The Recollections of Geoffrey Hamlyn
Part 4 out of 12
the leading passion of his life. He saw, or thought he saw, that this
man was the author of all the troubles that were gathering so thick
around his head, and vowed, if chance threw the man in his way again,
that he would take ample and fearful vengeance, let it cost what it
might. And though this feeling may have sometimes grown cold, yet he
never to the last day forgot or forgave the injuries this man had done
Mary was as innocent of business as a child, and George found little
difficulty in persuading her, that the best thing she could do under
present circumstances, was to sell out the money she had in the funds,
and place it in a bank, to be drawn on as occasion should require;
saying that they should be so long perhaps, before they had any other
fund to depend on, that they might find it necessary to undertake some
business for a living, in which case, it would be as well to have their
money under command at a moment's notice.
There was, not far from the bank, an old Stockbroker, who had known
her father, and herself, for many years, and was well acquainted with
all their affairs, though they had but little intercourse by letter. To
him she repaired, and, merely informing him that she was going to marry
without her father's consent, begged him to manage the business for
her; which he, complimenting her upon her good fortune in choosing a
time when the funds were so high, immediately undertook; at the same
time recommended her to a banker, where she might open an account.
On the same day that this business was concluded, a licence was
procured, and their wedding fixed for the next day. "Now," thought
George, as he leapt into bed on that night, "let only to-morrow get
over safely, and I can begin to see my way out of the wood again."
And in the morning they were married in Hampstead church. Parson,
clerk, pew-opener, and beadle, all remarked what a handsome young
couple they were, and how happy they ought to be; and the parson
departed, and the beadle shut up the church, and the mice came out
again and ate the Bibles, and the happy pair walked away down the road,
bound together by a strong chain, which nothing could loose but death.
They went to Brighton. Mary had said she would so like to see the sea;
and the morning after they arrived there--the morning after their
wedding--Mary wrote an affectionate penitential letter to her father,
telling him that she was married, and praying his forgiveness.
They were quite gay at Brighton, and she recovered her spirits
wonderfully at first. George soon made acquaintances, who soon got very
familiar, after the manner of their kind,--greasy, tawdry, bedizened
bucks,--never asleep, always proposing a game of cards, always
carrying off her husband. Mary hated them, while she was at times proud
to see her husband in such fine company.
Such were the eagles that gathered round the carcass of George Hawker;
and at last these eagles began to bring the hen-birds with them, who
frightened our poor little dove with the amplitude and splendour of
their feathers, and their harsh, strange notes. George knew the
character of those women well enough, but already he cared little
enough about his wife, even before they had been a month married, going
on the principle that the sooner she learned to take care of herself,
the better for her; and after they had been married little more than a
month, Mary thought she began to see a change in her husband's
behaviour to her.
He grew sullen and morose, even to her. Every day almost he would come
to her with a scowl upon his face; and when she asked if he was angry
with her, would say, "No, that he wasn't angry with her; but that
things were going wrong--altogether wrong; and if they didn't mend, he
couldn't see his way out of it at all."
But one night he came home cheerful and hilarious, though rather the
worse for liquor. He showed her a roll of notes which he had won at
roulette--over a hundred pounds--and added, "That shall be the game
for me in future, Polly; all square and above-board there."
"My dear George, I wish you'd give up gambling."
"So I will, some of these fine days, my dear. I only do it to pass the
time. It's cursed dull having nothing to do."
"To-morrow is the great day at the races, George. I wish you would take
me; I never saw a horserace."
"Ay, to be sure," said he; "we'll go, and, what's more, we'll go alone.
I won't have you seen in public with those dowdy drabs."
So they went alone. Such a glorious day as it was--the last happy day
she spent for very long! How delightful it was, all this rush and
crush, and shouting and hubbub around, while you were seated in a
phaeton, secure above the turmoil! What delight to see all the
beautiful women in the carriages, and, grandest sight of all, which
struck awe and admiration into Mary's heart, was the great Prince
himself, that noble gentleman, in a gutter-sided hat, and a wig so
fearfully natural that Mary secretly longed to pull his hair.
But princes and duchesses were alike forgotten when the course was
cleared for the great event of the day, and, one by one, the sleek
beauties came floating along, above the crowd, towards the starting-post.
Then George, leaving Mary in the phaeton to the care of their
landlady, pushed his way among the crowd, and, by dint of hard
squeezing, got against the rail. He had never seen such horses as
these; he had never known what first-class horse-racing was. Here was a
new passion for him, which, like all his others, should only by its
perversion end in his ruin.
He had got some money on one of the horses, though he, of course, had
never seen it. There was a cheer all along the line, and a dark bay
fled past towards the starting-post, seeming rather to belong to the
air than the ground. "By George," he said, aloud, as the blood mounted
to his face, and tingled in his ears, "I never saw such a sight as that
He was ashamed of having spoken aloud in his excitement, but a groom
who stood by said, for his consolation,--
"I don't suppose you ever did, sir, nor no man else. That's young
Velocipede, and that's Chiffney a-ridin' him. You'll see that horse
walk over for everything next year."
But now the horses came down, five of them abreast; at a walk, amid a
dead silence from the crowd, three of them, steady old stagers, but two
jumping and pulling. "Back, Velocipede; back, Lara!" says the starter;
down goes the flag, they dart away, and then there is a low hum of
conversation, until a murmur is heard down the course, which swells
into a roar as you notice it. The horses are coming. One of the royal
huntsmen gallops by, and then, as the noise comes up towards you, you
can hear the maddening rush of the horses' feet upon the turf, and, at
the same time, a bay and a chestnut rush past in the last fierce
struggle, and no man knows yet who has won.
Then the crowd poured once more over the turf, and surged and cheered
round the winning horses. Soon it came out that Velocipede had won, and
George, turning round delighted, stood face to face with a gipsy woman.
She had her hood low on her head, so that he could not see her face,
but she said, in a low voice, "Let me tell your fortune."
"It is told already, mother," said George. "Velocipede has won; you
won't tell me any better news than that this day, I know."
"No, George Hawker, I shan't," replied the gipsy, and, raising her hood
for an instant, she discovered to his utter amazement the familiar
countenance of Madge.
"Will you let me tell your fortune now, my boy?" she said.
"What, Madge, old girl! By Jove, you shall. Well, who'd a' thought of
seeing you here?"
"I've been following you, and looking for you ever so long," she said.
"They at the Nag's Head didn't know where you were gone, and if I
hadn't been a gipsy, and o' good family, I'd never have found you."
"You're a good old woman," he said. "I suppose you've some news for
"I have," she answered; "come away after me."
He followed her into a booth, and they sat down. She began the
"Are you married?" she asked.
"Ay; a month since."
"And you've got her money?"
"Yes," he said; "but I've been walking into it."
"Make the most of it," said Madge. "Your father's dead."
"Ay, dead. And, what's worse, lad, he lived long enough to alter his
"Oh, Lord! What do you mean?"
"I mean," she said, "that he has left all his money to your cousin. He
found out everything, all in a minute, as it were; and he brought a new
will home from Exeter, and I witnessed it. And he turned me out of
doors, and, next morning, after I was gone, he was found dead in his
bed. I got to London, and found no trace of you there, till, by an
accident, I heard that you had been seen down here, so I came on. I've
got my living by casting fortins, and begging, and cadging, and such
like. Sometime I've slept in a barn, and sometime in a hedge, but I've
fought my way to you, true and faithful, through it all, you see."
"So he's gone," said George, between his teeth, "and his money with
him. That's awful. What an unnatural old villain!"
"He got it into his head at last, George, that you weren't his son at
"The lunatic!--and what put that into his head?"
"He knew you weren't his wife's son, you see, and he had heard some
stories about me before I came to live with him, and so, at the last,
he took to saying he'd nought to do with you."
"Then you mean to say----"
"That you are my boy," she said, "my own boy. Why, lad, who but thy own
mother would a' done for thee what I have? And thou never thinking of
it all these years! Blind lad!"
"Good God!" said George. "And if I had only known that before, how
differently I'd have gone on. How I'd have sneaked and truckled, and
fetched and carried for him! Bah, it's enough to drive one mad. All
this hide-and-seek work don't pay, old woman. You and I are bowled out
with it. How easy for you to have given me a hint of this years ago, to
make me careful! But you delight in mystery and conglomeration, and
you always will. There--I ain't ungrateful, but when I think of what
we've lost, no wonder I get wild. And what the devil am I to do now?"
"You've got the girl's money to go on with," she said.
"Not so very much of it," he replied. "I tell you I've been playing
like--never mind what, this last month, and I've lost every night.
Then I've got another woman in tow, that costs--oh curse her, what
don't she cost, what with money and bother?--In short, if I don't get
something from somewhere, in a few months I shall be in Queer Street.
What chance is there of the parson's dying?"
"It don't matter much to you when he dies, I expect," said she, "for
you may depend that those that's got hold of him won't let his money
come into your hands. He's altered his will, you may depend on it."
"Do you really think so?"
"I should think it more probable than not. You see that old matter with
the Bank is known all over the country, although they don't seem
inclined to push it against you, for some reason. Yet it's hardly
likely that the Vicar would let his money go to a man who couldn't be
seen for fear of a rope."
"You're a raven, old woman," he said. "What am I to do?"
"Give up play, to begin with."
"Start some business with what's left."
"Ha, ha! Well, I'll think of it. You must want some money, old girl!
Here's a fipunnote."
"I don't want money, my boy; I'm all right," she said.
"Oh, nonsense; take it."
"I won't," she answered. "Give me a kiss, George."
He kissed her forehead, and bent down his head reflecting. When he
looked up she was gone.
He ran out of the booth and looked right and left, but saw her nowhere.
