The Recollections of Geoffrey Hamlyn
Part 6 out of 12
I lay there on the hot black ground. My head felt like a block of
stone, and my neck was stiff so that I could not move my head. My
throat was swelled and dry as a sand-hill, and there was a roaring in
my ears like a cataract. I thought of the cool waterfalls among the
rocks far away in Devon. I thought of everything that was cold and
pleasant, and then came into my head about Dives praying for a drop of
water. I tried to get up, but could not, so lay down again with my head
upon my arm.
It grew cooler, and the atmosphere was clearer. I got up, and, mounting
my horse, turned homeward. Now I began to think about the station.
Could it have escaped? Impossible! The fire would fly a hundred yards
or more such a day as this even in low plain. No, it must be gone!
There was a great roll in the plain between me and home, so that I
could see nothing of our place--all around the country was black,
without a trace of vegetation. Behind me were the smoking ruins of the
forest I had escaped from, where now the burnt-out trees began to
thunder down rapidly, and before, to the south, I could see the fire
raging miles away.
So the station is burnt, then? No! For as I top the ridge, there it is
before me, standing as of old--a bright oasis in the desert of burnt
country round. Ay! the very hay-stack is safe! And the paddocks?--all
right!--glory be to God!
I got home, and James came running to meet me.
"I was getting terribly frightened, old man," said he. "I thought you
were caught. Lord save us, you look ten years older than you did this
I tried to answer, but could not speak for drought. He ran and got me a
great tumbler of claret-and-water; and, in the evening, having drunk
about an imperial gallon of water, and taken afterwards some claret, I
felt pretty well revived.
Men were sent out at once to see after the Morgans, and found them
perfectly safe, but very much frightened; they had, however, saved
their hut, for the fire had passed before the wind had got to its full
So we were delivered from the fire; but still no rain. All day, for the
next month, the hot north wind would blow till five o'clock, and then a
cool southerly breeze would come up and revive us; but still the
heavens were dry, and our cattle died by hundreds.
On the eighteenth of March, we sat in the verandah looking still over
the blackened unlovely prospect, but now cheerfully and with hope; for
the eastern sky was piled up range beyond range with the scarlet and
purple splendour of cloud-land, and, as darkness gathered, we saw the
lightning, not twinkling and glimmering harmlessly about the horizon,
as it had been all the summer, but falling sheer in violet-coloured
rivers behind the dark curtain of rain that hung from the black edge of
a teeming thunder-cloud.
We had asked our overseer in that night, being Saturday, to drink with
us; he sat very still, and talked but little, as was his wont. I
slapped him on the back, and said:--
"Do you remember, Geordie, that muff in Thalaba who chose the wrong
cloud? He should have got you or me to choose for him; we wouldn't have
made a mistake, I know. We would have chosen such a one as yon
glorious big-bellied fellow. See how grandly he comes growling up!"
"It's just come," said he, "without the praying for. When the fire came
owre the hill the other day, I just put up a bit prayer to the Lord,
that He'd spare the haystack, and He spared it. (I didna stop working,
ye ken; I worked the harder; if ye dinna mean to work, ye should na
pray.) But I never prayed for rain,--I didna, ye see, like to ask the
Lord to upset all his gran' laws of electricity and evaporation, just
because it would suit us. I thocht He'd likely ken better than mysel.
Hech, sirs, but that chiel's riding hard!"
A horseman appeared making for the station at full speed; when he was
quite close, Jim called out, "By Jove, it is Doctor Mulhaus!" and we
ran out into the yard to meet him.
Before any one had time to speak, he shouted out: "My dear boys, I'm so
glad I am in time: we are going to see one of the grandest electrical
disturbances it has ever been my lot to witness. I reined up just now
to look, and I calculated that the southern point of explosion alone is
discharging nine times in the minute. How is your barometer?"
"Haven't looked, Doctor."
"Careless fellow," he replied, "you don't deserve to have one."
"Never mind, sir, we have got you safe and snug out of the thunderstorm.
It is going to be very heavy I think. I only hope we will have plenty of
"Not much doubt of it," said he. "Now, come into the verandah and let
us watch the storm."
We went and sat there; the highest peaks of the great cloud alps,
lately brilliant red, were now cold silver grey, harshly defined
against a faint crimson background, and we began to hear the thunder
rolling and muttering. All else was deadly still and heavy.
"Mark the lightning!" said the Doctor; "that which is before the rain-wall
is white, and that behind violetcoloured. Here comes the thundergust."
A fierce blast of wind came hurrying on, carrying a cloud of dust and
leaves before it. It shook the four corners of the house and passed
away. And now it was a fearful sight to see the rain-spouts pouring
from the black edge of the lower cloud as from a pitcher, nearly
overhead, and lit up by a continuous blaze of lightning: another blast
of wind, now a few drops, and in ten minutes you could barely
distinguish the thunder above the rattle of the rain on the shingles.
It warred and banged around us for an hour, so that we could hardly
hear one another speak. At length the Doctor bawled,--
"We shall have a crack closer than any yet, you'll see; we always have
one particular one;--our atmosphere is not restored to its balance
The curtains were drawn, and yet, for an instant, the room was as
bright as day. Simultaneously there came a crack and an explosion, so
loud and terrifying, that, used as I was to such an event, I
involuntarily jumped up from my seat.
"Are you all right here?" said the Doctor; and, running out into the
kitchen, shouted, "Any one hurt?"
The kitchen girl said that the lightning had run all down her back like
cold water, and the housekeeper averred that she thought the thunder
had taken the roof of the house off. So we soon perceived that nothing
was the matter, and sat down again to our discourse, and our supper.
"Well," began I, "here's the rain come at last. In a fortnight there
will be good grass again. We ought to start and get some store cattle."
"But where?" replied James. "We shall have to go a long way for them;
everyone will be wanting the same thing now. We must push a long way
north, and make a depot somewhere westward. Then we can pick them up by
sixes and sevens at a time. When shall we go?"
"The sooner the better."
"I think I will come with you," said the Doctor. "I have not been a
journey for some time."
"Your conversation, sir," I said, "will shorten the journey by
one-half"--which was sincerely said.
Away we went northward, with the mountains on our left, leaving
snow-streaked Kosciusko nearly behind us, till a great pass, through the
granite walls, opened to the westward, up which we turned, Mount Murray
towering up the south. Soon we were on the Murrumbidgee, sweeping
from side to side of his mountain valley in broad curves, sometimes
rushing hoarse, swollen by the late rains, under belts of high timber,
and sometimes dividing broad meadows of rich grass, growing green once
more under the invigorating hand of autumn. All nature had awakened
from her deep summer sleep, the air was brisk and nimble, and seldom
did three happier men ride on their way than James, the Doctor, and I.
Good Doctor! How he beguiled the way with his learning!--in ecstasies
all the time, enjoying everything, animate or inanimate, as you or I
would enjoy a new play or a new opera. How I envied him! He was like a
man always reading a new and pleasant book. At first the stockmen rode
behind, talking about beasts, and horses, and what not--often talking
about nothing at all, but riding along utterly without thought, if such
a thing could be. But soon I noticed they would draw up closer, and
regard the Doctor with some sort of attention, till toward the evening
of the second day, one of them, our old acquaintance, Dick, asked the
Doctor a question, as to why, if I remember right, certain trees should
grow in certain localities, and there only. The Doctor reined up
alongside him directly, and in plain forcible language explained the
matter: how that some plants required more of one sort of substance
than another, and how they get it out of particular soils; and how,
in the lapse of years, they had come to thrive best on the soil that
suited them, and had got stunted and died out in other parts. "See,"
said he, "how the turkey holds to the plains, and the pheasant (lyrebird)
to the scrub, because each one finds its food there. Trees cannot
move; but by time, and by positively refusing to grow on unkindly
soils, they arrange themselves in the localities which suit them
So after this they rode with the Doctor always, both hearing him and
asking him questions, and at last, won by his blunt kindliness, they
grew to like and respect him in their way, even as we did.
So we fared on through bad weather and rough country, enjoying a
journey which, but for him, would have been a mere trial of patience.
Northward ever, through forest and plain, over mountain and swamp,
across sandstone, limestone, granite, and rich volcanic land, each
marked distinctly by a varying vegetation. Sometimes we would camp out,
but oftener managed to reach a station at night. We got well across the
dry country between the Murrumbidgee and the Lachlan, now abounding
with pools of water; and, having crossed the latter river, held on our
course toward Croker's Range, which we skirted; and, after having been
about a fortnight out, arrived at the lowest station on the Macquarrie
late in the afternoon.
This was our present destination. The owner was a friend of ours, who
gave us a hearty welcome, and, on our inquiries as to store cattle,
thought that we might pick up a good mob of them from one station or
another. "We might," said he, "make a depot for them, as we collected
them, on some unoccupied land down the river. It was poor country, but
there was grass enough to keep them alive. He would show us a good
place, in a fork, where it was impossible to cross on two sides, and
where they would be easily kept together; that was, if we liked to risk
"Risk what?" we asked.
"Blacks," said he. "They are mortal troublesome just now down the
river. I thought we had quieted them, but they have been up to their
old games lately, spearing cattle, and so on. I don't like, in fact, to
go too far down there alone. I don't think they are Macquarrie
blacks; I fancy they must have come up from the Darling, through the
We thought we should have no reason to be afraid with such a strong
party as ours; and Owen, our host, having some spare cattle, we were
employed for the next three days in getting them in. We got nearly a
hundred head from him.
The first morning we got there the Doctor had vanished; but the third
evening, as we were sitting down to supper, in he came, dead beat, with
a great bag full of stones. When we had drawn round the fire, I said:
"Have you got any new fossils for us to see?"
"Not one," said he; "only some minerals."
"Do not you think, sir," said Owen, our host, "that there are some ores
of metals round this country? The reason I ask you is, we so often pick
up curiouscoloured stones, like those we get from the miners at home,
in Wales, where I come from."
"I think you will find some rich mines near here soon. Stay; it can do
you no harm. I will tell you something: three days ago I followed up
the river, and about twenty miles above this spot I became attracted by
the conformation of the country, and remarked it as being very similar
to some very famous spots in South America. 'Here,' I said to myself,
'Maximilian, you have your volcanic disturbance, your granite, your
clay, slate, and sandstone upheaved, and seamed with quartz;--why
should you not discover here, what is certainly here, more or less?'--
I looked patiently for two days, and I will show you what I found."
