Part 2 out of 11
'If there is anything I can do.'
'We have all that we have a right to expect.'
'I wish, Mr. Caldigate, I could invite you and your friends to come
astern among us sometimes, but it would be contrary to rule.'
'I can quite understand that, Captain.'
'You are doing a bit of roughing,--no doubt for the sake of experience.
If you only knew the sort of roughing I've had in my time!'
'I dare say.'
'Salt pork and hard biscuit, and only half enough of that. You find
yourself among some queer fellow-passengers I dare say, Mr. Caldigate.'
'Everybody is very civil.'
'They're sure to be that to a gentleman. But one has to be careful. The
women are the most dangerous.' Then the Captain laughed, as though it
had only been a joke,--this allusion to the women. But Caldigate knew
that there was more than a joke in it. The Captain had intended to warn
him against Mrs. Smith.
The Three Attempts
Something more than a month had gone by, and John Caldigate and Mrs.
Smith were very close companions. This had not been effected without
considerable opposition, partly on the part of Shand, and partly by the
ship's inhabitants generally. The inhabitants of the ship were inimical
to Mrs. Smith. She was a woman who had no friends; and the very female
who had first appeared as a friend was now the readiest to say hard
things of her. And Caldigate was a handsome well-mannered young man. By
this time all the ladies in the first-class knew very well who he was,
and some of them had spoken to him. On one or two occasions the stern
law of the vessel had been broken; and he had been absolutely invited
to sit on those august after-benches. He was known to be a gentleman,
and believed, on the evidence of Dick Shand, to be possessed of
considerable means. It was therefore a thing horrible to all of them,
and particularly to Miss Green, that he should allow himself to be
enticed into difficulties by such a creature as that Mrs. Smith. Miss
Green had already been a little cold to the doctor in consequence of a
pleasant half-hour spent by her in Caldigate's company, as they looked
over the side of the vessel at the flying-fish. Mrs. Callander had been
with them, and everything had been quite proper. But what a pity it was
that he should devote so much of his time to that woman! 'Fancy his
condition if he should be induced to marry her!' said Miss Green,
holding up her hands in horror. The idea was so terrible that Mrs.
Callander declared that she would speak to him. 'Nobody ever disliked
interfering so much as I do,' said Mrs. Callander; 'but sometimes a word
from a lady will go so far with a young man!' Mrs. Callander was a most
respectable woman, whose father had begun life as a cattle drover in the
colonies, but had succeeded in amassing a considerable fortune. 'Oh, I
do wish that something may be done to save him!' said Miss Green.
Among the second-class passengers the same feeling existed quite as
strongly. The woman herself had not only been able but had been foolish
enough to show that in spite of her gown she considered herself superior
to them all. When it was found that she was, in truth, handsome to look
upon,--that her words were soft and well chosen,--that she could sit
apart and read,--and that she could trample upon Mrs. Crompton in her
scorn,--then, for a while, there were some who made little efforts to
get into her good graces. She might even have made an ally of
good-natured Mrs. Bones, the wife of the butcher who was going out with
his large family to try his fortune at Melbourne. Mrs. Bones had been
injured, after some ship fashion, by Mrs. Crompton, and would have made
herself pleasant. But Mrs. Smith had despised them all, and had shown
her contempt, and was now as deeply suspected by Mrs. Bones as by Mrs.
Crompton or Mrs. Callander.
But of all the foes to this intimacy Dick Shand was for a time the most
bitter and the most determined No doubt this arose at first from
jealousy. He had declared his purpose of unravelling the mystery; but
the task had been taken out of his hands, and the unravelling was being
done by another. And the more that the woman was abused, and the more
intent were all the people in regard to her wicked determination to be
intimate with Caldigate, the more interesting she became. Dick, who was
himself the very imp of imprudence,--who had never been deterred from
doing anything he fancied by any glimmer of control,--would have been
delighted to be the hero of all the little stories that were being told.
But as that morsel of bread had been taken, as it were, from between his
very teeth by the unjustifiable interference of his friend, he had
become more alive than any one else to the danger of the whole
proceeding. He acknowledged to the Captain that his friend was making a
fool of himself; and, though he was a little afraid of Caldigate, he
resolved upon interfering.
'Don't you think you are making an ass of yourself about this woman?' he
'I daresay I am.'
'All the wise men, from David downwards, have made asses of themselves
about women; and why should I be wiser than the rest?'
'That's nonsense, you know.'
'I am trying to talk to you in earnest.'
'You make such a failure of it, old boy, that I am compelled to talk
nonsense in return. The idea of your preaching! Here I am with nothing
special to do, and I like to amuse myself. Ought not that to be enough
'But what is to be the end of it?' Dick Shand asked, very solemnly.
'How can I tell? But the absurdity is that such a man as you should talk
about the end of anything. Did you ever look before you leaped in your
'We are to be together, you know, and it won't do for us to be hampered
with that woman.'
'Won't it? Then let me tell you that, if I choose to hamper myself with
that woman, or with a whole harem of women, and am not deterred by any
consideration for myself, I certainly shall not be deterred by any
consideration for you. Do you understand me?'
'That is not being a true partner,' said Shand.
'I'm quite sure of this,--that I'm likely to be as true as you are. I'm
not aware that I have entered into any terms with you by which I have
bound myself to any special mode of living. I have left England, as I
fancy you have done also, because I desired more conventional freedom
than one can find among the folk at home. And now, on the first outset,
I am to be cautioned and threatened by you because I have made
acquaintance with a young woman. Of all the moral pastors and masters
that one might come across in the world, you, Dick Shand, appear to me
to be the most absurd. But you are so far right as this, that if my
conduct is shocking to you, you had better leave me to my wickedness.'
'You are always so d---- upsetting,' said Dick, 'that no one can speak
to you.' Then Dick turned away, and there was nothing more said about
Mrs. Smith on that occasion.
The next to try her hand was Mrs. Callander. By this time the passengers
had become familiar with the ship, and knew what they might and what
they might not do. The second-class passengers were not often found
intruding across the bar, but the first-class frequently made visits to
their friends amidships. In this way Mrs. Callander had become
acquainted with our two gold-seekers, and often found herself in
conversation with one or the other. Even Miss Green, as has been stated
before, would come and gaze upon the waves from the inferior part of the
'What a very nice voyage we are having, Mr. Caldigate,' Mrs. Callander
said one afternoon.
'Yes, indeed. It is getting a little cold now, but we shall enjoy that
after all the heat.'
'Quite so; only I suppose it will be very cold when we get quite south.
You still find yourself tolerably comfortable.'
'I shall be glad to have it over,' said Caldigate, who had in truth
become disgusted with Dick's snoring.
'I daresay,--I am sure we shall. My young people are getting very tired
of it. Children, when they are accustomed to every comfort on shore, of
course feel it grievously. I suppose you are rather crowded?'
'Of course we are crowded. One can't have a twenty-foot square room on
'No, indeed. But then you are with your friend, and that is much
pleasanter than a stranger.'
'That would depend on whether the stranger snored, Mrs. Callander.'
'Don't talk of snoring, Mr. Caldigate. If you only heard Mr. Callander!
But, as I was saying, you must have some very queer characters down
there.' She had not been saying anything of the kind, but she found a
difficulty in introducing her subject.
'Take them altogether, they are a very decent, pleasant, well-mannered
set of people, and all of them in earnest about their future lives.'
'Poor creatures! But I dare say they're very good.' Then she paused a
moment, and looked into his face. She had undertaken a duty, and she was
not the woman to shrink from it. So she told herself at that moment. And
yet she was very much afraid of him as she saw the squareness of his
forehead, and the set of his mouth. And there was a frown across his
brow, as though he were preparing himself to fight. 'You must have found
it hard to accommodate yourselves to them, Mr. Caldigate?'
'Not at all.'
'Of course we all know that you are a gentleman.'
'I am much obliged to you; but I do not know any word that requires a
definition so much as that. I am going to work hard to earn my bread;
and I suppose these people are going to do the same.'
'There always will be some danger in such society,' said Mrs. Callander.
'I hope I may escape any great evil.'
'I hope so too, Mr. Caldigate. You probably have had a long roll of
ancestors before you?'
'We all have that;--back to Adam.'
'Ah! but I mean a family roll, of which you ought to be proud;--all
ladies and gentlemen.'
'Upon my word I don't know.'
'So I hear, and I have no doubt it is true.' Then she paused, looking
again into his face. It was very square, and his lips were hard, and
there was a gleam of anger in his eyes. She wished herself back again in
her own part of the ship; but she had boasted to Miss Green that she was
not the woman to give up a duty when she had undertaken it. Though she
was frightened, still she must go on. 'I hope you will excuse me, Mr.
'I am sure you will not say anything that I cannot excuse.'
'Don't you think--' Then she paused. She had looked into his face again,
and was so little satisfied that she did not dare to go on. He would not
help her in the least, but stood there looking at her, with something
of a smile stealing over the hardness of his face, but with such an
expression that the smile was even worse than the hardness.
'Were you going to speak to me about another lady, Mrs. Callander?'
'I was. That is what I was going to speak of--'
She was anxious to remonstrate against that word lady, but her courage
'Then don't you think that perhaps you had better leave it alone. I am
very much obliged to you, and all that kind of thing; and as to myself,
I really shouldn't care what you said. Any good advice would be taken
most gratefully,--if it didn't affect any one else. But you might say
things of the lady in question which I shouldn't bear patiently.'
'She can't be your equal.'
'I won't hear even that patiently. You know nothing about her, except
that she is a second-class passenger,--in which matter she is exactly my
equal. If you come to that, don't you think that you are degrading
yourself in coming here and talking to me? I am not your equal.'
'But you are.'
'And so is she, then. We shan't arrive at anything, Mrs. Callander, and
so you had better give it up.' Whereupon she did give it up and retreat
to her own part of the ship, but not with a very good grace.
They had certainly become very intimate,--John Caldigate and Mrs. Smith;
and there could be no doubt that, in the ordinary language of the world,
he was making a fool of himself. He did in fact know nothing about her
but what she told herself, and this amounted to little more than three
statements, which might or might not be true,--that she had gone on the
stage in opposition to her friends,--that she had married an actor, who
had treated her with great cruelty,--and that he had died of drink. And
with each of these stories there had been an accompaniment of mystery.
She had not told him her maiden name, nor what had been the condition of
her parents, nor whether they were living, nor at what theatres she and
her husband had acted, nor when he had died. She had expressed a hope
that she might get an engagement in the colonies, but she had not spoken
of any recommendation or letters of introduction. He simply knew of her
that her name was Euphemia Smith.
In that matter of her clothes there had been a great improvement, but
made very gradually. She had laughed at her own precautions, saying,
that in her poverty she had wished to save everything that could be
saved, and that she had only intended to make herself look like others
in the same class. 'And I had wanted to avoid all attention,--at first,'
she said, smiling, as she looked up at him.
'In which you have been altogether unsuccessful he replied, 'as you are
certainly more talked about than any one in the ship.'
'Has it been my fault?' she asked.