Then he went sulkily back to his wife. He hardly noticed her, but said
it was time to go home. All the way back, and after they had reached
their lodgings, he kept the same moody silence, and she, frightened at
some unheard-of calamity, forbore to question him. But when she was
going to bed she could withhold her anxiety no longer, and said to him:
"Oh, George, you have got some bad news; let me share it with you. If
it is anything about my father, I implore you to tell me. How is it I
have got no answer to the letter I wrote a month ago?"
He answered her savagely: "I don't know anything about your father,
and I don't care. I've got bad news, d----d bad news, if that will make
you sleep the sounder. And, once for all, you'll find it best, when you
see me sulky, not to give me any of your tantrums in addition. Mind
He had never spoken to her like that before. She went to her bed
crushed and miserable, and spent the night in crying, while he went
forth and spent the night with some of his new companions, playing
wildly and losing recklessly, till the summer morning sun streamed
through the shutters, and shone upon him desperate and nigh penniless,
ripe for a fall lower than any he had had as yet.
THE END OF MARY'S EXPEDITION.
Let us hurry over what is to follow. I who knew her so well can have no
pleasure in dwelling over her misery and degradation. And he who reads
these pages will, I hope, have little sympathy with the minor details
of the life of such a man as George Hawker.
Some may think that she has been punished enough already, for leaving
her quiet happy home to go away with such a man. "She must have learnt
already," such would say, "that he cares nothing for her. Let her leave
her money behind, and go back to her father to make such amends as she
may for the misery she has caused him." Alas, my dear madam, who would
rejoice in such a termination of her troubles more than myself? But it
is not for me to mete out degrees of punishment. I am trying with the
best of my poor abilities to write a true history of certain people
whom I knew. And I, no more than any other human creature, can see the
consequences that will follow on any one act of folly or selfishness,
such as this poor foolish girl has committed. We must wait and watch,
judging with all charity. Let you and me go on with her, even to the
Good men draw together very slowly. Yet it is one of the greatest
happinesses one is capable of, to introduce two such to one another,
and see how soon they become friends. But bad men congregate like crows
or jackals, and when a new one appears, he is received into the pack
without question, as soon as he has given proof sufficient of being a
This was the case with George Hawker. His facility for making
acquaintance with rogues and blacklegs was perfectly marvellous. Any
gentleman of this class seemed to recognise him instinctively, and
became familiar immediately. So that soon he had round him such a
circle of friends as would have gone hard to send to the dogs the most
honourable and virtuous young man in the three kingdoms.
When a new boy goes to school, his way is smoothed very much at first
by the cakes and pocket-money he brings with him. Till these are gone
he must be a weak boy indeed who cannot (at a small school) find some
one to fight his battles and fetch and carry for him. Thackeray has
thought of this (what does he not think of?) in his little book, "Dr.
Birch," where a young sycophant is represented saying to his friend,
who has just received a hamper, "Hurrah, old fellow, I'LL LEND YOU MY
KNIFE." This was considered so true to nature, on board a ship in which
I once made a long voyage, that it passed into a proverb with us, and
if any one was seen indulging in a luxury out of the way at dinner,--
say an extra bottle of wine out of his private store,--half-a-dozen
would cry out at once, "Hurrah, old fellow, I'll lend you my knife:" a
modest way of requesting to be asked to take a glass of wine better
than that supplied by the steward.
In the same way, George Hawker was treated by the men he had got round
him as a man who had a little property that he had not got rid of, and
as one who was to be used with some civility, until his money was gone,
and he sank down to the level of the rest of them--to the level of
living by his wits, if they were sharp enough to make a card or
billiard sharper; or otherwise to find his level among the proscribed
of society, let that be what it might.
And George's wits were not of the first order, or the second; and his
manners and education were certainly not those of a gentleman, or
likely to be useful in attracting such unwary persons as these Arabs of
the metropolis preyed upon. So it happened that when all his money was
played away, which came to pass in a month or two, the higher and
cleverer class of rascals began to look uncommonly cold upon him.
At first poor crushed Mary used to entertain of an evening some of the
ELITE among the card-sharpers of London--men who actually could have
spoken to a gentleman in a public place, and not have got kicked. These
men were polite, and rather agreeable, and one of them, a Captain
Saxon, was so deferential to her, and seemed so entirely to understand
her position, that she grew very fond of him, and was always pleased to
see him at her house.
Though, indeed, she saw but little of any men who came there soon after
any of them arrived, she used to receive a signal from George, which
she dared not disobey, to go to bed. And when she lay there, lonely and
sleepless, she could detect, from the absence of conversation, save now
and then a low, fierce oath, that they were playing desperately, and at
such times she would lie trembling and crying. Once or twice, during
the time she remembered these meetings, they were rudely broken upon by
oaths and blows, and on one particular occasion, she heard one of the
gamesters, when infuriated, call her husband "a d----d swindling dog of
In these times, which lasted but a few months, she began to reflect
what a fool she had been, and how to gratify her fancy she had thrown
from her everything solid and worth keeping in the world. She had
brought herself to confess, in bitterness and anguish, that he did not
love her, and never had, and that she was a miserable, unhappy dupe.
But, notwithstanding, she loved him still, though she dreaded the sight
of him, for she got little from him now but oaths and taunts.
It was soon after their return from Brighton that he broke out, first
on some trivial occasion, and cursed her aloud. He said he hated the
sight of her pale face, for it always reminded him of ruin and misery;
that he had the greatest satisfaction in telling her that he was
utterly ruined; that his father was dead, and had left his money
elsewhere, and that her father was little better; that she would soon
be in the workhouse; and, in fine, said everything that his fierce,
wild, brutal temper could suggest.
She never tempted another outbreak of the kind; that one was too
horrible for her, and crushed her spirit at once. She only tried by
mildness and submission to deprecate his rage. But every day he came
home looking fiercer and wilder; as time went on her heart sunk within
her, and she dreaded something more fearful than she had experienced
As I said, after a month or two, his first companions began to drop
off, or only came, bullying and swearing, to demand money. And now
another class of men began to take their place, the sight of whom made
her blood cold--worse dressed than the others, and worse mannered,
with strange, foul oaths on their lips. And then, after a time, two
ruffians, worse looking than any of the others, began to come there, of
whom the one she dreaded most was called Maitland.
He was always very civil to her; but there was something about him, his
lowering, evil face, and wild looks, which made him a living nightmare
to her. She knew he was flying from justice, by the way he came and
went, and by the precaution always taken when he was there. But when he
came to live in the room over theirs, and when, by listening at odd
times, she found that he and her husband were engaged in some great
villany, the nature of which she could not understand, then she saw
that there was nothing to do, but in sheer desperation to sit down and
wait the catastrophe.
About this time she made another discovery, that she was penniless, and
had been so some time. George had given her money from time to time to
carry on household expenses, and she contrived to make these sums
answer well enough. But one day, determined to know the worst, she
asked him, at the risk of another explosion, how their account stood at
the bank? He replied in the best of his humours, apparently, "that the
five thousand they had had there had been overdrawn some six weeks, and
that, if it hadn't been for his exertions in various ways, she'd have
been starved out before now."
"All gone!" she said; "and where to?"
"To the devil," he answered. "And you may go after it."
"And what are we to do now, George?"
"The best we can."
"But the baby, George? I shall lie-in in three months."
"You must take your chance, and the baby too. As long as there's any
money going you'll get some of it. If you wrote to your father you
might get some."
"I'll never do that," she said.
"Won't you?" said he; "I'll starve you into it when money gets scarce."
Things remained like this till it came to be nearly ten months from
their marriage. Mary had never written home but once, from Brighton,
and then, as we know, the answer had miscarried; so she, conceiving she
was cast off by her father, had never attempted to communicate with him
again. The time grew nigh that she should be confined, and she got very
sick and ill, and still the man Maitland lived in the house, and he and
George spent much of their time at night, away together.
Yet poor Mary had a friend who stayed by her through it all--Captain
Saxon, the great billiard sharper. Many a weary hour, when she was
watching up anxious and ill for her husband, this man would come and
sit with her, talking agreeably and well about many things; but chiefly
about the life he used to lead before he fell so low as he was then.
He used to say, "Mrs. Hawker, you cannot tell what a relief and
pleasure it is to me to have a LADY to talk to again. You must conceive
how a man brought up like myself misses it."
"Surely, Captain Saxon," she would say, "you have some relations left.
Why not go back to them?"
"They wouldn't own me," he said. "I smashed everything, a fine fortune
amongst other things, by my goings on; and they very properly cast me
off. I never got beyond the law, though. Many well-known men speak to
me now, but they won't play with me, though; I am too good. And so you
see I play dark to win from young fellows, and I am mixed up with a lot
of scoundrels. A man brought an action against me the other day to
recover two hundred pounds I won of him, but he couldn't do anything.
And the judge said, that though the law couldn't touch me, yet I was
mixed up notoriously with a gang of sharpers. That was a pleasant
thing to hear in court--wasn't it?--but true."
"It has often surprised me to see how temperate you are, Captain
Saxon," she said.
"I am forced to be," he said; "I must keep my hand steady. See there;
it's as firm as a rock. No; the consolation of drink is denied me; I
have something to live for still. I'll tell you a secret. I've insured
my life very high in favour of my little sister whom I ruined, and who
is out as a governess. If I don't pay up to the last, you see, or if I
commit suicide, she'll lose the money. I pay very high, I assure you.
On one occasion not a year ago, I played for the money to pay the
premium only two nights before it would have been too late. There was
touch and go for you. But my hand was as steady as a rock, and after
the last game was over I fainted."
"Good Lord," she said, "what a terrible life! But, suppose you fall
into sickness and poverty. Then you may fall into arrear, and she will
lose everything after all."