He went to his bag and fetched an angular stone about as big as one's
fist. It was white, stained on one side with rust-colour, but in the
heart veined with a bright yellow metallic substance, in some places
running in delicate veins into the stone, in others breaking out in
large shining lumps.
"That's iron-pyrites," said I, as pat as you please.
"Goose!" said the Doctor; "look again."
I looked again; it was certainly different to ironpyrites; it was
brighter, it ran in veins into the stone; it was lumpy, solid, and
clean. I said, "It is very beautiful; tell us what it is?"
"Gold!" said he, triumphantly, getting up and walking about the room in
an excited way; "that little stone is worth a pound; there is a quarter
of an ounce in it. Give me ten tons, only ten cartloads such stone as
that, and I would buy a principality."
Every one crowded round the stone open-mouthed, and James said:
"Are you sure it is gold, Doctor?"
"He asks me if I know gold, when I see it,--me, you understand, who
have scientifically examined all the best mines in Peru, not to mention
the Minas Geraes in the Brazils! My dear fellow, to a man who has once
seen it, native gold is unmistakeable, utterly so; there is nothing at
all like it."
"But this is a remarkable discovery, sir," said Owen. "What are you
going to do?"
"I shall go to the Government," said he, "and make the best bargain I
I had better mention here that he afterwards did go to the Government,
and announce his discovery. Rather to the Doctor's disgust, however,
though he acknowledged the wisdom of the thing, the courteous and
able gentleman who then represented his Majesty informed him that he
was perfectly aware of the existence of gold, but that he for one
should assert the prerogative of the Crown, and prevent any one
mining on Crown-lands: as he considered that, were the gold abundant,
the effects on the convict population would be eminently disastrous. To
which obvious piece of good sense the Doctor bowed his head, and the
whole thing passed into oblivion--so much so, that when I heard of
Hargreave's discovery in 1851, I had nearly forgotten the Doctor's gold
adventure; and I may here state my belief that the knowledge of its
existence was confined to very few, and those well-educated men, who
never guessed (how could they without considerable workings?) how
abundant it was. As for the stories of shepherds finding gold and
selling it to the Jews in Sydney, they are very mythical, and I for one
entirely disbelieve them.
In time we had collected about 250 head of cattle from various points
into the fork of the river, which lay further down, some seven miles,
than his house. As yet we had not been troubled by the blackfellows.
Those we had seen seemed pretty civil, and we had not allowed them to
get familiar; but this pleasant state of things was not to last. James
and the Doctor, with one man, were away for the very last mob, and I
was sitting before the fire at the camp, when Dick, who was left behind
with me, asked for my gun to go and shoot a duck. I lent it him, and
away he went, while I mounted my horse and rode slowly about, heading
back such of the cattle as appeared to be wandering too far.
I heard a shot, and almost immediately another; then I heard a queer
sort of scream, which puzzled me extremely. I grew frightened and rode
towards the quarter where the shots came from, and almost immediately
heard a loud call. I replied, and then I saw Dick limping along through
the bushes, peering about him and holding his gun as one does when
expecting a bird to rise. Suddenly he raised his gun and fired. Out
dashed a black fellow from his hiding place, running across the open,
and with his second barrel Dick rolled him over. Then I saw half-a-dozen
others rise, shaking their spears; but, seeing me riding up, and
supposing I was armed, they made off.
"How did this come about, Dick, my lad?" said I. "This is a bad job."
"Well," he said, "I just fired at a duck, and the moment my gun was
gone off, up jumped half-a-dozen of them, and sent a shower of spears
at me, and one has gone into my leg. They must a' thought that I had a
single-barrel gun and waited till I'd fired it; but they found their
mistake, the devils; for I gave one of them a charge of shot in his
stomach at twenty yards, and dropped him; they threw a couple more
spears, but both missed, and I hobbled out as well as I could, loading
as I went with a couple of tallow cartridges. I saw this other beast
skulking, and missed him first time, but he has got something to
remember me by now."
"Do you think you can ride to the station and get some help?" said I.
"I wish the others were back."
"Yes," he replied, "I will manage it, but I don't like to leave you
"One must stay," I said, "and better the sound man than the wounded
one. Come, start off, and let me get to the camp, or they will be
plundering that next."
I started him off and ran back to the camp. Everything was safe as
yet, and the ground round being clear, and having a double-barrel gun
and two pistols, I was not so very much frightened. It is no use to say
I was perfectly comfortable, because I wasn't. A Frenchman writing
this, would represent himself as smoking a cigar, and singing with the
greatest nonchalance. I did neither. Being an Englishman, I may be
allowed to confess that I did not like it.
I had fully made up my mind to fire on the first black who showed
himself, but I did not get the opportunity. In about two hours I heard
a noise of men shouting and whips cracking, and the Doctor and James
rode up with a fresh lot of cattle.
I told them what had happened, and we agreed to wait and watch till
news should come from the station, and then to start. There was, as we
thought, but little danger while there were four or five together; but
the worst of it was, that we were but poorly armed. However, at
nightfall, Owen and one of his men came down, reporting that Dick, who
had been speared, was getting all right, and bringing also three
swords, and a brace of pistols.
James and I took a couple of swords, and began fencing, in play.
"I see," said the Doctor, "that you know the use of a sword, you two."
"Lord bless you!" I said, "we were in the Yeomanry (Landwehr you call
it); weren't we, Jim? I was a corporal."
"I wish," said Owen, "that, now we are together, five of us, you would
come and give these fellows a lesson; they want it badly."
"Indeed," I said, "I think they have had lesson enough for the present.
Dick has put down two of them. Beside, we could not leave the cattle."
"I am sorry," said James, "that any of our party has had this collision
with them. I cannot bear shooting the poor brutes. Let us move out of
this, homeward, to-morrow morning."
Just before dark, who should come riding down from the station but
Dick!--evidently in pain, but making believe that he was quite
"Why, Dick, my boy," I said, "I thought you were in bed; you ought to
be, at any rate."
"Oh, there's nothing much the matter with me, Mr. Hamlyn," he said.
"You will have some trouble with these fellows, unless I am mistaken. I
was told to look after you once, and I mean to do it."
(He referred to the letter that Lee had sent him years before.)
That night Owen stayed with us at the camp. We set a watch, and he took
the morning spell. Everything passed off quietly; but when we came to
examine our cattle in the morning, the lot that James had brought in
the night before were gone.
The river, flooded when we first came, had now lowered considerably, so
that the cattle could cross if they really tried. These last, being
wild and restless, had gone over, and we soon found the marks of them
across the river.
The Doctor, James, Dick, and I started off after them, having armed
ourselves for security. We took a sword a-piece, and each had a pistol.
The ground was moist, and the beasts easily tracked; so we thought an
easy job was before us, but we soon changed our minds.
Following on the trail of the cattle, we very soon came on the
footsteps of a black fellow, evidently more recent than the hoof-marks;
then another footstep joined in, and another, and at last we made out
that above a dozen blacks were tracking our cattle, and were between us
Still we followed the trail as fast as we could. I was uneasy, for we
were insufficiently armed, but I found time to point out to the Doctor,
what he had never remarked before, the wonderful difference between the
naked foot-print of a white man and a savage. The white man leaves the
impression of his whole sole, every toe being distinctly marked, while
your black fellow leaves scarce any toe-marks, but seems merely to
spurn the ground with the ball of his foot.
I felt very ill at ease. The morning was raw, and a dense fog was over
everything. One always feels wretched on such a morning, but on that
one I felt miserable. There was an indefinable horror over me, and I
talked more than any one, glad to hear the sound of my own voice.
Once, the Doctor turned round and looked at me fixedly from under his
dark eyebrows. "Hamlyn," he said, "I don't think you are well; you talk
fast, and are evidently nervous. We are in no danger, I think, but you
seem as if you were frightened."
"So I am, Doctor, but I don't know what at."
Jim was riding first, and he turned and said, "I have lost the black
fellows' track entirely: here are the hoof-marks, safe enough, but no
foot-prints, and the ground seems to be rising."
The fog was very thick, so that we could see nothing above a hundred
yards from us. We had come through forest all the way, and were wet
with pushing through low shrubs. As we paused came a puff of air, and
in five minutes the fog had rolled away, and a clear blue sky and a
bright sun were overhead.
Now we could see where we were. We were in the lower end of a
precipitous mountain-gully, narrow where we were, and growing rapidly
narrower as we advanced. In the fog we had followed the cattle-track
right into it, passing, unobserved, two great heaps of tumbled rocks
which walled the glen; they were thickly fringed with scrub, and, it
immediately struck me that they stood just in the place where we had
lost the tracks of the black fellows.
I should have mentioned this, but, at this moment, James caught sight
of the lost cattle, and galloped off after them; we followed, and very
quickly we had headed them down the glen, and were posting homeward
as hard as we could go.
I remember well there was a young bull among them that took the lead.
As he came nearly opposite the two piles of rock which I have
mentioned, I saw a black fellow leap on a boulder, and send a spear
He headed back, and the other beasts came against him. Before we could
pull up we were against the cattle, and then all was confusion and
disaster. Two hundred black fellows were on us at once, shouting like
devils, and sending down their spears upon us like rain. I heard the
Doctor's voice, above all the infernal din, crying "Viva! Swords, my
boys; take your swords!" I heard two pistol shots, and then, with
deadly wrath in my heart, I charged at a crowd of them, who were
huddled together, throwing their spears wildly, and laid about me with
my cutlass like a madman.
I saw them scrambling up over the rocks in wild confusion; then I heard
the Doctor calling me to come on. He had reined up, and a few of the
discomfited savages were throwing spears at him from a long distance.
When he saw me turn to come, he turned also, and rode after James, who
was two hundred yards ahead, reeling in his saddle like a drunken man,
grinding his teeth, and making fierce clutches at a spear which was
buried deep in his side, and which at last he succeeded in tearing out.
He went a few yards further, and then fell off his horse on the ground.
We were both off in a moment, but when I got his head on my lap, I saw
he was dying. The Doctor looked at the wound, and shook his head. I
took his right hand in mine, and the other I held upon his true and
faithful heart, until I felt it flutter, and stop for ever.
Then I broke down altogether. "Oh! good old friend! Oh! dear old
friend, could you not wait for me? Shall I never see you again?"