Then he comforted her, saying that it certainly had not been her fault;
that she had been reticent and reserved till she had been either
provoked or invited to come forth; and, in fact, that her conduct had
been in all respects feminine, pretty, and decorous to all which he was
not perhaps the best judge in the world.
But she was certainly much pleasanter to look at, and even to talk to,
now that she had put on a small, clean, black felt hat instead of the
broken straw, and had got out from her trunks a pretty warm shawl, and
placed a ribbon or two about her in some indescribable manner, and was
no longer ashamed of showing her shoes as she sat about upon the deck.
There could be no doubt, as she was seen now, that she was the most
attractive female on board the ship; but it may be doubted whether the
anger of the Mrs. Cromptons, Mrs. Callanders, and Miss Greens was
mitigated by the change. The battle against her became stronger, and the
duty of rescuing that infatuated young man from her sorceries was more
clear than ever;--if only anything could be done to rescue him!
What could be done? Mrs. Smith could not be locked up. No one,--not even
the Captain,--could send her down to her own wretched little cabin
because she would talk with a gentleman. Talking is allowed on board
ship, and even flirting, to a certain extent. Mrs. Smith's conduct with
Mr. Caldigate was not more peculiar than that of Miss Green and the
doctor. Only it pleased certain people to think that Miss Green might be
fond of the doctor if she chose, and that Mrs. Smith had no right to be
fond of any man. There was a stubbornness about both the sinners which
resolved to set public opinion at defiance. The very fact that others
wished to interfere with him made Caldigate determined to resent all
interference; and the woman, with perhaps a deeper insight into her own
advantages, was brave enough to be able to set opposition at defiance.
They were about a week from their port when the captain,--Captain
Munday,--was induced to take the matter into his own hands. It is hardly
too much to say that he was pressed to do so by the united efforts of
the first-class passengers. It was dreadful to think that this
unfortunate young man should go on shore merely to become the prey of
such a woman as that. So Captain Munday, who at heart was not afraid of
his passenger,--but who persisted in saying that no good could be done,
and who had, as may be remembered, already made a slight attempt,--was
induced to take the matter in hand. He came up to Caldigate on the deck
one afternoon, and without any preface began his business. 'Mr.
Caldigate,' he said, 'I am afraid you are getting into a scrape with one
of your fellow-passengers.'
'What do you call a scrape, Captain Munday?'
'I should call it a scrape if a young gentleman of your position and
your prospects were to find himself engaged on board ship to marry a
woman he knew nothing about.'
'Do you know anything about my position and prospects, Captain Munday?'
'I know you are a gentleman.'
'And I think you know less about the lady.'
'I know nothing;--but I will tell you what I hear.'
'I really would rather that you did not. Of course, Captain Munday, on
board your own ship you are a despot, and I must say that you have made
everything very pleasant for us. But I don't think even your position
entitles you to talk to me about my private affairs,--or about hers. You
say you know nothing. Is it manly to repeat what one hears about a poor
forlorn woman?' Then the Captain retreated without another word, owning
to himself that he was beaten. If this foolish young man chose to make
for himself a bed of that kind he must lie upon it. Captain Munday went
away shrugging his shoulders, and spoke no further word to John
Caldigate on that or any other subject during the voyage.
Caldigate had driven off his persecutors valiantly, and had taught them
all to think that he was resolute in his purposes in regard to Mrs.
Smith, let those purposes be what they might; but nothing could be
further from the truth; for he had no purposes and was, within his own
mind, conscious of his lack of all purpose, and very conscious of his
folly. And though he could repel Mrs. Callander and the Captain,--as he
had always repelled those who had attempted to control him,--still he
knew that they had been right. Such an intimacy as this could not be
wise, and its want of wisdom became the more strongly impressed upon him
the nearer he got to shore, and the more he felt that when he had got
ashore he should not know how to act in regard to her.
The intimacy had certainly become very close. He had expressed his
great admiration, and she had replied that, 'had things not been as they
were,' she could have returned the feeling. But she did not say what the
things were which might have been otherwise. Nor did she seem to attempt
to lead him on to further and more definite proposals. And she never
spoke of any joint action between them when on shore, though she gave
herself up to his society here on board the ship. She seemed to think
that they were then to part, as though one would be going one way, and
one the other;--but he felt that after so close an intimacy they could
not part like that.
Things went on in the same way till the night before the morning on
which they were to enter Hobson's Bay. Hobson's Bay, as every one knows,
is the inlet of the sea into which the little river runs on which
Melbourne is built. After leaving the tropics they had gone down south,
and had encountered showers and wind, and cold weather, but now they had
come up again into warm latitudes and fine autumn weather,--for it was
the beginning of March, and the world out there is upside down. Before
that evening nothing had been said between Mrs Smith and John Caldigate
as to any future; not a word to indicate that when the journey should be
over, there would or that there would not be further intercourse between
them. She had purposely avoided any reference to a world after this
world of the ship, even refusing, in her half-sad but half-joking
manner, to discuss matters so far ahead. But he felt that he could not
leave her on board, as he would the other passengers, without a word
spoken as to some future meeting. There will arrive on occasions a
certain pitch of intimacy,--which cannot be defined as may a degree of
cousinship, but which is perfectly understood by the persons concerned
close as to forbid such mere shaking of the hands. There are many men,
and perhaps more women, cautious enough and wise enough to think of this
beforehand, and, thinking of it, to guard themselves from the dangerous
attractions of casual companions by a composed manner and unenthusiastic
conversation. Who does not know the sagacious lady who, after sitting at
table with the same gentleman for a month, can say, 'Good-bye, Mr.
Jones,' just as though Mr. Jones had been a stranger under her notice
but for a day. But others gush out, and when Mr. Jones takes his
departure, hardly know how not to throw themselves into his arms. The
intercourse between our hero and Mrs. Smith had been such that, as a
gentleman, he could not leave her without some allusion to future
meetings. That was all up to the evening before their arrival. The whole
ship's company, captain, officers, quarter-masters, passengers, and all,
were quite sure that she had succeeded in getting a promise of marriage
from him. But there had been nothing of the kind. Among others, Dick
Shand was sure that there was some entanglement. Entanglement was the
word he always used in discussing the matter with Mrs. Callander.
Between Dick and his friend there had been very little confidential
communication of late. Caldigate had forbidden Shand to talk to him
about Mrs. Smith, and thus had naturally closed the man's mouth on other
matters. And then they had fallen into different sets. Dick, at least,
had fallen into a set, while Caldigate had hardly associated with any
but the one dangerous friend. Dick had lived much with a bevy of noisy
young men who had been given to games and smoking, and to a good deal
of drink. Caldigate had said not a word, even when on one occasion Dick
had stumbled down into the cabin very much the worse for what he had
taken. How could he find fault with Dick's folly when he would not allow
Dick to say a word to him as to his own? But on this last day at sea it
became necessary that they should understand each other.
'What do you mean to do when you land?' Caldigate asked.
All that had been settled between them very exactly long since. At a
town called Nobble, about three hundred miles west of Sydney, there
lived a man, supposed to be knowing in gold, named Crinkett, with whom
they had corresponded, and to whom they intended, in the first instance,
to apply. And about twenty miles beyond Nobble were the new and now much
reputed Ahalala diggings, at which they purposed to make their first
debut. It had been decided that they would go direct from Melbourne to
Nobble,--not round by Sydney so as to see more of the world, and thus
spend more money,--but by the direct route, taking the railway to Albury
and the coaches, which they were informed were running between Albury
and Nobble. And it had also been determined that they would spend but
two nights in Melbourne,--'just to get their things washed,'--so keen
had they been in their determination to begin their work. But on all
these matters there had been no discussion now for a month, nor even an
allusion to them.
'What do you mean to do when we land?' Caldigate asked on that last day.
'I thought all that was settled. But I suppose you are going to change
'I am going to change nothing. Only you seem to have got into such a way
of life that I didn't know whether you would be prepared for serious
'I shall be as well prepared as you are, I don't doubt,' said Dick. 'I
have no impediment of any kind.'
'I certainly have none. Then we will start by the first train on
Wednesday morning for Albury. We must have our heavy things sent round
by sea to Sydney, and get them from there as best we can. When we are a
little fixed, one of us can run down to Sydney.'
And so it was settled, without any real confidence between them, but in
conformity with their previous arrangements.
It was on the evening of the same day, after they had sighted Cape
Otway, that Mrs. Smith and Caldigate began their last conversation on
board the Goldfinder,--a conversation which lasted, with one or two
interruptions, late into the night.
'So we have come to the end of it,' she said.
'To the end of what?'
'To the end of all that is pleasant and easy and safe. Don't you
remember my telling you how I dreaded the finish? Here I have been
fairly comfortable and have in many respects enjoyed it. I have had you
to talk to; and there has been a flavour of old days about it. What
shall I be doing this time to-morrow?'
'I don't know your plans.'
'Exactly;--and I have not told you, because I would not have you
bothered with me when I land. You have enough on your own hands; and if
I were to be a burden to you now it might be a serious trouble. I am
afraid poor Mr. Shand objects to me.'
'You don't think that would stand in my way?'
'It stands in mine. Of course, with your pride and your obstinacy you
would tell Mr. Shand to go to--the devil if he ventured to object to any
little delay that might be occasioned by looking after me. Then Mr.
Shand would go--there, or elsewhere; and all your plans would be broken
up, and you would be without a companion.'
'Unless I had you.' Of all the words which he could have spoken in such
an emergency these were the most foolish; and yet, at so tender a
moment, how were they to be repressed?
'I do think that Dick Shand is dangerous,' she answered, laughing; 'but
I should be worse. I am afraid Dick Shand will--drink.'
'If so, we must part. And what would you do?'
'What would I do? What could I do?' Then there was a pause. 'Perhaps I
should want you to--marry me, which would be worse than Dick Shand's
There is an obligation on a man to persevere when a woman has encouraged
him in love-making. It is like riding at a fence. When once you have set
your horse at it you must go on, however impracticable it may appear as
you draw close to it. If you have never looked at the fence at all,--if
you have ridden quite the other way, making for some safe gate or
clinging to the dull lane,--then there will be no excitement, but also
there will be no danger and no disgrace. Caldigate had ridden hard at
the fence, and could not crane at it now that it was so close to him. He
could only trust to his good fortune to carry him safe over. 'I don't
suppose you would want it,' he said, 'but I might.'
'You would want me, but you would not want me for always. I should be a
burden less easy to shake off than Dick Shand.'
'Is that the way a man is always to look at a woman?'
'It is the way in which they do, I think. I often wonder that any man is
ever fool enough to marry. A poor man may want some one to serve him,
and may be able to get service in no other way; or a man, poor in
another way, may find an heiress convenient;--but otherwise I think men
only marry when they are caught. Women are prehensile things, which have
to cling to something for nourishment and support. When I come across
such a one as you I naturally put out my feelers.'
'I have not been aware of it.'
'Yes, you are; and I do not doubt that your mind is vacillating about
me. I am sure you like me.'
'Certainly, I like you.'
'And you know that I love you.'
'I did not know it.'