He laughed aloud. A strange wild laugh. "No," said he; "I am safe
there, if physicians are to be believed. Sometimes, when I am falling
asleep, my head begins to flutter and whirl, and I sit up in bed,
breathless and perspiring till it grows still again. Then I laugh to
myself, and say, 'Not this time then, but it can't be long now.' Those
palpitations, Mrs. Hawker, are growing worse and worse each month. I
have got a desperate incurable heart complaint, that will carry me off,
sudden and sure, without warning, I hope to a better sort of world than
"I am sorry for you, Captain Saxon," she said, sobbing, "so very, very
sorry for you!"
"I thank you kindly, my good friend," he replied. "It's long since I
had so good a friend as you. Now change the subject. I want to talk to
you about yourself. You are going to be confined."
"In a few days, I fear," she said.
"Have you money?"
"My husband seems to have money enough at present, but we have none to
fall back upon."
"What friends have you?"
"None that I can apply to."
"H'm," he said. "Well, you must make use of me, and as far as I can
manage it of my purse too, in case of an emergency. I mean, you know,
Mrs. Hawker," he added, looking full at her, "to make this offer to you
as I would to my own sister. Don't in God's name refuse my protection,
such as it is, from any mistaken motives of jealousy. Now tell me, as
honestly as you dare, how do you believe your husband gets his living?"
"I have not the least idea, but I fear the worst."
"You do right," he said. "Forewarned is forearmed, and, at the risk of
frightening you, I must bid you prepare for the worst. Although I
know nothing about what he is engaged in, yet I know that the man
Maitland, who lives above, and who you say is your husband's constant
companion, is a desperate man. If anything happens apply to me
straightway, and I will do all I can. My principal hope is in putting
you in communication with your friends. Could you not trust me with
your story, that we might take advice together?"
She told him all from beginning to the end, and at the last she said,
"If the worst should come, whatever that may be, I would write for help
to Major Buckley, for the sake of the child that is to come."
"Major Buckley!"--he asked eagerly,--"do you mean James Buckley of
"The same man," she replied, "my kindest friend."
"Oh, Lord!" he said, growing pale, "I've got one of these spasms coming
on. A glass of water, my dear lady, in God's name!"
He held both hands on his heart, and lay back in his chair a little,
with livid lips, gasping for breath. By degrees his white hands dropped
upon his lap, and he said with a sigh, "Nearer still, old friend,
nearer than ever. Not far off now."
But he soon recovered and said, "Mrs. Hawker, if you ever see that man
Buckley again, tell him that you saw Charley Biddulph, who was once his
friend, fallen to be the consort of rogues and thieves, cast off by
everyone, and dying of a heart complaint; but tell him he could not die
without sending a tender love to his good old comrade, and that he
remembered him and loved him to the very end."
"And I shall say too," said Mary, "when all neglected me, and forgot
me, this Charles Biddulph helped and cheered me; and when I was fallen
to the lowest, that he was still to me a courteous gentleman, and a
faithful adviser; and that but for him and his goodness I should have
sunk into desperation long ago. Be sure that I will say this too."
The door opened, and George Hawker came in.
"Good evening, Captain Saxon," said he. "My wife seems to make herself
more agreeable to you than she does to me. I hope you are pleased with
her. However, you are welcome to be. I thank God I ain't jealous.
"He has not been here to-night, George," she said, timidly.
"Curse him then. Give me a candle; I'm going up-stairs. Don't go on my
account, Captain Saxon. Well, if you will, good night."
Saxon bade him good-night, and went. George went up into Maitland's
room, where Mary was never admitted; and soon she heard him hammer,
hammering at metal, over-head. She was too used to that sound to take
notice of it; so she went to bed, but lay long awake, thinking of poor
Less than a week after that she was confined. She had a boy, and that
gave her new life. Poorly provided for as that child was, he could not
have been more tenderly nursed or more prized and loved if he had been
born in the palace, with his Majesty's right honourable ministers in
the ante-room, drinking dry Sillery in honour of the event.
Now she could endure what was to come better. And less than a month
after, just as she was getting well again, all her strength and courage
were needed. The end came.
She was sitting before the fire, about ten o'clock at night, nursing
her baby, when she heard the street-door opened by a key; and the next
moment her husband and Maitland were in the room.
"Sit quiet, now, or I'll knock your brains out with the poker," said
George; and, seizing a china ornament from the chimney-piece, he thrust
it into the fire, and heaped the coals over it.
"We're caught like rats, you fool, if they have tracked us," said
Maitland; "and nothing but your consummate folly to thank for it. I
deserve hanging for mixing myself up with such a man in a thing like
this. Now, are you coming; or do you want half-an hour to wish your
George never answered that question. There was a noise of breaking
glass down-stairs, and a moment after a sound of several feet on the
"Make a fight for it," said Maitland, "if you can do nothing else. Make
for the back-door."
But George stood aghast, while Mary trembled in every limb. The door
was burst open, and a tall man coming in said, "In the King's name, I
arrest you, George Hawker and William Maitland, for coining."
Maitland threw himself upon the man, and they fell crashing over the
table. George dashed at the door, but was met by two others. For a
minute there was a wild scene of confusion and struggling, while Mary
crouched against the wall with the child, shut her eyes, and tried to
pray. When she looked round again she saw her husband and Maitland
securely handcuffed, and the tall man, who first came in, wiping the
blood from a deep cut in his forehead, said,
"There is nothing against this woman, is there, Sanders?"
"Nothing, sir, except that she is the prisoner Hawker's wife."
"Poor woman!" said the tall man. "She has been lately confined, too. I
don't think it will be necessary to take her into custody. Take away
the prisoners; I shall stay here and search."
He began his search by taking the tongs and pulling the fire to pieces.
Soon he came to the remnants of the china ornament which George had
thrown in; and, after a little more raking, two or three round pieces
of metal fell out of the grate.
"A very green trick," he remarked. "Well, they must stay there to cool
before I can touch them;" and turning to Mary said, "Could you oblige
me with some sticking-plaster? Your husband's confederate has given me
an ugly blow."
She got some, and put it on for him. "Oh, sir!" she said, "Can you tell
me what this is all about?"
"Easy, ma'am," said he. "Maitland is one of the most notorious coiners
in England, and your husband is his confederate and assistant. We've
been watching, just to get a case that there would be no trouble about,
and we've got it."
"And if it is proved?" she asked, trembling.
He looked very serious. "Mrs. Hawker, I know your history, as well as
your husband's, the same as if you told it to me. So I am sorry to give
a lady who is in misfortune more pain than I can help; but you know
coining is a hanging matter."
She rocked herself wildly to and fro, and the chair where she sat,
squeezing the child against her bosom till he cried. She soothed him
again without a word, and then said to the officer, who was searching
every nook and cranny in the room:
"Shall you be obliged to turn me out of here, or may I stay a few
"You can stay as long as you please, madam," he said; "that's a matter
with your landlady, not me. But if I was you I'd communicate with my
friends, and get some money to have my husband defended."
"They'd sooner pay for the rope to hang him," she said. "You seem a
kind and pitiful sort of man; tell me honestly, is there any chance for
"Honestly, none. There may be some chance of his life; but there is
evidence enough on this one charge, leave alone others, mind you, to
convict twenty men. Why, we've evidence of two forgeries committed on
his father before ever he married you; so that, if he is acquitted on
this charge, he'll be arrested for another outside the court."
All night long she sat up nursing the child before the fire, which from
time to time she replenished. The officers in possession slept on
sofas, and dozed in chairs; but when the day broke she was still there,
pale and thoughtful, sitting much in the same place and attitude as she
did before all this happened, the night before, which seemed to her
like a year ago, so great was the change since then. "Then," thought
she, "he was nothing but a villain after all. He had merely gained her
heart for money's sake, and cast her off when it was gone. What a
miserable fool she had been, and how rightly served now, to be left
penniless in the world!"
Penniless, but not friendless. She remembered Captain Saxon, and
determined to go to him and ask his advice. So when the strange weird
morning had crept on to such time as the accustomed crowd began to
surge through the street, she put on her bonnet, and went away for the
first time to seek him at his lodgings, in a small street, leading off
An old woman answered the door. "The Captain was gone," she said, "to
Boulogne, and wouldn't be back yet for a fortnight. Would she leave any
She hardly thought it worth while. All the world seemed to have
deserted her now; but she said, more in absence of mind than for any
other reason, "Tell him that Mrs. Hawker called, if you please."
"Mrs. Hawker!" the old woman said; "there's a letter for you, ma'am, I
believe; and something particular too, 'cause he told me to keep it
in my desk till you called. Just step in, if you please."
Mary followed her in, and she produced a letter directed to Mrs.
Hawker. When Mary opened it, which she did in the street, after the
door was shut, the first thing she saw was a bank-note for five pounds,
and behind it was the following note:--
"I am forced to go to Boulogne, at a moment's notice, with a man whom I
must not lose sight of. Should you have occasion to apply to me during
my absence (which is fearfully probable), I have left this, begging
your acceptance of it, in the same spirit as that in which it was
offered; and I pray you to accept this piece of advice at the same
"Apply instantly to your friends, and go back to them at once. Don't
stop about London on any excuse. You have never known what it is to be
without money yet; take care you never do. When a man or a woman is
poor and hungry, there is a troop of devils who always follow such,
whispering all sorts of things to them. They are all, or nearly all,
known to me: take care you do not make their acquaintance.
"Yours most affectionately,
What a strange letter, she thought. He must be mad. Yet there was
method in his madness, too. Devils such as he spoke of had leant over
her chair and whispered to her before now, plain to be heard. But that
was in the old times, when she sat brooding alone over the fire at
night. She was no longer alone now, and they had fled--fled, scared at
the face of a baby.