Yes! I think that I shall see him again. When I have crossed the dark
river which we must all cross, I think he will be one of those who come
down to meet me from the gates of the Everlasting City.----
* * * * *
"A man," said the Doctor to me, two days after, when we were sitting
together in the station parlour, "who approached as nearly the model
which our Great Master has left us as any man I know. I studied and
admired him for many years, and now I cannot tell you not to mourn. I
can give you no comfort for the loss of such a man, save it be to say
that you and I may hope to meet him again, and learn new lessons from
him, in a better place than this."
IN WHICH THE NEW DEAN OF B--- MAKES HIS APPEARANCE, AND ASTONISHES THE
MAJOR OUT OF HIS PROPRIETY.
One evening towards the end of that winter Mrs. Buckley and Sam sat
alone before the fire, in the quickly-gathering darkness. The candles
were yet unlighted, but the cheerful flickering light produced by the
combustion of three or four logs of sheoak, topped by one of dead gum,
shone most pleasantly on the wellordered dining-room, on the close-drawn
curtains, on the nicely-polished furniture, on the dinner-table,
laid with fair array of white linen, silver, and glass, but, above all,
on the honest, quiet face of Sam, who sat before his mother in an easy
chair, with his head back, fast asleep.
While she is alternately casting glances of pride and affection towards
her sleeping son, and keen looks on the gum log, in search of
centipedes, let us take a look at her ourselves, and see how sixteen
years have behaved to that handsome face. There is change here, but no
deterioration. It is a little rounder perhaps, and also a little fuller
in colour, but there are no lines there yet. "Happiness and ceaseless
good temper don't make many wrinkles, even in a warmer climate than old
England," says the Major, and says, also, confidentially, to Brentwood,
"Put a red camelia in her hair, and send her to the opera even
now, and see what a sensation she would make, though she is nearer
fifty than forty,"--which was strictly true, although said by her
husband, for the raven hair is as black as it was when decorated with
the moss-roses of Clere, and the eye is as brilliant as when it flashed
with the news of Trafalgar.
Now, the beautiful profile is turned again towards the sleeper as he
moves. "Poor boy!" she said. "He is quite knocked up. He must have been
twenty-four hours in the saddle. However, he had better be after cattle
than in a billiard-room. I wonder if his father will be home to-night."
Suddenly Sam awoke. "Heigho!" said he. "I'm nice company, mother. Have
I been asleep?"
"Only for an hour or so, my boy," said she. "See; I've been defending
you while you slumbered. I have killed three centipedes, which came out
of that old gum log. I cut this big one in half with the fire-shovel,
and the head part walked away as if nothing had happened. I must tell
the man not to give us rotten wood, or some of us will be getting a
nip. It's a long fifty miles from Captain Brentwood's," said Mrs.
Buckley after a time. "And that's a very good day's work for little
Bronsewing, carrying your father."
"And what has been the news since I have been away,--eh, mother?"
"Why, the greatest news is that the Donovans have sold their station,
and are off to Port Phillip."
"All the world is moving there," said Sam. "Who has he sold it to?"
"That I can't find out.--There's your father, my love."
There was the noise of horses' feet and merry voices in the little
gravelled yard behind the house, heard above a joyous barking of dogs.
Sam ran out to hold his father's horse, and soon came into the room
again, accompanied by his father and Captain Brentwood.
After the first greetings were over, candles were lighted, and the
three men stood on the hearth-rug together--a very remarkable group,
as you would have said, had you seen them. You might go a long while in
any country without seeing three such men in company.
Captain Brentwood, of Artillery renown, was a square, powerfully built
man, say five-foot-ten in height. His face, at first sight, appeared
rather a stupid one beside the Major's, expressing rather determination
than intelligence; but once engage him in a conversation which
interested him, and you would be surprised to see how animated it could
become. Then the man, usually so silent, would open up the store-house
of his mind, speaking with an eloquence and a force which would
surprise one who did not know him, and which made the Doctor often take
the losing side of an argument for the purpose of making him speak. Add
to this that he was a thoroughly amiable man, and, as Jim would tell
you (in spite of a certain severe whipping you wot of), a most
indulgent and excellent father.
Major Buckley's shadow had grown no less,--nay, rather greater, since
first we knew him. In other respects, very little alteration, except
that his curling brown hair had grown thinner about the temples, and
was receding a little from his forehead. But what cared he for that! He
was not the last of the Buckleys.
One remarks now, as the two stand together, that Sam, though but
nineteen, is very nearly as tall as his father, and promises to be as
broad across the shoulders some day, being an exception to colonially-bred
men in general, who are long and narrow. He is standing and talking to his
"Well, Sam," said the Major, "so you're back safe,--eh, my boy! A
rough time, I don't doubt. Strange store-cattle are queer to drive at
any time, particularly such weather as you have had."
"And such a lot, too!" said Sam. "Tell you what, father: it's lucky
you've got them cheap, for the half of them are off the ranges."
"Scrubbers, eh?" said the Major; "well, we must take what we can catch,
with this Port Phillip rush. Let's sit down to dinner; I've got some
news that will please you. Fish, eh? See there, Brentwood! What do you
think of that for a blackfish? (What was his weight, my dear?)"
"Seven pounds and a half, as the black fellows brought him in," said
"A very pretty fish," said the Major. "My dear, what is the news?"
"Why, the Donovans have sold their station."
"Ha! ha!" laughed the Major. "Why, we have come from there to-day. Why,
we were there last night at a grand party. All the Irishmen in the
country side. Such a turmoil I haven't seen since I was quartered at
Cove. So that's your news,--eh?"
"And so you stepped on there without calling at home, did you?" said
Mrs. Buckley. "And perhaps you know who the purchaser is."
"Don't you know, my love?"
"No, indeed!" said Mrs. Buckley. "I have been trying to find out these
two days. It would be very pleasant to have a good neighbour there,--
not that I wish to speak evil of the Donovans; but really they did go
on in such terrible style, you know, that one could not go there. Now,
tell me who has bought Garoopna."
"One Brentwood, captain of Artillery."
"Nonsense!" said Mrs. Buckley. "Is he not joking now, Captain
Brentwood? That is far too good news to be true."
"It is true, nevertheless, madam," said Captain Brentwood. "I thought
it would meet with your approval, and I can see by Sam's face that it
meets with his. You see, my dear lady, Buckley has got to be rather
necessary to me. I miss him when he is absent, and I want to be more
with him. Again, I am very fond of my son Jim, and my son Jim is very
fond of your son Sam, and is always coming here after him when he ought
to be at home. So I think I shall see more of him when we are ten miles
apart than when we are fifty. And, once more, my daughter Alice, now
completing her education in Sydney, comes home to keep house for me in
a few months, and I wish her to have the advantage of the society of
the lady whom I honour and respect above all others. So I have bought
"If that courtly bow is intended for me, my dear Captain," said Mrs.
Buckley, "as I cannot but think it is, believe me that your daughter
shall be as my daughter."
"Teach her to be in some slight degree like yourself, Mrs. Buckley,"
said the Captain, "and you will put me under obligations which I can
"Altogether, wife," said the Major, "it is the most glorious
arrangement that ever was come to. Let us take a glass of sherry all
round on it. Sam, my lad, your hand! Brentwood, we have none of us ever
seen your daughter. She should be handsome."
"You remember her mother?" said the Captain.
"Who could ever forget Lady Kate who had once seen her?" said the
"Well, Alice is more beautiful than her mother ever was."
There went across the table a bright electric spark out of Mrs.
Buckley's eye into her husband's, as rapid as those which move the
quivering telegraph needles, and yet not unobserved, I think, by
Captain Brentwood, for there grew upon his face a pleasant smile,
which, rapidly broadening, ended in a low laugh, by no means
disagreeable to hear, though Sam wondered what the joke could be, until
the Captain said,--
"An altogether comical party that last night at the Donovans', Buckley!
The most comical I ever was at."
Nevertheless, I don't believe that it was that which made him laugh at
"A capital party!" said the Major, laughing. "Do you know, Brentwood, I
always liked those Donovans, under the rose, and last night I liked
them better than ever. They were not such very bad neighbours, although
old Donovan wanted to fight a duel with me once. At all events, the
welcome I got last night will make me remember them kindly in future."
"I must go down and call there before they go," said Mrs. Buckley.
"People who have been our neighbours so many years must not go away
without a kind farewell. Was Desborough there?"
"Indeed, he was. Don't you know he is related to the Donovans?"
"Fact, my dear, I assure you, according to Mrs. Donovan, who told me
that the De Novans and the Desboroughs were cognate Norman families,
who settled in Ireland together, and have since frequently inter-married."
"I suppose," said Mrs. Buckley, laughing, "that Desborough did not deny
"Not at all, my dear: as he said to me privately, 'Buckley, never deny
a relationship with a man worth forty thousand pounds, the least penny,
though your ancestors' bones should move in their graves.'"
"I suppose," said Mrs. Buckley, "that he made himself as agreeable as
"As usual, my dear! He made even Brentwood laugh; he danced all the
evening with that giddy girl Lesbia Burke, who let slip that she
remembered me at Naples in 1805, when she was there with that sad old
set, and who consequently must be nearly as old as myself."
"I hope you danced with her," said Mrs. Buckley.
"Indeed I did, my dear. And she wore a wreath of yellow chrysanthemum,
no other flowers being obtainable. I assure you we 'kept the flure'
in splendid style."
They were all laughing at the idea of the Major dancing, when Sam
exclaimed, "Good Lord!"
"What's the matter my boy?" said the Major.
"I must cry peccavi," said Sam. "Father, you will never forgive me! I
forgot till this moment a most important message. I was rather
knocked up, you see, and went to sleep, and that sent it out of my
"You are forgiven, my boy, be it what it may. I hope it is nothing very
"Well, it is very serious," said Sam. "As I was coming by Hanging Rock,
I rode up to the door a minute, to see if Cecil was at home,--and Mrs.
Mayford came out and wanted me to get off and come in, but I hadn't
time; and she said, 'The Dean is coming here to-night, and he'll be
with you to-morrow night, I expect. So don't forget to tell your
"To-morrow night!" said Mrs. Buckley, aghast. "Why, my dear, boy, that
is to-night! What shall I do?"
"Nothing at all, my love," said the Major, "but make them get some
supper ready. He can't have expected us to wait dinner till this
"I thought," said Captain Brentwood, "that the Dean was gone back to
"So he is," said the Major. "But this is a new one. The good old Dean
"What is the new one's name?" said the Captain.
