he had himself much to learn, the country and its
habits being new to him, still he saved his friend from fundamental
errors, and, from five in the morning till eight at night, put zeal,
honesty and the muscular strength of two ordinary men at his friend's
At the expiration of this period Mr. Winchester said to him one
evening, "George, I can do my work alone now, and the time is come to
show my sense of your services and friendship. I have bought a run for
you about eight miles from here, and now you are to choose five
hundred sheep and thirty beasts; the black pony you ride goes with
"Oh no, sir! it is enough to rob you of them at all without me going
and taking the pick of them."
"Well! will you consent to pen the flocks and then lift one hurdle and
take them as they come out, so many from each lot?"
"That I consent to, sir, and remain your debtor for life."
"I can't see it; I set _my life_ a great deal higher than
Mr. Winchester did not stop there, he forced a hundred pounds upon
George. "If you start in any business with an empty pocket you are a
So these two friends parted with mutual esteem, and George set to work
by prudence and vigor to make the thousand pounds.
One thousand pounds! This one is to have the woman he loves for a
thousand pounds. That sounds cheap. Heaven upon earth for a thousand
pounds. What is a thousand pounds? Nothing. There are slippery men
that gain this in a week by time bargains, trading on capital of round
0's; others who net as much in an evening, and as honorably, by cards.
There are merchants who net twenty times this sum by a single
"An operation?" inquires Belgravia.
This is an operation: You send forth a man not given to drink and
consequently chatter to Amsterdam, another not given to drink and
chatter to New Orleans, another n. g. t. d. and c. to Bordeaux, Cadiz,
Canton, Liverpool, Japan, and where not, all with secret instructions.
Then at an appointed day all the men n. g. t. d. and c. begin
gradually, secretly, cannily, to buy up in all those places all the
lac-dye or something of the kind that you and I thought there was
about thirty pounds of in creation. This done mercator raises the
price of lac-dye or what not throughout Europe. If he is greedy and
raises it a halfpenny a pound, perhaps commerce revolts and invokes
nature against so vast an oppression, and nature comes and crushes our
speculator. But if he be wise and puts on what mankind can bear, say
three mites per pound, then he sells tons and tons at this fractional
profit on each pound, and makes fourteen thousand pounds by lac-dye or
the like of which you and I thought creation held thirty or at most
These men are the warriors of commerce; but its smaller captains,
watching the fluctuations of this or that market, can often turn a
thousand pounds ere we could say J. R. Far more than a thousand pounds
have been made in a year by selling pastry off a table in the
Boulevards of Paris.
In matters practical a single idea is worth thousands.
This nation being always in a hurry paid four thousand pounds to a man
to show them how to separate letter-stamps in a hurry. "Punch the
divisions full of little holes," said he, and he held out his hand for
the four thousand pounds; and now test his invention, tear one head
from another in a hurry, and you will see that money sometimes goes
cheaper than invention.
A single idea is sometimes worth a thousand pounds in a book, though
books are by far the least lucrative channels ideas run in; Mr.
Bradshaw's duodecimo, to wit--profit seven thousand pounds per annum.
A thousand pounds! How many men have toiled for money all their lives,
have met with success, yet never reached a thousand pounds.
Eight thousand servants, fed and half clothed at their master's
expense, have put by for forty years, and yet not even by aid of
interest and compound interest and perquisites and commissions
squeezed out of little tradesmen and other time-honored embezzlements,
have reached the rubicon of four figures. Five thousand little
shopkeepers, active, intelligent and greedy, have bought wholesale and
sold retail, yet never mounted so high as this above rent,
housekeeping, bad debts and casualties. Many a writer of genius has
charmed his nation and adorned her language, yet never held a thousand
pounds in his hand even for a day. Many a great painter has written
the world-wide language of form and color, and attained to European
fame, but not to a thousand pounds sterling English.
Among all these aspirants and a million more George Fielding now made
one, urged and possessed by as keen an incentive as ever spurred a
George's materials were five hundred sheep, twenty cows, ten bullocks,
two large sheep-dogs and Carlo. It was a keen clear, frosty day in
July when he drove his herd to his own pasture. His heart beat high
that morning. He left Abner, his shepherd, a white native of the
colony, to drive the slow cattle. He strode out in advance, and scarce
felt the ground beneath his feet. The thermometer was at 28 degrees,
yet his coat was only tied round his neck by the sleeves as he swept
along all health, fire, manhood, love and hope. He marched this day
like dear Smollett's lines, whose thoughts, though he had never heard
them, fired his heart.
"Thy spirit, Independence, let me share,
Lord of the lion heart and eagle eye;
Thy steps I follow with my bosom bare,
Nor heed the storm that howls along the sky."
He was on the ground long before Abner, and set to work building a
roofless hut on the west side of some thick bushes, and hard by the
only water near at hand. And here he fixed his headquarters, stretched
a blanket across the hut for a roof, and slept his own master.
AT the end of six months George Fielding's stock had varied thus. Four
hundred lambs, ten calves, fifteen cows, four hundred sheep. He had
lost some sheep in lambing, and one cow in calving, but these
casualties every feeder counts on; he had been lucky on the whole. He
had sold about eighty sheep, and eaten a few but not many, and of his
hundred pounds only five pounds were gone; against which and the
decline in cows were to be placed the calves and lambs.
George considered himself eighty pounds richer in substance than six
months ago. It so happened that on every side of George but one were
nomads, shepherd-kings--fellows with a thousand head of horned cattle,
and sheep like white pebbles by the sea; but on his right hand was
another small bucolical, a Scotchman, who had started with less means
than himself, and was slowly working his way, making a halfpenny and
saving a penny after the manner of his nation. These two were mighty
dissimilar, but they were on a level as to means and near neighbors,
and that drew them together. In particular, they used to pay each
other friendly visits on Sunday evenings, and McLaughlan would read a
good book to George, for he was strict in his observances; but after
that the pair would argue points of husbandry.