She went home and spoke to the landlady. But little was owing, and that
she had money enough to pay without the five pounds that the kind
gambler had given her. However, when she asked the landlady whether she
could stay there a week or two longer, the woman prayed her with tears
to begone; that she and her husband had brought trouble enough on them
But there was still a week left of their old tenancy, so she held
possession in spite of the landlady; and from the police-officers, who
were still about the place, she heard that the two prisoners had been
committed for trial, and that that trial would take place early in the
week at the Old Bailey.
Three days before the trial she had to leave the lodgings, with but
little more than two pounds in the world. For those three days she got
lodging as she could in coffee-houses and such places, always meeting,
however, with that sort of kindness and sympathy from the women
belonging to them which could not be bought for money. She was in such
a dull state of despair, that she was happily insensible to all smaller
discomforts, and on the day of the trial she endeavoured to push into
the court with her child in her arms.
The crowd was too dense, and the heat was too great for her, so she
came outside and sat on some steps on one side of a passage. Once she
had to move as a great personage came up, and then one of the officers
"Come, my good woman, you mustn't sit there, you know. That's the
judge's private door."
"I beg pardon," she said, "and I will move, if you wish me. But they
are trying my husband for coining, and the court is too hot for the
child. If you will let me sit there, I will be sure to get out of the
way when my lord comes past."
The man looked at her as if it was a case somewhat out of his
experience, and went away. Soon, however, he came back again, and,
after staring at her a short time, said,--
"Do you want anything, missis? Anything I can get?"
"I am much obliged to you, nothing," she said; "but if you can tell me
how the trial is going on, I shall be obliged to you."
He shook his head and went away, and when he returned, telling her that
the judge was summing up, he bade her follow him, and found her a place
in a quiet part of the court. She could see her husband and Maitland
standing in the dock, quite close to her, and before them the judge was
calmly, slowly, and distinctly giving the jury the history of the case
from beginning to end. She was too much bewildered and desperate to
listen to it, but she was attracted by the buzz of conversation which
arose when the jury retired. They seemed gone a bare minute to her,
when she heard and understood that the prisoners were found guilty.
Then she heard Maitland sentenced to death, and George Hawker condemned
to be transported beyond the seas for the term of his natural life, in
consideration of his youth; so she brought herself to understand that
the game was played out, and turned to go.
The officer who had been kind to her stopped her, and asked her "where
she was going?" She answered "to Devonshire," and passed on, but almost
immediately pushed back to him through the crowd, which was pouring
out of the doors, and thanked him for his kindness to her. Then she
went out with the crowd into the street, and almost instinctively
Through the western streets, roaring with carriages, crowded with foot
passengers--like one in a dream--past the theatres, and the arches,
and all the great, rich world, busy seeking its afternoon pleasure,
through the long suburbs, getting more scattered as she went on, and so
out on to the dusty broad western highway; a lonely wanderer, with only
one thought in her throbbing head, to reach such home as was left
her, before she died.
At the first quiet spot she came to she sat down and forced herself to
think. Two hundred miles to go, and fifteen shillings to keep her.
Never mind, she could beg; she had heard that some made a trade of
begging, and did well; hard if she should die on the road. So she
pushed on through the evening toward the sinking sun, till the
milestones passed slower and slower, and then she found shelter in a
tramps' lodging-house, and got what rest she could. In a week she was
at Taunton. Then the weather, which had hitherto been fair and
pleasant, broke up, and still she held on, with the rain beating from
the westward in her face, as though to stay her from her refuge, dizzy
and confused, but determined still, along the miry high-road.
She had learnt from a gipsy woman, with whom she had walked in company
for some hours, how to carry her child across her back, slung in her
shawl. So, with her breast bare to the storm, she fought her way over
the high bleak downs, glad and happy when the boy ceased his wailing,
and lay warm and sheltered behind her, swathed in every poor rag she
could spare from her numbed and dripping body.
Late on a wild rainy night she reached Exeter, utterly penniless, and
wet to the skin. She had had nothing to eat since noon, and her breast
was failing from want of nourishment and over-exertion. Still it was
only twenty miles further. Surely, she thought, God had not saved her
through two hundred such miles, to perish at last. The child was dry
and warm, and fast asleep, if she could get some rest in one of the
doorways in the lower part of the town, till she was stronger she could
fight her way on to Drumston; so she held on to St. Thomas's, and
finding an archway drier than the others sat down, and took the child
upon her lap.
Rest!--rest was a fiction; she was better walking--such aches, and
cramps, and pains in every joint! She would get up and push on, and yet
minute after minute went by, and she could not summon courage.
She was sitting with her beautiful face in the light of a lamp. A woman
well and handsomely dressed was passing rapidly through the rain, but
on seeing her stopped and said:--
"My poor girl, why do you sit there in the damp entry, such a night as
"I am cold, hungry, ruined; that's why I sit under the arch," replied
Mary, rising up.
"Come home with me," said the woman; "I will take care of you."
"I am going to my friends," replied she.
"Are you sure they will be glad to see you, my dear," said the woman,
"with that pretty little pledge at your bosom?"
"I care not," said Mary, "I told you I was desperate."
"Desperate, my pretty love," said the woman; "a girl with beauty like
yours should never be desperate; come with me."
Mary stepped forward and struck her, so full and true that the woman
reeled backwards, and stood whimpering and astonished.
"Out! you false jade," said Mary; "you are one of those devils that
Saxon told me of, who come whispering, and peering, and crowding
behind those who are penniless and deserted; but I have faced you, and
struck you, and I tell you to go back to your master, and say that I am
not for him."
The woman went crying and frightened down the street, thinking that she
had been plying her infamous trade on a lunatic; but Mary sat down
again and nursed the child.
But the wind changed a little, and the rain began to beat in on her
shelter; she arose, and went down the street to seek a new one.
She found a deep arch, well sheltered, and, what was better, a lamp
inside, so that she could sit on the stone step, and see her baby's
face. Dainty quarters, truly! She went to take possession, and started
back with a scream. What delusion was this? There, under the lamp, on
the step, sat a woman, her own image, nursing a baby so like her own
that she looked down at her bosom to see if it was safe. It must be a
fancy of her own disordered brain; but no--for when she gathered up
her courage, and walked towards it, a woman she knew well started up,
and, laughing wildly, cried out,
"Ha! ha! Mary Thornton."
"Ellen Lee?" said Mary, aghast.
"That's me, dear," replied the other; "you're welcome, my love, welcome
to the cold stones, and wet streets, and to hunger and drunkenness, and
evil words, and the abomination of desolation. That's what we all come
to, my dear. Is that his child?"
"Whose?" said Mary. "This is George Hawker's child."
"Hush, my dear!" said the other; "we never mention his name in our
society, you know. This is his too--a far finer one than yours. Cis
Jewell had one of his too, a poor little rat of a thing that died, and
now the minx is flaunting about the High-street every night, in her
silks and her feathers as bold as brass. I hope you'll have nothing to
say to her; you and I will keep house together. They are looking after
me to put me in the madhouse. You'll come too, of course."
"God have mercy on you, poor Nelly!" said Mary.
"Exactly so, my dear," the poor lunatic replied. "Of course He will.
But about him you know. You heard the terms of his bargain?"
"What do you mean?" asked Mary.
"Why, about him you know, G--- H----, Madge the witch's son. He sold
himself to the deuce, my dear, on condition of ruining a poor girl
every year. And he has kept his contract hitherto. If he don't, you
know--come here, I want to whisper to you."
The poor girl whispered rapidly in her ear; but Mary broke away from
her and fled rapidly down the street, poor Ellen shouting after her,
"Ha, ha! the parson's daughter too,--ha, ha!"
"Let me get out of this town, O Lord!" she prayed most earnestly, "if I
die in the fields." And so she sped on, and paused not till she was
full two miles out of the town towards home, leaning on the parapet of
the noble bridge that even then crossed the river Exe.
The night had cleared up, and a soft and gentle westerly breeze was
ruffling the broad waters of the river, where they slept deep, dark,
and full above the weir. Just below where they broke over the low rocky
barrier, the rising moon showed a hundred silver spangles among the
The cool breeze and the calm scene quieted and soothed her, and, for
the first time for many days, she began to think.
She was going back, but to what? To a desolated home, to a heart-broken
father, to the jeers and taunts of her neighbours. The wife of a
convicted felon, what hope was left for her in this world? None. And
that child that was sleeping so quietly on her bosom, what a mark was
set on him from this time forward!--the son of Hawker the coiner!
Would it not be better if they both were lying below there in the cold
still water, at rest?
But she laughed aloud. "This is the last of the devils he talked of,"
said she. "I have fought the others and beat them. I won't yield to
She paused abashed, for a man on horseback was standing before her as
she turned. Had she not been so deeply engaged in her own thoughts she
might have heard him merrily whistling as he approached from the town,
but she heard him not, and was first aware of his presence when he
stood silently regarding her, not two yards off.
"My girl," he said, "I fear you're in a bad way. I don't like to see a
young woman, pretty as I can see you are even now, standing on a
bridge, with a baby, talking to herself."
"You mistake me," she said, "I was not going to do that; I was resting
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"To Crediton," she replied. "Once there, I should almost fancy myself
"See here," he said; "my waggon is coming up behind. I can give you a
lift as far as there. Are you hungry?"
"Ah," she said, "If you knew. If you only knew!"
They waited for the waggon's coming up, for they could hear the horses'
bells chiming cheerily across the valley. "I had an only daughter went
away once," he said. "But, glory to God! I got her back again, though
she brought a child with her. And I've grown to be fonder of that poor
little base-born one than anything in this world. So cheer up."
"I am married," she said; "this is my lawful boy, though it were
better, perhaps, he had never been born."
"Don't say that, my girl," said the old farmer, for such she took him
to be, "but thank God you haven't been deceived like so many are."