"I don't know," said the Major. "Desborough said it was a Doctor
Maypole, and that he was very like one in appearance. But you can't
trust Desborough, you know; he never remembers names. I hope he may be
as good a man as his predecessor."
"I hope he may be no worse," said Captain Brentwood; "but I hope, in
addition, that he may be better able to travel, and look after his
outlying clergy a little more."
"It looks like it," said the Major, "to be down as far as this, before
he has been three months installed."
Mrs. Buckley went out to the kitchen to give orders; and after that,
they sat for an hour or more over their wine, till at length, the Major
"We must give him up in another hour."
Then, as if they had heard him, the dogs began to bark. Rover, who had,
against rules, sneaked into the house, and lain PERDU under the sofa,
discovered his retreat by low growling, as though determined to do his
duty, let the consequences be what they might. Every now and then, too,
when his feelings overpowered him, he would discharge a 'Woof,' like a
minute gun at sea.
"That must be him, father," said Sam. "You'll catch it, Mr. Rover!"
He ran out; a tall black figure was sitting on horseback before the
door, and a pleasant cheery voice said, "Pray, is this Major
"Yes, sir," said Sam; "we have been expecting you."
He called for the groom and held the stranger's horse while he
dismounted. Then he assisted him to unstrap his valise, and carried it
in after him.
The Major, Mrs. Buckley, and the Captain had risen, and were standing
ready to greet the Church dignitary as he came in, in the most
respectful manner. But when the Major had looked for a moment on the
tall figure in black, which advanced towards the fire, instead of
saying, "Sir, I am, highly honoured by your visit," or, "Sir, I bid you
most heartily welcome," he dashed forward in the most undignified
fashion, upsetting a chair, and seizing the reverend Dean by both
hands, exclaimed, "God bless my heart and soul! Frank Maberly!"
It was he: the mad curate, now grown into a colonial dean,--sobered,
apparently, but unchanged in any material point: still elastic and
upright, looking as if for twopence he would take off the black cutaway
coat and the broad-brimmed hat, and row seven in the University eight,
at a moment's notice. There seems something the matter with him though,
as he holds the Major's two hands in his, and looks on his broad handsome
face. Something like a shortness of breath prevented his speech,
and, strange, the Major seems troubled with the same complaint; but
Frank gets over it first, and says,--
"My dear old friend, I am so glad to see you!"
And Mrs. Buckley says, laying her hand upon his arm, "It seems as if
all things were arranged to make my husband and myself the happiest
couple in the world. If we had been asked to-night, whom of all people
in the world we should have been most glad to see as the new Dean, we
should have answered at once, Frank Maberly; and here he is!"
"Then, you did not know whom to expect," said Frank.
"Not we, indeed," said the Major. "Desborough said the new Dean was a
Doctor Maypole; and I pictured to myself an old schoolmaster with a
birch rod in his coat tail-pocket. And we have been in such a stew all
the evening about giving the great man a proper reception. Ha! ha! ha!"
"And will you introduce me to this gentleman?" said the Dean, moving
towards Sam, who stood behind his mother.
"This," said the Major, with a radiant smile, "is my son Samuel, whom,
I believe, you have seen before."
"So, the pretty boy that I knew at Drumston," said the Dean, laying his
hands on Sam's shoulders, "has grown into this noble gentleman! It
makes me feel old, but I am glad to feel old under such circumstances.
Let me turn your face to the light and see if I can recognise the
little lad whom I used to carry pickaback across Hatherleigh Water."
Sam looked in his face--such a kindly good placid face, that it seemed
beautiful, though by some rules it was irregular and ugly enough. The
Dean laid his hand on Sam's curly head, and said, "God bless you,
Samuel Buckley," and won Sam's heart for ever.
All this time Captain Brentwood had stood with his back against the
chimney-piece, perfectly silent, having banished all expression from
his countenance; now, however, Major Buckley brought up the Dean and
"My dear Brentwood, the Dean of B----; not Dean to us though, so much
as our dear old friend Frank Maberly."
"Involved grammar," said the Captain to himself, but, added aloud: "A
Churchman of your position, sir, will do me an honour by using my
house; but the Mr. Maberly of whom I have so often heard from my friend
Buckley will do me a still higher honour if he will allow me to enrol
him among the number of my friends."
Frank the Dean thought that Captain Brentwood's speech would have made
a good piece to turn into Greek prose, in the style of Demosthenes; but
he didn't say so. He looked at the Captain's stolid face for a moment,
and said, as Sam thought, a little abruptly:
"I think, sir, that you and I shall get on very well together when we
understand one another."
The Captain made no reply in articulate speech, but laughed internally,
till his sides shook, and held out his hand. The Dean laughed too, as
he took it, and said:
"I met a young lady at the Bishop's the other day, a Miss Brentwood."
"My daughter, sir," said the Captain.
"So I guessed--partly from the name, and partly from a certain look
about the eyes, rather unmistakeable. Allow me to say, sir, that I
never remember to have seen such remarkable beauty in my life."
They sat Frank down to supper, and when he had done, the conversation
"By-the-bye, Major Buckley," said he, "I miss an old friend, who I
heard was living with you; a very dear old friend,--where is Doctor
"Dear Doctor," said Mrs. Buckley; "this is his home indeed, but he is
away at present on an expedition with two old Devon friends, Hamlyn
"Oh!" said Frank, "I have heard of those men; they came out here the
year before the Vicar died. I never knew either of them, but I well
remember how kindly Stockbridge used to be spoken of by everyone in
Drumston. I must make his acquaintance."
"You will make the acquaintance of one of the finest fellows in the
world, Dean," said the Major; "I know no worthier man than Stockbridge.
I wish Mary Thornton had married him."
"And I hear," said Frank. "that the pretty Mary is your next door
neighbour, in partnership with that excellent giant Troubridge. I must
go and see them to-morrow. I will produce one of those great roaring
laughs of his, by reminding him of our first introduction at the
Palace, through a rat."
"I am sorry to say," said the Major, "that Tom is away at Port Phillip,
"Port Phillip, again," said Frank; "I have heard of nothing else
throughout my journey. I am getting bored with it. Will you tell me
what you know about it for certain?"
"Well," said the Major, "it lies about 250 miles south of this, though
we cannot get at it without crossing the mountains, in consequence of
some terribly dense scrub on some low ranges close to it, which they
call, I believe, the Dandenong. It appears, however, when you are
there, that there is a great harbour, about forty miles long,
surrounded with splendid pastures, which stretch west further than any
man has been yet. Take it all in all, I should say it was the best
watered, and most available piece of country yet discovered in New
"Any good rivers?" asked the Dean.
"Plenty of small ones, only one of any size, apparently, which seems to
rise somewhere in this direction, and goes in at the head of the bay.
They tried years ago to form a settlement on this bay, but Collins, the
man entrusted with it, could find no fresh water, which seems strange,
as there is, according to all accounts, a fine full-flowing river
running by the town."
"They have formed a town there, then?" said the Dean.
"There are a few wooden houses gone up by the river side. I believe
they are going to make a town there, and call it Melbourne; we may live
to see it a thriving place."
The Major has lived to see his words fulfilled--fulfilled in such
marvellous sort, that bald bare statistics read like the wildest
romance. At the time he spoke, twenty-two years ago from this present
year 1858, the Yarra rolled its clear waters to the sea through the
unbroken solitude of a primeval forest, as yet unseen by the eye of a
white man. Now there stands there a noble city, with crowded wharves,
containing with its suburbs not less than 120,000 inhabitants. A thousand
vessels have lain at one time side by side, off the mouth of that
little river, and through the low sandy heads that close the great port
towards the sea, thirteen millions sterling of exports is carried away
each year by the finest ships in the world. Here, too, are waterworks
constructed at fabulous expense, a service of steam-ships, between this
and the other great cities of Australia, vieing in speed and
accommodation with the coasting steamers of Great Britain; noble
churches, handsome theatres. In short, a great city, which, in its
amazing rapidity of growth, utterly surpasses all human experience.
I never stood in Venice contemplating the decay of the grand palaces of
her old merchant princes, whose time has gone by for ever. I never
watched the slow downfal of a great commercial city; but I have seen
what to him who thinks aright is an equally grand subject of
contemplation--the rapid rise of one. I have seen what but a small
moiety of the world, even in these days, has seen, and what, save in
this generation, has never been seen before, and will, I think, never
be seen again. I have seen Melbourne. Five years in succession did I
visit that city, and watch each year how it spread and grew until it
was beyond recognition. Every year the press became denser, and the
roar of the congregated thousands grew louder, till at last the scream
of the flying engine rose above the hubbub of the streets, and two
thousand miles of electric wire began to move the clicking needles with
Unromantic enough, but beyond all conception wonderful. I stood at
the east end of Bourke Street, not a year ago, looking at the black
swarming masses, which thronged the broad thoroughfare below. All the
town lay at my feet, and the sun was going down beyond the distant
mountains; I had just crossed from the front of the new Houses of
Legislature, and had nearly been run over by a great omnibus. Partly to
recover my breath, and partly, being not used to large cities, to enjoy
the really fine scene before me, I stood at the corner of the street in
contemplative mood. I felt a hand on my shoulder, and looked round,--
it was Major Buckley.
"This is a wonderful sight, Hamlyn," said he.
"When you think of it," I said, "really think of it, you know, how
wonderful it is!"
"Brentwood," said the Major, "has calculated by his mathematics that
the progress of the species is forty-seven, decimal eight, more rapid
than it was thirty-five years ago."
"So I should be prepared to believe," I said; "where will it all end?
Will it be a grand universal republic, think you, in which war is
unknown, and universal prosperity has banished crime? I may be too
sanguine, but such a state of things is possible. This is a sight which
makes a man look far into the future."
"Prosperity," said the Major, "has not done much towards abolishing
crime in this town, at all events; and it would not take much to send
all this back into its primeval state."
"How so, Major?" said I; "I see here the cradle of a new and mighty
"Two rattling good thumps of an earthquake," said the Major, "would
pitch Melbourne into the middle of Port Phillip, and bury all the gold
far beyond the reach even of the Ballarat deep-sinkers. Come down and
dine with me at the club."
Captain Brentwood went back to Garoopna next morning; but Frank Maberly
kept to his resolution of going over to see Mary; and, soon after
breakfast, they were all equipped ready to accompany him, standing in
front of the door, waiting for the horses. Frank was remarking how
handsome Mrs. Buckley looked in her hat and habit, when she turned and
said to him,--
"My dear Dean, I suppose you never jump over five-barred gates now-a-days?