But one Sunday that George, admiring his stock, inadvertently proposed
to him an exchange of certain animals, he rebuked the young man with
"Is this a day for warldly dealings?" said he. "Hoo div ye think to
thrive gien y'offer your mairchandeeze o' the Sabba day!" George
colored up to the eyes. "Ye'll may be no hae read the paurable o' the
money changers i' the temple, no forgettin' a wheen warldly-minded
chields that sell't doos, when they had mair need to be on their
knees--or hearkening a religious discourse---or a bit psaum--or the
like. Aweel, ye need na hong your heed yon gate neether. Ye had na the
privileege of being born in Scoetland, ye ken--or nae doot ye'd hae
kenned better, for ye are a decent lad--deed are ye. Aweel, stap ben
led, and I'se let ye see a drap whisky. The like does na aften gang
doon an Englishman's thrapple."
"Whisky? Well, but it seems to me if we didn't ought to deal we didn't
ought to drink."
"Hout! tout! it is no forbedden to taste--thaat's nae sen that ever I
GEORGE heard of a farmer who was selling off his sheep about fifty
miles off near the coast. George put money in his purse, rose at
three, and walked the fifty miles with Carlo that day. The next he
chaffered with the farmer, but they did not quite agree. George was
vexed, but he knew it would not do to show it, so he strolled away
carelessly toward the water. In this place the sea comes several miles
inland, not in one sheet, but in a series of salt-water lakes very
George stood and admired the water and the native blacks paddling
along in boats of bark no bigger than a cocked hat. These strips of
bark are good for carriage and bad for carriage; I mean they are very
easily carried on a man's back ashore, but they won't carry a man on
the water so well, and sitting in them is like balancing on a straw.
These absurd vehicles have come down to these blockheads from their
fathers, so they won't burn them and build according to reason. They
commonly paddle in companies of three; so then whenever one is purled
the other two come on each side of him, each takes a hand and with
amazing skill and delicacy they reseat him in his cocked hat, which
never sinks--only purls. Several of these triads passed in the middle
of the lake, looking to George like inverted capital "T's." They went
a tremendous pace--with occasional stoppages when a purl occurred.
Presently a single savage appeared nearer the land and George could
see his lithe, sinewy form and the grace and rapidity with which he
urged his gossamer bark along. It was like a hawk--half a dozen rapid
strokes of his wings and then a smooth glide for ever so far.
"Our savages would sit on the blade of a knife, I do think," was
Now as George looked and admired blackee, it unfortunately happened
that a mosquito flew into blackee's nostrils, which were much larger
and more inviting--to a gnat--than ours. The aboriginal sneezed, and
over went the ancestral boat.
The next moment he was seen swimming and pushing his boat before him.
He was scarce a hundred yards from the shore when all of a sudden down
he went. George was frightened and took off his coat, and was unlacing
his boots--when the black came up again. "Oh, he was only larking,"
thought George. "But he has left his boat--and why, there he goes down
again!" The savage made a dive and came up ten yards nearer the shore,
but he kept his face parallel to it, and he was scarce a moment in
sight before he dived again. Then a horrible suspicion flashed across
George--"There is something after him!"
This soon became a fearful certainty. Just before he dived next time,
a dark object was plainly visible on the water close behind him.
George was wild with fear for poor blackee. He shouted at the monster,
he shouted and beckoned to the swimmer; and last, snatching up a
stone, he darted up a little bed of rock elevated about a yard above
the shore. The next dive the black came up within thirty yards of this
very place, but the shark came at him the next moment. He dived again,
but before the fish followed him George threw a stone with great
precision and force at him. It struck the water close by him as he
turned to follow his prey; George jumped down and got several more
stones, and held one foot advanced and his arm high in air. Up came
the savage panting for breath. The fish made a dart, George threw a
stone; it struck him with such fury on the shoulders that it span off
into the air and fell into the sea forty yards off. Down went the man,
and the fish after him. The next time they came up, to George's
dismay, the sea-tiger showed no signs of being hurt and the man was
greatly distressed. The moment he was above water George heard him
sob, and saw the whites of his eyes, as he rolled them despairingly;
and he could not dive again for want of breath. Seeing this, the shark
turned on his back, and came at him with his white belly visible and
his treble row of teeth glistening in a mouth like a red grave.
Rage as well as fear seized George Fielding, the muscles started on
his brawny arm as he held it aloft with a heavy stone in it. The black
was so hard pressed the last time, and so dead beat, that he could
make but a short duck under the fish's back and come out at his tail.
The shark did not follow him this time, but cunning as well as
ferocious slipped a yard or two inshore, and waited to grab him; not
seeing him, he gave a slap with his tail-fin, and reared his huge head
out of water a moment to look forth. Then George Fielding, grinding
his teeth with fury, flung his heavy stone with tremendous force at
the creature's cruel eye. The heavy stone missed the eye by an inch or
two, but it struck the fish on the nose and teeth with a force that
would have felled a bullock.
"Creesh!" went the sea-tiger's flesh and teeth, and the blood
squirted in a circle. Down went the shark like a lump of lead,
literally felled by the crashing stroke.
"I've hit him! I've hit him!" roared George, seizing another stone.
"Come here, quick! quick! before he gets the better of it."
The black swam like a mad thing to George. George splashed into the
water up to his knee, and taking blackee under the arm-pits, tore him
out of the water and set him down high and dry.
"Give us your hand over it, old fellow," cried George, panting and
trembling. "Oh dear, my heart is in my mouth, it is!"
The black's eye seemed to kindle a little at George's fire, but all
the rest of him was as cool as a cucumber. He let George shake his
hand and said quietly, "Thank you, sar! Jacky thank you a good deal!"
he added in the same breath; "suppose you lend me a knife, then we eat
a good deal."