'Yes, you did. You are not the man to be diffident of yourself in such a
matter. You must either think that I love you, or that I have been a
great hypocrite in pretending to do so. Love you!' They were sitting
together on a large spar which was lashed on to the deck, and which had
served throughout all the voyage for a seat for second-class passengers
There were others now on the farther end of it; but there was a feeling
that when Caldigate and Mrs. Smith were together it would not be civil
to intrude upon their privacy. At this time it was dark; but their eyes
had become used to the gloom, and each could see the other's face. 'Love
you!' she repeated, looking up at him, speaking in a very low voice, but
yet, oh so clearly, so that not a fraction of a sound was lost to his
ears, with no special emotion in her face, with no contortion, no
grimace, but with her eyes fixed upon his. 'How should it be possible
that I should not love you? For two months we have been together as
people seldom are in the world,--as they never can be without hating
each other or loving each other thoroughly. You have been very good to
me who am all alone and desolate. And you are clever, educated,--and a
man. How should I not love you? And I know from the touch of your hand,
from your breath when I feel it on my face, from the fire of your eye,
and from the tenderness of your mouth, that you, too, love me.'
'I do,' he said.
'But as there may be marriage without love, so there may be love without
marriage. You cannot but feel how little you know of me, and ignorant as
you are of so much, that to marry me might be--ruin.' It was just what
he had told himself over and over again, when he had been trying to
resolve what he would do in regard to her. 'Don't you know that?'
'I know that it might have been so among the connections of home life.'
'And to you the connections of home life may all come back. That woman
talked about your "roll of ancestors." Coming from her it was absurd.
But there was some truth in it. You know that were you to marry me, say
to-morrow, in Melbourne, it would shut you out from--well, not the
possibility but the probability of return.'
'I do not want to go back.'
'Nor do I want to hinder you from doing so. If we were alike desolate,
alike alone, alike cast out, oh then, what a heaven of happiness I
should think had been opened to me by the idea of joining myself to you!
There is nothing I could not do for you. But I will not be a millstone
round your neck.'
She had taken so much the more prominent part in all this that he felt
himself compelled by his manliness to say something in contradiction to
it--something that should have the same flavour about it as had her
self-abnegation and declared passion. He also must be unselfish and
enthusiastic. 'I do not deny that there is truth in what you say.'
'It is true.'
'Of course I love you.'
'It ought to be of course,--now.'
'And of course I do not mean to part from you now, as though we were
never to see each other again.'
'I hope not quite that.'
'Certainly not. I shall therefore hold you as engaged to me, and myself
as engaged to you,--unless something should occur to separate us.' It
was a foolish thing to say, but he did not know how to speak without
being foolish. It is not usual that a gentleman should ask a lady to be
engaged to him '--unless something should occur to separate them!' 'You
will consent to that,' he said.
'What I will consent to is this, that I will be yours, all yours,
whenever you may choose to send for me. At any moment I will be your
wife for the asking. But you shall go away first, and shall think of it,
and reflect upon it,--so that I may not have to reproach myself with
having caught you.'
'Well, yes, caught you. I do feel that I have caught you,--almost. I do
feel,--almost,--that I ought to have had nothing to do with you. From
the beginning of it all I knew that I ought to have nothing to say to
you. You are too good for me.' Then she rose from her place as though to
leave him. 'I will go down now,' she said, 'because I know you will have
many things to do. To-morrow, when we get up, we shall be in the
harbour, and you will be on shore quite early. There will be no time for
a word of farewell then. I will meet you again here just before we go to
bed,--say at half-past ten. Then we will arrange, if we can arrange, how
we may meet again.'
And so she glided away from him, and he was left alone, sitting on the
spar. Now, at any rate, he had engaged himself. There could not be any
doubt about that. He certainly could not be justified in regarding
himself as free because she had told him that she would give him time to
think of it. Of course he was engaged to marry her. When a man has been
successful in his wooing he is supposed to be happy. He asked himself
whether he was proud of the result of this intimacy. She had told
him,--she herself,--that she had 'caught him', meaning thereby that he
had been taken as a rabbit with a snare or a fish with a baited hook. If
it had been so, surely she would not herself have said so. And yet he
was aware how common it is for a delinquent to cover his own delinquency
by declaring it. 'Of course I am idle,' says the idle one, escaping the
disgrace of his idleness by his honesty. 'I have caught you!' There is
something soothing to the vanity in such a declaration from a pretty
woman. That she should have wished to catch you is something;--something
that the net should itself be so pleasant, with its silken meshes! But
the declaration may not the less be true and the fact unpleasant. In the
matter of matrimony a man does not wish to be caught; and Caldigate,
fond as he was of her, acknowledged that what she said was true.
He leant back in a corner that was made by the hatchway, and endeavoured
to think over his life and prospects. If this were a true engagement,
then must he cease altogether to think of Hester Bolton. Then must that
dream be abandoned. It is of no use to the most fervid imagination to
have a castle projected in Spain from which all possible foundation has
been taken away. In his dreams of life a man should never dream that
which is altogether impossible. There had been something in the thought
of Hester Bolton which had taken him back from the roughnesses of his
new life, from the doubtful respectability of Mrs. Smith, from the
squalor of the second-class from the whisky-laden snores of Dick Shand,
to a sweeter, brighter, cleaner world. Till this engagement had been
absolutely spoken he could still indulge in that romance, distant and
unreal as it was. But now,--now it seemed to be brought in upon him very
forcibly that he must rid his thoughts of Hester Bolton,--or else rid
his life of Mrs. Smith.
But he was engaged to marry Mrs. Smith. Then he got up, and walked
backwards and forwards along the deck, asking himself whether this could
really be the truth. Was he bound to this woman for his life? And if so,
had he done a thing of which he already repented himself? He tried to
persuade himself that she was admirably fitted for the life which he was
fated to lead. She was handsome, intellectual, a most delightful
companion, and yet capable of enduring the hardships of an adventurous
uncertain career. Ought he not to think himself peculiarly lucky in
having found for himself so eligible a companion? But there is something
so solemn, so sacred, in the name of wife. A man brought up among soft
things is so imbued with the feeling that his wife should be something
better, cleaner, sweeter, holier than himself that he could not but be
awe-struck when he thought that he was bound to marry this all but
nameless widow of some drunken player,--this woman who, among other
women, had been thought unfit for all companionship!
But things arrange themselves. How probable it was that he would never
be married to her. After all, this might be but an incident, and not an
unpleasant incident, in his life. He had had his amusement out of it,
and she had had hers. Perhaps they would part to meet no more. But when
he thought that there might be comfort in this direction, he felt that
he was a scoundrel for thinking so.
'And this is to say good-bye?' 'Twas thus she greeted him again that
'Good-bye, my love.'
'My love! my love! And now remember this; my address will be,
Post-office, Melbourne. It will be for you to write to me. You will not
hear from me unless you do. Indeed I shall know nothing of you. Let me
have a line before a month is over.' This he promised, and then they
At break of day on the following morning the Goldfinder rode over the
Rip into Hobson's Bay. There were still four hours before the ship lay
at her moorings; but during all that time Mrs. Smith was not seen by
Caldigate. As he got into the boat which took him and Shand from the
ship to the pier at Sandridge she kissed her hand to him over the side
of the vessel. Before eleven o'clock Dick Shand and his companion were
comfortably put up at the Miners' Home in Flinders Lane.
During the two days which Dick and Caldigate spent together in Melbourne
Mrs. Smith's name was not mentioned between them. They were particularly
civil each to the other and went to work together, making arrangements
at a bank as to their money, taking their places, despatching their
luggage, and sorting their belongings as though there had been no such
woman as Mrs. Smith on board the Goldfinder. Dick, though he had been
inclined to grumble when his mystery had been taken out of his
hands,--who had, of course, been jealous when he saw that the lady had
discarded her old hat and put on new ribbons, not for him, but for
another,--was too conscious of the desolation to which he would be
subjected by quarrelling with his friend. He felt himself unable to go
alone, and was therefore willing that the bygones of the ship should be
bygones. Caldigate, on the other hand, acknowledged to himself that he
owed some reparation to his companion. Of course he had not bound
himself to any special mode of life;--but had he, in his present
condition, allied himself more closely to Mrs. Smith, he would, to some
extent, have thrown Dick over. And then, as soon as he was on shore, he
did feel somewhat ashamed of himself in regard to Mrs. Smith. Was it not
manifest that any closer alliance, let the alliance be what it might,
must be ruinous to him? As it was, had he not made an absolute fool of
himself with Mrs. Smith? Had he not got himself already into a mess from
which there was no escape? Of course he must write to her when the month
was over. The very weight of his thoughts on this matter made him tamer
with Dick and more observant than he would otherwise have been.
They were during those two days frequently about the town, looking at
the various streets and buildings at the banks and churches and
gardens,--as is usual with young men when they visit a new town; but,
during it all, Caldigate's mind was more intent on Mrs. Smith than he
was on the sights of the place. Melbourne is not so big but that she
might easily have thrown herself in his way had she pleased. Strangers
residing in such a town are almost sure to see each other before
twenty-four hours are gone. But Mrs. Smith was not seen. Two or three
times he went up and down Collins Street alone, without his friend, not
wishing to see her,--aware that he had better not see her,--but made
restless by a nervous feeling that he ought to wish to see her, that he
should, at any rate, not keep out of her way. But Mrs. Smith did not
show herself. Whatever might be her future views, she did not now take
steps to present herself to him. 'I shall be so much the more bound to
present myself to her,' he said to himself. 'But perhaps she knows all
that,' he added in the same soliloquy.
On the Wednesday morning they left Melbourne by the 6 A.M. train for
Albury, which latter place they reached the same day, about 2 P.M.,
having then crossed the Murray river, and passed into the colony of New
South Wales. Here they stayed but a few hours and then went on by coach
on their journey to Nobble. From one wretched vehicle they were handed
on to another, never stopping anywhere long enough to go to bed,--three
hours at one wretched place and five at another,--travelling at the rate
of six miles an hour, bumping through the mud and slush of the bush
roads, and still going on for three days and three nights. This was
roughing it indeed. Even Dick complained, and said that, of all the
torments prepared for wicked mortals on earth, this Australian coaching
was the worst. They went through Wagga-Wagga and Murrumburra, and other
places with similar names, till at last they were told that they had
reached Nobble. Nobble they thought was the foulest place which they had
ever seen. It was a gold-digging town, as such places are called, and
had been built with great rapidity to supply the necessities of adjacent
miners. It was constructed altogether of wood, but no two houses had
been constructed alike. They generally had gable ends opening on to the
street, but were so different in breadth, altitude, and form, that it
was easy to see that each enterprising proprietor had been his own
architect. But they were all alike in having enormous advertisement-boards,
some high, some broad, some sloping, on which were declared the merits of
the tradesmen who administered within to the wants of mining humanity. And
they had generally assumed most singular names for themselves 'The Old
Stick-in-the-Mud Soft Goods Store.' 'The Polyeuka Stout Depot,' 'Number
Nine Flour Mills,' and so on,--all of which were very unintelligible to
our friends till they learned that these were the names belonging to
certain gold-mining claims which had been opened in the neighbourhood
of Nobble. The street itself was almost more perilous to vehicles than
the slush of the forest-tracks, so deep were the holes and so uncertain
the surface. When Caldigate informed the driver that they wanted to be
taken as far as Henniker's hotel, the man said that he had given up
going so far as that for the last two months, the journey being too
perilous. So they shouldered their portmanteaus and struggled forth
down the street. Here and there a short bit of wooden causeway, perhaps
for the length of three houses, would assist them; and then, again, they
would have to descend into the roadway and plunge along through the mud.