Do you remember how you used to come over the white gate at the
Vicarage? I suppose you are getting too dignified for any such thing?"
There was a three-railed fence dividing the lower end of the yard from
the paddock. He rammed his hat on tight, and took it flying, with his
black coattails fluttering like wings; and, coming back laughing,
"There's a bit of the old Adam for you, Mrs. Buckley! Be careful how
you defy me again."
The sun was bright overhead, and the land in its full winter verdure,
as they rode along the banks of the creek that led to Toonarbin. Frank
Maberly was as humorous as ever, and many a merry laugh went ringing
through the woodland solitudes, sending the watchman cockatoo screaming
aloft to alarm the flock, or startling the brilliant thick-clustered
lories (richest coloured of all parrots in the world), as they hung
chattering on some silver-leaved acacia, bending with their weight the
fragile boughs down towards the clear still water, lighting up the dark
pool with strange, bright reflections of crimson and blue; startling,
too, the feeding doe-kangaroo, who skipped slowly away, followed by her
young one--so slowly that the watching travellers expected her to
stop each moment, and could scarcely believe she was in full flight
till she topped a low ridge and disappeared.
"That is a strange sight to a European, Mrs. Buckley," said Frank; "a
real wild animal. It seems so strange to me, now, to think that I could
go and shoot that beast, and account to no man for it. That is, you
know, supposing I had a gun, and powder and shot, and, also, that the
kangaroo would be fool enough to wait till I was near enough; which,
you see, is presupposing a great deal. Are they easily approached?"
"Easily enough, on horseback," said Sam, "but very difficult to come
near on foot, which is also the case with all wild animals and birds
worth shooting in this country. A footman, you see, they all mistake for
their hereditary enemy, the blackfellow; but, as yet, they have not come
to distinguish a man on horseback from a four-footed beast. And, this
seems to show that animals have their traditions like men."
"Pray, Sam, are not these pretty beasts, these kangaroos, becoming
"On sheep-runs, very nearly so. Sheep drive them off directly; but on
cattle-runs, so far from becoming extinct, they are becoming so
numerous as to be a nuisance; consuming a most valuable quantity of
"How can you account for that?"
"Very easily," said Sam; "their enemies are all removed. The settlers
have poisoned, in well-settled districts, the native dogs and eagle-hawks,
which formerly kept down their numbers. The blacks prefer the
beef of the settlers to bad and hard-earned kangaroo venison; and,
lastly, the settlers never go after them, but leave them to their own
inventions. So that the kangaroo has better times of it than ever."
"That is rather contrary to what one has heard, though," said Frank.
"But Sam is right, Dean," said the Major. "People judge from seeing
none of them on the plains, from which they have been driven by the
sheep; but there are as many in the forest as ever."
"The Emu, now," said Frank, "are they getting scarce?"
"They will soon be among the things of the past," said the Major; "and
I am sorry for it, for they are a beautiful and harmless bird."
"Major," said Frank, "how many outlying huts have you?"
"Five," said the Major. "Four shepherds' huts, and one stockkeeper's in
the range, which we call the heifer station."
"You have no church here, I know," said Frank; "but do these men get
any sort of religious instruction?"
"None whatever," said the Major. "I have service in my house on Sunday,
but I cannot ask them to come to it, though sometimes the stockmen do
come. The shepherds, you know, are employed on Sunday as on any other
day. Sheep must eat!"
"Are any of these men convicts?"
"All the shepherds," said the Major. "The stockman and his assistant
are free men, but their hut-keeper is bond."
"Are any of them married?"
"Two of the shepherds; the rest single; but I must tell you that on our
run we keep up a regular circulation of books among the huts, and my
wife sticks them full of religious tracts, which is really about all
that we can do without a clergyman."
"Do you find they read your tracts, Mrs. Buckley?" asked Frank.
"No," said Mrs. Buckley, "with the exception, perhaps, of 'Black
Giles the Poacher,' which always comes home very dirty. Narrative
tracts they will read when there is nothing more lively at hand; but
such treatises as 'Are You Ready?' and 'The Sinner's Friend,' fall
dead. One copy lasts for years."
"One copy of either of them," said Frank, "would last. Then these
fellows, Major, are entirely godless, I suppose?"
"Well, I'll tell you, Dean," said the Major, stopping short, "it's
about as bad as bad can be; it can't be worse, sir. If by any means you
could make it worse, it would be by sending such men round here as the
one who was sent here last. He served as a standing joke to the hands
for a year or more; and I believe he was sincere enough, too."
"I must invade some of these huts, and see what is to be done," said
Frank. "I have had a hard spell of work in London since old times; but
I have seen enough already to tell me that that work was not so
hopeless as this will be. I think, however, that there is more chance
here than among the little farmers in the settled districts. Here, at
all events, I shan't have the rum-bottle eternally standing between me
and my man. What a glorious, independent, happy set of men are those
said small freeholders, Major! What a happy exchange an English peasant
makes when he leaves an old, well-ordered society, the ordinances of
religion, the various give-and-take relations between rank and rank,
which make up the sum of English life, for independence, godlessness,
and rum! He gains, say you! Yes, he gains meat for his dinner every
day, and voila tout! Contrast an English workhouse schoolboy--I take
the lowest class for example, a class which should not exist--with a
small farmer's son in one of the settled districts. Which will make the
most useful citizen? Give me the workhouse lad!"
"Oh, but you are over-stating the case, you know, Dean," said the
Major. "You must have a class of small farmers! Wherever the land is
fit for cultivation it must be sold to agriculturists; or, otherwise,
in case of a war, we shall be dependent on Europe and America for the
bread we eat. I know some excellent and exemplary men who are
farmers, I assure you."
"Of course! of course!" said Frank. "I did not mean quite all I said;
but I am angry and disappointed. I pictured to myself the labourer,
English, Scotch, or Irish--a man whom I know, and have lived with and
worked for some years, emigrating, and, after a few years of honest
toil, which, compared to his old hard drudgery, was child's-play,
saving money enough to buy a farm. I pictured to myself this man
accumulating wealth, happy, honest, godly, bringing up a family of
brave boys and good girls, in a country where, theoretically, the
temptations to crime are all but removed: this is what I imagined. I
come out here, and what do I find? My friend the labourer has got his
farm, and is prospering, after a sort. He has turned to be a drunken,
godless, impudent fellow, and his wife little better than himself; his
daughters dowdy hussies; his sons lanky, lean, pasty-faced, blaspheming
blackguards, drinking rum before breakfast, and living by cheating one
another out of horses. Can you deny this picture?"
"Yes," said the Major, "I can disprove it by many happy instances, and
yet, to say the truth, it is fearfully true in as many more. There is
no social influence in the settled districts; there are too many men
without masters. Let us wait and hope."
"This is not to the purpose at present, though," said Mrs. Buckley.
"See what you can do for us in the bush, my dear Dean. You have a very
hopeless task before you, I fear."
"The more hopeless, the greater glory, madam," said Frank, taking off
his hat and waving it; called, chosen, and faithful. "There is a
"That is Toonarbin," said the Major; "and there's Mary Hawker in the
"Let us see," said Mrs. Buckley, "if she will know him. If she does not
recognise him, let no one speak before me."
When they had ridden up and dismounted, Mrs. Buckley presented Frank.
"My dear," said she, "the Dean is honouring us by staying at Baroona
for a week, and proposes to visit round at the various stations. To-morrow
we go to the Mayfords, and next day to Garoopna."
Mary bowed respectfully to Frank, and said, "that she felt highly
honoured," and so forth. "My partner is gone on a journey, and my son
is away on the run, or they would have joined with me in bidding you
Frank would have been highly honoured at making their acquaintance.
Mary started, and looked at him again. "Mr. Maberly! Mr. Maberly!" she
said, "your face is changed, but your voice is unchangeable. You are
"And are you glad to see me?"
"No!" said Mary, plainly.
"Now," said Mrs. Buckley to herself, "she is going to give us one of
her tantrums. I wish she would behave like a reasonable being. She is
always bent on making a scene;" but she kept this to herself, and only
said aloud: "Mary, my dear! Mary!"
"I am sorry to hear you say so, Mrs. Hawker," said Frank; "but it is
just and natural."
"Natural," said Mary, "and just. You are connected in my mind with
the most unhappy and most degraded period of my life. Can you expect
that I should be glad to see you? You were kind to me then, as is your
nature to be, kind and good above all men whom I know. I thought of you
always with love and admiration, as one whom I deeply honoured, but
would not care to look upon again. As the one of all whom I would have
forget me in my disgrace. And now, to-day of all days; just when I have
found the father's vices confirmed in the son, you come before me, as
if from the bowels of the earth, to remind me of what I was."
Mrs. Buckley was very much shocked and provoked by this, but held her
tongue magnanimously. And what do you think, my dear reader, was the
cause of all this hysteric tragic nonsense on the part of Mary? Simply
this. The poor soul had been put out of temper. Her son Charles, as I
mentioned before, had had a scandalous liason with one Meg Macdonald,
daughter of one of the Donovans' (now Brentwood's) shepherds. That
morning, this brazen hussy, as Mary very properly called her, had come
coolly up to the station and asked for Charles. And on Mary's shaking
her fist at her, and bidding her be gone, had then and there rated poor
Mary in the best of Gaelic for a quarter of an hour; and Mary, instead
of venting her anger on the proper people, had taken her old plan of
making herself disagreeable to those who had nothing to do with it,
which naturally made Mrs. Buckley very angry, and even ruffled the
placid Major a little, so that he was not sorry when he saw in his
wife's face, the expression of which he knew so well, that Mary was
going to "catch it."
"I wish, Mary Hawker," said Mrs. Buckley, "that you would remember that
the Dean is our guest, and that on our account alone there is due to
him some better welcome than what you have given him."
"Now, you are angry with me for speaking truth too abruptly," said Mary
"Well, I am angry with you," said Mrs. Buckley. "If that was the truth,
you should not have spoken it now. You have no right to receive an old
friend like this."
"You are very unkind to me," said Mary. "Just when after so many years'
peace and quietness my troubles are beginning again, you are all
turning against me." And so she laid down her head and wept.
