The Recollections of Geoffrey Hamlyn
Part 7 out of 12
lap, and lay a-dreaming.
What a delicious verandah is this to dream in! Through the tangled
passion-flowers, jessamines and magnolias, what a soft gleam of bright
hazy distance, over the plains and far away! The deep river-glen
cleaves the table-land, which, here and there, swells into breezy
downs. Beyond, miles away to the north, is a great forest-barrier,
above which there is a blaze of late snow, sending strange light aloft
into the burning haze. All this is seen through an arch in the dark
mass of verdure which clothed the trellis-work, only broken through in
this one place, as though to make a frame for the picture. He leans
back, and gives himself up to watching trifles.
See here. A magpie comes furtively out of the house with a key in his
mouth, and, seeing Sam, stops to consider if he is likely to betray
him. On the whole he thinks not; so he hides the key in a crevice, and
whistles a tune.
Now enters a cockatoo, waddling along confortably and talking to
himself. He tries to enter into conversation with the magpie, who,
however, cuts him dead, and walks off to look at the prospect.
Flop, flop, a great foolish-looking kangaroo comes through the house
and peers round him. The cockatoo addresses a few remarks to him, which
he takes no notice of, but goes blundering out into the garden, right
over the contemplative magpie, who gives him two or three indignant
pecks on his clumsy feet, and sends him flying down the gravel walk.
Two bright-eyed little kangaroo rats come out of their box peering and
blinking. The cockatoo finds an audience in them, for they sit
listening to him, now and then catching a flea, or rubbing the backs of
their heads with their fore-paws. But a buck 'possum, who stealthily
descends by a pillar from unknown realms of mischief on the top of the
house, evidently discredits cocky's stories, and departs down the
garden to see if he can find something to eat.
An old cat comes up the garden walk, accompanied by a wicked kitten,
who ambushes round the corner of the flowerbed, and pounces out on her
mother, knocking her down and severely maltreating her. But the old
lady picks herself up without a murmur, and comes into the verandah
followed by her unnatural offspring, ready for any mischief. The
kangaroo rats retire into their box, and the cockatoo, rather nervous,
lays himself out to be agreeable.
But the puppy, born under an unlucky star, who has been watching all
these things from behind his mother, thinks at last, "Here is some one
to play with," so he comes staggering forth and challenges the kitten
to a lark.
She receives him with every symptom of disgust and abhorrence; but he,
regardless of all spitting, and tail swelling, rolls her over, spurring
and swearing, and makes believe he will worry her to death. Her
scratching and biting tell but little on his woolly hide, and he
seems to have the best of it out and out, till a new ally appears
unexpectedly, and quite turns the tables. The magpie hops up, ranges
alongside of the combatants, and catches the puppy such a dig over the
tail as sends him howling to his mother with a flea in his ear.
Sam lay sleepily amused by this little drama; then he looked at the
bright green arch which separated the dark verandah from the bright hot
garden. The arch was darkened, and looking he saw something which made
his heart move strangely, something that he has not forgotten yet, and
Under the arch between the sunlight and the shade, bareheaded, dressed
in white, stood a girl, so amazingly beautiful, that Sam wondered for a
few moments whether he was asleep or awake. Her hat, which she had just
taken off, hung on her left arm, and with her delicate right hand she
arranged a vagrant tendril of the passion-flower, which in its
luxuriant growth had broken bounds and fallen from its place above.--A
girl so beautiful that I in all my life never saw her superior. They
showed me the other day, in a carriage in the park, one they said was
the most beautiful girl in England, a descendant of I know not how many
noblemen. But, looking back to the times I am speaking of now, I said
at once and decidedly, "Alice Brentwood twenty years ago was more
beautiful than she."
A Norman style of beauty, I believe you would call it. Light hair, deep
brilliant blue eyes, and a very fair complexion. Beauty and high-bred
grace in every limb and every motion. She stood there an instant on
tiptoe, with the sunlight full upon her, while Sam, buried in gloom,
had time for a delighted look, before she stepped into the verandah and
She floated towards him through the deep shadow. "I think," she said in
the sweetest, most musical little voice, "that you are Mr. Buckley. If
so, you are a very old friend of mine by report." So she held out her
little hand, and with one bold kind look from the happy eyes, finished
Sam for life.
Father and mother, retire into the chimney corner and watch. Your day
is done. Doctor Mulhaus, put your good advice into your pocket and
smoke your pipe. Here is one who can exert a greater power for good or
evil than all of you put together. It was written of old,--"A man
shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his----" Hallo! I am
getting on rather fast, I am afraid.
He had risen to meet her. "And you, Miss Brentwood," he said, "are
tolerably well known to me. Do you know now that I believe by an
exertion of memory I could tell you the year and the month when you
began to learn the harp? My dear old friend Jim has kept me quite AU
FAIT with all your accomplishments."
"I hope you are not disappointed in me," said Alice, laughing.
"No," said Sam. "I think rather the contrary. Are you?"
"I have not had time to tell yet," she said. "I will see how you behave
at lunch, which we shall have in half an hour TETE-A-TETE. You have
been often here before, I believe? Do you see much change?"
"Not much. I noticed a new piano, and a little glove that I had never
seen before. Jim's menagerie o wild beasts is as numerous as ever, I
see. He would have liked to be in Noah's Ark."
"And so would you and I, Mr. Buckley," she answered, laughing, "if we
had been caught in the flood."
Good gracious! Think of being in Noah's Ark with her.
"You find them a little troublesome, don't you, Miss Brentwood?"
"Well, it requires a good deal of administrative faculty to keep the
kitten and the puppy from open collision, and to prevent the magpie
from pecking out the cockatoo's eye and hiding it in the flower bed.
Last Sunday morning he (the magpie) got into my father's room, and
stole thirty-one shillings and sixpence. We got it all back but half
a sovereign, and that we shall never see."
The bird thus alluded to broke into a gush of melody, so rich, full,
and metallic, that they both turned to look at him. Having attracted
attention, he began dancing, crooning a little song to himself, as
though he would say, "I know where it is." And lastly he puffed out his
breast, put back his bill, and swore two or three oaths that would have
disgraced a London scavenger, with such remarkable distinctness too,
that there was no misunderstanding him; so Sam's affectation of not
having caught what the bird said, was a dead failure.
"Mr. Buckley," said she, "if you will excuse me I will go and see about
lunch. Can you amuse yourself there for half an hour?" Well, he would
try. So he retired again to the rocking-chair, about ten years older
than when he rose from it. For he had grown from a boy into a man.
He had fallen over head and ears in love, and all in five minutes,
fallen deeply, seriously in love, to the exclusion of all other
sublunary matters, before he had well had time to notice whether she
spoke with an Irish brogue or a Scotch (happily she did neither).
Sudden, you say: well, yes; but in lat. 34 degrees, and lower, whether in
the southern or northern hemisphere, these sort of affairs come on with a
rapidity and violence only equalled by the thunder-storms of those
regions, and utterly surprising to you who perhaps read this book in
52 degrees north, or perhaps higher. I once went to a ball with as free
and easy, heart-whole a young fellow as any I know, and agreed with him to
stay half an hour, and then come away and play pool. In twenty-five
minutes by my watch, which keeps time like a ship's chronometer, that
man was in the tragic or cut-throat stage of the passion with a pretty
little thing of forty, a cattledealer's widow, who stopped HIS
pool-playing for a time, until she married the great ironmonger in George
Street. Romeo and Juliet's little matter was just as sudden, and very
Australian in many points. Only mind, that Romeo, had he lived in
Australia, instead of taking poison, would probably have
"Took to drinking ratafia, and thought of poor Miss Baily,"
for full twenty-four hours after the catastrophe.
At least such would have been the case in many instances, but not in
all. With some men these suddenly-conceived passions last their
lives, and, I should be inclined to say longer, were there not strong
authority against it.
But Sam? He saw the last twinkle of her white gown disappear, and then
leant back and tried to think. He could only say to himself, "By Jove,
I wonder if I can ever bring her to like me. I wish I had known she was
here; I'd have dressed myself better. She is a precious superior girl.
She might come to like me in time. Heigh ho!"
The idea of his having a rival, or of any third person stepping in
between him and the young lady to whom he had thrown his handkerchief,
never entered into his Sultanship's head. Also, when he came to think
about it, he really saw no reason why she should not be brought to
think well of him. "As well me as another," said he to himself; "that's
where it is. She must marry somebody, you know!"
Why was she gone so long? He begins to doubt whether he has not after
all been asleep and dreaming. There she comes again, however, for the
arch under the creepers is darkened again, and he looks up with a
pleasant smile upon his face to greet her.
"God save us! What imp's trick is this?" There, in the porch, in the
bright sun, where she stood not an hour ago in all her beauty and
grace, stands a hideous, old savage, black as Tophet, grinning; showing
the sharp gap-teeth in her apish jaws, her lean legs shaking with old
age and rheumatism.
The colley shakes out her frill, and, raising the hair all down her
back, stands grinning and snarling, while her puppy barks pot-valiantly
between her legs. The little kangaroo rats ensconce themselves once
more in their box, and gaze out amazed from their bright little eyes.
The cockatoo hooks and clambers up to a safe place in the trellis, and
Sam, after standing thunder-struck for a moment, asks, what she wants?
"Make a light," [Note: "See"] says the old girl, in a pathetic squeak.
Further answer she makes none, but squats down outside, and begins a
petulant whine: sure sign that she has a tale of woe to unfold, and is
going to ask for something.
"Can that creature," thinks Sam, "be of the same species as the
beautiful Alice Brentwood? Surely not! There seems as much difference
between them as between an angel and an ordinary good woman." Hard to
believe, truly, Sam: but perhaps, in some of the great European cities,
or even nearer home, in some of the prison barracks, you may chance to
find a white woman or two fallen as low as that poor, starved,
ill-treated, filthy old savage!
Alice comes out once more, and brings sunshine with her. She goes up to
the old lubra with a look of divine compassion on her beautiful face;
the old woman's whine grows louder as she rocks herself to and fro.
"Yah marah, Yah boorah, Oh boora Yah! Yah Ma!"
"What! old Sally!" says the beautiful girl. "What is the matter? Have
you been getting waddy again?"
"Baal!" says she, with a petulant burst of grief.
"What is it, then?" says Alice. "Where is the gown I gave you?"