'It is not quite as nice walking as the old Quad at Trinity,' said
'It is the beastliest hole I ever put my foot in since I was born,' said
Dick, who had just stumbled and nearly came to the ground with his
burden. 'They told us that Nobble was a fine town.'
Henniker's hotel was a long, low wooden shanty, divided into various
very small partitions by thin planks, in most of which two or more
dirty-looking beds had been packed very closely. But between these
little compartments there was a long chamber containing a long and very
dirty table, and two long benches. Here were sitting a crowd of miners,
drinking when our friends were ushered in through the bar or counter
which faced to the street. At the bar they were received by a dirty old
woman who said that she was Mrs. Henniker. Then they were told, while
the convivial crowd were looking on and listening, that they could have
the use of one of the partitions and their 'grub' for 7s. 6d. a-day
each. When they asked for a partition apiece, they were told that if
they didn't like what was offered to them they might go elsewhere. Upon
that they agreed to Mrs. Henniker's terms, and sitting down on one of
the benches looked desolately into each others faces.
Yes;--it was different from Trinity College, different from Babington,
very different even from the less luxurious comfort of the house at
Pollington. The deck, even the second-class cabin, of the Goldfinder had
been better than this. And then they had no friend, not even an
acquaintance, within some hundred miles. The men around them were not
uncivil. Australian miners never are so. But they were inquisitive,
familiar, and with their half-drunken good-humour, almost repulsive. It
was about noon when our friends reached Henniker's, and they were told
that there would be dinner at one. There was always 'grub' at one, and
'grub' at seven, and 'grub' at eight in the morning. So one of the men
informed them. The same gentleman hoped that the strangers were not very
particular, as the 'grub,' though plentiful was apt to be rough of its
'You'll have it a deal worse before you've done if you're going on to
Ahalala,' said another. Then Caldigate said that they did intend to go
on to Ahalala. 'We're going to have a spell at gold-digging,' said he.
What was the use of making any secret of the matter? 'We knowed that
ready enough,' said one of the men. 'Chaps like you don't come much to
Nobble for nothing else. Have you got any money to start with?'
'A few half-crowns,' said Dick, cautiously.
'Half-crowns don't go very far here, my mate. If you can spend four or
five pounds a-week each for the next month, so as to get help till you
know where you are, it may be you'll turn up gold at Ahalala;--but if
not, you'd better go elsewhere. You needn't be afraid. We ain't a-going
to rob you of nothing.'
'Nor yet we don't want nothing to drink,' said another.
'Speak for yourself, Jack,' said a third. 'But come;--as these are
regular new chums, I don't care if I shout for the lot myself.' Then the
dirty old woman was summoned, and everybody had whisky all round. When
that was done, another generous man came to the front, and there was
more whisky, till Caldigate was frightened as to the result.
Evil might have come from it, had not the old woman opportunely brought
the 'grub' into the room. This she chucked down on the table in such a
way that the grease out of the dish spattered itself all around. There
was no tablecloth, nor had any preparation been made; but in the middle
of the table there was a heap of dirty knives and forks, with which the
men at once armed themselves; and each took a plate out of a heap that
had been placed on a shelf against the wall. Caldigate and Shand, when
they saw how the matter was to be arranged, did as the other men. The
'grub' consisted of an enormous lump of boiled beef, and a bowl of
potatoes, which was moderate enough in size considering that there were
in all about a dozen men to be fed. But there was meat enough for
double the number, and bread in plenty, but so ill-made as to be
rejected by most of the men. The potatoes were evidently the luxury;
and, guided by that feeling, the man who had told the strangers that
they need not be afraid of being robbed, at once selected six out of the
bowl, and deposited three each before Dick and Caldigate. He helped the
others all round to one each, and then was left without any for himself.
'I don't care a damn for that sort of tucker,' he said, as though he
despised potatoes from the bottom of his heart. Of all the crew he was
the dirtiest, and was certainly half drunk. Another man holloaed to
'Mother Henniker' for pickles; but Mother Henniker, without leaving her
seat at the bar, told them to 'pickle themselves.' Whereupon one of the
party, making some allusion to Jack Brien's swag,--Jack Brien being
absent at the moment,--rose from his seat and undid a great roll lying
in one of the corners. Every miner has his swag,--consisting of a large
blanket which is rolled up, and contains all his personal luggage. Out
of Jack Brien's swag were extracted two large square bottles of pickles.
These were straightway divided among the men, care being taken that Dick
and Caldigate should have ample shares. Then every man helped himself to
beef, as much as he would, passing the dish round from one to the other.
When the meal was half finished, Mrs. Henniker brought in an enormous
jorum of tea, which she served out to all the guests in tin pannikins,
giving to every man a fixed and ample allowance of brown sugar, without
at all consulting his taste. Milk there was none. In the midst of this
Jack Brien came in, and with a clamour of mirth the empty pickle jars
were shown him. Jack, who was a silent man, and somewhat melancholy,
merely shook his head and ate his beef. It may be presumed that he was
fond of pickles, having taken so much trouble to provide them; but he
said not a word of the injury to which he had been subjected.
'Them's a-going to Ahalala, Jack,' said the distributor of the
potatoes, nodding his head to indicate the two new adventurers.
'Then they're a-going to the most infernal, mean, ----, ----
break-heartedest place as God Almighty ever put on this 'arth for the
perplexment of poor unfortunate ---- ---- miners.' This was Jack Brien's
eloquence, and his description of Ahalala. Before this he had not spoken
a word, nor did he speak again till he had consumed three or four pounds
of beef, and had swallowed two pannikins of tea. Then he repeated his
speech: 'There isn't so ---- ---- an infernal, mean, break-hearted a
place as Ahalala,--not nowhere; no, not nowhere. And so them chums'll
find for theirselves if they go there.' Then his neighbour whispered
into Caldigate's ear that Jack had gone to Ahalala with fifty sovereigns
in his pocket, and that he wasn't now worth a red cent.
'But there is gold there?' asked Caldigate.
'It's my belief there's gold pretty much everywhere and you may find it,
or you mayn't. That's where it is;--and the mayn'ts are a deal oftener
turning up than the mays.'
'A man can get work for wages,' suggested Dick.
'Wages! What's the use of that? A man as knows mining can earn wages.
But Ahalala aint a place for wages. If you want wages, go to one of the
old-fashioned places,--Bendigo, or the like of that. I've worked for
wages, but what comes of it? A man goes to Ahalala because he wants to
run his chance, and get a big haul. It's every one on his own bottom
pretty much at Ahalala.'
'Wages be----!' said Jack Brien, rising from the seat and hitching up
his trousers as he left the room. It was very evident that Jack Brien
was a gambler.
After dinner there was a smoke, and after the smoke Dick Shand 'shouted'
for the company. Dick had quite learned by this time the mystery of
shouting. When one man 'stands' drinks all round, he shouts; and then
it is no more than reciprocal that another man should do the same. And,
in this way, when the reciprocal feeling is spread over a good many
drinkers, a good deal of liquor is consumed.
While Dick Shand's 'shout' was being consumed, Caldigate asked one of
his new friends where Mr. Crinkett lived. Was Mr. Crinkett known in
Nobble? It seemed that Crinkett was very well known in Nobble indeed. If
anybody had done well at Nobble, Mr. Crinkett had done well. He was the
'swell' of the place. This informant did not think that Mr. Crinkett had
himself gone very deep at Ahalala. Mr. Crinkett had risen high enough in
his profession to be able to achieve more certainty than could be found
at such a place as Ahalala. By this time they were on the road to Mr.
Crinkett's house, this new friend having undertaken to show them the
'He can put you up to a thing or two, if he likes,' said the new friend.
'Perhaps he's a pal of yourn?'
Caldigate explained that he had never seen Mr. Crinkett, but that he had
come to Nobble armed with a letter from a gentleman in England who had
once been concerned in gold-digging.
'He's a civil enough gent, is Crinkett,' said the miner;--'but he do
like making money. They say of him there's nothing he wouldn't
sell,--not even his grandmother's bones. I like trade, myself,' added
the miner; 'but some of 'em's too sharp. That's where Crinkett lives.
He's a swell; ain't he?'
They had walked about half a mile from the town, turning down a lane at
the back of the house, and had made their way through yawning pit-holes
and heaps of dirt and pools of yellow water,--where everything was
disorderly and apparently deserted,--till they came to a cluster of
heaps so large as to look like little hills; and here there were signs
of mining vitality. On their way they had not come across a single shred
of vegetation, though here and there stood the bare trunks of a few
dead and headless trees, the ghosts of the forest which had occupied the
place six or seven years previously. On the tops of these artificial
hills there were sundry rickety-looking erections, and around them were
troughs and sheds and rude water-works. These, as the miner explained
were the outward and visible signs of the world-famous 'Old
Stick-in-the-Mud' claim, which was now giving two ounces of gold to the
ton of quartz, and which was at present the exclusive property of Mr.
Crinkett, who had bought out the tribute shareholders and was working
the thing altogether on his own bottom. As they ascended one of those
mounds of upcast stones and rubble, they could see on the other side the
crushing-mills, and the engine-house, and could hear the thud, thud,
thud of the great iron hammers as they fell on the quartz,--and then,
close beyond, but still among the hillocks, and surrounded on all sides
by the dirt and filth of the mining operations, was Mr. Crinkett's
mansion. 'And there's his very self a-standing at the gate a-counting
how many times the hammer falls a minute, and how much gold is a-coming
from every blow as it falls.' With this little observation as to Mr.
Crinkett's personal character, the miner made his way back to his
The house which they saw certainly surprised them much, and seemed to
justify the assertion just before made to them that Mr. Crinkett was a
swell. It was marvellous that any man should have contemplated the
building of such a mansion in a place so little attractive, with so many
houses within view. The house and little attempted garden, together with
the stables and appurtenances, may have occupied half an acre. All
around it were those hideous signs of mining operations which make a
country rich in metals look as though the devil had walked over it,
dragging behind him an enormous rake. There was not a blade of grass to
be seen. As far as the eye could reach there stood those ghost-like
skeletons of trees in all spots where the soil had not been turned up;
but on none of them was there a leaf left, or even a branch. Everywhere
the ground was thrown about in hideous uncovered hillocks, all of which
seemed to have been deserted except those in the immediate neighbourhood
of Mr. Crinkett's house. But close around him one could see wheels
turning and long ropes moving, and water running in little wooden
conduits, all of which were signs of the activity going on under ground.
And then there was the never-ceasing thud, thud, thud of the
crushing-mill, which from twelve o'clock on Sunday night to twelve
o'clock on Saturday night, never paused for a moment having the effect,
on that vacant day, of creating a painful strain of silence upon the
ears of those who were compelled to remain on the spot during the
unoccupied time. It was said that in Mr. Crinkett's mansion every
sleeper would wake from his sleep as soon as the engine was stopped,
disturbed by the unwonted quiescence.