"Dear Mrs. Hawker," said Frank, coming up and taking her hand, "if you
are in trouble, I know well that my visit is well timed. Where trouble
and sorrow are, there is my place, there lies my work. In prosperity my
friends sometimes forget me, but my hope and prayer is, that when
affliction and disaster come, I may be with them. You do not want me
now; but when you do, God grant I may be with you! Remember my words."
She remembered them well.
Frank made an excuse to go out, and Mary, crying bitterly, went into
her bedroom. When she was gone, the Major, who had been standing by the
"My dear wife, that boy of hers is aggravating her. Don't be too hard
"My dear husband," said Mrs. Buckley, "I have no patience with her, to
welcome an old friend, whom she has not seen for nearly twenty years,
in that manner! It is too provoking."
"You see, my love," said the Major, "that her nerves have been very
much shaken by misfortune, and at times she is really not herself."
"And I tell you what, mother dear," said Sam, "Charles Hawker is going
on very badly. I tell you, in the strictest confidence, mind, that he
has not behaved in a very gentlemanlike way in one particular, and if
he was anyone else but who he is, I should have very little to say to
"Well, my dear husband and son," said Mrs. Buckley, "I will go in and
make the AMENDE to her. Sam, go and see after the Dean."
Sam went out, and saw Frank across the yard playing with the dogs. He
was going towards him, when a man entering the yard suddenly came up
and spoke to him.
It was William Lee--grown older, and less wildlooking, since we saw
him first at midnight on Dartmoor, but a striking person still. His
hair had become grizzled, but that was the only sign of age he showed.
There was still the same vigour of motion, the same expression of
enormous strength about him as formerly; the principal change was in
his face. Eighteen years of honest work, among people who in time,
finding his real value, had got to treat him more as a friend than a
servant, had softened the old expression of reckless ferocity into one
of good-humoured independence. And Tom Troubridge, no careless observer
of men, had said once to Major Buckley, that he thought his face grew
each year more like what it must have been when a boy. A bold flight of
fancy for Tom, but, like all else he said, true.
Such was William Lee, as he stopped Sam in the yard, and, with a bold,
honest look of admiration, said--
"It makes me feel young to look at you, Mr. Buckley. You are a great
stranger here lately. Some young lady to run after, I suppose? Well,
never mind; I hope it ain't Miss Blake."
"A man may not marry his grandmother, Lee," said Sam, laughing.
"True for you, sir," said Lee. "That was wrote up in Drumston church, I
mind, and some other things alongside of it, which I could say by heart
once on a time--all on black boards, with yellow letters. And also, I
remember a spick and span new board, about how Anthony Hamlyn (that's
Mr. Geoffry Hamlyn's father) 'repaired and beautified this church;'
which meant that he built a handsome new pew for himself in the
chancel. Lord, I think I see him asleep in it now. But never mind that
I've kept a pup of Fly's for you, sir, and got it through the
distemper. Fly's pup, by Rollicker, you know."
"Oh, thank you," said Sam. "I am really much obliged to you. But you
must let me know the price, you know, Lee. The dog should be a good
"Well, Mr. Buckley," said Lee, "I have been cosseting this little beast
up in the hopes you'd accept it as a present. And then, says I to
myself, when he takes a new chum out to see some sport, and the dog
pulls down a flying doe, and the dust goes up like smoke, and the dead
sticks come flying about his ears, he will say to his friends, 'That's
the dog Lee gave me. Where's his equal?' So don't be too proud to take
a present from an old friend."
"Not I, indeed, Lee," said Sam. "I thank you most heartily."
"Who is this long gent in black, sir?" said Lee, looking towards Frank,
who was standing and talking with the Major. "A parson, I reckon."
"The Dean of B----," answered Sam.
"Ah! so,"--said Lee,--"come to give us some good advice? Well, we
want it bad enough, I hope some on us may foller it. Seems a man, too,
and not a monkey."
"My father says," said Sam, "that he was formerly one of the best
boxers he ever saw."
Any further discussion of Frank's physical powers was cut short, by his
coming up to Sam and saying,--
"I was thinking of riding out to one of the outlying huts, to have a
little conversation with the men. Will you come with me?"
"If you will allow me, I shall be delighted beyond all measure."
"I beg your pardon, sir," said Lee, "but I understood you to say that
you were going to one of our huts to give the men a discourse. Would
you let me take you out to one of them? I'd like well to hear what
you'd got to say myself, sir, and I promise you the lads I'll show you
want good advice as well as any."
"You will do me infinite service," said Frank. "Sam, if you will excuse
me, let me ask you to stay behind. I have a fancy for going up alone.
Let me take these men in the rough, and see what I can do unassisted."
"You will be apt to find them uncivil, sir," said Sam. "I am known, and
my presence would ensure you outward respect at all events."
"Just what I thought," said Frank. "But I want to see what I can do
alone and unassisted. No; stay, and let me storm the place single-handed."
So Lee and he started toward the ranges, riding side by side.
"You will find, sir," said Lee, "that these men, in this here hut, are
a rougher lot than you think for. Very like they'll be cheeky. I would
almost have wished you'd a' let Mr. Buckley come. He's a favourite
round here, you see, and you'd have gone in as his friend."
"You see," said Frank, turning confidentially to Lee, "I am not an
ordinary parson. I am above the others. And what I want is not so much
to see what I can do myself, but what sort of a reception any parson
coming haphazard among these men will get. That is why I left Mr.
Buckley behind. Do you understand me?"
"I understand you, sir," said Lee. "But I'm afear'd."
"What are you afraid of?" said Frank, laughing.
"Why, if you'll excuse me, sir, that you'll only get laughed at."
"That all!" said Frank. "Laughter breaks no bones. What are these men
that we are going to see?"
"Why, one," said Lee, "is a young Jimmy (I beg your pardon, sir, an
emigrant), the other two are old prisoners. Now, see here. These
prisoners hate the sight of a parson above all mortal men. And, for
why? Because, when they're in prison, all their indulgences, and half
their hopes of liberty, depend on how far they can manage to humbug the
chaplain with false piety. And so, when they are free again, they hate him
worse than any man. I am an old prisoner myself, and I know it."
"Have you been a prisoner, then?" said Frank, surprised.
"I was transported, sir, for poaching."
"That all!" said Frank. "Then, you were the victim of a villanous old
law. Do you know," he added, laughing, "that I rather believe I have
earned transportation myself? I have a horrible schoolboy recollection
of a hare who would squeak in my pocket, and of a keeper passing
within ten yards of where I lay hidden. If that is all, give me your
Lee shook his head. "That is what I was sent out for," said he, "but
since then there are precious few villanies I have not committed. You
hadn't ought to shake hands with me, sir."
Frank laid his hand kindly on his shoulder. "I am not a judge," he
said. "I am a priest. We must talk together again. Now, we have no
time, for, if I mistake not, there is our destination."
They had been riding through splendid open forest, growing denser as
they approached the ranges. They had followed a creek all the way, or
nearly so, and now came somewhat suddenly on a large reedy waterhole,
walled on all sides by dense stringy bark-timber, thickly undergrown
with scrub. Behind them opened a long vista, formed by the gully,
through which they had been approaching, down which the black burnt
stems of the stringy bark were agreeably relieved by the white stems of
the red and blue gum, growing in the moister and more open space near
the creek. In front of them was a slab hut of rich mahogany colour, by
no means an unpleasing object among the dull unbroken green of the
forest. In front of it was a trodden space littered with the chips of
firewood. A pile of the last article lay a few yards in front of the
door. And against the walls of the tenement was a long bench, on which
stood a calabash, with a lump of soap and a coarse towel; a lamp oven,
and a pair of black top-boots, and underneath which lay a noble
cattle dog, who, as soon as he saw them, burst out into furious
barking, and prepared to give battle.
"Will you take my horse for me," said Frank to Lee, "while I go
"Certainly, sir," said Lee. "But mind the dog."
Frank laughed and jumped off. The dog was unprepared for this. It was
irregular. The proper and usual mode of proceeding would have been for
the stranger to have stayed on horseback, and for him (the dog) to have
barked himself hoarse, till some one came out of the hut and pacified
him by throwing billets of wood at him. No conversation possible till
his barking was turned into mourning. He was not up to the emergency.
He had never seen a man clothed in black from head to foot before. He
probably thought it was the D----. His sense of duty not being strong
enough to outweigh considerations of personal safety, he fled round the
house, and being undecided whether to bark or to howl, did both, while
Frank opened the door and went in.
The hut was like most other bush huts, consisting of one undivided
apartment, formed of split logs, called slabs, set upright in the
ground. The roof was of bark, and the whole interior was stained by the
smoke into a rich dark brown, such as Teniers or our own beloved
Cattermole would delight in. You entered by a door in one of the long
sides, and saw that the whole of the end on your right was taken up by
a large fireplace, on which blazed a pile of timber. Round the walls
were four bed places, like the bunks on board ship, each filled with a
heap of frouzy blankets, and in the centre stood a rough table,
surrounded by logs of wood, sawn square off, which served for seats.
The living occupants of the hut were scarcely less rude than the hut
itself. One of the bed places was occupied by a sleepy, not bad-looking
young fellow, clad in greasy red shirt, greasy breeches and boots, and
whose shabby plated spurs were tangled in the dirty blankets. He was
lying on his back, playing with a beautiful little parrot. Opposite
him, sitting up in his bunk, was another young fellow, with a
singularly coarse, repulsive countenance, long yellow hair, half-way
down his back, clothed like the other in greasy breeches. This last one
was puffing at a short black pipe, in an affected way, making far more
noise than was necessary in that operation, and seemed to be thinking
of something insolent to say to the last speaker, whoever he may have
Another man was sitting on the end of the bench before the fire, with
his legs stretched out before it. At the first glance Frank saw that
this was a superior person to the others. He was dressed like the
others in black top-boots, but, unlike the others, he was clean and
neat. In fact the whole man was clean and neat, and had a clean-shaved
face, and looked respectable, so far as outward appearances were
concerned. The fourth man was the hut-keeper, a wicked-looking old
villain, who was baking bread.
Frank looked at the sleepy young man with the parrot, and said to
himself, "There's a bad case." He looked at the flash, yellow-haired
young snob who was smoking, and said, "There's a worse." He looked at
the villanous grey-headed old hut-keeper, and said, "There's a hopeless
case altogether." But when he looked at the dry, neatly-dressed man,
who sat in front of the fire, he said, "That seems a more likely
person. There is some sense of order in him, at all events. See what I
can do with him."
