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Title: Basil and Annette - A Novel
Author: Farjeon, B. L. (Benjamin Leopold)
Language: English
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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.

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BASIL AND ANNETTE.

A Novel.



By B. L. FARJEON,

AUTHOR OF "GREAT PORTER SQUARE," "TOILERS OF BABYLON," "A YOUNG GIRL'S
LIFE," "THE MYSTERY OF M. FELIX," &c.



_IN ONE VOLUME_.



LONDON:
F. V. WHITE & CO.,
31, SOUTHAMPTON STREET, STRAND, W.C.
1891.



PRINTED BY
KELLY AND CO., GATE STREET, LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS W.C.,
AND KINGSTON-ON-THAMES.



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I.
CHAPTER II.
CHAPTER III.
CHAPTER IV.
CHAPTER V.
CHAPTER VI.
CHAPTER VII.
CHAPTER VIII.
CHAPTER IX.
CHAPTER X.
CHAPTER XI.
CHAPTER XII.
CHAPTER XIII.
CHAPTER XIV.
CHAPTER XV.
CHAPTER XVI.
CHAPTER XVII.
CHAPTER XVIII.
CHAPTER XIX.
CHAPTER XX.
CHAPTER XXI.
CHAPTER XXII.
CHAPTER XXIII.
CHAPTER XXIV.
CHAPTER XXV.
CHAPTER XXVI.
CHAPTER XXVII.
CHAPTER XXVIII.
CHAPTER XXIX.
CHAPTER XXX.
CHAPTER XXXI.
CHAPTER XXXII.
CHAPTER XXXIII.
CHAPTER XXXIV.
CHAPTER XXXV.
CHAPTER XXXVI.
CHAPTER XXXVII.
CHAPTER XXXVIII.
CHAPTER XXXIX.
CHAPTER XL.
CHAPTER XLI.
CHAPTER XLII.
CHAPTER XLIII.
CHAPTER XLIV.



BASIL AND ANNETTE.



CHAPTER I.


In the old world the reign of winter has commenced. The woods are
snow-white, the hedges are frosted over, the pools are frozen, icicles
hang from the branches of the trees. Wayfarers walk briskly, stamp
their feet, and beat their hands to keep the circulation going; while
other humans, whom business does not call from their houses, snuggle
round the fireside, with doors and windows closed to keep out the
nipping air. Winged immigrants that came in the sweet spring days have
long since taken their departure to warmer climes, bearing with them
memories of a bright youth, to be renewed when another spring smiles
upon the land.

In the new world, at the same moment, it is nature's holiday time. The
air is scented with the fragrance of white lilies and jessamine;
fringed violets carpet the woods; the wild passion fruit, with its
gleaming scarlet flowers, illuminates the bushes; the palm-tree rears
its graceful head above festoons of feathery leaves, in which clumps
of red berries shine like clusters of stars; tall quandong-trees and
wild plums shoot up straight as arrows, for the most part clear of
vines and creepers, but not always successful in escaping the embrace
of the stag's horn fern, one of the handsomest of all Australia's
parasites; and the white-wooded umbrella-tree proudly asserts its
claim to preeminence, with its darkly lustrous laurel-shaped leaves
surmounted by long radiating spikes of crimson flowers, the brilliancy
of which rivals the glowing sunset of the South. Through the grand
forests, in which for unnumbered ages the dusky savage has roamed in
freedom, never dreaming of the invasion of a higher civilisation, flit
flocks of resplendent parrots, chief among them being the blue
mountain, the rosella, and the crimson wing; black cockatoos, with
their dazzling tails spread out, are lurking in the branches of the
bloodwood trees, where they find both food and shelter; flycatchers,
all green and gold, are cunningly watching the waterholes for prey;
laughing jackasses, with their blue feathers and cold grey eyes, which
are now twinkling with fun, are making merry over the absurd antics of
native companions, whose conceited hoppings and twirlings are comic
enough to inspire mirth in the dullest denizens of the woods; while
the soft musical notes of the bellbirds, all green and purple, blue
and golden, make harmonious the west wind which travels from the
beeches, and fill the air with melody strange and sweet.

Within hail of these summer evidences of loveliness and grandeur stand
two men, one young, the other not yet middle-aged. The younger man,
whose name is Basil Whittingham, is the embodiment of careless,
indolent grace, but just now he is evincing an unusual earnestness of
manner, both in speaking and listening. His age is barely
twenty-three, and he bears about him the unmistakable stamp of
gentleman. This is not always the case with men who have honest claims
to the title, but with some few it is a gift. It is so with Basil
Whittingham. He has blue eyes, fair hair, a supple, graceful form, a
laughing mouth, with teeth like pearl, delicate hands, and a long,
light-brown moustache, which he evidently regards as a magnificent
possession, and cherishes and nurses as a thing of beauty. Otherwise
he has not much to be proud of in the shape of possessions, for his
clothes would be anything but presentable in Mayfair, though here in
the Australian woods they may serve well enough. His trousers, tucked
into old knee boots, have conspicuously seen their best days; his
shirt, of some light material, has rents in it, showing the fair skin
of his arms embrowned by the sun where the sun could get at them; the
sash round his waist is frayed and faded; his wide-awake hat, sound in
front, is tattered at the back, where it flaps loosely over his
flowing hair; and, moreover, he is smoking a short black cutty. Yet
despite these drawbacks, if drawbacks they can be called in this land
of freedom, freer indeed than any republic under the sun, even the
most ordinary observer would be ready to acknowledge that the man was
a gentleman. One, for instance, who would not do a dirty trick, who
would not tell a lie to serve his own interests, who would not betray
a friend, and who would be more likely to wrong himself than others.
Tender, simple, brave; fearless, but not foolhardy; openhearted,
confiding, and unsuspicious of sinister, motives in those with whom he
has once shaken hands; with a sense of humour which lightens
adversity; regretting not the past, though he has wilfully steered his
boat into the Bay of Poverty, and dreading not the future; such is
Basil Whittingham, a typical type of an honest, frank, manly English
gentleman.

His companion, by name Anthony Bidaud, was born and bred in
Switzerland, but is of French extraction. He speaks, English fluently,
so well indeed that those who serve him will not believe he is a
foreigner. He has not yet reached middle age, but he looks sixty at
least, and on his worn, anxious face dwells the expression of a man
who is waiting for a mortal stroke. He is well dressed, after the free
bush fashion, and is no less a gentleman than Basil Whittingham. It is
the mutual recognition of social equality that keeps Basil penniless
and poorly clad, for he is a guest, not a dependent, on the plantation
of which Anthony Bidaud is master. This state of things suits the
careless nature of the younger gentleman, who, welcomed and received
by Anthony Bidaud as an equal, takes a pride in holding himself free
from the touch of servitude. Perhaps Annette, of whom you shall
presently hear, serves as a factor in the attitude he has chosen.

Being the hero of our story, it is needful that something should be
related of his career in the home country.

His parents were Devonshire people, and he their only child. It was
supposed that his father was a man of fortune; he lived as one, kept
hounds and horses, and maintained a costly establishment. Needless to
say that Basil was the idol of his parents; he was also the idol of a
wealthy uncle, to whom he paid a visit once in every year, and who,
being childless, had announced his intention of making Basil his heir.
Thus, all seemed smooth and pleasant-sailing before the young fellow.
But misfortunes came; at the age of fourteen he lost his mother. The
memory of the solemn moments he spent by her bedside before she closed
her eyes upon the world, abided ever with Basil, whose passionate
adoration for the dear mother was a good testimony of his affectionate
disposition. But there was something deeper than affection in the
feelings he entertained for her. She had been to him more than a
loving mother; she had been his truest counsellor and friend. Upon her
had devolved the father's duty of inculcating in their child those
strict principles of honour and right-doing which set the seal of true
manhood upon him who follows them out in his course through life.
Basil's father was of an easy, genial nature, and it was from him that
Basil inherited a cheerfulness of temper and a sense of humour which
lessened evils instead of magnifying them. The higher qualities of his
character came from his mother. Lying on her death-bed she impressed
upon him the beauty of honesty and uprightness, and the lad's heart
responded to her teaching.

"Never look to consequences, my dear child," she said. "Do always what
is right; and when you are a man counsel and guide your dear father."

He promised to obey her, but it was not until many years had passed
that he knew what she meant when she told him to counsel and guide his
father. It was she who had steered her husband's boat when it had got
into troubled waters, and steered it always into a safe harbour. No
one knew it, no one suspected it; not even her husband, who believed
that it was due to himself alone that he escaped dangers which
threatened him from time to time; but this ignorance was due to her
wisdom, and partly, also, to her love; rather than wound his feelings,
she preferred to suffer herself. It is not to be inferred from this
remark that she had not led a happy life; she had, and her home was
happy in the truest sense; but she sighed to think of her husband,
left alone to grapple with difficulties which his easy nature
prevented him from seeing.

She had a private fortune of her own, and with her husband's consent
she made a will devising it all to her son, with the exception of some
small legacies to humble friends. The money was to be invested, and to
accumulate till Basil was twenty-one years of age, when he was to come
into possession of it; so that, even without his uncle, he was
comfortably provided for. A short time after his mother's death, his
father announced his intention of giving up his establishment in the
country and settling in London. The home in which he had passed so
many happy years with his wife was desolate and sad now that she was
gone from it; he wandered through the rooms with a weight on his heart
which memory made heavier instead of lighter.

"Yes Basil," he said to his son, "it is the best thing I can do. If I
remain here I shall lose my reason; I must find some distraction from
grief."

Basil was too young to question this decision; what his father
resolved upon must be right. The old home was sold up, and father and
son removed to London. Then came the question of Basil's education.
His uncle considered removal to London a step in the wrong direction,
and he wrote to that effect; he also expressed his opinion that London
was an unsuitable place in which to conduct a young gentleman's
education. "Give the lad a tutor," he said, "and let him travel." This
was done, and before he was fifteen years of age Basil was living on
the Continent, picking up knowledge and picking up pleasure in not
quite equal quantities, the latter predominating. It was an agreeable
life, and Basil did not harm by it. Every year he came to England, and
spent a month with his father in London and a week with his uncle in
the country. On one occasion he and his uncle spent this week together
in the great city, living at Morley's Hotel, Charing Cross, and seeing
the sights, and this visit was destined to be pregnant with strange
results in years to come. Except upon all other occasions the uncle
received Basil in the country. The old gentleman was full of quips and
cranks and imaginary ills. He fancied himself an invalid, and coddled
himself up absurdly; and Basil, when he visited him, seldom left the
house. The forced seclusion did not trouble the young fellow; he could
make himself happy anywhere. Certainly there were few dull moments in
his uncle's house when Basil was in it, and the old gentleman, while
not objecting to a display of animal spirits, improved the opportunity
by endeavouring to drive into his nephew's head a special kind of
worldly wisdom. As, for instance: All men are rogues (ourselves
excepted). Never open your heart to a friend (except to an uncle who
is going to leave you all his money). Keep your secrets. Spend your
money on your own pleasures and your own ambitions. Never make
yourself responsible for another man's debts. Et cetera, et cetera, et
cetera. This kind of counsel was showered upon Basil, and produced no
effect upon him whatever; he was spared the trouble of arguing upon
these matters, even if he were in the humour for it--which he was not;
he had a knack of avoiding disagreeable topics by his uncle's
everlasting assertion that the counsel he gave was absolutely
indisputable, and was to be received as such.

"All right, uncle," said Basil; "now let us talk of something else."

And he would fly off into accounts of such of his Continental
adventures as he knew would please the old fellow. He had a capital
gift of description, and the old man would sit huddled up in his
arm-chair, cracking his sides at his nephew's wit. Basil never bade
his uncle good-bye without a cheque for a substantial sum in his
pocket. He was liberally provided for by his father, but he did not
despise his uncle's gifts. Seeing that his stories of his travels
amused his uncle, he said that he would one day write a book.

"And when you write it," his uncle Said, "burn it. Write a book
indeed! Put your time out at better interest, Basil. Make money,
money, money. Then people will bow down to you. _I'm_ not a nice
object to look at, am I? But I've got money, and people bow down to
_me!_ How much more will they be likely to do so to a handsome fellow
like you? Make money, my boy, make money, and stick to it."

Which worldly advice went as usual in at one ear and out at the other.
After all, the old gentleman's remarks had only a general application;
had there been any special interest at stake Basil would have argued
it stoutly enough, and thereby got himself into hot water.

So things went on till Basil was twenty-one years of age, when he was
to come into possession of his mother's fortune. On his birthday he
wrote to his father, saying he would be home in a fortnight, and full
of kind messages--messages which did not reach the sense of the man
for whom they were intended: on the day the letter was delivered at
the London address his father was lying in delirium on a bed from
which he was never to rise. A week before he intended to start for
home Basil received a letter informing him of the sad news. "Come back
immediately," the writer said, "if you wish to see your father alive."
Basil did not lose a moment. Travelling as quickly as possible he
arrived at his father's house--too late. It was a terrible blow to
him, more terrible than the loss of his mother, for which he had been
in a measure prepared. Death came more slowly in her case, and she had
instilled into her son a spirit of resignation which softened the
bereavement. Even before she drew her last breath Basil had thought of
her as an angel in heaven. But with his father it was so sudden; there
had been no preparation for the parting, no indication of it. It was
true that his father had been ailing for months, but he had been
careful not to alarm his son. He may have believed, as most men do,
that the worst would not happen; we are chary in applying to ourselves
the rules we are so ready to apply to others. Only in his last hour of
consciousness, before he fell into the delirium from which it was
fated he should not recover, had he asked for his desk, and taking
from it a sheet of paper wrote a few words to his son, which he
desired should be delivered in the event of anything serious happening
to him. He did not believe it even then; had he been a religious man
he would have weighed the matter more deeply, but he was one who,
living as fairly good and moral a life as the average church-goer,
seldom went to the Divine fount for comfort and counsel. It might have
been better for Basil if he had, for a warning might have come to him
to check the mad desire which had taken possession of him.

Between him and Basil there had never been a harsh word. Each bore for
the other the truest affection. Never a cross, never an ill-tempered
look; unvarying sweetness had marked their intercourse. So sudden a
separation could have been nothing less than terrible to the living.
It was long before Basil recovered from it. With the exception of his
crotchety old uncle he was absolutely without kith or kin. Letters had
passed between them with reference to the sad event. "I cannot come to
London to attend the funeral," his uncle wrote; "I am too infirm and
feeble. When you have settled your father's affairs I shall be glad to
see you to talk things over. It is time you made a serious start in
life. You have your mother's fortune, and your father's, which I
should say is a handsome one; you will have mine, though I intend to
keep you out of it as long as I can. You are a lucky dog; you ought to
die a millionaire." A mortal ending the absolute desirability of which
may well be doubted. Basil replied, hoping his uncle would live to a
good old age, and promising to visit him as soon as affairs were
settled. In his father's desk he found the scrawl which the dying man
had written. It was very short.

"My dear Basil,--The honour of my name is in your hands. Your loving
father."

He had not strength to attach his name.

It was not until the day after the funeral that the significance of
these words impressed itself on Basil. "The honour of my name is in
your hands." They were his father's last words to him. What meaning
did they bear? He had heard from his father's lawyers, informing him
that they had the will in their possession, and that they were at his
service. He wrote to them, to the effect that he would call upon them
early the following morning.

The head of the firm received him gravely and courteously, and gave
orders that they were not to be disturbed.

The will had been drawn out years since, and no alteration had been
made in it. Everything was left to Basil, unreservedly to him. There
were affectionate allusions in it which drew tears from Basil's eyes.
When this emotion had subsided he observed that the lawyer was
regarding him with an air of curiosity.

"May I ask," said the lawyer, "if full confidence existed between you
and your father?"

"The fullest," replied Basil. "He had no secrets from me, nor I any
from him."

The lawyer seemed sensibly relieved. "You know of his speculations?"

"His speculations!" exclaimed Basil, in surprise. "I was not aware
that he speculated."

"Then full confidence did not exist between you. I warned him; I could
do no more than that. In my experience, my dear sir, I have seen so
many go the same way. There is but one end to it, and this has ended
as the others have done."

"I will listen to nothing against my father," said Basil warmly.

"I have nothing to say against him," responded the lawyer, "except
that he was unwise. He had an intense craving to leave you a very
large fortune, and this craving became a kind of disease in him, and
led him on. I regret to tell you that all his speculations have ended
disastrously."

"That is to say, have resulted in a loss?"

"In great losses."

"To what extent?"

"Claims are pouring in. If they are satisfied, the will in your hands
is not worth more than waste paper. But some of the claims may be
contested, and in my belief successfully. But that will be a matter
for counsel's opinion."

"It has nothing to do with counsel," said Basil; "it has to do with
me. I am my dear father's representative, and it is for me to
determine what is to be done."

"Undoubtedly. Instructions must come from you."

"Claims are pouring in, you say. Can you tell me to what amount?"

"As far as we have received them; there are more to be presented you
understand."

"Yes."

"Plainly, then," said the lawyer, "the property your father has left
will not be sufficient to meet his debts."

"They must be paid, however." The lawyer inclined his head.

"Yes," said Basil, rising and pacing the room in his excitement, "they
must be paid. No stigma must rest upon my father's memory. Some of the
claims may be contested, you say? In justice?"

"Legally," replied the lawyer.

"I ask you again," said Basil. "In justice?"

The lawyer, declining to commit himself, made no reply.

"At least," said Basil, "you can answer me this question. My father
owes the money?"

"Yes, my dear sir, he owes the money."

"Then it must be paid. Do you not see that it _must_ be paid? No man
shall have the power of uttering one word against him."

"But," said the lawyer, eyeing the young man as he would have eyed a
psychological puzzle, "if the estate left by your father is not
sufficient to satisfy all these claims, what is to be done?"

"I have money of my own--my mother's fortune--of which you have the
particulars."

"Yes, we can give you all the information you require, and it requires
but your signature to a few documents, already prepared, my dear sir,
to place you in possession of this very handsome inheritance."

"You can probably tell me the amount of it."

"Almost to a farthing. It is invested in the safest securities,
realisable at an hour's notice, and it amounts to,"--the lawyer took
some papers from a japanned box and ran his eye over them--"it amounts
to not less than twenty-three thousand pounds."

"Will that," asked Basil, "with my father's estate, satisfy in full
the claims which are pouring in?"

"But my dear sir," expostulated the lawyer, with a look of
astonishment.

Basil would not allow him to conclude. "I have to repeat some of my
questions, it seems," he said. "Will this fortune, which is realisable
in an hour, satisfy in full the claims of my father's creditors?"

The lawyer shrugged his shoulders, and replied briefly, "More than
satisfy them."

"Then the matter is settled," said Basil. "I empower you to collect
the whole of these claims to the uttermost farthing; to convert the
securities which are mine into money; to prepare a complete balance
sheet, and to pay my father's creditors in full, with as little delay
as possible."

"I am to accept these instructions as definite and decisive?"

"As definite and decisive!"

"They shall be followed and carried out with as little delay as
possible. I must trouble you to call here at three o'clock this
afternoon to sign the necessary papers."

"I will be punctual. Good morning; and I am greatly obliged to you."

"Good morning, my dear sir," said the lawyer, adding under his breath,
"and I am greatly astonished at you."

At three o'clock that afternoon Basil called again at the lawyer's
office, and signed "the necessary papers," and went away with a light
heart and a smiling face. Within a month the affair was concluded, his
father's estate was realised, and his father's creditor's paid in
full. There remained to him then, out of his mother's fortune, the sum
of three thousand pounds.

He was perfectly happy and contented. Long before the business was
finally settled he had realised what his father meant by his last few
written words: "My dear Basil,--The honour of my name is in your
hands. Your loving father." To good hands indeed had the honour of a
dead man's name been entrusted. Basil had preserved it unsullied,
unblemished.

He took no credit for it; he had fulfilled a sacred trust. It was
simply a duty performed.

"Now," he said to himself; "I will go and see my uncle."

But while he was preparing to start he received a letter from that
gentleman, which will explain why the visit was never paid.


"Nephew Basil" (the letter ran), "I have received news of your mad
proceedings since your return home. No person in his sober senses
would have acted as you have done. The greater portion of the claims
made against your father's estate could have been legally and
successfully contested, and even in what remained a sharp lawyer could
have obtained a substantial abatement. This view, as I understand, was
presented to you by an able firm of solicitors, but you rejected it,
and chose to play the fool. Now, I do not care to have dealings with a
fool.

"I might have pardoned you for sacrificing your father's estate to
satisfy these claims, but I will not pardon you for sacrificing the
fortune your mother left you. It proves to me that it is not safe to
entrust money to you, and I have decided to put mine to better use
than to leave it to you. Accept this intimation as my ultimatum. It is
the last letter you will ever receive from me, and you will never see
me again. Therefore you need not go to the trouble of coming my way.
My house is not open to you. All the good counsel I have given you has
been thrown away. You might have told me at the time and I should have
saved my breath and my patience. Good-bye, foolish nephew.

    "Bartholomew Whittingham."


He was angry enough to add a postscript:


"As you are so fond of paying debts for which you are not responsible,
what do you say to considering the money I have given you from time to
time as one, and handing it back? You can do as you please about it. I
can make no legal demand for it, but I gave it to you under the
impression that you were not exactly an idiot. It amounts to quite
fourteen hundred pounds. If I had it I would put it out at good
interest."


To state that Basil was not hurt by this letter would be to state what
is not true. He had an affection for the old fellow, and he was
greatly pained to think that all was over between them; but he was not
in the least disturbed by the old man's arguments. He had done what
was right; of this he was sure. But the letter stung Basil as well as
hurt him. There was a bitter twang in his uncle's remark that he could
make no legal demand for the money he had given his nephew. "He shall
have it back," said Basil, "every farthing of it." Then he was seized
with an expensive fit of humour. His uncle had spoken of interest. He
would prove that he was not a whit less independent than the old
fellow himself. He made some lame and ridiculous calculations of
interest at five per cent, per annum, and arrived at the sum of two
thousand pounds and a few pence. He got a draft for the amount, and
inclosed it in the following note:--

"All right, my dear uncle. Here is your money back again, with
interest added. If it is not enough interest, let me know, and I will
send you more. Good-bye, and good luck to you.

    "Your affectionate nephew,

                      "Basil."


This last debt paid, Basil had barely a thousand pounds left. He did
not hear from his uncle again.

Now, what was he to do? He was without profession or trade, and did
not feel equal for any kind of service he saw around, even if it was
offered to him. "I think," he said, "I will travel a little more." He
did so, and was prudent enough to travel in an economic spirit but his
money went fast enough for all that. At the end of a year and a half
he had in his purse exactly one hundred pounds. Was he dashed? Not a
bit. But he knew that something must be done. "I will go to
Australia," he said. The project exalted him. He glowed, he rubbed his
hands, he was in a whirl of pleasant excitement. He would be in a new
land, in a land of adventure, in a land of romance. There he would be
all right, of course. Not a doubt of it. As for his empty purse--and
it _was_ pretty well empty by the time he had paid for his passage and
a few necessary odds and ends--he scarcely gave it a thought. Was he
not going to Australia, the poor man's El Dorado? So he set forth in a
sailing vessel, and enjoyed the passage immensely, and landed in
Sydney as happy as a king. The fairy harbour, the most beautiful in
all the wide world, enchanted him; the ravishing scenery enchanted
him; the quaint old city, so home-like in its appearance, enchanted
him. Certainly he had come to the right place.

He was rather more melancholy a few weeks afterwards, but he never
lost heart. Suitable employment did not present itself so readily as
he had thought it would, and gold was not to be picked up in the
streets. "I am making a mistake," he said. "I must not remain in the
city; I must go into the bush." He soon made a start, and began
tramping Queensland way, and after some weeks of wondering reached the
tract of country which Anthony Bidaud had taken up.



CHAPTER II.


On the plantation which he had brought almost to perfection by twenty
years of wise labour Anthony Bidaud lived with his only child,
Annette, fourteen years of age. He had no other of his kindred near
him. The wife he brought from Switzerland lay in a flower-covered
grave within a mile of the spot upon which he stood. They came to the
colony childless, but after a lapse of years Annette was born to them.
Until the child was nine years of age the fond mother was spared to
rear her, and then one morning Annette awoke to find the dear
protector lost to her. It was an irreparable loss in that far-away
land, and there was no one of her own sex to take the mother's place.
But Annette had her father left, and he, not unsuccessfully, strove to
fill the void in his child's life. He was unremitting in his
tenderness and watchfulness, and he bestowed upon his little one a
full-hearted love. The two had lived together till now, when Anthony
Bidaud's heart was gloomed by the fear of approaching death. He had
never been strong, and the climate of the new world in which he had
made his home was destined to be fatal to him. He made pilgrimages to
Sydney and Melbourne to consult the best physicians, but they gave him
little hope. Death was approaching surely and swiftly. A gnawing pain,
an inexpressible grief, stirred his heart as he thought of his child,
whom he idolised. The reflection that she would be left alone in this
wild spot, in this remote part of the world, without a relative, with
scarcely a friend, appalled him. Yet what could he do?

He had neither sought nor made friends, he and his wife and child had
been sufficient for each other, and when his wife died he and Annette
sighed for no other companionship. But had he sought friendships he
would not have succeeded in making them in any but fitful fashion. His
nearest neighbour was twenty miles away, and everybody in the colony
was so intent upon "getting on" and making his fortune, that there was
no time for social intercourse. In colonial cities there was at that
time but little "society;" in the bush, none.

About a hundred feet above the blue clear stream of the Pioneer stood
the house in which Anthony Bidaud lived. The slabs with which it was
built had been split from the gum and bloodwood trees growing in the
forest which lay in the rear of the huts and buildings inhabited by
the labourers, chiefly South Sea Islanders, who worked on the
plantation. The roof was composed of shingles split from the same
description of trees. The interior of the house was lined with rich,
dark red cedar, which grew in the thick scrub on the opposite banks of
the river. An avenue of bananas led from the house along the cliff to
an arbour, in which oranges, custard apples, guavas, and other
delicious fruits, ripened in unsurpassed perfection. The posts of the
verandahs which surrounded three sides of the house were covered by
gigantic passion fruit, except at one end, which was completely
enclosed by grape vines and the yellow jessamine. Hammocks were slung
in the verandahs, and the occupants could swing idly to and fro,
shaded from the hot sun, and within reach of the fruit which grew in
such wonderful abundance and luxuriance all around. A lovely home for
husband, wife, and children; a dream which a poet soul only could
properly appreciate, but for one simple human being, in whose days the
flower of human affection was not blossoming--little better than a
wilderness.

It was of this sad prospect, which his state of health warned him lay
before Annette, that Anthony Bidaud was speaking to Basil at the time
of their introduction to the reader. They had been acquainted but a
short time, but each bore for the other a genuine esteem. Some kindred
qualities of independence, high-mindedness, and honesty of purpose had
drawn them together from the hour they first met, and would have drawn
them even closer in the future; but the shadows gathering over one
life marred this fulfilment of a brighter promise. Barely two months
had elapsed since Basil Whittingham, presenting himself to Anthony
Bidaud, had asked for a shelter of his roof for a night. Annette was
present when Basil appeared; by her side a faithful Scotch terrier,
who guarded his young mistress with watchful care, and when needed,
with ferocity. Basil stooped and patted the head of the dog, who did
not snarl and show his teeth, as was his wont with strangers, but
submitted to the familiarity with unusual amiability. The sensible
creature went even farther than this; he rose, and rubbed his head
against Basil's leg, courting by the action a continuance of the
caressing.

"Father," said Annette, "no stranger has ever done that with Bruno
before."

"Bruno and I are old friends," said Basil, with a pleasant smile.
Annette thought that she had never seen such beautiful teeth.

"Oh, Bruno," she cried reproachfully, "and you never told me! Come
here directly, sir!" Bruno approached her, wagging his tail. "Really
old friends?" she asked turning to Basil.

"No, not really," he replied. "What I mean is, I love dogs, and dogs
love me."

"A good testimonial," remarked Anthony Bidaud, gazing with interest
upon this poorly attired gentleman.

"I have found it so," responded Basil, "for dog and man."

He held out his hand to Annette, who not only took it, but retained
it. This went far to complete the conquest of Anthony Bidaud. With the
ordinary tramp he was very familiar, but here was a man of another
breed. No hang-dog looks, no slouching, no lowering of the brows, no
prison-mark about him. An upright gentleman, who looked the man he was
asking a favour from square in the face.

"Have you travelled far?" asked Anthony Bidaud.

"About twenty miles I should say. Rather too hot a day for so long a
walk."

"You must be tired," said Anthony Bidaud. "You are heartily welcome
here."

"I thank you," said Basil.

That this young man had so swiftly won favour with his child and her
four-footed protector was a sufficient recommendation to Bidaud, but,
independent of that, he was rejoiced to meet with a gentleman from
whom manners and polish of good society had not been rubbed off by
familiarity with the rougher aspects of life in the new world. Basil
was a man whom no experience could harden; the inner grain of his
nature was refined and sweet. The hardships he had already met with in
the colony had not embittered him in the least. He grumbled at
nothing, took all things easily, and showed a smiling face to the
world. When he presented himself to Anthony Bidaud he was really at
his wits' end, but though he had not tasted food that day he was not
discouraged or disheartened. A clean conscience is a wonderful
sustainer. "I am like a cat," thought Basil, as he trudged blithely
through the bush, "I am bound to fall on my feet". And fall on his
feet he did that summer afternoon, which was to be the prelude of many
happier days; for before the night was over he told his host
sufficient of his antecedents to satisfy Bidaud that his hospitality
was not likely to be misplaced. Upon his persuasion his guest remained
for a week, then for another week, and so on till the present time.
Bidaud was diffident in asking Basil to enter his service, and Basil,
though he had come to the plantation with a vague idea of seeking
employment, did not entertain it after his first introduction to
Bidaud and his daughter. The terms upon which they had met and upon
which he was received forbade his asking for employment. It was
gentleman and gentleman, not master and servant. But at length
Bidaud--who had learned sufficient to be aware that Basil's purse was
empty, and that he had no friends in the colony--delicately pressed
his guest upon the subject, and, as timidly as though he was asking a
favour instead of being anxious to bestow one, hinted at some business
connection between them. Basil, from scruples with which we are
familiar but which he did not explain to his host, would not entertain
the idea, but firmly and courteously set it aside.

"You have your future to look to," said Bidaud.

"There is time enough to think of that," said Basil, cheerfully. "I am
not so very old."

Many a time did Bidaud look with eyes of affection at Basil, and wish
he had a son like him to whom he could entrust his darling Annette.
Basil was a man peculiarly adapted to inspire affection in honest,
simple hearts, and such a bond grew between him and Annette. Happy is
the man whose manners cause children to regard him as one of
themselves; he possesses an inheritance of pleasant hours which money
cannot purchase. Basil and Annette, then, spent a great deal of time
together, accompanied by the faithful Bruno, and it gladdened the
father's heart to see his child so happy in the society of their new
friend.

"Father says your name is Whittingham," said Annette.

"Yes, it is," said the young man.

"Mr. Whittingham."

"Yes. Do you like it?"

"No. You must have another name."

"Of course I have. Basil."

"Basil. That is much nicer, ever so much nicer. I shall call you
Basil."

"I shall feel honoured, Annette."

This compact being made, Annette took him in hand; the little maid had
already discovered that she knew a great deal which he did not, and
she set up a school, with Basil as her only pupil. Whether what she
taught was likely to be of use to him in the battle of life he was
bound to fight is an open question. Had some foreknowledge come upon
him as to the nature of that battle, and the roads into which it would
lead him, he would have laughingly rejected it as the wildest of
fancies. He was quite content with the present; he had found an
enchanting companion, and time was passing delightfully. During
Annette's five years of motherless life she had acquired a wonderful
knowledge of the fauna and the flora of the colony, and to these
mysteries she introduced Basil. It is not incorrect to call them
mysteries, for they are really so to ninety-nine out of every hundred
colonials, who spend their lives in ignorance of the wonders by which
they are surrounded. But it is so in all lands.

Annette, then, opened Basil's mind, and let in knowledge. She showed
him how to snare game, which abounded in vast quantities, snipe,
quail, and numerous varieties of duck, of which the whistling duck is
the most curious, and the black duck the best eating; she taught him
the names of the strange and beautiful birds which found their home in
the scrub and forests round about; she described to him the different
trees which grew in the neighbourhood of the beautiful Pioneer River,
and would not rest contented till he was familiar with them, and could
give them their right names.

"What is this, Basil?"

"What is this, Annette? Why, a tree."

"But what kind of tree?"

"Oh, I beg your pardon. Ha--hum--oh, yes, it is the tea-tree."

"It is not, Basil. It is the bottle-tree."

"Well, the bottle-tree. Of course it is the bottle-tree. How could I
be so stupid?"

"You are not stupid; you are inattentive. Do you see this hole cut in
the tree?"

"Of course I do."

"I will not have that answer. 'Of course I do' sounds as if I had no
right to ask the question. Say 'I do.'"

"I do."

"And mean it, if you please."

"I mean it," said Basil, with his hand on his heart, and a merry
twinkle in his eyes.

"Very good. You see the hole. Who cut it?"

"On my word of honour, Annette, I haven't the slightest idea."

"It was cut by the blacks. Now, what did they cut it for?"

"How on earth should I know?"

"You ought to know. You have been brought up in a very bad school.
I'll show you what for. Out with your knife, Basil. Dig it in here, a
long way under the hole. That is right. Now you can have a good drink
of cold sweet water. Is it not wonderful?"

"Indeed it is. Like Oliver Twist, I ask for more."

The conversation instantly took another turn. There were but few books
on the home station, and among them no work of fiction. It fell to
Basil's lot to open a new fairyland in the young girl's life. "What
was Oliver Twist?" "He was not a 'what'; he was a 'who.'" "Then who was
Oliver Twist?" Basil told the story as well as he could, and
afterwards told another; and after the second tale, still another,
this time a more simple one, from the magic cupboard of Hans Christian
Andersen. It was long before they resumed their woodland lessons.
Annette pointed out where the best figs and almonds grew, instructed
him how to make bracelets and necklaces out of the stones of the
quandong fruit, and where the sugar bags of the native bees were to be
found. They caught a native bear, not a very ferocious creature and
tamed it in a few days so thoroughly that it followed them about like
a dog, to the disgust of Bruno, who did not approve of the proceeding;
they gathered wild ginger and wild nutmegs in the scrub, and in a
famous creek they caught quantities of golden perch, with red eyes and
double chins; and once they saw two emus in the distance, and heard
the faint sound of their peculiar whistle. In such-like idling the
days flew by, and the hours were all too short, but suddenly it dawned
upon Basil that this lotus life could not last for ever. It was from a
sense of duty, and with a sinking heart (for the thought of parting
from these good friends, especially from Annette, sorely oppressed
him) that he intimated to Anthony Bidaud that he had lingered too
long, and must go farther afield.

"I must not outstay my welcome," he said.

"You cannot do that," said Bidaud. "Are you not happy here?"

"Too happy."

"No, one cannot be too happy," said Bidaud, in a tone of great
sadness. There was that weighing on his heart which he yearned to
impart to some person in whom he could confide. He had thought of it
for days past, and had resolved to unbosom his sorrow to the young
gentleman who had brought a new light of tenderness into the
prosperous home.

His story was told. Basil learned that the father feared he had not
long to live, and that he was filled with apprehension at the
contemplation of Annette being left without a friend.

"You were born in Switzerland," said Basil, thoughtfully. "Is there no
one connected with you in your own country into whose charge you could
give Annette?"

"It is twenty years since I left my native land," said Bidaud, "and
great changes must have taken place during that time."

"You left relatives there?"

"Yes, a sister--and a brother." His mention of his brother was made
with evident reluctance.

"Why not write to your brother," asked Basil, "to come and receive the
trust?"

"Heaven forbid!" cried Bidaud. "Give my darling child into Gilbert's
care! I would as soon give her into the care of a wolf! No, no, it is
not to be thought of. Six months ago I wrote to my sister, in whom I
have some confidence--she is a woman, and would surely not ill-treat
my child--informing her of my circumstances, and of the certain fate
which awaited me, and imploring her to come out to me. I promised to
provide for her, and for her family, if she had any. I thought that
the knowledge that I was rich would tempt her. To that letter I have
received no reply. Basil"--like his daughter, he called his guest by
his Christian name--"it is the sad and sober truth that you are the
only friend upon whom I can rely to render me a service. Will you do
so?"

"If it is in my power," said Basil, gravely.

"You have given me the impression that you are alone in the world."

"Practically alone," replied Basil.

"With no kindred who have claims upon you."

"My parents are dead; I was their only child. There is but one man
alive in England who is of my blood--an uncle whose heir I was to be,
but who has cast me off."

"May I inquire for what reason?"

"For a very serious reason. I did not know the value of money, he
said. My father, when he died, was heavily involved, and I ruined
myself in paying his debts. My uncle was angry at this, saying there
was no obligation upon me to satisfy my father's creditors. I held,
and hold, a different opinion; but the consequence was that my uncle
abandoned his intention of making me his heir."

"My task is all the easier for your explanation. The service I am
about to ask of you is no light one, and may be agreeable to you
because it will open out a future which few men would turn their back
upon. I do not say this to tempt you, for I know that you will be
guided entirely by your own feelings, by your own sense of right and
wrong, and that worldly advantage will weigh for nothing in the scale.
You are fond of Annette."

"I love the child; I never met with a sweeter and more sympathetic
nature than hers. She has strength of character, too."

"Do you think so?" asked Bidaud, anxiously.

"I am sure of it. Even now she rules me."

Bidaud shook his head with a sad smile. "That is not a proof. You are
content to be ruled, and what passes between you springs from
affection. The strength of character required to battle with the world
is of a different kind from that which Annette exhibits towards you.
The service I ask you to render me concerns Annette."

"Why, then," said Basil, gaily, "it is rendered before you ask for
it."

"You must know its nature before you consent. It is nothing more nor
less, Basil, than that you should stand to my child in the light of
guardian."

Basil started. The tone in which this was spoken was that of a man who
was convinced that the world was slipping from him.

"Surely you are alarming yourself unnecessarily," said the young man.

"I am not. There are warnings which it would be criminal to neglect,
especially where there is such a vital interest at stake as the
happiness of an only and beloved child. I have received these warnings
and must be prepared. Say that the spiritual whisper which tells me
that my end is approaching is false, is no faith to be placed in the
doctor's decree that my hours are numbered? A man may have morbid
fancies, but the teachings of experience and science are not to be
lightly set aside and disregarded. If my fears prove groundless, so
much the better for Annette; if they are confirmed--which they will
be, Basil, nothing can alter it--so much the worse for her unless
needful preparation is made for the crisis in her young life. Will you
now consent?"

"Let me hear more fully what you have to say," replied Basil, gravely,
"before I fully pledge myself. You speak of a brother and sister in
your own country, and you have written to one who may appear at any
moment. The claim she has upon Annette, and the authority with which
the laws of nature have invested her, are stronger than those of any
stranger. I am a young man, and the idea of becoming guardian to so
tender and sweet a flower as Annette startles me. I ask myself, am I
equal to a responsibility so serious, and the question reveals to me
my own deficiencies, of which I am generally somewhat painfully aware.
It is really as though the most serious page in my life was about to
be opened."



CHAPTER III.


"I have no fears," said Anthony Bidaud, with a gentle smile, "on the
score of your deficiencies. I have been no inattentive observer since
the fortunate day upon which I first formed acquaintance with you.
That you have had a disappointment in life counts for very little, and
such small difficulties as befall a newcomer in this new land are
scarcely to be accounted among the real difficulties of life. You do
not yet know your own strength, but already, in a position of serious
responsibility, you have acted in a manner which few men would have
had the courage to do. Your past is honourable, and contents me. You
have a kind heart, and that adds to my content. Should the worst
happen, my Annette will have by her side a true and honest counsellor.
Reflect a moment. Say that I were to die to-morrow--nay, do not argue
with me; death is the only certain thing in life, and it may come at
any unexpected moment to the strongest--say that I die to-morrow, what
would be the position of my dear child? I have an estate worth
thousands of pounds; she is a mere child, and could not manage it. She
would become the prey of schemers, who would undoubtedly not deal
fairly by her. I have a hundred servants on this plantation, and not a
friend among them. By accident you enter into our lives. I use the
term accident, but I believe it to be a providence. We are drawn to
each other. I have observed you closely, and am satisfied to deliver
into your hands a sacred charge, the charge of a young girl's future.
At such moments as these there comes to some men a subtle,
unfathomable insight. It comes to me. I firmly believe that there is a
link between you and my child which, if you do not recognise it now,
you will be bound to recognise in the future. It may be broken in the
present, but the threads will be joined as surely as we stand here
side by side. Apart from this mysticism, to which I do not expect you
to subscribe, there is a worldly, practical side which it is right and
necessary you should understand. You ask for fuller information of my
brother and sister. I will give it to you. That my brother and I did
not part friends, and that his attitude towards me influenced my
sister, was not my fault. I loved a young girl in my own station in
life, and she loved me and afterwards became my wife. That my brother
Gilbert loved her also was to be deplored; we were not to be blamed
for it, though Gilbert was furious--with me for loving her, with her
for returning my love. I endeavoured to remonstrate with him: he would
not listen to me. 'You have stepped in the way of my happiness,' he
said; 'you shall rue it.' It is hard to speak harshly of one's flesh
and blood, but it is the truth that the girl I loved was fortunate in
not placing her affections upon him. He would have broken her heart.
He was a spendthrift and a libertine, and would stop at little for the
gratification of his selfish pleasures. He was furious against me, not
so much because he loved Annette's mother, but because he could not
have his own way. He was clever in crooked things, and in cunning
shrewdness there were few to beat him. Educated as a doctor, he could
have earned a good name if he had chosen to be industrious; but he
preferred to lead an idle, dissolute life. These evil courses caused
him to be deeply in debt at the time of my father's death. A portion
of my father's fortune, which was not very large, was left to me, and
Gilbert endeavoured to rob me of it, saying he was the elder, as he
was by a year. With wedded life in view I resisted the attempt, and
this angered him the more. He swore that he would never forgive me,
and that he would be revenged upon me. It was strange that my sister
leaned more towards him than towards me, but that does sometimes
happen with the scapegrace of the family. I am not endeavouring to
blacken Gilbert's character for my own glorification. In drawing his
picture I have dealt more than justly by him; were he not my brother I
should speak of actions of his which made me wonder how he and I could
have been born of the same mother. It is that I wish you to understand
why I did not write to him to come here and take charge of my dear
child, and to understand why I said that I would as soon give her into
the care of a wolf. I succeeded in obtaining my share of my father's
fortune, and soon afterwards married. Even then Gilbert did not cease
from persecuting me. He would come and take up his quarters in our
house, and insult my wife, and revile me, unto our life became
intolerable. It was then that we resolved to emigrate, chiefly to
escape his persecutions. Then he showed us plainly that his love had
changed to hate. He said to me before I left Switzerland, 'One day I
will be even with you. Remember my words--dead or alive, I will be
even with you!' Since that day I have never seen him, never heard from
him, and I do not know whether he is still living. Upon our arrival in
this colony fortune smiled upon us almost from the first. We were
happy, very happy, and as you see I have been prosperous. But I have
not been wise. I should have provided my child with a suitable
companion at the death of my wife, though heaven knows where I should
have found one; but I should have tried. To marry again was
impossible; I loved my wife too well, and I could not be false to her
memory. I have been worse than unwise: I have neglected a serious
duty. Up to this day I have shrunk from making a will, so that my
affairs would get into confusion should anything happen to me. I have
resolved to make instant amends for this neglect of duty. To-night I
shall write to a lawyer to come to me without an hour's delay, and he
shall draw out my will before he departs. In this will it is my desire
to appoint you manager of my estate and guardian of my child till she
arrives at the age of twenty-one. It is not a bad prospect I hold out
to you. At the end of seven years you will still be a young man, and
if you elect to leave Annette you can do so. She will by that time
have learned from you all that is necessary to continue the management
of the estate herself; but she will also then be free to act as she
pleases: either to remain upon it, or to sell it and go elsewhere. I
do not think there is anything more I can tell you to enable you to
arrive at a decision. I do not urge you to comply with my desire
because of any personal advantage that may accrue to yourself, but I
beg of you as a friend to render me as great a service as it is in the
power of one man to render to another. If you wish for time to
consider this proposal take it, but decide before the arrival of the
lawyer. One way or another, my will must be made before a week has
passed."

But Basil did not ask for time; he was deeply touched by the
confidence reposed in him by Anthony Bidaud, and while the father
spoke he had made up his mind. He had been very happy on the
plantation; he knew that it was a desirable home, and that within its
domains could be found much that would make a man's life agreeable and
useful He had come to the colony, as had thousands of other colonists,
with the intention of making his fortune and returning to England. He
could not hope to make a fortune in a day, though wild ideas of
gold-seeking--successful gold-seeking, of course--had floated through
his mind. Suddenly, when his fortunes were at the lowest ebb, there
was presented an opportunity which, unworldly as he was, he could not
disguise from himself it would be folly to throw away. But it was due
to Anthony Bidaud that the matter should not be concluded without
something more being said.

"I need no time to consider," he said. "Your proposition is flattering
and advantageous to myself. But you speak of not being wise. Are you
wise in placing a trust so delicate and important in the hands of a
stranger?"

"I am content to do so," said Bidaud, "and I beg you to believe that
the obligation will be on my side."

"After all," suggested Basil, with a little touch of shrewdness "it
may be with you a choice of evils."

"It is a choice of good," observed Bidaud. "I have told you,"
continued Basil, "that I have not been educated into an understanding
of business matters, and that my mission in life"--here he smiled
deprecatingly--"was to go through life in a gentlemanly way, without
working for my living."

"But you came to the colony to work?"

"Yes. I am only endeavouring to prove to you how utterly unfit I am
for the position you would assign to me."

"I am entirely convinced," said Bidaud, with a look of affection at
the young man, "of your fitness for it."

"Think of my inexperience."

"Experience will come to you as it came to me. You will learn as I
did."

"Then there is another view," said Basil, and now he spoke with a
certain hesitation. "You and Annette are here as father and daughter.
It is not to be supposed that I could supply your place. I am a young
man; in a very few years Annette will be a young woman. Will not our
relative positions then be likely to wound her susceptibilities----"

"Do not finish," said Bidaud, pressing Basil's hand warmly. "Leave all
to time. Nothing but good can spring from what I propose. If Annette
were now a young woman----"

And here he himself purposely broke off in the middle of a sentence.
Certainly his manner could not be mistaken. A flush came into Basil's
face, and he did not speak again for a few moments.

"Has the letter," he then said, "you wrote to your sister been
returned to you?"

"No."

"Then it must have been delivered."

"Not necessarily. I am not sure whether undelivered letters addressed
to Switzerland are returned to the colonial post-offices. If you have
stated your principal objections I see nothing in them to cause you to
hesitate. You will consent?"

"Yes," said Basil, "I accept the trust."

"With all my heart I thank you," said Anthony Bidaud; then he placed
his hands on Basil's shoulders, and said in a solemn tone, "Guard my
child."

"Whatever lies in my power to do," said Basil, "shall be done."

Bidaud nodded and turned away; his heart was too full to say more.
Basil turned in another direction, with the intention of seeking
Annette, in fulfilment of a promise he had made to join her in the
woods. He knew where to find her.



CHAPTER IV.


Traversing a narrow, winding bridle track, he soon reached the river.
A broad belt of white sand stretched on either side for some little
distance, the water glistening like polished mirrors in its smooth,
deep reaches. Here and there it broke into a thousand tiny
silver-crested waves, created by the inequalities in the ground.
Farther on the main stream twisted into great clusters of dark green
river oaks, and was lost to view. The white sands narrowed, and were
replaced by rocks, covered with moss and lichen, and here a bark canoe
was moored. Stepping on a large boulder, Basil jumped into the canoe,
and loosening the rope, paddled down stream. The water ran like a mill
race, and presently divided into two streams, beautified by waterfalls
and fairy islands adorned with luxuriant vegetation. This dividing of
the waters extended only some three or four hundred yards, at the
termination of which they were united in one dark lagoon. A strange
stillness reigned upon the surface of the water, but this sign of
peace was insincere, the current in reality running hard and strong.
Round about the canoe floated masses of white and mauve water lilies;
in parts the huge leaves formed a perfect carpet, which easily
supported the light weight of the lotus birds as they skipped from
shore to shore. At the lower end of the lagoon the stream became so
narrow that a man could jump across it, and here Basil left his canoe,
and plunged into the woods to find Annette.

She was sitting on a great patch of velvet moss, idling with some
flowers of the wax plant and the yellow hibiscus. Her back was towards
Basil, who stepped softly, intending to surprise her, but the
crackling of the leaves betrayed him. She turned quickly, and jumping
up, ran to meet him.

"I have been waiting for you ever so long," she said, and she slipped
her hand into his.

Basil made no excuse for being late; an age seemed to have passed
since he had last seen her, though scarcely three hours separated
"then" from "now." But short as was really the interval it had
effected an important alteration in their relations towards each
other, and the contemplation of this change made him silent. Neither
was Annette as talkative as usual, and they strolled idly along for
some distance without exchanging a word. Basil had hitherto accepted
Annette's beauty in a general sense; she was pretty, she was bright,
she was full of vivacity--that was all. Had she been a woman he would
have subjected her to a closer and more analytical observation, for he
had an artist's eye for beauty, and loved to look at it in animate and
inanimate nature; but Annette was only a child, and he had paid her
just that amount of attention which one pays to small wild-flowers
that grow by the wayside. But now, looking down upon her as she walked
by his side, he observed that her eyes were hazel, and he said to
himself that hazel eyes, in girl and woman, were the most beautiful
eyes in the world. The hazel colour in the eyes he was gazing upon was
brilliant, and Basil said to himself that it was the brilliant hazel
eyes that are the most beautiful in the world. Annette's features were
not exactly regular, but formed as fair a picture of human loveliness
as a man would wish to see, her lips sweetly curved, her teeth white
and shapely, her ears like little shells, her golden brown hair
gathered carelessly about the gracefully shaped head. Yes, Annette was
beautiful even now as a child; how much more beautiful was she likely
to be when her springtime was fully set in!

Raising her head suddenly she saw that Basil was gazing at her more
earnestly and closely than he was in the habit of doing. "I was
looking at your eyes, Annette," he said, rather guiltily. "I never
noticed their colour till to-day."

"They are hazel. Do you like hazel eyes?"

"Very much."

"I am glad of that. My eyes are like my mother's. Will you come with
me?"

"Where?"

"To her grave."

He had visited it before with Annette, and they now walked towards the
canoe, gathering wild flowers as they walked. Once Annette slipped,
and he caught her and held her up; there was an unusual tenderness in
the action, and Annette nestled closer to him, and smiled happily. In
the canoe her skilful fingers were busily at work, weaving the flowers
they had gathered into garlands to lay upon her mother's grave. She
had a special gift in such-like graceful tasks, but then her heart was
in her fingers. The loving homage was reverently rendered when they
reached the spot, and Basil assisted her in clearing the dead leaves
and in planting some fresh roots she had brought with her from the
woods.

Her task accomplished, Annette sat beside the grave, with a wistful
expression on her face which made Basil wonder what was stirring in
her mind. He waited for her to break the silence, and presently she
spoke.

"What makes you so quiet, Basil?"

"I do not know. Perhaps it is because you have said so little,
Annette."

"I have been thinking."

"Yes."

"I wanted all day to speak to you about it. I thought I would when we
were in the wood alone; then you spoke of my eyes and I thought of my
dear mother. You would have loved her, Basil, and she would have loved
you. She hears me now--yes, she hears and sees me, Basil, and I think
she is glad you came to us."

"I am glad too, Annette."

"Really glad, Basil?"

"Really glad, Annette."

"Then you will not go away from us?"

"What makes you ask that?" Her question, tremulously uttered, formed a
pregnant link in the promise he had given her father.

"It is my dream," said Annette. "I dreamt it last night, and it made
me sad. You came to say good-bye, and I was unhappy at the thought
that I should never see you again. Basil, if that was to happen I
should be sorry you ever came at all."

"Then you wish me to stay?"

"Dearly, Basil, dearly! I thought I would speak to father about it;
then I thought I would speak to you first."

"Did you not speak to your father?"

"Not about my dream; but about your going away, yes. I asked him to
persuade you to stop with us."

"Because, Annette----" he said, and paused. "Because I love you,
Basil. I told father so, and he said he loved you, too, and that he
wished he had a son like you. Then you would be my brother, and I
should be very happy. But father said he was afraid you intended to
leave us soon, and that made me dream, I suppose."

"Annette, listen to me."

"I am listening, Basil."

"Your father has spoken to me, and that is why I was so late in coming
to you. He asked me to remain here, and I promised him I would."

"You did? Oh, Basil!" Her voice expressed the most perfect joy. She
had risen in her excitement, and was now leaning towards him, her lips
parted, her eyes glowing.

"Yes, Annette, I promised him, and I promise you. For some years at
least we will live together."

She threw her arms round his neck, and kissed him.

"That will be for ever, Basil. You have made me do happy, so happy!"

"So that is all settled," he said. "But I shall be a tyrant, Annette."

"I don't mind, Basil; I will be very good and obedient. Do you hear,
Bruno, do you hear?" She knelt and kissed the faithful dog, and
pressed his head to her bosom. "Basil is not going away. He will
remain here forever--for ever!"

Basil was very grateful for the little maid's affection, grateful that
his lines had fallen in such pleasant places. What more could man
desire? But there was a shadow gathering and swiftly approaching which
neither of them could see.

They stopped out later than usual that evening, and when they returned
to the house Annette was radiant.

"Basil has promised to remain with us, father," she said, in a voice
of great joy.

"He has told you, then, dear child?"

"Yes, father, yes. He will stop with us for ever. I don't wish for
anything now."

The three happy beings sat together in the verandah during the few
brief minutes that divided day and night. In those latitudes there is
but little twilight, and the long peaceful rest of an English sunset
is unknown. For a few moments the brilliancy was dazzling. Great
clouds of amethyst and ruby spread over the western skies, melting
soon into sombre shades of purple and crimson. Then the sun dipped
down and disappeared, and the skies were overspread with a veil of
faded gold, behind which the white stars glittered.

Their souls were in harmony with the spiritual influence of the lovely
scene, and there was an ineffable peace in their hearts. Annette
kissed Basil before she retired to rest, and whispered: "Brother
Basil, I shall have happier dreams to-night."

He kissed her tenderly, and bade her good-night. Unclouded happiness
shone in her eyes as she stole to her room, where she knelt by her
bedside, and uttered the name of Basil in her prayers.

Anthony Bidaud gazed at his daughter till she entered the house, and
even then kept his eyes fixed upon the door through which she had
disappeared.

"It is years," he said to Basil, "since I have felt so thoroughly
content as I do to-night. Come to my room early in the morning; I
shall not write to my lawyer till then, and I wish you to see the
letter."

Shortly after all the inmates of the house were asleep.


*    *    *    *    *    *


And while they slept, there walked across the distant plains towards
the plantation, a man and a woman who had had that goal in view for
three months past. It was summer when they left their home across the
seas. It was summer when they reached the land to which the woman had
been summoned. But, judging from their faces, no summer errand was
theirs.

"Walk quicker," said the man, surlily. "We must get there before
sunrise. My heart is bent upon it."

"I am fit to drop," said the woman. "How much farther have we to go?"

"According to information, fifteen miles. Walk quicker, quicker! Have
you travelled so far to faint at the last moment? Remember we have not
a penny left to purchase food, and have already fasted too many hours.
I see visions of ease and comfort, of wine and food, ay, and of riches
too. I am eager to get at them."

"Do you remember," said the woman, "that you were not bidden to come?"

"What of that?" retorted the man. "I have my tale ready. Leave me to
play my part. Our days of poverty are over. This is the last of them.
Walk quicker, quicker!"



CHAPTER V.


A little after sunrise Basil was awake and out, hastening to the river
for his morning bath. He had slept well and soundly, but he had had
vivid dreams. The events of the day had sunk deep in his mind; it
would have been strange otherwise, for they had altered the currents
of his whole future life. They had furnished him with a secure and
happy home; they had placed him in a position of responsibility which
he hailed with satisfaction and a sense of justifiable pride;
moreover, they had assured him that he had won the affection of a kind
and generous gentleman and of a sweet-tempered and gentle little maid.
He was no longer an outcast; he was no longer alone in the world.

Until this void was supplied he had not felt it. Young, buoyant, and
with a fund of animal spirits which was the secret of his cheerful
nature, sufficient for the day had been the good thereof; but now
quite suddenly an unexpected and sweetly serious duty had been offered
to him, and he had accepted it. He would perform it faithfully and
conscientiously.

Every word Anthony Bidaud had spoken to him had impressed itself upon
his mind. He could have repeated their conversation almost word for
word. It was this which had inspired his dreams, which formed, as it
were, a panorama of the present and the future.

Annette as she was at this moment, a child, appeared to him and he
lived over again their delightful rambles; for although it was but
yesterday that they were enjoyed, the duty he had taken upon himself
seemed to send them far back into the past; but still Annette was a
child, and her sunny ways belonged to childhood. The story of "Paul
and Virginia" had been a favourite with him when he was a youngster,
and his dreams at first were touched by the colour of that simple
tale. The life he had lived these last few weeks on Anthony Bidaud's
plantation favoured the resemblance: the South Sea Islanders who
worked on the land, the waterfalls, the woods, the solitudes, the
protecting bond which linked him to Annette--all formed in his
sleeping fancies a companion idyll to the charming creation of
Bernardin de Saint-Pierre. He carried Annette over the river, he
wandered with her through the shadows of the mountains, they were
lost and found, they sat together under the shade of the velvet
sunflower-tree; and in this part of his dreams he himself was a youth
and not a man.

So much for the present, and it was due to his light heart and the
happiness he had found that his dreams did not take the colour of the
subsequent tragedy which brought the lives of these woodland children
to their sad and pathetic end. His future and Annette's was brighter
than that of Paul and Virginia. He beheld her as a woman, and he was
still her protector. She represented the beauty of the entire world of
thought and action. Her figure was faultless, her face most lovely,
her movements gracefully perfect. There are countenances upon which an
eternal cloud appears to rest, and which even when they smile are not
illumined. Upon Annette's countenance rested an eternal sunshine, and
this quality of light irradiated not only all surrounding visible
objects, but all hopes and feelings of the heart. When Basil awoke
these felicitous fancies were not obliterated or weakened, as most
such fancies are in waking moments, and as he walked towards the river
they lightened his footsteps and made him glad. Wending his way along
a cattle track dotted with gum-trees, he saw beneath the branches of
one a woman whose face was strange to him. She was not English born,
and as she reclined in an attitude of fatigue against the tree's trunk
there was about her an air of exhaustion which stirred Basil to
compassion for her apparently forlorn condition. He remembered his own
days and nights of weary tramping through the bush, and, pausing, he
looked down upon her, and she peered up at him through her half-closed
lids.

"Good morning," said Basil.

"Is it?" she asked, with a heavy sigh.

"Is it what?"

"Good morning. To me it is a bad morning."

Basil looked round. The heavens were luminous with vivid colour, the
birds were flying busily to and from their nests, nature's myriad
pulses throbbed with gladness. To him it was the best, the brightest
of days. But this sad woman before him was pale and worn; there were
traces not only of exhaustion but of hunger in her face.

"You are hungry," said Basil.

"Don't mock me," said the woman, in no gracious tone; "let me rest."

"If you follow this track," persisted Basil, "the way I have come, you
will see the Home Station. They will give you breakfast there."

For a moment the woman appeared inclined to accept his kindness she
made a movement upwards, but almost immediately she relinquished her
intention.

"No," she said, "I will wait."

He was loth to leave her in her distressful plight, but her churlish
manner was discouraging.

"Will you not let me help you?"

"You can help me," said the woman, "by leaving me."

He had no alternative. "If you think better of it," he said, "you can
obtain shelter and food at the Home Station." Then he passed on to the
river.

A stranger was there, already stripping for the purpose of bathing.
Scarcely looking at him, Basil was about to remove to a more retired
spot when he observed something in the water which caused him to run
to the man, who was removing his last garment, and seize his arm.

"What for?" demanded the stranger.

He spoke fairly good English, as did the woman who had declined his
assistance, but with a foreign accent. He was brown, and thin, and
wrinkled, and Basil saw at once that he was not an Englishman.

"I presume you have not breakfasted yet," was Basil's apparently
inconsequential answer to the question.

"Not yet," said the stranger impatiently, shaking himself free from
Basil's grasp. "Why do you stop me? Is not the river free?"

"Quite free," said Basil; "but instead of eating you may be eaten."

He pointed downwards, and leaning forward the stranger beheld a huge
alligator lurking beneath a thin thicket of reeds. The brute was
perfectly motionless, but all its voracious senses were on the alert.

"Ugh!" cried the stranger, beginning to dress hurriedly. "That would
be a bad commencement of my business."

He did not say "thank you," nor make the slightest acknowledgment of
the service Basil had rendered him. This jarred upon the young man,
who stood watching him get into his clothes. They were ragged and
travel-stained, and the stranger's physical condition was evidently
none of the best; but his eyes were keen, and all his intellectual
forces were awake. In this respect Basil found an odd resemblance in
him to the alligator waiting for prey in the waving reeds beneath, and
also a less odd resemblance to the woman he had left lying in the
shadow of the gum-trees.

"You have business here, then?" asked the young man.

"I have--important business. Understand that I answer simply to prove
that I am not an intruder."

"I understand. Is the woman I met on my way a relative of yours?"

"What woman?" cried the stranger, in sharp accents. "Like you in face,
and bearing about her signs of hard travel."

"Did she speak to you? Why do you question me about her? By what
right?"

"There is no particular right in question that I can see?" said Basil.
"I spoke to her as I am speaking to you, and asked if I could serve
her."

"And she!"

"Was as uncivil as yourself, and declined my offer of assistance."

"She acted well. We are not beggars. For my incivility, that is how
you take it. You misconstrue me."

"I am glad to hear it. You seem tired."

"I have been walking all day and all night, and all day and all night
again, for more days and nights than I care to count I have done
nothing but walk, walk, walk, since my arrival at this world's end."

"Have you but just arrived?"

"Yes, but just arrived, wearied and worn out with nothing but walking,
walking, walking. Is that what this world's end was made for?"

If the stranger had not Stated that he had important business to
transact, and had there not been something superior in his speech and
deportment to the ordinary tramp with whom every man in the Australian
colonies is familiar, Basil would have set him down as a member of
that delectable fraternity. Notwithstanding this favourable opinion,
however, Basil took an instinctive dislike to the man. He had seen in
him an odd likeness to the alligator, and brief as had been their
interview up to this point, he had gone the length of mentally
comparing him now to a fox, now to a jackal--to any member of the
brute species indeed whose nature was distinguished by the elements of
rapacity and cunning.

"Have you far to go?" he asked.

"No farther," replied the stranger, with an upward glance at Anthony
Bidaud's house, one end of which was visible from the spot upon which
they were conversing.

"Is that your destination?" inquired Basil, observing the upward
glance.

"That," said the stranger, with a light laugh, "is my destination, if
I have not been misinformed."

The laugh intensified Basil's dislike; there was a mocking sinister
ring in it, but he nevertheless continued the conversation.

"Misinformed in what respect?"

"That is M. Bidaud's house?"

"It is M. Bidaud's house."

"M. Anthony Bidaud?"

"Yes."

"Originally from Switzerland."

Basil's hazard of the stranger's precise nationality now took definite
form.

"As you are," he said.

"As I am," said the stranger, "and as Anthony Bidaud is."

"You are right in your surmise. He is from Switzerland."

"My surmise? Ah? He has a fine estate here."

"He has."

"But his wife--she is dead."

"That is so, unhappily."

"What is one man's meat is another man's poison--a proverb that may be
reversed." His small eyes glittered, and his thin pointed features
seemed all to converge to one point. ("Fox, decidedly," thought
Basil.) The stranger continued. "His health, is it good?"

In the light of Anthony Bidaud's revelation on the previous evening
this was a startling question, and Basil answered:

"It is an inquiry you had best make of himself if you are likely to
see him."

"It is more than likely that I shall see him," said the stranger, "and
he will tell me. He has but one child."

"You are well informed. He has but one."

"Whose name is Annette."

"Whose name," said Basil, wondering from what source the stranger had
obtained his information, "is Annette."

"Charming, charming, charming," said the stranger. "Everything is
charming, except"--with a loathing gesture at the alligator, which lay
still as a log, waiting for prey--"that monster; except also that I am
dead with fatigue. I came here for a bath to refresh myself after much
travelling. Is there any part of this treacherous river in which a man
may bathe in safety?"

"I will show you a place."

"No tricks, young sir, said the stranger, suspicion in his voice.

"Why should I play you tricks? If you do not care to trust me, seek a
secure spot yourself."

"No, I will accompany you, who must know the river well. You do, eh?"

"I am thoroughly acquainted with it."

"You guessed my nation; shall I guess yours? Australian."

"I am an Englishman."

"A great nation; a great people. Is this the spot?"

They had arrived at a smooth piece of water, semi-circularly protected
by rocks from the invasion of alligators.

"This is the spot," said Basil, "you will be perfectly safe here."

The water was so clear that they could see to the bottom. Black and
silver bream, perch, mullet, and barramundi were swimming in its
translucent depths. The stranger peered carefully among the rocks to
make sure that they were free from foes, and then, without thanking
Basil, began to strip off his clothes.

"And you--where will you bathe?"

"A little farther up stream. Good morning."

"Ah, good morning; but I may see you again if you are living near."

"I live," said Basil, "in the house yonder."



CHAPTER VI.


A sudden excitement was observable in the stranger. He paused in his
undressing, and laid his hand on Basil's arm, clutching with nervous
fingers.

"You are very intimate with M. Anthony Bidaud?" he said.

"We are friends."

"Friends? Ah! You are not related? No, you cannot be, for you are
English. Yet there are other ties. His wife is dead, you say, and as I
know. Yes, dead. But he may be looking for another, may be already
married again." He spoke in feverish haste. ("A touch of the jackal
here," thought Basil.) "Tell me, you friend of M. Anthony Bidaud."

"He is not married again," said Basil, "and to my knowledge is not
seeking another wife."

The stranger drew a long breath of relief, followed immediately by the
exhibition of a new suspicion. "His daughter, Annette--if he spoke
truth a child. But men lie sometimes, very often, you, I, all men. He
married long, long ago, and this Annette may well be a young woman of
twenty." He scowled as he looked at Basil's handsome face. "Is she
married, or going to be?

"Absurd," said Basil, but a little touch of colour came into his face
which the sharp eyes of the stranger noted, "she is scarcely fourteen
years of age."

"Good, good. Time, let us hope, to prevent mischief. But, pardon me,
if you live in the house of M. Bidaud, there must be a reason. You do
not look like a common labourer; you are something better, a
gentleman--eh?" And again all his thin pointed features seemed,
foxlike, to converge to one point.

"I am a gentleman," said Basil, "and I am staying with M. Bidaud as a
guest." He referred to the present, not feeling warranted in speaking
of the future. The arrangement he had entered into with Anthony Bidaud
had yet to be carried into effect.

"Ah, ah, as a guest, only as a guest, but with an eye to the future,
perhaps. M. Anthony Bidaud is rich, and in two years his daughter, his
only child, will be sixteen and nearly ripe. There is a saying, is
there not, among you English that welcomes the coming and speeds the
parting guest? I have been in your country, and know something of its
literature, and in my own land my education was not neglected. That
saying about the coming and parting guest is a good omen, for I have
but just arrived, and you----"

But Basil did not wait to hear the conclusion of the sentence. Annoyed
at the turn the conversation had taken he turned on his heel, and left
the stranger to enjoy his bath. He walked slowly to his own, rather
ruffled by the interview.

"Who can he be?" he thought, as he prepared for his swim. "He seems to
be acquainted with M. Bidaud and with his personal history. What on
earth made me answer his interminable questions? His pertinacity, I
suppose, and a kind of magnetism in him which it was hard to resist.
But I might have been courteous without being communicative. I said
nothing, however, of my own prompting, and his questions followed each
other naturally. What he learnt from me he could have learnt from a
dozen others, and after all there is no harm done. He certainly has
the knack of rubbing the wrong way; an extraordinarily annoying
fellow, but neither loutish nor ignorant. That is why I was
constrained to follow his lead. This is his destination; his business
then, must be with M. Bidaud. Important business, he said--and with
Annette's father. I did not like his references to Annette. Will it be
right or wrong for me to convey my impressions of this stranger to M.
Bidaud? Wrong. I will merely mention that I met with such a man, who
was coming to the house upon business. He spoke of having walked a
long way. He must be poor, or he would have chosen another mode of
conveyance, especially as he seems to be in somewhat feverish haste.
Being poor is nothing against him; I am poor myself. Psha! What a
worry I am making of nothing!"

He could not dismiss the subject, however, and the currents of his
thoughts ran on even as he swam.

"The woman I met on my way to the river; how skilfully he evaded my
inquiries as to the relationship between them! His tone when he spoke
of her showed that he had power over her. I have not the least doubt
he is the kind of man who can make himself intensely disagreeable.
Poor woman! There is a resemblance in their features; I have heard
that husband and wife frequently grow like each other in face. She was
hungry, but she declined the offer of a good meal. Acting, I should
say, under her husband's instructions, and too frightened of him to
disobey him. Faithful creatures, women. Patient as camels some of them
and as docile. A hard tramp she seems to have had of it, and he has
not spared her. Well, she can rest here a few days. Would I like them
to remain on the plantation? No. He would keep me in a continual state
of irritation. His allusions to Annette were in the worst of taste. I
dare say before the day is out I shall know the nature of his
business. M. Bidaud will tell me. Confound the fellow! I'll not think
of him any more."

As a contribution towards this end he plunged half a dozen times into
the deepest parts of the river, and finally emerged, glowing. The
disturbing impressions produced by the stranger were dissipated, and
Basil thought it would look churlish if on his road back to the house
he did not go to see whether he could be of any service to him. He saw
nothing, however, of the man or the woman, and greatly refreshed, he
proceeded to the house. The sun was now high in the heavens, and the
labourers were at work on the plantation. He exchanged greetings with
a few of the better sort, and inquired whether they had seen anything
of the strangers. They replied in the negative; they had seen nothing
of them.

"Have you, Rocke?" he asked of one who was regarding him with a scowl.

"No," said Rocke. "What business is it of mine?"

It was Rocke's misfortune to always wear a scowl on his face, but in
this scowl there were degrees. To produce an amiable smile was with
Rocke an impossibility; nature had been cruel, and his parents, one or
both of them, had transmitted to him a sour temper as an inheritance;
but the state of his feelings could be correctly judged by the kind of
scowl he wore; a nice observer could scarcely make a mistake as to
whether he tolerated, disliked, or hated the man he was gazing on.
There could be no mistake made now; he hated Basil.

There was a reason. Every man has his good points, even the worst of
men, and Rocke's good point was that he conscientiously performed the
duties for which he was engaged. However hard the work before him,
done it was with a will--and a scowl. Now, this was a distinct virtue,
and Anthony Bidaud gave him credit for it, and appreciated the
conscientious worker, as any other master would do of a man who gave
him full value for his wage. So far, so good; master and man were
satisfied. But before Basil's arrival on the plantation Rocke had got
it into his head--which was not an intellectual head--that Anthony
Bidaud entertained the notion of creating a general supervisor and
manager of the estate, and that he, Rocke, was the man to be
appointed; and since Basil's arrival his ambitious dream was disturbed
by the conviction that Basil would step into the shoes he wished to
wear.

"I don't know that it is any business of yours," said Basil to Rocke,
"only I thought you might have seen these persons."

"Well, I haven't," said Rocke.

Basil nodded cheerfully, and proceeded towards the house. He was not a
man of paroxysms; except upon very special occasions his temperament
was equable. As to whether Rocke had spoken the truth or no he did not
speculate; it was not in Rocke he was interested, but in the man and
woman with whom he had spoken on his way to the river.

Anthony Bidaud was an early riser, and Basil went to the room in which
the master of the plantation was in the habit of transacting his
private business. He knocked twice or thrice at the door without
receiving an answer, and then, turning the handle, he entered the
room.

Anthony Bidaud was reclining in the chair in which he usually sat when
engaged in correspondence. His back was towards Basil, and before him
on the table writing materials were spread. He sat quite still, and
for a moment or two the young man was uncertain what to do. Then he
called Bidaud by name. No answer came, and Basil, surprised at the
stillness, advanced to Bidaud, and stood immediately behind him. Still
no notice was taken of Basil. Then he laid his hand upon Bidaud's
shoulder. The occupant of the chair did not move, and Basil leaned
anxiously forward to look into his face. At first Basil believed him
to be asleep, but a closer examination sent the blood rushing to the
young man's heart in terror. Bidaud's arm hung listlessly by his side,
and upon his face dwelt an expression of acute suffering. Again Basil
called him by name, and shook him roughly, but no responsive word or
movement greeted him from the quiet figure in the chair. Basil thrust
his hand into Bidaud's shirt over the region of his heart, and
trembled to meet with no pulsation there. He raised Bidaud's arm and
released it. It dropped lifeless down.

"Merciful heavens!" cried Basil, looking helplessly around. "Can this
be death?"

The question he asked of himself was heard by another man. The
stranger he had met on the banks of the river had noiselessly opened
the door, and now advanced to the chair.

"Who speaks of death?" asked the stranger. "Ah, it is you, who are a
guest in this house. And I find you and him "--he stretched a long
bony finger at the recumbent figure of Anthony Bidaud--"here together,
alone. You with a face of fear, terror, and excitement; he quite
still, quite still!"

He was perfectly composed, and there was a malicious smile on his lips
as he confronted Basil. Dazed by the situation, Basil could find no
words to reply.

"You are confounded," continued the stranger. "It needs explanation.
Who is this man sitting so quietly in his chair?"

"M. Anthony Bidaud," said Basil, with white lips, "the master of this
house."

"Ah, M. Anthony Bidaud, the master of this house," said the stranger,
echoing Basil's words, but whereas Basil's voice was agitated, his had
not a tremor in it. "I will see if you are speaking the truth." He
lowered his face, and his eyes rested upon the face of the motionless
figure. "Yes, it is he, Anthony Bidaud, worn, alas! and wasted. Sad,
sad, sad!" Grief was expressed in the words but not in the tone of the
speaker. "What was it you asked a moment ago? Can this be death? I am
a doctor. I will tell you."

Lifting the lifeless form in his arms he laid it upon a couch, and
tearing open the shirt and waistcoat, placed his ear to Anthony
Bidaud's heart; then took his pulse between finger and thumb. He
proceeded with his examination by taking from his pocket a little
leather case containing a small comb and a narrow slip of
looking-glass. Rubbing the surface of the glass dry with a
handkerchief that had dropped to the ground, he passed it over the
mouth of Anthony Bidaud; then held it up to the light.

"Yes," he said, looking Basil full in the face, "it is death. It is
lucky I travelled hither in the night, and did not allow myself to be
delayed by fatigue. Fortune, I thank you. You have treated me scurvily
hitherto; at length you relent, and smile upon me. Being a lady, I
kiss my hand to you."

There was something so inexpressibly heartless in the action that
Basil cried indignantly, "Who are you, and by what right have you
intruded yourself into this room?"

The stranger did not immediately reply. He felt in his pocket for a
snuff-box, and producing it regaled himself with a pinch. He offered
the box to Basil, who pushed it aside. He smiled and placed the box in
his pocket, and was also about to replace the leather case, when an
amusing thought occurred to him. He dressed his hair with the comb,
and gazed at himself in the glass with an affectation of vanity. His
smile broadened as he noticed the look of horror in Basil's face.

"You wish to know," he said slowly, "who I am, and by what right I
intrude myself into this room. You have presumption, you, M. Anthony
Bidaud's guest, to use the word 'intrude' to me! I am this dead
gentleman's brother. My name is Gilbert Bidaud. Eh? Did you speak?"



CHAPTER VII.


So many conflicting emotions had been pressed into the last few
minutes that Basil was utterly bewildered. The cold, sardonic face
before him, wreathed into mocking smiles even in the presence of
death, added to his bewilderment. He passed his hand across his eyes,
wondering whether he was dreaming, but removing his hand from his
forehead he saw the dead form of Anthony Bidaud on the sofa, and heard
the light laugh of the man who called himself Anthony's brother. This
laugh recalled him to himself; he was in full possession of his
senses, and understood what had occurred, and to some extent what it
portended.

Gilbert Bidaud! And the woman with him was not his wife, but his
sister, to whom Annette's father had written six months ago, imploring
her to come to him, and promising to provide for her and her family.
That being so, she was here by authority. She was but an instrument in
the hands of Gilbert Bidaud, whose lightest word she was constrained
to obey.

Gilbert Bidaud!

"It is hard to speak harshly of one's flesh and blood, but it is the
truth that the girl I loved was fortunate in not placing her
affections upon him. He would have broken her heart. He was a
spendthrift and a libertine, and would stop at little for the
gratification of his selfish pleasures."

It was but last evening that these words were spoken by lips that
would never speak again, and now this spendthrift and libertine was
within touch of him, was standing with a smiling face by the dead body
of the brother he would have wronged. There came to Basil's mind the
image of Annette, the sweet confiding girl, who was to have been given
into his care to guard and protect. All that was over now. Inexorable
death had stopped the fulfilment of the fond father's wish. And
Annette herself, how would it fare with her? She was ignorant as yet
of the crushing, terrible blow which had so suddenly fallen upon her.
Who would impart the cruel news to her? Who would comfort her in her
bereavement? Even as these reflections crossed his mind he heard the
young girl's voice singing outside as she tripped downstairs from her
bedroom. He glided to the door, and softly turned the key. Just in
time. Annette lingered at the door, tried the handle gently with the
intention of kissing her father good-morning, and, finding the door
fast, passed on gaily and continued her song.

"That is Annette?" questioned Gilbert Bidaud. Basil nodded. "A sweet
voice, the voice of a child, whose nature is not yet moulded. We will
mould it, my sister and I. We will instil into her virgin soul,
principles. She will be grateful that we have come, being of her
blood. I have a number of your English sayings at my fingers' ends.
Blood is thicker than water. I represent the one, you the other. She
is not a woman--yet. The mind of a child is like a slate! fancies,
likings, are easily rubbed off. It is more serious when we grow older.
The child forgets, the woman remembers. Do you catch my meaning?"

"I should be sorry to say I did," replied Basil.

"Ah, you would pay me a compliment, gilding me with virtues to which I
do not aspire, to which I have never aspired. I am a plain man, I;
honest to the backbone; with my heart on my sieve, transparent. It has
not paid up to this time, but my hour has come. Why did you lock the
door?"

"Does not that answer you?" pointing to the dead body of Annette's
father.

"Ah, she does not know. You are considerate, you." A strange smile
came to his lips as he added, "No one knows but you and I."

Basil stepped to the table. Perhaps the letter which Anthony Bidaud
intended to write to his lawyer was there; it might contain something
by which he could be guided at this dread crisis. But the sheet of
paper which Anthony Bidaud had taken from the open desk displayed only
the mark of a scrawl at the top. The pen, with the ink scarcely dried
in it, lay upon the table. Evidently at the very moment that Anthony
Bidaud had put pen to paper he was visited by the death-stroke. The
pen had dropped from his fingers, and he had fallen back lifeless in
his chair. There was, however, an addressed envelope, and Basil noted
the name and the direction, which were those of the lawyer whom
Anthony Bidaud intended to summon to the plantation.

Gilbert Bidaud had followed his movements attentively, and now, when
Basil looked up from the table, he repeated the last words he had
uttered.

"No one knows but you and I."

"What do you mean by that?" demanded Basil.

"What I mean," said Bidaud, touching his forehead with a finger, "I
keep here for the present. It is sometimes dangerous to explain
meanings too soon. Take heed. When I came to this colony--but a short
time since--I was inwardly warned that I might meet with men from whom
it would be necessary to protect myself. Therefore I purchased
this"--producing a revolver--"and this"--producing a knife--"only to
be used in self-defence, against you, against any man."

There was nothing menacing in his tone. He spoke, indeed, rather
playfully than otherwise, and handled the revolver and knife as though
they were toys instead of dangerous weapons. A wild thought crossed
Basil's mind, and he acted upon it instantly.

"You say you are Gilbert Bidaud, brother of this unfortunate
gentleman, but I have only your word for it."

"Ah, ah," said Gilbert Bidaud, with an air of great amusement, "you
have only my word for it. But what kind of authority do you hold here
that you should demand answers to questions upon this or any other
subject?"

Basil could not answer this direct challenge; he inwardly recognised
the weakness of his position; Anthony Bidaud dead, he was but a cipher
on his estate.