But the house which had been built in this unpromising spot was quite
entitled to be called a mansion. It was of red brick, three storeys
high, with white stone facings to all the windows and all the corners,
which glittered uncomfortably in the hot sun. There was a sweep up to
it, the road having been made from the debris of the stone out of which
the gold had been crushed; but though there was the sweep up to the door
carefully made for the length of a few dozen yards, there was nothing
that could be called a road outside, though there were tracks here and
there through the hillocks, along which the waggons employed about the
place struggled through the mud. The house itself was built with a large
hall in the middle, and three large windows on each side. On the floor
there were four large rooms, with kitchens opening out behind, and above
there were, of course, chambers in proportion and in the little garden
there was a pond and a big bath-house, and there were coach-houses and
stables;--so that it was quite a mansion. It was called Polyeuka Hall,
because while it was being built Mr. Crinkett was drawing large gains
from the Polyeuka mine, about three miles distant on the other side of
Nobble. For the building of his mansion on this special site, no one
could imagine any other reason than that love which a brave man has of
overcoming difficulties. To endeavour to create a paradise in such a
Pandemonium required all the energies of a Crinkett. Whether or not he
had been successful depended of course on his own idiosyncrasies He had
a wife who, it is to be hoped, liked her residence. They had no
children, and he spent the greater part of his time away in other mining
districts in which he had ventures. When thus absent, he would live as
Jack Brien and his friends were living at Mrs. Henniker's, and was
supposed to enjoy the ease of his inn more thoroughly than he did the
constraint of his grand establishment.
At the present moment he was at home, and was standing at the gate of
his domain all alone, with a pipe in his mouth,--perhaps listening, as
the man had said, to the noise of his own crushing-machine. He was
dressed in black, with a chimney-pot on his head,--and certainly did not
look like a miner, though he looked as little like a gentleman. Our
friends were in what they conceived to be proper miners' costume, but
Mr. Crinkett knew at a glance that there was something uncommon about
them. As they approached he did not attempt to open the gate, but
awaited them, looking over the top of it from the inside. 'Well, my
mates, what can I do for you?' he said, still remaining on his side, and
apparently intending that they should remain on theirs. Then Caldigate
brought forth his letter, and handed it to the owner of the place across
the top of the gate 'I think Mr. Jones wrote to you about us before,'
Crinkett read the letter very deliberately. Perhaps he required time to
meditate what his conduct should be. Perhaps he was not quick at reading
written letters. But at last he got to the end of the very few words
which the note contained. 'Jones!' he said, 'Jones wasn't much account
when he was out here.'
'We don't know a great deal about him,' said Dick.
'But when he heard that we were coming, he offered us a letter to you,'
said Caldigate. 'I believe him to be an honest man.'
'Honest! Well, yes; I daresay he's honest enough He never robbed me of
nothing. And shall I tell you why? Because I know how to take care that
he don't, nor yet nobody else.' As he said this, he looked at them as
though he intended that they were included among the numbers against
whom he was perfectly on his guard.
'That's the way to live,' said Dick.
'That's the way I live, my friend. He did write before. I remember
saying to myself what a pair of simpletons you must be if you was
thinking of going to Ahalala.'
'We do think of going there,' said Caldigate.
'The road's open to you. Nobody won't prevent you. You can get beef and
mutton there, and damper, and tea no doubt, and what they call brandy,
as long as you've got the money to pay for it. One won't say anything
about what price they'll charge you. Have you got any money?' Then
Caldigate made a lengthened speech, in which he explained so much of
their circumstances as seemed necessary. He did not name the exact sum
which had been left at the bank in Melbourne, but he did make Mr.
Crinkett understand that they were not paupers. They were anxious to do
something in the way of mining, and particularly anxious to make money.
But they did not quite know how to begin. Could he give them a hint?
They meant to work with their own hands, but perhaps it might be well
for them at first to hire the services of some one to set them a-going.
Crinkett listened very patiently, still maintaining his position on his
own side of the gate. Then he spoke words of such wisdom as was in him.
'Ahalala is just the place to ease you of a little money. Mind I tell
you. Gold! of course there's been gold to be got there. But what's been
the cost of it? What's been the return? If sixteen hundred men, among
'em, can sell fifteen hundred pounds' worth of gold a week, how is each
man to have twenty shillings on Saturday night? That's about what it is
at Ahalala. Of course there's gold. And where there's gold chucked about
in that way, just on the surface, one gets it and ten don't. Who is to
say you mayn't be the one. As to hiring a man to show you the way,--you
can hire a dozen. As long as you'll pay 'em ten shillings a-day to loaf
about, you may have men enough. But whether they'll show you the way to
anything except the liquor store, that's another thing. Now shall I tell
you what you two gents had better do?' Dick declared that the two gents
would be very much obliged to him if he would take that trouble. 'Of
course you've heard of the "Old Stick-in-the-Mud"?' Dick told him that
they had heard of that very successful mining enterprise since their
arrival at Nobble. 'You ask on the veranda at Melbourne, or at Ballarat,
or at Sydney. If they don't tell you about it, my name's not Crinkett.
You put your money, what you've got, into ten-shilling shares. I'll
accommodate you, as you're friends of Jones, with any reasonable number.
We're getting two ounces to the ton. The books'll show you that.'
'We thought you'd purchased out all the shareholders said Caldigate.
'So I did, and now I'm redividing it. I'd rather have a company. It's
pleasanter. If you can put in a couple of thousand pounds or so between
you, you can travel about and see the country, and your money'll be
working for you all the time. Did you ever see a gold mine?'
They owned that they never yet had been a yard below ground. Then he
opened his gate preparatory to taking them down the 'Old
Stick-in-the-Mud,' and brought them with him into one of the front
rooms. It was a large parlour, only half furnished not yet papered,
without a carpet, in which it appeared that Mr. Crinkett kept his own
belongings. Here he divested himself of his black clothes and put on a
suit of miner's garments,--real miner's garments, very dirty, with a
slouch hat, on the top of which there was a lump of mud in which to
stick a candle-end. Any one learned in the matter would immediately have
known the real miner. 'Now if you like to see a mine we will go down,
and then you can do as you like about your money.'
They started forth, Crinkett leading the way, and entered the
engine-house. As they went he said not a word, being aware that gold,
gold that they could see with their eyes in its raw condition, would
tempt them more surely than all his eloquence. In the engine-house the
three of them got into a box or truck that was suspended over the mouth
of a deep shaft, and soon found themselves descending through the bowels
of the earth. They went down about four hundred feet, and as they were
reaching the bottom Crinkett remarked that it was 'a goodish deep hole
all to belong to one man.' 'Yes,' he added as Caldigate extricated
himself from the truck, 'and there's a precious lot more gold to come
out of it yet, I can tell you.'
In all the sights to be seen about the world there is no sight in which
there is less to be seen than in a gold-mine. The two young men were
made to follow their conductor along a very dirty underground gallery
for about a quarter of a mile, and then they came to four men working
with picks in a rough sort of chamber, and four others driving holes in
the walls. They were simply picking down the rock, in doing which they
were assisted by gunpowder With keen eyes Crinkett searched along the
roof and sides, and at last showed to his companions one or two little
specks which he pronounced to be gold. 'When it shows itself like that
all about, you may guess whether it's a paying concern! Two ounces to
the ton, my boys!' As Dick and Caldigate hitherto knew nothing about
ounces and tons in reference to gold, and as they had heard of nuggets,
and lumps of gold nearly as big as their fist, they were not much
exalted by what they saw down the 'Old Stick-in-the-Mud.' Nor did they
like the darkness and dampness and dirt and dreariness of the place.
They had both resolved to work, as they had often said, with their own
hands;--but in thinking over it their imagination had not pictured to
them so uncomfortable a workshop as this. When they had returned to the
light, the owner of the place took them through the crushing-mill
attached, showed them the stone or mulloch, as it was thrust into the
jaws of the devouring animal, and then brought them in triumph round to
the place where the gold was eliminated from the debris of mud and
water. The gold did not seem to them to be very much; but still there it
was. 'Two ounces to the ton, my boys!' said Crinkett, as he brought them
back to his house. 'You'll find that a 10s. share'll give you about 6d.
a month. That's about 60 per cent, I guess. You can have your money
monthly. What comes out of that there mine in a March, you can have in
a April, and so on. There ain't nothing like it anywhere else,--not as I
knows on. And instead of working your hearts out, you can be just
amusing yourselves about the country. Don't go to Ahalala;--unless it is
for dropping your money. If that's what you want, I won't say but
Ahalala is as good a place as you'll find in the colony.' Then he
brought a bottle of whisky out of a cupboard, and treated them to a
glass of grog apiece. Beyond that his hospitality did not go.
Dick looked as though he liked the idea of having a venture in the 'Old
Stick-in-the-Mud.' Caldigate, without actually disbelieving all that had
been said to him, did not relish the proposal. It was not the kind of
thing which they had intended. After they had learned their trade as
miners it might be very well for them to have shares in some established
concern;--but in that case he would wish to be one of the managers
himself, and not to trust everything to any Crinkett, however honest.
That suggestion of travelling about and amusing themselves, did not
commend itself to him. New South Wales might, he thought, be a good
country for work, but did not seem to offer much amusement beyond sheer
idleness, and brandy-and-water.
'I rather think we should like to do a little in the rough first,' he
'A very little'll go a long way with you, I'm thinking.'
'I don't see that at all,' said Dick, stoutly.
'You go down there and take one of them picks in your hand for a
week,--eight hours at a time, with five minutes' spell allowed for a
smoke, and see how you'll feel at the end of the week.'
'We'll try it on, if you'll give us 10s. a-day for the week,' said
Caldigate, rubbing his hands together.
'I wouldn't give you half-a-crown for the whole time between you, and
you wouldn't earn it. Ten shillings a day! I suppose you think a man has
only just to say the word and become a miner out of hand. You've a deal
to learn before you'll be worth half the money. I never knew chaps like
you come to any good at working. If you've got a little money, you know,
I've shown you what you can do with it. But perhaps you haven't.'
The conversation was ended by a declaration on the part of Caldigate
that they would take a week to think over Mr. Crinkett's kind
proposition, and that they might as well occupy the time by taking a
look at Ahalala. A place that had been so much praised and so much
abused must be worth seeing. 'Who's been a-praising it,' asked Crinkett,
angrily, 'unless it's that fool Jones? And as for waiting, I don't say
that you'll have the shares at that price next week.' In this way he
waxed angry; but, nevertheless, he condescended to recommend a man to
them, when Caldigate declared that they would like to hire some
practical miner to accompany them. 'There's Mick Maggott,' said he,
'knows mining a'most as well as anybody. You'll hear of him, may be, up
at Henniker's. He's honest; and if you can keep him off the drink he'll
do as well as anybody. But neither Mick nor nobody else can do you no
good at Ahalala.' With that he led them out of the gate, and nodding his
head at them by way of farewell, left them to go back to Mrs.
