The Recollections of Geoffrey Hamlyn
Part 8 out of 12
What tales he would have for his father to-night. He would bring him
here, and show him all the wonders, and perhaps he would build a new
hut over here, and come and live in it? Perhaps the pretty young lady,
with the feathers in her hat, lived somewhere here, too?
There! There is one of those children he had seen before across the
river. Ah! ah! it was not a child at all, but a pretty grey beast, with
big ears. A kangaroo, my lad; he won't play with you, but skips away
slowly, and leaves you alone.
There is something like the gleam of water on that rock. A snake! Now a
sounding rush through the wood, and a passing shadow. An eagle! He
brushes so close to the child; that he strikes at the bird with a
stick, and then watches him as he shoots up like a rocket, and,
measuring the fields of air in ever-widening circles, hangs like a
motionless speck upon the sky; though, measure his wings across, and
you will find he is nearer fifteen feet than fourteen.
Here is a prize, though! A wee little native bear, barely eight inches
long,--a little grey beast, comical beyond expression, with broad
flapped ears, sits on a tree within reach. He makes no resistance, but
cuddles into the child's bosom, and eats a leaf as they go along; while
his mother sits aloft, and grunts indignant at the abstraction of her
offspring, but, on the whole, takes it pretty comfortably, and goes on
with her dinner of peppermint leaves.
What a short day it has been! Here is the sun getting low, and the
magpies and jackasses beginning to tune up before roosting.
He would turn and go back to the river. Alas! which way?
He was lost in the bush. He turned back and went, as he thought, the
way he had come, but soon arrived at a tall, precipitous cliff, which,
by some infernal magic, seemed to have got between him and the river.
Then he broke down, and that strange madness came on him which comes
even on strong men when lost in the forest: a despair, a confusion of
intellect, which cost many a bold man his life. Think what it must be
with a child.
He was fully persuaded that the cliff was between him and home, and
that he must climb it. Alas! every step he took aloft carried him
further from the river and the hope of safety; and when he came to the
top, just at dark, he saw nothing but cliff after cliff, range after
range, all around him. He had been wandering through steep gullies all
day unconsciously, and had penetrated far into the mountains. Night was
coming down, still and crystal-clear, and the poor little lad was far
away from help or hope, going his last long journey alone.
Partly perhaps walking, and partly sitting down and weeping, he got
through the night; and when the solemn morning came up again he was
still tottering along the leading range, bewildered; crying, from time
to time, "Mother, mother!" still nursing his little bear, his only
companion, to his bosom, and holding still in his hand a few poor
flowers he had gathered the day before. Up and on all day, and at
evening, passing out of the great zone of timber, he came on the bald,
thunder-smitten summit ridge, where one ruined tree held up its
skeleton arms against the sunset, and the wind came keen and frosty.
So, with failing, feeble legs, upward still, towards the region of the
granite and the snow; towards the eyrie of the kite and the eagle.
* * * * *
Brisk as they all were at Garoopna, none were so brisk as Cecil and
Sam. Charles Hawker wanted to come with them, but Sam asked him to go
with Jim; and, long before the others were ready, our two had strapped
their blankets to their saddles, and, followed by Sam's dog Rover, now
getting a little grey about the nose, cantered off up the river.
Neither spoke at first. They knew what a solemn task they had before
them; and, while acting as though everything depended on speed, guessed
well that their search was only for a little corpse, which, if they had
luck, they would find stiff and cold under some tree or crag.
Cecil began: "Sam, depend on it that child has crossed the river to
this side. If he had been on the plains he would have been seen from a
distance in a few hours."
"I quite agree," said Sam. "Let us go down this side till we are
opposite the hut, and search for marks by the river side."
So they agreed; and in half an hour were opposite the hut, and, riding
across to it to ask a few questions, found the poor mother sitting on
the door-step, with her apron over her head, rocking herself to and
"We have come to help you, mistress," said Sam. "How do you think he is
She said, with frequent bursts of grief, that "some days before he had
mentioned having seen white children across the water, who beckoned
him to cross and play; that she, knowing well that they were fairies,
or perhaps worse, had warned him solemnly not to mind them; but that
she had very little doubt that they had helped him over and carried him
away to the forest; and that her husband would not believe in his
having crossed the river."
"Why, it is not knee-deep across the shallow," said Cecil.
"Let us cross again," said Sam: "he MAY be drowned, but I don't think it."
In a quarter of an hour from starting they found, slightly up the
stream, one of the child's socks, which in his hurry to dress he had
forgotten. Here brave Rover took up the trail like a bloodhound, and
before evening stopped at the foot of a lofty cliff.
"Can he have gone up here?" said Sam, as they were brought up by the
"Most likely," said Cecil. "Lost children always climb from height to
height. I have heard it often remarked by old bush hands. Why they do
so, God, who leads them, only knows; but the fact is beyond denial.
Ask Rover what he thinks?"
The brave old dog was half-way up, looking back for them. It took them
nearly till dark to get their horses up; and, as there was no moon, and
the way was getting perilous, they determined to camp, and start again
in the morning.
They spread their blankets and lay down side by side. Sam had thought,
from Cecil's proposing to come with him in preference to the others,
that he would speak of a subject nearly concerning them both; but Cecil
went off to sleep and made no sign; and Sam, ere he dozed, said to
himself, "By Jove, if he don't speak this journey, I will. It is
unbearable that we should not come to some understanding. Poor Cecil!"
At early dawn they caught up their horses, which had been hobbled with
the stirrup leathers, and started afresh. Both were more silent than
ever, and the dog, with his nose to the ground, led them slowly along
the rocky rib of the mountain, ever going higher and higher.
"It is inconceivable," said Sam, "that the poor child can have come up
here. There is Tuckerimbid close to our right, five thousand feet above
the river. Don't you think we must be mistaken?"
"The dog disagrees with you," said Cecil. "He has something before him
not very far off. Watch him."
The trees had become dwarfed and scattered; they were getting out of
the region of trees; the real forest zone was now below them, and they
saw they were emerging towards a bald elevated down, and that a few
hundred yards before them was a dead tree, on the highest branch of
which sat an eagle.
"The dog has stopped," said Cecil, "the end is near."
"See," said Sam, "there is a handkerchief under the tree."
"That is the boy himself," said Cecil.
They were up to him and off in a moment. There he lay, dead and stiff,
one hand still grasping the flowers he had gathered on his last happy
play-day, and the other laid as a pillow, between the soft cold cheek
and the rough cold stone. His midsummer holiday was over, his long
journey was ended. He had found out at last what lay beyond the shining
river he had watched so long.
Both the young men knelt beside him for a moment in silence. They had
found only what they had expected to find, and yet, now that they had
found it, they were far more touched and softened than they could have
thought possible. They stayed in silence a few moments, and then Cecil,
lifting up his head, said suddenly,--
"Sam Buckley! there can be no debate between us two, with this lying
here between us. Let us speak now."
"There has never been any debate, Cecil," said he, "and there never
would be, though this little corpse was buried fathoms deep. It takes
two to make a quarrel, Cecil, and I will not be one."
"Sam," said Cecil, "I love Alice Brentwood better than all the world
"I know it."
"And you love her too, as well, were it possible, as I do."
"I know that too."
"Why," resumed Cecil hurriedly, "has this come to pass? Why has it been
my unlucky destiny, that the man I love and honour above all others
should become my rival? Are there no other women in the world? Tell me,
Sam, why is it forced on me to choose between my best friend and the
woman I love dearer than life? Why has this terrible emergency come
"I will tell you why," said Sam, speaking very quietly, as though
fearing to awaken the dead: "to teach us to behave like men of honour
and gentlemen, though our hearts break. That is why, Cecil."
"What shall we do?" said Cecil.
"Easily answered," said Sam. "Let her decide for herself. It may be,
mind you, that she will have neither of us. There has been one living
in the house with her lately, far superior in every point to you or I.
How if she thought fit to prefer him?"
"Yes, Halbert! What more likely? Let you and I find out the truth,
Cecil, like men, and abide by it. Let each one ask her in his turn what
chance he has."
"See here," said Sam; "draw one of these pieces of grass out of my
hand. If you draw the longest piece ask her at once. Will you abide by
He said "yes," and drew--the longest piece.
"That is well," said Sam. "And now no more of this at present. I will
sling this poor little fellow in my blanket and carry him home to his
mother. See, Cecil, what is Rover at?"
Rover was on his hind legs against the tree, smelling at something.
When they came to look, there was a wee little grey bear perched in the
hollow of the tree.
"What a very strange place for a young bear!" said Cecil.
"Depend on it," said Sam, "that the child had caught it from its dam,
and brought it up here. Take it home with you, Cecil, and give it to
Cecil took the little thing home, and in time it grew to be between
three and four feet high, a grandfather of bears. The magpie protested
against his introduction to the establishment, and used to pluck
billfulls of hair from his stomach under pretence of lining a nest,
which was never made. But in spite of this, the good gentle beast lived
nigh as long as the magpie--long enough to be caressed by the waxen
fingers of little children, who would afterwards gather round their
father, and hear how the bear had been carried to the mountains in
the bosom of the little boy who lost his way on the granite ranges, and
went to heaven, in the year that the bushrangers came down.
Sam carried the little corpse back in his blanket, and that evening
helped the father to bury it by the river side. Under some fern trees
they buried him, on a knoll which looked across the river, into the
treacherous beautiful forest which had lured him to his destruction.
Alice was very sad for a day or two, and thought and talked much about
this sad accident, but soon she recovered her spirits again. And it
fell out, that a bare week after this, the party being all out in one
direction or another, that Cecil saw Alice alone in the garden, tending
her flowers, and knew that the time was come for him to keep his
bargain with Sam and speak to her. He felt like a man who was being led
to execution; but screwed his courage to the highest point, and went
down to where she was tying up a rose-tree.
"Miss Brentwood," he said, "I am come to petition for a flower."
"You shall have a dozen, if you will," she answered. "Help yourself;
will you have a peony or a sunflower? If you have not made up your
mind, let me recommend a good large yellow sunflower."
Here was a pretty beginning!
"Miss Brentwood, don't laugh at me, but listen to me a moment. I love
you above all earthly things besides. I worship the ground you walk on.