Alice had evidently vibrated the right chord. The "Yarah Moorah"
coronach was begun again; and then suddenly, as if her indignation had
burst bounds, she started off with a shrillness and rapidity
astonishing to one not accustomed to black-fellows, into something like
the following: "Oh Yah (very loud), oh Mah! Barkmaburrawurrah,
Barkmamurrahwurrah, Oh Ya Barkmanurrawah Yee (in a scream. Then a
pause). Oh Mooroo (pause). Oh hinaray (pause). Oh Barknamurrwurrah
Alice looked as if she understood every word of it, and waited till the
poor old soul had "blown off the steam," and then asked again:
"And what has become of the gown, Sally?"
"Oh dear! Young lubra Betty (big thief that one) tear it up and stick
it along a fire. Oh, plenty cold this old woman. Oh, plenty hungry this
old woman. Oh, Yarah Moorah," &c.
"There! go round to the kitchen," said Alice, "and get something to
eat. Is it not abominable, Mr. Buckley? I cannot give anything to this
old woman but the young lubras take it from her. However, I will 'put
the screw on them.' They shall have nothing from me till they treat her
better. It goes to my heart to see a woman of that age, with nothing to
look forward to but kicks and blows. I have tried hard to make her
understand something of the next world: but I can't get it out of her
head that when she dies she will go across the water and come back a
young white woman with plenty of money. Mr. Sandford, the missionary,
says he has never found one who could be made to comprehend the
existence of God. However, I came to call you to lunch; will you give
me your arm?"
Such a self-possessed, intrepid little maiden, not a bit afraid of him,
but seeming to understand and trust him so thoroughly. Not all the
mock-modesty and blushing in the world would have won him half so
surely, as did her bold, quiet, honest look. Although a very young man,
and an inexperienced, Sam could see what a candid, honest, gentle soul
looked at him from those kind blue eyes; and she, too, saw something in
Sam's broad noble face which attracted her marvellously, and in all
innocence she told him so, plump and plain, as they were going into the
"I fancy I shall like you very much, Mr. Buckley. We ought to be good
friends, you know; your father saved the lives of my father and uncle."
"I never heard of that before," said Sam.
"I dare say not," said Alice. "Your father is not the man to speak of
his own noble deeds; yet he ran out of his square and pulled my father
and uncle almost from under the hoofs of the French cavalry at
Waterloo. It makes my cheeks tingle to tell of it now."
Indeed it did. Sam thought that if it brought such a beautiful flush to
her face, and such a flash from her eyes, whenever she told it, that he
would get her to tell it again more than once.
But lunch! Don't let us starve our new pair of turtle-doves, in the
outset. Sam is but a growing lad; and needs carbon for his muscles,
lime for his bones, and all that sort of thing; a glass of wine won't
do him any harm either, and let us hope that his new passion is not of
such lamentable sort as to prevent his using a knife and fork with
credit and satisfaction to himself.
Here, in the dark, cool parlour, stands a banquet for the gods, white
damask, pretty bright china, and clean silver. In the corner of the
table is a frosted claret-jug, standing, with freezing politeness,
upright, his hand on his hip, waiting to be poured out. In the centre,
the grandfather of watermelons, half-hidden by peaches and
pomegranates, the whole heaped over by a confusion of ruby cherries
(oh, for Lance to paint it!) Are you hungry, though? If so, here is a
mould of potted-head and a cold wild duck, while, on the sideboard, I
see a bottle of pale ale. My brother, let us breakfast in Scotland,
lunch in Australia, and dine in France, till our lives' end.
And the banquet being over, she said, as pleasantly as possible, "Now,
I know you want to smoke in the verandah. For my part, I should like to
bring my work there and sit with you, but, if you had rather not have
me, you have only to say that 'you could not think,' &c. &c., and I
will obediently take myself off."
But Sam didn't say that. He said that he couldn't conceive anything
more delightful, if she was quite sure she did not mind.
Not she, indeed! So she brought her work out, and they sat together. A
cool wind came up, bending the flowers, swinging the creepers to and
fro, and raising a rushing sound, like the sea, from the distant
forest. The magpie having been down the garden when the wind came on,
and having been blown over, soon joined them in a very captious frame
of mind; and, when Alice dropped a ball of red worsted, he seized it as
lawful prize, and away in the house with a hop and a flutter. So both
Sam and Alice had to go after him, and hunt him under the sofa, and the
bird, finding that he must yield, dropped the ball suddenly, and gave
Sam two vicious digs on the fingers to remember him by. But when Alice
just touched his hand in taking it from him, he wished it had been a
whipsnake instead of a magpie.
So the ball of worsted was recovered, and they sat down again. He
watched her nimble fingers on the delicate embroidery; he glanced at
her quiet face and down-turned eyelids, wondering who she was thinking
of. Suddenly she raised her eyes and caught him in the fact. You could
not swear she blushed; it might only be a trifling reflection from one
of the red China roses that hung between her and the sun; yet, when she
spoke, it was not quite with her usual self-possession; a little
"Are you going to be a soldier, as your father was?"
Sam had thought for an instant of saying "yes," and then to prove his
words true of going to Sydney, and enlisting in the "Half Hundred."
Truth, however, prompting him to say "no," he compromised the matter by
saying he had not thought of it.
"I am rather glad of that, do you know," she said. "Unless in India,
now, a man had better be anything than a soldier. I am afraid my
brother Jim will be begging for a commission some day. I wish he would
stay quietly at home."
That was comforting. He gave up all thoughts of enlisting at once. But
now the afternoon shadows were beginning to slant longer and longer,
and it was nearly time that the Captain and Jim should make their
appearance. So Alice proposed to walk out to meet them, and, as Sam did
not say no, they went forth together.
Down the garden, faint with the afternoon scents of the flowers before
the western sun, among petunias and roses, oleander and magnolia; here
a towering Indian lily, there a thicket of scarlet geranium and
fuschia. By shady young orange trees, covered with fruit and blossom,
between rows of trellissed vines, bearing rich promise of a purple
vintage. Among fig trees and pomegranates, and so leaving the garden,
along the dry slippery grass, towards the hoarse rushing river, both
silent till they reached it. There is a silence that is golden.
They stood gazing on the foaming tide an instant, and then Alice said,--
"My father and Sam will come home by the track across there. Shall we
cross and meet them? We can get over just below."
A little lower down, all the river was collected into one headlong
race; and a giant tree, undermined by winter floods, had fallen from
one bank to the other, offering a giddy footway across the foaming
"Now," said Alice, "if you will go over, I will follow you."
So he ran across, and then looked back to see the beautiful figure
tripping fearlessly over, with outstretched arms, and held out his
great brown hand to take her tiny fingers as she stepped down from the
upturned roots on to the soft white sand. He would like to have taken
them again, to help her up the bank, but she sprang up like a deer, and
would not give him the opportunity. Then they had a merry laugh at the
magpie, who had fluttered down all this way before them, to see if they
were on a foraging expedition, and if there were any plunder going, and
now could not summon courage to cross the river, but stood crooning and
cursing by the brink. Then they sauntered away, side by side, along the
sandy track, among the knolls of braken, with the sunlit boughs
whispering knowingly to one another in the evening breeze as they
passed beneath.--An evening walk long remembered by both of them.
"Oh see ye not that pleasant road,
That winds along the ferny brae?
Oh that's the road to fairy land,
Where thou and I this e'en must gae."
"And so you cannot remember England, Mr. Buckley?" says Alice.
"Oh dear, no. Stay though, I am speaking too fast. I can remember some
few places. I remember a steep, red road, that led up to the church,
and have some dim recollection of a vast grey building, with a dark
porch, which must have been the church itself. I can see too, at this
moment, a broad green flat, beside a creek, which was covered with
yellow and purple flowers, which mother and I made into nosegays. That
must be the place my father speaks of as the Hatherleigh Meadows, where
he used to go fishing, and, although I must have been there often, yet
I can only remember it on one occasion, when he emptied out a basket of
fish on the grass for me to look at. My impression of England is, that
everything was of a brighter colour than here; and they tell me I am
"A glorious country," said Alice; "what would I give to see it?--so
ancient and venerable, and yet so amazingly young and vigorous. It
seems like a waste of existence for a man to stay here tending sheep,
when his birthright is that of an Englishman: the right to move among
his peers, and find his fit place in the greatest empire in the world.
Never had any woman such a noble destiny before her as this young lady
who has just ascended the throne."
But the conversation changed here, and her Majesty escaped criticism
for the time. They came to an open space in the forest, thickly grown
with thickets of bracken fern, prickly acacia, and here and there a
solitary dark-foliaged lightwood. In the centre rose a few blackened
posts, the supports of what had once been a hut, and as you looked, you
were surprised to see an English rose or two, flowering among the
dull-coloured prickly shrubs, which were growing around. A place, as any
casual traveller would have guessed, which had a history, and Sam,
seeing Alice pause, asked her, "what old hut was this?"
"This," she said, "is the Donovans' old station, where they were burnt
out by the blacks."
Sam knew the story well enough, but he would like to hear her tell it;
so he made believe to have heard some faint reports of the occurrence,
and what could she do, but give him the particulars?
"They had not been here a year," she said; "and Mrs. Donovan had been
confined only three days; there was not a soul on the station but
herself, her son Murtagh, and Miss Burke. All day the blackfellows were
prowling about, and getting more and more insolent, and at night, just
as Murtagh shut the door, they raised their yell, and rushed against
it. Murtagh Donovan and Miss Burke had guessed what was coming all day,
but had kept it from the sick woman, and now, when the time came, they
were cool and prepared. They had two double-barrelled guns loaded with
slugs, and with these they did such fearful execution from two loop-holes
they had made in the slabs, that the savages quickly retired; but
poor Miss Burke, incautiously looking out to get a shot, received a
spear wound on her shoulder, which she bears the mark of to this day.
But the worst was to come. The blackfellows mounted on the roof,
tried to take off the bark, and throw their spears into the hut, but
here they were foiled again. Wherever a sheet of bark was seen to move
they watched, and on the first appearance of an enemy, a charge of shot
at a few yards' distance told with deadly effect. Mrs. Donovan, who lay
in bed and saw the whole, told my father that Lesbia Burke loaded and
fired with greater rapidity and precision than her cousin. A noble
woman, I say."
"Good old Lesbia!" said Sam; "and how did it end?"