To Mrs. Henniker's they went, and there, stretched out at length on the
wooden veranda before the house, they found the hero of the
potatoes,--the man who had taken them down to Crinkett's house. He
seemed to be fast asleep, but as they came up on the boards, he turned
himself on his elbow, and looked at them. 'Well, mates,' he said, 'what
do you think of Tom Crinkett now you've seen him?'
'He doesn't seem to approve of Ahalala,' said Dick.
'In course he don't. When a new rush is opened like that, and takes
away half the hands a man has about him, and raises the wages of them
who remain, in course he don't like it. You see the difference. The Old
Stick-in-the-Mud is an established kind of thing.'
'It's a paying concern, I suppose,' said Caldigate.
'It has paid;--not a doubt about it. Whether it's played out or not, I'm
not so sure. But Ahalala is a working-man's diggings, not a master's,
such as Crinkett is now. Of course Crinkett has a down on Ahalala.'
'Your friend Jack Brien didn't seem to think much of the place,' said
'Poor Jack is one of them who never has a stroke of luck. He's a sort of
chum who, when he has a bottle of pickles, somebody else is sure to eat
'em. Ahalala isn't so bad. It's one of them chancy places, of course.
You may and you mayn't, as I was a-saying before. When the great rush
was on, I did uncommon well at Ahalala. I never was the man I was then.'
'What became of it?' asked Caldigate with a smile.
'Mother Henniker can tell you that, or any other publican round the
country. It never will stick to me. I don't know why, but it never will.
I've had my luck, too. Oh, laws! I might have had my house, just as
grand as Polly Hooker this moment, only I never could stick to it like
Tom Crinkett. I've drank cham--paign out of buckets;--I have.'
'I'd rather have a pot of beer out of the pewter,' said Caldigate.
'Very like. One doesn't drink cham--paign because it's better nor
anything else. A nobbler of brandy's worth ten of it. It's the glory of
out-facing the swells at their own game. There was a chap over in the
other colony shod his horse with gold,--and he had to go shepherding
afterwards for thirty pounds a-year and his grub. But it's something for
him to have ridden a horse with gold shoes. You've never seen a
bucketful of cham--paign in the old country?'
When both Dick and Caldigate had owned that they had never encountered
luxury so superabundant, and had discussed the matter in various
shapes,--asking whether the bucket had been emptied, and other questions
of the same nature,--Caldigate inquired of his friend whether he knew
'Mick Maggott!' said the man, jumping up to his feet. 'Who wants Mick
Maggott?' Then Caldigate explained the recommendation which Mr. Crinkett
had made. 'Well;--I'm darned;--Mick Maggott? I'm Mick Maggott, myself.'
Before the evening was over an arrangement had been made between the
parties, and had even been written on paper and signed by all the three.
Mick on the morrow was to proceed to Ahalala with his new comrades, and
was to remain with them for a month, assisting them in all their views;
and for this he was to receive ten shillings a-day. But, in the event of
his getting drunk, he was to be liable to dismissal at once. Mick
pleaded hard for one bout of drinking during the month;--but when Dick
explained that one bout might last for the entire time, he acknowledged
that the objection was reasonable and assented to the terms proposed.
It was all settled that night, and some necessary purchases made.
Ahalala was twenty-three miles from Nobble, and a coach had been
established through the bush for the benefit of miners going to the
diggings;--but Mick was of opinion that miners ought to walk, with their
swag on their backs, when the distance was not more than forty miles.
'You look so foolish getting out of one of them rattletrap coaches,' he
said, 'and everybody axing whether you're going to pick for yourself or
buy a share in a claim. I'm all for walking,--if it ain't beneath you.'
They declared themselves quite ready to walk, and under Mick's guidance
they went out and bought two large red blankets and two pannikins. Mick
declared that if they went without swags on their backs and pannikins
attached to their swags, they would be regarded with evil eyes by all
who saw them. There were some words about the portmanteaus. Mick
proposed that they should be left for the entire month in the charge of
Mrs. Henniker, and, when this was pronounced impossible, he was for a
while disposed to be off the bargain. Caldigate declared that, with all
his ambition to be a miner, he must have a change of shirts. Then Mick
pointed to the swag. Couldn't he put another shirt into the swag? It was
at last settled that one portmanteau should be sent by the coach, and
one left in the charge of Mrs. Henniker. 'Them sort of traps ain't never
any good, in my mind,' said Mick. 'It's unmanly, having all them togs. I
like a wash as well as any man,--trousers, jersey, drawers, and all. I'm
always at 'em when I get a place for a rinse by the side of a creek. But
when my things are so gone that they won't hang on comfortable any
longer, I chucks 'em away and buys more. Two jerseys is good, and two
drawers is good, because of wet. Boots is awkward, and I allays does
with one pair. Some have two, and ties 'em on with the pannikin. But it
ain't ship-shape. Them's my ideas, and I've been at it these nine years.
You'll come to the same.'
The three started the next morning at six, duly invested with their
swags. Before they went they found Mrs. Henniker up, with hot tea,
boiled beef, and damper. 'Just one drop at starting,--for the good of
the house,' said Mick, apologetically. Whereupon the whisky was
brought, and Mick insisted on shouting for it out of his own pocket.
They had hardly gone a mile out of Nobble before Maggott started a
little difficulty,--merely for the purpose of solving it with a master's
hand. 'There ain't to be no misters among us, you know.'
'Certainly not,' said Caldigate.
'My name's Mick. This chap's name's Dick. I didn't exactly catch your'n.
I suppose you've been kursened.'
'Yes;--they christened me John.'
'Ain't it never been Jack with you?'
'I don't think it ever was.'
'John! It do sound lackadaisical. What I call womanish. But perhaps it's
for the better. We have such a lot of Jacks. There's dirty Jack, and
Jack the nigger, and Jack Misery,--that's poor Jack Brien;--and a lot
more. Perhaps you wouldn't like not another name of that sort.'
'Well; no,--unless it's necessary.'
'There ain't another John about the place, as I know. I never knew a
John down a mine,--never. We'll try it, anyhow.'
And so that was settled. As it happened, though Dick Shand had always
been Dick to his friend, Caldigate had never, as yet, been either John
or Jack to Dick Shand. There are men who fall into the way of being
called by their Christian names, and others who never hear them except
from their own family. But before the day was out, Caldigate had become
John to both his companions. 'It don't sound as it ought to do;--not
yet,' said Mick, after he had tried it about a dozen times in five
Before the day was over it was clear that Mick Maggott had assumed the
mastery. When three men start on an enterprise together, one man must be
'boss.' Let the republic be as few as it may one man must be president.
And as Mick knew what he was about, he assumed the situation easily. The
fact that he was to receive wages from the others had no bearing on the
subject at all. Before they got to Ahalala, Caldigate had begun to
appreciate all this, and to understand in part what they would have to
do during this month, and how they would have to live. It was proposed
that they should at once fix on a spot,--'peg out a claim,' on some
unoccupied piece of ground, buy for themselves a small tent,--of which
they were assured that they would find many for sale,--and then begin to
sink a hole. When they entered Ahalala, Caldigate was surprised to find
that Mick was the most tired of the three. It is always so. The man who
has laboured from his youth upwards can endure with his arms. It is he
who has had leisure to shoot, to play cricket, to climb up mountains and
to handle a racket, that can walk. 'Darned if you ain't better stuff
than I took you for,' said Mick, as the three let the swags down from
their backs on the veranda of Ridley's hotel at Ahalala.
Ahalala was a very different place from Nobble,--made Nobble seem to be
almost a compact and prosperous city. At Nobble there was at any rate a
street. But at Ahalala everything was straggling. The houses, such as
they were, stood here and there about the place, while a great part of
the population lived under canvas. And then Ahalala was decidedly in the
forest. The trees around had not yet been altogether killed, nor had
they been cut down in sufficient numbers to divest the place of its
forest appearance. Ahalala was leafy, and therefore, though much less
regular, also less hideous than Nobble. When Dick first made tender
inquiry as to the comforts of an hotel, he was assured that there were
at least a couple of dozen. But the place was bewildering. There seemed
to be no beginning to it and no end. There were many tracks about here
and there,--but nothing which could be called a road. The number of
holes was infinite,--each hole covered by a rough windlass used for
taking out the dirt, which was thrown loosely anywhere round the
aperture. Here and there were to be seen little red flags stuck upon the
end of poles. These indicated, as Mick informed them, those fortunate
adventures in which gold had been found. At those very much more
numerous hillocks which showed no red flag, the labourers were hitherto
labouring in vain. There was a little tent generally near to each
hillock in which the miners slept, packed nearly as close as sheep in a
fold. As our party made its way through the midst of this new world to
Ridley's hotel, our friend observed many a miner sitting at his evening
meal. Each generally had a frying-pan between his legs, out of which he
was helping himself to meat which he had cooked on the ashes just behind
him. Sometimes two or three were sharing their provisions out of the
same frying-pan; but as a rule each miner had his own, and each had it
between his legs.
Before they had been at Ahalala twenty-four hours they also had their
tent and their frying-pan and their fire, and had pegged out their
claim, and were ready to commence operations on the morrow. It was soon
manifest to Caldigate and Dick Shand that they would have been very much
astray without a 'boss' to direct them. Three or four hours had been
passed in forming a judgment as to the spot on which they should
commence to dig. And in making his choice Mick had been guided by many
matters as to which our two adventurers were altogether ignorant. It
might be that Mick was equally so; but he at any rate assumed some
knowledge. He looked to the fall of the ground, the line in which the
red flags were to be traced,--if any such line could be found,--and was
possessed of a considerable amount of jargon as to topographical mining
secrets. At last they found a spot, near a creek, surrounded by
forest-trees, perhaps three hundred yards from the nearest adjacent
claim, and, as Mick declared, in a direct line with three red flags.
Here they determined to commence their operations. 'I don't suppose we
shall do any good,' said Caldigate to Dick, 'but we must make a
beginning, if only for the sake of hardening our hands. We shall be
learning something at the time even though we only shovel up so much
For a fortnight they shovelled up the soil continuously without any
golden effects, and, so far, without any feeling of disappointment. Mick
had told them that if they found a speck at the end of three weeks they
would be very fortunate. They had their windlass, and they worked in
relays; one man at the bottom, one man at the wheel, and one man idle.
In this way they kept up their work during eighteen hours of the day.
Each man in this way worked twelve hours, and had twelve for sleeping,
and cooking, and eating. Other occupation they had none. During the
fortnight neither of them went any further distance from their claim
than to the neighbouring shop. Mick often expressed his admiration at
their continued industry, not understanding the spirit which will induce
such young men as them to work, even when the work is agonising. And
they were equally charmed with Mick's sobriety and loyalty. Not a word
had been said as to hours of work,--and yet he was as constant to their
long hours as though the venture was his own,--as though there was no
question of wages.
