Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Babes in the Bush
Author: Boldrewood, Rolf
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Babes in the Bush" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Internet Archive/American Libraries (https://archive.org/details/americana)



Note: Images of the original pages are available through
      Internet Archive/American Libraries. See
      https://archive.org/details/babesinbush00boldrich


Transcriber’s note:

      Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).

      Please see the transcriber’s note at the end of this text
      for details regarding the handling of any textual issues
      encountered during its preparation.



BABES IN THE BUSH


[Illustration: Publisher's logo]


BABES IN THE BUSH

by

ROLF BOLDREWOOD

Author of
‘Robbery Under Arms,’ ‘The Miner’s Right,’ ‘The Squatter’s Dream,’
‘A Colonial Reformer,’ etc.



London
Macmillan and Co., Limited
New York: The Macmillan Company
1900
All rights reserved



------------------------------------------------------------------------



CONTENTS

                               CHAPTER I
                                                            PAGE

        ‘FRESH FIELDS—AND PASTURES NEW’                        1

                               CHAPTER II

        THE FIRST CAMP                                        21

                              CHAPTER III

        THE NEW HOME                                          43

                               CHAPTER IV

        MR. HENRY O’DESMOND OF BADAJOS                        59

                               CHAPTER V

        ‘CALLED ON BY THE COUNTY’                             77

                               CHAPTER VI

        AN AUSTRALIAN YEOMAN                                  93

                              CHAPTER VII

        TOM GLENDINNING, STOCK-RIDER                         111

                              CHAPTER VIII

        MR. WILLIAM ROCKLEY OF YASS                          125

                               CHAPTER IX

        HUBERT WARLEIGH, YR., OF WARBROK                     139

                               CHAPTER X

        A PROVINCIAL CARNIVAL                                149

                               CHAPTER XI

        MR. BOB CLARKE SCHOOLS KING OF THE VALLEY            161

                              CHAPTER XII

        STEEPLECHASE DAY                                     173

                              CHAPTER XIII

        MISS VERA FANE OF BLACK MOUNTAIN                     189

                              CHAPTER XIV

        THE DUEL                                             204

                               CHAPTER XV

        THE LIFE STORY OF TOM GLENDINNING                    220

                              CHAPTER XVI

        ‘SO WE’LL ALL GO A-HUNTING TO-DAY’                   238

                              CHAPTER XVII

        THE FIRST MEET OF THE LAKE WILLIAM HUNT CLUB         251

                             CHAPTER XVIII

        THE MAJOR DISCOVERS HIS RELATIVE                     265

                              CHAPTER XIX

        BLACK THURSDAY                                       282

                               CHAPTER XX

        AN UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENT                            296

                              CHAPTER XXI

        A GREEN HAND                                         312

                              CHAPTER XXII

        INJUN SIGN                                           328

                             CHAPTER XXIII

        THE BATTLE OF ROCKY CREEK                            339

                              CHAPTER XXIV

        GYP’S LAND                                           352

                              CHAPTER XXV

        BOB CLARKE ONCE MORE WINS ON THE POST                366

                              CHAPTER XXVI

        THE RETURN FROM PALESTINE                            387

                             CHAPTER XXVII

        THE DUEL IN THE SNOW                                 401



                               CHAPTER I
                    ‘FRESH FIELDS AND PASTURES NEW’


‘What letter are you holding in your hand all this time, my dear?’ said
Captain Howard Effingham to his wife during a certain family council.

‘Really, I had almost forgotten it. A foreign postmark—I suppose it is
from your friend Mr. Sternworth, in Australia or New Zealand.’

‘Sternworth lives in New South Wales, not New Zealand,’ returned he
rather testily. ‘I have told you more than once that the two places are
a thousand miles apart by sea. Yes! it is from old Harley. When he was
chaplain to our regiment he was always hankering after a change from
routine duty. Now he has got it with a vengeance. He was slightly
eccentric, but a better fellow, a stauncher friend, never stepped.’

‘Don’t people go to Australia to make money?’ asked Rosamond Effingham,
a girl of twenty, with ‘eldest daughter’ plainly inscribed upon her
thoughtful features. ‘I saw in a newspaper that some one had come home
after making a fortune, or it may have been that he died there and left
it to his relatives.’

‘Sternworth has not made a fortune. He is not the man to want one.
Still, he seems wonderfully contented and raves about the beauty of the
climate and the progress of his colony.’

‘Let me read his letter out,’ pleaded the anxious wife softly, and, with
a gesture of assent, the father and daughter sat expectant.

Mrs. Effingham had the gift of reading aloud with effect, which, with
that of facile, clear-cut composition, came to her as naturally as the
notes of a song-bird, which indeed her tuneful voice resembled.

‘The letter is dated from Yass—(what a funny name! a native one, I
suppose)—in New South Wales, and June the 20th, 1834. Nearly six months
ago! Does it take all that time to come? What a long, long way off it
must be. Now then for the contents.


‘MY DEAR EFFINGHAM—I have not written for an age—though I had your last
in reply to mine in due course—partly because, after my first
acknowledgment, I had nothing particular to say, nor any counsel to
offer you, suitable for the situation in which you appear to have landed
yourself. When you were in the old regiment you were always a bad
manager of your money, and the Yorkshireman had to come to your
assistance with his hard head more than once. I thought all that sort of
thing was over when you succeeded to a settled position and a good
estate. I was much put out to find by your last letter that you had
again got among the shallows of debt. I doubt it is chronic with you.
But it is a serious matter for the family. If I were near you I would
scold you roundly, but I am too far off to do it effectually.

‘My reason for writing now—for I am too busy a man to send the
compliments of the season across the globe—is that a tempting investment
in land—a perfect gift, as the phrase is—has come to my knowledge.

‘Now, I am not hard-natured enough to tempt you to come here with your
amiable wife, whose praises, not always from yourself, I have often
heard—[really, my dear, I had no idea you paid me compliments in your
letters to your friends]—and your tenderly nurtured family; that is, if
you can retain your position, or one in any way approaching it. But I
know that the loss of fortune in the old country entails a more complete
stripping of all that men hold dear, than in this new land, where
aristocratic poverty, or rather, scantiness of money, is the rule, and
wealth, as yet, the exception.

‘I cannot believe that you are _totally_ without means. Here, cash is at
a premium. Therefore, if you have but the shreds and fragments of your
fortune left, you may still have capital available from the wreck
sufficient to make a modest venture, which I shall explain.

‘A family long resident near this rising town—say forty or fifty miles
distant—have been compelled, like you, to offer their estate for sale. I
will not enter into the circumstances or the causes of the step. The
fact that we are concerned with is, that a valuable property—as fair
judges consider it—comprising a decent house and several thousand acres
of good land, may be bought for three or four thousand pounds.

‘I do not hide from you that many people consider that the present bad
times are likely to last, even to become more pressing. _I_ fully expect
a reaction. If you can do better in any way I do not ask you for one
moment to consider this matter, much as I should like to see my old
comrade and his family here.

‘But if otherwise, and the melancholy life of the ruined middle-aged
Briton stares you in the face, I say boldly, do not go to Boulogne, or
other refuge for the shady destitute, where a man simply counts the days
which he must linger out in cheap lodgings and cheese-paring idleness,
but come to Australia and try a more wholesome, more manly, if
occasionally ruder life. I know what you home-keeping English think of a
colony. But you may find here a career for your boys—even suitable
marriages for your girls, whose virtues and accomplishments would
doubtless invest them with distinction.

‘If you can get this sum together, and a few hundreds to have in your
pocket at landing, I can guarantee you a livelihood—you know my caution
of old—with many of the essentials, God forbid I should say _all_, of
“the gentle life.” Still, you may come to these by and by. The worst of
my adopted country is that there is a cruel uncertainty of seasons, at
times sore on man and beast. That you must risk, like other people. If
you come, you will have one friend here in old Harley Sternworth, who,
without chick or child, will be proud to pour out whatever feelings of
affection God has given him, into the lap of your family. If you decide
on coming, send a draft for three thousand pounds payable to my order at
once. I will manage the rest, and have Warbrok ready to receive you in
some plain way on your arrival. So farewell for the present. God bless
you and yours, says your old friend,

                                                     HARLEY STERNWORTH.’


As the letter disclosed this positive invitation and plan of emigration
which, whether possible or impossible, was now brought into tangible
form, the clasp in which lay the father’s hand and the daughter’s
slightly tightened. Their eyes met, their faces gradually softened from
the expression of pained endurance which had characterised them, and as
the clear tones of the reader came to an end, Rosamond, rising to her
feet, exclaimed, ‘God has sent us a friend in our need. If we go to this
far land we may work together and live and love undivided. But oh,
mother, it breaks my heart to think of _you_. We are young, it should
matter little to us; but how will you bear to be taken away from this
pleasant home to a rude, waste country, such as Australia must be?’

‘My darling,’ said the matron, as she folded the letter with an
instinctive habit of neatness, and handed it to her husband, ‘the
sacrifice to me will be great, far greater than at one time I should
have thought it possible to bear. But with my husband and children are
my life and my true dwelling-place. Where they are, I abide thankfully
to life’s close. Strength, I cannot doubt, will be given to us all to
bear our—our——’

Here the thought, the inevitable, unimaginable woe of quitting the loved
home of youth, the atmosphere of early friendship, the intertwining ties
of relationship, completely overcame the courage of the speaker. Her
eyes overflowed as, burying her face in her husband’s arms, which were
opened to receive her, she wept long and silently.

‘How could we think of such a thing, my darling, for one moment?’ said
Effingham. ‘It would kill you to part, at one blow, from a whole
previous existence. I hardly foresaw what a living death it would be for
you, more than all, to leave England _for ever_. There is a world of
agony in that thought alone! I certainly gave Sternworth a full account
of my position in my last letters. It was a relief. He has always been a
true friend. But he has rashly concluded that we were prepared to go to
his wild country. It would be your death-blow, darling wife; and then,
what good would our lives be to us? Some of our friends will help us,
surely. Let us live quietly for a year or two. I may get some
appointment.’

‘It relieves my bursting heart to weep; yet it will fit me for future
duty. No, Howard, we must not falter or draw back. You can trust, I
know, in Mr. Sternworth’s practical wisdom, for you have a hundred times
told me how far-seeing, shrewd, and yet kindly he was. In his plan there
is the certainty of independence; together we can cheer each other when
the day’s work is done. As for living in England, trusting to the
assistance of friends, and the lingering uncertainty of a provision from
the Government, I have seen too many families pitiably drifting towards
a lower level. There is no middle course. No! Our path has been chosen
for us. Let us go where a merciful Providence would seem to lead us.’

The fateful conference was ended. A council, not much bruited about, but
fraught with momentous results to those yet unborn, in the Effingham
family, and it may be to other races and sections of humanity. Who may
limit the effects produced in the coming time, by the transplantation of
but _one_ rarely endowed family of our upward-striving race?

Nothing remained but to communicate the decision of the high contracting
parties of the little state to the remaining members. The heir was
absent. To him would have been accorded, as a right, a place in the
parliament. But he was in Ireland visiting a college chum, for whom he
had formed one of the ardent friendships characteristic of early
manhood. Wilfred Effingham was an enthusiast—sanguine and
impulsive—whose impulses, chiefly, took a good direction. His heart was
warm, his principles fixed. Still, so sensitive was he to the
impressions of the hour, that only by the sternest consciousness of
responsibility could he remain faithful to the call of duty.

Devoted primarily to art and literature; sport, travel, and social
intercourse likewise put in claims to his attention and mingled in his
nature the impulses of a refined Greek with the energy and self-denial
of his northern race.

It must be confessed that these latter qualities were chiefly in the
embryonic stage. So latent and undeveloped were they, indeed, that no
one but his fond mother had fully credited his possession of them.

But as the rounded limbs of the Antinous conceal the muscles which
after-years develop and harden, so in the graceful physique and
sensitive mind of Wilfred Effingham lay hidden powers, which, could he
have foreseen their future exercise, would have astonished no one more
than himself. Such was the youth recalled from his joyous revel in the
Green Isle, where he had been shooting and fishing to his heart’s
content.

A letter from his mother first told that his destiny had been changed.
In a moment he was transformed. No longer was he to be an enjoyer of the
hoarded wealth of art, letters, science, sitting on high and choosing
what he would, as one of the gods of Olympus. His lot, henceforth, would
be that of a toiler for the necessaries of life! It was a shrewd blow.
Small wonder had he reeled before it! It met him without warning,
unsoftened, save by the tender pity and loving counsel so long
associated with his mother’s handwriting. The well-remembered
characters, so fair in delicate regularity, which since earliest
schooldays had cheered and comforted him. Never had they failed him;
steadfast ever as a mother’s faith, unfailing as a mother’s love!

Grown to manhood, still, as of old, he looked, almost at weekly
intervals, for the missive, ever the harbinger of home love, the herald
of joy, the bearer of wise counsel—never once of sharp rebuke or
untempered anger.

And now—to the spoiled child of affection, of endowment—had come this
message fraught with woe.

A meaner mind, so softly nurtured, might have shrunk from the ordeal. To
the chivalrous soul of Wilfred Effingham the vision was but the summons
to the fray, which bids the knight quit the tourney and the banquet for
the stern joys of battle.

His nature, one of those complex organisms having the dreamy poetic side
much developed, yet held room for physical demonstration. Preferring for
the most part contemplation to action, he had ever passed, apparently
without effort, from unchecked reverie and study to tireless bodily toil
in the quest of sport, travel, or adventure. Possessed of a constitution
originally vigorous, and unworn by dissipation, from which a sensitive
nature joined with deference to a lofty ideal had hitherto preserved
him, Wilfred Effingham approached that rare combination which has ere
now resulted, under pressure of circumstance, in the hero, the poet, the
warrior, or the statesman.

He braced himself to withstand the shock. It was a shrewd buffet. Yet,
after realising its force, he was conscious, much to his surprise, of a
distinct feeling of exaltation.

‘I shall suffer for it afterwards,’ he told his friend Gerald O’More,
half unconsciously, as they sat together over a turf fire which glowed
in the enormous chimney of a rude but comfortable shooting lodge; ‘but,
for the soul of me, I can’t help feeling agreeably acted upon.’

‘Acted upon by what?’ said his companion and college chum, with whom he
had sworn eternal friendship. ‘Is it the whisky hot? It’s equal to John
Jameson, and yet it never bothered an exciseman! Sure that same is
amaylioratin’ my lot to a degree I should have never believed possible.
Take another glass. Defy Fate and tell me all about it. Has your father,
honest man, discovered another Roman tile or Julius Cæsar’s
tobacco-pouch? [the elder Effingham was an antiquarian of great
perseverance], or have ministers gone out, to the ruin of the country,
and the triumph of those villains the radicals? ’Tis little that ever
happens in that stagnant existence that you Saxons call country life,
barring a trifle of make-believe hunting and shooting. Sure, didn’t me
uncle Phelim blaze away into a farmer’s poultry-yard in Kent for
half-an-hour, and swear (it was after lunch) that he never saw pheasants
so hard to rise before.’

Thus the light-hearted Irishman rattled on, well divining, for all his
apparent mirth, that something more than common had come in the letter,
that had the power to drive the blood from Wilfred’s cheek and set
Care’s seal upon his brow. That impress remained indelible, even when he
smiled, and affected to resume his ordinary cheerfulness.

At length he spoke: ‘Gerald, old fellow! there is news from home which
most people would call bad. It is distinct of its kind. We have lost
everything; are ruined utterly. Not a chance of recovery, it seems. My
dear mother bids me understand _that_ most clearly; warns me to have no
hope of anything otherwise. The governor has been hard hit, it seems, in
foreign bonds; Central African Railways, or Kamschatka telegraph
lines,—some of the infernal traps for English capital at any rate. The
Chase is mortgaged and will have to go. The family must emigrate.
Australia is to be the future home of the Effinghams. This appears to be
settled. That’s a good deal to be hid in two sheets of note-paper, isn’t
it?’ And he tossed up the carefully directed letter, caught it as it
fell, and placed it in his pocket.

‘My breath is taken away; reach me the whisky, if you wish to save my
life, or else it will be——’ (prompt measures were taken to relieve the
unfortunate gentleman, but without success). ‘Wilfred, me dear fellow,
do you tell me that you’re serious? What will ye do at all, at all?’

‘Do? What better men have had to do before now. Face the old foe of
mortals, Anagkaia, and see what she can do when a man stands up to her.
I don’t like the idea any the worse for having to cross the sea to a new
world, to find a lost fortune. After all, one was getting tired of this
sing-song, nineteenth century life of fashionable learning, fashionable
play, fashionable work—everything, in fact, regulated by dame Fashion. I
shall be glad to stretch my limbs in a hunter’s hammock, and bid adieu
to the whole unreal pageant.’

‘Bedad! I don’t know. I’d say the reality was nearer where we are, with
all the disadvantages of good dinners, good sport, good books, and good
company. But you’re right, me dear fellow, to put a bold face on it; and
if you have to take the shilling in the divil’s regiment, sure ye’ll die
a hero, or rise to Commander-in-Chief, if I know ye. But your mother,
and poor Miss Effingham, and the Captain—without his turnips and his
justice-room and his pointers and his poachers, his fibulæ and
amphoræ—whatever will he do among blackfellows and kangaroos? My heart
aches for ye all, Wilfred. Sure ye know it does. If ye won’t take any
more potheen, let us sleep on it; and we’ll have a great day among the
cocks, if we live, and talk it over afterwards. There never was that
sorrow yet that ye didn’t lighten it if ye tired your legs well between
sun and sun!’

With the morrow’s sun came an unwonted calm and settled resolve to the
soul of Wilfred Effingham. Together, gay, staunch Gerald O’More and he
took the last day’s sport they were likely to have for many a day. The
shooting was rather above than under the average, as if the ruined heir
was willing to show that his nerves had not been affected by his
prospects.

‘I must take out the old gun,’ he said, ‘and keep up my shooting. Who
knows but that we may depend upon it for a meal now and then in this New
Atlantis that we are bound for. But one thing is fixed, old fellow, as
far as a changeable nature will permit. I shall have to be the mainstay
of my father’s house. I must play the man, if it’s in me. No more
dilettantism, no more mediæval treasures, no more tall copies. The
present, not the past, is what we must stand or fall by. The governor is
shaken by all this trouble; not the best man of business at any time. My
dear mother is a saint _en habit de Cour_; she will have to suffer a
sea-change that might break the hearts of ordinary worldlings. Upon
Rosamond and myself will fall the brunt of the battle. She has prepared
herself for it, happily, by years of unselfish care and thought. I have
been an idler and a loiterer. Now the time has come to show of what
stuff I am made. It will mean good-bye to you, Gerald O’More, fast
friend and _bon camarade_. We shall have no more shooting and fishing
together, no more talk about art and poetry, no more vacation tours, no
more rambles, for long years—let us not say for ever. Good-bye to my old
life, my old Self! God speed us all; we must arm and away.’

‘I’d say you might have a worse life, Wilfred, though it will come hard
on you at first to be shooting kangaroos and bushrangers, instead of
grouse and partridges, like a Christian. But we get used to everything,
I am told, even to being a land-agent, with every boy in the barony
wondering if he could tumble ye at sixty paces with the ould duck gun.
When a thing’s to be done—marrying or burying, standing out on the sod
on a foggy morning with a nate shot opposite ye, or studying for the
law—there’s nothing like facing it cool and steady. You’ll write me and
Hallam a line after you’re landed; and we’ll think of ye often enough,
never fear. God speed ye, my boy! Sure, it’s Miss Annabel that will make
the illigant colonist entirely.’

The friends parted. Wilfred lost no time in reaching home, where his
presence comforted the family in the midst of that most discouraging
state of change for the worse, the packing and preparing for departure.

But he had utilised the interval since he left his friend by stern
self-examination, ending in a fixed, unalterable resolve. His mother,
his sisters, and his father were alike surprised at his changed bearing.
He had grown years older in a week. He listened to the explanation of
their misfortune from his father with respectful silence or short,
undoubting comment. He confirmed the decision to which the family
counsel had arrived. Emigration to Australia was, under the
circumstances, the only path which promised reparation of the fortunes
of the house. He carefully read the letter from Mr. Sternworth, upon
which their fate seemed to hang. He cheered his mother by expressing
regret for his previous desultory life, asking her to believe that his
future existence should be devoted to the welfare of all whom both held
so dear.

‘_You_ have never doubted, my dearest mother,’ he said, ‘but that your
heedless son would one day do credit to his early teaching? I stand
pledged to make your words good.’

The arrival of the heir, who had taken his place at his father’s right
hand in so worthy a spirit, seemed to infuse confidence into the other
members of the family. Each and all appeared to recognise the fact that
their expatriation was decided upon, and while lamenting their loved
home, they commenced to gather information about their new abode, and to
dwell upon the more cheering probabilities.

The family was not a small one. Guy Effingham was a high-spirited
schoolboy of fourteen, whose cricket and football engagements had
hitherto, with that amount of the humanities which an English public
schoolboy is compelled to master, under penalties too dire for
endurance, been sufficient to fill up his irresponsible life. It was
arranged that he was to remain at school until the week previous to
their departure. His presence at home was not necessary, while his
mother wished him to utilise the last effective teaching which he was
likely to have. To her was committed the task of preparing him for his
altered position. Two younger daughters, with a boy and girl of tender
years, the darlings of the family, completed the number of the
Effinghams. The third daughter, Annabel, was the beauty of the family. A
natural pride in her unquestioned loveliness had always mingled with the
maternal repression of all save the higher aims and qualities which it
had been the fond mother’s life-long duty to inculcate. Annabel
Effingham had received from nature the revival of the loveliness of some
ancestress, heightened and intensified by admixture of family type. She
was fair, with the bright colouring, the silken hair, the delicate
roseate glow which had long been the boast of the women of her mother’s
family—of ancient Saxon blood—for many generations. But she had
superadded to these elements of beauty a classical delicacy of outline,
a darker shade of blue in the somewhat prouder eye, a figure almost
regal in the nobility of carriage and unconscious dignity of motion,
which told of a diverse lineage. Beatrice, the second daughter of the
house, had up to the present time exhibited neither the strong
altruistic bias which, along with the faculty of organisation,
characterised Rosamond, nor the universally confessed fascination which
rendered Annabel’s path a species of royal progress. Refined,
distinguished in appearance, as indeed were all the members of the
family, she had not as yet developed any special vocation. In her
appearance one saw but the ordinary traits which stamp a highly cultured
girl of the upper classes. She was, perhaps, more distinctly literary in
her tastes than either of her sisters, but her reserved habits concealed
her attainments. For the rest, she appeared to have made up her mind to
the inevitable with less apparent effort than the other members of the
family.

‘What can it avail—all this grieving and lamenting?’ she would say. ‘I
feel parting with The Chase, with our relations and friends—with all our
old life, in fact—deeply and bitterly. But that once admitted, what good
end is served by repeating the thought and renewing the tears? Other
people are ruined in England, and have to go to Boulogne and horrid
continental towns, where they lead sham lives, and potter about, unreal
in everything but dulness and poverty, till they die. We shall go to
Australia to _do_ something—or not to do it. Both are good in their way.
Next to honest effort I like a frank failure.’

‘But suppose we _do_ fail, and lose all our money, and have nothing to
eat in a horrid new country,’ said Annabel, ‘what _will_ become of us?’

‘Just what would become of us here, I suppose; we should have to
work—become teachers at a school, or governesses, or hospital nurses;
only, as young women are not so plentiful in Australia as in England,
why, we should be better paid.’

‘Oh, but here we know so many people, and they would help us to find
pleasant places to live in,’ pleaded Annabel piteously. ‘It does seem so
dreadful to be ten thousand miles away from your own country. I am sure
we shall starve!’

‘Don’t be a goose, Annabel. How can we starve? First, we have the chance
of making money and living in plenty, if not in refinement, on this
estate that papa is going to buy. And if that does not turn out a
success, we must find you a place as companion to the Governor-General’s
wife, or as nursery governess for _very_ young children. I’ll become a
“school marm” at Yass—that’s the name—and Rosamond will turn dressmaker,
she has such a talent for a good fit.’

‘Oh dear, oh dear! don’t talk of such dreadful things. Are we to go all
over the world only to become drudges and work-women? We may as well
drown ourselves at once.’

‘My child! my child!’ said a gentle voice. ‘What folly is this? What are
we, that we should be absolved from the trials that others have to bear?
God has chosen, for His own good purpose, to bring this misfortune upon
us. He will give us strength to bear it in a chastened spirit. If we do
not bear it in a resigned and chastened spirit, we are untrue to the
teaching which we have all our lives affected to believe in. We have all
our part to perform. Let us have no repining, my dearest Annabel. Our
way is clear, and we have others to think of who require support.’

‘But you _like_ to be miserable, you know, mother; you think it is God’s
hand that afflicts you,’ sobbed the desponding spoiled child. ‘I can’t
feel that way. I haven’t your faith. And it breaks my heart; I shall
die, I shall die, I know.’

‘Pray, my darling, pray for help and grace from on high,’ continued the
sweet, sad tones of the mother, as she drew her child’s fair head upon
her lap, and passed her hand amid ‘the clustering ringlets rich and
rare,’ while Beatrice sat rather unsympathetically by. ‘You will have me
and your sisters to cheer you.’ Here the fair disconsolate looked
distrustfully at Beatrice.

By degrees the half-mesmeric, instinctive influence of the loved
mother’s pitying tones overcame the unwonted fit of unreason.

‘I will try and be good,’ she murmured, looking up with a soft light in
her lovely eyes, ‘but you know I am a poor creature at best. You must
bear with me, and I will help as much as I can, and try to keep from
repining. But, oh, my home, my home, the dear old place where I was
born. How dark and dreary do this long voyage and journey seem!’

‘Have we not a yet longer voyage, a more distant journey to make, my own
one?’ whispered the mother, in accents soft as those with which in times
gone by she had lulled the complaining babe. ‘We know not the time, nor
the hour. Think! If we do not prepare ourselves by prayer and faith, how
dark _that_ departure will appear!’

‘You are always good and kind, always right, mother,’ said the girl,
recovering her composure and assuming a more steadfast air. ‘Pray for
me, that I may find strength; but do I not know that you pray for all of
us incessantly? We ought—that is—I ought to be better than I am.’

Among the lesser trials which, at the time of his great sorrow,
oppressed Howard Effingham, not the least was the necessity for parting
with old servants and retainers. He was a man prone to become attached
to attendants long used to his ways. Partly from kindly feeling, partly
from indolence, he much disliked changing domestics or farm labourers.
Accustomed to lean against a more readily available if not a stronger
support than his own, he was, in most relations of life, more dependent
than most men upon his confidential servants.

In this instance, therefore, he had taken it much to heart that his
Scotch land-steward, a man of exceptional capacity and absolute personal
fidelity, having a wife also, of rare excellence in her own department,
should be torn from him by fate.

Backed up by his trusty Andrew, with his admirable wife, he felt as if
he could have faced all ordinary colonial perils. While under Jeanie
Cargill’s care, his wife and daughters might have defied the ills of any
climate, and risked the absence of the whole College of Physicians.

Andrew Cargill was one of those individuals of strongly marked
idiosyncrasy, a majority of whom appear to have been placed, by some
mysterious arrangement of nature, on the north side of the Tweed.
Originally the under-gardener at The Chase, he had risen slowly but
irresistibly through the gradations of upper-gardener and under-bailiff
to the limited order of land-steward required by a moderate property. He
had been a newly-married man when he formed the resolution of testing
the high wages of the Southron lairds. His family, as also his rate of
wages, had increased. His expenses he had uniformly restricted, with the
thoroughness of his economical forefathers. He despised all wasteful
ways. He managed his master’s affairs, as committed to his charge, with
more than the rigorous exactitude he was wont to apply to his own.
Gaining authority, by the steady pressure of unrelaxing forecast habit
of life, he was permitted a certain license as to advice and implied
rebuke. Had Andrew Cargill been permitted to exercise the same control
over the extra-rural affairs that he was wont to use over the
farm-servants and the plough-teams, the tenants and the trespassers, the
crops and the orchards, the under-gardeners and the pineries, no
failure, financial or otherwise, would have occurred at The Chase.

When the dread disaster could no longer be concealed, it is questionable
whether Mr. Effingham felt anything more acutely than the necessity
which existed of explaining to this faithful follower the extent, or
worse, the cause of his misfortune. He anticipated the unbroken silence,
the incredulous expression, with which all attempts at favourable
explanation would be received. Open condemnation, of course, was out of
the question. But the mute reproach or guarded reference to his master’s
inconceivable imbecility, which on this occasion might be more strongly
accented than usual, would be hard to endure.

Mr. Effingham could not depute his wife, or one of the girls, to convey
the information to the formidable Andrew. So he was fain to pull himself
together one morning, and go forth to this uncompromising logician.
Having briefly related the eventful tale, he concluded by dispensing
with his faithful servant, as they were going to a new country, and very
probably would never be able to employ servants again.

Having thrown down the bombshell, the ‘lost leader’ looked fixedly at
Andrew’s unmoved countenance, and awaited the particular kind of
concentrated contempt which he doubted not would issue forth.

His astonishment was great when, after the hurried conclusion, ‘I shall
miss you, Andrew, you may be sure, more than I say; and as for Jeanie, I
don’t know how the young ladies and the mistress will get on without
her,’ the following words issued slowly and oracularly from Andrew’s
lips:—

‘Ye’ll no miss me ava, Maister Effingham. Dinna ye think that it’s a’
news ye’re tellin’ me. I behoved just to speer a bit what garred the
puir mistress look sae dowie and wae. And the upshot o’ matters is that
I’m gaun wi’ ye.’

‘And your wife and children?’

‘Ye didna threep I was to leave them ahint? Andra’ Cargill isna ane o’
thae kind o’ folk, sae just tak’ heart, and for a’ that’s come and gane
ye may lift up your heid ance mair; it’s nae great things o’ a heid, as
the auld wife said o’ the Deuk’s, but if Botany Bay is the gra-and
country they ca’ it, and the book-writers and the agents haena been
tellin’ the maist unco-omon set o’ lees, a’ may gang weel yet.’

‘But what’s put this in _your_ head, of all people in the world,
Andrew?’ queried his master, becoming bold, like individuals, or
corporate bodies, of purely defensive ideas, after observing tokens of
weakness in the besieging force.

‘Weel, aweel, first and foremost, Laird, ye’ll no say that we haena
eaten your bread and saut this mony a year; there’s been neither stint
nor stay till’t. I hae naething to say against the wage; aiblins a man
weel instructed in his profession should aye be worthy o’ his hire.
Jeanie has been just spoiled by the mistress—my heart’s sairvice to her
and the young leddies—till ilka land they were no in, wad be strange
eneugh to her, puir body. And the lang and short o’ the hail matter is,
that we loe ye and your bonnie lads and lassies, Laird, sae weel that we
winna be pairted frae ye.’

As Mr. Effingham grasped the hand of the staunch, true servitor, who
thus stood by him in his need, under whose gnarled bark of natural
roughness lay hid so tender and true a core, the tears stood in his
eyes.

‘I shall never forget this, Andrew,’ said he; ‘you and Jeanie, old
friend, will be the comfort of our lives in the land over-sea, and I
cannot say what fresh courage your determination has given me. But are
you sure it will be for your own advantage? You must have saved money,
and might take a farm and live snugly here.’

‘I was aboot to acquent ye, Laird,’ said the conscientious Scot, too
faithful to his religious principles to take credit for a
disinterestedness to which he felt but partially entitled. ‘Ye’ll see,
Laird, for ye’re weel acquent wi’ the Word, that the battle’s no always
to the strong, nor the race to the swift. Ye’ll ken that, frae your ain
experience—aweel, I winna just say that neither’—proceeded Andrew,
getting slightly involved between his quotations and his determination
to be ‘faithful’ to his erring master, and by no means cloaking his sins
of omission. ‘I’ll no say but what ye’ve been lettin’ ither folks lead
ye, and throw dust in ye’re een in no the maist wiselike fashion, as nae
doot ye wad hae dune wi’ the tenants, puir bodies, gin I had letten ye.
But touchin’ my ain affairs, I haena sae muckle cause to brag; for maybe
I was unco stiff-necked, and it behoved to chasten me, as weel’s
yersell; I hae tint—just flung awa’—my sma’ scrapin’s and savin’s, these
saxteen years and mair, in siccan a senseless daft-like way too!’

Here Andrew could not forbear a groan, which was echoed by an
exclamation from his master.

‘I am sincerely grieved—astonished beyond expression! Why, Andrew,
surely _you_ have not been dabbling in stocks and foreign loans?’

‘Na—nae ga-amblin’ for _me_, Laird!’ replied Andrew sourly, and with an
accentuation which implied speedy return to his ordinary critical state
of mind; ‘but if I had minded the Scripture, I wadna hae lost money and
faith at one blow. “Strike not hands for a surety,”’ it saith, ‘but I
trusted Geordie Ballantyne like a brither; my ain cousin, twice removed.
He was aboot to be roupit oot, stock and lock, and him wi’ a hoosefu’ o’
weans. I just gaed surety to him for three hunder pound!’

‘You were never so mad—a prudent man like you?’

‘And he just flitted to America, fled frae his ain land, his plighted
word, and left me to bear the wyte o’t. It’s nae use greetin’ ower spilt
brose. The money’s a’ paid, and Andra’ Cargill’s as puir a man’s when he
cam’ to The Chase, saxteen years last Michaelmas. Sae, between the
heart-break it wad be to pairt wi’ the family, and the sair heart I hae
gotten at pairtin’ wi’ my siller, the loss o’ a friend—“mine own
familiar freend,” as the Psawmist says—as weel’s the earnings o’ the
maist feck o’ my days, at ae blast, I hae settled to gang oot, Laird, to
Austra-alia, and maybe lay oot a wheen straight furrows for ye, as I did
lang syne on the bonnie holms o’ Ettrick.’

Here Andrew’s voice faltered, and the momentous unprecedented
conversation ended abruptly.

The unfeigned delight with which his wife and daughters received the
news did much to reconcile Mr. Effingham to his expatriation, and even
went far to persuade him that he had, in some way, originated the whole
idea. Nor was their satisfaction unfounded. Andrew, with all his
apparent sternness and occasional incivility, was shrewd, capable, and
even versatile, in the application of his industry and unerring common
sense to a wide range of occupations. He was the ideal colonist of his
order, as certain to succeed in his own person as to be the most helpful
and trustworthy of retainers.

As for Jeanie, she differed from her husband in almost every respect,
except in the cardinal virtues. She had been a rustic celebrity in her
youth, and Andrew occasionally referred still, in moments of unbending,
to the difficulties of his courtship, and the victory gained over a host
of rival suitors. She still retained the softness of manner and
tenderness of nature which no doubt had originally led to the
fascination of her masterful, rugged-natured husband.

For the rest, Jean Cargill had always been one of those servants, rare
even in England, the land of peerless domestics, whose loving, unselfish
service knew no abatement in sickness and in health, good fortune or
evil hap. Her perceptive tastes and strong sense of propriety rendered
her, as years rolled on, a trusted friend; an infinitely more suitable
companion for the mistress and her children, as she always called them,
than many a woman of higher culture. A tireless nurse in time of
sickness; a brave, clear-headed, but withal modest and cautious, aid to
the physician in the hour of peril. She had stood by the bedstead of
more than one member of the family, in the dark hour, when the angel of
death waited on the threshold of the chamber. Never had she slackened or
faltered, by night or day, careless of food or repose till the crisis
had passed, and the ‘whisper of wings in the air’ faded away.


Mrs. Effingham, with all her maternal fondness and devotion, had been
physically unable at times to bear up against the fatigue of protracted
watching and anxiety. She had more than once, from sheer bodily
weakness, been compelled to abandon her post. But to Jeanie Cargill,
sustained by matchless love and devotion, such a thing had never
occurred. At noon or midnight, her hand was ever ready to offer the
needful food, the vital draught; her ear ever watchful to catch the
faint murmur of request; her eye, sleepless as a star, was ever
undimmed, vigilant to detect the slightest change of symptom. Many
nurses had been heard of, seen, and even read of, in the domestic
circles of Reigate, but in the estimation of every matron capable of
giving an opinion, Jeanie Cargill, by countless degrees of comparison,
outshone them all.

That night, when Mrs. Effingham, as was her wont, sought relief from the
burden of her daily cares, and the crowding anxieties of the morrow,
‘meekly kneeling upon her knees,’ it appeared to her as if in literal
truth the wind had been tempered to the shorn lamb. That terrible travel
into the unknown, the discomforts and dangers of the melancholy main,
with the dreary waste of colonial life, would be quite different
adventures, softened by the aid and companionship of everybody’s ‘dear
old Jeanie.’ Her patient industry, her helpful sympathy, her matchless
loyalty and self-denial, would be well-springs of heaven-sent water in
that desert. Andrew’s company, though not socially exhilarating, was
also an invigorating fact. Altogether, Mrs. Effingham’s spirits
improved, and her hopes arose freshly strengthened.

No sooner was it settled that Andrew and his fortunes were to be wafted
o’er the main, in the vessel which bore the Effingham family, than, with
characteristic energy, he had constituted himself Grand Vizier and
responsible adviser. He definitely approved of much that had been done,
and counselled still further additions to the outfit. Prime and
invincible was his objection to leave behind a certain pet ‘Jersey coo,’
‘a maist extraordinar’ milker, and for butter, juist unco-omon. If she
could be ta’en oot to thae parts, she wad be a sma’ fortune—that is, in
ony Christian land where butter and cheese were used. Maybe the
sea-captain wad let her gang for the value o’ her milk; she was juist in
the height o’t the noo. It wad be a sin and a shame to let her be roupit
for half price, like the ither kye, puir things.’

Persistent advocacy secured his point. Daisy had been morally abandoned
to her fate; but Wilfred, goaded by Andrew’s appeals, had an interview
with the shipping clerk, and arranged that Daisy, if approved of, should
fill the place of the proverbial milch cow, so invariably bracketed with
the ‘experienced surgeon’ in the advertisements of the Commercial
Marine. Her calf also, being old enough to eat hay, was permitted to
accompany her.

Andrew also combated the idea that the greyhounds, or at least a pair,
should be left behind, still less the guns or fishing-rods.

‘Wasna the Laird the best judge of a dog in the haill country-side, and
no that far frae the best shot? What for suld he walk aboot the woods in
Australia waesome and disjaskit like, when there might be kangaroos, or
whatna kind o’ ootlandish game, to be had for the killing? Hoot, hoot,
puir Page and Damsel couldna be left ahint, nor the wee terrier Vennie.’

There was more trouble with the greyhounds’ passage than the cows, but
in consideration of the large amount of freight and passage-money paid
by the family, the aristocratic long-tails were franked. Andrew, with
his own hands, packed up the fowling-pieces and fishing-rods, which,
with the exaggerated prudence of youth, Wilfred had been minded to leave
behind, considering nothing worthy of removal that would not be likely
to add to their material gains in the ‘new settlement.’ He had yet to
learn that recreation can never be advantageously disregarded, whether
the community be a young or an old one.

Little by little, a chain of slow yet subtle advances, by which, equally
with geologic alterations of the earth’s surface, its ephemeral living
tenants proceed or retrograde, effected the translation of Howard
Effingham, with wife and children, retainers and household goods. Averse
by nature to all exertion which savoured of detail, reserving his energy
for what he was pleased to dignify with the title of great occasions, as
he looked back over the series of multitudinous necessary arrangements,
Howard Effingham wondered, in his secret soul, at the transference of
his household. Left to himself, he was candid enough to admit, such a
result could never have been achieved. But the ceaseless ministration of
Jeanie and Andrew, the calm forethought of Mrs. Effingham, the unsparing
personal labour of Wilfred, had, in due time, worked the miracle.



                               CHAPTER II
                             THE FIRST CAMP


Whatever may be the loss or injury inseparable from misfortune, no one
of experience denies that the pain is lightened when the blow has
fallen. The shuddering terror, the harrowing doubts, which precede an
operation, far outrun the torture of the knife. Worse a thousandfold to
endure than actual misery, poverty and disgrace, is the dull sense of
impending doom, the daily anxiety, the secret dread, the formless,
unhasting, unsparing terror, which each day brings nearer to the victim.

Howard Effingham had, for weeks past, suffered the torments of the lost.
An unwise concealment of the coming ruin which his reserved temperament
forbade him to announce, had stretched him upon the rack. The acute
agony was now past, and he felt unspeakably relieved as, with increasing
completeness, the preparations for departure were accomplished.

After the shock of the disaster he commenced the necessary duties with
an unwontedly tranquil mind. He had despatched a bank draft for the
amount mentioned by his friend and counsellor the Rev. Harley
Sternworth. Prior to this needful act, he held various conferences with
the trustees of Mrs. Effingham’s settlement. In many instances such
authorities are difficult, even impracticable, to deal with, preferring
the minimum interest which can be safely procured in the matter of trust
money, to the slightest risk. In this instance, the arbiter of destiny
was an old gentleman, at once prudent yet liberal-minded, who did not
disdain to examine the arguments in favour of the Australian plan. After
reading Mr. Sternworth’s letter, and comparing the facts therein stated
with colonial securities, to which he had access, he gave in his
adhesion to the investment, and converted his coadjutor, a mild,
obstinate personage, who could with difficulty be induced to see any
other investment legally open to them but the ‘sweet simplicity of the
three per cents.’

Long was the last day in coming, but it came at last. Their stay in the
old home was protracted until only time was given for the journey to
Southampton, where the staunch, old-fashioned wool-ship lay, which was
to receive their condensed personal effects and, as it seemed to them,
shrivelled-up personalities.

Adieus were said, some with sore weeping and many tears; some with
moderate but sincere regret; some with the half-veiled indifference with
which any action not affecting their own comfort, interest, or
reputation is regarded by a large class of acquaintances. The minor
possessions—the carriages, the horses, the library, the furniture—were
sold. A selection of the plainest articles of this last requisite,
which, the freight being wonderfully low, their chief adviser had
counselled them to carry with them, was alone retained.

‘It will sell for next to nothing,’ his last letter had said, ‘judging
from my experience after the regiment had “got the route,” and you will
have it landed here for less than the price of very ordinary
substitutes. Bring all the small matters you can, that may be useful;
and don’t leave the piano behind. I must have a tune when I come to see
you at Warbrok, and hear Mrs. Effingham sing “Auld Robin Gray” again.
You recollect how our old Colonel broke down, with tears rolling over
his wrinkled cheeks, when she sang it?’

All was now over. The terrible wrench had been endured, tearing apart
those living fibres which in early life are entwined around hearth and
home. They had gazed in mournful farewell upon each familiar thing which
from childhood’s hour had seemed a portion of their sheltered life. Like
plants and flowerets, no denizens of hothouse or simulated tropic clime,
but not the less carefully tended from harmful extremes, climatic or
social, had the Effingham family grown and flourished. Now they were
about to be abandoned to the elemental forces. Who should say whether
they would wither under rude blasts and a fiercer sun, or, from natural
vigour and inherent vitality, burgeon and bloom beneath the Southern
heavens?

Of the whole party, she who showed less outward token of sorrow, felt in
her heart the most unresting anguish. To a woman like Mrs. Effingham,
reared from infancy in the exclusive tenets of English county life, the
idea of so comprehensive a change, of a semi-barbarous migration, had
been well-nigh more bitter than death—but for one source of aid and
spiritual support, unendurable.

Her reliance had a twofold foundation. The undoubting faith in a Supreme
Being, who ordered aright all the ways of His creatures, even when
apparently remote from happiness, remained unshaken. Firmly had she ever
trusted in that God by whom her former life had been guided. Events
might take a mysteriously doubtful course. But, in the wilderness, under
leafy forest-arches, beneath the shadow of the gathering tempest, on
land or ocean, she would trust in God and her Redeemer. Steadfast and
brave of mien, though with trembling lip and sickened heart, she
marshalled her little troop and led them on board the stout ship, which
only awaited the morrow’s dawn to spread her wings and sweep
southward—ever southward—amid unknown seas, until the great island
continent should arise from out the sky-line, telling of a land which
was to provide them with a home, with friends, even perhaps a fortune.
What a mockery in that hour of utter wretchedness did such hope
promptings appear!

After protracted mental conflict, no more perfect system of rest can be
devised than that afforded by a sea-voyage. Anxiety, however mordant,
must be lulled to rest under the fixed conditions of a journey, before
the termination of which no battle of life can be commenced, no campaign
resumed.

Toil and strife, privation and poverty, labour and luck, all the
contending forces of life are hushed as in a trance. As in hibernation,
the physical and mental attributes appear to rally, to recruit fresh
stores of energy. ‘The dead past buries its dead’—sorrowfully perchance,
and with silent weeping. But the clouds which have gathered around the
spirit disperse and flee heavenwards, as from a snow-robed Alp at
morning light. Then the roseate hues of dawn steal slowly o’er the
silver-pure peaks and glaciers. The sun gilds anew the dark pine forest,
the purple hills. Once more hope springs forth ardent and unfettered.
Endeavour presses onward to victory or to death.

To the Effingham family came a natural surprise, that, under their
circumstances of exile and misfortune, any cheerfulness could occur. The
parents possessed an air of decent resignation. But the younger members
of the family, after the first days of unalloyed wretchedness, commenced
to exhibit the elastic temperament of youth.

The seamanship displayed on the staunch sailing ship commenced to
interest them. The changing aspects of sea and sky, the still noon, the
gathering storm-cloud, the starry midnight, the phosphorescent
fire-trail following the night-path of their bark—all these had power to
move the sad hearts of the exiles. And, in youth, to move the heart is
to lighten the spirit.

Wilfred Effingham, true to his determination to deliver himself over to
every practical duty which might grow out of their life, had procured
books professing to give information with regard to all the Australian
colonies.

With difficulty he managed, after an extended literary tour involving
Tasmania, Swan River, and New Zealand, to distinguish the colony to
which they were bound, though he failed to gather precise information
regarding the district in which their land was situated. He made out
that the climate was mild, and favourable to the Anglo-Saxon
constitution; that in mid-winter, flowering shrubs and delicate plants
bloomed in spite of the pretended rigour of the season; that the heat in
summer was considerable, as far as shown by the reading of the
thermometer, but that from the extreme dryness of atmosphere no greater
oppressiveness followed than in apparently cooler days in other
climates.

‘Here, mother,’ he said, having mastered the latter fact, ‘we have been
unconsciously coming to the exact country suited to your health and
pursuits. You know how fond of flowers you are. Well, you can have a
winter garden now, without the expense of glass or the trouble of
hothouse flues; while you can cheat the season by abstaining from colds,
which you could never do in England, you know.’

‘I shall be happy to have a little garden of my own, my son,’ she
replied, ‘but who is to work in it? We have done for ever, I suppose,
with head and under gardeners. You and Guy and everybody will always, I
suppose, be at farm-work, or herding cattle and sheep, busy from morning
to dark. How glad we shall be to see your faces at night!’

‘It does not follow,’ replied Wilfred, ‘that we shall never have a
moment to spare. Listen to what this author says: “The colonist who has
previously been accustomed to lead a life, where intervals of leisure
and intellectual recreation hold an acknowledged place, must not
consider that, in choosing Australia for his home, he has forfeited all
right to such indulgences. Let him not think that he has pledged himself
to a life of unbroken toil and unremitting manual labour. On the
contrary, he will discover that the avocations of an Australian country
gentleman chiefly demand the exercise of ordinary prudence and of those
rudimentary business habits which are easily acquired. Intelligent
supervision, rather than manual labour, is the special qualification for
colonial success; and we do not err in saying that by its exercise more
fortunes have been made than by the rude toils which are supposed to be
indispensable in the life of an Australian settler.”

‘There, mother!’ said the ardent adventurer. ‘That writer is a very
sensible fellow. He knows what he is talking about, for he has been ever
so many years in Australia, and has been over every part of it.’

‘Well, there certainly seems permission given to us to have a
flower-garden for mamma without ruining ourselves or neglecting our
business,’ said Rosamond. ‘And if the climate is so beautiful as they
say, these dreadful February neuralgia-martyrdoms will be things of the
past with you, dearest old lady.’

‘There, mother, what do you say to that? Why, you will grow so young and
beautiful that you will be taken for our elder sister, and papa would be
ashamed to say you are his wife, only that old gentlemen generally marry
young girls nowadays. Then, fancy what a garden we shall have at The
Chase—we _must_ call it The Chase, no matter what its present name is.
It wouldn’t feel natural for us to live anywhere but at a Chase. It
would be like changing our name.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

On board ship there is always abundant leisure for talk and recreation,
especially in low latitudes and half calms. The Effinghams, after they
had been a month out, began to feel sensibly the cheering effects of
total change of scene—the life-breathing atmosphere of the unbounded
sea. The demons of Regret and Fear, for the most part, shun the blue
wave and lie in wait on land for unwary mortals. The ship was seaworthy
and spacious, the officers capable, the few passengers passably
agreeable. Gradually the tone was restored of Captain Effingham’s
nervous system. He ceased to repine and regret. He even beheld some
grains of hope in the future, black as the outlook had until now
appeared. While the expression of sweet serenity and calm resignation
which ever dwelt upon the features of Mrs. Effingham became heightened
and assured under the concomitants of the voyage, until she appeared to
radiate peace and goodwill sufficient to affect beneficially the whole
ship’s company. As for the two little ones, Selden and Blanche, they
appeared to have been accustomed since infancy to a seafaring life. They
ran about unchecked, and were in everybody’s way and every one’s
affections. They were the youngest children on board, and many a rough
sailor turned to look, with something like a glistening in his eye, on
the saucy brown-eyed boy, and the delicate little five-year-old fairy,
whose masses of fair hair floated in the breeze, or were temporarily
confined with an unwilling ribbon.

It seemed but the lengthening limit of a dream when the seaman at the
good ship’s bow was commanded to keep a lookout for land; when, yet
another bright blue day, fading into eve, and a low coast-line is seen,
rising like an evening cloud from out a summer sea.

‘Hurrah!’ said Wilfred Effingham, as the second mate pointed out the
land of promise, ‘now our life begins. We shall belong to ourselves
again, instead of being the indulgently treated slaves—very well
treated, I confess—but still the unquestionable bond-slaves of that
enlightened taskmaster, Captain Henry Fleetby of the _Marlshire_.’

‘We have been very happy, my dear,’ said Mrs. Effingham, ‘happier than I
should have thought possible in a ship, under any circumstances. Let us
hope our good fortune will continue on land. I shall always look back to
this voyage as the most wonderful rest that our poor wounded hearts
could have enjoyed. Your papa looks quite himself again, and I feel
better than I have done for years. I shall remember our captain, his
officers, and his ship, with gratitude, as long as I live.’

‘I feel quite attached to the dear old vessel,’ said Annabel, ‘but we
can’t go sailing about the world all our lives, like respectable Flying
Dutchmen. I suppose the captain must turn us out to-morrow. Who would
have thought we should regret coming to the end of the voyage?’

How calm was that last day of the long, but not too long, voyage, when
they glided for hours on a waveless sea, by a great wall of sandstone
cliffs, which finally opened, as if by magic, and discovered the portal
of an Enchanted Haven! Surely the prospect could not all be real, of
this wondrous nook, stolen from the vast, the limitless Pacific, in
which they discerned, through the empurpling eve, villas, cottages,
mansions, churches, white-walled and fantastic to their eyes, girt with
strange shrubs and stately forest trees of unknown aspect. As the
_Marlshire_ floated to her anchorage, threading a fleet of skiffs, which
made the waters gay with many a sail, the full heart of the mother and
the wife overflowed.

Involuntarily a fervent prayer of thanksgiving went up to that Being who
had safely guarded them o’er the waste of ocean; had permitted their
entrance into this good land, which lay ready to receive them in their
need.

Passengers concluding a short voyage are nervously anxious to land, and
commence the frantic enjoyment of existence on _terra firma_. Not so
with the denizens of the good ship _Marlshire_, which had been their
home and dwelling-place for more than a quarter of a year. Having grown,
with the strange adaptiveness of our nature, to love the gallant bark,
you revere the captain, respect the first officer, and believe in the
second. Even the crew is above the average of the mercantile Jack-tar
novel. You will always swear by the old tub; and you will not go on
shore till to-morrow morning, if then.

All things considered, the family decided to stay quietly on board the
_Marlshire_ that night, so as to disembark in a leisurely way in the
morning, when they would have the day before them in which to make
arrangements.

They talked of staying quietly on board, but the excitement of being so
near the land was too much for them. The unnatural quietude of the ship,
the calm water of the bay, the glancing lights, which denoted the
thousand homes of the city, the cries and sounds of the massed
population of a seaport, the warm midnight air, the woods and white
beaches which denoted the shore-line, the gliding harbour-boats, all
seemed to sound in one strangely distinct chorus: ‘Land, land, land at
last.’ All magically exciting, these sounds and scenes forbade sleep.
Long after the other members of the family had gone below for the night,
Wilfred and Rosamond paced the deck, eagerly discussing plans for the
future, and, with the sanguine temper of youth, rapidly following each
freshly-formed track to fortune.

No one was likely to indulge in slumber after sunrise. A babel of sounds
announced that the unlading of cargo had commenced. Their last ship
breakfast prefaced the actual stepping upon the friendly gangway, which
now alone divided them from the other side of the world. Before that
feat was performed, a squarely-built, grey-headed personage, in clerical
garb, but withal of a somewhat secular manner, walked rapidly from the
wharf to the deck and confronted the party.

‘Here you are at last, all safe and sound, Howard, my dear fellow!’ said
he, shaking hands warmly with Mr. Effingham. ‘Not so much changed
either; too easy-going for that. Pray present me to Mrs. Effingham and
the young ladies. Your eldest son looking after the luggage?—proper
place for him. Allow me to take your arm, my dear madam, and to conduct
you to the hotel, where I have engaged rooms for you. May as well set
off—talk as we go along. Only heard of the _Marlshire_ being signalled
the day before yesterday. Came a long journey—slightly knocked up this
morning, but soon recovered—splendid climate—make a young man of you,
Earl Percy, in a year or two. We always called him Earl Percy in the
regiment, Mrs. Effingham. Perhaps he told you. And all this fine family
too—two, four, six, seven. I can hardly credit my senses. Plenty of room
for them in this country—plenty of room—that’s one thing.’

‘We have every reason to be thankful for the comfortable way in which we
have voyaged here,’ said Mrs. Effingham; ‘and now that you have so
kindly come to meet us, I feel as if half our troubles were over.’

‘Your troubles are just commencing, my dear madam, but with Harley
Sternworth’s help something may be done to lighten them. Still I feel
sure that these young ladies will look upon difficulties in a sensible
way, not expecting too much, or being discouraged—just at first, you
know.’

‘Your country, my old friend, will have to look bad indeed if my wife
cannot find a good word to say for it,’ said Mr. Effingham, roused to
unwonted cheerfulness. ‘At any rate, it suits you well; you look as hard
as a west country drover.’

‘Never was better. Haven’t had a dose of medicine for years. Ride fifty
miles a day if necessary. Finest climate—finest country—under the sun.
Lots of parish work and travelling, with a dash of botanising, and a
pinch of geology to fill up spare time. Wouldn’t go back and live in a
country town for the world. Mope to death.’

All this time the reverend gentleman was pressing forward up a gentle
incline, towards the lower end of George Street, and after walking up
that noble thoroughfare, and discreetly refraining from mention of the
buildings which ornament that part of it, he turned again towards the
water and piloted his party successfully to Batty’s Hotel.

‘Here, my dear madam, you will find that I have secured you pleasant
apartments for a week or ten days, during which time you will be able to
recruit after the voyage, and do justice to the beauties of the city.
You are not going up country at once. A few days’ leisure will be
economy in the end.’

‘So we are not to start off hundreds of miles at once, in a bullock
dray, as the captain told us?’ said Rosamond.

‘No, my dear young lady, neither now nor, I hope, at any time will such
a mode of travelling be necessary. I cannot say too much for your
conveyance, but it will be fairly comfortable and take you to your
destination safely. After that will commence what you will doubtless
consider to be a tolerably rough life. Yes—a rough life.’

‘These young people have made up their minds to anything short of living
like Esquimaux,’ said Mr. Effingham. ‘I don’t think you will frighten
them. You and I saw curious backwoods places when we were quartered in
Canada, didn’t we? You will hardly match them in Australia.’

‘Nothing to be compared to it,’ said Mr. Sternworth earnestly. ‘We have
no winter here, to begin with; that is, none worth speaking about for
cold. Moreover, the people are intensely British in their manners and
customs, in an old-fashioned way. But I am not going to explain
everything. You will have to _live_ the explanation, which is far better
than hearing it, and is sure to be retained by the memory.’

It was decided that no move was to be made for the interior until the
baggage was landed, and arrangements made for its safe carriage by dray.

‘If you leave before all is ready,’ said their mentor, ‘you run risk of
the loss of a portion, by mistake or negligence; and this loss may never
be repaired. You will find your furniture of immense value in the new
abode, and will congratulate yourself upon having brought it. It is
astonishing with what different eyes you look upon a table or sideboard
here and in England.’

‘I was anxious to bring out some of our old possessions,’ said Mrs.
Effingham. ‘But I had hard work to persuade my husband that we might not
be able to procure such here. Your advice was most opportune. I feel
more pleased than I can say that we were able to act upon it.’

At lunch they were joined by Wilfred, who had discovered that there was
no chance of all the furniture coming ashore that day. He had arranged
with the captain that Andrew and his family should remain on board, as
also Daisy the cow, until everything was ready to load the drays with
the heavy baggage.

Andrew had expressed himself much pleased with the arrangement,
regarding the ship as ‘mair hamelike’ than the busy foreign-looking
city, to the inhabitants of which he did not take kindly, particularly
after an exploring stroll, which happened to be on the Sunday after
arrival.

‘A maist freevolous folk, given up to mammon-worship and
pleesure-huntin’,—walkin’ in thae gairdens—no that they’re no just
by-ordinar’ for shrubs and floorin’ plants frae a’ lands—walkin’ and
haverin’ in the gairdens on the Sawbath day, a’ smilin’ and heedless,
just on the vairge o’ happiness. Saw ye ever the like? It’s juist
fearsome.’

Upon the lady portion of the family, the city with its shops, parks, and
inhabitants made a more favourable impression.

Mr. Sternworth was untiring in showing them, in the excursions which
Mrs. Effingham and the girls made under his guidance, the beauties of
the city. They wandered much in the lovely public gardens, to Mrs.
Effingham’s intense delight, whose love of flowers was, perhaps, her
strongest taste. They drove out on the South Head road, and duly noted
the white-walled mansions, plunged deeply in such luxuriant
flower-growth as the Northern strangers had rarely yet beheld.
Wonderfully gracious seemed the weather. It was the Australian spring
with air as soft and balmy as that of Italy in her fairest hours.

How enjoyable was that halt between two stages of existence! Daily, as
they rose from the morning meal, they devoted themselves to fresh
rambles around the city, under the chaperonage of the worthy person.
They commenced to feel an involuntary exhilaration. The pure air, the
bright days, the glowing sun, the pleasant sea-breeze, combined to cause
an indefinable conviction that they had found a region formed for aid
and consolation.

The streets, the equipages, the people, presented, it is true, few of
the contrasts, to their English experience, which a foreign town would
have afforded. Yet was there the excitement, strong and vivid, which
arises from the first sight of a strange land and an unfamiliar people.

‘This town has a great look of Marseilles,’ said Wilfred, as they
loitered, pleasantly fatigued, towards their temporary home in the
deepening twilight. ‘The same white, balconied, terraced houses of pale
freestone; the southern climate, the same polyglot water-side
population, only the Marseilles quay might be stowed away in a hundred
corners of this wonderful harbour; and the people—only look at them—have
a Parisian tendency to spend their evenings in the streets. I suppose
the mildness of the climate tends to it.’

‘This kind of thing, I suppose, strikes you sharply at first,’ said Mr.
Sternworth; ‘but my eyes have become so accustomed to all the aspects of
my little world, that I cannot see much difference between it and many
English places I have known in my day. The variations noted at first
have long since disappeared; and I feel as much at home as I used to do
at Bideford, when I was quartered there with the old regiment.’

‘But surely the people must be different from what they are in England,’
said Beatrice. ‘The country is different, the trees, the plants—how
beautiful many of them are!—and the climate; surely all this must tend
to alter the character or the appearance of the people.’

‘It may in a few centuries have that effect, my dear young lady,’ said
the old gentleman, ‘but such changes are after the fashion of nature’s
workings, imperceptibly slow. You will agree with me in another year,
that many old acquaintances in men and manners are to be met with out
here, and the rest present only outward points of divergence.’

The days of restful peace had passed. The valuable freight—to them
invaluable—having been safely loaded, Mr. Sternworth unfolded the plan
which he had arranged for their journey.

‘You are aware,’ he said, ‘that Warbrok Chase, as the young ladies have
decided to call your estate, is more than 200 miles from Sydney. It lies
40 miles beyond Yass, which town is distant 180 miles from the
Metropolis. Now, although we shall have railways in good time, there is
nothing of the sort yet, and the roads are chiefly in their natural
state. I would therefore suggest that you should travel in a roomy
horse-waggon, comfortably fitted up, taking a tent with you in which to
sleep at night. I have procured a driver well acquainted with the
country, who knows all the camps and stopping-places, and may be
depended upon to take you safely to your journey’s end.’

‘No railways, no coaches,’ said Mr. Effingham; ‘yours is rather a
primitive country, Harley, it must be confessed; but you know what is
best for us all, and the weather is so mild that none of us can suffer
from the bivouac.’

‘I should not have hazarded it if there had been any risk to health,’
said the old gentleman, bowing courteously. ‘There are coaches, however,
and you might reach your destination in four days, after hurried
travelling. But the tariff is expensive for so large a party; you would
be crowded, or meet unsuitable fellow-travellers, while you could take
but little of your luggage with you.’

‘I vote for the overland journey,’ said Rosamond. ‘I am sure it will be
quite refreshingly eastern. I suppose Andrew and Jeanie and poor dear
Daisy and the dogs and everything can go.’

‘Everything and everybody you please but the heavy luggage. Your
servants will be able to sleep under a part of the waggon-tilt, which
will be comfortable enough at night. The cow will give you milk for your
tea. Even the greyhounds may catch you a wallaby or two, which will come
in for soup.’

‘There could not be a better scheme,’ said Wilfred exultingly. ‘My dear
sir, you are a second father to us. How long do you think it will take
us to get to Warbrok altogether?’

‘You will have to make up your minds to ten or twelve days’ travelling,
I am afraid—say, twenty miles a day. I really believe you will not find
it tedious, but, as with your water journey, get quite to like it.
Besides, there is one grand advantage, as far as the young ladies are
concerned.’

‘What is that?’ said Annabel, with added interest, but somewhat doleful
countenance. ‘Is there _any_ advantage in travelling like gipsies?’

‘It is this, then, my dear girls,’ said the old man, bending upon them
his clear, kindly beaming eyes, ‘that you will make acquaintance with
the rougher habitudes (and yet not unduly so) of country life in
Australia by this primitive forest journeying. When you arrive at your
destination you will therefore be proportionately satisfied with your
new residence, because it will represent _a settled home_. Your daily
journey will by that time have become a task, so that you will hail the
prospect of repose with thankfulness.’

‘Is that all?’ asked Annabel with a disappointed air. ‘Then we are to
undergo something dreadful, in order that something only disagreeable
may not look so bad after it. Is all Australian life like that? But I
daresay I shall die young, and so it won’t matter much. Is the lunch
nearly ready? I declare I am famishing.’

Every one laughed at this characteristic sequence to Annabel’s prophecy,
and the matter of the march having been settled, their friend promised
to send up the waggon-driver next morning, in order that the proper
fittings and the lamps—indispensable articles—and luggage might be
arranged and packed. A tent also was purchased, and bedding, cooking
utensils, provisions, etc., secured.

‘You will find Dick Evans an original character,’ said the parson, ‘but
I do not know any man in the district so well suited for this particular
service. He has been twenty years in Australia, and knows everything,
both good and evil, that can be known of the country and people. He is
an old soldier, and in the 50th Regiment saw plenty of service. He has
his faults, but they don’t appear on the surface, and I know him well
enough to guarantee that you will be wholly ignorant of them. His
manners—with a dash of soldier servant—are not to be surpassed.’

At an hour next morning so soon after dawn that Andrew Cargill, the most
incorruptible of early birds, was nearly caught napping, Mr. Dick Evans
arrived with two horses and his waggon. The rest of the team, not being
wanted, he had left in their paddock at Homebush. He immediately placed
the waggon in the most convenient position for general reference, took
out his horses, which he accommodated with nose-bags, and with an air of
almost suspicious deference inquired of Andrew what he could commence to
do in the way of packing.

The two men, as if foreseeing that possible encounters might henceforth
take place between them, looked keenly at each other. Richard Evans had
the erect bearing of which the recipient of early drill can rarely
divest himself. His wiry figure but slightly above the middle height,
his clean-shaved, ruddy cheek, his keen grey eye, hardly denoted the
fifty years and more which he carried so lightly.

A faultless constitution, an open-air occupation with habits of great
bodily activity, had borne him scatheless through a life of hardship and
risk.

This personage commenced with a request to be shown the whole of the
articles intended to be taken, gently but firmly withstanding any
opinion of Andrew’s to the contrary, and replying to his protests with
the mild superiority of the attendant in a lunatic asylum. After the
whole of the light luggage had been displayed, he addressed himself to
the task of loading and securing it with so much economy of space and
advantage of position, that Andrew readily yielded to him the right to
such leadership in future.

‘Nae doot,’ he said, ‘the auld graceless sworder that he is, has had
muckle experience in guiding his team through thae pathless
wildernesses, and it behoves a wise man to “jouk and let the jaw gae
by.” But wae’s me, it’s dwelling i’ the tents o’ Kedar!’

Dick Evans, who was a man of few words and strong in the heat of
argument, was by no means given to mixing up discussion with work. He
therefore kept on steadily with his packing until evening, only
requiring from Andrew such help and information as were indispensable.

‘There,’ said he, as he removed the low-crowned straw hat from his
heated brow, and prepared to fill his pipe, ‘I think that will about do.
The ladies can sit there in the middle, where I’ve put the tent loose,
and use it as a sofy, if they’ve a mind to. I can pitch it in five
minutes at night, and they can sleep in it as snug as if they had a
cottage with them. You and your wife can have the body of the waggon to
yourselves at night, and I’ll sleep under the shafts. The captain and
the young gentlemen can have all the room between the wheels, and nobody
can want more than that. I suppose your missis can do what cooking’s
wanted?’

‘Nae doot,’ Andrew replied with dignity, ‘Mistress Cargill wad provide a
few bits o’ plain victual. A wheen parritch, a thocht brose, wad serve
a’ hands better than flesh meat, and tea or coffee, or siccan trash.’

‘Porridge won’t do for me,’ said the veteran firmly, ‘not if I know it.
Oatmeal’s right enough for you Scotchmen, and not bad stuff either, _in
your own country_, but beef and mutton’s our tack in Australia.’

‘And will ye find a flesher in this “bush,” as they ca’ it, that we’ve
to push through?’ demanded Andrew. ‘Wad it no be mair wiselike to keep
to victual that we can carry in our sacks?’

‘Get plenty of beef and mutton and everything else on the road,’ said
Mr. Evans, lighting his pipe and declining further argument. ‘Don’t you
forget to bring a frying-pan. I’ll take the horses back to the paddock
now and be here by daylight, so as we can make a good start.’

It had been arranged by Mr. Sternworth that the boys, as he called them,
should set forth in the morning with Evans and the waggon, as also
Andrew and Jeanie, taking with them the cow, the dogs, and the smaller
matters which the family had brought. No necessity for Captain Effingham
and the ladies to leave Sydney until the second day. He would drive them
in a hired carriage as far as the first camp, which Evans had described
to him.

They would thus avoid the two days’ travel, and commence their journey
after the expedition had performed its trial trip, so to speak.

‘What _should_ we have done without your kind care of us?’ said Mrs.
Effingham. ‘Everything up to this time has been a pleasure trip. When is
the hard life that we heard so much of to begin?’

‘Perhaps,’ said Rosamond, ‘Mr. Sternworth is going to be like the
brigand in the romances, who used to lure persons from their homes. I
have no doubt but that there are “hard times” awaiting us somewhere or
somehow.’

‘My dear young lady, let me compliment you on your good sense in taking
that view of the future. It will save you from disappointment, and fill
your mind with a wholesome strength to resist adversity. You may need
all your philosophy, and I counsel you to keep it, like armour, well
burnished. I do not know of any evil likely to befall you, but that you
will have trouble and toil may be taken as certain. Only, after a time,
I predict that you will overcome your difficulties, and find yourselves
permanently benefited.’

The old gentleman, whose arrangements were as successfully carried out
as if he had been the commissary instead of the chaplain of his former
regiment, made his appearance on the following day in a neat barouche
drawn by a pair of good-looking bay horses, and driven by a highly
presentable coachman.

‘Why, it might pass muster for a private carriage,’ said Annabel. ‘And I
can see a crest on the panels. I suppose we shall never own a carriage
again as long as we live.’

‘This _is_ a private carriage, or rather was, once upon a time,’ said
Mr. Sternworth; ‘the horses and the coachman belonged to it. Many
carriages were put down last year, owing to a scarcity of money, and my
old friend Watkins here, having saved his wages, like a prudent man,
bought his master’s carriage and horses, and commenced as cab
proprietor. He has a large connection among his former master’s friends,
and is much in demand at balls and other festivities.’

The ex-coachman drove them at a lively pace, but steadily, along a
macadamised turnpike road, not so very different from a country lane in
Surrey, though wider, and not confined by hedges. The day was fine. On
either side, after the town was left behind, were large enclosures,
wherein grazed sheep, cattle, and horses. Sometimes they passed an
orangery, and the girls were charmed with the rows of dark green trees,
upon which the golden fruit was ripe. Then an old-fashioned house, in an
orchard, surrounded by a wall—wall and house coloured red, and rusty
with the stains of age—much like a farmhouse in Hertfordshire. One town
they passed was so manifestly old-fashioned, having even _ruins_, to
their delight and astonishment, that they could hardly believe they were
in a new country.

‘Some one has been playing Rip Van Winkle tricks upon us,’ said
Rosamond. ‘We have been asleep a hundred years, and are come back
finding all things grown old and in decay.’

‘You must not forget that the colony has been established nearly fifty
years,’ said Mr. Sternworth, ‘and that these are some of the earliest
settlements. They were not always placed in the most judicious sites;
wherefore, as newer towns have passed them in the race for trade, these
have submitted to become, as you see them, “grey with the rime of
years,” and simulating decay as well as circumstances will permit.’

‘Well, I think much more highly of Australia, now that I have seen a
_real_ ruin or two,’ said Annabel decisively. ‘I always pictured the
country full of hideous houses of boards, painted white, with spinach
green doors and windows.’

The afternoon was well advanced as the inmates of the carriage descried
the encampment which Mr. Evans had ordered, with some assistance from
his military experience. So complete in all arrangements for comfort was
it—not wholly disregarding the element of romantic scenery—that the
girls cried aloud in admiration.

The streamlet (or creek) which afforded the needful water meandered
round the base of a crag, jutting out from a forest-clothed hill. The
water-hole (or basin) in the channel of the creek was larger than such
generally are, and reflected brightly the rays of the declining sun. The
meadow, which afforded space for the encampment, was green, and fertile
of appearance. The waggon stood near the water; the four horses were
peacefully grazing. At a short distance, under a spreading tree, the
tent had been pitched, while before it was a wood fire, upon which
Jeanie was cooking something appetising. Wilfred and his brother were
strolling, gun in hand, up the creek; the cow was feeding among the
rushes with great contentment; Andrew was seated, meditating, upon a box
which he had brought forth from the recesses of the waggon; while Dick
Evans, not far from a small fire, upon which stood a camp-kettle at
boiling-point, was smoking with an air of conscious pride, as if not
only the picturesque beauty, but the personages pertaining to the
landscape, belonged to him individually.

‘I could not leave you more comfortably provided for,’ said their
‘guide, philosopher, and friend.’ ‘Old Dick may be trusted in all such
matters as implicitly as the Duke of Wellington. I never knew him at
fault yet in this kind of life.’

‘You must positively stay and have afternoon tea with us,’ exclaimed
Annabel. ‘It is exactly five, and there is Dick putting a tin cupful of
tea into the teapot. What extravagant people you colonists are! I never
drank tea in the open air before, but it seems quite the right thing to
do. I see Jeanie has made griddle-cakes, like a dear old thing. And I
know there is butter. I am so hungry. You _will_ stay, won’t you?’

‘I think, sir,’ said the ex-family coachman, looking indulgently at the
special pleader, ‘that we shall have time to get back to the Red Cow Inn
to-night, after a cup of tea, as the young lady wishes it. I’ll run you
into town bright and early to-morrow.’

‘Very well then, Miss Annabel, I shall have the honour to accept your
invitation,’ bowed the old man. ‘I go away more cheerfully than I
expected, now that I leave you all so comparatively snug. It will not be
for long. Be sure that I shall meet you on the threshold of Warbrok.’

The _al fresco_ meal was partaken of with much relish, even gaiety,
after which civilisation—as personified by the reverend gentleman and
the carriage—departed. Annabel looked after it ruefully, while Jeanie
and Mrs. Effingham took counsel together for the night. It was for the
first time in the family history. Never before had the Effinghams slept,
so to speak, in the open air. It was a novel adventure in their
uneventful lives—a marked commencement of their colonial career. It
affected them differently, according to their idiosyncrasies. Rosamond
was calmly resolute, Annabel apprehensive, and Beatrice indifferent; the
boys in high spirits; Mr. Effingham half in disapproval, despondently
self-accusing; while Mrs. Effingham and Jeanie were so fully absorbed in
the great bedding question that they had no emotions to spare for any
abstract consideration whatever.

The moon, in her second quarter, had arisen lustrous in the pure, dark
blue firmament, fire-besprinkled with ‘patines of bright gold,’ before
this important matter (and supper) was concluded. Then it was formally
announced that the tent was fully furnished, and had turned out
wonderfully commodious. The mattresses were placed upon a layer of
‘bush-feathers,’ as Dick Evans called them, and which (the small twigs
and leaf-shoots of the eucalyptus) he had impressed Wilfred and his
brother to gather. There was a lantern secured to the tent-pole, which
lighted up the apartment; and sheets, blankets, coverlets being brought
forth, Annabel declared that she was sure they would all sleep like
tops, that for her part she must insist on going to bed at once as the
keen air had made her quite drowsy. A dressing-table had been
improvised, chiefly with the aid of Mr. Evans’ mechanical skill. When
the matron and her daughters made their farewell for the night, and
closed their canvas portal, every one was of the opinion that a high
degree of comfort and effective lodging had been reached.

Mr. and Mrs. Cargill and family retired to the inmost recesses of the
upper waggon, where the ends of the tilt, fastened together, protected
them. Mr. Effingham and his sons joined Dick Evans at his briskly
burning fire, where the old man was smoking and occasionally indulging
in a refresher of tea as if he had no intention of going to bed till he
reached Warbrok.

‘We are having glorious weather to travel in, Evans,’ said Mr.
Effingham. ‘You have been in the service, Mr. Sternworth tells me; what
regiment?’

‘I was in the old 50th for many a year, Captain,’ he said, unconsciously
standing erect and giving the salute. ‘I served under Sir Hugh Gough in
India, where I got this slash from a Mahratta sabre. Didn’t seem a hard
cut neither; the fellow just seemed to swing his wrist, careless-like,
as he rode by, but it was nigh deep enough to take the “wick” out of me.
Their swords was a deal sharper than ours, and their wooden scabbards
kept ’em from getting blunt again. I had a great argument with my
sergeant about it once,’ continued the old man. ‘I couldn’t a-bear to
see our poor chaps sliced up by them razor-edged tulwars, while our
regulation swords was a’most too dull to cut through a quilted cotton
helment. Ah! them was fine times,’ said the old soldier, with so genuine
a regret in his tones that Howard Effingham almost believed he had, for
the first time in his life, fallen across a noble private, pleased with
his profession, and anxious to return to it.

‘I have rarely heard a soldier regret the army,’ said he. ‘But you still
retain zeal for the service, I am pleased to find.’

‘Well, sir, that’s all very well,’ said the philosophical man-at-arms;
‘but what I was a-thinking of was the “loot.” It’s enough to bring tears
into a man’s eyes that served his Queen and country, to think of the
things as we passed over. Didn’t Jimmy O’Hara and two or three more men
of my company get together once and made bold to stick up the priest of
one of them temples. No great things either—gold earrings and bangles,
and a trifle of gold mohurs, the priest’s own. There was a
copper-coloured, bronze-looking idol—regular heathen god, or some such
cretur—which the priest kept calling out “Sammy” to, or “Swammi.” The
ugly thing had bright glittering eyes, and Jim wanted to get ’em out
badly, but the priest said, “Feringhee wantee like this?” and he picked
up a bit of glass, and smiled contempshus like. At last we left him and
“Swammi,” eyes and all. I don’t ever deserve to have a day’s luck, sir,
agin, as long as I live.’

‘Why so?’ said Mr. Effingham, astonished at the high moral tone, which
he had not been used to associate with the light infantry man of the
period. ‘Not for taking the image away, surely?’

‘No!’ shouted the old man, roused from his ordinary respectful tone.
‘But for leavin’ him behind! That Sammy, sir, was pure gold, and his
eyes was di’monds, di’monds! Think o’ that. We left a thousand pound a
man behind, because we didn’t know gold when we seen it. It will haunt
me, sir, to my dying day.’

The boys laughed at the unsentimental conclusion of the veteran’s tale.
Their father looked grave.

‘I cannot approve of the plunder of religious edifices, Evans; though
the temptation was too great for soldiers, and indeed for others in
those days.’

The chief personages having retired, Mr. Effingham and his sons essayed
to make their couch under the waggon.

‘It is many a year since I had any experience in this kind of thing,’
said he; ‘but, if I remember rightly, it was in Spain that I bivouacked
last. This locality is not unlike Estramadura. That rocky ravine, with
the track running down it, is just where you would have expected to see
the muleteer stepping gaily along beside his mules singing or swearing,
as the case might be; and they do both with great vigour.’

‘I remember Don Pedro, Captain,’ said Dick. ‘I mind the wine-skins putty
well too. It wasn’t bad stuff; but I don’t know as dark brandy doesn’t
come handier if ye wants a stir up. But there’s one thing you can’t have
forgot, Captain, that beats this country holler.’

‘You must mean the fleas,’ said Effingham; ‘_they_ certainly could not
be surpassed. I hope you don’t mean to rival them here.’

‘Well, I don’t deny, Captain, that in some huts, where the people aren’t
particular, in a sandy country, in summer you will find a few, and
likewise them other reptiles, ’specially where there’s pine slabs, but
in a general way we’re pretty clean in this country, and you’ve no call
to be afeard to tackle your blankets.’

‘I’m glad to hear it, Evans,’ said Effingham, yawning. ‘I have no doubt
that your camp is always fit for inspection. I think we may say
good-night.’

Between the keen air of the forest, and the unwonted exercise, a
tendency to drowsiness now set in, which Mr. Effingham and his sons
discovered by the time that the blankets were drawn over them. The sides
of their apartment, represented by the wheels of the waggon, were
covered by the canvas tilt, the ceiling was low but sufficient. It was
the ideal chamber in one respect. Ventilation was unimpeded, while
shelter was secured.



                              CHAPTER III
                              THE NEW HOME


When Wilfred awoke from deep untroubled slumber, the sun seemed gazing
at the encampment with haughty, fixed regard, as of a monarch, enthroned
upon the summit of the purple mountain range.

Unwitting of the lengths (fortunately) to which the unsparing archer
could go in Southern lands, he essayed to commence dressing.

Rising hurriedly, he was reminded by a tap on the head from the
axle-tree that he was in a bedroom of restricted accommodation. More
guarded in his after-movements he crawled outside, first placing on the
dewy grass a rug upon which to stand. He commenced his toilette, and
cast a comprehensive glance around.

The first thing he saw was the upright form of Richard Evans, who,
returning from a search after his hobbled horses, drove them before him
towards the camp, at the same time smoking his pipe with a serene and
satisfied air. The morning was chilly, but he had not thought a coat
necessary, and in a check shirt and moleskin trousers calmly braved an
atmosphere not much above forty degrees Fahrenheit.

‘This must be a fine climate,’ said Wilfred to his father. ‘We shall be
well wrapped up till breakfast time, at any rate, and yet that old
buffer is wandering about in his shirt-sleeves as if he were in Naples.’

‘He is pretty hard-bitten, you may depend,’ said Mr. Effingham. ‘I think
some of our old “die-hards” are as tough samples of humanity as could
anywhere be met. I do not uphold the British soldier as a model, but
they were men in my time, beyond any manner of doubt.’

Dick marched up his team to the waggon, whence the lodgers had by this
time issued—Andrew to make a fire near the tent, and Jeanie to penetrate
that sacred enclosure, and presumably to act as tire-woman in the
interior.

The shafts, which had served Dick as a sleeping apartment during the
night, aided by a shroud of tarpaulin, were uplifted, and bagging being
thereon stretched, were converted into a manger for the chaff and maize,
which the horses quickly commenced to consume.

Presently Jeanie issued from the tent, and finding the camp-kettle
boiling, proceeded to make tea. Andrew, in the meantime, milked the cow.
The gridiron was brought into requisition, and certain mutton chops
broiled. Eventually Mrs. Effingham and her daughters issued from the
tent, fresh and dainty of aspect as if they had just left their bedrooms
at The Chase. Then the day commenced, and also breakfast.

‘Good-morning, O mother! Hail, O tender maidens! What do you think of
camping out?’ was Wilfred’s greeting, ‘Have you been sitting up weeping,
or did you forget everything till daylight, as we did?’

‘We all slept like tops,’ said Annabel. ‘I never was so sleepy in my
life. I was almost off before I could undress. I think it’s splendid.
And oh! what is there for breakfast?’

Grilled chops, smoking cups of tea, with bread and butter, constituted
the repast. Worse meals have been eaten. The appetites were, like the
travellers, highly respectable. By the time the meal was finished, Mr.
Richard Evans had harnessed his team, and bringing himself up to the
attitude of ‘attention,’ requested to know when the ladies would like to
make a start.

After consultation, it was notified to their guide and courier that as
soon as the tent was struck and the baggage packed, every one would be
ready.

The troops being in high health and spirits, in a comparatively short
space of time the march was resumed. Wilfred and Guy walked ahead,
fowling-piece in hand. Andrew drove the cow, which followed quietly in
the rear. The coupled greyhounds looked eagerly around, as if sensible
that they were now in hunting country. They were with difficulty
restrained when a wallaby, in two bounds, crossed the road and
disappeared in an adjoining scrub.

The dry air was pure and fresh, the unclouded sky blue as a sapphire
dome, the winding forest road free from all impediment but an occasional
ledge of sandstone. If there is any portion of the day ‘when the poor
are rich in spirits and health,’ when the heart of youth stirs, when age
is soothed with dreams of happiness, it is in that sweetest hour which
follows the early morning meal in rural Australia. Dawn is austere,
mid-day often sultry, but nowhere will he, whose heart and intelligence
respond alike gratefully to that charmed time, find its inspirations
more invigorating than in the early summer of Australia. Then the
fortunate traveller experiences coolness without cold, and warmth
without the heat which produces lassitude.

As the waggon rolled easily along, the horses stepping cheerily on the
track, the wayfarers paced over the unwonted herbage with an alertness
of mien which would have suggested a very different history.

‘How lovely the shrubs are that we see in all directions!’ said Mrs.
Effingham. ‘What should we have given for that golden flowering mimosa
at The Chase, or this blue-leaved, pink pointed tree, which I suppose
must be a young eucalyptus. Here they are so common that no one heeds
them, and yet there are rare plants enough to set up a dozen
greenhouses.’

‘Everything is so utterly different,’ said Rosamond. ‘I am most
agreeably surprised at the landscape. What erroneous ideas one has of
far countries! I suppose it is because we seldom feel sufficient
interest to learn about them thoroughly. I pictured Australia a sandy
waste, with burned-up reedy grass, and a general air of the desert. Now,
here we have woods, a pretty little brook rippling by, rocks and hills,
and in the distance a mountain. I could make quite an effective sketch.’

‘The country isn’t all like this, Miss,’ said Dick Evans, with a
deferential air. ‘If you was to go two or three hundred miles into the
bush, there’s no timber at all; you’ld find it all sand and
salt-bushes—the curiousest place ever you see.’

‘How can it be the “bush,”’ inquired Wilfred, ‘if there are no trees?
But we are not going so far, at any rate.’

‘Finest grazing land out,’ said Richard the experienced. ‘All the stock
rolling fat—no trouble in looking after ’em. If I was a young gentleman,
that’s the place I’d make for. Not but what Warbrok’s a pleasant spot,
and maybe the young ladies will like it better than the plains.’

‘I fancy we all shall, Richard,’ said Rosamond. ‘The plains may be very
well for sheep and cattle, but I prefer a woodland country like this. I
suppose we can have a garden there?’

‘Used to be the best garden in all the country-side, Miss, but the
Warleighs were a wild lot; they let everything go to wrack. The trees
and bushes is mostly wore out, but the sile’s that good, as a handy man
would soon make it ship-shape again.’

‘What are we to do for lunch?’ said Annabel, with some appearance of
anxiety. ‘If we are to go on roaming over the land from sunrise to
sunset without stopping, I shall die of hunger—I’m sure I shall. I keep
thinking about those cakes of Jeanie’s.’

‘My dear child,’ said her mother, ‘I daresay we shall manage to feed you
and the rest of the flock. I am pleased to find that you have such a
famous appetite. To be sure, you have not stopped growing yet, and this
fresh air acts as a tonic. So far, we must not complain of the climate.’

‘It’s only a few miles furder on, ma’am, to the King Parrot Waterhole,
where we can stop in the middle of the day, and have a bit to eat if the
young ladies is sharp-set. I always stop on the road and feed my horses
about twelve o’clock. And if the young gentlemen was to walk on, they
might shoot a pair of ducks at the waterhole, as would come in handy for
the pot.’

When about mid-day they reached the King Parrot Waterhole, a
reed-fringed pool, about as large as their English horse-pond, they
found Wilfred in possession of a pair of the beautiful grey-breasted
wood-ducks (_Anas Boscha_), a teal, with chestnut and black feathers and
a brilliant green neck, also a dark-furred kangaroo, which Dick
pronounced to be a rock wallaby.

‘Australia isn’t such a bad place for game,’ said Guy. ‘We found the
ducks swimming in the pool, three brace altogether, and “Damsel” caught
this two-legged hare, as she thought it, as it was making up that stony
hill. _I_ like it better than Surrey.’

‘We shall find out ever so many interesting things,’ said Rosamond. ‘I
shall never feel thankful enough to that good old Professor Muste for
teaching me the small bit of botany that I know. Now, look at this
lovely Clianthus, is it not enough to warm the heart of a Trappist? And
here is that exquisite purple Kennedya, which ought, in an Australian
novel, to be wreathed round the heroine’s hat. Do my eyes deceive me, or
is not that a white heath? I must dig it up.’

‘I believe, Rosamond, that you could comfort yourself on Mount Ararat,’
said Annabel. ‘Why, it will be _ages_ before those ducks can be picked
and roasted. Oh, Jeanie, Jeanie, can’t we have them before tea-time? I
wish I had never seen them.’

‘If you like, you can help me take off the feathers, and spare Jeanie’s
everlastingly busy fingers,’ said Beatrice.

Here Annabel looked ruefully at her tiny, delicate hands, with a child’s
pout.

‘Oh, it’s no use looking at your pretty hands,’ said the more practical
Beatrice. ‘This is the land of work, and all who can’t make themselves
useful will be treated like the foolish virgins in the parable. It
always makes me smile when that chapter is read. I can fancy Annabel
holding out her lamp, with an injured expression, saying, “Well, nobody
told me it was time to get ready.”’

‘Beatrice, my daughter,’ said Mrs. Effingham gravely, ‘sacred subjects
are not befitting matter for idle talking; dispositions vary, and you
may remember that Martha was not praised for her anxiety to serve.’

At mid-day the kettle bubbled on the fire, kindled by the ever-ready
Richard, cakes and sandwiches were handed round, the tea—thanks to
Daisy—was gratefully sipped.

The sun shone brightly on the green flat, where the horses grazed in
peace and plenty. The birds chirped and called at intervals; all Nature
seemed glad and responsive to the joyous season of the southern spring.

Thus their days wore on, in peaceful progression, alike free from toil,
anxiety, or adventure. The daily stage was accomplished, under Dick’s
experienced direction, without mistake or misadventure. The evening meal
was a time of rest and cheerful enjoyment, the night’s slumbers
refreshing and unbroken.

‘What a delightful country this is! I feel quite a new creature,
especially after breakfast,’ exclaimed Annabel one morning. ‘I could go
on like this for months, till we reached the other side of the
continent, if there is any other side. Will it be as nice as this, I
wonder, at Malbrook, or Warbrok, or whatever they call it? Warbrok Chase
won’t look so bad on our letters, when we write home. I must send a
sketch of it to cousin Elizabeth, with a bark cabin, of course. She will
never believe that we have a real house to live in among the backwoods.
What sort of a house is it, Dick? Is it thatched and gabled and damp and
delightful, with dear little diamond casements like the keeper’s lodge,
or is it a horrid wooden barn? Tell me now, there’s a dear old man!’

‘We shall be there, Miss, the day after to-morrer, please God,’
responded Dick with respectful solemnity. ‘Parson Sternworth said I was
to say nought about the place, but let it come on you suddent-like. And
I’m a man as is used to obey orders.’

‘Very well, you disagreeable old soldier,’ said the playful maiden.
‘I’ll be even with you and the parson, as you call him. See if I don’t.’

‘Sorry to disobleege you, Miss Anniebell,’ said the veteran, ‘but if my
old General, Sir Hugh Gough, was to come and say, “Corporal Richard
Evans, hand me over the chart of the country,” I should have to tell him
that he hadn’t got the counter-sign.’

‘And quite right too, Evans,’ interposed Mr. Effingham, ‘to keep up your
good old habits in a new country. Discipline is the soul of the army.’

‘I was allers taught _that_, sir,’ replied Dick, with an air of military
reminiscence which would have befitted a veteran of the Great Frederick.
‘But when we reaches Warbrok my agreement’s out with the Parson, and
Miss can order me about all day.’

In spite of Annabel’s asseverations that the party would never reach the
spot indicated, and that she believed there never was any such place,
but that Dick would lead them into a trackless forest and abandon them,
the journey ended about the time specified. A rugged track, indeed, one
afternoon tried their patience. The horses laboured, the docile cow
limped and lagged, the girls complained, while Andrew’s countenance
became visibly elongated.

At length Dick Evans’s wooden facial muscles relaxed, as halting on the
hardly-gained hill-top he pointed with his whip-handle, saying simply,
‘There’s Warbrok! So the young ladies and gentlemen can see for
theirselves.’

How eagerly did the whole party gaze upon the landscape, which now, in
the clear light of the Southern eve, lay softly in repose before them!

The character of the scenery had changed with the wondrous suddenness
peculiar to the land in which they had come to dwell. A picture set in a
frame of forest and unfriendly thickets! Now before their eyes came with
magical abruptness a vision of green slopes, tall groves, and verdurous
meadows. It was one of nature’s forest parks. Traces of the imperfect
operations of a new country were visible, in felled timber, in naked,
girdled trees, in unsightly fences. But nature was in bounteous mood,
and had heightened the contrast with the barren region they had
over-passed, by a flushed abundance of summer vegetation. This lavish
profusion of herb and leaf imparted a richness of colouring, a clearness
of tone, which in a less favourable season of the year Warbrok must
perceptibly have lacked.

‘Oh, what a lovely, lovely place!’ cried Annabel, transported beyond
herself as she stood on tip-toe and gazed rapturously at the scene.
‘Those must be the Delectable Mountains. Dick, you are a Christian hero
[the old man smiled deprecatingly], I forgive you on the spot. And there
is the house, a _real_ house with two storeys—actually two—I thought
there were only cottages up the country—and an orchard; and is that a
blue cloud or the sea? We must have turned round again. Surely it can’t
be _our lake_? That would be too heavenly, and those glorious mountains
beyond!’

‘That’s Lake William, miss, called after His Gracious Majesty King
William the Fourth,’ explained Dick, accurate and reverential. ‘Fourteen
miles long and seven broad. You’ll find the house big enough, but it’s a
long way from being in good order; and it’s a mercy there’s a tree alive
in the orchard.’

‘Oh, never mind, we’ll soon put things to rights, won’t we, mamma? And
what splendid creatures those old trees will be when they come out in
leaf. I suppose it’s too early in the spring yet?’ continued she.

‘Dead—every one of ’em, miss,’ explained their conductor. ‘They’ve been
ring-barked, more’s the pity. They was beauties when I knowed ’em fust,
before the blessed tenants was let ruinate everything about the place. I
wonder there’s a stone of the house standing, that I do. And now, sir,
we’ll get on, and the young ladies can have tea in their own parlour, if
my old woman’s made a fire, accordin’ to orders.’

The hearts of the more reflective portion of the party were too full for
comment, so Annabel’s chatter was allowed to run on unchecked. A feeling
of despondency had been gradually stealing over Howard Effingham and his
wife, as for the two last stages they had pictured to themselves the
toil of building up a home amid the barren solitudes, such as, in their
innocence, they thought their new property might resemble. Now, here was
a spot in which they might live out their lives with cheerful and
contented minds, thankful that ‘their lines had fallen in pleasant
places’; having reason to hope that their children might dwell in peace
and prosperity after them.

‘We can never be sufficiently grateful to your dear old friend,’ said
Mrs. Effingham. ‘If he had not in the first place written you that
letter, Howard, and afterwards acted upon his opinion so boldly, what
might have been our fate?’

‘He always used to look after me when we were in the regiment,’ said her
husband acquiescingly; ‘I daresay he’ll find a similar pleasure in
taking charge of us now. Fortunately for you and the girls, he never
married.’

A few miles only needed to be traversed before Mr. Evans triumphantly
drove his team through the gate of the dilapidated garden fence
surrounding the front of a large old-fashioned stone mansion, with wide
verandah and lofty balcony, supported upon freestone pillars. A stout,
elderly woman of decided aspect opened the creaking hall door, and
casting a searching glance at Mr. R. Evans, made the strangers welcome.

‘I’m sure I’m very glad to see you, my lady,’ said she, bobbing an
antiquated curtsey, ‘and you, sir, and the young ladies and gentlemen.
I’ve done all I could to clean up the old barrack of a house; it was
that lonesome, and made me frighted with ghosts, as I thought I’d never
live to see you all; and Dick here, I knew there was no certainty of, as
might have gone to Timor, or the Indies, and never let on a word about
it. Please you to come in, my lady.’

‘My old woman’s temper is none of the best, Captain,’ said Dick, stating
the fact with philosophical calmness, ‘but I’ll warrant she’s cleaned up
as much as any two, and very bad it wanted it when Parson Sternworth
brought us over.’

Now that a nearer view was afforded of the demesne and dwelling, it was
evident that the place had been long abandoned to natural decay and
sordid neglect. The fences were rotten, gapped, or fallen; the orchard,
though the aged trees were high out of the reach of browsing cattle, had
been used as a convenient species of stock paddock; the climbers,
including a magnificent bignonia and a wistaria, the great laterals of
which had erstwhile clothed the verandah pillars with beauty and bloom,
were broken and twisted. In the rear of the building all the broken
bottles and bones of the land appeared to be collected; while, with
windows broken, shutters hanging on a single hinge, doors closing with
difficulty, or impossible to open, all things told of the recklessness
of ruined owners.

Still, in despite of all deficiencies, the essentials of value could not
be overlooked. The house, though naked and desolate of aspect, was large
and commodious, promising in its shingled roof and massive stone walls
protection against the heat of summer, the cold of winter. The deep
black mould needed but ordinary culture to respond generously. The
offices might be mouldering and valueless, but the _land_ was there,
thinly timbered, richly grassed, well adapted for stock of all kinds.
And though the gaunt limbs of the girdled trees looked sadly
unpicturesque between the front of the house and the lake shore, some
had been left untouched, and the grass was all the more richly swarded.
The lake itself was a grand indisputable fact. It was deep and fresh,
abounding in water-fowl, a priceless boon to dwellers in a climate
wherein a lack of rivers and permanent reservoirs is unhappily a
distinguishing characteristic.

Let it not be supposed that Wilfred and his mother, the girls and Jeanie
were outside the house all this time. Very promptly had Dick unloaded
the household stores, pressing all able-bodied persons, including his
wife, into the service, until the commissariat was safely bestowed under
shelter. His waggon was taken to the rear, his horses unharnessed, and
he himself in a marvellously short space of time enjoying a well-earned
pipe, and advising Andrew to bestow Daisy’s calf in a dilapidated but
still convertible calf-pen, so that his mother might graze at ease, and
yet be available for the family breakfast table in the morning.

‘The grass here is fust-rate,’ he said, in a tone of explanation to
Andrew. ‘There’s been a lot of rain in spring. It’s a pity but we had a
few good cows to milk. It would be just play for you and me and the
young master in the mornings. Teach him to catch hold like and learn him
the use of his hands.’

‘_Him_ milk!’ exclaimed Andrew, in a tone of horrified contempt. ‘And
yet—I dinna say but if it’s the Lord’s will the family should ha’ been
brocht to this strange land, it may be no that wrang that he should
labour, like the apostles, “working with his hauns.” There’s guid
warrant for’t.’

Meanwhile, inside the house important arrangements were proceeding. The
sitting-room, a great, bare apartment, had an ample fireplace, which
threw out a genial warmth from glowing logs. There was a large, solid
cedar table, which Mrs. Evans had rubbed and polished till the dark red
grain of the noble wood was clearly visible. Also a dozen _real_ chairs,
as Annabel delightedly observed, stood around, upon which it was
possible to enjoy the long-disused comfort of sitting down. Of this
privilege she promptly availed herself.

The night-draperies were disposed in the chief bedchamber, though until
the arrival of the furniture it was apparent that the primitive sleeping
accommodation of the road would need to be continued. Mr. Effingham and
his sons were luxuriously billeted in another apartment, where, after
their axle-tree experiences, they did not pity themselves.

Andrew and his family were disposed of in the divisions of the kitchen,
which, in colonial fashion, was a detached building in the rear. Mr. and
Mrs. Evans had, on their previous entry on the premises, located
themselves in an outlying cottage (or hut, as they called it), formerly
the abode of the dairyman, where their possessions had no need of
rearrangement. Even the dogs had quarters allotted to them, in the long
range of stabling formerly tenanted by many a gallant steed in the old
extravagant days of the colony, when unstinted hospitality and claret
had been the proverbial rule at Warbrok.

‘Oh dear!’ exclaimed Annabel from her chair, ‘what a luxurious feeling
it is to be once more in a _home_ of one’s own! Though it’s a funny old
place and must have been a tempting refuge for ghosts wandering in
search of quarters. And then to think that to-morrow morning we shall
not have to move on, for ever and ever. I was beginning to get the least
bit tired of it; were not you, mamma? Though I would have died sooner
than confess it.’

‘Words cannot describe how thankful I am, my dear child,’ said her
mother, ‘that we have had the good fortune to end this land journey so
well. It is the first one of the kind I ever undertook, and I trust it
will be the last. But let us remember in our prayers to-night _whose_
hand has shielded us from the perils of the deep, and whatever dangers
we may have escaped upon the land.’

‘I feel as if we had all been acting a charade or an extended _tableau
vivant_,’ said Rosamond. ‘Like you, Annabel, dear, I am not sorry that
the theatricals are over, though the play has been a success so far. It
has no more nights to run, fortunately for the performers. Our everyday
life will commence to-morrow. We must enter upon it in a cheerful,
determined spirit.’

‘I cannot help fancying,’ said Beatrice, ‘that colonial travellers enjoy
an unnecessary amount of prestige, or some experiences must differ from
ours. We might have had a Dick who would have lost his horses or
overturned the waggon, and bushrangers (there _are_ bushrangers, for I
saw in a paper that Donohoe and his gang had “stuck-up,” whatever that
means, Mr. Icely’s drays and robbed them) might have taken us captive.
We have missed the romance of Australian life evidently.’