George lent him his knife, and to his surprise the savage slipped into
the water again. His object was soon revealed; the shark had come up
to the surface and was floating motionless. It was with no small
trepidation George saw this cool hand swim gently behind him and
suddenly disappear; in a moment, however, the water was red all round,
and the shark turned round on his belly. Jacky swam behind, and pushed
him ashore. It proved to be a young fish about six feet long; but it
was as much as the men could do to lift it. The creature's nose was
battered, and Jacky showed this to George, and let him know that a
blow on that part was deadly to them. "You make him dead for a little
while," said he, "so then I make him dead enough to eat;" and he
showed where he had driven the knife into him in three places.
Jacky's next proceeding was to get some dry sticks and wood, and
prepare a fire, which to George's astonishment he lighted thus. He got
a block of wood, in the middle of which he made a little hole; then he
cut and pointed a long stick, and inserting the point into the block,
worked it round between his palms for some time and with increasing
rapidity. Presently there came a smell of burning wood, and soon after
it burst into a flame at the point of contact. Jacky cut slices of
shark and toasted them. "Black fellow stupid fellow--eat 'em raw; but
I eat 'em burn't, like white man."
He then told George he had often been at Sydney, and could "speak the
white man's language a good deal," and must on no account be
confounded with common black fellows. He illustrated his civilization
by eating the shark as it cooked; that is to say, as soon as the
surface was brown he gnawed it off, and put the rest down to brown
again, and so ate a series of laminae instead of a steak; that it
would be cooked to the center if he let it alone was a fact this
gentleman had never discovered; probably had never had the patience to
George, finding the shark's flesh detestable, declined it, and watched
the other. Presently he vented his reflections. "Well you are a cool
one! half an hour ago I didn't expect to see you eating him--quite the
contrary." Jacky grinned good-humoredly in reply.
When George returned to the farmer, the latter, who had begun to fear
the loss of a customer, came at once to terms with him. The next day
he started for home with three hundred sheep. Jacky announced that he
should accompany him, and help him a good deal. George's consent was
not given, simply because it was not asked. However, having saved the
man's life, he was not sorry to see a little more of him.
It is usual in works of this kind to give minute descriptions of
people's dress. I fear I have often violated this rule. However I will
not in this case.
Jacky's dress consisted of, in front, a sort of purse made of
rat-skin; behind, a bran new tomahawk and two spears.
George fancied this costume might be improved upon; he therefore
bought from the farmer a second-hand coat and trousers and his new
friend donned them with grinning satisfaction. The farmer's wife
pitied George living by himself out there, and she gave him several
little luxuries; a bacon-ham, some tea, and some orange-marmalade, and
a little lump-sugar and some potatoes.
He gave the potatoes to Jacky to carry. They weighed but a few pounds.
George himself carried about a quarter of a hundredweight. For all
that the potatoes worried Jacky more than George's burden him. At last
he loitered behind so long that George sat down and lighted his pipe.
Presently up comes Niger with the sleeves of his coat hanging on each
side of his neck and the potatoes in them. My lord had taken his
tomahawk and chopped off the sleeves at the arm-pit; then he had sewed
up their bottoms and made bags of them, uniting them at the other end
by a string which rested on the back of his neck like a milkmaid's
balance. Being asked what he had done with the rest of the coat, he
told George he had thrown it away because it was a good deal hot.
"But it won't be hot at night, and then you will wish you hadn't been
such a fool," said George, irate.
No, he couldn't make Jacky see this; being hot at the time Jacky could
not feel the cold to come. Jacky became a hanger-on of George, and if
he did little he cost little; and if a beast strayed he was
invaluable, he could follow the creature for miles by a chain of
physical evidence no single link of which a civilized man would have
A quantity of rain having fallen and filled all the pools, George
thought he would close with an offer that had been made him and swap
one hundred and fifty sheep for cows and bullocks. He mentioned this
intention to McLaughlan one Sunday evening. McLaughlan warmly approved
his intention. George then went on to name the customer who was
disposed to make the exchange in question. At this the worthy
McLaughlan showed some little uneasiness and told George he might do
better than deal with that person.
George said he should be glad to do better, but did not see how.
"Humph!" said McLaughlan, and fidgeted.
McLaughlan then invited George to a glass of grog, and while they were
sipping he gave an order to his man.
McLaughlan inquired when the proposed negotiation was likely to take
place. "To-morrow morning," said George. "He asked me to go over about
it this afternoon, but I remembered the lesson you gave me about
making bargains on this day, and I said 'To-morrow, farmer.'"
"Y're a guid lad," said the Scot demurely; "y're just as decent a body
as ever I forgathered wi'--and I'm thinking it's a sin to let ye gang
twa miles for mairchandeeze whan ye can hae it a hantle cheaper at
your ain door."
"Can I? I don't know what you mean."
"Ye dinna ken what I mean? Maybe no."
Mr. McLaughlan fell into thought a while, and the grog being finished
he proposed a stroll. He took George out into the yard, and there the
first thing they saw was a score and a half of bullocks that had just
been driven into a circle and were maintained there by two men and two
George's eye brightened at the sight and his host watched it. "Aweel,"
said he, "has Tamson a bonnier lot than yon to gie ye?"
"I don't know," said George dryly. "I have not seen his."
"But I hae--and he hasna a lot to even wi' them."
"I shall know to-morrow," said George. But he eyed McLaughlan's cattle
with an expression there was no mistaking.
"Aweel," said the worthy Scot, "ye're a neebor and a decent lad ye
are, sae I'll just speer ye ane question. Noo, mon," continued he in a
most mellifluous tone and pausing at every word, "gien it were
Monday--as it is the Sabba day--hoo mony sheep wud ye gie for yon
George, finding his friend in this mind, pretended to hang back and to
consider himself bound to treat with Thomson first. The result of all
which was that McLaughlan came over to him at daybreak and George made
a very profitable exchange with him.
At the end of six months more George found himself twice as rich in
substance as at first starting; but instead of one hundred pounds cash
he had but eighty. Still if sold up he would have fetched five hundred
pounds. But more than a year was gone since he began on his own
account. "Well," said George, "I must be patient and still keep
doubling on, and if I do as well next year as last I shall be worth
eight hundred pounds."