"You are as a feather to a rock," said Gilbert Bidaud, with a gesture
of contempt, "and I am but amusing myself with you. I stand quietly
here for a reason I may presently explain. This house has lost a
master." He glanced at his dead brother. "This house has gained a
master." He touched his breast triumphantly. "It is but a change, a
law of nature. My brother and I have not met for twenty years. He had
a good motive for avoiding me; he fled from Switzerland with money of
mine, and now, through death, he is compelled to make restitution."

"It is false," cried Basil, chivalrously defending the friend he had
lost. "If you are Gilbert Bidaud it was you who attempted to rob him
of his inheritance."

"Ah, ah. Did my estimable brother open his heart entirely to you?"

"Sufficiently to reveal your true character--even to the last words
you spoke to him before he left Switzerland."

"Favour me with them. It may be excused if I do not faithfully recall
them at this distance of time."

"'One day,' you said to him 'I will be even with you. Remember my
words--dead or alive, I will be even with you."

"I remember. My words were prophetic. Fate was on my side, justice was
on my side. They whispered to me, 'Wait.' I waited. And now--look
there! So, so, my ingenious young friend; you know the whole story."

"It was related to me by your brother."

"By this lump of clay! It would be the act of a fool to deal tenderly
by you; and I, as you may have already learned, am no fool. How came
my brother by his death?"

"How came he by his death?" stammered Basil, puzzled by the question,
and not seeing the drift of it.

"Ay, how came he by his death? I am not so ignorant as you suppose. I
have made inquiries about you; there are men on this estate who bear
you no good will. You are here, not as a guest, but an interloper. You
and my brother were strangers a few short weeks ago, and you forced
yourself upon him and lived here, a beggar, eating his food, drinking
his wine, and paying for them neither in service nor money. That is a
creditable part to be played by one who calls himself an English
gentleman. Summoned here by M. Anthony Bidaud--I have in my pocket the
letter he wrote to our sister--I hasten on the wings of love, tarrying
not on the road, but wearing myself near to death in order that I may
satisfy his longing desire to embrace me. I meet you by accident on
the river's bank, and I perceive that you regard yourself as master
here. The river is yours, the land is yours, my brother is yours, his
daughter Annette is yours--ah, you wince at that. All this you
proclaim in your lordly way, and patronise me--me, whose rightful
place you would have usurped. Before meeting you pass my sister,
resting in her labour of love, and you offer her charity--you, a
beggar, pass this insult upon a lady who, under my direction, will
educate my dear brother's little daughter, and teach her--principles.
You leave me by the river; I, guileless, unsuspicious, a child in
innocence, calmly take my bath, and reflect with delight upon the joy
of my brother when he takes me to his arms. Walking to this house, I
meet a labourer, whose name is Rocke. He tells me something of you; he
directs me to my brother's private room. I open the door; I see you
standing by my brother's side. You are in a state of fear and
agitation; your face is white, your limbs tremble. I hear you ask the
question, 'Can this be death?' To whom or to what do you address this
enquiry? To your conscience, for you believe yourself to be alone; you
are unconscious that I am present 'Can this be death?' I convince
myself, and you. It _is_ death. I am deprived of the opportunity of
saying to my brother that I forgive him for the wrong he did me in the
past. It is most cruel, and you have robbed me of the opportunity;
but, before I forget it, I will chance the efficacy of my forgiveness,
though he be dead." With a mock humility shocking to witness, he
extended his hands, and, looking upwards, said, "Brother, I forgive
you. I return to my argument. What passed between you and my brother
before I entered this room? Again I ask, how came he by his death! If
it is not a natural end, who is the murderer?"

In hot indignation Basil started forward, but by a great effort of
will restrained himself. He had been appalled by the careless mocking
tone in which Gilbert Bidaud had spoken, by his false assumption of a
grief he did not feel, by the evident enjoyment he derived from the
glaring insincerity of his professions. For no two things could be
more distinctly at variance than Gilbert Bidaud's words and the tone
in which he uttered them. It exhibited a refinement of malice, and,
what rendered it more revolting, of malice in which the intellectual
quality was conspicuous.

"It is well," continued Gilbert Bidaud, "that you exercise
self-control. I might call aloud for help; I might, in less time than
it takes me to speak it, create in this room the evidences of a
struggle, in the course of which I might fire my revolver, produced
for self-defence; I might inform those who would break the door
down--it is locked by you, remember--that you attempted to murder me,
even as you-- Ah, I perceive you understand. Yes, all this I might do,
and you would be in the toils. Do not move until I have done with you,
or you will be in deadly danger. In such parts of the world as this,
exasperated men often proceed hastily to summary justice, and it might
be executed upon you. I am teaching you lessons, as I shall teach my
dear niece Annette, principles. You are young; I, alas, am old. I have
nothing to learn; you have much. Tell me, you hanger-on in this house,
you beggar of my brother's hospitality, what passed between you and
him before I entered this room?"

"Nothing," replied Basil, confounded by the possibilities of a
ruthless malice with which Gilbert Bidaud had threatened him. "I have
already informed you that when I entered the room he was dead."

"What brought you here?"

"I came by appointment," said Basil. He no longer doubted that the man
before him was Anthony Bidaud's brother; and he was surprised that he
had not detected the resemblance upon his first meeting with Gilbert.

"What was the nature of the appointment?"

"He wished me to read a letter he intended to write to his lawyer."

"Ah, ah! He intended to write to his lawyer. May I ask this lawyer's
name?"

"It is there upon an envelope."

"His place of residence?"

"Sydney, I believe."

"A long way off. The letter was to have been written this morning?"

"Yes. He at first intended to write it last night, but he put it off
till to-day. The postponement was most unfortunate."

"To you?"

"To me."

"I should have urged him to carry out his intention last night, as he
designed."

"Ah! _Aprés dommage chacun est sage_--except the dead. Why should you
have urged him?"

"It would have been to my interests--and his, I fear."

"Leave his out of the question; he has done with the world. Yours is
another matter. How could a simple letter to a lawyer have been in
your interests? A letter is not a legal document." His preternatural
sharpness as he made this remark was a revelation to an honest nature
like Basil's. There seemed to be no limit to Gilbert Bidaud's cunning.

"At least it would have explained matters, and cleared me from your
suspicions."

"Words are easily spoken, and weigh no more than air. To what effect
was to have been this letter?"

"He desired to make his will."

Gilbert Bidaud drew a deep breath of satisfaction; he had elicited
something tangible, something which had wonderfully strengthened his
position. "Then there is no will, and the letter, which would have
been valueless, was not written. Your expression of regret leads me to
infer that the will was to have been in your favour."

"To a certain extent."

"False. He intended to repair the injustice from which I have so long
suffered; his property would have been divided between me and the
little Annette. It is too late for him to do that now; but I stand as
natural guardian to my niece. I am truly the master here; the law will
declare me so. Console yourself. You shall depart from this house a
free man. You are not in danger. Bear witness to my magnanimity; my
brother died a natural death. I will testify it, to save you."

"That will not do," said Basil. "From what cause he died shall be
proved by proper evidence."

"It shall. I, a doctor, will supply it."

"I reject your proof; you are an interested party. It shall be
independent evidence that shall establish the cause of death."

"So be it, young Daniel," said Gilbert Bidaud, briskly. "Meanwhile, I
release you from suspicion; I, the gentleman you have insulted,
believe you to be innocent. I go to seek my niece, to introduce myself
to her, and to break to her the sad, the melancholy news. But before I
go I give you notice of your discharge. For one week from this day you
shall enjoy my hospitality, but for no longer, for not an hour longer.
Accept it, beggar, or leave at once."

He paused at the door, opened it, removed the key to the outside, and
with a contemptuous motion, ordered Basil to quit the room. The young
man had no choice but to obey. Whatever might be Gilbert Bidaud's
character, he stood in the house as legal representative of the dead.
Annette was but a child, and her uncle was her lawful guardian.
Grieved, sorrow-stricken, and humiliated, Basil left the room, and
heard Gilbert Bidaud turn the key.



CHAPTER VIII.


What should he do now, how should he act? To accept Gilbert Bidaud's
hospitality was impossible. The old man was his bitter enemy, and
would show him no consideration. Indeed, what consideration could he
expect? There was no denying that he had no right to remain on the
estate, but he felt he could not leave it for ever without seeing
Annette once more, without speaking to her perhaps for the last time.
Nor could be well take his final departure without making an attempt
to clear himself from the foul suspicions which, in his absence, he
felt convinced Gilbert Bidaud would set in circulation against him. He
had led a spotless life, and the thought that a stain should now be
cast upon it was unbearable. But what means could he take to clear
himself from the breath of slander? He could think of no way at
present, and he walked into the open with a heavy weight of melancholy
at his heart.

He wandered into the woods and gathered some fruit; he had a vigorous
appetite, and it would be a folly to starve himself. But the food of
which he partook had never tasted less sweet than on this sad morning.
His hunger appeased, he returned to the vicinity of the house.

He heard a cry of distress in the distance, and saw men and women
hurrying to the spot from which the cry proceeded. The voice was
Annette's.

Presently he saw the men and women coming towards the house. They were
headed by Gilbert Bidaud and his sister, and one of the men--before
the group came close to him he saw that it was Rocke--was carrying in
his arms the insensible form of Annette. Impelled by love and infinite
compassion for the child, he started forward, but was haughtily waved
off by Gilbert Bidaud.

"That man," said Gilbert to those in his rear, "has my permission to
remain on this estate for one week. When that time has expired he will
be a trespasser."

As he finished speaking Annette opened her eyes--they fell upon Basil.

"Basil, Basil!" she cried, extending her arms to him.

"Annette!"

Once more he attempted to go to her; once more Gilbert Bidaud waved
him off, and stepped before him.

"If he touches her, if he follows her, arrest him. I give you
authority."

Basil fell back. Annette's mournful eyes were fixed upon his face in
dumb despair.

"Hurry in--hurry in," said Gilbert Bidaud in a harsh tone.

They passed into the house, and Basil was left alone. It was a
favourite trick of his to put his thoughts into unspoken words; he had
encouraged the habit, finding it led to clearness and generally, when
he was in doubt, to some definite issue. In his disturbed mood he
found this a suitable time for this mental indulgence. Something
should be done, clearly; but what?

"Poor Annette!" he thought. "Poor child! What will now become of her?
What will be her future? That brute--he is no less--who boasts so
sardonically that he intends to teach her principles, will poison her
mind against me. If I do not see her again she will grow to hate me.
It is dreadful to think of. She has none but kind thoughts of me now;
and though in a short time we may be parted for ever, and all chance
of ever seeing her again will be lost, I should dearly like to feel
that if she thinks of me in the future it will be with gentleness and
affection. I have done nothing to forfeit her affection, except that I
am unfortunate.

"My bright dreams are suddenly snapped. A few short hours have changed
happiness to woe. Still--still I have committed no wrong. Of that I am
sure, and it is a comfort--but poor Annette! If I could assure her
that I am not to blame, I could bear it. She would believe me, and I
could go on my way with a less sorrowful heart.

"That brute will try his hardest to prevent my seeing her. The blow
that has fallen upon her may prostrate her. She may die--it is
horrible, horrible! If that should happen, Gilbert Bidaud will come
into possession of everything. Is that the end to which he will work?
He is capable of it, capable of any villainy. Can I do nothing to save
her?

"I am powerless. I have no claim upon her; I have no right to be here.
But I will not go away without seeing, without speaking to her. If he
takes her from this place, which is likely enough, I will follow them.
She must not, she must not be left to the tender mercies of that
jackal.

"All very fine to talk, Basil. You will follow them? Why, man, you
must live. It is a necessity. And to live you must work. How much
money have you in your pocket to commence the fight of existence
with?--to say nothing of the grand things you are going to do for
sweet Annette.

"She has got hold of my heart-strings. I shall never, never forget
her. Certain words spoken by my dear friend, Anthony Bidaud, last
night, come to my mind. Let me recall them, exactly as he spoke them.

"'We are drawn to each other,' he said. And before that: 'By accident
you enter into our lives. I use the term accident, but I believe it to
be a providence.' How if it should be so? The shadow of death was
hanging over him, and at such times some men have been gifted with
prophetic insight. If it were so with Anthony Bidaud, this is not the
end. The thought I have expressed, the very word 'insight' I have
used, were his. 'I have observed you closely,' he said, 'and am
satisfied to deliver into your hands a sacred charge, the charge of a
young girl's future. At such moments as these there comes to some men
a subtle, unfathomable insight. It comes to me. I firmly believe that
there is a link between you and my child, which, if you do not
recognise it now, you will be bound to recognise in the future. It may
be broken in the present, but the threads will be joined as surely as
we stand here side by side.'"

"With all my heart I hope so, but it is the wildest, the most
unreasonable of hopes.

"Can nothing, nothing be done?

"He said he had made no will; but he may have left papers expressing
his wishes. How to get a sight of them? If I had sufficient means to
take me to Sydney I would hasten there, to Anthony Bidaud's lawyer,
and lay the case before him. But my purse is empty. I have, however,
something about me of value. My gold watch and chain, given to me by
my dear father. That is worth a certain sum, but it would not carry me
to Sydney. It would carry me, however, to Gum Flat, where perhaps I
can find a lawyer who will advise her. In the saddle I could reach
there to-night, and be back to-morrow. Where can I obtain a horse? I
dare not take one from the plantation. Gilbert Bidaud would accuse me
of theft, and he would be within his right. Ah! Old Corrie!"

Here he stopped. His unspoken thoughts had led him to a definite
issue.

Gum Flat was the name of the nearest township, if township it could be
called. In the Australian colonies they delight in singular names for
places. Old Corrie was a man who, by permission of Anthony Bidaud,
occupied a hut which he had built with his own hands on the
plantation, some two miles from the spot upon which Basil at that
moment stood. He was not employed on the estate, but did odd jobs in
wood splitting and the felling of trees for the master of the
plantation. The man had "taken" to Basil, as the saying is, and in his
odd way had shown a liking for the young man, who always had a
pleasant word for any agreeable person he chanced to fall across.

Old Corrie was not an old man, his age being about forty, but he was
dubbed Old Corrie because he was angular, because he was crooked,
because he had a mouth all awry, because he chose to keep himself from
his fellows. He owned a horse, and it occurred to Basil that he might
lend it to him for the journey to Gum Flat, which was distant some
forty-five miles. To Old Corrie's hut, therefore, Basil betook
himself, stepping out with a will.

In less than half-an-hour he reached the old fellow's dwelling. Old
Corrie was not at home, but Basil heard the sound of his axe in the
woods. It was not very near, but men's ears get trained to fine sounds
in the bush. Guided by the thud of the axe Basil in a short time found
himself face to face with the woodman.

Old Corrie went on with his work, merely glancing up and giving Basil
a friendly nod. From another living creature Basil received a more
boisterous greeting, a laughing jackass which Old Corrie had tamed
bursting into an outrageous fit of laughter without the least apparent
cause. This bird, which is sometimes called the bushman's clock, was
an uncouth-looking object, as big as a crow, of a rich chestnut-brown
colour with light-blue wings; its beak was long and pointed, and its
mouth inordinately large. These characteristics, in alliance with a
formidable crest, invested it with a ferocious air; but this
particular specimen was exceedingly gentle despite the extravagant
sounds it emitted, which might have been excruciatingly prolonged had
not its sharp eye caught sight of a carpet snake wriggling through the
underwood. Down darted the laughing jackass, and commenced a battle
with the snake which terminated in the bird throwing the dead body of
the reptile into the air, with a series of triumphant chuckles; after
which it sat silent on a branch, contemplating the dead snake with an
air partly comical, partly profound, and waiting in grim patience for
a movement on the part of its victim which would furnish an excuse for
a renewal of hostilities.

Basil had time to note all this, for Old Corrie did not speak, and the
young man was debating how to commence.

"Well, Master Basil," said Old Corrie, presently, throwing down his
axe and taking out his pipe, a common short clay which he would not
have exchanged for thrice its weight in gold, "what brings you this
way? Any message from Mr. Bidaud?"

"No, Corrie," replied Basil sadly, "you will receive no more messages
from him."

"I was thinking myself," said Corrie, glancing at Basil; and not
immediately recognising the gravity of the reply, "that there mightn't
be any more."

"What made you think that?" asked Basil, in doubt whether the man knew
of Anthony Bidaud's death.

"I'm down with the fever, Master Basil."

"I am sorry to hear that, Corrie," said Basil in surprise, for Old
Corrie was the picture of health and strength. "Can I do anything for
you?"

"No, Master Basil," said Old Corrie, with a smile and a kindly look at
Basil. "The fever I'm down with ain't the kind of fever that's in your
mind. It's the gold fever I'm down with."

"Oh," said Basil, "I understand."

"The wonder is that I've never been down with it before. If I don't
strike a rich claim or find a big nugget or two, I can always come
back to this."

"Have you heard any news, then?"

"Well, two men camped out here last night, and we had a talk. I gave
'em some tea, and their tongues got loosened a bit. There's a new
goldfield discovered somewhere in the north, and they're after it. A
regular Tom Tiddler's ground, Mr. Basil, only it's all gold and no
silver. Twenty ounces to the tub."

"And you're off?"

"When I've finished this job for Mr. Bidaud."

"How long will that take you?"

"About three weeks."

"Is it a contract job?"

"Yes."

"Signed on paper?"

"No, we never had need of that. Mr. Bidaud's word is as good as his
bond; so's mine."

"I would not go on with it, Corrie, if I were you, till I made sure."

"Why?"

"Because the gentleman who made the contract with you by word of mouth
is dead."

"Dead!"

"Died this morning, suddenly, I grieve to say."

Old Corrie took his pipe from his mouth, and sent a look of reproach
in the direction of the laughing jackass, from whose throat proceeded
a faint gurgle of laughter. At this look the quaint bird--as odd a
specimen of the feathered tribes as Old Corrie was of the human
race--checked--its mirth, and cocking its head knowingly on one side,
inquired with its speaking eye what was the matter.

"That's bad news, Master Basil."

"The worst of news, Corrie."

"Died suddenly?"

"Quite suddenly. It is a great shock."

"What's to become of the little lady?" asked Old Corrie, in a
sympathising tone. The inquiry was addressed as much to himself as to
Basil.

"That is one of the things that are troubling me, Corrie. You are a
favourite of hers."

"I've seen her grow up, and remember her mother well. I've cause. Once
when I was down with the colonial fever--almost as bad as the gold
fever, Master Basil--Mrs. Bidaud as good as nursed me through it,
coming or sending every day for two months and more, till I got
strong. When I was well I went up to the house to thank her. The
little lady was just toddling about, and made friends with me. I shall
never forget Mrs. Bidaud; I went to her funeral. You stopped at my hut
before you came here, I expect."

"Yes; I thought you might be there."

"Did you hear anything?"

"Only the sound of your axe in the woods."

"I mean inside the hut. There's a magpie there that's got the sense of
a human being and a voice like a flute. I only got it a fortnight ago,
and I've tamed it already, surprising. Back as white as snow, Master
Basil, and breast and wings shining like black satin. A handsome bird,
and quite young. It says 'Little lady; Little lady!' and 'Miss
Annette!' in a way that'll astonish you. I'm doing it for the little
lady herself, and I'm glad I began it because I'm going away."

"It will please her greatly, Corrie, if she is allowed to accept it."

"What's to prevent her? Poor little lady! First her mother, then her
father. I thought there was trouble in your face when I saw it. Would
you mind explaining, Master Basil, about this wood-splitting contract
of mine? Why shouldn't I finish it till I made sure."

Then Basil told of the arrival of the dead man's brother and sister,
and was not delicate in expressing his opinion of Gilbert Bidaud.

"You're not the sort of man," said Old Corrie thoughtfully, "to speak,
ill behind another's back without good reason. Little lady's uncle
must be a bad lot. A man and a woman, you say, foreign looking. They
must be the pair that passed my hut early this morning when I was
getting up. They didn't stop; she wanted to, I think, but he wouldn't
let her. 'Curse you!' I heard him say, 'What are you lagging for? Put
life into your miserable limbs; we haven't got far to go.' It seemed
to me as if he laid hands on her to drag her along. I came out of the
hut, and saw them ahead, the woman walking as if she was dead beat,
and the man lugging her on. They never turned to look behind, and I
watched till they were out of sight. I'm sorry for the little lady.
I'll go up to the house to-day, and judge for myself."

"You may hear something against me, Corrie. Don't believe it."

"I won't, without reason. I make up my mind slow, Master Basil.
Perhaps you've got something more to tell me. It won't be thrown
away."

Wishing to stand well with Old Corrie, Basil became more
communicative, and put the woodman in possession, of the particulars
of what had passed between himself and Anthony Bidaud on the previous
evening, and also of his interviews with Anthony's brother.

"It looks black," said Old Corrie. "It's a pity you didn't leave him
to the alligator. And now, Master Basil, you've something else in your
mind. Out with it."

"I came to ask you to do me a great service."

"Give it mouth."

"It may be that poor Annette's father has left some papers with
respect to her future which the law might declare valid. If that is
so, and her uncle finds them, he will destroy them; it may be to his
interest to do so, and in that case he will allow no considerations of
right and wrong to stand in his way. The presence of a lawyer may
prevent this. Then there is the slanderous talk he is sure to set
going against me; I want to clear myself of it. The precise cause of
Anthony Bidaud's death should be ascertained and declared by a
competent and disinterested person, and I thought of going to Gum Flat
and enlisting the services of a lawyer and a doctor, whom I would
bring back with me."

"It would be a proper thing to do," said Corrie.

"But I am in a difficulty. I could walk the distance, but I could not
get there till to-morrow. Coming and going, four days at least would
be wasted, and in that time Annette's uncle could work his own ends
without interruption. Now, if I had a horse I could get there this
evening, and back to-morrow."

"You want me to lend you my mare?"

"That is what I came to ask you."

"You can have her; she's a willing creature, and 'll go till she
drops."

"It is kind of you, Corrie."

"Not at all. I do it a little bit for your sake, but a good deal more
for the sake of the little lady."

"You run a risk, Corrie. My story may not be true; I may never come
back."

"I'll take security, then."

"I have no money. The only thing I possess of value is this watch and
chain."

"I won't take that; you may need it to pay the lawyer and the doctor
with. Besides that isn't the security I mean. I'll take your word."

"You're a real good fellow, Corrie. Some day I may be able to repay
you."

"If I had any idea of looking out for that day I shouldn't do what I'm
doing. Look here, Master Basil. I know a gentleman when I see one; and
you're a gentleman. I believe every word you've told me. This fellow
that's turned up, the little lady's uncle, is a scoundrel, or he
wouldn't have spoken the words I heard to a woman nearly dead with
fatigue--his own sister, too. Come along; let's saddle the mare."

Before that was done, however, Old Corrie insisted that Basil should
eat a hearty meal and see the magpie he was training for Annette. Then
Basil mounted the willing mare, and with a grip of the hand and a
hearty "Good luck, mate," from Old Corrie, the young man started for
Gum Flat.



CHAPTER IX.


It was three months since Basil had passed through the conglomeration
of canvas tents and stores which rejoiced in a title which certainly
could not be called euphonious, and then, although those were its most
prosperous days, it struck him as being a wretched hole. Rumours of
rich finds of gold had originally attracted a population to Gum Flat
township, but the glowing anticipations of the gold diggers who
flocked to the false El Dorado were doomed to disappointment. It was
not a gold-diggers' but a storekeepers' rush, and the result was a
foregone conclusion; after a time the miners who had flocked thither
began to desert the place. Not, however, before they gave it a fair
trial. They marked out claims, they prospected the hills and gullies,
they turned the waters of a large creek, they sank shafts in many a
likely-looking spot, they followed spurs of stones on the ranges in
the hope that they would lead them to a rich quartz reef, but their
labours were unrewarded. A couple of specks to the dish and the
faintest traces of gold in the quartz were not sufficient to pay for
powder and tobacco, and the men gradually began to leave the
uninviting locality. A few remained, but not to dig for gold; these
were chiefly loafers, and lived on each other, playing billiards
during the day on the one billiard table that had been left behind,
and cards during the nights, for fabulous and visionary sums of money
which, really lost and won, would have transformed beggars into
millionaires and millionaires into beggars. The poorer they grew the
larger the stakes they played for, and their delusions created for
their delectation the most delicious paroxysms of infinite joy and
overwhelming despair. These they enjoyed to the full, reckoning up
their losses and gains with wild eyes and radiant countenances. One
beggarly loafer, who for the last five years had not had five pounds
to bless himself with, went to the creek one dark night after a
visionary loss of a hundred thousand pounds or so, and insisted upon
drowning himself. It required a vast amount of insistence on his part,
for the creek just then was not more than three feet deep. Anyway, he
was found dead the next morning, with a letter in his pocket to the
effect that he was financially ruined and could not survive the
disgrace; whereupon his principal creditor, who, in the matter of
finances, was no better off than the drowned man, perambulated High
Street in a state of fury, fiercely denouncing his debtor who had not
the courage to live and pay his debts of honour.

Some means of subsistence, however inadequate, Gum Flat must have had;
these were found in the persons of a half-a-dozen drivers of bullock
drays, who every two weeks brought their earnings there and spent them
royally. This process lasted on each occasion exactly three days,
during which time the population, numbering in all not more than
thirty souls, were in clover. When the bullock drivers returned to
their avocations the loafers declared that the colonies were going to
the dogs, and resumed the routine of their dismal days, gambling,
drinking, quarrelling, until the six solvent men returned again to
gladden their hearts.

Even this miserable state of affairs came to an end after a time, and
reached a more deplorable stage. The bullock drivers discovered more
agreeable quarters, and in their turn deserted the township. Driven by
sheer necessity the loafers, one by one, followed their example, and
slunk from the place, until only four remained. Such was the condition
of Gum Flat as Basil rode towards the township on a day eventful
enough in the story of his life, but scarcely less eventful than the
night which followed it was destined to be. Had he been aware of this
he would have thought twice before he made up his mind to proceed
thither in search of lawyer and doctor; but such is the irony of
circumstances that, had he not set forth on his present journey, the
entire course of his future life would have drifted into channels
which would, almost to a certainty, have separated him from Annette
for ever. Accident or fate, which you will; but the course of many
lives is thus determined.

He rode all day through the tracks he remembered, and concerning which
he had been refreshed by Old Corrie, who was as ignorant as himself of
the deplorable change that had taken place. The road for a few miles
lay along great plains of rich black soil, dotted here and there with
masses of blue and barley grass, among which might be found the native
leek and wild cucumber; then followed a tract of country somewhat
lightly timbered but heavily grassed, where he came across a nasty bit
of "devil devil" land, fortunately of not great extent, for he had to
ride with a loose rein and leave it to his horse to pick the safest
way. On his left were large lagoons in which a wondrous variety of
wild fowl abounded; on his right was a belt of impenetrable scrub; but
the track was well defined, and after riding twenty miles he entered a
thickly wooded forest, for the shade of which he was grateful, the sun
now being high in the heavens. Emerging from this forest he halted
near a vast sheet of water, in which tall reeds grew, and where he
found the wild banana. Off this fruit and some cold meat and bread
which Old Corrie had forced upon him, he made a sufficient meal, and
then resumed his journey. In the afternoon the road lay through a more
even country, and he reckoned upon reaching Gum Flat before sundown.
But he reckoned without his host, for the distance was longer than he
calculated, and at sunset he was still, according to the information
given to him by the driver of a bullock dray, eight or ten miles from
the township. This man was the only human being he had met in his
lonely ride. Many a time in the course of the day had he fallen into
contemplation of the pregnant events of the last twenty-four hours,
thinking, "This time yesterday I was walking with Annette in the
woods, gathering wildflowers for her mother's grave. She slipped, and
I caught her in my arms." And again: "This time yesterday Anthony
Bidaud, Annette, and I, were sitting in the verandah, watching the
sunset; and a moment afterwards white stars were glittering in the
clouds of faded gold. How peaceful, how happy we were! And now?" he
shuddered as he thought of the dead form of Anthony Bidaud lying in
his room and of the sense of desolation which must have fallen upon
Annette. He strove to direct his thoughts into more cheerful grooves,
but he was not successful.

The gorgeous colours in the heavens melted away; the sun dipped
beneath the horizon; it was night. Fortunately it was light, and he
could see the road he was riding over. The willing animal he bestrode
plodded on, more slowly now, and Basil did not attempt to quicken the
pace. It was ten o'clock when he reached the township of Gum Flat.

He recognised it by the outlines of the tents. He had expected to see
lights in the dwellings, arguing that Gum Flat must have increased in
importance since his last visit, but all was dark on the outskirts. He
was surprised at the darkness, but grateful that his journey was over.
He rode along the High Street, and with still deeper surprise observed
that on some of the stores the canvas lay loose, and that the calico
over the frame was torn and rent. "Can I have mistaken the road?" he
thought. In the middle of the High Street he paused. The door of a
store was thrown suddenly open, and three men, whose movements had
been inspired by the sound of the horse's hoofs, emerged therefrom,
and stood looking up at Basil. Each had cards in his hand, denoting
that when they were disturbed they had been gambling. The picture at
that moment was Rembrandtesque. The street was in darkness; not a
light was visible. One of the men standing at the door held above his
head a lighted candle stuck in a whiskey bottle, and this dim light
enabled the three-gamblers and Basil not exactly to see each other but
to define outlines. Through the open door Basil saw a table upon which
was another candle, and sitting at which was another man, also with
cards in his hand. This man, leaning forward, was striving to pierce
the gloom in which his companions and Basil stood. He rose and joined
them, and going close to Basil, laid his hand upon the horse's neck.
Thus, Basil and he confronted each other. And at that moment was
commenced the weaving of a strand which was to connect the lives of
these two men, for weal or woe.



CHAPTER X.


Each man of this small group represented in his own person the epitome
of a drama more or less stirring and eventful. With three of these we
have little to do, and no good purpose will be served by recounting
their antecedents. The history of the fourth--he who stood with his
hand on the neck of Old Corrie's horse, looking up at Basil--will
presently be unfolded.

He was a full-bearded man, the light brown hair so effectually
concealing his features that only his cheekbones and forehead were
visible. To a physiologist, therefore, the index was imperfect. He was
a young man, of about the same age as Basil, and his name was Newman
Chaytor. This was his true name; it will be as well to say as much,
for there was much that was false about him.

The man who held the candle was known as Jim the Hatter; Jim belonged
properly to him by right, the Hatter was patronymic he had earned by
working on various goldfields alone, without a mate. Why they call men
on the gold-diggings thus inclined, Hatters, is one of the mysteries,
but it is a fact. Of the other two it will be sufficient to refer to
them as Nonentity Number One and Nonentity Number Two. Jim the Hatter
was a large-boned, loose-limbed man, of great strength. Upon his first
arrival in Australia his time, to put it gently, was not his own; it
belonged to his country. He was now free, but his morals had not been
improved by the lesson his country had administered to him.

It will thus be seen that Basil had unfortunately fallen among
thieves.

For a few moments the man on horseback and the men on foot preserved
silence, and opportunity was afforded for a striking picture. Jim the
Hatter was the first to speak.

"Well, mate?" he said.

"Is this the township of Gum Flat?" inquired Basil.

"It is. If you're looking for it, you're dead on the gutter."

"I thought I must have mistaken my way," said Basil. "What has come
over the place?"

Newman Chaytor answered him. "It has gone," he said, "to the dogs."

"Like yourselves," thought Basil, gazing at the men, but deeming it
prudent not to express himself aloud upon a point so personal. He
spoke, however. "It is the place I was making for. I suppose I can put
up here for the night?"

"There's nothing to prevent you. Gum Flat township just now is Liberty
Hall."

"Stop a bit, stop a bit," said Nonentity Number One, considering it
necessary to his dignity that he should take part in the conference.
"Is the gentleman prepared to pay for accommodation?"

"That's a proper question," said Nonentity Number Two, thus asserting
himself.

"Of course he is," said Jim the Hatter, answering for Basil, who, with
an empty purse, was saved from awkwardness.

A diversion occurred here. Newman Chaytor snatched the candle from Jim
the Hatter, in order that he might obtain a clearer view of Basil.

"Manners, mate," said Jim the Hatter.

"Manners be hanged!" retorted Newman Chaytor, holding the candle high.
"They're out of stock."

This was evident. To smooth matters Basil volunteered an explanation.
"I have come hereupon business, but I am afraid I have lost my time."

"Perhaps not," said Jim the Hatter. "We're all business men here;
ready at a moment's notice to turn a honest penny. That's true, ain't
it, mate?"

He addressed Newman Chaytor, but that worthy did not reply. Having
obtained a clearer view of Basil's face, he seemed to be suddenly
struck dumb, and stared at it as though he were fascinated.

"Still," continued Jim the Hatter, "it's as well to be particular in
these times. I'm very choice in the company I keep, and I don't as a
rule do business with strangers, unless," he added, with a grin which
found its reflection on the lips of Nonentities Numbers One and Two,
"they pay their footing first."

"If you wish to know my name," said Basil, "it is Basil Whittingham."

"What!" cried Newman Chaytor, finding his tongue; but the exclamation
of undoubted astonishment appeared to be forced from him instead of
being voluntarily uttered.

"Basil Whittingham," repeated Basil. "Being here, I must stop for the
night. Is there a stable near?"

"There's one at the back," said Newman Chaytor, with sudden alacrity,
"or rather there was one. I'll show you."

"Thank you," said Basil, and followed his guide to the rear of the
shanty.

The three men looked after them with no good will.

"He's a swell," said Nonentity Number One.

"He's got a watch and chain," said Nonentity Number Two.

"And a horse," said Jim the Hatter.

Then they re-entered the store, and settled down to their game of
cards.

"Stop here a moment," said Newman Chaytor to Basil. "I'll get a
light."

Returning with a candle stuck in a bottle, the fashionable form of
candlestick in Gum Flat, he waved it about, sometimes so close to
Basil that it shone upon his features.

"You stare at me," said Basil, "as if you knew me."

"Never saw you before to my knowledge." (A falsehood, but that is a
detail.) "You're not a colonial."

"I am an Englishman, like yourself, I judge."

"Yes, I am English."

"You have the advantage of me--you know my name. May I ask yours?"

"Certainly," said Chaytor, but he spoke, nevertheless, with a certain
hesitation, as if something of importance hung upon it. "My name is
Newman, with Chaytor tacked to it." Then, anxiously, "Have you heard
it before?"

"Never. This is a tumble-down place. It is a courtesy to call it a
stable."

"It will serve, in place of a better."

"Oh, yes, it is better than nothing."

"Everything is tumble-down in Gum Flat. I am an Englishman town-bred.
And you?"

"My people hail from Devonshire."

"I am not dreaming, then," said Chaytor, speaking for the second time
involuntarily.

"Dreaming!" exclaimed Basil.

"I was thinking of another matter," said Chaytor, with readiness.
"Speaking my thoughts aloud is one of my bad tricks."

"One of mine, too," said Basil smiling.

"That is not the only thing in which we're alike."

"No."

"We are about the same age, about the same build, and we are both
gentlemen. Your horse is blown; you have ridden a long distance."

"From Bidaud's plantation."

"I have heard of it. And you come upon business? I may be able to
assist you."

"I shall be glad of assistance," said Basil, recognising in his
companion an obvious superiority to the men they had left. "When I
passed through Gum Flat a few months ago I thought it a township
likely to thrive, and now I find it pretty well deserted."

"It has gone to the dogs, as I told you. There's nothing but grass for
your horse to nibble at. So you're from Devonshire. Do your people
live there still?"

He mixed up the subjects of his remarks in the oddest manner, and cast
furtive glances at Basil with a certain mental preoccupation which
would have forced itself upon Basil's attention had he not been so
occupied with his own special cares.

"There are none left," said Basil. "I am the only one remaining."

"The only one?"

"Well, I have an old uncle, but we are not exactly on amicable terms."

"You are better off than I am. I have no family left." He sighed
pathetically. "I fancy I can lay my hands on a bundle of sweet hay."

"I should feel grateful."

"Don't leave the stable till I come back; I shan't be gone long."

He was absent ten minutes or so and though he went straight about his
errand, he was thinking of something very different. "It is the most
wonderful thing in the world," ran his thoughts--"that I should meet
him here again, in this hole, not changed in the slightest! It can't
be accident; it was predestined, and I should be a self-confessed
idiot if I did not take advantage of it. But how is it to be worked?
His uncle is still alive. What did he say? 'We are not exactly on
amicable terms.' That is because he is proud. I am not. I should be a
better nephew to the old fellow than this upstart. He is very old, in
his second childhood most likely. This is the turning-point of my
life, and I will not throw away the chance. Just as I was at the
bottom of the ladder, too. I'll climb to the top--I will, I will!" He
raised his hand to the skies, as though registering an oath.

"There," he said, throwing down a bundle of hay which the horse
immediately began to munch, "with a bucket of water your mare will do
very well. I'll fetch it."

"You are very kind," said Basil, warming to Newman Chaytor.

"Not at all. _Noblesse oblige_." This was said with a grand air.

Basil held out his hand, and Chaytor pressed it effusively. Then, at
Chaytor's request, Basil spoke of the errand upon which he was
engaged, and being plied skilfully with questions, put his companion
in possession of a great deal he wished to know, not only in relation
to the affairs of Bidaud's plantation, but his own personal history as
well.

"It is curious," said Chaytor, "that we two should have met at such a
time and in such a place. Who knows what may come of it? I am, strange
to say, a bit of a doctor and a bit of a lawyer, and if you will
accept my services I shall be glad to accompany you back to Bidaud's
plantation."

"But why?" asked Basil, touched by the apparently unselfish offer. "I
have no claim upon you."

"Except the claim that one gentleman has upon another--which should
count for something. It always has with me."

"Upon my word I don't know how to thank you."

"Don't try. It is myself I am rendering a service to, not you. This
deserted hole, and the association of those men"--jerking his thumb
over his shoulder in the direction of the tent--"sicken me. Does there
not come to some men a crisis in their lives which compels them to
turn over a new leaf, as the saying is, to cut themselves away
entirely from the past and commence life anew?"

"Yes," said Basil, struck by the application of this figure of speech
to his own circumstances, "it has come to me."

"And to me. I intended to leave Gum Flat to-morrow, and I did not know
in which direction. I felt like Robinson Crusoe on the desert island,
without a friend, without a kindred soul to talk to, to associate
with. If you will allow me to look upon you as a friend you will put
me under a deep obligation. Should the brother of the poor gentleman
who died so suddenly this morning--the father of that sweet young lady
of whom you speak so tenderly--succeed in having things all his own
way, you will be cast adrift, as I am. It is best to look things
straight in the face, is it not?--even unpleasant things."

"It is the most sensible course," said Basil.

"Exactly. The most sensible course--and the most manly. Why should not
you and I throw in our fortunes together? I am sure we should suit
each other."

"I can but thank you," said Basil. "It is worth thinking over."

"All right; there is plenty of time before us. Let us go into the
store now. A word of warning first. The men inside are not to be
trusted. I was thrown into their company against my will, and I felt
that the association was degrading to me. We can't pick and choose in
this part of the world."

"Indeed we cannot. I will not forget your warning. To speak honestly,
I am not in the mood or condition for society. I have had a hard day,
and am dead beat."

"You would like to turn in," said Chaytor. "I can give you a
shakedown, and for supper what remains of a tin of biscuits and a tin
of sardines. There, don't say a word. The luck's on my side. Come
along."

The Nonentities and Jim the Hatter were in the midst of a wrangle when
they entered, and scarcely noticed them. This left Chaytor free to
attend to Basil. He placed before him the biscuits and sardines, and
produced a flask of brandy. Basil was grateful for the refreshment; he
was thoroughly exhausted, and it renewed his strength and revived his
drooping spirits. Then he filled his pipe, and conversed in low tones
with his new friend, while the gamblers continued their game.

"If I stop up much longer," said Basil, when he had had his smoke, "I
shall drop off my seat."

Chaytor rose and preceded him to the further end of the store. The
building, if such a designation may be allowed to an erection composed
of only wood and canvas, had been the most pretentious and imposing in
the palmy days of the township, and although now it was all tattered
and torn, like the man in the nursery rhyme, it could still boast of
half a dozen private compartments in which sleepers could find repose
and solitude. The walls of course were of calico, and for complete
privacy darkness was necessary.

Chaytor and the three gamblers who were bending over their cards in
the dim light of the larger space without, each occupied one of these
sleeping compartments. Two remained vacant, and into one of these
Chaytor led Basil.

There was a stretcher in the room, a piece of strong canvas nailed
upon four pieces of batten driven into the ground. The canvas was
bare; there were no bedclothes.

"I have two blankets," said Chaytor, "I can spare you one."

Basil was too tired to protest. Dressed as he was he threw himself
upon the stretcher, drew the blanket over him, and bidding his
hospitable friend good-night, and thanking him again, was fast asleep
almost as the words passed his lips.

Newman Chaytor stood for a moment or two gazing upon the sleeping man.
"I can't be dreaming," he thought; "he is here before me, and I am
wide awake. I drink to the future." He held no glass, but he went
through the pantomime of drinking out of one.

Taking the lighted candle with him he joined his mates, and left Basil
sleeping calmly in darkness. They were no longer playing cards, but
with heads close together were debating in whispers. Upon Chaytor's
entrance they shifted their positions and ceased talking.

"Have you put your gentleman to bed?" asked Jim the Hatter, in a
sneering tone in which a sinister ring might have been detected.

"Much obliged to you for the inquiry," replied Chaytor, prepared to
fence; "he is sound asleep."

"Interesting child! A case of love at first sight, mates."

Nonentities Numbers One and Two nodded, with dark looks at Chaytor,
who smiled genially at them and commenced to smoke.

"Or," said Jim the Hatter, "perhaps an old acquaintance."

"Take your choice," observed Chaytor, who, in finesse and coolness,
was a match for the three.

"Doesn't it strike you, Newman, that it's taking a liberty with us to
feed and bolster him up, and stand drinks as well, without asking
whether we was agreeable?"

"Not at all. The sardines were mine, the biscuits were mine, the grog
was mine. If you want to quarrel, say so."

"I'm for peace and quietness," said Jim the Hatter, threateningly. "I
was only expressing my opinion."

"And I mine. Look here, mates, I don't want to behave shabbily, so
I'll tell you what is in my mind."

"Ah, do," said Jim the Hatter, with a secret sign to the Nonentities
which Chaytor did not see; "then we shall know where we are."

"I'll tell you where we are, literally, mates. We're in a
heaven-forsaken township, running fast to bone, which leads to
skeleton. Now I'm not prepared for that positive eventuality just yet.
This world is good enough for me at present, and I mean to do my best
to enjoy it."

"Can't you enjoy it in our company?" asked Jim the Hatter.

"I think not," said Chaytor, with cool insolence. "The best of friends
must part."

"Oh, that's your little game, is it?"

"That is my little game. I am growing grey. If I don't look out I
shall be white before I am thirty. Really I think it must be the
effect of the company I have kept."

"We're not good enough for you, I suppose?"

"If you ask for my deliberate opinion I answer, most distinctly not.
No, mates, not by a long way good enough."

"Don't be stuck up, mate. Better men than you have had to eat humble
pie."

"Any sort of pie," said Chaytor, philosophically, "is better than no
pie at all. Take my advice. Bid good-bye to Gum Flat, gigantic fraud
that it is, and go in search of big nuggets. That is what I am going
to do."

"With your gentleman friend?"

"With my gentleman friend. We may as well part civilly, but if you
choose the other thing I am agreeable." The three men rose with the
intention of retiring. They did not respond to his invitation to part
friends. "Well, good-night, and good luck to you." They nodded surlily
and entered their sleeping apartments, after exchanging a few words
quietly between themselves.

Newman Chaytor helped himself to brandy from his flask then filled his
pipe, and began to smoke.

That he had something serious to think of was evident, and that he was
puzzled what use to make of it was quite as clear. An enterprise was
before him, and he was disposed to pledge himself to it; but he was in
the dark as to what end it would lead him. In the dark, also, how it
could be so conducted as to result in profit to himself. He was in
desperately low water, and had lost confidence in himself. His ship
was drifting anchorless on a waste of waters; suddenly an anchor had
presented itself, which, while it would afford him peace and safety
for a time, might show him a way to a golden harbour. An ugly smile
wreathed his lips, the sinister aspect of which was hidden by his
abundant hair: but it was there, and remained for many musing moments.
He took from his pocket a common memorandum book, and on a few blank
pages he wrote the names, Newman Chaytor and Basil Whittingham,
several times and in several different styles of handwriting. Then he
wrote upon one, in the form of a check, "Pay to Newman Chaytor, Esq.,
the sum of forty thousand pounds. Basil Whittingham." He contemplated
this valueless draft for a long time before destroying it at the
candle's light, as he destroyed the other sheets of paper upon which
he had written the signatures.

"All the pleasures of existence," he mused, "all the light, everything
in the world worth having, are on the other side of the water. Was I
born to grind out my days in a prison like this? No, and I will not.
Here is the chance of escape"--he turned his head to the room in which
Basil was sleeping--"with possibilities which may give me all I
desire. It would be flying in the face of Providence to neglect it.
The first law of nature is Self. I should be a born fool not to obey
the first law of nature."

In these reflections he passed an hour, when he determined to go to
bed.

All was still. He stepped on tip toe to each of the four compartments
occupied by Basil, Jim the Hatter, and the Nonentities, and listened
at the doors to assure himself that he was the only wakeful person in
the store. Deeming himself safe he entered his own room, and taking a
small round mirror in a zinc frame from the top of a packing case
which served as washstand and dressing-table, gazed at his face with
strange intentness. Putting the hand mirror down he cast wary looks
around. Yes, he was alone; there were no witnesses. Then he did a
curious thing. He took off his beard and whiskers.

In the room on his right lay Basil asleep; in the room on his left was
Jim the Hatter, whom he supposed to be. But in this he reckoned
without his host, as many another sharp rogue has done in his time.
Jim the Hatter, despite his deep breathing, which had deceived Newman
Chaytor, was wide awake. The moment Chaytor entered his room Jim the
Hatter had slipped noiselessly from his stretcher, and his face was
now glued to the wall of calico through which the light of Chaytor's
candle was shining. There was a small slit in the calico, which
enabled Jim the Hatter to see what was passing in Chaytor's room.
Chaytor's back, however, was towards the wall through which he was
peeping. The watcher was puzzled; he could not exactly discover what
it was Chaytor had done.

Upon Chaytor's face, now beardless and whiskerless, there was a
natural growth of hair in the shape of a moustache. This moustache was
the precise colour of that which Basil grew and cherished. It was not
so long, but a few week's growth would make the resemblance perfect,
if such was Chaytor's wish. In other respects the resemblance between
him and Basil was remarkable. Height, figure, complexion--even the
colour of the eyes--all tallied.

In his anxiety to discover exactly what was going on, Jim the Hatter
made a slight movement, which was heard by Chaytor. He turned
suddenly, and the astonished watcher beheld the counterpart of Basil.

"By Jove!" he said inly; "twins!"

Then, warned by Chaytor's attitude that he was in danger of himself
being discovered, he slipped between his blankets as noiselessly as he
had slipped out of them. Waiting only to resume his disguise of beard
and whiskers, Chaytor, candle in hand, went quietly and swiftly into
the adjoining room and looked down upon the recumbent form of Jim the
Hatter. Undoubtedly asleep, and sleeping like a top. Chaytor passed
the candle across the man's face, who never so much as winked. Assured
that there was no cause for alarm, Chaytor stepped back to his own
recess, put out the light, and went to bed.



CHAPTER XI.


Leaving this schemer to his ill-earned repose, we strip the veil from
his past and lay it bare.

Nature plays tricks, but seldom played a stranger than that of casting
Newman Chaytor physically in the same mould as Basil. Born in
different counties, with no tie of kinship between their families,
their likeness to each other was so marvellous that any man seeing
them for the first time side by side, without some such disguise as
Chaytor wore on Gum Flat, and the second time apart, would have been
puzzled to know which was which. But not less strange than this
physical likeness was the contrast between their moral natures. One
was the soul of guilelessness and honour, the other the soul of
cunning and baseness. One walked the straight paths of life, the other
chose the crooked.

Chaytor was born in London, and his parents occupied a respectable
position. They gave him a good education, and did all they could to
furnish him worthily for the battle of life. The affection they
displayed was ill-requited. In his mother's eyes he was perfection,
but his father's mind was often disturbed when he thought of the lad's
future. Perhaps in his own nature there was a moral twist which caused
him to doubt; perhaps his own youth was distinguished by the vices he
detected in his son. However that may be, he took no blame to himself,
preferring rather to skim the surface than to seek discomfort in
psychological depths.

The parents discussed their son's future.

"We will make a doctor of him," said the father.

"He will be a great physician," said the mother.

At this time Chaytor was eighteen years of age. At twenty it was
decided that he was in the wrong groove; at least, that was the
statement of the doctor who had undertaken his professional education.
It was not an entirely ingenuous statement; the master was eager to
get rid of his pupil, whose sharp practices distressed him.

"What would you like to be?" asked his father.

"A lawyer," replied Chaytor.

"He will be Lord Chancellor," said his mother.

Thereupon Newman Chaytor was articled to a firm of lawyers in Bedford
Row, London, W.C., an old and respectable firm, Messrs. Rivington,
Sons, and Rivington, who kept its exceedingly lucrative business in
the hands of its own family. It happened, fatefully, that this firm of
lawyers transacted the affairs of Bartholomew Whittingham, Basil's
uncle, with whom our readers have already made acquaintance.

In the course of two or three years Chaytor's character was fully
developed. He was still the idol of his mother, whose heart was plated
with so thick a shield of unreasoning love that nothing to her son's
disparagement could make an impression upon it. Only there were doors
in this shield which she opened at the least sign from the reprobate,
sheltering him there and cooing over him as none but such hearts can.
Her husband had the sincerest affection for her, and here was another
safeguard for Chaytor.

The surroundings of life in a great and gay city are dangerous and
tempting even to the innocent. How much more dangerous and tempting
are they to those who by teaching or inclination are ripe for vice? It
is not our intention to follow Chaytor through these devious paths; we
shall simply touch lightly upon those circumstances of his career
which are pertinent to our story. If for a brief space we are
compelled to treat of some of the darker shadows of human nature, it
must be set down to the undoubted fact that life is not made up
entirely of sweetness and light.

Chaytor's father, looking through his bank-book, discovered that he
had a balance to his credit less by a hundred pounds than he knew was
correct. He examined his returned cheques and found one with his
signature for the exact amount, a signature written by another hand
than his. He informed his wife, pending his decision as to what steps
to take to bring the guilt home. His wife informed her son.

"Ah," said he, "I have my suspicions." And he mentioned the name of a
clerk in his father's employ.

The ball being set rolling, the elder Chaytor began to watch the
suspected man, setting traps for him, across which the innocent man
stepped in safety. Mr. Chaytor was puzzled; he had, by his wife's
advice, kept the affair entirely secret, who in her turn had been
prompted by her son to this course, and warned not to drag his name
into it. The father, therefore was not aware that the accusation
against the clerk proceeded from his son.

Chaytor had a design in view: he wished to gain time to avoid possible
unpleasant consequences.

Some three weeks afterwards, when Mr. Chaytor had resolved to take the
forged cheque to the bank with the intention of enlisting its services
in the discovery of the criminal, he went to his desk to obtain the
document. It was gone, and other papers with it. He was confounded;
without the cheque he could do nothing.

"Have I a thief in my house," he asked of himself, "as well as a
forger at my elbow."

The man he had suspected was in the habit of coming to his private
house once a week for clerking purposes. Without considering what he
was laying himself open to, he accused his clerk of robbing him, and
the result was that the man left his service and brought an action for
slander against him, which he was compelled to compromise by an
apology and the payment of a sum of money.

"It is father's own fault," said Chaytor to his mother; "had he waited
and watched, he would have brought the guilt home to the fellow. But
don't say anything more to him about it; let the matter rest."

It did rest, but Mr. Chaytor did not forget it.

Being in pursuit of pleasure Chaytor found himself in continual need
of money, and he raised and procured it in many discreditable ways,
but still he managed to keep his secret. Then came another crime. Some
valuable jewels belonging to his mother were stolen. By whom?

"By one of the female servants, of course," said Chaytor.

He was not only without conscience, he was without heart.

Mr. Chaytor proposed to call in a detective. Mrs. Chaytor, acting upon
the secret advice of her son, would not hear of it. The father had,
therefore, two forces working against him, his wife, whom he could
answer, because she was in the light, and his son, with whom he could
not cope, because he was in the dark.

"It would be a dreadful scandal," said young Chaytor to his mother.
"If nothing is discovered--and thieves are very cunning, you know--we
shall be in worse trouble than father got into with the clerk who
forged his name to the cheque. We should be the laughing-stock of
everyone who knows us, and should hardly be able to raise our heads."

His word was law to her; he could twist her round his little finger,
he often laughingly said to himself; and as she, in her turn,
dominated her husband, the deceits he practised were not too difficult
for him to safely compass. Every domestic in the house was discharged,
and a new set engaged. When they sent for characters no answer was
returned. Thus early in life young Chaytor was fruitful in mischief,
but he cared not what occurred to others so long as he rode in safety.

One day an old gentleman paid a visit to Messrs. Rivington, Sons, and
Rivington. This was Mr. Bartholomew Whittingham, Basil's uncle. He had
come upon the business of his will, the particulars of which he had
written down upon paper. He was not in the office longer than ten
minutes, and he left at half-past one o'clock, the time at which
Chaytor was in the habit of going to lunch. Following the old
gentleman Chaytor saw him step into a cab, in which a young gentleman
had been waiting. The young gentleman was Basil, and Chaytor was
startled at the resemblance of this man to himself. Relinquishing his
lunch, Chaytor jumped into a cab, and bade the driver follow Basil and
his uncle. They stopped at Morley's Hotel, Charing Cross, and Chaytor
had another opportunity of verifying the likeness between himself and
Basil. It interested him and excited him. He had not the least idea
what he could gain by it, but the fact took possession of his mind and
he could not dislodge it. He ascertained the names of Basil and his
uncle by looking over the hotel book, and when he returned to the
office in Bedford Row the task was allotted to him of preparing the
rough draft of the will. Mr. Bartholomew Whittingham was very rich,
and every shilling he possessed was devised to Basil, without
restrictions of any kind.

"The old fellow must be worth forty thousand pounds," mused Chaytor,
and he rolled out the sum again and again. "For-ty thou-sand pounds!
For-ty thou-sand pounds! For-ty thousand pounds! And every shilling is
left to Mr. Basil Whittingham, my double. Yes, my Double! My own
mother would mistake him for me, and his doddering old uncle would
mistake me for him. What wouldn't I give to change places with him!
For-ty thou-sand pounds! For-ty thou-sand pounds! It's maddening to
think of. He has a moustache; I haven't. But I can grow one exactly
like. His hair is the colour of mine. I'll keep my eye on him."

It was an egregiously wicked idea, for by the wildest stretch of his
imagination he could not see how this startling likeness could be
worked to his advantage. Nevertheless he was fascinated by it, and he
set himself the task of seeing as much of Basil as possible. During
the week that Basil was living at Morley's Hotel, Chaytor in his spare
hours shadowed him, without being detected. Basil never once set eyes
on him, and as the young gentleman never entered the office of Messrs.
Rivington, Sons, and Rivington, no one there had opportunity to note
the resemblance between the men.

Chaytor for a week was in his element; he ascertained from the hall
porter in the hotel the places of amusement which Basil visited of an
evening, and he followed him to them; he waited outside the hotel to
catch glimpses of him; he studied every feature, every expression,
every movement attentively, until he declared to himself that he knew
him by heart. He began to let his moustache grow, and he practised
little tricks of manners which he had observed. He was like a man
possessed.

"He is a gentleman," he said. "So am I. I am as good looking as he is
any day of the week. Why shouldn't I be, being his Double?

"He pondered over it, he dreamt of it, he worked himself almost into a
fever concerning it. Distorted possibilities presented themselves, and
monstrous views. The phantom image of Basil entered into his life,
directed his thoughts, coloured his future. He walked along the
streets with this spectral Double by his side; he leant over the
river's bridges and saw it reflected in the water; he felt its
presence when he woke up in the dark night. One night during this
feverish week, after being in the theatre which Basil visited, after
sitting in the shadow of the pit and watching him for hours in a
private box, after following him to Morley's Hotel and lingering so
long in Trafalgar Square that he drew the attention of a policeman to
his movements, he walked slowly homeward, twisting this and that
possibility with an infatuation dangerous to his reason, until he came
quite suddenly upon a house on fire. So engrossed was he that he had
not noticed the hurrying people or their cries, and it was only when
the blazing flames were before him that he was conscious of what was
actually taking place. And there on the burning roof as he looked up
he beheld the phantom Basil on fire. With glaring eyes he saw it with
the flames devouring it, dwindling in proportions until its luminous
outlines faded into nothingness, until it was gone out of the living
world for ever. A deep sigh of satisfaction escaped him.

"Now he is gone," he thought, "I will take his place. His uncle is an
old man; I can easily deceive him; and perhaps even _he_ will die
before morning."

In the midst of this ecstatic delirium a phantom hand was laid upon
his shoulder, a phantom face, with a mocking smile upon it, confronted
him. He struck at it with a muttered curse. It came to rob him of
forty thousand pounds.

Had this mental condition lasted long he must have gone mad. The
reason for this would have been that he had nothing to grapple with,
nothing to fight, nothing but a shadow, which he had magnified into a
mortal enemy who had done him a wrong which could only be atoned for
by death. It was fortunate for him, although he deserved no good
fortune, that Basil's residence at Morley's lasted but a week, and
that he and his double did not meet again in the Old World; for
although Basil passed much of his time in his father's house in London
he lived at a long distance from Chaytor's usual haunts, and the young
men's lives did not cross. Gradually Chaytor's reason reasserted
itself, and he became sane. Grimly, desperately sane, with still the
leading idea haunting him, it is true, but no longer attended by
monstrous conceptions of what might occur in a day, in an hour, in a
moment, and he on the spot ready to take advantage of it.

Shortly after Basil's departure he asked his mother if she ever had
twins.

"What on earth do you mean, my dear?" she asked, laughing at him.

"It is plain enough," he answered incautiously. "I dream sometimes of
a brother the exact counterpart of myself."

"You work too hard," said his mother, pityingly. "You must take a
holiday, my darling."

"Who's to pay for it?" he asked gloomily.

"I am," she said fondly. "I have saved fifty pounds for you."

"Give it to me," he said eagerly, and with the money he went to Paris
for a fortnight and squandered it on himself and his pleasures.

The foolish mother was continually doing this kind of thing, saving up
money, wheedling her husband out of it upon false pretexts, stinting
herself and making sacrifices for the worthless, ungrateful idol of
her loving heart. So time passed, and Chaytor was still in the office
of Rivington, Sons, and Rivington, picking up no sound knowledge of
the law, but extracting from it for future use all the sharp and
cunning subtleties of which some vile men make bad use. To the firm
came a letter from Mr. Bartholomew Whittingham, with the tenor of
which Chaytor made himself familiar. He was a spy in the office, and
never scrupled at opening letters and reading them on the sly to
master their contents. In the letter which Basil's uncle wrote
occurred these words:

"Send me in a registered packet, by first post, my will, the will I
made in favour of my nephew, Mr. Basil Whittingham. He has acted like
a fool, and I am going to destroy it and disinherit him. At some
future time I will give you instructions to draw up another, making
different dispositions of my property. I am not a young man, but I
shall live a good many years yet, and there is plenty of time before
me. Meanwhile bear witness by this letter that I have disinherited my
nephew Basil Whittingham."

Of course they followed his instructions, and the will was forwarded
to him.

"He has stolen forty thousand pounds from me," thought Chaytor.

Within a week thereafter he overheard a conversation between two of
the principals. He was never above listening at doors and creeping up
back staircases. The lawyers were speaking of Bartholomew Whittingham
and the will.

"Will he destroy it?" asked one.

"I think not," replied the other. "It is my opinion he will keep it by
him, half intending to destroy it, half to preserve it, and that it
will be found intact and unaltered when he dies."

"I do not agree with you. He will destroy it one day in a rage, and
make another the next."

"In favour of whom?"

"Of his nephew. He has in his heart an absorbing love for the young
gentleman, and he is a good fellow at bottom. Mr. Basil Whittingham
will come into the whole of the property."

The conversation was continued on these lines, and the partners
ultimately agreed that after all Basil would be the heir. "There is a
chance yet," thought Chaytor, for although the dangerous period of
ecstasy was passed there still lingered in his mind a hope of
fortunate possibilities.

He continued his evil courses, gambled, drank, and led a free life,
getting deeper and deeper into debt. His mother assisted him out of
many a scrape, and never for one single moment wavered in her faith in
him, in her love for him. It was a sweet trait in her character, but
love without wisdom is frequently productive of more harm than good.
Chaytor's position grew so desperate that detection and its attendant
disgraceful penalty became imminent. He had made himself a proficient
and skilful imitator of handwriting, and more than once had he forged
his father's name to cheques and bills. The father was aware of this,
but out of tenderness for his wife had done nothing more than upbraid
his son for the infamy. Many a stormy scene had passed between them,
which both carefully concealed from the knowledge of the fond woman
whose heart would have been broken had she known the truth. On every
one of these occasions Chaytor had humbled himself and promised
atonement, with tears and sighs and mock repentance which saddened but
did not convince the father.

"For your mother's sake," invariably he said.

"Yes, yes," murmured the hypocrite, "for my dear mother's sake--my
mother, so good, so loving, so tender-hearted!"

"Let this be the last time," said the father sternly.

"It shall be, it shall be!" murmured the son.

It was a formula. The father may sometimes have deceived himself into
belief; the son, never. Even while he was humbling himself he would be
casting about for the next throw.

This continued for some considerable time, but at length came the
crash. Chaytor and his parents were seated at breakfast at nine
o'clock. The father had the morning letters in his pocket; he had read
them and put them by. He cast but one glance at his son, and Chaytor
turned pale and winced. He saw that the storm was about to burst. As
usual, nothing was said before Mrs. Chaytor. The meal was over, she
kissed her son, and left the room to attend to her domestic affairs.

"I must be off," said Chaytor. "Mustn't be late this morning. A lot to
attend to at the office."

"You need not hurry," said the father. "I have something to say to
you."

"Won't it keep till the evening?"

"No. It must be said here and now." He stepped to the door and locked
it. "We will spare her as long as possible; she will know soon
enough."

"Oh, all right," said Chaytor sullenly. "Fire away."

The father took out his letters, and, selecting one, handed it to his
son who read it, shivered, and returned it.

"What have you to say to it?" asked the father.

"Nothing. It is only for three hundred pounds."

"A bill, due to-day, which I did not sign."

"It was done for all our sakes, to save the honour of the family name.
I was in a hole and there was no other way of getting out of it."

"The bill must be taken up before twelve o'clock."

"Will it be?"

"It will, for your mother's sake."

"Then there is nothing more to be said. I am very sorry, but it could
not be helped. I promise that it shall never occur again. I'll take my
oath of it if you like."

"I take neither your word nor your oath. You are a scoundrel."

"Here, draw it mild. I am your son."

"Unhappily. If your mother were not living you should be shown into
the dock for the forgery."

"But she is alive. I shall not appear in the dock, and you may as well
let me go. Look here, father, what's the use of crying over spilt
milk?"

"Not much; and as I look upon you as hopeless, I would go on paying
for it while your mother lived. If she were taken from me I should
leave you to the punishment you deserve, and risk my name being
dragged through the mire."

"I hope," said Chaytor, with vile sanctimoniousness, "that my dear
mother will live till she is a hundred."

"There is, I must remind you, another side to the shield. I said 'as
long as I can afford it.'"

"Well, you can afford it."

"I cannot," said Mr. Chaytor, with a sour smile. "My career snaps
to-day, after paying this forged bill with money that properly belongs
to my creditors. Newman Chaytor, you have come to the end of your
tether."

"You are saying this to frighten me," said Chaytor, affecting an
indifference he did not feel. "Why, you are rolling in money."

"You are mistaken. Speculations into which I have entered have failed
disastrously. If you had not robbed me to the tune of thousands of
pounds--the sum total of your villainies amounts to that--I might have
weathered the storm, but as I am situated it is impossible. It is
almost a triumph to me to stand here before you a ruined man, knowing
you can no longer rob me."

"Still I do not believe you," said Chaytor.

"Wait and see; you will not have to wait long."

The tone in which he uttered this carried conviction with it.

"Do you know what you have done?" cried Chaytor furiously. "You have
ruined _me!_"

"What!" responded Mr. Chaytor, with savage sarcasm. "Is there any more
of this kind of paper floating about?" Chaytor bit his lips, and his
fingers twitched nervously, but he did not reply. "If there is be
advised, and prepare for it. In the list of my liabilities, which is
now being prepared, there will be no place for them. How should there
be, when I am in ignorance of your prospective villainies. Do you see
now to what you have brought me?"

"Do _you_ see to what you have brought _me?_" exclaimed Chaytor in
despair. "Why did you not tell me of it months ago?"

"Because I hoped by other speculations to set myself straight. But
everything has gone wrong--everything. Understand, I cannot trouble
myself about your affairs; I have enough to do with my own. I have one
satisfaction; your mother will not suffer."

"How is that?"

"The settlement I made upon her in the days of my prosperity is hers
absolutely, and only she can deal with it. In the settlement of my
business there shall be no sentimental folly; I will see to that. Her
money shall not go to pay my debts.

"But it shall go," thought Chaytor, with secret joy, "to get me out of
the scrape I am in. It belongs to me by right. _I_ will see that
neither you nor your creditors tamper with it." He breathed more
freely; he could still defy the world.

"I have not told you quite all," continued Mr. Chaytor. "Here is a
letter from Messrs. Rivington, Sons, and Rivington, advising me that
it will be better for all parties that you do not make your appearance
in their office. Indeed, the place you occupied there is already
filled up."

"Do they give any reason for it?" asked Chaytor, inwardly not greatly
astonished at his dismissal.

"None; nor shall I ask any questions of them or you. You know how the
land lies. Good morning."

He unlocked the door, and left the house. This was just what Chaytor
desired. His vicious mind was quick in expedients; his mother was his
shield and his anchor. Her settlement would serve for many a long day
yet. To her he went, and related his troubles in his own way. She gave
him, as usual, her fullest sympathy, and promised all he asked.

"Between ourselves, mother," he said.

"Yes, my darling, between ourselves."

"Father must not know. He was always hard on me. He thinks he can
manage everybody's affairs, but he cannot manage his own." Then he
disclosed to her his father's difficulties. "If he had allowed me to
manage for him it would not have happened. Trust everything to me,
mother, and this day year I will treble your little fortune for you.
Let me have a chance for once. When I have made all our fortunes you
shall go to him and say, 'See what Newman has done for us.'"

"It shall be exactly as you say, darling. You are the best, the
handsomest, the cleverest son a foolish mother ever had."

Kisses and caresses sealed the bargain. Within twenty-four hours he
knew that everything his father had told him was true. The family were
ruined, and but for Mrs. Chaytor's private fortune would have been
utterly beggared. They moved into a smaller house and practised
economy. Little by little Chaytor received and squandered every
shilling his mother possessed, and before the year was out the sun
rose upon a ship beating on the rocks.

"Are you satisfied?" asked his father, from whom Chaytor's doings
could no longer be concealed.

"Satisfied!" cried Chaytor, trembling in every limb. "When your insane
speculations have ruined us!"

Then he fell into a chair and began to sob. He had the best of reasons
for tribulation. With his mind's eye he saw the prison doors open to
receive him. It was not shame that made him suffer; it was fear.

Again, and for the last time, he went to his mother for help.

"What can I do, my boy?" quavered the poor woman. "What can I do? I
haven't a shilling in the world."

He implored her to go to his father. "He can save me," cried the
terror-stricken wretch. "He can, he can!"

She obeyed him and the father sent for his son.

"Tell me all," he said. "Conceal nothing, or, as there is a heaven
above us, I leave you to your fate."

The shameful story told, the father said, "Things were looking up with
me, but here is another knock-down blow, and from my own flesh and
blood. I accept it, and will submit once more to be ruined by you."

"Bless you, father, bless you," whined Chaytor, taking his father's
hand and attempting to fondle it. Mr. Chaytor plucked his hand away.

"There is, however, a condition attached to the promise."

"What condition?" faltered Chaytor.

"That you leave England and never return. Do you hear me? Never. You
will go to the other end of the world, where you will end your days.

"To Australia?"

"To Australia. When you quit this country I wish never to hear from
you; I shall regard you as dead. You shall no longer trade upon your
mother's weak love for you. I will not argue with you. Accept or
refuse."

"I accept."

"Very well. Go from this house and never let me look upon your face
again."

"Can I not see my mother?" whined Chaytor, "to wish her good-bye?"

"No. You want to hatch further troubles. You shall not do so. Quit my
house."

With head bent low in mock humility, Chaytor left the house. He had no
sincere wish to see his mother; he had got out of her all he could,
and she was of no use to him in the future. The promise his father
made was fulfilled; the fresh forgeries he had perpetrated were bought
up, but one still remained of which he had made no mention. This was a
bill for a large amount which he had accepted in the name of
Rivington, Sons and Rivington. It had still two months to run, and
Chaytor determined to remain in England till within a week or two of
its becoming due; something might turn up which would enable him to
meet it. He loved the excitement of English life; Australia was
banishment; but perhaps after all, if he were forced to go it might be
the making of him. He had read of rough men making fortunes in a week
on the goldfields. Why should not he?

The last blow proved too much for Mr. Chaytor; it broke him up
utterly. He was seized with a serious illness which reduced him to
imbecility. The home had to be sold, and he and his wife removed to
lodgings, one small room at the top of a house in a poor
neighbourhood. There poverty fell upon them like a wolf. Five weeks
afterwards Chaytor, slouching through the streets on a rainy night,
saw his mother begging in the roadway. The poor soul stood mute, with
a box of matches in her hand. Chaytor turned and fled.

"I am the unluckiest dog that ever was born," he muttered. "Just as I
was going to see if I could get anything out of her!"

It was now imperative that he should leave England, and he managed to
get a passage in a sailing vessel as assistant steward at a shilling a
month. He obtained it by means of forged letters of recommendation,
and he went out in a false name. This he would have retained had it
not been that shortly after his arrival in Australia he met a man who
had known him in London, and who addressed him by his proper name. It
was not the only inconvenience to which an alias subjected him. There
was only one address in the colonies through which he could obtain his
letters, and that was the Post Office. Obviously, if he called himself
John Smith he could not expect letters to be delivered to him in the
name of Newman Chaytor. Now, he was eager for letters from the old
country; before he left it he had written to his mother to the effect
that he was driven out of it by a hard-hearted father, and that if she
had any good news to communicate to him he would be glad to hear from
her. At the same time he imposed upon her the obligation of not
letting anyone know where he was. Therefore, when his London
acquaintance addressed him by his proper name, saying, "Hallo,
Chaytor, old boy!" he said to himself, "Oh hang it! I'll stick to
Newman Chaytor, and chance it. If mother writes to me I shall have to
proclaim myself Chaytor; an alias might get me into all sorts of
trouble."

Why did he write to his poor mother, for whom he had not the least
affection, and what did he mean by expecting her to have any good news
to communicate to him? The last time he saw her, was she not begging
in the streets? Well, there was a clear reason; he seldom did anything
without one; and be sure that the kernel of that reason was Self. His
father, from the wreck of his fortune, had managed to preserve a
number of shares in some companies which had failed, among them two
mining companies which had come to grief. Now, it had happened before
and might happen again, that companies which were valueless one day
had leaped into favour the next, that shares which yesterday could
have been purchased for a song, to-morrow would be worth thousands of
pounds. Suppose that this happened to the companies, or to one of
them, in which his pauper father held shares. He was his father's only
child, and his mother would see that he was not disinherited. Chaytor
was a man who never threw away a chance, and he would not throw away
this, remote as it was. Hence his determination to adhere at all
hazards to his proper name. The perilous excitements of the last two
or three years had driven Basil Whittingham out of his mind, but
having more leisure and less to occupy his thoughts in the colonies,
he thought of him now and then, and wondered whether the old uncle had
relented and had taken his nephew again into his favour. "Lucky young
beggar," he thought. "I wish I stood in his shoes, and he in mine. I
would soon work the old codger into a proper mood." His colonial
career was neither profitable nor creditable, and he had degenerated
into what he was when he and Basil came face to face in Gum Flat, an
unadulterated gambler and loafer. The strange encounter awoke within
him forces which had long lain dormant. He recognised a possible
chance which might be worked to his benefit, and he fastened to it
like a limpet. When he said to Basil that he was in luck be really
meant it.

A word as to his false beard and whiskers. In London he had had a
behind-the-scenes acquaintance, and in a private theatrical
performance in which he played a part he had worn these identical
appendages as an adjunct to the character he represented. He had
brought them out with him, thinking they might be serviceable one day.
Before he came to Gum Flat he had got into a scrape on another
township, and when he left it, had assumed the false hair as a kind of
disguise. Making his appearance on Gum Flat thus disguised, he deemed
it prudent to retain it, and when he came into association with Basil
he thanked his stars that he had done so; otherwise he might have
drawn upon himself from the man he called his double a closer
attention than he desired.



CHAPTER XII.


In the middle of the night Basil awoke. He had had a tiring day, but
when he had slept off the first effects of the fatigue he had
undergone, the exciting events of the last two days became again the
dominant power. He dreamt of all that had occurred from the interview
between himself and Anthony Bidaud, in which he had accepted the
guardianship of Annette, to the moment of his arrival on Gum Flat. Of
Newman Chaytor he dreamt not at all; this new acquaintance had
produced no abiding impression upon him.

He lay awake for some five minutes or so in that condition of
quiescent wonder which often falls upon men when they are sleeping for
the first time in a strange bed and in a place with which they are not
familiar. Where was he? What was the position of the bed? Where was
the door situated: at the foot, or the head, or the side of the bed?
Was there a window in the apartment, and if so, where was it? Then
came the mental question what had aroused him?

It was so unusual for him to wake in the middle of the night that he
dwelt upon this question. Something must have disturbed him. What?

Was it fancy that just at the moment of his awakening he had heard a
movement in the room, that he had felt a hand upon him, that he had
heard a man's breathing? It must have been, all was so quiet and
still. Suddenly he sat straight up on the stretcher. He remembered
that he was in the township of Gum Flat, sleeping in a strange
apartment, and that men with whom he had not been favourably impressed
must be lying near him. This did not apply to Newman Chaytor, who had
been kind and attentive, and whom he now thought of with gratitude.
There was nothing to fear from him, but the other three had gazed at
him furtively and with no friendly feelings. He had exchanged but a
few words with these men, and those had been words of suspicion. When
he entered the store, after attending to his horse, they had not
addressed a word to him. It was Chaytor, and Chaytor alone, who had
shown kindness and evinced a kindly feeling. And now he was certain
that someone had been in the room while he slept, and had laid hands
on him. For what purpose?

He slid from the stretcher, and standing upright stretched out his
hands in the darkness. Where was the door?

Outside the canvas building stood Chaytor's three mates, wide awake,
with their heads close together, as they had been inside on the return
of Basil and Chaytor from the stable. They were conversing in
whispers.

"Did he hear you?"

"No. If he had moved I would have knocked him on the head."

"Have you got it?"

"Yes, it is all right."

"Pass it round."

"No; I will keep it till it's sold; then we'll divide equally."

"What do you think it's worth?"

"Twenty pounds, I should say."

"Little enough."

"Hush!"

The sound of Basil moving about his room, groping for the door, had
reached them.

"If he comes out, Jim, you tackle him."

"Leave him to me. Don't waste any more time. Get the horse from the
stable."

Basil, unable to find the door, stumbled against the calico portion
which divided his room from that in which Chaytor slept.

"Who's there?" cried Chaytor, jumping up.

"Oh, it's you," said Basil, recognising the voice. "Have you got a
light?"

"Wait a moment."

But half dressed he represented himself to Basil, with a lighted
candle in his hand.

"What's up?" he asked.

"I don't know," replied Basil, "but I am not easy in my mind. Perhaps
it is only my fancy, but I have an idea that someone has been in my
room."

"Let us see." They proceeded to the three compartments which should
have been occupied by the three men. They were empty.

"It was not fancy," said Basil. "What mischief are they up to? Come
along; we will go and see."

Chaytor hesitated. He was not gifted with heroic qualities, and he
knew that his three mates were desperate characters.

"Did you have any money about you?" he asked.

"None. Why, where's my watch?" It was gone. There was a hurried
movement without; he heard the sound of a horse's feet. "They are
stealing Corrie's horse," he cried, "after robbing me of my watch!
Stand by me, will you?"

He rushed out, followed, but not too quickly, by Chaytor. The moment
he reached the open a pair of arms was thrown around him, and he was
grappling with an enemy. In unfamiliar ground, enveloped in darkness,
and attacked by an unseen enemy, he was at a disadvantage, and it
would have fared ill with him had he not been strong and
stout-hearted. Jim the Hatter, who had undertaken to tackle him soon
discovered that the man they were robbing was not easily disposed of.
Down they fell the pair of them, twisting and turning, each striving
to obtain the advantage, Basil silent and resolved, Jim the Hatter
giving tongue to many an execration. In the midst of the struggle the
ruffian heard his mates, the Nonentities, moving off with Basil's
horse. His experience had taught him that "honour among thieves" was a
fallacious proverb; anyway, he had never practised it himself, and he
trusted no men. With a powerful effort he threw Basil from him and ran
after his comrades. During the encounter Chaytor had kept at a safe
distance, but now that there was a lull he came close to Basil.

"They have half throttled me," he gasped, tearing open his shirt and
blowing like a grampus. "Are you hurt?"

"No," said Basil. "We may catch them yet."

And he began to run, but the ruffians had got the start of him, and
knew the lay of the ground. Guided by his ear he stumbled on, across
the plains, through a gully riddled with holes, and finally up a steep
range, followed by Chaytor, panting and blowing. He had many a fall,
and so had Chaytor (who thought it well to follow suit, and cried out
from time to time, "O, O, O!"), and thus the flight and the pursuit
continued, the sounds from the flying men and Old Corrie's horse
growing fainter and fainter, until matters came to a sudden
termination.

Half-way up the range, which was veined with quartz, a shaft had been
sunk and abandoned. The miners who had done the work had followed a
gold-bearing spur some fifty feet down, in the hope of coming upon a
golden reef. But the spur grew thinner and thinner, the traces of gold
disappeared, and they lost heart. Disappointed in their expectations,
and out of patience with their profitless labour, they shouldered
their windlass and started off to fresh pastures. Thus the mouth of
the shaft was left open and unprotected, and into it Basil dropped,
and felt himself slipping down with perilous celerity.

It was fortunate that the shaft was not exactly perpendicular, After
following the spur down for twenty feet the miners had found that it
took an eccentric turn which necessitated the running in of an adit.
This passage was about two yards long, when the spur dipped again, and
the shaft was continued sheer into the bowels of the earth. It was
this adit which saved Basil's life. When he had slipped down the
twenty feet he felt bottom, and there he lay, bruised, but not
dangerously hurt.

He cried out for help at the top of his voice, and his cries were
presently answered.

"Below there!" cried Chaytor, lying flat on the ground above, with his
ear at the mouth of the shaft.

"Is that you, Mr. Chaytor?" cried Basil.

Chaytor (aside): "He remembers my name." (Aloud): "Yes, what's left of
me. Where are you?" (Which, to say the least of it, was an unnecessary
question.)

Basil: "Down here."

Chaytor (blind to logical fact): "Alive?"

Basil (perceiving nothing strange in the question, and therefore
almost as blind): "Yes, thank God!"

Chaytor: "Any bones broke?"

Basil: "I think not, but I am bruised a bit."

Chaytor: "So am I."

Basil: "I am sorry to hear it. Have the scoundrels got away?"

Chaytor: "Yes, they're a mile off by this time."

Basil (groaning): "Old Corrie's mare! What will he think of me?"

Chaytor: "It can't be helped."

Basil: "In which direction have they gone?"

Chaytor: "Haven't the slightest idea. I warned you against them."

Basil: "You did. You're a good fellow, but what could I do?"

Chaytor: "Neither of us could have prevented it."

Basil: "I am not so sure. I ought to have stopped up all night, and
looked after what wasn't my own."

Chaytor (attempting consolation): "Why, you couldn't keep your eyes
open."

Basil (groaning again): "I ought to have kept my eyes open. I had no
right to sleep after your warning."

Chaytor: "I did what I could."

Basil: "You did; you're a true friend." (Chaytor smiled.) "How am I to
get up from here?"

Chaytor: "That's the question. How far are you down?"

Basil: "Heaven knows. It seems a mile or so."