"Why, the foolish blacks fired the woolshed, and brought the Delisles
upon them; they tried to fire the roof of the hut, but it was raining
too hard; otherwise it would have gone hard with poor Miss Burke. See,
here is a peach-tree they planted, covered with fruit; let us gather
some; it is pretty good, for the Donovans have kept it pruned in memory
of their escape."
"But the hut was not burnt," said Sam; "where did it stand?"
"That pile of earth there, is the remains of the old turf chimney. They
moved across the river after it happened."
But peaches, when they grow on a high tree, must be climbed for,
particularly if a young and pretty girl expresses a wish for them. And
so it fell out, that Sam was soon astride of one of the lower boughs,
throwing the fruit down to Alice, who put them one by one into the
neatest conceivable little basket that hung on her arm.
And so they were employed, busy and merry, when they heard a loud
cheery voice, which made both of them start.
"Quite a scene from 'Paradise Lost,' I declare; only Eve ought to be up
the tree handing down the apples to Adam, and not VICE VERSA. I miss a
carpet snake, too, who would represent the D----, and make the thing
complete.--Sam Buckley, how are you?"
It was Captain Brentwood who had come on them so inaudibly along the
sandy track, on horseback, and beside him was son Jim, looking rather
mischievously at Sam, who did not show to the best of advantage up in
the peach-tree; but, having descended, and greetings being exchanged,
father and son rode on to dress for dinner, the hour for which was now
approaching, leaving Sam and Alice to follow at leisure, which they
did; for Captain Brentwood and Jim had time to dress and meet in the
verandah, before they saw the pair come sauntering up the garden.
"Father," said Jim, taking the Captain's hand. "How would that do?"
"Marvellous well, I should say;" replied the Captain.
"And so I think, too," said Jim. "Hallo! you two; dinner is ready, so
After dinner the Captain retired silently to the chimney-corner, and
read his book, leaving the three young people to amuse themselves as
they would. Nothing the Captain liked so much as quiet, while he read
some abstruse work on Gunnery, or some scientific voyage; but I am
sorry to say he had got very little quiet of an evening since Alice
came home, and Jim had got some one to chatter to. This evening,
however, seemed to promise well, for Alice brought out a great book of
coloured prints, and the three sat down to turn them over, Jim of
course, you know, being in the middle.
The book was "Wild Sports of the East," a great volume of coloured
lithographs, worth some five-andtwenty guineas. One never sees such
books as that now-a-days, somehow; people, I fancy, would not pay that
price for them. What modern travels have such plates as the old
editions of "Cook's Voyages"? The number of illustrated books is
increased tenfold, but they are hardly improved in quality.
But Sam, I think, would have considered any book beautiful in such
company. "This," said Alice, "is what we call the 'Tiger Book'--why,
you will see directly.--You turn over, Jim, and don't crease the
So Jim turned over, and kept them laughing by his simple remarks, more
often affected than real, I suspect. Now they went through the tangled
jungle, and seemed to hear the last mad howl of the dying tiger, as the
elephant knelt and pinned him to the ground with his tusks. Now they
chased a lordly buffalo from his damp lair in the swamp; now they saw
the English officers flying along on their Arabs through the high grass
with well-poised spears after the snorting hog. They have come
unexpectedly on a terrible old tiger; one of the horses swerves, and a
handsome young man, losing his seat, seems just falling into the
monster's jaws, while the pariah dogs scud away terrified through the
"That chap will be eaten immediately," says Jim.
"He has been in that position ever since I can remember," says Alice;
"so I think he is pretty safe."
Now they are with the British army on the march. A scarlet bar
stretches across the plain, of which the further end is lost in the
white mirage--all in order, walking irresistibly on to the conquest of
an empire greater than Haroun Al Raschid's, so naturally done, that as
you look, you think you see the columns swing as they advance, and hear
the heavy, weary tramp of the troops above the din and shouting of the
cloud of camp-followers, on camels and elephants, which surrounds them.
Beyond the plain the faint blue hills pierce the grey air, barred with
a few long white clouds, and far away a gleaming river winds through a
golden country, spanned with long bridges, and fringed with many a
"How I should like to see that!" said Alice.
"Would you like to be a countess," said Jim, "and ride on an elephant
in a howitzer?"
"Howdah, you goose!" said Alice. "Besides, that is not a countess; that
is one of the soldiers' wives. Countesses don't go to India; they stay
at home to mind the Queen's clothes."
"What a pleasant job for them," said Jim, "when her Most Gracious
Majesty has got the toothache! I wonder whether she wears her crown
under her bonnet or over it?"
Captain Brentwood looked up. "My dear boy," he said, "does it not
strike you that you are talking nonsense?"
"Did you ever see the old King, father?" said Jim.
"I saw King George the Third many times."
"Ah, but I mean to speak to him."
"Once only, and then he was mad. He was sitting up with her Majesty,
waiting for intelligence which I brought. His Royal Highness took the
despatches from me, but the King insisted on seeing me."
"And what did he say, father? Do tell us," said Alice eagerly.
"Little enough, my love," said the Captain, leaning back. "He asked,
'Is this the officer who brought the despatches, York?' And his Royal
Highness said 'Yes.' Then the King said, 'You bring good news, sir; I
was going to ask you some questions, but they are all gone out of my
head. Go and get your supper; get your supper, sir.' Poor old
gentleman. He was a kindly old man, and I had a great respect for him.
Alice, sing us a song, my love."
She sang them "The Burial of Sir John Moore" with such perfect taste
and pathos that Sam felt as if the candle had gone out when she
finished. Then she turned round and said to him, "You ought to like
that song; your father was one of the actors in it."
"He has often told me the story," said Sam, "but I never knew what a
beautiful one it was till I heard you sing it."
All pleasant evenings must end, and at last she rose to go to bed. But
Sam, before he went off to the land of happy dreams, saw that the
little white glove which he had noticed in the morning was lying
neglected on the floor; so he quietly secured and kept it. And, last
year, opening his family Bible to refer to certain entries, now pretty
numerous, in the beginning; I found a little white glove pinned to the
fly-leaf, which I believe to be the same glove here spoken of.
A GENTLEMAN FROM THE WARS.
I need hardly say that Sam was sorry when the two days which he had
allowed himself for his visit were over. But that evening, when he
mentioned the fact that he was going away in the morning, the Captain,
Alice, and Jim, all pressed him so eagerly to stay another week, that
he consented; the more as there was no earthly reason he knew of why he
should go home.
And the second morning from that on which he should have been at home,
going out to the stable before breakfast, he saw his father come riding
over the plain, and, going to meet him, found that he, too, meditated a
visit to the Captain.
"I thought you were come after me, father," said Sam. "By the bye, do
you know that the Captain's daughter, Miss Alice, is come home?"
"Indeed!" said the Major; "and what sort of a body is she?"
"Oh, she is well enough. Something like Jim. Plays very well on the
piano, and all that sort of thing, you know. Sings too."
"Is she pretty?" asked the Major.
"Oh, well, I suppose she is," said Sam. "Yes; I should say that a great
many people would consider her pretty."
They had arrived at the door, and the groom had taken the Major's
horse, when Alice suddenly stepped out and confronted them.
The Major had been prepared to see a pretty girl, but he was by no
means prepared for such a radiant, lovely, blushing creature as stepped
out of the darkness into the fresh morning to greet him, clothed in
white, bareheaded, with
"A single rose in her hair."
As he told his wife, a few days after, he was struck "all of a heap;"
and Sam heard him whisper to himself, "By Jove!" before he went up to
Alice and spoke.
"My dear young lady, you and I ought not to be strangers, for I
recognise you from my recollections of your mother. Can you guess who I
"I recognise you from my recollections of your son, sir," said Alice,
with a sly look at Sam; "I should say that you were Major Buckley."
The Major laughed, and, taking her hand, carried it to his lips: a
piece of old-fashioned courtesy she had never experienced before, and
which won her heart amazingly.
"Come, come, Buckley!" said the quiet voice of Captain Brentwood from
the dark passage; "what are you at there with my daughter? I shall have
to call out and fight some of you young fellows yet, I see."
Alice went in past her father, stopping to give him a kiss, and
disappeared into the breakfast-room. The Captain came out, and shook
hands warmly with the Major, and said,
"What do you think of her,--eh?"
"I never saw such beauty before," answered the Major; "never, by Jove!
I tell you what, Brentwood, I wish she could come out this season in
London. Why, she might marry a duke."
"Let us get her a rouge-pot and a French governess, and send her home
by the next ship; eh, Buckley?" said the Captain, with his most
sardonic smile. "She would be the better for a little polishing;
wouldn't she, eh? Too hoydenish and forward, I am afraid; too fond of
speaking the truth. Let's have her taught to amble, and mince, and----
Bah, come to breakfast!"
The Major laughed heartily at this tirade of the Captain's. He was fond
of teasing him, and I believe the Captain liked to be teased by him.
"And what are you three going to do with yourselves to-day, eh?"
asked the Captain at breakfast. "It is a matter of total indifference
to me, so long as you take yourselves off somewhere, and leave me in
Alice was spokesman:--"We are going up to the Limestone Gates; Mr.
Samuel Buckley has expressed a desire to see them, and so Jim and I
thought of taking him there."
This was rather a jesuitical speech. The expedition to the Limestone
Gates involved a long ride through very pretty scenery, which she
herself had proposed. As for Sam, bless you! he didn't care whether
they rode east, west, north, or south, so long as he rode beside her;
however, having got his cue, he expressed a strong wish to examine,
geologically, the great band of limestone which alternated with the
slate towards the mountains, the more particularly as he knew that the
Captain and the Major intended to ride out in another direction, to
examine some new netting for sheep-yards which the Captain had
If Major Buckley thought Alice beautiful as he had seen her in the
morning, he did not think her less so when she was seated on a
beautiful little horse, which she rode gracefully and courageously, in
a blue ridinghabit, and a sweet little grey hat with a plume of
companion's feathers hanging down on one side. The cockatoo was on the
door-step to see her start, and talked so incessantly in his
excitement, that even when the magpie assaulted him and pulled a
feather out of his tail, he could not be quiet. Sam's horse Widderin
capered with delight, and Sam's dog Rover coursed far and wide before
them, with joyful bark. So they three went off through the summer's day
as happy as though all life were one great summer's holiday, and there
were no storms below the horizon to rise and overwhelm them; through
the grassy flat, where the quail whirred before them, and dropped again
as if shot; across the low rolling forest land, where a million parrots
fled whistling to and fro, like jewels, in the sun; past the old
stockyard, past the sheep-wash hut, and then through forest which grew
each moment more dense and lofty, along the faint and narrow track which
led into one of the most abrupt and romantic gullies which pierce the
All this became classic ground to them afterwards, and the causes which
made it so were now gathering to their fulfilment, even now, while
these three were making happy holiday together, little dreaming of what
was to come. Afterwards, years after, they three came and looked on
this valley again; not as now, with laughter and jokes, but silently,
speaking in whispers, as though they feared to wake the dead.