A month's dry hot weather came and George had arduous work to take
water to his bullocks and to drive them in from long distances to his
homestead, where, by digging enormous tanks, he had secured a constant
supply. No man ever worked for a master as this rustic Hercules worked
for Susan Merton. Prudent George sold twenty bullocks and cows to the
first bidder. "I can buy again at a better time," argued he.
He had now one hundred and twenty-five pounds in hand. The drought
continued and he wished he had sold more.
One morning Abner came hastily in and told him that nearly all the
beasts and cows were missing. George flung himself on his horse and
galloped to the end of his run. No signs of them--returning
disconsolate he took Jacky on his crupper and went over the ground
with him. Jacky's eyes were playing and sparkling all the time in
search of signs. Nothing clear was discovered. Then at Jacky's request
they rode off George's feeding-ground altogether and made for a little
wood about two miles distant. "Suppose you stop here, I go in the
bush," said Jacky.
George sat down and waited. In about two hours Jacky came back. "I've
found 'em," said Jacky coolly.
George rose in great excitement and followed Jacky through the stiff
bush, often scratching his hands and face. At last Jacky stopped and
pointed to the ground, "There!"
"There? ye foolish creature," cried George; "that's ashes where
somebody has lighted a fire; that and a bone or two is all I see."
"Beef bone," replied Jacky coolly. George started with horror. "Black
fellow burn beef here and eat him. Black fellow a great thief. Black
fellow take all your beef. Now we catch black fellow and shoot him
suppose he not tell us where the other beef gone."
"But how am I to catch him? How am I even to find him?"
"You wait till the sun so; then black fellow burn more beef. Then I
see the smoke; then I catch him. You go fetch the make-thunder with
two mouths. When he see him that make him honest a good deal."
Off galloped George and returned with his double-barreled gun in about
an hour and a half. He found Jacky where he had left him at the foot
of a gumtree tall and smooth as an admiral's main-mast.
Jacky, who was coiled up in happy repose like a dog in warm weather,
rose and with a slight yawn said, "Now I go up and look."
He made two sharp cuts on the tree with his tomahawk, and putting his
great toe in the nick, rose on it, made another nick higher up, and
holding the smooth stem put his other great toe in it, and so on till
in an incredibly short time he had reached the top and left a
staircase of his own making behind him. He had hardly reached the top
when he slid down to the bottom again and announced that he had
discovered what they were in search of.
George haltered the pony to the tree and followed Jacky, who struck
farther into the wood. After a most disagreeable scramble at the other
side of the wood Jacky stopped and put his finger to his lips. They
both went cautiously out of the wood, and mounting a bank that lay
under its shelter they came plump upon a little party of blacks, four
male and three female. The women were seated round a fire burning beef
and gnawing the outside laminae, then putting it down to the fire
again. The men, who always serve themselves first, were lying
gorged--but at sight of George and Jacky they were on their feet in a
moment and their spears poised in their hands.
Jacky walked down the bank and poured a volley of abuse into them.
Between two of his native sentences he uttered a quiet aside to
George, "Suppose black fellow lift spear you shoot him dead," and then
abused them like pickpockets again and pointed to the make-thunder
with two mouths in George's hand.
After a severe cackle on both sides the voices began to calm down like
water going off the boil, and presently soft low gutturals passed in
pleasant modulation. Then the eldest male savage made a courteous
signal to Jacky that he should sit down and gnaw. Jacky on this
administered three kicks among the gins and sent them flying, then
down he sat and had a gnaw at their beef--George's beef, I mean. The
rage of hunger appeased, he rose, and with the male savages took the
open country. On the way he let George know that these black fellows
were of his tribe, that they had driven off the cattle and that he had
insisted on restitution--which was about to be made; and sure enough,
before they had gone a mile they saw some beasts grazing in a narrow
valley. George gave a shout of joy, but counting them he found fifteen
short. When Jacky inquired after the others the blacks shrugged their
shoulders. They knew nothing more than this, that wanting a dinner
they had driven off forty bullocks; but finding they could only eat
one that day they had killed one and left the others, of whom some
were in the place they had left them; the rest were somewhere, they
didn't know where--far less care. They had dined, that was enough for
When this characteristic answer reached George he clinched his teeth
and for a moment felt an impulse to make a little thunder on their
slippery black carcasses, but he groaned instead and said, "They were
never taught any better."
Then Jacky and he set to work to drive the cattle together. With
infinite difficulty they got them all home by about eleven o'clock at
night. The next day up with the sun to find the rest. Two o'clock--and
only one had they fallen in with, and the sun broiled so that lazy
Jacky gave in and crept in under the beast for shade, and George was
fain to sit on his shady side with moody brow and sorrowful heart.
Presently Jacky got up. "I find one," said he.
"Where? where?" cried George, looking all round. Jacky pointed to a
rising ground at least six miles off.
George groaned, "Are you making a fool of me? I can see nothing but a
barren hill with a few great bushes here and there. You are never
taking those bushes for beasts?"
Jacky smiled with utter scorn. "White fellow stupid fellow; he see
"Well and what does black fellow see?" snapped George.
"Black fellow see a crow coming from the sun, and when he came over
there he turned and went down and not get up again a good while. Then
black fellow say, 'I tink.' Presently come flying one more crow from
that other side where the sun is not. Black fellow watch him, and when
he come over there he turn round and go down, too, and not get up a
good while. Then black fellow say, 'I know.'"
"Oh, come along!" cried George.
They hurried on; but when they came to the rising ground and bushes
Jacky put his finger to his lips. "Suppose we catch the black fellows
that have got wings; you make thunder for them?"