Chaytor: "There's no windlass."

Basil: "Isn't there?"

Chaytor: "And it's pitch dark."

Basil: "It's as black as night down here. Can't you go for help?"

Chaytor: "I'll tell you something. There isn't a soul on the township
but ourselves."

Basil: "Not one?"

Chaytor: "Not one. We must wait till daylight; then I'll see what I
can do."

Basil: "There's no help for it; it must be as you say. You'll not
desert me?"

Chaytor (in an injured tone): "Can you think me capable of so
dastardly an act?"

Basil: "Forgive me; I hardly know what I'm saying. I deserve that you
should, for giving utterance to a thought so base."

Chaytor: "It was natural, perhaps. Why should you trust me, a
stranger, whom you have known for only a few hours?"

Basil: "I do trust you: it was an unnatural thought. You are a noble
fellow--and a gentleman."

Chaytor: "I hope so. Can I do anything for you while you are waiting?"

Basil: "I am devoured by thirst. Can you manage to get a drink of
water to me?"

Chaytor: "I can do that; but you must have patience. I shall have to
go back to the township to get a bottle and some string. Shall I go?"

Basil: "Yes, yes. Be as quick as you can."

Chaytor: "I won't be a moment longer than I can help."

Then there was silence. Chaytor departed on his errand, and Basil was
left to himself. His right arm was bruised and sore, but he contrived
to feel in his pockets for matches. A box was there, but it was empty,
and he remembered that he had struck the last one at the end of his
long ride from Bidaud's plantation, just before he arrived in Gum
Flat. He knew, from feeling the opening of the adit, that it was
likely he was not at the bottom of the shaft, and he was fearful of
moving, lest he should fall into a pit. He thought of Newman Chaytor.
"What a good fellow he is! I should be dead but for him. It is truly
noble of him to stick to me as he is doing. He has nothing to gain by
it, and he is saving my life. Yes, I will accept his proposal to go
mates with him, for I have no place now on Bidaud's plantation. Poor
Annette--poor child! I hope she will be happy. I hope her uncle and
Aunt will be kind to her. I must see her again before I go for good,
and then we shall never meet again, never, never! I would give the
best twenty years of my life--if I am fated to live--to be her
brother, with authority to protect her and shield her from Gilbert
Bidaud. He is a villain, a smooth-tongued villain, a thousand times
worse than these scoundrels who have robbed me and brought me to this.
What will Old Corrie say when he hears I have lost his mare? Will he
think I am lying--will he think I have sold his horse and pocketed the
money? If so, and it gets to Annette's ears, how she will despise me!
I must see her, I must, to clear myself. Gilbert Bidaud will do all he
can to prevent it, and he may succeed; but I will try, I will try. If
I had a hundred pounds I would buy another horse for Old Corrie, a
better one than that I have lost, but I haven't a shilling. A sorry
plight. There is only one human being in the world I can call a
friend, and that is Mr. Chaytor, who has taken such a strange fancy
for me. Yesterday there was Old Corrie, there was Anthony Bidaud,
there was Annette. One is dead, the others may cast me off, It is a
cruel world. How long Mr. Chaytor is! It seems an age. Shame on you,
Basil, for reviling! There is goodness, there is sweetness, there is
faithfulness in the world. Don't whine, old man. All may yet be well,
though for the life of me I can't see how it is to be brought about."

Then he fainted, but only for a few seconds; when he opened his eyes
again he thought hours must have elapsed.

In truth Chaytor was absent no longer than was necessary, but he was
also mentally busy with the adventures of the last few hours. The man
whose phantom shadow had haunted him in London was now at his mercy.
Basil's life was absolutely at his disposal. To leave him where he was
in that desolate spot at the bottom of a deserted shaft would be to
ensure for him a sure and certain death, and if he wished to make
assurance doubly sure, all he had to do would be to roll a great stone
upon him. But that would be a crime, and, hardened as he was, he
shrank from committing it. Not from any impulse of mercy, but because
he had nothing at present to gain from it. There was much to learn,
much to do before he nerved himself to a desperate deed which, after
all, might by some stroke of good fortune be unnecessary. And indeed
it was only the accident which had befallen Basil that darkened his
soul with cruel suggestion. The sleeping forces which lurk in the
souls of such men as Newman Chaytor often leap into active life by
some unfortuitous circumstance in which they have no direct hand.

He was back at the shaft, leaning over it, with a bottle of water not
too tightly corked, to the neck of which was attached a long piece of
cord.

"Are you there?" he called out.

"Heaven be thanked!" said Basil. "What a time you have been."

"I have not been away an hour."

"Is that really so?"

"It is, but it must have seemed long to you."

"Weeks seem to have passed."

"I have a bottle of water which I will send down to you."

"God bless you!"

"When you get it, loosen the string from the neck of the bottle, and I
will send down what remains of the flask of brandy. It will do you no
harm."

"I can never repay you for your goodness to me."

"Yes, you can. Look out."

The bottle of water was lowered, and afterwards the flask of brandy:
Basil took a long draught of water, half emptying the bottle, and
sipped sparingly of the brandy.

"You have given me life, Mr. Chaytor."

"Psha! I have done nothing worth making a fuss about. Oblige me by
dropping the Mr."

"I will. With all my heart and soul I thank you, Chaytor."

"You are heartily welcome, Basil. There is a light coming into the
sky."

"Sunrise! How beautiful the world is!"

"Listen," said Chaytor; "I will tell you what I am going to do."



CHAPTER XIII.


"I am listening," said Basil.

"There is no windlass, as I have told you," said Chaytor, "so I must
devise something in its place to pull you up. The mischief is that I
am alone, and have no one to help me. However, I must do the best I
can. I am going to roll the trunk of a tree to the top of the shaft,
then tie a rope firmly round it so that you can climb into the world
again. It must be dreadful down there."

"It is," groaned Basil.

"I can imagine it," said Chaytor, complacently; "but you mustn't mind
biding a bit. No man could do more than I am doing."

"Indeed he could not."

"The tree is six or seven hundred yards off, and I daresay I shall be
an hour over the job. I can't help that, you know."

"Of course you can't. I can't find words to express my gratitude for
all the trouble you are taking. And for a stranger, too!"

"I don't look upon you as a stranger; I feel as if I had known you all
my life. I suppose, though, it is really but the commencement of a
friendship which will last I hope till we are both old men."

"I hope so too."

"A little while ago I was saying to myself, I will never trust another
man as long as I live; I will never believe in another; I will never
again confide in man or woman. I have been deceived, Basil."

"I am truly sorry to hear it."

"Yes, I have been deceived. Friend after friend have I trusted, have I
helped, have I ruined myself for, to find them in the end false,
selfish and unreliable. I was filled with disgust and with shame for
my species. 'I renounce you all,' I cried in the bitterness of my
soul. But now everything seems changed. Since you came my faith in
human goodness and sincerity and truth is restored. I don't know why,
but it is so. I can rely upon your friendship, Basil?"

"You can. I will never forget your goodness; never."

"I am going, now, to roll the tree to the shaft. Be as patient as you
can."

He did not go far. The slim trunk that he spoke of lay not six or
seven hundred yards off, but quite close to the shaft, and he knew
that Basil in his pursuit of the robbers could not have observed it.
He was master of the situation; Basil was at his mercy, and every word
he had uttered was intended to bind the unsuspicious man more firmly
to him. "He is a soft-hearted fool," thought Chaytor, "and I shall be
able to bend him any way I please through the gratitude he feels for
me. I think I spoke rather well. What is this?" He stooped and picked
up a pocket-book which had slipped from Basil's pocket as he ran after
the thieves.

Retreating still farther from the shaft, to make assurance doubly
sure, Chaytor, with eager fingers and a greedy expectancy in his eyes
opened the book and examined the contents. Intrinsically they were of
no value, but in their relation to the unformed design which was
prompting Chaytor's actions their value was inestimable. There were
memoranda of dates, events, names and addresses, and also some old
letters. Any possible use of the latter did not occur to Chaytor, but
his examination of the former was almost instantly suggestive. They
were in Basil's handwriting, some being dated and signed "B. W.", and
would serve admirably as copies for anyone who desired to imitate the
writing. Clear up and down strokes, without twists or eccentric
curves, straightforward as Basil himself. "This is a find," thought
Chaytor; "Providence is certainly on my side. In a week I shall be
able to write so exactly like Basil that he will be ready to swear my
writing is his. There is information, too, in the book which may prove
serviceable. I'll stick to him while there's a chance, and contrive so
that he shall stick to me. I haven't done badly up to now."

More than an hour did Chaytor employ in cunning cogitation, smoking
the while in a state of comfortable haziness as to the future.
Imagination gilded the prospect and clothed it with alluring fancies;
and that the roads which led to it were dark and devious did not deter
him from revelling in the contemplation. Time was up. Panting and
blowing, he rolled the tree-trunk to the shaft.

"Below there!" he called out.

"Ah!" replied Basil; "you are back again."

"I have had a terrible job," said the hypocrite, "and almost despaired
of accomplishing it, but stout heart and willing hands put strength
into a fellow, and the tree is here. Look out for yourself while I
roll it across the shaft. The earth may be rotten, and some bits will
roll down, perhaps, though I'll do all I can to prevent it."

"Thank you, a thousand, thousand times. There's a little tunnel here;
I'll get into it while you're at work above."

With loud evidences of arduous toil Chaytor placed the trunk in
position, and then made the rope secure around it.

"Now," said Chaytor, "all is ready, Basil, and I'm going to lower the
rope. Have you got it?"

"Yes," replied Basil, in a faint tone.

"You will have to pull yourself up by it. I will keep the rope as
tight and steady as I can, and that is as much as I can do. Do you
think you will be able to manage it?"

"I must try, but I feel very weak. My strength is giving way."

"Don't let it, old fellow. Pluck up courage; it's only for a few
minutes, and then you will be safe at the top. Now then, with a will."

It required a will on Basil's part, he was so weak, and more than once
he feared that it was all over with him; but at length the difficult
feat was accomplished, and, with daylight shining once more on him, he
reached the top, and was pulled from the mouth of the shaft by
Chaytor's strong arms. Then, his strength quite gone, he sank lifeless
to the ground.

Chaytor, gazing upon the helpless form, reflected. He had Basil's
pocket-book packed safely away in an inner pocket of his waistcoat,
one of those pockets which men who have anything to conceal, or who
move in lawless places, have made in their garments. This book
contained much that might be useful; for instance, the correct name
and address of Basil's uncle in England, a statement of the debts
which Basil had paid to keep his dead father's name clear from
reproach, the address of the lawyers who had managed that transaction,
the amount of the fortune that Basil's mother had bequeathed to him,
and other such matters. Now, had Basil anything more upon his person
which might be turned to account in the future? If so, this was a
favourable opportunity for Chaytor to possess himself of it. There
would be no difficulty in satisfactorily explaining the loss of any
property which Basil had about him. In the confusion and excitement of
the last few hours anything might have happened.

Having decided the point, Chaytor's unscrupulous fingers became busy,
and every article in Basil's pockets passed through his hands. With
the exception of a purse, he replaced everything he had taken out.
This purse contained a locket with a lock of hair in it: at the back
of the locket was an inscription in Basil's writing--"My dear Mother's
hair," her Christian name, the date of her death, and her age. There
was no money in the purse. Undoubtedly Basil, when he recovered his
senses, would miss his purse, but if his pocket-book slipped out of
his pocket while running, why not that? Chaytor was perfectly easy in
his mind as he deposited the purse by the side of the pocket-book
inside his waistcoat.

Meanwhile Basil lay motionless. "I'll carry him a little way," thought
Chaytor. "Anything might drop from his clothes while he is hanging
over my shoulder. I'll have as many arrows to my bow as I can
manufacture. When he gets to his senses we will have a hunt for the
purse and the pocket-book, and of course shall not find them." With a
grim smile he raised Basil to a sitting posture, and gradually lifted
him on to his shoulder. Clasping him firmly round the body, Chaytor
staggered on.

Basil was no light weight, and Chaytor, while he was pursuing his
dissipated life in London, had not been renowned for strength; but his
colonial career had hardened his muscles, and enabled him now to
perform a task which in years gone by would have been impossible. A
dozen times he stopped to rest and wipe his brows. The form he carried
was helpless and inert, but Basil's mind was stirred by the motion of
being carried through the fresh air, and he began to babble. He
thought he was upon old Corrie's mare, and he urged the animal on,
muttering in disjointed and unconnected words that he must reach the
township of Gum Flat that night, and be back again next day. Then he
went on to babble about Annette and her father, and to a less
intelligent man than Chaytor--give him credit for that--his wandering
talk might have been incoherent and meaningless. But Chaytor's
intellect was refined and sharpened by the possibilities of a gilded
future. He listened attentively to every word that fell from Basil's
fevered lips, and put meaning to them, sometimes false sometimes true.

"My friend Basil is in a delirium," said he during the intervals of
Basil's muttering, "and I shall have to nurse him through a fever most
likely. What with that probability, and the weight of him, I am
earning my wage. No man can dispute that. He raves like a man in love
about this Annette. How old is she? Is she pretty? Does she love him?
Will she be rich? Is that a vein I could work to profit? I don't
intend to throw away the shadow of a chance. An age seems to have
passed since last night. But what," he cried suddenly, "if
all my labour is being thrown away--what if I am following a
will-o'-the-wisp?"

He let Basil slip purposely from his arms, and heedless of the sick
man's groans, for the fall was violent, he looked down upon him as
though a mortal enemy was in his path. But one of the strongest
elements in greed and avarice is the hope that leads their votaries
on, and this and the superstitious feeling that the meeting had been
brought about by fate, and was but the beginning of a fruitful end,
dispelled the doubt that had arisen. "I will work for it," he
muttered; "It is my only chance. Even if nothing comes of it I shall
be no worse off. But something _shall_ come of it--I swear it."

Reassured, he took up his burden, and in the course of an hour reached
the dwelling they had occupied the previous night. By that time Basil
was in a high fever, and Chaytor began to be disturbed by the fear
that his double would die. Then, indeed, his labour would be lost and
his hopes destroyed, for he had much to learn and much to do before
the vague design which spurred him on could be developed and ripened.

Chaytor had a secret store of provisions which he had hoarded up
unknown to Jim the Hatter and the Nonentities; some tins of preserved
meat and soup, the remains of a sack of flour, two or three pounds of
tea, a few bottles of spirits, and a supply of tobacco. These would
have served for a longer time than Basil's sickness lasted, and
Chaytor comforted himself with the reflection that he could not have
carried them away with him had he been compelled to leave the deserted
township. It was really Basil's stout and healthy constitution that
pulled him through a fever which would have proved fatal to many men.
He did not recover his senses for sixteen days, and as he had nothing
to conceal he, during that time, revealed to Chaytor in his wild
wandering much of his early life. When at length he opened his eyes,
and they fell with dawning consciousness upon the man standing beside
his bed, Chaytor was in possession of particulars innocent enough in
themselves, but dangerous if intended to be used to a wily and
dangerous end. During those sixteen days Chaytor had not been idle,
having employed himself industriously in studying and imitating the
few peculiarities in Basil's writing. To a past-master like himself
this was not difficult, and he succeeded in producing an imitation so
perfect as to deceive anyone familiar with Basil's style. He was
careful in destroying every evidence of this vile study.

Basil's eyes fell upon Chaytor's face, and he was silent awhile.
Chaytor also. Basil closed his eyes, opened them again, and fell to
once more pondering upon matters. Then Chaytor spoke.

"Do you know me at last?" he asked.

"Know you! At last!" echoed Basil. "I have seen you before--but
where?"

"Here, in Gum Flat township."

"I am in Gum Flat township. Yes, I remember, I was riding that way on
old Corrie's mare." He jumped up, or rather tried to do so, his weak
state frustrating his intention.

"Where are the robbers?"

"That's the question," said Chaytor, "and echo answers. Not very
satisfactory."

"It is coming back to me little by little," said Basil presently. "I
arrived here late at night and found the township deserted by all but
four men, three of them scoundrels, the fourth a noble fellow whose
name was--was--what has happened to me that my memory plays me tricks?
I have it now--whose name was Newman Chaytor."

"A true bill. He stands before you."

"You are the man. What occurred next? He found a stable for Old
Corrie's mare, gave me food and a bed, while the three scoundrels
looked on frowning. I slept like an unfaithful steward; the mare being
Corrie's and not mine, and I doubtful of the character and intentions
of the scoundrels, I should have kept watch over property that did not
belong to me. Instead of doing that I consulted my own ease and
pleasure."

"You could not help it; you were tired out."

"No excuse. I made no attempt to guard Old Corrie's mare. If I had
watched and fallen asleep from weariness at my post it might have been
another matter. When I present myself to Old Corrie, that is if I am
ever able to stand upon my legs again I shall put no gloss upon my
conduct. He shall hear the plain unvarnished truth from the unfaithful
steward's own lips. I am unworthy of confidence or friendship; I warn
you, Newman Chaytor, put no trust in me."

"I would trust you," said Chaytor, with well-simulated candour, "with
my life."

"The more fool you. Where was I? Oh, asleep in the comfortable bed you
gave me while these scoundrels were planning robbery. In the middle of
the night I woke up--pitch dark it was----forgive me for speaking
ungratefully to you. My heart is overflowing with gratitude, but I am
at the same time filled with remorse."

"Don't trouble about that, Basil," said Chaytor. "You can't hurt
yourself in my esteem. Go on with your reminiscence; it is a healthy
exercise; it will strengthen your wandering memory."

"Pitch dark it was. I was not sure then, but I am now, that thieves
had been in my room. Have I been lying here long, Chaytor?"

"Two weeks and more."

"And you have been nursing me all that time?"

"As well as I could. You could have found no other nurse--though easy
to find a better--in Gum Flat; you and I are the only two living
humans in the township."

"Why did you not leave me to die?"

"Because I am not quite a brute."

"Forgive me for provoking such a reply. But why--indeed, why have you
been so good to me?"

"I will answer you honestly, Basil. Because I love you."

He lowered his voice and bent his eyes to the ground as he made the
false statement; and Basil turned his head, and a little sob escaped
him at the expression of devotion.

"I hope I may live to repay you," he said, holding out his hand, which
Chaytor seized.

"You will. All I ask of you is not to desert me. Stick to me as a
friend, as I have stuck to you; I have been so basely deceived in
friendship that my faith in human goodness would be irrevocably
shattered if you prove false." His voice faltered; tears came into his
eyes.

"That will I never do. My life is yours."

"I want your heart."

"You have it. The world contains no nobler man than my friend, Newman
Chaytor."

"I am well repaid. Now you must rest; you have talked enough."

"No, I will finish first. Hearing sounds outside the tent I called for
your assistance. We went out together and were immediately attacked.
Were you much hurt, Chaytor?"

"A little," replied Chaytor, modestly. "A scratch or two not worth
mentioning."

"It is like you to make light of your own injuries. We pursued the
scoundrels through the darkness, but they knew the ground they were
travelling, we did not. An uncovered shaft lay in my way, and down I
fell. That is all I remember. But I know that my bones would be
bleaching there at the present moment if it had not been for you."

"Try to remember a little more," said Chaytor, anxious that not a
grain of credit should be lost to him. "I came up to the shaft sorely
bruised, and called out to you."

"Yes, yes, it comes back to me. You brought me some brandy--you
cheered and comforted me--you rolled the trunk of a tree over the
mouth of the shaft--it was half a mile away--and after hours of
terrible agony I was brought into the sweet light of day. But for you
I should have died. Indeed and indeed, I remember nothing more. You
must tell me the rest."

This Chaytor did with an affectation of modesty, but with absolute
exaggeration of the services he had rendered, and Basil lay and
listened, and his heart went out to the man who had proved so devoted
a friend, and had sacrificed so much for his sake.

"My gratitude is yours to my dying day," he said. "No man ever did for
another what you have done for me. Give me my clothes."

"You are not strong enough yet to get up, Basil."

"I don't want to get up. I want to see what the scoundrels have left
in my pockets." He felt, and cried: "Everything gone! my purse, my
pocket-book, everything--even a lock of my mother's hair. They might
have left me that!"

"They made a clean sweep, I suppose," said Chaytor.

He had considered this matter while Basil lay unconscious, and had
come to the conclusion that it would be wiser to strip Basil's pockets
bare than to make a selection of one or two things, which was scarcely
what a thief in his haste would have done. Thus it was that Basil
found his pockets completely empty.

"You have for a friend the neediest beggar that ever drew breath,"
said Basil bitterly.

"I'll put up with that," said Chaytor, with great cheerfulness. "Now,
don't worry yourself about anything whatever. You shall share with me
to the last pipe of tobacco, and when that's gone we will work for
more."

"Ah, tobacco! Would a whiff or two do me any harm?"

"Do you good. You'll have to smoke out of my pipe; the villains have
stolen yours."

He filled his pipe, and, giving it to Basil, held a lighted match to
the tobacco. Basil, lying on his side, watched the curling smoke as it
floated above his head. Distressed as he was, the evidences of Newman
Chaytor's goodness were to some extent a compensating balance to his
troubles. And now he was enjoying the soothing influence of a quiet
smoke. Those persons who regard the weed as noxious and baleful have a
perfect right to their opinion, but they cannot ignore the fact that
to many thousands of thousands of estimable beings it serves as a
comforter, frequently indeed as a healer. It was so in the present
instance. As the smoke wreathed and curled above him an ineffable
consolation crept into Basil's soul. Things seemed at their blackest;
the peace and hope of a bright future had been destroyed; the man who
had grown to honour him, and who had assured him of the future, had
with awful suddenness breathed his last breath; the little child he
loved, and to whom he was to have been guardian and protector, was
thrust into the care of a malignant, remorseless man; suspicion of
foul play had been thrown upon him; Old Corrie had lent him his mare,
and he had allowed it to be stolen; he had been so near to death that
but one man, and he a short time since an utter stranger, stood
between him and eternity; and he was lying now on a bed of sickness an
utter, utter beggar. Grim enough in all conscience, but the simple
smoking of a pipe put a different and a better aspect upon it. There
was hope in the future; he was young, he would get well and strong
again; Anthony Bidaud was dead, but spiritual comfort died not with
life; he would see Annette once more, and would take his leave of her
assured of her love, so far as a child could give such an assurance,
and in the hope of meeting her again in years to come; he would
outlive the injurious suspicion of wrong-dealing which he did not
doubt Gilbert Bidaud was spreading against him; and he would be able
to vindicate himself in Old Corrie's eyes and perhaps by-and-by
recompense the old fellow for the loss of the more. Much virtue in a
pipe when it can so transform the prospect stretching before a man
brought to such a pass as Basil had been.

"Yes," he said aloud, "all will come right in the end."

"Of course it will," said Chaytor. "What special mental question are
you answering?"

"Nothing special. I was thinking in a general way of my troubles, and
your pipe has put a more cheerful colour on them. Am I mistaken in
thinking you told me you were a doctor?"

"No. That is why I have been able to pull you through so quickly."

"How long will it be before I am able to get about?"

"At the end of the week if you will be reasonable."

"I promise. I feel well already. The moment I am strong enough I must
go to Bidaud's plantation."

"I will go with you."

"Of course. We are mates from this day forth. The end of the week? Not
earlier?"

"Don't be impatient. My plan is to make a perfect cure. No patching.
At present I am in command."

"I obey. But let it be as soon as possible."

Chaytor congratulated himself. However things turned out in the
future, all had gone on swimmingly up to this moment. Every little
move he had made had been successful. Basil had not the slightest
suspicion that it was he who had stolen his pocket-book and purse, and
emptied his pockets.

"If an angel from heaven," chuckled Chaytor that night, as he walked
to and fro outside the store, "came and told him the truth, he would
not believe it. I have him under my thumb--under my thumb. How to work
his old uncle in England? How to get hold of that forty thousand
pounds? It must not go out of the family; I will not submit to it.
Would a letter or two from Basil, written by me in Basil's hand, do
any good? I don't mind eating any amount of humble pie to accomplish
my purpose. Even were it not a vicarious humiliation I am willing to
do it, the money being guided into its proper channel, and Basil
safely out of the way."

He paused, with a sinister look in his eyes. Had Basil seen him then
he would hardly have recognised him. Dark thoughts flitted through his
mind, and animated his features.

"Nothing shall stop me," he cried, "nothing!" And he raised his hands
to the skies as though registering an oath. A sad cloud stole upon the
moon and obscured its light. "What is life without enjoyment?" he
muttered. "By fair means or foul I mean to enjoy. I should like to
know what we are sent into the world for if we are deprived of a fair
share of the best things?" There being no one to answer him, he
presently went inside to bed.

The next day Basil was so much better that without asking permission
he got up and dressed himself. Chaytor did not remonstrate with him;
he knew, now that Basil was mending, that he would mend quickly. So it
proved; before the week was out the two men set forth on the tramp to
Bidaud's plantations.



CHAPTER XIV.


At noon on the second day they were within hail of Old Corrie's hut.
It was meal time, and the old woodman was cooking his dinner. Balanced
on the blazing log was a frying-pan filled with mutton-chops, some
half-dozen or so, which were not more than enough for a tough-limbed
fellow working from sunrise till sunset in the open air. He looked up
as Basil and Chaytor approached, and with a nod of his head proceeded
to turn the frizzling chops in the pan. This was his way; he was the
reverse of demonstrative.

Such a greeting from another man, and that man a friend, would have
disconcerted Basil, but he was familiar with Old Corrie's
peculiarities and had it not been for his own inward disquiet
regarding the mare, he would have felt quite at his ease.

"Back again," said Old Corrie, transferring a couple of chops on to a
tin plate.

"Yes," said Basil.

"Been away longer than you expected."

"Yes."

"On the tramp?"

"Yes. Look here, Corrie--"

"There's no hurry," interrupted Old Corrie. "You must be hungry. Go
inside, and you'll see half a sheep dressed. Cut off what you want and
cook it while the fire serves."

"But I would rather say first what I have to say. When I've told you
all, my mate and I might not be welcome."

"Don't risk it, then. Never run to court trouble, Master Basil. I'm an
older man than you; take the advice I give you."

"It is good advice," said Chaytor, whose appetite was sharp set, and
to whom the smell of the chops was well-nigh maddening.

Old Corrie looked at him with penetrating eyes, and Chaytor bore the
gaze well. He was not deficient in a certain quality of courage when
he was out of peril and master of the situation, as he believed
himself to be here. Old Corrie showed no sign of approval or
disapproval, but proceeded quietly with his dinner. Basil took the
woodman's advice. He went into the hut, cut a sufficient number of
chops from the half body of the sheep which was hanging up, and came
back and took possession of the frying-pan, which was now at his
disposal. Chaytor looked on; he had not been made exactly welcome, and
was in doubt of Old Corrie's opinion of him, therefore he did not feel
warranted in making himself at home. When the young men commenced
their meal, Old Corrie had finished his, and now, pipe in mouth, he
leant his back against a great tree and contemplated his guests.

"Little lady! Little lady!"

The sound came from within the hut. Chaytor started, Basil looked up
with a piece of mutton between his thumb and knife: forks they had
none.

"Basil! Basil! Basil and Annette! Little lady! Little lady!"

"It's the magpie I told you about," said Old Corrie to Basil, "the
last time I saw you."

"Its vocabulary is extended," said Basil.

"By request," said Old Corrie in a pleasant voice, "of the little lady
herself."

Basil glowed. Annette had not forgotten him, even thought kindly of
him; otherwise, why should she wish that the bird Old Corrie was
training for her should become familiar with his name? Chaytor smarted
under a sense of injury. Basil and Old Corrie were speaking of
something which he did not understand--a proof that Basil had not told
him everything. This, in Chaytor's estimation, was underhanded and
injurious. Basil and everything in relation to him, his antecedents,
his whole story, belonged by right to him, Newman Chaytor, who had
saved his life, who had the strongest claim of gratitude upon him
which a man could possible have. Old Corrie noted the vindictive flash
in his eyes, but made no comment upon it.

"And is that really a bird?" said Chaytor, in a tone of polite
inquiry.

"Go and see for yourself," replied Old Corrie, "but don't go too
close. It hasn't the best of tempers."

"I should like to see the bird that could frighten me," said Chaytor,
rising.

"Should you?" said Old Corrie. "Then on second thoughts I prefer that
you stay where you are."

Chaytor laughed and resumed his seat. The meal proceeded in silence
after this, and when the last chop was disposed of, Old Corrie said,
"Now we will have our chat, Master Basil; and as we've a few private
matters to talk of, our mate here perhaps----"

The hint was plain, though imperfectly expressed.

"I am in the way," said Chaytor. "I'll smoke my pipe in the woods.
Coo-ey when you want me, Basil."

He strode off; exterior genial and placid, interior like a volcano.
"He shall pay for it," was his thought. It pleased him to garner up a
store of imaginary injuries which were to be requited in the future.
Then, when the time arrived for him to deal a blow, it would be merely
giving tit for tat. Many men besides Chaytor reason in this crooked
way, but none whose natures and motives are honourable and
straightforward.

"Where did you pick him up?" asked Old Corrie when he and Basil were
alone.

"I want to speak to you first about your mare," said Basil.

"And I want to know first where you picked up your new mate,"
persisted Corrie.

"He saved my life," said Basil. "Had it not been for his great and
unselfish kindness I should not be here to-day." Then he told the
woodman all that he knew of Chaytor, and dilated in glowing terms upon
his noble conduct.

"It sounds well," said Old Corrie, "and I have nothing to say in
contradiction; only I have a crank in me. I look into a man's face and
I like him, and I look into a man's face and I don't like him. The
first time I clapped eyes on you, Master Basil, I took a fancy to you.
I can't say the same for your mate, but let it stand. I had it in my
mind to make a proposition to you in case you came back in time, but I
doubt whether it can be carried out now. Have you entered into a
bargain to go mates with him?"

"I have, and have no wish to break it. I should be the basest of men
if I tried to throw him over."

"Keep to your word, lad; I'm the loser, for I thought it likely the
two of us might strike up a partnership."

"Why not the three of us?" asked Basil, to whom the prospect of
working with Old Corrie was very agreeable.

"Because in the first place it wouldn't suit me, and in the second it
wouldn't suit him."

"But if he were willing?"

Old Corrie bent his brows kindly upon Basil's ingenuous face. "Ask
him, Master Basil."

"Will you not listen to me first? I want to speak to you about your
mare."

"A quarter of an hour more or less won't bring her back, will it?"
said Old Corrie, with no touch of reproach in his voice. "Go and speak
to your mate, and let me know what he says."

Basil departed and returned. It was as Old Corrie supposed: Chaytor
was not willing to admit Corrie into their partnership.

"He says you took a dislike to him from the first," said Basil.

"Almost my own words," said Old Corrie, with a laugh. "He's a shrewd
customer."

"----And that he is certain you and he would not agree. I would give a
finger off each hand if it could have been, for a warmer-hearted and
nobler man does not exist than Chaytor; and as for you, Corrie, I
would wish nothing better. But I am bound to him by the strongest ties
of gratitude."

"Say no more, Master Basil, say no more. Mayhap we shall meet
by-and-by, and we shall be no worse friends because this has fallen
through. We have a lot to say to each other. I'm off the day after
to-morrow; I should have been off before if it had not been for you
and the little lady."

"She has been here?" cried Basil.

"She has been here four times since you left--the last time
yesterday--not to see me, but you. She manages the thing herself, poor
little lady, and comes alone, after giving the slip to those about
her. Her first grief is over, though she will never forget the good
father she has lost--never. It isn't in her nature to forget--bear
that in mind, Master Basil. She clings to the friends that are left
her. Friends, did I say? Why, she has only one--you, Master Basil; I
don't count. Besides, if I did it would matter little to her, for
there's nothing more unlikely than that, after two days have gone by,
I shall ever look upon her sweet face again. She goes one way, I go
another.

"She goes one way?" repeated Basil; "will she not remain on the
plantation?"

"She will not. You see it isn't for her to choose; she must do as she
is directed. But we are mixing up things, and it will help them right
well if I tell you what I've got to tell straight on, commencing with
A, ending with Z. Let us clear the ground so that the axe may swing
without being caught in loose branches. I'll hear what you've got to
say. My mare is lost, I know."

"How do you know?"

"You would have brought it back with you if it hadn't been. Now then,
lad, straight out, no beating about the bush. It's not in your line. I
don't for a moment mistrust you. There's truth in your face always,
Master Basil, and I wish with all my heart the little lady had you by
her side to guide her instead of the skunk that's stepped into her
dead father's shoes. You're a square man, and my mare is lost through
no fault of yours, my lad."

Encouraged by these generous words, Basil told his story straight, and
Old Corrie listened with a pleasant face.

"The mare's gone," said Old Corrie when Basil had done, "and bad luck
go with her. I know the brands on her: mayhap I shall come across her
one of these fine days. Describe the rascals to me."

Basil did as well as he could, and said Old Corrie was not treating
him as he deserved.

"I am treating you as an honest gentleman," said Old Corrie, "as I
know you to be. Jem the Hatter the villain's called, is he? When a man
once gets a nickname on the goldfields it sticks to him through thick
and thin; if we meet he shall remember it. I give you a receipt in
full, Master Basil." And the good fellow held out his two hands, which
Basil shook heartily. "I was sure something serious kept you away."
With Basil's hand clasped firmly in his, he gazed steadily into the
young man's face. "It is on odd fancy I've got," he said, "but it's
come across me two or three times while we've been talking. Is there
any relationship between you and your new mate?"

"None."

"Sure of that?"

"Sure."

"And you met for the first time on Gum Flat?"

"For the first time."

"Well, it is odd, and the more I look at you now the odder it becomes.
You've let your hair grow since you went away."

"Obliged to," said Basil, laughing. "I had no razor. There are a
couple I can claim in Mr. Bidaud's house, as well as a brush or two;
but I daresay I shall not get them now that Mr. Gilbert Bidaud is in
possession. What is your odd fancy, Corrie?"

"Why that you and your new mate would be as like each other as two
peas, if you were dressed alike and trimmed your hair alike. Haven't
you noticed it yourself?"

"I've noticed that we resemble each other somewhat," said Basil, "but
not to the extent you mention. I remember now he spoke of it himself;
and that is one reason perhaps why he took a liking to me, and nursed
me as he did. But I am terribly anxious to hear about the plantation
and Annette. What is going to happen there that she is to leave it?"

"In my own way, Master Basil," said Old Corrie, brushing his hand
across his eyes to chase the fancy away, "and to commence at the
beginning. When you left me in the wood I was splitting slabs, a job I
was doing for poor Mr. Anthony Bidaud. You doubted whether his brother
would hold to it, as there was no written bond to show for it, and you
were right. I went up to the house, as I said I would, and saw Mr.
Gilbert. You described him well, Master Basil; he's a man I would be
sorry to trust. I told him of the contract between me and his brother.
'Where is it?' he asked. 'There was none written,' I answered; 'it was
an order given as a dozen others have been, and of course you'll abide
by it.' 'Of course I will not,' said he. 'Who are you that I should
take your word? And you would fix your own price for the slabs?
Clever, Mr. Corrie. Clever, Mr. Corrie!' I had told him my name. 'But
I am a cleverer and a sharper.' A sharper he is in the right meaning
of it, but he is not English, and didn't exactly know what he was
calling himself. 'No, no,' he said, 'the moment a man's dead the
vultures come. You are one. But I am equal to you. Burn your slabs.'
'You're a pretty specimen,' I said. 'Your brother was a gentleman; it
doesn't run in the family.' He's a strange man, Master Basil, and if
he ever loses his temper he takes care not to show it. More than what
I've told you passed between us, and once he said quite coolly that if
I could summon his brother as a witness, he was willing to abide by
his testimony. The testimony of a dead man! And to speak so lightly of
one's flesh and blood! I wouldn't trust such a man out of my sight."

"Did you see his sister?" asked Basil.

"I did, but she said very little, and never spoke without looking at
Mr. Gilbert for a cue. He gave it her always in a silent way that
passed my comprehension, but they understand each other by signs."

"And Annette--did you see her?"

"Yes, but at a distance. They kept her from me, I think, but I saw her
looking at me quite mournfully, and I felt like going boldly up to
her, but second thoughts were best, and I kept away, only giving her
to understand as well as I could without speaking that I was her
friend, ready at any time to do her a service. 'Well,' said I to Mr.
Gilbert, 'my compliments to you. Your throwing over the contract your
brother made won't hurt me a bit; I could buy up a dozen like
you'--which was brag, Master Basil, and he knew it was--'but I should
be sorry to dishonour the dead as you are doing.' He took out a
snuff-box, helped himself to a pinch, smiled, and said, 'Sentiment,
Mr. Corrie, sentiment. I treat the dead as I treat the living. Rid me
of you.' It was his foreign way of bidding me pack, but I told him I
should take my time, that I had plenty of friends among his brother's
workmen, and that I should go away very slowly. 'And let me give you a
piece of advice,' I said. 'If you or any agent of yours comes spying
near my hut I'll mark him so that he shall remember it.' 'Ah, ah,' he
said, still smiling in my face, 'threats eh?' 'Yes, threats,' said I,
'and as many more of 'em as I choose to give tongue to.' 'Foolish Mr.
Corrie, foolish Mr. Corrie,' he said, taking more snuff, 'to lose your
temper. Let _me_ give _you_ a piece of advice. Think first, speak
afterwards. It is a lesson--take it to heart. You are too impulsive,
Mr. Corrie, like another person who also trespasses here, one who
calls himself Basil.' 'Mr. Basil is a friend of mine,' I said, 'say
one word against him, and I'll knock you down.' He was frightened,
though he didn't show it, and he beckoned to a man, who came and stood
by him. You know him, I daresay, Master Basil; his name is Rocke."

"He is my enemy, I am afraid," said Basil.

"I found that out afterwards; he has been spreading reports about you
either out of his own spite, or employed by cold-blooded Mr. Gilbert
Bidaud. So Rocke came and stood by his side, but not too willingly.
We've met before Rocke and me, and he knows the strength of my muscle.
I smiled at him, and he grinned at me, and I said, 'We were speaking
of Master Basil, and I was saying that if anyone said a word against
him I was ready to knock him down. Perhaps you'd like to say
something.' 'Not at all,' said Rocke, and his grin changed to a scowl,
'I know when it will pay me best to hold my tongue.' Mr. Gilbert
Bidaud shook with laughter. 'Good Rocke,' he said, 'wise Rocke. We'll
make a judge of you. Anything more to say?' This was to me and I
answered, almost as cool now as he was himself, 'Only this. You spit
upon a dead man's bond, and you are a scoundrel. Don't come near my
hut, you or anyone that sides with you.' Rocke understood this. 'But,'
said I, 'any friend of Master Basil's is heartily welcome, and I'll
give them the best I have. So good day to you, Mr. Gilbert Bidaud.'
Then I went among the workmen and chatted with them, and picked up
scraps of information, and turned the current wherever I saw it was
setting against you."

"My hearty thanks for the service, Corrie," said Basil.

"You're as heartily welcome. If one friend don't stick up for another
behind his back we might as well be tigers. You see, Master Basil,
you're a stranger here compared with me; I've been chumming with the
men this many a year, and never had a word with one except Rocke, and
even he has some sort of respect for me. Then you're a gentleman; I'm
not. My lad, there are signs that can't be hidden; you've got the
hallmark on you. Well, when I'd done as much as I could in a friendly
way, I turned my back on the plantation, and came back here, and went
on with my splitting, as if the contract still held good."

"Was not that a waste of time, Corrie?"

"I took my own view of it. There was the dead man soon to be in his
grave; here was I with the blood running free through my veins. If
he'd been alive he'd have kept his word; I was alive, and I'd keep
mine. So I finished the contract out of respect for Mr. Anthony
Bidaud, and there the slabs are, stacked and ready. While I was at
work my thoughts were on you; four days passed, and you hadn't
returned. I concluded that something had happened to you, but that
you'd appear some time or another, and all I could do was to hope that
you'd come back before I left the place. I had a great wish to see the
little lady, but I didn't know how to compass it. Compassed it was,
however, without my moving in it. Just a week it was after you'd gone
that I was at work in the wood; it was afternoon, a good many hours
from sundown, when my laughing jackass began to laugh outrageous. When
we're alone together he behaves soberly and decently, contented with
quietly laughing and chuckling to himself, and it's only when
something out of the way occurs that he gives himself airs. He's the
vainest of the vain, Master Basil, and he does it to show off. His
tantrums made me look round, and there, standing looking at me and the
laughing jackass, without a morsel of fear of me or the bird, was the
little lady."

"Annette?" cried Basil.

"The little lady herself," said Old Corrie.



CHAPTER XV.


"Was she alone?" asked Basil.

"Yes, quite alone. I dropped my axe, told the jackass to shut
up--which it didn't, Master Basil--and took the hand she held out to
me. Such a little hand, Master Basil! I give you my word that as I
held it in mine my thoughts went back, more years than I care to
count, to the time when I was a little 'un myself, snuggling close up
to my mother's apron. I can't remember when I'd thought of those days
last. They were stowed away in a coffin, and dropped into a grave
which stood between me as a boy and me as a man. It's like having
lived two lives, one of which was dead and buried. Now, all at once,
the dead past came to life, and said, in a manner of speaking, 'I
belong to you,' and it didn't seem unnatural. The touch of the little
lady's hand was like a magic wand, and if she had said to me, 'Let's
have a game of hopscotch,' I believe I should have done it and thought
it the proper thing to do. But she said nothing of the sort, only
looked at me with melancholy sweetness, and hoped I was not sorry to
see her. Sorry! I was heartily and thankfully glad, and I told her so,
and the tears came into her pretty eyes, and I said, without thinking
at the moment that she'd lost a dear father, 'Don't cry, don't cry!
there's nothing to cry for;' but I set myself right directly by
saying, 'I mean, I hope it isn't me that makes you cry.' 'No,' she
answered, 'it's only that you speak so kind.' My blood boiled up, for
those words of hers showed me that since her father's death she had
not been treated with kindness, and if she hadn't been a little lady,
rich in her own right, I should have offered to run off with her there
and then. But under any circumstances that would have been a dangerous
thing to do, for her and me; it would have brought her uncle down upon
me, and he'd have had the law on his side. So, instead of offering to
do a thing so foolish, I said, 'Did you come on purpose to see me?'
'Yes,' she answered, on purpose. 'I gave them the slip, and they don't
know where I am.' 'Don't you be afraid then, my little maid,' I said,
'they won't find you here, because they won't venture within half a
mile of me. You've done no harm in coming to see a friend, as you may
be sure I am. Can I do anything for you?' 'Yes,' she said; 'you like
Basil, don't you?' Upon that I said I was as true a friend of yours as
I was of hers. 'Will you tell me, please,' she said then, 'why he has
gone quite away without trying to see me? I know it wouldn't be easy,
because my uncle and aunt are against him; but I thought he would have
tried. I have been to every one of his favourite places, in the hope
of meeting him, and my uncle has said such hard things of him that my
heart is fit to break.' Poor little lady! She could hardly speak for
her tears. Well, now, that laughing jackass was making such a chatter,
and behaving so outrageous, pretending to sob, which made her sob the
more, that I proposed to take her to my hut here, where we could talk
quietly. She put her little hand in mine and walked along with me to
my hut, and the minute we came in the magpie cried out, 'Little lady,
little lady.' She looked up at this, and I told her it was a magpie I
was training for her. It gave her greater pleasure than such a little
thing as that ought to have done, and though she did not say it in so
many words I saw in her face the grateful thought that she still had
friends in the world that had grown so sad and lonely. Then I told her
all about your last meeting with me--how tenderly you had spoken of
her, what love you had for her, and how I had lent you my mare to take
you to a place where you hoped to find a doctor and a lawyer who might
be able to serve her in some way. The news comforted her, but she was
greatly distressed by the fear that you had met with an accident which
prevented your return. I wouldn't listen to this for the little maid's
sake, and said I was positive you would soon be back, and that nothing
was farther from your mind than the idea of going away entirely
without seeing her again. 'He will have to make haste,' said the
little lady, with a world of thought in her face, 'or he will never be
able to find me.' I asked why, and she answered that she believed,
when everything was settled, that her uncle would sell the plantation
and take her away to Europe. 'Can't it be prevented?' she asked, and I
said I was afraid it could not; that her uncle stood now in the place
of her father, and could do as he liked. 'If you are compelled to go,'
I said, 'you shall take the magpie away with you to remind you of the
old place--that is, if you will be allowed to keep it.' 'I shall be,'
she said; and now, child as she was, I noticed in her signs of a
resolute will I hadn't given her credit for. 'If you give it to me, it
will be mine, and they shall not take it from me. I will fight for it,
indeed, I will.' I was pleased to hear her speak like that; it showed
that she had spirit which would be of use to her when she was a woman
grown. She stopped with me as long as she dared, and before she went
away she said she would come again, and asked me if I thought I could
teach the bird to speak your name. 'It would be easy enough,' I
answered, and that is how it comes about that the magpie--which for
cleverness and common-sense, Master Basil, I would match against the
cunningest bird that ever was hatched--can call out 'Basil--Basil,' as
clearly as you pronounce your own name. It was at that meeting, and at
every meeting afterwards, she gave me a message to you if you
returned. You were to be sure not to go away again without seeing her;
if you couldn't contrive it, she would; that proved her spirit again;
and that if it should unfortunately happen that you returned after she
was taken away you were never to forget that Annette loved you, and
would love you all her life, whatever part of the world she might be
in. Those are her words as near as I can remember them, and they're
easy enough for you to understand, but it isn't so easy to make you
understand the voice in which she spoke them. I declare, Master Basil,
it runs through me now, broken by little sobs, with her pretty hands
clasping and unclasping themselves and her tender body shaking like a
reed."

"Dear little Annette," said Basil, and his eyes, too, were tearful,
and his voice broken a little; "dear little Annette."

"She's worth a man's thoughts, Master Basil," said Old Corrie, "and a
man's pity, and will be better worth em' when she's a woman grown.
You're a fortunate man, child as she is, to have won a love like the
little lady's, for if I'm a judge of human nature, and I believe
myself to be--which isn't exactly conceit on my part, mind you--it's
love that will last and never be forgotten. It's no light thing,
Master Basil, love like that; when it comes to a man he'll hold on to
it if he's got a grain of sense in him."

"You cannot say one word in praise of Annette," said Basil, "that I'm
not ready to cap with a dozen. I believe, with you, that she has a
soul of constancy, and I hold her in my heart as I would a beloved
sister. If I could only help and advise her! But how can I do that
when she is to be taken away to a distant land?"

"There's no telling what may happen in the future," said Old Corrie.
"What to-day seems impossible to-morrow comes to pass. To beat one's
head against a stone wall because things aren't as we wish them to be
is the height of foolishness, but it's my opinion that going on
steadily doing one's duty, working manfully and doing what's right and
square, is the best and surest way to open out the road we'd like to
tread. Your new mate, Mr. Chaytor, hasn't disturbed us, and I must do
him the justice to say that he shows sense and discretion."

"He is one in a thousand," said Basil, "and it is impossible for me to
express to you how sorry I am that you have not taken kindly to each
other."

"It does happen sometimes, but not often, that men are mistaken in
their likings and dislikings, but we'll not argue the point. Now I've
got to tell you how things stand at the plantation. There was an
inquest on the body of Mr. Anthony Bidaud, doctors and lawyers being
called in by Mr. Gilbert, and the verdict was that he died of natural
causes. There being no will, Mr. Gilbert took legal possession, as
guardian to his niece under age. He decides that it will not be good
for her to remain where she is; but must be educated as a lady, and
brought up as one. That, says Mr. Gilbert, can't be done on the
plantation; it must be done in a civilized country. Consequently the
plantation must be sold. With lawyers paid to push things on, three
months' work had been done in three weeks. A purchaser has been found,
deeds drawn up, money paid, and next Monday they're off; Mr. Gilbert
Bidaud, his sister, name unknown, and the little lady."

"Hot haste, indeed," said Basil.

"To which neither you nor I can have anything to say legally."

"It is so, unhappily. And then to Europe?"

"And then to Europe. I am telling you what the little lady tells me. I
can't go beyond that."

"Of course not. But does she not know to what part of Europe?"

"She knows nothing more. He keeps his mouth shut; you can't compel him
to open it. There are cases, Master Basil, in which honesty is no
match for roguery; this is one. Mr. Gilbert Bidaud has the law on his
side, and can laugh openly at you. Now, the little lady was here
yesterday. 'No news of Basil?' she asked. 'No news of Basil,' I said.
'Is he dead, do you think?' she whispered, with a face like snow.
'No,' I said stoutly; 'don't you go on imagining things of that sort.
He's alive, and will give a satisfactory account of himself when he
comes back.' I spoke confidently to keep up her heart, though I had
misgivings of you. 'I shall be here to-morrow,' she said, 'and every
day till we leave the plantation.' She has contrived cleverly, hasn't
she, to slip them as she does?"

"Then I shall see her soon!" said Basil, eagerly.

"In less than an hour, if she comes at her usual time. Our confab is
over. You had best go and seek your mate. I'll make my apologies to
him, if he needs 'em, for keeping you so long."

If Basil had known, he had not far to go to find Newman Chaytor, for
that worthy was quite close to him. Being of an inquiring mind Chaytor
had resolved to hear all that passed between Basil and Old Corrie, and
had found a secure hiding-place in the rear, and well within earshot,
of the two friends. He stored it all up, being blessed with an
exceptionally retentive memory. Old Corrie went one way, and Basil
went another, and Chaytor emerged from his hiding-place. "I am quite
curious about little Annette," he said to himself, as he followed
Basil at a safe distance. "Quite a sentimental little body--and an
heiress, too! Well, we shall see. Say that my friend Basil's future is
a nut--I'll crack it; I may find a sweet kernel inside."

He came up to Basil, and greeted him with a frank smile. "We've been
talking about the plantation," said Basil, "and poor Anthony Bidaud's
daughter, Annette. She is coming this afternoon to see me. I'll tell
you everything by-and-by."

"I don't want to intrude upon your private affairs, Basil," said
Chaytor.

"You have a right to know," said Basil. "I have no secrets from you,
Chaytor."

Then they talked of other matters, Chaytor with animation, Basil with
a mind occupied by thoughts of Annette. "I see," said Chaytor, patting
Basil's shoulder with false kindness, "that you are thinking of the
little maid. Now I'm not going to play the churl. Don't mind me for
the rest of the day."

"You're a good fellow," said Basil, as Chaytor walked away; but he did
not walk far. Unobserved by Basil, he kept secret watch upon him,
determined to see Annette, determined to hear what she and Basil had
to say to each other. As Old Corrie had said, "there are cases in
which honesty is no match for roguery." Basil posted himself in such a
position that he could see any person who came towards the wood from
Bidaud's plantation. He heard the thud of Old Corrie's axe in the
forest; the honest woodman could have remained idle had he chosen, but
he was unhappy unless he was at work, and though he desired no profit
from it he felled and split trees for the pleasure of the thing. Now
and again there came to Basil's ears the piping and chattering of
gorgeous-coloured birds as they fluttered hither and thither, busy on
their own concerns, love-making, nest-mending, and the like; in their
commonwealth many touches of human passion and sentiment found a
reflex. Vanity was there, jealousy was there, hectoring and bullying
of the weak was there, and much sly pilfering went on; entertainments,
too, were being given, for at some distance from the three men in the
woods, one swinging his axe with a will and wiping his cheerful brows,
another with his heart in his eyes watching for a little figure in the
distance, and the third, stirred by none but evil thoughts, watching
with cunning eyes the watcher--at some distance from these two honest
men and one rogue were assembled some couple of dozen feathered
songsters in green and yellow coats. They perched upon convenient
boughs and branches, forming a circle, with invisible music books
before them, and at a given signal from their leader they began to
pipe their songs without words, and filled space with melody. Their
music may be likened to the faintly sweet echoes of skilled
bell-ringers, each tiny bird the master of a note which was never
piped unless in harmony. It was while these fairy bells were pealing
their sweetest chord that Basil saw Annette approaching. He ran
towards her eagerly, and called her name; and she with a sudden flush
in her face and with her heart palpitating with joy, cried, "Basil!
Basil!" and fell into his arms.



CHAPTER XVI.


He led her to a secluded spot, followed secretly by fox Chaytor. They
passed close to where Old Corrie was working, and he, hearing
footsteps--be sure, however, that Chaytor's were noiseless--laid down
his axe, and went towards them.

"He has come--he has come!" cried Annette.

"What did I tell you?" said Old Corrie. "All you've got to do in this
world, little lady, is to have patience."

She was so overjoyed, having tight hold of Basil's hand, that she
would have accepted the wildest theories without question.

"Mr. Corrie," she said, "may I have the magpie to-day?"

"Surely," he replied, "it is quite ready for you, and you will be able
to teach it anything you please. But why so soon? Aren't you coming
again?"

Her face became sad, and she clutched Basil's fingers convulsively: "I
am afraid not this is the last, last time! I have heard something, Mr.
Corrie, and if it is true my uncle and aunt are going to take me away
to-morrow morning."

"In that case," said Old Corrie, "I will have the bird ready for you.
Now you and Master Basil can talk; I'll not interrupt you." He went
away at once, and left them together. For a little while they had
nothing of a coherent nature to say to each other; but then Basil,
recognising the necessity of introducing some kind of system into
their conversation, related to Annette all that had happened within
his knowledge since the sad morning of her father's death, and heard
from her lips all that she had to relate. Much of it he had already
heard from Old Corrie. The refrain she harped upon was, "And must we,
must we part, Basil? And shall we never, never see each other again?"

"Part we must, dear Annette," he said; "I have no control over you,
and no authority that can in any way be established. When I first came
to the plantation I was a stranger to you and your father, and the law
would acknowledge me as no better now."

"Next to my dear father and mother," said Annette, "I love you best in
all the world. They cannot take that away from me; what I feel is my
own, my very own. Oh, Basil, I sometimes have wicked thoughts, and
feel myself turning bad; I never felt so before my uncle came."

"Annette, listen to me. You must struggle against these thoughts and
must say to yourself, 'They will make my dear father and mother
sorrowful. They have shown me kindness and love and I will show the
same to them.' You cannot see them, Annette, but their spirits are
watching over you; and there is a just and merciful God in heaven who
is watching over you, too, and whom you must not offend."

"I will do as you say, Basil, dear; I will never, never forget your
words. They will keep me good."

"Let them keep you brave as well, my dear. I promise to remember you
always, to love you always, and perhaps when you are a woman--it will
not be so long, Annette--we shall meet again."

"Oh, Basil, that will be true happiness."

"Time flies quickly, Annette. It seems but yesterday since I was a boy
myself, and when I look back and think of my own dear parents, I am
happy in the belief that I never did anything to cause them sorrow.

"You could not, Basil."

"Ah, my dear, I don't know that; but I had a good mother and so had
you, and my father and yours were both noble men. They are not with
us, and that makes the duty we owe them all the stronger. To do what
is right because we feel that it is right to do it, not because it is
done in the sight of others--that is what makes us good, Annette. My
mother taught me that lesson as she lay on her death bed, and it has
brought me great happiness; it has supported me in adversity. You must
not mind my speaking so seriously, Annette----"

"I love to hear you, Basil. I will be like you, indeed I will.

"Much better, I hope. You see, my dear, this is the last time we shall
be together for a long time; but not so long after all, if we look at
it in the right light, and I should like you to remember me as you
would remember a brother, who, being older than you, is perhaps a
little wiser."

"I will, Basil. All my wicked thoughts are gone; they shall never come
again; but I shall still feel a little unhappy sometimes."

"Of course you will, dear, and so shall I. But faith in God's goodness
and the performance of our duty will always lighten that unhappiness.
The stars of heaven are not brighter than the stars of hope and love
we can keep shining in our hearts."

"Kiss me, Basil; that is the seal. I shall go away happier now."

"Tell me, Annette. Are your uncle and aunt kind to you?"

"They are neither kind nor unkind. They talk a great deal to each
other, but very seldom to me, unless it is to order me to do
something. Aunt says, 'Go to bed,' and I go to bed; 'It is time to get
up,' and I get up? 'Come to dinner,' and I come to dinner. It is all
like that; they never speak to me as my father and mother did, and
they have never kissed me."

"You must be obedient to them, Annette."

"I will be, Basil."

"They are your guardians, and a great deal depends upon them."

"Yes, I know that; but I don't think they like me, and, Basil, I don't
think uncle is a good man."

"It will be better," said Basil gravely, "not to fancy that. It may be
only that he is a little different from other men, and that you are
not accustomed to his ways."

"I will try," said Annette piteously, "to obey you in everything, but
I can't help my thoughts, and I can't help seeing and hearing. He
speaks in a hard voice to everybody; he is unkind to animals; he has
never put a flower on my dear father's grave."

"There, there, Annette--don't cry. I only want you to make the best,
and not the worst, of things."

"I will, Basil--indeed, indeed I will. When I am far away from you,
you _will_ think, will you not, that I am trying hard to do everything
to please you?"

"I promise to think so, and I have every faith in you. It is all for
your good, you know, Annette. When you are out of this country where
are your aunt and uncle going to live."

"In Europe."

"But in what part of Europe?"

"I don't know. All that uncle and aunt say is, 'We are going to
Europe.' 'But in what country?' I asked. 'Don't be inquisitive,' they
answered; 'we are going to Europe;' and they will say nothing more. I
am sometimes afraid to speak when they are near me."

"Poor little Annette! Now attend to me, dear. Wherever you are you can
write to me."

"Yes, Basil, yes. And may I? Oh, how good you are! Oh, if ever I
should get a letter from you! It will be the next best thing to having
you with me."

"Remember what I am saying, Annette. I want you to write to me,
wherever you are, and I want to answer your letters. This is the way
it can be done. When you are settled write me your first letter--I
shall not mind how long it is----"

"It shall be a long, long one, Basil."

"And address it to 'Mr. Basil Whittingham, Post-office, Sydney, New
South Wales.' I shall be sure to get it. Now for my answer. If you are
happy in your uncle's house, and tell me so, I will send my answer
there; but if you think it will be best for me not to send it to his
house, I will address it to the post-office in whatever town or city
you may be living. Some friend in the new country (you are sure to
make friends, my dear) will tell you how you may get my letters. This
looks a little like deceit, but it will be pardonable deceit if you
are unhappy--not otherwise. Do you understand?"

"Perfectly, Basil. I shall have something to think of now; you have
given me something to do. And will you ever come to me?"

"It is my hope; I intend to work hard here to get money, and if I am
fortunate, in a few years, when you are a beautiful woman----"

"I would like to be, Basil, for your sake."

"I will come to wherever you may be."

"I do not wish for anything more, Basil. I shall pray night and
morning for your good fortune. How happy you have made me--how
happy--how happy! I shall keep the stars of love and hope shining in
my heart--for you. How beautifully the bellbirds are singing. I shall
hear them when I am thousands of miles away. But, Basil, you will want
something to remember me by."

"No, dear Annette, I need nothing to remind me of you."

"You do, Basil, and I have brought it for you. Look, Basil, my
locket----"

"But Annette----"

"Have I said 'No' to anything you have told me--and will you say 'No'
to this little thing? I think it will not be right if you do; so, dear
Brother Basil, you must not refuse me. I wish I had something better
to give you, but you will be satisfied with this, will you not? I have
worn it always round my neck, since I was a little, little girl, and
you must wear it round yours. Promise me."

"I promise, dear, if you will not be denied."

"I will not, indeed I will not--and your promise is made. See, Basil,
here it lies open in my hand; take it. The picture is a portrait of my
dear mother; father had it painted for me by a gentleman who came once
to the plantation. Then when you come to me in the country across the
sea, you will show it to me and tell me that you have worn it always
and always, because you love me, and because I love you."

"I have nothing to give you, Annette. I am very, very poor."

"You have given me a star of hope, Basil. How sorry I am that you are
poor! But my nurse, who has been sent away----"

"Have they done that, Annette?"

"Yes, and she cried so at leaving me. She told me that one day I
should be very, very rich. So what does it matter if you are poor? Let
me fasten it round your neck. Now you have me and my dear mother next
your heart."

He took the innocent child in his arms, and she lay nestling there a
few moments with bright thoughts of the happy future in her mind.
Suddenly a loud "Coo-ey" was heard and the sound of hurried footsteps.
It was Old Corrie's voice that gave the alarm. It was intended as
such, for when Basil started to his feet and stood with his arm round
Annette, holding her close to him, he looked up, and saw Gilbert
Bidaud standing before him.



CHAPTER XVII.


A malicious smile played about the old man's lips as he glanced at
Basil and Annette. For a few moments he did not speak, but stood
enjoying the situation, feeling himself master of it; and when he
broke the silence his voice was smooth and suave. The malignancy of
his feelings was to be found in his words, not in the tone in which he
uttered them.

"Ah, Mr. Basil Whittingham once more? Mr. Basil Whittingham, the
English gentleman, ready at a moment's notice to give lessons in
manners, conduct, and good breeding. But then it is to proclaim
oneself a fool to take a man at his own estimate of himself. I find
you here in the company of my niece. Favour me with an explanation,
Mr. Basil Whittingham."

"There is nothing to explain," said Basil, still with his arm round
Annette. "I have been absent some time, and happening, fortunately, to
return before Miss Bidaud left the country, have met her here, and was
exchanging a few words of farewell."

"Of course, of course. Who would venture to dispute with so
reproachless a gentleman? Who would venture to whisper that in these
last few words of farewell there was any attempt to work upon a
child's feelings, and to make the spurious metal of self-interest
shine like purest gold? On one side a young girl, as yet a mere child,
whose feelings are easily worked upon; on the other side a grown man
versed in the cunning of the world, and using it with a keen eye to
profitable use in the future. Not quite an equal match, it appears to
me, but I may be no judge. If I were to hint that this meeting between
you and my dear niece and ward has anything of a clandestine nature in
it, you would probably treat me to a display of indignant fireworks.
If I were to hint that, instead of so advising this child that she
should hold out her arms gladly to the new life into which she is
about to enter, you were instilling into her a feeling of repugnance
against it, and of mistrust against those whose duty it will be to
guide her aright and teach her--principles"--his eyes twinkled with
malignant humour as he spoke this word--"you, English gentleman that
you are, would repudiate the insinuation with lofty scorn. But when
you exchange confidences with me you are in the presence of a man who
has also seen something of the world, and who, although it has dealt
him hard buffets, retains some old-fashioned notions of honour and
manliness. I apply the test to you, adventurer, and you become
instantly exposed. Ah! here is my sister, this sweet young child's
aunt, who will relieve you of your burden."

He took the hand of the unresisting girl and led her to her aunt,
whose arm glided round Annette's waist, holding it as in a vice.

"I will not answer you," said Basil, with an encouraging smile at
Annette, whose face instantly brightened. "Annette knows I have spoken
the truth, and that is enough."

"Yes, Basil," said Annette, boldly, "you have spoken the truth, and I
will never, never forget what you have said to me to-day."

"Take her away," said Gilbert Bidaud to his sister; "the farce is
played out. In a week it will be forgotten."

"Good-bye, Basil," said Annette "and God bless you."

"Good-bye, Annette," said Basil, "and God guard you."

"How touching, how touching!" murmured Gilbert Bidaud. "It is surely a
scene from an old comedy. Take her away."

"Just one moment, please," said Old Corrie, joining the group. "Here
is something that belongs to the little lady, that she would like to
take with her to the new world. It will remind her of the old, and of
friends she leaves in it."

It was the magpie in its wicker cage, whose tongue being loosened by
company, or perhaps by a desire to show off its accomplishments to an
appreciative audience, became volubly communicative.

"Basil! Basil! Basil and Annette! Little lady! Little lady!"

In his heart Gilbert Bidaud was disposed to strangle the bird, but his
smile was amiability itself as he said to Annette, "Yours, my child?"

"Yes, mine," she answered. "Mr. Corrie gave it to me."

"But Mr. Corrie is not rich," said Gilbert Bidaud, pulling out his
purse; "you are. Shall we not pay him for it?"

"No," said Annette, before Old Corrie could speak. "I would not care
for it if he took money for it."

"Well said, little lady," said Old Corrie; "the bird is friendship's
offering, and for that will be valued and well cared for, I don't
doubt. It is your property, mind, and no one has a right to meddle
with it."

"Friendship's offering!" said Gilbert Bidaud, with a long, quiet
laugh. "We came out to the bush to learn something, did we not,
sister? Why, here we find the finest of human virtues and sentiments,
the smuggest of moralities, the essence of refined feeling. It is
really refreshing. Do not be afraid, Mr. Corrie. Although I would not
take your word about that wood-splitting contract, I have some respect
for you, as a rough specimen of bush life and manners. We part
friends, I hope."

"Not a bit of it," said Old Corrie. "If ladies were not present I'd
open my mind to you."

"Thank heaven," said Gilbert Bidaud, raising his eyes with mock
devotion, "for the restraining influence of the gentler sex. You do
not diminish my esteem for you. I know rough honesty when I meet with
it."

"You shift about," interrupted Old Corrie, "like a treacherous wind.
I'm rough honesty now, am I? You're the kind of man that can turn
white into black. Let us make things equal by another sort of bargain.
I've given little lady the bird. You'll not take it from her?"

"Heavens?" cried Gilbert Bidaud, clasping his hands. "What do you
think of me?"

"That's not an answer. You'll not take it from her?"

"I will not. Keep it, my child, and be happy."

"Do you hear, little lady? Let us be thankful for small mercies. Shake
hands, my dear. When you're a woman grown, don't forget Old Corrie."

"I never will--I never will," sobbed Annette.

"And don't forget," said Old Corrie, laying his hand on Basil's
shoulder, "that Master Basil here is a gentleman to be honoured and
loved, a man to be proud of, a man to treasure in your heart."

"I will never forget it," said Annette; with a fond look at Basil.

"And this, I think," said Gilbert Bidaud, with genial smiles all
round, "is the end of an act. Let the curtain fall to slow music."

But it was not destined so to fall. As Annette's aunt turned to leave
with her niece, her eyes, dwelling scornfully on Basil for a moment,
caught sight of the chain attached to the locket which Annette had put
round his neck. Quick as lightning she put her hand to the child's
neck, and discovered the loss.

"He has stolen Annette's locket!" she cried, pointing to the chain.

As quick in his movements as his sister, Gilbert Bidaud stretched
forth his hand and tore the locket and chain from Basil's neck. It was
done so swiftly and suddenly that Basil was unable to prevent it; but
the hot blood rushed into his face as he said:

"Were you a younger man I would give you cause to remember your
violence. Annette, speak the truth."

"I gave it to you, Basil," said Annette, slipping from her aunt's
grasp, and putting her hand on Gilbert Bidaud's. "It is false to say
he stole it. It belonged to me, and I could do what I pleased with it.
I gave it to Basil, and he did not want to take it at first, but I
made him."

She strove to wrench it from her uncle's hand, but it was easy for him
to keep it from her.

"I will have it!" cried Annette. "I will, I will! It is Basil's, and
you have no right to it."

"A storm in a teapot," said Gilbert Bidaud, who seldom lost his
self-possession for longer than a moment, "Sister, you should
apologise to the young gentleman. Take the precious gift."

But instead of handing it to Basil he threw it over the young man's
head, and Newman Chaytor, who during the whole of this scene had been
skulking, unseen, in the rear, and had heard every word of the
conversation, caught it before it fell, and slunk off with it.

"I shall find it, Annette," said Basil. "Good-bye, once more. May your
life be bright and happy!"

Those were the last words, and being uttered at the moment Newman
Chaytor caught the locket and was slinking off, were heard and
treasured by him.

The whole of that day Basil, assisted by Old Corrie and Chaytor,
searched for the locket, of course unsuccessfully. He was in great
distress at the loss; it seemed to be ominous of misfortune.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


The story of the lives of Basil and Chaytor during the ensuing three
years may be briefly summarised. So far as obtaining more than
sufficient gold for the bare necessaries of life were concerned,
ill-luck pursued them. They went from goldfield to goldfield, and
followed every new rush they heard of, and were never successful in
striking a rich claim. It was all the more tantalising because they
were within a few feet of great fortune at least half-a-dozen times.
On one goldfield they marked out ground, close to a claim of fabulous
richness, every bucket of wash-dirt that was hauled from the gutter
being heavily weighted with gold. This was the prospectors' claim, and
the shaft next to it struck the gutter to the tune of twelve ounces a
day per man. The same with the second, and Basil and Chaytor had every
reason, therefore, to congratulate themselves, especially when the men
working in the claim beyond them also struck the lead, and struck it
rich. But when at length the two gold diggers in whom we are chiefly
interested came upon the gutter, they were dismayed to find that
instead of ten ounces to the tub, it was as much as they could do to
wash out ten grains. It was the only poor claim along the whole of the
gutter; on each side of them the diggers were coining money, and they
were literally beggars. It is frequently so on the goldfields, the
life on which very much resembles a lottery, riches next door to
poverty; but the hope of turning up a lucky number seldom dies out in
the heart of the miner. He growls a bit, apostrophises his hard luck
in strong language, is despondent for a day, and the next shakes off
his despondent fit, and buckles to again with a will, going perhaps to
another new rush, jubilant and full of hope, to meet again with the
same bad fortune. The romance of the goldfield is a rich vein for
novelists, some few of whom have tapped it successfully; but the theme
is far from being worn out, and presents as tempting material to-day
as it did years ago, when gold was first discovered in Australia.

"It is maddening, Basil," said Chaytor, as he gazed gloomily at the
"prospect" in his tin dish--two or three specks which would not have
covered a pin's head. "Here we are upon the gutter again, and the
stuff will wash about half a pennyweight to the tub."

"It's jolly hard," said Basil, proceeding to fill his pipe with cut
cavendish, "but what can we do? Grin and bear it."

"Ah, you're philosophical, you are," growled Chaytor, "but I'm not so
easy minded. Just think of it, and bring a little spirit to bear upon
it, will you?"

"Off you go," said Basil. "I'm listening."

"Here we are on Dead Man's Flat, and here we've been these last three
weeks. Just four days and three weeks ago we struck our claim in
Mountain Maid Gully, having got two ounces and three pennyweights for
our month's hard work. That contemptible parcel of gold brought us in
barely eight pounds, the gold buyer pretending to blow away sand
before he put it in the scale, but blowing away more than two
pennyweights of the stuff, and reducing it to a little over two
ounces. We weighed it in our own gold scales before we took it to him,
and it was two ounces three pennyweights full weight. You can't deny
that."

"I've no intention of denying it. Don't be irritable. Go on, and let
off steam; it will do you good."

"I want to point out this thing particularly," fumed Chaytor, "so that
we can get to the rights of our ill luck, get to the bottom of it, I
mean, and find out the why and the wherefore. Eight pounds we receive
for our gold, when we should have received eight pounds ten; not a
sixpence less; but the world is full of thieves. Now, that eight
pounds gives us a little under twenty shillings a week a man. I would
sooner starve."

"I wouldn't--though I've had bitter blows, Chaytor."

"Not worse than I have."

"It is the pinching of our own shoes we feel, old fellow. We're a
selfish lot of brutes. Thank you for pulling me up. I'm sorry for you,
Chaytor."

"And I'm sorry for you. Thinking our claim worthless we leave Mountain
Maid Gully, and come here to Dead Man's Flat. We are ready to jump out
of our skins with joy, for we come just in time--so we think. Here's a
new lead struck, with big nuggets in it, and we mark out our claim
exactly one hundred and twenty feet from the prospector's ground. They
get one day twenty ounces, the next day twenty-eight, the next day
forty-two--a fortune, if it lasts."

"Which it seldom does."

"It often does, and even if it lasts only six or seven weeks it brings
in a lot. 'We're in luck this time,' I say to you, and I dream of
nuggets as big as my head. The gutter, we reckon, is forty feet down,
and we reach it in three weeks. Everybody round us is making his
pile--why shouldn't we? But before we strike the lead a digger comes
up, and says, 'Hallo, mates, have you heard about the claim you left
in Mountain Maid Gully?' 'No,' say we, 'what about it?'--'Oh,' says
the digger, 'only that two new chums jumped in after you'd gone away
and found out it was the richest claim on the goldfield. They took a
thousand ounces out of it the second week they were at work.' What do
you say to that, Basil?"

"Jolly hard luck, Chaytor."

"Cursed hard luck, I say."

"Strong words won't better it."

"They're a relief. You take it philosophically, I admit; I growl over
it like a bear with a sore head. I'd like to know why there's this
difference between us."

"I'll try and tell you presently, when you've finished about the two
claims."

"All right. I shouldn't be much of a man if the news about the ground
we ran away from didn't rile me. I was so wild I could hardly sleep
that night. But when I heard that in the next claim to the one we're
working now a nugget weighing a hundred and fifty ounces was found I
thought perhaps we'd got a richer claim than the one we'd deserted. So
I bottled up my bad temper, and went on working with a good grace. And
now we're on the gutter again, and here's the result." He held out the
tin dish, and gazed at the tiny specks of gold with disgust. "Why it's
the very worst we've struck yet."

"Not quite that. We've had as bad. What shall we do? Stick to it, or
try somewhere else?

"We daren't go away. Stick to it we must. If we left it and I heard
afterwards the same sort of story we were told about our claim on
Mountain Maid, I should do somebody a mischief. You agree with me,
then, that we remain and work the claim out?"

"I agree to anything you wish, Chaytor. I will stay or go away, just
as you decide."

Chaytor looked at him with an eye of curiosity. "Were you ever a
fellow of much strength of character, Basil?"

"I think so, once; not in any remarkable degree, but sufficient for
most purposes."

"And now?"

"And now," replied Basil, taking his pipe from his mouth, and holding
it listlessly between his fingers, "the life seems to have gone out of
me. The only tie that binds me to it is you. I owe you an everlasting
debt of gratitude, old fellow, and I wish I could do something to
repay it. But in tying yourself to me you are tied to a log that keeps
dragging you down. The ill luck that pursues us come from me. Throw me
off and fortune will smile upon you."

"And upon you?"

"No. The taste of all that's sweet and beautiful has gone out of my
mouth; I'm a soured man inside of me; you're a thousand times better
than I am. What is bitterness in you comes uppermost; it pleases you
to hide the best part of you; but you cannot hide it from me, for I've
had experience of you and know you. Now I'm the exact reverse.
Outwardly you would think I'm an easy-going, easy-natured fellow,
willing always to make the best of things, and to look on the
brightest side. It is untrue; I am a living hypocrite. Inwardly I
revile the world; because of my own disappointments I can see no good
in it. Good fortune or bad fortune, what does it matter to me now? It
cannot restore my faith, it cannot destroy the shroud which hangs over
my heart. That is the difference between us. You are a thoroughly good
fellow, I am a thoroughly bad one."

"It was not always the same with you. How have you become soured?"

"Thorough experience. Look here, Chaytor, it is only right you should
be able to read me. You have bared your heart to me, and it is unfair
that I should keep mine closed. There have been times when business of
your own has called you to Sydney. We were never rich enough to go
together, so you had to go alone, while I remained, in order not to
lose the particular luckless claim we happened to be working in, and
out of which we were always going to make our fortune. On the
occasions of your visits you have executed a small commission for me,
entailing but little trouble, but upon the successful result of which
I set great store. It was merely to call at the Post-Office, and ask
for letters for Basil Whittingham. The answer was always the same:
there were none. Every time you returned and said, 'No letters for
you, Basil,' I suffered more than I can express. There was less light
in the world, my heart grew old. I believe I did not betray myself; at
all events, I took pains not to do so."

"I never knew till now, Basil," said Chaytor falsely, and in a tone of
false pity, "that you thought anything at all of not receiving
letters. You certainly succeeded in making me believe that it did not
matter one way or another."

"That is what I have grown into, a living hypocrite, as I have said.
Why should I inflict my troubles upon you? You have enough of your
own, and I have never been free from the reproach that evil fortune
attends you because you persist in remaining attached to me. But the
honest truth is, I suffered much, and each time the answer was given
there was an added pang to make my sufferings greater. I'll tell you
how it is with me, or rather how it was, for were you torn from me,
were I pursuing my road of life alone, I should feel like a ghost
walking through the world, cut off from love, cut off from sympathy.
Not so many years ago--and yet it seems a lifetime--it was very
different. I know I loved my dear mother, and perhaps in a lesser
degree, but still with a full-hearted love, I loved my father. You
know the whole story of my life; I cannot recall an incident of any
importance in my career in the old country and in others through which
I travelled which I have omitted to tell you. Partly it was because
you took so deep an interest in me, partly because it gratified me to
dwell upon matters which gave me pleasure. Yes, although my shot was
pretty well expended when I left England for Australia, there is
nothing in my history there which causes me regret. Until the death of
my father everything looked fair for me. It was a good world, a bright
world, with joyous possibilities in it, some of which might in the
future be realised. I spent my fortune in paying my father's debts,
and though it alienated my uncle from me and ruined my prospects,
never for one moment did I regret it. There was no merit due to me in
doing what I did; any man of right feeling would have done the same;
you would have been one of the first to do it. Well, I came out to the
Colonies with a light heart and nearly empty pockets. I had my
hardships--what mattered? I was young, I was strong, I was hopeful, I
believed in human goodness. So I went on my way till I came to Anthony
Bidaud's plantation. There the sun burst forth in its most brilliant
colours, and all my petty trials melted away. Had my nature been
soured, it would have been the same, I think, for love is like the sun
shining upon ice. I met a man and a friend in Anthony Bidaud; we
understood and esteemed each other. I met a little maid to whom my
heart went out--you know whom I mean, little Annette. You never saw
her, Chaytor. When she came to Old Corrie's hut on the day we left Gum
Flat, after you snatched me from a cruel death and nursed me to
strength, you were wandering in the woods, and did not join us till
she had gone. If you had met her you might have some idea of the
feelings I entertained towards her, for although she was but a child
at the time, there was a peculiar attraction and sweetness about her
which could not have failed to make an impression upon you. You are
acquainted with all that passed between me and Annette's father, of
the project he entertained of making me guardian to his little
daughter, and of his strange and sudden death; and you are also
acquainted with the unexpected appearance of Gilbert Bidaud upon the
scene, and what afterwards transpired, to the day upon which he and
his sister and Annette left the colony for Europe. The little maid
promised faithfully to write to me from Europe, and I gave her
instructions, which she could scarcely have forgotten, how to
communicate with me. Her letters were to be directed to the Sydney
Post-office, and she was to let me know how to communicate with her.
Well, unreasonably or not, I fed upon the expectation of these
promised letters, but they never came. We must have some link of
affection to hold on to in this world if life is worth living, and
this was the link to which I clung. From old associations in England I
was absolutely cut away, not one friend was left to me; and when I
arrived at Anthony Bidaud's plantation and made Annette my friend, I
felt as if all the sweetness of life dwelt in her person. It was an
exaggerated view perhaps, but so it was. Since that time three years
have passed, and she is as one dead to me, and I suppose I am as one
dead to her. For some little while after she left I used to indulge in
hopes of wealth, in hopes of striking a golden claim and becoming
rich. Then I used to say to myself, I will go home and wait till
Annette is a woman, when I will take her from the hateful influence of
Gilbert Bidaud, and--and--but, upon my honour, my thoughts got no
farther than this; my dreams and hopes were unformed beyond the point
of proving myself her truest and best friend. But her silence has
changed my nature, and I no longer indulge in hopes and dreams, I no
longer desire riches. The future is a blank: there is no brightness in
it. If it happens that we are fortunate, that after all our ill luck
we should strike a rich claim, I will give you my share of the gold
freely, for I should have no use for it."

"I would not accept it, Basil," said Chaytor; "we will share and share
alike. Have you no desire, then, to return to England?"

"I shall never go back," replied Basil. "My days will be ended in
Australia."

"Where you will one day meet with a woman who will drive all thoughts
of Annette out of your head."

"That can never be."

"You think of her still, then?"

"As she was, not as she is. I live upon the spirit of the past."

He spoke not as a young man, but as one who had lived long years of
sad and bitter experiences. In this he was unconsciously doing himself
a great wrong, for his heart was as tender as ever, and in reality he
had intense faith in the goodness of human nature; but the theme upon
which he had been dilating always, when he reflected upon or spoke of
it, filled his soul with gloom, and so completely dominated him with
its melancholy as to make him unintentionally false to his true self.

"The question is," said Chaytor, "whether it is worth while to brood
upon such a little matter. The heart of a child--what is it? A pulse
with about as much meaning in it as the heart of an animal. There is
no sincerity in it. I have no doubt you would be amazed if you were to
know Annette as she is now, almost a woman, moulded after her uncle's
teaching, and therefore repulsive in nature as he was. You are wise in
your resolve to make no attempt to shatter an ideal. I have suffered
myself in love and friendship, and I know better than you how little
dependence is to be placed in woman. Let us get back to the claim.
We'll not give it up till we've proved it quite worthless."



CHAPTER XIX.