The road they followed, suddenly rising from the forest, took over the
shoulder of a rocky hill, and then, plunging down again, followed a
little running creek up to where a great ridge of slate, crossing the
valley, hemmed them in on either side, leaving only room for the creek
and the road. Following it further, the glen opened out, sweeping away
right and left in broad curves, while straight before them, a quarter
of a mile distant, there rose out of the low scrub and fern a mighty
wall of limestone, utterly barring all further progress save in a
single spot to the left, where the vast grey wall was split, giving a
glimpse of another glen beyond. This great natural cleft was the limestone
gate which they had come to see, and which was rendered the more
wonderful by a tall pinnacle of rock, which stood in the centre of the
gap about 300 feet in height, not unlike one of the same kind in
"I don't think I ever saw anything so beautiful," said Alice. "How fine
that spire of rock is, shooting up from the feathered shrubs at the
base! I will come here some day and try to draw it."
"Wait a minute," said Jim; "you have not seen half yet."
He led them through the narrow pass, among the great boulders which
lined the creek. The instant they came beyond, a wind, icy cold, struck
upon their cheeks, and Alice, dropping her reins, uttered a cry of awe
and wonder, and Sam too exclaimed aloud; for before them, partly seen
through crowded tree stems, and partly towering above the forest, lay a
vast level wall of snow, flecked here and there by the purple shadow of
some flying summer cloud.
A sight so vast and magnificent held them silent for a little; then
suddenly, Jim, looking at Alice, saw that she was shivering.
"What is the matter, Alice, my dear?" he said; "let us come away; the
snow-wind is too much for you."
"Oh! it is not that!" she said. "Somebody is walking over my grave."
"Oh, that's all!" said Jim; "they are always at it with me, in cold
weather. Let 'em. It won't hurt, that I know of."
But they turned homeward nevertheless; and coming through the rock
walls again, Jim said,
"Sam, what was that battle the Doctor and you were reading about one
day, and you told me all about it afterwards, you know?"
"No; something like that, though. Where they got bailed up among the
rocks, you know, and fought till they were all killed."
"Ah! This must be just such another place, I should think."
"Thermopylae was by the sea-shore," said Alice.
"Now, I should imagine," said Sam, pointing to the natural glacis
formed by the decay of the great wall which they had seen fronting them
as they came up, "that a few determined men with rifles, posted among
those fern-trees, could make a stand against almost any force."
"But, Sam," said Jim, "they might be cut up by cavalry. Horses could
travel right up the face of the slope there. Now, suppose a gang of
bushrangers in that fern-scrub; do you think an equal number of police
could not turn them out of it? Why, I have seen the place where Moppy's
gang turned and fought Desborough on the Macquarrie. It was stronger
than this, and yet--you know what he did with them, only kept one
small one for hanging, as he elegantly expressed it."
"But I ain't talking of bushrangers," said Sam. "I mean such fellows as
the Americans in the War of Independence. See what a dance they led our
troops with their bushfighting."
"I wonder if there will ever be a War of Independence here," said
"I know which side I should be on, if there was," said Sam.
"Which would that be?" asked Jim.
"My dear friend," said Sam, testily, "how can you, an officer's son,
ask me, an officer's son, such a question? The King's (I beg pardon,
the Queen's) side, of course."
"And so would I," said Jim, "if it came to that, you know."
"You would never have the honour of speaking to your sweet sister
again, if you were not," said Alice.
"But I don't think those Americans were in the wrong; do you, Miss
Brentwood?" said Sam.
"Why no; I don't suppose that such a man as General Washington, for
instance, would have had much to do with them if they had been."
"However," said Sam, "we are talking of what will never occur here. To
begin with, we could never stand alone against a great naval power.
They would shut us up here to starve. We have everything to lose, and
nothing to gain by a separation. I would hardly like myself, for the
sake of a few extra pounds taxes, to sell my birthright as an
"Conceive," said Alice, "being in some great European city, and being
asked if you were British, having to say, No!"
They were coming through the lower pass, and turned to look back on the
beautiful rock-walled amphitheatre, sleeping peaceful and still under
the afternoon sun. The next time (so it happened) that Sam and Jim
looked at that scene together, was under very different circumstances.
Now the fronds of the ferntrees were scarce moved in the summer's
breeze, and all was silent as the grave. They saw it again;--when
every fern tuft blazed with musketry, and the ancient cliffs echoed
with the shouts of fighting, and the screams of dying men and horses.
"It is very early," said Alice. "Let us ride to the left, and see the
great waterfall you speak of, Jim."
It was agreed. Instead of going home they turned through the forest,
and debouched on the plains about two miles above Garoopna, and,
holding their course to the river, came to it at a place where a great
trap dike, crossing, formed a waterfall, over which the river, now full
with melting snow, fell in magnificent confusion. They stood watching
the grand scene with delight for a short time, and then, crossing the
river by a broad, shallow ford, held their way homeward, along the
eastern and more level bank, sometimes reining up their horses to gaze
into the tremendous glen below them, and watch the river crawling on
through many impediments, and beginning to show a golden light in its
larger pools beneath the sloping, westering sun.
Just as they sighted home, on the opposite side of the river, they
perceived two horsemen before them, evidently on the track between
Major Buckley's and Garoopna. They pushed on to "overhaul them," and
found that it was Doctor Mulhaus, whom they received with boisterous
welcome, and a tall, handsome young gentleman, a stranger.
"A young gentleman, Sam," said the Doctor, "Mr. Halbert by name, who
arrived during your father's absence with letters of introduction. I
begged him to follow your father over here, and, as his own horse was
knocked up, I mounted him at his own request on Jezebel, he preferring
her to all the horses in the paddock on account of her beauty, after
having been duly warned of her wickedness. But Mr. Halbert seems of the
Centaur species, and rather to enjoy an extra chance of getting his
Politeness to strangers was one of the first articles of faith in the
Buckley and Brentwood families; so the young folks were soon on the
best of terms.
"Are you from Sydney way, Mr. Halbert?" said Sam.
"Indeed," said the young man, "I have only landed in the country six
weeks. I have got three years' leave of absence from my regiment in
India, and, if I can see a chance, I shall cut the army and settle
"Oh!" said Alice, "are you a soldier, Mr. Halbert?"
"I have that honour, Miss Brentwood. I am a lieutenant in the Bengal
"That is delightful. I am a soldier's daughter, and Mr. Buckley here
also, as you know, I suppose."
"A soldier's daughter, is he?" said impudent Jim. "A very fine girl
Sam, and Jim too, had some disrespectful ideas about soldiers' riding
qualities; Sam could not help saying,--
"I hope you will be careful with that mare, Mr. Halbert; I should not
like a guest of ours to be damaged. She's a desperate brute,--I'm
afraid of her myself."
"I think I know the length of her ladyship's foot," said Halbert,
As they were speaking, they were passing through a narrow way in a
wattle scrub. Suddenly a blundering kangaroo, with Rover in full chase,
dashed right under the mare's nose and set her plunging furiously. She
tried to wheel round, but, finding herself checked, reared up three or
four times, and at last seemed to stand on her hind legs, almost
Halbert sat like a statue till he saw there was a real chance of her
falling back on him; then he slipped his right foot quickly out of the
stirrup, and stood with his left toe in the iron, balancing himself
till she was quieter; then he once more threw his leg across the
saddle, and regained his seat, laughing.
Jim clapped his hands; "By Jove, Sam, we must get some of these army
men to teach us to ride, after all!"
"We must do so," said Sam. "If that had been you or I, Jim, with our
rough clumsy hands, we should have had the mare back atop of us."
"Indeed," said Alice, "you are a splendid rider, Mr. Halbert: but don't
suppose, from Mr. Buckley's account of himself, that he can't ride
well; I assure you we are all very proud of him. He can sit some
bucking horses which very few men will attempt to mount."
"And that same bucking, Miss Brentwood," said Halbert, "is just what
puzzles me utterly. I got on a bucking horse in Sydney the other day,
and had an ignominious tumble in the sale-yard, to everybody's great
"We must give one another lessons, then, Mr. Halbert," said Sam;--"but
I can see already, that you have a much finer hand than I."
Soon after they got home, where the rest of the party were watching for
them, wondering at their late absence. Halbert was introduced to the
Major by the Doctor, who said, "I deliver over to you a guest, a young
conqueror from the Himalayas, and son of an old brother-warrior. If he
now breaks his neck horse-riding, his death will not be at my door; I
can now eat my dinner in peace."
After dinner the three young ones, Sam, Alice, and Jim, gathered round
the fire, leaving Halbert with the Major and the Captain talking
military, and the Doctor looking over an abstruse mathematical
calculation, with which Captain Brentwood was not altogether satisfied.
Alice and Sam sat in chairs side by side, like Christians, but Jim lay
on the floor, between the two, like a blackfellow; they talked in a
low voice about the stranger.
"I say," said Jim, "ain't he a handsome chap, and can't he ride? I dare
say, he's a devil to fight too,--hear him tell how they pounded away
at those Indians in that battle. I expect they'd have made a general of
him before now, only he's too young. Dad says he's a very distinguished
young officer. Alice, my dear, you should see the wound he's got, a
great seam all down his side. I saw it when he was changing his shirt
in my room before dinner."
"Poor fellow!" said Alice; "I like him very much. Don't you, Mr.
"I like him exceedingly;--I hope he'll stop with us," continued Jim.
"And I also," said Sam, "but what shall we do to-morrow?"
"Let's have a hunt," said Jim. "Halbert, have you ever been kangaroo
"Never!--I want to go!"
"Well, we can have a capital hunt to-morrow: Sam has got his dog Fly
here, and I'll take one of my best dogs, and we'll have a good run, I
"I shall come, too," said Alice: "that is," added she, looking shyly at
Sam, "if you would be kind enough to take care of me, and let Mr.