'We ain't had a drop o' drink yet,' said Mick one night. 'Ain't we a
holding off like Britons?' There was great triumph in his voice as he
said this;--very great triumph, but, also, as Caldigate thought, a sound
of longing also. They were now in their third week, and the word whisky
had never been pronounced between them. At this moment, when Mick's
triumphant ejaculation was uttered, they were all lying--in bed. It
shall be called bed by way of compliment. They had bought a truss of
straw, which Mick had declared to be altogether unnecessary and
womanish, and over that was laid a white india-rubber sheet which
Caldigate had brought with him from England. This, too, had roused the
miner's wrath. Nevertheless he condescended to lie upon it. This was
their bed; and here they lay, each wrapped up in his blanket, Mick in
the middle, with our two friends at the sides. Now it was not only on
Mick's account, but quite as much in reference to Dick Shand, that
Caldigate deprecated any reference to drink. The abstention hitherto had
been marvellous. He himself would have gone daily to the store for a
bottle of beer, but that he recognised the expediency of keeping them
away from the place. He had heard that it was a peculiarity of the
country that all labour was done without drink, even when it was done by
determined drunkards. The drunkard would work for a month, and then
drink for a month,--and then, after a time, would die. The drink almost
always consisted of spirits of the worst description. It seemed to be
recognised by the men that work and drink must be kept separate. But
Mick's mind travelled away on this occasion from the little tent to the
delights of Ridley's bar. 'We haven't had a drop of drink yet,' he said.
'We'll push through the month without it;--eh, old boy?' said Caldigate.
'What wouldn't I give for a pint of bitter beer?' said Shand.
'Or a bottle of Battleaxe between the three of us!' said
Mick;--Battleaxe being the name for a certain brand of brandy.
'Not a drop till the month is over,' said Caldigate turning himself
round in his blanket. Then there were whisperings between the other two
men, of which he could only hear the hum.
On the next morning at six Caldigate and Dick Shand were at the hole
together. It was Caldigate's turn to work till noon, whereas Dick went
off at nine, and Mick would come on from nine till three. At nine Mick
did not make his appearance, and Dick declared his purpose of looking
after him. Caldigate also threw down his tools, as he could not work
alone, and went in search. The upshot of it was, that he did not see
either of his companions again till he found them both very drunk at a
drinking-shop about two miles away from their claim, just before dusk!
This was terrible. He did at last succeed in bringing back his own
friend to the tent, having, however, a sad task in doing so. But Mick
Maggott would not be moved. He had his wits about him enough to swear
that he cared for nothing. He was going to have a spree. Nobody had ever
known him to be talked out of it when he had once set his mind upon it.
He had set his mind upon it now, and he meant to have his whack. This
was what he said of himself: 'It ain't no good, John. It ain't no good
at all, John. Don't you trouble yourself, John. I'm going to have it
out, John, so I tell you.' This he said, nodding his head about in a
maudlin sort of way, and refusing to allow himself to be moved.
On the next day Dick Shand was sick, repentant, and idle. On the third,
he returned to his work,--working however, with difficulty. After that,
he fairly recovered himself, and the two Cambridge men went on
resolutely at their hole. They soon found how hard it was not to go
astray without their instructed mate. The sides of the shaft became
crooked and uneven, and the windlass sometimes could not be made to
work. But still they persevered, and went on by themselves for an entire
week without a sign of gold. During this time various fruitless
expeditions were made by both the men in search of Maggott. He was still
at the same drinking-shop, but could not be induced to leave it. At last
they found him with the incipient horrors of delirium tremens, and yet
they could not get him away. The man who kept the place was quite used
to delirium tremens, and thought nothing about it. When Caldigate tried
a high moral tone everybody around him laughed at him.
They had been digging for a month, and still without a speck of gold,
when, one morning early, Mick appeared in front of the tent. It was then
about eight, and our friends had stopped their work to eat their
breakfast. The poor man, without saying a word, came and crouched down
before them;--not in shame,--not at all that; but apparently in an agony
of sickness,--'I've had my bout,' he said.
'I don't suppose you're much the better for it,' replied Caldigate.
'No; I ain't none the better. I thought it was all up with me yesterday.
Oh, laws! I've had it heavy this time.'
'Why are you such a fool?'
'Well;--you see, John, some of us is born fools. I'm one of 'em. You
needn't tell me, 'cause I know all about it without any sermoning.
Nobody don't know it so well as I do! How should they? If you had my
inside now,--and my head! Oh, laws!'
'Give it up, man.'
'That's easy said;--as if I wouldn't if I could. I haven't got a blessed
coin left to buy a bite of bread with,--and I couldn't touch a morsel if
I had ever so much. I'll take my blanket and be off as soon as I can
move.' All this time he had been crouching, but now he threw himself at
length upon the ground.
Of course they did what they could for the poor wretch. They got him
into the tent, and they made him swallow some tea. Then he slept; and in
the course of the afternoon he had so far recovered as to be able to eat
a bit of meat. Then, when his companions were at their work, he
carefully packed up his swag, and fastening it on to his back, appeared
by the side of the hole. 'I'm come to bid you good-bye he said.
'Where are you going, Mick?' asked Caldigate, climbing up out of the
hole by the rope.
'I'm blessed if I know, but I'm off. You are getting that hole
The man was going without any allusion to the wages he had earned, or to
the work that he had done. But then, in truth, he had not earned his
wages, as he had broken his contract. He made no complaint, however, and
no apology, but was prepared to start.
'That's all nonsense,' said Dick, catching hold of him.
'You put your swag down,' said Caldigate, also catching hold of the
'What am I to put my swag down for? I'm a-going back to Nobble.
Crinkett'll give me work.'
'You're not going to leave us in that way,' said Dick.
'Stop and make the shaft straight,' said Caldigate. The man looked
irresolute. 'Friends are not to part like that.'
'Friends!' said the poor fellow. 'Who'll be friends to such a beast as I
be? But I'll stay out the month if you'll find me my grub.'
'You shall have your grub and your money, too. Do you think we've
forgotten the potatoes?'
'---- the potatoes,' said the man, bursting into tears. Then he chucked
away his swag, and threw himself under the tent upon the straw. The next
day he was making things as straight as he could down the shaft.
When they had been at work about five weeks there was a pole stuck into
their heap of dirt, and on the top of the pole there was a little red
flag flying. At about thirty feet from the surface, when they had
already been obliged to insert transverse logs in the shaft to prevent
the sides from falling in, they had come upon a kind of soil altogether
different from the ordinary clay through which they had been working.
There was a stratum of loose shingle or gravelly earth, running
apparently in a sloping direction, taking the decline of the very
slight hill on which their claim was situated. Mick, as soon as this was
brought to light, became an altered man. The first bucket of this stuff
that was pulled up was deposited by him separately, and he at once sat
down to wash it. This he did in an open tin pan. Handful after handful
he washed, shifting and teasing it about in the pan, and then he cast it
out, always leaving some very small residuum. He was intent upon his
business to a degree that Caldigate would have thought to be beyond the
man's nature. With extreme patience he went on washing handful after
handful all the day, while the other two pulled up fresh buckets of the
same stuff. He would not pause to eat, or hardly to talk. At last there
came a loud exclamation. 'By------, we've got it!' Then Dick and
Caldigate, stooping down, were shown four or five little specks in the
angle of the pan's bottom. Before the sun had set they had stuck up
their little red flag, and a crowd of neighbours was standing round them
asking questions as to their success.
After three days of successful washing, when it became apparent that a
shed must be built, and that, if possible, some further labour must be
hired, Mick said that he must go. 'I ain't earned nothing,' he said,
'because of that bout, and I ain't going to ask for nothing, but I can't
stand this any longer. I hope you'll make your fortins.' Then came the
explanation It was not possible, he said, that a regular miner, such as
he was, should be a party to such a grand success without owning a share
in it. He was quite aware that nothing belonged to him. He was working
for wages and he had forfeited them. But he couldn't see the gold
coming out under his hands in pailfuls and feel that none of it belonged
to him. Then it was agreed that there should be no more talk of wages,
and that each should have a third share in the concern. Very much was
said on the matter of drink, in all of which Caldigate was clever enough
to impose on his friend Dick the heavy responsibility of a mentor. A man
who has once been induced to preach to another against a fault will feel
himself somewhat constrained by his own sermons Mick would make no
promises; but declared his intention of trying very hard. 'If anybody'd
knock me down as soon as I goes a yard off the claim, that'd be best.'
And so they renewed their work, and at the end of six weeks from the
commencement of their operations sold nine ounces of gold to the manager
of the little branch bank which had already established itself at
Ahalala. These were hardly 'pailfuls'; but gold is an article which adds
fervour to the imagination and almost creates a power for romance.
Other matters, however, were not running smoothly with John Caldigate at
this eventful time. To have found gold so soon after their arrival was
no doubt a great triumph, and justified him in writing a long letter to
his father, in which he explained what he had done, and declared that he
looked forward to success with confidence. But still he was far from
being at ease. He could not suffer himself to remain hidden at Ahalala
without saying something of his whereabouts to Mrs. Smith. After what
had happened between them he would be odious to himself if he omitted to
keep the promise which he had made to her. And yet he would so fain have
forgotten her,--or rather have wiped away from the reality of his past
life that one episode, had it been possible. A month's separation had
taught him to see how very silly he had been in regard to this
woman,--and had also detracted much from those charms which had
delighted him on board ship. She was pretty, she was clever, she had
the knack of being a pleasant companion. But how much more than all
these was wanted in a wife? And then he knew nothing about her. She
might be, or have been, all that was disreputable If he could not shake
himself free from her, she would be a millstone round his neck. He was
aware of all that, and as he thought of it he would think also of the
face of Hester Bolton, and remember her form as she sat silent in the
big house at Chesterton But nevertheless it was necessary that he should
write to Mrs. Smith. He had promised that he would do so, and he must
keep his word.
The name of the woman had not been mentioned between him and Dick Shand
since they left the ship. Dick had been curious, but had been afraid to
inquire, and had in his heart applauded the courage of the man who had
thus been able to shake off at once a woman with whom he had amused
himself. Caldigate himself was continually meditating as he worked with
the windlass in his hand, or with his pick at the bottom of the hole,
whether in conformity with the usages of the world he could not
simply--drop her. Then he remembered the words which had passed between
them on the subject, and he could not do it. He was as yet too young to
be at the same time so wise and so hard. 'I shall hold you as engaged to
me,' he had said, 'and myself as engaged to you.' And he remembered the
tones of her voice as, with her last words, she had said to him, 'My
love, my love!' They had been very pleasant to him then, but now they
were most unfortunate. They were unfortunate because there had been a
power in them from which he was now unable to extricate himself.
Therefore, during one of those leisure periods in which Mick and Dick
were at work, he wrote his letter, with the paper on his knees,
squatting down just within his tent on a deal case which had contained
boxes of sardines, bottles of pickles, and cans of jam. For now, in
their prosperity, they had advanced somewhat beyond the simple plenty of
the frying-pan. It was a difficult letter to write. Should it be
ecstatic and loving, or cold and severe,--or light, and therefore false?
'My own one, here I am. I have struck gold. Come to me and share it.'