He stood with his towering tall black figure in the doorway. The sleepy
young man sat up and looked in wonder, while his parrot whistled and
chattered loudly. The yellow-haired young man looked round to see if he
could get the others to join him in a laugh. The hut-keeper said, "Oh,
h--!" and attended once more to the cooking; but the neat-looking man
rose up, and gave Frank courteously "good day."
"I am a clergyman," said Frank, "come to pay you a visit, if you will
Black-hair looked as if astonishment were a new sensation to him, and
he was determined to have the most of it. Meanwhile, little parrot
taking advantage of his absence of mind, clambers up his breast and
nips off a shirt-button, which he holds in his claw, pretending it is
immensely good to eat. Hut-keeper clatters pots and pans, while yellow
hair lies down whistling insolently. These last two seem inclined to
constitute themselves his Majesty's Opposition in the present matter,
while Black-hair and the neat man are evidently inclined towards Frank.
There lay a boot in front of the fire, which the neat man, without
warning, seized and hurled at Yellow-hair, with such skill and
precision that the young fellow started upright in bed and demanded,
with many verbs and adjectives, what he meant by that?
"I'll teach you to whistle when a gentleman comes into the hut--you
Possumguts! Lie down now, will you?"
Yellow-hair lay down, and there was no more trouble with him. Hut-keeper,
too, seeing how matters were going, left off clattering his
pots, and Frank was master of the field.
"Very glad to see you, sir," says the neat man; "very seldom we get a
visit from a gentleman in a black coat, I assure you."
Frank shook hands with him and thanked him, and then, turning suddenly
upon Black-hair, who was sitting with his bird on his knee, one leg out
of his bunk, and his great black vacant eyes fixed on Frank, said,--
"What an exceedingly beautiful bird you have got there! Pray, what do
you call it?"
Now it so happened that Black-hair had been vacantly wondering to
himself whether Frank's black coat would meet across his stomach, or
whether the lower buttons and buttonholes were "dummies." So that when
Frank turned suddenly upon him he was, as it were, caught in the fact,
and could only reply in a guilty whisper, "Mountain blue."
"Will he talk?" asked Frank.
"Whistle," says Black-hair, still in a whisper, and then, clearing his
throat continued, in his natural tone, "Whistle beautiful. Black
fellows gets 'em young out of the dead trees. I'll give you this one if
you've a mind."
Frank couldn't think of it; but could Black-hair get him a young
cockatoo, and leave it with Mr. Sam Buckley for transmission?--would
be exceedingly obliged.
Yes, Black-hair could. Thinks, too, what a pleasant sort of chap this
parson was. "Will get him a cockatoo certainly."
Then Frank asks may he read them a bit out of the Bible, and neat man
says they will be highly honoured. And Black-hair gets out of his bunk
and sits listening in a decently respectful way. Opposition are by no
means won over. The old hut-keeper sits sulkily smoking, and the
yellow-haired man lies in his bunk with his back towards them. Lee had
meanwhile come in, and, after recognitions from those inside, sat
quietly down close to the door. Frank took for a text, "Servants, obey
your masters," and preached them a sermon about the relations of master
and servant, homely, plain, sensible and interesting, and had succeeded
in awakening the whole attention and interest of the three who
were listening, when the door was opened and a man looked in.
Lee was next the door, and cast his eyes upon the new comer. No sooner
had their eyes met than he uttered a loud oath, and, going out with the
stranger, shut the door after him.
"What can be the matter with our friend, I wonder?" asked Frank. "He
seems much disturbed."
The neat man went to the door and opened it. Lee and the man who had
opened the door were standing with their backs towards them, talking
earnestly. Lee soon came back without a word, and, having caught and
saddled his horse, rode away with the stranger, who was on foot. He was
a large, shabbily-dressed man, with black curly hair; this was all they
could see of him, for his back was always towards them.
"Never saw Bill take on like that before," said the neat man. "That's
one of his old pals, I reckon. He ain't very fond of meeting any of
'em, you see, since he has been on the square. The best friends in
prison, sir, are the worst friends out."
"Were you ever in prison, then?" said Frank.
"Lord bless you!" said the other, laughing, "I was lagged for forgery."
"I will make you another visit if I can," said Frank. "I am much
obliged to you for the patience with which you heard me."
The other ran out to get his horse for him, and had it saddled in no
time. "If you will send a parson round," he said, when Frank was
mounted, "I will ensure him a hearing, and good bye, sir."
"And God speed you!" says Frank. But, lo! as he turned to ride away,
Black-hair the sleepy-headed comes to the hut-door, looking important,
and says, "Hi!" Frank is glad of this, for he likes the stupid-looking
young fellow better than he fancied he would have done at first, and
says to himself, "There's the making of a man in that fellow, unless I
am mistaken." So he turns politely to meet him, and, as he comes
towards him, remarks what a fine, good-humoured young fellow he is,
Blackhair ranges alongside, and, putting his hand on the horse's neck,
"Would you like a native companion?"
"Too big to carry, isn't it?" says Frank.
"I'll tie his wings together, and send him down on the ration dray,"
says Black-hair. "You'll come round and see us again, will you?"
So Frank fares back to Toonarbin, wondering where Lee has gone. But
Black-hair goes back into the hut, and taking his parrot from the
bedplace, puts it on his shoulder, and sits rubbing his knees before
the fire. Yellow-hair and the hut-keeper are now in loud conversation,
and the former is asking, in a loud, authoritative tone (the
neat man being outside), "whether a chap is to be hunted and badgered
out of his bed by a parcel of-----parsons?" To which the Hut-keeper
says, "No, by-----! A man might as well be in barracks again." Yellowhair,
morally comforted and sustained by this opinion, is proceeding to
say, that, for his part, a parson is a useless sort of animal in
general, who gets his living by frightening old women, but that this
particular parson is an unusually offensive specimen, and that there is
nothing in this world that he (Yellow-hair) would like better than to
have him out in front of the house for five minutes, and see who was
best man,--when Black-hair, usually a taciturn, peaceable fellow,
astonishes the pair by turning his black eyes on the other, and saying,
with lowering eyebrows,--
"You d----d humbug! Talk about fighting him! Always talking about
fighting a chap when he is out of the way, when you know you've no more
fight in you than a bronsewing. Why, he'd kill you, if you only waited
for him to hit you! And see here: if you don't stop your jaw about him,
you'll have to fight me, and that's a little more than you're game for,
This last was told me by the man distinguished above as "the neat man,"
who was standing outside, and heard the whole.
But Frank arrived in due time at Toonarbin, and found all there much as
he had left it, save that Mary Hawker had recovered her serenity, and
was standing expecting him, with Charles by her side. Sam asked him,
"Where was Lee?" and Frank, thinking more of other things, said he had
left him at the hut, not thinking it worth while to mention the
circumstance of his having been called out--a circumstance which
became of great significance hereafter; for, though we never found out
for certain who the man was, we came in the end to have strong
However, as I said, all clouds had cleared from the Toonarbin
atmosphere, and, after a pleasant meal, Frank, Major and Mrs. Buckley,
Sam, and Charles Hawker, rode home to Baroona under the forest arches,
and reached the house in the gathering twilight.
The boys were staying behind at the stable as the three elders entered
the darkened sitting-room. A figure was in one of the easy chairs by
the fire--a figure which seemed familiar there, though the Major could
not make out who it was until a well-known voice said,--
"Is that you, Buckley?"
It was the Doctor. They both welcomed him warmly home, and waited in
the gloom for him to speak, but only saw that he had bent down his head
over the fire.
"Are you ill, Doctor?" said Mrs. Buckley.
"Sound in wind and limb, my dear madam, but rather sad at heart. We
have had some very severe black fighting, and we have lost a kind old
"Is he wounded, then?" said Mrs. Buckley.
"Speared in the side. Rolled off his horse, and was gone in five
"Oh, poor James!" cried Mrs. Buckley. "He, of all men! The man who was
their champion. To think that he, of all men, should end in that way!"
* * * * *
Charles Hawker rode home that night, and went into the room where his
mother was. She was sitting sewing by the fire, and looked up to
welcome him home.
"Mother," said he, "there is bad news to tell. We have lost a good
friend. James Stockbridge is killed by the blacks on the Macquarrie."
She answered not a word, but buried her face in her hands, and very
shortly rose and left the room. When she was alone, she began moaning
to herself, and saying,--
"Some more fruit of the old cursed tree! If he had never seen me, he
would have died at home, among his old friends, in a ripe, honoured old
THE GOLDEN VINEYARD.
On a summer's morning, almost before the dew had left the grass on the
north side of the forest, or the belated opossum had gone to his nest,
in fact just as the East was blazing with its brightest fire, Sam
started off for a pleasant canter through the forest, to visit one of
their out-station huts, which lay away among the ranges, and which was
called, from some old arrangement, now fallen into disuse, "the
There was the hut, seen suddenly down a beautiful green vista in the
forest, the chimney smoking cheerily. "What a pretty contrast of
colours!" says Sam, in a humour for enjoying everything. "Dark brown
hut among the green shrubs, and blue smoke rising above all; prettily,
too, that smoke hangs about the foliage this still morning, quite in
festoons. There's Matt at the door!"
A lean long-legged clever-looking fellow, rather wide at the knees,
with a brown complexion, and not unpleasant expression of face, stood
before the door plaiting a cracker for his stockwhip. He looked pleased
when he saw Sam, and indeed it must be a surly fellow indeed, who did
not greet Sam's honest phiz with a smile. Never a dog but wagged his
tail when he caught Sam's eye.
"You're abroad early this morning, sir," said the man; "nothing the
matter; is there, sir?"
"Nothing," said Sam, "save that one of Captain Brentwood's bulls is
missing, and I came out to tell you to have an extra look round."
"I'll attend to it, sir."
"Hi! Matt," said Sam, "you look uncommonly smart."
Matt bent down his head, and laughed, in a rather sheepish sort of way.
"Well, you see, sir, I was coming into the home station to see if the
Major could spare me for a few days."
"What, going a courting, eh? Well, I'll make that all right for you.
Who is the lady,--eh?"
"Why, its Elsy Macdonald, I believe."
"Elsy Macdonald!" said Sam.
"Ay, yes, sir. I know what you mean, but she ain't like her sister; and
that was more Mr. Charles Hawker's fault than her own. No; Elsy is good
enough for me, and I'm not very badly off, and begin to fancy I would
like some better sort of welcome in the evening than what a cranky old
brute of a hutkeeper can give me. So I think I shall bring her home."