Had Basil been acquainted with the extent of Newman Chaytor's baseness
and villainy he would have been confounded by the revelation. But
unhappily for himself he was in entire ignorance of it, and it was out
of the chivalry of his nature that he placed Chaytor on an eminence,
in the way of human goodness, to which few persons can lay claim. But
Basil was a man who formed ideals; it was a necessity of his
existence, and it is such men who in their course through life are the
most deeply wounded.

Chaytor's visits to Sydney were not upon business of his own, he had
none to take him there; they were simply and solely made for the
purpose of obtaining the letters which arrived for Basil from England,
and any also which might arrive for himself; but these latter were of
secondary importance. In his enquiries at the Post-office he was
always furnished with an order signed, "Basil Whittingham" (of which
he was the forger) to deliver to bearer any letters in that name. Thus
he was armed to meet a possible difficulty, although it would have
been easy enough to obtain Basil's letters without such order. But as
he had frequently observed he was a man who never threw away a chance.

As a matter of fact, he received letters both for himself and Basil,
which he kept carefully concealed in an inner pocket. He had become a
man of method in the crooked paths he was pursuing, and these letters,
before being packed away, were placed in a wrapper, securely sealed,
with written directions outside to the effect that if anything
happened to him and they fell into the hands of another person they
should be immediately burnt. This insured their destruction in the
event of their falling into the hands of Basil, for Chaytor had
implicit faith in his comrade's quixotism and chivalry, at which he
laughed in his sleeve.

It has already been stated that Chaytor had made himself a master of
the peculiarities of Basil's handwriting. Having served his
apprenticeship in his disgraceful career in England he could now
produce an imitation of Basil's hand so perfect as to deceive the most
skilful of experts, who often in genuine writing make mistakes which
should, but do not, confound them. Shortly after Annette and her uncle
and aunt had taken their departure from Australia he wrote to Basil's
uncle in England. It is not necessary to reproduce the letter;
sufficient to say that it was chatty and agreeable, that it recalled
reminiscences which could not but be pleasant to the old gentleman,
that it abounded in affectionate allusions, and wound up with the
expression of a hope that Mr. Bartholomew Whittingham would live till
he was a hundred in health and happiness. There was not a word in the
letter which could be construed into the begging of a favour; it was
all gratitude and affection; and the writer asked whether there was
any special thing in Australia which Mr. Bartholomew Whittingham would
like to have. "Nothing would give me greater pleasure," said the wily
correspondent, "than to obtain and send it to you in memory of dear old
times. I will hunt the emu for you; I will even send you home a
kangaroo. God bless you, my dear uncle! I have been a foolish fellow I
know, but what is done cannot be undone, and I have only myself to
blame. There, I did not intend to make the most distant allusion to
anything in the past that has offended you, but it slipped out, and I
can only ask your forgiveness." In a postscript the writer said that
his address was the Post Office, Sydney, not, he observed, that he
expected Mr. Bartholomew Whittingham to write to him or answer his
letter, but there was no harm in mentioning it. It was just such a
letter as would delight an old gentleman who had in his heart of
hearts a warm regard for the young fellow whose conduct had displeased
him. Chaytor had some real ability in him, which, developed in a
straight way, would have met with its reward; but there are men who
cannot walk the straight paths, and Chaytor was one of these.

Two months afterwards, before any answer could have reached him,
Chaytor wrote a second letter, as bright and chatty as the first,
brimful of anecdote and story, and this he despatched, curious as to
the result of his arrows. They hit the mark right in the bull's-eye,
but Chaytor was not quite aware of this. However, he was satisfied
some time afterwards at receiving a brief note from a firm of
lawyers--not from Messrs. Rivington, Sons and Rivington, to whom he
had been articled, but from another firm, and for this he was
thankful--which said that Mr. Bartholomew Whittingham had received his
nephew's letter, and was glad to learn that he was in good health and
spirits. That was all, but it was enough for Chaytor. In the first
place it proved that his handwriting was perfect and the circumstances
he spoke of correct. In the second place it proved that Basil's uncle
had a soft spot left for him and that the writer had touched it. In
the third place it proved that his letters were welcome, and that
others would be acceptable.

"A good commencement," thought Chaytor. "I have but to play my cards
boldly, and the old fool's forty thousand pounds will be mine. What a
slice of luck for me that Rivington, Sons, and Rivington no longer
transact his business! At a distance I could deceive them. At close
quarters their suspicions might be excited, although I would chance
even that, if there were no other way. I wonder how long the old miser
will live. I am not anxious that he should die yet; things are not
ripe; there is Basil to get rid of." He was ready and resolved for any
desperate expedient to compass his ends, and he kept not only the
letters he received, but copies of the letters he sent, for future
guidance, if needed. Be sure that he continued to write, and that he
made not the slightest reference to any hope of becoming the old
gentleman's heir, or of being reinstated in his affection. It is
strange how a man's intellect and intelligence are sharpened when he
is following a congenial occupation. Machiavelli himself could not
have excelled Newman Chaytor in the execution of the villainous scheme
he was bent upon carrying out. He became even a fine judge of
character, and not a word he wrote was malapropos. Let it be stated
that, despite the risk he was running, he derived genuine pleasure
from the plot he had devised. He thought himself, with justice, a very
clever fellow; if all went on in England as he hoped it would he had
no fear as to being able to silence or get rid of Basil on the
Australian side of the world. He would be a dolt indeed if he could
not remove a man so weak and trustful as Basil from his path. He had
other letters from Mr. Bartholomew Whittingham's lawyers, and he knew,
from a growing cordiality in their tone (a sentiment in which lawyers
never of their own prompting indulge in their business transactions)
that they were dictated by the old gentleman himself. His
interpretation of Basil's uncle not writing in his own person was that
he had made up his mind not to have any direct personal communication
with his nephew, and that being of an obstinate disposition, he was
not going to break his resolution. "For all that," thought Chaytor, "I
will have his money. I'll take an even bet that he has either not
destroyed his old will, or that he has made a new one, making Basil
his heir. Newman Chaytor, there are not many men who can beat you."

He received other letters as well from other persons--from his old
mother, addressed to himself, and from Annette, addressed to Basil.
Certainly when he went to Sydney his hands were full, and he had
enough to do. He did not grudge the labour. He saw in the distance the
pleasures of life awaiting him, and it is a fact that in time he came
to believe that they were his to enjoy, and that Basil had no rightful
claim to them. It was he, Newman Chaytor, who had schemed for them,
who was working for them. What was Basil doing? Nothing. Standing idly
by, without making an effort to come into his own. "This is the way
men get on," said Chaytor to himself, surveying with pride the letter
he had just finished to Basil's uncle, "and I mean to get on. Why, the
trouble of writing this letter alone is worth a thousand pounds. And
what is the risk worth, I should like to know? I am earning double the
money I shall get."

The letters of his old mother to himself were less frequent--not more
than one every nine or ten months. They always commenced, "My dearly
beloved son," and they plunged at once into a description of the
difficulties with which she and her poor husband were battling. Her
first letter gave him a piece of news which caused him great joy. It
informed him that a certain bill which Chaytor had left behind him,
dishonoured, had been bought by his father, at the sacrifice of some
of the doubtful securities which he had saved from the wreck of his
fortune. "You can come home with safety now, my dear son," wrote the
unhappy old woman. "Well, that is a good hearing," mused Newman
Chaytor; "I was always afraid of that bill; it might have turned up
against me at any moment, but now it is disposed of, and I am safe.
So, the old man still had something left worth money all the time he
was preaching poverty to me. Such duplicity is disgusting. He owes me
a lot for frightening me out of the country as he did. And here is the
old woman going on with the preaching about hard times and poverty.
Such selfishness is wicked, upon my soul it is." It was true that his
mother's letters ran principally on the same theme. They had not a
penny; they lived in one room; their rent was behindhand; her husband
was more feeble than ever; they often went without food, for both she
and he were determined to starve rather than appeal to the parish.
Could not her dear son send them a trifle, if it was only a few
shillings, to help them fight the battle which was drawing to its
close? She hoped he would forgive her for asking him, but times were
so hard, and the winter was very severe. They had had no fire for two
days, and the landlady said if they could not pay the last two weeks'
rent that they would have to turn out. "Try, my dear boy, try, for the
sake of the mother who bore you, and who would sell her heart's blood
for you, if there was a market for it."

These letters annoyed Chaytor, and he thought it horribly hard that
his mother should write them. "It is a try on," he thought; "the old
man has put her up to it. I ought to know the ins and outs of such
transparent tricks. 'Now, write this,' says the old man; 'Now write
that. We must manage to screw something out of him: work upon his
feelings, mother.' That's the way it goes. I'll bet anything they've
got a smoking dinner on the table all the time, but Newman's at a
distance, and can't see it. Oh, no, I can't see anything; a baby might
impose upon me." He never thought of the night he saw his mother
begging in the roadway with a box of matches in her hands. Some men
are gifted with the power of shutting out inconvenient memories, as
there are others who never lose sight of a kindness they have received
or of a debt that is justly due. Long before this the reader has
discovered to which class Chaytor belonged.

Nevertheless he replied to the letters, cantingly regretting that he
was unable to send his dear old mother the smallest remittance to help
her on in her struggles. "How is it possible," he wrote, "when I am
myself starving? It is months since I have had to work sixteen hours a
day breaking stones on the road for a piece of dry bread. The
hardships I have endured, and am still enduring, are frightful. This
is a horrible place for a gentleman to live in. I should not have been
here if father had not driven me away. It almost drives me mad to
think that if he had not been so hard to me, if he had allowed me to
stop at home and manage his affairs, I could have pulled them
straight, and that we should all of us be living now in comfort and
plenty in the only country in the world where a man can enjoy his
days. You have no idea what kind of place this colony is. Men die like
lambs in the snow, and the sufferings they endure are shocking to
contemplate. I do not suppose I shall live to write you another
letter, but if you can manage to send me a few pounds it may arrive
just in time to save me." And so on, and so on. He took a keen delight
in the duplicities he was practising, and he would read his letters
over with a feeling of pride and exultation in his cleverness. "How
many men are there in the world," he would ask himself, "who could
write such a letter as this? Not many. Upon my word I'm wasted in this
hole and corner. But there's by-and-by to come; when I get hold of
that forty thousand pounds I'll have my revenge. No galley slave ever
worked harder than I am working for a future I mean to enjoy." That
may have been true enough, but the work of a galley slave was honest
labour in comparison with that to which Newman Chaytor was bending all
his energies.

Lastly, there were the letters Annette wrote to Basil. They arrived at
intervals of about four months, so that Chaytor was in possession of
seven or eight of them. Proceeding as they did from a pure and
beautiful nature, these letters, had Basil received them, would have
been like wine to him, would have comforted and strengthened him
through the hardest misfortunes and troubles, would have kept the sun
shining upon him in the midst of the bitterest storms. He would have
continued to work with gladness and hope instead of with indifference.
It would have made the future a bright goal to which his eyes would
ever have been turned with joy. Evidences of kindness and sympathy,
still more, evidences of unselfish affection and love, are like the
dew to the flower. They keep the heart fresh, they keep its windows
ever open to the light. But of this blessing Basil was robbed by the
machinations of a scoundrel: hence there was no sweetness in his
labour, no hope for him in the future. So much to heart did Basil take
Annette's silence that, had his nature been inclined to evil instead
of good, mischief to others would probably have ensued, but as it was
he was the only sufferer. In his utterances, when he was drawn to
speak of the shock he had received, he was apt to exaggerate matters
and to present himself in the worst light, but there had fallen to his
share an inheritance of moral goodness which rendered it impossible
for him to become a backslider from the paths of rectitude and honour.
Except that he was unhappy in himself, and that Annette's silence took
the salt out of his days, he was as he ever was, straightforward in
his dealings and gentle and charitable towards his fellow-creatures.


"My dear, dear Basil" (thus ran Annette's first letter, written about
five months after their last meeting in the Australian woods), "I have
tried ever so hard to write to you before, but have not been able to
because of uncle and aunt. I was afraid if they found out I was
writing to you that they would take the letter away or do something to
prevent it reaching you, and I wanted, too, to tell you how you could
write to me, but have never been able till now. You will be glad to
hear that if you write and address your letters exactly as I tell you,
I am almost sure of receiving them. But first I must say something
about myself and how I am. Uncle and aunt are not unkind to me, but
they are not kind. They leave me to myself a good deal, but I know I
am being watched all the time. I don't mind that so much, but what I
do miss is my dear father's voice and yours, and the birds and flowers
and beautiful scenery I always lived among till I was taken away. I
would not mind if you were with me, for I love you truly, dear Basil,
and can never, never forget you. That last time we were together by
Mr. Corrie's hut, how often and often do I think of it! I go through
everything that passed except the unkind words spoken by Uncle
Gilbert, which I try not to remember. I must have a wonderful memory,
for everything you said to me is as fresh now as though you had just
spoken them. Yes, indeed. Perhaps it is because when we were on board
ship I used to sit on the deck, with my face turned to Australia--the
captain always pointed out the exact direction--and go through it all
in my mind over and over and over again, till I got letter perfect.
Shall I prove to you that it is really so? Well, then, when I told you
I was afraid I was turning hard and had since Uncle Gilbert came to
the plantation--the dear old plantation!--you chided me so gently and
beautifully, and I promised never to forget your words, knowing they
would keep me good. Then you said, 'Let them keep you brave as well,
my dear. I promise to remember you always, to love you always, and
perhaps when you are a woman--it will not be so long, Annette--we
shall meet again.' Well, Basil dear, I am waiting for that time. I
know it will not be yet, perhaps not for years, but I can wait
patiently, and I shall always bear your words in mind. 'The stars of
heaven are not brighter than the stars of hope and love we can keep
shining in our hearts.' Do you remember, Basil? And then I asked you
to kiss me, and said that was the seal and that I should go away
happier. It comes to my mind sometimes that your words are like
flowers that never die, and that grow sweeter and more beautiful every
day. You could not have given me anything better to make me happy. But
I must not keep going on like this or I shall not have time to tell
you some things you ought to know.

"Well, then, Basil dear, we are not settled anywhere, and if you were
to come home now (you call it home, I know, and so will I) you would
not know where to find me unless you went to a place I will tell you
of presently. First we came to London and stopped there a little
while, then we went to Paris, then to Switzerland, and now we have
come back to London, where we shall remain two or three weeks, and
then go somewhere else, I don't know where. Uncle Gilbert never tells
me till the day before, when he says, 'We are going away to-morrow
morning; be ready.' So that by the time you receive this letter we
shall be I don't know where. Uncle Gilbert is very fond of theatres,
but he has not taken me to one because he says they are not proper
places for girls. I daresay he is right, and I don't know that I want
to go, but aunt has been very dissatisfied about it, as she is as fond
of theatres as Uncle Gilbert is. He used to go by himself, and aunt
would stop with me to take care of me, but a little while ago, a day
or two before we came back to London, they had a quarrel about it.
They did not notice that I was in the room when they begun, and when
they found it out they stopped. But I think it is because of the
quarrel that when we were in London a young woman was engaged to
travel with us and to look after me when uncle and aunt are away. I am
very glad for a good many reasons. I am not very happy when they are
with me, and I breath more freely--or perhaps I think I do--when they
are gone. The young woman they have engaged is kind and good-natured,
and I have grown fond of her already, and she has grown fond of me, so
we get along nicely together. Her name is Emily Crawford, and she has
a mother who lives in Bournemouth, a place by the sea somewhere in
England. Her mother is a poor woman, and that is why Emily is obliged
to go to service, but she is not a common person, not at all, and she
has a good heart. She can read and write very well, and she picks up
things quicker than I can. Of course you want to know why I speak so
much of Emily, when I might be writing about myself. Well, it is very,
very important, and it _is_ about myself I am speaking when I am
speaking of her.

"Basil, dear, it does one good to have some one to talk to quite
freely and to open one's heart to. All the time I have been away,
until this week, I have not had any person who would listen to me or
who cared to speak of the happy years I spent on our dear plantation.
Whenever I ventured to say a word about the past Uncle Gilbert put a
stop to it at once by saying, 'There is no occasion to speak of it,
you are living another life now. Forget it, and everybody connected
with it.' Forget it! As if I could! But I do not dare to disobey him.
He is my guardian, and I must be obedient to him. Aunt is just the
same, only she snaps me up when I say anything that displeases her,
while uncle speaks softly, but he is as determined as she is although
they do speak so differently. I do not know which way I dislike
most--I think both. So one night this week when uncle and aunt were
away, and I was reading, and Emily was sewing, she said to me, 'You
have come from Australia, haven't you, miss?' Oh, how pleased I was! I
answered yes, and then we got talking about Australia, and I told her
all about the plantation and the life we led there, and all sorts of
things came rushing into my mind, and when I had told her a great deal
I began to cry. It was then I found out Emily's goodness, for there
she was by my side wiping my tears away and almost crying with me, and
that is how we have become friends. After that I felt that I could
speak freely to her, and I spoke about you, of course. She promised
not to say a word to uncle or aunt, and I know I can trust her. Now,
Basil, dear, she has told me how you can write to me and how I can
obtain your letters without uncle or aunt knowing anything about it.
Emily writes home to her mother and receives letters from her. If you
will write and address your letters to the care of Mrs. Crawford, 14,
Lomax Road, Bournemouth, England, Mrs. Crawford will enclose them to
Emily, who will give them to me. Mrs. Crawford will always know where
Emily is while she remains with me, which will be as long as she is
allowed, Emily says, and I am sure to get your letters. I feel quite
happy when I think that you will write to me, telling all about
yourself. You said I was certain to make friends in the new country I
was going to, through whom we should be able to correspond, and
although I would sooner do it through uncle and aunt (but there is no
possibility of that because they do not like you), I feel there is
nothing very wrong in our writing to each other in the way Emily
proposes. So that is all, and you will know what to do. I can hardly
restrain my impatience, but it is something very sweet to look forward
to.

"I hope you found the locket with the portrait of my dear mother in
it. When we see each other I shall expect you to show it to me. If you
see Mr. Corrie tell him that the magpie is quite well, and that I can
teach him to say almost anything. Both uncle and aunt have grumbled a
good deal about the bird, and would like me to get rid of it, but that
is the one thing--the only thing--that I have gone against them in. 'I
will be obedient in everything else,' I said, 'but I must keep my
bird. You promised me.' So they have yielded, and I have my way in
this at all events. It means a great deal to me because I take care
it shall not forget your name. I keep it in my own room, where they
see very little of it, and it is only when we are travelling that it
is a trouble to them.

"Now I must leave off, Basil dear. With all my love, and hoping with
all my heart that we shall see each other when I am a little older,--I
remain; for ever and ever, your loving friend,

"Annette."


This letter interested and amused Newman Chaytor. "She is a clever
little puss," he thought, "and will not be hard to impose upon, for
all her cunning. I wonder, I wonder"--but what it was he wondered at
did not take instant shape; it required some time to think out. He
replied to the letter, addressing Annette as she directed. Although he
knew it was not likely that Annette could be very familiar with
Basil's handwriting, he was as careful in imitating it as he was in
his letters to Basil's uncle; and as in the case of his letters to
that old gentleman, he kept a copy of the letters he wrote to Annette.
He was very careful in the composition of his correspondence with the
young girl. He fell into the sentimental mood, and smiled to think
that the sentiments he expressed to Annette were just those which
would occur to Basil if he sat down to write to her. "Basil would be
proud of me," he said, "if he read this letter. It is really saving
him a world of trouble, and he ought to be grateful to me if it ever
come to his knowledge--which it never shall. I will see to that."
During the first year of the progress of the vile plot the full sense
of the dangerous net he was weaving for himself did not occur to him,
and indeed it was only by degrees that he became keenly conscious of
the peril attending its discovery. It made him serious at first, but
at the same time more fixed in his resolve to carry it out to the
bitter end. Whatever it was necessary to do he would do ruthlessly.
Everything must give way to secure his own safety, to insure the life
of ease and luxury he hoped to enjoy, if all went well.

If all went well! What kind of sophistry must that man use who, to
compass his ends, deems all means justifiable, without considering the
misery he is ready to inflict upon others in the pursuit upon which he
is engaged? There lies upon some men's natures a crust of selfishness
so cruel that it becomes in their eyes a light matter to transgress
all laws human and divine. They are blinded by a moral obliquity, and
think not of the hour when the veil shall be torn from their eyes, and
when the punishment which surely waits upon crime is meted out to
them.

Annette's first letter to Basil is a fair example of those which
followed, except that the progress of time seemed to deepen the
attachment she bore for him. In one letter she sent a photograph of
herself, and Newman Chaytor's heart beat high as he gazed upon it.
Annette was growing into a very lovely womanhood; beautiful, sweet,
and gracious was her face; an angelic tenderness dwelt in her eyes.

"And this is meant for Basil," said Chaytor, in his solitude: and then
exclaimed, as he contemplated the enchanting picture, "No! For me--for
me!"



CHAPTER XX.


The claim they were working proved very little richer than others they
had taken up. They made certainly a few shillings a week more than was
absolutely necessary to keep them in food and tobacco, and these few
shillings were carefully husbanded by Chaytor, who was treasurer of
the partnership. Their departure was hastened by a meeting which did
not afford Chaytor unalloyed pleasure. As he and Basil sat at the door
of their canvas tent one summer night, who should stroll up to them
but old Corrie.

"Here you are, then," cried the honest fellow.

"Why, Corrie!" exclaimed Basil, jumping to his feet, and holding out
his hands.

"Master Basil," said Old Corrie, grasping them cordially, "I am more
than glad to see you. I was passing through, and hearing your tent was
somewhere in this direction, I made up my mind to hunt you up. Well,
well, well!"

"Here's my mate," said Basil, motioning to Chaytor, "you remember
him."

"Oh yes," said Old Corrie, nodding at Chaytor. "So you've been
together all this time. What luck have you had?"

"Bad luck," answered Chaytor.

"Sorry to hear it. Never struck a rich patch, eh?"

"Never," said Chaytor. "And you?"

"I can't complain. To tell you the truth, I've made my pile."

"You have!" cried Chaytor, with a furious envy in his voice.

"I have. You made a mistake when you refused to go mates with me; I
could have shown you a trick or two. However, that's past: what's
ended can't be mended."

"What are you going to do now?"

"Haven't quite made up my mind. Think of going to Sydney for a spree;
perhaps to Melbourne for another; perhaps shall give up that idea, and
make tracks for old England. I've got enough to live upon if I like to
take care of it. Well, Master Basil, I wish you had better news to
give me. Have you heard from the old country? No?" This was in
response to Basil's shake of the head. "Why, I thought the little lady
promised to write to you."

"She did promise, but I have not heard for all that."

"Out of sight, out of mind," observed Chaytor, inwardly discomposed at
the turn the conversation had taken.

Old Corrie gave him a sour look. "I'll not believe that of the little
lady. The most likely reason is that she has been prevented by that
old fox her uncle. Her silence must have grieved you, Master Basil."
Basil nodded. "I know how your heart was set upon her."

"Don't let's talk about it," said Basil, "it is the way of the world."

"That may be," said Old Corrie, regarding Basil attentively, "but I'd
have staked my life that it wasn't the way of the little lady. What
has come over you? You're changed. You were always brimming over with
life and spirits, and now you're as melancholy as a black crow."

"I'm falling into the sere and yellow," said Basil, with a melancholy
smile.

"I can only guess at what you mean. You're getting old. Why, man
alive, there's a good five-and-twenty year between you and me, and I
don't consider myself falling into the what-do-you-call-'em! Pluck up,
Master Basil. Here, let's have a little chat aside."

Chaytor gave Basil a look which meant, as plain as words could speak
it, "Are you going to have secret conversations away from me after all
the years we have been together, after all I've done for you?"

"Corrie," said Basil, laying one hand on Old Corrie's arm and the
other on Chaytor's, "if you've anything to say to me I should like you
to say it before Chaytor. There's nothing I would wish to hide from
him. He's been the truest friend to me a man ever had, and I owe him
more than I can ever repay."

"Nonsense, Basil," said Chaytor with magnanimous humility; "don't say
anything about it."

"But it ought to be said, and I should be the ungratefullest fellow
living if I ever missed an opportunity of acknowledging it. I owe you
something too, Corrie. There's that mare of yours I borrowed and
lost."

"Shut up," growled Old Corrie, "if you want us to part friends. I've
never given the mare a thought, and as for paying me for it, well, you
can't, and there's an end of it. I'll say before your mate what is in
my mind. You're a gentleman, Master Basil, and here you are wasting
your time and your years to no purpose. England is the proper place
for you." Chaytor caught his breath, and neither Basil nor Old Corrie
could have interpreted this exhibition of emotion aright; but Basil,
who thought he understood it, smiled gently at Chaytor, as much as to
say, "Don't fear, I am not going to desert you." Old Corrie, who had
paused, took up his words: "England is the proper place for you. Say
the word, and we'll go together to Sydney and take two passages for
home. There you can hunt up your old friends, and you'll be a man once
more. Come now, say, 'Yes, Corrie,' and put me under an obligation to
you for life."

"I can't say yes, Corrie, but I'm truly obliged to you for your kind
offer. Even if I wished to break my connection with Chaytor--which I
don't--it's for him to put an end to our partnership, not for
me--don't you see that it would be impossible for me to lay myself
under an obligation to you?"

"No, I don't see it,' growled Old Corrie.

"Then, again, Corrie, what inducement have I to return to England?"

"There's little lady," interrupted Old Corrie.

"She has forgotten me," said Basil, sadly. "What business have I to
thrust myself upon her? If she desired to continue a friendship which
was as precious to me as my heart's blood--yes, I don't mind
confessing it; there may be weakness, but there is no shame in
it--would she not have written to me? She would, if it was only one
line. It is true that her uncle may be jealously guarding and watching
her--there was love lost between us--but in these three years that
have passed since the last day we saw each other, it is not possible
to think that she could not have contrived once to have put in the
post a bit of paper with only the words, 'I have not forgotten you,
Basil.' Who and what am I that I should cross the road she is
traversing for the purpose of bringing a reminiscence to her mind that
she chooses not to remember? There would not be much manliness in
that. Besides, it's a hundred chances to one that she's not in England
at all. It is my belief she is living in her father's native country,
Switzerland, where, surrounded by new scenes and new companions, I
hope she is happy. Thank you again, Corrie; I cannot accept your
offer."

"All right," said Corrie, with disappointment in his face and voice;
"you ought to know your own mind, though I make bold to say I don't
believe you've said what's in your heart. Well, there's an end to it.
I'm off early in the morning. Good-bye, Master Basil."

"Good-bye, Corrie, and good luck to you."

"Good luck to _you_, better than you've had in more ways than one."

"Good-bye, Mr. Corrie," said Chaytor.

Old Corrie could scarcely refuse the hand that Chaytor held out to
him, but the grasp he gave it was very different from the grasp he
gave Basil's. Before he turned to leave the ill-assorted comrades he
did something which escaped the eyes of Basil, but not those of
Chaytor. He furtively dropped, quite close to Basil's feet, a round
wooden matchbox, which, emptied of matches, gold-diggers frequently
used to fill with loose gold. Unobserved by old Corrie, Chaytor put
his foot on the box and slipped it to the rear of himself. This was
done while Old Corrie was turning to go. Basil was genuinely sorry to
See the last of his friend. Both the unexpected meeting and the
leave-taking had a touch of sadness in them which deeply affected him,
and he gazed with regret after the vanishing form of the man who had
offered to serve him. This gave Chaytor an opportunity of slyly
picking up the matchbox; it was weighty, and Chaytor knew that it was
filled with gold. "A bit of luck," he thought, as he put the box into
his pocket, "and a narrow escape as well." He felt like a man sitting
on a mine which a stray match might fire at any moment.

"Basil," he said, when Old Corrie was out of sight, "we will strike
our tent to-morrow, and go prospecting. I have a likely spot in my
mind."

"Very well," said Basil listlessly. "How about money? Can we manage to
get along?"

"Oh, yes, we can manage."

Early in the morning the pegs which fastened the tent were dug out of
the ground, the tent was rolled up and tied, and with heavy swags of
canvas, blankets, tools, and utensils conveniently disposed about
their persons, Basil and Chaytor set their faces to the south. They
walked for two days, camping out at night, and halted at length on the
banks of a river, the waters of which were low. In the winter the
floods rolling down from the adjacent ranges made the river a torrent,
covering banks which were now bare. These banks were of fine sand, and
rising on each side for a distance of some thousands of yards were
shelving mountains studded with quartz. Some eighteen months ago Basil
and Chaytor had passed the place on their way to a new rush, and
Chaytor thought it a likely place in which to find gold. They were now
quite alone, not a living soul was within a dozen miles of them. They
had reached the spot secretly, and their movements were unknown to any
but themselves. Their nearest neighbours were on a cattle station some
twelve or thirteen miles away.

"I have had an idea," said Chaytor, throwing the swag off his
shoulders, an example which Basil followed, "for a long time past that
somewhere about here gold was to be found. My plan is to prospect the
place well, without any one being the wiser. Who knows? We may
discover a new goldfield, and make our fortunes before we are
tracked. Let us camp here, and try. We can't do much worse than we've
done already."

"I'm agreeable to anything you propose," said Basil. "Let us camp here
by all means."

"The great thing is, that nobody must be let into the secret. If we
are discovered, 'Rush, O!' will be the cry, and we shall be overrun
before we can say Jack Robinson."

"You have only to say what you wish, Chaytor. You have the cleverer
head of the two. I hope for your sake we shall be successful."

"You don't much care for your own."

"Not much."

"You'll sing to another tune when we do succeed. It's wonderful how
the possession of a lot of money alters one's views."

"I'll wait till I get it," said Basil, sagely.

"The river runs low at this season and there's no reason in the world
why the sand banks shouldn't hold gold."

"They will hold it if its there," said Basil, with a smile.

"We'll try the banks first because they are the easiest, and if we
don't get gold in sufficient quantities there we'll try higher up the
range. It's studded with quartz, and it looks the right sort. We'll
put our tent up now, and in the morning we'll commence work--or rather
you will commence while I am away."

"Where are you going to?"

"There's grub to look after. We can't do without meat and flour. All
we've got to live on at present is a tin of sardines, about half a
pint of brandy, a little tea, and a couple of handfuls of biscuits.
Now, I call that a coincidence."

"In what respect?"

"Do you forget," said Chaytor reproachfully, "the first night you come
to Gum Flat? I gave you then pretty well all I had in the world in the
shape of provisions, some biscuits, some sardines, and a flask of
brandy."

"You did, old fellow, and that is the sum total of our provisions this
evening." He shook Chaytor's hand warmly. "Don't think me ungrateful,
Chaytor, because I don't profess much. Old Corrie said I was changed,
and I suppose I must be; but I shall never be so changed as to be
unmindful of the way you've stuck to me. Yes, it is a coincidence. But
go on. What do you mean to do about grub, for I see you've something
in your mind?"

"There's only one thing to do," said Chaytor. "I must go to the cattle
station to-night, get there early in the morning, and buy mutton and
flour. I shall have to look out sharp that I'm not followed when I
make my way back again, but I think I can manage it. I've done more
difficult jobs than that."

"And you will be tramping the bush," said Basil, "while I remain at my
ease here. Why can't I go instead of you?"

"Because," replied Chaytor, in a tone of affectionate insistance, "as
you have already confessed, I am the cleverer of the two, and because
I have an idea, if we lose this chance, that we shall never get
another. I don't want you to be seen, Basil, that's the plain truth of
the matter. You're not up to the men we meet. Now, I am sly and
cunning----"

"You?" interrupted Basil. "You are the soul of candour and honesty,
Chaytor. No one else should say that of you while I stood by."

"I don't mean exactly what I said, Basil, but I am sure I can do the
job more neatly than you could. As to the tramp through the bush, I
think nothing of it, so let it be as I say."

Basil making no further objection, the tent was put up and a trench
dug around to carry the rain away. Then a camp fire was made, and the
water for tea boiled in a tin billy, after which they finished the
biscuits and sardines.

"You will have to hold out till I come back," said Chaytor. "As I need
not start till past midnight, I'll turn in for an hour or two."

Shortly afterwards the comrades were wrapt in slumber, and the man
with the evil conscience slept the sounder of the two. A little after
midnight he rose and without disturbing Basil, started for the cattle
station. It was a warm starlit night, and he pondered upon matters as
he made his way through the bush. Indeed, during the past two days he
had thought deeply of the situation in which he was placed. Old
Corrie's proposition to take Basil to England had greatly alarmed him,
and had opened his eyes more clearly to its gravity. It was this which
had caused him to hurry Basil away from the vicinity of Old Corrie,
for it was quite likely that Corrie would make another attempt to
prevail upon Basil before he took his departure, and the second time
Basil might yield. At all hazards this must be prevented; step by step
he had descended the abyss of crime, and it was too late for him now
to turn back. In entering upon an evil enterprise men seldom see the
cost at which success must be purchased; it is only when they are face
to face with consequences that they tremble at their own danger.

By daybreak Chaytor was at the cattle station and had made his
purchases; by noon he had rejoined Basil. His purchases, at the
station had attracted no attention; it was a common enough proceeding,
and now they had food for a week. Fifteen miles beyond the cattle
station was a small township where they could also obtain supplies; a
pilgrimage once a week to station or township would keep them going.
In the township such gold as they obtained and wished to dispose of
could also be turned into money. Thus, although they were quite alone,
they were within hail of all that was necessary. Shortly after
Chaytor's return they set to work on the banks of the river. Basil
showed his mate some pieces of quartz with fair-sized specks of gold
in them, but Chaytor decided to try the river first, alluvial digging
being so much easier. They found gold in the sand, and sufficient to
pay, but not sufficient to satisfy Chaytor's cupidity. The result of a
week's labour was between two and three ounces.

"This is better than we have done yet," said Basil.

"It is only the washings from the hills," said Chaytor, "and at any
unexpected moment a flood of rain would swamp us. There are too many
trees about to please me; wood draws water from the clouds. If we
don't do better than this by the end of next week we'll mark out a
claim on the range yonder, where the blue slate peeps out of the
quartz."

Another journey had to be made for food, and this time Chaytor went to
the township, where he obtained what he required and sold exactly
seven pennyweights of gold. He put on an appearance of great anxiety
while the gold was being weighed, and sighed when the weight was
announced. This was to throw the storekeeper off the scent; any
considerable quantity of gold disposed of proudly would have excited
suspicion of a Tom Tiddler's ground somewhere near, and Chaytor, had
he so behaved, would certainly have been shadowed by men who were ever
watchful for signs of the discovery of a new goldfield. It was in
Chaytor's power to sell some fourteen ounces of gold had he been so
inclined, for the matchbox which Old Corrie had furtively dropped at
Basil's feet, and which Chaytor had slyly picked up unknown to his
mate, contained twelve ounces of the precious metal, but he knew
better than to attempt it. There was a post-office in the township,
from which he dispatched a letter to the Sydney office, requesting
that any letters lying there for Basil Whittingham might be forwarded
on to him. He wrote and signed the order in Basil's name. He could not
very well go to Sydney at present to fetch them; there would be a risk
in leaving Basil so long alone, for there being no coaches running
from the township, the journey to Sydney and back could not be
accomplished in less than nine or ten days. Easier to obtain the
letters from England, if any arrived, by the means he adopted, and it
was the easiest of tasks to keep the affair from the knowledge of
Basil, who never dreamed of asking at any post-office whether there
were any letters for him.

They worked a second week on the river-bank, at the end of which they
had washed out over three ounces.

"An improvement," remarked Basil.

Chaytor shook his head discontentedly.

"Let us mark off a prospector's claim up the hill," he said. "We can
always come back to the river."

This was done, and they commenced to sink. The difficulty they now
encountered was the want of a windlass. Chaytor would not venture to
purchase one in the township, whither he went regularly, being well
aware that he could have done nothing that would more surely have
drawn attention upon him. At odd times he bought some pieces of rope
which he and Basil spliced till they had a length of about eighty
feet. This rope, properly secured, enabled them to ascend and descend
the shaft, foot-holes in the sides assisting them. The labour of
digging a shaft in this manner was increased fourfold at least, but
they could not be too cautious, Chaytor said. He remarked also that
they seemed to be haunted by coincidences, and upon Basil asking for
an explanation reproached him for his bad memory.

"How many of us were there upon Gum Flat," he said, "after your horse
was stolen? Two. You and I alone. How many are there here? Two. You
and I alone. When you fell down the shaft how did I get you up? By
means of a rope secured at the top. How do we get up and down this
shaft? By the same means. There was no windlass there; there is no
windlass here. Don't you call these coincidences?"

"Yes," said Basil, "it is very singular."

"It would be very singular," thought Chaytor, "if you were at the
bottom of this shaft one of these fine days and never got out of it
alive. In that case coincidence would not hold good."

He drew a mental picture of the scene: Basil helpless below, the rope
lying loose on the top, and he sitting by it waiting to assure himself
that the mate by whom he had dealt so foully could never rise in
evidence against him. He saw this mental picture at the very moment
that Basil, with his sad earnest face, was in sight.

In the shaft they were sinking they were following a thin vein of
gold-bearing quartz which luckily for them was not devious in its
bearings, but ran down perpendicularly. It was very narrow, not more
than an inch in width, but the deeper they sank the richer it grew.
The vein was more rubble than stone, and the stuff was easily pounded
and washed. The first week they discovered it they obtained four
ounces of gold, the second week seven, the third week twelve, the
fourth and fifth weeks the same, and then there was a jump to twenty
ounces. They had reached a depth of forty odd feet, and not a living
being but themselves had been seen near the spot.

This lucky break in their fortunes gave Chaytor serious and
discomforting food for thought. He was convinced that their better
luck would continue for some time, and was almost sure that the thin
vein they were following would lead them to a richer and wider reef.
What would be the effect of wealth upon Basil? Would it alter his
views? Would it turn his thoughts homewards? He became hot and cold
when this last thought suggested itself, and that night he was visited
in his sleep by a dream so startling that he jumped up in affright and
sat in the dark trembling like a leaf in a strong wind. He dreamt that
Basil had discovered his treachery, and had torn open his secret
pocket in which he kept not only the letters from Annette and Basil's
uncle he had received from England, but the documents he had stolen
from Basil on Gum Flat, and the locket which Annette had given to
Basil at their last meeting. "You monster!" Basil had cried. "You have
ruined my life and shall pay the penalty!" It was at this point that
Chaytor awoke, trembling and in great fear. Presently, when the pulses
of his heart beat more regularly, he heard Basil's soft breathing. He
struck a match, and rising, quietly looked down upon his comrade. The
young fellow was sleeping calmly, with no thought of the evil genius
standing over him. Convincing himself that his stolen treasures were
safe, Chaytor crept back to his stretcher, but he had little more
sleep that night. His sense of security was shaken; the earth was
trembling beneath his feet.



CHAPTER XXI.


When a man evilly inclined turns from the path of evil, it is
generally because he fears for his own safety. He does not choose the
straight road or relinquish a bad purpose from the awakening of the
moral principle, but from a conviction that the deviation will best
serve his own interests. In the initial stages of a bad scheme the
prime mover seldom counts the cost; it is only when he is deeply
involved that the consequences of his evil-doing stare him in the
face, and warn him to halt. True repentance is rare; but there have
been instances where a man, suddenly appalled by the enormity of his
career of crime, conscientiously resolves to turn before it is too
late, and to expiate, as far as lies in his power, for his misdeeds.
There is something of heroism in this, and the sinner may hope for
forgiveness at the divine throne, if not from human hands. Of such
heroism Newman Chaytor was not capable. If he wavered, it was purely
from selfish reasons, and because he saw before him a path in which
lay greater chances of safety for himself. That he did waver is true,
and the more wholesome and more merciful course which suggested itself
to him was due, not to conscientious motives, but to circumstances
quite independent of his original design. On the day following his
disturbing dream he and Basil struck a wonderfully rich patch in the
claim they were working. The stuff which was raised to the surface was
literally studded with gold, and by nightfall they had washed out
fifty ounces. The excitements of a gold-digger's life when fortune
smiles upon him are all-absorbing. Marvellous possibilities dazzle and
distort his mind; delirious visions rise to his imagination. In the
early days of the goldfields it was a belief with numbers of miners
that, at some time or other, gold would be discovered in such
quantities that it could be hewn out like coal. A favourite phrase
was, "We shall be able to cut it out with a cold chisel." Of course
every man hoped that this wonderful thing would happen to him. He held
a chance in the lottery, and why should _he_ not draw the grand prize
which would astonish the world?

These possibilities flitted through Chaytor's mind as he and Basil sat
at the door of their tent, smoking their pipes after their day's
labour. The chairs they sat on were stumps of trees. Furniture they
had none, inside their tent or out of it. For their beds they had
gathered quantities of dry leaves, over which they spread a blanket,
with another to roll themselves in. Rough living, but healthier than
life in civilised cities. Early to bed and early to rise, plain food,
moderate drinking, exercising their muscles for a dozen hours a
day--all this was conducive to a healthy physical state. Their faces
were embrowned, their limbs were hardened, their beards had grown
long--they looked like men. This may be said of Chaytor as well as of
Basil, for such play of expression as would have revealed the cunning
of his nature was hidden by his abundant hair. A stranger, observing
them, would have been astonished at the likeness of one to the other,
and could have formed no other conclusion than that they were
twin-born; but no stranger had seen them thus, for it was only during
their late seclusion that Chaytor, had copied Basil so exactly. Basil
took but little note of this resemblance, and if he referred to it at
all it was in a manner so slight as to show that he attached no
importance to it. But it was seldom absent from Chaytor's mind; he had
brooded constantly upon it, and had studied it as a lesson which,
perfectly answered, was to bring with it the rich reward for which he
had schemed.

"A good day's work," said Basil, holding out his hand for the tin dish
which Chaytor held.

This tin dish contained the gold which they had gathered since
sunrise, and Chaytor was turning it over with his knife. The moisture
had dried out of it, and the gold lay loose. Chaytor passed the dish
to Basil, who, in his turn, played with the shining metal with
somewhat more than usual interest.

"Nearly as much," said Chaytor, "as we've got these last five weeks.
It is a rare good day's work--if only it will last."

"That's the question," said Basil; "I should like to weigh it."

They entered the tent, and weighed the gold in the gold scales, which
form part of a miner's working implements. It turned the fifty ounces.

"Honestly paid for," said Basil, "it represents a couple of hundred
pounds. A hundred pounds each."

Chaytor merely nodded, and made no comment upon the remark, but it
dwelt in his mind. Not so very long ago Basil had expressed
indifference regarding their possessions of gold, and had gone the
length of saying that Chaytor might have his share, for all he cared
for it. Now he expressed an interest in it, and reckoned their day's
work at "a hundred pounds each." That indicated that he looked upon
half as his fair share. What did this newly-awakened interest portend?
With his instinctive cunning Chaytor felt that this was not a
favourable time to open up the subject; far better to let it work
quietly until it came to a natural head. Besides, he was feverishly
engrossed in the question he had suggested, whether the rich patch
they had struck would last. Time alone could answer that question.
They retired to their beds of dry leaves a little earlier than usual,
and were at work in the morning with the rising of the sun. Basil
worked chiefly at the bottom of the shaft, Chaytor at the top, and the
honest man of this ill-assorted pair sent up two buckets of stuff
before breakfast, which was even richer than they had raised on the
previous day. Basil climbed to earth's surface hand over hand.

"He uses the rope like a cat," thought Chaytor.

The two buckets of stuff were emptied into a tub.

"Let us wash it out before breakfast," said Basil.

They went down to the river, carrying the tub between them. On the top
of the auriferous soil were two tin basins, and, after puddling the
tub well and letting the worthless refuse flow over the brim, they set
to work washing what remained in the basins, with that rotary motion
in which gold-diggers are so skilful, and which enables them to get
rid of the loosened earth, and keep the heavy precious metal at a safe
angle in the bottom of the dish. It had hitherto been Basil's practice
to leave this delicate operation to Chaytor, but on this morning he
took part in it, using one dish, while Chaytor used the other. Chaytor
took, note of every small circumstance; nothing escaped him.

"This is a new move of yours, Basil," he said.

"I am beginning to take a real interest in the work," admitted Basil.
"In a manner of speaking, it is waking me up."

"Glad to hear it," said Chaytor. "These two buckets are worth
something. There's not less than twenty ounces."

There was more; the stuff they had washed yielded twenty-three ounces,
and the whole day's yield was worth four hundred pounds.

"Nothing to complain of now, Chaytor," observed Basil in the evening.

"Nothing." Basil was busy with paper and pencil. "What are you up to
there? Figuring?"

"Yes," replied Basil. "I am reckoning how much four hundred pounds a
day would bring us in at the end of the year. Here it is. Three
hundred and twelve working days in the year, leaving Sundays free."

"Why should we do that?" asked Chaytor. "There's no one to see us. It
would be a sheer waste of so much money."

Basil looked up in surprise; the remark was not agreeable to him, the
tone in which it was spoken was still less so.

"I am old-fashioned perhaps," he said. "I do not choose to work on the
Sabbath day."

"Growing particular."

"No; I have always held the same notion."

"We'll not argue. What is your reckoning?"

"Three hundred and twelve working days a year," continued Basil.
"Twelve days for sickness, leaving three hundred. At four hundreds
pound a day we get a total of a hundred and twenty thousand--in
pounds. Sixty thousand pounds each. Truly, a great fortune."

"If it lasts," again said Chaytor.

"Of course, if it lasts. There's the chance of its getting better. How
does it look to you--as if it will hold out?"

Chaytor had been down the claim for some hours during the day, and had
pocketed between forty and fifty ounces, which he chose to regard as
his own special treasure trove.

"There's no saying," he said. "The vein runs sideways into the rock.
It may peg out at any moment."

"We shall not have done badly by the time it does. I have to thank you
for bringing me here."

"Yes," said Chaytor, ungraciously; "it was my discovery. Don't forget
that."

"I shall never forget it, Chaytor, nor any of the other good turns you
have done me. I don't know whether it is a healthy or an unhealthy
sign that this better luck should have aroused me from the apathy in
which I have been so long plunged. It has softened me; the crust of
indifference, of disbelief in human goodness, is melting away, I am
glad to say. That this is due to the prospect of becoming rich is not
very creditable; I would rather that the change in me had sprung from
a less worldly cause; it would have made me better satisfied with
myself. But we mortals are very much of the earth, earthy, and we take
too readily the impressions of immediate circumstances and of our
surroundings. They mould our characters, as it were, and change them
for better or worse."

"You can do a lot of thinking in a little time, Basil."

"How so, Chaytor?"

"Because yesterday you were black, to-day you are white. Yesterday it
was a bad world; to-day it is a good one. A rapid transformation,
savouring somewhat of fickleness."

"A just reproof, but I cannot alter my nature. I have never given
myself credit for much stability except in my affections, and there, I
think, I am constant. As you say, a little reflection has effected a
great change in me. We judge the world too much from our own
stand-point. We are fortunate, we trust and are not deceived, we love
and are loved in return, our daily labour is rewarded--it is a good
world, a bright world. We are unfortunate, we trust and are deceived,
we love and are not loved in return, we toil and reap dead leaves--it
is a bad world, a black world. That is the way with us."

"All of which wise philosophy has sprung from our discovery of a rich
patch of gold."

"I am afraid I can ascribe these better and juster feelings to no
other cause."

"Basil," said Chaytor, toying with his pipe and tobacco, "say that
your reckoning should be justified by results. Say that we work here
undiscovered for a year--for there is the contingency of our being
tracked to be thought of----"

"Of course."

"Say that we do not fall ill or meet with an accident which disables
us, say that to-day is but a sample of all the other days to follow in
the next twelve months, say that we make a hundred thousand pounds,
what would you do with your share? For I suppose," said Chaytor, with
a light laugh, "that the offer you once made of letting me keep the
lot if we struck gold rich, is now withdrawn."

"I am properly reproved. Yes, Chaytor, I should expect my share."
Basil said this in a rather shamefaced voice. "It proves in the first
place that I am not a very dependable fellow, and in the second place
it proves my philosophy, that we are moulded by immediate
circumstances."

"Oh, it is natural enough; I never expected to meet with a man who
would step out of the ordinary grooves. There are temptations which it
is impossible to resist, and you and I are no different from the rest
of mankind."

"I should place you above the majority, Chaytor."

"I am obliged to you, but I am as modest as yourself, and cannot
accept the distinction. Well, Basil, say that everything happened as I
have described, what would you do at the end of the year, with its
wonderful result of overflowing purses?" Basil was silent and Chaytor
continued: "You said once that you intended to live and die in the
colonies. Do you stick to that?"

"No."

"What would you do?"

"I should return to England."

Chaytor shivered. This good fortune, then, which he had bestowed upon
Basil, was to be the means of his own destruction. Basil in England,
nothing could prevent his treachery being discovered. He had led to
his own ruin. With assumed unconcern he asked:

"For any specific purpose, Basil?"

"It has dawned upon me, Chaytor, that in my thoughts I may have done
injustice to one whom I loved and who loved me."

"The little girl, Annette?"

"The little girl, Annette."

"But, speaking of love as you do, one would suppose that she was a
woman. Whereas she was a mere child when you last saw her."

"That is true, and I speak of her only as a child. Chaytor, there was
something so sweet in Annette's nature that she grew in my heart as a
beloved sister might have done. To that length I went; no farther.
Have you ever felt the influence of a child's innocent love? It
purifies you; it is a charm against evil thoughts and evil promptings.
Annette's affection was like an amulet lying on my heart."

"Your object in returning to England would be to seek her out?"

"I should endeavour to find her. Her silence may have been enforced.
She may be unhappy; I might be of service to her. There are other
reasons. I seem in this far-off country to be cut off from sympathy,
from humanizing influences. The life does not suit me. A man, after
all, is not a stone; he has duties, obligations, which he should
endeavour to fulfil. You have heard me speak of my uncle. He was kind
to me for a great many years, up to the point of my offending him. He
is old: consideration is due to him. I should go to him and say, 'I do
not want your money; give it to whom you will, but let us be
friends.'"

"A hundred to one that he would show you the door," said Chaytor, who
found in these revelations more than sufficient food for thought.

"At all events I should have done my duty; but I think you are
mistaken. He has a tender heart under a rough exterior, and was always
fond of me, even, I believe, when he cast me off. I should not wonder
if he has not sometimes thought, 'Why did Basil take me at my word?
Why did he not make advances towards me?' He would be right in so
thinking; I ought to have striven for a reconcilement. But I was as
obstinate as he was himself, and perhaps prouder because I was poor.
In a sort of way I defied him, and as good as said I could do without
him. I was wrong; I should have acted differently.

"You seem to me, Basil," said Chaytor, slowly, "to fall somewhat into
the same error in speaking of him as you do when you speak of Annette.
You speak of the little girl as if she was a woman; you speak of your
uncle as if he is living."

"If he is dead I should learn the truth."

"I suppose that you would not leave the colony unless you were rich?"

"I think not; I should be placing myself in a false position. We will
not talk of it any more to-night, Chaytor. I am tired and shall go to
bed."

"So shall I. The conversation has been a bit too sentimental for me.
Besides, when you say that you are cut off from sympathy and human
influences here, you are not paying me a very great compliment, after
the sacrifices I have made for you. But it is the way of the world."

"Why, Chaytor," said Basil, with affectionate emphasis, "I never
proposed that we should part. My hope was that we should go home
together. You are as much out of place here as I am. With your
capacities and with money in your pocket, you could carve a career in
England which would make you renowned."

"It is worth thinking of; but I must have your renewed promise, Basil,
that you will not throw up our partnership here till we have made our
fortune."

"I give you the promise. It would be folly to land in the old country
penniless."

"So that the upshot of it is, that it all depends upon money. In my
opinion everything in life does."

"You do yourself an injustice, and are not speaking in your usual
vein. I daresay I am to blame for it. Forgive me, friend."

"Oh, there's nothing to forgive; but it _is_ strange, isn't it, that
the first difference we have had should have sprung from the prospect
of our making our pile? Good night, old fellow."

"Good night, Chaytor."



CHAPTER XXII.


Chaytor lay awake that night, brooding. He found himself on the horns
of a dilemma, and all the cunning of his nature was needed to meet the
difficulty and overcome it successfully. The scheme he had laid, and
very nearly matured, had been formed and carried out in the
expectation that the run of ill-luck which had pursued him on the
goldfields would continue. But now the prospect was suddenly altered.
Gold floated before his eyes; he saw the stuff in the claim they were
working more thickly studded than ever with the precious metal;
extravagant as were the calculations which Basil had worked out they
were not too extravagant for his imagination, and certainly not
sufficiently extravagant for his cupidity. There was no reason in the
world why these anticipations should not be more than fulfilled.
Fabulous fortunes had been realised on the goldfields before
to-day--why should not the greatest that had ever been made be theirs?
He was compelled to take Basil into this calculation. He could not
work alone in the claim; a mate was necessary, and where should he
find one so docile as Basil? With all his heart he hated Basil, who
seemed to hold in his hands the fate of the man who had schemed to
destroy him. Luck had changed and the end he had in view must be
postponed, must even, perhaps, be ultimately abandoned. To turn his
back upon the fortune within his grasp for a problematical fortune in
the old country was not to be dreamt of. The bird he had in hand was
worth infinitely more than the two he had in the bush--these two being
Annette and Basil's uncle. The result of his cogitations was that the
scheme upon which he had been engaged should remain in abeyance until
it was proved whether the gold they had struck in their claim was a
flash in the pan, or would hold out till their fortunes were made. In
the former case he would carry out his scheme to the bitter end: in
the latter he would amass as much money as he could, and then fly to
America, where life would be almost as enjoyable as in England. It was
hardly likely, if Basil discovered his treachery, that he would follow
him for the mere purpose of revenge. "He is not vindictive," thought
the rogue; "he is a soft-hearted fool, and will let me alone." Thus
resolved, Chaytor waited for events. It is an example of the tortuous
reasoning by which villainy frequently seeks to justify itself that
Chaytor threw from his soul the responsibility of a contemplated
crime, by arguing that the result did not depend upon him but upon
nature. If the claim proved to be as rich as they hoped, Basil would
be spared; if the gold ran out, he must take the consequences. Having
thus established that circumstance would be the criminal, the
evil-hearted man disposed himself for sleep.

He had not long to wait to decide which road he was to tread. During
the week they learned that their anticipations of wealth were not to
be realised. Each bucket of earth that was sent up from the shaft
became poorer and poorer, and from the last they obtained but a few
grains of gold. The following day they met with no better fortune; the
rich patch was exhausted; the pocket in which they had found the gold
was empty.

"Down tumble our castles," said Basil, with a certain bitterness.

"We may strike another rich patch," said Chaytor, and thought, "I will
not wait much longer. I am sick of fortune's freaks; I will take the
helm again, and steer my ship into pleasure's bay."

He went to the township, openly for provisions and secretly to see if
there was any news from England. There were letters at the Post Office
awaiting Basil Whittingham, Esq. Chaytor put them in his pocket
without opening them, purchased some provisions, and set forth to
rejoin Basil. He was more careful in his movements than he had ever
been. He had a premonition that the unopened letters contained news of
more than ordinary importance, and if he were tracked and followed now
his plans would be upset and all the trouble he had taken thrown away.
Basil and he were hidden from the world; no one knew of their
whereabouts, no person had any knowledge of their proceedings. Should
Basil disappear, who would suspect? Not a soul. Basil had not a friend
or acquaintance in all the colonies who was anxious for his safety or
would be curious to know what had become of him.

Midway between the township at which he had obtained Basil's letters
and the claim which had animated him with delusive hopes the schemer
halted for rest. He listened and looked about warily to make sure that
no one had followed him. Not a sound fell upon his ears, no living
thing was within hail. There are parts of the Australian woods which
are absolutely voiceless for twenty-three out of every twenty-four
hours. This one hour, maybe, is rendered discordant by the crows,
whose harsh cries grate ominously upon the ear. At the present moment,
however, these pestilential birds were far away, and satisfied that
there was no witness of his proceedings, Chaytor threw himself upon
the earth and opened the letters. The first he read was from the
lawyers, who had already written to Basil in reply to the letters his
false friend had forged. It was to the following effect:--


"Dear Sir,

"We write at the request of your uncle, Mr. Bartholomew Whittingham,
who, we regret to say, is seriously ill. He desires us to inform you
that he has abandoned the intention as to the disposition of his
property with which he made you acquainted before your departure from
England. A will has been drawn out and duly signed, constituting you
his sole heir. Ordinarily this would not have been made known to you
until the occurrence of a certain event which appears imminent, but
our client wished it otherwise, and as doctors happily are not
invariably correct in their prognostications it may happen that you
will yet be in time to see him if you use dispatch upon the receipt of
this communication, and take ship for England without delay. To enable
you to do this we enclose a sight draft upon the Union Bank of Australia
for five hundred pounds, and should advise you to lose not a day in
putting it to the use desired by our client. It is our duty at the same
time to say that we hold out no hope that you will arrive in time.
In the expectation of seeing you within a reasonable period, and
receiving your instructions, we have the honour to remain,

"Your obedient servants,

"Bulfinch & Bulfinch."


There was another letter from the lawyers:


"Dear Sir,

"Following our letter of yesterday's date we write to say that we have
been directed by your uncle Mr. Bartholomew Whittingham, to forward to
you the sealed enclosure which you will find herewith. We regret to
inform you that our client is sinking fast, and that the doctors who
are attending him fear that he cannot last through the week.

  "We have the honour to remain,

     "Your obedient servants,

        "Bulfinch & Bulfinch."


Before unfastening the "sealed enclosure," Chaytor rose in a state of
great excitement, and allowed his thoughts to find audible expression:

"At last! Here is the certainty. No more Will-o'-the-wisps. Fortune is
mine--do you hear?--mine. Truly, justly mine. Who has worked for it
but I? Tell me that. Would the idiot Basil ever have humbled himself
as I did; would he ever have worked his old uncle as I have done? What
is the result? I softened the old fellow's heart, and the money he
would have left to some charity has fallen to me. Every labourer is
worthy of his hire, and I am worthy of mine. Basil would never have
had one penny of the fortune, and therefore it is my righteous due. At
last, at last! No more sweating and toiling. The world is before me,
and I shall live the life of a gentleman. There is work still to be
done, both here and at home, and _I will do it_. No blenching,
Chaytor; no flinching now. What has to be done _must_ and _shall_ be
done. There is less danger in making the winning move than in
upsetting the board after the game I have played. Hurrah! Let me see
what the precious 'enclosure' has to say for itself."

He broke the seal, and read:


"My Dear Nephew Basil,

"My sands of life are running out, and before it is too late I write
to you, probably for the last time. You will be glad to hear from me
direct, I know, for your nature is different from mine, and your heart
has always been open to tender impressions. When I cast you from me I
dare say you suffered, but after my first unjust feeling of resentment
was over my sufferings have been far greater than yours could have
been. It is the honest truth that in abandoning you I abandoned the
only real pleasure which life had for me; but my obstinacy, dear lad,
would not allow me to take steps towards a reconcilement. It may be
that had you done so I should still have hardened my heart against
you, and should have done you the injustice of thinking that you
wished to propitiate me for selfish motives. In these, as I believe
them to be, the last hours of my life, I have no wish to spare myself;
I can see more clearly now than I have done for many a long year, and
my pride deserves no excuse. This 'pride' has been the bane of my
life; it has sapped the fountains of innocent enjoyment; it has
enveloped me in a steel shroud which shut me out from love and
sympathy. You, and you alone, since I was a young man, were able to
penetrate this shroud, and even to you I showed only that worse side
of myself by which the world must have judged me. I did not give
myself the trouble of inquiring whether the counsel I was instilling
into you was true or false; I see now that it was false, and it is
some comfort to me to know that your nature was too simple and
honourable, too loving and sympathetic, to be warped by it. Early in
life I met with a disappointment which soured me. There is no need to
inscribe that page in this letter--a loving letter, I beg you to
believe. It was a disappointment in love, and from the day I
experienced it I became soured and embittered. I was a poor man at the
time, and I devoted myself to the task of making money; I made it, and
much good has it done me. With wealth at my command I set up two dark
starting points, which I allowed to influence me in every question
under consideration--one, money, the other human selfishness. These,
with a dogged and obstinate belief in the correctness of my own
judgment on every matter which came before me, made me what I have
been. I had no faith, I had no religion; my life was godless, and the
attribute of selfishness which I ascribed to the actions of all other
men guided and controlled me in mine. You never really saw me in my
true character. That I regarded money as the greatest good I did not
conceal from you, but other sides of me, even more objectionable than
this, were not, I think, revealed to you. The mischief I would have
done you glanced off harmlessly, as the action you took in ruining
yourself to pay your father's debts proved. You were armed with an
shield, my dear lad, a shield in which shone the religious principle,
honourable conduct, and faith in human nature. Be thankful for that
armour, Basil; it is not every man who is so blessed. And let me tell
you this. It is often an inheritance, and if not that, it is often
furnished by a mother's loving teaching and influence. You had the
sweetest of mothers; mine was of harder grain. I lay no blame upon
her, nor, I repeat, do I seek to excuse myself, but I would point out
to you, as a small measure of extenuation, that some of us are more
fortunate than others in the early training we receive, and in the
possession of inherited virtues.

"Basil, my dear lad, you did right in paying your father's debts,
despite the base view I expressed of your action. Angry that a step so
important should have been taken without my consent being asked,
angry, indeed, that it should have been taken at all, I said to
myself, 'I will punish him for it; I will teach him a lesson.' So I
wrote you a heartless letter, informing you that I had resolved to
disinherit you, and suggesting that you should return the money I had
freely given you and which was justly yours. There are few men in the
world who would have treated that request as you did, and you could
not have dealt me a harder blow than when you forwarded me a cheque
for the amount, with interest added. Your independence, your
manliness, hardened instead of softened me; 'He does it to defy me,' I
thought, and I allowed you to leave England under the impression that
the ties which had bound us together were irrevocably destroyed. But
the blow I aimed at you recoiled upon myself; your reply to my mean
and sordid request has been a bitter sting to me, and had you sought
to revenge yourself upon me you could not have accomplished your
purpose more effectually. I have always lived a lonely life, as you
know; since I lost you my home has been still more cheerless and
lonesome; but I would not call you back--no, my pride stopped me: I
could not endure the thought that you or any man should triumph over
me. You see, my boy, I am showing you the contemptible motives by
which I was actuated; it is a punishment I inflict upon myself; and I
deserve the harshest judgment you could pass upon me. If my time were
to come over again, would I act differently? I cannot say. A man's
matured character is not easily twisted out of its usual grooves. I am
as I have been made, or, to speak more correctly, as I chose to make
myself, and I have been justly punished.

"But, Basil, if the harvest I have gathered has been worthless to me
and to others, some good may result from it in the future. Not at my
hands, at yours. You are my sole heir, and you will worthily use the
money I leave you. I look forward to the years to come, and I see you
in a happy home, with wife and children around you, and it may be then
that you will give me a kind thought and that you will place a flower
on my grave.

"I am greatly relieved by this confession. Good-bye, my lad, and God
bless you.

  "Your affectionate Uncle.

    "Bartholomew Whittingham."


"Sentimental old party," mused Newman Chaytor, as he replaced the
letter in its envelope. "If this had fallen into Basil's hands it
would have touched him up considerably. The old fellow had to give in
after all, but it was my letters that worked the oracle. The credit of
the whole affair is mine, and Mr. Bartholomew Whittingham ought to be
very much obliged to me for soothing his last hours." He laughed--a
cruel laugh. "As for the harvest he has gathered, I promise him that
it shall be worthily spent. He sees in the future his heir in a happy
home, with wife and children around him. Well!--perhaps. If all goes
smooth with the charming Annette, we'll see what we can do to oblige
him. Now let me read the little puss's letter; there may be something
interesting in it."


"My dear Basil" (wrote Annette), "I have something to tell you. Uncle
Gilbert has discovered that we have been corresponding with each
other, and there has been a scene. It came through aunt. The day
before yesterday they went out and left me and Emily together. From
what they said I thought they would have been gone a good many hours,
and I got out my desk and began to read your letters all over again.
Do you know how many you have written me? Seven; and I have every one
of them, and mean to keep them always. After reading them I sat down
to write to you--a letter you will not receive, because this will take
its place, and because I had not written a dozen words before aunt
came in suddenly, and caught me bending over my desk. Seeing her, I
was putting my letter away (I never write to you when she is with me)
when she came close up to me and laid her hand on mine. 'What is that
you are writing?' she asked. 'A letter,' I replied. It was not very
clever of me, but I did not for the moment know what other answer to
give. 'To whom?' she asked. 'To a friend,' I said. 'Oh, you have
friends,' she said; 'tell me who they are.' 'I have only one,' I said,
'and I am writing to him.' 'And he has written to you?' she said.
'Yes,' I said, 'he has written to me.' 'Who is this only friend?' she
asked; 'do I know him?' 'Yes,' I said, 'you knew him slightly. There
is no reason for concealment; it is Basil, my dear father's friend.'
'Oh,' she said, 'your dear father's friend. Is he in England, then?'
'No,' I answered, 'he is in Australia.' 'His letters should have been
addressed to the care of your uncle,' she said, 'and that, I am sure,
has not been the case, or they would have passed through our hands.
How have you obtained them?' 'It is my secret,' I replied. Fortunately
Emily was not in the room, and I do not think they have any suspicion
that she has been assisting me; if they had they would discharge her,
though I should fight against that. 'Your answers are evasive,' she
said. 'They are not, aunt,' I said; 'they are truthful answers.' 'Are
you afraid,' she asked, 'if the letters had been addressed to our
care, as they ought to have been, that they would not have been given
to you?' I did not answer her, and she turned away, and said she would
inform Uncle Gilbert of the discovery she had made. I did not go on
with my first letter to you when she was gone; I thought I would wait
till Uncle Gilbert spoke to me. He did the same evening. 'Your aunt
has informed me,' he said, 'that you have been carrying on a
correspondence with that man named Basil, who so very nearly imposed
upon your father in Australia.' 'That man, uncle,' I said, 'is a
gentleman, and he did not try to impose upon my father.' 'It will be
to your advantage, my dear niece,' said Uncle Gilbert, very quietly,
'not to bandy words with me, nor say things which may interfere with
your freedom and comfort. I am your guardian, and dispute it as you
may, I stand in your father's place. To carry on a clandestine
correspondence with a young man who is no way related to you is
improper and unmaidenly. May I inquire if there is any likelihood of
your correspondent favouring us with a visit?' 'I hope I shall see him
one day,' I said. 'There is a chance of it then,' he said, 'and you
can probably inform me when we may expect him.' 'No, I cannot tell you
that,' I said. 'Your aunt believes,' he said, 'that you are not
speaking the truth when you answer questions we put to you.' 'All my
answers are truthful ones,' I said. 'You refuse to tell us,' he said,
'by what means this secret correspondence has been carried on.' 'I
refuse to tell you,' I answered. 'I will not press you,' he said, 'but
it will be my duty to discover what you are hiding from me. I shall
succeed; I never undertake a task and fail. I always carry it out
successfully to the end. In the meantime this correspondence must
cease.' 'I will not promise,' I said, 'anything I do not mean to
fulfil.' 'That is an honest admission,' he said, 'and I admire you for
it. Nevertheless, the correspondence must cease, and if you persist in
it I shall find a way to put a stop to it. Your reputation, your good
name is at stake, and I must guard you from the consequences of your
imprudence. My dear niece, I fear that you are bent upon opposing my
wishes. It is an unequal battle between you and me--I tell you so
frankly. You are under my control, and I intend to exercise my
authority. We will now let the matter drop.' And it did drop there and
then, and not another word has been spoken on the subject.

"There, Basil, I have told you everything as far as I can recollect
it. I might be much worse off than I am. But it would be different if
I did not have you to think of, if I did not feel that I have a dear,
dear friend in the world, though he is so many thousands of miles
away, and that some day I shall see him again. It is something to look
forward to, and not a day passes that I do not think of it. You
remember the books you used to tell me of on the plantation. I have
read them all again and again, and they are all delightful. If the
choice were mine, and you were to be near me, or with me as my dear
father wished, I should dearly like to live the old life on the
plantation; but there would be a difference, Basil; I could not live
it now without books, and I do not see how anybody could. Often do I
believe them to be real, and when I have laid down one which has made
me laugh and cry I feel as if I had made new friends with whom I can
rejoice and sympathise. There will be plenty to talk of when we meet,
for that we shall meet some day I have not the least doubt. Only if
you would grow rich, and come home soon, it would be so beautiful.
Really and truly, Basil, I want a friend, a true friend to talk to
about things. 'About what things, Annette?' perhaps you ask. How shall
I explain? I will try--only you must remember that I am older than
when we were together on the plantation, and that, as Uncle Gilbert
implied, in a year or two I shall be a woman.

"Basil, when that time comes I want to have more freedom than I have
now; I do not want to feel as if I were in chains; but how shall I be
able to set myself free without a friend like you by my side? I do not
think I am clever, but one can't help thinking of things. I understand
that when my dear father died Uncle Gilbert was doing what he had a
right to do in becoming my guardian and taking care of the money that
was left. Emily says it is all mine, but I do not know. If it is, I
should be glad to give half of it to Uncle Gilbert if he would agree
to shake hands with me and bid me good-bye. We should be ever so much
better friends apart from each other. I did venture timidly to speak
to him once about my dear father's property, but he only said, 'Time
enough, time enough; there is no need to trouble yourself about it;
wait till you are a good many years older.' But, Basil, I want to be
free before I am a good many years older, and how is that to be
managed without your assistance? That is what I mean when I say I want
a true friend to talk about things."

"I must leave off soon; Emily says the mail for Australia leaves
to-day, and this letter has to be posted. I am writing it very early
in the morning in my bedroom, before uncle and aunt are up; it is
fortunate that they do not rise till late. But to be compelled to
write in this way--do you understand now what I mean when I say that I
do not want to feel as if I were in chains? Emily says she will manage
to post the letter for me without uncle and aunt knowing, and I hope
she will be able to. Of course it would be ridiculous for me to
suppose that Emily and I can be a match for Uncle Gilbert, for I am
certain he is watching me, though there is no appearance of it. The
way he talks and the way he looks sometimes puts me in mind of a fox.

"Good-bye, Basil. Do not forget me, and if you do not hear from me for
a long time do not think I have forgotten you. I can never, never, do
that. Oh, how I wish time would pass quickly!

    "Always yours affectionately,

                          "Annette."


When he finished reading Annette's letter Newman Chaytor looked at the
date and saw that it had been written a month earlier than the letter
from the lawyers. Examining the postmark on the envelope he saw that
it could not have been posted till three weeks after it had been
written, and that it bore a French stamp.

"The little puss was not in England," he thought, "when she contrived
to get this letter popped into the post. That shows that she was right
in supposing that Uncle Gilbert was watching her. Sly old fox, Uncle
Gilbert. He means to keep tight hold of the pretty Annette. Saint
George to the rescue! I feel quite chivalrous, and as if I were about
to set forth to rescue maidens in distress. She is not quite devoid of
sense, this Annette; it will be an entertainment to have a bout with
Uncle Gilbert on her behalf. He saw very little of Basil, and if we
resembled each other much less than we do it would be scarcely
possible for him to suspect that another man was playing Basil's part
in this rather remarkable drama. Time, circumstance, everything is in
my favour--but I wish the next few weeks were over."

The harsh cawing of crows aroused him from his musings. Their grating
voices were a fit accompaniment to his cruel thoughts. With a set,
determined face, and with a heart in which dwelt no compunction for
the deed he was about to do, he turned his face towards the spot where
Basil, unsuspicious of the fate in store for him, was awaiting the
comrade in whom he had put his trust.



CHAPTER XXIII.


In Australia, as in all new countries where treasure is discovered or
where land is not monopolised by the few, townships spring up like
mushrooms. Some grow apace, and become places of importance; others,
in which the promise which brought them into existence is unfulfilled,
languish and die out, to share the fate of the township of Gum Flat,
in which Basil had met the man who played him false. Shortly after the
events which have been recorded, a party of prospectors halted in a
valley some eight miles from the valley where Basil and Newman Chaytor
had been working, and began to look for gold. Their search was
rewarded, the precious metal was found in paying quantities, and
miners flocked to the valley and spread themselves over the adjacent
country. The name of one of the early prospectors was Prince, and a
township being swiftly formed, there was a certain fitness in dubbing
it Princetown. All the adjuncts of a town which bade fair to be
prosperous were soon gathered together. At the heels of the
gold-diggers came the storekeepers, with tents in which to transact
their business, and drayloads of goods wherewith to stock their
stores. The tide, set going, flowed rapidly, and in less than a
fortnight Princetown was a recognised centre of the rough civilisation
which reigns in such-like places. Storekeepers, publicans,
auctioneers, plied their trade from morning till night, and the gold,
easily obtained, was as easily parted with by the busy bees, who lived
only for the day and thought not of the morrow. The scene, from early
morning till midnight, was one of remarkable animation, replete with
strange features which a denizen of old-time civilisation, being set
suddenly in its midst, would have gazed upon with astonishment. Here
was a cattle-yard, in which horses for puddling machines and drays,
and sheep and oxen for consumption, were being knocked down to the
highest bidder during ten hours of the day. A large proportion of the
horses purchased by the miners were jibbers and buckjumpers, and a
very Babel of confusion reigned in the High Street as they strove to
lead away their purchases. Around each little knot of mates who had
bought a jibber or a buckjumper a number of idlers gathered, shouting
with derision or approval when the horse or the man was triumphant.
Exciting struggles between the two were witnessed; men jumped upon
unsaddled horses and were thrown into the air amid the yells of the
spectators, only to jump on again and renew the contest. Here an
attempt was being made to pull along a jibber, whose forelegs were
firmly planted before it, while twenty whips were being cracked at its
heels to urge it on in the desired direction. A dozen yards off, up
and out went the heels of a buckjumping brute, scattering the crowd,
and for a moment victorious. Nobody was seriously hurt, bruises being
reckoned of no account by these wanderers from the home-land, who for
the first time in their lives were breathing the air of untrammelled
freedom. It was wonderful to observe the effects of the newer life
which was pulsing in the veins of the adventurers. At home they would
have walked to and from their work, or idled in the streets because
work was not to be obtained, listless and spiritless, mere commonplace
mortals with pale faces, and often hopeless eyes. Here it was as if
fresh, vigorous young blood had been infused into them. The careless,
easy dress, the manly belt with its fossicking knife in sheath, the
ragged and graceful billycock hat, the lissome movements of their
limbs, the hair flowing upon their breasts, transformed them from
drudges into something very like heroes. Seldom anywhere in the world
can finer specimens of manhood be seen than on these new goldfields;
it is impossible to withhold admiration of the manlier qualities which
have sprung into life with the free labour in which their days are
engaged. It is true that liberty often degenerates into lawless
licence, but the vicious attributes of humanity must be taken into
account, and they are as conspicuous in these new scenes, mayhap, as
in the older grooves; and although crime and vice are met with, their
proportion is no larger--indeed, it is not so large--than is made
manifest by statistics in the older orders of civilisation. Next to
the cattle sale-yard is a small store in which the wily gold-buyer is
fleecing and joking with the miner who comes to change virgin gold
into coined sovereigns or the ragged bank notes of Australian banks.
Next to the gold-buyer's tent is a stationer who, for the modest sum
of half-a-crown, will give a man an envelope, a sheet of notepaper,
and pen and ink, with which he can write a letter to a distant friend.
It was an amazing charge, but it was not uncommon during the first few
weeks of life on a new goldfield, and the wonder of it was that men
who toiled in the old countries for little more than half-a-crown a
day slapped down the coin without a murmur against the extortion. Next
to the stationer was a canvas hotel, wherein thimblefuls of brandy and
whiskey were retailed at a shilling the nobbler, and Bass's pale ale
at two shillings the pint bottle. Then clothes stores, provision
stores, general stores, dancing and billiard saloons, branches of
great banks, with flags waving over their fronts, and all driving a
roaring trade. The joyousness of prosperity was apparent in every
animate sign that met the view, and a rollicking freedom of manner was
established, very much as if it were an order of freemasonry which
made all men brothers. Here was a man who in England never had three
sovereigns to "bless himself with" (a favourite saying, which has its
meaning) calling upon every person in sight--strangers to him, every
man Jack of them--to come and drink at his expense at the usual
shilling a thimbleful, throwing to the bartender a dirty banknote, and
pocketing the change without condescending to count it. At present the
circulation was confined to bank notes, sovereigns and silver money.
Coppers were conspicuous by their absence, and, falling into miners'
hands, would very likely be pitched away with scorn. The lowest price
for anything was sixpence, whether it was a packet of pins or a yard
of tape--a very paradise for haberdashers with their eternal three
farthings. The man who was standing treat all round, and the more the
merrier, had been a dockyard labourer in London, a grovelling grub,
who at the end of the week had not twopence to spare, and probably
would have been glad to accept that much charity from the hands of the
kindly-hearted. In Princetown he was a lord, and just now seemed bent
upon getting as drunk as one. He had struck a new lead, and on this
day had washed out more than he would have received for two years'
labour at home. Small wonder that his head was turned; small wonder
for his belief that he was in possession of a Midas mine of wealth
which would prove inexhaustible. Thus in varied form ran the story of
these newly-opened goldfields with their delirious excitements and
golden hopes. A new era had dawned upon mankind, and bone and muscle
were the valuable commodities. So believed the miners, the kings of
the land; the bush roads teemed with them, and a tramp of a hundred
miles was thought nothing of. Their swags on their backs, they marched
through bush and forest, and lit their camp fires at night, and sat
round the blazing logs, smoking, singing, and telling bush yarns
until, healthfully tired out with their day's labour, they wrapped
themselves in their blankets and slept soundly with the stars shining
on them. Up they rose in the morning, as merry as Robin Hood's men,
and drawing water from the creek in which they washed, made their tea
and baked their "damper," then shouldered their swags again, and
resumed their cheerful march. Soldiers of civilisation they, opening
up a new country in which fortunes were made and work honestly paid
for. No room for that pestilential brood, the hydra-headed middleman,
who pays the producer a shilling for his wares, and, passing it on
from hand to hand delivers it to the consumer at six times its proper
value. It is this multiplying process which makes life so hard to
hundreds of thousands in the overcrowded countries of the old-world.

Some passing features of the sudden creation of Princetown have been
given, but one remains to be introduced. Exactly twelve days from the
discovery of gold in the valley, an ancient horse of lean proportions,
dragging a crazy old waggon behind it, halted in the High Street in
the early part of the day. By the side of the tired animal was a
pale-faced man, who never once used his worn-out whip, but gave kindly
words to his steed in the place of lashes. He was poorly dressed and
looked wan and anxious. When he halted there descended from the waggon
a woman as pale-faced and anxious as himself and a little girl
brimming over with life and spirits. The woman was his wife, the
little girl his daughter. The frontages to the most desirable
allotments had been pegged out a long way north and south, and there
were speculators who had no intention of occupying those allotments
themselves, but were prepared to sell their rights to newcomers.
After a few inquiries and some shrewd examination of the allotments,
the man bargained for one in a suitable position, and became its
owner. Then from the waggon was taken a tent of stout canvas, and
while the old horse ate its corn and bent its head to have its nose
stroked by the little girl, the man and woman set to work to build
their habitation. In the course of the afternoon this was done, and
then, after an _al fresco_ repast, the waggon was unloaded of its
contents. This process aroused the curiosity of the loungers in High
Street, Princetown, the goods being of an unusual character.
Mysterious looking articles were taken out of the waggon and conveyed
with great care into the tent, and presently one onlooker, better
informed than his comrades, cried:

"Why, it's a printing-office!"

A printing-office it was, of the most modest description, but still, a
printing-office; that engine of enlightenment without which the wheels
of civilisation would cease to revolve. The word was passed round, the
news spread, and brought other contingents of spectators, and the
canvas tent became a temple, and the pale-faced man a man of mark.
Inside the temple the woman was arranging the type and cases, putting
up without assistance two single frames and a double one; outside the
man was answering, or endeavouring to answer, the eager questions
asked of him, extracting at the same time, for his own behoof, such
scraps of information as would prove useful to him. Pale as was his
face, and anxious as was the look in his eyes, he was a man of energy
and resource.

"Mates," he cried, "look out to-morrow morning for the first number of
the _Princetown Argus_. Who'll subscribe?"

"I will," and "I will," answered a dozen voices, and the enterprising
printer, who had staked his all on the venture, was immediately
engaged in receiving subscriptions for his newspaper, and entering the
names in a memorandum book. His face became flushed, the anxious look
fled from his eyes; in less than half an hour he had thirty pounds in
his pockets.

"Go and get me some news," he said, addressing his audience generally.
"Never mind what it is, I'll put it into shape."

"William," cried the woman from the tent, "you must come and help me
to put up the press."