The waggon came up and was stopped. He made her take such refreshment
as was to be got, and then get in and lie quiet among the straw till in
the grey morning they reached Crediton. The weather had grown bad
again, and long before sunrise, after thanking and blessing her
benefactor, poor Mary struck off once more, with what strength she had
left, along the deep red lanes, through the driving rain.
But let us turn and see what has been going forward in the old
parsonage this long weary year. Not much that is noteworthy, I fear.
The chronicle of a year's sickness and unhappiness, would be rather
uninteresting, so I must get on as quick as I can.
The Vicar only slowly revived from the fit in which he fell on the
morning of Mary's departure to find himself hopelessly paralytic,
unable to walk without support, and barely able to articulate
distinctly. It was when he was in this state, being led up and down the
garden by the Doctor and Frank Maberly, the former of whom was trying
to attract his attention to some of their old favourites, the flowers,
that Miss Thornton came to him with the letter which Mary had written
from Brighton, immediately after their marriage.
It was, on the whole, a great relief for the Vicar. He had dreaded to
hear worse than this. They had kept from him all knowledge of Hawker's
forgery on his father, which had been communicated to them by Major
Buckley. So that he began to prepare his mind for the reception of
George Hawker as a son-in-law, and to force himself to like him. So
with shaking palsied hand he wrote:--
"Dear Girl,--In sickness or sorrow, remember that I am still your
father. I hope you will not stop long in London, but come back and stay
near me. We must forget all that has passed, and make the best of it.--
Miss Thornton wrote:--
"My dearest foolish Mary,--How could you leave us like that, my love!
Oh, if you had only let us know what was going on, I could have told
you such things, my dear. But now you will never know them, I hope. I
hope Mr. Hawker will use you kindly. Your father hopes that you and he
may come down and live near him, but we know that is impossible. If
your father were to know of your husband's fearful delinquencies, it
would kill him at once. But when trouble comes on you, my love, as it
must in the end, remember that there is still a happy home left you
These letters she never received. George burnt them without giving them
to her, so that for a year she remained under the impression that they
had cast her off. So only at the last did she, as the sole hope of
warding off poverty and misery from her child, determine to cast
herself upon their mercy.
The year had nearly passed, when the Vicar had another stroke, a stroke
that rendered him childish and helpless, and precluded all possibility
of his leaving his bed again. Miss Thornton found that it was necessary
to have a man servant in the house now, to move him, and so on. So one
evening, when Major and Mrs. Buckley and the Doctor had come down to
sit with her, she asked, did they know a man who could undertake the
"I do," said the Doctor. "I know a man who would suit you exactly. A
strong knave enough. An old soldier."
"I don't think we should like a soldier in the house, Doctor," said
Miss Thornton. "They use such very odd language sometimes, you know."
"This man never swears," said the Doctor.
"But soldiers are apt to drink sometimes, you know, Doctor," said Miss
Thornton. "And that wouldn't do in this case."
"I've known the man all my life," said the Doctor, with animation. "And
I never saw him drunk."
"He seems faultless, Doctor," said the Major, smiling.
"No, he is not faultless, but he has his qualifications for the office,
nevertheless. He can read passably, and might amuse our poor old friend
in that way. He is not evil tempered, though hasty, and I think he
would be tender and kindly to the old man. He had a father once
himself, this man, and he nursed him to his latest day, as well as he
was able, after his mother had left them and gone on the road to
destruction. And my man has picked up some knowledge of medicine too,
and might be a useful ally to the physician."
"A paragon!" said Mrs. Buckley, laughing. "Now let us hear his faults,
"They are many," he replied, "I don't deny. But not such as to make him
an ineligible person in this matter. To begin with, he is a fool--a
dreaming fool, who once mixed himself up with politics, and went on the
assumption that truth would prevail against humbug. And when he found
his mistake, this fellow, instead of staying at his post, as a man
should, he got disgusted, and beat a cowardly retreat, leaving his duty
unfulfilled. When I look at one side of this man's life, I wonder why
such useless fellows as he were born into the world. But I opine that
every man is of some use, and that my friend may still have manhood
enough left in him to move an old paralytic man in his bed."
"And his name, Doctor? You must tell us that," said Mrs. Buckley,
looking sadly at him.
"I am that man," said the Doctor, rising. "Dear Miss Thornton, you will
allow me to come down and stay with you. I shall be so glad to be of
any use to my old friend, and I am so utterly useless now."
What could she say, but "yes," with a thousand thanks, far more than
she could express? So he took up his quarters at the Vicarage, and
helped her in the labour of love.
The Sunday morning after he came to stay there, he was going down
stairs, shortly after daybreak, to take a walk in the fresh morning
air, when on the staircase he met Miss Thornton, and she, putting
sixpence into his hand, said,
"My dear Doctor, I looked out of window just now, and saw a tramper
woman sitting on the door-step. She has black hair and a baby, like a
gipsy. And I am so nervous about gipsies, you know. Would you give her
that and tell her to go away?"
The Doctor stepped down with the sixpence in his hand to do as he was
bid. Miss Thornton followed him. He opened the front door, and there
sure enough sat a woman, her hair, wet with the last night's rain,
knotted loosely up behind her hatless head. She sat upon the door-step
rocking herself to and fro, partly it would seem from disquietude, and
partly to soothe the baby which was lying on her lap crying. Her back
was towards him, and the Doctor only had time to notice that she was
young, when he began,--
"My good soul, you musn't sit there, you know. It's Sunday morning,
No more. He had time to say no more. Mary rose from the step and looked
"You are right, sir, I have no business here. But if you will tell him
that I only came back for the child's sake, he will hear me. I couldn't
leave it in the workhouse, you know."
Miss Thornton ran forward, laughing wildly, and hugged her to her
honest heart. "My darling!" she said, "My own darling! I knew she would
find her home at last. In trouble and in sorrow I told her where she
was to come. Oh happy trouble, that has brought our darling back to
"Aunt! aunt!" said Mary, "don't kill me. Scold me a little, aunt dear,
only a little."
"Scold you, my darling! Never, never! Scold you on this happy Sabbath
morn! Oh! never, my love."
And the foolishness of these two women was so great that the Doctor had
to go for a walk. Right down the garden, round the cow-yard, and in by
the back way to the kitchen, where he met Frank, and told him what had
happened. And there they were at it again. Miss Thornton kneeling,
wiping poor Mary's blistered feet before the fire. While the maid,
foolishly giggling, had got possession of the baby, and was talking
more affectionate nonsense to it than ever baby heard in this world
Mary held out her hand to him, and when he gave her his vast brown paw,
what does she do, but put it to her lips and kiss it?--as if there was
not enough without that. And, to make matters worse, she quoted
Scripture, and said, "Forasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of
these, ye have done it unto me." So our good Doctor had nothing left
but to break through that cloak of cynicism which he delighted to wear,
(Lord knows why!) and to kiss her on the cheek, and to tell her how
happy she had made them by coming back, let circumstances be what they
Then she told them, with bursts of wild weeping, what those
circumstances were. And at last, when they were all quieted, Miss
Thornton boldly volunteered to go up and tell the Vicar that his
darling was returned.
So she went up, and Mary and the Doctor waited at the bed-room door and
listened. The poor old man was far gone beyond feeling joy or grief to
any great extent. When Miss Thornton raised him in his bed, and told
him that he must brace up his nerves to hear some good news, he smiled
a weary smile, and Mary looking in saw that he was so altered that she
hardly knew him.
"I know," he said, lisping and hesitating painfully, "what you are
going to tell me, sister. She is come home. I knew she would come at
last. Please tell her to come to me at once; but I can't see HIM yet. I
must get stronger first." So Mary went in to him, and Miss Thornton
came out and closed the door. And when Mary came downstairs soon
afterwards she could not talk to them, but remained a long time silent,
The good news soon got up to Major Buckley's, and so after church they
saw him striding up the path, leading the pony carrying his wife and
baby. And while they were still busy welcoming her back, came a ring at
the door, and a loud voice, asking if the owner of it might come in.
Who but Tom Troubridge! Who else was there to raise her four good feet
off the ground, and kiss her on both cheeks, and call her his darling
little sister! Who else was there who could have changed their tears
into laughter so quick that their merriment was wafted up to the
Vicar's room, and made him ring his bell, and tell them to send Tom up
to him! And who but Tom could have lit the old man's face up with a
smile, with the history of a new colt, that my lord's mare Thetis had
dropped last week!
That was her welcome home. To the home she had dreaded coming to,
expecting to be received with scorn and reproaches. To the home she had
meant to come to only as a penitent, to leave her child there and go
forth into the world to die. And here she found herself the honoured
guest--treated as one who had been away on a journey, whom they had
been waiting and praying for all the time, and who came back to them
sooner than expected. None hold the force of domestic affection so
cheap as those who violate it most rudely. How many proud unhappy souls
are there at this moment, voluntarily absenting themselves from all
that love them in the world, because they dread sneers and cold looks
at home! And how many of these, going back, would find only tears of
joy to welcome them, and hear that ever since their absence they had
been spoken of with kindness and tenderness, and loved, perhaps, above
all the others!
After dinner, when the women were alone together, Mrs. Buckley began,--
"Now, my dear Mary, you must hear all the news. My husband has had a
letter from Stockbridge."
"Ah, dear old Jim!" said Mary; "and how is he?"
"He and Hamlyn are quite well," said Mrs. Buckley, "and settled. He has
written such an account of that country to Major Buckley, that he, half
persuaded before, is now wholly determined to go there himself."
"I heard of this before," said Mary. "Am I to lose you, then, at once?"
"We shall see," said Mrs. Buckley; "I have my ideas. Now, who do you
think is going beside?"
"Half Devonshire, I should think," said Mary; "at least, all whom I
"It would seem so, indeed, my poor girl," said Mrs. Buckley; "for your
cousin Troubridge has made up his mind to come."