Howard Effingham felt strangely moved as he walked slowly forth at dawn.
He watched the majestic orb irradiate the mist-shrouded turrets of the
great mountain range which lay to the eastward. Endless wealth of colour
was evoked by the day-god’s kiss, softly, stealingly, suffusing the
neutral-tinted dome, then with magical completeness flashing into
supernal splendour. The dew glistened upon the vernal greensward. The
pied warbler rolled his richest notes in flute-like carol. The
wild-fowl, on the glistening mirror of the lake, swam, dived, or flew in
playful pursuit. The bracing air was unspeakably grateful to Howard
Effingham’s rurally attuned senses. Amid this bounty of nature in her
less sophisticated aspects, his heart swelled with the thought that much
of the wide champaign, the woodland, and the water, over which his eye
roamed wonderingly, called him master. He saw, with the quick projection
of a sanguine spirit, his family domiciled once more with comfort and
security. And not without befitting dignity, so long despaired of. He
prized the ability to indulge again the disused pursuits of a country
life. Though in a far land, among strange people, separated by a whole
ocean from the scenes of his youth and manhood, he now felt for the
first time since the great disaster that contentment, even happiness,
was possible. Once more he felt himself a country gentleman, or at the
least an Australian squire. With the thought he recalled the village
chimes in their lost home, and his wife’s reference of every
circumstance of life to the special dispensation of a benign, overruling
Providence occurred to him. With unconscious soliloquy he exclaimed, ‘I
have not deserved this; God be merciful to me a sinner!’

Dick Evans, with his horses, now appeared upon the scene, bells,
hobbles, and all. He bore every appearance of having been up at least
two hours.

‘What a wonderful old fellow that is!’ said Wilfred, who had joined his
father; ‘day or night seems alike to him. He is always hard at work at
something or other—always helpful and civil, apparently good at a score
of trades, yet military as a pipe-clayed belt. Mr. Sternworth admitted
that he had faults, but up to this time we have never discovered them.’

‘If he has none, he is such an old soldier as I have never met,’ said
his father mildly. ‘Longer acquaintance will, I suppose, abate his
unnatural perfection. But, in any case, we must keep him on until we are
sufficiently acclimatised to set up for ourselves.’

‘Quite so, sir! We cannot have our reverend mentor always at beck and
call. We want some one here who knows the country and its ways. Guy and
I will soon pick up the lie of the land, as he calls it, but at present
we are all raw and ignorant together.’

‘Then we had better engage him at once. I suppose he can tell us the
proper wages.’

‘Very possibly; but now I think of it, sir, hadn’t you better delegate
the executive department to me? Of course to carry out your
instructions, but you might do worse than appoint me your responsible
minister.’

‘My boy!’ said Effingham, grasping his son’s hand, ‘I should have made
the suggestion if you had not anticipated me. I cheerfully yield the
management to you, as you will have the laborious part of the work. Many
things will need to be done, for which I am unfit, but which you will
gradually master. I fully trust you, both as an example to Guy and
Selden, and the guardian of your mother and sisters.’

‘As God will help me in my need, they will need no other,’ replied the
eldest son. ‘So far I have led a self-indulgent life. But the spur of
necessity (you must admit) has been wanting. Now the hour has come. You
never refused me a pleasure; trust me to fulfil every duty.’

‘I never have doubted it, my boy! I always knew that higher qualities
were latent in your nature. As you say, the hour has come. We were never
laggards when the trumpet-call sounded. And now, let us join the family
party.’

As they reached the house, from which they had rambled some distance,
the sun was two hours high, and the smoke issuing from the kitchen
chimney denoted that culinary operations were in progress. At that
moment a serviceable-looking dogcart, drawn by a wiry, roan horse,
trotted briskly along the track from the main road, and in drawing up,
displayed in the driver the welcome presentment of the Rev. Harley
Sternworth.

‘How do, Howard? How are you, Wilfred, my boy? Welcome to Warbrok—to
Warbrok Chase, that is. I shall learn it in time. Very proper addendum;
suits the country, and gratifies the young ladies’ taste. Thought I’d
catch you at your first breakfast. Here, Dick, you old rascal—that is,
you deserving veteran—take Roanoke.’

The somewhat decided features of the old army chaplain softened visibly
as, entering the bare uncarpeted apartment, he descried Mrs. Effingham
and her daughters sitting near the breakfast table, evidently awaiting
the master of the house. His quick eye noticed at once the progress of
feminine adaptation, as well as the marked air of comfort produced with
such scanty material.

He must surely have been gratified by the sensation he produced. The
girls embraced him, hanging upon his words with eagerness, as on the
accents of the recovered relative of the melodrama. Mrs. Effingham
greeted him with an amount of warmth foreign to her usual demeanour. The
little ones held up their faces to be kissed by ‘Uncle Harley.’

‘We are just going to have our first breakfast,’ said Annabel. ‘Sit down
this very minute. Haven’t we done wonders?’

Indeed, by the fresh, morning light, the parlour already looked homelike
and attractive. The breakfast table, ‘decored with napery,’ as Caleb
Balderstone phrased it, had a delicately clean and appetising
appearance. A brimming milk jug showed that the herbage of Warbrok had
not been without its effect upon their fellow-passenger from the Channel
Islands. A goodly round of beef, their last roadside purchase,
constituted the _pièce de résistance_. A dish of eggs and bacon,
supplied by Mrs. Evans, whose poultry travelled with her everywhere, and
looked upon the waggon as their home, added to the glory of the repast.
A large loaf of fresh bread, baked by the same useful matron, stood
proudly upon a plate, near the roadside tea equipage, and a kettle like
a Russian _samovar_. Nor was artistic ornamentation wholly absent.
Annabel had fished up a broken vase from a lumber room, which, filled
with the poor remnants of the borders, ‘where once a garden smiled,’ and
supplemented with ‘wild buttercups and very nearly daisies,’ as she
described the native flora, made an harmonious contribution.

Before commencing the meal, as Mr. Effingham took his seat at the head
of his own table once more, humble as were the surroundings, his wife
glanced at the youngest darling, Blanche. She ran across to a smaller
table covered with a rug, and thence lifting off a volume of some
weight, brought it to their guest. His eyes met those of his old comrade
and of her his life’s faithful companion. The chaplain’s eyes were
moistened, in despite of his efforts at composure. What recollections
were not summoned up by the recurrence of that simple household
observance? His voice faltering, at first, with genuine emotion, Harley
Sternworth took the sacred volume, and read a portion, before praying in
simple phrase, that the Great Being who had been pleased to lead the
steps of His servants to this far land, would guide them in all their
ways, and prosper the work of their hands in their new home. ‘May His
blessing be upon you all, and upon your children’s children after you,
in this the land of our adoption,’ said the good priest, as he arose in
the midst of the universal amen.

‘Do you know that it was by no means too warm when I left Yass at
daylight this morning? This is called a hot climate. But in our early
summer we have frosts sometimes worthy of Yorkshire. Yesterday there was
rather a sharp one. We shall have rain again soon.’

‘Oh, I hope not,’ said Annabel. ‘This is such lovely, charming weather.
So clear and bright, and not at all too warm. I should like it to last
for months.’

‘Then, my dear young lady, we should all be ruined. Rain rarely does
harm in this country. Sometimes there are floods, and people who live on
meadowlands suffer. But the more rain the merrier, in this country at
least. It is a land of contradictions, you know. Your Lake William,
here, will never overflow, so you may be easy in your minds, if it rains
ever so hard.’

‘And what does my thoughtful young friend, Rosamond, think of the new
home?’ inquired the old gentleman, looking at her with affectionate
eyes.

‘She thinks, Uncle Sternworth, that nothing better for us all could have
been devised in the wide world, unless the Queen had ordered her
Ministers to turn out Sir Percy de Warrenne and put us in possession of
Old Court. Even that, though Sir Percy is a graceless kinsman, might not
have been so good for us, as making a home for ourselves here, out of
our own heads, as the children say.’

‘And you are quite satisfied, my dear?’

‘More than satisfied. I am exulting and eager to begin work. In England
I suffered sometimes from want of occupation. Here, every moment of the
day will be well and usefully employed.’

‘And Miss Beatrice also approves?’

‘_Miss_ Beatrice says,’ replied that more difficult damsel, who was
generally held to be reserved, if not proud, ‘she would not have come to
Australia if it could have been helped. But having come, supposes she
will not make more useless lament than other people.’

‘Beatrice secretly hates the country, I know she does,’ exclaimed
Annabel, ‘and it is ungrateful of her, particularly when we have such a
lovely place, with a garden, and a lake, and mountains and sunsets, and
everything we can possibly want.’

‘I am not so imaginative as to expect to live on mountains and sunsets,
and I must confess it will take me a long time to become accustomed to
the want of _nearly_ all the pleasures of life, but I suppose I shall
manage to bear up my share of the family burdens.’

‘You have always done so hitherto, my dear,’ said Mrs. Effingham; ‘but
you are not fond of putting forward your good deeds—hardly sufficiently
so, as I tell you.’

‘Some one has run away with Beatrice’s share of vanity,’ said Rosamond.
‘But we must not stay talking all the morning. I am chief butler, and
shall have to be chief baker too, perhaps, some day. I must break up the
meeting, as every one has apparently breakfasted.’

‘And I must have a serious business conversation with your father and
Wilfred,’ said Mr. Sternworth. ‘Where is the study—the library, I mean?
Not furnished yet! Well, suppose we adjourn to the ex-drawing-room. It’s
a spacious apartment, where the late tenant, a practical man, used to
store his maize. There is a deal table, for I put it there myself. Guy,
you may as well ask Dick Evans to show you the most likely place for
wild-fowl. Better bring chairs, Wilfred. We are going to have a
“sederunt,” as they say in Scotland.’



                               CHAPTER IV
                     MR HENRY O’DESMOND OF BADAJOS


‘Now, Howard, my young friend!’ said the worthy man, as they settled
themselves at a small table, near a noble mantelpiece of Australian gray
marble, curiously marked with the imprints of the fossil encrinite, ‘I
address you as I used to do in our army days, for, with regard to money
matters, I feel sure you are as young as ever. In the first place, I
must render an account of my stewardship. Observe, here is the
conveyance to you and your heirs for ever of the estate of Warbrok, a
Crown grant to Colonel Rupert Falkland Warleigh, late of Her Majesty’s
80th Regiment, dated as far back as 1805, comprising 5174 acres, 1 rood,
3 perches, by him devised in equal shares to his sons—Randal, Clement,
and Hubert. It was not entailed, as were most of the early grants. They
fell away from the traditions of the family, and lived reckless,
dissipated lives. Their education was neglected—perhaps not the best
example exhibited to them by the old Colonel—he was always a gentleman
though—what wonder the poor boys went wrong? They came to be called the
“Wild Warleighs of Warbrok.” At last the end came. Hopelessly in debt,
they were forced to sell. Here are their signatures, duly attested. Your
purchase money, at the rate of 10s. per acre—a low price, but ready
money was very scarce in the colony at the time—amounted to £2587:5s.,
mentioned as the consideration. Out of your draft for £3000 remained,
therefore, £412:15s.; expenses and necessary farm work done, with wages
to Dick Evans and his wife, have amounted to £62:7s. This includes the
ploughing and sowing of a paddock—a field you would call it—of 20 acres
of wheat, as the season had to be availed of. I hand you a deposit
receipt for £350:8s., lodged to your credit in the Bank of New Holland,
at Yass, where I advise you to place the rest of your capital, and I
thereby wash my hands of you, pecuniarily, for the present.’

‘My dear old friend,’ said Effingham, ‘it is not for the first time that
you have pulled me through a difficulty, though never before did we face
one like this. But how comes it that I have money to receive? I thought
the draft of £3000 would barely suffice to pay for the estate.’

‘You must know that I transacted this piece of business through a
solicitor, a shrewd man of business, who kept my counsel, making no sign
until the property was put up to auction. The terms being cash, he had a
decided advantage, and it was not known until after the sale, for whom
he had purchased. So the Warleighs having retired, we must see what the
Effinghams will make of it.’

‘There will be no riotous living, at any rate,’ said Wilfred; ‘and now,
as you have done with the Governor, please advise me as to our future
course. I am the duly-appointed overseer—I believe that is the proper
title—and intend to begin work this very day.’

‘Couldn’t do better. We may as well call Dick Evans into council. He was
hired by me at 18s. per week, with board and lodging. For this wage he
engaged to give his own and wife’s services, also those of his team and
waggon. The wages are under the ordinary rate, but he explained that his
horses would get fat here, and that he liked being employed on a place
like Warbrok, and under an ex-officer in Her Majesty’s service. I should
continue the engagement for a few months, at all events; you will find
him most useful.’

‘Up to this time he has been simply perfect,’ said Wilfred. ‘It’s a
pleasure to look at such an active worker—so respectful, too, in his
manner.’

‘Our experience of the Light Infantry man, Howard,’ said Mr. Sternworth,
‘must prevent us from fully endorsing Wilfred’s opinion, but Dick Evans
is a good man; at all country work better, indeed, than most of his
class. Let us hear what he says.’

Probably anticipating some such summons he was not far off, having
returned from showing Guy a flock of wild-fowl. He walked into the room
and, saluting, stood at ease, as if such a thing as a chair had never
been by him encountered in the whole course of existence.

‘Corporal Evans!—pshaw! that is, Dick,’ said the worthy ex-military
priest, ‘I have sent for you to speak to Captain Effingham, and Mr.
Wilfred, who is to be farm manager and stock overseer. I have told them
that you are the very man for the place, when you behave yourself.’ Here
the keen grey eyes looked somewhat sternly at Mr. Evans, who put on a
look of mild surprise. ‘Are you willing to hire for six months at the
same rate of wages, with two rations, at which I engaged you? You will
work your team, I know, reasonably; and Mrs. Evans will wash and help
the ladies in any way she can?’

‘Well, Mr. Chaplain, the wages is not too high,’ replied Evans, ‘but I
like the place, and my horses knows the run, and does well here. _You_
know I like to serve a gentleman, ’specially one that’s been in the
service. I’ll stay on at the same rate for six months.’

‘Well, that’s settled. Now, let us have a talk about requirements. How
to use the grass to the best advantage?’

‘There’s no better place in the country-side for dairying,’ said Dick,
addressing himself to his clerical employer, as alone capable of
understanding the bearings of the case; ‘it’s a wonderful fine season,
and there’s a deal of grass going to waste. There’s stray cattle between
here and the other end of the lake as will want nothing better than to
clear it all off, as they’re used to do, if we’re soft enough to let
’em. Many a good pick they’ve had over these Warbrok flats, and they
naturally looks for it again, ’specially as there’s a new gentleman come
as don’t know the ways of the country. Now, what I should do, if I was
the master, would be to buy two or three hundred mixed cattle—there’s a
plenty for sale just now about Yass—and start a dairy. We might make as
much butter between now and Christmas as would pay middlin’ well, and
keep other people’s cattle from coming on the place and eating us out of
house and home, in a manner of speakin’.’

‘Good idea, Richard,’ said Mr. Sternworth; ‘but how about the yard and
cowshed? It’s nearly all down, and half-rotten. Mr. Effingham doesn’t
want to engage fencers and splitters, and have all the country coming
here for employment.’

‘There’s no call for that, sir,’ said the many-sided veteran. ‘I had a
look at the yard this morning. If I had a man to help me for a fortnight
I’ll be bound to make it cattle-proof with a load of posts and rails,
that I could run out myself, only we want a maul and wedges.’

‘I’ll be your man,’ said Wilfred, ‘if that’s all that’s necessary. I may
as well learn a trade without delay. Andrew can help, too, I daresay.’

‘_He’s_ not much account,’ quoth Dick disdainfully. ‘He thinks he knows
too much already. These new hands—no offence to you, sir—is more in the
way than anything else. But if you’ll buckle to, sir, we’ll soon make a
show.’

‘I know a stock agent who can get the exact cattle you want,’ said Mr.
Sternworth. ‘He told me that Mr. O’Desmond had a hundred young cows and
heifers for sale. They are known to be a fine breed of cattle.’

‘The best in the country,’ said Dick. ‘Old Harry O’Desmond never had any
but right down good horses, cattle, and sheep at Badajos, and if we give
a little more for them at the start it will be money saved in the end.
He’s the man to give us an extra good pick, when he knows they’re for an
officer and a gentleman.’

‘Our friend Richard has aristocratic notions, you observe,’ said the
parson, smiling. ‘But Harry O’Desmond is just the man to act as he says.
You will do well to treat with him.’

‘Only too happy,’ said Effingham. ‘Everything arranges itself with
surprising ease, with your aid. Is this kind of settling made easy to go
on for ever? It was almost a pity we took the voyage at all. You might
have made our fortunes, it seems to me, as a form of recreation, and
left us to receive the profits in England.’

‘And how am I to be paid, you heedless voluptuary, may I ask, if not by
the presence of your charming family? Since I’ve seen them I wouldn’t
have had the colony lose them for twice the value of the investment.
Besides, seriously, if the seasons change or a decline takes place in
the stock market you’ll need all _your_ brains and Wilfred’s to keep the
ship afloat. Never lose sight of the fact that this is an uncertain
land, with a more uncertain climate.’

‘It’s all right if you don’t overstock, sir,’ spoke the practical
Richard. ‘But Mr. Sternworth’s right. I mind the ’27 drought well. We
was forced to live upon kangaroo soup, rice, and maize meal, with
marshmallers and “fat hen” for a little salad. But they say the
climate’s changed like, and myster than it used to be.’

‘Climates _never_ change in their normal conditions,’ said Sternworth
positively. ‘Any assertion to the contrary is absurd. What has been will
be again. Let us make such provision as we can against droughts and
other disasters, and leave the rest to Providence, which has favoured
this land and its inhabitants so far.’

‘The fences seem dilapidated. Ought they not to be repaired at once?’
said Wilfred.

‘By degrees, all in good time,’ said the old gentleman testily. ‘We must
not go deeply into “improvements,” as they are called here, lest they
run away with our money at the commencement of affairs. Dick will
explain to you that the cattle can be kept in bounds without fencing for
a time. And now I feel half a farmer and half an exhausted parson. So I
think I must refresh myself with another look at the lady part of the
establishment, have a mouthful of lunch, and start for home.’

‘It’s a murder you didn’t take to farming, sir, like Parson Rocker,’
said Dick, with sincere regret in his tones. ‘You’d ha’ showed ’em
whether sojer officers can’t make money, though the folks here don’t
think so.’

‘I have my own work, Richard,’ said the old gentlemen. ‘It may be that
there is occasionally rather more of the church militant about me than
is prudent. But the town and neighbourhood of Yass will be the better
for old Harley Sternworth’s labours before we say farewell to one
another.’

‘I can now leave you all with perfect confidence,’ he said after lunch,
as Dick Evans brought Roanoke and the dogcart to the door. ‘The next
time I come I must bring an old friend to pay his respects, but that
will not be till the furniture has arrived. I foresee you will make
astonishing changes, and turn The Chase into the show mansion of the
district. I must bring you some of my “Souvenirs de Malmaison” and
“Madame Charles.” “The Cloth of Gold” and others I see you have. I am
prouder of my roses than of my sermons, I think. I don’t know which
require most care in pruning. Good-bye, my dear friends!’

The roan tossed his head, and set off at such a pace along the
grass-grown track which led to the main ‘down the country’ road, as the
highway from Yass to Sydney was provincially termed, that it was easy to
see he had been making a calculation as to the homeward route. The girls
looked after the fast-receding vehicle for a while before recommencing
their household tasks. Howard Effingham and his wife walked to and fro
along the pleasant sun-protected colonnade of the south verandah. When
they separated, little had been said which was free from praise of their
tried friend, or from thankfulness to the Almighty Disposer of events,
who had shown them His mercy in the day of need.

This eventful colloquy concluded, settled daily employment commenced for
all the denizens of The Chase. They rose early, and each one attended to
the duties allotted by special arrangement. Breakfast over, Wilfred
shouldered an axe and marched off with Dick Evans to some forest tree,
to be converted into posts and rails for the fast-recovering dairy-yard.

Andrew had betaken himself to the renovation of the orchard and garden
with grateful persistence, as he recalled his earlier feats at the
English home of the family, duly thankful for the opportunity of
exercising his energies in a direction wherein he could show himself
capable.

‘It’s gra-and soil,’ he was pleased to observe, ‘and I hae nae doot
whatever that I shall be able to grow maist unco-omon vegetables, gin I
had some food—that is, manure—to gie the puir things. The trees are sair
negleckit and disjaskit, but they’ll come round wi’ care and the knife.
The spring is a thocht advanced, as that auld carle Evans has gi’en me
to understand. I winna say he’s no auld farrand wi’ a’ the “bush” ways,
as they ca’ them, but he’s an awfu’ slave o’ Satan wi’ his tongue—just
fearsome. But gin ye’ll put me a fence round this bit park, Maister
Wilfred, I’ll show yon folks here that auld Andrew Cargill can grow
prize kail in baith hemispheres.’

‘We are going to split some palings before we are done,’ said Wilfred,
smiling at the old man’s rounding off of his sentence. ‘Then we’ll pull
this old fence down and take in more ground, so that you may exercise
your landscape gardening talent.’

‘This bit garden will keep my body employed and my thochts frae
unprofitable wanderings, brawly, during this season o’ inexperience. Ye
see, Maister Wilfred, it wadna become me, as a pairson o’ reflection, to
da-ash presumptuously into a’ matters o’ practice, but they canna haud
me to obsairve and gather up the ootcome of thae bush maitters, and bide
my time a wee, till the day comes when I can take my place at the
laird’s right hand ance mair.’

‘No one will be better pleased than I shall be, Andrew,’ said Wilfred,
heartily grasping the hand of his faithful servitor. ‘I’ll no deny that
he kens maist things befitting a dweller in the wilderness. The de’il’s
aye guid at gifts to his ain folk. But, wae’s me, he’s lightsome and
profane abune a’ belief.’

The great event of the year, after all, was the arrival of the drays
with the heavy luggage and the furniture reserved from sale.

Joy and thankfulness all too deep for words greeted the welcome wains,
promptly unladen, and their inestimable contents brought into the
shelter of the wide verandah before unpacking.

‘I never could have believed,’ said Mrs. Effingham, ‘that anything in
Australia could have had the power to afford me so much pleasure. The
refurnishing of our house at The Chase never produced half such pleasure
as I now feel at the prospect of seeing the old tables and chairs, the
sideboard, and my dear old davenport again.’

‘And the piano!’ cried Annabel. ‘What a luxury to us, who have been
tuneless and songless all these months! Even the morning “scales” would
have been better than nothing. I shall really go in for steady
practising—I know I never did before. There is nothing like being
starved a little.’

‘Starving seems to agree with you in a bodily sense,’ said Rosamond, ‘if
I may judge from certain alterations of dresses. But you are right in
believing that it gives a wonderful relish for mental food. Look at
these two lovely boxes of books. The library was sold, but here are many
of our old favourites. How I shall enjoy seeing their faces again!’

‘I am certain Jeanie must have _stolen_ a quantity of things after the
sale,’ asserted Beatrice, who had been examining the externals of the
packages; ‘bedding and curtains, and every kind of thing likely to be
useful. I expect my room will be so like the one at the old Chase that I
shall never find out the difference of a morning, till I go downstairs
and see the verandahs.’

‘There are no verandahs in England,’ said Guy, who was one of the
‘fatigue party,’ as Dick expressed it. ‘They ought to take a hint from
the colonies—stunning places they make on a wet day, or a hot one, I can
tell you.’

‘Where shall we tek this sideboard, mem?’ said Dick Evans, with his
ultra-respectful, family-servant intonation.

‘Into the dining-room, of course,’ screamed the delighted Annabel. ‘Why,
_every_ room in the house will be furnished more or less; it will be
quite a palace.’

Willing hands abounded, Mr. Evans in person superintending the opening
of the cases, taking care to draw nails in order to fit the boards for
future usefulness, so that, very shortly, the whole English shipment was
transferred to its final Australian resting-place.

Robinson Crusoe, when he had made the last successful raft-passage and
transhipment from the Guinea trader before she went down, could not have
been more grateful than our deported friends when the litter and the
cases and Dick and Andrew were cleared off, and they were free to gloat
over their precious property.

How different the rooms looked! There was an air of comfort and
refinement about the well-preserved furniture which was inexpressibly
comforting to the ex-dwellers in tents. The large rooms looked perhaps a
shade too bare, but in warm climates an Indian non-obtrusion of
upholstering is thought becoming. The well-remembered tones of the
piano, which glorified an unoccupied corner of the drawing-room, echoed
through that spacious apartment, now provided with a carpet almost as
good as new, which Jeanie’s provident care had abstracted from the
schoolroom at The Chase. The dear old round table was there, ‘out of
mother’s morning-room; the engravings from father’s study, particularly
those favourite ones of “The fighting Temeraire” and “Talavera”—all were
here. When the climbers grew up over the verandah pillars, shading the
front windows with the purple masses of the wistaria, there might be a
prettier room in Sydney, but in the bush they were sure it was
unsurpassed.’

Nor were Andrew and Jeanie devoid of personal interest in the arrival of
the treasure-waggons. Certain garden tools and agricultural implements,
dear to Andrew’s practical soul, now gladdened his eyes, also a
collection of carefully packed seeds. Besides all these, a rigorously
select list of necessaries in good order and preservation, once the
pride of his snug cottage, came to hand. For days after this arrival of
the Lares and Penates, the work of rearrangement proceeded unceasingly.
Mrs. Effingham and Rosamond placed and replaced each article in every
conceivable position. Annabel played and sang unremittingly. Jeanie
rubbed and polished, with such anxious solicitude, that table and chair,
wardrobe and sideboard, shone like new mahogany. Beatrice had possessed
herself of the bookcase, and after her morning share of housekeeping
work was performed, read, save at dinner, without stopping until it was
time to go for that evening walk which the sisters never omitted.

Once it fell upon a day that a gentleman rode up in leisurely fashion
towards the entrance gate. He was descried before he came within a
hundred yards, and some trepidation ensued while the question was
considered as to who should take his horse, and how that valuable animal
should be provided for.

Mr. Effingham, Guy, and Wilfred were away at the stock-yard, which by
this time was reported to be nearly in a state of efficiency. Andrew had
disappeared temporarily. The gentleman, for such plainly was his rank,
was a stalwart, distinguished-looking personage, sitting squarely, and
with something of military pose in his saddle. He was mounted upon a
handsome, carefully-groomed hackney. He reined up at the dilapidated
garden fence, and after looking about and seeing no appearance of an
entrance gate, as indeed that portal had been long blocked up by rails,
gathered up his reins, and clearing the two-railed fence with practised
ease, rode along the grass-grown path to the front door of the house. At
the same moment Dick Evans, who had just arrived with a load of palings,
appeared from the rear, and took his horse.

The stranger briskly dismounted, and knocked at the hall door with the
air of a man who was thoroughly acquainted with the locale. He bowed low
to Mrs. Effingham who opened it.

‘Permit me to make myself known as Henry O’Desmond, one of your
neighbours, my dear madam,’ said he, with the high-bred air of a man of
the world of fashion, who possesses also the advantage of being an
Irishman. ‘I presume I am addressing Mrs. Effingham. I have anticipated
the proper time for paying my respects; but there has been a matter of
business named by my agent, in which I hope to be able to serve Captain
Effingham. He is quite well, I trust?’

Mrs. Effingham explained that her husband had been perfectly well that
morning; furthermore, if Mr. O’Desmond would give them the pleasure of
his company to lunch, he would be enabled to make his acquaintance.

That gentleman bowed with an air of heartfelt gratitude, and asserted
that it would give him the sincerest gratification to have such an
opportunity of meeting Captain Effingham, to which he had looked
forward, since hearing of the good fortune that was about to befall the
district, from his respected friend the Rev. Mr. Sternworth.

Being introduced to the young ladies, Mr. O’Desmond, a handsome,
well-preserved man, promptly demonstrated that he was capable of
entertaining himself and them until his host should think fit to arrive.
Indeed, when Mrs. Effingham, who had left the room for reasons connected
with the repast, returned, having captured her husband, and
superintended his toilet, she found her daughters and their guest
considerably advanced in acquaintance.

‘Oh, papa,’ said Annabel, ‘Mr. O’Desmond says there’s such a lovely view
about ten miles from here—a ravine full of ferns, actually _full_ of
them; and a waterfall—a real one! It is called Fern-tree Gorge; and he
has invited us all to a picnic there some day.’

‘Very happy to make Mr. O’Desmond’s acquaintance,’ said Effingham,
advancing with a recollection of old days strong upon him. ‘We are
hardly aware yet in what consists the proper proportion of work and play
in Australia; and in how much of the latter struggling colonists can
indulge. We shall be very grateful for information on the subject.’

‘And right welcome you are, my dear sir, to both, especially to the
latter. They’ll tell you that Harry O’Desmond is not unacquainted with
work during the twenty years he has spent in this wild country. But for
fun and recreation he’ll turn his back on no man living.’

‘Here is my lieutenant, and eldest son; permit me to introduce him. He
is burning to distinguish himself in the practical line.’

‘Then he couldn’t have a better drill instructor than my old
acquaintance, Dick Evans—wonderfully clever in all bush work, and
scrupulous after his own fashion. But, see here now, I came partly to
talk about cows, till the young ladies put business clean out of my
head. I’m told you want to buy cattle, Mr. Wilfred; if you’ll mount your
horse and take old Dick with you to-morrow morning, he’ll show you the
way to Badajos, and I’ll pick you the best hundred cows this day in the
country.’

This was held to be an excellent arrangement, and lunch being now
proclaimed, a temporary cessation of all but society talk took place.
Every one being in the highest spirits, it was quite a brilliant
symposium. It was a novel luxury to be again in the society of a
pleasant stranger, well read, travelled, and constitutionally agreeable.
O’Desmond sketched with humour and spirit the characteristic points of
their nearest neighbours; slightly satirised the local celebrities in
their chief town of Yass; and finally departed, having earned for
himself the reputation of an agreeable, well-bred personage; a perfect
miracle of a neighbour, when ill-hap might have made him equally near
and unchangeably disagreeable.

‘What a delightful creature!’ said Annabel. ‘Didn’t some one say before
we left home that there were no gentlemen in Australia—only “rough
colonists”? I suppose that English girls will call us “rough colonists”
when we’ve been here a few years. Why, he’s like—oh, I know now—he’s the
very image of the Knight of Gwynne. Fancy lighting on a facsimile of
that charming old dear—of course Mr. Desmond is not nearly so old. He’s
not young though, and takes great care of himself, you can see.’

‘He’s not so _very_ old, Annabel,’ said Beatrice mischievously. ‘That is
the kind of man I should advise you to marry. Not a foolish boy of
five-and-twenty.’

‘Thank you, Beatrice,’ said Annabel, with dignity. ‘I’ll think over it
and let you know. I don’t think it’s probable I should ever marry any
one only a little older than myself. What could he know? I should laugh
at him if he was angry. But Wilfred is going over to Badajos, or
whatever is the name of the O’Desmond’s place, to-morrow, so he can
bring us back a full, true, and particular account of everything, and
whether Rosamond, or you, dear, would be the fitter helpmate for him.
I’m too young and foolish at present, and might be more so—that is,
foolish, not young, of course.’

‘I notice that the air of this climate seems to have a peculiar effect
upon young people’s tongues,’ said the soft voice of Mrs. Effingham.
‘They seem to run faster here than in England.’

Mr. Desmond’s property, Badajos, was nearly twenty miles from Warbrok
Chase. As it had been clearly settled that Wilfred should go there on
the following day, arrangements had to be made. Dick must accompany him
for the double purpose of confirming any selection of cattle. That
veteran cheerfully endorsed the idea, averring that now the yard was all
but finished, and the fencing stuff drawn in, leave of absence could be
well afforded. He therefore put on a clean check shirt, and buckled a
pea-jacket in front of his saddle, which he placed upon his old mare,
and was ready for the road.

Provided with a stock-whip, taken from his miscellaneous possessions,
with lighted pipe and trusty steed, his features wore the expression of
anticipated happiness, which distinguishes the schoolboy out for a
holiday. He passed Andrew Cargill with an air of easy superiority, as
that conscientious labourer, raising his moistened brow as he delved at
the long-untilled beds, could not refrain from a look of astonishment at
this new evidence of universal capacity, as he marked Dick’s easy seat
and portentous whip.

He muttered, ‘I wadna doot but that the auld graceless sorrow can ride
through braes and thickets, and crack yon muckle clothes-line they ca’ a
stock-wheep like ony lad. The de’il aye makes his peets o’ masterfu’
men, wae’s me.’

A difficulty arose as to Wilfred’s steed. Mr. Sternworth had declined
the delicate task of remount agent. Thus The Chase was temporarily
unprovided with horseflesh. However, Dick Evans was not a man to be
prevented from carrying out a pleasant expedition for want of a horse to
ride. Sallying out early, he had run in a lot of the ownerless animals,
always to be found in the neighbourhood of unstocked pastures. Choosing
from among them a sensible-looking cob, and putting Wilfred’s English
saddle and bridle on him, he led him up to the garden gate, where he
stood with his ordinary air of deep respectability.

‘I was just wondering how in the world I was to get a horse,’ said
Wilfred. ‘I see you have one. Did you borrow, or buy, or steal one for
my use?’

‘I’ve been many a year in this country, Mr. Wilfred, without tekkin’
other people’s property, and I’m too old to begin now. But there’s 2C on
this chestnut pony’s near shoulder. I’m nigh sure it’s Bill Chalker’s
colt, as he lost two years ago, and told me to keep him in hand, if ever
I came acrost him.’

‘Then I may ride him without risk of being tried for horse-stealing, or
lynched, if they affect that here,’ said Wilfred gaily. ‘I shouldn’t
care to do it in England, I know.’

‘Things is quite different on the Sydney Side,’ said Mr. Evans with mild
dogmatism.

Wilfred did not consider this assertion to be conclusive, but time
pressing, and the ready-saddled horse inviting his approval, he
compounded with his conscience by taking it for granted that people were
not particular as to strayed horses. The fresh and spirited animal,
which had not been ridden for months, but was (luckily for his rider)
free from vice, snorted and sidled, but proceeded steadily in the main.
He soon settled down to the hand of a fair average horseman.

Noticing fresh objects of interest in each flowering shrub, in the birds
that flew overhead, or the strange animals that ever and again crossed
their path, about each and all of which his retainer had information to
offer, the time did not hang heavily on hand. They halted towards
evening before a spacious enclosure, having passed through which, they
came upon a roomy cottage, surrounded by a trim orchard, and backed up
by farm buildings.

‘Here’s Badajos, Mr. Wilfred,’ said his guide. ‘And a better kept place
there ain’t in the whole country side.’

‘Welcome to Badajos, Mr. Effingham,’ said the proprietor. ‘William, take
this gentleman’s horse; you know your way, Dick. We’ll defer business
till the morning. I have had the cattle yarded, ready for drafting;
to-morrow you can choose the nucleus of a good herd. I shall be proud to
put you in the way of cattle-farming in the only true way to succeed—by
commencing with females of the right kind.’

As Wilfred followed his entertainer into the house, he felt unaffectedly
surprised at the appearance of elegance mingled with comfort which
characterised the establishment. The rooms were not large, but arranged
with an attention of detail which he had not expected to find in a bush
dwelling. The furniture was artistically disposed. Books and periodicals
lay around. High-class engravings, with a few oil-paintings, which
recalled Wilfred Effingham’s past life, hung on the walls. Couches and
lounges, of modern fashion, looked inviting, while a Broadwood piano
stood in the corner of the drawing-room, into which he followed his
host.

‘I am a bachelor, more’s the pity,’ said Mr. O’Desmond; ‘but there’s no
law against a little comfort in the wilderness. Will you take some
refreshment now? Or would you like to be shown to your room?’

Wilfred accepted the latter proposal. In a very comfortable chamber he
proceeded to divest himself of the traces of the road, after a leisurely
and satisfactory fashion. He had barely regained the drawing-room, when
a gong sounded with a melodiously reminiscent clang.

The dinner was after the fashion of civilised man. Soup and fish, fresh
from a neighbouring stream, with meritorious entrées and entremets,
showed skill beyond that of an ordinary domestic. While the host, who
had sufficiently altered his attire for comfort, without committing the
_bêtise_ of out-dressing a guest, as he recommended a dry sherry, or
passed the undeniable claret, seemed an embodied souvenir of London,
Paris, Vienna, of that world of fortune and fashion which Wilfred was
vowed to forsake for ever. Next morning the sun and Mr. W. Effingham
arose simultaneously. Dick Evans had anticipated both, and was standing
at ease near the stable.

‘This place is worth looking at, sir. You don’t see nothing to speak of
out of order—tidy as a barrack-yard.’

Wonderfully trim and orderly was the appearance of all things. The
enclosure referred to was neatly gravelled, and showed not a vagrant
straw. The garden was dug, raked, and pruned into orderly perfection.
The servants’ quarters, masked by a climber-covered trellis, were
ornamental and unostentatious. The dog-kennels, tenanted by pointers,
greyhounds, collies, and terriers, were snug and spacious. The stables
were as neat as those of a London dealer. It was a show establishment.

‘Mr. O’Desmond’s servants must be attached to him, to work so well,’
said Wilfred.

‘Humph!’ replied the veteran, ‘he makes ’em toe the line pretty smart,
and quite right too,’ he added, with a grim setting of his under jaw.
‘He was in the colony afore there was many free men in it. Shall we walk
down to the milking-yard, sir?’

The full-uddered shorthorn cows, with their fragrant breath and mild
countenances, having been admired in their clean, paved milking-yard, a
return was made towards the cottage. As they neared the garden,
O’Desmond rode briskly up to the stable door, and dismounting, threw the
reins to a groom, who stood ready as a sentinel.

‘The top of the morning to you, Mr. Effingham; I trust you slept well? I
have had a canter of a few miles, which will give me an appetite for
breakfast. I rode over to the drafting-yards, to make sure that the
cattle were there, according to orders. Everything will be in readiness,
so that you can drive easily to Warbrok to-night. You can manage that,
Dick, can you not?’

‘Easy enough, if you’ll send a boy with us half-way, Mr. O’Desmond,’
replied Dick. ‘You see, sir, Mr. Effingham’s rather new to
cattle-driving, and if the young heifers was to break back, we might
lose some of them.’

‘Quite right, Dick; you are always right where stock are concerned—that
is, the driving of them,’ he added. ‘I look to you to stay with Mr.
Effingham till his dairy herd is established. I shall then have the
pleasure of adding his name to that of the many gentlemen in this
district whose fortunes I have helped to make.’

‘Quite true, sir,’ assented Dick heartily. ‘The Camden sheep and the
Badajos cattle and horses are known all over the country by them as are
judges. But you don’t want me to be praising on ’em up—they speak for
themselves.’

Breakfast over, as faultless a repast as had been the dinner, it became
apparent that Mr. O’Desmond held punctuality nearly in as high esteem as
comfort. His groom stood ready in the yard with his own and Wilfred’s
horses saddled, the shining thorough-bred, which he called his hackney,
offering a strong contrast to the unkempt though well-conditioned animal
which his guest bestrode.

As they rode briskly along the winding forest track, Wilfred, observing
the quality of his host’s hackney, the silver brightness of his bit and
stirrup-irons, the correctness of his general turn-out, remembering also
the completeness of the establishment and the character of the
hospitality he had enjoyed, doubted within himself whether, in course of
time, the owner of Warbrok Chase might ever attain to such a pinnacle of
colonial prosperity.

‘How incredible this would all appear to some of my English friends!’ he
thought. ‘I can hardly describe it without the fear of being supposed to
exaggerate.’

‘Here we are,’ said O’Desmond, reining up, and dismounting at a
substantial stock-yard, while a lad instantly approached and took his
horse. ‘I have ordered the heifers and young cows to be placed in this
yard. We can run them through before you. You can make your choice, and
reject any animals below the average.’

‘They look rather confused at present,’ answered Wilfred; ‘but I suppose
Dick here understands how to separate them.’

‘I’ll manage that, never you fear, sir—that is, if you and Mr. O’Desmond
have settled about the price.’

‘I may state now,’ remarked that gentleman, ‘that the price, four pounds
per head, mentioned to me on your account by your agent is a liberal
one, as markets go. I shall endeavour to give you value in kind.’

‘It’s a good price,’ asserted Dick; ‘but Mr. O’Desmond’s cattle are
cheaper at four pounds all round than many another man’s about here at
fifty shillings. If he lets me turn back any beast I don’t fancy, we’ll
take away the primest lot of cattle to begin a dairy with as has
travelled the line for years.’

‘I will give you my general idea of the sort of cattle I prefer,’ said
Wilfred, not minded to commence by leaving the _whole_ management in any
servant’s hands, ‘then you can select such as appear to answer the
description.’

‘All right, sir,’ quoth Mr. Evans, mounting the fence. ‘I suppose you
want ’em large-framed cattle, good colours, looking as if they’d run to
milk and not to beef, not under three, and not more than five year old,
and putty quiet in their looks and ways.’

‘That is exactly the substance of what I was going to say to you,’ said
Wilfred, with some surprise. ‘It will save me the trouble of
explaining.’

‘We may as well begin, sir,’ said Dick, addressing himself to the
proprietor. Then, in quite another tone, ‘Open the rails, boys; look
sharp, and let ’em into the drafting-yards.’

The cattle were driven through a succession of yards after such a
fashion that Wilfred was enabled to perceive how the right of choice
could be exercised. By the time the operation was concluded he felt
himself to be inducted into the art and mystery of ‘drafting.’ Also, he
respected himself as having appreciably helped to select and separate
the one hundred prepossessing-looking kine which now stood in a separate
yard, recognised as his property.

‘You will have no reason to be dissatisfied with your choice,’ said
O’Desmond. ‘They look a nice lot. I always brand any cattle before they
leave my yard. You will not object to a numeral being put on them before
they go? It will assist in their identification in case of any coming
back.’

‘Coming back!—come back twenty miles?’ queried Wilfred, with amazement.
‘How could they get back such a distance?’

‘Just as you would—by walking it, and a hundred to the back of that. So
I think, say, No. 1. brand—they are A1 certainly—will be a prudent
precaution.’

‘Couldn’t do a better thing,’ assented Dick. ‘We’ll brand ’em again when
we go home, sir; but if we lost ’em anyway near the place, they’d be all
here before you could say Jack Robinson.’

A fire was quickly lighted, the iron brands were heated, the cows driven
by a score at a time into a narrow yard, and for the first time in his
life Wilfred saw the red-hot iron applied to the hide of the live
animal. The pain, like much evil in this world, if intense, was brief;
the cows cringed and showed disapproval, but soon appeared to forget.
The morning was not far advanced when Wilfred Effingham found himself
riding behind a drove, or ‘mob’ (as Dick phrased it), _of his own
cattle_.

‘There goes the best lot of heifers this day in the country,’ said the
old man, ‘let the others be where they may. Mr. O’Desmond’s a rare man
for givin’ you a good beast if you give him a fair price; you may trust
him like yourself, but he’s a hard man and bitter enough if anybody
tries to take advantage of him.’

‘And quite right too, Dick. I take Mr. O’Desmond to be a most honourable
man, with whom I shouldn’t care to come to cross purposes.’

‘No man ever did much good that tried that game, sir. He’s a bad man to
get on the wrong side of.’



                               CHAPTER V
                       ‘CALLED ON BY THE COUNTY’


When the important drove reached Warbrok, great was the excitement.
Wilfred’s absence was the loss of Hamlet from the play; his return the
signal for joy and congratulation. The little commonwealth was visibly
agitated as the tired cattle trailed along the track to the stock-yard,
with Dick sitting bolt upright in his saddle behind them, and Wilfred
essaying to crack the inconveniently long whip provided for him.

The girls made their appearance upon the verandah; Andrew looked forth
as interested, yet under protest. Guy walked behind, and much admired
the vast number and imposing appearance of the herd; while Captain and
Mrs. Effingham stood arm in arm at a safe distance appreciating the
prowess of their first-born.

‘Now, sir,’ quoth the ready Dick, ‘we’ll put ’em in the yard and make
’em safe to-night; to-morrow, some one will have to tail ’em.’

‘Tail them?’ said Wilfred. ‘Some of their ears have been scolloped, I
see; but surely it is not necessary to cut their tails in a hot climate
like this?’

‘S’cuse me, sir,’ said Dick respectfully, ‘I wouldn’t put the knife to
them for pounds; “tailing” means shepherdin’.’

‘And what does “shepherding” mean? I thought shepherds were only for
sheep?’

‘Well, sir, I never heerd talk of shepherdin’ at home, but it’s a
currency word for follerin’ anything that close, right agin’ their
tails, that a shepherd couldn’t be more careful with his sheep; so we
talk of shepherdin’ a s’picious c’rakter, or a lot of stock, or a man
that’s tossicated with notes stickin’ out of his pocket, or a young
woman, or anything that wants lookin’ after very partickler.’

‘Now I understand,’ said Wilfred. ‘It’s not a bad word, and might be
used in serious matters.’

‘No mistake about that, sir. Now the yard’s finished off and topped up,
we’ll soon be able to make a start with the dairy. There’ll be
half-a-dozen calves within the week, and more afore the month’s out.
There’s nothin’ breaks in cows to stop like their young calves; you’ll
soon see ’em hanging about the yard as if they’d been bred here,
’specially as the feed is so forrard. There’s no mistake, a myst season
do make everything go pleasant.’

When the cattle were in the yard, and the slip rails made safe by having
spare posts put across them, Wilfred unsaddled his provisional mount and
walked into the house in a satisfactory mental condition.

‘So, behold you of return!’ quoted Rosamond, running to meet him, and
marching him triumphantly into the dining-room, where all was ready for
tea. ‘The time has been rather long. Papa has been walking about, not
knowing exactly what to do, or leave undone; Guy shooting, not
over-successfully. The most steadily employed member of the household,
and the happiest, I suppose, has been Andrew, digging without
intermission the whole time.’

‘I wish we could dig too, or have some employment found for us,’ said
Annabel; ‘girls are shamefully unprovided with real work, except
stocking-mending. Jeanie won’t let us do anything in the kitchen, and
really, that is the only place where there is any fun. The house is so
large, and echoing at night when the wind blows. And only think, we
found the mark of a pistol bullet in the dining-room wall at one end,
and there is another in the ceiling!’

‘How do you know it was a pistol shot?’ inquired Wilfred. ‘Some one
threw a salt-cellar at the butler in the good old times.’

‘Perhaps it was fired in the good old times; perhaps it killed some
one—how horrible! Perhaps he was carried out through the passage. But we
know it was a shot, because Guy poked about and found the bullet
flattened out.’

‘Well, we must ask Evans; very likely old Colonel Warleigh fired pistols
in his mad fits. He used to sit, they say, night after night, drinking
and cursing by himself after his wife died and his sons left him. No one
dared go near him when his pistols were loaded. But we need not think of
these things now, Annabel. He is dead and gone, and his sons are not in
this part of the country. So I see you have had flower-beds made while I
was away. I declare the wistaria and bignonia are breaking into flower.
How gorgeous they will look!’

‘Yes, mamma said she could not exist without flowers any longer, so we
persuaded Andrew, much against his will,—for he said “he was just fair
harassed wi’ thae early potatoes,”—to dig these borders. Guy helped us
to transplant and sow seeds, so we shall have flowers of our own once
more.’

‘We shall have everything of our own in a few years if we are patient,’
said Wilfred; ‘and you damsels don’t want trips to watering-places, and
so on. This life is better than Boulogne, or the Channel Islands, though
it may be a trifle lonely.’

‘Boulogne! A thousandfold,’ said Rosamond. ‘Here we have life and hope.
Those poor families we used to see there looked liked ghosts and
apparitions of their old selves. You remember watching them walking down
drearily to see the packet come in—the girls dowdy or shabby, the old
people hopeless and apathetic, the sons so idle and lounging? I shudder
when I think how near we were to such horrors ourselves. The very air of
Australia seems to give one fresh life. Can anything be finer than this
sunset?’

In truth, the scene upon which her eyes rested might have cheered a
sadder heart than that of the high-hearted maiden who now, with her arm
upon her brother’s shoulder, directed his gaze to the far empurpled
hills, merging their violet cloud masses and orange-gold tints in the
darkening eve. The green pastures, relieved by clumps of heavy-foliaged
trees, glowed emerald bright against the dark-browed mountain spur. The
dying sun-rays fell in fire-flakes of burning gold on the mirrored
silver of the lake. Wrapped in soft tremulous mist lay the hills upon
the farther shore, vast with the subtle effect of limitless distance. At
such times one could dream with the faith of older days—that Earth, the
universal mother, loved her children, and breathed forth in growth of
herb and flower her smiling welcome.

That night, as the Effinghams sat around their table, an unconscious
feeling of thankfulness swelled each heart. The parents saw assurance of
a well-provided suitable home for the little troop, the probable
disbanding of which had cost such sad forebodings. The sons, strong in
the faith of youth, saw a future of adventure, well-rewarded labour,
perhaps brilliant success. The girls felt that their lives would not be
henceforth deprived of the social intercourse which had once been an
ordinary condition of existence.

‘How did you fare at Mr. O’Desmond’s, my son? What kind of an
establishment does he keep?’ inquired Mrs. Effingham.

‘You will all be rather astonished,’ answered Wilfred mysteriously.
‘What should you think, Annabel? You are a good hand at guessing.’

‘Let me think. He is very aristocratic and dignified, yet he might live
in a hut. Men are so independent of rooms or houses, almost of
looking-glasses. Now a woman in a poky little place always shows it in
her dress. I should say he lives in a comfortable cottage, and has
everything very complete.’

‘And you would be right. We shall have to mind our manners and dinners
when he comes again. He lives like a club bachelor, and is as well
lodged as—let us say—a land steward on an absentee nobleman’s estate.’

‘You must be romancing, Wilfred,’ said Beatrice. ‘Where could he get the
luxuries that such a great man as you have described could procure? What
a wonderful difference a few thousand miles makes! We think ourselves
not so much worse, essentially, than we were in England; but we must be
deteriorating.’

‘Don’t talk nonsense, my dear Beatrice,’ said Rosamond. ‘Is it not a
little vulgar to attach so much weight to externals? As long as we are
doing our duty, why should there be any deterioration? It will be our
own fault if we adopt a lower level of manners.’

‘Oh, but how can any one expect to be the same in colonial society?’
exclaimed Annabel. ‘See how insignificant even the “best people” are out
here. Why, I was reading yesterday about a “country baronet,” and even a
“well-meaning, unfashionable countess,” being looked down
upon—positively laughed at—in England. Now think what tremendous
potentates they would be out here! I’m sure that proves what I say.’

‘Your propositions and proofs are worthy of one another, my dear,’ said
Wilfred. ‘But as to society, I shan’t be sorry when more of our
neighbours call.’

‘Now that the house is fit to receive them I shall be pleased, my dear
son, to see the people of the land. I am sure I hope there are some nice
ones.’

Wilfred rose early next morning to indulge himself with another look at
the new cattle. He was only just in time, as Dick had breakfasted,
caught his horse, and was about to let out the imprisoned drove.

‘I’ll tail ’em for the first few days, sir,’ he said, ‘till I give ’em
the way of camping under them big trees near the little swamp. It will
make a first-rate camp for ’em, and learn ’em to run handy to the place.
After that we must get some sort of a lad to foller ’em. It won’t pay
you to keep me at blackfellow’s work.’

‘What’s that?’ inquired Wilfred.

‘Why, simple work like this, that any black boy could do, if he didn’t
give his mind to ’possums. Besides, we wants a horse-yard, and a bit of
a paddock, and another field cleared, to plough for next year.’

‘That seems a good deal of work to carry on, Richard. Won’t it take more
hands? Remember, we must go economically to work. My father is by no
means a rich man.’

‘That’s quite right, sir; no one should run themselves out of pocket,
high or low. But if we had some one to go with these cows till the
calves come, and that won’t be long, you and I could do what work I’ve
chalked out.’

‘Why should not Guy “tail” the cows, as you call it?’ suggested Wilfred,
pleased with the idea that they would be able to provide labour from
their own community. ‘It would do him no harm.’

‘Perhaps the young gentleman mightn’t like it,’ said Dick, with deep
respect. ‘It’s dull work, every day, like.’

‘Oh, he _must_ like it!’ decided Wilfred, with the despotic elder
brother tone. ‘We have come out here to work, and he must take his
share. He may find it dull for a time; but he can shoot a little and
amuse himself, as long as he doesn’t come home without them, like Little
Bo-peep. What would a boy cost?’

‘About six or eight shillings a week, and his rations, sir, which would
come to as much again. But the young master needn’t stay out after four
o’clock.’

‘Then we make a saving at once of say sixteen shillings a week. Guy
never earned so much in his life before. He will be quite proud of his
value in the labour market. You and I can begin splitting and fencing at
once.’

‘But we shall want some more cattle, sir,’ suggested Dick.

‘More cattle!’ said Wilfred in amazement, to whom a hundred head was an
awe-striking number. ‘What for?’

‘Why, to eat! It don’t do to buy meat every time you want a roast or a
steak. Cheapest to kill your own. If we was to buy a mob of common
cattle, they’d cost nothing to speak of; the bullocks soon fatten, and
the cows would breed you up a fair mixed herd in no time.’

‘Well, but we have these cattle you have just let out,’ pleaded Wilfred,
looking admiringly at the red, white, and roan shorthorn crosses, which,
spreading over the rich meadow, were feeding quietly, as if reared
there.

‘Them’s all very well, sir; but it’ll be years before you kill a bullock
out of that lot; they’ve got to come, all in good time. But the quiet
steers, and the worst of the cows, in a mixed herd, will be fat before
you can look round, in a season like this, and your beef won’t cost you
above a penny a pound.’

It was decided that Guy was to ‘tail’ or herd the new cows at present.
Upon this duty being named to him, he made no objection—rather seemed to
like it.

‘I suppose as long as I don’t lose them I can do anything I like,’ he
said; ‘hunt ’possums, shoot, ferret out ferns for Rosamond, or even
read.’

‘The more you lets the cattle alone the better, Mr. Guy,’ said Dick. ‘As
long as they don’t sneak away from you, you can’t take it too easy.
There’s fine feed all roads now, and after the first hour or two they’ll
fill theirselves and lie down like working bullocks. But you’ll want a
horse.’

‘That I shall,’ said the boy, beginning to take up the fashions of the
bush, and to rebel at the idea of going on foot, as if mankind was a
species of centaur.

‘Must have more horses too, sir,’ announced Dick, with a calm air of ask
and have.

‘How many?’ returned Wilfred uncomplyingly; ‘it seems we shall want more
horses—we haven’t any, certainly—more cattle, more tillage, more yards,
more paddocks; it will soon come to wanting more money, and where to get
_that_ I don’t know.’

‘Horses are dirt cheap, sir, just now, and can’t be done without, nohow.
You’ll want a cob for the Captain to potter about on, a couple of hacks
for yourself, one apiece for Mr. Guy and the young ladies—they’d like a
canter now and then afore Christmas. I hear Mick Donnelly’s selling off,
to clear out for Monaro. You couldn’t do better than ride over and see
his lot; they’ll be pretty sure to live on our grass, if any of the
neighbours gets ’em, and you may as well have that profit out of ’em
yourself.’

The conversation having come to an end, Mr. Evans was about to move
after his cattle, now indulging in a pretty wide spread, when a horseman
joining them, greeted Wilfred.

‘Good-morning, sir,’ said the stranger, with loud, peculiar, but not
unpleasant voice, having a note of culture too. ‘Glad to make your
acquaintance; Mr. Effingham, I believe? We’re neighbours, on the south,
about ten miles from Benmohr. You haven’t seen a chestnut pony about,
branded 2C? He used to run here in Hunt’s time. Why, hang me! if he
isn’t coming up to show himself!’

The chestnut pony which had borne Wilfred so successfully in the journey
for the new cattle now trotted up, having followed Evans’s mare, to
which animal he had attached himself, after the manner of horses, prone
to contract sudden friendships.

Wilfred, about to disclaim any knowledge of the strange gentleman’s
chestnut, not dreaming that the estray which had come in so handily
could be his property, and as yet not given to reading at a glance 2C or
other hieroglyph, felt rather nonplussed, more especially when he
noticed the stranger’s eye attracted to the saddle-mark on the pony’s
fat back.

‘I must confess to having ridden your horse, if he be so, a short
journey. We were not aware of his ownership, and I had no horse of my
own. I trust you will forgive the liberty.’

‘He _has_ rather nice paces. How did you like him?’ inquired the
stranger urbanely, much as if he had a favour conferred upon him. ‘I’ll
run him into the yard now with your permission, and lead him home.’

‘Pray come in, and allow me to introduce you to my people,’ said
Wilfred, satisfied, from the stranger’s bearing, that he was a desirable
acquaintance. ‘With the exception of Mr. O’Desmond, from whom I bought
these cattle, we have not seen a neighbour yet.’

‘Know them all in time,’ said the stranger; ‘no great shakes, some of
them, when you _do_ know them. My name’s Churbett, by the bye—Fred
Churbett, of The Oaks; cattle station on Banksia Creek, used to be
called She-oak Flat—had to change it. Nice cattle O’Desmond let you
have; got good stock, but makes you pay for them.’

‘How you have improved the old place!’ continued Mr. Churbett, as they
approached the house. ‘Who would believe that so much could have been
made of it? Never saw it in the palmy days of Colonel Warleigh, though.
Seems to have run in the military line of ownership. The old boy kept up
great state. Four-in-hand always to Yass, they say. Coachman, butler,
lots of servants—convicts, of course. Awful temper; cursed freely, drank
ditto. Sons not behindhand, improved upon the paternal sins—gambling,
horse-racing, Old Harry generally. Had to clear out and sell. Great pull
for the district having a family straight from “home” settled in it.’

‘I trust the advantage will be mutual,’ said Wilfred. ‘We hope to be
neighbourly when we are quite settled. But you will understand that it
has taken us a little time to shake down.’

‘Thought of that,’ said Mr. Churbett, ‘or should have had the pleasure
of calling before. Trotted over to look up master “Traveller” for the
muster, or should have waited another week.’

Mr. Churbett’s horses having been disposed of, he was duly introduced.
He proved if anything a greater success than Mr. O’Desmond. He was
musical, and the sight of the piano immediately brought up talk about
the last opera he had heard in London. He was also a great reader, and
after touching upon half a score of authors, promised to bring over a
new book which he had just got up from town.

‘Really,’ said Annabel innocently, ‘this is a surprise. I never dreamed
of getting a new book in the bush. Why, it only came out just before we
left. I was longing to read it; but, of course, we were too miserable
and worried. How can it have got here so quickly?’

‘Just the same way that we did, I suppose,’ said Beatrice—‘in a ship.
You forget the time that has passed since we landed.’

‘Still, it is a pleasant surprise. I shouldn’t wonder, perhaps we may
get some new music soon. But I should as soon have thought of a
book-club in the moon.’

‘Talking of book-clubs,’ said Churbett, ‘we are trying to get up one; I
hope you will join. With twelve members, and a moderate subscription, we
can import a very fair lot of books every year. A brother of mine in
London can choose them for us; I am to be librarian. The books are
divided into sets, which each subscriber sends on in turn.’

Annabel clapped her hands. ‘How delightful! Wilfred, of course, will
join. Fancy, dear, _clean_ new books every month. Really, life is
becoming quite intoxicating, and I thought we should die of dulness and
ennui.’

‘No; did you, though?’ echoed Mr. Churbett compassionately. ‘I confess
to feeling inclined to cry when I came up to Murson Creek and saw the
hut I was to live in for the first year. But one’s feelings get
wonderfully altered after a while.’

‘And are you _quite_ resigned, that is contented, to give up operas and
picture galleries, clubs and travel, all the pleasant parts of English
life?’ asked Rosamond.

‘It _was_ hard at first, Miss Effingham; but here I have independence,
with the prospect of a fortune. In England such was not the case,
particularly the independence. Operas and other memories recall a fairy
realm which I may yet re-enter. Meantime, I ride about all day, work now
and then, smoke and read at night, and if not exactly happy, am decently
cheerful.’

‘What the world calls pleasure you never see, I suppose?’ said Beatrice
philosophically.

‘Do we not? I forgot one compensation in our virtuous, self-denying
lives. Once a year, at least, we have races in Yass, which is our
metropolis. Then we all meet together, as a solemn, social obligation.
Pilgrimage to Mecca, and so on. Very few true believers absent. Balls,
picnics, any amount of dancing, flirtation, what not. Enough to last for
the rest of the year. After a week or two we go home sorrowfully,
staying at each other’s houses on the way, to let down the excitement by
degrees.’

‘Where do the ladies come from?’ asked Annabel. ‘I suppose there are
very few?’

‘Very few!’ said Mr. Churbett in tones of horror. ‘_Ever_ so many. Is it
possible you have never heard, even in Europe, of the beautiful Miss
Christabel Rockley, the fascinating Mrs. Snowden, the talented Mrs.
Porchester? Ladies! They abound, or how should we remain civilised? Yass
is well known to be the home of all the graces. Could O’Desmond retain
his _grand seigneur_ air but for the advantage of refined association? I
wish I could take you round, Miss Effingham, on an introductory tour.
What a book we could write of our experiences!—“Travels and Sketches in
the Upper Strata of the Social System of the Yass District, by Miss
Annabel Effingham, illustrated by F. Churbett, F.R.Y.A.S.S., Fellow of
the Royal Yass Analytical Squatting Society,” reads well.’

‘Quite delicious,’ said Annabel. ‘But everything that is nice is
improper, so, of course, I shouldn’t be let go. Not even Rosamond, who
is prudence personified. I’m afraid there is no more liberty for poor
women in a new country than an old one. That _is_ the bell—I was sure of
it. Mr. Churbett, allow me to invite you to dinner—an early one, which
is about the extent of my privileges.’

Mr. Churbett accepted the invitation, as he no doubt would have acceded
to any proposition emanating from the speaker even less manifestly
beneficial. He kept the whole party amused, and lingered until he
declared he should have to gallop Grey Surrey all the way home to get
there before dark.

‘He’s like me,’ he explained, upon being charged with cruelty; ‘he only
does a day’s work now and then, and he doesn’t mind it when it does
come.’

Resisting all invitation to stop for the night, on the plea that the
effort necessary in his case must be made some time and might as well be
undergone now, he departed in the odour of high consideration, if not of
sanctity.

In order that no opportunities might be lost, Wilfred commenced the
habit of rising at dawn and joining Dick at the stock-yard, where the
old man had initiated a dairy, with the aid of the few cows of the
O’Desmond brand which had produced calves. Here he was attended by
Andrew, who sturdily proceeded to take his share of the work, in spite
of Dick’s sarcastic attitude. He evidently considered the dairy to be
his province, and regarded Andrew as an interloper.

‘Na, na, Maister Wilfred,’ said Andrew, ‘I hae been acquent in my time
wi’ a’ manner o’ kye, and had a collie following me these thretty years.
It’s no because we’re in a new land that I’m to turn my back on ilka
occupa-ation that will bring in profit to the laird and his bairns.
Jeanie can mak’ as sweet butter as ever a gudewife in Lothian, and we
hae to depend maistly on the butter-keggies, for what I see.’

‘You’ll find that garden of yours, when the weeds come up, quite enough
for one, I’m thinking. There’s enough of us here, if Mr. Wilfred takes
to it kind, as he seems to do. But if you’re such a dab hand at milking,
you can tek that red cow that’s come in this morning.’

‘And a gra-and show o’ milk she has,’ quoth Andrew, ‘maist unco-omon!’

Dick commenced, with a stolid expression, to arrange the slip-rails,
which apparently took time to adjust. Andrew, meanwhile, proud of the
opportunity of exhibiting his familiarity with the art and science of
milking, moved the red cow into one of the bails, or stalls, in which
cows are ordinarily milked in Australia.

Sitting upon a three-legged stool, he commenced his ancient and
classical task. He had succeeded in, perhaps, drawing a pint from the
over-full udder of the red cow aforesaid, when she suddenly raised her
hind leg and caught him with such emphasis that man and milk, pail and
stool, went clattering down into the corner of the yard.

‘Gude save us!’ exclaimed Andrew, picking himself up, and rubbing his
person, while he collected all that was recoverable of the scattered
properties. ‘What garred the fell beastie act sae daft-like. I hae
milket a hunner coos, and ne’er was whummled like yon.’

‘Perhaps they was Scotch cows, and understood your talk, Mr. Cargill,’
said Dick, with great politeness, covering a grim enjoyment; ‘but in
this country we mostly _leg-ropes_ cows when we bail ’em up, for fear of
accidents.’

‘Weel, I winna say that these queys, being brocht up in a mair savage
fashion than in bonnie Scotland, wadna need head and heel fastenings.
But, ma certie, they would glower in my part of the country, gin ye tied
a coo’s leg like a thrawn ox at the smithy.’

‘I suppose “we must do at Rome, etc.,” and all the rest of it, Andrew,’
said Wilfred. ‘Here, Dick, make a beginning with your cow, and Andrew
and I will put a leg-rope on this one. Never too late to mend. I’ll back
Andrew to hold his own yet in the milking-yard, or anywhere else.’

Old Dick, having satisfied his grudge by compassing the downfall of
Andrew, whom he had shrewdly guessed never to have been accustomed to a
leg-rope, condescended to instruct Wilfred in the proper way to knot it.
The cows were eventually milked _secundum artem_, and when the full
buckets, foaming over with creamy fluid, stood on a bench outside the
yard, Wilfred saw with distinct gratification the first dividend from
the cattle investment.

‘We must calculate now, Andrew,’ he said, as they walked over to the
house, ‘how much butter can be made from the milk of these cows. It is a
small matter, of course; but multiplied by ten—as we shall have at least
fifty cows in milk, Dick says, before Christmas—it will not be so bad.’

‘After conseederin’ the matter maist carefully,’ said Andrew, ‘I am free
to give it as ma deleeberate opeenion that gin the pasture keeps aye
green and plenteous we may mak’ baith butter and cheese o’ the best
quality. As to price, I canna yet say, havin’ nae knowledge o’ the
mairkets.’

‘Well, we have made a beginning, Andrew, and that is a great matter. If
we can only pay current expenses, without employing more hands, we shall
be doing well, I consider.’

‘We must work gey and close at the first gang aff, Maister Wilfred, and
then dinna ye fear. Wi’ the Lord’s blessing, we’ll be spared to set up
our horn on high, as weel as thae prood Amalekites, that have had the
first grip o’ this gra-and Canaan. I was doon yestreen and lookit at the
field o’ victual—the paddock, as yon auld carle ca’s it. It’s maist
promising—forbye ordinar’—maist unco-omon.’

Among the list of indispensable investments which Dick Evans had urged
upon Wilfred, but which he had not at present thought it necessary to
undertake, were another lot of cattle, a dozen horses (more or less),
and some kind of taxed cart, or light vehicle. Apparently these would be
advantageous and profitable, but Wilfred had determined to be most
sparing in all outlay, lest the reserve fund of the family should come
to a premature end.

On this day it seemed that the advanced guard of the neighbouring gentry
had commenced to lay formal siege to Warbrok Chase. On his return to the
house in the afternoon, Wilfred descried two good-looking horses hanging
up to the garden fence, and upon entering the sitting-room beheld their
owners in amicable converse with his mother and sisters. He was promptly
introduced to Mr. Argyll and Mr. Charles Hamilton. Both men were well,
even fashionably dressed, and bore about them the nameless air which
stamps the holder of a degree in the university of society.

‘We should have called before,’ said Mr. Argyll, a tall fair-haired man,
whose quick glancing blue eye and mobile features betrayed natural
impetuosity, kept under by training; ‘but my partner here is such an
awfully hard-working fellow, that he would not quit the engineering with
which he was busied, to visit the Queen of Sheba, if she had just
settled in the neighbourhood.’

‘I was not aware,’ said Mr. Hamilton coolly, and with an air of settled
conviction upon his regular and handsome features, ‘of the extent of my
sacrifice to duty. I may venture to assure Mrs. Effingham that my
neighbourly duties for the future will not be neglected.’

‘I hope not,’ said Mrs. Effingham; ‘for, now that the excitement of
settling in such a very different world has passed away, we begin to
feel rather lonely—may I say dull?’

‘No, mamma,’ said Rosamond, ‘you must not say that. We are all so fully
occupied, from morning to dusk, that we have no time to be dull.’

‘Oh, but we cannot get on without society,’ remarked Annabel. ‘I feel in
the highest spirits as long as there is so much to do, that there is no
time for thinking; indeed, I hate to have a moment to myself. But in the
afternoons, when papa and the boys are out, I begin to realise our
solitary position, and the feeling becomes oppressive.’

‘Very naturally too,’ said Mr. Argyll. ‘But as yet you have no idea of
the social resources which you will be able to draw upon when you are
acquainted with everybody.’

‘And who is everybody?’ asked Beatrice. ‘How can we be sociable if
people don’t come to see us? Suppose you tell us who are the nice people
of the district, and we shall be able to enjoy them in anticipation.’

‘You will see most of them within the month; but I shrink from
describing them. Charles, you are afraid of nobody, suppose you give us
a _catalogue raisonné_.’

‘Certainly, if Miss Effingham wishes it,’ assented Mr. Hamilton, who had
the imperturbable look which goes with a temperament difficult to
surprise or intimidate. ‘I shall have great pleasure in trotting out our
friends for her information. We have been here only three years, so in
case of mistakes you must be considerate.’

‘Oh, we shall be most discreet,’ said Annabel; ‘besides, we have no
acquaintance yet to chatter to—that’s the best guarantee for prudence.’

‘I think I may take your solemn affirmation not to betray me,’ said Mr.
Hamilton, looking admiringly into Annabel’s lovely eyes, ‘and even then
I would face the risk. First, there is Captain Snowden with his wife. He
was in the navy, I think; he has rather more of the sailor about him
than—what shall I say?—the courtier, though he can be very agreeable
when he likes. Madame is extremely lady-like, clever, travelled, what
not. You must see her and judge for yourself.’

‘Are there any more ladies?’ asked Rosamond. ‘They possess an absorbing
interest for us.’

‘Ever so many more,’ laughed Hamilton. ‘Mrs. Porchester, who is rather a
“blue”; Mrs. Egremont, who is a beauty; the Misses Carter, who are
good-nature itself. The others, I think, you must find out by degrees.
In Yass there are some very nice families, particularly that of Mr.
Rockley. He is the leading merchant in these parts, and rules like a
benevolent despot. His wife is hospitable and amiable beyond compare;
his daughter, Miss Christabel, dangerously beautiful. I _must_ leave
something to the imagination.’

‘I assure you we are most grateful to you as it is,’ said Mrs.
Effingham. ‘It is really encouraging to find that there are so many
charming people in the neighbourhood. We should hardly consider them in
the same county at home; but here they don’t seem to mind riding any
distance.’

‘I am mistaken,’ said Hamilton, ‘if you do not find people riding
wonderful distances to visit Warbrok. We are less than twenty miles
away, I am thankful to say, so you will see us as often as you care for.
By the way,’ turning to Wilfred, ‘did I hear you say you were going to
Donnelly’s sale? If you buy stock there, you had better stay a night at
Benmohr on your return. It is just a fair stage.’

‘Thanks. I shall be most happy. Do you think it a good idea to invest at
Donnelly’s?’

‘If I were in your place I should buy all his cattle and a few horses.
They can’t fail to be a profitable purchase, as you seem to have any
amount of grass. But we must be going. We shall expect you at Benmohr
the day after the sale. Mrs. Effingham, I shall do myself the honour of
another visit, after you have been able to verify my portraitures.’

‘What gentlemanlike young men!’ said Mrs. Effingham, when the guests
were fairly away. ‘I am so sorry that your papa was out. He would have
been so pleased. Mr. Argyll seems so clever, and Mr. Hamilton is very
handsome—both wonderfully well dressed for the bush.’

‘I should say Mr. Argyll was disposed to be sarcastic,’ said Rosamond;
‘and I am mistaken if he has not a fierce temper. He told us he was a
Highlander, which accounts for it.’

‘Mr. Hamilton is one of the nicest-looking men I have seen for a long
time,’ said Annabel; ‘what splendid eyes he has! He is very particular
about his gloves too; gives time and reflection to his toilet, I should
say.’

‘I have heard Dick say that he is the hardest-working squatter in the
district,’ said Wilfred. ‘He is devoted to ploughing, digging,
navvy-work, horse-breaking—“all manner of slavery,” as Dick says.’

‘Who would have thought it!’ exclaimed Mrs. Effingham in tones of
astonishment. ‘From his appearance I should have thought that he was
afraid to soil those white hands of his.’

‘The best-dressed people are not the most backward at work or fighting,’
said Wilfred.

‘But how _can_ he keep his hands white,’ inquired Annabel with a great
appearance of interest, ‘if he really works like a labourer?’

‘Perhaps he works in gloves; a man can get through a great deal of work
in a pair of old riding-gloves, and his hands be never the worse. There
is something about those two men that I like extremely. Mr. Argyll puts
me in mind of Fergus MʻIvor with that fiery glance; he looks as if he
had a savage temper, well held in.’

‘They are both very nice, and I hope you will make real friends of them,
Wilfred,’ said Mrs. Effingham. ‘Might I also suggest that, as it is
evidently practicable to dress like a gentleman and work hard, a certain
young man should be more careful of his appearance?’

‘I deserve that, I know, old lady,’ said her son laughingly; ‘but really
there is a temptation in the wilderness to costume a little. I promise
you to amend.’

‘Our circle of acquaintance is expanding,’ said Beatrice; ‘certainly it
has the charm of variety. Mr. O’Desmond is Irish, Mr. Churbett from
London, our last visitors Scots—one Highland, one Lowland. All differing
among themselves too. I am sure we shall be fully occupied; it will be a
task of some delicacy _tenir de salon_, if we ever have them here at a
party.’

‘A party!’ said Mrs. Effingham; ‘don’t think of it for _years_ to come,
child. It would be impossible, inappropriate in every way.’

‘But there’s no harm, mamma, surely, in _thinking_ of it,’ pleaded
Annabel. ‘It encourages one to keep alive, if nothing else.’



                               CHAPTER VI
                          AN AUSTRALIAN YEOMAN


A week of laborious work preceded the day when circumstances permitted
Wilfred and his serving-man to ride forth for the purpose of attending
the sale of Mr. Michael Donnelly’s stock and effects. Formerly known as
‘Willoughby’s Mick,’ he had, during an unpretending career as
stock-rider for that gentleman, accumulated a small herd of cattle and
horses, with which to commence life on a grazing farm near Yass. Here,
by exercise of the strictest economy as to personal expenses, as well as
from the natural increase of stock, he had, during a residence of a
dozen years, amassed a considerable property. Yet on his holding there
was but scant evidence of toil or contrivance. A few straggling peach
trees represented the garden. The bark-roofed slab hut which he found
when he came had sufficed for the lodging of himself and wife, with
nearly a dozen children. The fences, not originally good, were now
ruinous. The fields, suffered to go out of cultivation, lay fallow and
unsightly, only half-cleared of tree-stumps. The dress of this honest
yeoman had altered for the worse since the hard-riding days of
‘Willoughby’s Mick.’ The healthy boys and girls were more or less
ragged; the younger ones barefooted. The saddles and cart harness were
patched with raw hide, or clumsily repaired. The cow-shed was rickety;
the calves unsheltered. Yet with all this apparent decay and disorder,
any one, judging from appearances, who had put down Michael Donnelly as
an impoverished farmer, would have been egregiously deceived. His
neighbours knew that his battered old cabbage-tree hat covered a head
with an unusual amount of brains. Uneducated and bush-bred, he possessed
intuitive powers of calculation and forecast frequently denied to
cultured individuals. Early in life he had appropriated the fact, that
in this land of boundless pasturage, profitable up to a certain point,
without the necessity of one _farthing_ of expenditure, the
multiplication of stock was possible to any conceivable extent. Once
make a commencement with a few cows, and it was a man’s own fault if he
died without more cattle than he could count. Hadn’t Johnny Shore begun
that way? _Walked_ over to Monaro with half-a-crown in his pocket. He
saved his wages for a few years and got the needful start.

Become a capitalist, his instincts revolted against spending money
needlessly, when every pound, often less, would buy a cow, which cow
would turn into fifty head of cattle in a few years. ‘What could a man
do that would pay him half as well? Why employ labour that could be done
without? It was all very well for Mr. Willoughby, who had raised his
wages gradually from twenty pounds per annum and one ration. Mr.
Willoughby was a gentleman with a big station, and threw his money about
a bit; but why should he, Mick Donnelly, go keeping and feeding men to
put in crops when farming didn’t pay? Therefore his fields might lie
fallow and go out of cultivation.’

His boys were getting big lumps of fellows, old enough to help brand and
muster. The girls could milk, and break in the heifers, as well as all
the men in the country. His wife could cook—there wasn’t much of that;
and wash—it didn’t fatigue her; and sweep—that process was economised—as
well as ever. Any kind of duds did for working people, as long as they
went decent to chapel on Sundays. That they had always done and would
do, please God. But all other occasions of spending money were wasteful
and unnecessary.

The sole expenses, then, of this large family were in the purchase of
flour, tea, sugar, and clothes, none of which articles came to an
extravagant sum for the year. While the sales were steady and
considerable, Mick and his sons drove many a lot of cattle, fat or
store, to the neighbouring markets. The profits of the dairy in butter
and bacon, the representatives of which latter product roamed in small
herds around the place, paid all the household expenses twice over;
while the amount of his credit balance at the Bank of New Holland in
Yass would have astonished many a tourist who watched Mick smoking on
his stock-yard rails, or riding an unshod mare down the range after a
mob of active cattle.

But now a more ambitious idea was evolved from the yeoman’s slowly
maturing, but accurate mental processes. He had been noting the relative
scale of outlay and income of a neighbouring sheep-farmer. After certain
cautious comparisons, he fixed the conclusion that, other things being
equal, sheep would pay him better than cattle. He heard from an old
comrade of the forced sale of a sheep station in the then half-explored,
unstocked district of Monaro, lying between the Great Range and the
Snowy River. His offer of cash, at a rate far from remunerative to the
late owner, had been accepted.

That part of his plan settled, he sold his freehold to a neighbouring
proprietor who was commencing to found an estate, receiving rather more
than double his original purchase money. Stock being at a reasonable
price, Donnelly determined to sell off the whole of his possessions,
merely reserving his dray, team, and a sufficiency of saddle-horses for
the family. His herd had become too numerous for the run. His boys and
girls would make shepherds and shepherdesses for a while—by no means a
picturesque occupation in Australia, but still profitable as of old. He
would be enabled to continue independent of hired labour. He trusted to
the duplication of stock to do the rest. Hence the clearing-off sale,
which a number of farmers in the neighbourhood were likely to attend,
and to which Wilfred and his chief servitor were at present wending
their way.

On this occasion Wilfred had resisted the idea of mounting any of the
strayed horses, still numerous upon the enticing pastures of Warbrok.
Having unwittingly placed himself in a false position, he was resolved
not to repeat the impropriety.

‘Mr. Churbett had behaved most courteously,’ he said; ‘but it might have
been otherwise. I was not aware that it was other than a colonial
custom. There must be no more mistakes of this kind, Dick, or you and I
shall quarrel. Go to one of the nearest farmers and see if you can hire
me a decent hack.’

So Dick, though chafing at the over-delicacy which led his master to pay
for a mount while available steeds were eating his grass, proceeded to
obey orders, and shortly returned with a substantial half-bred, upon
which Wilfred bestowed himself.

Dick Evans was always in good spirits at the prospect of a cruise in
foreign parts. Mrs. Evans, on the other hand, was prone to dwell upon
the unpleasant side of domestic matters. Her habit of mind had doubtless
resulted in the philosophic calm with which her husband bore his
frequent, and occasionally protracted, absences from the conjugal
headquarters. As before, he mounted his old mare with a distinct air of
cheerfulness.

‘The dairy work will get along all right for a day or two, sir,’ he
said. ‘Old Andy begins to be a fairish milker—he was dead slow at
first—and Mr. Guy’s a great help bailin’ up. There’s nothing brisks me
up like a jaunt somewheres—I don’t care where it is, if it was to the
Cannibal Islands. God Almighty never intended me to stop long in one
place, I expect.’

‘A rolling stone gathers no moss, Dick,’ said Wilfred. ‘You’ll never
save up anything if you carry out those ideas always.’

‘I don’t want to save nothing, sir. I’ve no call to keep money in a box;
I can find work pretty well wherever I go that will keep me and my old
woman in full and plenty. I’m safe of my wages as long as I can work,
and when I can’t work no more I shall die—suddent like. I’ve always felt
that.’

‘But why don’t you get a bit of land, Dick, and have a place of your
own? You could easily save enough money to buy a farm.’

‘Bless your heart, sir, I wouldn’t live on a farm allers, day in, day
out, if you’d give me one. I should get that sick of the place as I
should come to hate the sight of it. But hadn’t you better settle with
yourself like, sir, what kind of stock you’re agoin’ to bid for when we
get to Mick’s? There’ll be a lot of people there, and noise, and perhaps
a little fighting if there’s any grog goin’, so it’s best to be ready
for action, as old Sir Hugh Gough used to tell us.’

‘Mr. Churbett and Mr. Hamilton thought I should buy all the mixed
cattle, as many of them would be ready for the butcher before winter.’

‘So they will, sir, or my name’s not Richard Evans, twice corporal in
the old 50th, and would have been sergeant, if I’d been cleverer at my
book, and not quite so clever at the canteen. But that’s neither here
nor there. What I look at is, they’re all dairy-bred cattle, and broke
in close to your own run, which saves a power of trouble. If you can get
a hundred or two of ’em for thirty shillings or two pound a head,
they’ll pay it all back by next season—easy and flippant.’

Finishing up with his favourite adjective, which he used when desirous
of showing with what ridiculous ease any given result might be obtained,
Mr. Richard Evans lighted his pipe with an air of assurance of success
which commenced to infect his employer.

About mid-day they reached the abode of Michael Donnelly, Esq., as such
designated by the local papers, who ‘was about to submit to public
competition his quiet and well-bred herd of dairy cattle, his choice
stud, his equipages, farming implements, teams, carts, harness, etc.,
with other articles too numerous to mention.’ Other articles there were
none, except he had decided to sell the olive branches. Wilfred was
shocked at the appearance of the homestead of this thriving farmer. The
falling fences, the neglected orchard, the dilapidated hut, the
curiously patched and mended stock-yard, partly brush, partly of logs,
with here and there a gap, secured by a couple of rude tree-forks, with
a clumsy sapling laid across—all these did not look like the
surroundings of a man who could give his cheque for several thousand
pounds. However, the personal appearance of Mick himself, an athletic,
manly, full-bearded fellow, as also that of his family, was decidedly
prepossessing. They were busily attending to the various classes of
stock, with much difficulty kept apart for purposes of sale. Whatever
else these Australian Celts lacked, they had been well nourished in
youth and infancy. A finer sample of youthful humanity, physically
considered, Wilfred had never seen. The lack of order everywhere visible
had in no way reacted upon their faculties. All their lives they had
known abundant nutriment, unrestricted range. Healthful exercise had
been theirs, congenial labour, and diet unstinted in the great
essentials. Few other considerations had entered into the family
councils.

And now they were about to migrate, like the world’s elder children, to
a land promising more room. Then, as now, a higher life was possible,
where the sheep and the oxen, the camels and the asses, would enjoy a
wider range. The sale over, they would once more resume that journey
which, commencing soon after the marriage day of Michael Donnelly and
Bridget Joyce, was not ended yet.

Wilfred Effingham was soon confirmed in his opinion that he had done
well to attend. Many of the neighbouring settlers were there, as well as
farmers and townspeople from Yass, brought together by the mysterious
attraction of an auction sale. One of the townspeople, asking first if
he was Mr. Effingham of Warbrok, put into his hand a note which ran as
follows:—


‘MY DEAR WILFRED—I thought you were likely to be at Donnelly’s sale, so
I send you a line by a parishioner of mine. I have made inquiries about
the stock, and consider that you could not do better than buy as many of
the cattle as you have grass for. They are known to be quiet, having
been used to dairy tending, and are certain to increase in value and
number, as you have so much grass at Warbrok. Price about two pounds. A
few horses would not be superfluous, and there are some good ones in
Donnelly’s lot, or they would hardly have stood his work. Mention my
name to Mick, and say he is to let you down easy. I have had a touch of
rheumatism lately—_et ego in Arcadia_—there’s no escape from old age and
its infirmities in any climate, however good, or I’d have looked you up
before now. Tell your father I’m coming over soon.—Always yours
sincerely,

                                                     HARLEY STERNWORTH.’


The hour of sale having arrived, and indeed passed, the auctioneer, who
had driven out from Yass for the purpose, commenced his task, which he
did by climbing on to the ‘cap’ of the stock-yard and rapping violently
with a hammer-handled hunting-crop. A broad-chested, stout-lunged,
florid personage was Mr. Crackemup, and if selling by auction deserved
to be ranked as one of the fine arts, he was no mean professor.

‘Ladies and gentlemen!’ he shouted. ‘I say ladies, for I notice quite a
number of the fair sex have honoured me with their presence. Let me
mention, in the first place, that the owner of this valuable stock we
see before us has resolved to leave this part of the country. Yes, my
friends, to leave Gumbaragongara for good and all! Why do I mention this
fact—why do I dwell upon it? Because, ladies and gentlemen, it makes all
the difference as to the _bona fide_ nature of the sale which we are met
together to-day to celebrate—that is—a—to carry out—according to these
written conditions. My principal, Mr. Donnelly, with the shrewdness
which has characterised him through life, seized upon this view of the
case. “If I leave the country bodily,” he said to me, “and sell the
stock for what they’ll fetch, no one can say that I went away and took
the best with me.” No, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Donnelly departs
to-morrow for Monaro, taking only a dray and team, with a few
riding-horses, so that all his well-bred, quiet, beautiful herd of dairy
cattle, selected with great care from some of the best herds in the
colony [here divers of the audience grinned irreverently], I shall have
the honour of submitting to public competition this day.

‘The first lot, ladies and gentlemen, is No. 1. Generally so, isn’t it?
Ha! ha! One hundred and fifty-four cows and heifers, all broken to bail;
most of them with calves at foot, or about to—to—become mothers.’

Mr. Crackemup was a man of delicate ideas, so he euphemised the maternal
probabilities.

‘Any one buying this choice lot, with butter at a shilling, and cheese
not to be bought, buys a fortune. I will sell a “run out” of twenty
head, with the option of taking the lot. “Fifteen shillings a
head”—nonsense; one pound, twenty-two and six, twenty-five-thank you,
miss; thirty shillings, thirty-five, thirty-seven and six-thank you,
sir. One pound seventeen and sixpence, once; one pound seventeen and
sixpence, twice; for the third and last time, one pound seventeen
shillings and sixpence. Gone! What name shall I say, sir? “Howard
Effingham, Warbrok Chase.” Twenty head. Thank you, sir.’

At this critical moment the voice of Dick Evans was heard by Wilfred, in
close proximity to his ear: ‘Collar the lot, sir; they’re dirt cheap;
soon be in full milk. Don’t let ’em go.’

‘I believe,’ said Wilfred, raising his voice, ‘that I have the option of
taking the whole.’

‘Quite correct, sir; but if I might advise——’

‘I take the lot,’ said Wilfred decisively.

And though there was a murmur from the crowd, and one stalwart dame
said, ‘That’s not fair, thin; I med sure I’d get a pen of springers
myself,’ the auctioneer confirmed his right, and the dairy lot became
his property.

It turned out, as is often the case, that the first offered stock were
the most moderate in price. Many of the buyers had been holding back,
thinking they would go in lots of twenty, and that better bargains might
be obtained. When they found that the stranger had carried off all the
best dairy cows, their disappointment was great.

‘Serves you right, boys,’ was heard in the big voice of the proprietor;
‘if you had bid up like men, instead of keeping dark, you’d have choked
the cove off taking the lot. Serves you all dashed well right.’

The remaining lots of cattle consisted of weaners, two and
three-year-old steers and heifers. Of fat cattle the herd had been
pretty well ‘scraped,’ as Donnelly called it, before the sale. For most
of these the bidding was so brisk and spirited that Wilfred thought
himself lucky in securing forty steers at twenty-five shillings, which
completed his drove, and were placed in the yard with the cows.

Then came the horses; nearly a hundred all told—mares, colts, fillies,
yearlings, with aged or other riding-horses. These last Donnelly excused
himself for selling by the statement that if he took them to Monaro half
of them would be lost trying to get back to where they had been bred,
and that between stock-riders and cattle-stealers his chance of
regaining them would be small.

‘There they are,’ he said; ‘there’s some as good blood among them as
ever was inside a horse-skin. They’re there to be sold.’

The spirit of speculation was now aroused in Wilfred, or he would not
have bought, as he did, half-a-dozen of the best mares, picking them by
make and shape, and a general look of breeding. They were middle-sized
animals, more like Arabs than the offspring of English thoroughbreds,
but with a look of caste and quality, their legs and feet being
faultless, their heads good, and shoulders fair. They fell to a bid of
less than ten pounds each, and with foals at foot, Wilfred thought they
could not be dear.

‘Them’s the old Gratis lot,’ said Mr. Donnelly. ‘I bought ’em from Mr.
Busfield when they was fillies. You haven’t made a bad pick for a new
hand, sir. I wish you luck with ’em.’

‘I hope so,’ said Wilfred. ‘If you breed horses at all, they may as well
be good ones.’ As he turned away he caught the query from a bystander—

‘Why, you ain’t going to sell old Barragon?’

‘Yes, I am,’ said Mick, who was evidently not a man of sentiment; ‘all
fences in the country wouldn’t keep him away from these parts. He’s in
mostly runs near the lake, and eats more of that gentleman’s grass than
mine. He don’t owe me nothin’.’

‘You buy that horse, sir,’ said Dick, who was acting the part of a moral
Mephistopheles. ‘He’s as old as Mick, very near, and as great a dodger
after cattle. But you can’t throw him down, and the beast don’t live
that can get away from him on a camp.’

Wilfred turned and beheld a very old, grey horse cornered off, and
standing with his ears laid back, listening apparently to Mr.
Crackemup’s commendations.

‘Here you have, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Donnelly’s favourite
riding-horse Barragon, an animal, he informs me, that has done some of
the most wonderful feats ever credited to a horse in any country—some
exploits, indeed, which he scarcely likes to tell of. [‘I’ll be bound he
don’t,’ drawled out a long, brown-faced bystander.] You have heard the
reasons assigned for disposing of him here, rather than, as of course he
would prefer to do, still keeping him attached to the fortunes of the
family. His instinct is so strong, his intelligence so great, ladies and
gentlemen, that he would unerringly find his way back from the farthest
point of the Monaro district. What shall I say for him?’

‘May as well have him, sir,’ said his counsellor. ‘He’ll go cheap. He’ll
always stick to the lake; and if any one else gets him, they’ll be
wanting us to run him in, half the time.’

Wilfred looked at the horse. The type was one to which he had not been
accustomed—neither a roadster, a hunter, a hackney, nor a harness
horse—he was _sui generis_, the true Australian stock-horse, now rarely
seen, and seldom up to the feats and performances of which grizzled
veterans of the stock-whip love to tell.

No one with an eye for a horse could look at the war-worn screw without
interest. A long, low horse, partaking more of the Arab type than the
English, he possessed the shapes which make for endurance, and more than
ordinary speed. The head was lean and well shaped, with a well-opened,
still bright eye. The neck was arched, though not long; but the
shoulder, to a lover of horses, was truly magnificent. Muscular, fairly
high in the wither, and remarkably oblique, it permitted the freest
action possible, while the rider who sat behind such a formation might
enjoy a feeling of security far beyond the average. Battered and worn,
no doubt, were the necessary supports, by cruelly protracted
performances of headlong speed and wayfaring. Yet the flat cannon-bones,
the iron hoofs, the tough tendons, had withstood the woeful hardships to
which they had been subjected, with less damage than might have been
expected. The knees slightly bent forward, the strained ligaments,
showed partial unsoundness, yet was there no tangible ‘break down.’ What
must such a horse have been in his colthood—in his prime?

A sudden feeling of pity arose in Wilfred’s heart as he ran his eye
critically over the scarred veteran. At a small price he would, no
doubt, be a good investment, old as he was. He would be reasonably
useful; and as a matter of charity one might do worse alms before Heaven
than save one of the most gallant of God’s creatures from closing his
existence in toil and suffering. Mick’s neighbours not being more
sentimental than himself, Wilfred found himself the purchaser of the
historical courser at a price considerably under five pounds.

‘By George! I’m glad you’ve got him, mister,’ said Mr. Donnelly, with
vicarious generosity. ‘I’m not rich enough to pension him, and the money
he’s fetched, put into a cow, will be something handsome in ten years.
But he’s a long ways from broke down yet; and you’ll have your money’s
worth out of him, with luck, before he kicks the bucket. You’d better
ride him home, and I’ll send my boy Jack with you as far as Benmohr.
He’ll lead Bob Jones’s moke, that you rode here, and leave him in Argyll
and Hamilton’s paddock till he’s sent for. You’d as well get off with
your mob, if you want to get to Benmohr before dark.’

Wilfred recognised the soundness of this advice, and in a few minutes
afterwards found himself upon Barragon. While Dick Evans promptly let
out the cattle, Jack Donnelly, a brown-faced young centaur, riding a
half-broken colt, and leading his late mount, commanded two eager cattle
dogs to ‘fetch ’em up.’ The drove went off at a smart pace, and in five
minutes they were out of sight of the yard, the farm, and the crowd,
jogging freely along a well-marked track, which Dick stated to be the
road to Benmohr.

This cheerful pace was, however, not kept up. The steers at the ‘head’
of the drove were inclined to go even too fast. It was necessary to
restrain their ardour. The cows and calves became slow, obstinate, and
disposed to spread, needing all the shouting of Dick and young Donnelly,
as well as the personal violence of the latter’s dogs, to keep them
going. Wilfred rejoiced that he had obeyed the impulse to possess
himself of old Barragon, when he found with what ease and comfort he was
carried by the trained stock-horse in these embarrassing circumstances.
Finally the weather changed, and it commenced to rain in the face of the
cortège. Dick once or twice alluded to the uncertainty which would exist
as to their getting all the cattle again if anything occurred to cause
their loss this night. Lastly, just as matters began to look dark,
Wilfred descried Benmohr.

The ‘semi-detached’ cottage which did duty as a spare bedroom had an
earthen floor, and was not an ornate apartment; still, a blazing fire
gave it an air of comfort after the chill evening air. Needful toilet
requisites were provided, and the manifest cleanliness of the bed and
belongings guaranteed a sound night’s rest.

Upon entering the cottage, along a raised stone causeway, pointed out by
Mr. Hamilton, Wilfred found his former acquaintance Mr. Argyll, and Mr.
Churbett, with a neighbour, who was introduced as Mr. Forbes. The table
was already laid, and furnished with exceeding neatness for the evening
meal. A glowing fire burned in the ample stone chimney, and as the three
gentlemen rose to greet him, Wilfred thought he had never seen a more
successful union of plainness of living, with the fullest measure of
comfort.

‘You have made the port just in time,’ remarked Argyll; ‘the rain is
coming down heavily, and the night is as black as a wolf’s throat. You
seem to have bought largely at Donnelly’s sale.’

‘All the dairy cows and heifers, and a few steers for fattening,’
answered Wilfred. ‘I suppose we might have had some trouble in
collecting them if they had got away from us to-night.’

‘So much that you might have never seen half of them again,’ said Mr.
Churbett promptly. ‘You would have been hunting for them for weeks, and
picked them up “in twos and threes and mobs of one,” as I did my Tumut
store cattle, that broke away the first night I got them home.’

Wilfred felt in a condition to do ample justice to the roast chicken and
home-cured ham, and even essayed a shaving of the goodly round of beef,
which graced one end of the table. After concluding with coffee,
glorified with delicious cream, Wilfred, as they formed a circle round
the fire, came to the conclusion, either that it was the best dinner he
had eaten in the whole course of his life, or else that he had never
been quite so hungry before.

In despite of Mrs. Teviot’s admonitions, none of the party sought their
couches much before midnight. There was a rubber of whist—perhaps two.
There was much general conversation afterwards, including literary
discussion. One of the features of the apartment was a well-filled
bookcase. Finally, when Mr. Hamilton escorted Wilfred to his chamber, he
said, ‘You needn’t bother about getting up early to-morrow. Trust old
Dick to have the cattle away at sunrise; he and the boy can drive them
easily now, till you overtake them. We breakfast about nine o’clock, and
Fred Churbett will keep you company in lying up.’

The night was murky and drizzling; the morning would probably resemble
it. Wilfred was tired. He knew that Dick would be up and away with the
dawn. He himself wished to consult his new friends about points of
practice germane to his present position. On the whole he thought he
could safely take Mr. Hamilton’s advice.

His slumbers that night, in bed-linen fragrant as Ailie Dinmont’s, were
deep and dreamless. Surely it could not have been morning, it was so
dark, and still raining, when he heard knocking at a window, and a voice
thrice repeat the words, ‘Maister Hamilton, are ye awauk?’ but the words
melted away—a luxurious drowsiness overpowered his senses. The rain’s
measured fall and tinkling plash changed into the mill-wheel dash of his
childhood’s wonder in Surrey. When he awoke, the sky was dark, but there
was the indefinable sensation that it was not very early. So he dressed,
and beholding a large old pair of ‘clodhoppers’ standing temptingly
near, he bestowed himself in them and cautiously made towards the
milking-yard. He looked across to the enclosure where his cattle had
been during the previous night. It was a smooth and apparently deep sea
of liquid mud, so sincerely churned had it been during the wet night. He
felt grieved for the discomfort of the poor cattle, but relieved to know
that they had been hours before on the grass, and were well on their way
to Warbrok Chase.

At the milking-yard he saw a sight which had never before met his eyes.
The morning’s work had apparently been just completed. Argyll was
walking towards the dairy, a pisé building with thick, earthen walls. He
carried two immense cans full to the brim with milk. Hamilton was wading
through the yard behind about sixty cows and calves, which were stolidly
ploughing through a lake of liquid mud. As they quitted the rough stone
causeway, they appeared to drop with reluctance into a species of
slough. An elderly Scot, approaching the type of Andrew Cargill, was
labouring, nearly knee-deep, solemnly after. He and Mr. Hamilton were
splashed from head to foot; it would have been a delicate task to
recognise either. The latter, coming to a pool of water, deliberately
walked in, thus purifying both boot and lower leg.

‘Muddy work, this milking in wet weather,’ said he calmly, scraping a
piece of caked mud about the size of a cheese-plate from the breast of
his serge shirt. ‘It would need to pay well, for it _is_ exceedingly
disagreeable.’

‘Very much so, indeed, I should think,’ assented Wilfred, rather
shocked. ‘I had no idea that dairy work on a large scale could be so
unpleasant.’

‘Ours is perhaps more mud-larking than most people’s,’ said Mr. Hamilton
reflectively, ‘chiefly from the richness of the soil, so we endure it.
But you must look into the cheese-room—the bright side of the affair
financially.’

Wilfred was much impressed with the dairy, a substantial, thatched
edifice, having a verandah on four sides. The pisé walls—nearly two feet
thick—were of earth, rammed in a wooden frame after a certain formula.

‘Here is the best building on the station,’ said his guide. ‘We reared
this noble pile ourselves, in the days of our colonial inexperience,
entirely by the directions contained in a book, with the aid of old
Wullie and our emigrant labourers. After we became more “Australian” and
“less nice” we took to slabs. It was quicker work, but our architecture
suffered.’

In one portion of this building were rows of milk-vessels, while ranged
on shelves one above another, and occupying three sides of the building,
were hundreds of fair, round, orthodox-looking cheeses, varying in
colour from pale yellow to orange. They presented an appearance more
akin to a midland county farm than an Australian cattle-station.

‘There, you see the compensation for early rising, wet feet, and
mud-plastering. We have a ready sale for twice as many cheeses as Mrs.
Teviot can turn out, at a very paying price. Her double Stiltons are
famed for their richness and maturity. We pay a large part of the
station expenses in this way; besides, what is of more importance,
improving the cattle, by keeping the herd quiet and promoting their
aptitude to fatten.’

‘You have no sheep, I think?’ inquired Wilfred.

‘No; but we breed horses on rather a large scale. I must show you my
pet, Camerton, by and by. Now I must dress for breakfast, for which I
daresay you are quite ready.’

After a reasonable interval the partners appeared neatly attired, though
still in garments adapted for station work. It was an exceedingly
cheerful meal, the proverbial Scottish breakfast, admitted to be
unsurpassable—devilled chicken and grilled bones, alternated with the
incomparable round of beef, which had excited Wilfred’s admiration on
the preceding day. Piles of boiled eggs, and _such_ a jug of cream!
fresh butter, short-cake, and the unfailing oatmeal porridge completed
the fare, to which Wilfred, after his observations and inquiries, felt
himself fully qualified to do justice.

‘Well, Charles,’ said Mr. Churbett, desisting from a sustained attack
upon the toast and eggs, ‘how do you feel after your day’s work? What an
awful number of hours you have been up and doing! That’s what makes you
so frightfully arrogant. It’s the comparison of yourself with ordinary
mortals like me, for instance, who lie in bed.’

‘You certainly do take it easy, Master Fred,’ returned Hamilton, ‘to an
extent I cannot hope to imitate. Every man to his taste, you know. You
have a well-grassed, well-watered, open country at The She-oaks; once
get your cattle there and they are no trouble to look after. Nature has
done so much that I am afraid—as in South America—man does very little.’