I loved you from the first moment I saw you. I shall love you as well,
ay, better, if that could be, on the day my heart is still, and my hand
is cold for ever: can you tell me to hope? Don't drive me, by one hasty
half-considered word, to despair and misery for the rest of my life.
Say only one syllable of encouragement, and I will bide your time for
years and years."
Alice was shocked and stunned. She saw he was in earnest, by his looks,
and by his hurried, confused way of speaking. She feared she might have
been to blame, and have encouraged him in her thoughtlessness, more
than she ought. "I will make him angry with me," she said to herself.
"I will treat him to ridicule. It is the only chance, poor fellow!"
"Mr. Mayford," she said, "if I thought you were in jest, I should feel
it necessary to tell my father and brother that you had been
impertinent. I can only believe that you are in earnest, and I deeply
regret that your personal vanity should have urged you to take such an
unwarrantable liberty with a girl you have not yet known for ten days."
He turned and left her without a word, and she remained standing where
she was, half inclined to cry, and wondering if she had acted right on
the spur of the moment--sometimes half inclined to believe that she
had been unladylike and rude. When a thing of this kind takes place,
both parties generally put themselves in immediate correspondence
with a confidant. Miss Smith totters into the apartments of her dearest
friend, and falls weeping on the sofa, while Jones rushes madly into
Brown's rooms in the Temple, and, shying his best hat into the
coalscuttle, announces that there is nothing now left for him but to
drown the past in debauchery. Whereupon Brown, if he is a good fellow,
as all the Browns are, produces the whisky and hears all about it.
So in the present instance two people were informed of what had taken
place before they went to bed that night; and those two were Jim and
Doctor Mulhaus. Alice had stood where Cecil had left her, thinking,
could she confide it to Mrs. Buckley, and ask for advice. But Mrs.
Buckley had been a little cross to her that week for some reason, and
so she was afraid; and, not knowing anybody else well enough, began to
There was a noise of horses' feet just beyond the fence, and a voice
calling to her to come. It was Jim, and, drying her eyes, she went out,
and he, dismounting, put his arm round her waist and kissed her.
"Why, my beauty," he said, "who has been making you cry?"
She put her head on his shoulder and began sobbing louder than ever.
"Cecil Mayford," she said in a whisper.
"Well, and what the d----l has he been at?" said Jim, in a rather
"Wants to marry me," she answered, in a whisper, and hid her face in
"The deuce doubt he does," said Jim; "who does not? What did you tell
"I told him that I wondered at his audacity."
"Sent him off with a flea in his ear, in fact," said Jim. "Well, quite
right. I suppose you would do the same for any man?"
"Certainly I should," she said, looking up.
"If Doctor Mulhaus, now,--eh?"
"I'd box his ears, Jim," she said, laughing; "I would, indeed."
"Or Sam Buckley; would you box his ears, if he were to--you know?"
"Yes," she said. But there spread over her face a sudden crimson blush,
like the rosy arch which heralds the tropical sun, which made Jim laugh
"If you dared to say a word, Jim," she said, "I would never, never--"
Poor Cecil had taken his horse and had meant to ride home, but came
back again at night, "just," he thought, "to have one more look at her
before he entered on some line of life which would take him far away
from Garoopna and its temptations."
The Doctor (who has been rather thrust aside lately in the midst of all
this love-making and so on) saw that something had gone very wrong with
Cecil, who was a great friend of his, and, as he could never bear to
see a man in distress without helping him, he encouraged Cecil to
stroll down the garden with him, and then kindly and gently asked him
what was wrong.
Cecil told him all, from beginning to end, and added that life was over
for him, as far as all pleasure and excitement went; and, in short,
said what we have all said, and had said to us in our time, after a
great disappointment in love; which the Doctor took for exactly what it
was worth, although poor little Cecil's distress was very keen; and,
remembering some old bygone day when he had suffered so himself, he
cast about to find some comfort for him.
"You will get over this, my boy," said he, "if you would only believe it."
"Never, never!" said Cecil.
"Let me tell you a story, as we walk up and down. If it does not
comfort you, it will amuse you. How sweet the orange bloom smells!
Listen:--Had not the war broke out so suddenly, I should have been
married, two months to a day, before the battle of Saarbruck. Catherine
was a distant cousin, beautiful and talented, about ten years my
junior. Before Heaven, sir, on the word of a gentleman, I never persecuted
her with my addresses, and if either of them ay I did, tell
them from me, sir, that they lie, and I will prove it on their bodies.
Bah! I was forgetting. I, as head of the family, was her guardian, and,
although my younger brother was nearer her age, I courted her, in all
honour and humility proposed to her, and was accepted with even more
willingness than most women condescend to show on such occasions, and
received the hearty congratulations of my brother. Few women were ever
loved better than I loved Catherine. Conceive, Cecil, that I loved her
as well as you love Miss Brentwood, and listen to what follows.
"The war-cloud burst so suddenly that, leaving my bride that was to be,
to the care of my brother, and putting him in charge over my property,
I hurried off to join the Landsturm, two regiments of which I had put
into a state of efficiency by my sole exertions.
"You know partly what followed,--in one day an army of 150,000 men
destroyed, the King in flight to Konigsberg, and Prussia a province of
"I fled, wounded badly, desperate and penniless, from that field. I
learnt from the peasants, that what I had thought to be merely a
serious defeat was an irretrievable disaster; and, in spite of wounds,
hunger, and want of clothes, I held on my way towards home.
"The enemy were in possession of the country, so I had to travel by
night alone, and beg from such poor cottages as I dared to approach.
Sometimes got a night's rest, but generally lay abroad in the fields.
But at length, after every sort of danger and hardship, I stood above
the broad, sweeping Maine, and saw the towers of my own beloved castle
across the river, perched as of old above the vineyards, looking
protectingly down upon the little town which was clustered on the
river-bank below, and which owned me for its master.
"I crossed at dusk. I had to act with great caution, for I did not know
whether the French were there or no. I did not make myself known to the
peasant who ferried me over, further than as one from the war, which my
appearance was sufficient to prove. I landed just below a long high
wall which separated the town from the river, and, ere I had time to
decide what I should do first, a figure coming out of an archway caught
me by the hand, and I recognised my own major domo, my foster-brother.
"'I knew you would come back to me,' he said, 'if it was only as a pale
ghost; though I never believed you dead, and have watched here for you
night and day to stop you.'
"'Are the French in my castle, then?'
"'There are worse than the French there,' he said; 'worse than the
devil Bonaparte himself. Treason, treachery, adultery!'
"'Who has proved false?' I cried.
"'Your brother! False to his king, to his word, to yourself. He was in
correspondence with the French for six months past, and, now that he
believes you dead, he is living in sin with her who was to have been
"I did not cry out or faint, or anything of that sort. I only said, 'I
am going to the castle, Fritz,' and he came with me. My brother had
turned him out of the house when he usurped my property, but by a still
faithful domestic we were admitted, and I, knowing every secret passage
in my house, came shoeless from behind some arras, and stood before
them as they sat at supper. I was a ghastly sight. I had not shaved for
a fortnight, and my uniform hung in tatters from my body; round my head
was the same bloody white handkerchief with which I had bound up my
head at Jena. I was deadly pale from hunger, too; and from my entering
so silently they believed they had seen a ghost. My brother rose, and
stood pale and horrified, and Catherine fell fainting on the floor.
This was all my revenge, and ere my brother could speak, I was gone--
away to England, where I had money in the funds, accompanied by my
faithful Max, whom Mary Hawker's father buried in Drumston churchyard.
"So in one day I lost a brother, a mistress, a castle, a king, and a
fatherland. I was a ruined, desperate man. And yet I lived to see old
Blucher with his dirty boots on the silken sofas at the Tuileries, and
to become as stout and merry a middle-aged man as any Prussian subject
in her young Majesty's dominions."
HOW TOM TROUBRIDGE KEPT WATCH FOR THE FIRST TIME.
Human affairs are subject to such an infinite variety of changes and
complications, that any attempt to lay down particular rules for
individual action, under peculiar circumstances, must prove a failure.
Hence I consider proverbs, generally speaking, to be a failure, only
used by weak-minded men, who have no opinion of their own. Thus, if you
have a chance of selling your station at fifteen shillings, and buying
in, close to a new gold-field on the same terms, where fat sheep are
going to the butcher at from eighteen shillings to a pound, butter,
eggs, and garden produce at famine prices, some dolt unsettles you, and
renders you uncertain and miserable by saying that "rolling stone
gathers no moss;" as if you wanted moss! Again, having worked harder
than the Colonial Secretary all the week, and wishing to lie in bed
till eleven o'clock on Sunday, a man comes into your room at half-past
seven, on a hot morning, when your only chance is to sleep out an hour
or so of the heat, and informs you that the "early bird gets the
worms." I had a partner, who bought in after Jim Stockbridge was
killed, who was always flying this early bird, when he couldn't sleep
for musquitoes. I have got rid of him now; but for the two years he was
with me, the dearest wish of my heart was that my tame magpie Joshua
could have had a quiet two minutes with that early bird before any one
was up to separate them. I rather fancy he would have been spoken of as
"the late early bird" after that. In short, I consider proverbs as the
refuge of weak minds.
The infinite sagacity of the above remarks cannot be questioned; their
application may. I will proceed to give it. I have written down the
above tirade nearly, as far as I can guess, a printed pageful (may be a
little more, looking at it again), in order to call down the wrath of
all wise men, if any such have done me the honour of getting so far in
these volumes, on the most trashy and false proverb of the whole:
"Coming events cast their shadows before."
Now, they don't, you know. They never did, and never will. I myself
used to be a strong believer in pre-(what's the word?--prevarications,
predestinations)--no--presentiments; until I found by experience
that, although I was always having presentiments, nothing ever came of
them. Sometimes somebody would walk over my grave, and give me a
creeping in the back, which, as far as I can find out, proceeded from
not having my braces properly buttoned behind. Sometimes I have heard
the death-watch, produced by a small spider (may the deuce confound
him!), not to mention many other presentiments and depressions of
spirit, which I am now firmly persuaded proceed from indigestion. I am
far from denying the possibility of a coincidence in point of time
between a fit of indigestion and a domestic misfortune. I am far from
denying the possibility of more remarkable coincidences than that. I
have read in books, novels by the very best French authors, how a man,
not heard of for twenty years, having, in point of fact, been absent
during that time in the interior of Africa, may appear at Paris at a
given moment, only in time to save a young lady from dishonour, and
rescue a property of ten million francs. But these great writers of
fiction don't give us any warning whatever. The door is thrown heavily
open, and he stalks up to the table where the will is lying, quite
unexpectedly; stalks up always, or else strides. (How would it be, my
dear Monsieur Dumas, if, in your next novel, he were to walk in, or run
in, or hop in, or, say, come in on all-fours like a dog?--anything for
a change, you know.) And these masters of fiction are right--"Coming
events do not cast their shadows before."