"There was a time when I could have stopped him," she thought; "but
that is gone by now." And she answered Mrs. Buckley:--
"Aunt and I will stay here, and think of you all. Shall we ever hear
from you? It is the other side of the world, is it not?"
"It is a long way; but we must wait, and see how things turn out. We
may not have to separate after all. See, my dear; are you fully aware
of your father's state? I fear you have only come home to see the last
of him. He probably will be gone before this month is out. You see the
state he is in. And when he is gone, have you reflected what to do?"
Mary, weeping bitterly, said, "No; only that she could never live in
Drumston, or anywhere where she was known."
"That is wise, my love," said Mrs. Buckley, "under the circumstances.
Have you made up your mind where to go, Miss Thornton, when you have to
leave the Vicarage for a new incumbent?"
"I have made up my mind," answered Miss Thornton, "to go wherever Mary
goes, if it be to the other end of the earth. We will be Ruth and
Naomi, my dear. You would never get on without me."
"That is what I say," said Mrs. Buckley. "Never leave her. Why not come
away out of all unhappy associations, and from the scorn and pity of
your neighbours, to live safe and happy with all the best friends you
have in the world?"
"What do you mean?" said Mary. "Ah, if we could only do so!"
"Come away with us," said Mrs. Buckley, with animation; "come away with
us, and begin a new life. There is Troubridge looking high and low for
a partner with five thousand pounds. Why should not Miss Thornton and
yourself be his partners?"
"Ah me!" said Miss Thornton. "And think of the voyage! But I shall not
decide on anything; Mary shall decide."
* * * * *
Scarcely more than a week elapsed from the day that Mary came home,
when there came a third messenger for old John Thornton, and one so
peremptory that he arose and followed it in the dead of night. So, when
they came to his bedside in the morning, they found his body there,
laid as it was when he wished them good night, but cold and dead. He
himself was gone, and nothing remained but to bury his body decently
beside his wife's, in the old churchyard, and to shed some tears, at
the thought that never, by the fireside, or in the solemn old church,
they should hear that kindly voice again.
And then came the disturbance of household gods, and the rupture of
life-old associations. And although they were begged by the new comer
not to hurry or incommode themselves, yet they too wished to be gone
from the house whence everything they loved had departed.
Their kind true friend Frank was presented with the living, and they
accepted Mrs. Buckley's invitation to stay at their house till they
should have decided what to do. It was two months yet before the Major
intended to sail, and long before those two months were past, Mary and
Miss Thornton had determined that they would not rend asunder the last
ties they had this side of the grave, but would cast in their lot with
the others, and cross the weary sea with them towards a more hopeful
One more scene, and we have done with the Old World for many a year.
Some of these our friends will never see it more, and those who do will
come back with new thoughts and associations, as strangers to a strange
land. Only those who have done so know how much effort it takes to say,
"I will go away to a land where none know me or care for me, and leave
for ever all that I know and love." And few know the feeling which
comes upon all men after it is done,--the feeling of isolation, almost
of terror, at having gone so far out of the bounds of ordinary life;
the feeling of self-distrust and cowardice at being alone and
friendless in the world, like a child in the dark.
* * * * *
A golden summer's evening is fading into a soft cloudless summer's
night, and Doctor Mulhaus stands upon Mount Edgecombe, looking across
the trees, across the glassy harbour, over the tall men-of-war, out
beyond the silver line of surf on the breakwater, to where a tall ship
is rapidly spreading her white wings and speeding away each moment more
rapidly for a fair wind, towards the south-west. He watches it growing
more dim minute by minute in distance and in darkness, till he can see
no longer; then brushing a tear from his eye he says aloud:--
"There goes my English microcosm, all my new English friends with whom
I was going to pass the rest of my life, peaceful and contented, as a
village surgeon. Pretty dream, two years long! Truly man hath no sure
abiding place here. I will go back to P----, and see if they are all
dead, or only sleeping."
So he turned down the steep path under the darkening trees, towards
where he could see the town lights along the quays, among the crowded
THE FIRST PUFF OF THE SOUTH WIND.
A new heaven and a new earth! Tier beyond tier, height above height,
the great wooded ranges go rolling away westward, till on the lofty
sky-line they are crowned with a gleam of everlasting snow. To the
eastward they sink down, breaking into isolated forests, fringed
peaks, and rock-crowned eminences, till with rapidly straightening
lines they disappear gradually into broad grey plains, beyond which the
Southern Ocean is visible by the white reflection cast upon the sky.
All creation is new and strange. The trees, surpassing in size the
largest English oaks, are of a species we have never seen before. The
graceful shrubs, the bright-coloured flowers, ay, the very grass
itself, are of species unknown in Europe; while flaming lories and
brilliant parroquets fly whistling, not unmusically, through the gloomy
forest, and over head in the higher fields of air, still lit up by the
last rays of the sun, countless cockatoos wheel and scream in noisy
joy, as we may see the gulls do about an English headland.
To the northward a great glen, sinking suddenly from the saddle on
which we stand, stretches away in long vista, until it joins a broader
valley, through which we can dimly see a full-fed river winding along
in gleaming reaches, through level meadow land, interspersed with
clumps of timber.
We are in Australia. Three hundred and fifty miles south of Sydney, on
the great watershed which divides the Belloury from the Maryburnong,
since better known as the Snowy-river of Gipps-land.
As the sun was going down on the scene I have been describing, James
Stockbridge and I, Geoffry Hamlyn, reined up our horses on the ridge
above-mentioned, and gazed down the long gully which lay stretched at
our feet. Only the tallest trees stood with their higher boughs glowing
with the gold of the departing day, and we stood undetermined which
route to pursue, and half inclined to camp at the next waterhole we
should see. We had lost some cattle, and among others a valuable
imported bull, which we were very anxious to recover. For five days we
had been passing on from run to run, making inquiries without success,
and were now fifty long miles from home in a southerly direction. We
were beyond the bounds of all settlement; the last station we had been
at was twenty miles to the north of us, and the occupiers of it, as
they had told us the night before, had only taken up their country
about ten weeks, and were as yet the furthest pioneers to the
At this time Stockbridge and I had been settled in our new home about
two years, and were beginning to get comfortable and contented. We had
had but little trouble with the blacks, and, having taken possession of
a fine piece of country, were flourishing and well to do.
We had never heard from home but once, and that was from Tom
Troubridge, soon after our departure, telling us that if we succeeded
he should follow, for that the old place seemed changed now we were
gone. We had neither of us left any near relations behind us, and
already we began to think that we were cut off for ever from old
acquaintances and associations, and were beginning to be resigned to it.
Let us return to where he and I were standing alone in the forest. I
dismounted to set right some strap or another, and, instead of getting
on my horse again at once, stood leaning against him, looking at the
prospect, glad to ease my legs for a time, for they were cramped with
many hours' riding.
Stockbridge sat in his saddle immoveable and silent as a statue, and
when I looked in his face I saw that his heart had travelled further
than his eye could reach, and that he was looking far beyond the
horizon that bounded his earthly vision, away to the pleasant old home
which was home to us no longer.
"Jim," said I, "I wonder what is going on at Drumston now?"
"I wonder," he said softly.
Below us, in the valley, a mob of jackasses were shouting and laughing
uproariously, and a magpie was chanting his noble vesper hymn from a
"Jim," I began again, "do you ever think of poor little Mary now?"
"Yes, old boy, I do," he replied; "I can't help it; I was thinking of
her then--I am always thinking of her, and, what's more, I always
shall be. Don't think me a fool, old friend, but I love that girl as
well now as ever I did. I wonder if she has married that fellow
"I fear there is but little doubt of it," I said; "try to forget her,
James. Get in a rage with her, and be proud about it; you'll make all
your life unhappy if you don't."
He laughed. "That's all very well, Jeff, but it's easier said than
done.--Do you hear that? There are cattle down the gully."
There was some noise in the air, beside the evening rustle of the south
wind among the tree-tops. Now it sounded like a far-off hubbub of
waters, now swelled up harmonious, like the booming of cathedral bells
across some rich old English valley on a still summer's afternoon.
"There are cattle down there, certainly," I said, "and a very large
number of them; they are not ours, depend upon it: there are men with
them, too, or they would not make so much noise. Can it be the blacks
driving them off from the strangers we stayed with last night, do you
think? If so, we had best look out for ourselves."
"Blacks could hardly manage such a large mob as there are there," said
James. "I'll tell you what I think it is, old Jeff; it's some new chums
going to cross the watershed, and look for new country to the south. If
so, let us go down and meet them: they will camp down by the river
James was right. All doubt about what the new comers were was solved
before we reached the river, for we could hear the rapid detonation of
the stock-whips loud above the lowing of the cattle; so we sat and
watched them debouche from the forest into the broad river meadows in
the gathering gloom: saw the scene so venerable and ancient, so seldom
seen in the Old World--the patriarchs moving into the desert with all
their wealth, to find new pasture-ground. A simple primitive action,
the first and simplest act of colonization, yet producing such great
results on the history of the world, as did the parting of Lot and
Abraham in times gone by.
First came the cattle lowing loudly, some trying to stop and graze on
the rich pasture after their long day's travel, some heading noisily
towards the river, now beginning to steam with the rising evening mist.
Now a lordly bull, followed closely by two favourite heifers, would try
to take matters into his own hands, and cut out a route for himself,
but is soon driven ignominiously back in a lumbering gallop by a
quick-eyed stockman. Now a silly calf takes it into his head to go for a
small excursion up the range, followed, of course, by his doting
mother, and has to be headed in again, not without muttered wrath and
lowerings of the head from madame. Behind the cattle came horsemen,
some six or seven in number, and last, four drays, bearing the
household gods, came crawling up the pass.