‘Shows his sense,’ asserted Mr. Churbett calmly. ‘Don’t you be imposed
upon, Effingham, by these people here; they have a mania for bodily
labour, and all sorts of unsuitable employment. I didn’t come out to
Australia to be a navvy or a ploughman; I could have found similar
situations at home. I go in for the true pastoral life—an Arab steed, a
tent, cool claret, and a calm supervision of other men’s labours.’

‘Did the Sheik Ibrahim drink claret, or go to the theatre, leaving his
flocks and herds to the Bedaween?’ said Mr. Forbes. ‘Some people appear
to be able to combine the pleasures of all religions with the duties of
none.’

‘Smart antithesis, James,’ said Churbett approvingly. ‘I’ll take another
cup of tea, please, to keep. I’m going to read Sydney Smith in the
verandah after breakfast. Yes, I _am_ proud of that theatre exploit. Few
people would have nerve for it.’

‘You would have needed all your nerve if you had found a hundred and
fifty fat cattle scattered and gone next morning,’ said Mr. Forbes, a
quietly sarcastic personage.

‘But they were _not_ gone, my dear fellow; what’s the use of absurd
suppositions? We got back before daylight. Not a beast had left the
camp. Now there are a great many people who would never have thought of
doing that.’

‘I should say not,’ said Hamilton. ‘Fred, your natural advantages will
be the death of you yet. Come with me, Effingham, if you want to see the
dam and the old horse. They are our show exhibits, and we are rather
proud of them.’

Walking through the garden to the lower end of the slope upon which the
homestead of Benmohr was built, Wilfred saw that the course of the
creek, dignified with the name of a river, had been arrested by a wide
and solid embankment, half-way up the broad breast of which a sheet of
deep, clear water came, while for a greater distance than the eye could
reach along its winding course was a far-stretching reservoir,
lake-like, reed-bordered, and half-covered with wild-fowl.

‘Here you see our greatest difficulty, Effingham, and our greatest
triumph. When we took up this run a shallow stream ran in winter and
spring, but in summer it was invariably dry. This exposed us to expense,
even loss. So we resolved to construct a dam. We did so, at some cost in
hired labour; a spring flood washed it away. Next year we tried again,
and the same result followed. Then the neighbours pitied and “I told you
so’d” us to such an extent that we felt that dam _must_ be made and
rendered permanent. We had six months’ work at it last summer; during
most of the time I did navvy work, wheeling my barrow up and down a
plank like the others. It was a stiff job. I invented additions, and
faced it with stone. That fine sheet of water is the result of it; I
believe it will stand now till the millennium, or the alteration of the
land laws.’

‘I quite envy you,’ said Wilfred. ‘A conflict with natural forces is
always exciting. I am quite of your opinion; the great advantage of this
Australian life is that a man enjoys the permission of society to work
with his hands as well as his head.’

Leaving the water for an isolated wooden building in the neighbourhood
of the offices, Mr. Hamilton opened the upper half of a stable-door and
discovered to view a noble, dark chestnut thoroughbred in magnificent
condition.

‘Here is one of my daily tasks,’ said he, removing the gallant animal’s
sheet and patting his neck. ‘In this case it is a labour of love, as I
am passionately fond of horses, and have a theory of my own about
breeding which I am trying to carry out. Isn’t he a beauty?’

Wilfred, looking at the satin skin of the grand animal before him,
thought he had rarely seen his equal.

‘You observe,’ said Hamilton, ‘in this sire, if I mistake not,
characteristics not often seen in English studs. Camerton combines the
perfect symmetry, the beauty and matchless constitution of the desert
Arab with the size and bone of the English thoroughbred.’

‘He does give me that idea, precisely,’ said Wilfred. ‘Wonderful make
and shape. His back rib has the cask-like roundness of the true Arab;
and what legs and feet! Looking at him you see an enlarged Arab.’

‘His grand-dam was a daughter of The Sheik, an Arab of the purest
Seglawee strain of the Nejed, imported from India many years ago by a
cavalry officer, whose charger he was. He has besides the Whisker,
Gratis, and Emigrant blood. In him we have at once the horse of the new
and of the old world—the size and strength of the Camerton type, the
symmetry of the Arab, and such legs and feet as might have served
Abdjar, the steed of Antar.’

When they re-entered the cottage they saw Mr. Churbett, who had intended
to go home that morning, but finding the witty Canon such pleasant
reading, thought he would start in the afternoon, finally making up his
mind to stay another day and leave punctually after breakfast. There was
nothing to do—he observed—and no one to talk to, when he did get home,
so there was the less reason for haste.

‘You had better stay, Fred, and go with me to Yass,’ suggested Argyll.
‘I am going there next week, and I daresay you have some business
there.’

‘I believe I have; indeed, I know that I have been putting off something
old Billy Rockley blew me up about last month, and I’ll go in with you
and get it over. But I won’t stay now. I’ll go to-morrow, or my
stock-rider will think I’m lost and take to embezzling my bullocks,
instead of stealing my neighbour’s calves, which is his duty to do. One
must keep up discipline.’

After lunch Wilfred mounted his ancient charger and departed along the
track to Warbrok, Mr. Churbett volunteering to show him the way past
divers snares for the unwary, yclept ‘turn-off’ roads.

‘These two fellows,’ said he, ‘have no end of what they call duties to
perform before nightfall, and can’t be spared of course; but I can spare
myself easily, and give Duellist exercise besides.’

Presently Mr. Churbett, who was a very neat figure, having assumed
breeches and boots, appeared mounted upon a magnificent bay horse, the
finest hackney, in appearance, which Wilfred had yet seen. A bright bay
with black points, showing no white but a star in the centre of his
broad forehead; he stood at least fifteen hands three inches in height,
with all the appearance of high caste and courage. As they started he
showed signs of impatience, and then, arching his neck, set off at a
remarkably fast walk, which caused Barragon’s stock-horse jog to appear
slow and ungraceful.

‘What a glorious hackney!’ said Wilfred, half enviously. ‘Did you breed
him?’

‘No, don’t breed horses; too much expense and bother. Fools breed—that
is, enthusiasts—and wise men buy. He’s a Wanderer, bred by Rowan of
Pechelbah. Got him rather cheap about six months ago; gave
five-and-twenty pounds for him. The man that _did_ breed him, of course,
couldn’t afford to ride him; thought he had others as good at home,
which I take leave to doubt.’

‘I should think so! What a price for a horse of his figure—five years
old, you say, and clean thoroughbred. A gift! Is he fast?’

‘Pretty well. I shall run him for the Maiden Plate at Yass Races. And
now, do you see that turn-off road? Well, don’t turn off; by and by you
will come to another; follow it, and you will have no further chance of
losing your way. I’ll say good-afternoon.’

His amusing friend turned, and as Duellist’s hoofs died away in the
distance, Wilfred took the old horse by the head and sent him along at a
hand-gallop, only halting occasionally until, just as the dusk was
impending, the far-gleaming waters of the lake came into view. Dick had
arrived hours before, and had all his charge secured in the now
creditable stock-yard. The absentee was welcomed with enthusiasm by the
whole family, who appeared to think he had been away for months, to
judge by the warmth of their greetings.



                              CHAPTER VII
                      TOM GLENDINNING, STOCK-RIDER


‘Come in at once, this moment, and tell us all about everybody,’ said
Annabel; ‘tea is nearly ready, and we are hungry for news, and even just
a little gossip. Have you enjoyed yourself and seen many new people?
What a fine thing it is to be a man!’

‘I have seen all the world, like the little bird that flew over the
garden wall. I have enjoyed myself very much, have bought a few horses
and many cattle, also spent a very pleasant evening at Benmohr. Where
shall I begin?’

‘Oh, about the people of course; you can come to the other things later
on. People are the only topics of interest to us. And oh, what do you
think? We have seen strangers too. More wonderful still, a lady. What
will you give me if I describe her to you?’

‘Don’t feel interested in a sketch of a lady visitor,’ said Wilfred. ‘A
description of a good cheese-press, if you could find one, would be
nearer the mark.’

‘You would not speak in that way if you had seen Mrs. Snowden,’ said
Rosamond, ‘unless you are very much changed.’

‘She is a wonder, and a paragon, of course; did she grow indigenously?’

‘She’s so sweet-looking,’ said Annabel impetuously; ‘she rode such a
nice horse too, very well turned out, as you would say. She talks French
and German; she has travelled, and been everywhere. And yet they have
only a small station, and she sometimes has to do housework—there now!’

‘What a wonderful personage! And monsieur—is he worthy of so much
perfection?’

‘He’s a gentlemanlike man, rather good-looking, who made himself
agreeable. Rosamond has been asked to go and stay with them. Really, the
place seems _full_ of nice people. Did you see or hear of any more?’

‘Yes; now I come to think of it, I heard of two more, great friends of
Argyll and Hamilton and of Mr. Churbett, whom I saw there. Their names
are D’Oyley; Bryson, the younger brother, is a poet; at any rate these
are some of his verses which Mr. Churbett handed to me _apropos_ of our
lives here, shutting out all thoughts but the austerely practical. Yes;
I haven’t lost them.’

‘So you talk of cheese-presses and bring home poetry! Is that your idea
of the practical? I vote that Rosamond reads them out while we are
having tea. Gracious! Ever so many verses.’

‘They seem original; and not so many of one’s neighbours could write
them in any part of the world,’ said Rosamond. ‘I will read them out, if
Annabel will promise not to interrupt in the midst of the most pathetic
part.’

‘I am all attention,’ said Annabel, throwing herself into an easy-chair.
‘I wonder what sort of a man Mr. D’Oyley is, and what coloured eyes he
has. I like to know all about authors.’

‘Never saw him; go on, Rosamond,’ said Wilfred, and the elder sister,
thus adjured, commenced—

                               A FRAGMENT

               Deem we our waking dreams
               But shadows from the deep;
             And do the offspring of the mind
               In barrenness descend
               To an eternal sleep?

               Each print of Beauty’s feet
               Leads upward to her throne;
             For every thought by conscience bless’d,
               Benignant virtue yields
               A jewel from her zone.
             *          *          *          *          *
               The rainbow hath its cloud,
               The seasons gird the sphere,
             We know their time and place, but thou,
               Whence art thou, Child of Light,
               And what thy mission here?

               Like meteor stars that stream
               Adown the dark obscure,
             Didst thou descend from angel homes,
               To bless with angel joys
               Abodes less bright and pure?

               Thy beauty and thy love
               May mortal transports share,
             Aspire with quivering wings to reach
               The spirits of thy thought
               That breathe celestial air.

               Thou art no child of Earth.
               Earth’s fairest children weep
             That o’er affection’s sweetest lyre,
               By phantom minstrels stirred,
               Unhallowed strains will sweep.

               While zephyr-wings may guard,
               The rose its bloom retains;
             The autumn blast o’er sere leaves wails;
               Upon the naked stem
               The thorn alone remains.
             *          *          *          *          *
               The sun-rays scattered far
               Seek now the parent breast,
             In gentler glory gathering o’er
               The floating isles that speck
               The landscape of the West.

               Mute visitants! their smiles
               A fleeting welcome bear,
             Light on thy form the glad beams play,
               And mingling with its folds
               Curl down thy golden hair.

               Methinks, as standing thus
               Against the glowing sky,
             That shadowy form, faint-tinged with gold,
               And raptured face, recall
               A dream of days gone by.

               Glimpses of shadows past,
               That boyhood’s mind pursued,
             In curious wonder shaping forth
               Its visions of the pure,
               The beautiful, the good.

               Till, like the moon’s full orb
               Above the silent sea,
             One Form expanding bright arose,
               And fancy’s mirror showed
               An image like to thee.

               Of headlong hopes that spurned
               The curb of destiny,
             When my soul asked what most it craved,
               Still, still, the mirror showed
               An image like to thee.

‘I think they are beautiful and uncommon,’ said Annabel decidedly; ‘only
I don’t understand what he means.’

‘Obscurity is a quality he has in common with distinguished latter-day
poets,’ said Wilfred. ‘Commencing with the ideal, he has finished with
the real and personal, as happens much in life. I think “A Fragment” is
refined, thoughtful, and truly poetic in feeling.’

‘So do I,’ agreed Rosamond. ‘Mr. Bryson D’Oyley is no every-day
squatter, I was going to say, but as all our neighbours seem to be
distinguished people, we must agree that he is fully up to the average
of cattlemen, as they call themselves.’

‘I _must_ tell Mrs. Snowden about the cheese-press simile. You will be
ready to commit suicide after you have seen her.’

‘Then I must keep out of her way. Rosamond, suppose you sing something.
I have not heard a piano since I left.’

‘Mrs. Snowden tried it, and sang “Je n’aimerai, jamais.” Her voice was
not wonderful, but it is easy to see what thorough training she has
had.’

‘There is a forfeit for any one who mentions Mrs. Snowden again this
evening,’ said Mrs. Effingham. ‘We must not have her spread out over our
daily life, fascinating as I grant her to be. Beatrice and Annabel have
been learning a new duet, which they will sing after Rosamond. I think
you will like it, and this is such a charming room to sing in.’

‘That’s one advantage belonging to this old house,’ said Rosamond, ‘our
music-room is perfect. It is quite a pleasure to hear one’s voice in it;
and when we _do_ furnish the dining-room, if we are ever inclined to
give a party—a most unlikely thing at present—it is large enough to hold
all the people in the district.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

During the following week the men of the family occupied themselves in
branding and regulating the new cattle. A portion of these, having young
calves at foot, were at once amalgamated with the dairy herd. This being
accomplished, it was apparent that some division must be made between
the old and the new cattle. There were too many of them to be mixed up
in one herd, and the steers, in close quarters, were not good for the
health of the cows and smaller cattle. From all this it resulted that
the oracle (otherwise Dick), being consulted, made response that a
stock-rider must be procured who would look after all the cattle, other
than the milch kine, and ‘break them into the Run.’

Wilfred was inclined to be opposed to this project, but reflected that
if any were lost, it would soon amount to more than a man’s wages; also,
that the labour of the dairy, with the rapid increase of the O’Desmond
cattle, was becoming heavier, and required all Guy’s and Andrew’s
attention to keep it in order.

‘For what time would a stock-rider be required?’ he asked.

‘Why, you see, sir,’ said Dick, ‘these here cattle, if they’re not
watched for the next three months, may give us the slip, and be back
among the ranges, at Mick’s place, where they was bred, afore you could
say Jack Robinson. You and I couldn’t leave the dairy, and the calves
coming so fast, if we was never to see ’em again.’

‘I understand,’ said Wilfred; ‘but how are we to pick up a stock-rider
such as you describe? I suppose we shall have to pay him forty or fifty
pounds a year.’

‘I don’t know as we should, sir. There’s a man, if we could get hold on
him, as would jest do for the work and the place. I heard of him being
in Yass last week, finishing his cheque, and if you’ll let me away
to-morrow, I’ll fetch him back with me next day, most likely. He’ll come
reasonable for wages; he used to live here, in the old Colonel’s time,
and knows every inch of the country.’

‘Very well, Dick, you can go. I daresay we can manage the dairy for a
day.’

On the next morning, after milking-time, Mr. Richard Evans presented
himself in review order, when, holding his mare by the bridle, he asked
for the advance of two pounds sterling, for expenses, and so on.

‘You see, I want a pair of boots, Mr. Wilfred, and I may as well get ’em
in Yass while I’m about it.’

‘Oh, certainly,’ assented Wilfred, thinking that he never saw the
veteran look more respectable. ‘The air of Warbrok agrees with you,
Dick; I never saw you look better.’

‘Work allers did agree with me, sir,’ he answered modestly, unhitching
his bridle with a slight appearance of haste, as Mrs. Evans came
labouring up and glanced suspiciously at the notes which he placed in
his pocket.

‘I hope he’ll look as well when he comes back,’ said she, with a meaning
glance; ‘but if he and that old rascal Tom gets together, they’ll ——’

‘Never you mind, old woman,’ interrupted Dick, riding off, ‘you look
after them young pigs and give ’em the skim milk reg’lar. Tom
Glendinning and I’ll be here to-morrow night, if I can find him.’

Mrs. Evans raised her hand in what might be accepted as a warning or a
threatening gesture, and Wilfred, wondering at the old woman’s manner,
betook himself to his daily duties.

‘A grumbling old creature,’ he soliloquised. ‘I don’t wonder that Dick
is glad to get away from her tongue. She ought to be pleased that he
should have a holiday occasionally.’

On the morning following Richard Evans’s departure, extra exertion was
entailed upon Wilfred and Guy, as also upon Andrew Cargill, by reason of
their having to divide the milking of his proportion of the cows among
them. As Dick was a rapid and exhaustive operator, his absence was felt,
if not regretted. As they returned from the troublesome task, a full
hour later than usual, Wilfred consoled himself by the thought that the
next day would find this indispensable personage at his post.

‘I wadna hae thocht,’ confessed Andrew, ‘that the auld, rough-tongued
carle’s absence could hae made siccan a camstairy. But he’s awfu’ skeely
wi’ thae wild mountain queys, and kens brawly hoo tae daiker them. It’s
no said for naught that the children o’ the warld are wiser in their
generation than the children o’ licht. He’ll be surely back the morn’s
morn.’

Explaining Dick’s eminence in the milking-yard by this classification,
and undoubtedly including himself in the latter category, Andrew betook
himself to an outer apartment, where the scrupulous Jeanie had provided
full means of ablution.

The next day passed without the appearance of the confidential retainer.
Another, and yet another. In default of his aid, Wilfred exerted himself
to the utmost and succeeded in getting through the ordinary work; yet a
sense of incompleteness pervaded the establishment. Ready-witted,
tireless, and perfect in all the minor attainments of Australian country
life, Dick was a man to be missed in a hundred ways in an establishment
like Warbrok Chase.

New cows had calved and required milking for the first time. One of them
had shown unexpected ferocity; indeed, knocking over Andrew, and
disabling his right arm.

‘The old fellow may have had an accident,’ suggested Mr. Effingham; ‘I
suppose such things occur on these wild roads; or he _may_ have indulged
in an extra glass or two.’

‘I said as much to that old wife of his,’ said Wilfred, ‘but she
grumbled something about the devil taking care of his own; he would be
back when he had had his “burst”—whatever that means—and that he and
that old villain Tom Glendinning would turn up at the end of this week
or next, whenever their money was done.’

‘Why, if there isn’t old Dick coming along the road now,’ said Guy;
‘that’s his mare, anyhow, I know the switch of her tail. There’s a man
on a grey horse with him.’

In truth, as the two horsemen came nearer along the undulating forest
road, it became apparent that their regretted Richard, and no other, was
returning to his family and friends. His upright seat in the saddle
could be plainly distinguished as he approached on the old bay mare. The
London dealer’s phrase of a ‘good ride and drive horse’ held good in her
case, as she came along at her usual pace of a quick-stepping walk, with
her head down and her hind legs brought well under her at every stride.
The other horseman rode behind, not caring apparently to quicken the
unmistakable ‘stockman’s jog’ of his wiry, high-boned grey horse. His
lounging seat was in strong contrast to his companion’s erect bearing,
but it told of the stock-rider’s long days and nights passed in the
saddle. Not unlike the courser of Mazeppa was his hardy steed in more
than one respect.

                  Shaggy and swift and strong of limb,
                  All Tartar-like he carried him.

The Arab blood, which old Tom’s charger displayed, prevented any
particular shagginess; but in the bright eye, the lean head, the sure
unfaltering step, as well as in the power of withstanding every kind of
climate, upon occasion, upon severely restricted sustenance, ‘Boney’
might have vied with the Hetman’s, or any other courser that

                              ... grazed at ease
                     Beside the swift Borysthenes.

Such in appearance, and so mounted, were the horsemen who now
approached. Their mode of accost was characteristic. Dick rode up
straight till within a few paces of his employer, when he briskly
dismounted, and stood erect, making the ordinary salute.

The effects of the week’s dissipation were plainly visible in the
veteran’s countenance, gallant as were his efforts to combine
intrepidity with the respectful demeanour of discipline. A bruise under
one eye, with other discolorations, somewhat marred the effect of his
steady gaze, while a tremulous muscular motion could not be concealed.

‘How is this, Evans?’ said his commander; ‘you have broken your leave,
and put us to much inconvenience; what have you been doing with yourself
all this time?’

‘Got drunk, Captain!’ replied the veteran, with military brevity, and
another salute of regulation correctness.

‘I am sorry to hear it, Richard,’ said Mr. Effingham. ‘You appear to
have had a skirmish also, and to have suffered in engagement. I daresay
it will act as a caution to you for the future.’

‘Did me a deal of good—begging your honour’s pardon—though I didn’t
ought to have promised to come back next day. I was that narvous at
breakfast afore I went that I couldn’t scarce abear to hear the old
woman’s voice. I’ll be as right as a Cheshire recruit till Christmas
now. But I’ve done the outpost duty I was told off for, and brought Tom
Glendinning. He’s willin’ to engage for ten shillin’ a week and his
keep, and his milkin’s worth that any day.’

The individual addressed moved up his elderly steed, and touching his
hat with a faint flavour of the gentleman’s servant habitude long past,
fixed upon the group the gleaming eyes which surmounted his hollow
cheek. The face itself was bronzed, well-nigh blackened out of all
resemblance to that of a white man. Trousers of a kind of fustian,
buttressed with leather under the knees and other places (apparently for
resisting the friction involved by a life in the saddle), protected his
attenuated limbs. The frame of the man was lean and shrunken. He had a
worn and haggard look, as if labour, privation, and the indulgence of
evil passions had wrecked the frail tenement of a soul. Yet was there a
wiry look about the figure—a dauntless glitter in the keen eyes which
told that their possessor could yet play a man’s part on earth before he
went to his allotted place. A footsore dog with a rough coat and no
particular tail had by this time limped up to the party and lay down
under the horses’ feet.

‘Are you willing to engage with me on the terms mentioned by Richard
Evans?’ asked Mr. Effingham. ‘You are acquainted with this place, I
believe?’

‘I was here,’ answered the ancient stock-rider, ‘when the Colonel first
got a grant of Warbrok from the Crown. A lot of us Government men was
sent up with the overseer, Ben Grindham, to clear a paddock for corn,
where all that horehound grows now. We had a row over the rations—he
drove us like niggers, and starved us to boot (more by token, it’s
little we had to ate)—and big Jim Baker knocked his head in with an axe,
blast him! He was always a fool. I seen him carried to the old hut where
you see them big stones—part of the chimney, they wor.’

‘Good heavens!’ said Wilfred. ‘And what was done?’

‘Jim was hanged, all reg’lar, as soon as they could get him back to
Sydney. We was all “turned in to Government,”’ said the chronicler.
‘After a bit, the Colonel got me back for groom, so I stayed here till
my time was out. I know the old place (I had ought to), every rod of it,
back to the big Bindarra.’

‘You can milk well, I believe?’

‘He can do most things, sir,’ said Dick, comprehensively guaranteeing
his friend, and mounting his mare, he motioned to the old fellow, who
had just commenced to emit a derisive chuckle from his toothless gums,
to follow him. ‘If you’ll s’cuse us now, sir, we’ll go home and get
freshened up a bit. Tom won’t be right till he’s had a sleep. He’s
hardly had his boots off for a week. You’ll see us at the yard in the
morning all right, sir, never fear.’

‘Well, I’m glad you’ve come back, Dick,’ said Guy; ‘we’ve missed you
awfully. The heifers are too much for Andrew. However, it’s all right
now, so the sooner you get home and make yourself comfortable the
better.’

This suggestion, as the ancient prodigals ambled away together, caused
old Dick to grin doubtfully. ‘I’ve got to have it out with my old woman
yet, sir.’

Whatever might have occurred in the progress of a difficult explanation
with Mrs. Evans, the result was so far satisfactory that on the
following morning, when Wilfred went down to the milking-yard, he found
the pair in full possession of the situation, while the number of calves
in companionship with their mothers, as well as the state of the
brimming milk-cans, testified to the early hour at which work had
commenced.

Dick had regained his easy supremacy, as with a mixture of fearlessness
and diplomacy he exercised a Rarey-like influence over the wilder cows,
lately introduced to the milking-yard.

His companion, evidently free of the guild, was causing the milk to come
streaming out of the udder of a newly calved heifer, as if by the mere
touch of his fingers, the bottom of his bucket rattling the while like a
small-sized hailstorm.

Greeting the old man cheerfully, and making him a compliment on his
milking, Wilfred was surprised at the alteration in his appearance and
manner.

The half-reckless, defiant tone was replaced by a quiet bearing and
respectful manner. The expression of the face was changed. The eyes,
keen and restless, had lost their savage gleam. An alert step, a ready
discharge of every duty, with the smallest details of which he seemed
instinctively acquainted, had succeeded the lounging bearing of the
preceding day. Wilfred thought he had never seen a man so markedly
changed in so short a time.

‘You both seem improved, Dick. I suppose the morning air has had
something to do with it.’

‘Yes, sir—thank God,’ said he, ‘I’m always that fresh after a good
night’s sleep, when I’ve had a bit of a spree, that I could begin again
quite flippant. Old Tom had a goodish cheque this time, and was at it a
week afore I came in. _He looked_ rather shickerry. But he’s as right as
a toucher now, and you won’t lose no calves while _he’s_ here, I’ll go
bail. He can stay in my hut. My old woman and he knowed one another
years back, and she’ll cook and wash for him, though they do growl a bit
at times.’

It soon became apparent, making due deductions for periodical
aberrations, that Mr. Effingham possessed in Dick Evans and Tom
Glendinning two rarely efficient servitors. They knew everything, they
did everything; they never required to be reminded of any duty
whatsoever, being apparently eager to discover matters for the advantage
of the establishment, in which they appeared to take an interest not
inferior to that of the proprietor. Indeed, they not infrequently
volunteered additional services for their employer’s benefit.

The season had now advanced, until the fervid height of midsummer was
near, and still no hint of aught but continuous prosperity was given to
the emigrant family.

Though the sun flamed high in the unspecked firmament, yet from time to
time showers of tropical suddenness kept the earth cool and moist,
refreshing the herbage, and causing the late-growing maize to flourish
greenly, in the dark unexhausted soil. Their wheat crop had been reaped
with but little assistance from any but the members and retainers of the
family. And now a respectable stack occupied jointly, with one of oaten
hay, the modest stack-yard, or haggard, as old Tom called it.

The cheese operations developed, until row upon row of rich
orange-coloured cheeses filled the shelves of the dairy.

The garden bore token of Andrew’s industry in the pruned and renovated
fruit trees, which threw out fresh leaves and branches; while the moist
open season had been favourable to the ‘setting’ of a much more than
ordinary yield of fruit. The crops of vegetables, of potatoes, of other
more southern esculents looked, to use Andrew’s phrase, ‘just
unco-omon.’ Such vegetables, Dick confessed, had not been seen in it
since the days of the Colonel, who kept two gardeners and a spare boy or
two constantly at work. Gooseberries, currants, and the English fruits
generally, were coming on, leading to the belief that an extensive jam
manufacture would once more employ Jeanie and the well-remembered copper
stew-pan—brought all the way from Surrey.

The verandah was once more a ‘thing of beauty’ in its shade of ‘green
gloom.’ The now protected climbers had glorified the wreathed pillars;
again gay with the purple racemes of the Wistaria and the deep orange
flowers of the _Bignonia venusta_. The lawn was thickly carpeted with
grass; the gravelled paths were raked and levelled by Andrew, whenever
he could gain an hour’s respite from dairy and cheese-room.

The increase of the cattle had been of itself considerable, while the
steers of the Donnelly contingents fattened on the newly matured
grasses, which now commenced to send forth that sweetest of all summer
perfumes, the odour of the new-mown meadows.

The small but gay parterres, which the girls and Mrs. Effingham kept,
with some difficulty, free from weeds, were lovely to the eye as
contrasted with the bright green sward of the lawn.

The wildfowl dived and flew upon the lake, furnishing forth for a
while—as in obedience to Mr. Effingham’s wishes a close season was
kept—unwonted supplies to the larder.

All the minor living possessions of the family appeared to bask and
revel in the sunshine of the general prosperity. The greyhounds,
comfortably housed and well fed, had reared a family, and were
commencing to master the science of killing kangaroos without exposing
themselves to danger.

The Jersey cow, Daisy, had produced a miniature copy of herself, in a
fawn-coloured heifer calf, while her son, ‘The Yerl of Jersey,’ as
Andrew had christened him, had become a thick-set, pugnacious, important
personage, pawing the earth, and bellowing unnecessarily, as if sensible
of the exalted position he was destined to take, as a pure bred Jersey
bull, under two years of age, at the forthcoming Yass Agricultural Show.

As the days grew longer, and the daily tasks of labour became less
exciting in the neighbourhood, as well as at Warbrok Chase, much
occasional visiting sprang up. The stable was once more capable of
modest entertainment, though far from emulating the hospitalities of the
past, when, in the four-in-hand drag of the reigning regiment, the
fashionables of the day thought worth while to rattle over the unmade
roads for the pleasure of a week’s shooting on the lake by day, with the
alternative of the Colonel’s peerless claret by night. Andrew’s boy,
Duncan, a solemn lad of fourteen, whom his occasionally impatient sire
used to scold roundly, was encouraged to be in attendance to receive the
stranger cavalry.

For one afternoon, Fred Churbett’s Grey Surrey, illustrious as having
won the Ladies’ Bag two years running at the Yass Races, and, as such,
equal in provincial turf society to a Leger winner, would canter
daintily up to the garden gate, followed perhaps at no great interval by
Charlie Hamilton’s chestnut, Red Deer, in training for the Yass Maiden
Plate, and O’Desmond’s Wellesley, to ensure whose absolute safety he
brought his groom. On the top of all this Captain and Mrs. Snowden would
arrive, until the dining-room, half filled with the fashion of the
district, did not look too large after all.

By degrees, rising to the exigencies of his position, Wilfred managed to
get hold of a couple of ladies’ horses, by which sensible arrangement at
least three of the family were able to enjoy a ride together, also to
return Mrs. Snowden’s call, and edify themselves with the conversation
of that amusing woman of the world.

And the more Mr. Effingham and his sons saw of the men composing the
little society which shared with them the very considerable district in
which they resided, the more they had reason to like and respect them.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The blessed Christmastide was approaching. How different was it in
appearance from the well-remembered season in their own beloved home! A
thousand reminiscences came rushing across the fields of memory, as the
Effinghams thought of the snow-clad hedges, the loaded roofs, the
magical stillness of the frost-arrested air. Nor were all the features
of the season attractive. Heavy wraps, closed doors, through which, in
spite of heaped-up fires, keen draught and invisible chills would
intrude; the long evenings, the dark afternoons, the protracted nights,
which needed all the frolic spirits of youth, the affection of home
life, and the traditional revelry of the season to render endurable.

How different were all things in this strange, far land!

Such soft airs, such fresh, unclouded morns, such far-reaching views
across the purple mountains, such breeze-tossed masses of forest
greenery, such long, unclouded days were theirs, in this the first
midsummer of what Annabel chose to call ‘Australia Felix.’

‘I should have just the same feeling,’ she said, ‘if I lived in the
desert under favourable circumstances. Not the horrid sandy, simoomy
part of it, of course. But some of those lovely green spots, where there
is a grey walled-in town, an old, old well, thousands of years old, and
such lovely horses standing at the doors of the tents. Why can’t we have
our horses broken in to stand like that, instead of having to send
Duncan for them, who takes hours? And then we could ride out by
moonlight and _feel_ the grand silence of the desert; and at sunset the
grey old chiefs and the maidens and the camels and the dear little
children would come to the village well, like Rebekah or Rachel—which
was it? I shall go to Palestine some day, and be a Princess, like Lady
Hester Stanhope. This is only the first stage.’



                              CHAPTER VIII
                      MR. WILLIAM ROCKLEY OF YASS


Upon his next visit to The Chase, which took place shortly after this
conversation, the Reverend Harley Sternworth was accompanied by a
pleasant-looking, alert, middle-aged personage, who, descending from the
dog-cart with alacrity, was introduced as Mr. William Rockley of Yass.

‘Bless my soul!’ said this gentleman, looking eagerly around, ‘what a
fine property! Never saw it look so well before. I’m delighted to find
it has got into such good hands; neglected in Colonel Warleigh’s time,
even worse since by rascally tenants. Nearly bought it myself, but
couldn’t spare the money. Splendid investment; finest land in the whole
district, finest water, finest grass. I ought to know.’

‘It is most gratifying to hear a gentleman of your experience speak so
highly of Warbrok,’ said Mr. Effingham. ‘Our good friend here has been
the making of our fortunes.’

‘Just like him! just like him!’ said the new-comer, lighting a cigar and
puffing out smoke and sentences with equal impetuosity. ‘Always
attending to other people’s business; might have made his own fortune,
two or three times over, if he’d taken my advice.’

‘I know some one else who is tarred with the same brush,’ returned the
parson. ‘Who bought in young Harding’s place the other day, when his
mortgagee sold him up, and re-sold it to him on the most Utopian terms?
But shouldn’t you like to walk round while you smoke your cigar this
morning? We can pay our respects to the ladies afterwards.’

‘Just the very thing. Many a time I’ve been here in the old days. What a
change! What a change! Bless my soul, how well the garden looks; never
expected to see it bloom again! And the old house!—one would almost
think Mrs. Warleigh was alive.’

‘The best of wives and mothers,’ said Mr. Sternworth with feeling. ‘What
a true lady and good Christian she was! If she had lived, there would
have been a different household.’

‘Daresay, daresay,’ said Mr. Rockley meditatively. ‘Precious rascals,
the sons; hadn’t much of a chance, perhaps. Wild lot here in those days,
eh? So I see you have had that mound moved from the back of the cellar.’

‘We couldn’t think what it was,’ said Mr. Effingham. ‘The excavation
must have been made long ago.’

‘Not heard the story, then? Wonderful how some secrets are kept. Never
mind, Sternworth, I won’t tell Captain Effingham the _other_ one. Randal
Warleigh, the eldest son, was one of the wildest devils that even _this_
country ever saw. Clever, handsome, but dissipated; reckless,
unprincipled, in fact. Old man and he constantly quarrelling. Not that
the Colonel was all that a father should have been, but he drank like a
gentleman. Never touched anything before dinner. He finished his bottle
of port then, and sometimes another, but no morning spirit-drinking.
Would as soon have smoked a black pipe or worn a beard. It came to this
at last, that when he went away he locked up sideboard and cellar,
forbidding the housekeeper to give his sons any liquor.’

‘The Colonel left home for a week in Yass, when Randal arrived with some
cattle and two fellow-roysterers. No grog available. Naturally savage.
Swore he would burn the old rookery down before he would submit to be
treated so. Behaved like a madman. Ordered up his men, got picks and
shovels, dug a tunnel under the cellar wall, and helped himself, _ad
libitum_, to wine and spirits.’

‘The governor’s a soldier,’ he said; ‘I’ve given him a lesson in civil
engineering. Here’s his health, boys!’

‘What an outrage!’ said Mr. Effingham.

‘You would have said so if you had seen Warbrok when the old gentleman
returned. Every soul on the place—all convict servants in those days—had
been drunk for a week. Cellar half-emptied, house in confusion. Randal
and his friends had betaken themselves, luckily, the day before, to the
Snowy River, or there might have been murder done. As it was——’

‘I think we may spare our friend any more chronicles of the good old
times, Rockley; let us go down and see the dairy cows, those that Harry
O’Desmond sold him.’

‘All right!’ said his friend good-humouredly, accepting the change of
subject. ‘I daresay Harry O’ had his price, but they _are_ the best
cattle in the country.’

Mr. Rockley was equally hearty and complimentary as to the live stock.
Didn’t think he had ever seen finer cows, finer grass; he believed Mr.
Effingham, if he went on as he was doing, would make a fortune by
dairying. If old Colonel Warleigh had not been ignorant of rural
matters, and his elder sons infernal low-lived scoundrels, a fortune
would have been made before at Warbrok. Nothing could have prevented
that family from becoming rich, with this estate for a home farm, and
two splendid stations on Monaro, but the grossest mismanagement,
incompetence, and vicious tendencies—he might say depravity—of course,
he meant on the part of the young men. The Colonel was indiscreet—in
fact, a d——d old fool—but everybody respected him.

The three gentlemen completed the round of the establishment, during
which progress their mutual friend had praised the stock-yard, the wheat
stack, the lake, the garden, and had pretty well exhausted his
cigar-case. It was high noon in Warbrok, and the shelter of the broad
verandah, which he eulogised by declaring it to be the finest verandah
he had ever been under in his life, was distinctly grateful.

Upon his introduction to Mrs. Effingham and the young ladies, he was
afflicted with an inability to express adequately his respectful
admiration of the whole party. Everything elicited a cordial panegyric.
It was apparent, even without the aid of a few guarded observations from
Harley Sternworth, that Mr. Rockley’s compliments arose from no weak
intention of flattery, no foolish fondness or indiscriminate praise. It
was simply the outpouring of a spring of benevolence which brimmed over
in an important organ, which, for greater convenience in localising the
emotions, is known as the heart. Longing to do good to all mankind, with
perceptions of rare insight and keenness, much of Mr. Rockley’s
philanthropy was necessarily confined to words. But when the opportunity
arrived of translating good wishes into good deeds, few—very few—of the
sons of men embarked in that difficult negotiation with half the
pleasure, patience, and thoroughness of William Rockley.

The friends had not intended to stay the night, the time of a business
man being limited, but upon invitation being pressingly made, first by
Mrs. Effingham and then by the young ladies, one after another, Mr.
Rockley declared that he couldn’t resist such allurements, but that they
must make a cruelly early start and get back to Yass to breakfast next
day. He believed they would see him there often. Mrs. Rockley had not
had the pleasure of calling upon Mrs. Effingham, because she had been
away in Sydney visiting her children at school, as well as an aunt who
was very ill—was always ill, he added impatiently. But she would drive
over and see them, most likely next week; and whenever Mrs. Effingham
and the young ladies came to Yass, or the Captain and his sons, they
must make his house their home—indeed, he would be deeply offended if he
heard of their going to an hotel.

‘Well, really I’m afraid——’

‘My dear sir,’ interrupted Mr. Rockley, ‘of course you meant what you
said about the need of recreation for young people. Your sons have not
had any since you came here, except an odd slap at a flock of ducks—and
these Lake William birds are pretty shy. Then the ladies have hardly
seen any one in the district, except the half-dozen men that have been
to call. Don’t you suppose it’s natural that they should like to know
the world they’ve come to live in?’

‘We are such a large party, Mr. Rockley,’ said Mrs. Effingham, who felt
the necessity of being represented at this important council. ‘It is
extremely kind of you, but——’

‘But look here, Mrs. Effingham,’ interrupted Mr. Rockley with fiery
impatience, so evidently habitual that she could not for a moment
consider it to be disrespectful, ‘don’t you think it probable, in the
nature of things, that you may visit Yass—which is your county town,
remember—at the time of the races? All the world will be going. It’s a
time of year when there is nothing to do—as the parson here will tell
you. There will be balls, picnics, and parties for the young
ladies—everything, in fact. _You must go_, you see that, surely? You’ll
be the only family of position in the country-side that won’t be there.
And if you go and don’t make my house your home, instead of a noisy,
rackety hotel, why—I’ll never speak to one of you again.’

Here Mr. Rockley closed his rapidly delivered address, with a look of
stern determination, which almost frightened Mrs. Effingham.

‘You will really offend my good friend and his most amiable and
hospitable lady if you do not accept his invitation,’ said Mr.
Sternworth. ‘It is hardly an ordinary race-meeting so much as a
periodical social gathering, of which a little racing (as in most
English communities, and there never was one more thoroughly British
than this) is the ostensible _raison d’être_.’

‘Well, Howard, for the young people’s sake, we really must think of it,’
said Mrs. Effingham, answering, lest her husband, in distrust of a
colonial gathering, might definitely decline. ‘There will be time enough
to apprise Mrs. Rockley before the event.’

‘My wife will write to you when I get home,’ said Mr. Rockley, ‘and
explain matters more fully than I can do.—Everything goes off pleasantly
at our annual holiday, doesn’t it, Harley?’

‘So much so, that in my office of priest I have never had occasion to
enter my protest. The people need a respite from the toils and
privations of their narrow home world, almost more than we do.’

The evening passed most pleasantly. The parson and the soldier talked
over old army days. While Mr. Rockley, who had been a squatter before
finally settling down at Yass as principal merchant and banker, gave
Wilfred and Guy practical advice. Then he assured Mrs. Effingham that at
any time when she or the young ladies required change, they had only to
write to Mrs. Rockley—or come, indeed, without writing—and make their
house a home for as long as ever it suited them. Subsequently he
declared that he had never heard any music in the least degree to be
compared to the duet which Rosamond and Annabel executed for his
especial benefit. He charmed Mrs. Effingham by telling her that her son
Wilfred was the most promising and sensible young man he had ever
noticed as a beginner in the bush, and must infallibly do great things.
Lastly, he begged that he might be provided with a cup of coffee at
daylight, as, if he and Mr. Sternworth were not at Yass by
breakfast-time, dreadful things might happen to the whole district.
Annabel declared that she would get up and make it for him herself.
Their visitors then retired for the night, all hands being in a high
state of mutual appreciation.

‘Your friend seems a most genial and sterling person, Harley,’ said Mr.
Effingham, as they indulged in a final stroll up the verandah, after the
general departure. ‘Is he always so complimentary?’

‘He can be extremely the reverse, upon occasion; but he is, perhaps, the
man of all others in whose good feeling I have the most undoubting
faith. Under that impetuous, explosive manner, the outcome of a fervid,
uncompromising nature, he carries an extraordinary talent for affairs,
and one of the most generous hearts ever granted to mortal man. He has
the soul of the Caliph Haroun Alraschid, and has secretly done more good
deeds, to my knowledge, in this district than all the rest of us put
together. His correct taste has enabled him to appreciate all my dear
children here. From this time forth you may reckon upon a powerful,
untiring friend in William Rockley.’

‘I know _one_ friend, Harley,’ said Effingham as their hands met in a
parting grasp, ‘who has been more than a brother to me in my hour of
need. We can never divide the gratitude which is your due from me and
mine.’

‘Pooh! pooh! a man wants more friends than one, especially in Australia,
where a season of adversity—which means a dry one—may be hanging over
him; and a better one than William Rockley will be to you, henceforth,
no man ever saw or heard of. Good-night!’

So passed the happy days of the first early summer-time at Warbrok—days
which knew no change until the great festival of Christmas approached,
which closes the year in all England’s dependencies with hallowed
revelry and honoured mirth. Christmas was imminent. The 20th of December
had arrived; a day of mingled joy and sorrow, as more freshly, vividly
came back the buried memories of old days, the echo of the lost chimes
of English Christmas bells. But in spite of such natural feelings, the
advent of Christmas was not suffered to pass without tokens of gladness
and services of thanksgiving.

It had been decided to invite Messrs. Hamilton and Argyll, with Mr.
Churbett and Mr. Forbes, to join the modest family festivities on this
occasion. Old Tom had been duly despatched with the important missives,
and the invitations were frankly accepted.

On the 24th of December, therefore, late in the afternoon, which is the
regulation hour for calling in Australian country society, the visitor
being aware that he is expected to stay all night, and not desiring,
unless he is _very_ young, to have more than an hour to dispose of
before dinner, the gentlemen aforesaid rode up. They had met by
appointment and made the expedition together.

                  *       *       *       *       *

‘Fancy this being Christmas Day!’ exclaimed Annabel, as—the
time-honoured greetings being uttered—the whole party disposed
themselves comfortably around the breakfast-table. ‘And what a lovely
fresh morning! Not a hot-wind day, as old Dick said it would be. It
makes me shiver when I think of how we were wrapped up this time last
year.’

‘Are you certain it _is_ Christmas, Miss Annabel?’ said Fred Churbett;
‘I doubt it, because of the absence of holly and snow, and old women and
school children, and waits and the parish beadle—all the belongings of
our forefathers. There _must_ be some mistake. The sun is too fast,
depend upon it. I must write to the _Times_.’

‘Old Dick brought a load of scarlet-flowering bushes from the hills
yesterday,’ said Rosamond, ‘with which he solemnly decorated his hut and
our verandah pillars. He wished to make Andrew a present of a few
branches as a peace-offering, but he declined, making some indignant
remark about Prelatism or Erastianism, which Dick did not understand.’

At eleven o’clock A.M. a parade of the ‘full strength of the regiment,’
as Effingham phrased it, was ordered. Chairs, with all things proper,
and a reading-desk, had been arranged on the south side of the wide
verandah.

To this gathering-point the different members of the establishment had
been gradually converging, arrayed in garments, which, if varying from
the fashion-plates of the day, were neat, suitable, and of perfect
cleanliness. Mrs. Evans’s skill as a laundress, which was in the inverse
ratio to her mildness of disposition, enabled Dick to appear in white
duck trousers and a shirt-front which distanced all rivalry. They
contrasted strongly with the unbroken tint of brick-dust red presented
by his face and throat, the latter encircled by an ancient military
stock. Mrs. Evans was attired with such splendour that it was manifest
she had sacrificed comfort to fashion.

‘Old Tom’ had donned, as suitable for the grandeur and solemnity of the
occasion, a well-worn pair of cord breeches, the gift of some employer
of sporting tendencies, which, ‘a world too wide for his shrunk shanks,’
were met at the knee by carefully polished boots, the long-vanished tops
being replaced by moleskin caps. A drill overshirt, fastened at the
waist with a broad leather belt, from which depended a tobacco-pouch,
completed this effective costume. The iron-grey hair was carefully
combed back from his withered countenance; his keen eyes gleamed from
their hollow orbits, imparting an appearance of mysterious vitality to
the ancient stock-rider.

Andrew and Jeanie, of course, attended, the latter dressed with the good
taste which always characterised her, and the former having in charge
the sturdy silent Duncan, with their younger offspring. Of these, Jessie
bade fair to furnish a favourable type of the ‘fair-haired lassie’ so
frequently met with in the ballads of her native land, while Colin, the
second boy, was a clever, confident youngster, in whose intelligence
Andrew secretly felt pride, though he repressed with outward sternness
all manifestations of the same.

Andrew himself, it must be stated, appeared under protest, holding that
‘thae Yerastian, prelatic festivals,’ in his opinion, ‘were no warranted
by the General Assembly o’ the Kirk o’ Scotland, natheless, being little
mair than dwellers in the wilderness, it behoved a’ Christians, though
they should be but a scattered remnant in the clefts o’ the rocks, to
agree in bearing testimony to the Word.’

Across the broad verandah the members of the family, with their
visitors, were seated, behind them the retainers. A table covered with a
cloth was placed before Mr. Effingham, with the family Bible and a
prayer-book of the Church of England.

As he made commencement, and with the words, ‘When the wicked man
turneth away,’ the congregation stood up, it was a matter of difficulty
with Mrs. Effingham to restrain her tears. How the well-remembered
sentences seemed to smite the rock of her well-guarded emotions as with
the rod of the Prophet! She trembled lest the spring should break forth
from her o’erburdened heart, whelming alike prudence and the sense of
fitness. The eyes of the girls were dewy, as they recalled the
white-robed, long-remembered pastor, the ivy-covered church, storied
with legend and memorial of their race, the villagers, the friends of
their youth, the unquestioned security of position, long guaranteed by
habit and usage, apparently unalterable. And now, where stood they,
while the sacred words proceeded from the lips of the head of the
household, whom they had followed to this far land?

In a ‘lodge in the wilderness,’ a speck in a ‘boundless contiguity of
shade,’ with its unfamiliar adjuncts and a company of strangers—pilgrims
and wayfarers—even as they. For a brief interval the suddenly realised
picture of distance and isolation was so real, the momentary pang of
bitterness so keenly agonising, that more than one sob was heard, while
Annabel, whose feelings were less habitually under control, threw her
arms round Jeanie’s neck (who had nursed her as a babe) and wept
unrestrainedly.

No notice was taken of this natural outburst of emotion. Jeanie, with
unobtrusive tenderness and unfailing tact, comforted the weeping girl.
Solemnly the words of the service sounded from her father’s lips, while
the ordinary responses concealed the occasional sobs of the mourner for
home and native land. She had unconsciously translated the unspoken
words of more disciplined hearts.

Gradually, as the service continued, the influences of the scene
exercised a healing power upon the group—the fair, golden day, the
tender azure of the sky, the wandering breeze, the waters of the lake
lapping the shore, the whispering of the waving trees, even the hush of

                  Beautiful silence all around,
                  Save wood-bird to wood-bird calling,

commenced insensibly to soothe the hearts of the exiles. Gradually their
faces recovered serenity, and as the repetitions of belief and trust, of
submission to a Supreme Benevolence, were repeated, that ‘peace which
passeth all understanding,’ an indwelling guest with some, a memory, a
long-forgotten visitant with others, appeared for a space to have
enveloped the little company on that day assembled at Warbrok.

The simply-conducted service was verging on conclusion when a stranger
appeared upon the track from the high road. In bushman’s dress, and
carrying upon his back the ordinary knapsack (or ‘swag’) of the
travelling labourer, he strode along the path at a pace considerably
higher in point of speed than is usual with men who, as a class, being
confident of free quarters at every homestead, see no necessity for
haste. A tall, powerfully-built man, his sun-bronzed countenance
afforded no clue to his social qualification.

Halting at the garden gate, he stood suddenly arrested as he
comprehended the occupation of the assembled group. He looked keenly
around, then easing the heavy roll by a motion of his shoulders, awaited
the final benediction.

‘What is your business with me?’ said Mr. Effingham, closing his book,
and regarding with interest the stranger, whose bold dark eyes roved
around, now over the assembled company, now over the buildings and
offices, and lastly settled with half-admiration, half-diffidence, on
the bright faces of the girls. ‘I have no employment here at present.
Perhaps you would like to stay to-night. You are heartily welcome.’

‘Come along o’ me, young man,’ interposed Dick Evans, as promptly
divining the wayfarer’s habitudes. ‘Come along o’ me; you’ll have a
share of our Christmas dinner, and you might come by a worse.’

‘All right,’ replied the stranger cheerfully, and with a nod of
acknowledgment to Mr. Effingham he jerked back his personal effects into
their position and strode after his interlocutor, who, with old Tom
Glendinning, quitted the party, leaving Mrs. Evans to follow at her
convenience.

‘Fine soldier that man would have made,’ said Mr. Effingham, as he
marked the well-knit frame, the elastic step of the stranger. ‘I wonder
what his occupation is?’

‘Horse-breaker, bullock-driver, station hand of some sort,’ said Argyll
indifferently. ‘Just finished a job of splitting, probably, or is
bringing his shearing cheque to get rid of in Yass.’

‘He appeared to have seen better days, poor fellow,’ said Mrs.
Effingham, ever compassionate. ‘I noticed a wistful expression in his
eyes when he first came up.’

‘I thought he looked proud and disdainful,’ said Annabel, ‘and when old
Dick said “come along,” I half expected him to reply indignantly. But he
went off readily enough. I wonder if he’s a gentleman in disguise?’

‘Or a bushranger,’ suggested Churbett. ‘Donohoe is “out” just now, and
is said to have a new hand with him. These gentry have been occasionally
entertained, like angels, unawares.’

‘What a shocking idea!’ exclaimed Annabel. ‘You have no sentiment, Mr.
Churbett. How would _you_ like to be suspected by everybody if you were
reduced to poverty? He is very handsome, at any rate.’

‘Fred would be too lazy to walk, that is one thing certain, Miss
Annabel,’ said Hamilton. ‘He would prefer to take the situation of cook
or hut-keeper at a quiet station, where there were no children. Fancy
his coming up, touching his hat respectfully, and saying, “I suppose you
haven’t a berth about the kitchen as would suit a pore man, Miss?”’

Here the speaker gave so capital an imitation of Mr. Churbett’s accented
tone in conversation that everybody laughed, including the subject of
the joke, who said it was just like Hamilton’s impudence, but that
_other_ people occasionally had mistakes made as to their station in
life. What about old MʻCallum sending him and Argyll to pass the night
in the men’s hut?

‘The old ruffian!’ said Argyll, surprised out of his usual serenity, ‘I
had two minds to knock him down; another, to tell him he was an ignorant
savage; and a fourth, to camp under a gum-tree.’

‘What did you do finally?’ asked Rosamond, much interested. ‘What an
awkward position to be placed in.’

‘The night happened to be wet,’ explained Hamilton; ‘we had ridden far,
and were _so_ hungry—no other place of abode within twenty miles; so—it
was very unheroic—but we had to put our pride in our pockets, and sleep,
or rather _stay_, in an uncomfortable hut, with half-a dozen
farm-servants.’

‘What a bore!’ said Wilfred. ‘Did he know your names? It seems
inconceivable.’

‘The real truth was,’ said Mr. Churbett, volunteering an explanation,
‘that the old man, taking umbrage somewhere at what he considered our
friend Hamilton’s superfine manners and polite habit of banter, had
vowed to serve him and Argyll out if ever they came his way. This was
how he carried out his dark and dreadful oath.’

‘What a terrible person!’ exclaimed Annabel, opening her eyes. ‘Were you
very miserable, Mr. Hamilton?’

‘Sufficiently so, I am afraid, to have made our friend chuckle if he had
known. We had to ride twenty miles before we saw a hair-brush again, and
Argyll, I must say, looked dishevelled.’

A simultaneous inclination to laughter seized the party, as they gazed
with one accord at Argyll’s curling locks.

‘I should think that embarrassments might arise,’ said Mr. Effingham,
‘from the habit of claiming hospitality when travelling here. There are
inns, I suppose, but they are infrequent.’

‘Not so many mistakes are made as one might think,’ explained Churbett.
‘Squatters’ names are widely known, even out of their districts, and
every one accepts a night’s lodging frankly, as he expects to give one
in return.’

‘But how can we know whether the stranger be a gentleman, or even a
respectable person?’ said Mrs. Effingham. ‘One would be so sorry to be
unkind, and yet might be led into entertaining undesirable guests.’

‘Every gentleman should send in his card,’ said Argyll, ‘if he wishes to
be received, or give his name and address to the servant. People who
will not so comply with the usages of society have no right to
consideration.’

‘But suppose people are not well dressed,’ said Wilfred, ‘or are
outwardly unlike gentlemen, what are you to do? It would be annoying to
make mistakes in either way.’

‘When people are not dressed like gentlemen,’ said Hamilton, ‘you may
take it for granted that they have forfeited their position, or are
contented to be treated as steerage passengers, so to speak. In such
cases the safer plan, as far as my experience goes, is to permit them to
please themselves. I had a good look at our friend yonder, as he came
up, and I have a shrewd suspicion that he belongs to the latter
category.’

‘Poor young man!’ said Mrs. Effingham. ‘Couldn’t anything be done for
him? Think of a son of ours being placed in that position!’

‘He is making himself comfortable with old Dick Evans, most likely,
however unromantic it may appear,’ said Churbett. ‘He will enjoy his
dinner—I daresay he hasn’t had many good ones lately—have a great talk
with Dick and the old stock-rider, and smoke his pipe afterwards with
much contentment.’

‘But a _gentleman_, if he be a gentleman, never could lower himself to
such surroundings, surely?’ queried Rosamond. ‘It is not possible.’

‘Oh yes, it _is_,’ said Beatrice. ‘Because, you remember, Sergeant
Bothwell was more comfortable in the butler’s room with old John Gudyill
than he would have been with Lady Bellenden and her guests, though she
longed to entertain him suitably, on account of his royal blood.’

‘Miss Beatrice, I congratulate you on your familiarity with dear Sir
Walter,’ said Argyll. ‘It is a case perfectly in point, because Francis
Stewart, otherwise Bothwell, had at one time mixed in the society of the
day, and must have had the manners befitting his birth. Nevertheless in
his lapsed condition he preferred the _sans gêne_ of his inferiors.
There are many such in Australia, who “have sat at good men’s feasts,”
but are now, unfortunately, more at ease in the men’s hut.’

‘Of course you’ve heard of Carl Hotson, the man they used to call “the
Count”?’ said Hamilton. ‘No? He lived at Carlsruhe, on the other side of
the range, near the Great South Gap, where every one was obliged to
pass, and (there being no inn) stay all night. Now “the Count” was a
fastidious person of literary tastes. He chafed against entertaining a
fresh batch of guests every night. “Respectable persons—aw—I am
informed, but—aw—I don’t keep an hotel!” Unwilling to be bored, and yet
anxious not to be churlish, he took a middle course. He invented “the
stranger’s hut,” which has since obtained in other parts of the
country.’

‘Whatever was that?’ asked Guy.

‘He had a snug cottage built at a short distance from the road. Into
this dwelling every traveller, without introduction, was ushered. A good
dinner, with bed and breakfast, was supplied. His horse was paddocked,
and in the morning the guest, suitably entertained, but ignorant of the
personnel of the proprietor, as in a castle of romance, was free to
depart.’

‘And a very good idea it was,’ said Mr. Effingham. ‘I can imagine one
becoming tired of casual guests.’

‘Some people were not of that opinion,’ said Mr. Forbes, ‘declaring it
to be in contravention of the custom of the country. One evening Dr.
Portman, an elderly gentleman, of majestic demeanour, came to Carlsruhe.
He relied on a colonial reputation to procure him unusual privileges,
but not receiving them, wrote a stiff note to Mr. Hotson, regretting his
inability to thank him personally for his peculiar hospitality, and
enclosing a cheque for a guinea in payment of the expense incurred.’

‘What did “the Count” say to that?’

‘He was equal to the occasion. The answer was as follows:—


‘SIR—I have received a most extraordinary letter signed J.D. Portman,
enclosing a cheque for one guinea. The latter document I have
transmitted to the Treasurer of the Lunatic Asylum.—Obediently yours,

                                                           CARL HOTSON.’


The Christmas dinner, which included a noble wild turkey, a fillet of
veal, a baron of beef, with two brace of black duck, as well as green
peas, cauliflowers, and early potatoes from the now productive garden,
was a great success. Cheerful and contented were those who sat around
the board. Merry and well-sustained was the flow of badinage, which kept
the young people amused and amusing. In the late afternoon the guests
excused themselves, and left for home, alleging that work commenced
early on the morrow, and that they were anxious as to the results of
universal holiday-making.



                               CHAPTER IX
                    HUBERT WARLEIGH, YR., OF WARBROK


Next morning early, Mr. Effingham was enjoying the fresh, cool air when
Dick marched up to him.

‘Well, Evans,’ said Effingham, ‘Christmas Day is over. Tell me, were you
able to abstain?’

‘Believe me, I got drunk, sir,’ answered the veteran, ‘but I’m all right
now till New Year’s Day.’

‘I am afraid that your constitution will suffer, Evans, if you continue
these regular—or rather irregular—excesses.’

‘Can’t say for that, sir. Been drunk every Christmas since the year as I
’listed in the old rigiment; but I wanted to tell you about that young
man as was in our hut last night. Do you know who he is, sir?’

‘No, indeed, Evans! I suspected he was no ordinary station-hand.’

‘Well, no, sir; that’s the youngest of the old Colonel’s sons. Him as
they used to call “Gyp” Warleigh. He was allers fond of ramblin’ and
campin’ out, from a boy, gipsy fashion. When the Colonel died, he went
right away to some of the far-out stations beyond Monaro, and never
turned up for years. Old Tom knowed him at once, but didn’t let on.’

‘Poor fellow! How hard that he should have come back to his father’s
house penniless and poorly clad. I wonder if we could find him
employment here?’

‘H—m! I don’t know, sir; we haven’t much to keep hands goin’ at this
season, but you can see him yourself. I daresay he’ll come up to thank
you afore he goes.’

Dick’s conjecture proved true, inasmuch as before the breakfast bell
rang the prodigal walked up to the garden gate.

This time he underwent a more careful examination, the result of which
was to impress the master of the house in a favourable manner. Though
dressed much as before, there was some improvement in his appearance. He
came forward now, with the advantage conferred by rest and good
entertainment. His regular features, as Mr. Effingham now thought,
showed plainly the marks of aristocratic lineage. The eyes, especially,
were bold and steadfast, while his figure, hardened by the toils of a
backwoods life, in its grand outline and muscular development, aroused
the admiration of a professional connoisseur. The bronzed face had lost
its haggard expression, and it was with a frank smile that he raised his
hat slightly and said, ‘Good-morning, sir. I have come to thank you for
your kindness and hospitality.’

‘I am pleased to have been enabled to afford it,’ said the master of the
establishment; ‘but is there nothing more that I can do for your
father’s son?’

The man started; a frown set the lower part of his face in rigid
sternness. After a moment’s pause the cloud-like expression cleared, and
with softened voice he said:

‘I see they have told you. I thought the old stock-rider knew me; he was
here before we lived at Warbrok. Yes, it is all true. I am Hubert
Warleigh.’

Mr. Effingham’s impulsive heart was stirred within him, at these words,
to a degree which he himself would hardly have admitted. The actual
presentment of this cadet of an old family—once the object of a mother’s
care, a mother’s prayers—fallen from his position and compelled to
wander over the country, meanly dressed and carrying a burden in this
hot weather, touched him to the heart. He walked up to the speaker, and
laying his hand upon his arm, said in tones of deep feeling:

‘My dear fellow, will you let me advise you, as I should thank any
Christian man to do for my son in like need? Stay with us for a time. I
may be able to assist you indirectly, if not otherwise. At the worst,
the hospitality of this house—of your old home—is open to you as long as
you please to accept it.’

‘You are kind—too kind, sir,’ said the wanderer, while his bold eyes
softened, and for a moment he turned his face towards the lake. ‘The old
place makes me feel like a boy again. But it will never do—_it’s too
late_. You don’t know the ways of this country yet, and you might come
to repent being so soft—I mean so good-natured.’

‘I will take the risk,’ persisted Effingham. ‘Let me see you restored to
your proper standing in society, and following any occupation befitting
a gentleman, and I shall hold myself fully repaid.’

The stranger smiled, half-sadly, half-humorously, as he seated himself
on a fence-rail.

‘That is not so easy as you think, sir,’ he said. ‘Though there’s very
few people in this country would bother about trying. When a fellow’s
been rambling about the bush, working and living with the men, for years
and years, it is not so easy to turn him into a gentleman again. Worst
of all when he’s come short of education, and has half-forgotten how to
behave himself before ladies. Ladies! I swear, when I saw your
daughters, looking like rosebuds in the old verandah, I felt like a
blackfellow.’

‘That a feeling of—of rusticity—would be one of the consequences of a
roving life, I can understand; but you are young—a mere boy yet. Believe
one who has seen something of the world, that the awkwardness you refer
to would soon disappear were you once more among your equals.’

‘Too late—too late!’ said the man gloomily. ‘Gyp Warleigh must remain in
the state he has brought himself to. I know him better than you do,
worse luck! There’s another reason why I’m afraid to trust myself in a
decent house.’

‘Good heavens!’ said Effingham. ‘Then what is that? You surely have
not——’

‘Taken to the bush? Not yet; but it’s best to be straight. I learned the
trick of turning up my little finger too early and too well; and though
I’m right enough for months when I’m far in the bush, or have had a
spell of work, I’m helpless when the drinking fit comes on me. I _must_
have it, if I was to die twenty times over. And the worst of it is, I
can feel it coming creeping on me for weeks beforehand; I can no more
fight it off than a man who’s half-way down a range can stop himself.
But it’s no use talking—I must be off. How well the old place looks!
It’s a grand season, certainly.’

‘You have had adventures here in the old days,’ said Effingham, willing
to lead him into conversation. ‘Had you a fight with bush-rangers in the
dining-room ever?’

‘Then the bullet-marks _are_ there yet?’ said the stranger carelessly.
‘Well, there was wild work at Warbrok when that was done, but
bushrangers had no say in it. It was the old governor who blazed away
there. He was always a two-bottle man, was the governor, and after poor
mother died he scarcely ever went to bed sober. Randal and Clem were
terrible wild chaps, or they might have kept matters together. I was the
youngest, and let do pretty much as I liked. I never learned anything
except to read and write badly. Always in the men’s huts, I picked up
all the villainy going before I was fourteen. But about those
bullet-marks in the wall.’

‘I feel deeply interested, believe me; and if you would permit me to
repair the neglect you have experienced, something may yet be done.’

‘You don’t know men of my sort, Captain, or you wouldn’t talk in that
way. Not that I haven’t a feeling towards you that I’ve never had since
poor mother died, and told me to be a good boy, as she stroked my hair
for the last time. But how could I? What chance is there for a lad in
the bush, living as we did in those days? I remember Randal’s coming
home from Bathurst races—he’d go any distance to a race meeting. He was
like a madman. It was then that the row came about with the governor,
when they nearly shot one another.’

‘Nearly shot one another! Good heavens! How _could_ that happen?’

‘After the cellar racket Randal had the sense to stay away at Monaro and
work at our station there for months. He could work when he liked, and a
smarter man among stock never handled a slip-rail. But he had to come
home at last. The governor talked to him most polite. Hoped he’d stay to
dinner. He drank fair; they were well into the fourth bottle when the
row began. He told us afterwards that the old man, instead of flying
into a rage, as usual, was bitter and cool, played with him a bit, but
finished up by saying that “though it was the worst day’s work he ever
did to come to this accursed country, he hardly expected his eldest son
would turn out a burglar and a thief.”

‘Randal was off his head by this time—been ‘a bit on’ before he
came—swore he wouldn’t stand that from any man, not even his own father.
The old man glared at him like a tiger, and fetching out the loaded
duelling pistols, which people always had handy in those days, gave him
one, and they stood up at different ends of the long room.

‘We heard the shots and rushed in. There was Randal holding on by the
wall, swaying about, and, pointing to the ceiling, saying, as well as he
could, “Fired in the air! by ——! fired in—the—air!” Sure enough, there
was the mark of his bullet in the ceiling, but the _other one_ had hit
the wall, barely an inch from Randal’s head.’

‘What an awful affair! How your father must have rejoiced that he was
spared the guilt of such a crime.’

‘I don’t know about that; all he _said_ next day was, that his hand must
have been shaky, or he would have rid the world of an infernal
scoundrel, who had disgraced his family and was no son of his. He never
spoke to him again.’

‘Miserable father—lost son! What became of your brothers, may I ask,
since you have told me so much?’

‘Randal was in a vessel coming back from Adelaide with an exploring
party. He’d been lushing pretty heavy, and they thought he must have
gone overboard one night in a fit of the horrors. Anyhow, he was never
seen alive afterwards. Poor Clem—he wasn’t half as bad as Randal, only
easy led—died at the Big River: was shepherding when we last heard of
him. I’m all that’s left of the Warleighs. Some fine day you’ll hear of
me being drowned crossing a river, or killed by the blacks, or broke my
neck off a horse; and a good job too. I must be off now. It’s years
since I’ve said as much to any one.’

‘But why—why not stay and commence a happier career? Scores of men have
done so, years after your age. You will have encouragement from every
member of my family.’

‘Family!’ answered the outcast, with a bitter smile. ‘Am I fit to
associate with _ladies_? Why, even while I’m speaking to you I can
hardly open my mouth without an oath or a rough word. No! It might have
been once; it’s years too late now. But I thank you all the same; and if
ever a chance comes in my way of doing your people a good turn, you may
depend your life on Gyp Warleigh. Good-bye, sir!’

As he rose to his feet, squaring his shoulders and towering to the full
height of his stature, Mr. Effingham instinctively held out his hand.
Closing his own upon it for one moment in an iron grasp, the wanderer
strode forth upon his path, and was lost behind a turn in the timber.

Howard Effingham returned to his household filled with sad thought. He
had seen ruined men of all sorts and kinds before; had known many who,
with every social aid and endowment, had chosen to tread the path of
degradation. But there was, to his mind, an element of unusual pathos in
this acquiescent yet resentful debasement of a noble nature. In the hall
he met Wilfred and Guy. Contrasting their frank, untroubled countenances
with that of the ill-fated son of his predecessor his heart swelled with
thankfulness.

‘What a long talk you have been having with our dark friend,’ said
Wilfred. ‘Does he want a situation as stock-rider? or has he a project
requiring the aid of a little capital? He doesn’t look like an
enthusiast.’

‘Nor is he one,’ answered the father briefly. ‘He is an unhappy man,
whom you will compassionate when I tell you that he is Hubert
Warleigh—the Colonel’s youngest son.’

‘Good heavens!’ cried Wilfred. ‘Who said there was no romance in a new
country? I thought he was a fine-looking fellow, with something uncommon
about him. What a history!’

‘What a dreadful, what an astonishing thing!’ exclaimed Annabel, who,
having an appetite for novelty, and seldom being so absorbed in her
household duties as to escape early notice of such, had joined the
group. ‘To think that that sunburned, roughly-dressed man, carrying a
bundle with his blanket and all kinds of things, should be a gentleman,
the son of an old officer; just like Wilfred and Guy here! To be sure,
he _was_ handsome, in spite of his disguise; and did you notice what
splendid black eyes he had? Poor fellow, poor fellow! Why didn’t you
make him stay, papa?’

‘My child! I did try to persuade him; I promised to see what we could do
for him. My heart yearned to the youngster, thinking that if, in the
bounds of possibility, any child of mine was in such evil case, so might
some father’s heart turn to him in his need. But he only said it was too
late, with a kind of proud regret. Yet I think he was grateful, for he
wrung my hand at parting, said it had done him good to speak with me,
and if he could ever do us a service I might count upon him.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

In the dreamy days of the late summer one and all derived great solace
and enjoyment from the Lake William Book Club, now become, thanks to Mr.
Churbett’s brother in London, a working institution. That gentleman had
forwarded a well-selected assortment, comprising the newest publications
of the day, in various departments of literature, not forgetting a
judicious sprinkling of fiction. The books brought out by the family,
neither few nor of humble rank, had been read and re-read until they
were known by heart. This fresh storehouse of knowledge was, for the
first time in their lives, truly appreciated.

Mr. Churbett had employed himself in his solitary hours in covering with
strong white paper and carefully entitling each volume. These he divided
into ‘sets,’ comprising, say, a modicum of history, travel, biography,
or science, with a three-volume novel. The sets being duly numbered, a
sketch circuit was calculated, and proper arrangements made. He, for
instance, forwarded a set to Benmohr, whence they were enjoined to
forward them at the expiration of a month to The Chase; at the same time
receiving a fresh supply from headquarters. O’Desmond sent them on to
the Snowdens, to be despatched by them to Mr. Hampden at Wangarua. So it
came to pass that when the twelfth subscriber forwarded the
first-mentioned set to its original dwelling-place at Mr. Churbett’s,
the year had completed its cycle, and each household had had ample, but
not over-abundant, time to thoroughly master the contents of their dole
of literature.

The autumn month of March was chiefly characterised by the rural
population of the district, as being the season in which was held the
Annual Yass Race Meeting. This tournament was deservedly popular in an
English-speaking community. There was no wife, widow, or maid,
irrespectively of the male representatives, who did not feel a mild
interest in the Town Plate, the delightfully dangerous Steeplechase, and
finally in the ‘Ladies’ Bag.’ This thrilling event comprised a
collection of fancy-work—slippers, embroidered smoking-caps, and
gorgeous cigar-cases, suitable for masculine use or ornament.

The coveted prize was fabricated by the fair hands of the dames and
damsels of the district. The race was confined to amateurs, and those
only were permitted to compete who had received invitations from the
Secretary of the Ladies’ Committee.

Great interest was taken, it may be supposed, in the carrying-off of
this trophy, and many a youthful aspirant might be seen ‘brushing with
hasty step the dew away,’ as he reviewed at dawn his training
arrangements with a face of anxiety, such as might become the owner of a
Derby favourite.

By direct or devious ways the echoes of battle-cries, proper to the
approaching fray, commenced to reach The Chase. Faintly interested as
had been the family in the probable pleasures of such an assemblage,
they could not remain wholly insensible. With each succeeding week
tidings and murmurs of the Carnival swelled into sonorous tone. One day
a couple of grooms, leading horses sheeted and hooded, of which the
satin skins and delicate limbs bore testimony to their title to blue
blood, would pass by on their way to Yass; or Mr. Churbett would ride
over with the latest news, declaring that Grey Surrey was in such
condition that no horse in the district had a chance with him, though
Hamilton’s No Mamma had notoriously been in training for a month longer.
Also, that the truly illustrious steeplechaser, The Cid, had been
stabled at Badajos for the night; but that, in his opinion, he could not
be held at his fences, and if so, St. Andrew would make such an
exhibition of him as would astonish his backers and the Tasmanian
division generally. Then Mrs. Snowden would arrive to lunch, and among
other items of intelligence volunteer the information that the ball,
which the Racing Club Committee was pledged to give this year, would
exceed in magnificence all previous entertainments. Borne on the wings
of the weekly post there came a missive from Mrs. Rockley, reminding
Mrs. Effingham of her promise to come and bring her daughters for the
race week, assuring her that rooms at Rockley Lodge awaited them, and
that wilful child Christabel was prepared to die of grief in the event
of anything preventing their having the pleasure of their company.

Then Bob Clarke was, after all, to ride The Cid. He was the only man
that could hold him at his fences. So there would be such a set-to
between him and St. Andrew, with Charlie Hamilton up, as had never been
seen in the district. The western division were going to back The Cid to
the clothes on their back. Hamilton was a cool hand across country, and
a good amateur jock wherever you put him up, but Bob Clarke, who had had
his early training among the stiff four-railers and enclosed
pasture-lands of Tasmania, was an extraordinary horseman, and had a way
of getting a beaten horse over his last fences which stamped him as the
man to put your money on.

It was not in human nature altogether to disregard current opinions,
which, in default of more important public events, swayed the pastoral
community as well as the dwellers in the rural townships. The Effinghams
gradually abandoned themselves to the stream, and decided to accept Mrs.
Rockley’s invitation for the lady part of the family. To this end
Wilfred made a flying visit to the town, where he had been promptly
taken in custody by Mr. Rockley and lodged in safe keeping at his
hospitable mansion.

He returned with what Beatrice called a rose-coloured description of the
whole establishment; notably of the marvellous beauty of Christabel
Rockley, the only daughter.

‘Why, you haven’t seen girls for I don’t know how long,’ said Annabel,
‘except us, of course—and you don’t see any beauty in fair people—so how
can you tell? The first young woman with a pale face and dark eyes is a
vision of loveliness, of course. Wait till _we_ go to Yass, and you will
hear a proper description.’

‘Women are always unsympathetic about one another,’ he retorted. ‘That’s
the reason one can hardly trust the best woman’s portrait of her
friend.’

‘And men are so credulous,’ said Beatrice. ‘I wonder any sensible woman
has the patience to appropriate one. See how they admire the merest
chits with the beauty of a china doll, and so very, _very_ little more
brains. There is a nice woman, I admit, here and there, but a man
doesn’t know her when he sees her.’

‘All this is premature,’ said the assaulted brother, trying to assume an
air of philosophical serenity. ‘I know nothing about Miss Christabel
save and except that she is “beautiful exceedingly,” like the dame in
Coleridge. But you will find Mr. Rockley’s the nicest house to stay in,
or I much mistake, that you have been in of late years, and, in a
general way, you will enjoy yourselves more than you expect.’

‘I expect _great things_,’ said Annabel, ‘and I intend to enjoy myself
immensely. Fancy, what a pleasure it will be to me to see quantities of
new people! Even Rosamond confessed to me that she felt interested in
our coming glimpse of Australian society. We _have_ been a good deal
shut up, and it will do us good; even Beatrice will fall across a new
book or a fresh character to read, which comes to much the same thing. I
prefer live characters myself.’

‘And I prefer the books,’ said Beatrice; ‘there’s such a dreadful amount
of time lost in talking to people, very often, about such wretched
commonplaces. You can’t skip their twaddle or gossip, and you can in a
book.’



                               CHAPTER X
                         A PROVINCIAL CARNIVAL


The last week of March at length arrived, by which time the nights had
grown perceptibly colder, and the morning air was by no means so mild as
to render wraps unnecessary.

No rain had fallen for some weeks, though before that time there had
been a succession of showers; so that, there being no dust, while the
weather was simply perfect, the grass green, and the sky cloudless, a
more untoward time might have been selected for recreation.

It was indeed the carnival of a community of uncompromising toilers, as
were, in good sooth, the majority of the inhabitants of the town and
district of Yass.

Not without misgiving did Wilfred consent to leave the homestead
entirely to itself. Yet he told himself that, while the farm and dairy
were in the hands of such capable persons as Dick Evans, old Tom, and
Andrew, without some kind of social or physical earthquake, no damage
could occur.

Dick, in spite of his love of excitement, did not care to attend this
race meeting. Aware of his weakness, he was unwilling to enter on a
fresh bout of dissipation before the effects of the last one had faded
from recollection. ‘I looks to have a week about Michaelmas,’ said he,
as gravely as if he had been planning a hunting or fishing excursion,
‘then I reckon to hold on till after harvest, or just afore Christmas
comes in. Two sprees a year is about the right thing for a man that
knows himself. I don’t hold with knockin’ about bars and shanties.’

Crede old Tom, the last Yass races had chiefly impressed themselves on
his mind as a festivity wherein he spent ‘thirty-seven pounds ten in six
days, and broke his collar-bone riding a hurdle race. Whether he was
getting older he could not say, but he felt as if he did not care to go
in just now. He was going to keep right till next Christmas, when, of
course, any man worth calling a man would naturally go in for a big
drink.’

For far other reasons, and in widely differing language, did Andrew
Cargill protest his disinclination to join revelries which, based on the
senseless sport of horse-racing, he felt to be indefensible, immoral,
and worthy only of the heathen, who were so unsparingly extirpated by
the children of Israel. ‘I haena words to express my scorn for thae
fearless follies, and I thocht that the laird and the mistress wad ha’
had mair sense than to gang stravaigin’ ower the land like a wheen
player-bodies to gie their coontenance to siccan snares o’ Beelzebub.
It’s juist fearsome.’

Conflict of opinion in this case resulted in similarity of action,
inasmuch as the two unregenerates, conscious that their hour was not yet
come, conducted themselves with the immaculate propriety nowhere so
apparent as in those Australian labourers who are confessedly saving
themselves up for a ‘burst.’

Nothing could have been descried upon this lower earth more deeply
impressive than the daily walk of these two ancient reprobates, as
Andrew, in his heart, always designated them.

The sun never saw them in bed. Old Tom had his morning smoke while
tracking the nightly wandering dairy cows long before that luminary
concerned himself with the inhabitants of the district. As day was
fairly established, the cows were in the yard, and the never-ending work
of milking commenced. Andrew’s northern perseverance was closely taxed
to keep pace in the daily duties of the farm with these two swearing,
tearing old sinners.

All preliminaries having been concluded, which Mrs. Effingham declared
fell but little short of those which preceded their emigration, the
grand departure was made for their country town in what might justly be
considered to be high state and magnificence.

First of all rode Rosamond and Beatrice on their favourite palfreys.
Touching the stud question, Wilfred and Guy had gradually developed the
love of horses, which is inseparable from Australian country life. The
indifferent nags upon which the girls had taken their early riding
lessons had, by purchase or exchange, been replaced by superior animals.
Rosamond, whose nerve was singularly good, and whose ‘hands’ had reached
a finish rarely accorded to the gentler sex, was the show horsewoman of
the family, being entrusted with the education of anything doubtful
before the younger girls were suffered to risk the mount. She rode a
slight, aristocratic-looking dark bay, of a noble equine family, which,
like themselves, had not long quitted the shores of Britain. Discharged
from a training-stable upon the charge of unfitness to ‘stay,’ he had
fallen into unprofessional hands, from which Wilfred had rescued him,
giving in exchange a fat stock-horse and a trifle more ‘boot’ than he
was ready to acknowledge. He had been right in thinking that in the
delicate head, the light arched neck, the rarely oblique shoulder, the
undeniable look of blood, he saw sufficient guarantee for a peerless
light-weight hackney. This in despite of a general air of height rather
than stability, which caused the severe critics of Benmohr and The
She-oaks to speak of him as being unduly ‘on the leg.’

There are some metals which compensate in quality for lack of weight and
substance; so among horses we find those which, indomitable of spirit
and tireless of muscle, are capable of wearing out their more
solidly-built compeers. To such a class belonged ‘dear Fergus,’ as
Rosamond always called the matchless hackney with which Wilfred had
presented her. Gay and high-couraged, temperate, easy, safe, fast, with
a walk and canter utterly unapproachable, the former, indeed,
assimilating to the unfair speed of a ‘pacer,’ while the latter was
free, floating, graceful, and elastic as that of the wild deer, he was a
steed to dream of, to love and cherish in life, to mourn over in death.
Many an hour, in the gathering twilight, by the shores of the lake, had
Rosamond revelled in, mounted upon this pink of perfection, when Wilfred
jumped upon a fresh horse after his day’s work and called upon his
sister to come for her evening ride. How anxiously, after the lingering,
glaring afternoon, did Rosamond watch for the time which brought the
chief luxury of the day, when she lightly reined the deer-like Fergus as
he sped through the twilight shadows, over the greensward by the lake
shore.

Beatrice had also her favourite, which, though of different style and
fashion, was yet an undeniable celebrity. A small iron-grey mare, scarce
above pony height, was Allspice, with a great flavour of the
desert-born, from which she traced her descent, in the wide nostril,
high croup, and lavish action. Guy picked her up at a cattle muster,
where he was amazed at seeing the ease with which she carried a
thirteen-stone stock-rider through the ceaseless galloping of a day’s
‘cutting-out.’ Asking permission to get on her back, he at once
discovered her paces, and never rested till he had got her in exchange
for a two-year-old colt of his own, which had attracted the attention of
Frank Smasher, the stock-rider in question. Frank, returning with him to
Warbrok, roped the colt, the same day putting the breaking tackle on
him, and within a week was cutting out cattle, on the Sandy Camp, with
no apparent inferiority to the oldest stock-horse there.

Whether Allspice had been broken in after this Mexican fashion is not
known, but as she could walk nearly as fast as Fergus, trot fourteen
miles an hour, and canter ‘round a cheese-plate,’ if you elected to
perform that feat, we must consider that she was otherwise trained in
youth, or inherited the talent which dispenses with education. The light
hand and light weight to which she was now subjected apparently suited
her taste. After a few trials she was voted by the family and all
friendly critics to be only inferior to the inimitable Fergus.

Mr. Churbett had volunteered to come over the evening before and
accompany the young ladies, as otherwise Guy would have been their only
cavalier, Wilfred being absorbed in the grave responsibility of the
dogcart and its valuable freight.

This sporting vehicle contained Mrs. Effingham and Annabel, together
with an amount of luggage, easily calculable when the possibility of a
few picnics, a couple of balls, and any number of impromptu dances are
mentioned. Mr. Effingham also, and his sons, found it necessary upon
this occasion to look up portions of their English outfit, which they
had long ceased to regard as suited for familiar wear.

The light harness work of the family had been hitherto performed by
a single horse, a sensible half-bred animal, and a fair trotter
withal. On this occasion Wilfred had persuaded himself that a second
horse was indispensable. After divers secret councils among the
young men, it ended in Mr. Churbett’s Black Prince, the noted tandem
leader of the district, being sent over. He was docile, as well as
distinguished-looking, so all went well, in spite of Mrs.
Effingham’s doubts, fears, and occasional entreaties, and Annabel’s
plaintive cries when a nervous ‘sideling’ was passed, or a deeper
creek than usual forded.

                  *       *       *       *       *

‘Oh, what a pretty place Rockley Lodge is—a nice, roomy bungalow; and
how trim the garden looks!’

‘Apparently inhabited,’ said Annabel, ‘and rather affected by visitors,
I should say. I can see horses fastened to the garden fence, a carriage
at the door, and a dogcart coming round from the back, as well as two
side-saddle horses. So this is Mr. Rockley’s place! He said it was just
a little way from the town; and there—Mr. Churbett and Rosamond are
turning in at the entrance gate.’

Duellist, having gone off in his training, thereafter not unwillingly
retained for hackney purposes, evidently knew his way to the place, for
he marched off at once, along the track which turned to the white gate.
Followed by the tandem, with Beatrice and Guy bringing up the rear, the
whole party drew up before the hall door.

Mr. Churbett, giving his horse to a hurried groom, who made his
appearance from the offices, assisted Rosamond to dismount, by which
time a youthful-looking personage, whom the Effinghams took to be Miss
Christabel, but who turned out to be her mother, advanced with an air of
unfeigned welcome, and greeted the visitors.

‘Mr. Churbett, introduce me at once. I am afraid you are all very tired.
Come in this moment, my dear girls, and rest yourselves; we must have no
talking or excitement until dinner-time. Mr. Effingham, I count upon
you; Mr. Rockley charged me to tell you that he had asked Mr. Sternworth
to meet you. Mr. Churbett, of course you are to come, and bring the two
young gentlemen. Perhaps we might have a little dance, who knows? You
can go now. Mr. Rockley had rooms and loose boxes kept for you at the
Budgeree, or you wouldn’t have had a hole to put your head in; what do
you think of that?’

Mr. Churbett, much affected by his narrow escape of arriving in Yass and
finding every room and stall appropriated, with no more chance of a
lodging than there is in Doncaster on the Leger day, moved on, leading
Fergus, and murmuring something about Rockley being a minor Providence,
and Mrs. Rockley all their mothers and aunts rolled into one. He
recovered his spirits, however, as was his wont, and caracolled ahead on
Duellist, leading the way into a large stable-yard, around which were
open stalls and loose boxes, apparently calculated for the accommodation
of a cavalry regiment.

‘This is the Budgeree Hotel, and a very fair caravanserai it is. Jim,
look alive and take off the tandem leader. Joe, I want a box for
Duellist. Bowcher, this is Captain Effingham of Warbrok, and these young
gentlemen his sons; did Mr. Rockley order rooms for them and me?’

‘Mr. Rockley, sir. Yes, sir. He come down last week on purpose to see if
I’d kep’ rooms for Mr. Argyll and Mr. Hamilton, as the place was that
full, and like to be fuller; and then he asked if your rooms was took,
and the Captin’s and two young gents’, and when I said they wasn’t, he
went on terrible, as it was just like you, and ordered ’em all right
off, besides four stalls and a box.’

‘Ah, well, it’s all right, Bowcher. Mr. Rockley knows my ways. I wonder
you hadn’t sense enough to keep rooms for me and my friends, as I told
you I was coming. Town very full?’

‘Never see anythink like it, sir. Horses coming from all directions, and
gents from Hadelaide, I should say. Least-ways, from all the outside
places. They’re that full at the Star, as they have had to put half the
horses in the yard, and rig up stalls timpry like.’

‘Ha! that’s all very well; but don’t try that with Black Prince or these
ladies’ horses, or they’ll kick one another sky high.’

While this conversation was proceeding, Mr. Effingham and his sons had
been ushered upstairs, where, at the extreme end of a long corridor, the
Captain was provided with a reasonable bedroom, enjoying a view of the
town and surrounding country. Wilfred and Guy had to content themselves
with a smaller double-bedded apartment, the waiter apologising, as
everything, to the attics, was crammed full, and visitors hourly, like
crowds at the theatre, turned away from the doors. Slight inconveniences
are not dwelt upon in the ‘brave days when we were twenty-one.’ So they
cast their modest wardrobes on the beds, and tried to realise the
situation.

This was a marked divergence from the circumstances of their mode of
life for the past year. It appeared that every room on both sides of the
corridor was tenanted by at least one person of an emotional and
vociferous nature.

Boots were carried to the staircase and hurled violently down,
accompanied by objurgations. Friendly, even confidential, conversations
were carried on by inmates of contiguous apartments. Inquiries were made
and answered as to who were going to dine at Rockley’s or Bower’s; and
one gentleman, who had come in late, publicly tossed up as to which
place he should go uninvited, deciding by that ancient test in favour of
a certain Mr. Bower, apparently of expansive hospitality.

In addition to the dinner-chart, much information was afforded to such
of the general public as had ears, as to the state and prospects of the
horses interested in the coming events. Senator had a cough; and there
were rumours about the favourite for the Leger. St. Maur and the
Gambiers had come in, and brought a steeplechaser, which Alec was to
ride, which would make Bob Clarke’s Cid go down points in the betting.
Mrs. Mortimer had arrived and those pretty girls from Bunnerong. The
fair one would be the belle of the ball. ‘No!’ (in three places) was
shouted out, ‘Christabel Rockley was worth a dozen of her,’ and so on.
Mr. Effingham began to consider what his position would be if he should
have to listen to a discussion upon the merits of his daughters. This
complication happily did not arise, the tide of mirthful talk flowing
into other congenial channels.

It must be confessed that if the company had been charged for the noise
they made, the bill would have been considerable. But after all, the
speakers were gentlemen, and their unfettered speech and joyous abandon
only reminded Effingham of certain old barrack days, when the
untrammelled spirit of youth soared exultingly free, unheeding of the
shadow of debt or the prison bars of poverty.

In due time the splashing, the dressing, and the jesting were nearly
brought to an end. Leaving Fred Churbett to follow with Guy, Mr.
Effingham and his heir departed to Rockley House.

‘There _is_ something exhilarating, after all, in dressing for dinner,’
said he. ‘After the day is done it is befitting to mingle with pleasant
people and drink your wine in good society. It reminds one of old times.
My blood is stirred, and my pulses move as they have not done since I
left England. Change is _the_ great physician, beyond all doubt.’

‘I did not think that I should have cared half as much about these
races,’ said Wilfred. ‘I had doubts about coming at all, and really I
don’t think I should have done so but for the girls and my mother. It is
sure to do them good. But after all, Dick and Tom, not to speak of
Andrew, are equal to more than the work they have to do at present, and
I suppose one need not be always in sight of one’s men.’

Rockley Lodge was profusely lighted. From the murmur of voices and
rustle of dresses there appeared to be a large number of persons
collected in the drawing-room, redolent of welcome as it ever was.

As they entered the house a voice was heard, saying, in tones not
particularly modulated, ‘Order in dinner; I won’t wait another moment
for any man in Australia.’

Effingham recognised his late visitor in the speaker, who, arrayed in
correct evening costume, immediately greeted him with much deference,
mingled with that degree of welcome usually accorded to a distinguished,
long-absent relative.

‘My dear Captain Effingham, I am proud to see you. So you’ve found your
way to Yass at last. Hope to see you here often. St. Maur, let me make
you known to Captain Effingham. I heard him mention having met your
brother in India. Bob Clarke; where’s Bob Clarke? Oh, here he is. You’ll
know one another better before the races are over. Christabel, come
here; what are you going away for? Mr. Wilfred Effingham you know, Mr.
Guy you never saw; capital partners you’ll find them, I daresay. Is the
dinner coming in, or is it not? [this with a sudden change of voice].
Mr. Churbett not come? Wait for Fred Churbett, the most unpunctual man
in New South Wales! I’ll see him——’

Fortunately for Mr. Rockley’s ante-dinner eloquence the necessity for
finishing this sentence was obviated by the appearance of the butler,
who announced dinner, after which Mr. Rockley, saying, ‘Captain
Effingham, will you take in Mrs. Rockley? I see your friend Sternworth
has just made his way in with Fred Churbett; it’s well for them they
weren’t ten minutes later,’ offered his arm to Mrs. Effingham, and led
the way with much dignity.

The room was large, and the table, handsomely laid and decorated, looked
as if it was in the habit of being furnished for a liberal guest list.
There could not have been less than thirty people present, exclusive of
the six members of Mr. Rockley’s own family. Their friends Hamilton and
Argyll were there, as also Mr. St. Maur, a tall, aristocratic-looking
personage from the far north; Mr. Clarke, a pleasant-faced, frank
youngster, whom everybody called Bob; Mr. and Mrs. Robert Malahyde, and
other prepossessing-looking strangers, male and female; and lastly,
their old friend Harley Sternworth.

What warmth, friendliness, cordiality, pervaded the entertainment! All
apparently felt and talked like near relations, between whom had never
arisen a question of property or precedence.

Mrs. Rockley, her daughter, and nieces were lively and unaffected, and
beyond all comparison considerately hospitable. Rosamond and her
sisters, dressed, for the first time since their arrival, in accordance
with the laws of fashion as then promulgated, looked, to the eyes of
their fond parents and brothers, as though endowed with fresh beauty and
a distinction of air hitherto unmarked.

The dinner was in all respects a success—well served, well cooked; and
as Mr. Rockley was severe as to his taste in wines, that department
fully satisfied a fastidious critic, as was Howard Effingham. Messrs.
Churbett, Argyll, and Hamilton, as habitués, had numberless jokes and
pleasantries in common with the young ladies, which served to elicit
laughter and general merriment; while Hampden, St. Maur, the parson, and
Mr. Rockley in turn diverged into political argument, in which their
host was exceptionally strong.

When they entered the drawing-room, to which Fred Churbett, Bob Clarke,
and others of the _jeunesse dorée_, who cared little for port or
politics, had retreated in pursuance of a hint from Mrs. Rockley, they
were surprised to find that spacious apartment wholly denuded of its
carpet and partially of its furniture. There was but little time to
express the feeling, as a young lady seated at the piano struck up a
waltz of the most intoxicating character, and before Mr. Rockley had
time to get fairly into another argument with the parson, the room was
glorified with the rush of fluttering garments, and the joyous
inspiration of youthful sentiment.

Everybody seemed to like dancing, and no more congenial home for the
graces Terpsichorean than Rockley Lodge could possibly be found. The
host, who was not a dancing man, smoked tranquilly in the verandah, much
as if the entertainment were in a manner got up for his benefit, and had
to be gone through with, while he from time to time debated the question
of State endowments with Sternworth, or that of non-resident grants from
the Crown with John Hampden, who was characteristically inflexible but
nonaggressive.

What with their neighbours Argyll and Hamilton, Ardmillan, Forbes, and
Neil Barrington, the ever-faithful Fred Churbett, and divers
newly-formed acquaintances who had arrived during the evening, the Miss
Effinghams found so many partners that they scarcely sat down at all.
Mr. St. Maur, too, perhaps the handsomest man of the party, singled out
Beatrice and devoted himself to her for the greater part of the evening.
During the lulls, music was suggested by Mrs. Rockley, who was ever at
hand to prevent the slightest _contretemps_ during the evening. Rosamond
and Beatrice were invited to play, and finally Annabel and Beatrice to
sing.

Beatrice was one of the most finished performers upon the pianoforte
that one could fall across, outside professional circles; many of them
even might have envied her light, free, instinctively true touch, her
perfect time, her astonishing execution. Her voice was a well-trained
contralto. When she sang a world-famed duet with Annabel, and the liquid
notes—clear, fresh, delicately pure as those of the mounting
skylark—rose in Annabel’s wondrous soprano, every one was taken by
storm, and a perfect chorus of admiration assured the singers that no
such performance had been heard in the neighbourhood since a time
whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary.

It must not be supposed that Wilfred Effingham permitted much time to
elapse before he took measures which resulted in an improvement of his
recent acquaintance with Miss Christabel Rockley. He had seen many girls
of high claim to beauty in many differing regions of the old world. He
had walked down Sackville Street, and sauntered through the great Plaza
of Madrid, bought gloves in Limerick, and lace in the Strada Reale; but
it instantly occurred to him that in all his varied experiences he had
never set eyes upon so wondrously lovely a creature as Christabel
Rockley. Her complexion, not merely delicate, was wild-rose tinted upon
ivory; her large, deep-fringed eyes, dark, melting, wondering as they
opened slowly, with the half-conscious surprise of a startled child,
reminded him of nothing so much as of the captured gazelle of the
desert; her delicate, oval face, perfect as a cameo; her wondrous
sylph-like figure, which swayed and glided in the dance like a forest
nymph in classic Arcady; her rosebud mouth, pearly teeth, her childish
pout smiling o’er gems—pearls, if not diamonds; how should these
angel-growth perfections have ripened in this obscure outpost of
Britain’s possessions? He was startled as by a vision, amazed. He would
have been hopelessly subjugated there and then had he not been at that
time such a philosophical young person.

Lovely as was the girl, calculated as were her unstudied graces and
matchless charms to enthral the senses and drag the very heart from out
of any description of man less congenial than a snow-drift, Wilfred
Effingham escaped for the present whole and unharmed.

At the same time he enjoyed thoroughly the gay tone and joyous feelings
which characterised the whole society, and insensibly caught, in spite
of his ever-present feeling of responsibility, the contagion of free and
careless mirth.

Dance succeeded dance, the quick yet pleasantly graduated growth of
friendly intimacy arose under the congenial conditions of gaiety
unrestrained and mingled merriment, till, soon after midnight, the
joyous groups broke up.

Mr. Rockley suddenly intimated that, as they would have a long day at
the races next day, and the ladies would need all their rest after the
journey some of them had made, to withstand the necessary fatigues, he
thought it would be reasonable, yes, he _would_ say he thought it would
occur to any one who was not utterly demented and childishly incapable
of forethought, that it was time to go to bed.

This deliverance decided the lingering revellers; adieus were made with
much reference to ‘au revoir,’ one of those comprehensive phrases into
which our Gallic friends contrive to collect several meanings and
diverse sentiments.

At the Budgeree Hotel a desultory conversation was kept up for another
hour between such choice spirits who stood in need of the ultimate
refreshment of a glass of grog and a quiet pipe; but the wonders and
experiences of the day had so taxed the energies of Mr. Effingham and
his sons that the latter fell asleep before Fred Churbett had time to
offer six to four on St. Andrew for the steeplechase, or Hamilton to
qualify young Beanstalk’s rapturous declaration that Christabel Rockley
looked like a real thorough-bred angel, and that there wasn’t a girl
from here to Sydney fit to hold a candle to her.



                               CHAPTER XI
               MR. BOB CLARKE SCHOOLS KING OF THE VALLEY


The eventful day at length arrived. How many hundreds would have been
disappointed if it had rained! From the sporting squatters, who looked
out of window to see if the weather was favourable for Harlequin or
Vivandière, to the farmer’s son, busy at sunrise grooming his
unaccustomed steed, and pulling the superfluous hair from that grass-fed
charger’s mane and tail, while his sister or cousin danced with joy,
even before she donned the wide straw hat and alpaca skirt, with the
favourably disposed bow of pink or blue ribbon, in which to be beautiful
for the day.

And what more innocent pleasure? So very seldom comes it in the long
months of inland farming life, that no moralist need grudge it to his
fellow-creatures for whom fate has not provided the proverbial silver
spoon. That brown-cheeked youngster believes that his bay Camerton colt,
broken in by himself, will make a sensation on the course; perhaps pull
off a ten-pound sweep in the Hurry-scurry Hack-race (post entry), and he
looks forward with eager anticipation to the running for the Town Plate
and the steeplechase. Besides, he has not been in town since he took in
the last load of wheat. It is slow at home sometimes, though there is
plenty of work to do; and he has not seen a new face or heard a new
voice since he doesn’t know when.

In sister Jane’s heart, whose cheek owns a deeper glow this morning,
what unaccustomed thoughts are contending for the mastery.

‘Will it not be a grand meeting, with ever so many more people there
than last year? And the gentlefolks and the young ladies, she does like
so to see how they dress and how they look. It is worth a dozen fashion
books. Such fun, too, is a sweeping gallop round the course, and to feel
the breeze blow back her hair. Everything looks splendid, and the lunch
in the pavilion is grand, and every one so polite. Besides, there is Ben
Anderson that she knows “just to speak to”; she saw him at a school
feast last year, and he is certainly _very_ nice looking; he said he
would be sure to be at the Yass races. She wonders whether he _will_ be
there; nobody wants him, of course, if he likes to stay away—but still
he _might_ come; his father has a farm away to the westward.’

So the rhythm of human life, hope or fear, love or doubt, curiosity or
sympathy, chimes on, the same and invariable in every land, in every
age.

Thanks to the occasionally too fine climate of Australia, ‘the morning
rose, a lovely sight,’ and if the sun flashed not ‘down on armour
bright,’ he lit up a truly animated scene. Grooms, who long before day
had fed and watered their precious charges, were now putting on the
final polish, as if the fate of Europe depended upon the delicate limbs
and satin-covered muscles. Owners, backers, jockeys, gentlemen riders,
all these were collecting or volunteering information; while the
ordinary business of the town—commercial, civil, or administrative—was
suffered to drift, as being comparatively unimportant.

At an hour not far from nine o’clock the guests under the hospitable
roof of the Budgeree Hotel were assembled at the breakfast-table. What a
meal! What a feast for the gods was that noble refection! What joyous
anticipation of pleasure was on all sides indulged in! What mirthful
conversation, unchecked, unceasing! There had been, it would seem, a
dinner and a small party at Horace Bower’s, and, strange to say, every
one had there enjoyed themselves much after the same fashion as at
Rockley’s. Bower had been in great form—was really the cleverest, the
most amusing fellow in the world. Mrs. Bower was awfully handsome, and
her sister, just arrived from Sydney, was a regular stunner, would cut
down all before her. Mrs. Snowden had been there too—smartest woman in
the district; seen society everywhere—and so on.