He read the answer in George's eye. Then he took George round the back
of the hill and they mounted the crest from the reverse side. They
came over it and there at their very feet lay one of George's best
bullocks, with tongue protruded, breathing his last gasp. A crow of
the country was perched on his ribs, digging his thick beak into a
hole he had made in his ribs, and another was picking out one of his
eyes. The birds rose heavily, clogged and swelling with gore. George's
eyes flashed, his gun went up to his shoulder, and Jacky saw the brown
barrel rise slowly for a moment as it followed the nearest bird
wobbling off with broad back invitingly displayed to the marksman.
Bang! the whole charge shivered the ill-omened glutton, who instantly
dropped riddled with shot like a sieve, while a cloud of dusky
feathers rose from him into the air. The other, hearing the earthly
thunder and Jacky's exulting whoop, gave a sudden whirl with his long
wing and shot up into the air at an angle and made off with great
velocity; but the second barrel followed him as he turned and followed
him as he flew down the wind. Bang! out flew two handfuls of dusky
feathers, and glutton No. 2 died in the air, and its carcass and
expanded wings went whirling like a sheet of paper and fell on the top
of a bush at the foot of the hill.
All this delighted the devil-may-care Jacky, but it may be supposed it
was small consolation to George. He went up to the poor beast, who
died even as he looked down on him.
"Drought, Jacky! drought!" said he--"it is Moses, the best of the
herd. Oh, Moses, why couldn't you stay beside me? I'm sure I never let
you want for water, and never would--you left me to find worse
friends!" and so the poor simple fellow moaned over the unfortunate
creature, and gently reproached him for his want of confidence in him
that it was pitiful. Then suddenly turning on Jacky he said gravely,
"Moses won't be the only one, I doubt."
The words were hardly out of his mouth before a loud moo proclaimed
the vicinity of cattle. They ran toward the sound, and in a rocky
hollow they found nine bullocks; and alas! at some little distance
another lay dead. Those that were alive were panting with lolling
tongues in the broiling sun. How to save them; how to get them home a
distance of eight miles. "Oh! for a drop of water." The poor fools had
strayed into the most arid region for miles round.
Instinct makes blunders as well as reason.--Bestiale est errare.
"We must drive them from this, Jacky, though half of them die by the
The languid brutes made no active resistance. Being goaded and beaten
they got on their legs and moved feebly away.
Three miles the men drove them, and then one who had been already
staggering more than the rest gave in and lay down, and no power could
get him up again. Jacky advised to leave him. George made a few steps
onward with the other cattle, but then he stopped and came back to the
sufferer and sat down beside him disconsolate.
"I can't bear to desert a poor dumb creature. He can't speak, Jacky,
but look at his poor frightened eye; it seems to say have you got the
heart to go on and leave me to die for the want of a drop of water.
Oh! Jacky, you that is so clever in reading the signs of Nature, have
pity on the poor thing and do pray try and find us a drop of water.
I'd run five miles and fetch it in my hat if you would but find it. Do
help us, Jacky." And the white man looked helplessly up to the black
savage, who had learned to read the small type of Nature's book and he
Jacky hung his head. "White fellow's eyes always shut; black fellow's
always open. We pass here before and Jacky look for water--look for
everything. No water here. But," said he languidly, "Jacky will go up
high tree and look a good deal." Selecting the highest tree near he
chopped a staircase and went up it almost as quickly as a bricklayer
mounts a ladder with a hod. At the top he crossed his thighs over the
stem, and there he sat full half an hour; his glittering eye reading
the confused page, and his subtle mind picking out the minutest
syllables of meaning. Several times he shook his head. At last all of
a sudden he gave a little start, and then a chuckle, and the next
moment he was on the ground.
"What is it?"
"Black fellow stupid fellow--look too far off," and be laughed again
for all the world like a jackdaw.
"What is it?"
"A little water; not much."
"Where is it? Where is it? Why don't you tell me where it is?"
"Come," was the answer.
Not forty yards from where they stood Jacky stopped and thrusting his
hand into a tuft of long grass pulled out a short blue flower with a
very thick stem. "Saw him spark from the top of the tree," said Jacky
with a grin. "This fellow stand with him head in the air but him foot
in the water. Suppose no water he die a good deal quick." Then taking
George's hand he made him press the grass hard, and George felt
moisture ooze through the herb.
"Yes, my hand is wet, but, Jacky, this drop won't save a beast's life
without it is a frog's."
Jacky smiled and rose. "Where that wet came from more stay behind."
He pointed to other patches of grass close by, and following them
showed George that they got larger and larger in a certain direction.
At last he came to a hidden nook, where was a great patch of grass
quite a different color, green as an emerald. "Water," cried Jacky, "a
good deal of water." He took a jump and came down flat on his back on
the grass, and sure enough, though not a drop of surface water was
visible, the cool liquid squirted up in a shower round Jacky.
Nature is extremely fond of producing the same things in very
different sizes. Here was a miniature copy of those large Australian
lakes which show nothing to the eye but rank grass. You ride upon them
a little way, merely wetting your horse's feet, but after a while the
sponge gets fuller and fuller, and the grass shows symptoms of giving
way, and letting you down to "bottomless perdition."
They squeezed out of this grass sponge a calabash full of water, and
George ran with it to the panting beast. Oh! how he sucked it up, and
his wild eye calmed, and the liquid life ran through all his frame!
It was hardly in his stomach before he got up of his own accord, and
gave a most sonorous moo, intended no doubt to express the sentiment
of "never say die."
George drove them all to the grassy sponge, and kept them there till
sunset. He was three hours squeezing out water and giving it them
before they were satisfied. Then in the cool of the evening he drove
them safe home.
The next day one more of his strayed cattle found his way home. The
rest he never saw again. This was his first dead loss of any
importance; unfortunately, it was not the last.
The brutes were demoralized by their excursion, and being active as
deer they would jump over anything and stray.
Sometimes the vagrant was recovered--often he was found dead; and
sometimes he went twenty miles and mingled with the huge herds of some
Croesus, and was absorbed like a drop of water and lost to George
Fielding. This was a bitter blow. This was not the way to make the
"Better sell them all to the first comer, and then I shall see the end
of my loss. I am not one of your lucky ones. I must not venture."