That would have been ecstatic and loving.' 'Tis a hard life this, and
not fit for a woman's weakness. But it must be my life--and therefore
let there be an end of all between us.' That would have been cold and
severe. 'How are you, and what are you doing? Dick and I are shoving
along. It isn't half as nice as on board ship. Hope to see you before
long, and am yours,--just the same as ever.' That would have been light
and false,--keeping the word of promise to the ear but breaking it to
the heart. He could not write either of these. He began by describing
what they had done, and had completed two pages before he had said a
word of their peculiar circumstances in regard to each other. He felt
that his letter was running into mere gossip, and was not such as she
would have a right to expect. If any letter were sent at all, there must
be something more in it than all this. And so, after much thinking of
it, he at last rushed, as it were, into hot words, and ended it as
follows: 'I have put off to the last what I have really got to say. Let
me know what you are doing and what you wish,--and whether you love me.
I have not as yet the power of offering you a home, but I trust that the
time may come.' These last words were false. He knew that they were
false. But the falseness was not of a nature to cause him to be ashamed.
It shames no man to swear that he loves a woman when he has ceased to
love her;--but it does shame him to drop off from the love which he has
promised. He balanced the matter in his mind for a while before he would
send his letter. Then, getting up quickly, he rushed forth, and dropped
it into the post-office box.
The very next day chance brought to Ahalala one who had been a
passenger on board the Goldfinder; and the man, hearing of the success
of Shand and Caldigate came to see them. 'Of course you know,' said the
man, 'what your fellow-passenger is doing down at Sydney?' Dick Shand,
who was present, replied that they had heard nothing of any
fellow-passenger. Caldigate understood at once to whom the allusion was
made, and was silent. 'Look here,' said the man, bringing a newspaper
out of his pocket, and pointing to a special advertisement. 'Who do you
think that is?' The advertisement declared that Mademoiselle Cettini
would, on such and such a night, sing a certain number of songs, and
dance a certain number of dances, and perform a certain number of
tableaux, at a certain theatre in Sydney. 'That's your Mrs. Smith,' said
the man, turning to Caldigate.
'I am very glad she has got employment,' said Caldigate; 'but she is not
my Mrs. Smith.'
'We all thought that you and she were very thick.'
'All the same I beg you to understand that she is not my Mrs. Smith,'
repeated Caldigate, endeavouring to appear unconcerned, but hardly able
to conceal his anger.
Dancing dances, singing songs, and acting tableaux all under the name of
Mademoiselle Cettini! Nothing could be worse,--unless, indeed, it might
be of service to him to know that she was earning her bread, and
therefore not in distress, and earning it after a fashion of which he
would be at liberty to express his disapproval. Nothing more was said at
the time about Mrs. Smith, and the man went his way.
Ten days afterwards Caldigate, in the presence both of Mick and Dick,
declared his purpose of going down to Sydney. 'Our luggage must be
looked after,' said he;--'and I have a friend whom I want to see,' he
added, not choosing to lie. At this time all was going successfully with
them. Mick Maggott lived in such a manner that no one near him would
have thought that he knew what whisky meant. His self-respect had
returned to him, and he was manifestly 'boss.' There had come to be
necessity for complicated woodwork below the surface, and he had shown
himself to be a skilled miner. And it had come to pass that our two
friends were as well assured of his honesty as of their own. He had been
a veritable godsend to them,--and would remain so, could he be kept away
from the drinking-shops.
'If you go away don't you think he'll break out?' Dick asked when they
were alone together.
'I hope not. He seems to have been steadied by success. At any rate I
'Is it to see--Mrs. Smith?' Dick as he asked the question put on his
most serious face. He did not utter the name as though he were finding
fault. The time that had passed had been sufficient to quench the
unpleasantness of their difference on board ship. He was justified in
asking his friend such a question, and Caldigate felt that it was so.
'Don't you think, upon the whole,----. I don't like to interfere, but
upon my word the thing is so important.'
'You think I had better not see her?'
'And lie to her?'
'All is fair in love and war.'
'That means that no faith is due to a woman. I cannot live by such a
doctrine. I do not mind owning to you that I wish I could do as you bid
me. I can't. I cannot be so false. I must go, old fellow; but I know all
that you would say to me, and I will endeavour to escape honestly from
this trouble.' And so he went.
Yes;--to escape honestly from that trouble! But how? It is just that
trouble from which there is no honest escape,--unless a man may honestly
break his word. He had engaged himself to her so much that, simply to
ignore her would be cowardly as well as false. There was but one thing
that he could do, but one step that he could take, by which his security
and his self-respect might both be maintained. He would tell her the
exact truth, and put it to her whether, looking at their joint
circumstances, it would not be better that they should--part. Reflecting
on this during his three days' journey down to Sydney, it was thus that
he resolved,--forgetting altogether in his meditations the renewed force
of the woman's charms upon himself.
As he went from the railway station at Sydney to the third-class inn at
which he located himself, he saw the hoardings on all sides placarded
with the name of Mademoiselle Cettini. And there was a picture on some
of these placards of a wonderful female, without much clothes, which was
supposed to represent some tragic figure in a tableau. There was the
woman whom he was to make his wife. He had travelled all night, and had
intended to seek Mrs. Smith immediately after his breakfast. But so
unhappy was he, so much disgusted by the tragic figure in the picture,
that he postponed his visit and went after his luggage. His luggage was
all right in the warehouse, and he arranged that it should be sent down
to Nobble. Waggons with stores did make their way to Nobble from the
nearest railway station, and hopes were held out that the packages might
be there in six weeks' time. He would have been willing to postpone
their arrival for twelve months, for twenty-four months, could he, as
compensation have been enabled to postpone, with honour, his visit to
Mrs. Smith for the same time.
Soon after noon, however, his time was vacant, and he rushed to his
fate. She had sent him her address, and he found her living in very
decent lodgings overlooking the public park. He was at once shown up to
her room, where he found her at breakfast. 'So you have come,' she
said. Then, when the door was shut, she flung herself into his arms.
He was dressed as a miner might be dressed who was off work and out for
a holiday;--clean, rough, and arranged with a studied intention to look
as little like a gentleman as possible. The main figure and manner were
so completely those of a gentleman that the disguise was not perfect;
but yet he was rough. She was dressed with all the pretty care which a
woman can use when she expects her lover to see her in morning costume.
Anything more unlike the Mrs. Smith of the ship could not be imagined.
If she had been attractive then, what was she now? If her woman's charms
sufficed to overcome his prudence while they were so clouded, what
effect would they have upon him now? And she was in his arms! Here there
was no quartermaster to look after the proprieties;--no Mrs. Crompton,
no Mrs. Callander, no Miss Green to watch with a hundred eyes for the
exchange of a chance kiss in some moment of bliss. 'So you have come!
Oh, my darling oh, my love!' No doubt it was all just as it should be.
If a lady may not call the man to whom she is engaged her love and her
darling, what proper use can there be for such words? And into whose
arms is she to jump, if not into his? As he pressed her to his heart,
and pressed his lips to hers, he told himself that he ought to have
arranged it all by letter.
'Why Cettini?' he asked. But he smiled as he put the question. It was
intended to be serious, but still he could not be hard upon her all at
'Why fifty thousand fools?'
'I don't understand.'
'Supposing there to be fifty thousand people in Sydney,--as to which I
know nothing. Or why ever so many million fools in London? If I called
myself Mrs. Smith nobody would come and see me. If I called myself
Madame Cettini, not nearly so many would come. You have got to
inculcate into the minds of the people an idea that a pure young girl is
going to jump about for their diversion. They know it isn't so. But
there must be a flavour of the idea. It isn't nice, but one has to
'Were you ever Cettini before?'
'Yes,--when I was on the stage as a girl.' Then he thought he remembered
that she had once told him some particular in regard to her early life,
which was incompatible with this, unless indeed she had gone under more
than one name before she was married. 'I used as a child to dance and
sing under that name.'
'Was it your father's name?'
She smiled as she answered, 'You want to discover all the little mean
secrets of my life at once, and do not reflect that, in so far as they
were mean, they are disagreeable as subjects of conversation. I was not
'I am sure of that.'
'If you are sure of it, is not that enough? Of course I have been among
low people. If not, why should I have been a singer on the stage at so
early an age, why a dancer, why should I have married such a one as Mr.
'I do not know of what sort he was,' said Caldigate.
'This is not the time to ask, when you have just come to see me;--when I
am so delighted to see you! Oh, it is such a pleasure! I have not had a
nice word spoken to me since I left the Goldfinder. Come and take a walk
in the gardens? Nobody knows me off the stage yet, and nobody knows you.
So we can do just as we like. Come and tell me about the gold.'
He did go, and did tell her about the gold, and before he had been with
her an hour, sitting about on the benches in that loveliest of all
places, the public gardens at Sydney, he was almost happy with her. It
was now late in the autumn, in May; but the end of the autumn in Sydney
is the most charming time of the year. He spent the whole day with her,
dining with her in her lodgings at five in order that he might take her
to the theatre at seven. She had said a great deal to him about her
performances, declaring that he would find them to be neither vulgar nor
disagreeable. She told him that she had no friend in Sydney, but that
she had been able to get an engagement for a fortnight at Melbourne, and
had been very shortly afterwards pressed to come on to Sydney. She
listened not only with patience, but apparently with the greatest
pleasure, to all that he could tell her of Dick Shand, and Mr. Crinkett,
and Mick Maggott, arousing herself quite to enthusiasm when he came to
the finding of the gold. But there was not a word said the whole day as
to their future combined prospects. Nor was there any more outspoken
allusion to loves and darlings, or any repetition of that throwing
herself into his arms. For once it was natural. If she were wanted thus
again, the action must be his,--not hers. She was clever enough to know
'What do you think of it?' she said, when he waited to take her home.
'It is the only good dancing I ever saw in my life. But----'
'I will tell you to-morrow.'
'Tell me whatever you think and you will see that I will attend to you.
Come about eleven,--not sooner, as I shall not be dressed. Now
The letter which Caldigate wrote to his father from Ahalala, telling him
of the discovery of gold upon their claim, contained the first tidings
which reached Folking of the wanderer, and that was not received till
seven or eight months had passed by since he left the place. The old
Squire, during that time, had lived a very solitary life. In regard to
his nephew, whom he had declared his purpose of partially adopting, he
had expressed himself willing to pay for his education, but had not
proposed to receive him at Folking. And as to that matter of heirship,
he gave his brother to understand that it was not to be regarded as a
settled thing. Folking was now his own to do what he liked with it, and
as such it was to remain. But he would treat his nephew as a son while
the nephew seemed to him to merit such treatment. As for the estate, he
was not at all sure whether it would not be better for the community at
large, and for the Caldigate family in particular, that it should be cut
up and sold in small parcels. There was a long correspondence between
him and his brother, which was ended by his declaring that he did not
wish to see any of the family just at present at Folking. He was low in
spirits, and would prefer to be alone.
He was very low in spirits and completely alone. All those who knew
anything about him,--and they were very few, the tenants, perhaps, and
servants, and old Mr. Bolton,--were of opinion that he had torn his son
out from all place in his heart, had so thoroughly disinherited the
sinner, not only from his house and acres, but from his love, that they
did not believe him capable of suffering from regret. But even they knew
very little of the man. As he wandered about alone among the dikes, as
Back to Full Books