Halbert and Jim do the riding. But I'm afraid I shall be sadly in your
"If you don't go," said Sam, "I shall stay at home: now then!"
At this minute, the housekeeper came in bearing jugs and glasses.
"Eleanor," said Jim, "is Jerry round?"
"Yes, sir; he's coiled somewhere in the woodhouse," said she.
"Just rouse him out and send him in."
"Who is this Jerry who coils in woodhouses?" said Halbert.
"A tame black belonging to us. He is great at all sorts of hunting; I
want to see if he can find us a flying doe for to-morrow."
Jerry entered, and advanced with perfect self-possession towards the
fire. He was a tall savage, with a big black beard, and wavy hair like
a Cornishman. He was dressed in an old pair of dandy riding breeches of
Jim's, which reached a short way below the knees, fitting closely, and
a blue check shirt rolled up above the elbow showing his lean wiry
forearm, seamed and scarred with spear wounds and bruises. He addressed
nobody, but kept his eyes wandering all over the room; at length he
said, looking at the ceiling,--
"Cobbon thirsty this fellow: you got a drop of brandy?"
"Jerry," said Jim, having produced the brandy, "you make a light
"All about plenty kangaroo," said Jerry.
"Yowi; but mine want it big one flying doe."
"Ah-h-h! Mine make a light flying doe along a stockyard this morning;
close by, along a fent, you see!"
"That'll do," says Jim. "We'll be up round the old stockyard after
breakfast to-morrow. You, Jerry, come with us."
It was a fresh breezy autumn morning in April, when the four sallied
forth, about nine o'clock, for their hunt. The old stockyard stood in
the bush, a hundred yards from the corner of the big paddock fence, and
among low rolling ranges and gullies, thickly timbered with gum,
cherry, and sheoak: a thousand parrots flew swiftly in flocks,
whistling and screaming from tree to tree, while wattled-birds and
numerous other honeyeaters clustered on the flowering basksias. The
spurwinged plover and the curlew ran swiftly among the grass, and on
a tall dead tree white cockatoos and blue cranes watched the intruders
Alice and Sam rode together soberly, and before them were Halbert and
Jim, just up, ready for the chase. Before them, again, was the active
blackfellow, holding the dogs in a leash,--two tall hounds, bred of
foxhound and greyhound, with a dash of colley.
A mob of kangaroos crosses their path, but they are all small; so the
dogs, though struggling fiercely, are still held tight by Jerry: now he
crosses a little ridge before them and looks down into the gully
beyond, holding up his hand.
The two young men gather up their reins and settle themselves in their
seats. "Now, Halbert," says Jim, "sit fast and mind the trees."
They ride up to the blackfellow; through the low wattles, they can see
what is in the gully before them, though the dogs cannot.
"Baal, flying doe this one," says Jerry in a whisper. "Old man this
fellow, cobbon matong, mine think it."
A great six-foot kangaroo was standing about two hundred yards from
them, staring stupidly about him.
"Let go, Jerry," said Jim. The dogs released; sprang forward, and, in
an instant, saw their quarry, which, with a loud puff of alarm, bounded
away up the opposite slope at full speed, taking twenty feet at each
Halbert and Jim dashed off after the dogs, who had got a good start of
them, and were laying themselves out to their work right gallantly;
Sam's dog, Fly, slightly leading. Both dogs were close on the game, and
"We are going to have a short run, I'm afraid."
"Talk about that twenty minutes hence," said Jim, settling to his work.
Over range after range they hold their headlong course. Now a bandicoot
scuttles away from under their feet to hide in his hollow log; now a
mob of terrified cattle huddle together as they sweep by; now they are
flying past a shepherd's hut, and the mother runs out to snatch up a
child, and bear him out of harm's way, after they are safe past. A
puppy, three weeks old, joins the chase with heart and soul, but "eaves
in" at about fifty yards, and sits him down to bark. Now they are
rushing on through a broad flat, with another great range before them.
Still always the grey bounding figure holds on, through sunlight and
shadow, with the dogs grim and steadfast close in his wake.
The work begins to tell on the horses. Fat Jezebel, who could hardly be
held at first, now is none the worse for a little spur; and Jim's lean,
long-legged horse, seems to consider that the entertainment ought to
conclude shortly. "Well done, Fly!" he shouts; "bravely tried, my
girl!" She had drawn herself ahead, and made a bold strike at the
kangaroo, but missed him. Now the other dog, Bolt, tries it, but
without luck; and now they have both dropped a little back, and seem in
for another mile or so.
Well done, lass!--there she goes again! With a furious effort she
pushes ahead, and seizes the flying beast by the hock--this time with
some luck, for down he goes in a cloud of dust and broken sticks, and
both the dogs are on him at once. Now he is up again and running, but
feebly. And see, what is the matter with the young dog? He runs on, but
keeps turning, snapping fiercely at his side, and his footsteps are
marked with blood. Poor lad! he has got a bad wound in that last
tumble,--the kangaroo has ripped up his flank with a kick from his
hind foot. But now the chase is over,--the hunted beast has turned,
and is at bay against a tree, Fly standing before him, waiting for
assistance, snarling fiercely.
They pulled up. Jim took out a pistol and presented it to Halbert.
"Thank you," said he. "Hair trigger?"
He balanced it for a second, and in another the kangaroo was lying
quivering on the ground, shot through the heart.
"Well done!" said Jim. "Now, I must look to this dog."
All his flank along the ribs was laid open, and Jim, producing a needle
and thread, proceeded to sew it up.
"Will you let me do that for you?" said Halbert.
"I wish you would. I'm fond of the poor thing, and my hand shakes.
You've seen the surgeons at work, I expect."
"Yes, indeed." And he tenderly and carefully stitched up the dog's
side, while Jim held him.
"What do we do with the game?" said he.
"Oh, Jerry will be along on our tracks presently," said Jim. "He brings
me the tail, and does what he likes with the rest. I wonder where Sam
and Alice are?"
"Oh, they are right enough," said Halbert, laughing. "I dare say they
are not very anxious about the kangaroo, or anything else. That's 'a
case,' I suppose?"
"Well, I hope it is," said Jim; "but you see I don't know. Girls are so
"Perhaps he has never asked her."
"No; I don't think he has. I wish he would. You are not married, are
"My God--no!" said Halbert, "nor ever shall be."
"Never, Jim. Let me tell you a story as we ride home. You and I shall
be good friends, I know. I like you already, though we have only known
one another two days. I can see well what you are made of. They say it
eases a man's mind to tell his grief. I wish it would mine. Well;
before I left England I had secretly engaged myself to marry a
beautiful girl, very much like your sister, a governess in my
brother-in-law's family. I went off to join my regiment, and left her
there with my sister and her husband, Lord Carstone, who treated her as if
she was already one of the family--God bless them! Two years ago my
father died, and I came into twenty thousand pounds; not much, but
enough to get married on in India, particularly as I was getting on
in my profession. So I wrote to her to come out to me. She sailed in
the Assam, for Calcutta, but the ship never arrived. She was spoken off
the Mauritius, but never seen after. The underwriters have paid up her
insurance, and everyone knows now that the Assam went down in a
typhoon, with all hands."
"God bless you," said Jim! "I'm very sorry for that."
"Thank you. I have come here for change of scene more than anything,
but I think I shall go back soon."
"I shall come with you," said Jim. "I have determined to be a
soldier, and I know the governor has interest enough to get me into
some regiment in India." (I don't believe he had ever thought of it
before that morning.)
"If you are determined, he might. His services in India were too
splendid to have been forgotten yet."
"I wonder," said Jim, "if he will let me go? I'd like to see Alice
They jogged on in silence for a little, and slowly, on account of the
wounded dogs. Then Jim said,--
"Well, and how did you like your sport?"
"Very much, indeed; but I thought bush-riding was harder work. We have
only had one or two leaps over fallen logs altogether."
"There ain't much leaping, that's a fact. I suppose you have been
"My father was a master of hounds," replied Halbert. "On the first day
of the season, when the hounds met at home, there would be two hundred
horsemen on our terrace, fifty of them, at least, in pink. It was a
regular holiday for all the country round. Such horses, too. My
father's horse, the Elk, was worth three hundred pounds, and there were
better horses than him to be seen in the field, I promise you."
"And all after a poor little fox!"
"You don't know Charley I can see," said Halbert. "Poor little fox,
indeed! Why, it's as fair a match between the best-tried pack of hounds
in England, and an old dog-fox, as one would wish to see. And as hard
work as it is to ride up to them, even without a stiff fence at every
two hundred yards, to roll you over on your head, if your horse is
blown or clumsy. Just consider how many are run, and how few are
killed. I consider a fox to be the noblest quarry in the world. His
speed, courage, and cunning are wonderful. I have seen a fox run
fifteen miles as the crow flies, and only three of us in at the death.
That's what I call sport."
"So do I, by Jove!" said Jim. "You have some good sport in India, too?"
"Yes. Pig-sticking is pretty--very pretty, I may say, if you have two
or three of the right sort with you. All the Griffins ought to hunt
together though. There was a young fellow, a King's-officer, and a
nobleman too, came out with us the other day, and rode well forward,
but as the pig turned he contrived to spear my horse through the
pastern. He was full of apologies, and I was outwardly highly polite
and indifferent, but internally cursing him up hill and down dale. I
went home and had the horse shot; but when I got up next morning, there
was a Syce leading up and down a magnificent Australian, a far finer
beast than the one which I had lost, which my Lord had sent up to
replace my unfortunate nag. I went down to his quarters and refused to
accept it; but he forced me in the end, and it gave me a good lesson
about keeping my temper over an unavoidable accident, which I don't
mean to forget. Don't you think it was prettily done?"
"Yes, I do," said Jim; "but you see these noblemen are so rich that
they can afford to do that sort of thing, where you or I couldn't. But
I expect they are very good fellows on the whole."
"There are just as large a proportion of good noblemen as there are
of any other class--more than that you have no right to expect. I'm a
Liberal, as my father was before me, and a pretty strong one too; but I
think that a man with sixty thousand acres, and a seat in the House of
Lords, is entitled to a certain sort of respect. A Grand Seigneur is a
very capital institution if he will only stay on his estates some part
of the year."
"Ay!" said Jim; who was a shrewd fellow in his way. "They know that
here, well enough: look at our Macarthurs and Wentworths,--but then
they must be men, and not snobs, as the governor says."