If they did, how could it happen that Mary Hawker sat there in her
verandah at Toonarbin singing so pleasantly over her work? And why did
her handsome, kindly face light up with such a radiant smile when she
saw her son Charles come riding along under the shadow of the great
trees only two days after Cecil Mayford had proposed to Alice, and had
He came out of the forest shadow with the westering sunlight upon his
face, riding slowly. She, as she looked, was proud to see what a fine
seat he had on his horse, and how healthy and handsome he looked.
He rode round to the back of the house, and she went through to meet
him. There was a square court behind, round which the house, huts, and
store formed a quadrangle, neat and bright, with white quartz gravel.
Bythe-bye, there was a prospecting party who sank two or three shafts
in the flat before the house last year; and I saw about eighteen
pennyweights of gold which they took out. But it did not pay, and is
abandoned. (This in passing, A PROPOS of the quartz.)
"Is Tom Troubridge come home, mother?" said he, as he leaned out of the
saddle to kiss her.
"Not yet, my boy," she said. "I am all alone. I should have had a dull
week, but I knew you were enjoying yourself with your old friend at
Garoopna. A great party there, I believe?"
"I am glad to get home, mother," he said. "We were very jolly at first,
but latterly Sam Buckley and Cecil Mayford have been looking at one
another like cat and dog. Stay, though; let me be just; the fierce
looks were all on Cecil Mayford's side."
"What was the matter?"
"Alice Brentwood was the matter, I rather suspect," he said, getting
off his horse. "Hold him for me, mother, while I take the saddle off."
She did as requested. "And so they two are at loggerheads, eh, about
Miss Brentwood? Of course. And what sort of a girl is she?"
"Oh, very pretty; deuced pretty, in fact. But there is one there takes
my fancy better."
"Who is she?"
"Ellen Mayford; the sweetest little mouse----Dash it all; look at this
horse's back. That comes of that infernal flash military groom of Jim's
putting on the saddle without rubbing his back down. Where is the
She went in and got it for him as naturally as if it was her place to
obey, and his to command. She always waited on him, as a matter of
course, save when Tom Troubridge was with them, who was apt to rap out
something awkward about Charles being a lazy young hound, and about his
waiting on himself, whenever he saw Mary yielding to that sort of
"I wonder when Tom will be back?" resumed Charles.
"I have been expecting him this last week; he may come any night. I
hope he will not meet any of those horrid bushrangers."
"Hope not either," said Charles; "they would have to go a hundred or
two of miles out of their way to make it likely. Driving rams is slow
work; they may not be here for a week."
"A nice price he has paid!"
"It will pay in the end, in the quality of the wool," said Charles.
They sat in silence. A little after, Charles had turned his horse out,
when at once, without preparation, he said to her,--
"Mother, how long is it since my father died?"
She was very much startled. He had scarcely ever alluded to his father
before; but she made shift to answer him quietly.
"How old are you?"
"Eighteen!" he said.
"Then he has been dead eighteen years. He died just as you were born.
Never mention him, lad. He was a bad man, and by God's mercy you are
delivered from him."
She rose and went into the house quite cheerfully. Why should she not?
Why should not a handsome, still young, wealthy widow be cheerful? For
she was a widow. For years after settling at Toonarbin, she had
contrived, once in two or three years, to hear some news of her
husband. After about ten years, she heard that he had been reconvicted,
and sentenced to the chain-gang for life; and lastly, that he was dead.
About his being sentenced for life, there was no doubt, for she had a
piece of newspaper which told of his crime,--and a frightful piece of
villany it was,--and after that, the report of his death was so
probable that no one for an instant doubted its truth. Men did not live
long in the chain-gang, in Van Diemen's Land, in those days, brother.
Men would knock out one another's brains in order to get hung, and
escape it. Men would cry aloud to the judge to hang them out of the
way! It was the most terrible punishment known, for it was hopeless.
Penal servitude for life, as it is now, gives the very faintest idea of
what it used to be in old times. With a little trouble I could tell you
the weight of iron carried by each man. I cannot exactly remember, but
it would strike you as being incredible. They were chained two and two
together (a horrible association), to lessen the chances of escape;
there was no chance of mitigation for good conduct; there was hard
mechanical, uninteresting work, out of doors in an inclement climate,
in all weathers: what wonder if men died off like rotten sheep? And
what wonder, too, if sometimes the slightest accident,--such as a blow
from an overseer, returned by a prisoner, produced a sudden rising,
un-preconcerted, objectless, the result of which were half a dozen
murdered men, as many lunatic women, and five or six stations lighting
up the hill-side, night after night, while the whole available force of
the colony was unable to stop the ruin for months?
But to the point. Mary was a widow. When she heard of her husband's
death, she had said to herself, "Thank God!" But when she had gone to
her room, and was sat a-thinking, she seemed to have had another
husband before she was bound up with that desperate, coining, forging
George Hawker--another husband bearing the same name; but surely that
handsome curly-headed young fellow, who used to wait for her so
patiently in the orchard at Drumston, was not the same George Hawker as
this desperate convict? She was glad the convict was dead and out of
the way; there was no doubt of that; but she could still find a corner
in her heart to be sorry for her poor old lover,--her handsome old
But that even was passed now, and George Hawker was as one who had
never lived. Now on this evening we speak of, his memory came back just
an instant, as she heard the boy speak of the father, but it was gone
again directly. She called her servants, and was telling them to bring
supper, when Charles looked suddenly in, and said,--"Here they are!"
There they were, sure enough, putting the rams into the sheep-yard. Tom
Troubridge, as upright, bravelooking a man as ever, and, thanks to
bush-work, none the fatter. William Lee, one of our oldest acquaintances,
was getting a little grizzled, but otherwise looked as broad and
as strong as ever.
They rode into the yard, and Lee took the horses.
"Well, cousin," said Tom; "I am glad to see you again."
"You are welcome home, Tom; you have made good speed."
Tom and Charles went into the house, and Mary was about following them,
when Lee said, in so low a tone, that it did not reach the others,--
She turned round and looked at him, she had welcomed him kindly when
he came into the yard with Tom, and yet he stood still on horseback,
holding Tom's horse by the bridle. A stern, square-looking figure he
was; and when she looked at his face, she was much troubled, at--she
knew not what.
"Mrs. Hawker," he said, "can you give me the favour of ten minutes'
conversation, alone this evening?"
"Surely, William, now!"
"Not now,--my story is pretty long, and, what is more, ma'am, somebody
may be listening, and what I have got to tell you must be told in no
ear but your own."
"You frighten me, Lee! You frighten me to death."
"Don't get frightened, Mrs. Hawker. Remember if anything comes about,
that you have good friends about you; and, that I, William Lee, am not
the worst of them."
Lee went off with the horses, and Mary returned to the house. What
mystery had this man to tell her, "that no one might hear but she"?--
very strange and alarming! Was he drunk?--no, he was evidently quite
sober; as she looked out once more, she could see him at the stable,
cool and self-possessed, ordering the lads about: something very
strange and terrifying to one who had such a dark blot in her life.
But she went in, and as she came near the parlour, she heard Charles
and Tom roaring with laughter. As she opened the door she heard Tom
saying: "And, by Jove, I sat there like a great snipe, face to face
with him, as cool and unconcerned as you like. I took him for a flash
overseer, sporting his salary, and I was as thick as you like with him.
And 'Matey,' says I, (you see I was familiar, he seemed such a jolly
sort of bird), 'Matey, what station are you on?' 'Maraganoa,' says he.
'So,' says I, 'you're rather young there, ain't you? I was by there a
fortnight ago.' He saw he'd made a wrong move, and made it worse. 'I
mean,' says he, 'Maraganoa on the Clarence side.' 'Ah!' says I, 'in the
Cedar country?' 'Precisely,' says he. And there we sat drinking
together, and I had no more notion of its being him than you would have
She sat still listening to him, eating nothing. Lee's words outside
had, she knew not why, struck a chill into her heart, and as she
listened to Tom's story, although she could make nothing of it, she
felt as though getting colder and colder. She shivered, although the
night was hot. Through the open window she could hear all those
thousand commingled indistinguishable sounds that make the night-life
of the bush, with painful distinctness. She arose and went to the
The night was dark and profoundly still. The stars were overhead,
though faintly seen through a haze; and beyond the narrow enclosures in
front of the house, the great forest arose like a black wall. Tom and
Charles went on talking inside, and yet, though their voices were loud,
she was hardly conscious of hearing them, but found herself watching
the high dark wood and listening to the sound of the frogs in the
creek, and the rustle of a million crawling things, heard only in the
deep stillness of night.
Deep in the forest somewhere, a bough cracked, and fell crashing, then
all was silent again. Soon arose a wind, a partial wandering wind,
which came slowly up, and, rousing the quivering leaves to life for a
moment, passed away; then again a silence, deeper than ever, so that
she could hear the cattle and horses feeding in the lower paddock, a
quarter of a mile off; then a low wail in the wood, then two or three
wild weird yells, as of a devil in torment, and a pretty white curlew
skirled over the housetop to settle on the sheepwash dam.
The stillness was awful; it boded a storm, for behind the forest blazed
up a sheet of lightning, showing the shape of each fantastic elevated
bough. Then she turned round to the light, and said,--
"My dear partner, I had a headache, and went to the window. What was
the story you were telling Charles, just now? Who was the man you met
in the publichouse, who seems to have frightened you so?"
"No less a man than Captain Touan, my dear cousin!" said Tom, leaning
back with the air of a man who has made a point, and would be glad to
hear "what you have to say to that, sir."
"Touan?" repeated Mary. "Why, that's the great bushranger, that is out
to the north; is it not?"