A race day owns no tremendous possibilities, yet is there a savour of
strife and doom mingled with the mimic warfare. Many a backer knows that
serious issues hang upon the favourite’s speed and stamina; on even
less, on chance or accident. The steeplechase rider risks life and limb;
it _may_ be that ‘darkness shall cover his eyes,’ that from a crushing
fall he may rise no more.

These entanglements weighed not in any wise upon the soul of Wilfred
Effingham, as he arose with a keener sense of interest and pleasure in
expectation than had for long greeted his morning visions. His
responsibilities for the day were bounded by his vehicle and horses, so
that his family should be safely conveyed to and from the course. Mrs.
Effingham had at first thought of remaining quietly in the house, but
was reassured by being told that the course was a roomy park, that the
view of the performances was complete, that the carriages and the
aristocracy generally would be provided with a place apart, where no
annoyance was possible; that the country people were invariably
well-behaved; and that if she did not go, her daughters would not enjoy
themselves, and indeed thought of remaining away likewise. This last
argument decided the unselfish matron, and in due time the horses were
harnessed, the side-saddles put in requisition, and after a decent
interval Black Prince was caracolling away in the lead of the dogcart,
and Fergus exhibiting his paces among a gay troop of equestrians, which
took the unused, but all the pleasanter, road to the racecourse.

At this arena it was seen that the stewards had been worthy of the
confidence reposed in them. A portion of the centre of the course had
been set apart for the exclusive use of the carriages and their
occupants. Not that there was any prohibition of humbler persons; but,
with instinctive propriety, they had apparently agreed to mass
themselves upon a slight eminence, which, behind the Grand Stand, a
roomy weather-board edifice, afforded a full view of the proceedings.

In the centre enclosure were shady trees and a sward of untrampled
grass, which answered admirably for an encampment of the various
vehicles, with a view to ulterior lunching and general refreshment
combinations at a later period of the day.

Here all could be seen that was necessary of the actual racing, while
space was afforded for pleasant canters and drives between the events,
round the inner circle of the course; and indeed in any direction which
might suit the mirth-inspired members of the party. The view, too, Mrs.
Effingham thought, as she sat in Mrs. Rockley’s phaeton, in which a seat
of honour had been provided for her, was well worth a little exertion.
The park-like woodlands surrounded three sides of the little
amphitheatre, with a distant dark blue range amid the dusk green forest
tints; while on the south lay a great rolling prairie, where the eye
roved unfettered as if across the main to the far unknown of the
sky-line. Across this glorious waste the breeze, at times, blew freshly
and keen; it required but little imagination on the part of the gazers
to shadow forth the vast unbroken grandeur, the rippling foam, the
distant fairy isles of the eternal sea.

Without more than the invariable delay, after twelve o’clock, at which
hour it had of course been advertised in the _Yass Courier_ of the
period that the first race would punctually commence, and after sharp
remonstrance from Mr. Rockley, who declared that if he had a horse in
the race he would start him, claim the stakes, and enter an action
against the stewards for the amount, a start _was_ effected for the St.
Leger. This important event brought six to the post, all well bred and
well ridden. Wilfred thought them a curiously exact reproduction of the
same class of horses in England.

His reflections on the subject were cut short by a roar from the
assemblage as the leading horses came up the straight in a close and
desperate finish. ‘Red Deer—Bungarree—_no_! Red Deer!’ were shouted, as
Hamilton’s chestnut and a handsome bay colt alternately seemed to have
secured an undoubted lead. The final clamour resolved itself into the
sound of ‘Red Deer! _Red Deer!!_’ as that gallant animal, answering to
the last desperate effort of his rider, landed the race by ‘a short
head.’ Hamilton’s early rising and months of sedulous training had told.
It was a triumph of condition.

Much congratulation and hand-shaking ensued upon this, and Wilfred
commenced to feel the uprising of the partisan spirit, which is never
far absent from trials of strength or skill. He had more than once
flushed at disparaging observations touching the studs in his immediate
neighbourhood, at gratuitous assertions that the Benmohr horses were not
to be spoken of in the same day as So-and-so’s whatsyname of the west,
or another proprietor’s breed in the north, and so on. Now here was a
complete answer to all such, as well as a justification of his own
opinion. He had determined not to risk a pound in the way of betting,
holding the practice inexpedient at the present time. But the thought
did cross his brain that if he had taken the odds more than once pressed
upon him, he might have paid his week’s expenses as well as confuted the
detractors of the Benmohr stud. This deduction, _ex post facto_, he
regarded as one of the wiles of the enemy, and scorned accordingly.

He found the party more disposed to take a canter, after the enforced
quietude of the last hour, than to remain stationary, so possessing
himself of Guy’s hack, whom he placed temporarily in charge of the
dogcart, taking off the leader as a precautionary measure, he rode forth
among the gay company for a stretching canter round the course, which
occasionally freshened into a hand-gallop, as the roll of hoofs excited
the well-conditioned horses.

The Town Plate—a locally important and much-discussed event—having been
run, and won, after an exciting struggle, by Mr. O’Desmond’s Bennilong,
a fine old thoroughbred, who still retained the pace, staying power, and
ability to carry weight, which had long made him the glory of the
Badajos stud and the pride of the Yass district, preparations for lunch
on an extensive scale took place.

The horses of the different vehicles, as well as the hackneys, were now
in various ways secured, the more provident owners having brought
halters for the purpose. Mrs. Rockley and Mrs. Bower, with other ladies,
had arranged to join forces in the commissariat department, the result
of which was a spread of such comprehensive dimensions that it required
the efforts of the younger men for nearly half an hour to unpack and set
forth the store of edibles and the array of liquors of every kind and
sort.

                     Rich and rare the viands were,
                       Diversified the plate,

inasmuch as each family had sent forth such articles as, while available
for immediate use, would cause less household mourning if reported
wounded or missing. But the great requisities of an _al fresco_
entertainment were fully secured. An ample cold collation, with such
relays of the beloved Bass and such wines of every degree as might have
served the need of a troop of dragoons. The last adjuncts had been
forwarded by the male contingent, under a joint and several
responsibility.

Eventually the grand attack was commenced by the impetuous Rockley, who,
arming himself with a gleaming carver, plunged the weapon into the
breast of a gigantic turkey, in the interests of Mrs. Effingham, who sat
on his right hand.

After this _assaut d’armes_ the fray commenced in good earnest. The
ladies had been provided with seats from the vehicles, overcoats, rugs,
and all manner of envelopes, which could be procured, down to a spare
suit of horse-clothing. Shawls and cloaks were brought into requisition,
but the genial season had left the sward in a highly available
condition, and with a cool day, a pleasant breeze, the shade of a few
noble eucalypti, fortunately spared, nothing was wanting to the
arrangements. As the devoted efforts of the younger knights and squires
provided each dame and damsel with the necessary aliment, as the
champagne corks commenced to fusilade with the now sustained, now
dropping fire of a brisk affair of outposts, the merry interchange of
compliments, mirthful badinage, and it may be eloquent glances become no
less rapid and continuous.

             Our Youth! our Youth! that spring of springs.
             It surely is one of the blessedest things
                     By Nature ever invented!

sang Tom Hood, and who does not echo the joyous, half-regretful
sentiment. How one revelled in the$1‘$2’$3at the casual concourse of
youthful spirits, where the poetic sentiment was inevitably heightened
by the mere proximity of beauty. Surely it is well, ere the bright sky
of youth is clouded by Care or gloomed by the storm-signal of Fate, to
revel in the sunshine, to slumber in the haunted shade. So may we gaze
fondly on our chaplet of roses, withered, alas! but fragrant yet, long
ere the dread summons is heard which tells that life’s summer is ended,
and the verdant alleys despoiled.

Another race or two, of inferior interest, was looked for, and then the
party would take the road for town, concluding the day’s entertainment
with a full-sized dance at the expansive abode of Mr. Rockley, which
would combine all contingents.

The next day’s more exciting programme included the steeplechase, to be
run after lunch. In this truly memorable event some of the best
cross-country horses in Australia were to meet, including those
sensational cracks, The Cid and St. Andrew, each representing rival
stables, rival colonies. The former with Bob Clarke up, the latter with
Charles Hamilton; each the show horseman of his district, and backed by
his party to the verge of indiscretion.

The less heroic melodramas having been acted out with more or less
contentment to performers, there was a general return to boot and
saddle, previous to the leisurely progress homeward from the day’s
festivities. This, as the hours were passing on towards the shadowy
twilight, was not one of the least pleasant incidents of the day’s
adventures.

The road skirted the great plain which bounded the racecourse, and as
the westering sun flamed gorgeous to his pyre, fancy insensibly glided
from the realism of the present to the desert mysteries of the past.

‘Oh, what a sunset!’ said Christabel Rockley, whom fate and the
impatience of her horse had placed under the control of Mr. Argyll. ‘How
grand it is! I never see sunset over the plains from our verandah
without thinking of the desert and the Israelites, camels, and pillared
palaces. Is it like that? How I _should_ love to travel!’

‘The desert is not so unlike that plain, or any plain in Australia,’
explained Argyll (who had seen the Arab’s camel kneel, and watched the
endless line of the Great Caravan wind slowly over the wind-blown
hollows), ‘inasmuch as it is large and level; but the vast, awe-striking
ruins, such as Luxor or Palmyra—records of a vanished race—these we can
only dream of.’

‘Oh, how wonderful, how entrancing it must be,’ said Miss Christabel,
‘to see such enchanted palaces! Fancy us standing on a fallen column, in
a city of the dead, with those dear picturesque Arabs. Oh, wouldn’t it
be heavenly! And you must be there to explain it all to me, you know!’

As the girl spoke, with heightened colour, and the eager, half-girlish
tones, so full of melody in the days of early womanhood, as the great
dark eyes emitted a wondrous gleam, raised pleadingly to her companion’s
face, even the fastidious Argyll held brief question whether life would
not be endurable in the grand solitudes of the world, ‘with one (such)
fair spirit to be his minister.’

‘My dear Miss Christabel,’ he made answer, ‘I should be charmed to be
your guide on such an expedition. But if you will permit me to recommend
you a delightful book, called——’

Here he was interrupted by the deeply-interested fair one, who, pointing
with her whip to the advanced guard of the party, now halted and drawn
to the side of the road, said hurriedly, ‘Whatever _are_ they going to
do, Mr. Argyll? Oh, I see—Bob Clarke’s going to jump King of the Valley
over Dean’s fence. It’s ever so high, and the King is such a wretch to
pull. I hope he won’t get a fall.’

This seemingly abrupt transition from the land of romance to that of
reality was not perhaps so wide a departure in the spirit as in the
letter. The age of chivalry is _not_ past; but the knights who wear
khaki suits in place of armour, and bear the breech-loader in preference
to the battle-axe, have to resort to means of proving their prowess
before their ladies’ eyes other than by splintering of lances and
hacking at each other in the sword-play of the tournament.

The King of the Valley was a violent, speedy half-bred. His owner was
anxious to know whether he was clever enough over rails, to have a
chance for the coming steeplechase. An unusual turn of speed he
undoubtedly possessed, and, if steadied, the superstition was that the
King could jump anything. But the question was—so hot-blooded and
reckless was he when he saw his fence—could he be controlled so as to
come safely through a course of three miles and a half of post and rail
fencing, new, stiff and uncompromising?

To the cool request, then, that he would give him a schooling jump over
Dean’s fence, which some men might have thought unreasonable, Bob
Clarke, with a smile of amusement, instantly acceded, and making over
his hackney to a friend, mounted the impatient King, shortened his
stirrups, and then and there proceeded to indulge him with the big
fence.

Then had occurred the sudden halt and general attitude of expectation
which Miss Rockley had noted, and with which she had so promptly
sympathised. Bob Clarke was a slight, graceful youngster, with regular
features, dark hair and eyes, and a mild expression, much at variance
with the dare-devilry which was his leading characteristic. Passionately
fond of field sports, he had ridden more steeplechases, perhaps, than
any man in Australia of his age. He had been carried away ‘for dead’
more than once; had broken an arm, several ribs, and a collar-bone—this
last more than once. These injuries had taken place after the horse had
fallen, for of an involuntary departure from the saddle no one had ever
accused him.

As he gathered up his reins and quietly took the resolute animal a short
distance back from the fence, unbroken silence succeeded to the flow of
mirthful talk. The fence looked higher than usual; the close-grained
timber of the obstinate eucalyptus was uninviting. The heavy posts and
solid rails, ragged-edged and sharply defined, promised no chance of
yielding. As the pair had reached the moderate distance considered to be
sufficient for the purpose, Bob turned and set the eager brute going at
the big dangerous leap. With a wild plunge the headstrong animal made as
though to race at the obstacle with his usual impetuosity. Now was seen
the science of a finished rider; with lowered hand and closely fitting
seat, making him for a time a part of the fierce animal he rode, Bob
Clarke threw the weight of his body and the strength of his sinewy frame
into such a pull as forced the powerful brute to moderate his pace.
Such, however, was his temper when roused, that the King still came at
his fence much too fast, ‘reefing’ with lowered head and struggling
stride—an unfavourable state of matters for measuring his distance. As
he came within the last few yards of the fence more than one lady
spectator turned pale, while a masculine one, _sotto voce_, growled out,
‘D——n the brute! he’ll smash himself and Bob too.’

As the last half-dozen strides were reached, however, the _rusé_ hero of
many a hard fought fray ‘over the sticks,’ suddenly slackening his grasp
of the reins, struck the King sharply over the head with his whip, thus
causing him to throw up his muzzle and take a view of his task. In the
next moment the horse rose from _rather_ a close approach, and with a
magnificent effort just cleared the fence. A cheer from every man
present showed the general relief.

‘Oh, how beautifully he rides!’ said the fair Christabel, whose cheek
had perhaps lost a shade of its wild-rose tint. ‘No one looks so well on
horseback as Mr. Clarke. Don’t you think he’s very handsome?’

‘Not a bad-looking young fellow at all, and certainly rides well,’ said
Argyll, without enthusiasm. ‘I daresay he has done little else all his
lifetime, like your friends the Arabs. Watch him as he comes back
again.’

The margin by which he had escaped a fall had been estimated by the
experienced Bob, who, taking advantage of a field heavy from early
ploughing, gave King of the Valley a deserved breather before he brought
him back.

By the time they were within a reasonable distance of the fence, the
excited animal had discovered that he had a rider on his back. As he
came on at a stretching gallop, he was seen to be perfectly in hand.
Nearing the jump, it surprised no experienced spectator to see him
shorten stride and, ‘taking off’ at the proper distance, sail over the
stiff top rail, ‘with (as his gratified owner said) a foot to spare, and
Bob Clarke sitting on him, with his whip up, as easy as if he was in a
blooming arm-chair.’

‘There, Champion,’ said the victor as he resumed his hackney. ‘He can
jump anything you like. But if you don’t have a man up who can hold him,
he’ll come to grief some day.’

A few trials and experiments of a like nature were indulged in by the
younger cavaliers before they reached town, most of which were
satisfactory, with one exception, in which the horse by a sudden and
wily baulk sent his rider over the fence, and calmly surveyed the
obstacle himself.

Another dance, at which everybody who had been at the races, and who was
_du monde_, finished worthily the day so auspiciously commenced. Wilfred
Effingham, who had declared himself rather fatigued at the first
entertainment, and had at that festival asserted that it would do for a
week, now commenced to enjoy himself _con amore_—to sun himself in the
light of Christabel Rockley’s eyes, and to _badiner_ with Mrs. Snowden,
as if life was henceforth to be compounded of equal quantities of race
meetings by day and dances by night.

‘I suppose you are a little tired, Miss Rockley,’ he said, ‘after the
riding and the picnic and the races; it _is_ rather fatiguing.’

‘Tired!’ echoed the Australian damsel in astonishment. ‘Why should I be
tired? What is the use of giving in before the week is half over? I
shall have lots of time to rest and enjoy the pleasure of one’s own
society after you have all gone. It will be dull enough then for a month
or two.’

‘But are there any more festivities in progress?’ he asked with some
surprise.

‘Any more? Why, of course, lots and quantities. You English people must
be made of sugar or salt. Why, there’s the race ball to-morrow night, at
which _everybody_ will be present—the band all the way from Sydney. The
race dinner the next night—only for you gentlemen, of course, _we_ shall
go to bed early. Then Mrs. Bower’s picnic on Saturday, with a dance here
till twelve o’clock—I must get the clock put back, I think. And
Sunday——’

‘Sunday! haven’t you any entertainment provided for Sunday?’

‘Well, no; not exactly. But everybody will go to church in the morning,
and Mr. Sternworth will preach us one of his nice sensible sermons—they
do me so much good—about not allowing innocent pleasures to take too
great hold upon our hearts. In the afternoon we are all going for a
long, long walk to the Fern-tree Dell. You’ll come, won’t you? It’s such
a lovely place. And on Monday——’

‘Of course we shall begin all over again on Monday; keep on dancing,
racing, and innocently flirting, like inland Flying Dutchmen, for ever
and ever, as long as we hold together. Isn’t that the intention?’

‘Now you’re beginning to laugh at me. It will be serious for some of us
when you all go away. Don’t you think so, now?’ (Here the accompaniment
was a look of such distracting pathos that Wilfred was ready to deliver
an address on ‘Racing considered as the chief end of man,’ without
further notice.) ‘No; on Monday morning you are all to pay your bills at
the Budgeree—those that have money enough, I mean; not that it
matters—Bowker will wait for ever, they say. Then you go back to your
stations, and work like good boys till the next excuse for coming into
Yass, and that finishes up the week nicely, doesn’t it?’

‘So nicely that I believe there is a month of ordinary life compressed
into it—certainly as far as enjoyment goes. I shall never forget it as
long as I live—never forget some of the friends I have made here during
the brightest, happiest time of my life, especially——’

‘Look at that ridiculous Mr. Tarlton dancing the _pas seul_!’ exclaimed
Miss Christabel, not quite disposed to enter upon Wilfred’s explanation
of his sensations. ‘Do you know, I think quadrilles are rather a mistake
after all. I should like dances to be made up of nothing but valses and
galops.’

‘Life would be rather too rapid, I am afraid, if we carried that
principle out. Don’t you think Mrs. Snowden is looking uncommonly well
to-night?’

‘She always dresses so well that no one looks better.’



                              CHAPTER XII
                            STEEPLECHASE DAY


In despite of the mirthful converse continued around him, during the
small hours, and the complicated condition of his emotions, Wilfred
Effingham slept so soundly that the breakfast bell was needed to arouse
him. He felt scarcely eager for the fray; but after a shower-bath and
that creditable morning meal ever possible to youth, his feelings
concerning the problems of life and the duties of the hour underwent a
change for the better.

Charles Hamilton, Bob Clarke, and the turf contingent generally had been
out at daylight, personally inspecting the steeds that were to bear them
to victory and a modest raking in of the odds or otherwise. How much
‘otherwise’ is there upon the race-courses of the world! How often is
the favourite amiss or ‘nobbled,’ the rider ‘off his head,’ the
certainty a ‘boil over’! Alas, that it should be so! That man should
barter the sure rewards of industry for the feverish joys, the
heart-shaking uncertainties, the death-like despair which the gambling
element, whether in the sport or business of life, inevitably brings in
its train!

‘Why, this _is_ life,’ sneers the cynic; ‘you are describing what ever
has been, is, and shall be, the worship of the great god “Chance.” The
warrior and the statesman, the poet and the priest, the people
especially, have from all time placed their lives and fortunes on a
cast, differently named, it is true. And they will do so to the end.’

Such causticities scarcely apply to the modest provincial meeting which
we chronicle, inasmuch as little money changed hands. What cash was
wagered would have been treated with scorn by the layers of the odds and
inventors of ‘doubles,’ those turf triumphs or tragedies. Nevertheless,
the legitimate excitement of the steeplechase, three and a half miles
over a succession of three-railed fences, with the two ‘hardest’ men in
the Southern District up, would be a sight to see.

Independently of the exciting nature of the race, an intercolonial
element was added. Bob Clarke and his steed were natives of Tasmania;
the cool climate and insular position of which have been thought to be
favourable to human and equine development. Much colour for the
supposition was recognised by the eager gazers of Mr. Bob Clarke and his
gallant bay, The Cid.

The former was evidently born for a career of social success. Chivalrous
and energetic, with a bright smile, a pleasant manner, his popularity
was easy of explanation.

In a ball room, where his modesty was in the inverse ratio to his
iron-nerved performances across country, he was a rival not to be
despised. Among men he was voted ‘an out-and-out good fellow,’ or a
gentlemanlike, manly lad, from whatever side emanated the criticism.

The Cid was a grand horse, if not quite worthy of the exaggerated
commendation which his admirers bestowed. A handsome, upstanding animal,
bright bay, with black points, he had a commanding-looking forehand,
‘that you could hardly see over,’ as a Tasmanian turfite observed,
besides a powerful quarter, with hips, the same critic was pleased to
observe, ‘as wide as a fire-place.’ In his trials he was known to have
taken leaps equal in height to anything ever crossed by a horse. But a
stain in his blood occasionally showed out, in a habit of baulking. Of
this peculiarity he gave no notice whatever, sometimes indulging it at
the commencement, sometimes at the end of a race, to the anguish of
well-wishers and the dismay of backers. A determined rider was therefore
indispensable. As on this occasion the only man in the country-side ‘who
could ride him as he ought to be ridden,’ according to popular belief,
was up, who had also trained him for this particular race, little
apprehension was felt as to the result.

Not less confident were the friends of St. Andrew, a different animal in
appearance, but of great merit in the eyes of judges. Not so large as
his celebrated antagonist, he had the condensed symmetry of the
racehorse. Boasting the blue blood of Peter Fin (imported) on his
mother’s side, his Camerton pedigree on the other, entitled him to be
ticketed ‘thorough-bred as Eclipse.’ A compact and level horse, with the
iron legs of the tribe, every muscle stood out, beautifully developed by
a careful preparation. His dark chestnut satin coat, his quiet,
determined air, the unvarying cleverness with which he performed in
private, together with the acknowledged excellence of his rider,
rendered the Benmohr division confident of victory.

The others which made up the race were fine animals, but were not
entrusted to any great extent with the cash or the confidence of the
public. Of these the most formidable was a scarred veteran named Bargo,
who had gone through or over many a fence in many a steeplechase. His
rider being, like himself, chiefly professional, they were both
undoubted performers. But though the old chaser would refuse nothing,
his pace had declined through age. It was understood that he was entered
on the chance of the two cracks destroying each other, in which case
Bargo would be a ‘moral.’

The remaining ones, with the exception of King of the Valley, were
chiefly indebted for their entry to the commendable gallantry of
aspiring youth. It was something to turn out in ‘the colours’ and other
requisites of costume before an admiring crowd; something, doubtless, to
see a cherry cheek deepen or pale at the thought of the chances of the
day; something to try a local favourite in good company. All honour to
the manly and honest-hearted feeling!

Of these, briefly, it may be stated that Currency Lass was a handsome
chestnut mare with three white legs, and much of the same colour
distributed over her countenance. She was fast, and jumped brilliantly,
if she could be prevailed upon not to take off too near to her fences,
or ridiculously far off, or to pump all the breath out of her body by
unnecessary pulling. The regulation of these tendencies provided a task
of difficulty for the rider.

Wallaby and Cornstalk were two useful, hunter-looking bays, which would
have brought a considerably higher price in the old land than they were
ever likely to do here.

The course had been arranged so that the horses should start near the
stand, and going across country take a circuitous course, but eventually
finishing at the stand after negotiating a sensational last fence. This
was not thought to be good management, but the enclosures admitted of no
other arrangement.

The morning’s racing having been got through, everybody adjourned to
lunch, it being decided that _the_ important event should take place at
three o’clock, after which the excitement of the day might be considered
to be over. In spite of the approaching contest, which doubtless
contained an element of danger, as it was known that the riders of the
two cracks would ‘go at each other for their lives,’ not less than the
usual amount of mirth and merriment was observable. The two chief actors
were altogether impervious to considerations involving life and limb,
although they had seen and suffered what might have made some men
cautious.

Bob Clarke had been more than once ‘carried away for dead’ from under a
fallen horse, while Charles Hamilton had won a steeplechase after having
employed the morning in tracking a friend who had gone out to ‘school’ a
young horse, and whom the search-party discovered lying dead under a log
fence.

The ladies exhibited a partisanship which they were at no pains to
conceal. Bets (in gloves) ran high; while the danger of the imminent
race rendered a fair cheek, here and there, less brilliant of hue, and
dimmed the sparkle of bright eyes.

‘Oh, I _hope_ no one will get hurt,’ said Christabel Rockley; ‘these
horrid fences are so high and stiff. Why can’t they have all flat races?
They’re not so exciting, certainly, but then no one can get killed.’

‘Accidents occur in these, you know,’ said Mrs. Snowden,
philosophically; ‘and, after all, if the men like to run a little risk
while _we_ are looking on, I don’t see why we should grudge them the
pleasure.’

‘It seems very unfeeling,’ says the tender-hearted damsel. ‘I shall feel
quite guilty if any one is hurt to-day. Poor Mrs. Malahyde, Bob Clarke’s
sister, is dreadfully anxious; the tears keep coming into her eyes. She
knows how reckless he can be when he’s determined to win.’

‘I fancy Mr. Hamilton’s St. Andrew will win,’ said Mrs. Snowden; ‘he is
better bred, they say, and he looks to me so well-trained. What do you
think, Mr. Effingham?’

‘I am a thick and thin supporter of the Benmohr stable,’ said Wilfred.
‘The Cid is a grand horse, but my sympathies are with St. Andrew.’

‘I’ll bet a dozen pairs of gloves The Cid wins,’ said Miss Christabel
impetuously, looking straight at Mrs. Snowden. ‘He can beat anything in
the district when he likes; Mr. Hamilton rides beautifully, but Bob can
make _any_ horse win.’

‘My dear child, you are quite a “plunger,”’ said Mrs. Snowden.
‘Doubtless, they will cover themselves with glory. I’m afraid they can’t
both win.’

At this moment one of the heroes joined the speakers, sauntering up with
a respectful expression of countenance, proper to him who makes a
request of a fair lady.

‘Miss Christabel, I have come to ask you to give me one of your ribbons
for luck. I see Miss Effingham has decorated Hamilton. It’s only fair
that I should have a charm too.’

‘Here it is, if you care for it, Bob!’ said the girl, hastily detaching
a ‘cerise’ knot from her dress, while her varying colour told how the
slight incident touched an unseen chord beneath the surface; ‘only I
wish you were not going to ride at all. Somebody will be killed at these
horrid steeplechases yet, I know.’

‘Why, you’re nearly as bad as my sister,’ said the youthful knight
reassuringly, and giving his fair monitress an unnecessary look of
gratitude, as Wilfred thought. ‘I shan’t let her come on the course next
time I ride. There’s the saddling bell. We’ll see whether the pink
ribbon or the blue goes farthest.’

The arrangements had been made with foresight, so that beyond the
customary galloping across the course for a surcingle at the last moment
by a friend in the interests of Currency Lass, a proceeding which
aroused Mr. Rockley’s wrath, who publicly threatened her rider that he
would bring the matter before the Turf Club, little delay was caused. At
length all preliminaries were complete, and high-born St. Andrew passed
the stand, shining like a star, with Charles Hamilton, in blue and gold,
utterly _point devise_, on his back. Horse and rider seemed so
harmonious, indeed, that a ringing cheer burst from the crowd, and all
the throats whose owners inhabited the hills and vales south of the
Great Lake shouted themselves hoarse for St. Andrew and Mr. Hamilton.

‘He’s as fit as hands can make him,’ said one of this division—a groom
of O’Desmond’s. ‘There’s few of us can put on the real French polish
like Mr. Hamilton; he’s a tiger to work, surely; and the little ’oss is
fast. I know his time. If that Syd, or whatever they call him, licks ’im
to-day, he’ll have his work to do. My guinea’s on St. Andrew.’

‘He’s a good ’un, and a stayer,’ said the man who stood next to him in
the closely-packed temporary stand; ‘but there’s a bit of chance work in
a steeplechase. The Cid’s a trimmer on the flat, or cross the sticks,
but you can’t depend on him. I wouldn’t back him for a shillin’ if young
Clarke wasn’t on him. But he’s that game and strong in the saddle, and
lucky, as my note would be on a mule if he was up. Here he comes!’

As he spoke, The Cid came by the post at speed, ‘a pipe-opener’ having
been thought necessary by his master, and as the grand horse extended
himself, showing the elastic freedom of his magnificent proportions,
with the perfection of his rider’s seat and figure, standing jockey-like
in his saddle, moveless, and with hands down, it was a marvel of
equestrian harmony.

The roar of applause with which the crowd greeted the exhibition showed
a balance of popularity in favour of horse and rider as the
long-repeated cheers swelled and recommenced, not ending indeed until
the pair came walking back, The Cid raising his lofty crest, and
swinging his head from side to side, as he paced forward with the air of
a conqueror.

‘Oh, what lovely, lovely creatures!’ said Annabel Effingham, who had
never been to a race meeting before. ‘I had no idea a horse could be so
beautiful as St. Andrew or The Cid. Why can’t they both win? I hope Mr.
Hamilton will, I’m sure, because he’s our neighbour; but I shall be
grieved if The Cid loses. How becoming jockey costume is! And what a
lovely jacket that is of Mr. Clarke’s! If I were a man I should be
passionately fond of racing.’

‘Bob’s a great deal too fond of it,’ said Mrs. Malahyde, a bright-eyed
matron of seven- or eight-and-twenty. ‘I wish you girls would combine
and make him promise to give it up. I can’t keep away when he’s going to
ride, but it’s all agony with me till I see him come in safe.’

‘When you look at it in that way,’ assented Annabel, ‘it certainly
doesn’t seem right, and it’s unfair of us to encourage it. What a pity
so many nice things are wrong!’

‘They’re off!’ said Miss Christabel, who had been eagerly watching the
proceedings, during which the other performers had severally displayed
themselves, receiving more or less qualified ovations, and then finally
been taken in charge severely by Mr. Rockley as far as the distance
post. ‘They’re off! Oh, don’t say a word till they’re over the first
fence!’

All the horses of the little troop had sufficient self-control to go
‘well within themselves’ from the start except King of the Valley and
Currency Lass. The mare’s nervous system was so shaken by the thunder of
the horse-hoofs and the shouting of the crowd at her introduction to
society, that she pulled and tore, and ‘took it out of herself,’ as her
rider, Billy Day, afterwards expressed himself, to that extent, that he
felt compelled to let her have her head, with a lead over the first
fence.

This barrier she at first charged at the rate of a liberal forty miles
an hour, with her head up, her mouth open, and such an apparently
reckless disregard of the known properties of iron-bark timber, that
Billy’s friends began to cast about for a handy vehicle, as likely to be
in immediate demand for ambulance work. But whether from the
contrarieties said to govern the female sex, or from some occult reason,
Currency Lass no sooner had her own way than she displayed unexpected
prudence. She slackened pace, and cocking her delicately-pointed ears,
rewarded her rider’s nerve and patience by making a magnificent though
theatrical jump, and being awfully quick on her legs, was half-way to
the next fence before another had crossed the first.

‘Oh, what a lovely jump Currency Lass took!’ said one of the young
ladies, ‘and what a distance she is in front of all the rest. Do you
think she will win, Mr. Smith? How slowly all the others are going.’

‘There’s plenty of time,’ said the critic of the sterner sex. ‘She’s a
clever thing, but she can’t stay the distance. Ha! very neatly done
indeed. That’s what I call workmanlike. Cornstalk baulks—well done—good
jump! All over the first fence, and no one down.’

These latter remarks were called forth by seeing St. Andrew, The Cid,
and Bargo charge the fence nearly in line, the latter rather in the
rear, and go over with as little haste or effort as if it had been a row
of hurdles. Wallaby hit the top rail hard, but recovered himself, and
Cornstalk, after baulking once, was wheeled short, and popped over
cleverly, without losing ground.

The same style of performance was repeated with so little variation for
the next half-dozen leaps, that the eager public began to look with
favour upon the enthusiastic Currency Lass, still sailing ahead with
undiminished ardour, and flying her leaps like a deer. The sarcastic
inquiry, ‘Will they ever catch her?’ commenced to be employed, and the
provincial prejudice in favour of a true bushman and a country-trained
horse, ‘without any nonsense about her,’ began to gather strength.

But at this stage of the proceedings it became apparent that the
struggle between the two cracks could not longer be postponed. With one
bound, as it appeared to the spectators, St. Andrew and The Cid were
away at speed, their riders bearing themselves as if they had only that
moment started for the race.

‘They’re at one another now,’ said Argyll to O’Desmond. ‘We shall see
how the Camerton blood tells in a finish.’

‘Don’t you think Charlie’s making the pace too good?’ said Mr. Churbett.
‘I wanted him to wait till he got near the hill, but he said he thought
the pace would try The Cid’s temper, and half a mistake would make him
lose the race.’

‘They’re both going too fast now, in my opinion,’ said Forbes. ‘One of
them will have a fall soon, and then the race is old Bargo’s, as sure as
my name’s James.’

‘Oh, what a pretty sight!’ said Mrs. Snowden, as a large fence in full
view of the whole assemblage was reached.

The native damsel was still leading, but the distance had visibly
decreased which separated her from the popular heroes. All three horses
were going best pace, and as the mare cleared the fence cleverly, but
with little to spare, pressed by The Cid and St. Andrew, as they took
the jump apparently in the same stride, a great cheer burst from the
crowd.

‘Well done, Bargo!’ shouted the complimentary crowd, in high
good-humour, as the old horse came up, quietly working out his
programme, and topping the fence with but little visible effort,
followed his more brilliant leaders. The others were by this time
considerably in the rear, but took their jumps creditably still. The
next fence was known to be the most dangerous in the whole course. The
ground was broken and stony, the incline unpleasantly steep, and a small
but annoying grip caused by the winter rains interfered with the
approach. In the hunting field it would have been simply a matter for
careful riding. But here, at the speed to which the pace had been
forced, it was dangerous.

‘Why don’t they pull off there?’ muttered Mr. Rockley, virtuously
indignant. ‘No one but a madman would go over ground like that as if
they were finishing a flat race. That fellow Hamilton is as obstinate as
a mule. I know him; he wouldn’t pull off an inch for all the judges of
the Supreme Court.’

‘I’m afraid Bob Clarke won’t,’ said John Hampden; ‘that’s the worst of
steeplechasing, the fellows _will_ ride so jealous. Well done, The Cid!
By Jove! the mare’s down! and—yes—no!—St. Andrew too. Don’t be
frightened, anybody,’ as more than one plaintive cry arose from among
the carriages on which the ladies stood thickly clustering. ‘Both men
up, and no harm done. Hamilton’s away again, but it’s The Cid’s race.’

These hurried observations, made for the benefit of the visibly
distressed _clientèle_ of Hamilton, were called forth by the most
sensational proceedings which had obtained yet.

As the two rivals came down the slope at the highly improper pace
alluded to, they overtook Currency Lass at her fence, which confused
that excitable animal. Getting her head from her rider, who had been
prudently steadying her across this unpleasant section, with the idea
that he would be unaccompanied till he was clear of it, she went at the
fence with her usual impetuosity. A gutter threw her out a little; it
may be that her wind had failed. It is certain that, taking off too
closely to the stiff fence, she struck the top rail with tremendous
force, the impetus casting her rolling over on her back into the
adjoining paddock, while her rider, fortunately for him, was ‘sent rods
and rods ahead of her’ (as a comrade described it), and so saved from
being crushed under the fallen horse. The mare rose to her legs
trembling and half stunned, glared for one moment at surrounding
objects, and then went off at full speed, with flapping stirrups and
trailing reins. The Cid had sailed over the fence a yard to the left of
her, and was going at his ease, with nothing near him.

Where, then, was St. Andrew? He had also come to grief.

Putting his foot on a rolling stone, he had been unable to clear his
leap, though he made a gallant effort. Striking heavily, he went down on
the farther side.

His rider, sitting well back, and never for one instant losing his
proverbial coolness, was able to save him as much as, under the
circumstances, a horse can be saved. Down on nose and knee only went the
good horse, his rider falling close to his shoulder, and never
relinquishing the reins. Both were on their feet in an instant, and
before the crowd had well realised the fact, or the ‘I told you so’
division had breath to explain why St. Andrew _must_ fall if the pace
was kept really good, Charlie Hamilton was in the saddle and away, with
his teeth set and a determination not to lose the race yet, if there was
a chance left. Bargo came up with calculated pace and line, and
performed his exercise with the same ease and precision as if he had
been practising at a leaping bar. Cornstalk baulked again, and this time
with sufficient determination to lose him half a mile. Wallaby gave his
rider a nasty fall, breaking his collar-bone and preventing further
efforts. While King of the Valley, going reasonably up to this stage,
overpowered his rider at last, and hardly rising at his fence, rolled
over, and did not rise. He had broken his neck, and his rider was
unconscious for twelve hours afterwards. The race therefore lay between
The Cid, St. Andrew, and the safe and collected Bargo, coming up _pedo
claudo_, and with a not unreasonable chance, like Nemesis, of appearing
with effect at the close of the proceedings.

The next marked division of the course was known as ‘the hill,’ an
eminence of no great altitude between two farms, but possessing just
sufficient abruptness to make the fence a more than average effort. This
‘rise,’ as the country people called it, lay about three-quarters of a
mile from home, and the horse that first came down the long slope which
led towards the winning-post, divided from it but by several easy
fences, had a strong chance of winning the race.

Before The Cid reached the base of this landmark, still keeping the pace
good, but going comparatively at his ease, it was apparent that
Hamilton, who had been riding St. Andrew for his life, and had indeed
resolved to tax the courage and condition of the good horse to the last
gasp, was closing in upon his leader. ‘Sitting down’ upon his horse,
Charles Hamilton extorted praise from the assemblage by the
determination with which he fought a losing race. He was well seconded
by the son of Camerton, as, extending himself to the utmost, he flew
fence after fence as if they were so many hurdles.

‘What a pity poor St. Andrew came down at that abominable place!’ said
Annabel. ‘I really believe he might have won the race. He was not so far
behind Mr. Clarke when he disappeared behind the hill.’

‘He’s only playing with him, I’m afraid,’ said Mr. Hampden kindly.
‘Hamilton and his horse deserve to win, but that fall made too great a
difference between horses so evenly matched.’

‘The Cid’s heart’s not in the right place,’ here broke in an admirer of
Miss Christabel’s, who had been cut down by the fascinating Bob. ‘You
know that, Hampden. I saw him refuse and lose his race, which he had
easy in hand, at Casterton. He might baulk at that sidling jump behind
the hill yet. It’s a nasty place.’

‘I believe he will too,’ said Fred Churbett, staunch to the Benmohr
colours. ‘We ought to see them soon now; they’re a long time coming.
Take all the odds you can get, Miss Annabel.’

‘Will _you_ take seven to four, Churbett?’ said Mr. Hampden. ‘I know The
Cid’s peculiarities, but I’ll back him out, and my countryman, Bob
Clarke, as long as there is a Hereford at Wangarua.’

‘Done!’ said the friendly Fred; ‘and “done” again, Mr. Hampden,’ said
Bob’s rival.

Just as the words were finished a great shout of ‘St. Andrew wins,
Benmohr for ever!’ arose from the country people as _one horse_ was seen
coming down the long, green slope. On the rider could plainly be
discovered the blue and golden colours of Charles Hamilton.

‘Baulked, by Jove! the sidling fence was too much for him; thought Bob
was sending him along too fast. Deuced uncertain brute; not the real
thing; never could stay; nothing like the old Whisker and Camerton
strain. Here comes Bargo! By Jove! Hurrah!’

Such comments and condemnations were freely expressed as St. Andrew came
sailing along. The concluding cheer, however, was evoked by the
apparition of a second horse which followed St. Andrew with a flogging
rider, who was evidently making his effort. It immediately became
apparent that this was Bargo, whom his rider was ‘setting to with,’
believing that the tremendous pace which St. Andrew had sustained for
the last part of the race must now tell upon him. Where, then, was The
Cid? Where, indeed? His admirers were dumb; his opponents jubilant. It
is the way of the world.

‘Where’s your seven to four now, Mr. Hampden?’ said the youthful
partisan.

‘Possibly quite safe; never be quite certain till the numbers are up.
Here comes The Cid at last; Bob’s not beaten yet.’

Another sustained shout from the excited crowd showed what a new element
of interest this apparition of the lost horseman had added to the race.
Bargo, carefully saved, and comparatively fresh, sorely pressed the
gallant St. Andrew, whose bolt was nearly shot. Still, struggling gamely
to keep his lead, and well held together, he had crossed the third fence
from home before he was challenged by Bargo.

But down the hill, at an awful pace, ridden with the desperation of a
madman, came The Cid. Bob Clarke, with cap off and reckless use of whip
and spur, could not have increased the pace by one single stride had he
been going for a man’s life. Had a doomed criminal been standing on the
scaffold, ready for the headsman’s axe, did the reprieve of the old
romances not be displayed in time, not another second could The Cid have
achieved.

‘He’ll do it yet if they’re not too close at the last fence,’ said
Hampden, with his usual calmness. ‘I never knew The Cid baulk _twice_ in
one race, and he has a terrible turn of speed for a short finish. Bob’s
in earnest, I should say.’

That fact was doubted by none who saw him that day. His face was pale;
his eyes blazed with a flame which few had ever seen who looked upon the
handsome features and pleasant smile of Robert Clarke. The excitement
became tremendous. The ladies made emotional remarks—some of pity for
his disappointment, some of sympathy with his probable hurts, if he had
had a fall. All joined in reprobating the unlucky Cid.

Christabel Rockley alone said no word, but her fixed eyes and pale cheek
showed the absorbing interest which the dangerous contest, now deepening
to a possible tragedy, had for her.

The furious pace appeared not to interfere with The Cid’s wondrous
jumping powers. At the speed he was driven at his fences he must have
gone over or through them. He seemed to prefer the former, and cheer
after cheer broke the unusual silence as high in air was seen the form
of horse and rider, as every fence was crossed but the last, and perhaps
the stiffest, a hundred yards from home.

St. Andrew and Bargo were now neck and neck, stride and stride. The
indomitable chestnut had begun to roll; the stout but not brilliant
Bargo was at his best. As they near the last fence it is evident that
The Cid, still coming up with a ‘wet sail,’ is overhauling the pair. The
question is, whether St. Andrew is not too near home.

The anxiety of the crowd is intense, the breathless suspense of the
friends of the rival stables painful, the fielders are at the acme of
excited hope and fear, when St. Andrew and Bargo, closely followed by
The Cid, rise at this deciding leap. The chestnut just clears it, with
nothing to spare; Bargo, overpaced, strikes heavily, and rolls in the
field beyond; Bob Clarke charges the panel on the right like a demon,
and, after a deadly neck-and-neck struggle with St. Andrew, who still
has fight left, outrides him on the post.

The conclusion of this ‘truly exciting race, covering with glory all
concerned therein,’ as the local journal phrased it, was felt to be
almost too solemn a matter for the usual hackneyed congratulations. The
overwrought emotions of the young ladies rendered a prompt adjournment
necessary to side-saddles and vehicles, which, after refreshment
supplied to the protagonists, were made ready for the homeward route.
Bob Clarke received a congratulatory glance from Christabel Rockley,
which no doubt helped to console him, as did such guerdon many a good
knight of old, for the dust and dangers of the tourney.

His sister, Mrs. Malahyde, who could hardly have been said either to
have seen or enjoyed the thrilling performance, for ‘mamma was lying
down crying in the bottom of the dogcart all the time,’ as her little
daughter testified, now arranged her bonnet and countenance, and
expressed her heartfelt thanks for Bob’s safety.

Charles Hamilton received assurances from the ladies generally, and
particularly from his neighbours of The Chase, that his courage and
perseverance had been to them astonishing, and beyond all praise; while
St. Andrew, beaten only by a head, after all his gallant endeavours to
repair ill-luck, was lauded to the skies.

‘Poor dear fellow!’ said Annabel. ‘I wonder if horses ever feel
disappointed. He does droop a little, and it was wicked of you to spur
him so, Mr. Hamilton. Now that naughty Cid goes swinging his head about
as if he was quite proud of himself. How _he_ has been spurred! Dear
me!’

‘Yes, and well flogged,’ said one of the Hobart division. ‘Bob said when
he baulked behind the hill he could have killed him. However, it will do
him good. He took his last fences as if he would never refuse again as
long as he lived.’

‘I will just say this, as my calm and deliberate opinion, and I should
like to hear any man contradict me,’ said Mr. Rockley, ‘that there never
was a race better ridden in the colony than Hamilton’s on St. Andrew. If
he hadn’t made that mistake at the stony creek he _must_ have had the
race easily. His recovering his place was one of the best bits of riding
I ever saw.’

‘Oh, of course; but if The Cid hadn’t baulked, _he_ would have come in
as he liked. Suppose we get them to run it over again to-morrow as a
match for a hundred. I’ll put a tenner on The Cid.’

‘The race is run, Mr. Newman, and that’s enough,’ said Rockley
decisively; ‘quite enough danger for one year. The next thing is to get
back to Yass in time to dine comfortably, and see that everything is
ready for the race ball to-night.’

This sensible advice, which, like the suggestions of royal personages,
savoured somewhat of a command, was duly acted upon, and in a short time
the greater part of the company, who intended to recompense themselves
for the fatiguing emotions of the day by the fascinations of the night,
took the homeward road, leaving ‘The Hack Stakes’ and the ‘Scurry’ (post
entry) to be run without them. There was ample time. The afternoon was
mild and fair of aspect; a friendly breeze, sighing over the plain, had
come wandering up from the south. The equestrian portion of the company
formed themselves unconsciously into knots and pairs.

Bob Clarke, having shifted into mufti, was lounging homeward on a
well-bred hackney on the offside of Christabel Rockley’s Red King, whose
arching neck he felt impelled to pat, while he replied to the eager
questioning of the fair rider. Her cheeks were brilliant again with
youth’s bright tints, and her eyes glittered like imprisoned diamonds
beneath her tiny lace veil.

‘I hope you sympathise with me, Miss Effingham,’ said Hamilton, as they
rode in advance of the rest of the party, a position to which Fergus’s
extraordinary walking powers generally promoted him. ‘Bob is receiving
the victor’s meed from Miss Christabel—how happy they both look!’

‘I really do, sincerely,’ said Rosamond, ignoring the episodical matter.
‘It must be most provoking to have one’s prize wrested away in the
moment of victory. But every one saw what a gallant struggle you and St.
Andrew made. Were you hurt at all when you fell?’

‘I shall be pretty stiff to-morrow,’ he answered carelessly; ‘but I have
had no time to think about it. I thought my arm was broken, as it was
under St. Andrew’s shoulder. It is all right, though numbed for a while.
I am inwardly very sore and disgusted, I don’t mind telling you. That
tall fellow, Champion, and Malahyde, with all the Tasmanians, will crow
so.’

‘It can’t be helped, I suppose,’ said Rosamond soothingly. ‘Mr. Hampden,
at least, did not show any disposition to do so, for he praised your
riding and St. Andrew’s good finish warmly. He said all steeplechases
were won either by luck, pluck, a good horse, or good riding, and that
you had all but the first requisite.’

‘Hampden is a good fellow and a gentleman,’ said the worsted knight,
rather consoled, ‘and so is Bob Clarke. If one has done one’s best,
there is no more to be said. But I had set my heart on winning this
particular race. Heigh-ho! our pleasure week is coming to an end.’

‘Yes; to-night, the ball; to-morrow, the Ladies’ Bag and a picnic. We
are all off home on Monday. I shall not be sorry, though I have enjoyed
myself thoroughly; every one has been so pleasant and friendly, and Mrs.
Rockley kind beyond description. I never had so much gaiety in so short
a time. But I shall be pleased to return to our quiet life once more.’



                              CHAPTER XIII
                    MISS VERA FANE OF BLACK MOUNTAIN


After a due amount of dining and dressing, the former performed by the
male and the latter by the feminine portion of the gathered social
elements, ‘The great Terpsichorean event, which marked this most
harmonious Turf reunion, was inaugurated with _éclat_,’ as the editor of
the _Yass Standard_ (in happy ignorance of the illegal arrangement which
divers magnates, chiefly being Justices of the Peace, were at that very
hour transacting) described it in the following Monday’s issue.

All the bachelors, and not a few of the married men, had quarters at the
Budgeree Hotel, so that they had no unnecessary fatigue to undergo, but
were enabled to present themselves in the grand ballroom of that
imposing building nearly as soon as it was ascertained that the Rockley
contingent, which apparently combined everybody’s favourite partner, had
arrived.

The brass band included a wandering minstrel from the metropolis, whose
aid, both instrumentally and in the selection of dance music, proved
truly valuable. The invitations, owing to the liberal views of Mr.
Rockley, had been comprehensive, taking in all the townspeople who could
by any chance have felt aggrieved at being left out.

The ball was opened by a quadrille, in which Mrs. Rockley and Hampden
took part, while Rockley, with deferential demeanour, led out Mrs.
Effingham, who consented on that occasion only to revive the
recollections of her youth. Mrs. Snowden and Argyll, Hamilton and
Rosamond Effingham, with other not less distinguished personages,
‘assisted’ at this opening celebration.

After this ceremonious commencement the first waltz took place, in which
Wilfred found himself anticipated as to a dance with Christabel Rockley,
who, with an utterly bewildering look, regretted that she was engaged to
Bob Clarke. That heroic personage swiftly whirled away with the goddess
in his arms, leaving Wilfred more annoyed than he liked to confess, and
divided in his resolutions whether to stay at home and work austerely,
avoiding the lighter amusements, or to buy the best horse in the Benmohr
stud, train him at The Chase, and ride against Bob Clarke for his life
at the next meeting. He had called up sufficient presence of mind to
place his name again on Miss Christabel’s very popular card, rather low
down, it is true, but still available for a favourite waltz, in which
Fred Churbett had promised to assist with his cornet, and Hamilton with
his Sax-horn, a new instrument, believed to be the combination of all
sweet and sonorous sounds possible to the trumpet tribe.

But all inappropriate thoughts were driven out by the next partner, a
striking-looking girl, to whom he was introduced by Mr. Rockley, very
properly doing duty as chief steward.

This young lady’s name was stated to be Vera Fane, with great clearness
of intonation. He further volunteered the information that she was the
daughter of his old friend, Dr. Fane, and (in what was meant to be a
whisper) ‘as nice a girl as ever you met in your life.’

The young lady smiled and blushed, but without discomposure, at this
evidence of the high value at which she was rated.

‘Rather too good to be true, don’t you think?’ she said, with a frank
yet modest air. ‘I ought to declare myself much honoured, and all the
rest of it. But you know Mr. Rockley’s warm-hearted way of talking, and
I really think he believes every word of it. He has known me from a
child. But I apologise, and we’ll say no more about it, please. Very
good racing there seems to have been. I was _so_ sorry, in despair I may
say, to miss the steeplechase.’

‘Then you only came in to-day?’ asked Wilfred. ‘How was that? I didn’t
think any lady in the district could have forgone the excitement. It
seems to rank with the miracle plays of the Middle Ages.’

‘Or rather the masques and tournaments of those of chivalry. But I was
away from home, and had to ride a long way for the ball and the Ladies’
Bag to-morrow.’

‘I am afraid you must be tired. How far have you come to-day?’

‘Really,’ said the young lady, with some hesitation, ‘I must plead
guilty to having ridden fifty miles to-day. I am afraid it shows
over-eagerness for pleasure, and dear old Mr. Sternworth might scold me,
if he was not so indulgent to what he calls “the necessities of youth.”
But our home is a lonely spot, and I have so _very_ little change.’

‘Fifty miles!’ said Wilfred, in astonishment. ‘And do you really mean to
say that you have ridden that immense distance, and are going to dance
afterwards? It will kill you.’

‘You must be thinking of young ladies in England, Mr. Effingham,’ said
the girl, with an amused look; ‘not but what some of them rode fair
distances for the same reasons a hundred years ago, papa says. I daresay
I shall feel tired on Sunday; but, as I’ve ridden ever since I could
walk, it is nothing so very wonderful. You mustn’t think me quite an
Amazon.’

‘On the contrary,’ said Wilfred, looking at the girl’s graceful figure,
and recognising that air of refinement which tells of gentle blood, ‘I
am lost in astonishment only. You look as if you had made a start from
“The Big House” with the rest of Mrs. Rockley’s flock. But we must join
this waltz, if you don’t mind, or your journey will have been in vain.’

Miss Fane smiled assent, and as they threaded the lively maze,
practically demonstrated that she had by no means so overtired herself
as to interfere with her dancing. Wilfred immediately established her
among the half-dozen perfections he had discovered in that line. There
was, moreover, a frank, unconcealed enjoyment of the whole affair, which
pleased her partner. Her fresh, unpremeditated remarks, showing original
thought, interested him; so much so, that when he led her to a seat
beside her chaperon, having previously secured a second dance at a later
period of the evening—and the _very last_—even Sir Roger de Coverley—the
bitterness of soul with which he had seen Christabel Rockley borne off
by the all-conquering Bob Clarke, was considerably abated. He would have
been incensed if any one had quoted ‘_surgit amari aliquid_,’
nevertheless; if one may so render the cheerful bard, ‘some charming
person generally turns up, with power to interest.’ It would not have
been so far inapplicable to his, or indeed to the (comparatively) broken
hearts of most of us.

By the time the dance of dances had arrived, when he was privileged to
clasp the slight waist and gaze into the haunting eyes of the divine
Christabel, he was conscious of a more philosophical state of mind than
in the beginning of the evening. Nevertheless, the mystic glamour of
beauty came over him, fresh and resistless, as the condescending charmer
let her witching orbs fall kindly on his countenance, smiled merrily
till her pearly teeth just parted the rosy lips, and blushed
enchantingly when he accused her of permitting Bob Clarke to monopolise
her. She defended herself, however, in such a pleading, melodious voice;
said it was cruel in people to make remarks, altogether looking so like
a lovely child, half penitent, half pouting, that he felt much minded to
take her in his arms and assure her of his forgiveness, promising
unbounded confidence in her prudence, and obedience to her commands for
the time to come.

‘There will be some more excitement, do you know, for the Ladies’ Bag
to-morrow,’ said the enchantress. ‘Mr. Churbett’s Grey Surrey may not
win it, after all. Bob told me that a horse of Mr. Greyford’s, that
nobody knows about, has a chance. He’s suspected of having been in good
company before. Won’t it be fun if he wins, though I shall be sorry for
Mr. Churbett. Only Mr. Greyford can’t get a gentleman rider the proper
weight. What is yours?’

‘Really,’ said Wilfred, ‘I’m not sure to a few pounds. But why do you
ask?’

‘Don’t you see? If you’re not under eleven stone, you can ride him. We
can’t let any one in without an invitation received before the race. You
had one, I know.’

‘Oh yes, I believe so; but I never thought of riding.’

‘Well, but you _can_ ride, of course. Now, if you’re the proper weight,
you might ride Mendicant for Mr. Greyford; it would do him a service,
and make the race better fun. Besides, all the girls would like to see
you ride, I know.’

‘Would _you_ take any interest in my winning, Miss Rockley? Say the
word, and I will do that or anything else in the wide world.’

‘Oh, I daresay; just as if you cared what _I_ thought. Now there’s Vera
Fane, that papa introduced you to, she would be charmed to see you win
it. Oh, I know——’

‘But yourself? Only say the word.’

‘Then _do_ ride—there, don’t look at me like that, or you’ll have mamma
thinking I’m ill and knocked up with excitement; and if she begins to
say I look pale, papa’s capable of carrying me off before the ball’s
over.’

Wilfred, thus adjured, veiled the ardent fire of his glances, and then
and there pledged himself to ride Mr. Greyford’s Mendicant for the
Ladies’ Bag, and to win, if Miss Rockley would only back him, which she
promised to do.

It was surprising how much more interest Wilfred took in the coming
contest, now that he was about to guide one of the chariot racers, to
disperse _pulverem Olympicum_ in his own person. He danced perseveringly
with all the partners suggested to him, covering himself with glory in
the eyes of Mr. Rockley. He had another and yet another dance with Miss
Fane, being much gratified at the interest she expressed concerning the
coming race. He made the acquaintance, too, of Mr. Greyford.

‘_Re_ Mendicant, he’s a lazy beggar,’ said that gentleman frankly, ‘but
well-bred, and can come at the finish if he likes. I had given up the
idea of starting him for want of a jock, but I shall be happy if you
will ride him for me. We’ll go halves in this wonderful bag if Mendicant
pulls it off.’

And so the great race ball was relegated to the limbo of dead joys and
pleasures, to that shadow-land where the goblets we have quaffed, the
chaplets which wreathed our brows, the laughter that kindled our hearts,
the hands that pressed, the hearts—ah me!—that throbbed, have mostly
departed. There do they lie, fair, imperishable, awaiting but the blast
of the enchanted horn to arise, to sparkle and glow, to thrill once
more. Or has the cold earth closed remorselessly, _eternally_, over our
joys and those who shared them, never again to know awakening till Time
shall be no more?

Much must be conceded to the influence of the Australian climate or to
the embalming influences of active pleasure-seeking, which seems to
possess an Egyptian potency for keeping its votaries _in statu quo_
while engaged in the worship of the goddess. Whatever may have been the
secret of unfailing youth, most of the race meeting constituents seemed
to possess it, as they turned out after breakfast on Friday morning,
apparently ready to commence another week’s racing by day, and dancing
by night, if the gods permitted.

About a dozen horses were qualified to start for the Ladies’ Bag.
Hamilton had one, Forbes had one, Bob Clarke (of course) another, so
that the two stables would again be well represented. O’Desmond, who did
not ride himself, had a likely young horse in, and there were several
others with some sort of provincial reputation. There was the great Grey
Surrey, and lastly that ‘dark,’ unassuming, dangerous Mendicant of
Greyford’s with Mr. Wilfred Effingham up.

That gentleman had never ridden a race before, but was a fair
cross-country rider before he saw Australia, and since then the riding
of different sorts of horses had, of course, tended to improve both seat
and hands. He was aware of the principles of race-riding, and though Bob
Clarke, Hamilton, Forbes, and Churbett had semi-professional skill, he
yet trusted, with the befitting courage of youth, to hold his own in
that tilt-yard.

He had borrowed a set of colours, and looking at himself in the glass
arrayed as in the traditional races of England, was not dissatisfied
with his appearance. He found himself wondering whether he should be
regarded with indulgence by the critical eyes of Miss Christabel, or
indeed the penetrating orbs of Miss Fane. Was there a chance of his
winning? Would it not be a triumph if, in spite of the consummate
horsemanship of Hamilton and Bob Clarke, the reputation of Grey Surrey,
he should win the prize? The thought was intoxicating. He dared not
indulge it. He partially enveloped himself in an overcoat, which
concealed the glories of his black and scarlet racing-jacket, the only
silken garment which the modern cavalier is permitted to wear (how
differently they ruffled it in the days of the second Charles!), and
hied him to the course.

Here he was met by congratulations on all sides.

‘Glad to see you’ve taken to the amateur jock line, Effingham,’ said
Churbett. ‘There’s a world of fun in it, though it involves early
rising. It’s awfully against the grain with me, but I assure you I look
forward to it every year now. It _compels_ me to take exercise.’

‘That view of racing never struck me before,’ said Wilfred. ‘But when
we’re at Yass, you know, one must follow the fashion.’

‘Especially when certain people look interested. Aha! Effingham, you’re
an awfully prudent card; but we’re all alike, I expect.’

‘Pooh, pooh! why shouldn’t I take a turn at the pigskin as well as you
and the others?’ said Wilfred, evading the impeachment; ‘and this sort
of thing is awfully catching, you know.’

‘Very catching, indeed,’ assented Mr. Churbett. ‘Is that Miss Fane on
the brown horse next to Mrs. Snowden? Ladylike-looking girl, isn’t she?
Suppose we go and get a bet out of her?’

Following up this novel idea they rode over to the little group, where
Mr. Churbett was assailed with all sorts of compliments and inquiries
about the state and prospects of Grey Surrey.

‘I think the articles should have been selected with reference to your
complexion, Mr. Churbett,’ said Mrs. Snowden; ‘you seem so certain of
carrying it off. I know blue is your favourite colour, and I made my
smoking-cap and slippers of the last fashionable shade on purpose.’

‘Always considerate, Mrs. Snowden,’ said the object of this compliment,
as a smile became general at this allusion to Fred’s auburn-tinted hair.
‘You must have been thinking of Snowden, who resembles me in that way,
and the _very_ early days when you used to work slippers for him.’

‘Really I forget whether I ever did much in that line for Snowden. It
must have been centuries ago.’

‘Oh, but I don’t agree with that at all,’ said the fair Christabel.
‘Suppose some one with dark hair wins it, then he would have to go about
with all sorts of unbecoming trash. Let every one be guided by their own
taste.’

‘I daresay a few trifles that will look well on Bob Clarke will be found
in the bag,’ said Hamilton. ‘I heard something about a gorgeous crimson
and gold smoking-cap. I wonder if anybody has been studying _my_
complexion? If Effingham wins, you will all be thrown out.’

‘Then you _are_ going to ride, Mr. Effingham?’ said the fair Christabel,
with a smile so irresistible that it fully repaid him for his troubles
and misgivings. ‘I am sure I hope you will win, though I’m afraid,
between Grey Surrey, No Mamma, and Bolivar, you haven’t a good chance.’

‘I wouldn’t be too certain about that,’ said Miss Fane, who had
recognised Wilfred with a pleasant, cordial greeting, and whom he
thought looking uncommonly well in her habit, and indisputably well
mounted. ‘Don’t be alarmed by these great reputations. A little bird
told me about Mendicant, and I’ll take the odds (in gloves), which are
eight to one, I believe, that he’s first or second.’

This daring proposal brought rejoinders and wagers upon the head of the
fair turfite, who quietly accepting a few of the latter, declared that
her book was full, but was not to be dislodged from her position.

Wilfred felt much encouraged, and proportionately grateful to the fair
friend who had stood by him and his unknown steed. So he registered a
vow to remember her in the future—to like and respect and approve of
her—in short, to pay her all those guarded tributes which men in early
life keep for the benefit of women they admire, trust, and look up to,
but alas! do not love.

Among his few well-wishers must be classed Wilfred’s sisters and mother,
who, honestly pleased to see him ‘respeckit like the lave,’ as Andrew
would have said, secretly thought that he looked handsomer and better
turned out when mounted than almost anybody else in the race—in fact,
nearly as well as Bob Clarke. But even these partial critics could not
assert to themselves, when they saw Master Bob come sailing past the
stand upon Bolivar, a dark bay thoroughbred, looking like a brown satin
angel (Bolivar, not Bob), as one enthusiastic damsel observed, that he
equalled in appearance and get-up that inimitable workman. Still, he
looked very nice, they lovingly thought, and of Wilfred’s clear
complexion, brown hair, well-knit frame, and animated countenance other
fair spectators held a like opinion.

Grey Surrey came next, ‘terrible’ for a mile, and owing to his Arab
ancestry, a better stayer than might have been thought from his violent
manners. His rider’s admirably fitting nether garments, the wrinkles of
his boots, the shading of his tops, were accurate to a degree. His
bright blue colours had many a time been in the van. Kindly and affable
in the widest sense, with a vein of irresistible comic humour, he was
the most popular squatter in his district—a man of whom none thought
evil—to whom none would dream of doing harm more than to the unweaned
child. To a rare though not too sedulously cultivated intellect Fred
Churbett joined the joyous disposition of a moderate viveur, the soul of
a poet, and the heart of a woman. But the gold held not the due
proportion of alloy—too often, alas! the case with the finer natures.

The comprehensive cheer which the whole assemblage instinctively gave
showed their appreciation. From the crowd (not so many as on the
previous day, but still were the people not wholly unrepresented) rose
cries of ‘Well done, Mr. Churbett! Hope you’ll win again. Grey Surrey
and The She-oaks for ever!’

And as the silky flowing mane glistened in the sun, while the proud
favourite arched his neck and with wide nostril and flashing eye trod
the turf with impatient footstep, as might his Arab ancestors have
spurned the sands of Balk or Tadmor, every friend he had on the course,
which comprehended all the ladies, all the gentlemen, all the
respectable and most of the disrespectable persons, thought that if Fred
Churbett and Grey Surrey did not win yet another victory, there must be
something reprehensible about turf matters generally.

Probably, in order that the ladies might have a liberal allowance of
sport in recompense for their contributions, and partly in compliance
with the undeveloped turf science of the day, the fashion of ‘heats’ had
always been the rule of this race. Thus, when Grey Surrey came in
leading by a length, with Bolivar and No Mamma racing desperately for
second place, every one of experience stated that the third, or even the
fourth, would be the deciding heat if Bolivar or No Mamma was good
enough to ‘pull it off’ from the brilliant Surrey. Wilfred had adopted
the advice he had received from Mr. Greyford, and while keeping a fair
place, had taken care to save his sluggish steed. He nevertheless
managed to come through the ruck without apparent effort during the last
part of the running, and finished an unpretending fifth.

On delivering over his horse to Mr. Greyford’s trainer, he was gratified
to find that he had won that official’s unqualified approval by his
style of riding. ‘There isn’t a mark on him, sir,’ he said; ‘and that’s
the way to take him for the first couple of heats. Mendicant’s a lazy
’oss, and an uncommon queer customer to wind up. But if Surrey don’t win
the next heat—and I think Mr. Forbes’s No Mamma will give him all he can
do to get his nose in front—it’s this old duffer’s race, as safe as if
the rest was boiled.’

‘But how about Bolivar?’

‘Well, sir, Bolivar and No Mamma are a-cuttin’ their own throats the way
they’re a-bustin’ theirselves for second place, and if you go at
whatever wins the third heat from _the_ jump, and take it easy the next
’un, you’ll have this ’ere bag to a moral.’

Returning from this diplomatic colloquy to the vortex of society,
Wilfred found himself to be already an object of interest in sporting
circles. Much advice was tendered to him, and counsels offered as to his
future plan of action, but as these were mostly contradictory, he
thought himself justified in holding his tongue and abiding by the
professional opinion of the stable.

Before the final heat he found Fireball Bill walking the veteran up and
down, with a serious and thoughtful countenance. ‘Look ’ere, sir, don’t
you make too sure of this ’ere ’eat afore you’ve won it. The old ’oss
seems right enough; he’s bound to win if he stands up, but I don’t like
the way he puts down that near foreleg. It’s allers been a big anxiety
to me. He might go away as sound as a roach and crack up half-way round.
But you make the pace from the jump, and keep ’em goin’, or else one on
’em ’ll do yer at the bloomin’ post.’

‘What chance is there of that?’

‘Every chance, sir. You mind me. I’m a man as has follered racing since
I was the height of a corn-bin, and I knows the ways on ’em. Mr. Clarke
ain’t easy beat, nor Mr. Hamilton neither. They’ll go off steady, yer
see, as if there was no use tryin’ to pass yer, along o’ their havin’
busted their ’orses in them ’eats as went afore.’

‘And a very natural idea. It seems a pity to knock them about, after all
they’ve done.’

‘We’ve got _to win this race_, sir, and a race ain’t won till the
numbers is up. Now, Mr. Bob Clarke’s dart is jest this. If he sees you
don’t keep the old ’orse on his top, he and Mr. Hamilton will wait on
yer, savin’ their own ’orses till they come to the straight. Then
they’ll go at you with a rush, and there’s no hamatoor in Australia can
take as much out of a horse in the last ten strides as Bob Clarke.
_You’re_ caught afore the old ’orse can get on to his legs, and the race
is snatched out of the fire by nothin’ but ridin’ and head-work, and
we’re—smothered!’

‘Beaten and laughed at! I understand clearly, Bill. I shall always think
you have had more to do with the winning of the race than I have.’

‘That’s all right, sir, but keep it dark. All this is confidential-like
between the trainer and the gen’leman as rides. There goes the bell
again. I can hear Mr. Rockley cussin’ all the way from where he stands.
Here’s your ’orse, sir; you’ve got to win, or kill him!’

Delivering over the unsuspecting Mendicant with this sound professional
but scarcely humane injunction, Fireball Bill gazed after his charge,
and scrutinised the leg he suspected him of ‘favouring.’ ‘He’s right!’
he finally exclaimed, after anxious deliberation; ‘but if I hadn’t
primed the cove, ’e’d a’ lost that race, sure’s my name’s William
Scraper.’

Wilfred rode on his way in dignified fashion, as befitting the position
of probable winner, but in his heart a feeling of thankfulness to the
old trainer by whose advice he had escaped a catastrophe. What a
mortification it would have been; how the vane of public opinion would
have veered round! He trembled to think of it; and as he drew up after
the others, he hardened his heart, resolved that no artifice of the turf
should mar his triumph that day.

His rivals went off with an assumption of indifference, as if merely
going round for form’s sake; but he took the old horse by the head and
sent him away as if he was riding against Time from end to end. His two
chief antagonists—for O’Desmond had very properly withdrawn his
colt—waited at a reasonable rate of speed until it became apparent that
Mendicant’s rider had no intention of altering his pace. Then they set
to, and by the way they came up, showed how accurate was Fireball Bill’s
calculation.

Suddenly, and without a sign of premeditation, Bob Clarke took his horse
by the head, and with one of his many desperate efforts, sent him up so
suddenly to the flank of Mendicant, that Wilfred thought the race was
lost in good earnest.

But as he heard the approaching hoofs, he too commenced to ‘do the
impossible,’ and found that, though nearly level, Bolivar was unable to
improve his position, while Mendicant, answering whip and spur,
gradually drew in advance, as the winning post and the judge’s stand
(and, as it seemed to Wilfred, half Yass at gaze) came to meet him. A
few strides, a deafening shout, a rally of whips, and the race is over.
But the long, lean head had never been overlapped; and as he pulls up,
head down and distinctly ‘proppy,’ half-a-dozen men struggle for the
honour of leading Mendicant into the weighing-yard, and his rider knows
that he has won. Bolivar, with distended nostril and heaving flank,
follows next, with Bob Clarke sitting languidly on his back, and looking
nearly as exhausted as his horse; while No Mamma, eased at the distance,
drags in, as if she had had enough of it for some time to come. Wilfred
takes his saddle and mechanically goes to scale. ‘Weight!’ says Mr.
Rockley decisively, and all is over.

In all turf contests, bitter disappointments, deep and lasting
mortifications, sharpened by loss and inconvenience, occur. But when
there comes a real triumph, the sweets of success are rich of flavour.

Wilfred was the hero of the occasion, Fortune’s latest favourite,
impossible to be deposed until next year. No newer victor could
therefore take away the savour and memorial of his triumph, as, to a
certain extent, he had now done from Bob Clarke.

Such is the inconsistency of human nature that, although the
steeplechase required about ten times the amount of horsemanship,
besides nerve, experience, and a host of qualities unneeded in a flat
race, Wilfred found himself the observed of all observers, and could not
but discern that his rivals were temporarily in the shade.

He lost no time in bestowing himself into his ordinary raiment and
joining the homeward-bound crowd, secure of the smiles which ladye fair
never refuses to bestow upon the knight who has worthily done his
devoir.

Christabel Rockley congratulated him warmly upon his good fortune, and
then turned to console Bob Clarke, a process which apparently involved
more time and explanation, so much so that Wilfred changed his locale,
under pretence of looking after his mother and sisters, and soon found
himself in more sympathetic company.

He saw that Miss Fane had become a great friend and associate of his
sister Rosamond, so quickly are lifelong alliances cemented among young
ladies. Mrs. Snowden was also in the neighbourhood, and among them he
was flattered to his heart’s content.

‘I was sure you were going to win it from the first,’ said Mrs. Snowden,
as if stating an incontestable fact. ‘I said to Mrs. Rockley, “How cool
Mr. Effingham looks! Depend upon it, he has ridden in good company
before.”’

‘I never bet anything more substantial than gloves,’ said Miss Fane,
with a gleam of mischief in her eyes; ‘but I can quite understand the
gambling spirit now. I longed to put a five-pound note papa gave me at
parting on Mendicant. Dreadfully wicked, wasn’t it? But I should have
won fifty or sixty pounds, perhaps a hundred. I have made a small
fortune, however, in gloves.’

‘I shall always think that you were the cause of my winning, Miss Fane,’
said Wilfred, looking most grateful. ‘No one else believed in me, except
these girls here,’ looking at his sisters.

‘We are prejudiced,’ said Rosamond, ‘and will remain so to the end of
the chapter. But I thought you were fighting against odds, with such
champions as Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Clarke. Now you have won the tilt and
are the favoured knight. Is the queen of beauty to give you the victor’s
wreath?—and who is she?’

‘Oh, Christabel the peerless, of course,’ said Miss Fane. ‘And I think
her the prettiest creature in the world—that is, for a dark beauty, of
course,’ looking at Annabel, who now came up. ‘It’s a case of honours
divided, all the men say.’

‘I wonder how we shall settle down in our peaceful homes again,’ said
Beatrice, ‘after all these wild excitements and thrilling incidents. I
feel as if we were leaving the first or second volume of a novel.’

‘Why the first or second,’ said Miss Fane, ‘and not the third?’

‘Because there’s no possibility of our story being complete in one
volume. There are materials for romances here, but the _dénouement_ is
wanting. Every one will go home again on Monday; the actors and
actresses will throw on their wrappers, the lights will be put out, the
theatre shut up, and no piece announced until next year. There is
something theatrical about all pleasure. This indeed is real melodrama,
with plenty of scene-shifting, comedy in proper proportion, leading
actors, and a hint of tragedy in the last act.’

For the Effinghams this had been a completely new experience. Without
complications of the affections, except in Wilfred’s case, a wider
estimate of Australian country life had been afforded to them. Besides
the squirearchy of the land, they had met specimens of the best of the
younger sons whom England’s ancient houses still send, year by year, to
carry her laws, her arts, her ambition, and her energy to the most
distant of her possessions. These include, literally, the ends of the
earth, where they may aid in the heroic work of colonisation, planting
the germs of nations, and raising the foundations of empires. Such men
they had among their immediate neighbours. Still it was pleasant to know
that others of the same high nature and standard of culture, the
Conquistadors of the South, were distributed over the entire continent.

Moreover, they had fallen across several perfect feminine treasures, as
Annabel declared them to be—friends and acquaintances, most rare and
valuable. Nothing could have exceeded the hospitality and thoughtful
kindness of the ladies of the Rockley family. Mrs. Rockley had been
unwearied in providing for the comfort of her guests, and in that
congenial employment partaking as well in her own person of a reasonable
share of the pleasures of the continuous _festa_, underwent such
fatigue, that nothing but an unruffled temper, with great natural
advantages of constitution, prevented her from breaking down hopelessly
before the week was over. As it was, though there was a slight look of
weariness, an air of responsibility, in the morning, the least occasion
sufficed to bring the ever-cordial smile to the kind face, when all
gravity of mien instantly disappeared.



                              CHAPTER XIV
                                THE DUEL


In Ireland’s good old days, before the decline of unlimited hospitality
and claret, debt, duelling, and devilment generally, when the Court of
Encumbered Estates was not, the whole duty of man apparently being
transacted with an enviable scorn of ready-money payments, no doubt
exists, that after such a race week as we have essayed to recall, more
than one gentleman’s hackney would have gone home without him, unless
the pistol practice was worse than usual.

As it was, a contretemps _did_ occur, which could not be settled without
the intervention of seconds. These gentlemen decided that a meeting must
take place. It chanced after this wise. As will happen in all lands,
there had arisen a veiled but distinct antagonism between two men who
aspired to social leadership. These were William Argyll and John
Hampden.

The former, haughtily impatient of opposition, was prone to follow out
likes and dislikes, with the enthusiasm of his Highland blood. Culture,
travel, and the drill of society had but modified his natural
temperament. Under provocation it was as untamed as that of any son of
MacCallum Mohr who had never quitted the paternal glen. He undervalued
the opinions of his Australian-born neighbours who had not, like
himself, enjoyed the advantages of travel. Hasty in word or deed,
habituated to high consideration from the dwellers near his paternal
estate, he was careless to a fault about giving offence.

Hampden, though a proud and self-respecting man, was singularly
imperturbable of demeanour. Open-minded, generous, interested in every
idea calculated to advance the welfare of his native land, his position
was high and unquestioned. In his own part of the country he was
respected by his equals and reverenced by his inferiors to a degree
uncommon, but by no means unknown in Australia. The people were much in
the habit of resorting to him for aid or counsel in their difficulties.
And whatever Mr. Hampden said in such cases carried with it the weight
and authority of law. His decisions, indeed, were more often quoted,
more rarely disputed, than those of any bench of magistrates in the
land.

Although cautious in forming his opinions and chary of expressing them,
John Hampden was noted as one who never gave back an inch from any
position which he assumed. This trait chafed the choleric Argyll, who
had also a considerable ‘following’—admirers of his attainments, and
dominated by his unrelaxing though generous despotism. It therefore
happened that, in public matters, Argyll and Hampden were mostly
observed to take different sides.

Before the race meeting there arose a dispute, common enough in those
days, between the stock-riders of the two establishments as to the
ownership of certain calves at the annual muster of Mount Wangarua. Some
ill-considered remarks of Argyll’s, reflecting on Hampden’s management,
were repeated with additions. Allusion had been made to ‘indiscriminate
branding,’ than which nothing could have been more uncalled for. A
scrupulously exact man in such matters, many a poor man had reason to
bless the day when his few head of strayed cattle found their way into
the herds which bore the J.H. brand. Rarely was it placed on an animal
without satisfactory proof of ownership. However, ‘accidents will occur
in the best regulated (cattle) families,’ and so had come to pass the
mistake, fully explained afterwards, upon which Argyll had commented
unfavourably.

The opportunity afforded for withdrawing his hasty expressions was not
availed of. So after a formal interview, the alternative was reached
which, by the laws of society in that early day, compelled a resort to
the pistol.

Of course, this ultimatum, though known to a few intimate friends, was
carefully concealed from the general public. The rivals met without
suspicious coldness, were seen at the ordinary gatherings, and bore
themselves as became the average pleasure-seekers of the hour. But the
meeting had been fixed for the Monday following the race week, and it
was agreed that the principals, with their seconds, should visit a
certain secluded spot on the homeward route of Hampden’s party, and
there arrange their difficulty.

Both men were known to be good shots; with rifle and pistol (not yet had
Colonel Colt impressed his revolving signet on the age) Hampden was
known to have few equals. But no surprise was manifested when it was
announced on the eventful Monday that Hampden and his friend Neville,
together with Forbes, Argyll, and Churbett, had departed at daylight and
taken the same road. Every one was in the confused state of mind which
is prone to succeed a season of indulgence. There were bills to pay,
clothes to pack, resolutions as to improvement to be made by those who
had exceeded their usual limit in love, loo, or liquor. So that, except
an expression of astonishment that any reason whatever should have had
power to take Fred Churbett out of his bed at such an abnormal hour,
little was said.

As they rode through the silent streets of the sleepy town, a moaning
breeze betokened that the exceptionally fine weather they had enjoyed
was about to change for the worse.

To Fred Churbett, as he rode along with a young surgeon impressed in
case of accident, the day seemed chilly, the fitful wind boding, the
darkening sky gloomy and drear. ‘What if one of these men, in all the
pride of manhood, so lately rejoicing in the sport in which they had
been jointly engaged, should never leave the Granite Glen alive? What a
mockery was this life of ours! And for what? for a careless word—a hasty
jest—for this might a man go down to the dark unknown, with all his sins
upon his head. A melancholy ending to their pleasant days and joyous
nights!’

These cheerless meditations were probably compounded in equal
proportions of bilious indigestion and natural regret. Fred’s inner man
had come off indifferently under a regimen of late hours and mixed
refreshments; so much so, that he had professed his intention, when he
returned to the peaceful shades of The She-oaks, ‘to lie on his back for
a month and live on blue-pill.’ Such thoughts would not have occurred to
him had he been engaged as principal. But as a mere spectator of a
mortal combat they were impressively urgent.

Besides all this, Hampden was a married man—had a wife and half-a-dozen
boys and girls at Mount Wangarua. When he thought that a messenger might
ride up through the far-famed meadows, where the white-faced Herefords
lay thick on the clover sward the summer through, to tell the expectant
wife that the husband—the father, the pattern country gentleman—would
return no more! Fred felt as if he must strike up everybody’s sword, as
in old melodramas, and call upon them in the name of God and man to
desist from a deed at once puerile and immoral.

But like a dream when morning breaks, and princess and noble, castle and
dragon flee into the shadow-land, whence they came, so his purpose
vanished into thin air, as they suddenly debouched upon the Granite
Glen, and he saw by the set faces of the men, as they dismounted, how
unavailing would be all interference.

With sudden revulsion of feeling, he prepared to act his part. Motioning
the young surgeon to follow him to the little creek which rippled
plaintively over the grey blocks, shaded by the funereal, sighing
casuarina, they took charge of the horses of the combatants. Forbes and
Neville each produced one of the oblong cases ‘which no gentleman could
be without’ in those days. Twelve paces were stepped by Forbes, in
deference to his similar experiences. The principals took their ground.

Fred Churbett scanned narrowly, at the moment, the faces he knew so
well. On Argyll’s he saw the look of vehement resolve which he had seen
a hundred times before, while his eyes glowed with angry light. Fred
knew that whenever any one alluded to Hampden’s alleged expression,
‘that he was a hot-blooded Highlander, accustomed to rule semi-savages,
and who did not know how to conduct himself among gentlemen,’ or words
to that effect, Argyll could not be held accountable for his actions.
When the passion fit was over, a more accomplished, courteous gentleman
did not live—generous to a fault, winning, nay, fascinating, of manner
to all with whom he came into contact.

Hampden’s face, on the other hand, bore its usual serious expression,
with no shadow of change o’er the mild, contemplative gaze. He looked,
as he always appeared to those who knew him, as if he were thinking out
the subject on hand with painstaking earnestness in the interests of
truth.

Duels were always rare in Australia. Now they are unknown. Society
appears to manage without them in disputes affecting the honour of
individuals. Whether manners have suffered in consequence, is a point
upon which opinions have differed. It had so chanced that Hampden had
never stood ‘on the ground’ before, although in skirmishes with the wild
tribes of his native land it was well known that his cool intrepidity
and unerring aim had more than once saved life.

On this occasion an observer of character might have believed that he
was more closely occupied in analysing his own and his adversary’s
sensations than in attending to his personal interest.

That opinion would have been modified, when the critic observed him
raise his hand with quiet precision at the signal. He fired with
instinctive rapidity, and at the falling handkerchief two reports rang
out.

As each man preserved his position unaltered, a sigh of relief broke
from Fred Churbett. The features of Hampden had not in the slightest
degree altered their expression. The eager observer even thought he
detected a tendency to the slow, humorous smile which was wont to be his
substitute for laughter, as Argyll threw down his weapon with a hasty
exclamation, while a red line on his pistol arm showed that the accuracy
of Hampden’s aim had not been altered by the nature of his target.

‘You are hit, Argyll?’ said Churbett, starting forward. ‘For God’s sake,
stop this mummery! I know Hampden regrets anything inconsiderate he may
have said.’

The brow of Argyll was black with suppressed fury.

‘A d——d graze, can’t you see, sir?’ he said, as he reluctantly pulled up
his coat-sleeve for the inspection of the surgeon. ‘The matter cannot
stop here. An apology at this stage would be absurd. I am in Mr.
Forbes’s hands, I believe.’

That gentleman had already walked gravely forward to meet Mr. Neville,
who, with equal seriousness of demeanour, conferred with his
antagonistic diplomate. Words were exchanged, ending with an ominous
shaking of the head on Forbes’s part. The seconds, having courteously
bowed, departed to their former positions. There they placed pistols in
the hands of the opponents, and took their stations. Even at this stage
the manner of the two men remained as essentially apart as their
constitutions. Argyll stood chafing with impatience, while Hampden’s
eyes wandered calmly over the whole scene—the valley, the little stream,
the threatening sky—as if considering the chances of the season.

As the pistols were handed to them, Argyll took his weapon with a quick
gleam of the eye, which spoke of inward strife, while Hampden accepted
his mechanically and proceeded to gaze fixedly at Argyll, as if prepared
to give the matter his serious attention.

At the signal he raised his hand as before, but one report only startled
the birds on the adjacent tree-tops. Hampden held his pistol in the
steady hand which so few had ever known to swerve from a deadly aim, and
then, elevating the muzzle, fired carelessly into space.

‘We should have improved in our shooting,’ he said, ‘as we went on;
Argyll’s second shot was not so wide as the first. He has spoiled my
coat collar.’

‘By Jove!’ ejaculated Neville, ‘rather a near thing. This must end the
matter; I’ll be no party to another shot.’

‘I have no objection to state _now_,’ said Hampden, ‘that I regret the
expressions used by me. I beg unreservedly to withdraw them.’

After a short colloquy between Argyll and Forbes, the latter came
forward, and with great precision of intonation thus delivered himself.

‘I have much pleasure in stating, on the part of my principal, that
while accepting Mr. Hampden’s handsome apology and retractation, he
desires to recognise cordially his generous behaviour.’

Only the Spartan laws of the duello, inexorably binding upon all men
soever of a certain rank in society, prevented Fred Churbett from
throwing his hat into the air at this termination of the affair.

As each party moved off in opposite directions, after Argyll had, rather
against his will, submitted to having his arm bandaged, _secundum
artem_, Hampden said to Neville:

‘What mockeries these affairs are! I could have shot Argyll “as dead as
a herring.” It’s better as it is, though.’

‘It’s a good thing his last shot wasn’t an inch or two _inside_ your
collar instead of out,’ said Neville gravely. ‘After all, as you say,
these things are mockeries, and worse. Suppose he _had_ drilled you, and
I was on my way to tell Mrs. Hampden that her husband would never return
to her?’

‘But _you_ wouldn’t be able to have given the sad intelligence, old
fellow,’ said Hampden; ‘you would have been fleeing from justice, or
surrendering yourself. Deuced troublesome affair to all concerned,
except the departed. But a man must live or die, in accordance with the
rules of society. After all, there’s nearly as much chance of breaking
one’s neck mustering over that lava country of ours as being snuffed out
in this way. Life’s a queer lottery at best.’

‘H—m, ha!’ said Neville, ‘great deal to be got out of the subject; don’t
feel in the humour for enlarging on it just now. What a good fellow that
Churbett is! He had a mind to read the Riot Act himself.’

                   An angry man ye may opine,
                   Was he, the proud Count Palatine!

And dire would have been the wrath of our provincial potentate, William
Rockley, had he but known on Sunday morning what deeds were about to be
enacted within his social and magisterial jurisdiction.

No sympathy had he, a man of strictly modern ideas, with what he called
the mediæval humbug of duelling. He looked upon the policeman as the
proper exponent of such proceedings. Could he have but guessed where
this discreditable anachronism, according to his principles, was being
perpetrated, all concerned would have found themselves in the body of
Yass gaol, in default of sufficient sureties to keep the peace. The
news, however, did not leak out until afterwards, owing to the
discretion of the persons concerned, and the fortunate absence of
serious results. When it did become matter of public comment, his
imperial majesty was furious. He abused every one concerned in
unmeasured terms; swore he would never speak to Argyll or Forbes again,
and would have Hampden struck off the Commission of the Peace. As for
Fred Churbett, he considered him the worst of the lot, because of his
deceitful, diabolical amiability, which permitted him to assist in such
infamous bloodthirsty designs unsuspectedly. Not one of them should ever
darken his doors again. He would never subscribe another shilling to the
Yass Races; indeed, he believed he would sell out, wind up his business,
and leave that part of the colony altogether.

However, not receiving intimation of this infraction of the law until
matters were somewhat stale, the _status in quo_ was undisturbed. The
whole of the company, with the exception of the few who were in the
secret, were similarly innocent; so the air remained unclouded. An
afternoon walk to Fern-tree Hollow, a shady defile which lay a couple of
miles from the town, was the accepted Sunday stroll.

Every one turned up to say farewell, thinking it a more suitable time
than on the hurried, packing, saddling, harnessing-up, bill-paying
morrow. Then once more the work of the hard world would recommence. The
idyll had been sung to the last stanza. The nymphs would seek their
forest retreats, the listening fauns would disappear amid the leaves.
The rites of that old world deity ‘Leisure,’ now sadly circumscribed,
had been honoured and ended. This was the last day, almost the last
hour, when Phyllis could be expected to listen to soft sighings, or
Neæra to be seen in proximity to the favouring shade.

As they strolled homewards, in the evening, with a troubled sunset and a
cooler breeze, as if in sympathy with the imminent farewell, the scraps
of conversation which might have been gathered were characteristic.
Something more than half-confidences were occasionally interchanged, and
semi-sentimental speculations not wholly wanting.

At the close of the evening, and the end of the stroll, every one, of
course, went to the Maison Rockley, and comforted their souls with
supper, Sunday being an early dinner day, as in all well-regulated
British families. Conversations which had not been satisfactorily
concluded had here a chance of definite ending, as the guests somehow
seemed unwilling to separate when the probability of meeting again was
uncertain or remote.

With the exception of a little music, there was no attempt at other than
conversational occupation, which indeed appeared to suffice fully for
the majority of the guests. And though ordinary topics gradually
introduced themselves, and Rockley, in the freedom of the verandah,
reiterated his opinions to Mr. Effingham upon the iniquities of the land
law, a subdued tone pervaded, half unconsciously, the various groups, as
of members of one family about to separate for a hazardous expedition.

‘I feel terribly demoralised,’ said Mrs. Snowden, ‘after all this
dissipation; it is like a visit to Paris must have been to Madame
Sevigné, after a summer in the provinces. Like her, we shall have to
take to letter-writing when we go home to keep ourselves alive. The
poultry are my great stand-by for virtuous occupation. They suffer, I
admit, from these fascinating trips to Yass; for the last time I
returned I found two hens sitting upon forty-five eggs. Now what
philosophy could support that?’

‘Whose philosophy, that of the hens?’ inquired Hamilton, who, with his
observant companion, had been mildly reviewing the confidentially
occupied couples. ‘It looks to me like a case of overweening feminine
ambition on their part.’

‘It was all the fault of that careless Charlotte Lodore who was staying
with me—a cousin of mine, and a dreadful girl to read. She was so deeply
interested in some new book that she left the poor fowls to their own
devices, and never thought about adjusting their “clutches”—that’s the
expression—until I returned. If you could have seen our two faces as we
gazed at the pile of addled eggs you would have been awed. I _was_ so
angry.’

As for Wilfred, he concluded an æsthetic conversation with Miss Fane by
trusting that she would be enabled to accept his mother’s invitation,
and pay them a visit at Warbrok Chase before the winter set in.

‘Nothing would give me greater pleasure, really,’ said she, ‘but I
seldom manage to leave home, except to see a relation in Sydney, or when
our good friends Mr. and Mrs. Rockley insist on my coming here. But for
them, papa would hardly consent to my visiting in the country at all.’

There was evidently some constraint in the manner of the girl’s
explanation, and Wilfred did not press for the solution, trusting to
time and the frank candour with which every one discussed every other
person’s affairs in the neighbourhood.

Miss Fane took an opportunity of quitting her seat and joining Mrs.
Effingham and Beatrice, with whom, much to Wilfred’s satisfaction, she
maintained a friendly and confidential talk until the little party
commenced to disperse. He discovered at the same time that Christabel
Rockley and Bob Clarke had exhausted their powers of mutual fascination
for the present, so he could not forgo the temptation of hastening,
after the manner of moths of all ages, to singe his wings in a farewell
flutter round the fatal Christabel. That enchantress smiled upon him,
and rekindled his regrets with a spare gleam or two from out her
wondrous eyes, large as must have been the consumption of soul-felt
glances during the evening; yet such is the insatiable desire for
conquest that she listened responsively to his warm acknowledgments of
the pleasure they had enjoyed during the week, nearly all of which was
attributable to the great kindness of Mrs. Rockley and the hospitality
of her father. ‘He should _never_ forget it. The remembrance would last
him all his life,’ and so on, and so on.

                  *       *       *       *       *

On Monday morning business in its severest sense set in for the world of
Yass, its belongings, and dependencies. Before dawn all professionals
connected with race-horses were hard at work with the silent energy
which characterises the breed. Jockeys and trainers, helpers and boys,
were steadily employed, each in his own department, strapping, packing,
or saddling up with a taciturn solemnity of mien, as if racing had been
abolished by Act of Parliament, and no further rational enjoyment was to
be hoped for in a ruined world. Correspondingly, the tide of labour and
rural commerce swelled and deepened. Long teams of bullocks slowly
traversed the main street, with the heavy, indestructible dray of the
period, filled with loads of hay, wheat, maize, oats, or flour. Farmers
jogged along in spring-carts, or on rough nags; the shops were open and
busy, while the miscellaneous establishment of Rockley and Company,
which accommodated with equal ease an order for a ton of sugar or a
pound of nails, a hundred palings, or sawn timber for a bridge, was, as
usual, crowded with every sort of client and customer, in need of every
kind of merchandise, advice, or accommodation.

Shortly after breakfast, therefore, Black Prince pranced proudly up
before his wheeler to the door of Rockley House, looking—but by no means
likely to carry out that impropriety—as if he was bent upon running away
every mile of the homeward journey. Portmanteaus and, it must be
admitted, parcels of unknown size and number (for when did women ever
travel forth, much less return, without supplementary packages?) were at
length conveniently bestowed.

Adieus and last words—the very last—were exchanged with their kind
hostess and her angelic daughter, who had vowed and promised to visit
The Chase at an early period. Rockley had betaken himself to his
counting-house hours before. Fergus and Allspice were once more honoured
with the weight of their respective mistresses, and the little cortège
departed. Our cavalier had, we know, been prevented by a pressing
engagement from accompanying them on the homeward route; but it was not
to be supposed that two young ladies like Rosamond and Beatrice were to
be permitted to ride through the forest glades escorted merely by
relations. Most fortunately Mr. St. Maur happened to be visiting his
friend O’Desmond, combining business and pleasure, for a few days. As
his road lay past The Chase, he was, of course, only too happy to join
their party.

Annabel Effingham thought that Bertram St. Maur was perhaps the prince
and seigneur of their by no means undistinguished circle of
acquaintances. A tall, handsome man, with a natural air of command, he
was by Blanche and Selden, immediately after they had set eyes on him,
declared to be the image of a Norman King in their History of England,
and invested accordingly with grand and mysterious attributes. A
well-known explorer, in the first days of his residence in Australia he
had preferred the hazards of discovery to the slower gains of ordinary
station life. He was therefore looked upon as the natural chief and
leader in his own border district, a position which, with head and hand,
he was well qualified to support.

The homeward journey was quickly performed, a natural impatience causing
the whole party to linger as little as possible on the road. Once more
they reached the ascent above their home, from which they could look
down upon the green slopes, the tranquil lake, the purple hills, of the
well-known landscape. The afternoon had kept fine; the change from the
busy town, the late scene of their dissipation, was not unpleasing.

‘I am pleased to think that you young people have enjoyed yourselves,’
said Mrs. Effingham, ‘and so, I am sure, has papa. It has been a change
for him; but, oh, if you knew how delighted I am to see home again!’

‘So am I; so are we all,’ said Annabel. ‘I for one will never say a word
against pleasure, for I have enjoyed myself tremendously. But “enough is
as good as a feast.” We have had a grand holiday, and like good children
we shall go back cheerfully to our lessons—that is, to our housekeeping,
and dear old Jeanie.’

‘Your mother is right in thinking that I enjoyed myself,’ said Mr.
Effingham. ‘I found most pleasant acquaintances, and had much
interesting talk about affairs generally. It does a man good, when he is
no longer young, to meet men of the same age and to exchange ideas. But
I must say that the pleasure was of an intense and compressed
description; it ought to last you young people for a year.’

‘_Half a year_,’ said Annabel, ‘I really think it might. _We_ met
improving acquaintances too,—though I am popularly supposed not to care
about sensible conversation,—Miss Fane, for instance. We shared a room,
and I thought her a delightful, original, clever creature, and so good
too. Can’t we have her over here, mamma? She lives at a place called
Black Mountain, ever so far away, and can hardly ever leave home,
because she has little brothers to teach, and all the housekeeping to
do. I am sorry she is so far off.’

‘So am I, Annabel. We should all like to see more of her.’

‘I think that there were an unusual number of pretty girls,’ continued
Annabel. ‘As for Christabel Rockley, I could rave about her as much as
if I were a man. She is a lovely creature, and as good-natured and
unselfish as a child.’

‘I must say,’ said Mr. Effingham, ‘that for hospitality in the largest
sense of the word, I never saw anything to surpass that of our friends.
I knew Ireland well when I was young, but even that proverbially
generous land seems to me to be outdone by our Australian friends.’

‘I hope Jeanie will have a nice dinner for us,’ said Annabel. ‘But we
need never be afraid of the dear old thing not doing everything she
ought to have done. She knew we were coming home to-day, and she will be
ready and prepared for a prince, if we had picked up a stray one at
Yass. Home, sweet home! How glad I am! There is nothing like dissipation
for making one feel truly virtuous.’

Of a truth, there is always something sacred and precious connected in
the minds of the widely scattered families of the Anglo-Saxon race about
the very name of ‘home!’ There was no one of the Effinghams whose heart
was not stirred as they rode and drove up to the hall door, and saw the
kindly, loving face of Jeanie, the seriously satisfied countenance of
Andrew, and even the silent Duncan, quite excited for him, as he stood
ready to assist with the horses. The garden in the neighbourhood of the
entrance gate was trim and neat, while showers had preserved the
far-stretching verdure which glorifies the country in whatever
hemisphere. No great time was consumed in unsaddling. Guy personally
superintended the stabling of St. Maur’s horse, while Wilfred conducted
him to one of the spare rooms. Dick Evans, always handy in emergencies,
turned up in time to dispose of the tandem. And in less than half an
hour Effingham and his new acquaintance were walking up and down the
verandah awaiting the dinner-bell, much refreshed and comforted, and in
a state of mind fitted for admiring the landscape.

‘How fortunate you seem to have been in falling across such a family
residence,’ said St. Maur. ‘You might have been for years in the country
and never heard of anything half so good. What a lovely view of the
lake; and first-class land, too, it seems to be.’

‘We owe our good fortune in great part, or I may say altogether, to my
old friend Sternworth. But for him we should never have seen Australia,
or have been stumbling about in the dark after we did come here. And if
it were possible to need any other aid or advice, I feel certain Mr.
Rockley would insist on giving it. I must say that the soil of Australia
produces more friends in need to the square mile than any other I know.’

‘It may be overrated in that respect,’ said St. Maur, smiling; ‘but you
are in no danger of overrating Rockley’s benevolence or his miraculous
ways and means of carrying out his intentions. As for Mr. Sternworth, he
is the “Man of Ross”—or rather of Yass—

                        To all the country dear,

and passing rich on not exactly ‘forty pounds a year,’ but the
Australian equivalent. If he introduces any more such desirable
colonists we must have him made rural Dean. You are satisfied with your
investment, I take it?’

‘So much so, that I look forward with the keenest relish to the many
changes and improvements [here his visitor gave a slight involuntary
motion of dissent] which I trust to carry out during the next few years.
Everything is reassuring in a money-making aspect, so I trust not to be
indiscreet in developing the property.’

‘My dear sir, nothing can be more proper than that we should carry out
plans for the improvement of our estates, after they have shown annual
profit balances for years. But to spend money on improvements in
Australia _before_ you have a reserve fund is—pardon my frankness—held
to be imprudent.’

‘But surely a property well improved must pay eventually better than one
where, as at present, all the stock are permitted to roam almost in a
state of nature?’

‘When you come to talk of stock paying, my dear sir, you must bear in
mind that it is not the finest animal that yields the most profit, but
the one on which, at a saleable age, you have _expended the least
money_.’

The evening passed most pleasantly, with just sufficient reference to
the experiences of the week to render the conversation entertaining. In
the morning their guest departed, and with him the last associations of
the memorable race meeting, leaving the family free to pursue the calm
pursuits of their ordinary life.

Wilfred found himself freshly invigorated and eager to take up again
occupations connected with the policy of the establishment. He praised
Dick Evans and old Tom warmly for the exact order in which he found all
departments, not forgetting a word of approval for Andrew, of whose good
conduct, however, he was assured under all possible circumstances.

As the season passed on, it seemed as though the family of the
Effinghams had migrated to one of the poets’ isles—

                  Happy with orchard lawns,
              Where never wind doth blow or tempest rave—

so flawless were all the climatic conditions, upon which their
well-being depended.

Pleasant it was, after the day’s work was done, when the family gathered
round the substantial fire which, red-glowing with piled-up logs,
thoroughly warmed but did not oppressively heat the lofty room. Then
came truly the season of

                  Rest, and affection, and stillness.

Although a certain reaction was apparent after the stupendous adventures
and experiences of the race meeting, yet moderate social intercourse
survived. Mr. Churbett was the first of the personages from the outer
world who presented himself, and the historiette of the duel having
leaked out, he had to undergo a grave lecture and remonstrance from Mrs.
Effingham, which, as he said afterwards, reminded him so of his own
mother that it brought the tears into his eyes.