When they got home, they found Sam and Alice sitting in the verandah as
comfortable as you please.
"Well," said Jim, "you are a nice lot! This is what you call
"Oh, you went too fast for us. Have you killed?"
"Yes! out by the big swamp."
"You have taken your time to get home then."
"Poor Bolt is cut up, and we couldn't go out of a walk. Now give us
something to eat, will you, Alice?"
"Well, ring the bell and we will have lunch."
But just as Jim rang the bell, there was a loud voice outside, and the
three young men went out to see who it was, and found two horsemen in
front of the door.
One, who was still sitting on his horse, was a darkhaired slight
young man, Charles Hawker in fact, whom we know already, but the other,
who had dismounted, and was leaning against his horse, was a highbred,
delicate little fellow, to whom we have yet to be introduced.
He was a slight lad, perhaps not more than eighteen, with one of the
pleasantest, handsomest faces of his own that you could wish to see,
and also a very intellectual look about him, which impressed you at
once with the idea that if he lived he would have made some sort of
figure in life. He was one of the greatest dandies, also, in those
parts, and after the longest ride used to look as if he had been turned
out of a bandbox. On the present occasion he had on two articles of
dress which attracted Jim's attention amazingly. The first was a new
white hat, which was a sufficiently remarkable thing in those parts at
that time; and the second, a pair of yellow leather riding-trousers.
"Why, Cecil Mayford!" said Sam, "How do you do? Charley, how are you?
Just in time for lunch. Come in."
Jim was walking round and round Cecil without speaking a word. At last
the latter said, "How do YOU do, James Brentwood?"
"How do your breeches do, Cecil?" answered Jim; "that is a much more
important question, By-the-bye, let me introduce you to Mr. Halbert.
Also, allow me to have the honour to inform you that my sister Alice is
come home from school."
"I am aware of that, and am come over to pay my respects. Sam, leave me
alone. If I were to disarrange my dress before I was presented to
Miss Brentwood, I would put a period to my existence. Jim, my dear
soul, come in and present me. Don't all you fellows come mobbing in,
So Jim took Cecil in, and the other young fellows lounged about the
door in the sun. "Where have you come from, Charley?" asked Sam.
"I have been staying at the Mayfords'; and this morning, hearing that
you and your father were here, we thought we would come over and stay a
"By-the-bye," said Sam, "Ellen Mayford was to have come home from
Sydney the same time as Alice Brentwood, or thereabouts. Pray, is she
"Oh, yes!" said Charles; "she is come this fortnight, or more."
"What sort of a girl has she grown to be?"
"Well, I call her an uncommonly pretty girl. A very nice girl indeed, I
should say. Have you heard the news from the north?"
"Bushrangers! Nine or ten devils, loose on the upper Macquarrie, caught
the publican at Marryong alone in the bush; he had been an overlooker,
or some such thing, in old times, so they stripped him, tied him up,
gave him four dozen, and left him to the tender mercies of the
blowflies, in consequence of which he was found dead next day, with the
cords at his wrists cutting down to the bone with the struggles he made
in his agony."
"Whew!" said Sam. "We are going to have some of the old-fashioned work
over again. Let us hope Desborough will get hold of them before they
come this way."
"Some of our fellow-countrymen," said Halbert, "are, it seems to me,
more detestably ferocious than savages, when they once get loose."
"Much of a muchness--no better, and perhaps no worse," said Sam. "All
men who act entirely without any law in their actions arrive at much
the same degree, whether white or black."
"And will this Captain Desborough, whom you speak of, have much chance
of catching these fellows?" asked Halbert.
"They will most likely disperse on his approach if he takes any force
against them," said Sam. "I heard him say, myself, that the best way
was to tempt them to stay and show fight, by taking a small force
against them, as our admirals used to do to the French, in the war.
By-the-bye, how is Tom Troubridge? He is quite a stranger to me. I have
only seen him twice since he was back from Port Phillip."
"He is off again now, after some rams, up to the north."
"I hope he won't fall in with the bushrangers. Anybody with him?"
"William Lee," answered Charles.
"A good escort. There is lunch going in,--come along."
ii: Chapter XXXIX
SAM MEETS WITH A RIVAL, AND HOW HE TREATED HIM.
That week one of those runs upon the Captain's hospitality took place
which are common enough in the bush, and, although causing a temporary
inconvenience, are generally as much enjoyed by the entertainer as
entertained. Everybody during this next week came to see them, and
nobody went back again. So by the end of the week there were a dozen or
fourteen guests assembled, all uninvited, and apparently bent on making
a good long stay of it.
Alice, who had expected to be rather put out, conducted everything with
such tact and dignity that Mrs. Buckley remarked to Mrs. Mayford, when
they were alone together, "that she had never seen such beauty and such
charming domestic grace combined, and that he would be a lucky young
fellow who got her for a wife."
"Well, yes, I should be inclined to say so too," answered Mrs. Mayford.
"Rather much of the boarding-school as yet, but that will wear off, I
dare say. I don't think the young lady will go very long without an
offer. Pray, have you remarked anything, my dear madam?"
Yes, Mrs. Buckley had remarked something on her arrival the day before
yesterday. She had remarked Sam and Alice come riding over the paddock,
and Sam, by way of giving a riding-lesson, holding the little white
hand in his, teaching it (the dog!) to hold the reins properly. And on
seeing Alice she had said to herself, "That will do." But all this was
not what Mrs. Mayford meant,--in fact, these two good ladies were at
"Well, I thought I did," replied Mrs. Buckley, referring to Sam. "But
one must not be premature. They are both very young, and may not know
their own minds."
"They seem as if they did," said Mrs. Mayford. "Look there!" Outside
the window they saw something which gave Mrs. Buckley a sort of pang,
and made Mrs. Mayford laugh.)
There was no one in the garden visible but Cecil Mayford and Alice, and
she was at that moment busily engaged in pinning a rose into his
buttonhole. "The audacious girl!" thought Mrs. Buckley; "I am afraid
she will be a daughter of debate among us. I wish she had not come
home." While Mrs. Mayford continued,--
"I am far from saying, mind you, my dear Mrs. Buckley, that I don't
consider Cecil might do far better for himself. The girl is pretty,
very pretty, and will have money. But she is too decided, my dear.
Fancy a girl of her age expressing opinions! Why, if I had ventured to
express opinions at her age, I----I don't know what my father would
"Depend very much on what sort of opinions they were; wouldn't it?"
said Mrs. Buckley.
"No; I mean any opinions. Girls ought to have no opinions at all.
There, last night when the young men were talking all together, she
must needs get red in the face and bridle up, and say, 'She thought an
Englishman who wasn't proud of Oliver Cromwell was unworthy of the name
of an Englishman.' Her very words, I assure you. Why, if my daughter
Ellen had dared to express herself in that way about a murderous
Papist, I'd have slapped her face."
"I don't think Cromwell was a Papist; was he?" said Mrs. Buckley.
"A Dissenter, then, or something of that sort," said Mrs. Mayford. "But
that don't alter the matter. What I don't like to see is a young girl
thrusting her oar in in that way. However, I shall make no opposition,
I can assure you. Cecil is old enough to choose for himself, and a
mother's place is to submit. Oh, no; I assure you, whatever my opinions
may be, I shall offer no opposition."
"I shouldn't think you would," said Mrs. Buckley, as the other left the
room: "rather a piece of luck for your boy to marry the handsomest and
richest girl in the country. However, madam, if you think I am going to
play a game of chess with you for that girl, or any other girl, why,
you are mistaken."
And yet it was very provoking. Ever since she had begun to hear from
various sources how handsome and clever Alice was, she had made up her
mind that Sam should marry her, and now to be put out like this by
people whom they had actually introduced into the house! It would be a
great blow to Sam too. She wished he had never seen her. She would
sooner have lost a limb than caused his honest heart one single pang.
But, after all, it might be only a little flirtation between her and
Cecil. Girls would flirt; but then there would be Mrs. Mayford
manoeuvring and scheming her heart out, while she, Agnes Buckley, was
constrained by her principles only to look on and let things take their
Now, there arose a coolness between Agnes Buckley and the Mayfords,
mother and son, which was never made up--never, oh, never! Not very
many months after this she would have given ten thousand pounds to have
been reconciled to the kind-hearted old busy-body; but then it was too
But now, going out into the garden, she found the Doctor busy planting
some weeds he had found in the bush, in a quiet corner, with an air of
stealth, intending to privately ask the gardener to see after them
till he could fetch them away. The magpie, having seen from the window
a process of digging and burying going on, had attended in his official
capacity, standing behind the Doctor, and encouraging him every now and
then with a dance, or a few flute-like notes of music. I need hardly
mention that the moment the Doctor's back was turned the bird rooted up
every one of the plants, and buried them in some secret spot of his
own, where they lie, I believe, till this day.
To the Doctor she told the whole matter, omitting nothing, and then
asked his advice. "I suppose," she said, "you will only echo my own
determination of doing nothing at all?"
"Quite so, my dear madam. If she loves Sam, she will marry him; if she
don't, he is better without her."
"That is true," said Mrs. Buckley. "I hope she will have good taste
enough to choose my boy."
"I hope so too, I am sure," said the Doctor. "But we must not be very
furious if she don't. Little Cecil Mayford is both handsomer and
cleverer than Sam. We must not forget that, you know."
That evening was the first thoroughly unhappy evening, I think, that
Sam ever passed in his life. I am inclined to imagine that his
digestion was out of order. If any of my readers ever find themselves
in the same state of mind that he was in that night, let them be
comforted by considering that there is always a remedy at hand, before
which evil thoughts and evil tempers of all kinds fly like mist before
the morning sun. How many serious family quarrels, marriages out of
spite, alterations of wills, and secessions to the Church of Rome,
might have been prevented by a gentle dose of blue pill! What awful
instances of chronic dyspepsia are presented to our view by the
immortal bard in the characters of Hamlet and Othello! I look with awe
on the digestion of such a man as the present King of Naples. Banish
dyspepsia and spirituous liquors from society, and you would have no
crime, or at least so little that you would not consider it worth
However, to return to Sam. He, Halbert, Charles Hawker, and Jim had
been away riding down an emu, and had stayed out all day. But Cecil
Mayford, having made excuse to stay at home, had been making himself in
many ways agreeable to Alice, and at last had attended her on a ride,
and on his return had been rewarded with a rose, as we saw. The first
thing Sam caught sight of when he came home was Alice and Cecil walking
up and down the garden very comfortably together, talking and laughing.