"The same man, cousin! And there I sat hob and nob with him for half an
hour in the 'Lake George' public-house. If Desborough had come in, he'd
have hung me for being found in bad company. Ha! ha! ha!"
"My dear partner," she said, "what a terrible escape! Suppose he had
risen on you?"
"Why I'd have broken his back, cousin," said Tom, "unless my right hand
had forgot her cunning. He is a fine man of his weight: but, Lord, in a
struggle for life and death, I could break his neck, and have one more
claim on Heaven for doing so; for he is the most damnable villain that
ever disgraced God's earth, and that is the truth. That man, cousin, in
one of his devil's raids, tore a baby from its mother's breast by the
leg, dashed its brains out against a tree, and then--I daren't tell a
woman what happened." [Note: Tom was confusing Touan with Michael Howe.
The latter actually did commit this frightful atrocity; but I never heard
that the former actually combined the two crimes in this way.]
"Tom! Tom!" said Mary, "how can you talk of such things?"
"To show you what we have to expect if he comes this way, cousin; that
"And is there any possibility of such a thing?" asked Mary.
"Why not? Why should he not pay us the compliment of looking round
"Why do they call him Touan, Tom?" asked Charles.
"Can't, you see," said Tom, "the Touan, the little grey flying
squirrel, only begins to fly about at night, and slides down from his
bough sudden and sharp. This fellow has made some of his most terrible
raids at night, and so he got the name of Touan."
"God deliver us from such monsters!" said Mary, and left the room.
She went into the kitchen. Lee sat there smoking. When she came in he
rose, and, knocking the ashes out of his pipe, touched his forehead and
stood looking at her.
"Now then, old friend," she said, "come here."
He followed her out. She led the way swiftly, through the silent night,
across the yard, over a small paddock, up to the sheep-yard beside the
woolshed. There she turned shortly round, and, leaning on the fence,
"No one can hear us here, William Lee. Now, what have you to say?"
He seemed to hesitate a moment, and then began: "Mrs. Hawker, have I
been a good servant to you?"
"Honest, faithful, kindly, active; who could have been a better servant
than you, William Lee! A friend, and not a servant; God is my witness;
"I am glad to hear you say so," he answered. "I did you a terrible
injury once; I have often been sorry for it since I knew you, but it
cannot be mended now."
"Since you knew me?" she said. "Why, you have known me ever since I
have been in the country, and you have never injured me since then,
"Ay, but at home," he said. "In England. In Devonshire."
"I was your husband's companion in all his earlier villanies. I
suggested them to him, and egged him on. And now, mind you, after
twenty years, my punishment is coming."
She could only say still, "My God!" while her throat was as dry as a
"Listen to what I have got to tell you now. Hear it all in order, and
try to bear up, and use your common sense and courage. As I said
before, you have good friends around you, and you at least are
"Guilty! guilty!" she cried. "Guilty of my father's death! Read me this
horrible riddle, Lee."
"Wait and listen," said Lee, unable to forego, even in her terror, the
great pleasure that all his class have of spinning a yarn, and using as
many words as possible. "See here. We came by Lake George, you know,
and heard everywhere accounts of a great gang of bushrangers being out.
So we didn't feel exactly comfortable, you see. We came by a bush
public-house, and Mr. Troubridge stops, and says he, 'Well, lad, suppose
we yard these rams an hour, and take drink in the parlour?' 'All
right,' I says, with a wink, 'but the tap for me, if you please. That's
my place, and I'd like to see if I can get any news of the whereabouts
of the lads as are sticking up all round, because, if they're one way,
I'd as lief be another.' 'All right,' says he. So in I goes, and sits
down. There was nobody there but one man, drunk under the bench. And I
has two noblers of brandy, and one of Old Tom; no, two Old Toms it was,
and a brandy; when in comes an old chap as I knew for a lag in a
minute. Well, he and I cottoned together, and found out that we had
been prisoners together five-and-twenty years agone. And so I shouted
for him, and he for me, and at last I says, 'Butty,' says I, 'who are
these chaps round here on the lay' (meaning, Who are the
bushrangers)? And he says, 'Young 'uns--no one as we know.' And I
says, 'Not likely, matey; I've been on the square this twenty year.'
'Same here,' says the old chap; 'give us your flipper. And now,' says
he, 'what sort of a cove is your boss' (meaning Mr. Troubridge)? 'One
of the real right sort,' says I. 'Then see here,' says he, 'I'll tell
you something: the head man of that there gang is at this minute a-sitting
yarning with your boss in the parlour.' 'The devil!' says I.
'Is so,' says he, 'and no flies.' So I sings out, 'Mr. Troubridge,
those sheep will be out;' and out he came running, and I whispers to
him, 'Mind the man you're sitting with, and leave me to pay the score.'
So he goes back, and presently he sings out, 'Will, have you got any
money?' And I says, 'Yes, thirty shillings.' 'Then,' says he, 'pay for
this, and come along.' And thinks I, I'll go in and have a look at this
great new captain of bushrangers; so I goes to the parlour door, and
now who do you think I saw?"
"I know," she said. "It was that horrible villain they call Touan."
"The same man," he answered. "Do you know who he is?"
She found somehow breath to say, "How can I? How is it possible?"
"I will tell you," said Lee. "There, sitting in front of Mr.
Troubridge, hardly altered in all these long years, sat George Hawker,
formerly of Drumston,--your husband!"
She gave a low cry, and beat the hard rail with her head till it bled.
Then, turning fiercely round, she said, in a voice hoarse and strangely
"Have you anything more to tell me, you croaking raven?"
He had something more to tell, but he dared not speak now. So he said,
"Nothing at present, but if laying down my life----"
She did not wait to hear him, but, with her hands clasped above her
head, she turned and walked swiftly towards the house. She could not
cry, or sob, or rave; she could only say, "Let it fall on me, O God, on
me!" over and over again.
Also, she was far too crushed and stunned to think precisely what it
was she dreaded so. It seemed afterwards, as Frank Maberly told me,
that she had an indefinable horror of Charles meeting his father, and
of their coming to know one another. She half feared that her husband
would appear and carry away her son with him, and even if he did not,
the lad was reckless enough as it was, without being known and pointed
at through the country as the son of Hawker the bushranger.
These were after-thoughts, however; at present she leaned giddily
against the house-side, trying, in the wild hurrying night-rack of her
thoughts, to distinguish some tiny star of hope, or even some glimmer
of reason. Impossible! Nothing but swift, confused clouds everywhere,
driving wildly on,--whither?
But a desire came upon her to see her boy again, and compare his face
to his father's. So she slid quietly into the room where Tom and
Charles were still talking together of Tom's adventure, and sat looking
at the boy, pretending to work. As she came in, he was laughing loudly
at something, and his face was alive and merry. "He is not like what
his father was at his age," she said.
But they continued their conversation. "And now, what sort of man was
he, Tom?" said Charles. "Was he like any one you ever saw?"
"Why, no. Stay, let's see. Do you know, he was something like you in
"Thank you!" said Charles, laughing. "Wait till I get a chance of
paying you a compliment, old fellow. A powerful fellow--eh?"
"Why, yes,--a tough-looking subject," said Tom.
"I shouldn't have much chance with him, I suppose?"
"No; he'd be too powerful for you, Charley."
A change came over his face, a dark, fierce look. Mary could see the
likeness NOW plain enough, and even Tom looked at him for an instant
with a puzzled look.
"Nevertheless," continued Charles, "I would have a turn with him if I
met him; I'd try what six inches of cold steel between----"
"Forbear, boy! Would you have the roof fall in and crush you dead?"
said Mary, in a voice that appalled both of them. "Stop such foolish
talk, and pray that we may be delivered from the very sight of these
men, and suffered to get away to our graves in peace, without any more
of these horrors and surprises. I would sooner," she said, increasing
in rapidity as she went on, "I would far sooner, live like some one I
have heard of, with a sword above his head, than thus. If he comes and
looks on me, I shall die."
She had risen and stood in the firelight, deadly pale. Somehow one of
the bands of her long black hair had fallen down, and half covered her
face. She looked so unearthly that, coupling her appearance with the
wild, senseless words she had been uttering, Tom had a horrible
suspicion that she was gone mad.
"Cousin," he said, "let me beseech you to go to bed. Charles, run for
Mrs. Barker. Mary," he added, as soon as he was gone, "come away, or
you'll be saying something before that boy you'll be sorry for. You're
hysterical; that's what is the matter with you. I am afraid we have
frightened you by our talk about bushrangers."
"Yes, that is it! that is it!" she said; and then, suddenly, "Oh! my
dear old friend, you will not desert me?"
"Never, Mary; but why ask such a question now?"
"Ask Lee," she said, and the next moment Mrs. Barker, the housekeeper,
came bustling in with smelling salts, and so on, to minister to a mind
diseased. And Mary was taken off to bed.
"What on earth can be the matter with her, cousin Tom?" said Charles
when she was gone.
"She is out of sorts, and got hysterical; that's what it is," said Tom.
"What odd things she said!"
"Women do when they are hysterical. It's nothing more than that."
But Mrs. Barker came in with a different opinion. She said that Mary
was very hot and restless, and had very little doubt that a fever was
coming on. "Terribly shaken she had been," said Mrs. Barker, "hoped
nothing was wrong."
"There's something decidedly wrong, if your mistress is going to have a
fever," said Tom. "Charley, do you think Doctor Mulhaus is at Baroona
"Up at the Major's," said Charles, "Shall I ride over for him? There
will be a good moon in an hour."
"Yes," said Tom, "and fetch him over at once. Tell him we think it's a
fever, and he will know what to bring. Ride like h----l, Charley."
As soon as he was alone, he began thinking. "What the DOOSE is the
matter?" was his first exclamation, and, after half-an-hour's
cogitation, only had arrived at the same point, "What the DOOSE is the
matter?" Then it flashed across him, what did she mean by "ask Lee?"
Had she any meaning in it, or was it nonsense? There was an easy
solution for it; namely, TO ask Lee. And so arising he went across the
yard to the kitchen.
Lee was bending low over the fire, smoking. "William," said Tom, "I
want to see you in the parlour."
"I was thinking of coming across myself," said Lee; "In fact I should
have come when I had finished my pipe."