Mr. Argyll, luckily for his peace of mind, had occasion to go to Sydney,
otherwise, not to mention chance reviewers and critics, it is hard to
imagine how he could have protected himself against the uncompromising
testimony which Mrs. Teviot felt herself compelled to take up against
him.

‘Spillin’ the bluid o’ the Lord’s anointed; no that Maister Hampden was
mair than a magistrate, but still it is written, ‘they bear not the
sword in vain.’ And oh, it’s wae to think if Hampden’s bullet had juist
gane thro’ the heart o’ Maister Argyll, and his mither, that gracious
lady, wearyin’ for him by the bonny hills o’ Tarbert! And that Maister
Churbett, I wadna hae thocht it. I could fell him.’

Howard Effingham, in a general way, disapproved of duelling, but as a
soldier and a man of the world was free to confess that, as society was
constituted, such an ultimatum could not be dispensed with. He was happy
to hear no casualty had occurred. His own opinion, judging from what he
had seen of colonial society, was that the men composing it were an
exceptionally reasonable set of people, whose lives, from circumstances,
were of exceptional value to the community at large as well as to their
families. In the older countries of Europe, where duelling had formerly
flourished, the direct converse of this proposition often obtained. He
believed that in course of time the practice of duelling would become so
unnecessary, even unfashionable, as to be practically obsolete.

Mr. Hampden did not belong to their ‘side of the country’ (or
neighbourhood); thus he was necessarily left to receive his share of
admonition from his wife, and such of his personal friends who cared to
volunteer reproof or remonstrance. There were those who smiled
sardonically at this view of the case.



                               CHAPTER XV
                   THE LIFE STORY OF TOM GLENDINNING


During one of the long rides which Wilfred was obliged to take from time
to time with Tom Glendinning, it occurred to him to ask about his
previous history. The old man was unusually well; that is, free from
rheumatism and neuralgia. The demons which tortured his irritable temper
were at rest. For a wonder, Tom was communicative.

‘Sure there’s little use in knowin’ the finds and the kills and blank
days of a toothless old hound like meself. I’m broken-mouthed enough to
know better; but the oulder some gets, the wickeder they are. Maybe it’s
because there’s little hope for them. I was born in the north of
Ireland, where my people was dacent enough. Linen factories they had—no
less. My great grandfather came from Scotland, my father was dead, and
my uncle that I lived with was the sourest old miser that ever the Black
North turned out. I was a wild slip of a youngster always, like a hawk
among barn-door fowl. My mother came from the West. It was her blood I
had, and it ran too free and merry in thim days. She was dead too, but I
loved her people. I liked the sporting notions of ’em, and took to their
ways, their fights, their fairs and the very brogue, just to spite my
uncle and his canting breed.

‘I hated everything they liked, and liked everything they hated. I was
flogged and locked up for runnin’ away from school. Why should I stay in
and larn out of a dog’s-eared book when the hounds met within five Irish
miles of me? I was always with them when I could slip off—sleepin’ in
the stables, helpin’ the grooms, doin’ anything so they’d let me stay
about the stables and kennel. I could ride any hunter they had at
exercise and knew every fox-covert in the neighbourhood, every hare’s
form, besides being able to tie a fly and snare rabbits. When I was
twelve years old I ran away and made my way down to Mayo, to my mother’s
people—God be with them all their days! I was happy then.’

‘I suppose you were, indeed,’ said Wilfred.

‘Why wouldn’t I be? My mother’s brother was but a small farmer, but he
was a king’s ayqual for kind-heartedness, divilment and manliness. He
could follow the hounds on foot for a ten-mile run. He was the best
laper, wrestler, hurler, and stick-fighter in the barony. The sort of
man I could have died for. More by token, he took to me at once when I
stumbled in sore-footed and stiff like a stray puppy. I was the
“white-headed boy” for my dead mother’s sake.’

‘You had all you could wish for, then.’

‘I had. I was a fool, too, but sure I didn’t know it. ’Tis that same
makes all the differ. The Squire took a fancy to me, after I rode a
five-year-old for him over the ox-fences one day. I was made dog-boy,
afterwards third whip; and sure, when I had on the cord breeches and the
coat with the hunt button, I was prouder than the king. There was no
divilment in all the land I wasn’t in; but I didn’t drink in thim days,
and I knew my work well. Whin I was twenty-two a fit took me to go to
Belfast and see the ould place again.’

‘Did you wish to ask for your uncle’s blessing?’

‘Not if I was stritched for it! But my cousin Mary! sure I could never
get her out of my head, and thim black eyes of hers. She kissed me the
night I ran away, and the taste of her lips and the sweet look of her
eyes could never lave me. I can see her face now. I wonder where is she?
And will I see her again when I go to my place!’

The old man turned away his head; his voice was still for some moments.
Were there tears in those evil-glowing eyes, that never lowered before
mortal man or quailed under the shadow of death? Who shall say? Wilfred
played with his bridle-rein. When the henchman spoke next he gazed
resolutely before him, towards the far purple mountain peak; his voice
once more was strong and clear.

‘Whin I seen her again she was a woman grown, but her eyes were the
same, and her heart was true to the wild boy that was born to ruin all
that was nigh or kind to him. The old man scowled at me. There was
little love between us.

‘“So you’ve grown into a useless man instead of a disobedient lad,” he
said. “Why didn’t ye stay among the rebels and white-boys of the West?
It’s the company that fits ye well; you’ll have the better chance of
being hanged before you’re older. Change your name before it’s a by-word
and a disgrace to honest folks.”

‘I swore then I’d make him repent his words, and that if I was hanged my
name should be known far and wide. I went back to the wild West. But if
I did I gave him good raison to curse me to his dyin’ day. I soothered
over Mary to marry me, and the day after we were well on the way to
Athlone.’

‘Surely then you had a happy life before you, Tom?’

‘True for you. If I wasn’t happy, no man ever was. But the divil was too
strong in me. I was right for the first year. I loved my work with the
hounds, and the master—rest his sowl—used to say there wasn’t a whip
west of Athlone could hold a candle to me. He gave me a snug cottage.
Mary was a great favourite entirely with the ladies of the house. For
that year—that one blessed year of my life—I was free from bad ways.
Within the year Mary had a fine boy in her arms—the moral of his father,
every one said—and as she smiled on me, I felt as if what the priest
said about being good and all the rest of it, might be true, after all.’

‘And what made the change, Tom?’

‘The ould story—restlessness, bad company, and saycret societies. I got
mixed up in one, that I joined before I was married, more for the fun of
the night walks and drillin’s and rides than anything else. The oath
once taken—a terrible oath it was, more by token—I thought shame of
breakin’ it. It’s little I’d care _now_ for a dozen like it. The end of
it was, one night I must go off with a mob of young fools, like myself,
to frighten a strong farmer who had taken the land over a poor man’s
head. I didn’t know then that the best kindness for a strugglin’ holder
there, was to hunt him out of the overstocked land to this place, or
America, or the West Indies. Anyhow, we burned a stack. After I left,
the boys were foolish and bate him. He took to his bed and died—divil
mend him! Two days afterwards I was arrested on a warrant, and lodged in
the county gaol. ’Twas the first time I heard a prison lock turn behind
me. Not the last, by many a score times.

‘I had no chance at the Assizes. A girl swore to me as Huntsman Tom.
Five of thim was hanged. I got off with transportation. I was four miles
away whin they were heard batin’ Doran. I asked the Judge to hang me
with the rest. He said it couldn’t be done. Mary came every day to see
me, poor girleen; she liked to show me the boy; but I could see her
heart was broke, though she tried to smile—such a smile—for my sake. I
desarved what I got, maybe. But if I’d been let off then, as there’s a
God in heaven I’d have starved rather than have done a wrong turn agin
as long as I lived. If them judges knew a man’s heart, would they let
one off, wonst in a way? Mary was with me every day, wet or dry, on
board the prison ship till she sailed. Is there angels come to hell, I
wonder, to see the wretches in torment? If they do, they’ll look like
_her_, as she stood on the deck and trembled whin the chained divils
that some calls men filed by. She looked at me with her soft eyes, till
I grew mad, and told her roughly to go home and take the child with her.
Then she dropped on her knees and cried, and kissed my hands with the
irons on them and the face of me, like a madwoman. She lifted the baby
to me for a minute, and it held out its hands. I kissed its wheeshy soft
face, and she was gone out of my sight—out of my life—for ever.’

‘How did you like the colony?’

‘Well enough at the first. I worked well, and did what I was tould. It
was all the relafe there was. I made sure I should get my freedom in a
few years. The first letther I got was from my old uncle. Mary was dead!
He said nothin’ about the child, but he would bring it up, and never
wished to hear my name again. This changed me into a rale divil, no
less. All that was bad in me kem out. I was that desperate that I defied
the overseers, made friends with the biggest villians among the
prisoners, and did everything foolish that came into my head. I was
punished, and the worse I was trated the worse I grew. I was chained and
flogged and starved and put into dark cells. ’Tis little satisfaction
they got of me, for I grew that savage and stubborn that I was all as
one as a wild baste, only wickeder. If ye seen my back now, after the
triangles, scarred and callused from shoulder to flank! I was marked out
for Norfolk Island; ye’ve heard tell of that place?’

Wilfred nodded assent.

‘That _hell_!’ screamed the old man, ‘where men once sent never came
back. Flogged and chained; herded like bastes, when the lime that they
carried off to the boats burned holes in their naked flesh, wading
through the surf with it! But I forgot, there was _one_ way to get back
to Sydney.’

‘And what way was that?’

‘You could always _kill_ a man—one of your mates—only a prisoner—sure,
it couldn’t matter much!’ said the old man with a dreadful laugh; ‘but
ye were sent up to Sydney in the Government brig, and tried and hanged
as reg’lar as if ye wor a free man and owned a free life. There was thim
there thin that thought the pleasure trip to Sydney and the comfort of a
new gaol and a nate condimned cell all to yourself, well worth a man’s
blood, and a sure rope when the visit was over. Ha! ha!’

He laughed long and loud. The sound was so unnatural that Wilfred
fancied if their talk had occurred by a lonely camp in a darksome forest
at midnight, instead of under the garish light of day, he might have
imagined faint unearthly cries and moans strangely mingled with that
awful laughter.

‘Thim was quare times; but I didn’t go to ‘the island hell’ after all.
An up-country settler came to the barracks to pick a groom, as an
assigned servant—so they called us. He was a big, bold-lookin’ man, and
as I set my eyes on him, I never looked before me or on the floor as
most of thim did.

‘“What’s that man?” he said. “I like the look of him; he’s got plenty of
devil in him; that’s my sort. He can ride, by the look of his legs. I’m
just starting up-country.”

‘They wouldn’t give me to him at first; said I was too bad to go loose.
But he had friends in high places, and they got me assigned to him. Next
day we started for a station. When I felt a horse between my legs I
began to have the feelings of a man again. He gave me a pistol to carry,
too. Bushrangers wor on the road then, and he carried money.’

‘“You can fight or not, as you like, Tom,” he said, “if we meet any of
the boys; but if you show cur, back you go to the barracks.”

‘“Sooner to hell,” says I. I felt that I would go through fire and water
for him. He trated me liked a _man_!’

‘And did you meet any bushrangers?’ said Wilfred.

‘We did then—the Tinker’s gang—three of them, and a boy. They bailed us
up in a narrow place. I took steady aim and shot the Tinker dead. As
well him as me—not that I cared a traneen for my life. My master dropped
a second man; the other one and the boy bolted for their lives.

‘“Well done, Tom!” says my master, when it was all over. “You were a
good cavalry man lost”—he was in the Hussars, no less, at home. “We
don’t part asy, I can tell you. You deserve your freedom, and you’ll get
it.”

‘He was betther than his word. I got a conditional pardon, not to go
beyond the colonies. Sure I had little taste for lavin’ them. I stayed
with him till he died; the next place I went to was Warbrok, as I tould
ye the first day I seen you.’

‘Did you ever hear what became of your child?’

‘Ne’er a one of me knows, nor cares. If he’s turned out well, the less
he knows of me the better. If he’s gone to the dogs, there’s scoundrels
enough in the country already. But I nigh forget tellin’ ye, I made
money once by dalin’ in cattle, and every year I sent home £50, thinkin’
it might do good to the child.’

‘And do you know if it went safe?’

‘Sure I got a resate for every pound of it, just as if a lawyer had
written it, thankin’ me, but never sayin’ a word about the boy, but that
it would be used for his larning.’

‘And what made you leave it off?’

‘I didn’t lave it off. They sent back the last of it without a word or
message. That made me wild, and I started drinkin’, and never cried
crack till it was gone. I began to wander about and take billets as a
stock-rider. ’Tis the way I’ve lived iver since. If it wasn’t for the
change and wild life now and thin—fightin’ them divils of blacks,
gallopin’ after wild cattle, and campin’ out where no white man had been
before—I’d been dead with the drink long ago. But something keeps me;
something tells me I can’t die till I’ve seen one from the ould country.
Who it is, I can’t tell. Sometimes I see Mary in my drames, holdin’ up
the child like the last day I seen her. I’d have put a bullet through
me, when I was in “the horrors,” only for thim drames. I shall go when
my time comes. It’s little I’d care if it was in the night that’s
drawin’ on.’

Here he rode on for some minutes without speaking, then continued in an
altered voice:

‘See here now, Mr. Wilfred, it’s little I thought to say to mortial man
the things I’ve let out of my heart this blessed day. But my feeling to
you and your father is the same as I had to my first master—the heavens
be his bed! If he’d always been among such people here—rale gintry—that
cared for him and thought to help him, Tom Glendinning would maybe have
been a different man. But the time’s past. I’m like a beaten fox, nigh
run down; and I’ll never die in my bed, that much I know. You won’t
spake to me agen about this. My heart’s burstin’ as it is; and—I’ll
maybe drop—if it comes on me again—like it—does—now——’

He pressed his hand closely, fiercely, upon the region of the heart. He
grew deadly pale, and shook as if in mortal agony; his face was
convulsed as he bowed himself upon the saddle-bow, and Wilfred feared he
was about to fall from his horse. But he slowly regained his position,
and quivering like one who had been stretched upon the rack, guided his
horse along the homeward path.

‘’Tis spasms of the heart, the doctor tould me it was,’ he gasped at
length. ‘They’d take me off some day, before you could light a match,
“if I didn’t keep aisy and free from trouble,”’ he said. ‘Maybe they
will, some day; maybe something else will be too quick for them. It’s
little I care. Close up, Mr. Wilfred, we’re late for home, and I’d like
to regulate thim calves before it’s dark.’

Much Wilfred mused over the history of the strange old man who had now
become associated with their fortunes.

‘What a life!’ thought he. ‘What a tragedy!’ How changed from the days
when he followed the Mayo hounds; reckless then, perhaps, and impatient
of control, but an unweaned child in innocence compared to his present
condition. And yet he possessed qualities which, under different
treatment might have led to honour and distinction.

                  *       *       *       *       *

As far as personal claims to distinction were concerned, few districts
in which the Effinghams could have been located, would have borne
comparison with the vicinity of Lake William. It abounded, as we have
told, in younger sons of good family, whom providence would appear to
have thus guided but a few years before their own migration. This
fortunate concurrence they had themselves often noted, and fully did
they appreciate the congenial companionship.

Besides the local celebrities, few tourists of note passed along the
southern road without being intercepted by the hospitality of one or
other household. These captives of their bow and spear were shared
honourably. When the Honourable Cedric Rotherwood, who had letters to
Mr. Effingham, was quartered for a month at The Chase, fishing,
shooting, and kangaroo-hunting, the Benmohr men and their allies were
entreated to imagine there was a muster at The Chase every Saturday, and
to rendezvous in force accordingly. A strong friendship accordingly was
struck up between the young men. The Honourable Cedric was only
five-and-twenty, and years afterwards, when Charlie Hamilton went home
with one station in his pocket, and two more paying twenty per cent per
annum upon the original outlay, his Lordship, having then come into his
kingdom, had him down at Rotherwood Hall, and gave him such mounts in
the hunting field, and such corners in the battues, not to mention a run
over to his Lordship’s deer forest in the Highlands, that Charlie, on
befitting occasions, refers to that memorable visit with enthusiasm (and
at considerable length, say his friends) even unto this day.

Against this court card, socially marked for the Effinghams’ fortune,
one day turned up a couple of trumps, which might be thought to have
made a certainty of the odd trick in favour of Benmohr. Charles
Hamilton, coming home after a day’s ploughing, found two strangers in
the sitting-room, one of whom, a quiet plainly dressed personage, shut
up a book at his entrance, and begged to introduce his friend and
travelling companion, Major Glendinning, ‘who (his own name Kinghart)
had brought a letter from a mutual friend, he believed, Mr. Machell of
Langamilli. The Major had been good enough to accompany him, being
anxious to see the country.’

‘Delighted to see you, I’m sure,’ said Hamilton, pocketing the letter
unread. ‘I hope Mrs. Teviot gave you some refreshment. I seldom come
home before dark, now the days are getting short.’

‘The old lady did the honours, I assure you,’ said the Major, ‘but we
preferred awaiting dinner, as we had tiffin on the road. As for
Kinghart, he found an old edition in your book-case which was meat and
drink to him.’

‘In that case, if you will allow me, I will ask you to excuse me till
the bell rings, as dressing is a serious business after my clay
furrows.’

Hamilton had time to look at Willie Machell’s letter, in which he found
Mr. Kinghart described as an out-and-out brick, though reserved at
first, and unreasonably fond of books. Played a goodish game of whist,
too. Henry Kinghart was brother to the famous clergyman and writer of
that name, and was so deuced clever that, if there had been any material
for fiction in this confounded country, which there was not, he
shouldn’t be surprised if he wrote a book himself some day. As for the
Major, he was invaluable. He (Machell) had met him at the Australian
Club, and brought him up forcibly from Sydney. He was the best shot and
horseman he ever saw, and fought no end with his regiment of Irregular
Horse in India. Siffter, N.I., who denied everybody’s deeds but his own,
admitted as much. Relative in Australia—cattle-station manager or
something—that he wanted to look up. He (Hamilton) was not to keep them
all the winter at Benmohr, as he (Machell) was deucedly dull without
them.

Mr. Kinghart fully answered his warranty, inasmuch as he volunteered
little in the way of remark, and fastening upon one or two rare books in
the Benmohr collection, hardly looked up till Mrs. Teviot came in with
the bedroom candles. The Major seemed indisposed to literature, but had
seen so much, and indeed had transacted personally so large a share of
modern history in Indian military service, that Hamilton, who, like most
Scottish gentlemen, had a brother in the line there and several cousins
in the Civil Service, was deeply interested. He had been in every battle
of note since the commencement of the Mahratta war, and

                   A scar on his brown cheek revealed
                   A token true of ‘Moodkee’ field.

Without a shade of self-consciousness he replied to Hamilton’s eager
questionings, whom he found to be (from his brother’s letters)
accurately informed about the affairs of Northern India.

Unfortunately for Mr. Kinghart’s studies, Neil Barrington and Bob
Ardmillan turned up next morning—two men who would neither be quiet
themselves, nor suffer other mortals to enjoy repose. Part of the day
was spent in shooting round the borders of the dam, when the Major
topped Ardmillan’s bag, who was considered the crack shot of the
neighbourhood. In the afternoon, there being many horses, colts and
others, in the stables, Neil proposed an adjournment to the leaping-bar,
an institution peculiar to Benmohr, for educating the inexperienced
steeds to jump cleverly with the aid of a shifting bar enwrapped in
brambles.

At this entertainment the Major showed himself to be no novice, riding
with an ease of seat and perfection of hand, to which, doubtless, years
of pig-sticking and tent-pegging had contributed.

In the evening whist was suggested, when Mr. Kinghart showed that his
studies had by no means prevented his paying due attention to an
exacting and jealous mistress. The exigencies of the game thawed his
reserve, and in his new character he was pronounced by the volatile Neil
and the shrewd satirist Bob Ardmillan to be a first-rate fellow. He
displayed with some dry humour the results of a habit of close
observation; in addition, a chance allusion served to reveal such stores
of classical lore, that Argyll’s absence was deplored by Neil
Barrington, who believed that his friend, who was always scolding him
for not keeping up his classics, would have been for once out-quoted.

Of course such treasures of visitors could not be allowed to lie hid,
and after a few allusions to the family at The Chase had paved the way,
Mr. Kinghart and the Major were invited to accompany Hamilton on a visit
(which he unblushingly asserted to be chiefly on business) to that
popular homestead on the next ensuing Saturday.

The Effingham family were devoted admirers of the elder and Kinghart,
had but recently read and discussed _Eastward Ho_, _Dalton_, _Rocke_ and
other products of the large, loving mind which was then stirring the
hearts of the most generous portion of English society. It may be
conjectured with what secret triumph, veiled under an assumption of
formal politeness, Hamilton introduced Major Glendinning and Mr. Henry
Kinghart.

‘Will you think me curious if I ask whether you are related to the
Rector of Beverly?’ inquired Rosamond soon after preliminaries had come
to an end. ‘You must pardon our enthusiasm, but life in the provinces
seems as closely concerned with authors as with acquaintances or
friends, almost more so.’

‘My brother Charles would feel honoured, I assure you, Miss Effingham,
if he knew the interest he has aroused in this far-off garrison of the
Norseman he so loves to celebrate,’ said the stranger, with a pleasant
smile. ‘I wish, for a hundred reasons, that he could be here to tell you
so. How he would enjoy roaming over this land of wonders!’

Rosamond’s eyes sparkled with an infrequent lustre. Here was truly a
miraculous occurrence. A brother—actually a brother—of the great, the
noble, the world-renowned Charles Kinghart, with whose works they had
been familiar ever since they could read; most of whose characters were
to them household words!

Certainly there was nothing heroic about the personnel of their literary
visitor—an unobtrusive-looking personage. But now that he was decorated
with the name of Kinghart, glorified with the reflected halo of genius,
there was visible to the book-loving maiden a world of distinction in
his every gesture and fragment of speech.

Then Major Glendinning, too, a man whom few would pass without a second
glance. Slightly over middle height, his symmetrical figure and complete
harmony of motion stamped him as one perfected by the widest experiences
of training and action. ‘Soldier’ was written emphatically by years of
imprint upon the fearless gaze, the imperturbable manner, the bronzed
cheek, and accurate but unostentatious dress. A man who had shouldered
death and had mocked danger; who had actually shed blood in action—‘in
single fight and mixed array’ (like Marmion, as Annabel said). Not in
old, half-forgotten days, like their father, but in _last year’s_,
well-nigh last month’s, deadly picturesque strife, of which the echoes
were as yet scarcely silent. Annabel and Beatrice gazed at him as at a
denizen of another planet, and left to Rosamond the more rare adoration
which exalts the image of the scholar to a higher pedestal than that of
the warrior.

There was, however, a sufficing audience and ample appreciation for both
the recent lions, who were by no means suffered by their original
captors to roar softly or feed undisturbed. Before sitting down to the
unceremonious evening meal, Charles Hamilton begged Mrs. Effingham to
defer leaving the drawing-room for a few moments while he made a needful
explanation.

‘You will not be surprised to hear, Mrs. Effingham,’ he commenced, with
an air of great deference, ‘that Mr. Kinghart shares his distinguished
brother’s views as to our duties to the (temporarily) lower orders, and
the compulsion under which the nobler minds of the century lie, to
advance by personal sacrifice the social culture of their dependents,
more particularly in the colonies, where (necessarily) the feelings are
less sensitive. Mr. Kinghart, therefore, declines to partake of a meal
in any house, unless the servants are invited to share the repast.’

‘What nonsense!’ said the gentleman referred to, rather hastily; ‘but I
daresay you recognise our friend’s vein of humour, Mrs. Effingham.’

‘It’s all very well, Kinghart,’ replied Hamilton gravely; ‘but I feel
pained to find a man of your intellect deserting his convictions when
they clash with conventionalities. You know the Rector’s opinions as to
our dependents, and here you stand, ashamed to act up to the family
principles.’

‘My dear fellow, of course I support Charles’s gallant testimony to the
creed of his Master, but he had no “colonial experience,” whereas I have
had a great deal, which may have led me to believe that I am the deeper
student of human nature. I don’t know whether I need assure Mrs.
Effingham that she will find me outwardly much like other people.’

‘How few beliefs shall I retain henceforth,’ said Hamilton sorrowfully.

‘Putting socialism out of the question,’ said Mr. Kinghart, ‘I shall
always regret that Charles did not avail himself of an opportunity he
once had to visit Australia. He would have been charmed beyond
description.’

‘I’m sure _we_ should have been, only to see him,’ said Beatrice; ‘but I
don’t know what we should have had to offer in exchange for what he
would have to forgo.’

‘You are leaving out of the question the fact of my brother’s passionate
love of geology, botany, and adventure. The facts in natural history to
which even my small researches have led are so wonderful that I hesitate
to assert them.’

‘How fascinating it must be,’ said Rosamond, ‘to be able to walk about
the earth and read the book of Nature like a scroll. You and our dear
old Harley seem alike in that respect. I look upon you as magicians. You
have the “open sesame,” and may find the way to Ali Baba caverns full of
jewels.’

‘This last is not so wildly improbable, though you over-rate my
attainments,’ said their visitor, with a quiet smile. ‘I have certainly
found in this neighbourhood indications of valuable minerals, not even
excluding that Chief Deputy of the Prince of the Air—Gold.’

‘Why, Kinghart, you are as mad as Mr. Sternworth,’ said Hamilton. ‘All
_savants_ have a craze for impossible discoveries. How _can_ there be
gold here?’

‘I took Mr. Hamilton to be a gentleman of logical mind,’ said the
Englishman quietly. ‘Why should not the sequences from geological
premisses be as invariable in Australia as in any other part of the
globe. The South Pole does not invert the principle of cause and effect,
I presume.’

‘I did not mean that,’ explained Hamilton, with something less than his
ordinary decisiveness, ‘but there seems something so preposterous in a
gold-field in a new country like this.’

‘It is not a new country, it is a very old one; there was probably gold
here long before it was extracted from Ophir. But your men, in digging
holes yesterday for the posts of that new hut, dislodged fragments of
hornblendic granite slightly decomposed and showing minute particles of
gold. I had not time to examine them, but I noted the formation
accurately.’

‘What then?’ said his male hearers in a kind of chorus.

‘What then? Why, it follows inexorably that we are standing above one of
the richest goldfields in the known world!’

‘But assuming for a moment, which God forbid,’ said Hamilton, ‘that
gold—_real_ gold—in minute quantities could be extracted from the stone
you picked up, does it follow that rich and extensive deposits should be
contiguous?’

‘My dear Hamilton, you surely missed the geological course in your
college studies! Gold once found amid decomposed hornblendic granite, in
alluvial drifts in company with water-worn quartz, has _never_ failed to
demonstrate itself in wondrous wealth. In the Ural Mountains, in Mexico,
and most likely in King Solomon’s time, there were no _little_ mines
where once this precise formation was verified.’

‘I devoutly trust that it may not be in our time,’ said Argyll. ‘What a
complete overturn of society would take place; in Australia, of all
places! I should lose interest in the country at once.’

‘There might be inconvenience,’ said Mr. Kinghart reflectively, ‘but the
Anglo-Saxon would be found capable of organising order. We need not look
so far ahead. But of the day to come, when the furnace-chimney shall
smoke on these hillsides, and miles of alluvial be torn up and riddled
with excavations, I am as certain as that Glossopteris, of which I have
seen at least three perfect specimens in shale, denotes coal deposits.’

‘We must buy you out, Kinghart, that is the whole of it,’ said
Ardmillan, ‘and direct your energies into some other channel. If you go
on proving the existence of gold and black diamonds under these heedless
feet of ours the social edifice will totter. Hamilton will abandon his
agriculture, Argyll his stock-keeping, Churbett his reading and early
rising, Mrs. Teviot will leave off cheese-making, Forbes will cease to
contradict—in short, the whole Warbrok and Benmohr world will come to an
end.’

‘It is a very pleasant world, and I am sorry to have hinted at the flood
which will some day sweep over it,’ said Mr. Kinghart; ‘but what is
written is written, and indelibly, when the pages are tables of stones,
set up from the foundation of the world.’

Most enjoyable and still well remembered were the days which followed
this memorable discussion. A succession of rides, drives, and excursions
followed, in which Mr. Kinghart pointed out wonders in the world of
botany, which caused Rosamond to look upon him as a sage of stupendous
experiences.

To Howard Effingham the presence of Major Glendinning was an unalloyed
pleasure. Familiar chiefly with service in other parts of the world, he
was never tired of listening or questioning. Varied necessarily were
incidents of warfare conducted against the wild border tribes of
Hindostan with her hordes of savage horsemen. Such campaigns necessarily
partook of the irregular modes of combat of the foe. Without attaching
importance to his own share of distinction, their guest permitted his
hearers to learn much of the picturesque and splendid successes of the
British arms in the historic land of Ind.

For himself, his manner had a strange tinge of softness and melancholy.
At one time his mien was that of the stern soldier, proud of the
thoroughness with which a band of marauders had been extirpated, or the
spirit of a dissolute native ruler broken. Scarcely had the tale been
told when a settled sadness would overspread his face, as if in pity for
the heathens’ spoil and sorrow. To his hearers, far from war’s alarms,
there was a strong, half-painful fascination in these tales of daring,
heightened by the frequent presence of death in every shape of
hot-blooded carnage or military execution.

‘How difficult it is to imagine,’ said Beatrice one day, suddenly
arousing herself, after staring with dilated eyeballs at the Major, who
had been recounting a realistic incident for Guy’s special edification
(how the Ranee of Jeypore had hanged a dozen of his best troopers, and
of the stern reprisal which he was called upon to make), ‘that you,
actually sitting here quietly with us, are one and the same person who
was chief actor in these fearful doings. What a wonderful change it must
be for you.’

‘Let me assure you,’ said the Major, ‘that it is a most pleasant change.
I am tired of soldiering, and my health is indifferent. I almost think
that if I could fish out this old uncle of mine, I should be content to
settle in the bush, and take to rural life for the rest of my days.’

‘Don’t you think you would find it awfully dull?’ said Annabel; ‘you
would despise all our life so much. Unless there happened to be an
outbreak of bushrangers, you might never have a chance of killing any
one again, as long as you lived.’

‘I could manage without that excitement. I have had enough, in all
conscience, to last a lifetime. The climate of your country suits us old
Indians so well. If I were once fairly established, I think I could rear
horses and cattle, especially the former, with great contentment.’

‘There is no one of your name in this part of the country,’ said Guy,
‘except our old stock-rider, Tom. He’s such a queer old fellow. I
remember asking him what his surname was one day, and he told me it was
Glendinning. He’s away now, mustering at Wangarua.’

‘It is not an uncommon name where my family lived,’ said the Major. ‘I
should like to see him if he is a namesake. He may have heard of the
person I am in search of.’

The whole party was extremely sorry to permit their guests to depart;
but after a few days spent in luxurious intercourse, during which
sight-seeing and sport were organised day by day, and every imaginable
book and author reviewed with Mr. Kinghart in the evening, while Guy had
fully made up his mind to go to India, and had got up Indian history
from the Mogul dynasty to the execution of Omichund, a parting had to be
made. It was only temporary, however, as Mr. Kinghart had promised to
visit an old schoolfellow long settled at Monaro, and after a
fortnight’s stay had promised to return this way with the Major before
they said farewell finally. At Warbrok Chase there was great dismay at
the inevitable separation.

‘I declare,’ said Annabel, ‘that I begin to doubt whether it is prudent
to make such delightful acquaintances. One is so dreadfully grieved when
they depart. It is much better to have everyday friends, who can’t run
away, isn’t it?’

‘And who mightn’t be much missed if they did; quite so, Miss Annabel,’
said Forbes, to whom this lament was made.

‘Oh, of course _you_ are different at Benmohr and just about here. We
are all one family, and should be a very united one if Mr. Churbett
would leave off teasing me about what silly people say, and Mr. Forbes
would give up his sarcasms, Mr. Hamilton his logic, Mr. Argyll his
tempers, and so on. How I could improve you all, to be sure! But I mean
friends—that is, strangers—like Mr. Kinghart and Major Glendinning, that
are birds of passage. I can’t explain myself; but I’m sure there’s
something true and new about the idea.’

‘It may be quite true that young ladies prefer recently acquired friends
to those of long standing, but I am afraid it is not altogether new in
the history of the sex,’ said Mr. Forbes. ‘Still I think I understand
you, Miss Annabel. Which of the illustrious strangers do _you_ chiefly
honour with your regrets, Miss Beatrice?’

‘I mourn over Mr. Kinghart,’ said Beatrice, with instinctive defensive
art. ‘He is a library that can talk, and yet, like a library, prefers
silence. I wonder if one would ever get tired of listening to him, and
having everything so delightfully explained. He is sarcastic about
women, too. Perhaps he has been ill-treated by some thoughtless girl. I
should like to wither her.’

‘Why don’t you comfort him, Beatrice? Your love for reading would just
suit, or perhaps not suit,’ said Annabel. ‘You would have to toss up
which was to order dinner or make tea. I can see you both sitting in
easy-chairs, with your foreheads wrinkled up, reading away the whole
evening. I wonder if two poets or two authors ever agreed in married
life? Of course, he might scratch out her adjectives, or she might sneer
at his comic element. But, do you know, a thought strikes me. Don’t you
see a likeness to some one in the Major that you’ve seen before? I do,
and it haunts me.’

‘No, I never saw any one the _least_ like him; his expression, his
figure, his way of walking, riding, and talking are quite different from
other people. How a man’s life moulds him! I am sure I could tell what
half the men I see have been or _not_ been, quite easily, by their
appearance and ways.’

‘But did you notice his eyes?’

‘Well, they are soft, and yet piercing, which is unusual; but that is
all.’

‘On second thoughts I won’t say, lest I might be thought less sensible
even than I am. I have no capital to fall back upon in that respect.’

‘You do say such odd things, my dear Annabel. I think you ought to get
on with our last duet. You only half know your part.’

That a certain reaction follows hard upon the most unalloyed pleasure is
conceded. The dwellers at The Chase recognised a shade of monotony, even
of dulness, falling upon their uneventful lives as the friends and
visitors departed.



                              CHAPTER XVI
                   ‘SO WE’LL ALL GO A-HUNTING TO-DAY’


The cheering results of this season of prosperity were not without
effect upon the sanguine temperament of Howard Effingham. Prone to
dismiss from his mind all darkly-shaded outlines, he was ever eager to
develop projects which belong to the enjoyments rather than to the
acquisitions of life. Few human beings had commenced with a smaller
share of foresight. _He_ required no exhortation to refrain from taking
heed for the morrow and its cares. For him they could hardly be said to
exist, so little did he realise in advance the more probable evils.

The time had arrived, in his opinion, to dwell less fixedly upon the
problem of income. The greater question of cultured living could no
longer be neglected. All danger of poverty and privation overtaking the
family being removed, Mr. Effingham for some time past had devoted his
mind to the assimilation of the lives of himself and his neighbours to
those of the country gentlemen of his own land. Something he had already
effected in this way. He had received a shipment of pheasants and
partridges, which, in a suitable locality, were making headway against
their natural enemies. Much of his time was spent, gun in hand, clearing
the haunts of the precious Gallinæ from the unsparing dasyurus (the wild
cat of the colonists), while Guy’s collection of stuffed hawks had
increased notably. Orders had been given to shoot every one that could
be seen, from the tiny merlin, chiefly devoted to moths and
grasshoppers, to the wedge-tailed eagle eight feet between the wings,
discovered on a mighty iron-bark tree, thence surveying the
bright-plumaged strangers. Hares, too, and rabbits had been liberated,
of which the latter had increased with suspicious rapidity.

Coursing, fishing, shooting, all of a superior description, Howard
Effingham now saw with prophetic vision established for the benefit of
his descendants at The Chase. They would be enabled to enjoy themselves
befittingly in their seasons of leisure, and cadets of the House, when
they visited England, would not have to blush for their ignorance of the
out-door accomplishments of their kinsfolk. In imagination he saw

                   The merry brown hares come leaping
                   Over the crest of the hill,

or starting from their ‘forms’ in the meadows which bordered the lake.
He saw the partridge coveys rise from the stubbles, and heard once more
the whirr of the cock pheasant as he ‘rocketted’ from the copse of
mimosa saplings. He saw carp, tench, and brown trout in the clear
mountain streams, and watched far down the Otsego ‘laker’ in the still
depths of their inland bay. At the idea of these triumphs, which long
years after his bones rested in an exile’s grave, would be associated
with the name of Howard Effingham, his heart swelled with proud
anticipation. But there was one deficiency as yet unfilled; one
difficulty hitherto not confronted. Much had been attempted, even
something done. Why should he not be more nobly daring still? Why not
organise that sport of kings, that eminently British pastime, nowhere
enjoyed in perfection, hitherto, outside of the ‘happy isles’? _Why not
go in for fox-hunting?_ Could its transplantation be possible?

True, the gladdening variety of pasture and plough, meadow and woodland,
over which hound and horse sweep rejoicingly in Britain, was not
possible in the neighbourhood. Hedges and ditches, brooks and banks, as
yet gave not change and interest to the programme while educating horse
and rider. Still, he would not despair.

In the pensive, breezeless autumn, or the winter mornings, when the dew
lay long on the tall grass, and the soft, hazy atmosphere gradually
struggled into the brilliant Australian day, could there be better
scenting weather? Would not the first cry of the hounds, as a dozen
couples, to begin with, hit off the scent of a dingo or a blue forester,
sound like a forgotten melody in his ears? There would be an occasional
fence to give the boys emulative interest; for the rest, a gallop in the
fresh morn through the park-like woodlands, or even across the spurs of
the ranges, would be worth riding a few miles to enjoy. All the
neighbours—now making money fast and not indisposed for amusement—would
be glad to join. A better lot of fellows no Hunt ever numbered amongst
its subscribers. Subscription? Well, he supposed it must be so. It would
be a proprietary interest, and he was afraid Wilfred would object to the
whole burden of maintenance falling upon the resources of The Chase.

This brilliant idea was not suffered to lapse for want of expansion.
Energetic and persistent in the domain of the abstract or the
unprofitable, Howard Effingham at once communicated with a few friends.
He was surprised at the enthusiasm which the project evoked. A committee
was formed, comprising the names of the Benmohr firm, Churbett,
Ardmillan, Forbes, and the D’Oyleys, besides Robert Malahyde, a
neighbour of Hampden’s and an enthusiastic sportsman. Never was a more
happy suggestion. It pleased everybody. O’Desmond declared that the very
idea recalled ‘The Blazers’; he felt himself to be ten years younger as
he put down his name for a handsome subscription on the spot. Fred
Churbett had always known that Duellist was thrown away as a hackney;
and now that there was something more to be jumped than the Benmohr
leaping-bar, did not care how early he got up. This announcement was
received with shouts of incredulous laughter.

Wilfred alone was not enamoured of this new project. He foresaw direct
and, still more serious, indirect expenses. It was no doubt a great
matter to have even the semblance of the Great English Sport revived
among them. Still, business was business. If this sort of thing was to
be encouraged, there was no knowing where it would stop. He himself
would be only too glad to have a run now and then, but his instinctive
feeling was that he would be better employed attending to his cattle and
consolidating the prosperity, which now seemed to be flowing in with a
steady tide.

In truth, of late, affairs had commenced to take a most encouraging,
even intoxicating turn for the better. The whole trade of the
land—pastoral, commercial, and agricultural—was in a satisfactory
condition, owing chiefly to unprecedentedly good seasons. All the
Australian colonies, more particularly New South Wales, have within them
elements of vast, well-nigh illimitable development. Nothing is needed
but ordinary climatic conditions to produce an amount of material
well-being, which nothing can wholly displace. The merchants of the
cities, the farmers of the settled districts, the squatters of the far
interior, were alike prospering and to prosper, it seemed, indefinitely.
The export trade, Mr. Rockley assured him, had increased astonishingly,
while the imports had so swelled that England would soon have to look
upon Australia as one of her best customers.

‘So you are going to have a pack of foxhounds in your neighbourhood, Mr.
Effingham?’ said Mrs. Rockley. ‘I think it a splendid idea. Chrissie and
I will ride over and see one of your meets, if you ask us.’

Then did Wilfred begin solemnly to vow and declare that the chief reason
he had for giving the idea his support was, that perhaps the ladies at
Rockley Lodge might be induced to attend a meet sometimes; otherwise, he
confessed he thought it a waste of money.

‘Oh, you mustn’t be over-prudent, Mr. Effingham. Mr. Rockley says you
Lake William people are getting alarmingly rich. You must consider the
unamused poor a little, you know. It is a case of real distress, I
assure you, sometimes in Yass when all you men take fits of hard work
and staying at home. Now hunting is such a delightful resource in winter
time.’

‘Every one in our neighbourhood has joined,’ said Wilfred, ‘but we shall
want more subscriptions if we are to become a strong Hunt club.’

‘Put me down,’ said Mr. Rockley. ‘I haven’t much time, but I might take
a turn some day. Hampden, the Champions, Malahyde, Compton, and Edward
Bellfield are most eager. Bob Clarke wrote forwarding their
subscriptions, though they live rather far off. They hope to have a run
now and then for their money.’

‘I think I shall ask your father to let me work him a pair of slippers,’
said Miss Christabel, ‘or an embroidered waistcoat, if he would like it
better. He deserves the thanks of every girl in the district for his
delightful idea and his spirited way of carrying it out. I hope some of
us won’t take to riding jealous, but I wouldn’t answer for it if ever
Mrs. Snowden and I get together. I’ll tell you who could cut us both
down.’

‘And who may that be?’ asked Wilfred.

‘Why, Vera Fane, of course. Didn’t you know that she rode splendidly?
When she was quite a little child she used to gallop after the cattle at
Black Mountain, where they live, and they say, though she is very quiet
about it, that she can ride _anything_.’

‘What sort of a place is this Black Mountain? It hasn’t altogether a
sound of luxury.’

‘Oh, it’s a terrible place, I believe, for poor Vera to have to live in
always,’ said the good-natured Christabel. ‘They say it is as much as
you can do to ride there, it’s so rough, and they had to pack all their
stores, I believe, till the new road was made. And they’re very poor.
Mr. Fane is one of those men who never make money or do anything much
except read all day. If it wasn’t for Vera, who teaches her brothers
(she’s the only girl), and keeps the accounts, and looks after the
stores, and manages the servants, and does a good deal of the housework
herself, the whole place would go to ruin.’

‘Apparently, if such a good genius was to be withdrawn; but why doesn’t
her father sell out and go away? There are plenty of other stations to
be got in more habitable places.’

‘Oh, his wife is buried there—no wonder she died, poor thing. He won’t
hear of leaving the place; and I really believe, lonely as it is, that
Vera likes it too. She is a wonderful girl, always teaching herself
something, when she isn’t darning stockings, or cooking, or having a
turn at the wash-tub, for Nelly Jones, who stayed with her one summer,
told me that they lost their servant once, and Vera _did everything_ for
a month. Sometimes she gets out, as she did to the races last year, and
she enjoys that, as you may believe.’

‘I hope she does,’ said Wilfred reflectively. ‘I thought her a very nice
girl, but I had no idea she was such a paragon.’

‘She’s a grand girl, and an ornament to her sex,’ said Mr. Rockley
suddenly. ‘I couldn’t have believed such a woman was possible, but I
stopped there a week once, weatherbound. All the creeks were up, and as
you had to cross the river about fifty times to get out of the
confounded hole, I was bound to let the water go down. I should have
hanged myself looking at old Fane’s melancholy phiz and listening to the
rain, if it hadn’t been for Miss Fane. But I’ll tell you all about her
another time. I must be off now. You’ll stay to dinner? I’ll find you
here, I suppose, when I come back.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

If Howard Effingham could only have bent his mind with the same
unflagging perseverance to matters of material advantage that he devoted
to the establishment of the Lake William Hunt, he would have been a
successful man in any country. Never would he have needed to quit his
ancestral home.

In some enterprises everything appears to go contrary from the
commencement. Hindrances, breakdowns, and mortifications of all kinds
arise, as it were, out of the earth. On the other hand, occasionally, it
appears as though ‘the stars in their courses fought _for_ Sisera.’ The
Hunt scheme had its detractors, who looked upon it as unnecessary and
injurious, if, indeed, it were not also impossible. These amiable
reviewers were discomfited. The sportsmen communicated with proved
sympathetic. All sent a couple or two of hounds, above the average of
gift animals; and one gentleman, relinquishing his position of M.F.H. in
Tasmania, shipped the larger portion of his pack, firmly refusing to
accept remuneration. He further stated that he should feel amply
compensated by hearing of their successful incorporation in the Hunt of
so well known a sporting centre as that of Lake William.

A kennel had been put up, of course, by Dick Evans. He had the dash and
celerity of a ship carpenter, ensuring stability, but avoiding
precision, the curse of your average mechanic. His colleague, old Tom,
who grumbled at most innovations, was, wonderful to relate, in a state
of enthusiasm.

Everybody in the district had a couple of hunters, it seemed, which he
desired to get into condition, a task for which there had never before
been sufficient inducement. Stalls and boxes were repaired, and the
tourist through the famed district which lay around Lake William was
enabled to report that nowhere in Australia had he seen such an array of
well-bred, well-conditioned horses.

Eventually, all necessary preparations were completed. Ten or twelve
couple of hounds had been got together, had been regularly exercised,
and, thanks to old Tom’s efficient services as whip, persuaded to
confine themselves to one kangaroo at a time, also to follow the scent
in early morn with a constancy truly remarkable, considering the
characters which they mostly enjoyed. So forward were all things, so
smoothly had the machinery worked, that after several councils of war a
day was at length fixed for the formal establishment of the ‘Lake
William Hunt Club.’

Notices and invitations were sent out in all directions. Even here
fortune favoured them. It so happened that Hampden and St. Maur, with
the Gambiers and a few more _esprits forts_, had business (real, not
manufactured) which compelled their presence within such distance as
permitted attendance. John Hampden was supposed to ride to hounds in
such fashion that he had few equals. Formerly, in Tasmania, a Master of
Hounds himself, his favourite hunter, The Caliph, was even now a
household word.

Such a glorious season, too! Why does not Nature more frequently
accommodate us with such easy luxuries—weather wherein every one is
prosperous, easy of mind, and, as a natural consequence, charitably
disposed? Everybody’s stock was looking well. Prices were high and
rising. There was a report gaining ground of rich lands having been
discovered and settlements formed in the far south. That fact meant
increased demand for stock, and so tended to make all things more
serene, if possible. Nobody was afraid to leave home, no bush fires were
possible at this time of year, the stock were almost capable of minding
themselves, and if a man had a decent overseer, why, he might go to
England without imprudence. Such was the wondrous concurrence of
fortune’s favours.

The great and glorious day arrived. Following the run of luck which had
marked the whole enterprise, its beauty would have rejoiced the heart of
any M.F.H. in the three kingdoms.

As the party commenced to assemble on the green knoll which lay in front
of the garden fence in view of the lake, all connoisseurs united in the
verdict that there could not have been invented a better scenting day.
There had been rain lately, and during the night anxiety had been felt
lest a downpour might mar the enjoyment of the unprecedented pastime.

Too kind, however, were the elements. The hazy dawn had gradually
yielded to a sunrise toned by masses of slowly moving soft grey clouds.
The air, saturated with moisture, became mild and spring-like as the
morning advanced. The wind changed to a few points nearer west and
gradually lulled to an uncomplaining monotone. The thick, green,
glistening sward, though reasonably damp, was firm and kindly in the
interests of the contending coursers. It was a day of days, a day of
promise, of fullest justification of existence. In such a day hope
returns to each heart, strong and triumphant; care is a lulled and
languid demon, and sorrow an untranslated symbol.

Nearly all the ladies who were to assist at the grand ceremonial had
ridden or driven over the night before. Warbrok was nearly as fully
occupied as Rockley Lodge had been at the races. It was many a day since
the old walls had included so large and mirthful a party, had listened
to such joyous babble, had echoed to like peals of innocent laughter.

Of course, the fair Christabel and her mother were early invited guests.
They had brought a girl cousin. Mrs. Snowden had also asked leave to
bring a friend staying with her at the time. Miss Fane had, of course,
been entreated by Mrs. Effingham to be sure to come, but that young lady
had written, sorrowfully, to decline as Dr. Fane was absent on business.
A postscript, partially reassuring, stated that he was expected home the
next day, and if the writer could possibly manage it she might ride part
of the way to Warbrok and join some friends who were to come to the
breakfast. But this was a hazardous supposition, too good to come off.
Deep regret was expressed at The Chase on the receipt of this note, but
the world went on nevertheless, as it does in default of all of us.

Can I essay to describe the array of dames and demoiselles, knights and
squires and retainers, yeomen, men-at-arms, and others of low degree,
who, on that ever-memorable autumn morn, trampled the green meadow in
front of old Warbrok House? Many a day has passed since the shadows of
the waving forest trees flecked the greensward, since the hillside
resounded to horse-hoof and jingling bridle, while mirthful words and
silvery laughter blended ever and anon with the unaccustomed bay of the
foxhound.

Ah me! Of the manly forms and bold, eager brows of those who kept tryst
that day, how many have gone down before the onset of battle, the arrow
of pestilence, the thousand haps of a colonist’s life? The stark limbs
are bowed, the bold eyes dimmed, the strong hearts tamed by the slow
sorcery of Time—even of those o’er whom the forest tree sighs not, or
the wild wave moans no requiem.

How many of that fair company have ridden away for ever into the Silent
Land! What bright eyes have forgotten to shine! How many a joyous tone
is heard no more!

             The halls her bright smile lighted up of yore,
               Are lonely now!

Gone to the Valhalla, doubtless, are many brave souls of heroes; but in
the good year of grace eighteen hundred and thirty-six the chances of
life’s battle sat but lightly on the gallant troop that reined up at the
first meet at Warbrok Chase. Many a goodly muster of the magnates of the
land had been held in that home of many memories ere this; but never
within the ken of the oldest chronicler had anything occurred so
successful, so numerously attended, of such great and general interest
to the district or neighbourhood.

Resolved that all the concomitants and accessories should be as
thoroughly English as could in any way be managed, Howard Effingham had
personally superintended the details of a Hunt breakfast, such as
erstwhile he had often enjoyed or dispensed within the bounds of Merrie
England.

                  North and south, and east and west,
                    The ‘visitors’ came forth,

as though minded to give the Squire of Warbrok—a name by which Howard
Effingham was commencing to be known in the neighbourhood—a substantial
acknowledgment of the interest taken by the country-side in his highly
commendable enterprise. The younger squatters, then, as now, the
aristocracy of the land, mustered gallantly in support of the hereditary
pastime of their order. A list might be attempted, were it only like the
names of the ships in Homer’s _Iliad_, some day to be read to curious
listening ears by one unknowing of aught save that such, in the dear
past, were the names of heroes.

But no thought of the irony of fate fell darkly on the merry party
issuing from The Chase to greet the Badajos and Benmohr contingents, as
they came up from opposite directions. With Harry O’Desmond rode a tall
man in a green hunting frock, whose length of limb and perfect seat
showed off the points of an inestimable grey of grand size and power,
whom all men saw at once to be The Caliph, well known on both sides of
the Straits. It was in truth John Hampden’s famous hunter, a very Bayard
among horses, at whom no horse-loving junior could look without tears in
his eyes.

Of that party also were the Gambiers—Alick, Jimmy, and Jack—with their
friend Willie Machell. A trio of cheerful hard-riding young squatters,
having made names for themselves as leading dare-devils where anything
dangerous was to be done with the aid of horse-flesh. Their ‘Romeo’
five-year-olds, with matchless shoulders, but imperfect tempers, carried
them admirably. Will Machell was a tall, mild, gentlemanlike, musical
personage, by no means so ‘hard’ as his more robust friends. He would be
available as a chaperon for the feminine division, as he did not intend
to do more than canter a mile or two after the throw-off.

Came from the broad river-flats and forest parks of the Murray, Claude
Waring and his partner Rodder, the former tall, dark, jovial; the latter
neat, prudent, and fresh-coloured.

Came from the volcanic cones and scoria-covered plateaus of Willaree the
broad frame and leonine visage of Herman Bottrell. He was well carried
by his square-built ambling cob, while beside him on a dark bay
five-year-old, with the blood of Tramp in his veins, sat the well-known
figure of ‘Dolly’ Goldkind, a man who in his day had shared the
costliest pleasures of the _haute volée_ of European capitals.
Commercial vicissitudes in his family had forced him to importune
fortune afresh in the unwonted guise of an Australian squatter. She had,
in this instance, not disdained to ‘favour the brave,’ and Dolly was now
in a fair way to see the pavement of the Faubourg St. Germain once yet
again, and to bask amid the transient splendour of the Tuileries. He had
faced gallantly his share of uncongenial solitude, unadorned Nature, and
rude surroundings, always awaiting, with the philosophy born of English
steadfastness, and Parisian _insouciance_, the good time coming.

Came Bernard Wharton, bronzed by the fierce unshadowed sun of that dread
waste where clouds rarely linger or the blessed rains of heaven are
known to fall. His last whoo-hoop had been heard in his own county, in
the ancestral land. His blue eye was bright, and his smile ready, as
though he had known naught but lightsome toil and the sport of his
Northamptonshire forefathers.

Ardmillan, Forbes, and Neil Barrington, with all the ‘Benmohr mob,’ as
they were familiarly called, were in the vanguard. Neil Barrington
possessed one valuable attribute of the horseman, inasmuch as he was
ready, like Bob Clarke, to ride anything and at anything. No man had
ever seen Neil decline a mount or a fence, however unpromising. But his
skill was inferior to his zeal, usually provoking comment from the
bystanders.

On one of these occasions, when he had hit a top rail very hard in an
amateur steeplechase, an expostulatory friend said, ‘Why don’t you lift
your horse, Neil?’

‘Lift, be d——d!’ replied the indignant Neil; ‘I’ve enough to do to stick
on.’

However, being muscular, active, and fearless, Neil’s star had hitherto
favoured him, so that he was generally well up at the finish.

One needs a staunch horse for ‘cutting out’ work, but the great raking
Desborough which Bob Clarke brought with him was surely too good to be
knocked about in the Benmohr bogs and volcanic trap ‘rises’ at a muster,
while his condition savoured more of the loose-box than the grass
paddock. Bob was one of those fortunate individuals that every one
everywhere, male and female, gentle and simple, is glad to welcome. So
there was no dissentient to the view of duty he had adopted but Mr.
Rockley. And though that gentleman stated it as his opinion that Master
Bob would have been better at home minding his work if he ever intended
to make money, he extended the right hand of fellowship to him, and was
as gracious as all the world and distinctly the world’s wife (and
probably daughter) was wont to be.

There were those who thought that Christabel Rockley’s eyes glowed with
a deeper light after Bob’s coming was announced. But such an occasion
would have brightened the girl’s flower-like face even if Bob had been
doomed to eat his heart the while in solitude and disappointment on the
far Mondarlo Plain.

‘None of the ladies who belonged to “our set,” and could ride at all,
were absent,’ Neil Barrington remarked, ‘except Miss Fane; and it was a
beastly shame she was prevented from coming—most likely by that old Turk
of a father of hers. It was a real pleasure to see her ride, and now
they were all done out of it.’

Just as Neil had concluded his lamentation for Vera Fane, who had won
his heart by comforting him after one of his tumbles, saying that she
never saw any one who rode so straight without turning out a horseman in
the end, the Granville party, who had a long distance to come, made
their appearance through the trees of the north gully, and there, on the
well-known bonnie brown Emigrant, between Jack Granville and his sister
Katie, was Vera Fane, or the evil one in her sweet guise.

So the grateful Neil was appeased, and straightway modified his language
with respect to Dr. Fane’s parental shortcomings; while Wilfred
Effingham, who never denied his interest in the young lady—chiefly, he
avowed, as a study of character—felt more exhilarated than he could
account for. The Granvilles were congratulated, first of all upon their
own appearance, and assured they were not at all late (Rockley had been
devoting them to the infernal deities for the last half-hour), then upon
their thoughtful conduct in bringing Miss Fane.

‘Deal of trouble, of course,’ quoth Jack Granville. ‘Miss Fane is one of
that sort, ain’t she? She rode over with a small black boy for an
escort, and roused us up about midnight. Nearly shot her, didn’t I,
Katie?’

‘I’m afraid I frightened you,’ said Miss Fane, with an apologetic
expression, ‘but papa had only just come home from Sydney. I knew if I
missed this eventful day I should never have such another chance, so I
lifted up Wonga by his hair, poor child, to wake him, and then started
off for a night ride.’

There was no time for further amenities, as the Master, triumphant and
distinguished in the eyes of the Australian-born portion of the Hunt,
gorgeous in buckskins, accurate top-boots, and a well-worn pink, moved
off with fourteen couple of creditable foxhounds. A very fair,
even-looking lot they were admitted to be. Old Tom had proved an
admirable whip, displaying a keenness in the vocation which verified the
tales with which he had regaled his acquaintances as to feats and
frolics with the Blazers in the historic County Galway, in the kingdom
of Long Ago.

A roan cob, with a reputation for unequalled feats in the jumping line,
had, after many trials, been secured by Wilfred as a ‘safe conveyance’
for his father. He was, indeed, an extraordinary animal; the sort that
some elderly gentlemen are always talking about and never seem able to
get.

Wallaby was a red roan, low set, of great power and amazing activity.
‘He could jump anything,’ his former owner declared, ‘and was that fond
of it, as you could lead him up to this ’ere three-railed fence with a
halter and he’d clear it and jump back without pulling it out of your
hand.’ This he proceeded to do before Wilfred and his father, after
which there was no question as to his cross-country capability.

Not above 14 hands 2 inches in height, with short legs, his neat head
and neck, with sloping shoulders and short back, ranked him as fit to
carry a bishop or a banker in Rotten Row. His thighs and gaskins showed
where the jumping came from. Besides these excellences, he was quiet,
fast, and easy in his paces; so that Mrs. Effingham and the girls had no
anxiety about the head of the house when so mounted.



                              CHAPTER XVII
              THE FIRST MEET OF THE LAKE WILLIAM HUNT CLUB


‘What a delightful sight!’ said Miss Fane to Rosamond; ‘and how glad I
am that I was so determined to come. I have rather a craze for horses, I
know, but doesn’t it look magnificent. What an array! Everybody within a
hundred miles must be here. I feel as if I could go out of my senses
with excitement. This is strictly between ourselves. But of course you
have seen far larger fields.’

‘I was too young before I left home for much in the hunting way,’ said
Rosamond, ‘but I was taken to see a throw-off now and then on the first
day of the season.’

‘What was it like? A much finer sight than this?’

‘We cannot, of course, compete in appointments—the Hunt servants so
neatly got up; the huntsman such a picture, with his weather-beaten
face, and the whips so smart and trim. Then the grey-haired squires on
their favourite hunters give such a tone to the affair. But we have good
horses out to-day, including yours and mine, which would not be
unnoticed, even that dear Fergus. He wonders what it is all about.’

‘And the scenery and the belongings?’

‘Well, a lawn in front of a grand historic mansion that has been
besieged more than once since the Wars of the Roses must have the _pas_
over anything in Australia. Still, as for scenery, it was often tame,
and scarcely came up to that.’

Here she pointed with her whip as the hounds spread eagerly over a
grassy flat immediately beneath them. They had been for some time
imperceptibly ascending a slope.

The mists which had shrouded the mountain-tops had rolled back, and a
panorama of grand and striking beauty stood revealed. Westward lay the
lake, a silver sheet, amid the green slopes which marked its shores. On
the south rose sheer and grim the enormous darkened cone which
terminated the mountain range which they had approached. The released
effulgence of the morning sun magically transfigured to purple masses
the outline of the curving ridge, before crowning it with a tremulous
aureole. Trending westerly, the level ground increased in width, until,
but for its groves of eucalyptus, it might have been dignified by the
name of plain. This gradually merged into a region of park-like forest.

‘What a charming place for a gallop!’ said Christabel Rockley. ‘I do so
hope the fox, or whatever he is, will be found here. I should not be
afraid to ride fast over this nice, clear country.’

‘It is almost too easy,’ said Miss Fane, drawing her bridle-rein, as she
watched old Tom closely. ‘I like forest and range work, I must confess.
But we must look out, or the hounds will be away, and we shall be left
lamenting like so many Lord Ullins.’

The girl’s instinct had not deceived her. She had ridden many a day at
her father’s side, when the shy cattle of a neglected herd, ready for
headlong speed at the snapping of a twig, needed quick following to live
with. Keeping her eye on old Tom, she had noted the signs of an
approaching start.

A leading hound ran along a cattle track, and giving tongue, went off at
score. Three or four comrades of position followed suit, and in the
shortest possible time the whole pack was away, running with a breast
high scent.

‘The black dingo for a thousand,’ said old Tom to the Master, as he
hustled Boney alongside of the roan cob. ‘I seen Hobart Gay Lass put up
her bristles the minit she settled to the scent. It’s a true tongue the
slut has, and I’ll back her against ’ere a dog of the English lot,
though there’s good hounds among them. We’ll have the naygur to-day, if
there’s vartue in a good scent and a killing pack.’

‘Then you know him, Tom?’

‘By coorse, I do; he killed Strawberry’s calf, and didn’t I go down on
my two knees and swear I’d have the heart’s blood of him.’

‘Then how did you manage to lay the hounds on him here—I thought he was
a lake dog?’

‘Divil a doubt of it; but I seen him here one day, just under the range,
pinning a “joey,” and I kept lavin’ a bit of mate for him, just to make
him trot over regular—maybe a bullock’s heart or a hock of a heifer’s
calf, maybe a bird I’d shot. Dingoes is mortial fond of birds. I seen
his tracks here yesterday, and med sure he’d be here wonst more, for the
last time, and here he is forenint us now—glory be to God!’

‘Then he’s safe to be a straight goer?’

‘It’s twelve mile to the lake, and he’ll make for the little rise, where
there’s rocks, just before you come to Long Point. If he’s pushed there,
he’ll maybe turn to the Limestone Hill, at the back of the big house,
where there’s caves—my curse on thim—and then good-bye.’

‘This is pretty country, if there was more fencing,’ said the Master.
‘Perhaps it is as well, though, as there are so many ladies out. The
hounds are running like smoke.’

The nature of the ground at this point of the hunt was such as to admit
of all being reasonably well up. True, the pack went at considerable
speed. The scent was burning, and there were no small enclosures, as in
‘Merrie England,’ to check the more delicate damsels or inexperienced
horsemen. The sward was sound and firm, the tall-stemmed eucalypti stood
far apart in the southern forest-park. Bob Clarke and the Benmohr
division, Hampden and the Gambiers, rode easily in front. Rosamond, Miss
Rockley, Miss Fane, and a few other ladies, who were exceptionally well
mounted, had no difficulty in keeping their places.

‘So this is fox-hunting!’ said Miss Fane. ‘That is, so far as we can
have the noble sport without the fox. It is nice to see the hounds
running so compactly. And I like the musical composite cry with its
harmonies and variations.’

‘This dingo,’ said Wilfred, who had established himself at her
bridle-rein, ‘is running very straight and fast. If he makes for the
range behind the house, we shall see him and have a little fencing too.’

‘I don’t object to a jump or two,’ said the young lady, ‘if they are not
too stiff. This is the sort of pace that enables one to look about. But
I should like to see the hounds work a little more.’

While this conversation was proceeding, every one was at their ease, and
voted the sport most delightful. The front rankers were sailing along,
while the hounds were carrying a good head and forcing Master Dingo
along at a pace which prevented him from availing himself of one or two
hiding-places.

However, just as Rosamond had compared herself to the Landgrave, in the
German ballad, sweeping on in endless chase, with a horseman on either
hand—St. Maur on the right on a coal-black steed, and Fred Churbett on
the left on the rejoicing Duellist—wondering how long they were going to
have such a pleasant line of country, through which Fergus was
luxuriously striding as if he had commenced the first part of a
fifty-mile stage, the scene changed. The confident pack checked, and
commenced a circular performance which betrayed indecision, if not
failure of scent.

‘What’s the matter?’ said Miss Fane. ‘Is the whole thing over? Was the
dingo a myth?’

‘We have overrun the scent, Miss Fane,’ said Wilfred with dignity. ‘The
hounds have checked, but we shall hit it off again in a few minutes.’

He had hardly finished speaking when Miss Fane, who, if it was her first
day after hounds, had ‘kept her side’ well up for many a day in early
girlhood, ‘when they wheeled the wild scrub cattle at the yard,’ took
her horse by the head, with a rapid turn towards two couple of hounds
that she had descried racing down the side of a creek. A neat jump,
following old Tom over the narrow but deep water-course at a bend,
placed her on easy terms with the pack. A new line of country lay spread
out before them at right angles to their late course.

The hounds had now settled again to the scent. Another ‘blind’ creek,
waterless, but respectable in the jumping way, lay in front. At this
Miss Fane’s horse went so fast and took so extensive a fly, that Wilfred
felt himself compelled to be hard on his Camerton chestnut and ride, if
he intended to keep his place in the front alongside of this ‘leading
lady,’ as Miss Fane’s nerve and experience entitled her to become.

But the rest of the field were not doomed to defeat and extinction,
although Miss Fane’s knowledge of emergencies had enabled her to fix the
moment when the scent was recovered.

Scarcely did the hounds swing to their line, for the dingo had turned,
at right angles, in the creek, and so occasioned the outrunning of the
scent, when Forbes, Ardmillan, Neil Barrington, and Fred Churbett were
seen coming up hand over hand. Miss Effingham’s ‘dear Fergus’ was
slipping along with his wonted graceful ease, and permitting the
interchange of a few sentences with Mr. Churbett, who rode at her
bridle-rein. Hampden, with whom was Beatrice, on Allspice, was riding
wide of the hounds, but only waiting for serious business to show what
manner of work he and The Caliph were wont to cut out for themselves.
Bob Clarke, wonderful to relate, was _not_ among the first flight. It
could not have been the fault of Desborough—faster than any horse in the
hunt—and as to jumping, why, he had a man on his back who was a
sufficient answer to any reflections on that score.

‘May I niver be d——d!’ exclaimed old Tom, ‘if the varmint isn’t going
straight for the paddock! One would think he was a rale fox, to see the
divilment of him. Sure it must be the hounds puts them up to all the
villainy. Well, the bigger the lape, the more divarshion.’

Satisfying himself with this view of the matter, old Tom watched with
interest the field gradually approaching a large outer paddock, which
lay at some distance from the house. It was the ordinary two-railed
fence of the colonists, and though fairly stiff, not formidable to any
one who intended going.

The hounds slipped quietly under the lower rail, and in another moment
were racing, unchecked, along the flat which it enclosed. But with the
field, this obstacle commenced to alter the state of matters.

The first flight, it is true, came rattling round a point of timber at
any number of miles an hour, when they encountered this obstacle, to the
sardonic entertainment of Tom Glendinning, who had eased his horse to
see the effect. Wilfred and Miss Fane were still leading when the line
of fence suddenly appeared. Wilfred, from his knowledge of the country,
was aware that it was coming, and had prepared his companion for it.

‘It is not very high,’ she said. ‘We are going so charmingly that I
could not bear to be stopped. Emigrant here’—and she fondly patted the
dark brown neck of the adamantine animal she rode—‘is good for anything
in a moderate way.’

‘It is scarcely four feet,’ said Wilfred, ‘but don’t go at it if you are
not quite sure. We can go round.’

‘I’m not going round, I can promise you,’ said the girl, with a clear
light glowing in her steadfast eyes. ‘Oh, here it is. Two-railed fences
are not much. Besides, we are leading, and must show a good example.’

Whereupon Emigrant’s head was turned towards the nearest panel. The
well-bred horses quickened their speed slightly; Emigrant shook his
arched neck as both cleared the rail with little more trouble than a
sheep-hurdle. As they alighted on the sound greensward, Miss Fane was
sitting perfectly square with her hands down, just a little backward in
her seat, but without the slightest sign of haste or discomposure.

‘Well done,’ said Wilfred. ‘Prettily jumped. Emigrant has been at it
before.’

‘He has been at most things,’ said Miss Fane, looking fondly at her
experienced palfrey. ‘He had all kinds of work before I managed to make
private property of him; but nobody rides him but me now, and I think I
shall manage to keep his old legs right for years to come.’

The next advancing pairs were not quite so secure of their horses’
abilities, and a slight uncertainty took place. It was all very well for
Miss Fane to say the fence was not much; but rails are rails. When they
happen to be new and unyielding, though scarcely four feet in height, a
mistake causes a severe fall. There is no _scrambling_ through an
Australian fence, as a rule. It must be jumped clean or let alone.

Fergus, the unapproachable, was in good sooth no great performer over
anything stiff. Peerless as a hackney in all other respects, he was not
up to much across country; nor had he been required hitherto, in the
houndless state of the land, to do aught in that line. Nevertheless,
Rosamond, fired by the example of Miss Fane, and inspirited by the
apparent ease with which Emigrant negotiated the obstacle, would have
doubtless run the risk, trusting to Fergus’s gentlemanlike feeling to
see her safe. But all risk of danger was obviated by Bob Clarke’s
promptitude.

That chivalrous youth, knowing all about Red King, as indeed he did
about every horse in the land, was aware that he was a difficult horse
to ride at timber. ‘Handsome as paint,’ was the general verdict, but he
needed two pairs of hands in company.

On this occasion the fact of there being other ambitious animals in
front, and the ‘great club of the unsuccessful’ in his rear, had roused
his temper.

The fair Christabel was by no means deficient in courage, but to-day Red
King had been too much for her. He had fretted himself into foam, and
her pretty hands were sore with holding the ‘reefing’ horse, whose mouth
became more and more callous.

‘Don’t you ride him at that fence, Miss Christabel,’ said Bob, in a tone
of entreaty. ‘He’ll go through it as sure as you’re alive. I know him.’

The girl’s face grew a shade paler, but she set her teeth, and, pointing
with her whip to Miss Fane, who was sailing away in ease and luxury on
the farther side, said, ‘I _must_; they’re all going at it.’

‘Very well,’ said he—mentally reprobating Red King’s mouth and temper,
and it may be the obstinacy of young women—‘keep behind me, and we’ll be
next.’

Upon this the wily Bob shot out from the leading ranks, closely followed
by the wilful Christabel, whose horse, indeed, left her no option.
Sending Desborough at a hog-backed rail at the rate of forty miles an
hour, with a reprehensibly loose rein, that indignant animal declined to
rise, and, chesting the rail, snapped it like a reed. As Master Bob lay
back in the saddle with his head nearly on his horse’s tail, he had the
pleasure of seeing Christabel pop pleasantly over the second rail,
followed by the other ladies, excepting Mrs. Snowden, who faced the
unbroken fence with considerable resolution. As for the attendant
cavaliers, they negotiated it pleasantly enough, with the exception of a
baulk or two and one fall. Indeed, another rail gave way soon after,
making a gap through which the rear-guard, variously mounted and
attired, streamed gallantly.

As for Bob Clarke, Red King had managed to run up to Desborough—(great
turn of speed that old King)—and he fancied he saw in the marvellous
eyes a recognition of his unusual mode of easing a stiff leap.

The next happened to be one rare in Australia, having its origin in Mr.
Effingham’s British reminiscences. A fence was needed in the track of a
marshy inlet from the lake. A ditch with a sod wall thrown up on the
farther side made a boundary sufficing for all the needs of an
enclosure, yet requiring no carriage of material.

‘We need not make it quite so broad or deep,’ he said, ‘as the ox fences
in Westmeath; but if I can get a couple of hedgers and ditchers, I shall
leave my memorial here, to outlast Dick’s timber skeletons.’

Two wandering navvies, on the look-out for dam-making, were fortunately
discovered. The result of their labours was ‘The Squire’s Ditch,’ as the
unusual substitute was henceforth named. It certainly was a relief after
the austerity of posts and rails proper. In a few places the ditch had
been filled in and a partial gap made in the sod wall. At any rate horse
and rider would all go at it with light hearts. So, with the exception
of Wilfred and Miss Fane—the latter having picked out the worst place
she could see—everybody treated themselves indulgently; hit the wall, or
scrambled over the ditch, just as their horses chose to comport
themselves, and rode forward rejoicing.

The hounds have now lengthened out, while their leaders are racing, with
lowered sterns, at a pace that leaves the heavy brigade an increasing
distance behind. The flat is broken only by an occasional sedgy interval
where the fall to the lake has not been sufficient. For the same reason
the creek, or natural outlet of the watershed, is, though not very wide,
less unequal as to depth than are most Australian watercourses, while
the perpendicular banks show how the winter rains of ages have
channelled the rich black soil.

‘We have something like a water-jump here,’ said Wilfred to his
companion, as they watched the hounds disappear and climb up, giving
tongue as they scour forward with renewed energy. ‘It is not so very
wide, but the sides are steep. If your horse does not know that sort of
jump, we had better follow it down to the ford, near the lake.’

‘Black Mountain is full of small rivers and treacheries of all sorts,’
said the girl. ‘A horse that can go there can go anywhere, I _think_.’
Sending Emigrant at it pretty fast, he lowered his head slightly and
‘flew it like a bird.’

By the time they approached the Deep Creek, as old Tom averred it had
been christened ever since he knew Warbrok, the greater part of the
field seemed aware that no common obstacle was before them.

‘See here now, Mr. Churbett,’ said old Tom. ‘It’s an ugly lape unless
you know where to take it, and some of the ladies might get hurted. You
make for the point half a mile down, where ye see thim green reeds.
There’s a little swamp fills it up there, and ye can wade through easy.
More by token, I’m thinkin’, the hounds will turn to ye before ye cross
the three-railed fence into the horse paddock.’

Mr. Churbett at once made sail for the point indicated, successfully
piloting, with Forbes and a few men who were more chivalrous than keen,
the feminine division. He was followed by the greater portion of the
rear-guard, who, seeing that there was an obstacle to free discussion in
front, wisely turned when they did. Hamilton, Argyll, and Hampden rode
at the yawner with varied success.

As for Bob Clarke, seeing that it was impossible to adopt his last
method of simplifying matters, he persuaded Miss Rockley to gallop up
the creek with him, on the off-chance of finding a crossing, which they
did eventually, but so far up that they were nearly thrown out
altogether.

We cannot claim for the sheep-killing denizen of the Australian waste,
mysteriously placed on our continent a century in advance of the merino,
the wondrous powers of Reynard the Great. But in the pace which enables
him to bring to shame an inferior greyhound, and in the endurance which
keeps him ahead of a fair pack of foxhounds, as well as in his ardent
love of poultry, he undoubtedly does resemble ‘the little tyrant of the
fields.’

The distance the black dingo had already come was considerable, the pace
decidedly good. The long slopes, all with an upward tendency, began to
tell. When the fence of the home-paddock was reached, the farther corner
of which impinged upon a steep spur of the main range, the bolt of the
gallant quarry was nearly shot.

He was viewed by Tom crawling under the lower rail; an enthusiastic
view-holloa rang out from the old man. One more fence and a kill was
certain, unless his last effort sufficed to land him within reach of one
of the ‘gibbah-gunyahs’ (or rock caves) which the aboriginals and their
canine friends had inhabited apparently from remote ages.

As the field ranged up to the horse-paddock fence, it was seen to be by
no means so moderate a task as the other post and rails. Old Dick, who
had superintended its erection, had been careful that it should be one
of the best pieces of work in the district,—substantial, of full height,
and with solid posts nearly two feet in the ground. Hence it loomed
before the hunt fully four feet six inches in height, with top-rails
which forbade all chance of cracking or carrying out.

Fortunately for the ladies and a large proportion of the sterner sex,
who would have to ‘jump or go home,’ Wilfred knew of ‘slip-rails’ a
little more than a hundred yards from where the quick eyes of old Tom
had marked the dingo steal through.

‘I have no doubt you would try it, Miss Fane,’ said Wilfred, who marked
with admiration the game sparkle in his companion’s eye, as her gaze
ranged calmly over the barrier; ‘but it is a high, stiff fence, and
dangerous for a lady. At any rate, as your temporary guardian, I must
forbid your taking it, if you would defer to my control.’

‘Certainly, oh, certainly, and many thanks,’ said the girl, blushing
slightly; ‘it is very good of you to take care of me. But what are we to
do? We _can’t_ miss the finish after this delightful run.’

‘Certainly not. Do you see the road to the right of us? There is a
slip-rail on the track, which I fancy will be patronised. Follow me.’

Slip-rails are contemned by advanced pastoralists, but they stood the
Lake William Hunt in good stead on this occasion. As they rode to the
opening, Miss Fane said:

‘Pray leave the middle rail up. It will be the last jump, and I daresay
the other ladies will agree with me.’

‘Very well,’ said Wilfred. ‘I need not get off.’

Riding up to the fence, he lifted out the shifting end of the stout
round rail, and, allowing it to fall to the ground, cantered back to his
fair companion.

‘Now then,’ she said, ‘see how prettily you will take this, Master
Emigrant! It is quite stiff, though not very high.’

In truth the rail, as high as a sheep-hurdle, was slightly hog-backed,
and strong enough to have capsized a buffalo.

‘You will go first, of course,’ said Wilfred, turning his horse’s head
in the same direction.

The nice old hackney, albeit his best years had been spent as a
stock-horse amid the unfair country of the Black Mountain run, was
within a shade of thoroughbred. He went at the jump with his hind legs
well under him, and, rising at exactly the proper moment, popped over
with so little effort or disturbance of seat that Miss Fane might have
held a glass of water in her whip-hand.

If she had turned her head she might not have been so self-possessed;
for, the moment her back was turned, Wilfred Effingham, foreseeing that
the talent would be sure to ride this, the only sensational fence of the
run, turned his horse’s head to the big three-railer.

He rode an upstanding chestnut five-year-old, which he had selected as a
colt from the Benmohr stud. For some time past he had employed himself
in ‘making’ him, a pleasant task to a lover of horses. He had given the
resolute youngster much schooling over logs, rails, and any kind of
fence which came handy, avoiding those which were not unyielding. He was
aware that no more dangerous idea can be contracted by a timber-jumper,
than that he can break through anything, the first new fence that he
meets being likely fatally to undeceive him. He flattered himself that
Troubadour, from repeated raps, would take care to rise high enough over
any fence.

At the moment he set him going he saw Argyll and Churbett, with Hampden,
St. Maur, and all the ‘no denial’ division converging on the slip-rails,
having witnessed Miss Fane’s disappearance through them.

Whether Troubadour was over-anxious to regain Emigrant, cannot be known.
But he went at the fence too fast, hit the top-rail a tremendous bang,
and rolled over into the paddock, narrowly escaping a somersault across
his master.

He, however, was lucky enough to be thrown, by the mere impetus of the
fall, clear of his horse. Jumping to his feet with the alacrity of
youth, he caught the bridle-rein of the astonished Troubadour, who stood
staring and shaking, just in time to see The Caliph sail over the high
fence with a great air of ease and authority, followed by the others,
among whom Churbett’s horse hit the fence hard, ‘but no fall.’ The
ladies followed Miss Fane’s example and negotiated the middle rail
successfully, as Wilfred jumped into his saddle, and sending his spurs
into the unlucky Troubadour, rejoined his charge without further delay.

That young lady had pulled up, and was looking at the scene of the
disaster with an anxious expression. Her face had assumed a paler hue,
and her hands fidgeted with the bridle-rein.

‘I am _so_ glad you are not hurt,’ she said. ‘I thought all sorts of
things till I saw you get up and mount.’

‘Thank you very much,’ said Wilfred, with a grateful inflection in his
voice. ‘It was very awkward of Troubadour; but accidents will happen,
and it will teach him to lift his legs another time. But we must ride
for it now; we have been in the front so far. Ha! the hounds are turning
to us; they will have Master Dingo before he reaches the cliffs.’

Another mile and the dark quadruped, still at a stretching wolf-gallop,
was decidedly nearer the leading hounds, whose bristles began to rise,
ominous of blood. Old Tom, waving his cap, cheered them on as he rode
rejoicingly forward on the wiry, unflinching grey. Slower and more
laboured became the pace of the aboriginal canine. Before him was the
cliff, upon the lower tier of which, could he have crawled, lay
sanctuary. But in vain he scans eagerly the frowning masses of
sandstone, denuded by the storms of ages. In vain he glances fiercely
back at the remorseless pack, showing his glittering teeth. His doom is
sealed. With a half-turn and a vicious snap, in which his teeth meet
like a steel-trap through Cruiser’s neck, he confronts destiny. The next
moment there is a confused heap of struggling, tearing hounds, a few
seconds of dumb, despairing resistance, and the mothers of the herd are
avenged.

Miss Fane turns away her head and joins the group of ‘first families,’
by this time enabled to be in respectably at the death.

Old Tom in due time appeared with the brush of the dingo, which he held
on high for inspection. It was not unlike that of the true Reynard,
though larger and fuller. It had also a white tag. The old man,
advancing to Miss Fane’s side, thus spoke:

‘The Masther said I was to give ye the brush, Miss; it’s well ye desarve
it. Sure I’d like to have seen ye with the Blazers. My kind sarvice to
ye, and wishin’ ye the hoith of good fortune.’

‘Well done, Tom!’ said Argyll, ‘you have made a very neat speech; and we
all congratulate Miss Fane upon her very spirited riding to-day. As you
say, she well deserves the brush, and I hope she will grace many more of
our meets.’

‘We must send the “cap” round for the huntsman, Tom,’ said Hampden, ‘who
found such a straight-goer for the first run of the Lake William Hounds,
and hit off the scent so neatly after the check.’

As he spoke he lifted it from the old man’s grey head, and placing a
sovereign in it, rode along the ranks. He returned it with such a
collection of coin as the old man, long accustomed to cheques and
‘orders,’ had not seen for years.

‘It’s fortunate the fox—the dingo, I mean,’ said Wilfred, ‘chose to make
for the cliffs, instead of the other end of the lake. We should have had
a terrible distance to ride home, though not in the dark, as one often
was in the old country. Now, you must all come in, as we are so near The
Chase. We can put up everybody who hasn’t pressing work to do at home.’

The day was done. The hunt was over, with the first pack of hounds that
had ever been followed amid the green pastures which bordered the Great
Lake. It was by no means the last. And indeed a hunter, bred and broken
by one of the very men who then aided to establish that traditional
sport, was fated, when shipped to England, to be one of the few well up
in the quickest thing that the Pytchley saw that season, to be
chronicled in Bell, and to win enduring renown for Australian horses and
Australian riders. But that day, with much of Fate’s glad or sorrowful
doings, was far in the unborn future. So the band of friends and
neighbours returned to The Chase, pleased with themselves, with the day,
and the feats performed, and above all, congratulating Squire Effingham
upon the triumphant opening meet of the season.

Not all the meets were so well attended. But the grand fact remained
that, at regular intervals, dawn saw the dappled beauties trooping forth
at the heels of old Tom and the Master across the dewy meadows, beneath
the century-old trees of the primeval forest. Still rang out the music,
dear to Howard Effingham’s soul, when the scent lay well in the soft,
cloudy, autumnal mornings. Still were there, occasionally, incidents of
hunting spirit and feats of horsemanship worthy of the traditional
glories of the ne’er-forgotten Fatherland.



                             CHAPTER XVIII
                    THE MAJOR DISCOVERS HIS RELATIVE


After the inauguration, hunting became an organised and well-supported
recreation among the dwellers within the influence of the social
wavelets of the lake. The Benmohr firm found, on the whole—though the
stabling of hunters was not unaccompanied by expense—that it brought
their stud prominently before the public. Hence they found ready sale,
at an ascending scale of prices, for all the colts they could turn out.
Strangers came for the hunting, and made purchases. The hounds, too,
meeting regularly once a week during the winter months, exercised a
repressive influence upon the dingos, so much so, that M.F.H. (not being
a sheep-owner) began seriously to think of preserving these
much-maligned yet indispensable animals.

So widely spread and honourably mentioned was the fame of the Lake
William Hunt Club, that His Vice-regal Highness the Governor himself
more than once deigned to partake of the hospitality of The Chase,
bringing with him aides-de-camp and private secretaries, pleasant of
manner, and refreshing as such to the souls of the daughters of the
house.

Meanwhile Wilfred worked away at the serious business of the estate,
only taking occasional interest in these extraneous pleasures;
grumbling, moreover, at the expense, indirect or otherwise, that the
kennel necessitated.

However, it must be said in justice to him, that it was rarely he was
betrayed into impatience with regard to an occupation which, with other
branches of acclimatised field sports, had become the mainstay of his
father’s interest in life.

‘Really,’ Mr. Effingham would say, ‘in a few years—say about eighteen
hundred and forty-five or thereabouts—I believe we shall be nearly as
secure of decent sport as we were in old England. The Murray cod are
increasing in the lake. I have brown trout, dace, and tench in the
little river. There are almost too many rabbits; and as to hares,
pheasants, and partridges, we can invite half-a-dozen guns next season,
without fear of consequences. I have been offered deer from Tasmania.
With the inducement of a stag-hunt and a haunch of venison, I don’t see
why we shouldn’t finish our season right royally. Depend upon it, New
South Wales only wants enterprise, in the department of field sports, to
become one of the finest countries under the sun.’

There was no doubt that in the eyes of an observer not endowed with the
apprehensive temperament which numbers so many successful men amongst
its possessors, the appearance of matters generally at The Chase
justified reasonable outlay.

Wilfred had made a few guarded investments—all successful so far. What,
for instance, could pay better than the purchase of the quiet, dairy
steers from the small farmers in the autumn, when grass and cash were
scarce, to fatten them in the lake paddocks? Adjacent freeholds, from
time to time in the market, were added to the snug estate of The Chase.
True, he could not always find the cash at call for these tempting
bargains—(is there anything so enticing as the desire to add farm to
farm and house to house, as in the old, old days of Judah?)—but Mr.
Rockley was ready to endorse his bill, which, with his credit at the
Bank of New Holland, was as good as cash.

Thus passed the time until the close of the hunting season, before which
Major Glendinning had returned and apparently taken up his abode in the
neighbourhood, in great request at all the stations, and earning for
himself daily the character of a thorough sportsman. He purchased a
couple of horses from the Benmohr stud, on which, from time to time, he
performed such feats across country as caused it to be surmised that, in
the event of his settling in the neighbourhood, Bob Clarke would find a
rival.

He spoke highly of the standard as to blood and bone of the horses bred
in the district, openly stating that, in the event of the proprietors
being minded to establish a system of shipment to India, they might
expect extraordinary prices for their best horses, while the medium ones
would be worth double or treble their colonial value.

Mr. Rockley, after reckoning up expenses, together with the rather
serious item of risk of loss on ship-board, decided that there was a
handsome margin. He finished by declaring that in the following spring,
which would be in time for the cool season at Calcutta, he would send a
dozen horses of his own breeding, and join them in a cargo from the
district.

The idea was adopted. Preparations were made by handling and
stable-feeding as many of the saleable horses as could be spared.
O’Desmond was a warm supporter of the movement. He offered to find from
his long-established stud fully half the number necessary for the
undertaking. The Major, who was compelled to revisit India once more, if
but for the last time, had agreed to accompany the emigrants, and to see
them safely into the stables of old Sheik Mahommed, the great Arab
horse-dealer.

‘Fancy getting a hundred or two for our colts!’ said Hamilton. ‘Not more
than they are worth when you come to think of their breeding. I look
upon the Camerton stock as the very best horses in New South Wales,
probably in Australia. But of course we never expect more than a third
of such prices in these markets.’

‘The Major deserves a statue,’ said Argyll, ‘inscribed—“Ad centurionem
fortissimum, qui, equis canibusque gaudens, primus in Indis et in Nova
Cambria erat.”’

‘Very neat and classical,’ affirmed Fred Churbett. ‘I intend to send
Duellist. I should be sure to get three hundred for him, shouldn’t I?
He’s a sweet hack, but the price _is_ tempting. I daresay I could pick
up another one up to my weight.’

‘A horse of Duellist’s blood, size, and fashion would sell for that sum
any day in Calcutta,’ assented the Major. ‘He would be a remarkable
horse anywhere, and I need not tell you, would fetch more as a park hack
in London.’

‘Would we were both there!’ murmured Fred softly. ‘I fancy I see myself
on him doing Rotten Row. I have half a mind to go with you to Calcutta,
Major. If the trade develops we might make money a little faster than at
present, and have our fling in the old country before these locks are
tinged with grey,’ melodramatically patting his auburn _chevelure_.

‘It might be a desirable change,’ said Forbes. ‘Many people are said to
improve in appearance as they grow older.’

‘But not in mildness of disposition, James,’ retorted Churbett. ‘A
tendency to flat contradiction and aggressive argument has rarely been
known to abate with advancing years. But this is wide of the Indian
Remount Association. I don’t see why we shouldn’t offer to ship and sell
on commission. Many people in the district breed a good nag and don’t
know what to do with him afterwards. Suppose we consult the Squire about
it. He’s not a business man, but he knows India well.’

It was agreed that they should make up a party, consisting of Forbes,
Churbett, the Major, and Argyll, to ride over to The Chase that
afternoon. This was always a popular proceeding if any colour of
business, news, or sport could be discovered for the visit.

As they were nearing the gate of the home-paddock, they encountered
Wilfred Effingham, accompanied by his old stock-rider, bringing in a
draft of cattle. They amused themselves watching the efficient aid
rendered by the dog, and remarked incidentally the fiery impatience and
clever horsemanship of old Tom, who, roused by the difficulty of driving
some of the outlying younger cattle, was flying round the drove upon old
Boney at a terrific pace.

‘How well that old vagabond rides!’ said Fred Churbett, as Tom came
racing down the range after a perverse heifer, forcing her along at the
very top of her speed, with Boney’s opened mouth just at her quarter, at
which, with ears laid back and menacing teeth, he reached over from time
to time, the old man’s whip meanwhile rattling over her in a succession
of pistol-cracks, while he audibly devoted her to the infernal deities.

‘There, thin, may the divil take ye for a cross-grained, contrairy,
brindle-hided baste of a scrubber; may I niver if I don’t have ye in the
cask the first time yer bones is dacently covered!’ he wrathfully
ejaculated, as Boney stopped dead at the rear of the drove, into which
the alarmed heifer shot with the velocity of a shell.

As they rode up to Wilfred and his man, Major Glendinning addressed the
old stock-rider:

‘By the way, Tom, do you happen to know any one of your own name in this
part of the country—or elsewhere in the colony, as you have been such a
traveller?’

‘The divil a know I know,’ replied Tom (who was in one of his worst
humours, and at such times had little control over himself), ‘of any man
but Parson Glendinning that lives on the Hunter River, and he’s a
Scotchman and never seen “the black North” at all. But what raison have
ye to ask _me_? I’m Tom Stewart Glendinning, the stock-rider, and
barrin’ that I was “lagged” and was a fool to myself all my life long,
I’ve no call to be ashamed of my name, more than another man.’

As he spoke the old man raised himself in his saddle and looked
steadily, even fiercely, into the eyes of his interlocutor, who in turn,
half astonished, half irritated at the old man’s manner, frowned as he
returned the gaze with military sternness of rebuke.

Wilfred came up with the intention of rating his follower for his
acerbity, but as he marked the fixed expression of the two men,
something prevented him interposing. A similar feeling took possession
of the others, as they stopped speaking and unconsciously constituted
themselves an audience during this peculiar colloquy. Did a shadow of
doubt, a half-acknowledged idea cross the minds of the spectators, as
they watched the two men whose paths in life lay so wide apart? Was it
the fire which burned with sudden glow, at that moment, in the eyes of
both speakers, as they confronted each other, the chance similarity of
their aquiline features, closely compressd lips, and knitted brows?
Whatever the unseen influence, it was simultaneous, as it awed to
silence men, at no time easy to control, and placed them in a position
of mesmeric domination.

The Major rapidly, but with strangely husky intonation, then said:

‘Under that name did you send to Simon Glendinning, in the county of
Derry, certain sums of money?’

‘I did thin; and why wouldn’t I, if it was my own? It was asy made in
thim days; the country was worth living in,—not like now, overstocked
with “jimmies” and foreign trash.’

‘You sent that money, as I was informed,’ continued the Major,
persistently unheeding the old man’s petulance, ‘for the benefit of a
child, a nephew of your own, whom you desired to provide for?’

‘Nephew be hanged! The boy was _my son_, Owen Walter Glendinning by
name. Maybe he’s dead and gone this many a day, for I niver heard tale
or tidings of him since. It’s as well for him and betther. ’Tis little
use I see in draggin’ on life in this world at all, unless you’ve great
luck intirely. But what call have ye to be cross-examinin’ me—like a
lawyer—about my family affairs, and what makes the colour lave yer face
like a dead man’s? Who are ye at all?’

‘I am Owen Walter Glendinning! It was for me that your money was used. I
am—your—son!’

As he spoke an ashen hue overspread the bronzed cheek, and the strong
man swayed in his saddle as if he would have fallen to the ground. His
lips were clenched, and every feature bore the impress of the agony that
strains nature’s every capacity. As for the spectators, they looked upon
the actors in this life drama, of which the catastrophe had been so
unexpectedly sprung upon them, with silent respect accorded to those
beyond human aid. Words would have been worse than useless. They could
but look, but sit motionless on their horses, but school every feature
to passive recipiency, until the end should come.

‘God in Heaven!’ cried the old man; ‘do you tell me so? May the tongue
be blistered that spoke the word! It was a lie I tould you—lies—lies—I
tell ye; sure ye don’t belave a word of it?’

Then he looked at the despairing face of the soldier with wistful
entreaty and bitter regret, piteous to behold.

‘It is too late; it is useless to declare that you misled me. You have
betrayed the truth, which in pity for my unworthy pride you attempt to
conceal.’

‘It’s all a lie—a lie—a hellish lie!’ screamed the old man, transported
with rage and regret. ‘What you, my son! You! Major Glendinning, a fine
gintleman, and a soldier every inch of ye, the ayquals of the best
gintry in the land and they proud of ye, the son of a drunken old
convict stock-rider! I tell ye it _can’t_ be. I swear it’s a lie. I knew
the man ye spake of. He’s dead now, but he was book-larned and come of
an old family. I heard tell of his sending home money to his nephew in
the North, and our names being the same I just said it out of divilment.
Sure I’d cut my throat if I thought I’d be the manes of harmin’ ye. Why
don’t ye curse me? Why don’t ye tell thim gintlemen I’m a lyin’ old
villain? They know me well. Here, I’ll swear on my bended knees, by the
blessed Virgin and all the saints, there’s no word of truth in what I
said.’

As old Tom raved, implored, and blasphemed, cursing at once his own
folly and evil hap, his face writhed with the working of inward feeling.
His features were deadly pale, well-nigh livid; the tears ran down his
furrowed cheeks, while his eyes blazed with an unearthly light. As he
fell on his knees and commenced his oath of renunciation the calm tones
of the Major were again heard.

‘All this is vain and useless. Get up, and listen to reason. That you
are my—my father, I have now not the slightest reason to doubt. Your
knowledge of the name, of the annual sum sent, is sufficient evidence;
if these facts were not ample, the resemblance of feature is to me at
this moment, as doubtless to our good friends here, unmistakable. Fate
has brought about this meeting, why, I dare not question. You are too
excited to listen now’—here the old man made as though he would burst in
with a torrent of imprecations on the childish absurdity of the
speaker—‘but we shall meet again before I leave for India.’

‘May we niver meet again on God’s earth! ’Tis yerself that’s to blame if
this divil’s blast gets out. Sure the Benmohr gintlemen and Mr. Churbett
won’t let on. Mr. Wilfred’s close enough. Kape your saycret, and divil a
soul need hear of the sell ould Tom gave ye. My sarvice to ye, Major!’

Here the old man mounted and devoted his energies to the cattle. Wilfred
moved forward, by no means sorry that the strange scene had concluded.

‘Look here, Effingham, I will ride on to The Chase and make my adieus;
as well now as another time. I return at once to India. You understand
my position, I feel sure.’

He rode forward with a more upright seat, a firmer hand upon his
bridle-rein, and that stern lighting of the eyes that may be seen when,
and when only—

                     Bridle-reins are gathered up,
                       And sabres blaze on high,

ere each man spurs to the death feast, wherein his own name has,
perchance, been sounded on a shadowy roll-call by a phantom herald.

Hamilton urged his horse alongside of the Major and held out his hand.
Their eyes met as each wrung the proffered palm. But no word was spoken.
Argyll and Churbett rode slightly ahead. Before long they reached the
gate of The Chase, which, with its peculiar fastening, their horses
began to know pretty well, either sidling steadily up or commencing to
gambade at the very sight of it, in token of detestation, as did Grey
Surrey.

‘It seems odd that I shall perhaps never see this house again,’ said
Major Glendinning, slowly and reflectively. ‘I was beginning to be very
fond of it, and had made up my mind to buy a place for a stud farm and
settle near it. But why think of it now, or of anything else? “What is
decreed by Allah is decreed,” as saith the Moslem. Who am I to complain
of the universal fate?’

But as the strong man spoke there was an involuntary tremor in his
voice, a contraction of the muscles, as when the dumb, tortured frame
quivers under the surgeon’s knife.

‘Oh, how glad I am that you all came to-day,’ said Annabel, as they
walked in; ‘that is, if a girl is permitted to express her pleasure at
the arrival of gentlemen. Perhaps I should have said “how fortunate a
coincidence.” But, as a fact, all our horses are in to-day, and we were
just wondering if we could make up a riding-party after lunch. Mr.
Churbett, I can order you to come, because you never have any work to
do; not like some tiresome people who _will_ go home late at night or
early in the morning.’

‘I never get credit for my labours, Miss Annabel. I’m too good-natured
and easily intimidated—by ladies. But did you never hear of my memorable
journey with cattle from Gundagai to the coast, all in the depth of
winter; and—and—in fact—several other exploring enterprises?’

‘What, really, Mr. Churbett? Then I recant. But I thought you managed
the station from your verandah, sitting in a large cane chair, with a
pile of books on the floor.’

‘An enemy hath done this,’ said Mr. Churbett impressively. ‘Miss
Annabel, I never shall be exonerated till you immortalise The She-oaks
with your presence at a muster. Then, and then only, can you dimly
shadow forth the deeds that the knight Frederico Churbetto, with his
good steed Grey Surrey, is capable of achieving.’

‘“I wadna doot,” as Andrew says; and indeed, Mr. Churbett, I should like
very much to see all the galloping and watch you and your stock-riders
at work. You must ask mamma. Only, the present question is, can we have
a canter down to the lake side?’

‘We shall be truly thankful,’ said Hamilton. ‘I can answer for it. We
did not know the good fortune in store for us when we started.’

‘Oh, thanks, thanks! Consider everything nice said on both sides. But
what have you done to Major Glendinning? He looks so serious.’

‘Oh, he’s all right,’ said Hamilton, thinking it best to suffer their
friend to make his explanations personally. ‘Indian warriors, you know,
are apt to suffer from old wounds. Change of weather, I think.’

‘Poor fellow!’ said Annabel. ‘It seems hard that if one is not killed in
battle, he should have to suffer afterwards. However, we must cheer him
up. I will go and put my habit on.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

The afternoon was fine, so after a preliminary saddling-up, the whole
party filed off, apparently in high spirits. The roads in one direction
were always sound, while by ascending slightly one of the spurs of the
range a grand view was always obtainable.

Rosamond rode foremost, as she generally did, by right of the
exceptional walking of Fergus. She was accompanied by Forbes, whose
hackney had been selected after great research, his friends averred, in
order that he might rank as the next fastest pacer in those parts.
Argyll and Wilfred brought up the rear, occasionally joining company
with Annabel and Fred Churbett. The Major and Beatrice went next behind
the leaders. The couples preserved the order in which they set out, with
the exception of the inroad upon Fred and Annabel’s eager colloquies,
which were not deeply sentimental. That amiable personage complained
that no one scrupled to break in upon his _tête-à-têtes_. He ‘thought he
should have to grow a moustache and call some one out, in order to
inspire respect.’

Major Glendinning had made frequent visits to Warbrok, and familiar
intercourse having naturally resulted from his intimacy with their
friends at Benmohr, the family had come to look upon him as one of their
particular set. Of a nature constitutionally reserved, and more
specially self-contained from long residence as a military autocrat in
one of the provinces of Northern India, he had read and thought more
deeply than men of his class are apt to do. In proportion, therefore, to
his general reticence was his satisfaction in unlocking his stores of
experience when he met with congenial minds.

A few chance questions on the part of Beatrice Effingham, after his
first introduction to the family, had discovered to him that she was
better informed as to the administration of Northern India than most
people. Hence grew up between them a common ground of interest in which
he could expatiate and explain. And his listener was never tired of
hearing from an eye-witness and an actor the true story of the
splendours and tragedies of that historic land.