While the two were thus engaged, a good-natured fellow in the
open took upon himself the task of receiving additional subscribers
and when the press was set up, and the master printer made his
appearance again, a matter of twenty pounds was handed to him by his
self-constituted lieutenant.

"Fifty pounds," whispered the adventurer to his wife. "A good start."

She nodded, beaming, and proceeded with her work, assisted by her
husband. He had announced the initial number of the _Princetown Argus_
for the next morning, and out it would have to come. This would
necessitate their stopping up all night, but what did the matter? They
were establishing a property, and, were already regarded as perhaps
the most important arrival in the new township. In the middle of their
work a visitor presented himself. The printer was spreading ink upon
the ink table and getting his roller in order, when his visitor opened
up a conversation.

"The _Princetown Argus_, eh?"

"Yes."

"A good move. The first number to-morrow morning?"

"Yes."

"Can it be done?"

"Oh, yes," said the printer confidently. "When I say done, done it
is."

"That's your sort. How many pages?"

"Two. The second number four."

"What do you ask for the whole of the front page in the first four
numbers? I've a mind to advertise."

The proposal staggered the printer, but he did not show it; the woman
pricked up her ears.

"A hundred pounds," replied the printer, amazed at his own boldness.

The visitor nodded, as if a hundred pounds for an advertisement were
an every-day occurrence with him.

"With the option," he said, "of the next four numbers at the same
price."

"You can have the option," said the printer, who could not yet be
called a newspaper proprietor, because his journal was in embryo.

"Have you got some bold type? Big letters?"

"Yes. My plant is small at present, but I can do job printing as well
as newspaper work. That's what I'm here for. I shall be getting new
type sent out in a week or two."

"Show me 'John Jones' in big letters."

It was done almost instantaneously, and the visitor gazed at the name
approvingly. It was his own.

"Now, underneath, 'Beehive Stores.'"

The letters were put together, and the printer said, "That will look
well, right across the page."

John Jones nodded again. "Now, underneath that, 'The Beehive, the
Beehive, The Only Beehive. John Jones John Jones, The only John Jones.
Look out for the Flag, Painted by the Finest Artist of the Age.'"

"Go slow," said the printer. "All right, I'm up to you."

"Buy everything you Want," proceeded John Jones, watching the nimble
fingers with admiration, "'at the only Beehive, of the only John
Jones. Groceries, Provisions, Clothing of every description, Picks and
Shovels, Powder and Fuse, Candles, Tubs and Dishes, Crockery, Bottled
Ale and Stout, Everything of the Very Best. The highest price given
for Gold. Come One, Come All. The Only Beehive. The Only John Jones.
The Flag that's Braved a Thousand Years the Battle and the Breeze.
Good luck to all.' There, that's the advertisement. Spread it out, you
know. Here's the hundred pounds. You might give me a paragraph."

"I'll do that," said the printer. "Something in this style: 'We have
much pleasure in directing our readers' attention to the advertisement
of out enterprising townsman, John Jones, the Beehive Stores, at whose
emporium gold-diggers and others will find the finest stock of goods,'
&c., &c., &c. Will that do?"

"Capitally," said John Jones. "Put me down as a subscriber." And off
went the enterprising storekeeper, satisfied with his outlay and that
it would bring him a good return. Both he and William Simmons, the
founder of _The Princetown Argus_, are types. It is opportunity that
makes the man.

The midnight oil was burned in the new printing-office until the sun
rose next morning. Not a wink of sleep did William Simmons or his wife
have; she was almost as expert a compositor as her husband, and she is
presented to the reader standing before her case, composing-stick in
hand, picking up stamps, as a woman worthy of the highest admiration.
When she paused in her work it was to have a peep at her little girl,
who was sleeping soundly, and to stoop and give her darling a kiss.
William Simmons was the busiest of men the whole of the time, in and
out of the tent, running here and there to pick up scraps, of
information for paragraphs and short articles, and setting up his
leading article, introducing _The Princetown Argus_ to the world,
literally "out of his head," for he did not write it first and put it
in type afterwards, but performed the feat, of which few compositors
are capable, that of making his thoughts take the place of "copy." At
ten o'clock in the morning the first copy of the newspaper was
produced, William Simmons being the pressman and Mrs. Simmons the
roller boy. It is a curiosity in its way, and readers at the British
Museum should look it up. There was a great demand for copies, and
Simmons and his wife did their best to supply it, but they could not
hold out longer than twelve o'clock, at which hour they shut up shop,
and, throwing themselves upon some blankets on the ground, enjoyed the
repose which they had so worthily earned. Before they awoke something
took place which created a great stir in the township, and news of it
was conveyed to the office of _The Princetown Argus_. Aroused from
their sleep, the printer and his wife were up and astir again, and
getting his material together, William Simmons, on the following day,
issued an "extra edition" of his paper, the principal item of which is
given in the next chapter.



CHAPTER XXIV.


"A sad discovery" (wrote the editor and proprietor of _The Princetown
Argus_) "was yesterday made on a spot some dozen miles from
Princetown, which we hasten to place before our readers in the shape
of an extra edition of our journal, the success of the first number of
which, we are happy to say, has exceeded our most glowing
anticipations. We ask the inhabitants of Princetown to accept the
issue of this our first extra edition as a guarantee of the spirit
with which we intend to conduct the newspaper which will represent
their interests. The facts of the discovery we refer to are as
follows:

"At the distance we have named from Princetown runs the Plenteous
river, towards which the eyes of our enterprising miners have been
already turned as the source from which, when our creeks run dry, we
shall have to obtain our water supply. The party of miners who have
formed themselves into a company for the purpose of sluicing a portion
of the ground in Fairman's Flat, deputed two of their number, Joseph
Porter and Steve Fairfax to make an inspection of the lay of the land
between Plenteous River and Fairman's Flat, to decide upon the
feasibility of cutting a water race, and upon the best means of
carrying out the design. The ground they hold has been proved to be
highly auriferous, and there is no doubt that rich washings-out will
reward their enterprise. It was not to be expected that they would
make their examination without prospecting the ground here and there,
and the reports they have brought in seem to establish the fact that
the whole of the country between Princetown and the Plenteous River
constitutes one vast goldfield. The future of our township is assured,
and within a short time its position will be second to none in all
Australia. The report of Porter and Fairfax is also highly favourable
to the contemplated water race, and the work will be commenced at
once. It is calculated that there are already six thousand miners in
Princetown. We have room for five times six thousand, and we extend
the hand of welcome to our new comrades.

"Upon the arrival of Porter and Fairfax at the Plenteous River they
naturally concluded they were the first on the ground, no accounts of
any gold workings thereabouts having been published in any of the
Australian journals. They soon discovered their error. Work had been
done on the banks of the river, as was shown by the heaps of tailings
in different places, and on one of the ranges sloping upwards from the
banks a shaft had been sunk. At no great distance from the shaft a
small tent was set up, and the two men proceeded to it for the purpose
of making inquiries. Although the tent presented evidences of having
been quite recently occupied, no person was visible, and they came to
the conclusion that its owner was at work in another direction and
would return at the close of day. Their curiosity induced them to
examine the shaft which had been sunk on the range, and this
examination led to an important result. There was no windlass over the
shaft, but a rope securely fastened at the top hung down the mouth.
They shook the rope, and ascertained that it hung loose. To their
repeated calls down the shaft they received no reply, and they pulled
up the rope. To their surprise there were not more than twelve feet of
rope hanging down, whereas the stuff that had been hauled up indicated
a depth of some forty or fifty feet. A closer examination of the rope
showed that it had been broken at a part where it had got frayed and
unable to bear a heavy weight. Being provided with a considerable
length of rope the men resolved to descend the shaft and ascertain
whether an accident had occurred. Having made their rope fast, Fairfax
descended, and reaching the bottom was horrified to discover a man
lying there senseless and apparently dead. As little time as possible
was lost in getting him to the top, a work of considerable difficulty
and danger, but it was accomplished safely after great labour. Then
came the task of ascertaining whether the man was dead. He was not;
but although he exhibited signs of life the injuries he received were
of such a nature that they feared there was little hope for him. It
was impossible for Fairfax and Porter to convey him to Princetown
without a horse and cart, and Fairfax hurried back to the township to
obtain what was necessary, while Porter remained at the Plenteous
River to nurse the injured man. He has been brought here, and is now
being well looked after. The latest reports of him are more
favourable, and hopes are entertained that his life may be saved. He
has not yet, however, recovered consciousness, and nothing is known as
to his name. Neither is anything absolutely precise known of the
circumstances of the accident, except that it was caused by the
breaking of the rope, a portion of which was found at the bottom of
the shaft, tightly clenched in the stranger's hand.

"There is a certain element of mystery in the affair, and we shall
briefly allude to one or two points which seem to have a bearing upon
it.

"Fairfax and Porter, to whose timely arrival at Plenteous River the
stranger undoubtedly owes his life, if it is spared, are of the
opinion that there were two men working in the shaft and living
together in the tent. Upon the former point they may be mistaken, for
the rope was so fixed that a man working by himself could ascend and
descend the shaft with comparative ease, although the labour of
filling each bucket of stuff below and then ascending to the top to
draw it up, would have been excessive. But upon the latter point there
can be no doubt, for the reason that the tent contained two beds, both
of which must have been lain upon within the last week or two.
Inferring that there _were_ two men working in the shaft, is it
possible, when the accident occurred, that the man at the top of the
shaft made tracks from the place and left his mate to a cruel and
lingering death? This is a mere theory, and we present it for what it
is worth. An opinion has been expressed that the rope has been
tampered with, and that it did not break from natural wear and tear.
If so, it strengthens the theory we have presented. Nothing was found
in the pockets of the injured man which could lead to his identity,
nor was any gold found upon his person or in the tent. Thus, for the
present, the affair is wrapt in mystery."

In the next week's number of the _Princetown Argus_ the incident was
again referred to in a leading article, in which a number of other
matters found mention:

"The man who was found at the bottom of a shaft on a range at the
Plenteous River and was brought to Princetown to have his injuries
attended to, is now conscious and in a fair way of recovery. But,
whether from a set purpose or from the circumstance that his mental
powers have been impaired from the injuries he received, he is
singularly reticent about the affair. He has volunteered no
information, and his answers to questions addressed to him throw no
light upon the mystery. It is expected that several weeks will elapse
before he can recover his strength. Meanwhile we have to record that
gold has been found in paying quantities in the banks of the river and
in the adjacent ranges, and it is calculated that there are already
five hundred men at work there. Gold is also being discovered in
various parts of the country between Princetown and the river,
and a great many claims are being profitably worked. The rush of
gold-diggers to Princetown continues, and men are pouring in every
day. Yesterday the gold escort took down 4,300 ounces; it is expected
that this quantity will be doubled next week. Our enterprising
townsman, Mr. John Jones, of the famous Beehive Stores, is having a
wooden building erected in which his extensive business will in future
be transacted. We direct the attention of our readers to Mr. Jones'
advertisement on our front page. The enterprising proprietor of the
Royal Hotel has determined to construct a movable theatre, also of
wood, which will be put up every evening in the cattle sale-yards
adjoining his hotel when the sales of the day are over, and taken down
after every performance to allow of the sales being resumed the next
morning. This is a novel idea, and will be crowned with success. A
first-class company is on its way to Princetown, and it is announced
that the first performance will be given in a fortnight. Fuller
particulars of these matters will be found in other columns. Our
readers will observe that we have doubled the size of the _Princetown
Argus_, which now consists of four pages. We have ordered an entire
new plant, and upon its arrival shall still further enlarge our paper.
Our motto is Onward."

It will be seen from these extracts that Newman Chaytor had carried
out his cruel scheme to what he believed and hoped would be the end of
the comrade he had plotted against and betrayed. But what man proposes
sometimes fails in its purpose, and it was so in this instance. The
merciful arrival of the two gold-diggers upon the scene saved Basil's
life.

This last act of Chaytor's was easily accomplished. While Basil slept
he crawled to the shaft, and by the moon's light weakened the strands
of the rope some ten feet down. Then he crawled back to his bed, and
tossed to and fro till the dawn of day.

"We'll work the claim till the end of the week," he said to Basil over
breakfast, "and if it turns out no better, we will try the banks of
the river again."

"Very well," said Basil. "I am truly sorry I don't bring you better
luck, but we have something to go on with, at all events."

They walked to the shaft together, and Basil prepared to descend.
Grasping the rope, he looked up at Chaytor, and Chaytor smiled at him.
He responded with a cheerful look, for although the hopes in which he
had indulged of returning to England with a fortune were destroyed, he
had not abandoned his wish to leave the colony. He was sick of the
life he was leading, and he yearned for a closer human sympathy. His
share of the gold they had obtained would be close upon five hundred
pounds--that was something; it would enable him to take passage home,
to find Annette perhaps, to see and speak with her and renew the old
bond; and if the worst happened, if he could not find Annette, or
found her only to learn that the woman was different from the child,
he could come back to Australia and live out his life there.

"Don't lose heart," he said to Chaytor; "we may strike the vein again
this week. There's a bright future before you, I am certain."

"I half believe so myself," said Chaytor; "hoping against hope, you
know." And thought, "Will he never go down?"

Basil gave one upward look at the floating clouds and descended.
Chaytor bent over the mouth of the shaft, looked down, and listened.

"Is the rope firm?" Basil cried out.

"Quite firm," said Chaytor. Then there came a terrified scream, and
the sound of a heavy body falling. Then--silence.

Chaytor, with white face and lips tightly set, still bent over the
mouth of the shaft, still looked down the dark depths, still listened.
Not a sound--not even a groan.

"It is done," he muttered.

He pulled up the severed rope, and thought that it might have happened
without his intervention. He had read of a parallel instance, and of
the death of a miner in consequence.

"It was an accident," he said, "as this is. The rope would have given
way without my touching it. Such things occur all over the world. Look
at the colliery accidents at home--hundreds of men are killed in them,
here there is only one."

These thoughts were not prompted by compunction; he simply desired to
shift the responsibility from his own shoulders. It was a miserable
subterfuge, and did not succeed. In the first flush of his crime its
shadow haunted him.

He let the rope fall from his hand down the shaft. "I could not go to
him," he said, "if I wanted. How quiet he is!"

A mad impulse seized him.

"Basil Basil!" he cried in his loudest tone; and as no reply reached
him, he said, looking around, "Well, then, is it my fault that he does
not answer me?"

He paced to and fro, a dozen steps this way, a dozen that, counting
his steps. Fifty times at least he did this, always with the intention
of going to the tent or the river, and always being drawn back to the
mouth of the shaft, over which he hung and lingered. It possessed a
horrible fascination for him.

"I _will_ go this time," he said, but he could not. He remained an
hour--the longest hour in his life. At length he went down to the
river, and as he gazed upon it thought, "Men die by drowning. What
does it matter the kind of death? Death is death: it is always the
same."

The interminable hours lagged on till night came. He sat in the tent
weighing the gold and getting ready for flight. Once in Sydney he
would take the first ship for England. The flickering candle cast
monstrous shadows upon the walls and ceiling, and in his nervous state
he shrank shudderingly from them, and strove to ward them off, as
though they were living forms hovering about him with fell intent. The
silence appalled him; he would have given gold for the piping of a
little bird.

Thus passed the miserable night, and in the morning he visited the
shaft again. The same awful stillness reigned.

"It is all over," he said. "Newman Chaytor is dead; I, Basil
Whittingham, live. No one will ever know. Now for England!"



CHAPTER XXV.


Occasionally in a man's life comes a pause: as between the acts of a
drama action slumbers awhile--only that the march through life's
season never halts. The pulse of time throbs silently and steadily
until the natural span is reached, or is earlier snapped, and the
bridge between mortality and immortality is crossed. Meanwhile the man
grows older--that is all. For him upon the tree of experience there is
neither blossom nor bloom; bare branches spread out, naked of hope,
and he gazes upon them in dumb wonderment or despair. The hum of
woodland life, the panorama of wondrous colour, the unceasing growth
of life out of death, the warlike sun, the breath of peace in moon and
stars, the eternal pæn that all nature sings, bear no message to his
soul. He walks, he eats, he sleeps, and waits unconsciously for the
divine touch that shall arouse him from his trance.

Something of this kind occurred to Basil. Recovering from the physical
injuries he had sustained, he sank into an apathetic state which, but
for some powerful incentive, might have been morally fatal. Friends he
had none, or the effort might have been made; so for a year after
Newman Chaytor had left Australia he plodded aimlessly on, working for
wages which kept him in food, and desiring nothing more. Upon the
subject of his mate's desertion he preserved silence, as indeed he did
upon most other subjects, but it might reasonably have been expected
that upon this theme in which he was directly interested he would have
been willing to open his mind. It was not so. To questions addressed
to him he returned brief and unsatisfactory answers, and after a time
nothing further was asked of him. Curiosity died out; if he chose to
keep himself aloof it was his business, and in the new world, as in
the old, every man's affairs were sufficient to occupy him without
troubling himself about strangers. Thus it would appear that the
scheme upon which Newman Chaytor had bent all his energies was
destined to be in every way successful.

With respect to the desertion and the disappearance of the gold, an
equal share of which was rightfully and lawfully his, Basil had
arrived at a definite conclusion. He entertained no doubt that the
rope had broken naturally; suspicion of foul play did not cross his
mind. He argued that Chaytor, believing him to be dead, had taken the
gold and left the claim they had been working in disgust. "He made no
secret," thought Basil, "that he was sick of the life we were leading.
To have gone away and left my share of the gold behind him--I being,
as he supposed, dead--would have been an act of folly. I do not blame
him; good luck go with him. He stuck to me to the last, and proved
himself my friend when most I needed one. Let my life go on as it
will; I will think nothing and say nothing to his injury." A
vindictive man would have argued otherwise, would have thought that it
was at least a comrade's duty, before he left the spot, to convince
himself by ocular proof that the fall was fatal. But Basil was not
vindictive; he believed he had the best of reasons to be grateful to
Chaytor, and if the gold his mate had taken was any repayment for
services rendered in the past, he was welcome to it. The strong moral
principle in Basil's nature kept him from yielding to temptations
against which not all men struggle successfully when misfortune
persistently dogs them. He led an honest life of toil, without
ambition to lift himself to a higher level. But happily an awakening
was in store for him, and it came through the sweetest and most
humanising of influences.

Princetown throve apace; its promise was fulfilled, and twenty
thousand men found prosperous lodgment therein. The majority delved,
the minority traded, most of them throve. To be sure some were
unfortunate, and some idled and dissipated, but this must always be
expected. New leads were discovered, quartz reefs were opened,
crushing machines were put up, streets were formed, a fire brigade was
established, a benevolent institute and a lunatic asylum were founded.
Not even a mushroom town in these new countries can exist without
something in the shape of a municipal council, and one was formed in
Princetown, over the elections for which there was prodigious
excitement. Churches and chapels, even a synagogue, were erected by
voluntary contributions, and there were churchyards in which already
wanderers found rest. All the important buildings were now of wood,
and there was a talk of stone, the primal honour of erecting which was
presently to fall to John Jones, the enterprising proprietor of the
Only Beehive. The _Princetown Argus_ shared in the general prosperity.
First a weekly, then a bi-weekly, then a tri-weekly, finally a daily.
First, two pages, the size of the _Globe_, then four pages ditto,
finally four pages, the size of the _Times_. Not a bad sample of
enterprise this. The Saturday edition was eight pages, to serve the
purpose of a weekly as well as a daily, and in it was published a
novel, "to be continued in our next," which the editor took from a
London monthly magazine, and for which, in the innocence of his heart,
he paid nothing. Of course there was an opposition journal, but the
_Princetown Argus_ had taken the lead, and kept it in the face of all
newcomers. The shrewd editor and proprietor did one piece of business
with a more than usually obstinate rival which deserves to be
recorded. He bought up an opposition paper, the _Princetown Herald_,
whose politics were the reverse of those he advocated, and for a
considerable time he ran the two papers on their original lines, each
attacking the other's principles and policy with fierce zest and
vigour. Thus he occupied both fields of public opinion, and threw sops
to all who took an interest in local and colonial politics. And here a
word in the shape of information which will surprise many readers.
England is overrun with newspapers; the United States is more than
overrun, having nearly three to our one; but in journalistic
enterprise Australasia beats the record, having, in proportion to
population, more newspapers than any other country in the world. An
astonishing fact.

Two circumstances must be mentioned which bear upon our story. The
first is that Basil's surname was not known; he called himself Basil,
and was so called. The second is that in the column of the _Princetown
Argus_ in which births, marriages, and deaths were advertised, there
was recorded the birth and death of a baby, the child of the editor
and his wife, born one day and dying the next. This was the first
birth and burial in Princetown. The child left to them, the little
girl of whom we have already spoken, whose name was Edith, took the
loss of her baby sister much to heart, and never a week passed that
she did not visit the churchyard and sit by the tiny grave.

At the end of twelve months or so there came to Princetown a preacher
of extraordinary power. He was rough, he was uncultivated, he had not
been educated for the pulpit, but he could stir the masses and wake up
sleeping souls. He had a marvellous magnetism and tremendous
earnestness, which silenced the scoffer and made the sinner tremble;
the consequence was that sinners and scoffers went to hear him, and
some few were made better by his denunciations. There are souls which
can be reached only through fear. Happily there are more which can be
reached through love.

Amongst those who were drawn to listen to the preacher was Basil, and
being once present he did not miss a service. One Sabbath the preacher
took sluggishness for his theme which he denounced, in its physical
and moral attributes, as a sin, the consequences of which were not to
be avoided. Men were sent into the world to work, to fulfil duties,
and to seek both assiduously. It was not only sinful, it was cowardly,
to put on the armour of indolence and indifference, and to so intrench
oneself was destructive of the highest qualities of humanity, the
exercise of which lifted men above the level of the beasts of the
field. To say, because one is unfortunate, "Oh, what is the use of
striving?" tends to rob life of nobility and heroism. To fight the
battle manfully to the last, to keep one's heart open to humanising
influences, however poor the return which proffered love and sympathy
and charity may meet with, is the work of a man and brings its reward.
He has striven, he has proved himself, he has established his claim to
the higher life. To live only for the day, to be indifferent to the
morrow, is a quality by which animals without reason are
distinguished, and, to share with them in this respect is a cowardly
and sinful degradation. "If" (said the preacher) "there are any here
who have fallen so low, I say to them, Arouse yourselves; take down
the shutters which darken heart and soul; admit the light which
purifies and sweetens. Be men, not brutes."

This was the sum of his sermon. Few understood it, but they did not
perhaps value it the less highly on that account. To Basil it came as
a reproach; he quivered under the strokes and left the place of
worship with a beating heart, with tumultuous thoughts in his mind.
Scarcely noting whither he was going he walked towards the churchyard,
and there in the distance, sitting by a grave, he saw a child. It was
Edith sitting by the grave of her baby sister.

The scene, the attitude, brought Annette's form to his mind. So used
she to sit by her mother's grave on the plantation, and he had
accompanied her and sat by her side. He looked about for flowers;
there were none near; but when he approached Edith he saw that she had
some in her lap, and was weaving them into a garland, as Annette had
done in a time really not so very long ago, but which seemed to belong
to another life. She looked up at him, and the tenderness of her gaze
touched him deeply; instantly on her countenance was reflected the sad
wistfulness which dwelt on his. Children are peculiarly receptive;
they meet your smiles with smiles, your sadness with sadness. Edith
just shifted her little body, conveying in the slight movement an
invitation to Basil to sit beside her. He instantly took his place
close to her, and they fell naturally into conversation.

"What is your name, little one?"

"Edith. Tell me yours. I like you."

"My name is Basil."

"I like that, too. Here is a flower for you."

"Where did you gather them, Edith?"

"We have a garden. Father says it puts him in mind of home."

"Who is your father?"

"Don't you know? Everybody else does. He's the editor of the
_Princetown Argus_. You know that, don't you?"

"Yes. And you have a mother?"

"Oh, yes. She is very clever." Basil nodded. "Father says she is the
cleverest woman in the world. She can make clothes, she can cook, she
knows all about flowers, she can write paragraphs for the paper, and
when they are written she can print them."

"That is a great deal for your mother to do. Does she really help to
print the newspaper?"

"Not now. She did when we first came here. But father has a great many
gentlemen printers in the office, and they do all that. These are
English flowers. The seeds come all the way from England where I was
born; but I don't remember it because I was only a little baby when we
came over in a great big ship. I don't remember the ship either, but I
know all about it because mother has told me about the great storm,
and how we were nearly wrecked, and how the ship was battered to
pieces almost."

"The English flowers put your father in mind of home. That is
England?"

"Yes, that is England. When we're very rich we're going back there. Do
you know where it is?"

"I come from England."

"That is nice. Like us. Are you going back?"

"I cannot say."

"Why? Because you don't know?"

"That is the reason, perhaps."

"You see," said Edith, arranging some flowers on the grave in the
shape of a cross, "there are so many people there we love. Two
grandfathers, two grandmothers, and such a lot of cousins I've never
seen. England must be very, very beautiful. Father and mother call it
home, and when I write I always say, 'We are coming home one day.'
We're going to have a fig-tree; father says we shall sit under it."
Basil smiled. "I like you to smile; you don't look so unhappy then.
What makes you unhappy? You mustn't be. You must go home with us and
see the people you love."

"Suppose there are none, little Edith."

She gazed at him solemnly. "Not even an angel?" she asked.

"An angel!" he exclaimed somewhat startled.

"Yes, an angel. One was here once." She had completed the cross of
flowers, and she pointed to the grave. "Only for a little while, and
when we go home she is coming with us. She came from heaven to us just
for one night only; I was asleep and didn't see her; I was so sorry.
Then they brought her here, and she flew straight up to heaven. I
can't go up there to give her the English flowers, so I lay them here
where she can see them, and when I come again and the flowers are gone
I know that she has taken them away and put them in a jug of water--up
there. Mother says flowers never die in heaven, so baby sister must
have a lot. I dream of her sometimes; I wish you could see her as I
do. There's a picture of a baby angel over my bed, and she is just
like that. Such beautiful large grey eyes--my eyes are grey--and
shining wings. We love each other dearly."

"I hope that will always be, little Edith."

"Oh, it will be. When you love once you love always; that is what
mother says, and she never says anything wrong. I wish you had an
angel."

"I had one once."

"Why, then you have one now. Once means always. Was she a little
girl?"

"Yes."

"Like our angel. I am glad. Now you must come and see mother and
father." She rose and took his hand.

"They do not know me, Edith."

"But _I_ know you, and you know me. You must come."

"Yes, I will come. May I take one flower from your cross?"

"Yes."

He selected one and kissed it, and they walked together side by side.
The preacher had said, "Take down the shutters which darken heart and
soul; admit the light which purifies and sweetens." It was done, and
the light was shining in Basil's heart. He clung to the little hand
which was clasped in his. In that good hour it was indeed a Divine
link which re-united him once more to what was best and noblest. The
shadows were dying away. Dark days were before him, strange
experiences were to be his, but in the darkest day of the future a
star was always to shine. "Annette, Annette, Annette," he whispered.
"I will make an endeavour to see you. I will never again lose faith. A
weight has gone from my heart."

"Let me kiss the flower where you kissed it," said Edith.

He put it to her lips, and she kissed it, and raised her face
innocently. He stooped and kissed her lips.

"I think," said Edith contemplatively, "I like you better than any one
else except mother and father and baby angel."

The office of the _Princetown Argus_ was now an extensive building all
on one floor; architects had not yet reached higher flights. The door
from the street opened midway between two rooms, the one to the right
being that in which advertisements and orders for subscriptions were
taken, the one to the left being used for book-keeper, editor, and
reporters indiscriminately. The reporting staff did a great part of
their work standing; there were only a desk and a stool for the
book-keeper, who assisted in the reading of proofs, and a table and
two chairs for the accommodation of the editor and sub-editor.
Adjoining these two rooms in the rear was the composing-room of the
newspaper, in the rear of that the jobbing-room, in the rear of that
the press room. The living apartments of the editor and his little
family were quite at the end of the building, and were really
commodious--sitting-room, kitchen, and two sleeping-rooms, one for
little Edith, the other for her parents. In the sitting-room there was
a piano upon which every member of the family could play with one
finger, there were framed chromos on the walls, and sufficient
accommodation in the shape of chairs and tables. The mantelpiece was
embellished with an extensive array of photographs of grandfathers,
grandmothers, uncles, aunts, and cousins; and the floor was covered
with red baize. Taking it altogether it was an elegant abode for a new
goldfield, and Edith's garden, upon which the window of her bedroom
looked out, imparted to it an air of refinement and sweetness
exceedingly pleasant to contemplate. When Edith, still holding Basil's
hand, passed through the business rooms and entered the sitting-room,
the happy editor and proprietor was alone, his wife being busy in the
kitchen getting dinner ready. Domestic servants were the rarest of
birds in Princetown; indeed there were none in the private
establishments, for as soon as a girl or woman made her appearance in
the township there was a "rush" for her, and before she had been there
a week she had at least a dozen offers of marriage. A single woman was
worth her weight in gold--Princetown was a veritable paradise for
spinsters of any age, from fifteen to fifty. Small wonder that they
turned up their noses at domestic service, when by merely crooking
their little finger they could become their own mistress, picking and
choosing from a host of amorous gold diggers. Free and easy was the
wedding; the eating and drinking, the popping of corks, the drive
through the principal streets, the indiscriminate invitations to all,
the dancing at night, with more popping of corks and the cracking of
revolvers in the open air to proclaim to the world that an "event" of
supreme importance was being celebrated--all tended to show the value
of woman as a marketable commodity. Two or three miles away, in a
gully upon a hill, was the canvas tent to which the bridegroom bore
his bride an hour or two this or that side of midnight, literally bore
her often because of the open shafts which dotted the road; and there
the married life commenced. It is a lame metaphor to say that woman
ruled the roast; she ruled everything, and was bowed down to and
worshipped as woman never was before in the history of the world.

The editor looked up as his little daughter and Basil entered, and
Edith immediately took upon herself the office of mistress of the
ceremonies.

"This is Basil, father." The editor nodded. "He is going to spend the
whole day with us."

"He is welcome," said the editor, who knew Basil by sight.

Basil smilingly explained that little Edith had taken entire
possession, and was responsible for his intrusion.

"But you are not intruding," said the editor. "We shall be very
pleased of your company. Our hive is ruled by a positive Queen Bee,
and there she stands"--with an affectionate look at his daughter, who
accepted her title with amusing gravity--"so that we cannot exactly
help ourselves."

His tone was exceedingly cordial, and Basil, being heartily welcomed
by Edith's mother, soon made himself at home. The young man's manners
were very winning and afforded pleasure to Edith's parents, who had
not, at least on the goldfields, met with a guest of so much culture
and refinement. Regarding Basil as her special property, Edith pretty
well monopolised his attention in the intervals between meals, but
sufficient of Basil's character was revealed to the editor to set him
thinking. He saw that he was entertaining a gentleman and a man of
attainments, and he felt how valuable such an assistant would be on
the editorial staff of his newspaper. The journalists in his employ
had sprung out of the rough elements of colonial life, and although
they were fairly capable men, they lacked the polish which Basil
possessed. The result of his reflections was that before the day was
out he made Basil a business proposition.

"It occurs to me," said the shrewd fellow, "that you are not exactly
cut out for a digger's life."

"I am afraid you are right," said Basil, with a smile in which a touch
of sadness might be detected.

"Why not try something else?" asked the editor.

"It is difficult to know what," replied Basil; "there are so few
things for which I am fitted."

"There is one in which you would make your mark."

"May I know what it is? I may differ from you; but it would be a
pleasant hearing."

"Sub-editor of the _Princetown Argus_, for instance," suggested the
editor, coming straight to the point. He was not the kind of man to
take two bites at a cherry.

Basil looked him in the face; the proposition startled and gratified
him. "You rush at a conclusion somewhat hastily," he said.

"Not at all. I know what I am talking about. You are cut out for just
that position."

"I have never done anything in the literary way."

"I'll take the risk," said the editor. "A man may go floundering about
all his life without falling into his proper groove. You are not bound
to any other engagement in Princetown?"

"To none. I am quite free."

"And you can commence at once?"

"If you are serious."

"I was never more so. It might be agreeable to you to take up your
quarters with us. In two days I will have a sleeping apartment built
for you, adjoining our little bit of garden. You are a sociable man
and a gentleman, and we should be glad to have you at our table. From
your conversation I should say you have had a classical education. Am
I right?"

"Quite right; but I am not a very bright scholar. You must not expect
great things."

"I expect what you are able to supply; you haven't half enough
confidence in yourself. Why, if I had your advantages--but never mind,
I haven't done badly with my small stock of brains. We'll wake them
up." He rubbed his hands. "You will be a bit strange at first, but
I'll put you in the way of things. I look upon it as settled."

"Would it not be prudent," said Basil, "for you to take a little time
for consideration?"

"Not an hour; not a minute. Strike while the iron's hot. My dear sir,
this is a go-ahead country. Shake hands on the bargain."

They shook hands upon it, and immediately afterwards the editor
regarded Basil with a thoughtful air, and said:

"You puzzle me, you do not ask anything about terms."

"I am content to leave them to you. Wait till you see whether I am
worth anything."

"No, the risk is mine, as I have said. Will six pounds a week and
board and lodging suit you?"

"It is too much."

"You will be satisfied with it for the first month?"

"More than satisfied."

"It is arranged, then. If we continue together you shall have an
advance at the end of the month, and I shall bind you down not to
leave me without a month's notice."

"On my part, I will be so bound. You are free to discharge me without
notice."

"It shall be the same to both of us. As you are to commence to-morrow
you might think of a subject for a 'leader' in Tuesday's paper. By
Wednesday your bedroom will be ready, and you can live with us as long
as you are on the staff. We shall have reason to congratulate
ourselves on the arrangement we have made."



CHAPTER XXVI.


Certainly neither Basil nor his employer had reason to be otherwise.
It led to important results in Basil's career, and in years to come he
often thought of the child, the chance meeting with whom in the
churchyard conducted him, by both straight and devious paths, to a
goal which he had not dared to hope he would ever reach. Between him
and Edith loving links were soon firmly forged which time was never to
sever. This sweet and human bond was of inestimable value to Basil; it
raised him from the slough of despond into which he had sunk; the hand
of a little child lifted him to a man's height. He was profoundly
grateful; he had now a happy home, he had congenial work to do. The
doubts he had entertained of his fitness for the position were
dispelled in a very short time. He threw himself with ardour and
animation into his new duties, which he performed in a manner that
more than justified the confidence reposed in him. Nominally
sub-editor, but really editor of the paper, he infused into its
columns a spirit of intelligence which made it more popular than ever.
It was talked of as an example of what a newspaper should be, and
Basil's opinions upon colonial matters were quoted in the more
influential journals in the colonies as those of a man of far-seeing
judgment. A classical allusion now and then added to the value of
Basil's writings, and all Princetown was proud of him because of the
vicarious distinction conferred, through him, upon its inhabitants. "A
clever fellow that," said John Jones, of the Only Beehive,
appreciating Basil the more because of his own utter ignorance of the
classics. There was a talk of Basil's representing the division in the
Legislative Assembly, but he promptly set that aside by emphatically
declaring that he had no desire for public life or parliamentary
honours. Thus six months passed by, when a revelation was made to him
which caused him to carry out a resolve deplored by all Princetown.

The official quarters of the township, where public business was
transacted, was known as the Government Camp. In this camp, which was
laid out upon the slope of a hill, were situated the Magistrate's
Court, the buildings in which the mounted troopers lodged, where the
gold escort was made up, where miners' disputes were adjusted, and
where miners paid their yearly sovereign for miners' rights, which
gave lawful sanction to their delving for the precious metal and
appropriating the treasure they extracted from the soil. There were
swells in the Government Camp, members of good families in the old
country, for whom something in the shape of official employment had to
be found. It is pleasant to be able to record that there were few
sinecures among these employments, most of the holders having to do
something in the shape of work for their salaries. It was when Basil
had served on the staff of the _Princetown Argus_ for a space of six
months, and had saved during that period a matter of two hundred
pounds, that a new Goldfields' Warden made his appearance at the
Government Camp. The name of this gentleman was Majoribanks, and when
we presently part with him he will play no further part in our story;
but it will be seen that the small rôle he fills in it is sufficiently
pregnant.

Mr. Majoribanks was "a new chum" in the colony. Arriving in the
capital with high credentials, the influence of his connections
provided him almost immediately with a berth to which a good salary,
with pickings, was attached. The position of Goldfields' Warden on
Princetown was vacant, and he was appointed to it. His special fitness
for the office need not here be discussed. Many members of good
families in England, whose wild ways rendered desirable their removal
to another sphere, developed faculties in Australia which elevated
them into respectable members of society, which they certainly would
not have been had they remained in the old world, surrounded by
temptations. Mr. Majoribanks was not a bad fellow at bottom, and it
was a fortunate day for him and his family when they exchanged
farewell greetings.

There were not many gentlemen--in Mr. Majoribanks' understanding of
the term--in Princetown, and when the new Goldfields' Warden came in
contact with Basil, he recognised the superior metal in the hero of
our story. The casual acquaintance they formed ripened into intimacy,
and they met often in Mr. Majoribanks' quarters and passed many a
pleasant hour together.

"Come and have a smoke this evening," said Mr. Majoribanks to Basil
one Saturday afternoon.

Saturday was the only day in the week which Basil could call his own,
and he was glad of the invitation and accepted it. Mr. Majoribanks
knew Basil only, as others knew him, by the name of Basil and had not
taken the trouble to inquire whether it was a surname. So the two
gentlemen sat in Mr. Majoribanks' snug quarters on this particular
Saturday, and discussed a dainty little meal, cooked in capital style
by the Goldfields' Warden's Chinese cook. The meal finished, they
adjourned to the verandah, and lit their cigars.

They had much in common; they had travelled over familiar country in
Europe and they compared notes, recalling experiences of old times
which in their likeness to each other drew them closer together.

"Upon my soul," remarked Mr. Majoribanks, "it is an exceedingly
pleasant thing to find one's self in the company of a gentleman. It
makes banishment endurable. Do you ever think of returning to
England?"

"One day, perhaps," replied Basil.

"I hope we shall meet there," said Mr. Majoribanks. "Is it allowable
to ask what brought you out to the goldfields?"

"I lost my fortune," said Basil, "and not knowing what to turn my hand
to came to Australia to make another."

"Is it again allowable to ask whether you have succeeded?"

"I have not succeeded."

"If you had been a bricklayer or a navvy in England you might tell a
different tale."

"It is not unlikely."

"A gentleman stands but little chance here," observed Mr. Majoribanks.
"We are treated in the colonies to a complete reversal of the proper
order of things. I suppose in the course of time Australia will cut
itself away from the old country and become republic."

"It is certainly on the cards, but it will be a long time before that
occurs; there are so many different interests, you see."

"A jumble of odd elements," said Mr. Majoribanks.

"When there is a real Australian population," said Basil, "men and
women born and living here, with no reminiscences of what is now
called 'home,' then the movement of absolute self-government will take
serious form."

"Ah, well, I don't believe in the self-made man. I stick to the old
order."

"Individual opinion will not change the current of natural changes. It
is not to be expected that this vast continent will be for ever
satisfied to remain a dependency of a kingdom so many thousands of
miles away. The talk about federation may satisfy for a time, but it
is merely a sop in the pan. By-and-by will come the larger question of
a nation with an autonomous constitution like the United States.
Children cut themselves from their mother's apron strings: so it will
be with these colonies."

"You have made a study of such matters."

"To some extent. My position on our local paper has sent me in that
direction."

"You like your position?"

"Tolerably well. I cannot say I am wedded to it, but I must not be
ungrateful."

Then the conversation drifted into channels more personal. Mr.
Majoribanks launched into a recital of certain experiences in England
and the Continent, and mourned the break in a career more congenial to
him than that of Goldfields' Warden in Princetown, which he declared
to be confoundedly dull and uninteresting. He missed his theatres, his
club, his race meetings, his fashionable society, and many a sigh
escaped him as he dwelt upon these fascinating themes. Then occurred a
pause, and some sudden reminiscence, as yet untouched, caused him to
regard his companion with more than ordinary curiosity.

"An odd idea strikes me," he said. "Have you a twin brother?"

"No," replied Basil, smiling. "What makes you ask?"

"No, of course that is not likely," said Mr. Majoribanks. "If you had
a twin brother his name would not be Basil. It is singular for all
that. But it is a most extraordinary likeness. A cousin of yours
perhaps?"

"I haven't the slightest idea of your meaning. I have no cousins that
I am aware of."

"It has only just struck me. As I looked at you a moment ago I saw the
wonderful resemblance between you and a man I met in Paris. Basil is
not a very common name."

"Not very. Had the gentleman you met in Paris another tacked to it?"

"Oh, yes," said Mr. Majoribanks. "Whittingham."

"Whittingham!" exclaimed Basil, greatly startled.

"Basil Whittingham--that is the gentleman's full name; and, by the
way, I was told, I remember, that he had been in Australia,
gold-digging. It is a curious story--but you seem excited."

"With good cause," said Basil. "My name is Basil Whittingham."

"You don't say so?"

"It is a fact."

"Well, that makes it all the stranger." Basil rose and paced the
verandah in uncontrollable excitement. The full significance of this
extraordinary revelation did not immediately dawn upon him, and at
present he did not connect Newman Chaytor with it. Out of the chaos of
thought which stirred his mind he evoked nothing intelligible. Mr.
Majoribanks' eyes followed him as he paced to and fro, and fixed
themselves frankly upon him when he paused and faced him.

"Were you aware that my name is Whittingham?" asked Basil.

"Upon my honour, no," replied Mr. Majoribanks.

"There is some mystery here," said Basil, mastering his excitement,
"which it seems imperative should be solved. As you remarked, Basil is
not a common name; neither is Whittingham; and that the two should be
associated in the person of a man who bears so wonderful a resemblance
to me that you would have taken us to be twin brothers, makes it all
the more mysterious and inexplicable. You are not joking with me?"

"As I am a gentleman, I have told you nothing but the truth. There are
such things as coincidences, you know."

"Yes; but if this is one, it is the strangest I have ever heard of."

"It has all the appearance of it," said Mr. Majoribanks, thoughtfully.
"Within my knowledge there are only two men bearing the name of
Whittingham--one, myself, the other an uncle in England, with whom,
unfortunately, I had some differences of opinion."

"Ah," said Mr. Majoribanks, "the coincidences continue. The gentleman
I refer to had an uncle of the name of Whittingham with whom he also
had some differences of opinion."

"_Had_ an uncle?"

"Who is dead," said Mr. Majoribanks.

"My uncle was a gentleman of fortune."

"So was his."

"I was to have been his heir. I displeased him and he disinherited me.
That was really the reason why I left England for Australia."

Mr. Majoribanks fell back in his chair, and said, "You take my breath
away."

"Why?"

"Why? Because that is the sum total of the story which I said just now
was so curious. Mr. Whittingham, there must be something more than
coincidence in all this."

"Oblige me a moment. Let me think."

He turned his back upon Mr. Majoribanks, and steadied himself. By a
determined effort he subdued the chaos of thought by which he was
agitated. The form of Newman Chaytor rose before him. Was it possible
that this man, in whom he had placed implicit trust, who knew the
whole story of his life, who had deserted him and left him for dead
without taking the trouble to assure himself that his fall down the
shaft was fatal--was it possible that this man had played him false?
It seemed scarcely credible, but what other construction was to be
placed upon the story which Mr. Majoribanks had revealed to him. He
paused again before his companion, and said in his most earnest tone:

"Mr. Majoribanks, a vital issue hangs upon the information you have
given me. I am sure you will not trifle with me. You are a gentleman,
and your word is not to be doubted. Were you intimately acquainted
with this double, who bears my name, who so strangely resembles me,
and whose story is so similar to my own?"

"There was no intimacy whatever," said Mr. Majoribanks. "I saw him
once, and once only, in Paris, and we passed an evening together. When
I parted from him--a party of us went to the Comédie Française that
night to see Bernhardt--I saw him no more. The way of it was this. It
being resolved in solemn family council that I was to retrieve my
battered fortunes in the Sahara, I paid a last visit to dear
delightful Paris to bid it a long adieu. A friend accompanied me, and
a friend of his to whom he was under an obligation--to speak plainly,
a money-lender--happening to be in Paris at the same time, we chummed
together. We dined at the Grand, and there, at another table, sat your
prototype. Our money-lending friend, who knows everything and
everybody, pointed him out to us, and told us his story. His name was
Basil Whittingham; he had been in Australia, gold-digging; he had a
wealthy uncle of the same surname whom he had offended, and who had
driven him out of his native land, with an intimation that he was to
consider himself disinherited. Upon his death-bed, however, the old
gentleman's hard heart softened, and he made a will by which the
discarded nephew was restored to his good graces, and became heir to
all he possessed. The fortune which fell to your lucky double was not
in land and houses; it was in something better, hard cash, and it
amounted, so far as I can recollect, to not less than between fifty
and sixty thousand pounds. Whereupon the lucky heir winged his way
homeward, by which time his uncle had joined the majority, and took
possession of his windfall. Our money-lending friend had some slight
acquaintance with the heir, and we were introduced. It was a night I
had occasion to remember, quite apart from any connection you may have
with the story. Do you adhere to it that it resembles yours?"

"Up to the day upon which I left England it agrees with it entirely.
As to what subsequently occurred I knew nothing until this moment."

"Well, all that I can say--without understanding in the least, mind
you, how it could have come about--is, that I would look into it, if I
were in your place."

"It shall be looked into. Do you remember if the uncle's christian
name was mentioned?"

"I cannot quite say. Refresh my memory; it may have been."

"Bartholomew."

"Upon my word, now you mention it, I think Bartholomew was mentioned.
Another uncommon name."

"You have occasion to remember that night, you said, apart from me.
May I inquire in what way?"

"Well, when we left the theatre, we adjourned to a private room in the
Grand, and there we had a little flutter. Baccarat was the game, and I
was cleaned out. Upon my honour, I think I was the most unfortunate
beggar under the sun. I give you my word that I hadn't enough left to
pay my hotel bill, which was the last legacy I left my honoured
father."

"Your money-lending friend won the money, I suppose?"

"He won a bit, but the spoil fell principally to an elderly gentleman
of the name of--of--of--now what _was_ the fellow's name? It wasn't
English, nor was he an Englishman. Ah. I have it. Bidaud--yes,
Bidaud."

Basil's face turned white; there was no longer room for doubt that
foul treachery had been done. It was Newman Chaytor who had plotted
and planned for his destruction. This he might have borne, and the
white heat of his anger might have grown cold with time. But Anthony
Bidaud's introduction into the bad scheme included also Annette, a
possible victim in the treachery. That she should become the prey of
these villains, and that he should allow her life to be ruined, her
happiness to be blasted, without an effort to save her, was not to be
thought of. The scales fell from his eyes, and he saw Newman Chaytor
in his true light. By what crooked paths the end had been reached he
could not, in the excitement of the moment, determine. That would have
to be thought out presently; meanwhile his resolution was taken. To
remain inactive would be the work of a coward.

"You know the name of Bidaud?" said Mr. Majoribanks.

"I know it well," said Basil. "Did this M. Bidaud accompany you to the
theatre on that night?"

"He did."

"Alone?"

"Alone."

"He and this namesake of mine were companions, I take it."

"Something more than companions, to all appearances. Close friends
rather."

"Did they appear to be on good terms with each other?"

"On the best of terms."

"I hope," said Basil, "you will excuse me for questioning you so
closely, but this is a matter that very deeply affects me."

"My dear fellow," said Mr. Majoribanks, "you are heartily welcome to
every scrap of information I can give that will throw light upon this
most mysterious piece of business. It is altogether the strangest
thing I ever heard. I'll not ask you who the other fellow is, but I
have a faint idea that he must be the most unmitigated scoundrel on
the face of the earth. Tell me as much or as little as you please, and
in the meantime fire away."

"My namesake was dining at the Grand Hotel when you first saw him. Was
M. Bidaud in his company?"

"He was; they were dining together at a separate table."

"Were any ladies with them?"

"I'll not pledge myself. So far as I can recollect, there was no one
else at the table."

"Did you hear talk of any ladies of their acquaintance?"

"I think not. Stop, though. I fancy there was an allusion to a pretty
niece."

"Annette lives," thought Basil, and said aloud, "An allusion made by
M. Bidaud to my namesake?"

"Yes, I think so."

"Who suggested the adjournment to a private room after the theatre?"

"The invitation was given by M. Bidaud, and we accepted it. I was
always ready for that kind of thing--too ready, my people say. So off
we went, and played till daylight, with the aforesaid result."

"Were M. Bidaud and my namesake living permanently in Paris?"

"I fancy not; something was said of their travelling about for
pleasure."

"One more question," said Basil, "and I have done. There was an
allusion to a pretty niece. Are you aware whether the young lady was
travelling with her uncle?"

"I am not, and I do not remember what the allusion was. I think I have
completely emptied my budget."

"I thank you sincerely; you have rendered me an inestimable service. I
have no wish to have my affairs talked about, and you will add to the
obligation if you will consider this conversation confidential."

"Certainly, my dear fellow, as you desire it. It is entirely between
ourselves."

They parted shortly afterwards, and Basil, plunged in thought,
returned to the township. The first step he took was to consult the
file of the _Princetown Argus_ for a record of the accident in which
he had so nearly lost his life. He had heard that its earliest numbers
contained accounts of his discovery and rescue, but he had not
hitherto had the curiosity to hunt them up and read them. It was now
imperative that he should make himself acquainted with every
particular of the affair. He found without difficulty what he sought,
and as he read through the reports of his condition which were
published from day to day he dwelt upon portions which a year ago he
would have considered monstrous inventions or exaggerations. Thus:
"There is a certain element of mystery in the affair, and we shall
briefly allude to one or two points which seem to have a bearing upon
it." Again: "Inferring that there were two men working the shaft, is
it possible, when the accident occurred, that the man at the top of
the shaft made tracks from the place and left his mate to a cruel and
lingering death?" The inference here sought to be established was not
to be mistaken--to wit, that Newman Chaytor had purposely left him to
a cruel and lingering death. And still more significant: "An opinion
has been expressed that the rope has been tampered with, and that it
did not break from natural wear and tear." Given that the peril into
which he had been plunged was the result of design, there was more
than a seeming confirmation of the opinion that the rope had been
tampered with. Basil, being now engaged upon a full consideration of
the circumstances, remembered that the rope to all appearance was
perfectly sound. That being so, it was Chaytor's deliberate intention
to murder him by weakening the strands. When suspicion enters the mind
of a man who has trusted and been deceived, it is hard to dislodge it;
small incidents and spoken words to which no importance was attached
at the time they were uttered, present themselves and gather force
until they assume a dark significance. When Basil laid aside the file
of newspapers he had arrived at the conclusion that Chaytor had
deliberately schemed for the fatal end which had been averted by the
merest accident. Old Corrie's warnings and distrust of Chaytor came to
his mind. "Corrie was right," thought Basil; "he read this man better
than I did."

But clear as Chaytor's villainy had appeared to be, there was much that
Basil was unable to comprehend. In what way had Chaytor discovered
that Basil's uncle had repented of his determination to disinherit his
nephew? How and by what means had it come to the villain's knowledge?
Upon these and other matters Basil had yet to be enlightened.

He continued his mental search. Chaytor, returning to England, had
succeeded in obtaining possession of his inheritance; and--what was of
still greater weight to Basil--he had succeeded in introducing himself
to Anthony Bidaud as the man he represented himself to be. "There was
an allusion to a pretty niece." Then Chaytor was with Annette, playing
Basil's part. Was it likely that Annette would be deceived. Years had
passed since they had met, and the woman might have reason to doubt
her childhood's memories. A cunning plausible villain this Newman
Chaytor. Successful in imposing upon Annette, in wooing and perhaps
winning her--Basil groaned at the thought--what a future was before
her! There was a clear duty before him. To go to England with as
little delay as possible, and unmask the plot.

That night he counted the money he had saved; it amounted to two
hundred and thirty pounds. He could land in the old country with a
hundred and fifty pounds. He consulted the exchange newspapers sent to
the office. In seventeen days a steamer would start from Sydney for
England. By that vessel he would take his departure.



CHAPTER XXVII.


The next morning Basil said to the editor, "I fear I am about to
inflict a disappointment upon you."

"Wants a rise of salary," thought the editor. "All right; he shall
have it." Aloud he said, "Go ahead."

"I wish you to release me from a promise."

"What promise?"

"When we made the engagement it was understood that I should not leave
you without a month's notice."

"That was so," said the editor drily; and thought, "He's going to put
the screw upon me that way. I am ready for him; I'll give him all he
asks."

"I wish to leave without notice." The editor was silent, and Basil
continued: "I am under great obligations to you; I have been very
happy in your service, and I have done my best to please you."

"You have pleased me thoroughly; I hope I have said nothing to give
you a different impression."

"Indeed you have not; no man could have acted fairer by me than you
have done."

"Soft soap," thought the editor. "Have I been mistaken in him?" Aloud:
"Well, then, I am sure you will act fairly by me. I cannot release
you."

"You must; indeed you must. It is an imperative necessity."

"I can't see it. Look here. Are you going to start an opposition
paper?"

"I have no intention of doing so. That would be a bad return."

"It would. Some other fellow, then, is going to start an opposition,
and has made you a tempting offer."

"You are wrong. It is upon purely personal grounds that I shall have to
leave. I am going home."

"Home! To England?"

"To England; and there is vital need for dispatch."

"Hallo!" thought the editor, "he has come into property. I knew he was
highly connected." Aloud: "Now don't you be foolish. I am an older man
than you, and therefore, on the face of it, a better judge of things.
I don't expect a rise of salary would tempt you to remain."

"It would not."

"Not if I doubled what you are getting?"

"Not if you were to multiply it by ten."

The editor considered before he spoke again. "Come, here's an offer
for you. I will take you into partnership. You see the value I place
upon your services. I'm dealing fair and square."

"You offer me more than I deserve, more than I accept. Nothing can
tempt me to remain. I must leave Princetown; I must leave the colony.
I am called home suddenly and imperatively. You have been a good
friend to me; continue so, I beg, and release me at once. You talk of
going home some day yourself. If all goes well with me we may meet in
the old land and renew our friendship. You know me well enough, I
trust, to be convinced that I would not desire to leave you so
abruptly without some strong necessity. If you compel me to
remain----"

"Oh! you admit that I can compel you?"

"The obligation is binding upon me, and if you insist upon my giving
you a month's notice it must be done, in honour. I cannot break my
word."

"There speaks the gentleman," thought the editor, and gazed with
admiration at the pleader. "But you will be doing me," continued
Basil, "an injury that may be irreparable. The delay may ruin my life,
and the life of another very dear to me."

"I am a dunderhead," thought the editor. "There's a young lady mixed
up in this." Aloud: "I should be sorry to do that; put you see the fix
you place me in."

"It grieves me. I beg you to give me back my word."

"It comes so sudden. Why did you not tell me before?"

"Because I knew of nothing that called for my hasty departure until
last night."

"There is something more than a business aspect of it. We have grown
fond of you."

"I have grown fond of you and yours. I shall think of you with
affection."

The editor was softened. "I will think it over, and let you know in
the course of the day."

"It is only reasonable," said Basil, "that you should have time for
consideration."

The subject was dropped. The editor consulted his wife, who was
genuinely sorry at the prospect of losing Basil.

"I looked upon him as one of the family," she said, "and it will
almost break Edith's heart to part with him." Then, with a woman's
shrewd wit, she added, "Let us try what Edith can do to persuade him
out of his resolution."

Away went Edith half an hour afterwards to seek Basil and argue with
him. She found him in the churchyard, standing by the grave of the
baby angel.

"Mother says you are going away," said the child.

"Yes, my dear," said Basil. "I am very, very sorry."

"Oh! how I shall miss you," said Edith, the tears springing to her
eyes. "Won't you stay if I ask you?"

"I cannot, dear child. Dry your eyes. We shall meet again by-and-by."

She put her handkerchief to her eyes but her tears flowed fast, and
she sat by the grave and sobbed as if her heart was breaking.

"Listen to me, Edith," said Basil, sitting beside her and taking her
hand. "If baby angel was a long, long way from here, and was in
trouble and cried for you to come to her, would you not go to help
her?"

"Yes, I would, I would; and they would take me to her."

"I am sure they would, for you have good parents my dear. You told me
when I first met you here that I had an angel, and that you were glad.
Edith, my dear, my angel is calling to me to come and help her in her
trouble. Would it not be very wrong for me to say, 'No, I will not
come; I do not care for your trouble?'"

"It would be wicked."

"Yes, dear, it would be wicked, and I should not deserve your love if
I acted so. When I first saw her she was a little girl like you; you
reminded me of her, and I loved you because of that, and loved you
better afterwards because of yourself. I shall always love you, Edith;
I shall never, never forget you."

She threw her arms round his neck and lay in his embrace, sobbing more
quietly.

"You can do something for me, Edith, that will fix you in my heart for
ever."

"Can I? Tell me, and I will do it."

"Go to your father and say, 'You must let Basil go, father. His angel
is calling for him, and it will be wicked if he does not go quickly.'"

"But that will be sending you away from me!"

"I know it will, my dear; but it will be doing what is right. If I
remain I shall be very, very unhappy. You would not like me to be
that?"

"No, no; I want you to be happy."

"Make me so, dear child, by doing as I bid you; and one day perhaps
you will see my angel, and she shall love you as I do."

So by artfully affectionate paths he led her to his wish, and they
went back hand in hand.

"Well," said the editor to Basil, later in the day, "you must have
your way. The little plot we laid has failed, and Edith says you must
go. You are a good fellow, and have served me well."

"I sincerely thank you. If I apply to you for a character you will
give me one."

"Indeed I will; the best that man could have. But there are conditions
to my consent. You must stop till Thursday."

"I will do that."

"And you must act as 'Our Special Correspondent' at home. A letter
once a month."

"I promise you."

"You have not beaten me entirely, you see," said the editor good
humouredly, "I shall get something out of you. I am pleased we shall
part good friends."

They shook hands, and passed a pleasant evening together. The editor
had a motive in stipulating that Basil should remain till Thursday. He
was not going to let such a man leave Princetown without some public
recognition of his merits; and on the following day Basil received an
invitation to dine with the townsmen at the principal hotel on the
night before his departure. He gratefully accepted it; he had worked
honestly, and had won his way into the esteem of the inhabitants of
the thriving township.

It was a famous gathering, and there was not room for all who applied
for tickets. John Jones, of the Only Beehive, took the chair. On his
right sat Basil, on his left, Mr. Majoribanks. The Government Camp was
worthily represented; all the large storekeepers were present, and
several of the most prosperous miners. It was a gala night; the
exterior of the hotel was gay with flags of all nations, and the
editor's wife and Edith had stripped their garden of flowers to
decorate the table. The Governor of the colony could scarcely have
been more honoured.

Of course there were speeches, and of course they were reported in the
_Princetown Argus_ the next morning. Basil's health was proposed by
John Jones in magniloquent terms, which were cheered to the echo; had
Basil's thoughts not been elsewhere, even in the midst of this
festivity, he would have been greatly amused at the catalogue of
virtues with which he was credited by the chairman, but as it was he
could not help being touched by the evident sincerity of the
compliments which were showered upon him. Princetown, said John Jones,
owed Basil a debt which it could never repay. He had elevated public
taste, and had conferred distinction upon the township by his rare
literary gifts. Great was their loss at his departure but they had the
gratification of believing that he would ever look back with affection
upon the time he had spent in "our flourishing township." And they had
the further gratification of knowing that they had a champion in the
great world to which he was returning, and which he would adorn with
his gifts. Before resuming his seat it was his proud task to give
effect to one of the pleasantest incidents in this distinguished
gathering. The moment it was known that Basil was about to leave them
a movement was set afoot to present him with some token of their
regard. In the name of the subscribers, whose names were duly set
forth in the illuminated scroll which accompanied the testimonial, he
begged to present to the guest of the evening "a gold keyless lever
watch, half-quarter repeater, dome half hunting case, three-quarter
plate movement, best double roller escapement, compensated and
adjusted, and with all the latest improvements." John Jones rolled out
this elaborate description as though each item in it were a delicious
morsel which could not be dwelt upon too long. Engraved upon the case
was a record of the presentation, which the orator read amid cheers,
and attached to the watch was a gold chain, with another long
description, of which John Jones took care not to miss a single word.
Then came the peroration, in which the chairman excelled himself, its
conclusion being, "I call upon you now to drink, with three
times three, health and prosperity to our honoured guest, a
gentleman, scholar, and good fellow." He led a hip, hip, hip,
hurrah--hoorah--hoorah! And a little one in (the giant of the lot),
"Hoo-o-o-o-rah-h-h-h!" Then they sang, "For he's a jolly good fellow,"
in which they were joined by all the gold-diggers at the bar and in
the High Street outside. John Jones sat down beaming, and gazing
around with broad smiles, wiped his heated forehead, and whispered to
himself, "Bravo, John Jones! Let them beat that if they can!" The
presentation of the watch was a surprise to Basil; the secret had been
well kept, and the generous-hearted donors were rewarded by the short
speech which Basil made in response. It was eloquent and full of
feeling, and when he had finished the cheers were renewed again and
again. The watch and chain were really a handsome gift, and before
Basil put them on they were passed round for general inspection. Then
a sentimental song was sung, followed by another toast. (The
story-teller must not omit to mention that the first proposed were
loyal toasts, which were received with the greatest enthusiasm.) Other
toasts and other songs followed, the health of everybody who was
anybody being proposed and drunk with acclaim. One of the most
effective speeches of the evening was made by the editor of the
Princetown Ares, in response to the toast of "The Press." He paid full
tribute to Basil, and said: "He is about to leave us, but we shall not
lose him entirely. I take the greatest pride in announcing that he has
accepted the post of special European correspondent to the _Princetown
Argus_, and we shall look out eagerly for the polished periods in
which he will describe the great events of the old world. We send a
herald forth to represent us, and the mother country has reason to
congratulate herself that our choice has fallen upon such a gentleman
as our guest," &c., &c. It would occupy too many pages to give a full
report of the proceedings. Those who are curious in such matters
cannot do better than consult the columns of the next morning's issue
of the _Princetown Argus_, in which the speeches were fully reported,
with a complete list of the names of those present on the notable
occasion. The party did not break up until the small hours, and it is
to be feared that some of the jolly fellows, when they sang "Auld Lang
Syne," were rather unsteady on their legs. Whether the occasion
furnished any excuse for this sad lapse the present chronicler will
not venture to say. To judge from John Jones, who was not the least of
the offenders, they were little the worse for it, for he was attending
to his Only Beehive, early the following morning as fresh as a lark.
But then John Jones was an exceptional being.

The hardest parting was with Edith. The child gave Basil a bunch of
flowers and her favourite doll. To refuse the doll would have caused
the little maid fresh sorrow, so Basil accepted the token of
affection, and subsequently, before he left Sydney, sent Edith
another, with which she fell violently in Jove, and christened it
Basil, though it was of the female sex.

"Good-bye, my dear," said Basil, "and God bless you!"

Edith's voice was choked with tears, and she could only gaze
mournfully at the friend who had supplied her with loving memories.

"Speed you well," said the editor; "hope we shall meet again."

"Good luck, mate!" was the farewell greeting of a number of friends;
Basil did not know until now that he had so many. He waved his hand to
them, and was gone. But he had not travelled two miles before he heard
the sound of a horse's hoofs galloping after him. He turned and saw
Mr. Majoribanks.

"It just occurred to me," said the Goldfields' Warden, "that the name
of the money-lender I met in Paris, through whom I became acquainted
with your namesake, might be useful."

"It is very thoughtful of you," said Basil, "it ought to have occurred
to me."

"I know no more about him than I have already told you," said Mr.
Majoribanks, "and I am not acquainted with his address, but I believe
he lives in London. His name real or assumed--for some of his
fraternity trade under false names--is Edward Kettlewell."

"Thank you," said Basil; "I shall remember it."

Mr. Majoribanks kept with him for another mile, and then galloped back
to the township. The steamer in which Basil took his passage home
started punctually to the hour, and bore Basil from the land in which
he had met with so many sweet and bitter experiences; on the
forty-fifth day from that of his departure he set foot once more in
England.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


For cogent reasons Basil had travelled home third-class. It economised
his funds--of which he felt the necessity--and it enabled him the
better to carry out his wish of not making friends on board. The task
upon which he was engaged rendered it advisable that as little
curiosity as possible should be aroused respecting himself and his
personal history. That he should have to work to some extent in
secresy was not congenial to his nature, but by so doing he would have
a better chance of success. Until he came face to face with Newman
Chaytor it was as well that his operations should be so conducted as
not to put his treacherous comrade on his guard.

He had ample time on board ship to review the events of the past few
years, and although he found himself wandering through labyrinths of
extreme perplexity as to the doings of Newman Chaytor, the conclusion
was forced upon him that his false friend had practised towards him a
systematic course of treachery and deceit. He had read accounts of men
returning home from distant lands for the express purpose of
personating others to whom they bore some close personal resemblance,
and one famous case presented itself in which such a plot was only
exposed by the wonderful skill of the agents employed to frustrate it.
There, as in his own case, a large fortune hung upon the issue, but
Newman Chaytor had been more successful than the impostor who had
schemed to step into the enjoyment of a great estate. Chaytor had
obtained possession of the fortune, and was now enjoying the fruits of
his nefarious plot. But Basil's information was so imperfect that he
was necessarily completely in the dark as to the precise means by
which Newman Chaytor had brought his scheming to this successful
stage. He knew nothing whatever of the correspondence which Chaytor
had carried on with his uncle and Annette. Determined as he was to
spare no efforts to unmask the villain, such a knowledge would have
spurred him on with indignant fierceness. To recover his fortune, if
it were possible to do so, was the lesser incentive; far more
important was it, in his estimation, that Annette should be saved from
the snare which had been prepared for her.

It was with strange sensations that he walked once more through
familiar thoroughfares, and noted that nothing was changed but
himself. Since last he trod them he had learnt some of life's saddest
lessons; but hope, and faith, and love remained to keep his spirit
young. It was no light matter that he had been awakened from the dull
lethargy of life into which he had fallen in the earlier days of
Princetown; that his faith in human nature had been restored; that he
had won affection and esteem from strangers who even now, though the
broad seas divided them, had none but kindly thoughts of him. Foul as
was the plot of which he was the victim, he had cause to be deeply
grateful.

He took lodgings on the Lambeth side of Westminster Bridge, two modest
rooms, for which he paid seven shillings a week; food would cost him
little; his modest resources must be carefully husbanded, and he would
be contented with the humblest fare. His task might take long in the
accomplishment, and to find himself stranded in the City of Unrest
would be fatal. His experiences had been so far valuable that they
assisted him to a more comprehensive view of the circumstances of
life. When he was in England he had thought little of the morrow. Now
it had to be reckoned with.

In considering how he should set about his task, he had decided that
it would be advisable to call in professional assistance. He had not
arrived at this decision without long deliberation. He detested the
means, but repugnant as the course was to him he felt that they were
justifiable. Singularly enough he had, without being aware of it,
taken lodgings in a house, the master of which belonged to the class
he intended to call to his aid. He arrived at this knowledge on the
second day of his tenancy. Children always attracted him, and his
landlady had four, all of them boys, with puffy cheeks and chubby
limbs. Their ages were three, five, seven, and nine, a piece of
information given to him by their mother as he issued from the house
on the second morning, and stood by her side a moment watching their
antics. The word is not exactly correct, for their pastime was
singularly grave and composed. The eldest boy wielded a policeman's
truncheon, and his three brothers, standing in a line, were obeying
the word of command to march, a few steps this way, a few steps that,
to halt, and finally to separate and take up positions in distant
doorways, from which they looked severely at the passers-by.

"Bless their hearts!" said the proud mother. "They're playing
policemen."

"They seem to know all about it," remarked Basil "They ought to,"
responded the mother. "It was born in them."

"Is your husband a policeman?" asked Basil.

"He was, sir," replied the mother; "but he has retired from the force,
and belongs now to a private inquiry."

Basil thought of this as he walked away, after patting the children on
the head, who did not know exactly whether to be gratified at the mark
of attention, or to straightway take the stranger into custody. He had
not seen his landlord yet, and it had happened, when he engaged the
rooms from the woman, that, with the usual carelessness of persons in
her station of life, she had not asked her new lodger's name, being
perfectly satisfied of his respectability by his paying her a
fortnight's rent in advance, and informing her that he would continue
to do so as long as he remained in the house. Basil was afraid, if he
went to a regularly established private office, that the fees demanded
would be higher than his slender resources warranted, and bent as he
was upon economising, he saw here a possible opportunity of obtaining
the assistance he needed at a reduced rate. Therefore on the evening
of this day he tapped at the door of the sitting-room, in which his
landlord was playing a game of "old maid" with three of his children,
and intimated his desire for a little chat with the man after the
youngsters had gone to bed.

"On business," said Basil.

"No time like the present, sir," said the landlord, who saw "with half
an eye," as he subsequently expressed himself, that his tenant was a
gentleman: "I'll come up to your room at once, unless you prefer to
talk here."

"We shall be more private up-stairs," said Basil, and up-stairs they
went to discuss the business.

As a preliminary the landlord handed Basil a card, with "Mr.
Philpott," printed on it, and in a corner, "Private Inquiry," to which
was added the address of the house in which they were sitting.

"Do you carry on your business here, then?" inquired Basil. "Partly,
sir," replied Mr. Philpott. "I am engaged at an office in Surrey
Street, but it is seldom that my time is fully occupied there, and as
I am not on full pay I stipulate that I shall be free to undertake any
little bit of business that may fall into my hands in a private way."

"That may suit me," said Basil. "To be frank with you, I was looking
out for some one who would do what I want at a reasonable rate; I am
not overburdened with funds, but I can afford to pay moderate fees.
Will that meet your views?"

"Yes, sir. If you will tell me what you want done I will let you know
about how much it will cost."

Basil paused before he commenced; he was dealing with a stranger, and
he did not wish to disclose his name.

"What passes between us is in confidence, Mr. Philpott?"

"Altogether in confidence, sir. That is one of the rules of our
profession. Whether anything comes of it or not, I shall say nothing
of my client to a third party, unless you instruct me otherwise."

"You are sometimes consulted by people who desire to conceal their
names?"

"Oh, yes, but they are not generally so frank as you are. You would
rather not tell me your name?"

"That is my desire, if it will make no difference."

"Not an atom of difference. Say Mr. Smith."

"I am obliged to you. I need not, then, disclose my own particular
interest in the matter."

"Not at all, if it will not hamper me."

"I don't see how it will hamper you in the least. Shall I pay you a
modest retainer? Will a guinea do?"

"A guinea will do, sir. Thank you."

"You had better take notes of what I say, Mr. Philpott." The private
inquiry agent produced his pocket-book. "Write down first the names I
give you."

Mr. Philpot took down the names and addresses of Mr. Bartholomew
Whittingham and of the lawyers in London who transacted that
gentleman's affairs when Basil was last in England; also the name of
Mr. Basil Whittingham.

"Any address to this name, sir?" asked Mr. Philpott.

"None. Mr. Bartholomew Whittingham is, or was--for I understand he is
dead--a gentleman of considerable fortune; Mr. Basil Whittingham is
his nephew; the lawyers whose names I have given you transacted the
old gentleman's business for many years, but I am not aware whether
they have continued to do so."

"That is easily ascertained."

"Mr. Bartholomew Whittingham had neither wife nor children, and some
years since it was his intention to leave all his property to his
nephew. The young man, however, offended his uncle, and the old
gentleman thereupon informed his nephew that he had destroyed the will
he had made in his favour, and that Mr. Basil Whittingham might
consider himself disinherited. Do you understand it thus far?"

"It is perfectly clear, sir."

"The relations between the uncle and his nephew were completely broken
off. Mr. Basil Whittingham--who had some private fortune of his own,
but had got rid of it--being disappointed in his expectations, left
England for Australia, where he resided for a considerable time."

"For how many years shall we say, sir."

"Five or six. When he was near his end the uncle relented of his
decision, and made another will--I am supposing that he really destroyed
the first, which may or may not have been the case--by which his
original intention was carried out, and his nephew was constituted sole
heir to the property."

"Good."

"This property, I believe, was not in real estate, but in cash and
securities which were easily convertible. The knowledge of his
kindness reached the nephew's ears in Australia, and he returned home
and took possession of the fortune."

"Very natural."

"I wish these details to be verified, or otherwise, Mr. Philpott."

"I undertake to do so, sir."

"I wish also to ascertain where Mr. Basil Whittingham is now
residing."

"Can you give a clue, sir?"

"A very slight one, I am afraid. The last I heard of the nephew was
that about eighteen months ago he was in Paris, in the company of a
Mr. Edward Kettlewell, a money-lender, whose offices are, or were, in
London. I am under the impression that Mr. Basil Whittingham and Mr.
Kettlewell may have had some business transactions with each other. If
so, it should not be difficult to trace Mr. Basil Whittingham through
Mr. Kettlewell."

"It may I be more difficult than you imagine," said Mr. Philpott.
"These money-lenders are difficult persons to deal with. They are as
jealous of their clients as a cat of her kittens. 'Hands off,' they
cry; 'this is my bird.' Hold hard a minute, sir. I have this year's
'London Directory,' downstairs."

He left the room, and returned bearing the bulky volume, which he
proceeded to consult. No Mr. Edward Kettlewell, money-lender or
financial agent, was to be found in its pages. There were plenty of
Kettlewells, and a few Edwards among them but not one who dealt in
money.

"Still," said Mr. Philpott, "it may be one of these. He may have
retired, he may have left the country, he may be dead. I will look
through the directories for a few years past, and we will see if we
can find him."

"My information concerning him," said Basil, "is not very exact, and
may after all be incorrect; but with or without his assistance it is
most important that the address of Mr. Basil Whittingham should be
ascertained."

"I will do my best, sir; no man can do more."

"There is another matter, of which I must beg you not to lose sight.
Shortly after Mr. Basil Whittingham arrived in Australia he came in
contact with a gentleman, M. Anthony Bidaud, who owned a plantation in
Queensland. This gentleman had a daughter, quite a child then, whose
name is Annette. M. Anthony Bidaud died suddenly, and left no will. On
the morning of his death a brother and sister--the brother's name,
Gilbert--presented themselves at the plantation, and the brother
administered the estate, and assumed the guardianship of his niece.
The plantation was sold, and the little girl, with her uncle and aunt,
came to Europe. Between the child and Mr. Basil Whittingham there
existed a bond of affection, and since his return to England he has
succeeded--so my information goes--in establishing friendly relations
with M. Gilbert Bidaud. If you are fortunate enough to trace Mr. Basil
Whittingham, my impression is that the knowledge will lead you
straight to M. Gilbert Bidaud and his sister and niece, to discover
whom I consider of far greater importance than the young man. Now, Mr.
Philpott, if you have grasped the situation, are you prepared to set
to work?"

"I will not lose a day, sir; I commence my inquiries to-morrow; and as
you inform me that you are not exactly rich it may be convenient if I
present a weekly account, including all charges to date, so that you
may know how you stand as to expenses. Then you can go on or stop at
your pleasure."

"It will be the best plan," said Basil.

Mr. Philpott was very much puzzled that night when he thought over the
commission entrusted to him. "He says nothing of himself," thought the
private inquiry agent, "nor of the particular interest he has in the
matter--a very particular interest, for I never saw any one more in
earnest than he is. His voice absolutely trembled when he spoke of the
uncle and Mdlle. Annette. Now that would not happen if he were acting
as an agent for another person. What is the conclusion, then? That he
is acting for himself. Does this Mr. Basil Whittingham owe him money?
Perhaps. And yet it does not strike me as an affair of that kind.
Well, at all events, he has acted openly and straightforwardly with me
so far as he and I are concerned. It is not often a client tells you
that he is living under an assumed name. I must ask the wife if his
shirts and handkerchiefs are marked." His curiosity, however, was
destined not to be appeased; his wife told him that Basil's clothing
bore no initials--which, according to Mr. Philpott's way of thinking,
betokened extreme caution, and whetted his curiosity. He did not,
however, allow this to interfere with the zealous exercise of his
duties. Proceeding step by step he presented his weekly reports to
Basil. In the course of a short time Basil's worst suspicions were
confirmed. Newman Chaytor had come home and, representing himself to
be Basil Whittingham, had experienced no difficulty in establishing
his position and administering his uncle's estate. This done, he had
disappeared, and Mr. Philpott was unsuccessful in tracing him.

"But," said Basil, "would not a man, arriving from a country so
distant as Australia, in such circumstances have to prove his
identity?"

Mr. Philpott opened his eyes at this question; to use his own term,
he "smelt a rat."

"Certainly he would," replied Mr. Philpott. "But that was simple
enough in Mr. Basil Whittingham's case. He had been in correspondence
with his uncle for some time previous to his departure from
Australia."

"What do you tell me?" cried Basil.

"It is an established fact," said Mr. Philpott, expressing no
surprise; but Basil's tone no less than his words, opened his eyes
still further. "A few days before Mr. Bartholomew Whittingham's death
he wrote to his nephew in Australia, announcing his change of
intention. This letter was forwarded to Mr. Basil by his uncle's
lawyers, who, as you now know, are not the same he employed in former
years."

"Basil Whittingham," said Basil, unable to repress his excitement,
"received these letters in Australia?"

"Undoubtedly. He brought them home with him, and others also which he
had previously received from his uncle's lawyers."

"There was a regular correspondence with them, then?"

"Yes, extending over a considerable time."

This was a fresh and startling revelation to Basil. Newman Chaytor had
not only personated him in England, but had personated him at a
distance, receiving letters intended for him and forging letters in
reply.

"He robbed me of my papers," groaned Basil inly, "and obtained
possession of the means to prove him the man he represented himself to
be. The base, unutterable villain! He smiled in my face, a living lie!
And I trusted in him, believed in him, laid my heart bare to him, and
all the time he was planning my destruction. Just Heaven! Give me the
power to bring him to the punishment he deserves!"

But did the foul plot go farther than this? Every time Chaytor
returned from the colonial post-office it was with the same
answer--there were no letters for Basil Whittingham. And the had
received and answered them; they were on his person while he was
uttering the infamous falsehood, smiling in Basil's face the while. To
what depths would human cunning and duplicity go! The tale, related to
Basil by one who had been wronged, would have sounded incredible. He
would have asked, "Is not this man labouring under some monstrous
delusion?" But the bitter experience was his, and no tale would now be
too wild for disbelief. Again he asked himself, did the plot go
farther than what had already come to his knowledge? Newman Chaytor,
going to the post-office for letters for him, would receive all
addressed to his name.

What if Annette had written? It was more than possible, it was
probable; it was more than probable, it was true. At this conclusion
he quickly arrived. Annette had redeemed her promise; she had written
to him as she said she would, and had received Chaytor's letters in
reply. This explained how it was that Chaytor had been able to find
Annette and her uncle. Did Gilbert Bidaud suspect, and was he trading
upon the suspicion; and were the two villains conspiring for the
destruction of the poor girl's happiness? Basil looked round
pitifully, despairingly, as though invoking the assistance of an
unknown power.

"You seem disturbed," said Mr. Philpott, who had been attentively
observing him.

"The news you have imparted," said Basil, "is terrible. Is there no
way of discovering this Basil Whittingham?"

"We might advertise for him," suggested Mr. Philpott.

Basil shook his head. "If he saw the advertisement he would not answer
it."

"Hallo," thought Mr. Philpott, "our absent friend has done something
that would place him in the criminal dock." Professionally he was in
the habit of hiding his hand, so far as the expression of original
thought went. "But some one who knows him," he said, "might see the
advertisement, and answer for him."

Basil caught at the suggestion. "Advertise, then, and in such a manner
as not to alarm him."

"Trust me for that," said Mr. Philpott, with great confidence. "I know
how to bait my line."

But the advertisements meet with no response. Worked up to fever heat,
Basil instructed Mr. Philpott to spare no expense, and the inquiry was
prosecuted with wasted vigour, for at the end of two months they had
not advanced a step. Basil was in agony; he grew morbid, and raised up
accusing voices against himself. The reflection that Annette, the
sweet and innocent child who had given him her heart, should be in the
power of two such villains as Gilbert Bidaud and Newman Chaytor was an
inexpressible torture to him. He had accepted from her father a sacred
trust--how had he fulfilled it? He inflicted exquisite suffering upon
himself by arguing that it was he who had betrayed her, that it was
through him she had been brought to this pass. Had she not known him
she would never had known Newman Chaytor; had he not worked upon her
young affections and extracted her promise to write to him it would
have been impossible that Chaytor should ever have crossed her path.
He pressed into this self-condemnation all the cruel logic his mind
could devise. As he walked the streets at night Annette's image arose
before him and gazed upon him reproachfully. "You have compassed my
ruin." It seemed to say, "you are the cause of my corruption, of my
dishonour." He accepted the accusation, and groaned, "It is I, it is
I, who have made your life a waste!" Of all the dolorous phases
through which he had passed this perhaps was the worst. But he had yet
another bitter experience to encounter. On a Saturday evening Mr.
Philpott said:

"I must speak honestly. I have done all I could, and nothing has come
of it. I might continue as long as you continued to engage my
services, but it would be only throwing your money away."