"Bring your pipe across, then," said Tom. "Girl, take in some hot water
"Now, Lee," said Tom, as soon as Lee had gone through the ceremony of
"Well, here's my respex, sir," "Now Lee, you have heard how ill the
"I have indeed, sir," said he; "and very sorry I am, as I am partly the
cause of it."
"All that simplifies matters, Will, considerably," said Tom. "I must
tell you that when I asked her what put her in that state, she said,
"Shows her sense, sir. What she means is, that you ought to hear what
she and I have heard; and I mean to tell you more than I have her. If
she knew everything, I am afraid it would kill her."
"Ay! I know nothing as yet, you know."
Lee in the first place put him in possession of what we already know--
the fact of Hawker's reappearance, and his identity with "The Touan;"
then he paused.
"This is very astonishing, and very terrible, Lee," said he. "Is there
"Yes, the worst. That man has followed us home!"
Tom had exhausted all his expressions of astonishment and dismay
before this; so now he could only give a long whistle, and say,
"Followed us home?"
"Followed us home!" said Lee. "As we were passing the black swamp,
not two miles from here, this very morning, I saw that man riding
parallel with us through the bush."
"Why did not you tell me before?"
"Because I had not made up my mind how to act. First I resolved to tell
the mistress; that I did. Then after I had smoked a pipe, I resolved to
tell you, and that I did, and now here we are, you see."
That was undeniable. There they were, with about as pretty a
complication of mischief to unravel as two men could wish to have. Tom
felt so foolish and nonplussed, that he felt inclined to laugh at Lee
when he said, "Here we are." It so exactly expressed the state of the
case; as if he had said, "All so and so has happened, and a deuce of a
job it is, and here sit you and I, to deliberate what's to be done with
regard to so and so."
He did not laugh, however; he bit his lip, and stopped it. Then he
rose, and, leaning his great shoulders against the mantelpiece, stood
before the fireless grate, and looked at Lee. Lee also looked at him,
and I think that each one thought what a splendid specimen of his style
the other was. If they did not think so, "they ought to it," as the
Londoners say. But neither spoke a few minutes; then Tom said,--
"Lee, Will Lee, though you came to me a free man, and have served me
twenty years, or thereabouts, as free man, I don't conceal from myself
the fact that you have been convict. Pish, man! don't let us mince
matters now,--a lag."
Lee looked him full in the face, without changing countenance, and
"Convicted more than once, too," continued Tom.
"Three times," said Lee.
"Ah!" said Tom. "And if a piece of work was set before me to do, which
required pluck, honesty, courage, and cunning, and one were to say to
me, 'Who will you have to help you?' I would answer out boldly, 'Give
me Will Lee the lag; my old friend, who has served me so true and
hearty these twenty years.'"
"And you'd do right, sir," said Lee quietly. And rising up, he stood
beside Tom, with one foot on the fender, bending down and looking into
the empty grate.
"Now, Will," said Tom, turning round and laying his hand on his
shoulder, "this fellow has followed us home, having found out who we
were. Why has he done so?"
"Evident," said Lee, "to work on the fears of the mistress, and get
some money from her."
"Good!" said Tom. "Well answered. We shall get to the bottom of our
difficulty like this. Only answer the next question as well, and I will
call you a Poly--, Poly--; d--n the Greek."
"Not such a bad name as that, I hope, sir," said Lee smiling. "Who
might she have been? A bad un, I expect. You don't happen to refer to
Hobart-town Polly, did you, sir?"
"Hold your tongue, you villain," said Tom, "or you'll make me laugh;
and these are not laughing times."
"Well, what is your question, sir?" asked Lee.
"Why, simply this: What are we to do?"
"I'll tell you," said Lee, speaking in an animated whisper. "Watch,
watch, and watch again, till you catch him. Tie him tight, and hand him
over to Captain Desborough. He may be about the place tonight: he
will be sure to be. Let us watch to-night, you and I, and for many
nights, till we catch him."
"But," whispered Tom, "he will be hung."
"He has earned it," said Lee. "Let him be hung."
"But he is her husband," urged Tom, in a whisper. "He is that boy's
father. I cannot do it. Can't we buy him off?"
"Yes," answered Lee in the same tone, "till his money is gone. Then you
will have a chance of doing it again, and again, all your life."
"This is a terrible dilemma," said Tom; and added in a perplexity
almost comical, "Drat the girl! Why did'nt she marry poor old Jim
Stockbridge, or sleepy Hamlyn, or even your humble servant? Though, in
all honour, I must confess that I never asked her, as those two others
did. No! I'll tell you what, Lee: we will watch for him, and catch him
if we can. After that we will think what is to be done. By-the-bye, I
have been going to ask you:--do you think he recognised you at the
"That puzzles me," said Lee. "He looked me in the face, but I could not
see that he did. I wonder if he recognised you?"
"I never saw him in my life before," said Tom. "It is very likely that
he knew me, though. I was champion of Devon and Cornwall, you know,
before little Abraham Cann kicked my legs from under me that unlucky
Easter Monday. (The deuce curl his hair for doing it!) I never forgave
him till I heard of that fine bit of play with Polkinghorn. Yes! he
must have known me."
Lee lit the fire, while Tom, blowing out the candles, drew the
curtains, so that any one outside could not see into the room.
Nevertheless, he left the French window open, and then went outside,
and secured all the dogs in the dog-house.
The night was wonderfully still and dark. As he paused before entering
the house, he could hear the bark falling from the trees a quarter of a
mile off, and the opossums scratching and snapping little twigs as they
passed from bough to bough. Somewhere, apparently at an immense
distance, a morepork was chanting his monotonous cry. The frogs in the
creek were silent even, so hot was the night. "A good night for watching,"
said he to Lee when he came in. "Lie you down; I'll take the
They blew out the candle, and Lee was in the act of lying down, when he
arrested himself, and held up his finger to Tom.
They both listened, motionless and in silence, until they could hear
the spiders creeping on the ceiling. There it was again! A stealthy
step on the gravel.
Troubridge and Lee crouched down breathless. One minute, two, five, but
it did not come again. At length they both moved, as if by concert, and
Lee said, "'Possum."
"Not a bit," said Troubridge; and then Lee lay down again, and slept in
the light of the flickering fire. One giant arm was thrown around his
head, and the other hung down in careless grace; the great chest was
heaved up, and the head thrown back; the seamed and rugged features
seemed more stern and marked than ever in the chiaroscuro; and the
whole man was a picture of reckless strength such as one seldom sees.
Tom had dozed and had awoke again, and now sat thinking, "What a
terrible tough customer that fellow would be!" when suddenly he
crouched on the floor, and, reaching out his hand, touched Lee, who
woke, and silently rolled over with his face towards the window.
There was no mistake this time--that was no opossum. There came the
stealthy step again; and now, as they lay silent, the glass-door was
pushed gently open, showing the landscape beyond. The gibbous moon was
just rising over the forest, all blurred with streaky clouds, and
between them and her light they could see the figure of a man, standing
inside the room.
Tom could wait no longer. He started up, and fell headlong with a crash
over a little table that stood in his way. They both dashed into the
garden, but only in time to hear flying footsteps, and immediately
after the gallop of a horse, the echoes of which soon died away, and
all was still.
"Missed him, by George!" said Lee. "It was a precious close thing,
though. What could he mean by coming into the house,--eh?"
"Just as I expected; trying to get an interview with the mistress. He
will be more cautious in future, I take it."
"I wonder if he will try again?"
"Don't know," said Troubridge; "he might: not to-night, however."
They went in and lay down again, and Troubridge was soon asleep; and
very soon that sleep was disturbed by dreadful dreams. At one time he
thought he was riding madly through the bush for his bare life;
spurring on a tired horse, which was failing every moment more and
more. But always through the tree-stems on his right he saw glancing, a
ghost on a white horse, which kept pace with him, do what he would. Now
he was among the precipices on the ranges. On his left, a lofty
inaccessible cliff; on the right, a frightful blue abyss; while the
slaty soil kept sliding from beneath his horse's feet. Behind him,
unseen, came a phantom, always gaining on him, and driving him along
the giddiest wallaby tracks. If he could only turn and face it, he
might conquer, but he dare not. At length the path grew narrower and
narrower, and he turned in desperation and awoke--woke to see in the
dim morning light a dark figure bending over him. He sprang up, and
clutched it by the throat.
"A most excellent fellow this!" said the voice of Doctor Mulhaus. "He
sends a frantic midnight message for his friend to come to him,
regardless of personal convenience and horseflesh; and when this
friend comes quietly in, and tries to wake him without disturbing the
sick folks, he seizes him by the throat and nearly throttles him."
"I beg a thousand pardons, Doctor," said Tom; "I had been dreaming, and
I took you for the devil. I am glad to find my mistake."
"You have good reason," said the Doctor; "but now, how is the patient?"
"Asleep at present, I believe; the housekeeper is with her."
"What is the matter with her?"
"She has had a great blow. It has shaken her intellect, I am afraid."
"What sort of a blow?" asked the Doctor.
Tom hesitated. He did not know whether to tell him or not.
"Nay," said the Doctor, "you had better let me know. I can help then,
you know. Now, for instance, has she heard of her husband?"
"She has, Doctor. How on earth came you to guess that?"
"A mere guess, though I have always thought it quite possible, as the
accounts of his death were very uncertain."
Tom then set to work, and told the Doctor all that we know. He looked
very grave. "This is far worse than I had thought," he said, and
Mary awoke in a fever and delirious. They kept Charles as much from her
as possible, lest she should let drop some hint of the matter to the
boy; but even in her delirium she kept her secret well; and towards the
evening the Doctor, finding her quieter, saddled his horse, and rode
away ten miles to a township, where resided a drunken surgeon, one of
the greatest blackguards in the country.
The surgeon was at home. He was drunk, of course; he always was, but
hardly more so to-day than usual. So the Doctor hoped for success in
his object, which was to procure a certain drug which was neither in
the medicine-chest at the Buckleys' nor at Toonarbin; and putting on
his sweetest smile when the surgeon came to the door, he made a remark
about the beauty of the weather, to which the other very gruffly
"I come to beg a favour," said Doctor Mulhaus. "Can you let me have a
little--so and so?"