"I wish you well, Matt," said Sam; "I hope you are not going to leave
"No fear, sir; Major Buckley is too good a master for that!"
"Well, I'll get the hut coopered up a bit for you, and you shall be as
comfortable as circumstances will permit. Good morning."
"Good morning, sir; I hope I may see you happily married yourself some
of these days."
Sam laughed, "that would be a fine joke," he thought, "but why
shouldn't it be, eh? I suppose it must come some time or another. I
shall begin to look out; I don't expect I shall be very easily suited.
I expect, however, Mr. Sam, that you are just in the state of mind to
fall headlong in love with the first girl you meet with a nose on her
face; let us hope, therefore, that she may be eligible.
But here is home again, and here is the father standing majestic and
broad in the verandah, and the mother with her arm round his neck, both
waiting to give him a hearty morning's welcome. And there is Doctor
Mulhaus kneeling in spectacles before his new Grevillea Victoria, the
first bud of which is just bursting into life; and the dogs catch sight
of him and dash forward, barking joyfully; and as the ready groom takes
his horse, and the fat housekeeper looks out all smiles, and retreats
to send in breakfast, Sam thinks to himself, that he could not leave
his home and people, not for the best wife in broad Australia; but then
you see, he knew no better.
"What makes my boy look so happy this morning?" asked his mother. "Has
the bay mare foaled, or have you negotiated James Brentwood's young
dog? Tell us, that we may participate."
"None of these things have happened, mother; but I feel in rather a
holiday humour, and I'm thinking of going down to Garoopna this
morning, and spending a day or two with Jim."
"I will throw a shoe after you for luck," said his mother. "See, the
Doctor is calling you."
Sam went to the Doctor, who was intent on his flower. "Look here, my
boy; here is something new: the handsomest of the Grevilleas, as I
live. It has opened since I was here."
"Ah!" said Sam, "this is the one that came from the Quartz Ranges, last
year; is it not? It has not flowered with you before."
"If Linnaeus wept and prayed over the first piece of English furze
which he saw," said the Doctor, "what everlasting smelling-bottle
hysterics he would have gone into in this country! I don't sympathise
with his tears much, though, myself; though a new flower is a source of
the greatest pleasure to me."
"And so you are going to Garoopna, Sam?" said his father, at breakfast.
"Have you heard, my dear, when the young lady is to come home?"
"Next month, I understand, my dear," said Mrs. Buckley. "When she does
come I shall go over and make her a visit."
"What is her name, by-the-bye?" asked the Doctor.
So, behold Sam starting for his visit. The very Brummel of bush-dandies.
Hunt might have made his well-fitting cord breeches, Hoby
might have made those black top-boots, and Chifney might have worn them
before royalty, and not been shamed. It is too hot for coat or
waistcoat; so he wears his snow-white shirt, topped by a blue
"bird's-eye-handkerchief," and keeps his coat in his valise, to be used as
occasion shall require. His costume is completed with a cabbage-tree
hat, neither too new nor too old; light, shady, well ventilated, and
three pounds ten, the production, after months of labour, of a private
in her Majesty's Fortieth Regiment of Foot: not with long streaming
ribands down his back, like a Pitt Street bully, but with short and
modest ones, as became a gentleman,--altogether as fine a looking
young fellow, as well dressed, and as well mounted too, as you will
find on the country side.
Let me say a word about his horse, too; horse Widderin. None ever
knew what that horse had cost Sam. The Major even had a delicacy about
asking. I can only discover by inquiry that, at one time, about a year
before this, there came to the Major's a traveller, an Irishman by
nation, who bored them all by talking about a certain "Highflyer" colt,
which had been dropped to a happy proprietor by his mare "Larkspur,"
among the Shoalhaven gullies; described by him as a colt the like of
which was never seen before; as indeed he should be, for his sire
Highflyer, as all the world knows, was bought up by a great Hunter-river
horse-breeder from the Duke of C----; while his dam, Larkspur,
had for grandsire the great Bombshell himself. What more would you
have than that, unless you would like to drive Veno in your dog-cart?
However, it so happened that, soon after the Irishman's visit, Sam went
away on a journey, and came back riding a new horse; which when the
Major saw, he whistled, but discreetly said nothing. A very large colt
it was, with a neck like a rainbow, set into a splendid shoulder, and a
marvellous way of throwing his legs out;--very dark chestnut in
colour, almost black, with longish ears, and an eye so full, honest,
and impudent, that it made you laugh in his face. Widderin, Sam said,
was his name, price and history being suppressed; called after Mount
Widderin, to the northward there, whose loftiest sublime summit bends
over like a horse's neck, with two peaked crags for ears. And the Major
comes somehow to connect this horse with the Highflyer colt mentioned
by our Irish friend, and observes that Sam takes to wearing his old
clothes for a twelvemonth, and never seems to have any ready money. We
shall see some day whether or no this horse will carry Sam ten miles,
if required, on such direful emergency, too, as falls to the lot of
few men. However, this is all to come. Now in holiday clothes and in
holiday mind, the two noble animals cross the paddock, and so down by
the fence towards the river; towards the old gravel ford you may
remember years ago. Here is the old flood, spouting and streaming as of
yore, through the basalt pillars. There stand the three fern trees,
too, above the dark scrub on the island. Now up the rock bank, and away
across the breezy plains due North.
Brushing through the long grass tussocks, he goes his way singing, his
dog Rover careering joyously before him. The horse is clearly for a
gallop, but it is too hot to-day. The tall flat-topped volcanic hill
which hung before him like a grey faint cloud, when he started, now
rears its fluted columns overhead, and now is getting dim again behind
him. But ere noon is high he once more hears the brawling river beneath
his feet, and Garoopna is before him on the opposite bank.
The river, as it left Major Buckley's at Baroona, made a sudden bend to
the west, a great arc, including with its minor windings nearly
twenty-five miles, over the chord of which arc Sam had now been riding,
making, from point to point, ten miles, or thereabouts. The Mayfords'
station, also, lay to the left of him, being on the curved side of the
arc, about five miles from Baroona. The reader may, if he please,
Garoopna was an exceedingly pretty station; in fact, one of the most
beautiful I have ever seen. It stood at a point where the vast forests
which surround the mountains in a belt, from ten to twenty miles broad,
run down into the plains and touch the river. As at Baroona, the stream
runs in through a deep cleft in the table land, which here, though
precipitous on the eastern bank, on the western breaks away into a
small natural amphitheatre bordered by fine hanging woods just in
advance of which, about two hundred yards from the river, stood the
house, a long, low building densely covered with creepers of all sorts,
and fronted by a beautiful garden. Right and left of it were the
woolsheds, sheepyards, stockyards, men's huts etc. giving it almost the
appearance of a little village; and behind the wooded ranges begin to
rise, in some places broken beautifully by sheer scarps of grey rock.
The forest crosses the river a little way, so Sam, gradually descending
from the plains to cross, went the last quarter of a mile through a
shady sandy forest tract, fringed with bracken, which leads down to a
broad crossing place, where the river sparkles under tall over-arching
red gums and box-trees; and then following the garden fence, found
himself before a deep cool-looking porch, in a broad neatly-kept
courtyard behind the house.
A groom came out and took his horse. Rover has enough to do; for
there are three or four sheep dogs in the yard, who walk round him on
tiptoe, slowly, with their frills out and their tails arched, growling.
Rover, also, walks about on tiptoe, arches his tail, and growls with
the best of them. He knows that the slightest mistake would be
disastrous, and so manoeuvres till he gets to the porch, where, a deal
of gravel having been kicked backwards, in the same way as the ancients
poured out their wine when they drank a toast, or else (as I think is
more probable) as a symbol that animosities were to be buried, Rover is
admitted as a guest, and Sam feels it safe to enter the house.
A cool, shady hall, hung round with coats, hats, stockwhips; a gun in
the corner, and on a slab, the most beautiful nosegay you can imagine.
Remarkable that for a bachelor's establishment;--but there is no time
to think about it, for a tall, comfortable-looking housekeeper, whom
Sam has never seen before, comes in from the kitchen and curtseys.
"Captain Brentwood not at home, is he?" said Sam.
"No, sir! Away on the run with Mr. James."
"Oh! very well," says Sam; "I am going to stay a few days."
"Very well, sir; will you take anything before lunch?"
"Nothing, thank you."
"Miss Alice is somewhere about sir. I expect her in every minute."
"Miss Alice!" says Sam, astonished. "Is she come home?"
"Came home last week, sir. Will you walk in and sit down?"
Sam got his coat out of his valise, and went in. He wished that he had
put on his plain blue necktie instead of the blue one with white spots.
He would have liked to have worn his new yellow riding-trousers,
instead of breeches and boots. He hoped his hair was in order, and
tried to arrange his handsome brown curls without a glass, but, in the
end, concluded that things could not be mended now, so he looked round
What a charming room it was! A couple of good pictures, and several
fine prints on the walls. Over the chimneypiece, a sword, and an old
gold-laced cap, on which Sam looked with reverence. Three French
windows opened on to a dark cool verandah, beyond which was a beautiful
flower garden. The floor of the room, uncarpeted, shone dark and
smooth, and the air was perfumed by vases of magnificent flowers, a
hundred pounds worth of them, I should say, if you could have taken
them to Covent-garden that December morning. But what took Sam's
attention more than anything was an open piano, in a shady recess, and
on the keys a little fairy white glove.
"White kid gloves, eh, my lady?" says Sam; "that don't look well." So
he looked through the bookshelves, and, having lighted on "Boswell's
Johnson," proceeded into the verandah. A colley she-dog was lying at
one end, who banged her tail against the floor in welcome, but was too
utterly prostrated by the heat and by the persecution of her puppy to
get up and make friends. The pup, however, a ball of curly black wool,
with a brown-striped face, who was sitting on the top of her with his
head on one side, seemed to conclude that a game of play was to be got
out of Sam, and came blundering towards him; but Sam was, by this time,
deep in a luxurious rocking-chair, so the puppy stopped half way, and
did battle with a great black tarantula spider who happened to be
abroad on business.
Sam went to the club with his immortal namesake, bullied Bennet
Langton, argued with Beauclerk, put down Goldsmith, and extinguished
Boswell. But it was too hot to read; so he let the book fall on his
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