He did not like to see this. He dreaded Cecil's powers of entertainment
too much, and it made him angry to hear how he was making Alice laugh.
Then, when the four came into the house, this offending couple took no
notice of them at all, but continued walking up and down in the garden,
till Jim, who, not being in love, did'nt care twopence whether his
sister came in or not, went out to the verandah, and called out "Hi!"
"What now?" said Alice, turning round.
"Why, we're come home," said Jim, "and I want you."
"Then you won't get me, impudence," said Alice, and began walking up
and down again. But not long after, having to come in, she just said,
"How do, Mr. Halbert?" and passed on, never speaking to Sam. Now there
was no reason why she should have spoken to him, but "Good evening, Mr.
Buckley," would not have hurt anybody. And now in came Cecil, with that
unlucky rose, and Jim immediately began,--
"Hallo, Cis, where did you get your flower?"
"Ah, that's a secret," said Cecil, with an affected look.
"No secret at all," said Alice, coming back. "I gave it to him. He had
the civility to stay and take me out for a ride, instead of going to
run down those poor pretty emus. And that is his reward. I pinned it
into his coat for him." And out she went again.
Sam was very sulky, but he couldn't exactly say with whom. With himself
more than anybody, I believe.
"Like Cecil's consummate impudence!" was his first thought; but after
he had gone to his room to dress, his better nature came to him, and
before dinner came on he was his old self again, unhappy still, but not
sulky, and determined to be just.
"What right have I to be angry, even suppose she does come to care more
for him than for me? What can be more likely? He is more courtly,
amusing, better-looking, they say, and certainly cleverer; oh,
decidedly cleverer. He might as well make me his enemy as I make him
mine. No; dash it all! He has been like a brother to me ever since he
was so high, and I'll be d----d if there shan't be fair play between us
two, though I should go into the army through it. But I'll watch, and
see how things go."
So he watched at dinner and afterwards, but saw little to comfort him.
Saw one thing, nay, two things, most clearly. One was, that Cecil
Mayford was madly in love with Alice; and the other was, that poor
Cecil was madly jealous of Sam. He treated him differently to what he
had ever done before, as though on that evening he had first found his
rival. Nay, he became almost rude, so that once Jim looked suddenly up,
casting his shrewd blue eyes first on one and then on the other, as
though to ask what the matter was. But Sam only said to himself, "Let
him go on. Let him say what he will. He is beside himself now, and some
day he will be sorry. He shall have fair play, come what will."
But it was hard for our lad to keep his temper sometimes. It was hard
to see another man sitting alongside of her all the evening, paying her
all those nameless little attentions which somehow, however unreasonably,
he had brought himself to think were his right, and no one
else's, to pay. Hard to wonder and wonder whether or no he had angered
her, and if so, how? Halbert, good heart! saw it all, and sitting all
the evening by Sam, made himself so agreeable, that for a time even
Alice herself was forgotten. But then, when he looked up, and saw Cecil
still beside her, and her laughing and talking so pleasantly, while he
was miserable and unhappy, the old chill came on his heart again, and
he thought--was the last happy week only a deceitful gleam of
sunshine, and should he ever take his old place beside her again?
Once or twice more during the evening Cecil was almost insolent to him,
but still his resolution was strong.
"If he is a fool, why should I be a fool? I will wait and see if he can
win her. If he does, why, there is India for me. If he does not, I will
try again. Only I will not quarrel with Cecil, because he is blinded.
Little Cecil, who used to bathe with me, and ride pickaback round the
garden! No; he shall have fair play. By Jove, he shall have fair play,
if I die for it."
And he had some little comfort in the evening. When they had all risen
to go to bed, and were standing about in confusion lighting candles, he
suddenly found Alice by his side, who said in a sweet, low, musical
"Can you forgive me?"
"What have I to forgive, my dear young lady?" he said softly. "I was
thinking of asking your forgiveness for some unknown fault."
"I have behaved so ill to you to-day," she said, "the first of my new
friends! I was angry at your going out after our poor emus, and I was
cross to you when you came home. Do let us be friends again."
There was a chance for a reconciliation! But here was Cecil Mayford
thrusting between them with a lit candle just at the wrong moment; and
she gave him such a sweet smile, and such kind thanks, that Sam felt
nearly as miserable as ever.
And next morning everything went wrong again. Whether it was merely
coquetry, or whether she was angry at their hunting the emus, or
whether she for a time preferred Cecil's company, I know not; but she,
during the next week, neglected Sam altogether, and refused to sit
beside him, making a most tiresome show of being unable to get on
without Cecil Mayford, who squired her here, there, and everywhere, in
the most provoking fashion.
But it so happened that the Doctor and the Major sat up later than the
others that night, taking a glass of punch together before the fire,
and the Major said, abruptly,--
"There will be mischief among the young fellows about that girl. It is
a long while since I saw one man look at another as young Mayford did
at our Sam tonight. I wish she were out of the way. Sam and Mayford
are both desperately in love with her, and one must go to the wall. I
wish that boy of mine was keener; he stayed aloof from her all to-night."
"Don't you see his intention?" said the Doctor. "I am very much
mistaken if I do not. He is determined to leave the field clear for all
comers, unless she herself makes some sort of advances to him. 'If she
prefers Mayford,' says Sam to himself, 'in the way she appears to, why,
she is welcome to him, and I can go home as soon as I am assured of
it.' And go home he would, too, and never say one word of complaint to
any living soul."
"What a clear, brave, honest soul that lad has!" said the Major.
"Truly," said the Doctor, "I only know one man who is his equal."
"And who is he?"
"His father. Good night; good dreams!"
* * * * *
So Sam kept to his resolution of finding out whether or no Alice was
likely to prefer Cecil to him. And, for all his watching and puzzling,
he couldn't. He had never confided one word of all this to his mother,
and yet she knew it all as well as he.
Meanwhile, Cecil was quite changed. He almost hated Sam, and seldom
spoke to him, and at the same time hated himself for it. He grew pale,
too, and never could be persuaded to join any sport whatever; while
Sam, being content to receive only a few words in the day from My Lady,
worked harder than ever, both in the yards and riding. All day he and
Jim would be working like horses, with Halbert for their constant
companion, and, half an hour before dinner, would run whooping down to
the river for their bathe, and then come in clean, happy, hungry--so
full of life and youth, that in these sad days of deficient grinders,
indigestion, and liver, I can hardly realize that once I myself was as
full of blood and as active and hearty as any of them.
There was much to do the week that Alice and Sam had their little tiff.
The Captain was getting in the "scrubbers" cattle, which had been left,
under the not very careful rule of the Donovans, to run wild in the
mountains. These beasts had now to be got in, and put through such
processes as cattle are born to undergo. The Captain and the Major were
both fully stiff for working in the yards, but their places were well
supplied by Sam and Jim. The two fathers, with the assistance of the
stockman, and sometimes of the sons, used to get them into the yards,
and then the two young men would go to work in a style I have never
seen surpassed by any two of the same age. Halbert would sometimes go
into the yard and assist, or rather hinder; but he had to give up just
when he was beginning to be of some use, as the exertion was too
violent for an old wound he had.
Meanwhile Cecil despised all these things, and, though a capital hand
among cattle, was now grown completely effeminate, hanging about the
house all day, making, in fact, "rather a fool of himself about that
girl," as Halbert thought, and thought, besides, "What a confounded
fool she will make of herself if she takes that little dandy!--not
that he isn't a very gentlemanlike little fellow, but that Sam is worth
five hundred of him."
One day, it so happened that every one was out but Cecil and Alice; and
Alice, who had been listening to the noises at the stockyard a long
while, suddenly proposed to go there.
"I have never been," she said; "I should so like to go! I know I am not
allowed, but you need not betray me, and I am sure the others won't. I
should so like to see what they are about!"
"I assure you, Miss Brentwood, that it is not a fit place for a lady."
Cecil blushed scarlet. If women only knew what awkward questions they
ask sometimes! In this instance he made an ass of himself, for he
hesitated and stammered.
"Come along!" said she; "you are going to say that it is dangerous--
(nothing was further from his thoughts); I must learn to face a little
danger, you know. Come along."
"I am afraid," said Cecil, "that Jim will be very angry with me;" which
was undoubtedly very likely.
"Never mind Jim," she said; "come along."
So they went, and in the rush and confusion of the beasts' feet got to
the yard unnoticed. Sam and Jim were inside, and Halbert was perched
upon the rails; she came close behind him and peeped through.
She was frightened. Close before her was Sam, hatless, in shirt and
breeches only, almost unrecognisable, grimed with sweat, dust, and
filth beyond description. He had been nearly horned that morning, and
his shirt was torn from his armpit downwards, showing rather more of a
lean muscular flank than would have been desirable in a drawing-room.
He stood there with his legs wide apart, and a stick about eight feet
long and as thick as one's wrist in his hand; while before him, crowded
into a corner of the yard, were a mob of infuriated, terrified cattle.
As she watched, one tried to push past him and get out of the yard; he
stepped aside and let it go. The next instant a lordly young bull tried
the same game, but he was "wanted;" so, just as he came nearly abreast
of Sam, he received a frightful blow on the nose from the stick, which
But only for a moment. The maddened beast shaking his head with a roar
rushed upon Sam like a thunderbolt, driving him towards the side of the
yard. He stepped on one side rapidly, and then tumbled himself bodily
through the rails, and fell with his fine brown curls in the dust,
right at the feet of poor Alice, who would have screamed, but could not
find the voice.
Jim and Halbert roared with laughter, and Sam, picking himself up, was
beginning to join as loud as anybody, when he saw Alice looking very
white and pale, and went towards her.
"I hope you haven't been frightened by that evildisposed bull, Miss
Brentwood," he said pleasantly; "you must get used to that sort of
"Hallo, sister!" shouted Jim; "what the deuce brings you here? I
thought you were at home at your worsted work. You should have seen
what we were at, Cecil, before you brought her up. Now, miss, just
mount that rail alongside of Halbert, and keep quiet."
"Oh, do let me go home, Jim dear; I am so frightened!"
"Then you must learn not to be frightened," he said. "Jump up now!"
But meanwhile the bull had the best of it, and had got out of the yard.