We had time to notice that there were women on the foremost dray, when
it became evident that the party intended camping in a turn of the
river just below. One man kicked his feet out of the stirrups, and,
sitting loosely in his saddle, prepared to watch the cattle for the
first few hours till he was relieved. Another lit a fire against a
fallen tree, and while the bullock-drivers were busy unyoking their
beasts, and the women were clambering from the dray, two of the
horsemen separated from the others, and came forward to meet us.
Both of them I saw were men of vast stature. One rode upright, with a
military seat, while his companion had his feet out of his stirrups,
and rode loosely, as if tired with his journey. Further than this, I
could distinguish nothing in the darkening twilight; but, looking at
James, I saw that he was eagerly scanning the strangers, with elevated
eyebrow and opened lips. Ere I could speak to him, he had dashed
forward with a shout, and when I came up with him, wondering, I found
myself shaking hands, talking and laughing, everything in fact short of
crying, with Major Buckley and Thomas Troubridge.
"Range up alongside here, Jeff, you rascal," said Tom, "and let me get
a fair hug at you. What do you think of this for a lark; eh?--to meet
you out here, all promiscuous, in the forest, like Prince Arthur! We
could not go out of our way to see you, though we knew where you were
located, for we must hurry on and get a piece of country we have been
told of on the next river. We are going to settle down close by you,
you see. We'll make a new Drumston in the wilderness."
"This is a happy meeting, indeed, old Tom," I said, as we rode towards
the drays, after the Major and James. "We shall have happy times, now
we have got some of our old friends round us. Who is come with you? How
is Mrs. Buckley?"
"Mrs. Buckley is as well as ever, and as handsome. My pretty little
cousin, Mary Hawker, and old Miss Thornton, are with us; the poor old
Vicar is dead."
"Mary Hawker with you?" I said. "And her husband, Tom?"
"Hardly, old friend. We travel in better company," said he. "George
Hawker is transported for life."
"Alas! poor Mary," I answered. "And what for?"
"Coining," he answered. "I'll tell you the story another time. To-night
let us rejoice."
I could not but watch James, who was riding before us, to see how he
would take this news. The Major, I saw, was telling him all about it,
but James seemed to take it quite quietly, only nodding his head as the
other went on. I knew how he would feel for his old love, and I turned
and said to Troubridge--
"Jim will be very sorry to hear of this. I wish she had married him."
"That's what we all say," said Tom. "I am sorry for poor Jim. He is
about the best man I know, take him all in all. If that fellow were to
die, she might have him yet, Hamlyn."
We reached the drays. There sat Mrs. Buckley on a log, a noble, happy
matron, laughing at her son as he toddled about, busy gathering sticks
for the fire. Beside her was Mary, paler and older-looking than when we
had seen her last, with her child upon her lap, looking sad and worn.
But a sadder sight for me was old Miss Thornton, silent and frightened,
glancing uneasily round, as though expecting some new horror. No child
for her to cling to and strive for. No husband to watch for and
anticipate every wish. A poor, timid, nervous old maid, thrown adrift
in her old age upon a strange sea of anomalous wonders. Every old
favourite prejudice torn up by the roots. All old formulas of life
scattered to the winds!
She told me in confidence that evening that she had been in sad trouble
all day. At dinner-time, some naked blacks had come up to the dray, and
had frightened and shocked her. Then the dray had been nearly upset,
and her hat crushed among the trees. A favourite and precious bag,
which never left her, had been dropped in the water; and her Prayer-book,
a parting gift from Lady Kate, had been utterly spoiled. A
hundred petty annoyances and griefs, which Mary barely remarked, and
which brave Mrs. Buckley, in her strong determination of following her
lord to the ends of the earth, and of being as much help and as little
incumbrance to him as she could, had laughed at, were to her great
misfortunes. Why, the very fact, as she told me, of sitting on the top
of a swinging jolting dray was enough to keep her in a continual state
of agony and terror, so that when she alit at night, and sat down, she
could not help weeping silently, dreading lest any one should see her.
Suddenly, Mary was by her side, kneeling down.
"Aunt," she said, "dearest aunt, don't break down. It is all my wicked
fault. You will break my heart, auntie dear, if you cry like that. Why
did ever I bring you on this hideous journey?"
"How could I leave you in your trouble, my love?" said Miss Thornton.
"You did right to come, my love. We are among old friends. We have come
too far for trouble to reach us. We shall soon have a happy home again
now, and all will be well."
So she, who needed so much comforting herself, courageously dried her
tears and comforted Mary. And when we reached the drays, she was
sitting with her hands folded before her in serene misery.
"Mary," said the Major, "here are two old friends."
He had no time to say more, for she, recognising Jim, sprang up, and,
running to him, burst into hysterical weeping.
"Oh, my good old friend!" she cried; "oh, my dear old friend! Oh, to
meet you here in this lonely wilderness! Oh, James, my kind old
I saw how his big heart yearned to comfort his old sweetheart in her
distress. Not a selfish thought found place with him. He could only see
his old love injured and abandoned, and nought more.
"Mary," he said, "what happiness to see you among all your old friends
come to live among us again! It is almost too good to believe in.
Believe me, you will get to like this country as well as old Devon
soon, though it looks so strange just now. And what a noble boy, too!
We will make him the best bushman in the country when he is old
So he took the child of his rival to his bosom, and when the innocent
little face looked into his, he would see no likeness to George Hawker
there. He only saw the mother's countenance as he knew her as a child
years gone by.
"Is nobody going to notice me or my boy, I wonder?" said Mrs. Buckley.
"Come here immediately, Mr. Stockbridge, before we quarrel."
In a very short time all our party were restored to their equanimity,
and were laying down plans for pleasant meetings hereafter. And long
after the women had gone to bed in the drays, and the moon was riding
high in the heavens, James and myself, Troubridge and the Major, sat
before the fire; and we heard, for the first time, of all that had gone
on since we left England, and of all poor Mary's troubles. Then each
man rolled himself in his blanket, and slept soundly under the rustling
In the bright cool morning, ere the sun was up, and the belated opossum
had run back to his home in the hollow log, James and I were afoot,
looking after our horses. We walked silently side by side for a few
minutes, until he turned and said:--
"Jeff, old fellow, of course you will go on with them, and stay until
they are settled?"
"Jim, old fellow," I replied, "of course you will go on with them, and
stay till they are settled?"
He pondered a few moments, and then said, "Well, why not? I suppose she
can be to me still what she always was? Yes, I will go with them."
When we returned to the dray we found them all astir, preparing for a
start. Mrs. Buckley, with her gown tucked up, was preparing breakfast,
as if she had been used to the thing all her life. She had an imperial
sort of way of manoeuvring a frying-pan, which did one good to see. It
is my belief, that if that woman had been called upon to groom a horse,
she'd have done it in a ladylike way.
While James went among the party to announce his intention of going on
with them, I had an opportunity of looking at the son and heir of all
the Buckleys. He was a sturdy, handsome child about five years old, and
was now standing apart from the others, watching a bullock-driver
yoking-up his beast. I am very fond of children, and take great
interest in studying their characters; so I stood, not unamused,
behind this youngster, as he stood looking with awe and astonishment
at the man, as he managed the great, formidable beasts, and brought
each one into his place; not, however, without more oaths than one
would care to repeat. Suddenly, the child, turning and seeing me behind
him, came back, and took my hand.
"Why is he so angry with them?" the child asked at once. "Why does he
talk to them like that?"
"He is swearing at them," I said, "to make them stand in their places."
"But they don't understand him," said the boy. "That black and white
one would have gone where he wanted it in a minute; but it couldn't
understand, you know; so he hit it over the nose. Why don't he find out
how they talk to one another? Then he'd manage them much better. He is
"He does not know any better," I said. "Come with me and get some
"Will you take me up?" he said; "I musn't run about for fear of snakes."
I took him up, and we went to gather flowers.
"Your name is Samuel Buckley, I think," said I.
"How did you know that?"
"I remember you when you were a baby," I said. "I hope you may grow to
be as good a man as your father, my lad. See, there is mamma calling
"And how far south are you going, Major?" I asked at breakfast.
"No further than we can help," said the Major. "I stayed a night with
my old friend Captain Brentwood, by the way; and there I found a man
who knew of some unoccupied country down here, which he had seen in
some bush expedition. We found the ground he mentioned taken up; but he
says there is equally good on the next river. I have bought him and his
"We saw good country away to the south yesterday," I said. "But are you
wise to trust this man? Do you know anything about him?"
"Brentwood has known him these ten years, and trusts him entirely;
though, I believe, he has been a convict. If you are determined to come
with us, Stockbridge, I will call him up and examine him about the
route. William Lee, just step here a moment."
A swarthy and very powerfully built man came up. No other than the man
I have spoken of under that name before. He was quite unknown either to
James or myself, although, as he told us afterwards, he had recognised
us at once, but kept out of our sight as much as possible, till
by the Major's summons he was forced to come forward.
"What route to-day, William?" asked the Major.
"South and by east across the range. We ought to get down to the river
by night if we're lucky."
So, while the drays were getting under way, the Major, Tom, James, and
myself rode up to the saddle where we had stood the night before, and
gazed southeast across the broad prospect, in the direction that the
wanderers were to go.
"That," said the Major, "to the right there must be the great glen out
of which the river comes; and there, please God, we will rest our weary
bodies and build our house. Odd, isn't it, that I should have been
saved from shot and shell when so many better men were put away in the
trench, to come and end my days in a place like this? Well, I think we
shall have a pleasant life of it, watching the cattle spread further
across the plains year after year, and seeing the boy grow up to be a
good man. At all events, for weal or woe, I have said good bye to old
England, for ever and a day."
The cattle were past, and the drays had arrived at where we stood. With
many a hearty farewell, having given a promise to come over and spend
Christmas-day with them, I turned my horse's head homewards and went on
my solitary way.