The real reason of this research, apart from the hunger for literary
pabulum, which at all times possessed Beatrice, was an affectionate
interest in the life of an uncle, who, after entering upon a brilliant
career, had perished through the treachery of a native Rajah. His
adventures had fascinated the romantic girl from early childhood; hence
she had loved to verify every detail of the circumstances under which
the star of the ill-fated Raymond Effingham had faded into darkness.

By those indescribable degrees of advance, of which the heart can note
the progress, but rarely the first approach, a friendship between the
Major and the thoughtful girl became so apparent as to be the subject of
jesting remark. When, therefore, he had announced his intention of
settling in the neighbourhood, a thrill of unusual force invaded the
calm pulses of Beatrice Effingham. Had his retirement from the service,
from the profession he loved so well, some reason in which her future
was concerned? If so, if he settled down on one of the adjoining
properties, could any union be more consonant with her every feeling,
taste, and aspirations than with one whom, in every way, she could so
fully respect and admire, whose deeds in that wonderland of her fancies
were written on the records of his country’s fame? It was a dream too
bright for reality. And though it would occasionally disturb the even
tenor of Beatrice’s hours in the library, her well-regulated mind
refused to dwell upon possibilities as yet unsanctioned.

When, therefore, Major Glendinning promptly availed himself of the
opportunity afforded by the ride to the lake to constitute himself her
escort; when, after a few commonplace observations, she observed that
his countenance, though more grave than was usual in her presence, had
yet an expression of fixed resolve, an indefinable feeling of
expectation, almost amounting to dread, took possession of her, and it
was with a beating heart and changing cheek that she listened.

‘I take advantage of this opportunity, Miss Beatrice, to say the words
which must be said before we part.’

‘Part!’ said the girl, shaking in every limb, though she bravely
struggled against her emotions and tried to impart firmness to her
voice. ‘Then you are going to leave us for India? Have you been ordered
back suddenly?’

‘That is as it may be,’ said the soldier; and as he spoke their eyes
met. His face wore a look of unalterable decision, yet so fraught was it
with misery, even despair, that she instinctively felt that Fate had
dealt her a remorseless stroke. ‘I have heard this day,’ he continued,
‘what has altered the chief purpose of my life—has killed my every hope.
I return to India by the next ship.’

‘You have heard terribly bad news,’ she answered very softly. ‘I see it
in your face. I need not tell you how we shall all sympathise with you;
how grieved we shall be at your departure.’

Here the womanly instinct of the consoler proved stronger than that of
the much-vaunted ruler of courts and camps, inasmuch as Beatrice lost
sight of her personal feelings in bethinking herself how she could aid
the strong man, whose features bore evidence of the agony which racked
every nerve and fibre.

‘I feel deeply grateful for your sympathy. I knew you would bestow it.
No living man needs it more. This morning I rode out fuller of pleasant
anticipation than I can recall, prepared to take a step which I hoped
would result in my life’s happiness. I had arranged for an extension of
leave, after which I intended to sell out and live in this
neighbourhood, which for many reasons—for every reason—I have found so
delightful.’

‘And your plans are altered?’

This query was made in tones studiously free from all trace of interest
or disapproval, although the beating heart and throbbing brain of the
girl almost prevented utterance.

‘I have this day—this day only—you will do me the justice hereafter to
believe—heard a statement, unhappily too true, which clears up the
mystery which has rested upon me from my birth. That cloud has been
removed. But behind it lies a foul blot, a dark shadow of dishonour,
which I deemed could never have rested on the name of Walter
Glendinning.’

‘Dishonour!’ echoed Beatrice. ‘Impossible! How can that be?’

‘It is as I say—deep and ineradicable,’ groaned out the unhappy man.
‘You will hear more from your brother. All is known to him and your
friends of Benmohr. Enough that I have no personal responsibility. But
it is a burden that I must carry till the day of a soldier’s death. You
will believe me when I say that my honour demands that I quit
Australia—to me so dear, yet so fatal. The years that may remain to me
belong to my country.’

‘I feel,’ said the girl, with kindling eye and a pride of bearing which
equalled his own, ‘that you are doing what your high sense of honour, of
duty, demands. I can but counsel you to take them, for guide and
inspiration. I know not the doom which has fallen on you, but I can bid
you God-speed, and pray for you evermore.’

‘You have spoken my inmost thoughts. God help us that it should be so.
But I were disloyal to every thought and aspiration of my nature if I
stooped to link the life of another, as God is my witness and judge, to
my tarnished name. We must part—never, perhaps, to meet on earth—but,
Beatrice, dearest and only loved—may I not call you so?—I who now look
upon your face, and hear your voice for the last time—you will think in
your happy home of one who tore the heart from his bosom, which a dark
fate forbade him to offer you. When you hear that Walter Glendinning
died a soldier’s death, give a tear to his memory—to his fate who
scorned death, but could not endure dishonour.’

Neither spoke for some moments. The girl’s tears flowed fast as she
gazed before her, while both rode steadily onward. The man’s form was
bowed, and his set features wore the livid aspect of him who has
received a death-wound but strives to hide the inward agony. Slowly,
mechanically, they rode side by side along the homeward track, in the
rear of the others until the entrance gate was reached. Then, as if by
mutual impulse, they turned towards each other, and their eyes met in
one long sorrowful glance. Such light has shone in the eyes of those who
parted ere now, sanctified by a martyr’s hope—a martyr’s death.

‘We shall meet,’ she said, ‘no more on earth; but oh, if you value my
love, cherish the thought of a higher life—of a better world, where no
false human pride, no barrier of man’s cruelty or injustice may sever
us. I hold the trust which my heart, if not my lips, confessed. Till
then, farewell, and may a merciful God keep our lives unstained until
the day of His coming.’

She drew the glove from her hand hurriedly. It fell at his horse’s feet.
He dismounted hastily, and placed it in his bosom, and raising her
ice-cold hand to his lips, pressed it with fervour. Then accompanying
her to the hall door, he committed her to the charge of Wilfred, who,
with his mother and sister, stood on the verandah, took a hurried leave
of the family, regretting that he was compelled, by sudden summons, to
rejoin his regiment, and with his friends, who with ready tact made
excuse for returning, took the familiar track to Benmohr.

Few words were spoken on the homeward road, which was traversed at a
pace that tried the mettle of the descendants of Camerton. That night
the friends sat late, talking earnestly. It was long after midnight
before they separated. On the following day Major Glendinning and his
father met at a spot half-way between The Chase and Benmohr, the
interview being arranged by Hamilton, who rode over and persuaded the
old man to accompany him. What passed between them was never known, but
ere that night was ended the Major was far on his way to Sydney, which
he reached in time to secure a passage in the good ship _Governor
Bourke_, outward bound for China. In the course of the week Mr.
Effingham received a letter in explanation of the circumstances, signed
Owen Walter Glendinning, declaring his unworthiness to aspire to his
daughter’s hand, as well as his inability to remain in the country after
the mystery of his birth had been so unexpectedly revealed to him. He
held himself pledged to act in the matter after the expiration of a year
in accordance with what Mr. Effingham, acting as the guardian of his
daughter’s happiness, might consider in the light of an honourable
obligation. A bank draft drawn in favour of Thomas Stewart Glendinning
was enclosed, with an intimation that an annual payment would be
forwarded for his use henceforth during the writer’s life.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The first cloud which the Effinghams had descried since their arrival in
Australia had appeared in the undimmed horizon. The breath of evil,
which knows no bound nor space beneath the sun, had rested on them.
Habitually taking deeper interest in the subjective issues of life than
in its material transaction, they were proportionately depressed. All
that maternal love and the most tender sisterly affection could give was
lavished upon the sufferer. Her well-disciplined mind, strengthened by
culture and purified by religion, gradually acquired equilibrium. But it
was long ere the tranquil features of Beatrice Effingham recovered their
wonted expression; and a close observer could have detected the trace of
an inward woe in the depths of her erstwhile clear, untroubled eyes.

In his answer to the letter which he had received, Mr. Effingham ‘fully
agreed with the course which his friend had taken, and the determination
which he had expressed. Looking at the situation, which he deplored with
his whole heart, he was unable to see any other mode of action open to
him as a man of honour. Deeply prejudicial as had been the issue to the
happiness of his beloved daughter, he could not ask him (Major
Glendinning) to swerve by one hair’s-breadth from the path which he had
laid down for himself. His wishes would be attended to with respect to
the bank draft forwarded for the use of the person named, but he would
suggest that Mr. Sternworth should be chosen as the recipient of future
remittances. He would, in conclusion, wish him the fullest measure of
success and distinction which his profession offered, with, if not
happiness, the inward satisfaction known to those who marched ever in
the vanguard of honourable duty. In this wish he was warmly seconded by
every member of the family.’

Old Tom, after notice of his intention to leave the employment,
presented himself before his master, dressed and accoutred as for a
journey, leading Boney and followed by the uncompromising Crab. His
effects were fastened in a roll in front of his saddle, his coiled
stockwhip was pendent from the side-buckle. All things, even to the
fixed look upon the weather-beaten features, betokened a settled
resolution.

‘I’m going to lave the ould place, Captain,’ he said; ‘and it’s sorry I
am this day to quit the family and the lake and the hounds, where I laid
it out to lave the ould bones of me. I’m wishin’ the divil betther
divarshion than to bother with the family saycrets of the likes o’ me.
Sure he has lashins of work in this counthry, without disturbin’ the
last days of poor ould Tom Glendinning—and he sure of me, anyhow. My
heart’s bruk, so it is.’

‘Hush, Tom,’ said his employer. ‘We can understand Major Glendinning’s
feelings. But, after all, it is his duty to acknowledge the ties of
nature. I have no doubt that after a time he will become—er—used to the
relationship.’

‘D——n the relationship!’ burst out the old man menacingly. ‘Ah, an’ sure
I ax yer pardon, yer honour, for the word; but ’tis wild I am that the
Major, a soldier and a rale gintleman every inch of him, that’s fought
for the Queen and skivered them infernal blackamoors in the Injies,
should be given out as the son of a blasted ould rapparee like me. It
was asy knowing when I seen that look on him when he heard the name, but
how could I drame that _my son_ could have turned into a king’s
officer—all as one as the best of the land? If I _had_ known it for
sartain, before he axed me, I’d have lived beside him as a common
stock-rider for years, if he’d come here, and he’s niver have known no
more than the dead. It’s a burning shame and a sin, that’s what it is!’

‘It may have been unfortunate,’ said Mr. Effingham; ‘but I can never
regard it as wrong that a father and a son should come to know of the
tie which binds them to each other.’

‘And why not, I ask ye?’ demanded the old man savagely. ‘What good has
it done aither of us? It’s sent _him_ back, with a sore heart, to live
among them black divils and snakes and tigers, a murdtherin’ hot
counthry it is by all accounts, when he might have bought a place handy
here and bred horses and cattle—sure he’s an iligant rider and shoots
beautiful, don’t he now? I wonder did he take them gifts after me?’ said
the old man, with the first softened expression and a half sigh. ‘Sure,
if I could have plazed myself _with lookin’ at him_ and he not to know,
I wouldn’t say but that I might have listened to Parson Sternworth
and—and—repinted,—yes, repinted,—after all that’s come and gone! And now
I’m on the ould thrack agin, with tin divils tearin’ at me, and who
knows what will happen.’

‘There’s no need for you to lead a wandering life, or indeed, to work at
all, even if you leave the district,’ said Mr. Effingham. ‘I have a sum
in my hands, forwarded by the Major, sufficient for all your wants.’

‘I’ll not touch a pinny of it!’ cried out the old man; ‘sure it’s blood
money, no less, his _life_, anyway, that will pay for this! Didn’t I see
his eye, when he shook hands with me, and begged my pardon for his
pride, and asked me to bless him—_me_!’—and here the old man laughed
derisively, a sound not pleasant to hear. ‘If there’s fighting where
he’s going, and he lives out the year, it will be because lead and cowld
steel has no power to harm a man that wants to die. Mr. Effingham, I’ll
never touch it; and why would I? Sure the drink’ll kill me, fast enough,
without help.’

‘But why go away? I am so grieved that, after your faithful service, you
should leave in such a state of mind.’

‘Maybe I’ll do ye more sarvice before I die, but I must get into the
far-out runs, or I’ll go mad thinking of _him_. It was my hellish timper
that let the words out so quick, or he’d never have known till his dying
day. Maybe the rheumatiz was to blame, that keeps burning in the bones
of me like red-hot iron, till I couldn’t spake a civil word to the
blessed Saviour Himself. Anyhow, it’s done now; but of all I ever
did—and there’s what would hang me on the list—I repint over _that_, the
worst, and will till I die. Good-bye, sir. God bless the house, and thim
that’s in it.’

The old man remounted his wayworn steed with more agility than his
appearance promised, and taking the track which led southward, went
slowly along the road without turning his head or making further speech.
The dog rose to his feet and trotted after him. In a few moments the
characteristic trio passed from sight.

‘Mysterious indeed are the ways of Providence!’ thought Effingham, as he
turned towards the house. ‘Who would ever have thought that the fortunes
of this strange old man would ever have been associated with me or mine.
I feel an unaccountable presentiment, as if this incident, inexplicable
as it is, were but the forerunner of evil!’



                              CHAPTER XIX
                             BLACK THURSDAY


Autumn and winter passed in the ordinary succession of regular duties
and peaceful employments, now become easy and habitual. These the
expatriated family had learned to love. The departure of the old
stock-rider was felt as a temporary inconvenience, but the brothers with
Dick Evans’s aid and counsel felt themselves qualified to supply his
place, and decided not to employ a successor.

Guy, indeed, had grown into a stalwart youngster, taller and broader
than his elder brother; so much had the pure air, the healthful bush
life, the regular exercise and occasional labour demanded by the station
exigencies done for his development. He was apt at all the minor rural
accomplishments—could ride the unbroken colts, which their own stud now
produced, and was well acquainted with the ways and wanderings of
outlying cattle. The lore of the Waste, in which old Dick was so able an
instructor, was now his. He could plait a hide-rope, make bullock-yokes,
noose and throw the unbranded cattle, drive a team, split and put up
‘fencing stuff’; in many ways do a man’s work, when needed, as
efficiently as his preceptor. Dick prophesied that he would become ‘a
great bushman’ in years to come. Indeed, by tales of ‘taking up new
country’ and of the adventurous branches of station life, he had
fostered a thirst for more extended and responsible action which gave
his parents some uneasiness.

He had begun to acquire the Australian boy’s contempt for the narrow
bounds involved by a residence on ‘purchased land.’ He impatiently
awaited the day when he should be able to sally forth, with a herd of
his own and the necessary equipment, to seek his fortune amid romantic,
unexplored wilds. He began to lose interest in the daily round of home
duties; and though from long habit and an affectionate nature, as yet
dutifully obedient to his parents’ bidding, he more than once confessed
that he longed for independent action.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The season was ‘setting in dry.’ There had been no rain for months.
Around Lake William and near that wide expanse of water an appearance of
verdure was preserved by the more marshy portion of the great flats.
Amid these the cattle daily revelled and fed. They might have been seen
grouped in large droves far out on the promontories, or wading amid the
shallowing reed-beds which fringed the shore, long after the sun had
set, and the breathless night, boding of storms which came not, had
closed in.

Among the neighbours this state of matters by no means passed without
observation and remark. Nought save desultory discussion ensued. Except
O’Desmond, no one had been long enough in the colony to have had
experience of abnormal seasons. Curiously, he was the one who took the
more despondent view of matters, from which men augured ill.

‘I hope to heaven that we are not going to have a repetition of 1827,’
he said; ‘one experience of that sort is enough to last a man for his
lifetime.’

‘Was it so very awful?’ said Hamilton, the conversation taking place at
Benmohr, at which convenient rendezvous Wilfred and Churbett had
encountered that gentleman. ‘One fancies that the ancient colonists were
not fertile in expedients.’

‘No doubt we have much to learn from the accomplished gentlemen who have
done us the honour to invest in our colony of late years,’ said
O’Desmond grandly, with a bow of the regency; ‘but if you had seen what
I have, you would not undervalue the danger. I don’t care to talk about
it. Only if this year ends badly, I shall leave Badajos to my old couple
and the overseer, muster my stock, and start into the wilderness without
waiting for another.’

‘What direction shall you take?’ said Hamilton.

‘Due south, until I strike the head waters of the Sturt and the
Warburton. These I shall follow down, and make my depôt wherever I
discover a sufficiently tempting base.’

‘It has quite the heroic ring about it,’ said Wilfred. ‘But for certain
reasons, I would like to follow you. How about provisions?’

‘I take a year’s supply of rations and clothing. We drive our meat
before us.’

‘And the blacks?’

‘I know all that can be known about them,’ said O’Desmond. ‘They
recognise chiefs among the white men. If one does not fear them, they
are to be dealt with like children.’

‘You will find it hard to quit your pleasant life at Badajos for the
desert,’ said Wilfred.

‘Not at all; the sharper the contrast, the more easily is the change
made. Besides, on such occasions mine is a well-organised expedition. I
take my cook, my groom, my four-in-hand. What do you say? Come with me
for the first week or two. I can promise you a chop broiled to
perfection. I must show you my “reversible griller,” of which I am the
proud inventor.’

Here the door was loudly knocked at, and being opened without further
ceremony, disclosed the serious countenance of Wullie Teviot, apparently
out of breath.

‘Maister Hamilton and gentlemen a’,’ he said, ‘I’m no in a poseetion to
do my errand respectfully the noo, but hae just breath to warn ye that
there’s a muckle bush-fire comin’ fast frae the direction o’ Maister
Effingham’s. I trust we’ll no be the waur o’t.’

This ended migratory speculations abruptly. Each man started to his
feet. Hamilton left the room to secure a horse and order out his
retainers, Wilfred to try and make out whether the heavy spreading cloud
on the horizon was across his boundary.

‘I and my man will go with Hamilton,’ quoth O’Desmond. ‘Effingham had
better make for home, and see how it is likely to affect him.’

Hamilton was dashing down the paddock on a bare-backed horse by this
time, to run up the hacks, and also one for the spring-cart, to be
loaded with spare hands for the scene of action, besides that invaluable
adjunct in a bush fire, a cask of water.

‘I hardly like leaving,’ said Wilfred; ‘it looks selfish.’

‘Don’t mind about the sentiment,’ said O’Desmond. ‘If your run is afire
you will need to help Dick Evans and his party. I’ll be bound the old
fellow is half-way there already. He is not often caught napping.’

Then Wilfred mounted too, and sped away, galloping madly towards the
great masses of ever-increasing smoke-cloud. It proved to be farther off
than he expected. He had ridden far and fast, when he reached the border
where he could hear the crackling of the tender leaflets, and watched
the red line which licked up so cleanly all dry sticks and bush, with
every stalk and plant and modest tuft of grass. He then found that the
chief duty, not so much of meeting the enemy, as of guiding and
persuading him to turn his fiery footsteps in a different direction, was
being satisfactorily performed by Richard Evans and his assistants. Guy,
in wild delight at being made lieutenant of the party, was dashing ever
and anon into the centre of the smoke and flame, and dealing blows with
his bough like a Berserker.

‘Head it off, lads,’ Dick was saying when Wilfred rode up. ‘It’s no use
trying to stop it in the long grass; edge it off towards the ranges.
There it may burn till all’s blue.’

‘Why, Dick,’ said he to his trustworthy veteran, ‘how did you manage to
get here so quickly? They’ve only just seen it at Benmohr.’

‘They’ll find it out pretty quick, sir, if there’s a shift of wind
to-night. It don’t need much coaxing our way, but it means Benmohr, with
a southerly puff or two. If it gets into that grassy bit by the old
stock-yard, it will burn at the rate of fifty mile an hour.’

Hour after hour did they work by the line of fire, ere Dick’s vigilance
could permit any kind of halt or relaxation. It was exciting, not
unpleasant work, Wilfred thought, walking up and down the red-gleaming
line of tongues of fire which licked up so remorselessly the tangled
herbage, the lower shrubs, the dead flower-stalks, and all scattered
branches of the fallen trees.

The night was dark, sultry, and still. As ever and anon the fire caught
some tall, dead tree, and running up it, seized the hollow trunk,
holding out red signals from each limb and cavity, high up among the
branches, the effect against the sombre sky, the dull, massed gloom of
the mountain, was grandly effective. In the lurid scene the moving
figures upon whose faces the fierce light occasionally beat, seemed
weird and phantasmal. Patiently did the wary leader watch the line of
fire, which had been extinguished on the side next to the lower lands,
now casting back a half-burned log far within the blackened area, and
anon beating out insidious tussocks of dried grass, ignited by a
smouldering ember.

When once the defensive line had been subdued, it was easily kept under
by sweeping the half-burned grass and sticks back from the still
inflammable herbage into the bared space now devoid of fuel. But care
was still needed, as ever and again a half-burned tree would crash down
across the line, throwing forth sparks and embers, or perhaps lighting
up a temporary conflagration.

All the night through, the men kept watch and ward beside the boundary.
The strangeness of the scene compensated Wilfred and Guy for the loss of
their natural rest as well as for the severity of the exertion. As they
watched the flame-path hewing its way unchecked up the rugged
mountain-side, lighting up from time to time with wondrous clearness
every crag, bush, and tree, to the smallest twig—a nature picture,
clear, brilliant, unearthly, framed in the unutterable blackness of the
night, it seemed as if they were assisting at some Walpurgis revel; as
if in the lone woods, at that mystic hour, the forms of the dead, the
spectres of the past, might at any moment arise and mingle with them.

As they lay stretched on the dry sward, in the intervals of rest, they
watched the gradual progress of the flame through the rugged,
chasm-rifted, forest-clothed mountain. With every ascent gained, the
flame appeared to hoist a signal of triumph over the dumb, dark,
illimitable forest which surrounded them. Finally, when like a crafty
foe it had climbed to the highest peak, the fire, there discovering upon
a plateau a mass of brushwood and dry herbage, burst out in one
far-seen, wide-flaming beacon, at once a Pharos and a Wonder-sign to the
dwellers at a lower elevation.

The bush fire had been fought and conquered. It only remained for Dick
and a few to go back on the following day and make sure that the
frontier was safe; that no smouldering logs were ready to light up the
land again as soon as the breeze should have fanned them sufficiently.
The main body of the fire had gone up the mountain range, where no harm
could be done; where, as Dick said, as soon as the first rain came, the
grass would be all up again, and make nice, sweet picking for the stock
in winter.

The Benmohr people had not been quite so lucky; the wind setting in that
direction, the flames had come roaring up to the very homestead, burning
valuable pasture and nearly consuming the establishment. As it was, the
garden gate caught fire. The farm and station buildings were only
preserved by the desperate efforts of the whole force of the place, led
on by Argyll and Hamilton, who worked like the leaders of a forlorn
hope. After the fight was over and the place saved, Charlie Hamilton,
utterly exhausted with the heat and exertion, dropped down in a faint,
and had to be carried in and laid on a bed, to the consternation of Mrs.
Teviot, who thought he was dead.

It was now the last week of March, and all things looked as bad as they
could be. Not a drop of rain worth mentioning had fallen since the
spring. The small rivers which ran into Lake William had ceased to flow,
and were reduced each to its own chain of ponds. That great sheet of
water was daily receding from its shores, shallowing visibly, and
leaving islands of mud in different parts of its surface, unpleasantly
suggestive of total evaporation. Strange wild-fowl, hitherto unknown in
the locality—notably the ibis, the pelican, and the spoonbill—had
appeared in great flocks, disputing possession with the former
inhabitants. The flats bordering upon the lake, once so luxuriantly
covered with herbage, were bare and dusty as a highroad. The constant
marching in and out of the cattle to water had caused them to be fed
down to the last stalk. Apparently there was no chance of their renewal.
The herd, though still healthy and vigorous, was beginning to lose
condition; if this were the case now, what tale would the winter have to
tell? The yield of milk had so fallen off that merely sufficient was
taken for the use of the house. The ground was so hard that it was
impossible to plough for the wheat crop, even if there had been
likelihood of the plant growing after the seed was sown.

Andrew was clearly of the opinion that Australia much resembled Judea,
and that for some good reason the Lord had seen fit to pour down His
wrath upon the land, which was now stricken with various plagues and
grievous trials.

‘I’m no sayin’,’ he said, ‘that the sin o’ the people has been
a’thegither unpardonable and forbye ordinair’. There’s nae doot a wheen
swearin’ and drinkin’ amang thae puir ignorant stock-riders and splitter
bodies. Still, they’re for the maist pairt a hard delvin’, ceevil
people, that canna be said to eat the bread o’ idleness, and that’s no
wilfu’ in disobeyin’ the Word, siccan sma’ hearin’ as they hae o’t. I’m
lyin’ in deep thocht on my bed nicht after nicht, wearyin’ to find ae
comfortin’ gleam o’ licht in this darkness o’ Egypt.’

‘It’s a bad look-out, Andrew,’ said Guy, to whom Andrew was confiding
his feelings, as he often did to the lad when he was troubled about the
well-doing of the community. ‘And it will be worse if the cattle die
after next winter. Whatever shall we do? We shall never get such a lot
of nice, well-bred ones together again. What used the Jews to do in a
season like this, I wonder, for they got it pretty bad sometimes, you
know, when Jacob sent all his sons into Egypt?’

‘I mind weel, Maister Guy,’ said the old man solemnly. ‘And ye see he
had faith that the Lord would provide for him and his sons and dochters.
And though they were sair afflicted before the time of deliverance came,
they were a’ helped and saved in the end. He that brocht ye a’ here nae
doot will provide. Pray and trust in Him, Maister Guy, and dinna forget
what ye learned at your mither’s knee, hinny, the God-fearin’ lady that
she ever was. We must suffer tribulation, doubtless; but dinna fear—oh,
dinna lose faith, my bairn, and we shall sing joyful songs i’ the
ootcome!’

As the season wore on, and the rainless winter was succeeded by the
hopeless spring, with drying winds and cloudless days, it seemed as if
the tribulation spoken of by Andrew was indeed to be sharp, to the verge
of extermination.

Not only were great losses threatened by the destruction of the stock,
but the money question was commencing to become urgent. For the past
year no sales of stock had been possible. Few had the means of keeping
the stock they were possessed of. They were not likely to add to their
responsibility by buying others, at however tempting a price. As there
was no milk, there was naturally no butter, cheese, or the wherewithal
to fatten the hogs for bacon. These sources of income were obliterated.
Having no produce to sell, it became apparent that the articles
necessary to be bought were suddenly enhanced in value. Flour rose from
twelve and fifteen to fifty, seventy, finally, _one hundred pounds per
ton_. Not foreseeing this abnormal rise, Wilfred had sold their
preceding year’s crop, as usual, as soon as it reached a better price
than ordinary, merely retaining a year’s supply of flour. That being
exhausted, he was compelled, sorely against the grain, to purchase at
these famine rates. Rice, which could be imported cheaply, was largely
mingled with the flour, as a matter of economy. The bread was scarcely
so palatable, but by the help of Jeanie’s admirable baking, little
difference was felt.

Mr. Rockley confided that he felt deeply reluctant to charge him and
other friends such high prices for the necessaries of life. The
difficulties of carriage, however, were now amazing. Numbers of the
draught cattle had perished, and fodder was obliged to be carried by the
teams on their journeys, enhancing the cost indefinitely.

‘The fact is,’ said that unreserved merchant, ‘I am losing on all sides.
The smaller farmers in my debt have no more chance of paying me, before
the rain comes, than if they were in gaol. Everybody purchases the
smallest quantity of goods that they can do with, and I have great
difficulty in buying in Sydney at prices which will leave any margin of
profit. But you come in and dine with us this evening. I’ve got a bottle
of claret left, in spite of the hard times. And keep up your spirits, my
boy! We shall come out of this trouble as we’ve done through others.
This country wasn’t meant for faint-hearted people, was it? If all comes
right, we shall be proud of having stuck to the ship manfully, eh? If
not, it’s better to give three cheers when she goes down, than to whine
and snivel. Come along in. I’ve done with business for the day.’

And so Wilfred, who had ridden to Yass in a state of despondency, went
in and was comforted, as happened to him many a time and often, under
that hospitable roof. The dinner was good though the times were bad,
while Rockley’s claret was unimpeachable, as of old. Mrs. Rockley and
Christabel were more than usually warm and sympathetic of manner. As he
sat in the moonlight with Rockley and the ladies (who had joined them),
and heard from his host tales of previous hard seasons and how they had
been surmounted, he felt his heart stir with unwonted hope and a resolve
to fight this fight to the end.

‘I’ve seen these seasons before,’ said the energetic optimist, ‘and I’ve
always remarked that they were followed by a period of prosperity. Think
of the last drought we had, and what splendid seasons followed it! This
looks as bad as anything _can_ look, but if I could get long odds, I
wouldn’t mind betting that before 1840 we’re crowded with buyers, and
that stock, land, and city property touch prices never reached before.
Look forward, Wilfred, my boy, look forward! There’s nothing to be done
without it, in a new country, take my word.’

‘You must admit that it’s hard to see anything cheering just at
present.’

‘Not at all, not at all,’ said his host, lighting another cigar.
‘Christabel, go in and sing something. It’s all a matter of calculation.
Say that half your cattle die—mind you, you’ve no business to let ’em
die, if you can help it—hang on by your eyelids, that’s the idea—but say
half of ’em _do_ die, why, the moment the rain comes the remainder are
twice as valuable as they were before, perhaps more than that, if a new
district is discovered. By the way, there _is_ a report of a new
settlement down south; if it comes to anything, see what a rush there’ll
be for stock, to take over on speculation. That’s the great advantage of
a new country; if one venture goes wrong, there are a dozen spring up
for you to choose from.’

‘Do you think it would be a good idea to take away part of the stock,
and try and find a new station?’

‘I really believe it would; and if I were a young man to-morrow it’s the
very thing that I would go in for. We have not explored a tenth part of
the boundless—I say boundless—pasture lands of this continent. No doubt
there are millions of acres untouched, as good as we have ever
occupied.’

‘But are they not so far off as to be valueless?’

‘No land that will carry sheep or cattle, or grow grain, can be
valueless in Australia for the next century to come. And with the
increase of population, all outer territories will assume a positive
value as soon as the present depression is over.’

While in Yass, Wilfred consulted their good friend and adviser, Mr.
Sternworth, who had indeed, by letter, when not able to visit them
personally, not ceased to cheer and console during the disheartening
season.

‘This is a time of trial, my dear Wilfred,’ he said, ‘that calls out the
best qualities of a man, in the shape of courage, faith, and
self-denial. It is the day of adversity, when we are warned not to
faint. I can fully enter into your distress and anxiety, while seeing
the daily loss and failure of all upon which you depended for support.
It is doubly hard for you, after a term of success and progress. But we
must have faith—unwavering faith—in the Supreme Ruler of events, and
doubt not—doubt not for one moment, my boy—but that we shall issue
unharmed and rejoicing out of this tribulation.’

Among their neighbours, unusual preparations were made to lighten the
impending calamity. Unnecessary labourers were discharged. The daily
work of the stations was, in great measure, done by the proprietors. The
Teviots were the only domestic retainers at Benmohr; they, of course,
and Dick Evans were a part of the very composition of the
establishments, and not to be dispensed with. The D’Oyleys discharged
their cook and stock-rider, performing these necessary duties by turns,
week alternate.

Fred Churbett retained his married couple and stock-rider, declaring
that he would die like a gentleman; that he could pay his way for two
years more; after which, if times did not mend, he would burn the place
down, commit suicide decently, and leave the onus on destiny. He could
not cook, neither would he wash clothes. He would be as obstinate as the
weather.

O’Desmond made full preparations for a migration in spring, if the
weather continued dry and no rain fell in September. There would be a
slight spring of grass then, rain or no rain. He would take advantage of
it, to depart, like a patriarch of old, not exactly with his camels and
she-asses, but with his cattle and brood mares, his sheep and his oxen,
his men-servants and his maid-servants—well perhaps not the latter, but
everything necessary to give a flavour of true colonisation to the
movement. And he travelled in good style, with such observances and
ceremony as surrounded Harry O’Desmond in all that he did, and made him
the wonder and admiration of less favoured individuals.

He had his waggonette and four-in-hand, the horses of which, corn-fed at
the commencement, would, after they got on to the grasses of the great
interior levels, fare well and indeed fatten on the journey. A roomy
tent, as also a smaller one for his body-servant, cook, and kitchen
utensils, shielded him and his necessaries from the weather. Portable
bath and dining-table, couch, and toilette requisites were available at
shortest notice; while a groom led his favourite hackney, upon which he
mounted whenever he desired to explore a mountain peak or an unknown
valley. The cottage was handed over to the charge of the gardener and
his wife, old servants of the establishment. And finally, the
long-expected rain not appearing in September, he departed, like a
Spanish conquistador of old, to return with tales of wondrous regions,
of dusky slaves, of gold, of feather-crowned Caciques, and palm-fanned
isles, or to leave his whitening bones upon mountain summit or lonely
beach.

It was believed among his old friends that Harry O’Desmond would either
return successful, with hardly-won territory attached to his name, or
that he would journey on over the great desert, which was supposed then
to form the interior of the continent, until return was hopeless.

His servants would be faithful unto death. None would ever question his
order of march. And if he were not successful in founding a kingdom, to
be worked as a relief province for Badajos, he would never come back at
all. Some day there would be found the traces of a white man’s
encampment, amid tribes of natives as yet unknown—the shreds of tents,
the waggonette wheels, the scattered articles of plate, and the more
ordinary utensils of the white man. From beneath a spreading tree would
be exhumed the bones of the leader of the party. Such would be the
memorials of a pioneer and explorer, who was never known to turn back or
confess himself unsuccessful.

As to the labour question, Dick Evans and his wife were indispensable
now, more than ever, as the brothers had resolved not to remain _in
statu quo_. Wilfred had determined to organise an expedition, and to
take the greater part of the herd with him. In such a case it would have
been suicidal to deprive themselves of Dick’s services, as, of course,
he would be only too eager to make one of the party. He cheerfully
submitted to a diminution of wages, stating that as long as he and the
old woman had a crust of bread and a rag to their backs they would stand
by the captain and the family.

‘If we could only get through the winter,’ he said, ‘I shouldn’t have no
fear but we’d box about down south with the cattle till we dropped on a
run for them. There’s a lot of fine country beyond the Snowy, if we’d
only got a road over the mountains to it. But it’s awful rough, and the
blacks would eat up a small party like ours. I don’t hardly like the
thoughts of tacklin’ it. But what I’m afraid on is, that if the winter
comes on dry we’ll have _no cattle to take_. They’re a-gettin’ desprit
low now, and the lake’s as good as dried up.’

The outlook was gloomy indeed when even the sanguine Dick Evans could
make no better forecast. But Wilfred was the sailing-master, and it did
not become him to show hesitation.

‘We must do our best, and trust in God, Dick,’ he said. ‘This is a
wonderful country for changes; one may come in the right direction yet.’

As for Andrew and Jeanie, they would not hear of taking any wages until
times improved. They had cast in their lot with the family, and Jeanie
would stay with her mistress and the girls, who were dear to her as her
own children, as long as there was a roof to shelter them.

Andrew fully recognised it as a ‘season of rebuke and blasphemy.’ He who
ordered the round world had, for inscrutable reasons, brought this
famine upon them. Like the children of Israel, he doubted but they would
have to follow the advice given in 1 Kings xviii. 5: ‘And Ahab said to
Obadiah, Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all
brooks; peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules
alive, that we lose not all the beasts.’

‘And did they?’ asked Guy.

‘Nae doot; as maist like we shall do gin we use the same means as
gracious Elijah. No that I’m free to testify that I conseeder the
slayin’ o’ the prophets o’ Baal a’thegither a needcessity. It wad have
been mair wiselike on the pairt o’ Elijah to have disestablished their
kirk and garred them lippen a’ their days to the voluntary principle.
But let that flee stick to the wa’; dinna doot, laddie, that ae day the
heavens will be black wi’ clouds, and there will be a great rain.’

Perhaps the one of the whole party most to be pitied was Howard
Effingham. With the eagerness of a sanguine nature, he had become fixed
in the idea that the prosperity with which they had commenced was to be
continuous. Inspired with that belief he had, as we have seen, commenced
to indulge himself with the reproduction, on a small scale, of the
pleasant surroundings of the old country. He had fancied that the
production of cattle, cheese, butter, bacon, and cereals would go on
almost automatically henceforth, with a moderate amount of exertion on
Wilfred’s part and of supervision on his own. It was not in his nature
to be absorbed in the money-making part of their life; but in the
acclimatisation of birds, beasts, and fishes, in the organisation of the
Hunt Club, in the greyhound kennel, and in the stable his interest was
unfailing, and his energy wonderful.

Now, unfortunately, to his deep regret and mortification, he saw his
beloved projects rendered nugatory, worthless, and in a manner
contemptible, owing to this woeful season.

What was likely to become of the fish if the lake dried up, as it showed
every disposition to do? How was one to go forth fowling and coursing
when every spare moment was utilised for some purpose of necessity?

As for the hounds, some arrangement would have to be made about feeding
and exercising these valuable animals. The horseflesh was wanting, the
time was not to be spared, the meat and meal were not always
forthcoming. Terrible to imagine, the kennel was commencing to be an
incubus and an oppression!

In the midst of this doubt and uncertainty a letter came from a
well-known sportsman, Mr. Robert Malahyde, keenest of the keen, offering
to take charge of the hounds until the season became more tolerable. His
district was not so unfavourably situated as the neighbourhood of Yass,
and from his larger herds and pastures he would be able to arrange the
‘boiler’ part of the management more easily than Mr. Effingham.

A meeting of the subscribers was quickly called, when it was agreed that
the hounds be sent to Mummumberil till the seasons changed.

As for the pheasants and partridges, which had flourished so
encouragingly during the first season, the curse of the time had fallen
even on them. The native cat (dasyurus) had increased wonderfully of
late. Berries and grass seeds were scanty in this time of famine. In
consequence, the survival of the fittest, coupled with acts of highly
natural selection, ensued. The native cats selected the young of the
exotic birds, but few of the adult game seemed likely to survive this
drought.



                               CHAPTER XX
                       AN UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENT


An expedition was to be organised in spring, and the stock removed, no
matter where. It would be the only chance for their lives. As it was,
the winter was fast coming upon them. Every blade of the ordinary
herbage had disappeared. The nights commenced to lengthen. Frosts of
unusual severity had set in. Even now it seemed as if their last hope
might be destroyed and their raft dashed on the rocks ere it was
floated.

But one morning Dick Evans came up to Wilfred, sadly contemplating the
attenuated cows which now represented the once crowded milking-yard. He
was riding his old mare, barebacked, with his folded coat for a saddle,
and spoke with unusual animation.

‘I believe we’re right for the winter after all, sir. I never thought to
see this, though old Tom told me he’d know’d it happen once afore.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, I took a big walk this morning to see if I could find tracks of
this old varmint. I thought she might be dead, but I warn’t satisfied,
so I took a regular good cruise. I found some tracks by the lake, where
I hadn’t been for some time, and there sure enough I finds my lady, as
snug as a wallaby in a wheat patch. Look how she’s filled herself, sir.’

Wilfred replied that the old mare appeared to have found good quarters.

‘When I got to the lake, sir, I was reg’lar stunned. It was as dry as a
bone, but through the mud there was a crop of “fat hen” comin’ up all
over, miles and miles of it, as thick as a lucerne field on the Hunter.
The old mare was planted in a patch where it was pretty forrard. But
it’s growin’ so’s you can see it, and there’ll be feed enough in a week
or two for all our cattle and every hoof within twenty miles of the
lake.’

‘Wonderful news, Dick; and this “fat hen,” as you call it, is good and
wholesome food for stock?’

‘Can’t beat it, sir; first-chop fattening stuff; besides, there’s rushes
and weeds growin’ among it. You may pound it, we’ll have no more trouble
with the cattle for the winter, and they’ll be in good fettle to start
south in the spring.’

This was glorious news. It was duly related at the breakfast-table, and
after that meal Wilfred and Guy betook themselves to the lake. There
they beheld one of Nature’s wondrous transformations.

The great lake lay before them, dry to its farthermost shore. The
headlands stood out, frowning in gloomy protest against the conversion
of their shining sea into a tame green meadow. Such, in good sooth, had
it actually become. Through the moist but rapidly hardening mud of the
lake-surface millions of plants were pushing themselves with vigour and
luxuriance, caused by the richness of the ooze from which they sprang.
Far as the eye could see, a green carpet was spread over the lately
sombre-coloured expanse. The leaves of the most forward plants were
rounded and succulent, while nothing could be more grateful to the
long-famished cattle than the full and satisfying mouthfuls which were
in parts of the little bays already procurable.

Even now, guided by the mysterious instinct which sways the hosts of the
brute creation so unerringly, small lots had established themselves in
secluded spots, showing by their improved appearance how unusual had
been the supply of provender.

‘What a wonderful thing,’ said Guy; ‘who would ever have thought of the
old lake turning into a cabbage-garden like this? Dick says this stuff
makes very good greens if you boil it. Why, we can let Churbett and the
Benmohr people send their cattle over if it keeps growing—as Dick
says—till it’s as high as your head. But how in the world did this seed
get here? That’s what I want to know. The lake hasn’t been dry for ten
years, that’s certain, I believe. Well, now, did this seed—tons of
it—lie in the mud all that time; and if not, how was it to be sowed,
broadcast, after the water dried up?’

‘Who can tell?’ said Wilfred. ‘Nature holds her secrets close. I am
inclined to think this seed must have been in the earth, and is now
vivified by the half-dry mud. However it may be, it is a crop we shall
have good cause to remember.’

‘I hope it will pull us through the winter and that’s all,’ said Guy. ‘I
mustn’t be done out of my trip down south. I want to find a new country,
and make all our fortunes in a large gentlemanlike way, like Mr. St.
Maur told us of. You don’t suppose he goes milking cows and selling
cheese and bacon.’

‘You mustn’t despise homely profits, Guy,’ said the elder. ‘Some of the
largest proprietors began that way, and you know that “Laborare est
orare,” as the old monks said.’

‘Oh yes, I know that,’ said the boy; ‘but there’s all the difference
between Columbus discovering America, or Cortez when he climbed the tree
in Panama and saw two oceans, and being the mate of a collier. I must
have a try at this exploring before I’m much older. There’s such a lot
of country no one knows about yet.’

‘You will have your chance, old fellow, and your triumph, like others, I
hope. But remember that obedience goes before command, and that Captain
Cook was a boy in a collier before he became a finder of continents.’

Wilfred found it necessary to ride over to Benmohr to arrange definitely
about the time of departure. He had nearly reached the well-known gate
when a horseman rode forward from the opposite direction. He was well
mounted, and led a second horse, upon which was a pack-saddle. Both
animals were in better condition than was usual in this time of
tribulation.

Effingham was about to pass the stranger, whose bronzed features, half
concealed by a black beard, he did not recall, when he reined his horses
suddenly.

‘You don’t remember me, Mr. Effingham. I am on my way to the old place.
I’ve got something to tell you.’

It took more than another glance to enable him to recognise the speaker,
and then it was a half-instinctive guess that prompted him to connect
the bold black eyes and swarthy countenance with Hubert Warleigh.

‘The same,’ said the horseman. ‘I saw you did not know me; most likely
took me for a station overseer or a gentleman. I was a swagman when you
saw me last, so I’m getting on, you see.’

‘I beg you a thousand pardons,’ said Wilfred, shaking his hand
cordially. ‘I did not know you at first sight; the beard alters your
appearance, you must admit. I hope you are coming to stay with us. My
father will be delighted to see you. He often speaks of you.’

‘I thank him, and you too. If _my_ father had been like him, I should
have been a different man. But I had better tell you my business before
we go farther. They say you are going to shift the cattle; is that
true?’

‘We start almost at once. But we haven’t settled the route.’

‘That’s just as well. I’ve found a grand country-side away to the south,
and came to show you the way—that is, if you believe my story.’

‘Look here,’ cried Wilfred excitedly, ‘come with me to Benmohr to-night,
and we’ll talk it over with Argyll and Hamilton. We must hold a council
over it. It’s near sundown, and I intended to stay there.’

Hubert Warleigh drew back. ‘I don’t know either of them to speak to. The
fact is, I have lived so much more in the men’s huts than the masters’
until the last few months, that I don’t fancy going anywhere unless I’m
asked.’

‘Come as my friend,’ said Wilfred impetuously. ‘It is time you took your
proper position. Besides, you are the bearer of good tidings—of news
which may be the saving of us all.’

He allowed himself to be persuaded. So the two young men rode up to the
garden gate, at which portal they were met by Argyll. Ardmillan and Neil
Barrington were playing quoits on the brown lawn. Fred Churbett (of
course) was reading in the verandah.

‘Let me introduce my friend, Mr. Hubert Warleigh,’ said Wilfred. ‘He has
just come in from a journey, and I have prevailed on him to accompany
me.’

‘Most happy to see you, Mr. Warleigh,’ said Argyll, with cordial
gravity. (He knew all about ‘Gyp’ Warleigh, and had probably said
contemptuous things, but accepted Wilfred’s lead, and followed suit.)
‘The man will take your horses. Effingham, you know your way to the
barracks.’

Hubert Warleigh followed his newly-acquired comrade into the building,
where the appearance of matters indicated that some of the other
habitués had been recently adorning themselves. Mrs. Teviot, however,
promptly appeared on the scene with half-a-dozen towels, and supplies of
warm water.

‘Weel, Maister Effingham, this is a sair time and a sorrowfu’. To think
o’ a’ the gentlemen gangin’ clean awa’, and a’ the milch kye, puir
things, into thae waste places o’ the yearth, and maybe deein’ o’ drouth
or hunger, and naebody to hae a crack wi’ but thae fearsome saavages
‘It’s very hard upon all of us, Mrs. Teviot, but if it won’t rain, what
are we to do? We can’t stay at home and let the cattle die. You know the
Israelites used to take away their beasts in time of famine, and they
seem to have had them pretty often.’

‘How do you do, Mrs. Teviot?’ said Warleigh. ‘How’s Wullie this dry
weather? I suppose you forget me staying a night in the hut with old Tom
Glendinning, three or four years ago.’

‘Gude sake, laddie!’ said the old woman in a tone of deep surprise, ‘and
is that you, clothed and in your right mind, like the puir body in the
Book? And has some one casten oot your deevil? Oh, hinnie! but I’m a
prood woman the day to see your father’s son tak’ his place amang
gentlefolk ance mair. The Lord guide ye and strengthen ye in the richt
path! Man, ye lookit sae douce and wiselike, hoo was I to ken ye, the
rantin’ dare-deevil that ye were syne?’

‘I have been living among the blacks, Mrs. Teviot,’ said the prodigal,
with a transient glance of humour in his deep eye; ‘perhaps that may
have improved me. But I am going to try to be a gentleman again, if I
don’t find it too dull.’

‘Aweel! The denner is dishen’ up the noo; dinna wait to preen yersels
ower muckle,’ added the good old dame as she vanished.

In despite of her warning, her old acquaintance produced several
articles of raiment from the large valise, which had been unstrapped
from his led horse, and proceeded to change his dress. When they walked
into the house Wilfred thought he had rarely seen a handsomer man.

His clear, bronzed complexion, his classically cut features, his large
dark eyes, with, what was then more uncommon than is the case now, a
bushy, coal-black beard, made the effect of his countenance picturesque
and striking in no ordinary degree.

His tall and powerful frame, developed by toil and exercise into the
highest degree of muscular strength, was perfect in its symmetry as that
of a gladiator. His very walk showed the effect of years of woodcraft,
with the hunter’s lightness of footstep, and firm, elastic tread. As he
entered the dining-room there was a look of surprise, even admiration,
visible on every face.

‘Mr. Warleigh,’ said Argyll, ‘allow me to make my friends known to you.
Hamilton, my partner—Ardmillan—Forbes—Neil Barrington—Fred Churbett.
Now, you are all acquainted. Dinner and Mrs. Teviot won’t admit of
further formalities.’

In despite of his former preferences for humble companionship, and his
depreciation of his own manners and habitudes, Wilfred was pleased and
interested by the unaffected bearing of his protégé during the dinner
ceremony. He well knew all the men present by reputation, though they
had no previous acquaintance with him, except, perhaps, as a stock-rider
on a cattle-camp.

Without attempting to assume equality of language or mingle in
discussion, for which his lack of education unfitted him, he yet bore
himself in such self-possessed if unpretending fashion as impressed both
guests and entertainers.

When the dinner was cleared away, and pipes were lit, in accordance with
the custom of bachelor households (O’Desmond’s always honourably
excepted), Wilfred Effingham thought the time favourable for opening the
serious business of the evening.

‘I take it for granted,’ he said, ‘that we are all agreed to start for
“fresh fields and pastures new” in a few days. Equally certain that we
have not settled the route. Is that not so? Then let me take this
occasion of stating that Mr. Warleigh has arrived from the farthest out
station on the south, and that he is in possession of valuable
information as to new country.’

‘By Jove!’ said Argyll, ‘that is the very thing we were discussing when
you rode up, and are as far from a decision as ever. If Mr. Warleigh can
give us directions, we ought to be able to keep a course moderately
well—I mean with the aid of an azimuth compass.’

‘Argyll would undertake to find the road to Heaven with that compass of
his,’ said Ardmillan.

When the laugh had subsided, which arose from this allusion to a
well-known habit of Argyll’s, who always carried a compass with him—even
to church, it was asserted—and was wont to state that no one but an
idiot could possibly lose his way in Australia who had sense enough to
comprehend the points of that invaluable instrument—Hubert Warleigh said
quietly, ‘I’m afraid the road to my country is a good deal like the road
to h—ll, that is, in the way of being the most infernal bad line for
scrub, mountain, and deep rivers I ever tackled, and that’s saying a
good deal. But I promised Captain Effingham to do him a good turn when I
got the chance, and when I heard of this dry season I came prepared to
show the way, if he liked to send his stock over, and go myself. As you
all seem to be in the same box, equally hard up, I don’t mind acting as
guide. We’ll be all the better for going as a strong party, as the
blacks are treacherous beggars and the tribes strong.’

‘The road, you say, is as bad as bad can be,’ said Hamilton. ‘I suppose
the good country makes up for it when you get there?’

‘I’ve seen all the best part of New South Wales,’ said the explorer. ‘I
never saw anything that was a patch on it before. Open forest country,
rivers running from the Snowy Mountains to the sea, splendid lakes, and
a regular rainfall.’

‘The last is better than all,’ said Hamilton. ‘One feels tired of
working up to a decent thing, and then having it knocked down by a
change of season. I, for one, will take the plunge. I am ready to start
at once for this interesting country, where the rivers don’t dry up, the
grass grows at least once a year, and rain is not a triennial
phenomenon.’

‘The same here!—and—I, and I,’ came from the other proprietors.

‘I suppose there’s room enough for all of us; we needn’t tread on each
other’s toes when we reach the land of promise?’ said Ardmillan.

‘Enough for the whole district of Yass and something to spare,’ said
their guest. ‘I was only over a portion of it, but I could see no end of
open country from the hill-tops. It’s a place that will bear heavy
stocking—thickly grassed and no waste country to speak of. After you
leave the mountains, which are barren and rough enough, you drop down
all of a sudden upon thinly-timbered downs—marshy in places, but grass
up to your eyes everywhere.’

‘I like that notion of marshes,’ said Fred Churbett pensively. ‘I feel
as I should enjoy the melody of the cheerful frog again. His voice has
been so long silent in the land that I should hail him as a species of
nightingale, always supposing that he was girt by his proper
surroundings of the “sword-grass and the oat-grass and the bulrush by
the pool.”’

‘How was it you managed to drop across this delightful province,
Warleigh?’ said Wilfred. ‘I should like to hear, if you don’t mind
telling us, how you crossed the mountains towards the south. Old Tom and
Dick Evans said they were inaccessible; that there was no good country
between them and the coast.’

‘Old Tom knew better,’ said their guest quietly. ‘We had a long talk the
last time I was at Warbrok; he said then if any one could find a road
for cattle the other side of the Snowy River, after you pass
Wahgulmerang, he was dead certain there was any amount of fine country
beyond, between it and the coast.’

‘How did he get to know?’

‘It seems he was stock-keeping once on one of the farthest out runs, and
a mate of his, who was “wanted” for some cross work or other, came along
and asked him to put him away for a bit, till the police got tired of
hunting him. The old man gave him some rations, and told him of a track
through the gullies, which took him to the leading spur, by which, of
course, he could get on to the table land. Only an odd white man or so
had ever been there. After a week he got “tired of looking at forty
thousand blooming mountains” (as he told Tom afterwards), and being a
resolute chap, with gun and ammunition, he thought he would make in
towards the coast. Anyhow he was away all the winter. When he came back
he told Tom that he had dropped in with a small tribe of blacks, who had
taken to him. They spent the winter by the side of a great lake, fishing
and hunting. There was plenty of fine grass country in all directions
when you got over the main range.’

‘And why did he come away from Arcadia?’ asked Argyll.

‘From where?’ asked the unclassical narrator. ‘No; that wasn’t the name.
It was Omeo. A grand sheet of water on a kind of hill-plain, with ranges
all round, and one tremendous snow-peak you could see from anywhere.
Well, he got tired of the whole thing—didn’t know when he was well off,
like most men of his sort—so he made tracks back again. Old Tom didn’t
believe all the story. But he thought afterwards that there must be
something in it, and that it would be worth while some day to have a
throw in and find the lake at any rate.’

‘Then we are to suppose that you made the attempt and succeeded?’ said
Ardmillan. ‘I confess that I envy you. But how did you manage by
yourself?’

‘You remember the day I left your place?’ said Gyp Warleigh, nodding to
Wilfred. ‘I felt so savage and ashamed of myself that I determined to do
something, or get rubbed out in the attempt. So I made through Monaro,
crossed the Snowy River near Buckley’s crossing, and made straight for
the foot of the big range. I was well armed, and had as much rations as
I could carry. I knew the blacks were bad, but I had lived with more
than one tribe, and thought I could manage them. I set myself to track
the man old Tom spoke of. Of course, I’m a fair bushman,’ he added
gravely. ‘I’ve never done anything else much all my life, so there’s no
great credit in it.’

‘Had you no compass with you?’ inquired Argyll. ‘No? Then I differ from
you in thinking there was nothing extraordinary in the adventure. Not
one man in ten thousand would have risked it, or come out with his
life.’

‘What does a man want with a compass who can see the sun now and then?’
asked the Australian. ‘He can steer by the lie of the country, the
course of the water, if he has the bushman’s eye. I tracked up the old
man’s mate, and found his first camp on the table land. It was easy
after that. He couldn’t help but follow the leading range. It wasn’t
such rough country after the first day. Game was plenty, so I lived
well.’

‘How about the niggers?’ asked Churbett. ‘I should have felt too nervous
to sketch or make any use of my opportunities. Fancy going to sleep at
night and thinking you mightn’t want any breakfast!’

‘I had a better chance than most men. I’m half a blackfellow myself in
the way of knowing their language and most of their ways. I did one of
their old men a service, and he taught me a secret that saved my life
more than once. Still, I didn’t want to run across them if I could help
it.’

‘I should have thought you couldn’t avoid them,’ said Hamilton. ‘They
are great trackers, and have eyes like hawks.’

‘I know that, but I could see their smokes a long way. I lay by during
the day and travelled late and early. One day I climbed a tree on the
top of a range, when I saw a cluster of snowy mountains, and on the far
side of them the waters of a lake. I had found Omeo.’

‘You must have felt like Columbus or Cortez gazing upon the two oceans,’
said Ardmillan. ‘What a grand sensation.’

‘Columbus discovered America, didn’t he? The other chap I don’t remember
hearing about. Well, I partly discovered Omeo, I suppose, and a bitter
cold morning it was. I crawled down to the shore, and before I got there
could see miles and miles of splendid open country, stretching away to
the west. There were no more mountains; and as I pulled up next day, on
the bank of a big river, I found myself surrounded by a tribe of
blacks.’

‘They slew you, of course,’ said Fred Churbett. ‘Lights half turn, and
slow music from the orchestra. What a dramatic situation! If they didn’t
do that, Warleigh, what did they do?’

‘It was a close shave, I tell you,’ said the hero of the adventure. ‘But
they had just lost a fellow of about my age; so they adopted me, as luck
would have it. I could patter their lingo a bit, for they talked a sort
of Kamilaroi, in which I could make myself understood. Anyhow I lived
three or four months with them, and wandered nearer the coast. The
country kept getting better, and the grass was something to see after
this brickfield of a place. Towards spring my friends drew back to the
Monaro side again, and one fine day I gave them the slip, and here I am
now, good for the return trip. All I can do for any of you in the way of
showing new country, you’re welcome to. I’m bound to Mr. Effingham and
his father first of all. I’m their man till the exploring racket’s
finished.’

‘Gentlemen,’ said Argyll, rising to his feet oratorically, ‘friends,
countrymen, and fellow-pastoralists, I feel assured that you are all
grateful for the unexpected turn our plans have taken, owing to the
valuable information conveyed to us this night by my gallant and
honourable friend, Mr. Hubert Warleigh. If he carries out his promise of
acting as guide to us as far as this fair unknown land, I know you too
well to think for one moment that he will be suffered to confer this
benefit upon us gratuitously, the power to do which he has acquired at
peril of his life. (Hear, hear.) I beg to move that every man present at
this meeting pledges himself to contribute in kind, say at the rate of
ten per cent of his number, with the object of forming a herd with which
Mr. Warleigh may begin squatting life in the fine district he has been
fortunate enough to discover.’

The proposition was carried by acclamation. Further suggested by Neil
Barrington, ‘that this meeting do drink Mr. Warleigh’s health,’ and Mrs.
Teviot appearing with the ‘materials,’ which included a bottle of
Glenlivet, the suggestion was forthwith carried out.

Mr. Warleigh quietly declined the cheering beverage, and after a mild
request that he would change his mind, no notice was taken of the
eccentric proceeding. When at a tolerably late hour Wilfred and Hubert
retired to the barracks, the greatest unanimity prevailed. They were
provided with a goal and a guide. Nothing could be more satisfactory.
From the first they would have a course, and when the difficulties of
the road arose, they could, as a strong and united band, overcome
ordinary obstacles, and protect themselves from known dangers.

On the following morning Wilfred returned to The Chase, having persuaded
his newly-acquired friend to accompany him, not, however, without some
difficulty.

‘You have no notion,’ he said, ‘how queer and strange I felt at Benmohr
last night. I am the equal of any man there by birth, yet I could see
that they were helping me not to feel out of place, knowing what they
did. I couldn’t help thinking that I was like a stock-rider that comes
in and stands twisting his cabbage-tree hat before the master and his
friends, when he’s asked if everything will be ready for the muster next
day, and if he’ll have a glass of grog.’

‘But, my dear fellow, you could never look like that; your
appearance—excuse me for alluding to it—gives you a great pull in
society. After all, how many men are there who have had every advantage
that education can give them, who chiefly hold their tongues, or say
nothing worth listening to when they do speak.’

‘Ah, but they understand things if they don’t talk; a poor ignorant
devil like me, when he hears matters touched on, as happened last night,
without any of them intending it, for they tried not to talk above me,
knows no more than the dead what they are at. I feel as if I could cut
my throat when it comes across me that, by other people’s neglect and my
own folly, I have lost the best part of my birthright.’

‘There’s time yet,’ said Wilfred, deeply touched by the sadness of the
tone, in which this grand stalwart cadet of a good house bewailed the
fate which had reduced him, mentally, to the condition of a
bullock-driver.

‘You are young enough yet for anything; there is time enough and to
spare for you to improve yourself. So don’t be downhearted. As I said
before, your looks and your family name will carry you through
anything.’

‘If I thought so,’ said the younger son, ‘I might do something, even
now, to mend matters. And you really think that a man of my age could
make himself as good at books as some of the men we have just met, for
instance?’

‘I _have_ known men beginning late in life,’ said Wilfred, ‘who passed
stiff examinations, and when they commenced they could do little but
read and write. Now you are steady and have full control over yourself,
have you not?’

‘God knows!’ said his companion drearily. ‘I won’t go so far as that;
but I haven’t touched a drop of anything since your father shook hands
with me at Warbrok, and I don’t intend, for seven years at any rate. I
knelt down as soon as I was out of sight, and swore a solemn oath
against anything stronger than tea. And so far I’ve kept it.’

Much surprised were all at The Chase when Wilfred and his companion rode
up, and after a hurried introduction, passed on together to the former’s
bedroom.

The young ladies endeavoured as much as possible to prevent themselves
from gazing too uninterruptedly at the interesting quasi-stranger; but
found it to be a difficult task.

In despite of the educational defects and social disabilities of Hubert
Warleigh, there was about him a grandly unconscious, imperturbable
expression, like that of an Indian chief, which suited well his splendid
figure and bronzed features. He quietly addressed his host and answered
a few questions with but little change of countenance, and it was only
after an unusually playful sally on the part of Annabel that he relaxed
into a frank smile, which showed an unblemished set of teeth, under his
drooping moustache.

‘I feel as if he had been taken in battle, and we were holding him in
captivity,’ said that sportive maiden, after the girls had retired to
Mrs. Effingham’s room for their final talk.

                 ‘All stern of look and strong of limb
                   The chieftain gazed around;
                 And silently they looked on him
                   As on a lion bound.

He has just that sort of air—very picturesque, of course—for he is the
handsomest man I ever saw; don’t you think so, Rosamond? I suppose he
can read and write? What a cruel shame to have brought him up like that?
Fancy Selden reared in such a way, mamma?’

‘I can hardly fancy such a thing, my dear imaginative child,’ said the
mother. ‘But how thankful we ought to be that we have been able to keep
dear Selden at school, even in this trying time.’

Mr. Effingham, who attributed the change which had taken place in Hubert
Warleigh’s habits in some measure to his own exhortation, was very
pleased and proud. He welcomed the young man into his family circle with
warmth, and in every way endeavoured to neutralise the _gêne_ of the
position by drawing him out upon topics in which his personal experience
told to advantage.

He constrained him to repeat the tale of his exploration, and dwelt with
great interest upon his sojourn with the blacks, which, he said,
deserved a place in one of Fenimore Cooper’s novels.

Annabel wanted to know whether there were any young men in the tribe who
at all resembled Uncas. But Hubert had never heard of Chingachgook or of
his heroic son. Magua and Hawkeye were as unknown to his unfurnished
mind as the personages of the Nibelungen-Lied. So they were compelled to
avoid quotations in their conversation, and only to use the cheapest
form of English which is made. It was a matter of regret to these
kind-hearted people when they made any allusion which they perceived to
be as the word of an unknown tongue to the stranger within their gates.
His half-puzzled, half-pained look was piteous to see. It was like that
of some dumb creature struggling for speech, or blindly feeling for a
half-familiar object.

To the artless benevolence of youth it would have been interesting to
remedy the deficiencies of a nature originally rich and receptive, but
void and barren from lack of ordinary culture. Mrs. Effingham, however,
compelled to regard things from a matron’s point of view, was not sorry
to think that this picturesque, neglected orphan would in a few days
quit their abode for a long journey.

As the time drew near, and preparations were proceeded with, a great
sadness commenced to overspread The Chase. Wilfred had never been absent
for any lengthened period before, nor Guy for more than a week under any
pretence whatever. He was frantic with delight at the change of plan.

‘I’m so glad that “Gyp” Warleigh is going with us, even if he hadn’t
found this new district. Dick says he’s the best bushman in the country,
and can go straight through a scrub and come out right the other side,
without sun or compass or anything, just like a blackfellow. You see
what a place I’ll have across the mountains after a year or two.’

‘I wish it was not so far and so dangerous, my child, as I am sure it
must be,’ said Mrs. Effingham, stroking the boy’s fair brow, as she
looked sadly at the eager face, bright with the unquestioning hopes of
youth. ‘You will enjoy the travel and adventure and even the risk, but
think how anxious your poor mother and sisters will be!’

‘Oh, I’ll write by every chance,’ said Guy, anxious as a page who sees
the knights buckle on armour for the first skirmish, not to be deprived
of his share of the fray. ‘There will be lots of opportunities by people
coming back.’

‘What! from a place just discovered?’ said his mother, with a gentle
incredulity.

‘Ah, but Dick says if it’s half as fine as Hubert Warleigh calls it—not
that he’s a man to say a word more than it deserves—that it will be
rushed like all new settlements with hundreds of people, and there will
be a town and a post-office and all kinds of humbug in no time. People
move faster in Australia than in that slow old Surrey.’

‘You mustn’t say a word against our dear old home, my boy,’ said his
mother, playfully threatening him, ‘or I shall fear your being turned
into a backwoodsman, or at any rate something different from an English
gentleman, and that would break my heart. But I hope plenty of
tradespeople and farmers, and persons of all kinds, will come to your
Eldorado. It will make it all the safer, and more comfortable for you
all.’

‘Farmers, mother!’ said the boy indignantly. ‘What are you thinking of?
We don’t want any poking farmers there, taking up the best of the flats
and the waterholes after we have found the country and fought the blacks
for them. We can keep it well enough with our rifles. All I want is a
good large run, and not to see a soul near it except my own stock-riders
for years to come.’

‘You are going to be quite a mediæval baron, Guy,’ said Annabel, who had
stolen up and taken his hand in hers, the three hearts beating closely
in unison. ‘I suppose you will set up a dungeon for refractory vassals.’

‘I am sure he will be a good boy, and remember his mother’s teachings
when she is far away,’ said the fond parent, as the tears filled her
eyes, looking at the fair, bright-eyed face which she might never see
more after the last wave of her hand—the last fond, lingering farewell,
which was so soon to be.

Well it is for the young and strong, who go laughing and shouting into
the battle of life, as if there were no ambuscades, defeats, weary
retreats, or hopeless resistance. Well for the sailor boy, who leaps on
to the deck as if there were no wreck or tempest, fatal mermaid or dead
men’s bones, beneath the smiling, inconstant wave! They have at least
their hour of hot-blooded fight and stubborn resistance to relentless
Destiny. But, ah me! how fares it with those who are left behind,
condemned to dreary watchings, for tidings that come not—to sickening
fears, that all too soon resolve themselves into the reality of doom?
These are the earth’s true martyrs—the fond mother—the devoted wife—the
loving sisters—the saddened father. Theirs the torture and the stake,
sacrificed to which they are in some form or other, while life lasts.



                              CHAPTER XXI
                              A GREEN HAND


Matters were well advanced for the road. The thousand-and-one trifles
that are so easily forgotten before the commencement of a long journey,
and so sorely missed afterwards, were nearly completed under the
tireless tendance of Dick Evans. The three young men were chatting in
the verandah, after a long day’s drafting, when a strange horseman came
‘up from the under world.’

‘I wonder who it is,’ said Guy. ‘Not any of the Benmohr people, for they
have no time to spare until they come to say good-bye. I should say all
the other fellows were too hard at work. It’s a chance if Churbett and
the D’Oyleys will be ready for a fortnight. He looks like a gentleman.
It must be a stranger.’

‘It is a gentleman, as you say,’ replied Hubert Warleigh, ‘and not long
from home, by the cut of his jib.’

‘How can you tell?’ asked Wilfred. ‘He is a tall man and has a gun,
certainly, which last favours your theory.’

‘I see,’ said Hubert, ‘a valise strapped to the back of his saddle;
holsters for pistols, and top-boots. He is a “new chum,” safe enough;
besides, when he got to the slip-rails, he took the top one down first.’

‘You must be right,’ said Wilfred, smiling. ‘I used to disgrace myself
with the slip-rail business. Who in the world can it be? He has come at
the wrong time for being shown round, unless he wants an exploring
tour.’

The horseman rode up in a leisurely and deliberate fashion; a tall,
fresh-complexioned man, whose blue eyes and dark hair reminded Wilfred
of many things, and a half-forgotten clime. The lower part of the
stranger’s face was concealed by a thick but not fully-grown beard; and
as he advanced, with a look of great solemnity, and inquired whether he
had the honour to see Mr. Wilfred Effingham, that gentleman, for the
life of him, could not remember where he had set eyes upon him before.

‘That is my name,’ said Wilfred. ‘Will you allow us to take your horse,
and to say that we are very glad to see you? Guy, take this gentleman’s
horse to the stable.’

‘I thank you kindly. I believe that I have a letter of introduction
somewhere to you, sir, from an acquaintance of mine in Ireland—a
dissipated, good-for-nothing fellow, one Gerald O’More. I thought it
might be as useful in Australia as the writing of a better man.’

‘Gerald O’More was a friend of mine,’ said Wilfred coldly, with a frown
unseen by the stranger, busily engaged in unfastening his multifarious
straps and buckles. ‘There must be some mistake about the reputation.’

‘It’s little matter,’ said the stranger coolly. ‘There’s hundreds in
Ireland it would suit to the letter, and proud of it they’d be. Maybe it
was Tom Ffrench I was thinking of—but it’s all as one. It’s thinking he
was of coming out here himself, the same squireen.’

‘I wish to Heaven he had,’ said Wilfred, with so hearty an accentuation
that the stranger raised his head, apparently struck by the sudden
emotion of his tone. ‘There is no man living I would as soon see this
moment.’

‘So this wild counthry hasn’t knocked all the heart out of ye, Wilfred,
me boy,’ said the stranger, holding out his hand, while such a smile
rippled over his face as only a son of mirth-loving Erin can produce.
‘And so ye didn’t know your old chum because he had a trifle of hair on
his face, and he coming ten thousand miles to make an afternoon call. I
trust the ladies are well this fine weather, and haven’t had their
bonnets spoiled by the rain lately.’

Wilfred gazed for one moment at the now well-known features, the bright
fun-loving eyes, the humorous curves of the lips, and then grasping both
hands, shook them till his stalwart visitor rocked again.

‘Gerald, old man!’ he exclaimed in tones of the wildest astonishment,
‘is it you in the flesh? and how in the name of everything magical did
you ever manage to leave green Rathdown and come out to this burned-up
land of ours? But you are as welcome as a week’s rain—I can’t say more
than _that_. To think that a beard should have altered your face so! But
I had no more thought of seeing you here than our old host of Castle
Blake.’

‘True for you! What a brick he was! God be with the days we spent there
together, Will. Maybe we’ll see them again, who knows? Didn’t I find my
way here like an Indian of the woods? ’Tis a great bushman I’ll make,
entirely. And, in truth, there’s no life would suit me better. An
Irishman’s a born colonist, half made before he leaves old Ireland. Was
that your young brother that I used to make popguns for? What a fine boy
he has grown!’

‘Yes, that was Guy; he’s anxious, like you, to be a bold bushman. Let me
introduce my friend Mr. Warleigh, the leader of an expedition we are all
bound upon next week.’

‘Very glad to meet Mr. Warleigh, I’m sure, and I hope he’ll be kind
enough to accept me as a supernumerary—cook’s mate, or anything in the
rough-and-ready line. I’m ready to ship in any kind of craft.’

‘You don’t mean to say you would like to go with us, Gerald? We are
bound for “a dissolute region, inhabited by Turks,” as your illustrious
countryman expressed it. For Turks read blacks,—in their way just as
bad.’

‘Pardon me, my dear fellow, for the apparent disrespect; but you don’t
fancy people come out to this unfurnished territory of yours to amuse
themselves? What else did I come for but to work and make money, do you
suppose?’

‘Now I won’t have any explanations till I’ve shown you to my mother and
the girls. How astonished they will be!’

They were certainly astonished. So much so, indeed, that Mr. O’More
began to ask why it should be so much more surprising that he came than
themselves.

‘But we were ruined,’ said Annabel, ‘and would not have had anything to
eat soon, or should have had to go to Boulogne—fancy what horror!’

‘And am I, Gerald O’More, such a degenerate Irish gentleman that I can’t
be ruined as nately and complately as any ancestor that ever frightened
a sub-sheriff?’ (Here they all laughed at his serio-comic visage.) ‘In
sober earnest, I _was_ ruined, not entirely by my own fault, but so
handily that when the old place was sold there was nothing left over but
the lodge at Luggie-law, where you and I used to fish and shoot and
drink potheen, Wilfred, in cold evenings.’

‘Why not live there, then? I’m sure we were snug enough.’

‘Why not?’ said O’More—and as he spoke his features assumed a sterner,
more elevated expression—‘because I wouldn’t turn myself into a poor
gentleman, with a few hangers-on, and a career contemptibly limited
either for good or evil. No! I’d seen many a good fellow, once the
genial sportsman and boon companion, change into the lounger and sot. So
I packed my gun and personal possessions, put the lodge in my pocket,
and here I am, with all the world of Australia before me.’

‘A manly resolve,’ said Mr. Effingham, ‘and I honour you for it, my dear
boy. You find us in the midst of a disastrous season, but those who know
the land say that the next change must be for the better. You will like
all our friends, and enjoy the free life of the bush before you are a
month at it. Australia is said, also—though we have not found such to be
the case lately—to be an easy country to make money in.’

‘So I have found already,’ said O’More.

‘How?’ said everybody in a breath. ‘You can’t have had any experience in
money-making as yet.’

‘Indeed have I,’ said the newly-arrived one. ‘Why, the first day I came
to Sydney I bought a half-broke, well-bred colt for a trifle, and as I
came through Yass I exchanged him for the horse I am now riding and a
ten-pound note.’

‘What a wonderful new chum you must be!’ said Guy impulsively. ‘I’ve
heard of lots that lost nearly all the cash they had the first month,
but never of one who made any. You will be as rich as Mr. Rockley soon.’

‘Amateur horse-dealing doesn’t always turn out so well. But I always buy
a good horse when I see him. I shall get infatuated about this country;
it suits me down to the ground.’

The evening was passed in universal hilarity. Mr. O’More’s spirits
appeared to rise in the inverse proportion to the distance which
separated him from the Green Isle. Every one was delighted with his
_naïveté_ and resolves to do great things in the way of exploration. The
expedition he regarded as an entertainment for his special benefit,
declaring that if it had not been finally settled he would have got one
up on his own account.

As good luck would have it, the Benmohr cattle escaped from the
mustering paddock after they had been collected, and having ‘made back’
to fastnesses, which they had been permitted to occupy in consideration
of the season, took some days in recapturing. So that yet another week
of respite, to everybody’s expressed disgust but secret relief, was
granted. Besides, Fred Churbett was not quite ready—he seldom was—and
the D’Oyleys were just as well pleased to scrape up a few more of their
outliers. There remained then ‘a little season of love and laughter’ for
Mr. Gerald O’More to utilise in improving the acquaintance.

And he was just the man to do this. He won old Dick’s good-will by the
hearty energy with which he threw himself into the small labours
which, of course—for who ever knew an overland journey quite provided
for, or a ship’s cargo stowed away, on the appointed day of its
departure?—remained to be got through. He had devoted himself _en
amateur_ to the duties of third mate on the voyage out, and, being a
yachtsman of experience, entitled himself to the possession of a
certificate, should he ever require, as he thought seriously was on
the cards, to work his way home. In matters connected with ropes and
fastenings he showed an easy superiority. Sailors are proverbially the
most valued hands in Australia, from their aptitude to make the best
kind of bushmen. Their adaptiveness to every kind of labour, grounded
on the need for putting out their strength at the orders of a despotic
superior, is a fine training for bush life. Having nautical tendencies
superadded to recent experiences, Gerald O’More fulfilled these
conditions, and was rated accordingly.

‘He’s the makings of a fust-rate settler, that young gentleman is,’ said
Dick Evans. ‘He’s a man all over, and can ketch hold anywhere. He’s got
that pluck and bottom as he don’t know his own strength.’

His exuberant spirits by no means exhausted themselves during the labour
of the day, when in check shirt and A.B. rig he was in the forefront of
the drafting, branding, loading, or packing which still went on. In the
evening, after a careful toilette, he was equally tireless in his
society duties, and kept all the lady part of the family entertained by
his varied conversation, his songs, jokes, and tales of many lands. He
struck up a great alliance with Annabel, who declared that he was a
delightful creature, specially sent by Providence to raise their spirits
in this trying hour.

It was well enough to talk lightly of the Great Expedition, but as the
day approached for the actual setting out of the Crusade, deep gloom
settled upon the inmates of The Chase.

Wilfred Effingham had never before quitted home upon any more
danger-seeming journey than a continental trip or a run over to Ireland.
He was passionately devoted to his mother and sisters, whom at that
period of his life he regarded as the chief repositories, not only of
all the virtues, but of all the ‘fine shades’ of the higher feminine
character. By no means deficient of natural admiration for the unrelated
daughters of Eve, he regarded his sisters with a love such as only that
relation can furnish. With them he was ever thoughtful, fond, and
chivalrous. For their comfort and advantage he was capable of any
sacrifice. Rosamond, nearest to him in age, had been from childhood his
close companion, and for her he would have laid down his life. These
feelings were reciprocated to the fullest extent.

And now he was going away—the dutiful son, the fond brother, the kindly,
cheerful companion—away on a hazardous journey into an unknown,
barbarous region, exposed to the dangers of Australian forest wayfaring.
Guy, too, was on the march—the frank, fearless boy, idolised, as is the
younger son ofttimes, with the boundless love with which the mother
strains the babe to her bosom.

                    He was the last of all, yet none
                      O’er his lone grave may weep.

He was not the _very_ last, Selden and Blanche coming after, as was
pointed out to Mrs. Effingham, when her tears flowed at Selden’s
accidental quotation from ‘The Graves of a Household,’ for these lines
referred to one beneath the lone, lone sea, and even in the recesses of
the bushland mourning over his grave would be possible.

‘Oh, my darling,’ said the tender mother, ‘do not jest on such a
subject. How could I live were either of you to die in the wilderness?
Why did this terrible season come to rob me of my sons? But promise me,
promise me, both of you, as you love your mother, not to run unnecessary
risks. Danger, ah me! I know there must be, but you will think of your
poor mother, and of your father and sisters, and not needlessly court
danger. Guy, you _will_ promise me?’

‘Don’t be so frightened, mother,’ said the younger son. ‘I won’t go
running after risks and dangers. Why, it’s ten to one nobody gets hurt.
There are only blacks; and there’s no water to drown us, that’s one
consolation.’

When did generous youth perceive the possibility of danger until forced
upon him by sudden stroke of fate? ‘Whom the gods love die young’ is
true in one sense, inasmuch as they escape the melancholy anticipations
which cloud the joys of maturer life. For them trains never collide, nor
coaches upset; sword-strokes are parried, and bullets go wide; ships
founder not; disease is only for the feeble; they are but the old who
die!

Wilfred more truly understood the matron’s tender dread, and her
reasons.

‘Don’t fret, my darling mother,’ he said as he clasped her hand, ‘I’ll
look after Guy. You know he obeys me cheerfully, so far; and you know I
am pretty careful. I will see he does nothing rash, and he will be
always under my eye.’

‘Remember, dear, I trust him to you,’ said Mrs. Effingham, returning her
son’s fond clasp, but not wholly reassured, being of the opinion that
what Wilfred considered careful avoidance of danger other people
characterised as unflinching though not impetuous determination to get
through or over any given obstacle.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Off at last! The tearful breakfast is over. The long string of cattle
has poured out of the mustering paddock gates, followed by Hubert
Warleigh, with Duncan Cargill and Selden, who were permitted to help
drive during the first stage; Mr. O’More, in cords and top-boots, with a
hunting-crop in his hand, wisely declining a stock-whip for the present.
His horse bears a cavalry headstall bridle, with a sliding bridoon
rein—‘handy for feeding purposes,’ he says. He has yet to learn that,
after a week’s cattle-driving, most horses may be trusted to graze with
the reins beneath their feet, which they will by no means tread upon or
run off with.

A couple of brown-faced youngsters, natives of Yass, have been hired, as
road hands and to be generally useful, for the term of one year. These
young persons are grave and silent of demeanour; have been ‘among
cattle’ all their lives, and no exception can be taken to their
horsemanship. They afford an endless fund of amusement to O’More, who
forces them into conversation on various topics, and tries to imitate
their soft-voiced, drawling monotone.

Dick Evans drives the horse-dray, destined to go no farther than the
Snowy River, after which the camp equipment will be carried on
pack-horses, the road being closed to wheels. They are now being driven
with the cattle, accoutred with their pack-saddles and light loads to
accustom them to the exercise.

Dick has had a characteristic parting with Mrs. Evans, who saw him
prepare to depart without outward show of emotion.

‘Now mind you behave yourself, Evans, while you’re away, and don’t be
running off to New Zealand, or the Islands, or anywheres.’

‘All right, old woman,’ said Dick, cracking his whip. ‘You’ll be so
precious fond of me when I come back that we shan’t have a row for a
year afterwards.’

‘No fear; not if you was to stop away five year!’ retorted his spouse,
with decision. ‘Take care as I don’t marry again afore you come back, if
you hang it out too long.’

‘Marry away and don’t mind me, old woman,’ returned the philosophical
Dick; ‘_I_ shan’t interfere with the pore feller. Leave us the old mare,
that’s all. A good ’oss, that you can’t put wrong in saddle or harness,
ain’t met with every day.’

Here Mrs. Evans, seeing a smile on the faces of the listeners, began to
think she was occupying an undignified position. Putting her apron to
her eyes, with a feeble effort at wiping a few tears away, she solemnly
told her incorrigible mate that she hoped God would change the wicked
old heart of him, as wasn’t thankful for a good wife, as had cooked and
worked for him, and been dragged about the country all these years, and
now to be told she was worse than a brute beast! Here _real_ tears came.

‘The mare can hold her tongue, at any rate,’ quoth Dick; ‘and where’s
the woman you can say as much of, barrin’ Mrs. Wilson of Ours, as was
born deaf and dumb? But come, I didn’t mean to fret ye, and me on the
march. Give us a buss, old woman! Now we part all reg’lar and military
like. You know women’s not allowed with the rigiment in war time. Mind
you take care of the missus and the young ladies, and keep a civil
tongue in your head.’

With this farewell exhortation and reconciliation Dick shook off his
spouse, and walked briskly away by the side of the team. The cattle,
glad to feel themselves unchecked, struck briskly along the track.
Wilfred and Guy came up at a hand-gallop, and took their places behind
the drove. The first act of the migratory drama was commenced, with all
the actors in their places.

The first day’s stage was arranged to reach only to a stock-yard near
Benmohr. It was a longish day’s drive, but, being the first day from
home, all the more likely to steady the cattle. Having got so far, and
secured them inside the rails, with Dick and his team camped by the dam,
Wilfred left Guy in charge and rode over, with O’More and Hubert
Warleigh, to spend a last civilised evening at Benmohr. It was necessary
for the latter, now recognised as the responsible leader of the
expedition, to give Argyll, Hamilton, and the others instructions as to
the route.

A fair-sized party was assembled around that hospitable board. All the
men present had been actuated by the same feelings, apparently, as
themselves, viz. with a trustworthy person in charge of the camp, they
might as well enjoy themselves once more at dear, jolly, old Benmohr.

‘Hech! sae ye’re here to look at a body ance mair, Maister Effingham;
and whatten garred you to list Maister O’More, and him juist frae hame,
puir laddie, to gang awa’ and be killed by thae wild blacks?’

‘I suppose you wouldn’t mind _my_ being rubbed out, Mrs. Teviot,’ said
Hubert. ‘It’s only gentlemen from England that are valuable. Imported
stock, eh?’

‘Noo, Maister Hubert, ye ken weel I wad be wae eneugh if onything
happened to yer ain sell, though ye hae nae mither to greet for ye,
mair’s the peety, puir lady! But your hands can aye keep your heed; and
they say ye can haud ane o’ thae narrow shields and throw a spear as
weel’s ony o’ the blacks. They’ll no catch _you_ napping; but this young
gentleman will maybe rin into ambushes and sic-like, like a bird into
the net o’ the fowler.’

‘Then we must pull him out again,’ said Hubert gravely. ‘I hope you are
not going to be rash, Mr. O’More. See how you will be missed.’

‘I am aware, as I have not had the good fortune to live much in
Australia,’ said Gerald, ‘that I must be made of sugar or salt,
warranted to melt at the first wetting. But my hands have kept my head
in an Irish fair, before now; and I think half-a-dozen shillelahs at
once must be nearly as bad as a blackfellow’s club.’

‘They are deuced quick with the boomerang and nullah,’ said Hubert; ‘you
can hardly see the cursed things before they are on to you.’

‘And a barbed spear is worse than all the blackthorns in Tipperary,’
said Wilfred; ‘so look out and don’t cast a gloom over the party by your
early death. Mrs. Teviot, give me a parting kiss and your blessing, for
that _is_ the dinner-bell.’

‘Maister Effingham!’ said the old dame, in accents of such unfeigned
surprise and disapproval that all three men burst out laughing. ‘Eh,
ye’re jist laughin’ at the auld woman, ye bad laddie; but ye ken weel
that ye hae my blessing; and may the mercy and guidance o’ the Lord God
of Israel bring ye a’ safe hame to your freends and relations—my
gentlemen and a’, as I’m prayin’ for’t—and a bonnie day it will be when
we see ye a’ back again—no forgetten that daft Neil Barrington, that
gies me as muckle trouble as the hail o’ ye pitten thegither.’

At the conclusion of this farewell ceremony with Mrs. Teviot, who indeed
took a most maternal interest in the whole company, they hied themselves
at once to the dining-room.

‘So you are to join our party, Mr. O’More?’ said Hamilton. ‘You could
not have come at a better time to understand our bush life.’

‘Awfully glad of the chance, I assure you,’ said that gentleman. ‘It was
the hope of something of the sort that brought me out. If this affair
had not been on, I should have fancied I had been induced to come to a
new country under false pretences.’

‘Why so?’ asked Forbes.

‘Because you are all so unpardonably civilised. I expected to sit upon
wooden stools and eat biscuits and beef, to sleep in the open air, and
to be returning fire with my pistols as I came up from the wharf.
Instead of which (I will take turkey, if you please) I find myself here,
at The Chase, and half-a-dozen other houses in the lap of luxury.’

‘Oh, come!’ said Forbes deprecatingly, ‘are you not flavouring the
compliment a little too strongly?’

‘I think Mr. O’More comes from the Emerald Isle,’ said Ardmillan. ‘May I
ask if you have ever kissed the Blarney stone?’

‘Of course; all Irishmen make a point of it. It abates their naturally
severe tendencies. But joking apart, all you people live as well as most
of us in the old country. Wilfred here can bear me out. If claret was a
little more fashionable, I don’t see a pin to choose.’

‘There will be a change of fare when we’re on the road,’ said Fred
Churbett. ‘Who knows when we shall see pale ale again? The thought is
anguish; and those confounded pack-horses carry so little.’

‘But think of the way we shall enjoy club breakfasts, clean shirts,
evening parties, and all that, when we _do_ get back,’ said Neil
Barrington. ‘We shall be like sailors after a three years’ cruise. I
must say I always envied _them_.’

‘I think, if the company is unanimous,’ said Hamilton, ‘that we might as
well have a serious talk about the route. Captain Warleigh, as we must
now call him, will be off early to-morrow, so the greater reason for
proceeding to business.’

‘I was going to remind you all,’ said Hubert, ‘that we ought to agree
about our plans. It’s plain sailing across Monaro, though the feed is
bad until we come to the Snowy River. Of course, we all go on
to-morrow.’

‘Which way?’ asked Hamilton.

‘Past Bungendore, Queanbeyan, and Micalago. We cross the Bredbo and the
Eumeralla higher up, and go by the Jew’s flat, and Coolamatong.’

‘We shall follow in a couple of days,’ said Argyll.

‘And I in three,’ said Forbes.

‘You needn’t follow in a string, unless you like,’ said their guide;
‘the feed will be cut up if one mob after the other goes over it. All
the stock-riders hereabouts know the Monaro country, so you can travel
either right or left of me, as long as you fetch up at Buckley’s
Crossing, of the Snowy River.’

‘What sort of a ford is it?’ inquired one of the D’Oyleys.

‘It’s always a swim with the Snowy,’ said the captain, ‘summer and
winter, and a cold one too, as I can witness. But the grass is better,
though rough, after you cross, and we have an old acquaintance waiting
there to join the party. He knows the country well.’

‘Who the deuce is he?’ said Argyll. ‘We shall be well off for guides.’

‘Not more than you will want, perhaps,’ said the leader. ‘We’re not over
Wahgulmerang yet. But the man is old Tom Glendinning—and a better
bushman never saddled a horse. He has been living for some time at one
of the farthest out stations, Ingebyra, and wants to join us. He asked
me not to mention his name till we had actually started.’

‘So,’ said Wilfred reflectively, ‘the old fellow is determined to make
his latter days adventurous. I see no objection, do you, Argyll? He and
his history will be probably buried among the forests of this new
country we are going to explore.’

‘It cannot matter in any way,’ answered Argyll. ‘He will, as you say,
most likely never return to this locality.’

‘Many of the old hands have histories, if it comes to that,’ said
Hubert, ‘and very queer ones too. But they have paid the price for their
sins, and old Tom won’t have time to commit many more—if shooting an odd
blackfellow or two doesn’t count.’

‘Have we any more general instructions to receive?’ inquired Hamilton,
who was, perhaps, the most practical-minded of the party.

‘Only these: we must all be well armed. Pistols are handy, and a rifle
or a double barrel is necessary for every man of the party. We _may_
have no fighting to do; but blacks are plentiful, big fellows, and
fierce too. We must be able to defend ourselves and more, or not a man
will come back alive. After we cross the Snowy River, I shall halt till
you all come up; then we can join the smaller mobs of cattle, so as to
be close together in case of trouble. Everything will have to be packed
from the Snowy; so it will be as well not to take more than is
required.’

‘You are fully prepared for all the privations of the road, Mr. O’More?’
asked Argyll. ‘They may strike you as severe after your late life at
headquarters.’

‘That is the very reason, my dear fellow. You surely haven’t forgotten
that when you were at home you fancied all Australian life to be
transacted in the wilderness. I expected the wilderness; I demand the
desert. With anything short of the wildest waste I shall be
disappointed.’

‘That’s the way to take it,’ said Fred Churbett. ‘I had all those
feelings myself when I arrived, but I was betrayed into comfort when I
bought The She-oaks, and have hardly gone nearer to roughing it than a
trip to the Tumut for store cattle.’

There was a laugh at this, Fred’s tendency to comfort being proverbial;
though, to do him justice, he was capable of considerable exertion when
roused and set going.

‘Is this Eldorado of yours near the coast, Warleigh?’ inquired Forbes.
‘If so, there will be sure to be good agricultural land, and some kind
of a township will spring up.’

‘I believe there’s a passage from the lakes to the sea, near which would
be a grand site for a township. I hadn’t time to look it out. It gave me
all I knew to get back.’

‘What does any one want a town for?’ growled Argyll. ‘Next thing, people
will be talking about _farms_. Enough to make one ill. Are we going to
risk our lives and shed our blood, possibly, for the benefit of
storekeepers and farmers, to spoil the runs after we have won them?’

‘Don’t be so insanely conservative, Argyll,’ said Forbes. ‘Even a farmer
is a man and a brother. We shall want some one to buy our raw products
and import stores. We might as well give Rockley the office if we found
a settlement. _He_ would do us no harm.’

Here there was a chorus of approbation.

‘Of course I except Rockley—as good a fellow as ever lived. But he holds
peculiar views upon the land question, and might induce others to come
over on that confounded farming pretence, which is the ruin of
Australia.’

‘The country I can show you, if we reach it, is large enough to hold all
your stock and their increase for the next twenty years, with
half-a-dozen towns as big as Yass.’

‘If this be the case, the sooner we get there the better,’ said
Hamilton. ‘You start in earnest to-morrow, and we shall follow the day
after. I shall keep nearly parallel with you. Ardmillan comes next, then
Churbett, lastly the D’Oyleys. We shall be the largest party, as to
stock, men, and horses, that has gone out for many a day.’

‘All the more reason why we should make our mark,’ said O’More. ‘I
wouldn’t have missed it for five hundred pounds. I might have stayed in
Ireland for a century without anything of the kind happening. I feel
like Raymond of Antioch, or Godfrey of Bouillon. I suppose we shan’t
meet to drink success to the undertaking every night.’

‘This is the last night we shall have _that_ opportunity,’ said Argyll.
‘Here come the toddy tumblers. The night is chilly, but it will be more
so next week, when we are on watch or lying under canvas in a teetotal
camp.’

‘We can always manage a good fire, unless we are in blacks’ country,’
said Hubert; ‘that is one comfort; there’s any amount of timber; and you
can keep yourselves jolly in a long night by carrying firewood.’

Long before daylight Hubert Warleigh arose and awakened Wilfred. Their
horses had been placed so as to be easily procurable, and no delay took
place. The stars were in the sky. A faint, clear line in the east yet
told of the coming dawn, as the friends rode forth from Benmohr gate and
took the track to the scene of the last night’s camp.

When they reached the spot the sun had risen, and no one was on the
ground but Dick Evans, who was in a leisurely way packing up the camp
equipage, including the tent and cooking utensils.

‘Here’s the breakfast, Mr. Wilfred,’ he said cheerily; ‘the cattle’s on
ahead. I kept back the corned beef, and here’s bread and a billy of tea.
You can go to work, while I finish packing. I’ll catch up easy by
dinner-time, though the cattle’s sure to rip along the first few days.’

‘This is a grand institution,’ said Gerald. ‘I wouldn’t say a toothful
of whisky would be out of place, and the air so fresh; but sure “I feel
as if I could lape over a house this minute,” as I heard a Connemara
parlour-maid say once.’

‘Nothing is more appetising,’ said Wilfred, ‘than a genuine Australian
bush meal. A slice or two of meat, a slice of fresh damper, and a pot of
tea. You may travel on it from one end of the continent to another.’

‘He was a great man that invented that same,’ said O’More. ‘Would there
be a little more tay in the canteen? Beef and bread his unaided
intellect might have compassed; but the tay, even to think of that same
in the middle of the meal, required inspiration. When ye think of the
portableness of it too. It was a great idea entirely!’

‘Bushmen take it morning, noon, and night,’ said Warleigh. ‘The doctors
say it’s not good for us—gives us heartburn, and so on. But if any one
will go bail for a man who drinks brandy and water, I’d stand the risk
on tea.’

‘So I suspect. Even whisky, they do say, gets into the head sometimes. I
suppose you never knew a man to kill his wife, or burn his house, or
lame his child for life, _under the influence of tay_?’

An hour’s riding brought them to the cattle, which had just been
permitted ‘to spread out on a bit of rough feed,’ as the young man at
the side next them expressed it. A marshy creek flat had still remaining
an array of ragged tussocks and rushy growths, uninviting in ordinary
seasons, but now welcome to the hungry cattle. They found Guy sitting on
his horse in a leisurely manner, and keeping a sharp look-out on the
cattle.

‘What sort of a night had you?’ said Wilfred. ‘Were they contented?’

‘Oh, pretty fair. They roared and walked round at first; then they all
lay down and took it easy. Old Dick roused us out and gave us our
breakfast before dawn. We had the horses hobbled short, and were on the
road with the first streak of light. This is the first stop we have
made.’

‘That’s the way,’ said Hubert. ‘Nothing like an early start; it gives
the cattle all the better chance. Some of these are very low in
condition. When we get over the Snowy, they’ll do better.’

‘Shall we have a regular camp to-night,’ asked Guy, ‘and watch the
cattle?’

‘Of course,’ said Hubert; ‘no more yarding. It is the right thing after
the first day from home.’

‘And how long will the watches be?’ asked Guy, with some interest. ‘If I
sleep as soundly as I did last night, I shan’t be much good.’

‘Oh, you’ll soon come to your work. Boys always sleep sound at first,
but you’ll be able to do your four hours without winking before we’ve
been a week on the road.’

The ordinary cattle-droving life and times ensued from this stage
forward. They passed by degrees through the wooded, hilly country which
lies between Yass and Queanbeyan, all of which was so entirely denuded
of grass as to be tolerably uninteresting.

By day the work was tedious and monotonous, as the hungry cattle were
difficult to drive, and the scanty pasture rendered it necessary to take
advantage of every possible excuse for saving them fatigue.

At night matters were more cheerful. After dark, when the cattle were
hemmed in—they were tired enough to rest peacefully—Guy had many a
pleasant talk by the glowing watch-fires. This entertainment came, after
enjoying the evening meal, with a zest which only youth and open-air
journeying combined can furnish.

As for Gerald O’More, he examined and praised and enjoyed everything. He
liked the long, slow, apparently aimless day’s travel, the bivouac of
the night, the humours of the drovers. He ‘foregathered’ with all kinds
of queer people who visited the camp, and learned their histories. He
felt much disappointed that there were no wild beasts except the native
dog and native bear (koala), neither of which had sufficient confidence
in themselves to assume the offensive.

The next week was one of sufficient activity to satisfy all the ardent
spirits of the party. In the first place, the cattle had to be driven
across the river, the which they resisted with great vehemence, never
before having seen a stream of the same magnitude. However, by the aid
of an unlimited quantity of whip-cracking, dogging, yelling, and
shouting, the stronger division of the herd was forced and hustled into
the deep, swift current. Here they bravely struck out for the opposite
side, and in a swaying, serpentine line, followed by the weaker cattle,
struggled with the current until they reached and safely ascended the
farther bank.



                              CHAPTER XXII
                               INJUN SIGN


Having crossed their Rubicon, and being fairly committed to the task of
exploration, a provisional halt was called, and arrangement for further
progress made. One by one the other drovers arrived, and having
successively swum the river, guarded or ‘tailed’ their cattle until the
plan of campaign was fully matured.

Duncan Cargill was sent back with the team. The contents of the waggon,
which, in view of this stage, had been economised as to weight, were
distributed among the pack-saddles. Such apportionment also took place
among the other encampments. Dick Evans as usual distinguished himself
by the neat and complete manner in which he arranged his packs.

Wheeled carriages being impossible because of the nature of the country,
it is obvious that nothing but the barest necessaries can be
conveyed—flour, tea, sugar, camp-kettles large enough to boil beef,
billy-cans, frying-pans, quart-pots, axes, and the ruder tools, with the
blankets of the party, are all that can be permitted. Meat—indifferent
as to quality, but wholesome and edible—they had with them. Each man
carried his gun, on the chance of a sudden attack by blacks. It would be
obviously unreasonable to ask the enemy to wait until the pack-horses
came up, even supposing that guns could be safely carried in that
fashion. So each man rode with his piece slung carbine-fashion, and if
he had such weapon, his pistols in the holsters of the period.

Reasonable-sized, but by no means luxurious, tents were carried, in
which those who were off watch could repose, also as shelter against
rain, if such a natural phenomenon should ever again occur in Australia.

A few days sufficed to make all necessary arrangements, during which
Hubert Warleigh’s prompt decisions extorted universal respect.

‘The country is partly open, as you see, for another hundred miles,’
said he, ‘but after that, turns very thick and mountainous. The Myalls
will soon be on our tracks, and may go for us any time. What we have to
do, is to be ready to show fight with all the men we can spare. The
feed’s mending as we go on.’

‘Certainly it is,’ said Hamilton. ‘Our cattle are fresher than they were
a week since.’

‘My idea is to box the cattle into larger mobs, which will give us more
men to handle if we fight. We can draft them by their brands when we get
to the open country. The driving will be much the same and the men less
scattered about.’

‘A good proposal,’ said Argyll. ‘It will be more sociable, and, as you
say, safer in case of a surprise. But are you certain of an attack? Will
all these precautions be necessary?’

‘I know more of the Myall blacks of this country than most men,’ said
Warleigh gravely. ‘You see, we are going among strong tribes, with any
amount of fighting men. Big, well-fed fellows too, and fiercer the
farther you go south.’

‘How do you account for that?’

‘The cold climate does it and the living. Fish and game no end. It’s a
rich country and no mistake. When you see it, you won’t wonder at their
standing a brush to keep it.’

‘What infernal nonsense!’ said Argyll. ‘Just as if the brutes wouldn’t
be benefited by our occupation.’

‘They won’t look at it in that light, I’m afraid,’ said Fred Churbett.
‘History tells us that all hill-tribes have exhibited a want of
amiability to the civilised lowland races. In Scotland, I believe, to
this day, the descendants of a rude sub-variety of man pride themselves
upon dissimilarity of dress and manners.’

‘What!’ shouted Argyll, ‘do you compare my noble Highland ancestors with
these savages, or the lowland plebeians who usurped our rights? As well
compare the Norman noble with the grocer of Cheapside. Why——’

‘May not we leave the settlement of this question till we are more
settled ourselves?’ said Wilfred. ‘Our present duty is to be prepared
for our Australian Highlanders, who, as Warleigh knows, have a pretty
taste for ambuscades and surprises.’

It was decided that Wilfred and the Benmohr men should mix their cattle
and take the lead, followed by Churbett and the D’Oyleys, which, with
Ardmillan’s and Neil’s, would make three large but not unwieldy droves.
It must be borne in mind that five hundred head of cattle was considered
a large number in those primitive times, and that, although the road was
rough and the country mountainous, the added number of stock-riders
which the co-operative system permitted gave great advantages in
droving.