A settler passed George's way driving a large herd of sheep and ten
cows. George gave him a dinner and looked over his stock. "You have
but few beasts for so many sheep," said he.
The other assented.
"I could part with a few of mine to you if you were so minded."
The other said he should be very glad, but he had no money to spare.
Would George take sheep in exchange?
"Well," drawled George, "I would rather it had been cash, but such as
you and I must not make the road hard to one another. Sheep I'll take,
but full value."
The other was delighted, and nearly all George's bullocks became his
for one hundred and fifty sheep.
George was proud of his bargain, and said, "That is a good thing for
you and me, Susan, please God."
Now the next morning Abner came in and said to George, "I don't like
some of your new lot--the last that are marked with a red V."
"Why, what is wrong about them?"
"Come and see."
He found more than one of the new sheep rubbing themselves angrily
against the pen, and sometimes among one another.
"Oh dear!" said George, "I have prayed against this on my knees every
night of my life, and it is come upon me at last. Sharpen your knife,
"What! must they all--"
"All the new lot. Call Jacky, he will help you; he likes to see blood.
I can't abide it. One hundred and fifty sheep; eighteen-pennorth of
wool, and eighteen-pennorth of fat when we fling 'em into the
pot--that is all that is left to me of yesterday's deal."
Jacky was called.
"Now, Jacky," said George, "these sheep have got the scab of the
country; if they get to my flock and taint it I am a beggar from that
moment. These sheep are sure to die, so Abner and you are to kill
them. He will show you how. I can't look on and see their blood and my
means spilled like water. Susan, this is a black day for us!"
He went away and sat down upon a stone a good way off, and turned his
back upon his house and his little homestead. This was not the way to
make the thousand pounds.
The next day the dead sheep were skinned and their bodies chopped up
and flung into the copper. The grease was skimmed as it rose, and set
aside, and when cool was put into rough barrels with some salt and
kept up until such time as a merchant should pass that way and buy it.
"Well!" said George, with a sigh, "I know my loss. But if the red scab
had got into the large herd, there would have been no end to the
Soon after this a small feeder at some distance offered to change with
McLaughlan. That worthy liked his own ground best, but willing to do
his friend George a good turn he turned the man over to him. George
examined the new place, found that it was smaller but richer and
better watered, and very wisely closed with the proposal.
When he told Jacky that worthy's eyes sparkled.
"Black fellow likes another place. Not every day the same."
And in fact he let out that if this change had not occurred his
intention had been to go a-hunting for a month or two, so weary had he
become of always the same place.
The new ground was excellent, and George's hopes, lately clouded,
brightened again. He set to work and made huge tanks to catch the next
rain, and as heretofore did the work of two.
It was a sad thing to have to write to Susan and tell her that after
twenty months' hard work he was just where he had been at first
starting. One day, as George was eating his homely dinner on his knee
by the side of his principal flock, he suddenly heard a tremendous
scrimmage mixed with loud, abusive epithets from Abner. He started up,
and there was Carlo pitching into a sheep who was trying to jam
herself into the crowd to escape him. Up runs one of the sheep-dogs
growling, but instead of seizing Carlo, as George thought he would,
what does he do but fall upon another sheep, and spite of all their
evasions the two dogs drove the two sheep out of the flock and sent
them pelting down the hill. In one moment George was alongside Abner.
"Abner," said he, "how came you to let strange sheep in among mine?"
"Never saw them till the dog pinned them."
"You never saw them," said George reproachfully. "No, nor your dog
either till my Carlo opened your eyes. A pretty thing for a shepherd
and his dog to be taught by a pointer. Well," said George, "you had
eyes enough to see whose sheep they were. Tell me that, if you
Abner looked down.
"I'd as lieve bite off my tongue as tell you.
George looked uneasy and his face fell.
"A 'V.' Don't ye take on," said Abner. "They couldn't have been ten
minutes among ours, and there were but two. And don't you blow me up,
for such a thing might happen to the carefulest shepherd that ever
"I won't blow ye up, Will Abner," said George. "It is my luck not
yours that has done this. It was always so. From a game of cricket
upward I never had my neighbor's luck. If the flock are not tainted
I'll give you five pounds, and my purse is not so deep as some. If
they are, take your knife and drive it into my heart. I'll forgive you
that as I do this. Carlo! let me look at you. See here, he is all over
some stinking ointment. It is off those sheep. I knew it. 'Twasn't
likely a pointer dog would be down on strange sheep like a shepherd's
dog by the sight. 'Twas this stuff offended him. Heaven's will be
"Let us hope the best, and not meet trouble half way."
"Yes" said George feebly. "Let us hope the best."
"Don't I hear that Thompson has an ointment that cures the red scab?"
"So they say."
George whistled to his pony. The pony came to him. George did not
treat him as we are apt to treat a horse--like a riding machine. He
used to speak to him and caress him when he fed him and when he made
his bed, and the horse followed him about like a dog.
In half an hour's sharp riding they were at Thompson's, an invaluable
man that sold and bought animals, doctored animals, and kept a huge
boiler in which bullocks were reduced to a few pounds of grease in a
very few hours.
"You have an ointment that is good for the scab, sir?"
"That I have, farmer. Sold some to a neighbor of yours day before
"Who was that?"
"A newcomer. Vesey is his name."
George groaned. "How do you use it, if you please?"
"Shear 'em close, rub the ointment well in, wash 'em every two days,
and rub in again."
"Give me a stone of it."
"A stone of my ointment! Well! you are the wisest man I have come
across this year or two. You shall have it, sir."
George rode home with his purchase.
Abner turned up his nose at it, and was inclined to laugh at George's
fears. But George said to himself, "I have Susan to think of as well
as myself. Besides," said he a little bitterly, "I haven't a grain of
luck. If I am to do any good I must be twice as prudent and thrice as
industrious as my neighbors or I shall fall behind them. Now, Abner,
we'll shear them close."