"See you d--d first," was the polite reply. "A man comes a matter of
fourteen thousand miles, makes a pretty little practice, and then gets
it cut into by a parcel of ignorant foreigners, whose own country is
too hot to hold them. And not content with this, they have the brass to
ask for the loan of a man's drugs. As I said before, I'll see you d--d
first, AND THEN I WON'T." And so saying, he slammed the door.
Doctor Mulhaus was beside himself with rage. For the first and last
time since I have known him he forgot his discretion, and instead of
going away quietly, and treating the man with contempt, he began
kicking at the door, calling the man a scoundrel, &c., and between the
intervals of kicking, roaring through the keyhole, "Bring out your
diploma; do you hear, you impostor?" and then fell to work kicking
again. "Bring out your forged diploma, will you, you villain?"
This soon attracted the idlers from the public-house: a couple of
sawyers, a shepherd or two, all tipsy, of course, except one of the
sawyers, who was drunk. The drunken sawyer at length made out to his
own complete satisfaction that Doctor Mulhaus' wife was in labour, and
that he was come for the surgeon, who was probably drunk and asleep
inside. So, being able to sympathize, having had his wife in the
straw every thirteen months regularly for the last fifteen years, he
prepared to assist, and for this purpose took a stone about half a
hundredweight, and coming behind the Doctor, when he was in full kick,
he balanced himself with difficulty, and sent it at the lock with all
the force of his arm, and of course broke the door in. In throwing the
stone, he lost his balance, came full butt against Dr. Mulhaus,
propelled him into the passage, into the arms of the surgeon, who was
rushing out infuriated to defend his property, and down went the three
in the passage together, the two doctors beneath, and the drunken
sawyer on the top of them.
The drunken surgeon, if, to use parliamentary language, he will allow
me to call him so, was of course underneath the others; but, being a
Londoner, and consequently knowing the use of his fists, ere he went
down delivered a "one, two," straight from the shoulder in our poor
dear Doctor's face, and gave him a most disreputable black eye, besides
cutting his upper lip open. This our Doctor, being, you must remember,
a foreigner, and not having the rules of the British Ring before his
eyes, resented by getting on the top of him, taking him round the
throat, and banging the back of his head against the brick floor of the
passage, until he began to goggle his eyes and choke. Meanwhile the
sawyer, exhilarated beyond measure in his drunken mind at having raised
a real good promising row, having turned on his back, lay procumbent
upon the twain, and kicking everything soft or human he came across
with his heels, struck up "The Bay of Biscay, Oh," until he was dragged
forth by two of his friends; and, being in a state of wild excitement,
ready to fight the world, hit his own mate a violent blow in the eye,
and was only quieted by receiving a sound thrashing, and being placed
in a sitting posture in the verandah of the public house, from which he
saw Doctor Mulhaus come forth from the surgeon's with rumpled feathers,
I am deeply grieved to have recorded the above scene, but I could not
omit it. Having undertaken to place the character of that very noble
gentleman, Doctor Mulhaus, before my readers, I was forced not to omit
this. As a general rule, he was as self-contained, as calm and as
frigid as the best Englishman among us. But under all this there was,
to speak in carefullyselected scientific language, a substratum of
pepper-box, which has been apparent to me on more than one occasion. I
have noticed the above occasion per force. Let the others rest in
oblivion. A man so true, so wise, so courteous, and so kindly, needs
not my poor excuses for having once in a way made a fool of himself. He
will read this, and he will be angry with me for a time, but he knows
well that I, like all who knew him, say heartily, God bless you, old
But the consequences of the above were, I am sorry to say, eminently
disastrous. The surgeon got a warrant against Doctor Mulhaus for
burglary with violence, and our Doctor got a warrant against him for
assault with intent to rob. So there was the deuce to pay. The affair
got out of the hands of the Bench. In fact they sent BOTH parties for
trial, (what do you think of that, my Lord Campbell?) in order to ge
rid of the matter, and at sessions, the surgeon swore positively that
Doctor Mulhaus had, assisted by a convict, battered his door down with
stones in open day, and nearly murdered him. Then in defence Doctor
Mulhaus called the sawyer, who, as it happened, had just completed a
contract for fencing for Mrs. Mayford, the proceeds of which bargain he
was spending at the public-house when the thing happened, and had just
undertaken another for one of the magistrates; having also a large
family dependent on him; being, too, a man who prided himself in
keeping an eye to windward, and being slightly confused by a trifling
attack of delirium tremens (diddleums, he called it): he, I say, to
our Doctor's confusion and horror, swore positively that he never took
a stone in his hand on the day in question; that he never saw a stone
for a week before or after that date; that he did not deny having
rushed into the passage to assist the complainant (drunken surgeon),
seeing him being murdered by defendant; and, lastly, that he was never
near the place on the day specified. So it would have gone hard with
our Doctor, had not his Honour called the jury's attention to the
discrepancies in this witness's evidence; and when Dr. Mulhaus was
acquitted, delivered a stinging reproof to the magistrates for wasting
public time by sending such a trumpery case to a jury. But, on the
other hand, Dr. Mulhaus' charge of assault with intent fell dead; so
that neither party had much to boast of.
The night or so after the trial was over, the Doctor came back to
Toonarbin, in what he intended for a furious rage. But, having told
Tom Troubridge the whole affair, and having unluckily caught Tom's eye,
they two went off into such hearty fits of laughter that poor Mary, now
convalescent, but still in bed, knocked at the wall to know what the
WHICH IS THE LAST CHAPTER BUT ONE IN THE SECOND VOLUME.
The state of terror and dismay into which poor Mary Hawker was thrown
on finding that her husband, now for many years the BETE NOIR of her
existence, was not only alive, but promising fairly to cause her more
trouble than ever he did before, superadded, let me say, for mere
truth's sake, to a slight bilious attack, brought on by good living and
want of exercise, threw her into a fever, from which, after several
days' delirium, she rose much shattered, and looking suddenly older.
All this time the Doctor, like a trusty dog, had kept his watch, and
done more, and with a better will than any paid doctor would have been
likely to do. He was called away a good deal by the prosecution arising
out of that unhappy affair with the other doctor, and afterwards with a
prosecution for perjury, which he brought against the sawyer; but he
was generally back at night, and was so kind, so attentive, and so
skilful that Mary took it into her head, and always affirmed
afterwards, that she owed her life to him.
She was not one to receive any permanent impression from anything. So
now, as day by day she grew stronger, she tried to undervalue the
mischief which had at first so terrified her, and caused her illness;--
tried, and with success, in broad daylight; but, in the silent dark
nights, as she lay on her lonely bed, she would fully appreciate the
terrible cloud that hung over her, and would weep and beat her pillow,
and pray in her wild fantastic way to be delivered from this frightful
monster, cut off from communion with all honest men by his
unutterable crimes, but who, nevertheless, she was bound to love,
honour, and obey, till death should part her from him.
Mrs. Buckley, on the first news of her illness, had come up and taken
her quarters at Toonarbin, acting as gentle a nurse as man or woman
could desire to have. She took possession of the house, and managed
everything. Mrs. Barker, the house-keeper, the only one who did not
submit at once to her kindly rule, protested, obstructed, protocolled,
presented an ultimatum, and, at last, was so ill advised as to take up
arms. There was a short campaign, lasting only one morning,--a
decisive battle,--and Mrs. Barker was compelled to sue for peace. "Had
Mr. Troubridge been true to himself," she said, "she would never have
submitted;" but, having given Tom warning, and Tom, in a moment of
irritation, having told her, without hesitation or disguise, to go to
the devil (no less), she bowed to the circumstances, and yielded.
Agnes Buckley encouraged Dr. Mulhaus, too, in his legal affairs, and, I
fear, was the first person who proposed the prosecution for perjury
against the sawyer: a prosecution, however, which failed, in
consequence of his mate and another friend, who was present at the
affair, coming forward to the sawyer's rescue, and getting into such a
labyrinth and mist of perjury, that the Bench (this happened just after
quarter sessions) positively refused to hear anything more on either
side. Altogether, Agnes Buckley made herself so agreeable, and kept
them all so alive, that Tom wondered how he had got on so long without
At the end of three weeks Mary was convalescent; and one day, when she
was moved into the verandah, Mrs. Buckley beside her, Tom and the
Doctor sitting on the step smoking, and Charles sleepily reading aloud
"Hamlet," with a degree of listlessness and want of appreciation
unequalled, I should say, by any reader before; at such time, I say,
there entered suddenly to them a little-cattle dealer, as brimful of
news as an egg of meat. Little Burnside it was: a man about eight stone
nothing, who always wore top-boots and other people's clothes. As he
came in, Charles recognised on his legs a pair of cord breeches of his
own, with a particular grease patch on the thigh: a pair of breeches he
had lent Burnside, and which Burnside had immediately got altered to
his own size. A good singer was Burnside. A man who could finish his
bottle of brandy, and not go to bed in his boots. A man universally
liked and trusted. An honest, hearty, little fellow, yet, one who
always lent or spent his money as fast as he got it, and was as poor as
Job. The greatest vehicle of news in the district, too. "Snowy river
Times," he used to be called.
After the usual greetings, Tom, seeing he was bursting with
something, asked him, "What's the news?"
Burnside was in the habit of saying that he was like the Lord Mayor's
fool--fond of everything that was good. But his greatest pleasure, the
one to which he would sacrifice everything, was retailing a piece of
news. This was so great an enjoyment with him that he gloried in
dwelling on it, and making the most of it. He used to retail a piece of
news, as a perfect novel, in three volumes. In his first he would take
care to ascertain that you were acquainted with the parties under
discussion; and, if you were not, make you so, throwing in a few anecdotes
illustrative of their characters. In In his second, he would grow
discursive, giving an episode or two, and dealing in moral reflections
and knowledge of human nature rather largely. And in his third he would
come smash, crash down on you with the news itself, and leave you
He followed this plan on the present occasion. He answered Tom's
question by asking,--
"Do you know Desborough?"
"Of course I do," said Tom; "and a noble good fellow he is."