Fred Churbett and Gerald O’More struck up a great intimacy, dissimilar
as they were in temperament and constitutional bias. The unflagging
spirits and ever-bubbling mirth of the Milesian were a constant source
of amusement to the observant humorist, while Fred’s tales of Australian
life were eagerly listened to by the enthusiastic novice.

For days they kept the track which led from one border station to
another, finding no alteration from their previous experience of
wayfaring. But one evening they reached a spot where a dense and
apparently interminable forest met, like a wall, the open down which
they had been traversing. ‘Here’s Wargungo-berrimul,’ said Hubert
Warleigh, ‘the last settled place for many a day. We strike due south
now, towards that mountain peak far in the distance. A hundred miles
beyond that lies the country that is to make all our fortunes.’

‘Wasn’t it here old Tom Glendinning was to join us?’ said Wilfred.

‘Yes; it was here I picked up the old fellow as I came back, with my
clothes torn off my back, and very little in my belly either. He swore
he would be ready, and he is not the man to fail in a thing of this
sort. By Jove! here the old fellow comes.’

A man on a grey horse came down the track which led from the station
huts to the deep, sluggish-looking creek. Such a watercourse often
follows the windings of the outer edge of a forest, defining the
geological formations with curious fidelity.

A few minutes brought the withered features of the ancient stock-rider
into full view. He looked years older, and his eyes seemed unnaturally
bright. His figure was bowed and shrunken since they had seen him last,
but he still reined the indomitable Boney with a firm bridle-hand; and
not only did Crab follow him, but two large kangaroo dogs, red and
brindled as to colour, followed at his horse’s heels.

‘My sarvice to ye, Mr. Wilfred,’ he said, touching his hat with a
gesture of old days. ‘So ye were bet out of Lake William and the Yass
country at last. Well, ’tis a grand place ye’re bound for now. To thim
that gits there, it’s a fortune—divil a less!’

‘Very glad to have you again, Tom. I hope the country will bear out its
character. What a fine pair of dogs you have there!’

‘’Tis thrue for ye, Master Wilfred; they’re fast and savage divils—never
choked a dingo. ’Tis little they care what they go at, from a bull to a
bandicoot, and they’d tear the throat out of a blackfellow, all the same
as an old-man kangaroo.’

‘Formidable animals, indeed,’ said Wilfred. ‘Gerald, here are a couple
of dogs warranted to fight like the bloodhounds of Ponce de Leon.’

‘The situation is becoming dramatic,’ said O’More. ‘I shouldn’t mind
seeing the wild man of the woods coursed by these fellows, if we could
be up in time to stave off the kill. But what splendid dogs they are!
taller and more muscular than the home greyhounds, with tremendous
chests and shoulders—very fine drawn too. They must have a cross that I
don’t know of.’

‘Thrue for you, sir. I heard tell that their mother—a great slut
entirely—came from a strain of Indian dogs that was brought to Ingebyra
by the ould say-captain that took it up. He said it was tigers they
hunted in India.’

‘Polygar dogs, probably,’ said Wilfred. ‘There is a fierce breed of that
name used by the Indian princes; the packs, in their wild state, worry a
tiger now and then. However that may be, they are fine fellows. How did
you get them, Tom?’

The old man attempted a humorous chuckle as he replied:

‘Sure, didn’t they nearly ate the super himself last week, and him
comin’ in on foot after dark, by raison that his horse knocked up at the
four-mile creek. “Tom,” he says, “as you’re goin’ out to this new
country, you can take them two infernal savages with you. I’d a good
mind to shoot the pair of them. But the blacks will likely kill the lot
of you, so it will save me the trouble.” “All right,” says I, “my
sarvice to ye, sir. Maybe we’ll show the warrigals a taste of sport
before they have the atin’ of us.” So here we are—ould Tom Glendinning,
Boney and Crab, Smoker and Spanker—horse, fut, and dthragoons. ’Tis my
last bit of overlanding, I’m thinkin’. But I’d like to help ye to a good
run before I go, Mr. Wilfred, and lay me bones where ye’d have a kind
word and a look now and agen at the grave of ould hunstman Tom.’

The camp was always early astir. The later watchers took good care to
arouse the rest of the party at the first streak of dawn. Dick Evans and
Tom were by that time enjoying an early smoke. Hubert Warleigh, tireless
and indefatigable, needed no arousing. In virtue of his high office, he
was absolved from a special watch, as more advantageously employed in
general supervision of the party.

Argyll, wonderful to relate—

                   Whose soul could scantly brook,
                   E’en from his King a haughty look,

was so impressed by the woodcraft of this grand-looking, sad-voiced
bushman, that to the wild astonishment of his friends he actually
submitted to hear his opinions confuted.

As they plunged into the sombre trackless forest, where the tall
iron-bark trees, with fire-blackened stems, stood ranked in endless
colonnades, they seemed to be entirely at the mercy of their
lately-gained acquaintance. He it was who rode ever in the forefront, so
that the horsemen on the right and left ‘lead’ could with ease direct
their droves in his track. He it was who decided which of two apparently
similar precipices would prove to be the ‘leading range,’ eventually
landing the party upon a grassy plateau, and not in a horrible craggy
defile. He it was who gauged to a quarter of an hour the time for
grazing, and so reaching a favourable corner in time to camp. He saw the
pack-saddles properly loaded, apportioned the spare horses, and
commanded saddle-stuffing. Did a tired youngster feel overcome by the
desire of sleep, so strong in the lightly-laden brain of youth, allowing
his side of the drove to ‘draw out,’ he was often surprised on waking to
see them returning with a dark form pacing silently behind them. Did a
tricky stock-rider—for they were not all models of Spartan virtue—essay
to shirk his just share of work, he found a watchful eye upon him, and
perhaps heard a reminder, couched in the easily comprehended language of
‘the droving days.’

Before they had been a week on the new division of their journey, every
one was fain to remark these qualities in their leader.

‘I say, Argyll,’ said Fred Churbett, who, with Ardmillan and Neil
Barrington, had ridden forward from the rearguard, leaving it to the
easy task of following the broad trail of the leading herd, ‘how about
going anywhere with that compass of yours? Could you steer us as
Warleigh does through this iron-bark wilderness?’

‘I am free to confess, Fred, that it does good occasionally to have the
conceit taken out of one. You must admit, however, that he has been over
the ground before. Still, he seems to have a kind of instinct about the
true course when neither sun nor landmarks are available, which
travellers assert only savages possess. You remember that dull, foggy
day? He had been away only an hour when he said we were making a
half-circle, and so it proved.’

‘And the confounded scrub was so thick,’ said Ardmillan, ‘that I tore
the clothes off my back hunting up a pack-horse. But for the tracks, I
knew no more than the dead where I was.’

‘This half-savage life he has lived has developed those instincts,’ said
Churbett. ‘He could do a little scalping when his blood was up, I
believe. I saw him look at that cheeky ruffian Jonathan as if he had a
good mind to break his neck. Pity he missed the education of a
gentleman.’

‘He is ignorant, of course, poor chap, from no fault of his own,’ said
Argyll; ‘but he is not to be called vulgar either. Blood is a great, a
tremendous thing; though he doesn’t know enough for a sergeant of
dragoons, yet there is a grand unconsciousness in his bearing and a
natural air of authority now that he is our commanding officer, which he
derives from his family descent.’

That night they reached the base of a vast range, which, on the morrow,
they were forced to ascend; afterwards, still more difficult, to
descend. This meant flogging the reluctant cattle every step of the
downward, dangerous track. Above them towered the mountain; below them
the precipice, stark and sheer, three hundred feet to the granite
boulders over which the foaming Snowy rolled its turbulent course to the
iron-bound coast of a lonely sea.

Mr. Churbett and others of the party had a grievance against Destiny, as
having forced them from their pleasant homes to roam this trackless
wild, but no such accusation was heard from the lips of Gerald O’More.
His spirits were at the highest possible pitch. Everything was new,
rare, and delightful. The early rising was splendid, the droving full of
enjoyment, the scenery enthralling, the watching romantic, the shooting
splendid, the society characteristic. He made friends with all the men
of the party, but the chosen of his heart was old Tom, who discovered
that O’More had known of his old patron in Mayo. He thereupon conceived
a strong liking and admiration for him, as a ‘rale gintleman from the
ould counthry.’

Daily the old man recounted legends of the early days of colonial life,
and instructed him in the lore of the sportsmen of the land. So when the
cattle were ‘drawing along’ quietly, or feeding under strict
guardianship, Tom and he would slip off with the dogs, which generally
resulted in a kangaroo tail baked in the ashes for the evening meal, a
brush turkey, or a savoury dish of ‘wallaby steamer’ for the morning’s
breakfast.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Wilfred’s watch was ended. He was anxious enough to find his couch in
the tent, where he could throw himself down and pass instantly into the
dreamless sleep which comes so swiftly to the watcher. But he saw their
leader move off on his round, with his usual stately stride, as if sleep
and rest were superfluous luxuries.

The morn arose, tranquil, balm-breathing, glorious. As the cattle
followed the course of a stream through the still, trackless forest, a
feeling of relief, amounting to exhilaration, pervaded the whole party.
It was generally known that the outskirts of the wilderness would be
reached that evening—that ere another day closed they might have a
glimpse of the long-sought land of promise.

Every one’s wardrobe was in a dilapidated and unsatisfactory condition.
The horses were jaded, the cattle leg-weary, the men tired out, with the
dismal monotony of the wilderness.

The stage of this day was unusually short; indeed, not above half of the
usual distance. The leader, Hubert, wished the rearguard to close up, in
case of accidents. In the event of a surprise, they must have their
whole available force within call.

As is customary, there were dissentients. ‘Why lose half a stage?’ ‘Why
not send a scout forward? The wild men of the woods might, after all, be
peaceably inclined.’ This last suggestion was Argyll’s, who, always
impatient, could with difficulty brook the slow, daily advance of the
leading drove. The impetuous Highlander, who had not hitherto had
experience of hand-to-hand fighting with the wild tribes of the land,
was inclined to undervalue the danger of an attack upon a well-armed
party.

But Hubert Warleigh, in this juncture, showed that he was not disposed
to surrender his rights as a duly appointed leader. ‘I am sorry we don’t
agree,’ he said; ‘but I take my own way until we reach the open country.
As to the blacks, no man can say I was ever afraid of them (or of
anything else, for that matter), only I know their ways. You don’t, of
course, and I think it the right thing to be well prepared. Old Tom saw
a heavy lot of tracks yesterday—all of fighting men too, not a gin or a
picaninny among them. He didn’t like the look of it. We must camp as
close as we can to-night, and keep a bright look-out, or Faithfull’s men
won’t be all they’ll have to brag about.’

Argyll thought these were groundless fears; that they were losing time
by remaining in this hopeless wilderness longer than was necessary. But
he was outvoted by the others.

Meanwhile the first drove, after having been fed until sundown, was
camped in a bend of the sedgy creek, and the usual watch-fires lighted.
This spot was peculiarly suitable, inasmuch as the long line of an
outcrop of volcanic trap, which ran transversely to the little
watercourse, closed one side of the half-circle. This was not, of
course, an actual fence, but being composed of stone slabs and enormous
boulders, did not invite clambering on by the footsore cattle.

The other contingent was camped a short distance in the rear, in an
angle of the lava country, also thickly timbered.

With the lighting of the watch-fires and the routine attention to the
ordinary duties of the camp, a more tranquil spirit pervaded the party.
Argyll’s impatience had subsided, and, with his usual generosity, he had
taken upon himself the task of making the round of the camps, and seeing
that the order as to each man having his firearms ready, with a supply
of cartridges, was carried out. Fred Churbett grumbled a good deal at
having to take all this trouble for invisible or problematical savages.

‘By me sowl, thin, Mr. Churbett,’ said old Tom, ‘if ye had one of their
reed spears stickin’ into ye for half a day, as I had wanst, you’ld
never need twice tellin’ to have yer gun ready, like me, night and day.
’Tis the likes of me knows them, and if it wasn’t for Gyp Warleigh, it’s
little chance some of yees ’ud have to see yer friends agin.’

‘Don’t you think he’s frightening us all?’ said Gerald O’More, with a
careless laugh. ‘They must be wonderful fellows, by all accounts. They
have no bows and arrows, not even wooden swords, like Robinson Crusoe’s
savages. Surely they don’t hit often with these clumsy spears of theirs.
Warleigh’s anxiety is telling upon his nerves.’

Old Tom glared wrathfully into the speaker’s eyes for a little space
before he answered; when he did, there was an air of bitter disdain,
rarely employed by the old man in his intercourse with gentlemen.

‘Sure ye don’t know the man, nor the craytures yer spakin’ about, half
as well as ould Crab there. Why would ye, indade, and ye jist out of the
ship and with the cry of the Castle Blake hounds still in yer ears. It’s
yerself that will make the fine bushman and tip-top settler in time, but
yer spoilin’ yerself, sir, talkin’ that way about the best bushman
between this and Swan River, I don’t care where the other is. Take care
of _yerself_ then, Mr. O’More, when the spears begin flyin’, and don’t
get separated from the party, by no manner of manes.’

‘You may depend upon me, Tom,’ said O’More, with a good-humour that
nothing was apparently able to shake. ‘My hands were taught to keep my
head. I have been in worse places than this.’

‘Bedad, if ye seen a blackfellow steadyin’ his womrah to let ye have a
spear at fifty yards, or comin’ like a flash of lightning at ye wid only
his nullah-nullah, ye’d begin to doubt if ye iver _wor_ in a worse
place.’

‘There’s something in this country that alters the heart of an
Irishman,’ said O’More, ‘or I’d never hear one talk of a scrimmage with
naked niggers as if it was a bayonet charge at a breach.’

‘There’s Irishmen that’s rogues. I’m never the man to deny there’s fools
among them,’ said the old man sardonically. ‘Maybe we’ll know who’s
right and who’s wrong by this time to-morrow. My dogs has had their
bristles up all day, and there’s blacks within scent of us this blessed
minit, if I know a musk-duck from a teal.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

How fades the turmoil and distraction of daily thought beneath the cool,
sweet, starry midnight! As each man paced between the watch-fires,
gazing from time to time towards the recumbent drove, the silent, dark,
mysterious forest, the blue space-eternities of the firmament, a feeling
of calm, approaching to awe, fell on the party. High over the dark line
of the illimitable forest rose towering snow-clad pinnacles, ghostly in
their pallid grandeur. The rivulet murmured and rippled through the
night-hush, plainly audible in the oppressive silence.

‘One would think,’ said Argyll to O’More, as they met on one of their
rounds by a watch-fire, ‘that this night would never come to an end.
What possesses me I can’t think, but I have an uncanny feeling, as Mrs.
Teviot would say, that I cannot account for. If there was a ghost
possible in a land without previous occupation, I should swear that one
was near us this minute.’

‘Do you believe in ghosts then?’ asked O’More.

‘Most certainly,’ said Argyll, with cheerful affirmation; ‘all
Highlanders do. We have our family Appearance—a spectre I should
recommend no man to laugh at. But that something is going to happen I
will swear.’

‘What on earth _can_ happen?’ said O’More. ‘If it be only these skulking
niggers, I wish to Heaven they would show out. It would be quite a
relief after all this humbug of Warleigh’s and that old fool of a
stock-rider.’

‘The old man’s no fool,’ said Argyll gravely; ‘and though I felt annoyed
with Warleigh to-day, I never have heard a word against his courage and
bushmanship. Here he comes. By Jove! he treads as silently as the
“Bodach Glas” himself. What cheer, General?’

Hubert held up a warning hand. ‘Don’t speak so loud,’ he said; ‘and will
you mind my asking you to stand apart and to keep a bright look-out till
daylight? Old Tom and I and the dogs are agreed that the blacks are not
far off. I only hope the beggars will keep off till then. I intend to
get out of this tribe’s “tauri” to-morrow. In the meantime have your
guns handy, for you never can tell when a blackfellow will make his
dart.’

‘I shouldn’t mind going into half-a-dozen with a good blackthorn,’ said
O’More. ‘It’s almost cowardly to pull a trigger at naked men armed with
sharp sticks.’

Hubert Warleigh looked straight at O’More’s careless, wayward
countenance for a few seconds before he answered; then he said, without
sign of irritation:

‘You will find them better at single-stick than you have any idea of.
You are pretty good all round, but you can’t allow for their wild-cat
quickness. As for the sharpened sticks, as you call them, if you get one
through you, you won’t have the chance of saying where you would like
another. Don’t go too near the rocks; and if they make a rush, we must
stand them off on that she-oak hill.’

‘And what about the cattle?’ asked Argyll.

‘Let them rip. Blacks can’t hurt them much. They may spear a few, but we
can muster every hoof again inside of ten days. There are no other herds
for them to mix with, and they won’t leave the water far. I must move
round now, and see that the men are ready.’



                             CHAPTER XXIII
                       THE BATTLE OF ROCKY CREEK


‘By Jove!’ said Argyll, ‘this looks serious. I must get away to my fire.
We _must_ stick to his directions. I’m in good rifle practice; they’ll
remember me in days to come!’

As O’More shrugged his shoulders and moved off, a shower of spears
whistled through the air, while a chorus of cries and yells, as though
from a liberated Inferno, rang through the woods along the line of the
broken, stony country, though no human form could be seen.

The commotion created by this sudden onslaught, in spite of Hubert
Warleigh’s precautions, was terrific. The startled, frantic cattle
dashed through the watch-fires, scattering the brands and almost
trampling their guardians underfoot. Then the heavy-footed droves rolled
away, madly crashing through the timber, until the echo of their hoofs
died away in the distance. Several head, however, had been mortally
wounded, well-nigh transfixed in some cases. They staggered and fell.

At the first surprise of the onset, guns were fired with an instinctive
desire of reprisal, but no settled plan of defence seemed to be
organised. Then amid the tumult was heard the trumpet-like voice of
Hubert Warleigh.

‘Every man to his tree; don’t fire till you are sure; look out for the
rocks! Keep cool. We have only to stand them off for an hour. It’s near
daylight.’

His words reassured all. And a shot which came from his double-barrelled
rifle apparently told, as a smothered yell was heard from the cover.

‘Take that, ye murdtherin’ divils!’ said old Tom, who had crawled behind
a fallen log, and now raising himself, poured three shots from a gun and
a brace of horse-pistols into the enemy. ‘I seen one of ye go down thin,
and it’s not the only one we’ll have this blessed night.’

‘There’s number two,’ said Gerald O’More, as he rolled over a tall man
with stripes of white and red pigment, who had dashed out for an
instant.

‘Well done, O’More!’ cried Hubert, with a cheery ring in his voice.
‘Make as much noise as you like now, but don’t give away a chance. Look
out!’—as three spears hissed dangerously close—‘you’ll be hit if you
don’t mind, and——’

‘Hang the brutes!’ shouted O’More. ‘We could charge if we could only see
them. What do you think of it, Hamilton?’

‘We shall come out straight,’ said that gentleman, with his customary
coolness, ‘if we behave like disciplined troops and not like recruits.
Pardon me, O’More, but this impetuosity is out of place. If one of us
get hurt it may demoralise the men and give the blacks confidence.’

‘Never fear,’ said the excited young man. ‘It’s not the front rankers
that drop the fastest. By George!’ This half-ejaculation was elicited by
a spear-point which, passing between the arm and body, grazed his side.

‘I told you so,’ said Hamilton. ‘Why the deuce can’t you behave
reasonably! These imps of darkness can see us better than we see them.
How they are yelling in the rear!’

‘That’s to draw us off,’ said Gerald. ‘I won’t go behind a tree now, if
I was to be here for seven years. But that spear didn’t come far. It’s
one they throw with the hand—old Tom taught me that much; I’ll have the
scoundrel if I see the night out.’

A sustained volley along the line from the main body of stock-riders at
the rear, headed by Ardmillan, Neil Barrington, and Argyll, appeared to
have told upon the enemy. More than one dying yell was heard. The spears
were less constant, and though several blows and bruises had been
inflicted by thrown boomerangs and nullahs, no serious casualty had
occurred among the white men.

On the right wing of the advanced guard old Tom had ensconced himself
behind a huge fallen tree, which hid both himself and his dogs. These
last growled ominously, but took no further part, as yet, in the fray.

From behind his entrenchment the old man fired rapidly, from time to
time loudly exulting, as a death-cry rang out on the night air or a
spear buried itself in the fallen tree.

‘Throw away, ye infernal black divils!’ shouted the old man; and after
the cautious stillness it was strange to hear the reckless tones echoing
through the forest shades. ‘I’ll back the old single-barrel here against
a scrubful of yees—always belavin’ in a little cover.’

‘Tek it cool, full-private Glendinning,’ said Dick Evans, who had
advanced in light-infantry skirmishing order from the rear. ‘Not so much
talking in the ranks, and mark time when ye’re charging the inimy; it
looks more detarmined and collected-like—as old Hughie Gough used to
say. Please God, it’ll soon be daylight; perhaps they’d gather thick
enough then to let us go at ’em with the bayonet like.’

‘Maybe ye won’t be so full of yer pipeclay if ye gets one of thim reed
spears into ye—my heavy curse on them! Mr. Hubert says he catched a
sight of that divil’s-joynt of a Donderah; the thribe says he was niver
known to lave a fight without a dead man’s hair.’

‘He don’t know white men yet,’ said Dick, ‘’ceptin’ he’s sneaked on to a
hut-keeper. He’ll be taken down to-night if he don’t look out! Well
done, Master Guy!’

This exclamation was due to the result of a snapshot from Guy, who had
drawn trigger upon a savage, who, bounding forward, had thrown two
spears with wonderful rapidity, and bolted for his cover, his whole
frame quivering with such intensity of muscular action, that the limbs
were scarcely visible in the dim light. However, the keen eyes and ready
aim of youth were upon him; he reached the scrub but to spring upward
and fall heavily back, a dead man.

Although none of the whites had as yet been wounded, while several of
their savage enemies had been disabled or killed outright, still the
contest was unsatisfactory.

They were uncertain as to the number of their enemies, who, concealed in
the scrub, sent forth volleys of spears. Occasionally an outburst of
cries and yells arose, so fiendishly replete with hatred, that the
listeners in that sombre forest involuntarily felt their blood curdle.
For aught they knew, the tribe might be gradually surrounding them.
Indeed, an attempt of this kind was made. But it was frustrated by their
watchful leader, who charged into the darkness with a few picked men,
and drove the wily savages back to the main body.

On this occasion he had caught a glimpse of the giant Donderah, whose
cruelty had been a chronicle of the tribe.

‘I can’t make out where the big brute got to,’ he said to old Tom, ‘or I
should be easier in my mind. He’s a crafty devil, though he’s so big and
strong, and he has some superstition, they told me, about never going
out of a fight without a death to his credit. He knows about me, too,
though we never met. It wasn’t his fault that I got back alive. A black
girl told me that. They named him after the mountain. There’s not a
blackfellow from here to the coast that can stand before him, they say.
If O’More doesn’t take care, he’ll have him as sure as a gun. I have
half a mind to see if he has dropped flat in that stone gunya.’

It happened just then that one of the lulls, common in savage warfare,
took place. Hubert Warleigh flitted, noiseless and shadow-like, to
another part of the camp, lest a diversion should be effected in a
weaker spot.

Before changing position he gave instructions to old Tom, whose
practised eye and ear could be depended upon, and whose distrust of the
savage he knew to be proof against apparent security.

‘I’ll be back soon,’ he said, ‘for if Donderah did not fall back with
the others, we are none of us too safe. I’ve known him drag a man out,
with half a tribe close to his heels.’

Old Tom was much of the same opinion, for at the border stations tales
of the Myall blacks were told by the aboriginals employed about the
place. The exploits of the Titanic Donderah, ‘cobaun big fellow and
plenty boomalli white fellow,’ had attained Homeric distinction.

The old man peered keenly through the dim glades, and listened as he
bent forward, still sheltered by his tree, and resting one hand upon the
neck of the dog Smoker, whose low growling he strove to repress.

‘Bad scran to ye,’ he said, ‘do ye want every murdtherin’ thief of the
tribe to know the tree I’m under? Maybe _he’s_ not far off, and ye’re
winding him. I never knew yer tongue to be false, or I’d dhrive in the
ribs of ye. Ha, ye big divil!’ he screamed, ‘ye’re there afther all;
’twas a bould trick of ye to hide in that stone gunya. Ye nearly
skivered that gay boy from the ould country. Holy saints! sure he’s a
dead man now! Was there ever such a gommoch!’

This uncomplimentary exclamation was called forth by the apparition of a
herculean savage, who leaped out of the lava blocks of the rude,
circular miami—a long-abandoned dwelling-place, probably a century old,
and but slightly raised above the basaltic rocks of the promontory.
Starting up, as if out of the night, he flung two spears at the only
white man unsheltered. Like a diving seal he cast himself downwards, and
was again invisibly safe.

One of the javelins nearly made an end of Gerald O’More. It was from
such weapons, hurled with a sinewy arm, that the half-dozen cattle in
the camp had fallen. They found, next morning, that a spear, piercing
the flank, had gone _clean through_ an unlucky heifer, and passed out at
the other side.

However that may have been, Gerald the Dauntless was not the man to
remain to be made a target of. Rushing forward, with a shout that told
of West of Ireland associations, he charged the miniature citadel,
determined to kill or capture his enemy. Before he reached the
apparently deserted gunya, a dark form might have been observed by eyes
more keen for signs of woodcraft, to worm itself, serpentlike, along the
path which O’More trod heedlessly.

As if raised by magic from the earth, suddenly the huge Donderah stood
erect in his path, and with the bound of a famished tiger, sprang within
Gerald’s guard. The barrel of his fowling-piece was knocked up, and with
one tremendous blow the Caucasian lay prone upon the earth. His foe
commenced to drag him within the circle of the (possibly) sacrificial
stones.

But before he could effect his purpose, a hoarse cry caused the savage
to pause and falter. Hubert Warleigh, with his gun clubbed, was bounding
frantically towards the triumphant champion.

But the distance was against the white man, though his panther-like
bounds reduced the race to a question of seconds.

‘Hould on, Mr. Hubert!’ yelled old Tom, who had quitted his coign of
vantage, followed by the excited dogs, no longer to be restrained.
‘Sure, we’ll have him, the murdtherin’ thafe. The others is fell back,
since thim two dropped to Mr. Hamilton’s pay-rifle—more power to him.
Here, boys! hould him! hould him! Smoker! Spanker! soole him!’

The old man yelled like a fiend; and as the startled savage saw the grim
hounds stretching to the earth in full pursuit of him, he dropped his
prey in terror of the unaccustomed foe.

‘At him, Spanker! hould him, Smoker!’ screamed the old man, ‘tear the
throat of him. Marciful Saver! did any one ever see the like of that!
But I’ll have the heart’s blood of ye, if ye were the Diaoul out of h—l,
this—night.’

This mixture of religious adjuration and profanity from the lips of the
excited old stock-rider was elicited by another cast of the fatal dice.

As the brawny savage glanced at the dogs, which were rapidly nearing
him, and upon the powerful form of Hubert Warleigh, who bade fair to
challenge him before he could reach his covert, loaded as he was, he
unwillingly relinquished his victim. With a couple of bounds he reached
the gunya, where, crouching behind the largest boulder, he awaited the
attack. But it was not like Hubert Warleigh to leave the wounded man.
Stooping for a moment, he raised O’More in his arms, with a violent
effort threw him across his shoulder, and marched towards the
encampment.

As he half turned in the effort, the savage raised himself to his full
height, and, poising a spear, stood for a moment as if uncertain whether
he should expend its force upon the old stock-rider and his dogs or
against his white antagonist.

At that moment a yell from the main body of blacks showed that they had
been forced to retreat. He was therefore separated from his companions,
towards whom the wary stock-rider was advancing with a view of cutting
him off.

‘Look out!’ shouted the old man to Hubert, as he marked the savage take
sudden aim. ‘By——! he’ll nail you!’

At the warning cry Hubert swung half round, turning his broad breast to
the foe and shielding his unconscious burden as best he might. The wild
warrior drew himself back for an instant, and then—like a cloth-yard
shaft from a strong yew bow—the thin, dark, wavering missile sped only
too truly. Deeply, venomously it pierced the mighty chest, beneath which
throbbed the true and fearless heart of Hubert Warleigh. Freeing one
hand, he broke the spear-shaft across like a reed-stalk, and without
stay or stagger strode forward with his burden.

As the last battle scene was enacted, the dawn light struggled through a
misty cloud-rack, and permitted clearer view of the tragedy to the rank
and file of the expedition.

When the deadly missile struck their leader, a wild shout broke from the
whites, and a charge in line was made towards the stone gunya,
immediately in the rear of which the main body of the natives had
collected for a desperate stand.

As if in answer, a strange, unnatural cry, half human only, burst upon
their ears. They turned to behold a singular spectacle. Carried away by
his exultation at the triumph of his aim and his revenge upon the foeman
who had baulked him of his prey, the champion of a primeval race
lingered ere he turned to flight in the direction of his companions.

He was too late. The bandogs of destiny were upon him, grim, merciless,
with red glaring eyes and gleaming fangs. In his attention to his spear
he had forgotten to pick up his nullah-nullah (or club), with which he
would have been a match for any canine foe. A few frantic bounds were
made by the doomed quarry as the eager dogs looked wolfishly up into his
terror-stricken countenance. Another step, and the red dog, springing
suddenly, seized his throat with unrelaxing grip, while Spanker’s sharp
tusks sank into his flank, tearing at the quivering flesh as he fell
heavily upon the earth.

‘Whoo-whoop, boys! Whoop!’ screamed old Tom, breathless and excited to
the blood-madness of the Berserker. ‘That’s the talk. Worry, worry,
worry! good dogs, good dogs! At him Spanker, boy, ye’re blood up to the
eyes. Stick to him, Smoker, throttle him like a dingo. How the eyes of
him rolls. Mercy be hanged!’ he replied in answer to the protest of one
of the men. ‘What mercy did he show to Mr. Hubert, and him helpless,
with that gossoon in his arms? Maybe ye didn’t think of the harm ye were
doing, ye black snake that ye are,’ he continued, apostrophising the
writhing form, which the ruthless hounds dragged to and fro with the
ferocity of their kind; the brindle dog revelling in the dreadful
banquet, wherein his head was ever and anon plunged to the glaring eyes,
while the red hound held his fell grip upon the lacerated throat.

‘Maybe it’s kind father to ye to dhrive yer spear through any mortial
craychur that belongs to a strange thribe, white or black. There’s more
like ye, that’s had betther tachin’, so I’ll give ye a riddance out of
yer misery. And it’s more than ye’d do for me av ye had me lyin’ there
under the fut of ye.’

With this closing sentiment, nearer to recognition of a sable brother
than he had ever been known to exhibit, the old stock-rider raised his
gun. ‘Come off, ye divils! d’ye hear me, now?’ he said, striking the
brindle dog heavily with his gun, who then only drew off, licking his
gory lips and looking greedily at the bleeding form; while the red dog,
more obedient or less fell of nature, relinquished his hold at the first
summons.

‘Ye’ve had yer punishment, I’ll go bail, in this world, whatever happens
in the next,’ said the old man grimly, as he pulled the trigger of his
piece in a matter-of-fact manner. The charge passed through the skull of
the mangled wretch, who, leaping from the earth and throwing out his
arms in the death agony, fell on his face with a crash.

‘There’s an ind of ye,’ said the ruthless elder. ‘The blood of a betther
man will be cowld enough before the day’s out. Come away, dogs, ye’ve
had divarshion enough for one huntin’. Sure, they’re far away—the black
imps of Satan,’ he said, as he listened intently to a distant chorus of
wailing cries. ‘It’s time to get the camp in order. I wonder when we’ll
git thim bullocks agin?’

It was indeed time to comply with the old man’s suggestion. Leaving the
quivering corpse, the men turned away with a sense of relief, to
commence their less tragic duties. At the camp much was to be arranged;
all disorder was rife since the attack.

Huddled together were heaps of flour-bags, camp-kettles, and pannikins.
The tents were overthrown, torn, and bedraggled. The frantic cattle had
stampeded over the spot chosen with circumspection by the cook, as the
strewn débris of beef and damper witnessed.

The horses were nearly all absent—some hobbled, some loose. Not a hoof
of the horned herd was to be seen. Everything in the well-ordered camp,
so lately presenting a disciplined appearance, seemed to have been the
sport of evil genii.

Worse a hundredfold than all, beneath a hastily pitched tent, tended
with anxious faces by his comrades, was stretched a wounded man, whose
labouring breath came ever thickly and more blood-laden as the sun rose
upon the battlefield, which secured for the white man one of the richest
provinces of Australia. Yes! the stark limbs were feeble, the keen eye
was dim, the stout heart was throbbing wildly, or feebly pulsating with
life’s waning flame. Hubert Warleigh lay a-dying! His hour was come. The
hunter of the hills, the fearless wood-ranger, was helpless as a sick
child. The weapon of his heathen foe had sped home.

Argyll, Hamilton, Ardmillan, and the others stood around his rude pallet
with saddened hearts. Each voice was hushed as they watched the spirit
painfully quitting the stalwart form of him whom they had all learned to
know and to trust.

‘We have bought our country dearly,’ said Wilfred, as a spasm distorted
the features of the dying man and caused his strong limbs to quiver and
writhe. Over his chest was thrown a rug, redly splashed, which told of
the death-wound, from which the life-blood welled in spite of every
attempt to staunch it. Beside him sat Gerald O’More, buried in deepest
grief.

‘Better take the lie of the country from me,’ said the wounded man
feebly. ‘One of you might write it down, with the bearings of the
rivers, while my head keeps right. How hard it seems! Just made a start
for a new country and a new life. And now to be finished off like this!
The Warleigh luck all over. I might have known nothing could come of it,
but——’ Here his voice grew choked and indistinct, while from the
saturated wrappings the blood dripped slowly and with a dreadful
distinctness upon the earthen floor. A long pause. Again he held up his
hand. ‘It will take every man that can be spared to get the cattle and
horses together again. A week ought to do it; it’s easy tracking with no
others about. You can knock up a “break” to count through. Make sure
you’ve got the lot before you start away. Leave Effingham and Argyll
with me. I’ll tell them about the course; you’re near the open country.
I little thought when I saw it next I should be —should be—like this.’

They obeyed the dying leader to the last. All left the tent except
Wilfred and Argyll. The success of the expedition depended on the cattle
being recovered without loss of time. Though a monarch dies, the work of
this world must go on. Few indeed are they for whom the wheels of the
mighty machine can be stopped. Hubert Warleigh was the last man to
desire it.

‘It’s no good stopping to “corroboree” over me,’ he said, with a touch
of humour lighting up the glazing eye. ‘It’s lucky you haven’t O’More to
wake as well as me. You won’t laugh at blacks’ weapons any more, eh,
Gerald?’

‘Small laughing will do me for many a day, my dear boy. You have
forgiven the rash fool that nearly lost his own life and wasted that of
a better man? I deserve all I’ve got. But for you—cut off in the prime
of your days, how shall I ever forget it? Forgive me, Hubert Warleigh,
as you hope to be forgiven.’

Here the warm-hearted passionate Milesian cast himself on his knees
beside the dying man, and burying his face in his hands, sobbed aloud in
an agony of grief and humiliation. ‘Don’t fret over it, O’More,’ said
the measured tones of the dying man. ‘It’s all in the day’s work. People
always said I’d be hanged, you know; but I’m going off the hooks
honourably, anyhow. _You_ couldn’t help it; and, indeed, I was away when
you charged that poor devil Donderah. I’m afraid old Tom’s dogs mauled
him badly. But look here,’—turning to Wilfred,—‘you get a pencil and
I’ll show you how the rivers run. There’s the Bogong Range—and the three
rivers with the best country in Australia between them. When you come to
the lower lakes, you can follow them to the sea. There’s an outlet, but
it’s choked up with sand-bars. Somewhere near the mouth there’s a decent
harbour and a good spot for a township. It will be a big one some day.
Now you’re all right and can shift for yourselves. Effingham, I want to
say a word to you before I go.’

Wilfred bent over him and O’More and Argyll left the tent. ‘Come near
me,’ he whispered, in tones which, losing strength with the decay of
life’s force, sounded hollow and dull. ‘I feel it so hard and bitter to
die. I should have had a chance—my only chance—here, and as head
explorer I might have risen to a decent position. Such a simple way to
go under too. If that rash beggar hadn’t mulled it with Donderah I
should have been right. Some men would have left him there. But I
couldn’t do it—I _couldn’t_ do it.’

‘Old Tom and his dogs avenged you,’ said Wilfred. ‘They ate Donderah
alive almost, before the old man shot him.’

‘Poor devil!’ said the dying man; ‘so he came off worse than I did. Old
Tom wouldn’t show him much mercy. I shan’t be long after him. Hang it!
what a puff of smoke a fellow’s life is when he dies young. It seems the
other day I was learning to ride at Warbrok, and Clem and Randal coming
home from the King’s School for the holidays. Well, the three Warleighs
are done for now. The wild Warleighs! wild enough, and not a paying game
either. But I’m running on too fast about all these things, and my
heart’s going, I feel. Are you sure you’ve got the chart all right, with
the rivers and the lakes all correct—and the harbour——’

‘I think so. We can make our way to the coast now. But why trouble
yourself about such matters? Surely they are trifles compared with the
thoughts which should occupy your last moments?’

‘I don’t know much about that,’ said the stricken bushman, raising
himself for an instant and looking wistfully in his companion’s face.
‘If a man dies doing his duty he may as well back it right out. What
gave me the only real help I ever had? Your father’s kind words and your
family’s kind acts. They made a man of me. It’s on that road that I’m
dying now, respected as a friend by all of you, instead of like a dog in
a ditch or a “dead-house.” Now I have two things to say before I go. I
want you to have the best run. It’s all good, but the best’s the best,
and you may as well have it. I was to have my pick.’

Wilfred made a gesture of deprecation, but the other continued, with
slow persistence:

‘You see where the second river runs into the third one? The lake’s
marked near it on the south. There’s an angle of flat country there, the
grandest cattle-run you ever set eyes on. Dry, sheltered rises for
winter; rich flats and marshes for summer. Naturally fenced too. I
christened it “The Heart” in my own mind. It’s that shape. So you sit
down there, and leave Guy on it when you go home. He’ll do something
yet, that boy. He’s a youngster after my own heart. And there’s one more
thing—the last—the very last.’

‘Rest yourself, my dear fellow,’ said Wilfred, raising his head and
wiping the death-damp from his forehead, as his eyes closed in a
death-like faint. But the dying man raised himself unsteadily to a
sitting position. An unearthly lustre gleamed in the dim eyes, the white
lips moved mechanically, as the words, like the murmur of the
breeze-touched shell, issued from them.

‘I told you I loved your sister Annabel. When I looked at her I thought
I had never seen a woman before. Tell her she was never out of my head
for one moment since the day I first saw her. Every step I made since
was towards a life that should have been worthy of her. I would have
been rich for her, proud for her, even book-taught for her sake. I was
learning in spare moments what I should have known as a boy. She might
never have taken to me—most likely not; but she would have known that
she had helped to save a man’s life—a man’s soul. Tell her that this man
went to his death, grieving most for one thing, that he should see her
face no more. And now, give me your hand, Wilfred, for Gyp Warleigh’s
time is up.’

He grasped the hand held out to him with a firm and nervous clasp; then
relinquishing it gradually, an expression of peace and repose overspread
his face, the laboured breathing ceased. His respiration became more
natural and easy, but the ashen hue of his face showed yet more
colourless and grey. The tired eyes closed; the massive head fell back
on the pillow of rugs; the lower portion of the features relaxed; a
slight shiver passed over the frame. Wilfred bent closely, tenderly,
over the still face. The faithful spirit of the last male heir of the
house of Warleigh had passed away.

When the stock-riders returned that evening after the long day’s
tracking and heard of their leader’s death, many a wild heart was deeply
stirred. At day-dawn they dug him a deep grave beneath a mighty
spreading mountain ash, and piled such a cairn above him that no
careless hand could disturb the dead. As they removed his clothes for
the last sad robing process, two small volumes fell from an inner
pocket.

‘Ha!’ said Neil Barrington, ‘one of them is the book I saw him poring
over that day. I wonder whether it’s a novel? By Jove, though, who’d
have thought that? Why, it’s an old History of England. The poor old
chap was getting up his education by degrees. It makes the tears come
into one’s eyes.’

Here the good-hearted fellow drew his handkerchief across his face.



                              CHAPTER XXIV
                               GYP’S LAND


The cattle were tracked down and regathered without difficulty. In the
virgin forest no slot but their own could possibly exist. When they
quitted the scene of their encounter, the explorers passed into a region
of grand savannahs and endless forest parks, waving with luxuriant
grasses. Each day awakened fresh raptures of admiration. But the rudest
stock-rider never alluded to the ease with which they now followed the
well-fed herd, without a curse (in the nature of an epitaph) upon those
who had robbed them of a comrade and a commander.

‘A magnificent country,’ said Argyll, as on the third day they camped
the foremost drove on the bank of a broad river in the marshy meadows,
on which the cattle spread out, luxuriating in the wild abundance of
pasture; ‘and how picturesque those snow-peaks; the groves of timber,
sending their promontories into the plains; the fantastic rocks! It is a
pastoral paradise. And to think that the only man of our party who fell
a victim should be poor Warleigh, the discoverer of this land of
promise!’

‘The way of the world, my dear fellow,’ said Ardmillan. ‘The moment a
man gets his foot on the threshold of success, Nemesis is aroused. Poor
Gyp had been fighting against his demon for years, and had reached the
region of respectability. He would soon have been rich enough to
conciliate Mrs. Grundy. She would have enlarged upon his ancient birth,
his handsome face and figure, with the mildest admission that he had
been, years ago, a little wild. Of course he is slain within sight of
his promised land.’

‘We had all got very fond of him, and that’s the truth,’ said Hamilton.
‘He was the gentlest creature, considering his tremendous
strength—self-denying in every way, and so modest about his own
endowments. It was very touching to listen to his regrets for the
ignorance in which he had been suffered to grow up. I had planned,
indeed, to supply some of his deficiencies after we were settled.’

‘I should think so,’ said Fred Churbett. ‘I wouldn’t have minded doing a
little myself. I don’t go in for “moral pocket-ankercher” business, but
a man of his calibre was better worth saving than a province of savages.
Amongst us we should have coached him up, in a year or so, fit to run
for the society little-go; and now to think that one of these wretched
anthropoids should have slain our Bayard!’

‘What made it such a beastly shame,’ said Neil Barrington, ‘is that we
shall all get “disgustingly rich,” as Hotson said, and be known as the
pioneers of Gyp’s Land (as the men have christened the district), while
the real hero lies in a half-forgotten grave.’

‘Time may make us as unthankful as the rest of the world,’ said Wilfred.
‘We can only console ourselves with the thought that we sincerely
mourned our poor friend, and that Hubert Warleigh’s memory will remain
green, long after recognition of his services has faded away. It has had
a lasting effect upon O’More. The poor fellow believes himself to blame
for the disaster. I have scarcely seen him smile since.’

‘He’s a good, kind-hearted fellow,’ said Fred Churbett, ‘and I honour
him for it. He told me that he never regretted anything so much in his
life as disregarding Warleigh’s advice about the blacks. He said the
poor chap made no answer to some stupid remarks about being afraid of
naked savages, but smiled gravely, and walked away without another word.
Yet, to save O’More’s life, he gave his own!’

‘Whom the gods love die young,’ said Hamilton. ‘Some of us may yet have
cause to envy him. And now, about the choice of runs. How are we to
arrange that?’

‘We are now in the good country,’ said Argyll. ‘Towards the coast, we
shall all meet with more first-class grazing land than we know what to
do with. I think no one should be nearer than seven miles or more than
ten miles from any other member of the Association. I for one will go
nearer to the coast.’

‘And I,’ said Fred Churbett, ‘will stay just where I am. This is good
enough for me, as long as I can defend myself against the lords of the
soil.’

There was no difficulty in locating the herds of the association upon
their ‘pastures new.’ In every direction waved the giant herbage of a
virgin wilderness. There were full-fed, eager-running rivers, for which
the melting snow at their sources furnished abundant supplies. There
were deep fresh-water lakes, on the shores of which were meadows and
headlands rich with matted herbage.

Wild-fowl swarmed in the pools and shallows. Kangaroos were so plentiful
that old Tom’s dogs ‘were weary at eve when they ceased to slay,’ and
commenced to look with indifference upon the scarcely-thinned droves.
Timber for huts and stock-yards was plentiful; so that axes, mauls, and
wedges were soon in full and cheerful employment. Each squatter selected
an area large enough for his stock for the next dozen years, keeping
sufficiently close to his friends for visiting, but not near enough for
complications. In truth, the rivers and creeks were of such volume that
they easily supplied natural boundaries.

As for Wilfred and Guy, they carefully followed out the instructions of
their lost friend, until they verified the exact site of the ‘run’ he
had recommended to them. This they discovered to be a peninsula. On one
side stretched the shore of a lake, and on the other a deep and rapid
river flowed, forming a natural enclosure many miles in extent, into
which, when they had turned their herd, they had little trouble in
keeping them safely.

‘My word!’ said Guy, ‘this is something like a country. Why, we have run
for five or six thousand head, and not a patch of scrub or a range on
the whole lot of it. Splendid open forest, just enough for shelter;
great marshes and flats, where the stock are up to their eyes in grass
and reeds. When the summer comes, it will be like a garden. It rains
here _every year_ and no mistake.’

‘We are pretty far south,’ said Wilfred; ‘in somewhere about latitude
37—no great distance from the sea. That accounts for the climate. You
can see by the blacks’ miamis, which are substantial and covered with
thatch, that a different kind of dwelling-place is necessary, even for
the aboriginals. You will have to build good warm huts, I fancy, or the
winter gales and sleet-storms will perish you.’

‘You let me alone for that!’ said the ardent youngster. ‘We shall have
lots of time to work, as soon as the cattle are broken in and the
working bullocks get strong. Our drays must come by sea; but sledges are
all right for drawing split stuff. I shall build on that bluff above the
lake. We can keep a good look-out there for the blacks, that they don’t
come sneaking up by day or night. Oh, how jolly it all is! If I could
forget about dear old Hubert, I should be perfectly happy.’

‘I suppose we shall have to choose a site for the township.’

‘Township!’ said Guy. ‘What do we want with a beastly township? Two
public-houses and a blacksmith’s shop to begin with! The next thing will
be that they will petition the Government to survey some land and cut it
up in farms.’

‘Well, that’s true,’ assented Wilfred, smiling at his impetuosity; ‘but
we must not be altogether selfish. Remember, there is a good landlocked
harbour and a deep anchorage. A township is morally certain to be
formed, and we may as well take the initiative. Besides, we promised
Rockley to let him know if there was any opening for a mercantile
speculation.’

‘That alters the matter,’ said Guy. ‘I would black old Billy’s boots if
he was short of a valet—not to mention kind Mrs. Rockley, whom all the
fellows would walk barefoot to serve. I may be mistaken, but you’re
rather sweet upon Christabel, ain’t you? I’m not in the marrying line
myself, but I don’t know a prettier girl anywhere.’

‘Pooh! don’t talk nonsense, there’s a good fellow,’ said Wilfred with a
dignified air. ‘There are miles of matters to be thought about before
anybody—dark or fair. But you are right in your feelings about Rockley
and his dear, kind wife, which makes me proud of my junior partner. We
shall want somebody to buy and sell for us, to order our stores, etc.;
and as nothing can come from Sydney on wheels, we shall have to get them
from that new settlement they call Port Phillip, that we heard at the
“Snowy” they were making such a talk about. We can’t escape a town; and
as there is bound to be a chief merchant, we had better elect our own
King William to that high office and dignity.’

‘With all my heart,’ said Guy; ‘only you frightened me at first, talking
about a town. We haven’t come all this way—through those hungry forests
and terrible cold rivers, not to mention the blacks—to be crowded out of
our runs, for farmers.’

‘You needn’t be alarmed, Guy. Remember, this district is a very large
one. You will have twenty years’ squatting tenure, you may be sure,
before an acre of your land is sold.’

Guy was correct in his anticipations of the probability of there being
water-carriage before long. The surplus hands, who were paid off and
sent back to New South Wales, talked largely, as is their wont, about
the wonderful new district. Port Phillip, just settled, had a staff of
adventurers on hand, ready for any kind of enterprise. Within a few
weeks a brig, with a reasonable supply of passengers, did actually
arrive at the little roadstead, which had already been dignified with
the title of The Port. There was the usual assortment of alert
individuals that invariably turn up at the last new and promising
settlement in Australia,—land speculators, storekeepers, gentlemen of no
particular calling, waifs and strays, artisans and contractors. But
among the babel of strange tongues resounded one familiar voice, the
resonant cheery tones of which soon made themselves heard, to the great
astonishment and equal joy of such of the wayfarers as had assembled at
the disembarkation. Their old and tried friend, Mr. William Rockley,
once more greeted them in the flesh.

‘Well, here you all are, safe and sound, except poor Gyp Warleigh!’ said
that gentleman, after the ceremony of greeting and hand-shaking had been
most cordially performed. ‘Most melancholy occurrence—terrible, in
fact—heard of it at Port Phillip—all the news there, of course—very
rising place. Ran down in the _Rebecca_, brig—nearly ran on shore too.
Thought I’d come on and see you all; find out if anything was to be
done. Nothing like first chance, at a new settlement, eh? Queer fellow,
our captain; too much brandy and water. Catch me sailing with him after
we get back.’

Mr. Rockley added new life and vigour to the infant settlement. His
practical eye fixed upon a spot more suitable for a township than The
Port, which he disparaged as a ‘one-horse’ place, which would never come
to much. Indifferent anchorage, with no protection against south-east
gales. Might be made decent with a breakwater; but take time—time. A few
miles up the river—fine stream, deep water, and good wharfage. He should
run up a store, and send down a cargo of odds and ends at once. Fine
district—good soil, splendid climate, and so on. Must progress—_must_
progress. Never seen finer grass, splendidly watered too. You’ve fallen
on your feet, I can tell you. All through Gyp Warleigh too. Poor
fellow!—awful pity!

Mr. Rockley borrowed a horse, rode inland and visited the stations,
being equally encouraging and sanguine about their prospects. ‘_Can’t_
go wrong; lots of fat cattle in a year or two; make all your fortunes;
can’t help it; only look out for the rascally blacks; don’t allow
yourselves to be lulled into security; have a slap at you again some
day, take my word for it. Know them well; never trust a blackfellow;
always make him walk in front of you—can’t help using a tomahawk if he
sees a chance; keep ’em at arm’s length—no cruelty—but make ’em keep
their distance. Glorious rains at Yass and all over New South Wales.
Season changed with a vengeance! Stock rising like mad; ewes two guineas
a head and not to be got. Cattle, horses, snapped up the moment they’re
offered. Everybody wild to bring stock overland to Port Phillip. By
Jove! that _is_ a wonderful place if you like; fine harbour—make
half-a-dozen of Sydney—thirty miles from the Heads to the town. Not so
picturesque of course; but splendid open country, plains, forests, and
fertile land right up to the town. Great place by and by. Nothing but
speculation, champagne, and kite-flying at present. Bought town
allotments; buy some more as we go back. You’d better pick up two or
three corner lots, Wilfred, my boy. Money? Never mind _that_! I’ll find
the cash. Your security’s first-rate now, I can tell you.’

And so their guest rattled on, brimful of great ideas, large
investments, and goodwill to all men, as of yore.

Wilfred, who had indeed now no particular reason for remaining, but on
the contrary many motives to draw him towards The Chase, was only too
glad to avail himself of a passage in the _Rebecca_, the truculent
captain notwithstanding. That worthy, who appeared to be a compound of
sailor and smuggler, with a dash of pirate, swaggered about the beach
for a few days, and after a comprehensive carouse with such of his late
passengers as he could induce to join him, announced his intention of
sailing next day—and did so.

Arrived at Melbourne, as the infant city had just been christened,
Wilfred was astonished at the life and excitement everywhere
discernible. On the flats bordering the river Yarra Yarra had been
hastily erected a medley of huts, cottages, and tents, in which resided
a miscellaneous rout of settlers, storekeepers, speculators,
auctioneers, publicans, Government officials, artisans, and labourers.

He witnessed for the first time the initial stage of urban colonisation.
What he chiefly wondered at was the restless energy, the sanguine
spirits, the dauntless courage of the miscellaneous host employed in
founding the southern metropolis.

The situation had been well chosen. The river which bisected the baby
city, though not broad, was yet clear, deep, and, as its aboriginal name
implied, ‘ever flowing.’ Large vessels were compelled to remain in the
bay, but coasters came up the river and discharged on the banks of the
natural basin, which had decided the site of the town.

Around—afar—stretching even to the distant horizon, were broad plains,
park-like forests, hill and dale. The soil was rich for the most part;
while a far blue range to the north-east pointed to an untried region,
beyond which might lie (ay, and _did_ lie) treasures yet undreamed of.

‘All truly wonderful,’ said Wilfred. ‘The world is a large place, as the
little bird said. We have got outside of our garden wall with a
vengeance. How slow it seems of us to have been sitting still at Lake
William, ignorant of this grand country, only five hundred miles off—not
to mention “Gyp’s Land.” I wonder if this will ever be much of a town.
It is a long way from Sydney, which must always be the seat of
Government.’

‘Will it be much of a place?’ echoed Rockley in a half-amused,
meditative way. ‘I am inclined to think it will. Let us ask this
gentleman. How do you do, Mr. Fawkner?’ he said, shaking hands with a
brisk, energetic personage, who came bustling along the river-bank.
‘Fine weather. Thriving settlement this of yours. My friend is doubting
whether it will ever come to much. Thinks it too far from Sydney.’

‘What!’ said the little man, who, dressed in corduroy trousers, with a
buff waistcoat and long-skirted coat, looked like an Australian edition
of Cobbett. ‘Will it prosper? Why, sir, it will be the metropolis of the
South—the London of this New Britain, sir! Nothing can stay its
progress. Tasmania, where I came from, possesses a glorious climate and
fine soil, but no extent, sir, no scope. New South Wales has fine soil,
boundless territory, but eccentric climate. In Port Phillip, sir, below
35 south latitude, you have climate, soil, and extent of territory
combined.’

Here the little man struck his stick into the damp, black soil with such
energy that he could hardly pull it out again.

‘I agree with you,’ said Rockley good-humouredly, smiling at Fawkner’s
vehemence as if he, personally, were the most imperturbable of men. ‘But
you won’t get the Sydney officials to do much for you for years to come.
Five hundred miles is a long way from the seat of Government.’

‘Cut the painter, sir, if they neglect us,’ said the pioneer democrat.
‘We shall soon be big enough to govern ourselves. Seen the first number
of the _Port Phillip Patriot_? Here it is—printed with my own hands
yesterday.’

Mr. Fawkner put his hand into a pocket of the long-skirted coat, and
produced a very small, neatly printed broadsheet, in which the
editorials and local news struggled amid a crowd of advertisements of
auctions, notices of land sales, and other financial assignations.

‘And now, gentlemen, I must bid you good-bye,’ said the little man.
‘Canvassing for subscriptions to build a wooden bridge across the Yarra.
Cost a lot of money, but must be done—must be done. Large trade with
South Yarra—lime, timber, firewood—shortest way to the bay too.’

‘Put us down for five pounds,’ said Rockley. ‘It will improve the value
of the corner allotments we intend to buy—won’t it, Wilfred? Good-bye.’

‘Wonderful man that,’ said Rockley; ‘shrewd, energetic, rather too fond
of politics. Came over in the first vessel from Van Diemen’s Land. He
and Batman thought they were going to divide all this country between
them. You see that clear hill over there? They say that’s where Batman
stood when he said, “All that I see is mine, and all that I don’t see.”’

‘Very good,’ said Wilfred. ‘Grand conception of the true adventurer. And
were his aspirations fulfilled?’

‘Well, he bought all the land hereabouts—a few millions of acres—from
blackfellows who called themselves chiefs. The other colonists disputed
his royalty. The Government backed them up, and sent a superintendent to
reign over them. However, he will do very well. Who’s this tall man
coming along? St. Maur, as I’m a living sinner!’

And that gentleman it turned out to be, extremely well-dressed, and
sauntering about as if in Bond Street. His greeting, however, was most
cordial, and smacked more of the wilderness than of the _pavé_.

‘By Jove!’ he said, ‘you here, Rockley? I was just thinking of you and
Effingham. Can’t say how glad I am. Come into my miami. What a pity you
couldn’t have a throw in! Lots of money to be made. Made some myself
already.’

‘Daresay,’ said Rockley. ‘You’re pretty quick when there’s a spec. on
hand. What have you been about?’

‘Mixed herd of cattle. Turned overlander, as they call it here; brought
over one on my own account, and another that I picked up on the road.
Just going over to see Howie’s horses sold. I want a hack. You come and
lunch with me and Dutton and Tom Carne. We’re over at “The Lamb”—some
fellows from Adelaide there.’

‘Certainly,’ said Rockley, always ready for anything in the way of
speculation or enterprise. ‘Nothing better to do; and, by the way,
Effingham, _we_ shall want horses for riding home; for, as for going
back with that atrocious, reckless, buccaneering ruffian, I’ll see him
d——d first!’

Here the sentence, ending with more force than elegance, merged in the
loud ringing of an auctioneer’s bell in close proximity to a large
stock-yard at the corner of Bourke and Swanston Streets, near where a
seductive soft-goods establishment now stands.

The yard contained over a hundred head of horses, which were permitted
to run out one at a time, when, being completely encircled by the crowd,
they remained confused, if not quieted, until their fate was decided.

An upstanding, unbroken grey filly happened to be separated just as they
arrived—

                 And struggling fiercely, but in vain,
                 And snorting with erected mane.

The desert-born was on the point of being knocked down for fifty pounds,
when Wilfred, infected by the extravagance of the day, bid another
pound. She finally became his at the low price of sixty guineas.

‘She’s very green,’ said St. Maur; ‘just haltered, I should say.
However, she has plenty of condition, and if you are going a journey,
will be quiet enough in a week.’

‘I like her looks,’ said Wilfred. ‘It’s an awful price; but stock have
risen so, that we shall reap the advantage in another shape. But for
Rockley I should have gone back by sea.’

‘I never consider a few pounds,’ said that gentleman, ‘where my life’s
concerned. I can just tell you, sir, that, in my opinion, the _Rebecca_
is more than likely never to see Sydney at all if bad weather comes on.
I shall buy that brown cob.’

After the cob had been bought, and a handsome chestnut by St. Maur, the
friends strolled up to the famous Lamb Inn, long disestablished, like
the cafés of the Quartier Latin, and there met with certain choice
spirits, also rejoicing in the designation of ‘overlanders.’ They seemed
on terms of intimacy with St. Maur, and cordially greeted his two
friends. One and all had been lately concerned in large stock
transactions—had been equally fortunate in their sales. Apparently they
were minded to indemnify themselves for the perils of the waste by a
full measure of such luxuries as the infant city afforded.

‘Great place this Melbourne, St. Maur,’ said a tall man with bushy
whiskers. ‘Decomposed basaltic formation, with an outcrop of empty
champagne bottles. I saw a heap opposite Northcott’s office yesterday
like a glass-blower’s débris. As fast as they emptied them they threw
them out of the window. Accumulation in time—you know.’

‘Northcott does a great business in allotments and house property,’ said
St. Maur; ‘but it can’t last for ever. Too much of that champagne
element. But what’s become of Warden—he was to have been here?’

‘Forgot about the hour, I daresay,’ said the man with the whiskers.
‘Most absent fellow I know. Remember what he said to the Governor’s wife
at Adelaide? She asked him at dinner what he would take. Joe looked up
from a dream (not of fair women, but of drovers and dealers), and
thinking of the cattle he had just brought over, replied, “Six pounds a
head all round, and the calves given in!”’

Mr. Joe Warden, blue-eyed and fair-haired as Cedric the Saxon, long
afterwards famed as the most daring and successful of the explorers of
that historic period, shortly joined them, apologising for his
unpunctuality by declaring that he had bought two corner allotments and
a flock of ewes within the last ten minutes.

‘This is the kingdom of unlimited loo as applied to real estate—the
region of golden opportunity, you see, Rockley,’ said St. Maur. ‘We are
all hard at it buying and selling from morning to night. Must go the
pace or be left behind. Half-acre allotments in Collins Street have
brought as much as seventy pounds this very morning. Try that claret.’

‘Quite right too. A very fair wine,’ quoth Mr. Rockley, slowly savouring
the ruby fluid. ‘My dear St. Maur, you are right to buy everything that
you can, as long as your credit lasts. I can see—and I stake my business
reputation on the fact—a tremendous future in store for this town. It is
not much in itself. The river’s a mere ditch; the harbour a great ugly
bay; the site of the town too flat; but the country!—the country around
is grand and extensive. Nothing can take that away. It is not so rich as
the spot my friend and I have just left; but it’s fine—very fine. I’m
not so young as I was, but I shall pitch my tent here and never go back
to Sydney.’

‘I hope to see Sydney again,’ said St. Maur; ‘but in the meantime I
shall stay and watch the markets. I quite agree with you that there is
money to be made.’

‘Of course there is,’ said Rockley; ‘but how long will it last? People
can’t live upon buying and selling to each other for ever. Some fine day
there will be an awful smash, in which some of you brisk young people
will be caught. But the settlement is so first-class in soil and
situation that it _must_ pull through. I shall buy a few allotments,
just to give me an interest, as the racing men say.’

‘We can accommodate you,’ said Mr. Raymond. ‘But why don’t you stay and
set up in business here? You’d make a fortune a month, with your name
and connections. Never mind Mrs. R. for the present; we’re all bachelors
here.’

‘I see that—and a very jolly set you are. I wouldn’t mind a month or two
here at all. But my friend Effingham and I are tied to time to get home,
and as we’re going overland we haven’t much time to spare.’

‘Well, look us up whenever you come back. The door of the Lamb Inn is
always open—night or day, for that matter. St. Maur and I are thinking
of buying it, aren’t we, Bertram, and turning it into a Club? We offered
Jones a thousand for it, but he wouldn’t take less than twelve hundred.’

‘That would have been only a hundred apiece for a dozen of us,’ said the
man with the large whiskers, whose name was Macleod. ‘Almost concluded
it, but Morton died of D.T., Southey got married, and Ingoldsby went
home. Nice idea, you know, being our own landlords.’

‘Not bad at all,’ said Rockley, who approved of everything when he was
in a good-humour. ‘A _very_ original, business-like idea. Well, I must
say good-bye to you all, gentlemen. I really wish I could stay longer.’

‘Stay till next week,’ pleaded Raymond. ‘We are going to give a ball. No
end of an entertainment. Two real carriages just landed, and the
families pledged to bring them.’

‘I notice a good many stumps in Collins Street,’ said Wilfred. ‘Won’t
that be a little dangerous for returning?’

‘Not with decent horses,’ said a young fellow with a dark moustache and
one arm. ‘I drove tandem through it about two o’clock this morning.’

‘But you do everything so well, Blakesley,’ said St. Maur. ‘Speaking as
an ordinary person, I must say I should funk the “Rue Bourke” or Collins
after dark. But that is not our affair. Providence _couldn’t_ injure a
lady when there are only ten in the community.’

‘What about that brig, the _Rebecca_, that’s sailing to-morrow for
Sydney?’ said a fresh-coloured, middle-aged personage who had spoken
little, and, indeed, seemed oppressed with thought. ‘You came down in
her, Rockley, didn’t you?’

‘Like nothing about her,’ said that gentleman with decision. ‘Badly
found, badly manned, and the worst thing about her is the skipper. You
don’t catch me in her again, I can tell you. Effingham and I are going
overland.’

‘Indeed!’ said the speaker, much surprised. ‘I thought we should have
been fellow-passengers. I never dreamed of any one riding all the way to
Sydney, five or six hundred miles, when they could go by sea! If I’d
known, I’d have changed my mind and started with you. It’s too late now;
I’ve paid my passage.’

‘Look here, Bowerdale,’ said Mr. Rockley with earnestness, ‘I’ve paid my
passage, and I forfeit it cheerfully rather than run the risk. If you
knew Captain Jackson, you’d do it too. He’ll lose the ship and all hands
some day, as sure as my name’s Rockley.’

‘There’s a good deal of luck in these things, I believe,’ said the
other. ‘I must risk it anyhow. I can’t afford to lose the money, and I
want to get back to my wife and chicks as soon as I can. We officials
haven’t unlimited leave either, you know.’

‘D——n the leave!’ said Mr. Rockley volcanically, ‘and the money too. I’ll
settle the last for you, and you can pay when you sell that suburban
land you bought in Collingwood. There’s a fortune in _that_. Your
chief’s a good fellow; he’ll arrange the leave. Half the Civil Servants
in Sydney have had a shot at Melbourne land, you know. Say the word, and
come with us. There’s a spare horse, isn’t there, Effingham?’

‘Lots of horse-flesh,’ said Wilfred, following his friend’s cue. ‘Mr.
Bowerdale will just complete our party—make it pleasanter for all.’

‘You _are_ a good fellow, Rockley,’ said Mr. Bowerdale, smiling; ‘and I
thank you, Mr. Effingham; but I can’t alter my arrangements, though I
feel strangely tempted to do so. I have had a fit of the blues all the
morning. Liver, I suppose—too much excitement. But I make a point of
always carrying a thing through.’

‘Take your own way,’ grumbled Rockley. ‘Well, I must be off, St. Maur.
Effingham, did you forget about the pack-saddle? It’s a strange thing
nobody can remember anything but myself. St. Maur, I beg to thank you
and these gentlemen for their most pleasant entertainment. Come and see
me at Yass, all of you, when you stop land-buying, or it stops you.
Good-bye, Bowerdale; I can’t help thinking you’re a d——d fool.’

So the worthy and choleric gentleman departed, with his surplus steam
not wholly blown off. All the way back he kept exploding at intervals,
with remarks uncomplimentary to his unconvinced friend, who left by the
_Rebecca_, which, with crew, captain, and passengers, was _never more
heard of_.

                  *       *       *       *       *

On the following morning Mr. Rockley and Wilfred rode forth along the
Sydney road, then far from macadamised, and chiefly marked out by
dray-ruts and a mile-wide trail made by the overlanders. Mr. Rockley
rode one stout cob and led another. Wilfred bestrode an ambling black
horse of uncertain pedigree, and led the grey filly, upon whose
reluctant back he had managed to place a pack-saddle with their joint
necessaries.



                              CHAPTER XXV
                 BOB CLARKE ONCE MORE WINS ON THE POST


The homeward-bound horsemen had no difficulty about the road, well
marked as it was by the travelling stock. There was also, as now, a mail
service from Sydney. They met the mailman about half-way. He was riding
one horse and leading another; he had often to camp out without fire,
for fear of blacks. In due time they reached the site of the border town
of Albury, on the broad waters of the Murray, all unknowing of the great
wine-cellars its grapes were yet to fill, with reisling, muscat, and
hermitage in mammoth butts, rivalling that of Heidelberg. Much less did
they forecast the iron horse one day to rush forward, breathing woe and
disquiet to the shy dryad of the river oaks, by the gleaming stream and
the still depths of the reed-fringed lagoons.

Rude were the ways by which they travelled from the Murray to the
Murrumbidgee River, by way of Gundagai, the great meadows of which were
then undevastated by flood. Thence to Bowning, and so on to Yass, in
which city the travellers were greeted with enthusiasm. The next morning
saw the younger far on his way to The Chase.

What a change had taken place since the exodus—that memorable departure!
But one little year had passed away, and what a transformation!

With the season everything had changed; all Australia was altered. Life
itself was so different from that day when, half-despairingly, they rode
behind their famished cattle, and turned their faces to the wilderness.

Now it had been crossed; the promised land won—a land of milk and honey
as far as they were concerned—of olives and vineyards—all the biblical
treasures—no doubt looming in the future.

For this prosperity the discovery of Port Phillip was accountable,
conjointly with the lavish, exuberant season. The glorious land of
mountain and stream, valley and meadow, laden with pastoral wealth and
bursting with vegetation, had been in a manner gifted to them by the
gallant, ill-fated Hubert Warleigh. They were all revelling in the
intensity of life, forming stations, buying and selling, speculating and
calculating, and where was he? Lying at rest beneath the sombre shade of
the forest giant, far from even the tread of the men of his race. Left
to moulder away, with the fallen denizens of the primeval forest; to
fade from men’s minds even as the echo of the surges, as the spring
songs of the joyous birds!

It seemed increasingly hard to realise. As he approached the well-known
track that led from the main road to Warbrok he could see the very tree
near which he had waved a farewell at their first meeting. There was the
gate through which they had ridden on the occasion of his second visit,
when he had been received on terms of equality by the whole family.

‘How glad I am now that we did that!’ Wilfred told himself. ‘We tried
our best to raise him from the slough into which he had fallen, and from
no selfish motive; how little we thought to be so richly repaid! One
often intends a kindness to some one who dies before it is fulfilled.
Then there is unavailing, perhaps lifelong regret. Here it was not so,
thank God! And now, home at last——’

                  *       *       *       *       *

Of that happy first evening what description can be given that faintly
shall suggest the atmosphere of love and gratitude that enveloped the
family, as once more Wilfred sat among them in the well-remembered room?
Speech even died away, in that all might revel in an uninterrupted view
of the returned wanderer. How improved, though bronzed and
weather-beaten, he was after his wayfaring!

‘And to think that Wilfred has returned safe from those dreadful blacks!
And oh, poor dear Hubert Warleigh! That fine young man, so lately in
this room with us, full of health and strength, and now to know that he
is dead—killed by savages—it is too dreadful!’

‘Mamma! mamma!’ said Annabel, sobbing aloud, ‘don’t speak of it. I can’t
bear it.’

Here she arose and left the room.

‘She is very sensitive, dear child,’ said Mrs. Effingham. ‘I do not
wonder at her feeling the poor fellow’s death. I can’t help thinking
about him, as if he were in some way more than an acquaintance.’

‘You have come back to a land of plenty, my son,’ said Mr. Effingham,
‘as you have doubtless observed. If you had known that such rain was to
fall, it might have saved you all the journey.’

‘My dear sir,’ answered Wilfred, ‘don’t flatter yourself that, myself
excepted, one of our old society will be contented to live here again.
The land we have reached opens out such an extensive field that no sane
man would think of staying away from it. Rockley will follow, and half
Yass, I believe. No one will be left but you and I and the Parson.’

‘What an exodus! It amounts to a misfortune,’ said Rosamond. ‘It seems
as if the foundations of society were loosened. We shall never be so
happy and contented again.’

‘We never may,’ said Wilfred; ‘but we shall be ever so much richer, if
that is any compensation. Stock of all kinds are fetching fabulous
prices in Port Phillip. By the bye, how is Dr. Fane? His store cattle
are now worth more than the Benmohr fat cattle used to be.’

‘We had Vera here for a whole month,’ said Rosamond. ‘She is the dearest
and best girl in the whole world, I believe, and so handsome we all
think her. She said her father had sold a lot of cattle at a fine price,
and if he didn’t spend all the money in books, they would be placed in
easy circumstances.’

As Wilfred paced the verandah, smoking the ante-slumber pipe—a habit he
had rather confirmed during his journeyings and campings—he could not
but contrast the delicious sense of peaceful stillness with much of the
life he had lately led. All was calm repose—amid the peaceful landscape.
No possibility here of the wild shout—the midnight onset—as little,
perhaps, of lawless deeds as in their half-forgotten English home. A
truly luxurious relief, after the rude habitudes and painful anxieties
of their pioneer life.

The night’s sound sleep seemed to have concentrated the repose of a
week, when Wilfred awoke to discover that all outer life was painted in
rose tints. That portion of the herd which had been left behind had
profited by the unshared pasturage to such an extent that they resembled
a fresh variety. Daisy and her progeny looked nearly as large as
shorthorns, and extreme prices had been offered for them, old Andrew
averred, by the cattle-dealers that now overspread the land.

A field of wheat, by miraculous means ploughed and harrowed, since the
Hegira, promised an abundant crop.

‘Weel, aweel!’ said Andrew, who now appeared bearing two overflowing
buckets of milk, ‘ye have been graciously spared to return from yon
fearsome wilderness, like Ca-aleb and Joshua. And to think o’ that puir
laddie, juist fa’en a prey to thae Amalekites, stricken through wi’ a
spear, like A-absolom! Maist unco-omon—ane shall be taen and the t’ither
left. It’s a gra-and country, I’m hearin’.’

‘The finest country you ever set eyes on, Andrew. The Chase seems a mere
farm after it. If it was not for the family, I should soon pack up and
go back there.’

‘I wadna doot. Rovin’ and rampa-agin’ aboot the waste places o’ the
yearth is aye easy to learn. But ye’ll ken yer duty to yer forebears and
the young leddies, Maister Wilfred, no’ to tak’ them frae this
douce-like hame.’

‘Oh yes, I know,’ said Wilfred. ‘Of course I shall stay here, and shall
be very happy and make lots of money again. All the same, it’s a
wonderful new country. Half the people here will be wanting to get away
when they hear about it. But how did you get this fine crop of wheat put
in without working bullocks? I’m afraid, Andrew, you must have been
taking a leaf out of Dick Evans’s book, and using other people’s
cattle.’

‘Weel, aweel!’ said Andrew, looking doubtful, ‘I winna deny that there
micht be some makin’ free wi’ ither folks’ beasties. But they were juist
fair savin’ their lives wi’ oor grass parks, and when the rain fell, it
was a case o’ needcessity to till the land, noo that the famine was
past.’

With regard to the ‘fatal maid,’ Wilfred Effingham had much difficulty
in reaching a determination worthy of a man who prided himself upon
acting on logically defensible grounds. He was by no means too certain,
either, that he could lay claim to Miss Christabel’s undivided
affections. So much of her heart as she had to give, he suspected was
bestowed upon Bob Clarke. If that were so, she would cling to him with
the headlong hero-worship with which a woman invests the lover of her
girlhood, more particularly if he happens to be ill-provided with this
world’s goods.

The result of all this introspection was that Wilfred, like many other
men, sought refuge in delay. There was no need of forcing on the
decision. He had work to do at home for months to come. And the marriage
question might be advantageously postponed.

Unpacking his valise after breakfast, he produced a number of
newspapers, the which, as being better employed, he had not opened. Now,
in the leisure of the home circle, the important journals were
disclosed. Each one, provincially hungry for news, seized upon one of
the messengers from the outer world. ‘Ha!’ said Wilfred suddenly, ‘what
is this? Colonel Glendinning, of the Irregular Horse, desperately
wounded. Wonderful gallantry displayed by him. Chivalrous sortie from
cantonments. Why, this must be our Major, poor fellow!’

He was interrupted by a faint cry from Beatrice, and looking round he
saw that she had grown deadly pale. He had just time to catch her
fainting form in his arms. But she was not a girl who easily surrendered
herself to her emotions. Rousing herself, she looked around with a
piteous yet resolved expression, and with an effort collected her mental
forces.

‘Mother,’ she said, ‘I must go where _he_ is. Tell my father that I have
always deferred to his wishes, but that now I _must_ join him—I feel
responsible for his life. Had I but conquered my pride, a word from me
would have kept him here. And now he is dying—after deeds of reckless
daring. But I must go; I will die with him, if I cannot save him.’

‘Dearest Beatrice, there is no need to excite yourself,’ said the fond
yet prudent mother. ‘You have only to go to your father. He will consent
to all that is reasonable. I myself think it is your duty to go. Major
Glendinning is severely wounded, but good nursing may bring him round. I
wish you had a companion.’

‘Where could you have a better one than Mrs. Snowden?’ cried Annabel
hastily. ‘She said she half thought of going home by India, and I know
she does not care which route she takes. She has been there before, and
knows all about the route. If papa would only make up his mind to go,
half the trouble would be off his mind, and he would enjoy the voyage.’

‘There could not be a more favourable time, my dear sir,’ said Wilfred
in the family council at a later hour. ‘I shall be here now. It is a
matter of life and death to poor Beatrice as well as to the Colonel. You
had better arrange to start by the first vessel, and to bring back some
Arab horses on your return.’

‘It is the only thing to be done,’ said Rosamond, who had just returned
from her sister’s room. ‘I wouldn’t answer for Beatrice’s reason if she
is compelled to wait here. She has repressed her feelings until now, and
the reaction is terrible. It is most fortunate that Mrs. Snowden is
ready to leave Australia.’

Subjected to the family pressure, aided by the promptings of his own
heart, Mr. Effingham was powerless to resist. The acclimatisation
question was artfully brought up. He at once yielded, and before the
evening was over, a letter was in the mail-bag, requesting their Sydney
agent to take passages by the first outward-bound boat for India, and to
advise by post, or special messenger, if necessary.

Beatrice, informed of this determination, gradually recovered that
calmness allied to despair which simulates resignation. She busied
herself unweariedly in preparation for the voyage, cherishing the hope
of soothing the last hours of her lover, if indeed it was denied her, to
watch over his return to the world of love and hope.

Mrs. Snowden arrived on the following day, and cordially acceded to the
proposition made to her, to share the adventures of the voyage and of
Indian travel.

‘If you knew,’ she said, ‘how grateful I feel for the opportunity of
changing the scene of my sorrows and being of use to my friends after
this lonely life of mine, you would not thank me. I would go many a mile
by sea or land to nurse the Major myself. Between me and Beatrice he
will be well looked after.’

All circumstances seemed favourably shaped for the errand of mercy. A
ship was about to sail for China, whence the opium clippers might be
trusted for a swift run to the historic land. Almost before the news of
the intended journey had reached Yass, so that the parson could drive
over and express his entire concurrence with the arrangement, the little
party had set out for Sydney.

                  *       *       *       *       *

In the fulness of time the very last evening, before the Rockley family
left Yass, arrived. All the party from The Chase had been in to say
good-bye, and had returned. Some mysterious business kept Wilfred in
town, and that special evening he of course spent at Rockley Lodge.

For it was not to be supposed that, on that momentous evening, the
family declined to see their friends. In the ‘Maison Rockley’ the head
of the house was so absorbed in his business pursuits that, except at
dinner-time, and for an hour after, he could hardly be said to possess
any family life whatever. He was grateful, therefore, for the presence
of such friends who would take the burden of domesticity, in part, off
his hands, and made no scruple of expressing, in the family circle, his
thanks for such services.

It so turned out that, on this particular morning, he had found time,
for once in a way, to give his daughter an earnest lecture about her
ridiculous fancy, as he termed it, for Bob Clarke; a young fellow who,
without any harm in him, would never come to much, or make any money
worth speaking of, seeing that he was far too fond of those confounded
horses, out of which no man had ever extracted anything but ruin, in
Australia. That they had never heard a word from him for ever so long;
most probably he was flirting away in Tasmania, and did not cast a
thought upon her. And here was Wilfred Effingham, than whom he did not
know a finer fellow anywhere—steady, clever, a man of family, and in
every way desirable. If he liked her, Christabel—he couldn’t say whether
he did or not, he had no time to trouble about such rubbish—why didn’t
she take him, and have done with it, and settle down creditably for the
rest of her life, instead of wasting her time and vexing her
friends?—and so on—and so on.

Christabel wept piteously during this paternal admonition, delivered, as
usual, with a loud voice and a fierce expression of countenance, but had
gone away reflecting that although she was, so to speak, badly treated
in this instance, yet, as she had succeeded in getting her own way all
her life, she probably might enjoy a reasonable portion of it in the
future.

Meanwhile, being fairly malleable and of the texture which is bent by
circumstances, she began to consider, when alone in her room, whether
there was not something of reason in her father’s arguments. Here she
was placed in the position of only having to accept. Of the true nature
of Wilfred’s feelings she herself had little doubt. There is something,
too, not wholly without temptation to the female heart in the
unconditional surrender of the lover, then and there urging his suit.
There may be also a wild impulse to accept the inevitable, and thus for
ever extinguish the uneasiness of anxiety and suspended judgment.

Then, Wilfred Effingham was very good-looking—fair perhaps in
complexion, and she did not admire fair men, but brown-bearded,
well-featured, manly. All the girls voted him ‘so nice-looking,’ and the
men invariably spoke of him as a good fellow. He was well off; he would
have The Chase some day, and she would be the great lady of the Yass
district, with her carriage and her servants; could entertain _really_
well. She would also, beyond doubt, be envied by all her schoolfellows
and girl friends.

The prospect was tempting. She thought of Bob’s dark eyes, and their
passionate look when he last said good-bye. She thought of the happy
days when he rode at her bridle-rein, and would lean over to whisper the
cheery nonsense that amused her. She thought of the thrill at her heart,
the strange deadness in every pulse, when The Outlaw went down, and they
lifted Bob up, pale and motionless; of her joy when he appeared next day
on the course, with his arm in a sling, but with eyes as bright and
smile as pleasant as ever. These were dangerous memories. But they were
boy and girl then. Now she was a woman, who must think of prudence and
the wishes of her parents.

Then Bob would be poor for many a day, if, indeed, he ever rose to
fortune. Through her heart passed the uneasy dread, which
gently-nurtured women have, of the unlovely side of poverty, of shifts
and struggles, of work and privation—of a small house and bad servants,
of indifferent dresses, and few thereof. Such thoughts came circling up,
like birds of evil aspect and omen, ready to cluster round the corse of
the slain Eros.

_Les absens sont toujours torts_, says the worldly adage. In his
absence, the advocacy for Bob Clarke was perhaps less brave and
persistent than it would otherwise have been. The girl strove to harden
her heart, by clinging to the prudent side of the case, and recalling
her father’s angry denunciations of any other course than an affirmative
reply to Wilfred Effingham, should he this night tell her the real
purport of his constant visits.

He himself had resolved to risk his fate on this last throw of the dice,
and so far everything assisted his plans. Mr. Rockley was in an
unusually genial frame of mind at dinner—cordial, of course, as ever,
but unnaturally patient under contradiction and the delays consequent
upon the cook’s unsettled condition. Mrs. Rockley excused herself after
that meal as having household matters to arrange. But Christabel, whose
domestic responsibilities had always been of the faintest, was at
liberty to remain and entertain Mr. Effingham and her father, indeed she
was better out of the way at the present crisis. Wilfred had no thought
of leaving early in order to accommodate his friends in their presumed
state of bustle and derangement, for it was one of those rare households
where visitors never seem to be in the way. None of the feminine heads
of departments were fussy, anxious, ‘put out,’ or had such pressing
cares that visitors came short of consideration.

Mrs. Rockley’s talent for organisation was such that no one seemed in a
hurry, yet nothing was left undone. The house was nearly always full of
inmates and visitors, male and female, with or without children. Still,
wonder of wonders, there was never any awkwardness or failure of
successful entertainment. Rockley, personally, scoffed at the idea of
being responsible for the slightest share of household management. He
merely exacted the most complete punctuality, cookery, house-room and
attendance for the ceaseless flow of guests, the cost of which he
furnished, to do him justice, ungrudgingly. Whatever might need to be
done next day (if the whole family, indeed, had been ordered for
execution, as Horace Bower said), William Rockley would have dined and
conversed cheerfully over his wine, suggested a little music (for the
benefit of others), smoked his cigar in the verandah, and mocked at the
idea of any guest being incommoded by the probably abrupt translation of
the family, or going away a moment before the regulation midnight hour.

Therefore, when Rockley told him that he hoped he was not going to run
away a moment before the usual time for any nonsensical idea of being in
the way because they were starting for Port Phillip on the next day
(what the deuce had that got to do with it, he should like to know?),
Wilfred fully comprehended the _bona fides_ of the request, and prepared
himself to make the most of a _tête-à-tête_ with Miss C. Rockley, if
such should be on the cards.

So it came to pass that while Mr. Rockley and Wilfred were lounging in
the Cingalese arm-chairs, which still adorned the verandah, Christabel
betook herself to the piano, whence she evoked a succession of dreamy
nocturnes and melancholy reveries which sighed through the hushed night
air as though they were the wailings of the Lares and Penates mourning
for their dispossession.

‘Bowerdale hasn’t turned up,’ said Rockley abruptly. ‘The _Rebecca_ has
never been heard of. She sailed the day we left Melbourne. Queer things
presentiments. You remember his saying he felt hypped, don’t you?’

‘Yes, quite well. What an awful pity that he should have persisted in
going by her—after your warning, too!’

‘Didn’t like to lose his passage-money, poor fellow!’ continued the
sympathising Rockley. ‘I’d have settled that for him quick enough, but
he wasn’t the sort of man to let any one pay for him. Leaves a wife and
children too. Well, we must see what can be done. Fortune of war might
have been our case if I hadn’t taken Jackson’s measure so closely.’

‘Happy to think you did,’ said Wilfred, with natural gratitude. ‘If you
had not been so determined about the matter, I should have risked the
sea-voyage. I was tired of land-travelling.’

‘We should all have been with “Davy Jones” now. No cigars, eh? This
claret’s better than salt water? I suppose we all have our work to do in
this world; mine is not half done yet; yours scarcely begun. By Jove! I
forgot to leave word at the office about my Sydney address—where to send
all the confounded packages, about a thousand of them. I’ll run down and
see that put straight. Don’t you go till I come back. Tell Mrs. Rockley
she must have a little supper ready for us.’

Rockley lighted a fresh cigar and plunged into the night, while Wilfred
lost no time in repairing to the piano, which he managed to persuade the
fair performer to quit for the verandah, under the assumption that the
room was warm, and the night air balmy in comparison.

For a while they walked to and fro on the cool freestone pavement,
talking on indifferent subjects, while Wilfred gazed steadfastly into
the girl’s marvellous eyes, ever and anon flashing under the soft
moon-rays, as if he could read her very soul. She was dressed that
evening in a pale-hued Indian muslin, which but partly veiled the
exquisite graces of her form. How well he remembered it in after-days!
There was a languor in her movements, a soft cadence in the tone of her
voice, a quicker sympathy in her replies to his low-toned speech, which
in some indefinable manner encouraged him to hope. He drew the lounges
together, and telling her she needed rest, sat by her side.

‘You are really going away,’ he said; ‘no more last farewells, and
Heaven knows when we shall meet again. I feel unutterably mournful at
the idea of parting from your mother, Mr. Rockley—and—yourself. My
sisters were in the depths of despair yesterday. I don’t think it
affects _you_ in the least.’

‘Why should you think I am hard hearted?’ asked the girl as she raised
herself slightly, and leaning her face on her hand, curving the while
her lovely rounded arm, looked up in his face with the pleading look of
a spoiled child. ‘Do you suppose it is so pleasant to me to leave our
home, where I have lived all my life, and travel to a new place where we
know nobody—that is, hardly any one?’

‘How we all—how I,’ said Wilfred, ‘shall miss these pleasant evenings!
How many a one have I spent in your father’s house since we first met! I
can safely say that I have never been so kindly treated under any roof
in the whole world. As to your father, my dear old governor has always
been too good, but I scarcely think he could do more for me than Mr.
Rockley has done.’

‘Papa is always kind, that is, to people whom he likes,’ said Christabel
with an absent indifference, as if Mr. Rockley’s philanthropy and
irritability, his energy and his hospitality, were qualities of much the
same social value.

At that moment the moonbeam was darkened by a passing cloud, and Wilfred
drew nearer to the girl until he could almost feel her breath upon his
hair, and hear her heart palpitate beneath the delicate fabric of her
dress.

‘Christabel,’ he said, ‘ask your heart this night whether I am right in
hoping that you will not accompany your parents to this rude settlement.
Here you are known, honoured—yes, loved! Why leave one who would cherish
you while life lasted?’

Christabel Rockley spoke not nor moved, but she cast her eyes down, till
in the clear light the long dark lashes could be seen fringing her
cheek. Her bosom heaved—she made no sign.

‘Christabel,’ he murmured, ‘darling Christabel, I have long loved you,
fondly, passionately. One word will make me the happiest of living men.
Bow but your head in token that you grant my prayer, and I will take it
as a sign from Heaven. Stay with my mother till she embraces you as a
loved daughter. Only say the word. Will you try to return, in your own
good time, my deep, my unalterable love?’

She raised her head and looked fixedly at him as he stood there, the
embodiment of love’s last appeal, in the direct path of the moon’s rays.
His face and form, instinct with strong emotion, seemed glorified by the
flood of light in which it was encircled.

‘I can hardly tell,’ she said. ‘I have been trying to think—asking
myself if I can give you my heart, and this pale face of mine, that you
set so much value on—foolish boy! I think I may, in a little while, if
you will bear with me, but I would rather not say, for good and all,
just at this moment. You _will_ give me more time, won’t you? Ah! what
is that?’ she suddenly broke off, with almost a shriek, as the roll of
horse-hoofs smote clearly through the still night air upon the senses,
almost upon the overwrought hearts of the listeners. ‘Who can it be?
Surely it isn’t papa riding back on the warehouse-keeper’s cob?’

Not so. The hoofs of no mortal cob ever rang upon turf or roadway with
the long, regular strokes of the steed of the coming horseman.

‘A thoroughbred horse!’ said Wilfred. ‘Tired, too, by his rolling
stride. Whoever can it be at this time of night?’

Then he saw Christabel’s pale cheek faintly flush. How lovely was the
warmer tint as it stole from cheek to brow, while her eye sparkled
afresh like a lamp relumed. ‘Only one person is likely to come here
to-night to say good-bye to us,’ she almost whispered. ‘I did not think
he would take the trouble. Oh, it can’t be——’

As she spoke, the clattering hoofs ceased abruptly at the garden gate. A
hasty step was heard on the gravel, and Bob Clarke, pale as death and
haggard with fatigue, stood before them.

‘I swore I would say good-bye,’ he said. ‘So I am here, you see. I have
ridden a hundred miles to do it. Ha! Effingham! Back from Port Phillip?
Christabel Rockley, answer me—am I too late?’

‘Oh, Bob!’ she cried, and as she spoke she rose and stood by his side,
taking one hand in both of hers. ‘You are not too late. But you will
have to forgive me, and you, too, Wilfred Effingham, for being a silly
girl that did not know her own mind. It would have served you right,
Master Bob, and it will be a lesson to you not to put off important
business. If Desborough had gone lame—I suppose it is he, poor fellow,
that you have nearly ridden to death—you would have lost Christabel
Rockley for good and all, whatever she may be worth. I was not sure, and
papa was angry. But I am now—_I am now_. Oh, Bob, my dear old Bob, I
will wait for you till I am a hundred if you don’t make a fortune
before!’

Bob Clarke looked doubtfully from one face to the other, scrutinising
Wilfred’s with a fierce, questioning glance. But as their eyes met he
saw that which quenched all jealous fears.

‘My dear fellow,’ said Wilfred, coming forward and holding out his hand,
‘you have had your usual luck and “won on the post.” I congratulate you
heartily, on my honour, as a man and a gentleman. Christabel has freely
told you that but for your opportune arrival her hand might have been
disposed of differently. You won’t wonder that any man should do his
best to win her. But from my soul I can now rejoice that it was not so;
that I have been spared the discovery, when too late, that her heart was
yours—yours alone. Look upon me now as your lifelong friend. Let us keep
our own counsel, and all will go well.’

‘Wilfred Effingham has spoken like himself,’ said Christabel, whose
features were now illuminated with the pure light of love that knows
neither doubt nor diffidence in the presence of the beloved one. ‘You
see, I should have had some excuse, Bob, if I had thrown you over, you
procrastinating old stupid. Why did you leave me doubting and wondering
all this time? However, I shall have plenty of time to scold you. Here
comes papa at last.’

At this simple announcement the three faces changed as the well-known
step of Mr. Rockley was heard—firm, rapid, aggressive. But the girl’s
features, at first troubled, gradually assumed a steadfast look. Bob
Clarke raised his head, and drew himself up as if scanning the line of
country. Wilfred Effingham’s countenance wore the abstracted look of one
raised by unselfish aims above ordinary considerations.

‘I thought I should never get away from that confounded old idiot,’ Mr.
Rockley commenced. ‘Why, Bob Clarke! where have you sprung from? We
heard you had gone to Port Phillip, or Adelaide, or somewhere; very glad
to see you, wherever you came from. Better stay to-night; we can give
you a bed. Why the deuce didn’t you take your horse round to the stable
instead of letting the poor devil stand tied up at the gate after the
ride he seems to have had? Christabel, perhaps you’ll tell them to bring
in supper. I feel both hungry and thirsty—giving directions, directions,
till I’m hoarse.’

Christabel glided away, whereupon Bob Clarke faced round squarely and
confronted his host.

‘Mr. Rockley, I came here to-night to tell you two things. I apologise
for being so late, but I only heard you were leaving yesterday. I have
ridden a hundred miles to-day.’

‘Just like you,’ said Rockley; ‘and why the deuce didn’t you make them
send you in supper all this time? You look as if you hadn’t saved
yourself any more than your horse.’

Truth to tell, Master Bob _was_ rather pale, and his eyes looked
unnaturally bright as he bent them upon the speaker.

‘Plenty of time afterwards, sir,’ he said; ‘the business was important.
First of all, Mr. Hampden has given me a partnership, and I am going to
take up country in Port Phillip under the firm of Hampden and Clarke.
The cattle are drafted and started—five hundred head of picked
Herefords—Joe Curle is with them, and young Warner. I’m going by sea to
be ready for them when they come over.’

‘I’m sincerely glad to hear it, my dear Bob,’ said Rockley in his most
cordial manner—one peculiar to him when he had become aware of something
to another man’s advantage. ‘Why, you had better come down with us this
week in the _Mary Anne_. I’ve chartered her, and she is crammed full,
but, of course, I can give any one a passage. I can’t tell you how glad
I am. Mrs. Rockley!’ he cried out as that well-beloved matron appeared
and held out her hand with a smile of good omen to the not fully
reassured Bob, ‘are we never to have anything to eat to-night? Here’s
Bob Clarke has ridden a hundred and fifty miles, and dying of hunger
before your eyes; but, of course, of course’—here he changed into a
tragic tone of injury—‘if I’m not to be master in my own house——’

Mrs. Rockley, with her placid countenance, only relieved by a glance at
Wilfred, swiftly withdrew, and Rockley, to whom it had suddenly occurred
as he looked at Wilfred that complications might arise from his
subjecting his daughter to the perilous companionship of a sea-voyage
with so noted a detrimental as Bob Clarke, looked like a hound that had
outrun the scent, desirous of trying back, but not quite certain of his
line.

‘Well, Bob, I am sure you will do well in Port Phillip; you have had
lots of experience, and no man can work harder when he likes, I will say
that for you; but it’s a fast place, a very fast place, I tell you, sir;
and if you give yourself up to that confounded racing and
steeplechasing, I know what will come of it.’

‘Mr. Rockley,’ said Bob again, with the air of a man who steadies his
horse at a rasper, ‘I came to ask you for your daughter. I know I’ve not
done much so far, but she likes me, and I feel I shall be successful in
life or go to the devil—according to your answer this night.’

Mr. Rockley looked first at one and then at the other of his young
friends in much astonishment. This surprise was so great that for once
he was unable to give vent to his ideas.

Before he could gather self-possession, Wilfred Effingham spoke. ‘My
dear Rockley, from circumstances which have come to my knowledge, but
which I am in honour bound not to reveal, I can assure you that your
daughter’s happiness is deeply concerned in my friend Clarke’s proposal.
As a friend of the family—who takes the deepest interest in her future
welfare—let me beg of you to give the matter your most favourable
consideration.’

Mr. Rockley’s face passed through the phases of wild astonishment and
strong disapproval before he replied. It had then relaxed into one of
humorous enlightenment.

‘I see how it is. That monkey, Christabel, has enlisted you on her side.
Well, I tell you both that I should have preferred Wilfred Effingham as
my son-in-law. I am not going to hide my opinion on that or any other
subject. But as she has made her choice, I will not—I say I will
not—make her life miserable. Not that I have any objection to you, Bob,
my boy, except on the score of that confounded horse-racing. It’s very
well in its way. No man enjoys a race more than I do; but it’s not the
thing for a young fellow who has his way to make in the world.’

‘I’ll never own another race-horse,’ quoth Bob, with desperate
self-renunciation, ‘as long as I live, if——’

‘Oh yes, you will,’ said Mr. Rockley, with superior forecast; ‘but what
I want you to do is to promise not to go head and shoulders into it for
the next few years, when you’ll have all your work cut out for you, if
you want to be a man and make a home for your wife and family. Well,
it’s done now, and here’s my hand, my boy; you’ve got a good little
girl, if she is a pretty one. But take my advice, don’t give her too
much of her own way at the beginning. Show that you intend to be master
from the start, _put her down_ if she shows temper; when she gives in,
you can be as kind to her as you like afterwards. Better that than for
her to have the whip-hand. Women don’t understand moderation. That was
always my way, wasn’t it, Bessie?’ he inquired, appealing to Mrs.
Rockley, who having entered the room had come in for this piece of
practical advice, delivered in a loud tone of voice. ‘I’ve been giving
your future son-in-law—there he is; I know he is a favourite of yours;
you needn’t say he isn’t—a useful piece of advice, which I hope he’ll
have the sense to act up to. Supper ready in the next room? I fancy
we’re all in want of a little refreshment; what do you think, Bob?’

That gentleman had private ideas upon the subject, but did not disclose
them further than by looking over at Mrs. Rockley, and giving practical
effect to the suggestion.

The _partie carré_ enjoyed a cheerful but not very conversational
repast. Wilfred and Bob Clarke felt more disposed to drink than to eat.
Neither had much to say, so Rockley had it all his own way with Port
Phillip speculations, advice to Bob Clarke of where to go for
first-class cattle country, and how to manage economically for the first
few years. Mrs. Rockley was tired, but found a few reassuring words for
the anxious Bob, explaining that Christabel had a headache, but would be
sure to be quite well in the morning. She also indicated her sympathy
with Wilfred, and her approval of his generosity in backing up his
rival’s claim. This, she assured him, she nor Christabel would ever
forget.

Finally, Mr. Rockley looked at his watch in the midst of a suggestion to
buy more cattle on Hampden’s account and take up two or three runs,
inasmuch as it was all one trouble and not much more expense; when,
discovering that it was past midnight, he broke up the parliament.
Wilfred made his final adieus, and at daylight was fast leaving the town
behind him, on his way to The Chase, accompanied by divers ‘companions
of Sintram,’ in the guise of vain regret and dull despair, with also
(though not unalloyed) a curious sense of relief.

Taking the most philosophical view of the subject, the after-taste of
refusal by a woman is rarely exceeded in this life for corroding
bitterness. The non-preference of oneself, to the average suitor, fills
the individual, unless he be free from every tinge of vanity, with wrath
and disgust. In vain the proverbial salve is applied by superficial
comforters. The foiled fisherman will not be consoled. He will throw
away his flies and burn his rod. Henceforth he and angling have parted
for ever. Such in effect for a while is the lament of most men who have
the evil hap to pin so much of their present and prospective happiness
upon one cast—and lose it. The proud man suffers deeply, in secret. The
selfish man mourns for the loss of personal gain. The true and manly
lover is shaken to the centre of his being. The vain man is wroth
exceedingly with childish anger; furious that any woman should disdain
him—_him_! The susceptible, fickle suitor, who promptly bears his
incense to another shrine, is to be envied, if not commended. But

                  To each his sufferings, all are men,
                  Condemned alike to groan.

Who loves vainly is stricken with a poisoned arrow. The wound rankles in
the flesh of every son of Adam, oft producing anguish, even unto death,
long after the apparent hurt is healed.

Wilfred Effingham was not more than ordinarily vain. He had not been, in
so many words, rejected. Indeed, he had been nearly accepted. But he
could not disguise from himself that it amounted to much the same thing.
Yet he reflected that he had cause to be thankful that the girl had not
been permitted to complete the measure of her self-deception—to promise
her hand where she could not truly have given her heart. Better far, a
thousand times, that this should have happened beforehand, he thought,
‘than that I should have seen after marriage the look that came into her
eyes when they rested on Bob Clarke.’

He did not admit that permanent injury to his health would result from
this defeat. It was not a crushing disaster, from which he could never
rally. Rather was it a sharp repulse, useful in teaching caution. Brave
men, great men, had profited by blows like this ere now. He would retire
within his entrenchments—would perhaps be the better fitted to take the
field in a future campaign.

A necessity lay upon him of acquainting his family with a portion, at
any rate, of such momentous events. He did not go too deeply into his
feelings for Christabel Rockley, yet permitted his mother and sisters to
perceive that all probability of her appearing at The Chase as Mrs.
Effingham, junior, was swept away by arrangement with Bob Clarke—duly
ratified by the irrevocable if reluctant consent of Mr. Rockley.

His condition of mind was, doubtless, closely gauged by his relatives.
With instinctive delicacy they ministered indirectly to his hurt spirit.
While not displeased that the lovely Christabel had not appropriated the
beloved, their Wilfred, they never permitted him to perceive how widely
their estimate differed from his own. They counselled steady occupation,
and led him to take pleasure once more in intellectual pursuits.