A long lithe lad, stationed outside on horseback, was in full chase,
and Jim, leaping on one of the horses tied to the rails, started off to
his assistance. The two chased the unhappy bull as a pair of greyhounds
chase a hare, with their whips cracking as rapidly and as loudly
as you would fire a revolver. After an excursion of about a mile into
the forest, the beast was turned and brought towards the yard. Twice he
turned and charged the lad, with the same success. The cunning old
stockhorse wheeled round or sprang aside, and the bull went blundering
into empty space with two fourteen-foot stock-whips playing on his
unlucky hide like rain. At length he was brought in again, and one by
one those entitled to freedom were passed out by Sam, and others
reserved unto a day of wrath--all but one cow with her calf.
All this time Alice had sat by Halbert. Cecil had given no assistance,
for Jim would have done anything rather than press a guest into the
service. Halbert asked her, what she thought of the sport?
"Oh, it is horrible," she said. "I should like to go home. I hope it is
"Nearly," said Halbert; "that cow and calf have got to go out. Don't
get frightened now; watch your brother and Buckley."
It was a sight worth watching; Sam and Jim advanced towards the
maddened beasts to try and get the cow to bolt. The cattle were huddled
up at the other end of the yard, and, having been so long in hand, were
getting dangerous. Once or twice young beasts had tried to pass, but
had been driven back by the young men, with a courage and dexterity
which the boldest matador in Spain could not have surpassed. Cecil
Mayford saw, with his well-accustomed eye, that matters were getting
perilous, and placed himself at the rails, holding one ready to slip if
the beasts should break. In a moment, how or why none could tell, they
made a sudden rush: Jim was borne back, dealing blows about him like a
Paladin, and Sam was down, rolled over and over in the dust, just at
Half-a-dozen passed right over him as he lay. Jim had made good his
retreat from the yard, and Cecil had quietly done just the right thing:
put up the rail he held, and saved the day's work. The cattle were
still safe, but Sam lay there in the dust, motionless.
Before any of them had appreciated what had happened, Alice was down,
and, seizing Sam by the shoulders, had dragged him to the fence.
Halbert, horrified to see her actually in the presence of the cattle,
leaped after her, put Sam through the rails, and lifted her up to her
old post on the top. In another instant the beasts swept furiously
round the yard, just over the place where they had been standing
They gathered round Sam, and for an instant thought he was dead; but
just as Jim hurriedly knelt down, and raising his head began to untie
his handkerchief, Sam uprose, and, shaking himself and dusting his
"If it had been any other beast which knocked me down but that poley
heifer, I should have been hurt;" and then said that "it was bathing-time,
and they must look sharp to be in time for dinner:" three
undeniable facts, showing that, although he was a little unsteady on
his legs, his intellect had in nowise suffered.
And Halbert, glancing at Alice, saw something in her face that made him
laugh; and, dressing for dinner in Jim's room, he said to that young
"Unless there are family reasons against it, Jim, which of course I
can't speak about, you know, I should say that you would have Sam for
your brother-in-law in a very short time."
"Do you really think so, now?" said Jim; "I rather fancied she had
taken up with Cecil. I like Sam's fist, mind you, better than Cecil's
whole body, though he is a good little fellow, too."
"She has been doing that, I think, rather to put Sam on his mettle; for
I think he was taking things too easy with her at first; but now, if
Cecil has any false hopes, he may give them up; the sooner the better.
No woman who was fancy free could stand seeing that noble head of Sam's
come rolling down in the dust at her feet; and what courage and skill
he exhibited, too! Talk of bull-fights! I have seen one. Bah! it is
like this nail-brush to a gold watch, to what I saw to-day. Sam, sir,
has won a wife by cattledrafting."
"If that is the case," said Jim, pensively brushing his hair, "I am
very glad that Cecil's care for his fine clothes prevented his coming
into the yard; for he is one of the bravest, coolest hands among
cattle, I know; he beats me."
"Then he beats a precious good fellow, Jim. A man who could make such
play as you did to-day, with a stick, ought to have nothing but a big
three-foot of blue steel in his hand, and Her Majesty's commission to
use it against her enemies."
"That will come," said Jim, "the day after Sam has got the right to
look after Alice; not before; the governor is too fond of his
When Sam came to dress for dinner he found that he was bruised all
over, and had to go to the Captain for "shin plaster," as he called it.
Captain Brentwood had lately been trying homeopathy, which in his
case, there being nothing the matter with him, was a decided success.
He doctored Sam with Arnica externally, and gave him the five-hundredth
of a grain of something to swallow; but what made Sam forget
his bruises quicker than these dangerous and violent remedies, was the
delightful change in Alice's behaviour. She was so agreeable that
evening, that he was in the seventh heaven; the only drawback to his
happiness being poor Cecil Mayford's utter distraction and misery.
Next morning, too, after a swim in the river, he handled such a
singularly good knife and fork, that Halbert told Jim privately, that
if he, Sam, continued to sport such a confoundedly good appetite, he
would have to be carried half-a-mile on a heifer's horns and left for
dead, to keep up the romantic effect of his tumble the day before.
They were sitting at breakfast, when the door opened, and there
appeared before the assembled company the lithe lad I spoke of
yesterday, who said,--
"Beg your pardon, sir; child lost, sir."
They all started up. "Whose child?" asked the Captain.
"James Grewer's child, sir, at the wattle hut."
"Oh!" said Alice, turning to Sam, "it is that pretty little boy up the
river that we were admiring so last week."
"When was he lost?" asked Major Buckley.
"Two days now, sir," said the lad.
"But the hut is on the plain side of the river," said the Major; "he
can't be lost on the plains."
"The river is very low, sir," said the lad; "hardly ancle deep just
there. He may have crossed."
"The black fellows may have found him," suggested Mrs. Buckley.
"They would have been here before now to tell us, if they had, I am
afraid," said Captain Brentwood. "Let us hope they may have got him;
however, we had better start at once. Two of us may search the river
between this and the hut, and two may follow it towards the Mayfords'.
Sam, you have the best horse; go down to the hut, and see if you can
find any trace across the river, on this side, and follow it up to the
ranges. Take some one with you, and, by-thebye, take your dog Rover."
They were all quickly on the alert. Sam was going to ask Jim to come
with him; but as he was putting the saddle on Widderin he felt a hand
on his arm, and, turning, saw Cecil Mayford.
"Sam Buckley," said Cecil, "let me ride with you; will you?"
"Who sooner, old friend?" answered Sam heartily: "let us come together
by all means, and if we are to go to the ranges, we had better take a
blanket a-piece, and a wedge of damper. So if you will get them from
the house, I will saddle your horse."
ii: Chapter XXX
HOW THE CHILD WAS LOST, AND HOW HE GOT FOUND AGAIN--WHAT CECIL SAID TO
SAM WHEN THEY FOUND HIM--AND HOW IN CASTING LOTS, ALTHOUGH CECIL WON
THE LOT, HE LOST THE PRIZE.
Four or five miles up the river from Garoopna stood a solitary hut,
snug, sheltered by a lofty bare knoll, round which the great river
chafed among the boulders. Across the stream was the forest, sloping
down in pleasant glades from the mountain; and behind the hut rose the
plain four or five hundred feet over head, seeming to be held aloft by
the blue-stone columns which rose from the river side.
In this cottage resided a shepherd, his wife, and one little boy, their
son, about eight years old. A strange, wild little bush child, able to
speak articulately, but utterly without knowledge or experience of
human creatures, save of his father and mother; unable to read a line;
without religion of any sort or kind; as entire a little savage, in
fact, as you could find in the worst den in your city, morally
speaking, and yet beautiful to look on; as active as a roe, and, with
regard to natural objects, as fearless as a lion.
As yet unfit to begin labour. All the long summer he would wander
about the river bank, up and down the beautiful rock-walled paradise
where he was confined, sometimes looking eagerly across the water at
the waving forest boughs, and fancying he could see other children far
up the vistas beckoning to him to cross and play in that merry land of
shifting lights and shadows.
It grew quite into a passion with the poor little man to get across and
play there; and one day when his mother was shifting the hurdles, and
he was handing her the strips of green hide which bound them together,
he said to her,--
"Mother, what country is that across the river?"
"The forest, child."
"There's plenty of quantongs over there, eh, mother, and raspberries?
Why mayn't I get across and play there?"
"The river is too deep, child, and the Bunyip lives in the water under
"Who are the children that play across there?"
"Black children, likely."
"No white children?"
"Pixies; don't go near 'em child; they'll lure you on, Lord knows
where. Don't get trying to cross the river, now, or you'll be drowned."
But next day the passion was stronger on him than ever. Quite early on
the glorious cloudless midsummer day he was down by the river side,
sitting on a rock, with his shoes and stockings off, paddling his feet
in the clear tepid water, and watching the million fish in the shallows
black fish and grayling--leaping and flashing in the sun.
There is no pleasure that I have ever experienced like a child's
midsummer holiday. The time, I mean, when two or three of us used to go
away up the brook, and take our dinners with us, and come home at night
tired, dirty, happy, scratched beyond recognition, with a great
nosegay, three little trout, and one shoe, the other one having been
used for a boat till it had gone down with all hands out of soundings.
How poor our Derby days, our Greenwich dinners, our evening parties,
where there are plenty of nice girls, are after that! Depend on it, a
man never experiences such pleasure or grief after fourteen as he does
before, unless in come cases in his first love-making, when the
sensation is new to him.
But, meanwhile, there sits our child, barelegged, watching the
forbidden ground beyond the river. A fresh breeze was moving the trees,
and making the whole a dazzling mass of shifting light and shadow. He
sat so still that a glorious violet and red king-fisher perched quite
close, and, dashing into the water, came forth with a fish, and fled
like a ray of light along the winding of the river. A colony of little
shell parrots, too, crowded on a bough, and twittered and ran to and
fro quite busily, as though they said to him, "We don't mind you, my
dear; you are quite one of us."
Never was the river so low. He stepped in; it scarcely reached his
ancle. Now surely he might get across. He stripped himself, and,
carrying his clothes, waded through, the water never reaching his
middle all across the long, yellow, gravelly shallow. And there he
stood naked and free in the forbidden ground.
He quickly dressed himself, and began examining his new kingdom, rich
beyond his utmost hopes. Such quantongs, such raspberries, surpassing
imagination; and when tired of them such fern boughs, six or eight feet
long! He would penetrate this region, and see how far it extended.
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