It was an unusual confession for a man in his line to make. Private
inquiry agents have generally the quality of the leech, and will suck
the last drop of blood out of a client, but Basil had won the
commiseration of his landlord.

"I must take the case into my own hands," said Basil gloomily. "I
intended, indeed, to tell you as much myself--for pressing reasons. I
thank you for all you have done for me."

"Little enough," said Mr. Philpott "I wish you better luck than I have
had. Mind you, I don't give it up entirely, but if I do anything more
it will not be for pay."

"You are, and have been, very kind. Have you made out your account?"

Mr. Philpott presented it, and Basil settled it. Then he said: "Will
you ask your wife to step up and see me?"

"Yes, sir. Now don't you be cast down, sir; it is a long lane that has
no turning, and there's no telling at any moment what may turn up. I
should like to take the liberty of asking one question."

"Ask it."

"If, after all, the search should be successful, is it likely you
would be in a better position than you are now? I am taking a liberty,
I know, but I don't mean it as such. You told me at first you were not
overburdened with funds; if it has been all going out and none coming
in, you must be worse off now."

"I am very much worse off, Mr. Philpott. I will answer your question.
Should I succeed in finding the man I am hunting--a poor hunt it has
proved to be, with no quarry in view--I have reason to believe that I
should obtain funds which would enable me to discharge any liabilities
I may incur."

"Thank you, sir," said Mr. Philpott, pushing across the table the money
which Basil had paid him; "then suppose I wait."

"No," said Basil gently, "take it while you are sure of it, and you
have a family."

"But I can afford to wait, sir. If I lost ten times as much it would
not break me."

"I must insist upon you taking it, Mr. Philpott."

It was the pride of the poor gentleman, who would leave himself
penniless rather than leave an obligation unsettled. Mr. Philpott
recognised it as such, and recognised also that it marked the
difference between them--which increased the respect he felt for
Basil. He pocketed the money reluctantly.

"Send your wife up to me, Mr. Philpott."

"I will, sir."

Basil had indeed pressing reasons for dispensing with Mr. Philpott's
further services. The larger expenses of the last few weeks had
brought his funds to a very low ebb. He took out his purse and counted
his worldly wealth; it amounted to less than two pounds. He was
standing at poverty's door. In Australia, on the goldfields, it would
not have mattered so much. Earnest labour there can always ensure at
least food for the passing day; it is only the idle and dissolute and
men without a backbone who have to endure hunger; but here in this
overcrowded city hunger is no rare experience to those who are
willing to toil. Needless to say that the watch and chain which had
been presented to Basil in Princetown was no longer in Basil's
possession. The prospect before him, physically and morally, was
appalling.

There was a gentle knock at the door. "Come in," said Basil, and Mrs.
Philpott entered the room.

"My husband tells me you wish to see me, sir," said the landlady.

"Take a seat, Mrs. Philpott," said Basil. "I hope you have brought
your weekly account; you should have given it to me yesterday."

"Friday's an unlucky day, sir," said Mrs. Philpott, fencing.

"But to-day is Saturday," said Basil, with a smile.

"There's no hurry, sir, I assure you."

Basil looked at her and shook his head. His look, and the weary,
mournful expression on his face, brought tears to the good creature's
eyes.

"I must insist upon having the account, Mrs. Philpott."

"Well, sir, if you insist," said Mrs. Philpott, reduced to
helplessness; "it is only the rent, seven shillings."

"There are breakfasts," said Basil, "with which you have been good
enough to supply me. I have not kept faith with you. When I took these
rooms I promised to pay always a fortnight's rent in advance; lately I
have not done so."

"How could you pay, sir, when you didn't know what the breakfasts came
to?"

"That does not excuse me. Oblige me by telling me how much I owe you."

"If you won't be denied, sir, it's twelve and tenpence."

"There it is, and I am infinitely obliged to you. Mrs. Philpott, I am
sorry to say I must give you a week's notice."

"You're never going to leave us, sir! Is there anything wrong with the
rooms? We'll have it put right in a twinkling."

"The rooms are very comfortable, and I wish I could remain in them;
but it cannot be."

"You must remain, sir, really you must. I won't take your notice. You
must sleep somewhere Philpott will never forgive me if I let you go."

Her consciousness of the strait he was in, and her pity for it, were
so unmistakable--her desire to befriend him and her sympathy were so
clearly expressed--that Basil covered his eyes with his hand, and
remained silent awhile. When he removed his hand he said:

"I am truly sensible of your goodness, Mrs. Philpott, but it must be
as I say."

"Think better of it, sir," urged Mrs. Philpott. "You are a gentleman
and I am only a common woman, but I am old enough to be your mother,
and I don't think you ought to treat me so--so"--exactly the right
word did not occur to her, so she added--"suddenly. Here you are, sir,
all alone, if you'll excuse me for saying so, and here _we_ are with
more rooms in the house than we know what to do with. Why, sir, if
you'll stay it will be obliging us."

All her kindly efforts were unavailing. She asked him to make the
notice a month instead of a week, and then she came down to a
fortnight, and made some reference to clouds with silver linings; but
Basil was not to be prevailed upon, and she left the room in a
despondent state.

"We'll keep an eye on him if we can," her husband said to her when she
gave him an account of the interview. "I may find out something yet
that will be of use to him. It is a strange case, old woman, and I
don't mind confessing that I can't see the bottom of it."



CHAPTER XXIX.


Sternly resolved to carry out his determination not to occupy rooms
for which he could not pay, Basil left Mrs. Philpott's house on the
appointed day. It was his wish to quit without being observed, but
Mrs. Philpott was on the look-out and lay in wait for him. Before he
reached the street door she barred his way in the landing.

"You're not going away, sir," she said reproachfully, "without wishing
the children good-bye."

In honest and affectionate friendship there is frequently displayed a
pleasant quality of cunning which it does no harm to meet with, and in
her exercise of it Mrs. Philpott pressed her children into the
service. Basil had no alternative but to accompany her into the
parlour, where the four little fellows were sitting at the table
waiting for dinner.

"You'll excuse me a minute, sir," said the good woman; "if I don't
fill their plates before they're five minutes older they'll set up a
howl."

Out she bustled, and quickly returned with a mighty dish of Irish
stew.

"Philpott says," said Mrs. Philpott as she placed the steaming dish on
the table, "that no one in the world can make an Irish stew like mine;
and what father says is law, isn't it, children? I always have dinner
with them, sir; perhaps you'll join us. I really should like to know
if you're of my husband's opinion. Now this looks home-like"--as
Basil, who had independence of spirit, but no false pride, took his
seat at the table where a chair and a plate had already been set for
him--"almost as if father was with us, or as if the children had a
great big brother who had been abroad ever so many years, and had
popped in quite sudden to surprise us."

All the time she was talking she was filling up the plates, and the
little party fell-to with a will, Basil eating as heartily as the
rest. Mrs. Philpott was delighted at the success of her ruse, but she
was careful not to show her pleasure, and when Basil said, in answer
to her inquiry, that he had had enough, she did not press him to take
more. When dinner was over the children had to be taken out of the
room to have their faces washed; they were brought back for Basil to
kiss, and then were sent into the street to play policemen.

"You'll let us hear of you from time to time, sir," said Mrs.
Philpott, as she and Basil stood at the street door. "Philpott is
regular downhearted because of your going. I'm not to let your rooms
again, he says, so there they are sir, ready for you whenever you do
us the pleasure to come. We're getting along in the world, sir, and
the few shillings a-week don't matter to us now."

"I am truly glad to hear it, Mrs. Philpott," said Basil.

"There was a time," continued Mrs. Philpott, "when it did matter, and
when every shilling was worth its weight in gold in a manner of
speaking. We've had our ups and downs, sir, as most people have, and
if it hadn't been for a friendly hand heaven only knows where we
should be at this present minute. We were in such low water, sir, we
didn't know which way to turn. Philpott says to me, 'Mother,' he
says---- I hope I'm not wearying you, sir," said Mrs. Philpott,
breaking off in the middle of her sentence.

"Pray go on," said Basil, feeling that it would be churlish to check
her.

"It's a comfort, sir," continued Mrs. Philpott, "to open one's heart.
It doesn't make me melancholy to look back to those days, though my
spirit was almost broke at the time; I'm proud and grateful that we've
tided them over, with the help of God and the good friend He sent us.
'Mother,' says Philpott to me, 'I'm on my beam ends. We're in a wood,
and there's no way out of it.' 'Don't you go on like that, father,' I
says; 'you keep on trying, and you'll see a way out presently.' For
I'm one of that sort of women, sir, if you won't mind my saying as
much, who never give in and don't know when they're beat. I don't mean
to say I don't suffer; I do, but I put a brave face on it and never:
say die. 'You keep on trying, father,' I says. 'Now haven't I kept on
trying?' says he. 'For eight weeks I've answered every advertisement
in the paper, and applied for a job in hundreds and hundreds of places
without getting the smell of one. I'm ashamed to look you in the face,
mother, for if it wasn't for you our boy would starve.' We only had
one then, sir, and as for being ashamed to look me in the face
Philpott ought to have been ashamed to say as much. All that I did was
to get a day's charing wherever I could, and a bit of washing when I
heard there was a chance of it, and that was how we kept the wolf from
the door. But I fell ill, sir, and couldn't stir out of doors, and was
so weak that I couldn't stand at the wash-tub without fainting away.
Things were bad indeed then, and Philpott took on so that I did lose
heart a bit. Well, sir, when we'd parted with everything we could
raise a penny upon, when we didn't know where we should get our next
meal from though it was only dry bread, heaven sent us a friend. An
old friend of Philpott's, sir, that he hadn't seen for years, and that
he'd been fond of and kind to when he was a young man, before he kept
company with me. Philpott had lent him a couple of pound, and he'd
gone off to America, and, now, sir, now, in the very nick of time, he
came home to pay it back. Did you ever see the sun shine as bright as
bright can be in a dark room at ten o'clock at night--for that was the
time when Philpott's friend opened the door, and cried, 'Does Mr.
Philpott live here?' It shone in our room, sir, though there was never
a candle to light it up, and Philpott was sitting by me with his head
in his hands. Philpott starts up in a fright--when people are in the
state we were brought to the least unexpected, thing makes their
hearts beat with fear--he starts up and says, 'Who are you?' 'That's
Philpott's voice,' says our friend. 'I'd know it among a thousand; but
don't you know mine, old fellow? And what are you sitting in the dark
for?' Then he tells us who he is, and Philpott takes hold of his hand
and says he's glad to see his old friend--which he couldn't, sir--and,
ashamed of his poverty, pulls him out of the room. He comes back
almost directly, and stoops over me and kisses me, and whispers that
heaven has sent us a friend when most we needed one, and I feel my
dear man's tears on my face. Then, sir, if you'll believe me it seemed
to me as if the sun was shining in our dark room, and all the trouble
in my mind flew straight away. From that time all went well with us;
it was right about face in real earnest. Philpott's friend had another
friend who got my husband in the force, and now we've got a bit of
money put by for a rainy day, and don't need the rent for a couple of
empty rooms."

Mrs. Philpott's account of her troubles was much longer than she
intended to make it, and her concluding words were spoken wistfully
and appealingly. They were not lost upon Basil, but they did not turn
him from his purpose. With a kindly pressure of her hand, and
promising to call and see her unless circumstances prevented--which
meant unless his fortunes remained in their present desperate
condition--he took his leave of her and passed out of her sight.

"Poor young gentleman," sighed the good woman. "I would have given the
world if he'd have stopped with us. What on earth will become of him?
It's hard to come down like that. Better to be born poor and remain
so, than to be born rich and lose everything. His face was the image
of despair, though he was politeness itself all the time I was
talking. I sha'n't be able to get him out of my head."

She and her husband talked of him that night, and if kind wishes and
sympathising words were of practical value, Basil would have been
comforted and strengthened.

Strengthened in some poor way he was. It had been his hard fate to be
made the victim of as black treachery as one man ever practised
towards another; but he had met with kindness also at the hands of
strangers. He strove to extract consolation from that reflection.
Heaven knows he needed it, for he was now to make acquaintance with
poverty in its grimmest aspect. He was absolutely powerless. He had
debated with himself various courses which might be said to be open to
a man in his extremity, but he saw no possible road to success in any
one of them. The most feasible was that he should go to a capable
lawyer and endeavour to enlist his skill on his behalf. But what
lawyer would listen to a man who presented himself with a tale so
strange and without the smallest means to pay for services rendered?
It would be a natural conclusion that he was mad, or that he, being
Newman Chaytor, was adopting this desperate expedient to prove himself
to be Basil Whittingham. That he was a gentleman was true; he had the
manners of one, but so had many who were not gentlemen. Then his
appearance was against him; he had no other clothes than those he
stood upright in, and these were shabby and in bad repair. Even if he
had possessed assurance, it would not have served him--nay, it would
have told against him, as proclaiming, "Here is a plausible scoundrel,
who seeks to deceive us by swagger." He was truly in a helpless
plight.

The necessity of living was forced upon him, and to live a man must
have money to purchase food. Recalling the efforts made by Mr.
Philpott in his days of distress, as described by that man's good
wife, he applied for situations he saw advertised, but there were a
hundred applicants for every office, and he ever arrived too late, or
was pushed aside, or was considered unsuitable. In one of his
applications he was very nearly successful, but it came to a question
of character, and he had no reference except the editor of the
_Princetown Argus_, who was fourteen thousand miles away. What wonder
that he was laughed at and dismissed? Then he thought that his
experiences on the goldfields and his training as a journalist might
help him, and he wrote some sketches and articles and sent them to
magazines and newspapers. He heard nothing of them after they were
dropped into the editorial boxes. The fault may have been his own, for
he had no heart to throw spirit into his effusions, but his state was
no less pitiable because of that. He felt as if indeed he had for ever
lost his place in the world. By day he walked the streets, and at
night occupied a bed in the commonest of London lodging-houses. At
first he paid fourpence for his bed, but latterly he could afford no
more than two-pence, and presently he would not be able to afford even
that. It was a stipulation of his nightly accommodation that he should
turn out early in the morning, and this he was willing enough to do,
for he had but little sleep, and the beings he was compelled to herd
with filled him with dismay. It was not their poverty that shocked
him; it was their language, their sentiments, their expressions of
pleasure in all that was depraved. He had had no idea of the existence
of such classes, and now that he came face to face with them he shrank
from them in horror. Had they been merely thieves it is possible that
he might have tolerated them, and even entertained pity for them,
arguing that they were born to theft, that their parents had been
thieves before them and had taught them no better; or that they had
been driven into the ranks by sheer necessity; but it was the
corruption of their souls that terrified him; it was the consciousness
that with vice and virtue placed for them to choose, with means for
each, they would have chosen vice and revelled in it. Amid all this
corruption and degradation he maintained a pitiable self-respect and
kept his soul pure. Often did he go without a meal, but he would
listen to no temptations, electing by instinct, rather to suffer
physically than to lower his moral nature to the level of those by
whom he was surrounded. When he walked the streets by day he did not
walk aimlessly and without purpose. It was probable enough that Newman
Chaytor was in London, and if so the fortune of which he had obtained
fraudulent possession would enable him to live in the best and most
fashionable quarters of the city. Basil haunted those better
localities, and watched for the villain who had betrayed him in the
vicinity of the grand hotels, the clubs, and the resorts of fashion in
the parks. Sometimes at night he lingered about the high-class
theatres to see the audience come out. In the event of his meeting his
enemy he had no settled plan except that he would endeavour to find
out where he lived, and through that knowledge to obtain access to
Annette.

One night he met with a strange adventure. He had come from Covent
Garden, where, mingling in the crowd, he had watched the audience
issue from the Opera House, in which a famous songstress had been
singing. It was an animated, bustling scene, but it was impossible for
a man in such sore distress to take pleasure in it; neither did he
draw bitterness from the gaiety; he merely looked on with a pathos in
his eyes which was now their usual expression. Frequently, in his days
of prosperity, had he attended the opera, as one of the fashion, and
heard this same songstress, whose praise was on every man's lips; now
he was an outcast, hungry, almost in rags, without even a name which
the world would accept as his by right of birth and inheritance. It
was a cold night, but dry--that was a comfort to a poorly clad man.
Indeed, there is in all conditions of life something to be grateful
for, if we would only seek for it.

A curious fancy entertained Basil's mind. He heard the carriages
called out--"Lady This's carriage," "Lord That's carriage," "The
Honourable T'other's carriage." How if "Mr. Basil Whittingham's
carriage" was called out? So completely was he for the moment lost to
the sad realities of his position, so thoroughly did the fancy take
possession of him, that he actually listened for the announcement, and
had it been made it is probable that he would have pushed his way
through the crowd with the intention of entering the carriage. But
nothing of the kind occurred. Gradually the theatre was emptied, and
the audience wended homeward, riding or afoot, north, south, east,
and west, till only the fringe was left--night-birds who filtered
slowly to their several haunts, not all of which could boast of roof
and bed. A night-bird himself, Basil walked slowly on towards
Westminster. He had fivepence in his pocket, and no prospect of adding
anything to it to-morrow, and he was considering whether he should
spend twopence for a bed, or pass the night on a bench on the
Embankment. It was a weighty matter to decide, as important to him as
the debate which was proceeding in the House, upon which a nation's
destiny hung. In Parliament Street a young couple brushed past him;
they had been supping after the theatre, and Basil heard the man
address the woman, as "Little Wifey," and saw her nestle closer to her
husband's arm as he uttered this term of endearment. For a moment
Basil forgot his own misery, and a bright smile came to his lips; but
it faded instantly, and he trudged wearily on discussing the momentous
question of bed or bench. Undecided, he found himself on Westminster
Bridge, where he stood gazing upon the long panorama of lights from
lamps and stars. Were this wonderful and suggestive picture situated
in a foreign country, English people would include it in their touring
jaunts and come home and rave about it, but as it is situated in
London its beauties are unheeded.

Basil, leaning over the stone rampart, looking down into the river,
was presently conscious that some person was standing by his side. He
turned his head, and saw a woman, who gazed with singular intentness
upon him. She was neither young nor fair, but she had traces of beauty
in her face which betokened that in her springtime she could not have
been without admirers. Her age was about thirty, and she was well
dressed. So much Basil took in at a glance, and then he averted his
eyes and resumed his walk across the bridge. The woman followed him
closely, and when he paused and gently waved her off, she said:

"Why do you avoid me? I want nothing of you."

"Good-night, then," said Basil in a kind voice, and would have
proceeded on his way if the woman had not prevented him.

"No, not good-night yet," she said. "Did you not understand me when I
said I want nothing of you? It is true; but happening to catch sight
of your face as I was crossing the bridge I could not pass without
speaking to you. It would have brought a punishment upon me--knowing
what I know."

Being compelled by her persistence to a closer observance of her,
Basil was moved to a certain pity for her. There were tears in her
eyes and a pathos in her voice which touched him. Desolate outcast as
he was, whom the world, if he proclaimed himself, would declare to be
an impostor, what kind of manhood was that which would refuse a word
of compassion to a woman who appeared to be in affliction? His pitying
glance strangely affected her; she clung to the stone wall and burst
into a passion of tears.

"I am sorry for your trouble," said Basil, waiting till she had
recovered herself. "Can I do anything to help you?"

"Nothing," she replied. "No one can help me. I have lost all I love in
the world. This is a strange meeting; I have been thinking of you
to-day, but never dreamt I should see you to-night. To-night of all
nights!"

"Thinking of me!" exclaimed Basil in amazement.

"You will not consider it strange," said the woman, "when you know
all. I could not stop at home; I have been sitting by her side since
three o'clock, and then a voice whispered to me, 'Go out for an hour,
look up to Heaven where the Supreme Guide is, and pray for a miracle.'
So I came out, and have been praying to Him to give her back to me."

"Poor woman!" murmured Basil, for now he knew from her words that she
had lost one who was dear to her. "I pity you from my heart."

"You are changed," said the woman; "not in face, for I should have
known you anywhere, but in your voice and manner. It is gentler,
kinder than it used to be."

Basil did not answer her: he thought that grief had affected her mind,
and that her words bore no direct relation to himself. He had no
suspicion of the truth which was subsequently to be revealed to him.

"It is many years since we met," she said. "Have you been long in
England?"

"A few months," said Basil.

"You have not made your fortune?

"No, indeed."

"You look poor enough. Have you no money?"

"None," said Basil; and added hastily, "or very little."

"You have been unfortunate since your return home?"

"Very unfortunate."

She opened her purse, and took out a sovereign and held it out to him.

"Thank you no," said Basil, his wonder growing.

"You are changed indeed," said the woman, "to refuse money. It is
honestly come by. Two years ago I was married, and my husband, who
died a year afterwards, left me a small income. It was more than I
deserved, for I deceived him by telling him I was a widow. It made no
difference, but still it was a deceit. Will you not take it?"

"No."

"And yet you need it?"

"Do not urge me further. Good night."

"Wait one moment. I was going to tell you to-night; but you had best
see for yourself. It is your right. Here is my address; my mother and
sister live with me. Come and see me to-morrow morning at ten o'clock.
Promise me."

"No, I cannot promise," said Basil, moving away. "You must promise,"
said the woman, moving after him. "I will not leave you till you do. I
tell you it is your right--it is more than your right, it is your
duty."

Seeing there was no other way to release himself from her, Basil said,
"I promise."

"On your sacred word of honour," said the woman.

"On my sacred word of honour."

"I will trust you; there was a time when I would not. Good night.
To-morrow, at ten."

She glided away, and Basil was once more alone. The misery of his own
circumstances was no encouragement to him to dwell upon the adventure,
and he dismissed it from his mind, accounting for the woman's strange
utterances by the supposition that she was of weak intellect. He
passed the night in the open air, and in the morning bought one
pennyworth of bread--it was cheaper than buying a penny roll--for his
breakfast. This and water from a drinking-fountain satisfied hunger
and thirst.

"A man can live upon very little," he said to himself, "but how is it
going to end?"

It was a pertinent question, and answered itself. The end seemed near
and certain.

It was a bright morning, and he walked in the sun. He did not forget
the promise he had made to the woman; it was a promise to which he had
pledged himself, and even if mischief resulted it must be fulfilled.
The name on the card was Mrs. Addison the address, Queen Street, Long
Acre. Thither he went, and paused before a milliner's shop, the
windows of which were partially masked by shutters. Over the shop
front was the name Addison, and the goods displayed bore evidence of a
certain prosperity; they were not of the poorest kind. An elderly,
grey-haired woman came forward as he entered. Her face was sad and
severe, and there was no civility in her voice as she informed him in
answer to his question, that he had come to the right address.

"Go through that door," she said with a frown, "up-stairs to the first
landing. My daughter expects you. I must ask you to make your visit
short."

It was not only that her voice was cold, it expressed repugnance, and
without requesting an explanation Basil followed her and mounted the
stairs. The sound of his footsteps brought the woman he had met on
Westminster Bridge to the door of the front room.

"You have kept your promise," she said. "Come in."

A younger woman than she rose as he entered, cast one brief glance at
him, and immediately left the room. The window blinds were down and
the gas was lighted. His strange acquaintance of the previous night
was dressed in deep mourning. Her face was white and swollen with
weeping.

"I prayed for a miracle last night," she said, "but my prayers were
not answered. I have also repented that I asked you to come, but still
it is right, it is right. If you have a heart it should be a
punishment to you for all you have made me suffer."

"I do not in the least understand you," said Basil.

Had it not been for her grief her look would have been scornful. She
paid no heed to his words, but continued:

"When I said last night that I wanted nothing of you I said what I
meant. When you go from here I wish never to see your face again. It
will be useless for you to trouble me."

"I shall not trouble," said Basil in a gentle tone which seemed to
make her waver; but she would not yield to this softer mood.

"That you are poor to-day," she said, "and I am well-to-do, so far as
money goes, proves that there is a Providence. Years ago--very soon
after your desertion of me--I cast you from my heart, and resolved
never to admit you into it again. It might have been otherwise had you
behaved honestly to me, for I loved you, and you made me believe that
you loved me. It was better for me that the tie which bound us should
be broken. I have led a respectable life, and shall continue to do so.
I am the happier for it."

"For heaven's sake," cried Basil, "explain what it is you accuse me
of."

"Ask your own heart. Although there is an apparent change in you, you
are still the same, I see, in cunning and duplicity. But I will listen
to no subterfuges; there is no possibility of your justifying
yourself, and your power over me is gone. Towards you my heart is cold
as stone."

"You are labouring under some singular delusion," said Basil, "and I
can but listen to you in wonder."

"Still the same, still the same," said the woman. "You used to boast
of your superior powers, and that you were so perfect an actor that
you could make the cleverest believe that black was white. See what it
has brought you to"--she pointed to his rags. "I have no pity for you;
as you have sown, so have you reaped. So might I have reaped had I not
seen the pit you treacherously dug for me; so might I have reaped had
I not repented before it was entirely too late. I owe you this much
gratitude--that it was your base desertion of me that showed me my
sin. Had you remained I might have sunk lower and lower till grace and
redemption were lost to me for ever. What expiation was possible for
me I have made, with sincere repentance, with sincere sorrow for my
error. It would be well for you if you could say the same. You saw my
mother downstairs. She cast me off, as you know, but she opened her
arms to me when I convinced her of my sincerity, when I vowed to her
to live a pure life. I am again her daughter. You see these drawn
blinds, you see my dress, you see that this is a house of mourning.
Can you guess what for?"

"Indeed I cannot," said Basil, "except that you have lost one who is
dear to you. What comfort can I, a stranger, offer you that you cannot
find for yourself? It is small consolation to say that your loss is a
common human experience. Be faith your solace. There is a hereafter."

Her scorn and horror of him, now plainly expressed in her face, so
overpowered her that she allowed him to finish without interruption.

"You, a stranger to me!" she cried. "Will you still wear the mask--or
is it, _is_ it possible that the rank selfishness and callousness of
your nature can have made you forget? All was over between us--but a
link remained, a link of sweet and beautiful love which the good Lord
has taken from me. I bow my head; I will not, I must not rebel!" She
folded her hands, and, moving to the darkened window, stood for a few
moments there engaged in silent prayer. Presently she spoke again. "My
fond hopes pictured a bright and happy future for her. I, her mother,
would be for ever by her side, guiding her from the pitfalls which lay
before young and confiding innocence. Her life should be without
stain, without reproach. She did not know, she would never have known
the stain which rests upon mine. It is revealed to her now. Forgive
me, my darling, and look down with pity upon me! Yes, out of my sin I
created a garden of love--for her, who was to me what sight would be
to the blind, through whose sweet and pure influence I was led to the
Divine throne. My fond hopes have been dashed to the ground--they are
dead, never to be revived. Come with me."

With noiseless footsteps she walked out of the room, and Basil
followed her to another on the same landing. Softly, tenderly, as
though fearful of disturbing what was therein, she turned the handle,
and she and Basil stood in the presence of death.

Of death in its fairest form. Upon the bed lay the body of a young
girl whose age might be ten. The sweet beauty, the peace, the perfect
rest in the child's face, moved Basil to tears; she looked like a
sleeping angel.

"Oh, my darling, my darling!" sobbed the bereaved mother, sinking to
her knees. "Pray for me; intercede for me. Unconsciously I strayed; I
saw not my sin. Oh, child of shame and love, bring peace to my
breaking heart, and do not turn from me when we meet above!"

Basil spoke no word; some consciousness of the truth was slowly coming
to him. There was a silence in the room for several minutes; then the
woman rose to her feet.

"Kiss her," she said. "When you last saw her she was a baby. If she
were living, and saw your face, she would look upon you as a stranger;
but now she knows the truth."

Then Basil understood. "Yes," he said inly, "now she knows the truth."

He stooped and kissed the child's lips, and the mother's tears broke
out afresh; checking them presently, she said:

"It was by the strangest chance I met you last night. I have done what
I conceived to be my duty. Now go," and she pointed to the door.

"I will obey you," said Basil, "but I must say a word to you first, in
the next room."

She looked at him for a moment hesitatingly, then nodded her head, and
they left the chamber of death as noiselessly as they had entered it.

"I did not intend it," said the woman, and taking a tress of fair hair
from her bosom, and dividing it, she offered him a portion. "You may
like to keep it as a remembrance."

"I thank you humbly," said Basil; "it may help me on my way."

A look of incredulous wonder flashed into her face, but remained there
only an instant, and she shook her head as though she were answering a
question she had asked mutely of herself.

"Before us lies an open grave," she said. "You and I speak now
together for the last time on earth. I forgive you, as I hope to be
forgiven. You have something to say to me?"

"Yes; and I entreat you, however strange you may think my question, to
suspend your indignation for awhile, and answer me in plain words."

"I will endeavour to do so, if it is such a question as you should
address to me."

"I will not fret you by arguments or expostulations. You have suffered
deeply, and from my heart I pity you. Plainly, whom do you take me
for?"

"For yourself--for no other man, be sure."

"But let me hear my name from your lips."

"As you insist upon it," she said, with sad contempt, "though such a
farce should not be played at such a time; but when were you otherwise
than you are? You are Newman Chaytor."

"I," said Basil, speaking very slowly, "am Newman Chaytor?"

"You are he; there lives not such another, and remembering all that
has passed between us, remembering your vows and oaths, for that I
say, thank God! If you have any reason for going by another name, for
wishing to be known by another name--and you may have, heaven help
you!--be sure that I will not betray you. You are dead to me, as I am
dead to you."

"Look at me well," said Basil. "If you were upon your oath would you
swear that I am the man you say I am?"

"To swear otherwise would be to swear falsely. What crime have you
committed that you should stand in dread of being known?"

"None. It is not to be expected that you will believe when I tell you
that you are the victim of delusion, as I am the victim of a foul and
monstrous plot."

"Who would believe you? Denial is easy enough, and of course you will
deny, having reason to do so. But come into the light."

She raised the blind, and he stepped to the window where the light
shone upon his face.

"You are Newman Chaytor," she repeated, letting the blind fall.

He bowed his head, and said, "You have just cause for your pitiless
resentment and whether I am or am not the man you believe me to be, I
bow my head before you in sorrow and shame. The day may come--I do not
know how, or in what way it may be brought about, for I am at the
extremity of misery--when, showing you this"--he touched his breast,
where he placed the lock of her child's hair--"and recalling this
interview, you will see the error into which you have innocently fallen.
Till then, or for ever, farewell."

"One moment," said the woman, with trembling accents, "what has passed
cannot be recalled, nor will I speak of the folly of your denial of
the solemn truth. It is a meaningless proceeding."

"To me," said Basil, interrupting her, "it means everything. Honour,
truth, fidelity, faith in virtue and goodness, all are at stake. It
may never come to an issue, for the end seems near, but heaven may yet
have some mercy in store for me. As you prayed for a miracle last
nigh: which was not vouchsafed you, so will I pray for a miracle to
help me to a just conclusion of my bitter trials." A pitiful smile
accompanied his words. "It is not for me, one suffering man among
millions happier, I trust, than myself, to doubt Divine Goodness. The
eternal principle of Justice remains and will, now or hereafter,
assert itself, as it has ever done. May peace and comfort, and
happiness be yours."

"I offered you money last night," said the woman, impressed by what he
said, but making no comment upon it. "Will you not accept it now?"

"I, thank you--no," he said bowing to her with humility. "Farewell."



CHAPTER XXX.


Basil's mind was quite clear when he left the house, and as he had
bowed his head to the bereaved mother when she declared him to be
Newman Chaytor, the villain who had betrayed and cast her off, so did
he bow his head to the elder woman in the shop below, who flung upon
him a look of anger and abhorrence as he passed from her sight. In the
light of the infamous wrong inflicted upon this family, the wrong
inflicted upon himself seemed to be lessened. Suffering and
humiliation were his portion, but not shame; herein Newman Chaytor was
powerless. There had grown in his mind an ideal presentment of
womanhood which shed a refined and delicate grace upon all his
dealings with the sex. His knowledge of the world had taught him that
some had fallen and were vile, but he had no harsh thoughts even for
these hapless ones, whom he regarded with tender pity. There were
women with whom he had come in contact whose images were touched with
sacred light. His mother was one, Annette was another; and it was
partly this good influence which enabled him to bear, with some degree
of moral fortitude, the weight of the troubles through which he was
passing. A heavy load had been added to these troubles by the
accusation which now had been brought against him; another man's sins
had been thrust upon his shoulders, and the circumstantial evidence
against him was so strong that he could scarcely hope to break it
down. He had said that he would pray for a miracle to aid him in his
bitter trials, and indeed it seemed as if nothing short of a miracle
would serve him. But although none occurred to bring the truth to
light, new experiences were awaiting him as strange as any within his
ken, and one, with some sweet touch of humanity in it, was to come
indirectly through the enemy who had played him false.

Of the fourpence he had left one penny went that day for food, and he
contrasted his position with that of a shipwrecked man cast away in a
boat, helpless on a wild and desolate sea, with starvation staring him
in the face. "Among these millions," he thought, "I cannot be the only
one; there must be others adrift as I am. Heaven pity them!" It was
curious that, revolving this theme in his mind, he looked about for
men and women whose state resembled his own, and fancying he saw some,
longed for money more for their sake than for his own. Only in small
natures is grief entirely selfish. One question continually presented
itself. What could he do to better himself--what do to turn the tide?
He saw people begging in the roadways, and others fighting desperately
for dear life, their weapons a few boxes of matches. If he had known
where to purchase half-a-dozen boxes for the threepence which still
remained of his fortune he would have risked the venture, but he did
not know where to go for the investment, and those he asked for
information scowled at him or turned away, conscious perhaps that
their ranks were overcrowded, or that the addition of one to the horde
of mendicants would lessen their chances. During these times he gained
pregnant knowledge of a social nature. Living entirely in the streets,
pictures presented themselves in poor and rich thoroughfares alike.
His poverty made the contrasts startling. Ladies in carriages nursing
over-fed lapdogs; small morsels of humanity shuffling along with their
toes peeping out of their boots. In Covent Garden hothouse fruit at
fabulous prices, and white-faced mortals picking up refuse and
stealthily devouring it. Grand parties in great mansions, priceless
jewels flashing as the ladies stepped out of their carriages; in a
street hard by a woe-worn girl asleep on a doorstep, with a pallid
baby in her arms. These pictures did not embitter him; he pitied the
poor and envied not the rich, and had it been his good fortune to be
employed as a descriptive writer, his pen would not have been dipped
in gall. He did not purposely linger as he walked the streets, for the
reason that when he lagged he attracted the notice of policemen, who
followed him slowly, and quietly noted his movements. On such
occasions, feeling himself an object of suspicion, he would quicken
his steps to escape closer observation. Through all these sad
wanderings he was ever on the watch for Newman Chaytor; he would not
allow himself to sink into absolute apathy; while life remained he
would do what lay in his power to lift himself out of the slough of
despond. Only when his strength was exhausted would he lie down and
die. Thus did he endure three more doleful days, at the end of which
his last penny was spent. "The end is coming," he thought, and waited
for it. He had been five nights now without a bed, and on three of
these nights had been soaked to the skin. This exposure, with lack of
nourishing food, had already told upon a system constitutionally sound
and healthy. That the end was coming was no idle reflection; he felt
it in his bones. Whither should he turn for succour? Naturally strong,
and willing and anxious to work even for the barest pittance, he found
himself more forsaken and powerless in this city of unrest than
Robinson Crusoe on his desolate island. Charity is proverbially cold;
it is frozen indeed when a willing man is driven to such a pass.

Another day passed, and another soaking night, and then fever
threatened. Delirious fancies took possession of him, haunted,
tortured and deluded him. He laughed aloud in the street, and aroused
to momentary reason by the looks of the passers-by, shambled away in
silence that engirt him as with iron bands--to break out again
presently when he was in another street. Each night some impulse for
which he sought no reason led his steps in the direction of the bridge
where he had met Newman Chaytor's victim; had he seen her again, and
she had offered him money, it is doubtful whether he would have had
the strength to refuse.

Exhausted and spent, having been thirty hours without food, he clung
to the buttress of the bridge, and with dim eyes looked forward on the
river's lights. There seemed to be some meaning in their unrest; from
the mysterious depths messages from another world came to his dazed
mind. "Presently, presently," he thought, "but I should like first to
see Annette, and undeceive her. I would give my best heart's blood to
set myself straight with her. Too late to save her--too late, too
late!" He had no idea of seeking eternal rest by deliberate action,
only that he felt it was very near, and could not be long delayed.

How he craved for food! How the demon hunger was tearing at his
vitals! His head fell forward, his mouth sucked his coat sleeve. A
policeman touched his arm; he languidly raised his head, and the
policeman gazed steadily at him, and then proceeded on his beat
without speaking a word. Maybe he recognised that a case of genuine
suffering was before him. Basil remained in the same position, his
eyes turned in the direction the officer was taking. But he did not
see him; he was blind to all surrounding things. Therefore it was that
he had no consciousness of the presence of an old woman, poorly
dressed, who had stopped when the policeman stopped, and appeared
rooted to the spot as her eyes fell upon Basil's face. Suddenly the
emotion which for a brief space had overpowered her, found voice. With
a piercing scream she tottered towards Basil, cleared the grey hair
from her eyes, and peered up into his face. Then with a piercing
scream, she cried:

"Newman! My son, my darling, darling son! O God be thanked for
restoring you to me!"

She threw her trembling arms around him, but Basil did not feel them,
and had no understanding of her words. With a dolorous groan he slid
from her arms to the ground, and lay there without sense or motion.
Nature's demands had reached a supreme point, and the groan which
issued from his lips was the last effort of exhausted strength.

Although the bridge appeared to be deserted, with only the policeman,
the old woman, and Basil in view, a small knot of persons, as if by
magic, instantly surrounded the fallen man and the woman who knelt by
his side. The policeman, attracted by the scream, turned, and slowly
sauntered towards the group.

"What's the matter, mother?" asked an onlooker.

"It's my son," moaned the woman, "my dear son, Newman. He has come
from the goldfields, and is dying, dying."

"Don't look much like a goldfields man," observed one of the group.
"Where's his nuggets?"

"He has had a hard time," continued the woman, whom the reader will
recognise as Mrs. Chaytor. "He wrote to me about his hardships. See
what they have brought him to. Will none of you help me? Here is
money--I am not so poor as I look; my poor husband has had a bit of
luck. For pity's sake help me! O my son, my son!"

"I am a doctor," said a gentleman, pushing his way through. Kneeling by
Mrs. Chaytor's side, he lifted Basil's head on his knee, and made a
rapid examination. "The poor fellow is starving, I should say. Run,
one of you, and fetch a quartern of brandy--and some water if you can
get it."

Mrs. Chaytor held out a trembling hand, and a woman snatched the money
from lit and darted off. The policeman, who had by this time joined
the group, shook his head disapprovingly.

"You've seen the last of that," he said.

He was mistaken, however; the woman returned with two flat bottles,
one containing brandy, the other water. With these the doctor
moistened Basil's lips, and forced a few drops down his throat.

"You see," he said, addressing himself to Mrs. Chaytor, "that he is
not yet dead. Whether he lives or dies depends not upon himself. I
think I heard you say you are his mother."

"I am his unhappy mother," sobbed Mrs. Chaytor. "Oh, how I have prayed
for his return, and he is sent to me now like this! It is cruel, it is
unjust. Save him for me, doctor, and I will bless you to the last hour
of my life!"

"We will see what can be done. Do you live near here?"

"We live in Southwark Road."

"Here is a cab passing. Let us get him into it; there is no time to
lose."

A dozen arms were ready to assist him, but Basil had grown so thin
that the kind doctor lifted him with ease, and put him in the cab.
Then, giving the driver the address which he obtained from Mrs.
Chaytor, they drove off quickly, Mrs. Chaytor holding Basil in her
arms, and crooning over him as the priceless treasure of her life.



CHAPTER XXXI.


"Am I awake or dreaming?" This was the thought that passed through
Basil's mind as he opened his eyes. Two weeks had passed since he had
been rescued from death; and for the most of that time he had been
unconscious. But certain floating impressions were his, which now, as
his eyes travelled round the walls of the room in which he lay, he
endeavoured to recall. It was not without difficulty that he
succeeded, but after long and determined--if in his weak state such a
word may be used--effort, these impressions began to marshal
themselves. But just at the moment that memory reasserted its power
an interruption occurred, and Basil, bent upon his mental task, closed
his eyes, and waited once more for solitude.

An old woman stole softly into the room, and crept with noiseless
tread close to his bed. She stooped over him, kissed him tenderly,
arranged the bedclothes about him, smoothed his pillow, and kissed him
again. What touched his feelings deeply was the exceeding tenderness
of these kisses, which could only have been bestowed upon one who was
very dear. What meaning lay in this strange tenderness to him who not
so long since was forsaken by all, and coming from one whose face was
absolutely unfamiliar to him? For with excusable cunning he had
partially raised his lids without being observed, and his half-veiled
eyes rested upon the woman who was attending him. She was an old woman
with grey and white hair, and there were signs of deep suffering on
her lined face. She looked like one who had experienced great trouble,
but Basil noted also in her countenance an expression of gratitude
which relieved the weight of years and care which lay heavy upon her.
He allowed his lids to droop, and setting aside awhile the task upon
which he was engaged when she entered the room, ransacked his memory
for a clue. He could find none, even though his mental efforts sent
him wandering weakly among his childhood's days. While thus engaged,
with his eyes still closed, he was conscious that another person had
entered the room, and the words which passed between them reached his
senses.

"Good morning," in the cheerful voice of a man.

"Good morning, doctor."

"Doctor! He was being cared for, then, and friends were by his side.
Of this he was assured; he required no further proof than the tender
actions of the woman and the soft voice in which she returned the
doctor's greeting. But why should these stranger's care for him? for
strangers to him they were, though their intentions could not be
doubted.

"How is our patient this morning?"

"No worse, I hope, doctor. He has been very, very quiet."

"That is a good sign."

Basil felt the doctor's fingers on his pulse, and then his head was
gently raised, and he knew that his temperature was being taken. He
betrayed no consciousness of their presence; perhaps the conversation
would supply him with the clue for which he was seeking.

"The fever has almost gone; in a few days he will be quite well. Has he
not spoken at all?"

"No, doctor."

"Not even in his sleep?"

"No, doctor, not a word has passed his lips."

"All the signs are good. Has he opened his eyes?"

"No, doctor. If he only would! If he would only recognise me! I could
die happy, then."

"You must not talk of dying. All that belongs to the past."

"No, doctor," said the woman, with a sigh, "it belongs to the future."

"I stand corrected in my philosophy. But, tush, tush! We must not have
you breaking down. I shall insist upon your getting a nurse for our
young gentleman here."

"No, doctor, no," in almost a fierce tone, "no one shall nurse my dear
boy but myself. Have I waited all these years to let another woman
take my place?"

"Be calm. But I warn you that you are overtaxing yourself, and at your
time of life it is not safe. You have done your duty; no woman can do
more."

"I will not allow anybody else to take my place. It belongs to me; it
is my right."

"There, there, don't agitate yourself. I hope our young friend will be
grateful for what you have done for him."

"He will be; he always has been; you do not know his nature--the most
loving, the tenderest. Can you not see it in his face?"

"It is a good face, and I have taken something more than a doctor's
interest in the case. It is, indeed, a mercy that you came across him
on the bridge a fortnight ago. Had he fallen into the hands of
strangers it is hardly likely he would have pulled through. It was
touch and go with him."

"Providence led my steps. I am humbly, humbly grateful."

"You saved him from death--I may tell you plainly now that he is in a
fair way of recovery. And how is our other patient?"

"Still the same, doctor. Will you go and see him?"

"You must come with me; he is suspicious of me, as you know, and would
order me out of the room if you were not by."

"Can I leave my dear boy with safety?"

"With perfect safety; he will not awake from sleep for a long time
yet, and when he does it will not harm him to find himself alone."

"He must not find himself alone--I will not have it, I will not, I
will not!"

"Well, well, surely you can take my word. He will sleep for hours; it
is nature's restorative."

"Doctor," said the woman, in a tone so solicitous that Basil was
deeply moved, "he _will_ recover?"

"He will. Come; I have not much time at my disposal."

He walked to the door, but before she left the room, Basil felt her
tender hands about him again, ministering to his ease and comfort.
Presently he knew by the closing of the door that he was alone again.
Then he applied himself to the task of recalling his impressions. They
came to him slowly, and the sequence of events passed through his mind
in fair order.

He recalled the dolorous days of hunger and privation, the meeting of
the young woman on the bridge, his visit to her house, and the cruel
accusation she brought against him. When he struggled against it she
had desired him to come into the light, and had said, "You are Newman
Chaytor." With this pronouncement and condemnation he left her, and
the look of abhorrence the woman's mother had cast upon him lived in
his memory as a burning brand. Then followed the days through which he
starved and suffered till he was on the bridge looking forward on the
river's lights, and waiting for death. He had no remembrance of what
subsequently occurred on that night and on many days and nights
afterwards. Sounds of voices he had heard, but not the sense of the
words that were spoken: except that on one occasion something had
reached his senses to the effect that the room in which he lay was
unhealthy, and that it would be better if he were removed to more airy
quarters. He was dimly conscious that this was done, and that gentle
hands had lifted him from his bed, and that he was carried to another
house through fresher air which flowed softly over his fevered brow.
Had this really been done, or was he deluding himself with fancies? He
opened his eyes, and gazed around. The room was large, and there was
but little furniture in it, but everything was clean and neat. There
was a pleasant paper on the walls, the device being flowers, the
colours of which, though subdued, had some healthful brightness in
them. On a table near his bed were medicine bottles, a basin with soup
jelly in it, and a plate of grapes. The loving care with which he was
being nursed was evident whichever way he turned. There was something
more than mere kindness, there was heartfelt devotion, in these
evidences and in what he had lately heard. The woman to whom he owed
this great debt had saved him from death--the doctor had said as much,
and Basil did not doubt that it was true. Whatever could have been her
motive he inwardly acknowledged that she had rendered him a service it
would be hard, if not impossible for him to repay. Saved from death!
To what end? That he might live to clear himself from the foul
accusation which hung over him, to avenge himself, to punish the
guilty, perhaps even yet to save Annette. A debt, indeed, that could
never be repaid. Exhausted with thought, he sank into slumber, with a
growing hope in his heart that there might yet be some brightness for
him in the future.

When he awoke again it was night. Opening his eyes they fell upon the
form of the woman who had tended him. She was kneeling by his bed,
gazing upon his face. A shaded lamp in the room enabled him to see her
clearly.

"Newman!" she said in a low voice of joy, and she half rose and
stretched forth her arms.

That hated name! Denial was on his lips, but the voice of joy, the
agonized appeal of love expressed in her eyes, arrested his speech.
And indeed at that moment there suddenly flashed upon his mind some
glimmering of the truth.

"Who speaks?" he asked, awed and stricken by the appeal.

"Your mother, your fond, your loving mother. Oh, my son, don't break
my heart by saying you don't know me! Newman, Newman, my beloved boy,
kiss me, give me one word of love. I shall die, I shall die, if you
turn from me!"

He could not repulse her; he felt that the sentence upon this loving
heart was his to pronounce. Scarcely knowing what he did, he held out
his hands. She seized and kissed them again and again, then fell upon
his neck and pressed him convulsively to her.

"Who are you?" he said softly.

"Your mother, your faithful, faithful mother. Did you not hear me?
Have I spoken too soon? O Newman, Newman, give me one kiss, one kind
look. My poor heart is breaking!"

"Tell me who I am," said Basil.

"You are our dear, our darling son, whom God in His infinite mercy has
sent back to us, to comfort us, to cheer the little time that remains
to us."

Her mouth was close to his; her quivering lips pleaded for the kiss
for which she yearned. He could not resist her; their lips met; her
tears gushed forth.

"Forgive me," he said: "I have been ill so long, and my mind may be
wandering still. Is it the truth that I am Newman Chaytor?"

"Yes, my dear, yes, you are the only being left to us on earth, the
only link of love we have. If it distresses you to think, if the
effort is too painful, rest till the morning; I will watch over you.
Heaven has heard my prayers; my darling is restored to me. I can die
happy now. The clouds have passed away; there is nothing but sunshine;
your future shall be happy; we will make it so. Fortune has smiled
upon us. Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful--and just as you have come
back to us. But we will not speak of it to-night; we will wait till
to-morrow, when you will be stronger."

"No, tell me something more--I am strong enough to listen."

"Oh, my poor boy, you have suffered much, you have had great
troubles!"

"Yes, great and bitter troubles. Bring the lamp nearer. Am I changed?"

"Only a little paler than you used to be and a little thinner. There
is no other change in you. Your father----"

"My father!"

"He lives, Newman, he lives, but he is very ill, and I can see that
the doctor fears for him. But he loves you still. Do not think hardly
of him, Newman; he will not be long with us. Say that you forgive
him!"

"What have I to forgive?"

"There speaks the noble heart of my darling boy. You can bring peace
and comfort to him, as you have brought it to me. You can brighten his
last hours. You will do it, will you not, my dear boy?"

"What lies in my power," said Basil slowly, "to repay you for your
goodness to me, that I will do."

"I was sure of it, I was sure of it. You will find him changed,
Newman; he wanders in his mind sometimes, but you will be gentle with
him."

"Yes I will be gentle with him."

"We will forget the past--there shall be nothing in our hearts but
love and forgiveness."

"Listen a moment. If anybody came to you and said I am not your son,
would you believe him?"

"You ask it to try me, but you little know your mother's heart. If an
angel from heaven were to come and say so, I should not believe him; I
should know it was an evil spirit that spoke. I was going to speak to
you of our good fortune. Shall I go on?"

"Yes, go on."

"It happened only a week before I met you--O, heaven be praised for
it!--on the bridge. Do you remember, when everything went wrong with
us and we were plunged in poverty, that your father still had some
shares in mining companies left, shares that were supposed not to be
worth the paper they were printed on? Do you remember it, my dear
boy?"

"Well?"

"It is only three weeks ago that a gentleman found out where we were
living--we were very, very poor, Newman--and told us that these shares
were valuable, were worth a great deal of money. Fortunately your
father had not destroyed them, and fortunately, too, when the
gentleman called it was on one of your father's sensible days. He
found the shares, and some of them have been sold. We are now
rich--yes, my dear boy, rich. We should never murmur against heaven's
decrees; it was all ordained--that this should happen at the time it
did, and that I should meet you a few days afterwards, in time to save
you. Newman, my dear, you had not a penny in your pockets."

"I was starving."

"My poor boy, my poor, poor boy! Oh, how cruelly we have treated you!"

"You must not say that. You are the soul of goodness; you have saved
me from death, from despair, from shame, from degradation. I have
something to live for now. Hope revives. I have an enemy who has
conspired to ruin my life. What shall be done to him?"

"He must be punished."

"He shall be."

"The monster! To conspire against my dear lad. If I were not old and
weak, I would seek him out myself. He should learn what a mother could
do for a beloved son."

"He shall be punished, I say, and his punishment shall come through
those who are nearest to him, and should be dearest."

"It sounds hard, Newman, but it is just, it is just."

"I am tired," said Basil, "I can talk no more; I want to sleep."

"Sleep, my dear boy; I will watch by you."

"No, you must seek rest yourself; I insist upon it; it will do me good
to know that you are resting after your long labour."

"Are you sure you will not want me?"

"Quite sure; I am gaining strength rapidly; to-morrow I shall be
almost well. Go."

"When did I disobey my dear lad?" said Mrs. Chaytor. "When did I
disregard his slightest wish? He repays me with love, and I am happy,
happy! This is the brightest night of my life, Newman. What have I
done that such joy should be mine? It is more than I deserve. Yes, I
will go, though I don't want rest--indeed, indeed I do not. I could
stop up for weeks nursing my dear lad, and never feel fatigue." The
tears rose in Basil's eyes as he gazed upon her worn and wasted face.
"Good night, my dear, dear boy. God bless and guard you?"

He could not deny her the kiss for which she mutely pleaded, and she
prepared to leave him; but she came back a dozen times to assure
herself that he was comfortable, that there was not a crease on his
pillow, that the clothes were smoothly laid over him, and to hover
about him with soft accents of love. At length he pretended to be
asleep, and she crept from the room so softly that he did not hear her
footfall.

Being alone now, he could think of what had passed, of the revelation
that had been made to him, of the position in which he stood, and how
it behoved him to act. The woman believed him to be her son, the idol
of her heart, the one supreme treasure which heaven and earth
contained for her. In that belief she had rescued him from death, and
by so doing had perhaps afforded him the opportunity to redeem his
name and honour. To undeceive her would break her heart; of this he
had no doubt. How perfect was her love! How tender and beautiful were
its evidences! He remembered his own mother, and knew how pure was the
love which existed between them; but never till this moment had it
been given him to know to what wondrous extent a mother's love could
go. That Newman had been a bad son, that he had been profligate and
false--of this he was certain; such a nature as Newman's was capable
of nought else; but all this was forgotten and forgiven. Nay, instead
of entreaties for pardon being expected from him, it was himself that
was asked to forgive. Something more than gratitude stirred his heart
as he thought of Mrs. Chaytor's goodness, a feeling of pity and
affection rose within him, and he bethought himself in what way he
could repay her for the great service she had rendered to him.

Had it been Newman, indeed, whom she had rescued from death and
dishonour, how would he have acted? Natures do not change, and Newman
would have followed the bent of his. He would have brought fresh
sorrows upon her head; he would have stripped her of her new fortune
and squandered it in dissolute practices? Would it not be a fine
revenge to make the end of her life sweet and beautiful by the loving
care and gratitude it was in Basil's power to bestow. His heart glowed
at the thought. The sterner part of his revenge could still be carried
out. He would have means to prosecute his search for Newman and
Annette, and it would be the easiest matter to find an excuse for
absence, if it were necessary that he should go personally to seek
them. Thus two good ends would be attained, one certain in the joy it
would bring to a good woman's heart, the other as yet uncertain,
inasmuch as the roads which would lead to it were enveloped in
darkness.

Yes, he would have means to punish the guilty. But were those means
his to use? Could he with justice employ them in the task upon which
he was engaged, and which Mrs. Chaytor had saved him to prosecute?
This was the question which now obtruded itself.

Why not? Had not Newman Chaytor, by the vilest conduct, by long
systematic deceit and treachery, fraudulently obtained possession of
his fortune, and was he not now using it for his own selfish
pleasures? Could human cunning go further than Newman had done in his
vile plot--could human baseness reach a baser depth? No. There would
be a strange and inscrutable justice in using the villain's weapons to
bring the villain to bay.

There was another consideration: Annette. If in the morning he
declared himself to be Basil Whittingham, if he left the loving mother
in sorrow and tribulation, and rejected the opportunity which, through
no scheming on his part, had presented itself, if he threw himself
once more penniless upon the world, what chance had he of finding
Annette in time, maybe, to save her from a life of deepest
unhappiness? This last consideration induced him to resolve upon his
course of action. For the present he would allow matters to go on as
they would. He would not undeceive Mrs. Chaytor; she should, for as
long or as short a time as circumstances permitted, rest in a delusion
which had filled her heart with joy. She should believe that he,
Basil, was her son indeed, and he would work and wait for events.

But he would be strictly just, as far as he could. What money he used
should be used to one end, and to one end only; unless, indeed (and a
strange smile wreathed his lips as this view presented itself)
collateral disclosures were revealed to him of Newman Chaytor's home
life of villainy and treachery which pleaded for some kind of
compensation. Then would he use some of Chaytor's money to repair the
wrong. A devious road to justice, but a justifiable one. Having thus
determined, sleep descended upon him.



CHAPTER XXXII.


Early the next morning he awoke. The sun was shining into the room,
and he was alone. There was some kind of stir in the house for which
he could not account, and the cause of which he was curious to
ascertain. Feeling that his strength had returned to him he rose from
the bed, and although a natural weakness was upon him, he succeeded in
partially dressing himself. While thus employed the door was opened
and the doctor entered the room.

"Ah," said the doctor, "as I expected. You are yourself again." He was
a young man, and had a cheery voice and manner, which, used with
discretion, and not allowed to become too bluff, are invaluable aids
to a medical practitioner.

"I am almost well, I think," said Basil.

"But we must be careful," said the doctor, "we must husband our
strength. You have a good constitution, and that has served you."
Although his voice was cheerful, he spoke with a certain reserve.

"Are you not here very early?" asked Basil.

"I am," replied the doctor, "much earlier than usual. The fact is I
was called in."

"They are too anxious about me."

"Well, yes, but I was not called in to see you. Your parents required
me?"

"For themselves?"

"For themselves. Are you strong enough to hear some grave news?"

"Let me know it, quickly."

"To be plain, your good mother has overtaxed herself; and your
father's illness has taken a serious turn. Your mother did not wish me
to tell you; she asked me to think of some excuse why she could not
come to you; but in the circumstances the truth is best."

"Yes, the truth is best. Disguise nothing from me. See--I am really
strong and well."

"You will do, if you are careful. As I said, your mother has overtaxed
her strength, and she is now suffering from it. I warned her a score
of times, but she would not leave your side, it is wonderful the
devotion of these good women."

"Is it anything serious?"

"I fear so; she is old, and seems to have gone through some serious
troubles."

"I will go and see her."

"Not till you have breakfast. I have ordered it for you, and if you
will allow me, I will join you."

"You are very welcome."

The maid entered the room with a tray, which she placed on a table;
the doctor threw open the window, saying, "Nothing like fresh air.
Come, let us fall to."

Basil was much taken with him; he was a man of culture and refinement,
and knew what he was about. As they proceeded with their breakfast he
entertained Basil with light and agreeable conversation, and it was
only when the meal was finished that he reverted to the subject of his
professional visit.

"Has your mother," he inquired, "during late years endured privation?"

"I have been absent from England for a great many years," replied
Basil evasively.

"And if she had," continued the doctor, "she would conceal it from
you! it is in the nature of such women. But I am led to this belief by
her condition; it is not only that she is suffering from the reaction
of overtaxed endurance, but that she has no reserve strength to draw
upon."

It was clear to Basil that he believed her case to be serious, and in
great anxiety he accompanied the doctor to the sickroom. There were
two beds in the room, one occupied by Mrs. Chaytor, the other by her
husband. Mr. Chaytor was dozing, and Basil, gazing upon him, saw a
white and wasted face, long drawn and thin as that of a man whose
sands of life were fast running out. Mrs. Chaytor cast a look of
reproach upon the doctor, as she murmured:

"You should not have told him, you should not have told him!"

"He was up and dressed, my dear lady," said the doctor softly, "when I
went in to see him. You must trust me to do what's best for all of
you."

"I will, I will," murmured Mrs. Chaytor. "You have restored my dear
son to health. O, Newman, Newman!"

Basil bent over her, and kissed her; she tried to rise, but had not
strength.

"How good you are, how good, how good!" she sobbed.

Basil was shocked at her appearance, which had undergone a sad change
since the previous evening. The faithful couple, after a long and
anxious life, seemed to be both waiting for the summons from the angel
of death.

"It is my turn now to nurse you," said Basil, pityingly.

"No, you must not; the kind doctor has sent for a nurse; you must take
care of yourself. There is a long and happy life before you, and you
must not waste your days upon old people like us. Are your father's
eyes closed."

"Yes."

"He wishes to speak to you when he wakes. He is quite sensible, and
has something to say to you. Doctor, I must speak to my son alone."

He was about to forbid any serious conversation, but, looking
attentively at her, he did not speak the words that came to his lips.
He nodded, and beckoned to Basil, who joined him at the door of the
room.

"I am going now," he said, "and shall return at noon. Do not let your
mother exhaust herself. If she speaks excitedly, calm her down and beg
her, for your sake--it is the appeal that will have the best effect
upon her--to speak more slowly."

"But had she not better wait till she is stronger?"

The doctor gazed at him with serious eyes, "It will perhaps be as well
not to wait. She seems to have something of importance to communicate
to your By-and-bye may be too late?"

Inexpressively grieved, Basil returned to the bedside, and took Mrs.
Chaytor's thin hand in his; her fingers clung to his convulsively.

"I must speak to you about your father," she said, and to save her the
effort of raising her voice, Basil laid his head on the pillow close
to her mouth. A beautiful smile came to her lips as he did so. "Always
loving and considerate!" she murmured. "Always the same tender and
unselfish lad! Newman, your father has not seen you yet; all the time
you were lying ill he has been unable to rise from his bed. Don't
contradict him, my dear lad."

"I will not," said Basil.

"He has strange fancies; he was always strange--but he has been good
to me. Remember that, Newman, and bear with him for my sake."

"I will do so."

"Thank you, my dear boy. If he says anything about the past, listen in
silence--even if it is hard to hear, listen in silence. He was not so
considerate of you as he might have been, but we can't alter our
natures, can we, my darling? He could never see that young people love
pleasure, and ought to have it; he wanted you to be grave and serious,
as he was, and he would not make excuses for little faults. Bear that
in mind, my dear."

"Yes, I will."

"He said to me, 'I shall speak to Newman plainly,' and I know what
that means. He may speak harsh words, but you will be prepared for
them. He loves you in his heart, indeed he does, and intends to behave
rightly to you. Yesterday he wrote a paper, which I think he will give
you, and something else with it--something that will make your life
easy and happy. You need never want again, my dear boy, never, never.
Oh, how you must have suffered! And you were starving, and were too
proud to come to us, who would have shared our last crust with you.
Let me tell you about our fortune, Newman. When some cheques were
brought to your father for the shares, he would not take them: he
would take nothing but notes and gold; and the money was brought to
him, and he has it now under his bed. 'If I put it into a bank,' he
said, 'it will break, and I shall be ruined again. I will keep it
always by me in cash.' I told him it wasn't safe, that we were old and
might be robbed, but he would not listen to me. He was always
self-willed, you must remember that; he would always have his way, and
never thought that anyone was right but himself. I don't know how much
money he has, but it must be thousands of pounds. He gave me a hundred
pounds in gold to pay the house expenses; I have only spent forty, and
there is sixty left. Here it is--take it, Newman; take it, my dear
boy. If you love me don't refuse. That's right, put it in your pocket;
all we have belongs to you--every farthing. 'When you want more,' he
said to me, 'ask me for it and you shall have it.' He was never
niggardly, I will say that of him; we had a beautiful home once, did
we not? How happy you made it when you were little--and when you were
big, too, my dear! One day, when you are married--I hope you will
marry a good woman, who will love you with all her heart, and
appreciate you--you will find out how happy a little child can make a
home. Then you will think of me, will you not?--then you will know
better what I mean."

Her breath was spent, and she could not continue. She closed her eyes,
but her fingers tightened upon Basil's, and presently she began to
babble incoherently. The entrance of the nurse who had been sent her
was a welcome relief to Basil; the woman had received her
instructions, and she went about her duties noiselessly. Mrs.
Chaytor's grasp relaxed, and Basil removed his hand.

"You had best go," whispered the nurse; "she wants sleep."

Basil obeyed, and in his own room applied himself again to a review of
his position. Strange indeed were the circumstances in which he found
himself, but he saw no other course to pursue than that upon which he
had already resolved. At noon the doctor called again, and his report
was even less hopeful than on his previous visit.

"I can do nothing, I fear," he said; "the end is approaching. You must
be prepared."

"Is there no hope for one?" asked Basil.

"For neither, so far as my judgment is to be trusted. It would be a
satisfaction to you, perhaps, if a physician were called in."

"I think it should be done," said Basil, "but I am a stranger here and
know no one."

"I will come at five o'clock, and bring a physician with me.
Meanwhile, if your parents have any arrangements to make with respect
to property, it should not be neglected. I am of the opinion that your
father will have an interval of consciousness this evening, and then
would be the proper time. In everything else you may trust the nurse I
have sent in; she understands the cases thoroughly."

The physician's statement verified the warning.

"Their vital forces are spent," he said; "the end cannot be averted or
arrested."

It was at eight o'clock that the nurse presented herself, and told him
that his father had asked for him.

"Your mother is sleeping," she said; "speak as softly as you can."

He followed her to the room and took a chair by Mr. Chaytor's bed. He
had strange thoughts as he entered. Suppose that Mr. Chaytor, seeing
him for the first time should refuse to see the likeness to Newman
which others had seen? In that case, how should he act? He was puzzled
to answer, and, driven by circumstances into a position he had not
sought, could but leave events to take their course, which they had
already done independent of himself. But nothing of the sort happened.
Mr. Chaytor's eyes dwelt upon his face, and then he called Basil by
the name of Newman, and Basil had no alternative but to answer to it.
The nurse sat discreetly by Mrs. Chaytor's side.

"Send that woman away," said Mr. Chaytor.

His words came with difficulty; his voice was choked. The nurse heard
the demand, and as she passed from the room she whispered to Basil
that she would be ready outside if he wanted her. For several minutes
there was silence, a silence which Basil did not venture to break. Mr.
Chaytor appeared to be engaged in the effort of marshalling his
thoughts.

"You have come back in time," he said, "to see me die."

"I trust there is still hope," said Basil.

"There is no hope," said the sick man. "The doctors spoke together
under their breath, and thought I could not hear. They were wrong; I
heard every word they said. The fools forgot that a dying man's senses
are often preternaturally sharpened. Mine were, 'He will die at
sunrise,' they said. Very well. I shall die at sunrise. Oh, I don't
dispute them; they know their business. Sunrise is some hours yet; I
have time to speak, and I mean to keep my wits together till I have
said what I have got to say. What you have to do is to listen. Do you
hear me?"

"I hear you," said Basil.

"I don't intend," continued the dying man, "to ask you questions, for
I know what kind of replies you would give. What you are, you are, and
of that I have had bitter experience. Your mother, lying there at the
point of death--Oh, I heard that, too, when they were putting their
heads together--believes in you, trusts you, thinks you the sun, moon,
and stars all rolled into one, and thinks me a black cloud whose only
aim is to tarnish your brightness. Let her believe so. There was never
any reason or any wisdom in her love; but she is a good woman. To him
she loves she gives all, and asks for nothing in return. Whom she
trusts is immaculate; she cannot see a spot upon him. That is how
it stands, how it has always stood, between you and her. It is
different with me. Ever since you became a man--heaven pardon me for
calling you one!--you have been corrupt and vicious; and I knew it.
Ever since you became a man you have been false to friendship, false
to love; and I knew it. Ever since you became a man you have had but
one idea--yourself, your vanities, your degraded pleasures, your low
and envious desires; and I knew it. Why, then, should I ask you
questions, knowing you would lie to me in your answers. For you are as
glib of speech, Newman Chaytor, as you are cunning of mind. You have
been absent from us a long time: doubtless you have a good
recollection of the day on which I turned you from my house. We became
stricken down; we became worse than poor; we became paupers. Your
mother wrote to you when you were on the goldfields, and you sent back
whining letters of your misfortunes. Your mother believed you and
pitied you; I disbelieved you and despised you. At length you came
home, and hunting for us to see whether there was another drop of
blood you could suck from our empty veins, discovered that you could
hope for nothing from us, and therefore kept aloof; for it is a fact
that until a week previous to your mother meeting you on Westminster
Bridge, we lived on beggary and charity. How do I arrive at this
knowledge of your movements? From intuition, from the bitter
experiences with which you supplied me. I must pause a little. I will
proceed in a minute or two, when I get back my treacherous voice. Do
not poison the silence with your voice. I prefer not to hear it."

It was dreadful to hear him. The choked utterances, the pauses between
the words, the fixed determination to say what was in his mind, the
stern tones, produced a painful impression upon Basil; but he had
perforce to obey, and so he waited till the dying man resumed:

"If you had heard of my good fortune you would have leapt upon us like
a wolf; but it did not reach your ears. Therefore you kept away from
us, fearing, while you had one penny left, that we should beg a
halfpenny of it. Your mother brought you home--not to these rooms at
first, for we had not removed from our old quarters, but afterwards we
came here for your pleasure. Well, for hers, too, perhaps,"--his eyes
softened a little as he turned them towards the bed in which Mrs.
Chaytor lay--"and she was happy, for the first time for many, many
years, because you were with us. I could not come to see you; it is
eight months since I was able to crawl, but your mother gave me
accounts of you, and I was not displeased that she was able to nurse
you into strength. She has hastened her end through it, but that
matters little to her. During this last week I have been thinking what
I should do with my money, and I have allowed myself to be persuaded,
most likely beguiled. Look beneath my bed; you will see a cashbox;
bring it forth."

Basil did as he was directed, and produced the cashbox.

"It contains a portion of my wealth; there are some shares in it which
may yet be valuable. I have made no will, but I give you the cashbox
and the contents while I live; they are yours--a free gift. Beneath my
bed, between the mattresses, is a larger sum which you may take
possession of when I am gone; I make no disposition of it, and you may
act as you please in regard to it. Take the key of the cashbox--it is
hanging there, at the head of the bed; and I lay this injunction upon
you, that you do not open the box until I am dead. In this I must
break through the rule I laid down when I began to speak. You will
obey me?"

"I will obey you," said Basil.

"It is a solemn promise?"

"It is a solemn promise."

"There is a look in your face I have never seen there before. Is it
possible that a change has come over you?"

"I have none but kind and grateful thoughts for you."

"Is it true. _Can_ it be true?"

"It is true." Then, like a whirlwind, there rushed upon Basil's mind a
torrent of self-reproach. Was it right that he should allow the dying
man to rest in his delusion? Was it not incumbent upon him that he
should confess, here and now, that he was not Newman Chaytor? Whatever
the consequences, was it not his duty to brave them? But before he
could speak a word to this effect Mr. Chaytor raised himself in his
bed with a terrible cry; and at that cry the nurse unceremoniously
entered the room, and caught Mr. Chaytor in her arms. A little froth
gathered about his lips, his head tossed this way and that; then
movement ceased; his limbs relaxed, and the nurse laid him back in
bed. Awe-stricken, Basil whispered:

"Is he dead?"

"No," said the nurse; "if any change occurs I will call you. Go--I can
attend better to him alone."

"Can I not assist you?"

"No, you will be in my way. Hush! Go at once; your mother is stirring.
Be sure I will call you, I promise faithfully."

Basil left the room, carrying the cashbox with him, which he placed
under his own bed, putting the key in his pocket. He did not seek
rest, his mind was too perturbed. Towards midnight the doctor called
in, and gently informed Basil that within a few hours he would lose
both his parents.

"In one sense," he said, "apart from the grief which such a loss bears
with it, it is a happy fitness that two old people, who have lived a
long life in harmony with each other, should pass away at the same
time, the allotted span of existence having been reached. I sympathise
sincerely with you."

Basil gave him a strange look; so completely was his position
recognised and established that he almost doubted his identity. It
wanted a few minutes to sunrise when the nurse came to the door and
solemnly beckoned to him. He followed her it silence; she pointed
first to the bed in which Mr. Chaytor lay. The form thereon was grey
and motionless.

"He died in his sleep," whispered the nurse; "not a sound escaped him.
It was a happy, painless death."

Basil gazed at the still form.

"Now you know," he thought. "Forgive me for the deception which has
been forced upon me."

The nurse touched his arm, and directed his attention to Mrs. Chaytor,
saying softly, "I would not let her know of your father's death."

"Newman, Newman, my dear boy," murmured the dying woman, "put your
lips to mine; come closer to me, closer, closer. My last thoughts, my
last prayers are for you. Has your father spoken to you?"

"Yes."

"And has he given you what he promised?"

"Yes."

"Then all is well. We shall trouble you no more, my darling. A life of
happiness is before you. Think of us sometimes; and if your father
does not get well, lay us in the same grave."

"It shall be done."

"I shall wait for you in heaven. How happy I am--how happy, how happy!
I am not sorry to go now I have found you. I have prayed to die like
this. God has been very good to me. He has answered my prayer. Kiss
me, dear. God bless and guard you!"

She said no more; before the next hour struck her spirit was in
another world.

"Remain with them," Basil said to the nurse, "and let everything be
done that is proper and necessary."

He gave her some money, and oppressed with thought, returned to his
chamber. No adventure that he had met with in the course of his
chequered life had stirred him so deeply as this. So strange and
singular was it that he might have been pardoned for doubting still
that it was true. But the cashbox, which he had drawn from beneath the
bed, was before him; the key was in his hand.

After a brief space he opened the box, taking the precaution first to
lock his door. Upon the top of the box were eight acceptances for
various amounts, signed in different names, some in those of Mr.
Chaytor, others in names that were strange to him. They were pinned
together, and folded in a paper upon which was written:


"These acceptances are forgeries, committed by my son, Newman Chaytor.
I have paid them, and saved him from the just punishment which should
have been his. In this and in other ways he has ruined my career, and
brought his mother and me to direst poverty. But although the money is
paid and the exposure averted, the crime remains; he is not cleared of
it. It is a stain upon him for ever.--Edward Chaytor."


Beneath these documents was another, inscribed:


"The last words of Edward Chaytor, once a prosperous gentleman, but
brought to shame by a guilty son."


Unfolding the paper, Basil read:


"To my son Newman Chaytor, a man of sin, I, his unhappy father,
address these words. Your life has been a life of infamy, and you, who
should have been a blessing to us, have plunged us in misery. I have
little hope of your future, but remorse may prompt you to pay heed to
what I now say. Repent of your evil courses while there is time. You
may live to be old, when repentance will be too late. If there is any
wrong to be righted, which may be righted by money, seek it out, and
let my money right it. If there is any atonement to be made, and you
see a way to it--as you surely will if you try--let my money atone for
it. If there is any villainy committed by you which merits punishment,
but which in some small measure may be condoned by money, let my money
accomplish it. Do this, and you may hope for forgiveness. I could
write much more, but I have neither the desire nor the power; but if I
wrote for a week you would not have a better understanding of my
meaning. Signed on my death-bed. Your father,

"Edward Chaytor."


The remaining contents of the cashbox were gold and notes, amounting
in all to a considerable sum. Basil counted the money, made a careful
and exact record of it on a fair sheet of paper, replaced the papers
and locked the box, and put it in a place of safety.

He was not long in arriving at a decision as to what he should do with
respect to this money. For his own needs he would use the barest
pittance upon which he could live, and some part of the money he would
also use in the prosecution of his search for Newman Chaytor and
Annette. In this expenditure he felt himself justified, and he would
keep a strict and faithful account of the sums he expended. For the
rest, if anything in the career of Newman Chaytor came to his
knowledge, and he could in any way carry out the behests of the man
lying dead in the room beyond, he would do it, and thus vicariously
make atonement for the villain who had brought sorrow and misery upon
all with whom he came in contact. For the present there were duties
which demanded his attention, and Basil applied himself to the last
sad offices towards those who had passed away. In the course of the
week his task was accomplished. Mr. and Mrs. Chaytor lay in one grave,
and Basil made arrangements for a stone, and for a continual supply of
fresh flowers over the grave. Then, with a stern resolve, he set
himself to the serious work before him, and to the design which had
brought him home from the goldfields.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


The first thing he did was to remove from the house which had been
occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Chaytor, and take a room in a poor locality,
for which he paid four shillings a week. Including this sum he thought
he could live as well as he desired upon a pound a week. He
experienced a grim satisfaction from the reflection that he was
expending upon his own personal necessities some small portion of the
fortune of which Newman Chaytor had so successfully robbed him. If the
day ever arrived when it would be necessary to go into accounts with
Newman Chaytor this slight expenditure would be placed to the
villain's credit. He had an idea of returning to his lodgings in Mrs.
Philpott's house, the assistance of whose husband he determined again
to seek, but upon second thoughts he saw that he would be more free to
act if he were not under the kindly surveillance of this estimable
couple. Having established himself in his new quarters he went direct
to Mrs. Philpott's residence in Lambeth. The woman was overjoyed to
see him.

"Why, sir, why," she cried, as she came to the door fresh from the
washing-tub wiping the suds from her arms, "this _is_ a pleasure.
Philpott will be more than glad. Here, children, children! Come and
see an old friend; there never was such a favourite with them as you
were, sir. They have been continually taking you into custody and
locking you up, and trying and acquitting you, without a stain on your
character." Mrs. Philpott laughed. "You mustn't mind ways; if they
didn't think all the world of you they'd give you six months hard
labour. It's the revenge they take upon people they don't like. Don't
crowd round the gentleman so, you rude things! Where's your manners, I
should like to know? Won't you walk in, sir? I hope you're coming back
to live with us; there's your room waiting for you; it's never been
occupied, and Philpott says it never shall be, unless you take it."

"I am living elsewhere, Mrs. Philpott," said Basil, "but I've come to
see your husband on business.

"I'm sorry he's not in, sir," said Mrs. Philpott; "he won't be home
till ten o'clock to-night."

"Can I see him, then; my business will not admit of delay?"

"Certainly, sir. Philpott would get up in the middle of the night to
serve you, and so would I. You'll stop and have a bite with us, sir, I
hope?"

"No, thank you, I haven't time; I will be here punctually at ten."

"Well, sir," said Mrs. Philpott, regretfully, "if you must go; but
you'll take a bit of supper with us."

"I will, with pleasure. Your husband is sure to be at home, I
suppose?"

"Yes, sir; Philpott's the soul of punctuality. He's gone for a day in
the country to see an old friend, and his train is due at Victoria at
twenty past nine. You're looking better than you did, sir."

"I am better, and in better spirits."

"Do you remember what I said, sir, about clouds with silver linings?
Lord Sir! When things are at their worst they're sure to mend. What
men and women have got to do is never to give in. Oh, I've had my
lessons, sir."

"So have I, Mrs. Philpott: I shall be with you at ten."

Patting the children on their heads, and giving them a penny each--he
felt like a shilling, but it was not exactly his own money he was
spending, and this small benefaction was a luxury which did not
properly come under the head of personal expenses--Basil, with
pleasant nods, left them to their favourite occupation of taking
people up and trying them for imaginary offences against the public
peace. At nightfall, having an idle hour or two before his appointment
with Mr. Philpott, an impulse which he made no effort to control
directed his steps towards Long Acre, and then to Queen Street, where
the woman whom Newman Chaytor had betrayed and deserted carried on her
business. The workgirls from the large establishments in the vicinity
of the street were coming from their shops, most of them in blithe
spirits, being young and in agreeable employment. It was the holiday
time of the day with them, and they were hurrying home, some doing a
little sweet-hearting on the road which it was pleasant to
contemplate. There were pictures not so pleasant; great hulking men
smoking pipes and lounging about, with "Brute" stamped on their
features, and women as coarse, whose birth and training perhaps were a
legitimate answer to their worse than common language and manners.
Basil's observations of London life during the last few months had
supplied him with ample food for reflection, and he could honestly
have preached a homily on charity which better men than he--say, for
instance, philanthropists or statesmen with hobbies--might serviceably
have taken to heart.

His attention was diverted from these unfortunates by a startling
incident. There was a sudden cry of "Fire!" and the thoroughfare
became instantly thronged.

"Where is it?--where is it?" "There, you fool! Can't you see it?--in
Queen Street." "It's a private house." "No, it isn't, it's a shop--a
milliner's. An old house; it'll burn like tinder." "A good job it
isn't in the middle of the night; they'd have been burnt in their
beds."

The sparks rushed up in fierce exultation. "The next house is caught!
The whole street 'll be down. Here's the fire-engine!"

In gallant haste the horses tore along, the brave firemen, heroes one
and all, standing firm and ready. Basil followed the crowd, and with
difficulty pushed his way through as far as he was allowed. It was
Mrs. Addison's shop that was on fire, and he saw immediately that
there was no chance of saving it. The weeping women were outside,
wringing their hands; among them the woman who had accused him, and
her mother, who had cast upon him that ever vivid look of abhorrence
and hatred. So quick and sudden and fierce was the fire that not a
stick of furniture nor a yard of ribbon was saved. The women strove to
rush into the shop, but the firemen held them back, and with firm
kindness impelled them to a place of safety. Basil, edging near to
them, and keeping his face hidden, heard what passed between. "We are
ruined," said one, despairingly.

"Aren't you insured?" inquired a by-stander.

"Not for a penny," was the answer.

"Ah, you'll have to commence the world all over again."

"Heaven help us!" was the answer. "We are worse than naked; we owe
money."

"Never mind, old woman," shouted a tipsy man, "there's the work'us
open."

"Shut up, you brute!" cried an indignant female. "Have you no bowels?"