A diversion, happily, was effected in due time. He commenced to discover
that his mental appetite had returned—that he could read once more and
even _laugh_ occasionally at the conceits of authors, much indeed as if
his heart had not been broken. Then letters with good news from Beatrice
and her father arrived. The voyage had been safe and speedy. On their
arrival they had found the Colonel—such was his present rank—better than
their fears had led them to expect. Ghastly and numerous, in all truth,
were his still unhealed wounds; his state of weakness pitiable to see.
But the fever from which he had suffered had left him. And when the eyes
of the sick soldier met those of Beatrice Effingham, beaming upon him
with a world of love and tenderness, all felt that a stage on the way to
recovery had been reached. Such, too, came to be the opinion of the
doctor and nurse, a portion of whose duties the two ladies had assumed.

Then letters came from the new country, _via_ Port Phillip:—‘The climate
was more moist than that of New South Wales, but the water never failed,
and the grass was beyond all description. Immigrants from all the world
were pouring in fast; the place bade fair to be another Britain. Money
was being made rapidly. Stock were any price you chose to ask. A cattle
trade was springing up with Tasmania. Argyll thought he would go home
for a couple of years, leaving Hamilton in charge. Fred Churbett was in
great form, fully convinced that he was intended for a dweller in the
waste places of the earth. He felt so happy and contented that he didn’t
think he would take a free passage to England, with a season box at the
Royal Opera, if it were offered to him.’

As for Guy, all written symbols were inadequate to express the length,
breadth, and depth of his happiness under the new and romantic
conditions. The cattle were doing splendidly—no one would know them. And
no wonder—the feed was unparalleled. He had got up two good slab huts, a
stock-yard, and a calf-pen. They were now splitting rails for a horse
paddock.

The Port Phillip news (from Guy) became presently more sensational. The
Benmohr people, with Ardmillan, Churbett, and the rest, had arranged to
leave their stations for a while, and come to Yass for Christmas. A
better time to get away might never come. There was no chance of
bush-fires. The blacks were quiet. The cattle were thoroughly broken in;
you couldn’t drive them off the runs if you tried. There was nothing to
do this year but brand calves. So they would turn up before Christmas
Day.

He didn’t think he would have been able to get away, but Jack Donnelly
had offered to look after the run in his absence, and with old Tom
there, no harm could come to the cattle. A couple of months would see
them back, and he really thought they deserved a holiday.

Such intelligence had power to renovate the morale of the whole
household, from Mrs. Effingham—who, in good sooth, had with difficulty
kept up a reasonably cheerful appearance, in default of her absent
husband and daughter—down to Mrs. Evans, expectant of the errant Dick.

Jeanie and Andrew were overjoyed at the tidings, and Duncan was at once
despatched to Benmohr to acquaint Mrs. Teviot and Wullie with the
glorious news, in case they had not as yet received a letter. But they
had; and Mrs. Teviot threatened Duncan with the broom for daring to
think ‘her gentlemen wadna acquent her the vara meenute they kenned they
could win hame to Benmohr.’

Comes then a letter from Sternworth. News had been received from
O’Desmond, who had discovered a splendid tract of country beyond the
lower Oxley marshes, hitherto considered impassable, and after remaining
upon it during the winter and spring, was coming back to Badajos. _He_
too hoped to arrive before Christmas. The long-vacant homes of the
district would be again filled up, thank God!

‘Won’t it be delightful to see dear Guy again,’ said Annabel, ‘and to
have the old house full once more, with friends and neighbours. I _must_
kiss one of them. Mr. Churbett, I think. You would not object to that,
mamma, would you?’

‘_He_ would not,’ said Wilfred. ‘I don’t wonder that you and Rosamond
are delighted at the chance of seeing their faces again. It seems hard
that fate should have decided to separate us. Either they should have
remained here, or we should have pulled up stakes, like Rockley, and
migrated there.’

‘There is another friend coming that I shall be charmed to welcome—whom,
like Annabel, I shall be ready to embrace, and indeed _shall_ kiss on
the spot.’

‘Is my last belief in womanhood to be uprooted?’ exclaimed Wilfred
languidly. ‘Is my immaculate sister Rosamond actually going to join the
“fast” division?’

‘You need not be alarmed,’ she replied. ‘It is only Vera Fane; and I did
not speak of her visit before, because I was not sure she would be able
to come.’

‘Vera Fane!’ said Wilfred. ‘How does she happen to come our way? I
thought she was in Sydney. Didn’t some one say she was going to be
married?’

‘Oh, to that handsome cousin, Reginald, that came from England, _via_
Melbourne, the other day. You heard that, did you? So did we, and were
agonised at the thought of losing her for good. But she is coming up
here at mamma’s invitation, given long ago, to stay with us over
January. Her father won’t be at Black Mountain till then; he can’t leave
Norman, who has had a bad time with scarlet fever.’

‘Well, you will have another lady in the house to fill Beatrice’s place,
and help to amuse your guests. She is quite equal to a pair of ordinary
young ladies in the matter of rational conversation, perhaps more.’

‘So Mr. Argyll thinks, evidently,’ said Annabel; ‘he paid her the
_greatest_ attention once he met her over here. I know she thinks him
very clever and distinguished-looking. They would suit one another
famously.’

‘I don’t think so at all,’ said Wilfred shortly. ‘But I must get away to
my work.’



                              CHAPTER XXVI
                       THE RETURN FROM PALESTINE


Matters had been pleasant enough in the early days at Lake William, and
the Benmohr men considered that nothing could be more perfect than their
old life there. But this new region was so much more extensive, with a
half-unknown grandeur, rendering existence more picturesque and exciting
in every way. There were possibilities of fortunes being made, of cities
being built, of a great Dominion in the future—vast though formless
visions, which dwarfed the restricted aims of the elder colony. Such
aspirations tended to dissuade them from residing permanently in their
former homesteads.

But they were coming back for a last visit—a long farewell. There were
friends to see, adventures to relate, transactions to arrange. A
pleasant change from their wild-wood life, an intoxicating novelty; but
once experienced, they must depart to return no more.

The absentees did not await Christmas proper, but arrived beforehand,
having tempted the main in the yacht _Favourite_, sailing master
Commodore Kirsopp, R.N., from Melbourne. Such passengers as Ned White,
Jack Fletcher, Tom Carne, and Alick Gambier offered such an irresistible
combination.

Once more the homesteads around Lake William appeared to awaken and put
on their former hospitable expression. Mrs. Teviot had scrubbed and
burnished away at Benmohr, until when ‘her gentlemen’ arrived, welcomed
with tears of joy, they declared themselves afraid to take possession of
their own house, so magnificently furnished and spotlessly clean did it
appear to them after their backwoods experience.

Mr. Churbett stood gazing at his books in speechless admiration (he
averred) for half an hour; afterwards inspecting his stable and Grey
Surrey’s loose-box with feelings of wonder and appreciation. Neil
Barrington declared that he was again a schoolboy at home for the
holidays, not a day older than fourteen, and thereupon indulged himself
in so many pranks and privileges proper to his assumed age that Mrs.
Teviot scolded him for a graceless laddie, and threatened to box his
ears, particularly when he kissed her assistant, an apple-cheeked damsel
lured from one of the neighbouring farms in order to help in her work at
this tremendous crisis.

Guy Effingham was hardly recognisable, so his sisters declared, in the
stalwart youngster who galloped up to The Chase in company with Gerald
O’More, whom he had invited to spend Christmas in his father’s house.
There was the old mischievous, merry expression of the eyes, the frank
smile for those he loved; but all save his forehead was burned several
shades darker, and a thick-coming growth of whisker and moustache had
changed the boyish lineaments and placed in their stead the sterner
regard of manhood.

Gerald O’More had also sustained a change. His manner was more subdued,
and his spirits, though ready as of old to respond to the call of mirth,
did not seem to be so irrepressible. He had altered somewhat in figure
and face, having lost the fulness which marks the newly-arrived
colonist, and along with the British fairness of complexion, sacrificed
to the Australian sun, had put away the half-inquiring, half-critical
tone of manner that characterises the immigrant Briton for his first
year in Australia. He now ranked as the soldier who had shared in the
toil, the bivouac, the marches of the campaign; no longer a recruit or
supernumerary.

‘He has never been so jolly since poor Hubert’s death,’ whispered Guy to
Rosamond in their first confidential talk. ‘He thought it was his fault
that the poor chap wasn’t able to defend himself. But he’ll get over it
in time. A better-hearted fellow couldn’t be. He’s a stunning bushman
now, and a tiger to work.’

‘What’s “a tiger to work”?’ asked Rosamond, laughing. ‘I must make you
pay a forfeit for inelegant expressions, as I used to do in old
school-days.’

‘I should never have known half as much,’ said the boy, as he turned to
his sister with a look of deepest love and admiring respect, ‘if it
hadn’t been for you, Rosamond. How early you used to get up on those
winter mornings, and how Blanche and I and Selden hated the sound of
that bell! But there’s nothing like it,’ he added with a tone of manly
decision. ‘I polished off a fellow about the date of the battle of Crecy
in great style the other day. You would have been quite proud of me.’

‘You keep up your reading, then, dear Guy, and don’t forget your
classics, though you are in the bush? When you go to England, some day,
you must show our friends that we do more than gallop after cattle and
chop down trees in Australia.’

‘Oh, we have great reading at night, I can tell you; only those tallow
candles are such a nuisance. I’ve got a new friend, a Cambridge fellow,
just out from home, on the other side of me, and he’s a regular
encyclopædia. So, between him and the Benmohr people, I shan’t rust
much.’

‘I am delighted to hear it. I hope you will have an Oxford man on your
other side, as you call it. A literary atmosphere is everything for
young people. Who is your other neighbour?’

‘Jack Donnelly, and not half a bad fellow either. Though his father
can’t read or write, he knows Latin, but not Greek, and he’s awfully
fond of reading. You should hear the arguments he and Cavendish have—the
Cambridge man, I mean.’

‘What do they argue about?’

‘Oh, everything—England and Ireland, Conservative and Democratic
government, native Australians and Britishers. They’re always at it.
Jack’s a clever fellow, and very quick; awfully good-looking too. You
should see him ride. Cavendish says he’ll make his mark some day—he’s
full of ambition.’

‘It is very creditable of him to try. If his father had not cared for
his children in that way, he might never have risen above his own grade.
Young gentlemen, too, should maintain the position which they have
inherited. Don’t lose sight of that.’

‘That’s what Hamilton’s always saying; he’s a wonderful fellow himself.
See him in town, you’d think he never had his hands out of kid gloves,
and yet he can keep time with the best working man we have, at any rough
work.’

‘You cannot have a better model, my dear Guy. Mamma and I are so
thankful that you are among men who would do honour to any country.’

Great was the joy expressed and many were the congratulations which
passed on both sides when the explorers returned. They had so much to
tell about the new home, so much to admire in the old one. It was a
suburb of Paradise in their eyes, with its cultured aspect and gracious
inhabitants, after the untamed wilderness.

They were never tired of praising their former homes and neighbours. If,
by some Arabian Nights arrangement, they could transport them bodily to
the new colony, complete happiness, for once in this imperfect world,
would be attained.

The Benmohrs found their apartments in apparently the same state of
faultless order in which they had quitted them. No smallest article had
been moved or changed. A velveteen shooting-jacket, which Argyll
remembered hanging up just as he started, was the very object which
greeted his eyes when he awakened after the first night in his own bed.

The worst of it was that the breaking up of all this comfort and
domesticity would be so painful. The climate had changed permanently
(people always jump to this conclusion in Australia directly they begin
to forget the last drought), and was simply Elysian. The lake was full;
once more they listened to the music of its tiny surges. But for choice,
the new country was about ten times more valuable. The pleasant old
station homesteads must go. However, they were here now for a spell of
pure enjoyment, not to bother their heads with the future.

Money was plentiful, the gods be praised! Everything was _couleur de
rose_; they would revel in ease and enjoyment with a free spirit until
Christmas was over. The cares of this world might then have their
innings, but by no means till the New Year chimes called them to new
duties. There was nothing now but such pleasant rides and drives;
lingering rambles, after the heat of the day; expeditions into Yass,
where they were fêted as if they had included the South Pole in their
discoveries. Mr. Sternworth alluded to their return in his sermon,
drawing tears from his congregation when he spoke of the strong, brave
man they would never see more, whom many there present had known from
childhood. But he had died as a Warleigh should die, doing his duty
gallantly, and giving his life to save that of a comrade.

Before the third week of December had passed, another sensational
arrival was chronicled. O’Desmond drove through the town on his way to
Badajos in his four-in-hand, looking as if he had encountered no
discomforts to speak of. His horses were in high condition; the bits and
brasses were faultlessly polished; the drag hardly looked as if it had
been a thousand miles from a coach-builder, much less covered up with
boughs during the deadly summer of the waste.

But observers noted that Harry O’Desmond, upright and well set up as
ever, was thinner and older-looking; that, although he received their
greetings with his old stately cordiality, there was an expression upon
his worn and darkened countenance rarely imprinted save by dread
wayfaring through the Valley of the Shadow——

So had it been with him, in truth. Passing the farthest known
explorations, his party came into a waste and torrid region,
indescribably dread and hopeless. There, apparently, no rain had fallen
for years. The largest trees had perished from desiccation of the soil;
even the wild animals had died or migrated. The few they encountered
were too weak to flee or resist. For weeks they had undergone fearful
privations; had tasted the tortures of thirst and hunger, well-nigh unto
death.

With men weakened and disheartened, O’Desmond knew that to linger was
death. With a picked party of his long-tried followers he pushed on,
leaving just sufficient to support life with the depôt. On the _very
last_ day which exhausted nature could have granted them they passed the
barriers of the Land of Despair. They saw before them—such are the
wondrous contrasts of the Australian waste—a land of water-pools and
pastures, of food and fruit.

But simultaneously with their glimpse of the haven of relief came the
view of a numerous, athletic party of blacks, clustered near the
river-bank. For war or hunting, this section of the tribe had surely
been detailed. There were no women or children visible—a bad sign, as
the sinking hearts of the emaciated wayfarers well knew. They were brave
enough under ordinary circumstances of fight or famine. But this bore
_too_ hardly upon human nature, coming, as it did, after the toils and
privations of the terrible desert.

But there was one heart among the fainting crew which neither hunger,
thirst, nor the shadow of coming death had power to daunt. Aware that
with savages a bold yet friendly bearing is the acme of diplomacy,
O’Desmond decided upon his course.

The chief stood before his leading braves, doubtful if not hostile.

Suddenly recollecting that among his private stores, faithfully
distributed, upon which alone they had been subsisting of late, was a
package of loaf sugar, the idea flashed across his mind of tempting the
palate of the savage.

Raising a handful of lumps of the rare and precious commodity, he
advanced cheerfully and presented them to the leader, who regarded them
distrustfully. His retinue stared with pitiless eyes at the wasted white
weaklings. It was the supreme moment. Life and death swayed in the
scales.

Harry O’Desmond so recognised it, under his forced smile, as he lifted
one of the smaller fragments to his lips, and with great appearance of
relish began to masticate. Slowly and heedfully did the chief likewise.
The charm worked. The flavour of the far-borne product, for which so
many of the men of his colour had died in slavery, subjugated the
heathen’s palate. He smiled, and motioned the others to advance.
O’Desmond followed up his advantage. Every remaining grain was
distributed. In a few minutes each warrior was licking his lips
appreciatively. A treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive, was as
good as signed.

That day the starving wanderers feasted on fish and flesh, brought in
profusion by their new comrades. They had never seen a white man before,
and were, like many of the first-met tribes, not indisposed to be
peaceful.

When shown the encampment, the clothes, the equipment, the strange
beasts, they pointed to the sky, snapping their fingers in wonder as
they marked the leader’s height and stalwart frame, but made no attempt
to raid the treasures of the white ‘medicine man.’

So the expedition was made free of a waste kingdom, bisected by the
deep-flowing stream of the Moora-warra, with its plains and forests, its
lagoons and reed-brakes. And for long years after, until O’Desmond sold
out the full-stocked runs for the high prices of the day, never was shot
fired or spear lifted in anger between the dwellers on the Big River.

Wilfred had called at Badajos to congratulate their old friend. Upon his
return he found that the household had received an important addition.
Dr. Fane had ridden over with his daughter from Yass, and was with
difficulty persuaded to rest for a few days at The Chase before
returning to Black Mountain. Like most people who lead uneventful lives,
he was in a hurry to get home, though compelled to admit that he had
nothing particular to do when he got there.

The Parson had stolen a day, he said, and driven over with them, proud
of the honour, he further stated, of taking charge of Miss Fane’s
impedimenta, which, though the most reasonable of damsels in that
respect, could not be carried upon Emigrant. That accomplished palfrey
she had brought over chiefly for the pleasure of having him to ride
while at The Chase. Besides, his presence saved her a world of anxiety,
as when they were separated she was always imagining that he had got out
of his paddock, been stolen, or fallen lame, such accidents being proper
to valuable horses in Australia.

So when Wilfred arrived he found every one in most cheerful and animated
vein. Argyll was describing the features of the new country to Dr. Fane,
who was deeply interested in its geological aspect; his daughter,
apparently, had found the narrative, interspersed as it was with ‘moving
incidents by flood and field,’ equally entertaining.

Mr. Sternworth, with Rosamond beside him, was questioning Hamilton about
the spiritual welfare of the infant settlement of Melbourne; promising,
moreover, a handsome subscription to St. James’s, the new Church of
England, at that time in course of erection. Gerald O’More, with Fred
Churbett and Neil Barrington, was having an animated, not to say noisy,
conversation with Annabel. Peals of laughter, of which a large
proportion was contributed by the young lady, were the first sounds that
met his ear upon entering the room. All seemed so capable of mutual
entertainment, without his aid, countenance, or company, that he was
sensible of a _soupçon_ of pique as he surveyed the festive scene.

However, he cordially welcomed Miss Fane and her father to The Chase,
mentally remarking that he had never seen that young lady look so well
before, or had thought her half so handsome. Her response did much to
clear his brow and banish from his heart all unworthy feelings. The
steadfast gaze was frank and kindly as of yore. She appeared
unaffectedly pleased to see him again.

‘You know you belong to the band of heroes whom we have felt so proud to
honour upon their return,’ she said. ‘Papa has a famous classical
parallel, I know, for your exploits and safe arrival at Lake William. He
did explain it to me, but I have forgotten. Mr. Sternworth, what is it?’

‘Never mind, Vera,’ replied the old gentleman, ‘I never talk Latin in
the presence of young ladies. I can always find something more amusing
to say. You must sing us those new songs you brought from Sydney. That
would be more appropriate, wouldn’t it, Mrs. Effingham?’

‘I don’t know much Latin, you unkind old godfather, but what I do know I
am not in the least ashamed of.’

‘Argyll’s making the pace pretty good, isn’t he, Fred,’ remarked Neil
Barrington, ‘with that nice Miss Fane? She’s the only “model girl” I
ever took to. I’m her humble slave and adorer. But I never expected to
have the great MacCallum More for my rival. Did you ever see him hard
hit before, Fred?’

‘Never, on the word of a gentleman-pioneer,’ rejoined Mr. Churbett.
‘It’s this exploration, new country, perils-of-the-wilderness business
that has done it. “None but the brave deserve the fair.” _We_ are the
brave, sir, in this fortunate instance. We have solved the mystery of
the unconquered Bogongs. We have gazed at the ocean outlets of the Great
Lakes. We have proved ourselves to be the manner of men that found
empires. Under the circumstances heroes always hastened to contract
matrimonial alliances. Cortez did it. Dunois did it. William of Argyll
is perilously near the Great Hazard. And I, Frederick de Churbett, am
hugely minded to do likewise, if that confounded Irishman would only
leave off his nonsense and let a fellow get a word in edgeways.’

Mr. Churbett had reason for complaint, inasmuch as Gerald O’More, when
his national gallantry was kindled to action, appeared determined to
permit ‘no rival near the throne,’ as he successively devoted himself to
Annabel, Rosamond, and Miss Fane, or indeed occasionally kept all
engaged in conversation and entertainment at the self-same time. It
became difficult to discover, for a while, so rapid as well as brilliant
were his evolutions, whom he intended to honour with his exclusive
admiration. At length, however, those who were in the position of calm
spectators had no doubt but that Annabel, with whom he kept up a
ceaseless flow of badinage and raillery, was the real attraction. If so,
he was likely to find a rival in the sarcastic Ardmillan, with whom he
had more than once bade fair to pass from jest to earnest. For the
cooler Scot was in the habit of waiting until he saw his antagonist upon
the horns of a dilemma, or luring him on to the confines of a manifest
absurdity. This he would explode, blowing his rival’s argument into the
air, and graciously explaining his triumph to the surrounding fair.

Such was the satisfaction which filled the heart of Mrs. Effingham, that
but for the absence of her husband and daughter she would certainly have
gone the daring length of giving a party. But the absence of her husband
was, to the conscience of the matron, an insuperable objection. No
amount of specious argument or passionate appeal could alter her
determination.

‘My dears, it would be wrong,’ she quietly replied, in answer to
Annabel’s entreaty and Rosamond’s sober statement that there could not
be any objection on the point of etiquette. ‘Suppose anything should
happen to your father or Beatrice about the time—travelling is so very
uncertain—we should never have another happy moment.’

So the project, much to Annabel’s openly expressed and Rosamond’s
inwardly felt disappointment, was given up. However, Mrs. Effingham
relented so far as to say that, although her principles forbade her to
give a party, there could be nothing indecorous in asking their friends
to dine with them on Christmas Day, when the time for dear Guy’s
departure for the station would, alas! be drawing nigh.

This was a grand concession, and all kinds of preparations were made for
the celebration of the festival. In the meanwhile, as there was next to
nothing doing on any of the stations, what between riding-parties,
chance visits, special arrivals for the purpose of bringing over new
books or new music, it seemed as if The Chase had been changed into the
caravanserai of the district. It would have been difficult to tell
whether the neighbours lived more of their time with the Effinghams or
at their own stations.

During this exciting season Wilfred Effingham was commencing to
experience the elaborated torture of seeing the woman he _now_
discovered to be his chief exemplar made love to by another man,
apparently with prospects of success. When he set himself to work
seriously to please, William Argyll was rarely known to fail. The
restless spirit was stilled. The uncontrollable temper was lulled, like
the wave of a summer sea. All the powers of a rare intellect, the stores
of a cultivated mind, were displayed. Brave, athletic, of a striking
personal appearance, if not regularly handsome, he was a man to whom few
women could refuse interest, whom none could scorn. Besides all this, he
was the heir to a fine estate in his native land.

When, therefore, day by day, he devoted himself in almost exclusive
attendance to the appropriation of Miss Fane, keeping close to her
bridle-rein in all excursions, monopolising her in the evenings, and
holding æsthetic talks, in which she apparently took equal interest, the
general conclusion arrived at was that Miss Fane was only awaiting a
decorous interval to capitulate in due form.

Yet Wilfred was constrained to confess that however much he may have
deserved such punishment, there was no change in her manner towards him.
When he touched upon any of their old subjects of debate, he found she
had not forgotten the points on which they had agreed or differed, and
was ready, as of old, to maintain her opinions.

She seemed pleased to linger over reminiscences of those days and the
confidences then made.

‘Nobody would know Black Mountain now,’ she said. ‘Since we have grown
rich, comparatively speaking, from “the providential rise in the price
of store cattle” (as one auctioneer called it), papa has indulged me by
making all kinds of additions, and I suppose we must say
improvements—new fences, new furniture, new stables, plants in the
garden, books in the library. Money is the latter-day magician
certainly.’

‘And you are proportionately happier, of course,’ said Wilfred.

‘Frankly,’ said Miss Fane, ‘I am, just at present. I feel like one of
Napoleon’s generals, who were ennobled and enriched after having risen
from the ranks. No doubt they enjoyed their new dignities immensely. If
they didn’t, their wives did. I won’t say we were _roturiers_, but we
were very, _very_ poor. And it is so nice now to think we can dress as
well as other people, and have the ordinary small luxuries of our
position, without troubling about the everlasting ways and means.’

‘We are much alike in our experiences,’ answered Wilfred. ‘We should
soon have been absolutely ruined—the ways and means would have simply
been obliterated.’

‘I suppose so; but I never could believe in the poverty of any of you
Lake William people. You seemed to have everything you could possibly
want. The best part of our present good fortune is, that the boys are at
a good school, while papa can buy as many new books as he can coax me,
in mercy to his eyesight, to let him read. So I can say that we are
quite happy.’

‘I wonder you don’t think of going to Europe. Dr. Fane could easily sell
at a high price now; and then, fancy “the kingdoms of the earth and the
glory of them.”’

‘You are quoting the Tempter, which is not quite respectful to me—for
once; but there is a reason why papa cannot bear the thought of leaving
our dear, lonely old home. My poor mother was buried there, and his
heart with her. For me, I have from childhood imbibed his feelings for
the place of her grave.’

Rosamond here approached, and carried off her friend upon some mission
of feminine importance. Wilfred, feeling that the conversation had taken
a direction of melancholy which he could not fathom or adequately
respond to, rejoined his other guests. But he could not help dwelling
upon the fact that his conversations with Miss Fane seemed so utterly
different from those with any other woman. Before the first sentences
were well exchanged, one or other apparently struck the keynote, which
awakened sympathetic chords, again vibrating amid harmonious echoes and
semi-tones.

To complete the universal jubilation, Mr. O’Desmond, in acknowledgment
of the interest which the inhabitants of the district had shown in his
safe return, announced his intention of giving an entertainment at
Badajos on New Year’s Day, at which amusements would be provided for his
humbler neighbours as well as for the gentry of the district. He had
ridden over to The Chase, and entreated Mrs. Effingham’s advice as to
decorations and dispositions. It was to be a _very_ grand affair. No one
who knew O’Desmond doubted but that, having undertaken such a project,
he would carry it out with elaborate completeness. So that, among the
young people and general population of the district, the Badajos Revels
were looked forward to with intense expectation.

‘What will the general plan of arrangement be?’ said Fred Churbett to
Hamilton. ‘Something in the Elizabethan style, with giants, salvage-men,
and dwarfs, speeches and poetical addresses to the Queen of the land,
whoever she may be? Anyhow, he is going to spend a lot of money about
it. I hear the preparations are tremendous.’

‘In that case it will form a telling relief to the general lack of
variety in these affairs,’ said Hamilton. ‘Every one has made such a
heap of money now, that it hardly matters what is spent, in reason. We
shall have to turn to hard work again in January. I wonder whether the
old boy has fallen in love, like everybody else, and is going to make
his proposals with what he considers to be “befitting accessories.”’

‘Shouldn’t wonder at all,’ said Fred. ‘It appears to me that we are
beginning to enter upon a phase of existence worthy of Boccaccio,
without the plague—and the—perhaps unreserved narratives. It certainly
is the realm of Faerye at present. The turning out into the world of
fact will come rather hard upon some of us.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

So matters passed on, materially unchanged, until the actual arrival of
Christmas Day, on which sacred commemoration Mr. Sternworth, who had
been temporarily relieved by the Dean of Goulburn, stayed with them at
The Chase for a week, and performed services to a reasonable-sized
congregation in the dining-room, which was completely filled by the
family, with friends and humble neighbours. On the evening before, too,
which invested the service with additional feelings of hope and
thankfulness, most satisfactory letters had been received from India.
Mr. Effingham told how—

‘The Colonel was recovering rapidly. His medical attendant advised a
visit of at least two years to Europe. As the cold weather season had
set in, he might take his passage. Beatrice and he were to be married
before he left. He (Mr. Effingham) would sail for Australia directly the
ceremony was over. Indeed, he was tired of India, and now that the
Colonel, poor fellow, was recovering, would have been bored to death had
it not been for his menagerie. Then followed a list of profitable and
unprofitable beasts, birds, and even fishes, which, if he could
transport successfully to The Chase, would make him a happy man for the
rest of his life. People might say he was amusing himself, but the
profits of some of his ventures would in days to come be _enormous_. For
instance, take the Cashmere goats, of which he had succeeded in getting
a small flock. The fine hair or “pushta,” combed from near the skin, in
contrast to the coarse outer fleece, was worth a guinea a pound. A shawl
manufactured from it sold for a fabulous sum. These animals would thrive
(he felt certain) in Australia; and then what would be the consequence?
Why, the merino industry would be dwarfed by it—positively dwarfed!’

The family of this sanguine gentleman did not go the whole length of his
conclusions, having found that some unexpected factor commonly
interfered with the arithmetical working out of his projects. But they
were delighted to think they should shortly see his face again. And
Beatrice was to receive the reward of her unchanged love and devotion!
She would have, dear girl, a lifelong claim to care for the health and
happiness of him whom she had, as the Surgeon-General averred, ‘raised
up from the dead.’

Files of Indian papers showed that on every side honours and decorations
had been heaped upon the gallant and now fortunate soldier. Here was one
of the mildest extracts—

‘Colonel Glendinning, V.C., has been made a Companion of the Bath. He
will probably be knighted. But will the country tolerate this tardy and
barren honour? Of his stamp are the men who have more than once saved
India. If the present Government, instead of making promotions at the
bidding of parliamentary interest, would appoint a _proved leader_ as
Commander-in-Chief, Hindostan might be tranquil once more and Russia
overawed.’



                             CHAPTER XXVII
                          THE DUEL IN THE SNOW


Just before the commencement of the stupendous festivities of Badajos, a
letter arrived, by which the parson was informed that Mr. Rockley,
having business at Yass, had resolved to run up from Port Phillip and
see them all. Mr. St. Maur, who had an equally good excuse, would
accompany him.

This was looked upon as either a wondrous coincidence or a piece of
pure, unadulterated good luck. When the hearty and sympathetic accents
of William Rockley were once more heard among them, everybody was as
pleased as if he, personally, had been asked to welcome a rich uncle
from India.

‘I never dreamed of seeing St. Maur in these parts,’ said Neil
Barrington. ‘He’s such a tremendous swell in Melbourne that I doubted
his recognising us again. What business can he possibly have up here?’

‘Perhaps he is unwilling to risk a disappointment at the game which will
be lost or won before January, “for want of a heart to play,”’ said
Ardmillan. ‘He may follow suit, like others of this worshipful company.
Hearts are trumps this deal, unless I mistake greatly.’

‘Didn’t we hear that he had been left money, or made a fortune by town
allotments down there? Anyhow he’s going home, I believe; so this will
be his last visit to Yass for some time.’

‘If we make money at the pace which we have been going for the last
year, we shall all be able to go home,’ pronounced Ardmillan. ‘Yet,
after all the pleasant days that we have seen here and at Benmohr, the
thought is painful. This influx of capital will break up our jolly
society more completely than the drought. In that case we should have
had to cling to a sinking ship, or take to the boats; now, the vessel is
being paid off, and the crew scattered to the four winds.’

‘Sic transit,’ echoed Neil lugubriously. ‘I forget the rest; but
wherever we go, and however well lined our pockets may be, it is a
chance if we are half as happy again in our lives as we have been in
this jolly old district.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

Christmas had come and gone. The Badajos Revels were imminent. Rockley
and St. Maur had declared for remaining until they were over, in despite
of presumably pressing engagements.

‘I believe old Harry O’Desmond would have made a personal matter of it
if we had left him in the lurch,’ said Mr. Rockley. ‘He spoke rather
stiffly, St. Maur, when you said all Melbourne was waiting to know the
result of our deputation to the Governor-General, and that they would be
loth to take the excuse of a country picnic.’

‘The old boy’s face was grim,’ said St. Maur; ‘but I had made up my mind
to remain. I like to poke him up—he is so serious and stately. But we
should not have quarrelled about such a trifle.’

In the meantime, terrific preparations were made for the fête; one to be
long remembered in the neighbourhood. O’Desmond’s magnificence of idea
had only been held down, like most men of his race and nature, by the
compulsion of circumstances. Now, he had resolved to give a free rein to
his taste and imagination. It was outlined, in his mind, as a
recognition of the enthusiasm which had greeted his return to the
district in which he had lived so long. This had touched him to the
heart. Habitually repressive of emotion, he would show them, in this
form, how he demonstrated the feelings to which he denied utterance.

In his carefully considered programme, he had by no means restricted
himself to a single day or to the stereotyped gaieties of music and the
dance. On this sole and exemplary occasion, the traditional glories of
Castle Desmond would be faintly recalled, the profuse, imperial
hospitalities of which had lent their share to his present sojourn near
the plains of Yass. Several days were to be devoted to the reception of
all comers. Each was to have its special recreation; to include picnics
and private theatricals, with dresses and costumes from a metropolitan
establishment. A dinner to the gentry, tradespeople, and yeomen of the
district; to be followed by a grand costume ball in a building
constructed for the purpose, to which all ‘the county’ would be invited.

‘What a truly magnificent idea!’ said Rosamond Effingham, a short time
before the opening day, as they all sat in the verandah at The Chase,
after lunch and a hard morning’s work at preparations. ‘But will not our
good friend and neighbour ruin himself?’

‘Bred in the bone,’ said Gerald O’More. ‘Godfrey O’Desmond, this man’s
great-grandfather, gave an entertainment which put a mortgage on the
property from that day to this. Had a real lake of claret, I believe.
Regular marble basin, you know. Gold and silver cups of the Renaissance,
held in the hands of fauns, nymphs, and satyrs—that kind of
thing—hogsheads emptied in every morning. Everything wonderful, rich,
and more extravagant than a dream. Nobody went to bed for a fortnight,
they say. Hounds met as usual. A score of duels—half-a-dozen men left on
the sod. County asleep for a year afterwards.’

‘The estate never raised its head again, anyhow,’ said Mr. Rockley, ‘and
no wonder. An extravagant, dissolute, murdering old scoundrel, as they
say old Godfrey was, that deserved seven years in the county gaol for
ruining his descendants and debauching the whole country-side. And do
you believe me, when I mentioned as much to old Harry one day, he was
deuced stiff about it; said we could not understand the duties of a man
of position in those days. I believe now, on my solemn word, that he’d
be just as bad, this day, if he got the chance. I daren’t say another
word to him, and I’ve known him these twenty years.’

‘Let us hope there won’t be so much claret consumed,’ said Miss Fane. ‘I
believe deep drinking is no longer fashionable. I should be grieved if
Mr. O’Desmond did anything to injure his fortune. It may be only a
temporary aberration (to which all Irishmen are subject, Mr. O’More),
and then our small world will go on much as before.’

‘If we could induce a sufficient number of Australian ladies to colonise
Ireland,’ said O’More, bowing, ‘as prudent and as fascinating as Miss
Fane,’ he continued, with a look at Annabel, ‘we might hope to change
the national character. It only wants a dash of moderation to make it
perfect. But we may trust to O’Desmond’s colonial experience to save him
from ruin.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

Thus the last hours of the fortunate, still-remembered year of 1840
passed away. A veritable jubilee, when the land rejoiced, and but few of
the inhabitants of Australia found cause for woe. Great were the anxious
speculations, however, as to weather. In a _fête champêtre_, everything
depends upon that capricious department. And this being ‘a first-class
season,’ unvarying cloudlessness could by no means be predicted.

The malign divinities must have been appeased by the sacrifices of the
drought. A calm and beauteous summer morn, warm, but tempered by the
south sea-breeze, bid the children of the Great South Land greeting.

The New Year opened radiantly as a season of joy and consolation. The
whole district was astir from earliest hours; the preparations for the
momentous experiences of the day were utterly indescribable, save by a
Homeric Company of Bards (limited).

As the sun rose higher,

                 From Highland, Lowland, Border, Isle,
                 How shall I name their separate style,
                     Each chief of rank and fame,

with his ‘following,’ appeared before the outer gates of Badajos, where
such a number were gathered as would almost have sufficed to storm the
historic citadel, in the breach of which Captain O’Desmond had fallen,
and from which the estate had been named.

The first day had been allotted to a liberally rendered lawn party,
which was to include almost the whole available population of town and
district, invited by public proclamation as well as by special
invitation. Indeed, it had been notified through the press that, on New
Year’s Day, Mr. O’Desmond would be ‘at home’ prepared to receive _all_
his friends who desired to personally congratulate him upon his return
from the interior.

Never was there such a muster before, since the first gum-tree was
felled, within sight of Yass Plains. An uninterrupted procession wound
its way steadily on from the town, from all the country roads, down
gullies, and across flats and marshes. Every farm sent its
representative. So did every shop in the town, every station in the
district. Not a woman in the land had apparently remained at home. Who
minded the infant children on the 1st of January 1840 will always remain
an unsolved mystery.

The arrangements had been carefully considered by a past-master of
organisation; and they did not break down under the unprecedented
strain. As the horsemen and horsewomen, tax-carts, dog-carts, carriages,
tandems, waggons and bullock-drays even, arrived at the outer gate, they
were met by ready servitors, who directed them, through a cunningly
devised system of separate lanes, to temporarily constructed enclosures,
where they were enabled to unharness and otherwise dispose of their
draught animals and vehicles.

Sheds covered with that invaluable material the bark of the eucalyptus
had been erected, and hay provided, as for the stabling of a regiment of
cavalry; while small paddocks, well watered and with grass ‘up to their
eyes’ (as the stock-riders expressed it), suited admirably those not
over-particular rovers, who, having turned loose their nags, placed
their saddles and bridles in a place of security, and thus
disembarrassed themselves of anxiety for the day.

When these arrangements had been satisfactorily made, they were guided
towards the river-meadow, on a slope overlooking which the homestead and
outbuildings were situated. Here was clustered an encampment of tents
and booths, of every size and shape, and apparently devoted to as many
various classes of amusement and recreation.

The short grass of the river flat, as it was generally called, was
admirably adapted for the present purposes and intentions. The
propitious season, with its frequent showers, had furnished a fair
imitation of English turf, both in verdure and in thickness of sward,
the latter quality much assisted by the stud flock of the famed Badajos
merinoes.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The concluding day of the memorable Badajos Revels, the unrivalled
and immortal performance, had arrived. The last act was about to be
called on. All the arrangements had been more than successful. The
sports and pastimes had gone through without hitch or contention.
The populace was enthusiastic in praise of the liberality which had
ministered so lavishly to their amusement. The aristocracy were no
less unanimous in their approbation. That battues, the picnics, the
costume ball, had been, beyond all description, delightful,
fascinating, well carried out, in such perfect taste—extraordinary
good form—intoxicating—heavenly—utterly, indescribably delicious;
the adjectives and superlatives varying with the age, position, sex,
or character of the speaker.

And now the modern miracle-play was to finish with a presentment, unique
and marvellous beyond belief. The main body of guests and revellers had
departed soon after daylight. ‘Conclamatum est, Poculatum est,’ said a
young Irish priest. ‘I shall have to go into “retreat” if Father Mahony
gets word of me at the ball. Wasn’t I Lord Edward Fitzgerald to the
life? But I durstn’t stay away an hour longer from my flock.’ Many were
the half-repentant, homeward-bound wayfarers who held similar opinions.
And the continuous passage of the fords of the Yass River might have
suggested to the Scots, by birth or extraction, King James’ army after
Flodden—

               Tweed’s echoes heard the ceaseless plash,
                 While many a broken band,
               Disordered through her currents dash,
                 To gain the Scottish land.

There was not, it is true, such need for haste, but the pace at which
the shallower fords were taken might have suggested it.

However, a considerable proportion of the house parties and guests of
the neighbouring families, with such of the townspeople and others whose
time was not specially valuable, remained for the closing spectacle.
Much curiosity was aroused as to the nature of it.

‘Perhaps you can unfold the mystery of this duel which we are all taking
about,’ said Annabel to St. Maur, with whom she had been discussing the
costumes of the ball.

‘I happen to be in O’Desmond’s confidence,’ he replied; ‘so we may
exchange secrets. Many years ago, in Paris, he fell across an old
picture representing a fatal duel between Masks, after a ball. So he
pitched upon it for representation, as a striking if rather weird
interlude.’

‘What a strange idea! How unreal and horrible. Fancy any of the people
here going out to fight a duel. Is any one killed?’

‘Of course, or there wouldn’t be half the interest. He proposes to dress
the characters exactly like those in the picture, and, indeed, brought
up the costumes from town with him. Your brother, by a coincidence,
adopted one—that of a Red Indian. It will do for his second.’

‘Thoroughly French, at any rate, and only for the perfect safety of the
thing would be horrible to look at. However, we must do whatever Mr.
O’Desmond tells us, for _years_ to come. I shall be too sleepy to be
much shocked, that’s one thing. But what are they to fight with?
Rapiers?’

‘With foils, which, of course you know, are the same in appearance, only
with a button on the end which prevents danger from a thrust.’

‘Wilfred, my boy!’ had said O’Desmond, making a progress through the
ball-room on the preceding night, ‘you look in that Huron dress as if
you had neglected to scalp an enemy, and were grieving over the
omission. Do the ladies know those odd-looking pieces of brown leather
on the breast fringe are _real scalps_? I see they are. You will get no
one to dance with you. But my errand is a selfish one. You will make a
principal man in that “Duel after the Masquerade” which I have set my
heart upon getting up to-morrow.’

‘But in this dress?’

‘My dear fellow, that is the very thing. Curiously, one of the actors in
that weird duel scene is dressed as a Huron or Cherokee. You know Indian
arms and legends, even names, were fashionable in Paris when
Chateaubriand made every one weep with his Atala and Chactas? You could
not have been more accurately dressed, and you will lay me under lasting
obligation by taking the foils with Argyll, and investing your second
with this dress.’

‘With Argyll!’ echoed Wilfred with an accent of surprise.

‘I know he is called the surest fencer in our small world, but I always
thought you more than his match. He never, to my mind, liked your thrust
in tierce.’

‘You are right,’ said Wilfred. ‘Grisier thought me perfect in that. I
shall meet him with pleasure. If only to show him—— Bah! I am getting so
infected with the spirit of your Masquerade that one would think it a
real duel. Command me, however.’

‘A thousand thanks. Not later than three to-morrow afternoon. The ladies
will not forgive us if we are not punctual.’

From Wilfred Effingham’s expression of relief one might have thought
that he had received good tidings. Yet, what was it after all—what could
it lead to? A mock duel; a mere fencing match. What was there to clear
his visage and lighten his heart in such a game as this?

A trifle, doubtless. But William Argyll was to be his antagonist.
Towards him he had been unconsciously nurturing a causeless resentment,
which threatened to drift into hatred. Argyll was sunning himself daily
(he thought) in the smiles of Vera Fane, pleased with the position and
confident of success. And though she, from time to time, regarded
Wilfred with glances of such kindly regard that he was well-nigh tempted
to confess his past sins and his present love, he had resolutely kept
aloof.

Why should he court repulse, and only be more hopelessly humiliated? Did
not all say—could he not see—that Miss Fane was merely waiting for
Argyll’s challenge to the citadel of her heart to own its conquest and
surrender?

The Benmohr people, who knew something of everything and did not suffer
their knowledge to decay for lack of practice, were devoted to fencing.
Their lumber-room was half an armoury, holding a great array of foils,
wire masks, single-sticks, and boxing-gloves. With these and a little
pistol practice the dulness of many a wet afternoon had been enlivened.
Perhaps in their trials of skill those with the foils were most popular.

This was Argyll’s favourite pastime. A leading performer with all other
weapons, he had a passion for fencing, for which his mountain-born
activity pre-eminently fitted him. Effingham, a pupil of the celebrated
Grisier, was thought to be nearly, if not quite his match. And more than
once Argyll’s hasty temper had blazed out as Wilfred had ‘touched him’
with a succession of rapid hits, or sent the foil from his hand by one
of the artifices of the fencing school. Now, however, a trial would be
afforded, the issue of which would be final and decisive. To each the
requisite notice had been given, and each had accepted the chances of
the contest. No one in future would be able to assert that this or that
man was the better swordsman.

A larger gathering took place at luncheon than could have been expected.
Many were the reasons assigned for the punctuality with which all the
ladies showed up. Fred Churbett, indeed, openly declared that the
gladiator element was becoming dangerously developed, and that it would
be soon necessary to shed blood in good earnest, to enjoy a decent
reputation with the ladies of the land.

‘I saw O’Desmond’s people making astounding changes in the anterior of
the amphitheatre, Miss Annabel, from my bedroom window this morning. I
should not be surprised at the arena being changed to an African forest,
with a live giraffe and a Lion Ride, after Freiligrath. Do you remember
the doomed giraffe? How

                 With a roar the lion springs
                   On her back now. What a race-horse!’

‘I should not be surprised at anything,’ said Annabel. ‘Badajos is
becoming an Enchanted Castle. How we shall endure our daily lives again,
I can’t think. Every one is going home to-morrow, so perhaps the spell
will be broken. Heigh-ho! When are we to be allowed to take our seats? I
shall fall asleep if they put it off too long.’

‘At three o’clock precisely the herald’s horn will be blown, and we
shall see what we shall see. I hope Argyll will be in a good temper, or
terrible things may happen.’

‘What is this about Mr. Argyll’s temper?’ said Miss Fane. ‘Is he so much
more ferocious than all the rest of you? I am sure that _I_ have seen
nothing of it.’

‘Only my nonsense, Miss Fane,’ said Fred, instantly retreating from his
position. ‘The best-hearted, most generous fellow possible. Impetuous
and high-spirited, you know. Highlanders and Irishmen—all the world, in
fact, except that modern Roman, the Anglo-Saxon—are inclined to be
choleric. Ha! there goes the bugle.’

All were ready, indeed impatient, for the commencement. Many
acquaintances had indeed ridden out from Yass, and reinforced the
spectators. Mr. Rockley had appeared at lunch—scarcely in the best of
tempers—and had given vent to his opinion that it was quite time for
this foolery to be over. Not that he made this suggestion to O’Desmond
personally.

When the entrances were thrown open, and the spectators pressed into
their seats with something of the impatience which in days of old seems
to have characterised the frequenters of the amphitheatre, a cry of
delighted surprise broke from the startled guests.

In order to reproduce the accessories of the imaginary conflict with
fidelity of detail, O’Desmond has spared no trouble. The Bois de
Boulogne had been simulated by the artifice of transplanting whole
trees, especially those which more closely resembled European
evergreens. These had been mingled with others stripped of their
foliage, by which deciduous deception the illusion of a northern winter
was preserved. A coating of milk-white river sand had been strewn over
the arena, imparting the appearance of the snow, in which the now
historical masqueraders fought their celebrated duel. By filling up the
openings left for windows, and excluding the sun from the roof as much
as possible, an approach to the dim light proper to a Parisian December
morning was produced. As hackney-coaches appeared, one at either end of
the arena, and driving in, took their stations under trees, preparatory
to permitting their sensational fares to alight, the burst of applause
both from those familiar with the original picture, and others who were
overcome by the realism of the scene, was tremendous. And when forth
stepped from one of the carriages a Red Huron Indian, and with stately
steps took up his position as second, to so great and painful a pitch
rose the excitement among the ladies that ‘the boldest held’ her ‘breath
for a time.’

Pierrot now, with elastic springing gait, moved lightly forward towards
his antagonist, a reckless Debardeur, who looked as if he had been
dancing a veritable ‘Galop d’Enfer’ before he quitted the ‘Bal d’Opera.’
Each performed an elaborate salute as they took their ground. The
seconds measured their swords punctiliously.

As the enthusiasm of the crowd broke forth in remark and exclamation,
before the first passes were interchanged, Harry O’Desmond himself made
his appearance among the ladies, and took his seat between Rosamond
Effingham and Miss Fane, prepared to receive the shower of
congratulations at once poured upon him.

‘Yes, I _have_ taken a little trouble; but I am amply repaid, Miss
Effingham, if I have succeeded in adding to the amusement of my lady
friends. For those I have the honour to address’—and here the gallant
_impresario_ looked as if the lady beside him had but to ask for a
Sultan’s circlet, to have it tossed in her lap—‘what sacrifices would I
not make?’

‘Our distinguished host is becoming desperate,’ thought Rosamond. ‘I
wonder who _she_ is? I am nearly certain it is Vera Fane. He and the
Doctor are great friends. Now I think of it, he said the other day that
she was, with one exception, the pearl of the district. Mamma, too, has
been hinting at something. A nice lady neighbour at Badajos would be
indeed a treasure.’

‘What an exciting piece of sword-play this will be, Mr. O’Desmond,’ she
said. ‘One cannot help thinking that there is something real about it.
And I have an uneasy feeling that I cannot account for, such as I should
call a presentiment, if all were not so perfectly safe. What do you say,
Vera?’

‘I say it is a most astonishing picture of a real duel. I ought to enjoy
it very much, only that, like you, I feel a depression such as I have
never had before. Oh, now they are beginning! Really it is quite a
relief.’

‘I must take a foil with the winner,’ said O’Desmond, ‘if you think it
is so serious, just to see if I have forgotten my Parisian experiences.
It reminds one of the Quartier Latin, and the students’ pipes—long hair
and duels—daily matters of course. Ha! a wonderfully quick carte and
counter-carte. There is something stirring in the clink of steel, all
the world over, is there not, Miss Effingham?’

The pictured scene was accurately reproduced. Each man, with his second,
fantastically arrayed. The nearer combatant, in his loose garb, had his
sword-arm bared to the elbow, for the greater freedom required with the
weapon. Four other men, picturesquely attired, were present. Of these,
two stood near to him whose back was towards the part of the theatre
where the Effinghams and Miss Fane were sitting.

The contest proceeded with curious similitude to an actual encounter.
Attack and defence, feint and challenge, carte, tierce, ripeste,
staccato, all the subtle and delicate manœuvres of which the rapier
combat is susceptible, had been employed, to the wonder and admiration
of the spectators.

It was evident, before they had exchanged a dozen passes, that the men
were most evenly matched. Much doubt was expressed as to who would prove
the victor.

Latterly, Wilfred, who, with equal tenacity and vigilance, had the
cooler head, commenced to show by small but sure signs that he was
gaining an advantage. Step by step he drew his antagonist nearer to him,
and employing his favourite thrust, after a brilliant parry, touched him
several times in succession. At each palpable hit the spectators gave a
cheer, which evidently disturbed Argyll’s fiery temperament. He bit his
lip, his brow contracted, but no token, excepting these and a burning
spot on his cheek, showed the inward conflict. Suddenly he sprang
forward with panther-like activity, and for one second Wilfred’s eye and
hand were at fault, as, with a lightning lunge, Argyll delivered full
upon his adversary’s chest a thrust, so like the real thing that, though
the foil (as the spectators imagined) passed outside, the hilt of the
mimic weapon rapped sharply, as if he had been run through the body. At
the same moment he sank down, and was scarcely saved from falling, while
Argyll, impatiently drawing back his weapon, threw it down and turned as
if to leave the scene—half urged by his second—as was the successful
combatant in the weird picture.

‘Why—how wonderfully our brave combatants have imitated the originals,
Mr. O’Desmond?’ said Rosamond, with unfeigned admiration. ‘The Debardeur
sinks slowly from the arms of his second to the ground; his sword-point
strikes the earth; his comrade and the Capuchin bend over him. They act
the confusion of a death-scene well. His antagonist casts down his
blood-stained sword—why, it _looks_ red—and hurries from the spot.’

‘Yes,’ O’Desmond continued, ‘everything is now concluded happily,
successfully, triumphantly, may I say; it needs but, dearest Miss
Effingham, that I should offer you——’ What Mr. O’Desmond was minded to
offer his fair neighbour can never be known, for at that moment a
shriek, so wild and despairing, rent the air, that all conversation,
ordinary and extraordinary, ceased.

More astonishing still, Miss Fane sprang from her seat, and rushing into
the arena with the speed of frenzy, knelt by the side of the defeated
combatant, and with every endearing epithet supported his head, wringing
her hands in agony as she gazed on the motionless form beside her.

O’Desmond, leaping down without a thought of his late interesting
employment, gave one glance at the fallen sword, another at the fallen
man, and divined the situation.

‘By ——!’ he said, ‘_the button has come off the foil_, and the poor boy
is run through the body. He’ll be a dead man by sundown.’

‘Not so sure of that; keep the people back while I examine him,’ said
Mr. Sternworth, pushing suddenly to the front. ‘Stand back!’ he cried
with the voice of authority. ‘How can I tell you what’s wrong with him
if you don’t give him air? Miss Fane, I entreat you to be calm.’

He lowered his voice and spoke in softened tones, for he had seen a look
in Vera Fane’s face which none had ever marked there before. As she
knelt by the side of the wounded man, from whose hurt the blood was
pouring fast, in a bright red stream; as with passionate anxiety she
gazed into his face, while her arms supported him in his death-like
faint, her whole countenance betrayed the unutterable tenderness with
which a woman regards her lover.

The spectators stood assembled around the ill-fated combatant. Great and
general was the consternation.

The nature of the mischance—the loss of the button which guards the
fencer in all exercises with the foil—was patent enough to those
acquainted with small-sword practice. But a large proportion of the
crowd, with no previous experience of such affairs, could with
difficulty be got to believe that Argyll had not used unjustifiable
means to the injury of his antagonist. These worthy people were for his
being arrested and held to bail. His personal friends resented the idea.
Words ran high; until indeed, at one time, it appeared as if a form of
civic broil, common in the middle ages, would be revived with
undesirable accuracy.

Now, alas! the festive aspect of the scene was abruptly changed.
O’Desmond’s grief at this most untoward ending to his entertainments was
painful to witness. Argyll’s generous nature plunged him into a state of
deep contrition for his passionate action.

The women, one and all, were so shocked and excited by the sight of
blood and the rumour, which quickly gained credence, that Wilfred
Effingham was dying, that tearful lamentations and hysterical cries were
heard in all directions. Nor indeed until it was authoritatively stated
by the medical practitioner of the district, who was luckily present,
that Mr. Effingham having been run through the body, had therefore
received a dangerous but not necessarily fatal wound, was consolation
possible.

This gentleman, however, later on would by no means commit himself to a
definite opinion. ‘Without doubt it was a critical case. Though the
cœliac axis had been missed, by a miracle, the vasa-vasorum blood-vessel
had suffered lesion. The left subclavian artery had been torn through,
yet, from its known power of contraction, he trusted that the interior
lining would be closed, when further loss of blood would cease. Of
course, unfavourable symptoms might supervene at any moment—at any
moment. At present the patient was free from pain. Quiet—that is,
absolute rest—was indispensable. With no exciting visits, and—yes—with
the closest attention and good nursing, a distinctly favourable
termination might be—ahem—hoped for.’

But an early doom, either alone or with all the aids that affection,
friendship, ay or devoted love, could bring, was not written in the book
of fate against Wilfred Effingham’s name. In the course of a week the
popular practitioner alluded to had the pleasure of informing the
anxious inhabitants of the Yass district ‘that the injury having, as he
had the honour to diagnose, providentially not occurred to the trunk
artery, the middle coat of the smaller blood-vessel had, from its
elastic and contractile nature, after being torn by the partially
blunted end of the foil, caused a closure. In point of fact, the injury
had yielded to treatment. He would definitely pledge himself, in fact,
that the patient was bordering upon convalescence. In a week or two he
would be ready to support a removal to The Chase, where doubtless his
youth, temperate habit, and excellent constitution would combine to
produce a complete recovery.’

These agreeable predictions were fulfilled to the letter. Yet was there
another element involved in the case, which was thought to have
exercised a powerful influence, if, indeed, it was not the chief factor
in his recovery. The vision of sudden death which had passed before the
eyes of the guests at Badajos had surprised the secret of Vera Fane’s
heart. Of timid, almost imperceptible growth, the faint budding
commencement of a girl’s fancy had, all in silence and secrecy, ripened
into the fragrant blossom of a woman’s love. Pure, devoted,
imperishable, such a sentiment is proof against the anguish of
non-requital, the attacks of rivalry, even the ruder shocks of falsehood
or infidelity. Let him, then, to whom, all unworthy, such a prize is
allotted by a too indulgent destiny, sacrifice to the kind deities, and
be thankful. It may have been—was doubtless—urged by Miss Fane’s
admirers, that ‘that fellow Effingham was not half good enough for her,
more especially after his idiotic affair with Christabel Rockley’; but,
pray, which of us, to whom the blindly swaying Eros has been gracious,
is not manifestly overrated, nay, made to blush for shortcomings from
his early ideal?

So must it ever be in the history of the race—were the secrets of all
hearts known. Let us be consoled that we are not conspicuously inferior
to our neighbours, and chiefly strive, in spite of that mysterious
Disappointment—poor human nature—to gain some modest eminence. Let
Wilfred Effingham, then, enjoy his undeserved good fortune, _comme nous
autres_, assured that with such companionship he will be stronger to
battle for the right while life lasts.

‘How could you forgive me?’ he said, at the close of one of the happy
confidences which his returning strength rendered possible. ‘I should
never have dared to ask you after my folly.’

‘Women love but once—that is, those who are worthy of the name,’ she
said softly. ‘I had unwisely, it would seem, permitted my heart to
stray. It passed into the possession of one who—well, scarce valued
sufficiently the simple offering. But you do _now_, dearest, do you not?
I will never forgive you, or rather, on second thoughts, I _will_
forgive you, if hereafter you love any other woman but me.’

‘You are an angel. Did I say so before? Never mind. Truth will bear
repetition.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

Old Tom Glendinning commenced to fail in health soon after the permanent
settlement of the district; his detractors averred, because the blacks
left off spearing the cattle and took to station work. He lived long
enough to hear of General Glendinning’s marriage, at which he expressed
great satisfaction, coupled with the hope that the Major (as he always
called him) would return to India, ‘av it was only to have another turn
at thim murdtherin’ nay-gurs, my heavy curse on thim, from Bingal to
Galantapee.’

He was carefully nursed by Mrs. Evans, who had at length followed her
husband to the new country, after repeated assurances that it was
impossible for him to return to Lake William, but that she might please
herself.

They buried the old stock-rider, in accordance with his last wishes, on
an island in the lake, within sight of Guy’s homestead, near his ancient
steed Boney, who had preceded him in decease. The dog Crab survived him
but a few weeks, and was carefully interred at his feet. It was noticed
that no black of any description whatever, young or old, male or female,
wild or tame, would ever set foot on the green, wave-washed islet
afterwards.

Andrew and Jeanie, after a few years, retired to a snug farm within easy
distance of The Chase, at which place, for one reason or other, they
spent nearly as much time as at home. Andrew’s aid was continually
invoked in agricultural emergencies, more particularly when business
called Wilfred away; while Jeanie’s invaluable counsel and reassuring
presence, when the inmates of Mrs. Wilfred’s nursery developed alarming
symptoms, was so largely in request that Andrew more than once remarked
that ‘he didna ken but what he saw far mair o’ his auld dame before he
had a hame o’ his ain. But she had aye ta’en a’ her pleasure in life at
ither folk’s bedsides. Maist unco-omon!’

Duncan, having once enjoyed an independent life in the new country,
could not be induced to return to The Chase. He saved his money, and
with national forecast commenced business in the rising township of
Warleigh. Of this settlement he became in time the leading alderman (the
burgesses obtained a municipality in the after-time), and rose finally
to be mayor.

The _Melbourne Argus_ printed _in extenso_ Mr. Cargill’s address to the
electors of West Palmerston when a candidate for a vacancy in the
Legislative Council. It was certain he would be returned at the head of
the poll, doubtless to represent a Liberal Ministry before long. May
there never be invited a less worthy personage to the councils of the
land than the Hon. Duncan Cargill, M.L.C.

Mr. Rockley, after his return to Port Phillip, hurled himself with his
accustomed energy at every kind of investment. Not satisfied with
extensive mercantile transactions, he bought agricultural lands, the
nucleus of a fine estate. In Parliament he made such vigorous, idiomatic
onslaughts upon the Government of the day as led the Speaker
occasionally to suggest modification. He developed Warleigh, the town to
which he had originally attached himself, wonderfully, and besides
aiding all struggling settlers in the bad times, which arrived, as he
had prophesied, close on the heels of inflation and over-trading. In a
general way he benefited by good advice, friendly intercourse, and
substantial assistance, everybody with whom he came into contact. As a
magistrate, a perfect Draco (in theory), he was never known to remit a
fine for certain offences. It was whispered, nevertheless, that he had
many a time been known to pay such out of his own pocket.

It is comforting to those who honour liberality and unselfishness to
know that he amassed a large fortune. He continued to invest from time
to time in land, the management of which chiefly served to occupy his
mind in declining years. When the grave closed over the warm heart and
eager spirit of William Rockley, men said that he left no fellow behind
him. There are still those who believe him to have been unsurpassed for
energy of mind and body, with a clear-headed forecast in affairs, joined
to the warm sympathy which rendered it impossible to omit a kindness or
forgo a benefit.

The larger portion of the estate was willed to Christabel and her
husband, but from the number of junior Clarkes of all sorts and sizes
who fill the commodious family drag, a considerable subdivision of
landed property will probably take place in another generation. Bob
Clarke adopted easily the position of country gentleman. He no longer
rides steeple-chases, but his four-in-hand team is certainly superior in
blood, bone, matching, and appointments to anything south of the line.

But little remains to tell. Our small community reached that stage when,
as with nations, the less history needed the better for their happiness.
As to this last apocryphal commodity (as some have deemed), Wilfred
Effingham avers that Vera and he have such a large supply on hand that
he is troubled in spirit only by the thought that something in the
nature of evil _must_ happen, were it only in accordance with the law of
averages.

The Port Phillip investments paid so well that, upon the sale of Benmohr
by Argyll and Hamilton, he purchased that ever-memorable historic
station. Mrs. Teviot and Wullie remained in possession almost as long as
they lived, but never could be brought to regard Mr. Effingham in any
other light than that of a neighbour and a visitor of ‘their gentlemen.’
He was often reminded of the muddy winter evening when he first arrived.

Dean Sternworth—thus promoted—lives on, growing still more wonderful
roses, and experiencing an access of purest pleasure when a Marie Van
Houte or Souvenir de Malmaison excites the envy of the district.

Marrying, christening, and, indeed, burying the inhabitants of Yass—for
death also is in Arcadia—his unobtrusive path is daily trodden, ‘and,
sure the Eternal Master found, his single talent well employed.’

Among his chief and enduring pleasures are his monthly visits to Lake
William to perform service in the freestone church, which has been
erected by the Effingham family and their neighbours on a spot easy of
general access. On such occasions Dr. Fane is generally found at The
Chase, where the friends argue by the hour together. Such a period of
continuous mutual entertainment must it have been that, on one occasion,
was familiarly referred to by Master Hubert Warleigh Effingham as
lasting ‘till all was blue.’

Howard Effingham has once more been placed by circumstances in the
enviable position of a man who has nothing in this world to attend to
but his favourite hobby, to which he is sufficiently attached to devote
every moment of his spare time to it. That fortunate ex-militaire has
now few other foes to consider than the native cat (dasyura), the black
cormorant, and the dingo.

It must be confessed that they give him more trouble than ever—in his
youth—did the Queen’s enemies. The cormorants eat his young fish, and
when the captain extracted from the dead body of one of them no less
than six infantine trout, the tears (so his grandson averred) came into
his eyes. The partridges, even the gold and silver pheasants were not
sacred from the native cat. An occasional dingo makes his appearance,
wandering from Black Mountain (the doctor was always an indifferent
‘poisoner,’ says the parson), and a brace of gazelle fawns have never
been sufficiently accounted for. But the exhibition of strychnine
crystals provides a solution, and the land has peace.

On the whole, progress has been made. The furred, feathered, or finned
emigrants are steadily increasing; fair shooting can soon be allowed,
and extermination will be impossible.

Between ourselves, a leash of foxes were turned loose in the
gibba-gunyahs, near which the first dingo was killed, by the Lake
William hounds, and Jack Barker swore (only he ‘stretches’ so) that he
saw the vixen feeding five cubs—one with a white tag to his brush (Jack
is always circumstantial), with the biggest buck ’possum he ever saw.

The Lake William hounds have long been back in their kennels. John
Hampden makes a point of attending the first meet, and O’Desmond (whose
heart was not broken, or was at least successfully repaired by his
subsequent marriage) is a steady supporter, as of yore.

But somehow the whole affair doesn’t feel so jolly as when Argyll and
Hamilton, Ardmillan and Forbes, Fred Churbett and Neil, Malahyde and
Edward Belfield—all the ‘Benmohr mob’ in fact—were safe for every meet.

Perhaps, though with enthusiasts his steady march is disregarded, old
Time may possibly have had something to do with the decrease of
enthusiasm. Mrs. Wilfred does not approve of her husband riding so hard
as in the brave days of old. She herself, from circumstances, is often
absent, and scarcely enjoys lending Emigrant, still _nearly_ as good as
ever, to lady visitors. A heavy autumn shower, too, acted unfavourably
upon the health of the M.F.H., and explained practically what lumbago
most closely resembles.

Still Howard Effingham, nobly loyal to his ideal, presses gallantly
forward to the realisation of his hopes. The coming year will see an
opening meet of the Lake William hounds, such as, in _one_ respect, at
least, was never ridden to in Australia before.

On some grey-hued, red-dawning May morn, freshly recalling, like the
verse of an old song, how many a hunting day of yore, will he view a
_fox_ away from the upper corner of the ti-tree covert, on the rocky
spur of the yellow-box range—a _real_ fox—as red, as wiry, with as white
a tag to his brush as ever a straight-goer that stretched across the
pastures before the Pytchley or the Quorn. Nevertheless _Australian born
and bred_.

Standing in his stirrups, he watches the leading hounds pour through the
paddock fence, the remainder settling to the scent, or at silent speed
sweeping over the forest parks that border the lake meadows. Rosamond
St. Maur is far away, alas! and Fergus out at grass; but Major-General
Sir Walter Glendinning, on leave from India, is trying the speed of the
best Arab in the Mofussil. Mrs. O’Desmond is watching her husband
anxiously, Guy is home from Port Phillip, with Bob Clarke and Ardmillan,
each on a horse ‘fit to go for a man’s life,’ and wild with frolic
spirits. Mrs. Vera Effingham is out, and, as luck would have it, ready
and willing to remind Emigrant of old Black Mountain days. John Hampden,
taking The Caliph by the head, now snow white, but still safe across
timber, echoes back Wilfred’s ‘Forrard, forrard, away!’ as he sails off
with the lead, and forgetting his wife and family, feels perfectly,
ecstatically happy. Then, and then only, will Howard Effingham
acknowledge that he has at length achieved the position of which he has
so often dreamed—then will he hold himself to be in real, completest
earnest—an Australian Squire.

                                THE END

            _Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, _Edinburgh_

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                          BY ROLF BOLDREWOOD.
                         _Crown 8vo. 6s. each._

WAR TO THE KNIFE; or, Tangata Maori.

  _ACADEMY._—“A stirring romance.”

A ROMANCE OF CANVAS TOWN, and other Stories.

  _ATHENÆUM._—“The book is interesting for its obvious insight into life
in the Australian bush.”

                       _Crown 8vo. 3s. 6d. each._

ROBBERY UNDER ARMS.

          A STORY OF LIFE AND ADVENTURE IN THE BUSH AND IN THE
                       GOLD-FIELDS OF AUSTRALIA.

  _GUARDIAN._—“A singularly spirited and stirring tale of Australian
life, chiefly in the remoter settlements.... Altogether it is a capital
story, full of wild adventure and startling incidents, and told with a
genuine simplicity and quiet appearance of truth, as if the writer were
really drawing upon his memory rather than his imagination.”

A MODERN BUCCANEER.

  _DAILY CHRONICLE._—“We do not forget _Robbery under Arms_, or any of
its various successors, when we say that Rolf Boldrewood has never done
anything so good as _A Modern Buccaneer_. It is good, too, in a manner
which is for the author a new one.”

THE MINER’S RIGHT.

                 A TALE OF THE AUSTRALIAN GOLD-FIELDS.

  _WORLD._—“Full of good passages, passages abounding in vivacity, in
the colour and play of life.... The pith of the book lies in its
singularly fresh and vivid pictures of the humours of the
gold-fields—tragic humours enough they are, too, here and again.”

THE SQUATTER’S DREAM.

  _FIELD._—“The details are filled in by a hand evidently well
conversant with his subject, and everything is _ben trovato_, if not
actually true. A perusal of these cheerfully-written pages will probably
give a better idea of realities of Australian life than could be
obtained from many more pretentious works.”

A SYDNEY-SIDE SAXON.

  _GLASGOW HERALD._—“The interest never flags, and altogether _A
Sydney-Side Saxon_ is a really refreshing book.”

A COLONIAL REFORMER.

  _ATHENÆUM._—“A series of natural and entertaining pictures of
Australian life, which are, above all things, readable.”

NEVERMORE.

  _OBSERVER._—“An exciting story of Ballarat in the fifties. Its hero,
Lance Trevanion, is a character which for force of delineation has no
equal in Rolf Boldrewood’s previous novels.”

PLAIN LIVING. A Bush Idyll.

  _ACADEMY._—“A hearty story, deriving charm from the odours of the bush
and the bleating of incalculable sheep.”

MY RUN HOME.

  _ATHENÆUM._—“Rolf Boldrewood’s last story is a racy volume. It has
many of the best qualities of Whyte Melville, the breezy freshness and
vigour of Frank Smedley, with the dash and something of the abandon of
Lever.... His last volume is one of his best.”

THE SEALSKIN CLOAK.

  _TIMES._—“A well-written story.”

THE CROOKED STICK; or, Pollie’s Probation.

  _ACADEMY._—“A charming picture of Australian station life.”

OLD MELBOURNE MEMORIES.

  _NATIONAL OBSERVER._—“His book deserves to be read in England with as
much appreciation as it has already gained in the country of its birth.”

                            _Fcap. 8vo. 2s._

THE SPHINX OF EAGLEHAWK.

  A TALE OF OLD BENDIGO.               [_Macmillan’s Pocket Novels._

  _QUEEN._—“There is the usual mystery, the usual admirable gold-fields’
local colour, which we expect from our favourite Rolf Boldrewood.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                           BY RUDYARD KIPLING

  _Uniform Edition. Red cloth, gilt tops. Extra crown 8vo. 6s. each._

STALKY & CO. Thirtieth Thousand.

THE DAY’S WORK. Fifty-first Thousand.

  _MORNING POST._—“The book is so varied, so full of colour and life
from end to end, that few who read the first two or three stories will
lay it down till they have read the last.”

PLAIN TALES FROM THE HILLS. Forty-third Thousand.

  _SATURDAY REVIEW._—“Mr. Kipling knows and appreciates the English in
India, and is a born story-teller and a man of humour into the
bargain.... It would be hard to find better reading.”

LIFE’S HANDICAP. Being Stories of Mine Own People. Thirty-first
Thousand.

  _BLACK AND WHITE._—“_Life’s Handicap_ contains much of the best work
hitherto accomplished by the author, and, taken as a whole, is a
complete advance upon its predecessors.”

MANY INVENTIONS. Twenty-eighth Thousand.

  _PALL MALL GAZETTE._—“The completest book that Mr. Kipling has yet
given us in workmanship, the weightiest and most humane in breadth of
view.... It can only be regarded as a fresh landmark in the progression
of his genius.”

THE LIGHT THAT FAILED. Rewritten and considerably enlarged.
Thirty-third Thousand.

  _ACADEMY._—“Whatever else be true of Mr. Kipling, it is the first
truth about him that he has power, real intrinsic power.... Mr.
Kipling’s work has innumerable good qualities.”

WEE WILLIE WINKIE, and other Stories.

SOLDIERS THREE, and other Stories.

  _GLOBE._—“Containing some of the best of his highly vivid work.”

THE JUNGLE BOOK. With Illustrations by J.L. KIPLING, W.H. DRAKE, and
P. FRENZENY. Forty-seventh Thousand. Crown 8vo. Cloth gilt. 6s.

  _PUNCH._—“‘Æsop’s Fables and dear old Brer Fox and Co.,’ observes the
Baron sagely, ‘may have suggested to the fanciful genius of Rudyard
Kipling the delightful idea, carried out in the most fascinating style,
of _The Jungle Book_.’”

THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK. With Illustrations by J. LOCKWOOD KIPLING.
Thirty-third Thousand.

  _DAILY TELEGRAPH._—“The appearance of _The Second Jungle Book_ is a
literary event of which no one will mistake the importance. Unlike most
sequels, the various stories comprised in the new volume are at least
equal to their predecessors.”

“CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS.” A STORY OF THE GRAND BANKS. Illustrated by I.W.
TABER. Twenty-third Thousand.

  _ATHENÆUM._—“Never in English prose has the sea in all its myriad
aspects, with all its sounds and sights and odours, been reproduced with
such subtle skill as in these pages.”

FROM SEA TO SEA. In Two Vols.

                           ------------------

SOLDIER TALES. With Illustrations by A.S. HARTRICK. Tenth Thousand.
  Crown 8vo. 6s.

  _ATHENÆUM._—“By issuing a reprint of some of the best of Mr. Kipling’s
_Soldier Tales_, Messrs. Macmillan have laid us all under an
obligation.”

A FLEET IN BEING. NOTES OF TWO TRIPS WITH THE CHANNEL SQUADRON.
Fifty-third Thousand. Crown 8vo. Sewed, 1s. net.; Cloth, 1s. 6d. net.

  _ARMY AND NAVY GAZETTE._—“A very admirable picture of the life of
officers and men who go down to the sea in the ships of Her Majesty’s
fleet.”

THE KIPLING BIRTHDAY BOOK. Compiled by JOSEPH FINN. Authorised by the
Author, with Illustrations by J. LOCKWOOD KIPLING. 16mo. 2s. 6d.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                         THE CHEAP EDITIONS OF

                        MRS. HENRY WOOD’S NOVELS

 _Crown 8vo, in green cloth, price 2s.; or in red cloth, gilt lettered,
                          price 2s. 6d. each._

                  Sale nearly Three Million Copies.

                           ------------------

    EAST LYNNE. Five Hundredth Thousand.
    THE CHANNINGS. Two Hundredth Thousand.
    MRS. HALLIBURTON’S TROUBLES. One Hundred and Fiftieth Thousand.
    THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT. One Hundred and Tenth Thousand.
    LORD OAKBURN’S DAUGHTERS. One Hundred and Fifth Thousand.
    VERNER’S PRIDE. Eighty-fifth Thousand.
    ROLAND YORKE. One Hundred and Thirtieth Thousand.
    JOHNNY LUDLOW. First Series. Fifty-fifth Thousand.
    MILDRED ARKELL. Eightieth Thousand.
    ST. MARTIN’S EVE. Seventy-sixth Thousand.
    TREVLYN HOLD. Sixty-fifth Thousand.
    GEORGE CANTERBURY’S WILL. Seventieth Thousand.
    THE RED COURT FARM. Eightieth Thousand.
    WITHIN THE MAZE. One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Thousand.
    ELSTER’S FOLLY. Sixtieth Thousand.
    LADY ADELAIDE. Sixtieth Thousand.
    OSWALD CRAY. Sixtieth Thousand.
    JOHNNY LUDLOW. Second Series. Thirty-fifth Thousand.
    ANNE HEREFORD. Fifty-fifth Thousand.
    DENE HOLLOW. Sixtieth Thousand.
    EDINA. Forty-fifth Thousand.
    A LIFE’S SECRET. Sixty-fifth Thousand.
    THE HOUSE OF HALLIWELL. Fifteenth Thousand.
    POMEROY ABBEY. Forty-eighth Thousand.
    COURT NETHERLEIGH. Forty-sixth Thousand.
    THE MASTER OF GREYLANDS. Fiftieth Thousand.
    THE STORY OF CHARLES STRANGE. Fifteenth Thousand.
    ASHLEY. Fifteenth Thousand.
    BESSY RANE. Forty-second Thousand.
    JOHNNY LUDLOW. Third Series. Twenty-third Thousand.
    ORVILLE COLLEGE. Thirty-eighth Thousand.
    LADY GRACE. Twenty-first Thousand.
    ADAM GRAINGER. Fifteenth Thousand.
    THE UNHOLY WISH. Fifteenth Thousand.
    JOHNNY LUDLOW. Fourth Series. Fifteenth Thousand.
    JOHNNY LUDLOW. Fifth Series. Fifteenth Thousand.
    JOHNNY LUDLOW. Sixth Series.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                  THE NOVELS OF ROSA NOUCHETTE CAREY.

            _Popular Edition.   Crown 8vo.   3s. 6d. each._

NELLIE’S MEMORIES. 30th Thousand.

  _STANDARD._—“Miss Carey has the gift of writing naturally and simply,
her pathos is true and unforced, and her conversations are sprightly and
sharp.”

WEE WIFIE. 22nd Thousand.

  _LADY._—“Miss Carey’s novels are always welcome; they are out of the
common run, immaculately pure, and very high in tone.”

BARBARA HEATHCOTE’S TRIAL. 20th Thousand.

  _DAILY TELEGRAPH._—“A novel of a sort which it would be a real loss to
miss.”

ROBERT ORD’S ATONEMENT. 17th Thousand.

  _STANDARD._—“A most delightful book.”

WOOED AND MARRIED. 21st Thousand.

  _STANDARD._—“There is plenty of romance in the heroine’s life. But it
would not be fair to tell our readers wherein that romance consists or
how it ends. Let them read the book for themselves. We will undertake to
promise that they will like it.”

HERIOT’S CHOICE. 18th Thousand.

  _MORNING POST._—“Deserves to be extensively known and read.... Will
doubtless find as many admirers as readers.”

QUEENIE’S WHIM. 18th Thousand.

  _GUARDIAN._—“A thoroughly good and wholesome story.”

MARY ST. JOHN. 16th Thousand.

  _JOHN BULL._—“The story is a simple one, but told with much grace and
unaffected pathos.”

NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS. 19th Thousand.

_NEW YORK HOME JOURNAL._—“One of the sweetest, daintiest, and most
interesting of the season’s publications.“

FOR LILIAS. 14th Thousand.

  _VANITY FAIR._—“A simple, earnest, and withal very interesting story;
well conceived, carefully worked out, and sympathetically told.”

UNCLE MAX. 15th Thousand.

  _LADY._—“So intrinsically good that the world of novel-readers ought
to be genuinely grateful.”

ONLY THE GOVERNESS. 15th Thousand.

  _PALL MALL GAZETTE._—“This novel is for those who like stories with
something of Jane Austen’s power, but with more intensity of feeling
than Jane Austen displayed, who are not inclined to call pathos twaddle,
and who care to see life and human nature in their most beautiful form.”

LOVER OR FRIEND? 12th Thousand.

  _GUARDIAN._—“The refinement of style and delicacy of thought will make
_Lover or Friend?_ popular with all readers who are not too deeply
bitten with a desire for things improbable in their lighter literature.”

BASIL LYNDHURST. 10th Thousand.

  _PALL MALL GAZETTE._—“We doubt whether anything has been written of
late years so fresh, so pretty, so thoroughly natural and bright.”

SIR GODFREY’S GRAND-DAUGHTERS. 8th Thousand.

  _OBSERVER._—“A capital story.”

THE OLD, OLD STORY. 9th Thousand.

  _DAILY NEWS._—“Miss Carey’s fluent pen has not lost its power of
writing fresh and wholesome fiction.”

THE MISTRESS OF BRAE FARM. 10th Thousand.

  _PALL MALL GAZETTE._—“Miss Carey’s untiring pen loses none of its
power, and her latest work is as gracefully written, as full of quiet
home charm, as fresh and wholesome, so to speak, as its many
predecessors.”

MRS. ROMNEY and “BUT MEN MUST WORK.”

  _PALL MALL GAZETTE._—“By no means the least attractive of the works of
this charming writer.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             Crown 8vo. 6s.

                             STALKY AND CO.


                           By RUDYARD KIPLING



                             Crown 8vo. 6s.

                                  THE
                         METTLE OF THE PASTURE



                          By JAMES LANE ALLEN

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             Crown 8vo. 6s.


                         MIRANDA OF THE BALCONY


                            By A.E.W. MASON



                             Crown 8vo. 6s.

                              YOUNG APRIL


                           By EGERTON CASTLE


                          _WITH ILLUSTRATIONS_

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             Crown 8vo. 6s.


                              VALDA HÂNEM
                     THE ROMANCE OF A TURKISH HARÎM

                          By DAISY HUGH PRYCE



                             Crown 8vo. 6s.

                             THE ENCHANTER


                           By U.L. SILBERRAD

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             Crown 8vo. 6s.



                              DONNA TERESA


                             By F.M. PEARD



                             Crown 8vo. 6s.

                               VIA CRUCIS


                         By F. MARION CRAWFORD

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             Crown 8vo. 6s.

                             RICHARD CARVEL


                          By WINSTON CHURCHILL

                  AUTHOR OF “THE CELEBRITY,” ETC. ETC.

                        _WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY_

                 CARLTON T. CHAPMAN AND MALCOLM FRASER

       _Upwards of 130,000 Copies have been sold in America since
                             publication._

  _BOOKMAN._—“A spirited tale of wandering and adventure, with a
wholesome love story to keep it fresh and sweet and provide for it a
happy ending.”

  _OBSERVER._—“A fine historical story of early American days; full of
incident and ‘go,’ and admirably written.”


                Second Impression. Extra Crown 8vo. 6s.

                         ONE OF THE GRENVILLES

                        By SYDNEY ROYSE LYSAGHT

                        AUTHOR OF “THE MARPLOT”

  _GUARDIAN._—“We shall tell no more of Mr. Lysaght’s clever and
original tale, contenting ourselves with heartily recommending it to any
on the look-out for a really good and absorbing story.”

  _SATURDAY REVIEW._—“Mr. Sydney Lysaght should have a future before him
among writers of fiction. _One of the Grenvilles_ is full of interest.”

  _BOOKMAN._—“Is so high above the average of novels that its readers
will want to urge on the writer a more frequent exercise of his powers.”

  _ACADEMY._—“There is freshness and distinction about _One of the
Grenvilles_.... Both for its characters and setting, and for its
author’s pleasant wit, this is a novel to read.”

  _DAILY TELEGRAPH._—“Since he wrote _The Marplot_, Mr. Lysaght has
degenerated neither in freshness, originality, nor sense of humour.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                   Second Impression. Crown 8vo. 6s.


                        THE GAME AND THE CANDLE

                           By RHODA BROUGHTON

  _OBSERVER._—“The story is an excellent one.... Miss Rhoda Broughton
well maintains her place among our novelists as one capable of telling a
quiet yet deeply interesting story of human passions.”

  _SPECTATOR._—“The book is extremely clever.”


                   Second Impression. Crown 8vo. 6s.

                                  THE
                       TREASURY OFFICER’S WOOING

By CECIL LOWIS

  _GUARDIAN._—“An exceedingly well-written, pleasant volume.... Entirely
enjoyable.”

  _LITERATURE._—“A capital picture of official life in Burma.”

  _DAILY TELEGRAPH._—“Emphatically of a nature to make us ask for more
from the same source.... Those who appreciate a story without any
sensational incidents, and written with keen observation and great
distinction of style, will find it delightful reading.... Cannot fail to
please its readers.”

  _SPECTATOR._—“Mr. Lowis’s story is pleasant to read in more senses
than one. It is not only clever and wholesome, but printed in a type so
large and clear as to reconcile us to the thickness of the volume.”

  _ATHENÆUM._—“The author writes in a clear, attractive style, and
succeeds in maintaining the reader’s interest from the first page to the
last.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             Crown 8vo. 6s.

                           OFF THE HIGH ROAD

                          By ELEANOR C. PRICE

          AUTHOR OF “YOUNG DENYS,” “IN THE LION’S MOUTH,“ ETC.

  _ATHENÆUM._—“A pleasant tale.”

  _SPEAKER._—“A charming bit of social comedy, tinged with just a
suspicion of melodrama.... The atmosphere of the story is so bright and
genial that we part from it with regret.”

  _DAILY TELEGRAPH._—“At once ingenious, symmetrical, and
entertaining.... Miss Price’s fascinating romance.”

  _LITERATURE._—“A simple, but very pleasant story.”

  _SPECTATOR._—“The notion of an orphan heiress, the daughter of an
Earl, and the cynosure of two London seasons, flying precipitately from
her guardians, who are endeavouring to force her into a match with a man
she detests, and hiding herself under an assumed name in a remote rural
district of the Midlands, is an excellent motive in itself, and gains
greatly from the charm and delicacy of Miss Price’s handling.”

  _ACADEMY._—“A quiet country book in the main, with more emotion than
action, and continuous interest.”


                     Second Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s.

                          THE PRIDE OF JENNICO

                          _BEING A MEMOIR OF_

                         CAPTAIN BASIL JENNICO

                           By EGERTON CASTLE

  _ACADEMY._—“A capital romance.”

  _COUNTRY LIFE._—“This story of the later years of the eighteenth
century will rank high in literature. It is a fine and spirited romance
set in a slight but elegant and accurate frame of history. The book
itself has a peculiar and individual charm by virtue of the stately
language in which it is written.... It is stately, polished, and full of
imaginative force.”

  _LIVERPOOL DAILY MERCURY._—“The book is written in a strong and terse
style of diction with a swift and vivid descriptive touch. In its grasp
of character and the dramatic nature of its plot it is one of the best
novels of its kind since Stevenson’s _Prince Otto_.”

                             Crown 8vo. 6s.

                     STORIES FROM AMERICAN HISTORY

                         BUCCANEERS AND PIRATES
                             OF OUR COASTS

                          By FRANK R. STOCKTON
                       AUTHOR OF “RUDDER GRANGE”

                        _WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY_
                  GEORGE VARIAN AND B. WEST CLINEDINST

  _PALL MALL GAZETTE._—“A fine book.... They are exciting reading....
Eminently informing.”

  _ACADEMY._—“Mr. Frank R. Stockton is always interesting, whether he
writes for young or old.”


                             Crown 8vo. 6s.

                               HER MEMORY

                          By MAARTEN MAARTENS

                    AUTHOR OF “MY LADY NOBODY,” ETC.

  _DAILY TELEGRAPH._—“Full of the quiet grace and literary excellence
which we have now learnt to associate with the author.”

  _DAILY NEWS._—“An interesting and characteristic example of this
writer’s manner. It possesses his sobriety of tone and treatment, his
limpidity and minuteness of touch, his keenness of observation.... The
book abounds in clever character sketches.... It is very good.”

  _ST. JAMES’S GAZETTE._—“There is something peculiarly fascinating in
Mr. Maarten Maartens’s new story. It is one of those exquisitely told
tales, not unhappy, nor tragic, yet not exactly ‘happy,’ but full of the
pain—as a philosopher has put it—that one prefers, which are read, when
the reader is in the right mood, with, at least, a subdued sense of
tears, tears of pleasure.”

  _ATHENÆUM._—“Maarten Maartens has never written a brighter social
story, and it has higher qualities than brightness.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             Crown 8vo. 6s.

                                  THE

                         ADVENTURES OF FRANCOIS

             _Foundling, Thief, Juggler, and Fencing Master
                     during the French Revolution_

                       By S. WEIR MITCHELL, M.D.

                      AUTHOR OF “HUGH WYNNE,” ETC.

  _DAILY TELEGRAPH._—“It is delightfully entertaining throughout, and
throws much instructive light upon certain subordinate phases of the
great popular upheaval that convulsed France between 1788 and 1794....
Recounted with unflagging vivacity and inexhaustible good humour.”

  _DAILY MAIL._—“This lively piece of imagination is animated throughout
by strong human interest and novel incident.”


                     Sixth Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s.

                            CHARACTERISTICS

               By S. WEIR MITCHELL, M.D. LL.D. (Harvard)

                 AUTHOR OF “THE ADVENTURES OF FRANCOIS”

  _SPECTATOR._—“Very well worth reading.”

  _ST. JAMES’S GAZETTE._—“This charming book.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             Crown 8vo. 6s.

                           “WAR TO THE KNIFE”

                            OR TANGATA MAORI

                           By ROLF BOLDREWOOD

  _SPEAKER._—“A stirring tale.... We are inclined to think that _War to
the Knife_ is the best story we have had from Mr. Boldrewood since he
gave us the inimitable _Robbery under Arms_.”

  _ACADEMY._—“A stirring romance.”

  _OUTLOOK._—“Anyone who likes a good story, combined with any amount of
information on strange lands, should get this book.”



                             Crown 8vo. 6s.

                                   A
                         ROMANCE OF CANVAS TOWN
                          _AND OTHER STORIES_

                           By ROLF BOLDREWOOD

                                CONTENTS

A ROMANCE OF CANVAS TOWN—THE FENCING OF WANDAROONA: A RIVERINA
    REMINISCENCE—THE GOVERNESS OF THE POETS—OUR NEW COOK: A TALE OF THE
    TIMES—ANGELS UNAWARES

  _DAILY TELEGRAPH._—“Eminently readable, being written in the breezy,
happy-go-lucky style which characterizes the more recent fictional works
of the author of that singularly earnest and impressive romance,
_Robbery under Arms_.”

  _DAILY MAIL._—“As pleasant as ever.”

  _GLASGOW HERALD._—“They will repay perusal.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             Crown 8vo. 6s.

                           THE FOREST LOVERS

                               A ROMANCE

                           By MAURICE HEWLETT

  _SPECTATOR._—“_The Forest Lovers_ is no mere literary _tour de force_,
but an uncommonly attractive romance, the charm of which is greatly
enhanced by the author’s excellent style.”

  _DAILY TELEGRAPH._—“Mr. Maurice Hewlett’s _Forest Lovers_ stands out
with conspicuous success.... He has compassed a very remarkable
achievement.... For nearly four hundred pages he carries us along with
him with unfailing resource and artistic skill, while he unrolls for us
the course of thrilling adventures, ending, after many tribulations, in
that ideal happiness towards which every romancer ought to wend his
tortuous way.... There are few books of this season which achieve their
aim so simply and whole-heartedly as Mr. Hewlett’s ingenious and
enthralling romance.”


                             Crown 8vo. 6s.

                                  THE
                           GOSPEL OF FREEDOM

                           By ROBERT HERRICK

       AUTHOR OF “THE MAN WHO WINS,” “LITERARY LOVE LETTERS, AND
                             OTHER STORIES”

  _DAILY MAIL._—“Distinctly enjoyable and suggestive of much profitable
thought.”

  _SCOTSMAN._—“The book has a deal of literary merit, and is well
furnished with clever phrases.”

  _ATHENÆUM._—“Remarkably clever.... The writing throughout is clear,
and the story is well constructed.”

  W.D. HOWELLS in _LITERATURE_.—“A very clever new novel.”

  _GUARDIAN._—“The novel is well written, and full of complex interests
and personalities. It touches on many questions and problems clearly and
skilfully.”

  _DAILY CHRONICLE._—“A book which entirely interested us for the whole
of a blazing afternoon. He writes uncommonly well.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             Crown 8vo. 6s.

              _100,000 copies of this work have been sold_

                          THE CHOIR INVISIBLE

                          By JAMES LANE ALLEN

       AUTHOR OF “SUMMER IN ARCADY,” “A KENTUCKY CARDINAL,” ETC.

  _ACADEMY._—“A book to read, and a book to keep after reading. Mr.
Allen’s gifts are many—a style pellucid and picturesque, a vivid and
disciplined power of characterization, and an intimate knowledge of a
striking epoch and an alluring country.... So magical is the wilderness
environment, so fresh the characters, so buoyant the life they lead, so
companionable, so well balanced, and so touched with humanity, the
author’s personality, that I hereby send him greeting and thanks for a
brave book.... _The Choir Invisible_ is a fine achievement.”

_PALL MALL GAZETTE._—“Mr. Allen’s power of character drawing invests the
old, old story with renewed and absorbing interest.... The fascination
of the story lies in great part in Mr. Allen’s graceful and vivid
style.”


                             Crown 8vo. 6s.

                          A DRAMA IN SUNSHINE

                       By HORACE ANNESLEY VACHELL

                                CONTENTS

THE PROLOGUE

CHAPTER I. SAUSAGES AND PALAVER—II. ILLUMINATION—III. WILLIAM
    CHILLINGWORTH—IV. CALAMITY CAÑON—V. SPECULATIONS—VI. WHICH CONTAINS
    A MORAL—VII. OF BLOOD AND WATER—VIII. WHICH ENDS IN FLAMES—IX. “IS
    WRIT IN MOODS AND FROWNS AND WRINKLES STRANGE”—X. THE DAUGHTERS OF
    THEMIS

      _LITERATURE._—“It has the joy of life in it, sparkle, humour,
    charm.... All the characters, in their contrasts and developments,
    are drawn with fine delicacy; and the book is one of those few which
    one reads again with increased pleasure.”

      _DAILY TELEGRAPH._—“A story of extraordinary interest.... Mr.
    Vachell’s enthralling story, the dénouement of which worthily crowns
    a literary achievement of no little merit.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                               Crown 8vo. 6s.

                                HUGH GWYETH

                            A ROUNDHEAD CAVALIER

                            By BEULAH MARIE DIX

      _PALL MALL GAZETTE._—“A thoroughly interesting story.... We hope
    it will not be the last of its kind from the author.”

      _SATURDAY REVIEW._—“We found it difficult to tear ourselves away
    from the fascinating narrative.”

      _SPECTATOR._—“There is no gainsaying the spirit and fluency of the
    narrative.”

      _LEEDS MERCURY._—“The boy hero is admirably drawn, and his
    stirring adventures are told with uncommon vivacity.”


                               Crown 8vo. 6s.

                                 BISMILLAH

                               By A.J. DAWSON

            AUTHOR OF “MERE SENTIMENT,” “GOD’S FOUNDLING,” ETC.

    A romantic story of Moorish life in the Riff Country and in Tangier
    by Mr. A.J. Dawson, whose last novel, _God’s Foundling_, was well
    received in the beginning of the year, and whose West African and
    Australian Bush stories will be familiar to most readers of fiction.
    _Bismillah_ is the title chosen for Mr. Dawson’s new book, which may
    be regarded as the outcome of his somewhat adventurous experiences
    in Morocco last year.

      _ACADEMY._—“Romantic and dramatic, and full of colour.”

      _GUARDIAN._—“Decidedly clever and original.... Its excellent local
    colouring, and its story, as a whole interesting and often dramatic,
    make it a book more worth reading and enjoyable than is at all
    common.”

      _SPEAKER._—“A stirring tale of love and adventure.... There is
    enough of exciting incident, of fighting, intrigue, and love-making
    in _Bismillah_ to satisfy the most exacting reader.”

      _MANCHESTER GUARDIAN._—“An interesting and pleasing tale.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                               Crown 8vo. 6s.

                        RUPERT, BY THE GRACE OF GOD—

                        By DORA GREENWELL McCHESNEY

      _DAILY TELEGRAPH._—“Miss McChesney shows that she possesses both
    graphic powers and imagination in the course of her story, and those
    parts of it which are historical are told with a due regard for
    truth as well as picturesqueness.”

      _ATHENÆUM._—“A singular successful specimen of the ‘historical’
    fiction of the day.”

      _WORLD._—“The reader will rapidly find his attention absorbed by a
    really stirring picture of stirring times.”

      _OBSERVER._—“Miss McChesney has mastered her period thoroughly,
    and tells an attractive story in a very winning fashion.”

      _GUARDIAN._—“The description of the flight from Naseby is one of
    real eloquence, and profoundly moving. There is brilliancy, insight,
    and feeling in the story.”


                               Crown 8vo. 6s.

                               THE DAY’S WORK

                             By RUDYARD KIPLING

                                  CONTENTS


THE BRIDGEBUILDERS—A WALKING DELEGATE—THE SHIP THAT FOUND HERSELF—THE
    TOMB OF HIS ANCESTORS—THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP SEA—WILLIAM THE
    CONQUEROR—·007—THE MALTESE CAT—BREAD UPON THE WATERS—AN ERROR OF THE
    FOURTH DIMENSION—MY SUNDAY AT HOME—THE BRUSHWOOD BOY

  _ST. JAMES’S GAZETTE._—“This new batch of Mr. Kipling’s short stories
is splendid work. Among the thirteen there are included at least five of
his very finest.... Speaking for ourselves, we have read _The Day’s
Work_ with more pleasure than we have derived from anything of Mr.
Kipling’s since _The Jungle Book_.... It is in the Findlaysons, and the
Scotts, and the Cottars, and the ‘Williams,’ that Mr. Kipling’s true
greatness lies. These are creations that make one feel pleased and proud
that we are also English. What greater honour could there be to an
English writer?”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             Crown 8vo. 6s.

                            MEN’S TRAGEDIES

                             By R.V. RISLEY

CONTAINING:—THE MAN WHO LOVED, THE MAN WHO HATED, THE MAN WHO BORE, THE
    MAN WHO CARED, THE MAN WHO FELL, THE MAN WHO SNEERED, THE MAN WHO
    KILLED, THE MAN WHO DIED, THE MAN WHO WAS HIMSELF.

  _OUTLOOK._—“Mr. R.V. Risley may be congratulated on having produced a
set of really moving studies.”

  _SCOTSMAN._—“The stories are powerful studies of human nature, which
show considerable art in presenting the stronger passions.”

  _GLASGOW HERALD._—“Clever, striking, and impressionist sort of
stories.”


                        Globe 8vo. Gilt top. 6s.

                           THE SHORT-LINE WAR

                           By MERWIN-WEBSTER

  _LITERATURE._—“The story is well written, and full of exciting
intrigue.”

  _SPECTATOR._—“The story is well put together, well told, and
exciting.”

  _SPEAKER._—“Short, exciting, well composed.”

  _ACADEMY._—“Told with much spirit.”

  _PALL MALL GAZETTE._—“The book is briskly written by a man who is
interested in his subject.”

  _SCOTSMAN._—“The story is told with capital spirit, and the reader is
not given time to feel dull.”

  _GLASGOW HERALD._—“Vivid and interesting.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             Crown 8vo. 6s.

                                  THE

                        TRAIL OF THE GOLDSEEKERS

                      A RECORD OF TRAVEL IN PROSE
                               AND VERSE

                           By HAMLIN GARLAND

  _SPEAKER._—“It consists of vivid prose pictures of adventure in the
wild North West, interspersed with unconventional and often extremely
beautiful snatches of verse. The book reflects better than anything else
we have seen the pitiless majesty of the scenery and the tragic
conditions of the quest.”

  _OBSERVER._—“Racy, invigorating, and informing.... Interspersed with
some admirable verses.”

  _BOOKMAN._—“To read the volume is to make the overland journey to the
Yukon River. We have enjoyed the book most thoroughly.”


                             Crown 8vo. 6s.

                               THE LOVES

                                 OF THE

                             LADY ARABELLA

                            By M.E. SEAWELL

  _SPEAKER._—“A story told with so much spirit that the reader tingles
with suspense until the end is reached.... A very pleasant tale of more
than common merit.”

  _PALL MALL GAZETTE._—“It is short and excellent reading.... Old Peter
Hawkshaw, the Admiral, is a valuable creation, sometimes quite ‘My Uncle
Toby’.... The scene, when the narrator dines with him in the cabin for
the first time, is one of the most humorous in the language, and stamps
Lady Hawkshaw—albeit, she is not there—as one of the wives of fiction in
the category of Mrs. Proudie herself.... The interest is thoroughly
sustained to the end.... Thoroughly healthy and amusing.”

  _WORLD._—“Brisk and amusing throughout.”

                    MACMILLAN AND CO., LTD., LONDON



------------------------------------------------------------------------



Transcriber’s note:

Minor errors, attributable to the printer, have been corrected.

The following issues should be noted. There were a number of confusions
about nested quotation marks, which have been addressed to ease the
reading experience. Where the author’s intent is unclear, the text is
retained.

Errors of punctuation in the advertisement section at the end of the
text were corrected, silently, in the interest of consistency.

  p. 5       intercour[es/se]                         Transposed.

  p. 41      [‘]Well, I don’t deny                    Added.

  p. 74      [‘]Quite right, Dick;                    Added.

  p. 94      and considerable[./,] Mick and his sons  Corrected.

  p. 99      ‘Ladies and gentlemen!’ he shouted[.]    Added.

  p. 109     the English thoroughbred.[’]             Added.

  p. 116     labouring up and [and] glanced           Removed.

  p. 118     Dick [road/rode] up straight             Corrected.

  p. 147     about one another,[’]                    Added.

  p. 178     licks [’]im                              Added.

  p. 206     Fred Churbett out of [of] his bed        Removed.

  p. 224     villians                                 _sic._

  p. 225     [“]if we meet any                        Added.

             back you go to the barracks[’/”]         Corrected.

             [‘]They’d take me ... and free from      Added.
             trouble,”[’]

  p. 227     'What a tragedy![']                      Added.

  p. 232     any other[ other] part                   Removed.

  p. 252     [‘]I like forest                         Added.

  p. 269     compressd                                _sic._

  p. 275     I see it in your face[.]                 Added.

  p. 287     wild-f[l]owl                             Removed.

  p. 298     he became a finder of continents.[’]     Added.

  p. 310     [‘]You will enjoy                        Added.

             Hu[r]bert                                Removed.

  p. 313     Gera[r/l]d                               Corrected.

  p. 315     my dear boy[,/.]                         Corrected.

  p. 318     but the old who die![’]                  Removed.

  p. 367     home at last——[”/’]                      Corrected.

             Hu[r]bert                                Removed.

  p. 373     well-featured, manly[.]                  Added.

  p. 419     But some[w]how                           Removed.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Babes in the Bush" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home