"Exactly," said Burnside; "super of police; distinguished in Indian
wars; nephew of my Lord Covetown. An Irishman is Desborough, but far
This by way of first volume: now comes his second:--
"Now, sir, I, although a Scotchman born, and naturally proud of being
so, consider that until these wretched national distinctions between
the three great nations are obliterated we shall never get on, sir;
never. That the Scotch, sir, are physically and intellectually
"Physically and intellectually the devil," burst in Tom. "Pick out any
dozen Scotchmen, and I'll find you a dozen Londoners who will fight
them, or deal with them till they'd be glad to get over the borders
again. As for the Devon and Cornish lads, find me a Scotchman who will
put me on my back, and I'll write you a cheque for a hundred pounds, my
boy. We English opened the trade of the world to your little two
millions and a-half up in the north there; and you, being pretty well
starved out at home, have had the shrewdness to take advantage of it;
and now, by Jove, you try to speak small of the bridge that carried you
over. What did you do towards licking the Spaniards; eh? And where
would you be now, if they had not been licked in 1588, eh? Not in
Australia, my boy! A Frenchman is conceited enough, but, by George, he
can't hold a candle to a Scotchman."
Tom spoke in a regular passion; but there was some truth in what he
said, I think. Burnside didn't like it, and merely saying, "You
interrupt me, sir," went on to his third volume without a struggle.
"You are aware, ladies, that there has been a gang of bushrangers out
to the north, headed by a miscreant, whom his companions call Touan,
but whose real name is a mystery."
Mrs. Buckley said, "Yes;" and Tom glanced at Mary. She had grown as
pale as death, and Tom said, "Courage, cousin; don't be frightened at a
"Well, sir," continued Burnside, putting the forefinger and thumb of
each hand together, as if he was making "windows" with soapsuds,
"Captain Desborough has surprised that gang in a gully, sir, and,"
spreading his hands out right and left, "obliterated them."
"The devil!" said Tom, while the Doctor got up and stood beside Mary.
"Smashed them, sir, "continued Burnside;" extinguished them utterly.
He had six of his picked troopers with him, and they came on them
suddenly and brought them to bay. You see, two troopers have been
murdered lately, and so our men, when they got face to face with the
cowardly hounds, broke discipline and wouldn't be held. They hardly
fired a shot, but drew their sabres, and cut the dogs down almost to a
man. Three only out of twelve have been captured alive, and one of them
is dying of a wound in the neck." And, having finished, little Burnside
folded his arms and stood in a military attitude, with the air of a man
who had done the thing himself, and was prepared to receive his meed of
praise with modesty.
"Courage, Mary," said Tom; "don't be frightened at shadows."--He felt
something sticking in his throat, but spoke out nevertheless.
"And their redoubted captain," he asked; "what has become of him?"
"What, Touan himself?" said Burnside. "Well, I am sorry to say that
that chivalrous and high-minded gentleman was found neither among the
dead nor the living. Not to mince, matters, sir, he has escaped."
The Doctor saw Mary's face quiver, but she bore up bravely, and
"Escaped, has he?" said Tom. "And do they know anything about him?"
"Desborough, who told me this himself," said Burnside, "says no, that
he is utterly puzzled. He had made sure of the arch-rascal himself;
but, with that remarkable faculty of saving his own skin which he has
exhibited on more than one occasion, he has got off for the time, with
"A companion; eh?"
"Yes," said Burnside, "whereby hangs a bit of romance, if I may profane
the word in speaking of such men. His companion is a young fellow,
described as being more like a beautiful woman than a man, and bearing
the most singular likeness in features to the great Captain Touan
himself, who, as you have heard, is a handsome dog. In short, there is
very little doubt that they are father and son."
Tom thought to himself, "Who on earth can this be? What son can George
Hawker have, and we not know of it?" He turned to Burnside.
"What age is the young man you speak of?" he asked.
"Twenty, or thereabouts, by all description," said the other.
Tom thought again: "This gets very strange. He could have no son of
that age got in Van Diemen's Land: it was eight years before he was
free. It must be some one we know of. He had some byeblows in Devon, by
all accounts. If this is one of them, how the deuce did he get here?"
But he could not think. We shall see presently who it was. Now we must
leave these good folks for a time, and just step over to Garoopna, and
see how affairs go there.
IN WHICH JAMES BRENTWOOD AND SAMUEL BUCKLEY, ESQUIRES, COMBINE TO
DISTURB THE REST OF CAPTAIN BRENTWOOD, R.A. AND SUCCEED IN DOING SO.
The morning after Cecil Mayford had made his unlucky offer to Alice,
he appeared at Sam's bedside very early, as if he had come to draw
Priam's curtains; and told him shortly, that he had spoken, and had
been received with contempt; that he was a miserable brute, and that he
was going back home to attend to his business;--under the
circumstances, the best thing he could possibly do.
So the field was clear for Sam, but he let matters stay as they were,
being far too pleasant to disturb lightly; being also, to tell the
truth, a little uncertain of his ground, after poor Cecil had
suffered so severely in the encounter. The next day, too, his father
and mother went home, and he thought it would be only proper for him to
go with them, but, on proposing it, Jim quietly told him he must stay
where he was and work hard for another week, and Halbert, although a
guest of the Buckleys, was constrained to remain still at the
Brentwoods', in company with Sam.
But at the end of a week they departed, and Jim went back with them,
leaving poor Alice behind, alone with her father. Sam turned when they
had gone a little way, and saw her white figure still in the porch,
leaning in rather a melancholy attitude against the door-post. The
audacious magpie had perched himself on the top of her head, from which
proud elevation he hurled wrath, scorn, and mortal defiance against
them as they rode away. Sam took off his hat, and as he went on kept
wondering whether she was thinking of him at all, and hoping that she
might be sorry that he was gone. "Probably, however," he thought, "she
is only sorry for her brother."
They three stayed at Baroona a week or more, one of them riding up
every day to ask after Mary Hawker. Otherwise they spent their time
shooting and fishing, and speculating how soon the rains would come,
for it was now March, and autumn was fairly due.
But at the end of this week, as the three were sitting together, one of
those long-legged, slab-sided, lean, sunburnt, cabbage-tree-hatted
lads, of whom Captain Brentwood kept always, say half-a-dozen, and the
Major four or five (I should fancy, no relation to one another, and yet
so exactly alike, that Captain Brentwood never called them by their
right names by any chance); lads who were employed about the stable and
the paddock, always in some way with the horses; one of those
representatives of the rising Australian generation, I say, looked in,
and without announcing himself, or touching his hat (an Australian
never touches his hat if he is a free man, because the prisoners are
forced to), came up to Jim across the drawingroom, as quiet and as
self-possessed as if he was quite used to good society, and, putting a
letter into his hand, said merely, "Miss Alice," and relapsed into
silence, amusing himself by looking round Mrs. Buckley's drawing-room,
the like of which he had never seen before.
Sam envied Jim the receipt of that little threecornered note. He
wondered whether there was anything about him in it. Jim read it, and
then folded it up again, and said "Hallo!"
The lad,--I always call that sort of individual a lad; there is no
other word for them, though they are of all ages, from sixteen to
twenty,--the lad, I say, was so taken up with the contemplation of a
blown-glass pressepapier on the table, that Jim had to say, "Hallo
The lad turned round, and asked in a perfectly easy manner, "What the
deuce is this thing for, now?"
"That," said Jim, "is the button of a Chinese mandarin's hat, who was
killed at the battle of Waterloo in the United States by Major
"Is it now?" said the lad, quite contented. "It's very pretty; may I
take it up?"
"Of course you may," said Jim. "Now, what's the foal like?"
"Rather leggy, I should say," he returned. "Is there any answer?"
Jim wrote a few lines with a pencil on half his sister's note, and gave
it him. He put it in the lining of his hat, and had got as far as the
door, when he turned again. He looked wistfully towards the table where
the pressepapier was lying. It was too much for him. He came back and
took it up again. What he wanted with it, or what he would have done
with it if he had got it, I cannot conceive, but it had taken his
simple fancy more, probably, than an emerald of the same size would
have done. At last he put it to his eye.
"Why, darn my cabbage-tree," he said, "if you can't see through it! He
wouldn't sell it, I suppose, now?"
Jim pursed his lips and shook his head, as though to say that such an
idea was not to be entertained, and the lad, with a sigh, laid it down
and departed. Then Jim with a laugh threw his sister's note over to
Sam. I discovered this very same note only last week, while searching
the Buckley papers for information about the family at this period. I
have reason to believe that it has never been printed before, and, as
far as I know, there is no other copy extant, so I proceed to give it
"What a dear, disagreeable old Jim you are," it begins, "to stay away
there at Baroona, leaving me moping here with our daddy, who is
calculating the explosive power of shells under water at various
temperatures. I have a good mind to learn the Differential Calculus
myself, only on purpose to bore you with it when you come home."
"By the bye, Corrella has got a foal. Such a dear little duck of a
thing, with a soft brown nose, and sweet long ears, like leaves! Do
come back and see it; I am so very, very lonely!"
"I hope Mr. Halbert is pretty well, and that his wound is getting quite
right again. Don't let him undertake cattle-drafting or anything
violent. I wish you could bring him back with you, he is such a nice,
"Your magpie has attacked cocky, and pulled a yellow feather out of his
crest, which he has planted in the flower-bed, either as a trophy, or
to see if it will grow."
Now this letter is historically important, when taken in connexion with
certain dates in my possession. It was written on a Monday, and
Halbert, Jim, and Sam started back to Garoopna the next day, rather a
memorable day for Sam, as you will see directly. Now I wish to call
attention to the fact, that Sam, far from being invited, is never once
mentioned in the whole letter. Therefore what does Miss Burke mean by
her audacious calumnies? What does she mean by saying that Alice made
love to Sam, and never gave the "poor boy" a chance of escape? Can she,
Lesbia, put her hand on her heart and say that she wasn't dying to
marry Sam herself, though she was (and is still, very likely) thirty
years his senior? The fact is, Lesbia gave herself the airs, and
received the privileges of being the handsomest woman in those parts,
till Alice came, and put her nose out of joint, for which she never
However, to return to this letter. I wonder now, as I am looking at the
age-stained paper and faded writing, whether she who wrote it
contemplated the possibility of its meeting Sam's eye. I rather imagine
that she did, from her provoking silence about him. At any rate, Jim
was quite justified in showing him the letter, "for you know," he said,
"as there is nothing at all about you in it, there can be no breach of
"Well!" said Sam, when he had read it.
"Well!" said Jim. "Let us all three ride over and look at the foal."
So they went, and were strictly to be home at dinner time; whereas not
one of them came home for a week.