At the words, "We are ruined," a thrill shot through Basil. Here was a
woman whom Newman Chaytor had wronged; here was a woman to whom
atonement was due. He knew what it was right should be done, and he
determined to do it. He lingered near them until the shop lay a
mouldering heap of ruins; he heard a kind neighbour offer them lodging
for the night; he marked the house they entered; and then he went home
to his own lodging of one room. There, safely concealed, was a sum of
money amounting to three hundred pounds; he took the whole of it,
wrote on a sheet of paper, "In partial atonement of wrong committed in
the past," and put the paper and the notes in an envelope, which he
addressed to Mrs. Addison. Then he went to Mrs. Philpott's house. "You
are late, sir," said that cheerful woman; "an hour behind time."

"I have been detained."

"You're not too late for supper, sir, at all events," said Mrs.
Philpott; "I put it back for you."

"You must excuse me," said Basil; "something of pressing importance
has occurred, and I want Mr. Philpott to come out with me
immediately."

"Quite ready, sir," said Mr. Philpott, rising and getting his hat.

Mrs. Philpott, recognising that the business was urgent, did not press
Basil further, although disappointment was in her face.

"At another time," said Basil, "I shall be glad to accept of your
hospitality. Come, Mr. Philpott."

As they walked on Basil explained that he wished Mr. Philpott to take
up the dropped threads of the search for Newman Chaytor, and then he
explained what he wished to do at the present moment.

"It is purely a confidential matter," said Basil, "and is not to be
spoken of in any way after the commission is executed. Here is the
house. Some women are lodging here for the night whose place of
business near Long Acre has been burnt down. You will ask for Mrs.
Addison; if a mother and her daughter present themselves it is the
daughter you must address. Ask her if she is the woman who has been
burnt out, and if she answers in the affirmative give her this
envelope, and come away at once. If she seeks to detain you and asks
questions, do not answer them. I will wait for you on the opposite
side."

He watched Mr. Philpott execute the commission, being right in his
conjecture that the women would be too excited to seek their beds
until late in the night. The woman with whom he had the interview
appeared at the door, and received the envelope; after which Mr.
Philpott joined him, as directed. At the corner of the street Basil
and his companion paused and looked back at the house. In a few
moments the woman who had answered Mr. Philpott's summons came quickly
to the street door and looked eagerly up and down; Basil and Mr.
Philpott were standing in the shadow, and could not be seen. The light
of the street lamp assisted Basil to see her face: it was radiant with
joy.

"A good night's work," said Basil, taking Mr. Philpott's arm and
walking away. "I will call upon you to-morrow. Good night."

Mr. Philpott left him and proceeded homewards, as did Basil. He did
not know that a man was following him with eager curiosity. He put his
latchkey in the street door of his lodging, and as he did so the man
touched his arm. Basil turned.

"What, Old Corrie!" he cried, in a voice of delight.

"No other," said Old Corrie, calmly. "It _is_ Master Basil. I thought
I wasn't mistaken. Well, well! This is a meeting to be thankful for.
I'm in luck."



CHAPTER XXXIV.


"Come in, come in," said Basil, clutching Old Corrie by the arm, as
though he feared to lose him, and dragging him into the house; "this
is indeed a meeting to be thanking for. It is I who am in luck."

He regarded it as an omen of good fortune. If Old Corrie were thus
unexpectedly found, why not Newman Chaytor? And, besides, here was a
trusty friend upon whom he could rely--here was a man whose evidence
would go far to establish his identity, to restore his good name, to
give the lie to his traducers. He looked upon this meeting as the
opening of a brighter chapter in his strange career, and with this
cheering thought in his mind he ascended the stairs to his one room at
the top of the house, still keeping tight hold of Corrie, who,
accompanied him, willingly enough, in a kind of amazed silence.

"I must find a candle," said Basil, pushing Old Corrie, into the room
before him. "You won't run away, Corrie?"

"No fear, Master Basil," replied Corrie. "I am not in a run-away
humour. Shouldn't wonder, supposing I get encouragement, if I develop
the qualities of a leech."

"I promise you encouragement enough," said Basil, with a little laugh.
His spirits were almost joyous; youth seemed to be returning to him.

"I wait for proof," observed Corrie sententiously. "Friends are none
so plentiful in this hard world."

"True, true," assented Basil, groping about for a candle. "You could
swear to me in the dark, eh?"

"If needful."

"That's more than some would do in the full light of the blessed sun.
I could sing for joy."

"Hold your hand, Master Basil; let us exchange a few more words in
darkness. I am speculating whether you are changed."

"What do you think, Corrie?"

"I think not, but what man can be sure? I have been sore beset since
we last talked together."

"We have been rowing in the same boat, then."

"You have met with misfortunes, too! Have they soured you?"

"They have brought sorrow and doubt in their train, but, there is
sweetness still in the world. This meeting is a proof."

"You live high up, and the house is the house of poor people. Birds of
a feather flock together. Perhaps, after all, I had best go away."

"If you attempt it I shall assault you. Corrie, old friend, you have
dropped upon me like a messenger from Heaven. Here is the candle at
last. Now we can have a good look at each other."

They gazed in silence for a few moments, and Basil was grieved to see
old Corrie in rags. Beneath the bluff honesty of his face there were
undeniable marks of privation, but despite these signs there was a
gleam of humour still in his eyes.

"Well, Master Basil?" said he presently.

"I am truly sorry, dear old friend," said Basil, holding out his hand.
"You have had some hard knocks."

"You may say that. It has been a case of battledore and
shuttlecock--the battledore a stone one and the shuttlecock a poor bit
of ironbark, with such a mockery of feathers in it that the moment it
was knocked up it fell down like a lump of lead. If I puzzle you,
Master Basil, you puzzle me. There is something in you I can't exactly
read. Your clothes are not what I should like to see you wear, though
they are the clothes of a prince compared with mine. This room is the
room of a man pretty low down in the world," and here Old Corrie added
with a laugh, "the higher up you live the lower down you are--and yet
you have the air of a man who is not hard up."

"Regarding me," said Basil, "as a bundle of contradictions, you are
nearer the mark than you could suppose yourself to be. But surely I am
forgetting my manners and my duties as a host." He opened a cupboard,
and drew therefrom bread, butter, cheese, and a bottle of ale, which
he uncorked. Plates, glasses, and knives were on the table in a trice.
"Fall to, Corrie."

"You can spare it, Master Basil?"

"I can spare it, Corrie. You share with me from this time forth. Do
you live near here?"

"Very near," replied Old Corrie, pointing to the window. "The sky is
my roof."

"It has been mine. We'll house you better. I drink love and friendship
to a dear old friend." They clinked glasses, and Corrie ate like a
famished man. The meal being done he said: "I've been on my beam-ends
in Australia, but starving in this country is a very different pair of
shoes. It's a near thing here between want and death--so near that
they touch often and join hands in grim partnership. I've seen it
done, and a dead woman before me. Now, in Australia, unless it
comes to being lost in a bush--where it's no man's fault but the
explorer's--I never heard of a case. There's stone-breaking at all
events to tide over the evil day. I've had more than one turn at it,
and been thankful to get it to do, as every honest and willing man
would be. Different in England, Master Basil, where they've brought
civilization down to a fine point. Did you take notice how I ate my
supper? More like a wild beast than a man--and now, with a full
stomach, I am thoroughly ashamed of myself. Not that I am loth to
accept your hospitality; it's the need of it that riles me. That's
where the shoe really pinches."

"I can sympathise with you, Corrie. By the way, I am in your debt."

"How so, Master Basil?"

"Over the water yonder, I borrowed a mare of you, and managed to lose
it. You remember. I wanted to get from Bidaud's plantation to Gum Flat
Township--a gruesome journey it turned out to be--and you lent me your
mare. When I returned and reported the matter to you my pockets were
empty, and not a word of reproach did you fling at me. I couldn't pay
the debt then--I can now."

"Hold hard a bit, Master Basil; let me turn the thing over in my
mind." Basil humoured him, and there was a brief silence. Then Corrie
said, "It is a simple justice that the mare should be paid for if you
can afford it."

"I can afford it. Why, if I had my own this night I should be worth
sixty thousand pounds."

"Some one has cheated you, Master Basil?"

"More than cheated me; has done me the foulest wrong. You shall hear
all by-and-by. But I still have money I can call my own. The robber,
unknown to himself, is making restitution by driblets. Here you are,
Corrie." He had counted out thirty pounds, which he now pushed over to
Corrie across the table. Corrie counted it, but did not take it up.

"If this is for the mare, Master Basil, it's too much."

"Too little, you mean."

"Too much by twenty pounds. The old mare _might_ have fetched a ten
pound note in a sale-yard, and more likely than not would have been
knocked down for a fiver. So I'll take ten, if you don't mind, Master
Basil, and we'll cry quits on that account. I wouldn't take that if my
pockets weren't empty."

No persuasion on Basil's part could induce Old Corrie to accept more
than the ten pounds, and the young man was fain to yield.

"You were quite in earnest," said Old Corrie, "when you offered to
give me a shakedown for the night?"

"I've a mind to be angry with you," responded Basil, "for asking the
question. Let us settle matters between us once and for all, Corrie.
You had a good opinion of me once."

"I had, Master Basil, and would have done much to serve you."

"You did do much--more than I had any right to expect, more than any
other man did."

"Not more than any other man would have done," said Old Corrie, eyeing
Basil attentively, "if he had lived."

"You refer to Anthony Bidaud?"

"I do. I haven't forgotten him, nor little lady, nor that skunk of an
uncle of hers.

"We have much to talk over, you and I," said Basil, restraining the
impulse to speak immediately of Annette, "but what is between us
must first be settled and clearly understood. You are right about
Anthony Bidaud. He would have been the first, but he died before
his intentions could be fulfilled. Next to him you stand, and surely
you would not have been the friend you were to me if you had not
esteemed and trusted me."

"That goes without saying."

"As I was then, Corrie," continued Basil, earnestly, "so I am now. I
have passed through the fire, and suffering may still await me, but I
am and hope to remain, unchanged. Let us take up the thread Of
friendship where it was broken off, on the goldfields, when Newman
Chaytor and I were working together and when you endeavoured to
persuade me to come home with you. Ah, what might I have been spared
had I accepted your generous offer! Corrie, if ever there was a time
in my life when I most needed a true friend, it is now. There is vital
work before me to do, and you, and you alone, can help me. By Heavens,
if you desert me I doubt whether I should be able to prove that I am
I! Come, old friend, say that you will believe in me as of old, and
that you will stick by me as you would have done in the old Australian
days."

"Say no more," said Old Corrie. "I'll worry you no longer; it's
scarcely fair play, for, Master Basil, I never doubted you in reality;
but poverty is proud and suspicious, and often behaves like an
ill-trained watch-dog. And besides, there are times in some men's
lives when kindness is so rare and unexpected that it throws them off
their balance. I don't pretend to understand half you have said about
yourself, but I'll wait till you explain, and then if I can help you
in any way, here I am, ready. I am wondering whether something that
happened to me would be of interest to you--but, no, it is a foolish
thought. Doubtless you have seen her, and now I come to think of it,
perhaps there lies part of your trouble."

"Seen whom?" asked Basil.

"Little lady."

"No," cried Basil, in great excitement, "I have not seen her, and I
would give the best years of my life to find her. You know where she
is; you can take me to her!"

"Steady, lad, steady. I haven't seen her, and can't take you to her,
but there's a sign-post that may show the way. There's no certainty in
it; it's just a chance. What do you say if I lead up to it? It's late
in the night, but I've no inclination to close my eyes, knowing I
shouldn't sleep a wink, I'm that stirred up."

"Neither could I sleep, Corrie. Let us sit and talk and smoke; here's
a spare pipe and tobacco--and you shall tell me in your own way."

Corrie nodded, and filled his pipe, and lit it Basil did the same, and
waited in anxious expectancy, while Corrie puffed and contemplated the
ceiling meditatively.

"In my own way, Master Basil?"

"In your own way, Corrie."

"A roundabout way, but there's plenty of time before daybreak, and
then a couple of hours sleep will make us both fit. Old bushmen like
ourselves won't miss one night's rest."



CHAPTER XXXV.


There was distinct tenderness in Old Corrie's face as he watched the
curling wreaths of smoke.

"I don't lay claim to being a poet," he said; "I leave that to my
betters; but they almost seem to me to belong to poetry, these rings
of smoke that come and go. They bring back old times, and I could
fancy we were in the bush, sitting by the camp fire before turning in
for the night, spinning yarns, and as happy as blackbirds in spring.
There's no life like it, Master Basil, say what they will of the
pleasures of the city. Pleasures! Good Lord! To think of the lives
some lead here and then to speak of pleasures! I'm not going to
preach, however; the ship's been battered about, but it has reached
port,"--he touched Basil's hand gratefully--"and here sits the old
bushman recalling old times. I shan't dwell upon them because I know
it would be trying your patience. I'd like you to give me a little
information about yourself before I go on."

"Ask whatever you wish, Corrie."

"I left you on the goldfields, mates with Newman Chaytor, of whom, as
you know, I did not have a good opinion."

"However badly you thought of him, you were justified."

"You found him out at last."

"I found him out at last."

"Did it take you long?"

"Years."

"Sorry to hear it. Did you get a proper knowledge of him suddenly or
gradually?"

"Suddenly."

"And all the time he was practising on you?"

"He was."

"Master Basil," said Old Corrie, gravely, "you were never fit to
battle with human nature; you never understood the worst half of it."

"Perhaps not, Corrie, but I understand it now. Newman Chaytor is a
black-hearted villain."

"I am not surprised to hear you say so; I had my suspicions of him
from the first. Unreasonable, I grant you, no grounds to go upon; but
there they were, and I am sorry, for your sake, that they proved true.
Where's my gentleman now?"

"In Europe, somewhere. I am hunting for him; it will be a dark day for
the traitor when I come face to face with him."

Old Corrie looked at Basil keenly from under his eyebrows. "Do you
want my assistance here?" he asked.

"I do. You must be with me, by my side, when he and I are together.
With your aid, I succeed; without it, I fail. Do you require an
incentive? I will give you two."

"I require none; it is sufficient that you want me and that you
believe I can be of assistance to you."

"Still, I will give you the two incentives. One is, that it is not
alone Newman Chaytor I am fighting: linked with him, if I have not
been misinformed, is an associate worthy of him--Gilbert Bidaud."

"Little lady's uncle. A precious pair, he and Chaytor. If I needed
spurring, this would do it."

"The other is, that I am not only fighting to defeat these scoundrels,
but to save your little lady Annette."

"Enough, enough," said Old Corrie; "I'll bide my time to learn.
Meanwhile, I pledge myself to you. Why, Master Basil, to give those
two men their deserts, and to serve you and little lady, I'd go
through fire and water. I will unfold my budget first, and will make
it as short as I can. When I left you on the goldfields, I did what
many another foolish fellow has done, went to Sydney and spent a week
or two there on the spree. What kind of pleasure is to be got out of
that operation heaven only knows, but it is supposed to be the correct
thing for a brainless, lucky gold-digger to do, and it leaves him
probably with empty pockets, and certainly with a headache and
heartache that ought to teach him to be wiser in future. There was no
excuse for me: I wasn't a young man, and wasn't fond of drink, and
when at the end of a fortnight I came to my sober senses, I said,
'Corrie, you're an old fool,' and I never said a truer thing. That
fortnight cost me a hundred pounds, I reckon. I treated every man
whose face I recognised, and a good many that were strange to me, and
I think it was the face of a gentleman I met in Pitt Street, who
looked at me in a kind of wonder, that pulled me up short. Somehow or
other he reminded me of you, Master Basil, though he wasn't a bit like
you; but he was a gentleman, and you are a gentleman, and the thought
ran into my head like a flash of fire, 'What would Master Basil think
of me it he saw me now?' It staggered me, and I felt as if I was
behaving like a traitor to you to so forget myself. You had given me
your friendship, and I was showing that I was unworthy of it. I made
my way back to the hotel I was staying at, and plunged my head into a
bucket of water, and kept it there until I had washed away the fumes
of half the cursed liquor I had poured down my throat. Then I went to
my bedroom, locked the door, threw myself on the bed, and slept myself
sober. 'Never again, Corrie, old boy,' I said, 'never again.' And I
never did again, although I did some foolish things afterwards that
were quite as unwise though less disgraceful. I took ship home and
landed at St. Katherine's Docks with four thousand pounds in my
pocket. Yes, Master Basil, I had made that much and more on the
goldfields, and it ought to have lasted me my life. You shall hear how
long it _did_ last me. As a matter of course I was regularly knocked
over when I walked through the London streets. The crowds of people,
the gay shops, the cabs and 'busses, and carriages, the hurly-burly,
the great buildings, almost took my breath away. I looked back at my
old life in the woods, swinging my axe, felling trees, and splitting
slabs, with my laughing jackass on a branch near me, and the hum of
nature all around me, and I hardly knew whether I was awake or
dreaming. Was I happy in the London streets? I can't say; I was
certainly bewildered, and that, mayhap, prevented me from thinking of
things in a sensible way. I was looking in a shop window, speculating
whether I oughtn't to buy some of the bright ties for sale there, when
a voice at my elbow says 'Good day, mate.' 'Good day, mate,' said I,
though the man was a stranger to me, at least I thought so at the
moment, but he soon unsettled my thought. 'Where have I met you,
mate?' said he. 'In what part of the world?' 'On the goldfields,
perhaps,' said I, like an innocent pigeon. 'Most likely,' he said, on
the goldfields. 'Your face strikes me as familiar, but I don't
remember your name.' 'My name is Corrie,' said I; 'Old Corrie I used
to be called.' 'No,' he said, shaking his head; 'I don't remember it.
I've seen you on the goldfields, that's all, and it's only because I
never forget a face that I took the liberty of speaking to you. I ask
your pardon.' 'No offence, mate,' I said, and I shook the hand he held
out before he left me. Now, Master Basil, if that man had said, when I
told him my name, that we were old acquaintances, I should have been
suspicious of him, but his honest admission (it seemed honest) that he
only recognised my face because he'd seen it once or twice on the
goldfields--which would have been the most natural thing in the
world--made me look upon him with favour, and as he walked away, I
gazed after him with a feeling of regret that he should leave me so
quickly. He may have gone a dozen yards when he looked back over his
shoulder, and seeing me staring after him, turned with a smile, and
joined me again. 'It looks churlish scudding off so unceremoniously,'
said he, 'when I might by chance be of service to you. When did you
arrive?' 'I landed this morning,' I said, and I mentioned the name of
the ship. 'Have you friends in London?' he asked. 'No,' said I, 'I am
a stranger here.' 'Then you haven't taken lodgings yet,' said he.
'No,' I answered, 'and to tell you the truth I am puzzled where to
go.' He offered to advise me, and I gladly availed myself of the
offer. 'Come and have a chop with me first,' said he, and we went to
an eating-house all gilt and glass--I found out afterwards that the
street we were in was Cheapside--and had a chop and some beer. He
threw half-a-sovereign to the waiter, but I objected to it saying I
would pay. He insisted, saying he had invited me; but I insisted too,
saying I had plenty of money, and would take it as a favour if he
would let me have my way. The friendly wrangle ended in each of us
paying his own score, and then as though we had known each other all
our lives, we went out together to a quiet hotel, in a narrow street
in the Strand, down by the river, where I engaged a bedroom. I'll cut
a long story short, Master Basil, so far as my new friend goes, by
telling you how it ended with me and him. He was so clever, and I was
so simple, that he wormed himself completely into my confidence, and I
thought myself lucky in having made such a friend. He told me all
about himself, and I told him all about myself; it was a regular case
of Siamese twins: we were never apart. One day he spoke of
speculation, and of doubling one's money in a week, and doubling it
again when the opportunity offered, which wasn't too often. 'Of your
four thousand pounds, you make eight,' said he, 'of your eight
thousand you make sixteen, and if you like to stop, why there you are,
you know.' Yes, there I was, and no mistake. The opportunity that
presented itself to my confidential friend was something in my way--a
quartz reef on the Avoca, to be formed into a company. He showed me
figures which I couldn't dispute, and didn't wish to dispute. The
truth is, Master Basil, he had dazzled me. Sixteen thousand pounds was
certainly better than four, and to be content with one when you had
only to put your name on a piece of paper to secure the other was the
act of a simpleton. The upshot of it was that I went into the company
and signed away the whole of my money with the exception of a hundred
pounds, and very soon found out that I had signed it away for ever and
a day. Good-bye, my three thousand nine hundred pounds, and good-bye
to my dear friend who had tickled me into his web and made mincemeat
of me. I never saw anything of either money or friend again."

Old Corrie paused to load his pipe, which gave Basil time to remark:

"You said just now that I knew nothing of the worst side of human
nature. How about yourself, Corrie?"

"It was my one mistake, Master Basil," replied Corrie composedly.
"There's no excuse for me; I was an old fool. Let me have four
thousand pounds again, and see if I'm bit a second time. Now, being
stranded with about enough to keep a fellow but little more than a
year, what was I to do? If I had been the wise man I'm trying to make
myself out to be, I should have taken passage to Australia, and taken
up my old life there. But more than one thing held me back, and kept
me here. First, there was a foolish pride; to retreat was to confess
myself beaten. Second, there was the chance of meeting with the friend
who had diddled me; it was about as strong as one thread of a spider's
web, but I dangled it before me. Third, I had never known what it was
to be without a crust of bread, and therefore had no fears on that
score. Another thing, perhaps, which only just now occurs to me, kept
me in this country. When I was a youngster there was a fatalist among
my acquaintances. He was the only thoroughly happy man I have ever
known. Nothing worried or disturbed him; he was a poor man, and he
never grumbled at being poor; he met with misfortunes, and he accepted
them smilingly, and never struggled against them; if he had broken his
leg, and it had to be amputated, he wouldn't have winced during the
operation. He had what he called a philosophical theory, and he
explained it to me. 'Nothing that anyone can do,' he said, 'will
prevent anything occurring. Everything that is going to happen is set
down beforehand, and an army ten million strong couldn't stop a straw
from blowing a certain way if fate ordained that it was to blow that
way. You can't prevent yourself from being imposed upon, from being
poor, from being rich, from being sick, from being healthy, from
living till you're a hundred, from dying when you're twenty, from
having a wife and blooming family, from living alone in a garret.
Therefore,' said he, 'it's of no use bothering about things. Do as I
do--take 'em easy.' 'But how,' I said once to him, 'if I've got a
different temper from yours, and worry myself to death about trifles?'
'Then you are much to be pitied,' said he, 'and I shall not trouble
myself about you.' I pressed, him, though, a little. 'If a man is
good?' I asked. 'He is fated to be good,' he answered. 'If he is a
murderer?' I asked. 'He is fated to be a murderer,' he answered. 'If
he is born to be hanged, hanged he will be, as sure as there's a sun
above us.' Well, now, Master Basil, perhaps it was fated that I should
remain in England in order to meet with a certain adventure which I
will tell you of presently, and afterwards to meet you here in London
to-night to assist you to a fated end."

"It is a hateful theory," said Basil. "Were it true, vice would be as
meritorious as virtue, and monsters of iniquity would rank side by
side with angels of goodness. Go on with your story, Corrie, and put
fatalism aside."

"So be it. Anyway, there I was, as my friend said, with a hundred
pounds in my pocket instead of sixteen thousand. I wasn't quite devoid
of prudence; I knew that a hundred pounds wouldn't last very long, and
that it would be as well if I could hit upon some plan to earn a
livelihood. It was the hop-picking season. 'I'll do a little hopping,'
said I, and off I set towards the heart of Kent for an autumn tour,
seasoned with so many or so few shillings a day. On the second night
of my tramp I missed my way. I was in a woody country, with the usual
puzzling tracks and fences. The night was fine, but very dark. Camping
out in England is a very different thing from camping out in
Australia, and I didn't intend to camp out here if I could help it.
But I was tired, and I squatted myself on the grass which grew on a
hill side, and thought I'll rest an hour and then stumble onwards on
the chance of reaching a village where I could get a night's lodging.
I was very comfortable; my legs hung down, there was a rest for my
back, and without any intention of doing so, I fell asleep. I was
awakened by something alive and warm quite close to me; I could not
see what it was, because when I opened my eyes I found that the night,
from being dark, had got black. There was not a star visible--everything
was black, above, below, around. But what was the object close
to me? I put out my hand and felt flesh covered with hair. 'A
dog,' thought I; but passing my hand along the body, I dismissed the
dog idea in consequence of the size of the animal. It was not high
enough nor smooth enough for a horse. A donkey, perhaps; but if a
donkey, why was it muzzled? The creature uttered no sound while my
hand was upon it, but when I took my hand away to get a match--the
only means at my command to obtain a view of my strange companion--it
put its head upon my arm, and then a foot, just as though it wanted to
pull me along in some particular direction--and then I heard a growl.
It made me start, though it was not a threatening growl, and I
wondered what sort of animal this could be that had attached itself to
me at such a time and in such a place. The next sound I heard was the
clank of a chain. I should have taken to my heels if I had not been
deterred by the thought that it might be safer to keep still, so I
softly took out my matchbox and struck a light--and there, with only
a few inches between our faces, was a great brown bear. I was
startled, but I soon got over my fears. I struck half a dozen matches,
one after the other, to get a good look at my new mate, and with the
lighting of each fresh match I became more assured. I took its paw in
my hand, and found that its claws had been pared down; it opened its
mouth, and there was scarcely a tooth in it; I happened to hold up my
arm, with the lighted match in my hand, and the bear immediately stood
on its hind legs and pawed the air. I jumped immediately at the right
conclusion. The creature was a harmless performing bear, and it had
either escaped from its master, or the man was not far off, and it
wished to lead me to him. I made an experiment. I rose, picked up the
end of the chain and cried, 'March!' March the bear did, and I after
it, for about a mile, and then it lay down by something on the road,
and moaned. I declare, Master Basil, there was a human sound in that
moan, and I knelt by its side and took a man's head on my knee. He was
a foreigner, but could speak fairly good English, and he told me that
he had met with an accident, having slipped on his ankle, and could
not walk. 'Bruno went for assistance,' said Bruno's master. 'Good
Bruno! Good Bruno!' The kind voice of the man attracted me: the
affection between bear and master attracted me; and I asked what I
could do, saying the country was strange to me, and I did not know my
way. 'But I know,' said the man; 'there is a village two miles off.
Help me to get on Bruno's back, and we will go there, if you will be
so good as to keep with me.' I said I would keep with him, partly
because I wanted a bed to sleep in myself, and partly because I should
be glad to be of service to him. With some difficulty I got him on
Bruno's back--the man was in pain, but he bore it well--and the three
of us trudged through the dark roads to the village, the man with his
head on my shoulder to keep his balance. It wasn't easy to get a
lodging; every house was shut, and then there was the bear, that
nobody cared to take in, not believing it was a harmless creature.
However, we managed it at last; Bruno was fastened up in an empty
stable, and I helped its master to a room where there were a couple of
straw beds. His ankle was badly sprained, and the next morning it was
very little better. He managed to limp out, and the pair of us,
leading the bear, trudged to a common where a village fair was being
held, and there Bruno's master began to put the bear through its
performances. Pain compelled him to stop, and he asked me to take his
place, instructing me what words and gestures to use to make the
patient creature do this or that. I got along so well that I was quite
proud of myself, and the comicality of my suddenly becoming a showman
never struck me till the evening, when the day's work was done. You've
come to something, Corrie,' said I, and I shook with laughter. After
tea the man counted up the takings, which amounted to close on ten
shillings, and divided them into three parts. 'One for Bruno,' said
he, 'one for me, one for you.' He pointed to my share, and I took it
and pocketed it as though I had been in the business all my life.
Again, Master Basil, I'm going to cut a long story short. I could talk
all night about my adventures with Bruno and its master, but I must
come to the pith of my story. Take it, then, that the three of us
travelled about for nearly twelve months, just managing to pick up a
living, that my foreign mate fell sick and had to go into a hospital,
that he died there, and that at his death I found myself with Bruno on
my hands, established as a regular showman. I accepted the position; I
could do nothing else; I couldn't run away from the bear because I
felt I should in some way be held answerable to the law for desertion;
we belonged to each other, and it wasn't at my option to dissolve the
partnership. My little stock of money was diminished by this time in
consequence of my mate's illness and the expenses of his funeral, and
I knew that Bruno's antics would always earn me a few shillings a
week. So there we were, Bruno and I, going about the country with
never a word or growl of disagreement between us till we came to a
fashionable sea-side place called Bournemouth. I had gone through the
performances, and Bruno and I were walking from street to street
looking for another pitch when I was struck almost dumb with amazement
at a sound that reached my ears. It was the voice of a bird speaking
some words in a loud key, and the words were--what do you think,
Master Basil?"

"I can't imagine, Corrie," replied Basil.

"The words were, 'Little lady, little lady! Basil and Annette! Basil,
Basil, Basil--dear Basil!'"

"Corrie," cried Basil, in a voice of wonder and joy, "you are not
deceiving me!"

"No, Master Basil, I am telling you the plain truth. You may imagine
by your own feelings the effect those words had upon me. What bird but
the magpie I had trained and taught for little lady could have uttered
them? And after all these years too! I could scarcely believe my ears,
but there was the bird, piping away at the window--I turned and saw it
in a cage--calling to me, in a manner of speaking, to come and say how
do you do? I went straight up to the house and knocked at the door.
The woman who opened it started back at sight of the bear. 'It won't
hurt you, ma'am,' I said, 'there's not a bit of vice in it. I've come
to ask you something about a bird you've got. It's an old friend of
mine, and I trained it for a young lady in Australia, and taught it
some of the things it says.' 'Sure enough,' said the woman, keeping as
far away from Bruno as she could, the bird's an Australian bird, and
the young lady it belongs to was born in Australia. Emily's not at
home now----' 'Not Emily, ma'am, begging your pardon,' I said,
interrupting her; 'Miss Annette's the young lady I mean. Her father's
name was Bidaud, and Basil, one of the names I taught the magpie to
speak, was a dear friend of hers and mine.' 'Oh, yes,' said the woman,
'I know all about that. My daughter Emily is Miss Bidaud's maid, and
she is taking care of the bird for her mistress for a little while.
Emily's home for a holiday, but she's gone to see some friends in
London, and won't be back till the day after to-morrow. Can I do
anything of you?' 'You can tell me, if you please,' said I, 'where
Miss Annette is. I'm sure she'll be glad to see me,' My idea was,
Master Basil, to see little lady and ask her if she had any news of
you, though I wanted, too, to see her for her own sake. Well, all at
once the woman grew suspicious of me, and instead of speaking civil
she spoke snappish. 'No,' she said, 'I shan't tell you anything about
Miss Bidaud. You're a showman, travelling about with a big, nasty
bear, and likely as not you're up to no good.' I didn't fire up; the
woman had fair reason on her side. 'I'm a respectable man, ma'am,' I
said, 'and it's only by accident I came into company with Bruno. My
name's Corrie, and Miss Annette would thank you for telling me where
she is.' But she wouldn't, Master Basil; all that I could get out of
her was that I might come and see Emily the day after to-morrow, and
her daughter could then do as she liked about telling me what I wanted
to know. I went away with the determination to come back and have a
talk with little lady's maid, but things don't always turn out as we
want them to do. Very seldom indeed. That night there was a great
hubbub in the place I was stopping at. Bruno had broke loose and gone
goodness knows where, and all sorts of stupid stories got about that
the bear was mad and was biting everybody it met. I had to go in
search of the creature, and the police kept me in sight. A pretty
dance Bruno led me. I was hunting for it three days and nights, and
when I found it at last it was in a sorry plight. I shall never forget
that evening, Master Basil. I don't know the rights of the story, but
I was certain that Bruno had been set upon by dogs and men--it had
marks of fresh wounds upon its body--and been hunted from place to
place. When I caught sight of the bear it was lying by the side of a
little pool, and at a little distance were some twenty men and boys
pelting it with stones. I scattered them right and left, and knelt by
Bruno's side. The poor beast tried to raise its head, but couldn't,
and I got some water from the pool, which was all mudded with the
stone-throwing, and bathed its mouth. It thanked me with its eyes--it
did, Master Basil--and did its best to lick my hand. Its chest went up
and down like billows of the sea, and once it gave a great sob as if
its heart was broke. After that it got quieter, but it could neither
eat nor drink. A policeman came up and told me to move on. 'Come,
Bruno,' I said, 'march, my man. The law's got its eyes on you.' The
creature actually managed to stand, and, more than that, got up on its
hind legs as it did when it was performing. It pawed the air a little,
and looked at me for orders, and then fell down all of a heap. 'Come,'
said the policeman, 'you must move on, the pair of you.' 'Not
possible, the pair of us,' said I, sorrowfully. 'Try if your truncheon
can bring it to life.' Bruno dead was much more difficult to manage
than Bruno alive. I had to pay money to get rid of its body, and then
somebody summoned me for a scratch or a bite Bruno had given him, he
said, and I had to pay money for that. All this took me some time, and
I had very little money left at the end of it. I hadn't the heart to
go back to Bournemouth to get little lady's address. What should I do
with it when I got it? Go to her and beg? No, I was too proud for
that. Most likely she was with her uncle, Mr. Gilbert Bidaud, the
gentleman who wouldn't respect a dead brother's word, and I knew
what I might expect from him. So I gave up the idea and came to
London--came here to starve, Master Basil, for I could get no work to
do, and have gone through more than I care to tell of. If I hadn't met
you to-night I should have wandered about the streets, as I've done
for many and many a night already; but I'll not dwell upon it. I've
told my story as straight as I could."



CHAPTER XXXVI.


"It is a strange story," said Basil, "but less strange than the story
I have to relate. We have both experienced the pangs of hunger and
solitude, with wealth and luxury all around us. What chiefly interests
me is your adventure in Bournemouth. Emily, you said, is the name of
Annette's maid?"

"So her mother said."

"And the mother's name?"

"I ascertained that--Crawford."

"Do you know the name of the street in which she lives?"

"Lomax Road. I put it down on paper."

"If we were in Bournemouth, you could take me to the house?"

"Straight."

"We will go there to-morrow; there will be little sleep for us
to-night, Corrie. As regards Annette do you draw any conclusions about
her character--for the Child and the woman are frequently at odds with
one another--from the incident of the bird?"

"I do; Master Basil. I draw the sign of constancy. None but a constant
nature would have kept the bird so long, would have valued it so long,
would have taught it new words.

"New words!"

"Yes, Master Basil. If it said 'dear Basil' once, it said it twenty
times while the woman and I were talking. When I gave the bird to
little lady it couldn't say 'dear,' so she must have taught the lesson
with her own pretty lips. A straw will tell which way the wind blows."

"Thank you, Corrie. When you have heard me out you will understand
what all this means to me." The recital of his adventures occupied him
over an hour, and Corrie listened with bent brows and without a single
word of interruption. His pipe went out, and he made no attempt to
relight it; the only movement he made was to turn his head
occasionally, as though something Basil had just said had inspired a
new thought. Basil brought his narrative down to this very night, and
paused only when he came to where Old Corrie accosted him at the
street door. "What do you think of it, Corrie?" he asked, when he had
finished. "It is wonderful," said Corrie. "My story is but a molehill
by the side of your mountain. There's no time to lose, Master Basil; a
day, an hour, may be precious, if little lady is to be saved."

"No time shall be lost," said Basil; "an hour's rest in our clothes
after we've done talking, and at daybreak we are off to see how soon
and how quickly we can get to Bournemouth. There is a question I
haven't asked you. How long is it since you were in Bournemouth?"

"It must be six months, quite; but I kept no account of time. What a
fool I was not to go back and see Emily Crawford!"

"We'll waste no time in lamenting. What is past is past, and no man
can foresee what is in the future. Do you see, now, how important your
evidence is likely to be to me? Without it I might be compelled to
pass through life bearing the shameful name of the villain who
betrayed me. Corrie, there are anxious and dreaded possibilities in
the future to which I dare not give utterance. I can only hope and
work. Now let us rest."

He wanted Corrie to take his bed, but Corrie refused, and, throwing
himself on the floor, was soon asleep. Not so Basil; the events of the
night had been too exciting for forgetfulness, and though he dozed off
now and then, his brain did not rest a moment. He was none the worse
for it in the morning; despite the trials he had undergone his
naturally strong constitution asserted itself and enabled him to bear
more than an ordinary amount of fatigue. The moment he arose from his
bed Old Corrie jumped to his feet as brisk as a lark.

"I'm a new man, Master Basil," he said; "the prospect of something to
do is as good as wine to me. There's no curse like the curse of
idleness."

They washed and breakfasted, and then went out. It was early morning,
and there were not many people astir.

"We are going first," said Basil, "to see Mr. Philpott, of whom I told
you last night. I have an impression that Mr. Gilbert Bidaud is not in
England. If we are fortunate enough in striking the trail, and he is
in a foreign country, the task we are set upon may be long and
difficult. I am debating whether it would be advisable to ask Philpott
to accompany us."

"From your opinion of him," said Corrie, "he is a man to be trusted."

"Thoroughly."

"In a foreign country I should be next door to useless, except to
prove that you are yourself. Mr. Philpott is accustomed to such jobs
as this, and knows the tricks of hunting men down. I should say take
him."

"I will, if he is agreeable. He doesn't know who I really am, though
he has perhaps a suspicion of the truth, and it will be necessary that
I should tell him my story. If he can come with us I shall have no
hesitation in confiding in him."

They found the Philpott family at breakfast.

"I thought we were early birds, sir," said Mr. Philpott, while his
wife dusted two chairs for the visitors, "but there are other birds, I
see, more wide-awake than we are. Why, it's barely seven o'clock!
Breakfast done when the clock strikes--that's my notion of bringing up
a family."

"I've something of importance to say to you," said Basil, "when you've
finished."

"Finished now, sir," said Philpott; "always ready for business. We'll
talk outside if you don't mind. Mother hasn't had time to do the rooms
yet." They walked up and down the quiet street, and after Basil had
ascertained that Philpott was able and willing to accompany him, and
that the next train for Bournemouth did not start for a couple of
hours, he communicated to Philpott all he considered it necessary that
worthy man should know of his history.

"A singular story, sir," said Philpott, "about as good as anything
that's come my way up to now. I always told mother there was
something out of the common about you. That Mr. Chaytor must be an
out-and-outer--as cunning as they make 'em now-a-days. It's as well
you should have a man like me with you. I know the ropes; you don't.
Let's get to the office, sir. I must give 'em notice I'm going away on
an important job. Luckily there's nothing very particular on hand just
now." This preliminary was soon accomplished, and Basil and his
companions arrived at Waterloo Station a few minutes before the train
started for Bournemouth. On the road it was arranged that Basil should
go alone to Mrs. Crawford's house.

"The woman might be frightened," said Philpott, "at three men coming
to make inquiries. To a gentleman like you she will be open and
frank."

Leaving Old Corrie and Philpott on the beach, Basil walked to Lomax
Road, the number of the house in which Mrs. Crawford lived being 14,
as he was informed by an obliging resident. He lingered outside, and
looked up at the windows for signs of the magpie, but no sound reached
his ears, and with somewhat of a despondent feeling he knocked at the
door. So much depended upon the next few minutes! If he should have to
leave Mrs. Crawford unsatisfied, without a clue to guide him, he would
be no further advanced than on the day he first set foot in London.
All he wanted was a starting point, and he vowed to leave no stone
unturned to obtain it, and that once he gained it, he would follow it
up till it led him to the end. The door was opened, and a
decent-looking woman stood before him.

"Mrs. Crawford?" he said.

"Yes, sir."

"I wish to speak to you upon a subject very dear to me; I can offer no
other excuse for intruding upon you."

"There was an unconscious wistfulness in his voice, which interested
Mrs. Crawford. There is no surer way of winning a woman's sympathies
than by appealing to them in some such way as this, and making them
understand it is in their power to assist you.

"Are you a Bournemouth gentleman, sir?" asked Mrs. Crawford.

"No, I have never been in Bournemouth before to-day. I have travelled
a long distance to see you."

"Will you walk in, sir?"

He followed her to the sitting-room. A little girl some seven or eight
years old was sitting there, turning over the pages of a child's
picture-book.

"Run and play, Genie," said the mother.

"Your little girl?" asked Basil, drawing the child to his knee.

"Yes, sir." Basil took half-a-crown from his pocket. "Ask mamma,
by-and-by, to buy you a toy with this."

"What do you say, Genie?" cried the gratified mother.

"Thank you, sir," said the child, holding her bashful head down.

Basil gave her a kiss, and she ran to her mother with the half-crown,
and afterwards left the room, shyly glancing at Basil, whose kind
manners, no less than the half-crown, had won her heart. And the
mother's also, it is almost needless to say.

Basil looked around the walls. No sign of a bird. Then he turned to
the mantel-shelf and saw there the portrait of a young woman, bearing
in her face a strong resemblance to Mrs. Crawford.

"Another daughter of yours," he observed. "I can see the likeness."

"Yes, sir, and a good girl, and a good daughter."

"I am sure she is. Might I inquire her name?"

"Emily, sir."

"Is she at home?"

"No, sir; she is abroad with her mistress."

Basil's heart beat high with hope already there was something gained.

"Am I mistaken in my belief," he asked, "that her mistress is Miss
Annette Bidaud?"

"That is the young lady's name, sir. I hope you will excuse my asking
why you keep on looking round the room, and why you looked up at the
windows of the house in the same way before you knocked at the
street-door? I saw you, sir."

"I was looking for an old friend I had an idea was here."

"An old friend, sir?"

"Yes, a magpie that Miss Bidaud brought with her from Australia."

Mrs. Crawford's face flushed up, and she said in a tone of vexation:

"It was here a little while, sir, and it got me into trouble. But it
was nobody's fault but my own. Excuse me again, sir--you speak as if
you knew Miss Bidaud."

"I knew her intimately; she and I were, and I hope are, very dear
friends. Her father and I had a great esteem for each other."

"That was in Australia, sir?"

"That was in Australia. Miss Bidaud was but a child at the time."

"You have seen her since, I suppose, sir?"

"I have not. To be frank with you, that is the object of my visit to
you. I earnestly desire to know where she is."

"She is a beautiful young lady now, sir," said Mrs. Crawford;
diverging a little; from the expression on her face she seemed to be
considering something as she gazed attentively at Basil. "Perhaps you
can recognise her."

She handed Basil an album, and he turned over its pages till he came
to a portrait which rivetted his attention. It was the portrait of
Annette; he recognised it instantly, but how beautiful she had grown!
An artist had coloured the picture, and the attractive subject must
have interested him deeply, so well and skilfully was the colouring
done. The gracefully-shaped head, the long, golden-brown hair, the
lovely hazel eyes, magnetised Basil, as it were. There was a pensive
look in the eyes, and something of wistfulness in the expression of
the mouth, which Basil construed into a kind of appeal. It may be
forgiven him if he thought that it was to him the mute face was
appealing. Long and earnestly did he gaze: reminiscences of the happy
hours they had passed together floated through his mind; her
confidence, her trust in him, and her father's last words on the
evening on which he had accepted the guardianship of his child, were
never less powerful and, sacred in the sense they conveyed of a duty
yet to be performed than they were at this moment. When, at length, he
raised his eyes from the portrait, Mrs. Crawford saw tears in them.
Had she had any doubts of her visitor, these tears would have
dispelled them.

"Is she not lovely, sir?"

"She has the face of an angel."

"That is what my Emily says, sir; she dotes on my young lady, sir, and
would work her fingers to the bone to serve her."

"Miss Miss Bidaud, then, has one faithful friend by her side."

"You may say that, sir. There have been mistresses and servants but
there never was mistress and servant so bound to each other as my
Emily and my young lady."

"They are in Europe?"

"Oh, yes, sir, they are in Europe. I'll tell you presently where, but
I must finish what I was saying at first. It was about the magpie--the
bird you were looking for--as sensible a feathered thing as ever piped
a note. Emily wanted badly to come and see me, and some other of her
relations in England, and it happened that her uncle and guardian Mr.
Gilbert Bidaud--you know the gentleman, sir?" asked Mrs. Crawford,
breaking off suddenly; she had noticed a dark flash in Basil's eyes at
the mention of the name.

"I had a brief acquaintance with him in Australia," replied Basil.

"Do you like him, sir? Is he a friend of yours?"

Before he replied he looked attentively at her, and a tacit
understanding seemed to pass between them. Without further hesitation
he answered:

"I do not like him. He is no friend of mine."

Mrs. Crawford nodded her head in a satisfied manner, and said:

"The more likely you are to be a friend of Miss Bidaud's. Well, sir,
it happened that Mr. Gilbert Bidaud was going to pay a flying visit to
several foreign places, and, of course, was going to take my young
lady with him. He never lets her out of his sight if he can help it,
but Emily is very nearly a match for him. I don't say quite, but very
nearly, Emily _is_ clever. Mr. Bidaud made a great fuss about taking
the bird and the cage with them on this journey, and wanted my young
lady to leave it behind, but she wouldn't, and proposed instead that
Emily should have her holiday while they were away and should take
care of the bird and take it back when her holiday was over. That is
how the bird came to be here. Eight months ago it was, and Emily was
away on a visit, when a man with a great ugly bear came to the house
and began to ask questions about the bird. He said just what you said,
that it was an old friend of his, and that he'd trained it for my
young lady in Australia. He knew my young lady's name, and he wanted
me to tell him where she was to be found. Well, sir, I don't know
how it was, but I got suspicious of him. What business could a
common-looking man like him have with a young lady like Miss Bidaud?
As like as not he wanted to impose upon her, and it wasn't for me to
help him to do that. It didn't look well, did it, sir, that a man
going about the country with a bear should be trapesing after my young
lady? So I was very short with him, and I refused to tell him
anything, but said if he liked to come in a day or two Emily would be
home, and then he could speak to her about my young lady. He went
away, after leaving his name--Corrie, it was--and I never set eyes on
him again. That seemed to prove I'd done right, but I hadn't, for
Emily said, when she came home, that my young lady thought a good deal
of this Mr. Corrie, and had often spoken of him, and that he did train
and give her the bird, just as he said he had. Emily said my young
lady would be very sorry when she heard I'd turned Mr. Corrie away,
and that she would give a good deal if she could see the poor man.
Every letter I get from my daughter she asks me if I've seen anything
more of Mr. Corrie, and to be sure if I do to tell him where my young
lady is stopping. I could beat myself with vexation when I think of
it. Perhaps you could tell me something of him, as you were all in
Australia at the same time."

"I can. He is here with me in Bournemouth."

"Here in Bournemouth, sir! Oh, what a relief you have given me!"

"He told you a true story, Mrs. Crawford, every word of it, and is a
sterling, honest fellow. You see how wrong it is to judge people by
their appearance."

"Perhaps it is, sir," said Mrs. Crawford, a little doubtfully, and
added, with excusable flattery, "I judged you by yours, sir. I hope
you will bring Mr. Corrie here, but not his bear, sir, and I'll beg
his pardon."

"No need to do that; Corrie is the last man to blame you for doing
what you believed to be right. As for the poor bear, it is dead. I
will go and fetch Corrie presently, and you can make it up with him;
but tell me now where Miss Bidaud is to be found."

"She is in Switzerland, with her uncle and aunt, sir."

"I want the exact address, Mrs. Crawford, if you please."

"Here it is, sir, on a piece of paper. It is my Emily's writing, sir."

Basil wrote down the address: "Villa Bidaud, Fernex, near Geneva,
Switzerland." His hand trembled as he wrote. At last he was fairly on
the track of the traitor. His heart beat tumultuously, and for a
moment he was overcome with dizziness; but he immediately recovered
himself, and continued the conversation. "Do you write to your
daughter to this address?"

"Yes, sir."

"Villa Bidaud. That sounds as if it were a long-established
residence."

"They live there on and off, sir, for a few weeks or a few months at a
time. I think when they go travelling the house is shut up."

"Your daughter has doubtless given you a description of the house. Is
it small or large?"

"Large, I should say, and very old. There must be a good many rooms in
it, and it stands in the middle of a very large garden."

"Mrs. Crawford, look at me."

Somewhat surprised at the request, Mrs. Crawford looked at Basil, and
saw a face quivering with earnestness, and eyes in which truth and
honour shone.

"Yes, sir," she said, and waited. "I want you to be certain that I am
a man who is to be trusted."

"I am certain of it, sir."

"That I am a man who would do no woman wrong, and that in my present
visit to you I am animated by an honest, earnest desire to serve the
young lady your daughter serves and loves."

"I am certain of it, sir."

"Being certain of it," said Basil, "is there nothing more you can tell
me that might aid me in my desire to be of service to Miss Bidaud? I
gather from what you have said that your daughter is sincerely
attached to her young mistress, and she will know whether Miss Bidaud
is happy or not."

"I'm not sure, sir," said Mrs. Crawford, speaking slowly, "whether
I've a right to tell everything, you being a stranger to me."

"But not a stranger to Miss Bidaud," said Basil, eagerly, "remember
that, Mrs. Crawford. Next to her father, I was in Australia her
dearest friend----"

"Are you sure of that, sir?" interrupted Mrs. Crawford. "We sometimes
deceive ourselves. My young lady, to my knowledge had a friend in
Australia--a young gentleman like yourself--she thought all the world
of. Emily says she was never tired of speaking about him and of his
kindness to her. His name is Mr. Basil Whittingham. Perhaps you are
acquainted with him?"

"I know something of him," said Basil. He had been on the point of
disclosing himself, but remembrance of the part Newman Chaytor was
playing checked him in time.

"Of course, there may be others," continued Mrs. Crawford, "and it
isn't for me to dispute with you; but if there's one thing that is
more positive than another, it is that my young lady thought all the
world of Mr. Whittingham. You are Miss Bidaud's friend, and you don't
seem to think much of her uncle. That's the way with us. My Emily
hates the very sight of him--though she doesn't let him see it, you
may be sure, sir--because of the way he behaves to Miss Bidaud. How I
come to know so much about Mr. Whittingham is, because all the letters
he wrote to Miss Bidaud from Australia were addressed to my care. If
they hadn't been, my young lady's uncle or aunt would have got hold of
them and she would never have seen them. When they arrived I used to
put them in an envelope and address them to my Emily--not to Villa
Bidaud, but to different post-offices, according to the directions she
gave me."

"Were there many of these letters?" asked Basil, keeping guard upon
his feelings.

"About one every six or seven months, sir."

"Are you aware whether they afforded pleasure to Miss Bidaud?"

"Yes, sir, they gave her the greatest possible pleasure. She was
always happy after she got one, so my Emily wrote to me. That makes it
all the stranger."

"Makes what all the stranger?" Again Mrs. Crawford looked at Basil
with a possible doubt of the wisdom of her loquacity; but she was
naturally a gossip, and the sluice being open the waters continued to
flow.

"Well, sir, my young lady had set her heart upon Mr. Whittingham
coming home--that much my daughter knew from what she said; and,
although she said nothing about it to Emily, there was something else
she set her heart upon. There are some things, you know, sir, a
delicate-minded young lady doesn't tell her best friend till they're
settled; and perhaps Miss Bidaud herself didn't quite know what her
feelings for Mr. Whittingham were. She was very young when she left
Australia, and her uncle hadn't been anxious to introduce her to
society, so since she's been home she has seen very little of young
men. But lookers on can see most of the game, sir, and my Emily said
to me, 'When Mr. Whittingham comes home there'll be a match made up,
you see if there won't, mother.' 'But how about the uncle?' I asked,
for it was pretty clear to me, from what I heard, that there was no
love lost between Mr. Bidaud and Mr. Whittingham. Then my Emily tells
me that, for all my young lady's gentle ways and manners, she
sometimes showed a will of her own when anything very dear to her was
in question. That is how she has been able to keep the bird Mr. Corrie
gave her; if it hadn't been that she was determined, her uncle would
have made away with it long ago. I didn't quite agree with Emily. I
argued like this, sir. Supposing, when Mr. Whittingham came home, he
and my young lady found they loved each other, and made a match of it.
So far, all well and good; but the moment Mr. Bidaud discovered it, he
would take steps. He is Miss Bidaud's natural guardian, and my young
lady is not yet of age. What would her uncle do? Whip her away, and
take her where Mr. Whittingham couldn't get at her. Perhaps discharge
Emily, and so deprive Miss Bidaud of every friend she has, and of
every opportunity of acting contrary to him. He's artful enough to
carry that out. I don't quite know the rights of it, but Emily says he
has control of all my young lady's fortune, and she don't believe he
has any of his own. Well, then, does it stand to reason that he would
let the money he lives upon slip through his fingers through any
carelessness of his own, or that he would hand it quietly over to a
man he hates like poison? That's the way I urged, sir, but it's all
turned out different. Of course you know, sir, that Mr. Basil
Whittingham's come home."

"I have heard so," said Basil, quietly.

"And has come into a great fortune!"

"I have heard that, also."

"Miss Bidaud was overjoyed when she saw him, and her uncle was the
other way. But if Emily's last two letters mean anything they mean
that things have got topsy turvy like. Mr. Whittingham and Mr. Bidaud
are great friends now, and as for my young lady being happy, that's
more than I can say. There's no understanding young people now; it was
different in my time; but there, they say the course of true love
never runs smooth. One thing seems pretty plain--there's a screw loose
somewhere in Villa Bidaud. And now, sir, I've told you everything, and
likely as, not I've been too free, and done what I shouldn't. If I
have done wrong I shall never hear the last of it from Emily."

"You will live to acknowledge," said Basil, "that you have done right,
and that your confidence is not misplaced. I thank you from my heart,
and am grateful for the good fortune that led me to you. Mrs.
Crawford, I don't like to offer you money for the service you have
rendered me, though I hope I shall be in the humour to insist, before
long, upon your allowing me to make a fitting acknowledgment. But
there is something I should wish to purchase of you."

"I have nothing to sell, sir, that you would care to have."

"I would give more than its weight in gold," said Basil, laying his
hand upon the album, "for the portrait of Miss Bidaud. You can have no
idea of the value it would be to me, and how much I should esteem your
kindness. Let me have it, I entreat you."

"I don't like to part with it," said Mrs. Crawford, looking admiringly
at Basil, "but I can't refuse you. Take it, sir."

Basil quickly availed himself of the permission, and put a sovereign
on the table, saying, "For little Genie. Buy her a pretty frock with
it." Then wishing her good day, and thanking her again he left her to
rejoin Old Corrie and Mr. Philpott on the beach, and communicate the
good news to them. Half-an-hour later Old Corrie paid a visit to Mrs.
Crawford, and received her profuse excuses for the abrupt manner in
which he had behaved to him.

"Nobody can blame you, ma'am," said Corrie, "for fighting shy of a
bear. It's a wonder to me now how I came to be mates with the
creature. But he was a worthy comrade, ma'am, rough as his outside
was--a deal worthier than some men I've met with. And I shall never
forget it, ma'am, because in the first place it brought me straight to
you, and in the second place it's taking me straight to a little
lady."



CHAPTER XXXVII.


We must now return to Newman Chaytor. He had established his position
as Basil Whittingham, he had obtained possession of Basil's fortune,
he was on a familiar footing with the Bidauds. In his proceedings
respecting the fortune which Mr. Bartholomew Whittingham had
bequeathed to his nephew, he experienced, practically, no difficulty
whatever. The evidence in his possession, proving himself to be the
man he represented himself to be, was complete; and there being no
grounds for suspicion, none was aroused. Thus he was so far safe, and
on the high road.

He went to London, and remained there only a few days. He made no
attempt to see his parents, and was careful to avoid the neighbourhood
in which they lived. With a large fortune at his disposal, and being
fertile in methods, he could easily have contrived to convey a few
pounds to them without drawing attention upon himself; but his
character has been unsuccessfully delineated if it is supposed he ever
allowed himself to yield to the dictates of humanity. He knew that his
parents were in direst poverty--his mother's last letter to him made
this very clear--but he had not the slightest feeling of compassion
for the mother who idolised him or the father he had brought to ruin.
Self, in its most abhorrent aspect, ruled every action of his life.
His own ease, his own pleasures, his own safety--these were paramount,
and pioneered him through the crooked paths he had trod since boyhood.
The correspondence he had kept up with Annette rendered it an easy
matter for him to find her. He had apprised her that he was starting
for home, and had directed her not to write to him again to Australia.
In this last letter he informed her that he had come into a great
fortune, and that his time would be so taken up by business matters
for a few weeks that he would not be able to see her immediately he
arrived in England. He gave her instructions how to communicate with
him at home, and told her to be sure to keep a corner in her heart for
him. It is hard to say how many times Annette read this letter. Basil
was on his way home--coming home, coming home, coming home--she kept
on repeating the magic words; and there was a light in her eyes, music
in her voice, and joy in her heart. At last, at last he was coming,
the friend whom she could trust, the man her dear father had loved and
honoured. She would see him soon, for he would not linger over the
business he had to transact; her hand would be in his, his eyes on her
face--and then she blushed and ran to the glass. Had she changed since
he last saw her? Would he know her again, or would she have to say,
"Basil, I am Annette?" No! that would not be necessary; she had sent
him her portrait, and he had told her in a letter that he would pick
her out of a thousand women. She had changed--yes, she was aware of
that, and aware, too, that she was very beautiful. What woman is not
who has grace and beauty for her dower; and is there a woman in the
world who is not proud of the possession, and who does not smile and
greet herself in the mirror as she gazes upon the bright reflection of
a brighter reality? Annette was innocently glad that she was fair, and
all through her gladness the form of Basil was before her. If he liked
her for nothing else, he would like her for her beauty. The quality of
vanity there was in this thought was human and natural. The name of
Basil represented to her all that there was of nobility, goodness, and
generosity. In Basil was centred all that was best and brightest in
life. She worshipped an ideal. He had asked her to keep a corner in
her heart for him. Was not her whole heart his? And he was coming
home--home! The word assumed a new meaning. It would be truly home
when Basil was with her.

"You are excited, Annette," said Gilbert Bidaud, who, although he
seldom indulged in long conversations with his niece, noted every sign
and change in her. Only in one respect had he been baffled; he had not
succeeded in discovering how the correspondence between Basil and
Annette was carried on. He suspected Annette's maid, Emily, but that
shrewd young person was so extraordinarily careful and astute that he
could not lure her, for all the traps he set, into betraying herself.
He hinted once to Annette that he thought of discharging her, but
Annette had shown so much spirit that he went no farther.

"Emily is my maid," said Annette, "and no one but I have a right to
discharge her."

"And you do not mean to do so?" said Gilbert Bidaud.

"No, uncle, I do not mean to do so."

"Even though I expressed a wish that she should go."

"Even then, uncle, I should not consent to her leaving me. I am fond
of her. If she goes, I go too."

"You go! where?"

"Where you would not find me, uncle."

Gilbert thought there would be danger in that. She might fall into
other hands, and herself and fortune be lost to him. He was not quite
sure of his position in respect to Annette, and his best safety lay in
not disturbing the waters. His brother's affairs in Australia had been
administered hastily, and he was uneasily conscious that here in
Europe clever lawyers might make things awkward for him. He had
Annette's fortune absolutely in his control; he had used her money for
his own purposes, for he had none of his own; he had kept no accounts;
in worldly matters Annette was a child, and was not likely to become
wiser so long as she was in his charge. She was obedient and docile in
most ways, the only exceptions being her feeling for Emily, and the
secret correspondence she was carrying on with Basil. These matters
were not important; they did not trench upon his authority or
position. The letters she wrote were such as a fanciful, sentimental
girl would write, and Basil's letters were probably harmless enough.
Besides, he was at a safe distance. Time enough to fight when the
enemy was in view. "He will marry," thought Gilbert Bidaud, "he will
forget her. Let her indulge in her fancies. It is safest." So time
went on, outwardly calm, till Annette received Basil's letter
announcing his intended return to England. It was then that Gilbert
noted the change in her. They were on the continent at the time; of
late years Gilbert seldom visited England; there was more enjoyment
and greater security for him in his own country and in others more
congenial to him. He purchased, with Annette's money, a villa in
Fernex, which he called Villa Bidaud. The deeds were made out in his
own name; he had come to regard Annette's fortune as his; if
troublesome thoughts sprang up he put them aside, trusting to his own
cleverness to overcome any difficulties that might present themselves.

"You are excited, Annette," he said.

She hardly knew what to say. To deny it was impossible; her restless
movements, her sparkling eyes, her joyous face, were sufficient
confirmation of her uncle's statements. But to admit it would lead to
questions which she wished to avoid answering. Therefore she was
silent.

"My dear niece," said Gilbert Bidaud, in his smooth voice, "there is
not that confidence between us which I should wish to exist. Why? Have
I oppressed you? Have I treated you harshly? You can scarcely so
accuse me. Have I not allowed you to have your own way in all things?
You have had perfect liberty, have you not? Be frank with me. I have
at heart only your interests. I wish only to secure your happiness.
When your poor father--my dear brother--died, you were almost a baby,
a child ignorant of the world and the ways of the world. I said to my
heart--it is my habit, my dear niece, to commune with myself--I said
to my heart, 'Annette is a child, an infant, with strong affections
and attachments. You come to her a stranger, yes, even while you are
closest to her in blood, you are still to her a stranger. She will not
regard you with favour; she will not understand you.' And so it was.
It was my unhappy duty to be stern and hard with some you regarded as
friends; it was my duty to be firm with you. Consequently, we
commenced badly, and I, who am in my way proud as you are, stood aloof
from you and exercised the duties of guardian and uncle without
showing that my heart was filled with love for you. Thus have we
lived, with a spiritual gulf dividing us. My dear niece, you are no
longer a child, you are a woman who can think for herself, who is open
to reason. Let us bridge that gulf. I extend to you the hand of amity,
of love. Take it, and tell me how I can minister to your happiness."

It was the most gracious, as it was the falsest speech he had ever
made to her, and she was deceived by his specious frankness. She could
not refuse the hand he held out to her, and as she placed hers within
it, she reflected, "When Basil arrives they must meet. They were not
friends in Australia, but it will be a good thing accomplished if they
can be made friends here, through me. Then Basil can come freely, with
uncle's consent, and there need be no concealment. Uncle never spoke
to me like that before, and perhaps I have been to blame as well as
he. Neither he nor aunt has shown any great love for me, but may it
not have been partly my own fault. If they have wounded me, may I not
have wounded them?"

Gilbert Bidaud saw that she was reflecting upon the new view he had
presented to her, and he did not disturb her meditations. Presently
she said:

"Uncle, I have had some good news."
"It delights me," said Gilbert Bidaud. "In your own good time you
shall confide it to me."

"I will confide it to you now. Basil is coming home."

"See now," said Gilbert, in a tone of great good-humour, "how you have
misjudged me. Here have you, my ward, over whom I have the right to
exercise some authority, been corresponding with a young gentleman
between whom and myself there are differences of opinion. Candidly I
admit that I did not look upon him with love. Know now for the first
time that on the plantation I was warned against him, that he had
enemies who spoke of him as an adventurer. How was I to know that
those who spoke thus spoke falsely? You may answer, being a woman who
has cherished in her heart a regard for her Australian friend, 'You
should have asked me; I would have told you the truth about him.' Ah,
but consider. What were you? A mere infant, innocent, guileless,
unsuspecting. I venerate childhood, and venerate it the more because
it has no worldly wisdom. Happy, happy state! Would that we could live
all our lives in ignorance so blissful! Then there would be no more
duplicity, no more cheating and roguery. But it is otherwise, and we
must accept the world. Therefore the young gentleman and I crossed
swords on the first day we met, and from that time have misunderstood
each other. In my thoughts, perhaps, I have done him wrong; in his
thoughts, perhaps, he has done me wrong. And my niece, the only child
of my dear brother, sided with the stranger against me. I was wounded,
sorely wounded; and when I discovered that you and he were writing to
each other secretly, I spoke harshly to you; I may even have uttered
some foolish threats. What man, my child, can be ever wise, can ever
say the right words, can ever do the right things? None, not one, and
I perhaps, who have peculiar moods and temper, less than many. But
see, now, what came of those harsh words, those foolish threats? You
still correspond with your friend Basil, and I stood quietly aside and
interfered not. Could I not have stopped the correspondence, if I had
been seriously determined to do so? Doubt it not, my child. At any
moment I could have done so. But I said, 'No, I will not spoil
Annette's pleasure; it is an innocent pleasure; let it go on; I will
not interfere. One day my niece will do me justice. And it may be,
that one day her friend Basil and I will better understand each
other.' Is it not so?"

"Indeed, uncle," said Annette, timidly, "it is I who have been in the
wrong."

"No, no," said Gilbert, interrupting her, "I will not have you say so.
The fault was mine. What say the English? You cannot put an old head
on young shoulders. I expected too much. From to-day we commence
afresh. Eh, my dear child?"

"Yes, uncle."

"So be it," he said, kissing her. "We misunderstand each other never
again. It is agreed. Our friend Basil--I will make him my friend if he
will let me; you shall see--is coming home. He shall be welcome."

"Uncle, you remove a weight from my heart."

"It is what I would do, always. A weight is also removed from mine.
How long will our friend Basil be before he appears."

"I do not know exactly. He will write."

"He will write," echoed Gilbert merrily, pinching Annette's cheek. "We
have our secret post-office--ah, ah! Tell him it must be secret no
longer. Write openly to him; he shall write openly to you. He has been
many years in Australia. Has he grown rich on the goldfields? Did he
find what they call a golden claim?"

"He does not say; but I think he did not get rich there."

"Not get rich there. Did he get rich anywhere, or does he come poor?"

The picture of a needy adventurer rose before him, and had he not been
a master in cunning he would have betrayed himself.

"He writes," said Annette, "that his uncle has left him a large
fortune."

Gilbert drew a long breath of relief. Easier to cope with Basil rich
than poor. If Basil wanted Annette, and Annette wanted him, why, he
would make a bargain with the young man, who, being wealthy, would not
be greedy for Annette's money. Gilbert Bidaud was a keen judge of
character, and he knew Basil to be a manly, generous-hearted
honourable fellow, who would be more likely to despise than to covet
money with the girl he loved. If that were so, Gilbert saw a road to
immunity for the past and a life of independence in the future. There
was a striking resemblance in certain features of his character and
that of Newman Chaytor, as there is in the natures of all purely
selfish men.

"That is a pleasant thing to hear," he said. "I congratulate him from
my heart." He would have added, "And I congratulate you," but he
restrained himself; it was delicate ground, and it would be better to
wait. Subsequently, in a conversation with his sister, he expressed
himself more freely. Basil would be received and welcomed--yes, but he
would be carefully sounded and observed, and she was to play her part
both with Annette and her lover. It pleased Gilbert to call him so,
but it did not please the girl's aunt.

"You have foolish ideas," she said. "Annette was thirteen years when
we took her from the plantation. What kind of love could a man have
for such a child?"

"You will see, you will see," said Gilbert. "This Basil is what we
call an eccentric, and it is because he is so that I have settled upon
the plan of bringing them together under our noses. Remember, my idiot
of a brother left me not a coin. We have our future to look to, and
gentleman Basil is the man to make it sure for us. Would you wish to
have to slave for your bread as you used to do--and often not get it?"

"No; but if I have an enemy I like him at a distance."

"Foolish woman! If I have an enemy I like him here, close to me, where
my hand can reach him. I will have him--if I have the choice--as I
have now--in the light, not in the dark."

Annette also had a conversation with her trusty maid Emily concerning
this new revelation in Gilbert Bidaud's character. Annette was very
enthusiastic about it, and very self-reproachful concerning the past,
but Emily looked grave and shook her head.

"I'd rather agree with you than not, miss," she said, "but I don't
think I can about your uncle."

"You must not be obstinate and prejudiced, Emily," said Annette, with
mild severity.

"I'll try not to be, miss, but if an animal is born a donkey, a donkey
he remains all the days of his life."

Annette laughed, and said, of course, but what _did_ Emily mean?

"It's a roundabout way of explaining myself," said Emily. "And there's
different kinds of donkeys, some mild, and that'll take the whip as
patient as a wooden dummy; others that'll kick out and let fly at you
with their heels. The same with horses, the same with dogs, the same
with cats."

"What _do_ you mean, Emily?"

"Only when vice is in an animal you can't wheedle it out of him. No
more you can out of a man or a woman. I don't say they can help it,
but what's born in 'em _must_ come out. If I'm born sly I keep sly,
and the chances are I grow slyer as I grow older. I don't believe in
sudden changes, miss, and if you'll excuse me I'll wait a little
before I make up my mind about your uncle."



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

Newman Chaytor first met Annette in Paris. She wrote to him to London,
saying that her uncle intended to make a stay there of a few weeks,
and telling him the name of the hotel they stopped at. Chaytor's
business in London was by that time transacted and he was nervous to
get away with his spoil. Bold as he had been, and little as he
believed he had to fear, there were moments when he was seized with
panic. What if Basil should not be dead? What if, recovering, and
being rescued from the tomb into which Chaytor had plunged him, some
suspicion should cross his mind of the treachery which had been
practised towards him? What if, after that, bent upon revenge, he
should find his way home, and there discover how he had been wronged
and robbed? Newman Chaytor was bathed in cold sweat, and his limbs
shook as he contemplated this contingency. In his calmer moments he
strove to laugh himself out of his fears, but he never entirely got
rid of them, and he deemed it safer to live most of his time out of
England. For reasons of safety, also, he converted Basil's fortune
into cash, and carried a large portion of it upon his person in Bank
of England notes. He had clothes made after his own design, and in his
waistcoats and trousers were inner pockets in which he concealed his
treasure. There were five bank notes of a thousand pounds each, twenty
of five hundred each, and the rest in hundreds and fifties. They
occupied but little space, and during the first month or two of his
coming into possession of the money, he was continually counting it in
the secresy of his room, with doors locked and windows shaded. The
passing of a cloud, the fluttering of a bird's wings across his
window, the sound of breathing or footstep outside his door, drove him
into agonies of apprehension as he was thus engaged. He would stop
suddenly and listen, and creep to door or window, and wait there till
the fancied cause for fear was gone; then he would resume his
operations and pack the money away in the lining of his clothes. The
dread of losing it, of his being robbed, of its being wrested from
him, was never absent. When he entered a new hotel he examined the
doors of his rooms, tried the locks and fastenings, and peered about
in every nook and corner, until he was satisfied that there was no
chink or loophole of danger. But as fast as his fears were allayed in
one direction they sprang up in another. The hydra-headed monster he
had created for himself left him no rest by day or night. He slept
with his clothes under his bolster, and waking up, would grope in the
dark with his hands to assure himself that they had not been taken
away. There were nights which were nothing less than one long terror
to him. The occupants of the apartments to the right and left of him
were talkative; he could not catch the sense of their words, but they
were, of course, talking of him. They were quiet; of course they were
so to put him off his guard. He would jump from his bed and stand,
listening, and whether he heard sounds or heard none, every existent
and non-existent sign became a menace and a terror. As time wore on it
could not be but that these fears became less strong and vivid, but
they were never entirely obliterated, and were occasionally revived in
all their original force. There was, however, one new habit which he
practised mechanically, and of which he never got rid. This was a
movement of the left hand towards those parts of his clothing in which
the money was concealed. He was quite unconscious of the frequency of
this peculiar motion, and took as little notice of it as any man takes
of the natural movements of his limbs.

When he received Annette's letter informing him that they were in
Paris he immediately resolved to go there. "I am wondering," wrote
Annette, "whether we shall see you here, or whether we shall have to
wait because your business is not finished. You must forget all that I
have said about Uncle Gilbert; we did not understand each other, but
we do now, and he is very very kind to me; and although he cannot be
as anxious to see you as I am, he is ready to give you a warm and
hearty welcome."

"She is an affectionate little puss," thought Chaytor, "and does not
seem to conceal anything from her dear Basil, but if she thinks I am
going to tie myself to her apron strings she is mistaken. I will feel
my way with her, and--yes, a good idea! will have a peep at her
somehow without her seeing me, before I introduce myself. Judging from
the photograph she sent me in Australia"--he was so accustomed to
think of himself as Basil that he often forgot he was Newman
Chaytor--"she is as pretty as a picture; but then portraits are
deceitful--like the originals. They are so touched up by the
photographers, that a very ordinary-looking woman is transformed into
an angel. If that is the case with Annette she will see very little of
me. Give me beauty, bright eyes, white teeth, a good figure, a pretty,
kissable mouth, and I am satisfied. So, my little Annette, it all
depends upon yourself. As for Uncle Gilbert, it is a good job that he
is changed; it will make things easier for me. I don't want to
quarrel, not I, and if I take a fancy to Annette, and he can help to
smooth the way for me, why, all the better."

From the day he set foot on the vessel which brought him to England,
Chaytor had been most painstaking and careful about his appearance. He
spent hours before the glass arranging his hair after the fashion of
Basil's hair, as our hero had worn it in England; and, being a bit of
an artist, he succeeded perfectly. The resemblance was marvellous, and
Chaytor congratulated himself and chuckled at his cleverness. "Upon my
soul," he said, "we must have been changed at our birth. I am Basil,
and he----" He paused. No shudder passed through him, he was visited
by no pang of remorse at the thought of Basil lying dead at the bottom
of the shaft. It must have been very quick and sudden! Death must have
ensued instantaneously. Had he not listened and lingered, without a
sound of suffering, without even a sigh reaching him? "No man could do
more than that," he thought. "There's no telling what I should have
done if he had groaned or cried for help. But as he was dead and done
for, what was the use of my loitering there?" Across the many
thousands of miles of sea and land, his mental vision travelled with
more than lightning swiftness, and he saw at the bottom of a dark
shaft the form of his victim huddled up and still. And as he gazed,
the form unfolded itself, and rising to its feet, glided towards him.
The vision had presented itself once before, and he acted now as he
had acted then. Almost frenzied he dashed the phantom aside, with as
much force as if Basil had stood bodily before him, and, finding that
this was of no avail, threw himself upon the ground, and grovelled
there with closed eyes until reason re-assumed its sway and whispered
that he was but the fool of fevered fancies. "I shall go mad if I
don't mind," he muttered. "I know what's the matter with me; I am
keeping myself too solitary. I want friends, companionship." It is a
fact that he would not make friends with any one; the fewer questions
that were asked of him the better. He was in constant dread of meeting
with some person of whom Basil had not spoken who would begin to speak
of old times. Out of England this was not so likely to occur. Man of
pleasure as he was he had never been a heavy drinker, but now he flew
to brandy to deaden his fears. Altogether, despite his success, he was
not greatly to be envied. The lot of the poorest and most unfortunate
of men is to be preferred to that of a man of evil heart, whose
Nemesis is ever by his side throwing its black shadow over every
conscious hour.

On the Continent Chaytor experienced some relief. He had always been
fond of Paris, and now he threw himself with zest into the pleasures
of that gay city. "This is life," he said enthusiastically; "it
is for this I have worked. Eureka! I have found the philosopher's
stone--freedom, light, enjoyment." He was in no hurry to go to
Annette; he would have his fling first--but, that, he said to himself,
he would always have, Annette or no Annette. His misfortune was that
he could not rule circumstance. Gilbert Bidaud set eyes on him as he
was driving with some gay companions, for here in Paris Chaytor was
not so bent upon avoiding society as in England. "Surely," mused the
elder fox, as he slipped into a carriage and gave the driver
instructions to follow Chaytor and his companions, "that is my old
friend Basil, for whom my foolish niece is looking and longing. He
presented himself to me in the Australian wilderness as a model of
perfection, a knight without a stain upon his shield, but in Paris he
appears to be very human. Very human indeed," he repeated with a
laugh, as he noted the wild gaiety of the man he was following. Be
sure that he did not lose sight of his quarry until he learnt as many
particulars concerning it as he could gain. So fox watched fox, and
the game went on, Annette waiting and dreaming of the Bayard without
flaw and without reproach who reigned in her heart of hearts.

"Have you heard from our friend Basil?" asked Gilbert Bidaud.

"Not for ten days," replied Annette. "He said he feared he would not
have time to write again till he came to Paris, he was so beset with
lawyers and business men."

"Yes, yes," said Gilbert; "he must have much to do. He will come to
us, I hope, the moment he reaches Paris."

"Oh, yes, uncle; he will not wait a day, an hour; he will come
straight here."

Gilbert Bidaud nodded cheerfully, and said no more, but his cunning
mind was busy revolving pros and cons.

Chaytor, after awhile, carried out his resolution of seeing Annette
before he presented himself to her. Ascertaining the rooms she and her
people occupied, he engaged apartments for a couple of days in an
hotel from the windows of which he could observe her movements. He
used opera glasses, and so arranged his post of observation that he
could not himself be seen. In the petty minutiæ of small schemes, he
was a master.

The first time he saw Annette he almost let his glasses fall from his
hand. Her radiant countenance, her sparkling eyes, the beauty of her
face, the grace of her movements, were a revelation to him. Never had
he seen a creature so lovely and perfect. So fascinated was he that he
dreaded it might not be Annette--but yes, there was her uncle, Gilbert
Bidaud, standing now by her side, and apparently talking pleasantly to
her. Chaytor, though he had seen the old man but once in the
Australian woods, when he was a concealed witness of the interview
between Gilbert, Basil and Annette, recognised him immediately.
Gilbert Bidaud was not changed in the least, and Chaytor decided
within himself that neither Basil or Annette knew how to manage the
old fellow. He, Newman Chaytor, would be able to do so; he would be
the master of the situation, and would pull the strings of his puppets
according to his moods and wishes. He did not dream that Gilbert
Bidaud was aware that he was in their vicinity, that he even knew the
number of the rooms he had engaged in the hotel, and the name he had
assumed for the purposes of his secret watch. From the moment that
Gilbert had set eyes upon him, every step he took, every movement he
made, was noted down by agents employed by the old man, who kept a
written record for possible use in the future. These two forces were
well matched, but the odds were in favour of the elder animal. "It is
clear," said Newman Chaytor, "that Basil was mistaken in his estimate
of Gilbert Bidaud, and that he poisoned Annette's mind against her
uncle. The old man is harmless enough, and he and I will be great
friends." Presently Gilbert kissed his niece and left the room,
laughing to himself at the comedy scene he had played. His thoughts
may also be put into words.

"He is in that room, watching Annette. He has arranged the curtains
and the furniture in the manner most convenient for his watch. What is
his object, and what do his movements prove? He wishes to convince
himself that Annette is a bird attractive enough to follow, to woo, to
win. If I knew what has passed between them in the letters they wrote
to each other, I should be more certain of my conclusions, but as it
is I shall not be far out. He wishes also to observe me secretly, and
to make up his mind about me before we come together. Well, he shall
have opportunity--he shall see what a kind pleasant uncle I am. We
were not the best of friends across the ocean--in good truth, we were
as bitter enemies as men could possibly be; and he remembers that we
exchanged hard and bitter words. Do I bear animosity? No; here, my
dear friend, is my hand: take it." He held it out, and the cunning of
his nature was exposed in the expression of his thin lips and his cold
blue eyes. "But what do his movements prove? That, setting himself up
as a gentleman, above doing a sly action, profuse in his scorn of
others and in glorification of himself, he is the personification of
low cunning and meanness. He deceived me when we clashed in the
forest; expressing scorn of him, and flinging mud upon his motives, I
yet believed him to be a gentleman, and was in my soul angry because
the belief was forced upon me. Bah! my friend Basil, my self-elected
gentleman of honour unblemished and untarnished, you are unmasked. You
play your game; I will play mine. We shall see who will win."

While these communings were going on Chaytor continued his watch. His
greedy eyes dwelt upon Annette's sweet face--heavens, he thought, how
beautiful she is!--his sinful soul gloated upon her grace of form and
feature. Would she know him when her eyes fell upon him? Would she see
at once that he was Basil, or was there anything in his appearance
that would inspire a doubt? That afternoon he examined himself
narrowly in the glass; he practised Basil's little tricks of motion,
one of the most conspicuous of which was the caressing of his
moustache between finger and thumb, and any doubts he may have had
disappeared. "I am more like Basil Whittingham than he ever was," he
said. "Even in a court of law the chances would be all on my side."
When he was in a confident mood nothing more improbable could be
conceived than that Basil would ever cross his path. It was not
improbable, it was impossible. Basil was dead, and there was an end of
the matter; he had all the field to himself.

He continued to observe Annette from his window, and the more he saw
of her the more constantly did his thoughts dwell upon her. During
these days he went through many rehearsals of the part he was playing,
recalling all that Basil had told him of his association with Annette,
the scenes they had walked through, the conversations they had
indulged in. He was letter perfect in what had passed between Basil
and Annette's father, and his retentive memory had preserved all the
incidents in the scene in the Australian woods, when Gilbert Bidaud
and his sister had surprised them near Old Corrie's hut. "Old Corrie,"
thought Chaytor, "had a down on me, and came near to spoiling my game,
but I've been more than a match for the lot of them. What has become
of the old busy-body? Dead, most likely. Everybody's as good as dead
who could touch or interfere with me. And Annette, the pretty Annette,
is ready to fall into my arms the moment I make my appearance." It
will be remembered that on the last meeting between Basil and Annette,
she gave him a locket containing her mother's portrait, and that, when
Gilbert Bidaud flung it away into the bush, Newman Chaytor picked it
up and kept it close. From that day to this he had never parted with
it, and now, being about to present himself to Annette, he put it
round his neck, conscious that it would be a good card to play under
any circumstances.