"Shear them! Why it is not two months since they were all sheared."
"And then we will rub a little of this ointment into them."
"What! before we see any sign of the scab among them? I wouldn't do
that if they were mine."
"No more would I if they were yours," replied George almost fiercely.
"But they are not yours, Will Abner. They are unlucky George's."
During the next three days four hundred sheep were clipped and
anointed. Jacky helped clip, but he would not wear gloves, and George
would not let him handle the ointment without them, suspecting
At last George yielded to Abner's remonstrances, and left off shearing
Abner altered his opinion when one day he found a sheep rubbing like
mad against a tree, and before noon half a dozen at the same game.
Those two wretched sheep had tainted the flock.
Abner hung his head when he came to George with this ill-omened news.
He expected a storm of reproaches. But George was too deeply
distressed for any petulances of anger. "It is my fault," said he, "I
was the master, and I let my servant direct me. My own heart told me
what to do, yet I must listen to a fool and a hireling that cared not
for the sheep. How should he? they weren't his, they were mine to lose
and mine to save. I had my choice, I took it, I lost them. Call Jacky
and let's to work and save here and there one, if so be God shall be
kinder to them than I have been."
From that hour there was but little rest morning, noon or night. It
was nothing but an endless routine of anointing and washing, washing
and anointing sheep. To the credit of Mr. Thompson it must be told
that of the four hundred who had been taken in time no single sheep
died; but of the others a good many. There are incompetent shepherds
as well as incompetent statesmen and doctors, though not so many.
Abner was one of these. An acute Australian shepherd would have seen
the more subtle signs of this terrible disease a day or two before the
patient sheep began to rub themselves with fury against the trees and
against each other; but Abner did not; and George did not profess to
have a minute knowledge of the animal, or why pay a shepherd? When
this Herculean labor and battle had gone on for about a week, Abner
came to George, and with a hang-dog look begged him to look out for
"Why, Will! surely you won't think to leave me in this strait? Why
three of us are hardly able for the work, and how can I make head
against this plague with only the poor sav--with only Jacky, that is
first-rate at light work till he gets to find it dull--but can't lift
a sheep and fling her into the water, as the like of us can?"
"Well, ye see," said Abner, doggedly, "I have got the offer of a place
with Mr. Meredith, and he won't wait for me more than a week."
"He is a rich man, Will, and I am a poor one," said George in a faint,
expostulating tone. Abner said nothing, but his face showed he had
already considered this fact from his own point of view.
"He could spare you better than I can; but you are right to leave a
falling house that you have helped to pull down."
"I don't want to go all in a moment. I can stay a week till you get
"A week! how can I get a shepherd in this wilderness at a week's
notice? You talk like a fool."
"Well, I can't stay any longer. You know there is no agreement at all
between us, but I'll stay a week to oblige you."
"You'll oblige me, will you?" said George, with a burst of
indignation; "then oblige me by packing up your traps and taking your
ugly face out of my sight before dinner-time this day. Stay, my man,
here are your wages up to twelve o'clock to-day, take 'em and out of
my sight, you dirty rascal. Let me meet misfortune with none but
friends by my side. Away with you, or I shall forget myself and dirty
my hands with your mean carcass."
The hireling slunk off, and as he slunk George stormed and thundered
after him, "And wherever you may go, may sorrow and sickness--no!"
George turned to Jacky, who sat coolly by, his eyes sparkling at the
prospect of a row. "Jacky!" said he, and then he seemed to choke, and
could not say another word.
"Suppose I get the make-thunder, then you shoot him."
"Shoot him! what for?"
"Too much bungality,* shoot him dead. He let the sheep come that have
my two fingers so on their backs;" here Jacky made a V with his middle
and forefinger, "so he kill the other sheep--yet still you not shoot
him--that so stupid I call."
"Oh Jacky, hush! don't you know me better than to think I would kill a
man for killing my sheep. Oh fie! oh fie! No, Jacky, Heaven forbid I
should do the man any harm; but when I think of what he has brought on
my head, and then to skulk and leave me in my sore strait and trouble,
me that never gave him ill language as most masters would; and then,
Jacky, do you remember when he was sick how kind you and I were to
him--and now to leave us. There, I must go into the house, and you
come and call me out when that man is off the premises--not before."
At twelve o'clock selfish Abner started to walk thirty miles to Mr.
Meredith's. Smarting under the sense of his contemptibleness and of
the injury he was doing his kind, poor master, he shook his fist at
the house and told Jacky he hoped the scab would rot the flock, and
that done fall upon the bipeds, on his own black hide in particular.
Jacky only answered with his eye. When the man was gone he called
George's anger had soon died. Jacky found him reading a little book in
search of comfort, and when they were out in the air Jacky saw that
his eyes were rather red.
"Why you cry?" said Jacky. "I very angry because you cry."
"It is very foolish of me," said George, apologetically, "but three is
a small company, and we in such trouble; I thought I had made a friend
of him. Often I saw he was not worth his wages, but out of pity I
wouldn't part with him when I could better have spared him than he me,
and now--there--no more about it. Work is best for a sore heart, and
mine is sore and heavy, too, this day."
Jacky put his finger to his head, and looked wise. "First you listen
me--this one time I speak a good many words. Dat stupid fellow know
nothing, and so because you not shoot him a good way* behind--you
very stupid. One," counted Jacky, touching his thumb, "he know nothing
with these (pointing to his eyes). Jacky know possum,** Jacky know
kangaroo, know turkey, know snake, know a good many, some with legs
like dis (four fingers), some with legs like dis (two flngers)--dat
stupid fellow know nothing but sheep, and not know sheep, let him die
too much. Know nothing with 'um eyes. One more (touching his
forefinger). Know nothing with dis (touching his tongue). Jacky speak
him good words, he speak Jacky bad words. Dat so stupid--he know
nothing with dis.
* Long ago.