I HIRE A NEW HORSEBREAKER.
I must leave them to go their way towards their new home, and follow my
own fortunes a little, for that afternoon I met with an adventure quite
trifling indeed, but which is not altogether without interest in this
I rode on till high noon, till having crossed the valley of the
Belloury, and followed up one of its tributary creeks, I had come on to
the water system of another main river, and the rapid widening of the
gully whose course I was pursuing assured me that I could not be far
from the main stream itself. At length I entered a broad flat,
intersected by a deep and tortuous creek, and here I determined to camp
till the noon-day heat was past, before I continued my journey,
calculating that I could easily reach home the next day.
Having watered my horse, I turned him loose for a graze, and, making
such a dinner as was possible under the circumstances, I lit a pipe and
lay down on the long grass, under the flowering wattle-trees, smoking
and watching the manoeuvres of a little tortoise, who was disporting
himself in the waterhole before me. Getting tired of that I lay back on
the grass, and watched the green leaves waving and shivering against
the clear blue sky, given up entirely to the greatest of human
enjoyments--the after dinner pipe, the pipe of peace.
Which is the pleasantest pipe in the day? We used to say at home that a
man should smoke but four pipes a-day: the matutinal, another I don't
specify, the post-prandial, and the symposial or convivial, which last
may be infinitely subdivided, according to the quantity of drink
taken. But in Australia this division won't obtain, particularly when
you are on the tramp. Just when you wake from a dreamless sleep beneath
the forest boughs, as the east begins to blaze, and the magpie gets
musical, you dash to the embers of last night's fire, and after blowing
many fire-sticks find one which is alight, and proceed to send abroad
on the morning breeze the scent of last night's dottle. Then, when
breakfast is over and the horses are caught up and saddled, and you are
jogging across the plain, with the friend of your heart beside you, the
burnt incense once more goes up, and conversation is unnecessary. At
ten o'clock when you cross the creek (you always cross a creek about
ten if you are in a good country), you halt and smoke. So after dinner
in the lazy noon-tide, one or perhaps two pipes are necessary, with,
perhaps, another about four in the afternoon, and last, and perhaps
best of all, are the three or four you smoke before the fire at night,
when the day is dying and the opossums are beginning to chatter in the
twilight. So that you find that a fig of Barret's twist, seventeen to
the pound, is gone in the mere hours of day-light without counting such
a casualty as waking up cold in the night, and going at it again.
So I lay on my back dreaming, wondering why a locust who was in full
screech close by, took the trouble to make that terrible row when it
was so hot, and hoping that his sides might be sore with the exertion,
when to my great astonishment I heard the sound of feet brushing
through the grass towards me. "Black fellow," I said to myself; but no,
those were shodden feet that swept along so wearily. I raised myself on
my elbow, with my hand on my pistol, and reconnoitred.
There approached me from down the creek a man, hardly reaching the
middle size, lean and active-looking, narrow in the flanks, thin in the
jaws, his knees well apart; with a keen bright eye in his head; his
clothes looked as if they had belonged to ten different men; and his
gait was heavy, and his face red, as if from a long hurried walk; but I
said at once, "Here comes a riding man, at all events, be it for peace
"Good day, lad," said I.
"Good day, sir."
"You're rather off the tracks for a foot-man;" said I. "Are you looking
for your horse?"
"Deuce a horse have I got to my name, sir,--have you got a feed of
anything? I'm nigh starved."
"Ay, surely: the tea's cold; put it on the embers and warm it a bit;
here's beef, and damper too, plenty."
I lit another pipe and watched his meal. I like feeding a real hungry
man; it's almost as good as eating oneself--sometimes better.
When the edge of his appetite was taken off he began to talk; he said
"Got a station anywheres about here, sir?"
"No, I'm Hamlyn of the Durnongs, away by Maneroo."
"Oh! ay; I know you, sir; which way have you come this morning?"
"Southward; I crossed the Belloury about seven o'clock."
"That, indeed! You haven't seen anything of three bullock drays and a
mob of cattle going south?"
"Yes! I camped with such a lot last night!"
"Not Major Buckley's lot?"
"And how far were they on?"
"They crossed the range at daylight this morning;--they're thirty
miles away by now."
He threw his hat on the ground with an oath: "I shall never catch them
up. I daren't cross that range on foot into the new country, and those
black devils lurking round. He shouldn't have left me like that;--all
my own fault, though, for staying behind! No, no, he's true enough--
all my own fault. But I wouldn't have left him so, neither; but,
perhaps, he don't think I'm so far behind."
I saw that the man was in earnest, for his eyes were swimming;--he was
too dry for tears; but though he looked a desperate scamp, I couldn't
help pitying him and saying,--
"You seem vexed you couldn't catch them up; were you going along with
the Major, then?"
"No, sir; I wasn't hired with him; but an old mate of mine, Bill Lee,
is gone along with him to show him some country, and I was going to
stick to him and see if the Major would take me; we haven't been parted
for many years, not Bill and I haven't; and the worst of it is, that
he'll think I've slipped away from him, instead of following him fifty
mile on foot to catch him. Well! it can't be helped now; I must look
round and get a job somewhere till I get a chance to join him. Were you
travelling with them, sir?"
"No, I'm after some cattle I've lost; a fine imported bull, too,--
worse luck! We'll never see him again, I'm afraid, and if I do find
them how I am to get them home single handed, I don't know."
"Do you mean, a short-horned Durham bull with a key brand? Why, if
that's him, I can lay you on to him at once; he's up at Jamieson's,
here to the west. I was staying at Watson's last night, and one of
Jamieson's men staid in the hut--a young hand; and, talking about
beasts, he said that there was a fine short-horned bull come on to
their run with a mob of heifers and cows, and they couldn't make out
who they belonged to; they were all different brands."
"That's our lot for a thousand," says I; "a lot of store cattle we
bought this year from the Hunter, and haven't branded yet,--more shame
"If you could get a horse and saddle from Jamieson's, sir," said he, "I
could give you a hand home with them: I'd like to get a job somehow,
and I'm well used to cattle."
"Done with you," said I; "Jamieson's isn't ten miles from here, and we
can do that to-night if we look sharp. Come along, my lad."
So I caught up the horse, and away we went. Starting at right angles
with the sun, which was nearly overhead, and keeping to the left of him
holding such a course, as he got lower, that an hour and half, or
thereabouts, before setting he should be in my face, and at sundown a
little to the left;--the best direction I can give you for going about
due west in November, without a compass--which, by the way, you always
ought to have.
My companion was foot-sore, so I went slowly; he, however, shambled
along bravely when his feet got warm. He was a talkative, lively man,
and chattered continually.
"You've got a nice place up at the Durnongs, sir," said he; "I stayed
in your huts one night. It's the comfortablest bachelor station on this
side. You've got a smart few sheep, I expect?"
"Twenty-five thousand. Do you know these parts well?"
"I knew that country of yours long before any of it was took up."
"You've been a long while in the country, then?"
"I was sent out when I was eighteen; spared, as the old judge said, on
account of my youth: that's eleven years ago."
"Spared, eh? It was something serious, then?"
"Trifling enough: only for having a rope in my hand."
"They wouldn't lag a man for that," said I.
"Ay, but," he replied, "there was a horse at the end of the rope. I was
brought up in a training stable, and somehow there's something in the
smell of a stable is sure to send a man wrong if he don't take care. I
got betting and drinking, too, as young chaps will, and lost my place,
and got from bad to worse till I shook a nag, and got bowled out and
lagged. That's about my history, sir; will you give me a job, now?" and
he looked up, laughing.
"Ay, why not?" said I. "Because you tried hard to go to the devil when
you were young and foolish, it don't follow that you should pursue that
line of conduct all your life. You've been in a training stable, eh? If
you can break horses, I may find you something to do."
"I'll break horses against any man in this country--though that's not
saying much, for I ain't seen not what I call a breaker since I've been
here; as for riding, I'd ridden seven great winners before I was
eighteen; and that's what ne'er a man alive can say. Ah, those were the
rosy times! Ah for old Newmarket!"
"Are you a Cambridgeshire man, then?"
"Me? Oh, no; I'm a Devonshire man. I come near from where Major Buckley
lived some years. Did you notice a pale, pretty-looking woman, was with
I grew all attention. "Yes," I said, "I noticed her."
"I knew her husband well," he said, "and an awful rascal he was: he was
lagged for coining, though he might have been for half-a-dozen things
"Indeed!" said I; "and is he in the colony?"
"No; he's over the water, I expect."
"In Van Diemen's Land, you mean?"
"Just so," he said; "he had better not show Bill Lee much of his face,
or there'll be mischief."
"Lee owes him a grudge, then?"
"Not exactly that," said my communicative friend, "but I don't think
that Hawker will show much where Lee is."
"I am very glad to hear it," I thought to myself. "I hope Mary may not
have some trouble with her husband still."
"What is the name of the place Major Buckley comes from?" I inquired.
"And you belong there too?" I knew very well however, that he did not,
or I must have known him.
"No," he answered; "Okehampton is my native place. But you talk a
little Devon yourself, sir."
The conversation came to a close, for we heard the barking of dogs, and
saw the station where we were to spend the night. In the morning I went
home, and my new acquaintance, who called himself Dick, along with me.
Finding that he was a first-rate rider, and gentle and handy among
horses, I took him into my service permanently, and soon got to like
him very well.
A WARM CHRISTMAS DAY.
All through November and part of December, I and our Scotch overseer,
Georgy Kyle, were busy as bees among the sheep. Shearers were very
scarce, and the poor sheep got fearfully "tomahawked" by the new hands,
who had been a very short time from the barracks. Dick, however, my
new acquaintance, turned out a valuable ally, getting through more
Back to Full Books