When they came to the door at Garoopna, there was Alice, most
bewitchingly beautiful. Papa was away on the run, and Dr. Mulhaus with
him; so the three came in. Alice was very glad to see Halbert--was
glad also to see Sam; but not so glad, or, at all events, did not say
so much about it.
"Alice, have you seen the newspaper?" said Jim.
"There is a great steamer gone down at sea, and three hundred persons
"What a horrible thing! I should never have courage to cross the sea."
"You would soon get accustomed to it, I think," said Halbert.
"I have never even seen it as yet," she said, "save at a distance."
"Strange, neither have I," said Sam. "I have dim recollections of our
voyage here, but I never stood upon the shore in my life."
"I have beat you there," said Jim. "I have been down to Cape Chatham,
and seen the great ocean itself: a very different thing from Sydney
Harbour, I promise you. You see the great cape running out a mile into
the sea, and the southern rollers tumbling in over the reefs like
"Let us go and see it!--how far is it?" said Alice.
"About thirty miles. The Barkers' station is about half a mile from the
Cape, and we could sleep there, you know."
"It strikes me as being a most brilliant idea," said Sam.
And so the arrangement was agreed to, and the afternoon went on
pleasantly. Alice walked up and down with Sam among the flowers, while
Jim and Halbert lay beneath a mulberry tree and smoked.
They talked on a subject which had engaged their attention a good deal
lately: Jim's whim for going soldiering had grown and struck root, and
become a determination. He would go back to India when Halbert did,
supposing that his father could be tempted to buy him a commission.
Surely he might manage to join some regiment in India, he thought.
India was the only place worth living in just now.
"I hope, Halbert," he said, "that the Governor will consent. I wouldn't
care when I went; the sooner the better. I am tired of being a
cattle-dealer on a large scale; I want to get at some MAN'S work. If one
thing were settled I would go to-morrow."
"And what is that?" said Halbert.
Jim said nothing, but looked at the couple among the flower-beds.
"Is that all?" said Halbert. "What will you bet me that that affair is
not concluded to-night?"
"I'll bet you five pounds to one it ain't," said Jim; "nor any time
this twelvemonth. They'll go on shillyshallying half their lives, I
"Nevertheless I'll bet with you. Five to one it comes off to-night!
Now! There goes your sister into the house; just go in after her."
Jim sauntered off, and Sam came and laid his great length down by the
side of Halbert.
They talked on indifferent matters for a few minutes, till the latter
"You are a lucky fellow, Sam."
"With regard to what?" said Sam.
"With regard to Miss Buckley, I mean."
"What makes you think so?"
"Are you blind, Sam? Can't you see that she loves you better than any
man in the world?"
He answered nothing, but turning his eyes upon Halbert, gazed at him
a moment to see whether he was jesting or no. No, he was in earnest. So
he looked down on the grass again, and, tearing little tufts up, said,--
"What earthly reason have you for thinking that?"
"What reason!--fifty thousand reasons. Can you see nothing in her eyes
when she speaks to you, which is not there at other times; hey, Bat?--
I can, if you can't."
"If I could think so!" said Sam. "If I could find out?"
"When I want to find out anything, I generally ask," said Halbert.
Sam gave him the full particulars of Cecil's defeat.
"All the better for you," said Halbert; "depend upon it. I don't know
much about women, it is true, but I know more than you do."
"I wish I knew as much as you do," said Sam.
"And I wish I knew as little as you do," said Halbert.
Dinner-time came, but the Captain and the Doctor were not to the fore.
After some speculations as to what had become of them, and having
waited an hour, Jim said, that in the unexplained absence of the
crowned head, he felt it his duty to the country, to assume the reins
of government, and order dinner. Prime Minister Alice, having entered a
protest, offered no further opposition, and dinner was brought in.
Young folks don't make so much of dinner as old ones at any time, and
this dinner was an unusually dull one. Sam was silent and thoughtful,
and talked little; Alice, too, was not quite herself. Jim, as usual,
ate like a hero, but talked little; so the conversation was principally
carried on by Halbert, in the narrative style, who really made himself
very useful and agreeable, and I am afraid they would have been a very
"slow" party without him.
Soon after the serious business of eating was over, Jim said,--
"Alice, I wonder what the Governor will say?"
"About what, brother?"
"About my going soldiering."
"Save us! What new crotchet is this?"
"Only that I'm going to bother the Governor, till he gets me a
commission in the army."
"Are you really serious, Jim?"
"I never was more so in my life."
"So, Mr. Halbert," said Alice, looking round at him, "you are only come
to take my brother away from me!"
"I assure you, Miss Brentwood, that I have only aided and abetted: the
idea was his own."
"Well, well, I see how it is;--we were too happy I suppose."
"But, Alice," said Jim, "won't you be proud to see your brother a good
"Proud! I was always proud of you. But I wish the idea had never come
into your head. If it was in war time I would say nothing, but now it
is very different. Well, gentlemen, I shall leave you to your wine. Mr.
Halbert, I like you very much, but I wish you hadn't turned Jim's
She left them, and walked down the garden; through the twilight among
the vines, which were dropping their yellow leaves lightly on the turf
before the breath of the autumn evening. So Jim was going,--going to
be killed probably, or only coming back after ten years' absence, "full
of strange oaths and bearded like a pard!" She knew well how her father
would jump at his first hint of being a soldier, and would move heaven
and earth to get him a commission,--yes, he would go--her own
darling, funny, handsome Jim, and she would be left all alone.
No, not quite! There is a step on the path behind her that she knows;
there is an arm round her waist which was never there before, and yet
she starts not as a low voice in her ear says,--
"Alice, my love, my darling, I have come after you to tell you that you
are dearer to me than my life, and all the world besides. Can you love
me half as well as I love you? Alice, will you be my wife?"
What answer? Her hands pressed to her face, with
flood of happy tears, she only says,--
"Oh! I'm so happy, Sam! So glad, so glad!"
Pipe up there, golden-voiced magpie; give us one song more before you
go to roost. Laugh out, old jackass; till you fetch an echo back from
the foggy hollow. Up on your bare boughs, it is dripping, dreary
autumn: but down here in the vineyard, are bursting the first green
buds of an immortal spring.
There are some scenes which should only be undertaken by the hand of
a master, and which, attempted by an apprentice like myself, would only
end in disastrous failure, calling down the wrath of all honest men and
true critics upon my devoted head,--not undeservedly. Three men in a
century, or thereabouts, could write with sufficient delicacy, and
purity to tell you what two such young lovers as Sam Buckley and Alice
Brentwood said to one another in the garden that evening, walking up
and down between the yellow vines. I am not one of those three. Where
Charles Dickens has failed, I may be excused from being diffident. I am
an old bachelor, too--a further excuse. But no one can prevent my
guessing, and I guess accordingly,--that they talked in a very low
tone, and when, after an hour, Alice said it was time to come in, that
Sam was quite astonished to find how little had been said, and what
very long pauses there had been.
They came in through the window into the sittingroom, and there was
Dr. Mulhaus, Captain Brentwood, and also, of all people, Major Buckley,
whom the other two had picked up in their ride and brought home. My
information about this period of my history is very full and complete.
It has come to my knowledge on the best authority, that when Sam came
forward to the light, Halbert kicked Jim's shins under the table, and
whispered, "You have lost your money, old fellow!" and that Jim
answered, "I wish it was ten pounds instead of five."
But old folks are astonishingly obtuse. Neither of the three seniors
saw what had happened; but entered CON AMORE into the proposed
expedition to Cape Chatham, and when bedtime came, Captain Brentwood,
honest gentleman, went off to rest, and having said his prayers and
wound up his watch, prepared for a comfortable night's rest, as if
nothing was the matter.
He soon found his mistake. He had got his boots off, and was sitting
pensively at his bedside, meditating further disrobements, when Jim
entered mysteriously, and quietly announced that his whole life in
future would be a weary burden if he didn't get a commission in the
army, or at least a cadetship in the East India Company's service.
Him the Captain settled by telling, that if he didn't change his mind
in a month he'd see about it, and so packed him off to bed. Secondly,
as he was taking off his coat, wondering exceedingly at Jim's
communication, Sam appeared, and humbly and respectfully informed him
that he had that day proposed to his daughter and been accepted,--
provisionally; hoping that the Captain would not disapprove of him as a
sonin-law. He was also rapidly packed off to bed, by the assurance
that he (Brentwood) had never felt so happy in his life, and had been
sincerely hoping that the young folks would fall in love with one
another for a year past.
So, Sam dismissed, the Captain got into bed; but as soon as the light
was blown out two native cats began grunting under the washing-stand,
and he had to get out, and expel them in his shirt; and finally he lost
his temper and began swearing. "Is a man never to get to sleep?" said
he. "The devil must be abroad tonight, if ever he was in his life."
No sleep that night for Captain Brentwood. His son, asking for a
commission in the army, and his daughter going to be married! Both
desirable enough in their way, but not the sort of facts to go to sleep
over, particularly when fired off in his ear just as he was lying
down. So he lay tossing about, more or less uncomfortable all night,
but dozed off just as the daylight began to show more decidedly in the
window. He appeared to have slept from thirty to thirty-five seconds,
when Jim awoke him with,--
"It's time to get up, father, if you are going to Cape Chatham to-day."
"D--n Cape Chatham," was his irreverent reply when Jim was gone,
which sentiment has been often re-echoed by various coasting skippers
in later times. "Why, I haven't been to sleep ten minutes,--and a
frosty morning, too. I wish it would rain. I am not vindictive, but I
do indeed. Can't the young fools go alone, I wonder? No; hang it, I'll
make myself agreeable to-day, at all events!"
HOW THEY ALL WENT HUNTING FOR SEA ANEMONES AT CAPE CHATHAM--AND HOW
THE DOCTOR GOT A TERRIBLE FRIGHT--AND HOW CAPTAIN BLOCKSTROP SHOWED
THAT THERE WAS GOOD REASON FOR IT.
And presently, the Captain, half dressed, working away at his hair with
two very stiff brushes, betook himself to Major Buckley's room, whom he
found shaving. "I'll wait till you're done," said he; "I don't want you
to cut yourself."
And then he resumed: "Buckley, your son wants to marry my daughter."
"Shows his good taste," said the Major. "What do you think of it?"
"I am very much delighted," said the Captain.
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