"One more. You do him good things--he do you bad things; he know
nothing with these (indicating his arms and legs as the seat of moral
action), so den because you not shoot him long ago now you cry; den
because you cry Jacky angry. Yes, Jacky very good. Jacky a little good
before he live with you. Since den very good--but when dat fellow know
nothing, and now you cry at the bottom* part Jacky a little angry, and
Jacky go hunting a little not much direckly."
With these words the savage caught up his tomahawk and two spears, and
was going across country without another word, but George cried out in
dismay, "Oh, stop a moment! What! to-day, Jacky? Jacky, Jacky, now
don't ye go to-day. I know it is very dull for the likes of you, and
you will soon leave me, but don't ye go to-day; don't set me against
flesh and blood altogether."
"I come back when the sun there," pointing to the east, "but must hunt
a little, not much. Jacky uncomfortable," continued he, jumping at a
word which from its size he thought must be of weight in any argument,
"a good deal uncomfortable suppose I not hunt a little dis day."
"I say no more, I have no right--goodby, take my hand, I shall never
see you any more.
"I shall come back when the sun there."
"Ah! well I daresay you think you will. Good-by, Jacky; don't you stay
to please me."
Jacky glided away across country. He looked back once and saw George
watching him. George was sitting sorrowful upon a stone, and as this
last bit of humanity fell away from him and melted away in the
distance his heart died within him. "He thinks he will come back to
me, but when he gets in the open and finds the track of animals to
hunt he will follow them wherever they go, and his poor shallow head
won't remember this place nor me; I shall never see poor Jacky any
The black continued his course for about four miles until a deep
hollow hid him from George. Arrived here he instantly took a line
nearly opposite to his first, and when he had gone about three miles
on this tack he began to examine the ground attentively and to run
about like a hound. After near half an hour of this he fell upon some
tracks and followed them at an easy trot across the country for miles
and miles, his eye keenly bent upon the ground.
OUR story has to follow a little way an infinitesimal personage.
Abner, the ungratefulish one, with a bundle tied up in a handkerchief,
strode stoutly away toward Mr. Meredith's grazing ground. "I am well
out of that place," was his reflection. As he had been only once over
the ground before, he did not venture to relax his pace lest night
should overtake him in a strange part. He stepped out so well that
just before the sun set he reached the head of a broad valley that was
all Meredith's. About three miles off glittered a white mansion set in
a sea of pasture, studded with cattle instead of sails. "Ay! ay!"
thought the ungratefulish one, no fear of the scab breaking up this
master--"I'm all right now." As he chuckled over his prospects a dusky
figure stole noiselessly from a little thicket--an arm was raised
behind him--crosssh! a hard weapon came down on his skull, and he lay
on his face with the blood trickling from his mouth and ears.
HE who a few months ago was so lighthearted and bright with hope now
rose at daybreak for a work of Herculean toil as usual, but no longer
with the spirit that makes labor light. The same strength, the same
dogged perseverance were there, but the sense of lost money, lost
time, and invincible ill-luck oppressed him; then, too, he was
alone--everything had deserted him but misfortune.
"I have left my Susan and I have lost her--left the only friend I had
or ever shall have in this hard world." This was his constant thought,
as doggedly but hopelessly he struggled against the pestilence.
Single-handed and leaden-hearted he had to catch a sheep, to fling her
down, to hold her down, to rub the ointment into her, and to catch
another that had been rubbed yesterday and take her to the pool and
fling her in and keep her in till every part of her skin was soaked.
Four hours of this drudgery had George gone through single-handed and
leaden-hearted, when as he knelt over a kicking, struggling sheep, he
became conscious of something gliding between him and the sun; he
looked up and there was Jacky grinning.
George uttered an exclamation: "What, come back! Well, now that is
very good of you I call. How do you do?" and he gave him a great shake
of the hand.
"Jacky very well, Jacky not at all uncomfortable after him hunt a
"Then I am very glad you have had a day's sport, leastways a night's,
I call it, since it has made you comfortable, Jacky."
"Oh! yes, very comfortable now," and his white teeth and bright eye
proclaimed the relief and satisfaction his little trip had afforded
"There, Jacky, if the ointment is worth the trouble it gives me
rubbing of it in, that sheep won't ever catch the scab, I do think.
Well, Jacky, seems to me I ought to ask your pardon--I did you wrong.
I never expected you would leave the kangaroos and opossums for me
once you were off. But I suppose fact is you haven't quite forgotten
"Two fool bay!" inquired Jacky, puzzled.
"Where I first fell in with you. You made one in a hunt that day, only
instead of hunting you was hunted and pretty close, too, and if I
hadn't been a good cricketer and learned to fling true--Why, I do
declare I think he has forgotten the whole thing, shark and all!"
At the word shark a gleam of intelligence came to the black's eye; it
was succeeded by a look of wonder. "Shark come to eat me--you throw
stone--so we eat him. I see him now a little--a very little--dat a
long way off--a very long way off. Jacky can hardly see him when he
try a good deal. White fellow see a long way off behind him back--dat
is very curious."
George colored. "You are right, lad--it was a long while ago, and I
am vexed for mentioning it. Well, any way you are come back and you
are welcome. Now you shall do a little of the light work, but I'll do
all the heavy work because I'm used to it;" and indeed poor George did
work and slave like Hercules; forty times that day he carried a
full-sized sheep in his hands a distance of twenty yards and flung her
into the water and splashed in and rubbed her back in the water.
The fourth day after Jacky's return George asked him to go all over
the ground and tell him how many sheep he saw give signs of the fatal
About four o'clock in the afternoon Jacky returned driving before him
with his spear a single sheep. The agility of both the biped and
quadruped were droll; the latter every now and then making a rapid
bolt to get back to the pasture and Jacky bounding like a buck and
pricking her with a spear.
For the first time he found George doing nothing. "Dis one scratch um
back--only dis one."
"Then we have driven out the murrain and the rest will live. A hard
fight! Jacky, a hard fight! but we have won it at last. We will rub
this one well; help me put her down, for my head aches."
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