CHAPTER XXXIX.


Annette was at lunch with her uncle and aunt in the public room of the
hotel when a gentleman entered, and took his seat at another table
close by. Annette, looking up from her plate, flushed rosy red, and in
uncontrollable excitement, started to her feet, then sank back into
her chair with her eyes fixed upon the newcomer. Gilbert Bidaud had
also noted the entrance of the gentleman, although his eyes seemed to
be directed to another part of the room; he took no outward notice,
but inwardly said, "Ah, ah, friend Basil, you have decided at last to
appear. Now for a few clever lies."

"Uncle!" whispered Annette.

"Yes, my niece," said Gilbert, "what do you wish?"

"Look there uncle; look there."

Gilbert looked in the desired direction and said, "I see a gentleman."

"Do you not know who it is, uncle? Do you not recognise him?"

"As I live," said Gilbert, "I believe him to be our Australian friend,
Basil. But no--I may be deceived."

"It is he, uncle; it is he. Oh, why will he not look this way?"

At that precise moment, Chaytor, who was speaking to a waiter, turned
towards Annette, and their eyes met. He rose and walked towards her,
with a certain air of irresolution, but with an expression of eager
delight in his face.

"Basil!" she cried, advancing to him.

"Is it possible?" exclaimed Chaytor, hugging himself with satisfaction
at this unhesitating recognition. It was not only that there were no
obstacles to remove, no awkward explanations to make, but it was a
tribute to his powers of duplicity, almost the crowning stone in the
monument of deception he had erected with so much skill. "Annette!"

"Oh, Basil, Basil!" cried Annette, holding out her hands, which he
clasped in his. "How happy I am to see you--how happy, how happy!"

Gilbert Bidaud, who had watched in silence the progress of this
comedy, now stepped forward.

"You must allow me to interfere," he said. "We are not alone. There
are other ladies and gentlemen in the room, and their eyes are on you.
We will adjourn to our apartments."

He took Annette's hand and led the way, and in a few moments they were
able to converse without drawing upon themselves the attention of
strangers.

"You will excuse me," said Gilbert to Chaytor with grave courtesy,
pointing to a chair, "but I think this is better."

"Infinitely better, M. Bidaud," said Chaytor, "and I thank you for
recalling me to myself. May I hope that you will shake hands with me?"

"Willingly. Let bygones be bygones. We did not understand each other
at the other end of the world; we will manage better at this end. When
did you arrive in Paris?"

"This morning. I travelled by the night mail."

"Lie the first," thought Gilbert Bidaud as he smiled and nodded.

"A weary journey, and I wanted to get rid of the stains of travel
before I presented myself. I was afraid, Annette--or I should rather
now say Miss Bidaud--might not recognise me."

"I should have known you anywhere," said Annette softly.

"And you, M. Bidaud?" asked Chaytor, turning laughingly to the old
man.

"Anywhere, anywhere!" cried Gilbert, enthusiastically. "You have the
distinguished appearance, the grand air, which made me mistrust you on
my lamented brother's plantation. But we mistrusted each other, eh,
friend Basil?"

"Well, we did; but as you say, 'let bygones be bygones.'"

"They shall be. If we speak of them it shall be to teach us lessons. I
will leave you and my niece together for, say, half-an-hour, and then
we will drive out. The day is fine--this re-union is fine--everything
is fine. My dear niece, I salute you."

Annette's cup of happiness was full. She had experienced a momentary
pang when she heard herself called Miss Bidaud, but she knew that it
was right. She was no longer a child, and although she had always
commenced her letters with "My dear Basil," she would have hesitated,
now that they were together, had she sat down to write to him. They
had so much to talk about! All the old days were recalled, and if once
or twice Chaytor tripped, his natural cleverness and Annette's
assistance soon put him right. In such a matter as the last meeting in
the forest between Basil and Annette, of which he was a secret
witness, he was very exact, his faithful memory reproducing the
smallest detail.

"Do you remember this?" he asked, showing her the locket.

She gazed at her mother's portrait with tears in her eyes.

"I was afraid it was lost," she said, "when uncle threw it away."

"What a hunt I had for it," said Chaytor. "For hours and hours did I
look about, and almost despaired of finding it. I'll tell you what
came into my mind. If I don't find the locket I shall never see
Annette again; if I do, I shall. And when it was in my hands I looked
upon it as a good omen. I believe it has brought me straight to you.
It has never left me; day and night I have worn it round my neck."

"Old Corrie helped you to find it," said Annette. "Oh, yes, of course,
but it was I, not he, who first saw it. Lying among the leaves.
By-the-by, is that magpie still in the land of the living?"

"Yes, I have it in my room." Annette blushed as she spoke, thinking of
the endearing words of Basil she had taught the bird to speak. "It is
all the dearer to me now that its poor master has gone." Then Chaytor
began to speak of his trials and troubles in Australia, and of his
fear that he would never be able to return to England.

"I used to fret rarely over it," he said. "I would not tell you so in
my letters, because I did not want to make you sad. But all that is
over now; I am rich, and there is nothing but happiness before us."

"Nothing but happiness before us!" Annette's heart beat tumultuously
as she heard those words. New hopes, new joys, were gathering, of
which she scarcely knew the meaning. She did not seek for it; it was
sufficient that Basil was with her, unchanged, the same dear friend he
had ever been. They had so much to say to each other that Gilbert
Bidaud's entrance at the end of half an hour was an unwelcome
interruption.

"Come, come, young people," he said merrily, "the bright sun invites
us. You can talk as we ride."

His voice was benignant, his manner paternal, and during the ride he
did not intrude upon them. That night Annette went to bed a perfectly
happy woman. No doubts or fears beset her. She was conscious of a
certain undefinable change in Basil which she could not exactly
explain to herself. His voice appeared to be in some way altered; it
was scarcely so gentle as it used to be, and there was a difference
also in his manner of speech. But she did not dwell upon these
impressions; the change was more likely in her than in him; she had
grown, she had ripened, childhood's days were over. Then Basil had
passed through much suffering, and had been for years in association
with rough men. What wonder if his manners were less refined than she
remembered them to be? But his heart was unchanged; he was the same
Basil as of old--tender, devoted, and as deeply attached to her as she
had dared to hope. Emily, assisting her young mistress to undress,
found her less conversational than usual. She divined the cause, and
was sympathetically quiet, asking but few questions, and listening
with unaffected interest to what Annette had to say. Emily had not yet
seen Basil, but her views with respect to him were fixed; she was
quite ready to subscribe to Annette's belief that he was above the
standard of the ordinary mortal, and she had set her heart upon its
being a match between them; and when, while she was assisting her
mistress, she saw her, in the glass, smile happily to herself, as one
might do who was under the influence of a happy dream, she was
satisfied that some progress had already been made towards the desired
end.

As for Newman Chaytor, he left Annette that night in a very contented,
not to say ecstatic, frame of mind. There had not been a hitch; he had
passed through the examination with flying colours. He approved not
only of himself, he approved of Annette. She was beautiful from a
distance, but far more than beautiful did she prove to be when he came
into association with her; her winning voice, her tenderness, her
charm of manner, made as deep an impression upon him as a nature so
entirely selfish as his was capable of receiving. It was not possible
that he could entertain true and sincere love for any human being, but
Annette inspired within him those feelings which took the place of
such a love. "She has bewitched me," he said. "I can't drive her out
of my thoughts, and don't want to, the little darling! Basil, my
double, had a good eye for the future. He saw what she would grow
into, and intended to save her for himself; and so he has, for I am
he. My other self, I drink to you!" It was in the solitude of his
chamber that he communed thus with himself. Brandy and water were
before him; he mixed a stiff glass in which to drink the toast, and
raised it to his lips as he uttered the last words. Scarcely had the
glass touched his lips when it fell to the ground and was shattered to
pieces. There before him was the vision of the shaft with the dead
body of his other self lying at the bottom. It rose and moved towards
him. "Curse you!" he cried. "Can I never get rid of you?" A silent
voice answered him: "Never, while you live. I am the shadow of your
crime. I shall be with you--dogging you, haunting you--to the last
hour of your sinful life!"



CHAPTER XL.


Gilbert Bidaud was puzzled. As well as any man in the world did he
know the true metal when he saw it, and when he was in doubt and had
the opportunity of applying tests he did so, and thus resolved his
doubts. He had done so in the case of Newman Chaytor, with the result
that he proved the metal to be spurious; and still he was not
satisfied with the proof. There was something behind the scenes which
was hidden from him, and with all his cleverness he could not obtain
sight of it.

His acquaintance with Basil in Australia had been brief, but he had
learnt in that short time to hate him most cordially. This hatred was
intensified by the conviction that forced itself upon him that Basil
was a straightforward, honourable gentleman. Gilbert Bidaud never
allowed his prejudices to blind him and obscure his judgment. When he
found himself in a difficult position he was careful that his view of
the circumstances with which he had to contend was a clear one, and
whatever discomfort he might bring upon himself by this course it was
invariably of assistance to him in the end he desired to attain.
Recognising in Basil the gentleman and the man of honourable impulse
he knew exactly where to sting him and how to cope with him. Looking
forward to association with Basil in Europe he had schooled himself
beforehand as to the methods to pursue with respect to him. But these
methods were not necessary. The Basil between whom and himself there
was now regular intercourse, was a different Basil from the man he had
known across the seas, easier to manage and grapple with. So far, so
good, but it did not content Gilbert Bidaud. By no process of
reasoning could he reconcile the opposing characteristics of the man
he had to fear. Where Basil was straight Chaytor was crooked, where he
was manly and independent Chaytor was shy and cringing. The physical
likeness was sufficiently striking to deceive the world; the moral
likeness could deceive very few, and certainly not for long an
intellect like Gilbert Bidaud's. They had been intimate now many
months, and Chaytor was regarded as one of the the family. Beneath the
tests which Gilbert employed his character had gradually unfolded
itself. He drank, he gambled, he dissipated, and in all his vices
Gilbert led him on and fooled him to the top of his bent, the elder
man becoming every day more convinced that there was here a mystery
which it would be useful to himself to unfold. All he wanted was a
starting point, and it was long before it presented itself; but it
came at last.

The rift of light shone on a day when Gilbert Bidaud had taken it into
his head to direct the conversation to the first time he and Basil had
met. Chaytor and Gilbert were alone, and had just finished a match at
piquet, which left the more experienced gamester of the two a winner
of a couple of hundred pounds. Chaytor was in a vile temper; he was a
bad loser, and Gilbert had won a considerable sum of him within the
last few weeks. Had his brain been as evenly balanced as that of his
antagonist he would have recognised in him a superior player, and
would have declined to play longer with him for heavy stakes, but,
unluckily for himself, he believed he was the equal of any man in
games of skill, and the worst qualities of pride were aroused by his
defeats.

"Curse your luck!" he cried.

"It will turn, it will turn," said Gilbert, complacently; "it cannot
last with so good a player as yourself. If we had even cards I should
have a poor chance with you."

He poured out brandy for Chaytor and claret for himself. Liquor was
always handy when these two were together, and Gilbert never drank
spirits. Chaytor emptied his glass, and Gilbert sipped at his
and then directed the conversation to their first meeting on the
plantation.

"You must remember it well," said Gilbert.

"Of course I do," said Chaytor, ungraciously, helping himself to more
brandy. "One doesn't soon forget his dealings with Mr. Gilbert
Bidaud."

"Yes, yes, I make myself remembered," said Gilbert, laughing with an
affectation of good-humour. "For me, I have never forgotten that
alligator. I can see it now, lying without motion among the reeds."

"What are you driving at?" exclaimed Chaytor, to whom, as it happened,
Basil had never given any account of the details of this first meeting
with Gilbert Bidaud. "If you want to humbug me you will have to get up
earlier in the morning, my friend."

"Why, that is certain," said Gilbert, continuing to laugh, but with a
strange thoughtfulness in his observance of Chaytor. "I was only
recalling an incident that occurred on the morning I arrived on the
plantation. We had tramped through the bush, my sister and I, my poor
brother having urged us to hasten, and we arrived early in the
morning, tired and dusty. Before us stretched a river, and, leaving my
sister to rest beneath the wide-spread branches of a tree, I sought a
secluded spot where I could bathe. I undressed and was about to plunge
into the water, when I beheld lurking among the reeds a monstrous
alligator. A workman on the plantation chancing to pass that way, ran
down the bank and seized my arm, and pointing to the alligator, said,
with reference to a remark I made about being ready for my breakfast,
that instead of eating I might be eaten. It was kind of that workman
to make the attempt to save me. If it had been you, friend Basil, you
might not just then have been so anxious to deprive the monster of a
savoury meal."

"It is pretty certain," acquiesced Chaytor, with a sneer, "that I
should have left you to your fate."

"Now that is frank and honest," said Gilbert, "and what I like in you.
Not for you the trouble of meaning one thing and saying another. It
was not unlikely, however, that this kind workman, one of the
labourers on the plantation, might have mentioned this incident of the
alligator to you."

"Whether it was or wasn't, he didn't mention it. This is the first
time I have heard the interesting story."

"Ah, it _is_ interesting, is it not? It was from this same obliging
workman that I learnt many particulars of my brother's domestic
affairs, of which I was ignorant, having been so long separated from
him."

And then Gilbert Bidaud, with something more than a suspicion that he
had his fingers on the pulse of the mystery which was perplexing him,
recapitulated, as nearly as he could recall them, all the particulars
of the conversation between Basil and himself on this occasion of
their first meeting, with not one of which was Chaytor familiar.
Chaytor, continuing to drink, listened contemptuously to this "small
talk," as he termed it, and wanted to know why Gilbert Bidaud bored
him with such stuff; but the old man continued, and finally wound up
with an invented account of a meeting with Basil on the plantation, to
which Chaytor, ignorant of what was true and what was false, willingly
subscribed, and thus materially assisted in the deception that was
being practised upon him. At length Gilbert Bidaud rose with the
intention of taking his leave.

"And how goes matters," he asked, "with you and my niece? Does the
course of true love still run smooth?"

"Never you mind," retorted Chaytor, "whether it does or doesn't. It
isn't your affair."

"Perhaps not. You are not in a gracious humour, friend Basil. We will
speak of it another time. Do not forget that I am Annette's guardian."

"Oh, no, I'll not forget. When she and I settle things I shall want
some information from you."

"About----?" asked Gilbert, and paused.

"About her fortune. You see, up till now, my friend, you have had it
all your own way."

"True, true. We will speak of it. Oh, yes, we will speak of it,"
adding inly, "and of other things as well, my mysterious friend."

The remaining portion of that day Gilbert Bidaud devoted himself to
thought, the subject being the man who called himself Basil
Whittingham. This, with him, was a distinct process; he had cultivated
the art of marshalling facts and evidence, of weighing their relative
value and their direct and indirect bearing upon the problem he was
endeavouring to solve, and of imparting into it all the arguments
which would naturally suggest themselves to an intellect so subtle and
astute as his own. "Outside," thought Gilbert, "he is Basil, the man I
knew; inside he is not Basil, the man I knew. The outside of a man may
change, but it is against nature that his character should be twisted
inside out--that it should turn from white to black, from black to
white. In my estimate of Basil on my brother's plantation I was not
mistaken; and that being so, this man and that man are not the same
inwardly. How stands my niece in regard to him? She was all joy when
he first joined us; it was nothing but Basil, Basil, Basil, like the
magpie that the old woodcutter gave her. But her joy and gladness have
not stood the test of time; my niece has grown sad. I have seen her
watch Basil's face with grief in her own; I have seen her listen to
his conversation with sadness and surprise in her eyes. She says
nothing, she nurses her grief, and is the kind of woman that will
sacrifice herself to an idea, to a passion she regards as sacred. Yes,
this Basil is not the Basil she knew--and she knew him well and
intimately, far better than I. That one was capable of noble
deeds--though I hated him I will do him justice; this one is sordid,
mean, debased, depraved. Fruit ripens and rots; not so men's hearts.
Where there is sweetness it is never wholly lost; some trace of it
remains, and so with frankness, generosity, and nobility. Has this
Basil shown the least moral indication that he is the man we knew? Not
one. All the better for me, perhaps. He will want some information
from me respecting Annette's fortune, will he? I may want some
information from him. He will dictate to me, will he? Take care, my
friend, I may dictate to you."

The result of his cogitations was that he made a little experiment.
For some time past a celebrated case of personation, in which the
fortunes of an old family and estate were involved, had been the theme
of conversation and speculation all the world over; and, curiously
enough, the man who caused this excitement hailed from Australia. The
trial had just commenced, and the newspapers were full of it. Armed
with a bundle of papers, Gilbert Bidaud presented himself to Chaytor.
Throwing them on the table, he said:

"Never have I been so interested, never has there been such a case
before the public. How will it end? that is the question--how will it
end? You and I, who are students of human nature, who can read
character as we read books, even we must be puzzled and perplexed.
Why, what have you there? As I live, you have been purchasing the same
papers as myself."

It was true that there were English newspapers scattered about the
room of the same dates as those Gilbert Bidaud had brought in with
him, and that their appearance indicated that Chaytor had perused
them.

"An Englishman may buy an English newspapers I suppose," said Chaytor,
a little uneasily, "without its being considered in any way
remarkable. What particular case are you referring to?"

"An Englishman, my dear friend," replied Gilbert, with exceeding
urbanity, "may purchase every English newspaper there is for sale in
the city if he is so inclined. This is the particular case to which I
refer." He pointed to the columns upon columns of the reports of the
case, taking up one paper after another and laying them all down
carefully a-top of each other with the case in question uppermost,
till he had gathered together every newspaper in the room, and had
arranged them in one pile. While he was thus employed he did not fail
to note that Chaytor's face had grown white, and that he was also
watching Gilbert Bidaud in fear and secresy. Gilbert Bidaud laughed
softly, as he said:

"Study this case, my dear friend. Watch its progress--consider it
well. But perhaps it is not necessary for one so deep, so clever as
yourself. You have already made up your mind how it will end. Make me
as wise as yourself, friend of my soul."

He laid his hand upon Chaytor's arm, and gazed steadily into the
traitor's eyes, which wavered in the observance.

"How should I know," exclaimed Chaytor, shaking off Gilbert's hand,
"how it will end?"

"Nay, my dear friend," said Gilbert, and once more he laid his hand
upon Chaytor's arm, "do not shake me off so rudely. You and I are
friends, are we not? We can serve each other; I may be useful to
you--yes, yes, very, very useful."

He was one who placed a high value upon small tests, and he had laid
his hand upon Chaytor's arm the second time with a deliberate and
distinct purpose. If the man before him was really and truly Basil, he
could not possibly misunderstand the covert threat which the action
and the tone in which he spoke conveyed. Having nothing to fear, he
would show resentment, indignation, and would release himself
immediately from Gilbert's grasp. Newman Chaytor did nothing of the
kind; inwardly shaking with mortal dread, he allowed Gilbert's hand to
remain, and for a few moments neither of the men spoke. During this
brief silence Gilbert knew that the game was his, and that he had
nothing to fear from Chaytor's threat concerning the management of
Annette's fortune. He was too wise to push his advantage. With a light
laugh, he threw the pile of newspapers into a corner of the room, and
said:

"What matter to us how the case ends? If it is against him, he is a
fool; if it is for him, he deserves to win; in either case whether he
be or be not the man, we will not discuss it. Our own affairs are for
us sufficient. Is it not so?"

"Yes," replied Chaytor sullenly. He would not have answered had not
Gilbert looked up at him and compelled him to speak.

"I love the daring deed," continued Gilbert; "my soul responds to him
who conceives and carries it out, and if there is danger in the
execution it is to me all the grander. I have myself been daring in my
time, and had I not been successful rue would have been my portion.
You and I, my dear friend, have in our nature some resemblance; we
view life and human matters with the eye of a philosopher. Life is
short--ah! I envy you; your feet have scarcely passed the threshold; I
am far on the way. For you the summer, for me the winter. Well, well,
there are some years before me yet, and I will exercise our philosophy
by enjoying them. I look to myself; let other men do the same. Nature
says aloud, 'Enjoy the sunshine.' I obey nature. Enjoy, enjoy,
enjoy--that is the true teaching; and you, dear friend, are of my
opinion. Let this proclaim that we are comrades." He held out his
hand, which Chaytor felt restrained to take. "That is well; it is
safer so. And attend. I pry not into your secrets, and you will not
pry into mine. Of our cupboards with their skeletons we will each keep
our key. What I choose to reveal I reveal; as with you. Beyond that
boundary we do not step."

He had not uttered a compromising word, but Chaytor understood him
thoroughly. How much, or how little, he knew, Chaytor could not say,
but that he could be a most dangerous enemy was clear. He was not a
man from whom one could escape easily, and, even if he were, Chaytor
was not in the humour to make the attempt. The impression which
Annette's grace and beauty had made upon him was so strong that he
could not endure the idea of leaving her. The relations between them
had not been those of lovers: they had been of an affectionate nature,
but no words binding them to each other had passed between them.
Gilbert Bidaud was correct in his observation of her. Joyous and
bright at first, she had grown sad and quiet. A shadow had fallen upon
the ideal she had worshipped; and yet she did not dare to blame the
Basil who had reigned in her heart pure and undefiled. Was he still
so? She would not answer the question; when it presented itself she
refused to listen. With a sad shake of her head she strove to deaden
her senses against the still small voice which ever and again intruded
the torturing doubt, but she could not dismiss it entirely. Basil she
loved, Basil she would always love; was it not treason to love to
admit the whispered doubt that he was changed? She argued sometimes
that the change was in her, and wondered whether he observed in her
what she observed in him. She asked him once:

"Am I changed, Basil!"

"You are more beautiful and charming than ever, Annette."

They had had a little conversation, in which Gilbert Bidaud took part,
as to calling each other by their Christian names, and Gilbert had
settled the question.

"It is too cold," he said, "this Miss Bidaud, this Mr. Whittingham.
You proclaim yourself strangers. Let it be as it was, as it always
shall be, Basil and Annette. Always, always, Basil and Annette.
Children, be happy."

It was as though he had given them a fatherly benediction. From the
day of the last recorded interview between Gilbert Bidaud and Newman
Chaytor, the intimacy between them grew still closer. Gilbert managed
that, and also so contrived matters that, without any open declaration
being made, no one could doubt that Chaytor and Annette were unavowed
lovers. Gilbert had decided that it would be best and safest for him
that they should marry. He had Chaytor in his power, and could make a
bargain with him which would ensure him ease and comfort for his
remaining years. With another man it would not be so easy; he would
have to render an account of his stewardship, and in this there was
distinct danger. He was very curious to arrive at the real truth
respecting Chaytor, and despite his assurance that he would not pry
into Chaytor's secret, he was continually on the watch for something
that would help to reveal it to him. Chaytor, however, was on his
guard, and Gilbert learnt nothing further.

"Next week," he said to Chaytor, "we go to Villa Bidaud. The summer is
waning, and the climate there is warm and agreeable. You accompany
us?"

"Where Annette goes I go," said Chaytor.

"Yet," said Gilbert, with a certain wary thoughtfulness, "matters
should be more definitely arranged before you become absolutely one of
our family circle. I have spoken of this before. You are neither
brother nor cousin--what really would you be to her?"

"You know what I would really be."

"I know, but at present it is locked in a box. If you tarry too long
you will lose her. I perceive that that would be a blow; and well it
might be, for she is a prize a king would be proud to win. Shall we
decide it this evening?" Chaytor nodded. "Join us at nine o'clock, and
we will settle the matter. It may be advisable that I speak first to
Annette. She may need management. I will give you a word of warning.
If it goes according to your wish, be more careful in your behaviour.
Think a little less of yourself, a little more of her. Be tender,
considerate, thoughtful, for a time at least, until you are secure of
her. Then it is your affair and hers, and I shall have nought to do
with either of you."

"I will take care of that," thought Chaytor, and said aloud, "You
think I need your warning?"

"I know you need it. You have either small regard for women, or you
are clumsy in your management of them. Before I leave you now, I wish
you to sign this paper."

It was a document, carefully worded, which Gilbert Bidaud had drawn
out, by which Chaytor bound himself to make no demand upon Annette's
guardian for any money or property, which had fallen to Annette upon
her father's death. It was in fact, a renunciation of all claims in
the present or the future.

"Why should I sign this?" asked Chaytor rebelliously.

"Because it is my wish," replied Gilbert.

"If I refuse?"

"In the first place, you will lose Annette. In the second place,
something worse than that will happen to you."

"Through you?"

"Through me. I have a touch of the bloodhound in me. Take heed. Only
in alliance with me are you safe."

It was a bold hazard, but it succeeded. Without another word, Chaytor
signed the paper.

"Basil Whittingham," said Gilbert Bidaud, examining the signature, and
uttering the name with significant emphasis. "Good."

That evening the engagement between Annette and Chaytor was ratified
in the presence of Gilbert Bidaud and his sister. The old man had a
long conversation with his niece before Chaytor made his appearance.
He told her that Basil had formally proposed for her hand, and that
knowing her heart was already given to the young man, he had accorded
his consent to their union. He spoke in great praise of Basil's
character, and skilfully alluded to certain matters which he knew
Annette was grieving over.

"You have observed a change in Basil," he said, "so have I; but you,
my dear niece, are partly responsible for it. The truth is, Basil was
fearful of the manner in which you would receive his declaration. He
loves you with so deep and profound a love, and he sets so high a
value upon you, that he hardly dared to hope. The uncertainty of his
position has made him forget himself; he has committed excesses; he
has behaved as if he were not Basil, but another man. You, my dear
child, with your simple heart, are ignorant of the vagaries which
love's fever, and the fear of disappointment, play in a man's nature.
They transform him, and only when his heart is at ease, and he is
satisfied that his love is returned, does his better, his higher self
return. But for this fear Basil would perhaps have unfolded his heart
to you without any intervention, though he has behaved like an
honourable man in speaking first to me. You will be very, very happy,
my child. I bless you."

Only too ready was Annette to accept this explanation. Implicitly
believing in it, and not for one moment suspecting guile or duplicity,
she felt her faith and her best hopes restored. When Chaytor came to
her, he was for awhile humbled by her sweetness and modesty, and what
deficiencies there were in him Annette supplied them out of her faith
and trust.

"There is a little formality," said Gilbert Bidaud, intruding upon the
lovers. "It is a custom in our family to sign a preliminary marriage
contract. Affix your signatures here--you, Basil Whittingham, you,
Annette Bidaud. It is well. Before the year is out, we will have a
wedding."

Within a week they were in Switzerland, settled in the Villa Bidaud.



CHAPTER XLI.


Annette did not remain long in her delusion. Gradually, but surely her
bright hopes faded away, to be replaced by a terrible feeling of
hopeless resignation. The serpent cannot change its nature, and the
worst features in Newman Chaytor's character began to assert
themselves soon after the signing the document which Gilbert Bidaud
had described as the preliminary marriage contract. He was sure of
Annette; what need, therefore, for the wearing of an irksome mask? He
threw it aside, and exhibited himself in his true colours, to the
grief and despair of the girl he had successfully deceived. She heard
him, in conversation with her uncle, use language and utter sentiments
at which her soul revolted; she saw him frequently the worse for
liquor; and often now she purposely avoided him when he sought her
society. Brightness died out of the world, and she thought
shudderingly of the future. The flowers in her young heart were
withered. And yet she dwelt mournfully upon the image of the man she
had adored, and asked herself, Can it be possible--can it be possible?
The answer was there, in the same house with her, sitting by her side,
pressing her hand, while he uttered coarse jokes, or gazing darkly at
Gilbert Bidaud, who was ever ready to give smiles for frowns. For this
was the old man's method; he was urbane and light-hearted in the
family circle, and nothing that Chaytor said could disturb his
equanimity. He had the traitor in his toils, and he played his game
with the air of an indulgent master.

The Villa Bidaud was a great rambling house of two storeys, standing
in its own grounds. It was surrounded by a high stone wall, and stood
far back from the public road; when the strong iron gates were locked
it resembled a prison. Annette, chilled at heart, began to feel that
it was one and but for the companionship of her faithful maid Emily,
her life would have been dark and gloomy indeed. It was a relief to
her when her uncle announced that he and the man to whom she was
betrothed were going away on business for two or three weeks.

Their mission was special and important, and has been attempted by
hundreds of other gulls. Gilbert Bidaud had discovered a system by
which he could break the bank at Monte Carlo. The one diversion of the
two knaves at the Villa Bidaud was gambling. Never a day passed but
they were closeted together in a locked room rattling the dice or
shuffling the cards. It may be questioned whether the demon of play is
not more potent than the demon of drink, and it is certain that it had
so fastened itself upon Newman Chaytor that he could not escape from
it. His losses maddened him, but his infatuation led him on to deeper
and deeper losses, Gilbert Bidaud always declaring that the luck must
change and that the money Chaytor lost was only money lent.
Occasionally he professed indifference to the fatal pastime, and
lured Chaytor on to persuasion, replying, "Well, as you insist." One
day Chaytor, as usual, was savagely growling at his ill-luck, when
Gilbert said carelessly: "You can get it all back, ten, twenty, a
hundred-fold, if you like."

"How?" eagerly demanded Chaytor.

Then Gilbert unfolded his plan. He had made a wonderful discovery, an
absolutely infallible system by which fortunes could be won at the
roulette tables of Monte Carlo and elsewhere. Chaytor caught at the
bait, but with smaller cunning threw doubt upon it.

"You can demonstrate it," said Gilbert. "I have here a roulette table
to which I have not yet introduced you, and upon which I have proved
my figures. You shall take the bank, and I will carry out my system.
We will play for small stakes. What say you?"

Chaytor suggested that the stakes should be imaginary, but to this the
cleverer knave would not agree.

"You insist that the bank must win," he said. "Take the bank and try."

They played for three days, during which, as luck would have it,
Gilbert rose invariably a winner. At the end of the third day, he
said:

"See now. I have won from you an average of one hundred pounds a day.
All we have to do at Monte Carlo is to increase the stakes, and we can
win as much as we please. Say, to be moderate, three thousand pounds a
day. Fifty days, one hundred and fifty thousand pounds. Seventy five
thousand each."

Chaytor was eager to begin, but there was first a bargain to be
struck. In return for the fortune they were to win, and of which
Chaytor was to have an equal share, Gilbert Bidaud stipulated that his
partner should provide the funds for the venture. At first Chaytor
refused, but when Gilbert said, "Very well, there is an end of the
matter," he implored to be admitted upon the stipulated terms.

"We commence with a bank of five thousand pounds," said Gilbert.

Chaytor drew a long face at mention of this sum, but he was in the
toils and avarice compelled compliance. On the morning of their
departure he handed over the amount in Bank of England notes, it being
another of Gilbert's conditions that he should be the treasurer. Now,
on the previous day, after Chaytor had consented to provide the five
thousand pounds, Gilbert had resolved to ascertain where he was in the
habit of concealing his treasure. It was easy enough to carry out this
resolve. The Villa Bidaud was an old house, with the peculiarities of
which Gilbert had made himself familiar at the time he purchased it.
In one part of the room in which Chaytor slept, the wall was double,
an outer panel admitting of the entrance of any person who wished to
play the spy. All he had to do was to ascend three steps, when an
artfully concealed peep-hole enabled him to see all the movements of
the occupant of the inner room. From that point of observation
Gilbert watched Chaytor's proceedings; saw him carefully lock the
door and mask the keyhole, so that no one could see into the room
through it; saw him as carefully cover the windows and render himself
safe in that direction; saw him take his hoard of banknotes from the
artfully-contrived pockets in his clothes, count them over, place a
small pile aside, and return the balance to its hiding-place. Gilbert
saw something more. He beheld Chaytor suddenly pause and look before
him, while upon his features gathered a convulsed and horror-stricken
expression, as though he was gazing on some appalling phantom. It was
at such a moment that the character of Chaytor's face became entirely
changed, all likeness to Basil being completely obliterated. Chaytor's
arms were stretched out in the act of repelling a presence visible
only to himself; his limbs trembled, a cold sweat bathed his
countenance, and he exhibited all the symptoms of a man in the throes
of a mortal agony.

Slowly and thoughtfully Gilbert left his post and returned to his own
apartment. His suspicions were absolutely confirmed, so far as the
evidence he had obtained could confirm them. On the following morning
he and Chaytor took their departure.

"They part from us without regret," he observed as they rode away.
"Who are they?" asked Chaytor, in a morose tone. He knew to whom his
companion referred. Annette had exhibited no concern when he informed
her that business compelled a separation of a couple of weeks. She had
received this intimation in silence, and when he kissed her good bye
had not returned his kiss. He inwardly resolved that when he and
Annette were married she should pay for her growing coldness towards
him.

"I was thinking of my niece," replied Gilbert. "She displayed but
small grief at the departure of her lover. And such a lover!"

Chaytor looked sharply at him, for there was a touch of sarcasm in his
voice, but Gilbert's countenance was expressionless.

"Women are queer cattle," he said roughly.

"True, true," assented Gilbert, "and cattle must be taught to know who
are their masters. Bah! We will not talk of them. Let us rather talk
of the fortune we are pursuing and shall overtake."

So they fell to discussing this most agreeable theme, and indulging in
visions of vast gains. Chaytor did not know what his companion
knew--that the "system" discovered by Gilbert would have been really a
certain thing but for one combination or series of figures which might
not be drawn for many days together.

It was upon the chance of this series not presenting itself that
Gilbert relied; if they escaped it, their purses would be filled; if
it occurred, it was not his money that would be lost.

No time was wasted at Monte Carlo: within an hour of their arrival
they commenced to play, and before they retired to rest they counted
their winnings.

"Are you satisfied?" asked Gilbert gaily.

"No," replied Chaytor, feverishly fingering the gold and notes. "We
must win more, more!"

"We will. The world is at our feet. Let us divide."

This was a part of Gilbert's plan; the winnings of each day were to be
divided; thus he made sure of gain to himself, whatever might happen
to his partner. For some days their operations prospered, and then
came the inevitable bad experience. They sustained a loss, another,
another; a large sum had to be staked to recover their losses, and
that also was swept in by the croupiers, upon whose stony faces ruin
and despair produced no impression. Chaytor stormed and reviled, and
Gilbert listened with calmness to his reproaches. In desperation the
younger man took the game in hand himself, and plunged wildly at the
tables, Gilbert looking on in silence. The result was that, after a
fortnight had passed, Chaytor had lost ten thousand pounds of his
ill-gotten wealth.

Nearly half the fortune of which he had obtained fraudulent possession
was gone. With a gloomy countenance he counted what remained; his
heart was filled with bitterness towards his companion, whose design
it was to lead Chaytor on step by step until his ruin was complete.
For a little while Chaytor contemplated flight, but so unwearying was
the watch kept on him by Gilbert, that, had he nerved himself
determinedly to his design, he could not have put it in execution.
Besides, the thought of Annette held him back. No, he would not fly,
he would return to the Villa Bidaud, he would marry Annette, he would
compel Gilbert to make restitution of his niece's fortune, and then he
would bid farewell for ever to his evil genius and take Annette to
America, where he would commence a new life.

"I have had enough of this," he said to Gilbert. "If I followed your
counsels any longer I should land in the gutter."

"Not so, not so," responded the unruffled Gilbert; "if you were guided
by me you would land in a palace. See, now, I kept a record of the
numbers while you were so recklessly staking your money on this chance
and that, throwing away, like a madman, the certainty I offered you.
You know my system; sit down with these numbers before you, follow
them, back them according to my notation, and discover how you would
have got back all your losses, and been in the end a large gainer. I
leave you for an hour to the lesson I set you."

Chaytor applied himself to the task, with a savage desire to prove by
mathematical demonstration that his associate had robbed him, and
finding that Gilbert was right and that by following the system he
would have recovered his money, cursed his luck, and Gilbert, and all
the world. His paroxysm of anger abated, a sense of comfort stole upon
him. When he had freed himself from the shackles which Gilbert had
thrown around him, when Annette was his and he and she were alone, he
would come back to Monte Carlo and carry out on his sole account the
system he had so foolishly abandoned. Then all the money that was won
would be his own: there would be no Gilbert Bidaud to cheat him of
half. "Have you verified my figures?" asked the old man, returning.
"Have you established your folly?"

"No," replied Chaytor, thrusting the paper upon which he made his
calculations into his pocket, "you have deceived and tricked me."

"Ah, ah," ejaculated Gilbert, in a light and pleasant tone, "I have
deceived and tricked you--and you have seen through me! Clever Basil,
clever Basil! I am as a child in your hands. Come, let us get back to
our dear Annette. Let us fly on the wings of love."

They had not announced their intended return, and their arrival at the
villa Bidaud was therefore unexpected. The gates were unlocked for
them by a servant, and they entered the grounds. Gilbert took the keys
from the man, and relocked the gates.

"You are precious careful," said Chaytor. "Are you frightened of
thieves?"

"I am old," said Gilbert, with a smile; "I am losing my nerve. We
stopped at the post-house, did we not, to inquire for letters?"

"We did."

"You heard me speak to the woman?"

"You were talking, I know, but I did not hear what passed between
you."

"Your thoughts were on our sweet Annette. Why is she not here to
receive us? Why does she not fly into our arms? Ah, I forgot. We did
not write that we were coming. Yes, I spoke to the woman at the
post-house; I asked her for the news."

"News in this den!" exclaimed Chaytor, scornfully. "One might as well
be out of the world."

"Out of the world--yes, out of the world. Speak not of it; I have
passed the sixties."

"I tell you what," said Chaytor, with a gloomy look around, "I don't
intend to keep here much longer. It is as much like a tomb as any
place I have ever seen."

"There again, there again! Out of the world, and tombs. You mock the
old man. What was I saying when you interrupted me? Ah, about the
woman at the post-house. I asked her for news, and she told me that
three strangers had been seen this afternoon in the village."

"Rare news that. She might have saved her breath."

"Everything is news in these small villages. Now, why is it that my
mind dwells upon these strangers? Such visits are common enough.
Doubtless they are but passing through, and we shall hear no more of
them."

"Then why keep talking about them?"

"Gently, gently. I had a bad dream last night, I saw you pursued by
foes, and I hastened after you in my dreams to assist you."

"More than you would do if you were awake."

"You misjudge me. But to continue. How many foes were pursuing you?
Three. How many strangers appeared in the village this afternoon?
Three. See you any warning, any hidden danger in this?"

"It is a coincidence, nothing more," replied Chaytor, with an uneasy
shifting of his body. "Look here--I am not going to stand this, you
know."

"You are not going to stand what?"

"This infernal badgering--this attempt to make me uncomfortable.
Haven't I enough to worry me as it is? What do I care about your
dreams and your three strangers?"

"I want to make you comfortable--and happy; yes, very, very happy. And
you will be if you do not quarrel with me."

"And if I _do_ quarrel with you?"

Gilbert Bidaud toyed musingly with a charm on Chaytor's watch chain.
"Be advised. Keep friends with me, the best of friends. Old as I am,
it is not safe to quarrel with me."

"Oh, tush!" cried Chaytor, vainly endeavouring to conceal his
discomposure. "Have you done with your post-woman and her three
strangers?"

"Not quite. I made further inquiries about them and learnt all there
was to learn. They came to the village, they inquired for the Villa
Bidaud, they walked all round the walls, they lingered at the gate,
they looked up at the house, which, as you know, is not to be seen
from any part of the road, they talked together, they lingered still
longer, and then--they went away."

"The King of France went up the hill," quoted Chaytor. "Shall I tell
you what I make of all this?"

"Do."

"The dream you had was of _your_ enemies, not mine. These three
strangers are interested in you, and not, by any remote possibility,
in me. They inquired for the Villa Bidaud--_your_ villa, _your_ name.
The fact is, my friend, something you have forgotten in the past has
been raked up against you, and these three strangers have come to
remind you of it." He laughed in great enjoyment at this turning of
the tables.

"It is an ingenious theory," said Gilbert, composedly. "Something I
have forgotten in the past! But I have been so very, very careful. Is
it possible that anything can have escaped me? Perhaps, perhaps? We
cannot be for ever on our guard. Thank you for reminding me. You asked
me if I was frightened of thieves. Friend of my soul, I am frightened
of everything, of everybody. That is why I gave instructions that
these gates were never to be opened to strangers unless by my orders.
None can gain admittance here against my wish. It is a necessary
precaution. Ah, here is my sister." He saluted her on both cheeks, and
then inquired for Annette.

"She keeps her room," was the answer.

"Sick?"

"In temper only."

"She knows of our return?"

"Yes, I informed her myself."

"And her reply?"

"She will come down later."

Gilbert turned to Chaytor and said, "Our little one has a will and a
temper of her own, but you will tame her; yes, you will tame her."

Chaytor said nothing; he did not like the signs, and the temptation
came again upon him to fly. But still the image of Annette acted as a
counterpoise--her very avoidance of him made the prize more precious.

"Why did you not come to welcome us?" he asked, when at length she
made her appearance.

"I was not well," she answered, with her eyes on the ground.

"Are you better now?"

"No."

"This is a nice lover's greeting," he said.

She shivered. He gazed frowningly at her, but she did not raise her
head. "I will break her spirit," he thought.

Aloud he said, "You do not seem happy, Annette."

"I am most unhappy."

"Am I the cause?" he asked, and waited for the reply which did not
come. "It is clear then; do you wish to break the contract?"

"Can I?" she said, with sudden eagerness.

"No," he answered, roughly. "You are bound by the paper we signed."

This was her own belief. With a sigh she turned away, and strove to
fix her mind upon a book. But the words swam before her eyes; she
turned over page after page mechanically, without the least
understanding of their sense. All at once her attention was arrested
by mention of a name--Old Corrie. For some reason of his own, Gilbert
Bidaud had directed the conversation he was holding with Chaytor to
the old Australian days, and he had just inquired whether Chaytor
could give him any information of Old Corrie. The old fellow's visit
to Emily's mother in Bournemouth had been made about the time that
Annette's feelings were undergoing a change towards the man to whom
she had engaged herself, as she believed, irrevocably. This would not
have been a sufficient cause for her not speaking of the visit to
Chaytor, but he had latterly expressed himself sick of Australia and
all allusions to it.

"Don't speak of it again to me," he had said, pettishly, "or of
anybody I knew there."

She obeyed him, and thus it was that he was ignorant of particulars,
the knowledge of which would have saved him from tripping on the
present occasion.

"Corrie," said Chaytor, "the woodman? Oh, that old fool!" Annette
started. The brutal tone in which Chaytor spoke shocked her. "He's
dead; and a good riddance too." Annette covered her eyes with her
hands. Old Corrie was dead; he must have died lately--since his visit
to Bournemouth. How strange that the man who had just spoken had said
nothing to her of the good old man's death! She held her breath, and
listened in amazement to what followed.

"Dead, eh?" said Gilbert, callously. "Long since?"

"A good many years ago."

"In Australia, then?"

"Of course, in Australia." Gilbert would have dropped the subject, as
being of small interest; but, observing that Annette was listening to
the conversation with somewhat unusual attention, was impelled to say
something more upon it.

"Did he leave any money behind him?"

"Not a shilling. Drank it all away. He died in a fit of delirium
tremens."

Annette rose from her chair in horror.

"You saw him dead?" pursued Gilbert, maliciously.

"I was with him at the time. You are mighty particular with your
questions."

He was not aware that Annette had slowly approached him, and was only
made conscious of it by the touch of her hand on his arm.

"Well?" he said.

She looked steadily at him; every vestige of colour had fled from her
face, her eyes dilated, her lips were apart; thus they gazed at each
other in silence, and Gilbert, leaning back in his chair, watched them
closely. There was an accusing quality in Annette's steady gaze which
fascinated Chaytor, and the colour died out of his face as it had died
out of hers. His eyes began to shift, his limbs to twitch.

"How is this going to end?" thought Gilbert Bidaud, his interest in
the scene growing. "My niece has the upper hand here. Faith, she has
the Bidaud blood in her."

His suddenly-aroused pride in her was a personal tribute to himself.
For fully five minutes there was dead silence in the room; then
Annette removed her hand from Chaytor's arm, and quitted the
apartment.

The spell broken, Chaytor jumped up in fury, and looked after her
retreating form. Turning to Gilbert, he cried:

"The girl has lost her senses. Is there insanity in your family, M.
Gilbert Bidaud?"

"We were ever remarkable," replied Gilbert, in a more serious tone
than that in which he generally spoke, "for well-balanced brains. It
is that which has kept us always on the safe side, which has enabled
us to swim while others sink. Instead of losing her senses, Annette,
perhaps, has come to them. I give you my honest word, there crept into
my mind, while you were playing that silent scene with her, a profound
admiration for the young lady, my niece. She has qualities of the
Bidaud type; I pay her tribute." He bowed towards the door, half
mockingly, half admiringly.

"I don't want your honest word," cried Chaytor in wrath and fear, for
it dawned upon him that the ally upon whom he reckoned might declare
himself against him. "I want your plain meaning."

"You shall have it," said Gilbert; "but as walls have ears, and there
may be danger--to you and not to me--in what you force me to say, I
propose that we adjourn to the lodge by the gates, where we may
exchange confidences in safety."

He led the way to the grounds, and Chaytor followed him, as a whipped
dog follows its master.



CHAPTER XLII.


The lodge to which Gilbert Bidaud referred stood close to the gates
through which entrance was obtained to the house and grounds. It
contained four rooms, two above and two below, and was furnished for
residence. There were times when Gilbert himself occupied it, and it
was always kept ready for him, the two rooms below affording him all
the accommodation he required. Between these two rooms ran a narrow
passage, at the back end of which was a door, but seldom used, leading
out to the grounds. A staircase at the side of this passage led to the
rooms above.

Gilbert Bidaud and Newman Chaytor had arrived at the villa late in the
day, and it was now night. Dark clouds had gathered, obscuring moon
and stars.

"There will be a storm before sunrise," said Gilbert, as they reached
the front door of the lodge, which he unlocked and threw open. "Enter,
my dear friend."

Chaytor uttered no word, and followed Gilbert into the passage. The
old man carefully locked the door, and the two men stood in darkness a
moment, listening. Then the master of Villa Bidaud turned the handle
of the door of the sitting-room, and stepping towards the window,
closed the shutters through which no chink of light could be seen from
without. Having thus secured themselves from observation, he struck a
match and lit a lamp, which threw a bright light around. In a basket
by the sideboard were some bottles of red wine, and glasses and
corkscrew were handy. Gilbert uncorked a bottle and put glasses on the
table.

"Will you drink?" he asked.

"Have you nothing stronger than this stuff?" asked Chaytor, in reply.

"There is a bottle of brandy somewhere," said Gilbert, opening a door
in the sideboard. "Ah, here it is. I am glad that am able to
accommodate you. I am always glad to accommodate my friends."

Chaytor half filled a tumbler with the spirit, and drank it neat. His
companion took the bottle, and replaced it in the cupboard.

"You are a generous host," observed Chaytor.

"It is not that," said Gilbert, genially. "It is that you need your
wits to understand my plain meaning. Will you sit or stand?"

"I will do as I please."

"Do so. Your pleasure is a law to me. Pardon me a moment's
consideration. I am debating by what name to address you."

"My name is Basil Whittingham, as you well know."

"How should I well know it? It is not my custom to accept men as they
present themselves. I judge for myself. Man is a study. I study him,
and each one who crosses my path and enters, for a time short or long,
into my life, affords me scope for observation and contemplation. As
you have done."

"As I have done," said Chaytor, moodily.

"As you have done," repeated Gilbert.

"I suppose I may make one observation."

"One! A dozen--a hundred. What you say shall be attentively received.
Be sure of that."

"I recall," said Chaytor, "a conversation we had. You said you would
not pry into my secrets, and expressed a desire that I should not pry
into yours."

"I remember. I said also something about our cupboards with their
skeletons, and that each should keep his key."

"Yes--and you concluded with these words: 'What I choose to reveal, I
reveal; as with you. Beyond that boundary we do not step.' I am
correct in the quotation, I think?"

"It is freely admitted. You have a retentive memory, and my
observations must have made an impression upon you."

"I have not," said Chaytor, "attempted to pry into your secrets. Why
do you attempt to pry into mine?"

"My dear friend," said Gilbert, in his blandest tone, "you forget. It
is by your invitation we are now conversing, and it is for your safety
I proposed we should converse here in secresy. You said to me, 'I want
your plain meaning.' If you have changed your mind, we will finish
now, this moment, and will return to our dear Annette."

"No," said Chaytor, "we will not finish now. I will hear what you have
to say."

"You are gracious. But pray believe me; I have not attempted to pry
into your secrets. You have yourself revealed yourself to me by a
thousand signs. I am a man gifted with a fair intelligence. I do not
say to my mind, Observe, it observes intuitively, without command or
direction. What is the result? I learn, not what you are, but what you
are not."

"Indeed! And what am I not?"

"Plainly?"

"Quite plainly."

"My dear friend," said Gilbert Bidaud, with a smile and a confident
nod, "you are not Basil Whittingham."

"That is your game, is it?" cried Chaytor, but his heart was chilled
by the cold assurance of Gilbert's voice and manner.

"Not my game--yours. I did not intrude upon you; you intruded upon me.
By your own design you came, and if there is a pit before you, it is
you, not I, who have dug it. But you can yet save yourself."

"How?" said Chaytor involuntarily, and was instantly made aware of his
imprudence by the amused smile which his exclamation called up to
Gilbert's lips. "Curse it! I mean, what have I revealed, as you so
cleverly express it?"

"I will tell you. You come to Paris, and play the spy upon us. You
take rooms opposite our hotel, and so arrange a foreground of
observation, that you can see what passes in our apartments without
dreaming that you have laid yourself open to observation."

"Oh, you found that out, did you?" exclaimed Chaytor.

"I found that out; and I found out also that you had been in Paris a
long, long time, although you declared to my niece, when you first
presented yourself to us, that you had but just arrived by the night
train. I take no merit for the discovery. You revealed it to me while
you were driving with your gay companions. I asked myself, 'Why this
lie? Why this secret espionage?' and since then it is that I found the
answer. Naturally we spoke of Australia; naturally I recalled the
incidents of my first meeting with Basil Whittingham on my brother's
plantation. They were incidents it was not possible to forget by
either of us, and yet, dear friend, you were entirely ignorant of
them; indeed, you scoffed at me for inventing what never occurred. In
this way did you again reveal to me, not what you are, but what you
are not. Finding your memory so treacherous, I set a trap, frankly I
confess it, a simple, innocent trap, which you, being Basil
Whittingham, would have stepped over without injury to yourself. In
that case it would have been I, not you, who would have had to eat
humble pie--is not that your English saying? I invented scenes and
incidents in our meeting and brief acquaintanceship in Australia to
which you put your seal. On my word, it was as good as a comedy, these
imaginary conversations and incidents of my conjuring up, and you
saying, 'Yes, yes, I remember, I remember.' Fie, fie, dear friend, it
was clumsy of you. Again, those English newspapers, with their
celebrated case which you were so greedy to peruse. Your explanation
did not blind me. I knew why you bought and read them so eagerly.
There were here to my hand the pieces of a puzzle not difficult to put
together. Let me tell you--you deceived not one of us completely. My
sister says, 'That man is not Basil Whittingham.' My niece says no
word--her grief is too great--she suffers, through you, a martyrdom;
but she doubts you none the less. Some strong confirmation--I know not
what--of her doubts you presented her with this very night when you
spoke so freely of Old Corrie's death."

"Curse you!" cried Chaytor. "You drew me on."

"Could I guess what was coming when his name was introduced? Could I
divine what you were about to say? Take this from me, my friend; my
niece knows something of Old Corrie which neither you nor I know, and
when she placed her hand on your arm, and looked into those eyes of
yours which shifted and wavered beneath her gaze, you felt as I felt,
that she accused you of lying. Even her maid, Emily, who never set
eyes on Basil Whittingham, believes not in you. And the fault is all
your own. It is you, and you alone, who have supplied the evidence
against yourself. I see in your face an intention of blustering and
denying. Abandon it, dear friend. So far as we are concerned, the game
is up."

"So you mean to say that you withdraw from the marriage contract
between me and Annette?"

"It is not I who withdraw; it is she, who will choose death rather.
She may consider herself bound--I cannot say; but she and you will
never stand side by side at the altar."

"The best thing I can do is to make myself scarce."

"That is, to disappear?"

"You can express it in those words if you choose. Mind, I do not leave
your hospitable abode because I am afraid. What is there to be afraid
of? I can afford to laugh at what you have said, which is false from
beginning to end, but I am sick of your ways. You have done pretty
well out of me; you are a cunning old bird, and you have feathered
your nest with my feathers. I calculate that you have at least five
thousand pounds of my money in your pocket."

"Of your money?" queried Gilbert, with a quiet smile.

"Of my money."

"No, no; whatever else we do let us be truthful. Of Basil
Whittingham's money."

"Oh, you can stick to that fiction as long as you like. Have you
anything else to say to me?"

"Yes. You are not free to go yet."

"What! Will you stop me?"

"No; I will follow you, and will accuse you publicly. We will have the
case in the papers, and you shall have an opportunity of clearing
yourself of the accusation I bring against you. Basil Whittingham
maybe alive; Old Corrie may be alive; people who know really who you
are may be alive, and they shall all be found to be brought forward to
acquit or condemn you. If you want noise, fuss, publicity, you shall
have them. There is, however, an alternative."

"Let me hear it."

"Not being Basil Whittingham, you have committed forgery by affixing
his name to two documents in my possession. Not being Basil
Whittingham, you have obtained by fraud the fortune which was his. So
apprehensive of detection are you, that you would not deposit this
money in a bank, as a right-minded gentleman would have done, but you
carry it about with you, in secret pockets, on your person." Chaytor
started. "I could put my finger on the precise spots in which Basil
Whittingham's fortune is concealed. It is again you, dear friend, who
have revealed this to me. You have a habit of raising your hand--you
are doing it unconsciously at this moment--to your side, to your
breast, to assure yourself that the money is safe. Shall we make
terms?"

"Name them."

"I do not desire to know the amount of your wealth; I think only of
myself, and of what the secret in my possession is worth. Shall we say
five thousand pounds?"

"You may say five thousand pounds," blustered Chaytor, and then suddenly
paused, overwhelmed by the sense of power in his companion's smiling
face. "Hang it," he said presently, "give me some brandy."

Gilbert Bidaud produced the bottle, and, as Newman Chaytor gulped the
liquor down, repeated, "Shall we say five thousand pounds?"

"I will give you one," said Chaytor faintly. "Five. Decide quickly.
Observe, I take out my watch; it wants two minutes to the hour. If at
the end of these two minutes you do not agree, I shall double the
terms. By this time you know me, and know that you cannot with safety
trifle with me."

Chaytor stepped forward and looked at the second-hand, his mind dazed
with whirling thought. Should he refuse? Should he show fight? Did he
dare to risk the exposure which Gilbert threatened?

"It wants thirty seconds yet," said Gilbert, calmly?
"they are precious moments, these that are flying so fast?
Twenty--fifteen--ten--five----"

"I consent to be robbed," said Chaytor, hurriedly. He did not dare to
fight.

"Good," said Gilbert, putting the watch back in his pocket. "The
bargain must be completed to-night, after which without loss of time,
I should advise you to disappear. I will make excuses to my niece; she
will not be anxious to see your face again. Nor shall I. At midnight,
here, we will meet again, for the last time, and after you have
purchased safety we will bid each other an eternal farewell. I will
have a horse ready for you, on which you can ride to--where you
please. Let us now return to the bosom of my beloved family; a longer
absence may arouse suspicion."



CHAPTER XLIII.


During the visit of Gilbert and Chaytor to Monte Carlo some important
action had been taken by Annette's staunch maid, Emily. Loyal to the
backbone to her young mistress, she had fully sympathised with her in
her unhappiness, and had gone farther than Annette, in her reflections
upon the future. She saw that a marriage with a man to whom Annette
had pledged herself would result in lifelong misery, and she set her
mind to work to consider how the dreadful consequence could be
averted. She saw but one way to accomplish this; she and her mistress
must fly from the Villa Bidaud. She did not moot this project to
Annette, for whenever she commenced to speak upon the subject of the
approaching union Annette stopped her, and would not listen to what
she had to say. "But at the last moment," thought the faithful maid,
"when she sees that there is no other escape for her, she will agree
to fly with me from this horrible place. We will go to mother in
Bournemouth; she will be safer there than in these wicked foreign
countries." Having reached thus far in her deliberations she did not
pursue them farther; she was not an argumentative person, and she was
comfortably satisfied with the general reflection that, after that,
things would be sure to come all right. Such a belief is common with
numbers of worthy people when they are considering knotty questions,
and if it evidences no deep powers of mental analysis, is at all
events a proof of the possession of an inherent dependence upon the
goodness of Providence--which, in its way, is a kind of religion not
to be despised.

With a certain conclusion in her mind, Annette busied herself as to
the means of carrying it out when the proper time arrived. By Gilbert
Bidaud's orders the gates were kept locked, and the duty of opening
them devolved upon a man who did all the outdoor work in the house and
grounds. Emily's advances towards this man met with no response; other
means, therefore, must be tried. She had always been successful in
making friends outside Gilbert Bidaud's establishment, through whom
she obtained her letters from home, and the friend she had made in the
village in which the Villa Bidaud was situated was the woman who kept
the post-house. It was a matter easily arranged. Annette was a liberal
mistress, and Emily was a saving girl; a judicious system of small
bribes effected all that Emily desired in this respect. Twice or
thrice every week she visited the post-mistress to enquire for
letters, and these visits were made in the night, the darkest hours
being chosen. The gates being locked she could not get out that way,
and she sought another mode of egress. She found it in the lodge in
which Gilbert Bidaud and Newman Chaytor held their conference. There
was a secure lock on the front door, of which Gilbert, or his sister,
kept the key, but the lock on the back door was frail, and Emily
discovered how to manage it, so that she could get in and out of the
lodge without any person being the wiser. Once inside the lodge Emily
would creep up the stairs to the first floor, the window of the back
room of which almost touched the stone wall which ran round the
grounds. This wall was some seven feet in height, but there were
dilapidations in it which served for foot-holes, and by means of these
luckily-formed steps the courageous girl was enabled to pass to and
fro and make the desired visits to the post-mistress. Of course there
was the danger of discovery, but Emily was a girl in a thousand, and
the extraordinary care she took in these enterprises was a fair
guarantee of safety. The lonely situation of the house assisted her;
there were nights when, for hours together, not a human being
traversed the narrow road into which the front gate opened.

On the night of the secret interview between Gilbert and Chaytor,
Emily had planned a visit to the post-mistress. She made her way into
the lodge unobserved, crept up the stairs in the dark, and was about
to open the back window, when her attention was arrested by a sound
below, which, as she afterwards described, sent her heart into her
mouth. It was the sound of the unlocking of the front door. Emily's
heart went rub-a-dub with the fear that she was discovered, but as the
slow minutes passed without anything occurring, her fear lessened, and
she became sufficiently composed to give attention to the
circumstances. Softly opening the door which led to the staircase, she
heard voices in a room below which she recognised as those of Gilbert
Bidaud and the man who called himself Basil Whittingham. What had they
come there to say? Why could they not have spoken in the house? They
must be hatching some plot against her young mistress. At all hazards,
she would try to hear what they were saying to each other. Quietly,
very quietly, she descended the stairs, setting her feet down with the
greatest care, and pausing between each step. A cat could not have
trod more noiselessly than she. At length she reached the door beyond
which the conversation was taking place, and crouching down she
applied her eye to the keyhole. There were the two men, one with a
smile on his face, the other, dark and sinister; and Emily observed
that they were not standing side by side, but that a broad table was
between them. This precaution had been taken by Gilbert, who was quite
prepared for any sudden attempt at violence on Chaytor's part.

Emily was too late to hear all that was said, but she heard enough.
Had she not exercised control over her feelings she would have
screamed with mingled joy and horror; as it was, the tears ran down
her face as fast as she wiped them away, for she wanted to see as much
as she could. The brave girl thanked God that a fortunate conjuncture
had made her a witness of the interview between the two villains. Now,
certainly, her dear mistress was saved, and she the instrument to
avert the misery with which she was threatened; for it was not alone
the projected marriage which was breaking Annette's heart, but the
loss of faith in the purity and nobility of Basil's nature. Emily
waited very nearly to the end; she saw Gilbert take out his watch and
count the moments, she heard the bargain agreed to and the second
interview at midnight planned, and then, just in time, she crept up
the stairs as softly as she had crept down, and waited in the room
above until the two men left the lodge.

What now should she do? Return to the house, and acquaint Annette with
what she had heard, or go to the post-mistress to see if there was a
letter for her? If she went straight to Annette she might not have
another opportunity of getting out that night; besides, she expected a
letter from her mother, and was anxious for it. She decided to go
first to the post-mistress; Annette knew that she would be away for
some little while, and had said, "I shall wait up for you, Emily."

She threw open the window, and climbed on to the wall, and down into
the road. It was very dark, and as Gilbert Bidaud had prognosticated,
a storm was gathering, but Emily knew her way well to the post-office,
and was not afraid of darkness. So she sped along under the waving
branches and over black shadows till she arrived at her destination.
Once on her way she was startled; she thought she saw something more
substantial than shadow moving by the road side, but after pausing to
look and listen her alarm subsided; all was quiet and still.

There was no light in the post-house, which was little better than a
cottage, but Emily did not expect to see one. She tapped at the
shutters, and a woman's voice from within asked if that was "Miss
Emily." The girl answering in the affirmative, a woman appeared at the
door and bade her enter.

"Have you a letter for me?" said Emily.

"Yes," the woman replied, "she had a letter for her," and produced it.

"Why," cried Emily, "this is not from England?" No, said the woman, it
was not from England, and explained that a gentleman had visited her
in the evening, and had made enquiries concerning the Villa Bidaud and
its inmates. Hearing that Miss Annette Bidaud was there, he had then
inquired for the young lady's maid, mentioning her by name, Miss Emily
Crawford. The gentleman asked if the post-mistress was likely to see
the girl, and whether she could convey a letter to her secretly that
night or early in the morning. The post-mistress said she could not
promise to do so that night, but she would endeavour to convey the
letter in the morning, and added that it was not unlikely Miss Emily
would come before them to inquire for letters. "If she does," said the
gentleman, "give her this, and ask her to read it here, before she
goes back to the villa. It is a letter of the utmost importance, and
it must fall into no other hands than Miss Emily's." The post-mistress
concluded by saying that the gentleman had paid her well for the
service, and that she was sure there was something very particular in
the letter.

Emily, although burning with impatience, listened quietly to the tale,
holding the letter tight in her hand all the time, and when the woman
had done speaking asked only one question.

"Was the gentleman an Englishman?"

"Yes," replied the woman; "he was an Englishman."

Then Emily opened the letter, and read:


"My Dear Miss Emily Crawford,--The writer of this is Old Corrie, Miss
Annette's sincere and faithful friend. He has seen your mother in
Bournemouth, and has come here post haste to defeat a plot to ruin
your dear young mistress's happiness. He has a gentleman with him
little lady will be glad to see. If you get this letter to-night,
don't be frightened if Old Corrie speaks to you as you go back to the
Villa Bidaud. Not an hour should be lost to unmask the villain and
secure little lady's happiness. You are a brave, good girl. If you
don't get this letter till the morning, come at once to the back of
the school-house, where you will see little lady's true friend,

"Old Corrie."


The letter had been composed partly by Basil and partly by Old Corrie,
who had written it himself. Emily's eyes sparkled as she read. She
bade the post-mistress good-night, thanked her for the letter, said it
contained good news, and went away with a heart as light as a bird's.
So light, indeed, that she carolled softly to herself as she stepped
very, very slowly along the dark, narrow road, and the words she
carolled were:

"I am Emily Crawford, and I have got your letter. Where are you, dear
Old Corrie, dear Old Corrie, dear Old Corrie?" The song could not have
been put into lines that would scan, but blither, happier words with
true poetry in them, were never sung by human voice.

"Where are you, dear Old Corrie, dear Old Corrie, dear Old Corrie?"
sang the girl, and paused and listened, and went on again, singing.

"Here I am," said a kindly voice, "and God bless you for a true
heart!"

"Stop a moment, please," said the girl; who now that the reality was
close by her side, could not help feeling startled. "Are you sure you
are Old Corrie, my dear mistress's friend from Australia? The
gentleman with a bear, you know?"

"You do well to doubt," said Old Corrie, "with what is going on around
you in this outlandish country. I am the man I say. Stand still while
I strike a light, so that you can see me. We have a bull's-eye lantern
with us. Is little lady well?"

"Her heart is breaking," said Emily. "But I have good news for her
before she sleeps to-night."

"And so have we, my dear, if you can get us to her."

"Let me hold the lantern, Mr. Corrie, said Emily.

"No, my dear, you might drop it; there is a surprise in store for you
and for everyone in the villa yonder with its stone walls. There, the
lamp's alight, and you can see my face, dark as the night is. Do you
think you can trust me?"

"Yes, I do, and it was only out of curiosity I wanted to look at you."
And then Emily cried, "Oh!"

"What is it, my dear?" asked Old Corrie.

"There is another," said Emily, gasping.

"There are two others; we have come prepared."

He whispered something in her ear which caused her to cry "Oh!" more
than once, and to clap her hands in wonderment.

"May I see him?" she asked in a whisper.

The answer was given by Basil himself, who came forward and took her
by the hand, while the light, directed by Old Corrie, shone upon his
face.

"It is wonderful, wonderful!" she exclaimed, and added under her
breath, "But I think I should have known."

In the expression of which opinion she paid a higher tribute to her
judgment than she could have rightly claimed for it; but this, at such
a time and in such circumstances, was a small matter.

Mr. Philpott, who had been standing silently in the rear, now joined
the party.

"Don't be frightened, my dear," said Old Corrie; "there are no more of
us. What we've got to do now is to decide what is to be done, how is
it to be done, and when is it to be done."

"First," interposed Mr. Philpott, to whom, by tacit consent, the
command had been given, "Miss Emily will perhaps give us an
explanation of certain words she spoke a minute ago. Are we quite
private here, Miss Emily?"

"It's hardly likely," replied Emily, "that a living soul will pass
along this road till daybreak."

"So much the better. You said just now that Miss Bidaud's heart was
breaking, but that you had good news for her before she went to sleep
to-night. Did you mean by that that our arrival here was the good
news?"

"No, I meant something very different, something that you ought to
know before you decide what to do."

"I thought as much. Well, let us hear it, my girl."

Thereupon Emily related all that she had overheard between Gilbert
Bidaud and Newman Chaytor. It was difficult for Basil to curb his
excitement, and whenever an indignant exclamation passed his lips,
Emily paused in sympathy, but he was too sensible of the value of time
to frequently interrupt her, and as she spoke quickly, her tale did
not occupy many minutes.

"This story," said Mr. Philpott, with a beaming face, "decides what is
to be done, and how and when. The road is prepared for us by the
villains themselves. It is a bold move I am about to suggest, but to
adopt half-and-half measures with these scoundrels would be
ridiculous."

Basil and Old Corrie said they were prepared for any move, however
bold and daring, and were only too eager to undertake it.

"We mustn't be to eager," said Mr. Philpott; "cool and steady is our
watchword. Now, Miss Emily, can you get us into the grounds of the
villa to-night?"

"If I can get in," said the girl, "you can get in."

"And one of us into the lodge where the scoundrels are to meet at
midnight?"

"Yes," said Emily, unhesitatingly.

"You are a girl after my own heart," said Mr. Philpott, admiringly.
"There is a risk, you know, and you will have a share in it. It
wouldn't be right for me to deceive you."

"I don't mind the risk," said the courageous girl. "I want to help to
save my dear young lady from these wretches and monsters."

"God bless you, Emily," said Basil, pressing her hand, and Emily felt
that she needed no other reward.

Mr. Philpott then described his plan. Guided by Emily, they were all
to get into the grounds, when their forces were to be thus disposed
of: Basil and Old Corrie were to hide in the grounds as close as
possible to the back door of the lodge; they were not to move or
speak; Emily was to return to the house, and impart to Annette all
that she knew, and in this way prepare her for what was to follow;
both Annette and her maid were to be ready to come from the house to
the lodge upon a given signal; Mr. Philpott was to conceal himself in
one of the upper rooms of the lodge, and no movement whatever was to
be made until he blew loudly upon a policeman's whistle. The moment
this signal was given, Basil and Old Corrie were to enter the lodge
through the back door, which Emily would leave unlocked, but properly
closed, so as to excite no suspicion in the minds of Gilbert Bidaud
and Newman Chaytor--and proceed at once to the lower room, in which
these men were located; and Annette and Emily were to leave the house
and come immediately to the lodge.

"All this," said Mr. Philpott aside to Basil, "is not exactly lawful,
and if Mr. Bidaud and Mr. Chaytor had right on their side we should
get into trouble. But we have the whip hand of them and are safe. I
anticipate very little difficulty, only neither of our men must be
allowed to escape until we have settled with them."

The party proceeded to the villa, Emily walking a little ahead with
Basil, to whom she imparted how matters stood with her young mistress.

"Her heart was truly breaking," said the girl, "and she could never
have lived through it, never! But she will soon be her dear, bright
self again. All, sir, she is the sweetest lady that ever drew
breath--and O, how these wretches have made her suffer! But there is
happiness coming to her. I could sing for joy, indeed I could, sir!"



CHAPTER XLIV.


All was still in house and grounds and lodge. The dark clouds were
growing black, but the storm had not yet burst. A clock in the hall
struck twelve, and, as if the chimes had called them forth, Gilbert
and Chaytor issued from the house, and walked to their rendezvous.
Each man was occupied with his own special thoughts, and each kept a
wary eye upon the other's shadowed form.

"I left the door of the lodge open," said Gilbert. "Enter."

"After you," said Chaytor.

"Pardon me," said Gilbert, "after you."

Chaytor laughed and stepped into the passage. Gilbert followed,
pausing to light a small lamp he carried in his hand. Upon entering
the room he lit the larger lamp on the table, on one side of which he
placed himself, Chaytor being on the other.

"You seem to be afraid of me," said Chaytor.

"I do not trust you," responded Gilbert.

"There is small temptation for trustfulness between such men as we,"
said Chaytor. Gilbert nodded quietly. "Well, you have your game, and
have won a pretty large stake. Can't you be satisfied with what you
have got?"

"You know my terms; the time for discussing them has gone by."

"But there was something forgotten. You made me sign two documents,
and you have spoken of forgery."

"You are correct. The production of these documents with the name of
Basil Whittingham attached to them in your handwriting would be
sufficient to convict you."

"For that reason I do not choose to leave them in your possession. If
I pay you the five thousand pounds you are robbing me of you will have
to give them up."

"They are here," said Gilbert, producing them, "and will be useless to
me when you are gone. You can have them and welcome when the money is
paid. You go to-night."

"I go to-night, and hope never to set eyes upon you or yours again."

"My dear friend," said Gilbert, with a courteous bow, "the hope is
reciprocal. Let us not prolong this interview. Open your bank and
purchase freedom."

Chaytor unbuttoned his waistcoat, and from an inner pocket extracted
two bundles of bank notes. Gilbert held out his hand.

"No, no, old fox," said Chaytor. "There are three times five thousand
pounds here." He looked at Gilbert savagely.

"If," said the old man, laughing lightly, "by a wish you could burn me
to ashes where I stand, you would breathe that wish willingly."

"Most willingly."

"But why? I am dealing tenderly, mercifully by you. In right and
justice this money belongs not to you. It belongs to Basil
Whittingham. If he were here he could take possession of it, and
neither you nor I would care to gainsay him. It being, therefore, as
much mine as yours, I let you off lightly by demanding so small a sum.
Come, let us finish the comedy; it is time the curtain fell. Count out
the price of liberty, the price of my silence, and let us take an
affectionate farewell of each other."

"Are you sure we are alone?"

"Do you think I would reveal our conspiracy to a third person? In my
pleasant house every human being is asleep; they dream not of the
grief which will fill their hearts to-morrow when they learn that you
have departed."

"Give me the papers I have signed. Here is your share of the robbery.
You had better count it to make sure."

As Gilbert bent over the table to count the notes, Chaytor, with a
swift movement, drew a heavy life-preserver from his breast, and aimed
a murderous blow at the old man's head. But Gilbert was too quick for
him; he had but one eye on the money he was fingering, the other was
furtively watching his companion. He darted back, and so escaped the
blow; the weapon descended upon the table, and this shock and the
violent movements of the men overturned the lamps, the light of which
was instantly extinguished. Each man had but one hand disengaged,
Chaytor holding the life-preserver and Gilbert a pistol, which he had
brought with him as a protection against treachery. The moment the
room was in darkness the two disengaged hands groped over the table
for the money, and were fiercely clasped. And now a surprising
incident occurred. Upon these two hands a third hand was laid, and
before they could free themselves were handcuffed together.
Simultaneously with this startling and secure manacling of their hands
the pistol was knocked from Gilbert's grasp and the life-preserver
from Chaytor's; and then a shrill whistle pierced the air and drove
the blood from the cheeks of the conspirators. Hurried sounds of steps
resounded through the passage.

"This way!" cried Mr. Philpott. "The door is open. Strike a light."

But a light came from another quarter. A vivid flash of lightning
illuminated the apartment, and in that flash Newman Chaytor beheld the
form of Basil Whittingham, whose death he believed he had compassed on
the gold field across the seas. His face grew livid, a heavy groan
escaped his lips, and his head fell forward on the table.

"See if you can relight one of the lamps," said Mr. Philpott.

Both the lamps were soon lighted, the glass of only one having been
broken. Then Gilbert Bidaud, who had uttered no word during this
succession of startling incidents, saw two men whose faces were
strange to him, and one whose face he recognised. Manacled as he was
to his insensible partner in crime, and unable to release himself, he
instantly regained his self-possession.

"If I mistake not," he said, in a tone of exceeding urbanity, "Mr.
Basil Whittingham, whose acquaintance I had the pleasure of making on
my brother's plantation in Australia. I suspected from the first that
this log lying here was an impostor. It is but a sorry welcome I am
able to give you, in consequence of the unlawful proceedings of a
ruffian"--he glanced at Mr. Philpott--"who shall answer for the
assault in a court of law."

"Do not say one word to him, sir," interposed Mr. Philpott, seeing
that Basil was about to speak; "leave him to me; I know how to deal
with such cattle. I promise to tame him before I have done with him."

"It will be well for you to bear in mind," said Gilbert, still
addressing Basil, "that this is my house, and that you are trespassing
illegally upon my property. However, for the sake of old times, and
for the sake of my niece, I am agreeable to waive that, and come to an
amicable settlement with you."

"He speaks very good English for a foreigner," said Mr. Philpott,
"and, I'll wager, understands the law as well as we do. I am an
officer of the law"--(Mr. Philpott was satisfied that he was quite
safe in indulging in this fiction)--"and I tell him plainly that he as
laid himself open to a criminal action for conspiracy."

"Shall I not have the pleasure," said Gilbert to Basil, ignoring Mr.
Philpott, "of hearing what you have to say in response to the flag of
peace I hold out?"

"He is a shrewd customer, sir," said Mr. Philpott, "and if this flag
of peace means absolute and unconditional surrender I am ready to
consider it. It may interest him to learn that we are in possession of
all the particulars of the interview which took place between him and
the insensible party he is fastened to, and of the bargain they made
to share your money. That tickles him, I see, but it is only one out
of a handful of trumps we happen to hold. I will take care of these
notes"--he gathered them up--"and we will go into accounts later on."

"Unless my ears deceive me," said Gilbert, "I hear the voice of my
niece's maid in the passage. Doubtless my niece accompanies her. Do
you think it seemly that she shall be a witness of this scene?"

"Corrie," said Basil, "take one of the lamps, and keep Miss Bidaud
outside; I will come to her immediately. Allow me, Mr. Philpott; it
will shorten matters if I say a word." He addressed Gilbert Bidaud.
"You and your confederate have laid yourselves open to serious
consequences, and if I consent to an arrangement which will keep the
bad work that has been going on, and of which I was made the victim,
from exposure in the public courts, it is to spare the feelings of a
sweet and suffering young lady whose happiness you would have
wrecked."

"My niece," said Gilbert, nodding his head. "As you say, a sweet young
lady, and she has been made to suffer by this villain. We have all
been made to suffer; we have all been his victims. But for your
arrival he would have murdered me. He can no longer impose on me; I
arrange myself on your side, against him. To my regret I perceive that
he has partially recovered his senses, and, while simulating
insensibility, is listening to what we are saying; his cunning is of
the lowest order. It is my earnest wish to make such an arrangement as
you suggest; it will be to my advantage, that is why I agree. Instruct
your man to release me."

"Set him loose, Mr. Philpott," said Basil, "and see what you can do. I
put the matter unreservedly into your hands. Do not allow either of
them to leave the room. They will pass the night here. To-morrow, if
Miss Bidaud wishes it, she will quit this prison----"

"No, no," interrupted Gilbert, good-humouredly, "not a prison--not a
prison."

"--For England."

"She shall have my free consent," said Gilbert. "Take that in writing,
Mr. Philpott. And there must be restitution, in some part, of the
inheritance her father left her."

"In some part, that shall be done."

"If it is any punishment to the wretch," said Basil, who saw that
Newman Chaytor was conscious and attentive, "who conspired against the
man who trusted in him, and treacherously endeavoured to compass his
death, to learn that had he followed the straight road he would have
known long since that his unhappy father died wealthy, let him learn
it now. You have a copy, Mr. Philpott, of the last letter written to
him by his father. Give it to him, that he may read the bitter words
written on the death-bed of one whom he should have loved and
honoured. His good mother died with her head upon my breast, and if he
escapes the punishment he deserves and has richly earned, he will owe
his escape to the kind memories I have of her who rescued me from
death in the London streets."

"A noble man," murmured Gilbert Bidaud as Basil left the room, "A
gentleman. How is it possible that I allowed myself to be deceived for
an hour by so miserable a counterfeit!"


   *    *    *    *    *    *


When Basil joined his friends in the passage, Old Corrie touched
Emily's arm, and slight as was the action, she understood it, and
following him into the room in which Mr. Philpott and the two men they
had surprised were conferring, left Basil and Annette together. Old
Corrie had placed the lamp on a bracket, and by its dim light our hero
and heroine were enabled to see each other. Basil's eyes were fixed
earnestly upon Annette, but her agitation was too profound to meet his
loving gaze. His heart was filled with pity for the faithful girl who
had been for years the victim of Newman Chaytor's foul plot; her
drooping head, her modest attitude, her hands clasped supplicatingly
before her, made his pity and his love for her almost too painful to
bear.

"Annette," he said softly, "will you not look at me?"

She raised her eyes to his face, and he saw that they were filled with
tears.

"Can you forgive me, Basil?" she whispered.

"Forgive you, dear Annette!" he exclaimed, taking her hands in his,
"it is I who ought to ask forgiveness for believing that you could
forget me."

"Never for a single day," she murmured, "have I forgotten you. Through
all these years you have been to me the star of hope which made life
bright for me. Oh, Basil, Basil! it seems as if you have lifted me
from death to life. The world was so dark, so dark-----"

"It shall be dark no more dear," he said, his voice trembling with
excess of tenderness. "Until you bid me leave you I will be ever by
your side. I consecrate my life to you. What man can do to compensate
for the suffering you have endured, that will I do in truth, and
honour, and love."

He placed his arms about her, and she laid her head upon his breast.
There are joys too sacred for utterance, and such joy did Basil and
Annette feel as they stood clasped in each other's arms on that dark
and solemn night.


*    *    *    *    *    *


What more need be told? Radiant and happy, with faith restored, they
commenced their new life hand-in-hand. Those who had conspired against
them, and whose evil designs had been frustrated, went out into the
world unpunished by man; they and their intended victims never met
again. The business matters it was necessary to arrange were settled
by Basil's lawyers, who saved from the wreck a sufficient competence.
All who had served him and Annette were amply rewarded. In Mr.
Philpott's family their names were names to conjure with; Emily
remained with them till she found a sweetheart and a home of her own;
and Old Corrie was prevailed upon to live in a cottage near them,
attached to which was a piece of land which afforded him profitable
employment. He talked sometimes of returning to Australia, or of
buying another performing bear, but he did not carry either project
into execution. Often and often would the three friends talk of the
old days on the plantation, and call up reminiscences of the happy and
primitive life they enjoyed there; and then Old Corrie would steal
away and leave the lovers together; for, though they were man and
wife, they were lovers still, and lovers will remain--purified and
sweetened by their trials--till they are called to their rest.



THE END.





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